Monday, August 21, 2017

Apple Wireless Charging


As we get closer to the Apple iPhone 8 launch, more leaks surrounding the device are surfacing online — the most recent ones seem to have explained the device’s wireless charging mechanism. According to some images that emerged on the Chinese microblogging platform Sina Weibo on Thursday, the iPhone 8’s internal wireless charging components seem to have been leaked along with a black PCB (Printed Circuit Board).

Long-range wireless charging has been long expected in the iPhone 8. With rivals such as Samsung offering charging pad-based wireless charging for more than a couple of years, Apple is expected to differentiate itself by providing users with a charging mechanism which won’t really need users to place their phones on a pad for charging. But, instead, they could simply be in the range of the charger, expected to be around 10 meters and that would suffice for charging their devices.

The mechanism indicated by these leaked images seems to be the inductive power functionality — an internal charging coil which will receive current wirelessly and fit inside the smartphone. This charging coil will be attached to the rear of the handset with adhesive glue.

Apple is expected to opt for a glass body instead of an aluminum one so that it can maintain the charge on such smartphones.

Going by what the leaks say, the components in the images are large charging pads which will be located on a charging pad that users will get with their iPhone 8.

The images show a charging pad with a connected cable. While Apple has not revealed whether this feature will be included in the iPhone 8, the rumor mill has been buzzing about it since last year and with these images as an additional indication, it seems more probable that the device will come with the feature.

This goes hand-in-hand with an Apple patent from April which explains the mechanism of delivering power to the iPhone using 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands — similar to ones used by Wi-Fi routers for delivering Wi-Fi signals to devices.

Apple also joined the Qi Wireless Power Consortium in February this year, giving indications of its strong interest in the technology.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Sanbot

By Bayle Emlein



If you think Hello Kitty is cute, you’ll love Sanbot from Qihan. Sanbot surpasses Hello Kitty by being useful as well as adorable. As the ability to remotely manage a fleet of robots enters the mainstream, using them to take care of everyday tasks at times and/or locations that might be inconvenient for humans becomes feasible. The example at Digital Experience involved people asking for information at an airport. Instead of just one Information Booth, there could be a Sanbot at each concourse–every day, all day with no overtime for holidays and no Closed signs due to someone’s kid’s upset tummy. The most common question in the circumstances is, “Where is the loo?” A Sanbot could understand the question and provide an answer in more languages than Rosetta Stone covers.




Robots are also turning up in patient care facilities in part because they are, well, more patient than the patients. Sanbot is clearly paying attention to the human interface: the display model is about 31/2 feet tall–the size of a ten-year-old–big enough to look like it might have some answers and small enough to be relatively unthreatening. If your well-spent youth included a lot of comics or graphic novels, the facial features and limbs without digits will feel familiar. This sense of familiarity will go a long way toward getting robots accepted as electronic assistants in the real world.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Lenovo at Digital Experience

By Bayle Emlein


Sometimes you just need a little exciting technology in your life and a Tesla won't fit into your workspace. From workhorse desktops to ultraportable convertibles and tablets, tablets, Lenovo, the offers a variety of cool stuff for work (school or job) and play. The sleek designs; slim, lightweight profiles; and cool colors can leave you feeling good about getting everyday tasks done. The ThinkPad and Yoga series are so cute and affordable, when I saw them at the spring Digital Experience expo I wanted one of each, even though I don't really >need< anything new.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

More Digital Experience

By Bayle Emlien

WattUp

WattUp wire-free charging technology is the centerpiece of the offerings from Energous. With their new transmitter system based on the new DA4100 WattUp wireless power transmitter chip, Energous looks forward to wireless charging of enabled devices. Imagine never having to worry about an uncharged phone or waiting for your tablet to finish charging because you remembered to plug it in five minutes before you needed to leave. With an anticipated range of up to 20 feet from a transmitter,

WattApp technology cuts the cord and puts true mobility into mobile gadgets. Energous anticipates that each transmitter can handle multiple devices, so that workplace productivity is not slowed by dead phones and coffee houses can keep customers tapping away all day.



