Friday, June 12, 2015

What I learnt at Google I/O 2015

The first day of Google I/O centred around the Internet of Things, the next billion and Google Now on tap (read my overview here). However, day two dived deeper into some extremely difficult hardware and software problems Google is trying to solve.

Google’s ATAP (a division of Motorola that Google kept - and one of my personal favourites) is tackling some really interesting problems. This year they have made huge strides which will, I think, grab consumer attention - Project Soli and Jacquard - two advancements not just in technology but also material engineering and design...

Project Soli
Project Soli is truly amazing. It is a tiny sensor capable of 3D gesture recognition with sub-millimeter accuracy. As devices and screens are getting smaller it gets more difficult to accurately manipulate the content on them. This is where Soli comes in - it can detect your hand gestures and motion with startling accuracy allowing you to interact with a screen extremely precisely, without even touching the surface. Watch the demonstration below to see it in action:

This will revolutionise user interfaces, especially for wearables. In the picture below you can see the 10 month journey from the radio-sized prototype to the microchip device that can fit into a wearable.

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Project Jacquard
This is the quite simply the future of clothing. ATAP has created a brand new conductive thread which can be weaved into clothing. The image below shows how the screen is mapping my touch on the fabric. The technology has many uses including, the ability to control the music on your phone by touching your sleeve.

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This thread can be applied to any fabric, in any colour and is going to completely transform our clothing and how we interact with it. You want to dim the lights in your smart house? A simple gesture on your dressing gown can do that for you. [I feel like one more example would help here? Unlocking your front door using your coat perhaps?]
We all wear clothes all the time (well, most of us), and so this technology can easily slot into our lives, without us having to remember an additional device.

Android Auto

I played with Android Auto in the next Audi Q7 and it is a fantastic piece of technology and finally focuses the automakers on what they are good at - building cars - and not on the terrible software they create. And because it runs on your phone you can get OTA (over the air) updates without needing to get a new car to upgrade the software.

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Virtual Reality (VR)
VR was a big part of the keynote and the footage from the new JUMP camera was very impressive, especially when you consider all you need is a phone, cardboard and headphones. Not to mention the camera that Google used will be open sourced so people can build their own rigs, and GoPro will be selling a fully rigged up version. I can honestly say that if Google get this right it will deliver incredible experiences for kids in school and for adults in gaming and entertainment.

How to innovate
I was also delighted to get the opportunity to chat to Astro Teller, Head of Google X, following his talk on how to innovate. Astro, is one of my favourite public speakers and I highly recommend you watch his Singularity University talks if you are interested in innovation. We discussed how crucial it is to silo an innovation team to allow them to truly innovate without interference from the rest of the business. He also suggested that you should try and fail as fast as possible. Any ideas you get signed off you should assign a team to try and disprove them throughout. It stops you wasting time and resources on projects that won’t succeed.

This year’s I/O provided a glimpse of the future for Google and computing, and I for one am super excited.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

My problem with the Apple Watch

Right so we all know the Apple Watch is out now but I want to come at this from a geek with some nice watchs point of view. Before I start I want to say as much as I bash aspects of the Watch I will probably end up with one, this post is more about the cost of the straps than anything else. Below is a bit of a brain dump of thoughts I had this morning about it.

About 12 years ago I inherited my dad's collection of watches. All of those watches are beautiful with a mixture of materials many are swiss made all of them items that I can keep and pass down to my kids one day.

This has made me someone that can appreciate watches and the skill it takes to make them. I am also one of the few millennials that actually wears a watch mainly as a piece of jewelry than a timepiece. I am also a geek who wears ugly devices like the original Pebble every now and then and a nicer wrist watch for say going out to dinner or client meetings. From the watches that I have bought myself my daily driver is this D&G watch which I bought about 6 years ago for about £230.00 a fair amount of money especially when today it is worth about £110.00 but still considering I wear it a lot and have only changed the battery about 3 or 4 times. For that £230.00 I got a watch which tells the time just as well as it did about 6 years ago has had no updates minimal maintenance and goes well with pretty much anything I wear (yes thats a magenta hoody) with its stainless steel body and strap.

