Brazil’s President Says Uber Costs Jobs, Needs Regulation

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff criticized ride-sharing software Uber on Wednesday for increasing unemployment, adding to a chorus of labour concerns about the world’s most valuable venture-backed start-up.

Rousseff said local authorities must regulate the service, which has led conventional taxi drivers to stage protests and lobby lawmakers in Brazil’s three biggest cities.

Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and the capital Brasilia have all moved to ban the mobile application, which lets users hail Uber drivers for rides. None of the bans has yet taken effect, as mayors weigh whether to approve the laws.

In June, French President Francois Hollande said the low-cost UberPOP service should be illegal, following violent protests by Parisian taxi drivers. Uber drivers in the United States won class action status on Tuesday for litigation demanding employee benefits.

“Uber is complicated because it takes jobs away from people… It leaves taxis with less work,” Rousseff said in response to a reporter’s question on Wednesday. “It’s not an easy issue. It depends on the rules of each city and state, because it is not a federal government decision,” she said.

The San Francisco-based start-up declined to comment.

In Brasilia, lawmakers have voted to ban the unregulated services of Uber, but the federal district governor vetoed the ban and set up a commission to decide what is best for the city.

In Rio, the city council proposed a bill to prohibit unregulated taxi services in a move designed to ban Uber.

Mayor Eduardo Paes has not yet decided whether to sign it into law, but has said he would like to develop a rival technology for the city’s taxi drivers.

The chilly reception for Uber contrasts with Rio’s embrace of another icon of the so-called “sharing economy.” Home-rental marketplace Airbnb Inc is an official accommodation provider for the 2016 Olympic Games next year in Rio, which has a paucity of affordable hotel options.

In Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo, a vote to ban the ride-sharing software is also awaiting a second vote from the city council and the signature of Mayor Fernando Haddad.

Uber has support from Brazil’s antitrust watchdog Cade, where officials see the advantages that increased competition could bring to users and advocate a negotiated co-existence between the ride-share service and city taxis.

Taxi drivers complain that Uber drivers are not properly regulated and have fewer overhead costs, giving them an unfair advantage.

Google Now gets visual overhaul with new logo and bursts of animation

google app new logo
Google isn’t wasting any time putting its major logo redesign to work. The Google app for Android has an update that significantly reshapes the look and performance of Google Now and search on Android devices.

google now logo redesign
Google Now is more refined with new cards and animations.

Instead of eye-popping colors at the top of each card, the interface has been reworked with bright white cards on top of a softer background. Swiping away cards also produces more animation than in the past. Additionally, more choices pop up for how to customize Google Now when you swipe away particular cards.

If you use the Google Now Launcher you’ll notice the new logo and multi-colored microphone icon on the search bar.

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Google has new animations that accompany voice search on Android devices.

When you do a voice search, you’ll see the new animation and “G” logo that Google showed off with its rebranding on Tuesday. While the rest of the search layout page is unchanged, you’ll also see the magnifying glass morph into the logo when you scroll down the page.

The story behind the story: Google’s splashy redesign is about more than just the logo. It’s a full-on rebranding of how the company’s identity is portrayed across its line of products. Look for the new identity to start showing up across its apps and services. As with Google Now, there may be tweaks in other Google apps right around the corner.

Mumbai-Based Pointshelf Unveils Plans to Add Bitcoin Payments

Mumbai-based Wallet based mobile payments app Pointshelf announced plans to integrate Bitcoin wallets on Twitter Wednesday.

Shiladitya Mukhopadhyaya, Co-Founder at Pointshelf, said that his app is focused on connecting merchants and customers, focusing on the F&B (food and beverage) sector at the moment.

“We want to be the universal payment app for dining out and the F&B sector. We want to make the experience seamless, and are interested in providing the customer a wider range of options, and taking the brunt of whatever regulatory or exchange rate that may happen,” Mukhopadhyaya said, speaking to NDTV Gadgets.

Launched first as a loyalty platform, the Mumbai-based firm pivoted to a full-fledged payments platform this year, and has a base of 80 merchants and 12,000 apps downloads on Android and iOS. The firm plans to roll out Bitcoin integration starting with a small private beta next month.

“What we’re seeing is that consumers at the top of the pyramid would want to use these new age payment options as much as a Paytm or a MobiKwik wallet.” Mukhopadhyaya said. “What we’re building is an intermediate layer where we’ll be able to take Bitcoins from our customers, change it into their rupee value, and transfer it to the merchant,” he added.

When comparing his solution to Bengaluru-based payment’s solution Momoe, Mukhopadhyaya said that his app lets users split a bill based on what they ordered.

“Our focus is in the F&B sector as my belief is that offline transactions are maximum in this space, and going forward, it will be all the more so,” he said.

