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Microsoft Launches Pix, iPhone Camera App

July 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

There’s a new iPhone camera application available that claims to take better pictures than the one Apple ships with its phones, and it’s built by Microsoft.

The company’s research arm on Wednesday launched Pix, which enhances the photos that users take in a variety of ways. The app is  designed to make photos look better and even improves on Apple’s Live Photos ability to capture scenes that have moving elements in them.

It’s part of Microsoft’s continued push to build applications for platforms beyond those that it directly controls, especially iOS and Android. The free app was built by members of Microsoft Research and released for free on the iOS App Store.

Pix is particularly well-suited to take photos of people and is built to make adjustments to a photo on the fly as the scene changes. That way, the exposure of an image should always be tuned to the right conditions. It recognizes faces and uses Microsoft’s Hyperlapse technology to stabilize video made with the app, too.

When users press the shutter button, the app will take a burst of photos and then pick out the best ones for final use. That burst is also used to power Pix’s Live Image feature, which creates a short moving picture when there’s motion in a burst.

That’s an improvement on Apple’s Live Photos feature, which captures video before and after every photo is taken. Microsoft touts its feature as a way to get the best parts of Apple’s moving picture functionality without requiring as much storage space and stabilizing the result.

 

SMS Messaging For Two-factor Authentication Could Be Short-lived

July 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

SMS messaging for two-factor authentication days may be numbered. A federal agency is discouraging its use.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is recommending changes be made. The latest draft of its Digital Authentication Guideline, updated on Monday, warns that SMS messages can be intercepted or redirected, making them vulnerable to hacking.

Many companies, including Twitter, Facebook and Google, as well as banks, already use the phone-based text messaging to add an extra layer of security to user accounts.

It works like this: To access the accounts, the user not only needs the password, but also a secret code sent by the company by text message. Ideally, these one-time passcodes are sent to a designated phone number to ensure no one else will read them.

But even so, hackers have still found ways to trick the system. In the past, they’ve used malware to infect smartphones, and secretly redirect the SMS messages to another device.

It’s unclear how the tech industry might react to the federal agency’s proposal. But cybersecurity vendors are already coming up with ways to better secure user accounts and devices through fingerprint recognition, hardware tokens and other methods.

Surgical Robots Are Poised For Big Growth In Operating Rooms

July 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Although many physicians see need for improvement, surgical robots are poised for big gains in operating rooms worldwide.

Within five years, one in three U.S. surgeries – more than double current levels – is expected to be performed with robotic systems, with surgeons sitting at computer consoles guiding mechanical arms. Companies developing new robots also plan to expand their use in India, China and other emerging markets.

Robotic surgery has been long dominated by pioneer Intuitive Surgical Inc, which has more than 3,600 of its da Vinci machines in hospitals worldwide and said last week the number of procedures that used them jumped by 16 percent in the second quarter compared to a year earlier.

The anticipated future growth – and perceived weaknesses of the current generation of robots – is attracting deep-pocketed rivals, including Medtronic Inc and a startup backed by Johnson & Johnson and Google. Developers of the next wave aim to make the robots less expensive, more nimble and capable of performing more types of procedures, company executives and surgeons told Reuters.

Although surgical robots run an average of $1.5 million and entail ongoing maintenance expenses, insurers pay no more for surgeries that utilize the systems than for other types of minimally-invasive procedures, such as laparoscopy.

Still, most top U.S. hospitals for cancer treatment, urology, gynecology and gastroenterology have made the investment. The robots are featured prominently in hospital marketing campaigns aimed at attracting patients, and new doctors are routinely trained in their use.

Surgical robots are used in hernia repair, bariatric surgery, hysterectomies and the vast majority of prostate removals in the United States, according to Intuitive Surgical data.

Doctors say they reduce fatigue and give them greater precision.

 

Western Digital Goes 64 Layer 3D NAND

July 29, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Western Digital has announced its latest range of 3D NAND chips, known as BiCS3, offering 64 vertical storage layers on a single three-bits-per-cell chip, making it the smallest in the industry.