TrackR

When I lose my keys, it’s almost always in my house. How else did I get here and get in? But too often getting out is delayed by a frantic search for keys. If only I’d attached a TrackR when I had the things in hand. In a market where size matters, TrackR released the Pixel this spring, the smallest and lightest key finder available.

The Pixel is both smaller and louder than previous TrackR models and features an LED light to help locate the item at the bottom of a bag or in the dark. The Pixel has a longer Bluetooth range and the app can notify “TrackR Crowd Locate” network, in case you’re out of range or you’ve also lost your cell phone. A single episode of hunting for keys or wallet justifies the price of a Pixel.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ecobee 4

By Bayle Emlien

Maybe you think it’s silly to be looking at a home thermostat in May and reading about one in the middle of summer. But winter is coming, I promise you. And just like it’s most sensible to fix the roof before the rains start, so hear (read?) me out. It’s most sensible to get your home temperature controls under control before you start coming home in the dark again and run headlong into the holidays. Ecobee pioneered WiFi temperature controls. While individual room temperature controls might or might not save you the whole cost of the system in a single system, it’s likely to make enough of a dent that you’ll be glad you got it for that reason alone.



With the Ecobee 4, individual room sensors let you control the temperature in various rooms in your home. Paired with Amazon Alexa, the Ecobee 4 lets you do this by voice instead of fiddling with dials and switches. The ability to sort of control the environment by voice has been around for decades; with Ecobee and Alexa it’s reliable, easy to set up, and easy to use. With a maturing population, most of whom would prefer to age at home, the ability to manage lighting and room temperature remotely has moved out of the market for cute gizmos and into the mainstream. This spring, Ecobee was also featuring controlled-color light bulbs. With just one lightbulb, your voice, and the app on your phone, you can convert the ambience in any indoor space. Want a bright white light to wake up in the morning? How about dimming in the evening to help your brain power down for sleep? Ecobee suggests requesting a pink tinge if you’re setting up for romance.

Monday, August 14, 2017

More From Digital Experience

By Bayle Emlein

As every single thing we use develops an internet presence, two concerns arise: how to get coverage everywhere you want whenever you want, and how to prevent unauthorized access to anything anywhere by anyone. TP-Link addresses both. The Deco M5 Whole-Home Wi-Fi Systems, which is a mesh networking solution. It seamless wireless internet coverage and comprehensive security throughout your home. Details are, of course, available on the TP-Link website as well as many other searchable locations. Just as you assume your car will have air bags, even though you assume it won’t be involved in a crash, assume your WiFi home needs security before the neighbors kids start turning on your electronics at 3 am.



It’s not all protection and perimeters at TP-Link. Paired with Amazon Alexa, TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Bulbs can be asked to brighten up, fade back, cool the color in a room or warm it up. While this kind of feature is an obvious convenience to someone with her hands mired in bread dough (you do knead your own, don’t you?) it grants independence to someone who is challenged–either temporarily or long-term–by getting up to change the lighting in a room.

Friday, August 11, 2017

4 Miscues That Can Transform Popular Brands Into Troubled Brands

By Larry Light

Early this year, The Limited shut down its 250 clothing stores and not long after that the women’s apparel chain announced it was filing for bankruptcy protection.
Just like that, a brand that had been a mainstay of shopping malls across America disappeared from the retail front.

What happened to force the company’s hand? Several factors came into play, including an inability to compete with “fast fashion” stores that rush the latest fashions into consumers’ hands, as well as the chain’s sale several years ago to a private equity firm that cut costs but couldn’t find a buyer. However, analysts also suggested that, like many retailers, The Limited failed to keep up with dramatic changes in shopping habits and quick-changing fashion sensibilities, making it less relevant to its target consumers.

While it’s not unusual for brands to head down the path to irrelevancy, it’s also not inevitable, says Larry Light, a global brand revitalization expert and CEO of the business-consulting firm Arcature (www.arcature.com).

