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Global Travel Industry News: Virgin Atlantic first in world to use wearable technology to serve passengers

Virgin Atlantic passengers will be the first air travelers to experience the benefits of pioneering Google Glass and Sony Smartwatch technology as they arrive at London Heathrow airport, in an innovative pilot scheme which starts today. Concierge staff in the airline’s Upper Class Wing will be using wearable technology to deliver the industry’s most high tech and personalized customer service yet.

Virgin Atlantic first in world to use  wearable technology to serve passengers

The cutting-edge technology is being introduced asVirgin Atlantic publishes the results of a major study of 10,000 airline passengers from across the world on the future of air travel. The results show that as the number of people travelling by plane has sky-rocketed in recent decades, the experience has lessened. Virgin Atlantic is joining with passengers and calling on the industry to introduce more innovations and radical fresh thinking to meet sky-high consumer expectations.

Virgin Atlantic, in collaboration with air transport IT specialist SITA, is the first in the industry to test how the latest wearable technology, including Google Glass, can best be used to enhance customers’ travel experiences and improve efficiency. From the minute Upper Class passengers step out of their chauffeured limousine at Heathrow’s T3 and are greeted by name, Virgin Atlantic staff wearing the technology will start the check-in process. At the same time, staff will be able to update passengers on their latest flight information, weather and local events at their destination and translate any foreign language information. In future, the technology could also tell Virgin Atlantic staff their passengers’ dietary and refreshment preferences – anything that provides a better and more personalized service. During the six-week pilot, the benefits to consumers and the business will be evaluated ahead of a potential wider roll-out in the future.

Virgin Atlantic’s new solution replaces an existing process for serving passengers traveling in the Upper Class Wing, the airline’s premium entrance at Heathrow dedicated to Upper Class passengers. Airline staff are equipped with either Google Glass or a Sony SmartWatch 2, which is integrated to both a purpose-built dispatch app built by SITA and the Virgin Atlantic passenger service system. The dispatch app manages all task allocation and concierge availability. It pushes individual passenger information directly to the assigned concierge’s smart glasses or watch just as the passenger arrives at the Upper Class Wing.

Dave Bulman, Director of IT, Virgin Atlantic, said: “While it’s fantastic that more people can now fly than ever before, the fact that air travel has become so accessible has led to some of the sheen being lost for many passengers. Our wearable technology pilot with SITA makes us the first in the industry to test how Google Glass and other wearable technology can improve the customer experience. We are upholding Virgin Atlantic’s long tradition of shaking things up and putting innovation at the heart of the flying experience.”

Jim Peters, Chief Technology Officer, SITA said: “2014 is shaping up to be the breakout year for wearable technology, and Virgin Atlantic is the first to bring its vision to reality. At SITA Lab, we’ve taken the lead in testing and trialing this new technology for the air transport industry, and it’s been fantastic to work with Virgin Atlantic to launch the industry’s first wearable technology application.”

Virgin Atlantic continues to push the boundaries with other technological advancements with SITA, including testing iBeacon with its Upper Class passengers at Heathrow, a new low-powered Bluetooth transmitter that can notify nearby iOS Apple devices of nearby services, discounts and updates on their flight boarding schedules. In addition, Virgin Atlantic’s newly enhanced mobile site means passengers will be able to book flights, check in online and check their flight status on the move, while also having access to the vast range of information on the main website, including destination and airport guides as well as details of baggage allowances and much more.

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CBSNEWS: Wearable tech highlighted at CES 2014

Gizmos and gadgets are making their way onto our bodies. The rise of wearable technology is taking International CES by storm. CNET’s Sumi Das takes us inside the Las Vegas tech show and highlights some of the hottest new wearable devices.

A baby monitor that’s a connected onto a onesie is drawing attention at CES. The Mimo monitor connects via Wi-Fi to report the data on how a baby is sleeping. The device tracks breathing, temperature and position and lets parents analyze the data through their smartphones.

