Monthly Archives: September 2015

Siri Could Transcribe Voicemails in the Near Future

Having to go back in your message over and over again to get all the pertinent details about your next lunch engagement can be a hassle. Apple came up with a solution. Among Siri’s many gifts, she may soon be able to send you your voicemails in text form. You may never have to step out of a meeting or appointment to check for that important voicemail again.

The services will likely be available in the release of iOS 10 in 2016. Apple’s solution provides the best of both worlds to smartphone users. Many people don’t mind leaving a voicemail; they find it to be a necessary personal touch and often faster than typing. However, they may not enjoy receiving one. Scanning through a message may be much faster and more convenient for both older and younger users.

In the upgrade, Siri will be able to answer your calls for you and then transcribe the interaction for you to read. While many users are excited about the possibilities for this new addition, others think it may be more pomp and circumstance than a value proposition. Other upgrades in the near future may be more helpful to current Apple users.

iOS 9 Upgrades to Expect
Other aspects of the Siri program will be upgraded during the iOS 9 release in fall 2015 (rumored), but the new transcribing service may not be available until 2016. The new features of the system will be more adept at searching in applications, predicting your usage behaviors, and updating Siri’s functionality.

The company is focusing on proactive behaviors and intelligence in the upgrade. As part of usage prediction, the new OS may open apps before you need them and offer recommendations on places users have exhibited interest in. Some of the built-in apps, like notes, will also be upgraded to include better productivity features like checklists and sketching capabilities.

User Engagement Online Is Changing the Way We See the World in 2015

The internet is used for a lot of things. It makes gameplay, work, and learning faster and easier. It connects individuals, and it is starting to unite people across the world to address social issues and important causes. Viral posts and mobile technology are shaping what we find important as a planet. Here are some examples of recent ways user activities are changing our behaviors and mindsets:

• The death of Cecil the Lion and wildlife conservation – When a trophy-hunting dentist was named in the killing, beheading, and skinning of a popular 13-year old lion in Zimbabwe, the world exploded with Tweets, posts, and overall commentary. Cecil may never have come to the center stage as a symbol for wildlife stewardship if he had not been wearing a conservation-related tracking collar. Technology made the conversation possible.

• The fight against racially motivated arrests/deaths by police officers – What started with the killing of a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 snowballed into stories all over the country of potentially race-motivated police brutality. People from all different backgrounds are using online platforms to push for better transparency in law enforcement, and video feeds from incidents are holding officers and other parties accountable.

• Changing the definition of beauty – The ever-changing definition of beauty is expanding. In an effort to eradicate “body shaming” from cultural normativity, fitness trainers, celebrities, and average people use online media platforms to help men and women feel empowered. The inclusive online culture is battling the flip-side of connectivity in which people are bullied online to the point of taking extreme actions.

With seamless integration in our daily lives, only 15% of adults in the US still avoid using the internet. There are dozens of other examples of how every aspect of our lives is making a difference in the way we live, work, play, and even sleep, but some of these cultural and technological shifts will have a lasting impact on our society as a whole.

HoloLens, Google Glass, and Oculus Rift

According to Microsoft’s CEO, the next major advancement in computing will be out in the next year. HoloLens is an augmented reality headset that sets itself apart from other applications like Google Glass and Oculus Rift. This technology is intended to blend the virtual experience with reality.

Developers and enterprises will have access to the technology first. Consumers may have to wait a while longer. So, what’s difference between these three wearable pieces of technology?

• Google Glass – This headset allows wearers to access information in a hands free format. Users cannot interact with the experience, but they can share their line of site with users on other devices. Google Glass features a small touchpad, camera, and display. Google is working on the second generation of the technology. In the future, Google Glass may start to mix virtual reality and augmented reality to enhance the user-experience.

• Oculus Rift – Another coveted piece of equipment, the Oculus Rift headset places wearers completely in a virtual reality. Used primarily for gameplay, the headset can transport users to the foreign worlds in Halo or a roller coaster simulation. The consumer version of this technology won’t be available until sometime in 2016.

