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BlackBerry Announces New Motion Smartphone

October 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

The all-touchscreen BlackBerry Motion was officially unveiled at an electronics trade show in Dubai, just days after images of the new phone leaked online.

The new handset features a 5.5-inch HD display, 4GB of RAM and a 4,000mAh battery with support for QuickCharge 3.0. The Motion, which was unveiled at the GITEX 2017 trade show, is also rated IP67 for dust and water resistance.

The BlackBerry Motion is a follow-up to the KeyOne, the first phone released under a licensing agreement TCL has with BlackBerry to build and sell the devices. BlackBerry has detached itself from the hardware side, focusing on business security and software.

TCL, best known for making budget televisions and phones (under the Alcatel OneTouch brand), hopes to win some business customers of its own with its take on the BlackBerry family. The Motion is intended to show that the KeyOne isn’t a one-off product, and that TCL intends to create a new portfolio of products with the BlackBerry name.

The BlackBerry Motion will initially launch in the Middle East.


Nissan Launches Revamped, Longer Range Leaf Electric Vehicle

September 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Nissan Motor Co Ltd has unveiled a revamped Leaf electric vehicle (EV), going head-to-head with Tesla Inc’s Model 3 and hoping to blunt criticism of limited driving ranges undermining EVs’ mass-market appeal.

The automaker said it aims to “double, even triple” annual sales of the previous incarnation, jump-starting demand in major markets such as the United States, and packing new technologies to make up for a shorter driving range than rival offerings.

“If it’s successful, the Leaf will be a major part of the portfolio of Nissan,” Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa said at a launch for the new version of the world’s best-selling battery-powered car. “EVs will no longer be a niche product.”

The car, on sale in Japan from Oct. 2 and elsewhere in early 2018, can run for 150 miles (241 kilometers) on a single charge according to U.S. regulator estimates, up from its predecessor’s 107 miles due to a bigger, 40 kilowatt hour (kWh) battery.

Prices in Japan will start from 3.15 million yen ($28,992).

 The launch comes after luxury electric car maker Tesla made its first foray into the Leaf’s more affordable price band in July with its $35,000, 220-mile Model 3. Tesla has said it has received half a million orders for the Model 3, indicating the challenge Nissan has in preserving the Leaf’s number-one rank.

Nissan, whose first Leaf was among the first mass-market EVs, has given its marquee model a sporty facelift drawing on its more mainstream designs including the Micra and Rogue, in an effort to dispel the image of EVs being only for the affluent and environment-conscious.

The mid-sized car comes equipped with Nissan’s latest automated functions including single-lane highway driving and self-parking, along with its combined accelerate and brake “e-pedal”.

“The pricing is flat, (yet) we have a full model change… You have autonomous drive technology, a new battery, new powertrain. How can this be unattractive to a young customer?” said Ivan Espinosa, vice president of global product planning.

But for all the improvements, analysts said current EV driving ranges are too short to lure a meaningful number of drivers away from conventional cars, particularly in the U.S. where gasoline prices are historically low.

“Until we see a significant improvement in range and/or economics that feed through to a rise in gasoline prices, EV buyers will be buying for environmental or altruistic reasons,” said Janet Lewis, head of Asia transportation research at Macquarie Securities. “It’s still a very, very niche market.”

Researchers Create Battery-Free Mobile Phone

August 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Researchers have emerged from their smoke-filled labs with a prototype of a battery-free mobile phone.

The phone is the work of a group of researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle and works by harvesting tiny amounts of power from radio signals, known as radio frequency or ‘RF’ waves.

Team member Vamsi Talla told Reuters that ambient RF waves are all around us so, as an example, your FM station broadcasts radio waves,TV stations, mobile phone towers. They all are transmitting RF waves.

The phone is a first prototype and its operation is basic – at first glance it looks little more than a circuit board with a few parts attached and the caller must wear headphones and press a button to switch between talking and listening.

But the boffins say there are plans to develop further prototypes, featuring a low-power screen for texting and even a basic camera. They also plan a version of the battery-free phone that uses a tiny solar cell to provide power.

