Tech News of the Week | March 2021

Ansh Mehrey Ansh Mehrey
Mar 06, 2021 14 min read
Tech News of the Week | March 2021

The tech world is an ever advancing field with a wide range of advancements unfurled everyday. Here we discuss some of the technology centric weekly news for March 2021. This week's tech news include growth of the Indian wearable market, android and iOS apps data expose owing to cloud misconfiguration, the Group Transcribe app of Microsoft, UK regulators' probe into the Apple's App Store Policy and more.

Indian Wearable Market Grows by 144.3% in 2020 with Earwear taking the lead

Mar 5, 2021. The Industry tracker, International Data Corporation (IDC) has said that the Indian wearable market witnessed a growth of about 144.3% with electronic hearables taking the lion's share of over 83%, and a total of 36.4 million shipments. India has retained its spot as the third largest wearable market, and the only one to exhibit a triple digit growth at it in 2020. Owing to the expansive use cases and some affordable product launches, this market is only headed uphill, and continues to cater to different niche like entertainment, education, and virtual meetings. The Truly Wireless Stereo (TWS) witnessed a ten-fold rise in sales, shipping a mammoth 11.3 million units, and has become one of the most sought after products.

Thousands of Android and iOS Apps Expose User Data Owing to Cloud Misconfiguration

Mar 5, 2021. A mobile security firm has found that a common misconfiguration has caused thousands of iOS and Android users' data to be exposed. Apps using certain popular cloud services including Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure have been diagnosed with this misconfiguration, and the exposed data can easily by exploited by malicious attackers and phishers. The researchers at Zimperium found 14% of the 1.3 million apps that were analyzed, to be vulnerable to this problem, and that some of the apps leaked entire cloud infrastructure scripts, including SSH keys. Some apps were also noticed to expose Personally Identifiable Information (PII) including profile picture and personal details.

Google Photos to Get Explore Tabs with Picture Categorization and other features

Mar 5, 2021. Google Photos for web now comes with a new explore tab that helps with searching for mobile users. The tab adds to the interface of Google Photos, and can be used to categorize pictures based on people, places, and things. Moreover, the web version of Google Photos comes with a favorites option in the library section, and comes as a follow up on the memory section update the previous month. The people of the Explore Tab uses face recognition to group all the pictures of the same person in a single category, and uses AI to categorize pictures on the bases of places, different things such as furniture and skylines. The explore tab also allows you to categorize screenshots, selfies, and videos and simplifies online photo searches.

Microsoft launches Group Transcribe for real-time translation for Multiple Users' chat

Mar 5, 2021. The Experimental department of Microsoft, Garage has launched the Group Transcribe app that lets multiple users chat together while transcribing their conversations in real-time. The app deploys a multi-device approach to offer high quality transcriptions in real-time, so users can involve in a more interactive and productive conversation. For users to successfully avail the benefits of the app, it should be installed on an iPhone or an iPad. Once a participant begins the transcription, the others can join in with a link or a QR code. Furthermore, participants are free to share the transcriptions with Microsoft. However, the app will auto-translate the audio, and show the original text along with the translation.

UK Regulators Looking into Apple's App Store Policy for app developers after complaints

Mar 4, 2021. Britain's Competition regulators said that it is probing into the Apple's App Store Policy for Developers in light of the complaints that state that the policy is unfair and anti-competitive. The competition and Markets Authority said that the probe will consider if Apple has a dominant position in the distribution of apps on its devices in UK. Moreover, owing to the 30% commission that Apple charges from developers in its payment policy, has also long been a center of controversy among Apple's App developers, and while it said that the regulations are incorporated for the rigorous standards and equally apply to all developers, it will fairly comply with the regulators for the probe.

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WhatsApp Voice Calling Can Now be Used on Desktop via Windows and Mac Apps

Mar 4, 2021. WhatsApp has rolled out the voice and video calling feature for desktop with end-to-end encryption, and also shared the link to download the desktop app. The app is a great relief for most IT employees, since most of their time is spent in front of a desktop screen. The voice and video call has been introduced with just one-to-one communication, and is looking to expand this feature with reliable and high quality experience. To activate this feature on your desktop, all you need is an audio output device and a microphone connected to your computer, and allow WhatsApp to access your computer's microphone or webcam depending on the call that you're about to ย make.

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ISRO's PSLV-C51 launched with Brazil's Amazonia-1 Satellite aboard

Feb 28, 2021. As the first mission of the decade, ISRO launched 19 satellites by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), including the first Brazilian satellite to be launched by India. Amazonia-1, the Brazilian satellite is an optical Earth observation satellite of the National Institute for Space Research, and was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh. ISRO Chief K Sivan announced that the mission was successful, and all the 19 satellites, including one carrying a digital copy of the Bhagavad Gita have been set in precise orbits. The PSLV-C51 is the first commercial mission of New Space India Limited (NSIL), ISRO's commercial branch.

