Powering ‘The Internet of Things’ using ant-sized radio chips

•September 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Stanford engineer Amin Arbabian has managed to create a wireless radio just a few millimeters across that is so energy efficient that it doesn’t need a battery. Instead, it harvests power from the incoming electromagnetic waves. The extremely low cost and small size of this technology means you could soon be surrounded by tiny radio chips in an interconnected mesh network.

The Stanford radio chip is designed to compute, execute, and relay signals. What sets this technology apart is that it all happens on a single chip that doesn’t rely on any exotic materials or theoretical principles. Arbabian sees this chip as the possible missing link in the so-called Internet of Things. If you want your lightbulbs to be connected to your other devices, you don’t need a high-power wireless radio–this one would do just fine. It uses so little power a single AAA battery could power it for more than 100 years.

Arbabian had 100 of these pint-sized radio chips fabricated for testing, and they work exactly as predicted. With a cost of just pennies per unit, it would be trivial to build them into any product you wanted to connect to your home network. Arbabian sees a future where one of these radios-on-a-chip will be scattered throughout a home every meter or so, making it into one big network.

Think this as the “Internet of Everything”!

Apple going wrong with one, but in the right the other!

•September 12, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Steve Jobs is probably rolling in his grave right now!

No one’s going to buy a big phone,” mocked Steve Jobs when asked about large smartphones at a press conference four years back. Four years later, current Apple CEO Tim Cook decided otherwise and unveiled earlier this week the iPhone 6 family, the first phones designed post-Steve Jobs. And it shows. The 6+ is a Hummer-sized phone that now rivals the biggest of the Android and Windows smarpthones from Nokia , Samsung, Sony and LG, with a huge 5.5-inch screen.

However, in an effort to help the majority of users who can’t reach the far sides of the new iPhone display, Apple released a very “clunky” feature dubbed “Reachability.” Double-tap on the Home button – which is different from the double-click that brings up the multi-tasking interface – and the entire interface slides down to the bottom half of the screen. Double-tap again, and it goes back up. A similar feature can also be found on current Samsung devices.

It looks like Apple is losing its innovative soul, chasing after Android and Windows rivals with bigger sized iPhones, while still lagging on fundamental features like screen and camera resolutions, and inductive charging for example.

While the world’s most valuable technology company might have fallen behind the innovation curve, it has unfortunately lost another of its most precious gift from the Steve Jobs era: common sense.

On the other hand the iWatch brings back a bit of the common sense into product design. First of all, the Apple Watch will either look sleek or sporty, depending on what you’re looking for. It’s heavily customizable, with two different watch face sizes, three styles, and a variety of straps and customizable watch faces.

In addition, Apple’s health app capabilities are on prominent display with the Apple Watch. It not only tracks steps, heartbeats, and calories, but it helps you set fitness goals and reminds you when to stand up.

The Watch also will use near-field communication to use Apple’s new Apple Pay system, meaning you’ll be able to tap the watch to pay at some retailers. A few participating ones that were announced on Tuesday include Whole Foods and Bloomingdale’s.

In addition, it has new communication capabilities, including a walkie-talkie feature (for use with other Apple Watches), the ability to draw and send pictures to friends, and even the capability to send your heartbeat to another Apple Watch-wearer.

The only dampner albeit a big one is absence of GPS and in-built wifi, which means you will always need that phone around.

Apple has a knack for taking existing technologies and making them into must-have devices. When Apple made the iPod, it wasn’t exactly an mp3 player pioneer. But shortly after, everyone was sporting the white earbuds. When Apple released the iPhone, BlackBerries already abounded. But soon the sleek rectangular phone became everyone’s smartphone lust object. Tablet computers existed when the iPad was released, but soon everyone seemed to have iPad tucked into their bag or briefcase. Likewise, Apple might take the fringe phenomenon smartwatches into the mainstream. If it does, then watch out Switzerland!

