Foxconn Gets Green Light From China’s Antitrust Regulator for Sharp Deal

Foxconn Gets Green Light From China's Antitrust Regulator for Sharp Deal

Taiwanese tech giant Hon Hai said antitrust authorities in China had approved its takeover of ailing Japanese electronics maker Sharp, clearing the last obstacle to the drawn-out deal.

The purchase, which was supposed to close last month, has reportedly been held up by China – one of the countries that was reviewing the deal over concerns that it could lead to a monopoly on LCD screens.

Hon Hai gains Sharp’s cutting-edge LCD panel technologywith the $3.5-billion buyout, giving it a 66 percent controlling stake.

“Our application for antitrust review in various regions is completed,” the company said in a statement to the Taiwan stock exchange late Thursday.

“Both sides will carry out the handover procedures as soon as possible according to the contract,” it said.

The announcement fulfills an ambition of Hon Hai founder Terry Gou, whose firm first pursued Sharpfour years ago.

Gou’s company – also known as Foxconn – is the world’s biggest electronics supplier, with Apple a key customer for smartphone components.

But the smartphone giant is squeezing its suppliers as sales of its iPhones slow, dropping 15 percent last quarter year-on-year.

Hon Hai shares slumped in Taipei Friday on weaker-than-expected quarterly earnings.

“From the results, we can see that Apple is pressuring its supply chain on prices,” Fubon analysts led by Arthur Liao said in a note.

Hon Hai said Thursday that its net profit dropped 31 percent to TWD 17.7 billion ($565 million) in the April-June period, the third straight quarterly decline.

It missed the TWD 24.6 billion estimate by analysts polled by Bloomberg News.

Shares slumped 3.69 percent Friday. underperforming the benchmark index.

Analysts are expecting better performance in the third quarter, when Apple’s new iPhone 7 series is rumoured to be launched.

Tags: Apple, Foxconn, Home Entertainment, Hon Hai, Laptops, Mobiles, PC, Sharp, Tablets, iPhones



Infosys to ‘Redeploy’ 3,000 Employees After RBS Cancels Contract

Infosys to 'Redeploy' 3,000 Employees After RBS Cancels Contract

Global software major Infosys on Wednesday said it will not lay off nearly 3,000 techies after the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) cancelled its contract for setting up a new bank (Williams & Glyn) but redeploy them in other projects.

“We would like to clarify that there are no job losses and that all employees affected by the ramp down that will take place over the next several months will be redeployed on other projects,” the company said in a statement.

There were reports on August 16 that Infosys will soon lay off about 3,000 techies.

“Subsequent to this (RBS) decision, we will carry out an orderly ramp-down of about 3,000 persons, primarily in India, over the next few months,” the city-based IT major had disclosed on its website but did not share details with the media.

The Edinburgh-based RBS announced last week that it would no longer pursue its plan to separate and list a new UK (British) standalone bank (W&G) and instead pursue other options for the divestment of its business.

“We have been a W&G programme technology partner for consulting, application delivery and testing services,” the IT outsourcing company said on its website.

According to company sources here, RBS signed a five-year multi-million dollar contract with Infosys and the US-based software major IBM for providing IT services to its proposed W&G bank.

“As RBS has a key relationship for us, we look forward to strengthening our strategic partnership and working with it across other transformation programmes,” the company added.

Tags: IT, India, Information Technology, Infosys



India Ranked Top Exporter of Information, Communication Technology: UN Report

India Ranked Top Exporter of Information, Communication Technology: UN Report


  • India ranked 8th in the world for producing graduates in science and engineering
  • India’s “jugaad” tradition of innovation can help it capture global markets
  • Areas where India is lagging include the business environment & education

India has been ranked the world’s top exporter of information and communication technology in a UN agency report that recommended that the country leverage this lead to innovate in emerging areas where biology and materials sciences intersect with computing.

Overall, India leapt 14 places from the 85th rank last year to the 61st in the latest Global Innovation Index (GII) released in Geneva by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo) in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on Monday.

India ranked 8th in the world for producing graduates in science and engineering and showed the most significant improvements in human capital and research moving up 40 places to 63.

Wipo, a specialised agency of the UN, worked also with Cornell University and INSEAD, the international business school, to prepare the ninth edition of the index.

