The Japan Times


'Secret sharing': Researchers say they've found way to better encrypt genetic data

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – Using nothing more than a simple vial of saliva, millions of people have created DNA profiles on genealogy websites. But this wealth of information is effectively inaccessible to genetics researchers, with the sites painstakingly safeguarding their databases, fearful of a leak that could cost them dearly in terms of credibility. This problem of access is one that Bonnie Berger, a professor of mathematics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and her colleagues think they can solve, with a new cryptographic system to protect the information. "We're currently at a stalemate in sharing all this genomic data," Berger told AFP. "It's really hard for researchers to get any of their data, so they're not really helping science. "No one can gain access to help them find the link between genetic variations and disease," she said. "But just think what could happen if we could leverage the millions of genomes out there." The idea of this new cryptographic method, described ...


As international order languishes, experts at G1 Global Conference discuss Japan's new role as global 'stabilizer'

The Japan Times

In a world increasingly fragmented by U.S. President Donald Trump's "America First" agenda, Japan should take on the role as the world's new "stabilizer" by committing to the landmark Paris accord on climate change and keeping a multilateral trade regime from falling apart in the absence of the United States, according to experts who gathered at a Tokyo conference earlier this week. The annual G1 Global Conference, held at Globis University in Tokyo, examined Japan's shifting roles on the global stage on the heels of an intensifying trade war between the U.S. and China that its panelists said has thrown the international order into disarray. The conference held Sunday invited experts on fields including security, energy and technology -- as well as social entrepreneurs and business executives -- to discuss a "fractured world" caused by the rise of protectionism, the shift in Asian geopolitics and potential threats stemming from the advent of artificial intelligence. With the election of Trump in 2016, "many tensions in the U.S. that had existed beforehand became much more evident," former U.S. Democratic member of congress Jane Harman told the all-English conference, titled "Connecting a Fractured World." The Japan Times was a media partner for the event.


Growth in China's robot market to slump this year amid trade war

The Japan Times

Sales of industrial robots in China, the world's biggest market, will grow this year at only about a third the pace seen last year as an escalating Sino-U.S. trade war hits spending on equipment, a global robot group said on Thursday. In its annual report, the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) forecast Chinese demand for robots will grow 15-20 percent this year after surging 59 percent to 137,920 units last year. With China accounting for 36 percent of the global robot market and with its sales volume exceeding the total of Europe and the Americas combined, slowing demand growth in the Asian nation is also impacting global demand. IFR, which brings together nearly 60 global robot suppliers and integrators, predicts worldwide industrial robot sales this year will grow 10 percent compared to last year's 30 percent. Because of the trade war, many global manufacturers "are now in a wait-and-see mode, wondering whether to shift production (away from China) to, let's say, Vietnam or the United States," IFR President Junji Tsuda said in an interview.


At Tokyo summit, diplomats say Japan can tap domestic stability to take on global leadership role

The Japan Times

Despite the fraught global environment -- with U.S.-China animosity mounting alongside a bevy of regional security concerns -- Japan appears to be viewing the situation as a glass half-full scenario, according to leading experts, as well as current and former officials. That was the scene Wednesday, when pundits and diplomats from Japan and across the globe gathered for the Eurasia Group's inaugural G-Zero Summit in Tokyo. With China and the Trump administration posing potential headaches for Tokyo, many said the country's unique position and stable domestic politics could be an opportunity for it to break out of its diplomatic shell and play a larger leadership role in regional and global politics. "After World War II, the U.S. has shouldered much of the responsibility" in establishing and maintaining the international rules-based order, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said in the conference's keynote speech. Yet Kono believes Washington can't continue to go it alone and "has been getting a little tired … so someone else has to take up the responsibility."


