Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Apple and Google angle for control of the Internet of Things

May 27, 2014: 1:14 PM ET

Google has the smart thermostat guy. Apple may have a couple things up its sleeve.

Love songs for the smart house of tomorrow?

FORTUNE -- Nobody knows what the world is going to look like when the things around us get smarter -- when more and more of them are equipped with tiny radios that are connected to the Web.

Which is what makes the so-called Internet of Things (IoT, per Wikipedia) so interesting, especially now that Google (GOOG) and Apple (AAPL) have begun to show their hands.

Google has been experimenting with Internet-connected eye glasses, and in January it spent $3.2 billion to acquire Nest Labs, the leading purveyor of smart thermostats and smoke detectors. With Nest, it also got Tony Fadell, an ambitious ex-Apple engineering VP whose previous claim to fame was the iPod.

Apple has been seeding its stores with iBeacons -- miniature BlueTooth detectors for communicating with iPhones -- and it is rumored to be set to unveil, perhaps as early as next week's developers conference, two new platforms: One for monitoring your health and one forcontrolling your home.

Who will make tomorrow's smart devices and how they will interact with one another is anybody's guess.

"One vision," writes Benedict Evans, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, "is that all these devices will work on common, open standards, and talk to each other and interact in clever ways. And so, if you walk into the house with someone your security camera doesn't recognise and your calendar mentions 'date', some sort of unified learning-based system will dim the lights, turn up the thermostat and start playing Barry White."

The Barry White scenario is unlikely, Evans points out, given the history of earlier technologies that achieved First World ubiquity -- the small electric motor, for example, or the computer chip. They generally don't share data unless they come packaged in a single device -- a well-eqipped automobile, for example.

Apple and Google would love to be the company that cashes in on -- or at least controls -- whatever turns out to be IoT equivalent of a modern automobile, with its hundreds of integrated chips and battery-powered activators. But they're approaching it from different angles -- angles that play to each's strengths.

"Many wearables feel like they should be satellites for a smartphone," writes Evans, "either as a remote sensor or a remote display, but the value ... comes from the cloud-based analytics: is it more useful to know how many hours you slept or to get big-data based suggestions as to when you should go to sleep and when you should set your alarm? iBeacon is [a] fascinating part of this dynamic, because iBeacons themselves are not connected to anything, but they add intelligence to the physical world. So every wall or retail display or suitcase or package can become a piece of data.

"That is, sometimes the device is dumb glass (or a dumb sensor), driven by the cloud. And sometime the cloud is dumb storage, driven by the device.

"There's an interesting Apple/Google dynamic here," writes Evans. "If most of these 'things' are some combination of smartphone satellite and cloud end-point, where is the value and control? Apple's hardware/software integration means it's best-placed to make things work well, but Google is better placed to do much of the cloud stuff."

Monday, May 26, 2014

Apple readying new software platform for the ‘Smart Home

By Tim Bradshaw in San Francisco

A woman looks at the screen of her mobile phone in front of an Apple logo outside its store in downtown Shanghai September 10, 2013. Apple Inc is expected to introduce a cheaper version of the iPhone on Tuesday, bringing one of the industry's costliest smartphones within reach of the masses in poorer emerging markets. The world's most valuable technology company, which many expect to unveil an iPhone 5C in several colors alongside the latest high-end iPhone 5S, is trying to beat back rivals like Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd in markets like India and China, where it is fast losing ground. REUTERS/Aly Song (CHINA - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY TELECOMS)s

Apple is readying a new software platform that would turn the iPhone into a remote control for lights, security systems and other household appliances, as part of a move into the "internet of things".

Apple plans to take on rivals Google and Samsung and make a "big play" in the world of smart home technology at its Worldwide Developer Conference on June 2 in San Francisco, according to people familiar with the matter.

    This will reinforce the view, held by some in Silicon Valley, that
    Jetsons-style home automation is the next frontier in technology as growth in smartphone sales begins to slow in developed markets.

      Apple’s coming move follows Google’s $3.2bn acquisition in January of Nest Labs, makers of internet-connected thermostats and smoke alarms, and Samsung’s recent debut of its Smart Home range of refrigerators, washing machines and TVs that can be controlled from its smartphones and watches.

      Apple’s integrated system will make it easier to set up and control new "smart home" devices. For example, a home’s lights might automatically come on when the owner enters the house, using their iPhone to wirelessly signal their arrival. Such a system was outlined in an Apple patent filing, published in November last year.

      The connected-home system will give Apple customers more reasons to buy several devices in its iOS family, by using the iPhone or iPad in conjunction with its Apple TV box, an upgraded version of which is expected to be released later this year, to control other domestic devices.

