Friday, November 21, 2014

Electric motorcycle gangs: You’ll never hear them coming

A gathering of electric motorcycle riders.

Bikers are pack animals by nature.

They like to ride in groups and enjoy the open road with a few friends. Biker gangs are well known to ride together wearing the same leathers. Group rides for charity are common in the summer and fall riding seasons. Clubs form around brand names and styles of bikes alike.

Are there now groups of electric motorcycle riders tearing up the streets?  Is it possible to have a group ride?

If you live in Los Angeles, the answer is yes.

Hollywood Electrics has been running group rides through the canyons north of LA every month for a while now. They generally have more than 10 electric motorcycles along for the ride, touring nearby scenic roads and then ending up at a restaurant that uses an electric motorcycle for deliveries.

What’s it like riding with a dozen or so electric motorcycles?

Well, you can have a conversation at any stoplight.

You get to see wild animals on the side of the road that normally would have fled due to the noise of loud pipes.

You don’t smell any fumes from the bikes in front of you.

You get smiles and stares (and sometimes questions) from people nearby whose ears aren’t offended by your engine noise.

You get to enjoy riding with all of the benefits of riding a powerful motorcycle safely in a group without any of the smell or noise associated with gasoline-powered bikes.

That isn’t to say that gasoline bikes aren’t allowed. Friends of people who ride electric motorcycles sometimes still ride them. And they’re welcome to join the ride and tag along–but their riders had better be prepared for some good-natured ribbing about the fumes they make and the noise that stifles conversation.

But bikers are bikers, regardless of electric or gas power; if you can ride, you’re welcome to join a group of people enjoying a two-wheeled ride through the canyons.

Long-distance rides

If you’re familiar with electric vehicles, you already know that range is limited and recharging time can be considerable.

Electric motorcycles have these limitations too, so long-distance journeys are still rare.

The top three long-distance electric motorcycle riders are Terry Hershner, Ben Rich (your author), and Stephane Melancon.

Terry has gone over 70,000 miles on his 2012 Zero S, which is now highly modified, and he has crossed the US five times. I rode my 2012 Zero S across the country in 2013, and also went on a 6,000-mile excursion in the summer of 2014.  Stephane went on a 1,600-mile trip in 2014 on a 2012 Zero S with extra batteries.

To charge up, each of these bikers stopped for 30 minutes to 1.5 hours to recharge at Level 2 charging stations or RV parks.

This means that riding 400 miles in a day is possible, but it takes considerably longer than on a gas bike due to charging times. In fact, Terry Hershner recently joined the Iron Butt Association by riding 1,047 miles in 22 hours and 57 minutes.

I’ve gone on a few rides with friends who ride gas bikes, and it required some extra planning and time.

First I rode to a charging station near the fun roads we planned on riding that day. Then I charged up for about an hour with external chargers on my bike and my friends arrived when I was finished charging.

We rode for an hour and a half around Harriman State Park north of New York City, then finished back at the charging station in a little town nearby. We had lunch together while my bike charged again, and then we rode home. Total mileage together was a little over 100 miles.

For vacation riders you can go on a tour of the Alps on electric motorcycles with Eidelweiss Bike Travel or ride electric motorcycles around Cape Town, South Africa with Dualsport Adventures. Both companies offer tours with gas bikes, and have options for electric motorcycle tours with Zero Motorcycles. The Eidelweiss tour of the Alps is the same length as most of the tours with gas bikes, riding approximately 100 miles per day.

The range on electric motorcycles has increased every year, such that a full battery will get you about as far as a tank of gas on many bikes.

However, the recharge time is still the bottleneck. As soon as sites with CHAdeMO or CCS DC fast charging can be used with electric motorcycles, it will be possible for many more people to take longer electric road trips.

The future

For electric motorcycles to have the ability to go on long road trips with gas bikes–400 or more miles per day–there are several potential futures.

Battery technology could advance to the point where we have 10 times the energy density that we currently have. That would provide a 1,000 mile battery, making it unnecessary to charge during the day.

Faster charging would allow batteries to be charged as fast as gas bikes are filled up. For example, if a 15-kWh battery on a 2015 Zero S could use a Tesla Supercharger at 135kW to charge, it would take only about 7 minutes.

Multiple chargers, like those fitted to Terry Hershner’s bike, would allow the rider to plug two (or more) Level 2 chargers into their bike at the same time. Combined with higher battery capacity, this is a reasonable solution for the near future while we await any technological breakthroughs.

In the end, electric motorcycles are amazing to ride: Just ask anyone who has gone for a test ride.

