Are Smart TV Designs Taking Home Security for Granted?

2018.02.19 02

Millions of smart TVs from Samsung and some streaming devices from Roku recently were found to be vulnerable to cyberattacks, allowing intruders to take control and remotely change channels and volume settings, among other things, according to Consumer Reports research.

Vulnerabilities were discovered not only in Samsung televisions, but also in TVs from TCL and other brands that sell sets compatible with the Roku TV smart-TV platform and streaming video devices such as Roku Ultra, according to the report.

Further, the affected televisions and devices collect a wide range of personal data, Consumer Reports noted, and users who choose to limit that data collection would risk limiting the functionality of the TV.

The report is based on a wide ranging security and privacy review of major brands, including Vizio, LG and Sony.

“For many years, there was no reason to hack a television or a smart streaming media player,” he told TechNewsWorld.

It was only with the advent of subscription-based video services and transactional video that you started to see financial data, like credit card numbers, get stored online, Sappington noted.

Are Smart TV Designs Taking Home Security for Granted?

Intel’s Smart Peepers Look Smart, Too

2018.02.13 01

Intel has designed a pair of smart glasses that won’t make you look like a hopeless geek.

Called “Vaunt,” the peepers, which are still in the prototype phase, look like ordinary glasses, save for a faint, red glimmer that occasionally appears on the right lens.

Information sent to the glasses appear to be displayed on a screen but in reality is beamed to the retina of a wearer’s eye.

“The prototypes I wore in December also felt virtually indistinguishable from regular glasses,” Dieter Bohn wrote in a hands-on review published Monday in The Verge.

“They come in several styles, work with prescriptions, and can be worn comfortably all day,” he added.

Intel’s Smart Peepers Look Smart, Too

Privacy-Minded Smart Speaker May Struggle to Get to Know You

2018.02.01 01

Mycroft AI earlier this week announced that its Mark II smart speaker achieved full funding on Kickstarter in just 6.5 hours. As of Wednesday, pledges reached more than three times its US$50K goal — with 23 days remaining in the campaign.

The Mark II is positioned as an open source alternative to the dominant Amazon Echo line of smart speakers and its main challenger, the Google Home device.

One of the main draws of the Mark II is its emphasis on maintaining user privacy, an increasing concern as the market for smart home devices has exploded.

The Mark II offers sophisticated voice control technology with a built-in screen, an optional camera, and a state-of-the-art microphone array, the company said. It protects user privacy by automatically deleting user queries and utilizing open data sets.

The Mark II is the first commercial device that uses Deep Speech to understand commands in English, according to Mozilla. Its Persona technology recognizes contextual speech, which enables the virtual assistant to discern whether a user’s speech is sarcastic or serious, for example.

Privacy-Minded Smart Speaker May Struggle to Get to Know You

Alexa Now Can Dash Off Text Messages to Android Phones

2016.06.13 01

Amazon on Tuesday introduced new functionality that enables its Alexa virtual assistant to send and receive SMS messages on devices running Android 5.0 or higher. Carrier charges may apply.

Alexa, the software that powers the Echo line of smart speakers, can play and send personalized messages from contacts for users who have set up voice profiles.

Users will hear a chime when they have a new SMS message, and see a yellow light ring on their Echo device. They’ll also be notified in the Alexa App.

The SMS feature isn’t available for iOS because Apple doesn’t share its messaging API with third parties, Amazon said.

The feature currently is available only in the United States.

Text-to-911, group messages, and MMS are not supported.

Alexa’s new SMS capability is being over hyped, contended Michael Jude, research manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

“Accessing the feature for most will be more trouble than it’s worth, since Alexa interactions are still kind of clunky,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Alexa “works for simple instructions — but for more complicated interactions like this, most people will not bother,” Jude predicted. “It’s far easier simply to use the SMS functionality on the smartphone.”

The SMS feature “will add to the perceived utility of the Amazon offering, but will ultimately be of limited use unless it’s improved over time,” he said. “The Jude rule is, people evaluate a purchase on the basis of all the features they get, but then only use 10 percent of them.”

Alexa Now Can Dash Off Text Messages to Android Phones

Google Device Bug Chokes Home WiFi Networks

2018.01.29 01

A bug in the software used by Google Cast devices such as Chromecast and Home can slow down or crash WiFi networks.

The problem — initially believed to be isolated to a particular router model made by TP-Link — appears to affect models made by other manufacturers, including Asus, Linksys, Netgear and Synology.

The Cast feature on Google’s home devices is the culprit behind the WiFi problems, according to a post on the TP-Link website. Cast sends MDNS multicast discovery packets in order to discover and keep a live connection with Google products such as Home. These packets normally are sent in 20-second intervals.

