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Microsoft

Microsoft Foresees AR Tracking Your Keys, Milk, Entire Life (cnet.com) 84

Want a virtual assistant that means you won't lose anything ever again? A patent application filed by Microsoft hints at that future. From a report on CNET: The technology described in the patent filing, published Thursday, would bring sophisticated, automatic object tracking to augmented reality. A cousin of VR, which creates an entirely digital experience, augmented (or mixed) reality blends the real and virtual worlds into a seamless experience -- think Pokemon Go. One of the challenges for more advanced augmented reality is that a system would need to track not only you as a user, but also the other objects in your environment. Microsoft's patent document suggests a technology that would do just that. The new tech would fit neatly with Microsoft's own HoloLens augmented reality platform. As AR becomes more common, it could lead to a future in which you can ask Cortana (or Siri or Alexa) where you left your shoes or if you're out of eggs.
The Almighty Buck

India Just Flew Past Us In the Race To E-Cash (backchannel.com) 216

New submitter mirandakatz writes: Since India's prime minister banned 86 percent of the rupee notes in circulation last month, citizens have been waiting in hours-long lines for ATMs. But these circumstances have also created an unexpected progression: a burgeoning cashless economy. At Backchannel, Lauren Razavi explores how India is now beating many Western countries in adopting mobile payments, and how demonetization has triggered a radical shift toward reimagining India's enormous informal economy as a data-driven digital marketplace. From the report: "Before last month, Paytm, a mobile app that allows users to pay for everything from pizza to utility bills, saw steady business -- it was processing between 2.5 and 3 million transactions a day. Now, usage of the app has close to doubled. 6 million transactions a day is common; 5 million is considered a bad day. Rather than being forced to idle away time in excruciatingly long lines, 'people are proactively exploring other ways to settle payments besides cash,' says Deepak Abbot, senior vice president at Paytm. 'Now people are realizing they don't need to really line up, because merchants are starting to accept other forms of payment.' All of this has created a newfound system that practically incentives mobile payment. With so many people queuing up at banks every day -- and a lot of Indian bureaucracy to wade through in order to open a traditional bank account or line of credit -- the appeal of more convenient digital alternatives is easy to understand. According to a report in the Hindu Business Line, as many as 233 million unbanked people in India are skipping plastic and moving straight to digital transactions. 'Cash has lost its credibility and payments are no longer perceived in the same way,' says Upasana Taku, the cofounder of Indian mobile wallet company MobiKwik, which reported a 40 percent increase in downloads and a 7,000 percent increase in bank transfers since demonetization. 'There's chaos at the moment but also relief that India will now be an improved economy,' she says."
Microsoft

Microsoft Will Soon Start Bundling Drivers With Windows Store Games (thurrott.com) 102

Microsoft will start bundling drivers with Windows Store games to improve the performance of the game once downloaded. A report on Thurrott adds: This will work by the game download trigging Windows Update to acquire the minimum driver requirements to make sure that application works as intended. This may perturb some users who like having complete control over the driver updates for their hardware as this auto-download mechanism will overwrite the existing installation of the driver. Of course, you can still roll-back the update but hopefully Microsoft gives us a way to stop the auto-download of the driver via the Windows Store when this feature arrives.
The Almighty Buck

South Korea To Kill the Coin in Path Towards 'Cashless Society' (cnbc.com) 258

The central bank in South Korea, one of the world's most technologically advanced and integrated nations, is taking a major step in getting rid of coins in the nation in what is an attempt to become a cashless society. The first step is to get rid of the metal, a feat authorities hope to achieve by 2020. From a report on FT: The Bank of Korea on Thursday announced it will step up its efforts to reduce the circulation of coins, the highest denomination of which is worth less than $0.50. As part of the plan it wants consumers to deposit loose change on to Korea's ubiquitous "T Money" cards -- electronic travel passes that can be used to pay for metro fares, taxi rides and even purchases in 30,000 convenience stores. The proposals are just the latest step for a nation at the forefront of harnessing technology to make citizens' lives more convenient. Online shopping is the norm, as are mobile payments for the country's tech-savvy millennials. South Korea is already one of the least cash-dependent nations in the world. It has among the highest rates of credit card ownership -- about 1.9 per citizen -- and only about 20 percent of Korean payments are made using paper money, according to the BoK. But while convenience is at the crux of the central bank's plan, there are other considerations. The BoK spends more than $40m a year minting coins. There are also costs involved for financial institutions that collect, manage and circulate them.
Privacy