A baby monitor that’s a connected onto a onesie is drawing attention at CES. The Mimo monitor connects via Wi-Fi to report the data on how a baby is sleeping. The device tracks breathing, temperature and position and lets parents analyze the data through their smartphones.

Casio joins Samsung and Pebble in the smartwatch market with the introduction of Sports Gear. The watch can act as a fitness tracker, control music and tell the time, of course. It will also ping your phone if you misplace it.

Razer’s Nabu is a smartband, similar to Nike’s Fuelband and Jawbone’s Up. The health tracker reports calories burned, steps taken and hours slept, among other things.  It also sends call notifications and can connect to other users, adding contacts to Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.

Intel unveiled a headset nicknamed “Jarvis” that is supposed to be like a personal assistant. The company says the device works with a smartphone app without even touching it.

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CIO: Is Google Glass a Gimmick or an IT Revolution?

Mobile device management (MDM) specialist Fiberlink is one of them. The company sees myriad use cases for hands-free, wearable computing, and is in the process of adding Google Glass to its portfolio of supported devices. Coinciding with this year’s Google I/O, the company announced that its MaaS360 platform supports the capability to use Glass to monitor a mobile IT environment and perform actions like locating a lost device, remotely locking or unlocking it, even perform selective or full wipes of data.

[Slideshow: 15 Cool Apps for Google Glass ]

“One of the very first reasons we are jumping into the Google Glass area is that our customers rely on us to manage all devices,” says Jim Szafranski, senior vice president of Customer Platform Services at Fiberlink. “We’ve always been the leader in being first and fastest in this area of mobility.”

But there’s more to Fiberlink’s decision to support Glass than being a completist in its offerings, Szafranski says. He sees Glass, or similar forms of wearable computing, as playing an increasing role in the enterprise in time.

“Even though we’re in the beginning days, we’ve got a lot of field applications that our customers are interested in,” he says. “Right now, we’ve got guys climbing telephone poles holding tablets.”

Google Glass

Thumbs Up on Hands-Free IT

It’s easy to imagine scenarios where hands-free computing could revolutionize certain vertical industries, Szafranski adds. For instance, in healthcare doctors and nurses could use the technology to access information about patients while traveling from one to the other, or to scan a prescription to pull up all relevant information about a drug and its interactions. In warehouses, Glass could replace scanner guns and provide the ability to locate stock simply by glancing around the warehouse. Public sector workers like police officers and fire fighters could also benefit from hands-free computing.

The case for hands-free computing isn’t quite so clear in Fiberlink’s first foray into supporting Glass: It’s an IT administration app that allows users to monitor a mobile IT environment and take actions like locking, unlocking, locating or remote wiping managed devices using Glass’s voice commands or hand gestures.

“This is the first step,” Szafranski says. “For us, this was basically the first step in helping businesses realize the potential of wearable computing.”

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Chip Design: Wearable Technology Steps Up a Gear

Initial momentum in fitness and wellness may be surpassed by growth in the infotainment market. But challenges lie ahead.

Wearable technology can be divided into three groups – fitness and wellness, infotainment, and healthcare and medical (used by professionals, these wearable devices need legislation and approval, making them a separate category). Caroline Hayes looks at the growth, challenges and prospects of wearable technology.

The fitness and wellness market has seen initial momentum, with activity monitors like Nike FuelBand and Fitbit trackers. However, the infotainment market is now one of high interest and growth, with smart watches and GoogleGlass projects. This type of wearable technology can be used for augmented reality and gaming as well as providing a second screen to a smartphone, and making the smartphone even more ubiquitous than it is already. David Maidment, mobile segment marketing manager, ARM believes that the ability to integrate multiple functionality into a single platform is the key to its appeal, adding: “We are used to technology on our wrist,” he reasons, “so the consumer is already familiar with the [smartwatch] idea”.

