Office Space: Nissan's Intelligent Chairs Can Park Themselves

Our phones have already gotten smarter. The car industry is slowly embracing the trend too. The Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as light bulbs are already capable of switching themselves on and off when it senses your presence in the room. So it was a high time our dumb, disconnected chairs got intelligent too. Automobile company Nissan has an idea.

Imagine walking into your meeting room with every single chair positioned in a disarrayed fashion. Showing up at work is a tedious task as it is, but the pain in seeing disorderly chaired, or worse, sorting them in the order only makes things worse. The solution is already here, provided you work at Nissan.

The company this week gave us a glimpse inside its office, where chairs are smart enough to assemble themselves back to their original, supposed order and position – much like some of its cars that can steer themselves to the desired parking spot on their own. Called “Intelligent Parking Chair,” the chairs are are able to rotate around 360-degree and find their own position on your command – in this case, the sound of your clap.

The company asserts that the technology behind its Intelligent Parking Chair is the same it employs on its cars. A chair starts to move, reverses its direction if it has to, make the required turns, and parks itself to the supposed position. The smart chair houses a setup of four cameras, and Wi-Fi adapter which you use to control them.

Several cars including many by Nissan’s rival Tesla today offer the ability to self-park themselves. Many can self-drive as well. Are we slowly driving to the utopian society?

New Android Malware Steals Banking Information, Wipes Out Data: Report

There’s a new Android malware in town in the form of a Trojan, and much like many that came before it, it also wants to steal your banking information and wipe out all data from your smartphone and tablet. It’s called Mazar Bot, and it has already become a talking point among researchers, who are now actively warning about this Trojan.

Mazar Bot allows an attacker to spy on nearly every activity taking place on the victim’s Androidsmartphone or tablet. The attacker could potentially also plant a backdoor connection on the compromised device. Talking about how sophisticated Mazar Bot is, it is able to read through text messages on the victim’s device. This enables it to bypass the two-factor authentication, as it can glean a verification code from the compromised handset.

Researchers at Heimdal Security said that the Mazar Bot is largely being spread through SMS and MMS messages. When a victim opens the apk (installation file) on their device, the malware is able to root the device, and gain access to the admin privileges. It also installs the Polipo HTTP proxy, exposing the victim to man-in-the-middle (MiTM) attacks. It can also delete everything from the device.

Another interesting thing is the way it entices users to click on the link. To avoid getting caught, the apk first installs Tor – from official channels – on the device, and then sends all the data it steals and other communications over a protected and anonymous network. And rightly so, VirusTotal, a service that utilises dozens of antivirus and anti-malware services to detect malicious codes, reports that only three of the 54 security suites are able to detect Mazar Bot.

Heimdal Security researchers noted that for some reason, Mazar Bot doesn’t install itself on Android devices with the Russian language selected. “Mazar BOT will check the phone to identify the victim’s country and this will stop the malicious APK if the targeted phone turns out to be owned by a Russian user,” the researchers wrote in a blog post. The researchers added that the Mazar Bot is capable of injecting itself into Chrome, control the phone’s keys, enable sleep mode, and save actions in the phone’s settings.

Mazar Bot was first spotted on a Russian hacker forum late last year. It was previously being sold on the Dark Web, but researchers believe that the malware is now being sold more actively and openly.

In light of the Mazar Bot malware, researchers advise Android device users to never click on links in SMS or MMS messages; turn of Unknown Sources in Settings>Security; install a good antivirus app; do not connect to unknown and unsecured Wi-Fi connections; keep your Wi-Fi off when not using it, and install a VPN and use constantly.

Bharti Airtel Announces Restructuring of African Business Unit

Telecom major Bharti Airtel Tuesday announced restructuring of its loss-making African telecom business by grouping operations in 15 countries under eight clusters along with change in management structure.

The company has elevated Airtel Africa MD and CEO Christian Defaria to the position of Executive Chairman of Airtel Africa.

Also, the operator appointed its director of Customer Experience (India and South Asia), Raghunath Mandava, as Chief Operating Officer of Airtel Africa.

“We believe we have a strong platform to accelerate our journey towards profitability and market leadership and the new cluster-based organisation design will provide an enabling environment to the teams,” Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said in a statement.

On the appointment of Christian Defaria, Mittal said, “Christian has done an excellent job by streamlining the operations, strengthening the leadership teams across Africa while enhancing the image of Airtel brand across Africa.”

In his new role, he will continue to support the vision of Airtel Africa and lead all matters relating to legal, regulatory affairs, shareholders as well as mergers and acquisitions.

