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Communications

Facebook Pitches Laser Beams As The High-Speed Internet Of The Future (pcworld.com) 93

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PCWorld: Facebook says it has developed a laser detector that could open the airwaves to new high-speed data communications systems that don't require dedicated spectrum or licenses. The component, disclosed on Tuesday in a scientific journal, comes from the company's Connectivity Lab, which is involved in developing technology that can help spread high-speed internet to places it currently doesn't reach. At 126 square centimeters, Facebook's new laser detector is thousands of times larger. It consists of plastic optical fibers that have been "doped" so they absorb blue light. The fibers create a large flat area that serves as the detector. They luminesce, so the blue light is reemitted as green light as it travels down the fibers, which are then bundled together tightly before they meet with a photodiode. It's described in a paper published on Tuesday in the journal Optica. Facebook says there are applications for the technology both indoors and outdoors. Around the home, it could be used to transmit high-definition video to mobile devices. Outdoors, the same technology could be used to establish low-cost communications links of a kilometer or more in length. In tests, the company managed to achieve a speed of 2.1Gbps using the detector, and the company thinks it can go faster. By using materials that work closer to infrared, the speed could be increased. And using yet-to-be developed components that work at wavelengths invisible to the human eye, the speed could be increased even more. If invisible to humans, the power could also be increased without danger of harming someone, further increasing speed and distance.
Communications

FCC OKs Sweeping Spectrum Frontiers Rules To Open Up Nearly 11 GHz Of Spectrum (fiercewireless.com) 64

Monica Alleven, reporting for FierceWirelessTech: In one fell swoop, the FCC today put the U.S. in a 5G leadership position, voting 5-0 to approve its Spectrum Frontiers proceeding and make spectrum bands above 24 GHz available for 5G. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, noting his previous remarks on the proceeding, kept his remarks brief to avoid repeating himself. But he summed it up this way before the final vote: "This is a big day for our nation. This is a big day for this agency," he said. "I do believe this is one of the, if not the most, important decision this agency will make this year. By becoming the first nation to identify high-band spectrum, the United States is ushering in the 5G era of high capacity, high-speed, low-latency wireless networks. By not getting involved in the technologies that will use the spectrum, we're turning loose the incredible innovators of this country," he said. The new rules open up nearly 11 GHz of high-frequency spectrum for mobile and fixed wireless broadband -- 3.85 GHz of licensed spectrum and 7 GHz of unlicensed spectrum. The rules create a new Upper Microwave Flexible Use service in the 28 GHz (27.5-28.35 GHz), 37 GHz (37-38.6 GHz) and 39 GHz (38.6-40 GHz) bands, and a new unlicensed band at 64-71 GHz. The FCC will continue to seek comment on bands above 95 GHz.
Robotics

Robot Stingray Is Powered By Rat Heart Cells (ieee.org) 35

An anonymous reader writes: Harvard researchers report in the journal Science this week that they've built a "bio-inspired swimming robot that mimics a ray fish [and] can be guided by light." The robot's body consists of "a cast elastomer body with a skeleton of gold, along with a single layer of carefully aligned muscle fibers harvested from neonatal rat hearts." The fibers were genetically modified to respond to pulses of blue light and structured along the body of the robot such that contractions result in a repetitive undulating motion, propelling the robot forward. "About 200,000 live rat heart cells form the muscle layer that powers the robot, which has a body 16.3 mm long and weighs just over 10 grams," reports IEEE. "At full tilt, it can swim at a speed of 3.2 mm/s, which isn't bad for such a tiny thing." You can watch the video that shows the robot being led through a 250 mm long obstacle course.
Security

Hackers Can Use Smart Watch Movements To Reveal A Wearer's ATM PIN (ieee.org) 105

the_newsbeagle writes: By gaining access to the sensors in someone's smart watch, hackers could track the person's hand movements at an ATM and figure out his/her pin. The hacker needn't be anywhere near the ATM; data can be lifted from the smart watch by either a discreet wireless sniffer or by malware on the watch that sends info to a server. This is hardly the first demonstration of the security flaws in smart watches. Last year, a research group showed that a watch's sensors can reveal keystrokes on a computer keyboard. The team of researchers, led by Chen Wang and Yingying Chen at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, were able to record movements down to the millimeter and crack private ATM PINs with 80 percent accuracy on the first try. To eliminate the security breach, manufacturers could better secure the data stored in their wearables, and/or add noise so one's physical hand movements cannot be as easily translated. Of course, consumers could simply wear their smart watch on their non-dominant hand.
Businesses

