Samsung launches next-gen SmartThings smart home hub

smartthings3
Samsung-owned SmartThings has finally launched its new home hub along with new sensors and a new video monitoring capability.

The Samsung SmartThings Hub is available now in the U.S. and on Sept. 10 in the U.K. The hub costs $99 with sensors ranging from $30 to $55. There are now more than 200 compatible devices.

The hub and connected sensors can be used to control the lights, thermostats and doors, and warn about things such as water leaks. It works with ZigBee and Z-Wave radios.

The Samsung SmartThings Hub has been redesigned to solve some of the reliability issues the predecessors suffered from. The redesign makes it possible to handle some tasks locally, meaning it can operate without an Internet connection.

Hardware improvements include a more powerful processor and a battery backup that lasts up to 10 hours in case of a power outage.

smartthings hub

The processor will power a new video monitoring capability, which first will be available as a beta version.

Part of this expanded video push is the Smart Home Monitor service. It lets users watch over and protect their home from anywhere in the world, according to Alex Hawkinson, CEO and founder of SmartThings.

“You’ll get a text, alert or video notification if there is smoke or anything else happens in your home. So you can act before it turns into a disaster,” Hawkinson said.

A buffering feature lets the recording to start prior to the triggering event so users can see what caused the incident.

smartthings app

Samsung also showed a revamped SmartThings app. Users can now directly organize and control devices by room, and customize actions to occur automatically based on preset routines, according to Samsung.

The development of the hub hasn’t always been easy. SmartThings, which was acquired by Samsung in August last year, said in March it needed more time and had to push the launch of the hub from the second to the third quarter.

But the hub and the sensors are now available for purchase on shop.smartthings.com and Samsung.com and will be rolling out on Amazon.com and retail stores across the U.S. In the U.K the products will be available at select Currys PC World stores and online at Samsung.com. Next year they will become available in more European countries, as well.

Japan Eyes Tourist Boost With Google-Style Street View, for Cats

Tourism bosses in a Japanese prefecture have come up with what they hope will draw more feline-loving visitors: a Google-style street view for cats.

Billed as a world’s first, officials this week launched an online map that explores the streets of port city Onomichi from the purr-spective of a four-pawed visitor.

“We decided to focus on cats because they know everything about the city, including the back streets,” a tourism spokesman for western Hiroshima prefecture told AFP.

He added that the city of about 150,000 people is known for its many felines and has a street known as “cat lane”.

The map is based on the perspective of Lala, a fluffy kitty with emerald-coloured eyes, who lives with local hair salon owner.

So far the map covers just two streets but plans to expand its reach are in the works using a camera attached to a stick that hovers 20 centimetres (eight inches) above the ground.

Viewers can trace what Lala – appointed the head of the prefecture’s “back street tourism” division – sees from her low-level perspective.

The unlikely feline-focused tourism bid is not Japan’s first.

Provincial Wakayama prefecture drew thousands of tourists to its regional train station where a cat served as nominal stationmaster.

Tortoiseshell-coloured Tama was credited with single-pawedly saving the provincial Kishigawa Line after being appointed as master of the tiny Kishi station.

With the regional railway losing money, the station lost its last human employee in April 2006, passing on the mantle to Tama, who delighted in strolling around her own office wearing the formal uniform cap of Wakayama Electric Railway.

After Tama’s death in June, a new cat took over the position.

Wingify’s notCRUD Wants to Be India’s Producthunt

New Delhi-based Wingify, a developer of website optimisation tools, announced the launch of notCRUDon Thursday, a community platform to showcase the best of Indian product, technology, and design thinking.

The initiative aims to bring Indian product talent together to build amazing products out of India and showcase the best of what the Indian product ecosystem has to offer.

notCRUD, a take on database programming lingo (create, read, update, and delete) will feature discussions on tech products, designs, product management, growth, hiring, scaling technology and building stellar user experiences in India, the company said.

The notCRUD community expects participation from product managers, Web, and mobile engineers, UI/ UX designers, growth experts, hardware hackers and more. Startup leaders like Santosh Panda, Founder and CEO, Explara; Harish Sivaramakrishnan, Vice President of Front End Engineering and UX atFreeCharge, and AvinashRaghava, co-Founder and Fellow at iSPIRTFoundation, are some of the well-known names that are already a part of the community.