However, after a device wakes up from sleep mode, it sometimes broadcasts a large amount of the packets — more than 100,000 on some occasions — at a very high speed in a short amount of time. The longer the device is asleep, the larger the packet burst will be.

Google Device Bug Chokes Home WiFi Networks

Apple’s HomePod Set to Barge Into Hot Speaker Market

2018.01.26 01

HomePod, Apple’s long-awaited entry into the torrid smart speaker market, will be available Feb. 9, the company announced Tuesday.

The HomePod, which is not quite 7 inches tall, will be offered in white and space gray. It can be pre-ordered at Apple’s website for US$349 starting Friday.

Unlike other smart speakers, which support a variety of music services out of the gate, HomePod will support the Apple Music subscription service exclusively.

Although Apple Music has a catalog of 45 million songs, that limitation could curb initial sales of the product, noted Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.

Apple’s HomePod Set to Barge Into Hot Speaker Market

Amazon’s ‘Echo Show’ Gives Alexa the Touchscreen It Needed

2017.05.13 02

THE AMAZON ECHO is a stupendously powerful device. It can control your lights, play Ed Sheeran jams, keep a to-do list, check the weather, order pizza, tell guests your Wi-Fi password, and so much more. But as you embrace this chatty-computer future, you begin to see its limitations. Sure, you can book a flight with your voice, but it’s so much easier when you can see the price chart. You can set six timers, but can you remember which one just went off? Voice-only games are fun, but not as fun as a game you can see and touch.

Hype aside, voice control is not a replacement for screens, but a complement to them. As Apple’s Phil Schiller recently said, “There’s many moments where a voice assistant is really beneficial, but that doesn’t mean you’d never want a screen. So the idea of not having a screen, I don’t think suits many situations.”

That’s what makes Amazon’s newest Echo, the $229 Echo Show, a smart move. It’s an Echo … with a screen. The Chumby lookalike exists mostly to talk and listen, but glance at the screen and you’ll notice that as it reads your calendar events, it displays them, too. When it announces that the Warriors won, it shows you the box score. It lets you interact with almost everything by touch or by voice, using whichever one you find most convenient. The speaker gets loud enough to rattle the kitchen counter, you can see the 7-inch screen from anywhere, and the far-field microphone array works just as well as the Echo. Plus, the setup couldn’t be simpler. Plug it in, connect it, done.

Amazon’s ‘Echo Show’ Gives Alexa the Touchscreen It Needed

10 of the best things you can do with the Amazon Echo

2017.05.12 04

If you’re considering buying an Alexa device (including the new Echo Show or Echo Look) or got Amazon Echo as a gift, there’s a lot to learn. There’s a lot Alexa can do, but here are the 10 best tips and tricks to get you started.

1. Make phone calls (basically, landline calls)
2. Control your smart home
3. Get cooking ideas and tips
4. Get the news
5. Entertain your kids for hours on end
6. Learn about more features
7. Get fit (or try to)
8. Control your TV
9. Use Spotify to play music
10. Train Alexa to do practically anything else

10 of the best things you can do with the Amazon Echo

New Smartwatch OS Debuts on GitHub

2016-12-28-04

Can a new smartwatch operating system based on Linux breathe some new life into the smart wearables market? Florent Revest hopes so.

Revest, a French computer science student, on Wednesday announced the alpha release of AsteroidOS, an open source operating system that will run on several Android smartwatch models.

“Many users believe that the current proprietary platforms can not guarantee a satisfactory level of control over their privacy and hardware,” noted Revest, who has been working on his OS for two years. “Hence, I noticed a need for an open wearable platform and AsteroidOS is my attempt to address this issue.”

The alpha edition of AsteroidOS contains some basic apps: agenda, for scheduling events to remember; an alarm clock; a calcuator; music, for controlling the music player on a phone; a stopwatch; a timer and a weather app.

New Smartwatch OS Debuts on GitHub

AirBar is a USB device that adds a touchscreen to laptops

Feel like you’re missing out because your laptop doesn’t have a touchscreen display? No problem. You can give it one for just $50, and you don’t have to remove a single screw to do it.

Next month at CES, a company called Neonode will be showing off the AirBar to the massive Las Vegas crowd. It’s a simple, slim USB peripheral that attaches to the bezel of a laptop. Once you’ve plugged it in to a USB port AirBar blankets your display with “an invisible light field,” which Neonode refers to as “zForce AIR technology.” It sounds pretty cool, and also a lot like the infrared big-screen add-ons made by Keytec.

AirBar doesn’t require any special software to work its magic. As long as it’s connected to a Windows 7, 8, or 10 machine — or a Chromebook — it’ll just work once it’s been plugged in. Neonode is still working on Mac support, but it’s coming.

AirBar is a USB device that adds a touchscreen to laptops