Archives for Wireless

Do Smartphones Need a Consumer Warning?

smartphoneOur smartphones are on us constantly; we hardly every have them off our person. The age-old argument over whether or not these devices are safe continues, with some calling for proper consumer warning labels outlining the potential danger.

The link between radio-frequency waves and illnesses like cancer is still entirely ambiguous, which leads to varying levels of suspicion where mobile phones are concerned. Advocates who believe there are health risks say that, like any other potentially harmful product, our smartphones should have a clearly visible label on the back of the device. People on the other side of this debate believe consumers will be unnecessarily scared away by unproven concerns.

Joel M. Moskowitz, a researcher and director of the Center for Family and Community Health in the School of Public Health at the University of California, believes manufacturers need to be more transparent about the possible risk associated with RF emissions.

“Manufacturers have a legal duty to provide warnings that are clear and conspicuous when products raise health and safety concerns. But, typically, RF safety instructions are buried in user manuals with tiny print, hidden within smartphones, or made available on the Internet,” Moskowitz wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

He also points out that, “Even before we had scientific consensus about the public health threat from tobacco, Congress mandated warning labels on cigarettes in 1965.”

University of Michigan’s professor of neurology Larry Junck is on the other side of the debate. He believes there is not enough risk to warrant labels. He also says that labels would not prevent brain tumor deaths.

“Consider that brain tumors have not increased in incidence in correlation with cellphone use. If cellphones were an important cause of brain tumors, we would have seen an increase perhaps starting in the 1990s, when cellphones came into widespread use, or starting several years later, if it took several years of cellphone use to cause a brain tumor,” wrote Junck. “While the number of people diagnosed with brain tumors has risen, the increase has been mainly among the elderly, who use cellphones less than others.”

Learn more about both sides of the debate in this Wall Street Journal article.

Did Microsoft Just Give Up on Smartphones?

microsoft logoMicrosoft announced this week it intends to sell its entire feature phone business FIH Mobile – the Foxconn subsidiary – as well as Finnish company HMD Global Oy for only $350 million.

Microsoft has a rocky history with the mobile phone industry. In 2013, retiring CEO Steve Ballmer purchased Nokia’s weak mobile phone business, mostly because Nokia is one of the only brands that used the Windows 10 Mobile OS. And while Nokia is great at pumping out inexpensive handsets worldwide, its products didn’t fit into Microsoft’s software-based business model. This was evident when current CEO Satya Nadella laid off 18,000 employees from the Nokia sector in 2014 and cut 7,800 from the smartphone hardware business last year.

This purchase gives FIH Mobil all of Microsoft’s feature phone assets, including brands, software, customer contracts, and a Vietnam-based factory. In addition, 4,500 Microsoft employees will be transferred.

Although this is a huge move, Microsoft isn’t completely willing to part with the smartphone. The company will continue to develop Windows 10 Mobile for Lumia. However, it may be all for naught as Lumia and Windows 10 have not been able to compete with Apple or Android in the past and do not seem poised to take any major market share now.

*Source: CNN

AT&T Roaming Better Than Canadian Plans

AT&TIf you cross the U.S.-Canada border often for work, family, or whatever the reason, having a second phone to save on roaming fees may not be your best option. AT&T is now offering free roaming in Canada and Mexico to subscribers on a share plan of 15GB or higher. Considering how expensive roaming can get, this is a big deal for frequent travelers.

To break it down, it would be $100 a month for the 15GB plan plus $15 for the phone line, adding up to $115 a month, or $150 CAD. This is less expensive than any of Canada’s Big Three carriers’ 15GB plans. Bell and Rogers charge $155 CAD for the same, while Telus doesn’t offer a 15GB plan, but passes the $150 mark at 10GB.

“Around 20 percent of our postpaid base travels to Mexico or Canada once per year,” AT&T chief marketing officer, David Christopher, was quoted as saying in a press release. “This is a fantastic benefit for customers that will only get better.”

AT&T’s new roaming rates will begin May 20.

*Source: Mobile Syrup

FCC, FTC to Investigate Mobile Security Updates

smartphoneThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are launching parallel probes into the mobile industry’s security update practices. The agencies want to determine how manufacturers issue security updates for mobile devices, and how carriers review and release the patches.

“As consumers and businesses turn to mobile broadband to conduct ever more of their daily activities, the safety of their communications and other personal information is directly related to the security of the devices they use,” stated an FCC press release.

