Archive for October 18, 2017

SURE Universal And Open Connectivity Foundation Deliver Interoperability For The Connected Home

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 18, 2017 by itnerd

SURE Universal will spearhead a series of product demonstrations at the 2018 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that will represent a milestone in IoT market development.

The company has been selected by the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) to showcase the groundbreaking interoperability between home electronics that are NOW possible through the emergence of the OCF standard. SURE Universal will conduct demonstrations that will effortlessly operate multiple smart home and IoT devices of different types and brands, such as set-top boxes, gateways, smart TVs and appliances, using its OCF compliant software. The OCF standard is now supported by over 300 global technology leaders, including Samsung, LG, Intel, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Cisco and Electrolux.

As the first client software certified by OCF, SURE Universal will participate in the OCF Pavilion at CES, demonstrating products from multiple OCF member companies working seamlessly with other through SURE Universal Remote. In addition, SURE Universal will be showing both Linux and Android gateways and set-top boxes featuring its award-winning smart home solutions. The company will also announce certification of its iOS mobile client, which will join the company’s top-rated and massively popular Android SURE Universal client (30 million downloads) as the universal remote control solution.

Interoperability and Security Through OCF

Until now, one of the greatest obstacles to IoT and smart home adoption has been the lack of a universal IoT standard for manufacturers to use when designing smart home products, and one that consumers can trust to work as expected inside their homes. The market has so far been confused and constricted by proprietary systems from large and small tech companies that don’t communicate with products that exist outside their own branded ecosystems.

By contrast, the OCF standard provides a universal language for device interoperability. The OCF technology incorporates and builds on the proven technologies of both the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) and Universal Plug-and-Play (UPnP) standards, which have been successfully deployed in billions of electronics products worldwide. OCF takes these core technologies deeper into the smart home environment, particularly through the inclusion of a security architecture that manufacturers can count on.

Security against hacking and other intrusions is a primary concern for consumers as they fill their homes with smart, connected IoT products. However, many simple smart devices, such as light switches and outlets, cannot provide genuine security because of the lack of built-in computing power in such cost-driven products. As a result, many manufacturers don’t enter the market, because no one manufacturer or business can take responsibility for attack vulnerabilities that might hit millions of smart home networks. By adding its own layer of security, particularly through the cloud and the gateway — the prime entry points for unwanted intrusion — OCF is able to assume responsibility for network security. This brings tremendous value to the IoT market, especially for manufacturers.

The International Consumer Electronics Show is held January 9-12 in Las Vegas NV. SURE Universal will participate in the Open Connectivity Foundation pavilion, which is located in the Sands Expo Center, Booth 42914.

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$2.5B Impact Of Canada’s Growing Side Seller Community: PayPal Canada

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 18, 2017 by itnerd

An emerging form of entrepreneurship is making waves in the Canadian economy, according to new research from PayPal Canada and Barraza & Associates. It is estimated that 2.5 million Canadians, or about nine per cent of the adult population, have embraced a “5-to-9’er” lifestyle turning their passions into profitable side-businesses in addition to working a fulltime job.

This community of makers, creators, freelancers and service providers has gained notable traction in Canada. In fact, half of Canadian 5-to-9’ers started their business in the last three years. In the past 12 months, this small but mighty community reported combined median revenues of $2.5 billion dollars.

Canada’s 5-to-9’ers are online savvy and keen to grow

Young and driven to evolve, Canada’s 5-to-9’ers are eager to turn their part-time endeavors into a primary source of income. The research shows that these emerging entrepreneurs employ e-commerce tools to reach their vision of success. Their e-commerce arsenal includes extensive use of online marketplaces and social media networks, demonstrating 5-to-9’ers deep appreciation of the digital economy. From age to attitude towards selling online, Canada’s enterprising 5-to-9’ers differ greatly from traditional Canadian small business owners.

  • More than half (54%) of 5-to-9’ers surveyed have seriously considered making their part-time business into a full time career.  More than a third (38%) are actively testing out the idea of becoming a full time entrepreneur, using this time in their small business journey as a launch pad.
  • 5-to-9’ers are selling where Canadians are shopping – online. Over a third (32%) of 5-to-9’ers accept online payments for their goods and services leveraging a variety of e-commerce tools, like online marketplaces (59%) and social networking sites (52%). Turning the lens on traditional small businesses, less than a quarter accept payments online.
  • The 5-to-9’er community skews younger compared to traditional small business owners. In some cases, there is a 30-year differential. More than half of 5-to-9’ers (54%) are between the ages of 25 and 44 years-old, which could explain why they are more comfortable using digital technology.

