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Nokia Makes a Play For 5G With Purchase of US Startup Eta Devices ( 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."

Google Gets Serious About Home Automation: Unveils Google Home, Actions on Google and Google Wifi ( 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 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.

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 ( 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.

Facebook Is Testing Autoplaying Video With Sound ( 152

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook is testing a "feature" that autoplays video clips on your feed with sound. It's not a very big test, but there's a possibility the company could roll it out to a larger group of users. The Next Web reports: "The company is currently trying two methods of getting people to watch video with sound in Australia: the aforementioned autoplaying, and an unmute button on the lower right corner of videos, like Vine videos on a desktop. The latter certainly sounds more reasonable; the last thing you want is to be checking Facebook quickly during a meeting or class, and suddenly have your phone blaring out an advert because you happened to stop on a video. Thankfully, you can disable the 'feature' from your settings, but the point is there's nothing wrong with the current opt-in approach, especially considering how many companies are embracing video captioning, and that Facebook even has its own auto-caption tool for advertisers." "We're running a small test in News Feed where people can choose whether they want to watch videos with sound on from the start," a Facebook spokesperson told Mashable Australia. "For people in this test who do not want sound to play, they can switch it off in Settings or directly on the video itself. This is one of several tests we're running as we work to improve the video experience for people on Facebook."

Ask Slashdot: Why Do You Want a 'Smart TV'? 507

Reader kheldan questions the need for a Smart TV (edited for clarity): Yesterday we read about how Samsung is planning on 'upgrading' the firmware in its smart TVs so that it could inject ads into your video streams. This raises the question yet again: Why do you even need a 'smart TV' in the first place? We live in an age where media-center computers and DVRs are ubiquitous, and all your TV really needs to be is a high-def monitor to connect to these devices. Even many smartphones have HDMI connectivity, and a Raspberry Pi is inexpensive and can play 1080 content at full framerate. None of these devices are terribly expensive anymore, and the price jump from a non-smart TV to a smart TV makes it difficult to justify the expense. Also, remember previous articles posted on the subject of surveillance many of these smart TVs have been found guilty of. So I put it to you, denizens of Slashdot: Why does anyone really want a 'smart TV'?

Ask Slashdot: Can You Have A Smart Home That's Not 'In The Cloud'? 183

With the announcement of Google Home on Wednesday, one anonymous Slashdot reader asks a timely question about cloud-based "remote control" services that feed information on your activities into someone else's advertising system: In principle, this should not be the case, but it is in practice. So how hard is it, really, to do 'home automation' without sending all your data to Google, Samsung, or whoever -- just keep it to yourself and share only what you want to share?

How hard would it be, for instance, to hack a Nest thermostat so it talks to a home server rather than Google? Or is there something already out there that would do the same thing as a Nest but without 'the cloud' as part of the requirement? Yes, a standard programmable thermostat does 90% of what a Nest does, but there are certain things that it won't do like respond to your comings and goings at odd hours, or be remotely switchable to a different mode (VPN to your own server from your phone and deal with it locally, perhaps?) Fundamentally, is there a way to get the convenience and not expose my entire life and home to unknown actors who by definition (read the terms of service) do not have my best interest in mind?

Yesterday one tech company asked its readers, "What company do you trust most to always be listening inside your home?" The winner was "nobody", with 63% of the votes -- followed by Google with 16%, and Apple with 13%. (Microsoft scored just 3%, while Amazon scored 2%.) So share your alternatives in the comments. What's the best way to set up home automation without sending data into the cloud?

Microsoft Adding More Ads To Windows 10 Start Menu ( 328

Microsoft plans to double the number of promoted apps in Start menu. The change, which is scheduled to come with the upcoming Anniversary Update to Windows 10, will see the promoted apps count rise to 10. Tom Warren, writing for The Verge: Some promoted apps are pre-installed, but Microsoft notes that they can be fully uninstalled and any promoted items removed from the Start menu. Microsoft has not revealed exactly why the number of promoted apps is doubling, but it's likely that the company is using it as another method to attract developers to its Windows Store.

The Pirate Bay Now Blocked In Chrome, Firefox, And Safari ( 202

An anonymous reader writes: Google Chrome, Firefox and Safari are actively blocking direct access to The Pirate Bay. Kickass Torrents suffered such a similar incident last month, because of the intermediary confirmation screen that appeared every time users navigated away from the site.

