Ford fills up ex-Google, Uber engineers’ tank: $1bn pours into Argo AI

Sizable bet on an autonomous car by 2021

Competition to develop the world’s first completely autonomous car is fierce. Companies like Audi, Tesla, Baidu, Nissan, and Toyota are racing to get their brand-spanking-new technologies on the road by 2020.

In a desperate bid to not be left behind, Ford has also ushered in an AI startup and hopes to push its robo-cars out by 2021.

It’s an ambitious goal, considering autonomous car development efforts haven’t always gone smoothly. Fatal car crashes have marred the public’s confidence in safety issues. Christopher Hart, chairman of US National Transportation Safety Board, was skeptical of the technology and highlighted the need for the federal government to address regulation issues.

Brian Salesky, CEO of Argo AI, was director of hardware for Google’s self-driving car project but left in 2016. Before the project was rebranded as a separate Alphabet company called Waymo – but after Google ramped up the pressure – three of its senior members resigned: Chris Urmson, CTO and technical lead; Jiajun Zhu, principal software engineer; and Dave Ferguson, another software lead in the team.

Urmson told Bloomberg he was frustrated with the pace of progress, suggesting not all was good under the hood.

Dmitri Dolgov, head of self driving technology at Waymo, told the audience during a presentation at the AAAI conference in San Francisco that more work was required to improve the robustness of its cars.

Waymo’s car may have driven a blind man to Taco Bell and helped him pick up his dry cleaning in California, but it isn’t quite ready to face all the unknown dangers on untested roads.

Comfort factor

People get too comfortable and put too much trust in it when they see the technology work for a short period of time. But under the hood, it’s not good enough to trust completely, Dolgov said recently.

Peter Rander, Argo AI’s COO, was engineering lead at Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center. Uber has faced difficulties piloting its cars in San Francisco. It hadn’t secured the right permits to allow testing, and the Bicycle Coalition, a non-profit organization hoping to make the city’s streets safer for cycling, reported that its cars would unknowingly (and illegally) swerve into bike lanes.

Ford is banking on Argo AI’s experience, and is looking to combine “the robotics talent and expertise of Argo AI” with its “virtual driver system.”

Argo AI will receive the money over five years and expects to have more than 200 employees by the end of this year.

The company’s headquarters will be based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and will have major sites in southeastern Michigan and the San Francisco Bay Area. ®


Comcast lied and now it must STFU: Its cable broadband is not ‘the fastest’ in the US

Ad watchdog hits out at telco’s alternate facts

The ads watchdog issued a “recommendation” that the alternate-fact-spreading cable giant stop telling Americans that its cable and Wi‑Fi internet services offer the fastest speeds available, lest it face legal recourse.

“The panel found that claims an ISP offers the fastest internet, without clearly communicating what ‘fastest’ means, can be subject to a number of reasonable interpretations by consumer,” the Better Business Bureau’s Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (ASRC) branch explains.

“The panel determined that one of the messages reasonably conveyed by the challenged ‘America’s fastest internet’ claims is that Xfinity had overall internet speed superiority in all tiers of service that it provides. The panel further determined that the challenged advertisements reasonably conveyed a message that Xfinity delivers the fastest download and upload speeds.”

This after Verizon filed a complaint against dishonest Comcast, accusing its rival of lying in advertisements that billed Comcast’s Xfinity internet service as the “fastest internet in America” and the “fastest in-home Wi‑Fi.”

The panel noted that while fibbing Comcast could claim it offers the highest internet speeds for some users, that boast doesn’t hold water across all of America, and subscribers in other parts of the country may never see the advertised speeds.

Additionally, the panel pointed out that the “fastest Wi‑Fi” claim is highly dependent on the wireless router itself, and that Comcast didn’t adequately explain to customers that an old router could negate a faster cable connection.

“The panel noted that because access to the internet is primarily dictated by speed of the ISP’s internet connection and dependent in large part on the internet speed tier purchased by the consumer, faster router performance doesn’t necessarily mean faster wireless access to the internet,” the ASRC said.

Lying Comcast, meanwhile, says that it will comply with the recommendations of the advertising board. ®


Now a Mobile App For The Specially Abled

Mata Bhagwanti Chadha Niketan on its 18th annual day launched Vaakya, a picture based app for speech impaired; and an e-commerce portal that sells hand-made products made by special children of MBCN under the Swayam programme.

Mata Bhagwanti Chadha Niketan works under the aegis of The Ponty Chadha Foundation that works towards the social and economic development of the society.

