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Night shot of Austin Texas from above

Austin, Denver, and Detroit are Good Places to Be a Software Engineer Looking for a Job

A study by LinkedIn aimed at recruiters offers a few insights for software engineers.

For one—there are a few unexpected places in which software engineers are a particularly hot commodity, that is, where a lot of jobs are chasing a relatively small community of engineers. These areas, which LinkedIn calls “saturated markets,” include Austin, Denver, and Detroit. Software engineers in those markets just might be in a good position to negotiate a higher salary—or ask for a raise.

The study also spotted a few cities that are perhaps not where a software engineer looking to advance her career might want to put down roots. LinkedIn calls Los Angeles, Dallas, and Philadelphia hidden gems for tech recruiters—places where demand for software engineers is low but supply is high. Engineers in these “buyers’ markets” might be open to relocating, the data suggested.

And, the study indicated, many software engineers are open to relocating—with most roads leading to the Bay Area but a few leading away.

The LinkedIn report showed that engineers are moving to the Bay Area from New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, San Diego, Chicago, and Pittsburgh—and moving away from the Bay Area to Seattle, New York, and Los Angeles (those routes are apparently heavily trafficked in both directions).

LinkedIn also looked at demand and supply for six software engineering subspecialties. The machine-learning and data science category came out on top, with demand far outpacing supply—but you already knew that. Other hot categories identified are mobile development and front-end development, followed by infrastructure and cloud development, test and quality assurance, and embedded and application development.

Money, according to LinkedIn’s data, isn’t exactly mapping with demand. Though machine-learning/data science engineers command the highest median compensation (US $129,000), those far more available embedded and application developers weren’t far behind, at $118,000, followed by infrastructure/cloud developers and mobile developers (both $116,000), front-end developers ($109,000), and test/quality assurance engineers ($103,000).

Photograph of Amazon's Alexa in front of a tv with the 2018 Super Bowl.

A Sleeping Alexa Can Listen for More Than Just Her Name

Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast included a spot for Amazon’s Alexa, in which Alexa’s name was said some 10 times. But the Amazon Echos in people’s homes didn’t even blink, because they were programmed to look for a particular digital fingerprint in the wake-up word, and ignore it.

Said Amazon in a blog post, the company’s acoustic fingerprinting technology allowed the devices to distinguish between the wake-up words uttered in the ad—which sounded perfectly natural—and commands given to Alexa by actual users.

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Former IEEE Medal of Honor winner John Hennessy.

From Stanford University President to Chairman of Alphabet/Google

When John Hennessy announced in 2015 that he was stepping down as president of Stanford University the following year, he said, "The time has come to return to what brought me to Stanford—teaching and research."

Turns out, you can’t keep a guy like Hennessy down on The Farm, at least in that small of a corral. Hennessy this week was named the new chairman of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. Eric Schmidt, who joined Google as CEO in 2001 to provide “adult supervision,” announced in December that he was stepping down.

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Salesforce Tower in the skyline.

Salesforce Towers Above Adobe, Facebook, and Google in Study of Best Places to Work in Tech

Job search firm just released its list of the top tech companies to work for in 2018. The rankings, based on average employee ratings for internet/software and computer/electronic companies with at least 50 reviews between October 2015 and December 2017, put 15 companies on its  list (see table, below), with Salesforce on top, followed by Adobe, Facebook, Google, and SAP

Looking at the last time Indeed put out a top tech companies list, 2016, there have been a few changes.  (An Indeed spokesperson pointed out that the methodology may have been slightly different; the 2016 list came from a general study of best workplaces; the 2018 list zeroed in more closely on tech.)

Indeed’s data analysts pointed out that it’s also worth noting which tech behemoths didn’t make the charts this year: Oracle and IBM.

The analysts also took a deeper look at the reviews to see what makes a top-five engineering workforce. Pay and benefits, job security and advancement opportunities, and corporate culture count for a lot, of course.

