Category Archives: High Tech

How Microsoft helps IoT pros take action to overcome challenges

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As IoT becomes more pervasive across industries like retail, manufacturing, energy, security, and healthcare, many businesses are beginning to get a handle on the latest tools and platforms that help streamline the implementation of IoT into their business models and processes.

Despite the excitement over IoT and what it can do, there are companies that still see a few challenges remaining.

At the Microsoft IoT in Action event earlier this year, we asked partners and customers to give us their thoughts on where they encountered bumps on the road to turning their IoT ideas into reality, and share some suggestions how to overcome them.

Here’s what they told us.

#1: How to get started

There are practical steps organizations can take to get started in IoT. Start with the devices that you already have and connect them, ensuring that you: 1) secure each component of your IoT infrastructure, 2) secure your data connection, and 3) use a secure cloud infrastructure that offers a great security posture from sensor to cloud. Be sure to focus on your niche and what you do well, connect with the right partners in your ecosystem, and provide value with the end customer in mind.

#2: Connectivity between devices

According to IoT experts, the key things you need to keep in mind when you’re looking into connectivity are: 1) the ability to connect devices to the platform you’ve chosen, so they can they talk to one another, 2) harvesting and storing your data, and 3) using analytics to take action on all the data, so you can do something important with it.

#3: Have an ecosystem and collaboration

There’s power in partnership when it comes to IoT. The days of working in silos and trying to dominate the business landscape are dying. To start implementing and receiving the benefits, tap into an ecosystem. Without one, it can be tricky knowing where your product and services fit into the broad industry and use-case solutions. 

It’s important to determine where you are in the value chain and then figure out which partnerships make sense. Other things the experts think you should keep in mind? For starters, you could look for partnerships with other ecosystems partners that have expertise in common industries or use cases. 

The biggest challenge I see now is the lack of recipes to solve business problems. All the companies that are part of the IoT ecosystem need to create known-good recipes that we can refer to clients and decision makers to help them go to market quicker.

Shawn Jack, Director of Sales & Embedded Ecosystems, Advantech

#4: Think about security

With more access points to information, comes the risk of data breaches. The question of cloud security still rears its head and with cyber-attacks in the daily news, it’s a valid concern. When you’re tapping into your ecosystem, look for a partner that addresses your security concerns right away (for customer and consumer scenarios) and offers solutions. Also, make sure you’re getting the most up-to-date, modern security patches and scenarios—from device to cloud.

Security is where I start a lot of conversations with companies. They need to have a security solution that’s not only device driven, but the way to manage devices through cloud scenarios.

Rodney Clark, VP IoT Sales, Microsoft

#5: How do you make money?

When it comes to business models and how to generate revenue from your IoT investments, experts say that the key here is to find partners who provide flexibility and adapt to the environment of the customer—not the other way around. 

Most companies believe that having a few tools and a cloud partner are all they really need, but they still may not be sure how to implement those offerings. Partners that provide package solutions with tools that companies can quickly and easily use themselves, see a proof of concept quickly so they get management approval for the project, then go to production, will be the ones that make money. 

The majority of IoT initiatives don’t really have a full plan, a plan that includes exactly what you are going to do, who you are going to address, what are the end deliverables, and how you are going to make money out of it.  Companies need to remember that it has to be commercially viable.

Cameron Carr, Senior Marketing Channel Manager, Microsoft

#6: The software aspects & data analysis

So, once companies have collected all this data, what will they do with it?

One solution offered by experts is to make sure that as companies gather data and analytics back into their system, information is used to actually change the content dynamically. No one wants out-of-date data providing out-of-date results.

The biggest challenge is the volume, the velocity, and the variety of the data we are collecting. It’s great to capture all this information, but what do you want to do with it?

Joe Francica, Managing Director, Geospatial Industry Solutions at Pitney Bowes

#7: Deployment of the products after they are complete

The problem doesn’t seem to be the development of products. There are lots of cloud, gateway, and touch panel solutions that are IoT ready. The problem is getting them to the right partner.

