Technology

GulfNews Technology

Feline okay? The app that tells you if your cat's happy

Technology|Offbeat|: Cat owners who love to take pictures of their furry friends now have a new excuse to pull out their smartphones and take a snapshot: it may actually help the cat. A Calgary, Alberta, animal health technology company, Sylvester.ai, has developed an app called Tably that uses the phone's camera to tell whether a feline is feeling pain. The app looks at ear and head position, eye-narrowing, muzzle tension, and how whiskers change, to detect distress. A 2019 study published in peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports found that the so-called 'feline grimace scale,' or FGS, is a valid and reliable tool for acute pain assessment in cats. Dr. Liz Ruelle examines a cat at the Wild Rose Cat clinic in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Image Credit: REUTERS "It helps human cat owners know if their cat is in pain or not," said Miche Priest, Sylvester.ai's venture lead. "We were able to train a machine using machine learning and a series of images." The app could help young veterinarians, said Dr. Liz Ruelle of the Wild Rose Cat Clinic in Calgary, where developers trained the algorithm. "I love working with cats, have always grown up with cats," she said. "For other colleagues, new grads, who maybe have not had quite so much experience, it can be very daunting to know - is your patient painful?" An app that learns patterns from images of cat faces can be helpful but cat owners should also look at their pet's whole body, including the tail, for clues about their well-being, said Alice Potter from British animal charity the RSPCA. Miche Priest, venture lead of Alta ML with a cat at the Wild Rose Cat clinic in Calgary, Alberta. Image Credit: REUTERS "Cats that are worried or scared will hold that tail really tight and tense to them. And then aside from that, there's also just thinking about their behavior in terms of are they eating, drinking, toileting, sleeping like they usually do?"

GulfNews Technology

Those black-and-white QR codes are becoming part of consumer experience – but at a cost