“There have recently been a growing number of vulnerabilities associated with mobile operating systems that threaten the security and integrity of a user’s device, including ‘Stagefright’ in the Android operating system, which may affect almost 1 billion Android devices globally.”

In all, the FTC has contacted eight companies – Apple, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft, Motorola and Samsung – to gain insight into how manufacturers determine if a vulnerability needs to be patched. It has also asked for a list of all devices offered for sale since 2013, with information on any bugs that have impacted them and any fixes that were issued.

The main concern is that delays in developing patches may be leaving devices unprotected. Older devices may never receive the necessary protection.

MIT Chronos Secures Wi-Fi With No Password

wifiSick of telling people your cumbersome, 20-digit Wi-Fi password? Well you should be, because it turns out they don’t even do a good job of protecting your network against unwanted users. MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has found a way to make networks more secure while eliminating the need for passwords.

MIT Professor Dina Katabi has been leading a project called Chronos; a system that enables Wi-Fi to precisely pinpoint all the adapters connected to it. That means it can choose to grant access to a Wi-Fi router based on the user’s location and prevent intruders from remotely accessing the network.

Chronos calculates the time it takes for data to travel from the user to the access point and compiles measurements from many Wi-Fi bands to make the results exact. The team at MIT says it is 20 times more accurate than existing techniques. For example, in a typical home, Chronos is able to identify the location of a user down to which room they’re in 94 percent of the time. In a coffee shop, Chronos can determine which users are inside the store and which ones are loitering outside for connection 97 percent of the time.

Of course, one downfall to Chronos is that it can be utilized as yet another way to track a user’s location. However, it is an option in making Wi-Fi more secure and easier to use.

*Source: Mashable

Is Li-Fi the Future of Wireless Internet?

Li-FiYesterday we told you how Christmas lights could interfere with your Wi-Fi connection. Today, we’ll tell you about how a light bulb could be your Wi-Fi connection. Isn’t technology grand?

Li-Fi, a new Internet technology based on light has been in the works for a few years, but has now reached a new pinnacle in its development. A New Delhi start-up called Velmenni has recently used a Li-Fi enabled light bulb to transmit data at 1 GB per second, which is 100 times faster than speeds enabled by current Wi-Fi.

Velmenni used Jugnu smart LED bulbs to conduct its test, which saw the company transfer data through visible light. It posted a video of the test, in which the CEO Deepak Solanki holds a wireless device to the lightbulb and the device streams videos without any lag. However, the minute Solanki puts a hand in front of the lightbulb, the connection is broken.

Due to the limited span of Li-Fi, it has been slow to develop. It cannot travel through walls and it requires lights on at all times, which could get expensive. These limitations may be good for security reasons. It cannot be hacked by anyone who is not directly in the room. At the same time, it could be used to connect every device in an office.

In its report on the technology, the International Business Times said that the technology can theoretically reach speeds of up to 224 Gbps. Imagine downloading an HD movie in mere seconds. Incorporating Li-Fi into our daily lives could significantly improve Internet use but first developers need to find a way to integrate it with technology we already have.

Christmas Lights Could Interfere With Wi-Fi

Christmas lights could interfere with wi-fiYou’re in the middle of decking the halls when you hop onto Pinterest for a last-minute tree-trimming idea. Except the mission is anything but quick: you stare at your screen impatiently while waiting for it to load, wondering if you’re running off your dial-up connection from 1996.

Before you call your ISP to ream them out, take a look around your house. According to communications regulator Ofcom, your Christmas lights could be to blame. Overall, it estimates over 5 million homes in the UK could improve their Wi-Fi speed by simply rearranging their electronics equipment.

“It could be down to something as simple as interference from other electronic devices, such as a microwave over, baby monitor, a lamp – or even Christmas fairy lights,” states Ofcom, in a press release.

It has launched a new app allowing consumers and businesses to check their Wi-Fi set-up, test speeds and troubleshoot connection issues. It runs on tablets and smartphones.

The staff in ArsTechnica’s UK office took the app for a spin, and while they didn’t find it to be the best way to test a network, it did do a good job of identifying interference from outside sources.

“Using the app in the vicinity of a microwave, for example, data loss went from zero percent to eight percent,” wrote Mark Walton.  “That wasn’t enough to trigger a warning, although the app doesn’t offer any particularly useful advice when it does. Instead, it suggests some basic tips like moving the router, restarting the router, and ‘use an Ethernet cable,’ which most people are likely to have tried at one point or another already.”

