Category: Current and Future Trends

The electronic door lock becomes more than a door-security device

Article

Vingcard Elsafe Classic hotel room lock

These electronic door locks that hotels use are being seen now also as data-capture tools

Electronic locks as data-analysis tools | Hotel Management

My Comments

A trend that is becoming real is for electronic door locks to serve as sensors or peripherals for other computing applications as well as performing their gatekeeping duties and is going to make this device class become a very important part of the Internet Of Things.

This has been highlighted with the hotel environment because it is often the first place that people experiences these devices when they let themselves in to their hotel room while they stay at their favourite hotel.

An increasing number of these systems work in an “online” fashion where they use technologies like Zigbee to exchange data through the building in a real-time manner. But they also keep operational data like an access log local to the lockset itself.

The new expectations for this class of online-based locking system start with the ability to notify the hotel’s maintenance department if the lockset’s batteries are becoming weak and are able to report system diagnostic issues to this same department if there are other problems. There is also the activity monitoring functionality which can augment how Front Desk or Houskeeping perform their work as well as working alongside energy-management setups to determine occupancy. As well, these locking systems can be seen as a tool to help hoteliers with their job in assuring the safety, security and welfare of their guests such as being able to detect if one or more wrong cards are tried against one or more locks or if a guestroom door is left open.

Personally, I also see the app-based ecosystem place another requirement on these locks where they have to convey user preferences to the other technology in the room. For example, the heating could be set to a particular temperature and fan mode while the clock-radio is set to wake you at a time you have set and the TV lights up and switches to a channel you prefer the moment you tap your phone on the lock and open the door.

The article determined that the core gatekeeping functionality is being reduced to a secondary role and these devices are ending up either as sensors or peripherals for various computer-intelligence systems.

But this same concept could apply to the residential smart lock

But this same concept could apply to the residential smart lock

But could this same trend apply to the new smart locks that are being pitched for the home? In some ways, yes!

Smart locks that connect to the home network and the Internet, typically via a network bridge, will end up being required to support working with a Web-based or mobile-based management dashboard. In some cases, they may be required to notify users of situations like whether a door is left unlocked or not, if a certain person like your teenager has come home or of system-status events like weak batteries.

Another expectation that is being drummed up is for these locks to cause heating and lighting to come on at user-preferred settings courtesy of a home-automation system or turn off the heating when everyone leaves the house. Yale even underscored the idea of one user creating multiple entry codes on their Real Living Connected Deadbolt to support “situation-specific” presets like the possibility of a particular user code that you use when it’s date night. This is because the deadbolt can be linked in to a home-automation system courtesy of an optional Zigbee or Z-Wave module.

Further expectations that would be placed on electronic door-locking devices would include integration with personnel-welfare systems such as ageing at home or independent living for people with mental disorders. Such a system could observe patterns of activity to learn the user’s normal activity pattern such as identifying that the door is opened and closed at particular times, then signal the relatives or a caregiver if activity goes against the grain, such as if there is no activity or a door is left open for too long.

It shows that in some cases, your favourite hotel can be where you find yourself experience a technology that you could end up using at home.

Send to Kindle

The traditional TV guide is still relevant in the online era

Article

Age Green Guide TV guide on coffee table

What will become of the TV guide that lives on the coffee table?

Why people still read the Radio Times | Brand Republic

My Comments

The above-mentioned article highlights how the traditional printed TV guide is faring in the Internet, blogging and social-media age. These are typically the magazines or newspaper supplements that have the listings for what’s on TV over the up-and-coming week and typically live on the coffee table or near the TV so one can make an informed choice about “what’s on telly tonight”. A few recliner armchairs and sofas even have large pockets sewn in to their sides expressly for the purpose of storing the TV guide magazine. Some viewers even use these magazines and look at the critique offered in them to determine what to record on their PVR systems so they can be sure they aren’t missing the good-quality content.

The example here highlights “Radio Times” which is the quintessential TV-guide magazine of the UK and the first of this class of magazine ever published but I would also see it extend to other respected TV-guide magazines and supplements such as those that are part of good broadsheet newspapers. They have detailed reviews and preview commentaries about the shows that are appearing over the coming weeks, usually with the reviews supplied by film and TV-program critics. This is augmented with columns full of commentary about past shows, the people who are behind them whether as acting talent or directing and artistic talent as well as influences that affect the small screen.

