Stratford gearing up for connected car world

Stratford partnered with the University of Waterloo for a digital media campus in the city. It opened in 2011 with 24 students. The current enrolment of 600 is expected to increase to 800 by 2019.

The technology developed by Miovision and Escrypt will allow the city to track vehicles moving through and around the 24 intersections with traffic lights.

Escrypt software in the vehicles and the traffic signals will continuously send out messages, at a rate of five per second. From the cars, the messages will be about speed, acceleration, steering angle, brake status and location, said Jason Smith, director of product development at Escrypt, a Waterloo firm specializing in embedded security.

From the traffic lights, the technology will tell vehicles the phase, timing and status of the signals, said Smith.

Escrypt consulted with the U.S. Department of Transportation on developing the standard for how smart vehicles will communicate with each other and with roadside infrastructure. As a result, a connected vehicle can get information from other cars around it and the roadside sensors.

“So it can start to make much smarter decisions on how to react,” said Smith.

Stratford is also spending $50,000 to install sensors in the asphalt of parking spots to make it easier for visitors to find parking.

“For people using it, all they will know is they can look at a phone and see how many spaces are vacant in each lot and where they are,” said Mathieson.

The data collected from parking spots and traffic lights could lead to new revenue streams for the city, better traffic management and other service improvements, it says.

“There’s lots of stuff to come from it, you don’t know what it’s going to be,” said Mathieson.

As automakers put more and more connected technology into vehicles, the Wi-Fi infrastructure along provincial highways and city streets lags far behind. Stratford is the demonstration hub for this technology.

There are lots of questions about who will pay for the installation and maintenance of sensors along the roadways. Will it be federal, provincial or municipal taxpayers? Carmakers and auto parts manufacturers want access to the Wi-Fi networks for their connected vehicles, but there are no business cases for the networks yet.

“We are going to have to find ways to use this new infrastructure, how have to revenue streams out of it,” said Mathieson.

“Who owns the data? What do we do with it?” he said. “That’s why being a demonstration hub is exciting. We are hoping to help establish best practices for the province.”

The Ontario government designated Stratford as the demonstration hub for autonomous vehicles in the last provincial budget. It is receiving $5 million from the province to help it pay for the smart intersection technology. The money is part of the $80 million the province earmarked for autonomous vehicle research during the next five years.

Recently, the city officially opened a four-acre test track for connected and driverless vehicles. It was built by the Japanese company Renesas Electronics Corp., the world’s largest maker of microchips for autonomous vehicles. The University of Waterloo is also a partner.

The chipmaker wants to have an autonomous vehicle ready for the next Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early 2018. It will be branded with the City of Stratford on one side, and Invest Stratford on the other.

“We are excited to have Stratford identified as one of the city’s that evolved this technology,” said Mathieson.

Stratford tried offering free Wi-Fi on its municipal buses, but that was a bust. Students packed the buses every morning and every afternoon, all of them trying to get on the Wi-Fi at the same time. They got off the buses complaining about the lack of service and that they couldn’t stream videos.

“That didn’t work for us,” said Mathieson. “If we are going to do a connected bus, we should worry about GPS scheduling and tracking, diagnostics, traffic management, and allow somebody else to bridge that gap about how much bandwidth you need of a 48-foot bus.”

Stratford started down this road in 2009 when the municipal hydro utility installed smart meters. The utility installed a cellular chip in each meter, blanketing the city in a municipally owned Wi-Fi network. The utility also installed high capacity fibre optic cables years ago. There is free Wi-Fi throughout the downtown, and in city-owned facilities.

That fibre-optic network is the main reason the Royal Bank located a 400,000-square-foot data centre in Stratford, said Mathieson. The Wi-Fi and high-capacity fibre also make it easy to attract doctors, he said.

“Every one of the family health teams is on the Wi-Fi and the secure fibre network, and they are able to have a quality of life they are not able to get in other small towns,” said Mathieson.

tpender@therecord.com , Twitter: @PenderRecord

Apple View Collection 3 assessment: Usually connected, just without the need of the guilt Evaluation

Apple announced the 3rd era Apple View together with new iPhones previous thirty day period. What sets the Collection 3 design apart from preceding iterations is that it arrives with the solution to join it to a cellular network, breaking the prerequisite to normally have an Iphone nearby. On the surface area, the Collection 3 with cellular appears to be a minor update to the item lineup. On the other hand, right after utilizing it for a several months now, it really is modified a lot for me individually.