The company said that notCRUD will also organise offline events and hackathons to work on interesting product problems.

Paras Chopra, Founder and CEO, Wingify said that there was very little discussion happening on nuts-and-bolts of building amazing products out of India, compared to communities and platforms discussing startups, valuations, and fundraising.

“We need more people thinking and talking about robotics, artificial intelligence, cryptography, database design, design patterns, and product management practices. We at Wingify decided to build notCRUD to highlight and nurture the product talent that exists in India and to support great product ideas from the country,” he said.

Founded in 2010, the New Delhi-based firm has an A/B testing SaaS product called Visual Website Optimizer, which can be used by marketing professionals to increase sales, signups, downloads and conversions by using A/B, split and multivariate testing. Visual Website Optimizer is used by more than 4,000 brands in over 90 countries, the company said.

Young and Quirky YouTube Stars Lift Traditional Book Publishers

Videos like “Walking Around Naked” and “Apps That Need to Be Invented” made Connor Franta a star on YouTube. More than nine million watched “Coming Out,” in which the introspective 22-year-old told his young fan base that he was gay.

When he wanted to stretch beyond the format of a six- or 10-minute video, the new media sensation chose an old-fashioned media form: a book. It took a year to write and publish the 224-page memoir “A Work in Progress” and, to his surprise, it stuck on the New York Times best seller list for 16 weeks.

With that kind of appeal to young readers, Franta is part of a generation of YouTube stars giving a boost to the book publishing industry.

More than a million books, both physical and digital, by online stars have been produced globally by Franta’s publisher, Keywords Press, alone. Such authors have sold nearly 700,000 physical books in the United States in the past year, according to data provided to Reuters by Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 85 percent of the U.S. printed book market.

Their inspirational, quirky and often personal writing takes the form of advice manuals, cookbooks and collections of essays such as Shane Dawson’s “I Hate Myselfie,” or fiction such as Paige McKenzie’s “The Haunting of Sunshine Girl.”

“I never thought of myself as an author,” Franta told Reuters in an interview. His best seller about his Midwestern upbringing, his path to YouTube stardom, and his struggles with sexuality and body image, has sold more than 200,000 copies. “It really blew mind.”

For comparison, Franta’s YouTube channel has almost 4.9 million subscribers.

While YouTuber titles are only a small fraction of the 2.7 billion books sold in the United States each year, they are part of a resurgence in reading among kids and millennials that is helping to keep the publishing industry alive in the age of the Internet.

Overall U.S. book revenue is expected to total $28.8 billion (roughly Rs. 1,90,821 crores) this year, according to research firm IBISWorld, a 9 percent decline from a decade ago. But young adult and children’s books – fueled by popular series like “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” – are bucking the downward trend. The number of juvenile books sold rose 63 percent from 2004 to 2014, according to Nielsen BookScan.

The success of YouTube authors is a further sign that people who grew up surrounded by screens like reading books.

“As someone who would like our youth to read a little more, I appreciate that they are telling their story in a different way,” said Stephanie Horbaczewski, CEO of StyleHaul, a video network that is home to YouTube creators such as fashion expert and author Zoe Sugg.

Publishers who understand the financial appeal of the young adult are now looking for new authors on YouTube, which is owned by Google Inc, and social media platforms such as Vine, Tumblr and Snapchat, said Sara Sargent, an executive editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books.

She joined the publishing house in July in the newly created role of acquiring teen, middle-grade and picture books from digital and social media personalities.

Easy self promotion
In a time of media saturation, YouTube stars come with a marketing edge: fervent followers and a ready-made place for promotion.

Franta revealed his finished book in a YouTube video posted in March. Weeks later, thousands turned out for a book tour that stretched to Britain and Australia.

The authors “mobilize their fan bases,” said Liz Perl, chief marketing officer for the Simon & Schuster publishing house owned by CBS Corp. CBS highlighted hit books by YouTube stars when it reported higher profits for the publishing house in its quarterly earnings report in August.

Simon & Schuster’s Atria Publishing Group and United Talent Agency last year created Keywords Press, a division for books by online celebrities. Five of its first six titles, including Franta’s, became best sellers.

Books are one way online stars are branching out to generate steady income beyond YouTube, where the site typically keeps 45 percent of the revenue from the ads that run with their videos, which can be difficult to predict. Book publishers generally pay upfront advances and royalties on sales.

