Alexa for Business; Automation vs Jobs; iPhone Batteries Getting Apple Power Management; Smart Wearables Starting to Take Off

Amazon is apparently gearing up to release a version of Alexa for business. More could be out later today at the Amazon Web Services re:Invent meetings. A CNBC report picked up by Geekwire.com says the release would focus on features and skills for workers and businesses. One tricky issue still being navigated is how to authenticate who is speaking so access can be granted based on their permissions.

On a related topic, there’s a new report out that sees up to 375 million workers displaced by AI, robots, or some other form of automation by 2030! The report was produced by the McKinsey Global Institute, which notes that displaced doesn’t mean REplaced. Some will be, but many will add new job skills…others will need to switch occupations. Full employment will be more difficult to attain. The report says what it calls ‘predictable physical work,’ including dish washing, food preparation, and protective services, will take the biggest hit. Demand will increase in India and Mexico, but the US might see 31% less jobs!

Apple is busily working on its own power management chips for iPhone batteries. According to macrumors.com, they could be out in phones in 2 years, and will give users better battery life. Cupertino could replace half the main power management chips in iPhones as soon as next year, but it might be 2019 before they are being built into all Apple mobile devices.

After a very slow start, smart wearables are beginning to take off. Cnet.com reports that global shipments of wearables hit 26.3 million devices in the third quarter of this year, up 7.3%. Most of the growth is in smart wearables…those that can run third party apps. In fact, basic wearables actually declined, but smart watches like the Apple Watch and Android Wear increased by 60%. Fitbit and Xiaomi tied for 1st place in the market, with the Apple Watch third.

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Amazon Future Supermarket-Lots of Robots; Google Maps Gets Makeover; Tech Companies Joined in Opposing Immigration Ban

As we’ve reported before, Amazon is testing their Amazon Go stores for fresh food sales, but the future could bring radically different supermarkets. Businessinsider.com reports that their future stores could be staffed with just 3-10 humans on the ground floor with over 4000 items people ‘like to touch,’ and no cashiers, no registers or lines. The app on smartphones would detect what was picked from the shelves and bill the customers. Upstairs, a fleet of robots would find and pack other items selected by customers. Amazon has denied that it is working on such a supermarket, but already does use 45,000 robots in 20 fulfillment centers.

Google Maps for Android has been refreshed, with traffic, transit, and places now living in a bottom bar. 9to5google.com says it is a cleaner interface, and that a quick swipe of the bar will bring up more details. Public transit includes travel time and nearby stations, and will even recommend what train or bus to take, based on your work address. It’s rolling out now over Google Play for Android users. No word on when the revised app will be showing up on Apple’s iOS.

In an almost unheard of show of solidarity, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter were part of 97 tech companies that joined in filing an amicus brief at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals opposing the Trump executive order on immigration. According to techcrunch.com, the companies will probably do so again when the Administration continues the appeal to the Supreme Court.


Wal~Mart Launches Wal~Mart Pay; Adidas Looks to Robots to Make Shoes

Wal~Mart has rolled out its own mobile wallet called Walmart Pay. It will be available on iOS and Android devices, and allows payment with any major credit, debit, pre-paid, or gift card. According to reuters.com, it should be in stores nationwide by the first half of 2016. The giant retailer says it’s not bailing on the merchant consortium that developed CurrentC, and will consider it as an additional mobile wallet option. CurrentC was beta launched in August.

No longer content to export jobs to people making slave wages in developing countries, Adidas is finishing up a factory in Germany that will be staffed with robots. Right now, there are 10 people helping make it work, but the company is shooting for 100% automated production. Geek.com says they are more concerned with shipping costs than rising wages in Asia, and building so-called ‘Speedfactories’ all around the globe where their customers live will help them move from selling 600 million shoes to a billion in the next 5 years.


Facebook’s Plan to Make Money From Messenger (Hint: More of Your Data)

When Facebook rolled out their freestanding messenger app, one of the pitches was that people and businesses could message each other ad-free, but that’s then and this is now. Now, businessinsider.com reports that an ad exec at TechCrunch Disrupt revealed that Facebook is working on a new type of ad called ‘click to message.’ It revolves around businesses designing ads about their company or product, and Facebook putting a little ‘message’ button at the bottom. If you click the button and send a question or comment to the business, they pay for the click. Facebook already has call to action buttons on its pages, claiming people really don’t want to mess with websites, or make phone calls or email any more. Every click and like gives them more of your data, to serve more targeted ads. Install the Ghostery browser plug in, and you’ll minimize the ability of Facebook and other sites to do this.

Volvo has come up with a novel plan to eliminate a stinky job…using robots to collect garbage. The car maker is partnering with a couple universities and a waste management firm to design robots that would collect the refuse, while a human operator supervises from the more comfortable and less smelly cab of the garbage truck. First tests should start in 2016. So far, they aren’t looking at robots to take out the trash to the polycarts and bins, which would please wives and girlfriends a lot more.


Android’s Billion Phone Year

A huge milestone has been passed by Android. 9to5google.com says there were a billion Android smartphones shipped in 2014. Strategy Analytics says they had expected the billion number, but only with tablets added in. China was a big help to pushing that number…sales there have doubled since 2012.

Over at Apple, an updated version of iTunes was just released. Thenextweb.com reports that version 12.1 includes a new widget that lets you see what’s playing, skip ahead, and buy songs right from the widget.

DARPA, the folks that basically gave us the internet, has a new futuristic project. Engadget.com says they are developing new tech that lets robots learn from YouTube videos! The idea is to teach the machines not only to collect data, but how to act on it. Don’t expect the rise of the machines to happen any time soon, though!


More On ‘Project Zero’- the Upcoming Samsung Galaxy S6

A big leak has outed the Samsung Galaxy S6 specifications. 9to5google.com says it will have a metal body, ditching the cheap plastic, and a 20 mp main camera. It’s expected to roll out in March.

Apple supplier Foxconn is finding their new robots aren’t precise enough to build iPhones. Macrumors.com reports that an upgrade to the so-called ‘Foxbots’ may take years. The present ones were scaled from machines that build cars.

Microsoft is still planning to launch Windows 10 by late summer or early fall, according to Microsoft COO Kevin Turner. ZDnet.com says they will show the first preview of the system in January.


Amazon’s Warehouse Robots

Amazon has tripled warehouse picker productivity with an army of orange robots, Geek.com says. The robots bring moveable shelves to the pickers, who grab your item and get it on its way to you. The Tracy warehouse is one of 3 equipped with them.

A biotech startup called Suneris has created a plant based polymer gel that can stop a wound’s bleeding in just 20 seconds. Cnet.com reports VetiGel is being FDA tested…it’s already coming out for vets to use on animals.

A free iPhone app claims to use your personal taste to predict whether or not you’ll like a wine you look at at a store. 9to5mac.com says NextGlass takes your input, reads the label, and gives you the verdict.