Hashtag Trending March.17 – The future of robots, TikTok spying, Apple and AI

Could a robot be your next customer?  Tik Tok is spying on Americans. And why is Apple so silent when it comes to AI?

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Welcome to Hashtag Trending for Friday, March 17th.

I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and TechNewsDay in the US – here’s today’s top tech news stories.

One of the biggest customer growth areas, in fact a megatrend according to leading industry analyst Gartner Inc. is… machines. 

That’s right.  In a new book, called When Machines Become Customers, authors Don Scheibenreif and Mark Raskino predict that machine customers will be involved in a wide range of business and even consumer purchases. 

“The machine customer era has already begun,” said Scheibenreif. “There are more machines with the potential to act as buyers than humans on the planet. Today, there are more than 9.7 billion installed IoT devices, including equipment monitoring, surveillance cameras, connected cars, smart lighting, tablets, smartwatches, smart speaker and connected printers. Each of these has a steadily improving ability to analyze information and make decisions. Every IoT enabled product could become a customer. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2027 50 per cent of people in advanced economies will have AI personal assistants working for them every day.”

This new machine customer presents one of the biggest new growth opportunities of the decade, and according to the authors, will eventually be more significant than the arrival of digital commerce.

The impact will be felt across the entire enterprise.  Everyone from legal to CIOs to marketing staff will have to rethink what a customer is and how to understand their needs. HR and other areas will have to rethink how machine customers will impact their organizations.

The authors also note “What the machine customers from each phase have in common is that they will make decisions differently from humans in three ways,” said Scheibenreif. “They are logical and will make decisions based on rules that may or may not be transparent. Second, they can also process large amounts of information. Lastly, machines focus on completing tasks efficiently and without emotion, and they can’t be influenced by being ‘wined and dined.’”

Get ready for a new line where – do you want have drinks after work turns into – wanna meet me at the USB charging station?

We’ll post a link to where you can download a sample chapter, or you can get the book on Amazon Kindle.

And on a similar note, for those who think drone delivery just a lofty idea, it’s already here and its growing. 

An article in Axios points out that “Zipline and Wing, two of the world’s leading drone delivery companies, are amping up their operations in preparation for wide-scale U.S. deployment starting next year.”

Drone delivery has been successfully deployed in Africa and it is already available in some US cities, but it’s limited and needs the Federal Aviation Administration to develop rules for flying drones “beyond the operator’s line of site.”

Zipline co-founder and CEO Keller Rinaudo Cliffton called it the “closest thing to teleportation ever created” and claims that these “truly magical autonomous logistics systems” will serve “all people equally, wherever they are.”

Aphabet, the parent of Google, who unveiled their automated Wing Delivery Network is hoping to deploy its drones “as efficiently as Uber dispatches drivers. 

Zipline’s system, which has made over 500,000 autonomous deliveries has a “mothership” that looks like a plane but uses rotors to take off. It can hover silently about 300 feet above it’s destination. It then releases a droid from its belly on a tether. The droid has sensors to allow it to make precision deliveries to a “stoop, a courtyard or even a picnic table.” The perfect system for congested areas.

Even the droids are loaded by dropping down a chute while the drone is at its charging station. Or for remote pickups, they can set up stations that the droids can automatically load from.

The drones, using electric motors are capable of flying up to 38 kilometres or 24 miles between charging at the dock – using a much smaller carbon footprint that any delivery vehicle. 

Full service is expected to start as early as next year, so when your package arrives, on time and without traffic delays, you’ll be able to say, “these are the droids we were looking for.”

Source:  Axios

TikTok spied on US journalists?

The FBI and the Department of Justice are investigating Tik Tok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance for using the app to spy on American journalists, including the reporter who broke the story in Forbes today.

According to the reporter’s sources, the US Attorney for the Easter District of Virginia has issued a subpoena to ByteDance seeking information on its efforts to access US journalists location information private data. 

Forbes first reported surveillance of reporters in the US by ByteDance in October of last year, when the company was trying to find internal leaks exposing the company’s links to China. 

At that time, ByteDance spokesperson confirmed and condemned this: 

“We have strongly condemned the actions of the individuals found to have been involved, and they are no longer employed at ByteDance. Our internal investigation is still ongoing, and we will cooperate with any official investigations when brought to us.” 

TikTok declined any comment. 

According to the Forbes reporter, this is the first report of the federal government investigating ByteDance’s surveillance practices. 

In a related story today, Axios reported that the Biden administration has warned TikTok that if could be banned from the US if ByteDance does not sell its stake in the US version of the App. The Trump administration had allowed TikTok, to operate,provided it stored its data with a US company and Oracle had stepped up take that on. But apparently, perhaps due to investigations like the one mentioned in Forbes, this is no longer good enough.

