Category: Current and Future Trends

GaN technology now approaches audio electronics

Articles

Belkin BOOST Charge 68W GaN Dual USB-C Wall Charger (Australasia) product picture courtesy of Belkin

The same kind of GaN technology that powers these powerful USB chargers is entering another class of electronics

GaN Technology in Audio Power Amplification | audioXpress

500W Heatsinkless Audio Amplifier from Axign and GaN Systems Demonstrates a New World of Extraordinary Audio Performance | GaN Systems

Previous coverage on GaN technology

Belkin joins the GaN bus with two highly-compact USB PD wall chargers

My Comments

Gallium Nitride is a relatively new semiconductor material that is being seen as “today’s silicon”. At the moment, it has been used in various optoelectronics applications like blue, white, green or ultraviolet LEDs and blue and green laser diodes.

As well, it has seen a lot of traction within power electronics use cases like power supplies, inverters and battery chargers. This has been leading to some small powerful USB-C battery chargers and multi-output charging bars. As well, this technology is helping with decarbonisation thanks to its use with solar panels, battery storage systems and electric vehicles. What has driven its use in this field is how powerful the GaN semiconductors are and the fact that there aren’t heat issues with these semiconductors, this allowing for small designs for powerful power-supply circuits.

But over the last two years, some work has taken place with implementing GaN technology within the audio amplifier space. This is similar to power-supply design but is to amplify a variable-frequency signal representing sound in order to drive a loudspeaker. Here it’s about assuring that the sound is amplified in a manner to assure its clarity and intelligibility.

GaN Systems has showcased an audio amplifier design that works at 250 watts per channel for a 4-ohm load with a very low total harmonic distortion of below 0.01% across 20 Hz to 20 kHz. This Class D amplifier circuit has been rated to perform close to a Class A amplifier circuit which represents the pinnacle for hi-fi audio amplification using solid-state technology.

What could this mean for audio equipment design?

Auralic Taurus control amplifier connected to Auralic Vega DAC

This time amplifying sound within audio equipment like amplifiers and active speakers

I see this like how silicon technology impacted audio equipment design through the 1970s.

For example, amplifiers started to acquire power output ratings of at least two figures per channel with specifications that represented an increasingly-clean sound, which led to a requirement to re-engineer loudspeakers for stronger signals. These amplifiers were more tolerant of how the speakers were wired to them thus opening the pathway to multiroom audio or advanced speaker wiring approaches. This was infact a driver for the Receiver Wars of the 1970s with the goal to see who could offer the most powerful stereo receiver that yielded the cleanest sound.

There was also the ability to do away with output transformers which was a boon for a clean hi-fi sound and for mobile and portable use cases. It was also easier to design portable equipment for increased power efficiency which allowed for longer battery runtimes with stronger clearer sound. It also led to a strong effort towards highly-compact hi-fi systems be they integrated systems  with many programme sources on the same chassis or small compact component systems.

Gigaset L800HX Alexa DECT smart speaker press picture courtesy of Gigaset AG

Smart speakers and Bluetooth speakers are expected to benefit from GaN audio-amplification technology to assure that clean powerful sound.

Most likely I would see increasingly capable active-speaker designs like smart speakers or Bluetooth speakers appear on the market which are about a clearer stronger sound that what occurred previously. They would also have a neat design even though they have a higher power output due to very little reliance on heatsinks and other thermal-mitigation designs.

As well, manufacturers could get away with designing sophisticated amplifier and speaker setups yet keep the amplifiers in these setups compact. This would benefit multichannel and spatial audio or sophisticated designs with separately-amplified speaker drivers such as “active subwoofer” or “biamplification”.

It would also impact “built-in” audio designs like automotive or marine audio. That also extends to TVs, computer monitors and similar devices  with built-in speakers. This is because there would be powerful high-quality amplifiers that can be integrated in these installations without having to worry about heat buildup.

Like what happened when silicon semiconductors came about, battery-operated devices will gain a performance and efficiency boost. Welcome to longer battery runtimes or significant improvement in sound quality out of those Bluetooth speakers or portable digital radios for example.

GaN semiconductor technology entering the audio-amplification space is demonstrating the fact that this  a significant step towards it becoming the “new silicon” for electronics design.

Pocket-sized NVIDIA external graphics module about to arrive

Article

Pocket AI external graphics module press image courtesy mf Adlink

Pocket AI portable external graphics module

Pocketable RTX 3050 GPU Has Thunderbolt Power | Tom’s Hardware (tomshardware.com)

Adlink readies Pocket AI palm-sized portable Nvidia GPU for AI applications – NotebookCheck.net News

From the horse’s mouth

Adlink

Pocket AI | Portable GPU with NVIDIA RTX GPU (Product Page)

ADLINK launches portable GPU accelerator with NVIDIA RTX A500 in NVIDIA GTC (Press Release)

My Comments

Sonnet put up one of the first Thunderbolt-3-connected portable external graphics modules that you can put in your laptop bag or backpack and allow you to improve your laptop’s graphics performance when you are away from home or work. It doesn’t matter whether you are using an external monitor or the laptop’s own display to see the results. Subsequently a few other manufacturers offered similarly-portable external graphics modules that achieve this same goal in something that can be easily transported.