Pilot production at the company’s Yokkaichi facility in Japan, which it shares with Toshiba, has already begun with what the company described as “meaningful commercial volumes” in the first half of 2017, although some limited consumer products are promised for the tail end of this year.

“The launch of the next generation 3D NAND technology based on our industry-leading 64-layer architecture reinforces our leadership in NAND flash technology,” said Dr Siva Sivaram, executive vice president for memory technology at Western Digital.

“BiCS3 will feature the use of three-bits-per-cell technology along with advances in high aspect ratio semiconductor processing to deliver higher capacity, superior performance and reliability at an attractive cost.

“Together with BiCS2, our 3D NAND portfolio has broadened significantly, enhancing our ability to address a full spectrum of customer applications in retail, mobile and data centre.”

BiCS3 has been developed alongside partner-firm Toshiba, from which we should expect a similar announcement any day now as the firms tend to take it in turns being first to the wires when new shared tech breaks.

It’s also worth noting that this is a significant flash announcement made under the WD umbrella, the first since it took control of SanDisk following a bidding war in which SanDisk put itself up for sale.

It’s not clear at the moment what the future holds for the SanDisk name, but ultimately this would have been a SanDisk announcement, so we’re very curious to see what the roadmap looks like.

BiCS3 will be available initially in a 256GB capacity rolling out to up to half a terabit on a single chip. BiCS3 for the retail market will arrive towards the end of 2016 with OEM sampling this quarter.

BiCS3 will run alongside the current BiCS2 range of 3D NAND products, which will remain available for the foreseeable future.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Intel Developing Remote EyeSight Augmented Reality Smart Glasses

July 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

All signs indicated that Intel is developing a pair of augmented reality (AR) smart glasses, and we may see them at the company’s developer show next month.

The Intel Remote EyeSight, a set of head-worn AR smart glasses, is built around the idea of remote collaboration. The company will offer details at a technical session during next month’s Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

Further information about the AR smart glasses wasn’t immediately available, but they seem like a cross between Microsoft’s HoloLens and Google Glass.

The technical session page describes the AR smart glasses as a product that uses Intel’s Collaboration Suite for WebRTC video capabilities to “transform Intel’s enterprise collaboration experiences with secure, cost-effective, hands-free and augmented reality technologies.”

An Intel spokeswoman declined to comment on Remote EyeSight, but said AR and virtual reality (VR) will be a big focus at IDF.

The smart glasses give a fascinating clue into Intel’s AR strategy. Augmented reality blends real and virtual worlds, and can be used to build 3D objects, chat on Skype, or even play 3D games with the real world as a background.

Intel’s Remote EyeSight could enable interactive remote communication on smart glasses, kind of like having Skype on a wearable. That could promote freedom of movement and communication, and blend in real and virtual world scenes into video chats. In the enterprise, it could be used in areas like repair, medicine, and education.

Bulky headsets like Microsoft HoloLens restrict movement, a problem Intel’s smart glasses could alleviate if they are the right size. But like Google Glass, they may not be welcome in areas like bars and restaurants, so they could be limited to use in specific areas.

Intel also has good CPU technology for AR and VR but lacks good graphics technology, which is important for visual computing.

It’s also unclear how Intel will lay out its AR and VR vision at IDF. The company’s PC, server and internet of things groups have different ideas on how AR and VR fit into their operations, and it remains to be seen if they can unite to provide a common vision.

 

 

 

Will Moore’s Law Be Obsolete 2021?

July 28, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Transistors will stop shrinking in just five years according to the  2015 International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors.

After 2021, the report forecasts, it will no longer be economically desirable for companies to continue to shrink the dimensions of transistors in microprocessors. Instead, chip manufacturers will turn to other means of boosting density.

In fact this is the last ITRS roadmap and the end to a more-than-20-year-old coordinated planning effort that began in the United States and was then expanded to include the rest of the world.

However the Semiconductor Industry Association, which represents IBM and Intel said that people are just not interested any more and it will have to do its own work, in collaboration with another industry group, the Semiconductor Research Corporation, to identify research priorities for government. Other ITRS participants will continue on with a new roadmapping effort under a new name, which will be conducted as part of an IEEE initiative called Rebooting Computing.