Analysis|Technology|: New York: When people enter Teeth in San Francisco's Mission neighborhood, the bouncer gives them options. They can order food and drinks at the bar, he says, or they can order via a QR code. Each table at Teeth has a card emblazoned with the code, a pixelated black-and-white square. Customers simply scan it with their phone camera to open a website for the online menu. Then they can input their credit card information to pay, all without touching a paper menu or interacting with a server. A scene like this was a rarity 18 months ago, but not anymore. "In 13 years, I've never seen a sea change like this that brought the majority of customers into a new behavior so quickly," said Ben Bleiman, Teeth's owner. But retailers now have access to user patterns, which some argue, gives them ample power over consumer data. Image Credit: Pixabay QR codes - essentially a kind of bar code that allows transactions to be touchless - have emerged as a permanent tech fixture from the coronavirus pandemic. Restaurants have adopted them en masse, retailers including CVS and Foot Locker have added them to checkout registers, and marketers have splashed them all over retail packaging, direct mail, billboards and TV advertisements. But the spread of the codes has also let businesses integrate more tools for tracking, targeting and analytics, raising red flags for privacy experts. That's because QR codes can store digital information such as when, where and how often a scan occurs. They can also open an app or a website that then tracks people's personal information or requires them to input it. Building up info As a result, QR codes have allowed some restaurants to build a database of their customers' order histories and contact information. At retail chains, people may soon be confronted by personalized offers and incentives marketed within QR code payment systems. "People don't understand that when you use a QR code, it inserts the entire apparatus of online tracking between you and your meal," said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union. "Suddenly your offline activity of sitting down for a meal has become part of the online advertising empire." But sheer utility should convince consumers that they should not be too finicky about retailers getting to know them better. Image Credit: Shutterstock QR codes may be new to many American shoppers, but they have been popular internationally for years. Invented in 1994 to streamline car manufacturing at a Japanese company, QR codes became widely used in China in recent years after being integrated into the AliPay and WeChat Pay digital payment apps. In the US, the technology was hampered by clumsy marketing, a lack of consumer understanding and the hassle of needing a special app to scan the codes, said Scott Stratten, who wrote the 2013 business book ‘QR Codes Kill Kittens’ with his wife, Alison Stratten. First the iPhone and… That has changed for two reasons, Scott Stratten said. In 2017, he said, Apple made it possible for the cameras in iPhones to recognize QR codes, spreading the technology more widely. Then came the "pandemic, and it's amazing what a pandemic can make us do," he said. Half of all full-service restaurant operators in the US have added QR code menus since the start of the pandemic, according to the National Restaurant Association. In May 2020, PayPal introduced QR code payments and has since added them at CVS, Nike, Foot Locker and around 1 million small businesses. Square, another digital payments firm, rolled out a QR code ordering system for restaurants and retailers in September. A habit they want to keep Businesses don't want to give up the benefits that QR codes have brought to their bottom-line, said Sharat Potharaju, CEO of the digital marketing company MobStac. Deals and special offers can be bundled with QR code systems and are easy to get in front of people when they look at their phones, he said. Businesses also can gather data on consumer spending patterns through QR codes. "With traditional media, like a billboard or TV, you can estimate how many people may have seen it, but you don't know how people actually interacted with it," said Sarah Cucchiara, a senior vice-president at BrandMuscle, a marketing firm that introduced a QR code menu product last year. "With QR codes, we can get reporting on those scans." Digital menus also make it easier to persuade people to spend more with offers to add fries or substitute more expensive spirits in a cocktail. Image Credit: Shutterstock Cheqout and Mr. Yum, two startups that sell technology for creating QR code menus at restaurants, also said the codes had brought advantages to businesses. Restaurants that use QR code menus can save 30% to 50% on labor costs by reducing or eliminating the need for servers to take orders and collect payments, said Tom Sharon, a co-founder of Cheqout. Digital menus also make it easier to persuade people to spend more with offers to add fries or substitute more expensive spirits in a cocktail, with photographs of menu items to make them more appealing, said Kim Teo, a Mr. Yum co-founder. Orders placed through the QR code menu also let Mr. Yum inform restaurants what items are selling, so they can add a menu section with the most popular items or highlight dishes they want to sell. These increased digital abilities are what worry privacy experts. Mr. Yum, for instance, uses cookies in the digital menu to track a customer's purchase history and gives restaurants access to that information, tied to the customer's phone number and credit cards. It is piloting software in Australia so restaurants can offer people a "recommended to you" section based on their previous orders, Teo said. Just like Google QR codes "are an important first step toward making your experience in physical space outside of your home feel just like being tracked by Google on your screen," said Lucy Bernholz, director of Stanford University's Digital Civil Society Lab. Teo said that each restaurant's customer data was available only to that establishment and that Mr. Yum did not use the information to reach out to customers. It also does not sell the data to any third-party brokers, she said. Cheqout collects only customers' names, phone numbers and protected payment information, which it does not sell to third-parties, Sharon said. Regardless of customers' feelings, Bleiman said Cheqout's data showed that about half of Teeth's orders - and as much as 65 per cent during televised sports games - were coming through the QR code system. "They may not like it," he said in a text message. "But they're doing it!"

GulfNews Technology

Upcoming Galaxy foldable devices to carry S-Pen: Samsung

New Delhi: Samsung on Tuesday announced that the upcoming Galaxy Z family will include the first-ever S (Stylus) Pen, a USP of its Note series. "Galaxy Z family will share some foldable surprises -- including the first-ever S Pen designed specifically for foldable phones," said Dr TM Roh, President and Head of Mobile Communications Business, Samsung Electronics. The company will hold its next Galaxy Unpacked event on August 11, where the South Korean tech giant is likely to showcase new foldable devices, Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3. "We are also working with Google to enrich our foldable ecosystems with popular apps and services. For our third generation of Galaxy Z phones, we have lined up even more partner apps that make the most of the versatile fold-out format," Koh announced. "From hands-free optimised video calling with Google Duo and watching videos in Flex mode on YouTube to multitasking in Microsoft Teams, our foldable ecosystem will offer a wealth of seamless and optimised experiences," he added. Samsung is expected to unveil latest foldable smartphones with lower price tags compared with its predecessors. The company is also expected to unveil, a Galaxy FE phone, two Galaxy Watches and a set of new Galaxy Buds. The South Korean tech giant is expected to start sales of the Galaxy Z Fold3 at around 1.99 million won ($1,744), which is 17 percent lower than the 2.39 million won set for the previous model, according to the sources. The price of the Galaxy Z Flip3 is also expected to be around 22 percent lower than the predecessor. A recent report said that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 will feature an under-display camera. Its next clamshell foldable Galaxy Z Flip3 is expected to have a bigger outer display. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is expected to feature a larger external display of 1.83 inches. It has a dual-camera system, which reportedly includes a 12MP main snapper and a 12MP ultrawide snapper.

