2014
01.29

I’m just tired of hearing how busy everyone is these days. I get it we are all very busy. We are all so busy we feel almost too anxious to admit just how busy we are. But busy doesn’t mean hiding behind a veil of BS that justifies bad behavior. Thus, the busier we get, the tougher the economy, the thicker the intimidation veil gets. And that’s why today I feel like the anchor in the movie, “Network” and I want to shout, “I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it.”

I suppose I should be more specific at who I am directing my frustration. I am gearing this missive to all the vendors that have ever communicated to me or my editorial staff that they are committed to educating buyers of connected technology, but really never meant it. We are talking about buyers that can be consumers or businesses alike. Perhaps we should start keeping a list of all these companies and their headhonchos who endorse this behavior. These executives sit in their ivory towers and have no remorse about their intention to manipulate and deceive. At each step of the way, these propagandists preach an appealing message of how great all their technology. We all get sucked into this utopian future that resonates with every article we write. But upon further examination is it really all smoke and mirrors?

The reality here is that many tech vendors should really be confessing that they do not have confidence in their own technology. I recognize stating my opinion publicly is extraordinarily bold—and possibly problematic for some, but they are based on the foundation of true journalism and ethics.  Unfortunately, in today’s world where anyone can post to the Web, sound journalistic practices are quickly falling by the wayside. What’s more, perhaps it’s time to really open our eyes to today’s corporate America.

For starters, it’s hard to say anything about technology without immersing myself in the tech world so that is why I have tried to do exactly what readers have asked me and that was to be their eyes and ears. So what has happened that provoked me to write this blog today? It’s pretty straight forward. I received a call from an OEM (original-equipment manufacturer) who declared his commitment to educating consumers about in-vehicle connectivity. And even though the U.S. auto industry saw sales rise more than 7.6% year over year in 2013, his company just can’t spare the staff to put a car on display at Connected World Conference being held with the Chicago Auto Show. However, they would be able to spare an executive to be a guest on my radio show, http://www.peggysmedleyshow.com/, for a couple of segments during Chicago Auto Show Media Days and they would have time to do an interview in the magazine. You’ve got to be kidding.

As long as I air what this automaker had to say and print its public-relations spin, he would spare all the time in the world. But the auto industry doesn’t have time to show consumers how to actually use these new apps it has been asking us to write so much about. It’s okay if we brag about the in-vehicle connectivity as long as it’s on their terms. This now convinces me that several car companies truly do not care about factually educating consumers, it’s just marketing spin, whatever it is, i.e., 4G, you name it. Too bad that consumers are still confused, resulting in less than 10% of them taking advantage of the services offered in their new vehicles. And if they are tech-savvy enough to get it all figured out too bad that 4G connectivity their pitching in rural America is just as questionable. They are the same companies that portray what they do as morally defensible and necessary. To do otherwise would jeopardize public morale and faith in the future of connected technology and so much more.

But let’s not pick on the OEMs alone. Why aren’t the GPS, LBS, fitness, healthcare, tracking, wearables, and distracted-driving app companies participating in the expo that is reaching hundreds of thousands of influencers? After the call today, I couldn’t help myself. I compiled all the excuses we have been given: I don’t want to spend 11 days in Chicago in February; I can’t afford 11 days away from the office; we don’t have the funds; I don’t have the manpower; it’s not the right audience; we are too busy; we have another other show; we have too many shows; and we don’t need to do this show.

One might excuse the vendors if they were making an aspirational pledge as the connected-car technology was first being introduced. Or if some of this connected tech was still on the drawing board, but as it turns out these companies have the products and they still just want to pitch the media and not the public directly. This then begs the question of whether we are all being duped about the solutions that just really aren’t ready for prime time and all these vendors know it, and they are making us culprits in their attempt to bamboozle all of you. And that just makes me very angry. Now here’s my point. All these companies still have a chance to redeem themselves. Show me that I am wrong. Stand up and do these demos, show off your products, do what’s right, and stop focusing on just pitching the media. Let’s see what you are really made of. To be fair, there are a few companies that are committed to the realtime data world and Internet of Things. And these are the same companies that have shown they are devoted to the space, its customers, and growing the marketplace. I truly admire those companies for they are the leaders and educators in this connected technology space.

