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A software engineer develops an easy to use graphical interface for easy browsing of H1B visa data for hardware and software engineer salaries

Facebook's H-1B Software Engineer Salaries Climb Six Percent Annually. Google's Go Up Two Percent; Uber's Drop

About a year and a half ago, I reported on an effort by French software engineer Théo Négri to mine the U.S. Department of Labor’s H-1B data for insights into tech salaries (a set of data that includes minimum salaries without bonus offered; actual salaries paid H1B visa holders can be higher). Négri’s tools allow you to browse job listings by company, year, job title, and other factors—but it takes some toggling around to get a clear snapshot of trends in engineering salaries at a particular firm.

In a separate effort, software engineer Mahmoud Mechehoul, a former H-1B visa holder from Morocco, took a look at that same data, and decided it would be more useful to look at salary distributions, not just aggregated numbers. He reasoned that salaries for similar jobs vary a lot, even within the same company. The data, he says, covers 800,000 salaries from 500 companies for 700 job titles in 16,000 cities.

He came up with a more graphical online tool, H1BPay. It took him about six months to create, because he decided to hire contractors to clean up the data. Their work involved changing formal legal names to more familiar monikers, correcting spelling mistakes, and filtering out salary figures that were extreme outliers. He originally built this tool for use by current and potential holders of H-1B visas, but the picture it paints of engineering salaries can be mined for all sorts of purposes. The tool allows you to browse salaries by company, job, and city—for some companies, as far back as 2011.

A few examples:

Salaries for H-1B software engineers at Facebook in Menlo Park, Calif., according to H1BPay, range between $85,000 and $247,200, with a median of $138,294. The top 25 percent of earners make at least $150,000. The average salary for H-1B software engineers at the social network increased by an average of 6 percent a year between 2012 and 2016.

H-1B software engineering salaries at Google in Mountain View vary between $92,000 and $318,240; the median salary is $126,232. The top 25 percent make a salary of at least $137,600, and the pay increased by an average of 2 percent annually between 2011 and 2016.

At Uber, H-1B software engineers in the company’s San Francisco office are paid between $76,107 and $175,000, with a median of $120,000. The top 25 percent make a salary of at least $140,000. Software engineering salaries for H-1B visa holders at Uber dropped about 1 percent annually between 2013 and 2016.

According to Mechehoul’s tool, salaries for an H-1B software engineer at IBM in San Jose, Calif., range between $61,735 and $222,700, with a median salary of $99,047. The top 25 percent of this group make at least $140,000, and the average salary went up an average of 12 percent annually between 2014 and 2016. Salaries for H-1B software engineers at IBM’s Research Triangle Park, N.C., location vary between $52,998 and $206,348, with a median of $84,513; the top 25 percent earn at least $100,000. These numbers increased an average of 6 percent annually between 2011 and 2014.

And at Microsoft in Redmond, Wash., H-1B software engineers make between $78,540 and $161,000 annually, with a median of $118,142, and $125,676-plus for the top 25 percent. These numbers reflect an average annual increase of 5 percent between 2013 and 2016.

You can browse the data yourself here.

Updated 2 December 2016.

The Volkswagen logo sits on the automaker's headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany

Who’s Hiring? Who’s Firing? Checking in on Tech Jobs, Starting With Bad News From Volkswagen

Last month I reported on Trip Chowdry’s dire predictions for the tech workforce. Since then, I’ve seen a few announcements that confirmed his bleak view, but I’ve also seen bright spots in the engineering jobs landscape. Here’s a snapshot of what’s been happening on the tech jobs front over the past month or so. (I don’t have access to an extensive database tracking hiring and firing daily, so I don’t make any claims that this is exhaustive. Indeed, I’d appreciate addenda in the comments.)

First, the bad news:

  • Last week, Volkswagen announced that it would layoff 30,000 employees around the world, 23,000 of those in Germany.
  •  On 3 November, Sunnyvale-based data-storage company NetApp announced that it would cut 6 percent of its global workforce, or about 640 jobs. That’s on top of a 15 percent cut announced in February.
  •  On 2 November, Santa Clara-based semiconductor company Marvell announced that it would cut 900 jobs worldwide, about 16 percent of its workforce.
  •  Over at IBM, cuts that have been going on all year—that are never officially announced—continue. According to the website Watching IBM, layoffs in Canada are currently underway, with another round of U.S. layoffs expected just after the Thanksgiving holiday. An internal source told me that the rumors of November cuts are accurate, and that the names have already been submitted.
  • And, according to TechCrunch, Intel is about to slash jobs in its wearables group; no official word from the company yet.

