Cybercriminals Targeting Workplace E-mail More

Your inbox might be the easiest entry point for a cyberattack. Firms are being flooded with fraudulent e-mails from criminals trying to pry sensitive info from unsuspecting workers. The e-mail scams, known as phishing, are a cheap and easy way to infiltrate even the most digitally fortified workplace. E-mail is a goldmine because it contains so much personal and proprietary information, including login details for other online accounts. Continue reading “Cybercriminals Targeting Workplace E-mail More”

Facebook’s Long-Term Plan to Keep Its Business Humming

Facebook is having a rough week. During an earnings call on Wednesday, the social media giant’s chief financial officer said revenue growth will slow in the coming quarters, spooking investors and sending the stock plunging 19%. A staggering $150 billion in value was wiped out in one day.

The selloff came as a surprise to many followers of the company, since CEO Mark Zuckerberg had earlier pointed out many of the emerging trends that could lead to slower growth and higher costs. Continue reading “Facebook’s Long-Term Plan to Keep Its Business Humming”

What the Future Holds for Ever-Smarter Smartwatches

Smartwatches are far more than gee-whiz gadgets. Their evolution shows the future of wireless innovation. By next decade, the Dick Tracy-like wrist bands will harness next-generation wireless service, or 5G, the cellular upgrade that promises faster, more ubiquitous and lower-powered wireless connections.  Smartwatch hardware improvements will find their way into other small devices, such as augmented-reality headsets. Continue reading “What the Future Holds for Ever-Smarter Smartwatches”

Streaming Video is Taking the Fitness World By Storm

Brick-and-mortar gyms are sweating how fast live-streamed workouts are catching on. Fitness buffs are taking direction from top-notch fitness instructors…from their living rooms via live online classes.

Gym owners worry that customers will start ditching memberships in favor of these at-home online classes. The 36,540 fitness clubs in the U.S. attracted 57 million members in 2016, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, an industry trade group. Globally, health and fitness clubs pulled in $83 billion in 2016.

Fitness videos are nothing new. But those old Jane Fonda VHS tapes were prerecorded, as are many of today’s popular online workouts. The new crop of live broadcasts can be streamed to phones, tablets or TVs and have become appointment viewing for gym rats. The live aspect lures eyeballs with an extra dose of excitement and urgency.

Credit startup Peloton for sparking the phenomenon. The company, founded in 2012, has raised more than $400 million in venture capital and ushered in the streaming revolution about two years ago. It sells a $1,995 indoor bike that includes an attached tablet to watch live spin classes. Peloton charges $39 per month for access to its workouts and now boasts one million members. It recently launched a treadmill, too.

Another fitness app, Zwift, lets bicyclists go on virtual rides with friends from their basements for $15 per month. Bikes are hooked up to indoor trainers that wirelessly connect to a screen that displays a virtual road. The trainer adjusts to conditions, such as making it harder to pedal uphill, and translates the rider’s pedal strokes to the rider on the screen. Users can go for a solo joy ride or race others in real-time on courses in areas such as London, Richmond, Va. or even in made-up worlds.

Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter are also increasingly popular destinations for livestreamed workouts. The social media sites make it easy for anyone to broadcast themselves to the masses and are especially popular with younger digital natives.

The trend is putting pressure on traditional fitness equipment sellers. “We’re not a hardware company,” Peloton’s CEO said in January. “Those companies are yester-year.” In response, equipment sellers will have to adjust. NordicTrack now sells treadmills with large video screens that play prerecorded workouts. Its tagline: “A true club membership in the comfort of your home.”

Gyms are racing to jump on the bandwagon. Gold’s Gym has an app with prerecorded audio workouts to use at the gym or at home, for example, and 24 Hour Fitness launched an app in January that includes personalized video workouts. “In the fitness industry, competition is at an all-time high already with explosive growth of new entrants to the fitness market,” according to Brad Weber, CEO of FitCloudConnect, a streaming video platform catering to gyms.

Jumping into livestreaming can cost traditional health clubs an arm and a leg. Gyms must invest in software and video production, an especially tough prospect for cash-strapped independent gyms. Reliable, fast Wi-Fi is also a must-have because users often want to stream workouts at the club. Weber argues that “existing fitness clubs do not have the time, money or technical expertise to respond to the Peloton threat with a streaming offering.” Buyers of FitCloudConnect’s software can bet on the livestreamed or recorded workouts increasing membership retention, or they can charge extra for access to trainer classes.

Look for more gyms to partner with streaming fitness outfits and mobile apps, either working closer with fitness-tracking apps, such as Strava or MyFitnessPal, or adopting equipment that includes livestreaming capability. “There are thousands of Peloton bikes in hotels, residential developments, college campuses, professional sports team gyms, social and country clubs, and other ‘commercial’ environments,” says Tim Shannehan, Peloton’s chief revenue officer. Shannehan says the consumer market will always be the primary focus, but that the company “sees loads of opportunity” in commercial settings.