FCC Says TV Airwaves Being Sold For Wireless Use Are Worth $86.4 Billion (reuters.com) 72

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The U.S. Federal Communications Commission said on Wednesday the price of 126 MHz of television airwaves taken from broadcasters to be sold for wireless use in an ongoing auction is $86.4 billion. The FCC disclosed the price in a statement after completing the first part of an auction to repurpose low-frequency wireless spectrum relinquished by television broadcasters. The so-called "broadcast incentive" spectrum auction is one of the commission's most complex and ambitious to date. In this round, called a reverse auction, broadcasters competed to give up spectrum to the FCC for the lowest price. In the next stage, the forward auction, wireless and other companies will bid to buy the airwaves for the highest price. If wireless companies are unwilling to pay $86.4 billion, the FCC may have to hold another round of bidding by broadcasters and sell less spectrum than had been expected, analysts said. The Wall Street Journal points out that $86.4 billion is more than the market cap of T-Mobile and Spring combined. It's roughly double the amount raised in the last FCC auction, where ATT spent $18.2 billion and Verizon spent $10.4 billion. It's highly likely we'll see multiple rounds stretching into 2017 that will eventually match the supply with the demand.
Wireless Networking

Wi-Fi Gets Multi-Gigabit, Multi-User Boost With Upgrades To 802.11ac (arstechnica.com) 74

The Wi-Fi Alliance has announced its certification program for IEEE 802.11ac Wave 2, a technology that has been around on the market for more than a year. Wave 2 can deliver up to 6.8Gbps and lets an access point interact with more than one device at a time. Wave 2 features MIMO (or MU-MIMO) which improves the MIMO technology that lets Wi-FI transmit over more than one stream through the air. Wave 2 standard utilizes channels up to 160MHz wide (up from 80MHz channels available with Wave 1). It also creates more spatial streams and uses spectrum more efficiently, the industry group said on Wednesday. Ars Technica adds:On top of MU-MIMO, wider channels, and more streams, the Wi-Fi Alliance says Wave 2 features now being certified bring "support for a greater number of available channels in 5GHz," a change that "makes more efficient use of available spectrum and reduces interference and congestion by minimizing the number of networks operating on overlapping channels." You may have already noticed routers supporting some of these features, since the specification details have been available for a few years. In fact, routers with MU-MIMO started appearing in July 2014, and you can find routers that use 160MHz channels. The certification program takes a while to catch up with real-world implementations, but it ensures compatibility between devices and may spur faster adoption by vendors. End-user devices such as phones, tablets, and laptops must also be updated to take advantage of new features such as MU-MIMO.
AI

Boston Dynamics' SpotMini Is All Electric, Agile, and Has A Capable Face-Arm (ieee.org) 36

An anonymous reader writes: Boston Dynamics has shown the world their "fun-sizeified version of their Spot quadruped," the SpotMini robot. It's a quiet, all electric machine that features a googley-eyed face-arm. IEEE Spectrum notes some observations made from watching their YouTube video. First of all, the SpotMini appears to be waterproof and doesn't rely on hydraulics like the other more powerful robots of theirs. The SpotMini is likely operated by a human, and is not autonomous, though the self-righting could be an autonomous behavior. The video appears to show two separate versions of the SpotMini: an undressed and dressed variant (it's hard to tell if the "dressed" variant features differing components/abilities). There is a MultiSense S7 video camera on the front, some other camera-based vision system on the front, a butt-mounted Velodyne VLP-16 system, and what may be a small camera on the face-arm's mouth. One particularly noteworthy observation is that during much of the video, the SpotMini is traversing through a house. In other Boston Dynamics demo videos, the robots are outside. The author of the report says, "[...] it wouldn't surprise me if we're looking at an attempt to make an (relatively) affordable robot that can do practical things for people who aren't in the military."
Communications

