Marketplace Tech®

with Ben Johnson

About the Program

Hosted by Ben Johnson, this daily "journal of the Digital Age" airs during broadcasts of Minnesota Public Radio's Morning Edition.

Official program website

Latest Show
07/27/2017: Farewell, Flash
The practice of getting a virus onto someone's machine or network, locking up the data, and demanding a payment for the key has become popular and lucrative in a short period of time. The result: $25 million in paid ransom over two years. On today's show, we'll look at the "business model" behind this form of malicious hacking. Afterwards, we say our parting words to Adobe Flash amid news that the company is going to stop producing new versions.  (07/26/2017)

07/26/2017: The company that's planning to implant chips in its employees
The company Three Square Market provides software that runs vending machines, self-checkout kiosks and, soon, microchips that can be implanted into its employees' hands. Vice President of International Development, Tony Danna, joins us to share what exactly these chips are capable of. Afterwards, we'll chat with Anatrope founder Tiffany Rad about two of the biggest hacking gatherings in the U.S. (07/26/2017)

07/25/2017: RIP, Microsoft Paint (1985-2017)
With many cities trying to become the next Silicon Valley or tech hubs in their own right, the job site Indeed decided to take a look at where job growth is actually happening. Turns out the same places (think San Francisco) still have a money monopoly on the market. But there are some promising areas. Indeed's chief economist Jed Kolko stops by to break down the site's findings with us. Next, we'll look at Windows' decision to phase out its Paint program, which will be replaced by a 3-D version. The BBC's Zoe Kleinman explains its appeal, and how even professional artists sometimes use it to create illustrations. (07/25/2017)

07/24/2017: Like LinkedIn, but for musicians
Advanced artificial intelligence requires small, yet very important components: chips. Google happens to be one of the latest tech companies that's starting to get into the AI chip game. And on today's show, we'll chat with Urs Holzle, senior vice president for technical structure at Google, about why the tech giant is starting to invest in this area. Afterwards, we'll look at a new social media service for musicians that may help create the next Sonny and Cher.  (07/24/2017)

07/21/2017: One big threat to self-driving cars? Kangaroos
We're starting off our show today by playing Silicon Tally, the game where we try to stump each other with numbers from the week's news. Our guest for this episode: Marketplace reporter Ryan Kailath. Afterwards, we'll examine an unexpected threat to the computer vision systems in autonomous vehicles: kangaroos.   (07/21/2017)

07/20/2017: A new way of cleaning your house
They may not be the most anticipated items in the world, but transparency reports are important because they reveal how companies disclose information about the way they deal with the U.S. government. On today's show, we'll talk with Michee Smith, a product manager at Google, about the changes the company is making to its report. Afterwards, we'll look at the model behind Up & Go, a service that connects those in New York City who need cleaning services with small business owners. (07/20/2017)

07/19/2017: A chipmaker's challenges
Qualcomm may not be a household name, but its chips are inside a household item: your phone. On today's show, we'll look at the company's ubiquity, along with the struggles it's been facing as smartphone makers decide to find solutions in-house. Afterwards, we'll discuss the announcement of Bluetooth Mesh, the idea that eventually all your Bluetooth devices may be able to talk to each other separately from your Wi-Fi network.  (07/19/2017)

07/18/2017: It's a supercomputer that may not be pulling in enough money for IBM
What is Watson? As IBM prepares to announce earnings this afternoon, investors are claiming that the artificial intelligence — which has made appearances on Jeopardy and even has its own cookbook — isn't raking in as much as it should be. Jefferies analyst James Kisner joined us to talk about why IBM invested in Watson and why he thinks it isn't working out for the company right now. Afterwards, we'll chat with entrepreneur Cindy Whitehead about her tech incubator Pinkubator, which aims to help female entrepreneurs with access to capital and mentorship. (07/18/2017)

07/17/2017: A streetcar not named desire
That's right: today is world emoji day. And there are plenty of companies that are trying to turn these symbols into a business, like Inmoji. On today's show, we'll chat with the company's CTO, Jarrod Mclean, and head of engineering, Chris Nagle, about its services and their involvement. Afterwards, we'll talk with Ian Bogost, a professor at Georgia Tech, about the declining appeal of cars as "fashion objects." (07/17/2017)

