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Apple to Reclose Dozens of Retail Stores in US as Covid-19 Cases Spike

Image for Representation
(Image: Reuters)

Image for Representation
(Image: Reuters)

Apple has already reclosed 47 stores in recent weeks in the United States as Covid-19 cases continue to rise rapidly.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: July 2, 2020, 11:36 AM IST

Apple which has reclosed 47 own-branded retail stores in the US would shut 30 additional stores by Thursday, the media reported. “Due to current COVID-19 conditions in some of the communities we serve, we are temporarily closing stores in these areas. We take this step with an abundance of caution as we closely monitor the situation and we look forward to having our teams and customers back as soon as possible,” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday.

This brings the total reclosures in the US to 77. Apple has 271 retail stores in the country. After reopening some locations, Apple said last month it was planning to temporarily close some retail stores in four US states — Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida — in view of growing cases of Covid-19.

“Due to current COVID-19 conditions in some of the communities we serve, we are temporarily closing stores in these areas,” Apple was quoted as saying in a statement. Since the US economy started reopening, some states have seen a spike in Covid-19 cases. The US accounts for the world’s highest number of infections and fatalities with 2,685,806 and 128,061, respectively.


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Tech

This Gurugram-based University Has Developed a New Game to Help Spread Covid-19 Awareness

Faculty members and students of Gurugram-based BML Munjal University have developed a new game with an aim to spread awareness about the Covid-19 pandemic. The game is known as “Unlock Me”, that serves as an educational and entertainment purpose and is available on all Android smartphones, running on Version 4.4 and above. Furthermore, the game doesn’t ask users for any personal details like name, age, and address and also happens to be a secure app. The game can be download from the Google Play Store using the following link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.Shreyansh.UnlockMe

Speaking on the launch of the game, Prof Maneek Kumar, Dean, School of Engineering and Technology BML Munjal University says, “In these times, we read so many advisories related to COVID-19 but aren’t sure how they’ll play out once we’re out in the open again. The game “Unlock Me” simulates the real-life situations and experiences to help give players an understanding and feel for discriminating between right practices and wrong practices, and thereby reduce their risk of contracting the virus.”

“Unlock Me” plays out as a simulation of real-life risks related to Covid-19, wherein players get infected by the deadly virus. Users need to make the right choices and be careful of the risky practices as they move through the game. Through a series of events, players earn sanitisers which act like powerups and after gaining enough experiences, a question is presented in order to test the player’s knowledge regarding the current scenario. Interestingly, these questions are solved in a different section of the game where samples of the virus are analysed. Players also get to learn about the announcements made by the Union Health Ministry as they progress. Moreover, after completing a specific number of levels and getting all the answers right, players get to unlock a “cure” for the Covid-19, thereby unlocking a new mode in which the player needs to deliver it to those in need. “Unlock Me” has been developed in Unity3d as a top-down arcade game, and according to developers, new levels will be added to the game in the coming months along with an Arena Mode that will get unlocked after players reach level 100.

“BMU has taken a leap forward in tech innovation to create a game that has deeper penetration and easier understanding for the masses”, says Prof. Manoj Arora, Vice-Chancellor, BMU. “The development of these state-of-the-art technologies and tech-oriented studies have allowed students and faculty to explore uncharted territories in the face of this pandemic and develop ingenious solutions that contribute to the betterment of society,” he added.


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Tech

Google's New Tool Will Soon Show You Covid-19 Impact at Community Level

Image for representation.

Image for representation.

Google said it would test the News feature in a few geographic areas in the US and Canada in the Covid-19 special section of the app,

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: June 30, 2020, 10:56 AM IST

Google on Monday said it is piloting a new feature in partnership with local news publishers to understand how COVID-19 is impacting different communities. The company said it would test the News feature in a few geographic areas in the US and Canada in the COVID-19 special section of the app, where users can view community reopening timelines, plus updates around business and school openings.

They can also see the status of the local healthcare infrastructure, public transportation, events and sections with resources for residents looking for or wanting to help families in need. “We will also continue to expand our coverage across the U.S. and Canada, and plan to bring this feature to products beyond the Google News app in the future,” the company said in a statement.

