Tech News : Microsoft Now More Valuable Than Apple

Worries about smartphone demand have been blamed for Microsoft’s stock market value ending a trading session higher than Apple’s last week for the first time since 2021.

How Much? 

Microsoft adding 1 per cent to its stock value compared to just a 0.2 per cent rise from Apple saw Microsoft’s value (market capitalisation) reach an eye-watering $2.887 trillion, compared to Apple’s $2.875 trillion value. LSED data reported that this was Microsoft’s highest-ever valuation.

What Smartphone Demand Worries? 

Apple’s iPhone is still its main cash-cow and a recent cooling in demand for it has worried investors, affecting its market value. Most notably, recent demand worries over Apple’s iPhone can be attributed to:

– Apple facing increased competition from companies like Huawei in China at the same time as China’s economy is making a slow recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

– Market saturation in the US, meaning a slower pace of customers switching to the newer iPhone models. Analysts predict that Apple’s sales in the U.S. will struggle, experiencing a year-over-year decline.

– Global challenges to the smartphone industry in recent times, such as component shortages, inventory build-up, and lengthening replacement cycles, all compounded by an uncertain macroeconomic environment.

– Internal (but very public) Apple issues, e.g. the (temporary) pause in sales of its latest smartwatch models due to a ruling by the International Trade Commission, and the huge payouts due to those affected by the iPhone throttling scandal.

What Is Microsoft Doing Right? 

Microsoft’s stock value overtaking Apple’s isn’t just down to Apple underperforming. Things that Microsoft has done that have had a positive impact on its own stock value are mainly related to it being a major player and investor in AI. For example:

– The incorporation of OpenAI’s technology (with whom it is an investor and partner – a strategic relationship) across its suite of productivity software (Copilot) that also boost its cloud-computing business in the July-September quarter.

– Its move into AI and incorporating it in its products and Bing helping to challenge Google’s dominance of web search.

– The monetisation of Microsoft’s AI products and services, helping to drive its share value upwards.

– Diversification and growth in cloud computing and gaming. For example, the acquisition of video game developer Activision Blizzard has helped Microsoft to control popular titles.

– Substantial investments in AI infrastructure, including a $3.2 billion investment in expanding its AI data centre infrastructure in the UK, thereby strategically enhancing its AI capabilities, and asserting dominance in the AI sector.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Microsoft has been a dominant force in the technology world for over four decades but Apple, which has also been around over four decades became the first £3 trillion dollar company last summer. However, with Apple still reliant on its iPhone, which has been around since 2007 as its main cash cow, a slowing in demand (and slump in China), coupled with Microsoft’s gains in cloud computing with its Azure and its major investment in AI has resulted in Microsoft’s significant creep ahead.

Microsoft’s leadership by CEO Satya Nadella (who took over in 2014), its ability to adapt and innovate, and its strategic partnership with OpenAI has all played major roles in its resurgence. That said, it’s facing an antitrust investigation over its apparent closeness to OpenAI which could be a threat to Microsoft’s momentum.

For Apple, all this could signal a need to further innovate and diversify its product offerings and strategies to maintain its competitive edge. Broadly speaking then, Microsoft overtaking Apple’s value for the first time since 2021 could be viewed as reflecting the growing importance and impact of AI and cloud computing in the tech landscape.

Tech News : New Wearable Smartphone AND Virtual Assistant

Humane has announced the release of its Apple-style AI-powered badge/pin wearable that combines a smartphone with virtual assistant capabilities for when you’re on the move.

Humane 

Humane, a startup founded by ex-Apple design and engineering team Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno, has announced the launch of its $699 (five years in the making) AI-powered pin (badge wearable) which it developed using funding of $230 million from investors, including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

AI Pin

The “first-of-its-kind” very simply named ‘Ai Pin,’ available to order in the US from November 16th, is a magnetically attached, small, round-cornered square wearable, with more than a hint of apple styling, and a camera (like a phone camera or bodycam) in the top corner. It comes in colours described as Eclipse, Equinox, and Lunar (black, silver, or white to us) and has a two-piece design, consisting of the main computer and a battery booster.

Created Through Unique Collaborations 

Humane says AI Pin’s development is the result of “unique collaborations with Microsoft and OpenAI,” which give it access to some of the world’s most powerful AI models and platforms, thereby providing the foundation for new capabilities to be added as the technology evolves.