07/14/2017: What to do when a continent gets a completely new coastline
A trillion-ton iceberg broke off the western coast of Antarctica this week. The news raised questions like: Will the chunk disrupt shipping routes? But aside from the physical consequences, there are also digital ones: like the changes mapping services will now have to make. On today's show, we'll chat with Denis Dean — a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas — about what services do in situations like these. Then, we'll cap off the week by playing Silicon Tally with Sara Fischer, a media reporter with Axios.  (07/14/2017)

07/13/2017: Let's travel in a vacuum tube
We're getting closer and closer to ultra-fast travel. Hyperloop One recently completed a test that sent a vehicle down a vacuum track at 70 miles per hour. On today's show, we'll talk to the company's co-founders about their goals and what this technology can actually be used for. Next, we'll speak with Tina Sharkey, cofounder of the new online grocery store Brandless, about their company's unique business model — everything at the store is just 3 bucks.  (07/13/2017)

07/12/2017: A net neutrality debate
Several tech giants are coming together today to protest a roll back of net neutrality rules. Advocates for net neutrality support the idea that internet service providers should treat all websites the same — without favoring or blocking certain ones — while opponents say that the price of a resource should reflect its value. On today's show, we'll get some perspective on the issue from the president and CEO of the Internet Association, Michael Beckerman, and the president of the Technology Policy Institute, Scott Wallsten. (07/12/2017)

07/11/2017: How pizza can explain the big net neutrality debate
We are now officially in the midst of Amazon Prime Day, the company's invented online shopping holiday. A lot of people who are buying electronics from the retail giant may not know how to immediately install them, which is why Amazon has started a service that will provide in-person help. On today's show, we'll talk about why the company is dipping its toes in this area. Afterwards, we'll discuss a payment startup called Stripe that will allow companies from all over the world to take payments — whether we're talking credit cards or apps. And finally, we'll look at how ordering pizza can help us understand the debate over net neutrality.  (07/11/2017)

07/10/2017: Like a freeway with a special lane for Hondas, but not Toyotas
It's Christmas in July for Amazon. The retail giant is kicking off its summer online shopping sale this week: Prime Day. (Which you've probably seen the advertisements for.) But how sweet will the deals actually be? Adam Burakowski, deals editor at The Wirecutter, joined us to discuss whether all the hype is worth it. Plus: we'll look at news that thousands of tech companies are engaging in a day of action on the 12th to prevent the roll back of net neutrality rules. Net neutrality is the idea that internet service providers should give equal access to all information and websites. To get a better idea of how this concept works, Charles Duan, a staff attorney at Public Knowledge, gave us some analogies. And afterwards, we'll hear from one company — Vimeo — about how they're preparing for this day of action. (07/10/2017)

07/07/2017: Combating sexual harassment in the workplace
The tech industry has been rocked yet again by revelations about a culture of sexual harassment and unwanted advances. Sarah Kunst, founder and the CEO of the sports media company Proday, joined us to talk about these issues and what companies can do to prevent them. Plus: We play this week's Silicon Tally with David Gura, the co-host of Bloomberg Surveillance and the anchor for Bloomberg Television. (07/07/2017)

07/06/2017: The meme economy
By now, you've probably seen the video of President Donald Trump beating up a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his face. The whole controversy got us thinking about memes: can someone own a meme? Can it be copyrighted? Corynne McSherry, legal director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, stopped by to break it all down for us. Afterwards, we'll chat with Enigma CEO Hicham Oudghiri about his company's service, which promises to be a powerful tool for accessing and understanding publicly available data sets.  (07/06/2017)

07/05/2017: The growing smart-speaker market in China
You've probably heard of the Amazon Echo and Google Home, but what about the DingDong? Or the Little Fish? Turns out there are a series of smart speakers that are specifically designed for Chinese buyers. And Alibaba, the e-commerce behemoth based in China, wants in on that market. On today's show, we'll discuss how much of a threat the company's new device could pose to Google and Amazon, and then examine some of the challenges associated with Chinese-language voice assistants. Plus: A look at the world of video-game modding. (07/05/2017)

07/04/2017: IBM Watson vs. video editors
Microsoft has increased its focus on cloud computing, and there are rumors that thousands could be laid off in its plans to reorganize. What direction is Microsoft trying to go, and can it compete with the likes of Amazon? Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, stopped by chat with us about the tech giant's future. Afterwards, we'll look at IBM Watson's latest appearance: the Wimbledon courts as part of the All England Lawn Tennis Club tournament. Watson's tech will measure different data to create highlight reels — which IBM says will take half the time of human video-highlight editors.  (07/04/2017)

