Posts tagged ‘Google’

02/12/2016

Indian Startup Plans to Land on the Moon in January 2018 – India Real Time – WSJ

An Indian aerospace startup has said that it will launch its mission to the moon in a year’s time, as it takes part in a Google-funded competition to become the world’s first-ever privately held company to make a soft landing there.

Team Indus‘s rover, nicknamed ‘Ek Choti Si Asha,’ or ‘one small hope’ in Hindi, won the Axiom Research team a million-dollar prize from Google last year.

A group of more than 100 scientists and engineers, including around a dozen former ISRO scientists, make up Axiom Research Labs’ Team Indus. The team is India’s only entry in the Google-funded Lunar XPrize challenge, which has a bounty of $30 million.

To win the prize, a team has to successfully place a spacecraft on the moon’s surface, travel at least 500 meters and transmit high-definition video and images back to Earth.

“A full launch vehicle from ISRO [Indian Space Research Organization] will launch our spacecraft into the orbit of the moon end of 2017,” Rahul Narayan, the fleet commander of the team, said at a news conference in New Delhi on Thursday.

The supermoon rising above Cape Town on November 14, 2016, when it was closest to the earth in 68 years.

The Team Indus spacecraft is expected to make it to the moon’s Mare Imbrium region by January 2018.

The race is on. Sixteen other teams from across the world want to make the 238,900-mile trip, and Team Indus is the fourth team to announce its launch plans, said Mr. Narayan.

“We are considering the team from Israel great competition at this point,” he said.

The Indian team’s plan is the country’s first shot at becoming the fourth nation to land gently on the lunar surface and unfurl its national flag, after the U.S., Russia and China.

The South Asian nation’s inexpensive Mars mission put its satellite Mangalyan, which now appears on India’s new 2,000-rupee bank notes, into the red planet’s orbit for $74 million in September 2014. The U.S. spent $671 million getting its Maven satellite to Mars orbit.

The team said its mission would cost $60 million.

Team Indus’s core leadership team, including fleet commander Rahul Narayan, fourth from left.

“We’ve already raised about $15 million through private equity,” said Julius Amrit, co-founder and director. The company aims to raise $20 million by charging companies or universities to put their instruments on board to collect data. It also expects to raise another $20 million from sponsorship, donations and grants.

Its top investors include Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata group, one of India’s biggest conglomerates; Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of Indian outsourcing firm Infosys; and the owners of e-commerce website Flipkart Internet Pvt. Ltd.

“We are quite confident at this moment that we will have enough money to send our spacecraft to the moon,” Mr. Amrit said.

The Bangalore-based startup won a million dollar prize from Google last year for its WALL-E lookalike moon rover, which will shoot high-quality images, video and data and beam them from the moon’s surface to the company’s mission center in India.

 

But the mission isn’t without its challenges.“If you have to softly land, you need to be able to [precisely] manage your velocity and time [to switch your engines on and off],” said Dhruv Batra, Program Lead at Team Indus. “Unfortunately, there is no throttle-like mechanism in a spacecraft, like you have in a car.”

Another challenge is to be able to land at the right time of the day—to make sure the solar panels are able to power the gadgetry, while making sure the temperature isn’t too extreme for the batteries and other electronics to work properly.

“We are currently refining each and every output of our simulations to arrive at that level of precision we need,” said Mr. Batra.Seven years ago, Team Indus was one of the last teams to sign up for the Google challenge, and its founders had no prior experience in aerospace engineering or space sciences, said Mr. Narayan, the fleet commander. “It was just a dream.”

Source: Indian Startup Plans to Land on the Moon in January 2018 – India Real Time – WSJ

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03/10/2016

How Google’s Bicycle-Riding Internet Tutors Are Getting Rural Indian Women Online – India Real Time – WSJ

The internet fails to reach millions of women in the small towns and villages of India, so Google is trying to deliver it to them — by bicycle.

The Alphabet Inc. unit has built an army of thousands of female trainers and sent them to the far corners of the Subcontinent on two-wheelers, hoping to give rural woman their first taste of the web. Each bike has a box full of connected smartphones and tablets for women to try and train on.