More specifically, for Salesforce, they noted, highlights noted include volunteer time off and flexible scheduling. Facebook employees appreciate the company’s dedication to its “mission of connecting the world” and “motivating and encouraging environment.” Google employees “know how to have fun” and say managers are very kind. Adobe employees praise the company’s work-life balance. And SAP employees like the firm’s remote work options and volunteer opportunities.

Best, of course, is in the eye of the beholder—or at least the firm collecting the data. Job search firm Glassdoor in December released a broader review of best places to work in the U.S. for 2018, including tech and non-tech companies. In that ranking, Facebook came out on top, Google in the number five slot, and Salesforce down at number 14, with In-N-Out Burger, Lululemon, and a handful of consulting firms among the companies in between.

And in a more local perspective, the San Jose Business Journal regularly ranks best workplaces—the most recent list, in May 2017, put Workday at the top and Salesforce at number two.

Top Tech Workplaces, 2018 vs 2016 (Source:

Rank 2018 2016
1 Salesforce Salesforce
2 Adobe SAP
3 Facebook Google
4 Google Intuit
5 SAP LinkedIn
6 Apple Ultimate Software
7 Microsoft AOL
8 Intuit Adobe
9 Juniper Networks Westat
10 Yahoo Microsoft
11 Qualcomm Autodesk
12 Cisco Upwork
13 Rackspace Citrix
14 Intel eBay
15 Applied Materials Juniper Networks

Corrections made 30 January based on a revised analysis from Indeed.

An abridged version of this post appears in the March 2018 print issue as part of “What Jobs Are Heating Up in Silicon Valley?”

Apple CEO Tim Cook greets customers with employees at an Apple Store on November 3, 2017 in Palo Alto, California.

What Tech Companies Have Been Hiring in Silicon Valley? Here are the Top 20

In’s latest study of Silicon Valley’s tech job openings, released this week, the job search firm gave a snapshot of which companies are doing the most hiring. And, for the first 11 months of 2017, the older, established companies dominated: Apple, Oracle, Google, and Cisco were among the highest ranked.

While that may be no surprise—these big Silicon Valley companies are always hiring—the top 20 list did have a few unexpected members. Amazon, a company typically considered to be Seattle’s whale, not Silicon Valley’s, came in at number two. And Walmart’s eCommerce group jumped in at number 13, which reflects Walmart’s recent push into artificial intelligence, according to Indeed’s analysis.

Drilling down into the data for specific metro areas, Indeed found that in San Francisco, Salesforce, Square, Amazon, Uber, and Twitter rank on top; for San Jose, Cisco, Paypal, and eBay are the top recruiters; and in Oakland, Pandora and Oracle capture the top spots.

The complete 20 are in the table below.

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Photograph of a woman standing in front of a graph of salaries.

What Silicon Valley Tech Jobs Pay the Highest Salaries? just released its 2017 Silicon Valley salary survey, looking at which tech jobs command the highest average pay over the past year, according to job openings posted on the job search firm’s web site from November 2016 through October 2017.

Product development engineer claimed the number one spot, with an average salary of US $173,570, and director of product management was just a few dollars behind, with an average salary of $173,556.

Meanwhile, dev ops manager, machine learning engineer, and cloud engineer salaries are climbing fast, the data showed. All three categories hadn’t previously made the top 20. This year, dev ops manager ranked fourth, at $166,488; machine learning engineer ranked 13th at $149,519, and cloud engineer ranked 17th at $146,900.

The entire top 20 is in the table below.

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Illustration of a man and woman, in front of an American flag and the White House, with a technology background.

CES 2018: Tech Industry Leaders Talk DACA, H1-B

Turmoil in the U.S. immigration system is hurting tech companies. That’s the consensus of panelists from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Microsoft, and Phone2Action, speaking at a session on immigration at CES in Las Vegas last week.

The mess is not brand new, it’s just getting worse, the panelists indicated. Companies struggle with the limitations of the H-1B visa program, they say, and a backlog in permanent resident applications is making the H-1B crunch worse. H1-B visas allow U.S. companies to employ foreign workers with certain specialized skills or educational backgrounds.

