☕ Very emergency
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Florida man opposes emergency alerts.
November 06, 2023

Tech Brew

Capital One

It’s Monday. Welcome back to the working week, everybody! Today, Kelcee Griffis tells the tale of a Florida official who’d rather not allow the federal government to warn you via your cell phone about a looming disaster. (Really.)

In today’s edition:

Kelcee Griffis, Andrew Adam Newman, Annie Saunders


Disaster DMs

Illustration of a smartphone with an alert. Infadel/Getty Images

Florida’s chief financial officer recently criticized the Wireless Emergency Alerts system—which blasted out test messages to Americans in early October—and called for the Federal Communications Commission to “immediately cease” using the system.

“In my opinion, there is absolutely zero reason that the federal government needs to notify millions of Americans at the exact same moment,” state CFO Jimmy Patronis wrote in an Oct. 30 letter to the Federal Communications Commission, which coordinates the tests.

“The federal government scared about 70% of Americans with that alert, and in my opinion, this was government overreach at its finest,” Patronis wrote. “I don’t like systems where the federal government can access Americans directly to their smartphones.”

He went on to express distaste for “any Administration (regardless of party) having the ability to DM Americans without their permission.”

The test at issue was broadcast across cell phones, radios, and TVs at 2:20pm on Oct. 4. Mobile carriers can decide whether they’ll carry the alerts, and not all phone models can receive them. Individuals can also opt out of or silence most messages and the audio tone that accompanies them. “This is especially important information for people in unsafe domestic situations who use a hidden device,” Mashable noted in October.

Keep reading here.—KG



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Fit check

A photo-illustration where a woman is selecting clothes online based on her digital twin to assure she get the correct size. Fit:match

Nothing gets retail executives reaching for the Tums quite like bracketing, when online shoppers order a size up and down from what they think will fit them to be sure they get the right size—then return the other two (or more). The stomach acids really roil for retailers who offer free returns, because they could lose money on the transaction if they sell an item while assuming the cost of processing, which can cost up to $20 per return—not including freight, according to the Wall Street Journal.

And it gets worse: When products get returned, they often are no longer considered new and are sold as used, “open box,” or “refurbished.” Worse, many retailers throw away more than 25% of their returns, ​​Tobin Moore, CEO of Optoro, told CNBC in 2019.

But some relief may come from the burgeoning fit-tech industry, whose tools determine consumers’ exact dimensions and use AI technology to suggest what size to order for specific garments. Fit-tech executives say their tools could get retailers closer to the state that classic rockers Kansas sang about in the ’70s: the point of no return.

And that point can’t come soon enough for retailers, who say that returns accounted for more than $816 billion in lost sales in 2022, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation.

Keep reading on Retail Brew.—AAN



Coworking with Anna Marie Wagner

Graphic featuring a headshot of Ginkgo Bioworks’s Anna Marie Wagner. Anna Marie Wagner

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 is common in hyperscaling companies, I’ve had a different job just about every year I’ve been at Ginkgo. Ginkgo is building the leading horizontal platform for biological engineering and biosecurity, and although we’re in the life sciences, we have a tech platform business model. Think about it like programming, but instead of computers, we’re programming cells (which almost magically can read and write digital code in the form of DNA, which is made up of As, Cs, Ts, and Gs instead of zeroes and ones).

Coming out of a decade in private equity, where I was investing in tech companies, I was hired to be the person who would get big, transformative acquisitions and partnerships done for the company. But in addition to that job (and we’ve done more than a few acquisitions!), I also stepped in as interim CFO for just under a year, took the company public, and launched our AI efforts with a Google partnership. Today I still lead corporate development (M&A, big strategic partnerships, capital markets, etc.) and am also Ginkgo’s Head of AI, where I focus on helping our customers benefit from the rapid advances in AI. DNA is just another language, but it’s one that humans didn’t invent, and so in many ways, AI can advance our capabilities and understanding much faster in biology than it can in human languages. There’s so much more to come, and it’s a wildly exciting time to be in this space.

Keep reading here.




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Stat: 65%. That’s the percentage of financial reporting leaders already using AI in their jobs, CFO Brew reported, citing data from a KPMG poll of more than 200 of those leaders.

Quote: “We’re talking about electricians, pipefitters, construction laborer—but we’re also talking about a whole host of occupations, from the finance and insurance people to everything else.”—Bob Keefe, the executive director of nonpartisan advocacy group E2, to Canary Media in a story about the number of jobs created by the Inflation Reduction Act

Read: Why Congress keeps failing to protect kids online (The Atlantic)

Sneak a peek: Get a glimpse into how companies are spending + where they’re pulling back in Q3 at Ramp’s webinar on Nov. 9. See how your spend compares to your peers by registering here.*

*A message from our sponsor.


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