But if you want to take a road trip, you will need to put a few extra dollars into your own faster charging system to take along for the ride–and bring a good book to read too.

And, by the way, if you see a “gang” of electric bikers … you may find them among the kindest and most considerate group of people you will meet.

This story originally appeared on Green Car Reports.










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Skillpocket lets you book a meeting with Google engineer for some quick advice

A 'help wanted' sign in Austin, Texas

Imagine pulling out an app on your phone and booking a one-hour call with Google Glass’s head of UI design as easily as calling up your mom for help with the washing machine.

That’s exactly what Skillpocket, a startup that launched its iOS app on Wednesday at the Demo conference, wants to help entrepreneurs do.

Skillpocket’s idea came out of the founders’ own experiences working on education-focused startups in Russia. Every so often, they would run into challenges or have questions about things like handling payments. They wished they could quickly pay for some help from an expert for a hour or two. And so they built Skillpocket.

With an interface similar to Tinder or Weave (swiping left or right to indicate whether someone matches your interests or not), Skillpocket shows you available experts that fit the skills you need. Once you find one you want to connect with, you message them privately to arrange to hire them.

Right now, only the payment is done through Skillpocket, but eventually, the team plans to build features to facilitate with all the coordination within the app. Skillpocket takes a 15 percent cut from every transaction, with three percent going to its payment processing partner.

Skillpocket’s pool of experts includes both well-established professionals — such as the mobile product lead for Google’s Inbox — as well as professionals you might not have heard of, but who can offer great expertise and likely a lower price.

“You might not want to hire Mark Cuban over the phone for $1,000,” said cofounder Frederik Trovatten in an interview with VentureBeat. So there might be a lesser-known expert available for a price within your budget.

And because not every expert will have a well-known brand, Skillpocket wants give experts ways to showcase their expertise and reputation. It now has about 1,000 experts signed up in its network.

“We want to take the reputation you have on other networks,” such as GitHub, Behance, LinkedIn, and allow you to leverage that reputation on Skillpocket.

And as for disputes, in case an expert doesn’t show up or have all the skills they say they have, Trovatten said Skillpocket will evaluate each dispute on a case-by-case basis, and always seek to keep its customers happy with their experience on Skillpocket.

Currently, other alternatives include Clarity, Helpouts, freelancer marketplaces like Elance, or professional networks like LinkedIn.

So far, the team has been bootstrapping Skillpocket, but is looking to raise funding to add more features and make Skillpocket as widely available as possible.

“A year from now, what we want to see is that every entrepreneur has this in his pocket,” Trovatten said.


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BitTorrent’s encrypted chat app Bleep gets offline messaging that only sends … when both parties are online

Bittorrent Bleep

BitTorrent today updated its encrypted P2P chat app Bleep with offline messaging support. You can download the new version (warning: it’s still an alpha) from http://ift.tt/1u9iLOH.

The Bleep team explains why it originally had to forgo the convenience of offline messaging when it began development: “without a server to store the messages, we needed a little more time to iron out the details of sending and receiving messages to offline users with the security we can guarantee during real-time chats.” Now, you can use Bleep to send messages to an offline user.

There’s a big problem though: the message is only sent once both users are online again. Because Bleep doesn’t rely on servers, messages live on the device of the sender until a connection is made.

The good news is that full asynchronous offline messaging support is coming. BitTorrent says two parties won’t need to be online at the same time for messages to be delivered.

How will Bleep pull this off? The team plans to use BitTorrent’s distributed tracker:

We will use our Distributed Hash Table (DHT) to store offline messages temporarily until they are received. Given the ephemeral nature of the data that is stored on the DHT, we are adding some mechanisms to keep this data alive until they are retrieved by the receiver. We will explain this in detail when we release the feature in the future.

For those who have never used it, Bleep’s main selling point is offering end-to-end encryption for every message sent through it, and ensuring to only store content locally on your device. Even better for the privacy-conscious, you can delete your encrypted message history, leaving no trace of conversation behind.

Formerly known as BitTorrent Chat, Bleep was first released in private alpha in July, but only for Windows 7 and Windows 8. A public alpha release followed in September, with apps for Android and OS X.

Other improvements in today’s alpha update include bug fixes for stability, letting users see more of their friends online, reducing data usage (though BitTorrent says Bleep is still not ideal for mobile environments on cellular data), and user interface tweaks. A beta release is coming, though BitTorrent didn’t say when.