Dell XPS 13 8th Generation Ultrabook at QT Melbourne rooftop bar

The Dell XPS 13 series of ultraportable computers and other Thunderbolt-3-equipped laptops can benefit from external graphics modules

But a mixture of circumstances ranging from COVID with the associated supply-chain issues and the “Crypto Gold Rush” bubble had impacted on the availability and cost of graphics processors. This meant that it was hard to find a portable external graphics module that was in the price range for even the most serious creator or gamer.

Subsequently the supply chain issues started to ease up and the Crypto Gold Rush bubble had burst which led to more graphics-processor silicon being made available. Some manufacturers even made a point of positioning particular graphics silicon away from crypto mining through means like software crippling or creating auxiliary processor cards dedicated to that task. This has freed up the supply of graphics silicon for high-performance-computing tasks like gaming, creator / prosumer computing, certified workstations and artificial intelligence.

That led to Sonnet refreshing their portable external graphics module with newer AMD graphics silicon and offering it as two different units powered by different GPUs. That allowed for some form of product differentiation in this product class.

Now Adlink are promoting a pocketable external graphics module for use with Thunderbolt-3-equipped laptops and “next-unit-of-computing” computers. This integrated external graphics module which is powered by NVIDIA RTX silicon is being pitched at artificial-intelligence use cases but can come in to play for gamers, creators and the like.

The Pocket AI external graphics module uses a soldered-in NVIDIA RTX A500 mobile graphics processor with 4Gh display memory. The Tom’s Hardware article reckoned that this offered performance akin to an NVIDIA RTX-3050 mobile graphics processor offered for recent entry-level discrete-GPU laptops.

Rather than using a device-specific power supply, the Pocket AI uses a USB Power-Delivery-compliant power supply with at least 45 watts output. This means you could get away with a USB-PD charger that works from household AC mains power or from DC power used in automotive, marine or aircraft setups; or even a suitably-rated powerbank.

It then connects to the host computer using a Thunderbolt 3 or 4 connection, as expected for an external graphics module. But there doesn’t seem to be any external connections for other devices like monitors or other USB devices.

Here, you would benefit from the essential features offered by NVIDIA for its recent GeForce RTX graphics processors including RTX Broadcast which would benefit videocall and online broadcast use cases.

It is a pocketable unit, which you may say is equivalent to something like a pocket radio or early-generation pocket scientific calculator that is run on AA batteries. This leads to something that doesn’t take much room in a messenger style laptop bag, briefcase or backpack.

The Pocket AI external graphics module is being pitched towards artificial-intelligence and machine-learning use cases where a secondary processor is needed to facilitate these tasks.

But it is being pitched towards gamers with the commentary being towards adding a bit of “pep” towards the gaming experience on something like a Dell XPS 13. It is also said to come in to its own for work like graphics and multimedia, statistics or computer programming on those kind of computers.It is also about bringing NVIDIA RTX-specific features to your computer for use cases like video conferencing, video editing and similar uses and would easily court the “creator” or “prosumer” user class.

From what I see of the Adlink Pocket AI external graphics module, it could benefit from further connectivity options like DisplayPort or HDMI ports for external monitors. Or it could be about having a downstream Thunderbolt 3//4 port to allow it to be used with Thunderbolt 3 hubs or docks.

What this device is showing is a slow resurgence of reasonably priced discrete GPUs including external graphics modules that has come about after the crypto-asset bubble had burst. It may even allow computer manufacturers to invest in Thunderbolt 4 and related connection options on laptops, all-in-one computers and low-profile desktop computers for these devices; as well as to see a wide range of external graphics modules on the shelf.

It could be a chance for more manufacturers to offer highly-portable external graphics modules with entry-level or modest graphics silicon to court people who want that bit more out of their thin-and-light notebook computers.

Mutually-verified contacts as a security feature for messaging and social media

Most of us who have used Facebook have found ourselves seeing a friend request for someone who is already our Facebook Friend. This is a form of account compromise where someone creates a doppleganger of our account as a way to impersonate our online personality.

Such “clone” accounts of our online presence can be used as a way to facilitate a “man-in-the-middle” attack especially when dealing with an encrypted communication setup. It is an issue that is becoming more real with state-sponsored cybercrime where authoritarian states are hacking computer and communications equipment belonging to journalists, human-rights activists or a democracy’s government officials and contractors.

