Category: Mobile Computing Apps

Bluetooth Fast Pairing–to be part of the Android platform

Articles

Android main interactive lock screen

Most recent Android smartphones may be able to support one-touch pair-up for Bluetooth accessories

Android ‘Fast Pair’ will quickly connect Bluetooth devices | Engadget

Announcing Fast Pair – effortless Bluetooth pairing for Android | Android Developers Blog

My Comments

Google has answered the setup method that Apple has implemented for their AirPod wireless in-ear headset by implementing a software-driven “quick-pair” setup that will be part of Android.

This method, called Bluetooth Fast Pairing, works on Android handsets and other devices that run Android 6.0 Marshmallow onwards and have Google Play Services 11.7 or newer installed and support Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy (Bluetooth Smart) connectivity. You will have to enable Bluetooth and Location functionality in your handset, but you don’t have to look at Bluetooth device lists on your smartphone for a particular device identifier to complete the setup process.

Google Fast Pair in action - press image courtesy of Google

Click or tap this image to see Google Fast Pairing in action

It is meant to provide quick discovery of your compliant Bluetooth accessory device in order to expedite the setup process that is involved with new devices or to “repair” Bluetooth connections that have failed. This latter situation can easily occur if data in the device regarding associated Bluetooth devices becomes corrupted or their is excessive Bluetooth interference.

The user experience will require you to put your accessory device like a Bluetooth headset, speakers or car stereo in to Bluetooth-setup mode. This may simply be through you holding down the “setup” or “pair” button till a LED flashes a certain way or you hear a distinct tone. On the other hand in the case of home and car audio equipment that has a display of some form, you using the “Setup Menu” to select “Bluetooth Setup” or something similar.

Then you receive a notification message on your Android device which refers to the device you just enabled for pairing, showing its product name and a thumbnail image of the device. Tap on this notification to continue the setup process and you may receive an invitation to download a companion app for those devices that work on the “app-cessory” model for extended functionality.

Google implements this by using Bluetooth Low Energy “beacon” technology to enable the device-discovery process. This is similar to the various beacon approaches for marketing and indoor navigation that are being facilitated by Bluetooth Low Energy, but they only appear while your accessory device is in “Bluetooth setup” mode.

The Google Play servers provide information about the device such as its thumbnail image, product name or link to a companion app based on a “primary-key” identifier that is part of the Bluetooth Low Energy “beacon” presented by the device. Then, once you tap the notification popup on your Android device, the pairing and establishment process takes place under Bluetooth Classic technology.

I see this also as being similar to the various “Plug And Play” discovery process implemented in Microsoft Windows and Apple MacOS whenever you connect newer peripherals to your computer. This is where Microsoft and Apple keep data about various peripherals and expansion cards that are or have been on the market to facilitate installation of any necessary drivers or other software or invocation of class drivers that are part of the operating system. For Google and the Android platform, they could take this further with USB-C and USB Micro-AB OTG connectivity to implement the same kind of “plug and play” setup for peripherals connected this way to Android devices.

This system could be taken further by integrating similar logic and server-hosted databases in to other operating systems for regular and mobile computer platforms to improve and expedite the setup process for Bluetooth devices where the host device supports Bluetooth Low Energy operation. Here, I would like to see it based on the same identifiers broadcast by each of the accessory devices.

The Bluetooth Fast Pairing ability that Google gave to the Android platform complements NFC-based “touch and go” pairing that has been used with that platform as another method to simplify the setup process. This is more for manufacturers who don’t have enough room in their accessory device’s design to provide an NFC area for “touch-and-go” setup thanks to very small devices or where NFC doesn’t play well with the device’s aesthetics or functionality.

It may be a point of confusion for device designers like Alpine with their car stereos who place their devices in “discoverable” or “pairing” mode all the time so you can commence enrolling your accessory device at your phone’s user interface. Here, the device manufacturer may have to limit its availability to certain circumstances like no devices paired or connected, or you having to select the “Bluetooth” source or “Setup” mode to invoke discoverability.

