As we move into the holiday season, you may be too focused on the biggest buying (and marketing) time of year to stay on top of technology news. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered.
Here are the main tech news stories that should be on your radar moving into November.
Walmart Starts Using Robots for Inventory
The fear of robots taking jobs from people is nothing new, but now and then it rears its head anew. This past month, Walmart announced plans to begin using robots that roll through the aisles to perform tasks like scanning the shelves for items that are out of stock or mislabeled.
Walmart has assured worried employees that the robots won’t be replacing humans – they claim they’re just to make human jobs more efficient. But if there’s less to do, it just makes sense that fewer people will be needed. This is only one small move in the direction of human work being handed over to robots, but it is a move in that direction nonetheless.
Sophia the Robot Gains Citizenship
Robots aren’t just taking jobs; they’re also gaining citizenship. Late last month the robot Sophia was granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia.
The announcement predictably prompted criticism, but not just about the idea of AI citizenship in general – people were particularly critical that the move came from a country that still places serious limits on the freedom allotted to women citizens and doesn’t even allow non-Muslims living in the country to become citizens. Handing over more rights to a robot than it provides to a number of humans in the country definitely got the country headlines, but maybe not the kind of attention officials were hoping for.
Amazon Key Incites Strong Reactions
Amazon is in the news for something just about every month, but rarely do they make an announcement that gets the kind of negative (although often comical) reaction that Amazon Key inspired. Amazon Key is meant to be a way for people concerned about package theft to know their packages will make it into their home safe and sound, even when they’re out. It’s a system that allows the deliveryman to unlock the door and set the package inside while on video so both Amazon and the recipient can see if they try anything else.
The system is only available to Amazon Prime members and costs $250, but based on the early response, few people seem to see much value in the option. Responses in both media and on social media are much more focused on the risks of such a service, specifically the loss of privacy and fear of robbery, which far outweigh the benefit of avoiding stolen packages in most people’s eyes.
One of the stories that followed the election last fall was the realization that companies backed by the Russian government had paid for a large number of ads on some of the main tech advertising platforms, including Google and Facebook.
In response, Facebook last month delivered thousands of ads to a congressional investigators looking into Russian interference in the election. Twitter responded by banning two Russian media companies from advertising on the platform. Even as the tech companies take these steps, a bipartisan group of senators are working to pass legislation that would reduce the ability of foreign powers to use similar methods for election meddling in the future.
ForeScout Technologies and ZScaler File for IPO
Two of the biggest tech IPOs of the last month were focused on the same area: security. Zcaler provides cloud security to big companies worried about data breaches, while ForeScout is an Internet of Things security company that helps businesses monitor the many devices connected to their networks for possible intrusions. With the Equifax breach still fresh in everyone’s minds, both companies provide solutions for one of the biggest tech problems of our era.
MongoDB Goes Public
The software development company went public to an enthusiastic response from investors. Based on early interest, the company increased the price of shares from the originally planned $22 to $24 right before launching and still saw a 34% increase in its first day. This looks like one more tech success story in the stock market this year.
First Reviews in for Google’s Pixel Phones
Google released its Pixel phones early last month to much fanfare, followed by a wave of criticism. While the phone gets points from users for having a long battery life and a great camera, the Pixel 2 in particular is plagued with serious display issues. The colors don’t show up right and users report dealing with screen burn-in. In addition, the phone has earned complaints about its audio recording capabilities.
This is one product area where Google clearly needs to do some work.
Smart Light Switches May Disrupt Smart Light Market
One of the easiest changes people interested in smart home technology can make is the switch to smart lights. So far though, that’s meant buying all new light bulbs along with a system to control them (usually from Hue).
The startup Noon Home is selling a system that saves you the trouble of having to replace your light bulbs to use the technology – it will control those you already have, enabling you to choose different light settings and manage them all from your phone as you would with any other smart light.
Web Summit Meets in Lisbon
Over 60,000 attendees from all over the world will show up for what Inc. calls “the largest tech conference in the world.” Web Summit meets from November 6-9 and boasts speakers from huge tech players like Slack and Reddit and those in high-up government positions from various countries alike. Topics will cover emerging technologies, the intersection of tech and politics, using tech for social good and more.
As with every month, November’s sure to bring its share of surprises in tech news. We’ll be keeping an eye out in order to report them in next month’s post, so be sure to check back for December’s top tech trends.
