[Link] Samsung Buys SmartThings for $200 Million


Internet of Bling: Samsung Buys SmartThings for $200 Million | Re/code

SmartThings will continue to be run by CEO and founder Alex Hawkinson and operate independently, Samsung said. But most of its operations — which now include 55 employees in Washington, D.C., and also offices in San Francisco and Minnesota — will be moved to Palo Alto, Calif., to become part of Samsung’s Open Innovation Center (OIC) there.

It was only a matter of time before SmartThings got bought out – their hub, devices and 3rd party control of other smartphone-controlled products stood head and shoulders above their competitors. Samsung you would think, would try and include SmartThings technology into their devices but as long as SmartThings remain separate as they have stated, then with Samsung’s backing they can improve their products so that they become more mainstream and integrate with even more 3rd party device companies.

[Link] Mannequins With Beacon Tech Trialled In UK


From Window Shopping To Retail Clicks: Mannequins With Beacon Tech Trialled In UK | TechCrunch

Mannequins that send details of the clothes they’re displaying to nearby shoppers’ phones are being trialled in three UK bricks-and-mortar stores.

We covered the underlying VMBeacon tech earlier this year, which combines a low powered indoor transmitter Bluetooth beacon with shop mannequins or other visual merchandise — with the aim of turning window shopping into retail clicks.

The system also offers retailers a way to gain analytics on their window displays — by generating reports on customer in-app engagement with display items, although users of the Iconeme app can choose which of their details (age, gender, location) to share with shops.

The startup behind the VMBeacon, Iconeme, has now kicked off the first trial of its tech in the wild. The UK shops participating in the trial are House of Fraser’s Online Store in Aberdeen (which, despite the name, is a physical retail store); Hawes & Curtis in London; and Bentalls in Kingston upon Thames. Iconeme said further stores will be announced soon — with retail partnerships focused for now on the UK and the US.

The main barrier to entry for Iconeme’s system is that the user needs to be using the companion  app (iOS or Android) in order to be sent window display information. So it’s opt in marketing — which will limit uptake but at least avoids the risk of feeling too spammy.

Info is fired out to app users as an automatic alert when they come within a 50 meter range of a VMBeacon enabled mannequin. Details sent can include info on the clothes and accessories displayed such as price and links to purchase items directly from the retailer’s website, and where they can be found within the store. The app also lets shoppers view more detailed photos and product descriptions, save looks for later, share with friends and access additional offers and rewards.

A recent ABI Research report predicts that in five years’ time the Bluetooth beacon device market will be some 60-million units strong. The early focus for the low power transmitter tech has been on linking retail environments with nearby shoppers via the medium of their smartphones — opening up a local mobile marketing channel.

Not too far away from Tom Cruise in Minority Report where he has his eyeballs scanned

Re/Code on Five iPhone Podcast Apps Compared


Re/Code looks at five iPhone Podcast Apps

If you’re just getting into podcasts and want a basic player, I’d recommend giving Overcast a try (it’s free, after all). And for those who want more bells and whistles, Downcast definitely has it dialed in.

I am surprised that Instacast is not in the list. It’s certainly older than the majority of podcast apps highlighted in this piece and for me (and I have tested all of them) has the best syncing service between iOS devices. They even have a Mac client as well.

Sproutling Baby Monitor wearable device


SBGR Reporting on the Sproutling Baby Monitor wearable device:

Developed by Apple and Google alums, the Sproutling Baby Monitor can monitor the heart rate of the baby and predict when the baby is most likely to wake up. Furthermore, the gadget tells parents whether the baby is sleeping on its back or on the tummy and whether it’s “calm, fussy or angry” when it wakes up.

The wearable device also measures noise, brightness and temperature levels in the room the baby is sleeping in.

The first comment below the articles perfectly sums this product up “A product of simplicity that reinvents its category. Jobs would be proud.”

Adding Bluetooth to a Car With an AUX Port


Adding Bluetooth to a Car With an AUX Port — Chambers Daily

If you follow me on Twitter or listen to my podcast, you’ll know that I recently purchased a car. One of my major annoyances with it is that it contained Bluetooth, but not Bluetooth audio. Bluetooth audio should be standard, but it’s considered an upgrade. Thankfully, the car does have an AUX port. I obviously could use a 3.5mm cord, but I wanted to ditch the cords. I found a product on Amazon that claimed it could help me. It’s the Miccus Mini-jack RX. It plugs into your AUX port and then can connect to your phone via Bluetooth. It’s battery powered, but the manufacturer has a nice feature for using it with a car. When it’s plugged up to USB, it will power on and off with the car. If you need an in-expensive way to add Bluetooth, this will serve you well. Overall, it’s working great so far.

Great find by Bradley. I purchased one myself and I must say it has actually improved the quality of the sound in my car plus one less wire – Highly recommended.

Amazon Launch Subscription Service for Books


Katie Collins writing for Wired: 

Online retailer Amazon launched a Kindle subscription service for books on Friday that will work much like Spotify or Netflix, but for books. Kindle Unlimited is available now in the US and costs $9.99 (about £6) per month.