That’s why connecting with like-minded partners will alleviate future IoT challenges, so customers, partners, and clients can reap the benefits.

Given the success of the IoT in Action event we partnered with ReadWrite in March 2017, we are doing it all again on 10/30 in Boston.

Register for IoT in Action with Microsoft in Boston and learn where else in the world you can connect with IoT ecosystem partners to take action on IoT.

The post How Microsoft helps IoT pros take action to overcome challenges appeared first on ReadWrite.


See how we’re using the pull of Earth’s gravity to help propel @OSIRISREx to a near-Earth asteroid called Bennu:…

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4K iTunes Content Limited to Streaming Only, No Downloads

/ Leave a Comment Apple has updated its iTunes Store on iOS devices and the Apple TV with plenty of 4K movies ahead of the launch of the Apple TV 4K, but as made clear in a recent support document, 4K content from Apple can be streamed, but not downloaded directly on a device.

According to Apple, customers can download a local copy of an HD movie, and on occasion, HD movies that support HDR and Dolby Vision, but 4K movies are not available for download and thus can’t be watched without an internet connection.

You can download a local copy of an HD movie, and you might be able to download HDR and Dolby Vision versions, but you can’t download a 4K version.

That means customers who have had their previously-purchased iTunes movies upgraded from HD to 4K at no cost can stream those movies in 4K, but can only download HD versions. Newly purchased content is also restricted from download.

It’s not clear why Apple is not allowing customers to download 4K content onto their devices, but it could potentially be a licensing issue. Apple is providing 4K content at the same price as HD content, though movie studios were rumored to want to charge more. It’s also possible it’s a local storage issue, as 4K movies have large file sizes.

To stream 4K content to the new Apple TV 4K, Apple recommends a minimum speed of 25Mb/s, according to the support document. If an internet connection isn’t fast enough, Apple will downscale the video quality.

In addition to the download restriction, one other major negative surfaced today — the 4K Apple TV does not support 4K content from YouTube at this time. YouTube streams its 4K content using a VP9 video format, a codec the Apple TV does not support. The 4K Apple TV is limited to H.264, HEVC (H.265), and MP4.

Netflix and 4K content from other streaming services is supported, however, and Apple has promised 4K content from Amazon Prime Video will be available when the app launches later this year.

The first Apple TV 4K orders will begin arriving to customers on Friday, September 22, the official launch date of the device.

Related Roundup: Apple TV
Buyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Buy Now)

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Wendy Frauenfelder, crafter and amateur chef

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Cool Tools Show 090: Wendy Frauenfelder

We have hired an editor to edit the Cool Tools podcast. It costs us $300 a month. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $277 a month to the podcast. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have nice rewards for people who contribute! – MF

Our guest this week is Wendy Frauenfelder. Wendy likes to cook, fix things, pretend to be a bartender, and do therapy dog work. She also is fascinated with wild yeast and slow food.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

Stanley 66-358 Stanley Stubby Ratcheting MultiBit Screwdriver ($10)
“I always keep a screwdriver in the kitchen, just so that I don’t have to go to the garage if I something inside the house that I need to work on. So this is my new screwdriver inside the house, and there’s a couple things I like. First, it’s small. It’s like four-and-a-half inches long, and so it fits in a junk drawer really easily. The second thing I really like about it is it’s a ratcheting screwdriver. So, if you’re fixing a knob on a cabinet or something you don’t have to spin it around in your hand, you can just kind of ratchet it in, which I love. But you can also make it just a steady, regular kind of screwdriver. Then the third thing that I love about it is you unscrew the cap on the top of the screwdriver and inside are five other tips. So you’ve got three Phillips head and three regular screwdriver tips, and they vary from pretty tiny to large and fat, and they’re right there in the cap, so you can grab your screwdriver without knowing what kind of screw you’ve gotta work on, and you’ll have the right tip.”

