Makers Partner Promoting e-Cars; Google Assistant & Multi-Room Audio; LinkedIn Gets Auto-Roll Ads; Facebook Limiting 3rd Party Ad Targeting Data

While there’s already a fair amount of interest in electric cars, now 16 auto makers have teamed up with several states in a campaign called ‘’Drive Change. Drive Electric.’  BMW, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, VW, & Volvo are involved. The goal is to educate and inform consumers about the variety of zero-emission vehicles. Mashable.com says There will be a new website, ads, social media campaigns and events, designed to get more people into electric cars.

Google is rolling out an extension that lets you pair Assistant devices to Bluetooth speakers allowing voice control of multi-room audio. You could already stream music from a phone, tablet, or computer to Google Home over Bluetooth, but now, you can stream music to other Bluetooth speakers around your house, including in multiple rooms. According to 9to5google.com, you will still need a Google Home device to control them. The companion app will let you set a default speaker or set of speakers, and the pairing works on all Google Home devices, including the Mini and Max.

Microsoft has added what’s a feature to advertisers but probably a bug to you to its LinkedIn platform. Techcruhch.com reports that Video ads will now appear and auto roll in your feed. The good news? At least the audio is muted initially, so you won’t be jarred by something playing right after the site loads. The ads will contain links that can point to the advertisers’ sites, and that can be used to collect leads. Microsoft says the feature is rolling out over the next several weeks, and has been tested by over 700 advertisers since October. Now, you can look forward to LinkedIn acting even more like a social network site…although it seems unlikely people bailing on Facebook will be posting cat or food pictures on LinkedIn.

Facebook has announced that it will limit how much data it makes available to advertisers buying hyper-targeted ads. The embattled social media giant says in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal,  it will stop using data from third-party data aggregators — companies like Experian and Acxiom — to help supplement its own data set for ad targeting. Recode.net notes that Facebook previously let advertisers target people using data from a number of sources: Facebook’s own data they had collected, info from the advertiser itself, and data from 3rd party sources like credit reporting firm Experian. Facebook hasn’t said it will quit using third party firms for ad measurement help, but is reevaluating that practice.


Facebook Privacy Issues Multiply & Their Damage Control; iPhone X Will Add a Color; FedEX Orders Tesla e-Big Rigs; Google Assistant Gets Philips Hue Scene Support

Over the weekend, Facebook ran full page ads in several US and British newspapers, with an apology from Mark Zuckerberg for the recent data privacy scandal involving Cambridge Analytica. Since the ads ran, a new report from arstechnica.com says in some cases, Facebook’s Android apps will keep logs of the names of people you called and texted, how long the convos were, and the other person’s phone number. Users are now madder than ever. Facebook claims it got permission to scrape the call and text data, but that likely won’t help. A Reuters/Ipsos poll came out Sunday indicating less than half of Americans trust the social media giant to obey US privacy laws. It’s 41% that trust Facebook, compared to 66% trusting Amazon, 62% trust Google, 60% trust Microsoft, and 47% Yahoo. The Federal Trade Commission has an investigation underway into Facebook now.

After production problems limited the iPhone X to two colors, it looks like Apple will add another color to try to boost sales of the successor phones out this fall. According to 9to5mac.com, it will be a ‘blush gold’ tone. A more iffy rumor also has a (Product)Red iPhone in the mix. Apple’s education event in Chicago is Tuesday…we’ll cover what they bow there…a cheaper iPad is expected.

FedEx has preordered 20 electric big rigs from Tesla. The rigs go into production next year, and rival UPS has preordered 125 of the e-rigs. Techcrunch.com says each of these orders is a pretty small pilot fleet, but will jump start the Tesla truck production. Tesla is already running test rigs between the Gigafactory in Reno, Nev. and the production factory in Fremont, CA.

Google Assistant has picked up a handy feature…native support for Philips Hue scenes. 9to5google.com reports that Assistant has been supporting Hue lights since it came out, but that support didn’t extend to the preset ‘scenes’…which the Hue app and Amazon Alexa could control. Now, Assistant can use them, too. One note…you may have to delete and re-add your Hue lights to Assistant, or at least sync before the new feature works. A lot of users find it quite handy to be able to adjust colors on several lights or in multiple rooms with just a voice command.


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 Computing

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!


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.


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.


Galaxy S8’s Bixby Button Can Be Changed to Google Assistant; Apple Says No to All-ARM Macs; Spotify Testing Lossless Audio; Unexpected Changes From Driverless Cars

Samsung touts its Bixby personal assistant and even provides a dedicated soft button for it. Now, 9to5google.com says an app lets you remap the button for Google Assistant (or other functions.) Just get the app All in One Gestures and you can remap buttons. Do expect a cat and mouse though, as Samsung try to disable the app from getting around their assistant!

