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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Smart Chopsticks Function as Food-Safety Sensor

Chinese tech company Baidu is developing smart chopsticks that can act as a sensor telling users whether the food they’re eating is unsafe. The Baidu Kuaisou can detect issues such as the use of unsanitary cooking oil, a prevalent concern when eating Chinese street food. Kuaisou can also measure metrics such as food temperature, food nutrients, and product expiration dates. The device connects to computers that analyze sensor data via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Baidu is still testing the Kuaisou. A price tag for the chopsticks hasn’t yet been announced, and the company said the product isn’t yet ready for release commercially. (BBC)(TIME)(Business Insider)(The Wall Street Journal)

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Daimler Enters the Ride-Service Application Market

Daimler, the manufacturer of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, has bought two smartphone applications designed to help users obtain car services. The company’s moovel subsidiary purchased mytaxi, which lets smartphone users hail a cab, track its progress, rate the service, and pay for the ride. moovel also bought RideScout, which helps users find ways to get places using public and private transportation, including car-sharing services. Previously, moovel invested in Blacklane, a limousine-booking service. It also owns car2go and Park2gether, a service that helps users find vacant parking spaces. Daimler, which manufactures cabs, says its new applications will not disrupt the taxi industry. (Reuters)(The Wall Street Journal)

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

China Preparing National Operating System

China is preparing to launch an operating system to end its reliance on imported technologies such as Android, the Mac OS, and Windows. The Chinese Academy of Engineering system should be released in October 2014, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency. The desktop version is expected to be released first, followed by the mobile OS, according to the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The goal is to replace foreign-made desktop OSs within one or two years and mobile operating systems within three to five years. Ni Guangnan, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, heads a government development alliance for the academy and told Xinhua that a lack of research funds and too many independent developers working in different directions have hampered the new design effort and that the government should direct the project. The Chinese government has been pushing the use of domestic technology to avoid what it says are the cybersecurity risks of using foreign technology. In May 2014, it banned the use of Windows 8. (Reuters)(PC Mag)(BBC)(Xinhua News Agency)

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Verizon Settles US Privacy Complaints for $7.4 Million

Verizon Communications is paying the US government a settlement of $7.4 million following an investigation into how the company notifies customers of their privacy rights before using their information for marketing, according to the US Federal Communications Commission. This marks the largest fine relating to phone customers’ privacy in FCC history. The agency’s investigation discovered that beginning in 2006, the company didn’t provide roughly 2 million new landline telephone customers with proper privacy notices—explaining how to opt out of having their personal information provided for marketing offers—in their first bill. Under US law, phone companies cannot use customers’ personal data for marketing without their permission. Under the terms of the settlement, Verizon will send opt-out notices with every telephone bill. Verizon said that it advertently violated FCC rules that it takes the agency’s regulations seriously, and that it has implemented measures to avoid a recurrence. (Reuters)

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Sony Joins AllSeen Alliance

Sony has become the latest member of the Linux Foundation’s AllSeen Alliance, which is working on open standards and a development framework for the Internet of Things, in which everyday objects connect to the Internet and can communicate with people and one another. Sony joins the group, which now has 64 members, as a Premier Member, which means it will contribute $300,000 in the first year and $250,000 annually thereafter. Sony has not indicated what its technical contribution might include. The alliance is building on from Qualcomm’s AllJoyn project. So far, it has released version 14.06 of the AllJoyn framework and is working on targeted interoperability projects such as Internet-connected interior lighting. (Datamation)(AllSeen Alliance)

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

IANA Releases New IPv4 Addresses

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) has released new IPv4 address space to the five Regional Internet Registries worldwide. Each was given roughly 1.05 million addresses. The addresses are from a pool of leftover and returned IPv4 address blocks from which IANA can make periodic allocations to the regional registries, which manage IP address allocation and registration in different parts of the world. Despite the release of IPv4 addresses, IANA emphasizes that their overall number is dwindling and that equipment makers, service providers, and others need to adopt IPv6, which provides many more addresses, as soon as possible. (Enterprise Networking Planet)(American Registry for Internet Numbers)

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

US Airline Testing Preprinted Luggage Tags

A US-based air carrier is testing a program that would eliminate airport check-in for customers wishing to check baggage. Hawaiian Airlines is testing preprinted luggage tags for flights from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Oakland International Airport to Honolulu, Kahului, Kona, and Lihue in Hawaii. Tag@Home lets passengers print out their baggage tags at home when they check in online. Once at the airport, they get a plastic tag to hold the printed tag that attaches to the bag, which they drop off at a designated location before moving to security stations. At the end of the 60-day trial, Hawaiian Airlines expects to evaluate the program and determine whether it should be rolled on all of its routes. The company is also testing a baggage weighing and tagging service at self-serve kiosks in nine airports. The airline says the free programs are designed to help customers navigate more rapidly through the airport, but some say it could eliminate jobs if adopted across the industry. Hawaiian said it hasn’t reduced staffing levels. (Geek Wire)(Pacific Business Journal)(Hawaiian Airlines)

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Home Depot Investigates Possible Data Breach

