Another Day, Another Internet of Things Consortium Is Born

In the emerging Internet of Things (IoT), zillions of devices will be talking to each other. Several major companies -- including Samsung, Intel and Dell -- have just formed a consortium to help ensure each thing can understand what the others are saying. But that consortium's standards will face competition from at least two other organizations formed to ensure the same thing.

Called the Open Interconnect Consortium, the new organization is seeking to define connectivity requirements for billions of devices that are expected to be interconnected by 2020. The requirements are expected to cover a wide range of devices without regard for their form factor, operating system or service provider. Other corporate members include Atmel, Broadcom and Wild River, and companies are expected to contribute software and engineering resources.

The intended deliverables are a specification, an open-source implementation, and a certification program for wireless interconnection standards. The first target is a set of requirements for smart home and office solutions.

'Reliably Interconnect and Share'

As an example, the consortium said the specs would simplify the ability to remotely control and receive notifications from smart home appliances or enterprise prices to smartphones, tablets or PCs. Household energy systems could be remotely controlled using a single spec, and business uses might include device collaborations between employees and outside vendors during a meeting in a conference room.

Doug Fisher, Intel corporate vice president, said in a statement accompanying the announcement that the "ultimate success of the Internet of Things depends on the ability for devices and systems to securely and reliably interconnect and share information," which requires common frameworks and open standards.

"Our goal," he added, "in founding this new consortium is to solve the challenge of interoperable connectivity to the Internet of Things without tying the ecosystem to one company's solution."

But the effort to create one...

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A Thumbs-Up for NSA Internet Spying on Foreigners

Endorsement of the NSA's Internet surveillance programs by a bipartisan privacy board deeply disappointed civil liberties activists [while] providing a measure of vindication for beleaguered U.S. intelligence officials.

James Clapper, director of national intelligence, welcomed the conclusion by the independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that the National Security Agency's Internet spying on foreign targets in the U.S. has been legal, effective and subject to rigorous oversight to protect the rights of Americans.

Activist groups panned the report as a dud.

It was a dizzying turnabout for a privacy board that in January drew criticism in the other direction for branding the NSA's collection of domestic calling records unconstitutional.

As they unanimously adopted their 190-page report on Wednesday, the five board members -- all appointed by President Barack Obama -- sought to explain their largely favorable conclusions about surveillance programs that have provoked worldwide outrage since former NSA systems administrator Edward Snowden revealed them last year.

At issue is a spying regime, first definitively disclosed in Snowden documents last year, under which the NSA is using court orders to obtain foreign customers' emails, chats, videos and texts from Google, Facebook and other U.S. tech companies under a program known as PRISM. The documents also showed that the agency is intercepting foreign data as it transits fiber optic lines in the U.S.

Yahoo, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Google and LinkedIn declined to comment.

The reputations of American technology companies have suffered abroad over the perception that they cannot protect customer data from U.S. spy agencies. Last week, the German government said it would end a contract with Verizon over concerns about network security.

European and other foreign intelligence agencies routinely demand cooperation from their national companies, U.S. officials say, but those operations have not been leaked to the news...

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Cybercrime Ring Uncovered in Brazil

A massive cybercrime ring in Brazil may have stolen billions of dollars from a widely used online payment system, a technology security company said.

The RSA Security division of EMC Corp. said in a research report released on Wednesday that a "malware-based fraud ring" had infiltrated the online payment method known as the boleto, diverting payments to accounts held by members of the ring.

Boletos are used in a wide range of transactions, such as telephone, school tuition, mortgage and credit card payments.

The report said the scheme may have compromised close to 500,000 transactions with an estimated value of $3.75 billion over a two-year period. However, researchers were unable to determine how many of those boletos were paid by victims or whether they went to fraudster-controlled bank accounts."

It said transactions of 34 banks were affected, though it did not name the banks.

The Federation of Brazilian Banks that represents Brazil's banking industry said the country's banks lost 1.4 billion reals (about $700 million) to electronic fraud in 2012.

