Creating the way to technological innovation
Use of ICT
to drive Growth in the UAE
Vol: 2 - Issue: 11
Creating the way to technological innovation
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Contents 05 Use of ICT to drive Growth in the UAE (Cover Story & Title) By: Syed Saqlain Shah 07 2013’s Biggest Tech Moments By Nicholas Gerbis 11 In 2014 and Beyond the Best is Yet to Come By Jon Collins 12 ITU experts explore ways forward in dynamic spectrum usage 13 Acer names semiconductor veteran as new CEO By: Shahzaib Amin 13 Apple, Samsung CEOs agree to mediation in court dispute By: Muhammad Farooq 14 In Palestine, Technologists Find Freedom to Innovate By: Monty Munford 15 WhatsApp deal gives Facebook a path to crowded China market By: Shahzaib Amin 16 Satya Nadella to succeed Ballmer as Microsoft CEO 17 Satellite hotspot promises to bring Wi-Fi everywhere 17 ICE Unlock app adds fingerprint ID to Android devices By: Ben Coxwort 18 10 Non-murderous Things Drones Do Every Day By: Nathan Chandler 22 Very first Porsche goes on display after gathering dust for over a century By: David Szondy 23 Wearable Tech & The B2B Landscape By: Andrea Fishman 24 News Roundup: Secret IPOs, Tech Philanthropy and Bitcoin Psychology By: Dan Swinhoe 25 First Google Glass games released By: Stuart Robarts 26 Google buys artificial intelligence start-up DeepMind Technologies By: Nick Lavars 26 World’s largest solar bridge completed in London By: Stuart Robarts 27 UAE Ministry of Education and Etisalat Partner to Launch First Technology Hub in UAE 28 Eyes-on with the Avegant Glyph’s mesmerizing virtual retinal display By: Jonathan Fincher 31 GPM satellite to usher in a new era of weather observation By: Anthony Wood 32 Could humidity power join the list of renewable energy sources? By: Darren Quick 33 Middle East Sees Growing Need for Powerful Enterprise Software Solutions ... By: Kathie Poindexter 34 “Smart bomb” puts antibiotic resistant bacteria in its sights By: Darren Quick 34 Scientists use fruit flies to detect cancer By: Stuart Robarts
Letter to Reader Dear Readers, We bid a wonderful farewell to the old year and welcome the new one with optimism and hope. We wish all the readers, subscribers and the staff members of Expert Technology Review a very prosperous and blessed New Year 2014. We would also like to wish special New Year 2014 greetings to all war-torn victims, journalists, human rights victims and activists for their immense contribution towards bringing the peace and stability. We all aim to live a life with peace and dignity and also wish to see people in our neighboring countries’ living in an atmosphere of safety. Syed Saqlain Shah Gilani Life always tests our patience; Chief Editor however, it’s only courage which makes you strong to face any hardship. It’s the courage that turns disaster into triumph and obstacles into stepping stones. Courage is not an absence of fear, but it’s a conquest of fear. So, with all my humility, We hope and pray to God to bring peace and stability in the world by infusing people with courage. We wish everyone to have an access to freedom of expression, democracy and respect for human rights. We must remember that the world is a global village and we all human beings are like a family, therefore, we should live and respect each and every human being. With this thought and wish, We, once again, would like to wish everyone a
blissful and joyous New Year. May God Bless everyone who exists in this world. As always, you shall find the cover story focus on the use of ICT to drive growth in the UAE. The UAE has maintained its progress, cultural and civil horizons with full perfection during the past four decades. With 85% of individuals in the UAE using the internet, the UAE is significantly above the world average of 36%. This is a testament to the penetration and quality of services provided by UAE’s licensees. Having established itself as a leading business hub presenting vast investment opportunities to global enterprises, the UAE now sees heightened ICT infrastructure demands ultimately driving further growth. Moreover, you shall also find very interesting articles and reports, namely 2013’s Biggest Tech Moments by Nicholas Gerbis, 10 Non-murderous Things Drones Do Every Day by Nathan Chandler, Very first Porsche goes on display after gathering dust for over a century by David Szondy, GPM satellite to usher in a new era of weather observation by Anthony Wood, In Palestine, Technologists Find Freedom to Innovate by Monty Munford, Wearable Tech & The B2B Landscape by Andrea Fishman, WhatsApp deal gives Facebook a path to crowded China market by Shahzaib Amin, ITU experts explore ways forward in dynamic spectrum usage, In 2014 and Beyond the Best is Yet to Come by Jon Collins, Satya Nadella to succeed Ballmer as Microsoft CEO. Happy Reading!
Use of ICT to drive Growth in the UAE By: Syed Saqlain Shah
The UAE was formed from the group of tribally organised Arabian Peninsula sheikhdoms along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf and the northwestern coast of the Gulf of Oman. A country of seven federated emirates (similar to principalities) and home to almost 8.3 million on the Persian Gulf, is benefiting from the fallout from the Arab Spring that has persuaded a number of businesses in the region to relocate to the UAE and its secure environment and stable economy. With oil reserves running out
and the crisis-hit real-estate projects barely resurrecting, the United Arab Emirates is leveraging its vast ICT market potential to keep its economy upbeat. Rulers of the Emirates are paying careful attention to technology infrastructure development to bring aboard key players from well-established international IT markets and to grow its own knowledge base. The Emirates have responded by investing heavily to wean itself off technology investment and build on already favourable policies for local and foreign businesses, investors
and workers. This includes extending the role of technology in education, for example donating 14,000 iPads to university students to replace textbooks, and emphasising English and business-friendly skills training. But it already includes more direct investment in core technologies. For example, Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Investment Co. (ATIC) in January 2014 announced plans to invest up to $10bn over two years in the Global Foundries’ New York semiconductor factory. ATIC owns the fabrication plant having bought out
erstwhile partner, US chip designer AMD, from a joint venture. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) launches the 5th edition of its report – Measuring the Information Society (MIS). The report, which has been published annually since 2009, features key ICT data and benchmarking tools to measure the information society, including the 2012 ICT Development Index (IDI) which captures the level of ICT developments in 157 economies worldwide and compares progress made during the last year.
The MIS also presents the first comprehensive mobilebroadband price data set for almost 130 economies. It features a new model and data to measure the world’s digital native population – those young people who were born into the digital age – and a quantitative overview of digital TV broadcasting trends. The UAE has made significant progress in increasing its ranking in the IDI. Page 33 of the MIS 2013 provides: The United Arab Emirates records the highest increase in rank, shooting up 12 places to 33rd in the IDI 2012. Value increases in the access and use subindices are both considerably above the global average. All indicators included in the access sub-index showed improvement from 2011 to 2012. Mobile-cellular telephone penetration in particular rose by more than 14%, to 170% in 2012. A household survey conducted by the country’s Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA, 2012) confirms that virtually all residents use a mobile phone and that 85% of the population uses the Internet regularly and for the most part through a highspeed connection. In the use sub-index, UAE registered great progress in the number of wireless-broadband subscriptions. By end 2012, penetration had reached 51%, as against 22% the previous year. Furthermore, services are relatively cheap: the UAE ranks among the most affordable countries for prepaid mobile-broadband services, which cost less than 1% of GNI
p.c. Commenting on the MIS 2013, H.E. Mohamed Nasser Al Ghanim, Director General of TRA, said: “The significant achievements of the UAE in the report proves that the TRA is well on the way to securing its vision of providing an optimal enabling environment in which the UAE’s ICT sector will emerge as a leader in the global market place.” The MIS 2013 shows that the UAE is well above the global average in terms of mobilecellular subscriptions, the proportion of individuals using the internet, and the proportion of households with internet access. “With 85% of individuals in the UAE using the internet, the UAE is significantly above the world average of 36%. This is a testament to the penetration and quality of services provided by UAE’s licensees,” added Al Ghanim. “A knowledge-based online community is one of the key pillars of the Leadership’s Vision 2021 which calls for an outstanding ICT infrastructure that offers an edge to businesses as they transact and interact with the world. The last IDI confirms that the TRA is successfully working towards securing the Leadership’s vision for the future.” As neigbours and others have suffered rapid change and geopolitical turmoil, the UAE has prospered, growing in GDP terms by 4.4% in 2012 when the streets of nearby countries and European nations were roaring with anti-government chants and worse.
Having established itself as a leading business hub presenting vast investment opportunities to global enterprises, the UAE now sees heightened ICT infrastructure demands ultimately driving further growth. Certainly, the UAE has a solid platform. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Network Readiness Index (PDF), a scale that ranks countries in terms of ability to capitalise on ICT utilisation, the UAE ranks top for both mobile network coverage and the government’s success in promoting its ICT market. The country ranks third in the world for ICT utilisation in driving government efficiency and inclination toward technology advancements in the future. The UAE is also investing in making its cities more digitalcentric with Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, a planned development that will rely on solar and other renewable energy sources and host the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology. The university will be advised by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In all, analyst firms expect the UAE to increase ICT spending by over 5% in 2014, pushing total spend over $15bn, in part to support infrastructure preparations for Dubai Expo 2020. Analyst firm IDC expects the broader Middle East to spend around $32bn in ICT technologies next year, a rise of 7.3% on 2013. The region trails only Eastern Europe and Latin America as the thirdfastest growing IT market in the world.
Some of the biggest gainers, however, will be foreigners and the UAE’s youth unemployment is, at 12%, three times that of its overall figure, according to National Commercial Bank. “The UAE is heavily reliant on talented expatriates, welleducated and well-trained to handle booming businesses and challenging development projects,” says an expatriate resident working at a multinational financial corporation in Dubai. “A significant proportion of unemployed national youth belong to business families with a strong inclination toward entrepreneurship and leadership. Under-utilisation of local human capital is hardly concerning for business owners who prefer hiring foreign workers willing to offer vast international industry experience for relatively low wages. This is particularly true for the demanding ICT industry. “Large-scale ICT infrastructure projects are usually outsourced to foreign companies that bring along their own international teams, whereas small and midsize IT firms seek affordable talent, which certainly rules out businessminded UAE youngsters,” says the finance worker. One outcome could be that ICT growth will favour job-seekers from South Asia and struggling countries in the Middle East and Europe. Already, the UAE is comprised of 91% expatriates, easily outnumbering native Emiratis, especially in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
2013’s Biggest Tech Moments By Nicholas Gerbis
It was the best of times for private projects; it was the worst of times for privacy. It was the age of robots and AI servants; it was the age of deadly drones. It was the epoch of augmented reality; it was the epoch of prying sensors. It was the season of private-sector space; it was the season of governmental web site disgrace. It was the spring of 3-D printing; it was the winter of gaming consoles. The year 2013 was an epic tale of two techs, those that expanded to improve our lives and those that exceeded the boundaries of our preparedness and stretched our metaphors to the breaking point. So we hope that you and the National Security Agency analyst monitoring your Internet activity enjoy our picks for the year’s 10 biggest trends and technologies.
Steering Toward Robotic Cars
Mercedes’ ultra-fancy S-Class vehicles got a little more robotic in 2013. © Sergey Kohl/Demotix/Corbis
The concept of the self-driving car has been around since at least 1965, when General Motors proposed its Autoline speed and directional control system for expressways [source: Benford]. And although kids remain disappointed that automatic transmission and cruise control aren’t as cool as they sound, the technologies introduced in 2013 took us one step closer to that future. Take, for example, Nissan’s Infiniti G37, the first commercial car with drive-by-wire steering. Steer-by-wire removes the mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the wheels and replaces it with computers, electronics and motors. Or consider the Mercedes S-Class, which comes equipped with more consumer electronics than a Best Buy, including a 360degree array of sensors with camera, radar and sonar, tied into the sedan’s steering, throttle and stability controls. The system enables the car to handle whatever curves the road or its drivers throw at it at speeds approaching 124 mph (200 kph). The S-Class also sports a camera-augmented suspension system that compensates for upcoming bumps, as well as a night vision camera that helps drivers spot animals or people on roads. These constitute just a few of the increasingly common technologies that improve safety today while setting the stage for fully or partially self-driving vehicles tomorrow.
Droning On and On
BAE’s Taranis unmanned combat air vehicle took to the air for the first time in 2013. The Taranis is designed to be speedier than existing UAVs, like the Predator and Reaper. Image courtesy BAE Systems Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) first sprang from the fevered imagination of radio-control inventor Nikola Tesla, but it would take a few world wars before the Unites States military produced some of its own. They were but poor cousins of the missilepacking Predator and Reaper drones used in 21st-century Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite dropping to their lowest levels in half a decade, drone strikes drew a firestorm of media attention in 2013, due to a combination of vocal advocacy groups, news leaks and a global groundswell of citizen concern over civilian casualties and the possibility of terrorist organizations using them as a recruitment tool [source: Walsh]. Meanwhile, UAV development soared to new heights. BAE Systems announced its Taranis supersonic drone, which can blow past the Predator (135 mph or 217 kph) and Reaper (300 mph or 483 kph). On a smaller scale, AeroVironment debuted the Puma AE, a hand-launched, fixed-wing UAV equipped with a 360-degree camera, laser illuminator and infrared night vision, while Prox Dynamics deployed a 35-ounce (992gram) hand-held chopper drone. Elsewhere, work is underway on developing insect-and-bird-sized drones featuring flight dynamics taken from the natural world.
Robot Overlords and AI Nannies
MiniMAX takes X-rays out of the hospital and into the field. © Copyright 2011 Los Alamos National Security, LLC. All rights reserved.
Do you get the feeling that we’re being watched? Between Google Glass, camera phones, webcams, Kinect in our homes and drones in the sky, it’s not surprising, but some of the new breed of portable sensors might just save your life. To address the gaps left by fiber optic cameras and bulky robots, Bounce Imaging is developing the Explorer, a throwable, baseball-sized camera cluster that can transmit panoramic images of wherever it lands. The device will provide soldiers, police, firefighters, and search-and-rescue teams with valuable information and keep them out of unnecessary danger. Bounce could adapt future versions to carry chemical or radiation sensors. Whomever those first-responders and medics rescue needs prompt medical attention. Luckily, Los Alamos National Laboratory has created the MiniMAX, a portable X-ray that lives up to its name. About the size of a digital single lens camera with an extra wide lens (plus some foot-wide flat bits), MiniMAX weighs 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms) and runs on a 9-volt battery, making it ideal for field use .
With robot development proceeding apace and Asimov’s three laws of robotics nowhere in sight, how long before our “servants” round us up “for our own good”? We give it a year. OK, so maybe adorable ASIMO doesn’t make your blood run cold, but that’s only because he can’t chase you down like Boston Dynamics’ WildCat robot. Meanwhile, artificial intelligences plot to take over your life. The Moto X cell phone learns your patterns and schedule and takes actions on its own, such as limiting which calls ring through at certain hours or reading texts to you when it detects that you are driving. The Canary home security system uses your habits -- derived from a camera, infrared motion sensor and a microphone -- to distinguish you and your pets from possible intruders. Various wearable monitors and screens marketed for fitness and checking e-mails may one day connect us to our gadgets, enabling them to predict our needs or even to lock our transmissions when we seem too tired or wired to drive.
One of the chief problems with wearable electronics -- whether it’s Google Glass or a smart watch -- lies in overcoming the dork factor. Your device may pack revolutionary potential, but if it looks like something Geordi La Forge’s sister would wear in wood shop, you’re done for. Landing a 12page feature in Vogue’s September issue was a coup for Google Glass, but it will take more than fashionista props to overcome that form factor, or the silliness of that head-twitching interface. Of greater concern, however, are privacy and ethical issues raised by a wearable camera and augmented reality device. Someone has already developed an app that enables users to take pictures by winking, and Lambda Labs is developing a facial recognition app. Some states and municipalities have considered making the devices illegal. A woman in California has already been ticketed for driving while wearing a pair, under a “driving while monitor visible to driver” law. Google has a lot riding on the gadget, including a patent that would enable the company to track what a user looks at and then charge real-world advertisers. In theory, Google Glass could display ads too, or superimpose virtual ads over real-world ones. Google Now, a function that tries to predict information a user wants before he or she searches for it, makes another likely match for the gadget. But will it catch on or become the Segway of eyewear? Only time will tell.
