Google launches AI-integrated instant messaging app- ‘Allo’

The internet search engine giant, Google has launched an instant messaging app, Allo with an integration of Google Assistance and has packed in a lot of features like smart reply and various options to enable sharing of photos, emojis as well as stickers. Allo is available for both Android and iOS platforms. The app uses phone numbers as a method to identify the users. Users who have downloaded Allo can also link their Google accounts through the app.

Allo has special features specially designed for Indian users in order to take on other instant messaging apps like WhatsApp and Hike messenger. Google has enabled smart replies in ‘Hinglish’ and included 200 stickers made by independent artists specially designed for Indian users. The smart reply feature allows users to respond to messages with just one tap. Along with that, the app adjusts to the responses of the user over time by learning from their behavioural pattern.

Allo has Google Assistance integrated on the software which helps in simplifying everyday tasks for users without interrupting their conversations and provides them convenience while chatting or sharing files with friends. One of the foremost important features is the built-in search which helps the user to search anything on Google by just typing @google followed by their search query.  This allows users to continue the conversation in the chat window while running an online search of relevant information.

Google’s late entry into the instant messaging market in the presence of hoards of messaging app like Facebook messenger, Hike, WhatApp, etc. might prove to be a tough competition but Google has earned a name and has proven its worth and credibility in the market, in spite of late entry in a number of previous cases such as Google Chrome and Google search. All of which were introduced later that its competitors but managed to become key players in the market, slowly overtaking incumbents.

Allo has interesting features which the users may be psyched to try out but they also lack few other features which their competitors offer like voice calling and options to share large documents. By rolling out the new instant messaging app in the market, Google has tried to move away from the previous errors of merging Hangouts and Gchat. Instead, Google has introduced a separate slow-networks adaptable video chat application named Duo a month before Allo.

Allo’s mobile focus consumer-centric feature is an attempt to take over the mobile app based market and drive the users to use the app for personal purposes. Whereas apps like Gchat and Hangout are specifically designed for more professional, business usage.

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Paralympics ends with colorful performances at Brazil

The Rio Paralympics 2016 closing ceremony had a host of performances celebrating their love for music with colorful performances, giving the perfect climatic end to the successful Games.

Rio Paralympics defied all odds which were coming there and managed to put up a closing ceremony which will be difficult for the audiences to forget. At one point the Paralympics committee was debating whether they should even hold the closing ceremony due to the massive cuts in the Paralympics funds which were used for the contingency of Rio 2016 Olympics.  Finally, they were convinced otherwise and Brazil backed up the Games with financial support.  The face of the Games then underwent a major transformation and raised spirits of people in a nation which is trapped in serious economic stagnation and political turmoil. The political instability and deep recession weighed down Brazil and concluding the Paralympics successfully had been a “mission of many doubts.”

The famous Maracana stadium saw a jam packed audience and the Paralympians were seated across the field. The celebrations of the Paralympics Games started off with colorful fireworks which filled the Rio skies.

The first performance was by Jonathan Bastos who is a local Brazilian accomplished musician and played music with his feet as he was born without arms. The Brazilian national flag was brought Brazil’s gold winning football team’s star Ricardinho.

Brazil’s swimmer Daniel Dias was named as the Michael Phelps of Paralympics has he managed to score four gold medals, along with three silver and two bronze. Algeria’s Abdellatif Baka set a new record in the 1,500m track race by scoring a faster finish time than Olympic gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz in the same stadium.

A minute silence was observed to pay respects for the Iranian cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad who passed away due to a crash in a road race.

The successful end to the Paralympics was quite a surprise as the low finances and the low turnout of the ticket sell-outs was raising worries among the organizers. The number of tickets sold in the final week of the Olympics was just 200,000 (12% of those available). Total tickets sold were sold 2.1 million which is fewer than London 2012 Olympics.  Many tickets were sold for as low as $3 or given away for free to school children due to the international fill-the-seats campaign.

Another reason which was causing distress to the organizers were the unstable political condition after President Michel Temer took to office after his predecessor was overthrown by impeachment vote. He was booed by the crowds during the opening and the closing ceremony. Along with that tensions were on a high as International Paralympic Committee imposed ban on Russia on doping charges.

