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GOOGLE’S FUTURE PHONE: THE MODULAR PROJECT ARA

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Google's Project Ara is a modular smartphone with swappable hardware components held together by magnets.

Google is jumping into its next futuristic hardware project. This time it’s a modular smartphone dubbed Project Ara that can be customized by swapping out individual pieces, such as the battery and the camera.

The company previewed the very early-stage project at a developer event in Santa Clara, California, this week. Google said the first version of the phone will likely be available in early 2015. Though the company didn’t mention a sale price, it said the devices would cost anywhere from $50 to $500 to manufacture, depending on the model.

The phone will come in three sizes, ranging from mini to “phablet,” and it will run on a future version of the Android mobile operating system. A frame called the Endo will hold the interchangeable components together with magnets.

The idea is to allow smartphone owners to customize and update their phones on their own — say, popping out an old battery or broken display for a new version, and thereby creating a device that lasts longer than current smartphones.

Because the Ara project is open-source, the fun will be adding third-party modules or even printing your own with a 3D printer. Instead of relying on a single hardware manufacturer, people could shop around and add unusual elements made by startups, cameras produced by camera companies, or custom hardware for highly specialized work phones.

The modules will be sold much like apps are now, through a custom Google online store and possibly even physical pop-up stores.

An Ara device could be used for five to six years. That lengthy lifespan (for a smartphone) could cut down on electronic waste and shake up the planned obsolescence that seems common with current mobile gadgets.

Instead of dropping a still-working Galaxy S4 for the S5, you could just upgrade the parts you care about, like adding a fingerprint sensor or a better camera.

Project Ara is the brainchild of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP). When Google bought Motorola’s mobile division for $2.9 billion, it also picked up ATAP, its experimental lab where employees work on futuristic projects. Google is already selling Motorola Mobility to Lenovo, but it’s hanging on to ATAP and its leader, former DARPA director Regina Dugan.

source:http://edition.cnn.com/2014/04/16/tech/mobile/google-project-ara/index.html?hpt=te_r1

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Industry

THE FINTECH REVOLUTION IN INSURANCE

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Advancing technology has collided with longstanding customer issues to create a series of deep, lasting, systemic challenges for insurance. How will these trends impact insurers’ businesses and the industry overall?

The rise of fintech, changing consumer behavior, and advanced technologies are disrupting the insurance industry. Additionally, Insurtechs and technology startups continue to redefine customer experience through innovations such as risk-free underwriting, on-the-spot purchasing, activation, and claims processing.

The report from Deloitte Global examines forces that are disrupting the insurance industry and presents four possible scenarios for the future. We explore:

  • Changing the channel: Partnerships with product makers and distributors, and embedding insurance into other products and services may enable customers to select products that best fit their lifestyle.
  • Underwriting by machine: Technology advancements including AI innovations and algorithms will likely individualize risk selection and pricing, and customers can select products based on a wider range of price points.
  • Rise of the flexible product: Time-flexible, event-driven, modular and adjustable coverage may evolve to accommodate life stage, lifestyle, and wellness changes among consumers.
  • E-Z life insurance: Given the growth and shopping patterns in emerging markets, insurers who introduce flexible term products, and master digital distribution without compromising underwriting are likely to win in the marketplace.

Read the report to understand what the future holds for the insurance industry.

Key Contact

Neal Baumann

Neal Baumann

Global Insurance Leader

Neal leads Deloitte’s Global Insurance practice and is the US insurance consulting leader. He has 20 years of experience advising financial services and insurance company clients on corporate and comp… More

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Business

EUROPEAN INVESTMENT BANK RUNS BLOCKCHAIN HACKATHON

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A team from EY triumphed in a 48-hour European Investment Bank (EIB) hackathon designed to find ways to use blockchain technologies to redesign the transaction processing of commercial paper.

The EIB brought together 56 coders from 15 countries in 12 teams for the hackathon, run alongside the bank’s annual forum dedicated to treasury issues.

While the conference was running, the coders were locked in an adjacent room, trying to prove that blockchain tech can improve the transaction process of commercial paper – a short-term financing instrument that is used worldwide in treasury operations and still relies on an ‘archaic’ and complex process.

In the pitching session, the EY team won the contest with an effort that taps a combination of blockchain, robotics and business AI tools to optimise the issuance process and reduce the number of exchanges between the EIB and its counterparties while maintaining each one’s role within the ecosystem.

The EY team won a EUR5000 cash prize and a contract with the EIB to further develop its solution into a proof of concept.

Alexander Stubb, vice president, EIB, say: “There will be major gains from the use of new technologies such as blockchain, generated from the simplification and streamlining of existing financial processes. The new perspectives opened up by digitalisation and Distributed Ledger Technology must be assessed and we must all be ready to make use of them and embark on this new venture.

“As the EU’s financial arm, we decided to be on the active side, learn by experience and make things happen, to be a facilitator and join with our banking partners to pave the way for tomorrow’s financial industry.”

Separately, Barclays is planning a hackathon that will see coders use blockchain technology for post-trade processing of derivatives contracts. The event will take place over two days in September in London and New York, according to Coindesk.

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Industry

GOOGLE NEVER REALLY LEFT CHINA: A LOOK AT THE CHINESE WEBSITE GOOGLE’S BEEN QUIETLY RUNNING

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More information is leaking out about just how Google is planning to re-enter the Chinese market with a mobile search engine application that complies to the country’s censorship laws.

The Intercept first broke this story when a whistleblower provided them documentation detailing the secret censored search project (codenamed Dragonfly). According to them, an overlooked Google acquisition from 2008 — 265.com — has been quietly laying down the foundation for the endeavor.

In order to run a business in China, tech companies are required to obtain a Internet Content Provider license from the Chinese government. As it’s difficult for foreign businesses to obtain this license, Google has long partnered with Chinese IT company Ganji.com. Back in the early years of Google.cn, Google actually operated directly off of Ganji.com’s license, even claiming the Chinese company was temporarily running its search engine. Facing intense scrutiny from the Chinese government and the media over this license arrangement, in 2007 Google formed a legitimate joint venture company with Ganji.com — the Beijing Guxiang Information and Technology Co.

Because of the necessity of that license, Google has maintained that joint venture and has been operating in China under the name Beijing Guxiang Information and Technology Co. ever since. Even after the shut down of Google.cn, Google’s Chinese advertising enterprise has been operating under the joint venture company as well as, low and behold, 265.com. A whois search of the 265.com domain name, which provides a record of the current domain registrant information, pulls up Beijing Guxiang Information and Technology Co. as the registrant organization.

A significant number of Google employees are reportedly none too happy about Google’s project complying with Chinese censorship laws. This most recent news, that the company has long been collecting data for a moment just like this, surely won’t make morale among these workers any better.

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