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Google Maps helps Vilant’s customers track movements of shipment locations

Posted by Antti Känsälä, product director at Vilant Systems

Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Antti Känsälä, director of products for Vilant Systems, a Finland-based provider of RFID (radio-frequency identification) information systems for manufacturing and logistics. This post is part of our series on the Transport and Logistics Industry and the ways they’re relying on Google Maps for Business to get people, products and assets to their destinations faster.

When my Vilant colleagues and I attended a trade show in Stockholm recently, we had to carry a bunch of posters, brochures, and giveaways on the plane, because an earlier shipment of duplicate material got lost in transit. To avoid this scenario in the future, we decided that from now on, we’d place a Vilant Tracker on all event packages, so that we could see their progress on a Google Map.

At Vilant, we’ve made it similarly easy for businesses to track the progress of shipments to their destinations using Google Maps and the Google Geolocation API, and for shipping companies to share this information with their own customers. Vilant technology makes shipping more efficient: Vilant’s Tracker devices use GSM (global system for mobile communications) technology, which means they are less expensive to operate and last longer than GPS devices. We also recently developed a unique Air Tracker for one of our customers, and it will be generally available in the future to help track progress of shipments by air.

To add even more efficiency to our Tracker systems, we looked at mapping solutions from several vendors, and we found that the Google Maps and Geolocation APIs were the easiest to customize for displaying the information we receive from our tracking devices. We considered some open-source products, but Google Maps’ image quality was much higher and the resulting maps were more reliable and faster to get online.
Vilant has developed a web-based tracker portal, built with Google Maps, where our customers can go to check on shipping status and create and share customized maps through unique URLs. Some customers also have large track-and-trace platforms, and we can easily integrate them with our trackers using the APIs.

The ability to generate and share maps helps businesses stay on top of shipments without time-consuming dialogue with shippers and warehouses. One of our customers, Tieturi, which provides business training and coaching, ships dozens of computers to training locations and needs to know that the computers will arrive before classes begin. The Google Maps API enables this by showing shipment locations practically in real time.
Another Vilant Tracker user, ABB, ships motors and generators and needs to tell customers when they will arrive. Instead of taking calls from customers and then calling trucking companies, ABB can simply email its customers a link to a Google Map showing the shipment’s location. It reduces administrative work, and sets ABB apart from the competition.

Like our customers, we see Google Maps as a big competitive advantage. The ability to visualize shipment locations and see delivery progress at a glance is sure to bring us new customers and help us win a larger share of the logistics market.

Asteroids’ close encounters with Mars

For nearly as long as astronomers have been able to observe asteroids, a question has gone unanswered: Why do the surfaces of most asteroids appear redder than meteorites -- the remnants of asteroids that have crashed to Earth? read more
Latest Technology

HTC wants your facial hair

HTC has launched its own Movember campaign urging people all over the world to submit pictures of themselves donning mustaches.

For everyone who posts a picture on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #HairsToChange, HTC will donate one dollar to the Movember movement aimed at raising awareness for men’s health.

There are no prizes to be won, but it is a fun way to take part in a good charity cause. There’s no limit to the amount of pictures you can post, and you can check out the official campaign here.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the Movember movement – it’s a way to raise awareness for men’s health by funding programs aimed at combating testicular and prostrate cancer, and contributing to men’s health in general. You can get more info right from their official site.

If you want to do more than hashtag yourself for HTC’s campaign, you can register at to become a Mo Bro (or Mo Sis) and donate to the cause.


Asteroids’ close encounters with Mars: Mars, not Earth, shakes up some near-Earth asteroids

Nov. 19, 2013 — For nearly as long as astronomers have been able to observe asteroids, a question has gone unanswered: Why do the surfaces of most asteroids appear redder than meteorites -- the remnants of asteroids that have crashed to Earth?

In 2010, Richard Binzel, a professor of planetary sciences at MIT, identified a likely explanation: Asteroids orbiting in our solar system's main asteroid belt, situated between Mars and Jupiter, are exposed to cosmic radiation, changing the chemical nature of their surfaces and reddening them over time. By contrast, Binzel found that asteroids that venture out of the main belt and pass close to Earth feel the effects of Earth's gravity, causing "asteroid quakes" that shift surface grains, exposing fresh grains underneath. When these "refreshed" asteroids get too close to Earth, they break apart and fall to its surface as meteorites.