Mutually-verified contacts

In most implementations, each contact has a code that is generated by the messaging or social media platform as a human-readable or machine-readable form. The former approach would be a series of letters and numbers while the latter would be a barcode or QR code that you scan with your computing device’s camera.

In a lot of cases, this code changes if the user installs the social-media app on a new device or reinstalls it on the same device. The latter situation can occur if your phone is playing up and you have to reinstall all of your apps from scratch.

Users are encouraged to verify each other using this authentication code either in person or through another, preferably secure, means of communication. In-person verification may take place in the form of one user scanning the other user’s machine-readable code with their phone.

This allows each user of the platform to be sure they are communicating with the user they intend to communicate with and there isn’t anything that is between each party of the conversation. It is similar to a classic contact-authentication approach of asking someone a question that both you and the contact know the answer to mutually like a common fact or simply using a nickname for example.

The feature is part of Signal but is being baked in to Apple iMessage as part of iOS/iPadOS 16.3 and MacOS Ventura 13.1. But I see this as a feature that will become part of various instant-messaging, social media and similar products as the market demands more secure conversation.

Zoom also implements this as part of its end-to-end encryption feature for videoconferences. Here, users can verify that they are in a secure videoconference by comparing a number sequence read out by the meeting host after they click on a “shield” icon that appears during an encrypted videoconference. Here, this feature could come in to play with Signal and similar apps that are used for group conversations.

Relevance

Primarily this feature is being pitched towards users who stand to lose a lot, including their lives because they engage in “high-stakes” activities. Such users are government officials, public servants and military in democratic states, vendors who sell goods and services to government or military in these states, journalists and media workers in states that value a free press along with human-rights activists and NGSs.

Here, these users become highly vulnerable due to them being of interest to authoritarian states and organisations or individuals that aid and abet these states.  It is also being applied to countries that have undergone a significant amount of democratic backsliding or are considered to be socially unstable.

Personally, I see this as being important for everyday use so you can be sure that whom you want as part of your social-media or online messaging circle is whom you actually want. Here, it can avoid you dealing with scams based on others impersonating you or others in your social circle such as the “relative in distress” scam. As well, it can also be seen as a way to be sure you are linking with the right person when you add a new person to your social-media list.

Conclusion

I would see an increasing number of communications, social media and similar platforms acquiring the “mutual contact verification” function as a security feature. This would be more so where the platform supports end-to-end encryption in any way or there is a reliance on some form of personal safety or business confidentiality.

Amazon shows what the Project Kuiper customer satellite stations will look like

Article

Kuiper satellite customer terminals press picture courtesy of Amazon

What the customer terminals will look like for Amazon’s Kuiper LEO satellite system

Amazon’s Take on Starlink Targeting >$400 Dish for Homes (gizmodo.com)

From the horse’s mouth

Amazon

Here’s your first look at Project Kuiper’s low-cost customer terminals (aboutamazon.com)

What is Amazon’s Project Kuiper? 15 Questions Answered (aboutamazon.com)

My Comments

Amazon have presented the customer satellite terminals for their Project Kuiper low-earth-orbit satellite service that competes with Elon Musk’s Starlink service. Here, they are showing this hardware well before they had launched their prototype low-earth-orbit satellites as part of that platform, something that may be considered too presumptuous.

But rather than offering just one of these terminals that is expected to be an “all-rounder” for the initial offering, Amazon presented three different terminal designs. These terminals use a phased-array antenna approach that covers a flat plate rather than the dish that Starlink went with for their terminal, and this is considered cutting edge for Ka-Band satellite applications.

It is part of a mission statement to offer high-quality satellite broadband Internet for unserved and underserved communities in a manner that is above average.

The first is an affordable terminal designed for use by households and small businesses alike and is equipped with an 11” square antenna plate. This is expected to cost USD$400 and offers a throughput of 400Mbps. The second is a cheaper transportable unit that uses a 7” square antenna and can offer a throughput of 100Mbps. This would be pitched as a budget option or suit “set-up, use, tear-down” transportable operation or something fit for “Internet of Things” use.

They even offered a larger fixed unit with a 19” x 30” rectangular antenna that has a throughput of 1Gbps. This is pitched for use by large businesses, government or telecommunications companies who need to serve many end-users. I also see this unit appealing towards an Internet-access setup with a satellite terminal linked to  a fixed-wireline or fixed-wireless connection to households and businesses in a small settlement.

This may show that Amazon may want to offer the satellite Internet service based on the Project Kuiper platform as a wholesale broadband service that other ISPs can sell on a retail level.

All these devices use a phased-array antenna approach that Amazon worked on to improve Ka-band satellite performance along with silicon that Amazon had designed themselves. This is based on Amazon’s experience with hardware and services in the form of the Fire TV set-top boxes and sticks, the Echo smart speakers and displays powered by Alexa and the Eero distributed-Wi-Fi home network platform.