The idea is to give people who have never even sent an email a better understanding of how being connected could improve their lives. Families that can afford to be online often chose not to be because they do not see the value. Meanwhile women are sometimes blocked by their families from new technology.

ENLARGEA web trainer who is taking part in Internet Saathi, the joint program of Alphabet, Inc.‘s Google and local philanthropy Tata Trusts, in the village of Habibwala, in Rajastan, India, Sept. 28, 2016. PHOTO: GOOGLE

Bhagwati Kumari Mahawar got her very first taste of the internet just a month ago.

The 19-year-old used a smartphone Google brought to her remote village in the desert state of Rajasthan to search for designs of mehndi, the elaborate henna designs Indian women get on their hands and feet. Then she looked up information on how to sew a blouse.

ENLARGEBhagwati Kumari Mahawar in the village of Habibwala, in Rajastan, India, Sept. 28, 2016. PHOTO: GOOGLE

“I really wanted to learn,” she said, sitting in the shade near the Google bicycle and a water buffalo.In the project, called Internet Saathi, Google partnered with local philanthropy Tata Trusts to show women in rural India how to connect to the web.

Instructors are trained in how the web works, and then are given bicycles with large boxes on the back containing internet-enabled devices running Google’s Android mobile operating system. The newly equipped “saathis” — or “partners” in Hindi — then cycle from village to village providing instruction to their peers.

“I wasn’t sure if I could do it or not,” said the instructor who helped Ms. Mahwar get online, 30-year-old Kamla Devi Mahawar, who is unrelated to her pupil.

She never used the web until she began her Saathi training ten months earlier, but since then has enjoyed showing women how to search for information like recipes and stitching guides, and showing them how to use voice queries if they are unable to type in text.

ENLARGEWomen look at cell phones as part of Internet Saathi, the joint program of Alphabet, Inc.’s Google and local philanthropy Tata Trusts, in the village of Habibwala, in Rajastan, India, Sept. 28, 2016. PHOTO: NEWLEY PURNELL/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

In a demonstration, she sat on the ground while half a dozen women circled around her, watching as she searched for images of nearby temples and forts. Some women want to learn how to use Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp messaging service, while others simply want to make phone calls, she said.

Since the program’s launch last year, about 9,000 guides have helped reached 1 million women, Google said, noting that the program fits its mission of helping expand internet access globally.

India is an increasingly important commercial market for the Mountain View, Calif. search titan given its nascent internet economy.

While the country is home to more than 1.2 billion people, consultancy McKinsey & Co. reckons some one billion people still lack regular web access. More online consumers in the years ahead could mean more users of Google’s services, like its search engine, email and Android.

A bike used by an instructor who teaches women how to use the web, part of Internet Saathi, the joint program of Alphabet, Inc.’s Google and local philanthropy Tata Trusts, in the village of Habibwala, in Rajastan, India, Sept. 28, 2016. PHOTO: GOOGLE

Last week, at an event in New Delhi, Google executives said they are expanding their efforts to reach Indians with products and features like a new version of its YouTube app designed to work even on India’s often sluggish mobile networks.

Asked how her work with others could be made easier, Ms. Mahwar, the trainer, was quick to point out that better web connectivity is key.

“The internet doesn’t work half the time,” she said. Fixing that “would help a lot.”

Source: How Google’s Bicycle-Riding Internet Tutors Are Getting Rural Indian Women Online – India Real Time – WSJ

13/08/2016

U.S. and UK tech startups welcome in China – with a little supervision – The Stack

U.S. and UK tech startups welcome in China – with a little supervision Martin Anderson. Editor, The Stack, Friday 12th August

On August 1st Travis Kalanick, CEO and co-founder of Uber, finally admitted defeat regarding the company’s three-year crusade to gain a foothold in China, with the ‘merging’ (most consider it a ‘sale’) of Uber’s Chinese operations with local incumbent Didi Chuxing. Whatever Kalanick may have recovered from the concession, it seems unlikely that Uber will recoup the billions it has already poured into its most distant territory. But there was no alternative – by January of this year, the Uber board was urging that the ride-sharing giant – such an indefatigable combatant in so many contested territories – throw in the towel.