In a nod to India’s “jugaad” tradition of innovation, the report said that its culture of “frugality and sustainability” can help it capture global markets.

“For this to happen, however, India’s industries need to have the hunger to be at the top of the value chain, its customers have to be more demanding, its policies have to be more transparent, and its talent pool has to get more hands-on experience while simultaneously growing to leverage the global talent pool,” the report said.

Wipo quoted CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee as saying: “The commitment of India to innovation and improved innovation metrics is strong and growing, helping to improve the innovation environment. This trend will help gradually lift India closer to other top-ranked innovation economies.”

Areas where India is lagging include the business environment, where it is ranked 117, and education at the 118th spot.

To leapfrog into the emerging areas that combine biology, computing and material sciences, the report recommended that the industry double its research and development (R&D) investment and the government provide R&D grants to industry.

“Investing in innovation is critical to raising long-term economic growth,” Wipo Director-General Francis Gurry said while presenting the report. “In this current economic climate, uncovering new sources of growth and leveraging the opportunities raised by global innovation are priorities for all stakeholders.”

Another recommendation was to developing the research capabilities of universities. “Industry and government should team up with universities to create meaningful graduate research programmes utilizing global collaboration models where appropriate,” the report said.

In these emerging fields, the report said: “Applications include developing sustainable fuels for transportation, predicting and preventing disease, determining ways to improve wellness, and delivering better nutrition” – areas that meet immediate needs of India.

The report cited the US-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue as initiatives that had the potential for bilateral funding of R&D.

Among innovators in India measured by the number of patents obtained in the last five years, Infosys led with 281; it was followed by TCS with 244, Ranbaxy 196, Wockhardt 160, and SunPharma 84.

During this period, about 2,000 patents received by GE had Indian inventors, the report said. IBM came next with Indians involved in nearly 1,900 patents.

Overall, Switzerland ranked first globally as the most innovative economy on the index. It was followed by Sweden, Britain, the United States, Finland and Singapore. China for the first time muscled its way into the ranks of the top 25, just landing the spot.

Tags: IT, India, Information Technology, Infosys, UN, United Nations



As Technology Shifts More Layoffs Loom at Tech Companies

As Technology Shifts More Layoffs Loom at Tech Companies


  • Hardware companies struggle to keep up with rapid technology shifts
  • This year, technology companies in the US have shed about 63,000 jobs
  • Job cuts to rise as companies subscribe to “super cloud” services

Cisco Systems’ announcement on Wednesday that it plans to lay off 5,500 employees is unlikely to be the last round of Silicon Valley pink slips as hardware companies struggle to keep up with rapid technology shifts, analysts and recruiters said.

Companies that traditionally have made most of their money selling computers, chips, servers, routers and other equipment are especially vulnerable, analysts say, as mobile applications and cloud computing become increasingly important.

The Cisco layoffs come in the wake of Intel’s announcement in April that it was laying off 12,000 workers. Dell said in January it had shed 10,000 jobs and is expected to make further cuts after it closes a $67 billion deal to acquire data storage company EMC.

So far this year, technology companies in the United States have shed about 63,000 jobs, according to outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“The hi-tech industry is going through a serious deconstruction,” said Trip Chowdhry, an analyst at Global Equities Research. “There is more pain to come.”

Chowdhry said he expects job cuts to rise drastically as more companies subscribe to “super cloud” services from the likes of and Microsoft. These services manage hardware, software, networks and databases and eliminate the need for workers to manage various technology layers, Chowdhry said.

In January, Chowdhry estimated that layoffs in the tech industry would hit 330,000 this year. On Wednesday, he said he had raised his estimate to 370,000. Some other analysts said that forecast was too bleak.

IBM, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co, Oracle, and Dell could be the next to shed workers, analysts said.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Dell, and Oracle declined comment and IBM could not be immediately reached for comment.

Tremors of change

“Tech incumbents are all bracing for the tremors of change. said Glenn O’Donnell, an analyst at Forrester Research. “We fully expect a lot of collateral damage as this plays out – not just with Cisco.”

Cisco and other old-guard technology companies have been pursuing a challenging shift to software-oriented services. Margins in software services are higher than hardware because they bring recurring revenue and there are “fewer people involved on the cost side,” said Roger Kay, an analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates.

