Tag Archives: google

Sleep Well with Philips Hue at CES

Announced at CES, Philips Hue will closely integrate with Google Assistant to activate sleep and wake lighting effects to replicate the best lighting for winding down before bed time and waking up naturally in the morning. This is the first integration of the Philips Hue sleep and wake up feature with a digital assistant platform.

From launch, the features will include:

  • One-time alarm sync: Users can say “Hey Google, turn on gentle wake up” which will sync their Philips Hue lights with subsequent morning alarms on Google Assistant. Every time the user sets their alarm on the Google Assistant, Philips Hue lights will naturally wake the user up with a sunrise effect commencing 30 minutes beforehand.
  • Scheduled sleep / wake: Users will be able to set sleep by saying “Hey Google, sleep the lights at 10pm”, changing the lights to a warm tone of white light which gradually fades over thirty minutes. It’s the reverse of the wake up process.
  • Direct action: Users can instruct their Philips Hue lights via the Google Assistant to sleep and wake immediately, meaning the Philips Hue lights will activate the sleep and wake process directly for the 30-minute duration.
  • Multi Person activation: Just like the Hue app, the Google Home app lets you manage your lights in different rooms which means you can set the wake-up routine not only for your own bedroom, but also for other rooms, e.g. Kids’ bedroom, Jimmy’s bedroom, etc

I have an Hue Iris as my bedside light and can attest to the benefits of having a light-based alarm clock.

Research is increasingly showing the important role light plays in how we feel and how well we sleep. Melatonin, the hormone that helps to regulate our wake and sleep cycle, is influenced by light, whether that’s natural or artificial light. By having the right light as we prepare for bed, we can get a better night’s sleep, whereas waking up with the right light can help us start the day feeling more energised.

While many people need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning, by using light that simulates sunrise by gradually increasing light levels before the alarm goes off, you can improve well-being, mood and cognitive performance even much later in the day.

Sleep plays such an important role in our health and well-being, so we’re pleased to be adding yet another option for our users to help them relax before bedtime and wake up in a way that prepares them well for the day ahead,” says Duncan McCue, Head of Partnerships for Philips Hue at Signify.
Signify is the new name for Philips Lighting – not sure on pronunciation, though…Sig-nify or Sign-ify? Probably the latter.

The new feature will be accessible to all consumers in English speaking countries by March 2019.

For more information about Philips Hue products visit www.meethue.com.

Google has “Effectively Ended” Project Dragonfly

Google had been working on a project called Dragonfly, which was being developed as censored search engine that would be used in China. The decision comes after hundreds of Google employees called on the company to cancel the project.

The Intercept has a very detailed article about what Project Dragonfly was. It was a very secretive project that relied upon data gleaned from 265.com, a Beijing-based website.

The controversy over Dragonfly is largely because it was being built as a censored search engine. From the Intercept:

The dispute began in mid-August, when The Intercept revealed that Google employees working on Dragonfly had been using a Beijing-based website to help develop blacklists for the censored search engine, which was designed to block out broad categories of information related to democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest, in accordance with strict rules on censorship in China that are enforced by the country’s authoritarian Communist Party government.

I’m certainly not the first person to say this, but it bears repeating. If Google were to create and launch Dragonfly in China, it would not stop there. The existence of a tailor-made censored search engine for one country could influence other countries to demand that Google create a highly censored search engine for them – blocking whatever that government chooses to censor.

The existence of Project Dragonfly is dangerous and disturbing. The Intercept points out that Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, appeared before Congress and stated that “right now” there were no plans to launch Dragonfly. That doesn’t mean it is gone for good, and we need reporters to continue to monitor the situation.

Google Expedites Closure of Google+ After Bug Investigation

Google announced that it will expedite the closure of Google+ for consumers. In October of this year, Google said it would shut down Google+ for consumers “over a ten month period”.

That timeframe has been shortened to “within the next 90 days”. This decision comes after the discovery of a new bug that impacted approximately 52.5 million users in connection with a Google+ app.

We’ve recently determined that some users were impacted by a software update introduced in November that contained a bug affecting a Google+ API. We discovered this bug as part of our standard and ongoing testing procedures and fixed it within a week of it being introduced. No third party compromised our systems, and we have no evidence that the app developers that inadvertently had this access for six days were aware of it or misused it in any way.

As a result of discovering this bug, Google has decided to shut-down all Google+ APIs within the next 90 days. Google is also going to accelerate the sunset of consumer Google+ from August 2019 to April 2019.

Google says it wants to give users ample opportunity to transition off consumer Google+. It will also provide users with ways they can safely and securely download and migrate their data.

In addition, Google is in the process of notifying any enterprise customers that were impacted by the bug. That notification will come by email to those affected.

In my opinion, Google enterprise customers should take a minute and consider how much they trust Google to keep Google+ secure. This isn’t the first time this year that Google+ has had a data breach.

Google will Stop Working on Allo

Google announced that it will stop working on Google Allo, a smart messaging app. Google is going to focus more on its Messages app for Android phones.

