Archive for the ‘Technology News’ Category

Bluetooth’s second coming

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Little has been said about Bluetooth’s second coming; perhaps the horns will blow and the lights will brighten when enough products are stocked in stores. Most people have Bluetooth in a device they already own; however, most people don’t realize how much more Bluetooth is capable of doing. “Fortunately, device makers DO know and are starting to expand the ecosystem of applications they are supporting,” said Broadcom’s Craig Ochikubo.

For the uninitiated, “Bluetooth” is a funny word for an awkward device you stick in your ear. The moniker has thus become a non-assuming general descriptor for hands-free calling. That’s about to change. Bluetooth has grown into a disruptive wave that’s beginning to crest over the top of more than one industry.

“It’s the perfect storm: The technology has matured, the prices have plummeted, and the battery life is long enough to make many products disposable commodities,” Jack Corrao, managing director of Corrao Group, told TechNewsWorld.
How Long-in-the-Tooth Evolved to Wicked Fang

Bluetooth sharpened its competitive edge in two new versions. Bluetooth 3 introduced 802.11 and Bluetooth 4 introduced a low-energy (LE) mode.

“Today, Bluetooth is shipping over one billion chips every year,” Nick Hunn, Bluetooth expert and wireless evangelist for CSR, told TechNewsWorld. “Looking forward, the industry can see that growing by an order of magnitude.”

Bluetooth is set to become even more dominant as a short-range wireless technology with the release of the latest Bluetooth low energy specification, Hunn said.

“Where it stands to change the way that products are designed is that these devices will be able to talk to a new generation of mobile phones and gateway devices, which can forward this data on to a Web application, or to a downloadable app on that phone,” he explained. “So whenever you stand on your weight scales, swing a golf club, or go running, the information can automatically appear on your Web site.”
The 3 Flavors of Bluetooth

Besides enabling consumer products to automatically talk to a Web page, Bluetooth LE has the ability to determine the distance between devices.

“That can be used as an access lock for your phone, for entry to your home or office, or as a warning if you leave your phone or PC behind,” explained Hunn.

Although the uses vary, there are three basic forms.

“There are essentially three flavors of Bluetooth available: high speed, low energy and classic. depending on the application, one or all of these ‘flavors’ will be present,” Michael Foley, Ph.D., executive director of Bluetooth SIG, told TechNewsWorld.

Lest you think this technology is somehow limited to the usual array of cellphones, laptops and PCs, take a look at the vast mix of industries that are adopting its use. They range from athletic shoe makers to hospitals.

“The Continua Alliance has already selected Bluetooth low energy as the low power wireless transport for their personal area networking devices,” said Hunn. The Continua Health Alliance is the official body that recommends standards and technologies for the healthcare industry.

“Manufacturers are looking at it not just for the obvious medical devices, like scales, blood pressure and glucose meters, but are also considering it for smart plasters and clothing with built-in sensors,” he added. “We also expect it to bring standardization to the growing number of sensors used in assisted living and medication reminders.”

Bluetooth is appealing to the growing smart energy market as well.

“With a range of over 50 meters, it’s ideal for smart meters and displays, especially where these are battery-powered,” said Hunn. “And as it will work with mobile phones, it brings phones even closer into an individual’s interaction — not just with the things they carry with them, but the environment around them.”
Bluetooth’s Reincarnation

Little has been said about Bluetooth’s second coming; perhaps the horns will blow and the lights will brighten when enough products are stocked in stores. There’s time yet before Bluetooth becomes ubiquitous, but not as much as one might think.

“We’re just waiting for the market to catch up,’ said Corrao. The Corrao Group aggressively seeks and supports startups to help them get Bluetooth products to market sooner.

The funny thing is that most people have Bluetooth in a device they already own; however, most people don’t realize how much more Bluetooth is capable of doing.

“Fortunately, device makers DO know and are starting to expand the ecosystem of applications they are supporting,” Craig Ochikubo, vice president and general manager of Broadcom’s (Nasdaq: BRCM) wireless personal area networking line of business, told TechNewsWorld.

For example, the Bluetooth 3.0 + HS (High Speed) specification lets Bluetooth work closely with wireless LAN to enable very high-speed wireless file transfers (of up to 24Mb/s), noted Ochikubo, so that Bluetooth + WLAN can now be used for moving huge movie files from smartphones to computers.

Bluetooth 4.0 adds the ability for Bluetooth to enable very low-power devices (such as health and fitness sensors), again broadening the universe of applications.
The Bluetooth Invasion

There are basically three Bluetooth initiatives at play: wireless, cloud computing Best Fit CRM Analysis – Learn which 3 CRM solutions would best fit your business. Click here. and the medical market, according to Corrao. However, that’s a bit misleading, for Bluetooth is set to be far more pervasive than a reading of that short list would indicate.

