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Samsung launches modular TV called The Wall

January 10th, 2018 Posted by A/V, News

Samsung has announced a giant 146in (396cm) TV called The Wall at the CES tech show in Las Vegas.

The TV features a micro-LED display, which is pitched as a superior alternative to OLED because it offers both deep blacks and bright highlights.

Samsung also says its modular technology will allow for TVs of customised sizes to be ordered.

This is because the display is actually composed of many smaller modules that can be arranged to form unusual dimensions – one example that was squat and super-wide was briefly shown at the presentation.

‘Millions’ of LEDs

The micro-LED display, thanks to its self-emitting LEDs, should allow for a bright picture without the need for a backlight.

Backlights normally make it hard to produce deep blacks on screen because their illumination spills beyond the pixels they are targeted at.

Sony tried to produce TVs made from the same basic technology back in 2012 but they proved too expensive to make en masse.

Samsung’s decision to bet on micro-LED puts it in direct competition with rivals that have opted to go with OLED displays. Micro-LED screens are difficult to manufacture because the LEDs need to be individually placed onto a layer by machines, explained analyst Paul Gray at IHS Technology. “You have millions for a single display,” he said.”But maybe Samsung has made some breakthroughs on multiple placement [at once].”

Mr Gray added that, although Samsung was pitching the technology as a “consumer” product, it would likely only appear in very expensive devices.

Samsung has not yet revealed details on pricing itself.

Samsung modular TV in an elongated rectangular formatThe modular technology allows for TVs of unusual shapes and sizes to be made, according to Samsung

Other options for giant TV displays have been shown off at CES this year.

Hisense unveiled a 150in 4K TV projector system that can beam a picture onto its owner’s wall.

The firm did not announce a price for the product, though a 100in version costs $10,000 (£7,300).

And there were TVs with improved brains, too.

Samsung promised that its next generation of smart TVs would be more intelligent than ever before, thanks to the inclusion of the firm’s voice-activated assistant Bixby.

Users can even ask Bixby to display the inside of their fridge on screen – if they have a compatible Samsung smart fridge with internal camera.

AI assistants have cropped up several smart TV’s at CES this year, including Philips’ 7703 Series 24in Android TV, which comes perched on a Bluetooth speaker and is designed for kitchen worktops.

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Voice is the future

January 5th, 2018 Posted by Voice

Intelligent Services will not only learn to talk with us, but also to recognise emotion so they can truly engage with our lives.

For years we have interacted with machines by touch – using a keyboard, screen or mouse. But this is not the natural way for humans to communicate. As humans, we prefer voice. In 2018, we’ll see more machines communicate the way humans do, with the potential for technology to become more ingrained into our lives than ever.

We’re at the beginning of a voice-fuelled technology transformation where new types of devices and services, such as the Echo and Alexa, allow us to communicate more naturally. They are being embedded into everything from cars to home automation services to the factory floor.

Ford, for example, has integrated Alexa into its vehicles, allowing its customers to engage in a more intuitive way with its cars. Drivers can speak to their car and ask it to play their favourite audiobooks. They can do their shopping and get directions. They can connect to all sorts of services outside of the vehicle, being able to manipulate lights and doors in their smart home. From home, customers can communicate with their car by remote starting, locking or unlocking doors and obtaining vehicle information.

At AstraZeneca, Alexa is being used by manufacturing teams to ask about standard operating procedures and to find out what to do next. At Nasa, rather than rearranging a conference room for different mission meetings, they speak to Alexa and the building does the rest. For many, voice computing is already here, and the potential is limitless.

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The International Rice Research Institute, just outside Manila in the Philippines, has built a digital system to help farmers find the right amount of fertiliser to apply to their land at a particular time. To increase engagement, they opted for a natural interface for the farmers, building it as a voice-based system in the cloud. Farmers simply take the village phone, call the service, select from a variety of dialects and describe the patch of land. The service, using machine learning, provides advice on the amount of fertiliser they need to use and when they should plant their crops.

UK-based Inhealthcare is another voice example. One of its core tools is using automated telephony as a communication channel to deploy digital health services at scale. For many older people, the telephone is a piece of technology they are comfortable and confident using, and nearly everyone can access it, even if they don’t have access to the internet or a smartphone. Using Amazon Polly, Inhealthcare can deliver medication reminders, health advice and help with treatment. A phone call could last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes depending on the complexity of its nature, but with the low latency they can achieve, patients can have a natural conversation, meaning they feel comfortable with the advice they receive and don’t hang up.

