Telenor Is Google’s Latest RCS Messaging Partner

telenor rcs messaging building

Google has big plans for RCS Messaging as it is trying to spread the system throughout the world.

Google has big plans for RCS Messaging. As it is trying to spread the system throughout the world, it recently gained a new partner. The Telenor Group is joining its mission.

Rich Communication Services or RCS is a communication protocol between mobile phones and the carriers. Its aim? To replace the standard SMS messages. A new text-message system could come in their place, a richer variant. One capable of transmitting in-call multimedia. And of providing phonebook polling. This latter enables service discovery.

RCS messaging started being used in 2012. And is already being offered by a number of service carriers. Google has been trying to increase the RCS network. And just recently, it managed to add a new carrier to its list.

The Telenor Group will now start providing RCS messaging. It will do so with help from Google, but only in a number of countries. This will mostly target European states.

For example, the Nordic countries, Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Montenegro. But it will also be released in India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Telenor will be helping roll out the feature for Android users. The two will do so as RCS messaging is considered a marked improvement. Especially when compared to MMS and also SMS messages.

The RCS messaging comes with the same ubiquity potential as the common SMS. But it also offers features currently available only on specialized messaging apps. For example, it sports some of the Facebook Messenger and Hangouts properties. As such, it is capable of ensuring group chats and also high-resolution images transmissions.

RCS messaging is already compatible with the Universal Profile, a globally accepted GSMA variant. This means that both supporting devices and carriers will benefit from a guide. This should help them clarify some aspects. For example, how to support RCS customers. And also how to maintain a constant service.

Google’s RCS messaging option is easy to come by. Interested users will only have to download an app from the Play Store. More exactly, the Google Messenger one. There are several other available RCS messaging apps. In some cases, even the default messaging app could support it.

But the Google Messenger currently offers the highest accessibility. It can be downloaded on most phones. And it offers both RCS, SMS, and MMS messaging and support, all in one place.

Following the Telenor partnership, some of their phones will come with the Google Messenger pre-installed. The company subscribers from the aforementioned countries should soon be able to access the service. This will be backed and supported by a Google platform, Jibe.

The RCS messaging system offers more advanced features as it relies more heavily on data networks. Instead of using the traditional 2G network, it will mostly use the data ones.

RCS offers a quite universal compatibility and ease of access. It also supports a wide, varied range of data features, which are not usual on standard messaging. Nonetheless, it does have some minuses.

One would be the fact desktop clients that support RCS messaging won’t be able to sync user messages. And they will also be unable to receive or send messages in sync with the phone.

Image Source: Wikimedia

Dutch Town Installs LED Crosswalk for Distracted Pedestrians

women crossing the street

A Dutch town installed an LED crosswalk for smartphone-distracted pedestrians.

As incredible as the functions of a smartphone are, enabling people to access the entire collective knowledge of our civilization and keeping in contact with anyone instantly, there are some drawbacks to the technology when we get too absorbed it. Some situations like using a smartphone on a crowded street can pose dangers to other not just to yourself.

In order to prevent similar situations, like when people too absorbed by their phone forget to check the traffic when crossing the street, a town in Netherlands has installed a LED crosswalk in sidewalks near intersections, in order to alert them whether it is safe or not to cross the street.

This is the first trial for the LED crosswalk, which was developed by a local company called HIG Traffic System. The LED device is connected to the nearby traffic light system and it’s able to shift colors, from red to green, as a way to signal the distracted pedestrians on when it is safe to cross the street.

The LED crosswalk installed in Bodegranve has been dubbed “+Lightline”, and face some opposition from the country’s VVN organization for road safety. A spokesperson for VVN describes the system as a reward for those engaging in unsafe behavior.

However, the National Safety Council has reported that incidents involving pedestrians distracted by their phones led to more than 11,000 injuries in just the United States alone, between 2000 and 2011. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has estimated the number of injuries doubled by 2004, and that while most people are aware of the dangers posed by this behavior, they continue as they overestimate their capacity to multitask.