Zombie Consoles and Creepy Kinect
Commercial Space Pays Off
Kinect Group Program Manager Scott Evans (R), shows a guest the newest generation Kinect sensor for the Xbox. One during a May 2013 press event unveiling Microsoft’s new Xbox One.
One year after Nintendo’s Wii U hit stores, Microsoft and Sony announced their eighth generation consoles -- just in time for industry insiders to declare the market sector dead. Even after removing its controversial connectivity requirements, mandatory Kinect integration and digital rights management (DRM) confusion, the Xbox One fell short of the expectations of both users and Microsoft, which designed it as an all-in-one entertainment bridge. PlayStation 4 debuted to mixed reviews as well, and that’s important, because consoles might just be circling the bit bucket. Sales and rentals of disc games dropped 21 percent in 2012, in part because the shape of the games industry has changed. We can now download games through online stores like steam and cloud services like OnLive and play them on our portable devices. In response, game developers are breaking free of platformspecific coding, while hardware developers put out potentially console-killing devices like the Razer Edge Pro gaming tablet and the NVidia Shield. Such gadgets are portable, capable of downloading and streaming games and powerful enough to run graphics-intensive titles.
Victory! Earth forms the backdrop for this image, featuring Dragon-2 in the grasp of the International Space Station’s Remote Manipulator System or Canadarm2 in March 2013. Image courtesy NASA
With the space shuttle retired, the constellation program dead and NASA’s Space Launch System politically embattled, the low-orbit-trucking free-for-all is on, and private-sector space enterprises are rushing to fill the gap. And 2013 was a particularly good year. We saw two of the chief contenders -- SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp., both recipients of NASA funding under the Commercial Crew Initiative -- successfully complete testing and docking procedures with the International Space Station. Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic continued its plans to provide onepercenters somewhere to spend whatever cash they aren’t using to light their Gurkha Black Dragon cigars and mop up spills of 1928 Krug. This year, the company’s spaceship Two became the first commercial spacecraft to pass Mach One, bringing it one step closer to its goal of taking passengers to the edge of space and back at $250,000 a pop.
Health Care for All, Six at a Time
After 42 instances in which House Republicans voted to repeal, defund or otherwise undermine the Affordable Care Act -- culminating in a 16day government shutdown -- it seemed the Obama administration could finally declare victory. There was just one problem: The $400-million enrollment system, HealthCare.gov, didn’t work so well. The downtime meant more than embarrassment; it represented a potential threat to Obamacare’s economic foundation, which relies on enrollments to distribute risk and keep premiums down. Adding insult to uninsured injury, three programmers threw together a more effective insurance Web site, HealthSherpa, in a matter of days. Although it lacks signup options and other HealthCare.gov services, many frustrated consumers have used it to narrow their options. Meanwhile, scam Web sites continue to lure customers from legitimate state exchanges, and some hackers have published tools designed to bring down the site with distributed denial of service attacks, although the use and effectiveness of such measures remains unclear.
June 2013, a series of documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden sparked an international debate over how much latitude to extend the NSA in its surveillance activities. It also raised questions concerning how deeply in bed American phone and Internet service providers have been with government agencies; although providers report being legally forced to cooperate and keep mum, some companies voluntarily entered into lucrative contracts to provide data to government agencies. Beyond the NSA, the revelations also shown a light on the ways other agencies, which are governed by a hodgepodge of laws, regulations and oversight, use metadata to play connect the dots. Metadata is data about data; it doesn’t involve content, but can include information such as dates, call durations and phone numbers. The CIA, for example, paid AT&T $10 million per year to search its databases for phone numbers associated with terrorists overseas. Because AT&T blocked the information of any American who might have been on the receiving end of such a call, the contract did not violate the agency’s restriction against gathering intelligence concerning the “domestic activities of U.S. persons.” However, given that the FBI could subpoena such information and choose to share it with the agency, the lines appear more penciled-in than inked.
The NSA: No Strings Attached
3-D Printing Expands in All Directions Almost 30 years after its 1984 debut, 3-D printing is busting out all over. The intervening progress has seen the technology develop from a narrow, specialized manufacturing gimmick to a revolutionary $2.7-billion industry. To take two extreme examples, bioprinters today can run off organics ranging from food to human tissue, while plans published online for 3-D-printed guns pose a challenge to existing gun laws and enforcement. Today, people print simple robots, functional cameras, self-portrait action figures, musical instruments, phone cases, toys, sports equipment and bits and bobs for around the house. Sure, right now the products might look like something assembled in Minecraft, but the technology continues to improve and should become cheaper as more people adopt it. Scanners, for example, continue to grow more affordable, accessible and portable. One example, Structure Sensor, clips to an iPad. As 3-D printable electronics become more common, we could one day soon print our own tablets, phones and household gadgets. And as prices drop, the technology could revolutionize the making and distributing of life-saving devices like simple water filters or self-closing pit latrines. Our plastic-fantastic future begins today.
In 2014 and Beyond the Best is Yet to Come By Jon Collins It was Danish physicist Niels Bohr who coined the phrase, “Prediction is very difficult, particularly about the future.” In technology circles, especially, predictions often sit at the bottom of the heap, a few tiers down from lies, damn lies, statistics and ICT vendor positioning statements. Fortunately we have a few, quite solid premises upon which to construct any views of the future. Not least, that Moore’s Law continues to play out. The principle, concerning the rate of increase of transistors on a single silicon chip, has a lot to answer for. While some of the spin-off factors have started to slow (for example clock speeds are reaching their maximum), senior wonks still give us another 10 years of shrinkage . Given that we’re still acting as if computer power is an infinite resource, we’ll probably benefit from another decade or so of efficiency improvements following that point. The main consequence is that the technology ‘market’ will continue to commoditise. Tech companies have a window of opportunity to make hay from new capabilities before they are rolled into the substrate, a reality that has seen the demise of many a mega-corporation. From commoditising corporate and desktop computing and servers, margins have all but vanished. The phenomenon known as cloud computing could also be known as, “What happens when processing becomes no more than a commodity?” Existing providers will turn towards higher-value cloud services such as analytical farms as their business models become increas-
ingly tight. The same wave has led to the rise of the mobile device and the inaccurately-stated “death of the PC”. While we’re not seeing desktop and computers heading for the landfills, they have become good enough for most people’s needs. Cue the (equally inaccurate) death of the tablet when people find little to be gained from upgrading in a year or so. Even as existing technologies are subsumed, there remains plenty to be gained from extending technology’s reach further into our business and personal lives. We shall see a groundswell of smart monitors and control devices integrate with a cloudbased back-end to deliver the Internet of Things. While I didn’t coin the term ‘Bring Your Own Thing’, I wish I had. Does this mean we will all be living in smart cities in the immediate future? Realistically, no. While we might see one-off examples, the costs would be too high, the benefits marginal and the downsides too great. We can look instead towards more specific examples. My money’s on municipal waste disposal, home automation and industryspecific use cases. While commoditisation gives us the raw materials with which to architect our technological future, we also require the ability to control resources and service
flows as a whole. It’s not hard to see how the wave of interest in software-defined ‘everything’ presents the latest iteration in our efforts to do so. We are, however, many years from what we might term ‘the orchestration singularity’: the moment at which computers, storage, networking and other resources can manage themselves with minimal human intervention. In the meantime, our ability to make the best use of technology will continue to be constrained. Speaking of constraints, none greater exists than the network which, despite having the inordinate ability to shift data around its core, lags behind our abilities to create or process it. Significant advances will come from mobile; not least we can expect 4G LTE to make a real difference by operating at double WiFi speeds, reducing latency with minimal ‘hops’. It would be a mistake, however, to believe that the main benefit should be faster movement of large data volumes. As we recognise ongoing limitations on data movement, we will innovate around open data and open interfaces to develop smarter ways to store and access information without requiring raw data to be transmitted. What does all this mean to business, culture and society? Technology will create new
opportunities and challenges for all businesses, but for some more than others. Those with strong ties to the physical world - utilities, retail/supply, healthcare and manufacturing need to prepare for considerably higher volumes of data due to the groundswell of smart, while content and media industries face re-intermediation as a result of next-generation delivery platforms. IT departments will have their work cut out, as ever, keeping the lights on for existing strata of technology while being expected to conjure innovation and deliver it to decidedly un-agile lines of business. Meanwhile, lines of business will move from digitisation to re-delegation as sales, marketing and other technologies become too much of an overhead to manage. Outside of the business world, today’s technology advances inevitably result in whole new methods of surveillance — computing is a two-edged sword, which means we need to think hard about the kind of world we want to live in. As many have highlighted, last year’s Edward Snowden revelations indicate not a general failure of government, but a failure of governance. Ultimately, what happens over the next five years will show that we have no more than scratched the surface of technology’s potential. As time passes, we shall come to terms with the fact that the data-rich world we are creating is akin to stumbling upon a new dimension — driving the requirement for, and acceptance of, virtual identities and online representations.
ITU experts explore ways forward in dynamic spectrum usage By: ETR
Spectrum management collaborative discussions on best practices for the use of White Spaces by Cognitive Radio Systems (CRS) Key industry players, regulators, operators, manufacturers and research institutions gathered in Geneva at an ITU Workshop on White Spaces and Cognitive Radio Systems (CRS). ‘White Spaces’ refer to radiofrequencies which may be used at given times and locations without causing harmful interference to, or claiming protection from, incumbent radio services. CRS refer to a radio system capable of obtaining knowledge on its environment and dynamically adjusting its operational parameters accordingly in order to operate without causing harmful interference. ITU provides a unique forum for collaborative discussions on the technical, operational, economical and regulatory aspects of spectrum management between all stakeholders. Discussions during the workshop centred on international and national regulations and best practices for the use of White Spaces by cognitive radio systems. The ITU World Radiocommunication Conference 2012 (WRC-12) concluded that the current international regulatory framework can accommodate cognitive radio systems,
without being changed. The development of these systems, such as TV white spaces, is therefore in essence in the hands of national regulators in each country. Regulators will depend on best practices, which are currently being studied by ITU Radiocommunication Study Groups 1, 5 and 6. ITU fully supports the use of spectrum through sharing arrangements with existing services to promote more efficient use of spectrum while protecting other services, hence providing long-term assurance for investments in radiocommunication systems. ITU-R Study Group 1 (responsible for Spectrum
Management studies) is expected to provide a Report on best practices in Spectrum management for cognitive radio systems by mid-2014. Discussions in the Workshop highlighted the need for these best practices to address the coordination of geo-location databases in border areas; the co-existence between licensed and unlicensed uses in the same spectrum; equipment type approval and market surveillance; and the means of monitoring and resolving cases of harmful interference that may arise from unlicensed uses of spectrum into licensed ones. “The global management of spectrum, in an impartial manner, remains one of the
critical functions of ITU,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré. “ITU Member States have entrusted us with this mandate which will become even more significant as we prepare for an exponential growth in data and connected devices. ITU will continue to work with all members and stakeholders to ensure an equitable and effective management of this precious global resource.” Several workshops on this issue will be organized by ITU to promote collaborative and open discussions in the coming months. “This workshop and future discussions on this issue in ITU will help in achieving a better understanding of what is to be expected for cognitive systems, such as those using TV white spaces and assist ITU in studying and promoting best practices in this regard and enable cognitive radio systems to develop in a sustainable way, in harmony with other systems using the same spectrum,” said Mr François Rancy, Director of ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau. “ITU continues its unique role through dialogue between industry players and member administrations to create an enabling environment for telecommunications broadband access through more efficient spectrum usage,” said Mr Sergey Pastukh, Chairman, ITU-R Study Group 1.
Acer names semiconductor veteran as new CEO By: Shahzaib Amin Taiwanese computer maker Acer has named Jason Chen, vice president of worldwide sales and marketing at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, as its new president and CEO, effective Jan. 1. Acer’s board of directors chose Chen as the company’s CEO Monday. Acer founder Stan Shih will continue to serve as chairman of the company, Acer said in a press release. Shih, in a statement, called Chen “the ideal executive to lead our transformation.” Last week Acer said it would refocus its business on software and cloud services with its PC-
making business lagging. Chen joins Acer after Jim Wong, who had been named to take over as its next CEO, left the company in November. Wong had been named as Acer’s next CEO just two weeks earlier, but left “in light of the company’s recent performance,” the company said. Wong, who was company president, had been slated to take over as CEO in 2014, but the company had posted poor earnings on declining PC shipments. The company, the world’s fourth largest PC vendor, has primarily sold products to consumers,
but sales of tablets and smartphones have been hurting its business. Shih took over leadership of the company after Wong left. Acer said in November it had eliminated the CEO position. Chen served joined Taiwan Semiconductor in 2005 as vice president of corporate development. He has been in his current position there since 2008. Previously, Chen worked at Intel in sales and marketing positions for 14 years, joining that company as sales manager for Taiwan. He was later promoted to regional sales manager for Greater China.
He later served as Intel’s vice president and general manager for the Asia-Pacific region and as the corporate vice president of the sales and marketing group at Intel’s U.S. headquarters.
Apple, Samsung CEOs agree to mediation in court dispute By: Muhammad Farooq Samsung’s Oh-Hyun Kwon and Apple’s Tim Cook will attend the mediation with three to four in-house counsel by or before Feb. 19. No outside counsel will attend, according to a joint court filing by the companies’ attorneys. The filing on Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose division said that senior legal executives from Apple and Samsung met in person on Monday to discuss settlement opportunities, and agreed upon a mediator “who has experience mediating high profile disputes.” The court had ordered the companies on Nov. 13 to submit
a proposal regarding settlement discussions before the March 2014 trial, according to the filing. The mediation meeting follows unconfirmed reports that the two companies are looking to settle some of their patent disputes in various courts. Similar mediation efforts have not been successful previously. The two companies have several patent disputes including another in the same court. A jury in the California court awarded damages to Apple of US$1.05 billion in 2012, after deciding that Samsung had infringed on Apple’s patents in its products. The damages were reduced after a second trial last year
for recalculating a part of the damages, but Samsung still has to pay Apple about $930 million. Apple renewed in December its motion for a permanent injunction on the sale of Samsung’s products that infringed three of its patents, after an appeals court vacated the denial of the injunction. The District Court will now hear arguments on the injunction on Jan. 30. Although Samsung has claimed that it has discontinued selling the particular models found to infringe or designed around Apple’s patents, an injunction is important to let Apple combat any future infringement by Samsung “through products not
The CEOs of Apple and Samsung Electronics will participate in mediation ahead of a March trial in a patent dispute in a federal court in California. more than colorably different from those already found to infringe,” Apple said in the filing. The other dispute in the court is over more recent products from the two companies.
