Israeli startup Waze reveals what life is like under the Google umbrella

Waze, the fast growing urban navigation app, has revealed what life has been like after it was acquired by Google nearly two years ago. 

The Israeli firm was snapped up by the Silicon Valley internet giant for a reported $1.3 billion (£850 million) in June 2013 in what was one of Google’s biggest ever acquisitions. 

©Techworld/Sam Shead

Following the deal, each of Waze’s 100 employees at the time received an average of $1.2 million (£780,000) but beyond that the Google acquisition hasn’t had much impact on the way Waze operates, according to Di-Ann Eisnor, head of growth at Waze. 

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Cisco, Deutsche Telekom and Intel launch joint Internet of Things startup accelerator

Cisco, Deutsche Telekom and Intel have announced a joint Internet of Things startup accelerator. 

The Challenge Up! IoT accelerator is aimed at startups in the Emea region, and promises to allow startups to go to market faster with their innovations through joint projects, mentoring, networking and using the suppliers' corporate assets. Selected companies “may also receive strategic investment” and support for “commercialising their product or service for global markets”, said the three technology companies.

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European Commission sets standards target for 5G speed and capacity

The European Commission's document is intended to bring a European perspective to discussions about the next generation of mobile technology, which will be hashed out in a standards effort beginning next year. Commercial deployments should begin in 2020.

The group's recommendations - 5G should go 100 times faster than 4G, connect 1,000 times as many devices and carry 1,000 times as much traffic in a given area, - echoed what vendors and carriers are saying about 5G here: more spectrum, mixed networks and new kinds of connected devices.

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Telefónica goes on hunt for Chinese IoT startups with China Unicom and Tsinghua University

Spanish telecoms giant Telefónica has boosted its partnership with two Chinese organisations in a bid to find the best Internet of Things (IoT) startups around the world. 

The company has shared some of its internal innovations with telecoms firm China Unicom and Tsinghua Technology and Innovation (THTI) since June 2014, the technological innovation platform of Tsinghua University. Today it announced it will now start looking for startups with them too. 

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Ford looks to solve traffic jams with connected electric bikes

US automotive giant Ford has launched two new electric bikes that connect to a mobile app to help riders get from A to B more efficiently. 

The MoDe:Me and MoDe:Pro, unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, are currently both in the prototype stage. Both ebikes have a 200-watt motor with 9-amp-hour battery that provides electric pedal assistance for speeds of up to 25 kmh.

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IBM's iOS travel app

IBM brings out enterprise banking, retail and airline iOS apps

IBM has delivered more enterprise apps as part of the partnership it signed with Apple last autumn. The three new mobile apps for iOS target the banking, retail and airline industries and join the 10 industry-specific IBM MobileFirst apps that arrived in December.

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Google Project Loon starting to see success

Google's ambitious efforts to bring balloon and aircraft-borne connectivity to underserved areas of the globe are pushing past some key milestones and the company expects a public launch in a few years.

Read more here. See Facebook's Mark Ziuckerberg on the same digital inclusion agenda below.

Mark Zuckerberg tracks early success with Internet.org

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg congratulated three Internet service providers for their success with early Internet.org initiatives in six countries where much of the population has never been online.

"We want to help people connect, but we're not doing the actual digital connecting," Zuckerberg told a keynote audience at Mobile World Congress here. "We're connecting people with an app" on top of fiber optic cable and other infrastructure being built by wireless carriers around the world. The companies that Zuckerberg recognised were Airtel Africa, Millcom and Telenor Group.

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RefMe wins best British mobile startup at MWC with its free student referencing app

RefMe, an edtech company based in London, has been voted as Britain’s best mobile startup by KPMG and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI).

The company, which allows students generate citations, reference lists and bibliographies with its free mobile and web tool, was awarded the prize at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today after judges evaluated a selection of finalists based on their traction/user base, revenue growth and innovation.

RefMe claims to have gained half a million users in eight months, overtaking Spotify and eBay in the download charts and growing faster than Twitter and Pinterest did in their first years.

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Airbnb exec confident room-listing platform could raise a billion dollars

A senior executive at Airbnb today said the company could raise $1 billion (£650 million) if it wanted to as speculation mounts that the San Francisco-headquartered firm is on the cusp of a huge funding round that would value it at $20 billion (£13 billion).

“I believe we could raise a billion dollars if we wanted to," said Mike Curtis, VP of engineering at Airbnb, at Mobile World Congress on the 4YFN [Four Years From Now] stage.

The company, whose platform can be used to list, discover, and book accommodation around the world, is understood to have already secured approximately $500 million (£325 million), according to sources cited by Techcrunch that are familiar with the matter. Airbnb is understood to be in talks with Asian investors and private equity firms about raising the other half. 

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Samsung buildingSamsung Pay launch cranks up pressure in mobile payments battle

Samsung has turned up the heat in the increasingly crowded mobile payments space with the launch of its Pay service – offering a potential rival to Apple, Google and others, provided that it can deliver on user experience.

