Planting the seeds of digital agriculture: Startup bets the farm on Microsoft’s new ag tech platform

Innov8 Ag’s team installs solar-powered microclimate weather stations in an apple orchard early in the growing season. From left are Innov8 founder Steve Mantle; Tate Gabriel, a 4th-year ag student at Walla Walla Community College; and Innov8’s Todd Tucker. (Innov8 Ag Solutions Photo) Microsoft’s cloud-based platform for data-driven farming, Azure FarmBeats, had its official coming-out party this week at the company’s annual Ignite conference for developers, but Steve Mantle has already been using FarmBeats’ tools to grow his business — and help farmers grow their crops. Mantle, the founder of Innov8 Ag Solutions in Walla Walla, Wash., is leading the development of a data analysis service that provides agricultural insights… Read More

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When Astronauts Go Swimming

HOUSTON, Texas—Before astronauts can launch into space, they have to go for a swim. The pool sits inside a big, windowless building in Houston, on the grounds of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. It is about 40 feet deep, and holds enough water to fill several Olympic-sized pools. Beneath the surface, shrouded in the bluish tint of the water, is a replica of the International Space Station. This facility, known as the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, is where future astronauts train for spacewalks outside of the ISS. It’s strange to think that learning to survive in a lifeless void requires bobbing around inside a pool, but water provides the best medium on… Read More

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Amazon doubles down on Boston as a robotics hub with new $40M facility

Robotics at work in the Amazon fulfillment center in Dupont, Wash. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Amazon is expanding in Boston, with a new $40 million office that cements the region as the tech giant’s epicenter for robotics innovation. The new site will be 350,000 square feet in the suburb of Westborough, Mass., about 35 miles west of Boston, with corporate offices, research and development labs, and manufacturing space. The new facility, opening in 2021 with room for 200 people, will complement Amazon’s existing robotics office in North Reading, Mass. “We’re excited to grow our teams in Massachusetts and take advantage of the talent and regional connectivity that MetroWest offers,”… Read More

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Amazon’s $1.45M effort to upend Seattle City Council yields mixed results in early reporting

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant protests corporate spending in Seattle elections at Amazon’s headquarters. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg) A heavily-funded campaign to elect a more business-friendly Seattle City Council saw moderate success in early election results released Tuesday evening. But the effort, spearheaded by Seattle tech giant Amazon, was not a slam dunk. Seattle’s elections have become a national political spectacle thanks to a last-minute $1 million contribution from Amazon, a company with a history of going head-to-head with the city’s current leadership. Of the seven Seattle City Council seats up for grabs, four candidates with backing from the business community were leading their opponents in early election results.… Read More

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Spaceflight and Rocket Lab will put a Japanese shooting-star satellite into orbit

An artist’s conception shows the ALE-2 shooting-star satellite in orbit. (ALE / Spaceflight Illustration) Seattle-based Spaceflight says it’s handling the pre-launch logistics for a Japanese satellite that’s designed to spray artificial shooting stars into the sky. Tokyo-based ALE’s spacecraft is just one of seven microsatellites due to be sent into orbit from New Zealand as early as Nov. 25, aboard a Rocket Lab Electron launch. It’ll be the 10th Electron launch, earning the nickname “Running Out of Fingers.” It’ll also be the first launch to test the guidance and navigation hardware as well as the sensors that Rocket Lab will eventually use to help make the Electron’s first stage recoverable.… Read More

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Boeing proposes lunar lander for NASA crews, vying with Blue Origin (and SpaceX?)

An artist’s conception shows the ascent module taking off from the descent module on Boeing’s lunar lander. (Boeing Illustration) Boeing says it has submitted its proposal for a lunar lander capable of putting astronauts on the moon by as early as 2024, joining a competition that includes Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture and most likely SpaceX as well. Today marked the deadline for submissions. NASA says it’s aiming to select at least two proposed landing systems by January for further development. Two separate teams could be selected to build landers for moon missions in 2024 and 2025. NASA envisions a system that includes a transfer vehicle to… Read More

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Amazon is reportedly testing step tracking on Echo Buds

Dave Limp, Amazon’s VP of hardware, revealed the Echo Buds at the company’s device event in Seattle on September 25, 2019. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Amazon’s Echo Buds are capable of tracking steps in some versions of the Alexa app, according to a report from CNBC. Step tracking, calorie counting, and run tracking were among the features rumored to be coming to the $129.99 wireless headphones, though none were mentioned during a launch event in September. (Amazon Photo) The revelation comes hot on the heels of Google’s plan to acquire FitBit for $2.1 billion. Apple and Microsoft also both recently unveiled high-end in-ear wireless headphones but did not reveal… Read More

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Democrat regulators warn FCC approval of T-Mobile-Sprint merger creates a ‘cozy oligopoly’

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. (Flickr Photo / FCCDotGov The Federal Communications Commission released its official order on T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint on Tuesday in a final regulatory seal of approval for the deal. The FCC voted to approve the merger last month after weeks of signaling support. The two Democrats on the FCC issued lengthy dissenting opinions spelling disaster if the third- and fourth-largest wireless carriers are allowed to merge. “In short, our existing wireless market will devolve into a cozy oligopoly dominated by just three carriers,” wrote Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “This will do nothing to make it easier for Americans to stay connected.” Her colleague Geoffrey Starks published a… Read More

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Former Uber, Microsoft engineers raise $11M for cloud data monitoring tool Chronosphere

Chronosphere co-founders Martin Mao (CEO) and Rob Skillington (CTO). (Chronosphere Photo) Chronosphere, a startup founded by former Uber and Microsoft engineers, has raised $11 million to build a platform that lets companies make sense of the data in the cloud. The Series A funding was led by Greylock with participation from Lux Capital. Chronosphere CEO Martin Mao and CTO Rob Skillington first met at Microsoft, where they worked on migrating Office to the cloud-based Office 365 format. Since then, the cloud landscape has “changed dramatically,” Mao said. Among the major shifts: companies are adopting technologies such as Kubernetes, moving from huge applications to microservices and shifting from physical servers to… Read More

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New digital pop-up store from Anko highlights retailer’s innovative push in Seattle region

Anko’s digital pop-up features curated vignettes of various lifestyle products. (Anko Photos) The Seattle area’s retail story is rich with history and innovation, whether it’s been written at Nordstrom for more than a century or inside a new cashierless Amazon Go store. Anko is looking for a chapter of its own. The lifestyle retailer from Australia, which has opened five stores in the Seattle region in the past year, has a new digital pop-up store north of the city at Alderwood Mall in Lynnnwood, Wash. It combines the experience of in-person browsing with the convenience of online shopping. The digital pop-up allows shoppers to use their smartphones to scan the… Read More

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