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Archway Technology Partners Acquires WealthTouch

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Acquisition Creates Largest Provider in Private Wealth Reporting

INDIANAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–November 21, 2014–

Archway Technology Partners, LLC (“Archway”), an Indianapolis-based provider of software products and outsourced support services for the investment management and private wealth management industries, today announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire WealthTouch Holdings, Inc. (“WealthTouch”), a leading provider of consolidated investment reporting services to ultra-high net worth families, family offices, wealth advisors and foundations. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The acquisition of WealthTouch accelerates Archway’s growth strategy as it pursues new opportunities in the wealth management industry. By combining the best of both firms, Archway will be the undisputed leader in providing technology solutions and outsourcing services to private wealth management firms.

“Over the past twelve years, Archway has built a strong brand known for delivering next-generation technology and exceptional client service across the private wealth management community,” said Jason Brown, Archway’s CEO. “The opportunity to acquire WealthTouch serves as a strategic move for our organization to significantly extend our market reach and create an even more robust product and service offering for our current and future clients. This is a very exciting milestone in the history of Archway, as well as the wealth reporting industry, and we look forward to the promising road ahead.”

“We are excited to join the Archway team and believe that the synergies between our two companies will result in a truly market-defining firm. The combined company will have nearly $200 billion in assets under reporting and serve the full spectrum of the complex private wealth market,” said Craig Pearson, President of WealthTouch. “Our clients, and the market in general, will benefit from the scale and scope of services we will provide and together we will continue to lead the industry in technological and operational innovation.”

Barnes & Thornburg LLP acted as legal counsel for Archway. Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP acted as legal counsel for WealthTouch.

About Archway Technology Partners, LLC

Archway Technology Partners (Archway) is a software company whose products support the accounting, investment management and reporting functions for Single Family Offices, Multi-Family Offices, Investment Advisors and Hedge Funds. Archway’s flagship technology platform, ATWeb, is a comprehensive Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application that enables clients to simplify the operations and reporting of their firm through a single software solution.

For more information on Archway, please visit http://ift.tt/11LYyXG.

About WealthTouch Holdings, Inc.

Founded exclusively to serve ultra-high net worth families and their trusted advisors, WealthTouch delivers greater financial clarity, control and peace of mind through its suite of innovative consolidated reporting solutions. The company aggregates and reconciles complex, multi-faceted financial data from thousands of different sources and transforms it into clear, concise, highly accurate reporting, which provides advisors and clients a powerful decision-making tool and true portfolio intelligence. Established in 2001, WealthTouch helps clients report across all asset classes, custodians and currencies to create an unbiased and independent view of a family’s complete wealth picture. WealthTouch’s secure, web-based technology platform provides multi-period, on-demand performance, allocation and transactional reporting that is elegant and easy to understand.

For more information on WealthTouch, please visit www.wealthtouch.com.

Archway Technology Partners, LLC
Chelsea Spoor, 317-819-5513
Marketing Associate
cspoor@archwaytechnology.net
or
WealthTouch Holdings, Inc.
Rulonna Neilson, 303-831-3800
rneilson@wealthtouch.com


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The promise of Bitcoin

Melanie Shapiro, founder of CryptoLabs and CEO of Case

In 1991, the first version of the hypertext transfer protocol was published and it did one simple thing. HTTP allowed one computer to ask another computer for a page of information and receive an HTML page as a response. It was simple but for the first time, information could travel anywhere in the world for free as long as you hook up to this open network called the Internet.

Bitcoin is also a protocol that does something simple.  For the first time, it allows anyone who hooks up to this open network called Bitcoin to receive a token from someone that they don’t necessarily know or trust, while knowing with certainty that the token they received isn’t fraudulent and hasn’t been double spent.  That token is just a store of value so it can represent currency, it can represent property, or shares, or voting rights, or a million other things that we can’t even imagine.

In 1991, no one knew that HTTP would lead to a device that lets you hail a driver, watch that driver approach you on a live map, and then automatically pay that driver when you exit the vehicle. No one imagined it, but a company called Uber lets you do exactly that thanks to all the layers that we’ve built on top of HTTP over the past 20 years.

Bitcoin is exciting not just because it can disrupt retail payments, wire payments, remittances, and a slew of other financial services by eliminating fraud and excessive fees; it’s also because of the stuff that we can’t imagine yet, but will become possible once layers are built on top of the Bitcoin protocol over the coming years.  The same way that the Internet made information free for the world, Bitcoin makes fraudless transactions free for the world.

And it’s come such a long way so quickly. Over 100,000 merchants now accept bitcoin and the ecosystem has grown to around 80,000 transactions per day. Bitcoin is already saving merchants millions of dollars in credit card transaction fees and millions more by eliminating fraud and chargebacks. In 2013 alone, merchants paid around $260 billion in credit card transaction fees and lost billions more to fraud so have no doubt that there are strong incentives for merchants to adopt this technology.

