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Google Bringing Cash, Nest to ADT
August 4, 2020
Google's Nest line of smart home products will be combined with ADT's security services in a partnership announced Monday by the two companies. As part of the agreement, Google will invest US$450 million into ADT to acquire a 6.6 percent interest in the security and smart home solutions provider. The deal gives Google access to an important channel for its smart home products.
Amazon Gives Alexa App a Makeover
July 29, 2020
Amazon's Alexa mobile app has a new look. The company on Monday introduced an updated version of the app that aims to give users a more personalized experience and moves all third-party "skill" suggestions off the main screen. The app is being rolled out this month for iOS, Android and Fire devices, and should reach all users by the end of August.
Victory Gardens 2.0: Gardening in the Pandemic Era
July 27, 2020
The pandemic era has seen a resurgence of interest in growing, tending, and harvesting fruits and vegetables from one's own patch of land or city balcony. Home gardening offers a sense of security and independence. Even when the world has been upended, a home garden can provide a bit of food insurance. Many people are finding that gardening offers a way to take control of a situation that can sometimes feel chaotic and unpredictable.
Fitness Products Shatter Online Sales Records During Lockdown
July 20, 2020
As traditional gyms, fitness centers, and health and wellness studios shutter during COVID-19, technology has kicked in to provide a replacement or an alternative for growing numbers of online shoppers. Digital at-home exercise sessions and sales of home exercise and health equipment purchased online are fueling new consumer trends that could permanently supplant old shopping routines.
Tech Products That Make It Easier to Stay Home
June 15, 2020
Being locked up at home can drive people a little nuts. Several technology products have been particularly helpful while sheltering in place, making this semi-forced timeout feel less like a punishment and more like something I could endure. The Atmoph Window 2, for example, looks like a picture on your wall, but inside the frame is a connected 27-inch 4K display that is tied to remote cameras.
Rethinking Remote Education
June 8, 2020
In these trying times, kids have to deal with a lot of stuff they weren't prepared for: a significant loss of weeks of education, damaged GPAs, and no assurance they'll be going back in the fall. However, some schools were able to pivot because they already had implemented remote programs that were mature, easily implemented, and designed by teachers for teachers.
Google Aims to Secure Voice Purchases Through Match Feature
May 28, 2020
Google has undertaken a pilot program for Voice Match. A limited number of users can use the tool with Google Assistant-enabled smart speakers and smart displays to make in-app digital purchases on Google Play, or to make purchases from restaurants that enable food ordering through Google. "Many folks used to Google Assistant will take advantage of this convenience," said tech analyst Ray Wang.
How to Soup Up Your Home WiFi With Multiple Repeaters and Access Points
May 21, 2020
Does flaky Internet connectivity have you scrounging for solutions? The COVID-19 pandemic increased our demand for Internet service due to working from home, online learning for kids, and video conferencing with colleagues and family members. For many people stuck at home, Internet connectivity issues became more troublesome in recent months. Use these tips to improve your WiFi performance.
How to Solve WiFi Speed and Connection Problems
May 14, 2020
In theory, all you need is a shiny new router for hassle-free wireless connections in your home or small office. Yet in practice, your wireless reception often will be plagued with interference issues. Interference can cause slow delivery, higher latency than hardwired connections, frequent disconnects and reconnects, and sometimes a complete inability to access a WiFi signal.
How to Turn an Old Android Device Into a Cool, Useful Gadget
April 2, 2020
What do you do with your old Android phones or tablets? That question usually prompts three tired answers. You might trade them in for a new purchase. Or you could resell them on eBay. Probably, though, you will just stuff them in a drawer as emergency backups. Better options exist, however, that would let you continue to get value from your aging devices.