Since then, scientists have thought that close encounters with Earth play a key role in refreshing asteroids. But now Binzel and colleague Francesca DeMeo have found that Mars can also stir up asteroid surfaces, if in close enough contact. The team calculated the orbits of 60 refreshed asteroids, and found that 10 percent of these never cross Earth's orbit. Instead, these asteroids only come close to Mars, suggesting that the Red Planet can refresh the surfaces of these asteroids.

"We don't think Earth is the only major driver anymore, and it opens our minds to the possibility that there are other things happening in the solar system causing these asteroids to be refreshed," says DeMeo, who did much of the work as a postdoc in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.

DeMeo and Binzel, along with former MIT research associate Matthew Lockhart, have published their findings in the journal Icarus.

Asteroid roulette

The idea that Mars may shake up the surface of an asteroid is a surprising one: As Binzel points out, the planet is one-third the size of Earth, and one-tenth as massive -- and therefore exerts a far weaker gravitational pull on surrounding objects. But Mars' position in the solar system places the planet in close proximity with the asteroid belt, increasing the chance of close asteroid encounters.

"Mars is right next to the asteroid belt, and in a way it gets more opportunity than the Earth does to refresh asteroids," Binzel says. "So that may be a balancing factor."

DeMeo, who suspected that Mars may have a hand in altering asteroid surfaces, looked through an asteroid database created by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center. The database currently consists of observations of 300,000 asteroids and their orbits; 10,000 of these are considered near-Earth asteroids.

Over the past decade, Binzel's group has tracked the brightest of these asteroids, measuring their colors to determine which may have been refreshed recently. For this most recent paper, the researchers looked at 60 such asteroids, mapping out the orbit of each and determining which orbits had intersected with those of Earth or Mars. DeMeo then calculated the probability, over the last 500,000 years, that an asteroid and either planet would have intersected, creating a close encounter that could potentially generate asteroid quakes.

"Picture Mars and an asteroid going through an intersection, and sometimes they'll both come through at very nearly the same time," Binzel says. "If they just barely miss each other, that's close enough for Mars' gravity to tug on [the asteroid] and shake it up. It ends up being this random process as to how these things happen, and how often."

Refreshing the face of an asteroid

From their calculations, the researchers found that 10 percent of their sample of asteroids only cross Mars' orbit, and not Earth's. DeMeo explored other potential causes of asteroid refreshing, calculating the probability of asteroids colliding with each other, as well as the possibility for a phenomenon called "spin-up," in which energy from the sun causes the asteroid to rotate faster and faster, possibly disrupting its surface. From her calculations, DeMeo found no conclusive evidence that either event would significantly refresh asteroids, suggesting that "Mars is the only game in town," Binzel says.

Although 10 percent of 60 asteroids may not seem like a significant number, DeMeo notes that given Mars' small size, the fact that the planet may have an effect on one out of 10 asteroids is noteworthy. "Mars is more powerful than we expected," she says.

The researchers add that now that Mars has been proven to refresh asteroids, other planets, such as Venus, may have similar capabilities -- particularly since Venus is closer in mass to Earth.

"You think about these asteroids going around the sun doing their own thing, but there's really a lot more going on in their histories," says DeMeo, who is now a postdoc at Harvard University. "This gives you a dynamic idea of the lives of asteroids."

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation.

Latest Technology

BlackBerry Z10-primarily based Porsche Design P’9982 taken care of in legit video

BlackBerry is a company in financial trouble, but it doesn’t act like it and it got a brand new Porsche – a Porsche Design P’9982 based on the BlackBerry Z10 that is. It’s an exclusive device, only 500 units will be sold worldwide.

So, what do you get for the extra cash over the pedestrian Z10? You can watch the official hands-on video to find out.

