Tech Insights – September 2020

Insights

Tech Insights – September 2020

TechAhead Team

September 23, 2020

Tech Insights – September 2020

Apple is introducing subscription offer codes for apps

Later this year, Apple is on track to push more developers to begin using subscriptions for their apps as well as encouraging more consumers to subscribe. In summary, these subscription offer codes give developers the ability to offer a discounted or free subscription for a period of time that is scheduled to renew automatically once this discount or free trial time comes to a close. These codes for subscribing are unique, with alphanumeric single-use codes which developers can create for free to send out in a digital format or physically through offer codes to hand out to consumers at conferences.

Apple is introducing subscription offer codes for apps

For codes to work, consumers will be required to be running iOS14 or iPadOS 14. Both of these are scheduled to be released later in the year. These codes have the ability to be “redeemed through the App Store either directly in the app the code is meant for, or by using a one-time code redemption URL”. One benefit for developers with this new ability is regular, steady income as a result from subscriptions from their customers every single month. Another plus is Apple is set to “[reduce] its cut from 30 percent to 15 percent after the first year each subscription runs”. Overall, these codes can help app developers and should see major success when more apps begin to roll out these new subscriptions.

Due to COVID-19, Google Maps uses much more recent traffic data

Just like the rest of us have made life adjustments during the pandemic, Google Maps has done just the same. During the first few weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, normal traffic patterns were impacted and completely out of the ‘normal’ routine of predictability. Many streets were notably free of commuters, tourists or people trying to get to various locations. According to Mashable, “Google noted a 50% decrease in worldwide traffic since the beginning of 2020”. And although drivers are back on the road more and more everyday, the traffic still looks noticeably different than it did pre-outbreak. Different patterns of morning and afternoon traffic that Google has tracked and had data on for years is no longer useful with so many individuals taking school courses virtually and others working from home.

Due to COVID-19, Google Maps uses much more recent traffic data

Because of these new changes and challenges that COVID-19 has posed to everyday life tasks, Google Maps has had to make a shift in how they take in and produce accurate data information for their consumers. Google has now made the shift to using more recent patterns of traffic data over the past 2-4 rather than relying on years of data previously recorded. They are also taking note of street closures at business locations and restaurants that are serving consumers in an outdoor setting to stay adaptable and user friendly in the age of our new normal.

Mustard raises $1.7 million to help improve athletic mechanics through AI

Sports are constantly surrounding us in various aspects of our lives and it is no wonder that athletic coaching is a multi-billion dollar industry. Mustard, an app that helps to bring down the prices of expensive coaching for athletes, has been designed to help review an athletes basic mechanics and then offer various tips to help them improve at their craft. Tom House, the co-founder of the company, recently stated in an interview with TechCrunch that:

“Too many kids miss out on the power of play and the many physical and mental benefits of sports—studies show that 70% of kids stop playing sports by the age of 13 due to cost and lack of access to quality coaching. Mustard offers every kid access to the same coaching programs and extensive biomechanical analysis used by the best athletes in the world, and the same personalized training protocols that I use with the Hall of Famers I see in person,” House says in a release tied to the news. “We want to make elite personalized coaching accessible to all”.

The app depends on the consumer's smartphone’s camera and then proceeds to use proprietary AI algorithms to give proper feedback by monitoring the player's motions. Mustard made an announcement this past week that thanks to a number of committed investors, they have raised $1.7 million to help improve their app. The app is also opening up for a free public beta for a limited time and it is solely focusing on baseball at the moment. Over time, the goal is to add a low subscription charge to users monthly and add premium features while still keeping the most basic version of the app free. It has been noted that more sports will be added later in the future once the app itself gains traction with consumers on the market. 

Brands that make the choice of hyper personalization will be ahead for the next decade

When consumers make the choice to reach out to customer service from a company, they are in search of more than just a quick fix to the problem they have on their hands. They are searching for a human component, including empathy and understanding for their situation. And most times, these needs are failed to be met. According to TechCrunch, “61 percent of consumers feel IVR actively poisons the customer experience — and only 13 percent found it more helpful than calling a human directly”.