RSA said it turned over its report to Brazil's federal police, to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and to the federation.

The federal police and the federation said they had no immediate comment.

According to the report, the boleto system is the second most popular payment method in Brazil after credit cards.

E-bit, a Brazilian e-commerce market research firm, estimates that 18 percent of all purchases made in 2012 in Brazil were transacted via boletos.

The report says the malware appears to affect only boletos generated or paid online via infected Windows-based PCs using Google Chrome, Mozilla FireFox and Microsoft Internet Explorer. It modifies the boleto information "so that payments are redirected to a fraudster's account," the reports said.

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Spy Case Threatens To Sour German-U.S. Ties Anew

German-U.S. relations are facing a new test over a German intelligence employee who reportedly spied for the U.S., with Germany's president saying if the allegations are true, that kind of spying on allies must stop.

Prosecutors say a 31-year-old German was arrested last week on suspicion of spying for foreign intelligence services, and that he allegedly handed over 218 documents between 2012 and 2014. German media, without naming sources, have reported he was an employee of Germany's foreign intelligence service who says he sold his services to the U.S.

Germany's Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. ambassador Friday to help clarify the case. The country's top security official stepped up the pressure Sunday.

"I expect everyone now to assist quickly in clearing up the accusations -- and quick and clear statements, from the USA too," Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere was quoted as saying in Bild newspaper.

The issue threatens to strain German-U.S. relations again after earlier reports that the National Security Agency spied on Germans, including on Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone.

If it turns out the U.S. "gave this kind of assignment to one of our intelligence employees, then it really has to be said: That's enough now," President Joachim Gauck said on ZDF television.

The head of a parliamentary committee investigating the activities of U.S. and allied spies, Patrick Sensburg, said he has no information that documents from the panel were spied on, but government documents destined for the committee may have been.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council have declined to comment.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at a book presentation in Berlin it's "a serious issue."

"Let's find out what the facts are and then let's act appropriately, but also try to be careful not to undermine the necessary cooperation which exists between us," she said.

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More Than Half of Networks Not Ready for Internet of Things

Most enterprises are prepared for the Internet of Things (IoT) and see its business potential. But the reality is that there may not be enough network capacity to handle the increased demand in connected devices, according to a recent survey of 400 IT professionals in the U.S. and U.K. by network control company Infoblox.

Of the IT pros surveyed, 90 percent said they were either planning or already implementing solutions to cope with the increased demands on networking caused by IoT projects.

Additionally, 78 percent of the respondents said they had the budget and the staff to deal with the explosion of connected devices. And as unlikely as it seems given the overall trends toward flat or limited IT budgets, 89 percent of the IT pros who responded to the survey said they were likely to receive more funding in the next year to respond to IoT demands, with 73 percent saying they would be adding staff.

The Network's the Thing

However, although 86 percent of IT professionals surveyed understood what would be required of their networks for IoT deployments, and almost half (46 percent) expected these deployments to become part of their organization's existing IT networks, more than half (57 percent) said their networks were already at full capacity. And 54 percent identified network infrastructure management as high priorities for their organizations.

"It's encouraging that the majority of IT professionals recognize the demands the Internet of Things will make on their networks," said Cricket Liu, chief infrastructure officer at Infoblox. "Network administrators have struggled in recent years to stay on top of the 'bring your own device' trend, and the IoT will create an increase in end points that is an order of magnitude greater."

But, Liu said, many networks' teams will have to respond to the IoT without significant increases in...

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Gartner Sales Study Sees Tablets Up, PCs Down but Recovering

Are old-fashioned PCs on the comeback trail? That might depend on how you define "comeback," but one study indicates that desktop PCs and notebooks will at least make up some ground, as tablets keep showing strong sales numbers. A study released Monday by Gartner indicates growth in the PC market will continue to contract through 2014, and will lag behind tablet shipments, which are still going strong.

