Digital Assistants: Alexa v Google v Apple

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There really is so much to say about voice recognition technology that I don’t think you can do it justice in a 1000 words. But I gave it a go in this piece for Tech Radar which briefly compares Amazon Alexa with Google Assistant and Apple Siri.

Personally I love my little Amazon Echo Dot, which I use mostly for playing music and checking the weather. But Google seems to be catching up fast with Google Assistant on its Google Home devices.

Arguably, Google Home is probably better for multiple users in the same house and is more intelligent than Amazon Alexa. However, it isn’t compatible with anywhere near as many home automation devices. Yet.

Certainly, Amazon is leading the way in terms of sales of Alexa products following a trajectory that is looking to outstrip that of Apple iPhone in the early days. Could the next couple of years see digital assistants become as ubiquitous as the smartphone?

I don’t think it’s beyond the realms of possibility, especially with units costing from £49.

As for Apple with Siri, it seems that the company is now at the back of the pack. While Siri was introduced well before its rivals back in 2011, Apple fails to have capitalised on its early lead.

Will its promised smart speaker, the HomePod, be a case of too little, too late? Personally I think so.

You can read my full article here. 

How technology can help improve our health and save money

healthcareInevitably, the cost of health care is rising dramatically as people are living longer. Obviously this is putting pressure on health systems across the world, including the NHS.

However, technology can play its part in improving our health and reducing costs, for example by analysing ‘big data’ to improve patient outcomes and by the introduction of telemedicine – where it’s possible to monitor patients remotely.

In this piece for the Telegraph’s Social Innovation Forum, taking place on November 28th, I interview Rachel Dunscombe, Chief Information Officer of Salford’s Royal NHS Trust about some of the initiatives they have been working on to improve patient outcomes.

You can read the full interview here.

Taking a trip with Olympus. Getting creative with the new E-M10 Mark III.

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Yesterday I spent a nice afternoon taking pictures on board a boat cruising down The Thames, courtesy of Olympus. I was essentially there to test out its latest digital camera, the Olympus E-M10 Mark III which meant taking lots and lots of pics of London’s iconic buildings and generally behaving like a tourist .

It’s an interesting mirrorless camera, half way between a standard compact and a digital SLR. Aimed at people like me who are perhaps bored of smartphone photography and want to move onto something which offers more creativity but without the bulk, it offers plenty of manual features including the ability to set your own aperture and shutter speed.

It’s also got lots and lots of filters including two black and white film filters which as you can see from the examples below I really enjoyed using.

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Will the iPhone 8 be the first £1000 phone?

iPhone8.pngAmazingly it’s 10 years since the first iPhone launched and it’s highly likely that Apple will mark the occasion next week with the announcement of the iPhone 8, a dummy model of which (apparently) is pictured above on the right.

As you might expect the iPhone 8 is widely expected to have all the latest bells and whistles including an OLED screen that goes right to the edge pretty much, a dual camera system and, possibly, a glass back in order to enable wireless charging.

But what it will also have is an enormous price tag. Rumours have it that even the basic 64GB model will set you back $999 with the 512GB costing a cool $1199.

With the pound falling against the dollar, that means almost certainly you will be paying over £1000 for all but the very basic model.

A few years ago that would have seemed unthinkable, but then I suppose people routinely spend £1000 on computer equipment and for many the iPhone is just as valuable and just as useful.

I don’t think I will be rushing out to buy one just yet though.

8 things we know about the iPhone 8 already
Image courtesy of Marques Brownlee. See the iPhone 8 video here. 

 

Daily Telegraph: It’s time to bridge the gender gap (19/7/17)

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According to statistics from the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) less than 10 per cent of the UK’s engineering workforce is female, the lowest anywhere in Europe. Yet at the same time, we face a massive skills shortage across the sector.

So what is being done to make engineering an attractive career option for women? And once we have got women into the industry how do we support them to return to work if they leave to have children, take a career break or care for elderly relatives?

These were just some of the questions posed to a panel of expert speakers at a recent roundtable event hosted by The Daily Telegraph and supported by BAE Systems.

You can read my full report in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph by clicking on the link below.

