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Categories Consumer technology |

This week, the big tech companies have agreed to cooperate on a standard for smart home devices, the New York Times investigation into smartphone tracking, and InspiroBot’s attempts to make us feel better in these strange times. But first, a look at the predictions made by Deloitte tech analysts about what’s to come.

Deloitte’s annual tech predictions for 2020

It’s a new year, so time for Deloitte’s annual list of things that may be happening in the worlds of tech and media. The report that details the Canadian impact was co-authored by Duncan Stewart, who head’s up the research for Deloitte Canada’s technology and media department.

Among the ideas:

  • More low-Earth orbit satellites by companies looking to provide broadband connections.
  • Computer chips that can enable our devices to do the same kind of AI processing that is currently done on remote servers.
  • More testing of 5G networks.
  • Opportunity for ad-supported video networks as tolerance for advertising shifts.
  • More people riding bikes, in part because of safer routes and the advent of electric bikes.
  • Sales of smartphone apps and accessories will continue to soar, and by 2023 will be bigger than the market for smartphones themselves.
  • Service robots become more popular.
  • Podcasting market will increase globally by 30 percent.

Tech companies cooperate on connection standard for smart homes

Project Connected Home over IP is an initiative that wants to make smart homes easier to configure by getting all of the tech players together to talk about compatibility.

Amazon, Apple, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance (which includes IKEA, Samsung, and others) are all part of the working group, and have agreed that IP, or internet protocol, will be the language to be spoken by devices in the future.

All existing smart home products will be supported, but this approach means that future products will work with whatever you may have in your home.

Your location is available and being shared without you even realizing

An article published in the New York Times in mid December revealed that companies are using the location data of smartphones with little to no oversight.

There are three things that compose the rationale for collecting location data:

  • People have agreed to share the information
  • Data is anonymous
  • Data is secure

“None of those claims hold up,” write reporters Stuart Thompson and Charlie Warzel, “based on the file we’ve obtained and our review of company practices.”

The implications are profound. Read the full article to learn how Thompson and Warzel were able to identify specific people and learn incredible things about them just from the way their dots appear on a map.

The piece was part of the Times’ Privacy Project, a “project to explore technology and where it’s taking us.”

Feel better about yourself and the world with these meaningful quotes

“If you are not constantly talking about the irony you might just be a liar.”

These words of wisdom came to me courtesy of InspiroBot. The online project has a bot generating quotes that are designed to mimic those you find splattered all over Facebook and Twitter.

Complete with images that are often entirely incongruous. The quote above, for example, was presented in a faux handwriting script superimposed over an image of a night sky showing the Milky Way.

Here’s another one InspiroBot made for me:

Inspiring, right? The bloody hands are very fitting, I think.

You can get your favourite InspiroBot inspirational meme printed on a t-shirt, poster, or mug!

See some of the best, archived at Reddit.

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Categories Consumer technology |

This week, a bunch of apps to load on your iPhone to start the year, why you’ve been getting all the notices about updated privacy changes, and the amazing work being done by journalist Jane Lytvynenko to identify and call out disinformation on social media. But first, a look at the early announcements coming out of CES 2020.

Concept cars take centre stage at CES 2020

Usually the Consumer Electronics Show is an excuse to talk about TVs, but some of the coolest things on display in the early days of this year’s event are the cars.

Nobody knew that Sony was working on an electric vehicle until the company drove the Vision-S prototype onto the stage at its media event on Monday.

It’s designed with driver assists, a cabin that will respond to what the passengers are doing, and an operating system that can be updated on the fly.

Then there’s the Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR, designed in partnership with James Cameron and inspired by Avatar.

The car looks like one of the creatures from Cameron’s Pandora. It has no steering wheel or dashboard and the wheels are designed to move forwards, sideways, or diagonally. It’s an experiment not just of propulsion but of the interface we have with vehicles.

Toyota, meanwhile, is set to begin construction on the Woven City in Japan, a community that will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells and will be a place the company can test its products and technologies.

