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The government of the United Arab Emirates hopes to deliver official documents such as ID cards and driving licenses via drone, Reuters reported on Monday. The quadcopters will apparently carry fingerprint and retina recognition systems in order to ensure the cargo ends up in the right hands. A 6-month trial will be used to assess how the small unmanned vehicles cope with Gulf heat and sand, and if all goes well the system could start rolling out within a year. This is the first case of a government revealing plans to use drones for logistics, as companies such as DHL and Amazon also hope to do.

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As part of its ongoing quest to beef up its central and eastern European operations, Deutsche Telekom has bought up the 39.23 percent of shares in T-Mobile Czech Republic that it did not already own. The shares, purchased from a private equity–led consortium, cost the carrier group €800 million (USD $1.1 billion). Deutsche Telekom bought GTS Central Europe in November last year, partly for its fixed-line infrastructure in the Czech Republic, and now that plan is coming together. “T-Mobile Czech Republic is on a clear strategic path to enhance its fixed-line capabilities and foster its market position in B2B,” a Monday statement read.

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IBM is considering a sale of its chip business, according to a report in the Financial Times. The article suggested that IBM may also look for a new partner with which it could spin off a joint venture, but either way it’s appointed Goldman Sachs to see if anyone’s interested. IBM’s semiconductor business is very cutting-edge, experimenting with new materials and technologies such as photonics, graphene and carbon nanotubes. Its Power architecture is also used in some IBM servers and supercomputers such as Watson. IBM said last month that it was selling its x86-architecture server business to Lenovo, the same company that took on its PC business in 2004.

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KnCMiner, a Swedish company that makes hardcore hardware for the Bitcoin mining crowd, is constructing a data center for that very purpose. As reported by Data Center Knowledge, the 10-megawatt facility is being built in Boden, in a former army hangar nearby Facebook’s Lulea data center — northern Sweden is cold with great renewable energy facilities, and is as such an ideal data center location. According to KnCMiner co-founder Sam Cole, it will go live in the coming months as the first of many planned “mega data centers” for Bitcoin mining, a larger one of which may be situated nearby if talks with local authorities pan out.

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Russian web giant Yandex may focus on customers in Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, but its research efforts are widespread — speech recognition R&D takes place in Zurich, and on Thursday the company said it’s coming to Berlin for mapping work. Yandex’s mapping partner is Navteq or, as it is known these days, Nokia Here, and Berlin has long been a hub for that team. Yandex said it will hire 30-40 people for its Berlin office during 2014 to work on its global Yandex.Maps service and, while the company still has no intention of pushing into the German market, a spokesman told me it would look into partnership opportunities with local startups.

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The Czech security firm Avast, which provides popular consumer antivirus software, has taken an investment from European private equity outfit CVC. The amount has not been disclosed, but Avast says it puts a billion-dollar valuation on the company (perhaps it’s preparing to shop itself around). The company says it will use the cash to beef up its mobile security products and push further into the U.S. and Asian markets in particular. Globally speaking, Avast’s 200 million users give it an antivirus market share just above 15 percent, putting it in second place behind Microsoft.

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Kenya’s Ushahidi is best known for its pioneering crowdmapping efforts, but right now the company is busy finishing off its BRCK router, a fascinating device that’s designed for rough use in sub-Saharan Africa. As posts on Vice and TechRepublic explain, the $199 router has its own battery for coping with blackouts or bush use, it can automatically hop between Ethernet, Wi-Fi and mobile broadband as its source, and it’s set up to act as a hub for “internet of things” sensors. BRCK got crowdfunded last year and a recent blog post from the team explains some of the challenges of engineering such a device in Kenya.

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The personal finance app Mint is now tracking Bitcoin, the company said on Wednesday. An update to the app allows its roughly 14 million users to view their Bitcoin transactions — albeit only those going through Bitcoin wallet and exchange outfit Coinbase — alongside accounts involving more traditional currencies. According to the companies, Coinbase currently supports over 870,000 consumer wallets, making it the largest Bitcoin wallet service out there.