“A brand can innovate itself out of a death spiral,” Light says. “Just as an example, IBM may have lost its relevance in computers and laptops, but it saved itself by focusing on servers, information, and cloud computing.”

Some people insist that all brands eventually will go through a natural life cycle from birth to death, but he disagrees with that view.

“It’s possible for brands to live forever, but they have to be properly managed,” says Light, co-author with Joan Kiddon of Six Rules for Brand Revitalization. “Too often brands get into trouble due to the self-inflicted actions of their owners.”

Light says there are probably a dozen identifiable ways businesses can make a mess of their brands. Here are four:
• The loss of relevance. Staying relevant means always staying aware of changes to the landscape, the customers, the competitive brands, and your brand. “Understanding what your audience needs and how they obtain their products and services is the way to remain relevant,” Light says.
• The lack of a coherent plan to win. Having a coherent strategy that aligns employees and outside partners accomplishes a lot on the way to positive performance. But the plan needs the clear, consistent, visual, and verbal support of leadership. “It also must contain the vision for the brand and the plan to achieve this vision,” Light says. “It’s a top-down strategy. Without a clear and vibrant plan to win, a brand is directionless.”
• The lack of a balanced brand-business scorecard.  A brand-business scorecard allows leaders to view the critical indicators necessary to create growth that is both profitable and enduring, rather than one or the other. Light says such a scorecard reinforces the importance of producing a proper balance between both business and brand results. Using measurable milestones – such as sales, profits, price and promotion – it evaluates whether the brand leadership is doing the right things in the right way.
• The disregard for the changing world. Technology changes, demographics change and so do plenty of other factors that can affect a brand. “Although it’s impossible to predict the future,” Light says, “it is absolutely necessary for business leaders to keep their eyes, ears, mind, and heart open to what may be possible and to what is actually happening around them.”

“Some brands that experience trouble are very successful in pulling out of the downward spiral,” Light says. “But the best way to not have to revitalize a brand is to avoid becoming a troubled brand in the first place.”

About Larry Light

Larry Light, a global brand revitalization expert, is co-author with Joan Kiddon of Six Rules for Brand Revitalization. He also is the Chief Executive Officer of Arcature (www.arcature.com), a marketing consulting company that has advised a variety of marketers in packaged goods, technology, retail, hospitality, automotive, corporate and business-to-business, as well as not-for-profit organizations. Prior to consulting, Light worked on the advertising agency side as a senior executive at both BBDO and CEO of the International Division at Ted Bates Advertising. He was global Chief Marketing Officer of McDonald’s from 2002-2005 where he was involved in one of the most recognized brand business turnarounds. From 2010 to 2014, Light was Chief Brands Officer of the global hotels group IHG.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Disney To Start Streaming

Walt Disney Co will stop providing new movies to Netflix Inc starting in 2019 and launch its own streaming service as the world's biggest entertainment company tries to capture digital viewers who are dumping traditional television.

Disney's defection, announced on Tuesday alongside quarterly results showing continued pressure on sports network ESPN, is a calculated gamble that the company can generate more profit in the long run from its own subscription service rather than renting out its movies to services like Netflix.

In turn, Netflix and rivals such as Amazon.com Inc and Time Warner Inc's HBO are spending billions of dollars to buy and produce their own content and stream it straight to consumers.

Disney's entry into a crowded subscription streaming market and the cost of technology to support its own online services could weigh on earnings, Wall Street analysts said.

Disney stock fell 3.8 percent in after-hours trade. Shares of Netflix fell 3 percent.

The new Disney-branded streaming service will follow a similar offering from ESPN that will be available starting in 2018, the company said.

The streaming services will give Disney "much greater control over our own destiny in a rapidly changing market," Chief Executive Bob Iger told analysts on a conference call after earnings, describing the moves as an "entirely new growth strategy" for the company.

Disney has some experience with the direct-to-consumer model in Britain and could make more money in the long run from its own service, but the move could be "financially less advantageous" in the near term, said Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser.