Challenges

The first innovation was the fitness band, which ‘hit its stride’ in 2012-2013. The nature of the wristband means that the semiconductors used have to be a very small form factor. In addition, the battery has to last a long time on a single charge. The wearable technology in this category is paired with a smartphone and with cloud services. When a wearable device is paired and tethered to a smartphone, the phone acts like a personal hub, providing access to cloud services, for example websites where personal charts and tables are stored for review. The need for low power connectivity, means that  Bluetooth Smart is used.

The ability to take disparate sensors, add algorithms that aggregate and make sense of the collected data adds functionality

In addition to ultra low power, low power connectivity, Maidment identifies a third criteria – connectivity of MEMS sensors. Wearable technology is about monitoring the data from the sensor, he says. This means that the device has to be always-on. Using Sensor Fusion, or Sensor Hub, the ARM® Cortex®-M processor in these devices will monitor the data and choose when to push the refined data to the cloud. This is important for wearable technology, as every bit of data sent costs power.

Sensor Fusion

For Maidment, the game-changer is Sensor Fusion, or Sensor Hub technology. The ability to take disparate sensors, add algorithms that aggregate and make sense of the collected data adds functionality but also exploits the low power performance of ARM 32bit architecture, he says. This provides more sophisticated data that is sent to the cloud following monitoring and analysis from various sources. “Sensor Fusion, smart aggregation and always-on power are at the heart of wearable technology”, he says, whether it is via the Nike Fuelband to log in to the cloud to review the day’s exercise data, or whether, in the future, it will be to log in to check blood glucose data following a blow-out and eating that forbidden burger.

Software

Sensor Fusion underpins everything, according to Maidment, as an always-on core is always needed. Another essential factor is contextual awareness. With gesture control, the flick of a wrist can accept a call or display a message. Sensor Fusion allows the watch to be always monitoring and waiting for the wearer to do something to which it can react.

Sensor Fusion is also the basis for Siri-style voice recognition. A microphone is a sensor after all, and so the microprocessor has to be left permanently on to detect voice commands and background noise for contextural awareness.

ARM and its partners are working together to develop this Sensor Hub (or Sensor Fusion). In the near future, he says the level of interpretation will allow the smartwatch to sense when the wearer is holding a steering wheel and driving a car, by the angle of the wrist and the background (i.e. engine) noise. This is why, he says the 32bit architecture is used over 8- and 16bit ones, says Maidment, referring to its power performance.

Analog Device’s Tony Zarola, strategic marketing manager, healthcare, agrees that power consumption is a significant hurdle in wearable technology design. “The main challenge is to meet the power consumption target that makes the end device useable for more than a few minutes, whilst maintaining the level of performance to make the device useful from a measurement perspective.” He quotes the example of a device that measures heart rate unreliably in order to conserve energy is of no use and, equally, unstable in a practical sense, he says is the example of a heart rate monitor that only operate continuously for an hour or so.

Time for smartwatches

The smartwatch market is still in the early stages, with the Pebble smartwatch using STMicroelectronics’ STM32 F2 microcontroller, with an ARM Cortex-M3 core. It also has the STMicroelectronics LIS3DH MEMS digital-output motion sensor (see Figure). The total wearable technology market will be $20billion by 2017, according to Future Source, as designs integrate the Internet of Things and connectivity of smart devices. Data on specific wearable devices is not available, but Maidment estimates that there were around 200,000 smart watches sold in 2013. ARM has over 60 design in progress or in the market today. This figure is expected to “explode” this year, through ARM partners.

Innovation is king, in the early stages of a technology, he says. Adapting and evolving the same sensors used in fitness bands, and the same low power, black and white displays for smartwatches.

Everyone agrees low power operation is vital. Wearable devices are expected to last a week on a single charge, while acting as both an activity monitor and a second screen for a smartphone, as alerts and SMS messages are pushed to the watch. All of this has to be in a small, unobtrusive form factor and the software has to be equally unobtrusive, hence the small, micro-kernel ARM Cortex-M3, says Maidment.

