Open the pod bay doors, Watson: IBM introduces “cognitive rooms”

Open the pod bay doors, Watson: IBM introduces “cognitive rooms”

Open the pod bay doors, Watson: IBM introduces “cognitive rooms”

IBM’s Watson Internet of Things (IoT) unit has teamed with audio giant Harman’s Professional Solutions group to create an adaptive artificial intelligence service that can act as an “in-room cognitive concierge.” In less tech-jargon, that’s an AI able to respond to voice commands and questions based specifically on the context of the room its sensor is located in. The technology is currently being demonstrated as a cognitive conference room assistant, and it’s already in use as a patient concierge in hospital rooms. Soon, this cognitive room capability could find its way into hotel rooms, cruise ship cabins, and other corporate spaces.

Called Voice-Enabled Cognitive Rooms, the technology uses IBM’s Watson IoT application programming interfaces and cognitive computing service paired with Harman AKG microphones, JBL speakers, and control and switching systems from Harman subsidiary AMX. Similar technologies are already being embedded in Harman’s consumer devices, including sound bars and alarm clocks, but these latest developments are opening up the system to integration with corporate information systems and building controls.

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Microsoft rolls out not one but two bad builds to the Windows Insider program

Microsoft rolls out not one but two bad builds to the Windows Insider program

Microsoft rolls out not one but two bad builds to the Windows Insider program

Microsoft’s Windows Insider program suffered an awkward setback last night as the company released two different builds—one for desktop users, another for mobile—without apparently meaning to.

In both cases, systems configured to use the fast ring could find themselves downloading and installing Windows releases that weren’t supposed to ship to the general public. For desktop users, the problem is merely an annoyance; the build, taken from a development branch named “RS_EDGE_CASE,” appears to work, broadly speaking, but “may include issues that impact usability of your PC.” Such issues aren’t entirely uncommon on the fast ring, though this time Microsoft warns that such problems may be more numerous than usual. Anyone who installed the build can either roll back to the previous release or wait until Microsoft publishes a new fast ring build. That will happen next week at the earliest, as the company has said it won’t be publishing any new builds this week.

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Walmart buys Parcel in latest attempt to battle Amazon delivery machine

Walmart buys Parcel in latest attempt to battle Amazon delivery machine

Walmart buys Parcel in latest attempt to battle Amazon delivery machine

Walmart is trying to beat Amazon at its own game, and the company’s latest acquisition will boost that effort, at least in the New York City area. Walmart announced that it has acquired Parcel, a Brooklyn-based delivery company that specializes in scheduled and same-day package delivery of traditional items as well as groceries, meal kits, and other perishables. The acquisition price has not been disclosed by Walmart or Parcel, but a Recode report suggests that the deal closed at less than $10 million.

Parcel launched in 2013 to help city dwellers get their packages at convenient times. Signing up for Parcel meant you could schedule a two-hour window in which your package would be delivered. In metro areas like New York, it’s not unheard of for packages to be lost or stolen if delivered when the recipient is not around to accept it. Amazon’s apartment Hubs are the most recent attempted fix for this problem, but Parcel gives recipients more control over when their packages arrive. Parcel also sends live package updates via text message to the merchant and recipient, informing them of the location of the package through the last mile of delivery.

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UK gov’t parachutes in Microsoft to firefight digital skills crisis

UK gov’t parachutes in Microsoft to firefight digital skills crisis

UK gov’t parachutes in Microsoft to firefight digital skills crisis

While the UK government continues to blame Brexit for a lengthy delay to the publication of its digital strategy, chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond has popped up at Microsoft’s Reading HQ to unveil plans for the software giant to train 30,000 civil servants in digital skills.

Microsoft, we’re told, will also offer “free digital literacy” training to Brits across the country, with the announcement coming just days after the Tory government was accused by the science and technology committee of producing a late and stingy response to its concerns about the UK’s digital skills crisis.

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Munich mulls dropping Linux, returning to Windows 10

Munich mulls dropping Linux, returning to Windows 10

Munich mulls dropping Linux, returning to Windows 10

The city of Munich made headlines in 2003 when it announced its intent to switch 14,000 government PCs from Windows to Linux. While the project suffered delays and setbacks, the migration to LiMux (its custom Ubuntu-based distribution) and LibreOffice was completed in late 2013. But now, Windows could be making a comeback. ZDNet reports that the city government’s administrative and personnel committee has recommended an IT shake-up and the development of a new Windows 10-based infrastructure for deployment by 2020.

