Facebook looks to use solar-powered drones to deliver worlwide internet

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facebook_solara_acquisition-0Titan Aerospace’s Solara, a solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle designed to cruise at an altitude of 20 km (12.42 miles) for five years at a time, certainly got our attention back in August, and it appears to have not gone unnoticed by some of tech’s bigger players either. Facebook is reportedly in talks to acquire the company with a view to using the drones as a means of providing internet access to the world’s under-served regions.

According to Techcrunch, Facebook is currently in talks with Titan Aerospace regarding an acquisition that would come at a cost of US$60 million to the internet giant. If it does eventuate, Facebook would then set about constructing 11,000 of Titan’s aerial drones, more specifically its Solara 60 model.

With a wingspan that measures 60 ft (197 feet) across and has a payload capacity of up to 100 kg (250 lb), these high-altitude unmanned aircraft are designed to function as atmospheric satellites. Around 3,000 solar cells fitted to the upper wing and tail surfaces of the vehicle see it generate up to seven kilowatts of power during the daytime, with lithium-ion batteries storing energy to keep it running through the night, a cycle that sustains its altitude for five years without it needing to land.

With a range of 4.5 million kms (2.8 million miles) and a cruising speed of 104 km/h (65 mph), the Solara’s functions could include anything from crop monitoring to surveillance, or in this scenario, delivering internet access to remote parts of the planet.

Techcrunch reports however, that if the acquisition does go ahead, Titan Aerospace’s vehicles would be produced exclusively for the purposes of the Internet.org project project. This initiative is backed by a consortium of tech giants such as Ericsson, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung among others, with the central focus being to bring internet access to the two thirds of the population that is currently without.

Speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zukerberg said, “In the US we have 911 to get basic services. Similarly, we want to create a basic dial tone for the Internet. Basic messaging, basic Web information, basic social networking.”

Sources: Techcrunch, Internet.org, Titan Aerospace, Gizmag

Nokia’s new Lumia 2520 tablet

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Tuesday Nokia unveiled the much-rumored Lumia 2520 tablet today. The device comes in a range of matte and glossy colors, and offers about what you might expect from a tablet in the Lumia range. The most prominent feature here is easily the cameras, which are more akin to what you might find on a mid-range smart phone than your average tablet.

Nokia’s tablet runs on a 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 800 CPU and features built-in LTE connectivity, 2 GB RAM and 32 GB expandable storage. The display clocks in at a full 1920 x 1080 with 650 nit brightness and “almost” 180-degree viewing angles.

Unlike most tablets on the market, Nokia’s device features some fairly capable optics, with a 6.7-megapixel shooter on the back, an F1.9 aperture and Zeiss optics. There’s also a 2-megapixel offering on the tablet’s front face.

That said, the Lumia 2520 is set to offer something a little different from the competition, but nothing truly unique. The device’s strongest selling points are its comparatively impressive optics and battery-extending cover.

The Lumia 2520 is scheduled for release in Q4 2013 with a slightly steep recommended price of R4990. Like Microsoft’s own Surface keyboard accessories, the Nokia Power Keyboard is an optional extra and will set users back an additional R1490.

Source: Gizmag

Bbm is what’s on the streets

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The long-awaited Blackberry Messenger (BBM) app for iOS and Android was rolled-out on Monday with Blackberry reporting 10 million downloads in the first 24 hours of it going live.

Prior to the launch, Blackberry had described demand as “amazing” with about six million people having signed up for updates at bbm.com.

The app, which was initially planned for September but was delayed following the release of a leaked version, is being rolled-out gradually to deal with the demand, with users waiting in line, having downloaded the app, before gaining full access.

BBM goes head-to-head with cross-platform mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp, which now boasts 350 million active users, a figure that could have been more easily achievable for Blackberry had it released the app two years ago when sales of its devices were higher.

