Facebook launches Clubhouse-like live audio rooms and podcasts
Media|World|Business|: Facebook Inc on Monday launched its own Clubhouse-style live audio rooms and a way to find and play podcasts on its platform, marking a push into social audio by the world's largest social network. Facebook's rollout of a potential Clubhouse rival follows the explosive early success of the invite-only live audio app, which became a hit as people stayed at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was one of the Silicon Valley celebrities who have made appearances on the app, which recently expanded to Android users. Facebook, which has said it wants to make audio a "first-class medium" on its platforms, joins Twitter Inc and messaging platform Discord which have already launched their own live audio offerings. Spotify debuted its own version, "Greenroom," last Wednesday. Slack, Microsoft Corp-owned LinkedIn and Reddit are also working on similar products. Public figures and certain Facebook Groups in the United States using iOS will be able to create live audio rooms, with up to 50 speakers and unlimited listeners. These users can also invite people without a "verified badge" to speak, Facebook said in a blog post. Users on iOS and Android can listen to the rooms. The company, which has been vocal about its push to attract content creators, said it is partnering with public figures including musicians, journalists and athletes in the live audio rooms rollout. Listeners will be able to send Facebook's virtual currency "stars" to creators in live audio rooms. Zuckerberg has said the company will not take a cut of creator revenue until 2023. A number of select podcasts will also be available on Facebook to US listeners and the company said it would soon add to this initial slate. Facebook, which has been criticized for its handling of problematic content across its products, will face the challenges of moderating live and recorded audio content, including in private Facebook Groups. Facebook is also working on a project with Spotify to share and listen to music on the platform.
India responds to UN, says new IT rules 'designed to empower ordinary users of social media'
Etisalat and Ericsson partner to commercially deploy 5G high-band in the UAE
Technology|: Abu Dhabi: Etisalat on Sunday announced that it has joined forces with Ericsson to deploy 5G millimeter wave (mmWave) across its commercial network. The 5G high-band commercial deployment will help achieve high performance 5G downlink data speeds of 4.2Gbps and latency of 8 milliseconds (ms). Etisalat has built a 5G network infrastructure that can be enabled with superior performance, including ultra-high speeds and ultra-low latency to enable the digital transformation in the country and the wide implementation of use cases related to industry 4.0, automation and Internet of Things (IoT). The UAE leadership is a driving force in accelerating the digital vision along with the telecom regulatory authority TDRA (Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority) becoming one of the first to allocate mmWave spectrum to be used for 5G technology deployment across the country. 5G mmWave delivers high spectrum and capacity, making it ideal for Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) to deliver fast, fiber-like internet speeds wirelessly over the last mile, and for crowded hotspots such as stadiums, malls and large indoor events that require high peak rates. It also includes wide spectrum segments available for 5G along with lower latencies.“ Etisalat has always been at the forefront of the telecom industry, and we continuously work to provide our customers with the best possible digital experience. This deployment is in line with our overall vision to ‘Drive the digital future to empower societies’ empowering our customer with the experience of ultrahigh quality 5G connectivity. Moving ahead we look forward to expanding this technology further on demand for all customer segments,” said Haitham AbdulRazzak, Chief Technology Officer, Etisalat. The 5G standardisation focuses on certain requirements to provide connectivity for superior services, such as enhanced mobile broadband to smartphones and other mobile devices for video streaming and real-time online gaming, as these have extreme requirements on availability, latency, and reliability. In response, 5G radio frequency ranges were widened to meet the need for enhanced mobile broadband and performance. The 5G radio frequencies now include all those previously held by 4G, as well as more frequencies up to 6GHz (Sub-6) and the high-band (mmWave) spectrum beyond 24GHz. The next wave of 5G expansion will allow businesses of all types to reap the benefits of enhanced mobility, flexibility, reliability and security, making emerging technologies outlined for the future development of the UAE such as autonomous driving, automated factories, robotic process automation, virtual and augmented reality possible.
