Here’s When Apple Will Hand Over Chinese iCloud Data to Comply With Local Laws

Apple has revealed when it will hand over the operation of its iCloud data center in China in a bid to comply with local law.

In an e-mail to affected customers on Wednesday, Apple said that it will hand over Chinese iCloud data center operations to Guizhou on the Cloud Big Data (GCBD) on February 28. The move will ensure iCloud data owned by Chinese users will remain inside the country’s borders. But Apple was quick to note in the e-mail, which was obtained by 9to5Mac, that it will maintain the same security and encryption protocols and will not build a “backdoor” that would allow a third-party to access user data.

China has proven to be a unique challenge for Apple and other foreign companies trying to do business there. Last year, China began clamping down on foreign companies that store Chinese user data overseas. The country’s regulators pointed to increasingly strict local data laws that make it nearly impossible for a company doing business there to offload user data to servers in other countries.

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Apple, which considers China a critical market, has chosen to comply with local law and keep Chinese user data in China. The move allows Apple to continue to operate in the country and according to the company, maintain user privacy.

However, some critics have wondered whether China’s regulations are an attempt by the country to control user data and ultimately spy on its people—something the government is believed to do on a regular basis.

For its part, Apple said in the e-mail to its customers that it wants to maintain “transparency” with them and will continue to keep them abreast of how the changes will affect them in the coming weeks. Apple also said that it would allow customers to deactivate their iCloud accounts if they’d prefer not to have their information stored in China.

Cryptocurrency Vibe Jumps 400% in 24 Hours

Even in the fast-paced and fast-changing world of cryptocurrency, the rise of Vibe in the last 24 hours is astonishing.

The live music-centric digital currency has seen its value explode 400% in the last day to $2.34, as of mid-morning Wednesday. That puts the price per coin above Ripple, though the overall market cap is still notably lower.

Vibe currently has a market cap of $405 million, according to CoinMarketCap. That’s low in the big picture, but the coins just began trading in October. Not familiar with the platform? Here’s a quick primer.

What is a Vibe token?

Vibe tokens tie in with Viberate, a platform that acts as an IMDB of sorts for live music. Performers are ranked based on their online popularity. Tokens can be used to purchase merchandise or get access to music industry contacts. Eventually, they are expected to be accepted for ticket purchases.

What’s the buzz?

Vibe’s initial coin offering (ICO) made history by selling out in less than 5 minutes, raising $10 million in the process. Among its backers is Charlie Shrem, one of the most visible members of the Bitcoin community.

What caused the surge?

The Binance exchange added Vibe to its trading options, giving the cryptocurrency an added dose of credibility. Buyers jumped in, pushing Vibe into the Top 100 of all digital coins being traded.

Toyota unveils self-driving concept vehicle for rides, deliveries

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp announced on Monday a self-driving electric concept vehicle that it will tailor for companies to use for tasks like ride hailing and package delivery, underscoring how automakers are no longer simply building cars but also providing services to go with them.

The world’s second-biggest carmaker said it plans to begin testing the e?Palette concept vehicle in various regions, including the United States, in the early 2020s. It will come in three sizes: a bus-sized vehicle, a shuttle and a small delivery vehicle sized to run on sidewalks.

Toyota said at the CES global technology conference in Las Vegas that it will work with companies including Amazon.com Inc, Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing Technology Co, Pizza Hut, Mazda Motor Corp and Uber Technologies Inc[UBER.UL] to build the vehicle and its hardware and software support and develop connected mobility products.

After intense research and development in self-driving technology, automakers are beginning to unveil clearly defined autonomous vehicle strategies and looking to apply the technology to uses like ride services, shuttle services and package deliveries.

Toyota took longer than rivals to warm to the idea of autonomous vehicles, but has committed $1 billion through 2020 to develop advanced automated driving and artificial intelligence technology. It plans to begin testing cars that can drive themselves on highways around 2020.

“This announcement marks a major step forward in our evolution towards sustainable mobility, demonstrating our continued expansion beyond traditional cars and trucks to the creation of new values including services for customers,” said Toyota President Akio Toyoda in a statement.

The vehicle features an open control interface enabling Toyota’s partner companies to install their own automated driving system. Toyota’s so-called “guardian” technology will then act as a safety net, the company said.

Carmakers, tech companies and other service providers have partnered on self-driving projects over past two years, due to the difficulty and high cost of developing such technology alone.

