Residents of a Johannesburg suburb have been offered a deal unavailable in the era of the Pied Piper – a free mobile phone for every resident who catches 60 of the rodents. The Guardian and Mail Guardian report via WMMNA.
The township of Alexandra has just turned 100 years old and was the young Nelson Mandela's first home when he moved to Johannesburg. Its cramped shacks and illegal rubbish dumps sit in brutal contrast with neighbouring Sandton, dubbed the wealthiest square mile in Africa.
The crumbling structures, leaking sewage and discarded piles of rotting food are a perfect breeding ground for rats, much to the torment of residents. There have reportedly been cases of children's fingers being bitten while they sleep.
In an attempt to fight back, city officials have distributed cages and the mobile phone company 8ta has sponsored the volunteer ratcatchers.
With the worst of Hurricane Sandy past, many D.C.-area residents have been hearing from far-flung friends checking in to make sure they're fine. But some denizens of Washington and the surrounding area have been getting unsolicited texts that don't come from old friends. The Atlantic reports.
On Twitter Tuesday night, political operatives and journalists reported receiving spam texts attacking President Obama. The texts come not from phone numbers but from email addresses, most with mysterious domains: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. According to Whois.com, which allows searches of domain-name owners, those domains were all registered in February, but the registrant's name is blocked.
That makes it tough to figure out where the texts are coming from. But click here for a sample of what they're saying.
... As the Los Angeles Times explained in September, whoever is sending the texts is exploiting a legal loophole. It's illegal to send unsolicited, automated texts, but it is apparently within the bounds of the law to send them as emails.
Algorithms tell government workers where to seek out the telltale mosquito larvae that causes the disease. MIT Technology Review reports.
Last year, the city of Lahore, Pakistan, was hit with the worst outbreak of dengue fever in its history. The mosquito-transmitted disease infected some 16,000 people and took 352 lives. This year was a completely different story. There were only 234 confirmed cases and no deaths. The magnitude of the disease varies year to year, but some of the turnaround could be credited to a new system of tracking and predicting outbreaks in the region.
Researchers working for the Pakistani government developed an early epidemic detection system for their region that looked for telltale signs of a serious outbreak in data gathered by government employees searching for dengue larvae and confirmed cases reported from hospitals. If the system’s algorithms spotted an impending outbreak, government employees would then go to the region to clear mosquito breeding grounds and kill larvae. “Getting early epidemic predictions this year helped us to identify outbreaks early,” says Umar Saif, a computer scientist at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, and a recipient of MIT Technology Review's Innovators Under 35 award in 2011.
The data collection practices of app makers are loosely regulated, but the European Union is working on proposals to get explicit consent from consumers to cull their personal information. The New York Times reports.
... What is going on, according to experts, is that applications like Angry Birds and even more innocuous-seeming software, like that which turns your phone into a flashlight, defines words or delivers Bible quotes, are also collecting personal information, usually the user’s location and sex and the unique identification number of a smartphone. But in some cases, they cull information from contact lists and pictures from photo libraries.
As the Internet goes mobile, privacy issues surrounding phone apps have moved to the front lines of the debate over what information can be collected, when and by whom. Next year, more people around the world will gain access to the Internet through mobile phones or tablet computers than from desktop PCs, according to Gartner, the research group.
We take them everywhere, which one reason mobile phones get so ... germy. People set them on public bathroom sinks, on mats at the gym and drop them on floors and hand them to friends to show off photos. The Wall Street Journal reports.
When you combine a cellphone's proximity to your ears, nose and mouth with its bacteria-loving warmth, the result can be harmful to your health. This hazard, says Jeffrey Cain, the president of the American Academy of Family Physicians and chief of family medicine at Children's Hospital Colorado, often goes unnoticed. "Some things we think are personal are actually more public than we imagine." Bacteria from a phone can cause flu, pinkeye or diarrhea, says Dr. Cain. People are just as likely to get sick from their phones as from handles of the bathroom," says Dr. Cain.
For people who want to keep a clean touch screen, there is a disconnect between what doctors and medical researchers advise and what device makers suggest for phone sanitizing.
While products are marketed specifically for mobile-phone cleaning, they can sometimes damage the phone's screen coating or fail to remove 100% of the germs.
Music downloads, mobile payments and instant messaging may be common place in the developed world but in Kenya, the uptake of smartphones has been slower, particularly with many living on low incomes.