20 apps for 2020

Just in time for the new year, the App Store – where consumers spent $1.42 billion between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day – has curated a list of twenty apps that they think people should try this year.

  1. 1 Second Everyday: With this app you capture one second of video every day. At the end of the year it pulls things together as a 365 second video (366 this year because it’s a Leap Year) of memories. Available free on the App Store.
  2. 30 Day Fitness Challenge: Create a personalized, month-long plan for any fitness goal. Available free on the App Store.
  3. Yousician: Helps you learn to play just about any instrument. Available free on the App Store.
  4. Photo Scanner Plus: Digitize your photo prints easily with this app, which can convert multiple photos in a single screen shot. Available free on the App Store.
  5. Day One Journal: An easy to use daily diary. Available free on the App Store.
  6. Nike Training Club: Nike gives you access to professional trainers, personal plans, and short workouts you can easily do at home. Available free on the App Store.
  7. Calm: Breathing exercises and guided meditations to soothe you. Available free on the App Store.
  8. Relax Melodies (made in Canada): Custom soundscapes, soothing bedtime stories and gentle exercises. Available free on the App Store.
  9. LinkedIn Learning: Short video tutorials about nearly everything. Available free on the App Store.
  10. Plenty of Fish (made in Canada): Help to find that special someone. Available free on the App Store.
  11. Ulyss: Help in planning that holiday you need. Available free on the App Store.
  12. 1Password (made in Canada): The best password app you can get. Available free on the App Store.
  13. Minimalist: A simple to-do list app that helps you prioritize tasks and set reminders. Available free on the App Store.
  14. Duolingo: Learn a new language. Available free on the App Store.
  15. Seven – 7 Minute Workout: Seven minutes at a time can get you to your fitness goal. Available free on the App Store.
  16. Buddy – Easy Budgeting: Take control of your finances. Available free on the App Store.
  17. Tayasui Sketches: Sketching on the go. Available free on the App Store.
  18. Mealime (made in Canada): Recipes, step-by-step instructions, and an integrated shopping list. Available free on the App Store.
  19. Strava: Track and exceed your personal bests. Available free on the App Store.
  20. Transit (made in Canada): Get around by bus, train, bike, or ride-share with this one app. Available free on the App Store.

California’s new consumer privacy law is why you’re getting so many emails right now

Two years ago it was the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that resulted in your inbox filling up.

If you’ve been wondering why it seems to be happening again, you can blame California.

The California Consumer Privacy Act was enacted in 2018 but took effect on January 1.

And even though you may not (probably don’t) live in California, all companies and organizations that “buys, receives, or sells the personal information of 50,000 or more consumers, households, or devices” in the state are expected to comply.

The rights granted to California residents are also, therefore, granted to all of us. These include:

  • The right to know what information is being collected
  • The right to delete personal information
  • The right to opt-out of the sale of that information
  • The right to non-discrimination when exercising a privacy right

Facebook apparently doesn’t think it is affected, according to the Wall Street Journal, claiming that user data that is collected and shared isn’t “sold”.

I smell a court battle.

BuzzFeed journalist specializes in disinformation

Signal boosting the work of Jane Lytvynenko, who is an expert at detecting and dispelling fake news.

Yesterday, as Iran targeted U.S. troops based in Iraq with missiles, Lytvynenko started tracking Twitter accounts that were spreading false or misleading information, including images of missile launches from years ago that were being passed off as current.

In her thread, she calls out mainstream media sources that were using old images without clarifying context, as well as a host of accounts, many anonymous, that were sharing videos that were not of the attack.

And then some in the U.S. started getting text messages informing them they’d been drafted by the military. The messages are fake.

Lytvynenko and colleague Craig Silverman created an article tracking the disinformation being spread.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, the new Xbox console coming in the fall of 2020 has a name, Halo: Reach has been added to the Master Chief Collection, and the Game Awards entrenches video games as culture. But first, news of a data breach of health information of Canadians and how hackers are harassing Ring camera owners.

LifeLabs paid ransom to hackers in data breach affecting up to 15 million Canadians

In late October, hackers accessed a database for LifeLabs, a Canadian provider of medical testing services.

