Tech Insights – October 2020

Insights

Tech Insights – October 2020

TechAhead Team

October 26, 2020

Tech Insights – October 2020

Google announces changes coming to major services offered by the company: 

This year, Google has made some huge changes to many of their well-known apps that are often used to help with productivity. And just recently, the company has announced changes that will be taking place to Google Search, Lens, Maps, and Duplex.  

Google announces changes coming to major services offered by the company

Google Search:  

The changes that Google Search is undergoing and has already undergone is said to be “the biggest leap forward we’ve seen in a decade,” wrote Brandon Russell for XDA. Some of the changes to look forward to involving search include providing more specific information to users, understanding words that may be misspelled better, hone in on videos to find important moments for information for viewers, and so much more. There will also be a better understanding of “subtopics around an interest”, which will ultimately help Google deliver content that is better diversified when a user is searching through a broad range of topics. Another new feature to look forward to will be the new “hum to search”, which allows users to find a song online through Google Search by humming the tune of the song.  

Google Lens:  

This tool from Google has been a useful addition to students' lives that need help with their homework problems. And now, the company will be making Lens even more helpful when it comes to shopping. Users of Lens will be able to take a photo to find a specific item of clothing by “tapping and holding on the image in the Google app or Chrome for Android,” wrote  Brandon Russell for XDA. Lens will then use technology with Style Engine to help find “products with millions of style images” for user convenience.  

Google Maps:  

With a plan to keep everyone safe and healthy while navigating their daily life during the pandemic, Google is doing what it can to help out. The company plans to expand the Live Busyness feature that is offered in Google Maps and will be increasing on a global scale “by five times compared to June 2020, giving people all around the world the data to plan their trips to the store” wrote Russell for XDA. The expansion to the feature includes a lot more essential places as well as outdoor places.  

Google will also be making an even bigger effort to contribute to health and safety by sharing information about what precautions certain businesses are taking through both Google Maps as well as Google Search. That way, users can plan their trip and know what to expect upon arrival.  

Google Duplex:  

Google has explained that they are using Duplex to get in contact with businesses to help update their information on both Google Maps and Google search in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. This helps with accuracy of hours, finding out if takeout is an option at a certain restaurant as well as information regarding curbside or traditional delivery. In addition, Duplex is also being used to help make long tasks on the internet more simple for users when used in Chrome. This will allow simple tasks like buying movie tickets or even renting a car for the weekend to be done in even less steps.

Google makes new updates to Android Studio:  

Just last week, Google released and launched version 4.1 of Android Studio, which is it’s IDE for developing apps in Android. The update is supposed to have a number of features with improvements to help developers. According to TechCrunch, “the team also fixed a whopping 2,370 bugs during this release cycle and closed 275 public issues”(TechCrunch).  

Google makes new updates to Android Studio

Some of the highlights of the release include a brand new database inspector as well as more support for machine learning on devices, which will allow “developers to bring TensorFlow Lite models to Android,” wrote Frederic Lardinois for TechCrunch. There will also be the ability to run Android Emulator inside of Android Studio and give support to testing apps for phones that can fold in the emulator.  

Other updates that Google has mentioned are the new templates that can be found in the New Project language that helps give support to Google’s Material Design Components, various System Trace UI enhancements, Dagger navigation support, and all new profilers that have the ability to help developers get the most out of their apps’ memory usage as well as overall performance.  

Interested in learning more about Android App Development.

Voting just got easier: Google Maps, Search and Assistant can help you find polling locations:  

As election day inches closer and closer for many individuals in the United States, Google is making an effort to help you find your polling locations. Just this past Friday, Google has released some new features for Maps, Search and Assistant that have been designed to help when a user is looking up information for polling locations near them. 

Voting just got easier: Google Maps, Search and Assistant can help you find polling locations

When it comes to Google Search, you can look up “ballot drop boxes near me”, which will show you a new tool to lookup the address that you are registered to vote at to “help you find a drop box or polling place accordingly”(TechCrunch). For your Assistant-ran devices such as Nest Mini, Nest Hub or even your Android phone, you can ask Google where to vote and Assistant has the ability to find out the information since it has knowledge of your current location. And finally, Google Maps helps by searching for voting locations in-app that will ultimately take you to Google Search to find the exact location. Once you have found the location you are registered for, you can go back into Maps and begin directions to your polling location.  