There are questions to be asked about these devices such as whether Amazon is offering all of them as modem-router devices that have a Wi-Fi or Ethernet LAN link or as modem devices designed to be connected to a broadband router that has an Ethernet WAN (Internet) connection. This question would come in to its own with people wanting to use advanced or business-grade routers, including using satellite Internet as a failover means with supported equipment.

As well, there are questions that will come about regarding support for mobile and ad-hoc portable use of Project Kuiper terminals. This includes equipment designed to be installed on a vehicle, vessel or aircraft, using a Project Kuiper service in a moving vehicle, vessel or aircraft or setting up a Project Kuiper terminal anywhere without needing to notify Amazon first. This hasn’t been addressed until a significant number of the satellites are launched and there is a strong customer base.

But what is great about this is that Amazon’s Kuiper satellite system is showing up the forces of competition by offering a varied lineup of customer-use satellite terminals with equipment at affordable prices. This is even before the first satellite has been launched.

Emiko is an example of how you can deal with online trolls

Article

Why Emiko is forgetting the trolls and passing on her love of food to her daughters instead – ABC Everyday

Previous coverage on HomeNetworking01.info

Constance Hall puts trolling and bullying in the TV spotlight on Dancing With The Stars

What can you do about people who use the Social Web to menace

Dealing with Internet trolls

How can social media keep itself socially sane?

My Comments

I had come across another personality who had to do battle with online bullies and trolls and she and her fan base turned it around for good.

Emiko Davies is a food writer of Japanese heritage who writes for newspaper lifestyle supplements as well as running an online presence about food. She has two daughters that are part of her food culture with one that has a large body frame.

There was an instance that she documented as part of an interview with Everyday, the ABC’s online lifestyle site. This was where Emiko’s large-bodied daughter was fat-shamed by online trolls, with Emiko being accused of not doing things right as a parent even though she is encouraging an enjoyment-of-food culture.

But, what I liked here was that an army of her online followers jumped in to defend Emiko, her daughters and her food culture. This took Emiko’s mind away from dealing with the perils of online life and led to most of these trolls deleting the comments they had posted.

It also led to Emiko changing her online-presence policy by limiting comment-writing privileges to followers and not sharing content about her children in the online space. Here she was able to rely on her followers as an army of defenders and to use the content-management tools and policies wisely to limit bad behaviour online.

But it also showed up an issue amongst the trolls as not having a healthy relationship with their food or bodies. This was drawing on an unhealthy culture where people who have a large body frame are frequently denigrated while their isn’t much positive content about these people, especially large-bodied children, engaging in joyful activities relating to food like cooking.

It is also driven by the diet culture and a vanity culture amongst women where the “hourglass figure” is considered the ideal look. As well, large-framed people aren’t really portrayed as significant heroes in popular fiction, especially juvenile fiction. There is a reality that some men and women who look large aren’t necessarily fat with this coming about because of ethnic origins or other factors or how one’s body shape changes over our lives.

Some of these accounts are showing up how a group of loyal followers for an online creator can act as their army especially when dealing with online bullying and harassment. It takes the heat off the online creator’s mind and allows them to continue to create good content. In some cases, it can also expose particular hurts that are taking place within our society.

What is happening with Bluetooth speakers

LG SoundPop 360 Bluetooth speakers press picture courtesy of LG

LG SoundPop 360 Bluetooth speakers
– an example of the popular Bluetooth speakers

A very popular accessory for smartphones, tablets and laptops is the Bluetooth speaker. These speakers connect to your mobile device via Bluetooth and work as an audio output device for it.

The typical design for most of these speakers is to be a highly portable battery-operated unit that can fill a small area with sound in a manner equivalent to the typical portable radio. These appear in many different sizes from something that fits in your palm to larger tube-shaped units that can be carried using a strap or shoved in your coat pocket. Add to this an increasing number of larger cube-shaped speakers that put out a bass rich sound.

Add to this larger mains-powered bookshelf active speakers that have Bluetooth audio functionality in them along with a variety of inputs like analogue line-level and phono inputs or USB, SP/DIF and HDMI digital-audio inputs. These are being pitched as a way to set up a stereo for an office or small apartment.

In a lot of cases especially with portable speakers, these have a built-in microphone so they can become a speakerphone for your mobile device, something that can come in handy for conference calling including Zoom calls. But some Bluetooth speakers like the B&O Beosound A1 2nd Generation speaker even have this function set up so they work with your smartphone or tablet as a voice-activated smart speaker.

T

Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 Bluetooth smart speaker press image courtesy of Bang & Olufsen

Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 2nd Generation Bluetooth smart speaker that works with a smartphone or similar devicce to benefit from Amazon Alexa

hese exist in a universe of Bluetooth audio endpoints like audio adaptors that work between a line-level audio connection and Bluetooth Classic audio as either a transmitter or receiver. This is in addition to home audio equipment receiving Bluetooth audio as an input and/or transmitting content available to it as a Bluetooth audio stream.

