Amazon’s New Services & Acquisitions

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Amazon, the online giant, has been busy lately and they appear to be somewhat unstoppable.  Right now Amazon is the third most influential stock with the S&P 500 behind Apple and Alphabet…some pretty elite company.Amazon New Services & Acquisitions

Their shares have gone up 32% this year, including a 2.4% jump with their recent announcement  last Friday that they plan to buy Whole Foods for 13.7 billion. This is by far and away their biggest acquisition, with their previous biggest purchase of Zappos at 1.2 billion in 2009.

That deal isn’t official yet, as it seems other online stores such as Walmart might have something to say about the Whole Foods’ purchase, even possibly throwing their hat in the ring. No matter what, though, Amazon is on a mission to become much more than the leader of the consumer discretionary sector.

Here is a list of Amazon acquisitions in the last 3 years according to CrunchBase.com:

Three Yeas of Acquisitions By Amazon

As you can see from the statistics, the amount they purchased most companies for is unknown, meaning that they base their disclosures on their company’s revenue, assets, and net income. In other words, the bigger the company, the less they have to individually disclose, and Amazon loves to keep their activities under wraps.

So back to the jaw-dropping investment in Whole Foods. It appears that Jeff Bezos is a genius with his theory that cash flow is king and net income is discretionary.

They have, however, posted solid earnings of eight straight quarter of profit, but this is widely due to the cloud-computing business, Amazon Web Services (AWS). Mr. Bezos is always willing to operate on a thin margin and reinvest much of the profit back into the company.

The video below gives an excellent rundown on Amazon’s recent offer to buy Whole Foods:

With Amazon having their iron in just about every type of retail fire, I’m not sure how they are able to keep up. It probably helps that they have almost 350,000 employees working for the Seattle-based company, but as they keep moving into new sectors can they continue to recreate each one?

They have a presence in everything from apparel to outdoor furniture, home goods to electronics, and now they are in the perishables market with Amazon Fresh. This followed on the heels of Amazon’s Prime Pantry, where Prime members can shop for groceries and household goods while still receiving free shipping with a certain minimum order.

Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

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With Amazon Prime Fresh, you pay an extra fee of $15 per month to browse perishables, household products, and gourmet specialty items from the Amazon Fresh page that are delivered that day or the next day, depending on what time of day the order was placed.

They also resurrected their Amazon Dash Wand to include Alexa, the virtual personal assistant that lives inside the Echo as well as other Amazon devices. The Dash Wand can be used by speaking to Alexa about foods you want to stock up on, but it can also be used to scan a barcode, which will also included in your cart.

Is the Dash Wand an expensive item?  You will be pleasantly surprised. Check out this post from TechCrunch:

Amazon’s Dash Wand barcode scanner returns with Alexa and is now essentially free | TechCrunch

At the moment, the item is available for Prime Members only. And it’s essentially free (for a limited time), priced at $20 and shipping with a $20 rebate off your first Amazon purchase after registering the thing. It also comes with a free 90-day trial of AmazonFresh. So the device is a gateway to both Amazon’s $15 a month grocery service and a free new back door for getting the company’s smart assistant into more homes.

See the full post here:  Amazon’s Dash Wand barcode scanner returns with Alexa and is now essentially free | TechCrunch

If you want to see a demonstration of how this Amazon service works, watch this short video:

Amazon’s new services and acquisitions are causing a buzz in both the online and brick and mortar world. They are definitely on a roll! On top of it all, their customer service is amazing.

Amazon is making some of the other big retail chains break a sweat to catch up. There’s no doubt in my mind that Amazon is one of the most innovative companies of all time.

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Google’s Family Calendar – Part of the Family Library

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I use my Google Calendar for everything from business and doctor appointments to birthday and anniversary reminders. In fact, I don’t think I could manage my busy life without it, and I can’t imagine going back to writing everything down on a physical calendar or in a planner.

Google Calendar

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With the introduction of virtual assistants, you can take it a step further. If you happen to own an Amazon Echo, you can ask Alexa to read your upcoming calendar events. All you have to do is download the Amazon Alexa app and connect it to your your calendar of choice, and she will let you know what you have coming up on your schedule without you having to look it up.