Even so, the market for PCs in the near term looks positive, analysts say. The PC market saw a 9.5 percent drop in 2013, but Gartner speculates that decline will slow to a 2.9 percent reduction this year.

In 2015, the number of PC shipments, including traditional desktops and notebooks, as well as premium ultramobile systems, is projected to climb to almost 317 million units. That forecast is up about 2.9 percent over this year and close to the number of units shipped in 2013.

Shipments of traditional desktops and laptops are expected to drop from 296.1 million last year to 276.2 million this year, then down again to 261.6 million next year.

Some Uptick

On the plus side, ultramobiles -- the thin, portable laptops exemplified by AppleEUs MacBook Air -- are expected to gain more market share, according to the Gartner study, with shipments forecast to rise from 21.5 million in 2013 to 32.2 million in 2014, and 55 million in 2015.

Part of the uptick may be coming from the global business market, according to Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal.

"Business upgrades from Windows XP and the general business replacement cycle will lessen the downward trend, especially in Western Europe," Atwal said in a statement. "This year, we anticipate nearly 60 million professional PC replacements in mature markets."

Tablets and Phones Still Surging

Tablet shipments, meanwhile, are projected to continue their upward trend, rising by 24...

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Microsoft’s Next-Gen Kinect for PC Ships July 15

In-the-air gestural control of personal computers has taken another step closer to general availability. On Monday, Microsoft announced that its Kinect for Windows v2 sensor peripheral will ship on July 15, along with a public beta version of the software development kit.

The new information was made available as part of an update on pre-orders. The pre-order notice said the V2 sensor will give "developers more of the precision, responsiveness, and intuitive capabilities they need to develop interactive voice and gesture-based applications."

The newest version of the sensor increases depth-sensing, provides 1080p video, and offers enhanced skeletal tracking and infrared technology. The peripheral, which will be priced for developers at $199, includes a sensor and a USB 3.0 connection. The sensor moves much of the processing to the GPU on the PC, instead of being handled by the CPU. Microsoft said that only a limited pre-order inventory is available.

New York City Hackathon

After that inventory is depleted, Kinect sensors will be available as part of the general release later in 2014. The Xbox One gaming console, for which the Kinect controller was originally released, is available for $499 with the Kinect, or $399 without it.

In late June, the company conducted a 27-hour hackathon in New York City around Kinect 2.0 and the SDK 2.0. On its Kinect for Windows Blog, the company noted that over a hundred participants attended, and the energy was high enough to warrant setting up additional events this summer in Dallas, Texas; at the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington; and in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.

Although Kinect comes from the gaming world of the Xbox, the applications shown at the New York hackathon represented a wide range of uses. First place was awarded to an application called K4B from a company named Lightspeed. It uses the Kinect sensor to scan...

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Qualcomm Completes Wilocity Deal, WiGig Gains Steam

WiGig, with speeds as much as 10 times faster than today's Wi-Fi, may be gaining momentum. That prospect is being raised following word that Qualcomm announced late last week that it has completed acquisition of WiGig developer Wilocity.

Based in Israel, Wilocity has been working on 60 GHz wireless chipsets based on the IEEE 802.11ad standard, otherwise known as WiGig. Terms of the acquisition were not announced, although news reports pegged the price as about $300 million. For the past half-dozen years, Qualcomm has been an investor in Wilocity, and it also has been involved since 2011 in the development and distribution of tri-band wireless solutions. Up to now, WiGig has been available in only a handful of products.

Additionally, Qualcomm said that it is delivering a tri-band platform for devices. The tri-band platform is currently a reference design for the first mobile platform for WiGig, based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810. The tri-band platform includes Wi-Fi and WiGig from Qualcomm's Atheros subsidiary.

7 Gigabits Per Second

Amir Faintuch, president of Qualcomm Atheros, said in a statement that, by combining multi-gigabit speeds and low energy use, "WiGig technology will strengthen Qualcomm Atheros' connectivity leadership and create exciting new experiences that will accelerate the commercialization and adoption of 802.11ad technology."