Design and style and functionality

apple-watch-series-3-1.jpg

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

The Collection 3 Apple View appears to be similar to its predecessors in each way, with the exception of the crimson dot on the digital crown. The dot is limited to just the Collection 3 design with cellular connectivity, as it really is an indicator of the additional connectivity.

As I pointed out right after spending a weekend with the check out, I’d instead not have the colored digital crown. I come to feel like it really is calling interest to my wrist, in an just about boastful way.

CNET: Apple View Collection 3, a dash of iPod and a bit of Iphone for your wrist

Purple dot apart, the Collection 3 nonetheless appears to be and feels like a quality check out. All of the preceding Apple View bands are suitable, as are preceding charging cables. I tested a person of Speidel’s Twist-O-Flex bands which matches any Apple View and appears to be wonderful. It’s comfy, elegant, and not just about as highly-priced as Apple’s own metal band. My only advice to Speidel would be to make it much easier to modify the dimension of the band – it really is a chore.

Apple touts a pace increase many thanks to a new processor, and the identical battery everyday living as the Collection 2, or around 18 hours of use.

Major ZDNET Opinions

I won’t be able to say I’ve noticed a huge pace improve over the Collection 2, but the battery everyday living is better than Apple’s declare. With combined-use, ranging from connected to my Iphone to standalone cellular connection, I have nevertheless to expertise a day where by the battery was under 30-p.c at the day’s end.

On a person event, I spent over two hours utilizing a cellular connection to observe textual content messages and e-mail though playing with my youngsters in the ocean.

As for initial evaluations indicating there was a significant issue with LTE connectivity on the Apple View Collection 3, I’ve nevertheless to expertise any hiccups in service. Apple has because produced an update to deal with the Wi-Fi issue that was triggering the check out to disconnection for a cellular network, nevertheless prior to that my check out labored just as it really should.

Yet another aspect of the Collection 3 I’ve developed fond of is the reality that Siri now talks to you by means of the watch’s speakers. Not owning to stare at the display screen for a straightforward request to see the respond to implies I can interact with Siri and carry on finishing a activity without the need of owning to pause.

Peace of brain

apple-watch-series-3-w-cell-signal.jpgapple-watch-series-3-w-cell-signal.jpg

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Though I from time to time go on extensive walks as a form of training, I’ve mostly used the cellular purpose of the Collection 3 to continue to be connected though at the films, or heading into a restaurant scenarios where by staring at a telephone is just not best, and time is better used taking part in a dialogue.

Earlier, my telephone went almost everywhere with me. What if someone at operate emailed me? What if a household member referred to as or textual content me? It started off off as serving a goal to retain me in touch just in situation. Around time, my phone’s goal shifted into a never-ending stream of facts with a couple faucets on the glass display screen.

It’s distracting, and something I’ve tried out reducing back on, but regardless the strategy of checking a person far more matter, just real quick, turns into a tuned out meal or skipped time playing with youngsters simply because I desired to snap a image and noticed I had Twitter notifications.

With the check out, I am nonetheless connected, just in situation something happens with a person of my youngsters or with a person of the many outlets I compose for. I am no lengthier tethered to my telephone, and it really is liberating.

It’s nonetheless not a telephone replacement

Section of the purpose the Apple View Collection 3 supplies that peace of brain is simply because it really is not a telephone replacement. Applications are miniature, incomplete versions of the telephone counterpart – and you can find not a one matter completely wrong with that. I’d substantially prefer to have notifications to retain tabs on selected factors, than have a whole-fledged Fb or electronic mail app on my wrist that requires significantly way too substantially conversation just to perspective a message.

Here’s the kicker

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

If the Apple View ever does acquire plenty of features and battery everyday living to turn out to be a whole-fledged telephone replacement, Apple’s AirPods and the View are all you require to continue to be connected. Perfectly, any Bluetooth connected headphones would operate but usually are not just about as streamlined and moveable as the AirPods.

A several times into utilizing the Apple View, it dawned on me – every thing I require to continue to be normally connected matches in the palm of my hand. Not in the identical way a smartphone matches in the palm of your hand, but these two somewhat modest products when paired with each other have just as substantially connectivity as an Iphone. It nonetheless boggles my brain that technologies has reached this stage, where by we can all start off to come to feel a bit far more like Maxwell Smart, only with better-seeking gizmos (and hopefully a tad smarter).