At least Google have put up a way to allow quicker setup for Bluetooth accessories with their Android platform devices without the need to build the requirement in to the hardware.

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Dual-device videocalling–how about it?

Arcam of Cambridge: Solo Movie system incorporate the latest technology and components from Arcam’s 2016 AVR & Hi-Fi ranges, including the acclaimed Class G amplification, High-End Blu-ray and DVD Replay and full App Controlled music networking / streaming. www.arcam.co.uk. PR by Robert Follis Associates Global - www.robfollis.com

TV setups with large screens and powerful sound systems could also appeal to videocalls where many people wish to participate

A reality that is surfacing with online communications platforms is the fact that most of us prefer to operate these platforms from our smartphones or tablets. Typically we are more comfortable with using these devices as our core hubs for managing personal contacts and conversations.

But there are times when we want to use a large screen such as our main TV for group videocalls. Examples of this may include family conversations with loved ones separated by distance, more so during special occasions like birthdays, Thanksgiving or Christmas. In the business context, there is the desire for two or more of us to engage in video conferences with business partners, suppliers, customers or employees separated by distance. For example, a lawyer and their client could be talking with someone who is selling their business as part of assessing the validity of that potential purchase.

Old lady making a video call at the dinner table press picture courtesy of NBNCo

This is more so when there is that family special moment

But most of the smart-TV and set-top platforms haven’t been engineered to work with the plethora of online-communications platforms that are out there. This is although Skype attempted to get this happening with various smart-TV and set-top platform vendors to allow the smart TV to serve as a Skype-based group videophone once you purchased and connected a Webcam accessory supplied by the manufacturer.

The Skype situation required users to log in to the Skype client on their TV or video device along with buying and installing a camera kit that worked with the TV. This was a case of entering credentials or searching for contacts using a “pick-and-choose” or SMS-style text-entry method which could lead to mistakes. This is compared to where most of us were more comfortable with performing these tasks on our smartphones or tablets because of a touchscreen keyboard or hardware keyboard accessory that made text entry easier.

Apple TV 4th Generation press picture courtesy of Apple

An Apple TV or Chromecast that has the software support for and is connected to a Webcam could simplify this process and place the focus on the smartphone as a control surface for videocalls

The goal I am outlining here is for one to be able to use a smart TV or network-connected video peripheral equipped with a Webcam-type camera device, along with their mobile device, all connected to the same home network and Internet connection to establish or continue a videocall on the TV’s large screen. Such a goal would be to implement the large-screen TV with its built-in speakers or connected sound system along with the Webcam as the videocalling-equivalent of the speakerphone we use for group or “conference” telephone calls when multiple people at either end want to participate in the call.

Set-top devices designed to work with platform mobile devices

A very strong reality that is surfacing for interlinking TVs and mobile devices is the use of a network-enabled video peripheral that provides a video link between the mobile device and video peripheral via one’s home network.

One of these devices is the Apple TV which works with iOS devices thanks to Apple AirPlay while the other is the Google Chromecast that works with Android devices. Both of these video devices can connect to your home network via Wi-Fi wireless or Ethernet with the Apple TV offering the latter option out of the box and the Chromecast offering it as an add-on option. As well, the Chromecast’s functionality is being integrated in to various newer smart TVs and video peripherals under the “Google Cast” or “Chromecast” feature name.

Is there a need for this functionality?

As I have said earlier on, the main usage driver for this functionality would be to place a group videocall where multiple people at the one location want to communicate with another . The classic examples would be for families communicating with distant relatives or businesses placing conference calls that involve multiple decision makers with two or more of these participants at one of the locations.

Social networks and mobile messaging

Most of the mobile messaging platforms offer some form of videocalling capability

In most cases, the “over-the-top” communications platforms like Facetime, Skype, Viber, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are primarily operated using the native mobile client app or the functionality that is part of the mobile platform. This way of managing videocalls appeals to most users because of access to the user’s own contact directory that exists on their device along with the handheld nature of the typical smartphone that appeals to this activity.