The reason why these three browsers block access to The Pirate Bay is unknown, but it could be related to a malvertising campaign that has plagued the site for more than two weeks. Two weeks ago, the malvertising campaign intensified right when season six of Game of Thrones premiered.

Meanwhile, HBO is contacting sites asking them to remove Game of Thrones torrents, and sending thousands of copyright infringement warnings to ISPs, urging them to remind pirates that they can stream HBO content legally after purchasing a subscription to HBO.

White House Releases Report On How To Spur Smart-Gun Technology ( 313

Lucas123 writes: A report commissioned by the White House involving the Defense, Justice and Homeland Security Departments has begun a process to define, for the first time, the requirements that manufacturers would need to meet for federal, state, and municipal law enforcement agencies to consider purchasing firearms with "smart" safety technology. They've committed to completing that process by October, and will also identify agencies interested in taking part in a pilot program to develop the smart gun technology. The DoD will help manufacturers test smart guns under "real-world conditions" at the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center in Maryland. Manufacturers would be eligible to win cash prizes through that program as well. In addition to spurring the adoption of smart gun technology, the report stated that the Social Security Administration has published a proposed rule that would require individuals prohibited from buying a gun due to mental health issues to be included in a background check system.

Report: Comcast In Talks To Buy DreamWorks For $3 Billion ( 49

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: Comcast is in talks to buy DreamWorks Animation in a multi-billion-dollar deal, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg are reporting. The cost of the deal would be more than $3 billion, according to both news organizations, citing unnamed sources. Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, has been searching for a buyer for the company, which has a current market value of $2.3 billion. DreamWorks is based in Glendale, Calif., and was founded in 1994 by Katzenberg, filmmaker Steven Spielberg and movie and music executive David Geffen. The animation unit was spun off in 2004. Philadelphia-based Comcast has two primary businesses, Comcast Cable and NBCUniversal. Comcast also owns Universal Parks and Resorts. Comcast already owns an animation studio, Illumination Entertainment, known for its work on the Despicable Me and Minions movies.

Japan To Begin Testing Fingerprints As 'Currency' ( 106

schwit1 quotes a report from The Japan News: Starting this summer, the government will test a system in which foreign tourists will be able to verify their identities and buy things at stores using only their fingerprints. The government hopes to increase the number of foreign tourists by using the system to prevent crime and relieve users from the necessity of carrying cash or credit cards. It aims to realize the system by the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. The experiment will have inbound tourists register their fingerprints and other data, such as credit card information, at airports and elsewhere. Tourists would then be able to conduct tax exemption procedures and make purchases after verifying their identities by placing two fingers on special devices installed at stores. The Inns and Hotels Law requires foreign tourists to show their passports when they check into ryokan inns or hotels. The government plans to substitute fingerprint authentication for that requirement.

Amazon Wants To Replace Passwords With Selfies and Videos ( 125

An anonymous reader writes: Amazon has filed a patent application for a technology which would allow consumers to authenticate transactions via selfie or video. As part of the verification process, the computer or mobile device will prompt the user to 'perform certain actions, motions or gestures, such as to smile, blink, or tilt his or her head.' Amazon claims that the introduction of facial recognition technology will make transactions more user friendly and secure than conventional identification methods, such as passwords which can be stolen and hacked.

MasterCard Rolls Out 'Selfie' Verification For Mobile Payments ( 109

An anonymous reader writes: MasterCard has announced plans to invest in facial recognition technology in the UK, in a push to reduce false decline transactions and increase security for mobile payments. Following trials in countries including the U.S. and the Netherlands, 'Selfie Pay' will be introduced in Britain this summer as part of the financial services company's identity validation process. Users will be able to choose between finger scanning and face recognition for verification, instead of traditional passwords or PIN numbers. Consumers will be asked to upload their pictures to be stored on MasterCard servers [paywalled]. These registered images will then be used as a reference every time a user opts for facial verification during a transaction.

US Banks To Test ATMs Which Accept Your Smartphone Instead Of Cards ( 148

Dozens of banks in the US are updating their ATMs, or installing new ones, in order to allow customers to withdraw cash without using bank cards. A new cardless system will be rolled out at around 2,000 cash machines across the US, operated by at least 28 banks, including giants like Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase. Under the new system, people can order cash on an app on their phone, and then scan a code at the ATM to receive their money, all without inserting a card or entering a PIN. The developers of the system insist that smartphone technology makes for faster and more secure transactions. More banks are expected to adopt the technology soon.

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