An example of this is in the form of portable and mantel radios that work as Bluetooth speakers. This device class has capitalised on the interest over the last 15 years in premium radios thanks to the likes of Bose and Tivoli offering radios that look and perform “above average”; the nostalgia for vintage-styled radios, along with broadcast radio being delivered via digital-broadcast technology or Internet technology and yielding programming exclusive to those technologies.

It includes companies offering audio source devices like turntables or CD players that stream to Bluetooth speakers. This is because the Bluetooth audio specifications are in fact “application-level” specifications that have been pre-determined for a long time, so there as surety that their source devices can work with any Bluetooth audio endpoint device. Here, it could allow someone to create an elementary sound system around that device and a pair of Bluetooth speakers.

Some of these speakers come with other features like LED-driven “party lights” or very large batteries that work as powerbanks for charging mobile devices. As well, a lot of larger portable Bluetooth speakers make use of passive radiators as a way to increase their bass response while others rely on an app-driven approach to allow you to adjust their sound quality from your smartphone.

Multi-speaker operation

But, thanks to Bluetooth 5, there has been an interest in multi-speaker Bluetooth audio approaches. This comes in the form of two operating modes:

Party Mode: Multiple speakers play the same programme content from the same source device with speakers that are stereo-designed playing the content in stereo across the speakers in that same box. This is to provide more sound coverage, typically for entertaining people at a party. Most such setups can handle a relatively large number of speakers due to latency not being considered important for this use case.

Stereo Mode: A pair of like speakers are set up so that one plays the left channel of a stereo programme source from one source device while the other plays the right channel of that same source. This is to improve the channel separation for the stereo content.

Typically manufacturers are limiting this functionality to a subset of their Bluetooth-speaker product range, more so the products in the “value” and “premium” market positionings.

These operating modes may work in one of two arrangements;

Source-to-speakers / hub-and-spoke: The source device streams the audio content to the speakers at once. This is typically implemented for stereo-mode operation so as to reduce latency by making sure the data gets to each speaker without any middleman device processing it.

Speaker-to-speaker / daisy-chain: The source device streams the audio content to one speaker which passes it on to other speakers down the line. This appeals to party-mode operation so as to permit large numbers of speakers to be in the setup. It may allow speakers to introduce some latency but this isn’t an issue for party-mode operation due to the goal of covering a large area with sound.

What to watch

Bluetooth LE Audio and its impact on Bluetooth speakers

Bluetooth LE Audio has been cemented in stone as the next-generation Bluetooth multimedia audio standard and is expected to provide a raft of improvements for this device class.

This implements the Bluetooth LC3 audio codec which is about efficient audio data transfer and even improve sound quality, operational stability and battery runtime. Here it also allows mobile-technology designers to avoid reinventing the wheel for audio-codec improvements when it comes to baseline audio performance for Bluetooth audio.

For portable Bluetooth speakers, this could be about allowing you to move around more freely with your mobile device without fear of losing the music as well as being able to run for a long time before needing to be charged up. As well, there will be the ability for these speakers and similar devices to cope with congested 2.4GHx wireless environments like in a city centre because of the robustness that the LC3 audio codec will offer.

This could impact how they are designed such as to have portable speakers that are lighter because of not needing to design around large battery packs. There will also be the chance to design higher-quality portable Bluetooth speakers that take advantage of higher quality sound that the new codec offers. Multi-speaker setups, especially based on Auracast, could be benefitting if the setup permits meshed or daisy-chained operation because of reduced latency in such setups and less impact on battery runtime for the actual sound reproduction.

Auracast broadcast audio will come in to its own with Bluetooth speakers that implement the Bluetooth LE Audio standard. Firstly, this could be about multiple-speaker party-mode operation without a requirement to use particular speakers from the same manufacturer. It may even allow the use of multichannel setups within the same Auracast multi-speaker setup rather than having “party mode” or “stereo mode” being mutually exclusive. Here, you would be using “audio sharing” on your phone, tablet or laptop to facilitate this mode with the device being enabled for Bluetooth LE Audio and Auracast.

As well, Auracast-based broadcast audio and Bluetooth speakers can be a perfect partner here. For example, a small Bluetooth speaker used in this context could be about close listening to an alternative soundtrack for video or other content or following an event going on in a nieghbouring area from another small room where you might be engaging in activity relating to that event.

Similarly, Auracast with Bluetooth speakers could be a logical follow-on to FM radio where listenership using BYO audio devices is desired for an event hosted in an area with a small footprint.

Previously, radio broadcasters were often collaborating with event organisers to broadcast the musical soundtrack to a large public event like a fireworks display, street parade or motorcade. Then you would have to bring a portable radio to that event and tune in to that station to follow the soundtrack using that radio to get the best value from that event. This approach may be seen as irrelevant for a radio station with a large broadcast area like a major city’s metropolitan area unless the event has a large footprint that takes in more of that broadcast area such as a fireworks display encompassing a waterway that passes through the city.