FCC To Vote On Spectrum For 5G Wireless Networks (reuters.com) 38

5G has been in the news for years, but it's not available for commercial use just yet. Things will become clearer this week. The Federal Communications Commission will vote on July 14 to decide new rules to identity and open spectrum for next-generation high-speed 5G wireless applications. Reuters reports: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said if the FCC "approves my proposal next month, the United States will be the first country in the world to open up high-band spectrum for 5G networks and applications." He said the FCC also will seek comments on opening other high-frequency spectrum bands. Policymakers and mobile phone companies say the next generation of wireless signals needs to be 10 to 100 times faster and be far more responsive to allow advanced technologies like virtual surgery or controlling machines remotely.
Government

Let's Drug Test The Rich Before Approving Tax Deductions, Says US Congresswoman (theguardian.com) 760

Press2ToContinue writes from a report via The Guardian: "The [tax] benefits we give to poor people are so limited compared to what we give to the top 1% [of taxpayers]," Congresswoman Gwen Moore says. "It's a drop in the bucket." Many states implement drug-testing programs to qualify for benefit programs so that states feel they are not wasting the value they dole out. However, seven states who implemented drug testing for tax benefit program recipients spent $1 million on drug testing from the inception of their programs through 2014. But the average rate of drug use among those recipients has been far below the national average -- around 1% overall, compared with 9.4% in the general population -- meaning there's been little cost savings from the drug testing program. Why? "Probably because they can't afford it," says Moore. "We might really save some money by drug-testing folks on Wall Street, who might have a little cocaine before they get their deal done," she said, and proposes a bill requiring tests for returns with itemized deductions of more than $150,000. "We spend $81bn on everything -- everything -- that you could consider a poverty program," she explained. But just by taxing capital gains at a lower rate than other income, a bit of the tax code far more likely to benefit the rich than the poor, "that's a $93bn expenditure. Just capital gains," she added. Why not drug-test the rich to ensure they won't waste their tax benefits? She is "sick and tired of the criminalization of poverty." And, she added: "We're not going to get rid of the federal deficit by cutting poor people off Snap. But if we are going to drug-test people to reduce the deficit, let's start on the other end of the income spectrum."
The Internet

Qualcomm's Connected Car Reference Platform To Connect Smart Cars To Everything (networkworld.com) 110

An anonymous reader writes: Qualcomm wants to supply the next generation of autonomous and connected cars with networking to connect everything inside and outside of the cars. That means 5G, WiFi, Bluetooth, GNSS, DSRC, V2X, OABR, CAN, etc. ... [Networkworld reports: "Qualcomm today announced its Connected Car Reference Platform intended for the car industry to use to build prototypes of the next-generation connected car. Every category from economy to luxury car will be much smarter than the connected luxury car of today, creating a big opportunity for Qualcomm to supply semiconductors to automakers and suppliers. Qualcomm described the following features of the Connected Car Reference Platform in its release:

Scalability: Using a common framework that scales from a basic telematics control unit (TCU) up to a highly integrated wireless gateway, connecting multiple electronic control units (ECUs) within the car and supporting critical functions, such as over-the-air software upgrades and data collection and analytics.
Future-proofing: Allowing the vehicleâ(TM)s connectivity hardware and software to be upgraded through its life cycle, providing automakers with a migration path from Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) to hybrid/cellular V2X and from 4G LTE to 5G.
Wireless coexistence: Managing concurrent operation of multiple wireless technologies using the same spectrum frequencies, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy.
OEM and third-party applications support: Providing a secure framework for the development and execution of custom applications."]

AI

Researchers Teaching Robots To Feel and React To Pain (ieee.org) 63

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Leibniz University of Hannover in Germany are developing what they call an "artificial robot nervous system" that would allow robots to "feel" pain and react accordingly so they can avoid potential damages to their components. According to IEEE, the system uses a "nervous robot-tissue model that is inspired by the human skin structure" to measure different pain levels and move the robot in a way that prevents damaging interactions. [The model transmits pain information in repetitive spikes if the force exceeds a certain threshold, and the pain controller reacts after classifying the information into light, moderate, or severe pain.] Johannes Kuehn, one of the researchers, argues that in addition to avoiding potential damages to their components, robots will be protecting humans as well, since a growing number of them will be operating in close proximity to human workers. Kuehn, who worked on the project with Professor Sami Haddadin, reasoned that if our biological mechanisms to sense and respond to pain are so effective, why not devise a bio-inspired robot controller that mimics those mechanisms?
Privacy