Nevertheless, Blackberry has seen the launch as a success and has big plans for BBM. “This has been an incredible launch for BBM across Android and iPhone devices,” said Andrew Bocking, Executive Vice President, BBM at BlackBerry. “The mobile messaging market is full of opportunity for BBM. We intend to be the leading private social network for everyone who needs the immediate communication and collaboration of instant messaging combined with the privacy, control and reliability delivered through BBM.”

BBM allows users to share text, images and videos in real-time. Users can chat to individuals or in groups of up to 30 people. The app was borne out of the native BBM functionality that was built into Blackberry devices and was a major selling point. Blackberry will hope that its launch, coupled with the launch of Blackberry 10 devices back in January will begin to revive the company’s fortunes.

Source: Blackberry blogs

iPhone Event This Tuesday

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Probably you have heard about Apple’s new iOS 7 and its Awesome features including Control Centre, AirDrop for iOS and all new Siri, and you might asked yourself this: Is Apple going to build new devices for this Next-Gen mobile OS? Well the answer is yes.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO will take the stage this Tuesday to talk about the IPhone. After a few minutes boasting about sale figures and other numbers, the company will reveal some new devices. I still don’t know for sure what exactly will happen on the Tuesday’s IPhone event but what I do know is that Apple will reveal more than one device at event.

Apple’s next flagship phone is expected to be called the iPhone 5S, following the familiar “same on exterior, better on the inside” pattern established by the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4S. That means the iPhone 5S’ design, look and feel will be the same as that of the iPhone 5.

Also expected is speed improvements, centered around an Apple-designed A7 system-on-a-chip. It’s also possible that the company will boost the iPhone 5S’ RAM from the 1GB RAM found on the existing iPhone 5.

But the key feature of the iPhone 5S is expected to be a fingerprint sensor that lies under the home button. Last year Apple bought Authentec, a company that specializes on biometric sensors. If that isn’t enough evidence for you then I guess you’re going to have to wait till Tuesday to see it yourself.

Fingerprint-based payments aren’t expected to be supported at launch, but a few other security-based should be. iOS 7 has a cloud-based password storage feature, so it would be a perfect fit to let your fingerprint be the “one password” that you need to access all of your other passwords, Cool isn’t it.

You would also be able to unlock your phone using your fingerprint. This could be the ideal combination of security and convenience: anyone else would need a passcode to get in but you can unlock damn thing with our thumb, total awesomeness right there.

Apple is also expected to launch its long-rumored budget iPhone at Tuesday’s event. Rumors have been pointing to “iPhone 5C” as the branding, where “C” is for color (nah, the C stands for Cheapskates, rotfl.)The phone should be more or less an iPhone 5 on the inside with a colorful plastic shell on the outside. That means the four-inch display with 1136 x 640 resolution, an 8 mp camera and an A6 chip with 1GB RAM.
Well that’s all from me, don’t miss the Event.

The Open Daylight Open-Source Software Defined Network Project

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THE PROJECT

OpenDaylight is a community-led, open, industry-supported framework, for accelerating adoption, fostering new innovation, reducing risk and creating a more transparent approach to Software-Defined Networking.

As a collaborative project under The Linux Foundation, OpenDaylight is structured using open source development best practices, and is comprised of the leading organizations in the technology industry.

WHY OPENDAYLIGHT?

​The adoption of new technologies and pursuit of programmable networks has the potential to significantly improve levels of functionality, flexibility and adaptability of mainstream datacenter architectures. To leverage this abstraction to its fullest requires the network to adapt and evolve to a Software-Defined architecture. One of the architectural elements required to achieve this goal is a Software-Defined-Networking (SDN) platform that enables network control and programmability.

Today, SDN is a hotbed of innovation with a broad spectrum of vendors bringing products and technologies to market. Ironically, the myriad options may prove counterproductive to SDN adoption. Many organizations, overwhelmed by choice, also have to avoid the pitfalls of nascent technologies such as inconsistent interoperability, limited management tools or fragmentation.

