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Visitors embrace the online retailer’s move into the physical world – even if the brick-and-mortar store serves in large part as an ad for Amazon Prime

Drop in for a book. Walk out with a smart watch.

Shopping in one of Amazon’s brand-new, three-dimensional bookstores affords visitors the opportunity to buy many things that aren’t books. A hands-free sous vide, for example. Or a tablet computer. Or a smart speaker equipped with Amazon’s “Alexa” virtual butler app.

 

At a grand opening Thursday for Amazon’s first bookstore in New York City, the mystery in the air was why a company that had changed the world by taking retail sales online would reverse direction and move into brick-and-mortar. The New York location is the seventh Amazon bookstore to open nationally since 2015, with six additional stores planned to open by the end of the year.

It’s clearly a bookstore chain. The question is: what are they selling? And what greater strategy may be afoot?

Setting aside for a moment those questions (spoiler alert: Amazondeclined to directly comment), the Guardian encountered the new retail space, inside the Time Warner Center mall at Columbus Circle, on its own terms, through customers’ eyes.

It looks like a modern bookstore, with a table of featured titles up front (The Oxford Companion to Wine, Trevor Noah: Born a Crime, etc) and ranks of shelves organized by the usual categories (fiction top sellers, travel, ages 3-7, etc).

‘I think it’s so ironic that so many wonderful bookstores were put out of business because of them, and now they’re opening up a bookstore,’ said one customer.

 ‘I think it’s so ironic that so many wonderful bookstores were put out of business because of them, and now they’re opening up a bookstore,’ said one customer. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

There are some distinctly Amazon – and passing strange – features, such as technology stands where customers can scan books to see what kind of a discount they might get as members of Amazon Prime, the subscriptions program.

 

Also unique here: the section called “Page turners: books Kindle readers finish in three days or less”. Amazon can track how quickly people who purchase books on Kindle read them, a company spokesperson explained, without explaining how.

Matt Lantin, 21, an economics major shopping for self-help books, admired how every book at the store was displayed so that its full cover, and not just its spine, was visible. At Amazon Books, every title is a featured title.

“They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case, not only can you see the cover, but you can also see the review below it,” Lantin said, after requesting a moment to compose his comment.

Displaying books face-out, however, eats up shelf space fast. At 4,000 square feet, the Columbus Circle store features 3,000 titles at any time, according to the company. Further gobbling shelf space: about one-quarter of the retail floor is given over to sales of non-books. That includes things like Bose speakers, French presses and instant cameras, but also a lot of Amazon hardware: Kindles, hard drives, the aforementioned smart speakers and the Amazon Fire, the company’s bestselling answer to the iPad.

Yvonne Reid, 54, who works elsewhere in the Time Warner complex and had stopped in to see whether she could pick up a copy of Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life ... And Maybe the World, judged the bookstore to be “beautiful”, but lacking in hangout space.

 

“I’m sorry that they don’t have more space where kids can come and sit and read,” said Reid, who reminisced about spending hours at Barnes & Noble when her kids were younger. “This does seem like more of a take-your-book-and-run kind of a thing.”

The arrival of Amazon bookstores, Reid noted, was part of a bigger picture.

“I think it’s so ironic that so many wonderful bookstores were put out of business because of them, and now they’re opening up a bookstore,” Reid said. “But I think it’s nice.”

An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on that observation.

Dan Simon, the founder and publisher of the New York City-based Seven Stories Press, said Reid’s comment was accurate.

“They really did drive bookstores out of business,” said Simon, noting that Amazon added on to damage previously inflicted by big chains such as Borders and Barnes & Noble.

“But the upside of that was after 30 years, what we have now is a culture of bookselling that has survived all those things, and is incredibly vibrant and tough. There’s a small-business acumen among booksellers in the US today that is unmatched.”

Simon (a former colleague of this reporter, it should be disclosed) welcomed the advent of Amazon Books.

 

“It’s such a dynamic time now in the marketplace of books that on one side, another sort of bookstore is a good thing, plain and simply,” he said. “We want more physical bookstores.

“On the other side, it’s important to note that these stores are pretty small. Four thousand square feet – it’s not tiny, but the superstores were like 25,000, 30,000 square feet. So this is a small store. It’s not going to have a wide selection.”

About one-quarter of the retail floor is given over to sales of non-books.

 About one-quarter of the retail floor is given over to sales of non-books. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Official Amazon verbiage says the bookstore “is all about discovery” and offers readers a connection “to a community of millions of booklovers” whose reviews of the books on sale are displayed in the store. But like everything else in the store, you don’t have to leave home to get that: those reviews are available – and more readily – online.

Meanwhile, Amazon is in a battle of giants, vying with Google and Apple for markets such as consumer technology that dwarf the market for books. The brick-and-mortar retail experience is central to Apple’s strategy. Google has opened pop-up stores and is increasingly focused on physical stores.

It’s hard to miss how much the stores are also an advertisement for Amazon Prime, with their technology stands as unnecessarily staged revelations for consumers of how much they might be “saving” if they signed up.

“Our goal of Amazon Books is to help customers and readers discover great books,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

Among all the hundreds of millions of products Amazon sells, Simon said, there are good reasons the company would choose to sell books in physical stores. The stores strengthen the company’s hold on the growing self-publishing market, ensuring a physical retail outlet for those titles, he said. Books were Amazon’s original product. And books are unique.

“The store points up one of the great truths of this historical moment in books, which is, even though Amazon is probably selling about half the books that are being sold, the online experience is not really a good one for books,” he said. “Plenty of people buy everything online, but not books. Because you want to touch them, you want to open them up. You want to hold them in your hand. You want to discover things that you aren’t looking for.”

Reid, the drop-in customer, said there was no second-guessing Amazon’s decision.