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Part of having a watch collection is that you have multiple watches for different events and occasions with different styles and functions. Apple has tried to get past this with its switchable bands however it is so cost prohibitive it blows my mind. I am not that fussed about the price of the Watch it’s the price of the straps that I think is crazy.

Lets look at the 42mm model with 2 different bands:

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 10.26.14.pngScreen Shot 2015-03-11 at 10.45.46.png
Thats a difference of £340.00!! You are paying that amount for a link bracelet mass made in a factory. And lets not forget that the watch the main part of the device if we deduct the cost of the band would be about £480 so the stainless steel bracelet costs about 70% of the watch itself. Its almost like buying a whole new watch. This means the plan of having multiple bands doesn't look like a good idea as the watch would get easily close to to the 4 figure cost and I don’t know if they will be compatible with the next version of the Apple Watch. If I knew they would keep this mechanism I would probably feel better about investing in the different straps.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 11.27.56.pngFor £299.00 you can get a Swiss made Mondaine watch one of my favourites with such a beautiful design Apple even copied it. And that is for less that the cost of the Apple Watch strap.

This expensive pricing can only be to price people out because I don't think its the true value of the strap even if you include perceived value. At the end of the day most millennials don't even wear watches which means you are going to want multiple bracelets for different occasions.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 11.47.47.pngWhat would be the cost of the watch then if we wanted say 2 bands? The cheapest way of doing it is buying the link watch and the rubber strap seperate coming in at a lovely £898.00!! Maybe I am being unfair choosing the 42mm metal link but if you go for the black finished Apple Watch that cost would be £988.00 as close as it makes no difference to a grand! Want something you will cherish and not find many people wearing? Get this from Meistersinger for about £1,000.00 they have won many design awards and it is just gorgeous!

Now I wouldn’t mind if Apple had created a watch that was one of the best looking things in it’s category. Like the Macbook Air and now the Macbook there is nothing like it. It is the most beautiful laptop by quite a margin and I am lusting after that Macbook (heads up to my IT department my Air is going to have a nasty accident the day that laptop comes out). However with the Apple watch it is in my opinion not the most beautiful smartwatch (I am not including traditional watches as that wouldn’t be fair) by a big enough margin to warrant such a massive price. I would argue that Asus and Motorola have made some beautiful devices both for around the £199.00 price. No they are not as beautiful as say the Apple Watch but damn they are close and cost way less.

The one saving grace is that hopefully there will be a massive range of straps from third parties from Louis Vuitton to hopefully a cheaper metal band that I can buy. This might mean that going for the  Sport might be the best option as that will cost £339.00 which is a little easier to stomach.

Now I don’t want to sound completely down on the Watch I think its an interesting product and you can tell a hell of a lot of effort went into designing it and in the chosen materials. As I am using an iPhone at the minute I will probable end up with the Apple Watch with the Milanese loop unless Google opens up Android Wear to work on iOS as I want a round face watch plus there is just more choice. The reason I will more than likely get one is because
a) Its my job to know about these things and try them plus
b) I am just a geek for this stuff, you will be able to tell who works in tech by the fact they are wearing an Apple watch.

At the end of the day we are the geeks, the innovators, we are the guinea pigs and the fools with that curiosity to try new things and understand that it might not work first time as we all know the real Watch you want is next years.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

My MWC 2015 thoughts so far

Below is just a short email I sent round Somo this morning with my thoughts on the conference so far. All about the knowledge sharing :-)

Thought I would send round a quick update from MWC with my thoughts on what I have seen so far.

Overall there are 3 things that have jumped out at me.