The researchers plan to release a product in eight to nine months’ time, thought they would not give further details. One team member however, was prepared to give a glimpse of how their work will impact the future of cellphone technology.

“In the future every smartphone will come with a battery-free mode where you can at least make a voice call when your battery’s dead.”

Meanwhile Researchers at the Universities of Bristol and Surrey in Britain, are developing supercapacitors, which they believe will eventually allow devices to charge in a period of a few minutes.


Is Google Involved In Shady Research

July 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A watchdog group has accused Google of funding academic research to try to influence public opinion and policymakers.

Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a Washington-based non-profit that recently launched the Google Transparency Project, said in a report that the company has thrown money at research papers in the US and Europe that appear to support its business interests, covering topics including antitrust, privacy, net neutrality, patents, and copyright.

“Google uses its immense wealth and power to attempt to influence policymakers at every level,” said Daniel Stevens, CfA executive director. “At a minimum, regulators should be aware that the allegedly independent legal and academic work on which they rely has been brought to them by Google.”

CfA claims that 329 papers published between 2005 and 2017 on public policy matters relevant to Google were in “some way” funded by the company, and alleges that authors of the papers – who were paid between $5,000 and $400,000 – did not disclose the source of their funding in 66 per cent of all cases.

Google has been quick to deny the accusations, and has slammed the CfA’s report as “highly misleading”.

In a blog post, Google’s director of public policy Leslie Miller said that the CfA had inflated numbers by attributing funding to Google when it actually came from associations to which Google.

She also said it was ironic that the CfA talked about transparency given that the watchdog’s only known backer is Oracle. 

“The irony of discussing disclosures and transparency with the Campaign for Accountability is that this group consistently refuses to name its corporate funders. And those backers won’t ‘fess up either,” wrote Miller.

“The one funder the world does know about is Oracle, which is running a well-documented lobbying campaign against us. In its own name and through proxies, Oracle has funded many hundreds of articles, research papers, symposia and reports.

“Oracle is not alone. You can easily find similar activity by companies and organisations funded by our competitors, like AT&T, the MPAA, ICOMP, FairSearch and dozens more, including hundreds of pieces directly targeting Google.”


Is Google Glass Making A Comeback

July 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

It appears the death of Google Glass has been somewhat exaggerated, as the accompanying MyGlass app has received its first update in three years.

For the first time since September 2014, you can suck up some bug fixes to your ridiculous goggles, recently seen adorning the newly opened “Museum of Failure” in Sweden.

But not only that! There’s a new set of firmware too!

We’re not entirely sure who is still wearing the early wearable devices which despite a huge fanfare, never really got to the high street, but if you do, it’s good to know that you four-figure investment hasn’t gone the way of Google Reader.

So what’s new? Well, the biggest news is Bluetooth. Yes, actually ruddy Bluetooth support. Because it had a Bluetooth chip all along that was never activated.

This actually is quite a big deal. It means that you can now hook up Human Interface Devices (HID) such as keyboards and mice and do a bit more than the “tap and slide” controls you had before.

But who is still working on the project? Surely Google isn’t paying for the continuing development of a project that hasn’t even had a working web presence for two years?

Perhaps it’s the 20 percenters, using their free time at Google to tinker with the former favourite. Or perhaps the successor for Google Glass, oft suggested but never realised is closer than we thought.

We were told that a Google Glass 2 with enterprise credentials was on the way in 2015, powered by an Intel chipset, but nothing emerged.

It’s not like the device didn’t find fans. Virgin Atlantic used it at check in to allow staff to keep better eye contact with customers.

But before there was a drone epidemic and alleged Russian hacking of elections, everyone was frantic about what would happen when we all walked around with head-up displays.

Turns out nobody did, and nobody has. Battery life was a big problem and turning on Bluetooth will do little to improve that. But someone, somewhere clearly thinks there’s life in the old dog yet. What it all means remains to be seen.


Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Gets August Launch Date

June 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Tech giant Samsung Electronics Co Ltd  plans to host a launch event in New York City for its next Galaxy Note smartphone in the second half of August, a person familiar with the matter has revealed to Reuters.

The person, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and so declined to be identified, said the Galaxy Note 8 will sport a curved screen that is marginally larger than the 6.2-inch version of the Galaxy S8 smartphone and feature two rear cameras. The Note 7 was equipped with a 5.7-inch curved screen and one rear camera.

The person did not elaborate further on the phone including pricing. A Samsung Electronics spokesman declined to comment.

Samsung is intent on continuing the premium Note series despite the costly collapse of the Galaxy Note 7, which it was forced to scrap roughly two months from launch in October due to fire-prone batteries. The incident, one of the biggest product safety failures in tech history, cost the firm 6.1 trillion won ($5.4 billion) in operating profit and hurt its credibility.

The firm disclosed its preliminary findings in January that different battery problems from two suppliers caused the fires, which was corroborated by two other independent probes. The firm implemented several steps including a new set of battery safety checks to avoid repeat incidents, which analysts said is helping it win back consumer trust.

Strong initial response for the Galaxy S8 smartphones that began selling in April indicate the firm is recovering quickly, with some analysts forecasting the device to set Samsung’s internal sales records and push the firm towards what is widely expected to be its best-ever profit for April-June. There have been no battery fire incidents reported for the S8.

Counterpoint Research estimates Samsung regained its spot as the top global smartphone maker in the first quarter after ceding the spot to archrival Apple Inc in the previous quarter. Apple is widely expected to unveil its next iPhones by October.

Is Google Using Chromebooks To Spy On Kids?

May 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Human rights group, the  Electronic Freedom Foundation has complained that Google is continuing to use its Chromebooks to spy on customers.

The main issue, it seems, is the fact that the education system is changing the way it treats the students’ privacy, mostly due to a rollout of low-priced Chromebooks that come with educations services. Often, they are available for a reduced price or even given out for free.

“Educational technology services often collect far more information on kids than is necessary and store this information indefinitely. In fact, they tie personally identifying information, such as kids’ names, birthdays, browsing history, search terms, location data, contact lists, and behavioural information,” the EFF said.

Since most of those customers are under-age school kids, it appears that Google is rather a little too interested in knowing all about them.

The EFF first complained about Google two years ago, and since then, it claims the search engine outfit has not done much to improve its antics.

Now it says that Google still hasn’t shed its “bad guy” image when it comes to the data it collects on underage students.

The company continues to massively collect and store information on children without their consent or their parents’. Not even school administrators fully understand the extent of this operation.

According to the latest status report from the EFF, Google is trying to end students’ privacy without their parents notice or consent and “without a real choice to opt out.”

This, they say, is done via the Chromebooks Google is selling to schools across the United States. It is a shame really because Google’s number one rival for this market is Apple.

The EFF investigated 152 ed-tech services that survey respondents reported were in use in their classrooms. The findings weren’t too great, as most of these services had privacy policies lacking in encryption, data retention or data sharing rules.

One school Chromebook administrator  told the EFF that they’re “putting all [their] eggs in one basket that we’re not in control of. We don’t know where this student data is going.”


GM Testing Wireless Car Charging For Electric Vehicles

December 22, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

witricity-and-gm-150x150General Motors has teamed up with a wireless charging startup to test a floor pad that will allow electric vehicle (EV) drivers to cut the cable and pull into a parking space or garage to charge their car.

The automaker is working with Watertown, Mass.-based WiTricity to test the company’s Drive 11 park and charge system prototype.

GM is focused on testing the floor pad prototype that’s capable of wirelessly charging at 7.7 kilowatt (KW) and 11KW charge rates (11KW is the typical maximum for power that can be drawn in a home). The pad can work with standard EVs and those with extended range capabilities, such as an auxiliary battery unit.

“Wireless charging is a technology that our customers have told us they are interested in,” Pamela Fletcher, GM executive chief engineer for electrified vehicles, said in a statement. “By testing the WiTricity prototype system, we can ensure that wireless charging systems will comply with proposed industry standards, which benefit the entire industry and consumers.”

