Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sunni militants attack Iraq's Baiji refinery

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Sunni militants attacked Iraq's largest oil refinery, located in Baiji in northern Iraq, with machine-gun fire and mortars on Wednesday, Iraqi security sources and refinery employees said.
The attack started at 4 am (0100 GMT) from outside two of the three main entrances to the sprawling facility, the sources said.
One mortar hit a spare-parts warehouse and smoke billowed from the building, the sources said. On Tuesday, foreigners were evacuated from the refinery as security forces braced for an attack on the compound.
The refinery has been under siege since Sunni militants began a major military offense in northern Iraq last week.
(Reporting By Ghazwan Hassan; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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Court: $1.8M house built on park must be removed

A developer who mistakenly built a $1.8 million waterfront house on parkland has been ordered to remove it.
The Rhode Island Supreme Court found that the unoccupied home in Narragansett was built entirely on land owned by the Rose Nulman Park Foundation, and therefore must be removed.
The developer, Four Twenty Corp., began building the home in 2009, but it didn't discover the error until 2011 when it tried to sell the house and the prospective buyers got a survey. Robert Lamoureux, who owns the company, then contacted one of the park's trustees to try to work something out, but she told him the land was not for sale, according to Friday's opinion.
The foundation was set up to preserve the property as a park in perpetuity. A 2008 agreement among the family members says that if the trustees allow the land to be used as anything other than a public park, they must pay $1.5 million to New York Presbyterian Hospital.
The developer argued it should not be penalized for an innocent surveying mistake. The court said it was sympathetic, but it said the park's property rights outweighed that. It also said it was in the public's interest to keep the land as a park.
"Any attempt to build on even a portion of the property would constitute an irreparable injury, not only to plaintiff but to the public," it wrote.
Messages left with the developer's lawyer were not immediately returned.
A judge will decide how much time the developer has to remove the house.
A lawyer for the foundation, Mark Freel, says the developer has secured most of the permits he needs to move it to the neighboring land, but that the fate of one critical permit is still up in the air. The timing of that could affect whether the house has to be torn down.
"My client has wanted for a long time for the house to be removed," he said. "My client's very clear and firm position is that it's time for the house to go."

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NASA Dark-Energy Mission Could Spot 3,000 New Alien Planets

A mission NASA is designing to probe the nature of mysterious dark energy could discover thousands of alien planets as well.

NASA's proposed Wide-field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) mission aims to help researchers better understand dark energy, the puzzling stuff that makes up about three-quarters of the universe and drives its accelerating expansion.
But WFIRST — which is tentatively scheduled to launch in the early to mid-2020s — should also prove to be an adept planet hunter, complementing the activities of the space agency's prolific Kepler space telescope, researchers say. [Gallery: A World of Kepler Planets].

"We predict WFIRST will have 3,000 individual planet detections, the same order of magnitude as Kepler," Scott Gaudi, of Ohio State University, said in April during the Space Telescope Science Institute's Habitable Worlds Across Time and Space Symposium in Baltimore.
Gravitational microlensing
Scientists detect planets around other stars using several different methods. Kepler notes the tiny, telltale dimming of light that occurs when a planet crosses, or transits, the face of its host star from the spacecraft's perspective. But WFIRST would rely on gravitational microlensing.
In this technique, astronomers watch what happens when a big object passes between Earth and a background star. The foreground object's gravity bends and amplifies the light from the background star, acting like a magnifying glass.
If the foreground object is a star, and it has planets, the planets can affect the magnified light, creating a signal that astronomers can detect. The process behind this strategy was laid out in 1936 by Albert Einstein, based on his general theory of relativity.
Earth-based telescopes have already detected more than 20 exoplanets using microlensing. WFIRST will be a space-based telescope, which opens up greater detection abilities, researchers said.
"If you go to space, you can do a lot of great things," Gaudi said.
Because microlensing requires the correct lineup of foreground and background stars, the ability to follow up on WFIRST's finds will be limited. However, the process will expand the population of known alien planets, aiding scientists aiming to determine how rare Earth-size planets might be.
"This will dramatically improve our yield of planets," Gaudi said.