It is also worth knowing that some, if not all, of the “over-the-top” communications platforms will offer a “conference call” or “three-way call” function as part of their feature set, extending it to videocalls in at least the business-focused variants. This is where you could have multiple callers from different locations take part in the same conversation. Such setups would typically show the “other” callers as part of a multiple-picture “mosaic” on the screen. Here, the large screen can come in handy with seeing the multiple callers at once.

How is this achieved at the moment?

At the moment, these set-top platforms haven’t been engineered to allow for group videocalling and users would have to invoke screen-mirroring functionality on their mobile devices once they logically associate them with the video endpoint devices. Then they would have to position their mobile device on or in front of the TV so the other side can see your group, something which can be very precarious at times.

How could Apple, Google and co improve on this state of affairs?

Apple TV - Mirroring on - iPad

Should this still be the way to make group videocalls on your Apple TV or Chromecast?

Apple and Google could improve on their AirPlay and Chromecast platforms to provide an andio-video-data feed from the video peripheral to the mobile device using that peripheral. This would work in tandem with a companion Webcam/microphone accessory that can be installed on the TV and connected to the set-top device. For example, Apple could offer a Webcam for the latest generation Apple TV as an “MFi” accessory like they do with the game controllers that enable it to be a games console.

When users associate their mobile devices with a suitably-equipped Apple TV / Chromecast device that supports this enhancement, the communications apps on their phone detect the camera and microphone connected to the video peripheral. The user would then be able to see the camera offered as an alternative camera choice while they are engaged in a videocall, along with the microphone and TV speaker offered as a “speakerphone” option.

What will this entail?

It may require Apple and Google to write mobile endpoint software in to their iOS and Android operating systems to handle the return video feed and the existence of cameras connected to the Apple TV or Chromecast.

Similarly, the tvOS and Chromecast platforms will have to have extra endpoint software written for them while these devices would have to have hardware support for Webcam devices.

At the moment, the latest-generation Apple TV has a USB-C socket on it but this is just serving as a “service” port, but could be opened up as a peripheral port for wired MFi peripherals like a Webcam. Google uses a microUSB port on the Chromecast but this is primarily a power-supply and network-connection port. But they could, again, implement an “expansion module” that provides connectivity to a USB Webcam that is compliant to the USB Video and Audio device classes.

These situations could be answered through a subsequent hardware generation for each of the devices or, if the connections are software-addressable, a major-function firmware update could open up these connections for a camera.

As for application-level support, it may require that the extra camera connected to the Apple TV or Chromecast device be logically enumerated as another camera device by all smartphone apps that exploit the mobile phone’s cameras. The microphone in the camera and the TV’s speakers also would need to be enumerated as another communications-class audio device available to the communications apps. This kind of functionality could be implemented at operating-system level with very little work being asked of from third-party communications software developers.

User privacy can be assured through the same permissions-driven setup implemented in the platform’s app ecosystem that is implemented for access to the mobile device’s own camera and microphone. If users want to see this tightened, it could be feasible to require a separate permissions level for use of external cameras and audio-input devices. But users can simply physically disconnect the Webcam from the video peripheral device when they don’t intend to use it.

An alternative path for app-based connected-TV platforms

There is also an alternative path that smart-TV and set-top vendors could explore. Here, they could implement a universal network-based two-way video protocol that allows the smart TV or set-top device to serve as a large-screen video endpoint for the communications apps.

Similarly, a smart-TV / set-top applications platform could head down the path of using client-side applications that are focused for large-screen communications. This is in a similar vein to what was done for Skype by most smart-TV manufacturers, but the call-setup procedure can be simplified with the user operating their smartphone or tablet as the control surface for managing the call.

This could be invoked through techniques like DIAL (Discovery And Launch) that is used to permit mobile apps to discover large-screen “companion” apps on smart-TV or set-top devices in order to allow users to “throw” what they see on the mobile device to the large screen. As well, the connection to the user’s account could be managed through the use of a session-specific logical token established by the mobile device.