 Along with being a standalone, movable pad, the Drive 11 system can be embedded beneath concrete or asphalt so that it’s not visible atop a parking space or in a garage.

WiTricity also claims the charging pad is as efficient as a plug-in charger.

WiTricity CEO Alex Gruzen said the two charging levels available with the pad correspond with different vehicle battery capacities and their charging needs.

For example, he said, a plug-in hybrid with a smaller battery may not need as much charging power as a pure battery electric vehicle. The SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) standard effort is defining specific power levels to ensure interoperability.

“Our auto manufacturer will decide what level system to install in the car. We have customers already targeting 3.7KW, 7.7KW and 11KW solutions depending on the vehicle type,” Gruzen stated in an email to Computerworld.

WiTricity is also working with Tunable Matching Network (TMN) technology to develop interoperable capabilities for its wireless charging for electric and autonomous vehicles. TMN technology allows the wireless charging system to automatically optimize energy transfer between the ground and the vehicle in a wide range of real-world operating conditions, including parking misalignment, differing vehicle ground clearance and varying battery voltage conditions.

In addition to GM, WiTricity has technology licensing agreements with other major automakers, such as Toyota, and Tier 1 parts suppliers, such as Delphi, TDK, IHI and BRUSA, to bring its wireless EV charging to production.

Samsung First Adds 64-bit Chip To Gear S3 Smartwatch

December 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

samsung-gear-3-smartwatch-150x150Samsung  can celebrate being among the first to bring 64-bit chip technology to smartwatches.

The recently launched Samsung Gear S3 has some of the most advanced circuitry found in wearables, according to a teardown of the device by Linley Group.

Inside, engineers found a dual-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 processor running at 1.0GHz combined with high-definition graphics, memory, power management and LTE connectivity. That makes it roughly equivalent to a low-cost smartphone.

That’s notable because engineers typically fit much lower performance components into phones to keep power consumption down and battery life long.

Even with these components, the Gear S3 Frontier and Classic models offer a battery life of up to 3 days.

But what does this mean for consumers?

One advantage comes in image processing, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research. Paired with a good graphics processor, a 64-bit chip can get more processing done within fewer clock cycles, which means longer battery life.

The chip will also allow a more modern operating system to run, and that opens the way to new uses and applications that weren’t possible in the past. The Gear S3 has Tizen OS, which can now work with ARM-based 64-bit chips.

The teardown also found the Gear S3 has a Mali-T720 graphics processor, which is an interesting choice. The chip can handle high-definition video far beyond what’s required on the small 1.3-inch circular AMOLED display on Gear S3.

“Watching a movie on one’s wrist seems unlikely,” said Linley Gwennap, an analyst at Linley Group, but he noted the display processing in the watch could conceivably support higher resolution displays.

Additionally, the smartwatch has separate chips for LTE Cat 4 mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC. It has a satellite navigation chip that works with the U.S. GPS, Russian Glonass, and Chinese Beidou systems.

Samsung used the 14-nm process to make the chipset for the Gear S3. It achieved high levels of integration that allowed it to shrink a 64-bit processor and 720p-capable GPU into a smartwatch.


WhatsApp Adds Full Encryption To Video Calls

November 16, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

whatsapp-logo-150x150One of the most popular means of communication, Facebook’s  WhatsApp, had included fully encrypted video calling to its messaging app as of Monday, a move that comes as privacy advocates worry about the potential for stepped-up government surveillance under a Trump administration.

WhatsApp, which boasts more than a billion users worldwide, adopted end-to-end encryption early this year, making it technically impossible for the company or government authorities to read messages or listen to calls.

The new video calling service will thus provide another means for people to communicate without fear of eavesdropping though WhatsApp does retain other data such as an individual’s list of contacts.

WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum said in an interview that video calls will be rolled out to 180 countries within hours after the feature is introduced at an event in India.

