Category Archives: Technology News

Five Internet of Things Technologies You Won’t Believe

By Kelly Gerrish

Working in technology, we all know about the Internet of Things. But here are five demos you probably didn’t know existed, all inside Cisco’s IoE Showcase Room at its headquarters in San Jose.

The lego city of the future

Legos

This prototype of a connected city uses Lego bricks and Cisco equipment to home in on the idea of Smart Cities, where everything is connected. The Lego city is being used to test a possible connected supply-and-demand-chain solution that includes a train set running around the periphery.

 

The future petrol station

petrol

Cisco developers are working on improving the customer experience at the pump. The demo uses radio-frequency identification sensors with customer face recognition to test new ways to improve the petrol pumping and payment experience, potentially boosting revenue by 30 percent.

 

The shopper’s roadmap

Shopping-roadmap

This prototype, on the radar of a number of large retailers, looks at a shopper’s journey, including where they stop, what items they put into their cart and how long the shopping trip takes. This type of data can give retailers valuable insights on where to place a specific item they want customers to see.

 

Supermarket shelves

Food-

This mocked up supermarket shelf uses Cisco technology to gather data that helps managers to determine how much stock is needed. The technology can also be used to allocate staff during peak shopping periods.

 

 

Virtual reality

Octulus

Workplace training could soon take place using virtual reality headset Oculus Rift. Cisco believes it will move away from just recreation and into the corporate world, providing employee training and other scenarios. Cisco is looking into the possibility of integrating the headset with Cisco equipment.

Online Life After Death

By Kelly Gerrish

For centuries humanity has been searching for the secret to eternal life. Now a new social networking site is promising its users digital immortality.

Eter9 claims to learn about your personality as you share photos, comment and like posts before continuing to post for you once you die.

iStock_000004797569_Large

By analysing what you share, and how you comment and interact with other users, Eter9 uses artificial intelligence to create a virtual “counterpart” that can mimic your behaviour after your death.

If your social activity consists of posts about the weather and complaints to train companies, you can rest in peace knowing your commentary on these topics will continue long after you’re gone.

According to a statement on the Eter9 website the site ‘makes it possible to eternalize the user’ by using ‘specificities which allow a human being to achieve immortality in cyberspace.’

The concept appears to mimic the plot of the 2014 science fiction film Transcendence, where an artificial intelligence expert played by Johnny Depp uploads his consciousness onto a computer so he can continue to live after his death.

It all sounds a little creepy to us but 5,000 people have already signed up to use the site, which is currently in Beta testing. Maintaining an online presence after death is clearly something that interests a section of society, although perhaps not in the mainstream just yet.

Smartphone Society

By Kelly Gerrish

Smartphones are transforming the way we communicate in the UK, and have overtaken laptops as the most popular device for getting online.

UK adults spend nearly two hours a day on average using the internet on their phones, with 33% now opting for smartphones as the device of choice for getting online.

Jane Rumble, director of market intelligence at Ofcom, said the change in internet access was a “landmark shift” being driven by younger age groups.

She said: “You can see these devices are becoming more and more an important vital hub of information and communication throughout the day, with smartphone owners spending almost two hours (on them) each day, almost double the amount of time that those people are spending on their laptop or desktop.”

Britons took 1.2bn selfies last year, fuelled by the rise of smartphones with increasingly good cameras. In fact the smartphone is now even more popular than the digital camera for taking photos. Today’s teenagers probably don’t even own a digital camera.

Ofcom compiles its Communications Market Report every year to monitor the UK’s habits. Here are this year’s headline findings:

18456 rotl_social media_blog_graphic_for_Aug-2015

Want to know more about our changing habits? Find more analysis here.

What to Expect from Windows 10

By Kelly Gerrish

It’s time for Windows users to breathe a sigh of relief. After what seemed like an eternity trapped in the clutches of Windows 8, Microsoft’s latest and greatest operating system is finally here to save us. Microsoft has tried its hardest to undo the damage with Windows 10 – so much so that it’s skipping an entire version number to distance itself. Windows 10 gives Microsoft the opportunity to steer the company in a new direction.

Windows 10 purports to change the way millions of us interact with our computers by reimagining the operating system with a flexible and functional design.

Windows 10

So what’s new?

Microsoft is pitching the product as being “familiar and easy to use”, and at first look, the user interface looks pretty similar to Windows 7.

The Start Menu that disappeared in Windows 8 is back, providing quick pop-up access to apps, documents and settings. But the Start Menu now also offers a selection of customisable “live tiles” which can be used for all the usual notifications – emails, weather and diary alerts.

The other headline item is Cortana – the virtual assistant first featured on the Windows Phone. Cortana helps users manage their diaries, search the internet, play music, all via voice recognition. Suspiciously like Siri then…

Other new features include Windows Hello – a fingerprint authentication facility to provide additional security on your computer or specific app, Edgethe successor to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, and Action Center – a slight reimagining of Apple’s Notification Center, grouping all your notifications together so you can act on them quickly and easily.

The good news is it’s free, for most people anyway. If you own a Windows 7 or 8 PC, chances are you’ll be able to upgrade without spending a penny.

When can I get it?

Microsoft is rolling Windows 10 out in phases, but it’s believed that more than 14 million devices are already running the upgrade. Delivery to everyone else is being staggered.

The operating system has been described as “Windows as a Service”, meaning improvements will be released as they become available rather than via another upgrade in a few years.

There has even been talk of this being the last version of Windows if all goes well. No pressure then.