A census of worlds
WFIRST should provide a wealth of information about what types of planets exist, allowing stronger statistical conclusions to be drawn, researchers said. Such work would be a nice follow on from Kepler, which has discovered thousands of candidate exoplanets, many of them in solar systems very different than our own.
"If every solar system looked like ours, Kepler would have found very few or no planets," Gaudi said. "The solar systems we're learning about with Kepler are very different from our own."
Kepler has had a great deal of success spotting planets that orbit relatively close to their stars (because they transit frequently). WFIRST, on the other hand, will be more sensitive to larger bodies farther from their suns, researchers said.
In addition, WFIRST should be able to detect smaller distant planets, as well as free-floating "rogue planets" that have been ejected from their systems. Together, Kepler and WFIRST will cover virtually the entire plausible spectrum of planets in mass and orbits.
WFIRST will be able to capture information about Earth-size planets that lie farther from their suns than Earth does, as well as unbound planets the size of Mars. According to Gaudi, in favorable cases, the instrument should be able to detect a terrestrial moon orbiting a distant Earth, or a gas-giant satellite as large as Ganymede (Jupiter's largest moon), though both observations would be challenging. Unbound moons, like unbound planets, would also be detectable.
Of the 3,000 new planets expected to be found by WFIRST, scientists think about 300 will be Earth-size worlds and 1,000 will be "super-Earths," possibly rocky planets up to 10 times the mass of our own.  Such predictions are based on present-day understanding of the distribution of types of planets, knowledge that may be either strengthened or challenged by the wealth of data that WFIRST will bring.
With WFIRST, Gaudi said, "we'll measure the galactic distribution of the planets."
At present, the observatory is in the pre-formulation stage, where it will remain until 2016. In addition to creating a statistical catalog of exoplanets, WFIRST will also directly image previously confirmed planets, study black holes, and hunt for clues about dark energy.

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Moon Bumps: Earth's Gravity Creates Lunar Bulges

Earth's gravitational pull is so powerful that it creates a small bulge on the surface of the moon. For the first time, scientists have observed this bump from orbit, using NASA satellites.
The gravitational tug-of-war between Earth and the moon is enough to stretch both celestial bodies, so they each end up having a slight oval shape, with the tapered ends facing each other.
On Earth, this gravitational tension shows up in the form of tides. The moon's pull has a strong effect on Earth's oceans because water has so much freedom of movement. [The Moon: 10 Surprising Lunar Facts]
The corresponding distorting effect on the moon, called the lunar body tide, is more difficult to see, because the moon is solid except for a molten core. But Earth's pull raises a small bulge about 20 inches (50 centimeters) from the surface on the near side of the moon and a matching bulge on the far side.
"The deformation of the moon due to Earth's pull is very challenging to measure, but learning more about it gives us clues about the interior of the moon," Erwan Mazarico, a scientist who works at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement.

The same side of the moon always faces Earth, but the bulge does move around a few inches over time, wobbling and following Earth's pull like a magnet, as the moon shifts slightly during its orbit.
Scientists observed the lunar body tide using NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite, which is mapping the height of features on the moon's surface, and NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory satellite, which is mapping the moon's gravitational field. The satellites measured the height of 350,000 locations spread across areas of the moon closest to Earth and areas of the moon on the opposite side from Earth. The satellites passed over each location several times, so scientists could compare the height of each spot from one satellite pass to the next. By identifying which spots changed height, the researchers could track the lunar tide.
Scientists have studied the lunar body tide phenomenon from Earth, but this is the first time satellites have captured images of the lunar tide from orbit. The findings confirm the calculations scientists had already made from ground observations.