Despite their drive and determination, there are some barriers holding this community back from transitioning to full time small business owners. Limited access to start-up capital is the main (58%) hurdle identified by this group.

Women are paving the way, yet disparity persists

Women are dominating the 5-to-9’er landscape, representing 66 per cent of the community in Canada. Not only are women propelling this trend, the study revealed that they are more seriously considering fulltime small business ownership, compared to their male counterparts. While it is encouraging to see women taking a leading role in shaping the 5-to-9’er landscape, female 5-to-9’ers reported significantly less revenue than their male peers.

  • Female 5-to-9’ers want to take their passion projects to the next level. Compared to men in this segment, the research shows that women are more actively testing the viability of full time small business ownership (38%), and are more likely to transition to full time small business ownership within the next three years (47%).
  • There is a striking difference in reported revenue between men and women. Female 5-to-9’ers reported earning 71 per cent less average revenue compared to male 5-to-9’ers. A perpetuating pay gap could potentially hold women back from reaching their small business growth goals.

Notably, 12 per cent of women started their side business while on maternity leave. Women may be leveraging maternity leave as an opportunity to explore becoming entrepreneurs while simultaneously bringing in additional household income.

Overall, the research points to a growing, thriving community that has organically formed by leveraging tools like e-commerce platforms, online marketplaces, freelance software and smartphone apps to find success. While small businesses tend to earn significant focus in Canada, the 5-to-9 community is a rising segment of Canada’s economy that has tremendous potential to succeed if nurtured.

Complete study findings and additional information can be found here.

For more information on how PayPal is helping Canadian 5-9’ers thrive, visit www.paypal.ca/yourbusiness 

HP Announces The ZBook X2

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 18, 2017 by itnerd

Today, HP unveiled the HP ZBook x2, its newest product designed to improve performance and mobility needs for the creative community.

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The HP ZBook x2, the world’s first detachable PC workstation, allows designers to unleash the power of Adobe Creative Cloud and other professional applications. Its unprecedented power and performance increase productivity and allow digital creators and storytellers the freedom to work when and where inspiration strikes. It has four modes:

  • In laptop mode, the HP ZBook x2 is a powerful mobile workstation with a keyboard leveraged from the HP ZBook Studio
  • In detached mode, it allows users to create on the tablet with HP’s most accurate and expressive pen while still having full access to all of their shortcut keys with the Bluetooth enabled keyboard off to the side.
  • In docked mode the HP ZBook x2 can power two additional 4K displays or five total displays
  • In tablet mode it maintains full graphics performance allowing users to capture ideas with powerful NVIDIA 3D graphics.

Key specs include:

  • Windows 10 Pro and security, collaboration, and connectivity features from HP help you power through your day.
  • Work at the speed of your ideas with the latest Quad Core Intel Core processors and up to 4.2 GHz of turbo boost
  • NVIDIA Quadro graphics for real-time visualization of multi-layered artwork and creative projects.
  • 32 GB RAM Dual Channel Memory — twice the memory capacity of any other detachable PC.
  • HP Z Turbo Drive storage is 4X faster than SATA SSD and 14X faster than traditional HDD storage.
  • Enjoy peace of mind with up to 10 hours of battery life for maximum productivity and ultra-fast recharge (50% in just 30 minutes).

The ZBook x2 will be available in December, starting at $1,749 USD. Canadian pricing is still to be confirmed.

Jump Deeda: Never Be Stranded in Winter Again

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 18, 2017 by itnerd

Winter is coming and there is nothing worse than being left stranded in a lonely parking lot at night, in the snow or with a low battery. While there are many jump starters on the market, it is rare to find a one-of-a-kind portable pack with jump starter that satisfies various power needs for road trip uses. Jump Deeda is the power pack that saves you from being stranded in emergencies. The Jump Deeda is more targeted to daily use. Based on an innovative combination of jump starter, power bank with AC/USB-C outputs and wireless chargers, the Jump Deeda is a one-stop shop for helping to start any car.

