Facebook eyes up the connected home space

Facebook has seemingly taken its first steps towards the connected home market with the launch of Portal.

As it stands, Portal is being marketed simply as a video calling product, though with partnerships with various content streaming channels and a tie-in with Amazon’s Alexa, the future could see Facebook enter the fray as a competitor in the smart home hardware segment.

Two products will be released to start with, Portal and Portal+. Portal will feature a 10-inch 1280 x 800 display, while Portal+ is a larger model with a 15-inch 1920 x 1080 pivoting display. Powered by AI, Facebook claims the smart camera automatically pans and zooms to keep everyone in view, while smart sound features minimize background noise and enhances the voice of whoever is talking. How effective the AI remains to be seen, however now the idea of smart communications products have been normalised in the home it won’t be too long before some pretty impressive products will start hitting the market.

Such a venture could prove to be a very useful gander for the Facebookers, as diversification is going to need to happen sooner or later. With younger demographics searching elsewhere for their social media fix, Snapchat and Facebook-owned Instagram benefiting, pressure will soon start to mount on the advertising business.

Shareholders are used to exceptional year-on-year growth figures, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see these flatten; people are becoming less engaged by the platform, therefore spending less time exposed to adverts, while recent figures have shown key markets are not boosting total subscription numbers. Sooner or later a threshold will be hit; only so many adverts can be placed in front of users. Perhaps this is where the Portal products can help.

Unlike the other internet giants Facebook hasn’t really done an exceptional job of diversification. It has added more advertising products (i.e. different ways to engage users on the platform), but this isn’t genuine diversification. If the audience for the core product declines, Facebook’s business suffers; it doesn’t matter how many products there are if no-one is one the other side of the screen to see them.

Google or Amazon however have supported their core business with outside bets. Think of the cloud computing businesses they own, or the content platforms, or ventures into the grocery sectors. These are ventures which diversify enough to ensure negative impacts on the core business do not have a significant impact, however, close enough to lean on the brand and expertise.

With the Portal products, Facebook could make a play for the focal point of the smart home. This has a couple of interesting benefits, one of which will be controlling the gateway and therefore access to the consumer. By operating a window to the consumer, the owner of the window can charge access to gaze through. Partnerships are already in place with the likes of Spotify Premium, Pandora, and iHeartRadio, as well as Food Network and Newsy. This is a business model which could certainly be successful should Portal offer scale.

It is a simple, but effective idea. The window owner would also have the opportunity to launch new services and products which be installed as default, offering an entry-point to the data economy, in the same way Google dominates the mobile OS space with Android.

The focal point of the smart home is still an on-going battle, though Amazon and Google do seem to be winning with their smart speakers. The telcos have a chance with the router, though the proactive nature of the internet players is wrestling the ecosystem behind the speakers. However, today’s generations demand screens. Amazon has been trying to launch its own smart device with a built-in screen for months, though a difficult relationship with YouTube has not helped the situation.

Should Facebook be able to launch a video-orientated product, with high-enough specs, deep connections to the smart home ecosystem and smart enough AI applications, it could make a dent in the market. No-one has really produced a product which grips onto the space, and priced at $199 and $349, it isn’t out of the question for the Portal and Portal+.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook has made a point of security. AI applications are stored on the device, meaning data will be processed locally not transferred to the cloud. It’s almost as if Facebook has accepted it has a terrible reputation for data collection and management, and is offering an alternative to trusting the team with your personal information.

The big question is whether people trust the Facebook brand enough to give the business such prominent influence over so many different aspects of their lives. Even with a physical cover for the camera lens, users might be sceptical, though if there is ambition for additional services, there is a lot of work which will need to be done. The brand is not in a very good position when it comes to credibility and trust.

Another area which might prove to be a stickler for the product is that you have to have a Facebook account for it to work. This might not prove to be an issue at all in the long-run, though considering there will be people who don’t have and don’t want a Facebook account, or people who have intentionally deleted theirs as a result of recent scandals, it might be immediately ruling out a number of potential customers.

