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Kill Switch: An effective tool to prevent smartphone thefts

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New York: Have you equipped your costly smartphone with a ‘kill switch’? If not, then do so immediately as this may save you several thousand rupees and a lot of embarrassment due to lost data.

The “kill switch” option allows the owners to remotely disable, or “kill”, their phone if it is stolen. The process is also known as “bricking” – transforming the phone from a valuable piece of electronic equipment into a mere plastic brick.

A study published by Consumer Reports suggests that kill-switch technology is already having an effect: in 2013, 3.1 million Americans had their phones stolen, but in 2014 that number dropped to 2.1 million, a consumer affairs website reported.

The rationale behind kill switches is to discourage smartphone thefts: thieves would not bother stealing phones if they know the phones’ legitimate owners will immediately be able to brick them and render them worthless.

Samsung developed the app as early as 2013, yet companies including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, United States Cellular Corporation, and Sprint responded by preventing Samsung from pre-loading the app.

This in turn inspired New York’s attorney general in December 2013 to ask those wireless carriers why they would not allow it, and urged carriers to embrace the technology “as a simple yet effective way to protect” smartphone owners from theft.

Now, California has become the second US state after Minnesota where the law mandates that all smartphones sold in the state come equipped with a ‘kill switch’. (IANS)

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Nearly Half of the Teenagers in the US and Japan are ‘Addicted’ to Smartphones, Says New Report

Nowadays, one of the worst things that can happen to us is, like, 'Oh, I left my phone at home,'

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Brian Vega, left, Peyton Ruiz, second from left, and Max Marrero, right, check their smartphones at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami, Florida. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz) (VOA)

California, October 12, 2017 : About half of teenagers in the United States and Japan say they are addicted to their smartphones.

University of Southern California (USC) researchers asked 1,200 Japanese about their use of electronic devices. The researchers are with the Walter Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism. Their findings were compared with an earlier study on digital media use among families in North America.

“Advances in digital media and mobile devices are changing the way we engage not only with the world around us, but also with the people who are the closest to us,” said Willow Bay, head of the Annenberg School.

The USC report finds that 50 percent of American teenagers and 45 percent of Japanese teens feel addicted to their smartphones.

SMARTPHONES
Willow Bay, dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, Sept. 28, 2016, in Beverly Hills, California. VOA

“This is a really big deal,” said James Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, an organization that helped with the study. “Just think about it, 10 years ago we didn’t even have smartphones.”

Sixty-one percent of Japanese parents believe their children are addicted to the devices. That compares to 59 percent of the American parents who were asked.

Also, more than 1-in-3 Japanese parents feel they have grown dependent on electronic devices, compared to about 1-in-4 American parents.

Leaving your phone at home is ‘one of the worst things’

“Nowadays, one of the worst things that can happen to us is, like, ‘Oh, I left my phone at home,’” said Alissa Caldwell, a student at the American School in Tokyo. She spoke at the USC Global Conference 2017, which was held in Tokyo.

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People look at their smartphones in front of an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo. VOA

A majority of Japanese and American parents said their teenagers used mobile devices too much. But only 17 percent of Japanese teens agreed with that assessment. In the United States, 52 percent of teens said they are spending too much time on mobile devices.

Many respond immediately to messages

About 7-in-10 American teens said they felt a need to react quickly to mobile messages, compared to about half of Japanese teens.

In Japan, 38 percent of parents and 48 percent of teens look at and use their devices at least once an hour. In the United States, 69 percent of parents and 78 percent of teens say they use their devices every hour.

Naturally, that hourly usage stops when people are sleeping, the researchers said.

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Young people using smartphones. (Photo courtesy Kuvituskuvat via Flickr) (VOA)

The devices are a greater cause of conflict among teens and parents in the United States than in Japan. One-in-3 U.S. families reported having an argument every day about smarthphone use. Only about 1-in-6 Japanese families say they fight every day over mobile devices.

Care more about devices than your children?

But 20 percent of Japanese teens said they sometimes feel that their parents think their mobile device is more important than they are. The percentage of U.S. teens saying they feel this way is 6 percent.

In the United States, 15 percent of parents say their teens’ use of mobile devices worsens the family’s personal relationships. Eleven percent of teens feel their parents’ use of smarthphones is not good for their relationship.

The USC research was based on an April 2017 study of 600 Japanese parents and 600 Japanese teenagers. Opinions from American parents and teenagers were collected in a study done earlier by Common Sense Media.

Bay, the Annenberg School of Communications dean, said the research raises critical questions about the effect of digital devices on family life.

