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Mobile Technology News, February 27, 2014

As developers for tablets and smartphones we like to keep abreast of the latest mobile technology developments . This is a daily digest of mobile development and related technology news gathered from the BBC, the New York Times, New Scientist and the Globe and Mail to name a few. We scour the web for articles concerning, iPhone, iPad and android development, iOS and android operating systems as well as general articles on advances in mobile technology. We hope you find this useful and that it helps to keep you up to date with the latest technology developments.

  • Briefly: Apple updates iOS deployment tools, details Touch ID tech
    Ahead of the release of iOS 7.1, expected in the middle of next month, Apple has proceeded with an overhaul of its existing Mobile Device Management (MDM) platforms for educational, enterprise and institutional clients. It launched a new Volume Services web site earlier this month, and has now activated a number of features on that site, kicking off a big push for large-scale iOS deployments.

        



  • VIDEO: Our early impressions of the web
    On 12 March 2014 the world wide web turns 25, and the Pew Research Center has collected data on how Americans have reacted to it through its brief history.
  • 'Gigafactory' Will Allow Tesla To Provide Batteries For 500,000 Vehicles By 2020
    PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) — Electric car maker Tesla Motors said Wednesday it’s considering sites in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas for a massive battery factory that would employ around 6,500 people.

    The company didn’t immediately name the locations it’s considering in those states. Tesla plans to start construction this year and complete the factory — which it dubs its “Gigafactory” — in 2017. Tesla’s share rose nearly 3 percent to $259.90 in after-hours trading.

    The factory would supply lithium-ion batteries to Tesla’s Fremont, Calif., assembly plant.

    Palo Alto-based Tesla says it will invest $2 billion in the 10 million square foot factory, which will cost between $4 billion and $5 billion. Its partners will invest the rest. The company didn’t identify those partners Wednesday, but its current battery supplier, Japan’s Panasonic Corp., is expected to be among the investors.

    Panasonic signed a deal last fall to supply Tesla with 2 billion battery cells over the next four years. But Tesla has fretted that current battery supplies won’t meet its future demands.

    The new factory will provide enough batteries to supply 500,000 vehicles by 2020, Tesla said. Tesla expects to produce 35,000 vehicles this year.

    Tesla currently sells just one vehicle, the Model S sedan, which starts around $70,000. But it plans to begin making a crossover, the Model X, later this year, and wants to bring a lower cost, mass market vehicle to market in 2017. Tesla said the factory would help lower its battery costs by around 30 percent.

    Tesla also announced Wednesday it plans to raise $1.6 billion in a debt offering. The proceeds would help finance the new factory and the lower cost vehicle.

  • Korean FTC ignores Apple complaint, says Samsung can litigate SEPs
    In a judgement that has bewildered international patent and legal analysts, the South Korean Fair Trade Commission (FTC) has rejected Apple’s complaint against Samsung that the latter was using FRAND-pledged standards-essential patents (SEPs) for bargaining leverage and as threat of litigation in order to strike unjust licensing deals. The Korean FTC has essentially said that suing or seeking product injunctions over SEPs is perfectly okay — if your company is based in South Korea.

        



  • Why Facebook Is Here to Stay
    Facebook has dominated the headlines in the past week due to its bold $16 billion acquisition of WhatsApp. This news buried another conversation that had previously been getting a moderate amount of attention: Some were beginning to question whether Facebook has a place in the world 10 or 20 years from now — or even fewer, as a post titled “Facebook will disappear in the next 5 years” indicates.

    One of the early instigators of the conversation, back in April 2012, was Geoffrey James of Inc. magazine, who made the basic and pretty unfounded argument that Facebook is no longer “cool,” whatever the term may mean to you. Further, James claimed that Facebook is “a company trying to be all things to all people.” Setting aside that Facebook’s user base is, in fact, growing, and that it is the largest social media site in the world, this seems to be a very superficial analysis of Facebook’s strategy.

    Facebook isn’t trying to do everything — it is constantly experimenting by doing. The social media giant recently launched a division called Creative Labs, solely dedicated to building new ways of being social online. This new venture produced Paper, an app that integrates Facebook with the information graph by making it part of a wider stream fed by news outlets and blogs. This is just one of many signs of Facebook’s commitment to continuously building and experimenting with new features and apps. Facebook makes $2.6 billion per quarter. It seems only logical that, like Google and Apple, a large part of this cash goes back into developing its core product, as well as exploring new avenues for growth in the world of social.

