- Saarland University
This news release is available in German.
Last year at the end of July the Russian software company "Doctor Web" detected several malicious apps in the app store "Google Play". Downloaded on a smartphone, the malware installed — without the permission of the user — additional programs which sent expensive text messages to premium services. Although Doctor Web, according to its own statement, informed Google immediately, the malicious apps were still available for download for several days. Doctor Web estimates that in this way up to 25,000 smartphones were used fraudulently.
Computer scientists from the German Saarland University have now developed software which can discover such malicious apps already in the app store. The software detects pieces of code where the app accesses sensitive data and where data is sent from the mobile device. If the software detects a connection between such a "source" and such a "sink", it reports that as suspect behavior. To give an example of such a malicious source-sink combination, Erik Derr explains: "Your address book is read; hundreds of instructions later and without your permission an SMS is sent or a website is visited." Derr is a PhD candidate at the Graduate School of Computer Science and does research at the Center for IT-Security, Privacy and Accountability (CISPA), only a few yards away.
To identify a functional relation between source and sink, the computer scientists from Saarbrücken use new methods of information flow analysis. As input they provide suspicious combinations of accesses on the application programming interface. As the software needs a lot of computational power and storage, it runs on a separate server. "So far we have tested up to 3000 apps with it. The software analyzes them fast enough that the approach can also be used in practice," Derr says.
- Enid Burns for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The browser cookie has long been debated as a troubling side effect of the Internet. Privacy advocates and consumers fear that data collected from cookies are used in nefarious ways. However, publishers typically use the data to understand a site's visitors and target advertising.
A group of cryptology engineers at the Saarland University in Germany is the most recent group to tackle the cookie issue, this time by using a cryptographic method to collect data that preserves privacy.
The problem: "Many website providers are able to collect data, but only a few manage to do so without invading users' privacy," explains Aniket Kate from Cryptographic Systems (CrypSys) Research Group at Saarland University, and leader of the research group creating the technology.
The justification for collecting data in such a manner shows the necessity. "But this wealth of sensitive information allows them to reconstruct detailed profiles of each individual," said Kate, in a university statement.
Kate and her group at Saarland University propose a new way to collect data. The group is presenting findings this week at the computer expo CeBIT in Hannover. The research is also presented in a paper titled "PrivaDA: A Generic Framework for Privacy-preserving Data Aggregation."
"Our PrivaDA framework is a replacement for the privacy-insensitive server-side user tracking over the Internet. In general, PrivaDA is almost independent of the cookies infrastructure: In particular, a visitor's data/answers can still be generated by processing cookies in the visitor's local environment or by directly asking the visitor for his/her answers (using say a webform). The key difference with the current tracking is that the visitor input should not reach the (analytic) server in the plain form. Answers from several visitor must to processed [sic] together in the PrivaDA framework, and only noisy statistical answers should reach the server," Kate told RedOrbit.
One issue that has held cryptographic methods in the past is a limitation on the depth of data that the technology can provide. The PrivaDA system is able to overcome some of those limitations.
PrivaDA is presented as "a novel design framework for distributed differential privacy that leverages recent advances in SMPCs on fixed and floating point arithmetics to overcome the previously mentioned limitations. In particular, PrivaDA supports a variety of perturbation mechanisms (e.g., the Laplace, discrete Laplace, and exponential mechanisms) and it constitutes the first generic technique to generate noise in a fully distributed manner while maintaining the optimal utility. Furthermore, PrivaDA does not suffer from the answer pollution problem and we demonstrate its practicality with a performance evaluation," the PrivaDA paper's introduction states.
PrivaDA is not the first alternative developed to replace cookies. Several companies are working on device fingerprinting technology, which would allow website publishers to identify users by device, such as a computer, mobile phone or tablet. Several major Internet companies such as Google and Microsoft are working to come up with new technologies that will replace cookies, and address privacy concerns triggered by cookies.
"A variety of factors are conspiring against the continued existence of third-party cookies. Among them changing online privacy rules and norms, the fact that Microsoft, Google and other large publishers are looking for alternatives and the fact that mobile devices don't support them-- are all reasons that everyone is starting to look around for alternatives," Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, told RedOrbit.
Device fingerprinting is already being implemented by some web providers and publishers, as it is able to track users on multiple devices, including devices cookies are not able to track such as mobile devices. Last fall it was reported that at least 145 of the web's top 10,000 websites are using device fingerprinting, from a report released by KU Leuven-iMinds researchers. While it is expected the device fingerprinting statistic will only rise, other technologies such as those using cryptographic methods could just as easily rise to dominate analytics on the Internet.
The new approach developed by the CrypSys Research Group at Saarland University uses cryptography, a method of secure communication that is able to encode and decode messages or data, to collect user data and keep it in a secure form. The data are able to compile a user profile while still remaining protected.
"It should be done locally on the user/visitor machine by directly asking queries to the visitor using (say) a web form or by running a local profile creation code that generates user profiles locally," said Kate. "Instead our distributed system processes several such profiles together and then forwards the noisy statistical information about all visitor profiles to the server. The mechanism we employ to create noisy statistics is called 'differential privacy', and our system implement differential privacy mechanism as a secure multi-party computation."
Limitations to the PrivaDA system might be that user data is not pieced together as fully as tracking cookies. Privacy advocates might be pleased about this outcome, but it remains unclear whether publishers and advertisers will accept this method as a replacement to cookies. Data provided by PrivDA will render individual statistics, but will be less able to provide the profile picture currently available to publishers and advertisers.
"As only the noisy statistics are provided to the server in the end, combining a limited number of data pieces (i.e. statistical outputs) does not reveal any significant amount of user profile to the colluding servers," Kate said. "Some profile items such as gender, age does not have to answered [sic] each time, while some might have to be answered freshly."
Advantages of the PrivaDA system include protecting the privacy of site visitors. Publishers and advertisers retain the ability to derive demographic and psychographic data from their analytics platforms, but the data are less tied to the individual site visitor.
"The key advantage of differentially private (noisy) statistics is that they protect individual's privacy without hampering the useful [sic] of the statistical results. Publishers claim to collect visitors statistics to improve the user experience or the publishers site's performance, and the noisy statistics suffice for this purpose. Thus, our system serves the purpose of the publisher/analytic firm while still protecting the individual user's privacy," said Kate.
- Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Two privacy groups have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission saying Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp could be an unfair trade practice, according to a Bloomberg report.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center and Center for Digital Democracy claim that the purchase is unfair because users of the messaging services had an expectation that their data would not be collected for advertising purposes.
Facebook first purchased WhatsApp for $16 billion back in February. The app is a real-time messaging network that allows users to bypass text messaging fees and send instant messages over data networks. The purchase was the social network’s largest acquisition to date.
Although the purchase was a large one for Facebook, not everyone is happy about the company’s move.
“Facebook routinely makes use of user information for advertising purposes and has made clear that it intends to incorporate the data of WhatsApp users into the user profiling business model,” the complaint says. “The proposed acquisition will therefore violate WhatsApp users’ understanding of their exposure to online advertising and constitutes an unfair and deceptive trade practice, subject to investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.”
"WhatsApp users could not reasonably have anticipated that by selecting a pro-privacy messaging service, they would subject their data to Facebook’s data collection practices," the complaint says.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder and Chief Executive Officer, said last month that nothing will change for WhatsApp users after the acquisition.
“Facebook’s goal is to bring more connectivity and utility to the world by delivering core Internet services efficiently and affordably -- this partnership will help make that happen,” Jodi Seth, a spokeswoman for Menlo Park, California-based Facebook, said in a statement. “As we have said repeatedly, WhatsApp will operate as a separate company and will honor its commitments to privacy and security.”
WhatsApp also reassured its users in a blog post when the acquisition was announced that nothing would be changing, saying it will remain autonomous and operate independently. They also said that its app will remain ad-free.
- Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Professional poker players spend years honing their skills to “read” others, but now San Diego-based Emotient might allow everyone to have the chance to read emotions. The company announced on Thursday that it has developed a Sentiment Analysis prototype app for Google Glass which could allow wearers of the computerized headset to read the emotions of people in the wearer's field of view.
“Emotient’s Sentiment Analysis Glassware demonstrates our goal to emotion-enable any manner of device and build the next layer of automatic sensors,” said Ken Denman, CEO, Emotient, via a statement. “It’s a breakthrough technology that allows companies to aggregate customer sentiment by processing facial expressions anonymously. We believe there is broad applicability for this service to improve the customer experience, particularly in retail.”
This software is able to process facial expressions and then provide the wearer of Google Glass an aggregate emotional read-out. This app is able to measure overall sentiment including positive, negative or neutral – as well as primary emotions including joy, surprise, sadness, fear, disgust, contempt and anger; and advanced emotions frustration and confusion.
