BlackBerry and Samsung devices have been given the go-ahead for use on Defense Department networks. The approved devices are BlackBerry 10 smartphones, BlackBerry PlayBook tablets using the Enterprise Service 10 system and Samsung’s Android Knox. The Pentagon said earlier this week that it also expects to clear Apple devices using iOS 6 in early May.
Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Damien Pickart said in a statement that “this is a significant step towards establishing a multi-vendor environment that supports a variety of state-of-the-art devices and operating systems.” He added that the approval of BlackBerry and Samsung devices does not mean product orders would be placed. Instead, it allows user groups within the Pentagon to select those devices.
In February, the Pentagon initiated an effort to broaden its approved mobile devices so the military can access the latest communications technology and is not dependent on just one equipment vendor. The Pentagon’s initiative to diversify its roster of electronics led to a report that it was in process of phasing out almost all of the BlackBerries used by its employees, which the Pentagon denied.
The Department of Defense’s plans do mean, however, that BlackBerry now faces much more competition for the Pentagon’s 600,000 mobile users. The department currently has 470,000 BlackBerry users. There are also 41,000 Apple users and 8,700 Android users, most of whom are currently participating in pilot or test programs.
See the original post here: Pentagon Clears BlackBerry, Samsung Devices For Defense Dept. Use
“If we keep taking bold steps … I’m confident America will continue to lead the world into that next frontier of human understanding.”
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 2, 2013
President Barack Obama is betting that the brain is the “next frontier” of human innovation: He announced a massive $100 million initiative to map the mind. As the seed of mankind’s world, a more advanced understanding of the mind could create hyper-intelligent computers, cure debilitating disorders, and simplify the complexities of nature. But some scientists worry that brute-force government intervention could derail the scientific process into a boondoggle of bureaucratic quicksand.
Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative (BRAIN) is a risky, expensive bet. Here’s how it could revolutionize society or just plain fizzle out.
The brain is arguably the most complex structure in the known universe. It consists of an estimated 125 trillion synapses, or the number of stars in 1,500 Milky Way galaxies. Unlike a hard drive that stores data on static, physical addresses, the brain embeds them in sophisticated paths between neurons. The remarkably resilient data storage technique allows us to remember our name, even if one pathway is destroyed or dies.
In the video below, see an interview with a nine-year-old girl who had half her brain removed at the tender age of three and now functions on par with her whole-brained classmates:
The brain itself has a storage capacity of roughly 2.5 petabyes (a million gigabytes), or roughly 3 million hours of recorded TV. The human brain is nothing short of marvelous computer.
Artificial intelligence holds the promise to free us from the time-sucking drudgery of everyday errands and beam on-demand geniuses into every school, hospital and business. IBM’s artificial brain, Watson, performs computations in the very network-like structure as the human brain and, in early tests, is 40 percent better at diagnosing lung cancer than its overwhelmed human counterparts.
Google’s new Director of Engineering and noted futurist Ray Kurzweil told TechCrunch he’s leveraging the search giant’s warehouse of information to build users a “cybernetic friend.” “I envision in some years that the majority of search queries will be answered without you actually asking,” he told me. Indeed, the brain’s structure inspired Google’s voice-command algorithm, which powers technology to schedule appointments, give users the best route to work, and suggest the best sights to see on vacation.
At least since Karl Marx, sociologists have predicted that hyper-intelligent machines would lead humanity into a golden age of abundant resources and free time. So, in the short term, better doctors and free assistants. In the long term, utopia.
The most immediate applications of brain mapping is the alleviation of human suffering.
For instance, brain tumor surgeries, which can be painful, personality-robbing procedures, have been aided by brain maps that permit doctors to make strategic extractions that preserve vital mental functions. The same hope is held for healing Alzheimer’s disease, strokes and post-traumatic stress disorder.
During the White House live chat today, a representative from the government’s mad-scientist outfit, DARPA, noted that brain mapping will also improve their agency’s competition for a search-and-rescue robot. If we want robots to navigate the crumbled aftermath of an earthquake to pull out survivors, they need to be able to process images and and understand human-designed layouts.
Finally, just for super-futuristic kicks, disabled veterans would much rather have a limb that functions normally, rather than a clunky manual hook. In order for limbs to operate mentally, they have to be connected to the motor portions of the brain. Check out a video of a woman eating a chocolate bar via a prosthetic limb with nothing but the power of her mind:
“Many wonder whether the NIH is making a mistake,” reported Nature on a similar brain-mapping initiative in 2012, the Human Connectome Project, noting that force-feeding ambitious-sounding ideas could hinder more fundamental research.
