Tag Archives: smartwatches

Samsung Gear S2 Scores Points for Looking Like a Watch

Samsung last week announced the Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic smartwatches at the IFA trade show in Berlin.

The product specs of the Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic are the same. The main difference between the two is in the design of their faces — the Gear S2 Classic looks more like a regular watch, while it’s obvious the Gear S2 is a smartwatch with apps.

They run Samsung’s Tizen operating system and can sync with any device having 1.5 GB of RAM or more, running Android 4.4 or later.

Designed by Italian post-modernist designer and architect Alessandro Mendini, both watches are round and customizable, have various sensors, and come preloaded with apps.

Optional 3G connectivity includes an e-SIM card with voice capability, allowing greater functionality without a smartphone nearby.

Things of Beauty

“I like the approach,” enthused Ramon Llamas, a research manager at IDC. “First and foremost, they look like watches.”

Earlier Samsung Gear smartwatches “look like miniaturized computers. The aesthetics weren’t really there, and the navigation was pitiful,” he told TechNewsWorld. “These new watches are elegant and look like high-end watches.”

The circular look “is a smart choice for a smartwatch design, because the most popular traditional watch designs are round,” remarked Angela McIntyre, a research director at Gartner.

What It’s Got and What It Does

The Gear S2 (and Gear S2 Classic) has a 1.2-inch circular Super AMOLEDscreen with 360 x 360 resolution at 302 ppi. It has a 1-GHz dual-core processor.

The watch is always on, and it has a battery life of two to three days, Samsung said. It can be charged wirelessly.

The Gear S2 has 4 GB of internal memory and 512 MB of RAM. Users can access contacts, notifications, messages and email.

It supports voice input, emoticons and keypads, and comes loaded with preset text responses.

Other features include voice memo, Find My Device, power-saving mode, safety assistance and a privacy lock.

The Gear S2 comes preloaded with health and fitness apps and can display news, maps, navigation, weather information and the user’s schedule. It also has a music player and a gallery.

It is IP 68 certified, effectively making it dustproof and waterproof.

It supports WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 and near-field communication.

Packed inside the 11.4-mm thick Gear S2 are an accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate and ambient light monitors, and a barometer.

Smartphones Are So Yesterday

A rotating bezel lets Gear S2 users navigate the interface. Side buttons access various preset apps and functions.

The apps on the Gear S2 show Samsung “can utilize the whole watch face, which is still a challenge for the Moto 360,” Gartner’s McIntyre told TechNewsWorld.

NFC technology enables mobile payments on the S2 and the inclusion ofFidMe allows users to store digital loyalty cards.

FidMe is one of Samsung’s five global partners for the Gear smartwatch, the others being Yelp, Baidu, Apposter and CNN. Samsung is working with partners across various industries to broaden the applicability of its smartwatches.

The S2 can be used to control smart locks powered by UniKey and Yale Real Living locks.

“Samsung likes to be out on the leading edge, and their vision is an NFC wearable hooking up with an IoT ecosystem,” IDC’s Llamas remarked.

Calling all Devs!

Developing Tizen apps will be critical for the success of Samsung’s Gear line, said Al Hilwa, a program director at IDC.

The Galaxy S2 can connect to Android phones from other makers, which “is key, because most of the buyers of this watch will likely have Android phones,” he told TechNewsWorld. However, Samsung “has to work hard with specific publishers to bring them to the platform.”

Samsung “will have to fight for the attention of app developers,” observed McIntyre, “who are busy coding for Apple Watch OS2, Android Wear watches and Pebble watches.”

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Samsung’s Gear S2 smartwatch will come in three versions, promises 2-3 day battery life

Less than three weeks ago, Samsung teased a brief glimpse of its next smartwatch, promising more information at the IFA electronics trade show in Berlin, Germany on September 3. Today, the Korean giant is jumping the gun and offering a few more details about the new Gear S2.