CyanogenMod 12.1 Stable Builds Based on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop Now Available

The CyanogenMod open-source community on Monday released CyanogenMod 12.1 stable builds based on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, alongside security releases for CM11.0 and CM12.0 including fixes for the Stagefright vulnerability and other recent security disclosures. The firm says that not all the CM-based devices would be receiving these releases. Only those devices marked as ‘Good to go’ by the maintainer would get the updates.

As per the company, the new CM11.0 and CM12.0 builds address number of security issues on top of their previous versions. The new builds are “modified to include the recent security disclosures, including the vulnerabilities in Stagefright.” The company recommends users with previous CM 11.0 and CM 12.0 builds to update to new version. However, the users of CM 11.0 and CM 12.0 weeklies (nightlies) need not update.

As for CM12.1, the new version release marks the company’s first Android 5.1.1 Lollipop-based CM build release as well. The version includes IMAP idle support, SDK v1 release and the above-mentioned security fixes. CyanogenMod in its company blog post warned that “If you are updating to any of these builds, please pay close attention that the CM release version and the version of your third party installs (kernels, mods, gapps, etc) are compatible.”

The firm reportedly started rolling out the CM12.1S (Cyanogen OS 12.1) to OnePlus One users lastweek. The OnePlus One CM12.1S update notification also suggested the inclusion of the patches for the recent Stagefright security exploit. The OnePlus One CM 12.1 update is also said to bring the activation of the home button in Chrome. The home page, as reported before, will set to Bing search engine by default, which is likely the result of Microsoft and Cyanogen tie-up announcement. Other new features include a new LiveDisplay feature, integration of Calendar with Boxer email, an updated Cyanogen Browser, a new launcher, Truecaller integration, and a new AudioFX app.

The update is expected to also reach Yu Yureka and Yu Yuphoria users soon, considering that Yu Televentures, Micromax’s subsidiary, had in June announced that the Android 5.1 Lollipop-based CM 12.1 update for the Yu Yureka and Yuphoria has entered the final phase of testing.

Samsung Launches Its Own Curated News App for Galaxy Devices

Samsung in partnership with Axel Springer, a digital publisher in Europe, has announced Upday, an aggregated news content platform for Galaxy devices. The news aggregator platform launch from Samsung comes few months after Apple announced News, an improved app replacing AppleNewsstand for users to keep up with news and articles.

(Also see: ‘Apple News App Has Journalists Worried’)

An early beta version of Upday will be available to download via Samsung Galaxy App store and Google Play (though limited to Samsung devices) starting Thursday, but will be limited to select regions, and initially only for select customers in Germany and Poland. A full service launch in more regions is likely in early 2016, according to Samsung.

“Upday will offer Samsung customers access to a range of news content that combines ‘Need to Know’ information selected by a local market editorial team and ‘Want to Know’ information, an algorithm-based service tailored to customers’ individual interests,” said Samsung in a press note.

Both Samsung and Axel Springer stress that the content in Upday will be designed to meet the “rapidly-evolving needs in an increasingly mobile-centric era”

Reuters notes that the newspaper publisher Springer owns several publications in Poland, and now makes about two thirds of its sales and three quarters of its core profit from digital offerings.

Commenting on the announcement, Young Hoon Eom, President and CEO, Samsung Electronics Europe, said, “With Axel Springer’s digital publishing heritage and our mobile expertise, we’re confident that together we can deliver ground-breaking content and services that will excite and delight our respective customers.”

Mathias Dopfner, CEO of Axel Springer said, “Over the past few years, there have been many occasions in which Axel Springer and Samsung, one of the world’s most innovative consumer electronics companies, have exchanged views on the fantastic technological opportunities for journalism in the digital age. These discussions have now resulted in this exciting strategic partnership. It is a privilege to be collaborating with Samsung to bring creative new services to the market in 2016 and beyond.”

Meet Happitoo, the Airbnb for India’s Nightlife

If you wanted to check out the best happy hours deal in your neighbourhood, there’s now an app that curates over 8,000 nightspots in more than 700 localities across 15 cities in India.

Happitoo, an Airbnb-like app that helps you explore the local nightlife, launched on Google Play on August 21. The hyperlocal app lets you explore food, drinks, dance, music, live events, theme nights, and real time offers.

Hemant Jain, Co-Founder and Director at FNB City Media Pvt. Ltd, told NDTV Gadgets that there are about 80 different theme nights to choose from in India on average, spread across fifteen cities, and that his app curates the largest collection of theme nights.

Jain said that the Indian market didn’t have a single app that can tell you about all the live gigs in a particular city, with information on cover price, location, etc.

