Chat app Line’s mobile payment service is getting its own Visa card

Brown, Cony and the gang are coming to a credit card near you in Japan. Line, the messaging app company behind the cute sticker characters, announced today that it is bringing its payment service to plastic through a tie-in with Visa.

Line is Japan’s largest chat app with an estimated 50 million registered users. The cards will be released later this year and they’ll allow Line Pay, the company’s digital wallet service, to stretch beyond its existing merchant base to allow users to pay at any retailer accepting Visa . In addition, the first year of use will see customers get 3 percent of their spending back in Line’s ‘Points’ virtual currency, which is used to buy stickers and other content.

The partnership is a step up from Line’s own payment cards, which were introduced in 2016 and supported by JCB.

It’s an interesting deal because mobile is generally seen as being the future form factor for payments. In China, for example, using cash or card to pay is considered antiquated — you’ll get glares from other patrons forced to wait while you complete your transaction — but digital payments face a struggle in most other markets.

WeChat and Alipay have become de facto in China, but retailers — and particularly smaller ones — don’t always have the awareness, confidence or resources to add support for Line or other digital wallets. Japan, where cash is still king, is perhaps most emblematic of that struggle. The government is making a sustained push towards cashless — particularly ahead of the 2020 Olympics — and Line, as the country’s dominant chat app, may help that along with this partnership.

Line wrapped up a deal with WeChat last November that allows users of the China-based chat app to make payment via Line Pay points of sale. Tencent’s WeChat and Alipay from Alibaba have spent recent years developing a system that lets Chinese tourists pay while they are overseas.

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A new Cloudera emerges from the Hortonworks merger

The Cloudera and Hortonworks merger that was first announced in October officially completed this month, paving the way for a new Cloudera. As part of the merger, the former rivals will live under the Cloudera name and offer an enterprise data cloud capable of supporting hybrid and multi-cloud deployments as well as provide machine learning and analytics capabilities.

“We are very excited about where this puts us in the big data, cloud, analytics, and IoT/streaming markets,” said Arun Murthy, co-founder and chief product officer of Hortonworks and now Cloudera’s CPO. “Cloudera is in a unique position where we can offer customers an open source approach to multi and hybrid cloud, all with common shared services like security and governance.

“Think about the large-scale cloud providers — it is in their best interest for customers to stay with their cloud only, therefore they don’t offer multi-cloud flexibility,” Murthy added. “Hybrid is another area where we have strengths and we see a lot of customers adopting hybrid approaches. The cloud is perfect for ephemeral workloads, but those can get quite costly in the cloud since they’re always on. We are delivering frictionless hybrid from the Edge to AI so customers can play the data where it lies.”

According to Noel Yuhanna, principal analyst for Forrester Research, this is huge news for the big data space because it will raise the bar for innovation. Yuhanna explained that more than 40 percent of organizations suffer from failed big data initiatives because of deployment complexity and lack of skilled resources.

“We see that cloud big data management platforms are still evolving, especially when it comes to end-to-end support for multi-cloud in the area of storage, integration, metadata, transformation, and governance. We believe that a combined platform from this merger will help overcome this gap based on their solution offering. In addition, the merger is likely to create an even broader big data services offering that will benefit customers to support even more complex and larger business initiatives,” said Yuhanna.

Yuhanna added that Hortonworks’ big data experience will blend nicely with Cloudera’s artificial intelligence and machine learning skills. For instance, Cloudera’s CEO Tom Reilly explained Hortonworks has invested heavily in real-time streaming and data ingest to support IoT use cases at the edge, while Cloudera has invested in machine learning and AI to provide data scientists the ability to automate machine learning workflows.

“This merger is likely to focus on innovation to make big data simpler whether for cloud or on-premises, or hybrid cloud. It’ll likely focus on automating all functions of big data platforms such as administration, integration, security, governance, and transformation requiring less resources, so that organizations can accelerate their business initiatives with big data,” said Yuhanna.

