App to Identify Poorest Girls in India Can Help Prevent Trafficking: Charity

App to Identify Poorest Girls in India Can Help Prevent Trafficking: Charity

A tablet-based application that helps to identify some of the poorest girls in eastern India has the potential to prevent human trafficking, early marriage and child labour, according to a charity which has developed the app.

The GPower, or Girl Power, app developed by AccentureLabs and the charity Child in Need Institute (CINI), has been used to track more than 6,000 families in 20 villages in West Bengal.

The application sets out a series of questions on health, nutrition, protection and education to determine the vulnerability of the respondent.

“The technology helps us identify the most vulnerable of the girls in minutes,” CINI’s assistant director Indrani Bhattacharya told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“So we can plan our intervention and bring immediate solutions to prevent the occurrence (of trafficking, child marriage and child labour), rather than trying to do something after the fact.”

The questionnaire take about 30 minutes to complete and the analysis takes minutes. Based on the information collected, a community worker decides whether girls are candidates for government welfare schemes, counselling or vocational training, Bhattacharya said.

West Bengal is both a source and a transit state for women and children trafficked into the sex trade. The state accounted for about a fifth of India’s 5,466 cases of human trafficking reported in 2014, according to official data.

Many of the victims are from rural areas in the state or from neighbouring Bangladesh, lured by the promise of good jobs or marriage. Instead, they end up sold into prostitution in cities such as Mumbai and New Delhi.

GPower is particularly suited for rural India, where mobile connectivity is patchy and electricity supply is irregular, said Sanjay Podder, managing director at Accenture Labs in Bengaluru.

“It can easily be scaled up to include other parameters or to address other social problems in the country,” he said.

India is the world’s second-biggest market for mobile phones, with more than 1 billion users. Mobile applications for services ranging from weather reports to commodity prices and health services are gaining popularity among rural users.

“The problem in India is one of scale – there is only so much that an NGO can do in terms of reach,” Podder said.

‘Jugnoo Bot’ Enables Auto Rickshaw Bookings on FacebookMessenger

'Jugnoo Bot' Enables Auto Rickshaw Bookings on Facebook MessengerAuto rickshaw aggregator Jugnoo Tuesday announced the launch of Jugnoo Bot, which enables users on Facebook to book a ride through Facebook Messenger, Jugnoo’s website, or its Facebook page.

The Jugnoo Bot enables users to book a ride by typing a text message in Facebook Messenger or by clicking on ‘Book-a-Ride’ option. Jugnoo automatically authenticates users through their Facebook login details, eliminating the need to login into the Jugnoo account separately.

Jugnoo’s AI-based engine then detects their ride location and suggests nearby multiple locations to choose from. Users can also share their location by using the FB Messenger location button. The Jugnoo Bot then shares ETA and fares with users to confirm their ride. Once confirmed, a Jugnoo driver is assigned and the driver details (name, phone number, vehicle number, and a driver picture) are shared with users. The bot also allows real-time tracking of the ride by users.

The chatbot was developed in association with Fugu, a US-based firm which uses AI to understand and respond to user requests.

“There are many people who like to keep their mobile phones clutter-free and just keep some basic apps. Jugnoo Bot is for such people, where they can easily book autos using their Facebook account, making the process more conversational,” said Samar Singla, Founder and CEO of Jugnoo in an emailed statement.

Founded in 2014, the Chandigarh-based startup said that it receives 30,000 daily requests, and has 10,000 autos on board its network.

RBI Working on Regulations to Curb Fraud in Electronic Transactions

RBI Working on Regulations to Curb Fraud in Electronic Transactions

The RBI is working to put in place a regulatory framework to address customer grievance and liability issues arising out of frauds in electronic transactions, Government said Tuesday.

“The matter is being further examined by the RBI to put in place a regulatory framework for addressing customer grievance and liability issues arising out of such frauds,” Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said during the Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha.

He said the Banking Codes and Standards Board of India (BCSBI) had in 2014 come out with a recommendation of limiting the customer liabilities in case of frauds taking place through electronic channels.

Replying to supplementaries, Sinha said there was too much of cash transaction in the Indian economy.

“87 percent transaction happens in India in cash, which is not the case in other countries. So much use of cash transaction is not good…this increases cost of handling besides inconvenience,” he said and underlined government’s committment to encourage cashless financial transactions.