The magazines and newspaper supplements augment some of the big sporting or cultural events shown on TV with their supplementary written and photographic coverage and, in some cases, some of these magazines run the awards ceremonies for the TV industry such as the Emmys in America or the Logies in Australia. A few of them even implemented technologies like Panasonic’s bar codes and the Gemstar VCRPlus/VideoPlus/ShowView/G-Code number-codes as a way to simplify the process of programming a video recorder to record TV shows and partnered with the proponents of these systems to put the feature on the map as far as consumers were concerned.

But how could their role be augmented in the online era? For example, they could work with PVR platforms to supply lists of “critiqued content” or “TV highlights” for users to book for recording on these devices. Similarly, they could implement a TV-friendly Web interface and smart-TV front-end so that users can view the magazine’s treatment of the show they just watched or see slideshows and commentaries provided by these magazines on the TV screen. This could tie-in with video-on-demand offerings so that viewers can see pre-recorded interviews and featurettes about their favourite TV content.

These resources would also be needing to cover content offered on video-on-demand services especially as these services are producing their own original content. This is because the on-demand services are fast becoming a “go-to” service for video content especially as younger people are moving away from traditional scheduled TV content. Set-top platforms like Roku that implement PVR-style cross-service content aggregation can also benefit from “critiqued content” lists provided by TV guides.

Here, the goal is to put the resources that the film critics have built up when curating the content for these magazines and supplements and extend it towards on-demand viewing.

Send to Kindle

Synology releases an app-based router

Article

Synology Formally Announces Its Wireless Router | SmallNetBuilder

From the horse’s mouth

Synology

RT1900ac Wi-Fi router

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

Synology is best known for their range of highly-flexible network-attached-storage devices but they have taken their first steps in to releasing network hardware, especially routers.

The typical Synology NAS is based on the “Disk Station Manager” or DSM platform which, like QNAP’s QTS platform uses user-installable apps to add extra functionality to these devices. Here, you can deploy these programs from Synology’s Web site via the NAS’s Web interface for a device that suits your needs, with some allowing the NAS to be that “office in a box” server for a small business.

Now they have released the RT1900ac Wi-Fi router which is based on the Synology Router Manager platform, a router-specific derivative of the DSM platform. There is the similar user-friendly graphic interface for the router’s Web dashboard that would be experienced with a Synology or similar NAS. As well, users can downolad and deploy apps that extend the router’s functionality to something that would be akin to other small-business routers or, more likely, the Freebox Révolution.

This is compared to a few attempts that Linksys and others achieved at router platforms that extend these devices’ functionality. One of these was to provide a mobile-platform-centric operation which wouldn’t work well with a heterogenous desktop/laptop/mobile/server operating environment where there is a desire to manage the device from a Web browser.

One of these apps is a VPN endpoint server so that you could run the Synology as part of a client-box or box-box VPN. It can work using the common VPN protocols including OpenVPN. Anothers of these is a RADIUS server that would earn its keep with managing wireless hotspots or enterprise networks with user-based access control. Oh yeah, secondary storage needs are taken care of courtesy of an SD card and a USB port for you to connect a thumbdrive or USB hard disk to.

There are expectations that the app platform can bring on extra functionality to this router such as different application-level gateways, VoIP servers, public-access wireless hotspots and the like. As well, it would be interesting to find out if Synology writes functionality in to the router’s software and their NAS unit’s software to have these device work tightly together, as well as supplying different routers that suit different needs and budgets/

Send to Kindle

Xiaomi raises the bar for routers with internal storage

Articles – From the horse’s mouth

Seagate

A Wireless Router with 6TB Storage? | Digital Den comsumer blog

Xiaomi

Mi WiFi Router 2 With 6Tb

Product Page

My Comments

Seagate has helped another manufacturer raise the bar for a consumer-grade router that has integrated storage.

Xiaomi had released to the Chinese market the Mi WiFi Router 2 with 6Tb storage on board. This is provided with a Seagate hard disk that is optimised for video-surveillance applications, with this hard disk able to handle continuous write operations and have a 1-million-hour mean-time-between-failure rate which leads to very high reliability. This is compared to most integrated-storage routers of this kind coming in with 1Tb hard disks typically optimised for regular computers.

The benefit that Seagate drew out was for storage integrated in an Internet-edge router is that the storage can serve as a waypoint for incoming and outgoing data especially if customers are using Internet services with not-so-good bandwidth. This is in addition to being an integrated network-attached storage for documents and media to be pulled up over the home network.

