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Former Apple Engineers Built a $700 Digital Door Lock

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  • Former Apple Engineers Built a $700 Digital Door Lock

As lead engineer for Apple Inc.’s smart-home technology, Andrew Burks spent a lot of time with entrepreneurs working on thermostats, lights and other products that can be controlled via smartphone. One day he visited Otto, a San Francisco startup building a digital door lock. Burks was blown away by what he saw and before long had joined the Otto team, which at one point was mostly comprised of Apple alums.

“I love Apple, and it was really hard decision for me to leave,” Burks says. “This was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss.”

smart digital lockOtto (not to be confused with the autonomous vehicle company bought by Uber) is one of several startups seeking to gain an edge over such entrenched players as Schlage and Honeywell, which now sell digital versions of their popular locks. While a luxury for most people, digital locks are expected to become increasingly popular as companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Samsung pour resources into technology that will let people control their homes from afar. For several years now, smartphones have been the main interface, but voice-activated speakers like Amazon’s Echo and the Google Home are increasingly seen as a natural hub for the smart home.

The Otto team decided to re-invent the entire lock because they thought they could improve security and privacy as well as bring better design to a device that’s has changed remarkably little in hundreds of years.

Typically digital locks rely on a central hub to work—a bridge that connects appliances, lights and more to a phone or computer. They also usually include an old-fashioned key in case the technology fails. Some use location-based triangulation to know when someone is home in order to unlock the door.

The Otto has no key, works directly with a smartphone and uses Bluetooth to figure out when a resident needs to be let in. Echoing Apple’s relentless focus on security, the designers added encryption to keep intruders at bay. By the way, in the event homeowners forget their phone or are out of juice, they can turn the lock like a knob and input a four-digit code. (The lock doesn’t currently work with smart-home technology from Apple, Amazon, Samsung and other mainstream tech companies; that will come later.)

“Your phone is the key,” Burks says. “You walk up to the door, it knows that you’re there, you press the button on the outside, and you get in.”

Will the lock sell and make the Otto team rich? Previous efforts by Apple alums haven’t gone so well. In 2014, several started Pearl Automation and last year debuted a well-designed, $500 car back-up camera. Meager sales forced the company to shut down in June. UpThere, a cloud-based operating system and file storage company founded by ex-Apple software chief Bertrand Serlet, has yet to gain serious traction.

Otto is looking to Nest for inspiration. Founded by former iPod division chief Tony Fadell and packed with Apple alumni, the thermostat-security camera maker was acquired by Alphabet Inc. in 2014 for $3 billion (though internal turmoil prompted Fadell’s exit last year).

The Otto lock’s main hurdle is price. Here, too, the company echoes Apple’s philosophy. Otto didn’t set out to build a $700 lock, says marketing chief Wendy Harrington. That’s simply what it costs to build a lock of this quality. Maybe so, but for about the same price you can put a mini-computer in your pocket that does so much more than unlock your front door. It’s called the iPhone.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Crude Oil

Oil Dips Below $62 in New York Though Banks Say Rally Can Extend

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Oil Dips Below $62 in New York Though Banks Say Rally Can Extend

Oil retreated from an earlier rally with investment banks and traders predicting the market can go significantly higher in the months to come.

Futures in New York pared much of an earlier increase to $63 a barrel as the dollar climbed and equities slipped. Bank of America said prices could reach $70 at some point this year, while Socar Trading SA sees global benchmark Brent hitting $80 a barrel before the end of the year as the glut of inventories built up during the Covid-19 pandemic is drained by the summer.

The loss of oil output after the big freeze in the U.S. should help the market firm as much of the world emerges from lockdowns, according to Trafigura Group. Inventory data due later Tuesday from the American Petroleum Institute and more from the Energy Department on Wednesday will shed more light on how the Texas freeze disrupted U.S. oil supply last week.

Oil has surged this year after Saudi Arabia pledged to unilaterally cut 1 million barrels a day in February and March, with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicting the rally will accelerate as demand outpaces global supply. Russia and Riyadh, however, will next week once again head into an OPEC+ meeting with differing opinions about adding more crude to the market.

“The freeze in the U.S. has proved supportive as production was cut,” said Hans van Cleef, senior energy economist at ABN Amro. “We still expect that Russia will push for a significant rise in production,” which could soon weigh on prices, he said.

PRICES

  • West Texas Intermediate for April fell 27 cents to $61.43 a barrel at 9:20 a.m. New York time
  • Brent for April settlement fell 8 cents to $65.16

Brent’s prompt timespread firmed in a bullish backwardation structure to the widest in more than a year. The gap rose above $1 a barrel on Tuesday before easing to 87 cents. That compares with 25 cents at the start of the month.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. and oil trader Vitol Group shot down talk of a new oil supercycle, though they said a lack of supply response will keep prices for crude prices firm in the short term.

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Crude Oil

Oil Prices Rise With Storm-hit U.S. Output Set for Slow Return

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Oil Prices Rise With Storm-hit U.S. Output Set for Slow Return

Oil prices rose on Monday as the slow return of U.S. crude output cut by frigid conditions served as a reminder of the tight supply situation, just as demand recovers from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brent crude was up $1.38, or 2.2%, at $64.29 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate gained $1.38, or 2.33%, to trade at $60.62 per barrel.

Abnormally cold weather in Texas and the Plains states forced the shutdown of up to 4 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude production along with 21 billion cubic feet of natural gas output, analysts estimated.

Shale oil producers in the region could take at least two weeks to restart the more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude output affected, sources said, as frozen pipes and power supply interruptions slow their recovery.

“With three-quarters of fracking crews standing down, the likelihood of a fast resumption is low,” ANZ Research said in a note.

For the first time since November, U.S. drilling companies cut the number of oil rigs operating due to the cold and snow enveloping Texas, New Mexico and other energy-producing centres.

OPEC+ oil producers are set to meet on March 4, with sources saying the group is likely to ease curbs on supply after April given a recovery in prices, although any increase in output will likely be modest given lingering uncertainty over the pandemic.

“Saudi Arabia is eager to pursue yet higher prices in order to cover its social break-even expenses at around $80 a barrel while Russia is strongly focused on unwinding current cuts and getting back to normal production,” said SEB chief commodity analyst Bjarne Schieldrop.

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Crude Oil Rose Above $65 Per Barrel as US Production Drop Due to Texas Weather

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Crude Oil Rose Above $65 Per Barrel as US Production Drop Due to Texas Weather

Oil prices rose to $65.47 per barrel on Thursday as crude oil production dropped in the US due to frigid Texas weather.

The unusual weather has left millions in the dark and forced oil producers to shut down production. According to reports, at least the winter blast has claimed 24 lives.

Brent crude oil gained $2 to $65.47 on Thursday morning before pulling back to $64.62 per barrel around 11:00 am Nigerian time.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 2.3 percent to settle at $61.74 per barrel.

“This has just sent us to the next level,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York. “Crude oil WTI will probably max out somewhere pretty close to $65.65, refinery utilization rate will probably slide to somewhere around 76%,” Yawger said.

However, the report that Saudi Arabia plans to increase production in the coming months weighed on crude oil as it can be seen in the chart below.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabian Energy Minister, warned that it was too early to declare victory against the COVID-19 virus and that oil producers must remain “extremely cautious”.

“We are in a much better place than we were a year ago, but I must warn, once again, against complacency. The uncertainty is very high, and we have to be extremely cautious,” he told an energy industry event.

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