In Palestine, Technologists Find Freedom to Innovate By: Monty Munford In his 1997 book I Saw Ramallah, the Palestinian writer and poet Mourid Barghouti creates a wonderful evocation of what it is like to be an exile… and what it means to be a Palestinian. Barghouti spent his childhood in Ramallah before leaving for Cairo to study in 1966 at the age of 22. His timing was appalling. While he was at Cairo University the 1967 Six-Day War began and finished, and he was consequently denied entry to Palestine. He then lived the rootless and nomadic life of many an exile before him, spending time in Amman, Baghdad, Beirut and Budapest before returning to Cairo. His description of his attempted return to Ramallah 30 years later is poetic, moving and gripping. Barghouti’s tale is tragic and is one of too many in this part of the world. The Millennia-old dispute between the Semitic tribes of Jews and Arabs is unlikely to be solved in our lifetimes, but some seeds of hope are beginning to emerge from the Palestinian IT and tech sector. According to PITA (the Palestinian Information Network of IT Companies), more than 10% of Palestine’s GDP now comes from IT outsourcing and a nascent startup ecosystem is attracting early investments. Even more interestingly, the Israeli arms of global tech giants that are availing themselves of Palestinian engineers and coders as a cheaper alternative to using Israeli companies. Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, Microsoft and Intel all work with Palestinian IT companies that
are around 25% cheaper than their Israeli equivalents and are very local indeed in terms of geography if less so in terms of politics. Moreover, the director of developer relations at Google Israel has extended an open invitation for Palestinians to work on mobile apps at its Tel Aviv centre. That invitation has also been offered by the Microsoft Development Centre in the Israeli city of Herzliya. But such olive branches, welcome as they are, cannot be accepted by young Palestinian entrepreneurs because of political bureaucracy. On a recent trip to Ramallah to speak at the Expotech event, I was left stranded in Tel Aviv because of the intense snowstorms that afflicted the country, and unlike Mourid Barghouti I didn’t even manage to see Ramallah, let alone meet Ramallah companies. While the road was blocked going into Ramallah and only army vehicles were being allowed through, it was still possible for people to come down to Tel Aviv, 50 miles to the south. When I suggested to the organiser that a selection of startups should come to meet us in Tel Aviv, he laughed out loud. He was a Palestinian who was ‘lucky’ enough to hold an Israeli ID, something that
is unusual for Palestinians. If you don’t have one, you’re not allowed into Israel, so it was impossible for Palestine startups to meet us in Tel Aviv and, crucially, not possible for them to take up the invitations from Google and Microsoft. This also creates big problems for Palestinian companies wanting to travel abroad. Israel’s Ben Gurion airport is only an hour’s drive from Ramallah, but because of these restrictions, the only alternative for Palestinians is to cross the border at Jordan and undertake the four-hour car journey to Amman. In spite of these challenges, a nascent startup ecosystem is slowly being created. When Palestine was given observer nation status by the United Nations in 2012, the Palestinian Diaspora began to trickle back into the country and while that trickle has yet to reach biblical flood dimensions, it is flowing faster by the month. This has been aided by GloPal, an IT social network of Palestinian companies, entrepreneurs, investors and IT professionals who share information about the sector and events such as the previously mentioned Expotech that had attracted more than 700 attendees from around the Arab world and
beyond. Alan Weinkrantz is a sector specialist based in San Antonio, Texas, who has advised PITA on its technology ecosystem strategy and divides his time between Israel and the US. He is passionate about the growth of Palestine as a tech centre. “The tech sector in Palestine is happening and it’s happening now, and that’s regardless of whatever American President or US senior figure tries to do,” he says. “There are naturally evolving ecosystems that occur everywhere in the world and here it is no different. I live in San Antonio in Texas. We are five hours away from Dallas and we’re also five hours from Monterrey in Mexico. The startup community here veers towards Mexico because it’s cheaper, but it doesn’t matter where these ecosystems happen. “Think about it. Ramallah and Tel Aviv are closer than Brighton and London are in the UK. When it comes to entrepreneurship, it doesn’t matter where you live and what religion you follow. The religion, the only religion, is startup culture because nobody can occupy the cloud.” Palestine’s example here is obviously the huge success and influence of Tel Aviv and one that any city would like to emulate. In spite of the barriers placed in front of it, the Palestinian tech ecosystem is here to stay. Seeing Ramallah as a place where entrepreneurship flourishes is undoubtedly something that Mourid Barghouti will be very proud of.
WhatsApp deal gives Facebook a path to crowded China market By: Shahzaib Amin
It might not have figured in Facebook’s calculations, but its deal to buy WhatsApp may help the social networking giant get access to the Chinese market. Unlike Facebook which is blocked in China, the main site of WhatsApp can be accessed in the country and the product is available for download. Facebook has previously said it has been examining its entry into the Chinese market. But authorities in the nation control sensitive content on social networking sites, either through deleting user posts, or blocking access to the services. This happened in July 2009 when China cut access to Facebook, after protests in the western part of the nation broke out into ethnic violence. Despite the government block, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg once said he was interested in expanding the company’s presence in China. In 2010, he was even spotted visiting a few of China’s biggest Internet firms, fueling speculation that his company was on the verge of setting up a joint venture in the country. Since then, Facebook has yet
to formally dip its toes into the Chinese market. The social network’s potential to help users organize over political issues is a key reason why Chinese authorities have blocked the site, according to analysts. The mobile instant messaging client WhatsApp, in contrast, hasn’t met such scrutiny in China. The main reason is probably that the product isn’t that popular in the nation. The app has over 450 million monthly users across the world, and Facebook’s CEO believes it will eventually reach the 1 billion users figure. But
In China, it lags way behind WeChat, the dominant mobile app in the instant messaging space from Tencent. The app, also known locally as Weixin, has over 270 million monthly active users, most of them in China. But WeChat isn’t simply a messaging app, and has evolved into a social networking platform to host other services, according to analysts. “Weixin is so well-established in China,” said Mark Natkin, managing director for Marbridge Consulting. “It continues to gain strength as
Tencent expands the platform into far beyond mobile instant messaging, but into e-commerce, e-payment, and gaming and a variety of other areas.” Other Chinese Internet firms are also getting into messaging apps. Last year, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group launched Laiwang, and China Telecom has partnered with a local Internet firm to roll out its own YiChat app. But even these more established Chinese companies are struggling to compete with WeChat, Natkin said. “I think trying to enter and compete in China in the mobile instant messaging market would be very challenging,” he added. In addition, Facebook would have to overcome any regulatory concerns Chinese authorities might have with the product, he said. In November, a Chinese official said the government actually welcomed “Facebook-like sites” to do business in the country, but that they would have to follow relevant laws. This could include not circulating content that will threaten China’s stability.
Can the Internet of Things Drive Adoption of Energy Harvesters? The Internet of Things adds connectivity to things. It is a broad term referring to applications as diverse as internet connected vehicles to consumer electronics such as smart phones. However, the edge of the Internet of Things network will consist of simpler sen-
sors and wireless devices that provide, among other things, the identification of objects, sensing, control and automation. The simplest, passive RF devices, with relatively short range, will potentially be the highest volume of all devices and come in at the lowest price
points. Adding power to these devices enables more functionality such as sensing, mesh networking and automated control. However, the return on investment of many wireless sensors in different applications is dependent in part on the lifetime
of the device – which is most usually a function of the battery lifetime. A device lasting ten years versus two has a dramatic change on the ROI calculation, particularly if these sensors are embedded in devices adding significant labour cost for battery replenishment.
Satya Nadella to succeed Ballmer as Microsoft CEO By: ETR Microsoft has finally concluded its protracted search and chosen its new CEO: Satya Nadella, who as executive vice president of the company’s Cloud and Enterprise group has successfully steered the shift of the company’s back-end server software and tools to the cloud. The company also announced that Bill Gates will step down as chairman of the board of directors and take on a new role on the board as founder and technology advisor. In this new role, Gates “will devote more time to the company, supporting Nadella in shaping technology and product direction,” the company said in a press release. Board member John Thompson will become chairman. As he takes the reins from Steve Ballmer, Nadella becomes only the third CEO in Microsoft’s nearly 40-year history. Gates was the first. “During this time of transformation, there is no better person to lead Microsoft than Satya Nadella,” Gates said in a Microsoft news release issued Tuesday. “Satya is a proven leader with hard-core engineering skills, business vision and the ability to bring people together. His vision for how technology will be used and experienced around the world is exactly what Microsoft needs as the company enters its next chapter of expanded product innovation and growth.” In Nadella, Microsoft has chosen a long-time, loyal insider who knows the company well and is reportedly well-liked by his peers and the staff. A twenty-
plus year company veteran, he has risen through the ranks, most recently leading the group in charge of computing platforms, developer tools and cloud services. What Nadella is not is an outsider, making his choice less compelling to those who believe that Microsoft needed someone with no prior history and attachments at the company who could shake things up. Nadella took over what was then the Server and Tools division in February 2011, and has managed it successfully by all accounts, increasing its revenue while overseeing the transition to cloud computing. Prior to that, he was senior vice president of research and development for the online services division and vice president of the Microsoft business division. Nadella joined Microsoft in 1992 from Sun Microsystems. He’s a native of Hyderabad, India, and earned a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin. He also has a master’s in business administration from the University of Chicago. Ballmer announced his decision to retire in August. It shocked many who had assumed he would stay on for several more years, especially after having announced a broad reorganization only a month earlier. More than 100 possible candidates were initially identified, of which “several dozen” were interviewed before narrowing the list down to about 20, John Thompson, a
board member and the leader of the CEO search committee, said in a December . Some candidates were rumored to have taken themselves out of the running, citing concerns over the influence of Gates and Ballmer, who is one of the company’s biggest individual shareholders. For a time, Ford CEO Alan Mulally was reportedly a front-runner, but he recently told Ford’s board he had no plans to leave his job. There was speculation that the board pushed out Ballmer, particularly when, a week after Ballmer shared his retirement plans, Microsoft announced an agreement with one of its biggest investors. The agreement gave ValueAct Capital the option of a seat on Microsoft’s board, and in exchange it agreed not to wage a proxy battle or increase its shares above a certain level. Some analysts said the deal reflected the dissatisfaction of Microsoft investors who are unhappy that the company’s stock price has fallen about 40 percent during Ballmer’s 14 years as CEO. Ballmer said at the time his retirement had nothing to do with ValueAct and that the decision to step down was his own. He reiterated that position in November, when Ballmer and members of Microsoft’s board told The Wall Street Journal he had decided to retire after becoming convinced a new leader was needed to help Microsoft get where it needs to be more quickly. Among the other rumored candidates were Ford’s Mulally;
Kevin Turner, the company’s COO and former CIO of Walmart and Stephen Elop, former Nokia CEO and former division president at Microsoft, who is due to return to Redmond when Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s smartphone business is completed. Nadella will have to lead Microsoft through its transformation into a company that can sell more cloud services and hardware devices alongside its packaged software. That applies to both its consumer and enterprise businesses, as software moves to the cloud and devices like tablets and smartphones take on more tasks handled by PCs. Products central to the transformation include Microsoft Xbox gaming console and Surface tablets, its Office 365 online applications and its Azure cloud infrastructure platform. Microsoft will be selling more devices when it closes the US$7.2 billion Nokia deal. Nokia and Microsoft have partnered for years to make smartphones that run the Windows Phone OS, like the Lumia line. Nadella will also have to oversee the
Satellite hotspot promises to bring Wi-Fi everywhere By: ETR There will soon be nowhere to hide from Facebook selfies, Justin Bieber news and emails from your boss. Satellite communications company Iridium has developed a Wi-Fi hotspot that can bring Internet connectivity to almost every corner of the planet. The pocket-size device, set to be released in the second quarter, connects to the company’s satellite voice network to provide service similar to the analog modems that were commonly used for landline Internet access until about a decade ago. Speeds will be low -- about 20 kilobits per second, according to the company -- but a slow connection might be better than none at all, depending on
the location. To tackle the slow data rate, Iridium will offer its own email application that utilizes compression to increase data transmission efficiency. That should enable about 20 textbased emails per minute, the
company said. “We’re working with app developers to create apps that are maximized to run on our network,” said Ashley Eames, a spokeswoman for Iridium. The hotspot will cost about US$800 and data rates will
vary depending on the Iridium airtime plan. They will be sold as regional or seasonal packages with prices of around $1 per minute on prepaid plans. Data speeds are expected to get faster in the coming years after Iridium launches a new fleet of satellites. The low data transmission speed on the current network is a result of the satellites having been designed when data and Internet access weren’t large priorities. The Iridium Next satellites that will launch from 2015 should provide 1.5M bps data service, according to the company. Iridium offers a separate satellite broadband service, although it requires a large antenna and is targeted at maritime and aviation use.
ICE Unlock app adds fingerprint ID to Android devices By Ben Coxwort One of the big selling features of phones like the iPhone 5s and the HTC One max is their ability to verify the identification of the user by scanning their fingerprint. While those phones use a built-in scanner to do the job, Diamond Fortress Technologies’ new ICE Unlock app lets Android mobile devices do the same thing, but using their camera. Users initially start out by enrolling the print of their own index finger as the one that will unlock the phone. From there, every time they want to use the phone, they hold their index and middle fingers 4 to 6 inches (7 to 13 cm) in front of the rear camera, then line things up so
that the pad of their index finger fills an oval indicator on the app screen. Once the camera has
focused and taken a still, and the app has compared the image to the template it has on file, the
phone should unlock. It reportedly doesn’t matter if the finger skin is dirty or scratched, although should the app not unlock the phone, users can still access it via a PIN. One of the claimed advantages that ICE Unlock has over a scanner is the fact that while scanners can get covered with skin oil and become unreliable, the app doesn’t require any touching of the lens. Additionally, users don’t have to wonder if they’re applying the right amount of pressure, as they would with a scanner. ICE Unlock is available now for free via Google Play, and is reportedly compatible with a wide range of Android devices.
10 Non-murderous Things Drones Do Every Day By Nathan Chandler
Orville and Wilbur Wright would gape in awe at today’s flying machines. Not only are these contraptions flying faster and farther than ever before, but some can do it all without so much as a single human being on board. The days of the drones are upon us -- whether we like it or not. Drones, which are also called unmanned aerial vehicles (or UAVs), are contraptions that take to the air without human pilots in the cockpit. Instead, people control drones from the ground or, increasingly, the drones simply fly themselves without the need for human intervention. These machines take all shapes and sizes, all made to address different airborne tasks. Venture capitalists dumped more than $40 million into dronerelated startups in 2013, and sales of UAVs could top $8 billion within 10 years. In spite of this growth spurt, drones are not without controversy. For years, drones have been making headlines all over the world, as the U.S. and other countries use them for swift and hard-to-anticipate military
While military drones like the one pictured here continue to be the subject of controversy, you may not realize that drones have been doing all sorts of helpful things for years.
strikes. That’s why many people associate drones with mechanized, faceless Orwellian warfare. But drones do a lot of other jobs, too, none of which have anything to do with hurting people. These non-lethal drones are on the cusp of transforming all sorts
of industries and could revolutionize our economy and lifestyles in ways we could have only dreamed of just a few years ago. Keep reading and you’ll see all sorts of nonmurderous missions for UAVs. Don’t fear drone-darkened skies just yet -- they may be friendlier than you think.
A demonstration event in China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in October 2012 showed off the ability of UAVs to monitor agriculture, forestry, land resources and water resources.
Farming and ranching are arduous livelihoods, made all the more difficult when landowners must traverse many miles and thousands of acres to check on crops and livestock. Drones skip the slow, muddy roads altogether and take the skies to look for signs of disease, examine crops, or even apply chemicals like fertilizer or herbicide. Not only does this save farmers from a lot of driving (and gas), it could result in better land management, which could then increase overall yields. Drones also help farmers keep an eye on all of their property and equipment. Most large farms in the U.S. are in rural areas, where there are fewer concerns about privacy and FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) policies regarding small flying craft. So long as the drones remain at less than 400 feet high, they are legal for such purposes. The next time you see what looks like a tiny crop duster in the distance, look again – it could be that your local farmer is taking his agricultural technology to new heights.
A police supervisory drone flying during a drill in Celle, Germany in August 2011. Let the paranoia begin in earnest. As if ubiquitous surveillance cameras weren’t enough, now digital cameras will be mounted to drones that tirelessly scour the skies around our cities, all in the name of maintaining law and order. Police forces must apply for the proper permits or warrants before deploying drones to watch citizens, and some have already done so. They’re used to monitor areas for illegal drug transactions, conduct chases, or even help with crime scene reconstruction. Police can put drones to work on search-and-rescue missions or to perform routine security sweeps at large, crowded events. Some manufacturers are exploring the idea of taking drones a step further, arming them with tear gas and other crowd control measures. Most forces haven’t put drones to large-scale use just yet, though, in large part due to privacy concerns. The American Civil Liberties Union, in particular, is very outspoken against the use of drones en masse without any sorts of real regulations in place. You can expect the hubbub over police drones to escalate in the next few years, as departments look to increase efficiency while cutting costs.
This NASA Global Hawk UAV is used for tropical storm and hurricane flyovers.
Cameras have been used on police drones like this one for years -- it’s no big surprise to know that creepers want to use the tech, too.
For all of the talk about legitimate, non-murderous ways that drones may benefit humanity, these machines appeal to the darker side of human nature, too. Criminals will have all sorts of uses for drones. International borders (and their accompanying border police) are pesky deterrents for drug smugglers. Drones offer potential for dropping drugs and other booty across border fences at a much lower risk. Not only are drones hard for the authorities to spot, but in the event that the drone is captured, the criminals will likely be miles from the scene. In 2011, a wannabe terrorist named Rezwan Ferdaus plotted to bomb American targets by affixing explosives to a drone -making it potentially lethal. But in a scenario that was criminal, but not a danger to human life, in a Brazil prison in 2012, authorities thwarted a drone helicopter loaded with cellphones intended for inmates. And of course, it’s not at all hard to imagine weirdoes from all over the place spying on people using drone-mounted cameras. In short, the potential for airborne mayhem is sky high.
