Analysis: New iPads will help Apple in education but probably not enough

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Enlarge / Apple VP of Product Marketing Greg Joswiak speaks at Apple’s event in Chicago on March 27, 2018. (credit: Eric Bangeman)

In today’s Apple event at Lane Tech High School, Apple CEO Tim Cook reminded the audience that Apple has been in the education business for 40 years. I can’t speak to the 1978-80 timeframe, but I do remember showing up for my sophomore year of high school in the fall of 1981 and walking into the computer lab to find that my beloved Challenger 2P computers, nine-inch black-and-white TVs, and cassette players were gone. In their place were a handful of Apple ][ computers with green-screen monitors. After messing around with them for a day or so, I decided they were an improvement.

That has been the hook for Apple in the education market for the last four decades: it’s an improvement. Back when Microsoft was struggling to put together a polished Graphical User Interface, Macintoshes offered a lower barrier to entry for students and teachers. Unfortunately, that lower barrier generally came with a higher price tag.

Despite that, the combination of a dedicated education sales force, less-expensive hardware created for and targeted at the .edu market—like the eMac, and before that, the Power Macintosh 7500/75—and software tailored to the needs of teachers enabled Apple to make serious inroads in the school system. Apple’s reputation as a secure platform likely helped in the 1990s and early 2000s.

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Analysis: Dell EMC IoT revenues in Asia Pacific hit $1bn mark

Dell’s investment in the IoT is paying big dividends in Asia. Sooraj Shah explains why.

Revenues from Dell EMC’s Internet of Things and OEM business in Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) have passed the $ 1 billion mark, announced the company this week. The results highlight the importance of IoT, smart city, and connected industry applications in the region.

Read more: Analysis: Airbus Skyways delivery drone completes first flight demo (VIDEO)

According to Glen Burrows, Dell EMC’s VP and general manager for OEM and IoT solutions in Asia, the $ 1 billion milestone shows how important the region is for the company. “Organisations in APJ are keen to realise the potential benefits of IoT, which is driving market growth faster than other regions,” Burrows told Computer Weekly. “With a $ 583 billion market opportunity by 2020, Asia is set to be the hub of IoT.”

Read more: Internet of Business’ exclusive interview with Dell IoT VP Dermot O’Connell.

The Asian IoT tiger

Analyst firm IDC recently suggested that Asia-Pacific would be at the forefront of all IoT investment in the coming years, with spending expected to reach $ 455 billion in the region by 2021 – nearly one-third of all IoT spending globally.

However, Asia-Pacific IoT spending is not restricted to the private sector. In a report last year, IDC found that 40 percent of Asia Pacific government organisations would be investing in IoT solutions within one year.

“IoT enables access to new and granular data sources, empowered by swift connectivity and quick data-gathering capability. This gives access to a wider range of information that enhances the quality of government services, at a scale previously thought unattainable,” said IDC analyst Shreyashi Pal.

“This eventually impacts every single stakeholder of government eServices — citizens, visitors, and business owners, who interact with government entities and their services.”

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Dell recently announced that it was investing the same sum, $ 1 billion, over the next three years in a new central IoT division. This will focus on developing next-gen products, research, and partnerships, across everything from driverless cars to smart light bulbs, with a focus on edge computing and the distributed core, it said.

It seems that IoT investment has been timely, and is already paying dividends.

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Analysis: Airbus’ Skyways delivery drone completes first flight demo (VIDEO)

Airbus’ unmanned drone delivery project, Skyways, has completed a successful demonstration flight in Singapore. A full-scale trial is pencilled in for later this year. 

For an aerospace giant with tens of billions of dollars in revenue to play with, it took a while for Airbus to get into the commercial drone sector – publicly, at least. Work on drone delivery concepts was well underway at the likes of Amazon and Google when Airbus launched the Skyways project back in February 2016.

Eager to make up for lost time, the Skyways platform has reached its first major milestone: a successful flight and delivery demonstration at the National University of Singapore.