Similarly, there were the drive-in cinemas where you tuned your car radio to a particular frequency to hear the film’s soundtrack. Here, this was limited to what the FM band was about and issues like destructive multipath that could ruin your listening experience.

Here, Auracast could lead towards a license-free wireless audio distribution approach centred around Bluetooth speakers that implement Bluetooth LE Audio technology. It would also be about increased flexibility within the setup like multichannel speaker clusters (think stereo pairs or speakers plus subwoofer setups).

The Bluetooth LE Audio specification will also impact multiple-input operation for Bluetooth speakers. This could be about seamless multipoint operation when you want to use a speaker with a smartphone and laptop or allowing your party guests to contribute to the music at your party using their devices. It could also be about party speakers that work with Bluetooth LE Audio microphones for karaoke and PA usage.

How Bluetooth LE Audio will come in to play for devices like Bluetooth headsets and speakers is the availability of dual-mode system-on-chip circuitry for this class of device. This will allow devices to work in a Bluetooth LE Audio or Bluetooth Classic Audio mode depending on what Bluetooth device they are working with, so as to assure maximum compatibility.

What could be done

There could be an emphasis towards optimising for and promoting mesh operation within multiple-speaker setups. Here, it can be used to make these setups more robust including allowing you to position your smartphone or other source device near any of the member speakers to assure audio continuity.

Multi-speaker setups could also be about bass improvement such as to add a subwoofer in to a party-mode or stereo-mode setup to pump up the bass. This also includes use of speakers that implement separately-amplified bass drivers being capable of working as part of these setups, especially “stereo-mode” setups.

There could be less reliance on “app-cessory” operation for common advanced functionality like tone control or lighting control. This could be facilitated with application-level functionality in Bluetooth LE Audio for these functions and avoid the need to create buggy apps for mobile and desktop platforms.

Manufacturers could look towards offering a variant of their Bluetooth speaker designs that has a broadcast-band radio tuner built in. Here, if you had already bought a particular speaker and then know there is one of the same design as what you already bought but has the radio functionality as well, you could justify buying the one with the radio so you can have a pair of speakers for party-mode or stereo-mode operation. It could also incentivise the manufacturer to design the speakers to work in multi-speaker mode for radio broadcasts as well as your phone’s audio.

It could extend to Bluetooth speakers that have line-input connections being able to stream the device connected to that input across a multi-speaker setup. This would extend the utility of that connection for multi-channel setups or party-mode setups.

Other complementary standards could be worked on to bring more utility out of the Bluetooth speaker class. For example, the HDMI-ARC standard could be worked on in a manner to support delivery of multiple soundtracks for the same video content. Here, this could incentivise the development of soundbars and AV receivers that allow streaming of different soundtracks to Bluetooth audio endpoints associated with the same device. That could allow a viewer to hear an alternate-language or audio-described soundtrack for video content using a Bluetooth headset or speaker paired to the soundbar or AV receiver while others hear the main soundtrack for that same content through that soundbar.

What I see that will affect Bluetooth speakers is the next few model cycles is to have Bluetooth LE Audio support as a heavily-marketed feature that will improve how they operate in many ways. It is something that I would see drip through a manufacturer’s Bluetooth audio product range.

Apple to support security keys as a means to protect your Apple ID

Articles

You can use security keys as a second factor for authenticating with Apple ID on your iPhone

iOS 16.3 Lets You Use a Physical Key for Added Security When Logging Into Your Apple Account (gizmodo.com.au)

Apple iOS 16.3 arrives with support for hardware security keys (bleepingcomputer.com)

Security Keys Are Now the Best Way to Protect Your Apple ID (lifehacker.com.au)

From the horse’s mouth

Apple

Apple advances user security with powerful new data protections (Press Release)

About Security Keys for Apple ID (Support article)

Use security keys to sign in to your Apple ID account on iPhone (Support article)

My Comments

Apple is making it feasible to use hardware security keys in iOS as an authentication factor for their Apple ID logon.

This is being desired as a “phish-proof” approach for secondary authentication or sole authentication due to a physical device not being easily coerced or fooled. As well, this “machine-to-machine” approach allows for stronger passkeys.

It is even seen as a preferred secondary authentication factor for online services used by journalists, human-rights defenders, the public service within democracies and others working with high-stakes information. This avoids such users being fooled in to releasing their online accounts to highly-targeted spear-phishing attacks.

Apple supports this on iPhones and iPads through the iOS/iPadOS 16.3 major feature update. This is also being written in to MacOS Ventura 13.2 for the Apple Mac regular computers whereupon you just use the security key as the secondary authentication factor. They primarily implement this as an alternative secondary authentication means to transcribing a six-digit number shown on your iPhone when it comes to two-factor authentication for your Apple ID.

