E-lerter App sends emergency alerts to your smartphone

According to its developer Jamie Brandt from the Alberta-based firm Stony Plain, the notification banner will not vanish until it has been acknowledged.

“That means you will not miss any important warnings,” he added.

The app users can also specify which area to scan for emergency alerts so that they would only receive local-specific news. According to Brandt, E-lerter makes sense as people have become more reliant on their mobile devices.
Mobile app ‘Ziman’ launched for women and children safety

With an aim of preventing rising crimes against women and children in the country, a new mobile application called ‘Ziman’, a 24×7 virtual protector, was launched by an IT company.

“With incidents of crime rising day by day, Zicom Electronic Security Systems Ltd, has created a unique mobile application to provide 24×7 response services to the victim in danger, besides informing their family members,” Pramoud Rao, Managing Director of the company said.

In a press release, the company claimed that during an emergency, one can activate ‘Ziman’ in five seconds by just pressing the power button on smartphone five times when the person is in any danger which will send out alerts to your emergency contacts requesting for help.

Even after an incident has occurred, Ziman helps by providing an emergency map that provides a list of emergency services located in the vicinity of the incident.

After the launch of this fingertip solution to prevent crimes, Zicom organized a panel discussion moderated by Viveck Shettyy, All India Head of Media Cell for CGSI and MD, Indus Communications, it said.

Apple Details A Modular Stylus That Can Capture Handwriting On Any Surface

Apple has a new patent granted by the USPTO today (via AppleInsider) that describes a new type of stylus in detail, which can capture handwriting from a user, on a variety of surfaces and with a range of writing nibs that let it also write on paper, whiteboards or even an iPad’s capacitive touchscreen.

The stylus design uses accelerometers and other motion sensors to track movement, and activates when it detects its been picked up, pressed to paper or taken out of a slot or holster for better power efficiency. It transmits data either in real-time, or in chunks at timed intervals to preserve battery life (sort of like how some fitness trackers ‘call home’ and sync occasionally with your smartphone so as not to incur the huge power draw of constant wireless connection).

In the patent, it’s described as being able to capture handwriting accurately whether the pen is used on a surface like a table, or against a wall, or even simply in air, thanks to the onboard 3D motion sensors. It can work to reflect writing in real-time on separate displays, allowing it to be used for live rough work in a classroom setting, for instance, or as a central pool of real-time meeting notes for a small group.

The patent includes details of how the stylus could be used with different nibs or pen heads to write on different materials, so that it can be used with ink in notebooks, or with graphite for pencil drawings, or with markers for whiteboards. A capacitive nib would allow it to also work as a traditional stylus for use with devices like the iPad and the iPhone.

Apple’s stylus patent is not new – it was first filed in January, 2010. The tech in the patent might provide a bit of a challenge to execute well, given that Livescribe, a company that specializes in creating exactly this type of thing, still requires additional hardware like specialized notebooks to work effectively. Still, it’s a worthwhile reminder that Apple has invested resources in this direction, especially given that we’ve heard rumors of an upcoming 12-inch version of the iPad, which is something a stylus would complement nicely.

Microsoft Courting App Developers, Eyeing Android App Support

The Windows Phone app ecosystem falls well behind Android and iOS, and Microsoft is obviously looking at ways to boost it. The company has reportedly ordered its Developer Experience (DX) team, a.k.a Developer and Platform Evangelism (DPE), to lure more Windows and Windows Phone app developers. The firm is also reportedly planning to give Windows 10 native Android app support.

Microsoft in November revealed it had over 525,000 apps in the Windows Store and Windows Phone Store combined. To put that in perspective, both Google Play and App Store have over 1.3 million apps.

Microsoft has previously taken several strides towards improving the Windows Phone and Windows app offerings and experience. The firm had recently started accepting ‘Universal Apps’ for its app stores, letting developers create an app once and scale it accordingly as per the platform and device, instead of creating separate versions for separate devices. ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, a long-time Microsoft watcher, claims this is still ‘Plan A’ in Microsoft’s strategy to boost the Windows and Windows Phone app ecosystem.

(Also See:Idea, Microsoft Partner to Offer Carrier Billing for Windows Phone Store)

By linking two apps across the two stores, developers were able to offer the ‘get once and download for all compatible Windows devices’ experience, apart from being able to link in-app purchases, and both Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 apps. Linked apps also give developers the ability to roam application data across form factors, and a single notification channel. Microsoft has also outlined consolidated price tiers and consistent certification policies between the Windows Store and Windows Phone Store.

The DPE/DX team is now reportedly been ordered to aggressively attract eye independent software vendors (ISVs), from startups to more established companies. The team is said to also be looking to recruit students, and also developers not currently supporting Microsoft platforms. ISV outreach teams across the company are apparently also being consolidated, apart from plenty of other reorganisation within Microsoft to achieve the same effect. The outreach teams are reportedly also looking to work with venture capital firms to get an inside track on app development startups, with Microsoft Ventures Accelerators also being roped in.