It could show that it is feasible to set up an integrated-storage router with today’s NAS-grade or surveillance-grade hard disks having capacities in the order of at least 4Tb. As well, using application-level gateways and other software can make these devices work as staging posts for such applications as cloud storage services, software updates, content delivery and the like.

As well, the higher-capacity higher-reliability hard disks are showing up as a trend that will affect how network storage is designed.

Send to Kindle

Digitally-delivered content now has the same level of consumer protection as other products

ArticleHouses Of Westminster - copy Parliament UK

UK consumer rights laws now cover digital downloads | Engadget

Consumer Rights Act 2015 Could Aid Clarity on Broadband Prices | ISPReview.co.uk

From the horse’s mouth

UK Government – Department of Business, Innovation & Skills

Press Release

Consumer Rights Act 2015 (UK)

Chapter 3 (covers digital content)

My Comments

Software delivered via app stores now under the same consumer-protection remit as physical goods

Software delivered via app stores now under the same consumer-protection remit as physical goods

A consumer-affairs issue that often crops up when it comes to goods and services that are digitally-delivered is how customers are protected if things go awry with these goods. This is because software, books and other content are increasingly being delivered “over the wire” from the supplier to the user such as through app stores rather than as a physical package. As well, an increasing amount of computer software including games that are sold through “bricks and mortar” retail stores are being delivered as a “physical+digital” form. This is typically a box containing a CD or USB stick with a download client or a software-entitlement card with a product key number but the full installation requires you to download the software on to your computer.

.. as movies and games delivered to games consoles and set-top devices via the Internet

.. as movies and games delivered to games consoles and set-top devices via the Internet

But a lot of jurisdictions tend to place different standards of consumer protection on the digitally-delivered goods and services compared to physically-delivered goods and services like refrigerators, computer and home-network hardware, books or Blu-Ray Discs.They seem to allow for balky downloads or for a digital-content supplier to implement digital-rights-management technologies to protect their content. Typically this has shown up as electronically-supplied goods being covered under a separate statute with lesser “teeth” while other goods are covered under the main consumer-protection statutes. This also applied to services like broadband Internet, landline and mobile telephony, and Webhosting-type services.

The UK have tackled this issue by amalgamating digitally-delivered goods and services under the same consumer-protection law as regular goods and services when they enacted the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Here, there are legal rights of remediation if the digital items came through faulty like a bug-ridden game, including situations where a feature in that program and was part of the description doesn’t work. This even encompasses situations that may come about if the host device crashed due to a buggy program; as well as assurance of access continuity if the service provider’s equipment went AWOL.

There needs to be a similar level of protection for small businesses and community organisations when it comes to the supply of technology so that these users have the same level of protection as the ordinary consumer. This is because these kind of users will purchase goods in the same manner as the ordinary consumer, including purchasing “residential-rated” goods due to the limited know-how of their staff / volunteers and their budget. As well, they don’t have continual access to legal resources in the same manner that a big business would have, so they wouldn’t be in a position to have supply contracts properly assessed. This also applies to people who are running “micro-businesses” from their home for such activities like blogging / small-time journalism, Web-site development, cleaning services and the like.

Another issue that has to be raised is supply of these goods and services across national borders, which is something that is very common with digitally-supplied goods and services. What would happen if a piece of downloaded software that was bought from an American supplier by a Briton failed or if a British software developer supplied a balky WordPress theme to an Australian blogger?

What I see of this law is for a major jurisdiction to bring the spirit of proper consumer protection normally enjoyed with physical goods to digitally-supplied goods and encompass it under one statute. Jurisdictions that work to the Westminster style of government, like most of the British Commonwealth countries, may find this legislation easier to implement with very few changes.

Send to Kindle

Hotel guestroom phones expected to integrate with our devices

Article

Hotel guestroom telephone

There is an effort to see these in-room phones earn their keep further

How guestroom phones have become multipurpose tools | Hotel Management

My Comments

This article has highlighted how the phone in a hotel room has earnt its keep. Primarily, this was seen by a hotel or motel as a revenue-generating device because of the local, long-distance and international calls placed by guests. It is even though guests who wanted to save money used services that allowed calls to be charged against prepaid cards, one’s own telephone account or credit cards; or made a brief call and asked the respondent to call them at the hotel.

