News of the Week for Sept. 29, 2017

Ford’s smart benches let you charge your gear, and are solar powered.

Will you let Walmart in your home to stock the pantry? In a new partnership with smart lock maker August, Walmart is testing a new home delivery service with a limited number of Silicon Valley customers. The idea is that you place your order for products and groceries on Walmart’s website and along with home delivery, the items will be placed inside your house: Even in your fridge if needed. Don’t worry, neither Walmart nor the delivery driver has direct access to your home. Instead, when the driver arrives and rings your doorbell, you’ll get a notification on your phone. At that point, you remotely unlock your door and can watch the entire delivery process through an August Home security camera. It’s a smart business model — I’d expect a higher than normal delivery fee for the service — and a clever way for traditional brick and mortar to pair up with a smart home company. (Walmart)

Steelcase and Microsoft want to transform the office: To address employee concerns about office space not enabling creativity, the two companies are pairing up for digital transformation efforts. Steelcase’s connected workspace platform will start with two services, Workplace Advisor and Personal Assistant, both of which use sensors and data analytics to identify how office resources are used. Workplace Advisor, for example, can cancel no-show conference room reservations, while Personal Assistant helps employees find the right place for specific tasks such as conference calls or brainstorm sessions. Steelcase will offer these via a subscription service with Microsoft’s Azure cloud providing the analytics. (ZDNet)

China’s getting a smart, disaster warning system: Working with Ericsson, China Mobile will be using the internet of things to alert residents of potential disasters such as landslides and earthquakes. Alerts will be handled both by China Mobile’s LTE network and a new IoT system. This isn’t the first time Ericsson has lent a hand with public safety IoT systems. In 2012, it partnered with the municipality of São Paulo, Brazil to create a smart emergency response solution for public safety authorities. Since then, the crime rate has dropped 20 percent in the area. (Ericsson)

Take a load off with Ford’s new smart benches: You’ll have to travel to London to try these but Ford has deployed 20 smart benches with plans to double that amount in the city. What makes them smart? For starters, there are some mobile conveniences such as Wi-Fi access, USB ports for charging devices and solar panels to get clean energy in your phone or tablet. But they’ll also provide data to local officials about sound, carbon dioxide, humidity and temperature. By better understanding the nearby pollution and traffic, authorities can make smarter decisions with regards to traffic patterns. (Alphr)

Can Dyson make an electric car that doesn’t suck? James Dyson has made a career out of re-engineering somewhat mundane products to make them better. After entering the vacuum and fan markets, Dyson plans to bring his expertise in a challenge to Elon Musk and others in the electric car industry. There’s no prototype yet but Dyson is committed to spending £2bn to design, build and deliver a “radical” electric car. Considering he’s done wonders with smaller electric motors, Dyson could deliver on that aspect. But building a brand new car from scratch instead of just selling the motors? That’s a tough ask. (BBC)

Sigma simplifies Z-Wave installs. A new SmartStart program was unveiled by Sigma this week, which it says will help installers set up Z-Wave networks and devices. The idea is actually a simple one and reminds of what Amazon does with its Kindle devices: It pre-configures them. By having the Z-Wave network information already set up on devices, installers simply have to mount them and supply power: SmartStart should have already done the rest to get those Z-Wave units connected and online. (Sigma Designs)

Google’s IoT Cloud Core now in public beta. The search giant announced a private, limited beta in May and is now opening up its IoT Cloud Core service to everyone for beta testing. Aside from integrations with other Google Cloud products — think BigQuery, Dataflow, and Pub/Sub to name a few — the IoT Cloud Core provides the ability to connect and manage remote IoT devices at scale, regardless of their location. A new feature includes maintaining device properties and last reported state of devices. Now that IoT Cloud Core is closer to a general release, the company has introduced pricing details: You won’t pay when you add devices; instead, you’ll be charged only when they connect and send/receive data from Google Cloud. There’s even a free tier for device hobbyists and DIY folks that includes 250 MB of monthly data transfer. (Google)

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Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

macOS’s Keychain vulnerability reported earlier in Sept., Apple patch likely coming soon

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The Keychain password vulnerability affecting multiple versions of macOS — including High Sierra — was reported to Apple on Sept. 7, and will likely be patched by the company in the near future, according to the security researcher who first publicized the issue.
AppleInsider – Frontpage News

Telltale’s ‘Minecraft Story Mode’ Ep. 3 Launches Sept. 19th, Trailer Shows Off Hard Times

Telltale continues to spout out episodes for its many series, and soon it will be time for another Minecraft Story Mode Season 2 [$ 4.99] episode to drop on our devices. Episode 3 of Telltale’s take on Minecraft is coming out September 19th, and it looks like it’s going to be a fun one judging from the trailer. Spoilers from here on, so proceed with caution. Episode 2 ended not with glory, despite Jesse and the gang succeeding in taking down the Ice Tower clock, but rather in literal hard times, with Jesse and the rest getting “transported” to what looks like a maximum security prison. It seems like the Admin wants to continue playing with Jesse and the gang like a scientist does with rats in a complex and confusing maze.

As you can see from the trailer, you’ll get the chance to either work with the prison authorities or organize a great escape, with both options looking like entertaining narrative ideas. The second episode of the series was quite an improvement from the relatively weak premiere, and I’m hoping the improvement continues. Not too long to wait now, with Episode 3 dropping on (hopefully) all devices September 19th.


Virgin Mobile USA sets later Sept. 29 launch for Apple’s iPhone 8 & 8 Plus

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The U.S. incarnation of Virgin Mobile won’t launch the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus until Sept. 29, a full week after the devices arrive from Apple and the country’s four major carriers, according to an announcement.
AppleInsider – Frontpage News

Apple hardware lead Johny Srouji to speak at Carnegie Mellon on Sept. 18

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Johny Srouji — Apple’s senior VP of Hardware Technologies — will give a speech at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon on Monday, Sept. 18, the university’s Computer Science school has announced.
AppleInsider – Frontpage News