We already knew that the Gear S2 featured a round watchface with a rotating selection dial and was powered by the Tizen operating system, Samsung’s home-grown software that’s separate and distinct from Google’s Android Wear smartwatch platform. But now it turns out that the Gear S2 won’t be one watch, but three — each of which has slightly different features and designs. (That’s hardly a surprise from Samsung, which already has five high-end Galaxy smartphones so far this year, and more TV models than you can count.)

And Samsung is pledging battery life of two to three days; if true, that’s far better than Apple Watch, which often struggles to make it through a single full day.

The details come hot on the heels of Google’s announcement earlier today that its Android Wear smartwatches will now work with Apple’s iPhone. That opens the potential for a whole new market of tens of millions of users to Google and its hardware partners — such as LG, Huawei, Motorola and Asus — that had previously been limited to only Android phone owners. By contrast, Samsung’s smartwatches have — to date — only been compatible with Samsung smartphones.

For Samsung, the stakes couldn’t be higher. The company beat the Apple Watch to market by a good 18 months with its first smartwatch, 2013’s Galaxy Gear, and went on to release five additional smartwatch models before the end of the 2014. But the Gear S2 will be its first model of 2015, a year that’s seen Apple reportedly become the wearable market’s second most popular vendor in less than five months.

Samsung Gear S2
Samsung

Two Gear S2 styles, plus a cellular model

The Gear S2 is actually a family of watches available in two different styles, both 11.4mm thick. The main model — called simply the Gear S2 — has a modern, minimalist bent, while the more traditional Gear S2 Classic boasts a black body and leather band. The former model is slightly larger and heavier — 42.3 mm wide by 49.8 tall, and weighing 47 grams — versus the 39.9-by-43.6-mm dimensions of the Classic, which tips the scales at 42g. The watches will be rated at IP68 dust and water resistance, which is towards the top of the scale — though Samsung still needs to specify the depth and duration for water immersion.

On the inside, the specs of the two models are largely the same. The 1.2-inch (30.5 mm) 360×360-pixel display uses the same AMOLED technology found in Samsung’s winning phone screens (versus the standard LCD technology found on some competing Android Wear models). The watch is powered by a dual-core 1.0 GHz processor, and includes 4GB of storage. It’s unclear how much of that space is user-accessible, but the Gear S2 models are ready to double as portable music players, thanks to compatibility with the usual MP3, AAC and OGG audio formats.

Both Gear S2 styles will be chock full of sensors, including an accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate monitor, ambient light sensor and barometer (the latter is usually used to determine stair climbing activity). Those trackers will feed into S Health, Samsung’s own health software, or Nike+ Running, both of which will be available. (No GPS indicators were listed on the spec sheets provided by Samsung.)

The watches will feature built-in Bluetooth 4.1 for communicating with paired smartphones and audio devices (wireless headphones and speakers), as well as Wi-Fi, which implies phone-free communication ability. Furthermore, the (non-Classic) Gear S2 will also be available in a version that includes built-in 3G cellular capability. That opens up the possibility of it working as a standalone Dick Tracy-style watchphone — a trick Samsung previously pulled off with 2014’s original Gear S model. Indeed, AT&T, T-Mobile and US Cellular have already confirmed that they’ll be selling the Gear S when it goes on sale later this year.

Finally, Samsung is pledging a 2- to 3-day lifespan with the 250mAh battery on the Wi-Fi Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic models with “typical usage.” That drops to 2 days with the cellular version of the Gear S2, despite its larger 300mAh battery. And yes, the new Samsungs will offer wireless Qi charging, too.

The Gear S2 has two different color options, either a white band with a silver body, or a dark gray band with a matching body. As mentioned above, the Classic will be available in black with a leather band.

Samsung Gear S2
Samsung executive Dennis Miloseski posted this casual shot of the Gear S2 on his Instagram account.

Dennis Miloseski via Instagram

Circular design — and an app deficit

With the Gear S2, the squared-off design of previous Samsung Gear watches is gone. Instead, Samsung’s latest effort has a futuristic, minimal round look that reminiscent of Android Wear watches, but with a distinct style. The result is a watch that looks smaller than the 2014 version of the Moto 360, which also features a circular design. (That model is also widely expected to be updated later this week, as part of the parade of Android Wear watches hitting the IFA show.)