“The system has not been functioning well for a long time,” said Portia Wu, director of workforce policy for Microsoft.

“It’s a domino effect,” said Jon Baselice, director of immigration policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “If a country hits the green card cap for a year, that forces people to wait. And then that hurts the H-1B cap, because the people who can’t get green cards have to renew their H-1Bs.”

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Savioke's relay robot 'Elvis' at CES 2018.

CES 2018: Delivery Robots are Full-Time Employees at a Las Vegas Hotel

On the floor of CES, LG’s CLOi service robots got a lot of attention. But just across the parking lot from the Las Vegas Convention Center, two service robots—both Relay robots from San Jose-based Savioke—are quietly at work. These robots, tagged Elvis and Priscilla, are full-time employees of the Renaissance Hotel, and they aren’t getting a lot of attention.

When Priscilla navigated through the crowded lobby to make a delivery on Wednesday, only a few people pulled out cameras. Others casually brushed by, sometimes giving it a little pat as they passed.

I checked in with Savioke founder Steve Cousins, hotel manager Carl Kruger, and robot Elvis, to find out how these robotic workers are doing. (Elvis was taking a break from his duties for media meetings, but Kruger wasn’t sure how long Elvis could hang out. “The front desk wants him back,” Kruger said.)

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Zero Mass Water's hydropanel.

CES 2018: Zero Mass Wants to Get Water Off the Grid and Onto Your Roof

The hydropanel. It looks a bit like a solar panel. Indeed, it is part solar— the side sections create heat using solar thermal technology (see photo, above); the center two sections of each panel are full of solar cells So it does generate a little electricity, enough to operate its fans, pump, and electronics. But that’s not why you’d want it on your roof. Its purpose is to generate water—pure, safe, drinking water—from the air. Its creators say it works in almost any environment, be that the desert or the rain forest.

Why water? Zero Mass Water founder and Arizona State University associate professor Cody Friesen says that the water system today faces three challenges: a lack of transparency (we usually don’t know where it comes from or what is in the pipes along its journey), broken infrastructure (and that’s not just a problem in the developing world), and inconvenience (relying on bottled water for drinking).

Friesen, speaking on a panel at CES this week in Las Vegas, had been thinking about the evolution of solar energy and wireless communications, and decided to try to decentralize water in a similar way.

“Today, everybody has a supercomputer in your pocket that can communicate wirelessly,” he says, “so if you built a town now, you’d never put in wires. Solar panels, same thing. Our technology enables a similar leapfrog of infrastructure for water.”

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A man looks over a 4K Super UHD TV Nano Cell display in the LG Electronics booth at the Las Vegas Convention Center during the 2018 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. January 9, 2018

CES 2018: Look to the Processor, not the Display, for TV Picture Improvements

CES press day, the day before the opening of the gargantuan consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, is traditionally anchored by the “big” consumer electronics manufacturers. The names change, but these days, that list includes Korea’s LG and Samsung, and Japan’s Panasonic, with China’s TCL waving its flag as well. (The big names used to be U.S.-based RCA and Zenith… but I’m showing my age here.)

These flashy presentations typically focus on the television display. Inevitably, manufacturers would unveil a new display or two, claiming they were the biggest, thinnest, prettiest, or most colorful—or all of the above.

Not this year. If you were dropping into your first CES from another planet, you might not actually realize from the announcements at CES press day that TVs have screens. Instead, the manufacturers struggled to explain tech advances that are coming in places the eye can’t see—under the hood and in the cloud.

Under the hood

LG, Panasonic, and TCL put the spotlight on the chips that do the video processing: For the foreseeable future, any advances in image quality will be coming from these chips, not from the displays themselves.

LG announced its new Alpha 9 processor that, the company says, will produce clearer and more realistic images, with more accurate color reproduction and less picture noise. It will also yield high frame rate (HFR) broadcast video, a technology being experimented with—but not embraced—for sports broadcasts. Its most innovative change, LG said in a statement, “is the four-step process of noise reduction, which boasts twice as many steps compared to conventional techniques. This algorithm allows for greater finesse in noise reduction, improving the clarity of images affected by distracting artifacts and enabling more effective rendering of smooth gradations.”