Apple releases updates for iMovie, Final Cut Pro
Technology|Business|: San Francisco: Apple has released a series of updates to its consumer and professional video editing apps for the Mac to bring a range of workflow improvements and new features. Each update comes in at around 2.3GB and are available via the App Store now. The most visual change is iMovie, which has now been updated to version 10.2.4. It now adds 16 new backgrounds, a mixture of solid and textured images, which can be used within videos, AppleInsider reported. The 2.4GB iMovie 10.2.4 update fixes an issue that means the Mac app can now import videos from iMovie 2.3 for iOS. Apple only said that the 2.3GB Motion 5.5.2 update contains "stability improvements." From first user reports, these appear to address rendering issues causing crashes on M1 Macs. Final Cut Pro 10.5.3 is the largest update at 3.1GB, and adds stability improvements plus a handful of new features. It's now possible to create and edit column views, plus there are improved options for sorting clips. The updated Final Cut Pro also expands on ways of searching for media within the browser, using notes, clip names and markers. Then Compressor is updated to version 4.5.3, again with stability improvements. Apple's encoding app now also has notifications for the progress of encoding batches, plus new embedded audio descriptions.
Facebook doubles down on detecting deepfakes
Media|: San Francisco: Facebook has collaborated with researchers at the Michigan State University (MSU) to develop a method of detecting and attributing deepfakes. It relies on reverse engineering, working back from a single AI-generated image to the generative model used to produce it. "Our reverse engineering method takes image attribution a step further by helping to deduce information about a particular generative model just based on the deepfakes it produces," said research scientists Xi Yin and Tal Hassner at Facebook. It's the first time that researchers have been able to identify properties of a model used to create a deepfake without any prior knowledge of the model. Deepfakes are being treated as video forgeries that make people appear to be saying things they never did, like the popular forged videos of Facebook CEO Zuckerberg and that of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that went viral. Deepfakes have become so believable in recent years that it can be difficult to tell them apart from real images. Image attribution can identify a deepfake's generative model if it was one of a limited number of generative models seen during training. "During image attribution, those deepfakes are flagged as having been produced by unknown models, and nothing more is known about where they came from, or how they were produced," said Facebook. The company said that with the new method, researchers will now be able to obtain more information about the model used to produce particular deepfakes. "Our method will be especially useful in real-world settings where the only information deepfake detectors have at their disposal is often the deepfake itself," Facebook said. To combat the spread of disinformation, Microsoft also last year unveiled a new tool that will spot deepfakes or synthetic media which are photos, videos or audio files manipulated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) which are very hard to identify if false or not.
Google working on 'Find My Device' network for Android users
Technology|: New Delhi: Taking a cue from Apple, Google is reportedly working on a 'Find My Device' network that will help nearly three billion Android users locate their lost devices. The feature named 'Spot' has been spotted in the latest beta of Google Play Services that shows code "referencing the ability for phones to help locate other devices," reports 9to5 Google. Currently, the beta version refers to helping find "other people's devices" and does not list what kind of devices like phones, tablets, watches and headphones. The current 'Find My Device' system, described on Google's support page, can only find smartphones that are powered on, have a data or Wi-Fi signal, and have location services enabled. However, the 'Spot' feature will help Android users find a lost phone without an internet signal too. The Find My app on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac makes it easy to locate missing Apple devices, as well as keep up with friends and family, all while protecting user privacy. If a user ever loses their Apple device, the Find My app allows them to locate it on a map, play a sound to pinpoint its location, put it in Lost Mode to lock it immediately, and display a message with a contact number. It also lets them remotely erase the device in case it has fallen into the wrong hands.
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How much more of a defence can companies put up against ransomware?
