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.
It’s a new year and we’re excited to see what’s to come with new tech innovations and stories in the next twelve months. To start the year off, we already have an inkling of some of the stories you’ll be hearing about in January.
Here are some of the tech news subjects to keep on your radar this month.
1. The Bitcoin Roller Coaster
You’ve probably been seeing a lot of references to Bitcoin lately, but what you hear can change day to day. The cryptocurrency has been making headlines for big spikes and drops in value over the past few weeks.
In early December all the talk was about how the currency was worth far more than most experts anticipated. As we neared the end of the year, the news shifted to drops in the price. In the New Year, it’s on the rise again (although that may have changed by the time this story goes up).
If this trend continues, we’ll likely be hearing a lot about Bitcoin well into January and possibly for the entire year to come.
2. CES Conference
The Consumer Electronics Show, one of the most important conferences in the tech world, is happening January 9-12 in Las Vegas.
Put on by the Consumer Technology Association, the conference is famous for being the place where many of the biggest tech businesses in the world announce their most exciting new products and updates to the larger public.
Expect to see a steady stream of stories from tech journalists covering innovations in areas like AR, the smart home, and more. And check back here next month if you’re worried about catching it all – some of the news is likely to make our February roundup.
3. Disney and Fox Move Toward Merger
Two media behemoths are about to join forces, as long as the government doesn’t stop the merger as an antitrust violation.
The merger is largely being reported as part of Disney’s larger plan to shift their business model toward the popularity of streaming entertainment. They’ve already announced plans to release their own streaming platforms, and access to all of Fox’s content properties will go a long way to making them more competitive in a space dominated by brands like Netflix and Hulu that got there first.
4. YouTube Makes a Deal with Music Companies
After a long negotiation process, YouTube has signed deals with Universal Music Group and Sony Entertainment to provide payment to artists whose music is shared through the platform.
The deal will help support YouTube’s move to get more sign ups for the relatively new subscription version of the platform.
5. Tech Shakes Up How We Get Groceries
Buying groceries is one of the most common chores that almost everyone has to do, but what the task looks like is changing as tech companies continue to disrupt the market.
Amazon buying Whole Foods last year already suggested a big shift to grocery delivery replacing trips to the store. Getting into the same game, Target bought Shipt, a grocery delivery company, just last month.
Another big change taking shape is the move toward unmanned stores.
Amazon opened one last year, but one of their biggest competitors in China has plans to open hundreds of people-less convenience stores in the near future. These stores skip the checkout process, letting you simply choose what you like and leave, while tech that recognizes who you are and what products you’ve chosen takes care of the payment process for you.
6. Apple Draws Derision in Battery Controversy
Every year, Apple releases updated iPhones and many customers eagerly switch over to the new model. Those who patiently opt to stick with the phone they have eventually find it working more slowly or failing to stay charged as long until they too choose to upgrade to a new model. Turns out, the slower functioning of older phones is by design.
Apple upset lots of its customers last month by admitting that new iOS updates intentionally slow down older phones.
They claim it’s because the batteries get worn out, so the slower functioning saves the phones from shutting down as quickly, but many customers suspect it’s a ploy to get people to shell out for new phones. Some customers have gone as far as suing, and Apple has responded to the outrage with apologies and an offer to sell new batteries for old phones at a lower rate than previously.
Their competitors have (perhaps smugly) responded with assurances that they would never slow down customers’ phones. Whether or not this will put a dent in the iPhone’s overall popularity remains to be seen, but it certainly doesn’t make the company look good.
7. Tech IPOs on the Horizon
Experts are predicting that 2018 will be a big year in tech IPOs.
For January, many eyes are on Xiaomi, a Chinese smartphone company, which could become one of the biggest tech IPOs ever if or when it comes to fruition. DocuSign’s another possibility this month, as they alerted the media last year of their plans to go public in “early 2018.”
IPOs are notoriously hard to predict, so we’ll see which companies actually take the plunge in the month and year to come.
