New Technology

What new technology does is create new opportunities

Category: Technology (Page 1 of 4)

A Simple Plan: Services

IDENTIFYING THE BEST WEB DESIGN COMPANY. Each day the business world in becoming competitive thus need to reach out to many potential clients all over the world. How can you achieve this? The best way to do this is to create a website where your customers can access your products from wherever they are. You will have to select a competent web designer for this work and here are a few ways of picking on such a person. Seek help from acquaintances – Discuss with friends or similar organizations who have worked with a web designer previously. Besides having the contacts of the net developers, inquire how it feels to work with that individual or company. Establish what occurred during the design procedure and what they think about the sites. Search for more information – Do your investigation for contact information. Take advantage of the internet or your phonebook to obtain the names and contact details of website design firms in your area. Then contact each company and ask for a quotation.
Getting Down To Basics with Services
Look through the portfolio of the web design company you are choosing – Check whether the models that the company makes have a professional touch, clean and straightforward to use.
Practical and Helpful Tips: Services
Consider the period for which the web design company has been in practice – How long has the company or individual been operational? How many clients have they served in that period? Find out if the design company is up to date with modern and emerging trends in web marketing – Useful, resourceful websites attract a significant amount of traffic with search engine optimization and simplicity and using social media marketing. The most active websites put a lot of emphasis on SEO and simplicity. Get to know whether the web designer has knowledge in these areas. You must consider the best marketing strategies for your website to be a success. Consider the web designer or website design company suggested transformation time – Does it complement the routine of your business’s operations? Check the web design firm terms of services and ownership documents – Determine whether the conditions are favorable for you and if you are comfortable working with the company. View also the rights of ownership regarding who owns the final output and in what sizes. These terms should be clear from the beginning, or else you risk being tricked and getting a raw deal at the end. Get to know if the web design company offers after sales services – Is the web designer able to carry out maintenance services after web development or does he strictly of web design only? Consider communication with your web designer – Can you communicate effectively with your web designer? You should be able to speak to your web designer without difficulties. It should be easy for you to present your problems to the designer for a solution. Your web designer should be responsive and quick to take action. The two of you should do what will please clients.

Intel Xeon E7-4800/8800 V3 Launched: Bigger, Faster, And Now With AVX2 + TSX

Intel announced its new Xeon E7-4800 V3 and E7-8800 V3 line-up. Traditionally, these are the x86 chips Intel positions to go after the lower end of the IBM Power and Oracle (Sun) SPARC architectures. These V3 chips scale from 2-way designs up to 8-way designs and include extra RAS (reliability, availability and scalability) features to serve mission-critical applications.

The new V3 release is socket-compatible with the V2 parts for ease of integration with existing DDR3 designs, but they can also utilize DDR4 in newer platforms. What we are essentially seeing is an upgrade from the Ivy Bridge-EX architecture to the new Haswell-EX architecture, bringing 20 percent more cores and cache, as well as faster memory. The new Haswell-EX family scales to 18 cores and 45 MB of last level cache and can handle up to 6 TB of RAM.

Intel provides a market share view against IBM and Sun in terms of units sold, and the trend shows clear growth. What it does not do is note that the average selling price for the IBM and Sun machines are much higher than Intel platforms.

Microsoft targets mobile phone unit as 7,800 more jobs go

Microsoft is shedding another 7,800 jobs as it reorganises its Nokia mobile phone unit.

The move represents a massive shift in strategy for Microsoft since it purchased Nokia’s mobile phone business for €5.44bn ($7.5bn; £4.5bn) last year.

Microsoft axed 18,000 jobs from the unit last July – the deepest cuts in the company’s history.

The technology giant will also write down the value of the Nokia deal by $7.6bn.

Microsoft currently has about 118,000 employees worldwide. A statement from the government in Finland, were Nokia is based, said the job losses would include some 2,300 posts in the country.

