Lotsa news on the telecommunications and smartphone front leading up to Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress later this month.
Verizon threw down its gauntlet on unlimited data, its first since 2011 according to MacRumors. The new plan unveiled Sunday includes unlimited talk, text, and 4G LTE data, and will cost $80/month for a single smartphone or tablet.
But unlimited isn’t completely unlimited, as “Verizon Unlimited” includes a potential slowdown after customers exceed 22 GB of data usage in a single billing cycle.
Over at Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, they’re looking to introduce their own code-named processor, “Pinecone” within the month, writes Ars Technica. This moves Xiaomi into an alternative smartphone processor universe, considering that most every Android OEM other than Samsung and Huawei have been Qualcomm customers.
Meanwhile, Android Authority reported that Huawei defied slowing global smartphone sales trends and shipped 139M units in 2016, a nearly 30 percent YOY increase. It’s consumer division revenues grew 42% to $26B.
But probably the most intriguing numbers to recently appear were new device activations leading into the Christmas holidays. Flurry has apparently done this analysis every year for several years, and this year, the headline was this: For every Samsung device activated, Apple saw two activated devices (44 percent for Apple, 21 percent for Samsung).
Admittedly, Samsung had a bit of a rough 2016, but yet and still, 2 to 1…and this as Apple recently announced record earnings, sending their stock price to an all-time high.
The sub-headline was that the so-called “phablet” was the dominant form factor by the end of 2016 (with phablet being defined as a smartphone having a screen intermediate in size, between that of a typical smartphone and a tablet computer.
IBM security has announced the availability of Watson for Cyber Security, the industry’s first augmented intelligence technology designed to power cognitive security operations centers.
Over the past year, Watson has been trained on the language of cyber security, ingesting over 1 million security documents. Watson can now help security analysts parse thousands of natural language research reports that have never before been accessible to modern security tools.
Watson for Cyber Security will be integrated into IBM’s new Cognitive SOC platform, bringing together advanced cognitive technologies with security operations and providing the ability to respond to threats across endpoint, network, users and cloud.
The centerpiece of this platform is IBM QRadar Advisor with Watson, a new app available in the IBM Security App Exchange, which is the first tool that taps into Watson’s corpus of cyber security insights.
This new app is already being used by Avnet, University of New Brunswick, Sopra Steria and 40 other customers globally to augment security analysts’ investigations into security incidents.
IBM has also invested in research to bring cognitive tools into its global X-Force Command Center Network, including a Watson-powered chatbot currently being used to interact with IBM Managed Security Services customers.
IBM also revealed a new research project, codenamed “Havyn,” pioneering a voice-powered security assistant that leverages Watson conversation technology to respond to verbal commands and natural language from security analysts.
The project uses Watson APIs, Bluemix and IBM Cloud to provide real-time response to verbal requests and commands, accessing data from open source security intelligence, including IBM X-Force Exchange, as well as client-specific historic data and their security tools.
Watson is also currently engaging with clients daily via a new chatbot tool deployed in IBM’s X-Force Command Center Network, which manages over 1 trillion security events per month. Clients can choose to ask Watson questions via instant messaging about their security posture or network configurations.
For example, clients can ask Watson questions about a device or ticket status. The tool is also capable of executing commands from IBM MSS customers, such as reassigning a ticket to a new owner.
Go here to learn more about Watson for Cyber Security and the Cognitive SOC.
It was a big weekend in music… and in artificial intelligence.
Ford Motor Company announced that it had made Detroit’s biggest investment yet in self-driving technology, acquiring a majority stake in artificial intelligence startup Argo AI for $1 billion.
Silicon Angle reported that Argo was founded by veterans of self-driving car projects at Google and Uber, and that Argo AI will become a subsidiary of Ford under the new deal.
“As Ford expands to be an auto and a mobility company, we believe that investing in Argo AI will create significant value for our shareholders by strengthening Ford’s leadership in bringing self-driving vehicles to market in the near term and by creating technology that could be licensed to others in the future,” said Ford President and Chief Executive Mark Fields.
– via SiliconANGLE
On a related AI front, Chorus.ai, a sound-centric AI firm looking to extract insights from audio, garnered a $16M Series A.
TechCrunch is reporting that Chorus will join conference calls, record and transcribe content in real-time, and then have its platform flag important action items and topics that came up over the duration of calls.
At press time, it was not yet clear what Chorus.ai would make of toilet sounds flushing in the background for those individuals who forgot to go on mute, but this blogger suspects it could lead to a whole other content types with respect to conference call actions.
