Samsung Buys Harman for Audio & Car Tech; iOS Finally Gets Twitter Highlights; China Will Block iPhone and Other Imports If Trump Imposes Tariffs

Samsung has dropped a whopping 8 billion buying US automotive and audio maker Harman International. This gives them name audio brands like Harmon Kardon, Infinity, JBL, Lexicon and Mark Levinson, and a partnership with British audio specialists Bowers & Wilkins. It also buys them into auto tech. 9to5mac.com says Harman has deals with Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Chrysler, Jeep, Toyota, VW, among others. Along with the Internet of Things, car tech is looked at as one of the big future growth areas.

After almost a year on Android, Twitter finally rolls out Highlights for iOS users. Highlights is kind of a ‘While You Were Away’ on steroids. According to thenextweb.com, it’s a great way to catch the best Tweets while you weren’t checking the app…this is especially helpful if you follow people or accounts that are halfway around the world that may be Tweeting while you’re sleeping.

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump often spoke of putting in massive tariffs on US imports. Now, arstechnica.com reports that China has threatened a tit for tat response if he does so…including batch of Boeing orders—replaced by Airbus. US auto and iPhone sales in China would suffer a setback, and US soybean and maize imports would be halted. China might also limit the number of Chinese students studying in the US. There are 131 million iPhones in China…more than any other non-Chinese maker has in that market. China is a huge market for General Motors, which killed better selling Pontiac a few years ago because the Buick brand was better liked in China. It’s actually unlikely that Trump will follow through on tariffs, which were a big part of US revenue over 100 years ago, but haven’t worked well in the global economy.


Bluetooth 5 About to Be Rolled Out; Snapchat Working on Google Glass Type Product

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group, the group that sets the standards for the low power wireless standard, is going to rollout Bluetooth 5 next week. Theverge.com reports that it will have 4 times the speed and double the range of the best Bluetooth now available. It will also offer much more support for connectionless services…like beacons that can help people navigate around, both in buildings and outside. The added range and speed are particularly aimed at all the Internet of Things devices popping up for your home.

Snapchat is working on a Google Glass style AR headset, according to businessinsider.com. Snapchat has snapped up a couple of hardware specialists from GoPro, and a tech recruiter from Google’s Project Aura, the division that came up with Google Glass. These strengthen rumors of a Glass-type product from March when it leaked out that Snapc had hired an eyewear designer and a man specializing in miniaturized low power electronics. They are now listing jobs for a 3D mobile software engineer and mobile prototype developer, among others. Stay tuned.


Atari Entering Internet of Things; Giant MySpace Hack; Mophie Adds Wireless Charging to Juicepacks

Atari is launching into the Internet of Things with a line of connected objects that will debut later this year. No word on what precise devices are included, but venturebeat.com reports that the legendary video game maker will develop the devices in partnership with Sigfox, a startup based in the south of France that is building a global communications network for IoT devices. Sigfox’s network already operates in 18 countries and runs with 7 million devices.

Mashable.com says MySpace and Tumblr have recently joined LinkedIn on the list of websites that had millions of login credentials stolen and put up for sale later. Over 64 million Tumblr accounts and more than 360 million MySpace accounts were affected by the data breach. Not all of them had complete email, usernames and passwords, but 111 million had a username and 358 million had a primary password. You can’t remember your password? Well 2 of the top 4 most popular passwords in the breach were password1 and 123456.

The Mophie Juicepacks are one of the best battery cases out there…full disclosure…I have had several and really like them. Now, they have just gotten better. In addition to protecting your iPhone and giving you about 50% extra power, Mophie is introducing ‘Charge Force,’ which is a Juicepack only with added wireless charging. Techcrunch.com says the charging pad and battery case are $99, same as previous Juicepacks, but a desktop/dresser stand and magnetic vent mount for cars will each set you back about $60 extra bucks. They should be in stores and online in the next few weeks.