Brands that make the choice of hyper personalization will be ahead for the next decade

The problem with IVR is it, like many solutions, fails to personalize the customer experience when dealing with service needs. Customers don’t want to feel like just another number to them, especially when it comes to things such as paying a bill or experiencing billing issues with a “one-size-fits-all” type of menu option. That is where personalizing the overall experience for consumers enters into the conversation.

It is important for customers to feel valued through one-on-one conversations when they are entering your company's channel for customer service. And according to TechCrunch, to make this conversation a reality, “Artificial Intelligence and Analytics are creating scalable opportunities to show your customers how much they matter to you. Brands taking advantage of that opportunity can create unrivaled CX that sets them far ahead of their competition”.

Google Cloud’s Custom Voice Feature Will Let Brands Create Their Text-To-Speech Services

Google has recently announced new updates around its CCAI (Contract Center AI) that will help to provide outstanding customer service as well as an increased operational efficiency with AI on the Google Cloud blog. These brand new announced features will include “Dialogflow CX, Agent assist for chat, and Custom Voice”.

The custom voice feature is a brand new ability of CCAI and is currently offered in the beta version. With its Text-to-Speech API, it allows various brands to curate a unique voice that best represents them for any and all customer needs. This allows for them to not have to rely on a more generic or common voice and enjoy a custom option. This also allows for companies to create a voice that best fits their brand image and works best for their business overall.

Google Cloud’s Custom Voice Feature Will Let Brands Create Their Text-To-Speech Services

Another feature that has been announced by Google is the Dialogflow CX, which is “the latest upgrade to the development suite Dialogflow and has been upgraded for large contact centers that deal with complex conversations”. It is now available in the beta version and is full of better visuals to help in creating, building and managing virtual agents. The final feature noted is Agent Assist for Chat and it is a new module that offers continued support to agents over a “chat” form in conjunction to voice calls that will help to provide real-time assistance to customers in need. 

Microsoft begins the launch of technology to fight deepfakes

In the context of memes or even the film industry with movies, deepfakes can be somewhat of a source of entertainment for the general public. But they are also a large concern in an age of both fake news as well as misinformation. Deepfakes, which are AI-generated photos, videos or audio files that have been manipulated, have the potential to confuse as well as put individuals' identity at risk. And Microsoft has a solution to the uprising issue with this newer technology.

Just this past Tuesday, Microsoft announced the development of two new pieces of technology which were both created to give consumers the much needed tools to help figure out what is truly real and what isn’t on the internet. One of these is called the Microsoft Video Authenticator and serves to “analyses images and videos to give "a percentage chance, or confidence score, that the media is artificially manipulated”.

Microsoft begins the launch of technology to fight deepfakes

This tool works by finding elements that have been blended in an image that may not be caught by the human eye alone. The second piece gives users the ability to add ‘digital hashed and certificates’ to an image or a video. These then will live in the metadata when the media is pieced apart online. Then, an extension to a browser would help to match these and give users more information about where the content originally comes from or who created it as well as insight into if the content has been shifted at all from the originals.

Although deepfake technology is constantly evolving with more sophisticated technologies, these resources serve as a starting point to fight what is real and what is not online.

Apple iOS 13.7: what you need to know about this new update

Apple has recently released iOS 13.7 with a multitude of new notable features. In this Tech Insight, we will be exploring all the latest to help you decide whether or not this update is the right decision for you.

One new feature is the COVID-19 Exposure Notifications System. This system is built to help with tracing, through collaboration of both Apple and Google, to better protect and serve the public during an uncertain time in our history. This allows for users to opt-in to receive COVID-19 Exposure Notifications without having to download an app to their mobile device. This feature can help you know if you have been exposed to the virus and has been noted to be secure and not share your private information.

Apple iOS 13.7: what you need to know about this new update

Other features that have been added in iOS 13.7 include “new Memoji stickers and iCloud Drive folder sharing from the Files app. And there are also several unnamed bug fixes and improvements built into iOS 13.7”. This new update is also compatible for the iPhone 6S and higher as well as the 7th generation iPod touch as well as the newer generations of iPad. As far as any issues, there have been some people that have reported battery issues, slight audio inconveniences, Face ID problems with the iPhone 11 in specific as well as slight podcast synching issues. It has been noted by Forbes that “if you like to run the latest iOS update as soon as possible, the good news is there are no obvious red flags in the first 24 hours since iOS 13.7 was released”.