Manufacturers realise you won't wear a wearable unless it looks nice, duh...
With LG, Huawei and the other manufacturers making their wearables beautiful. Using premium materials to create smartwatches that are more akin to the classic wristwatch. Now its not about the Geeks anymore its about real people who don't want to look like a character from the IT crowd.

Developing countries need cheaper smartphones
Mozilla showed off a $22 smartphone! That is off contract and about to be sold in India. Dont forget for some developing countries their first computer and how they will access the internet will not be from a laptop or desktop but from a phone and it won't be a iPhone 6+. Loads of manufactories were getting in on the action with Motorola and Microsoft showing how they are going to try and grab market share.

Where is the connected home?
Seems that the connected home took a massive back seat this year compared to last year with Qualcomm getting rid of their connected home experience and replacing it with a premium sound area which seemed like a bit of a waste. In my opinion they all realise that the market is still early on with smart individual devices but with nothing really tying it all together unless you want to buy a Samsung house and have one manufacturer around your whole home.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Inbox - What your inbox should look like

Last night, Google’s Gmail team announced Inbox: its mobile-first reimagining of the email inbox, now available by invitation only.

Google has applied its learning's from Google Now to Inbox, transforming your email inbox from a list of messages to a feed with added value by calling out important information. Similarly to the Google Now app, Google’s server will read your emails and use that information to help get you "just the right information at just the right time." For example, when I receive an email with a boarding pass, Inbox will highlight that and show it in my so that I don't need to dive into the email.

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Google even made a web version but to be honest its nice but just not the same as the app which has all the lovely gestures in it

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In the screenshot above, the attachment is front and centre for easy access. This makes perfect sense -- why have attachments been at the bottom of emails or tiny icons for so long? For example, I might not read the email from Motorola (above), but I am going to want that attachment for my records. A simple tap from the inbox allows me to immediate download it, all it takes after that is a quick swipe and it is gone and in the done pile. Simple, fast, beautiful and efficient -- just what mobile should be. It is worth noting that “Done” is just another word for “Archive.”

You can’t really mention Inbox without mentioning Dropbox’s email application Mailbox. Mailbox is all about getting your inbox to zero. However with Inbox by Gmail, that is just a small feature that it can do. I feel that Inbox is less about getting your inbox to zero, but rather about keeping important messages and files easily accessible.

I did a quick video below to give you an idea of how it works. Because it was built as a mobile application, Inbox excels at condensing important information and making sure it is easily accessible. Inbox also has the ability to tie into Google Now, allowing you to set reminders which can be triggered by time or location.

Google has proved its mobile-first work ethic by launching on both Android and iPhone simultaneously. The Gmail team is less interested in platform loyalty and more interested in access to users, they don’t care if you are on iOS, Android or even Windows Phone they want to reach as many people as possible. For them its all about the users and delivering a truly mobile first strategy is launching on both iOS and Android

To peak interest and build anticipation, the tech giant has chosen to roll out Inbox in the trendy invite-only method. While some companies adopt this practice due to scaling issues, Gmail product director Alex Gawley joked to The Verge that "We're good on servers,” hinting that it is more than likely not a technical limitation.

Another limitation is that Inbox only works for email addresses ending with which is a bit of a problem for those with apps accounts, particularly enterprise accounts. Which means I can’t take the power of Inbox and let it loose on my work account which is a bit of a shame. Much like the role out of Google+ though I am guess that option will be rolled out soon.

It may not seem at first like game-changing technology, but Google has effectively made your email smarter and as a result, your life easier by bringing important information front and centre. Hopefully, the end is in sight for the dumb inbox.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Why is TV shit?

Why is the experience of using a TV just soooooo bad even down to the UI? I mean really some of these companies Samsung, Sony, LG and Sky are huge companies they can afford at least one good software designer and one good hardware designer right?

Or is there so much red tape at these companies they cant even make an easy to use remote?

You know what my perfect remote is ...

...we can make this screen into whatever we want. This screen can learn that I never press the red button only use volume and the on/off button showing me only the buttons I need and not the buttons that the company wants me to press.

