Sunday, 25 September 2016

Cybersecurity Collaboration

Cybersecurity collaboration

With the aim to exchange information and best practices on cybersecurity, the Data Security Council of India (DSCI), a premier body on cybersecurity, on Saturday launched its first global chapter in Singapore, reports Times of India. The DSCI Singapore chapter will help build linkages with various stakeholders in the government, industry and academia and establish channels of collaboration on policy deliberation, industry development and capacity building on security privacy and cybercrime investigation, among others.

"Cybersecurity is a global issue and needs attention of all stakeholders. It is essential that countries become partners to address this issue collaboratively," said Vijay Thakur Singh, high commissioner to Singapore, in a statement. "In the light of recent affirmative steps by both the countries on the issue of cybersecurity, these initiatives reinforce the vital role played by global thought leaders like DSCI in bringing the stakeholders together to address this common issue," Singh added.

The Singapore chapter will help the community bridge cybersecurity skills gap between India and Singapore and explore opportunities for developing niche capabilities in cybersecurity product space. "The formation of this chapter will be instrumental in building strong linkages between India and Singapore in the area of cybersecurity. We are working with governments across the globe to charter the way forward to address the issues in the cyberspace, including the cross border data flows, internet governance, privacy and others," noted Rama Vedashree, CEO, DSCI. DSCI has created a network of over 4,000 security and privacy professionals in India with 12 chapters operating successfully in different cities.

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Saturday, 24 September 2016

Employee Engagement: HR Disruption

Employee Engagement: HR Disruption

Times of India publishes an article by Shakun Khanna: Within two days of the launch of Pokemon Go, Nintendo's shares surged a quarter and $7.5 billion was added to its valuation. In India alone, the app has been downloaded over 100 million times, 50 million in Singapore and boasts 9.55 million total daily US users. Pokemon Go has well and truly taken the world by storm. Seemingly overnight the World has woken up to multiple people challenges, ranging from security issues, compliance, manpower availability, lack of competitive strategies, inability to capture new opportunities etc. It has also added to the HR's complex responsibility of creating a 'Future Ready, Competitive Organisation'. The advent of the virtual creatures reiterates the importance of the following messages for the HR community:

People engagement continues to be the single most potent driver of business results: When people are engaged with a product, service or for that matter the game in this case, they put in unprecedented amounts of effort to achieve their goals. Be it customers or employees. HR's biggest challenge is then, creating a culture of engagement for employees of the digital tribe. HR needs to reinvent the secret Razz Berry recipe to drive engagement.

Technology has evolved into both the creator and the destructor of business challenges: Technological disruptions are creating competition from unthinkable directions. Who would have imagined that Pokemon Go could pose a threat to Whatsapp, Twitter or even Tinder when it comes to customer engagement? Virtually augmented creatures seem to be more appealing than dating real humans, this is interesting as well as scary. On the other hand. the marriage of new age technology with our childhood favorite Pokemon has given it a new lease on life and a new childhood to us. HR needs to be able to handle this mammoth invasion of technology in the world that we work in.

Lifespan of roles, competencies and skill sets is diminishing: Within a few days of the launch of Pokemon Go, a new job 'Pokemon Go Coach' emerged, with an hourly rate of $20. Of course, it will be a career with a very short shelf life. In order to enable organizations to consistently deliver and succeed, HR will need to be able to create ecosystems that can multiply unknown competencies and skills at a rapid pace. The next goal to achieve will be then to ensure that such role holders deliver their peak performance in a very short span of time and move on to acquire the newer competencies.

Time to think of talent 'Lure Modules' and 'Incubators'.
Social and mobile are the new survival imperatives for the 400 year old corporate world: While mobility and social connections remain the instinctive needs of the human race, they have adopted completely different meaning today. HR needs to ensure that the contemporary workforce is fully enabled from mobility and social perspectives. Employees today need to be able to catch-up on work from anywhere, at any time - as much as they need to catch the Pokemon. 

