Google Home Outships Amazon Echo; Apple-VW Self-Driving Pact; Uber Self-Driving Leaves Arizona; Silicon Valley Longs to Tax Big Tech Like SeattlePosted: May 24, 2018
In a first, Google Home has shipped more smart speakers than Amazon…3.2 million vs 2.5 million first quarter of this year. According to cnet.com, it may be due to retailers prioritizing Google over Amazon because they see Amazon as more of a direct competitor. Alibaba had the third biggest shipping smart speaker, with Xiaomi 4th. Apple’s HomePod was lumped in with the 17% ‘other’ smart speakers.
After lots of back and forth with Mercedes and BMW the last several years that never made it to a deal, Apple has cut a deal with Volkswagen. Macrumors.com reports that Apple will be buying VW vans and converting them to employee shuttles to run between San Francisco Bay Area campuses and buildings. The vans will be fitted with Apple’s self-driving tech. Word is, no deal ever came through with BMW and Mercedes, because Apple insisted on partner companies handing over control of data and design…which no car maker was willing to do.
Uber has canned its self-driving program in Arizona, and along with it, 300 employees. Businessinsider.com says this comes 2 months after a self-driving Uber Volvo (with safety driver behind the wheel) hit and killed a woman in Tempe. The governor had already suspended their ability to test the autonomous cars there. Uber says it will regroup and double check its safety procedures and be back testing somewhere soon.
Since Seattle has dropped an annual head tax on big tech companies, a number of Silicon Valley cities are angling to do the same. Bloomberg.com reports that Seattle intends to use the revenue to help with homeless problems and relieve housing shortages caused by the influx of higher paid tech workers. San Francisco, Mountain View, Cupertino, and East Palo Alto are all looking at similar taxes on large local employers (which are virtually all tech companies) to offset growing inequality and overcrowding. The Bay Area cities have learned from Seattle’s battle with Amazon, and instead of shooting for $500 per head, are looking to extract more like $250-$300 per employee.
Google I/O Expectations; Apple Beats the Street; Russian ‘Fancy Bear’ Hibernating in Lojack; Automakers Start Blockchain Research GroupPosted: May 2, 2018
Google’s I/O is coming up May 8th at Shoreline in Mountain View. According to 9to5google.com, expect Android P to bow…as well as some gesture navigation. What’s been rumored sounds a lot like iPhone X navigation…it’s unknown though if this will be system wide or just Pixel exclusive. We may see an Android TV dongle…there have been pictures of a new dongle from a Chinese company with the Google logo on them spotted. No details have leaked out, but expect something pretty significant about Google Photos…Photos is getting a session on day two…a first for Photos.
Apple beat both revenue and profit projections yesterday, selling 52.2 million iPhones, just a tad below the Street’s targets. Revenue was $61.1 billion…Wall Street had expected $60.8. Reuters.com reports that Apple will bring about 100 billion back to the US in its capital return program. An interesting tidbit: Apple’s wearables…Apple Watch, Air Pods, and Beats headphones…if broken out as a separate entity, would be a Fortune 300 company, without any of the rest of Apple!
With all the personal data leaks and sales, just one more thing to be unnerved about…Fancy Bear…the Russian group that US intelligence thinks did the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in 2016…appears to be using Lojack laptop tracking software to propel new hacking campaigns. Axios.com says that the technique of using Lojack to hide malware was first discovered in 2014, but this is apparently a new exploit of it by the Russians.
A number of automakers have started MOBI, the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative, to use blockchain tech to make cars safer and more affordable. According to techcrunch.com, BMW, General Motors, Ford, and Renault are spearheading the initiative. Previously, Toyota had started doing blockchain research, and Daimler is involved in the Hyperledger project at the Linux foundation. the MOBI group is focusing solely on the automotive space. They claim it may be able to redefine how consumers purchase, insure, and use vehicles.
Amazon Buys Ring; Apple Watch Tracks Skiing & SnowBoarding; Cheaper Fitbit Coming; BMW Smartphone Car KeyPosted: February 28, 2018
Amazon has swallowed up Ring, the smart doorbell and video maker. Ring’s WiFi equipped doorbells with cam detect when there is someone at the door, and notify you via your smartphone or tablet, and allow talkback. Geekwire.com says Amazon claims it will let Ring operate pretty autonomously like they have done with Zappos and Twitch, but expect tighter integration with Alexa powered devices as the online giant moves further into IoT.