The medal table was dominated by China with almost 100 medals. Britain was in the second number followed by Ukraine and the United States. Russia was missing a place in the medal table which had managed to score 102 medals, including 36 gold medals in the London 2012 Olympics.

Sources: ABCTelegraph

All India Strike: What made the trade union members take the call?

The government has announced an increase in the minimum wage from Rs. 246 to Rs. 350.  This is a 42% increase in the wages for the unskilled, non-agricultural central government employees. Now the employees under the category – C can earn Rs. 9100 for 26 days of work.

But, even though the government agreed to make provisions to increase the minimum wages, the trade union members still held the all-India strike on Friday.  What has led them to take such steps? Here is a breakup:

The trade union had demanded a minimum wage of the workers under the C-category to Rs. 18,000 per month. For the Class A and Class B category, the demand of wages was Rs 26,560 and Rs 22,320 respectively. However, the government only agreed on the wages to be Rs 13,598 for category-A, Rs 11,362 for category-B and Rs 9,100 for the C-category which is half of the demanded wage amount. There is also an urban –rural divide existing in the allotment of categories of employees.

The modifications in the minimum wage will be made by the central government in accordance with the Minimum Wage Act (1948). The unskilled non-agricultural central government employment has 45 professions, some of which are-construction workers, mine workers, loaders and unloaders etc.

The states have agreed to realise the minimum wage amendment only if there are more than thousand registered employees in the particular employment. The largest number of scheduled jobs is registered in Assam at 105 in 2013. States like Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa are close in competition with Assam in the number.

According to the National Floor Level Minimum Wage proposed by National Commission on Rural Labour (1991), a uniform wage structure was fixed at a minimum of Rs. 35 per day. This minimum wage was revised in the following years and currently the minimum wage stands at Rs 160 per day. The disadvantage of the recommendations made by the National Commission on Rural Labour is that it not mandatory in all the states in the country and therefore there is a great disparity in the minimum wages of different parts of the country due to a lack of statutory backing.

The states have been advised to not fix the minimum wage lower than the proposed wage. Few states in the country namely Delhi and Kerala, have a higher minimum than the wage announced by the government. The current problem is that in the absence of a set legal foundation backing the minimum wage in the various parts of the country, it can drop to a very low amount and the outrage of the trade union members seems to a backlash of the same situation.

Snapdeal introduces ‘Gold’ services to take on Amazon and Flipkart.

Snapdeal, owned by Jasper Infotech Pvt. Ltd has now stepped up its game in order to compete with the existing competition among the e-commerce websites. Snapdeal’s latest launch, Snapdeal Gold is an answer to its rivals which unveils premium features for its customers at no membership cost. The efforts made by the company are to buck up in the race where it is positioned as the far third after Amazon and Flipkart.

The services provided by Snapdeal gold offers the customers free shipping, free upgrade to next-day-delivery and an extended purchase protection under the latest scheme. Any product which has a ‘gold- batch’ displayed next to it can be availed under the scheme and gets automatically upgraded on the placement of order. The services provided by Snapdeal Gold are only available to customers who make an online payment through Credit cards, Debit cards, net banking, EMI or Paytm wallet.

In addition to the free delivery services, Snapdeal Gold provides an extension on the return period which is now 14 days and a 100% quality check on products. The products which were available under SD+ are also available under the Snapdeal Gold membership. More than 5 million plus products are now available for the customers at their fingertips which will be supplied to them directly from the Snapdeal fulfilment centres. According to the Economic Times, these 5 million products are stocked across the 69 SD+ fulfilment centres which have more than 3 million square feet space available in them and can store over 14 million products.

According to a press release statement made by Rohit Bansal, co-founder of Snapdeal, “Our team has met over 10,000 customers across the country to identify key services which they desire from e-commerce companies. Snapdeal Gold has been designed to fulfil those needs. The most important thing is that there is no hidden catch and membership fee”.