Spencer Kelly reports on how Kenyan entrepreneurs are convincing the tech goliaths like Facebook, Google and Microsoft to jump over the Atlantic and help grow their user base on even the simplest of phones - known as "dumb phones".
In a move is intended to prevent parties from sending out hate messages during next year's elections, Kenya's political parties have been banned from sending any bulk text messages to voters without the approval of state regulators, reports the BBC.
More than 1,000 people were killed in ethnic violence that hit Kenya after the 2007 disputed elections.
Some analysts say hate-filled text messages helped fuel the conflict.
Research into unusual insurance claims made by UK mobile phone owners has revealed the most bizarre and outlandish accidents.
Baking them in a cake, inserting them into a cow, dropping them over the edge of a ship while recreating scenes from Titanic and one woman claimed the vibration function on her BlackBerry Bold 9900 phone stopped working whilst she was using it as an adult toy.
Exam cheats in Bangladesh have been caught receiving answers on mobile phones that were disguised as wrist watches. Brisbane Times reports.
Police officers paraded 10 handcuffed masterminds behind the scheme along with several of the electronic devices that had been used in university admission exams and in job application tests.
The criminal organisers bribed teachers or education officials to get the questions shortly before the tests, and then sent the answers via text message to students inside the exam hall, police said.
"A student in a test for a top university or recruitment to a bank or government office would get answers through this hi-tech device after paying 120,000 taka ($1438) or more," deputy police commissioner Moshiur Rahman said.
The gang leaders told police they had brought 120 pieces of the tailor-made device from China and has been renting them out since 2009.
Read full article. Image: Bangladesh police parade alleged members of hi-tech exam cheats who use watch-like mobile phones to help examinees pass university and job recruitment tests.
Every day, around 3 pm, Ganesh Raghunathan sends out at least 800 SMS alerts to people living close to the elephant corridors in Valparai in Coimbatore district about the movements of the pachyderms. Times of India reports.
The text messages in English and Tamil have the mobile numbers of people to contact in an emergency. The Red Light Flashing System installed in 24 areas in the Valparai region is also alerting people.
A couple of early warning systems, installed over a year ago, to minimise the man-animal conflict in Valparai region have found positive response from the local people, according to M Ananda Kumar, wildlife scientist at the Nature Conservation Foundation in Valparai, which introduced the warning systems with the help of the UK-based Elephant Family and some private companies in this plantation town two years ago. "Two days ago, a pregnant woman called me on sighting a herd of elephants before her hut. We asked her not to make noise. We gave her some tips over phone, and it worked out. The herd soon moved from the spot. This shows how people respond to the Elephant Information Network developed by us," said Kumar.
Dr Khizar Tauseef, WHO focal person on nutrition, said lady health workers will play a key role in the SMS referral system. They will identify malnourished children in their community and send their details through an SMS to the referral system.
The system will automatically refer the child to the nearest healthcare centre through an SMS and this message will be sent to all the concerned stakeholders, health experts and the children’s parents. When the child is taken to the healthcare centre, the referral system will automatically generate another SMS. The messages will continue to be sent till the child completes the treatment and becomes an active part of the community.
The surveillance system, currently functional in 18 districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, will be expanded, said Dr Tauseef. The system will also help provide updated statistics on malnutrition in the country and will be accessible by everyone.
Researchers fear apps are a new way for tobacco companies to exploit loopholes in restrictions on their marketing activities. The Guardian reports.
Health experts are warning that pro-smoking smartphone apps could tempt young people to start using cigarettes after new research found that dozens of them have been downloaded millions of times.
Researchers who uncovered the existence of such apps, some of which use cartoons, fear it is a new way for tobacco companies to exploit loopholes in restrictions on their marketing activities in order to promote their products.
Australian researchers, writing in the medical journal Tobacco Control, say they came across 107 apps that promoted smoking in some way when they checked the Apple and Android Market app stores in February, Sixty-five were in the Apple App Store and the other 42 in Android Market's equivalent. By that month a total of about 11m people used the 42 such apps held by Android Market.
Their paper "identifies a new trend of promoting tobacco products in a new medium with global reach, a huge consumer base of various age groups and less strict regulation policies", they write. The apps included images of particular brands, told users where they could buy tobacco products, provided cigarette brands' packaging to use as wallpaper on their smartphone and let smokers simulate smoking behaviour.
Others replace a phone's battery icon to an image of a burning cigarette, detail how to roll a cigarette or defend smokers' rights.