The statement said the government was “disappointed with Microsoft’s decision” and called a special ministerial meeting to consider assistance for those affected. “Loss of so many jobs is very sad for the whole society and for individuals affected,” it said.

Microsoft said in a statement that it would “restructure the company’s phone hardware business to better focus and align resources”.

Although still strong in the software market for personal computers, the company is faces strong competition in the fight to establish its mobile handset operation. This market is dominated by devices powered by Google’s Android system or Apple’s iOS.

A survey by research firm IDC said Microsoft’s Windows was expected to capture just 3.2% of the global smartphone market this year.


In a memo to staff, the company’s chief executive Satya Nadella said: “I am committed to our first-party devices including phones. However, we need to focus our phone efforts in the near term while driving reinvention.

“We are moving from a strategy to grow a standalone phone business to a strategy to grow and create a vibrant Windows ecosystem that includes our first-party device family.”

Microsoft is due to start rolling out Windows 10 later this month, introducing a new operating system that can be used to power not only personal computers but a range of mobile devices.

Last month, Microsoft announced a shakeup of top management including the departure of Stephen Elop, the former Nokia chief who joined the US tech company as part of the acquisition

Analysis: Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC technology correspondent

Soon after the former Microsoft executive Stephen Elop became chief executive of Nokia, he wrote a memo to staff warning that the ailing company and its Symbian operating system was on a burning platform.

His solution was to jump on to another platform, the Windows Phone operating system, and eventually to sell the whole business to Microsoft. The alliance of the Windows Phone software with the Nokia hardware was supposed to create a powerful third force in the smartphone market, providing consumers with an attractive alternative to Android and Apple phones.

But now this platform too is burning, and Microsoft’s $7.3bn investment in Nokia along with its smartphone has gone up in flames. Stephen Elop has already left and now nearly 8,000 employees, many of them former Nokia staff, will follow him out of the business.

Microsoft says it will now change direction, creating an “ecosystem” which will see Windows phones built by other manufacturers alongside its own handsets.

The company which dominated the desktop computer era has never been a major force in mobile computing. Microsoft describes itself as “the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world” – but that platform still needs some work.

Tiny, blurry pictures find the limits of computer image recognition

Computers have started to get really good at visual recognition. They can sometimes rival humans at recognizing the objects in a series of images. But does the similar end result mean that computers are mimicking the human visual system? Answering that question would indicate if there are still some areas where computer systems can’t keep up with humans.

So, a new PNAS paper takes a look at just how different computer and human visual systems are.

The difference really boils down to the flexibility that human brains have and computers don’t. It’s much the same problem that speech recognition system face: humans can figure out that a mangled word “meant” something recognizable while a computer can’t. Likewise with images: humans can piece together what a blurry image might depict based on small clues in the picture, where a computer would be at a loss

The authors of the PNAS paper used a set of blurry, tricky images to pinpoint the differences between computer vision models and the human brain. They used pictures called “minimal recognizable configurations” (MIRCs) that were either so small or so low-resolution that any further reduction would prevent a person from being able to recognize them.

They created this set of images by presenting a series of gradually smaller and lower-resolution pictures to thousands of people on Amazon Mechanical Turk, identifying the last level at which images could be recognized. This last recognizable level was identified as an MIRC; anything at a lower, unrecognizable level was called a sub-MIRC.

The first and most obvious comparison is whether humans and computers have similar levels of recognition of MIRCs and sub-MIRCs. To test this, the researchers identified all the MIRCs that humans could identify correctly more than 65 percent of the time and a group of sub-MIRCs identified correctly less than 20 percent of the time. The computer models didn’t perform very well on these images. They could accurately classify only around seven percent of the MIRCs and two percent of the sub-MIRCs. That’s a win for the humans.

There was also a dramatic difference in the way that computers started failing. For people, the recognition of MIRCs suddenly fell off a cliff at a particular level. The last recognizable image might be identified correctly by 93 percent of people; after a tiny change, the sub-MIRC could be identified by only three percent.