“Once we spend the time getting all the data in place, we try to define how the consumer experience should be.” he said. “We have built the product the way a user wants to consume it. Most nightlife experiences are designed around the companions who are part of the experience – a place where you want to chill out and have conversations would be different from places where you want to take your girlfriend out. If you’re looking to take your colleagues out, you’re looking for happy hours or special offers.” Jain said.

The Make My Night tab helps plan your nightlife in six steps, whether it’s happy hours or theme nights or romantic locations. Happitoo lets users choose from nearby options based on type of nightlife experiences available – from casual dining, microbreweries, pubs, and clubs, and choose an experience based on budget, distance, offers, and basic amenities, such as table reservation, valet parking and smoking zone.

Jain said that the app initially started out as Happy Hours India, an iPhone app which provided real-time happy hour listings and buffet offers available in over 2500+ restaurants across 13 cities. Happitoo is currently being run by a team of 12 members, not counting the data collection team, he said.

“We realised the restaurants and venues had much more to offer and the patrons had much more to look forward to. We considered this as a big opportunity as there was no app dedicated to search and discovery of great nightlife experiences pan-India.” Jain said.

An upcoming feature for the app would be built around pub-hopping, with an itinerary that can be shared with friends.

Happitoo currently lists night spots in 15 Indian cities – Mumbai, Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Pune, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Nagpur, Jaipur, Ludhiana, Faridabad, Chandigarh, Indore, and Chennai.

According to data provided by startup data tracker Traxcn, some of the other local players in the nightlife and events space include, Mumbai-based, Delhi-based events discovery platform, Bengaluru-based Happnin and Oyeparty.

Infosys Launches Solutions for Small Finance, Payments Banks

Infosys on Wednesday launched two new financial products for the Indian market that will help it tap the multi-million dollar opportunity in the newly announced payments banks segment.

The two products – Finacle Payments Bank and Finacle Small Finance Bank solutions – are part of EdgeVerve Systems, the product subsidiary of Infosys, the country’s second largest software services firm. “These solutions are specifically tailored for organisations seeking payments banks and small finance banks licenses from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). With these solutions, licensees can set up the required technology backbone and become operational quickly,” Infosys Finacle Regional Head for Growth Markets Venkatrama Gosavi told PTI.

The solutions will enable the new entrants to focus on their business goals right from the start of their operations, he added.

Last month, RBI granted ‘in-principle’ approval to 11 entities, including Reliance Industries, Aditya Birla Nuvo, Vodafone and Airtel, to set up payments banks in the country. The other entities include Department of Posts, Cholamandalam Distribution Services, Tech Mahindra, National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL), Fino PayTech, Sun Pharma’s Dilip Shantilal Shanghvi and PayTM’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma.

Infosys’ solutions provide capabilities to enable various distribution models like traditional banking, agency banking, mobile wallet, and micro ATMs.

“These solutions are also available in a hosted environment apart from on-premise, which ensures low capital investments. It will enable new license holders to make investments based on consumption and scale-up depending on business demand,” Gosavi said.

The customers will also have access to integrated analytics to help create customised offerings and address emerging market needs. A dominant player in the banking solutions space, Finacle has 70 per cent share of the top 40 banks in India. It also powers over 100 cooperative banks in India.

Snapdeal Acquires Silicon Valley Startup ‘Reduce Data’

Snapdeal has acquired Reduce Data, a Silicon Valley startup, for an undisclosed amount to strengthen its discovery platform as the e-commerce major competes head-on with giants like Flipkart and Amazon.

The Mountain View-based company has a programmatic display advertising platform that leverages artificial intelligence, real-time data, and other tools.

Founded in 2012 by Asif Ali, the company has customers across the US, India, and the UK.

“With this acquisition, the Reduce Data team will join Snapdeal and drive the roadmap to build a world class discovery platform and associated tools for brands as well as over 200,000 sellers on the marketplace,” Snapdeal said in a statement.

Company’s co-founder Rohit Bansal said Ali comes with 17 years of experience in building web scale technologies, product management and building highly specialised teams focused on a data platform and ad tech products.

“We are confident that Asif and his team will further strengthen our technological capabilities,” he added.

Snapdeal has been on an acquisition spree, beefing up its presence as it takes on players like Flipkartand Amazon in the burgeoning Indian e-commerce industry.

This year alone, Snapdeal acquired payments and mobile recharge startup Freecharge in a cash-and-stock deal (estimated at $400-450 million), MartMobi and Letsgomo Labs as well as picked up stakes in digital financial services platform RupeePower and logistics venture GoJavas.

Founded in 2010, Snapdeal has over 40 million registered users and over 200,000 business sellers.

Snapdeal, which counts Japan’s SoftBank, Foxconn, Alibaba and eBay among its investors, has been scouting for acquisitions in mobile technology and supply chain space.