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Air New Zealand drives digital transformation through analytics

Airline reports record result, increases capital spending on to technology by 50 percent over three years.

Air New Zealand is on a digital mission: To “create a leading digital organisation in Australasia and to be one of the best digital airlines globally.”

Reporting a record annual result for 2015, today the airline, which is already noted for its adoption of and innovation with digital technologies, said it had set itself the objective to “unleash digital transformation” for customers, sales channels and operations.

In that cause, Air New Zealand is replacing the CIO role with a that of a chief digital officer reporting to the chief executive.

The airline said it has boosted capital investment in technology by 50 percent over the last three years, including an investment in data analytics through a joint venture with Canadian loyalty analytics company Aimia.

In April, Aimia and Air New Zealand acquired New Zealand analytics business 11Ants Analytics Group for an undisclosed sum as a 50:50 joint venture. Continue reading

Digital pens help spot early signs of brain conditions

Doctors frequently check for early signs of brain conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s by looking at irregularities in your drawings, but it’s an imperfect art based largely on the doctor’s opinion. All too often, the only concrete signs show up by the time you’ve already been ravaged by the disease. MIT researchers might have a more effective way to catch these conditions early on, though. By using custom tracking software to monitor the output from a digital pen, they can more accurately predict the onset of brain conditions based not only on what you draw, but how you draw. Healthy people spend a bit more time thinking than scribbling; those with memory issues (such as Alzheimer’s sufferers) spend a lot more time in thought, while Parkinson’s patients tend to struggle with the drawing process.

The algorithms involved in the predictions aren’t ready for the field, but they hint at a big breakthrough in diagnosis techniques. If physicians could reliably spot brain conditions years before they’re noticeable, that could open the door to more treatments that either delay symptoms or, in an ideal world, eliminate the illness altogether.

Plankton graveyards revealed in first digital map of seafloor

A new digital map of the composition of the seafloor reveals “microfossil” graveyards off the coast of Australia, as well as other complex deep-ocean geology.

Published Aug. 9 in the journal Geology, the interactive map is available online. It’s the first digital map of global seafloor composition, and the first attempt at such a map anyone has made in 40 years. The last version of the map was hand drawn in the 1970s, according to the University of Sydney.

“The old map suggests much of the Southern Ocean around Australia is mainly covered by clay blown off the continent, whereas our map shows this area is actually a complex patchwork of microfossil remains,” study author Adriana Dutkiewicz, a sedimentologist at the University of Sydney, said in a statement. “Life in the Southern Ocean is much richer than previously thought.”

The microfossils belong to diatoms, a type of phytoplankton that takes in carbon dioxide and expels oxygen. These organisms make about 20 percent of the oxygen in the air that humans breathe. When diatoms die, they sink to the ocean floor, carrying their carbon with them. This makes them an important “carbon sink” that keeps carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, out of the atmosphere, where it can warm the planet. [In Photos: The Wonders of the Deep Sea]

Surprisingly, the new map reveals that masses of dead diatoms on the seafloor in the Southern Ocean are not in the same places where diatoms bloom on the ocean surface.

“This disconnect demonstrates that we understand the carbon source, but not the sink,” study researcher Dietmar Muller, a geophysicist also of the University of Sydney, said in the statement.

Understanding the distribution of dead diatoms on the seafloor is important for understanding how the oceans reacted to past climate change, Dutkiewicz said. The color-coding on the map shows what makes up most of the seafloor in a region: light green for “diatom ooze” (a mix of mud and diatom bits), blue for “calcareous ooze” (mud and calcium carbonate from microscopic shelled animals) and brown for clay. Red spots represent volcanic ash and gravel. Yellow stands for sand.

The data used to build the map come from 15,000 seafloor samples taken during research cruises. Big-data algorithms then turned these observations into a continuous map.

The map should guide future research missions, Dutkiewicz said.