Computers didn’t show this sharp drop-off. “None of the models came close to replicating the large drop shown in human recognition,” the authors write.

The computer models did better after they were trained specifically on the MIRCs, but their accuracy was still low compared to human performance. The reason for this, the authors suggest, is that computers can’t pick out the individual components of the image whereas humans can. For instance, in a blurry picture of just the head and wings of an eagle, people could point to the smudges that represented the eyes, beak, wing, etc. This kind of interpretation is “beyond the capacities of current neural network models,” the authors write.

Overall, this means that computers can do really well at image recognition, but the processes they’re relying on to do so aren’t a very close approximation of how humans would handle the same task. They don’t use the individual components in an image to work out what it means, and so they aren’t as good as we are at figuring out an image based on minimal information.

Ultimately, we may need to figure out what’s going on in our own brains in order to get our computer models working better. It’s possible that humans first figure out what an image might be and then look for individual features that confirm or contradict this initial idea. If this is the case, then it’s clear that current computer models work very differently.

How To Be Safe With Neodymium Magnets

There are a lot of things you need to keep in mind when using neodymium magnets. These magnets are the most popular kind of rare earth magnets made from an alloy of neodymium, boron and Iron. They are very strong magnets and find a variety of uses in various fields.

When you buy these magnets, there are several things you need to keep in mind when it comes to the safety of operating these magnets. Since these magnets are powerful, they are also very dangerous when handled by someone who does not know what he or she is doing. Here are a few things to keep in mind with regards to safety.

Before you read up on safety, it would be better to find out all you can about neodymium magnets at

Swallowing the magnets

Magnets can be very dangerous and should not be treated as toys. Children should not be allowed to play with them. Make sure that these magnets are kept away from children and also pets as they are a swallowing hazard and can get stuck in the intestine. This has some painful consequences.

Conduction of electricity

Magnets are known for conducting electricity. This is something that all engineers and scientists know, but might not be common knowledge for someone who has not read on the subject. Do not put the magnet in contact with an electrical socket as it can lead to a large, potentially fatal surge in electricity.

Make sure your magnets and your electrical sockets are as far away from each other as possible.

Metal objects

These magnets can attract metal objects such as knives and scissors. So, before working on the magnets, clear your work area of any dangerous metal objects.

The larger the magnet, the more powerful it is. Neodymium magnets are made of compressed powder, and so they tend to get into fingernails where they can be very harmful. This problem can cause a lot of damage to the body in the form of contusions or bruises by getting in between the fingernails and so on.


Sometimes, mishandling the magnets might lead to bone fractures. So make sure to handle these large magnets with care.

Pacemaker operation

Neodymium magnets interfere with the functioning of pacemakers, which are used to regulate the heart and are absolutely essential to people with cardiac problems.  Pacemakers when brought close to these magnets often go into test mode. This might cause them to stop working and you know that if pacemakers stop working, then it can have some really fatal consequences.

You should also make sure that any defibrillators are not present near the magnets because they often cause interference and this leads them to stop working. Keep all electrical items away from the magnets.

Navigation devices

Strong magnets often create magnetic fields that can interfere with navigational devices in your car or even on an airplane.

The one thing you need to make sure of is the fact that a magnet is not a toy. You should respect that fact and handle the magnet with care. Any form of negligence can lead to a lot of damage and harm being caused. So keep these things in mind before you handle any magnets.

How Portable Power Helps Planes Take off More Efficiently

When you’re settling into your seat at the airport, you’ll notice some interesting mechanical sounds coming from outside the plane. If you’re afraid of flying, this mystery can cause a great deal of anxiety. It’s a good thing there’s nothing to worry about pre-flight checks. In fact, you want everything to go smoothly during this time frame. One of the methods airports use to keep planes ready to go is by supplying portable power supplies that literally jump start the plane on the runway.

According to Start Pac, that’s the mechanical sound you hear in many cases.