AR and VR headsets nosedive in Q1

Shipments of augmented and virtual reality headsets have plummeted year-on-year across the first quarter, according to statistics from IDC, as telcos unbundle the kit from premium contracts and handsets.

Despite the poor performance in the first quarter, down 30.5% year-on-year, totalling 1.2 million units, IDC does forecast the segment to return to growth for the remainder of 2018 as more vendors target the commercial AR and VR markets and low-cost standalone VR headsets such as the Oculus Go make their way into stores. The team estimate sales will increase to 8.9 million units in 2018, up 6%, with growth continuing upwards to 65.9 million by 2022.

“On the VR front, devices such as the Oculus Go seem promising not because Facebook has solved all the issues surrounding VR, but rather because they are helping to set customer expectations for VR headsets in the future,” said Jitesh Ubrani of IDC. “Looking ahead, consumers can expect easier-to-use devices at lower price points. Combine that with a growing line-up of content from game makers, Hollywood studios, and even vocational training institutions, and we see a brighter future for the adoption of virtual reality.”

Although bundling has become unpopular for the telcos, it is worth noting the importance of such sales models. Smartphone penetration was incredibly rapid in comparison to other technological breakthroughs, partly because consumers have more disposable income, but also bundling made the process of purchasing a device simpler and more cost effective. It normalised the product, before consumers become more savvy shoppers, exploring data only tariffs and separate purchases of devices. Telcos might not like bundling devices into contracts, but it is a very important factor in the progression of the data and digital economy, and aiding the market penetration of new devices.

Augmented reality is going to be the poster child of the segment for the immediate future, it is far more accessible, though it shouldn’t be too long before virtual reality starts making waves. IDC forecasts virtual reality headsets to grow from 8.1 million in 2018 to 39.2 million by the end of 2022, believing the commercial market to be equally important and predicts it will grow from 24% of VR headset shipments in 2018 to 44.6% by 2022.

AR and VR has certainly been making progress over the last 12 months, admittedly quite slowly, hopefully Q1 is simply a blip in the progress.

Qualcomm launches first dedicated AR and VR chip

Qualcomm has announced the launch of Snapdragon XR1 Platform, its first chip dedicated to augmented and virtual reality applications.

The platform was unveiled at the Augmented World Expo in California, with Qualcomm proclaiming it as the ‘first dedicated Extended Reality platform’ which also includes optimisations for integrating artificial intelligence into AR experiences such as pose prediction and object classification.

“As technology evolves and consumer demand grows, we envision XR devices playing a wider variety of roles in consumers’ and workers’ daily lives,” said Alex Katouzian, GM of the  Mobile Business Unit at Qualcomm. “By integrating powerful visuals, high-fidelity audio, and rich interactive experiences, XR1 will help create a new era of high-quality, mainstream XR devices for consumers.”

Qualcomm has said the platform integrates the company’s heterogeneous compute architecture, which includes the ARM-based multicore CPU, vector processor, GPU and its own AI Engine. Other features include an advanced XR software service layer, machine learning and the Snapdragon XR Software Development Kit (SDK), as well as connectivity and security features.

With the AI engine integrated into the chip, Qualcomm claims processing can be handled on the devices. This aspect suggests it is designed for standalone headsets that don’t need specialised computers to power the experience, such as the Oculus Go. Should this prove to be an effective feature, it could make the technology much more accessible to the mass market as more affordable offerings are currently powered by mobile processors, limiting the experience. In short, it potentially makes immersive experiences possible without being powered by a PC.

Key announcements from Facebook’s developer conference

This year’s edition of Facebook’s developer conference was always going to be an interesting one, with executives scuttling away from the Cambridge Analytica fallout.

As with every year, it would be fair to expect some blockbuster announcements, but considering the nefarious maze the firm is currently negotiating, fire-fighting privacy concerns should also be on the agenda. So what did we gather from Day One?

Advertising business concedes a little bit of leverage

Personalised and targeted advertising has been a big topic over the last couple of weeks. CEO Mark Zuckerberg got a grilling from US legislators on the topic, while CTO Mike Schroepfer received the same condemnation from a Select Committee of MPs in London. At the annual extravaganza, there was always going to be a nod to privacy enhancements.

