Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co announced that they will acquire French software development company Sylpheo as they compete with global automakers and tech firms to develop new services including ride hailing and car sharing.
The French and Japanese automakers said that the acquisition, under which they would absorb Sylpheo’s 40 engineers and consultants, would boost their software development and cloud engineering expertise.
“The Sylpheo team of software developers and cloud engineers joining the Alliance will have a unique opportunity to work on our next generation of connected cars and other advanced technologies,” said Ogi Redzic, Renault-Nissan’s senior vice president of Connected Vehicles and Mobility Services.
“They will be playing a critical role in this new era of tremendous change for the global auto industry.”
Automakers from Toyota Motor Corp to General Motors have been investing in software firms and mobility start-ups to position themselves for the rise of autonomous driving, ride-sharing and other connected services which threaten the traditional vehicle ownership model that has dominated the past century.
Sylpheo will develop the applications for the alliance’s connected car service platform, a Renault spokeswoman said. She said the acquisition was part of the alliance’s recruitment push to hire 300 technology experts to better compete in the fast-growing mobility services sector.
These services will be integrated with autonomous driving technologies. In July, Nissan launched a suite of semi-autonomous driving functions in one of its Japanese minivan models which enables the vehicle to drive on single lane motorways and navigate congestion.
The two companies plan to launch more than 10 vehicles with autonomous drive technology by 2020. Nissan is aiming to develop autonomous multiple-lane driving functions, including lane changes, by 2018, and functions for full urban driving, including intersection turns, by 2020.
Paris-based Moodstocks builds image and object recognition software using deep learning techniques, and offered an Android app and visual search API that could recognize certain kinds of objects. By analyzing video from a smartphone camera, and correlating it with accelerometer readings to determine how the camera is moving around, the software is able to infer information about the three-dimensional shape of objects in the video, facilitating their recognition.
In February 2015 the company demonstrated its ability to identify sneakers through its app. Three months later, after training the software using 15,000 photos of shoes from an online retailer’s website, Moodstocks claimed to be able to shop online for all the sneakers on sale in a Macy’s store.
Google has been introducing elements of machine learning into its existing online services, including Google Translate and Inbox, a next-generation interface for Gmail.
Its online photo archival service, Google Photos, uses machine learning to identify categories of photo, such as parties or beach scenes, to make it easier to search.
But there’s still a lot of work to be done in this field, according to Google’s blog post (in French) announcing the acquisition of Moodstocks.
Google said the Moodstocks team will join its existing research and development operation in Paris.
There, they will develop image-recognition tools for use in Google services, the Moodstocks team wrote on their own site.
Meanwhile, Moodstocks will discontinue its own image recognition services, although paying subscribers will have access until their subscriptions run out, the post said.
Google didn’t put a price on the Moodstocks acquisition, but it’s unlikely to be as high as the $500 million it reportedly paid in 2014 for the much larger DeepMind, the London-based developer of the Go program that beat top player Lee Se-dol in March.
French electronics group Thales looking to boost its revenues by hundreds of millions of euros in the cybersecurity field through a strategic agreement it has signed with Cisco Systems, it said on Tuesday.
“We hope that with this agreement, we will add several hundred millions of euros in the next years,” said Jean-Michel Lagarde, who heads secure communications and information systems at Thales.
“It will have a multiplier effect, as this is not only about cybersecurity, but also about secure systems for cities and airports.”
The two companies have been partners since 2010 and plan to co-develop a solution to better detect and counter cyber attacks in real time, it said.
Thales generates 500 million euros ($550 million) annually in the cybersecurity business, notably in data protection thanks to the acquisition in March of Vormetric for 375 million euros.
The jointly developed solution will be aimed first at French infrastructure providers and will then be deployed globally, Cisco and Thales said in a statement.
Sony Pictures Animation has announced that it will produce an animated movie about “the secret world of our phones and the beloved characters that have become daily necessities in global interpersonal communication.”
“Emojimovie: Express Yourself” is due in August 2017. It will be written by Eric Siegel and Anthony Leondis and directed by Leondis. He previously wrote and directed “Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch” and “Igor.”
Deadline had earlier reported that Sony beat out two other movie studios bidding for the movie, paying “near seven figures” for the title.
So what emojis might make the cut and appear in the movie? The smiley seems the likely star and is the most-used emoji in every country except France, according to a SwiftKey study published in 2015. In France, the heart emoji is the favorite.