The RBI in its ‘Payment System Vision Document 2012-15’ for ushering in a less cash economy suggested drawing up of a policy framework establishing roles and responsibilities of banks and customers in electronic transactions to minimise fruads, fix responsibilities and zero liability protection to increase customer confidence.

The Document had also suggested drawing up a strategy for disincentivising usage of cheques above a certain threshold limit by customers and corporate which may include prescribing a cut off limit for cheques cleared through clearing house arrangements.

Sinha said a white paper was placed by the department for public comments in 2013. “Based on the response from the public, the department has not initiated any further action”.

Sinha further said the government had come out with a white paper on disincentivising paper cheques and sought public comments on it.

“However, the comments were not very encouraging. The charges levied for electronic transactions operated by the bank are low and transparent,” he added.

Sinha further said that National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has been given in-principle approval to be the Bharat Bill Payment Central Unit (BBPCU) under Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS), an integrated bill payment system.

BBPS is an integrated bill payment system to function as a tiered structure for operating bill payment system in India with a single brand image, providing convenience of ‘anytime anywhere’ bill payment to customers.

The present scope of BBPS will include utility bill payments such as electricity, water, gas, telephone and Direct-to-Home (DTH).

“We are brining a revolution in digital payment,” Sinha said listing various initiatives taken by the government to bring down the level of cash transactions in the country. “When we have cash in circulation in economy, we create a drag. If we move to digital, we will remove these difficulties,” he added.

Twitter’s Live Video App Periscope Hires an Editor in Chief

Twitter's Live Video App Periscope Hires an Editor in ChiefTwitter’s live video-streaming application, Periscope, has hired an editor in chief, Evan Hansen, who says he plans to showcase the best content and help develop the platform.

Hansen himself revealed his appointment to Periscope, which lets users broadcast live video free of charge from smartphones running Android or Apple iOS software. The videos remain available for 24 hours before disappearing.

“I am joining Periscope as editor in chief,” he wrote in a farewell blog on story-sharing site Medium where he is an editor.

“I still love the written word and Medium but I honestly can’t think of many things more interesting than helping build a new platform with mobile phones and real time video,” he wrote late Monday.

Hansen, who was editor in chief of technology news site Wired before he joined Medium, said he would start on May 16 at Periscope, which last week boasted that more than 200 million broadcasts had been created on its platform since it was launched a year ago.

In an interview with CNNMoney, Hansen said the role would involve developing the site and “surfacing the most interesting content to the people most likely to want to see it.”

Periscope faces a challenge from Facebook’s Live video streaming feature, which was launched in mid-2015.

In its job advertisement, Periscope said the editor in chief would establish a global editorial team to discover and highlight the most important, newsworthy and entertaining content.

HTC Desire 830 With 5.5-Inch Display, 13-Megapixel Camera Launched

HTC Desire 830 With 5.5-Inch Display, 13-Megapixel Camera LaunchedFeaturing a 5.5-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixel) display, the HTC Desire 830 runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow with the company’s Sense UI on top. It is powered by a 64-bit octa-core MediaTek Helio X10 SoC (MT6753) clocked at 1.5GHz, coupled with 3GB of RAM.

The HTC Desire 830 sports a 13-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilisation (OIS) and an f/2.0 aperture. It sports a 4-UltraPixel front-facing camera with an f/2.0 aperture as well. It bears 32GB of inbuilt storage that’s expandable via microSD card (up to 128GB).

The Desire 830 comes with a 2800mAh battery, and measures 157.5×78.9×7.79mm. The smartphone will be available in Blue and Red colour variants.

Alongside, HTC launched the Desire 825 in Taiwan. To recall, the smartphone had been unveiledwithout price back at MWC 2016. The company has now revealed a price of TWD 7,990 (roughly Rs. 16,500).

To recall, the HTC Desire 825 sports a polycarbonate shell with a specially-created micro-splash effect. The handset also sports a BoomSound stereo speaker with Dolby Audio enhancements and packs a 2700mAh battery. The Desire 825 also features a HTC Sensor Hub, a feature which will let users keep tabs on well-being and record activity, gestures and movement, and will provide real-time statistics to users.

New Tool Can Help Measure Lung Function Over a Phone Call

New Tool Can Help Measure Lung Function Over a Phone CallIndian-origin researchers have developed a new health sensing tool that can accurately measure lung function over a simple phone call made with any phone not just smartphone from anywhere in the world.