“I love the bookstore,” she said. “You can actually touch the book.”

Source: This article was published theguardian.com By Tom

Categorized in Social

Mobile phone carriers don't want you to leave, especially if they helped pay for your phone. Most of the phones sold in the U.S. (except for Verizon phones) are "locked," meaning they can't be taken to another carrier without being unlocked. From the carriers' perspective, it's a way to stop customers from leaving before they've paid out their contract or installment plan.

Because we're a country fragmented between the GSM and CDMA technologies and several different frequency bands, unlocking a phone doesn't mean you can use it on any other U.S. carrier. But depending on the phone, you may be able to use it on a different U.S. carrier, or with foreign carriers for lower rates than you would pay roaming on your own provider.

 

It also helps to unlock a used phone before you sell it on a site like eBay. That will raise the price you get, because more people will be able to buy and use your phone.

In late 2013, the U.S. wireless carrier association (CTIA) agreed to adopt standards that would allow subscribers to unlock their paid-off phones by February 11, 2015. That's made things easier, but there are still a lot of requirements and caveats.

Why Unlock Your Phone?

The simplest reason to unlock your phone is to use it on another GSM network. That could be AT&T, T-Mobile, one of the virtual carriers that uses those networks, or a foreign GSM carrier. AT&T and T-Mobile now give service plan discounts for bringing your own phone.

The reason to use an unlocked phone while traveling abroad is because you can use either a global SIM card or a local carrier's SIM card, which would offer much lower rates than roaming with your U.S. carrier. You'd lose your standard U.S. phone number for the duration of the trip, though.

 

U.S. GSM virtual carriers compatible with unlocked phones include Cricket, MetroPCS, Simple Mobile, Straight Talk, H2O Wireless, Black Wireless, Ready SIM, and many others.

Large CDMA carriers, in general, do not accept unlocked phones. That means you can't move an unlocked phone over to Verizon, Sprint, Boost, or Virgin.

However, some small virtual carriers on Sprint's network will accept unlocked Sprint phones (and only Sprint phones) - carriers like Ting, Expo Mobile, EcoMobile, and Credo Wireless. The small virtual carrier Page Plus accepts unlocked Verizon phones.

There are third-party sites that purport to sell "unlock codes," but they're generally pretty shady. Avoid them.

How To Unlock an AT&T Phone

AT&T's unlocking policy depends on what kind of customer you are.

If you aren't an AT&T customer and you're trying to unlock an AT&T phone that you bought used, the phone must be fully paid off, not attached to a contract, and not reported lost or stolen.

 

If you're a postpaid customer, that all has to be true, and you also have to have had service for 60 days. If you're a prepaid customer, kick that up to six months.

If you fulfill these requirements, go to AT&T's Unlocking Page to submit a request. AT&T will send you instructions on how to unlock your phone within two days.

How to Unlock a T-Mobile Phone

T-Mobile's unlocking rules require you to use your phone for a certain amount of time and pay it off before unlocking. Also, you can only request two unlock codes a year.

Phones on monthly plans must have been active for 40 days and either completely paid off if they're on a no-contract plan, or at least 18 months into a 24-month contract. Prepaid smartphones must have been active for a year or have used $100 in refills.

If you fulfill those requirements, call 1-877-746-0909 or use the online chat on TMobile.com and ask to unlock your phone. They'll send you instructions within two days.

How to Unlock a Sprint, Boost or Virgin Phone

Sprint, Boost, and Virgin (which are all parts of Sprint) now all have the same unlocking policies. You only need to bother unlocking Sprint phones if they also contain a GSM radio (like the iPhone 6 does) or if you're moving them to a Sprint-based virtual carrier like Ting or Credo Wireless.

 

Sprint has a complex, confusing set of unlocking policies. You can read Sprint's main unlocking policyprepaid unlocking policy, and unlocking FAQ for details, but here are the basics.

If you just want to use a Sprint world phone (such as an iPhone 6) with a foreign SIM card when you travel abroad, it basically just needs to be a live device on an account that's been active for 90 days. This form of unlocking won't allow it to be used on non-Sprint U.S. networks. Go to sprint.com/sww to get this unlock.

To unlock a Sprint phone, the phone must be fully paid off or out of contract, and not reported as lost or stolen. If it's prepaid, such as a Virgin or Boost phone, the phone must have been used for 12 months.

But wait! Unless you bought your phone after February 19, 2015, only iPhone 5s, 5c, 6, and 6 Plus models are truly unlockable on Sprint, Virgin, or Boost. According to Sprint, phones bought before February 19 will require a code to move to another Sprint-compatible carrier, not a true SIM unlock.

Phones bought after February 19, 2015 may be fully SIM unlockable, but remember, because of that year-long active requirement, you probably won't be able to SIM-unlock most Virgin or Boost phones until 2016. You will be able to CDMA unlock them to use on another Sprint-based carrier, or international unlock them for internation SIM use, though.

Call 844-665-6327 to unlock your Sprint phone, 888-322-1122 to unlock a Virgin phone or 866-402-7366 to unlock a Boost phone.

 

This Reddit thread helps decode what Sprint is doing.

How to Unlock a U.S. Cellular Phone

U.S. Cellular's unlocking policy says that it will unlock any postpaid phone that is paid off or out of contract, and any prepaid phone that was activated more than 12 months ago. 3G devices can be unlocked by calling 888-944-9400, but for LTE devices, you must stop in at a U.S. Cellular store.

How to Unlock a Verizon Phone

Verizon 4G LTE phones are sold unlocked. You can use them on any supported carrier on demand.

If you have a Verizon 3G Global Ready device, most of them are unlocked; any locked devices can be unlocked by request by calling 888-294-6804. If your phone asks for an unlocking code, try "000000" or "123456" before calling for help.