Emojis first appeared on cell phones in 1999 when NTT DoCoMo launched its i-Mode wireless Internet service in Japan. Since then, they have spread worldwide and are available on all modern smartphones, messaging systems and computers.
Emojis’ Japanese roots explain some of the stranger characters, which might mean little to people in the West but related to some important cultural festivals, food or other aspects of Japanese life.
Ride-hailing company Uber debuted its meal delivery service app UberEATS in London on Thursday, the second European city where users will be able to order food to their home, entering a burgeoning British market.
The service, which is currently available in 17 cities around the world including Paris, will compete with rivals such as Deliveroo and Just Eat, which have advertised heavily in the capital in recent months.
Britons will be able to download the app on their iPhone or Android handset from midday on Thursday and order meals from restaurants which will be delivered by Uber drivers.
Deliveries will be made to customers in central London from over 150 eateries between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. with plans to expand further away from the center in the coming weeks.
Uber has faced months of protests from drivers of the capital’s long-dominant black cabs but earlier this year transport bosses rejected options which could have imposed strict new restrictions on how it operates.
Finland’s biggest company has cut thousands of jobs in its home country over the past decade as its once-dominant phone business was eclipsed by the rise of smartphone rivals.
Nokia started the latest cost cutting program in April and is targeting 900 million euros ($1 billion) of operating cost synergies from the Alcatel deal by 2018.
The company has declined to give an overall figure for global job cuts, but has said it in talks with employee representatives in about 30 countries.
Nokia employs about 104,000 people worldwide, with about 6,850 in Finland, 4,800 in Germany and 4,200 in France.
Fundamental research leading towards faster wireless networks, secure low-power technologies for the Internet of Things, and even 3D displays will be the focus of Intel’s collaboration with the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA).
Intel and the CEA already work together in the field of high-performance computing, and a new agreement signed Thursday will see Intel fund work at the CEA’s Laboratory for Electronics and Information Technology (LETI) over the next five years, according to Rajeeb Hazra, vice president of Intel’s data center group.
The CEA was founded in 1945 to develop civil and military uses of nuclear power. Its work with Intel began soon after it ceased its atmospheric and underground nuclear weapons test programs, as it turned to computer modeling to continue its weapons research, CEA managing director Daniel Verwaerde said Thursday.
That effort continues, but the organization’s research interests today are more wide-ranging, encompassing materials science, climate, health, renewable energy, security and electronics.
These last two areas will be at the heart of the new research collaboration, which will see scientists at LETI exchanging information with those at Intel.
Both parties dodged questions about who will have the commercial rights to the fruits of their research, but each said it had protected its rights. The deal took a year to negotiate.
“It’s a balanced agreement,” said Stéphane Siebert, director of CEA Technology, the division of which LETI is a part.
Who owns what from the five-year research collaboration may become a thorny issue, for French taxpayers and Intel shareholders alike, as it will be many years before it becomes clear which technologies or patents are important.
Hazra emphasized the extent to which Intel is dependent on researchers outside the U.S. The company has over 50 laboratories in Europe, four of them specifically pursuing so-called exa-scale computing, systems capable of billions of billions of calculations per second.
Vevo might be the new MTV for millennials, who might not know MTV that played music a few decades ago. Vevo CEO Erik Huggers had an interview at a Hunter Walk blog talking about YouTube, subscription base and the future.
Vevo CEO, ex Intel and ex BBC executive Erik Huggers mentioned that the Vevo will get a subscription based service but for the time being the company will stay with add supported content. Huggers first worked first on the iBBC player and later at Intel OnCue, then Verizon before getting the Vevo CEO.
The company has announced a new Apple TV, iOS and Android applications for people who like to watch the content on the TV console or their tablets and phones. Huggers mentioned that Vevo was getting 17 billion unique views per month. He said that if you are musician you will prefer Spotify for audio streaming and Vevo to YouTube, and here is why.
Peter Mensch, the manager of bands including Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Muse told a BBC Radio 4 documentary on the music business:
“YouTube, they’re the devil. We don’t get paid at all.”
The BBC quoted him saying that YouTube was killing the record industry.
There is now way you can say it better than this, Mensch obviously knows what he is talking about. When we dug a bit deeper into the issue, bands have issues with complete albums being uploaded to YouTube. The big bands don’t get paid at all, at least according to Peter Mensch.