The wearer doesn’t need to know the individual that the app is monitoring either as it is reportedly able to detect and process anonymous facial expressions of any individual or even a group of individuals that the Glass wearer sees.
The app does not store video or images, and Emotient has said that any analysis would be done anonymously. PC Mag reports that Google previously confirmed it would not “add facial recognition features to our products without having strong privacy protections in place.” However, it could be software that is hard to avoid.
While the Emotient app could have the potential to help gamblers possibly detect when someone is bluffing at cards, the developers believe that it has a potential for use in a retail setting, where it could be used to improve the understanding of aggregate customer sentiment. This could be used to measure store performance and help manage product and advertising/promotions. It could further provide real time reporting on customer satisfaction.
Emotient, which is currently one of the leading authorities in facial expression analysis, was founded by a team of six PhDs from the University of California, San Diego. The company’s software is able to translate facial expressions into actionable information which enables businesses to develop emotion-aware technologies and to create new levels of customer engagement, research, and analysis.
According to TechCrunch, Emotient recently raised $6 million via a Series B round of funding that was led by Seth Neiman, formerly a general partner at Crosspoint Venture Partners and who is now leading the new VC firm Handbag. Previously the startup had raised $8 million including funding from Intel Capital.
Finally, while Google Glass could make its way to retail, some establishments might look to ban its use – so those thinking of using Google Glass with Emotient while trolling bars in the Bay Area may be out of luck. PC Mag added that Molotov bar and The Willows have both banned the use of the wearable computer technology in their establishments.
- Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Taking a break from your daily activities helps you unwind, refresh and revitalize to help you get through the rest of the day. But for many, there is no break from the always-connected modern age of society.
Everywhere we go we are not far from our smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, allowing us to be constantly in touch with the rest of the world via social media. And when at home, computers, laptops and entertainment systems keep us all interconnected as well, with the only break usually coming from those few hours of shuteye we get each night.
A growing movement wants to change this always on, always connected way of life to make taking a break from our devices a common rule, rather than an a rare exception. As part of this growing movement, the first Friday in March is reserved for a National Day of Unplugging, a global initiative launched by the nonprofit organization Reboot in 2002 to help people disconnect from their always-on lifestyles.
"I think that people are overwhelmed. It's physically taken a toll on people," Reboot's communications manager, Tanya Schevitz, told CNN’s Heather Kelly in an interview. "If you think you have to respond to everything all the time, that's an unrealistic expectation."
The National Day of Unplugging begins at sundown tonight and last through sundown tomorrow, and people are encouraged to put away their cellphones, laptops, computers, games and any other connected devices to celebrate the digital Sabbath (traditionally observed as a day of resting).
Instead of checking Facebook to see what your friends and family are up to, try reaching out to them in person. If spending time with others is not available to you, then taking time for yourself works just as well. Spend the day taking a hike or riding a bike. Take time to finish a project or start your spring cleaning. If anything, maybe this day of rest actually means you can get a restful night’s sleep.
Participants are encouraged to sign a pledge on the National Day of Unplugging event website and post a photo telling others why they unplug. The site’s homepage is now littered with hundreds of photos of participants and their pledges on why they are unplugging, including:
Tara Mann, from New York City, says she unwinds to “Read comic books.”
Israel Ganot, from Boston, says he unplugs to “Play with my kids.”
And Matt and Mimi Youngner, from San Francisco, say they unplug to “Hike with our dog.”
Along with the hundreds of participants who have signed pledges on the website, the project organizers have also signed on more than 200 local and national groups as partners, including the Ad Council and Google. Many of these partners have their own official events to celebrate the National Day of Unplugging.
While the holiday only lasts 24 hours, the project organizers would like to see it catch on, allowing people to become more aware of the impact their always-connected lifestyle has on their work, their family and most importantly, their mental and physical well-being. Through this knowledge, people could eventually begin to take short timeouts from their always-on lifestyles and eventually find a balance.
"Day to day, throughout your day, you should be thinking about unplugging moments," Schevitz told CNN.
Unplugging is a relatively new concept in society. If you think back about 15 years or so, the Internet was just beginning to catch on and social networking was unheard of. People today are largely connected to the Internet world thanks to the titans of social networking Facebook and Twitter, two companies that have driven social media through the roof.
In this day and age it will be increasingly difficult to pull people away from their always-connected social lifestyles. And there is nary a place one can go to escape the reach of the Internet thanks to mobile technology. And because it has become a fixed tool in our daily lives, we constantly feel the need to check our phones for emails, texts and tweets. And even when our phones are not ringing, we feel the need to pick them up and use them anyway.
A lot of research is now being conducted on the effects and impacts smartphones and mobile technologies have on our lives. Be it at work, at home or on the road, we are constantly connected to society and there eventually has to be a breaking point somewhere.
While many of us feel the need to always be connected, we seldom realize the effects it not only has on our own well-being, but the well-being of those around us, including our colleagues, spouses, children, friends and everyone else around us.
In the CNN report, Schevitz explained that she recently had the chance to speak with an eighth-grade class about unplugging. She said many of the students shared stories of parents who were always working or too busy using their smartphones to listen to what their children had to say.
When we think of addiction, we tend to think about alcoholism, smoking and drugs. But technology is fast becoming an addiction that many people may have a hard time quitting.
It may take a lot of willpower to step away from technology and Schevitz has some general tips for those interested in trying to unplug from their always-connected lifestyles.
She told CNN that when people go to sleep at night they should use an alarm clock rather than their smartphone. This way, they are not tempted to check their device right before bedtime and first thing in the morning.
She said people should also set goals and schedule times when it may be beneficial to not rely on the comfort of their phone. These times should be when they are alone and idle. It is often during these times that people will instinctively pick up their phone. Instead, people should be observing their surroundings and taking in the moments that would otherwise slip right by unnoticed.
Most importantly, if you decide to put down your phone or other device for an extended amount of time, be sure to let people know. In this day and age of constant-connectivity, going a few hours or longer sans phone may be enough to cause concern from your friends and family, especially if you are breaking from a normal routine.
- Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics at Saarland University in Germany have developed a prototype system that utilizes Google Glass to access ATM machines.
Currently the wearable display technology from the search giant allows users to check a calendar with a glance, take a photo with a wink, or simply read text messages. Now German university researchers, who are one of the few in Europe that have been able to take the possibilities of what Google Glass can do to the next level, think it could help do some banking.
Google Glass, which is still in the prototype stage, is little more than a futuristic looking pair of glasses that has a camera and mini-computer installed. It is able to record what the wearer sees while also sending information to the user’s field of vision via a glass prism.
The technology has been in the news in recent months, notably in January when the first case of a driver being cited for using the technology was thrown out of court in California. In that particular case the judge threw out the case for lack of evidence as to the issue of speeding – not that the accused may have been wearing the glasses.
While the legality of using the technology is still being defined, the German researchers have created a method where Google Glass could be used at an ATM - possibly replacing an ATM card. Dominique Schröder, assistant professor of Cryptographic Algorithms at Saarland University, found that at the proper distance – from about two and a half meters – Google Glass could provide a key to encrypt the one-way personal identification number (PIN).
In addition it could provide a “digital signature,” a digital counterpart of the conventional signature.
In this case, the result shows up on the screen as a black-and-white pattern, a so-called QR code, where the PIN that is hidden below is only visible for the identified wearer of the glasses. Google Glass could be used to decrypt it and display it only in the wearer’s field of vision.
“Although the process occurs in public, nobody is able to spy on the PIN,” Schröder said in a statement.
Where this is different from other encryptions is that the PIN can only been seen by the Google Glass wearer, and Schröder added that this would not be the case were the PIN is sent to a smart phone, as someone could glance at the screen.
Moreover, this could become a one-time code. Anyone seeing it being entered could use it again, since the PIN can be re-generated each time the customer accesses the cash machine.
The researchers further argue that an attacker also wearing a Google Glass could not be able to spy on the process either. This they contend is because any digital signature guarantees that no assailant could be able to intrude between the customer and the cash machine as during the so-called ‘skimming.'
According to the researchers, only the authorized customer could be able to decrypt the encryption by the public key with his secret key.
“The nice thing about a head mounted display is no one other than you can see the display - assuming it isn’t hacked and someone is viewing it remotely,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group told redOrbit. “However if you use a single use PIN properly it is only good one time and it is tied to your device so the value of that little bit of extra security is negligible.