The processor is showing up in the company’s newest OLED TVs as well as its new top-of-the-line LED TVs.

Panasonic said its new HCX processor would be featured in new models of OLED TVs, able to automatically optimize brightness, color, and contrast as scenes change. The biggest change, the company said in a statement: 

“is the introduction of a completely new ‘Dynamic LUT’ system. LUT (Look Up Table) technology is used extensively in professional post-production and broadcast circles in Hollywood and beyond to ensure color accuracy. Until now, LUTs were fixed according to the color space used by the source. With this innovation, the HCX automatically monitors the average brightness level of a scene and uses picture analysis to dynamically load an LUT appropriate to that scene. This brings significant improvements to mid-brightness scenes, making them look much more natural. To improve color accuracy in shadows, Panasonic has included additional layers of LUT data at much darker levels than were previously available. This means that while improving the transition from pure black, the colors in the shadows are even more accurate.”

TCL calls its new processor the iPQ engine, and also promised a more realistic picture.

And Sony said that its X1 Ultimate processor, which will render images by objects rather than by frames, will be coming in both LCD and OLED displays; however, the chip is just a prototype for now, so no word on timing. 

AI and the cloud

Samsung, though it didn’t tout a new processor, promised that all its gadgets, big and small, will be a lot smarter this year—and will, by 2020, be using AI and talking to the cloud.

LG pointed to its plans to integrate AI into all its consumer electronics products, including refrigerators, washing machines, and televisions—an effort the company has branded ThinQ. (Most people would pronounce this “think,” but LG wants it to sound more like “thank you.”)

And TCL joined with Roku to connect its gear to the cloud via a new smart soundbar, coming towards the end of 2018.

In their efforts to make their connected products more intelligent and more useful, the major consumer electronics companies are reaching out to the little guys—the startup gadget makers who are putting lightbulbs, swimming pools, and even pets onto the IoT (I’m imagining your TV telling you it’s time to let the dog out). Samsung and LG both touted the efforts to develop open standards through the two-year-old Open Connectivity Foundation.

Thanks to all of your gadgets chattering behind your back, says Tim Baxter, CEO of Samsung Electronics North America, your things will “understand you and figure out what you want before you have to ask.” (This is a movie plot waiting to happen.)

In the shorter term, the technology would enable scenarios like someone asking the TV what is in the refrigerator, then having it display a recipe then send that recipe to the stove. Or, say, pausing a TV broadcast when the washing machine finishes a load.

And, promised LG’s Park, smarter appliances will also mean the end of user manuals, because, he says, “products will learn from users, not the other way around.”

That had me scratching my head a bit, but Yoon Lee, senior vice president of Samsung Electronics America, did an impressive demo of its new televisions pulling apps and user data from a phone, eliminating the laborious process of inputting usernames and passwords for services like Spotify and Netflix.

MicroLED on the horizon?

While the consumer electronics manufacturers made it clear that any improvements in the TV viewing experience in the near future will come from better processors and AI software, one—Samsung—gave a brief hint that display evolution is not at a dead halt. The company gave a don’t-blink-or-you-might-miss-it peek at what it says will be the world’s first commercial MicroLED display, available sometime this year. MicroLED technology operates like the Jumbo Tron in a football stadium, with a dedicated LED for each colored subpixel—shrunk down to the size of a standard TV, that is, with subpixels so small your eye can’t distinguish them. It doesn’t require filters or backlights, so color and brightness can be exceptional.

To date, however, researchers working with this technology have been struggling with manufacturing yields, so cost is likely to be a huge issue for some time to come, and the company offered no pricing information. And given that the company emphasized the ability to piece these displays together into large panels, it seems that this product is aimed more for commercial spaces than living rooms, at least for now.


View From the Valley

IEEE Spectrum’s blog featuring the people, places, and passions of the world of technologists in Silicon Valley and its environs.
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Tekla Perry
Palo Alto, Calif.
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