US home-improvement retailer Home Depot is investigating “unusual activity” regarding its customer data, following a report by investigative security journalist Brian Krebs that the company may have suffered a payment-card breach that started in April or May and that may affect all 2,200 US stores. He discovered details about the incident from a posting on a black market forum. Home Depot spokeswoman Paula Drake said if the company confirms that a breach has occurred, it will notify customers immediately. Krebs noted that it appears the hackers responsible “may be the same group of Russian and Ukrainian hackers responsible for [earlier] data breaches at Target, Sally Beauty, and P.F. Chang’s, among others.” . If the breach indeed began in late April or early May 2014, he added, “and if even a majority of Home Depot stores were compromised, this breach could be many times larger than [the] Target [incident], which had 40 million credit and debit cards stolen over a three-week period.” (BBC)(Krebs on Security)

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Court Denies Apple’s Request to Bar Samsung’s Infringing Smartphones in US

A US federal judge has rejected Apple’s request asking for her to ban the domestic sale of nine Samsung smartphones—most in the Galaxy line—that Apple claims infringed on its patents. Apple sought a permanent injunction after a US jury found in May that Samsung, which is appealing the finding, infringed on three of its patents and had to pay $120 million of the $2.2 billion in damages sought. In a 42-page ruling, US District Judge Lucy Koh contended that Apple did not prove that “it suffered significant harm in the form of either lost sales or reputational injury.” Additionally she said Apple had not “satisfied its burden of demonstrating irreparable harm and linking that harm to Samsung's exploitation of any of Apple’s three infringed patents.” Earlier this month, the companies agreed to end their patent battles outside the US. (Tech Spot)(The San Jose Mercury-News)(The Wall Street Journal)(Ars Technica)

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

US Comic is Serious about Hybrid Social-Media Promotions

You know the face. He’s got a hit television show in the US——playing Tom Haverford on NBC’s Parks and Recreation—and frequently performs stand-up comedy dates across the country. He’s even sold out Madison Square Garden in New York City. His name is Aziz Ansari, and .he has 4 million Twitter followers, which he is using to his advantage. Ansari employs a mix of social media, posts on his website , and text messages to promote shows in small venues to his fans and give them a chance to buy tickets. He sends a tweet instructing fans to head to his site and enter their cellular-phone numbers for a chance to buy tickets. When Ansari did this in San Francisco, there were 35,000 entries in three days. Winners are notified by phone and given a code to buy tickets free of processing fees. “If I tweet out that ‘I’m doing a show at the Punchline’ (the small club where Ansari appeared in San Francisco)’ it would sell out really fast, like in 30 seconds,” he explained to re/Code. “No one would have a chance to get tickets unless they’re maniacally checking Twitter. And I didn’t want those to be the only people.” A team headed by online publisher David Cho created Ansari’s custom software. (re/Code)(Aziz Ansari)

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Saturday, September 20, 2014 Wearable-Device Toolkit Gains Traction

An application-developer toolkit that cloud-based business-services vendor created is gaining market traction among hardware makers seeking to stake a claim in the nascent wearable-device market. The company’s Salesforce Wear program now counts companies such as Epson, Jawbone, and Oculus among its partners. Developers use the tool to create applications that will work on enterprise market wearables such as Google Glass, Android Wear, and various smartwatches. These applications will provide many capabilities such as real-time multimedia training or clocking in and out of work. Projections for market growth vary widely. (Diginomica)(InfoWorld)(TIME)(Salesforce @ PR NewsWire)

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Designer Ralph Lauren Puts Technology in Iconic Polo Shirt

Ralph Lauren, the fashion house best known for its preppy collared shirts featuring a mallet-wielding rider on a polo pony, is adding a biometric shirt to its offerings. The Polo Tech shirt uses biometric sensors to collect data about the wearer’s motions and direction of movement. It debuted at the US Open tennis tournament, which just began. Some of the ball boys will wear the shirt, which was developed with the assistance of OMsignal, which developed the biometric technology for the shirt. The shirt, made from an antimicrobial smart fabric with sensors embedded in it, will collect data, including heart rate and respiration, based on the wearer’s movements. It transmits   he information to a cloud-based system, which will analyze the data and report its findings. Although designers such as Diane Von F├╝rstenberg and Tory Burch are collaborating with technology firms – Google and FitBit, respectively -- to make wearable accessories fashionable, observers say this move by a mainstream brand like Ralph Lauren on a smart garment and its use at a major sporting event could signal the greater acceptance of wearable technology. (ZD Net)(Mashable)