“In addition Google has been particularly bad with privacy, which speaks to challenge question for password resets, and Android represents what may be the biggest security exposure currently in market so any security advantage is likely more than offset with the platform's security exposures,” Enderle added. “So, in concept, using a product like Goggle Glass for multi-factor security would be an improvement in practice, given how poorly Google does security, it would be a foolish idea with Google Glass.”
“It’s another case of a solution looking for a problem,” added Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics.
One particular issue is that, as noted, there is the issue of whether this just creates another system that could be hacked.
“Absolutely,” Entner told redOrbit. “What happens if you lose your Google Glasses? It’s just a self-perpetuating problem.”
It is of course important to note that Google Glass isn’t the primary security method in place.
“They are using it as a secondary security measure to receive a unique code that changes each time,” said Jim McGregor, founder and principal analyst at TIRIAS Research. “However, if someone has access to your card, pin, and Google Glass, then they should be able to get to your money. This does not eliminate the threat, but it does add another level of security to prying eyes. the best solution is still biometrics, but nothing is completely secure. The real question is would consumers accept the added security for with the added complexity or inconvenience of completing the transaction?”
Instead Google Glass could add an additional layer of security.
“This is exactly what they are proposing. If Google Glass was cheap and as common as a mobile handset, I would say that this has potential,” McGregor told redOrbit. “However, it does demonstrate the flexibility of these new computing form factors and platforms, and the innovation around them that we will eventually see. For example, suppose that a version of Google glass has a sensor just tracking the eye. then you could use Google Glass for real-time augmented reality as you look around or possibly even use the image of your retina as a biometric key.”
There is also the issue of whether Google Glass could in fact put wearers at risk.
Last week two women and a man reportedly attacked a tech writer who was wearing Google Glass. While she recovered the glasses, her purse with wallet and cell phone were reportedly not recovered. It wasn’t clear if her wearing of Google Glass had spawned the attack.
While the legality is still being determined, Google recently laid out a set of social guidelines that its Glass “Explorer” community should follow, asking them to not be “glassholes.”
“Respect others and if they have questions about Glass don’t get snappy. Be polite and explain what Glass does and remember, a quick demo can go a long way. In places where cell phone cameras aren’t allowed, the same rules will apply to Glass,” Google said in an official blog post. “If you’re asked to turn your phone off, turn Glass off as well. Breaking the rules or being rude will not get businesses excited about Glass and will ruin it for other Explorers. Glass is a piece of technology, so use common sense. Water skiing, bull riding or cage fighting with Glass are probably not good ideas.”
While that could all fall into the category of common sense, this technology could however have advantages for sharing of corporate data. Already a large electric company has requested the computer scientists in Saarbrücken to determine future uses for this technology.
“This could be interesting, for example, for large companies or agencies that are collecting information in one document, but do not want to show all parts to everybody,” added Mark Simkin, who was one of the developers of Ubic.
Google Glass is expected to enter the American market this year.
- Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Acknowledging that people are routinely stealing its images on the internet anyway, Getty Images has debuted a new Embed tool that will allow anyone to post one of its photographs to a website or social media – as long as it’s for noncommercial purposes.
"What we're trying to do is take a behavior that already exists and enable it legally, then try to get some benefits back to the photographer primarily through attribution and linkage," Craig Peters, senior vice president, business development, product and content at Getty Images told CNET Australia.
For years, users have been sharing licensed content through what Peters describes as a "right-click and take behavior", which frequently removes the image data and repurposes the picture if there is no watermark. Through the new Embed tool, the metadata remains with the image and information is provided for users to click back to Getty if they wish to learn more or if they want to license the picture for other purposes.
"I equate this back to when you think about music, back before there was iTunes or Spotify," Peters said, "people were stealing imagery because they didn't have an alternative.”
“Our job here is to provide a better alternative to stealing, not only one that's legal but one that's better,” he continued. “There are no watermarks beyond attribution, and hopefully with the ease of access and the ability to search through our entire archive of imagery, those are things that are actually better off when there's publishers who want to use our content."
The company said the new tool will make 35 million images immediately available for personal use.
"There are certain collections that we don't feel are appropriate for (Embed), but for the majority we come at this saying our imagery is included for Embed,” Peters said. “For the most part if it is an image that is available for licensing off of our website, not requiring additional permissions or uses, or not limited in its use cases, we will make that imagery available within the Embed model."
While Getty is currently looking only to keep metadata and attribution linked in its photos, the company hasn’t ruled out monetization of the Embed tool in the future.
"Over time there are other monetization options we can look at," Peters said. "That could be data options, advertising options. If you look at what YouTube has done with their embed capabilities, they are serving ads in conjunction with those videos that are served around the internet."
The new tool somewhat resembles Connect – a tool which was made available exclusively for Getty clients in 2012. That tool allowed a Getty client to have the company’s catalog of photos embedded directly into their own content management system.
"The client doesn't need to store millions of images on their side of things, they don't have to worry about what's the most recent image, so they're grabbing content immediately as it's available,” Peters said at the time. “So if they're writing a very timely story about the riots in the Middle East, or they're writing a story about anything topical like sports or entertainment, that content's available anywhere."
- Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Have you ever had voices from a nearby television or radio work their way into your early morning dreams? Now you can have that same experience – only using the heavenly smells and sounds of bacon.
Oscar Mayer has depicted some potential bacon-themed dreams in an epic new video as a part of the ad campaign for its new bacon-themed alarm-clock iPhone app and dongle, which wakes up its users with sounds of sizzling bacon, “bacon-isms,” and tiny puffs of bacon aroma.
"With nearly two million mentions of #bacon on Instagram, it seems people never get tired of bacon. That's why our team decided to develop a device to give folks what they long for most," said Tom Bick, senior director of integrated marketing and advertising at Oscar Mayer in a press release. "As the category leader, Oscar Mayer is thrilled to bring the first-ever, bacon-scented mobile device to market, giving bacon aficionados a new reason to welcome their morning alarm clocks."
The app, dubbed Wake Up and Smell the Bacon, is available for free in the App Store and functions as a conventional alarm clock. However, instead of playing music from a playlist or emitting a series of piercing, blood-curdling sounds – the app tries to gently wake up a sleeping user by playing the sounds of frying meat and pre-recorded “bacon-isms.”
"Experience bacon with all your senses," a voice from the app says. "Like the deepest root, like the stormiest ocean, it's briney cure endures. Bacon exceeds everything you ever imagined."
Unfortunately for chronic cravers of salted pork, the aroma-emitting device that plugs into an iPhone won’t go on sale, but a limited number will be made available through an online contest. To enter to win, contestants must complete a quiz on the Oscar Mayer website by April 4. Contest winners will receive the aromatic device six to eight weeks after applications close, the company said.
According to Mashable, a test run of the aroma device produced smells that were “more jerky than bacon.” The device also comes with a refill of the liquid that becomes those puffs of aroma destined to make their way into human nostrils.
The app, dongle and contest are the latest project from the Oscar Mayer Institute for the Advancement of Bacon, a "consortium of the world's greatest bacon minds dedicated to unlocking the bacon's deepest mysteries for the benefit of bacon lovers everywhere."
Last summer, the “institute” unveiled a campaign just ahead of Father’s Day called “Say It with Bacon” that referenced jewelry ads and the romance surrounding hand-crafted goods.
"Bacon. Is there any meat more noble?" asked Phil Roudenbusch, an ‘Oscar Mayer bacon cut and design chief’ in an online video released by the company.
"I always challenge my team to cut smarter,” he continued. “Because every cut of bacon has its own unique symmetry. Like a snowflake. The bacon will tell you how it wants to be cut.”
While bacon might be a good gift for Father’s Day, it doesn’t help if you’re trying to become a dad. A study released by Harvard University researchers in October found that eating large amounts of bacon and other “processed meat” can significantly reduce a male’s sperm count.
- redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Not only is manufacturing goods using a 3D printer far cheaper than purchasing items, new research appearing in a recent edition of the Journal of Cleaner Production reveals that it can actually help preserve the environment.
The 3D printing process was very expensive when Charles W. Hull of 3D Systems Corp created the first working model in 1984, and while the costs have dropped dramatically over the past 30 years, the cost of purchasing plastic filament still needs to be factored in. The new study, however, shows how old milk jugs can reduce those expenses.
In their study, Michigan Technological University associate professor of materials science and engineering/electrical and computer engineering Joshua Pearce and his colleagues demonstrated that using milk jugs made from HDPE plastic to create the 3D printer filament actually uses less energy than conventional recycling of the beverage containers.
The milk jug was cleaned, cut into pieces and run through an office shredder. It was then sent through a device known as a RecycleBot, which turns waste plastic into 3D printer filament. When compared to urban recycling programs that collect and process plastic locally, the RecycleBot process required about three percent less power.