Verizon's full phone unlocking policy is online.

How to Unlock Other Carriers' Phones

Cricket will unlock GSM phones that have been in use for 6 months (either current Cricket or former Aio phones). Stop into a store, call 800-274-2538, or chat online.

MetroPCS will unlock any GSM phone that's been active for 90 days; stop into a store or call 888-863-8768.

Phones from TracFone and Straight Talk that were put on the market after January 2014 can be unlocked after 12 months of use as per the company's unlocking policy. Call your brand's customer service number to ask.

Source: This article was published on pcmag.com by SASCHA SEGAN

Categorized in How to

 

  • Google Android will power new cars from Volvo and Audi
  • The operating system will enable more functions than Android Auto, such as more integrated voice control and Google Assistant.
  • Google will discuss the launch more during Google I/O this week.

Google announced on Monday that new cars from Audi and Volvo will have a version of its Android operating system built in, allowing drivers to use their voice to control things like the cabin temperature and opening the sunroof, even if they don't have an Android phone.

This is a big step from Android Auto, Google's software that allows users with Android phones to control some functions, like playing music.

 

"Your car's built-in infotainment system could allow you to control your air conditioning, sunroof, and windows, find the nearest restaurant with Google Maps, listen to Spotify or NPR, or just ask your Google Assistant for help—even when you leave your phone behind," Google Android product manager Haris Ramic wrote in a blog post.

Volvo's new cars will launch with Android within two years, the company said. Volvo currently offers its own proprietary system which allows drivers to choose between Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, two similar pieces of software.

Google said it will demonstrate the software and provide more information on Android for cars during the Google I/O developer conference, which begins on Wednesday.

Source: This article was published cnbc.com By Todd Haselton

Categorized in Internet Technology

Hello. It’s my first day back covering technology for The Atlantic. It also marks roughly 10 years that I’ve been covering science and technology, so I’ve been thinking back to my early days at Wired in the pre-crash days of 2007.

The internet was then, as it is now, something we gave a kind of agency to, a half-recognition that its movements and effects were beyond the control of any individual person or company. In 2007, the web people were triumphant. Sure, the dot-com boom had busted, but empires were being built out of the remnant swivel chairs and fiber optic cables and unemployed developers. Web 2.0 was not just a temporal description, but an ethos. The web would be open. A myriad of services would be built, communicating through APIs, to provide the overall internet experience.

 

The web itself, en toto, was the platform, as Tim O’Reilly, the intellectual center of the movement, put it in 2005. Individual companies building individual applications could not hope to beat the web platform, or so the thinking went. “Any Web 2.0 vendor that seeks to lock in its application gains by controlling the platform will, by definition, no longer be playing to the strengths of the platform,” O’Reilly wrote.

O’Reilly had just watched Microsoft vanquish its rivals in office productivity software (Word, Excel, etc.) as well as Netscape: “But a single monolithic approach, controlled by a single vendor, is no longer a solution, it's a problem.”

And for a while, this was true. There were a variety of internet services running on an open web, connected to each other through APIs. For example, Twitter ran as a service for which many companies created clients and extensions within the company’s ecosystem. Twitter delivered tweets you could read not just on twitter.com but on Tweetdeck or Twitterific or Echofon or Tweetbot, sites made by independent companies which could build new things into their interfaces. There were URL shortening start-ups (remember those?) like TinyURL and bit.ly, and TwitPic for pictures. And then there were the companies drinking at the firehose of Twitter’s data, which could provide the raw material for a new website (FavStar) or service (DataSift). Twitter, in the experience of it, was a cloud of start-ups.

But then in June of 2007, the iPhone came out. Thirteen months later, Apple’s App Store debuted. Suddenly, the most expedient and enjoyable way to do something was often tapping an individual icon on a screen. As smartphones took off, the amount of time that people spent on the truly open web began to dwindle.

Almost no one had a smartphone in early 2007. Now there are 2.5 billion smartphones in the world—2.5 billion! That’s more than double the number of PCs that have ever been at use in the world.

As that world-historical explosion began, a platform war came with it. The Open Web lost out quickly and decisively. By 2013, Americans spent about as much of their time on their phones looking at Facebook as they did the whole rest of the open web.

O’Reilly’s lengthy description of the principles of Web 2.0 has become more fascinating through time. It seems to be describing a slightly parallel universe. “Hyperlinking is the foundation of the web,” O’Reilly wrote. “As users add new content, and new sites, it is bound into the structure of the web by other users discovering the content and linking to it. Much as synapses form in the brain, with associations becoming stronger through repetition or intensity, the web of connections grows organically as an output of the collective activity of all web users.”

Nowadays, (hyper)linking is an afterthought because most of the action occurs within platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and messaging apps, which all have carved space out of the open web. And the idea of “harnessing collective intelligence” simply feels much more interesting and productive than it does now. The great cathedrals of that time, nearly impossible projects like Wikipedia that worked and worked well, have all stagnated. And the portrait of humanity that most people see filtering through the mechanics of Facebook or Twitter does not exactly inspire confidence in our social co-productions.

 

Outside of the open-source server hardware and software worlds, we see centralization. And with that centralization, five giant platforms have emerged as the five most valuable companies in the world: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook.

Market Capitalization for Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN), Facebook (FB), Google (GOOGL), and Microsoft (MSFT), May 14, 2007 to present

In mid-May of 2007, these five companies were worth $577 billion. Now, they represent $2.9 trillion worth of market value! Not so far off from the combined market cap ($2.85) of the top 10 largest companies in the second quarter of 2007: Exxon Mobil, GE, Microsoft, Royal Dutch Shell, AT&T, Citigroup, Gazprom, BP, Toyota, and Bank of America.

