Google’s Cloud Expansion Includes 5 New Regions, 3 Undersea Cables

Already helping to deliver as much as one-quarter of the world's Internet traffic, Google's network is about to get even bigger. The company announced today that it plans to add five new Google Cloud Platform regions to its current 13 in the year ahead.

Next year, Google also expects to commission three new undersea cables to strengthen Internet links between Chile and California, the U.S. and Europe, and Hong Kong and Guam. One of those projects will be a private venture, while the other two are headed by consortia.

The new regions and cables are aimed at strengthening and expanding Google's ability to provide customers with cloud-based services ranging from G Suite software, such as Gmail and Google Drive, to advanced products, such as its Machine Learning Engine. The company has already spent some $30 billion over the past three years with those goals in mind.

Evolution of Global Networks

Google's latest plans also highlight the ongoing transformation from an Internet at first developed largely through public financing and telecom-built infrastructure to one that's expanding more through investments by large tech companies. In a blog post today, Google vice president of engineering Ben Treynor Sloss contrasted his company's cloud services to those of other cloud providers that use the public Internet to deliver their services.

"While we haven't hastened the speed of light, we have built a superior cloud network as a result of the well-provisioned direct paths between our cloud and end-users," Sloss said. He pointed to a diagram comparing Google's network to other services with "the nondeterministic performance of the public Internet, or other cloud networks."

In 2008, Google was the first technology company to invest in the construction of a new subsea networking cable -- the trans-Pacific Unity cable -- through a consortium that included several international telecom firms....

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Meaningful Shift: What Facebook Changes Mean for Businesses

In coming days, Facebook users will see fewer posts from publishers, businesses and celebs they follow. Instead, Facebook wants people to see more stuff from friends, family and other people they are likely to have "meaningful" conversations with -- something the company laments has been lost in the sea of videos, news stories (real and fake), and viral quizzes on which "Big Bang Theory" character you are.

Here are some frequently asked questions about what users and businesses might expect from the changes.

Why Is Facebook Doing This?

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been doing a bit of soul-searching about the negative effects his company may be having on society and its users' psyches. He's come a long way since November 2016, when he dismissed the notion that fake news on Facebook could have influenced the U.S. presidential election as a "pretty crazy idea ."

Now it's his personal goal for 2018 to fix the site and weed out hate, abuse, meddling by malicious nation states, while also making it more "meaningful" and less depressing for users.

While he acknowledges that Facebook may never be completely free of malign influences, Zuckerberg says that the company currently makes "too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing the misuse of our tools."

The company also faces pressure from regulators in the U.S. and abroad, and a growing backlash from academics, lawmakers and even early executives and investors about the ways in which social media may be leaving us depressed, isolated, bombarded by online trolls and addicted to our phones.

Facebook would much rather make changes on its own than have its hand forced by regulators -- or to see disillusioned users move on to other, newer platforms.

How Will It Affect the Company's Business?

Facebook's stock price dropped almost 6 percent on Friday morning before regaining some ground. That suggests investors take...

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Apple Supplier Workers: Grueling Conditions, Toxic Hazards

A report into the treatment of workers making iPhones for Apple claims that 90 workers were taken to hospital in May last year after a leak of chemicals including sulphur and phosphorous at a Catcher Technology factory in China.

Rights group China Labour Watch (CLW) details the incident in a report, published on Tuesday in association with the Guardian, into the treatment of workers primarily making products for Apple, in factories in Suqian, Jiangsu province.

The report reveals workers' claims that they are working long and grueling hours for inadequate pay, as well as being exposed to chemical hazards. Among the claims are that overtime worked is nearly double the level allowed under Chinese law; and that the plant discharges contaminated wastewater into the public drains.

The Catcher factories featured in the investigation produce items including the iPhone 8 metal frame and the keyboard case for MacBooks. Catcher also produces parts for other major technology brands, including Sony, IBM, Dell and HP.

Apple and Catcher both dispute the claims and say that workers were only taken to hospital after the gas leak as a precaution. A previous CLW investigation in 2014, which warned that workers were exposed to toxic chemicals, brought assurances from the tech companies that they expected suppliers to uphold the highest standards. But today Li Qiang, CLW's executive director, accused the company of new failings.

"Apple has recently said they respect Chinese law but Apple has, in reality, been selective about which laws they follow, especially in regards to labor and environmental protection laws. Apple need to uphold their claim of honoring Chinese law," he said.

And he added: "Catcher has been risking the health and safety of its workers as well as the local environment."

The CLW report included pay-slip evidence to show overtime in excess of 70 hours in a month --...

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With More Cash at Home, Will Mergers in the U.S. Heat Up?

In late 2015, Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook was asked why the technology giant continued to leave a mountain of cash overseas rather than return it to the United States.

"I'd love to bring it home," Cook said of the cash hoard, which now totals a staggering $265 billion, in an interview aired on "60 Minutes." But, he added, "it would cost me 40% [in federal and state taxes] and I don't think that's a reasonable thing to do."

Now, with the new U.S. tax law providing a much lower cost for cash repatriation, Cook and the managements of many other U.S. multinational companies are expected to bring home a sizable chunk of the $1.4 trillion that Moody's Investors Service estimates is held offshore by nonfinancial U.S. companies.