Shopping Through Selfies

By Kelly Gerrish

Facial recognition will soon be used by MasterCard to approve your online shopping. The new smartphone app will prompt customers to snap a selfie to verify online purchases.

MasterCard sees facial recognition as an alternative to SecureCode, its security software that asks online shoppers for a password to make purchases. SecureCode was used to validate three billion transactions last year.

A MasterCard spokesman believes the “selfie generation … will find it cool.” Cool maybe, but what about the obvious security concerns?

Google has already tried facial recognition on Android phones, but people quickly realised you could just take a photo and present it to the camera, unlocking the phone. Google itself admitted it was “less secure than a pattern, pin or password”. Facial recognition certainly sounds like it could be vulnerable to trickery, so do we really want to use this technology for financial transactions?

Mastercard

Certainly not without extra layers of security.  If an ordinary password gets compromised, you can simply change it. But what happens if your facial recognition data gets stolen? You can’t change your face. MasterCard believes it has found a way around this by requiring the user to blink, in order to confirm that the person is real and not just a picture. But is that enough?

MasterCard says it is exploring combining the software with fingerprint security and/or voice recognition, which could tighten up any security holes and make life easier for customers.

Would you trust your bank account to MasterCard’s selfie security system?

Orrb: A Whole New World

By Kelly Gerrish

With all the distractions of modern life, it’s hard to think straight. We’re constantly under pressure from work and all the other daily complications, and often we forget to sit still and take a deep breath.

Need to get away? Step into the Orrb, a hi-tech bubble that lets employees relax in a world of their own.
OORB
Designed to provide a calming refuge for stressed office workers, the pod allows users time for themselves away from the challenges of the workplace. The air is filtered to maximise oxygen levels and the sound cancelling system blocks out the office noise. Individuals can choose from a selection of 10, 20 or 30 minute routines to relax, learn, test or boost.

Many large companies are now paying special attention to their workers’ physical health and fitness but not much is said of mental health. Marketed as a ‘corporate wellness facility’ or a ‘mind gym’, Orrb offers a physical escape full of content designed to bring about relaxation and mindfulness – and, hopefully, increase productivity.

But will the Orrb appeal to employees? Taking some time out of your day, even for 10 minutes, is vital in business. Would you be enthusiastically jumping in and embracing the personal space, or would you rather do your relaxation at home?

Goodbye to Google Glass

By Kelly Gerrish

It was once billed as the future of technology. But less than seven months after being released in the UK, we’re saying goodbye to Google Glass.
Google_Glass_with_frame
Google has confirmed that production of the glasses has ceased in their present form but it is still committed to launching a new and improved version “when it’s ready”.

So why didn’t it work out? Here’s three reasons we think it was a great idea in theory but not so much in practice.

1. Cost
At nearly £1000 a pair, only a tech savvy consumer with cash to spare could afford to buy the glasses on a whim. Google always said the gadget was still a prototype and therefore targeted at software developers rather than the masses, but there could still be some disgruntled owners who will never be able to unlock the full potential of a now redundant product.

2. Battery
If you struggle to keep the battery going on your smartphone for a whole day, spare a thought for anyone who ever bought Google Glass. Advertised as lasting for one day of “typical use”, many critics claim the reality was much less. No matter how much technology advances, clearly some things never change.

3. It just looks a bit … silly
2014 was supposed to be the year wearable technology took off. It may be clever technology, but gadgets need to be fashionable as well as functional. Until everyone’s wearing robotic headsets, most of us would probably feel a bit foolish sporting Google Glass in the street.

The Future is Here to Nag You

By Kelly Gerrish

Who wants to live in a world of constant nagging? “Put a coat on, it’s cold outside!” “Don’t stay in bed too long!” “Eat breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day!”

Many of us move out of our family home due to mum’s constant badgering but it seems we can’t escape forever. Developers are creating gadgets which tell us what do, how to do it and when to do it, by linking to apps on our smart devices.

Gadgets already available include forks that tell us when we are eating too quickly, toothbrushes which make sure we are cleaning our teeth correctly and trainers that nag us to get off the sofa and work out.

There are apps to track your weight, body fat, exercise, diet, sleep and even posture.

The new technology might sound like a great way to improve our lives but in reality, who wants to be told what to do by a computer? Its’ success will be largely down to the willpower of the individual. People like to live their lives their way without having their freedom threatened. The minute the prompts become annoying, people will ignore them and the whole thing becomes obsolete.

Does this kind of micro-managed lifestyle appeal to you? Have you used any of the gadgets? Let us know by commenting below.

London Going Green

By Kelly Gerrish

Disused phone boxes in London have been given a new lease of life – as solar-powered mobile phone charging stations.

The iconic red boxes have had a makeover for the project – painted green and fitted with a roof-mounted solar panel. Each box is kitted out with a variety of charging ports for different phone models. The free service offers a 20% battery boost in just 10 minutes.

solarboxes

Running out of battery is a common problem for smartphone users as phones become ever more powerful without an equivalent leap in battery life. Designed for a quick boost in ‘juice’, users can nip in and out while they queue for the bus or wait for a friend.

The service is 100% funded by advertising as users will be shown “short, fun and exciting” ads with exclusive content while they charge.

The first of six boxes was unveiled on Tottenham Court Road this month, with five more being rolled out by April 2015. Should they prove successful, we could be seeing more of them popping up around the capital and further afield.

Learn more about the project here.

The red ones may be design classics, but when was the last time you actually used a phone box? With most people nowadays owning a mobile phone, phone boxes are basically redundant. It’s great to see them being ‘recycled’ in this way that suits the mobile age.