Features include:

  • Easy and secure jump start: With a one touch start sequence, even in winter mode, you can jump start your car in emergencies, even in cold weather;
  • Unique self-warming feature: A unique feature for Jump Deeda and let it detect the surrounding temperature and warm up itself to be ready to jump start cars. Therefore, the Jump Deeda can be used in extremely cold weather condition.
  • Daily charging ports with AC and USB-C: Power up your latest phone, tablet, laptop and other handheld devices fast;
  • A clamp design: clamps. The design and material of the clamps make it more safe and durable when jumping start cars. It is easier for people to use and it will warn users when they connect the clamps on opposite side by mistake;
  • Wireless charging: Supports QI standards, making charging life free and easier than ever;
  • Safety and protection: Supports protections like temperature, current, voltage, short circuit, reverse polarity, to name just a few.

Here’s a video on Jump Deeda:

Jump Deeda is live on Indiegogo, starting at $139. For more information, visit www.jumpdeeda.com.

Review: Bluewave Audio GET

Posted in Products with tags on October 18, 2017 by itnerd

Earlier this year, I got the iPhone 7 Plus. At the time, I said that I would have to live the dongle life on my next trip to listen to music. I did not anticipate a significant problem though. The Apple supplied Lightning to 3.5mm dongle that allowed me to plug in my RHA MA450 headsets sucks. And I mean that it really sucks. They do a horrible job of reproducing audio, even for non-audiophiles. What’s the fix for this? You could go with Lightning headphones. But there’s not a whole lot of them out there and they tend to be pricey if you want anything that has decent sound quality. Apple says to go wireless. Here’s my problem with that. I either have to buy W1 or Bluetooth headsets, or get a Bluetooth dongle of some sort to use my RHA headsets. The problem with the former is buying wireless headsets is not a cheap option. The problem with the latter is that when it comes to most Bluetooth dongles, the audio quality sucks almost as much as the Apple Lightning to 3.5mm dongle.

Fortunately, a Canadian startup called Bluewave Audio is out to give you a third option which is to use your existing headsets wirelessly via a device called the GET:

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This is a Bluetooth 5.0 wireless audio adapter. Bluetooth 5.0? That’s not a misprint. It does support the latest version of Bluetooth so it’s ahead of the curve. It feels solid and well built. It has buttons to change tracks, a button to play/pause/answer and end calls along with turning the device on and off, and an analog volume control (which feels great by the way). There’s a clip that you can use to hang it off your clothing, or you can replace it with a bigger one to hang off your headphones of choice. I should also note that it has EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) support as well. But that’s not the only thing that it has going for it. For starters, it supports a wide range of audio codecs:

  • AAC
  • AptX-HD at 24 bit
  • AptX Low Latency
  • AptX
  • SBC
  • MP3

By “supports,” I mean that it processes those audio formats on the GET itself so that you get better sound quality. It has a built in microphone with cVc noise cancelling which from my testing works exceptionally well, a 3.5 mm jack to allow you to plug in the headsets of your choice, an insanely broad frequency response range of 20-20000Hz, a shockingly low signal to noise ratio of 96 dB, and up to 6 hours of battery life with a 2 hour recharge time. One added bonus on that front is that you can charge the GET and use it at the same time. Plus when plugged in to a power source, it will not use any battery power. You can read the full specs on the Bluewave website at your leisure. But you’re likely thinking if all of this is true. In particular, can this device really deliver top quality audio?

In short, YES.

The GET got subjected via my RHA MA450 headsets to the playlist that I use to test the audio systems in cars, wireless speakers and the like. It has a variety of music that will highlight the best or worst in whatever I am testing. If you’re interested, artists contained in this playlist include:

  • The Pet Shop Boys
  • Beth Orton
  • David Bowie
  • Röyksopp
  • Austra
  • Avicii

To my utter amazement, I have never heard any of this music sound this good. I was truly shocked about how good it all sounded as I was hearing details like drum reverb in songs that I have never heard before. I was also blown away in terms of how full bodied that this playlist sounded using the same headsets that I have been using for a while now. Clearly I wasn’t even close to maximizing the abilities of these headsets prior to the arrival of the GET in my test lab. As far as I am concerned, it delivers what it promises. And then some.