Future iPhone May Have Curved Glass Case & 5.8’” AMOLED Screen; Your Free Future Fridge

Over the weekend, appleinsider.com got hold of a note to investors from KGI Securities saying the 2017 iPhone may use curved glass front and back…similar to the iPhone 4S, but curved. It will also allegedly have an AMOLED screen…which, as we’ve noted, gives brighter colors and blacker blacks. The screen would be 5.8 inches, a little bigger, but smaller bezels would let Apple put it into the same sized phone. Wireless charging and face and iris scanning for security also may be incorporated.

A new fridge for free may be in your future. At least some people think so. At this year’s CES, Samsung introduced a refrigerator touted as truly “smart,” with connected cameras inside the fridge, an ability to run Pandora with built-in speakers and even grocery shopping through Amazon’s Alexa or a new, dedicated app called Groceries by MasterCard.Techcrunch.com reports that as an effect of the internet of things, and refrigerators like this one, your consumption can be tracked…and the fridge could automatically reorder the foods for you. Grocery sellers and manufacturers would subsidize this, as it locks in customers…like you are for the ink cartridges that go into cheap, subsidized printers. Are you ready for a fridge that makes recommendations, and has a subscription service for auto purchase of the foods? It looks like that’s coming!


Firefox May Come to Internet of Things; First Ransomware on Macs

Mozilla bowed out with its Firefox OS for mobile the end of the year, but now, may be positioning the platform for the Internet of Things. Techcrunch.com says we could soon have a ‘personal user agent’ that understands your preferences for all the connected devices in your home. One TechCrunch staffer remarked that it was reminiscent of the personal assistant Samantha from the movie ‘Her,’ or even a light version of IBM’s Watson. Mozilla thinks that its Project Smart Home will fill the gap between do it yourselfers and tightly controlled IOT setups using Apple HomeKit. It would be cool to tell your IOT assistant ‘please turn the lights off upstairs,’ or turn the heat up a couple degrees!

Over the weekend, the first ransomeware showed up on Macs. It’s been around for a while on PCs, but Reuters.com says researchers at Palo Alto Networks first spotted the malware late Friday. Ransomware, one of the fastest-growing types of cyber threats, encrypts data on infected machines, then typically asks users to pay ransoms in hard-to-trace digital currencies to get an electronic key so they can get their data back. This ransomware has been dubbed KeRanger, and it first showed up on the Transmission website. Transmission offers open source software that some Mac users use to download videos, music, etc via BitTorrent peer-to-peer. Transmission has since released version 2.91 of their software, and advises to stay away from 2.90, which was infected.


Big Bluetooth Speed & Range Boosts Coming; Apple Pay Between Individuals

Huge improvements may turbocharge people connecting more of their homes to the internet of things. Engadget.com reports that the firm that oversees Bluetooth is making big updates in 2016…meaning Bluetooth connections should see a 100% speed boost and quadruple the range. This will be for all Bluetooth, not just connected internet of things gadgets. They’re also working on mesh networking- so a whole area, home, or building can be connected.

As more stores embrace Apple Pay…I just used it for the first time at Trader Joe’s this week…Apple is expanding in a new way. Geek.com says they’re working with banks on setting up peer to peer payments between friends and family over Apple Pay. This will hit PayPal’s Venmo right in the pocketbook, as Apple doesn’t play to charge the banks processing fees. It looks like they will just use it to attract and keep Apple Pay users and financial institutions. Of course, it also gives them more data to better target ads towards you!


UberRush is Now Live in New York and San Francisco

Uber has launched UberRush in New York and added San Francisco and Chicago. The same day delivery system had been piloting in New York, with the price of delivery ranging between $5 and $7. According to recode.net, businesses can either sign up for the program directly, or access it through e-commerce software like Shopify and Bigcommerce. Other partners include delivery.com, ChowNow for food, BloomNet for floral services, and the Clover digital cash register service. Uber is going after smaller local retailers and restaurants, as big name retailers have been tough for them to pull into the program. Diliv, Postmates, and Sidecar are already in this rapid delivery space, so Uber doesn’t have totally clear sailing…or in this case, driving.

