☕ On the water
To:Brew Readers
Tech Brew // Morning Brew // Update
Autonomous boats dock themselves.
September 25, 2023

Tech Brew

It’s Monday. We hear a lot about autonomous trucks and cars, but what about…boats? Tech Brew’s Patrick Kulp got out on the water to take a ride on a boat that docks itself.

Are you an AV or EV enthusiast? Join us for a free virtual event to discover the impact of EVs and AVs on industries, sustainability, and regulations. Plus, gain insights from the New York Power Authority, General Motors, and NI’s Rob Harris. Don’t miss out—secure your spot today!

In today’s edition:

Patrick Kulp, Tom McKay, Annie Saunders


Snazzy skiffs

Autonomous boat sailing in the ocean Francis Scialabba

We were just pulling into a marina on the western edge of Manhattan when the self-docking, million-dollar watercraft that we were on froze in the Hudson River, as if spooked by something. It took every human on board a second to realize why.

The autonomous system’s cameras had detected two swimmers in wetsuits doing maintenance work on the nearby piers. It blared a warning on each of the boat’s futuristic dashboard screens about a propeller injury hazard.

Coming to a stop on water is more of a feat than it might initially seem. One of the challenges that Brunswick Boat Group, the world’s largest maker of pleasure boats, has encountered in its quest to bring autonomous technology to the nautical realm is a glaring lack of brakes.

“Typically, on a vehicle that’s got gravity and land and tires, when you turn, it turns right away, and when you stop, it stops right away,” Brunswick CTO Alexandra Cattelan told Tech Brew during a demo tour on the boat. “With boating, there’s more control latency, or delay in response. And there’s no brakes.”

That’s just the start of the headwinds, both literal and figurative, that Brunswick’s engineers have had to face. Boats tend to move in many more directions than cars—up, down, side-to-side—and the water they’re navigating is sloshing around, too; even the dock bobs and sways.

But that’s also exactly why Brunswick is investing so much in making its boats more autonomous. Driving a boat can be daunting, and if the company can use automation to make it easier, more people might be willing to part with a small fortune to buy one.

Keep reading here.—PK



Key insights into battling IT burnout

The Crew

IT Brew sat down with Nick Szymanski, CIO and VP at Signature Healthcare, to talk about a tough workplace reality: burnout. During the pandemic, he jumped in to lead a team of 50 in setting up multiple COVID-19 testing sites—and learned some valuable lessons. Read the full Q&A for tips on preventing burnout, especially on teams that work around the clock. Hint: Recognition is key.


Unsuccessful unraveling

An image of Microsoft's headquarters Jean-Luc Ichard/Getty Images

Microsoft’s efforts to placate European Union antitrust regulators over the bundling of its Teams video conferencing app have failed, Bloomberg reported.

The European Commission (EC) is preparing a formal list of complaints pegged to Microsoft’s practice of bundling Teams with its other business productivity software, Bloomberg’s sources reported—and a Microsoft proposal to fend off the inquiry by unbundling Teams from Microsoft 365 and Office 365 in Europe and selling it to enterprise customers separately with an annual discount of $26.20 apparently isn’t good enough to satisfy the EC.

Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Microsoft, Sarah Naciri, directed IT Brew to the blog post where Microsoft VP of European government affairs Nanna-Louise Linde originally raised the unbundling proposal.

Linde had also written that Microsoft would work to increase interoperability with Microsoft 365 and Office 365, as well as “create new mechanisms to enable third-party solutions to host Office web applications.”

“We believe these changes balance the interests of our competitors with those of European business customers, providing them with access to the best possible solutions at competitive prices,” Linde wrote.

Keep reading here.—TM



Coworking with Mike Bechtel

Graphic featuring a headshot of Mike Bechtel, chief futurist at Deloitte Consulting Mike Bechtel

Coworking is a weekly segment where we spotlight Tech Brew readers who work with emerging technologies. Click here if you’d like a chance to be featured.

How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t work in tech?

As chief futurist for Deloitte Consulting, my team and I help our clients make sense of what’s new and next in tech. Our goal is to help them engineer an advantage that gets them to their preferred tomorrows a bit ahead of schedule. Tragically, I possess neither crystal balls, nor time machines of the DeLorean or hot-tub variety; alas, there’s no telephoto lens into the future. There’s a common quote in our field, often attributed to William Gibson: “The future’s already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed.” We take that quote literally and scour the globe to chronicle novel tech that figures to become normal for the rest of us in the next few years.

What’s your favorite emerging tech project you’ve worked on?

Fifteen years ago, my team and I co-invented a sort of reverse Wikipedia that allowed folks to submit a question to a community of coworkers who could pile on in creating the fittest possible crowdsourced answer. We learned so much about how to best tap into the wisdom of a crowd.

Keep reading here.




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Stat: 25%. That’s the percentage of progress on air quality in the US that’s been “undone” by wildfires across the country, Grist reported, citing a Nature study.

Quote: “The success and profitability of OpenAI are predicated on mass copyright infringement without a word of permission from or a nickel of compensation to copyright owners.”—A lawsuit against OpenAI brought by more than a dozen writers “accusing the company…of infringing on their copyrights by using their books to train its popular ChatGPT chatbot,” the New York Times reported. Plaintiffs include Jodi Picoult, George Saunders, and Jonathan Franzen.

Read: Hard-core sleepers obsess over their snoozing stats (the Wall Street Journal)


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Written by Patrick Kulp, Tom McKay, and Annie Saunders

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