Google said it is also working to ensure that reliable local news and information about the coronavirus is easily discoverable in Google Search and Google Assistant. “When people look for coronavirus information in Search, they’ll see the existing top stories carousel of articles, in addition to a new dedicated local news carousel highlighting timely, accurate news about their community,” the company announced.

It has also expanded a new carousel highlighting tweets from local and health authorities so these important and up-to-date announcements are more easily available. This feature is now available in more than 30 countries. Google has also seen a significant uptick in people tuning in to local radio on Google Assistant. The company recently provided emergency funding for more than 5,300 local news organizations and launched a Support Local News campaign to encourage people and businesses to subscribe, donate and advertise across local news outlets in the US and Canada.

As traditional media outlets urge social media giants to give their dues for using their news content especially during the difficult Covid-19 times, Google last week announced a new licensing programme to pay publishers for high-quality content. To be launched later this year, the programme will help participating publishers monetize their content through an enhanced storytelling experience that lets people go deeper into more complex stories, stay informed and be exposed to a world of different issues and interests.


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Tech

Amazon Announces Special One-time Bonus of $500 Million For Its Covid-19 Frontline Workers

Amazon.com Inc said on Monday it would spend $500 million on one-time bonuses to its front-line employees and partners working through the coronavirus crisis. Employees and partners who have been with the e-commerce company through June will receive bonuses ranging from $150 to $3,000, the company said (here) in a blog post.

The world’s largest online retailer, which delivers about 10 billion items a year, has been facing intense scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers and unions over whether it is doing enough to protect staff from the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier in the day, workers at six Amazon sites in Germany decided to go on strike in protest over safety after some staff at logistics centres tested positive for coronavirus, labour union Verdi said on Sunday.


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Tech

State Governments, IT Firms in India Utilising Cloud-Driven Solutions to Fight Covid-19 Crisis: AWS

The COVID-19 onslaught has accelerated the pace of IT modernisation and digital transformation via Cloud-driven solutions in the vast public sector in India and various state governments are fast embracing the Cloud technology to reduce the infection rate while efficiently managing the lockdown, a top global Amazon Web Services (AWS) executive has stressed.

According to Teresa Carlson, Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector, AWS (the Cloud arm of e-commerce giant Amazon with over $40 billion annual run rate), as COVID-19 continues to spread, the global health emergency will only be resolved by governments, businesses, academia and individuals working together to better understand this virus and ultimately find a cure.

“Research institutes, scientists and organisations working on diagnostics need reliable, scalable compute power, which AWS can deliver to them along with industry-leading services like analytics and machine learning, so they can process and analyse large data sets and iterate quickly,” Carlson told IANS.

Today, from state governments to startups, India is fast harnessing AWS Cloud technology for scale, speed and agility and above all, data security. Quantela, a provider of smart urban infrastructure automation, has developed CoVER (COVID-19 emergency response) platform in India.

“CoVER is used by government authorities across 10 cities in India to monitor, manage, track, diagnose, communicate, collaborate and prevent the impact of COVID-19. In one of the large cities in southern India that has so far reported far fewer COVID-19 cases, they used CoVER to track about 120 hospitals, 600 ambulances, and 400 isolation beds, and monitor people in quarantine,” informed Carlson.

The officials attributed real-time access to data and quick decision-making as among the key measures that helped the city contain the spread of COVID-19 even in densely-populated areas, and significantly helping reduce the infection rate in the city.

The India eGovernments Foundation collaborated with AWS to develop the National COVID-19 e-Pass solution within 72 hours to provide a digital pass management system that supports multiple state governments, to manage the lockdown while ensuring smooth movement of the essential service providers across and within states.

“Since its launch, more than 50,000 organizations have been evaluated, and more than 6,00,000 daily passes have been issued on the platform. It has been deployed in Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, Telangana, Puducherry, Odisha and Karnataka,” the AWS executive noted.

TruFactor is a platform that provides mobile-first consumer data and insights. The company has a patented platform that ingests, filters, and processes over 100TB of data anonymously, using AI to produce graphs that combine digital signals, physical people movement data, and demographics to help tackle spread of COVID-19.