For those that don’t change their position, it won’t actually surprise me. Remember these are the same companies that outlined a long list of excuses. And yes, every one of these companies, even to this day (well maybe not after this blog), said they could spare someone to speak on my radio show at the conference, and give an interview for the magazine, but they just didn’t have the funds to educate consumers at the Chicago Auto Show with Connected World Conference. So maybe they don’t care what I have to say, but they will care when you speak with your pocketbooks. And only then will those vendors learn from Sir Walter Scott, “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”  

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #OEMs #automakers #wearables #GPS #LBS #cars

2014
01.28

Amazon Technologies and Amazon’s Lab 126 are endless sources of wonder for patent followers. Last November, George Anders posted an interesting note in Forbes entitled “Amazon’s 1,263 Patents Reveal Retailing’s High-Tech Future” that discussed how Amazon looks at retail as an engineering problem to be solved.

This week, Amazon Technologies was awarded 21 patents. One of interest to the future of warehouse automation is 8,639,382 entitled, “Robotic Induction in Materials Handling Facilities”. Reading this patent’s background section is like reading a primer for how a robotic-enabled warehouse will select and deliver products to a worker in a fixed station for processing and packing. We should remember that Amazon bought Kiva Systems in early 2012. Kiva was the leading supplier of robotics to ecommerce fulfillment companies. Here is how robotics is changing what goes on in ecommerce fulfillment warehouses like Amazon’s. Today, humans go to the storage locations to pick products to fulfill a customer order. What a robotics-enabled warehouse will do is turn the human wanderer into a fixed-location worker, and to visualize this, think of workers on a production line in a factory: the product comes to them and they add their specific “unit of value” before passing the product on to the next station. For a good understanding of this change, click on the Kiva’s mobile-robotic fulfillment System demo and watch the video.

The point of robotics in warehouses is to reduce human inefficiencies, or eliminate the human factor completely. Labor is the highest-cost factor in warehouse operations. With Patent 8,639,384, “Systems & Methods for Receiving Shipment Parcels,” Amazon takes a technology-based step toward the elimination of humans in the warehouse’s Receiving process. Using cameras and scanners, the patented process can identify an inbound parcel’s order information and properly receive it, and route it to a put away location. You have heard the old programmer’s phrase, “Garbage in, garbage out,” and this has been the mantra of warehouse managers since warehousing was invented. If you can’t properly receive goods in, then chances are you will ship the wrong product to the customer. With the customer abandonment rates in ecommerce fulfillment so high, and the diminishing reading abilities of humans on the Receiving dock, finding an automated solution to eliminate the “garbage in” problem is the Holy Grail. Amazon may have just patented it.

You may be asking at this point why such an emphasis on warehousing. The answer is that “back of the business” functions such as warehousing are catching up with “front of the business” technology investments at a very fast pace. For years, retailers and brands invested heavily in customer-facing applications, what we call B2C (business-to-consumer) technologies. What has become very clear over the past few years is that as more consumers buy online, the accuracy and timeliness of order fulfillment is the make or break customer experience that ensures repeat customer business. Amazon has invested significantly to ensure that you always get what you ordered, and as soon as you want it, even same day in select cities. Getting it right in fulfillment is serious business.

Sometimes, the really interesting awards slip right past you because they are described in a way that simply does not register with your brain. Here’s one that has interesting implications for the application of behavioral analytics to social network experiences and the stimulation of purchasing impulses. Patent 8,639,702, mind-numbingly entitled “System and Method to classify and apply behavioral stimuli potentials to data in realtime,” was granted to BehaviorMatrix based in Blue Bell, Pa. If you dig deep into the description of this microprocessor-based patent, you’ll find the “I’m eating the pizza and it is delicious” scenario; take inputs like this captured from social networks, apply  value-based assessments that can be used to characterize which of the five human senses that such a phrase included, and use this set of behavior analytics to predict the power of such inputs to stimulate behavior in others. Take a look at the company’s profile by clicking on its name, and you can see where this could lead for brands seeking more effective ways to enhance the customer experience.

