What’s new in tech
The machines may be watching
The discovery last week of tiny cameras in airplanes and hidden microphones in home-security systems sparked new privacy concerns, said Jon Porter in TheVerge.com. A Twitter user spotted a camera located just below the in-flight entertainment system on a Singapore Airlines flight, and others found similar ones in American Airlines planes. Both airlines said the cameras were inactive and had been installed “for future uses, such as hand gestures to control in-flight entertainment.” But any camera attached to a connected device has “at least some risk of being hacked.” Meanwhile, Google added voice support to its Nest home-security system—using microphones that, users pointed out, Google had never disclosed in the device specs. Google said the microphones had not been activated.
In the phone wars, Samsung folds
Samsung is making a grab for the super-premium end of the phone market with a $1,980 foldable phone that’s “as bold as Steve Jobs’ abolition of the physical keyboard,” said Leonid Bershidsky in Bloomberg.com. It doesn’t matter that most applications still can’t use the folding screen. You can “gripe about the difficulty of using the fold-out novelty one-handed,” and expect software problems. But having a device that can replace a tablet and still make a reasonable phone “trumps all the complaints.” Pricewise, it makes no sense. But the idea isn’t to “make a reasonable offer” to consumers—it’s to have a product that can claim a higher price than Apple’s top end. Now Apple needs to come up with an equally impressive innovation of its own.
Sidewalk Labs, the urban design company owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, made public its concept renderings for a new “smart city of the future” this week, said Mark Wilson in FastCompany.com. The neighborhood, dubbed Quayside, is envisioned to fill 350 acres of Toronto’s unused eastern waterfront. It includes towers built with timber, not steel, and high-tech amenities such as solar power, geothermal heat, fiber-optic plugs, and “wireless 5G internet for everyone.” A subterranean network of tunnels would be used for robotic waste collection. Heated bike lanes and “building raincoats” could protect outdoor coffee shops and farmers markets year-round. Before Alphabet can start building, however, the plans will need approval from Canadian regulators and the city of Toronto.