• HoloLens – HoloLens offers a blended experience that is part digital and part reality. Imagine planning your home design and placing objects in the room to see what they look like before purchasing or presenting a new application to a focus group and making changes to the technology as the meeting progresses. Windows 10 will support the holographic technology when it becomes available.

These headset technology assets all offer a unique and beautiful offering to the world of technology. As these first generation devices come and go, user adoption will likely increase and make headset technology a widely-used and practical accompaniment to other mobile devices at home, on-the-go, or in the office.

Amazon Prime Cracks Down on Account Sharing

Amazon is no longer okay with users sharing accounts with others. Until now, members could add 4 people to their account with separate use and payment methods. The system was designed for household sharing, but many people shared their accounts with friends and coworkers. The Amazon Prime membership program offers free shipping, an on-demand video application, photograph storage, music and other benefits.

As of July 31, users can only add one additional adult to their “Amazon Household,” but can add as many as 4 children. Now, two adults can enjoy the full benefit of a prime membership for one price, but other adults cannot. Furthermore, both account holders in the household must authorize each other’s credit and debit cards for purchases. Amazon hopes that the new standard will prevent people from sharing accounts for the sake of offsetting the $99/year subscription fee. Any Amazon Prime members who created their accounts before July 31 have been grandfathered into the program.

Is Amazon Ahead of the Curve?
Amazon’s move may be the first of many shareable membership programs. Netflix, another widely shared video-streaming platform, may also be considering better ways control and codify account sharing. As Amazon used Prime Day to boost their membership sales, Netflix has a long-term growth plan that includes the incorporation of content with higher value as an incentive for alternative program structuring and packages. The online streaming company does not plan to make any changes in US subscription programs in the near future.

Other retailers are starting to move to subscription-based shipping programs in an effort to keep up with forward-thinking competitors like Amazon. Online retailers, like Walmart, created a competitive online discount day on the same day as Prime Day. Additionally, the company recently introduced a $50/year unlimited 3-day shipping pass for online purchases. The program is currently only available in certain areas. Amazon recently surpassed the large discount-retail chain with a market cap of $263.2 billion, $30.5 billion more than Walmart.

Connected Car Hacking Raises Concerns about Future Security

In a July issue, Wired magazine featured a story in which they asked two hackers to try to take control of a Jeep Cherokee from a remote location. The experiment took place on the outskirts of St. Louis, and the hackers quickly started controlling the vehicle’s windshield wipers, air-conditioning, and radio. Later, the hackers halted the vehicle’s transmission. The experiment ended safely; however, it monetarily stopped being a fun challenge when the driver could not control the Jeep as it crawled toward an overpass with no escape route.

The scary part of that experiment is that many vehicles operating on the roadways today have some level of connective vulnerability. From navigation systems to the applications that run your transmission, certain vehicles may be susceptible to malicious hackers. Automotive manufacturers are starting to think about ways to offer automatic updates to vehicle operating systems to stay on top of the ever-changing threat landscape.

According to the hacking experts in the article, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, the vehicles on the market that are currently most vulnerable to an attack include the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, the 2015 Cadillac Escalade, and the 2014 Infiniti Q50.

As the Internet of Things becomes a reality at a breakneck pace, automated and fully connected vehicles are a mere stone’s throw away from the status quo. The real risk presented with these new and amazing ways to connect is the slow evolution of cybersecurity. On a daily basis, articles emerge that highlight the ways in which our infrastructure is not ready to support the technological advancements offered to consumers.

Similarly, hackers and the media consistently evaluate potential threats and vulnerabilities in connected weapons, planes, and nuclear facilities. Hacking any of this large-scale infrastructure and defense could put lives at stake and change the face of global internet connectivity forever.

To stay safe, many experts recommend asking questions about security protocols before purchasing a connected device, installing recommended updates, creating unique passwords, and only visiting secure websites on any device.