My favorite design of the week is for those couples who believe that riding their (insert your favorite motorcycle) together is a bonding experience. Patent 8,635,712, “Tandem Wind Breaker,” awarded to a gentleman in Coraopolis, Pa., makes that bonding experience just a bit cozier. And given the frigid temperatures gripping the U.S. recently, I’d say that it is a must have item for those hardy enough to be out riding.

2014
01.24

The wearable market is in full swing and every day I hear about another new product that is going to change our lives. Rarely, do I find a product that I think is so awesome that it’s going to change my life. But what I do find in most cases are the people who are passionate about the product and what they hope to accomplish by solving a real pain point that exists in the marketplace.

For me that is what happened when I met the folks at Revolutionary Tracker, http://www.revolutionarytracker.com/. At first glance, you might say here’s just another smartphone tracker/smartwatch. And you might even add how do these little guys think they are going to compete with the likes of Sony, http://www.sony.com/, or Samsung, http://www.samsung.com/? But once you meet Carrie Schwarz, founder and CEO, and Matt Kassin, CMO, digital strategy you instantly get it. I had the pleasure of interviewing both of them on The Peggy Smedley Show, http://www.peggysmedleyshow.com/, during CES. For me, it didn’t take long to realize this little venture is more than delivering a product, it’s about a vision and innovation.

And at the pace of today’s burst of innovative ideas, I believe that’s what it’s all about. Look at that little thermostat we have all been talking about: Nest, http://www.nest.com/. It was a small start-up that competed with the likes of companies much bigger and better that understood home automation for many years. But here was the difference: Tony Fadell found a niche and in today’s technology world that’s what it takes to move the needle from being a fledgling start-up to selling your company for $3.2 billion.

Now don’t misunderstand, I don’t know if Revolutionary Tracker has that kind of staying power, but it does have a very interesting idea and a very special passion for helping others. It’s a wearable GPS-enabled smartphone that targets the family. It doesn’t want to be all things to all people. It’s a simple one-touch companion that gives loved ones the comfort of knowing a family member’s location and status.

It’s that simple. Most of all, Schwarz gets it. As a parent, she recognizes that we can’t keep track of our kids all the time. But with this new connected device, as parents, we now have the comfort of knowing where our children are at all times. It’s a daunting task for sure and we can’t protect them 24/7, but if our children can communicate with us and we can communicate with them with just one-touch that can ease a lot of fears and add a lot of comfort.

Who would have thought colorful watches, wearable necklaces, and snap-on solutions for everything imaginable that sport one-button SOS commands truly would help to keep family members safe through two-way conversations when and where it’s needed. I think anything that helps promote family connectivity and family values and extends our connections beyond physical boarders when we can’t be there certainly scores high with me. One of my favorite features is that the phone not only tracks a user’s location, but toggling between different screen views makes it easier to get an accurate picture of where a loved one is at any given moment. See it for yourself, these products will be on display at Connected World Conference February 6-17.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #GPS #tracker #wearables #smartwatch

2014
01.22

The connected-car market is hot, and it’s getting hotter every day. What I love about this space right now is how the cellular carriers are fighting to take center stage of the market as they help drive it forward—no pun intended. They are working diligently with the automakers to help them link their vehicles to the Internet. And as I have said a dozen times before, it’s no longer about speed and performance; it’s now about safety, convenience, and infotainment.

The recent announcement of Hyundai Motor Co. http://www.hyundaiusa.com/, unveiling its deal with Verizon Communications Inc., http://www.verizon.com/, to provide wireless service in its U.S. cars and trucks is just another example of how important connectivity is to consumers.

I would suspect that Mark Bartolomeo, vice president of Verizon Enterprise Solutions, is probably feeling pretty good since this announcement comes on the heels of AT&T’s little pact with General Motors to provide 4G LTE wireless service in its Chevrolet models. I think this sets the stage for a pretty good fight in the car market as the cellular carriers fight for control as more cars get linked to the Internet.

After acquiring Hughes Telematics in 2012, Verizon has repeatedly said that it is focused on the connected-car space and this announcement is just another move in building its strength since it already has deals with Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Toyota Motor Corp.