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Harvard Scientists Send the First Transatlantic Smell via iPhone

NEW YORK — Did you hear about the latest iPhone app out of Harvard? It really stinks.
Harvard scientists successfully transferred the first scent from Paris to New York on Tuesday morning via an iPhone app. The champagne and passion fruit macaroon-scented message was transferred via a new communication platform called the oPhone.
It works like this: A custom-made app allows you to take a photo of something and “tag” it with a few aroma notes (from more than 3,000 scents). These smells — which range in category from “Paris Afternoon” to “Plantation” — are transferred via a pipe-like smelling station called an oPhone Duo and are controlled by an iPhone app called oSnap.
When you send an oNote, your recipient will click a link that leads him to a photo, as well as the specific aromatic notes you have chosen. When connected to the oPhone Duo, the hardware piece, it’ll emit slight scents from two separate pipes to be smelled in conjunction with the message. Otherwise, the app will just offer some vivid description of the scent your sender is trying to convey. 
You don’t have to own the oPhone hardware, which starts at $149 on the company’s Indiegogo page, to send or receive a smell. Anyone without the contraption will still be able to tag images using the oSnap app (out in the App Store now) and mark it with around 16 different high and low notes. Currently, user creations range from “Lady Gaga” to “My Room” to “Smoky Beach.”
Screenshots from the oSnap app.
The oPhone, available to purchase on Indiegogo for $149, will be available to test at certain hotspots in New York, Paris, and Cambridge. (Alyssa Bereznak/Yahoo Tech)
The device’s co-inventor, Harvard Professor David Edwards, hopes to spread this new technology to the hands of consumers over the next year via “hotspots.” The American Museum of Natural History, where the initial demonstration took place, will host the first oPhone hotspot in the United States for three consecutive weekends starting July 12. Other hotspots will be located in Paris cafes and in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Anyone who has made an oSnap via the app will be able to access it and smell its aroma in real life, using a Duo device at any of these special locations. 
Edwards first began developing the idea for the his communication system in collaboration with a 23-year-old student, Rachel Field. The two hope to see it used in foodie cultures—to be paired with the images of meals that many already send to their friends, or share on social media sites like Instagram or Facebook.
“Say I’m a barista and I have these great coffees, and I have difficulty describing them,” Edwards said at the demonstration. “You come to the cafe, you’ve got the iPad, ask, ‘What kind of coffee is that? and you can play it, get the primary and secondary and the mixed notes. It’s an education; it helps you talk to the barista. From the retail point of view, it’s a real way of reaching out and saying, ‘Get some coffee.’ ”
Edwards documented the aromas of the above spread of food, using the oSnap app. (Alyssa Bereznak/Yahoo Tech)
The guts of the oPhone Duo consist of several small circular plastic pieces, what Edwards calls the “neurons” of the contraption. Inside each neuron are four air holes, three of which are packed with dry, aromatic material. When the oSnap app sends a signal to the oPhone, indicating which aromas to conjure, the machine spins the circular neurons so their holes align with an air current. The smell is then pulled up.
A pack of four neurons will sell for $20. Like an ink cartridge, these pieces supply a vast number of smells depending on what combinations you ask for.
Edwards admits that, “like playing the piano,” learning to identify aromatic notes is a process that takes time. “Once you get used to it, you get better at it,” he said at the event. “We’re really intrigued to see how people are using this.”
The oPhone isn’t the first gadget to enable an iPhone owner to experience smells. My colleague David Pogue reviewed a dongle from Pop Secret that attached to the iPhone and could puff out the scent of freshly popped popcorn. Oscar Mayer released a similar contraption that simulated the smell of bacon frying in the pan. 
The oPhone can produce more sophisticated scents, though it’s not nearly as mobile as those gimmicky dongles. And that’s where the Harvard team’s other invention in the pipeline comes in: the oPhone Uno, a contraption that would theoretically allow you to dock your mobile phone to constantly receive smells.
“Ultimately if there’s enough interest here, you want this to be with you in your pocket everywhere.”