GulfNews Technology

Facebook and tech giants to target attacker manifestos, far-right militias in database

Americas|Media|: A counterterrorism organisation formed by some of the biggest US tech companies including Facebook and Microsoft is significantly expanding the types of extremist content shared between firms in a key database, aiming to crack down on material from white supremacists and far-right militias, the group told Reuters. Until now, the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism's (GIFCT) database has focused on videos and images from terrorist groups on a United Nations list and so has largely consisted of content from Islamist extremist organizations such as Islamic State, al Qaeda and the Taliban. Over the next few months, the group will add attacker manifestos - often shared by sympathizers after white supremacist violence - and other publications and links flagged by UN initiative Tech Against Terrorism. It will use lists from intelligence-sharing group Five Eyes, adding URLs and PDFs from more groups, including the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters and neo-Nazis. The firms, which include Twitter and Alphabet Inc's YouTube, share "hashes," unique numerical representations of original pieces of content that have been removed from their services. Other platforms use these to identify the same content on their own sites in order to review or remove it. While the project helps combat extremist content on mainstream platforms, groups can still post violent images and rhetoric on many other sites and parts of the internet. The tech group wants to combat a wider range of threats, said GIFCT's Executive Director Nicholas Rasmussen in an interview with Reuters. "Anyone looking at the terrorism or extremism landscape has to appreciate that there are other parts...that are demanding attention right now," Rasmussen said, citing the threats of far-right or racially motivated violent extremism. The tech platforms have long been criticized for failing to police violent extremist content, though they also face concerns over censorship. The issue of domestic extremism, including white supremacy and militia groups, took on renewed urgency following the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol. Fourteen companies can access the GIFCT database, including Reddit, Snapchat-owner Snap, Facebook-owned Instagram, Verizon Media, Microsoft's LinkedIn and file-sharing service Dropbox. GIFCT, which is now an independent organization, was created in 2017 under pressure from US and European governments after a series of deadly attacks in Paris and Brussels. Its database mostly contains digital fingerprints of videos and images related to groups on the UN Security Council's consolidated sanctions list and a few specific live-streamed attacks, such as the 2019 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand. GIFCT has faced criticism and concerns from some human and digital rights groups over censorship. "Over-achievement in this takes you in the direction of violating someone's rights on the internet to engage in free expression," said Rasmussen. The group wants to continue to broaden its database to include hashes of audio files or certain symbols and grow its membership. It recently added home-rental giant Airbnb and email marketing company Mailchimp as members.

GulfNews Technology

UAE telco du to focus spending on super-speed 5G and fixed-services, says CEO Fahad Al Assawi

