Apple launches own credit card, streaming service

March 25, 2019

The California-based tech giant has unveiled a raft of new products including a subscription video service and a fee-free credit card as part of its new focus on services rather than devices.

Apple Card 

Apple Card (Image: Apple)

The Apple Card will be available as both a physical card and in digital format within the Apple Wallet. The company says it has been “designed to help customers lead a healthier financial life.” The card which will become available in summer 2019 to US customers offers users cashback on purchases and will be free of fees, including annual, late, and international fees, according to the company’s VP of Apple Pay, Jennifer Bailey.

“Apple Card builds on the tremendous success of Apple Pay and delivers new experiences only possible with the power of iPhone,” said Bailey. “Apple Card is designed to help customers lead a healthier financial life, which starts with a better understanding of their spending so they can make smarter choices with their money, transparency to help them understand how much it will cost if they want to pay over time and ways to help them pay down their balance.”


Apple TV+

Apple TV+ (Image: Apple)

Inspired by the success of other streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, the tech corporation also unveiled its own hotly-anticipated video subscription service. The Apple TV+ app will include shows from providers including HBO and Hulu as well as original content starring the likes of  Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Octavia Spencer, J.J. Abrams and Jason Momoa, many of whom were present at the Apple launch event which took place on 25 March 2019 in California, US. Legendary film director Steven Spielberg will also create original content for the service.

The app will not only be available  on Apple devices but for the first time on third-party platforms including Samsung smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Sony and LG.

Pricing and availability for the Apple TV+ video subscription service will be announced later this fall (autumn), the company said.

“We’re honored that the absolute best lineup of storytellers in the world — both in front of and behind the camera — are coming to Apple TV+,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “We’re thrilled to give viewers a sneak peek of Apple TV+ and cannot wait for them to tune in starting this fall. Apple TV+ will be home to some of the highest quality original storytelling that TV and movie lovers have seen yet.”

The company also announced Apple News+, a subscription news service providing readers with access to over 300 news and magazine titles including the Wall Street Journal, New Yorker, Esquire, Vogue and National Geographic. The platform will cost USD 9.99 (GBP 7.50) per month, and will be available immediately in the US and Canada and in Europe later this year.

In addition to this, the tech firm unveiled Apple Arcade, a gaming portal with over 100 games which will be available to play offline.

Source: Apple; BBC


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Driverless pods for the disabled to be trialled in Brighton

March 17, 2019

Aurrigo’s four-seat pod named ‘Arthur’ will run for six months at the Blind Veterans training and rehabilitation centre near Brighton. Image courtesy of Aurrigo

Autonomous vehicle specialist Aurrigo has joined forces with Blind Veterans UK to test-run its driverless pods designed to provide improved mobility for those with disabilities. The trial will last for six months starting in April 2019, and will take place at the Blind Veterans UK training and rehabilitation centre in Ovingdean, near Brighton. The Coventry-based company hopes to use the real-life experiences collected to improve its driverless technology going forward.

The four-person pod, dubbed ‘Arthur’ after the founder of Blind Veterans UK Sir Arthur Pearson, was designed in consultation with sight loss charity, Guide Dogs to suit the needs of people who are blind or vision impaired. This trial will be the first time those with a vision impairment will be trialling the pods themselves and with the pods providing a real service, the company said in its press release.

“This trial is intended to see how the pods operate in a real-life environment and how veterans interact with them. We want to know about all the good things and we also want to know about things that need to be better – this should inform the next evolution of the pod and the changes/additions we may need to incorporate into the design,” explained Miles Garner, sales and marketing director for Aurrigo.

“Having feedback from Blind Veterans UK and their members taking part will be a massive boost in improving our pods and making them more user-friendly for people with disabilities. This has never been done in the world before and we are delighted that Blind Veterans UK has helped make it happen.”

The pod travels at a maximum speed of 15mph off road and will run around the most popular parts of the training and rehabilitation centre, including the main entrance, the memorial bench, chapel and activity barn. One area the study will explore is the importance of voice activated controls.

“So many of the blind veterans we support say that not being able to drive is one of the most significant things that hits you when you lose your sight, Chief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB was reported as saying. “It’s another way of losing independence and can make people feel more isolated.”

“Anything we can do to assist and feedback on this new technology will hopefully benefit the lives of our veterans and the wider disabled community in the years to come.”