For families, my favorite calendar app has gone to a whole new level with Google’s Family Calendar.  Shortly after the I/O Developers Conference, which was held this year in Mountain View, CA from May 17 – 19, 2017, Google announced additional Family Library settings with Calendar, Keep, and Photos.

The original Family Library was launched about a year ago, allowing up to 6 family members (including the manager of the account) to share their apps, games, books, movies, and TV shows. It allowed a family member to sign up, decide the group’s payment method, and then set limits on purchases to keep everyone on the same page.

The addition of Google’s Family Calendar is appealing, but I’m not completely convinced it is much different than how the current calendar works. At this time it is in beta mode, and the next post provides more info:

Google family calendars are going live

The premise behind the family calendar is simple. When you create a family on Google, a calendar called ‘Family’ automatically appears for all members in Google Calendar. Anyone in the family can modify events and rename the calendar, but non-family members cannot be added.

While this isn’t a groundbreaking feature, as sharing a calendar between Google accounts has been possible for years, this does make sharing events between family members a bit simpler. In addition, this also avoids duplicate calendar events when one member shares an event with another.

Read the full post here:  Google family calendars are going live

The Family Library that was released in July of 2016 has features that help parents keep a handle on their kids’ purchases. It allows everyone to share their favorite stuff and it’s all on the cloud.

In May of this year, Google consolidated all of its family-sharing products under the new Family groups feature, with the capability to enjoy YouTube TV and Play Music Family Plan, as well as the Google Play Family Library. It seems Google is regularly updating their products, gearing them toward the future.

Setting up the payment method for everyone to use simplifies the process, and you can have it set so that kids up to 17 years of age will need to have their purchases approved. This offers peace of mind for parents, since the manager of the account can add and delete members, and it also keeps kids out of hot water.

The following video offers a description of the features of Family Library:

The idea that Google has become more family oriented with their Family Groups feature is impressive, but there are some restrictions. Auto-sharing doesn’t just happen and there is some initial setup with each feature.

You can only change your family group membership every 12 months, you need to live in the same country as the family member that manages the group,  and if one of the family member leaves the group, all of their purchases are no longer available to others.

I do agree with the following tweet as to how nice it would be to know each other’s schedule, and especially when you are out of town on a vacation as a way to check in:

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We decided to sign up for the Google calendar to see what it was like but because it isn’t available to everyone, I still don’t see it as one of my calendar options. One feature we use regularly, though, is Google Photos to share pictures and albums.

I will be curious to see if it is widely used by families across the 14 countries that are available. It definitely seems like it would be beneficial for parents trying to keep an eye on and organize their kids’ activities.

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Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference

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If you are a fan of Apple products, it appears 2017 is going to be a big year. At Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, WWDC, they made some big announcements.

iMac Pro, the most powerful Mac yet, is going to be released this December. Some of the most notable features are 22 teraflops of GPU performance, fast storage and advanced I/O, with next-generation Intel Xeon up to 18-core processors. The price tag is also impressive, starting at $4,999.

Apple and WWDC

Wikimedia Commons

The new IOS software is also getting some powerful updates, with Siri having improved speech, the ability to translate sentences into other languages, and even a male version of Siri. There was also a 10.5 inch iPad Pro introduced that includes a 12-megapixel camera and it has 10 hours of battery life.

One of the most talked about new product lines that was unveiled is the Apple Homepod. It is similar to Amazon Echo and Google Assistant, but with special musical features as described in this article:

The 8 biggest announcements from Apple WWDC 2017 – The Verge

So let’s get the Siri speaker rumors out of the way: it turns out Apple wasn’t quite aiming its smart speaker to go against just Amazon Echo and Google Home, but also the Sonos home entertainment speakers. Called the HomePod, it uses spacial awareness to tune and better fill the room with sound based on the space it’s in. It also has a “Musicologist” feature that works with Apple Music to stream the music you ask the speaker’s built-in Siri to play. You can even ask more complex, music-related questions like “Who’s the drummer in this song?” or “What album came out on this day 20 years ago?”

Read the full post here:  The 8 biggest announcements from Apple WWDC 2017 – The Verge

Another big update, which was the first announcement CEO Tim Cook made in his keynote address, is the enhancements planned for Apple TV. Also know as tvOS, is an operating system developed by Apple for the fourth-generation Apple TV digital media player.