    James goes as far as to say that Facebook’s buying Instagram “smacks of desperation.” I understand the need to dish out solid punch lines, but a 10-year-old company making more than $10 billion a year is not desperate, it’s 10 steps ahead.

    An unlikely influencer, 13-year-old Ruby Karp from New York, reignited the conversation in August 2013. She eloquently explained her and her peers’ dislike of Facebook, explaining that “teens are followers” and voicing the same privacy concerns that many other Facebook users have: “If my mom saw I was at a party with drinking, even if I wasn’t participating, I’d be dead.”

    Although I agree with everything Ruby says, we must remember that Facebook wasn’t created for 13-year-olds. Ruby is not the core Facebook consumer. Facebook was created with college kids in mind, who have a completely different social structure than 13-year-olds, one that is more suitable to the site. Think Greek life and club sports. How many Rubys need to organize a party? Thirteen-year-olds aren’t trying to get tactical about their social networking.

    Facebook was able to win over college students when it had no money and was called Thefacebook (yes, all one word). I am confident it will keep doing so in the future.

    Following Ruby’s op-ed, Adam Wexler, on the Huffington Post, wrote about “Why Twitter and LinkedIn will outlast Facebook,” calling out a specific line of Ruby’s piece: “Facebook was just this thing all our parents seemed to have.” True, the Facebook population is aging, as a natural result of early adopters getting older. However, while at 13 everyone above 18 feels like an alien, once you’ve reached college, that barrier to entry is far less relevant. Furthermore, a 20-year-old is more likely to be able to navigate the, I will admit, annoyingly nuanced privacy settings on Facebook and make sure Mom is not privy to incriminating content.

    Facebook is here to stay, and here is why: It is a great platform for anyone 18 and older to stay in contact with peers, near and far, and build and manage friend groups. Facebook isn’t out to win you over when you are 13.

    Further, it has an enormous amount of cash to spend on R & D, meaning that no one, probably not even founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, has any idea where Facebook is going to be in 10 years. This is the core power of its founder. Zuckerberg is both a visionary and a maker, and that combo is unbeatable

  • Google, Microsoft agree: Cloud is now safe enough to use
    The two Internet powerhouses agree that it’s time to stop fearing cloud security and embrace the future at the annual RSA Conference.
  • Energy firm cyber-defence 'too weak'
    Power companies are being refused insurance cover for cyber-attacks due to inadequate defences, the BBC learns.
  • Report: iOS 7.0.6 hits 26 percent penetration in first four days [U]
    [Updated with more recent statistics from Chitika] One of Apple’s biggest advantages over other mobile platforms is its ability to update its OS quickly, and more crucially — particularly in the case of the rare security issue — to deploy the update across all compatible devices rapidly, rather than have to wait weeks or months for carriers and partners to incorporate their own apps and other processes and “skins” into the fix. Updted stats from mobile ad analysts Chitika show that more than 25.9 percent of all North American iDevices were already running the latest version within four days

        



  • Future Mobile Wonders Not All at Mobile World Congress
    2014-02-26-14226MWCcrowd.jpg

    As a result of series of unfortunate events and poor timing, I’m home instead of engorging myself in the sites and sounds of Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest mobile technology exhibition, currently crowding Barcelona.

    But based on news reports from the show, other than not spending some time in such an exotic locale with my wife who is working the show for IBM, it doesn’t appear I missed much.

    The usual superphone suspects did introduce some new geegaws:

    But collectively, to me, these new devices feel incremental rather than breakthrough. We’ve seen fingerprint scanners, waterproofing and 20-plus MP cameras before. And we now have smartphones at nearly every incremental screen size between 3.5 and 7 inches.

    MWC isn’t alone in its dearth of mobile hardware excitement. There weren’t many smartphone breakthroughs at CES, either. In fact, even with its fingerprint-scanning home button, last fall’s Apple iPhone 5S was only slight more cool than the 5.

    So, has the smartphone reached the end of its wonder years?

    It’s the infrastructure, stupid

    Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to imply that smartphone technology has stagnated. Batteries will continue to supply more juice, there’ll be more waterproofing/resistance, cameras will continue to improve (and not just more megapixels but better focusing, optical zooming and better low-light results), etc.

    But in just seven short years, since the original iPhone went on sale in June 2007, the mobile phone has achieved shocking technological and mainstream maturity. In 2013, revenues from smartphone and tablet sales totaled more than all other consumer electronics combined, and according to Cisco, there are now more mobile devices then there are people in the world.

    But instead of mobile devices, future mobile wonders will come instead from largely unfamiliar supporting technologies and applications.