Analysis|Trends|: The trade in cyberattacks is now so advanced that Darkside, the Russia-based group responsible for the Colonial Pipeline attack that shutdown a 5,500-metre-long pipeline in the US, sells its own ransomware software. And even has a tech support service in place should you need additional help in using it. Some cyber-experts have even suggested that this latest attack is essentially a marketing campaign to show just how effective its software is at extorting cash from victims. Colonial were reported to have paid $5 million to take back control of its systems. Not a scattershot approach It has become clear that these attacks are becoming more widespread. In 2020, the UAE recorded a 183 per cent increase in cases where the cyber criminals breach a system and make it impossible for a service to be delivered – known as a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. As the Colonial attack has proven, it is no longer small and often defenceless companies that are targets for cyber criminals. Instead of targeting several companies for smaller ransoms, hackers can identify one larger company that has weaker protection or has perhaps neglected its responsibilities towards cyber security. Those millions only help to a point Nevertheless, even organisations that have spent vast sums on cyber security are not immune from attack. We believe there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to cyber-crime. As it is constantly evolving, ransomware is capable of evading even the most advanced of defences, meaning industry standard security can become obsolete and inadequate very quickly. It is important to have security systems implemented throughout the entirety of a utility network, as hackers often target cloud-based or managed data centres that are remote enough from the grid to be more easily breached. Internal and external communication channels must also be secure. If there are many levels of security, where components of the whole system are divided into separate branches, it will prove much more difficult to break. A major concern regionally is that now our systems are so digitally advanced and reliant on each other, that if one system becomes compromised others will follow. Rail systems, power plants, water treatment plants all use the same technologies, so it is critical that all, not just one of these systems, are fully protected. Most exposed Cybercriminals have taken advantage of the pandemic by attacking at a time when many organisations are at their weakest. Tightened budgetary controls and home working has diverted attention away from IT and info-security concerns, leaving vulnerabilities throughout networks. Despite it being inconvenient to users, multi-authentication practices should be introduced in certain circumstances where sensitive information could be breached. One-time passwords and verification codes are examples. Regular security audits are recommended to help identify areas of susceptibility, too. Outside of a tightened regulatory environment, there are practices that companies can adopt to limit their exposure. Resilient and hard to breach sensors combined with highly secure communication and analytics systems are a strong pillar to the entire security system. Regardless, if resources are not devoted to the problem in sufficient measures, problems will remain. If the pandemic has taught us one valuable lesson, there were warning signs that were ignored, which resulted in catastrophic repercussions. Have we now done enough to be truly confident that our IT systems are safe and secure? Maybe, but what is protected today may not be tomorrow… Francois Frigaux, Special to Gulf News The writer is Director at Sensus, a Xylem brand.
Spread of new skills within organisations cannot be done with a silo mindset
Analysis|Companies|: After all the upheaval we’ve faced in the last year, we hardly need more workplace disruption. But World Economic Forum’s latest Future of Jobs report predicts that machines and AI technologies will take over half of all work tasks by 2025. Where does that leave us ? A pessimist might say that our role in business is coming to an end and that more sophisticated automation and AI had put paid to that. It’s difficult to take that view seriously following the pandemic, though. Where machine learning models struggled to adapt to sudden market changes - and algorithms failed to predict school grades - humans stepped in and saved the day. What businesses needed more than ever was common sense and humanity – that only humans could deliver. True, we’ve only scratched the surface of what AI is capable of. But nothing can beat the adaptability and creativity of human minds. It is thus the HR leaders who are charged with unleashing and harnessing that potential, nurturing it and giving it space in the business to grow. What new skills pay the bills? Every business and industry is changing in its own way, and each requires its own new competencies. In supply chain, the focus is on resiliency and the integration of self-healing capabilities to guard against future shocks. For customer experience, the emphasis is on embedding data-driven customer understanding that creates more tailored ‘human’ experiences digitally. However, despite the