Samsung Pay will appear first in the summer in the US - later in other markets - and will allow consumers to make tap-and-go payments with a smartphone. It will rely on the contactless NFC payment infrastructure already used by competitors including Google Wallet and Apple Pay, as well as communicating with magnetic card payment terminals, via technology recently acquired by Samsung when it bought LoopPay.

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Nokia CEO cites self-driving cars and home healthcare to attack net neutrality

Nokia's CEO Rajeev Suri used a platform at Mobile World COngress in Barcelona last night to waded into the debate on net neutrality. Speaking on Sunday night, Suri claimed, "There are some services that simply require a different level of connectivity and a different level of service," These include self-driving cars and remote home health care, which are too important to rely on "best-effort" networks, Suri said.

Suri was focussing on the recent debate in teh US, but the issues will come to the UK soon enough.

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Forget fingerprints and palm scans, Fujitsu promises iris scanner that unlocks smartphones

Keying in a number or scanning your finger over a screen could be so last year, thanks to Fujitsu demo technoolgy that can unlock your phone with just one look.

Fujitsu has used Mobile World Congress to show off a a smartphone with an iris scanner that can authenticate users in less than a second. The prototype is the first of its kind, according to the company.

The iris scanner makes it easier to unlock a phone than using ones hands. It recognises the patterns that are unique to each person's iris, the coloured area around the pupil, and can work even if you are using glasses or contact lenses.

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Samsung Galaxy S6 gets 3 things right and 3 things wrong

The Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 edge are two great smartphones, with more power and better screens. But when users get their hands on them starting April 10, they'll find that the vendor got some things right, and some things wrong. 

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SanDisk boosts Micro SD to 20 hours of HD video

SanDisk has boosted its highest capacity MicroSD card to 200GB of memory, delivering  boost for film makers and photographers as SD cards reach 200GB. The new card represents a 56 percent increase on the current highest capacity MicroSD, a 128GB card thanks to SanDisk using a proprietary design and production process that allows for more bits of memory per chip.

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Alcatel-Lucent says use both cell and Wi-Fi to boost speed

The company says it can tie the networks together using only software.

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Devialet, a Parisian startup that raised $25 million at the end of last year for its high-end Phantom speaker

Meet the French startup driving round Barcelona with a really loud speaker

Exhibiting at Mobile World Congress (MWC) isn’t cheap and it turns out it’s not always the most effective way for a startup to spend what is often a limited marketing budget.  Devialet, a Parisian startup that raised $25 million at the end of last year for its high-end Phantom speaker, hired a limo instead…

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YO!: This messaging app has a lot more to say for itself, even offline

Mobile World Congress is not the best place to launch a new messaging app: With thousands of tech-savvy visitors in Barcelona, many of them toting multiple connected devices, public wireless and Wi-Fi networks quickly become so saturated that it's difficult to send a message via internet, even a brief "Yo," to a nearby colleague.

But that Yo is so last year. The app that could only send one word still sent every message to a central server before bouncing it over to its destination.

This year showgoers will be able to try out a new Android app, called YO!, that can send text messages, photos and videos over Wi-Fi to other users nearby without any internet connection whatsoever, making it a true peer-to-peer messaging app. And as long as they're prepared to disable certain security settings on their phone, they won't even need to log on to the Play store to get it: Anyone with YO! installed on their phone can share it with other would-be users over Bluetooth.

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Ikea integrates wireless phone chargers into lamps and desks 

Swedish flat-pack goliath Ikea has announced that it plans to launch a range of furniture products with inbuilt Qi wireless charging pads.

The range, which aims to make mobile phone charging more discreet by eliminating the need for wires, includes table and floor lamps, two desks and two bedside tables. 

For charging to commence, enabled smartphones must be placed onto a white charging pad that has been integrated into the furniture item. 

Read more here.

Huawei Watch unveiled alongside other wearables 

Huawei is making its first foray into the smartwatch market with a new Android Wear device that was announced today in Barcelona alongside two other wearable devices. 

The watch, unveiled on the eve of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) fair in Barcelona, features a 1.4 inch circular display with scratch-proof crystal sapphire lens. 

The internet-connected watch will allow users to receive texts, emails and phone call notifications. Users can also use the Huawei Watch to monitor calories burned, heart rate, climbing height, steps taken, and distance travelled. 

Read more here.  

LG hopes for a spot on your wrist with the Urbane and Urbane LTE

LG is taking a different approach to its wearables strategy. It's hoping to appeal to those who value style and design over utilitarian functionality.

The G Watch R  was the first incarnation of this design philosophy, and now LG's following it up with two more: the Watch Urbane and the Watch Urbane LTE. I got to try on both during a closed press event at Mobile World Congress.

Read more here.

Taiwan's MediaTek announces £195 million global startup fund 

 MediaTek, the Taiwanese chip maker that has helped create the market for low cost smartphones and tablets, is setting up a $300 million (£195 million) venture fund to expand in new areas.

MediaTek Ventures will invest in startups in Asia, North America and Europe, with a focus on areas like the Internet of Things, Internet infrastructure and online services, the company announced Monday.

Read more here.  

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