IBM Launches “Digital – Nation Africa,” Invests $70 Million to Bring Digital Skills to Africa with Free, Watson-Powered Skills Platform
IBM is investing $70 million in building much-needed digital, cloud, and cognitive IT skills to help support a 21st century workforce in Africa.
The initiative, “IBM Digital – Nation Africa”, provides a cloud-based learning platform designed to provide free skills development programs for up to 25 million African youths over five years, enabling digital competence and nurturing innovation in Africa.
This is part of IBM’s global push to build the next generation of skills needed for “New Collar” careers. “New Collar” is a term used by IBM to describe new kinds of careers that do not always require a four-year college degree but rather sought-after skills in cybersecurity, data science, artificial intelligence, cloud, and much more.
For the youth of Africa to be able to benefit from a cognitive future there needs to be a much higher level of digital literacy. At the top of the skills pyramid are developers, who need to know how to create solutions that can leverage the power of cognitive, and entrepreneurs who are aware of the potential.
IBM Digital – Nation Africa is designed to help raise overall digital literacy, increase the number of skilled developers able to tap into cognitive engines and enable entrepreneurs and would be entrepreneurs grow businesses around the new solutions.
Through a free, cloud-based online learning environment delivered on IBM Bluemix, the premier cloud platform for business, the initiative will provide a range of programs from basic IT literacy to highly sought-after advanced IT skills including social engagement, digital privacy, and cyber protection.
Advanced users will be able to explore career-oriented IT topics including programming, cybersecurity, data science and agile methodologies, as well as important business skills like critical thinking, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
The initiative aims to empower African citizens, entrepreneurs, and communities with the knowledge and tools to design, develop, and launch their own digital solutions.
Based on Watson, the cognitive online system will adapt and learn. It will review the multiple interactions the education initiative will have with students, to help direct them to the right courses and help IBM refine the courses to better adapt the material for the needs of the users.
Watson will also create a depth of knowledge using anonymous information gathered from interactions with the students. This will help entrepreneurs and developers understand which current Bluemix solutions best meet their needs and refine their idea to help them design a solution that has greatest market potential.
IBM today announced a blockchain initiative with Dubai Customs, Dubai Trade, advancing Dubai’s government blockchain strategy. As part of the initiative, IBM is also working with leading businesses including Emirates NBD, du, Aramex, and Banco Santander
IBM is collaborating with Dubai Customs, Dubai Trade and its IT provider DUTECH, to explore the use of blockchain for a trade finance and logistics solution for the import and re-export process of goods in and out of Dubai.
Using Hyperledger Fabric and IBM Cloud, the blockchain solution transmits shipment data allowing key stakeholders to receive real-time information about the state of goods and the status of the shipment. Taking the example of a shipment of fruit, stakeholders involved in the process will receive timely updates as the fruit is exported from India to Dubai by sea, and then manufactured into juice in Dubai, and then exported as juice from Dubai to Spain by air.
Additionally, as part of the solution, IBM is also working withdu, a UAE-based telecommunications service provider that is conveying data from internet of things (IoT); Emirates NBD Bank, the letter of credit issuing bank; Banco Santander, the letter of credit responding bank; Aramex, the freight forwarder; and a leading Airline, as the airway carrier.
This trade finance and logistics blockchain-based solution aims to replace paper-based contracts with smart contracts; leverages Watson IoT for device-reported data to update or validate smart contracts; and integrates all the key trade process stakeholders from the ordering stage, in which the importer obtains a letter of credit from their bank, through the intermediary stages of freight and shipping, and ending with customs and payment.
In February 2016, the Dubai government declared its interest to position itself as a blockchain hub and embrace the technology. As part of this declaration, the Dubai Museum of the Future Foundation established the ‘Global Blockchain Council’ in which IBM is a member. Further, Dubai plans to execute all its transactions on a blockchain by 2020, as a part of its “Dubai Blockchain Strategy.”
A recent blockchain study, Building Trust in Governments, by the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV), found that several governmental organizations are embracing blockchain technology to promote more extensive collaboration. Nine out of 10 governmental organizations plan to invest in blockchain for use in financial transaction management, asset management, contract management and regulatory compliance by 2018. And seven out of 10 government executives predict blockchain will significantly disrupt the area of contract management, which is often at the intersection of the public and private sector.
In the Middle East and Africa, nine out of 10 government executives surveyed see contract management as the greatest potential new business model. By using blockchains for contract management, issues such as the failure of any party to meet a deadline or complete a task, for example, could be more immediately visible. Transparency derived from contract management on blockchains could improve performance management. Governments will be able to use blockchains to explore new business models for providing services to citizens beyond the limits of current technology.
