Alexa for Business; Automation vs Jobs; iPhone Batteries Getting Apple Power Management; Smart Wearables Starting to Take Off

Amazon is apparently gearing up to release a version of Alexa for business. More could be out later today at the Amazon Web Services re:Invent meetings. A CNBC report picked up by Geekwire.com says the release would focus on features and skills for workers and businesses. One tricky issue still being navigated is how to authenticate who is speaking so access can be granted based on their permissions.

On a related topic, there’s a new report out that sees up to 375 million workers displaced by AI, robots, or some other form of automation by 2030! The report was produced by the McKinsey Global Institute, which notes that displaced doesn’t mean REplaced. Some will be, but many will add new job skills…others will need to switch occupations. Full employment will be more difficult to attain. The report says what it calls ‘predictable physical work,’ including dish washing, food preparation, and protective services, will take the biggest hit. Demand will increase in India and Mexico, but the US might see 31% less jobs!

Apple is busily working on its own power management chips for iPhone batteries. According to macrumors.com, they could be out in phones in 2 years, and will give users better battery life. Cupertino could replace half the main power management chips in iPhones as soon as next year, but it might be 2019 before they are being built into all Apple mobile devices.

After a very slow start, smart wearables are beginning to take off. Cnet.com reports that global shipments of wearables hit 26.3 million devices in the third quarter of this year, up 7.3%. Most of the growth is in smart wearables…those that can run third party apps. In fact, basic wearables actually declined, but smart watches like the Apple Watch and Android Wear increased by 60%. Fitbit and Xiaomi tied for 1st place in the market, with the Apple Watch third.

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Phones That Could Charge in Minutes; Apple Leasing Proving Grounds for Self-Driving Cars; Renewable Energy Takes Huge Price Drop

Samsung has developed battery tech that could allow for faster battery charging than ever. Businessinsider.com reports that with the advanced tech, batteries could fast charge in 12 minutes instead of an hour for present fast charging. They did it using graphene instead of copper. The tech could be used in car batteries as well as smart devices. Samsung says they have found a way to mass produce the batteries at an affordable price, but no word on when they might become available.

It appears that Apple has leased a former Chrysler proving grounds in Arizona to test self-driving cars. According to 9to5mac.com, the land is in Wittmann, AZ. Chrysler has a newer facility in Yucca. The word was that the old facility was being sold to home builders, but now it looks like Apple is leasing the area, with has 3000 acres of fenced land, and 5000 total acres…including a city traffic course.

The march to renewable energy doesn’t look like it will be slowing soon. A story from thinkprogress.org found that steadily improving tech has dropped the prices of solar and wind power by 25% in just this year! That’s on top of an 80% reduction the past 10 years, which makes building renewable sources cheaper now than running old coal and nuclear plants.


Apple Folding Phone Patent; SodaStream Water into Wine; Paid Comcast Fast Lane; SoftBank Uber Share Offer

While Samsung has teased about a folding phone, and we just recently reported that they may actually put one out in a couple years, now Apple may be eyeing something similar. Thenextweb.com reports that Apple has applied fora patent on a foldable electronic device with a flexible display. Granted, ‘electronic device’ could also mean a laptop, tablet, or even watch, but considering Samsung’s rumblings, a phone is a good bet. As with Samsung, it could be in a couple years or even not at all…we’ll just have to stay tuned.

Before you start typing in the web address to buy one, this next gadget is reportedly only available in Germany and only for a limited time. That said, SodaStream has announced ‘Sparkling Gold’ drink mix. According to theverge.com, German users will be able to turn water into wine…basically sparkling Riesling. It’s designed to be 10% alcohol by volume at the 1 to 5 recommended ratio…but you know some people will double up! SodaStream says an independent test found that three quarters of the participants found it comparable to real French Champagnes like Moet and Chardon. One bottle can make 12 glasses of wine…again it will only be on the German SodaStream online shop…awwww!

Comcast has promised for years that they wouldn’t charge for fast lanes, or throttle or block internet content. With the FCC about to vote to drop net neutrality, the company has been running Twitter ads saying they won’t block or throttle content…but they have quietly dropped their promise about not charging extra for fast lanes. Arstechnica.com says with then NBCUniversal purchase in 2011, the company agreed to limit paid prioritization…but that condition expires in September 2018.

SoftBank and a group of investors are looking to buy a good-sized chunk of Uber…and do it for 30% less than the company presently values itself. According to bloomberg.com, if the deal flies, they would have at least 14% of Uber. Besides buying the stock for 6 billion and letting shareholders cash out, SoftBank would inject a billion of fresh cash into the ride hailing service. The tender offer is expected to start today, and the process could take some 20 business days to complete.


New Samsung & LG Hero Phones Out in January; Amazon Jumps into VR & AR, Lyft Gets Self-Driving Permit

We were expecting Samsung to show off the new Galaxy S9 in January. Now, it looks like it will be launched at CES 2018, and according to bgr.com, LG will also show its latest and greatest, the G7. Last year, the LG G6 was overshadowed by Apple and Samsung, and with the runaway success of the iPhone X and a strong Samsung Galaxy S9, they will need the new G7 to have some ‘wow’ factor. The G7 is rumored to have and OLED display, like the iPhone X and Galaxy S9, but does add its own wrinkle…the fingerprint sensor will be under the screen, not on the back like the S9’s. For those leery of the iPhone X’s facial recognition scheme, this might be a real draw.