And it’s not because the tech companies are being assigned astronomical price-to-earnings ratios as in the dot-com bust. Apple, for example, has a PE ratio (17.89) roughly equal to Walmart’s (17.34). Microsoft’s (30.06) is in the same class as Exxon’s (34.36).

Massive size has become part and parcel to how these companies do business.“Products don't really get that interesting to turn into businesses until they have about 1 billion people using them,” Mark Zuckerberg said of WhatsApp in 2014. Ten years ago, there were hardly any companies that could count a billion customers. Coke? Pepsi? The entire internet had 1.2 billion users. The biggest tech platform in 2007 was Microsoft Windows and it had not crossed a billion users.

Now, there are a baker’s dozen individuals products with a billion users. Microsoft has Windows and Office. Google has Search, Gmail, Maps, YouTube, Android, Chrome, and Play. Facebook has the core product, Groups, Messenger, and WhatsApp.

All this to say: These companies are now dominant. And they are dominant in a way that almost no other company has been in another industry. They are the mutant giant creatures created by software eating the world.

 

It is worth reflecting on the strange fact that the five most valuable companies in the world are headquartered on the Pacific coast between Cupertino and Seattle. Has there ever been a more powerful region in the global economy? Living in the Bay, having spent my teenage years in Washington state, I’ve grown used to this state of affairs, but how strange this must seem from from Rome or Accra or Manila.

Even for a local, there are things about the current domination of the technology industry that are startling. Take the San Francisco skyline. In 2007, the visual core of the city was north of Market Street, in the chunky buildings of the downtown financial district. The TransAmerica Pyramid was a regional icon and had been the tallest building in the city since construction was completed in 1972. Finance companies were housed there. Traditional industries and power still reigned. Until quite recently, San Francisco had primarily been a cultural reservoir for the technology industries in Silicon Valley to the south.

But then came the growth of Twitter and Uber and Salesforce. To compete for talent with the big guys in Silicon Valley, the upstarts could offer a job in the city in which you wanted to live. Maybe Salesforce wasn’t as sexy as Google, but could Google offer a bike commute from the Mission?

Fast-forward 10 years and the skyline has been transformed. From Market Street to the landing of the Bay Bridge, in the swath known as South Market or, after the fashion of the day, SOMA, has been reshaped completely by steel and glass towers. At times over the last decade, a dozen cranes perched over the city, nearly all of them in SOMA. Further south, in Mission Bay, San Francisco’s mini-Rust Belt of former industrial facilities and cargo piers became just one big gleam of glass and steel on landfill. The Warriors will break ground on a new, tech industry-accessible basketball manse nearby. All in an area once called Butchertown, where Mission Creek ran red to the Bay with the blood of animals.

So, that’s what I’ll be covering back here at The Atlantic: technology and the ideas that animate its creation, starting with broad-spectrum reporting on the most powerful companies the world has ever known, but encompassing the fringes where the unexpected and novel lurk. These are globe-spanning companies whose impact can be felt at the macroeconomic scale, but they exist within this one tiny slice of the world. The place seeps into the products. The particulars and peccadilloes from a coast become embedded in the tools that half of humanity now finds indispensable.

Source: This article was published theatlantic.com By ALEXIS C.MADRIGAL

Categorized in Internet Technology
Scientists at Disney Research converted an entire room into a wireless charger.

Credit: Disney Research

When you need to charge your electronic devices on the go, it can be a hassle trying to find somewhere to plug in. And though some devices can already be charged without wires, researchers at The Walt Disney Company have recently supersized the technology by building a wireless "charging room."

 

Scientists at a branch of The Walt Disney Company called Disney Research have converted an entire room into a wireless charger that can boost the batteries of 10 objects at one time, according to the study. The researchers said they were inspired by inventor Nikola Tesla, who created the first system to wirelessly transmit electricity — the Tesla coil.

Tesla believed there could be a global network of wireless electricity that would use an electromagnetic wave that reverberated between the ionosphere (a layer of the Earth's atmosphere filled with ions and free electrons) and the ground, study co-author Alanson Sample, an associate lab director and principal research scientist at Disney Research, explained in a video. While Tesla's vision didn't come to fruition, Sample and his colleagues were inspired to investigate how wireless charging could be set up in large spaces. [Top 10 Inventions that Changed the World]

"What we really want is a three-dimensional charging experience, where you walk into your living room or office and your cellphone is charged simply by walking in," Sample said in the video. "We have a metalized room, and we're going to use standing electromagnetic waves that reverberate all around this room, providing wireless power to any devices inside."

 

Known as quasistatic cavity resonance (QSCR), the wireless charging technology uses electromagnetic fields generated by electrical currents. Disney Research's room is outfitted with aluminum-paneled walls and a centrally located copper pole that houses 15 capacitors (which store electrical energy, as batteries do). As the capacitors generate electrical currents, they travel through the ceiling, walls and floor, and then back through the pole. These electrical currents create the electromagnetic fields that circulate around the pole and wirelessly charge devices in the room, the researchers said.

Furniture and other objects can still decorate the room without interfering with the currents, according to the researchers, because magnetic fields don't react strongly with these commonplace objects. It's also safe for humans to occupy the space for any amount of time, because the researchers' simulations met federal safety regulations while still transmitting 1.9 kilowatts of power — enough to charge cellphones, laptops, lamps and other small electronic devices, according to the study.

"In this work, we're demonstrating room-scale wireless power, but there's no reason we couldn't shrink this down to the size of a toy box or charging chest, or scale up to a warehouse or a large building," Sample said.