Therefore, in the absence of any meaningful programs meant to change the behavior of pedestrians, systems like the LED crosswalk may be the only way to prevent a further increase in accidents.  An AAOS study found that people with ages between 18 to 34 were least likely to suffer injuries from this type of behavior, and that texting and walking is what compromises our abilities the most.

What do you think about the LED crosswalk? Do you use your smartphone often while walking or crossing the street?

Image sourceFlickr

Facebooks Enables Job Postings on Pages

Facebook logo on screen

Facebook has started to roll out its job postings feature for business Pages.

Before LinkedIn fully integrates within Microsoft and develops a strategy to further develop and improve the service for a larger number of users, Facebook is trying to capitalize on a number of opportunities previously neglected by the company.

The social network has finally enabled page admins to post job openings as a way to help lower-skilled worker find a job more easily, as well as present new opportunities for those who aren’t actively searching for a new job. The job posting on Pages feature was previously revealed last year, but only now has Facebook decided to roll it out.

As any Facebook user knows, the social network is a great way to keep in touch with a company, its products, and activity, through the Business Pages feature. Thanks to the new job postings feature, companies can easily find new employees among those who are actually interested in the company.

More specifically, a business can issue any number of job postings through their status update composer, which will appear in the News Feed of its followers. All the job openings are hosted in specially designated Jobs tab on the company’s Page. When users see the job posting, they can apply for it directly from their news feed through the Apply Now button. This instantly sends an application through the Facebook Messenger.

Regarding the application, Facebook will pre-fill some of the details with information from the user’s profile, such as name, location, birth date, and even includes your profile picture, in order to speed up the application process. The job postings feature is currently live in the US and Canada.

The new feature represents another ad revenue stream for Facebook, as it enabled companies to pay in order to have their posts turn into ads, which in turn could reach more people. Furthermore, users can easily share job postings with their friends, which could help the recruitment efforts of the business.

The feature is mainly designed for small businesses, which have trouble hiring, but it can be used by any company. It also presents a great way to find a job you never knew you wanted for a better salary, or in a better location.

Image source: Pixabay

Atomico Raises $765 Million Fund

Niklas Zennstrom

Atomico concluded its fourth round of raising funds with $765 million.

Atomico has revealed that it has closed its fourth round of raising funds after managing to gather $765 million, which is among the highest venture capital funds in Europe. The company initially started its latest round almost one year ago, revealed through its SEC filings.

The $765 fund is a significant increase over its third fund round which only managed to raise $476 million back in 2013. What is particularly interesting with its very successful fundraising round is that it highlights a key difference between European companies and those in the US, where limited partnership firms are often pressured in committing to top funds.

Atomico’s successful round of funding was due to the stakes the company has in a number of prominent endeavors and other firms, which appealed to a lot of investors it seems. Atomico has shares in Rovio, the Finnish game developer which produced Angry Birds, Klarna, a payments company, as well as GoEuro, a travel site.

The company further benefited from a major transaction back in 2013, when Monsanto acquired Climate Corp. for around $1 billion. The following years was quite successful for Atomico again, when Supercell managed to sell a majority stake to Tencent, China, for $8.6 billion.

Mattias Ljungman, a general partner at Atomico, stated that unlike the U.S. which has a long tradition of investing in various venture capital firms, Europe is only now starting to see the appeal. However, once the benefits of investing in these firms became evident, it led to a large amount of capital being deployed, that even surpassed the US.

Atomico, which was originally founded by the co-founder of Skype, Niklas Zennstrom, has now become of the best-funded firms in Europe. The company has its central office in London but has a lot of people on the ground in major cities across the world such as New York, Beijing, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, and Stockholm.

Atomico offers an extensive list of service to its portfolio companies, such as an in-house value creation team. This team includes around seven partners who mainly advise on marketing, communications, and other domains of interest. Atomico hopes to see that Europe’s venture capital reach the same breakout speed as in the US.

Image credit: Flickr

Signal Now Provides Encrypted Video Calls

Signal app

Signal now provides encrypted video calls in the beta version of the app.

