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Silicon Valley Carefully Navigates US-China High Tech Cold War

Silicon Valley has long been a power center of American innovation. Now that high-tech is also becoming a focus of tensions between the U.S. and China, companies based here are trying to understand how they fit in. VOA’s Michelle Quinn speaks with the head of the U.S. Defense Department’s local outpost who sees the tech industry as key to U.S. national security.

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UK, Japan Mobile Operators Suspend Huawei 5G Phone Launches

British and Japanese mobile phone companies said Wednesday they’re putting on hold plans to sell new devices from Huawei, in the latest fallout from U.S. tech restrictions aimed at the Chinese company.

Britain’s EE and Vodafone and Japan’s KDDI and Y! Mobile said they are pausing the launch of Huawei smartphones, including some that can be used on next generation mobile networks, amid uncertainty about devices from the world’s No. 2 smartphone maker.

The U.S. government last week restricted technology sales to Chinese telecom gear suppliers because of alleged security risks, though telecom carriers got a 90-day grace period to let them find other suppliers. The sales ban is part of a broader trade war between Washington and Beijing.

British mobile chip designer Arm said separately it was complying with the U.S. rules, after the BBC reported it was suspending business with Huawei — a move that could hobble the Chinese tech company’s ability to produce chips for new devices.

Vodafone said in a statement that it’s “pausing pre-orders” for the Mate 20X, Huawei’s first phone for 5G networks, as “a temporary measure while uncertainty exists regarding new Huawei 5G devices.”

EE CEO Marc Allera said sales would not resume until it gets “the information and confidence and the long-term security” that customers will be supported over the device’s lifetime. The company was also set to sell the Mate 20X followed by Huawei’s Mate X folding handset.

EE said it’s working with Huawei and Google, which makes the Android mobile operating systems to make sure it “can carry out the right level of testing and quality assurance.”  

The Trump administration’s order last week cuts Huawei’s access to American chips and Google, which makes the Android operating system and services for its smartphones.

Y! Mobile, owned by Japanese technology company Softbank, said sales of the Huawei P30 lite, set for May 24, have been delayed, and advance orders were canceled.

SoftBank spokesman Hiroyuki Mizukami said the company wants its “customers to feel safe using our products.”

KDDI also indefinitely delayed its sales, initially set for late May.

It’s unclear when, or if, the companies will lift the sales freezes.

British carriers plan this year to roll out 5G services while Japan will follow in 2020. Fifth generation mobile networks will enable superfast downloads and pave the way for new innovations like connected cars and remote medicine.

Arm, which is also owned by Softbank and designs mobile microprocessors that power most of the world’s smartphones and tablets, said it “is complying with all of the latest regulations set forth by the U.S. government.”

The company told employees to halt all business deals with Huawei, the BBC reported, citing a company memo that said its designs contained “U.S. origin technology.”

In response to the report on Arm, Huawei said it recognizes that some of its partners are under pressure as a result of “politically motivated decisions” but that it’s “confident this regrettable situation can be resolved.”

 

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A New Robot Promises to Meet Your Internet Needs, Handsfree, at Home

A new personal home robot follows you around your home, navigating past obstacles, so you can multitask while staying connected. Deana Mitchell takes a tour.

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Electronic Trade Helps Cameroonian Farmers

Information technologies are changing the lives of some Cameroonian farmers who previously depended on brokers to market their goods. Now, these farmers can use the internet to find customers directly, cutting out some intermediaries and increasing their own profits.

Loic Domguia raises poultry, selling almost entirely online and through phone apps. Through electronic sales over the last year, he says he has increased his income.

Domguia uses Jangolo Farmers, an application that links producers and buyers.

“It reduces the stress on the producer,” Domguia says. “The producer no longer waits until the end” worrying about getting customers. Producers “sleep well knowing they already have orders.”

Designer Rose Ngameni says Jangolo enables producers to line up customers before bringing goods to market.

“The farmer has a higher profit margin by selling through our application,” she says. The app even enables producers to get paid in advance.

Ngameni says the app also benefits the customer. Reducing the number of intermediaries means producers hold down marketing expenses, so they can offer lower prices to customers.  

Cameroon’s National Institute of Statistics reports that a fourth of the country’s 25 million residents connect daily with the internet.

Users increasingly are buying agricultural items online.

