Japan finance sector to reap digital currency benefits, says MUFG chief

TOKYO (Reuters) – The chief executive of Japan’s largest bank expects new business opportunities to appear as digital currencies allow collection of data on how people use their money.

While Japan’s big banks have distanced themselves from bitcoin and other existing digital currencies, they are trying to create their own to provide cheaper and easier means of payments and money transfers.

“We would be able to capture kinds of financial behavior that cannot be collected as data in cash transactions,” said Nobuyuki Hirano, CEO of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), speaking as chairman of the Japanese Bankers Association at a news conference on Thursday.

“We can use the data to create new value.”

Hirano’s bank is developing its own “MUFG Coin” digital currency using the blockchain technology behind bitcoin.

The bank has been conducting experiments with MUFG Coin among its employees, including using the currency to split restaurant bills with each other over their smartphones.

Unlike bitcoin and other so-called cryptocurrencies, MUFG Coin is tied to Japanese yen, so users can exchange it for yen at the same rate as they bought the digital currency.

MUFG has said it plans to expand the experiment to involve all of its 30,000 domestic employees next year.

Japan’s third-largest lender Mizuho Financial Group is also developing its own digital currency, J Coin, targeting widespread use by 2020.

Reporting by Taiga Uranaka; Editing by David Goodman

Tech

Equifax says systems not compromised in latest cyber scare

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Equifax Inc said on Thursday that one of its third-party vendors had been running malicious code on one its web pages, but that the credit reporting agency was not the subject of another cyber attack and its systems were not compromised.

Equifax had said earlier it took the affected web page offline “out of an abundance of caution” following a report by the technology news website Ars Technica that the company’s website may have been hacked.

Atlanta-based Equifax disclosed a little over a month ago that cyber criminals had breached its systems between mid-May and late July and stolen the sensitive information of 145.5 million people.

“Equifax can confirm that its systems were not compromised and that the reported issue did not affect our consumer online dispute portal,” spokeswoman Francesca De Girolami said in a statement on Thursday.

“The issue involves a third-party vendor that Equifax uses to collect website performance data, and that vendor’s code running on an Equifax website was serving malicious content.”

The company said it has removed the vendor’s code from the web page, which was taken offline so the company can conduct further analysis.

FILE PHOTO: The logo and trading information for Credit reporting company Equifax Inc. are displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Randy Abrams, an independent security analyst, said he noticed the issue late on Wednesday when he was attempting to check some information in his credit report and a bogus pop-up ad appeared on Equifax’s website.

The pop-ups could trick visitors into installing fraudulent Adobe Flash updates and infect computers with malware, he said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he recalled thinking when he first saw the ads. Then he successfully replicated the problem at least five times, making a video that he posted to YouTube. (bit.ly/2z3GTLc)

Equifax’s security protocols have been under scrutiny since Sept. 7 when the company disclosed its systems had been breached. As a credit reporting agency, Equifax keeps vast amounts of consumer data for banks and other creditors to use to determine the chances of their customers’ defaulting.

The breach has prompted investigations by multiple federal and state agencies, including a criminal probe by the U.S. Department of Justice, and it has led to the departure of the company’s chief executive officer, chief information officer and chief security officer.

Equifax shares ended down 1.5 percent at $ 108.81.

Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Bill Rigby

Tech

Cloud computing slows energy demand, U.S. says

Ten years ago, power usage at data centers was growing at an unsustainable rate, soaring 24% from 2005 to 2010. But a shift to virtualization, cloud computing and improved data center management is reducing energy demand.

According to a new study, data center energy use is expected to increase just 4% from 2014 to 2020, despite growing demand for computing resources.

Total data center electricity usage in the U.S., which includes powering servers, storage, networking and the infrastructure to support it, was at 70 billion kWh (kilowatt hours) in 2014, representing 1.8% of total U.S. electricity consumption.

Based on current trends, data centers are expected to consume approximately 73 billion kWh in 2020, becoming nearly flat over the next four years. “Growth in data center energy consumption has slowed drastically since the previous decade,” according to a study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “However, demand for computations and the amount of productivity performed by data centers continues to rise at substantial rates.”