Since March, food, drinks and shopping apps have seen growth of 50% more than year-after-year growth in the U.S. 

The impact of COVID-19 has had a direct effect on the growth of apps in the categories of Travel as well as Photo & Video, while others in the Food & Drink category along with shopping have been flourishing since March of 2020. The growth that is being seen also exceeds the growth that was tracked in 2019. The top five categories that saw a large increase in the number of new app downloads between the time period of March to September of 2020 include: Business, Education, Games, Utilities and Lifestyle.  

Since March, food, drinks and shopping apps have seen growth of 50% more than year-after-year growth in the U.S.

The App Store: 

The number of new apps and games offered on Apple’s U.S. App Store saw growth of nearly 2 percent for the time period of March to September year after year. This was also recognized as 3 percent larger than the “1 percent decrease seen when comparing the same period between 2018 and 2019,” wrote Stephanie Chan for Sensor Tower. The category that saw the largest increase in new app launches during that time period was the Food & Drink category, which has been reported to be a whopping 70% year after year. And the Shopping category for the App Store saw a 43 percent increase year after year, which was the second highest increase.  

Google Play: 

During the March to September time frame, the Shopping category saw the highest year after year growth for Google Play, which soared to almost 58 percent in the United States. This was followed by the Food & Drink category that saw an almost 55 percent increase in growth. Education followed behind the other two categories, with an 11 percent year after year increase and also saw the highest number of new apps downloaded and launched during the time period for Google Play.  

Check for more information on our mobile app development services and how we can help you achieve your goals

A new technique allows Artificial Intelligence to learn with barely any data: 

Most of the time, AI technology requires tons of examples to work properly and function at the rate in which it is expected. For example, in order for an AI model to recognize a beach, you would need to share thousands of images of a beach to make it recognizable. In turn, this makes the process of ‘educating’ technology expensive and time consuming. But, with new information from the University of Waterloo, located in Ontario, has suggested that AI models should be able to learn quicker than this, which is a process researchers call “less than one”-shot, also known as LO-shot learning.  

A new technique allows Artificial Intelligence to learn with barely any data

But how does it all work? According to MIT Technology Review, researchers have first demonstrated this example when experimenting “with the popular computer-vision data-set known as MNIST”(MIT Technology Review). MNIST contains 60,000 training images that are handwritten digits ranging from 0 to 9 and is used often to help test new ideas in this field. In a paper put out by MIT, researchers introduced a technique with distilled large sets of data into smaller ones, and had then decreased MNIST to only 10 images. When an AI model was trained on those 10 images, it had the power to reach nearly the same accuracy as the one that was trained on all 60,000 of MNIST’s images previously. The researchers from the University of Waterloo then wanted to shrink this from 10 images to only five. It was then realized the need to “create images that blend multiple digits together and then feed them into an AI model with hybrid, or “soft,” labels,” wrote MIT Technology Review.  This type of information lets us know that there really are no limits when it comes to teaching AI technology and that these somewhat ‘radical’ ideas may become the norm in the near future.  

Learn more about services in artificial intelligence development.

Azure Defender is released by Microsoft for the public to preview:  

Just last week, Microsoft announced that it’s agentless security solution for both networked IOT and Operational Technology devices, known as Azure Defender for IoT, is available for public preview.  

Azure Defender is released by Microsoft for the public to preview

What is Azure Defender for IOT? According to Sergiu Gatlan for Bleeping Computer, is is explained as “an IoT/OT device threat protection solution that integrates with Microsoft's Azure Sentinel and third-party solutions (SIEMs, CMDBs, and SOAR)” and it helps by providing monitoring of threats continuously as well as vulnerability management. It’s direct focus is on providing monitoring in security for applications, specialized devices, machine-to-machine (M2M) as well as also providing industrial protocols that are specialized (Modbus, DNP3, BACnet to name a few). When there is added visibility to unmanaged, misconfigured and unpatched IoT/OT technology devices, it creates a harder time for threats to abuse them in order to gain a hold “into the networks of industrial and critical infrastructure organizations”(Gatlan for Bleeping Computer).  