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Keep ahead of the curve. Daily Telegraph, motoring section (1/7/2017)

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Thanks to The Daily Telegraph for running my piece on creating a ‘digital twin’ and how manufacturers like Maserati are now using Siemens’ technology to reduce the need for prototypes and to optimise production.

Says Brian Holliday, Siemens Managing Director, Digital Factory: “The digital twin not only enables people to visualise programmes and work together at much lower cost, it means that car manufacturers can make greater progress in designing, simulating and verifying before conducting testing in the real world.”

We’ve come a long way in car production since Henry Ford said way back in 1909 ‘you can have any colour you want as long as it’s black.’

Take your pet into the office on #BringYourDogToWorkDay

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Friday June 23rd is Bring your Dog To Work Day!

Today (Friday 23rd June 2017) marks national Bring Your Dog to Work Day. Obviously if you work as a bus driver or in a hospital that might not be particularly practical. But for a lot of office workers taking a dog into work can add to the positivity and productivity of your workplace.

Personally I’ve always loved dogs and would welcome them in any office, any day of the year. It’s also much better for the dog than being stuck at home by him or her self. However, I mostly work from home so it’s not so much of an issue anymore. 

You can get involved in the conversation online with the hashtag #BringYourDogToWorkDay and see the dogs of the UK’s workforce in the office! 

You can also see the four main benefits of bringing your dog into work here.

Samsung Futurescape – What is the ‘new normal’?

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Most people probably know Samsung best for its range of mobile phones, but it’s fair to say that the Korean giant offers a wide range of tech solutions for businesses as well as consumers.

Recently I went along to the manufacturer’s Futurescape event on behalf of The Daily Telegraph to see how Samsung is working with companies on everything from Virtual Reality to Artificial Intelligence.

For example, one of Samsung’s partners is Thomas Cook which is introducing Gear VR headsets in some of its 700 stores to help bring holidays and holiday excursions to life when people are thinking about booking them.

Other exhibits at this year’s Futurescape included a start-up estate agent that is using VR to guide people through homes and a company using wearable devices, such as Samsung’s Gear 3 smart watches, to alert retailers if a VIP walks into the building.

Says Graham Long, Vice President, Samsung Electronics, UK and Ireland: “I used to apologise to our enterprise customers about Samsung being a predominantly business to consumer brand and our lack of business heritage, but now the behaviour of the market has swung completely to our advantage.”

You can read the full article here.  Or see the content from the newspaper below.

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Daily Telegraph: Companies need to be more active in dealing with cyber security threat

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Too many companies take a compliance based view when it comes to IT. Rather than dealing with the potential cyber security threat, they are more concerned with putting in controls to protect their assets.

This needs to change, James Hatch, Director, Cyber Services, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence told me in a recent interview for The Daily Telegraph. He says that businesses, especially large businesses, need people in place who think more like attackers and the potential damage they could cause.

“We are still dealing with the same problem of how to protect the things we value in life,” he reckons. “People still want to want to steal from us, copy from us or disrupt our lifestyles; it’s just that technology has enabled them to do it more easily at scale.”

You can read the full interview here

 

Underwater MP3 player reviews – now published

swimmer2Remember a little while ago I told you about some underwater MP3 players I’ve been testing in time for the summer? Well now they’ve been published on Tech Radar here.

Personally I prefer the Finis design (pictured above) which you don’t have to put in your ears – it uses bone conduction technology to transmit the audio across your cheekbones.

It’s more comfortable to wear and doesn’t move out of position which can be a problem if you are wearing earbuds. The downside is that it’s a little more expensive than some of the others at around £80 (see here).

Most of the designs work surprisingly well underwater providing you give them a bit of a clean after swimming. I recommend a spray like Muc Off to get rid of any excess water and for cleaning out the charging points which can become corroded over time.

One question that people always seem to ask me about these devices is ‘can you listen to audiobooks on them while swimming?’ The short answer is no. Many people have tried but most report disappointing results when listening to dialogue.

However, for music these devices are great and some of them are very cheap (not much more than £25). Although I would definitely recommend the Finis, it can only be used in the water – it’s not suitable for land use. If you want something that can be used for running or cycling, then perhaps look at a model like the i360 instead which does both jobs very well.

You can buy the Finis Duo here