Data in the Cloud has contributed in its own way towards disappearance, 52% of Fortune 500 companies since 2000: The unprecedented power that Cloud Computing is bringing to enterprises is the new corporate might. Enabling the enterprises to deliver on ground will need real-time HR insights that are actionable, perceptive, predictive and above all flawlessly prescriptive. And most HR teams do not seem to have such 'Talent Pokedex'.

So, what is it that the HR community needs to do?
HR's capabilities need to be exceptionally agile to deliver solutions for business challenges that have not yet emerged. This would call for 'Transformation' of not only the HR systems and processes but the entire HR Mindset. The reactive approach of HR needs to evolve into 'Proactive and Procreative' mindset that enables organisations to prepare for not only the real challenges, but also virtual and augmented challenges. It is time to move beyond the fighting with the 'Art of HR' to leveraging the arsenal of technology, data and analytics.

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Regtech: Risky Business

Regtech: Risky Business

Times of India reports that the Hong Kong securities regulator is due next month to kick-off a pilot "fintech" project as part of a broader plan to improve the way the watchdog monitors and detects systemic risk, according to a public tender document and individuals familiar with the plans. The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) will team-up with a sample group of 20 banks and an external technology firm to overhaul the way it uses financial data, according to the tender document seeking a third party to help the SFC run the project.

Fintech describes a new wave of financial technology firms that are poised to shake-up the global financial services industry. Regulators and banks are increasingly using these new technologies, such as artificial intelligence or data analytics, to address new regulations and better manage risk - an emerging phenomenon dubbed "regtech". The SFC hopes to more intelligently analyse the data it gathers from financial firms and the market to spot risks such as product mis-selling or fraud. "The goal is to make use of the fast evolution of fintech and regtech globally to complement the SFC's daily work and existing processes," it adds. 

Regulators globally are stepping-up efforts to identify systemic risks, but many are struggling to effectively analyse the growing volume of data they are gathering. "The SFC has problems around different data sources, different formats, different time-intervals. They spend a lot of time capturing and aggregating data when they'd much rather spend time deriving insight from the data," said one individual with knowledge of the project. The United Kingdom's Financial Conduct Authority has also been promoting the development of "regtech" to help address a range of regulatory challenges, including data management as well as combating money laundering and cyber risk.

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Friday, 23 September 2016

Augmented Reality and Private Property Rights

Augmented reality and games like Pokemon Go have created a debate on the law over private property rights and virtual rights over private property. Can a property owner claim virtual rights over his/her property just like other easements or as, e.g. governments claim airspace over their territory?

Times of India reports that within one week in July the Sydney suburb of Rhodes was transformed from a quiet neighbourhood to what resident Joyce Wong described as a "place of carnage" with hundreds of people wandering around like "zombies". "The car hooting noise was incessant, on weekends you felt like you were under siege and the rubbish and litter all over the public areas was terrible," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email from her home in the Australian city. The reason for the constant disturbance? Pokemon Go, the latest craze in augmented reality. The game took the world by storm this summer as animated creatures began appearing in the most unexpected places - all through the lens of a smartphone.

The global popularity of the game and other video games that put digital "characters" into real places - from private homes to shops, parks and even monuments and museums - has fuelled debate on land rights, the legal boundaries of private property, and what constitutes trespass. Experts say the inter-section between virtual reality and property law is not clear and nobody really knows what the rights of property owners are when digital characters or structures appear on their land. "A lot of people are convinced that because they own their property, they ought to be able to control the virtual space," said Brian Wassom, a lawyer at Michigan's Warner Norcross & Judd LLP with expertise in augmented reality. "I think they're going to come to the answer which I have come to, which is: no, you can't," he said in a phone interview. He said land rights only apply when there has been something or someone physically present on the property.