That could mean more job cuts. Silicon Valley job recruiters offered mixed views about the fate of hardware engineers laid off at Cisco and other tech firms.

“Nobody wants to be laid off but if job elimination is going to happen, 2016 is not a bad time for it to happen,” said John Reed, Senior Executive Director of the tech recruitment firm Robert Half Technologies.

Still, recruiters said, hardware engineers may need to be flexible and willing to retrain if they want to find work.

“Nobody wants hardware designers and engineers,” said Andy Price of executive search firm SPMB. “There was a moment in time when devices were hot and (action-camera maker) GoPro made everyone excited about devices, but a lot of those types of companies died on the vine.”

Currently, he said, “hardware engineers are probably the least attractive skill set imaginable in the Valley.”

© Thomson Reuters 2016

Tags: Cisco, HP, IBM, Intel, Layoffs



Intel’s Strategy for the Post-PC World Begins to Take Real Shape

Intel's Strategy for the Post-PC World Begins to Take Real Shape


  • Intel made a number of strategy and product announcements at IDF 2016
  • The amount of data each person creates each day is expected to explode
  • PCs aren’t dead, but many other devices will become intertwined with our lives

After a less-than-stellar year in which it announced 12,000 layoffs, a major deviation from its CPU roadmap, and a complete withdrawal from the smartphone SoC race, Intel’s vision for a connected, compute-intensive post-PC future is finally beginning to take shape. At the company’annual developer conference in San Francisco this week, attention was diverted away from conventional devices such as PCs and laptops, and lavished on other perceived areas of growth.

Intel will spend the next year trying to build strong foundations for emerging categories such as virtual reality, drones, autonomous vehicles, and domestic robots as well as custom “smart” devices for increasingly specific niches, which it hopes will become part of the fabric of our everyday lives. Simultaneously, it wants to cement its position in the data centre where it expects to see the massive growth as sensor-laden devices generating massive amounts of data, to be interpreted and made use of. That involves not only processing all that data, but moving it from endpoint devices to the cloud and back to the user quickly enough to be useful.

One of the biggest things to come into focus for Intel this year was its RealSense 3D camera initiative. First promoted as a “perceptual computing” enhancement for PCs, tablets and laptops, RealSense seemed like a gimmick without many useful real-world applications. It was compared to Microsoft’s Kinect – amusing in specific scenarios, but largely unnecessary. Intel suggested that it could replace traditional input devices, making computers more human, but there weren’t a lot of device manufacturers who tried to make that happen. Over the past year, this initiative has pivoted away from the paradigm of manipulating a UI and has really come into its own, powering security enhancements such as Windows Hello, enabling drones to understand their environments and avoid collisions, and powering all kinds of interactive robots.

Of course there was the big news about Project Alloy, an ecosystem designed to enable “mixed reality” experiences, which Intel defines as similar to virtual reality but incorporating elements of the real world rather than trying to replace them. Motion tracking is handled by RealSense – the headset is opaque and all real-world objects are captured and fed into the virtual environment, unlike augmented reality which is overlaid against what you see through your own eyes. Then there was Joule, a tiny new development platform designed specifically for RealSense applications; Euclid, a ready-made PC of sorts with RealSense integrated into its candybar-sized body.


In the near future, a new, thinner RealSense module with increased range and sensitivity will become available. It will be easier to integrate into consumer products, and has a real chance of going mainstream. Demos on the show floor included a robotic companion for diabetic children, safety goggles which can detect if engineers use the wrong parts when working on sensitive equipment, a projector that can turn any tabletop into an interactive game, a heads-up display that bikers can wear with their helmets, and an educational modular robot-building kit.

While some of these projects are frivolous and some might never make it out of the proof-of-concept stage, the common thread was that no matter how small the niche, if there’s a need, Intel wants to fill it. A small number of these projects might wind up resonating with people, or at least planting the seed of an idea in the minds of other attendees.

No matter what, we are going to have more devices in our lives, or at least devices that do more things. That’s in addition to the appliances and environmental controls around us, our clothes, our cars, the tools we use at work, smart city infrastructure that we walk past, and more. All of them will be generating data, and a lot of that data will be parsed using artificial intelligence of some sort. Intel wants to be in that space as well, not just processing it all with a new generation of Xeon Phis but slinging it across the world using incredibly high-speed, low-latency silicon photonics between servers and 5G to the endpoints where it’s needed.