    For instance, for me, the biggest news out of MWC was made by Boingo, which announced the availability of Passpoint Wi-Fi in 21 U.S. airports.

    What’s Passpoint? Passpoint is automatic and secure Wi-Fi connectivity. Passpoint will make connecting to speedy Wi-Fi as brainlessly easy — you’ll need to do nothing, just like connecting to cellular. Your phone will simply connect to Wi-Fi all by itself. You can read my more expansive Passpoint explanation here.

    With these 21 airports as a starting point, I can only hope Boingo spreads Passpoint (and hopefully so-called gigabit 802.11ac Wi-Fi, with its 1.3 gigabit per second speeds) to its other 700,000 global hotspots more rapidly than the rest of the industry plans.

    Then there’s the IBM’s Watson Mobile Developers Challenge, just announced by IBM CEO Ginni Rommety in her MWC keynote. Full disclosure: my wife is the lead PR contact for the challenge. But Watson, which trounced two human Jeopardy! champions a couple of years ago, is arguably the world’s most intuitive computer (although Amazon’s system gives Watson a run for its petaflops).

    Drawing on Watson’s cloud-based cognitive computing capabilties, future mobile apps could prove as wondrous as any piece of hardware, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.

    Other wireless wonders

    Three other wireless technologies will radically change how we interact with the world through our mobile device:

    Here’s my more expansive examination of the impact and implications of these and other wireless and infrastructure technologies that promise to change our mobile lives far more radically than any shiny MWC hardware.

    Now how much would you pay?

    Perhaps the source for the most mobile future wonder will come not from technology at all, but how much we pay for mobile technology and service.

    Over the last year or so, T-Mobile, led by peripatetic CEO John Legere, has unleashed a staggered, multi-step “un-carrier” campaign. This un-carrier campaign includes the end of contracts, more simplified plans, no data capping, fewer limitations for hardware upgrades, drastically reduced international roaming fees and re-imbursement of early termination fees (ETF).

    T-Mobile’s in-your-face efforts to re-make the cellphone business have forced its competitors to try and keep up, sometimes comically reversing course or resorting to out-right bribery.

    As T-Mobile builds out is speedy LTE network and attracts more switchers, I suspect Verizon, AT&T and Sprint to defensively counter (it’s kind of fun to watch these behemoths awkwardly react to T-Mobile’s shenanigans), resulting in ever-lower cellular service pricing — which may be the most wondrous mobile development yet.

  • The Dalai Lama On How Technology Influences Our Daily Lives (VIDEO)
    With more than 8 million Twitter followers, the outside observer may assume that His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama knows a thing or two about (mindfully) employing technology. But even though he called the existence of digital devices “wonderful,” he warned that they can also stand in our way — if we let them.

    “I think technology really increases human ability. It [made] a lot of things much easier,” he told HuffPost Live host Willow Bay. “But technology cannot produce compassion.”

    The Dalai Lama also explained that even though our phones and computers are so integrated into our lives, it’s important not to let them control how we’re living.

    “After all, we are the controllers of the technology and if we become slaves of technology, that’s not good,” he said.

    Check out the clip above for more on the usefulness of our digital devices and watch the full interview with the Dalai Lama over on HuffPost Live.

    For more on the Third Metric, click here.

    Arianna Huffington and Mika Brzezinski are taking The Third Metric on a 3-city tour: NY, DC & LA. Tickets are on sale now at thirdmetric.com.

  • Sony to shutter 20 stores in US, implement staff cuts
    Sony is shutting down US stores and going ahead with staff cuts, in the wake of the expected sale of its PC business.
  • New Livescribe 3 Makes Apple Devices More Delicious
    Odds and ends — you know, everything we commonly refer to as “stuff” because we aren’t sure how to classify them. We’ve been receiving many items recently that fall into that category, or into categories we’ve covered so recently that it’s not time for them to be reviewed. So, with that in mind, here’s one of our favorite items that has crept to the top of our “stuff” pile.

    The folks at Livescribe hope to win over iPad and iPhone users with the Livescribe 3 smartpen ($149 and $199 depending on which model you want).

    We’ve been Livescribe fans for a long time and were anxious to put this new pen through its paces, but, truthfully, were a bit annoyed when we discovered it will only work with Apple devices. After contacting the company’s marketing people, we were assured that an Android version was “in the works” and should hit the market sometime this year.

    Apparently there’s a compatibility problem with the version of Bluetooth (Bluetooth Smart 4.0) used by the pen that wasn’t resolved until the recent Android upgrade to version 4.3.