“Where it really shows substantial savings is in smaller towns like Houghton, where you have to transport the plastic to be collected, then again to be recycled, and a third time to be made into products,” Pearce said.
Under those circumstances, the energy savings soared to between 70 and 80 percent, and recycling your own milk jugs also uses 90 percent less energy than making virgin plastic from petroleum, the researchers noted.
In terms of cost, Pearce said that filament retails for between $36 and $50 per kilogram. By using recycled plastic, a person can produce homemade filament for 10 cents per kilogram. Even factoring in the roughly $300 cost of the RecycleBot, he said that there was “a clear incentive” to produce filament using recycled plastic containers.
However, the study authors also report that the HDPE plastic used in milk jugs is not ideal as a 3D printer filament component, as it shrinks slightly as it cools. Even so, this technology has reportedly drawn interest from the Ethical Filament Foundation, an organization seeking an environmentally friendly and ethically produced alternative production method to keep up with the demands of the expanding 3D Printing market.
“In the developing world, it’s hard to get filament, and if these recyclers could make it and sell it for, say, $15 a kilogram, they’d make enough money to pull themselves out of poverty while doing the world a lot of good,” said Pearce, who was the corresponding author and worked alongside Michigan Tech colleagues Megan Kreiger, Meredith Mulder, and Alexandra Glover on the Journal of Cleaner Production paper.
Currently, 3D printing is used in the fields of architecture, construction, industrial design, engineering, medical technology and even the fashion industry. Last month, NASA announced that it would be launching several formal programs to prototype new tools for future missions using the increasingly popular new manufacturing technique.
An Open Access version of the research paper is available here.
- Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Facebook is now taking aim at posts related to guns. On Wednesday the social networking giant announced that it will block minors from seeing postings of gun sales and that it would further take down posts about the sale of firearms that don’t require a background check or cross states lines.
While advertising remains the main source of bread and butter for Facebook, the site already has strict rules in place when it comes to advertising, and does not permit ads for illegal drugs, tobacco products, prescription pharmaceuticals, weapons, and several other products and services, and restricts advertising for products such as alcohol, adult products, and gaming.
The company also listens to reports on what it might consider inappropriate discussions among users via Facebook posts.
“Any time we receive a report on Facebook about a post promoting the private sale of a commonly regulated item, we will send a message to that person reminding him or her to comply with relevant laws and regulations,” Monika Bickert, head of global policy management at Facebook, said via statement in the Facebook Newsroom on Wednesday. “We will also limit access to that post to people over the age of 18.”
Specifically it is firearms that the company has targeted.
“We will not permit people to post offers to sell regulated items that indicate a willingness to evade or help others evade the law,” Bickert added. “For example, private sellers of firearms in the U.S. will not be permitted to specify ‘no background check required,’ nor can they offer to transact across state lines without a licensed firearms dealer. We have worked with a number of individuals and organizations on the development of these efforts, which will be implemented and enforced in the coming weeks.”
As USA Today's Natalie DiBlasio reports, “The change is a win for groups like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which have been lobbying for more restrictive gun policies at businesses like Starbucks, Staples and now Facebook.”
“On the same site that people are sharing birthday parties and family reunions, there are photos of AK-47s,” John Feinblatt, chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, told DiBlasio. “This is not in the bowels of Facebook. This is upfront, center and easy to access.”
Facebook had reportedly made the changes to its policy following consultation with a number of the aforementioned groups, as well as New York state Attorney General Attorney Eric Schneiderman. This followed a petition, which was posted on a number of websites including Change.org and SumOfUs.org, which called for social media sites, including Facebook, to crack down on the discussion of firearms sales. However, it appears that Facebook will have its work cut out for it.
Michael Virtanen of the Associated Press (AP) reports, “Under the new policy, Facebook would allow a user in Texas to list an AR-15 for sale, since the gun is legal there, as long as it wasn’t offered for sale in states where the weapon is illegal. But the company would delete a similar post from someone in New York,” which has some of the toughest gun laws in the country.
Moreover, AP added that Facebook “would also remove posts from any state in which a gun seller says a background check will be skipped, even if such checks aren't required where the seller lives.”
Supporters of the Second Amendment have already fired back, and the USA Report reported that petitions noted, “It’s not ok to target only firearm enthusiasts for excessively restrictive rules.”
- Enid Burns for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Yahoo is making a departure from the single ID login feature that lets users sign into its properties using Facebook or Google ID, Reuters reports. Users will now have to register and use their Yahoo ID to sign into Yahoo properties.
Users will start to see this change gradually across Yahoo properties such as Fantasy Sports and photo-sharing site Flickr, and then other properties.
“Yahoo is continually working on improving the user experience, which includes our sign-in process for Yahoo Sports Tourney Pick’Em. This new process, which now asks users to sign in with a Yahoo username, will allow us to offer the best personalized experience to everyone,” the company said in a statement.
This is not a huge departure from Yahoo's existing policy for some of its services, TechCrunch reports. "This service already requires users to register for/have a Yahoo ID to gain access. But Yahoo’s plans here are grand, not incremental — with a spokeswoman confirming it will eventually be removing all Google and Facebook sign-in buttons for all Yahoo properties. Albeit, it’s not putting a timeline on that social data reclamation," TechCrunch's Natasha Lomas wrote.
Web companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon.com have created a universal sign-in to allow web developers to let users log in to web sites using their credentials. It simplifies registration and makes it easy for users to gain access to a website or service. While it removes the barrier to access by making a site available through the use of another login, it also keeps the company providing the login top of mind. In Yahoo's case, users gain access to Yahoo services but identify with Facebook or Google when they access the site.
"In eliminating the Facebook and Google sign-in features, Mayer, a former Google executive, is effectively reversing a strategy that Yahoo adopted in 2010 and 2011 under then CEO Carol Bartz," Reuters' Alexei Oreskovic wrote.
Yahoo has already implemented the change on its Tourney Pick'Em property. The change was implemented on Monday, though a spokeswoman noted that users could still access other services with Google or Facebook IDs, according to Reuters. Though the spokeswoman said that all Yahoo properties will undergo this change. Yahoo plans to remove the Facebook and Google login credentials from all of its properties over time, though no timeline has been provided.
The move is a return to a "walled garden" for Yahoo, Forbes reports. Early web services were sometimes referred to as a "walled garden" because only registered users were able to access content, and in some cases were not easily able to access content on the Internet outside of the walled garden. AOL was a longtime example of a walled garden, before it made all of its content open.
Yahoo may be trying to reinforce its brand, though some believe that it is trying to go back to a time when users were able to be influenced into such a walled garden.
"Um. I’m not so sure. It feels to me much more like Yahoo trying to assert ownership over its customers, and encourage them not to stray to other vendors. While Mayer pushes the line of a 'more personalized Yahoo' simply disallowing third party logins doesn’t really deliver upon that – it’s not a difficult thing for Yahoo to link a third party sign on to some existing Yahoo site use, thus allowing them to do just as much 'personalization' as they please," Forbes' Ben Kepes wrote.
- Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
In the future, computers and humans will cooperate more seamlessly. May it be by easier access to data or by the intuitive control of programs and robots. At the CeBIT, latest innovations in this area will be presented by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the FZI Research Center for Information Technology (hall 9, stand D13). The exhibits range from gesture-controlled communication to firewalls to data management to computer-supported surgery.
Writing without Keyboard: Handwriting Recognition Based on the Hand’s Movement
Writing into the air instead of typing text messages on the mobile phone via the tiny keyboard? This may be done using a sensor wristband, which records hand movements. A computer system translates them into texts. The novel airwriting system of KIT uses gestures as inputs and is suited in particular for mobile communication devices and so-called wearable computing applications.
The airwriting system made in Karlsruhe may be applied in future mixed-reality applications. In combination with smart glasses, i.e. glasses displaying information in the users’ field of view, the airwriting wristband can be used to input commands and texts by gestures without holding a mobile device in the hand. The prototype airwriting system is showcased at the CeBIT stand. In the course of the Future Talks lecture series (hall 9, stand F99), the developers Tanja Schultz and Christoph Amma will present the airwriting system on Thursday, March 13, 2014, 13 to 13.30 hrs.
Surgeons Feel and See via Operation Robots
Within OP:Sense, KIT develops methods for future robot-supported surgery. The system focuses on supporting and relieving the strain of the surgeon. It provides novel options for interactive control and sensor feedback. OP:Sense is a modular platform to study novel methods for the secure and precise execution of robot-supported operations.
OP:Sense consists of two robot arms controlled by the surgeon via haptic input devices and several 3D cameras monitoring the working space around the field of operation. Based on this scene monitoring, new safety concepts are developed for close human-robot cooperation in the operation theater. On this basis, further research is conducted in particular in the area of situation recognition. At the CeBIT, the system will be presented live.