This concept can be taken further through the use of the TV screen as a display surface, typically for communications services’ messaging functions or to show incoming-call notifications.

Conclusion

What we still need to think of is to facilitate “dual-device” videocalling with the popular mobile platforms in order to simplify the task of establishing group videocalls using TVs and other large-screen display devices.

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Google makes an app that makes animated GIFs out of Apple Live Photos

Articles

Google’s Motion Stills app lets you create the best-looking GIFs on the web | ZDNet

Motion Stills, la nouvelle appli de Google qui transforme vos Live Photos en Gif animés | O1Net.com (French language / Langue Française)

From the horse’s mouth

Google Research

Blog Post

Download from iTunes App Store (iOS)

My Comments

Google Motion Stills "before and after" demonstration output image - press image courtesy of Google Research

Google Motion Stills “before and after” demonstration output image – filmed from a car

Previously, I wrote an article about creating “visual wallpaper” for your electronic display including the creation of “cinemagraphs” which are still photos with a small amount of background animation. This was being made feasible by Apple’s Live Photos feature that came to iOS 9 where you could take a photo with a key still image but having a small amount of motion.

The Live Photos concept was restricted to the Apple platform and the social networks that hosted any Apple Live Photos typically either had to present a still or turn them in to animated GIFs.

Google have answered this problem through an editing and conversion tool called Google Motion Stills which allows you to shoehorn an Apple Live Photo to something that appeals as well as being able to export it as an animated GIF image. The software has integrated video stabilisation logic that comes in to play in keeping a still background but allowing certain parts to move. But it can also “smooth out” panoramas including images shot from a moving vehicle. The Motion Stills software also has the ability to optimise short videos to create video loops or cinemagraphs that appear infinite.

All this functionality is based on Google’s research through the creation of their Google Photos software where they could do things like create animations from photo bursts uploaded to that service. This also includes their effort with stabilising videos uploaded by users to YouTube where a lot of amateur video tends to be very shaky.

The software has to export to animated GIF images because this file format has become the defacto standard for short silent video clips and these GIF files can be used anywhere image files are used. Of course, the animations can be saved as QuickTime movies which would work with most other video-editing software, especially that which is in the Apple world.

…. only if we can get animated GIFs to work with DLNA-capable smart TVs

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Freeview now aggregates Australian FTA TV Internet streams in a mobile app

Article

TV networks to launch aggregated streaming app | AdNews

Previous Coverage

Broadcast TV via the Internet

My Comments

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 tablet

Tablets and smartphones could end up as the place to watch TV and you don’t need a tuner module

Previously, I covered the issue of regular TV broadcasters running Internet-video streams of their traditional broadcast output. This has been offered as part of a Web-front or native app that the TV network supplies, typically to facilitate access to their catch-up TV service.

This is about not needing to use a USB or broadcast-LAN TV tuner device to watch TV on your smartphone, tablet or laptop. It underscores the goal of having one of these devices take over the role of that small-screen TV you would have in the kitchen to watch “Days Of Our Lives” while you do the ironing.

One of the issues I had raised with this approach was that you had to switch between apps if you wanted to view content on other networks and this didn’t play well with the classic TV channel-surfing experience of being able to switch between the channels using the same “control surface” on the TV set or remote control. This is where you would immediately landed on some content when you changed channels.

Freeview Australia, who represent Australia’s free-to-air TV networks, had established a hybrid-broadcast-broadband TV platform that integrates catch-up TV offerings and the real-time TV content from all of these networks under the Freeview Plus platform. This platform required you to purchase a new compliant Smart TV or set-top box and you weren’t sure whether your existing Smart TV could work with this, especially in the context of TV sets being considered durable items.

Now they have extended this Freeview Plus platform to mobile devices by creating an aggregated experience where you can switch between channels on the same app. It also allows for content to be searched across the live streams and the catch-up services so it is easier to pinpoint what you are after on your tablet.