Previously, Apple has said they think touchscreens on computers are less efficient than mice and touchpads. Macrumors.com reports that they have repeated this, and also said they have no plans for ARM chips in Macs, except as ‘companion processors,’ like the one that runs the Touch Bar in the new MacBook Pros. For the foreseeable future, Cupertino’s laptops and desktops will continue to run on Intel silicon.

Last month, Spotify tested a new lossless version of its audio stream. According to theverge.com Spotify Hi-Fi will cost an extra $10 a month, on top of the $10 price of the premium ad-free service. Tidal already has hi-fi streaming for $19.99 a month. If you have a great audio system you route your streaming audio into, and have golden ears, it may be worth it, but several tech writers say it’s hard to tell the difference.

Driverless cars…a lot of folks are looking forward to surfing the web, watching videos, and otherwise kicking back during a commute in vehicles that handle the piloting chore for us. Washingtonpost.com notes some ways things might change you may not have thought of. It’s possible traffic could become worse, as people opt for the privacy of self-driving cars and ditch public transport. Also, with the array of cams and sensors, cars may become witnesses to crimes. This is random, but as electric self driving cars come on line, cigarette sales may drop, since a lot of gas stations make considerable extra cash selling those cancer sticks while we fill up. Air bags and crumple zones may become a thing of the past, as crashes practically disappear and they aren’t needed. You won’t need to circle like a vulture for parking, since the computer in the car will be able to find the closest spot…which will open frequently as shared vehicles come and go. Car expenses will drop…most cash goes into crashes and engine repairs. Electric cars require far less upkeep, and with nearly no crashes, cars could last far longer, too. Self driving trucks may not displace as many drivers as originally thought…there’s already a shortage, and as drivers retire, they just won’t be replaced. Plus, some firms will always carry a human to make sure cargo that’s loaded and unloaded isn’t ‘shorted’…they will want their person at the site to supervise.


Uber Snags NASA Engineer in Look at Flying Taxis; LG G6 Gets US Drop Date; Rumor-Apple VR Headset This Year

Uber has hired a former NASA engineer named Mark Moore for its Uber Elevate flying taxi project. According to thenextweb.com, Moore worked on feasibility of short haul helicopter type vehicles for urban flight while at NASA. It seems like a crazy wild idea, but hey….could happen, and would that ever revolutionize transportation!

It’s already been known that LG would show its G6 smartphone at Mobile World Congress February 26th. Now, venturebeat.com says it will launch in the US on April 7th, after rolling out in Korea March 9th. The April 7th drop date will give LG a head start on Samsung, which plans to launch the Galaxy S8 April 21st. Word is, the G6 will be the first non-Google phone to launch with Google Assistant.

Augmented and virtual reality evangelist Robert Scoble is saying Apple’s partnership with Carl Zeiss on smart glasses may put an Apple VR headset in the hands of consumers as soon as the middle of this year, or at the latest, next year! Appleinsider.com reports that he claims multiple sources at ‘the highest levels’. Scoble says he expects a very lightweight pair of glasses, with the electronics living elsewhere on the body, like in an iPhone or some other wearable. Zeiss already sells the VR One Plus, which is a headset that holds a user’s smartphone and converts it to a VR or AR system. Scoble is pretty optimistic on the timing…others Apple watchers, like KGI Securities, have said it will be another year and a half before Apple rolls out such a product.


Google May Make Samsung Ditch Hot Galaxy S8 Feature; Uber Launches Self-Driving Cars in San Francisco; Amazon Tests Drone Deliveries in the UK

One cool feature Samsung has been planning to give Galaxy S8 buyers may be out. Bgr.com reports that the Viv virtual assistant may be blocked by Google. Samsung’s deal with Google requires them to use the upcoming Google Assistant…or whatever they end up calling it…on Android. Viv runs rings around Google when it comes to complicated queries. It’s still possible that Viv will debut on the S8 in February, if Google thinks it will look too bad blocking the hot feature.

Uber self-driving cars roll out in San Francisco today. They will be the same as is used in Pittsburgh, PA…Volvo XC90’s with a driver behind the wheel, and a co-pilot of sorts, collecting and analyzing data. According to recode.net, Uber hasn’t applied for permits for the cars, which is required by California DMV, but since there’s a driver sitting behind the wheel, they may not technically need to. A self driving Uber will cost the same as Uber X. One caveat…the cars can’t leave San Francisco.

Amazon Prime Air has kicked off test deliveries in the United Kingdom. It’s a very small trial…only two beta users near the fulfillment center in Cambridge so far. Techcrunch.com says the first delivery was an Amazon Fire TV and bag of popcorn, and it arrived in 13 minutes. The drones can carry up to 5 pounds. The first customers can order 7 days a week, but only during daylight and in weather decent enough to fly the drones. The customer has to roll out a small mat in a back yard or the like for the drone to spot and land on.