Cosmos & AI Bus 

Humane says its ‘Cosmos’ operating system blends “intelligent technologies with intuitive interaction and advanced security” and that its new “AI Bus” software framework is what “brings AI Pin to life.” The AI Bus software is used to connect the user to the right AI experience or service instantly, thereby removing the need to download, manage, or launch apps.

What Can The AI Pin Do? 

The main difference between this and other wearables isn’t just how it’s worn (on the body as a badge), but the fact that it incorporates a dedicated Qualcomm® AI Engine (AI assistant), and uses a “laser projection system” instead of a display which essentially projects AR glasses onto your hand, enabling you to use the projection as a touchscreen! It can also an identify objects in the real world and apply digital imagery to them. Other key features and capabilities include:

– It operates by natural speech (via an “AI Mic”) or by using the intuitive touchpad, by holding up objects to it, by using gestures, or by interacting with the “Laser Ink Display projected onto your palm.” 

– AI-powered messaging enables you to craft messages in your tone of voice.

– Its ‘Catch Me Up’ function sorts through inbox noise.

– Humane’s partnership with TIDAL* enables the AI Pin to deliver AI-driven music experiences.

– The AI-powered photographer helps you capture and recall important memories.

– It can translate foreign languages and can support your nutrition goals by identifying food using computer vision.

– Its “perpetual power system” means you can hot-swap the battery booster on-the-go, thereby ensuring uninterrupted usage and all-day battery life.

– The ultra-wide RGB camera, depth sensor and motion sensors, allow AI Pin to “see the world as you see it.” 

– Humane says the Personic speaker creates a “bubble of sound,” offering both intimacy and volume as needed.

– AI Pin can also pair with headphones via Bluetooth although it is a standalone device that doesn’t need to be paired with a smartphone or other companion device. Interestingly, Humane plans to provide its own MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) wireless service for AI Pin, connected by its exclusive U.S. partner, T-Mobile.

– Its own cloud-based ‘Humane.center’ central hub, (which AI Pin instantly connects to) allowing access to your data, including photos, videos, and notes.

Humane says that as the device and platform evolves with future updates, so will the possibilities it unlocks.

Privacy Features

Humane has highlighted the main privacy features of AI Pin as being:

– The AI Pin only activates upon user engagement and doesn’t use ‘wake words’ (like other AI assistants), thereby ensuring it is not always listening or recording.

– The AI Pin has a “Trust Light” which indicates when any sensors are active and is managed via a dedicated privacy chip.

– If compromised, AI Pin will shut down completely and require professional service from Humane.

– Upon purchasing the AI Pin, users are invited to onboard via a privacy-protected portal, allowing the device to tailor its services to individual preferences.

– It has a phone number (it connects to a mobile network), plus it supports international roaming, GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.

Concerns and Criticism

While the device sounds like a step forward for wearables, some of the concerns and criticism around the AI Pin include:

– Just because the company Humane has the faith of investors and the expertise of leading AI specialists, it doesn’t mean that the AI Pin will be a success. The (still relatively new) AI wearables field is littered with companies and products that have been wide of the mark, such as Magic Leap’s AR headset failure (despite AT&T, Google and Alibaba Group as investors, the Google Clips, a body-worn, hands-free smart camera’s failure.

– The hype about and huge investment in Humane with no real product to speak of until now (after five years).

– Rumours and allegations that Humane’s founders, Bongiorno and Chaudhri didn’t leave Google on good terms due to (allegedly) taking most of the credit for work done by a larger team.

– Concerns that, in the near future, Humane could charge additional fees for “capacity” (as indicated by Chaudhri) although services like unlimited web searches via Ai Mic and unlimited media storage on Microsoft’s cloud are free.

– Concerns that the camera on the front of the badge and how it is used may not comply with data privacy laws in other countries (e.g. like smart glasses). In the case of AI Pin, although the microphone and camera aren’t always on, the camera is still visible and could prompt objections and problems if worn publicly, e.g. issues over consent.

– Other much more powerful and more well-known tech companies and brands such as Apple (where Humane’s founders came from) are already a long way ahead in the wearables market.

