Posts tagged with "Smartphone"

Everything old is new again: Microsoft returns to smartphones with the Surface Duo

October 3, 2019

It now appears that pigs do fly— because on October 2, Microsoft officially announced the launch date for its new smartphone, the Surface Duo, according to a report by Business Insider.

Although the company sunsetted the Windows 10 Mobile operating system in 2018, techies have been hoping that the decision wasn’t etched in stone. .

The new market entry is a dual-screen, foldable phone running the Android operating system that Microsoft says is designed for productivity and made to integrate with Windows, Business Insider noted after the Redmond, Washington-based company hosted a reveal event for the media on Wednesday..

“Make no mistake, this product is a Surface,” Microsoft’s Chief Product Officer Panos Panay said at the briefing.

The bad news is that it’s not coming out until the 2020 holiday season, so we’ll all have o wait just a little bit longer.

The reason for the delay, Panay indicated on stage, is to help developers optimize their apps for the new two-screen interface. Notably, it’s a little different from existing foldable smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Fold—there’s a clear seam between the two screens, making it more about multi-tasking than having a single, large display.

Research contact: @businessinsider

3M invents an ‘outside the box’ shipping idea

July 30, 2019

Nearly 2 billion Americans (1.92 billion, according to Hosting Facts) will buy something online in 2019—and that means that roughly 2 billion cardboard boxes will arrive at U.S. homes this year; carrying a variety of smallish items that will be stuffed safely into place in biggish shipping containers with wasteful plastic fillers.

And since the most popular items to buy online are pieces of clothing and fashion accessories, chances are that many of these boxes will be used again, for returns.

But now, all of that’s about to change. Just as the Palm Pilots of the 1990s disappeared in favor of smartphones at the turn of the century, our conventional packing materials are about to see a transformation.

The Minnesota-based materials company. 3M—which to date has, perhaps been best-known for its lines of Scotch tape and other tapes, as well as Post-It notes— is releasing a new type of packaging that requires no tape on the outside and no filler materials. What’s more, the new packaging can be customized to fit any object under three pounds (which, 3M says, accounts for about 60% of all items that are bought online and shipped).

Indeed, 3M claims that the material, called the Scotch Flex & Review Seal Shipping Roll, can:

  • Reduce the time needed to pack items for shipping
  • Cut back on the amount of packaging materials required for each shipment (with no need for tape or fillers), and
  • Slash the amount of physical storage space needed in ground and air vehicles just to accommodate the packages.

According to a report by Fast Company, the new roll is made out of three layers of different plastics developed by 3M—among them::

  • A gray, internal adhesive layer that sticks to itself (you’ll see why in a moment);
  • A middle cushioning layer that seems similar to bubble wrap in the way that it protects items during shipping; and
  • A tougher outside layer that is tear- and water-resistant.

The rolls are available in assorted sizes, almost like wrapping paper: 10-foot, 20-foot, and 40-foot rolls are available now; with prices ranging from $12.99 to $48.99, and a 200-foot bulk role will be available in August.

To use the Flex & Seal, you just place your item on the sticky gray side of the material, fold over enough material to encapsulate your item, and press the adhesive sides together to seal it up. The gray side of the packaging will stick to itself, and not the object you want to ship, and 3M says the seal is robust enough to stay in place during shipping—no tape required.

After about 30 seconds, during which you can reposition the item if you didn’t seal it to your liking the first time, the adhesive gets so strong that you have to tear the plastic a bit if you want to pull it apart. That protects your package from tampering, while making sure it’s easy enough to tear open or cut with scissors on the other side.

The Flex & Seal is one way that 3M is trying to get in on the gold rush of the on-demand economy. The U.S. Postal Service handled more than 6 billion packages in 2018, and UPS recently reported net income of $1.69 billion in the second quarter of 2019, up from $1.49 billion during the second quarter in 2018.

When 3M started doing ethnographic research to understand the problems these merchants had, the team found that people were so accustomed to thinking shipping had to be done using boxes, filler, and tape that they didn’t even see it as a problem—just a necessary evil. “It was the bane of their existence,” Remi Kent, who oversees business globally for 3M’s Post-it Notes and Scotch Brands, told Fast Company. “But they didn’t know of any other alternative. They’d have up to 10 steps for preparing, packing, and shipping.”

On top of the manual labor of shipping lots of products, the rise of fast delivery has also raised consumers’ expectations for small brands, which are now up against the likes of Amazon. “[The online economy] . . . has changed the expectations on both ends, whether you’re an online marketplace owner and small business and you’re responsible for sending, but also the consumer expectations around how and when you expect to receive [packages],” Kent says.