supposed chaos, there are strong similarities beneath the surface. Organisations are rapidly embracing an enormous depth of business applications. These cloud apps rely on AI to help people integrate, orchestrate and automate, helping organisations adapt and transform when they need to. We’re at the point where AI not only automates mundane and repetitive tasks, but can also perform highly complex tasks - like business forecasting - accurately and reliably. This doesn’t mean AI is about to replace us – in fact, the inverse is true. Almost every worker, whatever their role, could benefit from the use of a cobot or ‘digital twin’. Resetting workplace culture If many workers are denied access to the latest cloud and AI tools, meaning businesses can’t reap the rewards either. To level up this learning across a business, HR leaders must think differently – but they’ll also need to be more targeted in their approach. They not only need an understanding of what skills are lacking right now, but what talents will be commodities in the future. How does a company know what skills to teach, and which employees are best able to take the business forward? These decisions have to be guided by HR data from all lines of business. Everything from payroll information to messaging and sentiment analysis should be considered to understand where employees may be struggling, and what they need to improve. The larger the organization, the more complex it becomes to maintain a programme of constant learning. That said, during the pandemic, low-carbon energy leader Engie extended its cloud-based HCM platform to maintain business transformation across its global 170,000- strong workforce. By integrating data from across the business and using AI tools, Engie was able to streamline and standardise a global policy of continuous improvement, career development and best practice sharing across the business. Humans make a company’s culture – but helping them learn and grow with the right tech can make it even better. HR plays a crucial role, and when aided by the right AI tools and data-driven insight, they can make the best decisions for the business and its people. No matter what shape the next great disruption takes, HR leaders can lay the groundwork work now to ensure employees can meet the challenge head on. Yazad Dalal The writer is Oracle's HCM Strategy Leader for EMEA territory.
Movie theatres should try and build a working relationship with streaming platforms
Analysis|Trends|: The way we consume content has transformed significantly and is happening at multiple levels. We now consume content on more screens and the amount of content produced has also increased exponentially as new digital mediums make the economics of niche content viable. Currently there are four dominant channels to consume paid content: Movie theaters: This is the one of the oldest modes of content consumption. Consumers generally go there for the immersive experience and pay on a per-view basis. Cable TV: This is largely streaming for sitcoms and live TV driven content. The most common model is the monthly subscription plan. Many of us would have this as they are typically bundled with telephone and internet connectivity. Over-the-top (OTT) bundles: These are on-demand content providers - typically through an app on a smart device. The pricing model is generally monthly subscriptions that allow users to watch all of the content on the platform. Netflix, Amazon Prime and Shahid are some dominant players in this category. Pay per-view (PPV) OTT: This mode is generally for live events and to watch content on a pay-as-you-go basis. Apple’ iTunes, GooglePlay, Zee5 and Mxplayer are some OTT players who have pay-per-view options. Taking them inhouse Recently, the biggest OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon have started producing movies for their own platform. In this model, they pay a bulk fee for an already produced movie or produce it themselves. Over-the-top players are now the dominant entertainment channels with consumers spending almost 20 hours per week in Middle East. This is twice the time consumers spent on OTT platforms just two years ago - and many times more than spent in movie theatres. Such large-scale OTT usage presents an opportunity for the movie ecosystem to reinvent and provide more choices to consumers. Link up on OTT For example, new movies can be released on a per-view model on OTT platforms, thus providing more choices to movie studios and also to consumers. It can make economics of niche movies viable and can drive Arabic content production in the region. Even movie theatres can reimagine themselves and create a pay-per-view revenue sharing channel that complements the existing physical movie business. That way they will be able to ride the OTT wave and make it more efficient for all stakeholders in the process. Movie theatres will continue to be relevant for the immersive and social experience they provide. For this to really take off, privacy concerns will need to be addressed. But OTT does open up more possibilities for new movies. We are already seeing in this in some form – it is only a matter of time for it become mainstream. Sandeep Ganediwalla The writer is regional Partner at RedSeer Consulting.
