The Driverless Car Race Shifts into High Gear

The race to make driverless car service a reality is revving up. Carmakers are ramping up investment in an array of technologies fundamental to autonomous vehicles. The industry poured more than $80 billion into self-driving technology recently, according to a tally by the Brookings Institution spanning August 2014-June 2017. It’s a full-fledged spending spree on everything from artificial intelligence software to sensors to computer chips.

“Every manufacturer in the world wants to be an early mover—or at least avoid competitive disadvantage,” notes the Brookings report. Investments by car companies, tech giants and venture capitalists will only accelerate. The whole industry is riding on more than a decade of development, steep price drops on sensors and other key hardware and breakthroughs in artificial intelligence software. Carmakers know they are also competing outside of their industry—against Apple, Google and China’s Baidu to name a few—on the technology front. Continue reading “The Driverless Car Race Shifts into High Gear”

Apple Brings Facial Recognition to the Masses

Apple’s new facial recognition technology will bring facial biometrics into the mainstream. The tech giant’s new $1,000 iPhone X will let users scan their face for added security when paying at the grocery store or signing into a bank account. The high-end phone is one of three new iPhone models, and the only version with facial recognition. But the top-tier iPhone X could end up netting one-third of all sales of the new iPhone fleet. That would put the new tech in the hands of 70 million or more users around the world within 12 months, barring severe shipping delays or supply shortages. Continue reading “Apple Brings Facial Recognition to the Masses”

Driverless Cars Are Getting Smarter

Specialized computer chips are giving cars more brainpower to rapidly crunch data and assess their next move. Chip makers are designing new silicon that can run artificial intelligence software to speed up computing tasks, both in the car and in the cloud.

The first place to look for extra smarts: Data centers that are adding AI chips that will improve driverless software. Tech giants Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, along with Chinese companies Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent, are racing to scoop up the server chips for their massive data centers around the globe. The chips accelerate data-intensive tasks, such as running voice recognition and analyzing photos, while using less power. Continue reading “Driverless Cars Are Getting Smarter”

Emerging Wireless Tech is Revving Up the Internet of Things

The rise of the Internet of Things isn’t just about superfast speeds and vast data transmissions. New options for transmitting small amounts of data at slower speeds also have the potential to transform billions of everyday products by connecting them to the web for the first time.

Advances in low-power wireless technology will spark stronger sales of connected products, from mobile medical kits to warehouse lighting. The companies involved in the design of wireless chips and the products they go into are vying to establish themselves as the go-to suppliers for these nascent markets. To conserve power, the radio signals involved work at much slower speeds and pass along far less data. The chips are designed to run off of batteries for up to 10 years by going into a “deep sleep” power-saving mode. Continue reading “Emerging Wireless Tech is Revving Up the Internet of Things”

Will Apple’s Next Smartphone Be a Hit?

Apple faces a huge test next month. The world’s largest company will unveil an updated edition of its flagship product, the iPhone. The question is, can Apple’s latest model “wow” consumers and investors alike?

Apple’s near-term success rides on the fate of the new phone. The iPhone first came on the scene in 2007 and has become Apple’s profit engine, accounting for a whopping 60%-70% the company’s sales. Much of Apple’s ecosystem, from apps to music, stems from the device. The new phone debuts in early September and starts shipping soon after. Here’s what to expect: Continue reading “Will Apple’s Next Smartphone Be a Hit?”

Who Profits from Cord Cutting?

There’s no end in sight to paid TV customers joining the cord cutters in droves. The media business, reeling from the upheaval, is racing to adjust to this swift disruption that is rerouting billions of dollars in advertising, subscriptions and programming fees from traditional TV firms to tech giants and others.

A new set of winners is likely to emerge in the aftermath of the shake-up as incumbents try to ward off rising startups and tech behemoths. Count on even more turmoil over the next five to 10 years as new technology emerges, from virtual reality to next-generation 5G wireless, that further upends the way people consume media.

Continue reading “Who Profits from Cord Cutting?”

Broadband Providers are Gearing Up to Profit from Relaxed Web Rules

Fierce competition in mobile broadband. A steady decline in cable subscribers. New technology that drives down data prices. Hugely expensive infrastructure costs. An uncertain road to next-generation 5G wireless.

Those are just some of the challenges wired and wireless broadband providers are facing. Now those telecom firms are breathing a sigh of relief and gearing up to launch new services and enter new markets in a big way. Regulatory rollbacks will benefit web providers. But the path forward won’t be easy. Continue reading “Broadband Providers are Gearing Up to Profit from Relaxed Web Rules”

5 Bright Spots in Cybersecurity

I’ve been quick to point out that digital security threats are on the rise. Hackers are getting more sophisticated, connected devices are shipping with shoddy defenses and the number of attacks is rising.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, there are some bright spots in the digital security realm. I got an up-close look at some of the latest and greatest cybersecurity technologies and trends at a security conference held last week in Washington, D.C., by market research firm Gartner.

Here are five positive trends about cybersecurity today that I gleaned from listening to security experts for a day. Continue reading “5 Bright Spots in Cybersecurity”

Are Robotic Suits Coming to Your Workplace?

When someone mentions home improvement giant Lowe’s, you might picture vast aisles of paint, plywood and garden supplies. But soon, thoughts of Lowe’s might conjure up images of Iron Man. The retailer is dabbling in robotics through its high-tech research lab that tests a slew of emerging technologies. Its latest project: Productivity-boosting robotic suits known as exoskeletons.

Lowe’s isn’t the only company expressing interest. Exoskeletons will be tested by more and more companies in the coming years. Workers at BMW, FedEx and Amazon are already using suits, according to Kasthuri Jagadeesan, research director of the TechVision Group at Frost & Sullivan. But more testing is needed for wider adoption. “You have to have serious trials,” says Dan Kara, research director at ABI Research. Kara says trials uncover important issues such as how much the suit chafes, how rugged it is and how hard it is to put on and take off. Continue reading “Are Robotic Suits Coming to Your Workplace?”

The Killer App for Super-Fast Broadband? Virtual Reality

Internet providers are betting on data-hungry devices to spur consumer demand for super-fast internet. Executives at companies that provide broadband internet expect virtual and augmented reality, the next big consumer technologies, to keep consumers hooked on pricey home internet plans. That’s because immersive experiences with high-end VR will require ultra-fast, high-capacity networks that far outpace today’s average speeds.

Much-improved virtual and augmented reality goggles will boost broadband companies’ sales pitches. A slew of quality consumer headsets—after today’s models are refined to be cheaper, lighter and more powerful—will be available by 2020. Continue reading “The Killer App for Super-Fast Broadband? Virtual Reality”