But one feature I would provide for is to be able to determine the live streams that you want to be able to switch between so you can maintain the traditional viewing experience with your smartphone or tablet. This includes being able to switch between the channel you last viewed and the current channel which would play well with the after-Christmas ritual of watching the Boxing Day Test and the Sydney-Hobart yacht race, switching between them when the advertising plays.

At least what is happening is that a free-to-air integration platform like the different “Freeviews” operating in the Commonwealth countries is tackling the issue of free-to-air TV channels running Internet streams and providing an integrated viewing experience for mobile devices.

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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.

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Personal-assistant software turns from a trickle to a flood

Siri - the first of the mobile personal-assistant software

Hi Siri! Siri – the first of the mobile personal-assistant software

First there was Apple with Siri, then Google with Google Now, then Microsoft with Cortana (not that Ford car of the 1970s). Now Facebook has jumped in on the act with M. What is this about?

We are talking of “personal-assistant” software that uses artificial intelligence and natural-language processing along with access to locally-stored and Web-hosted resources to answer questions.They also implement machine learning to fine-tune themselves to how you operate in life. Depending on the software, you may pose these questions by talking to the device or typing in the question. They will reply either by text or, if they implement speech technology, by voice. In some cases, you could ask the “personal-assistant” software to get the ball rolling for a hotel, restaurant or journey booking or product purchase.

Some of these programs provide API hooks to other programs and Web services either to learn from or pass commands to them so you could, for example, ask Google Now or Cortana to get Shazam to identify a particular song playing on the radio. These APIs may be passed to select programs as determined by the personal-assistant software vendor or may be widely available to every third-party app developer.

OK Google - Google Now as an Android widget

OK Google – Google Now as an Android widget

Initially this class of software was bound to a particular operating system but it is less becoming the case especially with Google Now, Cortana and Facebook M. Rather you can use these assistants at least on the major mobile platforms. Let’s not forget that these assistants are showing up on regular desktop and laptop computers with Microsoft rolling out Cortana for Windows 10 desktop use and Apple working on having Siri in an upcoming version of MacOS X.

Hey Cortana - Cortana which is the first of these intelligent personal assistants for regular-computer use

Hey Cortana – Cortana which is the first of these intelligent personal assistants for regular-computer use

What do I see of this competition? Personally, the proliferation may be focused on tying a natural-language personal-assistant experience to be centric to particular platforms and aps even if your computing life is multi-platform. But it could then lead to different personal-assistant programs that are focused on particular experiences, beliefs and ideals so that the experience is more in tune with who you are, what you believe and what you like. For example, a media company could create a personal-assistant program based on their media properties like ESPN creating a personal-assistant program centered around their sports channels but learning who your favourite leagues, teams and competitors are.

But I would rather that these platforms focus on a level of modularity where you can interlink them with particular information sources and apps and give them the kind of functionality that you desire yet keeping your data private. As well, this will assure that users can use a single interface point rather than switching between interface points according to what they are after.

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Bluetooth beacons find an application in point-to-point racing

Article

VW Golf 3rd Generation rally car in Saxony rally by André Karwath aka Aka (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bluetooth beacon technology is relevant with rally racing and similar sports

Hill climb cars to include beacons | NFC World

From the horse’s mouth

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

Press Release

My Comments

This year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Coloradio Springs, Colorado, USA has become an interesting race when it comes to enriching the spectator’s experience.

It has been facilitated by the use of Bluetooth Beacons or iBeacons along with an iOS 8+ iPhone app which provides detailed up-to-date information about the competitors and where the place during the race. This includes the ability for users to favourite a competitor and be notified when they hit the finish. The Bluetooth Beacon technology is pitched as being Internet-independent because there isn’t the need to have the vehicles equipped with GPS-capable devices and spectators’ smartphones can pick up these beacon signals easily.

Tour De France in London - Flickr Creative Commons image by John Pennell

.. like bike races of the Tour De France calibre

But I do see more potential for this in rallies, hill-climb races, road-based cycle races, marathons and similar point-to-point races. This is where competitors are required to race from one point to another and following a known route or series of waypoints. Here, spectators would typically be spread across the (typically long) course and would want to know when their favoured competitors are coming past them as well as knowing how they are placed in the competition.