Standard airplane battery packs function like a car, so the plane needs to be moving in order for the pack to charge. Unlike a car, a plane’s battery must power a great deal of electronics so passengers can sit comfortably prior to takeoff. These systems power everything from air conditioning to in-flight movies.

In order for the plane to function properly, it needs a jump start from a portable battery pack. This will also give the turbine engines a boost, which enables the plane engines to turn over and the plan to function properly.

Airports service many planes in a single day, so portability is key. There are power packs embedded into the concrete, but many commercial airports will taxi a portable unit to the runway and charge the plane through that method. Portable power can also recharge quickly, so multiple units can be used for a boost while others are charging for the next shift.

New York Considers Mandating Back Doors Into Phones

With a bill reintroduced last week, a New York Assemblyman wants to make it easy for the government to get inside smartphones. It’s a proposal that would mandate smartphone manufacturers be able to unlock the phones they make. The bill comes from Assemblyman Matthew Titone, of Staten Island’s North Shore, and was first introduced last summer. It’s sat in the Consumer Affairs and Protection committee since, so it’s still a long way from becoming law. A cryptographic back door would be bad for cryptography, privacy, and consumers.

The “back door” metaphor isn’t too far from the truth, so let’s flesh it out for a minute. In a memo sent out in support of the bill this week, the bill’s author does that for us. He describes a phone that cannot be unlocked except by the owner like this:

It is as if the police get a search warrant for a safe deposit box at a bank because they have reason to believe that the safe deposit box has evidence of a crime – but they cannot open the box because the bank has thrown away its own key. Indeed, this situation is even worse because whereas a safe deposit box can, ultimately, be opened by force, a passcode-protected smartphone is virtually impregnable, unless the companies maintain the ability to open the phones that it manufactures.

Except, and I think this is the crucial point, if there’s a mandated back door, then it’s not a safe that the government can access, it’s a safe anyone can access. As security researcher Bruce Schneier wrote when Apple introduced its strong encryption:

You can’t build a backdoor that only the good guys can walk through. Encryption protects against cybercriminals, industrial competitors, the Chinese secret police and the FBI. You’re either vulnerable to eavesdropping by any of them, or you’re secure from eavesdropping from all of them.

Under the New York bill, companies that don’t provide or build in these back doors could face huge legal penalties. The Independent describes it:

The proposed law would also make phone manufacturers pay a fine of $2,500 (£1,736) for every phone they sell that cannot be unlocked.

This would result in fines reaching into the tens of millions for companies like Apple, whose devices are designed to have no back door, and are only unlockable by their owner.

Crowdsourcing iPhone App Lets Sighted People Lend Their Eyes to the Blind

With VizWiz, the blind can take a picture, ask a question, and get an answer back from a real person in seconds.

What’s the News: With the web as their eyes, the blind will able to read menus, identify canned foods, and tell whether that park has any free benches without having to walk over. That’s the vision of a team of computer scientists behind an iPhone app called VizWiz, which lets people take a photo of whatever’s perplexing them, record a question like “What denomination is this bill?” and send it off to real people online who’ll respond in a matter of seconds with “That’s a 20.”

How the Heck:

  • Blind people have workarounds for the kinds of tasks the sighted use their eyes for—folding dollar bills in certain shapes, keeping the cans of tomatoes separate from the cans of beans, and so on—but these measures often require the input of a sighted person at some point, and they’re not very efficient. An app like this would give the blind more independence.
  • Many simple tasks, like reading an address off a letter, are phenomenally difficult for computer intelligences. So the scientists are working with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, a system that employs people around the world to do odd jobs computers can’t, like choosing the best picture for a product website or reading signs in photographs.
  • Then, to solve the problem of speed, the team wrote a program called quikTurkit that works to recruit people even before the question is sent, so there’s always someone on hand to answer. In the latest version of VizWiz, the average turnaround time on a question was 27 seconds. Not bad.

