Updates (Tesla), Happenings (Amazon), Taxes (Netflix), and TVs (Apple) – A Survey of Tech Things I Care About

Astute readers of the New Edge may assume that this column is the product of a lack of imagination or an unwillingness to come up with a new, original topic. You are partially correct. The other explanation for this “What’s Happening?” (what’s happening in the sense of this being an update, not the underrated 1970’s TV show) is that I tend to follow all of the topics from previous New Edge posts and found some of the updates and happenings discussed below fascinating and thought that you may agree. Hopefully it doesn’t feel too much like a Rerun.

Amazon is going to open a brick-and-mortar store. Seriously. Think back now to my previous ruminations on how Amazon is destroying the brick-and-mortar bookstore, one of my favorite institutions that is slowing dying. Now, Amazon is planning a brick-and-mortar store of its own. It will be in New York’s Herald Square next to the famous Macy’s of Thanksgiving Day parade legend and will accept returns and probably show off the Kindle and the Fire.

This article here actually has some great data and explanations for why Amazon would do this. In short, most purchases are still made in brick-and-mortar retail stores and so there is money to be made. Bezos is no dummy. Read more

Laws That Protect Online Reviewers

Like a large number of consumers, I use online product reviews when making any major purchase – indeed they are a critical part of deciding on a contractor/plumber/etc. to perform a service/repair in my home. A study from 2013 found that 79% of consumers in the United States and Canada trust online reviews more than a personal recommendation. One interesting finding of the study was that the trust level has caused people to make buying decisions based on smaller numbers of reviews read, meaning that it takes only a few bad reviews to turn a consumer away from a business or a product.

What that adds up to is businesses taking online review much more seriously. This story highlights one man’s fight with a clothing store that allegedly gave his book bad reviews as revenge for a bad review he gave after receiving poor service. Read more

Average U.S. Broadband Speed Increases, Even as World Ranking Lags

According to a new study released by cloud services provider Akamai, the average broadband speed in the U.S. was 11.4 Mbps in the second quarter of 2014. This represents an increase of 8.9% from 1Q 2014, and a 39% increase from the same quarter a year ago.

However, despite the growth in average speed, the U.S. was unable to reclaim a spot in the world top 10. According to Akamai, the U.S. dropped out of the top 10 for the first time ever in the first quarter of 2014, and remained outside the top 10 in the second quarter.

The eastern U.S. led the way in average broadband speeds, with seven states in the top 10. At 16.2 Mbps, Delaware led all states. The other eastern states in the top 10 were Virginia, D.C., Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Three western states made the top 10: Washington, Utah and Oregon. All of the top 10 states had average speeds in excess of 12.8 Mbps.

Akamai further sought to classify customer readiness for ultra-high definition video, commonly known as 4K. In order to be considered 4K-ready, customers need an average connection speed of at least 15 Mbps. Nationwide, Akamai found that 19% of all consumers were 4K-ready. Again, Delaware was first, with 35% of customers at or above 15 Mbps, followed by Massachusetts, New Hampshire, D.C., New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, Rhode Island, Virginia and Oregon, all exceeding 23% of customers at or above 4K-ready speed.

BroadbandVision Show Announces Impact Award Winners

The BroadbandVision show, produced by NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association ITTA, and Telecompetitor, announced the winners of the BroadbandVision Impact Awards during the event, held in Las Vegas, Nevada October 1–3. The Impact Awards honored companies that are developing new services, technologies or applications that will change the way telcos, cable providers, wireless Internet companies, utilities and municipalities are able to deliver broadband services.

The winner of the BroadbandVision Impact Service Provider of the Year Award was GVTC, located just north of San Antonio, Texas. GVTC is set to become the first rural telecommunications provider in Texas to power more than 2,200 miles of fiber optic cable with gigabit Internet service. The communications company is forming a unique partnership with the cities of Boerne, Bulverde and Gonzales, trademarked as the GVTC GigaRegion, to drive economic development throughout GVTC’s service area.