Click here for other projects of KIT’s medical engineers.
Enhanced Security by Combination of Several Firewalls
Firewalls provide protection against attacks from the internet. Figuratively speaking, they filter out “harmful” data packages from the incoming data flow and transmit “good-natured” packages only. Security gaps, however, cannot be excluded completely. Sometimes, the firewalls cannot be trusted entirely or built-in loopholes are used by mischievous attackers.
In a collaboration between the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the FZI Research Center for Information Technology, the Competence Center of Applied Security Technology KASTEL developed a concept for the secure combination of network firewalls: A specialized hardware module securely implements the combination of several firewalls. The security of this approach has been proven in a formal model. A working prototype as well as an illustrating model are presented at CeBIT.
Participatory Collection of Data by Smartphone
Modern smartphones and their built-in positioning and activity monitoring sensors can simplify complex data collection processes significantly. This concept is known as participatory sensing.
At the CeBIT, FZI scientists will demonstrate the potentials of partici-patory sensing by three applications: 1) A freely configurable platform allows local governments to record danger spots and damages of the local infrastructure with the help of their citizens. In Karlsruhe, the corresponding application called KA-Feedback is being used already. 2) Another prototype is designed for leisure parks to measure flows of visitors and directly recommend rides that are less frequented at the moment. 3) The third prototype of Disy Informationssysteme GmbH, a spinoff of FZI and KIT, shows how ideas of participatory sensing can be merged with the acquisition of complex geodata on tablets to facilitate field work of public administration.
More information on FZI’s real-time data processing research.
Predictive Data Analytics: Decision Models Based on Large Data Volumes
The volume of business and market data available to companies is increasing steadily. At the CeBIT, scientists of FZI will demonstrate how large data volumes can be evaluated specifically by means of predictive data analytics.
With various applications being used as examples, latest analytics solutions for decision-making will be presented. For instance, data analytics can be used to optimize computing centers or to predict key figures for business management. Data analytics can also be used to carry out targeted marketing campaigns. This idea will be presented at the stand by PriceNow, a spinoff of FZI and KIT.
More information on FZI’s research into big data and service science.
Stand of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy: Security in the Mobile Cloud (hall 9, stand E24)
Theft-proof processing of company data in a cloud? This is ensured by the IT modules developed by CAS Software AG, KIT, and WIBU-SYSTEMS AG under the “MimoSecco" project: The model is based on a smart separation of the three zones of use, processing, and storage as well as on encrypting and fragmentation of the data inventories. By means of a database adapter, the data are encrypted and stored in the cloud in a distributed manner. The database adapter uses a hardware token as a security module for encrypting and decrypting. Upon the query of an authorized user, only the data needed for processing are available in decrypted form for a short term. Moreover, data accesses can be made dependent on the context of the user (place, time, etc.). The consortium will present the “MimoSecco" results at the stand of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy that funds the project (hall 9, stand E24). Demonstrators will illustrate the process, with the data of a solar farm being used as an example.
Information on KIT’s participation in the CeBIT can also be found at: http://www.pkm.kit.edu/english/cebit2014.php
Information on FZI’s participation in the CeBIT can be found at: http://url.fzi.de/cebit
- Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Rolls-Royce is reportedly in the process of designing drone ships that would be cheaper and less polluting than the current $375 billion industry is at the moment.
The company’s Blue Ocean development team says it envisions a future with more efficient ships, which could lower operating costs. The company has created a virtual-reality prototype that simulates 360-degree views from a vessel’s bridge. The manufacturer believes one day captains will use this virtual reality simulator to drive hundreds of crewless ships.
“Sometimes what was unthinkable yesterday is tomorrow’s reality. So now it is time to consider a roadmap to unmanned vessels of various types. Steps have already been taken, mainly in the naval are,” Rolls-Royce said in a statement.
The company said that during this transition, engine and equipment monitoring will be moved to an offshore section. Some vessels are already equipped with cameras that can see at night and through fog and snow.
“When ‘fleet optimization’ is considered, the advantages compound. The same person can monitor and steer many ships,” Rolls-Royce said. “As conditions ashore are often preferred, it will also help retain qualified and competent crew, and is safer.”
The manufacturer pointed out that many of the facilities and systems on board a ship are only there to ensure the crew is kept fed and comfortable during the journey. Eliminating the crew from the vessel means these areas will be reduced as well, bringing down the cost of the ship in terms of building the vessel. Shrinking these facilities also means the ship could have more room to load up more cargo, making it an even more efficient trip across the ocean.
“Eliminate or reduce the need for people, and vessels could be radically simplified. Attitudes and ways of working will need to change, but safe operation is possible, particularly for vessels running between two or three fixed points,” the company said.
The approach to shipping will be influenced by holistic ship design, and a future where ships are unpiloted will simplify the process as well as usher in a new era of shipping cargo.
“In the future, we must not think of a ship as a number of separate processes or systems, but as a whole where all aspects affect the other. Only by thinking the unthinkable can we truly affect costs,” Rolls-Royce said.
- Enid Burns for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Facebook is focused on blanketing the world with Internet, and it may be poised with taking the next step in reaching underdeveloped areas where it has yet to become available. The social network is reportedly in talks to acquire Titan Aerospace for as much as $60 million, TechCrunch reports.
If the acquisition goes through, Facebook can launch a fleet of drones to orbit certain areas to supply Internet to those areas. It will go a long way in advancing the Internet.org Alliance initiative, an organization which Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is heavily involved.
One of Titan Aerospace's products are drones that can fly for up to five years without having to land, using solar energy to power flight -- this is likely the reason Facebook is interested in the company.
"From our understanding, Facebook is interested in using these high-flying drones to blanket parts of the world without Internet access, beginning with Africa. The company would start by building 11,000 of these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), specifically the 'Solara 60' model," wrote TechCrunch's Josh Constine.
While the drones can supply Internet to areas more economically than atmospheric satellites, the drones can serve other purposes. The Solara 60 and other models can perform duties such as weather monitoring, disaster recovery, earth imaging and communications.
"The Solara 50 and 60 models can be launched at night using power from internal battery packs, then when the sun rises, they can store enough energy to ascend to 20KM above sea level where they can remain for five years without needing to land or refuel. Such capabilities make them ideal for regional Internet systems, like those that Internet.org would be focused on," wrote Constine.
TechCrunch notes that Titan Aerospace is a privately held company that has raised Series A and A-1 rounds of funding, though the amount of funding remains undisclosed. The company announced in October that it was prepared to open a Series B round of funding. Titan Aerospace is led by CEO Vern Raburn, and houses its R&D facilities in New Mexico.
Facebook is not the only Internet company hoping to help the developing world gain access to the Internet. Google is among the companies involved in the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI). The group was founded by World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee and hopes to assist the United Nations' Broadband Commission in providing Internet availability throughout developing nations by 2015.
Google has worked to launch a fleet of its own airborne Internet antennas with its "Project Loon." Loon, short for balloon, is a project that deploys balloons with antennas to transmit a signal for people in developing countries to access and use the Internet.
Acquiring Titan Aerospace and launching Internet-serving drones over developing countries could go hand-in-hand with another recent Facebook acquisition, TechCrunch reported.
"If Facebook could project weak but free Internet to developing nations via Titan Aerospace drones, it could then make a basic version of WhatsApp available to those users. They may not be able to send or view photos, but they likely could send messages and view status updates, even if they only had a weak, slow connection," Constine wrote.
"Facebook’s acquisition of Onavo could lend a hand, too. We hear the team is hard at work on data compression technologies that would allow the same functions to require less transmitted data to complete. Onavo-optimized WhatsApp or Facebook apps could run on a weaker Internet signal, such as from drones, because they don’t need to send or receive as much data," Constine continued.
- Florian Aigner, Vienna University of Technology
Usually, microelectronic devices are made of silicon or similar semiconductors. Recently, the electronic properties of metal oxides have become quite interesting. These materials are more complex, yet offer a broader range of possibilities to tune their properties. An important breakthrough has now been achieved at the Vienna University of Technology: a two dimensional electron gas was created in strontium titanate. In a thin layer just below the surface electrons can move freely and occupy different quantum states.
Strontium titanate is not only a potential future alternative to standard semiconductors, it could also exhibit interesting phenomena, such as superconductivity, thermoelectricity or magnetic effects that do not occur in the materials that are used for today's electronic devices.
The Surface Layer and the Inside
This project closely links theoretical calculations and experiments. Zhiming Wang from Professor Ulrike Diebold's research team was the leading experimentalist; some of the experimental work was done at the synchrotron BESSY in Berlin. Zhicheng Zhong from Professor Karsten Held's group studied the material in computer simulations.