“We obviously try to be in tune with what our users want,” Koum said at the company’s unmarked Mountain View, California headquarters building. “We’re obsessed with making sure that voice and video work well even on low-end phones.”

Koum told Reuters that improvements in phone cameras, battery life and bandwidth had made the service viable for a significant proportion of WhatsApp users, even those using inexpensive smartphones.

Apple Inc  offers its FaceTime video calls to iPhone users, and Microsoft Corp’s  Skype offers video calls on multiple platforms. But WhatsApp has built a massive installed base of mobile customers and has been steadily adding more features to what began as a simple chat applications.

Notebook Sells Spike In August

September 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Figures just in for August show that there has been a spike in the sales of notebooks.

Beancounters at Digitimes research have added up some numbers and divided by their shoe size and come to the conclusion that the top-5 notebook vendors and top-3 notebook ODMs saw their shipments rise 27 percent  and 31 percent a month in August.

While it could mean that the notebook recession is over, the beancounters think that the spike is due to inventory preparation for the year-end holidays in Europe and North America, Windows 10’s annual upgrade, and mass shipments of Intel’s Kaby Lake processors.

The winner on the notebook front is HP which released some new products in August that successfully widened the vendor’s shipment gap by nearly 700,000 units. The number two was Lenovo. HP stayed firmly as the largest notebook vendor in the month. Dell turned its focus to the consumer sector in August, but its shipments only grew a single-digit percentage on month.

Digitimes Research said that Asustek Computer and Acer both saw boosts of 10 percent  on-month growths in August.

With HP’s significant shipment growth in August, the top three ODMs, which are all suppliers of HP, together achieved higher on-month growth than the top five vendors combined, while ODM’s combined on-year shipment growth turned positive for the first time in the past 16 months.

Quanta benefited from HP’s orders the most in the month, growing nearly 40 per cent from July.


Quality Concerns Delays Shipments Of Samsung Galaxy Note 7

September 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

Galaxy-Note-7-150x150Mobile phone maker Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has announced shipments of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone are being delayed as the firm conducts additional quality control testing for the premium device.

“Shipments of the Galaxy Note 7 are being delayed due to additional tests being conducted for product quality,” Samsung said in a statement to Reuters. The firm did not elaborate on what it is testing and to what markets shipments are being delayed.

Local media reports have said some users of the Galaxy Note 7, which launched in South Korea and other markets earlier this month, have claimed that the battery for their phones exploded.

Quality control problems, if confirmed, could deal a major blow to the world’s top smartphone maker as the firm is counting on the sales of the new device to maintain sales momentum for the mobile business in the second half of this year.

Samsung has previously said demand for the new Galaxy Note phone is far exceeding demand, creating a supply shortage and forcing it to push back the launch of the phone in some markets. The firm has said it is utilizing all possible means to boost production.

Production problems for the curved displays for the Galaxy S6 edge phone resulted in disappointing sales last year, and some investors fear a repeat if Samsung does not move quickly to meet Note 7 demand.

The Galaxy Note 7 retails in South Korea for 988,900 won ($887.63) without subsidies.

Samsung’s other premium smartphone models that launched in March, the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, have been huge hits with customers and helped boost its earnings in the first half of 2016.

Display Screens That Fold, Roll Will Be Available Next Year

July 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Displays capable of being folded and rolled up have been shown in prototype smartphones, wearables and other devices — but when will such products be available?

Advances in technology suggest they aren’t too far off in the future. Such devices could start showing up as early as next year or 2018, said Jerry Kang, senior principal analyst for emerging display technologies and OLED at analyst firm IHS.

Manufacturers are trying to launch them in devices like tablets that can fold into a smartphone-size device. It’s possible to use these displays in wearable devices, but reliability, weight and battery life need to be considered, Kang said.

Small folding screens will likely come before larger ones, mainly due to the economics of making such displays, Kang said.

The displays will be based on OLED (organic light-emitting diode), considered a successor to current LED technology. OLEDs don’t have lighting back-panels, making them thinner and more power efficient.