The Flex & Seal is recyclable—it’s made of the same material as disposable plastic bags. But similar to plastic bags, the only way to recycle it is to take it to certain retail stores and recyclers, which might be able to include it in their plastic bag recycling program. That means you can’t toss it in your recycling bin with old milk cartons and empty soda cans. Compared to cardboard boxes, which can be easily recycled, that’s a hassle most consumers likely won’t bother with. Kent recognizes this is a problem, and says the team is working on making it easier to recycle. “We’re looking at how could we change the construction of the material choices so it becomes easier to recycle at your home,” she says. 

Research contact: @FastCompany

Amazon’s Ring to distribute local true-crime news

May 1, 2019

if you work outside the home, until recently you had very few ways to keep track of the workmen, friends, and family who beat a path to your front door—no less, those with criminal intent.

However, Amazon’s March 2018 acquisition of the Ring security system—which comprises outdoor motion-based cameras and a video doorbell that connects to your smartphone—has changed all that. Now, users can view whoever and whatever turns up at their doorway (the good, the bad, and the ugly) in real time.

And now, Fast Company reports, the company is hiring—and not for a tech job or a member of the logistics team, as would be expected. The position (Job ID: 836421) posted on the Amazon website is described as Managing Editor, News.

According to the posting, the Managing Editor, News, “will work on an exciting new opportunity within Ring to manage a team of news editors who deliver breaking [true] crime news alerts to our neighbors.

Obviously, your closest neighbors would want to know if there are folks with criminal intent in the neighborhood—and Amazon is snatching that lucrative beat away from local news provider Patch.

Based on the job description, Fast Company notes, the right candidate will have “deep and nuanced knowledge of American crime trends,” “strong news judgment that allows for quick decisions in a breaking news environment,” and at least three years in management. Hopefully, they aren’t looking for a candidate with three years of management in Internet doorbell news management, because we’re going to guess that person does not exist.

Ring’s Neighbors App would be the perfect distribution network for such news. According to the Ring website, it already provides “real-time crime and safety alerts from your neighbors, law enforcement, and the Ring team.”

As Nieman Lab notes, Americans perceive that crime is rising even when it’s not. A 2016 Pew survey found that only 15% of Americans believed (correctly) that crime was lower in 2016 than it had been in 2008; versus 57% who thought it had gotten worse. True crime stories and apps that turn every person on the street into a potential threat undoubtedly add to the problem.

That said, the more petrified the world is, the more likely you are to buy a crime-fighting doorbell, right?

Research contact: @ring

Samsung’s Galaxy Fold will ‘bend over backwards’ for you

February 22, 2019

If you have been struggling to finesse a “vertical fold” that is worthy of Japanese decluttering guru Marie Kondo, then Samsung Electronics is introducing just the smartphone for you.

Galaxy Fold is the first fold-able mobile phone, according to a statement by the South Korea-based multinational electronics company.  It offers a 7.3-inch Infinity Flex Display, which folds into a compact device with a cover display.

“Today, Samsung is writing the next chapter in mobile innovation history by changing what’s possible in a smartphone. Galaxy Fold introduces a completely new category that unlocks new capabilities never seen before with our Infinity Flex Display.”  said DJ Koh, CEO, IT & Mobile Communications Division, Samsung Electronics, in a February 20 press release, adding,. “We created Galaxy Fold for those that want to experience what a premium foldable device can do, beyond the limitations of a traditional smartphone.”

Folding is a more intuitive motion, and a more difficult innovation to deliver. According to the company’s designers, the internal screen does not merely bend; It folds. Samsung invented a new polymer layer and created a display that’s about 50% thinner than the typical smartphone display. The new material. Samsung claims, “makes Galaxy Fold flexible and tough, built to last.

The goal of the design was to create a smartphone that  smoothly and naturally, like a book, and close flat and compact with a satisfying click. To achieve this, Samsung engineered a sophisticated hinge with multiple interlocking gears. This system is housed in a hidden enclosure, “for a seamless and elegant look,” the company says..

Indeed, Samsung invites users to, “Slip it out of your pocket for one-handed calls, texts, and more— and open for endless multitasking and higher quality viewing on our largest mobile display for presentations, digital magazines, movies, and AR content.”

Users can open up to three active apps simultaneously on the main display-enabling them to surf, text, work, watch, and share without losing a beat.Samsung worked with Google and the Android developer community to ensure that apps and services were available for the Galaxy Fold’s unique experience. What’s more, Galaxy Fold introduces a new level of multitasking, allowing users to consult other apps during a video call.