Organization prospective

As a group of ZDNet and TechRepublic editors talked about soon right after the Apple event where by the normally-connected wearable was announced, Apple is performing a wonderful job of positioning the check out as a health and fitness product.

But now that the check out has the prospective to normally be connected, doorways are opening for company developers to develop apps and providers that choose edge of the platform. Just what arrives from the additional connectivity is nevertheless to be witnessed, as limited battery everyday living on a cellular connection is sure to be a restricting factor.

Some tough thoughts I’ve pondered about involve an app to keep track of personnel place in a vacation resort, with alerts sent to the wrist for guest area numbers or spots, or maybe maintaining tabs on warehouse workforce.

If upcoming versions of the check out are able to attain all-day battery everyday living when the check out is only connected to a cellular connection, then the alternatives and prospective for company apps is huge.

Truly worth the regular monthly cost?

apple-watch-lte-indicator.jpgapple-watch-lte-indicator.jpg

A new mobile tower icon is present on the Apple View Collection 3’s regulate heart.


Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

There’s no problem the Collection 3 check out is leaps and bounds better than the original Apple View, and to some extent, the identical rings true when put up in opposition to previous year’s Collection 2 design.

The real problem about the Collection 3 with cellular is whether or not or not the $10 a thirty day period is truly worth spending. For me, I am nonetheless on the fence. On a person hand, I see the value of staying able to untether from my Iphone in selected scenarios. Then, on the other hand, I come to feel guilty that my require to regularly continue to be current with the exterior planet forces me to pay for nevertheless a further product when with some follow and self-regulate I really should be able to put my telephone down.

Either way, I am heading to use the three-thirty day period free demo AT&T furnished when I established up my check out, and then make a selection. Right now, I am leaning to spending the $10 a thirty day period.

If I end up canceling the cellular portion, I nonetheless have the very best smartwatch obtainable right now, and simply because I’ll disable the cellular radio, it will have a lengthier battery everyday living than my Collection 2 did. As CNET’s Scott Stein has been sharing on Twitter, he’s found the battery of the Collection 3 with cellular to previous two times of whole use when cellular is disabled.

Amazon Echo Dominates Google Home In Connected Home Spekers

Amazon Echo, the home speaker that doubles as a virtual assistant, dominates its emerging category with an estimated 15 million units sold, according to new research.

That represents 75% of the U.S. market for these Internet-connected devices, which people can use with their voices to order take out food, check their bank accounts, check the weather, and play music.

Google Home came in second with 5 million devices sold, accounting for 24% of the market, according to numbers released Monday by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, (CIRP).

CIRP based its figures on 300 U.S. homes that have connected assistants. In May, the Chicago-based researcher put the number of Echos sold at 10 million. Amazon itself does not disclose sales numbers on its Echo devices.

Amazon (amzn) Echo, and its Alexa virtual assistant which provides speech recognition smarts, debuted late in 2014 with Google (googl) Home following two years later. But they won’t have the market to themselves much longer: This fall, Apple (aapl) HomePod is set to debut while Microsoft’s (msft) Invoke is due at around the same time.

Related: Amazon Echo Exec Exits

CIRP partner Michael Levin told Fortune that it will be hard for new entrants to gain traction at this late date. “Amazon and Google have what amounts to a significant head start in a market where we think there’s room for only one home operating system,” Levin said via email.

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In his view, the home assistant market is very different from the mobile device arena, in which one user could well have both an Android phone and an Apple iPad running iOS—and perhaps even more devices.

“Amazon and Google have started to occupy valuable real estate—literally,” he said.

Future Mobility brings connected car age – Business

Future Mobility brings connected car age

Carsten Breitfeld, CEO of Future Mobility Corp, introduces the Byton SUV’s innovative user interface. [Photo provided to China Daily]

FMC launches Byton brand, a next-generation smart device

Chinese electric car startup Future Mobility Corp said it is now ready to charge ahead into an increasingly digitalized era with its brand Byton, an ambition made public last week in Shanghai.

“Byton is inspired by ‘bytes on wheels’. Byte stands for the internet and wheel stands for the auto industry. We want to build Byton into the next-generation smart device,” said Daniel Kirchert, president of the 1-year-old startup when he addressed the audience.

Kirchert believes that a pleasant onboard experience is becoming increasingly important as the auto industry evolves and traffic is becoming heavier in cities.

“We are not made to wait in traffic. We are made to live our life to the full, to enjoy the moment we have. So for mobility engineers for the next 100 years, it’s no longer about refining cars, it’s about refining life.

