Category Archives: Technology

silicon valley & technology news

Reddit Value at $3B After $300M in Finance Led by Tencent

Social media service Reddit Inc. says it has raised $300 million in a financing round led by Chinese internet giant Tencent.

Reddit’s CEO, Steve Huffman, told CNBC on Monday that values the privately held company at $3 billion.

Half the new money came from Tencent, Asia’s most valuable tech company. Other investors included Sequoia, Fidelity, Andreessen Horowitz, Quiet Capital, VY and Snoop Dogg.

The announcement prompted criticism of Reddit for linking itself with a company from China, where the ruling Communist Party enforces extensive online censorship. Access to Reddit is blocked in China.

Tencent operates online games and popular WeChat social media service. It owns 40 percent of “Fortnite” creator Epic Games and 15 percent of photo service Snap.

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Smart Watch Fights Flu and Diabetes, Helps Couples Get Pregnant

Scientists are helping patients fight flu, diabetes and other maladies with the help of a smart watch that monitors body chemistry for blood sugar, sweat and other data. Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas say it can also help couples get pregnant by tracking the stress. Mariia Prus traveled to Texas to learn more. Joy Wagner narrates her report.

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Top US University Suspends New Research Projects with Chinese Telecom Giant Huawei

One of the world’s top research universities, the U.S.-based University of California, Berkeley, has stopped new research projects with Huawei Technologies, a Chinese telecommunications giant.

The university’s suspension, which took effect on January 30, came after the U.S. Department of Justice filed criminal charges against the corporation and some of its affiliates two days earlier. The department announced a 13-count indictment against Huawei, accusing it of stealing trade secrets, obstruction of justice, violations of economic sanctions and wire fraud.

Vice Chancellor for Research Randy Katz said in a letter addressed to the Chancellor’s cabinet members the campus would continue to honor existing commitments with Huawei that provide funding for current research projects.

Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, has been under house arrest in Canada since December 1 for allegedly deceiving U.S. banks into clearing funds for a subsidiary that interacted with Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. Her extradition to the U.S. is pending.

Meng’s arrest has prompted some observers to question whether her detention was an attempt to pressure China in its ongoing trade war with the U.S.  She is the daughter of the corporation’s founder, a relationship that places her among the most influential corporate executives in China.

UC Berkeley and other leading U.S. universities, meanwhile, are getting rid of telecom equipment made by Huawei and other Chinese companies to prevent losing federal funds under a new national security law.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump alleges Chinese telecom companies are manufacturing equipment that allows the Chinese government to spy on users in other countries, including Western researchers working on innovative technologies.

UC Berkeley has removed a Huawei video-conferencing system, a university official said. The University of California, Irvine is also replacing Chinese-made audio-video equipment. Other schools, such as the University of Wisconsin, are reviewing their telecom suppliers.

The action is in response to a law Trump signed in August. A provision of the National Defense Authorization Act prohibits recipients of federal funding from using telecom and networking equipment made by Hauwei or ZTE.

Universities that fail to comply with the law by August 2020 could lose federal government research grants and other funding.

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Most of 2030’s Jobs Haven’t Been Invented Yet

More than two-thirds of jobs that today’s college students will have in 11 years haven’t been invented yet.

“Those who plan to work for the next 50 years, they have to have a mindset of like, ‘I’m going to be working and learning and working and learning, and working and learning,’ in order to make a career,” says Rachel Maguire, a research director with the Institute for the Future, which forecasts that many of the tasks and duties of the jobs that today’s young people will hold in 2030 don’t exist right now.

The Institute for the Future, a nonprofit that identities emerging trends and their impacts on global society, envisions that by 2030, we’ll be living in a world where artificial assistants help us with almost every task, not unlike the way email tries to finish spelling a word for users today.

Maguire says it will be like having an assistant working alongside you, taking on tasks at which the human brain does not excel.

“For the human, for the people who are digitally literate who are able to take advantage, they’ll be well-positioned to elevate their position, elevate the kind of work they can do, because they’ve got essentially an orchestra of digital technologies that they’re conducting,” she says. “They’re just playing the role of a conductor, but the work’s being done, at least in partnership, with these machines.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says today’s students will have eight to 10 jobs by the time they are 38.

And they won’t necessarily have to take time away from any one of those jobs for workforce training or to gain additional certifications related to their fields. Instead, they’ll partner with machines for on-the-job learning, wearing an augmented reality headset that will give them the information they need in real-time to get the work done.

“It eliminates the need for people to step away from income generating opportunities to recertify in order to learn a new skill so they can level up and earn more money,” Maguire says. “It gives the opportunity for people to be able to learn those kinds of new skills and demonstrate proficiency in-the-moment at the job.”