The competitors, ‘Flipkart First’ was launched in the year 2014 and Amazon launched its premium service counterpart, ‘Amazon Prime’ in 2016. Flipkart First requires users to subscribe to it with a subscription fee of Rs 500, whereas Amazon Prime offers free 60 day trial period and after the expiry of the period, the services can be availed at a subscription fee of Rs 499. This is Rs 500 discount on the actual Rs 999 price. After the free trial period to the service, the customers can choose to not continue with Amazon Prime. Amazon and Flipkart are the largest e-commerce players in the country which give them the option to charge the subscription for the premium services. Snapdeal, on the other hand, is trying to catch up in the race by introducing free upgradations. The battle between these e-commerce companies has intensified due to the delay and lower flow of funds from the venture capitalists. Additionally, the government is clamping down on the discounts which were provided to the customers to acquire the larger share of the market.

Karnataka facing the brunt of the all-India ‘bandh’

As the nation prepares itself for Fridays’ big strike announced by the trade union, concerns are rising among the common people due to the unavailability of public transport. The strike largely affects the office goers who will be unable to report at their workplaces. With the Auto and Cab drivers complying with the strike, people are losing out on alternate transportation options.

Karnataka is joining the states which are supporting the strike called by the union traders. Friday’s strike will mark to fifth such incident in the past couple of months which saw a halt in the public transportation. Earlier, such strikes were a rare phenomenon, but lately, with the growing number if such incidents, Karnataka seems to be following the likes of West Bengal (Bengal) and Kerala in the frequency of trade union strikes. Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka is one of the fastest growing cities in the country in the recent past. With the IT boom, Bangalore has managed to get the country’s GDP growing at a very fast pace but with the recent instances of strikes, Bangalore also seems to be facing a severe beating.

Various firms which need employees to be working during the nationwide strike are now making arrangements for the commute of the essential staff to the workspace. HRs of firms are now drawing lists in order to figure out the indispensable employees which have to report to the office. Many offices have extended the option of working from for the employees, keeping in mind the inconvenience and safety issues.

Bangalore was a booming industrial city in Karnataka because it did not get affected by the various political conflicts and the tiff with the union. With the growing cases of strikes in the state, Karnataka is losing out on capital and industrialists and IT firms might soon retreat from the state just like in the case of the communist dominant states of Kerala and Bengal. Contrarily, The West Bengal Chief Minister has refrained from complying with the Friday strike.

The union members do have a fair right to call a strike to meet their demands and negotiating with the government but the incidents of violence during this period is the biggest cause of concern. In many cities across the nation, cabs and other vehicles on the road have been destructed.  These incidents also expose the lack of adequate policing and that a handful of people are trying to exploit the situation in their favour.

With the shutting down of the country, huge losses will be incurred by the economy. According to industry experts, the city is set to lose hundreds of crores if it comes to a standstill and a day-long strike will zero out on a day’s revenue which otherwise ranges from Rs120-140 crore. Bangalore primarily is a service based industrial city and the bandh will not be of any gain as it is mainly associated with those who are in the manufacturing sector.

Strikes are one of the major reason due to which the country has failed to establish a strong industrial hold and now due to the trade union’s efforts to show power and disrupt hierarchy, the city is suffering a great deal. Brand Bangalore is now at stake due to the blackmailing tactics used by the trade union members and the support of counterproductive measures by the state government for political gains. In this situation, the city is facing adversities and bleeds of its revenues.

Source: TOI  Navbharat Times

Horns of Dilemma

After incessant rains which caused flood, Assam can have a sign of relief as water has started receding. The flood like situation has caused havoc in Kaziranga national park which is home to many indigenous species of mammals like tigers, elephants, wild buffaloes and hog deers. Kaziranga houses about two-thirds of the world’s Indian rhino population. But the sad news is theses rhinos are in grave danger due to two main reasons: Firstly excessive encroachment in the national parks and secondly, due to the unpreparedness of forest authorities during flood like situation. About 161 rhinos have been killed in Assam from the period 2001 to 2016 and due to the recent floods, 20 rhinos have lost their lives in Kaziranga national park. Carcases of dead rhinos were found after the water had receded and most of them were calves and females. 10 of the rescued rhinos are now suffering from pneumonia.

 

The Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) which is located near central Assam’s Kaziranga National Park has come up with an idea of letting people adopt the orphaned calves rescued from Kaziranga during floods.  The centre is low on budget and can only afford to feed about three rhinos at the most as it costs Rs 45,000 per day to feed the eight calves each day. The animals survive on milk for about two years before being introduced to the wild and since they have been separated from their mothers, they have to be provided with milk supplements. The fact that people are stepping up and offering to help by adopting the calves of rhinos can help save their lives and make a difference in the drastically decreasing population of rhinos.