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hackers Target Large Banks

Several large US banks were attacked by hackers who appear to have used malware and a zero-day vulnerability to infiltrate networks and obtain corporate and customer data. At least five banks—only JP Morgan Chase was identified—were involved in the attacks, in which cybercriminals stole “gigabytes of customer data,” according to the anonymous sources cited by news outlets. However, it is unclear whether they took credit card or other account information. The fact that there have been no reports of money moved from accounts indicates the attack was politically motivated, according to a US government source. The US FBI, Secret Service, and National Security Agency are investigating the breaches. Initial investigations indicate the attacks were routed through computers in Latin America from servers that Russian hackers are known to use. Security vendor Trend Micro reported an uptick in attacks on US and European banks since 24 July 2014 from computers whose IP addresses appear to be in former Soviet bloc countries. JP Morgan Chase spokesperson Brian Marchiony declined comment on the recent incidents, saying only, “Companies of our size unfortunately experience cyberattacks nearly every day. We have multiple layers of defense to counteract threats and constantly monitor fraud levels.” In April, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said the company was increasing its annual expenditures on security by 25 percent—to $250 million—compared to 2013. (CNN Money)(re/Code)(Bloomberg)

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Major US Carrier’s Internet Service Restored after Massive Outage

Time Warner Cable’s Internet service was knocked out across the US for about 90 minutes Wednesday morning. Millions of customers—primarily in key markets of California (including Los Angeles), New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas—were left without service. In a statement, the company explained, “During our routine network maintenance, an issue with our Internet backbone created disruption with our Internet and on-demand services. Industry observers say this incident could bolster arguments made by those opposing the pending merger between Time Warner and Comcast, the country’s largest cable TV provider.  “People are questioning whether this merger will be good for consumers,” Steve Beck, founder of the management consulting firm CG42, told the Los Angeles Times. Service interruptions happen. The world is an imperfect place, but it really comes down to how these companies handle the problem and resolve their customer's complaints.” (re/Code)(The Los Angeles Times)

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tricorder X Finalists Announced

Qualcomm announced 10 finalists in a competition to develop a handheld healthcare device inspired by the tricorder medical scanner used in the Star Trek TV series. The Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize will award $7 million prize for the best noninvasive wireless device weighing less than five pounds that can diagnose 16 different diseases—such as anemia, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, mononucleosis, and tuberculosis—and accurately measure vital signs. Many tricorder technologies currently exist but not in a single, portable device. Participants in the contest include research teams from Canada, India, Ireland, Slovenia, the UK and the US, from universities, medical-device manufacturers, and tech start-ups, including one funded by NASA and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Thy have until mid-2015 to develop a working prototype. A total of $10 million in prizes will be awarded. (BBC)(CNET)(Qualcomm)

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Bug Throws Wrench into Google Image Searches

Computer users in many parts of the world trying to find images via Google for eight hours on 26 August 2014 were served up repeated images of a grisly Russian car accident and photos of NBA star Kevin Durant rather than those they sought. The problem affected Google encrypted searches, which are now the default search mode, across multiple Google domains. In a statement sent to ZDNet, the company said only that the issue was caused by an accident. A source familiar with the issue said it was the result of a bug in Google’s software. Google didn’t comment on exactly what precipitated the problem. (TIME)(ZDNet)

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

US-Based eTailers Increasingly Accept Bitcoin

More US-based online retailers—including Dish Network, Expedia, and—are allowing payments via bitcoin. Market analysts say the virtual currency is moving toward mainstream acceptance for online purchases, with full adoption occurring in about five years. Currently, market analysts note, consumers still prefer to use credit cards. Continuing volatility in the bitcoin exchange rate, which is unregulated, is also deterring consumer acceptance. However, merchants like using bitcoin to avoid credit-card fraud and transaction fees paid to credit-card companies. (Reuters)(Mashable)

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cyberattack Compromises Data on US Homeland Security Employees

A cyberattack on USIS, formerly known as US Investigations Services, a company that conducts background checks for federal government employees, compromised the personal data of at least 25,000 of those workers, including undercover investigators. For example, the breach exposed personal information of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees. The compromised information includes Social Security numbers, education and criminal history, birth dates, and personal information about relatives and friends. Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer with cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, said hackers “would be collecting this data to identify individuals who might be vulnerable to extortion and recruitment.” USIS disclosed the attack earlier this month—saying it has “all the markings of a state-sponsored attack”—but did not say how many records had been compromised or which agencies were affected. DHS suspended all work with the company and the FBI is investigating the attack. USIS could not be reached for comment. (Reuters)(NBC News)

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Apple Sets Much-Anticipated September New-Product Preview

Apple will take the wraps off new products in a much-anticipated 9 September event at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, where Steve Jobs launched the Mac computer. Some reporters are billing it as the most anticipated since Apple launched the iPad in 2010. The company has not released details. Industry observers speculate the firm will show new iPhones as well as its first wearable device. (The Associated Press)(re/Code – 1)(re/Code – 2)

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

New Device Is a Smartwatch and a Fitness Tracker

Garmin, best known for its GPS-based navigation devices, is releasing a new wearable device combining the functionalities of a smartwatch and an activity tracker. Garmin’s Vivosmart is a redesign of its Vivofit and offers a wide range of alerts and information about a user’s activity including sleep duration, calorie expenditure, and the number of steps taken while walking. This wristband is the latest entry into what is shaping up to be a packed niche wearable-device market for combination smartwatches and fitness trackers. Garmin will sell the $170 Vivosmart initially at Best Buy and by November at other retailers. (Gizmodo)(The Wall Street Journal)(PC Mag)

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