In the third quarter ended December 31, 2015, Africa unit posted net loss of $74 million (roughly Rs. 506 crores) as compared to $136 million (roughly Rs. 930 crores) in the corresponding quarter last year.

In constant currency terms, Africa revenues grew by 3.1 percent to $1,026 million (roughly Rs. 7,020 crores) as compared to $995 million (roughly Rs. 6,807 crores) in the corresponding quarter of last year.

Airtel moved its director of Customer Experience, India and South Asia Raghunath Mandava as Chief Operating Officer, Airtel Africa. Mandava, who has been with Airtel since 2003, will relocate to Nairobi and will be fully responsible for the commercial operations.

“The appointment of Raghu will help leverage the platform and sharpen our market focus and strengthen the innovation pipeline. We remain fully committed to Africa and will continue to invest in the growth of our operations,” Mittal said.

As per the new cluster-based organisation design, operations in 15 African countries will now be classified into eight clusters with all cluster heads reporting to Raghu, the company said.

Airtel has appointed its present Delhi cirlce COO Sarang Kanade as Director – Customer Experience, India & South Asia in place of Mandava. He will report to Bharti Airtel’s CEO for India and South Asia Gopal Vittal.

Airtel entered the African market in 2010 by acquiring telecom business of Kuwait-based Zain Telecom in 17 countries for $10.7 billion (roughly Rs. 73,211 crores).

However the Indian telecom major is reducing its footprint in Africa to improve financial performance. In January Airtel announced sale of its operations in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone to France-based Orange.

Airtel in July last year announced entering into an agreement with Orange to sell its four subsidiaries Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo Brazzaville and Sierra Leone, in Africa. The agreements for the remaining two countries have lapsed.

Amazon Acquires Indian Payments Processor Emvantage

Amazon Inc said it has acquired Indian payments processor Emvantage Payments Pvt Ltd for an undisclosed sum.

Emvantage’s employees will join Amazon’s India unit that will use the company’s technology on its e-commerce website, Amazon said in a statement.

Amazon has been rapidly expanding into India’s fast growing e-commerce segment that is likely to grow to $220 billion (roughly Rs. 15,04,800 crores) by value of goods sold by 2025.

Tata Group’s retail firm Trent Ltd last week said online retail giant Amazon has picked up 26 percent stake in its publishing arm Westland for Rs. 9.5 crores.

“The investor would subscribe to Westland’s share capital such that it holds 26 percent of the Westland’s share capital on a fully diluted basis, for an aggregate amount of approximately Rs. 9.5 crores,” Trent Ltd said in a BSE filing.

Under the definitive agreements signed by Trent, Amazon.com NV Investment Holding LLC and Westland, Amazon will have a right to appoint a director on the Board of Westland and also have the option to acquire the remaining 74 percent of shares at a later date.

Rival Snapdeal on Monday announced it had raised $200 million (roughly Rs. 1,362 crores), giving it a valuation of around $6.5 billion (roughly Rs. 44,457 crores). The firm is looking to ramp up investments in logistics and infrastructure in the fast-growing domestic e-commerce sector.

The fundraising, led by Canada’s Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and funds advised by Iron Pillar, comes at a time when there are increasing worries about incremental funding among Indian startups.

In December, Snapdeal co-founder had told Reuters the company is looking to increase spending on logistics and technology to better compete with rivals.

New 2D Semiconducting Material Could Usher in Faster Computers, Mobiles

A team led by an Indian-origin engineer from the University of Utah has discovered a new kind of 2D semiconducting material for electronics that opens the door for much speedier computers and smartphones that consume a lot less power.

The semiconductor, made of the elements tin and oxygen or tin monoxide (SnO) by the associate professor Ashutosh Tiwari-led team is a layer of 2D material only one atom thick, allowing electrical charges to move through it much faster than conventional 3D materials such as silicon.

This material could be used in transistors, the lifeblood of all electronic devices such as computer processors and graphics processors in desktop computers and mobile devices.

Transistors and other components used in electronic devices are currently made of 3D materials such as silicon and consist of multiple layers on a glass substrate.

But the downside to 3D materials is that electrons bounce around inside the layers in all directions.

“The benefit of 2D materials is that the material is made of one layer the thickness of just one or two atoms. Consequently, the electrons can only move in one layer so it’s much faster,” Tiwari said.

Transistors made with Tiwari’s semi-conducting material could lead to computers and smartphones that are over 100 times faster than regular devices.

“Because the electrons move through one layer instead of bouncing around in a 3D material, there will be less friction, meaning the processors will not get as hot as normal computer chips,” the authors noted.