Ultimately Didi was going to win this battle; despite cash and equity of $28 billion vs Uber’s $68 billion, Didi had reserved $10 billion to strengthen its grip on this fundamental societal change in China – almost on a par with what the  better-financed Uber was willing to invest.

A headline-grabbing contest of this nature gives the false impression of China as isolationist in terms of cooperating with global tech startups – it isn’t. The country runs a UK-China tech incubator in Shenzhen, backed by Tencent and providing crucial advice on the peculiarities of the Chinese market to Brit startups. The deal even offers free office space, business counsel and pitch opportunities. Whilst willing to repel boarders on the scale of Uber, China has no problem in contributing to a post-Brexit UK brain drain.

Likewise Alibaba runs a similar scheme to increase tech migration from the United States – almost impossibly tempting for new companies dazzled by the economy-of-scale that Chinese success promises, and struggling for attention in saturated home markets. Perhaps the most useful aspect of these international schemes is the business advice from native sources – western entrepreneurs see huge opportunities in Chinese numbers, yet fail to take account of national psychology; either on an individual level (the Chinese consumer), or at the level of a state which is well aware of its riches – and needs only as much western genius to exploit them as serves its future interests in the post-sharing economy.

Source: http://email.thestack.com/q/11mUpgMA6G1pvcOkWw5ppxj/wv

18/06/2016

The great crawl | The Economist

LATE last month a black-and-white photograph of a professor from Beijing Jiaotong University spread on social media. His image was edged by a black frame, like those displayed at funerals in China, and trimmed with white flowers of mourning. Though Mao Baohua is still very much alive, he had angered netizens enough to depict him as dead. His crime? To suggest that Beijing should follow the likes of London and Stockholm, by charging drivers 20-50 yuan ($3-7.50) to enter the capital’s busiest areas in the hope of easing traffic flow in the gridlocked city.

Most Chinese urbanites see buying a vehicle as a rite of passage: a symbol of wealth, status and autonomy, as it once was in America. Hence their outrage at any restraint on driving. Since car ownership is more concentrated among middle- and high-income earners in China than it is in richer countries, any attack on driving is, in effect, essentially aimed at the middle class, a group the Communist Party is keen to keep on side. That makes it hard to push through changes its members dislike.

Since 2009 officials in Beijing and the southern city of Guangzhou have repeatedly aired the idea of introducing congestion charges. Netizens have fought back, accusing their governments of being lazy, brutal and greedy. Many also gripe that the policy would be “unfair” because the fee would have less impact on the super-rich. Complaints about the inequality of congestion charging echo those made in London and other cities before they launched such schemes. But the party, nervous of being accused of straying from socialism, is particularly sensitive to accusations that it is favouring the wealthiest.

Because of such objections, city governments have not pushed their proposals very hard. But that is now changing in Beijing, where officials face a dilemma. Traffic jams in the city and appalling air pollution—30% of which comes from vehicle fumes, by official reckoning—may end up causing as much popular resentment as any surcharge. The local government is trying to work out how close it is to this tipping point. It is conducting surveys to “pressure test” how people would react to a congestion fee, says Yuan Yue of Horizon, China’s biggest polling company (the results will not be made public). It is likely that a concrete plan for a congestion charge will be announced soon. Beijing’s environmental and transport departments (not usual partners) are collaborating on a draft. State media have recently published a flurry of articles about this, not all in favour.

Public opinion is not the only challenge a congestion scheme faces. The urban planners who conceived Beijing’s layout, and that of other Chinese cities, never imagined that so many people would want to drive. The capital now has 3.6m privately owned cars: the number per 1,000 people in Beijing has increased an astonishing 21-fold since 2000, according to our sister company, the Economist Intelligence Unit (see chart).