 

There is an increase in encroachment of this restricted area by traders and human settlement. Construction of roads and highways in areas around the park also lead to the shrinking habitat for the wild. Rhinos are usually targeted by the hunters for their horns and this activity has been one of the major reasons for their decreasing population. To tackle the growing incidents of poaching, patrolling by the security forces need to be intensified. A more proactive approach needs to be adopted by the authorities to keep the poaching at bay.

 

The flooding of Brahmaputra river had submerged 85% of the park. The floods brought 117 of 120 camps under water and disrupted road connectivity. The only mode of transportation for the Kaziranga National Park guards was through country boats. Usually, flood in Kaziranga is seen as an advantage as it replenishes the soil with fresh alluvium and silt and helps n the growth of the grasses which the animals graze. But this time, the out of control floods and mismanagement by the authorities resulted in deaths of many animals leaving carcases lying here and there. This points out the gap in the required infrastructure as well as under prepared rescue teams. The current need is to combine the traditional knowledge of the local communities belonging to the area along with the efforts made by the government in order rescue the animals from the wrath of nature. Due to climatic changes and varied weather patterns, the animals are in a very vulnerable position and strict measures need to be put in place to stop the drastically depleting number of animals in the national park.

 

CRPF faces backlash due to failure to tackle the unrest after Burhan Wani killing

After the killing of the Hizbul Mujahedeen poster boy Burhan Wani, the Kashmir valley has been in a state of unrest for days. The shootout was termed as a bonus by the intelligence agencies as they did not have confirmation of his presence at the spot of the encounter. The only information available to the forces was that some terrorists were holed up in the Kokernag hideout. The presence of the Mujahedeen poster boy was an added incentive for the security forces.

CRPF personnel have been widely criticised lately due to the failure to tackle the Kashmir valley unrest as well as misuse of pellet guns after the Burhan Wani killing. The CRPF has been given a mandate according to which they can put to use ten different types of non-lethal weapons to control such a situation which include blank rounds, rubber bullets, stun grenades, plastic pellet guns, multi-button shells pepper balls and capsicum grenades. All of the above weapons have been put to use in the recent protests.

The use of the pellet guns has been considered to be most effective way to tackle the current situation as no other means of non-lethal weapon seems to get the unrest under control. The pellet guns are better than plastic cartridges as they are made up of a collection of hundreds of small pellets. On being fired these pellets spread out and cover large sections of the crowd. Plastic cartridges on the other hand fire only a set of three plastic pellets while rubber bullets are mostly used for target shooting purposes.

Tear smoke shells which had been used earlier by the security personnel are not as effective anymore, as the mob has become smarter and more equipped with the various strategies employed by the security forces. They change the direction of the smoke and direct it towards the security forces which compel them to disperse from the site.  Additionally, the use of pepper balls and capsicum grenades is mostly to target smaller crowds and not useful against a larger group of people who are pelting stones at the security forces.

The Standard Operating Procedure which is laid down for pellet guns as an option of non-lethal weapon to tackle large mob is to ensure that they are fired from a distance of at least 50 metres aiming at the boots of the perpetrators. A total of over 3,000 people and security personnel are injured and 55 have lost their lives in the fallout between Kashmiri masses and security forces.

The CRPF Director General K Durga Prasad has expressed that he is pained to see the blinding and injuries caused to the young people participating in the mob and is trying to figure out methods to minimise the damage caused by the use of pellet guns.

Protective gears for security personnel is one of the biggest issues which needs immediate attention. When extra troops are sent to control the situation they do not have adequate protective gears while those deployed in the valley have the requisite gear due to the volatile conditions in the area. This mismatch in the safety precaution becomes the reason for a higher number of injured soldiers.

The Standard Operating Procedures along with proper training of the security personnel has been put to a back foot due to the unrest in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana and the upcoming election in major Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Gujarat. This year every battalion of the CRPF has been on active duty instead of being on a rotational basis. This hugely compromises with the training of the security personnel due to which it results in mismanaged actions and chaotic outcomes as seen in the case of Kashmir valley.