News Roundup: Amazon Goes, overly aggressive Samsung, and open Apple Credit: Image credit: iphonedigital via Flickr
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News Roundup: Amazon Goes, overly aggressive Samsung, and open Apple

Even if you ignore all the Cloud stuff, it seems disingenuous to call Amazon an eCommerce company these days. This week saw Jeff Bezos’ omni-commerce (aka oCommerce©) giant make another move offline and into bricks and mortar. Amazon Go is a supermarket that avoids checkouts and queues through the use of sensors and computer vision. Just sign in with your app, shop, and leave. The 1,800 sq. ft. store is located in Seattle and will open to the public next year.


Samsung overly aggressive?

Samsung hasn’t been very forthcoming about the specific cause of the Galaxy Note explosions, but a new teardown from Instrumental.ai blames aggressive design and poor testing. The blog suggests that the battery was simply so cramped up inside the phone that it became unsafe, and even goes so far to say that if they hadn’t started exploding, battery swell would have forced the devices to break apart in a couple of years anyway.

“Samsung took a deliberate step towards danger, and their existing test infrastructure and design validation process failed them,” said the post. “They shipped a dangerous product.”


Apple opens up

Apple is a notoriously secretive company, especially when it comes to sharing research. It was once labelled “The NSA of AI” due to its lack of engagement with the AI community. But this week saw a change of tactic after the company’s head of AI, Russ Salakhutdinov, spoke at the NIPS 2016 AI conference. The company revealed it was working on LiDAR detection and prediction (essential to driverless car tech, but apparently never specifically talked about cars), quicker and more efficient neural networks, and promised to start publishing more of its research online.

Apple also confirmed it had some interest in driverless cars, but more on that below.


Google renews itself

Being a 100% renewable company can be a pretty vague statement. Blurry timelines, hard to trace recycling supply chains, buying carbon credits to offset your actual footprint etc. But Google has announced it plans to be 100% renewable by 2017.

“To reach this goal we’ll be directly buying enough wind and solar electricity annually to account for every unit of electricity our operations consume, globally,” wrote Urs Hölzle, Senior Vice President Technical Infrastructure, in a blog post. “And we're focusing on creating new energy from renewable sources, so we only buy from projects that are funded by our purchases.”


Apple car almost, nearly, possibly confirmed

Apple finally confirmed it is doing something around driverless cars. The company sent a letter to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which stated:

“The company is investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.”

The rest of the letter keeps things fairly vague. It’s more Apple outlining how it approves of many of the NHTSA’s current policies and highlighting a few it would like to see itself. No specifics on Project Titan or what, if anything Apple is actually working on. But still, a fairly big confirmation.


M&A

It’s finally confirmed: Fitbit is definitely acquiring Pebble. Or some of it. The fitness tracker is taking the software and the people, but not bothering with the hardware. Aside from the fact it’s going to leave a lot of Pebble owners with increasingly useless hardware, it’s another crowdfunding darling that never quite made it to Unicorn status or IPO. They either seem to get acquired or die a death.

Uber has acquired Geometric Intelligence, Docker has bought Infinit, Huawei has reportedly snapped up Toga Networks, GoDaddy now owns WP Curve, Roper Technologies now owns Deltek, and Equinix has got its hands on a load of data centres from Verizon.

A message to companies looking for funding or to get acquired: sort your security out. A new survey from the Brunswick Group suggests investors value companies which take security seriously higher than those that have suffered a breach. It might be obvious, but look how Verizon reacted after the Yahoo! breach.


NSA

-          Russia says it foiled a state-sponsored cyber-attack.

-          Canada is proposing some less-than-cyber-friendly backdoor policies.

-          Trend Micro predicts “Cyberpropaganda” will become the norm in 2017.

-          IoT kids toys collect data about your kids.


Facebook: The cause of, and solution to, gentrification

Silicon Valley’s technology industry is one of the principle reasons behind wide-spread gentrification and soaring house prices in much of California. Facebook has apparently realised this, and has donated $20 million to a new partnership it’s created to focused on creating more affordable housing. Whether the company is worried it might need to start paying its employees more to cover their rent and realised this was the cheaper option isn’t explained.


Pirates in Iceland

Despite an impressive showing at the polls, it was slightly disappointing to see the Icelandic Pirate Party not run away with the recent elections, as some pollsters predicted they would. However, they could still end up being the main party in charge after both the Independence Party and the Left-Green Movement failed to form a government. This has led to the Pirate Party now leading the talks to form a ruling coalition government.


Tron Alexa

Much has been said about how the likes of Amazon Echo and Google Home are going to change how people live. But not enough has been said about how they’re kind of ugly. So kudos to GE, who’ve brought Alexa’s smarts into a device with all the aesthetics of Tron. Although it doesn’t have a name, this Alexa-imbued LED table lamp looks like a Tron light disc and is beautiful. Look at it. Pretty.


LinkedIn gets a bit too helpful

LinkedIn is full of sales and business people. Confident types. Ones who probably know how to start a conversation. So quite why the company has introduced a “conversation starter” feature is a bit puzzling. Struggling for an excuse to message someone? Simply press the lightbulb and it will suggest variants of “You have x connections at y, can you sort me out?”


Sad MP3s

Some news that will be music to the ears of Neil Young and other audiophiles reverberated around the web this week after a study suggested compressed MP3s can actually make people sad. The study - which to my ears sounds like pure high-audio Cyberpropaganda -  suggested compressed music file formats strengthened neutral and negative emotional characteristics while weakening positive ones. Aggressive music, however, is apparently less affected, so here’s some angry music which you can compress all you like.

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect. Writes about all manner of tech from driverless cars, AI, and Green IT to Cloudy stuff, security, and IoT. Dislikes autoplay ads/videos and garbage written about 'milliennials'.  

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