On most days large tracts of the capital are now bumper to bumper amid a cacophony of car horns. Beijingers have the longest average commute of any city in China, according to data collected by Baidu, a Chinese search engine. The problem is not confined to Beijing. The capital has higher vehicle ownership than any other Chinese city, but car use is rising rapidly across the country. Many second- and third-tier cities are already clogged.

Beijing’s congestion scheme would be the first outside the rich world, where a handful of cities now charge drivers to enter a designated area. (Singapore has a different form of road pricing, with tolls on individual arterial roads.) Such measures have been credited with reductions in downtown car-use, improved traffic flow and greater use of public transport. They have also cut pollution, including emissions of the tiny PM2.5 particles that are particularly dangerous to health and abundant in Beijing’s air.

Transport planners reckon a congestion zone would have similar effects in Beijing, and complement existing attempts to restrict car use. In 2008, after Beijing staged the Olympic games, the city launched the current system whereby each car is banned from the urban core one workday per week, depending on the last digit of its licence plate. Beijing is now one of 11 Chinese cities with similar restrictions.

But some drivers choose to pay the 100 yuan fine, which is far higher than the congestion charge that Beijing is now mulling (around the sums suggested by Professor Mao). People also drive without plates, or buy second cars, to bypass the rules. In 2011 the capital introduced a lottery for obtaining new licence plates (six other cities do this). In Beijing the scheme has slowed the increase in car ownership, but not enough to cut congestion; some residents use vehicles registered elsewhere. Also in 2011 the capital raised parking fees, hoping to deter drivers. But people often park on pavements and traffic islands instead, usually with impunity.

Source: The great crawl | The Economist

12/06/2016

Indian Home Ministry Rejects Google Street View Proposal – India Real Time – WSJ

Virtually roaming through India’s streets using Google Street View may not be possible anytime soon, after a government official said the company had been blocked from rolling out its street-mapping feature.

A spokesman for the Home Ministry said Friday that it has rejected a plan from Alphabet Inc.’s Google to expand its maps feature that provides 360-degree panoramic images in the country, citing security concerns.

The spokesman didn’t elaborate on the worries but noted that the final decision on whether to permit Street View in India could come, “hopefully during this year,” once other governmental bodies have had their say.

A Google spokesman declined to comment.

Source: Indian Home Ministry Rejects Google Street View Proposal – India Real Time – WSJ

27/05/2016

Why It Could Be a While Before Apple Can Open Stores in India – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s finance ministry has rejected a government-panel recommendation to exempt Apple Inc. from local sourcing requirements, two government officials said, in a decision that could effectively block the technology company’s plan to open its own retail stores in the country.

“We are sticking to the old policy,“ said one of the officials. “We want local sourcing for job creation. You can’t have a situation where people view India only as a market. Let them start doing some manufacturing here.”

An Apple spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

India is a crucial market for Apple as it holds huge sales potential. Like China, which for years fueled the Cupertino, Calif., company’s growth, India is a large, developing economy in which more people can afford its high-end gadgets every year.

India wants to use the company’s interest in its market to attract investment and create the manufacturing facilities and jobs the country needs to sustain long-term growth.

Source: Why It Could Be a While Before Apple Can Open Stores in India – India Real Time – WSJ

30/11/2015

Smog chokes Chinese, Indian capitals as climate talks begin | Reuters

The capitals of the world’s two most populous nations, China and India, were blanketed in hazardous, choking smog on Monday as climate change talks began in Paris, where leaders of both countries are among the participants.

China’s capital Beijing maintained an “orange” pollution alert, the second-highest level, on Monday, closing highways, halting or suspending construction and prompting a warning to residents to stay indoors.

The choking pollution was caused by the “unfavourable” weather, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Sunday. Emissions in northern China soar over winter as urban heating systems are switched on and low wind speeds have meant that polluted air has not been dispersed.

In New Delhi, the U.S. embassy’s monitoring station recorded an air quality index of 372, which puts air pollution levels well into “hazardous” territory. A thick smog blanketed the city and visibility was down to about 200 yards (metres).