Analysts say that the difficulty and expense associated with maintaining Moore’s Law research has since resulted in significant consolidation. In 2001 there were 19 companies that were developing and manufacturing logic chips with leading-edge transistors. Now there is just Intel, TSMC, Samsung, and GlobalFoundries.

They can communicate directly to their equipment and materials suppliers and don’t want to sit down and tell their rivals what they are up to.

Semiconductor companies that no longer make leading-edge chips in house rely on the foundries that make their chips to provide advanced technologies. What’s more, he says, chip buyers and designers are increasingly dictating the requirements for future chip generations.

This final ITRS report is titled ITRS 2.0. The name reflects the idea that improvements in computing are no longer driven from the bottom up, by tinier switches and denser or faster memories. Instead, it takes a more top-down approach, focusing on the applications that now drive chip design, such as data centers, the Internet of Things, and mobile gadgets.

The new IEEE roadmap—the International Roadmap for Devices and Systems—will also take this approach, but it will add computer architecture to the mix, allowing for “a comprehensive, end-to-end view of the computing ecosystem, including devices, components, systems, architecture, and software,” according to a recent press release.

Transistor miniaturization was still a part of the long-term forecast as recently as 2014, when the lastITRS report was released. That report predicted that the physical gate length of transistors—an indicator of how far current must travel in the device—and other key logic chip dimensions would continue to shrink until at least 2028. But 3D concepts have gained momentum. The memory industry has already turned to 3D architectures to ease miniaturisation pressure and boost the capacity of NAND Flash. Monolithic 3D integration, which would build layers of devices one on top of another, connecting them with a dense forest of wires.

Moore’s Law just predicted how many transistors can fit in a given area of IC. Company still could make transistors smaller well into the 2020s, but it’s more economic to go 3-D.

Before 3-D integration is adopted, the ITRS predicts that leading-edge chip companies will move away from the FinFET transistor structure. According to the roadmap, chipmakers will leave that in favor of a lateral, gate-all-around device that has a horizontal channel like the FinFET but is surrounded by a gate that extends underneath. After that, transistors will become vertical, with their channels taking the form of pillars or nanowires. The traditional silicon channel will also be replaced by channels made with alternate materials, namely silicon germanium, germanium, and compounds drawn from columns III and V of the periodic table.

The doubling of transistor densities hasn’t been linked to improvements in computing performance for ages anyway. In the good old days shrinking transistors meant faster speeds, but by the 90s the extra metal layers that were added to wire up increasing numbers of transistors were adding significant delays and performance was improved by redesigned chip microarchitectures. In 2000 the main issue was heat because  transistor densities were so high that their heat limited clock speeds. Companies began packing multiple cores on chips to keep things moving.

Courtesy-Fud

 

 

U.K. Regulators Give Amazon Permission To Explore Drone Deliveries

July 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc announced that it has entered into a partnership with the British government to hasten the process for allowing small drones to makes deliveries.

The world’s biggest online retailer, which has laid out plans to start using drones for deliveries by 2017, said a cross-government team supported by the UK Civil Aviation Authority had provided it with the permissions necessary to explore the process.

Amazon unveiled a video last year showcasing how an unmanned drone could deliver packages, narrated by former Top Gear TV host Jeremy Clarkson.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said last month the use of drones for deliveries will require separate regulation from their general use.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc said last month it was six to nine months from beginning to use drones to check warehouse inventories in the United States.

 

 

Mytaxi, Hailo Merge To Take On Rival Uber

July 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Daimler’s mytaxi said it will merge with British competitor Hailo in an all-share deal, creating Europe’s largest smartphone-based taxi-hailing business.

Unlike U.S.-based ride hailing start-up Uber, which established itself to compete against taxi companies, the new company will operate using taxi firms.

It is the latest push by traditional carmakers to enter the taxi ride hailing services market dominated by Uber and other technology companies.

The companies declined to disclose financial terms.

