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Huawei’s alleged bid to copycat T-Mobile robot reads like spy movie





John Legere and Ren ZhengfeiT-Mobile CEO John Legere and Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei.Reuters

  • The US has charged Chinese phone giant Huawei with trying to steal trade secrets from T-Mobile, among other alleged crimes.
  • The Justice Department’s indictment shows internal emails between Huawei US and China employees allegedly trying to copy a T-Mobile device-testing robot.
  • The emails read like a comical spy movie, with one set of employees trying to avoid wrongdoing and another engineer being caught putting part of the robot into his bag.
  • Huawei said it hasn’t violated any US laws, and said it already settled with T-Mobile in an earlier civil lawsuit.

The US has charged Chinese phone giant Huawei, its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, and a couple of affiliates with bank and wire fraud, and theft of trade secrets.

It is the latest development in a saga that exploded when the Canadian government arrested Meng in December at the request of US authorities.

You can read our coverage of the US Justice Department indictment here. And you can read the indictment itself here.

While the situation for Huawei is grave, the indictment makes for slightly comical reading, particularly where it touches on the Chinese firm’s alleged attempts to obtain T-Mobile’s trade secrets in 2012.

At the time, T-Mobile was touting a device-testing robot called Tappy. Tappy comprised a robotic arm and camera that tapped new phones to test their responsiveness and catch any software bugs.

The image below shows what Tappy looks like and this T-Mobile video features the robot in action.

Tappy T-MobileTappy, T-Mobile’s device testing robot.Tappy

At one point, T-Mobile considered licensing Tappy out to phone makers like Huawei, who might use the robot to catch software bugs in its phones earlier in the development process. In 2012, it allowed these prospective partners limited access to Tappy in its own lab, where engineers could play around with the robot. That included Huawei, whose US engineers were able to test Tappy.

According to the indictment, this quickly spiralled into Huawei trying to gather a bunch of information on the robot, as detailed in an exchange of internal emails. The indictment characterised Huawei’s efforts as an attempt to “steal” data on Tappy for the purpose of developing its own robot, called xDeviceRobot.

Read more: Chinese electronics giant Huawei allegedly offered bonuses to any employee who stole trade secrets

The emails show Huawei’s Chinese engineers working on their own equivalent to Tappy and allegedly pressuring their US counterparts to steal as much information as possible — and the US engineers employing every possible tactic to avoid doing any such thing.

Huawei engineers pressured into information gathering

At the beginning of 2013, Huawei’s Chinese engineers came up with a list of questions about Tappy to put to T-Mobile engineers. They also asked their US colleagues, who had access to Tappy, to take some photos of the robot and send them back home, the indictment said.

T-Mobile quickly grew suspicious, and Huawei’s US engineers wrote to their colleagues: “[We] CAN’T ask TMO any questions about the robot. TMO is VERY angry the questions that we asked.”

Undeterred, Huawei China allegedly continued to pester US colleagues for more information through the spring of 2013, repeatedly requesting photos of the robot and measurement data. A Huawei US engineer bluntly replied that HQ should put questions to Tappy’s manufacturer, not to T-Mobile.

Eventually, the US engineer suggested the Chinese just come out to see Tappy for themselves: “I [suggest] HQ to send an engineer to TMO for a hands-on experience by playing the robot system. I believe this would give the HQ team a huge benefit in understanding TMO robot from hardware and software, as well as operation.”

At this point, Huawei’s US engineers had asked so many questions that T-Mobile had formally complained. Here’s an excerpt from one engineer’s email:

Huawei emailUS Justice Department

Huawei China persisted, according to the indictment, flying out one of its own HQ engineers to sneak his way into T-Mobile’s lab.

Despite his having no clearance to visit the lab, two US colleagues snuck him in. The Chinese engineer was clocked by T-Mobile and asked to leave, but he returned again the next day. He was once again discovered and booted out, and then returned to China with a bunch of photos and information.

Deeply suspicious at this point, T-Mobile revoked access to Tappy, allowing only one Huawei engineer referred to as “A.X” to test the robot. Still, HQ continued to pester this one engineer to send photos and information about the robot home. “No need for home to keep reminding me,” A.X replied to their emails waspishly.

China asked A.X for detailed measurements of Tappy’s robot arm. On May 29, A.X allegedly walked into T-Mobile’s lab, broke off Tappy’s arm, and put it into his bag. When discovered again by T-Mobile, he gave the arm back, but the damage was done.

T-Mobile discovered the theft and Huawei China, according to the indictment, did everything it could to cover up the coordinated effort. It said A.X and the China engineer had “acted on their own” and that the pair had been fired.

Huawei says the T-Mobile case is settled

Huawei, for its part, said this whole episode had been settled in an earlier civil lawsuit and denied any wrongdoing in a statement to Business Insider.