These models can be used to improve the efficiencies of current services, while expanding the ability to provide new services. IBM is rapidly expanding its blockchain capabilities and actively working with companies to understand what it takes to make blockchain ready for business. Financial services, supply chains, IoT, risk management, digital rights management and healthcare are some of the areas that are poised for dramatic change using blockchain networks.
For more information, visit: www.ibm.com/blockchain.
Tech earnings season kicked into high gear this week. A few synthesized highlights…
Apple reported $78.4B in Q1 2017 revenue, with 78.3M iPhones sold and a 19% decline in iPad sales. Apple said developers earned $20B from the App Store in 2016, a 40% increase.
Microsoft reported Q2 revenue of $26.1B, indicating Office 365 revenue grew 10% for the quarter. Microsoft indicated its Azure revenue increased 116% in the most recent quarter, “doubling usage.” Surface was down 2% YOY, Phone revenue down 81%.
Facebook reported Q4 revenue of $8.81B, indicating its mobile ad revenue was on a trajectory of bringing in 84% of all ad revenue. Their Monthly Active Users was 1.86B, up 3.91% for the quarter, and last quarter the company said it’s expecting to run out of ad space in mid-2017. It’s not clear whether this sent digital media buyers everywhere scurrying or not.
Amazon reported Q4 revenue of $43.7B, up 22% YOY, and AWS continued to chug forward growing at 47% and delivering revenue of $3.53B. AWS noted it had migrated more than 18K databases using the company’s service in 2016. Echo sales were up 9X compared to last holiday season. “Alexa, crank up the volume.”
And finally, there’s Snap (formerly known as Snapchat). TechCrunch reported their official IPO filing has their revenues at $404M in 2016 with some 158M daily users. That was 500% YOY growth, according to its S-1, but that also incurred a $513M net loss. But Snap has asserted it has a very aggressive “time spent per user” and has strong international growth in Western Europe and Australia. It also recently introduced its Ads API to widen the aperture on its advertising efforts. Its IPO is expected to be the largest tech float since Alibaba in 2014.
Are you ready for the Super Bowl LI??
Here’s a little sumpin’ sumpin’ from CBSSports, 51 things you need to know about about the Patriots v. Falcons in Houston.
I’m really looking forward to that part where NFL Commish Roger Goddell has to hand over that trophy to the Patriot’s QB Tom Brady.
“Tom, I don’t want to let the gas out of this, your record fifth Superbowl win!”
Oh, I’m sorry, did I skip right over that part where New England crushes the Falcons??! : ) My apologies, Falcon fans!
Actually, I don’t have a dog in this particular hunt — my Cowboys got left behind by the Packers and I’ve tried to never look back.
Looking forward instead, I am particularly interested in the Super Bowl TV commercials, as always. They seem so quaint these days, considering we just got our first Twitter president.
Forbes is reporting that budgets for Super Bowl spots have reached a new high, with the average production cost reaching north of $1M and companies spending an average of $5M for a 30-second time slot.
One sec, let me consult my good friend, IBM Watson…yeah…okay…okay, wow….thank you, Watson…so Watson says that comes out to $166,666 per second.
Watson also wanted you to know that 30 seconds is 3e+10 nanoseconds.
With that backdrop, here’s a few sneak previews of what to expect on Sunday, with my Turbo Rating (in parens) and pithy comment:
2017 Kia Niro | “Hero’s Journey” Starring Melissa McCarthy (B) — Melissa goes wild in the wild for the eco-firendly Kia Niro.
The Internet Wants You | GoDaddy Big Game Commercial (D) — Oh boy. Hardly the controversy we’ve come to expect from the Big Go Daddy on Super Bowl Sunday.
Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster Commercial “Easy Driver” – Directed by The Coen Brothers (B+) — Hello there, Peter Fonda! Nice ride, and
a smooth spot directed by none other than the Coen Brothers.
Wendy’s 2017 Fresh Beef Commercial “Cold Storage” (C-) — The only thing this spot has going for it is Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice.” Dare I say it, but “where’s the beef?” Wendy’s would be better off keeping this on ice!
Budweiser 2017 Super Bowl Commercial | “Born The Hard Way” (B) — It may seem to be about the origin myth behind Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser founding fathers, but what it really seems to be is a political screed against our new president’s immigration policies. I’ll only say this: We’re a long way from Spuds McKenzie and the “Wassssup!?” bros!