The tech world moves fast. To help small business owners like you keep up with the most important news in tech, we’re starting a monthly roundup of the tech stories that people are talking about the most.
Here’s a roundup of the top tech news of January 2017.
New Products and Updates Introduced at CES
The International Consumer Technology Associate Conference (CES) met from January 5 to January 8 and gave many of the world’s tech companies a chance to show off new products, updated versions of familiar products, and exciting advancements they’re working on for the future.
Conference attendees witnessed a ton of new gadgets, too many to talk about here, but there were a few main highlights that got a lot of attention. Drone cameras that can capture pictures of your travels for you, robots for home use, and cars of the future (including several looks at self-driving cars) all made an appearance. All in all, CES gave people a glimpse of a pretty cool possible future.
The Country’s Biggest Corporations Commit to AI
While large companies conducting AI research isn’t in itself a shocking development, some big players in the tech space did make some significant moves signaling their commitment to developing artificial intelligence.
Earlier this month, Microsoft acquired a Toronto startup called Maluuba, a company that focuses on AI research, specifically on natural language processing. Their AI system has reached the point of being able to comprehend writing at a level comparable to humans – a big step forward in AI research.
Just last week, Apple moved to join the Partnership on AI, a group devoted to instituting best practices in AI research. This group already includes many of the largest tech companies in the world, including Google, Microsoft, and IBM.
The End of Vine
Remember when you were reading articles about how to best use Vine in your social media marketing? If you hadn’t quite gotten around to using the popular Twitter video feature, no need to learn it now. Twitter decided to shutter the program in October and this past month was the last chance users had to save their old vines before the feature went away.
If you were using Vine and are worried you’ll feel its lack in your social media marketing efforts, don’t worry too much. Twitter plans to replace it with a feature called Vine Camera that’s relatively similar in functionality.
Social Media Channels Begin Working Against Fake News
One of the biggest news stories of 2016 was the rise of fake news. That wouldn’t likely be a tech story, except that one of the primary ways people were exposed to fake news was through the social media sites we all know and love. In response to criticism, Facebook is making moves to reduce the reach of fake news by working with journalists and outside groups to fact check stories that show up on Facebook’s feed and help bring more attention to legitimate journalism.
On Twitter, some individual accounts have made waves by providing facts and definitions in response to inaccuracies shared in the press. The Merriam Webster Twitter account was one of the most talked about of the month for its clever posts sharing dictionary definitions of words used (often inaccurately) by politicians and media throughout the month. And a number of rogue social media accounts have popped up that are presumably run by people working in government agencies that no longer feel they can share facts about issues like climate change on the official government accounts.
While not a social media platform, it’s worth also mentioning that Google itself joined the fray by instituting a policy to kick publishers off one of its ad networks if they were found to be spreading fake news.
Slack Introduces Threaded Messages
On a lighter note, the popular platform for business collaboration responded to customer feedback about the difficulty in following conversations on the platform by releasing a threaded messages feature. The threaded messages are meant to make it easier to separate out and follow a specific conversation happening within the larger public feed. So far response to the feature is largely positive.
The Transition of White House Social Media Properties
Chances are, you’re well aware of the biggest non-tech news story of January, the inauguration of a new president. As the first new administration to take power after White House social media accounts had been established, this was the first time in history that figuring out how to transition social media accounts to a new presidential administration was a story.
The White House announced plans in October to make all the White House social media handles available to the incoming president on inauguration day, while archiving all old messages and updates and making them freely available to people in the days and years after. On January 20, the transition was made as promised and the social media profiles of the White House took on new ownership.
This month saw a lot of interesting and important technological advancements and stories. Next month’s sure to bring its share as well. Check back for future additions to our new series of monthly top tech news roundups.
The holiday season is upon us. Many tech companies are working at a fast pace to provide new updates and products before the end of the year.
To keep you posted on some of the last big tech stories of the year, here are some of the main trends and news stories to be on the lookout for in December.
1. The Fight for Net Neutrality Continues
If you spend much time on social media, you may have seen pleas from your contacts to call your reps about net neutrality. Ever since the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced his plans to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules, people and businesses have been up in arms imagining the worst-case scenarios that could result. Critics are worried that the repeal of these rules will give too much power to internet companies, allowing them to control what people are able to access online and stifling competition from companies that can’t pay-to-play enough to reach an audience online.