TikTok is one of the most popular apps in the world. It has over 100 million US users. Any ban would have a huge impact and mark a significant escalation of the already tense relationship between the US and China.

Sources: Forbes and Axios

Mozilla has a new feature for Firefox that it hopes will end spamming and online tracking. 

Firefox Relay, launched in beta in August of 2020 as an extension would mask a users email address when they sign up for accounts on websites. This meant that nobody could grab your real email address – only a disposable alias.

With the new integration, there is no need to go to a separate management dashboard to generate the alias. Firefox Relay will prompt to use an existing alias or create a new one while you are  on the webpage.

Messages for the aliases are automatically forwarded to the user’s existing email, so that users can benefit from all of the services of the website while protecting the privacy and their identity. If the aliases are misused or spammed, they can be deleted.

Mozilla claims that Firefox Relay has prevented over two million unwanted messages from hitting user email accounts.

Other benefits include the automatic removal of trackers from emails. 

Users have to sign up for the service, which has a free and a paid version. The seamless integration only applies to some websites and the service will be rolled out to users gradually, but Mozilla hopes to have all users and websites covered by the end of the year.

Source: TechRadar

Here’s some news that’s really no news, but more of a question.  Have you wonder whatever happened to Apple in the midst of the AI extravaganza?

Last month, Apple held an internal event focused on AI and large language models. And a story in the New York Times stated recently that people working on Siri are constantly testing language generating concepts” Apple has been otherwise silent as others like Microsoft, Google have rolled out new AI offerings.

Any Siri user will realize that it, like Amazon’s Alexa, are not that smart. They have trouble with many questions and have real problems with accents or any partial command or sentence. 

In an interview with the New York Times, former Apple engineer John Burke, one of those who worked on Siri, is reported to have said that Apple’s Assistant has had a slow evolution because of “clunky code.” This, according to that same report, made it harder to push “even basic feature updates.”

One of the key problems is that Siri relies on a huge database of words and unlike generative AI models, this database has to be rebuilt and reloaded when any changes are made. That, apparently, can take weeks.

It’s a rather klunky solution for a company that sees itself as on the leading edge of user oriented design. In fairness, Apple has been using AI features for some time for processing and editing photos including removing and added backgrounds and even objects, for biometric security and has even adding Karaoke to Apple Music.

But there is no doubt that the company is playing catch up in the world of large language models. Are they working on their own model? Or will they try to adopt some of the existing models. Whatever they do, you can bet it will be interesting.  Apple is not always first into a market, but they normally have an impact when they do arrive.

Source: TechCrunch

And finally, the product that just won’t die – finally dies?

We all remember the Google Glass fiasco of 2012. Launched with much fanfare these glasses were going to keep us constantly connected. The smartphone, according to Google was – Doomed!  

But the glasses never took somehow. That klunky Clark Kent look was just – too nerdy even for nerds. After a very short time in the market, they fizzled and disappeared.

But like that villain in the horror movie, and with all of the hoopla about the metaverse and augmented reality, Google brought them back, after buying an up and coming Canadian company. Second time lucky?

Apparently not. Google appears to have admitted defeat a second time and according to a support page on March 15th, support for the new Glass Enterprise Edition will end as of September 15th, 2023. System images will be online until April 1, 2024 and on that auspicious day, user could be as the Register reported, “in the dark.”

Nobody at Google is saying what killed the second coming of Google Glass, but given the recent layoffs and shrinkage in staffing, it’s quite possible that they weren’t profitable enough or as one CEO put it, an unnecessary “science project.”

But Google Glass isn’t the only failure in this area. Microsoft’s “HoloLens” found some limited uses but failed with its biggest customer, the US Department of Defense. While they had planned to roll out thousands of these devices there were problems.  Delays and perhaps the fact that they reportedly failed user acceptance testing, making soldiers physically ill when using them, led to Congress cancelling the program.

Another one bites the dust and we are left with a dilemma. I can’t use Occulus, because Zuckerberg is clearly a supervillian – so now what am I going to do to keep my secret identity hidden? 

Those are the top tech news stories for today

Links to these stories can be found in the article posted on itworldcanada.com/podcasts. You can also find more great stories and more in-depth coverage in itworldcanada.com or in the US at Technewsday.com

Hashtag Trending goes to air five days a week with a daily newscast and we have a special weekend edition with an interview featuring an expert in some aspect of technology that is making the news.

We’re always happy to hear from you, you can find me on LinkedIn, Mastodon, Twitter or just leave a comment under the article for this podcast at ITWorldCanada.com/podcasts.

I’m your host Jim Love – Have a Fabulous Friday!

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Jim Love
Jim Lovehttp://www.itworldcanada.com/
I've been in IT and business for over 30 years. I worked my way up, literally from the mail room and I've done every job from mail clerk to CEO. Today I'm CIO of a great company - IT World Canada - Canada's leading ICT publisher.

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