Taking to the skies

The setting is important. Instead of trialling the technology in rural areas, Airbus is heading straight for the drone-delivery heartland. Its focus is on last-mile urban logistics, and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has been a willing partner.

During the demo (see video below), the Skyways machine took off from a dedicated maintenance centre and landed on the roof of a parcel station. There, a parcel was loaded onto the drone using a robotic arm. The drone then took off and flew back to the maintenance centre to show off its automatic unloading capability.

Airbus’ experimental project was launched in Singapore, with the support of the CAAS, to explore the potential of urban drone delivery. The collaboration was extended in April 2017, when Singapore Post (SingPost) became the project’s logistics partner.

“Today’s flight demonstration paves the way positively to our local trial service launch in the coming months. It is the result of a very strong partnership among the stakeholders involved, especially with the close guidance and confidence from the CAAS,” said Alain Flourens, Airbus Helicopters’ executive VP of engineering and CTO.

“Safe and reliable urban air delivery is a reality not too distant into the future, and Airbus is certainly excited to be a forerunner in this endeavour.”

Read more: Airbus launches commercial drone service Airbus Aerial

Read more: Airbus and Italdesign unveil modular smart city transport

The Airbus advantage

Being an established name in aerospace has helped Airbus to trial its drone delivery technology where the action is. But key to the progress being made in Singapore is the city state’s willingness to embrace new technologies.

The importance of this cannot be overstated. Rigid regulations and a culture of fear and scepticism have already pushed Amazon Prime Air out of the US and into the UK. Add in the assistance of the National University of Singapore, and the Airbus project has been able to flourish in an ideal setting.

More trials will take place later this year to deliver packages between students and staff within the university campus, which is the size of 150 football fields.

“The Skyways project is an important innovation for the aviation industry,” said Kevin Shum, director general of CAAS. “We have been working closely with Airbus on the project, with an emphasis on co-developing systems and rules to ensure that such aircraft can operate in an urban environment safely and optimally.”

“This project will help to develop innovative rules to support the development of the unmanned aircraft industry in Singapore. We are pleased with the good progress that Skyways is making and look forward to deepening our partnership with Airbus”.

For NUS, the Skyways project is a chance to fulfil the university’s own vision of being a test bed for innovation.

“Project Skyways aligns with NUS’ vision of serving as a living lab to pilot innovative technologies and solutions,” said senior deputy president and provost, Professor Ho Teck Hua. “The NUS community is very excited to be the first in Singapore to experience this novel concept of parcel delivery by drones – an endeavour that could redefine urban logistics.

“Students from the NUS Faculty of Engineering also have the opportunity to gain valuable experience as interns with Airbus for this project. We look forward to working closely with Airbus, CAAS, and SingPost to carry out the campus-wide trial.”

There are several autonomous vehicle concepts in the works at Airbus. Skyways is currently under development alongside the Racer helicopter, the Vahana passenger drone, and the CityAirbus autonomous flying vehicle.

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Supportive cultures and light-touch regulation are essential for drones and autonomous vehicles to succeed worldwide, establishing new markets and businesses.

In some nations, the aerospace authorities are known to be more conservative and to have the ears of government in suppressing unmanned flight, which hands the power to those that can take more risks. That said, many of the more conservative organisations are already managing overcrowded skies.

Despite these organisations’ worries, commercial drone delivery appears to be a matter of when, not if – along with full-scale cargo services and passenger transport. But the regulatory hurdles and technology challenges facing companies such as Amazon and Google remain significant.

Safety and security will be paramount. Cities are crowded in every direction, and autonomous, rotary-wing, battery powered devices are inherently dangerous and have multiple points of failure. Our MIT NanoMap story (link below) reveals that the technology is advancing rapidly, but a 98 percent no-crash rate is still not safe enough. We wouldn’t accept 98 per cent uptime from a cloud provider, so it’s clearly not acceptable for a drone that could kill someone.