Source: Aurrigo


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Geoengineering could help cool the earth safely, new study suggests

March 17, 2019

Despite its potential to assuage climate change, climate experts are concerned that solar geoengineering, a term used to describe human intervention in the Earth’s climate system in order to reflect sunlight and thus reduce global warming, would have a negative impact on rainfall and storm patterns in some parts of the world. A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change, analyzing what would happen if the sun’s heat was turned down, now suggests side effects would be minimal.

Cooling the Earth enough to eliminate roughly half of warming, rather than all of it, generally would not make tropical cyclones more intense or worsen water availability, extreme temperatures or extreme rain, the Guardian reported. Only a small fraction of places, 0.4%, might see climate change impacts worsened, the study says.

While many are concerned that technological interventions to tackle climate change could deter sustainable efforts to reduce carbon emissions, a UN-approved report on limited climate change published last year suggested that geoengineering may be necessary, although it would come with major uncertainties.

David Keith, a Harvard professor in engineering and public policy, and co-author of the study, said the study’s main message was that “there is the possibility that solar geoengineering could really substantially reduce climate risks for the most vulnerable”.

“I am not saying we know it works and we should do it now,” he was quoted as saying. “Indeed, I would absolutely oppose deployment now. There’s still only a little group of people looking at this, there’s lots of uncertainty.”

The most likely method to mitigate the effects of climate change would involve spraying sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere on a global scale in order to reflect some of the sun’s heat.

However, critics of the study claim that the analysis did not take the ramifications of this course of action into account but looked only at what could happen if the heat of the sun was turned down.

“They focus in this paper on temperature and water availability in different regions,” Alan Robock, a geophysics professor and researcher at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said. “Those are only two things that would change with stratospheric aerosols.”

“We’re not able right now to say whether, if global warming continues, we should ever decide to start spraying this stuff into the stratosphere,” Robock said. “Would solar-radiation management, would geoengineering make it more dangerous or less dangerous?

“That’s the question we have to answer, and we don’t have enough information.”

Source: The Guardian


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Sony to move HQ out of UK to steer clear of Brexit difficulties

January 26, 2019

Technology giant Sony has announced plans to shift its European headquarters out of the UK by the end of March 2019 in order to avoid any customs issues as a result of Brexit. The Japanese electronics company, currently based in London, will register a new company in Amsterdam to ensure its European division remains registered in the EU. This will mean the bloc’s common customs procedures will continue to apply to the company’s European operations after the UK relinquishes its membership, Takashi Iida company spokesperson told Agence France-Presse. According to Iida, the move will not affect personnel and operations in the UK. “The only change we will make is the change of registered location of the company“, he said.

The company clarified its plans in a statement: “Sony Europe has established a new legal entity ‘Sony Europe B.V.’ in Amsterdam (NL) and will merge ‘Sony Europe Ltd,’ (UK) into that new entity. In this way we can continue our business as usual without disruption once the UK leaves the EU.

The news came after Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe warned that a no-deal Brexit could have consequences for Japanese businesses in the UK. “Japan and the UK have been building a very strong partnership, not only in the political arena but also the economic arena,” he said. “For Japan, the UK is the gateway to the European marketJapanese businesses have created 1,000 bases in the UK offering more than 150,000 jobs.

Sony is the latest in a string of Japanese firms, including Panasonic and Nomura Holdings, who have said they are looking at options to shift their bases from the UK.

With a diversified business including consumer electronics, gaming, entertainment and financial services, Sony is ranked at 97 in the Fortune Global 500 list. It was founded in 1946 by Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita, and today employs over 117,000 worldwide. The company’s Japanese headquarters, dubbed Sony City, is located in Kōnan, MinatoTokyo.

Source: Agence France Presse, The Independent


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Japan and India to enter technology partnership  

October 25, 2018

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will announce the plans, which will see the two nations share their respective technological talents and expertise, during Modi’s visit to Japan set to begin on Sunday 28 October 2018.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2016

Japan is well known for being one of the most technologically-advanced countries in the world. As competition from other countries intensifies, however, the country is seeking new ways to retain its superior status. One of these is to attract the most talented minds from elsewhere. Its most recent move in this direction will see Japan sign a technology agreement with India to promote the development of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. “The partnership will include joint research, promotion of startups and development of human resources in both countries,” the newspaper said. The two countries have different strengths, with Japanese corporations excelling in areas such as infrastructure, consumer electronics, and automotive engineering, while Indian companies are renowned for expertise in software technology.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Tokyo this weekend. The agreement will be announced during his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

According to the report, research and development in digital technology will be a focus of the partnership. “The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Japan’s largest state-sponsored research institute, and the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad, are planning joint studies, initially in image recognition. The research may later expand into 5G mobile communications and robotics,” the Nikkei Asian Review stated.

