Apple and UnionPay Closing in on Apple Pay Agreement for China

Apple and China UnionPay have reportedly reached a deal to bring Apple’s NFC payment service, Apple Pay, to the country. The preliminary agreement between the two companies would see Apple introduce Apple Pay through UnionPay’s point-of-sales network, according to „people familiar with the matter“ who spoke with Bloomberg.

Details of the agreement are yet to be finalized, pending feedback from banks that issue cards, said the people, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. Shanghai-based UnionPay, the nation’s largest payment and clearing network, aims to introduce Apple Pay as soon as next year, one of the people said.

The sources point to Apple Pay assisting in fending off UnionPay’s closest rivals in the Chinese mobile payments market, including Alibaba Group and Tencent. Terms of the deal would bring Apple Pay to more than 5 million NFC-enabled point-of-sale machines in China.

Bloomberg‘s sources still state that the two companies have yet to sign agreements on the deal with participating banks within the country, suggesting local banks’ fear high fee charges tied with the service and a low adoption rate. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple has already reached deals with China’s big four state-run banks and plans to launch Apple Pay in February 2016.

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Apple and UnionPay Closing in on Apple Pay Agreement for China

Apple Pay may arrive in China by February

Tim Cook has described his desire to bring Apple Pay to China as “top of the list” in terms of priorities — and now it seems like he may finally be on the verge of hitting his goal. According to a new report, it is hoped that Apple Pay will launch in China by early February, after Apple […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)


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Apple Pay may arrive in China by February

Lawsuit by Apple Retail Employees Over Off-the-Clock Bag Searches Dismissed

U.S. District Judge William Alsup today dismissed a lawsuit against Apple that had been brought by several retail employees over Apple’s policy of conducting required security searches of personal bags without compensation after workers had clocked out for meal breaks or at the end of their shifts, reports Bloomberg. The class action lawsuit covered thousands of employees at Apple’s California retail stores.

(Photo via Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke)

The ruling by a San Francisco federal judge Saturday releases the company from having to compensate as many [as] 12,400 former and current employees from 52 stores throughout the state a few dollars a day for time spent over a six-year period having their bags and Apple devices searched at meal breaks and after their shifts. A law professor who reviewed filings in the case estimated Apple could have been be on the hook for as much as $60 million, plus penalties.

In his ruling, Alsup noted that employees could have avoided the searches, as some employees did, by not bringing personal bags to work. The lawsuit had been restricted to California as the U.S. Supreme Court had previously ruled workers are not entitled to compensation for time spent in post-shift bag searches under federal law.

An attorney for the plaintiffs in the case reports they are weighing their potential next steps, which could include an appeal of Alsup’s ruling.

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Lawsuit by Apple Retail Employees Over Off-the-Clock Bag Searches Dismissed

Apple Acquires Speech Technology Startup VocalIQ

Apple has purchased VocalIQ, a startup located in the United Kingdom that has developed a natural language API to allow computers and people to have a more natural dialogue, reports Financial Times. According to VocalIQ’s website, the company has developed a self-learning dialogue API built on 10 years of natural language research, belief tracking, decision making, and message generation.

It’s not always clear how Apple uses the technology from companies that it purchases, but with this acquisition, it’s likely Apple will use the API to improve its voice-based personal assistant, Siri. Financial Times also believes Apple could use the technology for its upcoming car project, as VocalIQ specialized in in-car applications among other things.

While VocalIQ’s speech processing and machine learning technology could be incorporated into devices from wearables to the connected home, the company was particularly focused on in-car applications. This included a collaboration with General Motors.

In a blog earlier this year, VocalIQ described how a „conversational voice-dialog system“ in a car’s navigation system could prevent drivers from becoming distracted by looking at screens. Its „self- learning“ technology allows „real conversation between human and the internet of things“, VocalIQ wrote.

VocalIQ has criticized Siri in a past blog post, calling the virtual assistant a „toy“ unable to understand context. The difference between VocalIQ’s system and traditional speech-recognition services like Siri and Cortana is its ability to learn.

The reason for this state of affairs is that while Apple, Google and the some others have mastered how the use machine learning for speech-recognition, they are still stuck with medieval approach when it comes of conversational voice dialog. They are still using pre-programmed flow-chart based response that don’t learn.

The consumer demand for a self-learning multi-domain conversational voice system where consumers can freely talk about movies, restaurants, music, hotel bookings and the meaning of life, is huge and undeniable. The first one to meet that demand will rule the smartphone and wearables market for the next decade.

Apple confirmed its purchase of VocalIQ with its usual statement: „Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.“



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Apple Acquires Speech Technology Startup VocalIQ