Monday, July 28, 2014

Shanghai Sunset

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Nokia Lumia Icon appears at Verizon with a 5-inch 1080p display

Nokia is preparing to release a new 5-inch 1080p device for Verizon, and the US carrier appears to have accidentally listed the device on its website today with a placeholder price of $777. Labeled as the Nokia Lumia Icon, the 5-inch device includes a 20-megapixel camera, 2.2GHz quad-core processor, and a 2420 mAh battery according to the specifications listed by Verizon. The device has leaked a number of times under the name Lumia 929, but it appears Verizon will brand the device as the Lumia Icon instead. Nokia’s Lumia Icon looks to be a smaller version of its giant 6-inch Lumia 1520, but it’s not clear if the Finnish smartphone-maker plans to release a similar variant on other US carriers or even internationally. Nokia has typically provided custom Windows Phone variants for Verizon, so that may be unlikely. While Verizon doesn’t list all of the Lumia Icon specifications, the device is also expected to include 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a dual-LED flash, and an aluminum frame. We’ve reached out to Verizon for comment on the Lumia Icon release date and pricing, and we’ll update you accordingly.

Huawei's Tron console will let you kill Android zombies on the cheap

Call it a coincidence, but just as China lifts its ban on foreign game consoles, one of its own biggest manufacturers is ready to release exactly such a device. The Tron micro-console from Huawei is an uncomplicated cylindrical canister that runs Android 4.2.3 and outputs a 1080p video feed to your nearest TV via HDMI. The plastic housing contains a Tegra 4 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB or 32GB of storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0 — which connects to the accompanying controller — and even a full-sized USB 3.0 port. Impressively, Huawei aims to sell the Tron console for less than $120, though the primary market for it will be the company's native China. The specs and price position the Tron directly against the Ouya Android console, which has had a fair number of issues, not least of which is the scarcity of console-class games that can really harness the controller's functionality or the Tegra chip's added graphical power. Tron doesn't get off to a stellar start, with an interface that looks to have been pulled straight out of your favorite arcade cabinet, and things don't get better when you look at the library of games Huawei has loaded on it. Less than $120, but you might have to go to China to buy one I played a 2D hack-and-slash title called Red Blade as well as the zombie shooter Dead Trigger 2, the latter being a game that Nvidia has regularly promoted because of its Tegra 4 optimizations. Though rudimentary in gameplay, Red Blade definitely benefited from the gamepad, which felt responsive and comfortable in the hand. Dead Trigger 2, on the other hand, was quite awkward to direct and aim with the right analog stick, though I'd put that down to the game itself rather than Huawei's hardware. Intriguingly, the Chinese company has also put a massive round touchpad at the top of its controller to facilitate navigation. Overall, the Huawei Tron is shaping up to offer a very cheap solution to getting some Android gaming hooked up to your TV, It may not evoke too many pangs of desire from developed markets, but for price-sensitive consumers in China, it could prove quite popular. Its clean design and surprisingly ergonomic controller make for a good start.

Zephyr Health Lands $15M From Kleiner To Help Life Sciences Navigate Big Data, Bring Therapies To Market Faster

