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News Roundup: Samsung's IoT push, tech lobbying, and Face-chat-iscope

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Zuckerberg saves the world, AC Baba, and Carly’s back.

Samsung Otto, ARTIK, IoT

Following on from its decent earnings call, Samsung revealed a whole host of Internet of Things-focused goodies at its developer conference this week.

The South Korean electronics giant revealed Otto: its own take on the robotic digital assistant. Able to answer questions about news and weather, control smart home appliances and double as a home security camera, it’s like Amazon’s Alexa with eyes. Otto is powered by the ARTIK 10 developer board, its own alternative to the Raspberry Pi, due to start shipping next month.

Samsung also announced the ARTIK Cloud service; an IoT focused set of tools designed to help organisations to securely collect, store and analyse telemetry data collected from a wide range of sensors.

Lobbying

This week saw the US’ lobbying disclosure database update to include figures for Q1 of this year, and it seems the technology industry as a whole has decreased its efforts to influence policy makers. The 10 biggest technology companies spent $17.71 million in trying to lobby Capitol Hill in Q1 of this year. That figure is actually down slightly compared to Q1 of last year, but the issues covered remain largely the same: Cybersecurity, immigration, automobiles, data privacy, advertising, patents, trade agreements, and more.

Google [presumably on behalf of parent company Alphabet] was still the biggest spender, but its $3.8 million was lower than this time last year. Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft were some of the few companies to see increased lobbying spend, while Qualcomm, Apple, IBM, Accenture, Dell, Cisco, eBay, and Samsung all saw their Q1 activity fall compared to the year before.

Face-chat-iscope

Is Facebook working on an app to rival both Snapchat and Periscope the same time? According to the WSJ and those ephemeral “people familiar with the matter”, the social network is working on a new camera-based app to help it arrest a growing passiveness in its audience. The company certainly has plenty of money to invest, judging from this week’s earnings call, so why not try and continue its complete and utter takeover of the internet?

AC baba

Last week Oracle’s founder Larry Ellison was rumoured to be close to acquiring English football club Aston Villa. This week Alibaba’s Jack Ma was in the running to take over Italian football club AC Milan. Ma, who already owns Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande, has denied the rumours.

Carly’s baaaack

Her own bid to be President of the United States might have fallen by the wayside, but Carly Fiorina might still get a prime seat in the White House. This week saw Ted Cruz announce the former HP CEO as his Vice Presidential running mate. “After a great deal of consideration and prayer, I have come to the conclusion that if I am nominated to be president of the United States that I will run on a ticket with my vice presidential nominee Carly Fiorina,” he said. Given Trump’s current lead in the nomination, it might not end up meaning much. But if it ends up being a contested convention in July, who knows? We could be seeing a lot more Fiorina in the coming months.

Meanwhile, John McAfee has released his first advertising video for his Libertarian campaign, and slammed the government for turning the gig economy into “a legislative bloodbath.”

M&A

Alpha-Google is creating its own in-house startup incubator. According to the Information, the new entity will be called “Area 120” – after the company’s 20% time that supposed to be dedicated to innovation. Given the growing cost of the company’s moonshots, it’s probably quite keen on finding the next big money maker from within its own ranks.

Elsewhere, Google was rumoured to be in talks with messaging app Telegram about a $1 billion takeover last year. However, Telegram founder Pavel Durov has said the rumours are “bullshit.”

“I haven’t had any acquisition talks or meetings with Google. I am acquainted to Google people and Sundar of course, but acquisition, 1 billion — all of that is false.”

Meanwhile, Mozilla has identified the Software Freedom Conservancy, the Document Foundation, and itself as potential hosts for its Thunderbird email client. Language analysing startup Idibon is running out of money and could be shutting down soon, according to VentureBeat, while Lenovo is spinning out its online authentication business called Online Biometric Authentication Ltd.

Oracle has acquired cloud-based payment management business Textura, Nokia Technologies has bought French wearable & health tech startup Withings, Pinterest has acqui-hired design app Curator, Affirm has snapped up Sweep,  and Spotify now owns CrowdAlbum.

NSA

James Clapper, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence says Ed Snowden has accelerated encryption by seven years [in a bad way]. Ed Snowden is pleased about this news.

Ed Snowden’s recent foray into dance music now has an accompanying music video.

 

-          The NSA doesn’t know how many people it is spying on, and at the same time is completely overwhelmed by the amount of data it does have.

-          The US has passed a new bill requiring a warrant for online communication access.

-          Brazil is considering a harsh new internet privacy bill.

-          China has banned Apple’s film and book services.

 

Kickstarter released its latest transparency report. The crowdfunding platform received 336 total copyright claims involving 215 distinct projects – and rejected 202 of those claims. It also received 10 requests for information from the US government, providing some information in six of those cases.

Sesame Street & IBM

From cooking and quiz shows to healthcare and weather predictions [and maybe even politics], there are few pies IBM’s Watson super computer doesn’t have a finger in. IBM’s latest move has seen Big Blue partner up with the lovable kids show, Sesame Street. According to the press release, the partnership will combines Sesame Street’s educational content expertise with Watson’s cognitive computing technologies to create highly personalised learning experiences for pre-schoolers. No word on whether Watson will appear on the show to help the Count with his numbers though. AH-AH-AHH.

Verbatim

Your company releases a few phones without headphone jacks and show a driverless concept car, and suddenly the CEO thinks he’s bigger than Apple. “Apple's innovation has become extremely slow,” LeEco CEO Jia Yueting said this week. “For example, a month ago Apple launched the iPhone SE. From an industry insider's perspective, this is a product with a very low level of technology...We think this is something they just shouldn't have done.”

As the referendum date edges closer, expect more and more Brexit-related headlines. But IBM are pretty clear on their stance. “IBM is in favour of the UK remaining a member of a reformed EU,” said IBM UK chief David Stokes in an internal blog seen by the Reg. As a large, globally integrated business with a strong presence across the European Union, IBM sees significant benefits from EU economic integration.”

The world’s technology billionaires are an ambitiously philanthropic lot, but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg more than most. “While helping to connect the world will always be the most important thing I do, there are more global challenges that I feel a responsibility to help solve,” he wrote in a FB post. “Like helping to cure all diseases by the end of this century, upgrading our education system so it’s personalized for each student, and protecting our environment from climate change.”

How to solve a housing crisis

Many parts of the UK are suffering from something of a housing crisis; a shortage of homes, not enough new ones being built, sky-high prices, and a buy-to-let boom is making life pretty hard if you want to own your own home. It’s ok though, Citrix has an idea of how to fix it: improve connectivity & digital skills to enable everyone to work remotely away from the busy overcrowded cities. Thanks Citrix.

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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