HEIF (High-Efficiency Image Format) is a new image format for storing and exchanging photographs and image sequences, such as a burst of images or succession of images. In practical terms, it will reduce image file sizes while maintaining higher quality than .JPG (j-peg) files.Continue reading
Security Not Top-of-Mind at CES
It’s fair to say I was disappointed when talking to IoT device manufacturers at CES in Las Vegas last month. Security was not the big thing on their minds. And except for a TV screen that you can roll up like paper (which I couldn’t see at the show), there wasn’t anything I wanted to bring home and install.
The lack of emphasis on security was baffling, especially when you consider that a lot of companies at CES were talking about AI (artificial intelligence) and 5G networks. The latter are the newer, faster wireless data networks that will play an important role, along with AI, in the next generation of the IoT, especially autonomous vehicles (AVs), which are expected to be an established mode of transportation in the next 10 years. We’re simply going to require more data at a faster speed to make AVs work.
However, it seems that AI – and maybe 5G – was more concerned with what we’ll be running to the store to buy instead of how we’ll get there. Samsung, which makes refrigerators, among other appliances, started to show off Bigsby, its version of Alexa. And when you combine it with a smart refrigerator, this new power team can create a shopping list for you. You can even use voice commands for your washing machine. OK…
There is still a big push to get more devices into the home, and we certainly have more than our share in ours. We find the ones we have to be either great conveniences or highly useful. We just wish that the manufacturers were paying more attention to security, especially with hacking and information theft so prevalent. However, nothing stood out like that TV that rolls up. I really would have liked to be able to see it, even if I couldn’t buy it.
On the other hand, one of the more ridiculous things I saw was either a blanket or mattress pad with dual temperature control and a discounted price of $2,000. Sony also had a Walkman that weighed 5 pounds and had a heftier price tag: $2,500. Sony said there’s a market for it: audiophiles who want high-quality sound.
Speaking of sound, I took note of Panasonic’s automotive offerings, though none was available for consumer purchase. Rather, it seems that the automotive manufacturers are going to rely more on electronics manufacturers and the mobile operating systems to provide the devices and infrastructure for in-car infotainment systems. As part of that trend, we note that Toyota is dropping its plan to introduce a proprietary infotainment system.
We applaud Toyota’s decision for three reasons:
- In-car systems from the automakers don’t work well.
- Each in-car system has its own way of displaying and using information, and that can be confusing for people who drive multiple cars, including rental cars, where roads and a car’s system are unfamiliar.
- Because they are built into the car, it’s difficult to update them in a timely manner.
Just about all manufacturers offer connectivity to either Apple or Android in-car systems – or both – throughout their product lines. Our devices are already customized for driving directions and play lists, and we know how to use them. We also can make our devices secure in the same way we update our OS and applications on our computers.
I think some exciting new products and changes in the way we use technology are a year or two away, but that doesn’t mean we should sit on our hands. If you need a new IoT product now, we can help you we can help you select and install one for today – and make sure it’s secure – and see how it could fit your future needs. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about it.
Death of the Smartphone?
While we all wait for the next versions of iPhones and Galaxies, are they “dead men walking?” Technology changes – fast. Where could the smartphone go?
To use an analogy for most of you, it could go the way of the VCR. That technology is commercially dead, but its function lives on through DVR capabilities, and it’s more robust than ever by allowing you to record multiple programs and play them back on any TV that’s part of your in-home cable setup or any device that’s connected to your TV provider’s app.
The iPhone, the world’s first smartphone, is 10 years old. In dog years, that’s well into senior citizenry. In tech years, it’s older than dirt. In its time, it revolutionized how we interface with the world. Besides being a telephone, it’s a handheld computer and an ever-improving still/video camera that gets better only because engineers in a competitive market find new tweaks.
Smartphones have crossed several major thresholds in the way we live:
- We can communicate by voice, text message or email with anyone at any time.
- We can search for and buy almost any product imaginable from any place in the world that has an internet connection (make sure it’s secure).
- We can buy tickets for a local theater production or an around-the-world trip.
- With ability to broadcast videos over social media, we have changed forever the ways in which government agencies and businesses deal with us a citizens or customers.
What’s next? We have some glimpses, and here are some thoughts – in no particular order.
- Wearables: They come in all forms, sizes and shapes, and I could foresee parts of smartphones in all of them. For example, you could have a telephone in a headset or small earpiece, and that could connect to eyeglasses and/or a wristwatch. We have a lot of the individual pieces now, and Bluetooth to connect them. In the short term, we can refine them to make them easy for the masses to use and make them as affordable as a smartphone.
- Augmented Reality: This can create safety issues while driving or walking, but AR tied to your glasses can replace the smartphone screen. You’ll be able to read documents or view pictures and videos with part of your visual field – and it could be made adjustable depending on where you are and what you’re doing. You might use it for Google Maps walking directions, and maybe your AR glasses could project a heads-up display on your windshield for driving directions.
- Artificial Intelligence: When combined with a wearable, it might ask you questions based on your activity – like “do you want directions to the supermarket?” – and automatically connect you to an app to get you there. It might ask you if you want to count steps and take your pulse or blood pressure.