In fact it was one of the reasons I cancelled my Sky subscription (not to mention its ludicrous price) it was just not the easiest thing to use and didn't really give me what I wanted. It drove me crazy flipping between channels searching for something to watch. Isn't the idea of channels crazy? It's all wrong who cares that Archer is on FX I care about the show not the channel. Which is why TV in its current form will die a much deserved death and things like Netflix and iPlayer will take over. We don't want entertainment ruling our lives waiting for Monday so you can watch the next episode or having to record it while you are out. I know people think that Sky+ is amazing but its still relies on you remembering to record something. What if you find out afterwards its a great show and should watch it? Plus TV is not recorded on tape anymore it's digital so get everything online so we can watch it whenever we want. The BBC really showed networks how it should be done, even though what would make it even better is allowing me to see everything they have ever done, that would be amazing.

Then there is the whole piracy thing which isn't just people trying to get things for free, its people screaming we want this content but you are too dumb to give it to me the way I want it. Do you really think there would be as much piracy in the world if as soon as something was done in the cinema you had it on Netflix for example? Imagine how awesome that would be I don't want to own a DVD it takes up space and I am only going to watch the film a couple of times. This is why Spotify and Netflix are so great you get access to all this great content and can explore and find new things. I know networks and publishers want the revenue that DVDs bring but sooner or later customers are going to get bored of grabbing their ankles.

Personally I now have Netflix, YouTube, 4OD, BBC iPlayer and a range of other on demand services and have never been happier or richer for that matter with the added moral high ground of doing everything legally.

What reaffirmed that I made the right decision is that today it rained all day so I stayed in with my fiancĂ©e and just watched the entire series of Bojack Horseman and we loved it. No channel hopping just watching the show we wanted to watch when we wanted to watch it. The only downside I guess was that we watch it all.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Google IO 2014

Last week, Google held their annual developer conference, Google IO 2014, where they announced major updates for all products including Google Cloud, Android and Chrome.
This year, it’s evident Google is slowly but surely making all our dumb things smart, from cars to TVs. They previewed loads of products but below are a few key areas that they focused on:
  • AndroidOne initiative, get the next 5 billion online
  • Android Wear
  • Android Auto
  • Android TV & Chromecast
  • Chrome OS  gets closer to android
  • Enterprise gets a boost
  • Google Fit

To give you an idea of the scale and reach Android has to date, Google started the presentation with the following stats:

  • 30 day active users are now 1 billion up from  530 million in 2013
  • 20B text messages are sent every day
  • 93m selfies per day (31 million are apparently duck faces)
  • Users take approximately 1.5 trillion steps per day
  • Phones are checked a total of 100B a day
  • 62% of all tablet shipments are now Android (not included forks of android like the Amazon Kindle’s)
  • On YouTube 28% of all engagement last year was on Android tablets, it has now grown to 42% in 2014
  • App installs went up 236%

Overall, Google has seen a meteoric rise of the Android ecosystem and this years IO was all about getting Android into even more areas of your life.

Let’s look at how Google’s new products will probably impact brands.

Android Wear

Earlier this year, Google announced Android Wear which would be launching with 2 devices,  the LG G watch and the Moto 360. Last week, we discovered a little more about the OS and that Samsung would also be entering the Wear family with the Galaxy Live. This was such a big focus for the company that every executive was wearing one of the devices and they even gave out the watches to all attendees at the end of the keynote.
The important thing about Android Wear is it’s potential to dominate the smart watch market very quickly, considering it works so closely with the Android Smartphone OS.

Now applications can be controlled and notified directly from a customer’s watch. For example,  instead of showing a voucher via your smartphone you raise your wrist and scan the using your smartwatch. You’ll see forward-thinking brands like Starbucks bringing payment to the your Android Wear watch.

Android Auto

Android Auto is Google's response to Apple’s Carplay, an OS that allows you to connect and control your car and entertainment system using your phone.