ANPI’s VIP hosted communications product was named the BroadbandVision Cloud Services Impact Product of the Year. The service features a Customer Administration Portal that businesses can use to monitor and control every aspect of their telephone system. One user can be designated to manage the main phone system, while all other users can manage their individual features to meet their needs.

The Broadband Vision Impact Product of the Year Award was presented to xG Technology’s CN3200 Dual Band Routing Modem. The wireless device operates in both the 900 MHz and 2.4 GHz spectrum bands, delivering 20 Mbps of throughput up to five miles away when based on a 100 foot tower. The dual frequencies allows the modem to switch seamlessly between radio links based on optimum throughput if either becomes inoperative, according to xG Technology.

Interviews with award winners and additional coverage from BroadbandVision can be seen on the event’s YouTube channel.

A Perfectly Cromulent October: FCC Fines Hotel $600,000

IMG_20141006_165720By the time this goes to print (if we can still use that phrase in today’s age of all-digital-publishing), I will know whether I can look forward to tomorrow with October hope in my heart (planted by a Nationals win), or whether I will be resigned to waiting for the outcome of the National League Championship Series to know for whom I will root in the World Series. Despite the fact that I live barely 45 minutes beneath Baltimore . . . well, I suppose that if the Orioles win American League pennant, I might be split in my National League/locally-owned and operated loyalties. It is October, and anything can happen. Read more

Pardon Me…..Is This WiFi Decaf?

We Americans love our coffee, and we love our connectivity. And more than ever, we love both, combined.

Mobile network management company wefi examined the WiFi service provided in U.S. coffee shops. The winner in terms of fastest download speed was Dunkin’ Donuts, at 6.09 Mbps. They were followed by Starbucks (4.11 Mbps), Tully’s Coffee (3.14 Mbps) and Panera Bread (2.23 Mbps.)

Starbucks boasted the highest average effective throughput (.18 Mbps), followed by Tully’s (.15 Mbps) and Dunkin’ Donuts (.13 Mbps.) The highest total data consumption per device occurred at Tully’s, at 27.75 MB. Starbucks customers averaged 24.26 MB, and Dunkin’ Donuts 12.35 MB. (Mmmmm….donuts.)

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter drive the most coffee shop data consumption, but customers spend more time on GoogleChrome (just over 18 minutes per coffee shop visit) than Facebook (16.8 minutes) or YouTube (14.8 minutes.)

The National Coffee Association has recently estimated that 61% of Americans drink coffee on a daily basis. According to a recent Broadcom study, however, thirty-nine percent would rather go without their coffee than give up WiFi.

“Coffee, and by extension, coffee shops are increasingly seen as an indispensable part of Americans’ morning ritual,” said wefi chairman and CEO Zur Feldman. “With many franchisees looking to provide additional services and grow their businesses, the availability of a fast, reliable WiFi offering has become an important consideration.”

An Update on Driverless Cars and Drones, and Autonomous “Swarmboats” For the U.S. Navy

In my continuing obsession with “driverless” cars, I’ve been following the technology as it progresses. Google gets most of the attention when it comes to driverless cars, but as this article notes, automobile manufacturers are starting to get in on the action. Indeed, a number of cars already have “pre-collision” warning systems that warn drivers of imminent collisions and apply the brakes if the driver fails to do so quickly enough. In addition to those basic features, General Motors recently announced plans to introduce an autonomous highway driving feature for Cadillacs in the next two years. Other manufacturers have made similar announcements.

In terms of the “connected car” – one connected to the Internet for all sorts of purposes such as finding parking, streaming music, and for running and updating anti-collision sensors – this technology promises to be a serious revenue stream for carmakers. A recent McKinsey & Company study predicted that this technology will produce about $230 billion in revenue per year within the next decade. So, I can imagine we will see all sorts of new connected car features over the next few years. Read more

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