Privacy seems to have become quite a commodity in this day and age, with an increasing number of users becoming aware of how easy it can be for someone to access their conversations. Therefore, a number of messaging apps like Signal, which provided encrypted communication, have become quite popular in the last few years.

Signal, developed by Open Whisper Systems, only provided end-to-end encryption for text messages and voice calls, at least until now. The company has released an update to the open beta version of the app which enables encrypted video calls. Therefore, you enjoy talking with your contacts on video, then you can do so without worrying that your privacy may be compromised. Additionally, the update also improves the current voice calling feature, which is somewhat clunky to use.

Signal previously gained the attention of users when it was endorsed by Edward Snowden, who many private citizens support. The app does not present benefits to just activists and journalists who may be targeted by various attacks in order to obtain their information. Signal has a lot of regular users who enjoy their privacy, despite the fact that they’re using the app for less sensitive content like messaging with friends.

The new encrypted video calls feature will surely benefit all the users who enjoy video chat, at least if the service performs at a similar level to what apps like Facetime can deliver. In this regard, the company is hard at work to make it easy for other developers to implement Signal into their products and services.

iPhone users are even able to use the CallKit in iOS 10, which allows them to answer calls directly from the lock screen. This means that calls from the Signal app will be treated the same way as native calls. However, this type of integration may create some vulnerabilities, as it required to sync the call duration and destination with iCloud. Nonetheless, the feature can be easily turned off from app’s settings.

If you want to try out the new encrypted video calls feature, you need to install the beta version of the app, go to settings and enable the video calling beta option under the advanced tab. The feature won’t work if the user you’re trying to contact has not enabled the option as well.

Image sourceOpen Whisper Systems

Caavo Streaming Box Seeks to Unify TV Services and Devices

Caavo streaming box

Caavo streaming box will unify all your TV services and hardware.

When you thought that the TV streaming market couldn’t get any bigger than it currently is, where a few major players dominate both the video content as well as hardware part of the business. However, a startup company called Caavo has a new approach to the current way we watch TV, simplifying the use of all the different services and devices.

The Caavo streaming box is a device which is able to unify all the various TV content services, which have launched in the last few years as well as all the different uses of streaming boxes into just one device. This type of service may prove invaluable to some users who subscribe to a large number of services, considering that a lot of TV companies have built their own service, with third-party content being less prominent.

The Caavo streaming box is the result of the $15 million in funding obtained by the company. It provides users with both a universal remote which comes with voice control, as well as a unified TV interface so that you can easily search for your favorite content without the need to constantly switch apps.

TV streaming services, from Netflix, Amazon to HBO and others, have steadily begun to emphasize their original content and rely less on third-party shows to attract users. While this may have led to a wider variety and better quality shows, it also complicates the life of the consumer. From switching different streaming boxes to remotes and apps, it has become quite a chore if you want to stay up-to-date to the last TV shows.

The Caavo streaming box recognizes this problem and seeks to address it. It features eight HDMI inputs, more than enough to connect all your streaming boxes or consoles, which will be added to its interface. Afterward, you select what services you are subscribed to as well as any preferences for what service to be accessed on what device, and you’re good to go. You can now easily search through all the different services using the universal remote and its voice-search function, which can start a show with the command “watch”.

What do you think about the Caavo streaming box?

Image credit: Caavo

Google DeepMind AI Agents Faced Off In A Competition

ai agents

Google DeepMind researchers studied two competing AI agents to see how they would react to “social dilemmas”.

Google DeepMind researchers have been studying an ages-old problem. The behavior of two competing entities. Only they have taken the issue one step further. And had two AI agents face each other. Their purpose? To see how they would react.

The field of artificial intelligence has been marking a progress. The area has greatly evolved in recent years. And as it is, most expect artificial intelligence or AI to become a common occurrence.

AI computer agents or simply AI agents are given their own task. They could come help manage day-to-day systems. For example, the traffic light succession. Or they may be used for more complex procedures.

But what could happen if their tasks conflict with another AI’s? What would be their reactions? That is what they Google DeepMind researchers set out to determine.