“We are here to turn driving into living, we are here to provide enjoyable time for people on the move,” he said.

Carsten Breitfeld, former head of BMW’s i8 program and now CEO of FMC, said Byton models are a combination of three things: a smart internet communicator, a spacious luxury living room and a fully electric car.

One highlight is the large display. Measuring 125 centimeters long and 25 cm tall, it will provide everything drivers need and is also designed to share the experience with passengers sitting in the front and second rows.

Steering wheels on Byton models are installed with a touch-screen tablet that will allow the driver to interact with the shared experience display, offering the car’s most important information and control functions at the driver’s fingertips.

Byton’s first model, a midsized SUV, is to make its debut at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show in early 2018. It will start production in 2019.

Breitfeld said it has the size of an Audi Q5 but boasts the space of a Mercedes-Benz S-class sedan.

The model will have different versions, running 350 kilometers or 500 km on one charge. Within 10 minutes of charging, it can drive as far as 120 km.

The first Byton is “prepared for autonomy”, according to Breitfeld.

“It will have the hardware – the sensors and computing power – that enable it to achieve up to level five autonomous driving, whereas the actual autonomous capability can be flexibly enabled and upgraded by software and over the air.”

Besides the SUV, a sedan is scheduled to hit the market in 2021 and a seven-seat MPV, 2022.

FMC’s plant in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, which has a designed annual capacity of 300,000 units, has been under construction for some time. When phase one of the plant is finished in 2019, it will be able to produce 100,000 cars a year.

“I believe our startup is founded just at the right time – the coming age of connected cars. Just as Tesla being the pioneer of electric cars, we want to be the pioneer of connected cars,” said Breitfeld.

Samsung chases sports with its connected devices – Tech News

Three major innovations from Samsung at the 2017 IFA (Gear Sport, Gear Fit2 Pro and Gear IconX.— AFP Relaxnews

Three major innovations from Samsung at the 2017 IFA (Gear Sport, Gear Fit2 Pro and Gear IconX.— AFP Relaxnews

On the occasion of the biggest European consumer electronics trade show, the IFA in Berlin, Samsung has presented a smart watch, an activity bracelet and earbuds speically designed for the sports market. 

Rumours that Samsung would unveil a new generation of even more powerful smartwatches at the IFA did not prove to be true; instead the trade fair was the venue for the unveiling of a sports version of the Gear S3.

A little more compact, the Gear Sport is equipped with a 1.2in (360×360 pixels) display and 4GB of on-board memory. It is mainly distinguished by its heart monitor, with a sensor that sticks out to ensure better contact with the skin that will facilitate greater precision, and by the fact that it is waterproof at depths of up to 50m, which means it can also monitor efforts made in the swimming pool.

It is also the first watch to run under Tizen 3.0, which notably allows users to listen to Spotify with any Bluetooth headphones, and to download Spotify playlists onto the watch’s internal memory. It will be available from October 2017, in 20 versions with different colours and materials. The price has not yet been announced.

For its part, the Gear Fit2 Pro bracelet is a simple upgrade to the Gear Fit2. However, it does come with the new heart rate monitor which is supposed to be more precise. Also running under Tizen 3.0, it offers the same Spotiy features as the Gear Sport. It is expected to retail for US$$199 (RM850).

Finally, Samsung has gone to some trouble to improve audio with its new generation of Bluetooth earbuds IconX with 4GB of internal memory (the equivalent of 1,000 MP3s in standard 128kbps quality), an accelerometer and a heart monitor. They can be recharged directly in their case.

It is worth noting that Samsung is also promoting the earbuds as a hands-free interface for controlling a virtual assistant, most notably Bixby for the owners of the Samsung Galaxy S8.

The IFA runs from Sept 1 to 6 in Berlin. The IFA website: ifa-berlin.com. — AFP Relaxnews

Apple Can Thrive in Connected Home Despite Amazon, Says Barclays

Barclays analyst Mark Moskowitz today casts a jaundiced eye on Apple’s (AAPL) prospects in the “home connected hardware market,” the term used to refer to connected devices such as Amazon’s (AMZN) “Echo” and the forthcoming “HomePod” device from Apple.

HomePod, unveiled in June, is slated to go on sale in December, for $349, a price that, as Moskowitz & Co. point out, is “95% more expensive” than the $179 Echo.

