In an effort to advance technologies needed to get astronauts to an asteroid orMars , NASA wants to get back to the moon. The space agency needs robotic technology to help them get there.
The robotic machine NASA wants to build must be able to ferry cargo weighing 66 pounds to 1,102 pounds to various lunar sites.
The space agency is seeking proposals from the private sector and plans to create a partnership to build robotic a lunar lander..
The program is dubbed Lunar CATALYST, for Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown.
“As NASA pursues an ambitious plan for humans to explore an asteroid and Mars, U.S. industry will create opportunities for NASA to advance new technologies on the moon,” said Greg Williams, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. “[This] will help us advance our goals to reach farther destinations.”
NASA noted that, in a partnership, the agency would be able to contribute the technical expertise of NASA staff, access to NASA center test facilities, equipment loans, and software for lander development and testing.
NASA will host a pre-proposal teleconference on Jan. 27 to giving companies a chance to ask questions about the program.
Proposals are due by March 17. The winners are expected to be announced in April.
A prominent venture capitalist has put forth a plan to divide California into six new states, including one called “Silicon Valley” that would stretch from San Francisco to San Jose and include the entire region where many of the biggest tech companies have their headquarters.
The plan by Tim Draper, who was an early backer of Skype, Baidu and Hotmail, faces multiple hurdles and would require significant support from among the state’s 38 million residents, and from the rest of the country if it makes it any further. He hopes to put the idea plan on the November 2014 ballot, which would require about half a million signatures. On the face of it, the chances of it being realized are low.
But Draper said splitting California would bring real benefits.
“Something’s not working in our state, and I’m convinced that it is with the existing system, the existing breadth of industry and varying interests. California is untenable and un-governable,” Draper told a sparsely attended news conference at the Silicon Valley school for entrepreneurship that he created and that bears his name. There were about 20 people in the room, although only six appeared to be reporters.
“I’m convinced that the best path for Californians is to create six new states that are unencumbered by trying to balance the interests of people who have very divergent goals and aspirations,” he said.
Draper said he believes the interests of the tech industry in Silicon Valley, the defense and entertainment industries in and around Los Angeles, the farms of the state’s Central Valley, and a growing medical devices business in the south of the state are best served by local governments.
For Silicon Valley, he said tech companies would benefit from a state government that was more “tech savvy.”
The proposal comes at a time of growing discontent in San Francisco and Silicon Valley at the apparent impact of the tech industry. The massive amount of wealth created by companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter has amplified economic disparities in the area and made the local housing market one of the most expensive in the country.
While Draper’s chances of realizing his vision might be slim, the plan will almost certainly serve to continue the debate about the power of the technology industry and how it interacts and is regulated by government.
Syria’s civil war and political strife in Egypt have given birth to new battlegrounds on the Web and driven a surge in cyber attacks in the Middle East, according to a leading Internet security company.
More than half of incidents in the Gulf this year were so-called “hacktivist” attacks – which account for only a quarter of cybercrime globally – as politically motivated programmers sabotaged opposing groups or institutions, executives from Intel Corp’s software security division McAfee said on Tuesday.
“It’s mostly bringing down websites and defacing them with political messages – there has been a huge increase in cyber attacks in the Middle East,” Christiaan Beek, McAfee director for incident response forensics in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), told Reuters.
He attributed the attacks to the conflict in Syria, political turmoil in Egypt and the activities of hacking collective Anonymous.
“It’s difficult for people to protest in the street in the Middle East and so defacing websites and denial of service (DOS) attacks are a way to protest instead,” said Beek.
DOS attacks flood an organization’s website causing it to crash, but usually do little lasting damage.
The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), a hacking group loyal to the government of President Bashar al-Assad, defaced an Internet recruiting site for the U.S. Marine Corps on Monday and recently targeted the New York Times website and Twitter, as well other websites within the Middle East.
Beek described SEA as similar to Anonymous.
“There’s a group leading operations, with a support group of other people that can help,” said Beek.
McAfee opened a centre in Dubai on Monday to deal with the rising threat of Internet sabotage in the region, the most serious of which are attacks to extract proprietary information from companies or governments or those that cause lasting damage to critical infrastructure.
Cyber attacks are mostly focused on Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, Qatar, the top liquefied natural gas supplier, and Dubai, which is the region’s financial, commercial and aviation hub, said Gert-Jan Schenk, McAfee president for EMEA.
“It’s where the wealth and critical infrastructure is concentrated,” he said.
The “Shamoon” virus last year targeted Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, damaging about 30,000 computers in what may have been the most destructive attack against the private sector.