And some good news on engineering jobs:

  • Tinder has opened up a Palo Alto, Calif., engineering office, hiring 20 people so far and aiming to hire 20 more soon. The 200-person company, based in California, plans to double its overall workforce over the next 12 to 18 months, according to ReCode.
  • LeEco, the Chinese consumer electronics and entertainment company, announced that it is quickly and steadily adding to its current U.S. workforce of 500, aiming to grow it to some 12,000. In June the company purchased 49 acres from Yahoo for its Silicon Valley campus.
  •  Mercedes Benz announced plans to add 1000 engineers to its R&D operation in India. (IBM also appears to be hiring in India, but, sensitive to reports of offshoring, it is making little information public.)
  •  Tesla announced big hiring plans—in Germany. Tesla this month agreed to acquire Grohmann Engineering and indicated that it will add 1000 engineers and technicians within the next two years.

Tesla will likely be getting a blizzard of resumes from Volkswagen.

A pink triangle represents Ommo's magnetic field between two glove-wearing hands

For Precise Hand Tracking in Virtual Reality, Start With a Magnetic Field

“We can see the digital world in 3D—so why are we flipping Pokéballs on a phone screen?”

That’s how Minjie Zheng kicked off the unveiling of his startup, Ommo. The startup is introducing what it says is a millimeter-resolution 360-degree gesture tracking technology for virtual reality and augmented reality that can work in all sorts of conditions—even under water. The system consists of a magnetic field generator—small enough to slip in a pocket—along with sensors placed on key points on the hand, stylus, or whatever thing you want to track. The company can use lots of sensors, Zheng says, because they only cost about 70 cents each. The magnetic field generator, he continued, should cost about $30 to produce. Ommo unveiled the technology at Highway1 Demo Day held in San Francisco on Wednesday.

The company plans a $189 pair of gloves for its first product, designed for VR gamers, but has indicated it is getting inquiries from companies involved in 3D modeling and medicine. One medical center, Zheng said, is investigating whether a sensor attached to scalpels could be used to assess trainee surgeons.

Ommo raised $1 million in its seed round, and expects to release prototypes to developers next March.

A child chases a ball during a soccer game. These kinds of images would be easier to capture by networking smartphones and adding motion trackers to the kids, says startup Peeq

A Ring of Smartphones Plus a Wearable Makes You the Star of Your Own Gameday Video

I spent many many hours shivering on the sidelines as my kids went through their elementary and middle school soccer careers. And while I did occasionally try to catch the moment on video, it rarely went well; I have a few blurry shots of missed kicks and none of anything you would put in a highlight reel.

So startup Peeq, launching its video highlight system at Highway1 Demo Day in San Francisco this week, definitely got my attention. Even though at this point Peeq is focused on semi-pro and collegiate athletes not kids’ soccer, it’s easy to see how the system could quickly trickle down to the pre-teen athletics scene.

Peeq’s system requires that each athlete who wants to be featured in a highlights reel wear a tracker—the company will sell these for a price yet to be announced. The athletes (or their parents) place mobile phones, running the Peeq app, on tripods around the field; a demo video used 14 phones and 100 trackers, but the system will work with far fewer. After the game, cloud-based editing software creates personalized highlight reels; Peeq plans to charge teams or venues subscription fees for the service.

The company raised US $1.3 million to date and has been pilot testing the technology, it is working on pulling in another $3 million in investment to roll it out to sports teams.

A thermoelectric heating and cooling system to be worn on a person's knee looks like a black knee brace with many circular protrusions

Electronic Ice and an App for Sore Muscles

Thermoelectric devices have become efficient enough—and battery technology has improved enough—to finally allow electronics to replace the ice pack.

That’s what Alex Aguiar, a founder of RecoverX, told me. He says the company’s portable hot/cold wrap is deisgned for general athletic recovery. But, he says, they are also good enough to replace the post-surgical ice machine. If you’ve never had one in your house, trust me, this would be a really good thing: those machines are expensive, unwieldly, and you go through a ridiculous number of bags of ice, some of which you will accidentally dump on your living room rug.