Android applications downloaded by as many as 185 million users can expose end users' online banking and social networking credentials, e-mail and instant-messaging contents because the programs use inadequate encryption protections, computer scientists have found.
The Daily Mail reports that Italy's Supreme Court has ruled that mobile phones can give you cancer in a landmark case that could open the gates for other victims to take legal action.
Businessman Innocente Marcolini, 60, was diagnosed with a brain tumour after using his mobile phone at work for up to six hours a day for 12 years.
Italy's Supreme Court found that there was a 'causal link' between his phone use and his illness.
Experts now predict a barrage of legal claims by victims who believe their own illness was caused by their use of mobile phones.
Oncologist and professor of environmental mutagenesis Angelo Gino Levis and neurosurgeon Dr Giuseppe Grasso gave evidence supporting Mr Marcolini's claim.
They argued that mobile and cordless phones emit electromagnetic radiation causing damage to cells and increasing the risk of tumours. But they added that many tumours don't appear for 15 years making short-term studies on mobile phone use redundant.
The jury is still out, however, for many scientists who claim it is still unknown what, if any, link there is between mobiles and brain tumours.
New figures indicate a decline in desktop search traffic – where Google makes the bulk of its money – and a rise in search traffic from mobile phones. With their smaller screens, phones are harder to advertise on effectively and even more difficult still to use for the kind of services where Google can serve multiple adverts against a single query. There simply isn’t the space. The Telegraph reports.
Google argues that, thanks to its Android operating system and its market-leading position, nobody is better placed to make money from search, wherever it happens. And it’s true that Android allows the business to embed chances to monetise users at every opportunity. As Facebook has found out to its cost, however, it’s a tricky proposition, however it’s handled.
A prototype by Nokia Research and the Helsinki Institute of Information Technology amended an N900 to use a resistor to detect up to four different levels of pressure from compression. The recipient of the phone call receives different levels of vibration, depending on the amount of pressure applied.
The system was tested by three couples in long-distance relationships, where some used the Pressages system as a “virtual cuddle”, though a high-level squeeze and subsequently transmitted vibration was understood to be an expression of annoyance to one participating couple. Apparently other uses for the handsets were also discovered, but these were not revealed in the presentation.
Google’s mobile operating system is particularly dominant in China’s rapidly growing smartphone market. [via MIT Technology Review]
Google’s Android has gained a sizable advantage over Apple’s iOS in the fight for worldwide smartphone operating system market share, thanks in no small part to its dominance of China’s market, which is expected to surpass the United States this year as the world’s largest for smartphones.
...Android has been bolstered by Samsung, which IDC reports shipped more total phones in this year’s second quarter than the next seven Android vendors combined. Samsung has had particular success in fast-growing markets like China by offering a range of models that are much less expensive than the iPhone.
IDC expects China to account for 26.5 percent of all smartphone shipments this year, compared to 17.8 percent for the U.S. The third largest market is the United Kingdom, at 5.3 percent.
In honor of World Food Day, oAfrica Mobile put together a list of how African developers, governments, and organizations operating in Africa are harnessing mobile technology to improve agricultural practices.
Private companies, budding IT entrepreneurs, NGOs, as well as governments are all involved in a variety of mobile phone-based products, services, and applications aimed at boosting small-scale agriculture. Perhaps the apps out of Kenya (iCow and M-Farm) earn the most global recognition, but dozens of other projects are serving a similar need.
Rachel Crosby speaks about her BlackBerry phone the way someone might speak of an embarrassing relative. The New York Times reports.
“I’m ashamed of it,” said Ms. Crosby, a Los Angeles sales representative who said she had stopped pulling out her BlackBerry at cocktail parties and conferences. In meetings, she says she hides her BlackBerry beneath her iPad for fear clients will see it and judge her.
Research in Motion may still be successful selling BlackBerrys in countries like India and Indonesia, but in the United States the company is clinging to less than 5 percent of the smartphone market — down from a dominating 50 percent just three years ago.
Verizon Wireless has begun selling information about its customers' geographical locations, app usage, and Web browsing activities, a move that raises privacy questions and could brush up against federal wiretapping law. C/net reports.
The company this month began offering reports to marketers showing what Verizon subscribers are doing on their phones and other mobile devices, including what iOS and Android apps are in use in which locations. Verizon says it may link the data to third-party databases with information about customers' gender, age, and even details such as "sports enthusiast, frequent diner or pet owner."