They will also require much less power to run, a boon for mobile electronics that have to run on battery power.

According to Tiwari, this could be especially important for medical devices such as electronic implants that will run longer on a single battery charge.

Now that Tiwari and his team have discovered this new 2D material, it can lead to the manufacturing of transistors that are even smaller and faster than those in use today.

A computer processor is comprised of billions of transistors, and the more transistors packed into a single chip, the more powerful the processor can become.

“The field is very hot right now and people are very interested in it,” Tiwari said, adding that in two or three years, we should see at least some prototype device.

The paper describing the material was published in the journal Advanced Electronic Materials.

HCL Technologies Buys Volvo Group's External IT Business

Country’s fourth-largest software services firm HCL Technologies today said it has acquired Volvo group’s external IT business and has signed a five-year outsourcing deal with the commercial vehicles maker.

The acquisition, for which the companies signed a letter of intent in October, will add 40 new customers in the Nordic and France regions and 2,500 highly skilled employees from 11 countries to HCL’s portfolio.

Sources said cumulatively, the transaction will bring in revenue upwards of $1.8 billion (roughly Rs. 12,313 crores) over the next five years to the Indian firm. HCL declined to comment on the deal size.

The Noida-based firm had agreed to buy the external IT business of Sweden’s Volvo group for $138 million (roughly Rs. 895 crores) in an all-cash deal.

Volvo’s IT business is an important addition of HCL’s portfolio as it brings in an annual billing of about $200 million (roughly Rs. 1,368 crores), sources added.

On IT outsourcing deal, HCL said it will deliver on a technology transformation roadmap that spans over 3,500 applications, over 20 data centres and 11,000 servers, 12PB (petabyte) of storage, 20,000-plus MIPS of mainframe capacity and over 15,000 network devices.

“The deal is one of the largest IT deals signed by any Indian IT company, and a first in the industry to use principles of Vested Sourcing as the basis of the relationship for an IT outsourcing engagement of this size and magnitude,” it said in a statement.

As part of this roadmap, HCL will also provide over 65,000 Volvo end-users with access to productivity and user enablement solutions like Microsoft Office 365, HCL added.

The relationship will enable HCL to create an automotive Centre of Excellence in Gothenburg, based on the domain expertise of the Volvo team, to serve HCL’s global automotive and manufacturing customers.

“Combining the strengths of HCL with those of the transferred parts of Volvo IT will result in an organisation with formidable capabilities and an intimate understanding of Volvo Group needs and opportunities,” Olle Hogblom, CIO of the Volvo Group and President of Volvo IT, said.

This, and the cultural fit between our two organisations, is the foundation for a partnership that will provide long term and strategic benefits for the Volvo Group, he added.

“We are excited to drive business transformation through IT for one of the world’s leading companies,” HCL Technologies President and CEO Anant Gupta said.

This addition enables HCL to achieve an even stronger presence in the Nordics and the wider European region, and accelerates the company’s journey in these markets, he added. “The Volvo group employees and consultants will add great value for our customers with the skills and expertise that they bring. The deal perfectly embodies HCL’s ongoing mission to develop its business with an innovation-led mind set,” he said.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Price, Box Contents Purportedly Leaked Ahead of Launch

A new leak has surfaced on the Internet claiming to show the Galaxy S7 Edge box contents as well as tipping pricing details of the handset ahead of MWC launch on Sunday.

First picked up by PhoneArena, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge has been posted on Dubizzle, a Dubai-based website, with box contents images as well as price. According to the listing, the Galaxy S7 Edge is up for sale at exorbitant AED 4,500 (approximately Rs. 84,000) while the Galaxy S7 is listed for AED 4,200 (approximately Rs. 78,000). The listing has a tagline that says, “Get before commercial launch, imported from USA.”

Looking at the purported images, the Galaxy S7 Edge is seen sporting a design similar to the Galaxy S6 Edge. The front is seen housing the physical button while the back is again seen featuring a glass rear. Unlike what the recent press renders of the Galaxy S7 Edge have showed, the images on the Dubai-based site don’t have the Galaxy S7 Edge printed at the back of the handset.

It’s worth noting that all these leaks should be taken with a pinch of salt as Samsung has not mentioned anything about the upcoming device and the legitimacy of the leaks remains questionable. In other leak, a report says that Samsung Pay payment service may launch in Russia alongside the Galaxy S7 smartphone. Sammobile has cited a Twitter user who shared an image of promotional material featuring a handset, very likely the Galaxy S7, with a tagline that says Samsung Pay supported.

