All posts on January, 2017


Emerging Tech

Apple Formally Joins High-Powered AI Partnership

The Partnership on AI has announced that Apple, well known for its culture of secrecy, has joined the organization as a founding member. The other founding members are Amazon, Facebook, Google/Deep Mind, IBM and Microsoft. The group also announced the final composition of its inaugural board of trustees. The group plans to announce additional details sometime after the board’s Feb. 3 meeting.

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Cybersecurity

Trump Clings to Personal Phone Despite Security Risks

President Donald J. Trump apparently has continued to use his personal Android smartphone despite security concerns. Trump was concerned about losing access to his personal phone even prior to taking his oath of office, according to a report citing unnamed aides who said he worried about how isolated he could become in the White House without his phone to keep in touch with friends.

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Business and financeButtonwood's notebook

Making protectionism unpopular again

BACK in 1906, an insurgent politician called Joseph Chamberlain (once known as Radical Joe, he had switched to the Conservatives over home rule for Ireland*) lured the British government into a campaign in favour of tariffs. The result was a devastating defeat for the Conservatives. The opposition Liberal party recognised that tariffs were a tax on the goods bought by the poor, particularly on food, and warned that the policy would lead to a “smaller loaf”. They portrayed tariffs as “stomach taxes”.

A hundred years ago, then, it was easy to make protectionism unpopular. Despite the prosperity brought by 70 years under a more open trading system, it now seems that opinion may have changed: tariffs are favoured by “populist” politicians.**

The trick for modern populists has been to focus on the positive benefits to American workers in terms of jobs, rather than the adverse impact on consumers. In fact, protectionism is highly unlikely to restore American manufacturing jobs, which are under threat from automation as well as globalisation, as our Continue reading

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Customer Experience

Banking Customer Satisfaction Barometer Inches Up

Customer satisfaction with banking institutions improved last year, based on the annual Bank Satisfaction Barometer CFI Group released Thursday. Customers were more likely to remain loyal to their bank and even recommend it to others, according to the annual survey of bank customers across the United States. Banks improved their standing with customers and maintained stronger relationships.

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Customer Experience

Banking Customer Satisfaction Barometer Inches Up

Customer satisfaction with banking institutions improved last year, based on the annual Bank Satisfaction Barometer CFI Group released Thursday. Customers were more likely to remain loyal to their bank and even recommend it to others, according to the annual survey of bank customers across the United States. Banks improved their standing with customers and maintained stronger relationships.

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Consumer Security

Personalization, Simplicity Key to Smart Home Device Adoption

Continued innovation and messaging are crucial for smart safety and security device manufacturers that want to capitalize on new opportunities in the emerging Internet of Things. Early adopters of smart devices are often drawn to the innovative design and technological gadgetry. However, mass market adoption depends on clear and compelling value propositions that appeal to the masses.

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Consumer Security

Personalization, Simplicity Key to Smart Home Device Adoption

Continued innovation and messaging are crucial for smart safety and security device manufacturers that want to capitalize on new opportunities in the emerging Internet of Things. Early adopters of smart devices are often drawn to the innovative design and technological gadgetry. However, mass market adoption depends on clear and compelling value propositions that appeal to the masses.

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How To

Customizing a Computer? Here’s What You Need

There are plenty of reasons to build a custom computer. While custom computers may initially be more expensive than prepackaged desktops or laptops, they can provide you with nearly endless possibilities, whether you’re looking for a top-notch gaming machine, a system for mixing music, or the ideal choice for developing Web applications. Custom is the way to go for performance and flexibility.

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ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

Qualcomm is again under attack for living large off its patent portfolio

“SHOULD five per cent appear too small, be thankful I don’t take it all.” The Beatles wrote “Taxman” in 1966 to protest at Harold Wilson’s exorbitant “supertax” rates. Critics of Qualcomm, the world’s biggest chip-design firm, would say the lyric is a clue to the company’s business practices. Its methods have attracted a barrage of legal complaints. The latest came on January 25th, when Apple, a smartphone maker, sued it in China for abusing its clout in mobile processors and demanded 1bn yuan ($145m) in damages. Just days earlier Apple had filed a similar lawsuit in California asking for $1bn.

America’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a separate complaint against the firm this month. In late December, the equivalent body in South Korea fined it a whopping $853m, which hurt its quarterly results, announced this week. These cases follow two similar ones in 2015: Chinese regulators imposed an even higher fine, of $975m; and the European Commission found Qualcomm guilty of having sold chips below cost to hurt rivals.