A vote on the repeal is set for later this month and in the meantime, opponents are lodging complaints with the FCC and calling their representatives in the hopes of keeping the rules in place. For now though, the future for net neutrality looks uncertain.
2. Uber Reveals Cyber Attack Cover-up
Even as the country continues to reel from the news of Experian’s data breach earlier this year, we just got news of the next one. Uber announced last month that in late 2016, some hackers managed to access some of their user data. At the time, the company chose to pay a ransom and keep the data breach secret, but under new management, they’ve now chosen to alert people to what happened.
If a data breach is normally bad for a brand’s reputation, one that’s accompanied by a cover up is even worse. Uber’s current leadership is hoping late transparency is better than none at all in the eyes of their customers.
3. Stitch Fix Launches IPO
One of the biggest tech IPOs in November was the fashion startup Stitch Fix. The company’s model of matching online personal stylists with customers wanting to let someone else do the job of picking out their clothes has been popular with customers.
Their initial showing on the stock market suggested they were less popular with investors, but soon that changed as stocks soared 50% in the first two weeks. For now, they seem to be going strong.
4. SendGrid Also Launches Successful IPO
Stitch Fix got the most attention, but the email marketing company SendGrid also entered the New York Stock Exchange last month. They managed to raise $131 million when they first launched, and saw stock prices go up 13% by the end of the first day.
To any business owners reading this, that’s not much of a surprise. Email marketing is one of the most important parts of business success in the internet age and investors are simply showing they recognize its importance too.
5. Facebook Announces Facebook Creator App
Influencers have become a big part of the way that people and brands experience social media. In a bid to try to attract more influencers to Facebook, the company has announced Facebook Creator, an app which provides a number of features to make creating and sharing content on the platform easier.
Users can add intros, outros, interactive stickers and custom frames to their videos. They can more easily respond to social media messages on a unified platform. And they can access more analytics on how people interact with their content. For businesses doing content marketing and any influencers they work with, these changes are worth being aware of.
6. Amazon Offers New AI Tool for Businesses
Once again, Amazon’s done something to make it into our monthly write-up. This month, they launched a suite of products that bring AI technology to businesses. This includes the DeepLens camera, which uses AI technology to fuel features like image recognition for objects, animals, and people. They also released SageMaker, a machine learning service that will help data engineers use AI services better.
In short, they’re throwing their support behind the importance of AI and expecting to make a lot of money with this technology by helping other businesses make more with it too.
7. AirBnb Makes Moves Toward Accessibility
AirBnb’s popular service has given lots of people more attractive alternatives to hotels when they travel, but until recently its options largely left one population out: the disabled. Last month they made an important move to rectify the situation by acquiring the startup Accomable.
The acquisition was a natural fit for the company, since Accomable was essentially offering a version of the same service AirBnb provided, but with a focus on accessibility. AirBnb listings will now provide more specific information on the types of accessibility options available, and a portion of customers previously left out by the service will be able to find options that work for them on the site.
8. Companies Begin Work on Smart Cities
In the past couple of months, multiple businesses have begun planning “smart cities.” Alphabet is working on a smart community on the waterfront in Toronto. And Bill Gates is building a smart city in Arizona. Both projects aim to test out concepts on how to build a better city that uses less energy, has less traffic, is better equipped to face climate change, and is better able to take advantage of the kinds of tech solutions the companies are working on – most notably self-driving cars.
There are a lot of good ideas out there for how to make cities better, but most of them are hard to implement in cities that already exist. These high-tech city design projects will help prove the difference these tech solutions can make in an atmosphere where they’re easier to build and start using.
9. Robots Keep Advancing
Robotic technology continues to little by little see impressive advancements. Last month, a robot from Boston Dynamics successfully pulled off a backflip. In case it’s not clear, that’s a really big deal. It’s hard to master the technology required to make a bipedal robot backflip, making this one more notable step toward robots being able to accomplish human tasks.
On the more commercial side of things, Ubtech has just released Lynx, a small humanoid robot with Alexa built in. The robot can walk, talk, and supposedly work as an avatar for busy people who can’t make it to events or meetings. You can see what’s happening through the robot’s camera and respond in real time with live audio. If you have $800 to spend on a tiny advanced robot, then the future is here for you.