Azure Defender for IOT sends alerts into Azure Sentinel, which are triggered by detection engines for analytics that alert violations of protocol, violations of policy, anomaly detection, industrial malware detection as well as operational incident detection that are included on sensors, which are used to collect traffic from ICS networks.  

The alerts cover a range of potential incidents which could include: unauthorized remote access, alterations to firmware versions, unauthorized devices connecting to a network, networking scanning operation detection and much more. Azure Defender for IoT is available to be tried for free while it is in the public preview stage since it’s release last week. The only requirement for users is an Azure Defender subscription, which is free for users for the first 30 days of use.  

Wanting to learn more about IoT security

High demand for STEM-based apps in higher learning is said to help advance growth in the market: 

Because of the impact the app market has experience as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic along with education making a switch to virtual platforms, there is an even higher demand for apps based on STEM that is expected to help grow the market into the future. The projection of growth over the next four years (2020-2024) is set at over 46.88 billion USD.  

High demand for STEM-based apps in higher learning is said to help advance growth in the market

The growth that has been tracked in the education app market has mostly been seen through higher education, where institutions have increased their usage of apps to take tests, distribute and engage with content for learning, scheduling needs and more. Many students furthering their education have been downloading and using educational apps that provide learning analytics on various devices to help them track their activity and progress. These apps also help provide students with information that is backed up by data and has helped them improve in their educational studies during this ‘new normal’. Because of the increase of usage, business wire noted that “the growth of the education apps market share by the higher education segment has been significant”(business wire). Some of the major participants on the market include Alphabet Inc., Quizlet Inc., and Rosetta Stone Ltd., just to name a few.  

Learn more about educational mobile app development and the services.

iPhone users now have the ability to use Live View in Google Maps to help with better location sharing

A helpful digital feature meets reality by Google Maps by including things such as digital arrows, pins, and markers that appear right in front of you while you walk, all through your phone's very own camera. The name for this feature is Live View and it has been around since August 2019. Live View is helpful to try and find a pinned location or you are simply just trying to get oriented with a new area.

iPhone users now have the ability to use Live View in Google Maps

According to Mashable, “Google Maps announced Thursday that iPhone users will "soon" get to experience an updated Live View when location sharing, along with all Android users”. Google’s own smartphone, Pixel, began to see this new upgraded Live View just last month, which offers even more helpful features.

With this new update, when you open Live View in the Maps app and a friend shares a pin while in the park, you will receive exact arrows and more clear directions that show you exactly where to go. This allows users to click on Live View and instead of guessing just where their friend might be, they’ll be directed to their exact location.

In the update, there are also labeled landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building and has “put pinned location markers in a more accurate alignment”.

Google Photos gets AI-powered editor to aid in photo editing

Recently, Google had launched a number of devices, including two new Pixel Phones, but they have also been working on new features that can help users in a variety of ways as well as benefit users of other Android devices as well.

This past Wednesday, Google released a newer version of the photo editor that is in the Google Photos app on Android. According to Mashable, “it uses machine learning to give you suggestions on how to fix a photo, which you can apply with one tap”.

Google Photos gets AI-powered editor to aid in photo editing

Google has also stated that more suggestions are coming to their Pixel devices in the months to come that will allow users to improve certain common scenes at ease that include (but are not limited to) portraits, landscapes, and sunsets.

Other than these one-tap solutions, the new editor also offers more granular controls for settings such as brightness, contrast, saturation, and warmth. It also has a new layout, which allows users to horizontally scroll through a variety of useful tools.

And lastly, the new editor has a feature Google calls Portrait Lights, allowing users to set a source of light for a photo in portrait mode after the picture has been taken. According to Mashable, “The feature will also be applicable to photos that weren't captured in Portrait mode, but for now, only on Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a (5G)”.

For more information about the best apps for photo editing for both iPhone and Android, see our blog.