“Ten years ago, it was all about trying to infect as many people as possible,” added Schenk. “Today we see more and more attacks being focused on very small groups of people. Sometimes malware is developed for a specific department in a specific company.”
President Barack Obama is directing federal agencies to find more ways to eventually share a greater portion of their radio airwaves with the private sector as the growing use of smartphones and tablets ratchets up the demand for spectrum, according to a memo released on Friday.
With blocks of spectrum reserved by dozens of government agencies for national defense, law enforcement, weather forecasting and other purposes, wireless carriers and Internet providers are urging that more spectrum be opened up for commercial use.
The call comes as airwaves are becoming congested with the increase in gadgets and services that are heavily reliant on the ability to transport greater amounts of data.
“Although existing efforts will almost double the amount of spectrum available for wireless broadband, we must make available even more spectrum and create new avenues for wireless innovation,” Obama said in his presidential memo. “One means of doing so is by allowing and encouraging shared access to spectrum that is currently allocated exclusively for Federal use.”
The memorandum, welcomed and lauded by the telecommunications industry, directs federal agencies to study how exactly they use the airwaves and how to make it easier to share them with the private sector.
The directive also sets up a Spectrum Policy Team that in six months will have to recommend incentives to encourage government agencies to share or give up their spectrum – something industry experts see as a critical step in opening more of the federally used airwaves to the private sector.
“Our traditional three-step process for reallocating federal spectrum — clearing federal users, relocating them and then auctioning the cleared spectrum for new use — is reaching its limits,” Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democratic member of the Federal Communications Commission, said in supporting Obama’s move.
The FCC is now working on rules for the biggest-ever auction of commercially used airwaves, in which TV stations would give up and wireless providers would buy highly attractive spectrum. The auction is expected to take place in late 2014 or later.
The U.S. today maintains a large lead in R&D spending over China, with federal and private sector investment expected to reach $424 billion next year, a 1.2% increase.
By contrast, China’s overall R&D spending is $220 billion next year, an increase of 11.6% over 2012, a rate similar to previous years, according to the 2013 Global R&D Funding Forecast prepared by Battelle, a research and technology development organization, and R&D Magazine. “The U.S. still has a significant lead and advantage in R&D over all of these countries,” said Martin Grueber, one of the authors of the report and a lead researcher at Battelle, “but the concern is R&D is a long-term investment, and as these other countries continue to grow their R&D capabilities … how long can we maintain that advantage?”
A major share of R&D research in the U.S. is funded by the federal government, which is expected to budget $129 billion for R&D next year, a decline of 1.4%. This figure could decrease even further if Congress does not resolve its budget impasse.
Government R&D spending is seen as particularly important because, unlike the private sector, it funds basic research. This is research that often takes years or decades to yield results, but it can also lead to new industries and jobs.
Other emerging economies, besides China, are also spending more on R&D. India, for instance, will invest about $45 billion next year in R&D, an increase of just over 12%.
“The fiscal climate right now is just not conducive to growth in federal research investments,” said Peter Harsha, director of government affairs of the Computing Research Association. “That’s a disturbing trend, especially given the growing research capacity of our global economic competitors. The U.S. leadership role isn’t a birthright.”
President Barack Obama, hoping to spur U.S. innovation in the burgeoning field of mobile communications, on Wednesday ordered all major federal agencies to make many more of their services available on mobile phones within the next year.
“Americans deserve a government that works for them anytime, anywhere, and on any device,” Obama said in a statement.
His administration is eager to hasten government adoption of new technology since showing itself to be highly tech-savvy after running a 2008 election campaign that was widely praised for the innovative way it used the Internet and social media.
Analysts welcomed the move, but voiced skepticism it could be effective unless Obama also freed up more government broadband spectrum to the private sector.
“American citizens won’t be better served by government technology and digital services unless more government spectrum is made available to enable these technologies and services,” said Mobile Future Chairman Jonathan Spalter.
His coalition includes AT&T Inc, Deutsche Telekom AG’s T-Mobile, Cisco Systems Inc and Qualcomm Inc.
The presidential order tells each agency to make at least two services relied upon by the public available on mobile phones within 12 months.
The Ponemon Institute’s annual study of data loss costs this year looked at 51 organizations who agreed to discuss the impact of losing anywhere between 4,000 to 105,000 customer records. The private-sector companies participating in the Ponemon Institute’s “2010 Annual Study: U.S. Cost of a Data Breach” are from various industries, including financial services, retail, pharmaceutical technology and transportation.