24 oz Mason Drinking Jar & Stainless Steel Straw ($10.50)
“It’s actually a Ball jar, not a mason jar, and then it’s got the regular kind of screw-on lid, but whoever made this took the little flat part of the lid on top and put a rivet in it and made a hole so you can stick a straw in there. It is actually pretty waterproof. I wouldn’t say you should leave it upside down in your car, but I’ll usually put a smoothie in here, and every once in a while I’ll shake it to just kind of mix up the liquid again, and it’s doesn’t come out at all. So, it’s that waterproof. … A lot of times these will come with a metal straw, and I don’t like that because, since I drink a smoothie out of it, I’m afraid I’m never really getting that clean, so I found some straws on Amazon that fit to the bottom. It had to be an extra-long straw. It fits to the bottom of the jar, and it’s got a little bend in it, and then I just toss it when I’m done. … I just feel like glass gets really clean. And you don’t have to worry about BPAs.”

GFDesign Drinking Spoon Straws ($10.50)
“I was looking at cocktail items, and this caught my eye … We started using it when I was making mojitos, and you gotta stir up a mojito, because you’ve got some granulated sugar in the bottom of it when you muddle the mint leaves. So you stir it up with this thing, and then I’m thinking, ‘This is great, because then you just leave it in there, and you sip through it.’ And if your sugar didn’t all dissolve, you can still start drinking your mojito and kind of stir it as you go along.”

Buy me a pie!
“I am kind of like a connoisseur of grocery shopping list apps. [This app] is actually organized by store, so I have a Whole Foods list, a Target list, and a Costco list, basically, and I can open whichever one I want, and then I can add items to whichever one I want. You can have the same item in different lists. You can have as many lists as you want if you buy the paid version. I think the free version you’re limited to maybe two or three. …What I really like about it is that you can color-code these items by grocery store area or by aisle. So everything that’s veggie is green and fruit’s green, and meat is under the red category, and cold foods are blue and frozen foods are gray. So that way, as you’re going through your list, you go to produce and you just see all the produce that you need to get is all in one section.”



Amazon’s Alexa wants to rule your world

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Amazon introduces Amazon Alexa, Echo and the All-New Echo Dot at a product launch in London

Upon visiting Berlin’s IFA2107  — Germany’s answer to CES — recently,  there was one word I kept hearing: Alexa. In the consumer hardware space, it’s a great time to be Amazon, if the sheer number of hardware companies jumping on the Alexa bandwagon are anything to go by.

Only today it was revealed that Amazon is working on a pair of smart glasses integrating Alexa, intended to look similar to regular glasses with bone conduction technology to allow the user to engage with Alexa without having to wear headphones.  Amazon is also working on an Echo connected camera system that cannot only keep a look out for intruders but also Amazon-delivered packages.

During the IFA conference, a number of companies made their own Alexa announcements. Let’s take a look:

Bragi makes The Dash series Amazon Alexa-compatible


Smart headphone  company Bragi is responsible for one of the largest Kickstarter funding rounds in European history (over $3.39 million) with The Dash series (The Dash, The Dash Pro), headphones that not only enable the user to listen to music without leads  but also measure movements like pace, steps, cadence and distance along with heart rate, oxygen saturation and energy spent, without an attached smartphone.

At IFA2017 they company announced that their headphones are now  Alexa-compatible. This marks a first for Alexa in the “truly wireless” headphone space. It’s also one of the first truly mobile hardware integrations for Amazon’s cloud-based voice service.

“Now customers with The Dash headphones can easily take Alexa with them on the go,” said Jon Kirk, Director Amazon Alexa.

“Bragi’s intelligent headphones with Alexa will make it easy for customers to control their smart home, ask for news, and access more than 20,000 skills in the Alexa skills store.”

Bragi products are currently compatible with voice assistants like Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant, but Amazon Alexa brings a new world of possibilities through smart home, shopping, and home entertainment use cases. Users of Amazon Alexa on The Dash will also be able to access several streaming audio options including their Amazon Music Library, Amazon Prime Music, Audible and TuneIn Radio.