In conjunction with a 62-page report today, compiled with help from numerous colleagues at Barclays such as Blayne Curtis in semiconductors, Saket Kalia and Raimo Lenschow in software, Moskowitz, who has an Equal Weight rating on Apple shares, thinks Amazon is in the “pole position,” if, as he suspects, the user interaction in the connected home “shifts from mobile to voice.”

He thinks that will be the case, and as such, HomePod may never catch Echo, he believes.

But that’s not necessarily bad for Apple, Moskowitz believes.

HomePod is just a kind of “buzz” generator, while the real game for the company is capturing the “control panel” of the connected home with the iPhone and its iOS software:

If Apple can carve out a bigger presence in the Connected Home, we believe that the company will further increase the stickiness of its ecosystem. However, we are skeptical that the company will be able to leverage its position to generate material revenue, at least near-term. Reason being, we view the HomePod as an ancillary offering to both the Connected Home and the Apple ecosystem more broadly […] we view the HomePod through a similar lens as the Apple Watch in that the product may generate buzz […] On the bright side, if iOS and iPhone are used as the central control panel of the Connected Home, it will be even more challenging for users to change platforms, in our view. This will further strengthen Apple’s moat and eventually lead to higher device sales in the long term.

There’s a lot at stake in the view of Moskowitz and colleagues: A $307 billion market by 2020, with $134 billion spent on devices like Echo, another $173 billion spent on services and software and sales — much of which could go to Amazon, or to service providers and integrators like Comcast (CMCSA) and Best Buy:

We believe the Connected Home market can reach $307 billion in revenue by 2020, comprised of $134 billion in hardware sales and $173 billion in services/software/advertising sales. The hardware opportunity is derived from the domination of the virtual assistant home speaker (Echo Dot/Tap/Show, Google Home, etc). We also see the hardware upgrade cycle for many appliances in the home becoming “connected” with embedded radio chips to connect to a network. Amazon, Google and Apple are all competing aggressively to own the user on-ramp to these other appliances. 

Here’s their infographic for this brave new world:


The authors model 47.1 million units of Echo being sold this year, rising to a whopping 120 million by 2020; Google Home units may rise from 3 million this year to 50 million by then, with everything, including HomePod, having much less. They lay that out in this infographic:


Moskowitz and colleagues argue more and more people will do stuff in the home through the voice interface of things like Echo, with its “Alexa” assistant; right now, “Amazon is in the driver’s seat” in the home, the authors  write.

They see Alphabet’s (GOOGL) having fumbled an early lead in voice-activated assistants after it bought Nest:

However, despite its lead in voice-search, Android, Nest/Dropcam, what Google missed was that the choke point and user interaction layer was about to move up the stack from mobile as the hub to something new entirely with Echo. All the innovation in connecting phones with end points like Nest or Chromecast may ultimately prove inconsequential if the user chooses to interact via Voice with Echo. Google will become what third-party app developers are to Android, just another service provider at the whims of Amazon’s distribution choke point. This would be less than ideal for Google who generates nearly 100% of its profits from advertising and app distribution.

As a result, the “Google Home” voice-activated device now badly trails Echo, which may have an “installed base” of 20 million units, the analysts estimate, versus Home’s fewer than 1 million.

The authors don’t think it’s not over yet for Google: Amazon still has to catch up in areas of natural language processing:

Google’s strength is around Cloud, ML and getting better at NLP. The reduction in error rates from Voice search from the mid-20%’s to low single digit % of queries over the last three years speaks to this strength […] Amazon is leading device market share today, and has the greatest Voice dataset to work with, but it needs to catch up to Google in NLP and ML (machine learning) in order to secure its position as the leading player longer term. We feel comfortable that Amazon will get there given their strength in cloud with AWS and long history in machine learning at Amazon.com (recommendation engine, etc).

Apple, meanwhile, can use HomePod to “strengthen iOS’ leading position as a platform and expand its reach beyond traditional hardware devices.”

Through its “HomeKit” software framework, writes Moskowitz, and iOS, and lots of partnerships with third parties, there will be other ways to make money for Apple down the road:

Apple’s Connected Home strategy is focused on the company’s ability to leverage its software ecosystem (namely iOS) while maintaining its established position within its massive loyal user-base. This is an interesting approach when compared to Amazon and Google, which seem to be putting more emphasis on AI-powered speakers as the center of their Connected Home strategies. While we believe that AI-powered speakers could be used to drive incremental sales for Amazon, and gather additional data for Google, we wonder whether these devices can really be the center of the Connected Home in their current form. For Apple, we believe the iPhone will provide a natural control panel for the Connected Home due to its user-friendly interface and constant presence with the user. We note, despite the rapid growth of the Amazon Echo, Apple’s Siri still runs on significantly more devices. For context, we estimate that Apple’s installed base of devices is now much larger than 1 billion, including more than 700 million iPhones, compared to an estimated 20M+ Echo and Echo Dot units sold by Amazon at the end of 2016.