The new feature, which will be known as Clear History, will allow users to opt-out of the practice of collecting and monetization of web browsing history through social media plug-ins on third-party websites. This has always been a contentious issue for the social media giant, which denied the practice until 2014, but now it has at least conceded some ground to critics. Others might argue it should be opt-in, but this is at least progress.

This is not to say Facebook will stop collecting information on where else you go on the internet, but if you opt-out, you won’t be included in any advertiser’s targeting through the platform. Facebook will still collect and store the information, but it will be anonymised and only used for analytical purposes. If you choose to request to have your personal information deleted, it won’t happen immediately. Facebook has stated it will be deleted within 90 days, which doesn’t sound promising, but there are no time limits as it stands.

Cashing in on the online dating craze

Broadcasting whether you’re in a relationship or single has been one of the long-standing features of Facebook, pretty much since its inception, but now it is actually going to do something with that information.

Alongside data privacy plans, Zuckerberg also used the stage at F8 to announce a new dating platform for Facebook. This seems like a logical step for the social media giant, it is after all used to authenticate users on third-party dating apps such as Tinder or Bumble. The data collected from any dating application will sit separately from the rest of the platform, and the team has not detailed how it will monetize such a venture. It would be fair to assume it would be through advertising, as the pay-to-play model isn’t really in the Facebook DNA.

The platform will not necessarily attempt to partner you with people you already know, but work on various different other factors similar to apps which are on the market now, and does present the opportunity to normalize the idea further. While the stigma of online dating has largely been removed, there will still be those who do not trust the idea. Facebook could add credibility.

Facebook is going through a period of scrutiny and criticism at the moment, but it doesn’t seem to have had a massive impact just yet. People are still using Facebook and the #DeleteFacebook hashtag never had any material impact. People like to be enraged to give off the impression they are good people, but who realistically changed their lifestyle.

The online dating industry is worth in the region of $3 billion as it stands, though Facebook could accelerate this figure. And it does appear investors believe so as well. Following the announcement, share price in future competitor Match Group, which owns OkCupid, PlentyOfFish and Tinder, plunged 23% before recovering slightly in overnight trading.

Match Group Share price

VR actually becomes affordable for mass market?

Virtual reality is an area which has been closely watched by Facebook for some time now, though it might have just released a product which can take the segment to the next level.

Oculus Go is now available in 23 countries, starting at $199 for 32 GB of storage and rising to $249 for the 64 GB model. While this would still be deemed expensive, it is getting to the levels which most would consider affordable. This has been the problem for VR to date; it is simply inaccessible to the mass market, finding home for niche gaming communities and commercial applications. Could this be a game-changer?

Two questions remain. Firstly, can the same, premium experience be delivered for this price? And secondly, will there be the ecosystem to support the hardware.

Looking at the specs, a 538ppi 2560 x 1440 WQHD, fast-switch LCD display sounds promising, while the team has also been working with partners like Xiaomi and Qualcomm to optimize performance. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 chip will be paired with Facebook’s automatic Dynamic Throttling feature to improve energy efficiency for smoother frame rates, while a built-in lithium ion battery will power about two hours for games and up to 2.5 hours for streaming media and video. The specs are promising.

On the content side, Facebook has said it has more than 1,000 titles to choose including Jurassic World: Blue, MasterWorks: Journey Through History and Space Explorers. The key here will be providing enough content to lure users away from traditional screens, but also to manage the quality of the content. Facebook needs to make the Quality Controller role its own here if VR is going to be a new avenue of profit.

New tools for businesses

In terms of diversification success stories, Facebook has done well to engage the commercial world. While it might not look like much from the surface, creating a platform where all businesses, not just those in the FMCG world, can meaningfully engage consumers was a successful move. Part of this was creating a successful platform for customer services, which has most recently manifested itself in the form of bots.