The new ESPN service will feature about 10,000 live games and events per year from Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer and others, Disney said. It will not offer the marquee live sporting events shown on its cable channels.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

T-Mobile Wants More Boomers

T-Mobile had attracted more new wireless customers over the past three years than the rest of its competitors combined, but its subscriber base still skews younger and more urban than the industry as a whole. So T-Mobile this week will try to close the gap with a deep discount for people age 55 and up.


Starting on Wednesday, new or existing senior customers will be able to sign up for T-Mobile's unlimited data plan for $50 for one line or $60 for two lines, versus usual prices of $70 and $120 (though currently, the carrier has a limited-time offer of two lines for $100). That's among the best deals of any kind across the entire wireless market.


Under CEO John Legere, T-Mobile has had great success attracting new customers, but growth is slowing. In the first half of this year, the carrier added 2.2 million customers to its branded service down from 3.2 million in the same period of 2016. And its stock, which gained almost 50% last year, is up 12% so far in 2017.

The real challenge may be retooling and retargeting T-Mobile's loud, brash ad campaigns to get the attention of the Baby Boomers and not just millennials. Typical ads have featured music stars like Drake and Justin Bieber or Kim Kardashian. And CEO Legere, himself a Baby Boomer, is known for dressing in hot pink sneakers and tee shirts and occasionally swearing at public events and on Twitter.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Apples iWatch News


Apple is planning to release a version of its smartwatch later this year that can connect directly to cellular networks, a move designed to reduce the device’s reliance on the iPhone, people familiar with the matter said.

Currently, Apple requires its smartwatch to be connected wirelessly to an iPhone to stream music, download directions in maps, and send messages while on the go. Equipped with LTE chips, at least some new Apple Watch models, planned for release by the end of the year, will be able to conduct many tasks without an iPhone in range, the people said. For example, a user would be able to download new songs and use apps and leave their smartphone at home.

Intel Corp. will supply the LTE modems for the new Watch, according to another person familiar with the situation. That’s a big win for the chipmaker, which has been trying for years to get its components into more Apple mobile devices. Qualcomm Inc. has been the main modem supplier for iPhones and other Apple mobile gadgets, but the two companies are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute. Apple added Intel as a modem supplier for some iPhones last year.

Apple is already in talks with carriers in the U.S. and Europe about offering the cellular version, the people added. The carriers supporting the LTE Apple Watch, at least at launch, may be a limited subset of those that carry the iPhone, one of the people said. However, AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile US Inc. in the U.S. plan to sell the device, according to other people familiar with the matter. The new device could still be delayed beyond 2017 -- indeed, the company had already postponed a cellular-capable smartwatch last year. Apple, Intel and the carriers declined to comment.

While the Apple Watch remains a small part of Apple’s overall revenue, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said earlier this week it’s the best-selling smartwatch "by a very wide margin." Sales of the device grew more than 50 percent in the third quarter, Cook added. In the larger wearables category, which includes cheaper fitness bands, Apple ranks third behind Xiaomi Corp. and Fitbit Inc., according to research firm Strategy Analytics. Apple does not break out sales numbers for the Watch like it does for iPhones, iPads, and Macs.

Making the Apple Watch more of a standalone device may boost sales of the product. "It would be a game changer," said Gene Munster, co-founder of Loup Ventures and a long-time Apple analyst. "If they could deliver an experience that isn’t tethered to an iPhone, it could kick start a new direction for the business." Still, he’s concerned about battery life in such a device.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Digital Experience Part 11

By Bayle Emlein



A major reason that people fail to meet their physical therapy goals is that the exercises are so boring that very few people follow the prescribed number of reps and frequency using the proper alignment, which would build strength--instead of working carelessly and just wasting time or even adding problems. And how do you know you’re doing the exercises right without the PT right there checking on you? Try a Smart Glove.

