This year, Santa won’t have to shove himself down the chimney. He’ll just hack your “smart” security system and waddle through the front door instead. Today’s news:
- Smart home devices go “bleepety-bleep.”
- “Sustainable” claims are sometimes a leap.
- “The 12 days of Christmas” aren’t so cheap.
- And your toilet sanctity may soon be reaped.
Seriously though, toilet workplace czars: You really can’t let us have that 5 minutes?
Alexa, meet Siri: Silicon Valley heavyweights join hands to make your smart home smarter
Amazon, Apple, and Google found themselves in the same space yesterday — and it wasn’t to defend themselves in a congressional hearing.
In a rare show of solidarity, the 3 tech giants and other members of the Zigbee Alliance announced plans to work together to solve one of the peskier problems in tech — getting smart home technology to live up to its name.
A Ring and a Circle might sound the same…
But like so many of your so-called connected devices — from your smart locks to your smart thermostat to your smart toothbrush — their IQs drop when they try to interact.
Engineers in Seattle, Cupertino, and Mountain View are trying to change that.
Their big idea?
- Bring the best minds in tech together to allow all your disparate devices to sync.
But do I really want Big Tech controlling all my switches?
Some people are creeped out by how much data smart devices know about us (Alexa, stop listening). And not everyone’s buying the stuff, in part over fears of being hacked, as several Ring home security systems were this month.
Amazon and the others hope to develop cooperative hardware that presumably would make interlinking the devices safer.
How will this play out in my house?
IKEA, another member of the alliance, has already partnered with Amazon, Apple, and Google.
- The Swedish furniture maker has introduced wireless blinds, speakers that double as shelves, and chargers embedded in nightstands and desk lamps.
We just want someone to figure out how to make smart dinner.
The big (green) short: How hedge funds profit off greenwashing
ESG — the acronym for Environmental, Social and Governance — is an increasingly popular method of judging the ethics and sustainability of business practices.
But in a practice known as “greenwashing,” many businesses claim ESG compliance for a quick PR win without actually improving ethics or sustainability — and hedge funds are trying to profit off exposing them.
Investors have poured some $31 trillion into so-called sustainable investments, Reuters says.
Traditional investors trust reports showing that strong ESG companies outperform the market. But hedge funds are seeing inflated asset prices because of greenwashing.
And they have plans to short sell the companies that falsely claim ESG credentials — by placing their biggest bets on companies with the highest ESG scores.
Now, the SEC is getting involved.
- SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce has criticized ESG standards, saying they “rely on research that is far from settled.”
- In perhaps the greatest burn in SEC history, Peirce said ESG could mean “Enabling Stakeholder Graft” (🎤 drop).
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How much would it cost to buy all of the items in ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’?
A partridge in a pear tree, turtle doves, gold rings — the narrator in the song “The 12 Days of Christmas” received quite the roster of gifts from his true love (and a hell of a lot of birds).
But have you ever wondered how much all this stuff would actually cost?
For 36 years running, PNC has published an annual (very tongue-in-cheek) Christmas Price Index, which tracks the going rate for all of the items in the song, from 3 French hens ($182) to 7 swans-a-swimming ($13,125).
The tally for 2019?
- If you just count each line in the song once: ~$39k.
- If you count cumulatively (adding up the total mentions of each item in all verses): A toasty $170k.
That’s 42x (and 185x) higher than the $920 experts project the average American will spend on gifts this holiday season.
In determining its price estimates, PNC consulted a national bird supplier, a waterfowl farm, multiple hatcheries, a tree nursery, and a national jewelry chain.
For the items involving people, the cost was calculated based on a service (e.g., hiring a dance troupe, or a group of musicians).
There’s also an inadvertent tale about income inequality buried in here: The cost of the 8 maids’ service is calculated based on one hour each at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Even collectively, with $58 in wages, they wouldn’t be able to afford a single gift on the list.
Toilet maker aims to get your butt back to work
Like to linger in the loo? That might change. There’s a new anti-ergonomic toilet designed to keep workers off the john and at their desks.
Let’s sh*t and get to it…
StandardToilet’s 13-degree slope will make your legs tired after 5 minutes.
Company founder Mahabir Gill’s need to deter stall squatters became clear after what started as a fun night out left him in dire circumstances.
Unfortunately for Gill — and maybe for you — there were no free toilets to be found.
- According to one survey, potty procrastination at work is a real thing. Londoners average 28 minutes and 35 seconds.
- Productivity boosters are a thriving market. Tetramind, for example, tattles to bosses when employees bounce between apps too often.
But one man’s productivity is another’s pain
Sit-stand desks and meditation rooms are reserved for one employee class.
Lower-level workers are subject to extra policing… even in the most intimate spaces.
- At one Scottish call center, staff must document their potty breaks and are allowed at most 1% of their workday — 2 minutes for a 4-hour shift — to take care of “business.”
- Amazon reportedly doesn’t give warehouse workers time to tinkle during shifts. Some resort to peeing in bottles.
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🛸 The European Space Agency and Swiss Space Office sent a telescope deeeeeeep into the solar system to examine exoplanet atmospheres and surfaces and gauge whether life could exist.
🌗 A giant whiff for mankind. A possible 2024 US moon landing looks a lot less likely after the House of Representatives cut funding in NASA’s budget for a new lunar lander.
🚘 Move over, Ford and Honda. Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot merged to form a company projected to make $189m annually, placing the new entity behind only Toyota, Volkswagen, and Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi in revenue.
📄 Women former employees are suing Synapse, the “financial world’s version of Amazon Web Services,” over sexual harassment. The company has received $50m in funding from major investors like Andreessen Horowitz.
📽️ A bad sign for Hollywood: 8 of the 10 top-grossing films in China this year were Chinese-made, suggesting US films may start getting a dwindling share of interest from China’s 1.4B consumers.
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