As of today, if you have an Apple Watch Series 3, you can track skiing and snowboarding activity. Macrumors.com reports that apps snoww, Slopes, Squaw Alpine, Snocru, and Ski Tracks have been updated to enable custom tracking of specialized metrics including: total vertical descent and horizontal distance, number of runs, average and maximum speeds, total time spent, and of course, calories burned. Right now the SkiTracks app is integrated with Activity and Workout, so it will show up as credit towards Activity rings, and Snowcru will port active calorie measurements to the Activity app. Besides a Series 3 watch with the altimeter function, you’ll need WatchOS 4.2 or later. The apps are in the App Store now.
Fitbit didn’t get the kind of sales they wanted with the $300 Ionic smartwatch when it came out last fall. Now, cnet.com says they are close to rolling out a lower priced watch. Leaked renderings show a more rounded case, and the lower line watch won’t have GPS, but will have 50 meter water resistance. The lower priced watch apparently looks a lot like the Pebble Time Steel, which Pebble was making before Fitbit bought them a couple years ago. No pricing or precise release date is out as yet.
BMW showed a smartphone enabled car locking and unlocking at Mobile World Congress this week. According to mashable.com, the BMW Digital Key will be available to owners with Samsung smartphones. Besides the lock function, you can start the car from the phone, and there’s a wireless charging pad. Apparently, up to 5 family members will be able to use the feature, as long as they are on Samsung phones. BTW, you will still need the physical key fob to drive…for now.
3 First Cities to Get 5G; Apple May Buy Cobalt Direct from Miners; Renault’s “Smart Island”; EV Batteries May be Able to Recharge 5X FasterPosted: February 21, 2018
Even though phones don’t have it yet, the cellular providers have been busily working on building out 5G infrastructure. We have been hearing that AT&T would have some 12 markets on the super fast cellular connection that can carry vast data loads, very soon. Now, AT&T has announced that at least 3 markets will have it by the end of this year. The lucky cities are: Atlanta, Dallas, and Waco, TX. Qualcomm has announced its first 5G modem for smartphones, but it isn’t expected to actually be out and in users new phones until 2019!
With cobalt supply iffy, Apple is in talks to buy it direct from miners. According to bloomberg, the cobalt is used in iPhone and iPad batteries, as well as in EVs. Apple wants to ensure that they have enough for their products. They are apparently working on a deal to buy several thousand metric tons of cobalt per year over a 5 year period. Samsung, BMW, and VW are also working to secure long term supplies….BMW is angling for a 10 year contract. An iPhone takes 8 grams of refined cobalt…an electric car over 1,000 times more! The price of cobalt has tripled in the last 18 months…supply and demand, you know!
Renault is experimenting with an island totally free of fossil fuels. The island in Portugal, Porto Santo, will have only renewable and independent energy production and use. Solar and wind generators, the Renault Zoe and Kango utility van electric vehicles, home batteries, etch. Engadget.com reports that the more diffuse, less massive installations can be used because the island only has 5400 people plus tourists….so won’t require anything like the Tesla Powerpack mega installation in Australia.
Some researchers at University of Warwick have discovered that the lithium-ion batteries used in most electric cars can be recharged up to 5 times faster than they presently are being charged. Engadget.com says the makers have been conservative about charging, due to fear of overheating (which can cause fires and explosions.) The researchers used a fiber optic sensor protected by a chemical layer…it is inserted right into the cell, and can track the temperature precisely. In testing on over 18000 li-ion cells, they were able to quintuple charging times. The increased time does reduce battery life, but the researchers point out that if charging time could be reduced from 25 minutes to 5, it might really jump start e-car purchases.
Google Assistant Now Controls Smart Appliances; App to Download Streamed Netflix & HBO Shows to Watch Offline; BMW Charging Pad..for Cars; Microsoft Dives Into Quantum ComputingPosted: September 26, 2017
Google Assistant can now control more smart devices, including appliances from LG. 9to5google.com reports that included are fridges, AC, ovens, washers & dryers…almost 90 different appliances. There are also some new headphone models that utilize Google Assistant. LG is even offering a deal…get an LG smart Wi-Fi appliance between October 8th and October 25th, and you’re eligible for a free Google Home unit.
