The New York Times Co. is girding for a legal battle that many larger organizations have avoided. The Washington Post reports.
The Times is leading the defense of a diverse group of companies that use technology they assumed was free: sending text messages with Web links to mobile phones.
The technology was patented by inventor Richard J. Helferich, who filed an outline of how such a system would work with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in September 1997. He was granted several patents on the method, giving him the right to sue companies that use it without permission.
Since 2008, his company, Helferich Patent Licensing, has filed 23 suits against companies ranging from Best Buy Co. to the National Basketball Association, claiming they are infringing on his intellectual property.
HPL offers companies the chance to settle by paying a one-time fee of $750,000. Many companies gladly pay, rather than getting bogged down in a court fight that could cost millions. Roughly 100 companies have settled with HPL already, it says, including Apple Inc., The Walt Disney Co. and McDonald's Corp.
The Times' general counsel, Kenneth Richieri, says he wants to prevent Helferich's patents from becoming a burden on activities that are commonplace in the digital age.
A new report from IHS says that smartphones will account for half the market in 2013, two years earlier than the firm had earlier predicted.
The research firm breaks phones into three categories: Smartphones, feature phones and basic, low-cost phones. Smartphones will already be more plentiful than feature phones this year, IHS says, though they won’t quite pass the 50 percent threshold. That’s up from just 35 percent of the worldwide market last year.
An ingestible sensor, Proteus, is a brand-new device that can monitor a variety of health metrics from within the patient’s body. Springwise reports via @jranck
Just cleared by the FDA late last month, this new ingestible sensor from California-based Proteus Digital Health is about the size of a grain of sand and can be integrated into an inert pill or medicine. Once in the stomach, it is powered solely by contact with stomach fluid and communicates a unique signal that identifies the timing of ingestion.
This information is transferred through the user’s body tissue to a battery-operated patch worn on the skin that detects the signal along with physiological and behavioral metrics such as heart rate, body position and activity. That data, in turn, gets relayed by the patch to a mobile application, where it can be made accessible by caregivers and clinicians.A video below explains the premise in more detail.
Lady Gaga has almost 30 million, Wayne Rooney nearly five million and David Cameron a more-than-respectable two million plus. But how many of their Twitter followers actually exist? The Guardian reports.
... British start-up company Status People has pledged to root out and expose the phantom, fake and fraudulent followers being used to massage the numbers claimed by celebrities, politicians and the merely insecure within the Twittersphere.
Almost every Twitter account has a small percentage of fake followers because, unlike Facebook, anyone can follow you – from a genuine friend to a computer-generated account set up to promote pornography. That freedom has created a market for the sale of Twitter followers. Scores of internet sites offer thousands of Twitter followers for small sums of money. According to the New York Times, it would be possible to buy 220,000 followers for £260.
The sites work in two ways. One kind of software identifies Twitter accounts that include keywords such as football, and "follows" these accounts in the hope they will reciprocate. Other programmes create artificial accounts and sell them by the thousand. On the Fiverr website, 2,000 followers can be bought for $5.
Acknowledging the annoyance factor, the FAA is forming a government-industry study panel and seeking public comment about the possible use of portable electronic devices — read Kindle, iPad, others — and more specifically voice over IP communications during flights. Skift reports.
The study could potentially mean that one day soon that passenger next to you in the window seat may be loudly negotiating a business deal or gossiping with his girlfriend over Skype while you are trying to catch some sleep or are contemplating the universe.
The use of cell phones for regular voice communications is not on the agenda, however.
This is all part of an FAA initiative to possibly expand the use of portable electronic devices — tablets, smartphones, laptops — during all phases of flight without compromising airline navigation and communications systems.
The government-industry group will study the issues over six months, and public comment is being sought over the next 60 days.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the person is driving, of course, but combined with GPS and other data, it may be possible to determine when a texter is behind the wheel. In that case, the phone could shut off texting functions automatically. Such a feature could take the form of a mobile app for any phone—independent of the manufacturer, operating system and wireless service provider.
... The PNNL researchers are hoping their work can help in ways that laws cannot—using the phones themselves to flag those who can’t resist the impulse to text and drive. They tested their approach in a limited study a few years ago by analyzing the behavior of six study participants who were instructed to text while operating a driving simulator.
Marking the beginning of what could be a revolution in U.S. campaign finance, the Obama campaign said on Thursday it is wrapping up agreements with Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel Corp, U.S. Cellular and T-Mobile USA to open the floodgate for donations by text this week.