      Apple has been talking to a select group of other device makers whose smart home products will be certified to work with its forthcoming new system and then be sold in its retail stores.

      The scheme will be similar to Apple’s existing "Made for iPhone" label, given to compatible headphones, speakers and other accessories, but with a new brand and logo. Apple may also provide additional checks and assurances that certified products are not vulnerable to hackers.

      The Cupertino-based company was likely to emphasise the privacy protections built into its smart home system, one person familiar with Apple’s plans told the FT, given heightened sensitivity about technology companies’ access to personal information amid revelations about US intelligence agencies’ online surveillance programmes.

      Apple considers privacy a key advantage over Google, the person said, since Google relies on targeted advertising as its main source of income. In a regulatory filing last week, Google said it was preparing for a "multi-device future" where "we and other companies could be serving ads and other content on refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches".

      An Apple spokesperson declined to comment. The company has been known to change its plans for WWDC at the very last minute.

      As it hunts for new sources of growth, Apple has in the past year launched CarPlay, which lets drivers show iPhone apps on a screen in their vehicle’s dashboard, and iBeacon, an indoor positioning system used by retailers, event venues and marketers to send messages based on location.

      CarPlay, iBeacon and the older AirPlay system, for beaming music to wireless speakers, all use Bluetooth technology to connect the iOS operating system to other nearby devices that are not made by Apple.

      A similar set of technologies will soon be extended to other parts of the home such as security systems, lighting and appliances – perhaps with the addition of a new component, near-field communication. Analysts expect NFC to be built into the next iPhone, as part of Apple’s rumoured plans for a new payments service.

      Apple’s retail stores will also play a key role in its plans for the internet of things. Its new retail chief, Angela Ahrendts, joined from fashion brand Burberry at the beginning of May with a broad mandate to overhaul its high-street and online presence.

      Apple stores already sell several smart home products in the $50 to $250 price range, including Nest thermostats, Dropcam wireless cameras, Philips Hue lightbulbs and Belkin WeMo switches, each of which is controlled by a separate iPhone app.

      As the smart home market is still in its very early days, Apple may face challenges in convincing consumers and technologists to use its platform. But Apple’s longstanding promise that its products "just work" when used together, thanks to its tight integration of hardware, software and cloud services, could give the iPhone maker an advantage over its rivals.


      Saturday, May 17, 2014

      The iDevice Default Setting You Probably Weren't Aware Of


      Many people don't realize that when they install an app onto their iDevice that by default, it's data is added to their iCloud backup. I didn't realize this until very recently and I've had an iPhone since November 2012!

      Every iDevice user gets 5 GB of free iCloud storage from Apple. This is not 5 GB per iDevice but 5 GB per Apple ID. If you have an iPad and an iPhone, like I do, where you are using the same Apple ID, the cloud storage is shared. The problem with this default backup setting, is that unbeknownst to you, your storage could be eaten up with app data that doesn't need to be backed up.

      The data from Evernote, Kindle, your social media apps (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and Maps—to name just four—is already all in the cloud and does not need to be backed up to your iCloud too.

      Now What?

      To see what is actually being backed up to your iCloud, go to Settings > General > Usage. On this screen, you will see Storage along with the amount of space you have available on your iDevice (not your iCloud) and the space you have used. Here, you will also see every app you have installed along with the amount of space they are taking on your iDevice.

      Scroll to the bottom of this screen and click on Manage Storage (right above Battery Usage). On this screen, you can see all your Backups along with the total size of the backup, the size of each iDevice backup, Documents & Data and Mail.

      From this screen, choose which iDevice you are currently using. Under my Manage Storage, I see Mark's iPhone and Mark's iPad. If you only have one iDevice with this Apple ID, you will only see one device listed.
      At the very bottom of the screen, you will see x.x GB available of y.y GB on iCloud (mine says 4.3 GB of 5.0 GB).

      Next, click on the Backup.

      On the next screen, you will see Your iDevice, when your latest backup was, and the Backup Size.

      Below this, under Backup Options, you will see every app that is installed on your iDevice. Note: you may have to click on "Show All Apps" to see, well, all apps.

      Another note: back on your Manage Storage screen, make sure that the only iDevices listed here are active iDevices. When I first looked at this, I saw three iDevices and my backup was at 4.5 GB. I had given my wife my 4S (which she signed into with her own Apple ID) but I never deleted the backup. It was over 1.1 GB.
      What you back up to the iCloud is up to you. For me, the only apps that I have turned on are Pages, Numbers, iMove, and Find iPhone. The other apps' data is either already in the cloud (online) or the apps don't have any data to be backed up.

      Wednesday, May 14, 2014

      Will iOS 8 Include Split-Screen Multitasking for the iPad?

      Todd Bernhard 5.13.14