Skip to Content

Data Sheet—Monday, June 29, 2015

Welcome to a compressed U.S. workweek, Data Sheet readers. In case you missed it, Airbnb has closed another $1.5 billion in venture funding. That balloons its valuation to around $25.5 billion. Plus, there’s only one financial services giant ranked among the top 10 financial tech patent holders. I spoke with Bank of America’s tech chief Cathy Bessant about why her team prioritizes intellectual property innovation. Enjoy a productive Monday!

 

TOP OF MIND

How Amazon emerged from nowhere to dominate cloud computing. Former marketing executive and Harvard MBA Andy Jassy isn’t surprised the likes of Google and Microsoft want to the shrink the lead his team has built over the past 12 years. This year, Amazon Web Services is on track top $6 billion in revenue, thanks to more big accounts that looked favorably on its deals with Netflix and the Central Intelligence Agency. “I don’t think any one of us ever imagined we would have as much of a headstart as we did,” he told Fortune’s Leena Rao, for a feature published this week. The big question: would AWS be better off as a separate company?

TRENDING

Get this, smartglasses someone might actually wear in public. Eyeglass maker VSP Global is testing ways to add wearables technology to existing, fashionable frames. It’s part of an initiative called Project Genesis. One challenge: how to mute data that isn’t necessarily relevant, like the motion caused by someone’s jaw moving while talking.

It will be some time before just robots make iPhones. Earlier this year, Foxxconn Technology’s CEO Terry Golub suggested automation technology could run up to 80% of the contract manufacturer’s assembly line within three years. Now, he’s telling shareholders it will take at least five years to reach 30%, reports Computerworld.

An eye-popping $1.5 billion fundraise for Airbnb. The new financing boosts the home-rental service’s valuation near $25.5 billion, according to reports by the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. Meanwhile, competitor Onefinestay has closed a far more modest $40 million round led by Intel Capital, Quadrant Capital Advisors, and Hyatt.

This startup is using a connected toothbrush to disrupt dental insurance. By documenting “healthy” oral hygiene habits, Beam Technologies plans to offer policies that are 10% to 25% cheaper than the norm.

Don’t want to wait on hold for room service? Startups like Zingle and Kipsu let business travelers send requests—for anything from food to extra socks—via text message instead. Among the companies testing this approach: Hyatt Regency, Four Seasons, and Starwood. “Typically, the conversations are usually transactional in nature,” Kipsu co-founder and CEO Chris Smith told The New York Times. “What happens over time that’s really interesting is that a relationship grows.”

THE DOWNLOAD

This Fortune 500 bank’s patents are cited by Apple, Google and Nike

Among the top 10 patent holders of banking-related patents, just one is actually a bank.

Still, its portfolio is so extensive—more than 2,100 applications and awards and counting—that it is cited by more than 7,000 other patents and patent applications. That includes ones filed by Apple, eBay, Google, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Salesforce.com. Even Nike and Wal-Mart study its work closely.

The woman accountable for that intellectual property, Bank of America global technology and operations executive Catherine Bessant, rattles off those metrics like a proud parent. “I don’t know how any bank doesn’t think of itself as a fin-tech company,” she told Fortune during a recent interview in her New York office. “It’s hard to tell if technology is our business or the business of technology.”

Considering that Bessant has convinced BofA CEO Brian Moynihan to spend $3 billion for new software development annually—twice what the bank used to spend when she took on her job five years ago and roughly 17% of the bank’s annual information technology budget—it’s in BofA’s interest to safeguard that investment. Behind Bessant are more than 110,000 employees and contractors. “In large part, we go after intellectual property protection when we believe we have something that creates competitive advantage,” she said.

Much of that work currently centers on mobile payments, transactions and workflow approaches.

Last quarter, BofA managed a record 19 million deposits made via smartphones, tablet and mobile devices, approximately 11% of overall volume and an amount growing 50% year-over-year, Bessant estimated. Recently awarded patents cover everything from how a loan is initiated to how electronic receipts are displayed. Security, naturally, is a big deal. For example, BofA recently received credit for the way it uses real-time video and image analysis to monitor bank machines.

BofA’s focus on innovation has been instrumental in helping would-be employees look beyond the company’s recent history of challenging acquisitions and government fines. The company isn’t out of the woods: revenue across all its major business lines declined during the first quarter. But BofA is prioritizing the sorts of projects that are especially intriguing in today’s super-competitive market for tech talent, including mobile apps, cybersecurity and software-defined networking approaches used by the likes of Google and Facebook. The latter focus will squeeze more cost out of the company’s data centers, freeing up funds for future investments related to bitcoin and other virtual currencies.

“Any good technologist wants to see the impact of their work,” Bessant said. “They want to see that there are dollars that enable [that work] to come to market, and they want to see that there is a world stage, which there is.”

Bessant isn’t a technologist by training. Hired as a corporate banker in 1982, she most recently was the head of Global Corporate Banking. She’s also in charge of BofA’s environmental business initiative, which has so far committed at least $70 billion in clean energy and other programs aimed at reducing dependence on natural resources.

What else is top of mind for top tech strategist at the second largest U.S. bank? Go online for three other takeaways from Fortune’s recent interview.

ALSO WORTH SHARING

Multinational businesses should be intrigued by this emerging Google service. Ubernetes will help big companies run applications that share computing resources across regions and clouds.

More banks play the waiting game. Instead of immediately replacing debit and credits that may have been compromised by a breach—at a cost of around $5 per card—more financial institutions are watching for misuse first.

Divorce decree. eBay and PayPal will start trading as separate companies July 20.

MY FORTUNE BOOKMARKS

Bill Gates is doubling his billion-dollar bet on renewables by Geoffrey Smith

Why this winery is using a bunch of Tesla batteries by Katie Fehrenbacher

SpaceX rocket on re-supply mission to space station explodes after launch by Mathew Ingram

What Michael Dell and the United Nations think is critical for creating jobs by Jonathan Vanian

Meet 10 budding tech stars who aren’t even 20 years old by Claire Groden

 

ONE MORE THING

Traveling to Disney World this summer? Don’t pack your selfie stick. The Mouse is banning them, following other high-profile tourist destinations.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

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

Esri Business Summit: Mapping the value of data. (July 18 – 21; San Diego)

LinuxCon North America: All about open source. (Aug. 17 – 19; Seattle)

SuccessConnect: Simplify the way the world works. (Aug. 10 – 12; Las Vegas)

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

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

.conf2015: Splunk’s “get your data on” gathering. (Sept. 21 – 24; Las Vegas)

Cassandra Summit: Largest gathering of Cassandra database developers. (Sept. 22 – 24; San Francisco)

BoxWorks 2015: Cloud collaboration solutions. (Sept. 28 – 30; San Francisco)

Workday Rising: Meet and share. (Sept. 28 – Oct. 1; Las Vegas)

HP Engage: Big data, big engagement. (Oct. 4 – 6; San Diego)

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

I Love APIs 2015: Apigee’s annual conference. (Oct. 12 – 14; San Jose, California)

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing: World’s largest gather of women technologists. (Oct. 14 – 16; Houston)

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

TBM Conference 2015: Manage IT like a business. (Oct. 26 – 29; Chicago)

QuickBooks Connect: SMBs, entrepreneurs, accountants and developers. (Nov. 2 – 4; San Jose, California)