Case maker Spigen has listed new Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge cases which corroborate previously leaked design of the handsets. The new listing of the case maker for the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge also suggests early March release.

A recent report had suggested that the Galaxy S7 will come at a starting price of EUR 699.99 (approximately Rs. 53,500) for the 32GB model while the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge will start at EUR 799.99 (approximately Rs. 61,000) for the 32GB model. Earlier reports have suggested that the both the phones will start to ship only starting March 11.

Samsung Galaxy Note 6's First Leak Tips Massive 6GB of RAM

Samsung may be more than six months away from unveiling of the next Galaxy Note smartphone, but we already have our first leak. According to details shared by a Weibo user, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 6, the successor to the Galaxy Note 5, will pack a massive 6GB of LPDDR4 RAM.

Some of the other details claimed by the Weibo user (first picked up by Sammobile) include such gems as the Galaxy Note 6 will sport a 5.8-inch “Slim RGB Amoled” display and will feature QHD (1440×2560 pixels) screen resolution. The Galaxy Note 5 came with a 5.7-inch QHD Super Amoled display. Unfortunately, the tipster has not detailed much about RGB Amoled display.

The Weibo post also adds that the Galaxy Note 6’s screen will “become too thin”, and we are not too sure what this means. It could mean that the Galaxy Note 6 may pack bezel-less display.

Other details claimed that the handset will come in 64GB and 128GB storage options. For camera, the Galaxy Note 6 is said to sport 12-megapixel rear camera with Super OIS (optical image stabilisation) Plus sensor. To recall, the Galaxy Note 5 features a 16-megapixel rear camera. The Weibo tipster also suggests that the Galaxy Note 6, much like other Galaxy high-end phones, will have two SoC options.

All these leaks should be taken with a pinch of salt as Samsung has not mentioned anything about the upcoming device and the legitimacy of the leaks remains questionable.

We are now less than a week away from Samsung’s “Galaxy Unpacked 2016” event on February 21 in Barcelona where the company is expected to reveal the Galaxy S7 flagship alongside the Galaxy S7 Edge.

China to Tighten Control Over Internet Content

China’s plans to tighten internet censorship will continue with a new measure which will come into effect from next month and will involve content published by foreign companies and their joint ventures in the country.

From March onwards, foreign firms will not be permitted to publish their “creative” content online in China without prior approval of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, EFE news reported on Tuesday.

The new measure also empowers local governments to monitor the publications of these companies.

According to experts in Hong Kong – which enjoys a greater freedom of the press than the mainland, the measure is a further attempt by Beijing to control the internet.

An earlier law dating back to 2002 allowed foreign firms to publish creative content directly on the internet.

During the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, in Zhejiang last year, President Xi Jinping had called for greater “order” in the management of the internet.

China, with a strong censorship system known as the Great Firewall, has imposed more restrictions on the internet since Xi assumed power three years ago, and approved a controversial national cyber security law that, for the first time, speaks of protecting “cyber sovereignty”.

Huawei Expected to Enter PC Market With Matebook Laptop at MWC 2016

Chinese technology conglomerate Huawei could enter the PC business as soon as next week. The company has posted a media invite, in which it seems to be teasing the arrival of a “new” product category for launch on February 21. The product in question is widely believed to be the long-rumoured Matebook 2-in-1 notebook which doubles as a tablet.

The caption in the invite reads, “The new style of business.” The image also showcases a stylus, which hints at the tablet nature of the upcoming device. The invitation was shared by Huawei CEO Richard Yu on Chinese social network Weibo. The device is expected to be the long-rumoured Matebook, which features both Android and Windows operating systems.

huawei_matebook_mwc.jpg

This is in line with multiple reports from earlier that claimed that Huawei was planning to launch its first laptop at the Mobile World Congress event. A report claimed that the supposed Matebook will be powered by an Intel-made processor. The report added that the keyboard on the supposed device can be detached.

Chatter about Huawei’s intentions to get into the PC business has been doing rough since last year. A company executive last year expressed his displeasure with the current PC market. Months later, the company was spotted trademarking “Matebook.”

Mostly known for its network equipment devices, Huawei is one of the largest technology companies in the world. The company came into the spotlight last year when it partnered with Google to launch theNexus 6P smartphone. Huawei made a profit of $5.5 billion (roughly Rs. 371,922,365,528) last year on a revenue of $46.5 billion (roughly Rs. 3,144,853,292,223), if that helps paint an accurate picture of the company’s size and presence. The company employs over 170,000 people.