It's Trivially Easy To Identify You Based On Records of Your Calls and Texts (dailydot.com) 37

Reader erier2003 shares an article on Daily Dot: Contrary to the claims of America's top spies, the details of your phone calls and text messages -- including when they took place and whom they involved -- are no less revealing than the actual contents of those communications. In a study published online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Stanford University researchers demonstrated how they used publicly available sources -- like Google searches and the paid background-check service Intelius -- to identify "the overwhelming majority" of their 823 volunteers based only on their anonymized call and SMS metadata. The results cast doubt on claims by senior intelligence officials that telephone and Internet "metadata" -- information about communications, but not the content of those communications -- should be subjected to a lower privacy threshold because it is less sensitive. Contrary to those claims, the researchers wrote, "telephone metadata is densely interconnected, susceptible to reidentification, and enables highly sensitive inferences."IEEE has more details.
Wireless Networking

Former Employee Accuses Wireless Charging Startup uBeam of Being a Sham (ieee.org) 118

uBeam, a startup which has raised over $25 million for its transmitter that can charge phones, tablets, and other devices wirelessly, is under attack. Paul Reynolds, former VP of engineering at the company has accused the company of making false promises. Reynolds, who has more than 20 years of experience working on ultrasound devices, says uBeam has overstated its technology's capabilities, and there's no way it can deliver anything close to its claim in a working prototype later this year. In fact, he went all the way to call uBeam "the next Theranos". For the uninitiated, uBeam plans to create a charging station which utilizes sound waves to beam power to devices in the same room. The company, which has a team of more than 30 engineers and physicists, has been working on the product since 2011. Some of its investors include Marc Andreessen, Marissa Mayer, and "Shark" Mark Cuban. From an IEEE report: Physicists have long questioned the practicality of uBeam's plans to deliver electricity to mobile devices using ultrasound. Mark Suster, a prominent venture capitalist and uBeam investor has defended uBeam. IEEE report adds: In his article today, Suster writes that when Reynolds was at uBeam, the engineer gave no indication that he had any problems with the company's direction -- implying that the issues raised in Reynolds' blog were essentially out of the blue. uBeam itself has yet to respond to anything Reynolds has written. "Throughout my time working with him he reassured me we could solve the technical challenges and our approach was viable," Suster writes. But Reynolds told IEEE Spectrum that is simply not the case. He says that he was rarely allowed to communicate directly with Suster, on account of Perry's (Editor's note: Meredith Perry is the Founder and CEO at uBeam) management preferences. But Reynolds said that in two meetings with Suster during the summer of 2015, he voiced concerns about what the company was telling investors and reporters it could do.
Censorship

Mark Zuckerberg: 'No Evidence' Facebook Staff Suppressed Stories With Conservative Viewpoints (theverge.com) 346

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Mark Zuckerberg has issued a statement in response to the controversy alleging that Facebook staff intentionally prevented stories with a conservative viewpoint from appearing in the site's Trending Topics section. "We take this report very seriously and are conducting a full investigation to ensure our teams upheld the integrity of this product," Zuckerberg writes on Facebook. "We have found no evidence that this report is true. If we find anything against our principles, you have my commitment that we will take additional steps to address it." Zuckerberg says he will invite "leading conservatives and people from across the political spectrum" to discuss the matter in the coming weeks, with the aim of having a "direct conversation about what Facebook stands for and how we can be sure our platform stays as open as possible." Earlier today, more evidence surfaced to support Gawker's two recent reports that claimed editors manipulate the trending news. Facebook published a blog post explaining how Trending Topics on its platform works, insisting there's no discrimination against sources of any political origin.
Cloud

Microsoft Buys Into DNA Data Storage (ieee.org) 81

the_newsbeagle writes: More than 2.5 exabytes of data is created every day, and some experts estimate that 90% of all data in the world today was created in the last two years. Clearly, storing all this data is becoming an issue. One idea is DNA data storage, in which digital files are converted into the genetic code of four nucleotides (As, Cs, Gs, and Ts). Microsoft just announced that it's testing out this idea, getting synthetic bio company Twist Bioscience to produce 10 million strands of DNA that encode some mystery file the company provided. Using DNA for long-term data storage is attractive because it's durable and efficient. For example, scientists can read the genome from a woolly mammoth hair dating from 20,000 years ago.
AI