The new research is detailed in a study published online Feb. 15 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Source: This article was published livescience.com By Kacey Deamer

Categorized in Internet Technology
The internet is one of the most important inventions of the modern era. However, current estimates say that only 40 percent of people around the globe have access. As internet connectivity becomes ever more important, new technologies are emerging to connect the entire globe with better, faster service. On several continents, research and development projects are underway to provide internet connectivity via high-altitude balloons -- not unlike those used to capture weather data, unmanned solar-powered drones and next-generation wireless routers. Each offers higher speeds and more reliability than current modes, plus the obvious benefit: getting the world online, all at the same time.

 

Facebook aims for solar-powered internet-beaming drone

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is famous for expressing a desire to connect the entire globe to the internet, and the company wants to launch giant soaring drones to beam out internet access around the world. Facebook's own Connectivity Lab has developed a solar-powered drone with a wingspan as large as that of a Boeing 747. Dubbed Aquila, the drone took its first test flight in June 2016 and, while not equipped with internet technology at the time, the flight was a huge success. The actual flight lasted a whopping 96 minutes (66 minutes longer than planned), and helped the research team tackle the next phase of innovation. Someday, Facebook hopes the highly energy-efficient drones will fly in a 60-mile radius while simultaneously beaming out internet access wherever needed.

 

MIT's 330 percent faster WiFi

Just a few months ago, researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) announced a breakthrough in new wireless internet that is 330 percent faster and twice the bandwidth of existing technology. Dubbed MegaMIMO 2.0, the technology uses multiple transmitters and receivers to relay data simultaneously, increasing the amount of data in a given bandwidth. This development could someday lead to better, faster internet in public spaces and large gatherings like concerts and sporting events. The new technology could also address the issue of spectrum crunch by distributing data differently so that backups and congestion on the network simply don't occur.

 

Li-Fi leaves WiFi in the dark?

Last year a French startup developed a wireless internet technology based on LEDs that they claim is 100 times faster than existing WiFi. The so-called "Li-Fi" exploits the flicker rate of LED lamps, which is typically imperceptible to the naked eye. That frequency is much higher than the radio waves conventional wireless internet employs. Li-Fi requires light to work, so it can't pass through walls like WiFi, but it can be used to specifically target a specific user. What's more, its secure nature makes it a potential fit in places like hospitals or schools where speed and privacy are high priorities.

Project Loon floats balloon-based internet access

Long before Facebook launched its own drone to beam internet through the sky, Google began Project Loon, a similar initiative that relies on balloons. The high-altitude internet-equipped balloons are designed to spread connectivity in rural parts of Africa and Southeast Asia, plus anywhere else that access is spotty. The project gained traction in 2013 when Google tapped residents of California's Central Valley to volunteer to let the team install an antenna on their home in order to test the beaming balloons. Three years and many tests later on several continents, Project Loon (now operating under X, formerly Google X) continues to perfect its internet-beaming technology in the hopes of someday filling in the empty spots in the data coverage map.

 

NASA gears up to beam internet into deep space

During his 340-day mission aboard the International Space Station, American astronaut Scott Kelly became somewhat of an Instagram star, posting jaw-dropping views of the Earth (and beyond) from his outpost in the stars. So, people probably take for granted the notion that astronauts have internet access. In reality, sending data through space is nearly as complicated as space travel itself, but NASA deployed new tech to the ISSin 2016 that could eventually be used to relay internet service even farther into deep space. If Elon Musk and Richard Branson ever find themselves living on Mars, they'll surely be grateful to the good folks at NASA for making sure they can still tweet from their new homes on the Red Planet.

 

Samsung's satellite idea

Consumer electronics company Samsung has a big idea for stretching the interwebs around the globe -- using satellites. In 2015, the company proposed a global network of 4,600 satellites floating in low-Earth orbit that could beam up to 1 zettabyte (1 trillion gigabytes) a month. The plan would fly satellites closer to Earth than previous schemes to provide access at speeds internet users are already accustomed to at home. Will Samsung's satellite web ever actually happen? It's not likely, but wild ideas like this keep the conversation going.
Source: This article was published engadget.com By Cat DiStasio
Categorized in Internet Technology

A New Internet

From the birth of language to the dawn of the Internet, the technologies that push humanity forward allow us to collaborate at new scales. We agree on a common purpose, and work together in groups of increasing size and power.

Today, with so many of us connected online, the goal of 3.5 billion people frictionlessly sharing knowledge and collaborating is, in theory, an achievable one.

So why hasn’t the Internet united us? Why is our trust in institutions — government, media, and business — eroding? Why is it so hard for us to make compromises to achieve the ends we desire?

 

There are, of course, many answers, but here’s a simple one: the Internet is broken.

Information

The Internet democratized access to information in a way previously the realm of science fiction. Texts, videos, and ideas became widely available, and transmittable, and our ability to communicate with each other, organize groups, and choreograph our activities, exploded.

But just when it seemed like the world had opened up, we identified a new type of information, more valuable than any before, and stashed a lot of it away in private vaults. The Internet allowed us to generate, strategically collect, and deploy, rich data about people, programs, companies, markets, and societies. A small, exclusive group of users siphoned this data off, to store in guarded silos and leverage for private gain.

 


 

In the end, our minds and their ability to create new ideas are the ultimate source of all human wealth. That’s a resource nearly without limit. — Ramez Naam


To resist the privatization of data, the open source community has existed as long as computing, beginning with cypherpunks and basement hackers. Their movement produced Linux, Wikipedia, and countless more platforms, tools, and projects that succeeded. But it lost the battle for control of the Web 1.0 and 2.0. The winners were personal data collectors, repackagers, and vendors like Facebook and Google.

 

Finally, though, the tide is turning. Today we have a chance at a new Internet, enabled by decentralizing technologies such as Ethereum, the world computer. Big players are recognizing the benefits of open source, and exploring the community-driven business models they bring. Creators and developers can take power again if we come together in time. We can build a new Internet that puts us, the users, first.