The new development is that Apple TV is getting a big new content source — Amazon Prime Video will soon be part of tvOS. He mentioned there would be more updates with Apple TV in the near future.

This video features all of the items discussed on the first day of WWDC, which runs from June 5 – June 9:

This conference is Apple’s way of allowing thousands of developers from around the world the opportunity to meet up with Apple engineers and sit in on priceless workshops and software sessions. For over ten years it was held in San Francisco, but this year’s convention is being held at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose.

Amazingly, this event started in 1983 and back then only had between 2,000 and 4,200  attendees. In 2007, they capped it at 5,000 and it has sold out ever since.

Want to know the ticket price? It costs $1,599 to get in the door and you have to apply to even be considered. Then the tickets are drawn lottery style, so even if you have the cash on hand you aren’t guaranteed a spot.

This tweet links to a Mashable article about the advancements in Apple’s wearable technology to help track your health:

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Wise move on their part to gain more traction in a $2.8 trillion dollar industry. With Apple sitting at #3 on the Fortune 500, it will be interesting to see if they can keep up the momentum. Considering their track record of constant innovation, I think the answer is yes.

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IFTTT Maker Tier for Applet Developers

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If you haven’t heard of IFTTT, it stands for If This, Then That and is pronounced lift minus the l. What it means is that you can use platforms such as Facebook, Gmail, and WordPress to automate certain internet-connected activities.

IFTTT Logo

Wikimedia Commons

An example would be:  If I post a photo to Facebook, Then also add it to Google Photos. The action or trigger is that a photo is added to Facebook, with the resulting action saving it to Google Photos.

It also can automate the temperature in your home if you have a smart thermostat like Nest: If the temperature gets to 78 degrees, Then kick the air conditioner on.

The company has been around since 2010 but in November last year they updated some of their features, and what used to be called a Recipe (the trigger and the result) was renamed an Applet. This blog from the IFTTT site explains the switch:

The new IFTTT is hereIFTTT-Applets

In the past, you used IFTTT by adding Recipes, which were “if this, then that” connections between two services. Today, Recipes have evolved into Applets. Applets can do everything that Recipes could — and much more. They bring your services together, creating new experiences that you can unlock with a single switch. A house that welcomes you, an efficient workplace, an easier way to stay informed — there are thousands of experiences to choose from, or you can create your own.

Read more here:  The new IFTTT is here

Another change was that the platforms used to be called Channels and now are called Services, and there are literally hundreds you can use to make your life easier. They also used to let you share personal Recipes, but did away with that in the update last November.

It seems as though they have somewhat reconsidered the idea that you can’t share, because just last week they announced what’s called being the Maker Tier. What that means is that you can build Applets that aren’t your basic If-This-Then-That formula, and then you can publish them for others to use.

This tweet connects to an article about how Maker works:

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This new feature is definitely for more experienced users that have a background as a developer. It opens up the possibility for multi-tiered actions to take place, as opposed to the simple 2-step automation.

It does this by adding in filters to the recipes, allowing more conditions to be set in the formula.  This task require some basic knowledge of JavaScript, so it isn’t for everyone as explained in the following article:

You can now control your entire smart home with a single command – CNETIFTTT Maker Tier Filters

Fortunately, the other feature introduced in the Maker tier doesn’t required any coding knowledge. It simply allows you to add several actions. So instead of each applet only doing one thing or needing to create multiple applets with the same trigger, you can create a single applet that does it all.

For example, before, to have all the images you upload to Instagram posted to Twitter and Facebook, you would need to separate applets. Now you can create a single applet that posts to both Twitter and Facebook.

Read more here:  You can now control your entire smart home with a single command – CNET

IFTTT Maker Tier for applet developers opens up another universe of possibilities. Maybe someday it will automate my health and fitness, so that if I overeat, my body automatically gets up and works off the excess calories.

 

 

 

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Using Quora Video to Answer Questions

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The Q&A site, Quora, began testing the concept of using video to answer questions this past week.  This seems appropriate in a world where video dominates three-fourths of online traffic.

Quora Logo

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The company was founded in 2009 by a couple of guys that used to work for Facebook, Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever, and was initially popular only in the Silicon Valley area. Eventually, though, more and more high profile names were recognized on Quora causing the site to grow.