    Also missing is the recording capability we’ve become addicted to that was included with older versions of the Livescribe pens. But there’s a good reason for this: The Livescribe 3 uses the recording capabilities built into the Apple devices. So it’s not “gone,” just replaced.

    On the plus side, this new smartpen is sleeker and more stylish than its predecessors. Plus the power button is gone. Instead there’s a metal ring in the middle of the pen that turns it on or off and an LED light that tells you it’s on.

    Aside from that, the pen does a great job of performing all of the functions we’ve come to expect from a Livescribe product:

    • It has a high-speed infrared camera that records every keystroke made with the pen.
    • The ability to work with any of the Livescribe paper products.
    • The ability to share files with Evernote.

    New features include:

    • It connects to the iPhone 4S and newer, third generation iPads and newer, and the fifth generation iPod Touch and newer.
    • You don’t need USB cables (except to charge the pen) or a WiFi connection.
    • Up to 14 hours of use on one charge of the battery.
    • 2GB of internal memory.
    • The Livescribe+ Mobile App converts everything from the pen to the device. It’s no longer compatible with Livescribe Desktop.
    • The Livescribe Starter Notebook and Livescribe Journal contain new paper controls that allow you to tag your notes while you write.

    Attention Facebook users: Check out Michael Berman’s Jocgeek fan page at www.facebook.com/jocgeek, or follow him on Twitter @jocgeek. You can also contact him via email at jocgeek@earthlink.net or through his website at www.jocgeek.com.

    Disclaimer: I have no financial ties to this company.

  • The Ongoing Battle Against Breaches
    I’ve seen some interesting security trends develop over the course of 2013 and in to 2014 — BYOD security management and the increased scrutiny on cloud security to name a couple.

    One of the trends that I have found most interesting is the practice of businesses monitoring for employee and customer login credentials, and company devices that have already been compromised. On the surface, this may seem a bit bizarre, but when you look at some recent statistics, the practice begins to make sense. Think about this:

    When someone uses the same login credentials across multiple websites, an email or password compromised from one company’s data breach can open up vulnerabilities on a multitude of completely unrelated websites. Or consider malware. Antivirus programs are important, but they can’t keep up with the rate that malware is evolving (see the 300,000 viruses per day stat, above). We’ve seen the emergence among businesses of two practices that focus on searching for compromised credentials and devices: monitoring the black market and finding compromised IP addresses.

    Monitoring The Identity Black Market:

    When a breach occurs, the stolen information is often posted on a site, like PasteBin, that is considered public domain. Some businesses are monitoring these sites for employee and customer credentials. When a compromised credential is found, the business then asks the customer or employee to update his/her password. After the news of Adobe’s November breach broke, I received an email request from Eventbrite asking me to change my password.

    Proactive monitoring is done in real-time, which means a business can learn that an employee email address or password has been compromised the instant it is posted on a chat room, website or message board. This gives businesses the opportunity to react to the compromised information and subsequently mitigate the impact and risk of that stolen credential. However, the problem extends a bit further if the device the customer or employee is using has, in fact, been compromised. Changing account details and passwords for that matter will not fix the problem, allowing fraudsters to simply re-steal the updated credential.

    Identifying Compromised IP Addresses:

    In order to adapt to the ever-changing fraud market, the second and newer trend I’ve seen with business security is identifying company devices with compromised IP addresses. Most compromised credentials are stolen via malware, which is growing at an alarming rate. Most malware does two things: collects information from the compromised device and sends out spam to infect additional computers. Businesses can track and collect different malware strains. Once these malware strains have been collected, they are scanned and analyzed to identify any locations they are communicating with, either sending stolen data back to or receiving additional instructions. In order to identify compromised devices and types of data extracted from those devices, businesses can match up the IP address communicating with the databases the malware is sending stolen information to. It sounds complicated, but it is an automated process that can quickly tell a business if a computer has been infected by malware.

    Our software identifies an average of eight million compromised IP addresses every 14 days. The increase of these infected devices has led to the rising availability of malicious underground services. These services, in particular, target legitimate organizations of all sizes in order to disrupt or disable their direct competitors. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, spam campaigns and other underground acts are now more affordable than ever, which poses an even greater risk to businesses and their employees.

    I expect to see these two monitoring trends become more prevalent in 2014. Businesses, no mater how large or how much money they invest in system security, cannot keep up with the rate malware is evolving or contend with consumers’ bad password habits. Monitoring for compromised credentials and IP addresses are an easy way to identify a potential breach point before extensive damage can be done.