Are you integrating voice in to your digital strategy and the way you work?

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CES – shines a light on 5G

January 2nd, 2018 Posted by News

CES 2018 is where you’ll start caring about 5G

This year, the world’s biggest consumer electronics show in Las Vegas will shine a light on the next-gen wireless technology that will shape the coming decade.

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At this year’s CES there will be plenty of talk about driverless cars, connected homes and the internet of things.

Here’s the technology that will drive all of those innovations over the next decade: 5G.

The shorthand tag “5G” stands for fifth-generation wireless technology. Those broadbandlike wireless speeds you’re getting on your phone now? That’s 4G technology. So just think about what happens next.

If you’re excited about the prospects, you aren’t alone. Tech observers see 5G as the foundation for a host of other trends. At last year’s CES, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf described 5G as the biggest thing since the introduction of electricity.

Remember, a lot of work needs to be done for 5G to achieve broad scale. But with networks set to go live by 2019 and coverage reaching 20 percent of the population by 2023, now’s the time to start caring about it.

The lowdown on 5G

The brave new world of 5G isn’t just about speed. Sure, you can look forward to ridiculously high download speeds and bufferless 4K streaming. The real advantages, however, come down to three other things:

  1. Reliability: 5G doesn’t just deliver peak speeds in ideal conditions. The technology offers superhigh speeds that are reliable and consistent, even indoors or in congested areas.
  2. Bandwidth: 5G can support a massive increase in connected devices. Ericsson forecasts 1 billion 5G subscriptions by 2023. Think sensors on everything.
  3. Latency: Phones today have an annoying lag between when you send a request for a website or video and when the network responds. With 5G, that’ll be reduced to 1 millisecond. That’s 400 times faster than the blink of an eye. It’s so fast, some companies see it opening up the possibility of remote surgery.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich is devoting his preshow keynote presentation to the data-driven future that 5G enables. Nokia and Ericsson will be on stage touting the new network technology. Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, which runs CES, has already been hitting the media circuit to talk up the tech.

Smart home

According to Intel, the future of 5G means everything will be connected.

The company, known for processors, is positioning itself at the forefront of the 5G revolution. Leading the charge is Asha Keddy, who heads up Intel’s efforts on IoT, connected devices and next generation networks.

Thanks to CNET for the above info!

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UK homes to get faster broadband by 2020

December 20th, 2017 Posted by Uncategorized

Homes and businesses will have a legal right to demand high-speed broadband by 2020, the government has said after rejecting a voluntary offer from BT.

Openreach, owned by BT and responsible for the infrastructure, offered to speed up improvements to 1.1 million rural homes.

The government has promised that the whole of the UK will have access to speeds of at least 10 Mbps by 2020.

BT said it respected the government’s decision.

The government believes the regulatory Universal Service Obligation offers “certainty”.

Under the plan, broadband providers will face a legal requirement to provide high-speed broadband to anyone requesting it, subject to a cost threshold.

‘On-demand programme’

Matt Hancock, minister of state for digital policy at the department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said on the BBC’s Today programme: “Access means you can phone up somebody, ask for it and then someone has the legal duty to deliver on that promise.

“It is about having the right to demand it, so it will be an on-demand programme.

“So if you don’t go on the internet, aren’t interested, then you won’t phone up and demand this.”

In response to the announcement, BT said: “BT and Openreach want to get on with the job of making decent broadband available to everyone in the UK, so we’ll continue to explore the commercial options for bringing faster speeds to those parts of the country which are hardest to reach.”

‘Right’ decision

Rival firms, which had talked of legal action if the government accepted BT’s offer, welcomed the decision.

Both TalkTalk and Sky said the government had made the right decision.

Tristia Harrison, TalkTalk chief executive, said: “By opting for formal regulation rather than weaker promises, ministers are guaranteeing consumers will get the minimum speeds they need at a price they can afford,” she said.

“The whole industry now needs to work together to ensure customers see the benefits as quickly as possible.”

Stephen van Rooyen, Sky’s UK and Ireland chief executive, said: “Government have made the right decision by choosing a fair and transparent approach that maintains competition, keeps prices fair and gives consumers a legal right to request broadband.”

Regulator Ofcom said this month that 4% of UK premises, or about 1.1 million, could not access broadband speeds of at least 10 Mbps.

It said poor connections were a particular concern for small businesses, with almost 230,000 unable to get a decent service.