So is updating the right choice? Ultimately, the choice is yours. But with the new COVID-19 Exposure Notifications system in place and stay-at-home orders being lifted more and more, it is a great option to keep yourself safe and aware of exposure along with the other excellent features offered.

Apple revises App Store rules

Apple has recently announced its revision of the App Store rules and changes that are being made to its well known App Store guidelines. And by the sounds of it, things are looking up on the topic of changes for the best.

Apple revises App Store rules

One notable change is that the App Store will begin supporting game-streaming services such as Microsoft’s xCloud and Goole’s Stadia. TechCrunch made note that “The main caveat is that games available through these services must have their own listings in the App Store and be available as a separate download”. Apple is also now offering more flexibility to ‘reader’ apps such as Netflix and has made it public knowledge that they will be supporting a new category called ‘free stand-alone’ apps, which could help developers and consumers alike.

Overall, we can look forward to the future with these new App Store changes in mind, with more support for services as well as developers.

Oracle wins deal to manage TikTok’s US operations

The fate over the popular social media and video platform, TikTok, has been up for grabs ever since President Trump's executive order, which was given on August 6th. This order was put in place to essentially block all transactions with ByteDance and was originally put in place to take 45 days, although President Trump signed a follow-up order that allowed a 90-day time frame for an American company to buy TikTok’s U.S. business.

The news that Oracle was able to secure the deal came “just an hour after Microsoft revealed it was no longer acquiring TikTok after its bid was rejected by TikTok owner ByteDance”. Although Oracle has won the deal, it has been revealed that they were selected as a ‘trusted tech partner’ instead, which suggests they will be helping in running TikTok’s US operations.

Oracle wins deal to manage TikTok’s US operations

The Wall Street Journal reported that Oracle is “a rare ally of the Trump administration in Silicon Valley [and] will be announced as TikTok’s “trusted tech partner” in the United States. Additionally, the Journal cites that a person familiar with the matter says the deal is “likely not to be structured as an outright sale”. According to TechCrunch, “Oracle’s alleged purchase of TikTok’s U.S. operations would put an end to the unclear fate of the app within the country”.

Graphic video of suicide spreads social platforms fail moderation test

A graphic video of a man who died by suicide through Facebook Live has spread like wildfire to popular social media apps such as TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and now YouTube. His image ran alongside a number of advertisements and forms of marketing, which ultimately led to thousands of individuals witnessing his death. And just like they have in the past, these platforms are having a difficult time stopping the spread of this type of graphic material.

According to TechCrunch, the video was originally posted to Facebook only two weeks ago but found its way onto all other major social media platforms. It was noted that the video “often [begins] with innocuous footage then cutting to the man’s death. These techniques go back many years in the practice of evading automatic moderation; By the time people have flagged the video manually, the original goal of exposing unwitting viewers to it will have been accomplished”.

Graphic video of suicide spreads social platforms fail moderation test

In response to letting a video of this nature slip through the cracks on Facebook's watch, they responded by stating, “We are reviewing how we could have taken down the livestream faster”(TechCrunch). But, unfortunately, Facebook has little to no power over controlling the spread of videos like this once they are released. Other platforms, such as TikTok and YouTube, are caught in a similar mess.

Friend of the deceased man as well as podcast co-host Josh Steen explained to TechCrunch that these companies aren’t fully making enough action or even the initiative to stop these situations from happening. He also mentioned that he has created “#ReformForRonnie because we kept seeing over and over and over again that their reporting systems did nothing. Unless something changes it is just going to keep happening.”.

Android 11 Go is now available, and it will launch apps 20 percent quicker

Just this past week, Android 11 launched for Pixel devices and phones from OnePlus, Xiaomi, Oppo, Realme and, according to The Verge, “Google has detailed its counterpart designed for low-powered devices: Android 11 (Go edition)”. One of the largest new features that has been reported is that the Android 11 (Go edition) should work on devices “with 2GB of RAM or less — a bump up from Android 10 (Go edition), which was made for devices with less than 1.5GB of RAM”.