First Transatlantic “Scent Message” Sends Smell of Paris To New York

•June 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Last Tuesday, an email message encoded with the scent of Paris, winged its way across the ether to land in the inbox of a Harvard professor waiting eagerly in a skull-littered basement room in New York’s American Museum of Natural History.

The onote, as such scent-embedded mail is known–originated at Le Laboratoire in Paris as a picture of a plate of macaroons and a glass of champagne, and was tagged via an iPhone app called oSnap, with the elements–tropical fruit, cocoa beans and champagne–that comprised their aroma.

ophone

When played on an oPhone–the device designed to decode scent-embedded messages–the aroma was, well, undeniably smelly, if a tad muddled. A hint of chocolate was there; something sort of fruity came through; the champagne would have been hard to detect without knowing what to smell for. Did it evoke wine and cookies? Not really. But, to its credit, the gadget worked.

While potential users can currently download the app for free from the Apple app store, there’s no way yet for them to play their aromatic missives without going to an oPhone-equipped hotspot. Starting on July 12, and continuing for three consecutive weekends, the museum will host a hotspot in New York where people can come and retrieve the onotes they’ve been sent. There will be other hotspots in Paris and Cambridge, with more to come. Since tagging photos with scent is a skill that few people have yet mastered, the museum will also host free “scent adventures,” where an olefactorially-skilled expert — a chef, a coffee connoisseur, or a chocolatier, for example — will coach aroma newbies in how to compose a scent that resembles what they’re smelling. The app itself comes with a vocabulary of “notes”–green vegetation, grilled bread, onion, jasmine, cedar, for example–that allows users to compose more than 300,000 different scents.

The technology behind the platform is still in development, and is being funded, at least in part, by an indiegogo campaign. Sign up by June 19, and for $149, you get an ophone Duo (with two scent receivers; an “Uno” model for your pocket will come later), a pack of “foodie” chips and a pack of base notes.

Will this invention be a boon to businesses where scent is important? You tell me….

One Device: A work in Progress

•April 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Owning a number of different devices can often mean having to regularly transfer data between them to keep them synced, or storing private information in the cloud. Offering a truly connected alternative, Seed is a set of mobile and computer products that use the processing power and data of a single docked smartphone.

Designed by South Africa-based computer engineering student Nick Rout, the basis of the system is a smartphone — which nowadays rival the computational power of desktop computers of only a few years ago. Using a powerful processor such as a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 or an Adreno 420, 4GB mobile DRAM and 128GB of flash storage, the smartphone would be able to dock into a tablet, notebook, desktop PC and HDTV using a magnetic locking mechanism. Instead of each device being separate and running different operating systems, the smartphone acts as a portable computing system that simply plugs into the form that users want to work with. The video below explains a bit more about Seed:

The concept is something that has already been explored commercially with the Asus PadFone, a smartphone and tablet docking system. Seed, which will run on the open source Ubuntu OS, aims to connect more than just mobile devices, however. Although the project is currently still in the design phase, such a system could bring down the cost of owning multiple devices — as well as the multiple connecting cables that go with them — and make sharing between them a thing of the past. In the future, could ideas such as this help consumers see devices less as disjointed platforms and simply a different way to experience the same technology?

Unlocking the potential of an open hardware ecosystem – Google Project Ara

•March 5, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Google did a revolution in the smartphone software ecosystem by launching Android a while back which enabled small software developers to create some great software products that help us today. It is with this open mentality that Google is trying to do the very same in the smartphone hardware ecosystem.

Project Ara: A new effort to let people create phones with little building blocks of hardware? It’s about Google trying to connect 6 billion people to the internet — and Google’s services.

Want to build your own phone with modular blocks of functionality? That may not sound appealing until you think of the possibilities. You can upgrade your phone’s screen from 720p to 1080p, for example, instead of buying a whole new phone. Looking to add a better camera to your handset? Swap out an image sensor module for a better one. The idea is a sound one, but it comes down to execution. Enter Google’s Project Ara, an open hardware platform to bring this idea to the masses.

