By BeauHD from Slashdot's cut-costs department
Foxconn, Apple's biggest assembler of iPhones, is planning to cut $2.9 billion from expenses in 2019 as it faces "a very difficult and competitive year." According to Bloomberg, citing an internal company memo, "The iPhone business will need to reduce expenses by [about $900 million] next year and the company plans to eliminate about 10 percent of non-technical staff." For reference, Foxconn's spending in the past 12 months is about $6.7 billion. From the report: Foxconn assembles everything from iPhones and laptop computers to Sony PlayStations at factories in China and around the world. Foxconn has been hit by a slowing smartphone market, while trade tensions with the U.S. add to global uncertainty. The company will conduct an in-depth review of managers with an annual compensation of more than $150,000, according to the memo. Other cuts include a planned [$433 million] reduction in expenses at Foxconn Industrial Internet Co., its Shanghai-listed offshoot. "The review being carried out by our team this year is no different than similar exercises carried out in past years to ensure that we enter into each new year with teams and budgets that are aligned with the current and anticipated needs of our customers, our global operations and the market and economic challenges of the next year or two," Foxconn said in a statement to Bloomberg.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's bad-apples department
A new study conducted by Indian University researchers found that "relatively few accounts are responsible for a large share of the traffic that carries misinformation," with just 6 percent of Twitter accounts identified as bots responsible for 31 percent of "low-credibility" content. "Bots amplify the reach of low-credibility content, to the point that it is statistically indistinguishable from that of fact-checking articles," researchers wrote. NBC News reports: The study analyzed 14 million tweets that linked to more than 400,000 articles from May 2016 until the end of March 2017. Of those articles, 389,569 were from "low credibility sources" that had been repeatedly flagged by fact-checking organizations for containing misinformation, as well as 15,053 articles that originated from "fact-checking sources." Of that sample, over 13.6 million tweets linked to "low-credibility sources" and around 1.1 million tweets linked to known fact-checking sources, leading researchers to attribute greater virality with "fake news." To achieve maximum exposure, the study found that "social bots" used two methods to manipulate users into trusting the linked article's validity.
"First, bots are particularly active in amplifying content in the very early spreading moments, before an article goes 'viral,'" researchers wrote. "Second, bots target influential users through replies and mentions." Users struggled to differentiate bots from other human users, as humans "have retweeted bots who post low-credibility content almost as much as they retweet other humans," according to the researchers. The researchers noted that social media platforms have moved to address the spread of misinformation by bots, but said "their effectiveness is hard to evaluate."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
Google's top news executive has refused to rule out shutting down Google News in EU countries, as the search engine faces a battle with Brussels over plans to charge a "link tax" for using news stories. The Guardian reports: Richard Gingras, the search engine's vice-president of news, said while "it's not desirable to shut down services" the company was deeply concerned about the current proposals, which are designed to compensate struggling news publishers if snippets of their articles appear in search results. He told the Guardian that the future of Google News could depend on whether the EU was willing to alter the phrasing of the legislation. "We can't make a decision until we see the final language," he said. He pointed out the last time a government attempted to charge Google for links, in 2014 in Spain, the company responded by shutting down Google News in the country. Spain passed a law requiring aggregation sites to pay for news links, in a bid to prop up struggling print news outlets. Google responded by closing the service for Spanish consumers, which he said prompted a fall in traffic to Spanish news websites. "We would not like to see that happen in Europe," said Gingras. "Right now what we want to do is work with stakeholders."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
The way newscasters speak is unmistakeable, with their exaggerated modulations and drawn-out pauses. And now, Amazon has taught Alexa, its voice assistant, to approximate the authoritative intonation. From a report: You can listen to samples of the speaking style here, and the results, well, they speak for themselves. The voice can't be mistaken for a human, but it does incorporates stresses into sentences in the same way you'd expect from a TV or radio newscaster. According to Amazon's own surveys, users prefer it to Alexa's regular speaking style when listening to articles (though getting news from smart speakers still has lots of other problems).