Google stated that, thanks to their partnerships with over 40 carriers and device makers, over 175 million people are now using Messages, their messaging app for Android phones, every month.

Earlier this year, Google “paused investment” on Allo and brought some of its most-loved features over to Messages. Those features include: Smart Reply, GIFs, and desktop support. Google has decided to stop supporting Allo to focus on Messages, which has shown “continued momentum”.

Allo will continue to work through March of 2019. Those who are using Allo will have up until then to export all of their existing conversation history from the app. Visit Google’s “The Keyword” blog for a link that explains how to do that.

Will people who like Allo, and can no longer use it, switch to Messages? I’m assuming that’s what Google would like to have happen. I suspect that some people are currently using Allo to talk with some friends and Messages to talk with the friends who don’t use Allo. Putting those two groups together on Messages might streamline things.

Google Now Allows Users to Delete Search Activity

Google has announced that they will now allow you to review and delete your search activity and get quick access to the most relevant privacy controls in your Google Account.

Today, we’re making it easier for you to make decisions about your data directly within the Google products you use every day, starting with Search. Without ever leaving Search, you can now review and delete your recent search activity, get access to the most relevant privacy controls in your Google Account, and learn more about how Search works with your data.

Google is launching this improvement in Google Search on desktop and mobile today, and in the Google app for iOS and Android in coming weeks. They will expand this to Maps next year.

This is a step in the right direction. Users want the option to delete the information and data that Google (and other companies) collect from them. But, I don’t think Google is doing this primarily to benefit users. It might be an attempt to convince users that Google is working on its security and privacy problems.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users of the Google+ social network. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google became aware of that data breach last spring, and opted not to disclose the issue at that time.

In addition, there was the outrage about Google’s decision with Chrome 69, which would automatically log a user into the Chrome browser anytime the user logged into a Google service or site. It appears that Google feels that this was done to protect the user’s privacy – but many people disagree with that interpretation.

It’s also noteworthy that if you decided to click the button to “Delete a Search Activity” it causes a pop-up to appear that, to me, is an attempt to talk users out of deleting their search activity.

Android Phone Apps Used in Ad Fraud Scheme

BuzzFeed reported, in an extremely detailed article, information about their investigation into a fraud scheme that involved more than 125 Android apps and websites, some of which were targeted ads.

Google has responded in a blog post on the Google Security Blog, with details about what they have done after BuzzFeed informed them about the ad fraud scheme.

In short, the scam involved the TechSnab botnet, which operated by creating hidden browser windows that visit web pages to inflate ad revenue. Google says that malware contains common IP based cloaking, data obfuscation, and anti-analysis defenses. Google also stated that the fraud primary impacted mobile apps. According to Google, those apps were monetizing by using AdMob.

So, basically, what happened was some nefarious people put a ton of effort into finding a way to make money by artificially inflating ad revenue in mobile apps. I find it disgusting that someone out there is so selfish and greedy that they felt the need to do this. I understand that people want to make money – but most people don’t assume that means it is ok for them to commit fraud.

Garbage like the malware used in the fraud scheme clutters up the internet. It has no legitimate purpose at all, and I’m glad that Google is actively tracking this operation.

The only good thing that has come from this situation is that it involved a collaborative effort between BuzzFeed and Google in order stop the problem. Google stated: “Collaboration throughout our industry is critical in helping us to better detect, prevent, and disable these threats across the ecosystem.” I’m hoping the collaboration will make it much harder for people to pull these kind of shenanigans in the future.

Image from StockSnap.io

Google’s Live Albums Keeps Families In Touch

Google’s Pixel 3 event today didn’t bring too many surprises on the hardware front: most had been leaked well in advance of the presentation. What caught my eye was not a device but a new a new software feature called “Live Albums”.

Dave Loxton, Google Photo Product Manager, explains, “Many of us share the same photos with the same people over and over, whether it’s photos of your children to their grandparents, or cute pics of your pup to your best friend. Every time, we have to find the photos, select the ones we want to share and send them to the right people. And that’s if we even remember to share them at all.

Live albums start out as ordinary albums – you select the special photos of friends, family and pets. Here’s the clever bit…once tagged as a live album, freshly taken photos will be scanned by Google’s AI smarts and if they include people in the live album, they’ll be added into the album automatically.

This is fantastic for those families wanting to share photos with far-flung relatives. Instead of constantly having to remember to send photos to granny in Edinburgh, create a live album of the grandchildren and share it with her. New photos of the children will be added in as they’re taken, and granny gets to see the photos straightaway.

Google touts its Home Hub as being the ideal picture frame to display live album, though it’s only 7″, which I think is a little small for a photo frame. Priced at US$149 or UK£139, the Home Hub is competitively priced against wireless photo frames from the likes of Nixplay. I can see the Home Hub taking market share this Christmas.

The updated version of Photos with live album support will be rolling out shortly, so wait for it to appear on your smartphone.