Airbus benefits from its established aerospace reputation and the selection of Singapore as its testing ground. The closest comparison is Flytrex’s delivery service in Iceland, but Reykjavik can’t be compared to the world’s major cities in terms of scale. Elsewhere, there has been pushback to urban tests.

No doubt the full-scale trial of Skyways on the NUS campus later this year will be closely watched by Airbus’ competitors.

Read more: MIT’s NanoMap helps drones to navigate safely at high speed

Read more: EHANG passenger drone boasts successful manned test flights

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Analysis: Oracle says autonomy now, AI with everything by 2020

Oracle is automating and AI-enables its cloud platform. But is AI simply the new direct debit? Chris Middleton reports.

Oracle has announced that it is rolling out AI-based automation across its Platform as a Service (PaaS) cloud offerings.

The enterprise vendor says that the new machine-learning-based additions will enable its cloud platform and developer applications to self-optimise, maintain, update, and patch.

The move follows the launch of its ‘self-driving’ database last year, and extends Oracle’s autonomous capabilities across much of its cloud product line.

Cutting the drudge

Oracle’s stated aim is to reduce customer costs while enabling in-house IT teams to refocus on adding value to the business – in traditional ‘cloud hype’ style.

“We want to provide autonomous capabilities to eliminate the human labour associated with provisioning, upgrades, backup, recovery, and troubleshooting,” said Amit Zavery, executive VP of product development for Oracle Cloud.

A core challenge with PaaS is that “a lot of patching doesn’t happen automatically and a lot of systems don’t get upgraded regularly,” he added.

Also included in the product refresh are tools to enable developers to add chatbots to applications more easily, with a library of use cases that can be customised.

“Once a user defines the kinds of things he wants to integrate, we can take over connecting systems, doing the mapping, and providing endpoint connectivity,” said Zavery.

Securing the automated cloud

New security tools also use machine learning, said Oracle, and analyse user behaviour patterns to intercept data leaks.

This is in line with the new security trend of behaviour modelling. This is essential in large IoT applications, for example, where it may be impossible to secure a range of smart devices independently.

“The future of tomorrow’s successful enterprise IT organisation is in full end-to-end automation,” said Zavery.

“We are weaving autonomous capabilities into the fabric of our cloud to help customers safeguard their systems, drive innovation, and deliver the ultimate competitive advantage.”

Oracle also announced that it is opening 12 new data centres worldwide.

Another big bet on AI

Oracle is making a big bet on machine learning and autonomy in the same way that IBM has refocused its business on cognitive services and Microsoft is putting AI centre stage.

Oracle CEO Mark Hurd emphasised the point on Monday when he predicted that more than half of all enterprise data will be managed autonomously by 2020. “AI will become integrated into everything. It’s not a question of if, but when,” he added. “This has everything to do with macroeconomics, business model strategy, and technology,” he said.

In other words, business innovation and agility will be essential if and when traditional sources of growth dry up.

Which brings us to Oracle itself…

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While its on-premise revenues remain five times higher than those of its cloud portfolio, Oracle’s traditional growth in on-premise tech has hit a plateau. However, its quarterly cloud revenues are up 44 per cent year on year.

So Oracle itself is being forced to get smart. After 10 years of Oracle supremo Larry Ellison slamming the cloud as vapourware, the all-too-public u-turn is complete. In traditional Oracle style, it has simply branded its logo on the cloud and pretended the previous decade was a dream.

But buyer beware. When it comes to the new mantra of ‘AI with everything’, all enterprise buyers of platform, infrastructure, and software services should consider this. As automation grows, transparency and trust will become critical issues, regardless of who the vendor might be.

When any services can simply upgrade themselves or add new features autonomously, who is approving any extra costs and any new vendor revenue streams? In these circumstances, AI could simply become the new direct debit, with all the associated problems that may ensue.

There’s no suggestion that any vendor would use AI to print money for themselves; merely that customers should manage their deals carefully and keep an eye on Ts & Cs.