However, this distinction is becoming blurred as more and more examples of the power the digital world can hold over specific geographical spots emerge. Pokestops - For example in the United States certain properties have ended up as default locations for millions of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, a computer's public address, leading to a myriad of problems including unwanted visitors and police searches. Meanwhile, the placing of Pokestops - places where players collect virtual Pokeballs to help them move forward in the game - has fuelled consternation when they appeared in some surprising spots, including Washington's Holocaust museum, New York's Sept. 11 memorial and a Cambodian genocide museum.

Following its initial launch in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand on July 6, Pokemon Go was rolled out further afield and downloaded more than 500 million times. While not the first augmented reality game, Pokemon Go, developed by US software firm Niantic Inc, is the most popular to date, raising more questions about how virtual games impact property rights. What happens when games based around virtual violence like Grand Theft Auto are launched in similar formats? If the technology becomes more widely available, could individuals begin leaving messages on your house? These questions are yet to be answered, and Boon Sheridan, from Massachusetts, has another. This summer, Sheridan's home in a converted church in the northern US state also became a Pokemon Go gym. He wrote on Twitter in July: "Does having a gym layered on my house enhance or detract from my home's value?" "I just realized all the people walking or driving up, lingering, then moving on could easily make this place look like a dealer's house," he commented.

Caution - Lawyer Wassom said the test for whether a potential litigant has a case against a game creator at the moment seems clear: there needs to be proof of physical harm done to them or their property. They then need to be able to link that action directly to the company that created the game.
In this sense, Niantic has been careful. At the beginning of each game Pokemon Go instructs players not to trespass on private property, which means while a player who trespasses could potentially be prosecuted, the company itself can't, said Wassom. Written requests to Niantic for comment went unanswered. Niantic was spun off from Google Inc. in 2015 in partnership with Nintendo and its partly owned Pokemon Company. Wassom said laws usually lag behind technological developments making it hard to predict the outcome of cases.

With the quest to catch rare Pokemon characters causing stampedes from the Taiwanese capital Taipei to New York's Central Park, Wassom said public parks and the police needed to take more responsibility. "I'm surprised that people haven't taken more action against the police departments or public park managers - the people responsible for managing the properties that (they) are complaining about." Back in Sydney, Wong said she wrote to her local council complaining about the disturbance, saying some players had jumped fences to trespass on private property. Nothing came of her efforts. Eventually, after the local community in Rhodes mobilized through a Facebook group and began petitioning Niantic for change, the Pokestops were removed without explanation or warning.

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Poker Face: Emotion Recognition Tehcnology

MIT researchers have developed new technology that can detect someone's emotions using wireless signals. This tech might have potential commercial applications in for use in business negotiations, interviews or audience reaction for market research purposes. Such emotion detection technology could be incorporated into a smartphone possibly. Perhaps could be such tech could be used in Poker games?

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Bypass the 'Buy Box' on Online Marketplaces

Online marketplace manipulation. Customers should maybe bypass the 'Buy Box' or suggestions thrown up by online marketplaces and look at what else is on offer.

Times of India reports that online shopping portal Amazon's algorithms make customers pay more for popular products giving prominence to items that benefit the retail giant, a study by ProPublica said. ProPublica on Tuesday said it reviewed 250 frequently purchased products over several weeks to see what all were chosen to appear in the highly-prized 'buy box' that pops up first as a suggested purchase.

Amazon that bills itself as the "Earth's most customer-centric company", not only sells products directly itself, but also allows other retailers to sell their own products through its platform. This means that the same product could be offered by dozens of vendors at different prices and with different shipping costs.

When customers search for and click on a product, the Amazon algorithm chooses one vendor's offer to put in the buy box. Having product in this buy box offers a major advantage for the retailer -- as most customers end up adding it to the cart and buying it. ProPublica found that almost three-quarters of the time Amazon would place its own products or those from companies that pay Amazon to fulfil orders into the buy box -- even though they might not always be the cheapest.