Reporting By Alexandria Sage; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli

Does This 'Black Mirror' Fan Theory Mean We're Finally Ready For the Singularity?

When Black Mirror first hit the air in 2011, it drew invariable comparisons to The Twilight Zone. Understandably so: Both shows dealt with elements of science fiction and psychological horror, and both functioned as anthology shows, with episodes so distinct from one another that an uninitiated viewer could plunge in at random and be as familiar with a given episode’s premise as a seasoned fan. It was a selling point; it made the show easy to recommend to people who might be wary of committing to a complex, serialized narrative.

But since its purchase by Netflix in 2015, Black Mirror has begun to chip away at its episodic edges. Technologies introduced in one installation reappear in another; news tickers on characters’ TV screens chronicle events from previous episodes; musical cues repeat again and again. Call them Easter eggs, or call them clues to piecing together a shared universe—one that creator Charlie Brooker, after years of denying, has finally admitted does, indeed, exist.

The new episodes, released last Friday, are more thematically cohesive than any batch that’s preceded them. They grapple obsessively with the notion of the human mind: uploading it; infiltrating it; probing its memories; preserving it after death. Though the show has flirted with digital consciousness in the past, most notably with its mind-bending “White Christmas” special and the series three darling, “San Junipero,” the new season takes up the thought experiment with zeal. Black Mirror’s episodes still stand well enough on their own, but after this latest installation, it’s possible to zoom out and see a cohesive rumination on the implications of digital immortality.

(Spoiler alert: spoilers for multiple Black Mirror episodes follow.)

Viewers were first introduced to the “cookie,” Black Mirror’s term for a carbon-copied consciousness, in 2014’s “White Christmas,” which followed Jon Hamm as he coerced digital souls into acting as hyper-personalized home assistants and confessing to crimes. But there were hints of this manifestation of the singularity even back in the show’s first few episodes. Take, for example, “Be Right Back,” in which a woman named Martha, mourning her dead boyfriend, signs up for a service that promises to harvest the traces of his online presence to recreate him as a chatbot—and, later, place that AI in a synthetic body.

The uncanny process is flawed, naturally: The android “Ash” can only mimic what he’s been taught, and his lack of human traits (like the need for sleep) is off-putting. But Martha’s desire to resurrect her dead loved one stands as a precursor to the digital rebirth we see later in the series. Her experience is remarkably similar to that of Jack, who we meet in “Black Museum,” the final episode of Black Mirror’s latest season. When his wife Carrie falls into an irreversible coma, he’s offered the chance to implant her consciousness in his own mind, using the technology that we learn was initially developed to help diagnose disease—and, much like in “Be Right Back,” that decision goes terribly wrong.

That casts a new light on the 2013 episode. What if we see it not only as a warning against meddling with death, but also as an early attempt by technologists in the Black Mirror-verse to digitize consciousness? Android Ash lacks a true sense of self; he doesn’t have memories from his previous life in the same way that Carrie does. But, at least for a little while, he passes his girlfriend’s Turing test. It’s a failed experiment, for sure—but maybe a necessary, realistic stumble on the path to true digital reincarnation.

From that first seed of cloud-based immortality planted in “Be Right Back,” we jump to “White Christmas,” where the technology, too, has leapt ahead—and has even more sinister implications. Sure, your cloned assistant might streamline life for the true “you,” but what about the “you” that’s then forced to live out eternity trapped in a Google Home-esque device? And Hamm’s ability to torture cookies by speeding up their timelines, subjecting them to months or years of insanity-inducing boredom, certainly hints at the “human rights for cookies” that “Black Museum” tells us were later enacted. In both “White Christmas” and this season’s “USS Callister,” digital cloning appears largely unregulated: Tech companies like the one that employs Hamm’s character are able to turn cookies into slaves for their “real” selves, while bad actors like Callister’s Robert Daly are able to get their hands on the technology to enact sadistic punishment on those who have “wronged” them—and no one steps in to stop them.

It’s clear that at this moment in the technology’s lifetime, the ACLU hasn’t yet seized upon cookies’ cause, and the mass protests mentioned in “Black Museum” have yet to have any effect. And by the end of “Black Museum,” it’s still not apparent whether those human rights for cookies are actually enforced: The museum’s proprietor is still torturing Clayton Leigh’s cookie, seemingly unhampered by pesky regulations, though his own karmic blowback returns that favor in kind. It also seems at this point that no one has given any real thought to the ethical and psychological implications of what they’ve created: How do you ensure that your cookie doesn’t spend eternity being driven mad by boredom—hell dressed up as limbo?