Research results were revealed earlier this week. They were published on February 09. And the research paper was titled as follows. “Multi-agent Reinforcement Learning in Sequential Social Dilemmas”. Google DeepMind researchers also offered additional details in a blog post. This was released on the official project page.

The research team decided to test out the following. They sought to analyze the reaction of the two AI agents in a “social dilemma”. A series of such events was used.

A “social dilemma” is a generic term. It is used in situations in which an individual can profit if they are selfish. Or when both parties loose if they are being selfish.

Google’s DeepMind tests were somewhat more simple than that. They placed the AI agents in quite basic video games. Gathering and Wolfpack were used. According to the releases, the study results were interesting. But perhaps not surprising.

Just like humans, the AI agents had a context-dependent behavior. They were seen to be more antagonistic or cooperative. And all in accordance with the situation.

In Gathering, for example, they played along nicely. But only whilst the apple stocks were high. As they started dwindling, the AI agents started zapping one another. And research also noted the following. A “cleverer” AI was also introduced in the game. And this latter decided that zapping was the way to go from the very beginning.

In contrast, Wolfpack revealed a different result. The cleverer the AI, the more it collaborated with the others. This is because learning to work together needs more computational power. But it will also help track and also herd the game prey.

The computational requirements could also theoretically explain the more aggressive behavior. Zapping is considered a more challenging task. Especially when compared to apple gathering. And the zapping actions also take up more power, when compared to the other.

As such, what were the study results? As in life, it all depends on the context. And most importantly, on the rules. The AI agents based their behavior on the rules they were offered. For Gathering, the zapping rules offered a higher reward. As such, the AI chose this path.

In contrast, in Wolfpack, the rules were more rewarding when they are collaborating. As such, the AI agents chose to work together. The bottom line for following studies?

Scientists will be faced with a future challenge. They will have to make sure that the AI agents know the rules. And also that these are the right ones.

Google’s DeepMind team stated as follows in their blog post. This research could help them better understand multi-agent AI systems. And also determine how to better control them. As it is, most such systems will depend on a continuous cooperation.

More details on both the study and the games involved can be found in the official Google DeepMind blog post. The research paper can also be found in the same location.

Image Source: Pixabay

Programmer Invents ACLU Dash Button

ACLU dash button

Nathan Pryor invents an ACLU Dash Button.

When Amazon’s Dash Buttons were first revealed not many people saw them as a must-have item despite facilitating your life by ordering your most-used household items. However, their basic function can be reprogrammed to complete various tasks with just the press of a button. For example, thanks to the new ACLU dash button, you can easily donate $5 to the organization.

The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States has polarized the world and the US, with many people from the opposite political spectrum are becoming more active in politics by taking a stance against the controversial policies of the current administration.

One way to do so is to donate to organizations that represent your values like the ACLU, which has seen record-breaking donations in the last few weeks. Now, a programmer, Nathan Pryor, has facilitated the task of donating with the ACLU Dash button, by clicking every time Donald Trump makes you frustrated.

Pryor described how he came up with the idea and how the button was actually developed in a Medium post. He revealed that the idea initially came from a friend of his, who wished to have an ACLU Dash button, as a way to combat the policies of the current administration by funding organizations who are going to fight against his agenda.

Once he settled on the idea, he had to create his own Python script to set up an automatic donation, as ACLU does not offer any API or programming tool to facilitate donations.  He installed the script to the AWS Lamda, Amazon’s cloud platform, which he connected to the programmable $20 Dash button.  The donation was confirmed through a text message.

Through a process of trial and error, Pryor had successfully received that message confirming his donation. All he had to do is decorate the button with an ACLU graphic, in a similar fashion to other Dash buttons.

While this is a somewhat roundabout way to donate to ACLU, which support recurrent donations each month, the ACLU Dash button does provide more gratification to people. There’s nothing like reading the latest move by the administration and then pressing the button in retaliation.

What do you think about the ACLU Dash button?

Image credit: Nathan Pryor

Google Cloud Search Is The Latest G Guite Search Engine

google cloud search

The Google Cloud Search will be a new search tool, available and including all the G Suite products.

February 07 saw the release of the Google Cloud Search. This will be a new search tool, available and including all the G Suite products.