Not all of the atoms of strontium titanate are arranged in the same pattern: if the material is cut at a certain angle, the atoms of the surface layer form a structure, which is different from the structure in the bulk of the material. "Inside, every titanium atom has six neighbouring oxygen atoms, whereas the titanium atoms at the surface are only connected to four oxygen atoms each", says Ulrike Diebold. This is the reason for the remarkable chemical stability of the surface. Normally such materials are damaged if they come into contact with water or oxygen.
Migrating Oxygen Atoms
Something remarkable happens when the material is irradiated with high-energy electromagnetic waves: "The radiation can remove oxygen atoms from the surface", Ulrike Diebold explains. Then other oxygen atoms from within the bulk of the material move up to the surface. Inside the material, an oxygen deficiency builds up, as well a surplus of electrons.
"These electrons, located in a two dimensional layer very close to the surface, can move freely. We call this an electron gas", says Karsten Held. There has already been some evidence of two dimensional electron gases in similar materials, but until now the creation of a stable, durable electron gas at a surface has been impossible. The properties of the electrons in the gas can be finely tuned. Depending on the intensity of the radiation, the number of electrons varies. By adding different atoms, the electronic properties can also be changed.
"In solid state physics, the so-called band structure of a material is very important. It describes the relationship between the energy and the momentum of the electrons. The remarkable thing about our surface is that it shows completely different kinds of band structures, depending on the quantum state of the electron", says Karsten Held.
The electron gas in the new material exhibits a multitude of different electronic structures. Some of them could very well be suitable for producing interesting magnetic effects or superconductivity. The promising properties of strontium titanate will now be further investigated. The researchers hope that, by applying external electric fields or by placing additional metal atoms on the surface, the new material could reveal a few more of its secrets.
- Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Unlike any other time in history, new words and phrases in the 21st century can spread with viral efficiency.
A new research project at Aston University in the United Kingdom is hoping to track the digital spread of new English terms by analyzing over one billion tweets from both the UK and the US.
“I’m very excited to begin work on this project,” said Jack Grieve, a forensic linguistics lecturer at Aston. “No previous linguistic report has had so much data to work with so we have a great opportunity to map the emergence of new words and their lexical diffusion.”
“In addition to charting the internal movement of words in the UK and US, we hope to look at how words spread across the Atlantic, between the two countries – the first study to do so using the same methods in both nations,” Grieve added.
The researchers said the somewhat spontaneous nature of Twitter interactions make them similar to interactions made during speech. The similarity makes studying Twitter posts particularly significant to the study of the spread of new terms.
The study of new terms spreading on Twitter may have to consider the fact that these terms are being used predominantly by a relatively young age group. A study by the Pew Research Center released in November showed that those who look to the microblogging platform for daily news are becoming younger, more educated, and increasingly rely on their mobile devices.
According to the survey, 16 percent of US adults use Twitter and about half of them use it for their news. Twitter users tend to be younger and more educated “than both the population overall and Facebook news consumers,” the report added.
Pew researchers also found that 40 percent of Twitter news consumers have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 29 percent of the total population and 30 percent of Facebook news consumers.
After analyzing the opening night of the London summer Olympics, the Newton, Connecticut school shootings and the Supreme Court hearings on same-sex marriage, the research team identified three central themes: Twitter users pass along news information as events develop; Twitter conversations about big news events evolve in sentiment and topic; and Twitter can match the sentiment of the general population.
The researchers at Aston University, in a partnership with the University of South Carolina, will also look at recent patterns of human migration to determine how the movement of peoples influences linguistic difference. The US and UK migration patterns will be determined by analyzing millions of online family trees.
“Throughout history, migration has been a key force in shaping and transforming language,” Grieve said. “Very little research, however, has looked at how more recent population mobility has shaped dialect variation today. Hopefully, we will be able to discover new and exciting findings.”
Citing examples such as ‘selfie’, ‘twerk’, ‘vom’, ‘buzzworthy’ and ‘squee’ – the UK researchers noted that new terms are being coined every year and spreading across social media.
- Enid Burns for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Biometrics is increasingly being used in keeping security on mobile devices and Fujitsu plans to put more than just a finger on security for its smartphones. In a statement, the company announced it plans to deploy palm-vein scanning to address security on its mobile devices.
The palm-vein scanning feature will be used specifically in Fujitsu smartphones, SlashGear reports. The company already has experience in developing and using the technology.
Fujitsu's largest smartphone market appears to be in Japan, where it held 11.9 percent of the smartphone market in March of 2012, according to comScore data.
Palm-vein authentication is the identification of an individual by evaluating the palm print plus vein points on a hand. Fujitsu claims the method has a high accuracy rate. Fujitsu has developed the technology under the name PalmSecure.
"The principle behind this relatively less-known biometric is almost the same with fingerprints. Palm patterns are just as unique as a fingerprint, but it is only one half of the equation. The other half involves vein points, which are scanned using near-infrared light and matched against previously recorded patterns and points. There is one key distinction here. Blood needs to be flowing through those veins for palms to match. No disembodied hands here for faking identities. Fujitsu boasts of a 0.0008 percent false positive and a 0.01 percent false rejection rate with this system," SlashGear's JC Torres wrote.
The increasing size of most smartphone screens, combined with the smaller size of the authentication screen is making it possible for the technology to be deployed on smartphones.
"We have been reducing the size of our palm vein authentication units since their initial development," a Fujitsu spokesman said in a ComputerWorld article. "In the future, we hope to eventually have these units embedded into smartphones."
Fujitsu first used the palm-vein authentication technology in a commercial in 2004 when it was used to authenticate users for ATM machines at Japan's Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, CompterWorld reports. The company also implemented in-store scanners at Suruga Bank in 2004. Since that time, development has allowed the scanners to become smaller and have been integrated in laptops and other devices.
A stamp-sized unit was recently released for commercial use and is embedded in a fleet of about 2,000 tablets used by the Fukuoka Financial Group, which includes Bank of Fukuoka, Kumamoto Bank and Shinwa Bank, ComuterWorld reports.
"No one has this technology, and it's significantly more secure than fingerprint," a Fujitsu spokesman was quoted as saying by Computer World.
Fujitsu believes the hand scanners can be used to identify individuals in natural disasters when bank cards and other forms of ID might be unavailable.
While biometrics have continued to advance independently, the authentication technologies have seen increased interest since the Apple iPhone included biometric technology -- namely a fingerprint touch pad -- for its iPhone 5s. Since its integration, there has been increased interest in biometric authentication on smartphones and mobile devices to help deter theft of both devices and data.
- [ Watch the Video: Apple May Be Speeding Things Up ]
Enid Burns for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
In the coming years your high-end Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz or Volvo might flash an Apple logo on the screen when it boots up. The Cupertino, Calif.-based electronics giant is expected to announce partnerships to power future models of a number of automotive manufacturers with the iOS. The announcement is expected next week at the Geneva Motor Show, the Financial Times reports.
The high-end car makers are expected to be among a handful to announce a synergy with Apple. If any deals are announced, it will be that Apple will embed its software into manufacturers' cars and run certain controls such as the infotainment system. That system can handle navigation and audio and video content as well as self-driving features.
The deal puts Apple's iOS system deeper into the dashboard. Instead of simply allowing an automobile to play music or transmit a phone call through the car's speakers, it will have the ability to show data on the car's screen and dashboard. Apple is reportedly also close to a similar deal with Tesla Motors.
The makers of competing mobile phone operating systems -- namely Google's Android and Windows Phone 8 -- compete with Apple for this position with the big auto manufacturers.
Just last month it was learned that BlackBerry is close to making a deal with Ford Motor Co. to develop an operating system for Ford vehicles, which might replace the Windows-based Sync, the Globe and Mail reports. While Android is a candidate for the dashboard, the Financial Times reports that Google and other technology companies have plans in the works to build their own automobiles.
If the deal between Apple and a number of automotive manufacturers is announced, it will set a precedent.
"The deal marks the first time that Apple is embedding its software in devices other than its own branded products. The choice of the Ferrari, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz is seen to be in keeping with the US tech group’s high-end phones," The Financial Times' Henry Foy and Daniel Thomas wrote.
There may be also be a deal between the tech giant and Ferrari as Apple's Eddy Cue, head of internet software and services, joined the Ferrari board in 2012.
The integration of Apple's iOS and car models was previously called iOS in the Car, CNET News reports.
It is expected that with the deeper integration, Apple will now adopt the name CarPlay.