The luxury starts off with the box – it’s much bigger than the standard boxes most phones come in and inside there are several chargers so jetsetters don’t have to bother with adapters. There’s also Porsche Design headphones with tangle-free cables and a cloth. Inside each box you’ll find a PIN to confirm that you have indeed purchased an exclusive device.

The device itself is constructed out of satin-finish stainless steel frame and hand-wrapped backs of genuine Italian leather. An even more limited edition of the phone will feature genuine crocodile leather instead.

The software on the Porsche Design P’9982 is BlackBerry OS 10.2 with some modifications, including rectangular app icons and a new watch face (exciting stuff, I know).

If you thought that shelling out £1,500 / $2,400 for the phone is enough to get you all the goodies, think again. You can buy an optional leather carrying case (it’s a dilemma between protecting the expensive handset and not being able to enjoy its coveted design). There are also hand-crafted customized backs made of leather.

The Porsche Design P’9982 will be available on Novemenr 21 at Harrods, Knightsbridge in London, but also the much less fancy Carphone Warehouse and Selfridges. Again, the price is £1,500 / $2,400, more reasonable than the $6,600 Vertu Constellation but that’s not saying much. Also, FYI the hardware (other than the steel and leather) costs £180.

The limited crocodile leather edition will be launched later in December (price is unknown). Hopefully, people’s common sense wouldn’t have caught up to good taste by then.



Recreating the history of life through the genome

Nov. 19, 2013 — One of the most important processes in the life of cells is genome replication, which consists of making exact copies of the DNA in order to pass it on to their offspring when they split. In most organisms, from yeast to human beings, genome replication follows a set plan, in which certain regions of the genome replicate before others; alterations in the late replication phases had previously been related to cancer and ageing. Now, a team from the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), led by Alfonso Valencia, has for the first time related this process to evolution over millions of years of life on Earth.

The study, developed alongside Tomás Marqués-Bonet from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-UPF) in Barcelona, represents a new evolutionary approach in which the genome becomes the lead player, and opens up new possibilities for the study of the evolution of living beings and their diversity. The results of the study are available in the open-access  journal Biology Open.

Valencia explains: "We have discovered that replication is like a mirror that reflects the evolutionary history of living beings: the first genes to be replicated are the oldest, whilst those that replicate later on are the youngest".

According to this model, each new gene tends to replicate after the already existing ones, causing the accumulation of successive layers of new genes. David de Juan and Daniel Rico, researchers in Valencia's group who have worked on the study, compare it to: "the growth of a tree trunk, in which the exterior concentric rings represent the most recent years in the life of the tree". But what biological advantages might this model offer?

The later genetic material is copied, the greater the probability of the DNA being damaged and of mutations accumulating. This way the older genes, which are vital for life, are located in protected regions −those that accumulate less mutations− which replicate early; while the newer genes replicate in more unstable regions of the genome − those that accumulate more mutations− which replicate later on. "This allows the most recent genes to evolve much more quickly than the older ones", says Rico.

"The regions that replicate late also have a compact and inaccessible structure; they are hidden zones in the genome that act as evolutionary laboratories, where these genes can acquire new functions without affecting essential processes in the organism", adds de Juan.

The authors of the study maintain that this model could have facilitated the birth of new genes related to specific functions in tissues and organs and could have contributed to the development of complex structures such as the brain or liver.

Cancer and the Evolution of Living Beings: The Same Origin

The appearance of mutations in late replicating regions had already been related to cancer and ageing in previous studies. Óscar Fernández-Capetillo, the head of CNIO's Genomic Instability Group, and one of the study's researchers, says the results are 'surprising', given that: "they help to understand how drastic changes in the genome—that until now had only been related to the formation of tumours—are, at the same time, crucial for the evolution of the species".

The authors point out that "the fascinating thing about this model is how the late-replicating regions have contributed to the adaptive capacity of species as complex as the human being".

The evolutionary vision of nature has reached new dimensions with the latest advances in molecular biology, and has reached its high point in the last 10 years thanks to the massive genome sequencing techniques. Valencia says the new advances in this direction will help improve our understanding of all living systems.


