Mercedes to Bring Home Storage Batteries to US; Digital Assistants to Outnumber People by 2021

In more of a broadside than a shot across the bow to Tesla, Mercedes-Benz Energy has partnered with Vivint Solar to sell home storage batteries in the US. Techcrunch.com says homeowners who hire Vivint Solar to install an array on their roof can add up to 8 2.5 kWh Mercedes batteries for a whopping 20 kWh of storage! This is a major direct competitor to Tesla with their Solar City, solar shingles, and PowerWall. As the move to greener and more self-sustaining power systems picks up speed, expect more big players in this area.

Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft all have them, and are aggressively pushing them into our lives….digital assistants, that is. According to research by Ovum picked up by cnet.com, the number of devices with digital assistants will be over 7.5 billion by 2021, which will then exceed the population of the world! By the way, there are already 3.5 billion of the sometimes helpful little devils active in the world right now! Ovum projects that Google Assistant will command the market, followed by Chinese assistants, Siri and then Bixby form Samsung…mainly due to the count of cell phones and tablets. Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana are primarily in devices other than smartphones.

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Lyft & Waymo Partner on Self-Drivers; EV Battery That Charges in 5 Min; 10.5 Inch iPad Pro at WWDC, Google Asst Coming to iOS

Lyft and Google’s Waymo will team up on self-driving cars, according to a report from the New York Times. The plan is to introduce a wide swath of people to them using fleet services. Waymo had already started a public pilot in Arizona where they will pick up people and families on demand. The Lyft deal will quickly help them to expand that, and explore not only demand modeling, but efficient routing as well. Meanwhile, a judge has banned a Uber employee, who was a former Google manager and is the subject of a lawsuit, from working with Lidar at all for the time being.

If this pans out to any degree, it will be a game changer for electric vehicles. StoreDot, and Israeli startup, has shown its new battery model for EVs at the CUBE Tech Fair in Berlin. Engadget.com reports that the battery can reach full charge in FIVE minutes, and run the car for 300 miles! Compare that to Tesla’s Supercharger, which takes two hours to fully charge a Tesla EV. StoreDot also claims their batteries are safer than litihum-ion. They use layers of nano materials and proprietary organic compounds not used in batteries before.

Apple will probably show a new 10.5 inch iPad Pro at WWDC next month. Theverge.com says KGI Securities, generally one of the most reliable sources, is reporting this. Ming-Chi Kuo, of KGI also says it’s 50-50 that Apple will launch their Siri powered speaker at WWDC.

Siri could be in for some ‘Siri-ous’ competition soon. Google may be rolling out Google Assistant on iOS, and could show it at I/O this week! It will debut first in the US, and apparently will be slightly different than the Android version. The voice controls will be the same, but it will used the chat style fro Allo. This is probably necessary since it will be a free standing app, and not a baked in extension that’s part of the Google platform.


Apple Corners Smartphone Profits; Super Battery Concept Charges in Seconds & Lasts Days

They may not have the biggest market share, but according to a Strategy Analytics report picked up by 9to5mac.com, Apple took in 91% of mobile industry profits in the third quarter of 2016. Huawei had the best showing of any Android maker with 2.4%. Samsung, of course, helped Apple by taking a big loss with the recall of their fiery Galaxy Note 7 models. LG and HTC also reported losses.

Thenextweb.com reports that a new battery concept from scientists at University of Central Florida may be able to charge in seconds and last 20 times longer than a conventional lithium ion cell….possibly lasting over a week! It’s essentially a super capacitor. The battery doesn’t degrade like present ones, either…holding the same charge after 30,000 recharges. Keep your fingers crossed, if this pans out, it will be a game changer for smart devices, electric vehicles, and anything else running on batteries.


Snapchat Shows Cam Glasses; Galaxy Note 7 New Non-Exploding Battery Issue; Apple Watch Sleep and Heart Rate Apps Coming

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Over the weekend, reports came out that Snapchat was re-branding as Snap, and rolling out connected, camera-equipped sunglasses. Theverge.com reports that they will sell for $130, have a 115 degree lens, which closely follows a person’s field of vision, record circular video, and record at the press of a button. Snap is doing a slow rollout, so don’t expect to see them in the next few days or weeks.