Mobile based application, VAAKYA, is helpful for persons who are speech impaired, affected by autism, cerebral palsy and various other mental and physical conditions.

It is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) tool and can also be used during rehabilitation. Some of its key differentiators are:

– No language barrier: The app creates a combination of custom images and phrases, which can be related to an individual user in order to effectively communicate.

– Diverse and Flexible: It does not rely on internet connectivity and utilises the phone’s own memory only.

– Easy Usage: Multiple User Accounts can be created by adding multiple students/patients to the application with unique actions and speech specific to an individual user. The speech associated with actions can be recorded and played back in any language providing greater flexibility.

– It is available on Google Play Store for free of cost from Feb 16, 2017.

The school has also integrated an e-commerce portal with its website ( This portal allows customers to buy hand-made products made by the special children of the school under the vocational training programme ‘Swayam’.

The handmade products are wedding gifts, packaging items, office stationery, paper bags and other gift products which from now will be available online for sale.

Product details like price, size and other specifications have been mentioned along with customers review. The prospective buyers can log on to the school’s website and buy the products using the simple user interface.

“The vocational training programme ‘Swayam’ provides a sense of self-worth and economic independence. The students get a stipend for the hours they spend on their skill as an encouragement for their hard work and give them a sense of economic independence. These initiatives would give an impetus to our on-going efforts in bringing vital changes to the lives of hundreds of children,” said Vandana Sharma, Director, Mata Bhagwanti Chadha Niketan.


Tata Sky Launches ‘Hollywood Winners’ Ahead of Oscars

Tata Sky has launched a new showcase service called Tata Sky Hollywood Winners. The service will showcase select Hollywood movies that scored high in the eyes of critics and were winners of (or were nominated for) previous years’ Academy Awards.

Available in both SD and HD, Tata Sky Hollywood Winners will be complimentary for all Tata Sky subscribers.

Catering to the trend of watching movies on the move, the service will also be available on the Tata Sky Mobile App. Starting this week, the service will run for a period of one month, up to the first week of March.

This service will showcase select movies that were winners or nominated for ‘Best Picture’, ‘Best Director’, ‘Best Actor/Actress in a lead role’ in the previous years’ Academy Awards.

This service becomes a one-stop destination for Oscar movies that will run all day throughout the week. Some of the best films on offer are The Wolf of Wall Street, The Hurt Locker, Crash, The Reader, American Hustle and more.

The service comes as a prelude to the Oscar Awards on 27th Feb.


Should Cybersecurity Be a Human Right?

This article was originally published at The Conversation. The publication contributed the article to Live Science’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Having access to the internet is increasingly considered to be an emerging human right. International organizations and national governments have begun to formally recognize its importance to freedom of speech, expression and information exchange. The next step to help ensure some measure of cyber peace online may be for cybersecurity to be recognized as a human right, too.

The United Nations has taken note of the crucial role of internet connectivity in “the struggle for human rights.” United Nations officials have decried the actions of governments cutting off internet access as denying their citizens’ rights to free expression.

But access is not enough. Those of us who have regular internet access often suffer from cyber-fatigue: We’re all simultaneously expecting our data to be hacked at any moment and feeling powerless to prevent it. Late last year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an online rights advocacy group, called for technology companies to “unite in defense of users,” securing their systems against intrusion by hackers as well as government surveillance.

It’s time to rethink how we understand the cybersecurity of digital communications. One of the U.N.’s leading champions of free expression, international law expert David Kaye, in 2015 called for “the encryption of private communications to be made a standard.” These and other developments in the international and business communities are signaling what could be early phases of declaring cybersecurity to be a human right that governments, companies and individuals should work to protect.

The idea of internet access as a human right is not without controversy. No less an authority than Vinton Cerf, a “father of the internet,” has argued that technology itself is not a right, but a means through which rights can be exercised.

All the same, more and more nations have declared their citizens’ right to internet access. Spain, France, Finland, Costa Rica, Estonia and Greece have codified this right in a variety of ways, including in their constitutions, laws and judicial rulings.

A former head of the U.N.’s global telecommunications governing body has argued that governments must “regard the internet as basic infrastructure – just like roads, waste and water.” Global public opinion seems to overwhelmingly agree.

Cerf’s argument may, in fact, strengthen the case for cybersecurity as a human right – ensuring that technology enables people to exercise their rights to privacy and free communication.

Current international human rights law includes many principles that apply to cybersecurity. For example, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes protections of freedom of speech, communication and access to information. Similarly, Article 3 states “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” But enforcing these rights is difficult under international law. As a result, many countries ignore the rules.