Customer information including names, addresses, email addresses, logins, passwords, dates of birth, health card numbers, and lab test results were all vulnerable.

The company, which is based in B.C., revealed this week that it paid a ransom. President and CEO Charles Brown phrased it a different way, writing in a letter to customers that LifeLabs took several measures to protect our customer information, including retrieving the data by making a payment..

Of course, just because a ransom was paid does nothing. That data could have – probably was – copied.

LifeLabs is offering a year of free protection to any customer concerned about the breach.

Ring Cameras prove vulnerable to hackers who are watching owners and harassing them

Motherboard reported this month about a podcast that plays recordings and livestreams of hackers accessing Ring cameras and interacting with owners.

It’s adolescent prank call culture amped up by technology and a lack of empathy.

Ring, which is owned by Amazon and sells home security products including video cameras and camera-enabled doorbells, has claimed that the reason hackers have been able to access people’s devices is because they were using usernames and passwords for their Ring accounts that had been used elsewhere and exposed.

In other words, users are responsible for the problem.

While it’s true that you should have unique passwords for your various accounts, and you should enable two-factor authentication at all times, putting the burden of security entirely on the user is not good business practice.

And in a follow-up to his story about the NulledCast podcast, Motherboard’s Joseph Cox discovered that there’s lots more that Ring could do to protect user accounts. Ring’s security is “awful” he wrote.

The Game Awards 2019 celebrates video game culture

With an opening performance of Death Stranding, their song for the video game by Chvrches, the Game Awards 2019 established itself as a premiere event, with performances by Green Day and Grimes and appearances by actor Lindsey Wagner and Golden State Warrior and NBA MVP Steph Curry.

The event has always been a celebration of video games, featuring premieres of new games, appearances by prominent figures in the industry, as well as recognition of popular and successful games.

Among the winners were:

  • Game of the Year and Best Action/Adventure Game: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, developed by From Software and published by Activision
  • Best Action Game: Devil May Cry 5, developed and published by Capcom
  • Best Family Game: Luigi’s Mansion 3, developed by Vancouver’s Next Level Games and published by Nintendo
  • Game Direction: Death Stranding, developed by Kojima Productions and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment

One of the surprises was the world premiere of Ninja Theory’s next game, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II. It’s a sequel to the sleeper hit of 2017 – Hellblade – Senua’s Sacrifice – that so impressed Xbox’s Phil Spencer that he made arrangements to acquire the studio.

The protagonist of these games, the titular Senua, suffers from psychosis, and the developers at Ninja Theory took great care in creating an experience that simulates what that might be like by conducting research with scientists and people afflicted with mental illness.

The next Microsoft game console is the Xbox Series X

During the Game Awards, Xbox head Phil Spencer revealed the name of what’s previously been known only as Project Scarlet.

The new console from Microsoft, to be released next holiday season, is called Xbox Series X. The design of the new console was also unveiled. It looks like a small computer tower. It’s solid black with a small Xbox logo, and can be placed horizontally or vertically.

Pricing and a specific release date haven’t been announced, and the final specs haven’t been revealed, but Spencer promises that the Series X will provide 4K video at 60 frames per second, and will be capable of delivering 8K video.

It will also be backwards compatible, allowing owners to play Xbox One games.

And Halo Infinite is expected to be a launch title.

Halo Reach has been added to the Master Chief Collection

Speaking of Halo, the Master Chief Collection includes nearly all of the first-person shooter games in the Halo franchise, including the game that started it all, Halo 2, Halo 3, ODST, Halo 4, and now also includes Halo: Reach, which has been updated with 4K visuals.

That game details the events the precede the first game, Halo: Combat Evolved, and was the final Halo game developed by Bungie.

If you really want a good deal, consider an Xbox Game Pass subscription, which gives you access to over 100 games on your Xbox or Windows computer for CAN$12 a month.

An Ultimate subscription costs $200 a year, but includes your Xbox Live Gold subscription (itself $12 a month) and gives you access to games on both console and computer.

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