The use of LiMux was called into question not long after its rollout. Complaints about compatibility, combined with the 2014 election of a Microsoft-favoring mayor, Dieter Reiter, first put the open source deployment in jeopardy. Reiter commissioned a report from consultants—including Microsoft partner Accenture—on IT policy. That report recommended giving staff a choice between Windows/Office and LiMux/LibreOffice. Should Windows and Office prove popular, the report said that the continued financial viability of supporting Linux should be investigated.

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Secret chips in replacement parts can completely hijack your phone’s security

Secret chips in replacement parts can completely hijack your phone’s security

Secret chips in replacement parts can completely hijack your phone’s security

People with cracked touch screens or similar smartphone maladies have a new headache to consider: the possibility the replacement parts installed by repair shops contain secret hardware that completely hijacks the security of the device.

The concern arises from research that shows how replacement screens—one put into a Huawei Nexus 6P and the other into an LG G Pad 7.0—can be used to surreptitiously log keyboard input and patterns, install malicious apps, and take pictures and e-mail them to the attacker. The booby-trapped screens also exploited operating system vulnerabilities that bypassed key security protections built into the phones. The malicious parts cost less than $10 and could easily be mass-produced. Most chilling of all, to most people, the booby-trapped parts could be indistinguishable from legitimate ones, a trait that could leave many service technicians unaware of the maliciousness. There would be no sign of tampering unless someone with a background in hardware disassembled the repaired phone and inspected it.

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Amazon’s Alexa now supports Outlook calendar, lets voice commands create events

Amazon’s Alexa now supports Outlook calendar, lets voice commands create events

Amazon’s Alexa now supports Outlook calendar, lets voice commands create events

Outlook users with an Amazon Echo can now make the online retailer’s assistant go to work for them. Amazon quietly updated Alexa to support Outlook calendars, letting you ask the virtual assistant to add and review events on your Outlook.com calendar.

Alexa previously supported only Google Calendar integration, but now an Outlook option appears in the Alexa mobile app. You can sync your Outlook account within the Alexa app and then the virtual assistant will be able to tell you events happening that day if you ask “what’s on my calendar?” You can also use the command “add an event to my calendar” to create a new scheduled meeting.

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Wind turbine manufacturers are dipping toes into energy storage projects

Wind turbine manufacturers are dipping toes into energy storage projects

Wind turbine manufacturers are dipping toes into energy storage projects

Danish company Vestas Wind Systems is one of the biggest makers of wind turbines in the world, recently surpassing GE’s market share in the US. But as the wind industry becomes more competitive, Vestas appears to be looking for ways to solidify its lead by offering something different. Now, the company says it’s looking into building wind turbines with battery storage onsite.

According to a Bloomberg report, Vestas is working on 10 projects that will add storage to wind installations, and Tesla is collaborating on at least one of those projects. Vestas says the cooperation between the two companies isn’t a formal partnership, and Tesla hasn’t commented on the nature of its work with Vestas. But the efforts to combine wind turbines with battery storage offer a glimpse into how the wind industry might change in the future.

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All your Googles are belong to us: Look out for the Google Docs phishing worm

All your Googles are belong to us: Look out for the Google Docs phishing worm

All your Googles are belong to us: Look out for the Google Docs phishing worm

A widely reported e-mail purporting to be a request to share a Google Docs document is actually a well-disguised phishing attack. It directs the user to a lookalike site and grants the site access to the target’s Google credentials. If the victim clicks on the prompt to give the site permission to use Google credentials, the phish then harvests all the contacts in the victim’s Gmail address book and adds them to its list of targets.

The phish appears to have been initially targeted at a number of reporters, but it quickly spread widely across the Internet. Some of the sites associated with the attack appear to have been shut down.

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Google fined $2.7B by European Commission for abusing search monopoly

Google fined $2.7B by European Commission for abusing search monopoly

Google fined $2.7B by European Commission for abusing search monopoly

Google has been gut-punched by the European Commission for abusing its search monopoly to squeeze out other players on the Web.

Brussels’ competition chief Margrethe Vestager has slapped Google with a €2.42 billion fine, the largest anti-monopoly penalty ever issued by the commission.

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