“It’s a paper deal. Daimler will own 60 percent of the new entity and the stakeholders in Halio will own 40 percent,” said Halio CEO Andrew Pinnington, who will be chief executive of the combined company.

The merged entity, which will operate under the mytaxi brand, will have 70 million passengers and 100,000 registered taxi drivers in over 50 cities across nine countries in Europe, the companies said.

In similar deals this year, Volkswagen took a $300 million stake in Gett and General Motors invested $500 million in Lyft.

Hailo, which operates in Britain, Ireland and Spain, will combine with myTaxi, which is available in Austria, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

The combined company will be headquartered in Hamburg, Germany.

MyTaxi founder Niclaus Mewes will take a seat on the supervisory board and in addition he will become managing director of Daimler Mobility Services GmbH.

 

NFC For ATM Transactions Catching On

July 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Several of the nation’s biggest banks in the U.S. now support the use of a smartphone to withdraw cash from an ATM — many by way of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology — instead of requiring customers to use a bank card.

One of the early adopters, Bank of America, said this week it currently supports cardless technology at 2,800 of its ATMs. That number will reach 8,000 ATMs by year’s end that rely on NFC and other technology. Bank of America, which has about 15,000 ATMs nationwide, created a video to show how a smartphone loaded with the bank’s mobile app can now withdraw cash from some ATMs.

Wells Fargo said it has a “handful” of ATMs that are NFC-ready and working to deliver cash and other transactions and is planning to reach 5,000 by the end of 2016. A total of 12,000 ATMs will be enabled in 2017.

JPMorgan Chase said it also will have many cardless ATMs available this year, but didn’t specify how many or when. Initially at Chase, customers will show up at an ATM and type in a numerical code they acquired wirelessly through use of the Chase smartphone app to get their cash. That numerical code verification process will be an early step in rolling out cardless technology at the bank’s nearly 15,000 ATMs.

In addition to using NFC or a numerical code to authenticate a transaction, some bank ATMs are expected to rely on scanning a QR code displayed on a phone.

The number of ATMs supporting cardless cash remains a small portion of the estimated 500,000 ATMs in the U.S. Crone Consulting, which monitors the mobile payment industry, recently said it expects about 95,000 ATMs in the U.S. to support cardless cash by year’s end.

 

 

 

Adobe’s Flash Days Are Numbered In Firefox Browser

July 26, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Mozilla has announced that  it will follow other browser markers by limiting the use of Flash in Firefox next month.

The open-source developer added that in 2017 it will dramatically expand the anti-Flash restrictions: Firefox will require users to explicitly approve the use of Flash for any reason by any website.

As have its rivals, Mozilla cast the limitations (this year) and elimination (next year) as victories for Firefox users, citing improved security, longer battery life on laptops and faster web page rendering.

Starting in August, Firefox will block certain Flash content that is not essential to the user experience, while continuing to support legacy Flash content,” wrote Benjamin Smedberg, the manager of Firefox quality engineering, in a post to a company blog.

Firefox 48 is slated to ship on Aug. 2.

The initial blocking Smedberg mentioned will be based on a list Mozilla will generate by crawling the home pages of the top 10,000 websites as ranked by Alexa. Flash content that those sites use to “fingerprint” users, or as “super cookies” — two techniques to track visitors for advertising purposes — will land on the list, and thus not be run by Flash.

Through 2016, Mozilla will expand the list in Firefox by blocking other Flash content, including that used by advertisers to measure “viewability;” whether the ad has been seen, not erased, for example, by an ad blocker.

In 2017 — Smedberg did not say when, exactly — Firefox will require users to click on Flash content to activate the plug-in, and thus show that content. The click-to-activate demand will be enforced for all Flash content on all pages of all sites.

Firefox is late to the dump-Flash party.

Other browser developers — Apple, Google and Microsoft — have been more active in limiting Flash. Safari has frozen some Flash content since 2013, while Chrome did the same in September 2015. Edge will follow suit with the release of the Aug. 2 upgrade, Windows 10 Anniversary Update.