She said the cultural effects may differ from country to country, but “this is clearly a global issue.” (VOA)

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Vintage Phone Museum: The museum having rare collection of classic cell phones opens in Slovakia

The museum has around 1,500 cell phone models

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Old Nokia mobile phones are placed on a shelf inside of a private museum of phones in Dobsina, Slovakia
Old Nokia mobile phones are placed on a shelf inside of a private museum of phones in Dobsina, Slovakia. VOA

Dobsina, Slovakia, September 10, 2017:

As new smartphones hit the market month in month out, one Slovak technology buff is offering visitors to his vintage phone museum a trip down memory lane – to when cell phones weighed more than today’s computers and most people couldn’t afford them.

Twenty-six-year-old online marketing specialist Stefan Polgari from Slovakia began his collection more than two years ago when he bought a stock of old cell phones online. Today, his collection at the vintage phone museum boasts some 1,500 models, or 3,500 pieces when counting duplicates.

The vintage phone museum (website: http://www.mobilephonemuseum.org/), which takes up two rooms in his house in the small eastern town of Dobsina, opened last year and is accessible by appointment.

The collection includes the Nokia 3310, which recently got a facelift and re-release, as well as a fully functional, 20-year old, brick-like Siemens S4 model, which cost a whopping 23,000 Slovak koruna – more than twice the average monthly wage in Slovakia when it came out.

“These are design and technology masterpieces that did not steal your time. There are no phones younger than the first touchscreen models, definitely no smartphones,” said Mr. Polgari.

“It’s hard to say which phone is most valuable to me, perhaps the Nokia 3510i Star Wars edition,” said Mr. Polgari – who uses an iPhone in his daily life. (VOA)

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Tiny Diamonds Can Prevent Short-Circuits and Fires in Mobile Phone Batteries: Study

Mixing nanodiamonds into the electrolyte solution of a lithium ion battery slows dendrite formation to nil through 100 charge-discharge cycles

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Tiny diamonds prevent fires in phone batteries
Tiny diamonds prevent fires in phone batteries. Pixabay
  • The researchers described a process by which tiny diamonds curtail the electrochemical deposition called plating
  • We anticipate the first use of our proposed technology will be in less critical applications
  • Battery buildups called dendrites  are one of the main causes of lithium battery malfunction

USA, August 28, 2017: Researchers have found that tiny diamonds (diamond particles 10,000 times smaller than the diameter of a hair) can prevent short-circuits and fires in lithium batteries widely used in various mobile devices from smartphones to laptops.

The new process that uses tiny diamonds can turn electrolyte solution – a key component of most batteries into a safeguard against the chemical process that leads to battery-related disasters.

In the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers described a process by which tiny diamonds curtail the electrochemical deposition, called plating, that can lead to hazardous short-circuiting of lithium ion batteries.

“We anticipate the first use of our proposed technology will be in less critical applications, not in cell phones or car batteries,” said Yury Gogotsi, Professor at Drexel University Philadelphia Pennsylvania, US.

“To ensure safety, additives to electrolytes, such as nano diamonds, need to be combined with other precautions, such as using non-flammable electrolytes, safer electrode materials and stronger separators,” Gogotsi added.

Also Read: Lithium Batteries can be charged faster in the near Future: Scientists

As batteries are used and charged, the electrochemical reaction results in the movement of ions between the two electrodes of a battery, which is the essence of an electrical current.

Over time, this re-positioning of ions can create tendril-like buildups almost like stalactites forming inside a cave.

These battery buildups, called dendrites, are one of the main causes of lithium battery malfunction.

As dendrites form inside the battery over time, they can reach the point where they push through the separator, a porous polymer film that prevents the positively charged part of a battery from touching the negatively charged part.

When the separator is breached, a short-circuit can occur, which can also lead to a fire since the electrolyte solution in most lithium-ion batteries is highly flammable.

To avoid dendrite formation and minimize the probability of fire, current battery designs include one electrode made of graphite filled with lithium instead of pure lithium.

The use of graphite as the host for lithium prevents the formation of dendrites. But lithium intercalated graphite also stores about 10 times less energy than pure lithium.

The new study showed that mixing nano diamonds into the electrolyte solution of a lithium ion battery slows dendrite formation to nil through 100 charge-discharge cycles.

The finding means that a great increase in energy storage is possible because dendrite formation can be eliminated in pure lithium electrodes.

The discovery is just the beginning of a process that could eventually see electrolyte additives, like nano diamonds, widely used to produce safe lithium batteries with a high energy density, Gogotsi noted. (IANS)