We seem to finally be at a point where IoT ceases to be a buzzword and becomes tangible and relatable. It all comes together – RealSense can be used for object and pattern recognition, but that only works when there are massive data sets to learn from. Data is generated by the cameras, sent to a huge data centre, processed by artificial intelligence, and sent back in a useful form. Some applications don’t need that to happen quickly, but when we get to things like autonomous vehicles, medical robots or even public utilities, even milliseconds matter. Intel wants us to know that it’s working on the entire chain.

Whereas last year’s IDF was flashy but somewhat lacking in direction, attendees of this year’s show were able to come away with a sense of the company’s direction – and it isn’t about PCs. While not quite in the rear-view mirror, we can expect PC hardware to decline in overall importance as a much, much bigger picture of connected devices and services emerges around us.

Disclosure: The correspondent’s flights and hotel for IDF were sponsored by Intel.

Tags: IDF, Intel, Intel 2016



AT&T, Apple, Google to Work on ‘Robocall’ Crackdown in the US

AT&T, Apple, Google to Work on 'Robocall' Crackdown in the US


  • Google, Apple among members of the “Robocall Strike Force”
  • The strike force hopes to implement Caller ID verification standards to help block calls from spoofed phone numbers
  • Other companies taking part include Blackberry, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung

More than 30 major technology and communication companies said on Friday they are joining the US government to crack down on “robocalls,” automated, prerecorded phone calls that regulators have labelled a “scourge.”

AT&T, Google parent Alphabet, Apple, Verizon Communications and Comcast are among members of the “Robocall Strike Force” that held its first meeting with the US Federal Communications Commission.

The strike force will report to the FCC by October 19 on “concrete plans to accelerate the development and adoption of new tools and solutions,” said AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson, chairman of the group.

The strike force hopes to implement Caller ID verification standards to help block calls from spoofed phone numbers and consider a “Do Not Originate” list that would block spoofers from impersonating legitimate phone numbers from governments, banks or others.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in July urged major companies to take new action to block robocalls, which often come from telemarketers or scam artists.

“This scourge must stop,” Wheeler said on Friday, calling robocalls the No. 1 complaint from consumers.

“The bad guys are beating the good guys with technology,” Wheeler said. In the past, he has said robocalls continue “due in large part to industry inaction.”

Stephenson emphasized “the breadth and complexity” of the problem.

“This is going to require more than individual company initiatives and one-off blocking apps,” Stephenson said. “Robocallers are a formidable adversary, notoriously hard to stop.”

The FCC does not require robocall blocking and filtering but has strongly encouraged phone service providers to offer those services at no charge.

The strike force brings together carriers, device makers, operating system developers, network designers and the government.

“We have to come out of this with a comprehensive play book for all of us to go execute,” Stephenson said. “We have calls that are perfectly legal, but unwanted, like telemarketers and public opinion surveyors. At the other end of the spectrum, we have millions of calls that are blatantly illegal.”

Stephenson said technical experts representing the companies have had “preliminary conversations about short- and longer-term initiatives.”

Joan Marsh, AT&T vice president of federal regulatory issues, called the problem complicated. “We have been wrangling with this problem long enough to know there is no silver bullet,” she said. “Nothing by itself is going to do it.”

Other companies taking part include Blackberry, British Telecommunications Plc, Charter Communications, Frontier Communications, LG Electronics, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sirius XM Holdings, T-Mobile US and US Cellular Corp.

Consumers Union, a public advocacy group, said the task force is a sign “phone companies are taking more serious steps to protect their customers from unwanted calls.”

© Thomson Reuters 2016

Tags: Android, Apple, Apps, Google, Mobile, Telecom’


A Scientific Guide to Running Your First Half-Marathon

A Scientific Guide to Running Your First Half-Marathon


  • Picking the right shoes is very important
  • You need to train for at least 12 weeks
  • Strengthening exercises are vital too

Running is one of the easiest ways to get fit, and it’s been gaining popularity in India. Although it’s easy enough to get started, there are many things we wish we had known when we took up running. Small things such as picking the right shoes can help you to perform better, and avoid injuries.