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Deep underground, water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - If you want to find Earth's vast reservoirs of water, you may have to look beyond the obvious places like the oceans and polar ice caps.
Scientists on Friday said massive amounts of water appear to exist deep beneath the planet's surface, trapped in a rocky layer of the mantle at depths between 250 miles and 410 miles (410 km to 660 km).
But do not expect to quench your thirst down there. The water is not liquid - or any other familiar form like ice or vapor. It is locked inside the molecular structure of minerals called ringwoodite and wadsleyite in mantle rock that possesses the remarkable ability to absorb water like a sponge.
"It may equal or perhaps be larger than the amount of water in the oceans," Northwestern University geophysicist Steve Jacobsen said in a telephone interview. "It alters our thoughts about the composition of the Earth."
"It's no longer liquid water that we're talking about at these great depths. The weight of hundreds of kilometers of rock and very high temperatures above 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 Fahrenheit) break down water into its components. And it's not accessible. It's not a resource in any way," Jacobsen added.
Jacobsen said water is taken down into the mantle with minerals during the process known as plate tectonics - the slow, inexorable movement of the colossal rock slabs that make up the Earth's surface.
When the minerals containing this water reach certain depths, they break down in a process called dehydration and release the water to form magmas. Such "dehydration melting" is common in the shallow mantle and forms the source for magmas in many volcanoes.
In a study published in the journal Science, the researchers present evidence that this is also occurring much deeper in the mantle in a region called the "transition zone" between Earth's upper and lower mantle.
The study combined lab experiments involving synthetic ringwoodite being exposed to conditions simulating the heat and pressure of the "transition zone" and observations of events in this zone based on seismic data from a network of more than 2,000 seismometers across the United States.
A team led by Jacobsen and University of New Mexico seismologist Brandon Schmandt identified deep pockets of magma, a likely signature of the presence of water at those depths.
"Melting of rock at this depth is remarkable because most melting in the mantle occurs much shallower, in the upper 50 miles (80 km)," Schmandt said in a statement. "If there is a substantial amount of H2O in the transition zone, then some melting should take place in areas where there is flow into the lower mantle, and that is consistent with what we found."
The research built on another study in March showing that a commercially worthless diamond found in Brazil contained ringwoodite that entrapped water amounting to more than 1 percent of its weight. Ringwoodite has been found in meteorites, but this was the first terrestrial sample because it normally is so deeply buried.
(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Google unveils new modular smartphone designs at Ara Developers Conference

Google at its first-ever Ara Developers' Conference, being held from 15 April to 16 April, showed off new modular smartphone designs and revealed more details about its first modular smartphone.

Mashable quotes Project Ara chief Paul Eremenko who said that two more developer conferences are scheduled for this year in July and September. Eremenko revealed that the first Project Ara modular smartphone can be expected to ship next January.

Further, Eremenko added that by the end of this year, ahead of the launch of modular phones, Google will be rolling out an update for Android that will add support for Ara's modular components.

Eremenko confirmed that the first modular phone will be a generic device dubbed 'gray phone', something we heard back in February, and will be available for developers for $50.

The report says the Project Ara team also showed off the Ara Configurator, which is a tool for customizing each module of the phone. Users would have the privilege of designing their own modular phone.

Google announced the dates of its first Ara Developers' Conference in February and is notably, live streaming the event.

Earlier, Google ahead of the Ara Developers' Conference, released the Project Ara Module Developers Kit (MDK). The released MDK version 0.10 covered guidelines for developers for designing Project Ara smartphones, creating valid module dimensions, components and layout for power pads.

For those unaware, the Project Ara design scheme comprises of what Google calls an endoskeleton (endo) and modules. The endo is the structural frame that holds all the modules in place, while a module can be anything, from a new application processor to a new display or keyboard, an extra battery, a pulse oximeter or some other customizable hardware unit.

Prior to this, Google gave the world its first glimpse of the Project Ara modular prototype smartphone at the 'Launch' event in San Francisco.
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NASA spots worrisome Antarctic ice sheet melt