It’s kind of ironic since it wasn’t that long ago when carmakers didn’t even consider wireless service in their vehicles. Now it’s just unthinkable if a vehicle doesn’t have cellular connectivity. So it’s really no surprise then to see the 2015 Hyundai models—starting with the Genesis sedan—will be equipped with Verizon’s 3G wireless service. In addition to Hyundai, Verizon will also provide service to Kia vehicles as well.

Hyundai’s second-generation Blue Link system features a search powered by Google, a Genesis Intelligent Assistant app, and a Google Glass app. Hyundai owners can use the Google Glass app to remotely start their car or unlock their doors, search for gasoline stations, or call for roadside assistance. Verizon will provide a range of safety, security, diagnostics, and infotainment services.

At this point Hyundai says video streaming and wireless hot spots will not initially be part of Hyundai’s second-generation Blue Link connected-car service. The company also notes 4G isn’t part of the initial introduction of its partnership with Verizon. But based on the way the automaker is headed with its partners I suspect when the bandwidth is necessary, Verizon will be more than ready with the connectivity in all the cars.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #Hyundai, #Verizon, #carrier, #M2M, #connectedcar, #infotainment, #connectivity, #3G, #4G

2014
01.21

Let me start this week’s report with a “thank you” to readers who have provided feedback. I do appreciate your comments.

On that note, a good friend of mine, Gerry Barañano, the president of The RevLaunch Company, offered some additional insight into the patent prowess of the top management consulting companies after he read my comments about Accenture in last week’s post.

“The Accenture data was a real eye-opener,” he commented, and went on to share tallies of patent awards for the top consultancies. Accenture’s 1,046 patent lead is eye-popping; of the six competitors Gerry investigated, the closest in number was Kearney at 46. Deloitte had 12, and the rest had none.

Clearly, Accenture’s patent prowess ties to its go-to-market strategy, and that strategy appears to be highly divergent from its competitors. Gerry sagely asked the rhetorical “next” question: Can Accenture monetize the value of its trove of patents? With thanks to Gerry, we will keep an eye on this going forward.

Speaking of “patent prowess,” is it an accurate leading indicator for innovation leadership among companies? In a post in The Motley Fool on January 18 Mark Morelli commented on the question, “Who Is Winning the Battle for Tech Innovation?” His cogent analysis and conclusion may surprise you.

Apple had 26 patents awarded this week, with one being particularly intriguing. Patent 8633898, entitled “Sensor Arrangement for Use with a Touch Sensor That Identifies Hand Parts,” describes “apparatus and methods … for simultaneously tracking multiple finger and palm contacts as hands approach, touch, and slide across a proximity-sensing, multi-touch surface. Identification and classification of intuitive hand configurations and motions enables unprecedented integration of typing, resting, pointing, scrolling, 3D manipulation, and handwriting into a versatile, ergonomic computer input device.” I have underlined the word “unprecedented” for emphasis. Take a look at the schematic drawing of the hands on the sensor arrangement, and interesting applications in a broad range of consumer-facing situations come readily to mind. Let’s see how Apple commercializes this one.

Nuance Communications (www.nuance.com) was awarded Patent 8635237 for a “Customer Feedback Mechanism in Public Places Utilizing Speech Recognition Technology”. You may have heard of Dragon speech to text productivity tools? They are the public face to the company, which also has an extensive B2B portfolio of applications and services. This new patent falls more into the B2C area, potentially allowing companies to measure a customer’s spoken evaluation (spoken words matched to a scorecard with values) at a store or other public venue, dynamically reporting the scored results through a GUI  (graphical user interface) to one or more companies, called a “potential customers” in the patent Abstract. I can envision Nuance offering a subscription-based service to Brands and retailers, which would access continuously updated customer evaluations through a dashboard application. In short, here we see the bundling of a connected device (the microphone embedded at the product display) that captures voice data and sends it via a network to another device (central host server) which interprets the data, the results of which are provided to users through another connected device (tablet, smartphone, and laptop) over a network.

Google had an interesting award this week. Patent 8633970, “Augmented Reality with Earth Data,” is complex but relates to the improvement of the determination and overlay of geographic data on a user’s view of terrain. The “aha” moment came to me when I looked at figure 6B in the specifications. It reminded me of a new fitness app that I captured and posted to my Flipboard magazine, NewTechRep Review. Here’s the link to the video, RaceYourself. You can see how such an app would benefit from improved rendering of terrain information that the patent describes.