China Pilots a System That Rates Citizens on 'Social Credit Score' To Determine Eligibility For Jobs, Travel (technologyreview.com) 204

Speculations have turned out be true. The Chinese government is now testing systems that will be used to create digital records of citizens' social and financial behavior. In turn, these will be used to create a so-called social credit score, which will determine whether individuals have access to services, from travel and education to loans and insurance cover. Some citizens -- such as lawyers and journalists -- will be more closely monitored. From a report on MIT Technology Review: Planning documents apparently describe the system as being created to "allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step." The Journal claims that the system will at first log "infractions such as fare cheating, jaywalking and violating family-planning rules" but will be expanded in the future -- potentially even to Internet activity. Some aspects of the system are already in testing, but there are some challenges to implementing such a far-reaching apparatus. It's difficult to centralize all that data, check it for accuracy, and process it, for example -- let alone feed it back into the system to control everyday life. And China has data from 1.4 billion people to handle.
Networking

Ethernet Consortia Wants To Unlock a More Time-Sensitive Network (networkworld.com) 110

Does Ethernet need new features like "stream reservation" and time synchronization to make sure time-sensitive data isn't delayed on the network? coondoggie quotes Network World: The demand from Internet of Things, automotive networking and video applications are driving changes to Ethernet technology that will make it more time-sensitive. Key to those changes are a number of developing standards but also a push this week from the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory to set up three new industry specific Ethernet Time-Sensitive Networking consortiums -- Automotive Networking, Industrial Networking, and ProAV Networking aimed at developing deterministic performance within standard Ethernet for real-time, mission critical applications. "Standards-based precise time, guaranteed bandwidth, and guaranteed worst-case latency in a converged Ethernet network is a game-changer to many industries," said Bob Noseworthy, Chief Engineer, UNH-IOL.
The article also acknowledges the work of the Avnu Alliance, which is also trying to build an ecosystem of "low-latency, time-synchronized, highly reliable synchronized networked devices using open standards through certification."
Iphone

Apple Now Sells Refurbished iPhones (9to5mac.com) 26

In the past, Apple has only sold refurbished Macs, iPads and various niche devices on its refurb store. Now the company is officially selling refurbished iPhones, offering the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus in its refurb store. 9to5Mac reports: Apple has sort of sold refurbished iPhones before, but those sales were relegated to an eBay store front and never fully acknowledged by the company. This is the first time that the company has offered iPhones on its official refurb store online. Customers will find the iPhone 6s in 16 GB storage varieties for $449.00. The larger iPhone 6s Plus is being offered in two storage varieties: 16Gb and 64GB for $529 and $589, respectively. It seems that all colors are currently available, which includes Silver, Space Gray, Gold, and Rose Gold. In the end, users can expect to save up to 15% ($110) by going the refurbished route, and remember that these devices come with a full 1-year factory warranty, which makes refurb units a great idea for budget-conscious shoppers. It's also worth noting that all of Apple's official refurbished iPhones are unlocked and come SIM-free, plus they all include a brand new battery and outer shell. It's as close to a new iPhone as you'll get without actually buying one brand new.
Privacy

Nvidia Adds Telemetry To Latest Drivers (ghacks.net) 243

An anonymous reader shares a report on Ghack: Telemetry -- read tracking -- seems to be everywhere these days. Microsoft pushes it on Windows, and web and software companies use it as well. While there is certainly some benefit to it on a larger scale, as it may enable these companies to identify broader issues, it is undesirable from a user perspective. Part of that comes from the fact that companies fail to disclose what is being collected and how data is stored and handled once it leaves the user system. In the case of Nvidia, Telemetry gets installed alongside the driver package. While you may customize the installation of the Nvidia driver so that only the bits that you require are installed, there is no option to disable the Telemetry components from being installed. These do get installed even if you only install the graphics driver itself in the custom installation dialog.Further reading on MajorGeeks.
Software

