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Wipro beefs up security after threat mail

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Bengaluru, May 7: Software major Wipro stepped up security at all its offices following an e-mail threat to send a toxic drug to its campus here, the company said on Saturday.

“We have augmented security measures at all office locations, though there is no impact on our operations,” said the city-based IT firm in a statement.

Confirming receipt of a threatening letter, the outsourcing firm lodged a complaint with the cyber crime police in the city earlier in the day.

“We confirm filing a complaint with the local law enforcement authorities after receiving a threatening letter from an unidentified source,” read the statement.

According to the complaint, the company got an e-mail on Friday threatening to send a toxin protein drug to its campus in the city’s southeast suburb by May 25 if a Rs 500-crore ransom was not paid in the form of bitcoins, a digital currency outside the formal banking system.

“We have registered the case under Section 66F of the IT Act (cyber terrorism) and are investigating it,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime) Anand Kumar.

Although the company declined to mention who sent the threat mail, police sources said it was from some “[email protected]” mail ID.

“The mail has mentioned that a biochemical powder (Ricin) will be sent in covers to your (Wipro) offices to assure that the threat is not fake,” said the source on the condition of anonymity.

The toxic protein (Ricin) is made out of castor bean, from which castor oil is also produced.

“Though we got some clues, we cannot share, as the investigation is underway. We have to also find out who all are involved in it from the IP address from where the threat mail was sent,” noted Kumar.

The toxic material can be fatal if inhaled, taken as a pill or mixed in water for anyone.

“As the investigation is going on, we would not like to comment further on the issue,” said Wipro in the statement.

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Microsoft AI helping Indian farmers increase crop yields

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New Delhi, Dec 17: New technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cloud Machine Learning, Satellite Imagery and advanced analytics are empowering small-holder farmers in India to increase their income through higher crop yield and greater price control, Microsoft India said.

In a few dozen villages in Telengana, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, farmers are receiving automated voice calls that tell them whether their cotton crops are at risk of a pest attack, based on weather conditions and crop stage.

In Karnataka, the government can get price forecasts for essential commodities such as tur (split red gram) three months in advance for planning the Minimum Support Price (MSP).

“Sowing date as such is very critical to ensure that farmers harvest a good crop. And if it fails, it results in loss as a lot of costs are incurred for seeds, as well as the fertilizer applications,” Suhas P. Wani, Director, Asia Region, of the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), said in a Microsoft blog post.

The non-profit ICRISAT conducts agricultural research for development in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa with a wide array of partners throughout the world.

In collaboration with ICRISAT, Microsoft has developed an AI-Sowing App powered by Microsoft Cortana Intelligence Suite including Machine Learning and Power BI.

“The app sends sowing advisories to participating farmers on the optimal date to sow. The best part – the farmers don’t need to install any sensors in their fields or incur any capital expenditure. All they need is a feature phone capable of receiving text messages,” the company said.

To calculate the crop-sowing period, historic climate data spanning over 30 years – from 1986 to 2015 – for the Devanakonda area in Andhra Pradesh was analysed using AI.

To determine the optimal sowing period, the Moisture Adequacy Index (MAI) was calculated.

MAI is the standardised measure used for assessing the degree of adequacy of rainfall and soil moisture to meet the potential water requirement of crops.

This data is then downscaled to build predictability and guide farmers to pick the ideal sowing week.

This year, ICRISAT has scaled sowing insights to 4,000 farmers across Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka for the Kharif crop cycle (rainy season).

Predictive analysis in agriculture is not limited to crop growing alone.

The Karnataka government will start using price forecasting for agricultural commodities, in addition to sowing advisories for farmers in the state.

Commodity prices for items such as tur, of which Karnataka is the second largest producer, will be predicted three months in advance for major markets in the state, Microsoft said.

Microsoft has developed a multivariate agricultural commodity price forecasting model to predict future commodity arrival and the corresponding prices.

The model uses remote sensing data from geo-stationary satellite images to predict crop yields through every stage of farming.

The model currently being used to predict the prices of tur, is scalable, and time efficient and can be generalised to many other regions and crops.

IANS

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Increased customs duty a statutory industry-wise hike, says Apple

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New Delhi, Dec 16: A day after the finance ministry decided to increase the customs duty from 10 per cent to 15 per cent on mobile phone, tech giant Apple said its is a statutory industry-wise hike.

“There is no comment on this as it’s a statutory industry-wise duty hike,” an Apple official told IANS.

The notification issued by the Department of Revenue said customs duty will increase from 10 per cent to 15 per cent for mobile handsets.

At present, Apple is assembling iPhone SE model at its Bengaluru facility in collaboration with Wistron Corporation, its Taiwanese manufacturing partner.

The Cupertino-based iPhone maker is also seeking tax relief and other incentives from the central government to commence assembling more handsets in the country.

Experts say that with this decision, Apple has two choices.

“Apple will either have to increase the price of handsets or start assembling more in the country,” Tarun Pathak, Associate Director, Mobile Devices and Ecosystems, Counterpoint Research, had told IANS.

However, domestic and some China-based manufacturers will not be affected as most of them are assemble a lot in the country, including South Korean giant Samsung.

“They just need to rev up their assembly lines,” Pathak further added.

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Google Maps to alert you when to get off the bus

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San Francisco, Dec 16: Google Maps is adding a helpful new feature for commuters who tend to lose track of time during bus or train ride. It will now send a push notification when the user is approaching their destination.

“It’s much easier for mass transit travellers to doze off or get distracted and miss their intended stop. Now, you’ll get a notification that’ll make staying on the train or bus too long less likely,” The Verge reported late on Friday.

Google Maps provide turn-by-turn notifications for driving directions and now, the addition will make the app send a push notification when the user is approaching their stop.

This feature will especially help Android users when they use public transit.

Log into Google Maps on Android smartphone, enter destination, select directions for transit and tap on the route you want to take to use the new feature.

The concept, however, is not completely new.

Transit — a public transit app and mapping service based in Canada has a “Go” feature that takes the user through every step of a bus or subway ride.

IANS

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