When you’re binge watching a show from Netflix. Amazon, Hulu, or HBO, sometimes things get glitchy. Now, there’s an app on Android and iOS that lets you download the shows for later viewing OFFLINE! According to thenextweb.com the app, PlayOn Cloud, also supports YouTube, Yahoo Views, CBS, PBS CW, ABC, NBC, & Fox. There is an extra charge, though. It’s $0.99 per recording, or there are bundles for $0.20 each. Netflix has offered offline downloads as has Amazon, but they expire. With PlayOn, the videos are deleted from the cloud after 30 days, but anything you have downloaded stays on your device.
We’ve all been in places like Starbucks and seen the wireless charging pads, and of course Apple has made a big deal about joining the wireless charging smartphone club now with Qi charging…pads are already available from Mophie and Kensington. Theverge.com says BMW is getting ready to roll out one for their 530e iPerformance plug in hybrid. They claim 3.5 hour charging without a cable. The pad requires a 22o volt outlet, and is still awaiting final testing and UL approval, so it may be a year or more away, but faster, hassle free charging for cars will only accelerate the move to electric vehicles.
On Monday, Microsoft announced that it is going to be moving into the next big thing in computing….quantum computing. According to arstechnica.com, this should allow computers to do absolutely amazing things in the future. Redmond plans to release a new quantum computing programming language late this year, with full Visual Studio integration. If quantum computing sounds like Greek to you, don’t feel bad. In a Wall St. Journal interview, Bill Gates noted that while he was good at math and physics…probably an understatement….when the quantum computing slides came up in a presentation, it looked like hieroglyphics to HIM!
Apple Watch Rumor-Glucose Monitoring; Amazon-4K Alexa TV and Now = Walmart X2; BMW, Intel, & Mobileye Add Delphi to Self-DrivingPosted: May 16, 2017
It’s been no secret that Apple has wanted to get deep into the weeds regarding heath monitoring for the Apple Watch. The do have north of 200 folks with PhDs working on various projects. Now, macrumors.com reports that they may be close to rolling out non-invasive sensors to monitor blood glucose. This would be something of a Holy Grail for diabetics, meaning no finger sticks all day. Apparently, the sensors would be built into interchangeable smart watch bands, along with other functionality. This way, people who buy Apple Watch that don’t need those functions wouldn’t have to pay extra for them. The sensors are due in ‘an upcoming Apple Watch,’ but it’s unclear if they will make the third generation one out this fall.
Amazon has announced 4K TVs running Alexa. They will be sold under the Westinghouse brand, according to theverge.com. Preorders are open now, with prices ranging from $449 for a 43 inches to $899 for a 65 inch display. They are expected in stores next month. A lot has been made over Apple and Google valuation…Apple at 800+ billion and all…but ponder this….Amazon now has a market cap of $459 billion…that’s just about TWO Walmarts! Amazon has just been a public company for 18 years!
BMW, Intel, & Mobileye have now been joined by Delphi in their self-driving platform development. Techcrunch.com says Delphi will supply key computing components to the system. Intel and Delphi had previously worked together on autonomous tech. They are shooting for 2021 to bring their platform into production…not just for BMW vehicles but for other auto makers and system developers.
Across the Board iPad Refresh Coming; Snapchat Starts Selling Spectacles Online; BMW & VW Partner With Mobileye To Crowdsource Info For Self-Driving CarsPosted: February 21, 2017
Apple will do a top to bottom refresh of iPads next month. Arstechnica.com reports that often reliable site Mac Otakara reaffirms that apple will add a new 10.5 inch iPad to the 7.9, 9.7, and 12.9 inch models. It will be something of a ‘mini’ version of the 12.9 inch iPad Pro, and will sport 4 speakers, Smart Connector, True Tone Display, and a 12 MP rear camera. The biggest iPad will also get True Tone and the better camera.
Snapchat maker Snap has been selling its Spectacles camera glasses in pop up vending machines for a while now, but has put that on hold as they have started selling them online. According to businessinsider.com, anyone in the US can order a pair of the $130 glasses which record 10 second video clips and send them to the Snapchat app.
BMW and Mobileye are partnering to crowdsource traffic data for self-driving cars, starting in 2018. Techcrunch.com says BMW will join Volkswagen in the crowdsourcing of road hazards, traffic delays, weather info, and parking availability. The more cars that provide data to the cloud and then back to other cars, the more accurate it will be.