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Data Sheet—Thursday, March 5, 2015

March 5, 2015, 1:22 PM UTC

It’s almost Friday, Data Sheet readers! Is virtual reality poised for a breakthrough? Why is Wal-Mart Stores opting out of Google’s local ads service? Could e-prescriptions help cure drug fraud? These questions explored in today’s edition.

Plus, Fortune‘s 2015 “Best Companies to Work For” list is out this morning. Google is No. 1 (again). Cloud software giant also made the Top 10, but slipped a few positions from last year. Grab some coffee, and see which companies are doing the best job on diversity and corporate culture.


Virtual reality seems more real. Facebook’s Oculus Rift project is a lot more competition by the end of the year. Consumer electronics giants HTC and Sony are among those planning headsets designed to immerse (or in the case of HTC “plunge”) wearers into another world.

Certainly, gaming is the first focus for Sony. Its Project Morpheus technology should work with PlayStation 4 within or seven six months. However, HTC is also talking tie-ins with production companies like HBO and Lionsgate, which will develop special content for its Vive technology.

Other companies that will shape this new world include Microsoft (with HoloLens), Samsung (which hopes to bring the technology to smartphones) and a software company called Valve, which is working on navigation approaches that reduce the chance for motion sickness.

Don’t discount the importance of what Valve is doing: one of the biggest obstacles to VR acceptance has been biological. If you’ve ever felt nausea simply by watching a movie in IMAX, wearing a VR headset would probably make you sick. Valve’s co-founder Gabe Newell has shared your discomfort, and he has set out to find the cure.

Welcome to a whole new world of simulations.


Wal-Mart Stores thinks Google wants too much information. The spirit of Google’s local search service seems like a great idea: guide shoppers to specific stores that have the product they’re seeking in stock. But Wal-Mart Stores quickly opted out of the program because it was uncomfortable with sharing so much specific inventory data, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Elementary, Watson. Last week, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty hinted at more acquisitions related to the company’s strategic growth areas. Her team made good Wednesday with the buyout of AlchemyAPI, which specializes in analysis of unstructured data like images.

Could your message benefit more than one photo? Instagram is testing a new advertising option that lets marketers uses slideshows. You can’t use it personally (at least not yet).

Get patient if you want one of the larger iPads. Buyers will need to wait until at least September, reports Bloomberg. The 12.9-inch edition was originally due this quarter. This is the second delay.

In the EU, e-books are taxed much higher than real ones. France and Luxembourg face fines if they don’t apply their normal rates (20% and 17%, respectively) instead of the much lower, single-digit ones they’ve been using. The reason: e-books officially are categorized as “electronically supplied services.”

Here’s the next step in Google’s mobile payments plan. The Softcard wallet app will be shut off on March 31. Accountholders are being asked to switch to Google Wallet, but it sounds like something they’ll have to do proactively.

Want to keep tabs on your employees? One of the earliest apps for Apple Watch comes from BetterWorks, which wants to help managers keep tabs on productivity or specific performance goals. The solution is “opt-in” but the company believes on-the-job peer pressure will convince workers to participate.



Why CVS is high on electronic prescriptions

Although the vast majority of U.S. pharmacies can handle “e-prescribing” of medication, most doctors still scribble them and hand them off to patients for dispensing. Drug-store chain CVS Health and healthcare technology company Surescripts are pushing to close that gap, and a new law in New York could help their cause.

The legislation, which takes effect March 27, requires electronic prescriptions for controlled substances—like codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone or valium. No, faxed copies of handwritten orders don’t count.

E-prescribing of these drugs is legally allowed in almost every state (except for Montana and Missouri), but New York is the first to make it mandatory. The motivation is pretty simple: rampant abuse that makes these substances deadlier on an annual basis than cocaine and heroine, combined. “This is the part of the system that faces the most challenges in terms of fraud,” said Surescripts CEO Tom Skelton, when I spoke with him in late December.

Today’s Surescripts was formed when it merged in 2008 with RxHub, a rival e-prescribing network created by CVS Caremark, Express Scripts, and Medco Health Solutions. It processes approximately 7 billion “transactions” per year, including messages sent between member healthcare organizations, searches of medication histories, and e-prescriptions.

Notes CVS Health Senior Vice President Josh Flum: “Our retail pharmacies were early adopters of electronic prescribing and all of our 7,800 are enabled to receive electronic prescriptions, which is an important tool for reducing incidences of fraudulent controlled substances being presented at the pharmacy.”