Foley adds that Microsoft’s ‘Plan B’ is to enable native support for Android apps on its Windows and Windows Phone platforms. Sources close to the matter have added that it can be a possibility in Windows 10, which was unveiled this year in September and the consumer preview of which is expected to be unveiled at Microsoft’s January 21 event.

Palm-Branded Android Phones May Launch Soon, Courtesy Alcatel One Touch

If you are aware of the history of smartphones, then you might remember mobile-computing company Palm and its popular products the Palm Centro and Palm Pre smartphones.
But if you haven’t heard of these, then you might hear it soon, as reports suggest that the Palm brand could soon make its comeback.

It’s been rumoured that Wide Progress Global Limited, which recently acquired the Palm brand and trademarks from HP, was actually holding these trademarks for TCL Communication’s Alcatel One Touch brand.

While there is nothing official about it, the relation has been interpreted from disparate evidence, such as Nicolas Zibell’s listing as Vice President for Wide Progress Global during the trademark acquisition. Zibell is also the Senior Vice President of Alcatel’s American unit.

Also, the Palm’s official website is now redirecting users to a site named mynewpalm.com, which along with the orange Palm logo features a slogan underneath that reads “Coming Soon” apart from “Smart move”. The latter is the same tagline employed by Alcatel One Touch.

All of this suggests that Alcatel One Touch may have purchased Palm trademarks with the intent to launch a Palm-branded phone, probably in the US market where the Palm brand is best known. Alcatel One Touch is best known for its mid-range and budget Android smartphones, and it is being speculated that if the company does launch a Palm-branded phone, it will run Android.

The Palm brand was quite popular at a point in the US. As of August 2008, company’s Palm Centro was the second-ranked US smartphone, based on internet traffic responsible for 78 percent of the traffic on Palm devices.

At CES 2009, Palm had introduced the Palm Pre with its acclaimed webOS operating system and launched it June 2009. The firm was later bought by HP in early 2010, before the PC maker sold webOS to LG in 2013.

Stranded, they dig up troves of Antarctic data

Rescued scientists bring back a warning about changes at the southern ice cap

The voyage was meant to retrace the steps of Douglas Mawson, the great polar explorer and scientist who led the Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911. What happened instead captured the world’s attention, something none of the scientists, journalists and paying public aboard could have foreseen.

The Akademik Shokalskiy got stuck in ice on Christmas Day 2013 only two weeks after leaving New Zealand. A rescue mission swung into operation. Chinese, French and Australian icebreakers hurried to the scene only to be defeated by the ice floes.

With no icebreaker able to smash way through, a Chinese helicopter, Xue Ying (Snow Eagle), rose into the air for the first of five flights to ferry passengers from the stricken ship. A core crew remained behind to sail vessel home once conditions allowed.

Media interest in the expedition faded after the rescue, but in the year since expedition leader Chris Turney and his team have been busy. Scientific samples and measurements from the voyage are being turned into research papers that reveal striking changes at the southern ice cap. And rather than feeling discouraged about expeditions that are funded by paying passengers, Mr. Turney is more enthusiastic than ever.

“Once we got back home and made sure everyone was all right, we got on with working up the data and getting a whole load of papers ready for submission,” he said.

Like the rescue mission, this involved plenty of waiting. “It took nearly six months to get all the samples through quarantine.” Simple observations told unhappy stories. Trawls of water reeled in hauls of plastic rubbish, now seemingly ubiquitous in the world’s oceans. On land, counts of Adelie penguins revealed the population had slumped near Mawson’s huts in Commonwealth Bay in East Antarctica. The birds are now commuting 40 miles to get food for their young.

“Another 10 years there probably won’t be many left,” said Mr. Turney. The numbers of skuas seemed to have fallen too.

Commonwealth Bay has experienced substantial changes in recent years. In summertime fierce katabatic winds blow off the continent and chill the surrounding surface water to freezing point. The freshly created ice blows out to sea, as if on a production line. But the freezing process leaves behind cold, dense water that sinks to the sea floor, forming part of an oceanic current that drives circulation on a global scale.

The ocean circulation at Commonwealth Bay was disrupted in 2010 after an enormous iceberg, B09B, arrived. The 30 mile—long slab of ice smashed into the nearby Mertz glacier tongue and grounded itself at the entrance to the bay. That blocked the exit for fresh sea ice. As the ice built up, the ocean conveyor system partially closed down.