Zero Zero's Camera Drone Could Be A Robot Command Center In The Future (ieee.org) 31

Tekla Perry writes: Zero Zero Robotics comes out of stealth today with the Hover Camera drone that uses face and body recognition to follow and photograph selected subjects. Company cofounder Meng Qiu Wang explains why he did the engineering in China (he built a team of 80 that worked two years on the project), and how this flying camera will evolve to be a navigation and control system for future home robots. According Zero Zero cofounder and CEO Meng Qiu Wang, "It has two cameras. The front viewing camera is a 13-megapixel camera that records video, but also has Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM), an algorithm that allows it to determine where it is. It also has a down-facing video camera, running an algorithm called optical flow, that looks at ground at 60 frames per second, so the Hover knows when it moves and can correct itself. These visual sensors are giving inputs and actual position and speed, meanwhile, the accelerometer and gyroscope gives relative position. All these signals are fed into the flight control algorithm, so when I throw it up in the air, it can just hover there." With a price of less than $600, it should compete well against the expensive DJI Phantom 4, which is already available on the market for $1400 and features autonomous flying and tracking features.
Government

Utah Governor: 'Porn Is a Public Health Crisis' (cnet.com) 822

An anonymous reader writes: Utah Governor Gary Herbert said on his Facebook page: "Pornography is a public health crisis. The problem is rampant, yet it thrives in secrecy and silence." He emitted this thought on signing a resolution which says porn is "a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms." In addition, it "perpetuates a sexually toxic environment." The resolution doesn't just stop there. It goes on to say "due to advances in technology and the universal availability of the Internet, young children are exposed to what used to be referred to as hard core, but is now considered mainstream, pornography at an alarming rate." The resolution says pornography "equates violence toward women and children with sex and pain with pleasure, which increases the demand for sex trafficking, prostitution, child sexual abuse images, and child pornography." It requests "the need for education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the people of our state and nation." In the words of Gov. Gary Herbert, "Today's bills will start an open discussion." I couldn't agree more...
Businesses

Intel Confirms Major Layoff: 12,000 Worldwide, 11 Percent of Workforce (ieee.org) 238

Tekla Perry writes: It's all about the cloud and the Internet of Things, says Intel explaining the planned layoffs, which will affect some 12,000 employees. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich promises in an email today to employees, that the "transition" will be handled with the "utmost dignity and respect." According to IEEE Spectrum, "Intel Corp. today announced that it would cut some 12,000 jobs -- that's 11 percent of its total workforce -- by mid-2017, with the majority of those affected getting the bad news within the next two months. In a press release, the company said the 'restructuring initiative' would 'accelerate its evolution from a PC company to one that powers the cloud and the billions of smart, connected computing devices,' and that the company would be increasing its investments in 'data center, IoT memory, and connectivity businesses.'"
Communications

New Full Duplex Radio Chip Transmits and Receives Wireless Signals At Once (ieee.org) 33

Wave723 writes: A new chip by Columbia University researchers uses a circulator made of silicon transistors to reroute signals and avoid interference from a transmitter and receiver that share the same antenna. This technology instantly doubles data capacity and could eventually be built into smartphones and tablets. The chip enables them to work around the principle of Lorentz Reciprocity, in which electromagnetic waves are thought to always travel along the same path both forward and backward. Traditionally, electronic devices required two antennas -- a transmitter and receiver -- that took turns or operated on different frequencies in order to exchange signals.
Medicine

'Neural Bypass' Links Brain To Hand To Get Around Paralysis (ieee.org) 37

An anonymous reader writes: People who are paralyzed from a spinal cord injury still generate movement commands in their brains, but those commands can't travel down their spinal cords and peripheral nerves to reach their muscles. So biomedical engineers came up with a "neural bypass" to route brain signals around the roadblock. The system has just been demonstrated by a human patient for the first time. The patient has a brain implant to record signals from his motor cortex which are sent to a computer, where a decoder algorithm figures out which signals correspond to which specific imagined movements. It then sends a command to a sleeve of electrodes the patient wears on his forearm, which stimulates his muscles in precise patterns to produce the desired hand movement. The patient has already poured from a bottle, stirred with a swizzle stick, swiped a credit card, and played Guitar Hero.

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