The others include fellow tech giants Microsoft Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Google parent Alphabet Inc. and Oracle Corp.; drugmakers Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co.; the biotech company Amgen Inc.; and industrial giant General Electric Co.

In pushing for tax reform, the Trump administration and Republican congressional leaders argued that the new law would end "the perverse incentive to keep foreign profits offshore," as they jointly said in their tax proposal, and that the repatriated cash would help spur additional business investment and job growth in the United States.

"This tax system will bring back trillions of dollars that will be invested here," Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in November.

But the repatriation scenario also has triggered speculation that Apple and other firms will use a good portion of that cash to buy other companies, swelling the number of corporate mergers and acquisitions this year. The rest of the cash is expected to be deployed for stock buybacks, higher dividends and debt repayment along with any business investment and added employment.

"This is going...

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After a $6B Charge, Is General Electric Eyeing a Breakup?

After a decade breaking off substantial pieces of the multinational conglomerate in bid to a return to its industrial roots, a more comprehensive reshaping of General Electric Co. may be on the way.

CEO John Flannery [pictured above], who was put in charge of reviving the company last summer, revealed significant issues at GE Capital Tuesday which will lead to a $6.2 billion after-tax charge in the fourth quarter.

The problems were revealed after review and reserve testing of GE Capital's runoff insurance portfolio. GE Capital will also suspend its dividend to GE for the foreseeable future.

"At a time when we are moving forward as a company, a charge of this magnitude from a legacy insurance portfolio in runoff for more than a decade is deeply disappointing," Flannery said.

Flannery said almost immediately upon taking the top job at GE that everything was on the table, but that GE would focus on three divisions: energy, aviation and health care.

Flannery has emphasized that each business must deliver and that more direct links between performance and reward were critical.

"It's a kind of thing that could result in many, many different permutations including separately traded assets really in any one of our units if that's what made sense," Flannery said.

The CEO has already vowed to shed business units worth more than $20 billion over the next year or two.

At the heart of the issue revealed Tuesday at GE Capital is the level of premiums being paid to offset costs for aging policy holders. The company, after a deeper dive, found that the premiums being paid would not offset claims.

That led to the charge and the suspension of dividends.

GE Capital plans to make statutory reserve contributions of about $15 billion over seven years. It will contribute about $3 billion in 2018's first quarter and approximately $2 billion...

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Are Google Devices Shutting Down Your Wi-Fi? A Fix Is Coming

If you've noticed that your Wi-Fi has gone a little funny recently, and you're the owner of a Google smart speaker or Cast device, the two things may be connected.

The good news is that Google is aware of the issue, and "is working quickly to share a solution" according to a Google spokesperson.

The problems started to occur with Google's latest offering to the smart speaker market, the Google Home Max [pictured above], when used with the TP-Link Archer C7 router. According to AndroidPolice, as soon as the Google Home Max was connected to the network, the network would become inaccessible.

A Range of Devices

TP-Link issued a fix, but as the issue developed it began to look like it originated from the Google device rather than the router. During December of last year there were a number of different complaints on the forums of a number of different router manufacturers, covering almost the full range of Google's offerings.

We covered the news as it related to Chromecast devices, but it looks like the same problem is affecting Google Home devices too, on a range of routers from ASUS, Linksys, Netgear, TP-Link, and Synology. According to 9to5Google the problems are affecting different routers differently, so it may not be causing a total outage.

If you are having router issues, it's worth disconnecting your Google device to see if that's the cause of the problem. We'll keep you updated if there's anything you need to do once Google's fix is available, but it's most probably going to come in the form of an update patch, so make sure you keep your devices updated (if you can connect to the internet).

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InfluxData Integrates Its Time Series Platform with ThingWorx

SAN FRANCISCO -- Jan. 16, 2018 -- InfluxData, the modern Open Source Platform built specifically for metrics and events that empowers developers to build next-generation IoT, analytics and monitoring applications, today announced that it has joined the PTC Partner Network. Joining the PTC Partner Network and integrating its platform with the ThingWorx® industrial innovation platform will enable InfluxData to simplify the developer experience for IoT developers using the ThingWorx platform, allowing them to deliver their applications and solutions faster.

As part of the PTC Partner Network, InfluxData will be discoverable and accessible via the ThingWorx Marketplace™, making it easier for developers to discover and use InfluxData?EU?s time series data platform in their IoT applications. This will allow developers to easily store, analyze, and act on IoT data in real-time. For more information, see: https://www.influxdata.com/integration/ptc-thingworx/

"Fundamentally, all sensor data is time series data," said Brian Mullen, VP of Business Development at InfluxData. "Any meaningful IoT application should be accompanied by a data platform built specifically for that purpose. With this in mind, we are excited to partner with PTC to make InfluxData more compatible with the ThingWorx industrial innovation platform. We are solving the time series data challenge for IoT developers so they can focus on their primary objective of building applications."