“Huawei is disappointed to learn of the charges brought against the company today… The allegations in the Western District of Washington trade secret indictment were already the subject of a civil suit that was settled by the parties after a Seattle jury found neither damages nor willful and malicious conduct on the trade secret claim.

“The Company denies that it or its subsidiary or affiliate have committed any of the asserted violations of U.S. law set forth in each of the indictments… and believes the U.S. courts will ultimately reach the same conclusion.”


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Trudeau Government Should Turn to Sustainable Floor Heating In Its New Deal





A consortium has been chosen by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to manage the $1.1-billion overhaul of five heating and cooling plants in the National Capital Region. However, this decision has been met with a lot of disapproval by the country’s largest federal public service union.

Early June, the department announced that Innovate Energy has been awarded the 30-year contract “to design, retrofit, maintain and operate the plants,”winning the bid over a rival group that included SNC-Lavalin.

Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna, said the federal government was “leading by example” in its bid to drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions across the country. McKenna noted that by supporting this project, they’re utilizing heating and cooling infrastructure to promote a more environmentally friendly option.

“We’re very proud that our government is working with partners like Innovate Energy to modernize this critical infrastructure,” she said during the announcement at one of the facilities that will be upgraded, the Cliff Heating and Cooling Plant in downtown Ottawa.

The plants would be known as the district energy system and would heat 80 buildings in the area with steam. It is also expected to cool 67 of these buildings with chilled water through more than 14 kilometres of underground pipes.

Under the Energy Services Acquisition Program, PSPC will be tasked with modernizing the outdated technology in the plants to lower emissions and supportgrowth in the eco-friendly technology sector.

During the first stage of the overhaul, the system would be converted from steam to low temperature hot water and then switched from steam to electric chillers—with the estimated completion date being 2025. PSPC notes that the project will reduce current emissions by 63 per cent, the equivalent of removing 14,000 non-eco-friendly cars off the road.

Afterwards, the natural gas powering the plant will then be replaced by carbon-neutral fuel sources, which according to estimated will reduce emissions by a further 28 per cent. The renovation project is bound to save the government an estimated fee of more than $750 million in heating and cooling costs in the next 40 years.

Furthermore, the implementation of radiant floor heating in Ottawa by the federal government would be an additional step in driving its agenda for a more eco-friendly state.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers website, radiant floor heating has a lot of benefits and advantages over alternate heat systems and can cut heating costs by 25 to 50 per cent.

“It is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because no energy is lost through ducts,” the website states.

Radiant floor heating provides an equal amount of heat throughout a building, including areas that are difficult to heat, such as rooms with vaulted ceilings, garages or bathrooms. Consideringit warms people and objects directly—controlling the direct heat loss of the occupant—radiant floor heating provides comfort at lower thermostat settings.

“Radiators and other forms of ‘point’ heating circulate heat inefficiently and hence need to run for longer periods to obtain comfort levels,” reports the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNet).

Radiant heating is a clean and healthy option—a perfect choice for those with severe allergies—as it doesn’t rely on circulating air, meaning there are no potentially irritating particles blowing around the room. Additionally, it is more energy efficient, aesthetically pleasing with wall radiators or floor registers and virtually noiseless when in operation.

“They draw cold air across the floor and send warm air up to the ceiling, where it then falls, heating the room from the top down, creating drafts and circulating dust and allergens.”

It is important for the leadership in Ottawa to equally drive the adoption of radiant floor heating as doing this would lead to increased usage in residential buildings—and even government-owned buildings.

However, in October, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), a representative body of employees of the plants,began a campaign target at the government against their decision to use a public-private partnership (P3) for the retrofitting project, citing concerns about costs and safety.

According to the union, outside employees won’t be bound to the same health and safety standards of government workers and that typically P3 projects cost a lot more than traditional public financing deals.

The union demands that the government scraps the proposed project and meet PSAC members and experts to brainstorm on a new way forward that would ensure federal employees continue to operate and maintain the plants.

However, parliamentary secretary to public services and procurement minister, Steve MacKinnon said that the union officials have consulted him but that after conducting an analysis, the P3 option was still the best for the job.

“We didn’t have (to) sacrifice on safety or health — we didn’t have to sacrifice on job security,” he said.

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Steps to becoming a Data Scientist





Data science has become one of the most in-demand career paths in this century, according to Business Insider. With the amount of information being circulated online, it has created a huge demand for storing, interpreting and implementing big data for different purposes—hence the need for a data scientist.

Today, there too much information flying around for regular people to process efficiently and use. Therefore, it has become the responsibility of data scientists to collect, organize and analyze this data. Doing this helps various people, organizations, enterprise businesses and governments to manage, store and interpret this data for different purposes.