Is Verizon Data This Season’s Hot Gift?

verizon dataIf you’re looking for something unique to put under the tree this year, Verizon data may be what you need. The United States’ largest carrier has just announced its subscribers can send 1 GB of data as a gift this holiday season. It’s like giving your friend or family member 3,000 web pages, 13,000 emails or three hours of content streaming for just $10.

Verizon is updating its Messages app for Android to include a way to send data to your contacts. If you’re not a user of Verizon Messages, you can also purchase the data through the carrier’s website. Before sending the gift, it can be personalized with a message.

Verizon has not yet said whether this is a limited offer for the holiday season, or if it will extend into the new year.

*Source: CNET

BYOD on the Decline?

BYOD costFor the last few years people have been pumping up Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs as the best solution for employees and businesses alike. However, those same people weren’t always quick to acknowledge the well-documented issues often surrounding it.

It appears the tide may be turning. The results of a 2015 CompTIA Information Technology Association survey of American IT professionals show over half work at companies that have banned BYOD.

In total, 53 percent of the 375 respondents said their company does not allow the use of personal devices in the workplace, a significant increase from 34 percent just two years before. Contrast that with the just seven percent whose companies allow full BYOD. Forty percent reported working in a partial-BYOD environment, where some devices were provided by the employer but personal devices were still permitted on the network. That’s a significant drop from the 2013 survey, when 58 percent identified their workplace as partially BYOD.

“Companies are finding that they can pursue mobility initiatives just as well by providing mobile devices, and employees are often happy enough to take a corporate device if it is the same thing they would choose on their own,” states the CompTIA report.

“A small percentage of companies—mostly small firms—elect to completely avoid device distribution. This can reduce the overhead required for device support, but it also raises issues for security and productivity. Many firms are clearly choosing to solve those issues by avoiding BYOD.”

But a ban on personal devices doesn’t solve all problems, the report warns. Strong-willed employees determined to use their own devices will try to find ways to do so, making it important for companies to ensure they are monitoring for any unauthorized usage.

Though CompTIA’s survey shows a shift, another undertaken this year by Tyntec – a European company that offers BYOD program support – shows it continues to rise. Their poll of over 1,300 workers found just over 60 percent reported using their own device for work. But what is really startling is the majority of all respondents whose companies are full BYOD said there is no formal mobile-use policy in place: 66 percent of workplaces in America don’t have one, 75 percent in Spain go without and a whopping 82 percent in the United Kingdom have yet to draft and implement a policy.

If we had to wager a bet, we’d say many of those companies aren’t doing anything to manage their employees’ personal devices at all, a risky move when it comes to corporate security. And those that are have discovered it’s not as cheap as they may initially think. An Aberdeen study from 2012 still holds true: savings between a corporate-liable and BYOD device is often mitigated by the cost to process expense reports and offer multi-device support. In fact, it costs six times more to manage than if companies just purchased and handed out phones.

One trend that continues – and perhaps has the most staying power – is the COPE method (corporate-owned, personally enabled) or the Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) phenomenon, where employers are pre-selecting a variety of devices under a corporate liability model and allowing their workers final say on which one they’d like to use.

Sometimes the happy medium is the best one of all.

Telus introduces free Wi-Fi to Vancouver

telus-logoThe City of Vancouver, in a special partnership with Telus, has launched six free Wi-Fi hotspots across the metropolitan centre as part of its Digital Strategy program.

Although associated with Telus, you do not have to be a Telus or subsidiary customer in order to access the hotspots: #VanWiFi, as it’s been dubbed, is open to anyone. The only difference for Telus users is, they will automatically connect and start saving their data, whereas everyone else can connect through a splash page.

It’s not the first program of its kind. Telus has established free hotspots to several 7-Eleven locations in B.C. and Alberta.

The first six locations are Mount Pleasant Community Centre, Champlain Heights Community Centre, Coal Harbour Community Centre, Roundhouse Community Centre, Langara Golf Course Club House, and Fraserview Gold Course Club House. Not near those parts of town often? Not to worry. Telus will be rolling out more locations in the next couple of weeks. These include Creekside Community Recreation Centre, The Gathering Place, Trout Lake Community Centre, and The McCleery Golf Course Club House.

*Source: Mobile Syrup