And forget about traditional human resources departments or the daunting task of looking for a job on your own. In the future, the job might come to you.

Potential employers will draw from different data sources, including online business profiles and social media streams, to get a sense of a person and their skill set.

Maquire says there’s already a lot of activity around turning employment into a matchmaking endeavor, using artificial intelligence and deep learning to help the right person and the right job find each other.

In theory, this kind of online job matching could lead to less bias and discrimination in hiring practices. However, there are potential pitfalls.

“We have to be cognizant that the people who are building these tools aren’t informing these tools with their own biases, whether they’re intentional or not,” Maguire says. “These systems will only be as good as the data that feeds them.”

Which leads Maguire to another point. While she doesn’t want to sound melodramatic or evangelical about emerging technologies, she believes it is critical for the public to get engaged now, rather than sitting back and letting technology happen to them.

“What do we want from these new technological capabilities, and how do we make sure we put in place the social policies and the social systems that will result in what it is we all want?” she says. “I have a deep concern that we’re just kind of sitting back and letting technology tell us what jobs we’ll have and what jobs we won’t have, rather than us figuring out how to apply these technologies to improve the human condition.”

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Apple to Contribute to Teen’s Education for Spotting FaceTime Bug 

Apple Inc. on Thursday rolled out software updates to iPhones to fix a privacy issue in its FaceTime video calling service, and said it would contribute toward the education of the Arizona teenager who discovered the problem. 

The software bug, which had let users hear audio from people who had not yet answered a video call, was discovered by a Tucson, Ariz., high school student Grant Thompson, who with his mother, Michele, led Apple to turn off FaceTime group chat as its engineers investigated the issue.

The technology giant said it would compensate the Thompson family and make an additional gift toward 14-year-old Grant’s education.

Apple also formally credited Thompson and Daven Morris from Arlington, Texas in the release notes to its latest iPhone software update.

“In addition to addressing the bug that was reported, our team conducted a thorough security audit of the FaceTime service and made additional updates to both the FaceTime app and server to improve security,” Apple said in a statement.

Two key U.S. House Democrats on Tuesday asked Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook to answer questions about the bug, saying they were “deeply troubled” by how long it took Apple to address the security flaw.

The company said last week that it was planning to improve how it handles reports of software bugs.

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Apple Puts Modem Engineering Unit Into Chip Design Group

Apple Inc has moved its modem chip engineering effort into its in-house hardware technology group from its supply chain unit, two people familiar with the move told Reuters, a sign the tech company is looking to develop

a key component of its iPhones after years of buying it from outside suppliers.

Modems are an indispensable part of phones and other mobile devices, connecting them to wireless data networks. Apple once used Qualcomm Inc chips exclusively but began phasing in Intel Corp chips in 2016 and dropped Qualcomm from iPhones released last year.

Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware technologies, took over the company’s modem design efforts in January, the sources said. The organizational move has not been previously reported.

Srouji joined Apple in 2008 to lead chip design, including the custom A-series processors that power iPhones and iPads and a special Bluetooth chip that helps those devices pair with its AirPods wireless headphones and other Apple accessories.

The modem efforts had previously been led by Rubén Caballero, who reports to Dan Riccio, the executive responsible for iPad, iPhone and Mac engineering, much of which involves integrating parts from the company’s vast electronics supply chain.

Apple declined to comment. Technology publication The Information previously reported that Apple was working to develop its own modem chip.

The Cupertino, California-based company has posted job listings for modem engineers in San Diego, a hub for wireless design talent because of Qualcomm’s longtime presence there and a place where Apple has said it plans to build up its workforce.

Apple’s effort to make its own modem chips could take years, and it is impossible to know when, or in what devices, such chips might appear.

“When you’re Apple, everything has to be good,” said Linley Gwennap, president of chip industry research firm The Linley Group. “There’s no room for some substandard component in that phone.”

5G on horizon

Apple’s investment in modem chips comes as carriers and other phone makers are rolling out devices for the next generation of faster wireless networks known as 5G.

Rival handset makers Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd already make their own modems.

Making its own modem chips would likely cost Apple hundreds of millions of dollars or more per year in development costs, analysts said, but could save it money eventually.

Modem chips are a major part of the cost of Apple devices, worth $15 to $20 each and likely costing Apple $3 billion to $4 billion for the 200 million or so iPhones it makes a year, said Bernstein analyst Stacy Rasgon.

Apple may also benefit by combining its modem chips with its processor chips, as Samsung, Huawei and most other phone makers do. That saves space and battery life, two important considerations if Apple introduces augmented reality features into future products.

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