Facebook has said there are now 300,000 bots on the platform, sending 8 million messages a day. Adoption of the technology should be considered successful, now the Messenger platform is due for another makeover, this time with AR on the mind.

Though it is still in private beta mode, the Camera Effects Platform can now be integrated into Messenger, allowing companies to prompt users into using various filters on their devices. For the shopping experience, this is a great move forward, potentially removing a buyers nervousness at not being able to visualise products. AR is still in the early days, but this is one of the more common usecases discussed over the years.

We’re more than networks now – ETSI

Transformation is one of the most common buzzwords in the telecoms world and it seems not even standards bodies can stand against the tides of change.

The world is changing, and changing very quickly. Operators are being pitted against new and unknown competitors, while profits are being sucked out of the telecoms sector. This change means companies have to play in new ballparks, to different rules, and the same can be said for ETSI.

“I don’t think ETSI will be doing the same thing in five years what it was doing five years ago,” said David Boswarthick, Director of Committee Support Center at ETSI.

ETSI’s bread and butter work to date has naturally been focused on the network. And while work here will never be complete, it is becoming less stressful. Projects are completed and new focus areas arise. Like augmented reality for instance.

Eventually operators will start making money out of next generation technologies like AR, but for the moment the foundations are being laid. And what is crucial to these foundations is bringing new stakeholders into the equation. ETSI’s AR working group is one of those which operates further up the value chain. Yes, there are networking questions to be asked, but the technology is much more consumer orientated. The purpose of this group is to assess the landscape, before moving onto standardization projects for the interfaces between devices and an industry accepted framework.

The problem with technologies like AR is that they tend to fall between the cracks. It traverses across so many different sectors, it is difficult for someone to be able to take control. Unfortunately this can lead to some disappointing results. Right now there are three companies (who shall remain nameless) who are dominating the AR space. The technology is proprietary and siloed right now which is a problem.

While some people would consider standards as a limitation for technologists and blue-sky thinkers, Boswarthick highlighted they are crucial for success in the long-run. AR has been walking down the proprietary path for some time unchecked, but to make sure the consumer and the wider ecosystem benefit, there has to be a process of checks and balances. This is what ETSI plans to oversee; the process of creating interoperability and a sustainable ecosystem.

But this is where the complications lie; ETSI has little or no experience in dealing with industry verticals. There are a few industry members in the groups right now, Siemens and Bosch are two examples, but more are needed. “ETSI getting close to the vertical domains is a tough nut to crack,” said Boswarthick, but considering industry players will influence and define applications on the network, they are needed in the conversation from the beginning.

This is one of the first examples of ETSI expanding into new areas, but there will be more. Autonomous vehicles for instance will muddy the waters with new players in the ecosystem, as will smart cities. ETSI certainly isn’t forgetting about its tried and tested playground, but this organization is going to be much more than networking before too long.

Snap’s spreadsheets start to crackle as sales pop

Snap has always been pretty good at coming up with new ideas to engage consumers but making money was always its Achilles heel.

For the three months ending December 31 sales hit $285.7 million, an increase of 72% year-on-year, while for the year it was up to $824.9 million, a 104% increase. While these numbers might sound impressive, net loss for the year stood at $3.4 billion mainly down to stock rewards to its engineers. This compares to a loss of $500 million in 2016. We’re not quite sure what to say about that numbers.

“Our business really came together towards the end of last year and I am very proud of our team for working hard to deliver these results,” said Snap CEO Evan Spiegel. “We executed well on our 2017 plan to improve quality, performance, and automation, which removed friction from our advertising business and improved our application for the Snapchat community.”

Looking at the audience numbers, Daily Active Users increased 8.9 million or 5% sequentially to 187 million, while ARPU was $1.53 in Q4 2017, up 46% year-over-year and 31% sequentially. These improvements have been partly put down to improvements of the experience of the Android application, which Spiegel said increased retention rates by 20%. These improvements have led to increased engagement for the users, and also better value for advertisers.