That brings us to “San Junipero.” No more creepily submissive androids, stimulation-starved home assistants, or uploaded minds trapped in other people’s skulls or teddy bears: Now, upon death, residents of the universe can choose to live forever in a simulated utopia, seemingly without any real drawbacks. It’s the best possible outcome of mind-uploading technology: that we use it not to service our real-world selves or punish criminals, but rather to guarantee life—a good life—after death. There are nods to a similarly happy outcome in “Hang the DJ,” this season’s heart-wrenching, dating app-inspired episode in which hundreds of thousands of cookies form a data set for real-world singles (and though that app makes a sneaky cameo on a phone in “USS Callister,” it’s arguably an earlier, less cookie-dependent iteration, given that cookie technology doesn’t appear known to most of that episode’s characters).

You can take the shared-cookie-timeline theory even further, if you don’t mind some attenuation. Perhaps the memory-capturing technology to which we’re first introduced in season 1’s “Entire History of You”—and which resurfaces in this season’s “Arkangel” and “Crocodile”—helped facilitate mind uploading, creating an easily downloadable reel of a life’s worth of data. Maybe the hyperrealistic augmented reality flaunted in “Playtest” was ultimately adapted to create the virtual paradise of “San Junipero.”

Some fans have seen even more hints of the cookie-verse in “Playtest”: As Redditors SplurgyA and sailormooncake speculate, the character of Sonja in Playtest might well be the real-world version of Selma, played by the same actress in season 1’s “Fifteen Million Merits.” Look closely in “Playtest,” and you’ll notice that her apartment sports a book on the singularity—and because she’s so enamored with game development, Redditors hypothesize, she might well have been one of the first to cookie-ify herself. Which, in turn, might mean that the world of “Fifteen Million Merits” is a reality show or form of punishment for cookies. And speaking of punishment, still others have suggested, the protagonist of series two’s “White Bear” might well be a cookie herself, sentenced to eternal, repetitive punishment. The speculative possibilities are endless.

The idea of digitally replicating a human mind is a much-loved trope of sci-fi novels that’s been seeing renewed enthusiasm recently. Altered Carbon, a novel in which characters are able to upload and download their personalities into new bodies, will be reborn as a Netflix series next month. The Canadian TV show Travelers, which premiered in 2016, imagines a world in which humans send their consciousnesses back in time to prevent an apocalypse. And in Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway, published last spring, self-appointed outcasts discover how to evade death by “backing themselves up” to the the cloud. The trend is perhaps reflective of Silicon Valley’s own obsession with digitizing the human mind. From technologies like brain-machine interfaces to the pipe dreams of futurists like Ray Kurzweil, many see this as the holy grail of AI—and one that some project might be attainable by 2045. So as we interpret Black Mirror as a cautionary tale about online dating and robot guard dogs and myriad technologies, let’s not lose sight of its larger message: A reminder to center our humanity as we speed toward a world in which that becomes harder and harder to define.

December Employment Update: Growth Outlook Remains, S&P 500 Valuation Rich

Economic Composite

I updated my economic composite to reflect the release of the U.S. Labor Department’s employment report on January 9. The report showed a rise in nonfarm employment of 148,000 in December. Forecasters were looking for a gain of 191,000, according to Bloomberg News.

Preliminary numbers for the previous two months were revised slightly downward. For the year, nonfarm employment grew on average a robust 171,000 per month.

Temp employment in December rose 7,000 (+0.2%) from the previous month and climbed 4.6% year over year. The preliminary figures for October and November were adjusted downward by a few thousand.

For the year, temp employment rose on average a solid 11,000 per month, for an average increase of 4%. It’s an encouraging sign that employers, in the aggregate, are seeing enough strength in their business to hire temps at this pace.

The December level of temps was in line with my estimate, so I’m leaving my estimates unchanged. I continue to forecast modest monthly sequential increases in the BLS temps data series, equating to low to mid single-digit annual growth rates. As a result, the composite continues to signal economic growth for the next 12 to 18 months. The composite is likely to range from 2.0 to nearly 3.5 through this year, well into positive territory. I do not expect the economy to tip into recession.