But I wanted to push the envelope. I gave the GET to my wife to try it with her iPhone 6 to see what her reaction to it was. She’s a perfect test subject as she’s a classically trained pianist who has taken several Royal Conservatory Of Music exams. Thus she has a great ear for what music sounds like. I’ll cut to the chase. What was supposed to be a single day test turned out to be four days, and she was reluctant to give it back to me on day four. But she did say two things. The first thing she mentioned is that she went the four days that she had it without having to recharge the GET. The second thing she said was that the sound quality was so good that it made her want to listen to music again. Clearly the GET impressed her as well.

Now the use case of not having to live the dongle life is not the only one that the GET addresses. You can use it with your home stereo for wireless audio, or use it in your car, or pair it to your computer. Anywhere you can plug in a 3.5 mm device to play audio, you can use the GET. One other note, there’s an app coming which will allow you to tweak options and update the device’s firmware. That I am looking forward to seeing as I am a bit of an “control enthusiast.”

The GET is in the process of starting to ship from the suburbs of Montreal where they’re assembled. MSRP is $129 USD, but it’s currently going for $99 on their website. If you’re sick of living the dongle life and you want outstanding audio wirelessly, you need to get your hands on the GET. The company has a money back guarantee. But I assure you that once you try it, you won’t be sending it back for a refund.

 

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update… Here’s What To Expect

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 18, 2017 by itnerd

Microsoft started rolling out the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update yesterday. This is the latest major update to its current desktop operating system. Here’s what you can expect from the Fall Creators Update:

  • Microsoft now has “OneDrive Files on Demand”, which allows some files to be stored in the cloud and available to you without being synced on your local device.
  • Microsoft has a new design language named “Fluent Design“. It uses more light, depth, motion, and transparency. It’s more related to “material” objects and incorporates “scale” more, according to Microsoft. This sounds like the final name of Project Neon, a new visual design language Microsoft has been working on, but it’s more than that. It’s a new interaction model, according to Microsoft.
  • Better inking and handwriting features for tablet users.
  • The task bar shows GPU usage. That will be handy for gamers.
  • A new touch keyboard which is based on Swiftkey and WordFlow
  • Music apps Spotify and iTunes Will Be Available in the Microsoft Store which used to be called the Windows Store.
  • Microsoft Edge gets a bunch of enhancements and features.
  • Cortana gets smarter.
  • VR support appears along with mixed reality support
  • Better battery life is on tap
  • Protection from ransomware is on tap.
  • Microsoft is making a ton of privacy related changes.

There’s a lot here on tap and I’ve only scratched the surface of what is on offer. Thus I’ll direct you to this blog and this video:

To get your hands on the Fall Creators Update, here’s a link that will walk you through how to get it.

Toronto To Be Home To Alphabets Biggest Smart City Project Yet

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 18, 2017 by itnerd

Sidewalk Labs, the smart city subsidiary of Alphabet (the parent company of Google) with the stated goal of “reimagining cities from the Internet up,” now has a very big sandbox in which to conduct its high-tech experiments:

That’s obviously an ambitious project, but some of the groundwork is already being laid: Alphabet’s Google will be the flagship tenant for the new neighbourhood, anchoring the easter waterfront, to be called “Quayside,” and Sidewalk Labs has committed $50 million to kick off pilot testing and planning in partnership with the City of Toronto. Sidewalk Labs won the contract through its response to a Request for Proposals issues by Waterfront Toronto, and organization created by the Canadian federal government, the Ontario provincial government and the City of Toronto together to foster development of Toronto’s lakefront areas in ways that address urban sprawl while respecting the realities of climate change and taking into account the ability of the city’s residents to get around efficiently. The area involved in the RFP that Sidewalk Labs will work with the government coalition to develop spans around 800 acres (though 12 acres are specified for the initial project), and is one of the largest underdeveloped urban areas in any North American city, making it a good target for Sidewalk’s ambitious vision, which involves building smart cities holistically from the very start. Ultimately, the partners hope to turn the area into a “place for tens of thousands of people to live, work, learn and play — and to create and advance new ideas that improve city life,” according to a release from Sidewalk.

Now being from Toronto, I should be happy about this. But to be honest I am not sure about this. Sidewalk Labs thinks it can use new technology and great reams of data to create a neighbourhood that demonstrates innovative solutions to problems that cities like Toronto suffer. I’d be interested to know what else Sidewalks Labs will do with that data besides building a smart city. After all, Alphabet AKA Google makes piles of cash from data. That’s why I will reserve judgement on this for now and take a wait and see approach.