At this early stage of SDN adoption, the industry acknowledges the benefits of establishing an open, reference framework for programmability and control through an open source SDN solution. Such a framework maintains the flexibility and choice to allow organizations to deploy SDN as they please, yet still mitigates many of the risks of adopting early stage technologies and integrating with existing infrastructure investments.

With OpenDaylight, a community has come together to fill this need through the combination of open community developers and open source code and project governance that guarantees an open, community decision making process on business and technical issues. Establishing an open source project in this way is designed to help accelerate the development of technology available to users and enable widespread adoption of Software-Defined Networking.

OpenDaylight can be a core component within any SDN architecture. Building upon an open source SDN controller enables users to reduce operational complexity, extend the life of their existing infrastructure hardware and enable new services and capabilities only available with SDN. Whether your organization is an enterprise IT provider, a network service provider or a Cloud services provider, you can begin taking advantage of SDN using a community-driven, open source controller framework available today.

TECHNICAL OVERVIEW

Software Defined Networking (SDN) separates the control plane from the data plane within the network, allowing the intelligence and state of the network to be managed centrally while abstracting the complexity of the underlying physical network. Great strides have been made within the industry toward this goal with standardized protocols such as OpenFlow. However, greater collaboration leveraging open source development best practices will significantly accelerate real, deployable solutions for the industry at large.

SDN is a new way of deploying network infrastructure. An SDN adapts to the requirem

  • ents of applications deployed on the network. Current generation networks and architectures are statically configured and vertically integrated. New generation applications such as Hadoop and video delivery require networks to be agile and to flexibly adapt to application requirements.

    From a high level view, software defined networking is commonly described in layers.

    Network Apps & Orchestration: The top layer consists of applications that utilize the network for normal network communications. Also included in this layer are business and network logic applications that control, and monitor network behavior.

    Controller Platform: The middle layer is the framework in which the SDN abstractions can manifest; providing a set of common APIs to the application layer (commonly referred to as the northbound interface), while implementing one or more protocols for command and control of the physical hardware within the network (typically referred to as the southbound interface).

    Physical & Virtual Network Devices: The bottom layer consists of the physical & virtual devices, switches, routers, etc., that make up the connective fabric between all endpoints within the network.

    OpenDaylight is an open source project with a modular, pluggable, and flexible controller platform at its core. This controller is implemented strictly in software and is contained within its own Java Virtual Machine (JVM). As such, it can be deployed on any hardware and operating system platform that supports Java. 

    The controller exposes open northbound APIs which are used by applications. OpenDaylight supports the OSGi framework and bidirectional REST for the northbound API. The OSGi framework is used for applications that will run in the same address space as the controller while the REST (web based) API is used for applications that do not run in the same address space (or even necessarily on the same machine) as the controller. The business logic and algorithms reside in the applications. These applications use the controller to gather network intelligence, run algorithms to perform analytics, and then use the controller to orchestrate the new rules, if any, throughout the network.

    The controller platform itself contains a collection of dynamically pluggable modules to perform needed network tasks. There are a series of base network services for such tasks as understanding what devices are contained within the network and the capabilities of each, statistics gathering, etc. In addition, platform oriented services and other extensions can also be inserted into the controller platform for enhanced SDN functionality.

    The southbound interface is capable of supporting multiple protocols (as separate plugins), e.g. OpenFlow 1.0, OpenFlow 1.3, BGP-LS, etc. These modules are dynamically linked into a Service Abstraction Layer (SAL). The SAL exposes device services to which the modules north of it are written. The SAL determines how to fulfill the requested service irrespective of the underlying protocol used between the controller and the network devices.

    The OpenDaylight Project is ever evolving based on the contributions of its developer community. For additional documentation on the different components that make up the OpenDaylight project, please visit the Developer Wiki.