– Concerns that, as with smart glasses, the high price tag, and concerns over limited understanding about consumer use cases, could make them most popular with businesses, potentially negatively affecting the scope of the market for them.

– Reported criticisms about the quality of the photos taken with its camera, and the lack of partnerships with social media companies to enable instant uploading of photos to favourite social networks, e.g. Instagram.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Humane’s new AI Pin’s styling displays the Apple origins of the company’s founders, which may have some positive rub-off value, and the AI Pin can rightly claim to be a new kind of wearable. It clearly has the considerable backing of investors and was developed through collaborations with Microsoft and OpenAI, both of which suggest and inspire confidence in its ground-breaking potential.

The AI Pin’s projected touchscreen, AI incorporation, multiple ways to operate it, and its multiple functions and potential uses also make it a promising and different product and alternative to smart glasses and other wearables. That said, Humane is up against some tough competition in the wearables market from major tech competitors that also have their own considerable AI investment and products and are already leading the wearables market. The relatively high price coupled with perhaps understandable concerns that people may not like the idea of appearing to be filmed by what looks like a bodycam (without their consent), concerns whether the impressive projected keyboard idea is enough of a draw for anyone other than certain businesses and tech early adopters, and many examples of failed wearables suggest that it remains to be seen how much long-term interest there will be in the AI Pin.

Tech News : New Sub-60cm GPS Accuracy

US Startup Zephyr’s claim that it has solved smartphone GPS positioning problems through a network and software-based solution with sub-60cm accuracy has attracted $3.5 million seed funding.

The Issue 

Even though consumers have been putting growing demands on GPS through their increasing use of mobile devices and wearables, and many more businesses and services have become more reliant on it, GPS hasn’t had any major updates for more than 20 years, meaning that it is prone to errors, inaccuracy, and can sometimes be unreliable.

GPS accuracy on phones has traditionally suffered from various issues which affect the precision of location data. For example, problems like signal blockage from buildings, natural landscape features, or indoor and underground settings can prevent GPS signals from reaching a phone effectively. One key issue highlighted by Zephyr is “multi-path errors,” where a signal from a GPS satellite reaches a receiver more than once, caused by signals bouncing off buildings or other large objects, thereby confusing smartphones with a single antenna.

Also, atmospheric conditions and satellite geometry can play a role as signals can be distorted by the atmosphere, and if satellites are poorly positioned relative to each other, accuracy drops.

Phones can also face hardware limitations, e.g. the quality of the GPS receiver and the processing software can introduce errors. Assisted GPS, which uses network data to enhance location locking, can experience problems if network information is imprecise or outdated and electromagnetic interference from other devices can affect signal clarity.

The integration of additional satellite systems such as GLONASS, Galileo, and Beidou with traditional GPS, along with software improvements, have helped the everyday location accuracy of modern smartphones in recent times, nevertheless it’s often still not accurate enough for users.

The Implications 

Inaccurate GPS on phones can be frustrating for users by causing navigation problems, leading to lost time and potential safety concerns when driving or walking. It can also disrupt location-based services such as ridesharing, food delivery, or (more seriously) emergency assistance, where precise location information is crucial.

For those relying on GPS for fitness activities, inaccuracies can spoil exercise tracking and goals. Also, inaccurate GPS can affect social experiences by misplacing geotags on social media and leading to mistakes in personal and professional mapping efforts. While generally reliable, the limitations of phone GPS can, therefore, cause inconveniences in daily life.

Zephr’s CEO Sean Gorman summarises the problems that poor GPS accuracy can cause, saying: “GPS is an essential technology for so many services we now rely on, and yet it is plagued by inaccuracy. This poses many challenges for businesses and consumers, and it will hamper the growth of developing technologies like augmented reality and autonomy.”  

Mr Gorman points out the benefits of a solution that can improve accuracy, saying: “Improved accuracy in GPS can translate into millions of dollars in economic benefit, but for us, it’s about more than just money. A more accurate GPS system can also improve daily routines and personal safety, from preventing navigational errors to creating safer collision-avoidance systems in vehicles and enabling more advanced search-and-rescue efforts.” 

Zephr’s Solution 

Colorado-based Zephr claims that its network-based solution to GPS inaccuracy has achieved sub-60cm GPS accuracy in field trials (a level of accuracy typically not seen in consumer GPS solutions) using nothing more than existing satellites and mobile devices networked together to share correction data. The company says its “breakthrough” networked GPS solution enhances accuracy by 5X-10X (<1m) for mobile devices and wearables.