Read more: Police need AI to help with surge in evidential data

Read more: An AI for an eye: DeepMind focuses on eye disease diagnosis

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Exhaustive acoustical analysis demonstrates HomePod is ‘100 percent an audiophile-grade speaker’

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The audiophile community now has their hands on the HomePod, and one Reddit user has thoroughly examined the device from an acoustical standpoint, calling it ‘witchcraft" plus "100 percent an Audiophile grade Speaker."
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Analysis: Uber and Waymo settle dispute over self-driving secrets

Dispute comes to abrupt end as Uber pays out $ 245 million to self-driving rival.

Uber and Waymo have settled their acrimonious dispute over stolen trade secrets.

The settlement brings to an end the long-running legal battle between the ride-sharing giant and Alphabet’s standalone self-driving division.

Uber is to hand over 0.34 of its equity value to Waymo – nearly $ 245 million – valuing Uber at $ 76 billion.

About a year ago, Waymo filed a lawsuit saying that a former engineer, Anthony Levandowski, took thousands of confidential documents with him when he left Waymo. He subsequently ran Uber’s own self-driving division, but was sacked when Waymo sued.

The case has led to Uber falling well behind on its plans to use autonomous vehicles, and was a major factor in Uber investors ousting chief executive Travis Kalanick last June.

You’re Kalanicked!

The legal settlement came just four days after Kalanick himself took the stand in court. He was accused of organising a plan to pilfer more than 14,000 files from Waymo, while it was still part of Google (rather than a division of its parent company).

The jury was shown internal emails in which Kalanick demanded “pounds of flesh” from Google. However, Kalanik claimed that “no trade secrets ever came to Uber”.

“Our sole objective was to hire the most talented scientists and engineers to help lead the company and our cities to a driverless future,” he said.

“The evidence at trial overwhelmingly proved that, and had the trial proceeded to its conclusion, it is clear Uber would have prevailed.

“I remain proud of the critically important contributions Uber ATG has made to the company’s future, and I look forward to their inspired efforts becoming a reality on the roads in cities around the world.”

The settlement includes an agreement that confidential information from Waymo will not be included in Uber technology. It also allows Waymo to inspect Uber’s autonomous vehicle programme via an independent third party.

Uber regrets, Waymo protects

In a statement, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he wanted to “express regret for the actions” that led to the lawsuit.

“We agree that Uber’s acquisition of Otto could and should have been handled differently,” he said, referring to the self-driving tech firm, founded by Levandowski, that Uber bought in 2016.

Waymo released a statement saying, “We have reached an agreement with Uber that we believe will protect Waymo’s intellectual property now and into the future.

“We are committed to working with Uber to make sure that each company develops its own technology. This includes an agreement to ensure that any Waymo confidential information is not being incorporated in Uber Advanced Technologies Group hardware and software.

“We have always believed competition should be fuelled by innovation in the labs and on the roads, and we look forward to bringing fully self-driving cars to the world.”

Internet of Business says

Whatever the details of the case may be, it’s clear that the real message behind this settlement is, “Let’s move on”.

To say that the stakes are high for Uber, Waymo, and a host of automotive manufacturers, would be an understatement. The creation of a global autonomous transport system – on the roads and in the air – will be one of the big three economic battlefields this century, alongside clean energy and healthcare technology.

That this dispute went right to the heart of both companies’ corporate cultures should come as no surprise: Google/Alphabet’s desire to own as many markets as possible, and Uber’s reputation for muscling in on them by any means necessary.

The subtext should be clear: Uber’s long-term goal is building the infrastructure for personal, on-demand, driverless transport; Uber drivers have always been a means to prove the market, and never the market itself.

Read more: EHANG passenger drone boasts successful manned test flights

Read more: Volvo to supply Uber with driverless car fleet

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AI facial analysis demonstrates both racial and gender bias

Researchers from MIT and Stanford University found that that three different facial analysis programs demonstrate both gender and skin color biases. The full article will be presented at the Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency la…
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Analysis: Intel’s Vaunt smart glasses promise an end to ‘glassholes’

intel vaunt smart glasses

Unlike most hardware that has transformative ambitions, Intel’s ‘Vaunt’ smart glasses are designed to be inconspicuous.