Even if gyms can stem defections, they still risk losing high-priced fitness class customers. Head to a gym these days, and you may catch someone consulting with smartphone exercise apps to tell them the next exercise. That’s a lost opportunity for a class run by the gym itself. And if clubs adopt streaming fitness equipment in their gym, they could be introducing members to a viable alternative.

What comes after live streaming? Companies are already working on virtual- and augmented-reality workouts. BoxVR lets VR-wearing users spar with animated targets flying around. Black Box VR has users grab cable pulleys to go through a stamina-tracking video game. The market will gain traction as headsets become lighter, cheaper and more powerful.

How Facebook Will Cope with a Big Tech Crackdown

The backlash against big tech isn’t going anyway anytime soon. Of all the tech titans bracing for impact, Facebook has the most to lose from increased scrutiny and new regulations in the U.S. and around the world.

The most recent firestorm was sparked by a massive data leak that exposed up to 87 million users to the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. Facebook was caught flatfooted by the intensity of condemnation from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Continue reading “How Facebook Will Cope with a Big Tech Crackdown”

Who Profits from the New Space Race?

The new space race’s leaders will start emerging over the next 12 to 18 months. Investors in space have wagered that cheaper rocket launches, better small satellite hardware, upgraded antenna equipment and other advances will transform the industry and bring satellite broadband, Earth imaging and other services to a new slate of businesses and consumers. The buzz has lured an estimated $10 to $15 billion of venture capital into space companies over roughly the last 10 years.

Nearly 5,000 small satellites are planned for launch over the next decade, according to North Sky Research, a space market research firm. That’s far more launched per year than past years. The optimism underscores the promise of cheaper, more reliable access to space. Continue reading “Who Profits from the New Space Race?”

Rent-A-Robot Services Will Bring Bots to More Small Businesses

Robots that work alongside humans are hitting factory floors in earnest. Falling costs and expanding capabilities are bringing robotic coworkers to more plants. Unlike traditional industrial robots, these so-called collaborative robots don’t need large safety cages to protect workers. Many of the robots are small, allowing them to fit into tight spaces. And their arms are getting more rugged so that they can be used in harsh environments.

Robot subscription services are spurring adoption. For a monthly fee, companies can rent robots instead of ponying up well north of $100,000 to purchase and install an industrial robot. In these “robots-as-a-service” agreements, customers get a multipurpose robot that can be up and running in days, compared to weeks for traditional systems. The subscription includes training, installation and regular software updates. Continue reading “Rent-A-Robot Services Will Bring Bots to More Small Businesses”

China’s Mounting Tech Ambitions Target U.S. Leadership

China is ramping efforts to topple America’s high-tech dominance. Beijing wants to take the lead in an array of advanced technologies, ranging from artificial intelligence to medical equipment. It faces challenges, of course, but it is methodically gaining ground on the U.S. and developed nations. Whether China succeeds or fails at its lofty goals, ripple effects will continue to sweep across the globe. The most innovative U.S. companies along with U.S. tech experts are sounding the alarm about China’s growing aspirations.

The technologies in China’s crosshairs require massive amounts of capital, research and innovation. In addition to AI and medical gear, there’s also industrial robots, electric vehicles, aerospace equipment, satellites, electric power equipment, telecom gear and agricultural machinery. “Today the China challenge is pointed directly at U.S. advanced industries, many of them critical to our defense industrial base,” writes Robert D. Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, in a recent article. Continue reading “China’s Mounting Tech Ambitions Target U.S. Leadership”

Will Tech Companies Have to Divulge AI Secrets?

Tech companies are facing mounting pressure to show what’s under the hood of their artificial intelligence tools, which guide driverless cars, enable facial recognition apps, decide what ads to show internet users and much more. The decision-making software that automates such tasks is usually a closely guarded secret. Advocates for transparency say that tech companies should reveal more information about how these systems work when they are used to guide public policy. Continue reading “Will Tech Companies Have to Divulge AI Secrets?”

Tech Companies are Racing to Fix a Chip Bug, But Threats Will Linger

A major computer chip security flaw will continue to roil the tech industry for years to come. The problem affects a staggering amount of modern information technology around the globe, including PCs, smartphones and servers that run widely used cloud computing apps. The issue stems from processors from Intel, AMD and ARM, which are at risk of exposing sensitive data to hackers, such as passwords and encryption keys.

The vulnerabilities were discovered in June by security researchers at Google, who quickly reported it to the chipmakers and other hardware and software companies, prompting a rapid behind-the-scenes company response. The problem was made public on January 3 by the tech website The Register, causing tech firms, particularly Intel, to scramble to disclose more information. Continue reading “Tech Companies are Racing to Fix a Chip Bug, But Threats Will Linger”