In the coming days, voters are likely to start seeing a message on video screens at Obama rallies, at the end of ads or on fliers, encouraging them "to contribute $10 to Obama for America, text GIVE to 62262."
The campaign of Republican Mitt Romney, Obama's rival in the November 6 election, has supported the notion of text donations in the past. It is expected to follow suit for its own short code of 466488, although has not made any announcements yet.
On the subway, in doctor's waiting rooms and during college lectures, millions of Japanese can be found glued to their smartphones. But they're not texting or making phone calls — they're playing video games. npr reports.
In the U.S., video games are usually played on computers and consoles, like the PlayStation or Wii, but in Japan, gaming has migrated to smartphones.
With an ice coffee in one hand and an iPhone in the other, grad student Yoshiro Hinoki is fixated on slaying tiny cartoon monsters.
"I like that you can play games whenever you have a few minutes, and, for just a little money, you get quick results," he says. "I like that feeling of achievement."
Hinoki is one of an estimated 40 million users — that's one out of every three Japanese — who have signed up to play games on their cell phones. Only about a third of these players are active, but that's enough to have ignited a mobile gaming juggernaut over the last few years, dominated by a few Japanese startups.
"The majority of these games are designed in a way that they can be played in short bursts, in five-minute to 10-minute intervals, because most people don't like to use games on their mobile devices for extended gaming sessions," Toto says.
All those minutes of play add up to huge revenues. Morgan Stanley predicts that by next year, the mobile gaming business could be worth more than $5 billion. Meanwhile, old-school gaming companies like Nintendo, Sony and Sega are in decline.
They can be slipped into a suitcase and used almost anywhere to spy on mobile phone communications. IMSI catchers are high-tech portable devices used by law enforcement agencies across the world to secretly intercept conversations and text messages. But could they be abused for criminal purposes? The answer is yes, according to an alarming report from Europe last week. Slate reports.
IMSI catchers are advanced pieces of hardware that can be used to send out a signal, tricking mobile phones into thinking they are part of a legitimate mobile phone network.
The most sophisticated IMSI catchers, such as the one known to have been purchased by London’s Metropolitan Police, allow authorities to shut off targeted phones remotely and gather data about thousands of users in a specific area. They can force phones to release their unique IMSI and IMEI identity codes, which can then be used to track a person's movements in real time.
You’ve heard of blood diamonds. Now get ready for the debate over blood smartphones. Bloomberg reports.
On Wednesday the Securities and Exchange Commission is expected to vote on an obscure section of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law requiring manufacturers to disclose whether they buy certain metals -- tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold -- that have fueled years of war in Congo. The metals are used in consumer electronics including computer chips, digital cameras, video-game consoles and mobile phones.
Although the measure is not the slam-dunk it might seem at first glance -- some criticisms of it are reasonable -- the SEC should vote to adopt it. Doing so would help consumers make informed choices and strengthen a voluntary effort by high-tech companies to rid their supply chains of these “conflict minerals.”
Since the fall of President Mobutu Sese Seko in the late 1990s, civil conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has claimed more than 3 million lives. The eastern part of the country remains in disarray despite the presence of the world’s largest United Nations peacekeeping contingent and repeated efforts by the Congolese Army under President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan military forces to stamp out rebellious militias.
... Given the scope of the problem, the SEC measure is relatively weak. It would not forbid manufacturers from using minerals from any source; instead it would simply require about 6,000 companies to let consumers know where the minerals originated. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce objects that the sourcing would be prohibitively expensive, but the actions of many companies involved in the trade belie that claim.
Information technology is a powerful tool for experts working to provide secure access to water for personal use, food production and business in developing nations. Alert Net reports.
Giving poor people proper access to safe water and sanitation would save 2.5 million people a year from dying from diarrhoea and other diseases spread by a lack of hygiene, according to charity WaterAid.
The widespread availability of mobile phones has enabled the development of low-cost solutions aimed at improving water security and reducing poverty.
Three quarters of the world's 7 billion people have access to a mobile phone, according to a World Bank report. There are 6 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, of which almost 5 billion are in developing countries.
This is where mobile networks come in -- they have led to the development of communication services that aim to increase the transparency and reliability of water delivery. For example, mobile technology has allowed service providers to monitor water supply to prevent theft and leakages, while offering more effective repairs and billing.
But these innovative efforts still face huge political and logistical challenges, complicated by the risks linked to climate change, experts say.