In the context of the Apple Watch, Apple TV and HomePod devices, you use your iPhone that you set up with the security key authentication to provide the secondary authentication factor when you set these up for your Apple ID. Here, this is easier for limited-interface devices because another device is managing some of the authentication work with your Apple ID.

FIDO-compliant hardware security keys are supported with this update but they have to have an MFi Lightning plug or NFC “touch and go” interface to work with the current crop of iPhones in circulation. USB-C is also supported but you would need a USB-C to MFi Lightning adaptor for iOS devices except newer iPads that have this connector. You also may find that newer iPhones that are to come on the market soon will have the USB-C connector due to pressure from the European Union and some other jurisdictions.

There will be a requirement to set up two hardware keys with the same iOS device when you implement this feature. This is so you have a backup key in case the one you lose the one you regularly use or that one is damaged such as being laundered with your clothes.

Add to this that support does exist for app-level or Website-level verification with security keys within iOS. But it may allow Apple to build in and refine the necessary application-programming interfaces for third-party app developers who want to support this form of authentication.

What I see at least is the implementation of hardware security keys in the mobile platform context when it comes to multi-factor or password-free authentication for the user’s primary platform account. Who knows when Google will offer this feature for Android. Could this also be about leading towards the use of hardware security keys as a hardening factor for user account security?

Big Tech works with the Linux Foundation to compete with Google Maps for geospatial information

Articles

OpenStreetMap seen as a viable alternative to Google Maps

Big Tech Companies Join Linux in Effort to Kill Google Maps (gizmodo.com)

There could finally be a solid Google Maps alternative on Android – SamMobile

From the horse’s mouth

Linux Foundation Project

Overture Maps Foundation – Linux Foundation Project

My Comments

Major tech firms like Microsoft, Meta (Facebook, Instagram), TomTom, Amazon Web Services and the Linux Foundation to build an open-source mapping and geolocation project to compete with Google Maps. It is to complement OpenStreetMap as a major competing navigation and geospatial data pool.

As well, they are pulling in data from public sources like government urban-planning departments to create the “shape” of cities and towns. Here, this allows for factoring in new property developments that are given the green light along with government-planned urban-renewal and similar projects. It could also encompass government roads departments who are laying down new roads or upgrading existing roads for new needs.

The idea is to support true interoperability when it comes to information about places and areas. Here, it is about using data from a plurality of data sources which leads to better data quality and richer data.

An issue that I would see coming about is whether the Overture Maps Foundation project and OpenStreetMap will present this effort as a consumer-facing mobile platform app or desktop program pitched for general use like HEREWeGo Maps. Or whether it could be focused towards various third-party Websites and software that exploits this data such as e-government, vehicle-dispatch, hotel-booking or similar use cases.

But one area this could affect is your vehicle’s integrated GPS sat-nav feature, especially if a vehicle is intended to be positioned for the so-called “value-price” market. The combination of the Overture Project and OpenStreetMap could be about providing a line-fit sat-nav setup at a price that is affordable to the manufacturer. It could also be about automotive infotainment equipment sold as an aftermarket add-on that has sat-nav functionality where such equipment is to be sold at a price affordable for most people.

Similarly, there will be issues like assuring support for and access to real-time data such as weather, traffic and transit, or emergency-situation information. This could be facilitated through open-frame database APIs associated with weather services and the like who maintain this kind of data, something that could be pushed by the public service achieving the “open source” attitude.

When use of multiple public accounts isn’t appropriate

Article

Facebook login page

There are times where use of public accounts isn’t appropriate

The murky world of politicians’ covert social media accounts (sbs.com.au)

My Comments

Just lately there have questions raised about how Australian politicians and their staff members were operating multiple online personas to disparage opponents, push political ideologies or “blow their own trumpet”.

It is being raised in connection with legislative reforms that the Australian Federal Government are working on to place the onus of responsibility regarding online defamation on whoever is posting the defamatory material in a comments trail on an online service. This is different to the status quo of having whoever is setting up or managing an online presence like a Website or Facebook Page being liable for defamation.

Here, it is in the context of what is to be expected for proper political communication including any “government-to-citizen” messaging. This is to make sure we can maintain trust in our government and that all political messaging is accurate and authentic in the day and age of fake news and disinformation.

I see this also being extended to business communication, including media/marketing/PR and non-profit advocacy organisations who have a high public profile. Here, it is to assure that any messaging by these entities is authentic so that people can build trust in them.

An example of a public-facing online persona – the Facebook page of Dan Andrews, the current Premier of Victoria

What I refer to as an “online persona” are email, instant-messaging and other communications-service accounts; Web pages and blogs; and presences on various part of the Social Web that are maintained by a person or organisation. It is feasible for a person or organisation to maintain a multiplicity of online personas like multiple email accounts or social-media pages that are used to keep public and private messaging separate, whether that’s at the business or personal level.