The same technology can work with other computer systems to accurately determine who has won the race without requiring the use of proprietary transponder technology. As well, there isn’t a requirement for competitors to carry and use GPS devices that need continual mobile-broadband links for uploading real-time position data, something that would be difficult with events held in country areas where such service isn’t all that reliable. The other bonus is that the Bluetooth beacons are very lightweight which adds very little weight to the competitor or competing vehicle where any extra weight carried can slow the competitor down.

But the hillclimb allowed spectators with suitably-equipped mobile devices that supported beacon detection to detect these beacons themselves when it comes to when “their” competitors are near. As well, computing devices with Bluetooth Smart functionality and Wi-Fi / mobile-broadband Internet access can be located at key points in the course to report the competitors’ positions for real-time updates for broadcast and online use.

It does show that the idea of using the Bluetooth Beacon technology for tracking the competition in point-to-point races has been proven thus allowing for systems that are more affordable for providing real-time competition updates for the spectators. It could be that as you watch that car rally you could have you phone notify you when that rally legend is near and about to perform that 3-point turn in the WRX. Similarly, your phone would notify you as the Tour De France péléton is about to arrive in your street so you can flip open those shutters and windows on the front of your house to have a look as it comes past.

For it to work effectively, the Bluetooth Beacon technology needs to be able to work on the client side with iOS, Android and Windows platforms with the necessary client apps written to work on each of those platforms.

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More classes of premium drink are protected by NFC bottle caps

Articles

Remy Martin thinks an NFC bottle cap is the key to authentic cognac | Engadget

Video

Smart liquor bottles can keep tabs on your bourbon collection | Engadget

Previous coverage

NFC technology to determine if that good wine or whiskey is the real McCoy

My Comments

I had previously covered the use of NFC as a tool to check if that bottle of premium wine or whiskey is the real McCoy and is filled with the real drink. This is based on a technology where an NFC chip is integrated in to the drink’s bottle cap is able to signal to a companion mobile app on an NFC-capable mobile device to indicate the veracity of the drink and what it’s about. As well, these tags become defunct or change their status if the bottle is opened.

Selinko developed the NFC bottle cap as a solution to a problem that has been happening in Asian markets where customers were being sold a “pig in a poke” when it comes to buying premium liquor. This is where a bottle of premium liquor had its contents diluted or swapped for poor-quality drink and is similar to where customers in the Asian countries are buying knock-offs of clothes, luggage and similar products made or designed by respected brands.

Remy Martin, a well-known cognac distiller, is partnering with Selinko to verify the authenticity of cognac bottles and check that the drink hasn’t been substituted with cheaper poorer quality liquor. As well, they are using this technology to allow their customers to find out more about the drink and participate in a promotion. As well, Diageo is using a similar technology designed by Thinfilm to check the veracity of Blue Label bourbon whiskey.

This could lead to you having to install an app on your mobile device for each drink brand you have in your liquor cabinet but each of the companies could also provide a generic interface and API for stock-management systems. Here, consumers, the licensed trade, hoteliers and others can check if a bottle is opened and what is meant to be in that bottle.

As I have said before, I would like to see this technology have applications beyond liquor such as to check the veracity and provenance of other branded items like soft drinks, pantry items and toiletries also at risk of substitution. That is, is the bottle of Coke full of the actual Coca-Cola, that jar of Vegemite full of the real Aussie thing or that bottle of premium aftershave or perfume containing the stuff with the real distinct scent that you love.

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TuneIn Radio brings Internet radio to the car courtesy of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Article

TuneIn Android screenshot

TuneIn – now to be ready for the car with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

If you have Android Auto, you should get TuneIn Radio | Android Authority

TuneIn Radio adds real radio stations to CarPlay + Apple Watch controls | 9to5Mac

My Comments

The new smartphone platforms are working together with the TuneIn Radio app to bring Internet radio to the car.