The problems with Bitcoin

But while there isn’t a reason in the world for a merchant not to accept bitcoin, there are plenty of reasons for consumers not to use it. The biggest one is price volatility. The price of bitcoin often swings violently from day to day and that scares consumers.  Volatility prevents bitcoin from becoming a viable currency and store of value because let’s face it – no one wants to hold a currency that can lose half its value overnight. Just ask the citizens of countries that use the USD for commerce instead of their local currency due to rampant inflation.

The reason for the volatility is simple – lack of adoption. The 100,000 merchants accepting bitcoin are a far cry from the 24 million that accept Visa and MasterCard, and while $5 trillion exchange hands on the foreign currency markets each day, the daily USD/BTC trading volume is a paltry $10 million.

The sad truth is that volatility can’t be tackled head-on because it’s a chicken or egg problem; volatility prevents mainstream adoption but it can only be solved when adoption causes legitimate use trading volumes to eclipse speculative trading volumes.  In other words, when billions of dollars in global currency are traded in and out of bitcoin each day by merchants and consumers, the speculators won’t be able to push the price around the way they can now but until excessive volatility is fixed, Bitcoin will never gain mainstream adoption.

The only way to fix volatility is by solving the other major problems that Bitcoin faces – namely security and ease of use – in order to bring a new wave of users into the ecosystem. These users will take Bitcoin from the “innovator” part of the technology adoption curve to the “early adopter” part, infusing the ecosystem with more transaction volume and stabilizing the price further to make Bitcoin ripe for mainstream adoption. But why are security and ease-of-use such difficult problems? Heck, why are they problems at all?

The problems with Bitcoin wallets

The fundamental breakthrough of Bitcoin is its ability to allow two people to digitally exchange money directly with each other without the need for an intermediary. Before Bitcoin, this was only possible in the physical world with cash.

The reason Bitcoin can do this while eliminating the fraud and fees that riddle other digital payment systems is because it’s not a centralized ledger like your bank account, credit card, or Paypal account. It’s a fungible store of value just like cash so sending someone bitcoin is just like handing them some cash except you can’t counterfeit bitcoin the way you can counterfeit cash.

While this is one of the most beautiful things about Bitcoin, it is also one of the most dangerous. When someone steals and misuses your credit card, you call the bank and they (or the merchant) eat the cost of the fraud. If you lose a wallet full of cash, you have no one to call. Bitcoin, like cash, is irreversible so if your bitcoin wallet is lost, stolen, or otherwise compromised, there is no undoing what was done. Because of this, securing the bitcoin wallet is of paramount importance.

The earliest bitcoin wallets were software that ran on general-purpose devices like laptops and mobile phones. These devices are completely insecure because they are susceptible to viruses, malware, hackers, and physical theft/loss. This has led to millions of dollars in bitcoin theft and loss, and the Internet is littered with accounts that range from complex hacks to plain old spilled soda.

The next wave of bitcoin wallets moved to the cloud, running on secure servers with regular backups and improved security features like two-factor authentication. But here’s the thing – using a secure cloud wallet to send bitcoin involves a sequence of steps that looks like this: unlock phone, launch wallet app, click Send BTC, scan QR code, minimize the app, launch Google Authenticator, copy 2FA code, switch to wallet app, paste 2FA code, hit send.  That’s 10 steps! Ten! The pursuit of security has created complexity and led to an extremely cumbersome experience relative to existing payment options like credit cards, destroying any incentive for the average user to adopt bitcoin.

The entire ecosystem of bitcoin wallets fails to wholly address the difficulty of using and securing bitcoin. Existing wallets operate on a spectrum where users are forced to choose between ease-of-use and the security of their bitcoin.

The future of Bitcoin wallets

Bitcoin holds the promise of a reimagined finance industry; one that tears down borders with a transparent global currency that eliminates fraud and brings accessible, interoperable banking services to the unbanked people of this planet.

The promise of Bitcoin is too great to settle or make a compromise. We must live up to that promise with wallets that achieve perfection on all fronts – security, ease-of-use, and global accessibility. It can’t be a compromise or a choice. Without that, mainstream adoption of Bitcoin is impossible.

Melanie Shapiro is the founder and CEO of CryptoLabs, which is building Case, a multi-signature hardware Bitcoin wallet. After cofounding the instant messaging company, Digsby, she went on to get a Ph.D. in Consumer Behavior. Melanie believes strongly in the disruptive power of Bitcoin and is passionate about building technology that will help Bitcoin achieve mainstream adoption.  


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