If a customer bought everything recommended by Amazon's buy box they would end up paying 20% more than if the same products was bought at the lowest price on the platform, the study said. Amazon, however, offers a tool to allow customers to compare product prices by producing a list that ranks sellers of the same item by "price and shipping". Although even there, the company gives itself an advantage by omitting the shipping costs for its own products.

This would mean the rankings were accurate for Amazon Prime members, who get unlimited 'free' shipping for $99 per year, but for anyone else the ranking is misleading. Amazon insists that its algorithm chooses products to go into the buy box based on a range of factors -- including customer service and free delivery.
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Amazon founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Jeff Bezos had said in 2007 that it uses "very objective customer-centred algorithms" to automatically award the buy box to the lowest priced seller, which is clearly no longer the case. At least 94% of sellers who won the buy box placement without having the cheapest listing were either sold by Amazon itself or companies paying Amazon. The companies that do not pay Amazon hefty fees (between 10-20% of sales) to fulfil orders, find themselves sidelined.

ProPublica concluded that it shows how hidden algorithms govern online interaction from Google search results to Facebook news feeds.

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Legal Judgments differ whether Bitcoin real money or not

Is Bitcoin money or not? A Judge in Florida ruled earlier this year that Bitcoin is not real money - see Licence to Print Money, Cryptically Speaking

But now, Times of India reports that Bitcoin qualifies as money, a federal judge ruled on Monday, in a decision linked to a criminal case over hacking attacks against JPMorgan Chase and other companies. US District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan rejected a bid by Anthony Murgio to dismiss two charges related to his alleged operation of Coin.mx, which prosecutors have called an unlicensed bitcoin exchange. Murgio had argued that bitcoin did not qualify as "funds" under the federal law prohibiting the operation of unlicensed money transmitting businesses.

But the judge, like her colleague Jed Rakoff in an unrelated 2014 case, said the virtual currency met that definition. "Bitcoins are funds within the plain meaning of that term," Nathan wrote. "Bitcoins can be accepted as a payment for goods and services or bought directly from an exchange with a bank account. They therefore function as pecuniary resources and are used as a medium of exchange and a means of payment." The decision did not address six other criminal counts that Murgio faces, Nathan wrote. Lawyers for Murgio did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Problems with proprietary hardware

Problems with proprietary hardware and software

BBC News reports "Large numbers of HP printer owners found their printers stopped recognising unofficial printer ink cartridges on 13 September. Dutch printer ink vendor 123inkt said it had received more than 1,000 complaints in one day. HP said that during its last firmware update, settings had been changed so HP printers would communicate with only HP-chipped cartridges. It also said some devices already had the functionality built-in. 123inkt said it did not believe that a firmware update had been issued since March 2016, suggesting the change had been pre-programmed to roll out this month. HP said such updates were rolled out "periodically" but did not comment on the timing of the last instalment."

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Monday, 19 September 2016

Apps are now the preferred method for communication and content

Google wants to compete with WhatsApp and Hike in mobile communication and content with its new apps. Smartphones are now used not so much for dialing and making calls as before but for chatting and sharing content using apps. Apps are now the preferred method for communication and sharing content.

Google announced the Duo video calling app and Allo chat app at its I/O developer conference back in May this year. Last month, the company officially launched Duo, which crossed 10 million downloads in just a month. Now, the company has confirmed that it will be launching Allo soon as well. Speaking to Gadgets Now, Google confirmed that it will be launching Allo chatting app for all users on September 21.

For those unaware, Allo is a standalone messaging app which comes with a built-in search engine. It has Google Assistant integration and uses the phone number as the primary user identification method. Users can also link their Google account to the app. Allo has various emojis and custom stickers, catering to different users based on their region. One of the important features is the aforementioned built-in search, which allows users to initiate Google searches by just typing @google followed by the search query. This means that users don't have to leave the chat window for searching information relevant to the current conversation.

Is a VR headset on the cards for Apple?

Is a VR and/or AR headset on the cards for Apple?