One of those e-commerce customers is Pierre Freddy Ngoudi. He says he places online orders for chicken because his work all day at a gym leaves too little time to shop. He has chicken delivered to his workplace.

Cyprain Tankeu, a specialist in electronic trade, says it’s smart for agribusinesses to develop online sales platforms. But he cautions that online sales may not always give customers sufficient information about purchases.

“If a company does not own stores, it would be difficult for buyers to evaluate the product they are buying,” he says. “… The lack of a store is an obstacle to the development of this type of e-commerce.”

The African Development Bank estimates the continent has more than a billion mobile phone subscribers, creating a huge potential market for farmers to use e-commerce.  

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Electronic Trade Helps Cameroonian Farmers

Information technologies are changing the lives of many Cameroonian farmers, who previously were dependent on brokers, who charged fees to serve as middlemen to purchasers. Now they can use the Internet to find customers more easily and increase their income. Moki Edwin Kindzeka narrates this report by Anne Mireille Nzouankeu from Douala in Cameroon.

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Smart Technology Gives Old Infrastructure New Life

Extreme weather and rising sea levels are putting pressure on the natural world and on the infrastructure we have put in place to manage waste water. Rebuilding aging infrastructure is expensive so National Science Foundation research is teaching old infrastructure new tricks to handle new problems. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.

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Google to Restrict Huawei From Android Operating System

The giant U.S. internet search engine Google said Monday it is restricting China’s Huawei from access to its Android operating system in compliance with the Trump administration’s blacklisting of the world’s second biggest smartphone maker as a national security threat.

Google said it is “reviewing the implications” of last week’s order requiring export licenses for technology sales to Huawei.

The U.S. and Chinese companies said millions of Huawei phones already in use around the world would continue to have access to such popular Google services as Gmail, YouTube and maps.

But last week’s U.S. order would curb the future transfer of hardware, software and services to Huawei, possibly limiting the Chinese company’s expansion globally and its efforts to overtake South Korea’s Samsung as the world’s biggest smart phone manufacturer.

Google services were already banned in China, so analysts say the impact of the curb on technology sales could mostly affect Huawei’s international sales, making its phones less attractive to customers if they do not have Google features. Last year, Huawei sold nearly half of its production of 208 million smart phones overseas and the rest in China.

“Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally,” a Huawei spokesman said.

The Chinese firm is at the center of ongoing trade disputes between Washington and Beijing. The U.S. contends that Huawei’s technology could be used to spy on Americans, allegations Huawei has repeatedly denied.

China and the U.S. are in the midst of months-long trade talks with the world’s two biggest economies engaging in tit-for-tat tariff increases on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of each other’s exports.

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Boeing Admits Flaw in 737 MAX Simulator Software

Boeing acknowledged it had to correct flaws in its 737 MAX flight simulator software used to train pilots, after two deadly crashes involving the aircraft that killed 346 people.

“Boeing has made corrections to the 737 MAX simulator software and has provided additional information to device operators to ensure that the simulator experience is representative across different flight conditions,” it said in a statement Saturday.

The company did not indicate when it first became aware of the problem or whether it informed regulators.

Its statement marked the first time Boeing acknowledged there was a design flaw in software linked to the 737 MAX, whose MCAS anti-stall software has been blamed in large part for the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy.

According to Boeing, the flight simulator software was incapable of reproducing certain flight conditions similar to those at the time of the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March or the Lion Air crash in October.

The company said the latest “changes will improve the simulation of force loads on the manual trim wheel,” a rarely used manual wheel to control the plane’s angle.

“Boeing is working closely with the device manufacturers and regulators on these changes and improvements, and to ensure that customer training is not disrupted,” it added.

Southwest Airlines, a major 737 MAX customer with 34 of the aircraft in its fleet, told AFP it expected to receive the first simulator “late this year.”

The planes have been grounded around the world, awaiting approval from U.S. and international regulators before they can return to service.

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Scientists Building Proteins See a World of Possibilities

The old saying goes “you can’t beat Mother Nature.” But in a lab at New York University, scientists are trying to duplicate one of her basic activities building proteins. Faith Lapidus reports.

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Radio Telescope Explores Cosmic Mysteries

Every year astronomers are seeing farther and more clearly into the cosmos than ever before. One of the ways they are doing it is by linking telescopes together to make them more powerful. The Very Large Array in New Mexico supported by the National Science Foundation is one incredible example. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.

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