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LG electronics to develop smart cart for supermarket chain

Monitoring Desk

SEOUL: LG Electronics will co-develop a smart cart for use in South Korean supermarket chain E-mart, the company has announced.

The goal is to offer a new shopping experience for customers that is accessible, the companies said. Customers won’t have to push the cart, as it will instead follow them around the store.

Proof-of-concept testing will begin in the first half of next year.

Separately, E-Mart has been trialling its own automated smart car, called eli, since April.

Last year, LG unveiled its Hub Robot at CES. The company deployed the robots at Incheon International Airport in South Korea the following July, with the guide and cleaning robots since being in use there.

In June, LG was among the companies investing in Nova Robotics, which makes the shelf-scanning robots being used at Walmart.




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NASA takes a next step toward the moon

Monitoring Desk

WASINGTON: NASA’s Orion spacecraft – built to carry humans – is one step closer to its first mission to fly around the moon and back, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on October 30, 2018. It said its European Service Module – which will be used to power and propel the Orion spacecraft – will be shipped this week from Bremen, Germany, to the United States on an Antonov An-124 aircraft. It’ll depart in the early hours of November 5 and arrive at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on November 6. The ESM, designed in Italy and Germany, is a crucial European component of NASA’s ambitious Space Launch System or SLS; the Orion spacecraft part of SLS is designed to take astronauts back to the moon for the first time since the 1970s.

The European Service Module will hold fuel in large tanks, as well as water, oxygen and nitrogen for the astronauts, while radiators and heat exchangers will help keep the module at comfortable temperatures.

The module itself resembles ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle, which has been used to bring supplies to the International Space Station. The structure is the backbone of the entire vehicle, something like a car chassis. Three types of engines will help propel Orion during its excursions, and can turn the spacecraft in all directions. The module will be built by Airbus Defence and Space, and many other companies across Europe will also supply components.

This is the first time that a European-built system will serve as a critical element to power an American spacecraft; this is thanks largely to ESA’s existing Automated Transfer Vehicle program, mentioned above.

So what happens next?

At Kennedy Space Center, the European Service Module will be connected to the Orion crew module and its adapter in preparation for Exploration Mission-1. This mission is planned as an initial test flight without astronauts that will travel farther into space than any human-rated spacecraft has ever ventured before. This mission is expected to launch sometime in 2020.

A second European Service Module, similar to the first, is also now being developed. This one will be able to take a human crew on a trip around the moon. All of this activity is leading up to launches with components of the Gateway – a planned human-tended outpost in lunar orbit, designed to be used for both human and robotic exploration of the moon.

ESM also recently completed its final integration and testing at the Airbus integration hall in Bremen.

Orion is the crewed capsule part of NASA’s Space Launch System, which, when completed, will be the most powerful rocket ever built. It will be able to take astronauts back to the moon, and more advanced versions of SLS will be capable of taking astronauts deeper into space, including to Mars. As outlined on the mission website:

After the first flight, the next step is to start sending people on bold missions to the moon and beyond. As SLS evolves over future missions to unprecedented accommodation of payload mass and volume and unrivaled performance, the rocket will allow NASA to send missions to deep space and reach distant destinations faster than ever before. On its second mission carrying Orion and astronauts, Exploration Mission-2, SLS will send Orion and its crew farther than people have traveled before around 250,000 miles from Earth, 10,000 miles beyond the moon.

SLS and Orion are America’s space vehicles and the foundation for missions carrying explorers to deep space. This new era of discovery requires all of humanity, including international and commercial partners, to help make these ventures possible and sustainable. Partners can help provide routine delivery of supplies and equipment needed to live and work on the moon and in deep space. SLS and Orion are planned to fly once or twice a year and will focus on dependable, safe flights for humans and large cargo.