Surescripts links more than 93% of all U.S. pharmacies, including CVS, Walgreens, and the counters found in many large retailers and grocery stories such as Walmart. It also has relationships with benefits companies like Aetna and Anthem. During 2015, the company figures it will communicate at least 5 million prescriptions for controlled substances—a 400% increase over 2014. Electronic health records software companies like Practice Fusion and athenahealth offer this feature as part of their systems.

The potential side effects of e-prescriptions? Surescripts cites figures suggesting that they can help reduce adverse drug reactions by more than 60%, by flagging pharmacists when a new medication may contraindicate another drug. Physicians stand to reduce paperwork filing costs, while pharmacies can expect a reduction in abandoned prescriptions.

“We are the intelligence within the network,” Skelton said. “We have made substantial progress, now the goal is to go broader.”


On display. Samsung is buying a small LED technology company in Utah, YESCO Electronics, that specializing in digital billboards.

More talk time for long commutes. General Motors, Toyota, Fiat and Audi are just four of the automakers designing wireless charging options for mobile gadgets right into dashboards.

Cisco promises Hadoop-in-a-box. It has forged partnerships with three of the most successful companies in big data management—Cloudera, Hortonworks, and MapR. The plan is to distribute the software on its converged data center hardware, which combined networking, server and storage features. 

Be it resolved. A bipartisan group of senators is so excited about the Internet of things that they’re calling for a “national vision” and incentives to guide its growth.

CEO hire inspires $5 million infusion. Marketing automation startup Salesfusion tapped Carol O’Kelly, a former senior executive for RedPrairie (now JDA) and Oracle’s global retail business. The hire comes along with new funding led by Noro-Moseley. It previously raised $13.5 million.

New marketing chief for MongoDB. The open source database startup—which carries an estimated valuation of $1.6 billion—lured veteran Meagen Eisenberg away from DocuSign. Her resume also includes Hewlett-Packard’s ArcSight division, Postini, and IBM.


How Google’s Project Nova could upend the wireless industry by Jason Cipriani

Etsy files for handcrafted IPO by Erin Griffith

Why John Doerr could use some wins by Adam Lashinsky

Google, Apple and Microsoft keep billions overseas by Benjamin Snyder

The virtual reality PlayStations is coming next year by Ben Geier


Bigger bucks for bug bounty hunters. Google, Yahoo, Twitter and other big tech companies reward legitimate hackers for finding software flaws. Now, the incentives are growing, and this practice is spreading to other industries that rely heavily on technology.


DocuSign Momentum. E-signatures and digital transactions. (March 10 – 12; San Francisco)

Microsoft Convergence: Dynamics solutions. (March 16 – 19; Atlanta)

IDC Directions 2015: Innovation in the 3rd Platform era. (March 18; Boston)

Cisco Leadership Council: CIO-CEO thought leadership. (March 18 - 20; Kiawah Island, South Carolina)

Technomy Bio: The big picture on transformation. (March 25; Mountain View, California)

Gartner Business Intelligence & Analytics Summit: Crossing the divide. (March 30 – April 1; Las Vegas)

AWS Summit. First in a series of cloud strategy briefings. (April 9; San Francisco)

Knowledge15: Automate IT services. (April 19 – 24; Las Vegas)

RSA Conference: The world talks security. (April 20 – 24; San Francisco)

Forrester’s Forum for Technology Leaders: Win in the age of the customer. (April 27 - 28; Orlando, Fla.)

MicrosoftIgnite: Business tech extravaganza. (May 4 – 8; Chicago)

NetSuite SuiteWorld: Cloud ERP strategy. (May 4 – 7; San Jose, California)

EMC World: Data strategy. (May 4 - 7; Las Vegas)

SAPPHIRE NOW: The SAP universe. (May 5 – 7; Orlando, Florida)

Gartner Digital Marketing Conference: Reach your destination faster. (May 5 – 7; San Diego)

Annual Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference: JP Morgan’s 43rd invite-only event. (May 18 - 20; Boston)

HP Discover: Trends and technologies. (June 2 - 4; Las Vegas)

Brainstorm Tech: Fortune’s invite-only gathering of thinkers, influencers and entrepreneurs. (July 13 - 15; Aspen, Colorado)

VMworld: The virtualization ecosystem. (Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, 2015; San Francisco)

Dreamforce: The Salesforce community. (Sept. 15 - 18; San Francisco)

Gartner Symposium ITxpo: CIOs and senior IT executives. (Oct. 4 - 8; Orlando, Florida)

Oracle OpenWorld: Customer and partner conference. (Oct. 25 - 29; San Francisco)