Following the introduction of secondary legislation next year, it is thought it will take another two years before the right is enforced by Ofcom.

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Hakers using Starbucks cafe’s wi-fi made computers mine crypto-currency

December 14th, 2017 Posted by News

Starbucks has acknowledged that visitors to one of its branches were unwittingly recruited into a crypto-currency mining operation.

The wi-fi service provided by one of the coffee chain’s Buenos Aires outlets surreptitiously hijacked connected computers to use their processing power to create digital cash.

Starbucks said that it had taken “swift action” to address the problem.

But one expert said it highlighted the risks of using public wi-fi.

It is not clear how long the malware involved was active or how many customers were affected.

The issue was identified only when the chief executive of a New York-based technology company logged into the service and noticed the problem.

Noah Dinkin was alerted to the issue by a delay he experienced before being able to start using the net, and posted his discovery to Twitter.

Although he initially believed the code had been designed to force his laptop to try to create bitcoins, other users noted that it had in fact been designed to mine another digital currency, Monero.

Mining involves solving complicated mathematical equations to verify crypto-currency transactions.

Those involved are attracted by the promise of being rewarded with newly minted “coins” if their computer is first to solve a challenge.

But because lots of processing power is required to have a good chance of success, some people have tried to infect other people’s computers with mining code to boost their chances.

Victims’ computers are normally targeted via infected websites, but it is relatively unusual for a wi-fi hotspot to be involved.

“As soon as we were alerted of the situation in this specific store last week, we took swift action to ensure our third-party support provider resolved the issue and made the changes needed in order to ensure our customers could use wi-fi in our store safely,” a spokeswoman for Starbucks told the BBC.

The company had earlier told the Motherboard news website that it did not “have any concern that this is widespread” across its other stores.

Richard Howard, Microcomms Cyber-Security expert said “people need to be careful when using public WiFi. When connecting ensure you have up to date security software and be on the lookout for suspicious activity. Public WiFi does offer a useful service  and the abuse is definitely the exception not the rule. Also, as applications and websites move towards encryption by default – overall security improves and makes life much harder for hackers.”

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Ethical hackers to boost NHS cyber-defences

November 28th, 2017 Posted by Uncategorized

The NHS is spending £20m to set up a security operations centre that will oversee the health service’s digital defences.

It will employ “ethical hackers” to look for weaknesses in health computer networks, not just react to breaches.

Such hackers use the same tactics seen in cyber-attacks to help organisations spot weak points.

In May, one-third of UK health trusts were hit by the WannaCry worm, which demanded cash to unlock infected PCs.

Essential step

In a statement, Dan Taylor, head of the data security centre at NHS Digital, said the centre would create and run a “near-real-time monitoring and alerting service that covers the whole health and care system”.

The centre would also help the NHS improve its “ability to anticipate future vulnerabilities while supporting health and care in remediating current known threats”, he said.

And operations centre guidance would complement the existing teams the NHS used to defend itself against cyber-threats.

NHS Digital, the IT arm of the health service, has issued an invitation to tender to find a partner to help run the project and advise it about the mix of expertise it required.

Kevin Beaumont, a security vulnerability manager, welcomed the plan to set up the centre.

“This is a really positive move,” he told the BBC.

Many private sector organisations already have similar central teams that use threat intelligence and analysis to keep networks secure.

“Having a function like this is essential in modern-day organisations,” Mr Beaumont said.

“In an event like WannaCry, the centre could help hospitals know where they are getting infected from in real time, which was a big issue at the time, organisations were unsure how they were being infected”.

In October, the UK’s National Audit Office said NHS trusts had been caught out by the WannaCry worm because they had failed to follow recommended cyber-security policies.

The NAO report said NHS trusts had not acted on critical alerts from NHS Digital or on warnings from 2014 that had urged users to patch or migrate away from vulnerable older software.

 

Thanks to the BBC for this story.

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Uber concealed huge data breach

November 22nd, 2017 Posted by News

Uber concealed a hack that affected 57 million customers and drivers, the company has confirmed.

The 2016 breach was hidden by the ride-sharing firm which paid hackers $100,000 (£75,000) to delete the data.

The company’s former chief executive Travis Kalanick knew about the breach over a year ago. The hackers found 57 million names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers, Uber said.

Within that number, 600,000 drivers had their names and licence details exposed.

Drivers have been offered free credit monitoring protection, but according to Uber’s statement, affected customers will not be given the same.