Their RAPAEL Smart Glove was Neofect’s featured product at the 2017 San Francisco Digital Experience. Unlike most other products and services displayed, the technology developed by Neofect is directed at a narrow, niche market: people with significant manual dexterity challenges. That could be someone who has lost control of fingers as the result of a stroke or head injury or a child who is experiencing developmental delays. The Smart Glove is a lightweight plastic exoskeleton. It fits over a hand and uses very specific rehabilitative exercises–disguised as games–to train the user. Then you return the rented equipment and get on with your life. This stuff isn’t inexpensive, but the promise of needing it for only a limited time makes the cost more palatable. Feedback from the games, er, exercise app, monitors for therapeutic performance; the game-like nature of the exercises keeps users with limited attention, like children, engaged long enough to benefit.

While Neofect is focused on the rehabilitation market right now–their financial model is based on rental of products, assuming that the items will work themselves out of a job–the transfer to the gamer market is obvious and just waiting for developers.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Tablet Shipments


Remember when tablets were the hottest pieces of tech? Those days are long gone.

Tablet shipments declined by 3.4 percent over a year ago in the second quarter, with the lone bright spot a focus on tablets that didn't completely destroy your wallet, according to IDC.

As a result, Apple was a big winner in the period, thanks largely to the March introduction of a newly refreshed 9.7-inch iPad, which also got a $70 cut in price in the US. It's no surprise that Apple is the leader since the company posted on Tuesday its first gain in iPad sales in 14 quarters. Samsung held steady as the No. 2 player, while Huawei was third.

Amazon, which sells a family of budget Fire tablets using a radically customized version of Android, was No. 4, but saw the biggest growth among the leaders.

Apple also released a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro in the quarter, but it's unclear how well that did. IDC also said that two-in-one touchscreen computers with detachable keyboards, which were once also popular, have slowed down considerably.

Friday, August 4, 2017

iPhone Sales


Apple Inc on Tuesday delivered surprisingly strong fiscal third-quarter earnings and signaled that its upcoming 10th-anniversary phone lineup is on schedule, driving the stock up 6 percent to an all-time high in after-hours trading.

The stock climbed above its intraday record high to $159.10 after the company reported better-than-expected iPhone sales, revenue and earnings per share. The stock price move was expected to help drive the Dow Jones Industrial Average over the 22,000 mark on Wednesday.

Apple also said it hit a milestone of 1.2 billion iPhones sold.

The April-June quarter is traditionally a soft one for Apple as the market waits for the September launch of new iPhone models. But Tuesday’s results show that iPhone buyers may be less inclined than they once were to delay purchases until a new model is out.

The iPad product lines also showed unexpected strength, service revenue continues to grow at a healthy clip, and even the much-maligned Apple Watch showed a 50 percent sales increase.

Apple is widely tipped to adopt higher-resolution OLED displays for the latest iPhone, along with better touchscreen technology and wireless charging - which could come with a $1,000 plus price tag.

The phone is expected to launch in September.

The company forecast total revenue of between $49 billion and $52 billion for the current fourth quarter, while analysts on average were expecting $49.21 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Apple's fourth quarter generally includes first-weekend sales of the company's latest devices.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

3 Ways To Bring Jobs Back To America's Forgotten Communities

By Greg Kozera

They were forgotten communities, at least in the minds of many people who lived in them.

Even as the rest of the country recovered from the recession, people in the nation’s coal fields and Rust Belt continued to suffer economically. They longed for a return to the days when their region could produce high-paying jobs, and they helped boost Donald Trump to the presidency when he promised to do just that.

Already, the hard work of making that happen is underway – but it’s not just as a project emanating from Washington, D.C.

“Much of the work of restoring the economy in these areas has to begin with the people who live there,” says Greg Kozera, director of marketing for Shale Crescent USA (www.shalecrescentusa.com), a non-profit, non-political group of business and community leaders from Ohio and West Virginia who are doing just that.

“The federal government can do some things to help, but it’s the private sector and local government officials who really need to step up.”

There are reasons for optimism in such places as the Mid-Ohio Valley that stretches across Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and where Shale Crescent USA is doing its work.
“You have an area with the largest natural gas field in the world,” Kozera says. “There is easy transportation on the Ohio River and you have people eager to work. Being close to half of the markets in North America also helps. We could be on the verge of a petrochemical industrial boom, and the average job in that industry pays $100,000.”