However, not everyone in the industry is on board with the merger. “I can’t find any innovation benefits to customers in this merger,” John Schroder, CEO and chairman of the board at MapR, stated when the merger was revealed. “It is entirely about cost cutting and rationalization. This means their customers will suffer. MapR has been innovating and delivering a better data platform for years, and we continue to see Cloudera and Hortonworks customers move to MapR.”

Murthy argues that the combined resources, scale and talent of Cloudera and Hortonworks will only put Cloudera in a position to do more, and to do it faster. Yuhanna echoed similar statements, believing the combination of the two big data powerhouses will only accelerate the pace of innovation necessary to support more business use cases in today’s digital world.

“Together the new Cloudera has the scale it needs to service the constantly changing needs of the world’s most demanding organizations and to grow even more dominant in the market. New open-source standards such as Kubernetes, container technology and the growing adoption of cloud-native architectures are major parts of Cloudera’s strategy. Our primary initiative out of the gate is to deliver a 100-percent open-source unified platform, which leverages the best features of Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP) 3.0 and Cloudera’s CDH 6.0. Cloud-native and built for any cloud – with a public cloud experience across all clouds — the unified platform embodies our shared ‘cloud everywhere’ vision,” said Murthy.

In addition, Murthy noted the new Cloudera will remain committed to its existing solutions. For instance, HDP 3, Cloudera Distribution Hadoop (CDH) 4 and CDH 5 will continue to be supported for at least the next three years; customer support channels will remain unchanged; Hortonworks Data Flow will be available with CDH; and Cloudera Data Science Workbench will be available on HDP.

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Modernizing the mainframe

Mainframe technology providers are refusing to be left in the dust in a digital modern world where speed is everything, and everything is moving to the cloud. While a majority of the industry views mainframes as legacy, dated, old or irrelevant technology, many companies and initiatives are turning their focus to modernizing the mainframe.

“Digitization and mobility are placing incredible  pressure on both IT and mainframes to manage a greater volume, variety, and velocity of transactions and data, with workloads becoming more volatile and unpredictable,” said Bill Miller, president of ZSolutions at BMC.

BMC recently released its 2018 mainframe report, which found 82 percent of respondents are using Java in their mainframe environments, and 48 percent are practicing Agile and DevOps in the mainframe.

“DevOps teams can only move as fast as their slowest digital asset. As such, precious mainframe code and data must continue to leverage the platform’s inherent strengths and quality requirements while keeping pace with the need for speed in innovation,” said Chris O’Malley, CEO of mainframe software solution provider Compuware.

In addition, the report found top priorities for organizations include application availability, modernization, cost reduction, data privacy and security. The mainframe’s strengths lies in its ability to provide security, stability, availability and scalability to core parts of our society such as banking, transportation, healthcare, finance and insurance, according John Mertic, director of program management for the Open Mainframe Project at the Linux Foundation.

“For companies all over the world, the power of the mainframe is critical to the success of their enterprise transformations. As they transform toward cloud deployment models, many rely on the traditional strengths of the mainframe to maintain secure, reliable, and scalable computing. And for good reason. For example, nearly 80 percent of all enterprise data is managed on the mainframe,” IBM’s GM for GTS infrastructure Phil Guido and GM of mainframe systems Greg Lotko, wrote in a blog.

Initiatives to modernize the mainframe
The Linux Foundation launched the Open Mainframe Project in 2015 as a way to increase collaboration across the mainframe community. Its main focus has been to deploy and use Linux and open-source technologies within a mainframe computing environment. Recently, the foundation announced a new open-source software framework designed to bridge the divide between modern apps and the mainframe. Zowe (pronounced Zow-wee) enables users to securely manage, control, script and develop on the mainframe similarly to how they would on a cloud platform, and is based on z/OS, an operating system for IBM mainframes.