This was taken further with guests carrying their own smartphones where they (or their employer / business) picked up the tab for the calls, along with VoIP services of the Skype or Viber ilk that offered voice or video calls for free.

But these phones still earn their place in the hotel room. Commonly they are used to contact hotel services like Housekeeping, the Front Desk or the restaurant to facilitate dinner bookings or in-room dining. For some older people or those at risk of strokes, diabetic comas or seizures, the phone can be used as part of an “are-you-OK” arrangement, something that has been of benefit for me. This also leads to these phones serving as a “preferred emergency contact point” because of it relating to the room you are calling from.

Increasingly hotels are deploying smartphone apps to allow you to facilitate these services in a more “express” manner and these work alongside the apps that run on the in-room iPads. Young people do use these apps but the in-room phone still serves as a fallback if you need to ask further questions or convey further details. this fallback applies if your smartphone’s battery dies or you want to use it for another activity.

But the phone suppliers are realising now that these phones can do more than just be a telephone extension. Traditionally, they offered a phone that has a built-in AM/FM clock radio but they are taking it further by integrating USB charging ports for your gadgets and / or Bluetooth speakers for music playback and speakerphone functionality.

What can be done to improve on these phones?

One way to improve on them in the hotel context is to have a site-configured Bluetooth device identity that reflects the hotel name and your room number. This would make it easier to identify what you are pairing your smartphone to.

Similarly, there will be an expectation for increased synergy amongst all of the technology within a hotel room including the devices a guest brings along with them and this synergy will be primarily room-focused. For example, it could be desired to pair your smartphone to the hotel room’s phone then have your music that you have on your phone play through the TV’s speakers for better and louder sound.

To some extent, USB connectivity can also be about adding functionality to these phones such as serving as an audio device or USB hub for computing devices.

Conclusion

What really is happening is that although it becomes so easy to write off certain technology due to other technology supplanting it, such technology can still serve a complementary role. This is important if we look at the devices beyond what they current do and look at what they can do.

Send to Kindle

Google brings a natural-language personal assistant to ChromeOS

Article

OK Google - Google Now - on your Chromebook at last

OK Google – Google Now – on your Chromebook at last

Turn On “OK Google” In Chrome OS To Start Talking To Your Chromebook | Gizmodo

My Comments

First it was Windows, now it is ChromeOS. This is about integrating a natural-language personal-assistant program in to a desktop operating system so you have the same kind of functionality that the mobile platforms are offering on your regular computer.

With ChromeOS, Google had integrated this functionality as part of the Google Search website once you enable it in the Chrome menu. It can be used in the New Tab page and in the Launcher (magnifying glass icon) in this operating system. Google also baked this functionality in to the latest iteration of the Chrome browser for other operating systems.

The question is whether these natural-language personal assistants will just earn their keep on smartphones or whether people will use them at the desktop and for which applications. Similarly, it will be interesting to know whether an operating-system vendor will use API hooks to extend the functionality of these assistants with other applications.

Send to Kindle

Samsung pitches a Wi-Fi and Zigbee access point at the Internet Of Things scene

Article

Samsung launches IoT Access Point to target the B2B market | SamMobile

My Comments

A device trend that is surfacing is for wireless access points or routers to also be network bridges for Zigbee, Z-Wave and/or Bluetooth wireless device networks.

A good example of this is the latest iteration of the Almond Securifi routers which work as network hubs and bridges for Zigbee and/or Z-Wave home-automation wireless networks. But Samsung has joined the party by offering an 802.11ac wireless access point targeted at large business networks, that is also a network bridge for the Zigbee and Bluetooth wireless network technologies.

The Samsung access point, along with the Almond Securifi routers are answering a new design call to work with the Internet Of Things which is primarily driven by the concept of so-called sensor networks. This is where you have sensors scattered around a location to measure factors like temperature, light level, presence and movement of personnel amongst other things and this will be used for aggregate data measurement or to actuate various control devices.

At the moment, Zigbee, Z-Wave and Bluetooth especially Bluetooth LE (Bluetooth Smart) will still exist as wireless network platforms used for these applications because these platforms are very thrifty when it comes to battery runtime. This is considered important for the Internet Of Things because these devices will be expected to run on a couple of AA or AAA Duracells or a coin battery for six months at least.thus not requiring much in the way of maintenance.

Personally, I would see wireless network infrastructure devices acquire this feature as a product differentiator but would rather that they work with all Zigbee, Z-Wave and Bluetooth devices including network hubs in a vendor-independent manner. This includes being able to work either as a network bridge or, in the case of consumer and small-business routers, work as IoT network hubs.