Apple set to announce the new iPhone on Oct. 13th

Apple has just recently sent out invites for its upcoming event, which did all but confirm the latest iPhones arrival. The event itself is scheduled nearly a month after its last big event, which released both Apple Watch Series 6 as well as two new iPads. Due to the pandemic and the lack of hardware supply, CEO Tim Cook did confirm that earlier this year there would be a delay in the arrival of the newest iPhone to hit the market. So it is no surprise that the new iPhone was absent from the invite.

Apple set to announce the new iPhone on Oct. 13th

There is a lot to look forward to in regards to the new iPhone 12, which, according to TechCrunch, will be set to finally deliver 5G connectivity to Apple’s product line, coupled with a new design, chip and a push to OLED for all entries in the line”. It is expected that there will be a total of three new models from the release, ranging between 5.4 and 6.4 inches. There is no doubt that Apple will use this special occasion to introduce and release their newest device.

The event is scheduled to begin virtually at 10am PT on October 13th, 2020.

Top five mobility startups to showcase at TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility 2020

This past Monday night, 10 mobility companies made pitches on the virtual TechCrunch stage for their spot at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020. Each of the companies made their pitches for one minute that was then followed by a Q&A with TechCrunches panel of judges. The judging panel included Chahin Farshchi (Lux Capital), Natalia Quintero (Transit Tech Lab) and Rachel Holt (Construct Capital).

Mobility 2020

The panel heard from each founder and then selected a top five to move on and pitch at the main stage of Mobility 2020. According to TechCrunch ,”These companies will speak on the same stage as Waymo COO Tekedra Mawakana, Ike Robotics chief engineer and co-founder Nancy Sun, and more”.

Here is the list of startups that made the cut for Mobility 2020:

  • BuuPass Kenya Limited
  • HyPoint
  • Le Car
  • Movel AI Pte Ltd
  • ONO (ONOMOTION GmbH)

Anyone interested in Mobility 2020 can tune into the main stage to hear a four-minute pitch that highlights the innovative technology these startup founders have created. According to TechCrunch, to gain access to this event and much more, viewers can “get an all-access General Admission ticket for $195, which gives you access to the Main stage speakers, networking and a complementary Extra Crunch membership (worth $99)”.

Twitter's new ‘Birdwatch’ looks like a fresh attempt to dig out both propaganda and misinformation

Twitter has in fact confirmed that it is working on a new feature, currently called ‘Birdwatch’, that could allow Twitter users to inform the other users of the social media platform that some tweets are misleading or could ultimately, cause harm. The feature is still in the early developmental stages and, it is still yet unknown if Twitter will really release this to the public or how it will work once it is finally released. It is also unknown if it is to be released, if it will come out before or after the US election that is scheduled for November 3rd, 2020.

Twitter's new ‘Birdwatch’ looks like a fresh attempt

Back in August, TechCrunch noted that the existence of a tool such as this one was first discovered by Jane Manchun Wong, who is known for digging through app code for evidence of various unreleased features. In the most simple form, this feature allows users to attach a note to misleading tweets, which is shared with the rest of the Twitter community. According to The Verge, “social media consultant Matt Navarra spotted a dedicated “Add to Birdwatch” button below a piece of content he’d tweeted”, which occurred during late September.

This feature will definitely be on the watch to see if it is actually rolled out to the community of Twitter users and if it will be packed with meaningful action or just another place to ‘report’ a tweet and allow for Twitter to debate the difference in “lies [or] alternative facts”.

To read more about content moderation, see the blog post about what it is and why your business needs it.

New Google Play rules

With the app industry hitting all time record highs back in 2019 and this year due to the pandemic, it is no wonder why Google Play is taking the initiative to revise some of their rules of their store.

On average, people spend just under four hours of their time per day using Apps on their devices, which has surpassed time spent watching TV. But apps are not just a way to play simple games or view somebody status on a social media platform.

The app industry is a huge business and, according to TechCrunch, In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus”. A few weeks ago, Apple revised their App Store rules to allow game streaming apps and clarify rules surrounding in-app purchases and now, Google has taken its turn to update their rules.