"One of the goals of the PTC Partner Network is to assemble a lineup of helpful, specialized tools that enable customers to accelerate the development of their IoT applications," said Kevin O'Brien, SVP, ThingWorx Partner Sales & Alliances, PTC. "We are excited to welcome InfluxData to our program. They share our focus on the IoT developer experience and we look forward to working with them."

Now ThingWorx customers can use InfluxData to more quickly build:

-- Monitoring, alerting and notification applications for ThingWorx-connected...
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42Gears EMM Now Supports iOS Screen Sharing

42Gears Mobility Systems, a leading provider of digital workspace technologies, has announced that its EMM solution SureMDM, now supports Screen Sharing feature for iOS 11 devices. The new update has been released with the latest SureMDM version, now available on the App Store.

SureMDM Screen Sharing for iOS allows enterprises to remotely view enrolled iPhone and iPad screens in real-time, allowing better and effective remote tech support. Support for screen recording and broadcasting capabilities was launched by Apple along with the release of iOS 11.

SureMDM is the first EMM solution that offers inbuilt iOS Screen Sharing support for iPhones and iPads. To read how to use SureMDM iOS screen sharing - click here.

Prakash Gupta, CTO of 42Gears Mobility Systems said, "With the Screen Sharing update, SureMDM becomes a one-stop solution for iOS enterprise management and IT support. IT can now remotely view iOS device screens in real-time directly on the desktop or mobile screens, allowing easy integration with their remote support processes." He added that, "This feature will not only ensure an integrated approach towards tech support across different devices, platforms, or operating systems, it will also improve end-user experience. SureMDM iOS Screen Sharing will prove to be a secure way of simplifying remote tech support for iPhone and iPad devices."

About 42Gears

42Gears Mobility Systems provides SaaS and On-premise UEM solutions. It offers enterprise-ready products to help companies secure, monitor and manage enterprise mobile devices, desktops, IoT and more. More than 7,000 customers across 107 countries use 42Gears for managing BYOD and Company Owned Device deployment scenarios. 42Gears products are used in verticals like healthcare, manufacturing, logistics, education and retail. For more information, please visit http://www.42gears.com.

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For Success, Marketers Need To Embrace Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) was a key feature in many of the new products unveiled at last week's CES 2018 trade show in Las Vegas, powering everything from laundry-folding robots and smart mirrors to autonomous cars and image recognition apps for the visually impaired.

But while AI and machine learning promise to enable whole new classes of consumer products, those smart capabilities are also becoming increasingly vital for business users. That's especially true for marketers and other business professionals who spend their days working to find, connect with, and sell to customers.

Across every industry, companies are facing more pressure than ever to transform for the digital and intelligent business era. Analyst firm IDC, for example, recently predicted that a growing portion of the $1.3 trillion that businesses will spend on digital transformation technologies will focus on "innovation accelerators," such as AI, cognitive computing, and robotics. In fact, marketing in particular is undergoing "an AI revolution," according to a report released by Salesforce last year.

High Performers Using AI Most

"Artificial intelligence is the leading technology where marketers expect the most growth in the next two years," noted the "2017 Salesforce State of Marketing" report. "Internally, marketers view AI as a means of creating more efficiency in their operations. For customers, most marketers see it as a way to get more from their data and ramp up personalization without burdening their teams."

Providing personalized service is becoming a make-or-break issue for many businesses, according to Salesforce. The report cited a study of 7,000 consumers and business buyers around the world that found a majority in each case -- 52 percent of consumers and 65 percent of business buyers -- said they'd be likely to look at switching to other companies if their communications weren't personalized enough.

The Salesforce study also predicted that marketers'...

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Data Collection Underfoot: Sensors as Retail Data Source

The next phase in data collection is right under your feet. Online clicks give retailers valuable insight into consumer behavior, but what can they learn from footsteps? It's a question Milwaukee-based startup Scanalytics is helping businesses explore with floor sensors that track people's movements.

The sensors can also be used in office buildings to reduce energy costs and in nursing homes to determine when someone falls. But retailers make up the majority of Scanalytics' customers, highlighting one of several efforts brick-and-mortar stores are undertaking to better understand consumer habits and catch up with e-commerce giant Amazon.

Physical stores have been at a disadvantage because they "don't have that granular level of understanding as to where users are entering, what they're doing, what shelves are not doing well, which aisles are not being visited," said Brian Sathianathan, co-founder of Iterate Studio, a small Denver-based company that helps businesses find and test technologies from startups worldwide.

But it's become easier for stores to track customers in recent years. With Wi-Fi -- among the earliest available options -- businesses can follow people when they connect to a store's internet. One drawback is that not everyone logs on so the sample size is smaller. Another is that it's not possible to tell whether someone is inches or feet away from a product.

Sunglass Hut and fragrance maker Jo Malone use laser and motion sensors to tell when a product is picked up but not bought, and make recommendations for similar items on an interactive display. Companies such as Toronto-based Vendlytics and San Francisco-based Prism use artificial intelligence with video cameras to analyze body motions. That can allow stores to deliver customized coupons to shoppers in real time on a digital shelf or on their cellphones, said Jon Nordmark, CEO of Iterate Studio.

With Scanalytics, Nordmark said, "to have (the...

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