Though data scientists come from different educational backgrounds, a majority of them need to have a technical educational background. To pursue a career in data science, computer-related majors, graduations and post graduations in maths and statistics are quite useful.

Therefore, the steps to becoming a data scientist are quite straightforward.  After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in an IT related field—such as computer science, maths or physics—you can also further your education by obtaining a master’s degree in a data science or any other related field of study. With the necessary educational background, you can now search for a job and obtain the required experience in whichever filed you choose to invest your acquired skills.

Here are the necessary steps to be taken to become a data scientist.

Step 1: Obtain the necessary educational requirements

As earlier noted, different educational paths can still lead to a career in data science. However, it is impossible to begin a career in data science without obtaining a collegiate degree—as a four-year bachelor’s degree is really important. However, according to a report by Business Insider, over 73% of data scientist in existence today have a graduate degree and about 38% of them hold a Ph.D. Therefore, to rise above the crowd and get a high-end position in the field of data science, it is important to have a Master’s degree or a Ph.D.—and with various online data science masters program, obtaining one is quite easy.

Some institutions provide data science programs with courses that will equip students to analyze complex sets of data. These courses also involve a host of technical information about computers, statistics, data analysis techniques and many more. Completing these programs equips you with the necessary skills to function adequately as a data scientist.

Additionally, there are some technical—and computer-based degrees—that can aid you begin a career in data science. Some of them include studies in, Computer Science, Statistics, Social Science, Physics, Economics, Mathematics and Applied Math. These degrees will imbibe some important skills related to data science in you—namely, coding, experimenting, managing large amounts of data, solving quantitative problems and many others.

Step 2: Choose an area of specialization

There rarely exists an organization, agency or business today that doesn’t require the expertise of a data scientist. Hence, it is important that after acquiring the necessary education to start a career as a data scientist, you need to choose an area of specialization in the field you wish to work in.

Some of the specializations that exist in data science today include automotive, marketing, business, defence, sales, negotiation, insurance and many others.

Step 3: Kick start your career as a data scientist

After acquiring the necessary skills to become a data scientist, it is important to get a job in the filed and company of your choice where you can acquire some experience.

Many organizations offer valuable training to their data scientists and these pieces of training are typically centred around the specific internal systems and programs of an organization. Partaking in this training allows you learn some high-level analytical skills that were not taught during your various school programs—especially since data science is a constantly evolving field.

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Artificial intelligence pioneers win tech’s ‘Nobel Prize’





Computers have become so smart during the past 20 years that people don’t think twice about chatting with digital assistants like Alexa and Siri or seeing their friends automatically tagged in Facebook pictures.

But making those quantum leaps from science fiction to reality required hard work from computer scientists like Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun. The trio tapped into their own brainpower to make it possible for machines to learn like humans, a breakthrough now commonly known as “artificial intelligence,” or AI.

Their insights and persistence were rewarded Wednesday with the Turing Award, an honor that has become known as technology industry’s version of the Nobel Prize. It comes with a $1 million prize funded by Google, a company where AI has become part of its DNA.

The award marks the latest recognition of the instrumental role that artificial intelligence will likely play in redefining the relationship between humanity and technology in the decades ahead.

Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society,” said Cherri Pancake, president of the Association for Computing Machinery, the group behind the Turing Award.

Although they have known each other for than 30 years, Bengio, Hinton and LeCun have mostly worked separately on technology known as neural networks. These are the electronic engines that power tasks such as facial and speech recognition, areas where computers have made enormous strides over the past decade. Such neural networks also are a critical component of robotic systems that are automating a wide range of other human activity, including driving.

Their belief in the power of neural networks was once mocked by their peers, Hinton said. No more. He now works at Google as a vice president and senior fellow while LeCun is chief AI scientist at Facebook. Bengio remains immersed in academia as a University of Montreal professor in addition to serving as scientific director at the Artificial Intelligence Institute in Quebec.

“For a long time, people thought what the three of us were doing was nonsense,” Hinton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They thought we were very misguided and what we were doing was a very surprising thing for apparently intelligent people to waste their time on. My message to young researchers is, don’t be put off if everyone tells you what are doing is silly.” Now, some people are worried that the results of the researchers’ efforts might spiral out of control.

While the AI revolution is raising hopes that computers will make most people’s lives more convenient and enjoyable, it’s also stoking fears that humanity eventually will be living at the mercy of machines.

Bengio, Hinton and LeCun share some of those concerns especially the doomsday scenarios that envision AI technology developed into weapons systems that wipe out humanity.

But they are far more optimistic about the other prospects of AI empowering computers to deliver more accurate warnings about floods and earthquakes, for instance, or detecting health risks, such as cancer and heart attacks, far earlier than human doctors.

“One thing is very clear, the techniques that we developed can be used for an enormous amount of good affecting hundreds of millions of people,” Hinton said.

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