Facebook launches BARS, an app for budding rappers with TikTok like experience

Feb 27, 2021. Facebook's internal R&D group has developed a new content creation app called BARS, designed for budding and professional rappers. The app comes with an intuitive interface and lets users choose one of the many beats created by professionals, and then record a 60 second rap video on their own lyrics. BARS also offers auto-suggestions while writing the rap lyrics as well as an auto rhyme dictionary for beginners. While the app is currently under beta testing, and only available in the Apple's App Store in the US, users can sign up for the closed beta testing. Facebook also rolled out a similar platform the previous year called Collab, for musicians to make songs together.

Apple's investigation for app developer commission by competition regulators close to Draft Decision

Feb 27, 2021. While the Apple's payment system that charges commission from app developers is under inspection, the Dutch competition authorities are nearing a draft decision as the end of the investigation nears. The investigation is in regards to the rules requiring software developers to use Apple's in-app payment system as stated in the letter sent to developers involved in this case. In the event of reaching a decision soon, the ACM could be the first antitrust authority to rule on Apple's app store payment policies. The regulator is also looking into the rules that forbids developers from telling users about cheaper payment alternatives outside of the app.

Google develops sleep API for enhanced sleep tracking and saving phone battery

Feb 26, 2021. Both, smartwatches and smartphones can be used to monitor your sleep, the former being more precise and with better analysis. However, those who do not own a smartwatch, have to rely on their smartphones, and while they are viable, they do not offer the best sleep monitoring. Fortunately for android users, Google is looking to make its low power sleep monitoring API public, meaning that developers can use the toolkit to update the currently lagging services, and create applications with better sleep monitoring and analysis. Once the API is deployed, users will be given a 'sleep confidence' report every 10 minutes along with a broader sleep segment report.

INS asks Google to compensate Indian newspapers for using their content

Feb 26, 2021. Reciprocating with the new law passed by the Australian Parliament that demands Facebook and Google to pay media companies for content, INS President L Admiloolam wrote to Google Indian country manager urging to increase publisher share of advertising revenue to 85%. The Indian Newspaper Society has written to Google asking for higher compensation for newspapers for using their content and also sharing their advertising revenue details. The INS letter fixated on the considerable cost of employing thousands of journalists who work on the site for gathering content that gave Google its authenticity in the state, and wasn't just proprietary.

Live Transcriptions feature of Zoom app to go free for all in Fall 2021

Feb 26, 2021. Live transcriptions, a feature where subtitles in real-time in an ongoing lecture appear in the bottom of the screen has been part of the paid plan of Zoom, an online meetings platform. While the feature was included in a paid subscription, the company announced through a blog post that it will be made free for all in the fall of 2021. This feature offers a lot of assistance in averting any miscommunication, and enabling a better understanding of the speaker during a meeting or a conference. Even until the feature is made available to all, Zoom is allowing this feature to be used by regular users by filling out a Google form.

Nothing, a startup by OnePlus co-founder has acquired the now defunct brand Essential

Feb 16, 2021. Carl Pei's new startup Nothing has acquired the now defunct smartphone brand and hardware startup, Essential. Founded by Android Creator Andy Rubin, Essential's every asset now belongs to Nothing, and the deal was finished on January 6, although the acquisition began as early as November of 2020. While Essential before its acquisition was working on smart home assistants and custom operating systems, its Nothing acquisition hints that its resources will now be utilized for building smartphones once again, although there are no announcements as of yet.

Amazon to partner on 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat' and begin device manufacturing in India

Feb 16, 2021. The US based E-Commerce giant Amazon has announced that it will soon begin manufacturing electronic devices including the Fire TV stick, later this year. The manufacturing will commence through contract manufacturer Cloud Network Technologies, a subsidiary of Foxconn. The announcement was a follow-up of the discussion between the Union Minister of Communication and IT, and the Global Senior Vice President of Amazon. While this will be the first Amazon manufacturing line in the country, the planned capacity is about hundreds of thousands of units per year.

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Telenor halts listing Myanmar internet outages citing employee security concerns

Feb 16, 2021. The Norway based telecom operator Telenor said that it had stopped listing forced Internet outages in Myanmar owing to the employees' safety concern following a military coup on February 1. Although Telenor has been an active service provider in Myanmar since 2014 with a workforce of over 700 employees, its services are currently disrupted, and with repeated internet shutdowns, the situation seems unclear. The internet outages have caused some unrest among the civilians who have taken to streets to express their concern resulting in deployment of extra troops in major cities.

SolarWinds Hack described as the most sophisticated attack by Microsoft President

Feb 15, 2021. A hacking campaign that targeted a software developed by Solarwinds and provided hackers the access to several thousand companies and government offices has been described as one of 'the largest and most sophisticated attack' the world has seen. While the hackers are suspected to have access to emails at US Treasury, Justice, and commerce departments, experts have said that it could take months before the compromised systems are all identified. The breach has potentially compromised up to 18000 SolarWinds customers that use Orion network monitoring software.