Look for Bluetooth to make tremendous changes in how we use existing products first — but newer products are not far behind.

“No other radio technology offers the flexibility, maturity and power that Bluetooth can bring across such a diverse product range,” said Broadcom’s Ochikubo. “For that reason, we think consumers will start looking more and more for devices that offer the convenience and ease-of-use of Bluetooth.”

For now, the buzz about Bluetooth is at a low hum. There’s some speculation over the threat to Sirius as the in-car environment leans more heavily toward Internet radio, online connectivity in general, and thus Bluetooth. However, it is state mandates, not music, that may end up driving Bluetooth beyond the roadways and into homes.

“Hands-free phone legislation forces drivers to go out and purchase a Bluetooth unit for use in their cars, but it quickly requires the public to become aware of the Bluetooth technology itself,” Adam Ortega, wireless buyer for Car Toys, told TechNewsWorld. “This forced education will lead consumers to discover other ways Bluetooth can be used in their everyday lives, other then just using it in their vehicles.”

Bottom-line: Bluetooth’s full potential is far from realized, and innovation has just barely warmed its engines.
‘Always Off’ Trumps ‘Always On’

Another driver pushing Bluetooth to the forefront is its unique approach to energy.

“Unlike WiFi, Bluetooth does not continually search for devices to connect to,” explained Bluetooth SIG’s Michael Foley. “With Bluetooth v 4.0, data is transferred only when necessary — this is a huge benefit to power savings.”

Simply put, this means a regular coin battery, such as one would find in a watch, can power Bluetooth for the life of many products.

“Bluetooth low energy is essentially a redesign of the Bluetooth standard that focuses on devices that have small amounts of information to convey, and which may never need charging,” explained Hunn. “It’s been optimized for these so that they can run off coin cells for years.”
The Fly in the Pie-in-the-Sky

It’s an inconvenient truth that most technologies today are not completely benign, and Bluetooth is no exception to the rule. Just like GPS can save lives but is also used clandestinely to aid banks in repossessing vehicles, Bluetooth can also be used to keep up with an awful lot of details in your private life. The question is not whether it be used this way — but how and when.

The industry has already thought of the predictable Big Brother fears, said Corrao.

“Continua Alliance is ensuring your personal and medical information is protected,” he pointed out. “You will have to opt in, for example.”

In all probability, Continua’s concern for patient privacy stems from regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). But regulation does not yet exist to protect Bluetooth use outside of healthcare.

However, what privacy protection the government gives in HIPAA, it snatches back with the Patriot Act — and make no mistake, Bluetooth could conceivably fall under the Patriot Act, since it is classified as a communications technology.

Besides, there are those that would argue that the notion of privacy is an antiquated idea, long since sacrificed on the altars of Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and personal blogs.

They could be right.

KISS MY APP: Game on

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Long before there were Play Stations, Xboxes, Wiis and iPads, gaming usually involved putting a coin in the slot of an arcade game and demonstrating your prowess with a joystick. Well this week Kiss My App took a trip down memory lane and found that quite a few of the arcade greats we cut our gaming teeth on have been reproduced, or reincarnated, for the iPhone. Some notable favourites are missing, like Super Mario, which hasn’t got an app for iPhone, but there should be enough here to keep your nostalgia on autofire for weeks.

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Microsoft finalizes Office 2010

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

Microsoft said Friday that it has wrapped up development work on the next version of the Office family, including Office 2010, SharePoint 2010, Visio 2010, and Project 2010.

The products were “released to manufacturing,” which is the final engineering step. The products are slated to be available for businesses next month and Microsoft is holding a launch event on May 12 in New York.

“RTM is the final engineering milestone of a product release and our engineering team has poured their heart and soul into reaching this milestone,” vice president Takeshi Numoto said in a blog posting. “It is also an appropriate time to re-emphasize our sincere gratitude to the more than 5,000 organizations and partners who have worked with us on rapid deployment and testing of the products.”

The Office suite, in all its many flavors, will hit store shelves in June and Microsoft is planning a separate Gotham event to mark that occasion. Microsoft is also taking preorders for Office on its online store. Already Microsoft has been promising those buying Office 2007 a free upgrade to Office 2010.

Redmond is also planning to allow PC makers to load a slimmed down Office Starter that users will get for free on new computers.

Among the biggest changes in the new version of Office is the fact that Microsoft will release separate browser-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Businesses will be able to host the Office Web Apps on a SharePoint server, while consumers will be able to get free access as part of Windows Live.