‘None of this should have happened’

“While we have not seen evidence of fraud or misuse tied to the incident, we are monitoring the affected accounts and have flagged them for additional fraud protection,” Uber’s chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said.

“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” he added.

“While I can’t erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes.”

In the wake of the news, Uber’s chief security officer Joe Sullivan has left the company.

Uber did not confirm precise details of the hack – and it is not known which countries were affected – but according to Bloomberg’s report, two hackers were able to access a private area of Github, an online resource for developers.

From there it is understood they found Uber’s log-in credentials to Amazon Web Services. AWS is a cloud computing service used by companies to store data.

As is often the case, it will likely be the cover up that proves more bothersome for Uber than the hack itself.

Companies are required to disclose significant data breaches to regulators, something it has by its own admission failed to do in this case.

Uber has form. In January it was fined $20,000 for failing to disclose a considerably less serious breach in 2014.

With the impending legislation of GDPR coming in to place in May 2018 – the firm could have been liable for fines of £20m or 4% of it’s worldwide turnover. It’s time companies started taking data security seriously.

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This sensor-packed pedestrian crossing is fit for a modern city

October 13th, 2017 Posted by News

A prototype LED crossing uses sensors to respond to the movement of vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.

The crossing grows wider to prevent overcrowding

Paint-on-the-floor pedestrian crossings don’t cut it anymore. They are outdated, and the cause of 20 incidents a day in the UK. Architectural firm Umbrellium reckons it’s got a solution: a sensor-packed digital crossing that responds to your movements.

“We’ve been designing a pedestrian crossing for the 21st century,” says Usman Haque, Umbrellium‘s founding partner. “Crossings that you know were designed in the 1950s, when there was a different type of city and interaction.”

This smart crossing doesn’t just look more modern than the 60 years old versions; it uses machine learning to make the crossings safer. Figures from the Transport Research Laboratory show that 7,000 incidents happen on them each year in the UK.

The crossing doesn’t appear until someone stands in the red area

The actual crossing doesn’t exist until it’s safe for you to cross – then LED patterns appear to direct people and stop cars. These are patterns we already know well; the classic white zebra crossing, the pedestrian symbol, a cycle area in front of the cars, and red and green for stop and go. These arrows and colours are designed to be much more in your face, so your attention is pulled from your phone and onto the road.

“The speed that the animations appear is much more than graphics design; it’s a careful consideration of how fast it can react so that people aren’t startled, but stay safe,” Haque said.

That reaction is less than one-hundredth of a second – enough to respond to kids running into a busy road or cyclists racing past a van. The crossing is built into 22 metres of responsive surface, which would be embedded under a normal road. Haque and his team at Umbrellium developed a substructure made of steel that is bolted together, so when vehicles go over it they don’t pull apart the panels and the cables. Then there’s a layer of normal, ultra-bright LEDs covered in high-impact plastic so they can support the weight of vehicles and avoid water damage.

Once embedded into the road, two cameras are installed to film the street from opposite ends. They merge these images and, using machine learning, classify the objects in the scene: whether they are pedestrians, cyclists, a car, or high-sided vehicle. This helps the system figure out how best to react by tracking movement and assuming their trajectory. It will also learn the safest point in the road to cross to decide where the crossing should appear.

The camera sends this positional information to a computer which generates the right patterns. This is passed onto a system that sends the signals to the specific LEDs needed to make whatever pattern or colour is necessary. A fully-working prototype has been installed on a fake street at a TV studio in South West London, complete with pedestrians, cyclists and van and car drivers. The Umbrellium team spent days testing out the tech and mocking-up real life scenarios.


The default crossing mode, which is meant for less busy times

The default crossing looks like a digitised zebra crossing – but the pedestrian symbol, which switches between red and green, is on the floor at the edge of the road. Once the system recognises someone standing there, a crossing appears just like normal. Once you have crossed the crossing and markings disappear. This would be in an area where people don’t cross that often, or early in the morning. When the crossing isn’t needed, it vanishes.

If lots of people try to cross at once, the crossing markings will widen. It also moves the stop line and cyclist area back, so vehicles don’t get too close. In the real world, the system would automatically decide how best to respond.

The machines could also learn to project the crossing at a slightly different orientation if, for instance, everyone makes a beeline for a certain shop after a school days. The idea comes from ants, Haque says. “Ants put down pheromones when they go foraging – that pheromone attracts more ants to that same path, so they build up their pathway. If people were always tending to go in one direction – that’s the safe place to put the crossing,” he explains.