There is cause for hope, though. As far back as 2011, the U.N.’s High Commission for Human Rights said that human rights are equally valid online as offline. Protecting people’s privacy is no less important when handling paper documents, for instance, than when dealing with digital correspondence. The U.N.’s Human Rights Council reinforced that stance in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

In 2013, the U.N. General Assembly itself – the organization’s overall governing body, comprising representatives from all member nations – voted to confirm people’s “right to privacy in the digital age.” Passed in the wake of revelations about U.S. electronic spying around the globe, the document further endorsed the importance of protecting privacy and freedom of expression online. And in November 2015, the G-20, a group of nations with some of the world’s largest economies, similarly endorsed privacy, “including in the context of digital communications.”

Simply put, the obligation to protect these rights involves developing new cybersecurity policies, such as encrypting all communications and discarding old and unneeded data, rather than keeping it around indefinitely. More firms are using the U.N.’s Guiding Principles to help inform their business decision-making to promote human rights due diligence. They are also using U.S. government recommendations, in the form of the National Institute for Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework, to help determine how best to protect their data and that of their customers.

In time, the tide will likely strengthen. Internet access will become more widely recognized as a human right – and following in its wake may well be cybersecurity. As people use online services more in their daily lives, their expectations of digital privacy and freedom of expression will lead them to demand better protections.

Governments will respond by building on the foundations of existing international law, formally extending into cyberspace the human rights to privacy, freedom of expression and improved economic well-being. Now is the time for businesses, governments and individuals to prepare for this development by incorporating cybersecurity as a fundamental ethical consideration in telecommunications, data storage, corporate social responsibility and enterprise risk management.

Scott Shackelford, Associate Professor of Business Law and Ethics, Indiana University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Snapdeal Saves Big on Travel Expenses Using Technology

Snapdeal today shared that it witnessed a drastic drop of 50% in travel expenses through an increasing trend of online meetings among teams.

Snapdeal has been encouraging a culture of efficiency through all office operations and as a part of it, both intra and inter-office meetings and external appointments are being held online.

The teams at Snapdeal have had access to the CISCO teleconferencing and have been using it for multi-location large meeting.

But recently in the last few months, employees have started to use whatsapp video call and facetime for quicker resolutions and action points without physical meetings.

Thus an increasing number of vendors, business partners, sellers and team meetings are being conducted over these new age communication apps and software.

The practice has not only resulted in notable savings in travel expenses but has also enabled a more efficient use of man hours avoiding the travel hassles for physical meetings.


That’s cute. AI and IoT need ‘ethics regulation’, mumbles Lib Dem baron

Government kindly but firmly puts him back in his box

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Baron Timothy Clement-Jones said that artificial intelligence, as well as IoT, needs “huge consideration” of its “ethics”.

“It may be that we need to construct a purpose-built regulator for the world of artificial intelligence and the internet of things in ethical terms,” Lord Clement-Jones said.

In the Parliamentary debate where the Lib Dem lord was speaking, peers from all the main political parties fretted and fanned themselves over the perceived dangers of algorithms.

“According to a recent radio programme, algorithms are used to make individual decisions in the fields of employment, housing, health, justice, credit and insurance. I had heard that employers are increasingly studying social media to find out more about job applicants. I had not realised that an algorithm, programmed by an engineer, can, for example, take the decision to bin an application,” added Baroness Byford, a Conservative member of the upper house.

The debate centred around a proposed amendment to the Digital Economy Bill which would have given Ofcom the power to “carry out and publish evaluations of algorithms” – a very widely drawn clause seemingly intended to let the telly regulator exercise jurisdiction over Google and social media platforms.

“We, particularly those of us of a certain age, often get to a point where we are scared of the technology that we are expected to use,” said Labour’s Lord Stevenson of Balmacara. “However, we should not be scared of technologies. History should tell us that the reason why Shakespeare’s Globe is outside the city walls of London is that people like us in those days felt that they were dangerous plays that should not be seen by too many people. Video nasties and indeed concerns about some of the issues that are in the Bill are examples of the same thing. We have to be careful that this is not just another ‘penny dreadful’ story but a serious issue.”

He then went on to relate how a charity he was involved with had fallen off the first page of Google, reducing the number of people contacting it, and used that example to illustrate why he was supporting the new clause regardless.