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Berlin’s tech startup scene isn’t all about e-commerce and apps – there are a few hardware startups in there too, and one, Pockethernet, has just launched a $50,000 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for its rather handy piece of kit. Aimed at network admins and other technicians, Pockethernet is a small Ethernet cable tester and network analyzer that hooks up to your smartphone via Bluetooth. The benefit here is that the brains of the device are offloaded to the handset, which cuts costs and allows for easy upgrades. The $200 retail price is a far cry from the $500+ you’d pay for more traditional Ethernet network analyzers. It may not be sexy, but it is smart.

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Having already opened three dedicated Samsung mobile stores in Spain, with handset retailer Carphone Warehouse managing the outlets, the companies announced on Wednesday that more than 60 Carphone Warehouse stores will be converted into Samsung shops. The stores, in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Sweden and the Netherlands, will only sell Samsung mobile devices, laptops and wearables – no TVs or washing machines here. This is very much a head-on challenge to Apple’s stores. The fact that Carphone Warehouse is willing to sign this “preferred partner” agreement may also say something about Samsung’s trouncing of other Android manufacturers.

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At the start of 2012, a Dutch court ordered two of the country’s ISPs, Ziggo and XS4ALL, to block access to The Pirate Bay, due to its frequent use for copyright infringement. Two years later, the providers have won their appeal against the blocking order, meaning customers will get to access The Pirate Bay again. According to XS4ALL’s lawyers, free speech specialists Bureau Brandeis, the key was the block’s ineffectiveness – EU law states that access providers don’t have to take measures that are disproportionate and/or ineffective. Looks like the legal system is catching up with today’s VPN and proxy-filled reality. ISPs in other blockade-happy European countries should take note.

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Google has unveiled a series of new frames for its wearable Glass device. The Titanium Collection frames cost $225 on top of the $1,500 initial price tag for Google Glass (that’s for “explorers”; Glass will go on more widespread sale this year), and mean people can use the device with prescription lenses – optical health insurance provider VSP will cut lenses for the system and has agreed to offer partial reimbursements to its customers. It also brings Glass closer to the non-geek fashion zone: there are 4 styles of frame, each of which comes in 8 color options, and Google will also offer $150 clip-on sunglasses. Third-party outfits such as Rochester Optical have already started showing off prescription lenses for Glass.

In Brief

The latest twist in that very long-running rumor about AT&T buying Vodafone? AT&T said in a statement on Monday that it “does not intend to make an offer for Vodafone.” The statement came at the request of the U.K. Takeover Panel, and it means the U.S. carrier can’t launch a takeover bid or try to buy 30 percent or more of Vodafone stock for the next 6 months. However, according to Bloomberg, AT&T chief Randall Stephenson did discuss potential European takeovers with EU commissioner Neelie Kroes at Davos last week.

In Brief

The U.S. uses its digital surveillance capabilities to commit industrial espionage, Edward Snowden has claimed in an interview with German network NDR, broadcast on Sunday night. The NSA whistleblower suggested German industrial giant Siemens was a target, with information being taken by the intelligence agency even when it had nothing to do with national security. When the agency was previously shown to have spied on Brazil’s Petrobras, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper insisted it never used that information to give U.S. firms an unfair advantage. Australia’s intelligence agency, an NSA partner, has reportedly spied on Japanese firms for the benefit of Australian companies, and France is generally seen as a world leader in that regard.

In Brief

The Princeton research that used a disease model to suggest Facebook would lose 80 percent of its users in 3 years deserved the hammering it got – it’s simply a bad analogy for the subject. But now a bunch of data scientists from Facebook itself have stepped up to the plate, dryly using the researchers’ own methodology to prove that Princeton enrollment will have depleted entirely by 2021, and the air around us by 2060. Luckily I’m done with my studies, but I’m pretty annoyed about the breathing thing. Damn you, badly-chosen search data and your extrapolations!

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