07/03/2017: Setting off fireworks right from your phone
An estimated 44.2 million Americans are expected to travel around this Fourth of July, which is causing traffic on travel websites to soar. One of 'em: KAYAK, a service that allows customers to search for the best travel deals out there. Co-founder Steve Hafner stopped by to talk to us about the company's relationship with Google and how it tries to help users make smarter traveling choices. Afterwards, we'll chat with inventor Kevin Wu about his new app, FireFly, which enables you to shoot off fireworks. (07/03/2017)

06/30/17: Battling a cyber attack...with an insurance policy
As this week's massive cyber attack continues to play out in more than 70 countries, we're looking at one area in which it could engender growth — the cyber liability insurance industry. Currently valued at 4 billion dollars annually, it's expected to reach 20 billion in coming years. But what exactly does a cyber liability policy cover? We talk to Smita Bhargava,  vice president of programs and special risk for the insurance company Clements. They're seeing an increase in inquiries about whether cyber liability policies would cover events like this week's attack. Plus, quiz yourself on the latest tech news in this week's installment of Silicon Tally featuring Katherine Gorman, co-host of artificial intelligence podcast The Talking Machines. (06/30/2017)

06/29/17: What makes a tech company a tech company?
The cooking ingredient delivery service Blue Apron goes public today. They are listed as a startup tech company, but we discuss whether or not they really merit this status and the high value that comes with it. Plus, Nintendo re-releases more games from their coveted vault and we announce the winners from our audio quiz earlier this week on Atari 2600 game sounds. (06/29/2017)

06/28/17: Another month, another malware attack
A ransomware attack hit servers around the world yesterday. The infected computers displayed a message in red type over a black screen that read, "Oops, your important files are encrypted," demanding a $300 bitcoin ransom from users to recover the data. This comes just one month after the WannaCry ransomware attack that affected more than 150 countries in May. We talk to Chester Wisniewski of the cybersecurity firm Sophos about this attack. Also on today's show: It's been 10 years since the first iPhone shipped out. It's been called the most unique and disruptive invention of all time, but just how original was it? (06/28/2017)

6/27/17: Profile picture thieves
Profile hackers are stealing the photos and other profile information from a high rate of female Facebook users in India. To combat this issue, Facebook has built a tool that makes it harder to download or screenshot a person's profile picture. We talk to Ankita Rao from Motherboard who has been following this story. Plus: A check-in on rideshare drivers. After a lot of drama at Uber in the past couple of weeks and changes to the company's tipping policy, we ask how drivers are feeling right now.  (06/27/2017)

S02-7: Technology Crossing Borders
The gadget that saved a refugee in the middle of the Aegean Sea, how an agent uses technology to patrol the U.S. border with Mexico, and how a journalist in exile broadcasts the news with WhatsApp. Listen, decode, and decide: Can technology crossing borders save us? (12/27/2016)

S02-6: Encryption
How encryption hides all around us, how it was used in 18th century Paris to separate merchants from their money and the difference between your brain and your fingertip. Listen, decode, and decide: Can encryption save us? Stay updated on all things Codebreaker. (12/21/2016)

S02-5: World Building
A proposal to bioengineer shorter humans with cat eyes, a decades-old idea for a totally new kind of power, a battery made from trash and Bill Nye the Science Guy tries to get us in gear. Listen, decode, and decide: Can world-building save us? Stay updated on all things Codebreaker. (12/14/2016)

S02-4: Watching
A small city known for its Amish population and surveillance cameras, an old lady in Northern Ireland who watches video feeds in Brazil and getting footage from the fin of a shark. Listen, decode, and decide: Can watching save us? Stay updated on all things Codebreaker. (12/07/2016)

S02-3: The Augmented Self
The man who collected too much data, cyborgs who want to make their body-hardware mainstream, robots that rebuild your hairline and a conversation with Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge aka LeVar Burton. Listen, decode, and decide: Can the augmented self save us? Stay updated on all things Codebreaker. (11/30/2016)

S02-2: Alternate Reality
A therapist who creates virtual reality experiences for people with dangerous disorders, a grandmother who uses a headset to escape her surroundings and Ernest Cline on virtual reality in fact and fiction. Listen, decode, and decide: Can alternate realities save us? Stay updated on all things Codebreaker. (11/23/2016)

S02-1: Recognition
A toddler who saved her mother's life with Siri, a man whose mysterious ailment opened up a world of voice recognition technology and a dating service that wants to scan the faces of all your exes. Listen, decode, and decide: Can recognition software save us?Stay updated on all things Codebreaker. (11/16/2016)

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