The Future Holds: VizWiz, which is being tested by teams of blind volunteers, hasn’t left the lab yet. But the volunteers are fans: it would be “very useful,” one said (via New Scientist), “because I get so frustrated when I need sighted help and no one is there.” Though an in-depth study [pdf] on VizWiz was released last year, there’s no word yet from the scientists on when this will hit the market. Soon, one hopes.

The App That Lets Users Lend Their Eyes, And Blind People See Things In A New Way

It’s always nice when you can lend a hand to someone in need, but this new app takes that idea to another level: Thanks to Be My Eyes, you’ll now be able to actually lend your eyes to a visually impaired person.

The new iOS app provides a video stream, similar to Apple’s FaceTime video calling, that connects someone visually impaired with someone able to see and willing to help out. The app’s inventor, Hans Jørgen Wiberg, was inspired by FaceTime and how some of his blind friends were using it for visual help.

“With FaceTime, you can’t call a random volunteer,” says Wiberg. “That’s where I came up with the idea of making this group of volunteers who can easily answer a question whenever they have time and if not, someone else will step in.”

The examples the company shows in its product video include visually impaired users getting help with things like reading an expiration date, figuring out what a photograph looks like, and reading signs in an unfamiliar location. The app is more about helping with particularly difficult moments, rather than long periods of assistance.

Opening the app, you’re prompted to select if you are sighted or if you need help (assuming you have accessibility features turned on), and then sign up for an account. If you sign up as a helper, that’s it, you wait until you get a notification to be someone’s eyes. You can share that you’re using the app across social media to gain points in the app, which you also gain for successfully helping someone. The points are used to create a rating system for determining the best helpers. If you need help seeing you’ll be taken to a screen that says “connect to the first helper available.” The screen automatically enables voiceover (reading text on the screen) from this point on as well.

You wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that it’s a little incompatible that someone who can’t see—or has trouble with their vision—would be using a touch-screen mobile phone to begin with. That’s not the case at all; Apple has been particularly aggressive with its accessibility features. “From what we find, a clear majority of blind smartphone users are on iPhone—in Europe almost exclusively,” says cofounder Thelle Kristensen. “IOS has had accessibility functions for the blind since iOS 3 that came with iPhone 3GS in 2009 and has since gotten continuously better.”

Be My Eyes is currently only available for iOS, but Kristensen hopes to add Android in the future through grant funding. The nonprofit also has a GitHub repository for developers interested in speeding the process along for another mobile operating system like Android or Windows Phone.

Of course, beyond the platform issues one of the main challenges a service like this faces is having someone available to help when they’re needed. “We do not have a clear picture of how many helpers are needed, but our estimate is that if we have two helpers per blind person we should be good,” explains Wiberg. “And right now it is more like 10 to 1.”

Within 10 hours of the app’s launch, the service already had about 4,000 helpers and about 500 visually impaired people signed up. In the small-scale testing done prior to launch there weren’t any problems reaching helpers when they were needed. Wiberg is visually impaired himself and came up with the idea for the app when he was a consultant in the Danish blind community. He first gave a TEDx talk about Be My Eyes back in September of 2013.

Be My Eyes is just one of the ways mobile devices are helping assist those in need. Apple, for one, touts its accessibility features, not only for vision, but also for hearing, physical and motor skills, and learning and literacy. And there are other third-party developers building things like a Braille keyboard or light sensor. The Light Detector app, for instance, uses the phone’s camera to turn natural or artificial light into sound so someone knows if an area is dark or light.

For now, Wiberg does not have plans to evolve Be My Eyes to products like Google Glass, but he hasn’t written off the idea entirely: “We would love to try it out,” he says.

Unlocking Smartphones: PINs, Patterns or Fingerprints?

Losing your smartphone can result in a catastrophic security breach. After all, these devices are potential treasure troves of confidential corporate and personal information waiting to be exploited by anyone who comes across them.

Because of this a mobile device security industry has sprung up over the last few years, offering everything from simple data encryption for mobile apps to complex mobile device management systems.