Google, Apple, and Microsoft are busily working on VR and AR products, so it was only a matter of time. Geekwire.com reports that Amazon is jumping in with its new ‘Sumerian’ service for Amazon Web Services. Sumerian will allow creation of VR, AR, and 3D scenes for Oculus, Vive, iOS, and Android. Sumerian has a web based editor for creating interactive 3D scenes, and a library of objects and templates. It launches in preview today on all but Android, which Amazon says is coming soon.

Another company has a permit to test self-driving cars in California, and this one is a biggie. Cnet.com says Lyft was granted a permit, and now brings to 45 the number of companies testing or getting ready to roll driverless cars on public roads. They join VW, General Motors, Tesla, Google’s Waymo, Uber, and Apple. You’ll be able to spot them by the apparatus on top, but don’t expect to see no one in the driver’s seat…all the permits require a driver on board, just in case.


Samsung Making Galaxy X; Apple HomePod Started as Side Project; Keystroke Logging and Location Tracking-Paranoid yet?

Samsung has been at work on a Galaxy X, and surprisingly, they didn’t steal the name from Apple. Bgr.com says they’ve had it in the works since back when the iPhone X was still just called ‘8’ in rumors. The X is even more radical than the iPhone though…it’s Samsung’s long rumored bendable smartphone. They have ben doing demos at trade shows, but up to now, nothing. A sharp Dutch site has now noted that a support page has gone up online for the X family. It is expected that if and when the Galaxy X launches, it will be in very limited numbers.

Apple’s HomePod apparently started out 5 years ago as a side project for some audio engineers. According to 9to5mac.com, they wanted to build an audiophile speaker, and some versions were 3 feet tall! The project was cancelled and revived a few times. When Amazon brought out the Echo, the team was shocked at how it caught on and how much it did. Even now, some of the team has lobbied to have the HomePod do more than just music and controlling smart devices, and only running iPhone apps. Perhaps some of this is the reason for the delay in rollout…maybe they are going to bulk up HomePod’s abilities..for that, we’re going to need ‘Super-Siri!’

Not to rile you up going into the holiday shopping season, but if you think you’re being watched…you’re not paranoid, you ARE. Arstechnica.com reports that numerous sites have been running scripts that log your keystrokes, mouse moves, and wait times…even before that input is submitted or later deleted. They even grab the number of characters typed into password fields and the last 4 digits of credit cards. According to a study out last week, 482 of the 50,000 highest traffic sites are key logging you. One more thing….and not the cool kind like Steve Jobs used to tout…gizmodo.com says your Android phone has been sending location data to Google, even if you have opted out. Happy Holidays!


Uber to Buy Volvos for Self-Driving Fleet; Apple Looks to Micro-LED for Displays; Galaxy S9 Camera Rumors

Uber is preparing to gear up for self-driving, with plans to buy up to 24,000 SUVs, then equip them with Uber’s own self-driving technology. Reuters.com says the SUVs would come equipped with Volvo’s autonomous tech, and Uber would install theirs in addition. The loaded XC90s have a starting retail price of about $50,000. Earlier this year, Lyft inked a research deal with Google’s Waymo and another with Ford, looking to moving to self-driving cars in their own fleet.

The OLED screens it has to buy from Samsung have been rumored all year to be a stopgap measure for Apple. Now, macrumors.com reports they are working with TSMC to scale up production of micro-LED panels. The advantage to the micro-LED panels is that they are both thinner and brighter, have better color accuracy, faster response times, and are more energy efficient than OLED screens.

The upcoming Samsung Galaxy S9 apparently won’t have an under screen fingerprint reader, as had been rumored for some time. It WILL use facial recognition, but according to bgr.com will just use 2D sensors. Some other Samsung devices will get 3D sensors…probably the Note series. The S9 will have 5.8 and 6.2 inch sized screens, and a single cam on the front, with dual cams on the back like the Note 8 has. The form factor is rumored to stay virtually the same as the S8 models out now.


3 Samsung Galaxy S9’s Coming; Rear 3D Sensor on 2019 iPhone; Fisker e-car Will Recharge in 60 Seconds

Rumors no more hit about 3 new iPhone models next year, and now bgr.com says there will be 3 new all-screen Samsung Galaxy S9 models. In addition to an expected Galaxy S9 and S9+, Samsung may be readying a 4 inch screen S9 Mini. It will have the same internals as the larger models and the curved screen as well. Samsung has looked at going this direction before, but hasn’t been able to pull it off, so stay tuned.

Apple is busy with next year’s iPhones, and beyond. Now, word is out from bloomberg.com that the 2019 iPhones may have a rear facing 3D sensor like the TrueDepth system on the present iPhone X. The rear setup would be a leap forward for augmented reality. Instead of the laser dots hitting your face for Face ID, it would use the time of flight of laser beams out and reflected to create a 3D picture of the oncoming environment!

If they pull it off, it will be a bombshell….Fisker, the high end electric car startup founded by a former Tesla consultant, says it’s made a breakthrough that will give it a 500 mile range and let you recharge batteries in less than a minute! Mashable.com reports that the tech won’t be ready for mass production until after 2023, but if it pans out, it will be a major game changer for electric vehicles.