Google I/O Expectations; Apple Beats the Street; Russian ‘Fancy Bear’ Hibernating in Lojack; Automakers Start Blockchain Research Group

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.

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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 Faster

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.