Tech / Telecom news — 16 May 2017

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Security

After the massive “WannaCry” cyber security incident, Microsoft’s Chief Legal Officer complained that storage of hacking tools by the US Government (the NSA) is a threat, as the worm was built with a tool stolen from NSA. But many have claimed that the root cause are Windows vulnerabilities (Microsoft responsibility) (Story)

Of course, as it frequently happens with all bad things, there are also beneficiaries of the “WannaCry” mess: Cyber security firms had a great day today at the stock market, and an exchange traded fund that tracks them had yesterday its biggest one day gain since the US election, with several companies going up more than +7% (Story)

Meanwhile, more similar threats seem to be emerging, because (as announced by Microsoft) other hacking tools were stolen from NSA, that could be used in same way as “WannaCry”. A second one, “EsteemAudit”, has been adapted and would now be available for criminal use. Microsoft just issued the corresponding patches (Story)

Video

Cord cutting in the US, even if still not at tragic levels, has reached the largest yearly rate in recent history, at -2.2% in 1Q17. A consequence of this pressure is that PayTV companies are getting more selective now with the channels included in their offers, potentially hurting major ones such as TNT, Nickelodeon and Discovery (Story)

Devices

Apple keeps working to exploit an opportunity around health monitoring devices, after having hired more than 200 PhDs in the subject to help develop new products. They could now be working in a capability to read glucose levels in the blood, probably using new “smart bands” (with no need to change the watch itself) (Story)

NETWORK TECHNOLOGY

5G networks, with denser deployments of small cells and fibre backhaul connections, might offer differentiation opportunities to financially stronger players like Verizon, and could hurt neutral tower companies. However, a just published analysis claims it won’t be feasible for a single operator to deploy fully independently (Story)

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Also linked to Apple’s e-health plans, a research team outside the firm is developing AI algorithms to help the Apple Watch detect heart conditions (e.g. atrial fibrillation) from device heartbeat readings. The approach is to train the algorithm by correlating these readings with measurements by more sophisticated EKG wearables (Story)

Facebook relying on external developers to build more robust AI systems for the next generation of chatbots, aiming to interact more “naturally” with humans. Combining different approaches to machine dialogue seems key for this, so Facebook just released ParlAI, a platform to facilitate this combination task (Story)

OPERATIONS

Amazon duplicated Wal-Mart’s market cap yesterday, and they could be on the way to dominate retail for some time, with a big advantage coming from each piece of the company (IT, fulfilment, and others) working as an open platform (service-oriented, available for others to use, and forced to be competitive in open market) (Story)

M&A DEALS

Vodafone reorganising its African portfolio, with a sale of a 35% stake in Safaricom (Kenya) to South African subsidiary Vodacom, for $2.59bn. They could be interested in increasing cooperation between both operators, to help extend hugely successful M-pesa mobile payments from Kenya to other African markets (Story)