Technology can certainly help beginners, and there’s actually a lot of science to running.

Annual distance running events such as the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM) and Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon are among the country’s most popular races, with thousands of participants. Many people, like Delhi-based photographer Biplab Mukherjee decide to start running when they hear one of their friends talk about it.

“In 2013 I had a small discussion with a friend. We were discussing how to get in shape and shed weight. He said let’s participate in ADHM,” says Mukherjee. He downloaded a 16-week running plan and finished the half marathon in two hours and six minutes.

Mukherjee may not have known it at the time, but choosing that 16-week plan was a smart choice. Dr. Rajat Chauhan, who runs Back 2 Fitness (a sports injury prevention and rehabilitation clinic in Delhi), says that beginners should train for at least three months before running a half-marathon. “You should try running 5km to 10km first. It doesn’t have to be a race,” he says. “Start doing strength training as well,” he says, because it is important for injury prevention.

many_running_shoes_flickr.jpgIncidentally, you’ve probably heard advice from people telling you to avoid running on roads, right? Dr. Chauhan, who’s been a runner himself for 31 years, says that’s nonsense. “If you are a soft lander, you can run on any surface,” he says. “This has nothing to do with weight. If you can hear your footsteps [while running], it’s too loud.”

Aman Yadav, a lawyer with Satinder Kapur and Associates in Delhi, is a seasoned runner who’s been running since 2008. He’s suffered several injuries related to running such as shin splints and cuboid bone displacement. He’s a strong advocate of strength training and says that squats, dead lifts, bench press, and lunges have helped him a lot. That and picking the right shoes help avoid injuries, he says.

One common mistake is to use your running shoes for daily wear, he says. This is a problem because the cushioning gets flattened through the day, and won’t provide support when running. “It takes 24 to 48 hours for the cushioning to return to its original position,” he explains.

Another important tip is to buy the right type of shoe, because there are three types of runners. You’ve got different shoes for overpronators (whose feet roll inwards after landing), and supinators (whose feet rool outwards after landing), and neutral runners. To figure out which one you are, you need to get gait analysis done, a facility available at major shoe stores. This involves a treadmill and a foot scanner, to help analyse how you run, so you can buy the correct shoes.

asics_foot_id_facebook.jpgThe next big question most beginners have, is tracking their runs. Most beginners can use apps such asStrava, Nike+ Running, Runkeeper, Runtastic, or any other running app of their choice. These apps offer running plans too, and as long as beginners pick a plan that’s at least three months long, they should be able to complete a half-marathon.

Carrying a smartphone with you while running may not always be convenient, so you might want to look at buying a fitness-oriented watch such as Fitbit Surge or Apple Watch. Both of these are strictly optional. A much cheaper investment would be an armband or a belt pouch to help you carry the phone while running.

Diet is a big part of completing a long-distance race. “Supplements don’t help enough if regular diet is not good enough,” says Dr. Chauhan. “[Runners need] more fat and protein so I recommend more non-veg food.”

He adds that the human body can store enough energy to let you run between 28 and 33km. “Full marathon is crossing that barrier. That is when water is simply not enough [during the race],” he says. “A half-marathon is only a third of a full marathon,” he says, in terms of the effort needed to complete the race.

Another thing that beginner runners should keep in mind is building up to longer distances the right way. Dr. Chauhan, Mukherjee, and Yadav recommend following the 10 percent rule. It states that you shouldn’t increase the distance you run by more than 10 percent per week. All of them suggest that beginners should start slow and just aim to finish their first long-distance race.

Are you preparing for your first long-distance run? Did these tips help you? Let us know via the comments section below.

Tags: Fitbit, Half Marathon, Marathon, Nike, Runkeeper, Running, Runtastic, Strava



China’s $100 Billion Chip Supremacy Bid Deemed Unrealistic

China's $100 Billion Chip Supremacy Bid Deemed Unrealistic


  • China wants to become premier supplier of semiconductors to the planet
  • Part of a broader effort to wean itself off foreign technology
  • China currently makes just 15 percent of the semiconductors it consumes

China faces an uphill battle in its push to become the global leader in computer chips because of a lack of technological know-how and talent, according to an analysis by Bain & Co.