Markets|Companies|: Dubai: The excitement and the future might be about super-fast 5G networks – but the UAE telco du is not going to scale down on fixed-line services. In fact, the Dubai’s headquartered telco wants to cover a lot of distance within the UAE with fixed-line infrastructure. “Along with 5G (fifth generation) investments, we will continue with laying out fibre-optic cables for the fixed-line services,” said Fahad Al Assawi, who took over as CEO in June. “Currently, our fixed-line infrastructure covers 15-18 per cent of the country, Laying out the fibre optics selectively is also about supporting our enterprise customers, especially from an IPP point of view.” It’s highly instructive that du thinks fixed-line will remain a key part of its future portfolio. At most telecom operators, the agenda has decisively fixated on 5G and deploying that supporting infrastructure at the earliest possible timeline. “Fixed-line investments will help us strategically and operationally, whether it is to do with customer acquisition, the quality of service on offer, and return on investments,” the CEO said. Mobile numbers show a welcome return to form du’s revenues grew 7 per cent year-on-year to Dh2.85 billion. And this will please the CEO and du stakeholders - mobile revenues “reversed its downward trend” and came in at Dh1.29 billion. Net profit jumped 11.4 per cent to Dh240 million. Fixed revenues continued its growth – up 6.5 per cent year-on-year - for an all-time high of Dh687 million. The enterprise and consumer categories also pitched in, while ‘other revenues’ increased 21.5 per cent to Dh873 million, from higher handset sales as well as higher wholesale revenues. EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) gained 7.3 per cent to Dh1.13 billion as “we continue to implement our cost optimisation programme,” the company said. “The increase in EBITDA was partially offset by higher depreciation and amortisation charges triggered by higher network investments and Dh18 million impairment charges on obsolete fixed assets.” Margins remained stable at 39.6% in spite of higher handset sales. Speed up on 5G With 5G, du is taking a ‘build and they will come’ approach. “Traffic is picking up on the 5G network, but for a full impact on the G eco-system, several things need to be in place: users need to migrate to new handset in greater numbers and we should show ‘enterprise use’ cases that will show potential users how 5G will benefit them. “From our side, we have the 5G handset offers running and on instalments, and there will soon be the numbers to support our continued expansion.” I am very pleased that we stemmed the decline in mobile service revenues. We remain vigilant on our cost base as cost reduction initiatives helped push EBITDA and net profit up 7% and 11% Fahad Al Hassawi of du Full coverage The UAE’s telecom regulator is setting sights on 2025 for every nook and cranny in the country to come under 5G coverage. Al Hassawi is keeping du’s 5G roadmap open – “We will keep making those capital expenditure on 5G as long as it takes.” It was in November last that du signed up for a new operational strategy. Its business divisions were consolidated, and making the company less vulnerable to sudden shifts in market dynamics. The results are starting to be seen, according to the CEO. “The whole objective from that November decision was to address segment needs in a much more focussed way,” the CEO said. “We can see the fruits of that change now in the good movement of these segments, good revenues and customer acquisition. The new structure is showing that it is giving results.” 6.6 m The number of du mobile subscribers du's mobile services are primed for growth - the customer base grew 2.3% to 6.6 million as the economic recovery took shape. Voice traffic rebounded ahead of pre-pandemic levels and compensated for moderate data usage due to wi-fi offloading. Growing interest in 5G devices as well as "attractive" financing solutions for post-paid customers continue to fuel demand for handsets. "Robust" momentum in Fixed services. Consumers are responding to the broadband offerings. During the second quarter, du added 31,000 broadband subscribers - "a step change compared to previous periods".

GulfNews Technology

Dubai’s DIFC invests in UK-based legaltech startup Clara

Markets|Technology|: Dubai: The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) has invested in Clara, the UK-based legaltech startup, through its fintech fund. Clara’s platform digitises and automates many of the legal tasks business owners need to perform, including setting up companies in different jurisdictions. With Clara’s new license, the legaltech start-up will now be able to provide its streamlined corporate services platform to DIFC companies. This is the third jurisdiction to license Clara to set up companies. “DIFC continues to be a catalyst for innovation in the region by investing in businesses that can help transform the finance industry,” said Arif Amiri, CEO of DIFC Authority. The $100 million DIFC FinTech Fund that backed the Clara investment was launched in 2017 to help companies seeking access to Middle East, Africa and South Asian markets. “Start-ups are looking for a new approach to help them overcome the pain and complexity of dealing with legal matters,” said Patrick Rogers, CEO of Clara. A team of lawyers and technologists leads Clara. The company’s platform automates many of the tasks currently performed by lawyers for start-ups including forming companies, drafting agreements, building cap tables, structuring data rooms and predictively educating founders on legal concepts. The company has raised $3.5 million in seed financing from institutional investors, including 500 Startups and Techstars.