Gadgets and software to repurpose old devices into monitors for your home are already out there, but not for free…until now. Perch is a startup from the Samsung Accelerator program, and right now, you can download their software for free to turn an old USB-based webcam, smartphone, or tablet into a security monitor. Thenextweb.com reports that it allows for two way communication, too, so you can turn on the audio and tell your pooch to stop barking. It’s movement based, and they claim it’s smart enough not to send you an alert if a dog or cat moves, just a person. You can also use it to turn on internet of things gadgets like smart light bulbs and appliances. It’s out for Android 4.1 or later, and Wi-Fi only for now. iOS and Smart TV support is on the way.


Your Internet May Be Coming Via Lightbulbs Before Long

The news this week had a story of a random hacker stealing Wi-Fi passwords, and having been hacked a few years ago by someone parked outside my home, I’ve always worried that even the top security level and a strong password aren’t enough for Wi-Fi. As thenextweb.com reports, we may all be safer and have better coverage with the next big thing…Li-Fi. As more of us add LED bulbs around the house…my son has them in every single fixture, I have them in about half…we also gain the ability to transmit signals on light frequencies…which can’t be hacked if your curtains and shades are closed, and will make available far more spectrum to handle the traffic of ‘the internet of things,’ like your fridge, thermostat, and virtually everything else electric with a chip that lives in your home with you. There are already companies in Scotland and France offering Li-Fi. It could be in your home in the next few years.

Perhaps nothing is as aggravating as trying to cancel a service, especially a tenacious one like Comcast cable, which actually has a manual and trains people on how to block your cancellation every step of the way. TechCrunch.com says there’s a new service called Airpaper that will do it for you for 5 bucks. You do, of course, have to give them your name, address, phone number, and Comcast account number. They claim not to use the info for any other purpose. It could get hacked…they could sell that info, but I’m betting a lot of people will roll the dice anyway, just to not have the hassle of dealing with trying to cut the cord.


Google Prepares to Enter the Internet of Things OS Sweepstakes

Google reportedly may unveil an internet of things OS at their I/O conference next week. According to a report in The Information picked up by theverge.com, it runs on low power devices, and gives them the ability to communicate with other connected devices in proximity. The OS has had the code name ‘Brillo,’ but will likely carry an Android name when it’s rolled out. It’s expected to work on everything from refrigerators to small monitoring gadgets. The biggest issue with the internet of things may well end up being which OS to go with, since Google, Apple, Microsoft, Huawei, Samsung, and others are all angling to be in this market!

Microsoft is quietly working on an app that will at as a clipboard across your devices, whether iOS, Android, Windows Phone, or Windows PC. Thenextweb.com points out that this would compete with the Pushbullet app in many ways. Microsoft’s OneClip auto detects if the item on the clipboard is a URL, physical address, phone number, text snippet, or image, and categorizes it for you.


Tiny LiteOS Prepares for the Internet of Things

Huawei is readying their minuscule operating system, LiteOS, to power everything from wearables to cars to the electronics around your home. The system is 10 KILObytes! For a little perspective, Apple’s iOS 8 takes a gigabyte of space, and ancient DOS 2.11 was 28 kilobytes! The mini-system is designed for zero configuration, auto-discovery, and auto-networking. The verge.com says it isn’t intended to compete with iOS or Android, but to power small internet connected gadgets from light bulbs to toothbrushes.

From the very small to the biggest on the block…or in this case, the planet. Despite growing competition from Microsoft and Google, Amazon is the 800 pound gorilla of the cloud world. According to geekwire.com, Amazon Web Services not only increased market share in 2014, but operates more cloud capacity than the next 14 providers combined! Google cut cloud prices by 30% just yesterday, to try to grab more share, but it’s a long climb. Microsoft’s strategy is to provide more complete services for a price, where Amazon sticks to a la carte pricing. Microsoft’s revenues from cloud were up 96%, making them the leader by that metric.