Scientists are always looking for new ways to probe and investigate severe weather. For obvious reasons, they prefer to do their research without risking their lives. That’s where UAVs come in. In 2013, NASA began a program for investigating tropical storms, hoping to find better understanding of why some systems turn into killer hurricanes, while others peter out. For these missions, the researchers selected enormous Global Hawk drones, which have a wingspan as wide as a 737 and can fly for 28 straight hours at a maximum of 60,000 feet (18.3 kilometers), which is much higher than most piloted planes. Equipped with scientific instruments, the drones provide a constant stream of data regarding atmospheric conditions and storm intensity. Those instruments include a scanning high-resolution interferometer sounder instrument and Cloud Physics Lidar, as well as a dropsonde system from the National Oceanographic and Atmosphere Association.
This PETA drone, which is intended to capture footage of illegal hunting, was tested at the Erwin Wilder Wildlife Management Area in Norton, Mass. in October 2013.
UAVs outfitted with cameras and GPS capabilities are a boon to people who need to track wildlife. Natural resource departments and scientists often need to track individual animals (which may or may not be wearing tracking collars), as well as larger groups of creatures, in order to better understand their behaviors. Without UAVs, scientists are often stuck slogging through jungles and over mountains, trying to haul unwieldy and expensive gear in order to conduct their studies. Drones, however, let them skim along effortlessly, observing habitat and animals from afar, sometimes with less disturbance. Drones are already being used to combat poachers. Google is funding a program that buys drones for the World Wildlife Fund, which flies cameraequipped versions above areas where illegal hunting threatens endangered animals. Law enforcement can use the drones to monitor animals and anticipate potential ambush areas. Small and nearly silent, these drones are perfect for spying on criminals looking to rob countries of their natural resources.
Masters of Disasters
During a training exercise simulating a nuclear accident, a drone equipped with cameras and sensors is deployed to assess contaminated areas.
You already know that UAVs help scientists track and dissect the inner workings of hurricanes. But drones can also help in the aftermath of these huge storms and other natural disasters. Immediately after a natural disaster, authorities need to perform damage assessment, so that they know how many people are affected and how widespread the chaos might be. Drones are a cheap, efficient way to put many sets of digital eyes in the sky. Outfitted with still, video and infrared cameras, drones are also effective for search-and-rescue missions. They can fly far and wide through an area, following a precise search pattern in order to locate missing people. They can help first responders like police and fire units figure out where to set up temporary staging areas. They can spot survivors or even listen for sounds that they make, or pinpoint the locations of bodies. Even if streets are cluttered with impassable debris, drones can immediately take to the air and begin providing critical data. This kind of instant-on capability may make the difference of life or death for untold numbers of people.
French firefighters prepare a drone during tests in the Landes forest region.
Wildfires pose major risks to people and towns, especially in the western areas of the U.S. Forest managers use watch towers and helicopters to spot new blazes and to track active ones, but these are time-consuming, expensive and exhausting tasks. Launch a drone to keep an eye on the forests, though, and suddenly this job becomes much easier. In one case, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection launched a Predator drone, courtesy of the stateâ€™s National Guard unit. The Predator, which is roughly the size of a Cessna, was loaded with cameras and infrared imaging units to help it track the infamous Rim Fire, which burned through forests around Yosemite National Park. In addition to monitoring fires and looking for new ones, drones can help firefighters strategize. They can track the direction of a blaze and keep tabs on weather conditions that push the flames in one direction or another, and alert firefighters to unsafe conditions. They can even drop flame retardant to douse fires that threaten to burn out of control. Hovering drones can also amplify cell signals so that firefighters can stay in touch with headquarters. This is a huge benefit because so many forest fires happen in locations where cell service is weak or non-existent.
A UAV with a camera mounted on it photographs a canoe race on the San Marcos River in Martindale, Texas June 6, 2012
Oil and Gas Monitor
Aerial images of oil rigs enable personnel to perform safety checks from land.
Professional and amateur photographers and filmmakers are some of the biggest proponents of UAVs. They buy many of the more affordable models, tweak them to their liking, and use them for all sorts of still image and video projects. Many current drones come with mounting kits that let you attach a camera to the underside of the machine. With the camera in place, any photographer or videographer has a new world of creative potential at his or her fingertips. At the Burning Man festival in Nevada, drones fly in arcs over the crowd below, capturing the event’s creative spirit from above. Wedding photographers now hover over the bride and groom, to capture unique views of the ceremony and reception. Before affordable drones came along, those kinds of views were simply impossible to get without a helicopter or giant lift. Now, the skies are open to anyone who’s willing to trust a small drone with their pricey photography gear.
The oil and natural gas industries require sprawling, complex infrastructure that can be extremely difficult to monitor. Launch a drone, though, and suddenly these chores become much more efficient. For example, offshore oil rigs are notoriously hard to access. They’re miles out at sea, and there are a whole lot of them -- thousands are in the Gulf of Mexico alone. With drones, engineers on shore can look for safety problems, detect oil leaks, and patrol their rigs for any sign of trespassing. Both natural gas and oil require many miles of pipeline, and it’s tough for companies to keep tabs on these investments. Program a few drones to fly along a pipeline route, though, and the automated camera can send back a stream of images that can detect problems, whether they are nearby or in extremely remote locations. Drones aren’t just about safety, though. Companies also use them to explore the Earth for new sources of oil and gas. With the right kind of laser and infrared sensors attached to a drone, they can conduct surveys of terrain and get a better idea of where they might find deposits of energy sources.
The Sky is Not the Limit We tend to assume that drones are airborne machines. But as drone technology progresses, these devices are bypassing the heavens and instead learning to swim. Many new models of drone now “fly” through water on all sorts of missions. Some are used to perform underwater inspections. Companies deploy them to check on oil rigs, fish farms, assess storm damage, search water filtration systems, and view the hulls of ships. The military uses underwater drones to search for mines. Police can use similar models to look for signs of subsurface drug smuggling. Salvage experts and recreational divers can use drones to inspect sunken ships or even to look for treasures beneath the waves. Just as with airborne drones, there are limitless A remotely operated underwater vehicle used to check out the uses for underwater drones. All of these drones are literally opening new Baltic Sea pipeline. horizons for all types of businesses and organizations that need remote control robots for jobs that are too hard or too dangerous for people to perform. And while most governments will limit the uses of drones until they hammer out regulations and rules, the day that drones fills the skies and seas is closer than you might think.
Very first Porsche goes on display after gathering dust for over a century By David Szondy
Ask most petrolheads when the first Porsche was built and the likely answer you’ll get is 1948, when the Type 356 rolled out. In fact, that’s off by fifty years. This week, the Porsche Museum in StuttgartZuffenhausen will mark its fifth anniversary with the unveiling of the rediscovered and unrestored first Porsche, the P1 built in 1898. Recovered from a warehouse where it languished forgotten for over a century, it’s now the centerpiece of a new permanent exhibit telling the early history of Porsche and its founder. The official name of the P1 is the “Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton model,” but it gets its unofficial name because it was built by Ferdinand Porsche himself, who stamped “P1” standing for Porsche 1, on all the major components. It’s important historically, not only because it was the first car to be built by the founder of the Porsche company, but also because it contains a number of remarkable technological features. For a bit of automotive history, the P1 isn’t in that great a shape. Though it’s been cleaned up and conserved against further decay, the years have not been kind to the little electric car. There’s not much left apart from the chassis and the heavy, wooden dash. The tires, seats, body and floor are all gone, and what’s left looks more like a hay cart
than a car, but the museum has fitted what remains with a translucent blue plastic body to give some idea of what the P1 looked like in its glory days. The ironic thing about the P1 is that it wasn’t born out of Porsche’s interest in petrol engines, but in electricity. In 1893, at the age of 18, he was apprenticed to the electrical engineering firm of Béla Egger & Co, which later changed its name to Vereinigte Elektrizitäts-AG. There he worked his way to head of the testing department and the first assistant in the calculations office, where he made the acquaintance of Ludwig Lohner, owner of the K.K. Hofwagenfabrik Jacob Lohner & Comp. The latter was in the luxury carriage business, but the dawning of the motor
car was putting paid to the horse-drawn market and he’d decided to go into petrol and electric cars, and Porsche joined his staff. After helping to develop a concept electric car, Porsche was given more of a free hand to produce a new vehicle aimed at production. The result of this was the Egger-Lohner C2, AKA the P1, and when it drove through Vienna on June 26, 1898, it was one of the first vehicles registered in Austria. The rear-wheel drive P1 with stub axle front wheel steering was something of a convertible, with an alternating vehicle body that could be a coupé in the winter and an open topped Phaeton in the summer. Like many cars of its day, it had wooden wheels with pneumatic tires, and a
wheelbase of 1,600 mm (62.9 in). Of its 2,977 lb (1,359 kg) of curb weight, 1,103 lb (500 kg) were the batteries and 287 lb (130 kg) went to the motor. The heart of the P1 was the Octagon electric motor designed by Porsche with commutators wired both consecutively and in parallel, and a single-speed differential gear. It had a phosphor bronze motor shaft pinion that engaged a system of cast steel gear rings on internally toothed wheel hubs, and the motor itself was protected by shock absorbers and suspended to allow it to oscillate around the axle. Power came from the “Tudor system” 44-cell accumulator battery providing 120 amp hours, with the individual accumulator cells able to be connected and disconnected. The P1 had a 12-speed controller with six forward gears, two reverse gears and four braking gears. There was also a mechanical hand brake and an electrical short circuit brake activated by pressing on the steering wheel rim. Of course, this being 1898, performance left something to be desired with only 3 bhp (2.2 kW) of oomph, though it could do 5 bhp (3.7 kW) when overloaded. Top speed was 21 mph (33 km/h), with a cruising speed of 15 mph (24 km/h), and it had a driving range of up to five hours or about 49 mi (79 km).
Wearable Tech & The B2B Landscape By: Andrea Fishman Unlike many evolutions in technology where consumers lead the way in adoption, wearable technology is being adopted by B2B (business-to-business) enterprises at startling rates. While consumers are seeing little value beyond the novelty of new, smaller screens, businesses are discovering opportunities to utilize this disruptive technology to enhance core business processes. From supporting emergency workers during complex rescues to streamlining claims processing, the value of wearable technologies is much greater than seeing your email pop up on your watch screen, and businesses are racing to realize the financial benefits. The Devices While new devices are continuing to enter the market, three major categories currently dominate the wearable device landscape: ● Eyewear: Custom lenses/ frames, masks and visors that display email, video and data - most operated completely hands free - are emerging as the most innovative and engaging of the wearable devices. They allow users to view data, images and content in a contextual, projected manner, allowing two-way interaction and even feeding back of images and video to remote users. ● Bracelets and Watches: Used for both displaying and tracking data, some of these bracelets and watch technologies collect vital signs, geographic location and physical gestures, while others are serving as a mini screen on the users wrist, providing real-time video, data
and consumable content. ● “Activated” Products: Leveraging tools such as Bluetooth and real-time location tracking, traditional devices such as glucose machines, jackets and sensors are now conduits of rich information on how an individual is using the product, not merely packaging or clothing. Application within Industry Wearable devices are unique not only in the physical makeup, but in the software applications that are built to deliver the experience. Each industry has a unique opportunity for pioneers to arise in developing the tools and services necessary to improve daily efficiency. Safety, Security and Military: ● From teams seeing maps of buildings they are entering to identifying hot zones for firefighters and rescue teams, real time streaming of images and video gives context and detail to help emergency workers. Infrared detection in eyewear is helping rescuers find people in trauma zones and disasters. ● Healthcare: For medical workers in remote locations, eyewear is helping in remote assessment and diagnostic of patients. Activated products,
from skin patches to medical delivery devices are sharing information with medical providers and caregivers, enabling proactive alerting of adverse medical events. ● Insurance: By capturing images, documentation and consent in real time, the speed of processing claims and inspections of everything from vehicles to houses is becoming a differentiator in the market. As wearable technologies evolve from cutting edge, niche solutions to more mass-market acceptance, five key factors will drive success and adoption: Data Security: With every new technology comes new security considerations. When dealing with more personal interactions (such as personal health information or financial data), users may be hesitant in utilizing the features that make these devices most successful, even in a B2B setting. Organizations will need to develop a level of trust and security consistent with their other channels of interaction. Ease of Use: There are always early adopters that learn the ins and outs of these devices and pave the way for the masses. For devices to gain mass appeal, they need to have a short
learning curve. Innovators will find ways to make the complex simple, using simple swipes, gestures and voice commands to execute even the most complex interactions. Integration with Existing Technology: Similar to the growing tablet market, users are demanding a seamless experience across their screen sizes, no matter where they are. Wearables add a whole new dimension to this, as small screen size pushes limits and, with the instance of eyewear, screens are almost nonexistent. To maintain the utility and appeal of technology that workers already have in place, wearables need to deliver upon an existing level of service and brand experience, not force users to learn even more systems or interfaces. Safety: Depending on the industry and type of work that an employee is conducting, wearable technology may be a safety concern if proactive training is not provided. There is potential in using the technology to improve the efficiencies of many laborers and factory workers but a business disruption may go from an annoyance or distraction to a potentially life threatening situation. There are many disruptions as it is with a connected worker, adding a new piece of technology into the mix adds another layer of potential distractions. The need for wearable devices is going to be defined by the companies that recognize how they can be utilized for their business. Early pioneers may fail at the first attempt, but the initial investments are what will spark growth and innovation.
News Roundup: Secret IPOs, Tech Philanthropy and Bitcoin Psychology By: Dan Swinhoe
IPOs make a staggering amount of money. Just look at the currency raised by Twitter and Facebook over the last few years. But some companies seem to prefer to keep it hush-hush. The NY Times has a feature on Secret IPOs, it’s pretty good. One company that probably wishes for a bit more secrecy is Blackberry. New figures from IDC put its mobile market share at a measly 0.6%, rating, below the 0.7% of the ‘Other’ category. Or, as the NY Times put it, “even less than the 0.7% attributed to operating systems so inconsequential that IDC lumps them together in a collective category.” Ouch. And while we’re on the subject of figures, Global smartwatch shipments reached 1.9 million units last year according to Strategy Analytics. 2013 was clearly not the year of the wearables, just hype about them. But who knows what 2014 has in store? Probably more hype, if we’re being honest. Philanthropy, Conflict Metals, Gender and Censorship After its market cap reached $391 billion late last week, Google overtook Exxon Mobile to become the second most valuable company in the world. With so much money floating around the tech world it’s good to see a fair number of tech types on the list of 2013′s most philanthropic people.