Times of India reports that Apple continues hiring augmented and virtual reality experts, an area which the company's CEO Tim Cook has been referring to all year, a media report said. Apple has hired two experts -- Zeyu Li, who had worked at augmented reality (AR) startup Magic Leap and Yury Petrov, who had worked with Oculus VR, Facebook's virtual reality(VR) platform.

Virtual reality "probably has a lower commercial interest over time" and that "augmented reality is the larger of the two, probably by far" technology website The Verge quoted Cook as saying. Apple will continue to invest in augmented and virtual reality research and the company already has hundreds of people working on AR and VR, with an aim to eventually build some kind of headset, the report added.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Lord of the Apps: Super Apps

Taking a line from Lord of the Rings: One App to Rule them All.

India's top apps are on the journey to become super apps, a model proven successful by neighbour China's WeChat and Alipay, reports Economic Times. From payment solution provider Paytm to personal assistance app Helpchat, Indian startups are now experimenting the one-fit-for-all approach to click with India's low budget and low-memory smartphone market. 

Super apps or apps that provide multiple use cases such as cab booking, bill payment, food ordering, flight booking are integrated in a single app that hosts various portals providing these services. "Based on our learnings from China, we foresee Indians adopting more new use-cases on the same app. We've noticed early signs of that already, and are actively working to add more new use-cases on the Paytm app," said Sudhanshu Gupta, vice-president at Paytm. Paytm, like its partner app, Alipay the payment service from Ant Financial, an affiliate of Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba has also evolved from a payment service provider to a utility super app. It's also about users being comfortable in transacting through a familiar app, said Gupta. 

A new service provider integrated with a super app holds better chance of acquiring a customer through a channel the consumer already trusts. As India continues to be one of the fastest growing smartphone markets, it is still dominated by value-for-money handsets -phones that are generally low on memory. "While apps compete with media files for phone memory, a super app like Helpchat can help users save around 500 MB of space since users don't need to download multiple apps to get things done," said Ankur Singla, founder, Helpchat. 

Also, with a single super app hosting different apps, users need not update apps, each time there's a new update pushed on to the app, helping save MBs data per month on an average. These super apps can also help Indian consumers solve working their way through patchy internet bandwidth. "We have optimised the interactions such that there is minimal usage of heavy elements in the conversations," said Sachin Jaiswal, founder of Ratan Tata-backed chat commerce platform Niki.ai. For example, while booking a cab on Niki, the app doesn't load maps in the beginning, which takes up a chunk of network bandwidth thus making the cab booking process slower on a traditional cab hailing app. Almost all user transactions on Niki are done over a chat platform, doing away with the need to download data heavy files. Niki.ai that currently offers utility and bill payments, mobile recharges, cab bookings, bus booking and food ordering through its partners has a light-weight app. Meanwhile, businesses are also starting to see value in integrating with these super apps.

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Social media marketing and social networks needed for cars

Social media marketing and social networks needed for cars

Times of India reports that according to new data from JD Power, 22% of people in the market for a new set of wheels have started turning to social networks for help and advice. The figure is up from 15% just 12 months ago, the last time JD Power conducted the New Autoshopper Study and it looks like it's the start of a growing trend, particularly among younger drivers.

"Social media plays a large role in many consumers' lives, so it's not surprising that it's one of the tools they're using during the vehicle-shopping process," said Mike Battaglia, vice president, automotive retail at JD Power. "While we would not expect social media sites to compete head-on with designated auto shopping sites like Toyota.com and Kelley Blue Book, it's easy to understand the role and relevance social plays in the automotive shopping process."

The study, which polled 17,349 people who had bought or leased a new 2014-2016 model year car found that YouTube is the most popular social network, cited by 13% while Facebook was used by 5% or respondents.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Startups lose their sparkle for IITs

Startups lose their sparkle for IITs

Economic Times reports on IITs placement schemes: A job at one of India's hottest unicorns or one at a public sector unit that's been around forever? India's top engineering schools are set to forego startup sparkle for state-owned stolidity when it comes to this year's campus recruitments after many high profile enterprises reneged on or delayed job offers last year. Many also went out of business, leaving new recruits high and dry. 