The findings could be of special help for people in the developing world who have asthma, cystic fibrosis or other chronic lung diseases know how well their lungs are functioning without visiting a doctor or a clinic, which in some places can take days of travel.

“We wanted to be able to measure lung function on any type of phone you might encounter around the world smartphones, dumb phones, landlines, pay phones,” said Shwetak Patel, professor at the University of Washington.

The new tool is called SpiroCall.

“With SpiroCall, you can call a 1-800 number, blow into the phone and use the telephone network to test your lung function,” Patel said.

The patients take a deep breath in and exhale as hard and fast as they can until they can’t exhale any more. The phone’s microphone senses sound and pressure from that exhalation and sends the data to a central server, which uses machine learning algorithms to convert the data into standard measurements of lung function.

“People have to manage chronic lung diseases for their entire lives,” lead author Mayank Goel, computer science and engineering doctoral student at University of Washington, said.

“So there’s a real need to have a device that allows patients to accurately monitor their condition at home without having to constantly visit a medical clinic, which in some places requires hours or days of travel,” Goel noted.

SpiroCall is an advancement over SpiroSmart which the researchers introduced in 2012 to let people monitor their lung function by blowing into their smartphones.

Over the last four years, the team has collected data from more than 4,000 patients who have visited clinics in Seattle and Tacoma as well as in India and Bangladesh, where clinicians have measured lung function using both SpiroSmart and a commercial spirometer.

In surveying patients from India and Bangladesh, though, the team realised that a significant percentage did not own smartphones and would be unable to use SpiroSmart in their own homes which was a key goal of the project.

The team realised that the only sensor they were using was a microphone, which all phones have.

So the researchers decided to develop a system that would work with any phone anywhere in the world by having the patient use a call-in service.

How the tool meets the medical community’s standards for accuracy will be described in a paper to be presented in May at the Association for Computing Machinery’s CHI 2016 conference in San Jose, California.

BRICS Think Tanks Agree to Create Digital Diplomacy Roadmap

BRICS Think Tanks Agree to Create Digital Diplomacy RoadmapThink tanks from the five BRICS countries – Brazil, India, China, Russia and South Africa, have agreed to come up with a roadmap to create digital diplomacy.

This merged from the just ended BRICS digital conference held in New Delhi on April 28 and 29, Xinhua news agency quoted Sandiso Ngcobo, who joined a South African think tank delegation to the conference, as saying on Monday.

BRICS think tanks had gathered to find a common ground in addressing the regulation of cyberspace and shared skills, Ngcobo said.

Despite different cultural, political and economic backgrounds, the BRICS have found common ground in main issues, said Ngcobo.

“I am happy with what happened in India. We managed to exchange knowledge and skills. We discussed how the internet could be used to address socioeconomic challenges and we agreed in those aspects,” he said.

The BRICS think tanks also addressed the issue of language barriers, taking into account that information in BRICS countries is mostly communicated in English, thereby leaving many outside, Ngcobo said.

They also agreed to address gender imbalance and empower women by elevating them to powerful positions, he said.

“We reached a common ground to regulate cyberspace. We know that we have different cultures, and different political and government structures. We want to use technology to address social economic challenges and make it inclusive,” Ngcobo said.

This would help harmonise cyberspace to promote international trade and e-commerce, he added.

The BRICS think tanks will meet in India again in October this year prior to a political leadership meeting.

Sea Urchin-Inspired Crawler Developed for Mars Exploration

Sea Urchin-Inspired Crawler Developed for Mars Exploration

Inspired by the sea urchin’s intricate mouth and teeth, a team of engineers and marine biologists from the University of California-San Diego has developed a claw-like device to sample sediments on other planets such as Mars.

Bio-inspiration for the study came from pink sea urchins which live off the west coast of North America.

Researchers extracted the urchins’ mouthpieces, scanned them and analysed the structures at school of medicine at UC San Diego.

This allowed engineers to build a highly accurate model of the mouthpiece’s geometry.

Led by mechanical engineering professor Joanna McKittrick, the team also used finite element analysis to investigate the structure of the teeth.

“The urchin’s extraordinary ability to rip through rock could translate to a good sediment sampler for space vehicles like the Mars rovers, which currently use shovels to collect ground samples,” said Michael Frank, PhD candidate at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.