It was even originally thought that Quora might have the same social media reach of a site like Twitter. But by 2012, it wasn’t attaining that kind of potential and people were starting to doubt if it would ever take off.

It kind of makes sense, though,  because answering a question doesn’t seem all that conversational. However, as people posted on niche topics such as “What are the most surreal places to visit?“, the Q&A site began to catch on. Today the website gets around 100 million monthly visitors.

Back in 2013  they launched a blogging feature, which the next post shares more about:

What is Quora?

Thumbs Up Thumbs Down

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In addition to asking and answering questions, Quora is also a place for blogging. In 2013, the online site launched its blogging features, which, according to the site, allows writers to share their knowledge and thoughts in a space that they control, without the structure of the questions-and-answers format but with the same potential for viral distribution and the same engagement through votes and comments.

Read More Here:  What is Quora?

With Quora pushing forward into the world of visual instead of text only, it might solve some of the disengagement. They are also incorporating machine learning which is helping to bring together quality, relevance, and demand.

The idea that the Quora community is a huge part of the equation, with the ability to upvote or downvote answers, gives a social network feel to the site. On the other hand, the concept of human generated knowledge brings into play the need for an algorithm to manage it the topics and their relationship.

This video presented by Quora’s VP of Engineering gives more info on the how the site has developed and where it’s headed:

Using how-to videos to answer questions feels like an obvious step into the future. It is easier to show someone an answer as opposed to typing it out it by text, especially for a visual learner like me.

The difficulty of allowing people to upload video and keeping the spam out of the picture is a challenge. The next post from TechCrunch gives a positive spin on this effort:

Quora tests video answers to steal Q&A from YouTube | TechCrunch

By combining the feature with its upvote system, Quora could steal some How-To video content from its current home on YouTube, where SEO and popularity can overshadow accuracy. Quora’s video answers will be sorted by how useful they are to the community, not just how they’re shared and promoted.

Read the full post here:  Quora tests video answers to steal Q&A from YouTube | TechCrunch

Our company’s video marketing and syndication department focuses on providing very relevant content for our clients. Then, by spreading the word with our vast syndication network, we are able to offer a lot of visibility. If using Quora video to answer questions is a success, it will afford another option for providing clients an audience to demonstrate how their product can help solve problems.

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Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Platform

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Microsoft recently announced their newest venture into the world of augmented reality, and it is creating quite the buzz. The platform has been dubbed “mixed reality,” referring to the process of superimposing holographic images on top of real life images.

Microsoft Logo

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It was officially unveiled at Build 2017, the company’s annual developer conference, but has been in the works for quite some time. Microsoft’s HoloLens is similar to other AR/VR headsets, but sleeker and less bulky looking.

Some people are comparing it to Oculus Rift, but the HoloLens offers the ability to overlay digital graphics onto the real world, giving it the advantage. It also uses no wires so you are free to move about and it is operated by hand movements and voice control.

Read what Gizmodo has to say about the HoloLens headset:

What Happened to the Amazing HoloLens Future We Were Promised?

The headset was, at the time—and is still to this day—more advanced than budding virtual reality products like the Oculus Rift, because HoloLens includes no wires, is operated by gesture and voice controls, and has the ability to map any room you’re standing in. But the HoloLens really shines in its ability to overlay digital graphics onto the real world, turning any room into a Holodeck. Although the inherent challenges in trying to build a powerful faceputer were apparent from the start, the potential of the technology felt limitless.

Microsoft Hololens

Wikimedia Commons

Read more here:  What Happened to the Amazing HoloLens Future We Were Promised?

Microsoft’s mixed reality platform allows coworkers to collaborate on projects, even if they aren’t all present, as was demonstrated by creators at Cirque du Soleil during the Build 2017 Conference. They built a virtual stage together, showing how the platform could greatly enhance and accelerate the set design process.

The uses are endless, though. It is fascinating to think about the potential for business as well as for recreational and educational adoption.

The following video was made nine months ago, as the pre-production version was available in March of 2016. The main reason I chose it is because the author exhibits a number of practical business applications along with some cool educational ideas:

James Mackie, the creator of the above video, makes manipulating objects wearing HoloLens look easy. However, I have read that it takes some practice to get the hang of it. It also offers voice command, but the virtual assistant Cortana hasn’t been perfected yet either.