Facebook launches ads globally for Instagram Reels
Media|Business|: Facebook Inc is launching ads globally on its TikTok clone Instagram Reels, the company said on Thursday. The social media company, which is aiming to make money from its short-form video feature, began testing Instagram Reels ads in India, Brazil, Germany and Australia in April. The tests ran with brands such as BMW, Louis Vuitton, Netflix and Uber. "We see Reels as a great way for people to discover new content on Instagram, and so ads are a natural fit," said Instagram's Chief Operating Officer Justin Osofsky. "Brands of all sizes can take advantage of this new creative format in an environment where people are already being entertained." The company said that Reels ads, which will loop and can be up to 30 seconds long, will appear between individual Reels.
Bank, airline web outage 'not caused' by cyberattack
Technology|World|Business|: Sydney: A major online outage that hit bank and airline websites on both sides of the Pacific was not caused by a cyberattack, the tech provider responsible said Friday. In a statement, US-based Akamai said around 500 of its customers were briefly knocked offline on Thursday because of a problem with one of its online security products. The outage hit American, Delta, United and Southwest Airlines and most of Australia's major banks, leaving customers unable to access websites and mobile apps. also read Internet outages briefly disrupt access to websites, apps Fastly blames software bug for major global internet outage Akamai said the problem was resolved in just over four hours, although most websites experienced problems for around an hour. "The issue was not caused by a system update or a cyberattack," Akamai said, adding the issue had been narrowed down to a data routing problem that had now been fixed. It is the latest incident to draw attention to the stability of economically vital online platforms and the key role that a handful of little-known "CDN" - content delivery network - companies play in keeping the web running. Last week, US media and government websites, including the White House, New York Times, Reddit and Amazon were temporarily hit after a glitch with cloud computing services provider Fastly. Fastly offers a service to speed up loading times for websites. Akamai offers a range of similar IT products designed to boost online performance and security. The firm said this problem was linked to a product that prevents DDoS attacks - an often crude cyberattack that knocks websites out by peppering them with requests for data. "Many of the approximately 500 customers using this service were automatically rerouted, which restored operations within a few minutes," the company said. "The large majority of the remaining customers manually rerouted shortly thereafter."
Internet outages briefly disrupt access to websites, apps
Technology|Oceania|Business|: The Hong Kong Stock Exchange said in a post on Twitter Thursday afternoon Hong Kong time that its site was facing technical issues and that it was investigating. It said in another post 17 minutes later that its websites were back to normal. Internet monitoring websites including ThousandEyes, Downdetector.com and fing.com showed dozens of disruptions, including to US-based airlines. Many of the outages were reported by people in Australia trying to do banking, book flights and access postal services. Australia Post, the country's postal service, said on Twitter that an "external outage" had impacted a number of its services, and that while most services had come back online, they are continuing to monitor and investigate. Many services were up and running after an hour or so but the affected companies said they were working overtime to prevent further problems. Banking services were severely disrupted, with Westpac, the Commonwealth, ANZ and St George all down, along with the website of the Reserve Bank of Australia. Services have mostly been restored. Virgin Australia said flights were largely operating as scheduled after it restored access to its website and guest contact center. "Virgin Australia was one of many organizations to experience an outage with the Akamai content delivery system today," it said. "We are working with them to ensure that necessary measures are taken to prevent these outages from reoccurring." Akamai counts some of the world's biggest companies and banks as customers. Calls to Akamai, which is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but has global services, went unanswered. The disruptions came just days after many of the world's top websites went offline briefly due to a problem with software at Fastly, another major web services company. The company blamed the problem on a software bug that was triggered when a customer changed a setting. Brief internet service outages are not uncommon and are only rarely the result of hacking or other mischief. But the outages have underscored how vital a small number of behind-the-scenes companies have become to running the internet.