New Google Play rules

Google announced last week that it’s “updating its Google Play billing policies to better clarify which types of transactions will be subject to Google’s commissions on in-app purchases”. The detailed language itself doesn’t really change the earlier policy or its intention but it will impact a percentage of developers who do not use Google Play’s system for billing their users. Google has also announced that they will be making changes in Android 12 that will give users more ease when installing or using third-party app stores that serve as an alternative to Google Play.

Apple releases new app marketing tool

Great news for users of Apple that are involved in the marketing as well as the digital marketing world: During late September, Apple released a new app marketing tool for its customers. Apple has introduced these new tools that will help developers generate “short links or embeddable codes that link to their App Store product page and display your app icon, a QR code, or an App Store badge. Download localized App Store badges, your app icon, and more”.

According to Apple, this will allow for consumers and developers to take advantage of these new resources that will help in the promotion of apps on a global-level.

Airkit, a low-code platform, comes out of stealth and announces $28 million in funding

Airkit, a low-code platform, which is designed to help improve customer engagement announced last week that they have come out of stealth and have raised $28 million since their creation back in 2017. Some of the investors that helped to raise the funds include Accel, Emergence Capital, and Salesforce Ventures.

Airkit, a low-code platform

Co-founders of Airkit Stephen Ehikian and Adam Evans took notice of the industry over the last few years and how the relationships that were shared between customers and companies were changing at a rapid pace. According to Forbes, the co founders of Airkit have noticed change with customers in the industry making choices that are based on products that offer both a “hyper personalized end-to-end digital experience” along with the fact that the products are “fast and convenient”.

The goal of Airkit, as described by the founders, is to help these companies that are currently struggling with the customer service and customer experience side of it all that will help give more companies a competitive edge against competitors.

According to Ehikian, Airkit helps to solve three main problems; companies having an overwhelming amount of data from their customers that “sit in disparate silos and which don’t talk to another”, the challenges that seem to present themselves in creating end-to-end experiences digitally, and the ability to “[deliver] those experiences across any conversation channel”.

It has also been explained that Airkit is in the works of developing pre-built components that include templates for common customer needs, flows of work and offers a ‘theme-builder’.

To learn more about low-code development platforms, see our blog post.

New backpack from Samsonite uses technology from Google to connect to your phone

Samsonite has released a new way for people to connect and interact with their phone without actually looking at their device. They have just released the new Konnect-i backpack that uses Google’s Jacquard technology to connect to users smartphones. The Jacquard itself is a smart module that is physically placed into one of the backpack’s straps. The backpack itself then supports various gestures, such as a simple swipe up or down as well as double tappings to assign the performance of certain tasks to your smartphone.

Some of the tasks include starting or topping music or even asking for instructions with navigating directions. The module also lights up as well as vibrates for any incoming calls or text messages. All of these features are setup via an app on your smartphone, which is conveniently available for both iPhone and Android users.

Right now, the backpack is only being made in the color black and has two formats: a standard variant running at $219.99 for consumers as well as a slim version, which comes to $199.99.

To learn more about click here for smart wearable solutions and wearable app development.

Androids new feature helps give aid to those in the deaf and hard of hearing communities with alerts from ‘critical sounds’

Google has recently launched its new feature for Android that is designed to help people with hearing loss by alerting them in regards to “critical household sounds” such as appliance beeps, running water or dogs barking. The feature is mainly focused on helping those who are deaf or hard of hearing but can also be useful to individuals wearing headphones or earplugs. According to cnet, the notifications will send out “a push notification”, generate a flash from the camera light of your device or make the device vibrate to catch your attention.

Androids new feature

These Sound Notifications are also compatible with other Google devices, such as Wear OS smartwatches,which send alerts straight to your wrist through vibrations when your device picks up an important notification. This allows individuals to receive alerts even when they are sleeping, which is a helpful tool that is needed by the deaf and hard of hearing community.

According to cnet, The feature was created “with machine learning” and has the ability to work fully even while offline and uses your smartphones microphone “to pick up on 10 different noises” that include (but are not limited to) sounds such as a smoke or fire alarm going off, water that is running or overflowing, the sounds of a baby or toddler or even a simple “knock [at] the door”.