The Big Data landscape continued to explode in 2013, as companies across the board scrambled to update infrastructure and technology to meet the new set of demands and opportunities brought on by a brave new, data-happy world. Investors responded in kind, pouring just over $3.6 billion into the Big Data ecosystem during the year, setting off a flurry of activity in the market, from IPOs and acquisitions to new Big Data-centric venture funds. While hype abounds in Big Data Land, these new technologies can provide the means to more easily collect and analyze data from an array of sources without breaking the bank — a key benefit to industries like healthcare. In the disconnected environment surrounding healthcare and life sciences, companies struggle to glean insight from the variety of data and fragmented sources where that data lives — at scale — while managing costs. After five years of mining Johnson & Johnson’s diverse data sets to help physicians identify better therapies, William King launched Zephyr Health in 2011 to help life science companies improve research and reduce the time it takes to bring their therapies to market. Today, Zephyr Health joined the growing ranks of Big Data startups in healthcare and life sciences drawing big money from investors, announcing $15 million in new venture financing in a round co-led by Kleiner Perkins and Jafco Ventures. As a result of the new investment, Kleiner partner Brook Byers and Jafco Partner Joe Horowitz will be joining the startup’s board of directors. The appeal of Zephyr Health’s platform compared to others bringing Big Data tools to life sciences, like the recently-funded ClearDATA for example, is that it combines NoSQL databases, machine-learning algorithms and data visualization to help life sciences companies more quickly gain insight a diverse set of data sources. Zephyr leverages these technologies to help companies improve their R&D efforts and bring new treatments to the right physicians in the healthcare funnel, reducing the cost and time it takes to complete research and bring therapies to market.
However, in an industry where companies are scampering to move to the cloud and take advantage of the efficiencies Big Data tools can provide, Zephyr wants to increase its value proposition for industry players by going beyond data integration — something a host of solutions now offer, whether industry-specific or not. To do that, Zephyr not only processed data from multiple sources, but funnels that data into a suite of proprietary apps that have been designed specifically to handle life science information. Through the suite of apps, companies can view their data within contexts or scenarios that are endemic to the research and development of therapies. For example, companies can use one app to see how different patients reach to a particular drug administered during a trial, or, once the drug is ready to go to market, they can use another app to quickly see which institutions or clinics fit the right criteria and could be potential customers. Furthermore, another app might then allow the company to go deeper and not only see which clinics fit the bill, but view doctor profiles to see which physicians specialize in the kind of therapy or treatment offered by their wonder drug. Ultimately, by linking key datasets together, Zephyr wants to enable scientists to focus their research, while providing life science companies with a suite of visualization tools to help them accelerate trials and reduce the cost and time inherent to marketing those therapies. Over the last year, the company has begun to see increasing validation of its approach to Big Data in life sciences, as King said that “five of the world’s largest pharmaceutical and device companies” are have become paying customers. Considering that it can take these businesses up to 10 years and $4 billion to bring a drug to market, it’s no wonder. Any solution that helps drug companies tear down the barriers between fragmented data sets and improve the efficiency of the research and development process — with purpose-built apps that help surface the right information at the right time — is well positioned in an industry racing to move to the cloud. After two and a half years of bootstrapping, Zephyr will use its new funding to help ramp up hiring, particularly in engineering, and begin more actively marketing its solution among industry players.

Google Releases Branding Guidelines For Glass™

Do you cringe when you hear people talk about Google Glasses? So does Google, it seems. The company today released a set of branding guidelines for its developers to clarify how they can use the Glass™ icon and brand name in their products. Update: looks like the guidelines were actually on the Glass Developer site before, but mostly went unnoticed. Google recently updated the navigation of the site (that’s how I found out about them) and made the link to the branding guidelines more obvious, likely to emphasize most of the rules we describe below. In this document, Google stresses that “Glass” can never be part of the name of a company that produces software for Glass, for example. You can call a product “Cat Facts for Glass” but never “Glass Cat Facts.” It’s okay to use “Glass” as a descriptor (Glass optics), though. Google also stresses that whenever you use the “for Glass” construction in your logo, “for Glass” must be a smaller size than the rest. Another rule states that Glass is always supposed to be capitalized and “is never plural or possessive.” This means, you aren’t supposed to say “”Wear Google Glasses” or “Swipe forward on Glass’s timeline.” I can see why the plural doesn’t make sense, given that the product name is Glass, but the only reason not to use the possessive, it seems, is that any word that ends with an ‘s’ always looks a bit off once it becomes a possessive. One interesting guideline Google notes is that whenever users share content through Glass, developers are supposed to use the #throughglass hashtag “to categorize it for easy discoverability and aggregation” or “Sent through Glass” in emails. Most of this is pretty straightforward (except for the odd rule around the possessive). It does show, however, that as more Glass software slowly becomes available now that the Glass Development Kit is in “Sneak Peak,” Google is starting to lay down a few more rules for developers.