Companies like Compuware, CA Technologies, and BMC Software also have begun developing new tools and technologies that enable mainframe to work in modern software environments such as DevOps and Agile. Compuware’s mainframe DevOps solution Topaz is designed to get modern developers and testers up to speed with mainframe technology quickly. The company also offers a artificial intelligence and machine learning solution called zAdviser for modern mainframe leaders to track, measure and improve development velocity, quality and efficiency, according to Compuware.

Over the last year, CA Technologies announced new collaborations and partnerships with IBM to bring mainframes to the modern era. As part of the partnership, the companies announced the enterprise DevOps solution Brightside, which is designed to bring DevOps toolchains and frameworks to the mainframe. Other solutions the companies are working on include CA Service Virtualization, CA Mainframe Operational Intelligence, and CA Data Content Discovery to the zCloud services as well as the CA Mainframe Resource Intelligence solution.

BMC recently announced automated mainframe intelligence solutions for providing machine learning, practice analytics and intelligent automation mainframes as a way to help enterprises automatically manage, diagnose, heal, secure and optimize their mainframe processes.

In addition, mainframe technology itself has continued to evolve over the years to take advantage of the latest computer resources available. According to Compuware’s O’Malley, IBM dominates the mainframe space, and is continuously releasing new hardware advancements with each new model as well as making updates to software tools such as COBOL, Db2, z/OS and Linux. The Open Mainframe Project explained that it is solely focused on IBM hardware, which it says is more than 95 percent of the market.

IBM has been producing mainframes since 1952. The company’s latest version is z14, which according to Ken Harper, director at mainframe outsourcer Ensono, is significant because it is built around functions like pervasive encryption, enabling users to encrypt data at the database. Harper adds that today’s mainframes also provide more memory and uses less space, less facilities, less heat, and less air than its predecessors.

“While other forms of computing are used extensively in business in various capacities, the mainframe occupies a coveted place in today’s e-business environment. In banking, finance, health care, insurance, utilities, government, and a multitude of other public and private enterprises, the mainframe computer continues to be the foundation of modern business,” IBM wrote on its website.

Molding the next-generation of mainframe developers
While the mainframe itself may not be dead, it is in danger of dying if we don’t empower the next-generation of developers to take on the skills necessary to keep the mainframe alive, according to the Open Mainframe Project’s Mertic.

“The challenge with the ecosystem has been around how do we foster that next generation. When this project came to us, that was the biggest question there. There was no question about the importance of the technology or the capabilities of the technology. The question was how do we ensure another 50 years of mainframe and how do we get the next group involved,” he said.

The 2018 BMC Mainframe report recently found that one of the top challenges the mainframe faces is a staffing and skills storage. According to the report, older, experienced mainframe workers are beginning to retire, and while companies are willing to train existing employees and train new talent, it is still taking time to close the gap.

However the report does find that the age of people working on the mainframe is getting younger. Sixty-three percent of respondents reported being under the age of 50, which is up 10 percentage from BMC’s 2017 mainframe report.

“Today’s digital economy presents complex challenges for the mainframe at a time when operational skills are pivoting to younger staff with less experience. Ongoing research is important to understand the evolving state and direction of the mainframe. Such studies  can provide a valuable perspective to help mainframe organizations evaluate customer attitudes and expectations,” Tim Grieser, research vice president of enterprise system management software at IDC, said in the BMC report.

The Open Mainframe Project currently provides internship and academic programs to introduce more students to the technology. “These students come out of school with some of the highest entry level jobs in IT and stable career prospects,” said Mertic. But the project is also looking to use open-source software as a path to driving more engagement.

“If you want a technology to continue for generations, open source ends up being a central component there because it is taking the technology out and getting the larger world engaged with it,” said Mertic. He also explained that thanks to open-source software, the mainframe has been able to continue as a viable platform by saving on licensing sources and enabling technologies such as virtualization, cloud and containerization.

Ensono has started a millennial program where the company will go out to colleges to talk about the mainframe and recruit millennials. “If you think about it, millennials grow up around technology, Internet, mobile phones, so we are finding that generational is really adaptable to understanding the technology and being able to apply it more along the lines of the business,” said Ensono’s Harper.

