Amazon, Apple scare companies with Ring cameras, Astro robot, SOS
Whoever coined the phrase “fear is the greatest motivator” probably didn’t have consumer electronics sales in mind.
But this month, Apple and Amazon are putting the old axiom to the test, rolling out new products that draw the line between tackling fear and promoting health and safety.
Personal protection was front and center on Wednesday at Amazon’s annual hardware launch event, where the e-commerce giant showed off some stylish security-centric products.
Amazon’s Ring division has launched its new property surveillance system, the Spotlight Cam Pro, which includes radar cameras that enable 3D motion detection and a bird’s eye view that tracks movement in your yard. The system complements Ring’s current tool suite, which includes its doorbell camera and home security system.
Amazon has also focused on the protective capabilities of its latest Astro all-in-one robot, reframing the device as a security guard for homes and businesses. The latest Astro can investigate unexpected noises, provide live video when verifying suspicious events, and even close doors and windows accidentally left open. In a bit of clever synergy, Astro can notify Ring-contracted security personnel in cases where law enforcement might be needed. (The Astro isn’t expected to be commercially available until 2023, and early reviews haven’t been particularly positive.)
Amazon’s unveilings come three weeks after Apple’s annual product launch extravaganza, where Tim Cook and company touted several security-related upgrades to its line of gadgets.
Apple’s star came in the form of Emergency SOS, a new satellite-connected service that allows iPhone 14 owners to contact first responders in rural areas without a cellphone or wireless internet service.
Along the same lines, Apple has introduced a built-in crash detection system in the latest iPhone and Apple Watch devices. Both products will detect if someone in a vehicle is involved in a collision, then automatically connect users to emergency services and provide location information to first responders. The tool builds on a fall detection feature built into the Apple Watch earlier this year.
The two electronics giants cannot be blamed for launching products promoting personal safety.
The smart home market continues to thrive, albeit at a slower pace than in recent years. Insider Intelligence predicts that nearly half of all US households will use smart devices by 2025, up from 30% in 2018.
Ditto for the home security industry. Research firms Mordor Intelligence and Technavio estimate that the global home security systems market will see high single-digit annual growth, with a growing share of homeowners using products purchased from retailers like Amazon and Google.
And so does the market for smart personal protection and security devices, which is expected to grow 14% annually and reach nearly $9 billion by 2030, according to Market Research Future.
All three industries remain highly fragmented, providing a window for technology companies capable of delivering low-cost systems capable of integrating with other smart devices. Amazon and Apple take different approaches to building their ecosystem – the former aims to connect multiple devices in the home, while the latter routes almost everything through the iPhone and watch – but they both envision a deep connection between the consumer and the company.
Is it all a bit dystopian, manipulative and exploitative? You bet. Is the emphasis on personal safety and security fueling our diminishing trust in each other? I would say yes. Are tech giants pushing these products because they lack fantasy and ingenuity? Maybe.
Yet fear sells. And in an age of social media and (sometimes righteous) fearmongering, few industries are better equipped to capitalize on our paranoia better than Big Tech.
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Get a (small) raise. Amazon announced on Wednesday that most frontline warehouse and transportation workers receive an average salary increase of $1 per hour, Bloomberg reported. This increase will bring the average hourly wage of these employees to approximately $19 per hour and will result in $1 billion in additional expenses for the company. The e-commerce titan has sought to cut costs and scale back its rapid expansion amid slowing consumer spending, but it has also faced social unrest over complaints about working conditions and low pay .
No free pass for Meta. An Amnesty International report concluded that Facebook “Proactively amplified and promoted content” that incited violence against the Rohingya ethnic group in Myanmar several years ago, The Associated Press reported Thursday. Findings Contradict Facebook Owner’s Claims Metawho claimed she simply did not remove violent and hateful content posted on the social media platform before the government-led massacre of Rohingya in 2017. Amnesty International based its findings on interviews with Rohingya refugees, former Facebook employees and documents leaked by Facebook. Alert launcher Frances Haugenamong other sources.
Behind closed doors. At least 12 people with close ties to China’s semiconductor industry have is the subject of government investigations or has disappeared from public view amid heightened scrutiny of the sector, the FinancialTimes reported Wednesday. Chinese government officials have alleged that corruption and incompetence are at the root of much of the republic’s inability to remain competitive in the semiconductor industry with the United States, Korea of the South and other rival countries. The Chinese government has injected tens of billions of dollars into the sector, in a bid to end the country’s dependence on foreign entities for advanced semiconductors that power electronics, weapons and artificial intelligence tools, among other products.
A dissociation decision. Several companies have advertisement hanging on Twitter after their ads ran alongside tweets related to child sexual abuse, Reuters reported on Wednesday. The list of brands that have paused their advertising campaigns on Twitter includes Mazda, DIRECTV, Forbesand Dyson. The pushback follows a report by The Verge on Twitter’s fight against police posts related to child sexual abuse, as well as new research from cybersecurity firm Ghost Data showing ads on Twitter account pages that link to child pornography material. In another matter, Instagram permanently disabled account of porn site Pornhub following repeated violations of its guidelines, TechCrunch reported.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Image of a few words. Every once in a while you come across some new technology that, for better or worse, seems truly groundbreaking. That’s the feeling I got on Wednesday playing with DALL-E, an AI-powered text-to-image generator that’s now available to the public. As the Washington Post reported, the long-awaited full arrival of Open AIDALL-E (access was limited until now) signals an exciting but daunting frontier in digital life. The web-based product spits out remarkably detailed and accurate images using simple guidelines. Still, some AI ethicists fear the tool could be used for nefarious purposes, such as spreading false information or fake photos.
The technology is now spreading rapidly, faster than AI companies can shape norms around its use and prevent dangerous outcomes. Researchers fear these systems could produce images that could cause a range of harms, such as reinforcing racial and gender stereotypes or plagiarizing artists whose work has been misappropriated without their consent. Fake photos could be used to enable bullying and harassment – or create misinformation that appears real.
Historically, people trust what they see, said Wael Abd-Almageed, a professor at the University of Southern California’s school of engineering. “Once the line between truth and falsehood is eroded, everything will become false,” he said. “We won’t be able to believe anything.”
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BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Give to the Gulf. Southwest Florida has a well-deserved reputation as a haven for wealthy snowbirds, the kind of people who can afford to rebuild when disaster strikes. But as I’ve learned in my five fantastic years as a journalist at Naples Daily News, it’s also a place filled with middle-class retirees in the RV parks, city dwellers who fuel the local tourist industry, and harvesters working in the agricultural fields of the interior. As I’ve watched videos of floodwaters overtaking vast swathes of Naples, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero and other bucolic enclaves, it’s these saltwater people of the land that come to mind. ‘spirit. The process of restoring Southwest Florida will take years and billions of dollars, so here is a humble plea to help those in need along the Gulf Coast of Florida.