Vevo might turn its back to YouTube, despite its current business model where the company uses YouTube to distribute its videos. We see a big change coming. Artists are obviously not happy as people are ripping their stuff and not paying.
Online publishing was an area where big mistakes were made 20 + years ago. Online magazines usually rely on marketing, same as YouTube, but it seems that YouTube, Facebook and other big social based website make a lot of money and giving YouTubers and artists pennies.
Huggers believes Vevo can offer a tailored experience which is personalised for individuals who love music videos via various channels including Apple TV or mobile applications. Imagine if Vevo starts offering exclusive concert footage of your favourite bands, this would probably be worth of a few bucks a month, wouldn’t it?
Seven in 10 people say the “dark net” – an anonymous online home to both criminals and activists afraid of government snooping – should be shut down, according to a global Ipsos poll released on Tuesday.
The findings, from a poll of at least 1,000 people in each of 24 countries, come as policymakers and technology companies argue over whether digital privacy should be curbed to help regulators and law enforcement more easily thwart hackers and other digital threats.
The U.S. Justice Department is currently trying to force Apple Inc to write software to allow access to an iPhone used by San Bernardino, California shooter Rizwan Farook.
The dark net refers to an area of the Internet only accessible via special web browsers that ensure anonymity, where content is hidden and data typically encrypted.
The Ipsos poll was commissioned the Waterloo, Ontario-based Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). The think tank is part of a commission seeking to shape Internet governance.
The question asked in the poll pointed out the dark net’s anonymity can protect journalists, human rights activists, dissidents and whistleblowers, but also hide child abuse networks and illegal marketplaces selling weapons and narcotics.
The portion of respondents who either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed it should be shuttered ranged between 61 percent and 85 percent, with support strongest in Indonesia, India, Egypt and Mexico and weakest in Sweden, South Korea and Kenya.
Other countries polled included Pakistan, Australia, the United States, France, Germany, Turkey, and Tunisia.
“The public clearly wants law enforcement to have the tools to do its job. But if you flip it around and say should they have access to your data they tend to feel differently,” said Fen Osler Hampson, director of the global security and politics program at CIGI.
Only 38 percent of all respondents said they trust that their online activities are not monitored.
Hampson said public concern about online privacy will likely grow as more and more cars, appliances and infrastructure connect to online networks.
Priceline Group has agreed with Cuba to make Cuban hotel rooms available to U.S. customers through subsidiary Booking.com, becoming the first U.S. online travel agency to sign a deal with the island, a Booking.com executive said.
The deal comes on the first full day of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba and on the heels of U.S. hotel firm Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide’s agreement with the Cuban government to manage and market three Havana hotel properties.
Booking.com would allow Americans traveling to Cuba to reserve and pay for rooms at a number of Cuban and foreign hotels, starting in several weeks, Booking.com Americas Managing Director Todd Dunlap told Reuters in an interview.
Americans previously had to reserve Cuban hotels principally through travel agencies or tour groups.
Booking.com would operate initially in Cuba only in Havana, Dunlap said. It planned to work with foreign firms already on the island, including France’s Accor and Spanish chains Meliá Hotels International SA and NH Hotel Group SA. It was also working on deals with state-run Cuban chains.
The only major American lodging booking service currently available to Americans traveling to Cuba is online home-rental marketplace Airbnb, which began operating in Cuba in April last year.
Priceline began working on bringing its services to Cuba shortly after President Obama announced the restoration of diplomatic ties with the island on December 17, 2014.
Cuban tourism infrastructure has seen significant strain since U.S. relations to the island warmed. Prices have surged for the island’s 63,000 hotel rooms, many of which are booked solid months in advance. Cuba received a record 3.52 million visitors last year, up 17.4 percent from 2014. American visits rose 77 percent to 161,000, not counting hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans.
Tourism to Cuba is still technically illegal under the U.S. trade embargo. U.S. travelers to the island are required to do so under “general licenses” which permit travel for religion, family visits, cultural exchange, sports, and other purposes approved by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control. On March 17 OFAC said it would allow individual people-to-people educational exchanges, as well.
Connie, which will be working in a pilot test at the Hilton McLean in Virginia, is designed to interact with hotel guests and answer questions about hotel amenities, local attractions and dining options.
“We’re focused on reimagining the entire travel experience to make it smarter, easier and more enjoyable for guests,” said Jonathan Wilson, vice president of product innovation and brand services at Hilton Worldwide, in a statement.
The robot is using IBM’s Watson machine-learning APIs, like speech to text, text to speech and its natural language classifier.