Google launches Android 11

Google has made note that users should not expect to upgrade their existing 2GB phones, as Android 11 Go is planning to release new phones with that much memory, not their earlier devices. But if you do have a device you can upgrade to Android 11 (Go edition), you have the ability to test out new features as well as enjoy your apps launching 20 percent faster than before on Android 10 (Go edition).

How is Internet of Things is expected to change our lives in the near future

The Internet of Things, also known as IoT, has made a number of changes and has transformed data from connected objects into meaning that help make our everyday lives that much better. IoT helps put focus on convenience and efficiency and helps to enable brand new models for businesses that create a large amount of potential for customers and businesses alike.

After looking into research, the McKinsey Global Institute found that the sheer impact of IoT could grow to be as large as 11 trillion USD by the year 2025. They also noted that “ more than two-thirds of value will be generated in business-to-business settings and that business customers and consumers will likely capture more than 90% of the value created”.

How is Internet of Things is expected to change our lives in the near future

With these growing numbers and more devices being used, it is no surprise that the security of IoT will be of high importance. According to Express Computer, “only 50% of businesses can detect if their IoT devices suffered a breach. Moreover, protection of the data generated and collected by the IoT devices adds to the vulnerabilities”. It has been recommended that safeguarding this crucial infrastructure that helps unite the digital and physical world will be key.

As IoT becomes more mainstream, it will see billions of devices, machines and appliances such as wearable products, cars, smarthomes, industrial equipment and more connected to each other as well as to the cloud. To keep this ball rolling, it will be essential for businesses to continue their work in educating and reassuring customers and consumers of their safety, security and overall privacy.

The long awaited ‘Apple Bundle’ Wall Street has wanted for years may become a reality

For investors in Apple, the most exciting and long-awaited product that could be released this fall won’t be in terms of a new device: it’s a bundle to tie some of Apple’s subscription services together and also give users a discount for subscribing to more than one at once.

Apple has yet to confirm the bundle, but is suspected that it will be named ‘Apple One’. According to CNBC, technology blog 9to5Google found code in the Apple Music Android app earlier this week suggesting that the iPhone maker will tie its music service to other subscriptions it offers, like Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and iCloud storage”. A bundle of this nature has been something investors have desired for years, so this would be sure to make Wall Street investors and analysts alike happy.

Apple Bundle

According to CNBS, “The theory is that an Apple bundle will anchor Apple’s burgeoning services business, increase the number of subscribers, and complete the perspective shift from Apple as a hardware maker dependent on annual iPhone refreshes, to a technology and software company with several lines of recurring revenue and a self-reinforcing ecosystem, potentially driving the stock price up without having to increase product sales or prices dramatically”. This bundle could help differentiate Apple’s services, help increase the amount of subscribers for less popular services, include both Apple Pay as well as Apple Card and, ultimately, lock consumers into the Apple organization.

Apple reveals 8th generation iPad and new iPad Air

Apple has some new devices and within this Tech Insight, we are going to dive into all the details to help you make an informed decision about these newly released products. These include a few new iPads, which include the 8th generation iPad as well as the new iPad Air.

Beginning with the 8th generation iPad, this new device “packs a 10.2-inch display, Touch ID button, and an A12 Bionic chip that's 40 percent faster and offers graphics that are twice as fast as the previous version,” Mashable explained. This new device is also compatible with Apple’s Smart Keyboard along with the 2nd generation Apple Pencil, making it user-friendly. It also comes with iPadOS 14, which allows for users to use features like ‘Scribble’, which conveniently converts handwritten notes into text format. This also comes with a Smart Section, a feature that uses “on-device machine learning to detect handwritten notes from drawings”. The new iPad starts at only $329 and is available for pre-order in an abundance of color.

Apple reveals 8th generation iPad and new iPad Air

Next is the iPad Air, which has a 10.9 liquid retina display that includes Apple’s True Tone technology. Mashable notes that this new device has an all-screen display, [with] the Touch ID button now integrated into the top button on the iPad. As for color options, you'll have the choice between rose gold, green, and sky blue”.

This new device features Apple’s brand new A14 Bionic chip, which allows for the device to be 40 percent faster in regards to performance and 30 percent faster when viewing graphics. It is an excellent device for those looking to use it for a more heavy-duty use, such as video or photo editing or even playing video games. This product starts at $599 and will be available to consumers come October.

