Intel will combine PC and mobile divisions.. | [ExtremeTech]

Wearables, iWatch, and Biometric Data

Wearables, iWatch, and Biometric Data

(Featured image courtesy of Gizmodo.com)

Tomorrow Apple is expected to announce after months (or years) of speculation some type of watch device or wearable at a press event.  Wearables are front page news today; device makers are tripping and falling all over themselves to release and announce their product before Apple gets their big reveal tomorrow morning.  Moto 360, Motorola’s (can’t tell if its an initiative or a brand yet) thing around their wearable device concepts is in full “blast you with marketing mode”.  Mashable has a review of LG’s latest watch entry up here.  I own two watches that I wear very rarely, and even then only as an accessory to a more business-oriented look– Typically a suit.  However, my money (and excitement) is on Apple’s iWatch for some key reasons.

Wearables are very popular

I know a couple who got each other FitBit’s for the Christmas holiday and both wear them every single day.  The idea of a device that provides a “game-ification” or some sort of challenge for the user to do something is probably more successful than the device that doesn’t.  I liberally use the MyFitnessPal and Nike+ Running apps to provide an incentive and feedback on my runs, activity and diet.  My sister wears a wristband made by Jawbone called the UP.  Aside from it being a little loose, she says it’a great thing.  It provides heart rate and acts as a pedometer throughout her day.

For me, the most basic actions are already taken care of by my iPhone 5S– the M7 motion co-processor in my phone uses crazy low power, and I almost always have my phone in my pocket.  When I run, I wear an armband so I can listen to music and a combination of GPS and pedometer data ensures a high level of accuracy with my runs.  There is no doubt in my mind that among the active or fitness conscious, getting reliable feedback is a wonderful thing.

…But it needs to be multi-purpose

One of the few attributes I’d like while I run would be some heart rate and pulse data.  A few years ago while training for the Seattle Marathon some folks were using blocky pucks they strapped to their chests which communicated via Bluetooth back to dedicated running watches or a smartphone app.  There’s no question this stuff is big business, but I always felt better off because again: The thing tracking my data was already in my pocket, and that made it brain dead simple to manage, to not forget, and to adjust my “bad” behaviors.  An iWatch might purport to do all of those things.  Communicating over Bluetooth 4.0+ LE spec back to your phone, it may be packed with more sensors than display and power guts.  And because it may offer additional features we haven’t thought of yet, I think it could be rather ubiquitous.

It needs insane battery life

In my mind, Apple devices are some of the more battery-conscious items out there.  Anyone familiar with the latest versions of Mac OS X have seen the “Energy Use” tabs in Activity Monitor, and similar datapoints in iOS7.  This is a complete cultural shift away from apps running as quick as possible to apps that also run as efficiently as possible.  I love when I can get my MBP to last all day long, but that won’t happen if I’m running some stupid intensive process (or working in an IDE for that matter).  We’re all trained to charge our phones at night, but it would definitely suck if we needed to charge an iWatch each and every night.  I’m hoping this device gets very efficient storage and use technologies–I’d hate to see it die on the vine.

Rich Datapoints are King.

The things under the hood with regards to HealthKit in iOS8 are really nifty.  I don’t want to violate the terms of my NDA, but there are huge, diverse datapoints available to be used with any number of devices and apps.  It’s a strong foundation with the idea that your data is yours and you can take it and extrapolate whatever you’d need to.  I think that’s very empowering from a fitness standpoint and could help turn some of the issues plaguing Americans into things of the past eventually.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s announcement.  I’ve got no disposable income currently, but perhaps an iWatch is in my future.

How the outdated TI-84 still holds a monopoly…[Slashdot]

How the outdated TI-84 still holds a monopoly…[Slashdot]

Well, that didn’t last long– I missed a day, but we’re getting back on the boat here.  Came across this article on Slashdot about how the ridiculously old TI-84 is still the calculator of choice in many classrooms today.  Texas Instruments apparently released an update in 2004, but back when I was in high school I used a Ti-85 with it’s high-end monchrome screen.

Having gone through Calculus and now Discrete Math, I can’t imagine doing any of it without a calculator– hats off to you folks that did not have this technology at your disposal when completing these classes. Yeesh…  I use TI’s latest variant, the Nspire CX CAS— and yes, I know that is a completely stupid name.  It’s got a nice color screen, USB out, and most importantly has an OS that runs in an emulator I use liberally on my Mac.  Being able to have some flexibility when doing homework is key, and I love that I can dump the files back out the calculator when I’m finished with the assignment.

The article points out there are languages like R around, and of course using something like Wolfram Alpha or the desktop version of Mathematica would be a suitable course of action too.  Can I admit something though? I find Alpha ridiculously difficult sometimes to get things out of, even when following their crazy formatting standards.  Mathematica is available to me as a UW student via their site license, and while I’ve downloaded it– it became too much to learn to solve (at the time) what should have been a very simple problem.

Hats off to the TI-84 for lasting this long– when they figure out how to prevent cheating with newer devices I’m sure schools will move to a new device.