The more guests interact with Connie, the more it learns, adapts and improves its recommendations.
The project also is pulling in WayBlazer, a cognitive search platform focused on travel.
The robot, built by France-based Aldebaran, which also makes the well-known Pepper robot, is a NAO humanoid robot that is approximately 23 inches tall. (Pepper is nearly 5 feet tall.) According to the company, NAO is in its fifth version and 7,000 have been sold.
Having a robot helping hotel guests isn’t a new idea.
About a year ago, Aloft hotel in Cupertino, Calif. began using an autonomous robotic butler to deliver small amenities — like toothbrushes or a small snack — to guests’ rooms.
The robot has been so popular that the hotel chain has decided to bring similar robots, called Butlr, to two of its other properties.
The Hilton project, though, is taking this idea a step further.
Instead of simply using the robot to travel to the guest’s room and deliver something, Connie is designed to actually interact with guests.
The hotel is hoping Connie will be able to answer guest questions like where they should go to find great Italian food or where the best mini-golf course is nearby.
And because of the machine learning aspect of the robot, the more interactions Connie has with guests, the more it will learn about what guests want and hone its recommendations.
Facebook has unveiled its next-generation GPU-based systems for training neural networks, Open Rack-compatible hardware code-named “Big Sur” which it plans to open source.
The social media giant’s latest machine learning system has been designed for artificial intelligence (AI) computing at a large scale, and in most part has been crafted with Nvidia hardware.
Big Sur comprises eight high-performance GPUs of up to 300 watts each, with the flexibility to configure between multiple PCI-e topologies. It makes use of Nvidia’s Tesla Accelerated Computing Platform, and as a result is twice as fast as Facebook’s previous generation rack.
“This means we can train twice as fast and explore networks twice as large,” said the firm in its engineering blog. “And distributing training across eight GPUs allows us to scale the size and speed of our networks by another factor of two.”
Facebook claims that as well as better performance, Big Sur is also far more versatile and efficient than the off-the-shelf solutions in its previous generation.
“While many high-performance computing systems require special cooling and other unique infrastructure to operate, we have optimised these new servers for thermal and power efficiency, allowing us to operate them even in our own free-air cooled, Open Compute standard data centres,” explained the company.
We spoke to Nvidia’s senior product manager for GPU Computing, Will Ramey, ahead of the launch, who has been working on the Big Sur project alongside Facebook for some time.
“The project is the first time that a complete computing system that is designed for machine learning and AI will be released as an open source solution,” said Ramey. “By taking the purpose-built design spec that Facebook has designed for their own machine learning apps and open sourcing them, people will benefit from and contribute to the project so it can move the entire industry forward.”
While Big Sur was built with Nvidia’s new Tesla M40 hyperscale accelerator in mind, it can actually support a wide range of PCI-e cards in what Facebook believes could make for better efficiencies in production and manufacturing to get more computational power for every penny that it invests.
“Servers can also require maintenance and hefty operational resources, so, like the other hardware in our data centres, Big Sur was designed around operational efficiency and serviceability,” Facebook said. “We’ve removed the components that don’t get used very much, and components that fail relatively frequently – such as hard drives and DIMMs – can now be removed and replaced in a few seconds.”
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Big Sur announcement is Facebook’s plans to open-source it and submit the design materials to the Open Compute Project. This is a bid to make it easier for AI researchers to share techniques and technologies.
“As with all hardware systems that are released into the open, it’s our hope that others will be able to work with us to improve it,” Facebook said, adding that it believes open collaboration will help foster innovation for future designs, and put us closer to building complex AI systems that will probably take over the world and kill us all.
Nvidia released its end-to-end hyperscale data centre platform last month claiming that it will let web services companies accelerate their machine learning workloads and power advanced artificial intelligence applications.
Consisting of two accelerators, Nvidia’s latest hyperscale line aims to let researchers design new deep neural networks more quickly for the increasing number of applications they want to power with AI. It also is designed to deploy these networks across the data centre. The line also includes a suite of GPU-accelerated libraries.
The European Union is aming to push for allowing consumers to access to their online subscriptions for services like Netflix, Sky and Canal+ when they travel in the 28-member bloc, setting it up for a battle with media groups.
The proposal was presented by the executive European Commission (EC) on Wednesday, along with a longer-term strategy for making copyrighted works more easily available across the EU, likely to run into stiff opposition from the media industry as well as from artists.