Zephr also claims that its solution (which is purely software-based and doesn’t require hardware changes to a device or a new chipset or firmware) will be able to increase accuracy in dense urban environments, thereby solving problems caused by building-bounce and blocked line-of-sight.

How? 

In short, Zephr’s system creates a multi-receiver system, i.e. it turns users’ mobile devices into base stations which generate error corrections. Interconnected GNSS (global navigation satellite system) measurements across multiple devices thereby enables Zephr’s system to not only eliminate common errors and inaccuracies, but also to bring a stable and reliable signal with less risk of interference.

The Benefits

The benefits of this software/network-based solution are:

– It’s fast and easy – billions of existing mobile devices can easily upgrade their GPS accuracy directly out of the box, with no need for hardware solutions.

– Easy integration – as a standalone SDK product it will allow any mobile app to easily upgrade GPS accuracy by embedding the feature.

– It’s cheap – it uses existing satellites and software.

– Economic and human value – it could create cost savings, create opportunities in many industries, and unlock new markets in new/emerging ones, e.g. navigation, delivery/logistics, rideshare, agriculture, advertising, search and rescue services, location-based apps, collision avoidance systems, autonomous vehicles (robot/drone delivery systems), augmented reality, location-based gaming, and smart cities.

– It retains privacy – Zephyr says: “User information is always minimised, anonymised, short-lived, never sold or transferred, and protected from third-party access.” 

Funding 

The simplicity and accuracy of the solution (plus its many possibilities) have meant that Zephr has been able to attract $3.5 million of funding in a seed round led by Space Capital and First Spark Ventures. It’s been reported that this significant amount of funding will help support Zephr’s GTM strategy as it goes for rapid growth over the next year.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Zephyr’s GPS accuracy solution could represent a significant milestone for businesses across a broad spectrum of industries. With the claim of solving GPS inaccuracies using software, Zephyr’s technology promises to deliver sub-60cm location precision, a game-changer for any business reliant on geolocation data. This could mean enhanced reliability and fewer errors for logistics and delivery services, ensuring packages reach their destinations more efficiently, and with greater customer satisfaction. For the rideshare and transport sectors, improved accuracy will lead to quicker, more reliable pickups and drop-offs, optimising route planning and saving on fuel and time – in short, service improvements and cost substantial savings.

Emerging markets and technologies also stand to gain substantially from Zephyr’s innovation. For example, agricultural businesses can employ more precise GPS for planting, harvesting, and monitoring equipment, which can lead to better resource management and yield prediction. In advertising, location-based marketing could become more targeted and effective, with the potential to engage consumers based on precise location data.

For vital services like search and rescue, the benefits are potentially lifesaving, with the ability to pinpoint locations swiftly and accurately (when every second counts). Autonomous vehicles, including drones and robots for delivery systems could also benefit by being able to navigate more safely and efficiently, reducing the risk of accidents and enabling them to operate in more complex environments. This could help advance this whole new field, e.g. Amazon’s robots and its new delivery drones. The augmented reality and gaming industries could also see an uptick in immersion and gameplay possibilities, as real-world accuracy becomes a stable foundation for virtual experiences, thereby helping to create new products and opportunities and generate more revenue.

There may also be an important knock-on effect of this precision for smart city initiatives. For example, urban planning, infrastructure management, and public safety could all be revolutionised with accurate, reliable geolocation data at their core. The implications for the Internet of Things (IoT) are also vast, with the potential for devices to communicate and operate with a new level of location intelligence.

Zephyr’s commitment to privacy is also likely to be promising for businesses using the technology and for more privacy-conscious consumers.

Zephyr’s fix and what essentially represents the first big (and necessary) change to a GPS system in 20+ years that’s been increasingly in demand could see widespread integration into countless applications. This could inject efficiency and accuracy into current services while catalysing the development of new ones. As a result, businesses that adapt quickly to this technology could see significant ROI, not only through direct economic benefits but also via enhanced customer trust and brand reputation. The $3.5 million in seed funding reflects investor confidence in Zephyr’s solution, suggesting a ripe market ready for businesses harnessing the power of improved GPS technology.