It’s fair to say that Google’s first foray into smart glasses was not a roaring success. They were too bulky for mass adoption, raised privacy concerns, and sported so many extras that they attracted attention for all the wrong reasons.

But the promise of the technology remains, according to chip giant Intel.

Read more: Security flaws ‘Spectre’ and ‘Meltdown’ haunting Intel, AMD and ARM chips

Shedding the ‘glassholes’ label

Intel’s Vaunt glasses offer a different interpretation of how our relationship with smart-eye technology could be. Instead of taking photos, talking back to wearers, or lighting up their faces with LEDs, Vaunt glasses take a much more subtle approach. In fact, they are almost indistinguishable from standard frames.

That subtlety is supposed to extend to their impact, too. For now, Intel is hoping that less is more. The only interactive element is built into the right stem of the glasses. Inside are enough electronics to power a vertical cavity emitting laser – the kind that you might find in a computer mouse.

That laser projects a red image onto a holographic reflector on the glasses’ right lens. The image is then reflected into the eyeball, straight onto the retina.

If that sounds invasive, the reality is a small rectangle of text and icons that sits in the wearer’s peripheral vision. The aim is for notifications to be there when they’re needed, and not to distract users in the meantime.

So far the Vaunt glasses also have Bluetooth, an accelerometer, and a compass. The idea is to provide certain applications with enough information to be useful, but not so much that people feel their privacy is being invaded, or that wearers spend all of their time scrolling through social media feeds on their faces.

Notifications can be swatted away with a shake of the head, for example. Intel has suggested that future models may include a microphone, allowing Vaunt glasses to work with intelligent assistants from Google, Amazon, Apple, and the like.

Read more: IoB Insiders: Time to contemplate the end of the smartphone?

Why is Intel making smart glasses?

Intel sees smart glasses as a platform that could have as big an impact on our daily lives as smartphones.

Itai Vonshak, VP of Intel’s product and new devices group, gives the example of ride sharing, a now-ubiquitous service that couldn’t have existed without a network of connected smartphones and users willing to try something new.

“When I saw the first smartphone, I didn’t say ‘wow, ride sharing, that’s going to happen’. We’re excited about this because it enables new use cases for developers to come up with”, he told The Verge.

Later this year Intel will release units to developers as part of an early access programme. It will then be up to them to build applications in line with the company’s big ambitions.

Vaunt glasses are also about Intel establishing itself in the foreground of emergent technology.

It’s been said that data is the new oil. And as Intel’s Jerry Bautista, VP and GM of the new devices group says, “You have to consume that data somehow. Not only do we want to help you manage that data… we also want to be part of presenting that data to you in a way that you can consume.”

Interesting questions lie ahead if and when Vaunt hits the mainstream: What are the commercial applications of this technology? Will they change the way we communicate? And at a time when we are more connected and yet increasingly detached, what social impact might they have?

As Intel’s senior director of software experiences Ronen Soffer speculates (without a hint of irony), “So I’m talking to you right now [while wearing Vaunt glasses] and you feel like you mean so much to me, but I’m actually playing a trivia game. You can actually ignore people much more efficiently this way.”

Internet of Business says

Intel is heading in an interesting direction with Vaunt. At its core, this appears to be a product designed with its own limitations in mind. Smart glasses promise convenience beyond connected watches and smartphones. For example, it’s easy to imagine a world in which going through your shopping list or getting directions is a process that occurs right in front of your eyes. But Intel has recognised that a major barrier to that world becoming a reality is aesthetics. Our willingness to adopt wearables extends only to a point. Blending in will always be important.

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New Analysis Claims Your Smart TV Might Be Vulnerable to Hacks

Thanks to their innovative combination of large displays and all-inclusive, Wi-Fi connected interfaces, Smart TVs have exploded in popularity among consumers, as their prices continue to normalize with the rest of the market.