Bringing the cloud and mainframe together
Many companies have a cloud-first attitude when it comes to their technologies; however, Compuware’s O’Malley believes this way of thinking is skewed. “It is a very odd perspective because it should be customer first. A governmental agency is citizen first. Your platform should only be chosen for your citizens or customers, and giving them the best experience possible,” he said.

O’Malley explained there doesn’t have to be a mainframe versus cloud debate. The debate should be around how you optimize these platforms in the best and right ways. “Mainframe has its digital virtues that are unique to it and excel far greater than the cloud ever could or at least for the next decade, but there are things in the cloud that the mainframe can’t do,” he said.

For instance, the cloud is ideal for providing a cost-effective, shared resource environment for supporting “non-competitively differentiating workloads and applications like HR where the availability, performance and security requirements are far less stringent,” O’Malley explained.

In addition, the cloud and mainframe can be used together to create the best possible outcome.

“Increasingly, we are seeing organizations use the mainframe and the cloud together in a hybrid IT approach, and leveraging APIs to support multi-platform applications where certain components are best served by a system of engagement (like a web server), while back-end transaction processing is best handled by a mainframe,” said O’Malley. “This type of approach requires analyzing one’s own applications and determining the most cost-effective way to support them while still meeting availability and security requirements.”

The reason the mainframe excels with systems of record is because it provides businesses with  a centralized, authoritative source to store and retrieve data, O’Malley explained. Businesses prefer newer technologies such as mobile, web and cloud when it comes to their systems of engagement, or systems that enable peer interaction such as emails, collaboration systems and social networking solutions because they are “designed to enable the creation and continuous improvement of digital customer experiences,” O’Malley said.

“These customer-facing experiences must be more than a pretty user interface, they must rely on other systems to complete the desired action,” O’Malley continued. “These actions, such as completing a credit card transaction or transferring money, occur for over thousands or even millions of customers, thus creating high-volume transactions that need to happen securely, in less than one second 24×7 without fail. This back-end work in support of the system of engagement is a system of record. The mainframe is purposely designed to best handle the performance, reliability and security requirements.”

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Jack to the future for Huawei? P30 leak hints at the return of the headphone port

Huawei, currently the world’s second-largest smartphone company by sales, has won over users partly by loading its devices with a ton of new features, from wireless charging to top-class cameras and catchy cosmetic features like the colorful gradients on their shiny backsides. Now, a leaked image of its next flagship Android phone appears to reveal a surprising reverse course. According to Indian blog 91phones (and via Engadget) its next premium device, dubbed the P30, will feature a HEADPHONE JACK.

What’s that, you say? Aren’t headphone jacks so yesterday?

Well, it turns out that sometimes progress isn’t universally loved. (Pour one out for the futurists here.)

Over the past couple of years, Apple and others have gradually removed the jack from their devices.

Yes, it’s been done in the name of thinner handsets and more features like waterproofing. But — let’s be honest — also most likely also to up-sell people to those very pricey, sometimes pretentious-looking wireless earphones.

But you know what? People — say, those who have a favorite set of corded headphones, or who hate the idea of losing the ability to charge using said headphones — are still missing those inky black holes.

Huawei has been no different, removing its jack in the P30’s P20 predecessor.

But the leaked image reveals that it seems to be making a return in the familiar lower edge of the handset, to the left of the USB-C charging port.

Other features revealed in this and previous leaks of the phone include a six-inch screen, more of that gradient backing, a 24MP selfie camera in a streamlined notch on the front, with a Sony triple camera at 38MP with 5x optical zoom on the back, and no fingerprint sensor port, with the device likely to be shipping in 128GB and 256GB versions.

Huawei overtook Apple as the world’s second largest smartphone vendor in Q2 of 2018, and the last two quarters have only cemented that position. In Q3, only Samsung (the leader) and Huawei saw shipment growth among all the top players; and as for Q4, well, Apple’s given us a little preview of what we will expect there.

