All posts in “Tech News”

GM is putting app developers directly in the driver’s seat

GM is giving developers a fast lane to make it easier to build connected car apps for infotainment systems. 

The automaker is offering up its next-generation infotainment software development kit (NGI SDK) to the general development community with a new twist: App makers will actually be able to test their creations IRL with the new Dev Client program.

The automaker claims it’s the first time a car company is giving developers a shot to work on their apps in a real production vehicle this early in the process. The friendlier, more open platform could turn the GM dashboard into a new space for connected car innovation — if it catches on with developers.    

“By introducing GM Dev Client, we’re giving developers the missing link they need to finalize their applications,” said John McFarland, director of Global Digital Experience in a release.

The app creation process is streamlined, with an open developers network ready for new applicants. Once they’re ready to make something, developers can download the new SDK, which has been available since January, to build out their app and begin emulating the in-car environment to kick things off.   

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Once an app design goes through GM’s internal review process, it can be downloaded to the developer’s own car for real-world testing. App makers will have to have at least one friend in the car with them, however, since safety features kick in so that a connected laptop can only be used in the passenger seat while a car is moving. 

GM is also planning to offer the SDK with a new set of templated frameworks, like a media player layout or a point of interest layout, to give developers a more focused starting point for projects. Those should roll out by the end of the year, according to the company.

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Cortana Makes Smart Thermostat a Glas Act

Microsoft and Johnson Controls this week unveiled Glas, a smart thermostat that runs on Microsoft’s Windows 10 IoT Core, a special operating system designed specifically for smaller devices. Glas also utilizes Microsoft’s smart voice assistant Cortana and its Azure Cloud to help users save energy while monitoring air quality in the home.

Heating and cooling of a residential home accounts for around 48 percent of energy use, making it the largest energy expense for most families, noted Johnson Controls, a provider of HVAC, fire and security systems, and maker of the first electric room thermostat.

In commercial buildings, heating and cooling accounts for approximately 40 percent of energy costs.

With Microsoft’s Cortana voice services built-in, Glas could become a core part of a smart home play.

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More Than Temperature Control

Thermostats that can be controlled remotely via a smartphone or other device generally have been increasing in popularity, but a key plus for Glas is that it is more than a thermostat. It includes sensors that can detect when people are in the room, and adjust the temperature accordingly.

Like competing smart environmental devices, including those from Nest and Hive, the Glas smart thermostat is designed to lower energy costs by maintaining desired temperatures in parts of a building that are used more, while maintaining appropriate temperatures in areas that are infrequently accessed.

Unlike other wall-mounted units, Glas provides continuous monitoring of both indoor and outdoor air quality.

“From the little we know, this looks like a Nest-comparable device,” said Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics.

“Smart home thermostats with some value-add is a growing market, especially in states like Massachusetts that subsidize intelligent thermometers,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“The air quality and AI is just a value-add to the dumb thermometer most Americans have in their home that drives their air conditioning and heating,” Entner added.

Glas Talking

Voice control could be a distinguishing feature for Glas. Users can tell it the temperature that they want and adjust other settings.

“Johnson’s Glas is the first thermostat to use Microsoft’s Cortana technology to support voice commands/controls,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“That sets it apart from Google Nest, which doesn’t support voice directly — though it can be managed vocally with a Google Home device,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Similarly, the Eccobee4 thermostat can be used with Amazon Alexa.”

Crowded Smart House

For Microsoft and Johnson Controls, it is now a question of whether its partnership product is coming to the market too late or is arriving just in time for the smart home revolution.

“This looks mostly like catch-up ball to me,” suggested Roger Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates.

“Amazon and Google are already in this market. Both have cloud services, smart assistants and AI capabilities,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Microsoft is a latecomer, but not too late, because the IoT market is just taking off — sort of ‘better late than never,'” Kay added.

The smart thermostat market is still a niche market, however, and may stay that way for a while, due to costs.

“At US$250, a Google Nest is about 10 times the cost of a basic digital, programmable thermostat,” noted Pund-IT’s King. “That’s likely to change as digital assistants, like Google Home and Amazon Alexa become more common and provide voice-enabled equivalents of universal remote controls.”

Home or Office

From the information available so far, it does seem that Glas targets commercial properties more than consumers’ homes.

“That makes sense strategically, since Johnson is known for its HVAC, fire and security systems — but it also underscores some key Glas features, including air quality controls and the ability to sense when people are present in a space and automatically adjust its settings,” said King.

“While those points may interest some consumers, they’d be more valuable to businesses looking to better manage their facilities and related costs,” he explained.

This could be a product that finds itsr market in business settings, but then reaches homes in another version, especially if it should become the central command station in either environment.

“The battle is for the IoT hub in the home, office or other building,” said Endpoint Technologies’ Kay.

“Apple wants in on this, too,” he added. “This is mostly about not being outflanked in an evolving market — really the least tapped market of the big three: endpoints, cloud and IoT.”


Peter Suciu has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2012. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile phones, displays, streaming media, pay TV and autonomous vehicles. He has written and edited for numerous publications and websites, including Newsweek, Wired and FoxNews.com.
Email Peter.

Apple ARKit developer beats IKEA to the punch with AR furniture app

Image: ASHER VOLLMER VIA TWITTER

The augmented reality app space is expected to explode this fall thanks to developers using Apple’s ARKit for iOS. 

But one developer is moving faster than even some of the major brands linked to Apple’s AR platform, having just demonstrated an amazing AR app before IKEA got a chance to launch its own ARKit-powered app.