 

 

Microsoft’s Office 365 Subscription Slows Signficantly

July 26, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft said that consumer subscriptions to Office 365 topped 23 million, signaling that the segment’s once quite large year-over-year growth had slowed significantly.

The Redmond, Wash. company regularly talks up the latest subscription numbers for the consumer-grade Office 365 plans — the $100 a year Home and the $70 Personal — and did so again this week during an earnings call with Wall Street analysts.

“We also see momentum amongst consumers, with now more than 23 million Office 365 subscribers,” CEO Satya Nadella said Tuesday.

But analysis of Microsoft’s consumer Office 365 numbers showed that the rate of growth — or as Nadella put it, “momentum” — has slowed.

For the June quarter, the 23.1 million cited by Microsoft in its filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) represented a 52% increase over the same period the year prior. Although most companies would give their eye teeth — or maybe a few executives — to boast of a rate of increase that size, it was the smallest since Microsoft began providing subscription data in early 2013.

A year before, the June 2015 quarter sported a consumer Office 365 subscription growth rate of 171% over the same three-month span in 2014.

The subscription increase also was small in absolute terms: Microsoft added approximately 900,000 to the rolls during the June quarter, down from 2.8 million the year before and also less than the 1.6 million accumulated in 2016′s March quarter.

The 900,000 additional subscribers added in the June quarter were the smallest number in more than two years.

While Microsoft did not directly address the slowing of growth in the consumer Office 365 market, it did attribute a similar trend among corporate subscriptions to the difficulty of maintaining huge year-over-year percentage gains as the raw numbers of subscriptions increased.

 

 

 

 

 

Tech Firms Form OTrP To Support IoT Security

July 26, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A bunch of tech firms including ARM and Symantec have joined forces to create a security protocol designed to protect Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

The group, which also includes Intercede and Solacia, has created The Open Trust Protocol (OTrP) that is now available for download for prototyping and testing from the IETF website.

The OTrP is designed to bring system-level root trust to devices, using secure architecture and trusted code management, akin to how apps on smartphones and tablets that contain sensitive information are kept separate from the main OS.

This will allow IoT manufacturers to incorporate the technology into devices, ensuring that they are protected without having to give full access to a device OS.

Marc Canel, vice president of security systems at ARM, explained that the OTrP will put security and trust at the core of the IoT.

“In an internet-connected world it is imperative to establish trust between all devices and service providers,” he said.

“Operators need to trust devices their systems interact with and OTrP achieves this in a simple way. It brings e-commerce trust architectures together with a high-level protocol that can be easily integrated with any existing platform.”

Brian Witten, senior director of IoT security at Symantec, echoed this sentiment. “The IoT and smart mobile technologies are moving into a range of diverse applications and it is important to create an open protocol to ease and accelerate adoption of hardware-backed security that is designed to protect onboard encryption keys,” he said.

The next stage is for the OTrP to be further developed by a standards-defining organisation after feedback from the wider technology community, so that it can become a fully interoperable standard suitable for mass adoption.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

More Than Half The World Remains Off The Internet

July 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

About 3.9 billion people, or 53 percent of the population still remains offline at the end of this year, according to the International Telecommunication Union estimates. Even in Europe, the most connected region, 20.9 percent of all people aren’t online. In Africa, the least connected continent, 74.9 percent are offline.

Those figures are part of the annual statistical report from the agency, which is part of the United Nations. The report also showed there’s still a huge divide between rich and poor countries, and a growing gap between men and women, when it comes to internet access. It shows that efforts by companies like Google and Facebook to get all people connected could take a long time.

While more than four out of five people in developed countries use the internet, just over 40 percent of those in developing countries have access. In the ITU’s “least developed countries” — places like Haiti, Yemen, Myanmar and Ethiopia — just 15.2 percent of the people are online.

Also, fewer women than men are on the internet, and that difference is getting worse. The worldwide difference between internet user penetration for males and females is 12.2 percent, up from 11.0 percent in 2013, the ITU says. It’s shrunk significantly in developed countries, from 5.8 percent to just 2.8 percent, but grown in poorer places.