Along with that change in shape comes the Gear S2’s biggest interface shift — a rotating bezel that scrolls through the round apps and dial-like interfaces, like a larger version of Apple’s digital crown. Figuring out how the tiny interfaces on smartwatches should be controlled is an industry-wide puzzler, so we’re pleased to see Samsung attempting something new. The rotating bezel is a clever design, assuming the Samsung’s apps have been modified accordingly to take good advantage of it.

Speaking of apps: Samsung has its work cut out for it. Unlike Apple Watch and Android Wear — each of which has a strong backbone of apps and developers — by going it alone on the nascent Tizen operating system, Samsung is creating a third universe of incompatible apps. The company says that a “variety of apps optimized for the Gear S2’s circular user interface will be available at launch,” but getting those popular, must-have apps on the Gear platform will be essential to keep it attractive. (Just ask Microsoft and Windows Phone.)

To be continued

The impact of Samsung’s wearables to date has been doubtful — you’re much more likely to see an Apple Watch in the wild, if indeed you glimpse a smartwatch at all. We’re encouraged however by Samsung’s latest wrist-borne gadget, especially its interesting bezel-controlled interface. A lack of apps compared to other smartwatch platforms may put a crimp in our enjoyment, but for now our interest is definitely piqued.

Pricing, availability and device compatibility are still a mystery for the Gear S2. Those are just some of the questions we’ll have when we see the phone later this week at the the IFA show in Berlin.

Stay tuned.

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New wave of Android Wear watches aims to make up for lost time

Asus, Huawei, LG and Motorola will use the IFA trade show in Berlin next week to show off their newest wearable devices.

Can’t get enough of smartwatches? Well, a whole new batch is on its way.

Asus, Huawei, LG and Motorola will introduce their newest smartwatches next week at the IFA electronics trade show in Berlin, according to people familiar with the companies’ launch plans. The devices will all run Google’s Android Wear software, which was created to power wearable products like smartwatches.

You might be forgiven if you don’t remember Android Wear, which Google introduced last year with much fanfare, but which hasn’t resulted in any blockbuster products. Next week’s releases will mark the second big wave of Android Wear devices, following on from that dismal showing in 2014. Android powers the vast majority of the world’s smartphones, and Google and its partners are hoping for similar success in the burgeoning market for wearables.

The goal is that the new Android Wear devices will have enough features and alternative designs to lure buyers away from the Apple Watch, which — despite criticism — became the world’s most popular smartwatch within its first few months on the market earlier this year.

“Apple Watch has clearly raised the bar for the global smartwatch industry,” Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston said. “The ball is now in the court of rivals, like Samsung, to respond.”

Some early wearables, including Samsung’s Galaxy Gear from late 2013, used Android, but the initial version of the software — which wasn’t tailored for wearables — caused devices to run slowly and batteries to drain quickly. Samsung quickly switched to its homegrown Tizen software in its smartwatches as an alternative.

Android Wear emerged in early 2014 as a modified version of Android created specifically for smartwatches and other Internet-connected wearables. Google and its partners — Samsung, LG and Motorola — unveiled the first devices that used Android Wear at Google’s developer conference that June. The software promised a simple user interface, instant notifications and the ability to perform simple tasks, like texting friends, using voice commands. Other companies such as Sony and Asus introduced smartwatches of their own.

But consumers largely disregarded those initial devices. Smartwatch makers collectively shipped only 720,000 Android Wear units in 2014 out of a total 4.6 million wearables, according to market research firm Canalys. Samsung, the world’s biggest smartwatch vendor last year, chose to push devices running Tizen instead of Android Wear, and nearly three out of every four smartwatches shipped in 2014 came from the Korean company.

Of the Android Wear watches, Motorola’s Moto 360 stood out with its round face and the company’s decision to use premium materials such as a metal case and leather strap. But others quickly followed with the same strategy. Motorola is slated to unveil the follow-up at the show.

