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China to Test Drone's Smog-Clearing Powers

China to Test Drone's Smog-Clearing Powers

Today in international tech news: China will test a new drone's ability to de-smog the skies; a UK regulator fines a question-answering service after parents complain about their kids' obscene phone bills; Huawei inks a five-year deal with Vodafone; and Samsung is the patent-filing king of Europe.

By David Vranicar
03/07/14 10:23 AM PT

China is taking its chemical war with smog to another level.

Government agencies in China hope a newly designed drone can help mitigate air pollution. The airborne vehicle will spray chemicals that freeze pollutants, thereby knocking them to the ground.

This tack begs whether it is advisable to have pollution snowing on people from above -- but hey, at least the sky won't be so unsightly.

The tests, to be spearheaded by the China Meteorological Administration, will take place later this month at ports and airports.

The smog-fighting drone has a paragliding wing, allowing it to carry three times more weight they its fixed-wing brethren. The drone reportedlycan haul more than 1,500 pounds of smog-clearing chemicals.

China has used aircraft and drones to fight smog before. However, the developers of the new drone say the design is more efficient to operate and 90 percent cheaper.

[Source: South China Morning Post]

UK Regulator Fines Aussie Company for Monkey Business

PhonepayPlus, Britain's premium-rate phone number regulator, has fined the Australian creator of Bongo more than US$100,000 and ordered it to pay refunds, after loads of parents complained that their kids were duped.

The face of Bongo is a monkey -- named Bongo -- who can answer any question, from bus schedules to how to break-up with someone. The service, however, isn't free; it costs more than $4 a pop. Thus have kids in Britain run up phone bills into the hundreds.

The service works by inviting users to send questions, in the form of a text message, to a premium-rate shortcode. A reply typically comes within minutes.

The charges were not made clear, according to the regulator, which left kids asking more questions than they might have had they known it was such a rip-off.

In its defense, Bongo does publish a disclaimer saying: "We do not recommend using the service more than 20 times per month, especially if you do not pay your own phone bill." Good to know.

[Source: The Guardian]

Huawei Inks Deal With UK's Vodafone

Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has signed a five-year deal with UK-based Vodafone to upgrade the carrier's networks in 15 European and African countries.

The contract, the value of which was undisclosed, is part of a grand push by Vodafone, which last month signed five-year deals with Europe-based telecom suppliers Ericsson and Nokia Solutions & Networks.

Despite the United States' well-documented security fears about Huawei and its potential connections to Beijing, Huawei is, by revenue, the world's second-largest telecom-equipment supplier, trailing only Sweden's Ericsson. Two-thirds of Huawei's sales are outside of China, with Europe acting as its top overseas market.

[Source: The Wall Street Journal]

Samsung: Patent Filing King

Samsung filed more than 10 times as many European patents as Apple last year.

The South Korean smartphone giant lodged 2,800 applications -- an average of more than seven applications every day of the year. Apple, meanwhile, ranked just 66th in patent filings.

In Europe, it usually takes three to five years for an application to be approved.

Apple and Samsung are engaged in patent tiffs around the world and have been for some time. Samsung, however, maintains that its patent filings are not made with litigious intent, but rather "result from our commitment to R&D and our relentless pursuit of innovation."

[Source: Financial Times]


David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author of The Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out his ECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com. You can also connect with him on Google+.


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