The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are keen to give public sector undertakings (PSUs) early placement slots this year, even Day 1, said people aware of the matter. That's despite such firms offering much less by way of pay or stock options than private companies. Some schools plan to invite about 100 PSUs each with directors and faculty members reaching out to them to ensure they attend. The IITs are also trying to rope in the ministry of human resource development to persuade the so-called Maharatna and Navratna companies to participate in campus placement. These are large companies that have greater levels of independence when it comes to taking business and investment decisions. PSUs that are likely to be on the list include Oil and Natural Gas Corp, Indian Oil Corp, Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, NMDC and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. "Until last year, we could not bring in PSUs and also many students were opting for startups," said Debasis Deb, chairman of the career development centre at IIT Kharagpur. "Our experience with the startups was not all good last year. This year, we want to bring in PSUs in the first week itself so that students get a chance to opt for stable jobs rather than pick up lucrative offers in startups."

Several companies including Peppertap, Zomato, Roadrunnr, Stayzilla and Flipkart had either deferred or withdrawn offers made to students during the last IIT placement season. The All-IITs Placement Committee recently blacklisted 30 companies, including startups, that went back on job offers. State-run companies will be visiting IIT campuses after a gap of two years. The Madras High Court had barred PSUs from participating in campus recruitments in 2014 following a public interest litigation (PIL). The high court stayed the ban in December last year. Before the ban was imposed, PSUs typically visited IITs only in late January or February when most of the students with high scores had already been hired in December, when the process starts and the choicest companies are called. During the ban years, PSUs largely considered Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) scores for recruiting engineers. ET spoke to faculty at six IITs that are ready to give early slots to PSUs. 

The IITs of Kharagpur, Roorkee, Bombay and Guwahati plan to offer them Day 1. Such companies provide rich work experience in core streams such as mechanical, chemical, aerospace and metallurgical engineering, besides stability. And, following bad experiences with startups, IITs such as Guwahati, Kharagpur, Roorkee and Delhi are telling students that this is a value that should be highly valued in a volatile environment. Kaustubha Mohanty, his counterpart at IIT Guwahati, echoed this sentiment. "We are leaving no stone unturned this year in inviting the PSUs. We are requesting them to come in the first week of December."  Average salaries of Rs 10 lakh. The PSUs offer annual salaries of about Rs 10 lakh on average, about one-third of what is generally offered by Day 1 companies. In boom years, Day 1 firms have even offered upwards of Rs 40-50 lakh for top candidates. Anishya Madan, industrial liaison officer at IIT Delhi's training and placement cell, said state-owned companies make for a wide range of options. "It is not about the salaries alone, it is also about stability. We want students to get enough choice, especially in terms of working with core companies. With the ban lifted on PSUs coming to IITs, we are trying our best to give them a healthy mix from Day 1 itself," Madan said. 

Student interest in such companies has naturally risen from almost nothing to about a third that are looking for such jobs. "These estimates are based on last year's data from student application forms," said a spokesperson at IIT Bombay's placement cell. "This year too we are getting many queries from the students who are actually looking to work at PSUs." At IIT Roorkee, most students are looking for such core companies, said training and placement head NP Padhy. Manu Santhanam, training and placement advisor at IIT Madras, said: "We have not had many PSUs visiting in the last few years. We are hoping this to change this year. We are trying to actively invite PSUs to come for campus recruitment."

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Friday, 16 September 2016

The Road Map Ahead for Taxi Aggregators

Uber is to start mapping streets in UK cities beginning with London. Uber will start sending out its mapping cars just as Google has done. Perhaps Uber's plan is for its self-driving cars to get the knowledge just as London's Black Cab drivers do. Will we have an Uber Earth soon?

India's Ola will probably feel obliged to do the same to keep up with its main rival.