In other bits of good tech news, Apple have declared its products now only use ‘Conflict-Free’ Metals, and Facebook have gone all postGender by adding loads of different options with which to define yourself, including “cisgender,” “transgender” and “intersex.” Microsoft, however, have come under fire for apparently enforcing the censorship of China’s Great Firewall in the US. Using Bing in the US seems to filter out certain stories about China, and this is even more apparent if typing in Chinese. The company defended itself by blaming “an error in our system.” Mo’ Money, Mo’ Acquisitions Step aside, Yahoo! 2014 and beyond is all about Vodafone’s purchasing power. The Telecoms company’s CEO Vittorio Colao has announced they could have $30 - 40 billion to spend on acquisitions in coming years. Mobile startups around the world are rubbing their hands with greedy glee. Not to be outdone though, Yahoo! have continued their year-long shopping spree with
the purchases of diary app maker Wander and recruiting startup Distill. Also parting with a healthy amount of money this week are Lithium Technologies, who are buying Klout for $100 million and Rakuten who are getting Viber for a mighty $900 million. The Kids Are Alright 2013 was apparently a slow year for Startups. According to data from SeedTable there were 867 tech startups founded in ten big tech cities [San Fran, London, Berlin etc.] in 2012, but a mere 175 in 2013. Fear not though, for the kids will save us! A study from Internships.com found that 72% of high school students and 64% of college students want to start a business someday. So give it a few years and we’ll be knee-deep in knee-high startups. Verbatim And on the subject of kids, Oracle CEO and tech man Larry Ellison has made his feelings know about the effects of tech on kids. “I am so disturbed by kids who spend all day playing videogames,” he said. “It can sometimes be disturbing to
see how technology has, I think, very, very negatively impacted the lives of our children.” Also in the media this week is Bill Gates, who took part in a Reddit AMA, revealing interesting facts such his favourite movie, fast food and that he likes Bridge. He also talked about Satya Nadella’s vision for Microsoft and how he uses a Surface 2 Pro, surprisingly. On the subject of Microsoft, Tech blogger Paul Thurrott recently decided he’d had enough and went to town on Microsoft 8, calling it a “A disaster in every sense of the word. This is not open to debate, is not part of some cute imaginary world where everyone’s opinion is equally valid or whatever. Windows 8 is a disaster. Period.” And finally Apple motor mouth Steve Wozniak has been in the press AGAIN this week, this time saying the Cloud isn’t safe from NSA spying. “I think most companies, just like Apple, start out young and idealistic,” he said. “But now all these companies are going to the cloud. And with the cloud you don’t have any control.” Bitcoin Blues Russia’s banned Bitcoins; there’s been DDoS attacks, thefts, tech issues, the lot. But it’s value is still hovering around the $6-700 mark, and Bing now do a live conversion for you, in a rare case of Bing being more useful than Google. Pando have run a
First Google Glass games released By Stuart Robarts
Following the launch earlier this week of a collection of frames for Glass, Google has launched the first handful of games for the device. In total, five simple mini games have been released that make use of its smartglass features. Tennis employs the player’s head a racket. The onboard gyroscope and accelerometer are used to control the game as the player tilts their head. Balance is also based on head movements, requiring the player to keep a pile of shapes from toppling over. In Clay Shooter, players call, “Pull!” and Glass uses the device’s accelerometer, along with some programmed physics, to help determine the flight of a clay pigeon.
The player is then required to get the pigeon in their sights and shoot it out of the sky by saying, “Bang!” Shape Splitter is a Fruit Ninjaesque game that requires players to slice through flying objects with their hands, and Matcher is a memory and concentration game based a classic card-matching game. It uses Glass’ gyroscope and
accelerometer to follow the position of the player’s head. Google says the games experiment with the features of Glass and demonstrate some of the possibilities for gaming with the device. It says they are aimed at inspiring developers to create more apps that take advantage of the device’s capabilities.
Google buys artificial intelligence start-up DeepMind Technologies By Nick Lavars According to a report from Re/code, Google has acquired UK-based artificial intelligence (AI) company DeepMind Technologies for US$400 million. The acquisition is the latest in a series of purchases by the search giant in the robotics and artificial intelligence arenas. According to its website, DeepMind is a “cutting edge artificial intelligence company” which combines
“the best techniques from machine learning and systems neuroscience to build powerful general-purpose learning algorithms.” Based in London, it was co-founded by neuroscientist Demis Hassabis, a child chess prodigy, Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman. Although DeepMind hasn’t released any commercial products, the company’s AI research was enough to attract the attention of key players
keeping a watchful eye on the technology. The Information reports that Facebook was also
in discussions with DeepMind, only to be beaten to the punch by Google, with CEO Larry Page finalizing the deal. The acquisition follows a flurry of recent purchases by Google, which saw it snap up smart home devices company Nest for $3.2 billion and Boston Dynamics, the engineering and robotics company responsible for various robots including BigDog, PETMAN, Cheetah and Atlas.
World’s largest solar bridge completed in London By Stuart Robarts
Work has finished on what is now the largest solar bridge in the world. Blackfriars Bridge, part of Blackfriars Station in London, has been fitted with 4,400 photovoltaic panels, which are expected to reduce the station’s CO2 emissions by an estimated 511 tonnes (563 tons) per year. Work began in spring 2009 and the station was operationally complete in time for the 2012 Olympics, with the solar array installation complete in March 2013. The full refurbishment of the station is now also complete. The installation of the solar panels was part of the wider redevelopment of Blackfriars Station, which includes a new entrance on the south bank of the River Thames, four new platforms and a improved underground station. The
station is a key part of the £6.5 billion (US$10.72 billion) Thameslink Programme, which aims to increase train capacity on one of Europe’s busiest stretches of railway running from north to south through central London. The array of Panasonic 250 Wp panels is the largest
solar array on a bridge in the world, covering a total area of 6,000 sq m (19,685 sq ft). Its maximum output is estimated at 1.1 MWp (megawatt peak) and it is expected to generate 900,000 kWh of electricity each year – over half the amount required to power the station. The panels are
fixed and south-facing. The installation of the array was highly complex, as it involved building on a Victorian bridge over an operational railway and the River Thames. A number of unexpected issues arose, including significant corrosion on the arches and required strengthening of the bridge. “Our work at Blackfriars demonstrates two key benefits of solar,” says Frans van den Heuvel, CEO of Solarcentury. “First, it can be integrated into the architecture to create a stunning addition to London’s skyline. Second, it can be integrated into the most complex of engineering projects; in this case being built above a construction site, over a rail track over a river.”
UAE Ministry of Education and Etisalat Partner to Launch First Technology Hub in UAE By: ETR The UAE Ministry of Education today launched the ‘Etisalat Education Technology Center’, a major initiative in smart education as well as the first state of the art educational technology hub in the country to focus on R&D and experimental educational tools. This launch is a result of the strategic partnership between the UAE Ministry of Education and Etisalat, leading telecom operator in UAE, and in association with the technology giant Microsoft. At a press conference, the official launch was made in the presence of H.E. Humaid Mohammed Obaid Al Qattami, UAE Minister of Education, H.E. Marwan Al Sawalih, the Ministry Undersecretary, Saleh Al Abdooli, CEO, Etisalat UAE and Khalil Abdel Massieh, Academic Program Manager, Middle East and Africa, Microsoft Gulf among other senior officials from the ministry, Etisalat and student fraternity. The Etisalat technology center is one of the projects executed by the UAE Ministry of Education and Etisalat. The association with Microsoft brings global educational expertise to the technology center. The technology major will provide an annual training programme for educators to enable them to use technology and help them develop the skills of students in UAE for work and life. This is the second project executed in partnership with Etisalat after the recent announcement of Duroosi Youtube channel, a first-of-a-kind online educational tool developed by Etisalat under the ministry’s supervision offering self-learning options with visual aids providing easy access
to students of Grade 11 and 12 to develop their skills. H.E. Humaid Mohammed Obaid AlQatami, UAE Minister of Education said: “The ministry today is witnessing tremendous changes in the educational process in the country. Education plays a major role in achieving sustainable development in the country. The UAE government vision is to provide the highest level of modern education that is up-to-date in curricula, technology and environment. We want to provide the best infrastructure, facilities and services for the education sector that is accompanied with best teaching methodologies and expertise. “The current center will be a hub for smart education, R&D and experiential educational tools that is located at the UAE Ministry of Education offices in Dubai and across the country connected over Etisalat network. The center with its state-of-the art equipment is in line with our direction towards the implementation of digital schools and smart learning.” Saleh Al Abdooli, CEO, Etisalat UAE said: “Our role is to utilise
the best technology available in the world to provide the best to our people and especially the student community. Etisalat is proud to work with the Ministry of Education again as well as technology partners enabling government initiatives and smart education in the country. “Etisalat has is proud of its strategic partnership with the Ministry of Education, we worked closely with the ministry in identifying the exact requirements and in building the centre with the latest educational technology solutions. This initiative is in line with our overall CSR goals of providing all the right tools to the UAE youth to boost their skills and knowledge. Etisalat has already a standing relationship with Google and will now repeat the success with Microsoft bringing global technology leaders and solutions to the local market.” Khalil Abdel Massih, Academic Program Manager, Middle East and Africa, Microsoft said: “Microsoft is proud to be part of this initiative that aims to enhance the learning outcome of students and prepare them for
‘Work and Life’. We believe that empowered educators, supervisors and school leaders will help bring innovation in teaching and learning to the students inside and outside the classroom and enable them with 21st century skills for lifetime employability and entrepreneurship. The Microsoft in Education, partners in learning program assets will be utilized fully to meet the vision and the goals of the ministry of education.” The hub is equipped with massive touch screens that can work as demonstration units for technology solutions and smart education tools. The whole centre is equipped with video conferencing capability that will enable up to 60 people to have a live session and connect all future technology hubs together. The centre also has a multimedia production room that will be used for making of tutorials and videos which can be shared via the internet and social media immediately upon completion of the filming. The multimedia room is equipped with an electronic white board that is used to create electronic content.
Eyes-on with the Avegant Glyph’s mesmerizing virtual retinal display By Jonathan Fincher
After a few days of bouncing between booths and events during CES, I was more than happy to retreat from the chaotic show floor to a quiet hotel suite to demo Avegant’s innovative new headset. When the company first invited me to try out the Glyph, I expected to see another virtual reality headset like the Oculus Rift, but that did not turn out to be the case at all. Instead of entering a virtual world that appears to surround you, wearing the Glyph is more like sitting in the middle of your own private movie theater, except with a better picture. Before strapping on the
Glyph, I met up with some of the passionate people behind Avegant, including CTO/Co-founder Allan Evans, who originally developed the display technology for military purposes, CEO/Cofounder Edward Tang, COO Yobie Benjamin, and Head of Marketing and Product Strategy Grant Martin, who were all more than happy to discuss the new headset, and with good reason. Unlike most headset displays that are built around a small digital screen, the Glyph creates an image by reflecting a low-powered color LED onto an array of two million tiny mirrors. The micromirrors
shape the light into a twodimensional image, which is then beamed straight onto the wearer’s retina – hence why they’re referring to it as a “virtual retinal display.” Since you aren’t looking directly at the light source, the image comes off as more true-to-life and, according to the designers, reduces eye fatigue. The team originally started out with a proof-of-concept prototype that was about the size of a tabletop, but were able to shrink it down in less than a year to a retinal display fitted into a simple set of glasses. They quickly realized however that this
setup still required the wearer to use another device for audio, like most visual headsets on the market. The most recent model that I was able to test out is designed to switch from a standalone pair of headphones to its display mode by lowering the headband over your eyes and sliding it towards you. Since the alpha prototype is still quite fragile though, Tang put the headband/visor down for me before fitting it over my head. Once it was in place, the two lenses’ positioning could to be adjusted using a set of knobs on the top and bottom, which control the space between them and
the focus. The knobs can be locked into place afterwards to avoid any changes when it’s packed away, and since the diopters can be adjusted for individual users, people with glasses won’t need to wear them when using the Glyph. It took a few tweaks to get the lenses in the right place so I could see the whole screen. For the first couple minutes of a video, I ended up watching it with the corners of the image cut off and blurry. After nudging the knobs a little more however, I was able to see the total 45-degree span of the picture. The right headphone cup also had a scroll wheel to set the volume. Given the technology involved, I expected the image would look pretty sharp, but I wasn’t prepared for just how sharp it was. It’s basically like having a crystal clear HD screen right in front of your face, but without a hint of pixelation. After Tang queued up a 3D underwater documentary for me to watch, I might as well have been in
the ocean myself, with jellyfish and sea turtles appearing to float inches in front of me. The design team has compared the sensation to sitting in the middle of an empty, darkened movie theater, and I’m inclined to agree. It is simply amazing to see for the first time, which may explain why I look a little slack-jawed in the pictures Tang took of me wearing it. Though the crisp display is certainly the most appealing aspect of the Glyph, that doesn’t mean the designers have ignored the audio portion – far from it, in fact. “Because these are headphone replacements, they have to sound like damn good headphones,” says Tang, “So we spent a lot of time designing the audio cavity to develop the right frequency response and signature sound that we have.” From what I heard, it sounds like they succeeded. Combining the impressive visuals with the noisecanceling headphones piping
in some high-quality audio makes for an incredibly immersive experience. Another major feature that distinguishes the Glyph from VR goggles like the Rift is that your eyes aren’t completely covered when wearing it, and that’s a good thing. With the headset resting on the bridge of my nose, I was still able to see everything below my cheekbones in my field of view. Some Rift users have noted that a fullyencompassing set of goggles can leave you completely oblivious to what’s happening in the room around you, but with the Glyph, I felt completely aware of my surroundings. By just casting my eyes downward, I could check my phone, pick up a drink or snack, and see what the other people around me were doing. All I had to do then was look up, and I was back in the movie theater. According to the developers, this was a conscious decision on their part to ensure the
Glyph could be used just as easily at a bus stop as in your own home. This first video was played through an HDMI connection on a laptop, but the Glyph is just as capable of streaming content from mobile devices, while still using the same control box and a single cable. To demonstrate this, Tang connected the headset to his own iPhone and brought up his music playlist. From there, I could pick a song to listen to and then browse the internet, read an e-book, or view photos through the display. This is where you can really see the detail in the VRD, as the text was as easy to read as on a high-end tablet. He also showed the beginning of the movie Life of Pi, which is a montage of various animals inside a zoo. Once again, the image appeared incredibly crisp and smooth. I could literally count the hairs on each animal’s back as it appeared in the frame, and it was all made possible from no more than a headset and some hardware that could fit in my pocket. As with any visual technology, this begged the question of how the Glyph works with video games, so Tang next opened up Real Racing and gave me the phone to play it. With a viewpoint from inside the driver’s seat, the phone acting as a steering wheel, and the booming audio, this was one of the more engrossing racing experiences I’ve had outside of an arcade. The whole sensation reminded me of the few opportunities I’ve had to play games in a home theater. To be honest, I got a little giddy inside.
Having the lower portion of my view open also came in handy here, since I could glance downward if I needed to actually use the touchscreen more precisely. Even better, the company says this technology can work just as easily with almost any modern video device, including game consoles. The next model will even include a robust head tracking system for use with first-person games and panoramic video. Despite the Glyph’s initial appearance as a competitor to the Oculus Rift, virtual reality is the one form of content the team is shying away from for now. “We think what Oculus is doing with VR is awesome, and it’s great that they’re bringing all these people to VR,” says Tang. “We’re not focused on VR today, but we’re going to see how things go down the road. We can increase the field of view, but one of the
things we’re focused on is to give consumers an amazing experience today. So it has to work with the devices you have right now, and it better work with the content you have right now.” Brilliant experience aside, there are still a few kinks to work out. For one, it’s not the most comfortable headset to wear at the moment. After having the Glyph on for several minutes, the hard plastic began to wear on the points where it pressed on my forehead and nose. Any longer, and there would have probably been some visible lines dug into my skin for awhile. Many people have also asked the obvious question of how the lenses will stay clean if they’re sitting on someone’s head, where they’re susceptible to hair and grease. The designers are already have a few ideas to solve this issue, as Tang explains: “We’re
exploring some different options right now. So anything from a second cover to special coatings to keep these clean – kind of like your smartphone doesn’t leave fingerprints because it has the oleophobic coating. We’re trying out a few different solutions to find the best one for the market.” Essentially, the display technology itself seems quite capable, it’s just the wearable component that needs a few tweaks. But again, this was just an early prototype. The folks at Avegant are well aware of these issues and plan to iron them out before releasing the Glyph to the public. Fortunately, they have a much more high-profile technology company, Texas Instruments, backing them up. The team members stressed that their relationship with such a major hardware supplier – one that even allowed them a spot in TI’s own CES booth – gives
them a huge advantage for when it comes time to begin manufacturing. “Before we set a date, before we brought our prototypes to CES, we went and validated our entire supply chain,” says Evans. “We have got to be sure that if we can make a hundred of them, we can make a hundred thousand, instead of leaving people sort of in a lurch with the tease of an awesome thing.” The bottomline Of the hundreds of innovative gadgets I saw first-hand at this year’s CES, the Glyph was the one I wanted to take home with me the most (well, besides the 105-inch 4K TVs of course). A private movie theater-like experience that’s portable and immersive, but doesn’t leave you completely shut off from the rest of the world? It’s the sort of device I didn’t realize I wanted until I’d tried it. If you want to experience the Glyph’s virtual retinal display for yourself, Avegant is currently taking pre-orders through its Kickstarter campaign. Anyone who contributes US$499 or more will be earmarked to receive a beta model, which will feature a few ergonomic improvements, head tracking, and a much slimmer design than the version I spent some time with. At the time of writing, the team has raised more than triple its original goal of $250,000 and is now offering the Glyph in red, green, and orange colors in addition to the original black, white, and blue offerings. If all goes smoothly, the first batch is expected to ship in December of this year.
