Tricorder X Finalists Announced

Qualcomm announced 10 finalists in a competition to develop a handheld healthcare device inspired by the tricorder medical scanner used in the Star Trek TV series. The Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize will award $7 million prize for the best noninvasive wireless device weighing less than five pounds that can diagnose 16 different diseases—such as anemia, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, mononucleosis, and tuberculosis—and accurately measure vital signs. Many tricorder technologies currently exist but not in a single, portable device. Participants in the contest include research teams from Canada, India, Ireland, Slovenia, the UK and the US, from universities, medical-device manufacturers, and tech start-ups, including one funded by NASA and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Thy have until mid-2015 to develop a working prototype. A total of $10 million in prizes will be awarded. (BBC)(CNET)(Qualcomm)

Bug Throws Wrench into Google Image Searches

Computer users in many parts of the world trying to find images via Google for eight hours on 26 August 2014 were served up repeated images of a grisly Russian car accident and photos of NBA star Kevin Durant rather than those they sought. The problem affected Google encrypted searches, which are now the default search mode, across multiple Google domains. In a statement sent to ZDNet, the company said only that the issue was caused by an accident. A source familiar with the issue said it was the result of a bug in Google’s software. Google didn’t comment on exactly what precipitated the problem. (TIME)(ZDNet)

Cyberattack Compromises Data on US Homeland Security Employees

A cyberattack on USIS, formerly known as US Investigations Services, a company that conducts background checks for federal government employees, compromised the personal data of at least 25,000 of those workers, including undercover investigators. For example, the breach exposed personal information of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees. The compromised information includes Social Security numbers, education and criminal history, birth dates, and personal information about relatives and friends. Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer with cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, said hackers “would be collecting this data to identify individuals who might be vulnerable to extortion and recruitment.” USIS disclosed the attack earlier this month—saying it has “all the markings of a state-sponsored attack”—but did not say how many records had been compromised or which agencies were affected. DHS suspended all work with the company and the FBI is investigating the attack. USIS could not be reached for comment. (Reuters)(NBC News)

Designer Ralph Lauren Puts Technology in Iconic Polo Shirt

Ralph Lauren, the fashion house best known for its preppy collared shirts featuring a mallet-wielding rider on a polo pony, is adding a biometric shirt to its offerings. The Polo Tech shirt uses biometric sensors to collect data about the wearer’s motions and direction of movement. It debuted at the US Open tennis tournament, which just began. Some of the ball boys will wear the shirt, which was developed with the assistance of OMsignal, which developed the biometric technology for the shirt. The shirt, made from an antimicrobial smart fabric with sensors embedded in it, will collect data, including heart rate and respiration, based on the wearer’s movements. It transmits   he information to a cloud-based system, which will analyze the data and report its findings. Although designers such as Diane Von Fürstenberg and Tory Burch are collaborating with technology firms – Google and FitBit, respectively -- to make wearable accessories fashionable, observers say this move by a mainstream brand like Ralph Lauren on a smart garment and its use at a major sporting event could signal the greater acceptance of wearable technology. (ZD Net)(Mashable)

US Airline Testing Preprinted Luggage Tags

A US-based air carrier is testing a program that would eliminate airport check-in for customers wishing to check baggage. Hawaiian Airlines is testing preprinted luggage tags for flights from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Oakland International Airport to Honolulu, Kahului, Kona, and Lihue in Hawaii. Tag@Home lets passengers print out their baggage tags at home when they check in online. Once at the airport, they get a plastic tag to hold the printed tag that attaches to the bag, which they drop off at a designated location before moving to security stations. At the end of the 60-day trial, Hawaiian Airlines expects to evaluate the program and determine whether it should be rolled on all of its routes. The company is also testing a baggage weighing and tagging service at self-serve kiosks in nine airports. The airline says the free programs are designed to help customers navigate more rapidly through the airport, but some say it could eliminate jobs if adopted across the industry. Hawaiian said it hasn’t reduced staffing levels. (Geek Wire)(Pacific Business Journal)(Hawaiian Airlines)

