News Roundup: Greenery, Turkey’s web, and CES thieves
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News Roundup: Greenery, Turkey’s web, and CES thieves

A roundup of the week’s news including robot rules, bird drones, and KFC facial recognition.

Green, green, green

Greenpeace isn’t happy with Amazon. The Cloud & eCommerce giant drew criticism in the NGO’s latest Clicking Clean report for its lack of transparency around its energy use and its continued use of fossil fuels in certain markets.

“Amazon continues to talk a good game on renewables but is keeping its customers in the dark on its energy decisions,” said Greenpeace USA Senior IT Analyst, Gary Cook. “This is concerning, particularly as Amazon expands into markets served by dirty energy.”

Apple was again the poster child for being environmentally friendly – after years of criticism from GP – while Google and Facebook also scored well. This year’s report was the first to look at Asian tech giants such as Tencent, Baidu, and Alibaba, all of which scored badly due to lack of transparency and a lack of renewable energy sources in the region.

As often happens these days, a group of companies have written an open letter to the government. This one – featuring companies such as Adobe, CA, eBay, AMD, HPE, Lyft, Tesla, and Workday – calls upon President-Elect Donald Trump and Congress to honour its commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement.

“We want the US economy to be energy efficient and powered by low-carbon energy,” read the letter on Low Carbon USA. “Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk. But the right action now will create jobs and boost US competitiveness. We pledge to do our part, in our own operations and beyond, to realize the Paris Agreement’s commitment of a global economy that limits global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius.”

As well as honouring the Paris agreement, the site calls for greater investment in the low-carbon economy and a continuation of current low-carbon policies.

Robot persons

Should robots count as people, or at least have some sort of personhood status? The EU this week voted in favour of the Civil Law Rules on Robotics, which outlined possible future legal frameworks around robots. The report outlines a potential code of conduct around ethics for the design and use of robots, and calls for a closer look into the practicality of Universal Basic Income in the face of mass unemployment due to automation.

Iceland forms a government, sans Pirates

After weeks of negotiations, Iceland has finally formed a government. Independence, Reform and Bright Future parties have agreed to form a coalition government. The coalition, however, doesn’t include the Pirate Party, and has a majority of one.

Turkey’s own web

Turkey has a murky history with the internet. It’s never been afraid to cut off access to the likes of YouTube and Twitter. Now, as well as trying to ban Tor, the country is following in the footsteps of other freedom countries such as Cuba and North Korea by launching state-sponsored alternatives to services such as Google and Gmail. Announced by Ahmet Arslan, Minister of Communication, in a television interview, the new services will store (and analyse) all data locally and ‘enforce national cultural values’.

M&A

Atlassian has acquired Trello, Accenture has purchased Alitude, AWS is rumoured to have bought Harvest.ai, Fitbit has snapped up smartwatch maker Vector (Fitbit also reportedly tried to buy rival fitness tracker Jawbone late last year), Renault now owns flailing taxi-app Karhoo, and Citrix has got its hands on Unidesk.

The bit of Yahoo! Verizon isn’t buying will be renamed to Altaba.

Alphabet’s moonshot X lab has closed down its internet-providing drone project. Born out of Alpha-Google’s acquisition of Titan Aerospace, the company has decided that its balloon-based Project Loon idea has more legs (i.e. is cheaper). It will be interesting to see what Facebook does with its own internet-beaming Project Aquilla drones.

Lily, a selfie-drone company that amassed $34 million in pre-orders, is also shutting down. It has promised refunds to customers. 

Cars & data

Ever wanted to see what Uber rides look like on a nice map? Now you can. The company this week announced Uber Move: a new website that shows anonymized ride data. Geared towards policy makers and urban planners, the site shows ride patterns over time, allowing people to see peak times, popular routes, and other journey information.

GTA 5 is one the best games around. And now researchers working on training driverless cars have an excuse to play it. Thanks to Open.ai, researchers can now train their self-driving car systems within the virtual world of San Andreas. The company’s Universe training platform now offers integration with the game, allowing researchers to spend as long as they want training their systems within a lively and realistic world.

Bird drones and boxes

Bird scarers shaped like hawks and other birds of prey aren’t anything new. But what about if you want a drone shaped like one, complete with creepy flapping wings? Now you can, thanks to Clear Flight Solutions‘ Robird. If it hit a plane, would it count as a drone strike, or a bird strike?

Clear Flight Solutions Leader #1 from Clear Flight Solutions on Vimeo.

Meanwhile, Airmada has come up with a ‘groundstation’ for drones. It’s essentially a box-come-landing pad for UAVs, complete with auto-lifting roof and extending platform. 

Leftover CES bits

There was some skulduggery at this year’s CES. Razer saw two of its 3-screen laptop prototypes stolen from its booth.

“We treat theft/larceny, and if relevant to this case, industrial espionage, very seriously,” said Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan in a Facebook post. “It is cheating, and cheating doesn’t sit well with us. Penalties for such crimes are grievous and anyone who would do this clearly isn’t very smart.”

Nokia has officially announced its comeback to the phone market. The Nokia 6 is a low-end Android phone that will only be available in China.

According to Robert Scroble, Apple and Zeiss are working together on some sort of Augmented Reality device.

And the Hushme – a device designed to help you make private phone calls in public – was possibly the most ridiculous product at an event involving an IoT hairbush.

KFC facial recognition

KFC in China has introduced a facial recognition system that recommends orders based on your age, gender, and mood, rather than anything as silly as your previous orders. Why, we’re not sure.

Memenomics

Ever wanted a quantifiable value on how important a meme is? You have? Then NasDANQ could be for you. Born out of the Meme Economy subreddit – which treats memes like stocks, buying and selling them as they become more prevalent/important – the aim is to create a fully working stock exchange to add a value to the cultural impact of a viral meme. No money will actually be involved, but you’ll finally be able to show everyone you’re the Warren Buffet of memes.

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect. Writes about all manner of tech from driverless cars, AI, and Green IT to Cloudy stuff, security, and IoT. Dislikes autoplay ads/videos and garbage written about 'milliennials'.  

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