GPM satellite to usher in a new era of weather observation By Anthony Wood
A new satellite designed to take detailed, near realtime measurements of rain and snowfall on a global scale whilst mapping the interior of storm systems is set to launch. The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory has been in development since 2005 and is a collaboration project between NASA and the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA). The satellite is due to be launched on the Japanese
an orbit inclined 65-degrees to the equator, giving it the ability to provide near realtime observations of rain and snow every three hours for anywhere on the planet. Its ability to survey a greater area than ground based devices will provide a more complete picture of global precipitation. It can also access precipitation in areas which would be difficult to reach from the ground such as high altitudes or remote areas.
a significant improvement over previous techniques when monitoring extreme weather events such as tropical storms which can pose a very real danger to human life. The GPM satellite uses the same sampling method as its predecessor, building upon its technology. It is equipped with a microwave radiometer which is used to measure the quantity and intensity of rain and snowfall, and also carries dual-frequency radar with
manufactured H-IIA delivery vehicle from the Tanegashima Space Centre, Tanegashima Island, Japan, on February 27. Designed to work in conjunction with a network of existing and planned satellites, the GPM will fly 407 km (253 miles) above the Earth in
The GPM mission is the successor to the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), which launched in 1997, and was the first satellite to measure rainfall in the tropics during different points in the day. This system of observation proved itself to be
the ability to peer within the particles of a cloud system and send back highly detailed data of each individual cloud layer. Furthermore, for the first time, the state of the art sensor suite sported on the GPM core observatory satellite has the capability to detect falling
snow and light rain. This is a significant step forward in the observation of precipitation, as the inability to detect certain forms of precipitation such as snow represented a significant blind spot in any previous efforts to create a truly global observation system, as it is these types of precipitation that are more likely to occur in higher latitudes. The GPM mission has many real world applications regarding observing the impact of differing levels of precipitation on the environment. It should prove to be a great asset in assessing global water cycles, which in turn can have a pronounced effect on agricultural output. The system could also provide greater warning for extreme weather systems such as floods and hurricanes. This would grant those in the path of such a storm more time to evacuate and therefore minimize the loss of life. The satellite core has recently undergone its final testing period, which involved switching on all of its systems for the first time since its journey to the launch site. The process was completed with no significant problems leaving the GPM on schedule for launch. The satellite is due to commence normal operations about 60 days after launch, with the data it collects to be processed and distributed over the internet.
Could humidity power join the list of renewable energy sources? By Darren Quick
Ozgur Sahin, Ph.D., believes that water evaporation is the largest power source in nature. In an effort to demonstrate the potential of this untapped resource, Sahin and his fellow researchers have created prototype electrical generators with rubber sheets that move in response to changes in humidity thanks to a coating of bacterial spores. In a 2012 study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, Sahin, along with Wyss Institute Core Faculty member L. Mahadevan, Ph.D., and Adam Driks,Ph.D., a professor of microbiology and immunology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, detailed how a soil bacterium called Bacillus subtilis dries up to become a tough, wrinkled, dormant spore. These spores can then be almost immediately restored to their original shape when taking on water. With their ability to shrink reversibly, the researchers realized the spores must be storing energy. In an effort to measure the energy of the spores, Sahin coated a tiny, flexible silicon plank in a solution containing the spores with the assumption he would be able to measure the humidity-driven force in a customized atomic force microscope. To his surprise, before he could even get it under the microscope, Sahin could see with the naked eye the plank curving and straightening in response to the subtle humidity changes from his breath. “I realized then that this was
The humidity-driven flexing of a spore-covered piece of latex rubber (right) drives the movement of a magnet, which produces electricity (Photo: Xi Chen/Columbia University extremely powerful,” said Sahin. Powerful indeed. Sahin discovered that the flexible, spore-coated plank could generate 1,000 times as much force as human muscle when the humidity was increased from that of a dry, sunny day to a humid, misty day – this is 10 times greater than materials currently used to build actuators. Sahin also calculated that moistening 1 lb (0.45 kg) of dry spores would generate enough force to lift a car 3.2 ft (1 m) off the ground. After testing silicon, rubber, plastic, and adhesive tape, Sahin settled upon rubber as the most promising material for a sporecoated actuator. Using Legos, a miniature fan, a magnet and a spore-coated cantilever, he
constructed a simple humiditydriven generator that produces electricity via the rotation of the magnet that is driven by the cantilever flipping back and forth in response to changing humidity levels. Although the prototype only captures a small percentage of the energy released by evaporation, Sahin says efficiency could be improved by genetically engineering the spores to be stiffer and more elastic. In fact, in early experiments a mutant strain provided by Driks has already been shown to store twice as much energy as normal strains. The researchers believe the technology will one day make it possible to have electrical generators driven by changes
in humidity from sun-warmed ponds and harbors. “Solar and wind energy fluctuate dramatically when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, and we have no good way of storing enough of it to supply the grid for long,” said Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D. “If changes in humidity could be harnessed to generate electricity night and day using a scaled up version of this new generator, it could provide the world with a desperately needed new source of renewable energy.” The team, which also included Xi Chen, a postdoctoral research associate at Columbia University, has had their study published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Coming Collapse of Germany’s energy revolution Germany’s energy revolution has gone sour, as have its efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “Energiewende” policy aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent between 1990 and 2020, mostly by closing coal-fired power plants and boosting renewable energy. Yet in 2013, coal burning soared to its highest level for more than 20 years. Then, last week, economy and energy minister Sigmar Gabriel said he will slash wind and solar subsidies by a third, to cut rising energy bills. Subsidies for renewables currently cost
German consumers €23 billion a year. Merkel is also shutting down Germany’s nuclear power plants, its largest source of low-carbon energy. This means emissions, which had fallen by 27 per cent by 2011, are now on the rise. “The Energiewende is moving emissions in the wrong direction,” says Roger Pielke Jr of the University of Colorado in Boulder. He calculates that Germany will have to more than double renewables’ contribution to energy from 17 to 38 per cent to reach the 40 per cent target. “It seems highly unlikely that Germany can hit the reduction
target by 2030, much less 2020,” says Pielke, who believes nuclear is “the best tool available for reducing CO2 emissions”. The problem is made worse by a continued slump in the price of European Union permits to emit CO2, which act as a tax on dirty fuels like coal. The low cost has allowed coal plants to restart. The question now is, how will Germany’s problems affect Europe as a whole? The European Commission is releasing a white paper today announcing revised targets for energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Watch this space
for coverage of the European Commission’s plans when they are published.
Middle East Sees Growing Need for Powerful Enterprise Software Solutions in Energy Sector By Kathie Poindexter More than US$50 billion in contracts for various oil, gas and petrochemical projects will be awarded across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) during 2013. The volume of investments is nearly twice the US$27 billion in contracts awarded during the previous year, reflecting a sharp increase in oil and gas (O&G) projects being undertaken across the region. While the enormous figure reflects positively on the overall growth of the O&G industry, it also hints at the growing complexity involved in completing these projects. Whether they manufacture, maintain, build, service or support the energy industry, a diverse array of companies and professional services organizations are involved in the distinctly complex energy
projects across the region. It is essential for such companies to be adequately equipped with the right tools to effectively manage the complex tasks involved, from controlling processes, to reducing costs, to complying with regulations, and responding to a new set of challenges each day. We are also seeing a growing number of specialist enterprises involved in the value chain. Companies involved in various energy projects are unique because they deal with complex
and diverse requirements when compared to other industries. Fixed asset management, work management, field service management, geographical information systems, CRM, and crisis management are just some of the varying needs that somehow need to be integrated together by companies operating in the energy sphere. Finding the right enterprise software solution that can handle all these diverse needs has become a primary challenge.
In light of the growing complexity of O&G projects, companies in the region are aggressively investing in enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions to effectively reach into all areas of the business and value chain. ERP binds together various processes of a large organization, allowing each department to communicate, share information and collaborate with the rest of the company. Moreover, ERP is an ideal solution in the assetintensive O&G industry as it helps facilitate project-driven materials management; harmonize engineering, purchasing, fabrication and other key O&G disciplines; proactively manage contractors and sub-contractors; and optimize forecasting and project accounting.
“Smart bomb” puts antibiotic resistant bacteria in its sights By Darren Quick
The increasing prevalence of bacteria resistant to antibiotic drugs is largely blamed on the over prescription and use of such drugs in humans and animals, leading to the evolution of so-called “superbugs.” A new antibiotic “smart bomb” that can target specific strains of bacteria could provide the next-generation antibiotic drugs needed to stave off the threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Developed by researchers at North Carolina State University, the new technique offers the potential of a powerful new
weapon in the fight against multi-drug resistant bacteria. And unlike conventional antibiotic drugs that kill both good and bad bacteria, the new approach targets and kills specific strains of bacteria, while leaving the beneficial bacteria untouched – hence the “smart bomb” tag. As a part of their immune system, many bacteria have a system called CRISPR-Cas. When under attack from invaders, such as viruses, the CRISPR-Cas system creates small strands of RNA called CRISPR RNAs that match the specific DNA sequences of
the invader. When these CRISPR RNAs find a match, they release proteins that sever the invader’s DNA, thereby eliminating the infection. By designing CRISPR RNAs that target the bacteria’s own DNA, the NC State researchers have turned the bacteria’s own immune system on itself, so they essentially commit suicide. “In lab testing, we found that this approach removes the targeted bacteria,” said Dr. Chase Beisel, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State. “We’re still trying to understand precisely how sever-
ing the DNA leads to elimination of the bacteria. However, we’re encouraged by the ease in specifically targeting different bacteria and the potency of elimination.” In controlled cultures and in the presence of different combinations of bacteria, the team was able to eliminate Salmonella bacteria, without affecting good bacteria.
Scientists use fruit flies to detect cancer By Stuart Robarts
A fruit fly sits on a podium in the middle of the picture, while scents are emitted from the tube on the left and directed towards the fly Scientists from the University of Konstanz, Germany, are the first to demonstrate that fruit flies can distinguish cancerous cells from healthy ones via their sense of smell. The team has genetically modified fruit flies so that their antennae glow when they detect a cancerous odor. In an experiment, scientists directed smells at fruit flies. The fruit flies’ appearance was monitored via a microscope. Cancer cells and normal cells emit slightly different odors due to their metabolic differences. Dogs and bees have both previously been shown to be capable of detecting cancerous
cells. The Konstanz research looked at whether fruit flies, with their sensitive sense of smell, could do the same. In finding that this was indeed the case, the research focused on modifying receptor cells on the fruit flies’ antennae to glow when a cancerous odor was detected. Most olfactory receptor neurons
have a specific olfactory receptor type, but the receptor neurons of fruit flies have about 50 different types of receptor. Different odors cause a different response in the receptor neurons, and the scientists were able to modify the relevant neurons so that a response triggered by a cancerous odor caused a fluorescent protein
therein to glow. “What really is new and spectacular about this result is the combination of objective, specific and quantifiable laboratory results and the extremely high sensitivity of a living being that cannot be matched by electronic noses or gas chromatography”, says Giovanni Galizia, who led the project. According to the research, not only were cancer cells able to be told apart from healthy cells, but even different types of cancer cells were able to be differentiated via the fruit flies’ antennae. Galizia hopes that the research can be used to accelerate the process of creating devices that can detect cancer quickly and noninvasively.
The Future of Depression Treatment: The Neurogenesis Theory By: Katie Billings Nearly half of all clinically depressed patients fail to respond to available antidepressant medications. Though antidepressants are effective for some depressed patients, this selective efficacy is still not fully understood. Professor Poul Videbech, a specialist at the Centre for Psychiatric Research at Aarhus University Hospital, has dedicated himself to researching the effects of depression to better understand the mechanism of antidepressants. In one project, Videbech scanned the brains of depressed patients to observe structural effects of the disorder. Videbech concluded, “My review shows that a depression leaves its mark on the brain as it results in a ten percent reduction of the hippocampus… In some cases this reduction continues when the depression itself is over”. Videbech believes that nerve reduction supports the neurogenesis theory of depression which posits that depression results in a cessation of neuron birth in the brain. Support for this theory lies in the fact that, with extended use, antidepressants trigger neurogenesis by initiating the birth of new nerve cells. Studies at the Centre for Psychiatric Research, where patients suffering from depression were followed for ten years using brain scans, demonstrate that shrinking of the hippocampus is reversible when depressed patients are treated. People not suffering from depression have a balance in degradation and regeneration processes in the brain. The degradation process refers to the breaking
down of nerve cells, while regeneration refers to the formation of nerve cells. Depressed patients show greater activity in the degradation system, which explains Videbech’s findings that brain structures are reduced in patients with depression. The location of reduction cited by Videbech is the hippocampus, the structure of the brain responsible for the storage and retrieval of memories. Hippocampal reduction explains the common symptom of memory problems in patients with depression. With antidepressant use, and hence a return of neurogenesis, memory problems and depressive symptoms are reduced. Meaning, boosting neurogenesis results in a returned balance between the degradation and regeneration processes. The most common form of antidepressants, serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), were believed to have their effect by boosting levels of serotonin in the brain.
However, scientists have proven that SSRIs take about a month to improve mood in depressed patients. This delay in treatment suggests that another process, one influenced by serotonin, is involved. The neurogenesis theory of depression explains that the delay in mood improvement is a result of the minimal effect serotonin has on neurogenesis. Researchers have turned their focus to chemicals in the brain that promote neurogenesis and suggest that new treatments targeting said chemicals could be a more logical and effective treatment for depression. The neurogenesis theory has been supported with animal studies. In one trial, researchers induced a depression-like condition in mice so they develop a depressive behavioral pattern. The mice were then given antidepressants and normal behavior returned. Then, when the mice were subjected to radiation treatment, a process known to
terminate the formation of new nerve cells, the antidepressants stopped working and the mice returned to their depressed behaviors. Videbech cites this study as proof that antidepressants are only effective because of their influence on neurogenesis and when that influence is eliminated, antidepressants no longer improve depressive symptoms. A recent article in Nature Medicine cites a promising new line of research in the ceramide system. In one study, after mice took Prozac-like antidepressants the levels of ceramide, a fat molecule in the brain, significantly decreased. In the brain, ceramide blocks brain cell growth. Meaning, Prozac affected ceramide levels which in turn increased neurogenesis. Scientists believe that further research on molecules like ceramide will continue, and eventually result in, more direct and effective antidepressant treatments.
Cerner Middle East exhibits state-of-the-art IT healthcare solutions at Arab Health Congress 2014 By: ETR Cerner Middle East, healthcare information technology (HIT) solution provider is set to demonstrate its broad portfolio of healthcare solutions at Arab Health 2014, the 39th edition of the largest healthcare exhibition and congress in the Middle East and Asia, January 27 to 30, 2014 at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Center. The timeliness of the even t complements the current vibrancy of the Middle East region’s healthcare industry in general and the UAE segment in particular. In fact, a recent study made by RNCOS forecasts that the UAE’s healthcare industry is poised to grow by 16 per cent in 2014, or an equivalent of USD 14.6 million.
The study further reveals that the UAE’s per capita healthcare spending–which is the second highest among GCC nations—is also expected to grow by five per cent next year. Looking to play a major role in this predicted growth; Cerner will feature its exclusive range of IT solutions for healthcare services during the four-day exhibition, which include: ● PowerChart Oncology, a solution that collects and integrates clinical information to support the specific needs of oncology care; ● PowerChart Maternity, a system that creates a single maternity care reference point allowing obstetrical nurses in the acute setting to document
and access real-time data at the point of care to enhance clinical decision-making; Capacity Management, Registration and Scheduling, enables tracking, managing, and optimizing the flow and alignment of people and resources throughout a health care organization. CareCompass, manages all pa-
tient care from documentation to closed loop medication administration in the care environment; Care Admin, a solution that ensures positive patient identification and safe administration of medication; Executive Dashboard, a real time dashboard as well as a patient flow solution that includes discharge, staffing and clinical outcomes from admission to transition to the next level of care; Emergency Medicine Solutions, for helping the emergency department provide safe care efficiently; PowerChart Touch™, a mobile solution that enables physicians to perform workflows from mobile devices like Apple’s iPad.