“Australia’s new research vessel ‘Investigator’ is ideally placed to further investigate the impact of environmental change on diatom productivity,” she said. “We urgently need to understand how the ocean responds to climate change.”
By :Stephanie Pappas

News Corp sees strong growth in digital real estate services and book publishing

The company’s quarterly earnings call beats analysts’ expectations despite a fall in total revenue from the previous quarter and a net loss of $379m

News Corp, owner of the Wall Street Journal and the Times, reported a better-than-expected quarterly results as strong growth in its digital real estate services and book publishing business partially offset the weakness in its print business.

Shares of the company, controlled by Rupert Murdoch, rose about 4% in extended trading.

News Corp, whose revenue is largely dependent on its newspaper holdings in the United States, Australia and Great Britain, has been diversifying its business.

The company has benefited from strong growth in its digital real estate websites, which include US site Move Inc and its stake in Australian REA Group.

The company had said, controlled by Move, surpassed Trulia in the first quarter to become the second most popular real estate listings website in the United States.

The company is also carrying out a major reorganization at its Dow Jones news publishing unit that involves job cuts and a shift to digital media.

Book publishing revenue rose 8% to $390m in the fourth quarter, while revenue from digital real estate services rose 67% to $189m.

Total revenue fell to $2.14bn from $2.19bn.

Net loss available to the company’s stockholders was $379m, or 65 cents per share, in the quarter ended 30 June, compared with a profit of $12m, or 2 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned 7 cents per share.

The company recorded an impairment charge of $371m related to its digital education business in the quarter.

Total impairment and restructuring charges were $424m, compared with $21m a year earlier.

Analysts on average expected the company to earn 5 cents per share on revenue of $2.19bn, according to Thomson Reuters.

Work to start on digital hub in west Cork

Minister for Communications Alex White will turn the sod today on a new high-speed digital hub in Skibbereen, Co Cork.

The hub in the centre of the west Cork town will have 75 separate workspaces, and when it is up and running in November, it will have the fastest broadband connection in Ireland, provided by Vodafone.

Vodafone CEO Ann O’Leary, Glen Dimplex CEO Sean O’Driscoll and Discovery Channel Europe President and Managing Director Dee Forbes are on the steering group.

They all have strong ties to west Cork and have homes in the area.

It hoped that within five years there will be 500 new jobs as a result of the hub.

The centre is to be named the Ludgate Hub, after the Skibbereen native Percy Ludgate.

Born in the area in the 1880s, he is credited with developing the first portable computer.

New York Times passes 1 million digital subscribers

Milestone comes four-and-a-half years after title launched its metered paywall, as it reports 80% year-on-year increase in profits for the second quarter

The New York Times has broken through the 1 million digital subscriber mark less than four-and-a-half years after launching its metered paywall.

Commenting on the subscriber figure, NYT chief executive and president Mark Thomson said: “This is a major milestone for our digital consumer business, which we launched in 2011 and has continued a strong and steady growth trajectory. It puts us in a unique position among global news providers.

“We believe that no other news organization has achieved digital subscriber numbers like ours or comparable digital subscription revenue.”

The 1 million figure is on top of the 1.1 million print subscribers who can also access all of the NYT’s content online.

The announcement came as the company released second-quarter results showing an 80% year-on-year increase in profits to $16m (£10m), despite a 1.5% fall in revenue to $383m. The company said that growing revenue from digital subscribers and advertising, combined with cost cuts of around 5%, had offset continuing declines in print advertising.

Thomson said the number of digital subscribers added during the quarter was higher than the same period in both 2013 and 2014. The NYT has been experimenting with tiered memberships and new paid digital products in recent years, but many have failed to catch on and the company recently made its NYT Now app – which provided a cut-down version of the paper’s digital content, free.

He added that new digital publishing deals with Facebook, Apple and Starbucks would “enable us to reach new audiences for our journalism as well as provide incremental revenue”. Along with other publishers including the Guardian, the NYT has started publishing articles directly to other platforms such as Facebook’s Instant Articles and Apple News.

An Australian inquiry says digital currencies are real money

SYDNEY (Reuters) – An Australian government inquiry will recommend treating digital currencies as money, simplifying tax for people who trade with them while forcing bitcoin exchanges to monitor customers for potential money laundering and terrorism financing activities.