Of course, the numbers are still pretty small when compared to the other social media giants but they are heading in the right direction. To take the next steps, Snap will be looking to continually improve application performance, while also partner up with telcos to reduce the bandwidth cost of the app. On the sexier side of development, Spiegel also boasts about moves into the world of augmented reality and content.

On the content side of things, the Wall Street Journal is reporting a partnership between Snap and NBC focusing on the Olympic Games. As part of the agreement, NBC will broadcast two- to six-minute live segments of key moments from the games. This is another interesting idea from Snap.

This is part of the problem Snap has been facing; it has never really been rewarded for the good ideas the team comes up with this. This highlights partnership is a good idea which will open up the brand to new audiences, but it is something which will be replicated by the bigger boys in the social media playground. For instance, the stories feature which so many people use on Facebook and Instagram, was originally the brainchild of Snap. You have to give credit to Snap for coming up with good ideas, but the cash reward is being realised elsewhere.

Should Snap be able to get enough partners involved with these highlights partnerships there could be rewards for the team. The next logical step could be into cinema trailers and promos, but it will have to prove it can hold onto the audience and the idea first and foremost.

Could we exist in a world without Apple or Samsung? Maybe…

Some would argue the smartphone is the most important technological breakthrough of the last 50 years, but Google could be creating a world where the device actually becomes redundant.

It all sounds very far-fetched, and of course, there would have to be an incredible change in society for this scenario to exist, but stick with us for a second. Irrelevant as to how unlikely it sounds, it is a perfectly plausible scenario; Google could architect a digital value chain where the smartphone is actually removed.

The story begins with the Google virtual assistant. As the consumer is guided away from the touch user interface and towards the voice, different devices can be used by the user. If, for instance, you want to know the population of China, you could just say it aloud and it would be picked up by anyone of the connected devices which surround you.

If anything can be turned into a connected device with the potential for interaction, is there any need for us to carry a smartphone around? Let have a look at a couple of different ideas. Let’s say you are in:

  • Living room: Your Chromecast TV hear the command and interacts with the user through its own speakers
  • Kitchen: Your Connected Fridge hears the command and pushes the interaction with the user to the smart speaker which you have set up
  • Car: At CES Google announced it has been working with automakers to directly integrate the Google Assistant into the cars infotainment system. There will be no need to ‘tether’ your phone to the vehicle
  • Work: With the lines between mobile and PC applications becoming blurred, there why not have your messaging conversations or video calls through your laptop
  • Street: Another announcement from CES, Google has been working with headphone manufacturers to integrate the assistant’s functionality. Headphones already have the ability to make phone calls know, so why shouldn’t this be the point of interaction between the assistant and the user

There are of course a number of different arguments against the redundancy of the smartphone, but there is a small answer to each. Let’s start with the Google business model.

The Google business model in the mobile world is built on the success of Android as an operating system. For the core Google business to be effective, scale is critical. Removing smartphones does remove Android from the mobile world, however, should Google win its battle against Amazon for virtual assistance dominance, the Google Assistant could replace the Android operating system as the touch point with the consumer.

Another problem is the idea of personalization; a user downloads what he/she wants or needs to their device. A 55 year old taxi driver will probably have different needs from a 17 year old A-Level student. This is where voice recognition could place a role.

In theory, once voice recognition technology has been refined, there is no reason why several people could not use the same device, while also creating a personalised experience. It would recognize person John and pull up the right emails, but then five minutes later be able to tell Emily what is listed in her calendar.

Once a device recognises it is interacting with you, there is very little it cannot do with the power and storage capabilities of cloud computing. Nothing has to be stored locally, meaning there are few limits to how much can be accessed by any number of users. Once you have a device which is hooked up to the web through fibre (speaker/fridge/TV/fishtank), you won’t even have to worry about download speeds, or those pesky mobile signals.

Video is another area which would be a complication. You can’t watch a cat chase a laser pointer on headphones, but you can on all the smart displays and devices which Google is bringing out for the smart home. And if you are sat on the bus, don’t forget about Google Glass. Yes, it was a wonderful failure at the time, but AR has come on leaps and bounds over the last couple of years. Why couldn’t the next breakthrough be a pair of glasses which brought up a screen on one lens when you had an incoming video call, or wanted to watch something on YouTube?

