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The Top Tech News for November 2017

Top Tech Trends for November

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.

Tech Platforms Tackle Russian Advertising

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.