Of course, it may be easier for communities to achieve an economic revival when there’s a much-coveted natural resource to tap into, but there are other steps leaders in these “forgotten communities” can take to improve their fortunes, Kozera says. Those include:
• Take the initiative. Business and community leaders shouldn’t wait for government or outside industry to make something happen. They need to take action. “That’s what the people who formed Shale Crescent USA did,” Kozera says. “They knew if something was going to happen, they would need to be the catalyst for making it happen themselves.”
• Create awareness. Once you know what you want to achieve, you must get the word out to people and industries that can help you make it happen. For example, Shale Crescent USA is making sure that the petrochemical, glass and other industries know about the advantages the Mid-Ohio Valley provides as a place to grow or relocate. Government can do a lot to help bring in business, Kozera says, but typically doesn’t do a very good job of staying focused on marketing and sales.
• Remember that prosperity is contagious. Sometimes when multiple cities or states are involved, they become competitive and forget that exactly where industry locates doesn’t matter because the whole region will benefit from economic development. As people gain good paychecks, more businesses will spring up to serve them. The tax base also increases, which means schools, roads, parks and other government services can also improve.

“Something like this isn’t a simple task,” Kozera says. “It takes a team effort. If you can get people in a region working together, you’ll have a much greater chance of accomplishing your goals.”

About Greg Kozera

Greg Kozera, director of marketing for Shale Crescent USA (www.shalecrescentusa.com), is an engineer and an environmentalist with more than 35 years of experience in the natural gas and oil industry. He also is the author of the books Just the Fracks Ma’am and Learned Leadership. Kozera is a past president of the Virginia Oil & Gas Association (an all-volunteer organization).

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Facebook Acquires Ozio


Facebook has acquired AI assistant startup Ozlo to help build “compelling experiences within Messenger that are powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning,” a Facebook spokesperson has confirmed to VentureBeat. A brief note on the acquisition and plans to join the Messenger team was also shared on the Ozlo website.

As part of the acquisition, Facebook will receive Ozlo’s tech and a majority of its team of about 30 employees, and Ozlo will shut down its apps and API services, according to Recode.

The Ozlo app for iOS and the web launched in October 2016 and was powered by an AI assistant of the same name. Ozlo initially focused on helping users sift through restaurant listings in a conversational format.

Ozlo offerings eventually expanded to include restaurants that serve foods for people with strict dietary restrictions, as well as weather forecasts and more local business services, like movie listings. Similar to other assistants, Ozlo began to leverage APIs from apps like Yelp, DoorDash, and others. In March, Ozlo started offering its own APIs.

The news comes a week after DigiTimes reported that Facebook is working on its own smart speaker to rival Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s HomePod.

A report by The Information earlier this year found that about seven in 10 of intelligent assistant M’s interactions in private beta testing required intervention by a human. So instead of M acting as an assistant, like Alexa or Siri, the first public iteration of Facebook’s intelligent assistant was M Suggestions.

Based on words used in a conversation, M can suggest that you create a calendar event or hail a ride from Lyft or Uber. Earlier this month, M learned how to recommend recipes from Food Network’s bot — marking M’s second bot recommendation.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Check is in the Mail, etc.


Following iRobot's CEO declaring that he was looking to sell collated data from the automatic robot vacuum Roomba, a user reached out to Apple to see what it had in mind on the same topic. The user was concerned because Apple advertises it will use room-mapping technology to automatically tailor the HomePod's audio to fit the space.

In an email response to the reader, Apple declared that: "No information is sent to Apple servers until HomePod recognizes the key utterance "Hey Siri," and any information after that point is encrypted and sent via an anonymous Siri ID. For room sensing, all analysis is done locally on the device and is not shared with Apple."

Reaching out to Apple for more data regarding the statement and to confirm its authenticity, AppleInsider was told that there was "nothing at all new here" and there is no change to the company's privacy page for Siri and hardware. The privacy page states clearly that it does not collect and sell user data gleaned by Siri or other services.