The next Employment Situation report is scheduled to be released on Friday, February 2. I expect to provide an update to the economic composite shortly after the report comes out.

Figure 1 below shows the actual monthly values of the economic composite from 1991 through the present and the estimated values through nearly the end of 2019. In general, the composite remains positive during periods of economic expansion and turns negative during periods of recession. The vertical dashed lines mark the inflection points when the economy is poised to enter recession or has safely exited recession. It typically takes three consecutive months of a change in sign (from positive to negative and vice versa) to confirm a change in outlook.

Valuation Composite

My composite of publicly available forward P/E estimates puts the current forward P/E on the S&P at the intraday trade of 2,735 (Friday, January 5) at 20.5.

The S&P has climbed 11% in the four months since I made the change from “high end of fair value” to “fairly valued” on August 30, in my article on the second-quarter staffing data from the American Staffing Association.

In that time, the composite P/E has expanded 10% from 18.6 to 20.5. The last time it was this high was April, 2002. It’s hard to see much more P/E expansion in the near future. That leaves an increase in the S&P earnings estimate to power the market higher. It’s my sense that one of the components of my composite P/E, an input I’ve been tracking for well over a decade, is still one month away from advancing its four-quarter earnings estimate by one quarter.

Thus, I’m returning to high end of fair value. I have concerns the market is vulnerable to shocks at this level.

I prefer to be a more aggressive buyer at a lower P/E, perhaps around 18.0, which would equate to roughly 2,400 on the S&P. For now, I would still continue to make regularly planned dollar-cost averaging allocations to equities that investors intend to hold for the long term, such as monthly or bi-weekly contributions to a 401(K) plan.

A five-year chart of the valuation composite and the S&P 500 is below. The last two months have seen a considerable climb in the S&P and the P/E composite.

Track Record

The model’s historical record is depicted in the chart below. The economic composite predicted the beginning and end of the 2000 recession and the 2008 recession. It also predicted the end of the recession of the early 1990s. Some of the data series used in the composite did not exist before 1990; hence, the start of the track record at that time.

In the two historical Overweight periods, the S&P rose 13% and 14% on an annualized basis. In the two historical Underweight periods, the S&P fell 18% and 9% on an annualized basis. In the current Overweight period, the S&P has been returning 12% annually.

Methodology

For a full discussion of the Chartwell method, I refer readers to a description of the process in my April employment update, under the heading “Methodology.”

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

December Jobs Report: Late Cycle Mediocre Growth Reasserts Itself

By New Deal Democrat

Headlines

  • +143,000 jobs added
  • U3 unemployment rate unchanged at 4.1%
  • U6 underemployment rate rose +0.1% from 8.0% to 8.1%

Here are the headlines on wages and the chronic heightened underemployment:

Wages and participation rates

  • Not in Labor Force but Want a Job Now: Rose +43,000 from 5.265 million to 5.308 million
  • Part Time for Economic Reasons: Rose +64,000 from 4.851 million to 4.915 million
  • Employment/Population Ratio ages 25-54: Rose +0.1% from 79.0% to 79.1%
  • Average Weekly Earnings for Production and Nonsupervisory Personnel: Rose $.0.07 from $22.23 to $22.30, up +2.3% YoY. (Note: You may be reading different information about wages elsewhere. They are citing average wages for all private workers. I use wages for nonsupervisory personnel to come closer to the situation for ordinary workers).

Holding Trump accountable on manufacturing and mining jobs

Trump specifically campaigned on bringing back manufacturing and mining jobs. Is he keeping this promise?

  • Manufacturing jobs rose by +25,000 for an average of +17,500 a month vs. the last seven years of Obama’s presidency in which an average of 10,300 manufacturing jobs were added each month.
  • Coal mining jobs fell -400 for an average of -63 a month vs. the last seven years of Obama’s presidency in which an average of -300 jobs were lost each month.

October was revised downward by -33,000. November was revised upward by +24,000, for a net change of -9,000.

The more leading numbers in the report tell us about where the economy is likely to be a few months from now. These were mixed.

  • The average manufacturing workweek fell -0.1 hour from 40.9 hours to 40.8 hours. This is one of the 10 components of the LEI.
  • Construction jobs increased by +30,000. YoY construction jobs are up +210,000.
  • Temporary jobs increased by +7,000.
  • The number of people unemployed for five weeks or less decreased by -18,000 from 2,253,000 to 2,235,000. The post-recession low was set over two years ago at 2,095,000.