COVID-19 Outbreak: Thoughts From the Stay-at-Home Front
March 23, 2020
Steps can be taken to mitigate the threat of spreading the coronavirus to folks who are sheltering at home. In many cases delivery drivers don't seem to have any protection, and if it's necessary to sign for something, customers are expected to touch a stylus or a screen that has been used by others. Drivers should be practicing social distancing, setting down packages at least six feet away.
Philips Hue Vulnerability Shines Light on Possible IoT Security Nightmare
February 6, 2020
A vulnerability in Philips Hue smart lightbulbs and their controller bridges could allow intruders to infiltrate networks with a remote exploit, Check Point Software Technologies has disclosed. The researchers notified the owner of the Philips Hue brand about the vulnerability in November, and it issued a patched firmware version through an automatic update.
From Personal to Planetary: ECT News Roundtable, Episode 4
January 30, 2020
We asked ECT News Network's roundtable of industry insiders to reflect on their own personal tech preferences, to speculate on what popular gadgets may vanish from use in the next decade, to consider the role of wearable health tools -- and then to expand the discussion to the health of the planet, tech advances in traveling on it, and the prospect of leaving it altogether.
Few Households Have Taken the Gigabit Broadband Leap
January 7, 2020
Increasing numbers of connected devices in the home and greater consumption of streaming media are driving consumer demand for faster broadband speeds. In recent years providers have introduced greater service speeds, bundles and pricing models to address widespread consumer churn. The service speed average among U.S. broadband households has increased steadily over the last four years.
CES 2020: Prepare to Be Amazed
January 6, 2020
Every year I look forward to CES being over. That's not because it isn't interesting -- it is. It's because the place is a nightmare to get around, thanks to some incredibly stupid decisions that turn Las Vegas into a gridlocked mess. Coming right after the holidays, it destroys more family vacations than any other event short of a long driving trip with very young children.
2010 - 2019: Product of the Decade
December 30, 2019
As we get to the end of December, I typically pick my product of the year, but this is also the end of the decade, so I'll go back and look at the prior products of the year, name my pick for this year, and then pick my product of the decade. 2010 was an easy choice as the iPad came out and scared the hell out of the entire PC market. Its release made the whole "PC is Dead" thing real.
Tech Firms Join Forces to Create Smart Home Connectivity Standard
December 19, 2019
Amazon, Apple, Google and the Zigbee Alliance are teaming up on a new Internet Protocol-based standard for smart home device connectivity. Connected Home over IP will be an open source project. A working group will define a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification. The goal is to enable communication across smart home devices, mobile apps and cloud services.
Researchers Use Lasers to Hack Smart Speakers
November 6, 2019
University researchers have discovered a way to issue unauthorized commands to digital assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, Facebook Portal and Siri via laser beams. The microphones in devices like smart speakers, mobile phones and tablets convert sound into electrical signals, but what the researchers found was that the mics react to light aimed directly at them, too.
Voice Commerce: It's a Natural
November 5, 2019
Consumers increasingly are shopping by voice rather than typing on a keyboard or searching on a phone. People are growing more comfortable with voice assistants, as the tech becomes smarter and more conversational every day. "Consumers appreciate the simplicity of using voice to shop," said Shilp Agarwal, CEO of Blutag. "Users can express their purchasing intent much more quickly over voice."
Nvidia's New Shield TV Models Add Dolby Vision, Atmos
October 29, 2019
Nvidia has introduced two new versions of its Android TV-based Shield streaming product. Shield TV and Shield TV Pro are replacements for the last generation of Shield video streamers, which Nvidia introduced in 2017. The Shield TV Pro retains the form factor of its predecessors -- the box-like form favored by the industry generally -- while the lower priced Shield TV is cylinder-shaped.
Smart Speaker Apps Caught Snooping Around Homes
October 22, 2019
Flaws in Amazon and Google smart speakers can expose users to eavesdropping and voice phishing. Researchers at Security Research Labs discovered that developers could create malicious apps for the Amazon and Google platforms to turn the smart speakers into smart spies. Using the standard development interfaces for the platforms, the researchers found a way to request and collect personal data.