Caffeine Improves Long Term Memory By: Hae-Lin Cho We all turn to coffee to pull us through late nights and the subsequent early mornings. Although caffeine has long been known to benefit alertness and short-term memory, recent research suggests that consuming caffeine after studying can also improve long-term memory. Scientists led by Daniel Borota at John Hopkins University used “old-similar-new” judgment tests to determine that post-studying caffeine consumption can enhance memory consolidation. In the experiment, 160 “caffeine-naive” participants were randomly given either a 200 mg dose of caffeine or a placebo
control. Before administering the treatment, researchers presented subjects with a series of images; after 24 hours, researchers evaluated participants’ recognition by asking them to categorize images in a second set as targets (present in the first
set of images), foils (not present in the first set of images), or lures (an image similar to but not the same as a target image). In addition, researchers also took salivary samples at baseline before caffeine consumption and one, three, and 24 hours after
caffeine consumption to determine the amount of caffeine metabolites remaining in the body. Caffeine concentration (µg/mL) increased dramatically in the 200 mg caffeine group at one and three hour intervals but returned to baseline levels after 24 hours. Of all the subjects, those who took the 200 mg dose of caffeine had a higher lure discrimination index (LDI) and were more likely to distinguish a lure from a target than those who took the placebo. The relationship between caffeine concentration found in the subject’s saliva and the LDI resulted in an inverted quadratic curve.
Genome Wide Association Studies and Rice By: Na Eun Oh To produce the most resilient strain of rice, breeders would conventionally cultivate two different hardy species, but Susan McCouch, a professor of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell University, has found evidence otherwise. In her Friday Oct. 4, 2013 seminar at Dartmouth College, McCouch discussed discoveries about rice and what she believes must be done in order to double rice production within the next 30 years. Rice cultivation covers 10% of the Earth’s arable land, but not all of it is irrigated. Due to water problems, the rice community hopes to move away from irrigated rice farming to soil-based farming despite the challenges presented by aluminum-toxic soils in the region.
Aluminum, the third most abundant element in the soil, becomes Al3+, which inhibits root growth. At concentrations above 160 µM Al3+,grains such as maize, wheat, and sorghum were significantly inhibited, with rice being least affected. McCouch and her colleagues studied the phenomenon and found three mechanisms responsible for rice’s resilience. In one mechanism, the rice roots secrete negativelycharged, organic ions to bond
and neutralize the aluminum ions. In another mechanism, the roots uptake the Al3+ into cells and then isolates them into vacuoles or membrane enclosed compartments. In the third mechanism, the roots secrete ADP-glucose, a chemical that prevents Al3+ from binding to the rice plant’s cell wall. However, not all rice subspecies grow equally well in aluminum-toxic soils since rice is very diverse compared to other grains.
McCouch and her colleagues studied various species of rice within each two major subdivisions of rice: japonica and indica. Within japonica, there are three genetic subdivisions: temperate japonica, tropical japonica, and aromatic. Within indica, there are two: indica and aus. For these species of rice, McCouch analyzed the various singlenucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). These SNPs are single nucleotide differences between the genes of organisms. From their analysis, they found that all the subdivisions of rice have evolved aluminum tolerance independently, so it is possible for breeders to improve rice’s aluminum tolerance by mixing and matching the different rice species to produce an extremely tolerant strain.
FishHunter Sonar uses a smartphone to show where the fish are By Dave LeClair In the battle between man and fish, technology has swayed things to the humans’ favor. Fish finders are probably the most prevalent use of technology in fishing, and FishHunter takes things one step further by incorporating Bluetooth and a smartphone into the fish-locating equation. We previously saw the ReelSonar smartphone-connected fish finder hit Indiegogo, but it never met its funding goal. FishHunter, on the other hand, is actually available now for fishing enthusiasts. The biggest advantage of a
device like this versus more traditional fish finders is that it doesn’t need to be mounted to anything. Instead, it works like a bobber, floating around the water. Obviously, users will want
to affix some fishing line to keep the bobber from drifting away, but this certainly opens up the technology to shore fisherman. The device is slightly limited by the range of Bluetooth, which means it can’t travel further than 80 feet (24 meters) from the smartphone. The sonar is able to track fish at a depth up to 100-120 feet (30-40 meters). Of course, in order for the bobber to show users the data it sees, an app is required. It is available for free from Google Play and the App Store, and it has some other features besides locating fish. It allows users
to track their catches using GPS so they can come back to a sweet spot later, and it has a fish species encyclopedia. Additionally, it also features some social functions like photo contests and the ability to link with other popular social networks for sharing those big catch stories. The device is on sale now directly from FishHunter for US$229, which is a little more than your average fish finder. It all comes down to whether the portability and lack of mounting is something that suits the needs of a particular fisherman.
8th Middle East Government and Business Customer care Excellence Awards winners felicitated at the Burj Al Arab Hotel By: ETR
In a grand and official ceremony, the Middle East Excellence Awards Institute felicitated the winners of 8th Middle East Government and Business Customer Care Excellence Awards at the Burj Al Arab Hotel on Wednesday. The ceremony was graced by the presence of H.H Prince Fahad
welcome message from by Mr. Ali Al Kamali, Managing Director, Middle East Excellence Awards Institute. He said, “The awards this year honor all the path breaking leaders in the middle east for their utmost dedication and contribution toward enhancing the new generation smart customer care
competitive advantages of smart customer care services in the various economic institutions and promote the application of smart technologies that empowers the customer care models in the dawn of a new era of highly expectant customer behavior. The accredited winners of the
Award – Al Wasl Properties 6. Hotel and Resort Customer Care Excellence Award – Ritz Carlton, DIFC 7. Electronics Customer Care Excellence Award – Samsung 8. Banking & Finance Customer Care Excellence Award – Emirates NBD 9. Automobile Customer Care
bin Mishary bin Abdulaziz Alsaud and H.H Prince Abdullah bin Faisal Al Saud from KSA and was held under the auspices of prominent regional dignitaries and government and business organization leaders including senior executives, call center and customer care authorities, and other communication technologist along with prominent regional media officials. The ceremony began with a
models in the region. The award also recognizes the parameters that promote a culture of customer care excellence and recognize the public and private sectors in the Middle East that have instigated innovation, creativity, and excellence in their services to create a favorable environment for customer service experience in the region.” The awards also highlight the latest technologies and
year 2014 awards are as follows: 1. ICT Development Customer Care Excellence Award – Etisalat 2. ICT Development Customer Care Excellence Award – Emirates Identity Authority 3. ICT Development Customer Care Excellence Award – Ministry of Labour 4. Public Transport Customer Care Excellence Award –Dubai Taxi Corporation 5. Real Estate Development Customer Care Excellence
Excellence Award – Jaguar Land Rover 10. Healthcare Customer Care Excellence Award – Saudi Red Crescent Authority The Middle East Excellence Awards Institute, for the past 20 years, has persevered to recognize, honor and promote the achievements of the region’s leaders and organizations and to commend their outstanding performance and commitment to excellence.
Meet reqallable, the smartwatch app that rescues you from notifications overload By: Shahzaib Amin Smartwatches usually treat notifications with blunt-force indiscretion. It’s an all or nothing affair. You either turn off notifications entirely, letting your wrist wear go quiet, or you leave notifications on, and let the watch respond to all incoming signals with a buzz or a chime. The first option defeats everything we want in a smartwatch--these gadgets are supposed to save us the trouble of checking our phones for critical communiques. But the second option is annoying -- once those emails, text messages, and call notifications pile on in rapid succession, you want to throw your watch down the sewer. But perhaps help is on the way. A company called reQall has just ported its reqallable smartphone app to Sony’s Smartwatch platform, promising algorithmic relief for notifications overload. Available now on Google Play, the app hooks directly into your calendar, contacts list and even geo location to determine where you are, what you’re doing, and who’s important to you -- and then it decides whether to elevate that next notification to something you need to know about right now. If you’ve ever suffered the pain and embarrassment of an overactive smartwatch, you can see reqallable’s utility. But one of the things that’s most noteworthy about reqallable’s Friday app launch is that it’s a smartwatch app launch. You know the developer community
is taking these gadgets seriously when someone makes a big to-do about a piece of software that only works on a device that, quite frankly, very few people use. “Wearables are an important market to be in,” says Sunil Vemuri, reQall co-founder and chief product officer. “People are asking, What are we going to use smartwatches for?’ and we think we have an answer for that. This is the beginning of a story, and we want to be part of that beginning.” Just how important’ are you? For reqallable to work, you have to let it penetrate the nooks and crannies of all the personal information you store on your handset. But once you grant those permissions, the system becomes aware of your personal relationships and daily activities to make its decisions on which notifications you receive on your watch, and which notifications it keeps quietly confined on your phone. The concept of a person’s “importance” is key to reqallable’s logic. For example, if your husband or wife sends you an email or text, that communication will pass
reqallable’s threshold, and you’ll get a notification on your smartwatch. Why? Because the system might have seen you flag your spouse as a favorite in your contact’s list. Or because it recognizes you email each other all the time. Or even because you share the same street address. But then there’s also the concept of “temporary importance.” During his demo of the smartwatch app, Vemuri showed me how I, a virtual stranger, was briefly elevated to VIP status. “Because you’re on my calendar for this meeting, your importance is elevated. That’s relevant because if you were to message me today, I’d want that to come to my attention,” Vemuri says. “But your importance will decrease tomorrow unless we have a continuing email exchange. We’re looking at the calendar, the contact list. We’re looking at the call log. All that gives an indication of who is important and who is not.” The system is also sensitive to your location and daily activities. It can determine that you’re driving by sensing rapidly changing geolocation, and then suppress distracting notifications accordingly. Likewise, it can determine when you’re sleeping by looking at your phone’s idle times, as well as the time of day. And then there’s sensitivity to social etiquette. The reqallable system can dip into your calendar, and suppress
notifications from all but the most “important” people so you’re not bothered during a critical business meeting. Says Vemuri: “The ultimate goal is to help modulate what we have in these devices, so that phone knows, Right now, this is not a good time for an interruption.’ It knows that I’m busy. But when I leave here, it might buzz me and tell me, These are the things that happened while I was busy.’” Why read 500 words when 50 words will do? Even if perfectly filtered notifications don’t realize your smartwatch dreams, you might still appreciate reqallable’s ability to parse long email messages, and then push heavily edited versions that surface only the most attention-worthy details to your smartwatch. “We have an algorithm that goes through the message sentence by sentence, looking for typical phrases that indicate some type of response is needed, or that there’s some type of important communication going on,” Vemuri says. During his app demo, Vemuri showed me a long, multiparagraph message on his phone, and then pivoted to the smartwatch app, which reduced that very same email to three critical action points: “Please let me know if the above description is OK,” “Are you available to meet?” and, “Please let me know some days that work for you.” Based on what I saw, the machine intelligence looks Contd. on page 40
Facebook gears up for its 10th birthday By: Zach Miners Facebook will celebrate its 10th birthday on 4th Feb, an occasion likely to spur an outpouring of reflection on its past and speculation about its future. Mark Zuckerberg launched “Thefacebook” from his dorm room at Harvard University on Feb. 4, 2004. The site was conceived as a way to connect students, and let them build an online identity for themselves. It has since expanded to cover a large swath of the planet, with more than 1.2 billion people -- one-seventh of the world’s population -- using its site on a monthly basis, according to the company’s own recent figures. Zuckerberg reflected on the 10-year milestone at an industry conference in Silicon Valley this week. Not surprisingly, at the start he never envisioned Facebook becoming so large or influential. After launching the initial version, “it was awesome to have this utility and community at our school,” he said at the Open Compute
Project Summit. He figured at the time that someone, someday would build such a site for the world. “It didn’t even occur to me that it could be us,” he said. Since then, Facebook’s site and its business, now a public company, have changed dramatically. There are now more than a trillion status updates, text posts and other pieces of content stored within its walls -- the company is trying to index them as part of its Graph Search search engine. The company was slow to react to the important mobile mar-
ket, and when it went public in 2012 investors were skeptical it would be able to monetize its service on smaller screens. But this week it reported that more than half its ad revenue now comes from mobile devices. All the while, Facebook is making its ad business smarter, using targeting tools to show ads it deems most relevant. The company is also experimenting with new ways to present content. Next week it will release Paper, an iPhone app that provides a new way to share photos and published articles.
It’s part of a larger effort Facebook hinted at this week to release a variety of standalone apps for different tasks. The company is also trying to bring the Internet to more people in the world, an effort that’s part philanthropy and part business sense as Facebook aims to reach its next billion users. Asked this week why he launched the project, called Internet.org, Zuckerberg suggested he feels a weight of responsibility. “There aren’t that many companies in the world that have the resources and the reach that Facebook has at this point,” he said. The company hasn’t said yet how it plans to celebrate the anniversary, except that it will talk about how it has “changed the world” in the past 10 years, and what the next decade might hold in store. It’s not the only milestone Zuckerberg has coming up: In May, he’ll celebrate his 30th birthday.
late last year: Why did reQall choose Sony’s technology instead of the much more ballyhooed (though not necessarily deserving) Samsung Galaxy Gear? “To be frank, Sony’s APIs are most mature,” Vemuri says. That’s not a ringing endorsement of Sony’s hardware, and during our meeting, I had to grill
Vemuri on why his company is releasing an app into an ecosystem with such a small installed base. The app appears to be more of a fullyfunctioning proof-of-concept than anything people will actually use--if only because so few people actually use smartwatches, let alone Sony’s. I poked and prodded, but Vemuri wasn’t having it.
“There’s a lot that can be improved in what we’re seeing in smartwatches today. It’s eventually going to happen, and it’s unclear who will be the winner, and we’re not trying to bet on which horse is going to be the winner. But our technology will help elevate those who sell smartwatches -- and those who have them to make better use of them.”
Contd. from page 39 pretty incredible. And the reqallable smartwatch app even lets you quickly reply to these email snippets with preformatted responses like “This is fine,” “Please call,” or “Let’s meet.” It’s a convenience feature that would be useful in a lot of Sony Smartwatch apps. Now, about Sony’s smartwatch platform, which graduated to Smartwatch 2 hardware
Okta CEO Offers Cloud Cover For Businesses Signing On By: Martin Veitch Todd McKinnon wants to build a new front door for computer users seeking access to applications and services. His company Okta takes its name from a measurement of cloud cover and cloud cover is what he’s selling: the ability to tap programs securely without the pain and hassle of remembering laundry lists of passwords and authentication techniques. The need for such services is pretty apparent. The rise of cloud computing has made it easier to add new IT services, letting firms try them without penalty if the service is ultimately rejected. Because of that flexibility there has been lots of churn in the applications firms use for marketing, managing customer relationships, back-office tasks and much else. At the same time, cloud services have chimed with mobile computing so more services are consumed by users away from office desks and by more device types running on a variety of operating systems and platforms. These changes have all had an impact on users logging on to systems, leaving some users frustrated. That has led to several companies entering the space to address single sign-on (SSO) and identity management (IDM) challenges. Perhaps the best known of them is Okta, a San Franciscobased company founded in 2009 and led by McKinnon, a former head of engineering at Salesforce.com. We met recently in London to talk about this space. “When companies get to two, three or four SaaS apps they need a strategic approach to
identity management, whereas before that it was multiple logins and passwords for every user and you took the pass away when they left the company,” McKinnon says. “By far the biggest driver is cloud adoption. The more cloud apps a company is using, the better for us. As the world marches from having one or two apps in the cloud to changing the whole environment, that mega-trend is really driving our business forward.” Unsurprisingly, veterans of the SSO/IDM scene are adapting products to accommodate cloud but McKinnon says that’s a hard chasm to cross and adds that Okta will also work for on-premise software too. “We’re about unifying identity across everything. Our initial goto-market was centred on cloud. We connect everything but were delivered as a cloud service ourselves so there’s a strong correlation.” Okta is designed to integrate with thousands of services and that, plus the fact that it’s a cloud service, helps reduce the time it takes to connect users to services in a secure way but without undue stress. McKinnon, a Californian in his late thirties, was brought up in the Bay Area and pretty well breathed in the IT trends the area has helped foster. He’s also one of many Salesforce veterans that start a company afterwards, but he says he is not using that company’s playbook as the template for Okta. “We have a higher number of users whereas Salesforce was a lot of times departmental,”
he argues. “Salesforce started selling to SMBs and at one time had 100,000 users and 10,000 companies [as customers], so you do the math…” Instead Okta sells to companies of all sizes but usually with 500plus staff. Also, the company does not pursue the ‘freemium’ model adopted by many cloud companies where customers pay little or nothing at first but then spend more as services pick up viral momentum. Okta’s more classical enterprise technology sales approach makes for a “slower burn”, says McKinnon, but Okta is still moving fast enough: annual staff growth at 120%, 60 million Okta logins, 300 new customer rollouts and 45 releases. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow might be worth $3bn per year, he adds, but the broader Active Directory market could tot up to tens of billions of dollars. Okta works closely with some of the big spokespeople of the cloud generation from Box to Workday and ServiceNow and says his gang are the modern equivalents of Cisco, Sun and EMC when they battled the IBM mainframe and DB2. And he believes that, just as they were in client/server, stacks will be important to the future of Okta with deeper integration possible so that richer workflows around approvals for accessing services are possible. McKinnon believes that opportunity exists everywhere that “server huggers” do not rule the datacentre roost, and he counts his customers from London’s
Gatwick Airport to large global brands like Coke, MGM Resorts and Delta Airlines. Anybody, in short, that is looking for new ways of doing things faster, better and with demonstrable ROI. Okta has raised about $80m in capital to grow and is shooting for an eventual IPO but McKinnon rejects the common notion that the vast reserves of money available to entrepreneurs today equates to a re-run of the first dotcom, ‘dot-bomb’ boom-andbust cycle. “There’s a robust funding market for companies doing well — they can raise money and get really high valuations — and a shortage of money for companies not doing well or at early-stage. Investors are being very rational, not just throwing money at things. It’s very different to the days of everything being funded.” McKinnon notes that “everybody laughed at Microsoft” when it took a 1.6%, $240m stake in Facebook that gave the latter a valuation of $15bn. Today with Facebook valued at north of $160bn, that stake is worth many times more. “The money’s the first thing,” McKinnon quips when asked what he looks for in an investor. That’s a joke of course as Okta has pulled in funds from several of the biggest names in tech VC and he lists operational experience, international distribution and patience among desired characteristics.