"Gone is that mouthful, in is the new moniker: CarPlay," writes CNET's Tim Stevens. "The concept stays the same: replication of a simplified iOS interface into a touchscreen display in the car, plus extensive voice command. As we saw in earlier videos, the focus here is simplicity and safety, with no complex interface elements and, seemingly, no virtual keyboards."
Integration of iOS into the dashboard will need to focus on hands-free operation. In the past, hands-free has included voice commands to initiate a location search for navigation; reading and dictating text messages and voicemail; and the use of voice commands to access content from the cell phone such as playlists and access to internet-based radio.
While the Financial Times reports that the car makers will bake iOS into the dashboard for closer integration with the iPhone, CNET clarifies that all operation will still come from the phone, and not the dashboard.
"And to be clear, this experience is completely driven by the phone -- more specifically, an iPhone 5, 5S, or 5C. The cars themselves won't be running iOS, just feeding the signal provided by the phones, which will be connected to the car via Lightning cable," Stevens wrote.
- [ Watch The Video: AllSee: Bringing Gesture Recognition to All Devices ]
Michelle Ma, University of Washington
Mute the song playing on your smartphone in your pocket by flicking your index finger in the air, or pause your “This American Life” podcast with a small wave of the hand. This kind of gesture control for electronics could soon become an alternative to touchscreens and sensing technologies that consume a lot of power and only work when users can see their smartphones and tablets.
University of Washington computer scientists have built a low-cost gesture recognition system that runs without batteries and lets users control their electronic devices hidden from sight with simple hand movements. The prototype, called “AllSee,” uses existing TV signals as both a power source and the means for detecting a user’s gesture command.
“This is the first gesture recognition system that can be implemented for less than a dollar and doesn’t require a battery,” said Shyam Gollakota, a UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering. “You can leverage TV signals both as a source of power and as a source of gesture recognition.”
The technology is set to appear April 2-4 at the Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation conference in Seattle.
The researchers built a small sensor that can be placed on an electronic device such as a smartphone. The sensor uses an ultra-low-power receiver to extract and classify gesture information from wireless transmissions around us. When a person gestures with the hand, it changes the amplitude of the wireless signals in the air. The AllSee sensors then recognize unique amplitude changes created by specific gestures.
Sensors use three to four times less power than existing gesture recognition systems by harvesting power from wireless transmissions. This allows for mobile devices to always have the gesture technology on and enabled.
Gesture recognition already is possible on some mobile devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone. But users have to first manually enable the feature and be able to see the device for the gesture technology to work, and if left on, the gesture system quickly drains the phone’s battery. In contrast, AllSee consumes only tens of microwatts of power and can always be left on. The user could gesture at the phone in a pocket or handbag to change the volume or mute the phone without having to touch or see the phone.
This technology could allow sensors to be attached to household electronics, making it possible to interact with everyday objects using gestures and also connect them to the Internet and to each other in an “Internet of Things” world.
“Beyond mobile devices, AllSee can enable interaction with Internet of Things devices. These sensing devices are increasingly smaller electronics that can’t operate with usual keypads, so gesture-based systems are ideal,” said Bryce Kellogg, a UW doctoral student in electrical engineering.
The UW team tested AllSee’s capabilities on smartphones and battery-free sensors using eight different hand gestures such as pushing or pulling to zoom in and out. The prototype could correctly identify the gestures more than 90 percent of the time while performed more than 2 feet away from the device.
Researchers have tested the technology for response time and whether it can distinguish between other motions and those directed at it. They found that the technology’s response time is less than 80 microseconds, which is 1,000 times faster than blinking an eye.
“This enables a seamless and interactive experience for the user,” said Vamsi Talla, a UW doctoral student in electrical engineering. The researchers also designed a wake-up gesture that allows the system not to confuse unintentional motions for actual gestures.
This technology builds on previous work by Gollakota on leveraging Wi-Fi signals around us for gesture recognition around the home. Prior wireless gesture recognition techniques, however, consume tens of watts of power and aren’t suitable for mobile or Internet of Things devices.
The research is funded by a Google Faculty Research Award and the Washington Research Foundation.
- redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
A sleep tracker that will pause programming when it detects you have fallen asleep and an app that allows users to share videos by bumping mobile devices together are among the experimental innovations cooked up during the 24-hour Netflix Hack Day event for developers that took place last Thursday and Friday.
According to Engadget’s Jon Fingas, the company’s Netflix Beam experiment takes advantage of Apple’s Bluetooth-based iBeacon technology to share movies or TV shows with other iPads and iPhones by touching the iOS devices together. Using this feature would eliminate the need to log into and out of separate accounts or share Wi-Fi passwords, the developers explained.
The Sleep Tracker feature, on the other hand, would work in tandem with a Fitbit wearable fitness wristband to detect when a Netflix customer falls asleep, Matthew Sparkes of The Telegraph explained. It then pauses the program, notifies the user and creates a “sleep bookmark” which allows viewing to resume from that specific point.
The Sleep Tracker was developed by Netflix engineers Sam Horner, Rachel Nordman, Arlene Aficial, Sam Park and Bogdan Ciuca, according to PC Mag writer Stephanie Mlot. It uses data registered to Fitbit’s API that can be used by any connected device. When the user returns to the program halted by the feature, he or she can opt to resume watching from either a regular or sleep bookmark.
In a blog entry Thursday, officials from the company said that they take pride in “creating a culture of innovation and experimentation.” They added that while it is “not unusual” for “a lot of really good ideas” to result from Hack Day, this year’s event produced “some really spectacular work” on such topics as improving developer productivity, troubleshooting assistance and new product features.
Another team of developers came up with the concept of custom playlists, which would replace the now-discontinued queue option. Mlot said that Netflix users would be able to add titles or individual episodes, saving them by theme or occasion. They could then access content on the list without having to ever use the main Browse page again.
The Hack Day event also led to the creation of Radial, which Casey Johnston of Ars Technica explains “takes advantage of joystick motions to make text input on a console controller easier, placing letters on a wheel to scroll through” instead of using an onscreen keyboard – “a user-hostile experience that is all too familiar to console users.”
“Most of these hacks and videos were conceived of and produced in about 24 hours,” Netflix said, noting that the teams began their hacking on Thursday morning and worked through the night before presenting their work to their colleagues the following morning. The company added that “while we think these hacks are very cool and fun, they may never become part of the Netflix product, internal infrastructure, or be used beyond Hack Day.”
- Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A British spy agency and the NSA have reportedly intercepted millions of Yahoo users’ webcam images across the globe.
Secret documents revealed by the Guardian show how GCHQ with assistance from the US National Security Agency was able to intercept and store webcam images from millions of Internet users not suspected of any wrongdoing.
Agency files dating between 2008 and 2010 state that a surveillance program known as Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to a database. During a six-month period, the agencies were able to collect webcam images from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts around the world according to Guardian reporters Spencer Ackerman and James Ball.
“Yahoo reacted furiously to the webcam interception when approached by the Guardian,” the British news agency wrote. “The company denied any prior knowledge of the program, accusing the agencies of ‘a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy’.”
Currently, there are no restrictions under UK law to prevent Americans’ images from being accessed by British analysts without a warrant. The report said the documents show how the agencies had a hard time keeping sexually explicit content away from its staff.
Optic Nerve was designed as an experiment in automated facial recognition to monitor existing GCHQ targets and to discover new targets of interest. This program could potentially be used to find terror suspects or criminals, but it also captured non suspects of interest.
"Face detection has the potential to aid selection of useful images for 'mugshots' or even for face recognition by assessing the angle of the face," one document reads, according to Guardian. "The best images are ones where the person is facing the camera with their face upright."
Another document says that they were allowed to display images associated with similar Yahoo identifiers as their target, meaning it pulled in a large number of innocent users.
“Rather than collecting webcam chats in their entirety, the program saved one image every five minutes from the users' feeds, partly to comply with human rights legislation, and also to avoid overloading GCHQ's servers,” the Guardian wrote. “The documents describe these users as ‘unselected’ – intelligence agency parlance for bulk rather than targeted collection.”
According to the report, GCHQ did not make any specific attempts to prevent collecting data or storage of explicit images that could have been associated with innocent people. However, the agency did try to prevent some of the lewd images from being seen by analysts by not including images that did not show a face.
One Optic Nerve document says it is possible to handle and display undesirable images.
“There is no perfect ability to censor material which may be offensive. Users who may feel uncomfortable about such material are advised not to open them. You are reminded that under GCHQ’s offensive material policy, the discrimination of offensive material is a disciplinary offense,” the document read.
A spokeswoman for Yahoo strongly condemned the agencies’ actions, adding that it was not aware of the reported activity.