Golfers, great news! Acushnet Co., (http://www.acushnetcompany.com/), the makers of the Titleist brand golf ball, was awarded three patents for a ball with improved flight performance. Patent 8632424 in particular stated that the intent of the design is to help golfers with very high swing speeds (160 to 170 mph) achieve increased flight distance. Patents 8632425 and 8632426 relate to improvement in the ball’s dimpling.

2014
01.20

It was clear the connected car was the talk of the 2014 North American Intl. Auto Show in Detroit this past week. While much of the conversation centered on advances in connectivity in the latest vehicles, concerns were raised about how much data automakers can collect from consumers as cars become more synched to the Internet. There was also discussion about who will own the data and what OEMs (original-equipment manufacturers) are doing with all the personal information that is being collected?

Let’s be clear we’ve been asking these questions for quite some time now, but it wasn’t until CES that we might finally be getting some real answers. And it seems lawmakers want answers too. I guess you could say Jim Farley, executive vice president of marketing and sales at Ford, www.ford.com, has stirred up a hornet’s nest when he suggested at CES a couple of weeks earlier that the automaker uses GPS devices in vehicles to collect personal data about its drivers.

While Farley is now backpedalling on his statements today, I find it kind of ironic. It’s just funny to me that much of corporate America just hasn’t figured it out that if they are hiding something the truth eventually comes out. It might take some time, but the truth always prevails. You know why, because there are always a few people that have peacocks in their employ. These are the individuals that just can’t help but show all their colors. They are the ones that want to display how much they know and they love to strut their stuff. They want the world to see how special their company is compared to other kids on the block and as a result they say something they really didn’t want the rest of us to hear.

That was the case of Ford. The carmaker didn’t hesitate to tell everyone in the audience at CES that if you are driving one of its vehicles, it will know that you are breaking the law and when you are breaking the law. Farley added, however, the data is kept confidential.

My first question to all of you reading this blog is are you buying into the story that an automaker is collecting all of this information, but has no intention of doing anything with it? Why collect? Why go through the expense? Why go through the time? Are we all really expected to believe any of this? Really? Here’s my point, why tell everyone you know this? Why track it, if you don’t plan to use it? And who are you kidding?

As I see it, this is a PR disaster, not only for this OEM, but for the entire auto industry. This just makes consumers distrust the automakers and compounds the entire big brother fears that exist today. Rather than taking a step forward and educating consumers on the real benefits of Big Data, this marketing exec’s blistering bravado did nothing, but create FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt).

Perhaps carmakers need to spend more time educating and less time creating FUD. The good news in all of this is that connectivity goes hand-in-hand when you talk about a vehicle these days. It’s evident you really can’t talk about a car and not talk about infotainment, convenience, and safety: these are all the ingredients that make up a connected car. More car companies need to talk about Big Data openly and honestly. Carmakers need to explain what is being tracked and why.

Car buying is no longer just about speed, power, and performance at traditional car shows. We all know that is why shows like CES are growing in popularity. It’s even more exciting to see the traditional car shows talking tech. Technology needs to be a key element of every show. That is exactly why we put the Connected World Conference inside the Chicago Auto Show, February 8-17, to keep the tech story growing. But after the Ford fiasco it’s obvious the industry has a long way to go. For every step forward it seems to take two backward, and you wonder why consumers fear Big Brother. Now the Jeannie is out of the bottle, and it wouldn’t hurt if the industry as a whole helped clean up the mess that Ford has created if it wants to get consumers on board about the connected car and Big Data.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #Ford, #CES, #BigData, #M2M, #connectedcar, #infotainment, #connectivity.

2014
01.17

GSM, CDMA Divided

There are truly two camps when it comes to GSM and CDMA. For as long as I have been covering the wireless space it has been a distinct demarcation with Verizon and Sprint entrenched in the CDMA camp and T-Mobile and AT&T locked in GSM.

However, as the market continues to evolve the gap is closing as 4G LTE (long-term evolution) becomes more globally accepted as a wireless standard.