See you next month!
December’s a busy month for everybody, but especially business owners and marketers. If you don’t have time to keep up with this month’s tech news, then be sure to check back in early January for our next installment. Until then, happy holidays!
The spookiest season of the year is upon us, but most of the tech news this month isn’t that scary (with one notable exception).
For those of you too busy to stay on top of all the tech news happening each month on your own, here’s a quick rundown of some of the top stories that should be on your radar in October.
Equifax Breach Puts Much of Population at Risk
Quite possibly the scariest story of the fall this year is the Equifax data breach. The credit reporting agency had access to the social security numbers, birth dates, and addresses of everyone in the country who’s ever had a credit score – which is just about every adult in the United States.
The breach puts about 146 million people at risk of having their sensitive information exposed. The country’s angry and people are scared. Companies, government institutions, and individuals are all still trying to figure out exactly what this means for the future of data security.
Samsung Releases New Mixed Reality Headset
Samsung just revealed their new mixed reality headset designed for use with Windows devices.
While the VR headset market is a crowded one, Samsung is offering higher-resolution displays and a larger field of view in order to be competitive in the space. This brings us one step closer to the mainstreaming of VR technology.
Google Testing Video Reviews
Many websites and channels on the web seem committed to shifting to a greater emphasis on video over text. Google’s never one to be behind on a trend, so they’ve begun testing out providing a video option for reviews in Google Maps.
Currently the option’s only available to people who are part of the company’s Local Guides program. If the videos prove popular, they may well expand access to the rest of us.
Google Joins Companies in the Crossfire for Workplace Sexism
Last month, three former Google employees announced a lawsuit against the company for paying its female employees less than male employees in similar roles and promoting men into higher-level positions much more often than similarly qualified women.
Google’s far from the first tech company to face accusations of sexism, but it’s one that’s worked to create a reputation for being progressive. This lawsuit reveals a side of the company that’s not living up to that intention.
Google, Twitter, and Facebook Targeting Now Includes Anti-Semites and Racists
Ad targeting is a valuable service for businesses and provides more relevant ads for users. But several of the biggest tech companies on the web faced recent criticism based on their targeting algorithms creating offensive categories. Users discovered and drew attention to racist categories in Facebook’s targeting options, and soon thereafter advertisers realized both Google and Twitter offered (and even sometimes recommended) targeting for racist terminology.
In all three cases, the options and recommendations were technologically generated and the companies are taking steps to change how their platforms work to avoid advertisers encountering these options in the future.
iPhone X Includes New Tech and Features
Apple has recently revealed some of the main features consumers will see in their soon-to-come iPhone, the iPhone X. While the new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus hit stores last month, techies are generally more interested in the model coming early next month. The iPhone X will be much more expensive than recent models, priced at over $1,000. It includes Face ID to unlock the phone, an especially big screen, an upgrade to the phone’s camera features, and a longer battery life than other iPhones.
At such a high price tag, they may only capture the most devoted Apple fans with this one, but the excitement in the tech community is palpable.
Roku Launches IPO
The video streaming technology company Roku launched an IPO late last month, valued at $2 billion. Unlike most of the giants in the streaming space, the company doesn’t bother with trying to produce its own content, they simply provide users access to the content available on a wide number of streaming sites and channels.
In its first few days on the market, the company’s shares have been dropping in value, although they’re still above the original price the company launched at.
Facebook Getting into Video Chat
Facebook has given video priority on the platform for some time, but they’re exploring features that would give users even more video options.
Last month, they started quietly testing a mobile video chat app called Bonfire. The app allows users to chat with up to eight friends at a time on live video. So far, only users in Denmark have access and no plans to move beyond the country to other markets have been announced.
Artificial intelligence remains one of the biggest topics in the tech world, as many of the biggest companies in the space continue to make investments into AI research and development. This month, many of the top professionals and businesses in the AI world will meet in Amsterdam for the World Summit AI to discuss their research, learn from each other, and explore what’s to come in AI technology.
With big product releases, new features being explored, and companies grappling with high-profile controversies, in some ways October’s just another month in tech. Check back next month to see what news and stories will be dominating the industry in November.
As summer winds down, the tech world keeps moving. A number of tech companies are announcing new product releases, features to come, and social initiatives this month. Here are a few of the top stories to be on the lookout for.