While “negligence” remains the primary cause of a data breach (in 41% of cases), for the first time the explanation of “malicious or criminal attacks” (in 31% of cases) came in ahead of the third leading cause, “system failure.”
It turns out “malicious or criminal attacks” are the most expensive type of data breach to uncover and respond to, costing on average $318 per customer record, $151 more than non-malicious breaches that stem from negligence of system failure.
“It’s harder to detect and do investigations,” says Dr. Larry Ponemon, about cases involving malware and botnets or social engineering. He notes just two years ago, only 12% of data breaches were assigned to malicious and criminal activity.
Negligence is still the leading cause of a data breach, however, and last year there were a couple of instances of data breaches that companies confided to Ponemon were due to mistakes made by their cloud-service providers. One financial-services company found itself having to report a data breach because its records were exposed on a shared virtual-machine server in a way that others using the cloud-based service could see, Ponemon notes. The financial-services firm found out about it because some of the other firms in the cloud environment directly told them.
Some industries last year saw higher costs per customer record in a data breach than others, with upward spikes. For instance, financial services jumped from $353 per customer record in 2010, up from $249 in 2009, and healthcare jumped from $345 last year from $301 in 2009. The communications sector had the highest cost of all, at $380 per customer record. Media, at $131, education at $112 and the public sector at $81, stood at the lowest.
Ponemon acknowledges it’s hard to determine exactly why these sector cost differences exist. Trends show organizations with chief information security officers incur less costs when a data breach occurs. And companies coping with their first data breach — which were 20% of the study’s participants — had the highest costs of anyone on average in the 2010 study, averaging $326 per compromised customer record, up 48%.
The House of Representatives Thursday passed a bill giving federal employees more flexibility to telecommute and mandating the agencies set up frameworks and policies to do so. Lawmakers have been considering the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 for some time, with many believing its passage to be a virtual guarantee.
The bill — which the Senate passed unanimously in September — officially gives federal employees the eligibility to telework and requires agencies to establish telework policies. It also mandates that each agency designate a telework managing officer to oversee its telework program.
The House vote passed with a bipartisan vote of 254-152. The bill now moves on to President Obama for his approval, which he is expected to give.
While businesses have embraced telecommuting for some time, the public sector has been slower to adopt the policy. However, the federal government has been warming up to the idea under the Obama administration, making telework a more viable option for employees.
Federal employees at times have even been encouraged to do so from the administration. For instance, for two days in April during the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, federal workers were urged to work from home to avoid traffic snarls from high-security measures. President Obama met with top leaders of more than 40 nations during the summit, one of the largest gatherings of heads of state.
Telecommuting also kept the government up and running for several days in February, when a series of snowstorms shut down federal offices for consecutive days.
Those instances were somewhat random, but the Telework Enhancement Act now puts structure around federal teleworking policy. To some, the bill, first introduced in March 2009, was a long time coming.
“Telework is an invaluable asset to the Federal government,” said Cindy Auten, General Manager of Telework Exchange, a public-private partnership that supports the federal teleworker community, in a press statement. “It is a readily available productivity tool for employees, it saves agencies money, and finally, it helps to protect the environment.”
The mobile industry has joined forces with the World Bank’s Lighting Africa initiative to help share excess power from off-grid base stations with people living nearby, industry organization GSM Association (GSMA) announced on today.
The project is called Community Power from Mobile, and will help mobile operators and tower-sharing companies in developing countries to pass on excess power generated by their off-grid base stations — which aren’t connected to an electrical grid and instead use diesel or increasingly cleaner alternatives such as solar and wind power — to local communities, according to the GSMA.
Today, about 1.6 billion people in the developing world live without access to electricity and 485 million of them have access to mobile phone services, the GSMA estimates. At the same time off-grid base stations typically have 5 kilowatts of excess power each, it said.
The extra power will initially be used to charge devices such as phones, lanterns and batteries, according to David Taverner, Senior Program Manager for Green Power for Mobile at the GSMA. But ultimately the goal is to power hospitals, schools and homes, as well. Five kilowatts can, for example, power 30 homes, Taverner said.
Four trials, two each in India and East Africa, are scheduled to start during the first quarter of next year and will last for about six months. The details of another four trials are still being worked out, Taverner said.
The mobile operators aren’t doing this for purely altruistic reasons. Besides making money from providing the power, previous experiences show that the theft of diesel goes down when the people living near base stations can use power from them. Also, if it becomes easier for people to charge their phones, the amount they spend on mobile services goes up, according to the GSMA.
The World Bank’s Lighting Africa initiative works with the private sector to develop and sustain the market for modern off-grid lighting technologies tailored to the needs of African consumers, according to its website.