China is one of the world’s largest consumers of semiconductor devices thanks to its manufacturing might, and is planning to spend more than $100 billion (roughly Rs. 6,70,854 crores) to become also a premier supplier to the planet. The global consultancy estimates that by 2020, almost 55 percent of the world’s memory, logic and analog chips will flow to or through the country. But the vast majority of the microchips that act as the brains of products like Apple’s iPhone are largely imported from companies like Intel and Samsung.

The government in 2014 moved to change this with plans to invest more than $100 billion and become a leading global player. It’s also driven consolidation among domestic suppliers to maximize its investments, including the $2.8 billion merger of Tsinghua Unigroup and Wuhan Xinxin Semiconductor Manufacturing announced last month.

China’s effort to build a world-leading semiconductor industry is part of a broader effort to wean itself off foreign technology. But financial investment will not be enough to buy leadership of the semiconductor sector, which is worth around $1 trillion (roughly Rs. 67,08,244 crores) according to Singapore-based Bain partner Kevin Meehan.

The country currently makes just 15 percent of the semiconductors it consumes, Bain said in a report. And by 2020, the consultancy expects Chinese-based plants to produce just 7 percent of the world’s microchips, barely up from current levels.

“China is coming at it in a pretty smart and intelligent way,” he said. “But I don’t see a path for them to own leading-edge processor technology and that is the foundation of Intel, the foundation of Samsung’s success.”

Efforts by Chinese companies to buy rivals with intellectual property in the processor and memory markets have run afoul of regulators around the world. Plans for a $3.8 billion (roughly Rs. 25,486 crores) investment in Western Digital Corp. were scrapped amid a US security review and investments in Taiwanese chip companies face regulatory obstacles and have stoked political tension.

“Assuming they can spend it all, the biggest risk is that they end up with a whole bunch of fragmented and weak follower positions,” Meehan said. “There’s ways for them to have influence over greater than 10 percent if they’re partnering well, but otherwise I think you’re essentially capped there.”

Meehan said China’s semiconductor makers could eventually learn from partnerships with global giants and become one of the larger suppliers of key components like computer memory. Both Intel andQualcomm have agreed to build semiconductor fabrication plants there in partnership with local providers.

“If you take a long view — not five years but decades — then certainly you’d have to believe there’s some absorption,” he said. “But people are careful not to put their leading edge IP in China.”

“I don’t see a way to get there without licensing or buying.”

Tags: Mobile, Tablet, Internet, Science


Apple Said to Plan iPhone for Japan With Tap-to-Pay for Subways

Apple Said to Plan iPhone for Japan With Tap-to-Pay for Subways


  • A future iPhone will include technology called FeliCa
  • Apple intends to work with multiple transit card providers
  • The FeliCa chip is able to process a transaction in 0.1 seconds

Apple is planning a new iPhone feature for Japan that will enable users to pay for mass-transit rides with their smartphones instead of physical payment cards.

A future iPhone will include technology called FeliCa, a mobile tap-to-pay standard in Japan developed by Sony Corp., according to people familiar with the matter.

The FeliCa chip will let customers in Japan store their public bus and train passes on their iPhones. Users would then be able to tap their phones against the entrance scanners instead of using physical cards. While the FeliCa chip is the standard technology underlying the service, there are several different providers of transit payment cards based on the type of transit and areas within Japan.

The Near Field Communication technology powering Apple’s mobile-payments service, Apple Pay, is prevalent in North America, Europe and Australia, but the FeliCa standard dominates Japan with a penetration of 1.9 million payment terminals, according to the Bank of Japan. The terminals handled 4.6 trillion yen ($46 billion or Rs. 308,478 crores) in transactions in 2015. Last year, there were 1.3 million NFC terminals in the US and 320,000 in the UK, according to research from Let’s Talk Payments and the UK Cards Association.

Apple intends to work with multiple transit card providers, one person said. The major players there include the Suica and Pasmo networks. Theoretically, virtual representations of the transit passes would be stored in the iPhone’s Wallet application, said the person, who asked not be identified because the planning is private. The card companies sell access to transit services both as-needed and via monthly packages.

Apple’s opportunity in Japan is significant with the country alone representing 8 percent of the company’s total revenue and almost 11 percent of operating profit in the most recent quarter.