But the most basic level of security is provided by the devices themselves. Devices lock themselves if they are idle for a few minutes. So if a thief, a hacker or even a foreign government agent wants to access the data on a phone, in most cases he must unlock it first.

This begs a simple question: What’s the best unlock mechanism to choose – and in this context “the best” means one that provides the most appropriate balance of security and convenience.

Perils of the PIN

A common solution used by iOS devices is to require a simple four digit PIN. On the face of it such a PIN should provide an adequate level of security because there are 10,000 possibilities, and mobile operating systems can be set to erase all data on the device after 10 failed PIN entries. So there’s only a one in a thousand chance, or a probability of 0.001, that anyone could access the device by guessing a correct PIN before the data is erased.

That’s not quite the whole story, however. Many people choose predictable PINs like 1212 or ones that make patterns on the keypad, like 2580 (straight down the middle of the keypad) or 1739 (top left, bottom left, top right, bottom right) or 5684 (which spells LOVE).

“That means that the chance of guessing a PIN is more like one in 10, because people tend to choose such predictable PINs,” said Ben Schlabs, an expert at German security collective Security Research Labs.

There’s another reason that a four digit PIN is undesirable, even if you choose a PIN that is not an easily guessed one. Four digit PINs are highly susceptible to shoulder surfing, said Schlabs; someone looking over your shoulder or sitting next to you can easily see the digits you enter when you unlock you phone.

Not only that, but many people choose the same four digit PIN for their phone, ATM card and for other uses such as disarming their security alarm. That means that anyone shoulder surfing a phone PIN could also possibly access your bank account and even your home, Schlabs said.

Most mobile operating systems allow you to choose to unlock your phone by entering a longer password rather than a four digit PIN. These are harder to shoulder surf (because they are longer and more complex) and much harder to guess – as long as you avoid obvious ones – because there are many more possibilities.

That’s important, and here’s why. A foreign government agency that gets access to your phone may have the technical ability and resources to bypass the device’s operating system. That means it can make unlimited attempts to guess your PIN without the data being erased after 10 failed attempts. But it would be much harder to “brute force” a password that was six characters compared to one that was four digits, because of hardware limitations on the rate at which you can make guesses.

“With the hardware limits of one guess every five seconds it would take 50,000 seconds (about 13 hours) to brute force a four digit PIN, compared to a hundred times that (about two months) to brute force a six digit one,” Schlabs said.

Android’s Unlock Patterns

Android phones offer the option to use unlock patterns – tracing a pattern on a grid of nine points or nodes – rather than using a PIN or password to unlock. But using an unlock pattern is not a good idea in terms of security.

Marte Løge, a researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, has shown that many users employ the same predictable patterns – analogous to PIN users choosing 1234 or 5280. She recently gave a presentation entitled “Tell Me Who You Are, and I Will Tell You Your Lock Pattern” at the PasswordsCon conference in Las Vegas.

Her research found that 44 percent of all patterns start in the top left, and most then move to the bottom right. Many people also trace out a letter, often the initial letter of their name.

Unlock patterns are also easy for shoulder surfers to see, but Løge found that patterns that pass over the same node twice or which connect more than four nodes make life significantly more difficult for shoulder surfers. Turning off the “make pattern visible” option in Android, which shows a line connecting the nodes as they are traced, also helps to confound shoulder surfers.

But Schlabs believes unlock patterns should be avoided altogether. “They are really begging for people to shoulder surf them, and no one involved with IT security would use them” he said, adding that in many cases it is possible to work out the unlock pattern on a phone by looking for a tell-tale smear pattern on the screen left after the pattern has been traced numerous times.

Malware and Fingerprints

The best way to avoid the shoulder surfing problem is to avoid using PINs, passwords and unlock patterns. This can be done easily on an iOS or Android device with a fingerprint reader, by using fingerprint recognition to unlock the device.

