News roundup: US ban forces ZTE into trouble Credit: Adam Patrick Murray
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News roundup: US ban forces ZTE into trouble

A roundup of the week’s technology news including Alexa-powered homes, Napalm Death, and eerier robot phone calls.

 

ZTE downs tools in wake of US sanctions, while Huawei mulls homegrown OS

The NY Times is calling President Trump’s trade war with China ‘a new U.S. Cold War’. And the war may soon have its first casualty in ZTE. The Chinese telecoms giant has ‘ceased major operating activities’ in the wake of a ban which prevents access to US goods such as Qualcomm chips and Google’s Android operating system for the next seven years. The company says it is “actively communicating with the relevant U.S. government departments” to try and reverse or modify the ban.

Given that Huawei has been under similar fire from the US government, it should come as little surprise that the company is reportedly planning to create its own alternative to Android. According to the South China Morning Post, Huawei is developing its own smartphone OS to counter the prospect of a US ban preventing it using Android. SCMP says the unnamed OS has been in development since 2012 as a preparation for a ‘worst case scenario’ to insulate it from any US bans and would include tablet and desktop versions. It currently remains under wraps as it isn’t currently as feature-rich as Android and doesn’t have a developer ecosystem. An official statement said the company isn’t not planning to release its own OS in ‘the foreseeable future’.

As our own Phil Muncaster wrote last week, this trade-war could have far wider consequences than just ZTE or Huawei if it continues.

 

Alexa-powered houses

As the idea of the connected smart home gains traction, it’s only a matter of time before which technology comes pre-installed in a house matters as much as the carpet or the wallpaper. This week US home construction company Lennar has announced new homes will come with Amazon Alexa-controlled Wi-Fi, smart locks, doorbells, thermostats and lights as standard. It’s show homes will include ‘Amazon Experience Centers’ so potential buyers can experience this futuristic lifestyle.

 

Google I/O: creep calls from robots

Google held its annual I/O event this week. Along with some new voices for its Assistant (including John Legend’s), the search giant revealed the beta of Android P, a new version of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), and a few other bits. But the real headline grabber was Duplex.

Duplex is a new feature within Google Assistant that makes phone calls on your behalf. In the on-stage demo, a request to book a haircut sees Assistant phone up a local salon and book an appointment in an alarmingly human-sounding way.

The robot caller has natural-sounding inflections and pauses, and its seems the recipients on the other end of the line had no idea the caller wasn’t human. The company has said since that the service comes with ‘disclosure built in’.

 

Security

  • Georgia’s Governor has vetoed the proposed a bill that would have criminalized unauthorized security research.
  • Equifax has revealed that 146.6 million names, 146.6 million dates of birth, 145.5 million social security numbers, 99 million addresses, 209,000 payment cards (number and expiry date), 38,000 American drivers' licenses, and 3,200 passport details were lost in last year’s data breach.
  • The EU is still planning to seize all UK-owned .EU domains (unless you’re an EU citizen), while Google recently launched its .app TLD (which requires HTTPS).
  • Lotus Notes creator Ray Ozzie claims to have found a way to offer a secure backdoor to end-to-end encryption that governments can use.
  • Apple is removing apps that track your location without permission from its App Store.
  • IBM has banned USB sticks within the company.
  • Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL Elections are shutting down in the wake of the Facebook kerfuffle.
  • It seems the Matrix communication protocol will act as the basis of the French government’s homegrown alternative to WhatsApp.

 

M&A

Google has acquired Velostrata, Withings co-founder Éric Carreel has bought Nokia’s Digital Health business while Nokia has snapped up SpaceTime Insight, private equity firm Permira has purchased Cisco’s Service Provider Video Software Solutions (SPVSS) business while Cisco has got its hands on Accompany, ServiceNow has got its hands on Parlo, Alibaba now owns Rocket Internet’s Daraz, and BlaBlaCar has snaffled carpooling app Less.

Lithium is closing down Klout. Qualcomm is reportedly considering moving away from making server chips.

 

Open Source

Google has been busy recently. The search engine giant has open open sourced a bunch of new tools; there’s gVisor, a sandbox for containers; Seurat, a simplification tools for improving VR efficiency; and Asylo, framework and SDK for developing applications that run in trusted execution environments.

Facebook has released its PyTorch 1.0 AI framework.

 

Napalm Death vs bitcoin

Sometime’s the show Silicon Valley makes a good funny. Take the Napalm Death bitcoin alert.  In the skit, Gilfoyle has set up an alert to play the grindcore band’s classic 1.36 second song ‘You Suffer’ whenever the price of Bitcoin falls below the point where mining it costs more than its worth. Obviously given the volatile nature of cryptocurrencies, this happens a lot and scares the normies.

And now, just like the Not Hotdog app, it’s a real thing! Icelandic website design agency Viska has created a web version of the app, which you can access right here.


Robots can run

Boston Dynamics will be the company that creates the real-world terminators that destroy us all. Proof: the latest video from the company shows its Atlas robot RUNNING.

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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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