Apple has planned to launch these new features with the next iPhone models, which the company is set to unveil in September, according to people familiar with the matter. However, the company could hold back the transit card feature to next year’s model if discussions with the Japan-based payment networks fall apart, one person said. Apple is already at work on a major redesign of the iPhone for 2017 that focuses more heavily on the display by removing the Home button, according to a person familiar with the matter.

(Also see: Apple Developing Virtual Home Button for Future iPhone Models: Report)

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

The FeliCa chip is able to process a transaction in 0.1 seconds, according to Sony. Super-swift transaction speeds are critical for adoption in the fast-paced environment of Japan’s transit network, the person said. Each sale over Apple Pay currently goes through a server and requires bank approval — which can slow the process.

In addition to supporting the transit-pass network, the FeliCa chip can also store e-money, an electric form of currency now widely accepted at vending machines, convenience stores and cafes in Japan. Apple is in discussions with at least one major financial institution to support these e-money transactions, according to one of the people.

Apple Pay first launched in October 2014 in the US with the iPhone 6 and has since expanded to Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, France, Singapore, Switzerland and the UK. Apple Pay contributes to the company’s rapidly growing services business, which grew 19 percent year-over-year to about $6 billion (roughly Rs. 40,218 crores) in the fiscal third quarter.

Earlier this month, Apple struck a deal with Japan-based phone carrier KDDI to allow customers to bill iTunes purchases to their phone service bill instead of directly to their credit card. Apple’s deal with the Japanese carrier is indicative of Apple’s payment-related negotiations with firms in Japan and follows up the company’s work on activating carrier-based iTunes billing in Germany, the UK, Russia, Switzerland, and Taiwan.

In tandem with the upcoming mobile payments launch for Japan, Apple is preparing to ship mass-transit navigation support for Japan in its iPhone Maps application, the company posted on its website in July. This feature, coming in iOS 10 later this year, will allow users to find departure and arrival times for transportation across the region.

© 2016 Bloomberg L.P.

Tags: Apple, iPhone, Sony, FelliCa, Mobile

LeapPad Inventor Wants to Turn Your Eyes Into a Mouse

LeapPad Inventor Wants to Turn Your Eyes Into a Mouse


  • Eye-based technology is key to improving and popularizing VR technology
  • System designed to help alleviate the nausea experienced by some VR users
  • Eyefluence is currently hammering out licensing deals with headset makers

First came the computer mouse. Then the touchscreen. Now the tech industry is looking for a new human-machine interface-this time, one that will make virtual-reality headsets as mainstream as personal computers and smartphones.

The man who invented the LeapPad tablet for kids is betting the killer app is right in front of your face: the eyes.

Jim Marggraff’s startup, Eyefluence, has developed technology that knows where people are looking and lets them manipulate objects the way we do now by clicking a mouse or tapping an icon. Besides fostering a more natural and immersive experience, the system is designed to help alleviate the nausea experienced by some VR users and enhance security with iris scans.

Marggraff says most of the big headset makers have expressed interest in licensing the technology from his Milpitas, California, company. Motorola Solutions, a leading investor, is testing the technology for emergency responders and sees possibilities in mining and medicine. “You’re able to basically interact in the virtual world simply by looking at what you want to interact with,” says X Prize Foundation founder Peter Diamandis, who advises Eyefluence and has seen the technology.

Most VR headsets use some sort of handheld device (like a game controller) or head movements to navigate. These techniques are far from ideal because they require a lot of moving around that gets tiring, and industry heavyweights including Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg agree that some form of eye-based technology is key to improving and popularizing VR technology. Gaming enthusiasts also say eye-tracking would significantly improve the playing experience by making it easier to follow objects and interact with characters.

Already, a host of companies with names like SensoMotoric Instruments, Tobii and The Eye Tribe are working on eye-tracking devices that could plug into a range of headsets. Another company called Fove says it will soon have the first headset featuring a version of the technology. But most of these are limited to scanning the iris for security purposes and recognizing where the user is looking-pointing but not clicking.

Eyefluence takes it one step further, not only using the eyes as a cursor, but letting them select, zoom, pan-things now accomplished by clicking and double-clicking a mouse or tapping and pinching a touchscreen.