The thermoelectric wraps, introduced at the Highway1 accelerator’s Demo Day in San Francisco on Wednesday, can be controlled by an app for precise hot and cold temperatures and time cycles. The company is beta testing the system with the San Francisco 49ers (American football), the San Jose Earthquakes (everybody else’s football), the Stanford University Athletic Department, and others. Aguiar expects it will ship in 2018 for US $250 to $300.

Flo Labs' sensor package is a round puck that adheres to the front of a surfboard

Flo Labs' IoT Gadget Is Like Waze—for Surfers

West Askew, a founder of Flo Labs, says many of his mornings start with him checking multiple apps for surf, weather, and wind data; checking with friends to find out their plans; driving half an hour to a selected spot; sitting out in cold water for an hour; catching one wave; and then driving to work.

Askew, speaking at Highway1 Demo Day held in San Francisco on Wednesday, says surfers like him—along with skiers, snowboarders, kayakers and all sorts of others involved in outdoor sports—spend a lot of time checking weather and wave, or snow, or other local conditions. He says they’d like to spend less time figuring out when and where to go and more time engaging in their sports.

So he’s come up with a sort of Waze for outdoor sports, in the form of a US $150 waterproof puck that communicates with a cloud network. The puck includes a GPS, 9-axis inertial measurement unit, barometer, thermometer, and a battery that lasts two to four hours. For surfers, it reports ocean conditions and logs waves caught in real time, so a user’s friends can check in on not only water conditions, but how the surfer is doing, helping them decide whether or not to head to that spot themselves.

Flo Labs raised $275,000 in angel investment to date, Askew says. The company has started rolling out hardware to beta testers and plans to start taking preorders in July 2017 for shipping in the fourth quarter. It plans to then launch a variant for snow sports late in 2017.

A self-powering watch from Matrix Industries uses thermoelectrics

This Smart Watch Will Charge Itself Using Heat From Your Skin

I actually like tracking my steps, but I’m not wearing my Fitbit right now because I’ve forgotten to charge it too many times over the past couple of months, blowing my step average and my motivation to quantify my self.

Matrix Industries, based in Menlo Park, Calif., is coming out of stealth mode today to say that it can fix that. Company founders Akram Boukai, CEO, and Douglas Tham, chief technology officer, think that thermoelectric technology is ready to power wearables now, and soon will make sense for implantables and low-power sensors on the Internet of Things. Thermoelectric devices harvest energy using a temperature difference between their two sides to generate a voltage.

Matrix launched what it calls a thermoelectric-powered smart watch—and I call a fitness tracker—on Indiegogo today. The US $100 gadget—which has a step counter, calories-expended counter, a sleep monitor, and yes, a watch that tells time—is a little too clunky for me, and will likely only appeal to the “gotta have the cool gadget” early adopter who can show off the self-powering feature to his friends.

But that’s probably okay. Because, while I’m sure Matrix would love to sell a bunch of these gadgets, that’s really not its main goal. The company really just wants to convince other gadget makers to embrace its thermoelectric technology.

“We see ourselves as a thermal energy harvesting company,” Anne Ruminski, Matrix’s head of engineering told me, not a watch company. “We would like to see the technology be applied to other wearables, medical devices, and smart sensors.”

Boukai and Tham started working together on the technology in 2003, as graduate students at Cal Tech. They officially formed as Silicium Energy in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2011, moving their operations to Silicon Valley in 2013. Silicium changed its name to Matrix this year.

Ruminski says the time is right for putting thermoelectrics into wearables. “We were surprised that, when we looked at applications for the technology, that everybody working with it was focused on putting it into cars, which isn’t feasible now. We were surprised nobody had put it into a watch.” Smart watches makes sense, because “the devices going into smart watches today use far less power than even just a couple of years ago.”

She would particularly love to see the technology migrate quickly into hearing aids. “A close relative wears hearing aids,” she says, “and it’s a pain for her to change the tiny batteries so often.”

The technology, Ruminski believes, is especially suited for implantables that sit just under the skin, like pacemakers. “They don’t require much power, and there is enough of a temperature gradient at the surface of the skin so it would work.”

The company has filed patents in thermoelectrics and heat management. Figuring out how to shed heat so the cold side of the system  doesn’t get too warm was a challenge, Ruminski says.

A cartoon of a self-driving car with a

Where Are the Jobs for Autonomous Vehicle Engineers? GM and Google Top the List

It’s a good time to be an engineer with some expertise in autonomous vehicles, particular a software engineer.