New study helps predict life expectancy using complete blood count risk score

Nov. 19, 2013 — For years, doctors have been divided on how effective annual testing and screenings are for apparently healthy individuals. New research, however, shows that a simple blood test may predict who is at highest risk to develop heart problems -- and how long these people may have to live.

Researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Murray, Utah, collaborated with scientists at Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston on the new study using the complete blood count risk score, an inexpensive tool that uses all of the information in the common blood test that includes information frequently underused.

Researchers will present this study at the 2013 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Dallas, on Nov. 19 at 5:45 pm, ET.

Physicians have used this CBC lab test for years, but they did not understand that all of its components provide information about life expectancy, according to lead researcher, Benjamin Horne, PhD, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute.

"Physicians can now provide better care using the CBC risk score as a standard method to assess whether patients may have future health problems that lead to death," he said.

"Among apparently healthy individuals, this risk score can help physicians identify which patients have higher risk, as well as who they should focus further time and effort. The score also gives physicians excellent confidence in identifying low-risk individuals who don't need as much attention or costly testing," said Dr. Horne.

The new study used CBC lab testing information gathered as part of the JUPITER Trial, a randomized clinical trial of a cholesterol-lowering drug, Rosuvastatin, led by Harvard cardiologist Paul M. Ridker, MD.

The JUPITER study enrolled more than 17,000 individuals in 26 countries and followed them for up to five years. Participants in JUPITER had a clean slate free of cardiovascular disease normal low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol). but elevated C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease.

When the Harvard team of researchers evaluated the Intermountain-derived CBC risk score among JUPITER trial participants, they found it to be a powerful tool to predict death.

Individuals in JUPITER with a lower CBC risk score were very unlikely to die, while those with CBC risk scores in the middle of the range had more than 50 percent higher risk of death. People with the highest CBC risk scores were about twice as likely to die as those with low scores, researchers found.

Whether physicians use this risk score, however, is a different story.

Most risk scores created in medicine are useful, but aren't used because they add time and complexity to gather the data and compute a risk score. The CBC risk score and its parent risk score, the Intermountain Risk Score (a combination of the CBC lab test and the basic metabolic profile blood test developed by scientists at Intermountain Healthcare) were created to provide useful health information to allow physicians to easily compute the risk score while continuing to care for patients.

"We now have a standardized way of assessing the risk of mortality for all individuals, not just ones with a history of heart diseases," said Dr. Horne. "One of the beauties of this score is it uses clinically familiar, standardized medical information already in electronic format. The financial cost is also almost zero because most patients already receive the CBC test. The clinical cost is also low, because of electronic medical records. Physicians receive this critical information about future risk, which adds to their knowledge about the patient, while it takes very little of their time or effort to obtain the information."

To build on this research, Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute scientists have started a prospective randomized clinical trial in which clinicians receive the score electronically for half of the patients. This study is testing whether the knowledge of a patient's risk score aids physicians in personalizing medical care so that patient outcomes are improved. The next step among individuals similar to those in JUPITER is to perform a similar type of study in a non-hospitalized primary care population.

Google, Latest Technology

Rio de Janeiro’s Center of Operations (COR) sets the stage for a smarter city with Google Maps

Posted by Pedro Junqueira, Cheif Executive of the Center of Operations Rio de Janeiro (COR)

(Cross-posted on Google Brasil Blog)

Editor's note: Our guest blogger today is Pedro Junqueira, CEO and COO at the Center of Operations (COR) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Established in 2010, COR monitors the daily activity of the city and potential crisis situations including traffic, major events and natural disasters. COR integrates the activities of 30 organizations. Today, 400 professionals work at COR in 3 shifts. See what other public institutions that have gone Google have to say.

Home to more than six million inhabitants, Rio de Janeiro is a vibrant city set in a tropical climate along the coast of Brazil. Rio is known for hosting large festivals and international events that attract hundreds of thousands of people, like the 2013 Confederations Cup, the recent Papal visit, and the beloved Carnaval. We’re currently planning for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.