Send to Kindle

USB Type-C appears as a car charger and external battery pack

Nomad RoadTrip

Article

The First USB-C Car Charger Also Throws In A Backup Battery | Gizmodo

From the horse’s mouth

Nomad

RoadTrip Car Charger (Product Page)

MOS ReachGo Battery Bank

Article

The First USB-C Battery That Can Charge A Laptop At Full Speed | Gizmodo

From the horse’s mouth

MOS

Reach Go (Product Page)

My Comments

Two companies have put forward power supply accessories which implement the new USB Type-C connector along with the USB Type-A connector.This is to capitalise on the newer phones, tablets and laptops that will be equipped with this new USB connector and provide a future-proof setup

The MOS ReachGo which is the first external battery pack to implement USB Type-C connectivity is similar to most USB battery packs although it is a slimline device. It has two USB Type-C and 2 USB Type-A connections with the ability for it to work as a USB 3.0 hub. It capitalises on the USB Type-C standard by being able to charge up a MacBook Air at full speed courtesy of its 15000mAh battery.

The Nomad RoadTrip is the first USB car charger of the kind that plugs in to your vehicle’s 12-volt accessory socket or cigar-lighter socket to implement USB Type-C connectivity. This unit provides 2.1A each to both the USB Type-C and USB Type-A sockets and has an integrated 3000mAh battery pack so it doubles as an external battery pack for your thirsty smartphone. It would most likely be able to work well with most mobile devices but may not provide the power to charge up a laptop like the MacBook Air.

It is worth knowing that you can use the Type-C connectivity on these chargers with your existing USB device if you use a USB Type-C adaptor cable. Out of the two, I would find that the MOS ReachGo battery pack as being one that shows promise for the Type-C capabilities.

Send to Kindle

The effort has paid off for Candy Crush

Previous coverage

It is now simple to port iOS and Android apps to Windows 10

My Comments

Candy Crush Saga gameplay screen Android

Candy Crush Saga on Android

I have played the Android version of Candy Crush Saga and this has performed very smoothly on a variety of Android phone devices that I owned.

But Microsoft and King, the developer of this popular casual game, have worked together and used this game to approach the idea of porting an app from a mobile platform like iOS and Android to a regular-computing platform like Windows 10 along with the XBox One games console. The goal is to make an app or game take advantage of what the subequent platform has to offer without destroying the usage experience that the software is know for.

In the previous article, I cited the computing scene in the 1980s where there was a requirement for games developers to have a game on as many platforms as possible with the best examples being Atarisoft, Sierra and Broderbund. Atarisoft made a strong effort to port the legendary Atari games like PacMan, Asteroids and Centipede to a larger number of popular 1980s home computers while Sierra and Broderbund had games like the Kings Quest, Space Quest, Leisure Suit Larry and Carmen Sandiego franchises on platforms like the IBM PC, Apple II and Macintosh platforms and Commodore’s legendary games machines of all time. It is also very similar to how Minecraft has been ported between Windows, Macintosh, the mobile platforms and XBox One yet is still very playable.

Candy Crush Saga gameplay on Windows 10

This same game as ported to Windows 10

After installing Windows 10 on my computer, I downloaded the Windows 10 port of Candy Crush Saga to assess how this port was to turn out, especially for mouse-based play. After playing a few rounds, the experience was very much similar to what it was like on the Android version. It had reminded me of the late 80s with Boulder Dash where I had played that game on the Commodore 64 and the Apple IIe where the game yielded the same “boulder-shifting” user experience with the same graphics, sound and gameplay on both those platforms.

But the game’s interface didn’t depend on whether you used a touchscreen or a mouse, Nor did it depend on whether you had the game in a window or in a full-screen mode. Candy Crush Saga was still as playable on the Windows 10 platform as it was on the Android platform.

Microsoft is on a winner with their Project Islandwood and Project Astoria software-development kits in that someone could get a casual game across the mobile platforms and Windows to the same expectations as the late ‘80s home-computing era. This is where each platform’s assets can be taken advantage of very easily yet the user experience is kept consistent.

If Microsoft, Google, Apple and others use their software-development knowhow properly, they could encourage app developers, especially games studios, to have apps and games that maintain a consistent high-quality user interface no matter the computing platform they run on.

Send to Kindle