Value

There’s an uncomfortable tension online today. Contributors of songs, ideas, art, code, and stories want to enrich the public sphere, but they need to sustain themselves and get paid for their work. That work adds enormous value to our lives, makes them vibrant, and sometimes even saves them.

The problem is that the way we exchange money captures value in only two dimensions. In truth, value is being created everywhere. Let your eyes linger on an ad in the subway, and value has been created. Tweet a popular hashtag. Turn on the lights. Sign in using Facebook. Report traffic on Waze. Tell someone your secret.


 

In the twenty-first century, our personal data is probably the most valuable resource most humans still have to offer, and we are giving it to the tech giants in exchange for email services and funny cat videos.— Yuval Harari


There is a shift coming in the way we use the Internet, from an Internet of information to an Internet of value, where we frictionlessly exchange and communicate with no intermediaries.

 

In this new world, our value is something we carry around with us, that belongs to us and us alone (unless we opt to trade it). Value is captured in as many dimensions as reality. The representation of value that exists on the virtual plane becomes so rich with data that virtual becomes flush with real.

Trust

Without trust, there is no love. — Myth of Eros and Psyche

Why don’t we trust each other? Maybe we did when we lived in tribes. In a small group, it’s possible to remember everyone from birth and the characteristics that make up their identities. There’s no, “She’s warm-hearted.” “He exaggerates.” “She prefers to sleep all day.”

 

Today, we empower institutions to guard the trust. We pay them royally for that service, because without trust, there is no business deal, no stamp on a passport, no line of credit, and no peace treaty.

But what happens when we create universal identity — a common and accepted baseline of trust, that exists without need for authority? What if we build a system that is inherently logical, programmable, and safe? What if everyone could share it, access it, and help grow it, all at the exact same time?

Join Us

“Given a large enough beta-tester and co-developer base, almost every problem will be characterized quickly and the fix obvious to someone.” — Eric S. Raymond, The Cathedral & The Bazaar

There is a new Internet coming, and with it, a new reality.

The architects of the future are already building these systems. But those systems are open source, which means if you help build them, they will be even better and stronger. Join some of the world’s most innovative technologists, entrepreneurs, and humanitarians at Ethereal Summit on May 19th in Brooklyn.

 

We can use technology to make the world better.

Source: This article was published futurism.com By ConsenSys

Categorized in Internet Technology
At the lab at the Department of Electronic Systems at Aalborg University, Elisabeth De Carvalho and her team are developing a massive MIMO-system; hundreds of antennas that will make mobile data transmission far more efficient and safe in the future. Credit: Jakob Brodersen
Mobile base stations for 5G solutions will consist of hundreds of small antennas. Benefits include faster transmission, improved energy efficiency, better security and wider coverage. Researchers at Aalborg University are at the forefront of developing the new antenna technology.

As we move toward a world that is increasingly interconnected with a 5G network that is expected to roll out during the next 3-5 years, the need for a well-functioning mobile network with ample room for more connected devices as well as increased data traffic becomes increasingly important.

 

"With the 'internet of things,' as it is popularly known, more and more devices need to be connected," says Elisabeth De Carvalho, Associate Professor in the Department of Electronic Systems at Aalborg University. Along with her colleagues Associate Professors Patrick Eggers, Jesper Ødum Nielsen and PhD fellow Anders Karstensen and with funding from the Chinese technology giant Huawei she is working on a new type of base system that caters to the seemingly endless increased need for .

The system that is still in its early stages is called a 'massive MIMO'. MIMO is an abbreviation for 'Multiple-Input Multiple-Output' – a wireless technology used to transmit and receive data between a large crowd of connected devices and users at the same time.

In mobile base stations attached to tall buildings or rooftops, each unit might have a maximum of eight antennas that point out in different directions, spreading out data transmission over a large area. But the team in Aalborg is working on a  unit that holds several hundred antennas, making it possible to connect much more precisely to each mobile unit.

"We don't know exactly what it is going to look like in the end. Maybe it could be a wall of a building that is covered in antennas on the outside—or on the inside. We are still uncertain about that," says Elisabeth De Carvalho.

 

Adding hundreds of antennas to a base station increases the data transmission rate many times because the energy is much more focused. And because focused energy is also able to travel farther, the mobile coverage is likely to improve.

At the same time, base station energy consumption is expected to drop in comparison to present day systems:

"With many antennas, it is like having thin, concentrated water hoses that are aimed directly where you want them, rather than a huge, leaky fire hose that just splashes water all over the place," explains Patrick Eggers.

"With the new technology, we are not simply sending out data in all directions like a radio transmitter; we hope to be able to create a sort of virtual cable that is focused and narrow between the base station and the connected unit. We confine the space that we use for the transmission. This provides a faster and better connection."

Improved security

Confining the transmission space is not only a capacity issue. One of the added benefits of having a massive number of antennas is that it improves the security of the data transmission.

"The more you can confine space, the harder it gets for others to listen in," says Patrick Eggers. "When you have a broadcast, you can always put up an  and pick up the signal if you are CIA or KGB or whatever, if you have equipment that is strong enough to decode the signal. But if you can't get the signal in the first place, it becomes really difficult. That is a major advantage for industries as well as private persons. The more you control space, the harder it gets for intruders to get in," he says.

 

However, many of the benefits of a massive MIMO system will remain assumptions for some time to come. So far, the team has built a scaled-up model of a part of a massive MIMO array in the lab in order to do channel measurement and to figure out how to build a base station later on.

"Currently, we are looking at which types of performances you can get out of a massive MIMO. The performances depend very much of what is happening in the air between your device and the base station. We want to build channel models from those measurements. The models are necessary for engineers to test their algorithms," says Elisabeth De Carvalho. "There is a lot of research that we still need to do before we build our prototype."