LG, meanwhile, is expected to release a smartwatch similar to its LG Watch Urbane LTE, which the company showed off in March. The Urbane LTE ran on software called WebOS, which LG purchased from Hewlett-Packard to use on its own products; the new version will run on Android Wear.

Huawei debuted its first smartwatch — a device designed to look as much as possible like a classical round-face timepiece — at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona earlier this year. And Asus is expected to give more details about the ZenWatch 2, which made its debut in June at the Computex trade show in Taiwan. The company hasn’t shared many details about the device.

Every smartwatch player has taken a backseat in the wake of the Apple Watch’s introduction in April. With only three months in the wearables market, Apple surpassed Samsung to become the leader in smartwatches. In the second quarter of this year, 76 percent of smartwatches came from Apple, while Samsung’s control of the market tumbled to 7.5 percent, according to Strategy Analytics.

Samsung will use IFA to launch its newest smartwatch, the round Gear S2, but the device will run Tizen, not Android Wear.

Companies have been looking to wearables as a new market of opportunity as smartphone and tablet sales slow. Such devices are viewed as more personal than other gadgets, and nearly every major player in the technology sector has rushed to address the wearables market in some way. Still, wearables aren’t yet mainstream, with most buyers remaining the more daring early tech adopters. Not even the Apple Watch has managed to attract a broad consumer base, and many analysts believe sales of that smartwatch have slowed.

“Despite buyers being satisfied with the device, we continue to see that the product is running out of steam,” Juniper Research analyst James Moar said.

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Apple Pay scores with Apple Watch owners, survey says

More than half of the Apple Watch owners polled said they find Apple Pay “magical,” while another 42 percent see it as “convenient,” according to data from research firm Wristly.

Apple Pay is proving popular with many Apple Watch owners.

A hefty 80 percent of 1,000 Apple Watch owners surveyed in the US and UK by research firm Wristly have already used Apple Pay at least once. Among the people who haven’t used it, 5 percent said they don’t “perceive a benefit,” another 5 percent said they have security concerns, and around 15 percent said they their payment needs are already being met. But 29 percent of the non-users said one of the main reasons they don’t use Apple Pay is because their credit card provider doesn’t support it.

Apple Pay launched in the US in October as Apple’s first foray into contactless mobile payments. Using an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus or Apple Watch, people can pay for items on the go at supported retailers via NFC (near-field communication) technology. Apple Pay usage is notably high among the Apple Watch owners polled for several reasons. But a major one is likely convenience.

To use Apple Pay with an iPhone, you have to pull the phone out of your pocket or purse and then make the transaction via the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. With an Apple Watch, your payment method is already there on your wrist. All you need do is double-tap the watch’s side button, select the credit or debit card you want to use and hold the face of the watch to the payment terminal. The watch will vibrate, and a check mark appears on the screen to confirm the payment. You don’t need a password or Touch ID as you do on an iPhone. The watch will ask for a password if you take it off your wrist. But as long as you keep it on, a simple double-tap does the work.

That convenience may be the reason why half of the Apple Watch owners polled who use Apple Pay called the service “magical,” while another 42 percent dubbed it “convenient.” Only 4 percent found it “not that useful,” while another 3 percent said they have other concerns about using Apple Pay. Further, 79 percent of the Apple Pay users said they prefer to use it on their watch versus their iPhone.

Drilling down further, 62 percent of those polled who use Apple Pay said they prefer to buy from retailers due at least in part to the business’s decision to support Apple Pay. And 86 percent of those people said they look for the Apple Pay logo when they’re at the checkout counter. If Apple’s payment option is available, 81 percent of Apple Pay users said they will use it.

Though most of the Apple Watch owners polled may enjoy Apple Pay, Apple still faces a challenge expanding the service’s reach, both in the US and abroad. In the US, Apple has lined up a healthy list of banks and credit card companies to support Apple Pay. But it’s still facing a long haul getting more retailers to jump on board. Retailers have to set up the necessary NFC terminals in order to accept Apple Pay, a process that takes time and money. In the meantime, rival services such as Android Payand Samsung Pay are now ramping up. Samsung Pay doesn’t require NFC and can work with any magnetic strip card reader, so it holds at least that advantage over Apple Pay.