Facebook begins health fact-check in India
India|Media|: New Delhi: Facebook on Wednesday joined hands with The Healthy Indian Project (THIP) - a health specialised fact-checking site - as part of its third-party fact-checking programme in India to combat COVID-19 and all other health related misinformation on the social media platform. During the pandemic, Facebook removed more than 18 million pieces of harmful misinformation across its platform and Instagram and labelled over 167 million fake news posts on COVID-19 with the help of third-party fact-checkers. The partnership with THIP "will enhance its capabilities to understand and curb health-related misinformation on the platform", the social media giant said in a statement. THIP Media works with verified medical professionals to fact check misleading news and claims about health, medicines, diet and treatment in English, Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi and Gujarati. Globally, Facebook is working with 80 fact-checking partners that help in content monitoring in more than 60 languages. Facebook's fact-checking partners have been certified through the independent, non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network. In India, Facebook has 10 fact-checking partners, one of the largest after the US. This includes India Today Group, Vishvas News (Dainik Jagran), Factly, Newsmobile, Fact Crescendo, BOOM Live, AFP, NewsChecker and Quint who fact-check in 11 Indian languages along with English. The Indian languages include Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil, Marathi, Punjabi, Urdu, Gujarati, Assamese and Kannada. "Third-party fact-checkers evaluate stories, check if the stories are factual, and rate their accuracy. When a fact-checker rates a story as false, Facebook shows it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its dissemination and reducing the number of people who view it," the company said. Pages and domains that repeatedly share false news will also see their distribution reduced and their ability to monetise and advertise temporarily removed. Community members are presented with a pop-up notice if someone tries to share a fact-checked post so that people can decide for themselves what to read, trust and share. People who share a story that's later debunked are notified so they know there is additional reporting on that piece of content, the company added. Facebook has also launched a fellowship with 10 fact-checking organisations (including Factly and Quint in India) and will provide virtual training sessions by third party experts to help the participating fact checkers enhance their capabilities to combat misinformation related to COVID-19.
Google brings new 'Insights' tool for web creators
Media|Business|World|: San Francisco: Google is rolling out a new Search Console Insights tool that provides creators with an overview of how their content is performing. The new feature makes it easier to understand how content resonates with readers. It is aimed at all levels of technical expertise with a user-friendly interface for understanding performance. The tool features high-level charts and cards showing stats for "Your new content" and "Google Search". Google says it will help answer questions like what is your best performing content and which pieces of content are trending, how are your new pieces of content performing, how do people discover your content across the web, etc. The best Search Console Insights experience requires linking your Google Analytics account to a relevant property, the report said. Only Google Analytics Universal Analytics properties are currently supported, but Google Analytics 4 is coming soon, it added. This Insights tool -- currently in beta -- can be launched directly here or from the top of the Search Console's Overview page. It is also coming to mobile directly in the Google app for iOS and Android from the menu that appears when you tap your profile picture.
Truecaller adds Group Calling, Smart SMS features
Media|World|: Bengaluru: Swedish caller identification app Truecaller announced on Wednesday that it is rolling out new features to further augment the user experience, which include Group Voice Calling, Smart SMS and Inbox Cleaner. All of them are based on user feedback and are designed to cater to the evolving needs of the consumers, Truecaller said. "With Group Voice Calling, Smart SMS and Inbox Cleaner, I am hopeful that the consumers will be able to operate more effectively given the benefits of staying connected, using messaging service smartly to stay on top of important information," Rishit Jhunjhunwala, MD India, Truecaller, said in a statement. Smart SMS offers a host of new features designed to make day-to-day communication more convenient, while Inbox Cleaner lets consumers free up space on their phones by removing unused messages. Inbox Cleaner also helps the user clear out all old and unwanted messages in just a few seconds. Group Voice Calling allows users to add up to eight participants to a call while retaining high voice clarity. Truecaller will also help identify spam users in the group if they are added without the user's knowledge. Additionally, the feature offers a smooth dial back option from call logs making it easy to manage the group - including adding or removing participants - when dialing them back. "We continue to remain focused on the evolving needs of our users and meet those needs with innovative solutions. These features get us closer to our mission to make communication safer and more efficient for everyone," Jhunjhunwala said.