Friday, November 27, 2015
Saudi data show slowing economy; Black Friday sales move online; L-Fi 100 times faster than Wi-Fi
1 Saudi data show slowing economy (Gulf News) Saudi Arabian money supply and bank lending figures show the economy of the world’s biggest oil exporter has started to slow as low global energy prices force the government to clamp down on spending.
M3 money supply grew just 3.9 per cent from a year earlier in October, the slowest expansion since November 2010, when Saudi Arabia was emerging from the global financial crisis, according to central bank data released late on Thursday. Annual growth in September 2015 was 8.5 per cent.
Growth in narrower measures of money supply, M1 and M2, also slowed sharply to multi-year lows. Growth in bank lending to the private sector fell to 5.0 per cent, again the lowest rate since November 2010, from 7.1 per cent. The government has until recent weeks been able to keep the economy growing strongly by boosting Saudi oil output; the October data suggest this strategy may have reached its limits.
Facing a budget deficit of over $100 billion this year, Saudi finance officials have said they are trimming spending in some areas to economise, and the cutbacks have started to crimp money supply.
2 Black Friday sales move online (BBC) Online purchases appear to be surging in the US and UK during Black Friday as more consumers shun standing in line. This has not stopped US stores reporting massive queues outside their shops, although in the UK there were smaller crowds than a year ago.
New York's giant Macy's store said thousands of people queued to get in. In the UK, consultants Experian and retail group IMRG said that online sales were on course to pass £1bn on a single day for the first time.
Last year's Black Friday saw shoppers in the UK fighting over bargains, websites crashing and delivery companies struggling to cope. The discount day originated in the US, where it takes place the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally kick-starting the Christmas shopping period.
In the US, some retailers started offering deals early and several stores have turned the event into a weekend of discounting. The National Retail Federation, based in Washington, estimates that about 135.8 million Americans will shop during the four-day holiday compared with 133.7 million last year.
The US shopping bonanza has spread, not only to the UK and other parts of Europe, but also countries such as Brazil and India. It is still dwarfed by China's Singles Day - the world's biggest online shopping event. On that day earlier this month, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba reported sales worth 91.2bn yuan ($14.3bn; £9.4bn), a 60% increase from last year.
3 Li-Fi, 100 times faster than Wi-Fi (Christian Science Monitor/Khaleej Times) When the first version of the Wi-Fi protocol was released in 1997, it boasted wireless speeds of up to 2 megabits per second. Now, there's Li-Fi, a potential successor to Wi-Fi that's capable of transmitting data at 1 gigabit per second, about 100 times faster than today's average home wireless connection and 500 times faster than that first incarnation of Wi-Fi.
Li-Fi uses LED bulbs switching on and off billions of times per second to transmit strings of data. Think of the way a Morse code operator would tap out a message, then speed up the process by several orders of magnitude.
Though the communication takes place in the visible spectrum, meaning humans can see the light that's being emitted, the flickering happens far too fast for our eyes to notice it. In other words, to humans, a Li-Fi light bulb appears like any other, but actually transmits lightning-fast Internet at the same time.
Velmenni, an Estonian tech company that has installed Li-Fi in its offices, says that the technology has achieved speeds of up to 224 gigabits per second in the lab and 1 gigabit per second in real life, where transmissions must contend with other factors such as movement and interference from other light sources.
There's a catch, though: Because light can't pass through walls or other obstacles, a Li-Fi access point can cover only a single room. That means multiple smart LEDs will be needed to cover an apartment or a house with speedy wireless coverage. But on the other hand, wireless interference will be greatly reduced.
Li-Fi might also be more secure than Wi-Fi. Because the wireless signal doesn't spill outside rooms or buildings, it's much harder for an intruder to set up nearby and gain access to the network.
Li-Fi was invented by Harald Haas from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, back in 2011, when he demonstrated for the first time that by flickering the light from a single LED, he could transmit far more data than a cellular tower. Think back to that lab-based record of 224 gigabits per second - that's 18 movies of 1.5 GB each being downloaded every single second.
Li-Fi will probably not completely replace Wi-Fi in the coming decades, the two technologies could be used together to achieve more efficient and secure networks. The technology is still in its infancy today, but within the next few years, flickering LEDs could let us transfer gigabytes in the blink of an eye.