Amazon Alexa increases robot helper tasks

UBTECH Robotics‘ Alpha 2 and younger sibling Lynx, are two humanoid robots are intent on taking over your household tasks. They can take pictures and videos, make calls, check voicemails, read and send texts and emails, and control WiFi-enabled office equipment. They can also post to your social media using voice commands and dance enthusiastically due to over 20 joints on each robot. Alpha 2 features an open API and SDK for Android and the comes welcomes input from developer enthusiasts.

Significantly, Lynx is the first video-enabled humanoid robot with Amazon Alexa functionality. This means that the robot can not only shop directly from Amazon but also ’s talk to home devices such as security cameras, door locks, security systems, and thermostats.


Fellow robotics company Qiban debuted Sanbot Nano, the company’s first home robot. It’s something like a security camera crossed with Echo Dot  — it’s Alexa capabilities succeeded that of Lynx robot — that patrols your house and talks to you, thanks to 50 sensors that help it avoid obstacles, hear voices, and facial recognition tech that helps it recognize when someone enters the room.


The downside is its price, you can expect to part with $2,800, more than double the price of Alpha 2 and Lynx.

Other products that announced partnerships with Alexa included SmarterFridge Cam, Bosch 360° Indoor Camera and Eyes Outdoor Cameras and a new range of televisions for Toshiba.

Alexa and Cortana connect

Along with Alexa lending it’s functionality to more and more hardware, Amazon and Microsoft announced on Sunday that Alexa will be able to talk to Cortana, and Cortana will be able to talk to Alexa.

Alexa customers will be able to access Cortana’s unique features like booking a meeting or accessing work calendars, reminding you to pick up flowers on your way home, or reading your work email – all using just your voice. Similarly, Cortana customers can ask Alexa to control their smart home devices, shop on, interact with many of the more than 20,000 skills built by third-party developers, and much more.

According to Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, Amazon:

“The world is big and so multifaceted. There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas. Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience. It’s great for Echo owners to get easy access to Cortana.”

The combining of the home automation and shopping functionalities of Alexa and business communication skills of Cortana will provide some useful collaborative clout against Google and Siri assistants, as well as showing the benefits of collaboration to the innovation of the voice assistant ecosystem. There is, however, no word yet from the latter companies as to whether they want to join the gang. As Amazon endeavors to seep into every part of your life, you can bet the rest are taking notice.

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Using data from our Earth-orbiting satellites, @NASAEarth Science Disasters Program works to deliver timely info:…

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First iPhone 8, Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple TV 4K Pre-Orders Start Arriving in New Zealand

/ Leave a Comment Because of time zone differences, Apple customers in New Zealand and Australia are always the first to get their hands on new devices on launch day, and this year is no exception.

It’s just after 9:00 a.m. in New Zealand, and customers who pre-ordered an iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, Apple Watch Series 3, or Apple TV 4K are beginning to receive their shipments and have started sharing the first photos of the new devices on Twitter, Instagram, and the MacRumors forums.

Image from MacRumors forum moderator Nermal

As September 22 hits around the world, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus will be available in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, UAE, the UK, the US and US Virgin Islands.

While New Zealand customers were able to order the Apple Watch Series 3, there were no LTE models available for purchase in the country, so the first LTE devices won’t be unboxed until deliveries begin in Australia. Along with Australia, the LTE Apple Watch models can be purchased in Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, the UK and the US.

Image from MacRumors reader Flynn

A long list of other countries were able to pre-order non-LTE Apple Watch Series 3 models, including Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, the UK and the US, while Apple Watch Nike+ pre-orders are being accepted in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guam, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Macau, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, the UK and the US.

Retail stores in most countries will be opening at 8:00 a.m. local time letting customers pick up reserved devices and make purchases via walk-in. Because supplies of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus have been plentiful, it should be no problem for most customers to walk into a retail store to purchase a new iPhone.

Non-LTE Apple Watch models are also readily available, but it could be harder to get an LTE Apple Watch Series 3 as those are sold out online and list shipment estimates ranging into several weeks.

In the United States, the first iPhone 8, 8 Plus, Apple Watch Series 3, and Apple TV 4K deliveries will begin at approximately 8:00 a.m. local time, with the first deliveries occuring on the east coast.

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