Asher Vollmer, one of the developers behind the popular mobile game Threes, took to Twitter on Friday to reveal his experiment with ARKit: a fully functioning AR app that lets you arrange furniture in the real world. 

If you’ve already seen ARKit apps in action, this might sound like just another AR demo, but you have to watch the video to realize just how powerful the app is. In just under a minute, Vollmer populates an empty space — while people are moving about in the background — with realistic looking furniture, plants, and even a working fireplace. 

The array of options on Vollmer’s app also allows him to change the size of a piece of furniture in line with real world dimensions, making this a perfect tool for decorators, realtors, and even architects. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook and IKEA executive Michael Valdsgaard both recently touted the company’s effort to roll out an ARKit-powered app soon. But Vollmer beat them to the punch, with powerful results. 

But because iOS 11, ARKit’s native environment, isn’t going officially pubic until the fall, many ARKit-created apps, including Vollmer’s, aren’t available to most users yet. 

This is just the latest example of the developer enthusiasm around ARKit, with independent developers having already demonstrated apps that highlight Tesla and SpaceX in AR environments via the iPhone. 

Anyone wondering if AR on the iPhone is viable as a practical tool beyond gaming, these examples are giving us all the proof we need to illustrate exactly what’s possible. Even better: the demos are only getting more impressive with each passing week. 

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UK officials lay down new drone rules for amateur users

Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Operating a drone in the UK just got a little tougher, and safer. 

On Saturday, the UK government posted new rules governing the use of drones weighing over 250 grams (about half a pound), with input from the Department for Transport, the Civil Aviation Authority, and the Military Aviation Authority. 

The guidelines state that drone users will have to register their devices and undergo safety awareness testing to ensure that they’re aware of UK security, privacy, and safety rules. 

Part of the impetus for the new guidelines is linked to a recent study by the collective agencies that found that drones weighing nearly one pound (400 grams) might cause damage to the windshield of a helicopter, an airborne vehicle that frequently occupies the same low altitude space as many drones in large city areas. 

“By registering drones, introducing safety awareness tests to educate users we can reduce the inadvertent breaching of airspace restrictions.”

“Like all technology, drones too can be misused,” said Aviation Minister Lord Callanan in a statement on the government’s website. “By registering drones, introducing safety awareness tests to educate users we can reduce the inadvertent breaching of airspace restrictions to protect the public.”

In addition to the new rules, drone users in the UK are also required to follow the country’s “drone code,” which calls for always keeping your drone in sight, below 400 feet, keeping a reasonable distance from people and property, and — most importantly — keeping your drone far away from airports.  

Amateur drones flying dangerously close to airports while airplanes are in flight have become a matter for concern in recent years, with several near-misses recorded in the UK and other countries. As recently as three weeks ago, a drone caused disruptions at Gatwick Airport, leading to flights from British Airways and EasyJet being diverted. And in November of 2016, an Airbus A320 plane approaching Heathrow airport reported seeing a drone at 10,000 feet just 98 feet away from the aircraft. 

Whether the new drone rules will help in such cases remains to be seen, but UK officials are trying to make the new process easier by working on creating an easy to use website and app for drone registration. 

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How to get all of your text messages on your Mac

Don't miss any messages.
Don’t miss any messages.

Image: lili sams/mashable

There’s nothing worse than missing out on a text message because you didn’t see it. Luckily, you can now start getting your texts sent to iMessage on your Mac, but the setup process is a little tricky. Here’s how to do it.

First of all, you’ll need to have OS X Yosemite on your Mac. If you bought a computer in 2014 or after, you should be all set. You can check your version of macOS by click the Apple icon in the top left of your desktop screen, then clicking “About This Mac.”

Next, you’ll need to sync your iPhone and Mac via your iCloud account. Be sure to register both devices under the same email to make this process is as easy as possible — this just means you’ll use the same Apple ID for both. This signals to your phone and computer that they should pull information from the same account. 

Once you know your iPhone and Mac are using the same iCloud account, it’s time to make sure iMessages is actually turned on. You can start with your iPhone.

  • Open Settings

  • Go to Messages

  • Make sure iMessage is on

Make sure everything's right in Settings.

Make sure everything’s right in Settings.

Image: molly sequin/mashable

Also be sure to turn on the option called “Send as SMS.” This is what allows you to send a text even when iMessage isn’t available.

Next, choose the addresses you want iMessage to send and receive messages from. This is under the “Send & Receive” label on your iPhone. 

Once you’re in this menu, it will show you which Apple ID your iMessage is using, so double check to make sure it’s the right one. Below, it shows you all of the addresses you can use for this account. So if you have a phone number and email address that you want to send messages from on the same network, add them all.

Add all address you'll be using.

Add all address you’ll be using.

Image: molly sequin/mashable

Now, your iPhone should be all set up. Next you’ll need to setup your Mac. The instructions are very similar to the ones you just followed, so it should be really easy. Here’s what to do:

  • Launch Messages on your Mac

  • Enter Apple ID email address and password (make sure it’s the same one you just used on your iPhone)

  • Click Messages in the Menu bar in the top lefthand corner of your Mac

  • Choose Preferences

  • Choose Accounts

  • Choose the phone number and email addresses you want to use for the account (once again, make sure they’re the same ones you selected on your iPhone)

  • Choose which phone number or email address you want people to see when you start a new conversation

And there you have it! The directions on both very similar, so once you get through one it should be smooth sailing. You definitely don’t need to set up messages on both, but doing so will make sure you never miss out on anything. So set it up, and start chatting away on all of your devices!

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