Students from the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad, have also attended a briefing by The Japan External Trade Organization along with a number of Japanese companies, to emphasise Japanese companies‘ desire to recruit Indian talent. Interviews will start in December for students expected to graduate in June of 2019, at the companies’ Indian offices and at headquarters in Japan.

The two countries also hope to expand into one another’s markets, and recently opened a joint office Japan in Bangalore, home of India’s tech industry, in order to help facilitate this. At this office, India’s government will provide support to Japanese companies looking to expand in India, and help Japanese companies find local partners and talent. Japan, meanwhile, will invite Indian businesses with competitive technologies and ideas to Japan, and help them collaborate with large Japanese companies.

Source: Nikkei Asian Review


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Japan and China to collaborate on Thai smart city as first of 50 joint projects

October 25, 2018

The smart city will be built in Chonburi, Thailand

As part of their growing economic cooperation, Japan and China will announce their commitment to collaborate on around 50 private-sector, third-country infrastructure projects when they meet in Beijing on Friday, 26 October 2018, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. The first will see them set out plans to work together to build a smart city in Thailand, with construction to begin as early as this year.

Japanese urban development and green technology company Yokohama Urban Solution Alliance (YUSA) will work with low-cost Chinese construction company JSCC and Thailand’s largest builder and operator of industrial parks Amata, to upgrade an industrial park in the province of Chonburi, Thailand.

China hopes the partnership will be a boon for its controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – expected to be the world’s largest infrastructure project – while Japan believes it will benefit Japanese companies who often struggle to win bids against low-cost Chinese counterparts.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will also attend a forum on infrastructure investment attended by 1,400 company representatives from both nations during his visit to the Chinese capital.

The Chonburi smart-city is one of many such projects planned across for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as part of plans to transform the regions infrastructure as it experiences rapid urbanisation and dramatic population growth.

According to the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), “a smart and sustainable city is an innovative city that uses ICTs and other means to improve the quality of life, efficiency of urban operation and services and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social and environmental aspects”.

The trend for smart cities across the ASEAN region has created business opportunities for Japanese companies in a range of fields, including environmental technology, housing, automotives and public transportation, the Nikkei Asian Review said.

The Japan-China joint projects will also include more than 10 deals in finance. The automotive industry will also be involved, creating technologies for next generation vehicles while members of the oil and energy sector will collaborate to build hydrogen filling stations for fuel cell vehicles.

Source: Nikkei Asian Review


 

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Ground-breaking Japanese space rover sends video of sun seen from asteroid’s surface

September 28, 2018

The Japanese space agency JAXA made history last week by becoming the first to land a rover on an asteroid. It has now released a video taken from the asteroid’s surface showing the sun moving across the sky.

 

The rovers were in good condition as they landed and began transmitting images and data.  “The good news made me so happy. From the surface of Ryugu, MINERVA-II1 sent a radio signal to the Earth via Hayabusa2 S/C. The image taken by MINERVA-II1 during a hop allowed me to relax as a dream of many years came true. I felt awed by what we had achieved in Japan. This is just a real charm of deep space exploration,” Takashi Kubota, Spokesperson for the Hayabusa2 Project said of the successful rover landingHayabusa2, launched in December 2014, will attempt next month to collect samples from the asteroid and carry them back to Earth for scientists to study. It is believed studying the composition of asteroids can provide information about the formation of the solar system billions of years ago.

Discovered in 1999, Ryugu is a 1-km wide, diamond-shaped asteroid situated 186 million miles from Earth. According to JAXA, it was chosen as the subject of the Hayabusa2 mission because it is “rich in water and organic materials,” which allows scientists to “clarify interactions between the building blocks of Earth and the evolution of its oceans and life, thereby developing solar system science.”

It was named Ryugu after Ryūgū (Dragon Palace), a magical underwater palace in a Japanese folktale. The story tells of a fisherman who travels to the palace on the back of a turtle and returns carrying a mysterious box.

Source: JAXA


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