  • Kate Mara Hasn't Finished Watching 'House Of Cards'
    You may have spent all of Valentine’s Day binge-watching Season 2 of “House Of Cards,” but almost two weeks later Kate Mara hasn’t even finished it.

    “I’m not done yet. I haven’t seen the whole season,” Mara told In Touch. “I thought I was going to binge on the first two days, but on Valentine’s Day, I was so tired I only got to Episode 5, so now I’m on Episode 7.”

    WARNING: Major Season 2 spoilers ahead!

    Mara went on to say that the show is hard to watch because her character, Zoe Barnes, was pushed in front of a train in the season’s first episode. In an interview on “LIVE with Kelly and Michael,” Mara said keeping such a big secret was tough, especially because she knew about it for two years.

    “My family members didn’t even know,” she said. “I just had to be really creative with people asking how things are going on the show.”

    Check out her full “LIVE” interview below:

    Season 2 of “House Of Cards” hits Netflix on February 14.

  • The 1 Email Successful People Never Send
    Want to get ahead? Emulate the super-successful and never send a long email.

    Steve Jobs was a well-known sender of short emails. The Apple co-founder’s email address was public for much of his time as Apple’s CEO, and he often responded to emails from customers. He was always blunt.

    Story continues after these wonderful examples.

    short emails

    short emails

    Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos is known at his company for sending unnervingly short emails. Bezos’s email address is public, and he receives many emails from customers, which he forwards to the relevant people with one single addition: a question mark. “When Amazon employees get a Bezos question mark e-mail, they react as though they’ve discovered a ticking bomb,” Brad Stone writes in his biography of Bezos.

    “For various reasons, short emails are more associated with people at the top of the food chain. If you also send short emails it puts you in the company of the decision-makers,” said Will Schwalbe, co-author with David Shipley of Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better. Short emails, he said, are “much more respectful of everyone’s time.”

    Plus, the way we’ve dealt with emails has changed, so the style in which we write them should, too. “We started using email entirely on desktop computers, and we now use emails mainly on handheld,” Schwalbe says. “A long email is harder to read on handheld, because it involves endless scrolling.”

    There’s even a movement to limit emails to five sentences or fewer. “Treat all email responses like SMS text messages, using a set number of letters per response,” says the Five Sentences website. “Since it’s too hard to count letters, we count sentences instead.” If you’re interested in joining the Five Sentences movement you’re encouraged to include the following in your email signature: “Q: Why is this email five sentences or less? A: http://five.sentenc.es.” For the bold, there are also movements that encourage you to keep emails to four sentences, three sentences or (gulp) two sentences.

    “A few years ago I found myself getting very far behind on email, and I began to look at the reasons why,” designer Mike Davidson, founder of the Five Sentences movement, told HuffPost. “The one thing I discovered about email is that there is an uneven amount of email required.” It only takes someone a second to compose an email asking an open-ended question, but that question often requires a much longer, more complicated response. Phone conversations, text messages and even Twitter require equal amounts of participation from all parties.

    Davidson wanted to keep his email interactions short, but didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. “If you just have a universal policy, then there’s nothing to get offended by,” he says. Then he set up the website. The site, which Davidson started in 2007, still gets 15,000 to 20,000 unique visits a month, and Davidson estimates that “at least tens of thousands of people” subscribe to the Five Sentences rule and have it in their email signature. Davidson even gets emails from people he doesn’t know, who don’t realize he created the Five Sentences rule, with the Five Sentences email signature.

    “If your email is longer than a paragraph or two, people will often put off reading it and it will probably take you longer to get a response,” online-learning expert Mattan Griffel writes in his post explaining how to get busy people to read your emails. “Nothing drives people crazier than an email where someone sends over a lot of information but doesn’t say what they’d like you to do.”

    So, to close out this long article about a short topic: Get to the point.

    Here are a few tips:

    1. People don’t need as much background information as you think they do. It might seem essential to you, but it actually seems superfluous to the email recipient. They’d rather you get to the information and request more quickly, and then they can ask you to fill in any holes in their knowledge later.

    2. Don’t waste your subject line. In many email services, including Gmail, just the subject line and first line or two is visible in the recipient’s inbox. Why make the subject “Hi” when it could be “Dinner on Thursday?” Give the recipient an idea of what the email contains and a good reason to click on it.

    3. Just because your email is short, that doesn’t mean it has to be rude. “No matter how short your emails, there is a way to inject a friendly, cheery note, and don’t forget to do that. Short doesn’t mean that it’s okay to go around barking orders,” Schwalbe says.