While Apple's privacy policy on Siri is not new, the room sensing technology set to be introduced in the HomePod itself is. Confirmation that Apple has no intention to upload or share the data should help put privacy advocates at ease.

Apple's HomePod uses the microphones to listen not only to the user, but to the audio being played in real-time. The A8 analyzes not only the sound of the audio in the room, but "time in flight," telling the device where each wall or sound-reflecting object is in the room, and adjusts the output accordingly based on this data.

While not quite the same as how a Roomba can map a user's floors and furniture, it's still some general idea of how a person's home is laid out, or how large it is.

Unlike Apple, which plans to keep any home data stored on the device itself, Roomba collects and stores information on a user's home not only to improve its products, but also with the possibility that it could share and sell it in the future.

Roomba builder iRobot believes that the data could be of interest to Apple, Amazon, and Google to improve the data sets utilized in home automation software and services, or to suggest a new product to fill a service gap. To boost its bottom line, iRobot has started looking for customers willing to pay for that data.

As detailed this week, the 900-series Roomba automated vacuums measure the dimensions of a room, as well as furniture orientation, size of the devices, and where they are located in the room. This is accomplished by simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) technology.

Apple's $349 HomePod was revealed at the 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference and will ship in December. The speaker is powered by an Apple A8 chip featuring realtime acoustic modeling, audio beam-forming, and multi-channel echo cancelation. It features a subset of Siri, optimized for music consumption.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Apple Loyalty


Apple achieved a 91 percent loyalty score, and slightly lower satisfaction of 85 percent, said marketing firm Fluent. The figures are based on June online polls of U.S. adults, using at least 2,000 to 3,000 completed surveys for each selected industry. Within those industries, only the 15 to 20 biggest brands were considered.

Apple is the "gold standard for practical innovation," Fluent commented. Its loyalty numbers are said to stem from a closely-integrated —and sometimes locked —ecosystem, meaning that as people buy more Apple devices, they become more dedicated.

Some of the only companies to rate above Apple included bulk retailer Costco, and big-box home improvement chain Lowe's. Costco in particular managed 95 percent loyalty and 91 percent satisfaction.

Fluent noted that within the smartphone, tablet, and computer industries as a whole, satisfaction was typically higher than loyalty. The margin was smallest in the smartphone world however, with 74 percent loyalty and 76 percent satisfaction.

Apple frequently ranks high in brand surveys, though in February a global Reputation Institute study saw Apple drop 10 spots to 20th place, something blamed on fading "perceptions of its governance and citizenship." Chief rival Samsung did far worse, plummeting from 17th place to 70th in the aftermath of Galaxy Note 7 fires.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Windows 10 Update


Microsoft isn’t quite finished developing Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update after all: Four new features were added as part of Windows 10 Insider Build 16251, including new Cortana capabilities and more communication between Windows and your phone.

If there’s a theme to the new build, it’s following up on promises that Microsoft made earlier. At its Build developer conference, Microsoft promised that phones and Windows would begin to communicate with one another, so tasks begun on the phone could be completed on the desktop. Voice commands to shut down and reboot your PC have also been enabled via Cortana—who now has greater freedom to provide answers without launching a browser. Finally, if you do need to reboot your PC, you can program your PC to skip the authentication process.

Why this matters: Microsoft pledged to make the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update a tool for connectivity as much as creativity, with several key featuresthat are slowly rolling out to Insiders. (Several, such as Timeline, we have yet to see, however.) Personally, I like Cortana’s new capabilities more than anything else, though the phone-to-PC connectivity is a welcome foundation for future improvements.

Cortana’s pane in the side

One of Cortana’s minor annoyances is that when she can’t display the answer as a card or a short reply, she’ll automatically launch an Edge webpage. To me, this always felt like giving up. Now, Cortana will slide out an additional pane with, say, a weather forecast. If there is no card available, she’ll show the result with a little arrow next to it to launch a webpage.