“The government recognise that how these algorithms work is increasingly important and have been actively looking at how we can ensure that there is transparency and accountability where algorithms have an impact on people’s lives,” said Baroness Buscombe, on behalf of the government, smoothing over the elderly peers’ worries about that new-fangled interweb thingy. “The huge breadth of use for algorithms means that a one-size-fits-all approach would not, we believe, be appropriate.”

Lady Buscombe also pointed out that the clause would be “an enormous undertaking for Ofcom, or indeed, any regulatory body.”

Conservative peer Lord Elton, who introduced amendment 214 to the Digital Economy Bill, agreed to withdraw it without further debate. ®


Nokia wheels out a complete MVNO package. Makes a change from WinPho

Taking ‘mobile operators are our customers’ a bit too far?

The WING will, according to a Nokia announcement, “manage the IoT connectivity and services needs of a client’s assets – such as connected cars or connected freight containers – as they move around the globe, reducing the complexity for enterprises who would otherwise be required to work with multiple technology providers.”

It will “offer a full service model including provisioning, operations, security, billing and dedicated enterprise customer services from key operations command centers,” and also comes with a proprietary device management platform.

In other words, Nokia has launched an IoT MVNO.

This was also the view of Analysys Mason research director Tom Rebbeck, who told The Register: “It sounds like a global IoT MVNO – so an enterprise can buy global connectivity from one provider (ie, Nokia). This could be interesting for example to consumer electronics companies that want to sell a connected device in lots of countries but just have a single contract for connectivity. To support that, Nokia will need lots of connectivity contracts with local MNOs.”

Mason also pointed out that mobile operators themselves can also be WING customers – which raises the whimsical notion of an MNO being invited to pay a third party in return for letting them use its own infrastructure.

“Potentially, this will put Nokia in competition with some of its customers,” continued Rebbeck, in non-whimsical mode. “It is another example of the blurring between telecoms operators and their vendors. Another example is Vodafone, which is selling its GDSP technology to other operators, like SFR, Maxis and Zain.”

The move is part of Nokia’s efforts to reduce its dependence on telecoms operators as their clients. Following the flog-off of its consumer handset business in 2014, Nokia concentrated on selling network equipment. Last August it was in talks with BT over 5G radio gear.

Igor Leprince, Nokia’s head of global services, said in a canned quote: “IoT connectivity as a managed service is an answer for enterprises to the current IoT deployments that are hampered by the patchwork of business agreements to connect devices around the world.”

This is likely to be a drop in the ocean against whichever flavor of NB‑IoT wins that localized standardization bunfight, as well as the wider overlaps between the various LPWAN standards, including frontrunners LoRa and SigFox, both of which enjoy significant customer adoption. ®


FreeCharge Now Offers e-Wallet Payments Across Women Clothing Brands

FreeCharge will now enable e-wallet payments across women clothing brands W, Aurelia and Wishful under the umbrella of TCNS Clothing Company Pvt. Ltd.

The partnership will enable FreeCharge to serve the contemporary women customers in over 380 stores across 85 cities.

In order to make the payment, the customers would just need to scan the QR code using their FreeCharge app at the store and pay using his or her FreeCharge balance.

With this feature, TCNS customers across cities will get to experience the swiftness of payments and can make purchases across a wide assortment of Indian contemporary dresses ranging from Kurtis, bottoms, drapes, ensembles, Jewellery and Bags and pay using FreeCharge.

With an increasing focus on cashless economy, offline stores are increasing digital payment solutions to offer convenience to their customers.

FreeCharge is also witnessing this shift and has associated with brands like Shoppers Stop, Pantaloons, Hush Puppies, Bata, Vishal Mega Mart amongst several other partners.


Yahoo Mail Mobile App Rolls Out Caller ID, Syncs Photos

Yahoo has come up with two updates to Yahoo Mail app that now enables users to identify the caller from their email contact list and also access their phone camera roll on their desktop even as it continues to be plagued by a delayed acquisition.

The new Caller ID feature will show users who’s calling, even if the number is not saved in your phone. On iOS, the Yahoo Mail app takes advantage of a particular caller ID and block setting. Users have to go to (Settings –> Phone –> Call Blocking & Identification). After installing the updated version of Yahoo Mail for iOS, users can simply toggle the switch for the Yahoo Mail app on in order to enable the Caller ID function.

This will also update names in your call history or when you dial the phone, said Yahoo.

Another feature is photo uploading function that makes it easier to email images from your phone when you are logged in on the desktop.

Yahoo is rolling out both features are launching today in the updated mobile app found in the iTunes App Store (iOS ver. 4.13) and Google Play (Android ver. 5.13).