Interestingly, Apple specifically has singled out China as a disappointing market when it comes to iPhone sales: Huawei happens to be the market leader there.

So — if this leak is accurate — it’s interesting to think that as Huawei grows often by aggressively following the playbook of other brands, it may be making a bold move by bringing something back that appeared to have gotten discarded in the tech march forward.

If its pace of handset sales continues to stay strong, this could be coming at a key time for Huawei. The company remains in hot water with governments in Europe, the US and elsewhere over questionable and potentially illegal business practices, and that appears to be potentially impacting its massive telecoms equipment business and its lucrative deals with carriers.

As for when this supposed phone might launch, we’re just about to kick off CES in Vegas, but it’s unlikely to appear here. The P20 launched in March last year, a few weeks after the big MWC mobile event in Barcelona, and that could potentially be the same timescale the company follows again.

We’re contacting Huawei for comment and will update this post as we learn more.

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Nissan’s IMs ‘elevated sports sedan’ concept shows what its electric future might look like

Nissan unveiled Monday its latest vision for electric vehicles at the North American International Auto Show — the third consecutive year the automaker has teased what its EV future might look like.

This time it’s a sleek EV concept called the Nissan IMs, which the automaker describes as an “elevated sports sedan.” If the IMs name sounds familiar, it’s because it is. The name ties in with Nissan Intelligent Mobility (IM, get it), the branding that it uses for its automated technology and electric vehicles.

“Fully embracing the three pillars of Nissan Intelligent Mobility — Intelligent Driving, Intelligent Power and Intelligent Integration — the IMs concept moves toward the creation of a sustainable mobile society in the form of EVs, autonomous drive and connectivity technologies,” said Denis Le Vot, senior vice president, chairman of Management Committee, Nissan North America.

To be clear, the IMs is a concept. It is not a production vehicle. Nor is the Xmotion that the company showed off last year or the Vmotion in 2017. Instead, these concepts are meant to show what might be on the horizon and gives the industry a sense of where it’s headed.

But Nissan says more EV production cars — not just concepts — are coming. Eight to be exact. Le Vot said Monday in Detroit that the automaker will launch an additional seven electric vehicles (following the introduction this month of the Nissan Leaf e+) by 2022.

In Nissan’s view, an “elevated sports sedan” is sort of a sedan and sort of a crossover. Call it a hybrid sedan. Or a sedanover; a crossan?

The concept vehicle has unusual proportions and sits higher than a classic sedan. The battery is located under the body, which elevates the cabin height.

The IMs also has a stretched interior space, thanks to the vehicle’s extended wheelbase, and features pivoting front seats and a rear seat that either offers three-across seating, or, once the slim rear outboard seats are folded, an indulgent “premier seat” in the rear center. Oh, and there are reverse-opening rear doors.

Nissan designers are describing this vehicle as “timeless Japanese futurism. And there are hints of this tech-forward approach throughout the vehicle, including the shapes of the instrument panel and door trim, which are meant to reflect “a spaceship to the moon.”

The IMs concept is all-wheel drive and powered by dual electric motors located at the front and rear of the vehicle.The vehicle’s electric powertrain generates 483 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque, and a 115-kWh battery provides an estimated range of 380 miles on a single charge.

It’s also equipped with an advanced air suspension that adapts to different driving situations.

Because it’s the future and a concept, the IMs can be switched to full autonomous mode. When this happens, the concept’s headlights and rear combination light turn blue and the lighting travels continuously from front-to-rear to notify pedestrians and other drivers of its autonomous status.

A fully autonomous Nissan IMs isn’t here for customers, nor will it be anytime soon, if ever. But it does intimate the automaker is interested in a vehicle that can be driven by humans and then switched to full automation.

Perhaps nearer term is Nissan’s plan to bring virtual reality into the vehicle. Nissan has developed a platform it calls I2V, or Invisible-to-Visible, which is also in the IMs concept.