Qualcomm said applications for this very high-speed wireless, as fast as 7 gigabits per second, could include 4K video streaming, peer-to-peer content sharing, and backing up entire libraries in seconds. It also offers increased capacity for the network and increased power efficiency.

Peter Jarich, vice president for consumer and infrastructure at industry research firm Current Analysis, pointed out to us that WiGig, a Wi-Fi Alliance specification, is not a new thing. "What's new here," he said, "is the involvement of Qualcomm, [which] holds the potential to make WiGig bigger than it's been and drive up...

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Salesforce1 Mobile App Adds Robust Reporting Tools

Cloud CRM company Salesforce.com continues innovating around its Salesforce1 Platform. After bringing its platform, which offers a host of APIs and mobile user interface tools, to the retail and healthcare industries in recent weeks, the company is now adding mobile features to the mix.

Salesforce1 Mobile Reports & Dashboards now make it possible for Salesforce1 Mobile App users to access, analyze and act on business data on the fly. Hype aside, the new reporting tools give users more ways to run their business from a smartphone, essentially offering instant data that sets the stage for smart business moves. FFF Enterprises, Iron Mountain and Talent Plus are among the early adopters.

"Having instant visibility into business data is no longer a luxury," said Keith Bigelow, Senior Vice President and General Manager of big data and analytics at Salesforce.com. "With Salesforce1, customers can act on business information in real-time."

Keyword: Productivity

Productivity has always been a key message behind the Salesforce1 Mobile App, but the new reporting capabilities could make stakeholders even more productive. By integrating reporting tools into the mobile app, users have more data available at their fingertips so they can make quicker decisions.

Salesforce offered two prime examples: a sales executive deciding which deal to help close at the end of a quarter or a customer service leader analyzing which critical issues are impacting top customers.

EUFor mobile business applications to advance, vendors must rethink the human interface and make usability a priority, particularly when it comes to reporting and visualizing data," said Rebecca Wetteman, Vice President of research at Nucleus Research. "By focusing on the next action that a business user can take to meet business objectives, Salesforce1 Mobile Reports & Dashboards will deliver critical analytics solutions that enables users to stay productive and keep their business moving wherever they are."

The Three As

Salesforce...

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Experts Say Four Threats Put Internet Freedom at Risk

The open nature of the Internet faces several threats over the next ten years that could severely curtail online liberty, according to a new report published by the Pew Research Center. The think tank released their survey of more than 1,400 analysts and experts as part of their series called "The Web at 25."

Most respondents said they believe the way individuals access information wonEUt significantly change for the worse by 2025. However, the research identified four key threats that pose serious concerns, including (1) efforts by nation-states to maintain political control by filtering, blocking or segmenting the Internet, (2) erosion of trust stemming from government and corporate surveillance, (3) efforts by corporations to further commercialize the online world, and (4) attempts by individuals to filter their own online exposure to combat information overload.

Great Firewall of China

The report highlighted attempts by governments such as China to control the flow of information across the Internet by restricting access. Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey were also singled out for their attempts to prevent their citizens from viewing content their governments find objectionable.

Even in Britain, "ISPs block sites the government considers EUterroristEU or otherwise dangerous,EU Dave Burstein, editor of Fast Net News, pointed out in his response to the survey.

While blocking terrorist communications can obviously be beneficial, some industry watchers are concerned about the related threat of government censorship growing out of control, even in democracies. Burstein noted that, EUThere will usually be ways to circumvent the obstruction, but most people wonEUt bother."

Other experts quoted in the survey argued that opposing trends will counteract government censorship efforts. EUThereEUs a lot of work underway now in developing open-source, interoperable, and encrypted versions of social media, in response to the increasing authoritarianism and state collaboration of existing walled-garden media,EU Kevin Carson, a senior fellow...

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