Such changes were bound to impact on life beneath the ice. Scientists inspected ecosystems on the sea floor. “You see this remarkable transition with the expansion of sea ice. A lot of kelp and other life on the seabed is dead or dying. We’re seeing instead much of the deeper flora and fauna, as they come up from the deeper seabed because there’s an ecological niche to be filled,” said Mr. Turney. The shift in the ecosystem is expected to have impacts all the way up the food chain.

‘Make in India’ promises to reignite growth: Cyrus Mistry

Tata Group Chairman Cyrus Mistry on Wednesday said the Narendra Modi government’s ‘Make in India’ campaign holds the “promise of reigniting growth in the years to come”.

“Amidst a complex and unpredictable geopolitical environment, we find that new opportunities have emerged, but equally, several challenges persist. In India, recent policy measure and strategic direction defined by the government, especially its ambitious ‘Make in India’ campaign, hold the promise of reigniting growth in the years to come,” he said in his New Year message to the employees of the group.

“Globally, major markets seem to be on two different growth tracks. Some countries, such as the U.S. and the U.K., continue to show signs of recovery and growth.

“On the other hand, the large economies of China and Europe fell short of growth expectations. This has led to a fall in global commodity markets, which offers both challenges and opportunities.”

“The customers and the markets we know are evolving. Today, emerging technologies in the digital and physical space are transforming business at a pace never seen before.

“We must deepen our understanding in several areas such as digitisation and big data analytics, and develop an innovation and technology roadmap to effectively serve evolving customer needs.”

In his letter to nearly 5.82 lakh employees, Mr. Mistry said that “keeping with our pioneering spirit that is core to the group, we look to continue to invest in R&D and in the development of new technologies, which will become an integral part of our companies’ strategies”.

Nasa’s RoboSimian to Help in Disaster Response Situations

Nasa researchers have designed a new ape-like robot for disaster response that can navigate dangerous situations and carry out complex tasks such as lifting debris off survivors.

The RobotSimian has four identical limbs that act as arms and legs. They move the robot across rough terrain and rubble but can also pick up and manipulate objects.

The robot designed by Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is headless but is covered with seven cameras that act as “eyes.”

It has wheels which the robot can coast on if the surface is smooth enough, CNN reported.

The RoboSimian is JPL’s entry into the DARPA Robotics Challenge, a 27-month-long competition among some of the world’s top robotic talent to create an emergency response robot.

During the competition, RoboSimian and up to 18 other finalists will attempt to drive a car, move across rubble, use a tool and climb stairs, all without a human controlling it.

The winning team will receive a USD 2 million prize, the report said.

In situations such as a nuclear disaster, one of these robots could go into environments too dangerous for human rescue workers and execute simple tasks such as lifting debris off survivors or turning off a valve.

Although, RoboSiman is slower than many of its competitors, the JPL team is working to increase the robot’s walking speed.

YOU ARE HERE:GADGETS HOMEAPPSAPPS NEWSApple Announces No Questions Asked 14-Day Refunds on App Store, iTunes in EU

It seems Apple has finally introduced a new return policy to tackle App Store and iTunes refunds in at least European countries.
Recent reports claimed that Apple has introduced a new 14-day “no-questions-asked return policy” for purchases through its App Store, iBooks, and iTunes storefronts.
Notably, Apple is yet to officially announce the new return policy, and it was spotted by a German publication iFun and later picked by 9to5mac. The report claims the new 14-day return policy is now available in several European countries such as Germany, France and the UK among others.

The updated legal terms and conditions page on Apple UK site notes, “Right of cancellation: If you choose to cancel your order, you may do so within 14 days from when you received your receipt without giving any reason, except iTunes Gifts which cannot be refunded once you have redeemed the code.”

“To meet the cancellation deadline, you must send your communication of cancellation before the 14-day period has expired,” it adds.

Earlier, Apple’s terms and conditions for the two stores stated, “Users had the right to withdraw from a transaction without charge and without giving any reason until delivery of the product has started,” according to 9to5mac.

The report points out that previously Apple stressed that “all sales and rentals of products are final”; though some exceptions were handled by Apple support.

The updated terms and conditions page further adds that the users who request for return will be refunded in 14 days via the same payment mode used for the transaction. It writes, “Effects of cancellation: We will reimburse you no later than 14 days from the day on which we receive your cancellation notice. We will use the same means of payment as you used for the transaction, and you will not incur any fees for such reimbursement.”

The current move by the Cupertino-based giant can be seen as an attempt to tackle the issue of adults and children racking up credit card bills by making “in-app” purchases, which the European Commission had raised back in July.

In comparison to Apple, Google, back in September, updated its refund-window for purchased apps on Google Play with a window of just 2 hours. Google’s ‘Return paid apps and games’ support page had noted “After purchasing an app or game on Google Play, you can return it within two hours for a full refund.”