At least 20 YouTube personalities have released books since the beginning of last year, and publishing executives said they expect the pace to increase. Several top YouTubers, including Tyler Oakley and Shay Carl, already have announced coming titles.

YouTube’s biggest star, the Swedish gamer PewDiePie who attracted 39 million subscribers with his high-pitched screams and comic musings, releases “This Book Loves You” in October.

PewDiePie’s book offers unlikely self-help advice, such as “You can never fail if you never try.” That brand of humor is a big hit on YouTube.

Franta said he worked to make the humor and enthusiasm of his videos apparent on the printed page, putting extra letters in words like “yay!” or “amazing!” His editors had to get used to his writing style.

“They would ask, ‘Why did you add ten Y’s to that word?’,” Franta said. “I would say, ‘It’s on purpose. Keep it in there!'”

HP Reportedly Seeking to Sell Cyber-Security Unit TippingPoint

Hewlett-Packard Co is exploring a sale of computer network security solutions unit TippingPoint ahead of a corporate split later this year, according to people familiar with the matter.

Private equity firms have expressed interest in TippingPoint, the people said this week. The unit could be valued at between $200 million to $300 million (roughly Rs. 1,325 crores to Rs. 1,987 crores), the people added.

The sources asked not to be identified because the sale process is confidential. A spokesman for HP declined to comment.

HP is reviewing all parts of its business to find assets that may not fit into the separate companies ahead of a planned corporate breakup in November.

HP plans to split into two publicly listed companies, one focussed on enterprise technology, software and services and one focussed on slower-growing computer and printer businesses.

“HP has been vocal about looking to sell assets that they consider non-core, and that they are not through that process yet,” said Brean Capital analyst Ananda Baruah.

TippingPoint, which makes hardware for companies’ firewalls that protect their networks, competes in a crowded space against companies such as Palo Alto Networks Inc . Its technology is not a key part of HP’s broader security strategy, which is focussed on more sophisticated, faster-growing areas such as encryption.

Earlier this year, HP bought an encryption company Voltage Security, which helps customers protect their data.

Other security assets that HP is focussed on include ArcSight, which monitors and analyses corporate networks for breaches, as well as Fortify, which provides application security.

HP acquired TippingPoint as part of its $2.7 billion (roughly Rs. 17,892 crores) acquisition of 3Com Corporation in 2010. In May, HP sold a controlling stake in its China-based data networking business H3C Technologies, another unit of 3com, to China’s Tsinghua Unigroup for $2.3 billion (roughly Rs. 15,241 crores).

Wikipedia Blocks Accounts Linked to Paid Edits

Wikipedia on Wednesday said that it has blocked more than 300 accounts being used by people being paid to create or tweak entries at the communally sourced online encyclopedia.

Weeks of investigation revealed 381 accounts being used at the English version of Wikipedia for “black hat” editing in which people took money to promote outside interests without disclosing they were on someone’s payroll, according to a blog post.

Wikipedia is powered mostly by volunteers and bars paid advocacy that is not disclosed, such as in the case of museums or universities having employees tune entries related to exhibits or institutions.

“Neutrality is key to ensuring Wikipedia’s quality,” Ed Erhart and Juliet Barbara of the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation said in the blog post.

“Although it does not happen often, undisclosed paid advocacy editing may represent a serious conflict of interest and could compromise the quality of content on Wikipedia.”

Along with blocking the 381 “sockpuppet” accounts, Wikipedia editors deleted 210 articles created by people using those accounts. There was a potential for more entries to be removed as the investigation continued.

“Most of these articles, which were related to businesses, business people, or artists, were generally promotional in nature, and often included biased or skewed information, unattributed material, and potential copyright violations,” Erhart and Barbara said.

“The edits made by the sockpuppets are similar enough that the community believes they were perpetrated by one coordinated group.”

The accounts identified in during the investigation were used from the end of April to early August, but the nature and quality of the nature and quality of edits suggested that the paid-scheme was operating “for some time” before being discovered, according to Wikipedia.

A team of volunteers tends to Wikipedia entries, which rely on crowd-sourcing for accuracy.

“Editing Wikipedia is completely free, and only requires compliance with the project’s editorial guidelines,” Erhart and Barbara said.

“No one should ever have to pay to create or maintain a Wikipedia article.”