Apple officially releases their subscription bundle: Apple One

Just this past Tuesday, Apple has announced the long awaited Apple subscription bundle, Apple One, finally being a reality to its consumers. This is now a new, easy way for those individuals that are looking for a way to go all-in on Apple products under one umbrella subscription fee that is billed monthly.

This is a gem for people who really love all that Apple has to offer, including but not limited to things such as iCloud add-ons and Apple Music. Apple was even sure to include multiple options that all have different price points, services as well as the well known individual vs. family plan style. The services that are included in Apple One include “iCloud, Apple Music, Apple TV+, Arcade, News+, and the newly announced Fitness+,” according to Mashable.

Apple officially releases their subscription bundle: Apple One

So is Apple One the right fit for you? It really depends on services you may already use as well as services you may not mind adding to your list of subscriptions. For example, if you are partial to Spotify, you may not want a bundle that only offers Apple Music as the sole music provider. For those interested in giving Apple One a test drive to see if it fits for them, Apple is currently offering a 30-day free trial for any new customers to Apple One. Although like most bundles Apple One lacks the freedom of customization, it has shaped out to be a great deal for someone that has maxed out on all their free trials or already pays monthly for various Apple subscriptions.

Outschool raises a $45M Series B for small group classes held virtually

Outschool is a platform for homeschooled students that began back in 2015 with a mission to help boost their extracurricular activities. Since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, Outschool has had the opportunity to widen their customer base and recognized the need in the market with more and more students being forced to leave school campuses and making the switch to virtual instruction from home.

Some of the services offered by Outschool that are now in demand include “engineering lessons through Lego challenges to Spanish teaching by Taylor Swift songs,” as explained by TechCrunch. The co-founder of Outschool, Amir Nathoo, has noted that when the conversation turned to students taking classes virtually from home earlier this year, “[they] realized they meant classes over video chat, which is exactly what we offer”.

Outschool raises a $45M Series B for small group classes held virtually

Because of the high demand for programs such as Outschool, the online service has over a 2000% increase in bookings from August of 2019 to August of 2020. Not only is the service being used at a rapid rate, but “Outschool’s sales this year are around $54 million, compared to $6.5 million the year prior”. It has also been noted that although the growth of the company is due to the pandemic, Outschool has also received a confidence boost, as “Jennifer Carolan of Reach Capital announced at TechCrunch Disrupt that Outschool has raised a $45 million Series B round, bringing its total known capital to $55 million”.

The big winner of Apple’s new Apple One subscription bundle? Apple TV Plus

Apple’s newest product release, their Apple One subscription bundle, allows consumers to subscribe to a variety of Apple-owned services and is bound to help out their subscriptions overall. But it has been stated that few need it as much as their TV Plus.

According to The Verge, Apple has released “no subscriber numbers, no big displays of bragging about The Morning Show or Ted Lasso’s viewership figures. (In fairness to Apple, the company hasn’t given an update on Apple Music subscribers since June 2019, and while CEO Tim Cook did share this year that Apple News has 125 million subscribers, he chose not to disclose how many people signed up for [the] $10 subscription version.)”. So with that information in mind, this subscription bundle could not have come at a better time for TV Plus.

The big winner of Apple’s new Apple One subscription bundle? Apple TV Plus

The prices for the Apple One subscription range from $14.95 a month to $29.95 a month and have been reported by The Verge to include apps such as “Apple Music, Apple Arcade, Apple News Plus, Apple Fitness Plus, a variety of iCloud storage options, and Apple TV Plus”. With TV Plus being a large investment for Apple, the bundle should hopefully take away some of the pressure, as it does for companies like Amazon that offer programs like Prime and don’t really mention how many subscribers the individual services have. With group-focus on the new bundle and TV Plus being a part of the mix, it should help the overall success while still boosting the other services along the way.

Apple brings online store to India on September 23rd

For the first time in history in India, Apple has plans in place to launch the Apple Store online to offer customers a full-range of Apple products as well as give support directly to customers. This new online store will strive to provide the same premium customer service that is offered in Apple’s physical stores globally through team members online who are prepared to offer their help where it is needed.