The last one is a bit of a stretch, but why not throw it out into the blue sky. It sounds ridiculous to consider a world without a smartphone, but with voice recognition slowly starting to catch on, what reason do you need a physical device with such a large screen for interaction? Video content or games us probably the reason (we concede we haven’t really addressed that one properly), but the Google assistant could read everything else out to you before too long.

Another reason the smartphone might prevail is because some people will just like having a device on them. This is cultural, and is probably the same argument that was used when detractors said mobile phones will never take off. Who would want to carry those devices around with them? And now we can’t consider a day when we leave the house without a device.

Attitudes change and voice interaction will start to catch-on before too long. Combine the voice UI with adoption of wireless headphones, and people will start to take their device out of their pocket less often. Should there be a suitable AR/Video glasses solution, the device will come out less often again, and then you’ll be able to make components smaller and lighter because the battery won’t need to be as powerful with less screen usage. Once you make the components small enough and light enough, they could be incorporated into the headphones, and the smartphone becomes redundant.

Another area to consider is money. Smartphones are increasingly being used to pay for items, but what about the idea of biometric identification and authentication for finance? You could pay for your pint with your eye; nothing physical needed there.

There might also come a day when you no-longer need substantial storage on the device, or any need to store anything locally. Should Mobile Edge Computer continue its progress, connectivity be stretched to every inch of the country, and the 5G revolution live up to the hype, our whole existence could be cloud-based. The headphones could be made even lighter and streamlined.

Of course, for all this to happen, there would have to be an incredibly, fantastic series of events, which are astronomically unlikely to coincide perfectly. It might be an amazingly absurd notion, but isn’t it something to think of a world where Apple is rendered completely redundant.

Huawei and Baidu team up on AI

Huawei and Baidu have announced a wide ranging partnership to develop artificial intelligence (AI) platforms and technology, to internet services and content ecosystems.

The tagline itself might sound a bit ominous, ‘AI that knows you better’, but it is where the industry is heading. More comprehensive artificial intelligence applications which reveal information about you which you didn’t even realise you had given away. Another concern might be held in Silicon Valley; two of the worlds’ most successful latecomers to the technology tsunami teaming up to steal AI fortunes from California.

“The future is all about smart devices that will actively serve us, not just respond to what we tell them to do,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s Consumer Business Group. “With a strong background in R&D, Huawei will work with Baidu to accelerate innovation in the industry, develop the next generation of smartphones, and provide global consumers with AI that knows you better.”

“It should come as no surprise that Baidu and Huawei are working together, because we have many similarities – technology is embedded in our DNA and we have developed our own technologies in order to grow,” said Robin Li, Baidu CEO.

“The Internet era is evolving into the era of AI. Baidu has been dedicated to the field of AI for a long time. Huawei has a large user base. Together, Baidu and Huawei can do many things which we were not able to do in the past. The Chinese saying ‘let a hundred flowers bloom’ is a good way to describe our cooperation – today we planted the seeds, and I believe soon they will grow into many flowers.”

The plan is to build an open ecosystem using Huawei’s HiAI platform and Baidu Brain, a compendium of the company’s AI assets and services. The open ecosystem will make use of Huawei’s Neural Network Processing Unit (NPU) and Baidu’s PaddlePaddle deep learning framework to democratize the power of AI for developers and accelerate the introduction of new offerings.

First up will be work on voice and image recognition for smart devices, as well as building an augmented reality (AR) ecosystem, to help move along another area which has the potential for major disruption. Such work might be able to help both brands make stronger strides into the international markets.

One area for Huawei which might be a focal point is cracking the US market with its smartphones. Huawei has made solid progress in the developing markets, but reports in recent weeks have seen some positive moves in the US. That said, the Apple and Samsung dominance will be difficult to crack, therefore the team will have to create a solid USP to make waves. AI, AR and VR might be that differentiation the brand needs.

