Reading the tech stuff, so you don't have to

By Laura Haight

I know you’ve got a busy life - what with your business, family, volunteer activities and all. So it is possible you’ve missed some of the recent tech news. No worries. I’m staying on top of it so you don’t have to.

As if we needed any encouragement to think less, now we have it in the form of contextual apps. We’re just really getting our feet wet in the area of predictive intelligence, but it’s certainly generating buzz. At the early stages, contextual apps like Everything Me for Android mobile devices, will anticipate your needs and provide apps when you might need them. For example, in the morning, you want to read the news, so your favorite newspaper app will be on your home screen, along with your calendar and perhaps your Starbucks card. At lunchtime, Yelp might pop up. These apps work better on Android phones because they are essentially managers of your other apps. Called Launchers, they take over your home screen (that’s a no-no for Apple) to provide a different launch screen for each of your needs.

Beyond launchers, predictive intelligence apps will data mine YOU to decide how to give you better information. Some engineers say they can ascertain the phone owner’s sex, age and ethnicity and then better serve up options for shopping, entertainment, restaurants and destinations based on those group preferences. 

Although it is still technically in a “Explorer” phase, Google Glass went on sale to the general public last week. Well, at least, the general public who don’t mind walking around with a metal band around their head that they paid $1500 for. The public offering will continue until Google runs out of Glass or starts making more. Anticipating a bigger market, Google announced three partnerships with eye-care providers to sell Glass in a more mainstream approach as a ride-along with your prescription glasses.

In more Google news, a detailed piece in The Atlantic last week explained the genius behind the self-driving car. You’ve probably read about the car and seen the amazing video of the blind driver getting around Mountain View, CA, with the car “auto driving”. Apparently, Google has created a virtual track of their home court with detailed mapping of every inch of every road.

By telling the car’s operating system what the road should look like with nothing on it, it is an easier problem for the car to identify differences and adjust to them (like other vehicles, parked cars, roadblocks, traffic cones, people in crosswalks, etc.). So far Google says it has mapped 2,000 miles of roadway at the level of detail required. For perspective, there are 4 million miles of road in the US. If you’re holding out for the first self-driving vehicles, it may be a longer wait than you thought. But those steps are necessary: remember the first electric cars were produced in the late 1960s!

You might have missed one of the bigger stories this week — although admittedly a seemingly boring and bureaucratic one — if you weren’t paying attention to the FCC hearings and rulings on Net Neutrality. Wait, come back, don’t turn the page yet… This will matter to you. And it will be one of those things that we scratch our heads about and say: “How did that happen?”

The FCC paved the way last week for an internet “fast lane” available to companies that pay more or negotiate better deals with bandwidth providers. Until now the Internet has been pretty much a public road. We’re all on it, whether we drive an old clunker or a Porsche. But imagine that the bigger, better cars — driven by the richer, 1 percenters — got a bigger piece of the road while the rest of us sat around in traffic jams?

Everything involving the FCC is hard to understand (take a look at your phone bill), but the pay-to-play environment being contemplated now will create a hierarchy of Internet haves and have nots. Netflix, which is hoarding up to 50 percent of the video streaming bandwidth at any given moment, could certainly be a big winner, but at the expense of smaller streaming services like Crackle, Blip or MGo. And that is just looking at today’s landscape — a pay to play approach to bandwidth availability could affect every business in a digital future.

This story is like broccoli — eat it, it’s good for you