Google Rolls Out Pixel 4 Phone, Pixelbook, Nest WiFi and Pixel Buds
October 16, 2019
A new flagship smartphone, a slick refresh of Pixelbook Go, some home gadget improvements and a revamp of its wireless earbuds highlighted Google's annual hardware event in New York City. The latest models of Google's flagship smartphone, Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, base priced at $799 and $899 respectively, will have wider distribution, as they'll be available from all major U.S. carriers.
Sonos Launches Rent-a-Speaker Pilot Program
October 8, 2019
Subscription models have taken hold in everything from software to smartphones, and now Sonos is testing the idea in the premium wireless speaker market. The Santa Barbara, California, company has launched a pilot program limited to 500 homes in the Netherlands, which allows consumers to gain access to Sonos hardware for the equivalent of about $16.46 a month.
A Peek at Our Wireless Future
September 30, 2019
Last week I attended a Qualcomm event that took me through the coming wave of both 5G and WiFi 6 products, touched on the millimeter wave, and at least spoke to 6G. From this I think I can begin to picture the world as it will exist by the middle of the next decade, and it is kind of fascinating. Qualcomm has spent nearly $50B -- yes billion -- advancing its wireless initiatives.
Amazon Enlists 30 Partners in Voice Interoperability Initiative
September 26, 2019
Amazon and dozens of partners have joined in a Voice Interoperability Initiative. Their aim is to support multiple, interoperable voice services on a single device so customers can access the one they want by saying the appropriate wake word. Companies involved in the initiative will work to accelerate the state of the art in machine learning and wake word technology.
Google Promises Assistant Users More Audio Privacy
September 24, 2019
Google has announced tweaks to its privacy policy following earlier reports that its Google Assistant software was eavesdropping on user conversations. Although it does not retain Assistant audio recordings by default, according to Senior Product Manager Nino Tasca, the company has increased privacy protections affecting the transcription process used to check the accuracy of responses.
Google's Super-Sized Nest Hub Draws Mixed Reviews
September 10, 2019
The new larger version of Google's Nest Hub smart display has been garnering mixed reviews. It has a 10-inch screen, compared to its predecessor's 7-inch display, and it sells for $229, compared to $129 for the Nest Hub introduced in June. "I like the big screen on the Nest Hub Max, since I was able to watch a football game in the kitchen and still see the score," wrote Todd Haselton.
Rethinking the User Interface for Consumer Voice Tech
September 9, 2019
Voice can provide a simple, compelling user experience, but the path to adding voice controls to any product, service or application is complex. As dominant tech players continue to develop voice-enabled interfaces and assistants, product designers, developers and manufacturers will be forced to rethink the user experience. For many future homes, voice control will be the primary user interface.
When Technology Makes Life Harder
August 9, 2019
The latest Windows 10 update hasn't gone smoothly for many users due to a conflict with an outdated driver for Intel's Rapid Storage Technology. This is somewhat ironic in that RST was designed to improve the performance of storage hardware. Certain versions have slowed the install process, and in some cases the program has made installation of the Version 1903 Windows 10 update impossible.
How to Exert Privacy Control Over Your Home Speakers
August 6, 2019
Amazon, Google and Apple have suspended contractor review of consumer recordings following disclosures that the devices are nearly always listening and have captured personal, business and other delicate human interactions. Consumers using smart speakers and digital assistant apps from Amazon and Google can apply some control over their system settings.
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How important is the availability of curbside service when you consider a physical store to do your shopping?
Critically Important - I will not shop at an establishment that does not provide curbside service.
Quite Important - During the pandemic I prefer not to go inside a physical location. Still, I will consider a business that does not offer curbside service.
Somewhat Important - I like a curbside option, but itís not part of my decision-making process when I choose where to shop.
Not Important - I do not use curbside pickup. When I go out to shop I want to select everything myself.