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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Google Looking to Xiaomi to Produce Next Android One; Bay Area Check-Out Free Startup Takes on Amazon; VW WILL Have Electric Microbus in 2022

Xiaomi of China makes an array of gadgets, that are generally high quality and noticeably cheaper than any competition. They have already been producing smartphones, and now may be connecting with Google to make the next Android One. Thenextweb.com reports that they are reworking their 5.5 inch Mi 5X into basically an Android One. It has a dual cam like the iPhone 7 Plus’ Portrait mode, and has good build quality and battery life. If everything pans out, Google could bring an Android One phone to the US by late this year or early next for $200-$300!

We’ve reported on Amazon’s check-out free system they are working on called Amazon Go. Now, Standard Cognition out of Palo Alto is releasing what they call an ‘alternative technology’ to eliminate the checkout process at retailers. According to geekwire.com, the startup is in talks with retailers to set up pilots in stores. Their tech uses machine vision and artificial intelligence to identify each item and detect which ones are picked up, put back, or left elsewhere in the store. They will have two apps…one for shoppers and one for the stores. As a shopper, you just grab your stuff and leave. The bill will be charged to you automatically via the app. ‘Appless’ customers will be directed by store staff to kiosks like self checkouts, where they can pay with cash or credit. Walmart also is testing a similar system they call ‘Scan & Go’

We’ve seen pictures, renders, and teases, now we know that Volkswagen will build the I.D. Buzz electric Microbus by 2022. Mashable.com says it should have a version that can make 300 miles on a charge, and be able to recharge to 80% in 30 minutes with VW’s fast charge system. Since it’s electric, it will have tons of space, and VW plans a commercial version companies can use for deliveries in inner cities that are going to eventually ban gas and diesel vehicles. It will have Level 3 self-driving, so some cruising without full driver participation will be possible. I’m seeing lines of old hippies showing up at VW dealerships looking like Fry from Futurama yelling ‘take my money!’


Google Will Launch Hybrid OS; Xiaomi’s New Flagship Has Ultrasonic Fingerprint Reader; Apple Patents Laser Mapping System & Hybrid Keyboard

Google looks to launch its upcoming Andromeda…Android/Chrome hybrid OS on a Huawei Nexus tablet and a convertible laptop, according to 9to5google.com. The convertible laptop will probably sport the new Pixel brand, as Google appears poised to call the phones they will show October 4th. It will have either an Intel M3 or i5 Core processor, 32 or 128GB of storage and 8GB or 16GB of RAM. There’s also apparently a fingerprint scanner, two USB-C ports, stereo speakers, four microphones, and a 10 hour battery. It’s apparently priced around $800.

Chinese phone maker Xiaomi has showed off its Mi 5s and 5s Plus handsets. According to theverge.com, they have a better camera, faster processor, but of most interest…and ultrasonic fingerprint reader that is under the glass on the front. The portion of the front with the reader doesn’t have screen space under it. Apple has a patent for similar tech, but the iPhone 8 will likely have an all glass screen on the front, edge to edge. On the Xiaomi phones, an indentation in the glass is the only spot that will read prints. Apple’s may not be so restrictive. Ultrasonic fingerprint readers are generally more accurate than the capacitive ones currently used by Apple, Samsung, and the rest.

Apple has also patented laser based positional and 3D mapping hardware…this could give far more reliable mapping for…say…self-driving cars! Appleinsider.com says they were also granted a patent for a hybrid mechanical/ capacitive touch sensitive keyboard. They also have an optical connector that converts signals to light which connects accessories to a laptop through micro-perfs that are invisible to the naked eye. It uses infrared laser light, which draws less power than Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.


Sony PS4 Neo Event Scheduled; iPhone Outselling Samsung S7 in US again

September 7th is the date…Sony has announced their PlayStation Meeting in New York. Arstechnica.com says we can expect the rollout of the 4K ready Playstation 4 Neo. It’s rumored to have a jump in CPU clock speed, more and faster GPU cores, and more memory bandwidth. On the heels of this updated PlayStation, Sony is thought to be going to show their PlayStation VR headset in October, just a month later.

After taking a dive, Apple’s iOS got another uptick in the second quarter of this year. According to 9to5mac.com, Apple’s share of the smartphone market growing by 1.3% in the USA and 3.1% in the UK. This gave Apple a 31.8% share in the U.S. and 37.2% in the UK. Here in the US, iPhone 6s/6s Plus outsold the Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 edge to make the iPhone the best-selling handset in the quarter at 15.1% against Samsung’s 14.1%, with the iPhone SE taking third place at 5.1%. In Britain, the iPhone SE was the best-selling smartphone for the quarter, at 9.2% of the market, just ahead of the iPhone 6s at 9.1%. Apple didn’t fare so well in China, where Apple’s share dropped 1.8% to 17.9%, putting Apple behind both Huawei and Xiaomi.


Xiaomi Getting Ready to Bring Their Smartphones to the US; Apple’s WWDC Starts June 13th

After following the lead of Samsung and shamelessly aping Apple’s iPhone in their home country of China, it looks like maker Xiaomi is ready for their US closeup. Bgr.com reports that they have become the fastest growing smartphone maker, and now they’re coming to the US. Their latest crop of phones barely resemble the iPhone now, and they’ve purchased about 1500 patents from Microsoft. Xiaomi is known now for selling affordable smartphones with designs and specs that rival much more expensive ones, so if you’re on a budget but want a top flight phone, this could be the real deal.

We knew it was coming soon, and now we have a date. Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference will kick off in San Francisco Monday, June 13th, with the keynote at the usual 10 am Pacific. Bill Graham Civic Auditorium will be crammed to the rafters with tech reporters and developers. By noon that day, we should have lots more details about the next version of Apple’s iPhone/iPad software — iOS 10 — as well as news on Apple Watch, Apple TV and Macs. Cnet.com says they’ll have live coverage, as will a number of other tech sites. We’ll recap things right here. Stay tuned…