8. Amazon and Google Rivalry Gets Petty
While a lot of the news this month is about companies merging, there are still plenty of big players in competition with each other. Last month, two of the biggest tech giants of all, Amazon and Google, got petty in their rivalry when Google chose to deactivate its YouTube app on all of Amazon’s Fire TV devices.
Customers who could easily pull up YouTube on their Amazon Fire TV or with the Fire stick now get directed to a browser where they have to type youtube.com in to access the popular video service. Many see this as retaliation for Amazon’s refusal to sell certain Google products like Chromecast and Google Home on the site (if you type in “Google Home” in Amazon, you get Amazon’s smart home products in the results).
The main losers here are the customers who have to deal with compatibility issues between different products and services. But at least in this case, the workaround is pretty simple.
9. Mixed Reality Goggles on the Way
The company Magic Leap has started to share details of its augmented reality system with the public. While they haven’t announced a release date yet, they’ve shown a demo of the product to tech journalists.
Their system includes goggles and a handheld controller that are linked to a small pocket-sized computer. The three pieces all work together to provide an immersive AR experience where you can interact with video game characters that make eye contact and see a fictional world and characters transposed on the world around you.
If the product hits the market in 2018 as intended, it brings us that much closer to the kind of virtual reality experience people have been imagining in sci-fi stories and movies for decades.
10. Amazon Extends Smart Home Business with Blink Acquisition
As if it wasn’t already obvious that Amazon wants to take over our homes with technology, their acquisition of the smart security startup Blink adds to the type of products and technology they now have access to.
Blink’s smart security devices, including cameras and a smart doorbell, offer connectivity between different security devices and your phone at a more affordable rate than many competitors. They’re a natural fit for Amazon, which is already behind many of the most popular smart home products on the market.
11. Britain Makes High-Speed Internet a Legal Right
While the U.S. has been debating the repeal of net neutrality, the UK made a move in the opposite direction last month, declaring that all the country’s residents deserve access to high-speed internet as a legal right.
Internet providers in the country will be required to provide all homes with at least 10 megabits per second of data speed, the amount the government has determined is required for reasonable use by the average family.
The decision puts internet on par with utilities like water and electricity in how the government handles it, showing just how important internet has become to how people live their day-to-day lives.
January promises to be a big month for tech news, and 2018 is sure to bring us loads of surprises and interesting stories. Check back next month to see what’s going on in the tech world In February.
A new month means a new batch of tech news.
For professionals who know that changes in the tech world influence your business, but have trouble staying on top of it all on your own, we bring you our monthly roundup of tech news to keep an eye on this month.
1. Tech Giants Tackle Online Security
With news of Metdown and Spectre bugs that cause serious vulnerabilities in computer systems, we’re once again all reminded how difficult it is to protect our sensitive data online.
A number of businesses are scrambling to create patches that will protect their users from the bugs, and tech businesses are continuing in their ongoing efforts to increase online security proactively, as well as in response to each new bug and hack.
Google has launched Chronicle, a company devoted to finding hackers fast using machine learning, and Apple has created a Privacy icon to help customers tell the difference between legitimate requests for their login information and phishing attempts.
2. AR a Top Trend at CES
Every year, CES gives tech companies a chance to show off what they’re working on and shows the rest of us what trends to expect in the year to come.
This year, a lot of the main tech trends and product categories you expect to see were still well covered – autonomous cars, smart home tech, AI – but one of the significant trends on display was the growing efforts to create products in the AR space. There’s the Vuzix Blade (pictured right), which is like a better-looking take on Google Glass. There’s the MonoHD from DigiLens, which uses AR tech to improve motorcycle safety. And Realmax shared their prototype of AR goggles.
It looks like things are heating up in the AR world and this is a trend people can expect to see more of in the coming year.
3. Facebook Makes New Updates to Feed
Facebook recently announced plans to make some changes to how stories and updates show up in people’s feeds. Recent changes include prioritizing posts from friends and family over those from brands or media companies, giving greater priority to publishers that are considered trustworthy by a wide range of users, and giving extra weight to local news stories.