Cost of Technology

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The cost is somewhat prohibitive, but it is still in the beta mode. Even though it is basically positioned for developers, sales are open to anyone in the United States and Canada.

This post from CNET author Sean Hollister gives details about the price of this cool piece of technology:

Microsoft HoloLens release date, price and specs – CNET

But this week, Microsoft let us see what it’s actually like to use HoloLens for real. I spent 90 minutes with an actual $3,000 Microsoft HoloLens Development Edition on my head, watching as computer-generated objects popped into existence in my real world. (It’s £2,719 in the UK and AU$4,369 in Australia.) I walked around an ordinary hotel suite, with no Microsoft supervision, and saw what these holograms were capable of. It made my mind swirl with the possibilities.

Read the full post here:  Microsoft HoloLens release date, price and specs – CNET

Augmented reality on mobile devices

Wikimedia Commons

Some people get confused at the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality. Virtual reality (VR) is artificial,computer-generated images, where augmented reality (AR) actually layers computer-generated enhancements over the top of an existing reality.

They are both great for entertainment, science, and medical purposes, to name a few, but they differ in their method of delivery. VR gives the user a way to navigate in a simulated world, but AR is wirelessly connected to devices such as laptops and smartphones to intersect the real world with digital graphics.

 

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How Brain-Computer Interface Will Change Our World

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Mark Zuckerberg is a big supporter in the future of virtual and augmented reality. So much so that his company is developing quite the futuristic concept. Even though they are predicting this idea to be at least five to ten years out, it has the tech world buzzing.

VR Glasses

From Pixabay

He wants to develop glasses that will replace smartphones. Not a VR/AR headset, but actual, normal looking glasses.

How will they work? From what Mr. Zuckerberg says, you will be able to control them with your mind. That theory is a little more than my pea-brain can handle, but I would agree that virtual reality has come a long way in a short time.

This post from Business Insider explains more this brain-computer interface (BCI) sensor:

Facebook: The first technology to replace smartphones will be controlled with our brains – Business Insider

VR Headset

Wikimedia Commons

Leaders like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believe the nascent technology, known as augmented reality, could eventually replace all screens, including TVs. They say that when you can display virtually anything onto the world around you, the need for physical displays is essentially erased.

The answer lies in connecting directly with your brain, Facebook chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer recently told Business Insider. And it’s a big part of why Facebook is working on a brain sensor capable of letting people type using only their minds.

Read more here:  Facebook: The first technology to replace smartphones will be controlled with our brains – Business Insider

Since Facebook bought Oculus Rift in the summer of 2014, Mark and company have been on a mission to replace any physical devices such as monitors and TVs with virtual screens. The demonstration in the next video from 2016 Oculus Connect 3 keynote, Mark Zuckerberg shows off a live VR chat:

As innovative as all of this mind control sounds, it has actually been part of the medical world since the 1970’s. BCI has been used predominantly for people who are disabled, helping them to be able to regain freedom of movement.

Brain Computer Interface

Wikimedia Commons

It was mostly tied to the research lab until recently, but there has been a push to have it be more mainstreamed. This is what Mark Zuckerberg and his team are attempting to do as well. The uses are mind boggling, with ethical and legal issues a definite concern. You can imagine how the military could use brain-computer-interface control to take out the enemy using drones.

In the following Tweet, mind-controlled drones were used in a race by some students from the University of Florida in April of last year. Utilizing  a headset with sensors and their willpower, they all tried to move the drones across a 10 meter finish line as a demonstration of the power of BCI:

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It is a little scary considering the possibilities, but it is also completely fascinating. Someday our great grandchildren will be saying, “I can’t believe you actually had to hold onto a physical device to communicate with other people.” Their world will be much more virtual and hands free.

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What Is Biometric Security

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Cyber security is a major hurdle for any business, but especially for bigger companies such as banks, online retail stores, and insurance companies. However, small and medium-sized businesses have also been targeted more recently, possibly due to their lack of preparedness. Holding critical company information  for ransom by encrypting it to prevent access has become fairly common.

Cyber Security

From Pixabay

According to Digital Guardian, cybersecurity is defined as the body of technologies, processes and practices designed to protect networks, computers, programs and data from attack, damage or unauthorized access. No one wants to have their customer’s private information or proprietary company data held hostage by a faceless criminal.