On the desktop side, Microsoft is adding the first 64-bit version of Office as well as other changes including video editing in PowerPoint, photo editing in Word, and an improved “paste preview” function.

Microsoft noted Friday that more than 7.5 million people have been using the beta version of Office 2010. CNET news

Whats in store for Apple OS 4.0?

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Whats in store for Apple OS 4.0?

Multitasking: Some consider it the biggest weaknesses of the iPhone in comparison with its smartphone peers: that Apple limits the ability of applications on the iPhone or iPod Touch to run simultaneously. Currently, you can do some multitasking–listening to music while reading e-mail, or browsing Safari during a voice call–but third-party applications can’t do this at all.

iPhone OS 4.0

Apple is holding a preview event for the next version of iPhone OS on Thursday.
(Credit: Apple)

It sound like this will change soon however. Rumors began floating around last week that Apple is indeed working on multitasking in iPhone OS and could be implemented much the way Expose works on Mac OS. Expose is the feature on Macs in which clicking a certain key or swiping downward on a newer MacBook touch pad shows all the applications currently running and gives the option of toggling through each.

Integrated ads: Apple got into a tug-of-war with Google over AdMob last year–and lost. Apple settled for Quattro Wireless, another mobile advertising company, which it bought in January. Since the purchase, Apple has been mum about its plans for Quattro within Apple, but the event on Thursday could serve as a coming-out party for a new advertising platform that is integrated with the iPhone software development kit.

Borrowing from iPad: iPad runs a modified version of iPhone OS, currently version 3.2. The iPhone and iPod Touch now run version 3.1. The iPad has some features that the iPhone and iPod Touch do not, some of which the iPad we think could reasonably be added to the iPhone OS: the ability to customize the background wallpaper, using the iPhone in any orientation you want (the iPad allows you to turn it left, right, and upside down), and perhaps even Bluetooth keyboard support.

Merge iPhone OS and iPad OS: There’s also the chance that Apple could go even further in borrowing from iPad. It came up right after the iPad was introduced and hasn’t been mentioned since. But there’s a good chance the OS for the iPhone and the modified OS for the iPad will merge into one operating system. When that will be though is up for debate. John Gruber at DaringFireball thinks the introduction of OS 4.0 is the time. Jim Dalrymple, the author of The Loop blog (and a member of CNET’s blog network), says the two operating systems will merge with the release of iPhone OS 4.1 in September or October.

Folders and sorting: Apple offered a solution for organizing the overload of applications at its last iTunes and iPod event when it introduced the ability to manage apps via iTunes. But there’s still more to be done. One of the things iPhone owners could use is the ability to sort apps directly on the home page of the iPhone and/or the ability to create folders. Both of those would bring iPhone OS up to speed with what Android can do.

Tethering: Tethering is the ability to share your phone’s cellular connection with other devices, such as a computer. Though carriers in other countries allow their customers to use tethering, AT&T has yet to bring it to iPhone users in the U.S. Apple could take the opportunity to address the situation for U.S. customers on Thursday.

Better voice control: The iPhone has some voice controls, but more would be better. On the list that should be added: composing e-mails or text by voice.

Profiles: Having the ability to create different profiles for the iPhone would ensure users don’t have to constantly readjust the settings on their phone. Being able to set the iPhone depending on where you’re at or what you’re doing (“home,” “work,” and “asleep” for example) would enable users to specify when they want to get e-mail, text message notifications, ringer on/off, and more.

Some things Apple probably won’t introduce, but we can still hope for:

Mass storage capability: Apple currently doesn’t allow iPhone owners to utilize extra memory as a storage device. It’s got a USB port, why not allow people to save large files to their device and download them elsewhere?

New way to handle large files: Speaking of large files, the iPhone won’t download applications or files larger than 20MB over 3G. Apple–and likely AT&T or any service provider–prefers you wait for a Wi-Fi connection before you start downloading extra-large apps. So why not introduce a new option so that when you try to buy an app over 20MB on 3G to automatically start downloading next time you’re in range of a Wi-Fi connection?

Built-in photo editing: Right now Apple doesn’t allow iPhone users to do anything more than take a photo with the iPhone and then send it or share it via other applications. You can’t edit those photos–including basic things like cropping or rotating them–on the device itself without the assistance of a third-party app.

Flash compatibility: It’s pretty well known how Steve Jobs feels about Adobe Flash on the iPhone (Jobs reportedly called it a “CPU hog”). And in conjunction with the debut of the iPad, Apple has been actively promoting the new HTML5 Web standard for online videos and the Web sites that implement it. So it’s fairly unlikely he and Apple will suddenly change their minds.

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