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Microsoft reverses course, says ‘no thanks’ to Bitcoin payments

CIO Cloud Computing

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The iPhone 6s outperforms the 2015 MacBook in some tests, which says a lot about the iPad Pro


Although the iPhone’s ‘s’ models aren’t normally as hype-worthy as the full version upgrades, one thing you can always expect out of them is top notch performance. This year’s iPhone 6s, however, has the special honor of being as powerful as one of Apple’s newest laptops, the 2015 MacBook. John Gruber from Daring Fireball benchmarked the iPhone 6S using Geerkbench 3, a multi-platform testing tool designed to measure overall computer performance. Needless to say, the results are impressive. The phone’s A9 chip can outperform or beat the $ 1300 1.1 Ghz MacBook, and nearly go head to head with the 1.3Ghz model: Test iPhone 6s…

This story continues at The Next Web


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Google says its voice search system is now more accurate, especially in noisy places

If you’ve noticed Google doing a better job of understanding what you say using speech recognition on your smartphone lately, you’re not crazy. Google’s voice search has indeed become more accurate, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, the tech company announced today.

“Today, we’re happy to announce we built even better neural network acoustic models using Connectionist Temporal Classification (CTC) and sequence discriminative training techniques,” Google Speech Team members Haşim Sak, Andrew Senior, Kanishka Rao, Françoise Beaufays and Johan Schalkwyk wrote in a blog post today. “These models are a special extension of recurrent neural networks (RNNs) that are more accurate, especially in noisy environments, and they are blazingly fast!”

The new models are working in the Google app for iOS and Android, as well as dictation on Android, which works inside of some third-party apps, the team members wrote.

From VentureBeat

Location, location, location — Not using geolocation to reach your mobile customers? Your competitors are. Find out what you’re missing.

Google has reported improvements in voice search not once but twice this year. Clearly the company has been investing in the underlying technology. RNNs are one increasingly popular approach to doing deep learning, a type of artificial intelligence, and Google is widely thought to have a deep bench in deep learning.

But Apple and Microsoft, among others, have also been working to improve their voice recognition capabilities. Meanwhile, Facebook is also doing more in the area, having acquired a speech recognition company, Wit.ai, some months ago.

Speech could become more important as an input to searching the Web in the years to come. Baidu’s Andrew Ng, who is known for his work on the so-called Google Brain, last year predicted that within five years “50 percent of queries will be on speech or images.”

“In addition to requiring much lower computational resources, the new models are more accurate, robust to noise, and faster to respond to voice search queries — so give it a try, and happy (voice) searching!” wrote Sak, Senior, Rao, Beaufays, and Schalkwyk.

Read the full blog post for more detail on how the team managed to get the new performance gains.

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Samsung says new U.S. offices are its ‘biggest investment in Silicon Valley’ to date

Samsung officially opened the doors to its new 1.1-million-square-foot Silicon Valley offices Thursday, more than 30 years after its arrival in the San Jose tech corridor in 1983.

The building will house various research labs dedicated to semiconductors, LEDs and displays, staff in sales and marketing, and other support areas, the company said.

“[We are] laying the groundwork for a more aggressive pace of growth over the next several decades,” said Samsung’s chief executive, Dr. Oh-Hyun Kwon, at the grand opening ceremony.

Meanwhile, the company’s president of its U.S.-based device solutions operations, Jaesoo Han, said that the move “represents a major milestone as we open our most strategically important Samsung facility in the U.S., and also our biggest investment in Silicon Valley.”

Samsung also announced that it has established a $ 1 million STEM College Education Scholarship Fund. In its own words:

Deserving university students who are currently enrolled in STEM-focused programs at a California State or University of California school will benefit from this program, beginning with a $ 50,000 gift to San Jose State University this year. Each scholarship will cover tuition and living expenses for one year.

But the announcement of the new office has been largely overshadowed by news in virtual reality today: We reported that the Samsung Gear VR will launch as a consumer product this November for $ 99. (You can read our full roundup from today’s Oculus event here.)

Earlier this week, Samsung unveiled its new fonts-inspired Serif TVs, and shared more about how it relies on startups to stay ahead on technological innovation.

If you happen to be passing through the area, Samsung’s new building certainly looks worth checking out.

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