Samsung has already shipped 500,000 Galaxy Note 7’s to the US, and about half the phablets with explodable batteries have been replaced. Now, 9to5google.com reports that some users are having problems with batteries that drain very quickly and are having trouble recharging them. Samsung is looking into it, but says it’s unrelated to the batteries. They just can’t buy a break with the 7…and may end up rolling out the Note 8 a month or so early.

Apple is working on sleep tracking and more advanced heart rate apps for Apple Watch. According to 9to5mac.com, the new heart rate app will be more advanced—measuring a person’s fitness by observing the amount of time it takes for a heartbeat to fall from a peak to resting rate. Cupertino apparently is also looking at other ways to expand HealthKit, making it more of a ‘tool that improves diagnoses’ from doctors. None of that may come for a while, as added medical sensors would not only require new hardware, but probably also approval by the FDA.


New Google Phones & 4K Chromecast Roll Out in October; Samsung May Recall Galaxy Note 7 Models

Google will hold a media event in October that will include new phone branding— Pixel and Pixel XL, and will also debut 4K Chromecast. Cnet.com says Android Police tout October 4th as the date. We had just reported this week that Google would drop the Nexus brand, and this is another confirmation of that. We may also see the design for its Daydream VR, a hardware and software platform to help any Android smartphone manufacturer create a VR headset themselves.

There have been several reports the last few weeks of Samsung Galaxy Note 7’s exploding while charging. Now, according to 9to5google.com, the company says that.1 of 1% of the batteries may be bad, and they may go ahead and do a full global recall. Samsung says simply replacing the battery will fix the problem, but they want to err on the side of caution. Until more details on the problem and recall come out…probably next week…don’t use off-brand chargers or accessories with a Galaxy Note 7.


Skype Getting Real Time Language Translation on PCs

Microsoft has announced that Skype Translator, which has been freestanding and Spanish to English only, will be coming to Windows PCs in the next few weeks. Geekwire.com reports that it will be a baked in feature to PC based Skype, and will also add French, German, Italian, and Mandarin for voice, plus 50 written languages. They won’t have it out for smartphones, at least for a while. Microsoft admits it’s not perfect, but early tests indicated people can carry on a conversation with it.

Battery life just sucks, and virtually every gadget we use runs by battery power. Something better may be on the way, at least for the smaller devices. According to engadget.com, scientists in Canada and France have come up with a micro-supercapacitor with the same energy density of most lithium ion batteries. Even Elon Musk has lusted for capacitors as a replacement for batteries, since you can recharge them infinitely without loss of capacity. The rub with the micro-supercapacitor is it’s built from exotic materials like gold and ruthenium oxide, so crazy expensive when you scale up in size. The scientists say for replacing micro batteries, though, the capacitors can store 1000 times the energy of those tiny batteries. They may be showing up in wearables before long, but we’ll have to wait a while for instant charging cell phones and electric cars.


BMW & PG&E Are Paying $1500+ To Charge i3’s in Off Hours

A year and a half pilot program is starting in California to encourage electric BMW i3 owners to charge them up in off-peak hours. To reduce stress on the power grid, BMW iChargeForward is giving incentives of up to $1540 in gift cards if owners don’t charge during high demand hours. Under the program, cnet.com says BMW can delay charging by up to an hour if data from PG&E says it’s warranted. Drivers can still override this with a smartphone app if they need to drive somewhere sooner than that. BMW plans to up the trial group to as many as 400 owners soon.

A heads up for Nvidia Shield tablet owners…it’s been one of the top selling tablets for Android users the last year, but the company is recalling a large subset of them because the battery can burst into flames. Gizmodo.com reports that all Shield tablets made between July 2014 and July 2015 are involved. Under the recall, the company will send you a new tablet with a less fire prone battery. They say if you have one of the tablets, stop using it now!