Some futurists think our species will become cyborg-like over the years, combining our humanity with biomechanical advances to improve our motor skills. Add in AI, and we could just become “walking smartphones.” Speculation aside, technology always advances to help us do things better and develop new ways of doing things. It’s the way of the world, and it happens faster than we can usually imagine.
As you adapt new technologies for your everyday life, we can help you integrate them across all platforms and help you look at how new developments can affect the way you live, work and play. Always feel free to contact us by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email for assistance or answers to your questions.
Your Next Mobile Phone is All About the Apps
If you’re in the market for a new mobile phone, it won’t be a Windows phone. With Windows 10 as the operating system for less than 1 percent of the mobile market, Microsoft is killing its mobile phone. It’s all about the apps – more specifically about app developers.
With Android and Apple accounting for more than 99 percent of the worldwide mobile market, app developers have put all of their efforts into those systems. Apple generally gets the nod to get an app first, but selling an app to Android can be equally enriching for developers.
Both Apple and Samsung are expected to release new phones this year, the iPhone 8 and Galaxy S8, respectively. Samsung needs a replacement for its ill-fated 7 series, and Apple needs new energy for its 8 series. Whichever manufacturer and OS you choose, you’ll find plenty of features and power – and an abundance of apps.
The apps are critical because we use our phones for just about everything but talking. We shop, find restaurants, use navigation to find the best route to places we’ve gone to for years, research healthcare options, watch TV and movies, read newspapers…
We’re not only untethered from a desktop computer or television, we can do or watch anything on our phones as long as we have internet access. Why, we don’t even need to reach into our wallets for charge cards to make some purchases. Apple, Google, financial institutions and merchants all have secure apps that help protect your credit card information through series of transfers between the merchant and your account. This is one of those few instances in which convenience can be more secure.
According to the website Statista, there were some 2.2 million apps available from the Apple Store as of this past January, and there were a similar number available from Google Play last year. Microsoft, by comparison, had 669,000 apps available from its Windows Store. While gaming apps are in decline, which some parents may find hard to believe, Smashing Magazine reports the biggest growth is coming in customization apps, such as launchers, icons, wallpaper and lock-screen apps. The next growth area is newspapers and magazines.
Other categories for app growth include:
- Productivity tools
- Lifestyle and shopping solutions
- Messengers and social apps
The trend toward mobile apps shows no signs of letting up. With slightly less than half the world’s population owning smartphones, you know there’s an upside waiting to be tapped. A growing number of major companies in the world see mobile devices as a catalyst to transforming their businesses, and the value of mobile apps is expected to more-than-triple by 2020. With mobile apps and Bluetooth integrating with our cars and homes as well as just about every aspect of our lives, apps will fuel the growth of mobile devices, and more users will demand more apps.
We happen to like Apple phones and tablets because we believe they work better with Outlook for email and calendars and because we believe its proprietary OS offers better security. But we are impressed with the creativity that Android’s open software spawns. For most users, either OS will run apps equally well. Your choice may simply come down to the cost of the device and the best plan you can find from a wireless carrier or provider. We can help you whittle down the daunting number of considerations in mobile device selection – and we can help you set up your device to integrate with other systems, including storage options. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your mobile device needs or with any questions you have about using your apps more efficiently.
iPad Pro and the Tech Transformation
Our new iPad Pro is a great device. We love it for what it does – and maybe for the technology transformation that it and other tablets are ushering in.
We can see the iPad Pro and other large tablets edging closer to replacing laptop and notebook computers for some people. If your primary use is to surf the web and take care of email, simply hook up a keyboard, and you’re up and running. If you want to watch videos, the screen on the iPad Pro is amazing for its clarity and speed.
Yes there are some downsides. For one thing, as much as I love it, the tablet is not a full computer. It’s a mobile device, and Apple gives every indication it will not merge its iOS (mobile) and OSX (computer) operating systems. However, with Apple and Microsoft fighting for market share, don’t bet against a tablet replacing your computer. You can get Microsoft Office for tablets – and mobile phones – and as more people get comfortable with storing documents in the cloud, they’re likely to demand more computing capability.
As far as tablets go, iPad Pro is bigger and heavier than previous generations of tablets, but I personally don’t find that to be a problem. In 2005, screens on cell phones started to get bigger, and as we advanced to smart phones with Internet capability, it was only a matter of time that users would demand even bigger screens to watch videos.
By 2010, recalling a once-every-five-years family reunion, the iPad was new to the market, and many family members wondered about the need for it. Well, the iPad and other tablets are here to stay, even though sales have slumped lately. They have a variety of sizes and uses professionally, ranging from healthcare professionals in offices and hospitals who need to maintain patient records as they move through an office or hospital – to IT specialists and sales reps who can do a lot of work without being tethered to a computer.
So, don’t sell tablets short. If the history of mobile devices holds true, enough users will try to push the technology a little farther than its capabilities so that Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and others will notice. Their teams will respond to market demand, and the cycle will start again.
iPad Pro, I love you – until the next better device hits the market.
Have questions about tablets? Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us and tell us what you’re looking for and how much you’d like to spend. There’s a tablet that’s right for you today – and maybe for the next 18 months.