TruFactor has listed datasets on AWS Data Exchange, a service that makes it easy for millions of AWS customers worldwide to securely find, subscribe, and use third-party data in the cloud.

Innovaccer, a San Francisco-based healthcare technology company, with offices in India and Asia, launched a COVID-19 Management System that can conduct early community-based triage of COVID-19 patients through automated assessments in minutes.

The multi-platform system is currently in use by the governments in Goa and Puducherry in India. Within three days of launch, more than 25,000 citizens in Goa had already used the app to assess their vulnerability to COVID-19. Mumbai-based Qure.ai, a healthcare startup built on AWS, has developed a machine learning-powered solution called ‘qXR’ which uses X-rays to classify patients as high, medium, or low risk for COVID-19 in less than a minute.

Built on data from more than 2.5 million radiology scans, qXR is capable of detecting problem areas and abnormalities that are indicative of COVID-19. Since its deployment in over 40 sites across South Asia, Europe and North America, it is identifying approximately 5,000 suspected cases on a weekly basis. Qure.ai is currently in talks with the state governments to use its solution in government hospitals, large clinics and healthcare centres across the country.

AWS announced the Diagnostic Development Initiative (DDI) in March this year. “This is a programme to support customers who are working to bring better, more accurate, diagnostics solutions to market faster, and promote better collaboration across organizations that are working on similar problems,” Carlson told IANS.

This includes an initial investment of $20 million to accelerate diagnostic research, innovation, and development to speed collective understanding and detection of COVID-19 and other innovative diagnostic solutions to mitigate future infectious disease outbreaks. “We are actively working with 35 projects that have been submitted and are still accepting more applications,” said Carlson.


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Tech

This Face Mask With Bluetooth Lets You Make Calls & Dictate Messages: Convergence In The COVID Times

This innovative device can be placed on top of existing face masks so you can use your phone efficiently.

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Tech

Face Masks Are Here to Stay So Here’s One That Has Bluetooth and a Loudspeaker

Wearing a face mask has become a norm and while most of us have gotten used to it, they can get a little cumbersome. For instance, when you are out and receive a phone call, the mask can block your voice making it difficult for the other person to hear you. But it was only a matter of time for a company like Donut Robotics to come up with a solution.

The Japanese startup is working on a new device that can make the face mask quite hi-tech. The C-Mask can be placed on top of a regular face mask and features Bluetooth, so it connects to your phone to make phone calls or even dictate messages. It also comes with a built-in translator letting you communicate in various languages. This feature is however, not free of cost and will require a subscription.

A device like this could definitely reduce the number of people who pull down their masks to use their phones and hopefully some who don’t use masks at all. The C-Mask also comes with a loudspeaker feature where you can send your voice out from your phone. This can be handy when you are talking to someone or a group of people in person while maintaining the appropriate distance.

The device will soon be available for pre-order in Japan at $40 (Rs 3,052 approx) with the company planning to ship the masks later this year. It is expected to launch outside of Japan as well, although there is no confirmation on the launch timeline.


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Indian Software Market to See 3.8% Growth in 2020 Due to Covid-19 Crisis: IDC

Image for representative purposes.

Image for representative purposes.

The Indian software market grew by 16 per cent year over year in 2019 compared to 2018. For 2019, the India software market achieved a revenue of $6.48 billion.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: June 26, 2020, 4:48 PM IST

The disruption caused by Covid-19 would cause a significant decline in India’s enterprise software market this year, tapering down the growth to mere 3.8 per cent (year-on-year), a new IDC report said on Friday. The pandemic has forced enterprises to relook at their IT spend. Enterprises at this point are focusing on operational resiliency, return on investment (ROI), business continuity plans, and parking aside all noncritical projects for the next three to six months at least, according to the report.

However, there has been an increase in spending on remote work enablement and cloud adoption. There will be heightened demand for collaborative applications, application platforms, security software, system and service management software, and content workflow and management applications said IDC. As per IDC’s latest Worldwide Semiannual Software Tracker, 2H19 (July-December), the India software market grew by 16 per cent year over year (YoY) in 2H19 compared to 2H18. For 2019, the India software market achieved a revenue of $6.48 billion.