Cost makes it harder to get online in some countries. The ITU says entry-level internet access has become affordable in many developing countries since 2011 but remains unaffordable in most of the poorest countries. By the ITU’s definition, that means internet service costs more than 5 percent of average monthly income.

 

 

 

Facebook Solar-powered Drone Takes Flight

July 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc announced that it has completed a successful test flight of a solar-powered drone that it hopes will help it extend internet connectivity to every corner of the planet.

Aquila, Facebook’s lightweight, high-altitude aircraft, flew at a few thousand feet for 96 minutes in Yuma, Arizona, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post on his Facebook page. The company ultimately hopes to have a fleet of Aquilas that can fly for at least three months at a time at 60,000 feet (18,290 meters) and communicate with each other to deliver internet access.

Google parent Alphabet Inc has also poured money into delivering internet access to under served areas through Project Loon, which aims to use a network of high-altitude balloons to made the internet available to remote parts of the world.

Yael Maguire, Facebook’s engineering director and head of its Connectivity Lab, said in an interview that the company initially hoped Aquila would fly for 30 minutes.

“We’re thrilled about what happened with our first flight,” Maguire said. “There are still a lot of technical challenges that need to be addressed for us to achieve the whole mission.” He said he hoped the system might be brought into service “in the near future.”

Zuckerberg laid out the company’s biggest challenges in flying a fleet of Aquilas, including making the plane lighter so it can fly for longer periods, getting it to fly at 60,000 feet and creating communications networks that allow it to rapidly transfer data and accurately beam down lasers to provide internet connections.

Maguire said Aquila will go through several more test flights and hopes it will soon break the world record for the longest solar-powered unmanned aircraft flight, which currently stands at two weeks.

Facebook, which has more than 1.6 billion users, has invested billions of dollars in getting more people online, both through an initiative called internet.org – which offers a pared-down version of the internet to poor areas – and by building drones.

 

FCC Presses Phone Companies To Provide ‘Robocall’ Blocking Technology

July 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission urged major U.S. phone companies to take immediate steps to make technology that blocks unwanted automated calls available to consumers at no charge.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, in letters to CEOs of major phone companies, said so-called robocalls, automated pre-recorded telephone calls often from telemarketers or scam artists, continue “due in large part to industry inaction.”

Wheeler’s letters went to chief executives of companies including Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Inc, Sprint Corp, US Cellular Corp, Level 3 Communications Inc, Frontier Communications Corp, Bandwidth.com Inc, and T-Mobile US.

Wheeler said in a blog post on Friday that he wants answers from the companies “within 30 days with their concrete, actionable solutions to address these issues.”

The letters, reviewed by Reuters, noted that the FCC does not require phone providers to offer robocall blocking and filtering but the FCC has “strongly encouraged providers to offer these services” at no charge to consumers.

Tom Power, general counsel at CTIA, the wireless trade association, said on Friday that “unwanted calls and texts are a consumer issue the wireless industry works hard to address and we look forward to working with the FCC to help address this challenge together.”

The FCC gets hundreds of thousands of complaints annually about robocalls and unwanted text messages.

Wheeler’s letters also said providers can do more to ensure that incoming calls are not “spoofed,” when callers falsify the information transmitted to caller-ID displays to disguise their identity.

Scam artists often try to appear to call from a bank or a government phone to trick consumers into disclosing confidential financial or account information. Other scams pitch phony vacation or mortgage offers.

In the letters, the FCC said the phone industry should create a “Do Not Originate” list that would allow government agencies, banks and healthcare providers, among others, to register their phone numbers and would allow providers to block calls from outside the United States. Many phone scams based overseas target Americans.

The FCC said last year it agreed that phone companies should not block calls without customers permission. Wheeler noted that providers “have suggested that blocking should wait until new Caller ID authentication standards are in place, but that is not a valid excuse for delay.”

The FCC has brought 13 enforcement actions to combat robocalls since 2013. In 2015, the FCC fined a Florida company nearly $3 million for illegal calls promoting travel deals.