WASHINGTON (AP) — The huge West Antarctic ice sheet is starting a glacially slow collapse in an unstoppable way, two new studies show. Alarmed scientists say that means even more sea level rise than they figured.
The worrisome outcomes won't be seen soon. Scientists are talking hundreds of years, but over that time the melt that has started could eventually add 4 to 12 feet to current sea levels.
A NASA study looking at 40 years of ground, airplane and satellite data of what researchers call "the weak underbelly of West Antarctica" shows the melt is happening faster than scientists had predicted, crossing a critical threshold that has begun a domino-like process.
"It does seem to be happening quickly," said University of Washington glaciologist Ian Joughin, lead author of one study. "We really are witnessing the beginning stages."
It's likely because of man-made global warming and the ozone hole which have changed the Antarctic winds and warmed the water that eats away at the feet of the ice, researchers said at a NASA news conference Monday.
"The system is in sort of a chain reaction that is unstoppable," said NASA glaciologist Eric Rignot, chief author of the NASA study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. "Every process in this reaction is feeding the next one."
Curbing emissions from fossil fuels to slow climate change will probably not halt the melting but it could slow the speed of the problem, Rignot said.
Rignot, who also is a scientist at the University of California Irvine, and other scientists said the "grounding line" which could be considered a dam that stops glacier retreat has essentially been breached. The only thing that could stop the retreat in this low-altitude region is a mountain or hill and there is none. Another way to think of it is like wine flowing from a horizontal uncorked bottle, he said.
Rignot looked at six glaciers in the region with special concentration on the Thwaites glacier, about the size of New Mexico and Arizona combined. Thwaites is so connected to the other glaciers that it helps trigger loss elsewhere, said Joughin, whose study was released Monday by the journal Science.
Joughin's study uses computer simulations and concludes "the early-stage collapse has begun." Rignot, who used data that showed a speed up of melt since the 1990s, said the word "collapse" may imply too fast a loss, it would be more the start of a slow-motion collapse and "we can't stop it."
Several outside experts in Antarctica praised the work and said they too were worried.
"It's bad news. It's a game changer," said Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, who wasn't part of either study. "We thought we had a while to wait and see. We've started down a process that we always said was the biggest worry and biggest risk from West Antarctica."
The Rignot study sees eventually 4 feet (1.2 meters) of sea level rise from the melt. But it could trigger neighboring ice sheet loss that could mean a total of 10 to 12 feet of sea level rise, the study in Science said, and Rignot agreed.
The recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change don't include melt from West Antarctic or Greenland in their projections and this would mean far more sea level rise, said Sridhar Anandakrishnan, professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University. That means sea level rise by the year 2100 is likely to be about three feet, he said.
Even while the West Antarctic ice sheet is melting, the much larger East Antarctic ice sheet seems stable because it is cooler, Scambos said.
Climate change studies show Antarctica is a complicated continent in how it reacts. For example, just last month Antarctic sea ice levels — not the ice on the continent — reached a record in how far they extended. That has little or no relation to the larger more crucial ice sheet, Scambos and other scientists say.
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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Nokia Lumia 630 to arrive with Windows Phone 8.1

Microsoft has recently shared few details about the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 software update. The new Windows Phone 8.1 update is expected to bring support for more mobile chipsets and on-screen menu buttons. Meanwhile, EVLeaks has now shared image of the upcoming Lumia 630 smartphone that showed on-screen menu buttons, which points towards the Windows Phone 8.1. No further details were shared but the smartphone is expected to be released sometime later this year.
Nokia had introduced the Lumia 620 smartphone last year with monoblock unibody design and rounded corners. The Lumia 620 had a removable back panel and demonstrated the minimalistic design approach.
In the image, the time stamp shows 6:30 which typically points at the model number - just like images of many other Lumia devices. Even the display seems to have got some bump and we are expecting a 4-inch screen size here.
The home screen shows some pre-installed apps such as Instagram, Vine, and WhatsApp. The Nokia Camera app is also visible to the Lumia 620 and it is quite expected to arrive with minimal set of features. Other noticeable feature of the Lumia 630 is Microsoft OneDrive icon and the Office suite shortcut on the homescreen.