Motorola has been working on Project Ara for a year and is ready to start getting feedback from what the company calls “Ara Scouts”: You can sign up here if interestedPhonebloks is another, more recent, idea that’s even closer to what Motorola is doing. Take a peek at the idea:

Motorola is partnering with the Phonebloks community, which is a smart idea: Why reinvent the wheel when you can work together on a similar effort with shared goals. It’s exactly this type of effort that begins to answer the question, “Why did Google spend $12.5 billion to purchase Motorola?”

Google has already made great headway from the first billion smartphone users. Now it wants to connect and engage with the remaining 6 billion. Consider Project Ara another way for Google to do just that. Will the project be successful? Only time will tell, but since it’s another way for Google to get people connected to the internet — and therefore to Google apps and services — this is one modular phone project that won’t easily be allowed to fail.

 

CES Roundup – Connected TVs, Wearables & Robots at the forefront in 2014

•January 10, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Connected Television -

LG resurrected fallen iOS competitor WebOS in the South Korean giant’s new range of “Smart TV” connected televisions. The platform — which LG says will power 70 percent of its connected sets in 2014 — sports a slick user interface and has been bestowed with several useful touches, like the ability to recognize when a user connects an external device and present contextually-relevant menu options.

The new sets come bundled with apps for popular services including YouTube, Facebook, Skype, and Twitter, and users will be able to download new apps and content from the LG Store. LG has not yet released pricing or availability information.

Meanwhile, streaming content company Roku announced partnerships with Chinese manufacturers TCL and Hisense for their own connected television platform, Roku TV. Under the agreements, the same software that powers Roku’s popular streaming boxes will be adapted and pre-loaded on sets from the two TV makers.

Wearables -

Not content to stop at televisions, LG also unveiled two new wearable fitness devices on Monday. The Lifeband Touch is a wrist-worn activity tracker similar to a Nike Fuelband, while LG’s Heart Rate Earphones are Bluetooth-enabled in-ear headphones that measure biometric data like heart rate and maximum oxygen consumption from the external portion of the ear.

Lifeband Touch sports an OLED display that, in addition to the time and standard biometric data, can be configured to relay notifications from a connected smartphone. The Heart Rate Earphones can also be configured to send data to the Lifeband Touch for display. Both devices are slated for release in the first half of 2014 with pricing yet to be determined.

The wearable parade continued with the Polar V800, a combination fitness tracker and GPS wristwatch. Polar’s entry provides more granular detail than most other activity trackers, collating data from individual training sessions to forecast recovery time and help users get adequate rest between sessions.

Robotics -

French technology company Parrot announced two new iOS-controlled robotic devices, a small jumping robot dubbed the Jumping Sumo and a miniature flying drone the firm is calling the MiniDrone.

The Jumping Sumo is a two-wheeled, floor-bound bot that the publication says can make near-instant 180-degree turns and spring-assisted jumps up to three feet, while the MiniDrone is a palm-sized quadrocopter. Both devices are controlled with iOS apps and feature built-in cameras.

At the same time, Orbotix unveiled a second-generation remote-controlled device of its own, showing off the new, tubular Sphero 2B. The Sphero 2B is a ruggedized version of the iOS-controlled toy sold in Apple Stores around the world, featuring knobby, replaceable tires and new multiplayer games.

Telecom -

AT&T Mobility chief Ralph de la Vega announced that the carrier plans to support HD Voice on its network sometime this year. HD Voice uses wideband technology — including new audio codecs and an expanded audio range — to vastly improve the audio quality of mobile phone calls and reduce background noise.

So quite a lot to look forward to this year! Stay tuned!

2013 roundup: What’s in store in 2014

•December 31, 2013 • Leave a Comment

 

 

 

 

 

2014-trendsAs we move on to the NEW YEAR, here is a round up of a few interesting stats on elements of Digital Marketing that we often use.

Yes, a lot happened over the past year, some of it game-changing. Yet, let’s not forget to keep one eye on the road ahead.

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