New Software Remembers Everything Your Computer Has Ever Displayed (cnn.com) 117

A Napster co-founder launched a new software this week which lets you search for anything you've ever looked at on your computer. schwit1 shared this report from CNNMoney: Atlas Informatics Founder and CEO Jordan Ritter calls the software "a photographic memory for your digital life"... This includes web pages, emails, Slack chats, Netflix films, Spotify songs, or anything else that's appeared in front of your eyes on your screen... You can search by keyword, content type or time, and it displays all related information based on relevancy. For instance, if two documents were open at the same time and you toggled between them, they will both appear whether or not they contain a keyword. Once installed on your hard drive and browser, Atlas Recall runs in the background and begins collecting your activity. The company captures all the content you've looked at and stores it on its servers.
It's encrypted before transmission to the Atlas Cloud servers, though you can block it from capturing data from certain applications, files, and web sites. "The platform wars are over, nobody won, and no one will ever win them again..." Ritter told CNNMoney. "What we want is something that works the way we use our devices and data."
Businesses

Apple CEO Tim Cook: 'We're Going To Kill Cash' (cnet.com) 394

At a media event on Thursday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the Touch ID on the new MacBook Pros will make it incredibly easy for people to do online money transactions. After the event, speaking to reporters Cook made a bold statement about how he sees Apple Pay. CNET reports: "We're going to kill cash," he said. "Nobody likes to carry around cash." He makes most of his purchases with Apple Pay (which is not surprising).Cook's comment comes days after Australia's top banks refused to support Apple Pay, saying that the company has been 'intransigent, closed and controlling'.
Network

Millimeter-wave 5G Modem Coming Mid-2018 With 5Gbps Peak Download (arstechnica.com) 39

Qualcomm is promising to launch its first 5G modem in 2018, even though basic standards for 5G have yet to be established, nor even which part of the radio spectrum it will use. From an ArsTechnica report: Dubbed the Snapdragon X50, the San Diego chipmaker says its new modem will be able to deliver blindingly fast peak download speeds of around 5Gbps. The X50 5G will at first operate with a bandwidth of about 800MHz on the 28GHz millimetre wave (mmWave in Qualcomm jargon) spectrum, a frequency that's also being investigated by Samsung, Nokia, and Verizon. However, the powers that be have far from settled on this area of the spectrum, with 73GHz also being mooted. In the UK, Ofcom is investigating several bands in a range between 6GHz and 100GHz. As the industry as a whole is a long way from consensus, this could be Qualcomm's bid to get the final frequency locked down well before 2020 -- the year that 5G is expected to reach any kind of consumer penetration. "The Snapdragon X50 5G modem heralds the arrival of 5G as operators and OEMs reach the cellular network and device testing phase," said Qualcomm exec veep Cristiano Amon. "Utilising our long history of LTE and Wi-Fi leadership, we are thrilled to deliver a product that will help play a critical role in bringing 5G devices and networks to reality. This shows that we're not just talking about 5G, we're truly committed to it."
Businesses

Nokia Makes a Play For 5G With Purchase of US Startup Eta Devices (arstechnica.com) 10

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Nokia has signaled fresh commitment towards 5G infrastructure with the acquisition of Eta Devices -- a small U.S.-based startup that specializes in improving power efficiency at base stations. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based outfit has around 20 staff, some of whom work at its research and development site in Stockholm, Sweden. Nokia said it hoped the buyout, financial details of which weren't disclosed, allow it "to enhance base station energy efficiency, an increasingly important area for operators on the path to 4.9G and 5G." Eta claims its tech can "drastically" reduce "heat waste" via an "amplifier that works like an automated gearbox" by adjusting energy usage by need. It has tech which claims to improve smartphone battery life, too -- with supposed boosts of up to 50 percent. However, Nokia seems to have acquired it for the "significant" power savings it says it can make at base stations, both in readiness for the Internet of Things, and to improve its carbon footprint and help its "zero emission base station solution." The acquisition includes fixed assets, employees, intellectual property rights, and lease and supplier deals, Nokia said. Nokia said in a statement: "This translates to savings for operators that can be invested as 4.9G and 5G approach. Eta Devices' technology reduces the need for backup power, translating into smaller base station cabinets and reduced equipment breakdown rates, and supporting Nokia's target to continuously strengthen the base station power efficiency of its products."
AI