Spammers were behind recent Facebook data breach, company tentatively concludes

The Japan Times

BENGALURU, INDIA – Facebook has tentatively concluded that spammers looking to make money, and not a nation-state, were behind the largest-ever data theft at the social media company, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. The people behind the attack were a group of Facebook and Instagram spammers who present themselves as a digital marketing company and whose activities were previously known to Facebook's security team, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the company's internal investigation. Last week, Facebook said cyberattackers had stolen data from 29 million Facebook accounts using an automated program that moved from one friend to the next, adding that the data theft had hit fewer than the 50 million profiles it initially reported. Facebook said in an email that it was cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on this matter. The breach has left users more vulnerable to targeted phishing attacks and could deepen unease about posting to a service whose privacy, moderation and security practices have been called into question by a number of scandals, cybersecurity experts and financial analysts have said.


Boeing creates unit to focus on super-computing that mimics the brain, hack-proof communications

The Japan Times

CHICAGO – Boeing Co. is creating a new unit to focus on technology that's seemingly straight out of science fiction, including super-fast computing that mimics the synapses of the human brain and hack-proof communications links based on applied quantum physics. So-called neuromorphic processing and quantum communications, two of the futuristic technologies Boeing wants to explore, may seem an odd fit for the world's largest plane-maker. But such concepts increasingly form the core of aerospace innovation, like the networks that may one day manage millions of airborne drones, said Greg Hyslop, Boeing's chief technology officer. The technology being developed around advanced computing and sensors is going to have a "profound impact" on Boeing, Hyslop said in an interview Wednesday. "We thought it's time to do this."


SoftBank robot Pepper testifies before British Parliament

The Japan Times

LONDON – SoftBank Group Corp.'s Pepper humanoid robot testified on Tuesday at the Education Committee of Britain's House of Commons. It was the first time in the long history of the British Parliament, which has served as the world's standard-setter of the parliamentary system, for a nonhuman to present an opinion, people familiar with the matter said. Pepper answered questions during a committee session to discuss the fourth industrial revolution, which uses robots and other new technologies, and the development of education brought on by artificial intelligence. "Good morning, chair," Pepper started off by saying. "Thank you for inviting me to give evidence today," it proceeded.


Uber eyes valuation topping $100 billion in share offering: sources

The Japan Times

NEW YORK – Uber is eyeing a valuation above $100 billion for its much-anticipated share offering due in 2019, which would be the biggest-ever in the tech sector, sources familiar with the plan said Tuesday. The sources told AFP the global ride-sharing giant is considering speeding up its plans for an initial public offering (IPO) to the first half of 2019, rather than the second half of the year. Uber, which operates in over 60 countries, is already the largest of the venture-backed "unicorns" valued at more than $1 billion, which until recently was considered rare without tapping stock markets. Its most recent investment -- a $500 million injection from Japanese auto giant Toyota -- was made at a reported valuation of $72 billion. Earlier Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that bankers were proposing a valuation as high as $120 billion for Uber, which has been a disruptive force in many cities where regulators and taxi operators have challenged its business model.


Firms offer a glimpse of future business models at CEATEC, Japan's biggest electronics trade show

The Japan Times

Japan's biggest electronics trade show kicked off Tuesday, offering a future peek at how the latest technologies can be integrated into everyday living. This year's CEATEC (Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies) at Makuhari Messe in Chiba Prefecture is still making a push to cast off the image of being just a home electronics hardware exhibition. Featuring 725 firms and organizations, up by 58 from last year and with 345 new entrants, all are eager to show off a preview of their possible future business models by combining services with hot technological trends such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the "internet of things." Convenience store chain Lawson Inc., joining CEATEC for the first time, demonstrated some concepts of its next-generation store. For instance, visitors can shop at its pop-up store, which uses a QR code payment system, in the convention hall.


New dating app for Trump fans leaks data: report

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – New dating app DonaldDaters was supposed to help lonely conservatives find each other discreetly. But the app leaked its database of users on launch day, a report said Monday. With the slogan "Make America Date Again," the app targets the "American-based singles community connecting lovers, friends, and Trump supporters alike," its website says. The app had just over 1,600 users on its first day of operations, technology news site TechCrunch reported. TechCrunch said it learned the figure because a French security researcher found "issues" with the app, making it possible to download the entire user database.