Friday, February 14, 2014

#TechSeven - Google shows the love, and diapers get wired

If you tuned into my weekly segment with Barry Morgan on Montreal's CJAD 800, here's a quick rundown of some of the things we chatted about. If you weren't able to tune in, we'll be back at it next week at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Hope you can join us.

Here goes...

ONE - Google's Valentine's Day present

Did you forget about Valentine's Day? Don't have time to hit up the florist before sundown? Don't worry, Google has you covered with its Valentine's Day doodle.

If you're new to the doodle thing, Google often marks special occasions and holidays - Albert Einstein's birthday, the anniversary of the first moon landing, the Olympics, etc. - with Doodles, where it replaces the Google logo on its main search page with either a graphic, or an interactive app. You might remember the Pac Man game or playable Fender guitar, both examples of doodle-dom at its best.

Go to or to find today's doodle. Click on the dancing chocolate box where the Google logo would usually be. Using your mouse or touchscreen, create a customized chocolatey creation - including your choice of dark or milk chocolate, strawberries, sprinkles and even ants (ew!) - and then share your creation on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

TWO - Tinder - the new online breakfast of Olympic champions

Speaking of the Olympics, if our Olympians aren't tweeting, they may be doing, ah, something else.

If you're single, you may already have used an online service to find a mate. eHarmony and are the 800 pound gorillas of the online dating space, and Facebook has also become a popular choice for this kind of thing. Tinder is newer, having been introduced in October 2012. It's an iOS app - for iPhones and iPads - and it's billed as a simpler way to find someone.

Because it's mobile-based, it also makes it easy to connect with people nearby. And now comes a report that Olympic athletes are doing just that in Sochi - so when they're not competing for gold, they're apparently pulling out their iPhones and hooking up.

Olympic hookup culture isn't anything new. Every games, winter and summer, stories of, um, unpublishable and airable activity abound (here's a summary from 2012, and a timeline from Time magazine). Combine thousands of young people in incredible shape in a limited geographic area and something's bound to happen. Now, mobile technology makes the process even easier.

Alas, I don't think this will get much TV coverage.

THREE - Netflix - the new king of the Internet

House of Cards is arguably the first truly successful TV series produced not by a major television network, but by an Internet streaming service: Netflix. Well, the series is so popular - and so acclaimed, with Emmy and Golden Globe awards to its credit - that you might notice its impact after Netflix posted all 13 new episodes of its second season online at 3:01 this morning. That's because studies of Internet data use show that so many people watch streaming movies and TV shows from Netflix at night that EVERYONE'S Internet speeds slow down by about one-third. Today's Netflix crush is expected to have an even bigger impact, with some experts saying the TV show alone will consume 40% of ALL available Internet bandwidth.

It's like someone using all the water in the firehose, leaving precious little water and pressure for everyone else.

This comes after Netflix fans launched an online petition to convince the company to release the episodes early. Why? With a giant snowstorm bearing down on the U.S. East Coast, they wanted to hunker down and watch their favourite TV show available when they were stuck at home to weather out the storm. Did it work? No. But it's another sign that the Internet is profoundly changing how we watch television.

So if your Internet is slow, blame Netflix. Stubborn Netflix. And if your House of Cards doesn't play smoothly tonight or this weekend, it's because everyone else is trying to watch it at the same time.

FOUR - Federal budget fallout - Rural Internet users lose out, again

This week's get-rid-of-the-deficit federal budget held the line on spending, but still included a few goodies to keep voters happy in advance of the next federal election in 2015. One such goodie was $305 million over the next 5 years to bring high-speed Internet access to 280,000 Canadian households in rural or remote areas of the country.

Rural Internet speeds are a critical indicator of national competitiveness. People living outside urban areas have traditionally been underserved in this regard, and have had to put up with either slow Internet connections or no Internet connections at all - and in all cases they've had to pay through the nose for the privilege. In the digital age, it forces rural citizens into a disadvantaged state, and ultimately compromises national competitiveness compared to countries that get it.

So the money from the feds is nice in theory, but not in reality. I wrote an article for Yahoo Canada that outlines why this is a terrible deal: Federal budget 2014: Rural Internet boost is nowhere near enough

Why? Because other countries are vastly outspending us, and we're falling further behind. The U.S. is spending upwards of $350 billion on its national broadband plan. Australia, which is geographically similar to Canada - population concentrated in cities, with lots of open space in between - spent $43 billion. Our pitiful "investment" actually replaces two programs that were cancelled in 2012, and the level of spending is now LESS than it was beforehand.

What's worse,  the feds promised in 2001 to bring high-speed Internet to every Canadian household by 2004. We're still waiting. This either needs to be our next Manhattan Plan, or our leaders should stop pretending they get it. Because this week's announcement shows they don't.

FIVE- Wearables update - behold the electronic diaper

Lately, we've been talking a lot about wearable computing. Smartwatches like the Pebble and Galaxy Gear, glasses like Google's Glass and those increasingly popular fitness bracelets could be joined this year by an Apple iWatch. But wearables don't stop there. Sensor- and processor-laden hats, helmets, shoes and even jackets are on the horizon.

But diapers? A Japanese university professor has demonstrated an inexpensive sensor that detects wetness and signals the caregiver when a change is needed. Why is this notable? The sensor itself is cheap - important in a disposable product - because it's printed using an inkjet printer. Printable technology is an increasingly popular and cost-effective way of turning even mundane objects - like diapers - into smart ones. Expect the printable revolution to continue.

SIX - BlackBerry BBM updated - now iOS and Android users get free calling

BlackBerry continues to release updates to its BlackBerry Messenger software. This week, it updated the iOS and Android versions to (finally) include free BBM-to-BBM voice calling using either Wi-Fi or cell networks (no need to use your minutes if you don't want to.) It also adds support for the BBM Channels social media feature. The Apple and Google apps now match the capabilities that BlackBerry device-users have had all along.

If you have an old BlackBerry, BBM's been updated, as well. So hit up the App World and get your free upgrade.

The bad news? The guy who headed the BBM division, Andrew Bocking, has left the company as part of an ongoing stream of executive departures in the wake of CEO John Chen's arrival. Don't expect the changes to slow down anytime soon.

1 comment:

rashbre said...

Have you seen the Huggies Tweet Pee? It sends a tweet when there's nappie (diaper) changing to be done! Imagine the followers.