Apple Pay recently hit the UK with support from nine banks so far and another five coming soon. But Apple Pay has been hitting obstacles in such regions as China, Canada and Australia where banks are balking at the high cut of transaction fees that Apple wants to grab from them.

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Finally: The $3000 Putin-themed Apple Watch you’ve been waiting for is here

“What’s that?” They’ll say.

“Just Putin on my new watch,” you’ll reply.

At last, a gold-coated Apple Watch featuring the signature of three-term Russia President Vladimir Putin has arrived on the market, and could be yours for just over $3000.

The Russophilic smartwatch, produced by a Russian-Italian jewellery brand called Caviar Perna Penna, costs 197,000 rubles ($3,073) and also depicts the Moscow skyline and the double-headed eagle of Russia’s coat of arms.

Jewelers Caviar made headlines last June when they produced an 18-carat gold iPhone 5S, hand-etched with a portrait of the Russian leader, which the company described as “the best way to express patriotism.” But following a rebuke from Putin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov — the President does not approve of his likeness being used by manufacturers for commercial gain, he says — production was halted.

The recently-voted TIME magazine reader’s “most influential person” and current Forbes power list “#1” has not commented on the release of the Apple Watch.

Though still beyond the price range of most buyers, the Putin Apple Watch can be yours for less than a third the price of the Apple Watch Edition — the gold Apple watch without the former KGB officer’s face on it — which starts at $10,000.

Putin, Lenin, Peter the Great

The “Putinwatch” is limited to 999 units and jewelery maker Caviar is also producing editions devoted Tsar Peter I — the 17th and 18th century Russian sovereign known as Peter the Great — and Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin.

The communist leader’s version eschews a gold finish for a more demure rhodium cladding, whose gray color signifies strength, endurance and power, say Caviar.

Caviar's Apple Watch Epoca Lenin edition

Anna Lobova, the company’s PR manager explains the choices:

“All [these] leaders are very respected by people and they have some things in common — all of them are innovators and very principal persons with strong ideas and they do a lot for [the] evolution, development and independence of Russia,” she says.

Sales are strong, she claims, but refuses to reveal numbers, beyond saying that the watches are selling at more than twice the expected rate. Currently the watches are only available for purchase in Russia but Lobova says there has been significant interest internationally. “In the near future we planning to make a delivery to Saudi Arabia, China and USA,” she says.

Caviar's Apple Watch Epoca Peter the Great edition

But who’s buying them? “Now most interest we got from Moscow, our Moscow customers always prefer to get all new items first,” she says, adding that most are over 35-years-old and “owners of a business or top managers in a big corporations.”

Incredibly, this is not August’s first Putin-related luxury watch news. Last week, his spokesman Peskov was pictured wearing a limited edition Swiss watch estimated to cost more than $600,000 — several times his official Kremlin salary — drawing allegations of corruption from opposition leaders.

Peskov claims the watch was a wedding present from his new wife, former Olympic figure skater Tatiana Navka.

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Can’t choose between an Apple Watch and a luxury timepiece? Have both

Watchmaker Nico Gerard has created a dual-faced watch hybrid – combining a traditional Swiss timepiece with a 38mm Apple Watch

Unable to decide between a classic Swiss timepiece and the allure of an Apple Watch? All your prayers have been answered with the invention of the Pinnacle range from watchmaker Nico Gerard.

The three piece collection claims to combine luxury Swiss craftmanship with the cutting edge of consumer technology, combining a traditional watchface with a 38mm Apple Watch designed to be worn on the inner wrist.

As you’d expect, such indisputable luxury does not come cheaply. Prices for the stainless steel Nico Gerard Pinnacle model start at $9,300 (£5,962), rising to $9,500 for the Skyview Pinnacle and $112,000 for the 18 karat gold Sunrise Pinnacle. Just placing a reservation to buy one of the watches costs between $200 and $500.