Some smartwatches connect to the cellular network, making them more of a mini smartphone (for example, the Omate TrueSmart, which runs on Android and is billed as a standalone smartwatch, working independently from a smartphone). Samsung has also recently introduced the Galaxy Gear, Android-based smart watch. Connecting directly to the cellular network untethers the watch from the smartphone, says Maidment, and allows data to be pushed directly to the cloud and cloud services.

The smartwatch as a smartphone on a wrist has its own limitations. A color display and/or touchscreen, for example, means that battery life is only one to two days. The ultimate goal, says Maidment, is to optimise the power; running always-on Sensor Fusion and increasing the complexity of software in a low power, footprint.

There are opportunities to bring the two modes of smart watch together, he says, with ARM-like power efficiencies, clever system level design, power gating and clock management.

For Zarola, as well as connectivity and power, it is the format of wearable technology that needs to be addressed. It demands a small footprint. This, he believes, can, to some extent, be addressed through novel packaging techniques.

All of the enabling technology for always-on, connected, wearable technologies, across all three groups is available now. Many believe that this year is the top of the curve for wearable technology and that innovation will continue to a thrive, as consumers demand more connectivity, more analysis and monitoring of data, more access to the cloud in a small, discreet form factor.

CSPnet.com: Wearable Technology & Other Predictions

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. —The trends in mobile continue to branch out in unexpected ways, as a recently released study says wearable technology–everything from smart glasses to watches–will sell about 10 million units in 2014, generating $3 billion.

New York City-based technology communications and research firm Deloitte predicted the wearable trend and another movement possibly affecting convenience stores, that of a continued growth in more robust mobile technology for the in-field workforce. These and other notable trends were reported in its Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) Predictions 2014 report released this month. Both trends may impact the c-store channel both in the store and for both operational and supply chain purposes.

“Our predictions for 2014 touch on a wide variety of topics, but there is some commonality among them. This can be seen specifically with mobile devices including tablets, wearables, phablets and also rugged devices,” said Eric Openshaw, vice chairman of Deloitte LLP. “These newer technologies allow enterprises and consumers to become more connected, while opening a wealth of new business and communication opportunities. Enterprises that can capitalize on these new market segments will be well positioned for success in 2014 and beyond.”

The most significant TMT predictions to impact the marketplace in 2014:

  • Wearables: The eyes have it. Smart glasses, fitness bands and watches, should sell about 10 million units in 2014, generating $3 billion. Of these wearable computer form factors, smart glasses should generate most revenues, from sales of about four million units at an average selling price (ASP) of $500. Smart fitness bands should sell four million units, at an ASP of $140; smart watches should sell about two million units at an ASP of $200.
  • The Converged Living Room: A plateau approaches. Global sales of smartphones, tablets, PCs, TV sets and videogame consoles will exceed $750 billion in 2014, up $50 billion from 2013 and almost double the 2010 total; however, a plateau appears likely: sales are expected to continue growing, but at a slower rate than over the past 10 years, with an estimated ceiling of about $800 billion per year.
  • Massive Open Online Courses: the future is bright. Student registrations in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) will be double compared to 2012 to more than 10 million courses, but the low completion rates mean that less than 0.2% of all courses completed in 2014 will be MOOCs. The growing awareness of online education will force educational institutions to increase investment in this area, drive more acceptance of online education as it becomes accredited and increase adoption by corporate training groups.
  • eVisits: The 21st century housecall. There will be 100 million “eVisits” globally, potentially saving more than $5 billion when compared to the cost of in-person doctor visits and representing growth of 400 percent from 2012 levels.
  • Television measurement: For better and worse. Measurement of the viewing of domestic television programs is increasingly reflecting the growth of online viewing thanks to the introduction of hybrid measurement, which enables the inclusion of viewing taking place on PCs, tablets and smartphones into overall viewing numbers, and also includes other data sets, such as set-top box channel selections and video-on-demand server logs.
  • “Phablets” are not a Phad, but they may be peaking. Shipments of phablets, smartphones with 5.0-inch to 6.9-inch screens, will represent a quarter of smartphones sold, or 300 million units. That is double the 2013 volume, and 10 times 2012 sales. But after initial rapid consumer success, 2014 may mark a ‘peak phablet’ year, as only a (sizeable) minority of smartphones users will want to handle such a large device.
  • The smartphone generation gap closing. Those over 55 years of age will be the age group experiencing the fastest year-on-year rises in smartphone penetration across developed markets. Ownership should rise between 45% to 50% by year-end, lower than the approximately 70% penetration rate for 18-to-54-year olds, but a 25% increase from 2013.
  • Rugged devices at $250: Reinventing the business case for mobile field force. The entry price for a ruggedized, connected data device that can be used by some field force workers, as well as to undertake tasks such as car rental check-in inspections, inspecting highways or delivering packages, will fall to $250.