Apple brings online store to India on September 23rd

Apple’s senior vice president of Retail + People, Deirdre O’Brien, has noted that “we’re proud to be expanding in India and want to do all we can to support our customers and their communities”. This online version of The Apple Store is notably the most convenient way to shop for all things Apple, with specialists at the ready to help “with anything from custom-configuring any Mac to setting up new devices”. Customers also have the ability to receive advice, guidance, and learn about new products directly from Apple in both English and in Hindi, which was mentioned in Apple’s announcement.

“As COVID-19 presents immense challenges and uncertainties for communities across the country, Apple’s teams are supporting local organizations to provide remote learning with study guides and curricula” said Apple.

How BiteDance avoided the worst-case possible scenario for TikTok

Just two weeks ago, it was well-known to the public that Microsoft was a frontrunner in the bid to gain ownership over TikTok’s U.S. operations against other competitive bidders vying for the company. But just last week, to everyone's surprise, Microsoft backed out of the deal, with some Microsoft executives telling banks that “the company no longer was considering using bank loans for the deal”.

Oracle then seized the opportunity and came out victorious for snatching one of the most sought-after businesses and entering arguably one of the most dramatic “political sagas in U.S. history”, according to The Information. Oracle is said to serve as a ‘trusted technology partner’ for TikTok’s U.S. operations, which leads ByteDance to have avoided an outright sale altogether. The deal with Oracle allows for ByteDance to “keep an equity stake or some control of the U.S. version of the app—in spite of President Trump’s order to sell all of it—would mark a surprising victory for the Chinese company”. One of the other key differences between Oracle and Microsoft's bids in the fight for TikTok is that Oracle did not and still does not believe it has to have ownership over TikTok’s “addictive video-recommendation algorithm”.

It is said that if the Oracle-TikTok deal is approved, it could “help Zhang and Bytedance avoid the kind of major setbacks encountered by other Chinese companies trying to do business in the U.S.”.

The Connected Enterprise: IoT Security Report 2020

In an effort to help shine light on security threats as a result of the surge in IoT (Internet of Things), research company Vanson Bourne conducted a survey on IoT security practices overall, which was commissioned by Palo Alto Networks. Through this study, there were “1,350 IT business decision-makers in 14 countries across Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America. Most IT decision-makers (95%) say they are confident that they have visibility of all the IoT devices on their organizations’ networks”.

The research also found that they are seeing an increase in the number of devices as well as a larger variety, which includes but is not limited to “connected vehicles (27%), connected toys (34%) and wearable medical devices (44%)” says Palo Alto Networks. While businesses and decision makers claim they can see problems growing, they know they are not prepared for these issues just yet. According to Palo Alto Networks, “41% of respondents said they need to make a lot of improvements to the way they approach IoT security, and 17% said that a complete overhaul is needed, amounting to more than half of those polled”.

The future of working out - smart home gyms

Due to the impact the Coronavirus has had on gyms and peoples personal fitness routines, smart home gyms just may be the future of working out. Machines such as Tempo Studio, a nearly $2,000 fitness machine features a 42-inch display, room for 16 weight plates, and a 3D sensor that gives users feedback on their form,” may become the new normal and will be here to stay long after the pandemic dies down. And if weights are not your go-to workout routine, there are smart rowers, boxing gloves, mirrors, kettlebells and even vertical climbing machines on the market for consumers. And of course, there is always Peloton, which “saw sales increase by 172 percent over the last fiscal quarter” according to Mashable.

The future of working out - smart home gyms

On the flip side, gyms and fitness studios alike are struggling due to the impact of the pandemic. Since the beginning of the impact, gyms like 24 Hour Fitness and Gold’s Gym both filed for bankruptcy protections, according to Mashable, and YogaWorks has permanently closed all of its New York City locations.

Because people are scared to go to the gym due to the need for consistency of constantly wiping down and cleaning fitness equipment and machines, many are turning to the comfort of their own homes and making do with what they can purchase to make home feel just like a gym. This provides an excellent opportunity for tech companies to take advantage of this ‘new normal’ with more and more smart machines emerging to help those working out from home.

TechAhead Team

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TechAhead Team

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