It seems all the carriers are hot for 4G LTE and they want to bring it to our cars, homes, fitness, and anything they can that’s well beyond the traditional world of voice. The world of data brings unlimited possibilities and the carriers are chomping at the bit to be a part of all of it.

Someone much smarter than me explained it to me this way: GSM divides the frequency bands into multiple channels allowing multiple people to access the network via a tower at the same time; CDMA networks on the other hand, layer digitized calls over each other, and unpack them on the backend with sequence codes. I find it noteworthy that CDMA has several key strengths which give it a strong following including, a secure communication channel, it can carry multiple communication tasks simultaneously, it’s effective in remote areas, and its power consumption is lesser. The pros for GSM are its global popularity, international roaming, and its stable network.

But there’s a cautionary tale here. Some carriers are still leaving UMTS and EVDO networks live until 2020 so we still have 2G and 3G networks that will be live for quite some time. So that means we aren’t as interchangeable quite yet. We will get there but we have a ways to go. So don’t get tripped up by all the U.S. hype just yet. So while everyone is talking 4G LTE it’s not as simple as they make it out to be. It’s interesting to note that while CDMA is prevalent in most parts of North America and many pockets of Asia, GSM is widespread in Western Europe.

While GSM might edge out in the long run and win in the network race, the M2M community will still need a global standard for wireless telecommunication. There still needs to be more discussion on the cost of modules, SIM, management, IP, security, and the list goes on. This is where the industry is falling down. The M2M community is getting closer, but with carriers using their own networks to further their own agenda, the M2M community is still many years away from a common standard unless something changes. They have the power to make change. Just like TV viewers stood up for Phil Roberston of Duck Dynasty, you have the opportunity to have your voice heard. The direction things are headed now I don’t see how that helps M2M data customers today. Seems like a lot of sales talk, and in the end you will have very little to show for it, but a big fat expense.

2014
01.16

The New Year got off to a good start, carrying over from the strong finish to 2013.

Regarding that strong 2013 finish, EE Times published on Jan. 15, 2014 a review of the year’s patent awards detailing the numbers by category and companies.

Over the course of recent years, patent awards have been viewed as indicators of the rise and fall of international competition for technology leadership, and as we enter 2014, the level of U.S. concern over the surge of patents awarded to Chinese companies and individuals is heightening. For example, sandwiched between the January 7 and January 14 USPTO Gazette award announcements, we read that the U.S. military is creating a program to monitor and analyze the technology development and patents of China and other nations. The focus will be on those developments with potential military application. Whether or not this is really a new development, announcing it has the benefit of alerting an increasingly assertive country that a more detailed level of scrutiny is the new techno-political reality.

I am always surprised by the association of companies with newly patented devices or processes that are counterintuitive to my understanding of their business profiles. One such surprise came with the January 14 awards. Accenture Global Services Ltd., http://www.accenture.com/, is widely known as a consulting company to Fortune 500 companies across a broad range of technology disciplines. What is not widely known is that it patents processes that can position them with unique strategies that can be deployed to their clients. A very interesting example is Patent 8,630,924 covering the “detection of stock out conditions based on image processing.” You would not be blamed for passing this one over based on the title. Nonetheless, the process and technology covered by the patent have significant implications for retail stores and the brands that are sold in them. With the combination of image capture devices, location sensors (positioned on shelves), object recognition software and image analysis techniques, the benefits could improve shelf restocking (and all of the upstream steps in the retailer’s supply chain), agile positioning of products on the shelf based on customer selection, and interestingly, provision of a missing link to the “smart shopping cart” ecosystem.

Accenture was awarded ten new patents in the first two weeks of the New Year, which by comparison to other awardees such as Apple and Samsung, appears trivial. However, the nature of Accenture’s awards suggest a more holistic approach to using technology to solve broader issues which its clients are likely to want solved.

The number of awards for sensor devices and monitoring processes continues to astound. There is a sensor, it seems, for every device. A case in point is Sony’s wireless sensor for the tennis racket introduced (as a prototype) at CES 2014. In the first two weeks of 2014, Sony was awarded 130 patents in the first two weeks of 2014.