Aside from consumer applications, the promise of productivity gains has seen businesses flock to the likes of Google, IBM and Amazon to cash in on the craze. Huawei has proved it can turn a segment on its head, Ericsson and Nokia will testify to this, so the techies-club in Silicon Valley should be a bit worried about China stealing the AI thunder.

ETSI has AR in its standardization sights

ETSI has waded into the murky waters of AR, creating a new Industry Specification Group called Augmented Reality Framework (ISG ARF).

As with most other ETSI working groups, the aim here will be synchronize efforts and identify key use cases and scenarios for developing an AR framework. While working groups at standards bodies are not the most exciting aspect of the industry, it is a crucial one. The group will work to create AR specifications in order to ensure interoperable implementations that will benefit both technology providers and end-users.

“There are huge differences in AR applications but mapping digital information with the real world implies the use of a set of common components offering functionalities such as tracking, registration, pose estimation, localization, 3D reconstruction or data injection,” said b<>com’s Muriel Deschanel, who will act as chair of the group.

“The development of such a framework will allow components from different providers to interoperate through the defined interfaces. This will in turn avoid the creation of vertical siloes and market fragmentation and enable players in the eco-system to offer parts of an overall AR solution.”

Although the first meeting of the group has not taken place yet, Industry 4.0, smart cities and smart homes are three areas which have been prioritized, while an eye will also be cast over applications for mobility, retail, healthcare, education and public safety.

These are all possible ideas, but for any new technology to become a reality, there needs to be a solid business case for the guys at the top of the value chain. And to do that, a transparent and reliable interworking between different AR components is key; in short, interoperability is good. ETSI is the enemy of vendor lock-in situations, and this is just the first step to bringing the technology under its protective wing.

Samsung supports seven start-up spin-offs

Samsung execs have given the thumbs up to seven ideas created in its Creative Lab initiative, creating a series of start-ups all fuelled and managed by employees.

The seven will focus on a variety of areas including VR/AR, IoT and healthcare, demonstrating innovation came come from some unlikely sources. For the most part, organic innovation is a rare skill to nurture in the technology giants, with most choosing to outsource risk by means of acquisition.

Most organizations would say they are innovative, but for the most part this is on the commercial side of things. When it comes to creating something new and novel, there are few innovators in the multinational club. Even Google, the poster child of innovation, is guilty here. Yes, it does have its Moonshot division, but a number of its most promising ideas have come through acquisition. For example, its AI surge really gained momentum with the purchase of Deepmind.

It isn’t a strategy which should be frowned upon though, how many false dawns have we seen for breakthrough technology? Finding an idea and having the confidence to buy and scale it should be considered a very sensible approach, but it is nice to see Samsung doing thing a bit differently.

Samsung’s Creative Lab (C-Lab) programme was brought to being in 2012, and is an internal project to encourage employees to play around with new ideas and business models. The spin off idea was started in 2015 and so 32 business have received the green light, so it could be deemed a success. But who are the new seven?

  • Hyperity – A VR/AR solution to remotely control smartphones and desktops through virtual screens without a physical monitor
  • Linkface – A VR solution that can detect eye and facial muscle movement and let users directly control VR content
  • PIXELRO – A smartphone-based solution to provide a vision correction solution to presbyopia, replacing regular eyeglasses
  • BlueFeel – A personal portable air purifier that doesn’t block the user’s mouth, developed as a response to users who dislike the discomfort of regular dust masks
  • Defind – A smart shoe matching service that carries out a 3D scan of a customer’s foot to enable them to buy shoes that fit perfectly
  • Soft Launch – A social media-based recommendation service for restaurants and stores aiming to combat fake reviews, and developed by employees from multiple Samsung affiliates
  • 1Drop – A low-cost blood glucose measurement solution using LED and the camera of a smartphone

“We have provided the support to establish 32 C-Lab alumni start-ups over the past two years and based on our valuable past experience, we are planning to build up a more profound and actionable program to nurture employees’ ideas and launch new start-ups,” said Jaiil Lee, Head of the Creativity & Innovation Centre at Samsung Electronics.