Driblet’s Smart Water Meter Wants To Track Your Home Water Usage

Access to clean water is something that most us probably take for granted — after all, it just comes out of taps and faucets and hoses and shower heads with little more than the twist of a spigot. Using all that water can cost a pretty penny (especially in certain foreign countries), but Monterrey, Mexico-based Driblet wants to make sure that people can easily track how much water they’re using in their homes with a device they’re showing off at our Hardware Battlefield here at CES. The Driblet is a smart water meter that connects to both your pipes and your Wi-Fi network. Meanwhile, a slew of sensors baked into the Driblet box itself constantly keeps tabs on the rate of water flow and all the foreign particulate bits floating around in that water, all of which gets phoned home to the Driblet backend. Speaking of the backend, the team has made some crucial progress on the software side of things — all of that water quality information can be accessed through a revamped mobile app that also allows users to get water usage goals and forge social connections to see who can be the most environmentally conscious. A bit of a peculiar approach, sure, but a little personal accountability couldn’t hurt. The TechCrunch historians among you may notice that the Driblet team aren’t strangers to our stage — they showed off a very, very rough prototype of their device at the Disrupt SF 2013 Hackathon to a pretty receptive audience. So what happened from there? Well, the team launched a crowdfunding campaign on Dragon Innovation because of its greater focus on hardware projects, but it couldn’t manage to raise the requested $98,000 to get the Driblet monitor manufactured en masse. That led to a trip back to the drawing board — the new chassis (seen above) is more attractive and more robust than the 3D-printed prototypes that came before it — and along with it came a pretty savvy shift in vision. The ability to monitor and dig into water consumption tickled some consumers’ fancies but the process of installation and occasional maintenance meant that the end user would have to be at least a little comfortable with getting their hands dirty. This time around though, Driblet is focusing on bigger fish — specifically businesses and buildings that have a vested interest in keeping their hefty water bills low. That’s not to say that they’re giving up on the consumer market though, as there’s room for both approaches to exist. We’ll soon see if this new direction gets Driblet where it needs to be, but the combination of some truly smart hardware and a more refined focus on potential customers means that there’s plenty to like here.

Alima Aims To Tell You When Your Air Is Harmful – And Prevent It From Ever Getting There

French company and 2014 Hardware Battlefield contestant Alima thinks people want to know what makes up the air they breathe, and they previously launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to prove that it is indeed something consumers want. Once known as AirBoxLab, the Paris startup ran an Indiegogo campaign in 2013 to fund its cylindrical home air quality monitor, which measures and reports on the volume of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the air where you live. Now rebadged as Alima, the startup is looking to move from its initial small production run to a much broader wide consumer launch. The Alima will refine the design of its hardware somewhat, but the eye-catching cylindrical tower perforated with holes designed functionally to collect air samples and aesthetically to look clean and fresh will remain the same. Alima is designed to be a whole-home solution, with a single unit covering a house. Alima co-founder Jacques Touillon explained that it can provide accurate readings for a large, open-concept dwelling without the need to move it around, but also says that by flipping it upside down and right-side up again, you can prime it to measure another room, so that you can do spot checks even on broom closets, bathrooms or other enclosed spaces that might not be represented by a centrally placed unit. Of course, Alima’s real value is in the data it collects, so presenting that information to users in a way that’s easy to understand is key. The Alima manages to do this with an app-based dashboard that lets you view readings from the sensor in easy-to-understand graphs and charts, complete with warnings and notices that prompt you to act if things are going wrong. It could suggest you open a window, or prescribe more drastic solutions like installing a professional air filter into your home’s air circulation system.
Touillon notes that the Alima is different from other air quality sensors because there will be an emphasis on developing predictive algorithms. The idea is that you can tell in advance when you’re going to experience hazardous air levels, and provide you with steps to prevent that from even happening at all. Also, it’s designed to be a way for everyone to work together collaboratively to improve their air quality experience. “It’s a community device,” he said. “The community will be strong around the device, because your best practice will help me, and my best practice will help you, so that’s why we thought it’d be a good thing to do a crowdfunding campaign, to bring that community together.” The Alima is launching on Kickstarter to drive that community interest. Pricing during the campaign for backers will be $199, and then going up to $249 for a single unit, and the retail price after that will be $299, Touillon says. Turning inside air into the next frontier for quantified self-measurement seems a likely area for potential growth, it’s just a question of whether Alima’s take is the right one.