There was an interesting award to NXP, a member of the NFC standards group and a leading provider of contactless NFC semiconductor chips. Patent 8,626,066, entitled “Near Field Communication Device,” speaks to a two-state device with broad implications for P2P (person-to-person) information exchange. In the first “state,” the device enables traditional contactless transactions such as payments (such as getting a Coke at a vending machine), ticketing and access control. In the second state,  the exchange of essentially non-transactional information between two personal NFC-enabled devices is envisioned. We should be looking for possible introduction in social networking applications.

You may not think that anything can top the dazzling array of connected devices being patented, I experience more awe and wonder reviewing the fashion designs that are patented every week. For those of you yearning for an upgrade to the look of our military uniforms, you have Patent D697288 covering the addition of a ponytail hole for the field hat (or “cover” for you Marines reading this).

And then there’s the next “must have” in footwear for all of you who yearn for ten-toe freedom. See Patent D697289.

It is only a matter of time before someone finds a way to put a sensor in each toe slot to wirelessly report to our smartphone application the temperature and humidity that big data will mine. All, of course, in the name of optimal foot comfort.

2014 promises to be an exciting one when it comes to new patents.

2014
01.14

Do you know the expression, “Killing two birds with one stone?” You could say that is what I did this year while covering CES. Okay, I killed many birds with many stones. Let me elaborate. When I asked a few dozen CES exhibitors to come to our broadcast booth to speak to me live on The Peggy Smedley Radio Show, http://www.peggysmedleyshow.com/, I accomplished two things. First, I was able to pose a variety of questions on behave of my listeners to help them understand all the products that were being unveiled at CES. At the same time I was able to avoid all the pushing and shoving from rushing from appointment to appointment to hear about the latest gadgets that would change our lives.

Seriously, people are not nice at shows. They are looking at their programs, or talking on their cellphones or chatting with the person next to them. They certainly are not paying attention to where they are walking while moving through the crowded aisles of CES; I think manners go out the doors. So the fact remains no one likes being pushed or shoved, but it happens all the same. And as a woman it’s hard enough to run around from the Central Hall to the North Hall or even stand in a taxi line waiting for a cab for 45 minutes in heels. So, when I decided to host the radio show for eight hours, long as it might be, I thought it had to be better than fighting the 150,000 people pushing their way through the crowded CES.

In the end, I think I hit the jackpot in Las Vegas, and it was a win-win for everyone. The vendors got the forum they wanted to brag about their new products to hundreds of thousands of listeners; radio listeners who wanted to hear what was happening at CES could sit comfortably in the confines of their homes or office and hear the events of the show live as it was happening; and I was still able to learn about all the technology I needed to all while sitting in my comfortable broadcast booth without feeling like I’m part of a pack of wild horses.

So what did I learn from CES 2014? It was the year of wearable tech. I mean trackers, watches, fitness, healthcare, and even tiny little sensors pretty much stole the show. I’m sure if you read anything so far, you have learned a lot about things like Pebble Steel, http://www.getpebble.com/, or Razer Nabu, www.razerzone.com/nabu.

But what probably impressed me the most were the trackers that use sensors to record real data. These are the gadgets that have really caught my eye this year. During my interviews I liked talking with Sony, www.sonymobile.com/us/, who showed me a host of new really cool wearables. We talked about its SmartWatch update, but I found myself wanting to learn more about the Sony SmartBand. It had the neatest little sensor that Sony calls the Core that is removable and can be placed in all sorts of wristbands, necklaces, you name it. It had an easy app that accompanied it to provide all the feedback that an individual seeks. Even LG, http://www.lg.com/, introduced is Life Band Touch activity tracker.

Movea, http://www.movea.com/, also packed a punch this year. The motion-tracking folks teamed up with TI, http://www.ti.com/, and design firm Xm-Squared, http://www.xm-squared.com/, to unveil the G-Series, a reference design for a fitness band. As you will recall Movea put its motion-sensing expertise to good use with Babolat, http://www.babolat.com/, late last year to unveil the first connected tennis racquet. I’m actually testing that racquet now and will have something to report shortly. It too was on display at CES.

