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The incredibly disappearing gadgets

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Remember when you bought software in a box off the shelf? Then came the Internet and it all disappeared into the background. Now gadgets may go the same way, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

Do you remember when software was something consumers and small businesses bought in a box off a shelf in a store? Today, that sounds like a quaint way of packaging something that will live out its useful life on a computing device.

But now, even the device itself may go away. Or, at least, the device as we know it, as a large box on a desk or a mobile device that only just fits into a pocket or handbag.

Anything that relies on a display, on a connection to the Internet, or on data storage, can potentially be reduced to a computer chip with projection capabilities.

The best clue to that came last month at Lenovo Tech World in San Francisco, when CEO Yuanqing Yang, together with actor Ashton Kutcher, unveiled the new Moto Z phone and its family of snap-on add-ons called Moto Mods (reported in this column during June).

One of these Mods was a snap-on projector called the Insta-Share Projector, which projects a screen onto any surface, and picks up finger gestures in order to make the display interactive.

Today, the Insta-Share can project anything from a virtual keyboard for the phone to a 70” wall display, more than big enough to watch movies. In future, it may provide even bigger displays from a smaller device.

Add this to the a new device launched by Sony at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year, the Xperia Projector, which projects an interactive display onto any surface, and you start seeing a trend emerge.

And then add to these the comments made by Google CEO Sundar Pichai in his “Founders’ Letter” in April, and you have a revolution in the making: “…the next big step will be for the very concept of the ‘device’ to fade away. Over time, the computer itself—whatever its form factor—will be an intelligent assistant helping you through your day. We will move from mobile first to an AI (Artificial Intelligence) first world.”

The Xperia Projector had already signalled this shift.  Right now, the Projector is an object the size of a small PC tower. But, with the rapid advance of miniaturisation, it’s easy to envisage it shrinking dramatically.

Once you can cram its intelligence into a keyring, pendant or even a ring, for example, it could be the end of the smartphone as we know it. In a restaurant, all you’d need is a serviette on which to project the interface of the “phone”. In a few years’ time, then, it could be a good idea to invest in serviettes, but certainly not in smartphone hardware.

“Today we are dependent on our phones, but as the communication paradigm shifts to new forms of communication, we want to be at the forefront of new ideas,” said Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai at a media briefing in Tokyo. He envisaged a company that would focus on building greater intelligence into devices and services, rather than focusing exclusively on the hardware.

“At Sony we have a lot of different technology and a lot of great products that push the boundaries of communication intelligently,” he said.

On the other side of the world, at the EMC World conference in Las Vegas in May, the flip side of this vision emerged from a keynote address by Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell, in explaining why his company had paid a record $67-billion for storage leaders EMC.

“It all begins with the modern data centre,” he said. “Once, the data centre was used to manage the back office and make it more efficient. Now, it has to support the business as the business becomes more digital. Every company has to become a software company to compete and succeed.”

He outlined an even more vigorous vision than Hirai’s: “The future will be defined by technology that is so powerful, it will be difficult to comprehend. 2001 was the beginning of a new model for computer delivery. Today those marvels seem like relics from a museum. Processing power increases 10 times every five years. Think 15 years from now, to 2031. We’ll have a 1000-fold increase over what we have today.”

This will mean less and less dependence on storage on devices and premises. In the same way software and the Internet became invisible as it evolved, so will storage.

And if all you need is the interface to a computer, rather than the computer itself, even tablets and computers will become invisible.

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Password managers don’t protect you from hackers

Using a password manager to protect yourself online? Research reveals serious weaknesses…

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Top password manager products have fundamental flaws that expose the data they are designed to protect, rendering them no more secure than saving passwords in a text file, according to a new study by researchers at Independent Security Evaluators (ISE).

“100 percent of the products that ISE analyzed failed to provide the security to safeguard a user’s passwords as advertised,” says ISE CEO Stephen Bono. “Although password managers provide some utility for storing login/passwords and limit password reuse, these applications are a vulnerable target for the mass collection of this data through malicious hacking campaigns.”

In the new report titled “Under the Hood of Secrets Management,” ISE researchers revealed serious weaknesses with top password managers: 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass and LastPass.  ISE examined the underlying functionality of these products on Windows 10 to understand how users’ secrets are stored even when the password manager is locked. More than 60 million individuals 93,000 businesses worldwide rely on password managers. Click here for a copy of the report.

Password managers are marketed as a solution to eliminate the security risks of storing passwords or secrets for applications and browsers in plain text documents. Having previously examined these and other password managers, ISE researchers expected an improved level of security standards preventing malicious credential extraction. Instead ISE found just the opposite. 

Click here to read the findings from the report.

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MWC: Next generation of inflight connectivity to be unveiled

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Next week at Mobile World Congress, the Seamless Air Alliance will reveal progress on its mission towards enabling the next generation of inflight connectivity. This follows a significant start for the Alliance, which has seen membership increase five-fold since the first meeting in June of last year. The Alliance has a new research laboratory setup and continues progress through its three working groups, writing specifications for the technology, requirements, and operations.

These developments represent a huge leap towards the goal of making connectivity as easy and enjoyable in the skies as it is on the ground. Appearing as part of the Airbus stand (Hall 6, stand 6G34), the Seamless Air Alliance will reveal specification topics that have been completed and published to its membership.

“The passenger experience with inflight connectivity remains one of the great technology challenges. From Day One we have been determined to deliver on our mission to bring industries and technologies together to make the inflight internet experience simple to access and a delight to use,” said the Alliance’s Chief Executive Officer, Jack Mandala.

“I have been tremendously encouraged by the enthusiastic and committed response we have seen and the widening areas of expertise we can call upon as more and more companies and organisations continue to join us,” he added.

Announced during MWC 2018, the Seamless Air Alliance has since grown to twenty-three membercompanies with more than one-hundred key personnel from across the membership participating in its three working groups, with numbers continuing to increase.

The Seamless Air Alliance was created by founding members Airbus, Airtel, Delta Air Lines, OneWeb and Sprint, and quickly joined by Air France KLM, Aeromexico, and GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes and global technology leaders including Astronics, Collins Aerospace, Comtech, Cyient, iDirect, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Latecoere, Nokia, and Panasonic. 

Today, the Alliance is pleased to announce five additional new members: Adaptive Channel, Etihad Airways, GlobalReach Technology, Safran, and SITAONAIR.

“We are extremely pleased to have these companies join and be a part of the companies driving the next generation of connectivity.” said Mr Mandala.

The Seamless Air Alliance will enable travelers boarding any flight, on any airline, anywhere in the world, to use their own devices to automatically connect to the Internet with no complicated login process nor paywall to scramble over.

The Alliance is also announcing the release of a new research study on the economic benefit of standardization on the inflight connectivity market at Mobile World Congress. This report is available for download at https://www.seamlessalliance.com/publications/

The Alliance is moving rapidly towards an expected demonstration of the technology later in 2019 and anticipates massive interest in Barcelona from the whole communications eco-system.

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