Venezuela´s New Crime Fighting Tool: “Pocket Police” By: Ligimat Pérez At the beginning of 2014 a telenovela soap opera star and former Miss Venezuela made world news, only this time it wasn’t in the showbiz section, but in the crime section of the papers. Monica Spears and her ex-husband had been slain in front of their 5-year-old daughter during a road trip while visiting the country for the holidays. The news was shocking because of the high profile of the victim, but it was no surprise to locals who have been counting crime victims by the dozens every day of the last decade, and who live in constant fear of crime. With Spears´s death intensifying public debate about insecurity in Venezuela, there now appears to be good news. Since last week, thousands of Venezuelans carry a “cop” in their pockets, which they hope will help them survive the rampant kidnappings, robberies and murders. Policía de bolsillo, or Pocket Police, is a smart phone application that sends out text messages and emails along with the exact location of the person when he or she is at risk. But how much will this program help Venezuelans to avoid being victims of crime? Venezuela has one of the world’s highest murder rates. According to the non-profit Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, more than 24 thousand people were murdered in 2013 (an average 68 victims per day). The NGO was founded after
the Government stopped publishing regular crime statistics and prohibited access of reporters to the morgues. And even under the lower official numbers, Venezuela remains one of the world’s most dangerous countries. In many countries, cell phones are blamed for increasing crime because they present tempting targets to thieves. If
deep trouble. Yet mobile phones are no longer just the objects of robbery, but also a sophisticated means to commit all types of crimes, especially kidnappings, which in Venezuela occur as often as one every 10 hours, says congressman Ricardo Sanchez, who is the head of a parliamentary committee
this phenomenon intensifies with cell phone penetration, Venezuela, which has more cell phones than people (102%), is in
especially created to address telecommunication related criminal offenses, and who came up with the Pocket Police
initiative. Sanchez saw an ally in cell phone penetration when in 2011 he learned about a panic button scheme in Buenos Aires that connected Argentinians with local police. He wanted to replicate the initiative however, at $60 the device was too expensive for most Venezuelans, so he decided then to turn every smart phone into a panic button. “We don’t pretend to substitute police functions with this app, just to create a tool to protect the lives of people through alternative methods for alerts and immediate response,” he added. For several decades Venezuelans, regardless of gender, age, marital status or social class, have been using cell phones to give peace of mind to loved ones, especially when out at night. Texting or calling a family member to say they “arrived fine” to the bar or friend’s house, and texting friends to say they “are safe at home” is the rule. One can only speculate whether the Pocket Police app would have helped Monica Spears, who before being attacked, was stranded at an isolated, dark, interstate road after her car broke down. Regardless, Sanchez will soon present the app to the National Assembly, hoping that the government will integrate the app or a similar innovation into its emergency response system. Policía de Bolsillo is certainly poised to reach more users. The version for Android has Contd. on page 43
Samsung reportedly eyeing off smart specs market with “Galaxy Glass” By Nick Lavars A report in The Korea Times has added further weight to the prospect of a direct Google Glass competitor, with an unnamed Samsung employee claiming that development of a smart eyewear device is well underway. Word of Samsung’s smart eyewear to rival Google Glass first emerged in October last year, when the company registered a design patent for what it categorized as a type of sports glasses. According to The Korea Times, the eyewear is tentatively called “Galaxy Glass,” and is set to be unveiled at this year’s IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin. Much like Google Glass, the eyewear would connect to the
user’s smart phone and enable them to take calls, listen to music, as well as display text message and email alerts in their field of vision. “The new smart glass to be introduced by Samsung is a new concept of wearable
device that can lead to an exciting culture of communication,” the employee is quoted as saying. “Because wearable devices are kind of accessories, design is a major factor. Samsung smart glasses should be simple and appealing
on the surface.” The commercial release of Google Glass is expected later this year, but with the company yet to specify a launch date, there’s a possibility that Samsung’s version could beat it to market.
creates a brief profile with phone numbers of three contacts chosen by the users. By pressing a button, Policía de Bolsillo sends an email and a text message, alerting the contacts of an emergency and pinpointing the owner´s location. Hernández told that in only one week, the app was downloaded 22,000 times in its Blackberry version alone. For the developers, Blackberry was the priority since Venezuela is one of the few countries where the Canadian-made handset still dominates the smartphone market even among the poor, with 4.3 million users. Hernández and his team worked for free, hoping to
contribute solutions to the insecurity in their country. One security expert who does consulting for embassies and transnational companies in Venezuela—who prefers to remain anonymous—was more cautious. He said the app might be useful “as an early warning system, to get help to a person who may be in a situation where a crime has a greater chance of happening… for instance a car breakdown, indications that someone is being followed, an emergency light going on in a garden etc.” But preventing a crime in the process of being committed is a different thing, he said. “Even if one of the designated called contacts arrived at the scene of
an ongoing crime, that would be more likely to put both the original victim and the responder in jeopardy… a Pocket Police won’t put criminals off. Crimes happen here very quickly. That is the modus operandi of the malandros, they commit the crime and move as soon as possible”. The app’s supporters hope it will help fight impunity in a country where 98 out of 100 murders go unpunished, according to Venezuelan Observatory of Violence. If a prospective victim has the Pocket Police, it may at least dent criminals’ sense of being untouchable. In Venezuela these days, that would count as progress.
Contd. from page 42 just been launched after one week of massive downloads by Blackberry users. And in a few days it is expected to be accessible for iOS mobile users in a version equipped with a tracking system that will provide the developers with more information about usage. “The upcoming version for Blackberry 10 will also offer the national emergency number as a default among the three contacts. But the user can modify this option, which makes the app operative everywhere in the world”, says Rafael Hernández of s42 the mobile phone software developer company that created Policía de Bolsillo. Once installed, the application
Flexibility in the Cloud- What Does it Really Mean Anytime a vendor speaks of their cloud solution as “flexible.” It usually stops with not much more than a blanket statement that is seldom challenged, “Our cloud solution is flexible,” says the vendor. The customer might think, “It should be flexible. It’s cloud-based.” When in reality, that concept of flexibility isn’t that well understood. So what does flexibility in this context really mean and how beneficial is it to the customer? I believe flexibility as it relates to the cloud has five main components: 1) Consumption flexibility – You’re not buying software licenses in the cloud world. Instead, you are paying for what you consume. If you have a need to staff additional agents for a marketing campaign, you pay for the use of the service/ application, then quit paying once the campaign concludes.
2) Platform flexibility – IT has long been forced into a space where marrying the needed software with the required hardware often didn’t fit with the skill set of the IT organization or the ability to support it. Cloud solutions remove this hardware-software compatibility and support issue. Instead, the application service is selected and the cloud provider worries about the hardware platform. 3) Pricing flexibility – The ability to pay for application usage over time (and in line with your use as stated in item one) creates financial flexibility. No need to write the one-time, up-front, large check. Instead the costs are spread out over the life of use of the service. 4) Business user flexibility – Not trying to offend the IT groups with this post, but oftentimes business users were held captive by IT. IT sourced the software
and hardware that the company would buy. With the cloud, business users are much more involved in selecting the services that meet their needs. They then leave much of the underlying IT work to the cloud provider. 5) Vendor selection flexibility – Switching solutions from one vendor to another is a big deal. Users have to be retrained, and in many cases, business processes need to be redefined. The cloud doesn’t eliminate
IBM Commits $1.2 Billion to Expand Global Cloud Footprint By: ETR IBM has announced plans to commit over $1.2 billion to significantly expand its global cloud footprint with additional centers planned for the Middle East region by 2015. By some estimates, the global cloud market is set to grow to $200 billion by 2020; driven largely by businesses and government agencies deploying cloud services to develop products, market, and manage their supply chains in transforming their business practices. IBM’s latest investment includes a network of cloud centers designed to
bring organizations greater flexibility, transparency and control over how they manage their data, run their business and deploy their IT operations. This year IBM plans to deliver cloud services from 40 data centers worldwide in 15 countries and five continents globally. IBM will open 15 new centers worldwide adding to the existing global footprint of 13 global data centers from SoftLayer and 12 from IBM. Among the newest data centers to launch are China, Washington D.C., Hong Kong, London, and India.
the pain and cost of switching vendors, but it does increase your flexibility to do so. In the premises-based software world, once you buy a product, you’re pretty well locked in for years. It’s a challenge to get your money back or to justify tossing it out in favor of something else. In the cloud world, if business needs change, if new technology makes what you are using old and obsolete, or if the vendor’s promises were overstated, you have more flexibility to terminate the contract and go source a cloud service that better meets your needs. There will still be pain, but that switch is much more doable. Flexibility is a significant driver in the rapid adoption of cloudbased services. The more you know about those flexibility promises, the better you’ll be at looking for them as you evaluate solutions and vendors.
Thuraya launches SatSleeve for Android By: ETR Thuraya, a UAE-based mobile satellite services operator, has launched an updated version of its SatSleeve adaptor designed for Android-based smartphones. The adaptor, which is compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4, allows Samsung Galaxy users to turn their smartphone into a satellite phone to make phone calls, send SMS messages and access apps via Thuraya’s satellite network when they are unable to connect to a terrestrial GSM network. Thuraya SatSleeve eliminates the need for carrying a separate satellite phone. Users dock their Android smartphone into the Thuraya SatSleeve and operate it normally via Thuraya’s satellite
network. SatSleev’s built-in SOS button allows users to call one predefined number without their smartphone attached.
Users can send SMS messages, send and receive email, and access popular social media and instant messaging apps such as
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and WhatsApp. Randy Roberts, VP of innovation at Thuraya, said: “This latest release of the SatSleeve illustrates Thuraya’s focus on market needs by addressing the installed base of Android devices and enables us to provide easy access to satellite services for our Android customers. “Thuraya is progressively working to provide our users with flexible choices for their satellite communication needs when they are travelling or working from areas unserved by terrestrial networks. Whether our customers need connectivity through voice or data services, we are there to keep them connected.”
TRA launches the first Regional mGovernment Applications Lab By: ETR
The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) announced the launch of the first mGovernment Lab in the Arab region dedicated to verifying the quality and security of mGovernment applications. The Lab will also test whether applications submitted comply with international standards and best practice. This innovative initiative comes as part of the wider national effort to shift towards smart government in line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. “The mGovernment Lab is an innovative and unique regional project that ultimately, rein-
forces the UAE’s leadership the field of mGovernment. The importance of this laboratory lies in protecting both the users and government entities from security threats that might arise from unauthorized applications,” commented H.E. Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, mGovernment Initiative Director.
“This technical center, developed by the TRA, will be available to everybody. It is with great pride that we are at the heart of the provision of such a service given the importance of it to our colleagues in government entities. The launch of this lab certainly puts us one step closer to achieving the goals set out in the UAE mGovernment initiative,” He added. The mGovernment lab contains state-of-the-art advanced operating systems designed specifically to testing smart applications. All the required software is in place and the specialist have already started testing operations for a variety of UAE government entities. Once completed, the lab will
provide full security screening, load testing for applications and accounts for the government entities who wish to verify their applications remotely. Al Mansouri added that a number of government entities have already been briefed on the lab and its capabilities with a delegation of officials attending an mGovernment workshop at the TRA in December. “The formation of this lab is significant and will play a central role in promoting a culture of quality and excellence within the sector. The progress made in this regard will also reinforce the UAE’s leading position as a pioneer in adopting mGovernment concepts and cutting edge practices,” he added.
PTA Issued the Order of Stop Charging Call-Setup Fee to all Operators By: ETR Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) gives notices to Cellular Mobile Network Operators for reversing the decision of call setup charges taken by all companies. The PTA said to all telecom operators to set back the callsetup charges to cushion up the consumers against the cartelization of telecom companies. In the official directive sent to companies PTA gives the order to them to instantly stop charging
the call-setup charges. In order to avoid any legal litigation the companies should have to stop charging this dues, otherwise they can be sued by PTA or may be PTA directly takes action against them as the directive is passed in the light of regulation Acts. The decision of stop charging call-setup charge is taken by the PTA under the provision of Telecom Reorganization act and Consumer Protection Regulation
2009. PTA also said all CMO’s to stop charging call-setup fee without harming consumers in any other way taking in account the action that may be taken by CMO’s. The said action has been taken by PTA to setback the telecom operator’s decision taken by them last week, after publishing a notice on their website for charging the call setup charge of 10 paisa’s plus Tax on every outgoing call.
PTA has taken this step to safeguard the interest of the consumer, and asked the operators to immediately stop charging and provide compliance report to the directive.
EIAST honours outstanding employees & Dubai Sat-2 team By: Shahzaib Amin As part of its efforts to consolidate a culture of innovation and organizational excellence, the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST) celebrated its annual award ceremony. The institution recognized the scientific innovation and organizational excellence of the Dubai Sat-2 team of engineers and staff as well as outstanding employees who made invaluable contributions to support EIAST’s vision to transform the UAE into one of the leading global centers in the space industry. During the event, EIAST presented honorary shields to the Dubai Sat-2 team in recognition of their vital role in the successful launch of the satellite which represents one of EIAST’s finest achievements in the fields of space and advanced sciences. The team
which supervised the launch, operations and testing of Dubai Sat-2 was also honored. Furthermore, as part of its intensive efforts to improve internal performance and develop the capacities of Emirati citizens, EIAST bestowed Hamad Al Jazeeri with the ‘2013 Distinguished Employee Award’ for his contribution towards improving the performance of his department by developing
operational plans and administrative systems that match the skills of the staff. In addition, Saeed Al Mansouri was awarded under the ‘Outstanding Scientific Innovation’ category for his success in developing a watermarking technique for the protection of intellectual property rights for space images taken by Dubai Sat-1. Finally, in the ‘Extra Miles’ category, Ghariba
Salem was honoured for her entrepreneurial and volunteering spirit, willingness to lend a helping hand to others, teamwork skills and continuous commitment to support work teams of different departments. The ‘Outstanding Employees’ were chosen based on the ‘Bravo’ program – an integrated methodology based on the principles of transparency, excellence and innovation.