Other important coincident indicators help us paint a more complete picture of the present:

  • Overtime was unchanged at 3.5 hours.
  • Professional and business employment (generally higher-paying jobs) increased by +19,000 and is up +488,000 YoY.
  • The index of aggregate hours worked in the economy rose by 0.1% from 115.9 to 116.0.
  • The index of aggregate payrolls rose by 0.7% from 172.2 to 172.9.

Other news included:

  • The alternate jobs number contained in the more volatile household survey increased by +104,000 jobs. This represents an increase of 1,267,000 jobs YoY vs. 2,055,000 in the establishment survey.
  • Government jobs rose by 2,000.
  • The overall employment to population ratio for all ages 16 and up was unchanged at 60.1 m/m and is up + 0.3% YoY.
  • The labor force participation rate was unchanged m/m and is also unchanged YoY at 62.7%

Summary

This was a mediocre but not bad report. There was growth in almost all sectors of employment. Participation measures were positive. Aggregate payrolls and hours increased.

But there were concerning signs of late cycle deceleration as well. The underemployment rate increased for the second month in a row, and the unemployment rate is up from two months ago. Involuntary part-time employment and those outside of the workforce who want a job now both increased. And wage growth is actually declining.

Bottom line: After several months of post-hurricane bounces, we are back to a late cycle dynamic.

Apple, researchers eye patches to solve Intel chip flaws

(Reuters) – Intel Corp (INTC.O) said fixes for security issues in its microchips would not slow down computers, rebuffing concerns that the flaws found in microprocessors would significantly reduce performance.

The performance impact of the recent security updates should not be significant and will be mitigated over time, Intel said late on Thursday, adding that Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Google (GOOGL.O) and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) reported little to no performance impact from the security updates. intel.ly/2CHQ89E

Intel shares fell nearly 2 percent on Thursday as investors were worried about the potential financial liability and reputational damage from the recently disclosed security issues.

The largest chipmaker confirmed earlier this week that the security issues reported by researchers in the company’s widely used microprocessors could allow hackers to steal sensitive information from computers, phones and other devices.

Security researchers had disclosed two security flaws exposing vulnerability of nearly every modern computing device containing chips from Intel, Advanced Micro Devices Inc (AMD.O) and ARM Holdings.

The first, called Meltdown, affects Intel chips and lets hackers bypass the hardware barrier between applications run by users and the computer’s memory, potentially letting hackers read a computer’s memory and steal passwords. The second, called Spectre, affects chips from Intel, AMD and ARM and lets hackers potentially trick otherwise error-free applications into giving up secret information.

Intel had said the issues were not caused by a design flaw and asked users to download a patch and update their operating system.

Intel may be on the hook for costs stemming from lawsuits claiming that the patches would slow computers and effectively force consumers to buy new hardware, and big customers will likely seek compensation from Intel for any software or hardware fixes they make, security experts said.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri

In 6 Words, Elon Musk Explained Why So Many People Are Afraid to Take Risks and Achieve Greatness

This series examines the stories behind some of the best inspiring quotes of all time. Check out the full list: the best inspirational quotes for 2018.

The most powerful threat to greatness isn’t evil. It’s mediocrity.

Of all the colorful ways to articulate that truth, one of the best is what Elon Musk told Chris Anderson of Wired magazine, back in 2012.

They were talking about Musk’s space exploration company, SpaceX, which grew out of Musk’s “crazy idea to spur the national will” to travel to Mars–by first sending a private rocket to the red planet.

He tried to to slash the cost of his quixotic dream by buying Cold War Russian missiles to turn into interplanetary rockets. While negotiating that deal, he realized that it wasn’t lack of “national will” that held the U.S. back from exploring space.

Instead, it was a lack of affordable technology–and the high cost, he told Anderson, was the result of some “pretty silly things” in the aerospace industry, like using legacy rocket technology from the 1960s. 

Anderson: I’ve heard that the attitude is essentially that you can’t fly a component that hasn’t already flown.

Musk: Right, which is obviously a catch-22, right? There should be a Groucho Marx joke about that. So, yeah, there’s a tremendous bias against taking risks. Everyone is trying to optimize their ass-covering.

That’s the quote that I liked so much, especially those last six words: a “bias against risk,” because everyone is “trying to optimize their ass-covering.”