Manchester United Partners HCL for New Digital Strategy

English Premier League club Manchester United said on Wednesday it had signed a partnership deal with IT firm HCL Technologies to improve its website and app as it gears up to launch a new digital media strategy.

The 20-time league winners have struggled on the field since manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 but off it have continued to sign a string of lucrative commercial agreements under the ownership of the American Glazer family.

To further capitalise on the lure of its claimed 659 million global followers, analysts expect United to present a new digital media approach next year, which could see the club cater to local markets with premium subscription content, alongside an e-commerce platform and global or regional sponsorship deals.

United’s latest tie-up will see HCL Technologies, one of India’s big six IT firms, help design and build digital platforms capable of better engaging with fans. In turn, United could then explore more targeted content opportunities globally.

“This (partnership) is enabling us to deliver a platform that our digital offering would operate on,” Manchester United Managing Director Richard Arnold told Reuters on Wednesday.

Both parties declined to give a value for the deal.

United, now fifth in the league after four games, reported a 17.7 percent fall in third-quarter revenue to 95 million pounds in May, a third consecutive quarterly decline because of the absence of Champions League money.

To try and revitalise its prospects this season, the club has spent over GBP 100 million (roughly Rs. 1,013 crores) on new players including French under-21 forward Anthony Martial, who is now the world’s most expensive teenager after signing from Monaco for a reported 36 million pounds.

Comcast tests hefty $30 per month fee to ditch Internet data cap

metered broadband
Over the last three years, Comcast hasn’t worked up the gumption to reinstate bandwidth caps for home Internet users nationwide. Nevertheless, the company is still experimenting with various capped plans in nine states. The latest addition to the trial is a change for customers in select regions of Florida where subscribers can now pay an extra fee for unlimited data usage.

The change allows Comcast home Internet subscribers in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and the Florida Keys to pay an extra $30 per month for unlimited data, as Ars Technica noted. The new charge is an alternative to the extra fee of $10 for every extra 50 gigabytes of data after blowing through Comcast’s monthly allotment of 300GB.

Comcast is testing various other bandwidth caps, but the one the company favors is a straight 300GB per customer with the overage charges mentioned above.

Unlimited data sounds like a good option, but an extra $30 tacked onto each monthly plan only makes sense if you average more than 450GB in a single billing month. Otherwise, paying for overages in 50GB allotments makes more sense.

To put those numbers in perspective, 450GB is the equivalent of downloading around 300 two-hour movies in HD from iTunes, or 15 to 20 modern PC games from Steam.

Bandwidth caps affect only standard Comcast home Internet subscribers and do no affect fiber subscribers with the faster Extreme 505 and Gigabit Pro plans.

The story behind the story: Comcast’s latest Florida trial is just one part of the company’s quest to bring back bandwidth caps nationwide. The company gave up on its first bandwidth caps in 2012 and vowed to search for alternatives. Since then, Comcast has been testing bandwidth caps in various areas around the country. However, the company’s preferred 300GB plan with $10 overage charges has been in existence since 2012. When Comcast data caps might resume is unclear, but in May 2014 a Comcast executive said to expect data caps to return within five years.

Land Rover Transparent Trailer Technology And Cargo Sense App Unveiled

Land Rover Transparent Trailer Technology And Cargo Sense App

Land Rover has unveiled new see-through trailer concept technology it has been developing that allows the removal or the blind stop created when towing behind your vehicle. Together with a new Cargo Sense App that can be used on your smartphone.

The Land Rover Transparent Trailer system is currently in its prototype development stage and like other we have featured here on Geeky Gadgets combines the video feed from the vehicle’s existing surround camera system.

Land Rover Transparent Trailer Technology

The Land Rover system utilises the reversing camera and a camera on each wing mirror with a video from a digital wireless camera that is placed on the rear of the trailer or caravan. Watch the video below learn more.

Features of the new system include :

– Makes a trailer or caravan appear see-through when being towed
– Removes the blind spot created when towing, making overtaking safer and help trailer manoeuvring by improving visibility
– Cargo Sense App allows drivers to monitor the status of the trailer and cargo remotely via smartphone
– Sensors on the floor of a trailer could alert the driver if the load  is shifting, or if a horse is in distress – reducing the potential for accidents and injuries
– Technology prototype in a Range Rover research vehicle will be demonstrated at the Burghley Horse Trials 3rd – 6th September