Google Pumps $300 Million into Saving Online Journalism; IBM Rolls Out Watson Assistant; 100 TB SSD Drive; IoT Mousetrap-Wait, What?

Google has announced that they are launching the Google News Initiative with $300 million. According to mashable.com, the intent is to fight fake news by providing publishers online tools. No list of the publishers was released at the announcement. Facebook started a similar initiative last January, but so far, not much impact has been felt the past 14 months.

In an effort to build an assistant for the business world, IBM has showed off Watson Assistant. Big Blue has been working on the project for a year, and hopes to get established in the business world before Amazon can with Alexa. Cnet.com reports that Watson won’t be for asking what the weather or a sports score is, but more of a behind the scenes brain. It is already in use in the airport in Munich, Germany for a robot that can give directions and gate info. IBM is also working with BMW for an in car voice helper. No, it doesn’t look like you will be able to use it to play Jeopardy if you’re bored in your cube, but it will be great, according to IBM, for crunching sensitive info companies may not want being bounced out into the world to Amazon, Google, Apple, or Microsoft servers.

Bigger is better, right? Now, a company in Irvine, CA, Nimbus Data, has showed the biggest SSD drive ever, a 100 Terabyte job. To give you an idea of how insanely big that is, thenextweb.com says it would hold half of Spotify’s catalog…in something that fits in a pocket!! Its not really designed for home for office use, actually…more for enterprise customers that need to cram more storage into their space that requires less cooling expense. Speaking of expense, no price is out yet, but as a comparison, Samsung has a 15TB drive that came out in 2016 for 10 grand!

A company named Victor has claimed to have built a better mousetrap…it’s connected to the Internet of Things. If this seems silly and massive overkill for way more than you’d spend on a mousetrap, you’re right. According to zdnet.com, it’s really aimed at restaurants and businesses where traps need to be set in attics and cellars that are not very accessible….because seeing visible rodents can be a sure fire business killer. The IoT mousetrap runs on Comcast’s MachineQ platform, and has a dashboard for monitoring. Victor claims they have improved battery life and WiFi range to the point that they can be left unattended for long periods, saving on labor for pest control in larger facilities. Finally….a trap that catches mice and ‘rats them out.’

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Amazon Buys Ring; Apple Watch Tracks Skiing & SnowBoarding; Cheaper Fitbit Coming; BMW Smartphone Car Key

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.


Galaxy S9 Gets FM Radio; Shortage of Apple Replacement Batteries; Connected Underwear

Another feature has leaked out about the Samsung Galaxy S9 that debuts next month. According to bgr.com, Samsung will unlock the FM chip on phones sold in the US and Canada. While you can get radio and internet radio over apps, this might come in very handy in emergencies like hurricanes, fires, and earthquakes. The FCC recently called on Apple to do the same, and in fact to activate FM chips in existing iPhones (although the latter isn’t technically possible.)

On the topic of Apple, there’s the ongoing saga of the slowed down, older iPhones due to batteries failing. Macrumors.com says those $29 replacement batteries promised by Apple may not be here in enough volume until March or April for the iPhone 6 Plus. The delay is only a couple weeks for the iPhone 6, and Apple says batteries should be available right now for iPhone 7, 7 Plus, and SE.

In a sure sign that the Internet of Things has gone too far….smart underwear! Mashable.com reports that the skivvies come with sensors woven into the fabric of the undies, and the have a small, rechargeable module that can be removed for recharging….and of course, washing. The Skiin bras and underwear from Myant have 6 different sensors that track heart rate, temperature, pressure, motion, body fat, and hydration levels. All the data is sent to your smartphone app. Pricey? Of course! $279 for 4 pairs of undies.


Two Wild TVs From CES; iOT-Everything Including the Kitchen Sink; Alexa Baked into Some New Windows 10 PCs; Sony Bows 3 New Phones

It’s CES week, the BIG Show for consumer electronics, and you can always count on some off the wall, ‘wow’ items. Theverge.com reports there are a couple of TVs that won’t disappoint in that department. Samsung has rolled out a 146 inch TV called The Wall. It uses Micro LED, which has a lot of the same benefits of OLED, and is ‘module based.’ The modules can be assembled to make a TV just the size to fit your needs…although 146 inch would probably be perfect for a man cave. You have to think the price will exceed that of many houses, though! The Wall launches this spring.

If a wall sized TV isn’t to your liking, how about a 65 inch screen that rolls up like a piece of paper? LG is showing their updated roll-up TV. It’s a 4K model that rolls down into a base when not in use. No word from LG when this marvel might be available.

The old joke is something has ‘everything but the kitchen sink.’ Well now, the Internet of Things can even control that! According to mashable.com, Delta is showing a sink that can be controlled by Alexa. They plan to have these in model homes to show the tech off by later this year, with the sinks hitting the market sometime in 2018.

Speaking of Alexa…and I realize you know what I did there, last year Amazon and Microsoft announced plans to let Cortana and Alexa talk to each other on Windows 10 PCs. Now, arstechnica.com says Acer, Asus, and HP have all announced that Alexa will be baked into some of their notebooks that will be coming out this year. All will apparently use the Alexa Windows 10 app that will be released later this year. It should be just about like using an Echo.

Sony has unveiled 3 new smartphones at CES. According to bgr.com, they are mid-range phones, not flagship type devices. Nothing spectacular about them, with one exception….the Xperia XA2 Ultra has two FRONT facing cams, and a 23 megapixel rear cam! The phones should be out late this month, giving people a chance to see if the buzz over the cam setup is worth it, or just a cool gimmick.


Samsung Backs Away From Smart Speakers; Microsoft Reveals Cortana Controlled Thermostat; Sears Rolls Out Alexa Powered Appliances on Amazon

We had reported, along with numerous others, that Samsung was working on a Bixby powered smart speaker to compete with Amazon’s, Google’s, and the upcoming Apple one. Now, thenextweb.com reports that Samsung has suddenly decided they are not marketable, with the dominance of Amazon, and Apple waiting in the Wings. Meanwhile, Global Market Insights predicts that the smart speaker market will grow to $13 billion by 2024. Almost half of smart speaker owners buy an additional one for their homes.

Microsoft has rolled out a great looking IOT thermostat today called GLAS. It’s made for them by Johnson Controls. According to theverge.com, it runs Windows 10 IoT Core, and has Cortana built in. Microsoft says it will detect if you are in the room or not, and also continuously monitor air quality inside and outside. Microsoft plans to add other appliances that will run their system and use Cortana.

Meanwhile, struggling retail giant Sears, which for decades had huge market share in appliances with its Kenmore brand, has started selling Alexa powered appliances via Amazon. Techcrunch.com says the retailer will bake in Alexa to air conditioners in addition to the expected refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers. You will e able to yell at Alexa to turn the AC up or down from your couch!


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.