Letting people take online subscriptions abroad chimes with Brussels’ aim of tearing down borders in the online world and is reminiscent of its efforts to allow use of domestic mobile phone subscriptions abroad without paying hefty roaming charges.
Under the proposal, consumers with subscriptions to services such as Sky TV Now, ProSiebenSat.1MaxDome TV in Germany or Netflix in France, would be able to view content they have paid for when they temporarily travel abroad.
What temporarily means has been left open, but the EC expects companies to set limits on the amount of time people can use their subscriptions abroad so they do not abuse the system by buying cheaper services outside their home country.
While Netflix is already available in many European countries, content is tailored to local tastes, so a French user in Belgium, for example, will not have access to the specific French catalog without using workarounds such as virtual private networks.
“People who legally buy content – films, books, football matches, TV series – must be able to carry it with them anywhere they go in Europe,” said Andrus Ansip, commission vice-president for the digital single market.
The EC also proposed rules protecting people when they buy goods and digital content online, estimating this will spur up to an additional 13 million consumers to start buying online from other EU countries.
However, the bigger battle with the media industry is likely to come next year, when the EC plans to enhance the availability of TV and radio programs online across the 28-member bloc.
Broadcasters, film producers and rights holders fear even a modest dilution of territorial licenses would diminish their value. “Any dilution of territorial exclusivity could lead to pan-European licensing, ultimately destroying that rich, culturally diverse content offer that we are all striving to create,” said Mathieu Moreuil, head of European policy for England’s Premier League.
The new complaint could strengthen the case against Google, possibly giving enough ammunition to EU antitrust regulators to eventually charge the company with anti-competitive business practices, on top of accusations related to its Google Shopping service.
The formal request was filed in April 2015 and largely mirrors the Russian company’s claims against the U.S. company in a Russian anti-monopoly case that Yandex won.
Russia’s competition watchdog ruled in September that Google had broken the law by requiring pre-installation of its search application on mobile devices running on its Android operating system.
“We think that the Russian finding of abuse of dominance is instructive, and is a conclusion that can readily be adopted in other jurisdictions, including the EU,” Yandex said.
Yandex is one of the few companies to publicly complain about Android.
It joins U.S. tech firm Disconnect, Portuguese app store Aptoide, and lobbying group FairSearch whose members include Microsoft, Expedia, TripAdvisor and French price comparison site Twenga.
Yandex, which rivals Google in Turkey as well as Russia and several other former Soviet republics, said its business development in Europe would depend, among other factors, on the outcome of the European Commission’s investigation.
“We hope the European Commission … offers their help in restoring fair competition and ensuring equal opportunity to pre-install mobile applications on Android-based devices not only for Google, but also for other developers,” it said.
Yandex is ahead of Google in Russia with a search market share of around 60 percent, but it has been slow expanding abroad – a position it flagged when selling shares in a $1.3 billion initial public offering on Nasdaq in 2011.
Facebook’s Safety Check tool to alert friends and family about their safety was activated for the first time after the terror attack in Paris on Friday, with a large number of users reporting they had benefited from it.
But that move drew widespread criticism online that the company had been partial, as it had not activated the feature in other locations recently hit in terror attacks, notably the twin attacks in Beirut on Thursday.
The social networking company was also criticized for releasing a photo filter that allowed users to show support for the people of Paris using the colors of the French flag on their profile pictures, with some people online charging the company with double standards for not releasing similar filters for the terror attacks in Beirut and other locations. One user, Hubert Southall, offered to design filters for users, saying that Facebook “needs to include all affected nations.”
Facebook’s current travails highlight the minefields a global company can encounter as it tries to accommodate sensitivities across the countries it operates in, where users’ priorities can be different and there is often the tendency for certain groups to feel they are not important enough for a giant multinational.
In the wake of the controversy over the activation of Safety Check in Paris, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg assured its users that the tool would be turned on more frequently in the future during human disasters. “Many people have rightfully asked why we turned on Safety Check for Paris but not for bombings in Beirut and other places,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page.
The Safety Check tool asks users believed to be in the location of an emergency if they are safe and lets them inform their friends by clicking a button. People also can check in on users who they believe are in the emergency area. The tool was first used in a “very early version” in Tokyo during the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster and later after recent earthquakes in Afghanistan, Chile and Nepal as well as Tropical Cyclone Pam in the South Pacific and Typhoon Ruby in the Philippines.