    Source: OpenDaylight.org

  • Internet.org aims to bring the internet to world’s population who doesn’t have it

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    If you thought Facebook was only good for spamming you with Farmville updates and showing you what your high school classmates ate for lunch, think again. The social network just teamed up with a consortium of other tech big-wigs to form Internet.org, an organization dedicated to bringing the internet to the two-thirds of the world that is still without it.

    In addition to Mark Zuckerberg’s social network, the Internet.org initiative lists Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung as the other founding members. A quote from a United Nations Human Rights Council report appearing on the organization’s website illustrates the group’s goals: “The internet boosts economic, social and political development, and contributes to the progress of humankind as a whole.”

    One of Internet.org’s prime objectives is to make internet access more affordable, which is one of the major obstacles to adoption in developing countries. Internet.org is pegging lower-cost, higher-quality smartphones one of the key means to this end.

    Using data more efficiently, something founding member Opera knows a thing or two about, is the second cornerstone. The conglomerate will “invest in tools that dramatically reduce the amount of data required to use most apps and internet experiences.” Data compression will play a big part here, but it sounds like the group is also eying infrastructure improvements.

    The last tenet, helping businesses drive access, may be the most important. After all, grand goals like this are much more sustainable when businesses get behind them. So Internet.org is going to test “new models that align incentives for mobile operators, device manufacturers, developers and other businesses to provide more affordable access than has previously been possible.” In other words, make sure business large or small will be financially rewarded for providing affordable internet access in places that need it.

    Of course, you can’t ignore the fact that the involved companies could all stand to eventually profit from more internet users, so we’d probably be naive to pretend like this is an entirely altruistic act. But it’s an extremely ambitious effort nonetheless, which obviously goes far beyond the scope of a typical business strategy.

    The organization’s self-named website is already live. You can watch the initiative’s video mission statement (either there or below), which features audio from a 1963 speech by John F. Kennedy, describing his vision for world peace.

    Sources: Facebook, Internet.org

    University of Washington Scientists achieve human brain-to-brain interface

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    Brain-to-brain interfacing – it’s previously been accomplished between two rats, but now it’s been achieved between two humans. Rajesh Rao, who studies computational neuroscience at the University of Washington, has successfully used his mind to control the hand of his colleague, Andrea Stucco. The two were linked via a Skype connection.

    The experiment, which was conducted on Aug. 12th but announced just yesterday, worked as follows …

    Rao put on a skull cap containing electrodes, which was in turn connected to an electroencephalography (EEG) machine. Via those electrodes, the machine was able to detect the electrical activity in his brain.

    Meanwhile, across the campus, Stocco wore a swim cap that was hooked up to a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) machine. That machine was capable of activating a magnetic stimulation coil, which was integrated into the cap directly above Stocco’s left motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movements of the hands.

    Back in Rao’s lab, the scientist watched a screen displaying a video game, in which the player must tap the spacebar in order to shoot down a rocket – a computer in Stocco’s lab was linked to that same game. Instead of tapping the bar, however, Rao merely visualized himself doing so. The EEG nonetheless detected the electrical impulse associated with that imagined movement, and proceeded to send a signal – via the Skype connection – to the TMS in Stocco’s lab.

    This caused the coil in the cap to stimulate his left motor cortex, which in turn made his right hand move. Given that his finger was already resting over the spacebar on his computer, this caused a cannon to fire in the game, successfully shooting down the rocket. He compared the feeling to that of a nervous tic.

    It should be noted that neither of the scientists could see each others’ Skype video feeds, plus Stocco was wearing noise-canceling earbuds, so no subconscious cues could pass between them. Rao is also quick to state that the technology couldn’t be used to read another person’s mind, or to make them do things without their willing participation.

    The researchers now hope to establish two-way communications between participants’ brains, as the video game experiment (which can be seen below) just utilized one-way communication. Additionally, they would like to transmit more complex packets of information between brains. Ultimately, they hope that the technology could be used for things like allowing non-pilots to land planes in emergency situations, or letting disabled people transmit their needs to caregivers.

    Source: University of Washington

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