“Our goal was a bio-inspired device that’s more precise and efficient at grabbing ground samples from different areas and won’t disturb the surrounding area like a shovel would,” he added.

On the third iteration, they connected the teeth differently to the rest of the device, which allowed it to open much easier.

The students were able to quickly modify each prototype by using 3D printers. The device was then attached to a remote-controlled small rover.

The researchers first tested the claw on beach sand where it performed well.

They then used the claw on sand that simulates Martian soil in density and humidity. The device was able to scoop up sand efficiently.

Researchers envision a fleet of mini rovers equipped with the claw that could be deployed to collect samples and bring them back to a main rover.

Indian IT Infrastructure Market to Reach $1.93 Billion in 2016: Gartner

Indian IT Infrastructure Market to Reach $1.93 Billion in 2016: GartnerThe Indian IT infrastructure market will increase marginally to $1.93 billion (roughly Rs. 12,807 crores) this year whereas by 2020, it is likely to grow to $2.13 billion (roughly Rs. 14,137 crores), Gartner said Tuesday.

The IT infrastructure market includes server, storage and enterprise networking equipment.

In 2015, the market stood at $1.90 billion (roughly Rs. 12,611 crores). “The Indian IT infrastructure market will total $1.9 billion in 2016, a 1 percent increase from 2015,” Gartner said.

Indian enterprises will continue to focus on optimising their infrastructure and operations budgets in 2016, it added.

“Optimisation is primarily driven with an objective to create next generation data center architecture that can support the ever increasing challenges of digital business. With the emergence of bimodal IT, there are a lot of investments made in Mode 1, and there is an increasing focus on building Mode 2 infrastructure,” Naveen Mishra, research director at Gartner said.

Gartner said Mode 1 workloads are witnessing investments in areas such as cloud, software defined storage and network coupled with integrated systems.

“Public cloud is increasingly becoming relevant for data center managers and IT leaders in India,” it added.

Enterprise networking is the biggest segment within the Indian IT infrastructure market with revenue expected to total $848 million (roughly Rs. 5,628 crores) in 2016.

“This is an area where enterprises are focusing heavily in terms of their optimisation efforts and evaluating software driven networking, as this is becoming a barrier to a seamless digital experience,” Gartner said.

Mishra said with a revenue projection of $253 million (roughly Rs. 1,679 crores) in 2016, storage investment will witness a decline from last year primarily due to improved performance.

“Enterprises are increasingly investing in software defined storage, evaluating alternate, cheaper devices, such as flash storage, which is helping them to contain the ever increasing storage costs,” he added.

MobiKwik Raises $50 Million to Drive Expansion, Innovation

MobiKwik Raises $50 Million to Drive Expansion, InnovationMobile wallet company MobiKwik Tuesday said it has raised $50 million (about Rs. 330 crores) in funding, led by Japanese payments firm Gateway and Taiwanese chip maker MediaTek.

Its existing investors such as Sequoia Capital and Treeline Asia also participated in the current round of funding.

The company said it will use the proceeds for product innovations, team building and user growth.

“Despite the current business climate when funding has become challenging, unit economics, sustainable growth and a sound business model are what investors are focusing their attention on. We are very excited to live up to the investors’ expectations and raise the funding where even larger players are failing to raise funds,” MobiKwik founder and CEO Bipin Preet Singh said in a statement.

MobiKwik’s growth has been promising as the company’s GMV has grown drastically by 250 percent, he added.

With about 30 million users in the country, MobiKwik is one of the biggest wallet companies in India. It competes with the likes of Paytm and PayU.

“MobiKwik is a dominating player in the Indian mobile payments space and continues its consistent growth trajectory while staying true to its DNA of rapid product innovation and capital efficiency. Our valuation too has increased significantly,” Singh said but did not disclose the details.

Lack of profits has raised concerns over valuations of startups globally, leading to many of these businesses facing difficulty in raising fresh funds.

In the recent past, mutual fund T Rowe Price cut back its valuations in many of its tech startup investments, including India’s Flipkart. Morgan Stanley, too, made a similar move earlier this year.

MobiKwik has previously raised close to $30 million (about Rs. 195 crores) in funding from Sequoia Capital, American Express, Tree Line Asia and Cisco Investments.

MobiKwik has partnered 75,000 retailers, including the likes of Big Bazaar, WHSmith India, Cafe Coffee Day and Store King in the offline space.