Weekend news round-up: The real Minority Report, Google smart watch is coming

24 Feb 2014

Tom Cruise in The Minority Report

In our round-up of the weekend’s tech news, we discover a predictive analysis system by the Chicago police has been accused of racial profiling, Google’s new smart watch is coming in March, and Microsoft’s bid to capture the next 1bn smartphone users.

The real Minority report

The Verge reported Chicago’s new police computer predicts crimes, but asked: is it racist?

“When the Chicago Police Department sent one of its commanders to Robert McDaniel’s home last summer, the 22-year-old high school dropout was surprised. Though he lived in a neighborhood well-known for bloodshed on its streets, he hadn’t committed a crime or interacted with a police officer recently. And he didn’t have a violent criminal record, nor any gun violations. In August, he incredulously told the Chicago Tribune, “I haven’t done nothing that the next kid growing up hadn’t done.” Yet, there stood the female police commander at his front door with a stern message: if you commit any crimes, there will be major consequences.

“What McDaniel didn’t know was that he had been placed on the city’s “heat list” — an index of the roughly 400 people in the city of Chicago supposedly most likely to be involved in violent crime. Inspired by a Yale sociologist’s studies and compiled using an algorithm created by an engineer at the Illinois Institute of Technology, the heat list is just one example of the experiments the CPD is conducting as it attempts to push policing into the 21st century.

Peace in our digital time?

The Wall Street Journal reported that Netflix and Comcast have struck a deal whereby Netflix will pay Comcast to ensure Netflix movies and television shows stream smoothly to Comcast customers, a landmark pact that could set a precedent for Netflix’s dealings with other broadband providers.

“The debate has been heating up over who should bear the cost of upgrading the Internet’s pipes to carry the nation’s growing volume of online video: broadband providers like cable and phone companies, or content companies like Netflix, which make money by sending news or entertainment through those pipes.

“While several big Web companies in recent years have started paying major U.S. broadband providers for direct connections to get faster and smoother access to their networks, Netflix has held out—until now.”

Microsoft emphasises low cost smartphone focus

The next Windows Phone update will allow for more low-cost devices, CNET reported.

“Microsoft also announced a number of new partners who will be supporting Windows Phone, including high-profile names such as LG, Lenovo, and Foxconn.

“The update underscores Microsoft’s attempt to go after the emerging market, the fastest growing area in the industry. Even as the high-profile devices are beginning to see their growth ebb, there remains an untapped market for getting consumers to upgrade to their first, low-cost smartphone.

“Windows Phone has already seen success in the area. Africa and Middle East saw their sales grow by 758 percent, while Latin America grew by 148 percent, and Asia Pacific grew by 105 percent, according to the company.”

Security scare at Apple

Gizmodo warned that a seemingly straightforward iOS update by Apple masked a potentially bigger problem that could leave iPhone owners open to hacker attacks.

“On Friday, Apple quietly released iOS 7.0.6, explaining in a brief release note that it fixed a bug in which ‘an attacker with a privileged network position may capture or modify data in sessions protected by SSL/TLS.’ That’s the understated version. Another way to put it? Update your iPhone right now.”

Google’s smart watch is coming

Google will spill some of the details on the watch and special operating system in March, CNET reported.

“Google is set to unveil plans for its smartwatch-centric operating system in March, likely in a blog post, according to a person familiar with its plans. The actual smartwatch itself will make its debut at its Google I/O conference in June, the person said.

“With its smartwatch, Google will employ a Nexus-like model in which it designs the software and controls virtually every aspect of the launch, leaving the hardware details to a partner who takes a backseat in terms of visibility. In this case, LG is the manufacturing partner, following up on two successful partnerships with the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 smartphone.”

What could be bigger than WhatsApp?

Basking after its US$19bn purchase by Facwbook, with 450m users and growing WhatsApp is hugely popular, but it doesn’t dominate the world quite like you might think, The Next Web reported.

“Despite being the world’s top messenger, it has never been high-profile in key parts of Asia — China, Japan and Korea — where local messaging rivals reign supreme. That’s to be expected but, worryingly, the past year has seen these rivals outgrow WhatsApp in a number of other markets where it was once the top choice.

“That trend hints that users in Asia are moving on from the basic user experience of the US-based messaging service, in favor of more sophisticated messaging ‘platforms’ like Line and WeChat, which offer games, stickers, communication with brands and more.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years