The Atlantic Wire nicely curated the angry tweets of science critics, who worry the project will divert funds from other important areas and derail ongoing research:
someone has to go to congress and explain why basic research is so important, not pander to them with big science crap
Michael Eisen (@mbeisen) February 18, 2013
Baffled by the NIH Brain Activity Map Project. We don't understand the fly brain yet. How will this come to anything? nyti.ms/XkeczY
Leslie Vosshall (@pollyp1) February 18, 2013
During the live chat, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins didn’t ease these concerns with some dodgy, ambiguous responses to users wondering why neuroscience should be a priority, especially in the face of a $1.5 billion budget cut thanks to sequestration. Collins, who shed more light on the still-forming initiative, said that an initial $40 million would come from a panel of experts that regularly decides NIH priorities, with added financial assistance from nonprofit partners. By the summer of 2014, he wants a roadmap asking a team “to make their goals bold, maybe even audacious but not crazy.”
Obama is partly basing BRAIN on the success of the Human Genome Project to map humanities DNA. “Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy — every dollar,” he said during the State of the Union.
However, even one of the scientists working with the BRAIN project, Ralph J. Greenspan of the University of California, San Diego, admits that “It was very easy to define what the genome project’s goal was. In this case, we have a more difficult and fascinating question of what are brainwide activity patterns and ultimately how do they make things happen?”
The government has been the source of truly revolutionary science in the past, from the space race to the foundations of the Internet. Whether BRAIN is the “next frontier” of innovation or a spectacular failure depends on whether one believes that brain research needs a government kick in the pants.
Neelie Kroes, VP of the European Commission, today announced a new education initiative for Europe with help from Cisco, Nokia, Telefonica, ARM, HP and other tech titans, as well as government and other partners. The aim, she says, is to close what Europe estimates as a 700,000-IT-job gap in the region. One of the first partners, Telefonica, today also announced its own contribution to the effort: an aim to spin out, by 2015, 1,000 new startups through initiatives like its Wayra incubator, as well as training, mentoring, and job placements for thousands of others.
The news came earlier today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland — and, as befitting a confab of the good and the great discussing Big Ideas, there was no financial terms put on any of these projects. (We have reached out to Telefonica and to Neelie Kroes’ office to ask.)
Although the economic crisis has hit unemployment hard in Europe, IT jobs overall have continued to rise at a rate of 3% annually. But IT education — like education in general — has also suffered at the hands of budget cuts. So the new initiative announced today is a classic mix of private money and public works to try to fill some of that gap. It’s coming at a time when other companies have already invested dollars and years into educational initiatives in Europe. For example, Microsoft’s robotics and coding education initiative in Estonia, where it has extensive R&D operations.
The big threat now is three-fold: not only are there not enough people to fill IT jobs that are currently open, but the worry is that when the economy does begin to bounce back, there won’t be enough people to sustain that, either, and so the jobs will go East to countries where there is skilled labor and for a fraction of the price. “Companies operating in Europe need the right people or they will move operations elsewhere,” the EU noted in a statement.
The third issue is the creation of new businesses: all of what happens on the large enterprise scale will play out in the ecosystem that thrives on new entrants and disruptive innovation that comes from the startup end of the spectrum.
“The digital skills gap is growing, like our unemployment queues. We need joint action between governments and companies to bridge that gap. The ICT sector is the new backbone of Europe’s economy, and together we can prevent a lost generation and an uncompetitive Europe,” said Kroes in a statement. “So I am expecting concrete pledges by companies, everyone I meet will be getting the same request. The Commission will do its bit but we can’t do it alone – companies, social partners and education players – including at national and regional level – have to stand with us.”
The EC is relying on good faith here — it refers to commitments from private companies as “pledges” — to commit to ways of building out opportunities for new jobs, internships, training, funding for new businesses, online education and so on. The first official round of pledges will be announced March 4-5, it says, during a conference around the so-called Grand Coalition for Digital Skills and Jobs.
Telefonica is among those that have gotten their pledges in early: they are using their Wayra incubator program to spearhead their contribution. In addition to 1,000 startups by 2015, it’s sponsoring a massive IT recruitment event called Campus Party Europe — to be held this year in London, and likely to attract over 10,000 hopefuls; promoting a coding/robotics/digital literacy program called the Think Big School by funding enrolment of 50,000 people; as well as committing to 5,000 IT jobs for young people and new graduates within Telefonica itself.