    The ability to write a short email is a skill in itself. “If you can’t write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don’t have a clear idea,” director David Belasco is credited as saying. Writing short emails shows confidence in what you have to say.

  • One Nation Under Surveillance. 5 Ways You Give The Government Control
    It’s been 12 years since the horrifying tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2001, and Americans are just now learning the extent to which our government has tightened its grip on our privacy and communications.

    With the recent disclosure of wide-sweeping domestic surveillance programs, such as Prism and XKeyscore, and the most recent revelations about the NSA’s practice of analyzing the telephone and Internet communications of millions of Americans, it’s become increasingly clear that innocent citizens are becoming ensnared in the search for international terrorists. To some, this is a necessary evil; to others, it’s a gross invasion of civil liberties.

    No matter what a person’s standpoint is on these matters, it’s no longer possible to deny that U.S. intelligence agencies are monitoring the populace in huge numbers — and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get out from beneath their lens.

    We’re All Bugging Ourselves

    Today, most people in the United States carry a mobile phone that accompanies them wherever they go. We use them for everything: to make phone calls, send emails, take photos, get directions, store information, surf the Web, and play games. This essentially makes them perfect tracking and bugging devices. We now know that the NSA and other government agencies are obtaining data pertaining to Americans’ communications and activities from wireless providers, and they’re doing so under the legal umbrella of the Patriot and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Acts.

    Not only do intelligence agencies gather information via mobile companies, but there are reports that your phone can be hacked using spyware. Even if your phone is turned off, it can be remotely accessed to record conversations and take photographs — and the information is available to any government agency trolling for information. With the increasing public interest in wearable technology, such as smartwatches, vital statistics will be the next thing available for collection.

    Essentially, there are five primary sources that intelligence agencies use to gather information on American citizens:

    • GPS: Whether you’re using a GPS-enabled smartphone or have it built into your car, GPS is a governmentally funded project that can provide real-time tracking of your movements.

    • Public cameras: As the years go by, more and more cameras are popping up in cities, in neighborhoods, and along highways. This is another measure that we’re told has been implemented for our safety, but we don’t know if they’re actually effective to that end.

    • Phones: As we’ve already noted, your phone is essentially a comprehensive personal information-gathering device. Through interviews with governmental sources conducted by CNET security reporter Declan McCullagh, we’ve learned that the FBI is putting pressure on companies like AT&T and Verizon to equip their customers’ phones with “port reader” software that would provide intelligence agencies with the ability to intercept communication in real time. While the companies are reportedly resistant, the FBI is claiming the legality of the project under the Patriot Act.

    • The Internet: Today, people share pretty much everything about their personal lives online. From emails to social media, there’s a lot of information available on the Internet about an individual’s day-to-day life. And what better organization to understand the intricacies of the Internet than the original developer of the wired network than the government, as it was originally launched as a military communication network called ARPANET.

    • Mail: Most people wouldn’t consider it in the Digital Age, but old-fashioned snail mail provides intelligence agencies with a “treasure trove of information,” according to a former member of the FBI’s Mail Isolation Control and Tracking system.

    Getting Off the Grid

    When it comes down to it, completely escaping potential surveillance and reclaiming total privacy is practically impossible. You would have to completely stop using any form of electronic device, and in effect, withdraw from society.

    There are, nevertheless, a variety of encryption and cryptology services that can increase a person’s privacy. For example, AT&T offers encrypted mobile voice for a monthly fee of $24.99. Other companies provide encrypted email services, which are popular among activists, journalists, and diplomats. However, such companies are under threat as of late, with services such as Silent Circle and Lavabit (which has become famous for attempting to protect the privacy of its most notorious customer, whistleblower Edward Snowden) terminating their services, rather than succumbing to government pressure to provide data on their users.

    Realistically, achieving total communication encryption or wiping oneself off the grid is not something with which the majority of Americans should be worried. Unless a person is attempting to communicate highly sensitive material, the concern over an individual’s right to privacy from his government is more of a moral issue. Let’s face it — most of us aren’t up to anything the various intelligence agencies are interested in.

    But while questions involving governmental communications monitoring may seem a bit academic, these issues potentially have significance when it comes to the future of our civil liberties. The real question we need to be asking is: If we’ve allowed our right to privacy to be encroached upon as far as we already have, how much further are we willing to let it go in exchange for security?

    Kenneth Coats is the founder of eKnowID, a new consumer background-checking solution, and CEO of KENTECH Consulting, Inc., a global background check technology and private detective agency that caters to both private and public organizations across the United States.