The global cybersecurity market is expected to reach $170 billion by 2020. So what is the solution that can help prevent and protect from major security disasters? Biometrics are part of the battle to win the war.

The following post explains more about what is biometric security:

What is biometrics? – Definition from WhatIs.com

Biometrics is the measurement and statistical analysis of people’s physical and behavioral characteristics. The technology is mainly used for identification and access control, or for identifying individuals that are under surveillance. The basic premise of biometric authentication is that everyone is unique and an individual can be identified by his or her intrinsic physical or behavioral traits. (The term “biometrics” is derived from the Greek words “bio” meaning life and “metric” meaning to measure.)

Read more here:  What is biometrics? – Definition from WhatIs.com

Biometric Security

From Pixabay

In today’s world, there are many places that we have to prove we are who we say we are.  Anytime you talk to the bank, go to the airport, and at work, some sort of identification is required. It used to be you just had to show your driver’s license. Then it became a password, but it didn’t take long before these were easily hacked.

With credit cards, I have had information stolen numerous times, which proves that a signature or PIN aren’t very secure. Now they have included a microchip in the cards that adds an additional layer of protection, turning the card member information into a unique code that is difficult to duplicate or copy.

Take security one step further and add in a fingerprint-sensor enabled credit card. This feature is supposed to be out everywhere by the end of 2017, but your bank has to be able to support the technology.  The following video demonstrates how it works:

The only negative with the above technology is that you have to go to an enrollment center to have the process set up. At that time, they create a template from your fingerprint that is stored on the card. This adds a significant layer of security to using a credit card, and you can still use it the old fashioned way too, with a PIN number or a signature.

Taking biometric security another step forward…and this might be more of a leap…is behavioral biometrics. This technology collects information about your  unique movements when you are on a computer. Running in the background over a period of time, it provides a full body print instead of just a fingerprint.

This post from Market Watch gives examples of how it works:

This technology could kill passwords and even fingerprint sensors – MarketWatch

Cyber Security

From Pixabay

With behavioral biometrics, rather than a one-time scan of a unique identifier like a body part, biometric security takes stock of ongoing actions after the user has logged in — like the rate at which users scroll, the way they hold the mouse, and the force with which they type on a keyboard. The system collects this information seamlessly in the background and responds to changes in behavior, learning from the user as they go about their normal activity.

Read the full post here:  This technology could kill passwords and even fingerprint sensors – MarketWatch

As with any technology, there are potential downfalls. If you happen to injure your hand and change the way you manage your mouse, you can get locked out of accounts since the system wouldn’t recognize the change in your habits. There would have to be a backup plan in case of circumstances out of your control.

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Instagram Has Altered Your Inbox

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Snapchat and Instagram have been in competition for quite some time. They are similar in their core functions and both are pretty much exclusive to your smartphone. Even though Instagram has twice as many active users, Snapchat is very popular among millennials.

Selfie

From Pixabay

The two apps started within one year of each other; Instagram in 2010 and Snapchat in 2011. Although Snapchat was a year behind, it seems it has always had a leg up on Instagram with its unique way of viewing video and chatting.

However, in the spring of 2016, Instagram, owned by the social giant Facebook, rolled out the ability to direct message and create vanishing Instagram stories. This move was an obvious replication of what Snapchat has been doing since 2013.

As of April 11, 2017, Instagram took it one singular step further by offering the vanishing messages in combination with permanent messages, all found in one location.  The next post explains the reasoning for this move which cleans up your inbox:

Instagram Direct unites ephemeral and permanent messaging for 375M users | TechCrunch

Wikimedia Commons

You’ll be able to send silly short-lived selfies embellished with creative tools and temporary replies to friends’ Stories inside an on-going conversation that could include texted logistics or discussion of public posts.

Back in November, Instagram launched ephemeral messaging in Direct as a separate section from permanent messages. But after seeing Direct usage spike from 300 million to 375 million monthly active users since then, it decided that disappearing messages were popular enough to give the spotlight by uniting the two communication types in a single inbox.