New iPhones Soon to Be Released
While it’s hard to imagine a world without smartphones, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the first iPhone going on sale. And as is typical for September, Apple is expected to roll out its new iPhone models this month. Early talk suggests that the company will be releasing three new phone models. Tech journalists anticipate that this year’s phones will continue to make waves in the tech world, as the iPhone has done ever since day one.
Galaxy Note 8 Also Gets a Release
Sharing the spotlight with the new iPhones, the Galaxy Note 8 is set to be released this month as well. The phone is faced with the lofty task of satisfying customers whose view of the brand was tarnished by the last model famously bursting into flames for many owners. The new phone provides a bigger screen, new camera features, and animated messaging.
Tech Companies Find Ways to Help Harvey’s Victims
One of the biggest world news stories of the past month was Hurricane Harvey. Texas is still reeling from one of the biggest storms the country has ever seen as people scramble to find ways to help. Tech companies have also joined the efforts to help those victimized by the storm. Many are providing matching donations and AirBnb is helping match rental properties with people in need of shelter. And notably, social media apps played a key role in helping rescue teams find the people most in need of their help.
Not all important tech stories are about product releases and IPOs. Sometimes we get a reminder of the ways tech can be a public good.
Chrome to Allow Permanent Mute Feature
Autoplay videos are one of those things that pretty much every internet user hates, but websites just keep using. Google has a long history of siding with user experience over business interests and is once again making a move in that direction with their decision to release a mute option that allows people to set a website as silent permanently in their browser. If you normally use autoplay on your website, know that your visitors will soon be able to easily tune you out.
AR Apps About to Take Off
Both Google and Apple have recently released technology that makes it easier for developers to create augmented reality apps for Android and iOS devices. Consumers can expect an influx of AR apps to become available on their smartphones in the coming months, and businesses have easier access to a technology that can be used for clever marketing concepts.
Tech Companies Decry White Supremacist Groups
Before Harvey began to dominate the news cycle, one of the biggest stories of August was the violence of white supremacist groups at a rally in Charlottesville. A number of tech companies were disturbed by the incidents and took a stand against white supremacy. Both Stormfront and The Daily Stormer, well known white supremacist websites, have faced difficulties staying online as hosting providers refuse them service.
A number of other tech sites have started to boot members from their platforms based on hate speech, including PayPal, OkCupid, Spotify, and most of the main social media platforms.
Technology has played a role in allowing people to disseminate hateful views. Many of the tech industry’s main players are hoping to show that it can play a role in helping silence the hate as well.
Spotify Preparing to Go Public
Spotify has started to make moves that make clear their intention to go public in the near future. Most notably, they signed a new licensing deal with Warner Music to increase the site’s offerings to users and hopefully make it more attractive to both subscribers and investors.
IFA Conference Meets in Berlin
The oldest and largest technology show in Europe takes over Berlin this week. The biggest technology companies from around the world will display new and upcoming technologies from phones to computers to smart home devices. Techies converge to get a glimpse of what tech companies are working on, and you can expect to see a stream of tech journalism covering what shows up at the event.
TechCrunch Puts on Disrupt Conference
Meanwhile, TechCrunch is preparing their own conference in San Francisco on September 18-20 focused on startups. The Disrupt Conference attracts startup companies and thought leaders who come together to talk and learn about startup culture, raising funds, and the main issues facing the tech industry in today’s culture.
Microsoft Ignite Conference Meets in Orlando
It must be conference season, because in addition to those two, the Microsoft Ignite conference will also meet this month in Orlando from September 25-29. Windows users from around the world meet to attend learning sessions, learn about new products to come, and network with other professionals.
Walmart and Google Join to Offer Voice Shopping
Most months, the posts in this series include big moves and acquisitions by Amazon aimed at taking over a bigger and bigger portion of the country’s commerce. This month, two huge players, Walmart and Google, teamed up to stay competitive against the online giant. The partnership is focused on enabling easier voice-activated shopping to entice more online customers to consider Walmart as an alternative to Amazon.
And you thought you were busy with back-to-school efforts this month. The tech industry looks set to go into the fall at full speed, barely pausing to take a breath. As always, there are likely to be trends and stories we couldn’t foresee this month. Check back next month for a look at the trends yet to come.