  • NASA Could Have Prevented Near-Drowning Of Astronaut Luca Parmitano, Panel Says
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA could have prevented last summer’s near-drowning of a spacewalking astronaut at the International Space Station, an investigation panel concluded Wednesday.

    Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano’s helmet filled with water during his second spacewalk on July 16. He barely made it back inside alive. But according to the panel’s report, his helmet also had leaked one week earlier at the end of his first spacewalk. The panel said the space station team misdiagnosed the first failure and should have delayed the second spacewalk until the problem was understood.

    “This event was not properly investigated,” said Chris Hansen, NASA’s chief space station engineer and chairman of the investigation board created by the space agency after the close call.

    “There was a lack of understanding in the severity of the event,” Hansen said during a news conference.

    Space station officials presumed the leak was from a water drink bag in the suit when, in fact, that was not the culprit, he noted.

    Investigators said Parmitano’s “calm demeanor” during the incident quite possibly saved his life. Now 37, Parmitano is a former test pilot and an officer in the Italian Air Force who was making his first space mission. He returned to Earth in November.

    The precise cause of the water leakage is still under review.

    Contamination clogged several small holes in a pump mechanism inside Parmitano’s spacesuit, part of its cooling system, and water ended up in the helmet, Hansen noted. Engineers do not yet know the source of the aluminum silicate contamination.

    NASA almost ended up with another disaster following Parmitano’s close call. The day after his near drowning, the astronauts used a vacuum cleaner to dry the spacesuit and accidentally sucked oxygen out of a tank. “The hazardous mix of electricity and pure O2” could have sparked a fire, the report stated.

    Mission Control had aborted the spacewalk once the water began to rise to alarming levels in Parmitano’s helmet; the spacewalk by Parmitano and American astronaut Chris Cassidy lasted 1½ hours, versus the anticipated six hours.

    So much water filled Parmitano’s helmet — an estimated 1½ liters — that he could barely see and could not hear or speak. He said he made his way back into the space station by relying on the position of his safety tether.

    NASA was contrite following the release of the report, saying it could and would do better.

    “We’re taking it very seriously,” said space station program manager Mike Suffredini.

    He said he hopes the engineering investigation wraps up by year’s end.

    Bill Gerstenmaier, head of NASA’s human exploration and operations mission, said the spacewalk probably should have ended quicker on July 16.

    “We can all improve and do better,” Gerstenmaier said.

    U.S. spacewalks were put on hold after the incident. An exception was made right before Christmas so two U.S. astronauts could repair a crippled cooling system at the orbiting outpost. As a precaution, they had snorkels in their suits and water-absorbent pads in their helmets, but there were no problems.

    Six men currently reside on the space station: three Russians, two Americans and one Japanese.

    ___

    Online:

    NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

  • Mobile Health Tools Make Big Impact
    On both sides of the Atlantic this week, two events are taking place that are shining a dazzlingly bright light on the direction we are headed as global, mobile consumers. The keynote speeches, panel discussions, and hallway conversations unmistakably indicate how growing reliance on mobile connectivity is driving innovation in ways that are shifting paradigms.

    In Barcelona, the 2014 Mobile World Congress is well underway. “Creating What’s Next” is the theme this year and with it comes an enthusiastic focus on the ways mobile innovators are stepping outside the box to connect all manner of devices to the wireless Internet. Across the pond, another passionate group of game changers is assembled in Orlando at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Annual Conference to discuss mobile health solutions, an energetic driver of growth in medical IT.

    Not surprisingly, the melodies at HIMSS are harmonizing with those at Barcelona: wireless is a game-changer that is transforming our mobile future – how we work, live and play. And nowhere is mobile innovation more evident than in the rapid adoption of wireless technologies designed to improve health outcomes. Mobile Future and Infield Health’s new infographic “Mobile Health Tools, Just What the Doctor Ordered” visually captures just how profound an impact the adoption of wireless medical technologies is having on health and wellness.

    Health care providers are adopting wirelessly connected devices and applications in record numbers – from the first interaction with a patient, to administering treatment with tools tapped into wireless networks, to managing follow up care remotely. And those mobile health tools are having big impacts. When mobile health solutions send text messages to patients released from hospitals, for example, medication adherence is up 10%. Those same reminders more than double the quit rate for smokers and save $812 per diabetes patient.