Amazon says the new speaking style is enabled by by the company's development of "neural text-to-speech" technology or NTTS. This is the next generation of speech synthesis, that use machine learning to generate expressive voices more quickly. Currently, Alexa uses concatenative speech synthesis, a method that's been around for decades. This involves breaking up speech samples into distinct sounds (known as phonemes) and then stitching them back together to form new words and sentences.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's cutting-corners department
Gap plans to "quickly" close hundreds of Gap-brand stores that are "dragging down the brand," the company told analysts on Tuesday. From a report: The retailer said Tuesday evening that it still has 775 Gap-branded stores globally, in addition to those under the Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta banners. Gap Inc. has more than 3,000 stores around the world. The namesake brand, however, has been the weakest unit of the company of late. In the fiscal third quarter, sales at Gap stores open for at least 12 months fell 7 percent, while those at Old Navy and Banana Republic were positive.
"There are hundreds of other stores that likely don't fit our vision for the future of Gap brand specialty store, whether in terms of profitability, customer experience, traffic trends," CEO Art Peck said Tuesday evening during a call with analysts. "The range from the very best to the very worst stores is extremely broad." Peck said that should the company "address" the bottom half of its fleet of Gap stores, it could contribute more than $100 million to earnings. He added the company is looking to make decisions about shutting stores "with urgency," including looking at closing some of Gap's "amazing flagships." "There likely will be a cash cost to exit many of these stores, which we will attempt to minimize," Peck told analysts. "But I plan to exit those that do not fit the future vision quickly. I'm going to move thoughtfully but aggressively."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's mark-is-sorry department
Do you trust Mark Zuckerberg? The Washington Post: From the moment the Facebook founder entered the public eye in 2003 for creating a Harvard student hot-or-not rating site, he's been apologizing. So we collected this abbreviated history of his public mea culpas. It reads like a record on repeat. Zuckerberg, who made "move fast and break things" his slogan, says sorry for being naive, and then promises solutions such as privacy "controls," "transparency" and better policy "enforcement." And then he promises it again the next time. You can track his sorries in orange and promises in blue in the timeline by The Washington Post. Mark Zuckerberg, in an interview with CNN Business on Tuesday: Zuckerberg resisted growing calls for changes to Facebook's C-suite, reiterated Facebook's potential as a force for good, and pushed back at some of the unrelenting critical coverage of his company after a year of negative headlines about fake news, election meddling and privacy concerns.
"A lot of the criticism around the biggest issues has been fair, but I do think that if we are going to be real, there is this bigger picture as well, which is that we have a different world view than some of the folks who are covering us," Zuckerberg told CNN Business' Laurie Segall at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California. "There are big issues, and I'm not trying to say that there aren't," he said. "But I do think that sometimes, you can get the flavor from some of the coverage that that's all there is, and I don't think that that's right either."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's enough-already,-my-bank department
After the financial crisis 10 years ago, unhappy customers were expected to flee the megabanks for smaller competitors. It didn't happen. And the big banks became even more entrenched. Now another wave of alternative banks are at it again, and they say they've learned from the mistakes of the upstart banks that tried -- and failed -- before them. The New York Times: Chime, the biggest new name to pop up, has opened two million fee-free online checking accounts and is adding more customers each month than Wells Fargo or Citibank. That has inspired a crop of newer start-ups, like Empower, which started its first fee-free online checking accounts, with lots of digital bells and whistles, in October. Venture capitalists are pouring money into American start-ups that are offering basic banking services -- known as neo-banks or challenger banks. In 2018 so far, American neo-banks have gotten four times as much funding as they did last year, and 10 times as much funding as they did in 2015, according to data from CB Insights.
Big players from outside the consumer banking industry, like Square and Goldman Sachs, are also moving in. "In consumer banking, you have what is one of the largest industries in the United States, in terms of profits, and at the same time one of the least disrupted industries, and the most unpopular with consumers," said Andrei Cherny, the founder of Aspiration, a neo-bank that has attracted nearly a million customers. "Those three things create a perfect storm for disruption." The persistent unpopularity of big banks has been a boon to the newcomers. And they are helped by a new attitude among financial regulators who have grown more comfortable with online banking and young customers who have no hesitation about cashing a check or sending money on a phone.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
The FCC has unveiled a new proposal as part of its plan to help reduce unwanted phone and text spam. From a report: In a move that's sure to make wireless operators happy, the FCC at its December meeting will consider a draft Declaratory Ruling on text messaging that would formally rule text messaging services are information services, not telecommunications services. That means carriers will be able to continue using robotext-blocking and anti-spoofing measures to protect consumers from unwanted text messages. Chairman Ajit Pai revealed the plan in a blog post highlighting items on the Dec. 12 meeting agenda.