The project, developed in collaboration with insurance firm Direct Line, is still some way from completion. To speed up the process, the code behind it is being made open source. “The actual deployment will come later, when we figure out the logistics of implementation,” Haque says. In the real world, there would be multiple detection systems, to be fail safe. If the camera systems still failed, Umbrellium have a version that has a pressure sensor which detects where footsteps are.

It doesn’t work on the road surface just yet, but by detecting footfall, the system could infer weight and stride length. From this, it can work out how fast your are moving, and in what direction. “We have to question whether traffic lights even make sense anymore,” Hague says. “This crossing is a step toward a near future re-imagining of how pedestrians can use technology.”

Thanks to Sian Bradley at Wired for the story.

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How super-fast mobile broadband could change our world

October 6th, 2017 Posted by Case Study, News, Tech Talk

What impact could 5G – the new high-speed mobile technology being trialled around the world – have on the way we work and play?

Swedish transport company Scania believes lorries could use far less fuel if they drove much closer together, controlled by wirelessly communicating onboard computers.

But to prevent these “platooning” lorries crashing into each other, you’d better be sure your communications are fast and reliable. So Scania is working with Ericsson on trials of the new 5G (fifth generation) wireless broadband technology, due to be rolled out globally in 2020.

It promises much faster data transfer speeds, greater coverage and more efficient use of the spectrum bandwidth.

“Platooning works very well with wi-fi, but in dense traffic situations with many vehicles communicating, 5G is designed to offer more reliable communication,” says Andreas Hoglund, Scania’s senior engineer for intelligent transport systems. This is because 5G direct communication is designed to handle fast moving objects and congestion more efficiently, he says.

“Faster communication will make it possible to reduce the distance between vehicles in the platoon, which might further reduce the air drag and give positive effects on fuel consumption,” he explains.

This could help create “a more efficient, greener” world.

5G is designed to accommodate the growing number of devices reliant on a mobile internet connection – from fridges to cars – and is 10 times faster than the highest speed 4G can manage.

“It will enable a lot of applications which were unthinkable before,” says Mischa Dohler, professor in wireless communications at King’s College London.

South Korea has plans to implement 5G for the Winter Olympics in February 2018, giving visitors access to virtual reality (VR) content on their mobiles.

 

 

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Warning that UK digital economy may be ‘at risk’ from Brexit

September 14th, 2017 Posted by News

Businesses have warned the UK’s £240bn data economy could be at risk unless a suitable Brexit transition deal is established by the Government.

Under EU regulations, businesses are only allowed to move data from within the bloc to countries outside of it if those countries meet the EU standards for data protection. This is intended to stop corporations laundering data to jurisdictions where they could use it for purposes that would not be allowed in the EU.

Although, as part of the EU, the UK is currently compliant with EU data protection law, it will become a separate jurisdiction after Brexit and will require an “adequacy” agreement in terms of its data protection laws.

To meet these requirements the Government has introduced a Data Protection Bill, which will enshrine the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulations in UK law, but businesses are concerned this may not be enough.

Josh Hardie, deputy director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said the bill shows the Government “has taken the right steps… but in the long-term, we need an ‘adequacy decision’ with the EU, where the UK can prove our data laws and business environment meet EU standards”.

“Unless the Brexit negotiations find another way, getting such a deal would mean first becoming a ‘third country’. In other words, we’d need to leave the EU before that process could even begin.”

Edward Snowden leaked information about intelligence programmes.
Edward Snowden leaked information about intelligence programmes

The legal uncertainty of the UK being a “third country” would “affect jobs, growth and prosperity across the UK” he said.

“The last major data deal between the EU and a third country was with New Zealand and that took four years,” he added.

One of the most controversial adequacy agreements in recent years was made by the European Commission at the turn of the millennium, when it quickly asserted US legal principles complied with EU ones.

It stood by this decision even after Edward Snowden provided documentary evidence to the contrary, and would not concede the “Safe Harbor” arrangement was invalid until a legal challenge was escalated to the European Court of Justice.

Safe Harbor – the adequacy decision which allowed Facebook, Microsoft and others to transfer EU citizens’ data to the US – was declared void, and those data transfers became illegal overnight. However, they continued anyway.

Using contractual arrangements, US-based corporations continued to process EU citizens’ data while the commission quickly worked on putting together a new agreement.

 

Original story written by  Alexander J Martin, Technology Reporter at Sky News.