Nokia introduced the Lumia 620 in India for Rs 14,999 and we expect similar pricing for the Lumia 630 as well. More from The Mobile Indian
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Scientists pinpoint exotic new particle called quantum droplet

A microscopic ''quantum droplet'' - a new quasiparticle discovered by JILA physicists - is pictured in this artist's conception obtained by Reuters February 26, 2014. REUTERS/Baxley/JILA/HandoutIn the field of quantum physics, you could call this a droplet in the bucket.
Physicists in Germany and the United States said on Wednesday they have discovered an exotic new type of particle that they call a quantum droplet, or dropleton.
Writing in the journal Nature, they said it behaves a bit like a liquid droplet and described it as a quasiparticle - an amalgamation of smaller types of particles.
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Monday, February 24, 2014

Forget 3D glasses: New movie puts you directly in the action

Oscar-nominated documentarian Danfung Dennis believes the next evolution in filmmaking will be to surround viewers with images in 360 degrees -- directly on their noggins.
Dennis, whose gripping 2012 film "Hell and Back Again" told of a soldier's battle with post-traumatic stress disorder, is creating his next film project especially for the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset still in development. The device provides wearers with an immersive, wrap-around view that doesn't make them queasy.
So far, the prototype technology has mostly been tinkered with by video game developers and is a year or two away from being available to consumers.
"This is obviously going to take off," said Dennis, who founded the visual technology company Condition One. "No one who tries this denies it's going to work, but there's a potential it could just stay with gamers. There needs to be experiences that don't require you to know how to use a 20-button gamepad. Everyone knows how to look around in a world."
Enter Dennis' documentary "Zero Point," which is set on a computer-generated space station with each room transporting viewers to different realms representing various developments of VR technology, akin to the fictional holodeck from "Star Trek."
The film will be available later this year to developers working with the Oculus Rift. Dennis hopes the project will position Condition One as the first provider for premium content to owners of the Oculus Rift, once it's released.
After a demonstration of three clips from "Zero Point" -- a sweep of the space station, a glimpse inside a mock Afghan village and a stroll through a crowded convention hall -- Dennis discussed the challenges of creating a film in 360 degrees:
Associated Press: How do you compose shots when everything is surrounding the viewer?
Dennis: All the traditional rules of cinematography and editing are gone. The frame no longer exists. You're inside the frame. The cut -- the most basic technique of editing -- is too abrupt and doesn't work here. If you try to cut from one scene to another, it's too disorienting. Nowhere in our waking life do we teleport, except make when we wake up. I'm finding that a new generation of storytellers inspired by gaming and cinema will have to create a new visual language with the syntax and grammar of how to tell a story with this technology. We're just beginning down that path right now.
AP: "Zero Point" is a documentary, but could you see this technology being used for a fictional film?
Dennis: Absolutely. I think a fictional narrative film is probably an easier place to start. You have to really think about each shot to be able to convey a narrative, instead of just a pure experience. There needs to be a lot of thought about where the camera is and what type of cues can be used to guide people through a story. I think audio will be key to drawing people where to look. Otherwise, they might miss something. The challenges in setting up a scene would be incredible, but it would still be easier than the documentary method of shooting hundreds and hundreds of hours of footage to edit later.
AP: As a filmmaker, it seems like you have to give up a large amount of control to the viewer. How do you manage that creatively?
Dennis: It's less about what the viewer sees and more about their position. As storytellers, we have to deliver viewers a raw experience and let them decide what the frame will be. They're going to choose what's interesting to them within that vantage point. We won't know where they're going to look. Yes, you do lose control as a traditional filmmaker, but I think what's going to happen is that it'll be more like gaming.You can still have deep narrative in first-person games. Ultimately, I think this shift will give birth to an entirely new medium communicated through virtual reality.
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Saturday, February 8, 2014

9 factors creating a ‘perfect storm’ driving the Internet of Things to $14.4 trillion

