News Roundup: Samsung batteries, Raspberry AI, and Heartbeat biometrics

A roundup of the week's tech news including Alexa the Trekkie, and robots with googly eyes.

A roundup of the week's tech news including Alexa the Trekkie, and robots with googly eyes.

Samsung comes clean

Samsung has finally come out to explain the cause of all those Galaxy Note 7 explosions. Surprise, surprise, it was bad batteries. The first of the two faults was down to small casing causing the battery to short-circuit and ignite, while the replacement batteries were poorly manufactured. Countermeasures to prevent this happening again include more rigorous testing and more external advisors to ensure better battery design and manufacture.

Meanwhile, HP is recalling over 100,000 of its own laptop batteries due to the fact they could overheat and potentially be fire hazards. A list of all affected models is available here.

Raspberry AI

You can do all sorts with Raspberry Pi computers these days. Cloud servers? Yep. Endpoint protection? No problem. Supercomputers? Why not. And soon you’ll be able to give your Pi sentience, or at least a few machine learning capabilities.

According the Raspberry Pi foundation, Google is planning on bringing some its AI tools to the Pi, and is currently asking makers and hobbyists to fill in a survey so they can figure out exactly what to bring to the little computer on a board.

Asus, seemingly jealous of all the millions of little computers the Pi Foundation has sold, has just released its own take the concept. Dubbed the Tinker Board, the design is more powerful, but also more expensive (almost double the price). The layout is strikingly similar to the Pi, suggesting Asus is hoping people will fancy doing a straight swap for a board with more juice.


Cisco has acquired AppDynamics just before its IPO, The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has bought AI startup Meta (not to be confused with the wearable tech company), IBM has snapped up Agile 3 Solutions, Accenture now owns solid-serVision, and Wipro has purchased InfoSERVER.

Google’s parent company Alphabet is rumoured to be about to sell its Terra Bella satellite business - aka Skybox Imaging – to satellite company Planet Labs.

Heartbeat biometrics

Biometrics are quickly becoming one of the preferred methods of authentication. Scientists at Binghamton University have developed a new way to protect personal health data using a person’s heartbeat.

“There have been so many mature encryption techniques available, but the problem is that those encryption techniques rely on some complicated arithmetic calculations and random key generations," said Zhanpeng Jin, co-author of the paper A Robust and Reusable ECG-based Authentication and Data Encryption Scheme for eHealth Systems.

Using a person’s unique electrocardiograph (ECG) to encrypt personal health data collected via wearables enables secure transfer of data without a high compute or power cost. However, due to ECG being more sensitive to variations than something like a fingerprint or iris, ECG cannot be used for a biometric authentication purpose alone, according to Jin, “but it’s a very effective way as a secondary authentication.”

Alexa: Kirk or Picard?

At the IoT Tech Expo in London this week, Amazon’s EU Head of Alexa Mark Amordeluso said the original concept of Amazon Alexa was to “make the computer from Star Trek a reality.” Perhaps it’s no surprise then that Alexa can now be woken up and commanded with the word “computer”, just like in the Star Trek universe. Trekkies rejoice.

Humanizing robots

This week we wrote about why companies are giving voice assistants physical forms to make them more relatable. Not once were googly eyes mentioned. But as you can see from the below video of a robot using a stylus to beat the “I’m not a robot” CAPTCHA, googly eyes make all robots more lifelike.