Apple shares today closed down $1.97, or 1.2%, at $162.08.

Frontier for Connected Society: Samsung Electronics to Unveil Next Generation AI Speaker Early Next Year

Samsung Electronics’ voice-activated smart speaker to be unveiled at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) 2018, the world’s largest consumer technology show, early next year, will come in “Wireless 360-Deree Audio” and “All-in-One Soundbar.” The Wireless 360-Deree Audio, which was released by Samsung in 2015, is a portable speaker offering multi-room capabilities with 360 degrees of sound in every room. The All-in-One Soundbar comes with a subwoofer, which tends to output a powerful low-pitched sound, and boasts a sophisticated design that will accentuate your television.

Samsung Electronics has decided to offer the two systems for AI speaker in order to widen customers’ options. While Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator, the first home appliance powered by its Bixby voice assistant, considered the fact that the kitchen is often considered the heart of the home and was designed to help connect the whole family, the Wireless 360-Deree Audio can be used indoors and outdoors and at home and office.

Samsung’s AI speaker powered by Bixby will provide a whole different level of Internet of Things (IoT) experiences rather than just connecting Samsung’s home appliances. Bixby, which is currently introduced in the company’s premium Galaxy S8 smartphone and Family Hub Refrigerator, is continuously learning new situations and contexts based on an interaction with customers. It is also learning and upgraded itself instead of simply performing tasks with voice command. Samsung’s AI speaker will have a stronger voice recognition system and individual account of each family member.

Samsung Electronics plans to establish a hyper-connected society, which can connect between not only home appliances but also financial and medical systems and automobiles, by making use of its AI speakers. Under the Samsung’s mobile environment, Bixby is already connected with Samsung Pay and Samsun Pass, an identity management service through biometric authentication. So, Samsung Electronics will allow customers to use banking services, make a doctor’s appointment and operate a car by talking to the AI speakers at home through the voice command feature. The company held an investor forum in Hong Kong in May and presented its blueprint for the future that creates an ecosystem connecting smartphones, automobiles and financial and medical services. 

With the Samsung’s latest move, not only software-centered companies such as Google and Apple but also hardware-centered ones including LG Electronics are tensed up and seeking to come up with countermeasures. This is because Samsung Electronics, which has already secured the most   contact points with customers with its smartphones and home appliances, is rapidly expanding the areas of its software application. Apple, which has secured loyal customers with iPhones and Siri, has introduced its smart speaker HomePod to expand contact points with customers. However, it has clear limits due to limited kinds of hardware. Google is expanding its dominance of Google Assistant in the home appliance sector with the partnership with LG Electronics.

An official from the industry said, “As soon as Samsung Electronics, which has the strongest hardware prowess, has released Bixby, the company has become the biggest enemy of global companies. Anti-Samsung alliance can be formed in order to stop Samsung from expanding its AI areas.”

 

Samsung wants your fridge to be the command center for the connected home | VentureBeat | Mobile

From connected ovens to smart beds, the burgeoning “internet of random things” (IoRT™) industry is showing no signs of easing. Earlier this week, Ring — funded to the tune of $209 million — announced a new version of its connected video doorbell. One day later, Samsung reminded us exactly how bizarre the smart home is becoming, when it announced that the next generation of its Family Hub connected refrigerators are now on sale in the U.S.

While internet-enabled fridges aren’t a new phenomenon, with the likes of LG offering connected coolers as far back as 2000, Samsung has been going all-in to convince everyone that smart fridges should serve as the centerpiece of your connected home.

Above: Samsung Family Hub Fridge

At the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Samsung unveiled the Family Hub fridge, a stainless steel appliance that sports a huge 21.5-inch HD touchscreen display on one of its doors. It was basically a fridge with an Android tablet embedded into it, allowing access to some apps, as well as stats such as the internal temperature of the fridge. It also had sensors to detect and automatically reorder depleted food supplies, while cameras allowed you to peek inside through your smartphone from a faraway place.