Modi’s New Year gift: With ATMs and all, ‘Post Bank’ is readying itself to serve the poor

Things are fast progressing for India Post’s grand entry to banking industry.
As the latest step, on Tuesday, the NDA-government amended the Post Office Savings Bank General Rules, 1981 to permit select offices of Department of Posts to issue ATM cards to savings bank account holders and issue account statements, instead of the traditional passbooks.
Presently, the service will be limited to only those post branches, which are under the core banking solution (CBS) network. To put it simple, CBS makes possible real time operation of a bank account across all branches connected through the network.
That is the reason why a customer can transact in their accounts in any bank branches. Most Indian commercial banks have covered their entire branches under CBS.

For India Post, only 676 post offices are under the CBS network out of its total 1.55 lakh branches. Hence the ATM/account statement services will be initially limited to those branches. However, the department is currently undertaking a project to cover more number of branches under CBS as part of its IT-modernisation programme, besides increasing its ATM network to 2,800 by 2015.
The point to be noted here is with the permission to operate accounts through ATMs and issue account statements instead of a post office passbook, India post has already almost become a bank, albeit, in small scale, and if one exclude the credit operations business. A customer can keep their savings, draw statements, withdraw money from ATMs like in any other bank.
India Post already manages deposits worth ove Rs 6 lakh crore under its various deposit schemes.
To offer credit, however, the department needs to set up a formal bank. Early this month, a task force, headed by former cabinet secretary, TSR Subramanian and comprising of experts that includes former Infosys board member TV Mohandas Pai, had mooted the creation of a full fledged post bank that can undertake all kind of business activities including credit like a normal bank, focusing on the poorest segments of the country.
But that process will take time, since such an avtar requires a fresh legislation and capital infusion from the government. The norms do not permit government entities to apply for a small bank licence.
But the postal department can certainly take the first step forward to realize the dream of ‘Post Bank of India’ by becoming a payments bank, permissible under recent RBI guidelines. The deadline to apply for payments bank is on January 16. Getting a payments bank licence will be cakewalk for posts, since RBI is already is in favour of its candidature to become a bank.
India Post was among the 25 contenders for a full service banking licence last year but didn’t get into the final list since the UPA government at the time wasn’t keen on backing the move and refused to provide the department with the minimum capital required to set up a commercial bank.
RBI issued licences to only two from the 25–IDFC and Bandhan—for the full service operations but had observed that India Post can be given banking licences if government, technically the promoter of the proposed Post bank, gives its nod.
If financial inclusion is the topmost priority of the government, post bank’s entry into the banking can immensely benefit the poor, much more than the ongoing Jan Dhan Yojana, where state-run bankers are kept at gun point to meet the magical target numbers (Rs 10 crore in seven months), that in many cases has ended up in free distribution of duplicate bank accounts to existing account holders with loose KYC norms.
Force-feeding financial inclusion to the poor and unbanked has hardly worked in India in the past as is evident from large number of dormant accounts under the massive no-frills account opening drive under the RBI and previous UPA-government. Instead, preparing the ground, where poor is given easy access to the formal financial system, can work better if the intent is the real inclusion.
And no one knows the unbanked farmer, vegetable vender or daily laborer in the villages more than the postman. They KYC process is already done and the villager will trust the Postman to keep his small savings than a brand-new bank.
Of its total network, about 1,39,040 post offices are in rural areas. Going by a 2011 estimate of the postal department, about 6,000 people are covered on average by post-offices in rural areas and about 24,000 in urban areas.
Through its various saving schemes, Postal department handles deposits to the tune of Rs 6,00,000 crore.
The department only needs to manage the fresh resources needed to undertake full-service banking operations; the infrastructure is already present.
As Firstpost has noted several times before, the entry of post to the scene can change the game in banking. May be, that’s the best gift Modi can offer to India’s poor in 2015.

Chaos Computer Club identifies means to exploit biometric systems

Europe’s largest association of hackers, called Chaos Computer Club, has stated at the 31st annual Chaos Computer Club convention in Hamburg, Germany that it can reproduce anyone’s fingerprints from a couple of photos which show your fingers.

Gizmodo reported that, Jan Krissler detailed in an hour-long presentation on how he recreated German Defence Minister, Ursula von der Leyen’s fingerprints using only a “standard photo camera” and publicly available software called VeriFinger. Krissler notes that the method can also be applied to bypass facial recognition as a means of biometric authentication. After his talk, he quipped, “politicians will presumably wear gloves when talking in public.”

Despite the claims, however, VentureBeat points out that this doesn’t completely denounce biometrics as a reliable form of security, though it does show a pretty big hole that can be exploited and really only stresses that fingerprint security, Touch ID or otherwise, should only be one layer to your secure digital life.

Should this technology get in the wrong hands, it could pose a major threat to services that rely on biometric systems for security. It could give hackers access to confidential information, including those saved on mobile devices, and even help them break into restricted places such as private organisations.