However despite their perceived benefits, which include on-demand access to a wide range of internet connected services like Netflix, Hulu and more, a recent analysis of the market’s biggest Smart TV offerings has unsettlingly revealed how they might be vulnerable to hackers.

In fact, as conveyed in an exclusive, USA Today report published this morning, your Smart TV is “probably monitoring more of your viewing than you realize.”

That’s in part because they boast a technology dubbed Automatic Content Recognition, which is designed to monitor what you watch “in an attempt to do a better job than Nielsen at measuring viewership.”

Privacy and Security Concerns

Essentially, “several problems” were discovered during an analysis of Smart TV offerings from five of the market’s biggest vendors — Samsung, Sony, LG, TCL and Vizio, according to Consumer Reports, who not only said the units it tested were capable of tracking what you watch, but certain models from Samsung and TCL were found to have “failed basic security tests.”

In fact, the agency appears to boast the ease of which they were able to “take over complete remote control of the [Samsung & TCL/Roku] TVs” and carry out a variety of tasks including changing the channel, tweaking with the volume, installing apps and even downloading a range of  “objectionable content” from the web.

“What we found most disturbing about this, was the relative simplicity of” [how easy it was to hack in], said Consumer Reports’ senior director of content, Glenn Derene.

Derene added that it’s particularly “frightening” that some unknown, remote actor could do things like start typing into the search bar, launch or install apps, disable the TV’s Wi-Fi connectivity, and even use the hack to “harass and frighten someone.”

“Basic security practices were not being followed,” Derene concluded, noting how his firm was able to hack the TCL/Roku device using the manufacturer’s own feature which gives users the option to use devices like their smartphone as a remote to control Roku from afar.

Other Key Findings and Conclusions

In addition to the security risks, Consumer Reports found that the Smart TVs it tested “asked for permission to collect viewing data and other information” — and it wasn’t particularly easy for users to discern what information they were agreeing to share.

There was even a “tendency to request oversharing,” the agency said, pointing to the TVs apparent disposition to monitoring everything its watcher did — regardless of whether they were streaming a show on Netflix or merely playing a DVD.

Moreover, while most consumers might be aware (to a certain extent) that they’re being tracked by Internet-streaming services like Netflix and Hulu (who gather info so as to recommend the best new shows), “It’s just not the expectation of consumers that their TV will be tracking everything they watch, particularly if they’re not streaming.”

Samsung and TCL Respond

Both Samsung and TCL-owned Roku have since responded to Consumer Reports’ findings, with both firm’s reportedly indicating they “would take a closer look at the issues and address them,” USA Today said.

As of Wednesday morning, however, TCL appeared to push back on the findings, suggesting in a blog post published to its website that the agency simply “got it wrong,” and “there is no security risk” associated with its products, as they previously indicated.

“We take the security of our platform and the privacy of our users very seriously,” Roku vice president, Gary Ellison, said.

How to Fix These Issues?

Consumer Reports provides a few, hit-or-miss solutions which may help users avoid these complications with their Smart TV.

Since they’re equipped with the Automatic Content Recognition feature, which allow these Smart TVs to closely monitor what you watch and share that information, Consumer Reports recommends simply turning the feature off via your device’s settings menu.

Other interesting options include turning off your Wi-Fi box while you watch TV… though even Consumer Reports admitted that “doesn’t make sense” since the whole point of owning a Smart TV is that you’re able to connect to the web, right?

Alternatively, they suggest reverting to the use of a “dumb TV” to stream your content the old fashioned way (via set-top box) — though there’s no guarantee that will even help. They found that Roku’s streaming box, which utilizes the same operating system as Roku-branded TVs, was also vulnerable.

Interestingly, today’s findings come exactly a year after TV maker, Vizio, agreed to a $ 2.2 million deal that settled allegations from the Federal Trade Commission and the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General which concerned the company’s excessive collection of its users’ viewing data without their consent.

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