Weekly Bytes | Android phones functioning as car key, NASA picks firms to develop space stations, and more

BMW Digital Key for Android smartphones.   | Photo Credit: BMW

Some Android phones can now lock, unlock a car

Some Android phones can now provide a simple and secure keyless access to a car, allowing the owners to lock, unlock and even start their car. Digital car key is available in select countries on Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, as well as Samsung Galaxy S21 Series for compatible BMW cars, according to Google. With a BMW Digital Key, customers can easily unlock and lock their car simply by holding their smartphone next to the handle of the driver’s door. The engine can also be started when the mobile phone is placed in the car’s wireless charging compartment. The Digital Key can be easily configured via My BMW app and is stored on the secure element of the smartphone. In the next release, it will be possible to pass the key on to five friends, BMW said, adding that the functionalities of the BMW Digital Key Plus based on ultra-wide band will also be introduced for Android smartphones in the future. In another update, over 3,00,000 Android devices downloaded banking trojans after falling victims to a malware that bypassed Google Play restrictions.

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NASA picks firms to develop space stations

NASA has selected three U.S. companies – Blue Origin, Nanoracks, and Northrop Grumman to develop designs of space stations as well as other commercial destinations in space where people can visit, live, and work. The space agency said it seeks to maintain an uninterrupted presence in low-Earth orbit (LEO) by transitioning from the International Space Station to other platforms. Blue Origin and Sierra Space have partnered to develop Orbital Reef, a commercially owned and operated space station to be built in LEO, which will start operating in the second half of this decade. Nanoracks’ commercial LEO destination, in collaboration with Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin, is called Starlab. It is targeted for launch in 2027 on a single flight as a continuously crewed, commercial space station. Northrop Grumman’s design for a modular, commercial destination in LEO, leverages flight-proven elements, to provide a base module for extended capabilities. This week, NASA called off a spacewalk because of menacing space junk that could puncture an astronaut’s suit or damage the International Space Station.

AWS works with Pfizer to accelerate drug development

Amazon Web Services (AWS) said it is working with Pfizer to create innovative, cloud-based solutions with the potential to improve how new medicines are developed, manufactured, and distributed for testing in clinical trials. The cloud computing platform is helping Pfizer enhance its continuous clinical manufacturing processes by incorporating predictive maintenance capabilities built with AWS machine learning (ML) services, it noted. Besides, AWS is working with Pfizer to develop a prototype solution for detecting abnormal data points in its drug product continuous clinical manufacturing platform for solid, oral-dose medicines. Furthermore, Pfizer scientists will collaborate with AWS professionals to explore how researchers in Pfizer’s Pharmaceutical Sciences Small Molecules teams can extract and mine information from legacy documents by leveraging AWS analytics and ML services. In another development, AWS introduced two new custom computing chips aimed at helping its customers beat the cost of using chips from Intel Corp and Nvidia Corp.

Clubhouse adds Bengali, Marathi support on Android

Social audio app Clubhouse has added support for thirteen new languages on Android, including Arabic, Bengali, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Farsi / Persian, Hausa, Igbo, Marathi, Nepali, Somali, Thai, Turkish, and Yoruba. These languages will be available on iOS in the future, Clubhouse noted. The app’s ‘Interests’ feature has also been updated to ‘Topics’ for both iOS and Android users. “Topics help you find the rooms, clubs, and people with shared passions or relevant expertise,” Clubhouse said, adding that the topics will be more extensive, helpful and available in more places. Topics will appear on a user’s profile, although they can choose to hide them with a simple tap. Topics will be more detailed and granular, enabling users to quickly find what they are looking for on the platform. Recently, Clubhouse had announced closed captioning feature for iOS users, and the roll-out of its first wave of local language support for Android users.

Signal’s sustainer programme

Signal has introduced an in-app donation feature, allowing its users to contribute a certain amount each month that will help pay for the development, servers, and bandwidth of the messaging app, which is developed by the Signal Foundation, a non-profit organisation. At present, the monthly donations start at ₹200 per month and users can make the donation using Google Pay or Apple Pay, according to the company. Users who become a Signal sustainer will get a ‘Start’, ‘Planet’, or ‘Sun’ badge depending on their contribution. “We have built these subscriptions so that they only renew if you use Signal over the course of the month. Should you stop using Signal, or uninstall the app, they will be automatically cancelled after the next cycle,” Signal co-founder Moxie Marlinspike, explained in a blog post. The donation process leverages Signal’s anonymous credential scheme, ensuring that a user’s payment information isn’t associated with their account, he noted. In a separate development, WhatsApp recently won regulatory approval to double the number of users on its payments service in India to 40 million.

Qualcomm, Google Cloud’s partnership

Qualcomm and Google Cloud have joined forces to accelerate neural network development for the latter’s mobile, IoT, automotive and XR platforms. The duo is collaborating on Google’s Neural Architecture Search (NAS), enabling the firms to create and optimise artificial intelligence (AI) models automatically rather than manually, a joint statement said. Qualcomm is the first chipmaker to offer Google Cloud Vertex AI NAS. The technology will be first available on the newly released Snapdragon 8, Gen 1 Mobile Platform and then available across Qualcomm’s portfolio. “Google Cloud’s Vertex AI NAS will give Qualcomm Technologies the ability to bring high accuracy AI with low latency to low-power devices such as IoT, medical imagery, automobile and mobile devices, whilst ensuring memory and energy efficiency,” June Yang, VP, Cloud AI and Industry Solutions, Google Cloud, said. This week, Qualcomm released its new top-tier smartphone chip aimed at premium-priced Android phones.

Sony’s Airpeak S1 drone

Sony’s first-ever professional drone, Airpeak S1, which was introduced last year, is now available to customers. Airpeak S1 is the world’s smallest drone that can be equipped with a full-size mirrorless interchangeable-lens Alpha camera. It is designed for cinematographers and other visual storytelling professionals, and is compatible with a wide range of Sony’s camera bodies. The drone includes Airpeak Flight iOS-based application which integrates and monitors all hardware related to the drone, giving the operator real-time status display and updates on screen. For multiple operators, Airpeak S1 also includes a dual operation mode so one user can operate the drone as another operates the gimbal and camera, while each can monitor the content being recorded. The drone comes with a retail price tag of around $9,000 (about ₹6.7 lakh) and is available on pre-sale. In another update, paramedics with jetpacks, border police in flying cars and city workers commuting by drone are concepts part of an advanced air mobility market that is expected to be worth as much as $17 billion by 2025 and $110 billion by 2035.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 2:06:36 PM |

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