After the keynote, Audi demonstrated Android Auto in an A3 where attendees sat and saw how it worked. My favorite part of Android Auto is all your contacts and favorite places are projected from your phone, meaning that your maps will be powered by Google Maps--no more relying on the car’s GPS program!
Brands will be able to create experiences for their customers inside a car. Currently companies like, Pocket Cast and Spotify have already created apps for Android Auto.

And lastly, Android Auto allows you to control and find information using Google’s “best-in-class” voice recognition.



With Apple practically eating their lunch in the enterprise space, there was some big stuff in the area of enterprise which Google really did have to address.

Android OS and Google Drive
Two of the biggest updates were to Android OS and Google Drive. Android will now support Android for Work which allows Android phones to seamlessly bring together a user’s business and personal apps, meaning no need for two phones!

Google also made a massive move by incorporating Samsung Knox software into the Android system so that it can be adopted and used by all manufactures. Big news since Android has been getting a bit of flack around security for big businesses, but with this update however Android suddenly gains a fair about of gravitas.

Google Drive will now be able to edit Microsoft Office documents directly within Drive,meaning that you can do all your work on a Chromebook. A direct blow to Microsoft as Google takes more marketshare away from Office. You can now have users collaborate within a Word doc all from Drive, making collaborative work far easier especially if you are working in a company that already uses Google Apps.

Google Fit

Google Fit is a platform that developers will be able hook into, with the permission of the user. Not only that, but apps can view that data and act upon it. For example, Nike could now offer you a discount on a pair of shoes after recognising that you are running a lot, even if you don't use the Nike+ app for your running.

Because Google Fit uses personal data of the user, they have complete control over what and who has access to that data; they could even completely delete the data if they wished.

This adds up to applications being able to better understand their users and start to deliver extremely more personalised experiences.


Interestingly there was nothing on the smart home so it seems that the only news in that area was Nest opening up their api for developers earlier in the week.

This is of course a very cut down version of the 3 hours that the Google keynote went on for and more is being discovered as the conference goes on. If you want to read more about what happened at IO here is a link to The Verge where the did a complete round up everything that was announced.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The impossible task Android doing iPhone

Now every now and then I move between phones and most of the time (maybe 99%) I usually go between android devices. Last year I used a total of 13 phones in one year, a record for me and one I don't think I could ever beat. By use I mean USED put my sim card in and copied over my whatsapp messages and re-login to everything and use it as my daily driver. Sometimes the playing around would last 2 weeks and other times more, currently the phone I was using the Moto X held the record of 3 months if you include this January.

One major reason for this is because as part of my job I need to know my way around all phones and how their UI and use cases differ. Within android all the different skins make each device different whereas the iPhone has stayed pretty static, even the recent update was more a lick of paint in my eyes than a complete rethink of iOS. The second is the fact that it is for me anyway really easy to move across between android devices, text messages, whatsapp, images and signing into the many Google apps I use.

In my head I am a not an Android fanboy(maybe more Google) I am someone who feels that I use whatever is best for the situation. An Android phone an iPad mini and Macbook Air that is my set up, however to really feel that way and dispel people at work and friends calling me a fanboy I have to prove it.

The challenge 

Starting today I will be using an iPhone 5S as my main device of operation meaning that all my devices will be Apple ones so it will be interesting to see how the integration will work. Especially the difference in experience with Google services and products, I use Google+ for my photo uploads Gmail for work and personal email so how they all work so seamlessly in Android is what keeps in that ecosystem. Not to mention they way Android allows apps to talk to each other my favorite example being when in the gallery of my Moto X i can share a photo to any app I want whereas on my iPad I wish I could. Things like that I find infuriating but hey lets see what happens.

Every week I will post my annoyances and pleasures of using the iPhone. I already have a few positive and a few negatives but I feel those will change over time.

This is really a diary of an Android boy through and through using an iPhone. Let the games begin