China Preparing National Operating System

China is preparing to launch an operating system to end its reliance on imported technologies such as Android, the Mac OS, and Windows. The Chinese Academy of Engineering system should be released in October 2014, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency. The desktop version is expected to be released first, followed by the mobile OS, according to the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The goal is to replace foreign-made desktop OSs within one or two years and mobile operating systems within three to five years. Ni Guangnan, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, heads a government development alliance for the academy and told Xinhua that a lack of research funds and too many independent developers working in different directions have hampered the new design effort and that the government should direct the project. The Chinese government has been pushing the use of domestic technology to avoid what it says are the cybersecurity risks of using foreign technology. In May 2014, it banned the use of Windows 8. (Reuters)(PC Mag)(BBC)(Xinhua News Agency)

US Department of Homeland Security to Businesses: Beware Backoff Malware

A new US Department of Homeland Security advisory cautions businesses to prepare for malware known as Backoff, which lets hackers steal customers’ Social Security numbers and other sensitive data. The malware was behind the massive 2013 Target data breach and the recent compromise of cash–register systems at 51 UPS Stores, and may have already infected 1,000 or more other companies and organizations of all sizes. Backoff, first seen in October 2013, was not incorporated into antivirus applications until this month. Security experts have found at least three Backoff variants. So far, seven point-of-sale service providers have found the malware on their systems and notified officials about the issue, according to the Department of Homeland Security. To infect victims with Backoff, cyberattackers first use commonly available tools to find businesses using remote desktop applications. Once located, they use brute force attacks to access company accounts with privileges that let them install the malware on point-of-sale systems. The Department of Homeland Security is advising businesses that think they have been infected with Backoff to contact their local US Secret Service field office and the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. (Digital Trends)(American Banker)(US-CERT)

US Start-up Supplies the Emerging Consumer 3D-Printing Market

Consumers and hobbyists are increasingly interested in 3D printing, but one barrier to wider adoption has been the lack of accessible, affordable materials. Now, a company called Proto-pasta is stepping in to fill the void. The firm, a spin-off of the engineering consultancy ProtoPlant, is making specialty, high-performance 3D printer filaments—the “ink” used in 3D printers—that customers can color and customize to meet their specific needs.  One of Proto-pasta’s products, for example, mixes polylactic acid with carbon fiber. The resulting material can be used easily with 3D printers and is strong and light among its other desirable properties. Industry observers say the emergence of companies like Proto-pasta could help 3D printing become mainstream. (GeekWire)(ZD Net)

Major League Baseball Aims to Strike Out Problems with Live Online Streaming

North America’s Major League Baseball (MLB) says it is working to ease, by the 2015 season, restrictions that prohibit teams’ home games from being shown via live streaming video in their hometowns. This entails complex negotiations among MLB, its teams, satellite and cable TV operators, and conventional TV stations. The problem is that subscribers to the MLB.TV high-definition online audio and video service, which starts at $20 a month, also must also have a cable or satellite TV subscription. Thus, they are paying duplicate charges to be able to watch home games when they travel. The problem is those organizations paying millions of dollars for the rights to broadcast these games do not want to lose revenues to online and/or mobile streaming. This sticking point is the main focus of the ongoing negotiations. And the MLB blocks or delays some online video broadcasts based on the league’s agreements with regional or national television service providers. MLB is trying to negotiate a way to address all these concerns while still allowing more teams’ home games to be streamed online, says Bill Bowman, president and chief executive officer of MLB Advanced Media, the interactive media and Internet Company of Major League Baseball Eventually, the MLB says, it expects to deliver an average of 1.5 million live video streams daily. (Associated Press – 1)(Associated Press – 2)

Japanese Firms Use Technology to Help their Country’s Farmers

Japanese technology firms—such as Fujitsu, Panasonic, Sharp, and Toshiba—are helping farmers become more productive by using cloud-based services and other technologies to adjust to unusual weather, inexpensive imports, and a dwindling workforce. Japanese agriculture’s spending for information technology and cloud-based services are expected “to expand ninefold,” states Reuters, reaching $586 million by 2020 based on figures from market research firm Seed Planning. Some of these technologies help with monitoring conditions such as heat and humidity in greenhouses or with determining optimal watering and fertilizer amounts. A wearable device for cows can notify a beef rancher when a cow reaches peak fertility. Fujitsu wants to help farmers via its Akisai cloud-computing system. By recording data from farmers and sensors, the system collects basic production information that could be shared via the cloud. (Japan Times)(Reuters)

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