US based Tesla to set up manufacturing unit in Karnataka, says CM

Feb 14, 2021. Tesla Inc, the US based electric car manufacturer has said that it is looking to set up a manufacturing unit in Karnataka. Tesla India was registered on January 8 this year, and while founder Elon Musk hinted that the cars would start selling in 2021, the Union Road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari has resonated and confirmed this news. In the previous years Tesla's market capitalization has skyrocketed by about 750%, and although Tesla cars owing to their high price range are not affordable for the majority of the Indian population, Tesla has the potential to boost sales.

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Clubhouse monitoring data protection practices amid security flaw reports

Feb 13, 2021. The US based audio only social media application Clubhouse has claimed that it is reviewing and monitoring its data protection practices after a Stanford Internet Observatory report said that the users' data was vulnerable owing to a security flaw. While the company had decided to not make the app available in China, somehow people found a workaround to download the application and hence the conversations could be leaked through Chinese Servers. The observatory also confirmed that Agora, a Chinese tech firm offered Clubhouse the backend infrastructure, and has access to users' raw audio.

DoorDash Acquires Salad-Making Robot Company Chowbotics

Feb 5, 2021. Food delivery company DoorDash has acquired the salad-making robotics startup, Chowbotics to explore automation in restaurants following a surge in demand. While the deal was closed in an undisclosed amount, Chowbotics was initially valued at $46 million in 2018, and will continue to work independently post acquisition. DoorDash seeks to optimize merchant solutions in a constantly evolving system and through Chowbot's robotics products and vision, explore newer use cases and customers.

Qualcomm launches new 5G Modem offering lightning speed Internet Connection

Feb 9, 2021. Qualcomm Technologies has launched the Snapdragon X65 5G modem-RF system, the world's first 10 Gigabit 5G modem. While the modem is currently being sampled with OEMs, the commercial products are expected to be launched by the end of this year. Being the biggest leap in 5G technology, the X65 offers the fastest internet speed currently available with the best use of spectrum for network flexibility and capacity. Qualcomm also announced the launch of X62, 5G modem-RF system, a modem to antenna solution for mobile broadband applications.

Bitcoin is Fast Approaching the $50K Mark Following Tesla's Investment

Feb 9, 2021. Bitcoin, one of the most popular cryptocurrencies is pacing towards the $50K mark following Tesla's investment. The cryptocurrency's value had surged by 1150% since March, 2020, and recently, with an investment of $1.5 billion by Tesla, its value had risen by another 20% to an all time high of $48,216. Moreover, while Bitcoin is definitely catching the investors' eye, its volatility and price swings have affected its popularity among some investors, and its rival cryptocurrency, Ethereum struck a record high of $1,784.85.

BookMyShow Launches pay-per-view Video Streaming Service

Feb 8, 2021. BookMyShow has launched a pay-per-view streaming service which can be viewed on BookMyShow's mobile app, website, Firestick, Chromecast along with Apple and Android TV. The model aims to deliver titles for buying or renting and the list of available titles include some of the recent blockbusters among 600 movie titles. It also offers premieres every Friday, similar to the box office movie releases, and will compete with some popular players including Apple TV, Google Play and other OTT services in streaming theatrical releases.

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Feb 9, 2021. Microsoft has announced that its popular racing game, and the latest installment in the series, Forza Horizon 4 is going to hit Steam on March 9, 2021. The launch is expected to make it a cross platform game, enabling even the Xbox users to compete against those on Steam. While the game is going to feature fresh locations and adventure, the cost is likely to remain the same. Also, the game developers have ensured users to enhance the game by introducing a battle royale mode, with focus on a single player in a restricted area.

IIT Kanpur Develops an Unmanned Drone in Collaboration with EndureAir

Feb 5, 2021. The Aeronautics department of IIT Kanpur in collaboration with EndureAir, an aviation tech startup, has developed an unmanned drone helicopter. The drone is said to run on petrol and can carry up to 5 kilograms of weight and is built for long-endurance surveillance. While flights up to a height of 11,500 feet has been successfully tested, the department is working to enhance its flight capabilities. Government permits for long range trials are in process, since the drone is estimated to travel about 50 kilometres and works on GPS, it can be used for delivering goods and even vaccines.

Swiss Company Claims to Finds Vulnerabilities in Encryption

Feb 7, 2021. Although it has been long speculated that quantum computers might make the current encryption technology obsolete, Terra Quantum AG, a Swiss has discovered some concerning vulnerabilities in the common encryption algorithms. The vulnerability that the company discovered could be a security weakness and could be exploited to imperil data confidentiality of almost anyone. The weakness is described by experts such that it 'upends the current understanding of what constitutes unbreakable', and that it may have some serious repercussions.

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