Yes, all of this is Big Idea stuff, and we’ll have to see how effectively businesses put their money where their mouths are, and whether Europe’s population bites with interest. But there has been some good traction so far on how training initiatives have worked. The EC notes that German and Spanish training voucher systems provided jobs for 60-70% of the 20,000 participants. “We should seek to replicate and scale up this idea on a European scale,” Kroes said.
Today, Google.org’s VP, Matthew Stepka, announced that the non-profit arm of Google is going to be giving a large sum money to Sunlight Foundation and mySociety to promote civic innovation through technology. Specifically, its Civic Information API will help fuel new applications and services for places worldwide. Big and small.
Here’s what Stepka had to say about the initiative:
We’ve seen developers use our Civic Information API to bring election data to citizens in new and exciting ways. Our live election results maps have been viewed by billions around the world, bringing real-time transparency to elections in Egypt, Mexico, Ghana, and more. Last week, we launched the Kenya Elections Hub for citizens to access the latest news and resources for the country’s presidential election.
Sunlight Foundation and mySociety will be given $3.7 million to continue their innovation in civic leadership. By helping communities engage in a closer relationship with their government, Google hopes that the world can have more “open and innovative societies.”
Here’s what the money will be used for:
We are providing $2.1 million to the Sunlight Foundation to grow their programs for open government data, with a focus on making civic information for U.S. cities transparent, available, and useable. By opening up information at the city level for developers as well as citizens, Sunlight is creating opportunity for new ideas that can have an impact in local markets.
We are also supporting mySociety, providing $1.6 million to build a global platform to equip developers with tools and resources–such as open source code–to more easily and quickly launch new civic apps and services. This initiative can promote collaboration between civic-minded technologists, regardless of geography. For example, a civic app created in Finland might be easily replicated 9,000 miles away by a developer in Chile.
As you saw above, the company highlighted its Kenya Elections Hub as an example of why these initiatives are so important. That hub provides citizens with detailed and accurate information about the candidates, as well as links to all relevant news stories:
Google, through Google.org, has taken a long-term interest in providing sets of data in an open way, hoping that technologists all over the world would see it as a way to spread information and help their fellow man out. Google is most valuable in collecting the world’s information and then setting it free again in a structured way.
The company is putting its money where its mouth is, which is certainly not a bad thing.
See the original post: Google.org Donates A Total Of $3.7M To Spark Civic Innovation Using Technology
Google has a number of initiatives aimed at entrepreneurs globally, and a thread of a strategy appears to be emerging in Europe, albeit with different approaches. The tech giant has already supported the creation of an accelerator/workspace called Le Camping in Paris, part-backed with state money. In London it literally took out a ten year lease on a building, Google Campus London, and stacked it with co-working companies and accelerators. And now today in Berlin it’s announced a new initiative with a vast new start-up centre/acelerator called the “Factory“, which is backed with private money.
The extensive partnership will see Google contributing money and resources into a space which hopes to become one of the epicentres – if not the epicentre – of Berlin’s white-hot startup culture right now.
Under the badge “Google for Entrepreneurs”, the scheme plans to contribute €1 million over three years to support the whole German start-up sector. However, the money and resources will be channeled though the Factory, so the programs and events financed will not just be not exclusively for the Factory’s resident companies, but for all comers, although clearly €1 million over three years is not exactly a knock-it-out-of-the-park figure.
Hard luck for startups developing on Apple or Microsoft technologies? We’re told not. Plus, the Factory says it will have a strict “no recruiting policy” on the campus.
There are plans for training programs, technology and events for young entrepreneurs and developers, and Google experts will join Factory’s mentoring program
Google and partners such as StartUp-Weekend and Google Developer Groups will use the new premises. Google employees will be on hand to provide advice. And an on-site technology laboratory (“Device Library”) will be equipped with Google hardware (such as Android-Tablets, Chromebook), which developers can access as required. A free software package of Google services for start-ups is also in the planning.
Amongst Soundcloud, possibly Berlin’s fastest growing startup, Mozilla plans a large presence in the building.
Situated close to the Berlin Wall Memorial in Bernauer Strasse the campus, when completed, will be 12,000 m2 in size, and house many other startups including Versus IO, Toast, 6Wunderkinder and Silicon Allee. Restaurants and cafes, sports and event facilities will complete the concept.