“India stands as the second-largest software market in Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan and China) and also managed to keep its growth pace stronger than some of the major economies in the region,” said Mohsin Baig, market analyst, enterprise software, IDC India. “The growth was shaped by demand for a cloud application, application modernization, increasing IT spend by the small and medium-sized business (SBM) segment, cloud-native software start-ups, and government initiative for data localization,” he added.

The majority of India enterprises have digital transformation (DX) initiatives in place or plan to implement in the next 12-24 months. Modernising legacy applications, using as-a-service model, and harnessing emerging technologies to enhance customer and employee experience are some of the key DX initiatives, which are acting as the driving factors for the software market in India.

The ongoing pandemic has pushed many enterprises to implement work-from-home (WFH) policies for the first time, and this has created a demand for collaborative applications as well as an increase in security threats. The IDC expects a rise in demand for technologies such as VPN, authentication, endpoint security, encryption and application security.

“The outbreak of Covid-19 have resulted in the partial/complete transformation of working models with the use of collaborative platforms. New software implementations, upgrades, or migrations will be delayed by a few quarters, unless extremely critical,” said Shweta Baidya, senior research manager, enterprise software and IT services, IDC India.


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India Could Soon Face Massive Cyberattack in the Form of Covid-19 Phishing Emails

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Image for Representation.

Lazarus Group from North Korea is expected to be behind the large-scale campaign targeting more than 50 lakh individuals and businesses.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: June 20, 2020, 11:57 AM IST

India is among six nations that may see a large cyberattack on June 21 in the form of Covid-19 themed phishing campaign from North Korean state hackers. The attack are part of the Lazarus Group’s large-scale campaign targeting more than 50 lakh individuals and businesses, including small and large enterprises, across six countries: India, Singapore, South Korea, Japan the UK and the US, according to a ZDNet report on Friday.

“The North Korean hacker group is looking to gain financially from the campaign, where targeted email recipients will be asked to visit fraudulent websites and lured into revealing their personal and financial data,” according to Singapore-headquartered cybersecurity vendor Cyfirma. Lazarus’ hackers claimed to have details of 11 lakh individual email IDs in Japan, another 20 lakh in India, and 180,000 business contacts in the UK.

The attack would include 8,000 organisations in Singapore where the business contacts highlighted in an email template were addressed to members of the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), said the report. Introduced in 2001 by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, SBF is responsible for promoting Singapore businesses and currently represents 27,200 companies. “The targeted Singapore businesses would reportedly receive phishing email messages — written in Chinese — from a spoofed Ministry of Manpower account, supposedly offering additional payouts for employees under the government’s Covid-19 support packages”.

According to Cyfirma’s Founder and CEO Kumar Ritesh, they have notified government CERTs (Computer Emergency Response Team) in Singapore, Japan, South Korea, India, and the US, as well as the UK National Cyber Security Center. All six agencies had acknowledged the alert and currently were investigating. “In the past six months, we have also monitored hacker activities related to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with regards to hoax, phishing, and scam campaigns,” Ritesh was quoted as saying. Lazarus group is controlled by the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s primary intelligence bureau.

The Lazarus Group’s activities were widely reported after it was blamed for the 2014 cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment and the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack on countries including the US and Britain. In September last year, a malware created to infiltrate Indian ATMs and steal customers card data was traced by Kaspersky security researchers to the Lazarus group.


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Apple Decides to Yet Again Shut Some Retail Stores in US as Covid-19 Cases Surge

Apple Inc said on Friday it is temporarily shutting some stores again in Florida, Arizona, South Carolina, and North Carolina in the United States, as novel coronavirus cases continue to rise in the country. Shares of the company, which said the closure would affect 11 stores in these states, were down 0.5%.

Apple had planned to reopen about 100 U.S. stores, mostly with curbside pickup but some with walk-in service, in late May as lockdown restrictions began to ease. However, cases in the United States have been steadily rising, with over 2.2 million people infected and at least 118,396 people dead.

In a letter to Apple customers in May, Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s retail chief, had said the company would look at data on a local basis and that re-closings were a possibility based on that data. “These are not decisions we rush into — and a store opening in no way means that we won’t take the preventative step of closing it again should local conditions warrant,” O’Brien had said.


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