Reuters reports that PayPal is in the early stages of what may be a blockbuster mobile payments deal with McDonald's Corp, the world's biggest hamburger chain.
McDonald's is testing a mobile payments service featuring PayPal at 30 of its restaurants in France.
PayPal is racing against start-up Square Inc and other technology companies to become the mobile payments service of choice as consumers increasingly use smart phones to make purchases in shops, restaurants and other retail locations.
The Indian government banned bulk text messages on Friday in an attempt to halt the exodus of thousands of migrant workers from Bangalore and other major cities following false warnings of attacks on them. The Telegraph reports.
An estimated 15,000 people from Assam and states in north-eastern India, many of whom suffer racial abuse and discrimination in other parts of the country, have fled India’s IT capital and other cities including Chennai, Mumbai and Pune, after receiving text messages warning them of imminent attacks.
The messages spread panic among the north-eastern minorities who were already fearful following recent clashes between members of Assam’s Bodo tribe and Bangladeshi settlers in in the state. More than 30,000 are reported to have fled the area following the clashes which continued on Thursday, but their effect has been felt throughout India.
An Australian-developed iPhone app that cheekily claims to "increase teen pregnancy" has been attacked by family planning groups as irresponsible. stuff reports.
The app, which went live yesterday morning and has already skyrocketed to number one in the entertainment category in the Australian app store enables users to "impregnate anyone you meet simply by taking a photo of them, marking up the image and pressing a button".
"Knocked App means you can meet someone and conceive with them with just the press of a button," it boasts.
It digitally alters images to give subjects the appearance of being nine months' pregnant.
Angus Mullane, from Appy Dude, who developed the app - the Sydney start-up's first - says already hundreds of users are posting pregnant photos of themselves on Facebook to "scare" their friends and family.
"We really just wanted to give people a laugh. It's had an amazing response," he said. "It's all over Facebook with teenage girls scaring their mums and stuff like that."
However, family planning groups have called for the app to be withdrawn from sale.
A new service — to be created jointly by Wal-Mart, Target and other retailers — could give customers an easier way to combine their digital wallet, instant coupons, gift cards and loyalty points in one app. USA Today reports.
The announcement by retailers on Wednesday to create the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) is also a line in the sand drawn to remind banks, credit card companies, Google, wireless carriers and technology start-ups that they aren't about to give up control of customers' wallets without a fight. They also see the technology as a way to cut the fees they pay others for processing customer transactions.
Several competitors have a head start in this lucrative market. Worldwide mobile payments are estimated to grow 62% this year to $172 billion and could reach $617 billion by 2016, research firm Gartner says.
SMS has been a goldmine for operators over the past decade because the simple mobile phone messaging service yields profit margins greater than 90%. The Dutch operators kept SMS pricing higher than most European markets — and the country is now the ground zero of the SMS volume decline trend. BGR reports.
But Austria — another small, affluent European country bordering on Germany — still reported 13% growth in SMS volumes during the first quarter this year. In nearby France, SMS volumes are also still growing. Why are the European texting trends all over the map, even among neighboring countries?
KPN has publicly cited WhatsApp as one major reason for the Dutch decline in text-messaging volumes. Recently, the operator attempted to levy an extra charge for WhatsApp users, only to be slapped down by the Dutch parliament.
WhatsApp is particularly dangerous because of a combination of appealing group-messaging and file transfer features, which make it a richer platform than SMS.
... In both France and Austria, the app remained successful for a long time without turning into a national obsession. Until it did; WhatsApp has been the No.1 app in both countries nearly every day so far in August.
Just as remarkable as the power of mobility, over everything from love to learning to global development, is how fast it all happened. It is hard to think of any tool, any instrument, any object in history with which so many developed so close a relationship so quickly as we have with our phones. Not the knife or match, the pen or page. Only money comes close—always at hand, don’t leave home without it. But most of us don’t take a wallet to bed with us, don’t reach for it and check it every few minutes, and however useful money is in pursuit of fame, romance, revolution, it is inert compared with a smart phone—which can replace your wallet now anyway.
A typical smart phone has more computing power than Apollo 11 when it landed a man on the moon. In many parts of the world, more people have access to a mobile device than to a toilet or running water; for millions, this is the first phone they’ve ever had.
In the U.S., close to 9 in 10 adults carry a mobile, leaving its marks on body, mind, spirit. There’s a smart-phone gait: the slow sidewalk weave that comes from being lost in conversation rather than looking where you’re going. Thumbs are stronger, attention shorter, temptation everywhere: we can always be, mentally, digitally, someplace other than where we are.