It’s funny–but also poignant. And, of course, it applies to a lot more than space exploration.

It applies to the vast majority of successful companies that get stuck producing legacy products–because they can’t risk that innovation might upset their own profit models.

It applies to the service providers that make a mockery of the word “service” (say for example, big airlines and utility companies)–because cost-cutting with crappy service maximizes shareholder value.

It applies also to temptations in our personal lives, and in the lives of those around us.

Think of the colleagues you know who hold onto uninspiring jobs for fear of going after the careers or entrepreneurial dreams they really want.

Or think of the friend you might have (I think most of us do), who stays in a lousy relationship because he or she is more afraid of being alone than of living with less than they deserve.

We’re all a little bit afraid of risk. Yet, each day represents a new chance and a new beginning. At the start of the year, that sense is especially acute. 

And sometimes we need a little inspiration to take the leap.

Whatever is the thing you’re afraid of trying–a new business, a new adventure, a new relationship–maybe now is the time to give it a try.

Cast aside your risk aversion. Be uncomfortable for a while as you try something new. Accept the chance that you’ll fail.

Don’t optimize your ass-covering. Instead, optimize your opportunities. And find your own mission to Mars.

Blockchain Takes a Shot at Redefining the Sports Betting Experience

In 2018, hundreds of sports betting sites and apps allow bettors to gamble discretely from just about anywhere through their smartphones. This convenience has attracted more users to participate in the action.

Traditional payment services like banks and digital wallets have been wary of supporting online gambling, leaving room for specialized payments gateways to facilitate bankroll funding and payouts. There’s also no shortage of handicapper sites and services that offer paid analyses to less savvy gamblers.

Unfortunately, the involvement of these parties brings enhanced risk of fraud and failure. Gambling payment gateways are constantly under threat from cyber-criminals. Handicappers also don’t quite produce the wins that they promise to bettors. As such, there are opportunities for blockchain – a technology that promotes shared trust – to address these issues.

Several blockchain efforts have set their sights on bettors’ needs. For example, emerging digital currency Electroneum envisions its token to be used by online gambling services. BlitzPredict provides bettors trustworthy insights through its aggregation service. Platforms like HEROcoin even aim to decentralize sports betting.

Success of these efforts could all help create better betting experiences. Here are three ways how these blockchain services can accomplish that goal.

1 – Easier Funding and Payouts

Payments using blockchain can be completed quicker compared to traditional means. Tokens do not have to be routed through different financial institutions and clearing houses. Winnings can either be readily credited to the user’s bankroll or to a token wallet. Since tokens are now fungible assets, bettors also have the option to transfer tokens to exchanges and trade them for other crypto or fiat currencies.

However, crypto tokens aren’t without their quirks. For instance, it can be hard to tell how much a bet made in Bitcoin is actually worth in fiat currency. For ordinary people, it’s easier to discern the value of “$50” compared to “0.003 BTC.” Interestingly, Electroneum addresses this by limiting its token to two decimal places just like fiat currencies. This way, users could have an easier time estimating or converting mentally making use of crypto tokens for gambling more bettor friendly.

2 – Trustworthy Insights

Blockchain startup BlitzPredict aims to provide insights by aggregating sportsbooks and prediction markets much like a stock market ticker. This helps bettors determine which sportsbook provides them with the best possible outcomes for a given bet. The platform also enables bettors to use blockchain smart contracts to automatically place bets when certain conditions are met.

Alternatively, bettors can subscribe to handicapper services that could supposedly point them to better odds. However, the credibility of many of these so-called sports “experts” have been called to question. Many offer tips and promise sure wins for a fee even if they don’t have the credentials to back their “expertise” or the data to support their picks.

In order to promote quality insights, BlitzPredict also allows analytics enthusiasts to share their prediction models to other users. High-performing models are rewarded with the platform’s own token which could then be used to place bets using the platform. Such a rewards mechanism encourages bettors to make data-driven decisions rather than settle for hunches or bad advice.

3 – Transparent Betting

Sportsbooks are often set up so that the house always wins. Even the reputable ones will have to make money by taking a cut from transactions. Without aggregation and advanced analytics, bettors are not only likely to lose in the long term, but they may also have to absorb the cost of these cuts and fees for all the transactions they conduct.

Platforms such as HEROcoin challenge this system by offering decentralized peer-to-peer betting. Through smart contracts, bettors are free to define the conditions of wagers. Blockchain’s transparency lets users trace the flow of money and the terms.