Qualcomm is no household name, but most people with mobile phones use its technology….Continue reading

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ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

Political dating sites are hot

Looking for a bit of Trumpy pumpy

AFTER Donald Trump was elected president, Maple Match, an online dating app which connects Canadians and Americans, was inundated with people signing up. The app promised to make it easy for Americans to find a Canadian partner to save them from the “unfathomable horror” of a Trump presidency. Joe Goldman, the app’s Texas-based founder, says it has taken on the perceived ethos of Canada: welcoming, open and tolerant. “We’re building bridges when people are talking about building walls and our users like that.”

TrumpSingles.com is forging connections, too. Its founder, David Goss, wants to make it easier for Trump supporters to find each other. The site’s earliest users were in Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia, which are Democratic strongholds. Now its users are in every state. They are also signing up from abroad, including in Britain and in Russia. Mr Goss and his team personally approve each of the site’s 26,000 users to weed out trolls. The site was able to increase its monthly fee from $4.95 to $19.95 in December following Mr Trump’s election victory. It enjoyed a…Continue reading

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ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

Bridge International Academies gets high marks for ambition but its business model is still unproven

AT THE Gatina branch of Bridge International Academies, on the outskirts of Nairobi, Nicholas Oluoch Ochieng has one eye on his class of five-year-olds and the other on his tablet. On the device is a lesson script. Every line is written 7,000 miles away, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There an American team analyses 250,000 test scores every ten days from Bridge’s 405 Kenyan schools, and then uses the data to tweak those parts of a lesson where pupils find themselves stumped. Teachers, if they are instructing the same grade level, give identical lessons, and timetables are standardised, too. So when Mr Ochieng’s pupils read from their books, the same words should be reverberating off the walls of each Bridge nursery. 

That chorus should soon grow louder. Founded in 2008, Bridge has grown into one of the world’s largest groups of for-profit schools—and the largest targeting poor pupils. It has 100,000 pupils spread across Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Uganda and India. Bridge says it aims to teach 10m children—the size of Britain’s pupil population—within the next decade.

Bridge’s ambitious target sets it apart from the low-cost…Continue reading

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ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

Formula One’s new American owner gives Bernie Ecclestone the heave-ho

FOR nearly 40 years, he showed skill and stamina at the wheel of Formula One (F1). But this week Bernie Ecclestone ran out of track. The sport’s new owner, Liberty Media, was at pains to portray its replacement of him as chief executive (by Chase Carey, a former president of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox) as smooth. But the straight-talking octogenarian has never been one to stick to the script: he complained he had been “forced out”.

Liberty, which is controlled by John Malone, a billionaire, agreed to buy the sport last year, in a deal worth $8bn; the deal was completed on January 23rd. That provided an exit for CVC, a private-equity group which had purchased control in 2006. Mr Ecclestone gets the title of “chairman emeritus” as a sop—he said he doesn’t know what the title means—and will, said Liberty, “be available” to advise the board.

His exit was not a total surprise, though the timing had been unclear; he had talked about remaining involved in running F1 for another two to three years. Liberty may wish to draw a line under the Ecclestone era as a precautionary measure. F1 was often mired in litigation during…Continue reading

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ApprovedBusiness and financeFINANCEFinance and economics

A big Chinese province admits faking its economic data

AT THE start of 2014 a senior official in the statistics bureau of Liaoning, an industrial province in north-eastern China, told his army of boffins to cultivate a spirit of innovation in their work. “Liberate your minds,” he exhorted an annual planning meeting. They took him at his word. In one of the biggest scandals to rock the murky world of Chinese economic data, the government admitted this month that Liaoning had faked its fiscal data from 2011 to 2014, inflating revenues by about 20%.

For those inclined to distrust all Chinese numbers, the announcement was simple vindication. But a closer look paints a different picture: of central authorities wanting to get a better read on the economy but being impeded at the local level—and by one of the usual suspects at that.

In manipulating statistics, Liaoning has form. When Li Keqiang, now prime minister, was Communist Party chief of the province in the 2000s, he confided to America’s ambassador to China that its GDP figures were “man-made” and unreliable. Mr Li’s comments have often been cited by critics of Chinese data, though his concerns focused just on…Continue reading

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