So how do we feel about this? To better understand attitudes about mass mobility, Time, in cooperation with Qualcomm, launched the Time Mobility Poll, a survey of close to 5,000 people of all age groups and income levels in eight countries: the U.S., the U.K., China, India, South Korea, South Africa, Indonesia and Brazil. Even the best survey can be only a snapshot in time, but this is a crisp and textured one—revealing a lot about both where we are now and where the mobile wave is taking us next.
A plea to text “donate” to 62262 (that’s O-B-A-M-A) may be coming to a political ad near you. The Washington Post reports.
The Federal Election Commission announced Wednesday that it has approved legal guidance that will allow small political donations to be added to cellphone bills when a campaign supporter sends a specific text message.
The agency unanimously approved two opinions spelling out technical details of how the proposals from Republican and Democratic firms would comply with the complex requirements of campaign finance law. It was an unusually swift move from an agency that’s known for foot dragging and partisan gridlock.
Texting while driving contributes to nearly 100,000 crashes causing injury or death per year. Loathe to be held responsible for such a grim statistic, AT&T has announced a campaign to stop texting while driving as well as an app to help curb the practice. Read Write Web reports.
AT&T announced a new public awareness effort today as part of its ongoing “It Can Wait” initiative to bring attention to the dangers of texting while driving.
The campaign calls for people to make a lifelong commitment to safe texting. It will culminate with a “No Text On Board” pledge day on September 19.
A new bill (hopefully) reconciles Fourth Amendment protections and 21st-century search and seizure. The Atlantic reports.
A month ago, we learned that more (and maybe many, many more) than 1.3 million people's cell phone data were handed over to US law enforcement agencies in 2011 alone. Text messages, caller locations, and records of who called whom and for how long had all been shared without a judges' approval -- because, according to current law, no approval is needed.
Last week, the Congressman who helped reveal how rampant and unregulated that sharing is introduced legislation to start restraining it. Called the "Wireless Surveillance Act of 2012," the new bill, in the words of its Massachusetts's Edward Markey, attempts to "update the 4th amendment for the 21st century."
-- limit how and why enforcement agencies can ask for "tower dumps." Tower dumps, in the words of ProPublica reporter Megha Rajaopalan:
-- list every phone in range of a cell tower at a particular time. In cities, where cell towers are located close together, it is possible that the locations of thousands of people might be swept up in a single request.
According to the Congressman, the new bill would tailor the kind of information that can be requested in "dumps" and make them less frequent.
Email addresses are the keys to the kingdom of all our personal data. A foolproof way to limit your exposure to such attacks is to sign up to different services using as many different un-guessable email addresses as possible. On Tuesday, an app called Gliph made that really easy to do. ReadWriteWeb reports.
Gliph is a free app for iPhone, Android and the mobile Web. You can use it to send encrypted text messages to other Gliph users with as much or as little personal information exposed as you want. And starting today, you can also use it to send and receive email to anyone through your regular email client without ever exposing your identity or information.
Not only can you use Gliph email to sign up for other services without exposing yourself to a hacking, you can use it for Craigslist transactions or any other kind of temporary encounter where you want to exchange contact info.
Out of its over 900 million monthly active users, more than half — 488 million — already use Facebook on mobile, and that number is steadily growing. All ThingsD reports.
Its mobile ad strategy is already showing significant engagement, with click-through rates 14 times higher on mobile than desktop ads. But Facebook is still new to the mobile game, and has more to offer. With the right strategy, it could even save the entire mobile advertising industry.
What’s the problem with mobile advertising?
An increasing number of mobile users are connecting to the Internet via Wi-Fi, which makes it impossible to use important targeting information, like wireless carrier, to send more relevant ads to mobile users. Compared to ads served to users connecting via wireless network, those served to users connecting via Wi-Fi perform noticeably worse.
A mobile user’s carrier reveals a lot about who they are and how they might interact with an ad — information that’s essential for an ad to reach its target audience and to ultimately be profitable.
Wi-Fi is a growing barrier to the success of mobile ads, and will become a bigger point of discussion as the amount of Wi-Fi traffic picks up — it’s expected to be 51 percent of all Web traffic by 2016.
And Wi-Fi isn’t the only issue: third-party browsers also hide the device type, and since they use proxy IPs, they often conceal the country location of the user as well — which makes it impossible to accurately target relevant ads, and results in massive losses for mobile advertisers.