Bottom line: The delivery of the European Service Module is another step toward the first launch of NASA’s Orion spacecraft part of the Space Launch System – which is designed to take astronauts back to the moon for the first time in several decades. Human missions back to the moon are still some ways off, but the first launch of Orion will be a significant step closer. (Earth Sky)





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You can now reply privately in Whatsapp groups

WASHINGTON (AFP): WhatsApp has introduced a new feature to its Android beta version that will allow users to privately reply to group chats.

The feature is called ‘reply privately’ and, as the name reflects, allows people to privately reply to group messages.

To use the feature, users can open group chats and select whom they want to reply privately to. The feature will work for older messages too.

In a separate development, WhatsApp has revealed plans to introduce advertisements in status stories.

The company redesigned its app last year and added images, videos and GIFs to text posts.

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E-commerce issues need redressal to further promote digitization in Pakistan

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has witnessed exponential growth in e-commerce activities over the past few years as sale value of industry has so far touched Rs100 billion mark.

Lured by lower transaction costs, convenience and expanding internet penetration, both enterprises and consumers have started shifting their transactions online but country still lags behind regional and comparable economies in terms of digitization of its payment systems and efficiency of its logistics environment.

The issues related to e-commerce have been persistent despite increase in its adoptability among the masses and consistent penetration in coverage areas.

The industry could move at much faster peace if these issues are fixed on long-term basis by industry players and other stakeholders.

State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in its report has identified some weak areas of e-commerce industry and it highlighted how accelerated growth could be achieved while addressing issues related to the industry, which will also benefit economy at a large scale. The sales of local and international e-commerce merchants reached Rs20.7 billion in 2017 and Rs 40.1 billion in 2018 – an encouraging growth of 93.7 per cent.

However, the data only covers transactions made via digital channels (credit/debit cards, interbank funds transfer (IBFT), prepaid cards, and mobile wallets).

The issues that Pakistani e-commerce industry needs to focus on include: longer delivery times which are often cited as a major deterrent to wider adoptability of e-commerce channel.

Delivery times are usually affected when either third party logistics partners fail to deliver on time, and/or inventory management systems of sellers prove inadequate to fulfill flexible needs of electronic channel.

The other issue is online payments. The absence of trust in online platforms and inadequate implementation of consumer protection laws pertaining to e-commerce, amid an already low digital literacy environment, become a deterrent to rapid digitization envisioned by policy-makers and industry players.

In particular, consumers tend to be hesitant when transacting using online channels, as they worry that their personal information (such as credit card number, bank account number, address, etc.) may be leaked or misused by unauthorized persons. Lack of awareness is another issue and still, approximately 90 per cent of e-commerce transactions in Pakistan are Cash on Delivery (COD) due to multiple reasons. From consumer side, a preference for cash may be attributed to low financial and digital literacy, security of online payment channels and instruments, and availability of dispute resolution mechanism in case a wrong or substandard product is delivered to customers.

Moreover, Lack of options is another issue. The efficacy of online payment system gets diminished as many banks do not by default allow debit cards to be used for online transactions. Either the customers have to contact bank’s helpline to activate debit cards for e-commerce for a set timeframe, or debit cards simply cannot be used to transact online.

In this regard, commercial banks should allow their consumers the option to pre-select at time of issuance of debit cards the right of e-commerce application, alongside providing them due security and a Transaction Monitoring Systems protocol, which is already in place for credit cards.

The other issues are high cost of doing business and stock management. On stock management front, a section of e-commerce companies and vendors sell their products through logistic service are in process of digitizing their inventory systems.

This enables sellers to operate on a Just in Time (JIT) rather than on a Just in Case (JIC) basis, thereby reducing storage and processing costs and quickening purchasing process.

With entrance of Chinese digital giants such as Alibaba (through acquisition of and Ant Financial (via a 45 percent stake investment in Telenor Microfinance Bank), the e-commerce landscape of Pakistan can be expected to evolve rapidly.

Following success of their technological products and services in China, these players are likely to introduce and inspire variants of the same in the digital landscape of Pakistan. On payments front, the market players would tap into exponentially growing usage of e-commerce platforms on mobile phones (the phenomenon often referred to as m-commerce) and offer new modes of transaction settlements.