The normal practice for public figures at least is to create a public online persona and one or two private online personas such as an intra-office persona for colleagues and a personal one for family and friends. This is a safety measure to keep public-facing communications separate from business and personal communications.

Organisations may simply create particular online personas for certain offices with these being managed by particular staff members. In this case, they do this so that communications with a particular office stay the same even as office-holders change. As well, there is the idea of keeping “business-private” material separate from public-facing material.

In this case, the online personas reference the same entity by name at least. This is to assure some form of transparency about who is operating that persona. Other issues that come in to play here include which computing devices are being used to drive particular online personas.

This is more so for workplaces and businesses that own computing and communications hardware and have staff communicate on those company-owned devices for official business. But staff members use devices they bought themselves to operate non-official online personas. This is although more entities are moving towards “BYOD” practices where staff members use their own devices for official work use and there are systems in place to assure secure confidential work from staffer-owned devices.

But there is concern about some Australian politicians creating multiple public-facing personas in order to push various ideologies. Here, these personas are operated in an opaque manner in order to create multiple discrete persons. This technique, when used to appear as though many vouch for a belief or ideology, is referred to under terms like sockpuppetry or astroturfing.

This issue is being raised in the context of government-citizen communication in the online era. But it can also be related to individuals, businesses, trade unions or other organisations who are using opaque means to convey a sense of “popular support” for the same or similar messages.

What I see as being appropriate with establishing multiple online personas is that there is some form of transparency about which person or organisation is managing the different online personas. That includes where there are multiple “child” online personas like Websites operated by a “parent” online persona like an organisation. This practice comes in to being where online personas like email addresses and microsites (small Websites with specific domain names) are created for a particular campaign but aren’t torn down after that campaign.

As well, it includes what online personas are used for what kind of communications. This includes what is written on that “blue-ticked” social-media page or the online addresses that are written on business cards or literature you had out to the public.

Such public-communications mandates will also be required under election-oversight or fair-trading legislation so people know who is behind the messaging and these are important if it is issues-based rather than candidate-based. If an individual is pushing a particular message under their own name, they will have to state whether an entity is paying or encouraging them to advance the message.

This is due to most of us becoming conscious of online messaging from questionable sources. It is thanks to the popular concern about fake news and disinformation and its impact on elections since 2016 thanks to the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s presidential victory in the USA. It is also due to the rise of the online influencer culture where brands end up using big-time and small-time celebrities and influencers to push their products, services and messages online.

Wi-Fi Sensing is now given some real use cases

Article

Monitoring of breathing irregularities

An algorithm can use WiFi signal changes to help identify breathing issues | Engadget

In-vehicle presence detection

From the horse’s mouth

Wi-Fi Alliance

Lisbon demonstration showcases how Wi-Fi Sensing can assist in a critical scenario | Wi-Fi Alliance

My Comments

The Wi-Fi Alliance is extending the Wi-Fi network technology beyond a local data network technology towards a presence and movement sensing technology.

This can exploit newer Wi-Fi technologies like Wi-Fi 5 onwards which implement MIMO multiple-RF-frontend technologies; or the increasingly-common multiple-access-point Wi-Fi networks. Here, it is about sensing disturbance in electromagnetic wave patterns that are the basis of radio technology whenever people or things move about.

A viable use case that has been demonstrated is a “child presence detection” setup for motor vehicles. Here, this detects the presence of a baby, small child or dog within a motor vehicle’s interior and alerts the driver to the child’s or animal’s presence. This is to avoid incidents like the toddler who was “forgotten” in a childcare facility’s minibus where the child was at risk of overheating for example due to it being asleep and out of sight in the vehicle.

This approach doesn’t just sense the presence of the child in a closed vehicle but also monitors biometric signs like breathing so it is a live person or animal. As well, it is based around two Wi-Fi access points within the vehicle – one on the driver’s side of the dashboard and one under the front passenger seat to create the sensing envelope. This is typical for most passenger cars with the front seat row and the back seat row but could be reworked for larger vehicles like station wagons or minibuses.

Once proven in a real world situation, this use case could be about a feature that is mandated by motor-vehicle safety standards bodies as part of a vehicle’s safety rating or as a mandatory feature for vehicles to have before they are on the market.

It is also being seen as a technology to identify whether someone in the house has breathing issues along with simple use cases like presence and motion sensing within the house for energy efficiency, security and convenience functionality in the smart home. I would also see it as a boon towards independent ageing at home by detecting falls for example.

What is happening is that Wi-Fi technology will come in to play for more than just a backbone for a home network. Here, it would be about safety or in-home healthcare that assures some form of independence. This is while it can still serve that role of a data network backbone.