Google Gets Serious About Home Automation: Unveils Google Home, Actions on Google and Google Wifi (techcrunch.com) 91

At its hardware launch event earlier today, Google launched Google Home, a voice-activated speaker that aims to give Amazon's Echo a run for its money. The speaker is always-listening and uses Google's Assistant to deliver sports scores, weather information, commute times, and much more. Tech Crunch reports: So like the Echo, Google Home combines a wireless speaker with a set of microphones that listen for your voice commands. There is a mute button on the Home and four LEDs on top of the device so you can know when it's listening to you; otherwise, you won't find any other physical buttons on it. As for music, Google Home will feature built-in support for Google Play Music, Spotify, Pandora and others. You can set up a default music service, too, so you don't always have to tell Google that you want to play a song "on Spotify." Google also noted that Home's music search is powered by Google, so it can understand relatively complex queries. Music on Google Home will also support podcast listening and because it's a Cast device, you can stream music to it from any other Cast-enabled device. Home integrates with Google's Chromecasts and Cast-enabled TVs. For now, that mostly means watching YouTube videos, but Google says it will also support Netflix, too. Google Home will cost $129 (with a free six-month trial of YouTube Red) and go on sale on Google's online store today. It will ship on November 4. What's more is that developers will be able to integrate their third-party apps with Google Assistant via "Actions on Google." With Actions on Google, developers will be able to create two kinds of actions: Direct and Conversation. Direct is made for relatively simple requests like home automation, while Conversation is made for a back and forth interaction utilizing API.ai. Actions on Google will also allow third-party hardware to take advantage of Google Assistant. Those interested can sign-up for the service today. But Google didn't stop there. The company went on to reveal all-new, multi-point Wifi routers called Google Wifi. The Verge reports: The Wifi router can be purchased two ways: as a single unit or in a multipack, just like Eero. A single unit is $129, while the three-pack will cost $299. Google says Wifi will be available for preorder in the U.S. in November and will ship to customers in December. There was no mention of international availability. Google says it has developed a number of technologies to make the Wifi system work, including intelligent routing of traffic from your phone or device to the nearest Wifi unit in your home. It supports AC 1200 wireless speeds, as well as simultaneous dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks. It also has beamforming technology and support for Bluetooth Smart. Google says the system will handle channel management and other traffic routing automatically.
Privacy

Apple Logs Your iMessage Contacts - And May Share Them With Police: The Intercept 61

The Intercept is reporting that despite what Apple claims, it does keep a log of people you are receiving messages from and shares this and other potentially sensitive metadata with law enforcement when compelled by court order. Apple insists that iMessage conversations are safe and out of reach from anyone other than you and your friends. From the report:This log also includes the date and time when you entered a number, along with your IP address -- which could, contrary to a 2013 Apple claim that "we do not store data related to customers' location," identify a customer's location. Apple is compelled to turn over such information via court orders for systems known as "pen registers" or "tap and trace devices," orders that are not particularly onerous to obtain, requiring only that government lawyers represent they are "likely" to obtain information whose "use is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation." Apple confirmed to The Intercept that it only retains these logs for a period of 30 days, though court orders of this kind can typically be extended in additional 30-day periods, meaning a series of monthlong log snapshots from Apple could be strung together by police to create a longer list of whose numbers someone has been entering.
The Almighty Buck

Digital Wallets Have Yet To Catch On, JPMorgan Executive Says (reuters.com) 206

Despite major tech companies working aggressively on making digital wallet solutions available everywhere, these digital payment apps in our smartphones are yet to gain traction, according to Chief Executive of Consumer Banking JP Morgan Chase & Co. From a Reuters report: Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay are being used for less than 1 percent of payments at retailers, Gordon Smith said, citing industry data at an investor conference. Ultimately, the convenience of paying with phones will bring a surge of use from consumers, but it is impossible to know when that inflexion point will be reached, said Smith.

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