There was no shortage of glass-type of eyeware making its appearance at CES as well. But what were the other products that I liked? I enjoyed how ADT, http://www.adt.com/, announced upgrades to its ADT Pulse. Most of you will recall that is its premier home-security package. I think the biggest addition was the ADT Voice app, which enables homeowners to manage their home security and automation via voice commands.

Another creative gadget is the ibitz kids’s app and pedometer by GeoPalz, http://www.ibitz.com/,  which rewards kids for physical activity. The WearIT, http://www.wearit.net/, is a pretty nifty smartwatch that allows users to monitor health and fitness routines.  I thought it was creative because you don’t need to carry a smartphone. I was also impressed with the FiLIP, http://www.myfilip.com/. But you can learn more about that when we unveil our Connected World Awards’ winners next month.

And moving beyond wearables I did enjoy learning about what is happening at Magellan, http://www.magellangps.com/, Kwikset, http://www.kwikset.com/, Chargepoint http://www.chargepoint.com/, Netgear, http://www.netgear.com/, and Broadcom http://www.broadcom.com/, just to name a few. Listen to the http://www.peggysmedleyshow.com/ for what these companies and others had to say during CES.

So all in all, what did I learn at CES? It’s the year of the wearables, connected car, and it’s all going to be driven by platforms into the cloud. Wow. That’s what we’ve been hearing for months. The difference now is that we actually had a chance to see and feel these products. Some are creative. Some show the innovative nature of the creators. Not all these products are going to make it. I saw some real winners and I saw a few products I just didn’t get. But overall CES didn’t disappoint.

2014
01.01

Tuesday has again arrived, and it is fitting that on the last day of 2013 there was a strong finish to the year with a large number of patents assigned to inventors and companies.

Among the names of companies that contribute significantly to the connected world, Samsung’s divisions received in total more than 150 patents this week. IBM received 127, Microsoft received 99 and Apple had 43.

Amazon Technologies received 19 patents this week. As you would expect, there was an emphasis on ways to improve order fulfillment, of which 8620707 is a good example. Recently, MIT Technology Review provided a perspective on Amazon’s technology strategy, discussing both the role of its subsidiaries, Amazon Technologies and Lab 126.

Honeywell, a significant M2M contributor of wireless devices and sensors to a broad range of industries, was granted 26 patents. One in particular, 8620487, describes a kiosk for use as a vehicular screening system, incorporating a range of biometric, barcode and RFID scanners to verify the vehicle occupant’s security clearance.

Contactless card transaction systems were featured this week. First Data Corp., a giant in credit card transaction processing services, was granted Patent 8616441. It describes systems and methods for processing a financial transaction associated with a contactless transaction card. The Near Field Communications (NFC) standards cover secure contactless transactions, both in the traditional credit card format as well as smartphones. For more information about NFC, visit NFC on Wikipedia.

Google, with 56 patents this week, had the other contactless technology patent,  8621168, which describes the partitioning of name space on a contactless card. This is an important development. If you think of NFC chips, which are in credit cards and smartphones, think of them as capable of having more than one secure application with which it can transact. The available secure name space can be partitioned to provide multiple applications. You can now think of this as real estate, similar to a Mall with its many stores. Retailers, brands and other service providers can coexist securely on the NFC chip. Let’s see what Google does with this one.

Google’s patents this week were diverse and very provocative. Let’s focus on two that have significant implications for social networks. The first, Patent 8621215, describes a way to create monetary accounts for members in a social network. Each member is assigned a “trust factor” and the methodology of the system determines whether to allow for a trusted relationship among the members interested in establishing monetary accounts with each other. Can we expect to see this deployed on Google+ in the future?

The other provocative patent that Google was granted this week, 8621366, proposes the use of comic strips to enable communication between members of a social network. Using a simplified user interface, one member can create a comic strip to communicate a message to another member. This one will be very interesting to see play out as the creativity of social networkers is boundless.

Speaking of creativity, it is fitting to conclude this week’s review with a patent that fits the New Year’s Eve festivities and will no doubt be a hot seller for 2014’s year end parties. And in the category of “You can’t make this stuff up,” I give you the Disco Ball Headware, Patent 8620906.

Happy New Year to you all!