Wired.co.uk asked Amazon when we could expect to see Kindle Unlimited land in the UK, but could get no more information than the following statement: “Kindle Unlimited is only available in the US right now, but please stay tuned.”

Unfortunately Amazon does not have a track record of quickly delivering products it launches in the US. When Amazon launched Autorip — the service that entitles anyone who buys a CD or vinyl to a free digital version — in the US in January 2013, it took six months to bring it to the UK. The Kindle Fire tablet took almost a year to reach British shores and Amazon is still yet to announce a date for launching the Fire TV in the UK, and wasn’t prepared to give anything away when Wired.co.uk questioned a UK-based Amazon Prime Video executive recently.

As it stands though, Kindle Unlimited might prove a rather underwhelming service anyway. Amazon boasts that Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Life of Pi will all be available, but the big five publishers — Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan — have all declined to make their titles available on Kindle Unlimited. The big five are far from the be-all and end-all of publishing, but not being able to make their titles available to Kindle Unlimited customers means that the service will lack many old favourites and much-anticipated new books.

If they can get the those 5 publishers onboard than that will point to subscription services really being the way of the future just like music subscriptions services.

Samsung still obsessed with Apple, screen quantity over quality


Rene Ritchie on Samsung’s Latest Ad:

And this, once again, highlights important differences between the two companies. Not just that Samsung shows off Apple products in their ads and Apple sticks to showing off their own products, or that Samsung uses plastic where Apple uses aluminum, or that Samsung uses SAMOLED where Apple prefer LED, or that Samsung has a bifurcated software experience, split between Android and TouchWiz and Apple has a coherent one, all iOS, all the time, but at their cores.

Samsung, like everyone’s favorite crazy uncle, believes in trying everything and anything, throwing it all at the wall in hopes that something sticks. It doesn’t matter if any one of those products is substandard or marginal, if things like PenTile pixel arrangements downgrade screen quality or some features exist only in their own apps and not Google’s, preventing people from having a consistent experiences.

Apple, by contrast, stays focused. They take their time. They weren’t first to phones or tablets or TV boxes, and they weren’t first to phablets. They believe in quality over quantity. They had 3.5-inch phones for 5-generations, the 4-inch phones for 2. They went to Retina display, in-pane switching, 16:9 aspect ratio, and in-cell display. They didn’t make many more screens, they made far better screens.

And according to the latest numbers, the iPhone 5s still outsells the Galaxy S5.

Many people simply don’t want a bigger phone. They want something that easily fits in their hand or pocket or purse. For those who do, however, they currently have to choose between iOS on a 4-inch device or not-iOS on a bigger device. Imagine what will happen this fall, when they can get iOS on a bigger phone.

If history is any indicator, what Samsung’s really going to need to make bigger is their ad budget. And better too. Way better.

Focus. Spot on from Rene Ritchie.

Apple brings iTunes Extras to Apple TV, HD Extras to Macs today & iOS 8 in fall


Jordan Kahn:

Apple today released iTunes version 11.3 and with it is making its iTunes Extras feature available for HD movies on Macs.  Apple also announced today that the feature is now available for Apple TV with update 6.2 and will arrive on iOS 8 this fall.

As noted by Apple, “iTunes Extras can include behind-the-scenes videos, short films, high-resolution image galleries, director’s commentary, scenes, and more.

Finally – have been waiting for iTunes Extras for Apple TV since the 1st generation of Apple TV.

Harmony Remote Now Works With Nest Learning Thermostat


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Logitech announced yesterday that their Harmony universal remote control devices range can now be integrated with Nest Thermostats – specifically the Harmony ‘Ultimate’ remote control. Together with their previously announced Philips HUE light integration and Sonos audio integration, the Harmony remote can now control your lights, audio and now heating for when you using one of the activities such as watching a movie, listening to music etc.

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Logitech state that you can:

  • See and set the temperature without leaving your couch
  • When paired with your Nest Thermostat, Harmony Ultimate lets you quickly and easily set your preferred temperature directly from the remote.
  • Change Nest heating and cooling modes
  • Easily access and select your preferred Nest operating mode—Heat, Cool, or Heat • Cool— on the remote’s full color touchscreen.
  • Ultimate lets Nest know you’re home
  • Pick up Harmony Ultimate when you return home and the remote’s motion sensor knows to tell Nest to switch off Auto-Away™ mode.
  • Pairing Nest with Harmony Ultimate is a snap
  • Use the MyHarmony desktop software to quickly add, pair and configure your Nest thermostat with your Harmony Ultimate remote. Get step-by-step instructions.
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I’m not really sure how useful it would be to adjust the temperature when starting or changing an activity, it seems more like a convenience to be able to adjust the temperature rather than anything else, however just having the ability to talk to the Nest Thermostat should be applauded.

You can find out more about the Harmony ULTIMATE remote here.