Confirmed: Zebra Tech Is Buying Motorola Solutions For $3.45B

Sony quits the PC business to focus on mobile

Sony quits the PC business to focus on mobile [Source: The Verge]

I know we keep talking about the demise of the traditional PC, that things are trending towards a powerful mobile device that will be cheap and easy to use.  I don’t think we’re there yet, and while I love my Apple products, I still end up juggling a lot of them.

Sony’s devices had a similar design aesthetic to Apple.  They were truly beautiful machines, designed with intent and purpose.  But while running WinTel it was hard to justify the rather insane price premium vs a completely different OS and environment like the Mac offered at the time.  Throw in that that ridiculous support of the MemoryStick format, and any other proprietary Sony technology and its easy to see why the ship began to sink.

Still sad to see fewer manufacturers out there making the devices we use every day.  I want to see an underdog arise that makes some truly mind-blowing tech.

Apps and Mobile Ads Make Surveillance Easy

Apps and Mobile Ads Make Surveillance Easy  [Source: MIT Technology Review]

From the article:

It is often difficult to tell whether an app is using encryption or not to transmit data. Web browsers show a padlock icon next to a site’s Web address if it is using encryption, but there is no such equivalent for mobile apps. Manually checking whether a mobile app is securing data transfers involves inspecting network logs to examine how an app is connecting to servers.

This is something that’s been rolling in my head, and is the subject of an upcoming paper I’m writing about privacy and the need for a system to at least notify us of the granularity of the data being “exported”.  It would also help to able to somehow independently verify that the data being sent across in secure, without resorting to a deep packet inspection of outbound data.

My first Mac (Mac 512k)

My first Mac (Mac 512k)

Apple is running a little retrospective on their site today as it is the 30-year anniversary of the release of the first Macintosh.  That so much of my life has been driven and changed by computers and technology–it’s kind of scary to think about it now.  I think of (honestly) all the things I’ve been able to create on a Mac that may not have been generated in the first place.

My first Mac was a Macintosh 512k.  It was released in 1984 and shipped with System Software 4, though this could be improved with the 20 Mb hard drive that was an optional “accessory”.  My parents purchased one used as a deal when I was 5, so that must’ve been 1988-89.  After coming from a TRS-80 with a yellow-tint monochrome display, the Mac was a treat.  It had a one-button mouse with a satisfying click.  It allowed us to plug in an external Hayes 1200 bps modem and connect to the rest of the world.  The 20 Mb HDD was a large as the base of the Mac and fit underneath it as a pedestal. (more…)

Garmin HUD Prototype

Hands-on with Garmin’s windshield HUD prototype Source: Engadget

A few years ago (Edit: Apparently 6 years ago; thanks Google!)  I had an opportunity to leverage a small mini-projector from Mitsubishi that was about 5″ x 3″ x 2″ H, throwing an 4:3 image from as little as 14″ away from the surface.  In requesting solutions and info from my vendor, I was told that the tech had first been pioneered for use in autos, as a HUD or Heads Up Display.  I was also told that while the tech was engineered to make drivers safer while driving, instead the display ended up causing more distraction than intended.

The accompanying video here shows that Garmin believes the problem all along has been UI, but I think really they just need some way to make info presented a bit more innocuous.  I’ll dig up a link eventually, but I feel like some car manufacturers are using HUD’s to display infrared camera input at night, so you don’t hit that deer for 50 points.

Back to the interaction bit: I don’t want these devices to have me force some input to them. I want them to intelligently interpret what I might need to know around me.  I find this is an incredibly simple concept, but hard to do the right way.

CES 2014: GM, Audi, Hyundai, Honda, nVidia officially join Google’s Android automotive push

CES 2014: GM, Audi, Hyundai, Honda, nVidia officially join Google’s Android automotive push (Source: AppleInsider).

And so, the Open Automotive Alliance was born.  I can’t help but feel bummed that Apple isn’t the one leading the pack.  While there have been some nifty integrations over the years (BMW’s iDrive comes to mind), there’s been this strange lag between this consumer hardware being used by everyone, and being utilized properly in the automobile.  As anyone who’s ever purchased or installed an “after market” deck will probably agree, this tech (and it’s lower price point) can’t gain popularity soon enough.

Incidentally, the deck was $900 USD Pioneer model, and never came with a single firmware update ever again.  Somewhere along the way Apple changed their spec for pushing out album art, and I’ve been staring at a silly color-filled screen, with no art ever since.  🙁

Pre-CES 2014 Thoughts

Pre-CES 2014 Thoughts

Coming this week the majority of tech-focused news outlets will begin their coverage of CES, the annual Consumer Electronics Show held each year in Las Vegas, NV.  There was a time in my life when I’d likely be on a plane today or yesterday, assisting a client and ensuring they had a smooth running 60 minutes of keynote time.  While I rarely do corporate events anymore, I do occasionally miss being in the thick of the show floor seeing what new things are (or not) coming out this year. (more…)