Alphabet’s Project to Restore Wireless Service in Puerto Rico With Balloons Gets FCC Approval

Project Loon has already proven its real-world usefulness once this year.

The FCC has approved an experimental license for Alphabet, Inc’s Project Loon to attempt to restore wireless service to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico using its high-altitude balloons, according to FCC Chief of Staff Matthew Berry.

Though the Loon technology is not entirely proven, it could help speed the restoration of vital communications as the U.S. territory works to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

It could also help prove the business case for Loon, one of the experimental “moonshots” debuted as part of Google, and now housed under Alphabet subsidiary X.

More than 80% of Puerto Rico’s cellular towers are still out of service more than two weeks after the arrival there of Hurricane Maria, and nearly one-third of the island’s counties have no service, according to the FCC. Rebuilding conventional cell towers will be “a long road,” T-Mobile told CNN, thanks to challenges including not just the cost of construction, but, according to some wireless companies, theft and crime against their operations.

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Loon balloons, which carry communications equipment as high as 20 kilometers into the atmosphere, would circumvent those earthbound hurdles — at least temporarily. Loon recently rolled out internet and LTE service in Peru after flooding there, reportedly providing coverage for an area roughly the size of Switzerland. The balloons that were deployed in Peru, in fact, were launched from Puerto Rico.

However, restoring communications to Puerto Rico may be more challenging. Loon requires local partners to work, and in the case of the Peru project, relationships with wireless providers and other players were already in place. But in earlier statements to Mashable, a Loon spokesman said the Puerto Rico effort would be “a little more complicated because we’re starting from scratch.”

Contracting with governments for deployment in disaster zones could eventually become a revenue stream for Loon, which debuted in 2013. Alphabet has begun ramping up pressure for moonshots to generate revenue, partly in hopes of diversifying beyond the search-driven advertising business that still makes up the overwhelming majority of its profits.

Tech

Cloud service gives access to an ARM server running Linux OS

If you want to play with an ARM-based server, you can now apply to gain access to one online through the Linaro Developer Cloud.

The cloud service was announced in March but has finally gone live. It’s mainly targeted at developers who want to evaluate ARM servers.

The free service is one way to access ARM servers, which aren’t widely available. Applications go through an approval process, and only those serious about programming for ARM servers will likely be approved.

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing


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Why Is Best Buy Testing A New In-Home Consultation Service?

Best Buy‘s sales are increasingly threatened by Amazon, which is poised to overtake it in the consumer electronics segment. In response, Best Buy is testing a new in-home consultation service in three regions in the U.S. — Atlanta, San Antonio and Austin. Under this new free service, the company’s advisor will visit the consumer’s home to explain the benefits of potential upgrades to the various electronic devices they own. The advisor will then provide a customized purchase plan that will include both product availability relative to local Best Buy stores and a price breakdown for the various devices. This personalized service could help in increasing the company’s sales as the convenience of an in-house consultation with detailed information on several products can enhance a consumer’s experience. We believe that, as Best Buy tries to combat competition, especially from Amazon, these innovative techniques can enable the company to retain its consumer base.


Cloud Computing

Capgemini recruits Microsoft Azure in cloud service expansion push

Capgemini has added Microsoft to its cloud services programme as it seeks to give a broader range of cloud services to more clients. Microsoft is the first in a number of vendors that CapGemini is seeking to add to its cloud service portfolio, it said.

Under the new Capgemini Cloud Choice with Microsoft scheme it will offer cloud advice, managed platforms and ‘applied integrated innovation’ services. Initiatives include OneShare, which speeds the testing and development of Microsoft Azure systems and offers to control costs through usage monitoring and resource scheduling.

A second mooted offering is SkySight, which is described as an ‘Azure-like’ private cloud which aims to help enterprises to speed up the installation of new applications. Capemini says it will help clients get value for money on managed services and fine-tune the configuration process.

A third scheme will create industry-focused IP offerings, such as a system tailored to the specific needs of the banking sector, based on the experiences of Capgemini’s own in house banking specialists. The domain expertise will be offered in all major industries, including pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and the health sector.

The cloud offering will cover all solutions encompassed within hybrid, public, hosted and private cloud services using Azure.

As part of the offering, Capgemini will align activities with independent software vendors and start-ups to create new ways of delivering integrated solutions. New ventures and start-ups will also benefit from the offering, Capgemini says, as partners will become a focal point for integrating new innovations into the Capgemini solutions portfolio.

The expansion comes after Capgemini subsidiary Sogeti reported that it managed to cut the costs of one client, Dutch postal service PostNL, by 20 per cent by migrating its IT services onto the cloud with Microsoft Azure.

“Capgemini helped us to define our roadmap to migrate more than 40 applications and now operates its Cloud Platform for us,” said Marcel Krom, CIO at PostNL. “We have reduced costs and gained flexibility in handling volume variances.”


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Former Vodafone boss backs India’s music-streaming service Saavn as it hits 18M users

Mumbai-based music-streaming service Saavn announced Thursday that former Vodafone chief executive Arun Sarin has joined as an investor and strategic advisor.

The news comes less than three months after the company announced $ 100 million in fresh funding. At the time, it said it was adding one million new users per month, with 14 million in total.

As of today, that number has grown to 18 million monthly active users, which it says represents a tenfold increase in daily active users in India since last year.

Beyond that, it’s claiming more than 20 million songs (over 250 million streams per month) and a global team of 145 people across five offices.

“Music streaming is a core app on today’s smartphones, and Saavn is superbly positioned to grow rapidly in the fast expanding smartphone market in India,” Sarin said in a statement.

“As an innovative and nimble music-streaming company, at the heart of one of the world’s most valuable markets, Saavn hits all the right notes,” he added.

Meanwhile, the company’s cofounder and chief executive, Rishi Malhotra, said that over 90 percent of the service’s usage is driven by smartphones, and that it plans to “work more deeply with carriers in India and additional territories” in the coming months.

Sarin’s investment amount was not disclosed.

The company’s most recent series C round in July was led by New York-based hedge fund Tiger Global Management, and at the time it said that it expects to hit 20 million users by the end of the year.

But while the service may be the market leader on its home turf in India, it certainly has its work cut out if it hopes to expand globally — an area in which Sarin’s expertise will no doubt help. That said, the company did not make any mention of expansion plans today.

In general, the music-streaming space has been busy.

Earlier this week, we reported that Deezer is planning an IPO later this year as the battle with rivals Spotify and Apple Music heats up. And Google Play Music continues to expand with its official entry into Japan a few weeks ago.

Microsoft’s Groove Music just announced support on Sonos speakers, and Spotify hasn’t managed to keep out of headlines either: On Wednesday it launched its new “Mix Mates” playlist generator to help friends find music they share in common. (We also heard rumors that Spotify will be supported on Google’s upcoming second-generation Chromecast.)

The announcements from Saavn today are encouraging, but it’s only just the beginning of the global music-streaming wars — and versus many of the other big players, its user numbers are still relatively low.

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