Air quality in the city of 16 million is usually bad in winter, when coal fires are lit by the poor to ward off the cold. Traffic fumes, too, are trapped over the city by a temperature inversion and the lack of wind.

However, the government has not raised any alarm over the current air quality and no advisories have been issued to the public. Thirty thousand runners took part in a half marathon at the weekend, when pollution levels were just as high.

In Beijing, a city of 22.5 million, the air quality index in some parts of the city soared to 500, its highest possible level. At levels higher than 300, residents are encouraged to remain indoors, according to government guidelines.

The hazardous air underscores the challenge facing the government as it battles pollution caused by the coal-burning power industry and will raise questions about its ability to clean up its economy at the talks in Paris.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are both in Paris and both were scheduled to meet U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday to give momentum to the two-week negotiations.

Source: Smog chokes Chinese, Indian capitals as climate talks begin | Reuters

12/11/2015

LIVE: PM Modi arrives in UK – The Hindu

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Air India aircraft made touchdown this morning at 10 a.m. in Heathrow for his long-awaited bilateral level visit to the United Kingdom — his first since becoming Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart David Cameron with their delegations during talks at 10, Downing Street in London on Thursday. Photo: PMO

He was met at the airport by Hugo Swire, Minister of State for the Foreign Office, and Priti Patel, Minister for Employment and Diaspora Champion in the David Cameron government. His visit carries expectations for agreements and partnerships worth billions of dollars across defence, security, finance and sectors like education, research and health.

Mr. Modi is accompanied by a high power business delegation that included Cyrus P. Mistry, chairman, Tata Sons, Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman, Bharti Enterprises Limited and N. Chandrasekaran, CEO and managing director of Tata Consultancy Services.

Mr. Modi will be greeted by a Guard of Honour at Westminster,which will be followed by delegation level talks at 10 Downing Street with Mr. Cameron. The two Prime Ministers will address a joint press conference after which Mr. Modi will deliver his speech in parliament. He will also garland the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square. The evening will see important agreements between the two country delegations finalised at Guildhall, City of London. Mr. Modi will stay the night at the Prime Minister’s country residence at Chequers.

The pomp and ceremony attached to the visit is expected to include a special tricolour flypast by the Red Arrows Royal Air Force (RAF) Aerobatic Team over the Buckingham Palace before the Prime Minister sits down for lunch with Queen Elizabeth II ahead of his mega diaspora address at the iconic Wembley Stadium in north London.

Source: LIVE: PM Modi arrives in UK – The Hindu

29/09/2015

Google’s Sundar Pichai Welcomes India’s Modi to Silicon Valley – India Real Time – WSJ

Before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi touches down in Silicon Valley at the weekend, one of his country’s most-successful sons has welcomed him to the U.S. tech hub.

Sundar Pichai, the Indian-born Google CEO, says in a video message that “there is tremendous excitement” about Mr. Modi’s arrival in the valley “among all Googlers” a shorthand for people who work at the search engine giant.

Mr. Modi will meet with Mr. Pichai and other Indian-born CEOs, including Satya Nadella of Microsoft Corp., during his valley visit and tour Google’s headquarters where he will look at inventions in healthcare and smartgrid technology. His visit comes after Chinese President Xi Jinping held a roundtable in Seattle with U.S. and Chinese CEOs including Tim Cook of Apple Inc. and Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com on Wednesday.

“The bond between India and Silicon Valley is strong. India has long been an exporter of talent to tech companies,” Mr. Pichai says in the two minute clip.

Raised in the southern city of Chennai and attending the legendary Indian Institute of Technology, Mr. Pichai became CEO of Google in August having started out at the company in 2004 as a semiconductor engineer after gaining a graduate degree from Stanford University and an M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. More In Google Who Is Google’s Sundar Pichai? Why Indian Managers Are Succeeding in Tech’s C-Suite Sundar Pichai to Lead Google, Now a Subsidiary of Alphabet, After Restructuring Tech Giants Help Track Nepal Earthquake Survivors as Communications Are Hit Google Executive Dan Fredinburg Killed in Everest Avalanche After Nepal Earthquake

“The products built by Indian graduates from IIT and other institutions have helped to revolutionize the world,” the Google chief adds.