At the moment, there is practically no real life information about how a massive MIMO would work and what the wireless channel looks like, and that information is crucial to the way that the system is going to be built.

"There are a lot of assumptions and theories, but they all assume that what happens in the air goes on in a certain way, but no one really knows. Not yet, at least," says Jesper Ødum Nielsen.

Source: This article was published phys.org

Categorized in Internet Technology

Nobody likes layovers, but the first astronauts heading to Mars will get to experience one of the longest such experiences of their lives. They’ll have to spend one year going around the moon, which will probably be a very annoying wait for the first people heading to the red planet. It’s not all bad news, however, as they won’t just wait for time to pass by. NASA actually wants to make sure that the round trip to Mars, a 1,000-day endeavor, is carefully planned during the time. 

 

NASA’s Greg Williams, revealed that the agency’s Phase 2 of its plan to send humans to Mars includes a one-year layover in orbit around the moon in the late 2020s, Space reports..

Williams, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for policy and plans at the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, revealed that NASA wants to build a “deep-space gateway” around the moon that would serve as the testing ground for the first Mars missions.

The moon orbit base would also serve as the staging point for the mission, and the spacecraft that will carry humans to Mars for the first time eve will be launched from the moon.

“If we could conduct a yearlong crewed mission on this Deep Space Transport in cislunar space, we believe we will know enough that we could then send this thing, crewed, on a 1,000-day mission to the Mars system and back,” Williams said.

Considering the length of the Mars trip, spending a year around the moon to make sure everything works correctly makes plenty of sense.

 

NASA will kick off its Mars mission with Phase 1, between 2018 and 2026. During this time, the agency will send four missions to the moon that would deliver various components needed for the mission. Phase 2 will begin in 2027, with an uncrewed mission that would deliver the Deep Space Transport vehicle to the cislunar space.

The actual trip to Mars will take place in the 2030s, as shown in the following infographic.

Image Source: NASA/The Humans to Mars Summit

Source: This article was published BGR News By Chris Smith

Categorized in Internet Technology

The average sex life appears to be dwindling - and it may reflect some troubling anxieties at the heart of modern society, says Simon Copland.

We live in one of the most sexually liberated times of human history. Access to new technologies over the past 40 years, whether it is the contraceptive pill, or dating apps such as Grindr and Tinder, have opened a new world of possibilities. As the sexual revolution of the 1970s matured, societal norms shifted with it, with increasing acceptance of homosexuality, divorce, pre-marital sex, and alternative relationships such as polyamory and swinging.

Despite this, research suggests that we’re actually having less sex now than we have for decades.

 

On average, Americans had sex nine fewer times per year in the early 2010s compared to the late 1990s – a 15% drop

In March, American researchers Jean Twenge, Ryne Sherman and Brooke Wells published an article in the Archives of Sexual Behavior showing that Americans were having sex on average nine fewer times per year in the early 2010s compared to the late 1990s – a 15% drop from 62 times a year to just 53. The declines were similar across gender, race, region, educational level and work status, with married people reporting the most significant drops.

While it could be easy to dismiss this as a one-off, or a symptom of the challenges of researching people’s sex lives, this is another point in a growing trend across the world. In 2013, the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) found that British people between ages 16 and 44 had sex just under five times per month. This was a drop from the previous survey, released in 2000, where men were recorded to have sex 6.2 times a month, and women 6.3 times. In 2014 the Australian National Survey of Sexual Activity showed that people in heterosexual relationships were having sex on average 1.4 times per week, down from 1.8 times 10 years earlier. The situation is perhaps most severe in Japan, where recent data has shown that 46% of women and 25% of men between the ages of 16 and 25 ‘despise’ sexual contact.

 

Why is this happening?

While there are many simple conclusions available, BBC Future dug deeper and found a situation that is quite complex.

Porn blame

An easy first conclusion to make is that increased access to technology is to blame. Two technologies are usually targeted: online pornography and social media.

With the growth of online pornography, researchers have focused on its addictive potential, with some trying to label ‘internet sex addiction’ as an official psychiatric disorder. As an addiction, it is argued that porn acts as a replacement for real-life sex, limiting our sexual desire in the bedroom.

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Social media and pornography are often blamed for damaging our sex lives - yet the evidence is far from clear cut (Credit: Alamy)

Porn is also blamed for its unrealistic imagery, with researchers arguing this can create symptoms such as ‘sexual anorexia’, or ‘porn induced sexual dysfunction’. In 2011, a survey of 28,000 porn viewers in Italy found that many engaged in an “excessive” consumption of porn sites. The daily use of porn, researcher Carlo Foresta argued, means that these people became inured to “even the most violent” images. According to this theory, these unrealistic images found in porn make it difficult for men in particular to get aroused when encountering the real thing, resulting in them becoming ‘hopeless’ in the bedroom.

 

Some researchers have even argued there is a link between porn and marriage rates. In a study in 2014, researchers Michael Malcolm and George Naufal surveyed 1,500 participants in the United States to analyse how 18 to 35 year-olds used the internet, and what impact this had on their romantic lives. The results, published in the Eastern Economic Journal, found a strong correlation between high levels of internet use and low marriage rates, a factor that was even more significant for men who viewed online pornography on a regular basis.

And it’s not just pornography. Social media in particular has been blamed as a distraction, with people obsessing over their screens instead of their sexual lives. This is an extension of research that previously suggested having a TV in a couple's bedroom significantly reduces sexual activity. It would make sense that the intrusion of social media devices into all aspects of our lives could have a similar effect. 