Consumers spent a record $28 billion in apps in Q3

Due to the nature of 2020 and the amount of individuals staying at home relying on their technology, mobile usage remains at a record high. This is as result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to social distancing as well as lockdown policies that vary from place to place, depending on where individuals reside. As a result, there has been record spending in apps for various technologies during Q3 as well as a surge in the amount of time consumers are spending in apps.

According to TechCrunch, 33 billion new apps were downloaded on a global scale by consumers in quarter three with a whopping “$28 billion in apps”, which was reported to be up a total of “20% year-over-year”. As far as time spending, consumers have spent more than “180 billion collective hours each month of July, August and September 2020” from app usage, which is an increase of 25% that has been seen year over year.

Interested in learning more about how you can make money from mobile apps? Click to read more about it.

California Judge shuts-down developer Epic in the battle to have Apple bring back popular game Fortnite on the App Store

The judge from California who has been dealing with the legality between Epic Games and Apple has denied Epic’s request to force Apple to reinstate Fortnite into the App Store. Although the judge did deny this, it was explained that Apple doesn’t have the ability to “ take action against the Epic Games developer accounts” that were used to bring Unreal Engine developers access to Apple devices,” said TechCrunch.

The decision from the court re-confirmed its announcement from late August in a court hearing where Epric Games’ legal team sought out to obtain a temporary restraining order following Apple’s decision to inform the developer of Fortnite that they would be kicking the company off from the App Store and also terminating all of the accounts held by the company.

According to TechCrunch, the judge explained that a “[p]reliminary injunctive relief” is something that is rarely ever granted. It was also specified that the court itself was both granting and denying parts of Epic’s requests that were made.

Thus, this confirms that Fortnite will not be making a return to the App Store before the trial begins and is scheduled for May 3rd of 2021.

Twitter wants you to think twice before mindlessly retweeting politicians lies

With the election quickling approaching for the U.S. and social media becoming an more popular tool, we are sure to see an array of commentary and notions made by plenty of politicians on some of their personal favorite platforms. And Twitter is hopeful that users will take a moment before they decide to retweet information.

Twitter wants you to think twice before mindlessly retweeting politicians lies

Through a long blog post recently posted, Twitter has laid out a plan to help limit the spread of misinformation ahead of this crucial time in U.S. election history. Beginning October 20th and lasting through the end of Election week, tweets from political figures in the U.S. will be highly monitored.

The breaking of the new plan in place would be in violation of  "policies against misleading information about civic integrity, COVID-19, and synthetic and manipulated media", which is outlined by Twitter. It would need twitter to identify the Tweet from a politician as being in direct violation and users ability to interact with the tweet would be then limited after it has been identified.

The limited interaction won’t allow users to reply to the tweet, like the tweet or just plain retweet it. But there will still be the option to quote tweet it, allowering for for users to retweet with a comment that would (hopefully) help users add their own perspective or feelings towards a statement made by politicians which, in a way, helps to add to the conversation.

To read more on how you can moderate content, read our blog post.

IBM to spin off legacy IT business, tightening the future on cloud

International Business Machine Corp. is beginning a slower-growth business that will be able to manage corporate computer systems so they can shift the focus on the boom in demand for services in the cloud and have the ability to compete with companies like Amazon and Microsoft.

According to Bloomberg Quint, the new section that is part of “IBM’s global technology services division” currently deals with “infrastructure service operations” on a daily basis. This includes things such as the management of customer data hubs and long-established  “information-technology support for installing, repairing and operating equipment”. The new unit roughly serves 4,600 clients and has an order backlog of $60 billion, which was released in a statement from IBM.

IBM

This shift basically cuts IBM in half, cutting its well-known IT management services from its brand new hybrid-cloud computing and AI unit, which the company hopes with both revenue growth along with relevancy. IBM has noted that “it aims to complete the transaction as a tax-free spinoff to IBM shareholders by the end of 2021”.

This is only the 4th huge transformation in the company's entire span of history. It is also seen as the first huge move by Chief Executive Officer Arvind Krishna. Because of revenue shrinking over the past decade at IBM, Krishna has been pushing for a significant amount of revival growth in hopes to help the company overall.

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