News Roundup: Is Palm about to make a comeback? Credit: Image via Wikimedia
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News Roundup: Is Palm about to make a comeback?

A roundup of the week’s technology news including hacking pacemakers, Google ARCore, and Burger King cryptocurrencies.

 

The return of Palm

Could there be two PDA devices out on the market next year? Before the great iPhone smartphone revolution, Palm was the great rival to Blackberry. But after the company’s acquisition by HP (and later sales of WebOS to Qualcomm, with LG licensing for its TVs), the name fell by the wayside.

But the Palm name could be about to make a comeback. TCL – the company making Blackberry’s KEYone – is planning to revive the name for a line of products next year. TCL Marketing Manager Stefan Streit told Android Planet that the name would be coming back but didn’t say whether that would be with phones or PDAs. It’s entirely possible TCL could license WebOS for authenticity, but most likely will go for Android for whatever devices come out.

 

No Cook for President

We live in interesting Times. And if you believe the speculation, we could have Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johson and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg making credible runs for the White House come 2020. One person we won’t see bidding to be President, however, is Apple CEO Tim Cook.

“You've got to be kidding,” Cook told The Des Moines Register this week after speculation appeared online. “I've got a full-time job. And I love Apple deeply. So no, there's no connection there at all.”

In 2015 a poll reported that Elon Musk is the tech CEO people would most likely vote for in a Presidential race, with Cook narrowly beating Zuckerberg and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos for third place.

 

AR Wars

Apple ARKit has seemingly woken people up to the world of phone-based Augmented Reality beyond Pokemon Go and Snapchat filters. It’s scared Google so much that the company has retired the Tango name and announced the ARCore SDK. Much like ARKit, it’s an AR platform to develop proper AR experiences and apps. With Facebook also offering an AR platform, the space is about to get very crowded. But as Ars Technica points out; wasn’t Microsoft leading this space not two years ago? How quickly things change.

Mixed Reality startup Magic Leap is still alive. The multi-billion dollar startup that has never publicly shown off a product has filed a new patent for some quite nice looking AR glasses. If and when anything will be properly revealed is anyone’s guess.

magic-leap

 

Apple/Accenture

Apple has made another move into the enterprise by teaming up with Accenture. The announcement, which follows similar partnerships with IBM, Cisco, and SAP, will see Apple employees working inside Accenture to deliver iOS-based services and integrations.

 

CorLexa

The lack of interoperability between voice assistants is holding back all the cool tech of the future. It’s no good having a Siri that controls your phone, not being able to talk to the Alexa in your fridge, which can’t talk to the Cortana in your Xbox, which can’t talk to the Google Assistant in your thermostat, which doesn’t realise that Bixby exists at all.

But it looks like companies are finally starting to address that problem. Microsoft and Amazon are teaming up to make Cortana and Alexa slightly more cooperative. According to the NYT, by the end of the year people will summon Cortana using Alexa (and vice versa). Instead of sharing skills, however, you have to go through the clumsy rigmarole of “Alexa, Open Cortana” or “Cortana, Open Alexa.” Still, it’s a start.

As it’s getting towards Christmas and it’s IFA this week, there’s lots of shiny new products being announced!

In the Alexa camp, there’s Libratone’s Zipp speakers and the giant Sanbot Nano domestic robot. For team Google Assistant we have offerings from Sony, Zolo, Tic, Onkyo, and Panasonic, as well as ‘washers, dryers, and vacuums’ from LG.

Harman, meanwhile has announced the Alexa-powered Allure and the Google Assistant-powered Link to join it’s Cortana-powerd Invoke (why each assistant needs its own design I don’t know) but hasn’t bothered with a Bixby one yet. Despite being owned by Samsung.

 

Other announcements

Sony this week revealed a new ‘smart office’ solution at IFA this week. Nimway is essentially a digital floorplan screen and personalised app which will tell you exactly where to go within the building or complex (i.e. for meetings), and will tell managers how the building is being used.