At CES this year, LG showed a stunningly thin paper-like display that could roll up. The company projects it will deliver foldable OLEDs by next year.

There are advantages to screens that can be folded or rolled up. They could lead to innovative product designs and increase the mobility of devices, Kang said.

For example, it could be easier to fit screens around the contours of a battery and other components. It will also provide a level of flexibility in how a user can change the  shape of a device.

Displays that can fold and roll are an extension of flexible displays, which are already in wearables, smartphones and TVs. For example, some TVs have flexible screens that are designed so that they can be slightly curved.

Samsung and LG started using flexible AMOLED displays in smartphones in 2013 and are adapting those screens for wearables. Those companies are also leading the charge to bring displays that can bend and fold to devices.




Is IBM’s Watson Driving Cars?

June 22, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

IBM has put its Watson artificial intelligence (AI) tech into a 3D printed car, merging two tech trends to create a self-driving pseudo milk float.

The electric vehicle, dubbed Olli, can hold up to 12 people rather than a load of bottled cow juice, and can be seen on the streets of Washington DC, and soon Miami-Dade County and Las Vegas.

OK, so we know that driverless cars are pretty much a thing now, particularly as we spotted one near Google’s Mountain View HQ. But the smart thing about Olli is its use of Watson Internet of Things (IoT) for Automotive, a version of the cognitive computing tech that allows people to talk to the vehicle.

Passengers can ask Olli the evergreen ‘Are we there yet?’ and it will answer, hopefully in a mildly exasperated voice. It’s basically a bit like Knight Rider‘s KITT only less stylish and without The Hoff.

However, Olli is not just a chatty car as the Watson IoT tech helps it to learn as it ferries people around and gathers data from over 30 sensors around the chassis.

The Olli was designed and built by Local Motors. Co-founder John B Rogers Jr, who has one of the most American names we have ever written, said: “Olli with Watson acts as our entry into the world of self-driving vehicles, something we’ve been quietly working on with our co-creative community for the past year.

“We are now ready to accelerate the adoption of this technology and apply it to nearly every vehicle in our current portfolio and those in the very near future. I’m thrilled to see what our open community will do with the latest in advanced vehicle technology.”

Several tech and car companies now working on driverless cars, and the roads could become an automotive robot battleground as Google’s self-driving cars compete with Mercedes’ autonomous automobiles.



BMW Overhauling R&D To Focus on Self-driving Cars

June 6, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

BMW is revamping and re-focuing its research and development activities to concentrate on self-driving cars, board member Klaus Froehlich told Reuters, a move which includes a refresh of its “i” sub-brand of carbon-fibre based electric vehicles.

The company is updating its zero-emission vehicles after a lackluster response to its only fully battery-powered car, the i3, which recorded only 25,000 sales last year. By contrast, Tesla already has more than 370,000 orders for its Model 3.

To help improve sales, BMW is increasing the battery range of its i3 city vehicle by 50 percent this year.

Its next full-fledged new electric car model is not due until 2021, but the Bavarian auto maker is also planning to build a new version of its i3 electric car to be released by 2018, a source familiar with the matter said.

“It is a sportier brother for the i3,” said the source, who declined to be named.

Rival Tesla is due to release its Model 3 in 2017, and as rivals Porsche and Audi are working on all-electric cars for release by 2019.

A new BMW flagship model with autonomous driving capabilities will follow in 2021. As a result, Froehlich is increasing the proportion of software and technology experts.

Today, software engineers make up just 20 percent of the 30,000 employees, contractors and suppliers that work on research and development for BMW. Within the next five years, BMW wants to raise that proportion to 50 percent of overall R&D staff.

In an interview at the company’s headquarters in Munich, BMW board member Klaus Froehlich, who is in charge of development, said he reorganized company-wide research and development in April.

“It is now in ramp-up stage. We call it Project `i Next’.”

As part of its push in autonomous driving, BMW is hiring experts in machine learning and artificial intelligence. It is also integrating the functions of existing computer-driven assistance systems like cruise control, emergency braking, lane-keeping support and automatic parking.



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