Those of you who may have cottoned on to Spotify or similar online music services may have forgotten about what Internet radio is all about. This is where traditional radio broadcasters run an Internet stream that is effectively a simulcast of what you would hear on a radio that was tuned to that station. In some cases, it may be seen as the “new shortwave” because of the ability to listen to “out-of-area” radio like overseas stations.

The TuneIn Radio app which has been developed for just about all of the desktop and smartphone operating systems has been able to bring the joy of Internet radio to your laptop, smartphone or tablet in an easy-to-find manner. Here, you could be in Australia where commercial popular-music radio doesn’t excel on variety but you could listen to a station like Heart London, known for their large variety of pop music from the flare-flappin’ disco-infused 70s to new, on your smartphone.

In the early days of HomeNetworking01.info, I raised the concept of Internet radio in the car in response to a question a teenager who was about to get his driver’s licence raised when he heard an Iranian station on an Internet radio that I previously reviewed.  There have been some attempts by car-radio manufacturers and vehicle builders to achieve this goal as part of the connected car. Now TuneIn Radio had written in code to their iOS and Android apps to make it work tightly with the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in-dash infotainment platforms. For that matter, these platforms are available in an aftermarket form courtesy of Pioneer but Alpine and Kenwood are intending to roll their own versions of head units with these platforms out soon.

Owing to the nature of Internet radio, both these implementations wouldn’t provide the same kind of “few-control” experience associated with tuning for new local stations on the AM and FM bands with an ordinary car radio. Personally, I would prefer to have TuneIn Radio give drivers one-touch access to all their favourites whether through “paging” through each station in the favourites or a list of stations on the screen that they can touch. This can provide a similar experience to what most of us have experienced when “jabbing” the preset buttons on the car radio to find what one of our favourte stations comes up with.

At the moment, work will need to be done to allow mapping of hardware controls to CarPlay and Android Auto interfaces so that “up-down” and “numbered-preset” buttons on the dashboard or steering wheel can be of use with these interfaces. This will achieve support for tactile control of music apps using familiar car-audio interfaces.

At least what is coming through is that Internet radio, along with Spotify and similar services, is being valued as part of the connected car in many different ways.

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BT now offers an Android home phone that goes all the way to Google Play

Article BT brand identity  Enquiries about this image can be made to the BT Group Newsroom on its 24-hour number: 020 7356 5369.  From outside the UK, dial +44 20 7356 5369.  News releases and images can be accessed at the BT web site: http://www.bt.com/newscentre.

BT’s new home phone is as smart as your Android mobile | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

British Telecom

Press Release

My Comments

There have been some attempts by device manufacturers and established telecoms companies to provide an advanced home telephone to justify to residential customers the idea of keeping an existing landline phone service. It was something we used to do before the availability of cost-effective mobile phones especially smartphones and was the main business for these phone companies.

Examples of these phones include the Telstra T-Hub series which had a separate handset and a separate tablet which ran on a proprietary operating system along with various Android phones that didn’t have mobile connectivity but could work with a Wi-Fi home network.

BT used to offer an Android home phone but this didn’t have access to the Google Play Store which had all of the apps available for the Android platform. Rather this relied on the Opera Browser app store as a place to purchase these apps. Now they have just launched to the UK market the Home SmartPhone SII which has some interesting features.

The BT Home SmartPhone II is based on a fully-fledged Android 4.2 phone with integrated 2Gb memory which can be expanded like most Android smartphones. As well, you can download apps from the Google Play app store which has a large plethora of apps. You could even do things like load one of the many casual games like Candy Crush Saga or even install some of the “over-the-top” communications solutions like Viber,Skype or WhatsApp which are also supported with a front-facing camera for videocalls.

There is also the ability to filter out nuisance calls like “unidentified”, “number-blocked” or “payphone” calls so there is less risk of receiving unwanted calls  But this phone may be a hard sell with younger people who are sold on the idea of a mobile-phone-centric household but would appeal to older households who still place value on the traditional telephone handset in the home, especially as a common “catch-all” solution.

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