Google was quite busy over these past few days. Just recently, it announced a series of product updates. And today, it also launched a new or perhaps upgraded tool. On Tuesday, the Internet giant company released the Google Cloud Search.

This new tool will especially target the company’s business customers. And is based on Springboard. Google Cloud Search offers almost the same services as this latter. But at the same time, it is publicly available.

Springboard was described as a sort of Google Now. Also targeting enterprise workers, it only saw a limited preview release. Presently, Google took Springboard and developed it into the Google Cloud Search.

Google announced the release of its newest tool through a blog post. This was posted on the official company site. And it went to offer some details about the Google Cloud Search.

According to the post, Google Cloud Search should offer a smart business solution. It makes use of the best Google Search features. And then combines them with machine learning. As such, it should offer the best results across the G Suite products.

Google Cloud Search was designed to provide two important elements. It should offer a comprehensive search throughout the various services. And at the same time, it can also offer proactive recommendations. Both factors should help the client throughout the day.

Google Cloud Search will work across all the G Suite services. These include products such as the Gmail or Drive. And also Docs, Calendar, and others.

The new search tool was specifically designed for larger companies. It can be accessed by both individuals and various groups as their search for files in their networks. Nonetheless, Cloud Search will respect the file-sharing permission. As such, a user will only have access to the files to which they were granted permission.

Google Cloud Search will also work as a directory service. This means that a user will be able to view and search for various information on their colleagues. For example, they could search for their contact information. Or they could preview if they share files or events.

Based on this colleague search, the user will also have various contact options. They can choose to send them an email. Or perhaps even a Hangout request or direct phone call.

Cloud Search will have a card-style design. This will present the request information. And it will retain the format, no matter the device type. The tool will also employ machine intelligence. With time, it will start highlighting information. This will be selected in accordance with the user’s previous interests.

Such information will be presented through “assist cards”. As they are based on machine learning, they should also start getting more accurate as the user makes use of them.

Google Cloud Search will also pop up various things. For example, it will offer meeting reminders. Or pull up recently accessed files or notes.

Cloud Search is being rolled out across the G Suite Enterprise and Business editions. Registered users should be able to access it over the following days. Google also announced some of its future plans for the tool. Google Cloud Search could be getting third-party app support. And it may also gain other features over time.

Image Search: Flickr

Google Maps Adds Traffic, Transit and Places Tabs

Google Maps tabs

Google Maps has new places, transit, traffic information tabs.

Google Maps has received a new update which includes new traffic and transit information spread across three easily accessible tabs, alongside a slew of new features and improvements. This new update only consolidates the status of Google Maps as the best navigation app.

The new update allows the user to easily access, just with a swipe up, some of the most frequently-used information on the app. Swiping up from the home screen provides users with a lot more information regarding the current traffic conditions in their vicinity, as well as schedules of various public transit services. You can also see and find out more about the closest places to drink or eat, pharmacies, ATMs, and other public locations.

Alongside the newly released update for Google Maps, the company also published a blog post explaining that the new features are meant to provide users with helpful everyday information, near their current location.

The new interface can be accessed from the home menu with just a simple swipe up. This will bring up three different tabs for traffic, transit, and places.  The first tab is reserved for showing you all the nearby locations and places such as select restaurants, cafes, bars, and more. All the places are organized under various categories like “cheap eats”, best dinners”, and more. This list of places was developed by Google for over a year and it was first introduced in the Explore section of Google Maps.

The tab also provides important information and a short description of the neighborhood where nearby stores like pharmacies, gas stations, grocery stores, and ATMs are located in.

The second tab provides users with estimated time of arrivals to their destination in real-time, based on the condition of the traffic, as long as you have the addresses saved in the app. The update also adds a feature to alert users about upcoming delays in traffic without providing detailed information about their route.

The last tab coming in the new Google Maps update shows users the best way to reach their destination via public transit. It has the full schedule of transit services, updated in real-time. It also provides an ETA for arrival at your destination.

While most of these features already existed in Google Maps, the new update makes them more accessible.

Image credit: Google