Read more here:  Instagram Direct unites ephemeral and permanent messaging for 375M users | TechCrunch

The videos marked as temporary still disappear once the message is viewed, but they appear inside the ongoing chat discussions.  The dramatic increase in usage following last year’s addition is what prompted the change.  The merge was done to simplify the user experience, and it seems to be working. The following video covers the basics of how the upgraded interface works:

Now that Instagram has altered your inbox, understanding the difference between a regular message and a vanishing one is color coded. The ephemeral messages are highlighted in blue and the regular messages have a white background. To view a vanishing message, you have to click on the blue camera icon.

The sender of the message will still be able to see who viewed and replayed the message along with any screenshots taken, features that both platforms have in common. Check out the tweet that announced the change:

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With so many features in common, I think it is interesting that Snapchat doesn’t offer live video or linking in their posts. The infographic below from Delmondo.co gives you an idea of the contrasts and similarities of the two popular apps:

Snapchat vs Instagram

Infographic From Delmondo.co

In the race for Miss Popularity, Instagram added stories, stickers, and live streaming while Snapchat enhanced their editing and filters. Which is better for your business? It partly depends on who your customer base is.

While Snapchat is better equipped to connect with someone one on one, Instagram allows you to engage with a post by liking it, commenting on it, saving it and sending it directly in a message. The focus of a company’s marketing campaign will play a huge part in choosing what platforms can deliver the best return on investment.

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How To Switch To YouTube’s Hidden Dark Mode

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Watching videos on YouTube is one of the most popular pastimes worldwide, with over a billion users watching countless hours of video every day. Over half Night Time Televisionof the views come from mobile devices, and YouTube has launched local versions in almost 90 countries in a total of 76 different languages.

Many of these views are happening when it is dark outside, and we all know that a bright screen in a dark room can be somewhat blinding. In fact, I wonder how many toes are stubbed after staring at the screen and then getting up to fetch another drink or snack? I know I’ve done it at least once!

So, YouTube has come up with a feature called the Dark Mode, which is great for saving your eyes and your toes. The following post from Engadget provides more info:

Unlock YouTube’s hidden Dark Mode to save your eyes

If you’ve ever tried to watch YouTube when it’s dark out, you know that the typical bright white of the video service’s page can be a bit blinding. Enter “Dark Mode,” a hidden feature that turns the light surfaces black or dark gray so you can get on with those cat videos without all that glare.Hidden Dark Mode on YouTube'

  1. Open console
  2. Paste: document.cookie=”VISITOR_INFO1_LIVE=fPQ4jCL6EiE”
  3. Reload
  4. Click your avatar
  5. Dark mode!

Read more here:  Unlock YouTube’s hidden Dark Mode to save your eyes

Now those instructions sound simple, but there is a little more to it than that. When it says open console, that is referring to the browser’s developer tools. To get to that panel, you have to hold down on the Control + Shift + I keys and it opens on Windows or use Option + Command + I on a Mac.

First go to YouTube.com and open the console as described above. Be sure you are on the tab that says Console. On my PC, the first tab is Elements. Then paste in this code  – document.cookie=”VISITOR_INFO1_LIVE=fPQ4jCL6EiE”

After that, refresh your page and click on your avatar in the top right corner. In the drop down box, select Dark Mode: Off. Slide the button over to On and you are in the Dark Mode.

There are tons of posts about this fun new feature on Twitter, but here is one from CNET:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Even though this feature hasn’t been officially announced yet, it is one possible change that YouTube is testing for a new site design. I hope this one becomes a permanent option.

I thought this video was interesting. It shows that you can get an add-on for Firefox that is called Dark YouTube Theme, which basically does the same thing. So, I had to give it a try.

When I searched, there were several add-ons that offered similar results, but Dark YouTube theme was about the third result down on the page. I installed the plugin and it worked as described.

With this option, though, you can’t just toggle it on and off with a drop down menu. You have to go to menu in Firefox (3 horizontal lines in the upper right corner) and choose Add-Ons. That opens in a new page and then you have to disable the Add-On to return to the lighter version of YouTube.

Check out the video below:

Reddit users are the discovers of YouTube’s hidden dark mode and many think it offers a more cinematic -type view. Our agency is very focused on video creation, marketing and syndication, so it will be exciting to see what changes YouTube makes to keep moving forward with the popularity of video. It is definitely here to stay!

 

 

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