"This report, if true, represents a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy that is completely unacceptable, and we strongly call on the world's governments to reform surveillance law consistent with the principles we outlined in December,” the spokeswoman told Guardian. "We are committed to preserving our users' trust and security and continue our efforts to expand encryption across all of our services."
A GCHQ spokesman said in a statement that it has a longstanding policy that the agency does not comment on intelligence matters.
"Furthermore, all of GCHQ's work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorized, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee,” the spokesman told Guardian.
- Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center, 15 percent of Internet users believe the World Wide Web has been bad for society.
The Internet will be turning 25 years old this year, but the latest survey sheds light on how not everyone is as appreciative about the creation of the global cyber network as most have been.
“Using the Web—browsing it, searching it, sharing on it—has become the main activity for hundreds of millions of people around the globe. Its birthday offers an occasion to revisit the ways it has made the internet a part of Americans’ social lives,” Pew said in a report marking the 25th anniversary of the Internet.
According to the new survey, 87 percent of American adults now use the Internet, while the Web has saturated 99 percent of American households making $75,000 per year or more. They also saw that 68 percent of adults connect to the Internet with smartphones or tablets.
Pew said that over the course of its polling, it has seen adult ownership of cell phones jump from 53 percent in 2000 to 90 percent now. Smartphone ownership has grown from 35 percent in 2011 to 58 percent now.
The survey asked respondents whether it would be hard to give up their technologies and found that those who use the Internet and smartphones feel like their devices are increasingly essential. However, respondents who use more traditional technologies like landlines and televisions are less reluctant to give up their respective devices.
This Internet obsession has grown over the last eight years, according to Pew.
The survey found that 53 percent of Internet users say it would be at minimum “very hard” to give up the Internet, while in 2006 this number was just at 38 percent. Overall, 46 percent of all adults say that the Internet would be very hard to give up.
“In addition to this enthusiasm, a notable share of Americans say the internet is essential to them,” Pew said. “Among those internet users who said it would be very hard to give up net access, most said being online was essential for job-related or other reasons."
When considering the whole US population, about four in ten adults feel they absolutely need to have Internet access.
Lastly, Pew asked participants: “Overall, when you add up all the advantages and disadvantages of the internet, would you say the internet has mostly been a good thing or a bad thing for society?” The survey found that 15 percent of respondents say the Internet has been bad for society, while 8 percent said it has been both good and bad.
While there’s always a critic, 76 percent of the US believes what Sir Tim Berners-Lee created in 1989 is a good thing. Since its inception, the Internet has connected the world in a way it never has before, opening up opportunities for a new generation that previous generations couldn’t have dreamed of.
- redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Boeing unveiled its new, ultra-secure “Boeing Black” smartphone on Wednesday, saying it plans to sell the modular device to government agencies and companies engaged in contractual activities with those agencies related to defense and homeland security.
“The U.S. defense and security communities demand trusted access to data to accomplish their missions. Despite the continuous innovation in commercial mobile technology, current devices are not designed from inception with the security and flexibility needed to match their evolving mission and enterprise environment,” Boeing said in its announcement.
The new phone, simply called “Black,” will run a security-enhanced variant of the Android operating system, and will include a 4.3-inch qHD (540x960) display, Dual 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processors, and support for LTE 700/1700/2100, WCDMA 850/1900/2100 and GSM 850/900/1800/1900 bands along with major storage (USB, HDMI, SIM) and wireless (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi) standards.
Perhaps the most interesting of Black’s features is the ability to self-destruct if anyone attempts to disassemble the phone to learn about its secrets.
“Any attempt to break open the casing of the device would trigger functions that would delete the data and software contained within the device and make the device inoperable,” Boeing said.
While disclosing the basic features of the new device, Boeing declined to elaborate on any of its specialized capabilities.
“The device will be marketed and sold in a manner such that low-level technical and operational information about the product will not be provided to the general public,” the company said in an FCC filing about the device.
Boeing’s Black appears to be a direct challenge to the BlackBerry, which has long been a favorite for government employees. The Canadian smartphone maker still enjoys a number of government smartphone contracts, and recently announced a new deal with the Pentagon to provide 80,000 BlackBerrys to defense department employees.
In its FCC filing, Boeing said that purchasers of Black would need to sign an agreement that "specifically designates and protects as ‘proprietary information’ the components, hardware, Product Software, applications, functionalities, or internal structure or workings” of the device, “including without limitation those that can be obtained by disassembling or opening the Product or its software or components.”
The agreement also states that there are “no serviceable parts on Boeing’s Black phone and any attempted servicing or replacing of parts would destroy the product.”
- Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A security group is calling for world governments to behave on the Internet and cooperate with each other better.
Art Coviello, Executive Vice President of EMC Corporation and Executive Chairman of RSA, gave a keynote speech at the RSA Conference 2014, saying international governments should cooperate on major issues like cyber war, surveillance, privacy and trust on the Internet. The head of the security group not only asked countries to behave themselves, but also asked the NSA and other intelligent organizations to adopt a model that separates their defensive and intelligence gathering roles.
"The tension between and among the competing interests of governments, business, and individuals in the digital world should not be surprising. Information has become more easily accessible, and more valuable," Coviello said at the event. "We are in the midst of a fundamental and historic shift in the use of Information Technology, a shift that is already having monumental implications for the future of our society and culture. The rapid expansion and democratization of technology has brought the agendas of disparate groups crashing together with unpredictable consequences."
He provided four guidelines for international government and industry to follow, helping to encourage debate and action by all parties with a common interest in ensuring a safer Internet. Coviello suggested parties must renounce the use of cyber weapons and the use of Internet for waging war.
"We must have the same abhorrence to cyber war as we do nuclear and chemical war,” the RSA executive chairman said.
RSA, the Security Devision of EMC, also recommends governments cooperate in the investigation, apprehension and prosecution of cyber criminals.
"The only ones deriving advantage from governments trying to gain advantage over one another on the Internet are the criminals. Our lack of immediate, consistent and sustained cooperation, globally, gives them the equivalent of safe havens,” Coviello said.
He also recommended governments ensure economic activity on the Internet proceeds unfettered and intellectual property rights be respected. Finally, Coviello says agencies should respect and ensure the privacy of individuals.
"Our personal information has become the true currency of the digital age. While it is important that we are not exploited, it is even more important that our fundamental freedoms are protected. But with our personal freedom comes responsibility. Governments have a duty to create and enforce a balance… a balance based on a fair governance model and transparency."
He finished his keynote by encouraging all governments to adopt these four principles and pleading with the security industry to do its part to create secure frameworks and technology that ensures a safer Internet.
- [ Watch the Video: Smartphone Shipments To Decline ]
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
International Data Corp (IDC) is reporting that smartphone shipments around the world will be slowing significantly in 2014.
The market intelligence agency said in its Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report that despite a strong 2013, smartphone growth is beginning a downhill trend. The report said that smartphone shipments will be slowing down to 8.3 percent in annual growth in 2017 and 6.2 percent in 2018.
IDC is also predicting that markets like North America and Europe will drop to single digit numbers. The report says that 2014 will mark the year smartphone growth drops more significantly than ever before.
"In North America we see more than 200 million smartphones in active use, not to mention the number of feature phones still being used," Ryan Reith, Program Director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, said in a statement. "2014 will be an enormous transition year for the smartphone market. Not only will growth decline more than ever before, but the driving forces behind smartphone adoption are changing. New markets for growth bring different rules to play by and 'premium' will not be a major factor in the regions driving overall market growth."
Smartphones have saturated mature markets, which in turn means worldwide growth will begin to slow down. As this is happening, service providers and device manufacturers are trying to find new ways to move hardware where they can. One way companies will be able to combat this is by dropping price points. According to IDC, the average smartphone around the world will cost $260 by 2018, compared to $335 in 2013.
"In order to reach the untapped demand within emerging markets, carriers and OEMs will need to work together to bring prices down," Ramon Llamas, Research Manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team, said in a statement. "Last year we saw a total of 322.5 million smartphone units ship for under $150 and that number will continue to grow going forward. We've already seen numerous smartphone announcements targeting this priceband this year, with some as low as $25.”
IDC is predicting that Android will retain its role as the leading operating system throughout the forecast, while Apple will hold strong at number two. The report also says that Windows Phone stands to grow the fastest among the leading smartphone operating systems, due to continued support from Nokia and nine new partners.
The forecast only shows Apple’s smartphone dropped slightly over the next four years, while Android and Windows Phones see a more significant drop in average selling price.
“Just as the dynamics have changed for overall smartphone growth, so have the dynamics for smartphone pricing in the markets where continued growth is expected,” Llamas said. “Not all vendors will want to get into this space, but those that do must make deliberate choices about their strategies in order to succeed."