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar


Thursday, 15 September 2016

Adblock to Adchoice: Creating a Marketplace for Ads

Ad blocking now becomes Ad choosing. Will this favour the consumer who will decide what type of ads they prefer or will it favour the ad blockers who will decide which ads they favour?

CNBC reports "Adblock Plus is launching a new service that...uh, puts more ads on your screen. Rather than stripping all ads from the internet forever, Adblock Plus is hoping to replace the bad ads — anything it deems too big, too ugly, or too intrusive — with good ads, ones that are smaller, subtler, and theoretically much less annoying. It'll begin doing that through an ad marketplace, which will allow blogs and other website operators to pick out so-called "acceptable" ads and place them on their pages. If a visitor using Adblock Plus comes to the page, they'll be shown those "acceptable ads," instead of whatever ads the site would normally run...."It allows you to treat the two different ecosystems completely differently and monetize each one," says Ben Williams, Adblock Plus' operations and communications director. "And crucially, monetize the ad blockers on on their own terms." The marketplace is a extension of the Acceptable Ads program that Adblock Plus has been running since 2011. Since then, the ad blocker has defaulted to "whitelisting" approved ads, so that they show up even when users have the blocker turned on. But the program has been fairly limited in scope, since publishers and ad networks need to specifically work with (and pay) Adblock Plus to have their ads deemed acceptable. It's a time-consuming process, Williams emphasized, which limits how many websites can sign up to display ads to would-be blockers."

You have to be Self-Driven in the Valley

Industries are pushing towards driverless cars and created a huge demand for the skills required in this field.

Silicon Valley is creating a crash course in self-driving car technology to address a shortage of engineers with help from a startup in a different field: Online education, reports Times of India. Nearly every major tech company, car company and ride services company, it seems, is developing or partnering with developers of self-driving technology, from Google parent Alphabet to Tesla Motors, General Motors and Uber Technologies, creating an insatiable demand for the people teaching the machines to think.

In about a year's time, a Lincoln sedan will be driving itself from Mountain View to San Francisco, using software developed by 250 or so students enrolled at education startup Udacity, if all goes according to plan. Udacity bought the Lincoln already equipped with the digital interface needed in autonomous vehicles; students will write the code. Udacity's course, which costs $2,400 for three, 12-week terms, starts next month and was designed by company co-founder Sebastian Thrun, who launched Google's driverless car program.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Digitizing a Nation: Getting Tech Firms to Use Aadhaar

Digitizing a Nation: Getting Tech Firms to Use Aadhaar

India's relationship with the global tech industry has become increasingly fraught reports Economic Times. This year alone, the government has banned Facebook's free web service and declined to exempt Apple from local sourcing rules and open its own stores. Now India could force companies to use technology cooked up in a government-funded lab. The initiative is part of a national biometric identity program called Aadhaar. Millions of Indians use fingerprint and iris-scan authentication to access a range of public and private services that now includes banking. Failure to join the effort could limit the tech industry's access to a vast and growing market, but companies like Apple and Google are expected to resist opening up their phones and operating systems to the Indian registration, encryption and security technology. "There will be lots of pushing and shoving by the technology companies," says Neeraj Aggarwal, managing director of the Boston Consulting Group in India. "It will be a battle of ecosystems, and companies will do their best to hold on to their own." 

A few weeks ago, government officials invited executives from Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google to a meeting to discuss embedding Aadhaar encryption into their technology. None of the companies will comment on what transpired at the gathering -- and Apple didn't show up at all. Ajay Bhushan Pandey, who runs the Unique Identification Authority of India and convened the meeting, says the industry representatives listened politely and were non-committal. But Pandey says he was frank about the government's position, telling his visitors: "Go to your headquarters and work this out so that we can have Aadhaar-registered devices." India's biometric identity program is something of a path breaker. 