Galaxy Fold is built for the heaviest and intense use whether it’s working, playing or sharing —all of which requires advanced performance. Packed with powerful hardware, the Galaxy Fold is more than up to the task.

The company also claims that the Galaxy fold offers its “most versatile camera” yet. No matter which way you hold—or fold—the device, a camera will be ready to capture the scene, so you never miss the moment. With six lenses—three in the back, two on the inside and one on the cover—the Galaxy Fold camera system has flexibility built in.

Research contact: @SamsungMobile

All is not lost: When dementia patients wander, GPS devices can locate them quickly

August 27, 2018

Now where was I? That’s a phrase many of us use when we lose track of our thoughts for a moment. However, for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, that question often should be taken much more literally.

The disorientation that comes with these diseases often results in wandering—a common and serious concern for caregivers, who may fear that their loved ones are oblivious to their surroundings, or frightened and even in danger, according to

Life-saving GPS devices can help caregivers to quickly track and find wanderers, before they go too far astray. Among those recommended by are the following:

  • AngelSense is a device that can be attached to a patient’s clothing and can only be removed by the caregiver. It provides a daily timeline of locations, routes, and transit speed—and sends an instant alert, if a loved diverts from a safe radius. Caregivers can use the device to listen in to what is happening around their loved one; to receive an alert if the patient has not left for an appointment on time; or to communicate with a lost person, wherever he or she may be.
  • GPS Smart Sole fits into most shoes and allows caregivers to track their loved one from any smartphone, tablet, or web browser. The shoe insert is enabled with GPS technology and allows real-time syncing, provides a detailed report of location history, and empowers users to set up a safe radius for their loved one.
  • iTraq can be used to track pretty much anything—from loved ones to luggage. This tracker pairs with a smartphone app and, for seniors, includes a motion or fall sensor that will send an alert if a fall is detected. It also has a temperature sensor. The company’s newest device, the iTraq Nano is marketed as “the world’s smallest all-in-one tracking device that has global tracking, two months of battery life, is water and dust resistant, and is able to be charged wirelessly.” The device also has an SOS button that will send an instant alert to friends and family, notifying them of their loved one’s precise location.
  • MedicAlert Safely Home originally was created to help emergency responders treat patients who could not speak for themselves. Today, the device also helps people with dementia who wander. The device is worn as a bracelet and—when a loved one goes missing—caregivers can call the police and have the police call the 24-hour hotline to get the location of the missing person. Caregivers also can call the hotline themselves to get information. In addition to a tracking device, the bracelet has important medical information engraved on it.
  • Mindme offers two lifesaving devices—one,a location device; and the other, an alarm. The alarm allows the user to alert a Mindme response center, in case of a fall or other emergency. The locator device is specifically designed for people with dementia or other cognitive disabilities. The simple device works as a pendant that can be put in a bag or pocket and allows caregivers to track the user online at any time. Caregivers also can set a radius for the user and receive an alert if the person travels outside that zone.
  • PocketFinder was founded in 2005 by a single parent who wanted to know the whereabouts of his young son. Their slogan, “If you love it, locate it!” says it all. Tracking everything from luggage to pets to children to seniors, the company offers a wide range of emerging technological products. PocketFinder is designed to be the smallest tracker on the market: The device can fit in the palm of your hand. It has a battery life up of to one week and allows caregivers to track wearers through a user-friendly app. The device was updated in January 2017 and now includes three location technologies—including GPS, Cell ID, and Google Wi-Fi Touch. It now also has an SOS button.
  • Project Lifesaver provides enrolled seniors with a personal transmitter that they wear around an ankle. If they wander, the caregiver calls a local Project Lifesaver agency and a trained team will respond. Recovery times average 30 minutes and many who wander are found within a few miles of their homes.
  • Revolutionary Tracker has location-based systems to keep tabs on seniors who may wander. This GPS-enabled personal tracker features an SOS button for emergencies and offers real-time tracking ability. The device allows multiple seniors to be tracked at the same time and syncs directly to a caregiver’s smart phone or computer.
  • Safe Link, also GPS-enabled, is a small device carried by the person who may wander. The device periodically sends its geographic coordinates to central server; and family members and caregivers can view the wearer’s location via website. The device needs to be charged and worn at all times. All devices have an SOS button for emergencies.
  • Trax is touted by the company as “the world’s smallest and lightest live GPS tracker.” The device sends position, speed, and direction through the cellular network directly to your app on a smartphone. Trax comes with a clip that is easy to attach to a loved one. The app allows caregivers to set “Geofences” and will send an alert if a loved one enters or leaves a predetermined area. Trax Geofences have no size limit: Caregivers can create as many fence areas as needed, and can schedule when those virtual fences are in effect.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.7 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2018. This number includes an estimated 5.5 million people age 65 and older and about 200,000 individuals under age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s. One in 10 people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s dementia.