That’s what Daniel Culbertson thinks. He’s an economist for Indeed.com, the web-based job search engine.

“This industry is on a steep line of growth right now, and I expect it to keep growing,” Culbertson said.

Culbertson recently took a look at all of Indeed’s job listings for autonomous vehicle engineers over the past year. Most of the tech jobs in the industry were for software engineers, he told me, and the most jobs were in Germany. Interestingly, he said, there is less interest from German job seekers in those German jobs than from U.S. job seekers in U.S. jobs, generally, he said, because the U.S. is leading in autonomous vehicle innovation, and engineers want to be where the most interesting technology is.

All signs point to continued growth in job postings, Culbertson said. “Looking at the list of top employers,” he said, “it is good for the industry that you have both new tech companies like Google and Uber as well as the older automotive companies. That shows that we’re not seeing a flash in the pan. You also see automotive suppliers, not just car manufacturers, hiring; that ancillary companies are starting to invest also speaks to the continuing growth of this industry.”

The top 15 companies, in terms of share of job postings for autonomous vehicle engineers from October 2015 to October 2016, were:

  1. GM: 11.30 percent
  2. Google: 9.4 percent
  3. Ford: 6.4 percent
  4. Bosch: 6.4 percent
  5. Atieva (now Lucid Motors): 5.5 percent
  6. Workbridge Associates: 2.7 percent
  7. Daimler AG: 2.4 percent
  8. BMW: 2.1 percent
  9. Valeo: 2.1 percent
  10. HERE: 1.8 percent
  11. Nvidia: 1.8 percent
  12. Elektronische Fahrewerksystem GmbH: 1.8 percent
  13. Delphi Automotive: 1.6 percent
  14. Continental: 1.5 percent
  15. BMW-Mini: 1.3 percent

Looking at worldwide trends, Culbertson considered just postings during the second quarter of this year. He did note that one posting does not necessarily always equate to one opening and can sometimes represent multiple openings, but said looking at postings can suggest general trends. The number of clicks, he indicated, shows the level of interest job seekers have in the industry.

This bar chart shows supply vs demand for autonomous vehicle engineering jobs around the world. The supply is highest in Germany but demand is lower than supply there.

Zeroing in on the U.S., Culbertson discovered that a spike in both job availability and interest in those jobs started about a year ago.

In this  graph tracking supply and demand of autonomous vehicle engineering jobs in the U.S. over time, both took a sharp upturn in 2015, and continue to climb dramatically

A quick check of Indeed.com’s listing shows that the slope, if anything has gotten steeper since Culbertson ran these numbers. Right now, the jobs site lists at least 76 openings at Silicon Valley companies alone.

Planexta's wrist-wearable ECG  monitor that tracks emotions, the Sence

Can A Wrist-Wearable ECG Monitor Track Your Emotions?

People have been working on stress monitoring devices for a while. To date, most use some combination of heart rate, temperature, and maybe perspiration. A few have taken novel approaches—like watching for goose bumps. It can be helpful to know when someone’s stress levels are getting out of their normal range—like when air traffic controllers are overloaded.

But can a simple wearable do more than measure stress? Startup company Planexta, launching on Kickstarter this week after doing a demo tour of Silicon Valley last week, thinks it can. The Ukraine-based company says it has figured out how to match variations in a specific part of the electrocardiograph (ECG) signal—the R peak—to emotions. They don’t mean just stress and anxiety, but actual happiness and sadness, and nearly 40 other emotional states.

The trick, says Adam Paulin, the company’s North American representative, was not only developing the algorithm, but developing a wearable ECG monitor that was accurate enough for this purpose. The company came up with a wrist-worn gadget—the Sence—that has three electrodes: Two watch for that R-peak signal, while the third monitors other electrical activity in the body and cancels out that noise. Paulin says it’s 250 times as accurate as the optical heartrate monitors in today’s fitness wearables.

The gadget takes 10-second snapshots of the signal (you can set the increment; the preset is one hour), and tracks it on an app. In between, it acts as a basic step-tracker. You can have it correlate the data with your calendar or GPS, to determine if there are events, people, or places that make you feel particularly happy—or miserable. Paulin says the wearable’s analysis might not always match your own; people can interpret their feelings all sorts of ways. Psychologists, he said, have expressed interest in using the wearable to study whether or not people feel emotions at different intensities.

The Sence will ship next August, the company is taking preorders at $130 (retail price will be $260).

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View From the Valley

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