 

But there are good reasons to question both of these conclusions. Researchers are split on the impact of pornography on our sexual lives, with many debating the existence of ‘internet sex addiction’ in the first place. Others have noted the potential for pornography to enhance sexual activity. For example, in 2015 an article in the journal Sexual Medicine found that watching at least 40 minutes of porn at least twice a week boosted people’s libido and desire to have sex. This study tested the libido of 280 men measured against their use of pornography. The research found a strong correlation between the amount of time spent viewing porn and the desire to have sex, with those who watched over two hours of porn per week having the highest levels of arousal. These results were noted as well by Twenge, Sherman and Wells in their research, who, despite finding overall drops in sexual activity, found no difference in sexual activity amongst those who frequently watched pornography.

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Dating apps should make it easier than ever to find a sexual partner - yet millennials appear to be having less sex than previous generations (Credit: Getty Images)

The same can be said for social media. While social devices can certainly provide a distraction they also provide increasing avenues to access ‘sex on tap’. In fact research has shown that apps such as Grindr and Tinder may speed up people's sexual lives, enabling sex on dates earlier and more regularly.

While technology definitely impacts our sexual lives, it cannot be blamed solely for the noted reductions in sexual activity.

Chained to the desk

Despite early dreams of a population liberated from work, our jobs seems to be intruding even further into our lives. Work hours remain extremely high across the Western world, with data recently showing that the average full-time employee in the US works 47 hours per week. It may seem logical to conclude that the fatigue and stress of work may lead to drops in sexual activity.

However it is not quite as simple as that. In 1998 for example Janet Hyde, John DeLamater and Erri Hewitt found in their research, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, that there was no reduction in sexual activity, satisfaction or desire between women who were homemakers and women who were employed either part-time or full-time. Contrary to the rest of their findings, Twenge, Sherman and Wells actually found that a busy work life correlated with higher sexual frequency.

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Life in the fast lane can leave people feeling anxious, exhausted, and depressed - all of which may take a toll on their sex lives (Credit: Alamy)

But that does not mean work does not have an impact; instead, it’s the quality, rather than the quantity, of our work that matters. Having a bad job can be worse for your mental health than having no job, and this extends to our sexual lives as well. Stress in particular is increasingly being seen as the core indicator of drops in sexual activity and sexual happiness.

 

In 2010, for example, Guy Bodenmenn at the University of Zurich and his research team studied one hundred and three female students in Switzerland across a three month period, finding that higher self-reported stress was associated with lower levels of sexual activity and satisfaction. There are multiple impacts of stress, including changing hormone levels, contributing to negative body image, making us question relationships and partners, and increasing levels of drug and alcohol use. All of these have correlations between drops in sexual activity and sexual drive.

It’s about modern life

There are many other reasons to think that changes in our mental health and wellbeing may be damaging our sex lives. While Twenge, Sherman and Wells discounted both pornography use and work hours as causes behind the drops in sexual activity, the researchers argued the drops may be due to increasing levels of unhappiness. Western societies in particular have seen a mental health epidemic in the past few decades, focused primarily around depression and anxiety disorders.

There is a strong correlation between depressive symptoms and reduction in sexual activity and desire. Conducting a review of relevant studies for the Journal of Sexual Medicine, Evan Atlantis and Thomas Sullivan at the University of Adelaide found significant evidence that depression leads to increases in sexual dysfunction and reductions in sexual desire. Bringing this evidence together with the noted increases mental health issues, Twenge, Sherman and Wells argue there is a causal link between drops in happiness and average drops in sexual activity.

 

Research connects these mental health epidemics with the increasingly insecure nature of modern life, particularly for younger generations. It is this generation that has shown the highest drops in sexual activity, with research from Jean Twenge showing millennials are reporting having fewer sexual encounters than either Generation X or the baby boomers did at the same age. Job and housing insecurity, the fear of climate change, and the destruction of communal spaces and social life, have all been found to connect to mental health problems. 

A mixture of work, insecurity and technology is leading us all to feel slightly less aroused

Drops in sexual activity could be argued, therefore, to reflect the nature of modern life. This phenomenon cannot be equated with one problem or another, but is in fact the culmination of many things. It is the creation of the stresses of modern life – a mixture of work, insecurity and technology.

Diagnoses of depression and anxiety have continued to rise during the last decade (Credit: Alamy)

Some may celebrate drops in sexual activity as a rejection of loosening sexual mores. But sex is important. It increases happinessmakes you healthier, and even makes you more satisfied at work. Most importantly, for the vast majority of people, sex is fun. 

 

It is for these reasons that people around the world are trying to find ways to deal with this issue. In February this year Per-Erik Muskos, a councilman from the town of Overtornea in Sweden, introduced a proposal to provide the municipality’s 550 employees a subsidised hour each week to go home and have sex. Muskos talked up the benefits of sex, saying his proposal could “be an opportunity for couples to have their own time, only for each other.”

Japan has been trying to deal with this issue for a long time, particularly over fears of a plummeting birth rate. Parents in Japan are now being provided cash for having children, while for years companies have been encouraged to give citizens more time off work to procreate. This has involved one of the country’s large economic organisations, Keidanren, encouraging its 1,600 corporate members to allow their employees to spend more time with their families. Meanwhile, local authorities have encouraged procreation through a range of measures, including providing shopping vouchers to larger families and launching government-sanctioned matchmaker websites. The Australian government pursued something similar for many years, providing a ‘baby bonus’ to new parents up until 2014.

The problem with these proposals is that they are inevitably just a band-aid. While additional time off work and government incentives may have short-term effects, they do not deal with the structural problems behind the drops in happiness that may be dampening sex drives.

 

Just as this problem is multi-dimensional, so the solutions must be multi-dimensional as well. Tackling the sexual decline will require dealing with the very causes of the mental health crisis facing Western worlds – a crisis that is underpinned by job and housing insecurity, fears of climate change, and the loss of communal and social spaces. Doing so will not just help people with their sex lives, but benefit health and wellbeing overall. 

Source : This article was published bbc.com By Simon Copland

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