If you’re tempted to splash out, you may be disappointed to learn you’ll face a minimum wait of 6 months. Given that you’ll have to wait between 10 and 12 months for the cheapest model, it’s pretty likely the second generation of Apple Watch will either be planned for release or have made it into stores by some point in 2016.

The Sunrise Pinnacle model, complete with yellow gold Edition Apple Watch

The Apple Watch 2 is rumoured to boast a video camera for FaceTiming, inbuilt WiFi to free it from its paired iPhone and new premium-priced models.

There has been much speculation over the impact the Apple Watch will have on the traditional watch market. Shares in luxury watchmaker Movado, whose brands include Coach, Hugo Boss and Tommy Hilfiger, fell 2 per cent following the wearable’s unveiling in September last year. Fossil, the company behind Armani, DKNY and Diesel watches, saw its stock fall by almost 3 per cent.

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Gadget Ogling: Useful Smartwatches, Orbital Cameras, and an Un-Procrastinator

Bonjour and bienvenue to another edition of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that searches for the best of the week’s gadget announcements while most certainly not skipping out on language classes.

On our á la carte menu this week are a smartwatch for the blind, a virtual reality camera, a button to cancel distractions on your computer, and a pet-monitoring camera that dispenses treats.

Regular readers will know that these are not reviews. Nor should the ratings be read as anything other than an indicator of how much I’d like to actually test each — perhaps as yet another distraction from my French lessons.

Raising Points

Dot (pictured above) is a smartwatch that may have life-changing implications. Rather than trying to convey information through tiny text on a small screen, Dot intends to provide visually impaired wearers with notifications through Braille.

Four sets of the six dots that signify characters in the Braille system raise and lower as quickly as 100 times per second to denote four characters simultaneously, though users may opt to slow the watch down to a single character per second.

Wearers can set up Dot to receive notifications via Bluetooth from their smartphone, and the vibration system can alert them to incoming information.

It’s a wonderful idea, and a rare showcase of how the smartwatch concept can bring tangible impact to wearers’ lives beyond fashion accessorizing and fitness tracking. As someone who cannot read Braille, it would be futile for me to try out Dot myself — hence the low rating under the system that’s contorted me into a bind here. Rest assured, I am deeply enthusiastic over the potential of Dot.

Rating: 1 out of 5 Join the Dots

Global Viewing

Nokia has a new camera designed to help filmmakers create virtual-reality video.

Directors will be able to use OZO to view what the system sees in real time through their own headset, while the setup is capable of rendering low-resolution footage within a few minutes for fairly quick review.

With a release scheduled for the fourth quarter, OZO will give filmmakers a little time to come to grips with the system and start creating VR experiences before Oculus Rift — which is on the vanguard of the current virtual reality movement — is released early in 2016. That said, the target market is professionals rather than hobbyists, with a possible price tag in the mid-five figures.

We might actually have VR feature films sooner than later, though I can’t say I’m tempted to try out OZO. I have an interest in filmmaking, but I know with reasonable certainty I’d find a way to appear somewhere in-camera, surely causing me great anxiety. You can blame my clumsiness genes for that.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Spherical Sci-Fis

The Stop Button

I am naturally drawn to procrastination when working on my computer. There is an enormous expanse of movies, games, music and fascinating articles on the Internet begging to take my attention away from writing this here column. Saent could be the solution that combats my predilections.

It’s a Bluetooth button that disables apps and websites that could prove distracting for 30, 50 or 90 minutes at a time, with breaks in between. The idea, of course, is to force you to focus on what you’re actually supposed to be doing. Accompanying software aims to help track your productivity during Saent-powered sprints.

What sets this apart from similar tools is the option to add custom commands, so that a double tap, for instance, can open and close your email program, and gestures can open other apps.

I’m curious, and I’d like to try it out. At US$39 for one device, via its crowdfunding campaign, it seems a fair deal. However, I’m sure I’d end up setting up Saent to open Netflix with a double tap or Spotify with a gesture — so perhaps it would encourage my lackadaisical side even more. And it’s not like it can stop me from watching TV either.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Focused Lasers

Flinging Food

The Petzi Treat Cam looks like the most enjoyable thing imaginable for pet owners. Or, more accurately, the most enjoyable thing imaginable if I were a pet owner.