"We're able to view just everything that they do," Bill Diggins, U.S. chief for the Verizon Wireless marketing initiative, told an industry conference earlier this year. "And that's really where data is going today. Data is the new oil."
A US House of Representatives intelligence committee may be trying to block two Chinese mobile makers from entering the US but, over in the Far East, a US mobile company has struck a cordial and profitable trade agreement with an unlikely Chinese ally. Paid content reports.
Redmond, WA-based mobile advertising firm Red Loop Media says it won a contract to power mobile ads for China’s state news network.
China Xinhua News Corporation (CNC) is part of the country’s official Xinhua News Agency, which reports to the Communist Party, and began broadcasting in 2010. CNC recently launched mobile apps, like this for iPhone, offering live and on-demand video news.
Red Loop says it will serve ads in to the apps and provide targeting and analytics. It is a follow-up to a deal the firm announced in June to power mobile ads for China National Radio’s apps.
Among the digital trends at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year: Startups selling ebooks, self-publishing developments, and an emphasis on mobile phones as the ebook revolution goes global. paincontent.org reports.
Going global, thinking mobile
As digital reading expands globally, it won’t look the way it has in the West. In particular, mobile phones could be key in less wealthy countries, but many of those opportunities are so far untapped.
Ebooks are already selling well on mobile phones in China. ... China has over one billion cell phone users and 300 million smartphone users as of March 2012 and China Mobile, one of two major telecom providers in China, is the country’s largest ebook platform.
Publishers may be reluctant to sell foreign rights to China Mobile, as it takes a huge cut of sales — at least 50 percent and sometimes as much as 70 percent — and sells the ebooks at a 90 percent discount from the print price.
A panel on potential for ebooks in sub-Saharan Africa also focused on mobile. Ben Williams, a South African bookseller mentioned mobile payments company M-PESA as “one of the most sophisticated banking services you can have in Africa” and said digital bookstores could be built on top of it.
Apple hasn't been very loud about one enhancement to its new mobile operating system, iOS 6: New tracking technology called IFA or IDFA. Business Insider reports.
The company has started tracking users so that advertisers can target them.
Previously, Apple had all but disabled tracking of iPhone users by advertisers when it stopped app developers from utilizing Apple mobile device data via UDID, the unique, permanent, non-deletable serial number that previously identified every Apple device.
For the last few months, iPhone users have enjoyed an unusual environment in which advertisers have been largely unable to track and target them in any meaningful way. In iOS 6, however, tracking is most definitely back on, and it's more effective than ever, multiple mobile advertising executives familiar with IFA tell us.
Mobile phone habits can change with the weather, a (novel) study has found.
When it is cold, or uncomfortably hot and sticky, people are more likely to make longer calls to close friends and family, scientists have discovered. The Irish Examiner reports.
During unpleasant weather, callers tended to withdraw from their wider network of acquaintances.
Lead researcher Dr Santi Phithakkitnukoon, from the University of Newcastle, said: "The fact that mobile phones have become an indispensable part of many people’s lives means that they provide an opportunity to measure human beha-viour and social dynamics, like never before.
"Our mood, health and how active we are all vary with the weather. "We found that during uncomfortable weather our ‘ringing anyone’ behaviour declined."
Today's smartphones are pretty darned smart. Yet we are only scratching the surface of what these devices might do. What if our smartphones were actually intelligent? Able to perceive our actions and intentions and act upon them on our behalf? That's the goal of a startup called Kimera. [via ReadWriteWeb]
Apple's Siri, the current standard bearer for smartphone AI, has nominal contextual awareness; it understands whether you are speaking to it or trying to determine your location, for instance. Kimera Systems of Portland, Oregon, a Kickstarter project, aims to give the device a broader understanding of what you are doing and why you are doing it. The idea is to adapt to the individual. Think of it as a step toward turning your smartphone into an extension of yourself.
In a story that gives new meaning to the phrase "bill shock," a French carrier charges a customer a sum that would easily wipe out the European debt crisis.
Solenne San Jose who lives in the Bordeaux region of France, received a cell phone bill late last month for 11,721,000,000,000,000 euros, or about $15 quadrillion. Lady likes to talk!
In all fairness, San Jose had been warned she would be charged a fee for terminating her contract with Bouygues Telecom early. She was not, however, told that fee would greatly exceed the GDP of France.