    The breathtaking growth and innovative uses of mobile digital health technology is astounding:

    • 247 million Americans have downloaded a health app
    • In 2013, 95 million Americans are using mobile phones as health tools
    • 77% of U.S. seniors own a cell phone and their smartphone ownership has increased 55% in the past year
    • 42% of U.S. hospitals are using digital health technology to treat patients
    • Mobile remote patient monitoring will save the U.S. $36 billion in health care costs by 2018
    • Wireless pill bottles helped increase medication compliance to over 95%
    • Mobile health is a $1.3 billion industry and by 2018 is expected to reach $20 billion

    I wrote last month, recapping CES, that wearable devices are just the beginning when it comes to mobile medical tools. The cutting edge of digital health includes wireless sensors we implant and insulin monitors that report back to our doctors wirelessly. These innovative technologies, talking to each other over wireless and forming an “Internet of You,” are making substantial and meaningful impacts on the mobile future of medicine.

    ###

    Mobile Future Chair Jonathan Spalter, a technology executive and former senior federal government national security official, leads a coalition of technology companies/stakeholders dedicated to increasing investment and innovation in the burgeoning U.S. wireless sector.

  • NASA's Kepler Space Telescope Finds Hundreds Of New Exoplanets

    A huge new haul of planets has joined the tally of alien worlds discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, scientists announced today. All of the new planets are members of multiplanet systems—stars with more than one orbiting satellite. Researchers used a new method for weeding out false signals from among the candidate planets found by Kepler, allowing them to add hundreds of “validated” planets to the count of Kepler’s finds. “We studied just over 1,200 systems, and from there we were able to validate 719 planets,” says Jason Rowe of NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., who led the research. “This is the biggest haul ever.”
     
    Kepler launched in 2009 and stopped taking data last year after two of its stabilizing reaction wheels failed. Its relatively short lifetime, however, has already offered up a wealth of discovery, including more than 3,500 planetary candidates as well as 246 worlds confirmed by follow-up observations. The new harvest brings its tally of true planets to over 1,000.
     
    Kepler searches for planets by measuring stellar brightness dips caused when a planet passes in front of a star, briefly dimming the star’s light. This technique, called the transiting method, is more than 90 percent accurate, but sometimes a nonplanet can fool the telescope. One of the most common reasons for a “false positive” is an eclipsing binary—a pair of orbiting stars that sometimes cross in front of one another from our perspective—lying along the same line of sight as the foreground star Kepler is studying. Eclipsing binaries dim when one star passes in front of the other, mimicking the dimming effect a planet would have.
     
    Stars with a single planet can be hard to distinguish from eclipsing binaries. But multiplanet systems are far less likely to be frauds. “It happens, but it’s unlikely that you have two eclipsing binaries in the background of the same star,” says Francois Fressin of the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Mass., who was not involved in the study. “That simple fact tremendously increases the odds that they are bona fide planets.” It is also possible to have an eclipsing binary and a star with a planet lying right on top of one another, albeit extremely unlikely. “Based on that argument we started to get into the statistics to see if we can quantify that and see how many we can pull out and say with very good confidence they are validated planets,” Rowe says.
     
    About 20 percent of the candidate planets Kepler finds inhabit systems with multiple worlds. Among this group, Rowe and his colleagues tried to weed out the small number that were likely to be false signals by examining the light signature of the candidate planets. The light from a single planetary system would be centered on one point, the parent star. An eclipsing binary in the background, however, would probably not lie exactly behind the main star, but would be offset by a small distance. When this binary blinks out as one star crosses the other, the center of the light in the field of view should shift over to the side, creating a signature called a moving centroid. “The moving centroids are the ones where we’re fairly sure they are false positives, and then we have a subset, the majority of them, that we are very confident are planetary systems and show no sign of blends,” Rowe says.
     
    The idea that multiplanet systems are easier to validate is not new, and researchers have previously studied how to winnow out the small number of false positives. “I made this argument [in 2011] but now it has been worked out in careful detail,” says David Latham of the CfA. “Jason has done a really nice job.”
     
    The new cache of planets is extremely unlikely to harbor imposters, but they are not “confirmed planets,” in the traditional sense. That requires measuring the parent star’s motion to determine how much the planets’ gravitational tugging causes it to wobble, revealing the planets’ mass. “Even though we can be very confident that these objects are real planets, the only information we have right now on their physical properties is their size (radius) and expected equilibrium temperature (which depends on the distance to their parent star, which is known),” says Guillermo Torres of the CfA.
     
    Among the new trove of planets: a small, potentially rocky world; an odd binary star system where each star has planets of its own; and cramped systems where the multiple planets are each gravitationally tugging one another around. “Of course we have every type of planetary system in our validated set that people can think of, except the perfect Earth analogue,” Rowe says. For now, that remains Kepler’s holy grail.

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