Through a smartphone app, you can watch and speak to your furred friends. It streams video, though doesn’t record it — but most excitingly, you can use it to shoot out dry food toward your cat or dog. You know, so you can build that bond with your pets when you’re not at home.

I’m not a pet owner, as I say, but I would greatly love to place this on my balcony and shoot food out at the neighborhood squirrels. I’ll try anything to keep them out of my third-floor garden.

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Consumers Fret Over Health Wearables Security

Collecting health and fitness data through wearable devices is raising concerns among consumers about the security of that information.

Twenty-five percent of more than 3,500 consumers who participated in a recent survey did not believe their personal health data was safe on fitness trackers or in health-tracking apps, reported Healthline.

Considering the recent headlines about health info data breaches, such as those at Anthem and the UCLA Medical School, that percentage may be a bit surprising.

“What is remarkable here is the numbers are as low as they are,” said Derek Gordon, general manager of healthcare IT at Healthline. “I would have expected the numbers to be higher.”

On the other hand, the findings may show increased know-how among consumers about the actual threat to their data.

“There are savvy consumers that understand that the health data on their local device is probably pretty secure from hackers,” Gordon told TechNewsWorld. “Once their data leaves their device and goes to the cloud, there’s a greater concern about security.”

Misplaced Worries

Nearly half of wearable and mobile health app users surveyed — 45 percent — were concerned that hackers might try to steal their personal health data from their wearables.

That worry may be misplaced, maintained Ian Fogg, mobile and telecommunications team leader at IHS.

“Ironically, smartphones collect considerably more data than today’s wearables, because they have many more sensors, as well as rich applications which consumers use for all kinds of entertainment, communications and productivity purposes,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Consumers often fear the new,” Fogg added, “which today are wearable devices. Sometimes the areas which consumers fear the most are not always the ones which are the greatest threat.”

However, consumers definitely have something to be concerned about when it comes to health wearables data security, according to Dan Lyon, a senior security consultant atCigital.

“A third of these medical mobile apps don’t use encryption, so its data is available to anyone who can access it,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Moreover, “a third of these mobile medical apps actively share data, so not only are hackers a concern, but the companies making the apps have an incentive to share the data to make a profit,” Lyon added.

Attractive Target

At the very least, companies that gather data from wearable health and fitness devices should anonymize it before sharing it, advised Lyon.

“What these companies should be doing,” he said, “is when they aggregate this data, they should ensure that you can’t identify a person from it.”

That can minimize the harm to consumers if data is compromised in a breach.

“If there’s no way to tie this data back to you, your concern of risk should be low,” said Lee Kim, director of privacy and security technology solutions at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, told TechNewsWorld.

Healthcare information of any kind is an attractive target for hackers, noted Bob Hansmann, director of product security at Raytheon|Websense.

“Formal healthcare records hold a treasure trove of data that is valuable to an attacker. No other single type of record contains as much valuable [personal identifying information] that can be used in a multitude of different follow-up attacks and fraud,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Much of this same information is collected from the wearable devices that millions of users wear,” Hansmann added. “It is absolutely necessary that users check the settings of these devices to ensure that they are only collecting or have access to data that is necessary for the specific intent of the device.”

What should wearable health and fitness device and app makers take away from the Healthline survey?

“Anyone keeping personal health information in the cloud has to assure consumers that in the inevitable event that something gets hacked, security will be restored quickly,” Healthline’s Gordon said. “They want to be assured that the damage to them will be minimized to the greatest degree possible.”

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Forget Doom — now modders are moving Half-Life to smartwatches

For years, the ability to run Doom on various devices has been a hallmark of a system’s flexibility. We’ve seen the FPS pop up on everything from calculators to copiers, but with embedded devices becoming ever-more powerful, the ability to run code nearly 25 years old has become old hat. It’s time for a new standard (though the ability to run Doom within Doom is a fairly nifty recent achievement), Now, modder Dave Bennet has beaten the Doom-level achievement by getting Valve’s original Half-Life up and running on an LG G Watch.