At the city’s Center of Operations (COR), it’s our job to keep the city running efficiently throughout the year, whether it’s during a major festival, when traffic is at peak levels, or during the summer rain, when flooding can create emergency situations. It’s no easy feat, but thanks to collaboration and teamwork, we’re able to get in front of potential crises and respond to emergencies when they do occur.

Technology plays a pivotal role in helping us do our job. We use Google Maps for Business to build and share geospatial data with partners that allows us to have a common operating picture and detect potential problems. We can act before they turn into real emergency situations. Each summer, for example, Rio is deluged by summer rains, leaving homes and streets flooded, inaccessible and damaged. With Google Maps for Business and a team that monitors meteorological conditions each day, we’re able to keep a close watch on flood-prone areas with dense populations. And when rain reaches a critical level, the team warns local officials to prepare for possible evacuation operations.

All the information needed to assess risks and take action is shared on one Google Map, enabling the various teams from the Municipal Guard, Civil Defense, Mayor’s office and others to easily coordinate and respond. We can even use Google Maps for Business to study preventative measures and minimize the impact of events that could affect the operational routine of the city. It’s all on a single map that combines data from a range of different agencies and sources.
Tracking the real-time state of the city and responding to emergencies immediately couldn’t be done without reliable technology like Google’s mapping solutions. Google Maps for Business integrates with our internal systems, and employees already rely on these tools in their personal lives, so using them for work comes naturally. Google helps COR make faster, better more informed decisions every day. It’s good for us, and it’s good for the people of Rio de Janeiro.

Misc. Mobile Phones
Latest Technology

Toshiba squeezes 22 hour battery life out of Haswell-powered Kirabook

Toshiba’s latest Dynabook KIRA V654 has, at a glance, good but not spectacular specs. It rocks a 13-inch display of the generic 1366 x 768 resolution, no touch included, Haswell chip and a very low 1.12 kg weight. The battery life expectancy of 22 hours warrants a WOW, though.

If 14 hours will do it for you then you can opt for the V654 version with a 2560 x 1440 display, 8 gigs of RAM, 128 GB SSD and Haswell chip. Finally there’s the V834 model with a touch-enabled 2560 x 1440 screen and otherwise the same innards.

All three ultrabooks come with Windows 8.1 preinstalled and will be available in Japan on November 20 with no information on global availability or pricing. As for Japan – the V654 will start at $1,446/€1,070 while the V834 will set you back $1,530/€1,132.

Source (in Japanese) | Via

Latest Technology

Google update its Google Search app for Windows Phone

A few hours ago Google has released an updated version of its Google Search app for Windows Phone. The new app is already available for download everywhere.

The update brings better interface with instantly displayed voice commands, improved Google Images browsing, sign-in option and bug fixes.

It’s quite unusual to see Google updating or releasing anything on Windows Phone. Since the Windows Phone dawn Google has stated the company has no interest of bringing its services to the platform. The search giant even forced Microsoft to remove its in-house developed YouTube app, because of some kind of violation of the usage terms. Now the Microsoft’s YouTube app is just an HTML5-based web app.

Anyway, the Google Search has just gotten better, so if you are using it on a regular basis, now is a good time to update it.

Source | Via

Latest Technology

Verizon’s Black Friday deals let you have HTC One or Galaxy S4 for just $100

Verizon is preparing for Black Friday, which is just in 10 days, on November 29, Friday. The biggest US carrier has a number of deals in line. For starters the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 have been slashed on that day from $149.99 to $99.99 on a two-year deal.

Tablets and Motorola DROIDs are also on the menu but as you might expect Verizon is requiring a contract with almost everything. Check inside for the full list.

The DROID RAZR HD will come free with a two-year deal, the DROID MAXX has a feature spot, despite its $199.99 price being the same as right now, the same goes for the DROID ULTRA with a price of $99.99 – these two might be featured with a different, lower, price come Friday, November 29.

Verizon Black Friday deals (click to Enlarge)

Verizon’s own Ellipsis 7 slate will be free and users will get (with a contract) $150 off any Samsung Galaxy slate. The Nokia Lumia 928 will be free on a deal as well. And then there are a number of accessories and misc gadgets on sale, which you can check out in the screenshots above.

Source | Via