The Senate committee recommendations, included in a report to be tabled in parliament next week and obtained in advance by Reuters, underscore governments’ growing acceptance of the role of so-called “cryptocurrencies” around the world.

If implemented, the changes would align Australia with the United Kingdom and Spain by having people pay sales tax just once if they buy something with bitcoin, while leaving other nations like Sweden to fret over its true legal status.

The changes would also match Australia with Canada and Singapore, which have in the past 18 months changed their anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) laws to apply to digital currency and traditional currency equally.

Treating bitcoin as a tradable commodity, rather than a currency, “creates a double taxation effect that has placed an additional burden on Australian digital currency businesses,” the Senate report says, noting that Australians pay sales tax when they buy digital currency and again when they buy something with the digital currency. Continue reading

Banks must ‘adapt or die’ in the digital world, study warns

Banks must “adapt or die” in the digital world to meet the surging demand for mobile banking with the number of mobile customers set to jump to more than a quarter of the world’s population, a new study has warned.

Mobile banking usage is expected to more than double over the next four years, from 800m people to 1.8bn, according to research by investment bank UBS and accountancy firm KPMG.

The increase comes as more people gain access to mobile phones and seek efficient ways to transfer money. This has stoked competition among established banks, technology giants and digital start-ups as they battle to capture a larger slice of the nascent market.

Experts warn traditional banks that are busy maintaining their old technology systems are at risk of losing customers and revenue to nimble digital firms if they fail to offer efficient mobile banking.

David Hodgkinson of KPMG said: “Banks must adapt or die. Mobile banking is clearly supplanting all other channels as the main portal between the bank and the consumer.”
He said although many banks have already “risen to the challenge” and invested in new infrastructure and “pioneering initiatives”, others need to follow suit to keep up with the pace of change.

Royal Bank of Scotland experienced its second technology glitch in six weeks on Friday, leaving customers unable to access their online and mobile accounts. It comes after a previous systems meltdown in June. Continue reading

Counting the cost of paying in the digital age

It promises the ease of contactless payment along with beefed-up fingerprint security, but can Apple Pay, the technology giant’s new ‘digital wallet’, really rival your bank, credit and debit cards? Katie Wright finds out.

With that little contactless payment icon now ubiquitous in shops, bars and eateries all over the UK, cash is on the way to becoming obsolete, and our flexible friends could be too with the arrival of Apple Pay.

The so-called digital wallet launched in the US last October, and now it’s available here, allowing iPhone 6, 6 Plus or Apple Watch owners to make payments of up to £20 a time.

How does it work? The system uses the Passbook app to store credit and debit card details and can be used anywhere contactless transactions are allowed. To make a payment, users hold their device up to the cashier’s card reader while pressing the Touch ID fingerprint scanner button. A quick buzz indicates the dosh has been delivered.

With the Apple Watch, a double click on the side and swipe over the card reader does the same.

So far, banks including NatWest, Nationwide, RBS and Santander have signed up, with HSBC, Halifax and Lloyds due to join later this year. Continue reading

Government looking to empanel 5 consultancies to implement Digital India

MUMBAI: The Narendra Modi-led government is looking to empanel five consultancies to help it implement the prime minister’s ambitious ‘Digital India’ programme that was launched earlier this month, a tender issued by the National e-Governance Division shows.

READ ALSO: Digital India — 15 key initiatives

The consultancies will work on technology and programme management for the initiative at the national level. “To meet the growing demand for design, development, implementation and large-scale roll out of e-governance applications under Digital India/e-Kranti, NEGD intends to empanel reputed consultancy organizations to accelerate not only the identification of new areas of use of ICT but to assist in all activities related to e-governance projects,” the tender said.

The empanelment will initially be for a period of two years, though that could be extended by a year. The consultancies will be paid on the time-and-materials basis but the government will prefer to pay them on the basis of outcomes, according to the tender. The government intends to hold a pre-bid meeting with potential bidders on Friday. The consultants are expected to be empanelled by the end of August. Continue reading

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