I2V, which is made possible with Omni-Sensing technology that Nissan announced last week at CES, could allow drivers to see around corners and visualize precise information about traffic jams. Drivers may even enjoy the company of a “passenger” from the virtual world in the form of a three-dimensional augmented-reality avatar inside the car, according to Nissan.

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SD Times news digest: Mapzen joins the Linux Foundation, OutSystems’ new code-review offerings, and Timescale’s $15 million funding

The Linux Foundation has announced that the open-source mapping platform Mapzen is being accepted as one of its own projects. According to the Linux Foundation, Mapzen provides customizable and easily accessible wide-ranging data sets.

“Mapzen is a high-utility technology for developers building aesthetically pleasing maps, which are increasingly important to a wide range of businesses and government agencies. Mapzen’s open approach to software and data has allowed developers and businesses to create innovative location-based applications that have changed our lives,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director at the Linux Foundation. “We look forward to extending  Mapzen’s impact even further around the globe in areas like transportation and traffic management, entertainment, photography and more to create new value for companies and consumers.”

OutSystems releases two new code-review offerings
OutSystems has announced that its partner Omnext is releasing two new code-review offerings, Omnext Fit Test and Stay Fit. The new solutions will enable organizations to build OutSystems applications that adhere to best practices for maintainability, reliability, performance, and security.

“IT teams using low-code platforms are moving faster than ever, so it’s imperative that the code we build or layer onto existing systems isn’t introducing new legacy debt,” said Mike Hughes, senior director of product marketing for OutSystems. “These new services developed through our partnership with Omnext offer peace of mind to organizations. They now have a way of knowing that new apps and functionality aren’t introducing unnecessary risk and won’t impact service delivery or availability.”

Timescale raises $15 million
Timescale has raised $15 million in Series A1 financing, bringing its total funding to more than $31 million. It will use the funding to continue building the open-source time-series SQL database’s team, supporting users, and creating a good foundation for TimescaleDB.

In addition, it is releasing a new version of its database, TimescaleDB. New features include advanced time-series analytical functions, data reordering for faster queries, self-tuning data chunk sizing, and automated data lifecycle management.

Mozilla introduces additional privacy features in the latest release of Firefox
Mozilla has introduced more privacy features in the latest release of Firefox. It has added a new Content Blocking section that will allow users to select their preferred level of privacy protection. The three levels are standard, strict, and custom. It has also added Advanced Tracking Protection, which will give users control over how website track them.

Other privacy features added in this release include AV1 support and updated performance management.

“We’ve always made privacy for our users a priority and we saw the appetite for more privacy-focused features that protect our users’ data and put them in control. So, we knew it was a no-brainer for us to meet this need,” Mozilla wrote in a post.


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GrapeCity introduces imaging API for .NET Standard 2.0

Enterprise software development tool provider GrapeCity has announced Documents for Imaging .NET Standard 2.0 (GcImaging) to its documents API product line. Developers can now create, load, modify and save images in .NET Standard 2.0 apps with this latest release.

According to the company, GcImaging was created out of a need for a .NET Standard 2.0 imaging library. “GcImaging for .NET Standard 2.0 is ideal for developers needing to produce accurate images for image transmission. For example, in the healthcare and medical industries, GcImaging can be used to generate images from X-rays and ultrasounds to detect conditions for patient screening. Photographers can dither high-color-depth images to view on low-color-depth environments, like embedded systems,” the company wrote in its announcement.

Other use cases include analyzing remotely-sensed images and enhancing images for acoustic imaging, according to GrapeCity’s product manager Shilpa Sharma.

Top features include the ability to

Load and save images from popular formats like BMP, JPEG, GIF, PNG and TIFF
Process images in code
Draw graphics on images
Draw text on images
Work with TIFF images
Covert images
Extract Exif metadata from images
Watermark images

The release also comes with full support on Windows, macOS and Linux, and can be deployed as a functions-as-a-service with AWS Lambda, Azure functions and other cloud services, the company explained.

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