But there are problems with fingerprint readers that shouldn’t be overlooked. Security Research Laboratories has been at the forefront of showing how these can be spoofed – sometimes by lifting a latent fingerprint from the touchscreen and using that to make a false finger. For many people this is more of a theoretical than a practical concern, because few thieves or people finding your device will have the knowledge or desire to try fingerprint spoofing.

A more realistic concern is posed by malware. In August a team of researchers from security firm FireEye revealed at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas how stored fingerprints can be remotely harvested from some Android devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One Max.

Most Android device makers don’t make use of Android’s Trust Zone to protect biometric data like fingerprints, and the HTC One Max actually stores fingerprints as unencrypted images that unprivileged processes or applications can read and download from the phone, the researchers found.

This means that an attacker could also conceivably upload an image of their own fingerprint using malware to gain access to a phone.

Fingerprint readers are a special hazard for people traveling internationally, warned Schlabs. Many countries, including the U.S., take high resolution fingerprint scans of foreigners as they cross the border. “They can take a picture that is at least as high resolution as the picture taken on an iPhone, for example, and from that they can make a spoof fingerprint,” he said.

He has this advice for travelers. “If you are an average citizen that never leaves the country and are not a target of foreign agencies, then for most people a fingerprint reader offers good security and convenience. But if you are someone who is crossing border controls then there is no good reason to use the fingerprint reader on your phone.”

Instead he recommends using a good old fashioned lockscreen password or PIN – with the provisos that it is six or more characters, is not an obvious one and, if it is a PIN, doesn’t spell out a simple word on a phone keypad.

Paul Rubens has been covering enterprise technology for over 20 years. In that time he has written for leading UK and international publications including The Economist, The Times, Financial Times, the BBC, Computing and ServerWatch.

Youngsters ‘addicted to mobile phones’

The addiction of children to their mobile phones could threaten the very fabric of society, a study suggests.

Many teenagers are fanatical about being always available and are extremely uneasy if unable to contact their friends countless times each day.

If the trend continues, young people will soon be incapable of forming and maintaining relationships without the help of a mobile, the study by a leading sociologist concludes.

One British child in four between the ages of five and 16 now has a mobile phone.

As well as making calls, youngsters are using their handsets to send millions of text messages to friends each day.

The study’s author, Dr Hisao Ishii, said: ‘Teenagers can be seen taking advantage of every spare minute to touch base with their friends.

‘It is not the content of the communication but the act of staying in touch that matters.’

And he warned: ‘Genuine conversation will be driven out by superficial communication, in which the act of contacting one another is all that matters, leading to a deterioration in the quality of relationships. Indeed, the very fabric of society may be threatened.’

Although Dr Ishii’s research was based on children in Japan, British experts confirmed that the same trends apply in the UK.

Child psychologist Dr David Lewis said: ‘The mobile phone, like the Furby or the Rubik’s Cube before it, has developed into a playground craze in this country.

‘Children hate to feel as if they are not in the “in group”, and think that without a phone they will be left out.

‘It is like an electronic tribal drum. Children use it to keep up to date with a wide group of acquaintances, so that when they meet up they know the latest news and gossip.’

Dr Lewis endorsed the warning that, in conjunction with home computers and video games, the mobile is having a detrimental effect on children’s social skills.

‘The mobile now often substitutes for physical play,’ he explained.

‘To develop proper friendships you have to invest time with people, doing things together.

‘Speaking on the phone and sending lots of text messages will give children many more acquaintances but fewer friends. They are replacing quality with quantity.’

Sociologists have also warned that the popularity of e-mailing, text messaging and playing games on mobile phones is affecting other important activities such as recreational reading and studying.

A third of those aged between 16 and 20 prefer text messaging to all other means of written communication, according to a survey last year by Mori for Vodafone.

Handset manufacturers claim, however, that they are not out to market to the under-16s.

A Government report last year highlighted the increased risk to children under 16 using mobile handsets and a circular sent to schools suggests that children below this age should be allowed to make calls only in emergencies.

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