By Jerry Yu ‘19
Welcome, techies, to this version of Tech Focus. This month, we’re going to take a quick look at some things that are taking the technology world by storm.
1) The Security of Smart Devices (i.e., Alexa, Google Home, etc.)
The question of internet privacy has been uppermost in the minds of Americans since the inception of the internet, but this past August, concerns were heightened when a Tencent security team identified and warned Amazon about flaws in Alexa (Amazon’s voice-controlled smart home device) that allowed hackers to spy on users. The discovery of this loophole frightened the millions of Americans who have Alexa devices in their homes, as they felt all of the conversations they conducted in the presence of the device were in danger of being heard. In comes BlackBerry. Blackberry, a company who is perhaps most well-known for its smartphones of the early 2000’s, is also revered for its privacy. Thank goodness BlackBerry made available its privacy technology to smart home devices, and their new security service will consist of constant self-checking of devices, which will improve consumer privacy. Meanwhile, McAfee and Google partnered to bring a voice-activated internet security toolkit to Google Home and allow the user to constantly ask Google about their network safety. Though the scare of the insecurity of Alexa is enough to shake folks up, knowing that these alternatives are available is of comfort to those who seek privacy.
2) Apple Puts Software on Non-Apple Devices
Apple, a company which has long been notoriously hated for its incompatibility with non-Apple devices might have softened up on its strict rules on this matter. For example, no other device had access to Apple services like the iOS, iMessages, and iTunes up until this point. However, the Samsung 2019 devices might be Apple’s first step towards opening up their software services. Samsung’s new line of Smart TVs will feature Airplay 2, the updated version of Apple’s remote casting service, which allows users to mirror any and all content from their personal devices directly to the big screen. The new Samsung TV will also be the first non-Apple TV to have a dedicated iTunes store. It is likely that the reason Apple is expanding its software to non-apple products has something to do with Apple’s annual iPhone sales figures, which have decreased.
3) Cars With TVs Become More Popular
Smart Cars, vehicles which have “smart” technology built into them (not to be confused with self-driving cars), are gaining popularity. With cars offering a variety of fancy new features such as allowing voice commands via Alexa, there is no denial that in a few years we will look at a our current gasoline-powered cars with clumsy infotainment screens and cringe. One of these new smart car models is called Byton. A Hong Kong-based startup, Byton is making what are being called “iPhones on wheels” with what they call the “AI-powered 5-G smart car.” Maybe just playing the buzzwords game, they focused their entire car around the Alexa-enabled display, which is as wide as 7 iPads. Meanwhile, another company, the microprocessor giant Qualcomm, took a different approach. Using their advantages in network technology, they announced the C-V2X (cellular vehicle-to-everything) tests in Las Vegas. They are not making the cars, however. Ford and Audi, who are extremely competent in the field, are taking on the next-generation vehicles head-on and have partnered with Qualcomm in this endeavor.
This is an exciting time to be a techie, and in this new year, we can expect many more fascinating developments in our rapidly evolving digital world.