The eyes are the fastest moving organ, capable of shifting 900 degrees per second, which means Eyefluence’s interface software makes it much faster to tell the computer what to do. The technology makes a two- or even three-step thought process into one: say, from look at object, move hand to it and tap or click to simply look. “It almost feels magical, like the system knows what you want before you tell it,” Diamandis says. “It’s almost like it’s reading your mind.”

When Marggraff announced plans to turn the human eye into a computer mouse, skeptics said it couldn’t be done. “People told me, ‘Don’t bother: you consume information with your eyes, but if you try to simultaneously use your eyes to control things, there will be a collision between controlling and directing and consuming,” he recalls.

But Marggraff has a deserved reputation for knowing a good idea when he sees one. He came up with the LeapPad even before the iPod existed. Released in 1999, the device helped kids learn how to read, was for a time the most popular toy in the US and generated more than $1 billion (roughly Rs. 6,717 crores) in revenue within five years.

Marggraff, 58, also created the Livescribe, one of the better-known smart pens that record audio and sync it to written notes. Eyefluence co-founder Dave Stiehr, 57, helped build several medical-device companies, including one that sold automatic external defibrillators-gadgets that diagnose and correct uneven heartbeats and are now standard equipment in many movie theaters, airplanes and offices.

In 2012, Marggraff bought all the assets of Eye-Com, a research company led by neurologist William Torch and funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense. Torch researched everything from fatigue to blinking and had accumulated more than a decade’s worth of data on eyes as well as built technology to track and analyze the organ. Marggraff and his team used that foundation to create an interactive system that uses looks to direct a computer.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Eyefluence’s team had to design a way that feels natural for the eyes to communicate a person’s intentions to the machine. Looking at an object for a set amount of time to “click” it, for instance, wouldn’t work: it’s too taxing on the eyes, and it would take too much active thinking to remember to stare for a certain amount of time or not stare for too long for fear of accidentally selecting it. A successful eye-interaction method would have to be just as intuitive as moving a mouse or tapping an app.

In the end, Marggraff solved the problem by embracing aspects of how the human eye works that he’d originally seen as a limitation. Even though it feels like our eyes are providing a constant stream of visual information, there are actually interruptions to the feed when we move our eyes to look at or examine something else.

In those moments, we are essentially blind and the brain fills in the missing images. Using these kinds of movements as a foundation, Eyefluence built an eye-machine interface that acts on intentional looks and ignores incidental ones. The company declined to explain further how the software works, citing concerns about maintaining a competitive edge.

Eyefluence is currently hammering out licensing deals with various headset makers to include its hardware and software in their devices, though the company declined to discuss specifics, citing non-disclosure agreements. Marggraff did say that the company is working with the “major players” and has been “overloaded with the strong amount of business partnerships and interest.”

Motorola Solutions, which led Eyefluence’s most recent fundraising round of $14 million, has been trying out the technology for more practical applications. The company, which sells equipment to first responders and other public safety and government agencies, sees Eyefluence as essential to providing police and firefighters with information via headset in a hands-free way that won’t interfere with their jobs.

“The more stress you’re under, the less cognitive ability you have to devote to menial tasks, so when you need the tech the most, that’s when you have the least capacity you have to extract what you need,” says Chief Technology Officer Paul Steinberg. “By using the very simple and quick interactions, we can lessen cognitive requirements to use the technology.”

Steinberg also foresees using Eyefluence’s technology in headsets for industries such as mining where drones will probably become ubiquitous. To test the eye-tracking and interface, Motorola Solutions has built and tested a virtual command center for emergency responders using Facebook’s Oculus Riftheadset, where users can see camera feeds from field operatives and control what they’re looking at and zoom in and out using their eyes. The next iteration could use Eyefluence technology to develop gaze-matching, where a person in the command center will be able to not only follow where the field operatives are looking, but direct them to check out other things.

The learning curve was almost nonexistent, which surprised Steinberg because he’d assumed using looks to manipulate things would present a challenge. And he says users generally retained their knowledge. However, Motorola Solutions probably won’t have a product ready next year, largely because headsets need to improve first.

Diamandis predicts Eyefluence technology will popularize VR the way the mouse once did the personal computer: “Everyone who’s seen it has completely gotten the power.”

© 2016 Bloomberg L.P.

Tags: Eyefluence, VR Headset, Virtual Reality, VR, Wearables, Gaming, PC, Laptop