Research contact: @alzassociation

A ‘moving’ experience: Japan’s drive-through funerals

August 15, 2018

Few memorial services are as “moving” as the one now being offered by a Japanese funeral parlor. Mourners can pay their final respects without ever leaving their cars, according to a report by the Daily Telegraph of Australia.

The undertaker’s “drive-through” service is a first in Japan, where a rapidly aging population means that funerals are anything but a dying trade.

In fact, according to Bloomberg, Japan’s population of 127 million is forecast to shrink by about 33% within the next five decades. The proportion of over-64-year-olds —currently about 25%—is expected to reach 38% within that time frame.

Mourners simply check in by rolling down the car window and using a touchscreen tablet device. They then are asked to make a traditional offering of incense—all while their images are videotaped and viewed by the grieving family inside the venue.

The initiative aims to speed up funeral services and also to give infirm relatives the chance to participate, Masao Ogiwara president of Kankon Sosai Aichi Group,  told the Australian news outlet. “Older people may hesitate to attend a funeral because they have to ask for help to get out of the car,” Ogiwara said, “but we want as many people as possible to be able to come to say farewell to their friends or neighbors.”

The drive-through funerals represent the latest in a series of Japanese innovations attempting to win a slice of the competitive US$11.5 billion national funeral business.

One trend that has sparked controversy, according to the Telegraph, is a so-called “rent-a-monk” system, which offers mourners the opportunity to arrange for a monk to deliver funeral rites at the click of a mouse. Amazon has been advertising packages offered by Minrevi  which sends out monks to perform Buddhist memorial services and other ceremonies. However, the Japan Buddhist Federation (JBF) objects strenuously to the idea —saying that hiring out monks over the Internet commercializes a religious act.

And finally, for those who would like to lament in private—or cannot afford to pay expensive funeral fees— a temple near Tokyo accepts the ashes of the deceased via mail and places it in its burial facility. There’s even an app that has been developed so that the family can view the burial site by smartphone.

Research contact: @dailytelegraph

Is your phone a ‘ringer,’ or are you the problem?

December 19, 2017

In America our phones are smart, but those of us who carry an Apple, a Samsung, an LG, or a Jitterbug—maybe not so much.

One in three (31 percent) of U.S. smartphone owners who responded to a recent poll has broken his or her device in the past year. And iff you’ve broken more than one, you’re not alone!

In fact, nearly one in four (22 percent) of American smartphone owners has broken three or more devices during the past 12 months, according to findings released on December 18 by Google Surveys from an online poll of 1,000 U.S. adults.

Conducted on behalf of Wisconsin-based Batteries Plus Bulbs, which does phone repairs, the poll found that 59% of respondents have refrained from fixing a damaged phone because of high costs, waiting times, lack of a vendor, or simple laziness.

U.S. consumers now spend an average of five hours a day on mobile devices, according to Pew Research so it’s no wonder that 60% of those polled have at some time been compelled to fix their smartphone because they couldn’t see the screen. One in every seven (14%) respondents claimed that cracking their phone screen ruined their day.

Having a charged phone also is extremely important—so essential, respondents asserted, that:

  • 44% would give up food delivery services for one year in order to always have a fully charged phone;
  • 27% would give up alcoholic beverages;
  • 19% would give up streaming services; and
  • 10% would give up holiday celebrations, including gifts and parties.

But what if there were an easy fix? For example, if your phone battery were draining too quickly, what if you could simply replace that battery (which costs less than $100) and leave it as good as new?

Most respondents did not have a clue about this option. The survey found that:

  • 79% have never replaced their phone batteries;
  • 24% did not know a battery could be replaced; and
  • 19% frequently upgrade their phone versus replacing their phone battery

“From this survey, it’s evident that while the service of phone repair is valued by many Americans, many specific offerings, such as battery replacement, are under-utilized,” said Shawn Budiac, vice president of Category Management at Batteries Plus Bulbs. “By educating consumers on the ease, efficiency and breadth of repair services, Batteries Plus Bulbs can aid more customers, saving them thousands in new phone costs annually.”

Research contact: Batteries+Bulbs (1-800-677-8278)