"Today's wireless messaging providers apply filtering to prevent large volumes of unwanted messages from ever reaching your phone," Pai wrote. "However, there's been an effort underway to put these successful consumer protections at risk. In 2015, a mass-texting company named Twilio petitioned the FCC, arguing that wireless messaging should be classified as a 'telecommunications service.' This may not seem like a big deal, but such a classification would dramatically curb the ability of wireless providers to use robotext-blocking, anti-spoofing, and other anti-spam features."
That's why he's circulating a Declaratory Ruling that would instead classify wireless messaging as an "information service," denying Twilio's petition [PDF]. "Aside from being a more legally sound approach, this decision would keep the floodgates to a torrent of spam texts closed, remove regulatory uncertainty, and empower providers to continue finding innovative ways to protect consumers from unwanted text messages," Pai said.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's whatever-floats-your-boat department
If a snowstorm hits Denver, it can delay thousands of packages that travel through the city before reaching their final destinations on the other side of the country. But if UPS knows a storm is coming, what is the most efficient way to divert all those online orders and holiday gifts around the bad weather? UPS grapples with this question every winter. From a report: To help, UPS recently built an online platform that combines machine learning and advanced analytics. The app -- called Network Planning Tools, or NPT for short -- lets the company's engineers view activity at UPS facilities around the world and route shipments to the ones with the most capacity. They can also see details about the packages in transit, including their weight, volume, and delivery deadlines. While UPS already has a system called ORION that maps out last-mile delivery routes, and a program called EDGE focused on upgrading UPS facilities, NPT gives its engineers a bird's-eye view of package volume and distribution across all its pickup and delivery operations.
The app gets some of its smarts from AI, which it uses to create forecasts about package volume and weight based on analysis of historical data. Rob Papetti, who leads NPT development for UPS, says the machine-learning algorithms also analyze decisions the company's engineers made and assess how they affected customer satisfaction and internal costs. "[The app] starts to learn from itself and suggest this option versus that option, based on what enabled us to give our customers better service," he says.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's urban-transport-systems department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Officials at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) warned last week that without a major infusion of cash, [New York City's subway and bus services] will have to drastically cut service or increase fares on the system that carries millions of New Yorkers around the city. The system's financial straits have gotten worse in part because it has fewer riders, and is collecting less money in fares. Expected passenger revenue over a five-year period has dropped by $485 million since July.
"They've entered this death spiral," said Benjamin Kabak, who runs the transit website Second Avenue Sagas. "The subway service and the bus service has become unreliable enough for people to stop using it. If people aren't using it, there's less money, and they have to keep raising fares without delivering better service." The authority is proposing a fare hike that would take effect in March. One option would raise the basic fare for a ride to $3 from the current $2.75. Another option would leave the base fare the same but increase the cost of monthly passes and eliminate bonuses for riders. They are also proposing $41 million a year in service cuts, mainly increasing the time between trains and buses on some routes. And, if approved, the plan would delay the launch of faster bus routes. The proposed cuts "will still leave the MTA with massive deficits, expected to hit nearly $1 billion a year by 2022," the report says. "To tackle those deficits, officials say they would have to cut service more drastically, or raise fares by an additional 15%."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-world-problems department
Ford has filed a patent for a method of eliminating the new car smell after a vehicle has been purchased. In the U.S., "new car smell" is beloved, but in China, customers find the odor disgusting. From a report: While the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office hasn't issued a ruling on the "vehicle odor remediation" patent application, and Ford hasn't committed to moving forward with the project, the paperwork explains what creates the odor so many Americans like: That new car smell is caused by volatile organic compounds given off by leather, plastic and vinyl. Chemicals used to attach and seal car parts may also contribute to the odor. People notice odors when compounds are released, which occurs when a car sits in high temperatures. Ford scientists describe baking the car until the odor disappears, which happens after compounds are released. The process described in the patent involves parking the car in the sun, opening the windows slightly, and optionally turning the engine, heater and fan on.The system includes special software and various air quality sensors, and works only when fitted to a driverless or semi-autonomous vehicle. A lot of technology is involved in the patent application. The car would determine whether conditions are right to expel compounds, and the car would drive itself to a place in the sun and bake away the offensive odor.Read Replies (0)