The next step would be to use consumers’ purchasing history to devise a credit scoring mechanism to offer micro-loans for transactions and, eventually, savings.



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Volvo and Baidu team up to develop self-driving cars for Chinese market

Monitoring Desk

BEIJING: It’s not just Ford that’s working with Baidu to develop self-driving cars for the Chinese market — Volvo has also revealed its team-up with the tech giant. While Ford announced the partnership earlier, the Swedish luxury automaker says it’s the “first foreign car maker to collaborate this closely with Baidu” when it comes to autonomous vehicles. The two companies will pool their resources to create and mass produce electric and fully autonomous vehicles when the time comes: Volvo will be in charge of developing the cars themselves, which will be powered by Baidu’s Apollo autonomous driving platform.

Their ultimate goal is to create and sell Level 4 autonomous vehicles — those that don’t need a human driver at all — but it’s unclear if they’re also releasing semi-autonomous models before they achieve that. At this point in time, Baidu’s Apollo is already capable of driving in basic urban environments, even at night.

By investing time and money in autonomous vehicles, the partners are making sure that they’re getting a piece of what could become a massive market in the Asian country. London-based analyst IHS Marking believes that around 14.5 million autonomous cars will be sold in China by 2040.

Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars, said in a statement:

“With Baidu we take a big step forward in commercialising our autonomous compatible cars, built on Volvo’s industry-leading safety technology. There is a strong development in autonomous drive in China, where Baidu is a leading player, and the market there offers huge opportunities for us as the supplier of choice for autonomous fleets.”

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Tesla develops plan to make 3,000 Model 3s per week

WASHINGTON (Reuters): Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) said on Friday that it is developing plans to start producing about 3,000 Model 3 vehicles per week in Shanghai in the initial phase of its Gigafactory 3 to reduce the impact of tariffs.

The company also said here in a filing that Model S and Model X sales in China have been, and will likely continue to be, hurt by recently increased tariffs imposed by the Chinese government on U.S.-manufactured vehicles.

The electric carmaker said it continues to push to increase Model 3 production to about 10,000 units per week.

Tesla also expects to continue to increase its Model 3 production rate to about 7,000 units per week at its Fremont, California factory.

China is the largest market for electric vehicles, and most forecasters predict that electric vehicle sales in the country will accelerate rapidly as government regulation drives toward a goal of 100-percent electric vehicles by 2030.


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Hyundai and Kia to unveil their vehicles with solar panels

SEOUL (CNBC): Solar panels on cars aren’t just reserved for luxury brands or experimental vehicles. Hyundai and Kia have laid out plans to equip “selected” cars with solar panels on their roofs or hoods. They’ll help charge batteries for electric vehicles and hybrids, but they’ll also be useful for combustion-only vehicles. You won’t have to settle for solar panels blocking your view of the sky above, either.

While the first-gen solar roof will be limited to hybrids with conventional roofs, a second-wave semi-transparent roof will be available on cars (including combustion-only models) as part of a panoramic sunroof system. There’s also a third-gen system in a pilot phase that will provide power from the roof and hood at the same time.

It promises to be effective. Tthe first-gen model can charge 30 to 60 percent of a hybrid’s battery per day depending on both the weather and the overall environment. While that’s not spectacular, it could significantly reduce charging times and keep you from using gas on those days when you don’t have chances to plug in.

You won’t see the first-gen solar tech until “after 2019.” With that said, it could become commonplace among automakers if it proves successful. It’s a good selling point for cost-conscious and eco-friendly drivers, but it could also be alluring to companies struggling to meet fuel efficiency and emissions standards. They could put solar panels on enough vehicles to raise fuel economy figures without having to make dramatic changes to engines or the overall designs.