Fair Wagers

Sports betting is still a growing market and the expansion of betting to other segments such as esports is bringing in new participants. In esports alone, studies predict that more than $23 billion will be wagered by 2020. New services should strive to create easier and more positive experiences for the benefit of these new bettors joining the scene.

Fortunately, blockchain startups are already bringing transparency and trust into such activities. The use of crypto tokens could help address the lengthy and costly funding and payout processes. Better analytics and aggregation could also aid discerning bettors in making effective picks. Smart contracts can provide secure mechanisms for parties to enter and execute wagers.

This 5-Star Hotel Just Ruined Its Online Reputation By Getting the Police to Help Kick Out a Guest (He's Famous)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

You’d think that five-star hotels would be used to catering to the famous.

You’d even think that they research their guests beforehand to make sure they can surprise them with personal touches.

But then there were the peculiarly personal touches offered by the Boca Raton Resort, a Waldorf Collection Hotel to one of its New Year guests.

Vitaly Zdorovetskiy is a very well-known YouTube star. He makes prank videos. People like them.

However, once the Boca Raton Resort discovered who he is, it decided it didn’t like him after all.

All we currently have is Zdorovetskiy’s explanation. 

Well, that and the video, in which hotel personnel arrive with two police officers to have him removed on New Year’s Eve. 

It seems, though, unclear what he’d done wrong, other than be who he is. 

He says he wasn’t going to film anything in the hotel. Indeed, he had his girlfriend with him, rather than his equipment.

Still, watch and listen to his story and see what you think. (Warning: His language isn’t pristine.)

It seems that it all started with a phone call from the hotel to his room, which Zdorovetskiy didn’t want to take.

But can it be that the next step was for management knock on his door to check whether he intends to make prank videos in the hotel?

Now YouTube stars aren’t like you and me. Zdorovetskiy’s own admission is that he may have told the manager to go away in a rather rude-imentary manner because he wanted to sleep.

Within the hour, though, he says a manager broke into his room with a couple of police officers to have him removed.

He claims they ordered him and his girlfriend, who was naked at the time, to get dressed in front of them.

A man who appears to be a manager accuses him of posting a prank video the day before — but not one at the hotel.

The manager seems, indeed, to have no idea what the video was. 

Still, some might wonder whether the hotel thought through its strategy as thoroughly as it might have done. 

Naturally, being a YouTube star, Zdorovetskiy encouraged his 9 million followers to post poor reviews of the hotel. 

He encouraged them to go to Expedia, Hotels.com and Priceline. These weren’t affected.

He also encouraged them to go on Yelp.

At the time or writing, the Boca Raton Resort has sunk to a one-and-a-half star rating on Yelp.

Perhaps Yelp doesn’t matter — it certainly doesn’t to me — but a general flow of online ill-will toward a hotel is rarely a good thing.

And, in this case, surely it could have been avoided.

The senior manager explained to Zdorovetskiy that “due to the nature of your postings, we reserve the right as a private company to have you removed from the property and not do business with you.” 

Some might find this explanation odd, as the very same manager admitted he had no idea what Zdorovetskiy had posted.

Worse, he then told him that he’s being “trespassed” for one year. This means that if he returns in that time, he’ll be arrested. 

And all for, well, what?

I contacted the Waldorf Astoria to wonder what it thought of its staff’s behavior and will update, should a response be forthcoming.

Zdorovetskiy does have something of a reputation. 

He was arrested last year after climbing the HOLLYWOOD sign. 

He was also charged with criminal trespass after streaking during the World Series.

I can’t say I warm to his public charm at all.

But some famous people are very different in private.

It’s odd that the hotel didn’t seem to know who he was when it accepted his booking.

Moreover, if the manager had told him he’d done something — behaved rudely toward a member of staff, for example — it would have been entirely understandable that he’d be removed.

Yet to expressly look a guest in the face and say they’re being kicked out and banned for a year — just because of the videos they make — seems exactly like the haughty half-wittery many might expect from one or two snooty establishments.

But only one or two, surely. 

Some will say that the mere chance that the hotel might suffer damage of some sort justifies its stance.

To which I wonder: So how do rock stars ever get into a hotel?

Now, what are the chances that members of Zdorovetskiy’s team will pay a secret visit to the Boca Raton Resort and really have a good time?

High, I’d say.