The first computer, ENIAC, cost $6M in 1946 and had less power than a $5 animated greeting card you buy today and throw away tomorrow. That kind of technology innovation is powering the coming internet of things, and turning it into what Cisco Canada CTO Jim Seifert says will be a key component in $14.4 trillion of economic activity within the next decade.
“In 50 years, 90 percent of what we know will have been discovered in the last 50 years,” Seifert said today at the Wavefront Wireless Summit in Vancouver. “And by 2050, $1,000 worth of computing will have the power of all the human brains on the planet.”
Change in nine key areas is driving the internet of things, according to Cisco. Those nine areas are:
  1. Standardization of IPv6, providing vastly more IP addresses
  2. The mainstreaming of cloud and “fog” computing (fog computing is Cisco’s phrase for smart things, distributed widely, reaching up to the cloud)
  3. Pervasive collaboration of people and professionals via technology
  4. The explosion of apps for everything
  5. The trend of app developers to push intelligence from the app layer to the network layer, or the cloud
  6. Growing big data and analytics
  7. Ever-increasing network capacity at higher speeds and ever-cheaper rates
  8. The consumerization of enriched experiences with things
  9. Nanotechnology
All together, those nine changes are bringing about the fourth phase of the internet, in Cisco’s view.
The first phase was simply getting people connected … and the second phase was creating a networked economy by bringing businesses and transactions online. The third phase, evident in telepresence and gaming, was “immersive experience,” according to Seifert.
Of course, we’ve been hearing about the internet of things for years — including billion-node global networks. But for most of us, our cars still don’t talk to our phones, and our homes don’t brighten and warm in anticipation of our imminent arrival, and our lawns don’t automatically water themselves. Our cities aren’t very smart yet: the police departments in most locations don’t automatically know when crowds form, and the transportation systems don’t quickly react to changing transit and commuter needs.
But science fiction author William Gibson’s comment that “the future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed,” has never been more true. And that’s the case, apparently, for the internet of things as well.
Examples of the internet of things already in existence include projects that are very much functioning, but simply not widespread yet … such as the usage-based insurance via car-embedded sensors that State Farm is testing, and smart cars such as the Nissan Leaf that tells you how much energy you use, and when to plug in to make your recharges cheaper. Electrical utilities, such as BC Hydro in Canada, are using smart metering to improve grid efficiency and making billing more accurate, and airports such as Copenhagen International are using data from free WiFi services to track passengers’ entrances, exits, stops, and backlogs, all in order to improve flow and experience.
Other examples include remote healthcare, which is more than just voice and video.
“It lets me listen to a person’s heartbeat 1,000 miles away,” a doctor participating in a Cisco trial, which adds instrumentation to remote health services, said.
Even cows are being tracked with UHF RFID, which allows farmers and ranchers to track and locate cattle without having to round them up, and also enables better health care for the animals. And the promise of smart cities, with street lighting that activates when needed and turns off when not in use, has the potential to save significant dollars. Most cities, Seifert said, spend 40 percent of their energy budget on lighting.
All together, there’s already hundreds of billions of dollars in economic activity that is affected by the first fruits of the internet of things. But not all is pink and rosy.
“There are some problems,” Seifert admitted. “I don’t know if you heard about the internet-connected fridge that sent out over 750,000 spam emails … apparently it caught a PC virus.”
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Galaxy S5 reveal coming soon? Samsung sends out invites to ‘Unpacked 5′ event

Android lovers craving a phone upgrade might want to stave off the temptation for another month or two.
Samsung recently sent out press invites to a special presentation at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Feb. 24. The invitation also includes a link to the company’s YouTube channel, suggesting that the event will be livestreamed at 11 a.m. Pacific.
Could this be the Galaxy S5′s welcome party? It certainly looks that way, as last year’s “Unpacked” event introduced us to the S4. If the phone does appear, expect the S5 to hit stores around late March or early April, as Samsung tends to hype up its new phones for a month after the reveal.
The device’s rumored specs include a higher-res screen of 2,560-by-1,440, 4GB RAM (which would make it the only smartphone with that much memory), Android 4.4, and a fingerprint scanner. Whether all, some, or none of these features make it onto the S5 will become apparent in three weeks
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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Here are the 10 stupidest things you’re doing with your smartphone

By now, we’re sure you know that your phone is basically a physical briefcase for your digital identity. Yet so few of us treat it that way.
As hackable as our phones are — and as mind-numbingly ignorant as most of us are about social media privacy settings — we still manage do commit a multitude of sins with our devices.
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