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LG to unveil foldable smartphone next year

Monitoring Desk

BEIJING: Samsung on Wednesday confirmed that it’d sell foldable and 5G phones next year. After that, a video from Asia showed us a hands-on demo of a foldable smartphone from an obscure Chinese company that may have just stolen the “world’s first” title from Samsung and Huawei. The same leaker who posted the video said that at least three phone vendors, not including Samsung, will unveil foldable handsets at CES 2019 in January. And now another source says that LG might be one of those companies.

Frequent leaker Evan Blass said in a tweet that he knows LG plans to unveil a foldable phone during its CES keynote, without revealing any details about the device:

It’s not surprising to hear that LG wants in on the whole foldable phone craze. LG’s ambitions in the mobile business aren’t dead, and the company is still looking to compete against the big names. Plus, foldable handsets just happen to be the next big thing for smartphones, considering they might be the only viable way to further extend the display of a device without increasing its footprint.

LG’s latest flagship is the V40 ThinQ that was unveiled in early October, a phone that sports a large screen and a triple-lens camera on the back. However, various other Android handsets launched this month have done their best to make us forget about the V40. It’s likely that LG will launch a G8 phone next year, but if this new rumor is accurate, then its first foldable handset might be the most exciting handset LG launches next year.

On top of that, LG is probably also interested in having other Android vendors buy whatever flexible screen technology its display arm may be developing. A report about a year ago said that LG and Apple were working on a secret display project that the iPhone maker wanted to keep hidden from Samsung — a screen that may be used for a foldable iPhone that could launch as soon as 2020. After all, LG Display has been making foldable displays for quite a while now, and Lenovo may use one of them for a foldable laptop.

Samsung, meanwhile, is expected to unveil its foldable handset in November, at its developer conference, although the handset isn’t supposed to start selling until next year. Huawei’s first foldable phone will also be a 5G-ready phone, although it’s unclear when Huawei will announce it.

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Russia to send astronauts back to space station

MOSCOW (TASS): The first manned mission to the International Space Station since a Russian rocket failed to launch earlier this month may take off on Dec. 3, space agency Roscosmos said on Wednesday.

A Russian cosmonaut and U.S. astronaut were forced to abort their mission on Oct. 11 and perform an emergency landing after a launch accident that Roscomos said was caused by a faulty sensor.

The accident was the first serious launch problem experienced by a manned Soyuz space mission since 1983, when a crew narrowly escaped before a launch pad explosion.

Sergei Krikalyov, a senior Roscosmos official, was quoted by state news agency TASS as saying the next manned launch had been planned for mid-December, but that Russia was trying to bring the date forward so that the ISS is not briefly left without a crew.

The three-person crew may return home on Dec. 20, he was quoted as saying.

“The industry is making significant efforts to move the launch to Dec. 3 so that the station does not switch to autopilot mode, and landing is expected around Dec. 20,” he said.


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NASA spacecraft set a new record for coming closest to Sun

TAMPA (AFP): NASA´s Parker Solar Probe, which launched earlier this year, has set a new record for becoming the closest human-made object to the Sun, the US space agency announced Monday.

“The spacecraft passed the current record of 26.55 million miles (42.73 million kilometers) from the Sun´s surface on Oct. 29, 2018, at about 1:04 pm EDT (1704 GMT),” said a NASA statement.

“The previous record for closest solar approach was set by the German-American Helios 2 spacecraft in April 1976.”

The $1.5 billion unmanned spacecraft launched in August, on a strategic mission to protect the Earth by unveiling the mysteries of dangerous solar storms.

Its goal is make a series of 24 flybys past our scorching star.

Another record is in sight for the Parker Solar Probe.

The spaceship is “expected to break the record for fastest spacecraft traveling relative to the Sun on Oct. 29 at about 10:54 pm EDT (Tuesday 0254 GMT),” NASA said.

“The current record for heliocentric speed is 153,454 miles (246,960 kilometers) per hour, set by Helios 2 in April 1976.”

Parker´s first close encounter with the Sun is scheduled for October 31.

Its final close approach — coming just 3.83 million miles from the Sun´s surface — is expected in 2024, NASA said.