But it is India that is now undergoing its own revolution, he continues. Mr. Pichai touches on Mr. Modi’s plans to digitize India and get 600 million people in remote areas connected to the Internet.

“We at Google as well as many others around the world are passionate about playing our part, there is no more important role for tech companies today than helping to connect the next billion Internet users,” he adds.

The prime minister’s Digital India plan is stuttering however. Up to June only 1% of the villages in the program had been connected to broadband via fiber optic cables.

The slow pace of the rollout of the Internet in India is among the main subjects raised for Mr. Modi in his upcoming Q&A at Facebook Inc. on Sunday.

Meghna Agarwal has asked how Facebook can help India in reaching remote areas “so that each one of the Indians has a voice of their own thus promoting equality and bridging the gap between the rich and the poor?”

Sumit Dhawan asked what Mr. Modi is doing to bring high speed broadband Internet to India.

In Mr. Pichai’s video, the CEO predicts that in the next few years, 50 million women and 20 million small businesses will get online for the first time. He promises Google will help India with products that work on low bandwidth and even offline as well as with investments in core infrastructure to help the Indians among them.

Source: Google’s Sundar Pichai Welcomes India’s Modi to Silicon Valley – India Real Time – WSJ

30/07/2015

Behind the Surge in Chinese Tech Startups – China Real Time Report – WSJ

In 2009, then-Google executive Kai-Fu Lee wrote a letter to Chinese college students discouraging them from the start-up world. Young people then simply weren’t ready to strike out on their own, he said. The gist, he said: “Don’t start a company. It’s tough. There are wolves out there.”

Today, he says, China’s young people are themselves proving to be an innovative pack. Internet availability, manufacturing know-how and the smartphone revolution have fueled a surge of Chinese startups in China over the past few years, many run by members of a post-digital generation of youngsters. The rush has led to a wave of investment in Chinese startups by investors looking for the next Alibaba, and thrown into question China’s longtime reputation as a market dependent on copycatting.

Back then, “there were so few serial entrepreneurs in China,” he said on Thursday at Converge, a technology conference co-hosted by The Wall Street Journal and f.ounders. “We really had to find either very young people or find professional managers or senior engineers out of companies like Google and Baidu and help them start a company.” Now, he says, “there are serial entrepreneurs everywhere.”

In some places, the rush may be getting ahead of itself. Mr. Lee—now chairman and chief executive of investment firm and tech incubator Innovation Works—sees “totally crazy” valuations among Chinese tech initial public offerings. Many of the best already went public overseas, including in the U.S. The few left in China “have been blown out of proportion,” he said, adding, “everybody’s chasing those few stocks.”

But overall, he says, “I’m very bullish about the future.”

Mr. Lee, famous in China for his roles at Google and Innovation Works, is also a social-media presence. He says that since forming Innovation Works in 2009 he has seen attitudes change among young Chinese.

“They grew up their total lives on the Internet, unlike us, who have all this baggage,” he said.

That’s potentially good news for Beijing, which is looking to sustain growth by broadening the world’s No. 2 economy, making it more than the world’s factory floor.

Innovation may take a different form than what the U.S. expects, Mr. Lee said. Innovators in China and elsewhere, rather than inventing the next iPhone, “can change the world because of a very clever business idea.”

“China is completely ready to build a Facebook-equivalent type of company, an Uber-equivalent type of company, in many other areas, because the market is very large and the people are very innovative,” he said.

Innovation Works currently sees promise in startups with products like a piano that can teach the user how to play, a household robot and even an online joke platform “for people to share the embarrassing moments in their lives.” And then there’s a venture built around a Chinese girl band, SNH48, that takes a page from Japan’s AKB48 and hopes to make money selling virtual products to an online community of fans.

Even if many of the ideas from China’s startups are themselves derivative, he said, “they will wow people.”

via Behind the Surge in Chinese Tech Startups – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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