Fast forward to 2017, and Samsung gave a glimpse of its upcoming next generation Family Hub fridges at CES in January, and this time around the fridges were even smarter, with a voice-enabled interface and apps allowing you to go hands-free while cooking in the kitchen — a potentially useful feature that allows you to verbalize a recipe request while your hands are covered in culinary goo. You can also ask for information on the time and weather, add products to shopping lists, manage to-do lists, and order groceries — all by chatting with Bixby, Samsung’s virtual voice-controlled assistant.

Above: Samsung Family Hub Fridge

Image Credit: Samsung

Put simply, Samsung wants you to have a conversation with your fridge.

But Samsung revealed its true vision for its connected fridge lineup when it announced that the Samsung Connect app, which debuted on the Samsung Galaxy S8 earlier this year, will be coming to the Family Hub fridges later this fall. Samsung Connect, if you didn’t know, is an app designed to help users control all their connected things from a single place. All Samsung smart products can be controlled and monitored through the app, not to mention third-party products such as lights, locks, speakers, and security cameras — including the Ring video doorbell we mentioned earlier.

Yes, Samsung wants the humble fridge to be at the heart of your connected home.

“The kitchen has always been the center of the home, but with technology changing how families connect and communicate, home appliances are emerging as a new focus of innovation,” explained John Herrington, senior vice president and general manager of home appliances at Samsung Electronics America. “The Family Hub is a huge step forward in the modern kitchen. It empowers you to do things you never thought possible — like take the fridge with you to the grocery store, digitally display a photo of your kid’s winning goal, and enjoy your favorite entertainment right from your digital screen.”

Earlier this week at Samsung 837, the tech titan’s NYC-based digital playground for marketing its products to the public, Samsung hosted an event with Smart Kitchen Summit (yup, it really is a thing) to hammer home the notion that the Samsung Family Hub is “more than just a fridge.”

Above: John Herrington, senior vice president and general manager of home appliances at Samsung Electronics America, hosts Samsung Family Hub 2017 Event and Smart Kitchen Summit.

It is true that the kitchen serves as the focal point for many family interactions. It’s a social space where people cook and often eat. People congregate in kitchens at at parties, kids do their homework there, and parents catch up on work emails away from the noisy distractions of the living room, where TV rules the roost.

The concept of ubiquitous computing has been around for decades, and early theories envisioned a future where connected devices are embedded in our environment. People once laughed when suggestions were put forward that one day we may communicate through home appliances as a matter of course. We’re not quite there yet. But Samsung released four Family Hub models in 2016, and is gearing up to launch 10 variants in 2017 — the company is betting its bootlaces that your fridge will one day be the command center for your connected life.

Apple’s HomePod is a cautious approach to the connected home


The new HomePod sounds great. I walked away from WWDC impressed with the full and rich sound the company has managed to get out of such a small form factor. There’s nice hardware on-board and a lot happening on the back end to create an optimal audio experience, including a six-mic array that sonically maps the room the speaker is in.

Other smart home hubs like the Echo – and many similarly priced home priced home speaker systems – can’t hold a candle to what the HomePod is able to replicate sonically. It’s easy to see why Apple is leading with the speaker bit here. Unlike devices like the Echo and Google Home, audio part isn’t secondary functionality. I would actually use the HomePod as my apartment speaker movies and music. I can’t say the same for the Echo.

The HomePod is a very Apple approach to the home hub. It’s a premium device – both with regard to build quality and performance, as well as price at $350. It also keeps with Steve Jobs’ longstanding use of music as a means for launching new products and services.Come for the nice speakers, stay for the home assistant.

It echoes how the company launched Siri in the first place. The assistant wasn’t the selling point of the new iPhone, but it was definitely a nice bonus. Ditto for the Apple TV, where Siri functionality arrived a few upgrades after launch. Apple wants to deliver its smart assistant to your home, but it doesn’t really want to make a big show of it.

Apple’s approach to home automation has been measured – cautious, even. Its strategy has been unfolding for a couple of years now, through the launch of HomeKit for connected device developers, and then the addition of the Home app to iOS 10. The company clearly recognizes that the home is the next frontier on which the consumer electronics battle will be waged, but its approach hasn’t been particularly pro-active.

And while the HomePod is the closest the company has offered to a standalone connected solution, the device is a markedly different approach than Amazon, which is working to get its solution in as many hands as possible by pricing Echo devices as close to cost as possible. As a commerce platform, Amazon’s path to profitability is more about the products it sells through Alexa than the Alexa products themselves.