WhatsApp is testing verified business accounts. Essentially a green tick next to a name, it aims to verify that the number you have in your phone is the official one tied to the company you’re trying to contact.

 

M&A

Western Digital has made a double swoop for Upthere and Tegile, Forcepoint has acquired behavioural analytics startup Red Owl, Siemens has snapped up driverless software provider TASS, Solarwinds now owns SpamExperts, and Juniper has got its hands on Cyphort

HTC may be planning to spin off or sell its Virtual Reality business, while GE is rumoured to be interested in selling a stake of its Predix software unit.

Crowdfunded headphone startup Kanoa has closed its doors. Another successful IndieGoGo campaign down the spout.

 

 

Cyber

  • Eight members of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council – which is tasked with national cybersecurity – have resigned, citing President Donald Trump’s ‘undermining of the moral infrastructure’ of the United States.
  • The CIA created a Trojan to spy on fellow intelligence agencies, according to WikiLeaks (which itself suffered an attack by OurMine).
  • The NSA says section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – the bit that allows it to collect data on people - “saves lives”, doesn’t mention anything about privacy.
  • Intel’s Management Engine has a secret kill switch.

 

Privacy

When Cloudflare dropped ‘Alt-Right’ the Daily Stormer, CEO Matthew Prince said he may be setting a dangerous principle. Turns out he was right. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of the Israeli legal center Shurat HaDin, has demanded Cloudflare cut ties to sites linked with Hamas or face legal action.

Sweden is reportedly proposing expansion of its surveillance powers and requiring internet operators to rework their systems to make monitoring easier.

A new report from the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) shows requests for user information and content removal by African governments is on the increase.

 

Ethical cars

Despite the fact most driverless car experts say stopping the car is the best remedy to the ‘trolley problem’, the question of who a car should run over in the event of some unavoidable catastrophe is a great headline maker. And the German government has recently tried to answer that question. The German Ethics Commission has set out principles for autonomous vehicles which state cars cannot choose actions based on age, sex or physical condition, but must avoid injury or death of people above all, even if that means at the cost of property or animals.

 

Open Source

Open Source jobs are more in demand than ever, according to the Linux Foundation’s latest jobs report, and LinkedIn has released a new load balancing tool called Cruise Control for managing Kafka clusters.

 

Pacesetting

Predictions about hacking medical devices such as pacemakers have been around for a while. It seems the US might have just missed a medical cyber-disaster after the FDA recalled half a million pacemakers after in order to update their security. Six types of radio-controlled pacemaker from health tech firm Abbott were recalled – a total of 465,000 devices - after a vulnerability was found which could allow hackers to reprogram the devices to alter patient’s heartrates or even run the battery flat. While it isn’t a traditional recall as removing pacemakers would be difficult. Instead patients have to visit a health centre for a firmware update.  

 

Amazon patents talking drones

Drone delivery startups and services are popping up all over the place. From delivering food parcels in Iceland to Viagra in the UK, there’s nothing drones can’t do. And, if Amazon get their way, UAVs will be talking to you soon as well. A new patent from the company sees it looking into embedding voice capabilities into drones in order to issues warnings and enable two-way communication (possibly with an Amazon rep or Alexa). The company also has a patent for drones that scan your property and then send recommendations such as fertiliser if the garden looks unhealthy.

amazon-drone

 

Burger Coin

The value of Bitcoin hitting record highs isn’t really news anymore: it’s happened three times in the last seven days. But the news that Burger King Russia has launched its own cryptocurrency is interesting. The WhopperCoin is a blockchain ledger-backed coin which will work like a traditional points-reward scheme. Customers will be able to claim one WhopperCoin for every Rouble they spend on Whoppers, and can claim one Whopper for 1,700 coins. 

 

GIFs, but in real life

Do you ever use the Live Photo feature on iOS and think, “god, I wish I could print this out like a Polaroid picture”? Well now can you can. New York based-developer Abhishek Singh has created the Instagif NextStep; a Polaroid camera-like device which records videos and saves them as GIFs to cartridges with screens. It’s not for sale, but you can build and code your own version if you want.

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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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