While the Federal Bureau of Investigation and US VISIT visa program use similar technology to respectively track criminals and foreign visitors, no other country has taken the concept as far as India. In September of 2010, it began collecting citizens' biometric and demographic data, storing them in a centralized database and issuing a unique 12-digit ID number to every man, woman and child. Aadhaar is the world's largest such program; as of April this year more than one billion people had signed up, or about 83 percent of the population. Designed in part to help thwart criminals who siphon off billions of dollars in welfare payments each year, Aadhaar helps authenticate millions of poor citizens so the government can send money in lieu of food, fuel and fertilizer subsidies, as well as pension and guaranteed work payments directly to their bank accounts electronically. Civil liberties and citizens' groups say the program violates Indians' privacy; others warn that Aadhaar's servers could be hacked and compromise national security. But the government is moving ahead and in recent weeks has rolled out a digital payments infrastructure built on top of the program. 

The idea is to bring financial services to a nation where millions have never set foot inside a bank, let alone opened an account. As India's billion-user Aadhaar jigsaw fits into place, the government plans to ramp up and add a host of other services including education and health care. "We are doing 5 million authentications daily, and with Aadhaar-compliant devices that number will grow exponentially," Pandey says. "There is a solid business case for technology companies to enable Aadhaar services." Indians would still log into their smartphones using the manufacturer's biometric authentication -- typically a fingerprint or iris scan. But once they access Aadhaar using the government's encryption, the likes of Apple and Google would lose the ability to track users online, forfeiting the ability to mine that data to sell ads or other products and services. (Indian law, by the way, bars the government from collecting or using customer data.) Tech companies will probably also object to allowing the government to install its authentication software on their gadgets for fear of security breaches and hacking attacks. Apple has strenuously resisted the US government's demands to build a back door into its operating system so law enforcement can track the movements of terrorists and criminals. "There should be clarity and provisions about security," says Amresh Nandan, a research director at Gartner Inc. 

On the other hand, foreign tech companies could be at a competitive disadvantage if they don't go along because Indian companies like Flipkart, Paytm and Snapdeal are already making their digital payments and services compatible with Aadhaar. "Once the Aadhaar system grows to scale, technology companies will find it tricky to prevent people from using it," Aggarwal says. Samsung is the only global device-maker currently making an Aadhaar-friendly device, a tablet that's reportedly selling well. Microsoft is said to be working with the government to link Skype with the Aadhaar database so the video calling service can be used to make authenticated calls. Fresh from battles with Washington over encryption, Apple, Google and other US tech companies are less likely to compromise without a fight. For now, Indian authorities are asking politely. That could change. Earlier this year New Delhi mandated that, starting in 2017, all mobile phones sold in India must have a panic button women can push when attacked. Nandan Nilekani, who co-founded the leading tech services firm Infosys Ltd. and helped create the national authentication program, says the government could do exactly the same with Aadhaar.


Tuesday, 13 September 2016

LinkedIndia: Microsoft's LinkedIn Strategy for India

LinkedIn creating verticals for startups and students and an India Lite version.

LinkedIn Corp, the operator of the world's largest online business networking service, has launched in India a "Lite" version of its website for mobile browsing, reports Times of India. The company, which is being acquired by Microsoft Corp , said on Monday the version was aimed at helping users browse its website faster on their smartphones in areas with slow or poor internet connectivity. "LinkedIn Lite" loads four times faster and provides a better experience to users in urban and rural areas with patchy networks, Akshay Kothari, the company's country manager and head of product for India, said at an event in Bengaluru. The version will be available in the next few weeks, he said.

Last year, LinkedIn revamped its mobile app after facing heavy criticism for poor design and user experience. To expand their user base, social networking giants including Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc have also launched "lite" versions of their service, which consume less data. LinkedIn launched two more services on Monday - "LinkedIn Placements" is aimed at students looking for jobs while "LinkedIn Starter Pack" will connect startups and small and mid-sized businesses with job seekers. The company has more than 37 million users in India, making the country its second biggest market. Microsoft agreed to buy LinkedIn in June for $26.2 billion.