For Apple, profitability comes in the form of product sales and keeping users locked into its Ecosystem. For that reason, it’s vital that it offer Siri up on the sort of premium experience the company has built its name around. And indeed, the HomePod is pure Apple, starting with the design language that eliminates ports completely. It’s a typical bit of Apple minimalism. If the Mac Pro was a speaker, it would be the HomePod.

Before yesterday’s WWDC keynote, it was clear that Apple had quite a bit of catching up to do with its connected home play. And yesterday’s news didn’t do much to highlight its long term play. The HomePod’s price point is nearly double that of the standard Echo. And the company definitely can’t compete with the Dot’s $50 price tag, which has made Amazon’s offering a compelling option for those who simply want to want to dip their toes in the smart assistant waters.

If Apple wants to be truly competitive in the smart home market, it’s going to have to find a more accessible entry point. For now, however, the company appears to be more interested in offering a premium audio experience than it does putting Siri in as many homes as possible. Perhaps that focus will shift as it builds more solutions with Siri baked in or looks toward third-parties to integrate the functionality into their own premium smart home solutions like Amazon has begun to do with Alexa.

In the meantime, the dream of taking a big chunk out of Alexa’s living room market share doesn’t feel much closer than it did ahead of WWDC. Right now it seems the company is rapidly losing market and mindshare to Amazon on the smart home front. Though as with VR, it would likely tell you that it’s still early days for the smart home. And as such, the company is more interested in delivering a premium product than it is blanketing the market.

Microsoft’s vision for connected PCs gives me hope for Windows

“The PC is back in a big way,” Matt Barlow, vice president of Windows and devices at Microsoft, told Engadget in an interview. It may be too soon to tell if that statement is true, but with all the plans that came to light this past month, it’s clear the company has an aggressive strategy to slide into every aspect of our lives. In a matter of weeks, we learned about new Cortana skills for all kinds of assistant-enabled devices, along with Fluent Design for easier creation of apps across product categories and tools that know your habits and preferences thanks to the Microsoft Graph. And the most important piece of the puzzle is ensuring access to a full-featured Windows 10 wherever people are.

That brings us to the Always Connected PC — a grand vision that Microsoft doesn’t appear to have a very clear framework for just yet. It relied on its partners here at Computex to define the concept .

For Intel, contributing to this vision involves making its existing and future modems support e-SIM, which allows devices to connect to data networks without needing a physical phone card. This is an important part of a PC revival, although it would be nice to see e-SIM capability built into its processors, since Intel’s chips are so widely used. In fact, Intel powers so many types of devices that integrated e-SIM for all its chipsets could make for a diverse range of connected gadgets, including wearables, headsets and speakers. And the company already intends to make that happen with Microsoft, as we learned when the two brands teased their AR/VR collaboration called Project Evo. Though we didn’t hear much more about that this time, it wouldn’t be surprising if they shared more details soon.

On the other hand, Qualcomm’s news is more consequential and clearly defined. Not only did we get details on what Qualcomm-powered PCs would do, but this was also the first time we’ve seen a Snapdragon chipset run full Windows 10. And based on the demo we got in a controlled environment, the Snapdragon 835 holds up well, making it a capable stand-in for a typical laptop system. Since it supports gigabit LTE connectivity, the 835 also enables cellular speeds that are faster than fiber and keeps you online without the need to lug around a hotspot. Thanks to e-SIM capability, it also lets anyone buy data in bite-size portions through the Windows Store.

The chip’s smaller size and power efficiency allow for potentially all-day (and beyond) batteries, while manufacturers can experiment with different designs and ways to make slimmer, lighter devices that are easy to tote around. And Snapdragon 835’s processing muscle, typically reserved for powerful high-end phones, is also capable of managing desktop-level tasks like creating Pivot Tables and jumping across virtual desktops.

But what’s most impressive about Qualcomm’s news at the show is how focused and well-defined it is. The company makes clear the four main benefits of Snapdragon 835 for PCs, so we know what exactly to expect. Connected PCs are already available, but the new standard could make for smartphone-like endurance, portability and standby features. And we already know that ASUS, Lenovo and HP are onboard, having promised to make always-connected PCs.

The thing is, Windows on Snapdragon as news on its own is compelling. But when considered in tandem with all the other news Microsoft has shared recently, it is momentous. It’s clear that borrowing smartphone features is to help Windows devices do better, but the move toward constant connectivity could help PCs not only survive, but thrive.

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