Click here for full details about the Global TMT Predictions.

Deloitte’s technology, media and telecommunications practice serves more than 1,400 clients in the United States, including market category leaders across all sector segments. Deloitte practitioners, many with direct industry experience, deliver a breadth of services including professional audit, consulting, enterprise risk management, financial advisory and tax. The practice is also home to the Deloitte Center for the Edge, which conducts original research and develops substantive points of view for new corporate growth. The Silicon Valley-based Center helps senior executives make sense of and profit from emerging opportunities on the edge of business and technology.

Silicon Angle: The ‘connected home’ is streets ahead of wearable tech

Few trends are hotter than wearable technology at the moment, which takes the form of all manner of weird and wonderful gizmos, the most common being sleek-looking smart watches and groovy-but-geeky Google Glass.

With wearable tech seemingly on every blogger’s lips these days, you’d be mistaken for thinking that 2014 is the year it all goes mainstream – the year when people whisper in hushed tones to their wristwatches whilst making unusual hand gestures in front of faces becomes commonplace.

But while that might seem like the case, it’s almost certainly not going to happen in the next 12 months. For sure, wearable tech is on the up and up, and lots of us are going to start experimenting with the latest new wearable gadgets. But don’t think that wearables are anywhere close to hitting the mainstream just yet – after all, it took several years even for smartphones to catch on with the masses.

In all fairness, it usually takes around two to three years for any kind of technology trend to really catch on – far slower than the mass media says it will. Which is why the smart money is on the connected home finally reaching the tipping point, becoming a real consumer trend way faster than anything we can slap on our wrists or our heads.

All the evidence suggests that it already is. Just last week, Google splashed out a not-insignificant $3.2 billion Nest, maker of the smart thermostat and smoke detector, while British Gas is going all-out in my native UK with its Hive ‘active heating’ advertisements splashed all over the TV. We’re also seeing a rise in security breaches too – a tell-tale sign that a technology is catching on if ever there was one – with reports of smart fridges and other home appliances being targeted by hackers and used to send email spam.

What this all means is that the connected home is set to become one of the most important sources of Big Data, even more so that Google has its fingers in the pie. While consumers will benefit from being able to automate their home environment, and perhaps even save some money too, the end game for companies like Google has nothing to do with making our lives more convenient. More important to Google is the data that Nest’s and other devices will generate. Okay, so Nest data is only used to “improve its products” at this moment in time, but you can bet your connected house that things won’t stay that way.

Any time now we can expect to see changes in Nest’s privacy policy regarding what it does with the data it collects from your home, the net result being that Google and others will be able to use that information to deliver highly targeted advertising. Expect to see such things as different tariffs being offered to suit your energy usage, among other things. Likely, utility companies and advertises will also want a piece of your data, so they can better predict energy demand and focus their geographic and demographic targeting.

In the wake of Google’s Nest acquisition last week, I pointed out that it’ll help to speed up the so-called “smart grid”, but it’ll only happen at the cost of your privacy, and that’s going to worry a lot of people. Right now there are several signs that the connected home is all set to become mainstream, and with privacy concerns already high on our agenda in the wake of the NSA’s spying revelations, 2014 could be the year that things come to a head.