The goal is to improve users’ experience on the platform, but not everyone’s happy about the change. Brands are concerned about losing reach on the platform (and not for the first time) and investors are leery as well – the company’s stock value dropped soon after the changes were announced.
Whether everyday users see the updates as an improvement is still up in the air, but will likely have the biggest influence on whether or not Facebook continues on this route.
4. Google Chrome Takes On Autoplay
Pretty much everyone that spends time online is familiar with a particularly obnoxious and common experience: opening a link only to be bombarded with noise from an autoplay video on the website.
We all hate it, yet websites keep doing it. Well, Chrome is here to help. The browser now provides users the option to permanently mute any site you choose.
If you still use auto-play video on your own website (and what are you thinking? That’s a surefire way to increase bounce rates!), this change makes them that much less effective. Follow Chrome’s lead and give the people what they want by taking those autoplay videos down.
5. Twitter Releases Information about Russian Bots
One of the biggest tech stories of the past year has been the way the Russian government used social media platforms and search engines to influence the U.S. election.
Both Twitter and Facebook have been asked by politicians to take a more active role in identifying and weeding out the Russian bots and fake news that gets shared on their platforms. This past month, Twitter contacted over a million users to let them know they’d interacted with Russian propaganda on the platform. And the total number of people exposed to Russian propaganda may well be higher.
Knowing about the propaganda after the fact doesn’t change the influence it had at the time, but maybe now that tech companies are more aware of the problem, they’ll be better at recognizing and doing something about propaganda moving forward.
6. Amazon Opens Autonomous Grocery Store
If the main thing you hated about going shopping was having to wait in line to check out, then Amazon’s new Amazon Go store solves that problem for you.
The first location just opened in Seattle and anyone who shops there need only scan the Amazon Go app on their phone on the way in, select the items they want, and walk out with them. The company uses sensors and cameras to monitor what items people choose and make sure they’re charged accordingly.
Whether or not the autonomous grocery store concept will really take off remains to be seen – and whether or not the technology will successfully make sure people are charged the right amount without issues is a big part of how this all plays out. But if it does, this is one more way for Amazon to disrupt a familiar business model and one that might both change how people shop and leave some people left behind out of work.
7. Developer Week Is Coming
From February 3-7, thousands of developers will gather in San Francisco for Developer Week. The conference provides opportunities for networking, showcases speakers from a number of tech giants, and includes a hackathon (with cash prizes).
For anyone wanting to learn more about some of the most important technologies in the tech world today, this is an event worth checking out.
8. States Pass Their Own Net Neutrality Laws
The repeal of net neutrality late last year was a very controversial move that left a lot of citizens offended and riled up.
Plenty of politicians agreed with the outrage and some of them are taking steps to pass laws upholding net neutrality rules at the state level. Six states have already gotten a net neutrality law on the books and several more have one in the works.
For something as popular as net neutrality, it just makes sense for state and local representatives to get involved and work for what their constituents want.
9. YouTube Makes Monetizing Video A Lot Harder
Making money on YouTube has never been easy, but it’s been a possibility within reach for any content creator that could gain a niche following. Now many of them are finding their ability to make any money on the platform at all cut off.
YouTube has just changed the rules around who’s able to make money from the site. Anyone that has less than 1,000 subscribers or has been viewed less than 4,000 hours in the last year will no longer qualify for monetization.
Many YouTubers are livid, voicing their anger at the decision on various platforms, in some cases while pleading with their fans to press that “subscribe” button or spend some more time watching to help them make the cutoff. For marketers, this is one more reminder not to build too much of your brand on a platform you don’t own – you never know when a change they make will ruin your ability to stay afloat there.
10. Mobile World Congress
The Mobile World Congress, the largest conference in the mobile industry, meets this month in Barcelona from February 26 to March 1. With over 100,000 attendees, it’s the place to be for anyone working in the mobile industry. We can expect to see new mobile products and features launched and hear about important news and trends in the world of mobile as news starts to come out of the conference.
Like every month, February is sure to include tech news none of us could anticipate. Check back next month to see what new stories to follow as we move into March.
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.