The LG G Watch runs on a Qualcomm MSM8226 with an Adreno 305 GPU. The original Half-Life isn’t multi-threaded in any fashion, so the game is running effectively on a single-core Cortex-A7 CPU and a DX9-class GPU. Then again, that’s a much higher clock speed than when the game shipped, while the feature set on Adreno 305 is higher than what Half-Life supported at release. As you might expect, this is entirely a proof-of-concept — it’s almost impossible to actually play Half-Life on a 1.65-inch screen, even if the game is running in a touch-responsive wrapper.

HL-1

This hack is made possible by the SDLash application, which emulates the GoldSource engine. GoldSource is the original Half-Life engine and dates back to the original Quake (albeit in a heavily modified form). The usefulness of such a hack is questionable, since few people are going to try to play a game on a smartwatch; the heat and power requirements would likely drain the battery and burn your wrist at the same time. The frame rate also chugs in places, from a high of 46 FPS to as low as 2 FPS depending on what’s going on in-game. There are multiple potential causes for the instability, from emulator issues to throttling of the smartwatch itself, to underpowered hardware.

Then again, the point is that this is frickin’ Half-Life running on a device that fits on your wrist. Give wearables another few tech generations, and the devices that debut on 14nm or 10nm technology in the future could probably run the game, no problem. Then again, this assumes you’d ever actually want to — controlling Gordon Freeman on a 1.65-inch screen doesn’t sound like actual fun.

Still, as a gamer who was thrilled by the original Half-Life on my K6-233 and 8MB Voodoo 2, seeing it running on a device you wear is pretty incredible, even if it makes me feel about 80 years old.

One unrelated note. If you loved Half-Life, you really ought to check out the Black Mesa recreation. While it doesn’t include the Zen levels yet, it’s an amazing fan recreation of the Black Mesa sections of Half-Life, with a full-on conversion for the most updated version of Source, rather than the light improvements Valve included with their own Half-Life: Source.

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Smartwatches open to cyberattack says HP

The best-selling smartwatches on the market all have security problems, according to US tech giant Hewlett-Packard.

The company tested 10 wearables for security features, such as password protection and data encryption.

It found all the watches had at least one area of concern.

One security expert said manufacturers needed to pay closer attention to customer security.

“Keeping up with other manufacturers to be a forerunner in this technology field may force products to be released without the necessary attention to how secure they actually are,” said Mark James, security specialist at online security firm ESET.

HP said it had tested 10 of the “top” smartwatches for security features recommended by the Open Web Application Security Project, which aims to set standards for internet connected devices.

It found that:

  • Only half the watches had a lock function to prevent people other than the owner accessing data stored on it
  • Nine of the watches sent some data unencrypted, which could be intercepted
  • A third of the smartwatches allowed unlimited login attempts, which could help attackers guess passwords
  • Two of the devices could be easily paired with a different phone if stolen

“The results of our research were disappointing, but not surprising,” HP said in its report.

‘Potential risks’

Daniel Miessler, who led the research, told the BBC: “It’s a chicken-and-egg situation. You need enough customer interest in security for the manufacturers to change and invest.”

HP said it would not reveal which watches it had tested, but was working with manufacturers to “build security into their products before they put them out to market”.

The BBC understands watches by Apple, Pebble, Samsung and Sony were included in the study.

“It appears that manufacturers of these devices (including market leaders) have not seriously considered or addressed the privacy implications of wearing their products,” said security firm Symantec in its blog.

The firm’s security strategist, Sian John, said customers should take steps to protect their data.

“With more and more consumers adopting wearable tech devices, they need to be aware of the potential risks to security and privacy,” she said.

“There are a few basic security precautions to help guard against the risk of exposing personal information.

“Use a screen lock or password to prevent unauthorised access to your device, do not reuse the same user name and password between different sites and use full device encryption if available.”

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