California Law is Requiring Smart Phones to Have Anti-theft Features

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On Monday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill requiring anti-theft features to be built into new phones and automatically turned on. People who have their phones stolen would be able to remotely lock them and erase their data, making the devices worthless targets.

The law, which goes into effect in July of next year, is a big victory for anti-crime advocates who had complained that smartphone makers like Apple didn’t do enough to help their customers fend off theft. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, had publicly criticized the industry for failing to strengthen security after phone theft became epidemic in San Francisco.

California is the first state to require the technology to be turned on by default. Earlier this year, Minnesota passed a law requiring phone kill switches, but the language did not say that the technology must be automatically enabled. Only when thieves are convinced that stolen phones have no value will they stop swiping them from people walking down the street or on the bus.

The initial kill switch bill, introduced in April by Sen. Mark Leno, of San Francisco, failed to pass in its initial vote. Only after being reintroduced later did it finally pass.

The new law only covers smartphones, and not tablets or laptop computers. Retailers will face a fine of $500 to $2,500 for selling phones without the required technology.

Before the bill signing, major phone manufacturers like Apple, Google and Samsung along with major carriers had opposed legislation by saying it would hurt consumers and potentially open a new avenue for hackers. Instead, they committed to a voluntary program to include technology that would let customers wipe data from stolen phones and disable them. But the companies were under no legal requirement to carry out the program.

Apple, for example, introduced an initiative last year that let users protect their devices through the iOS 7 iCloud Activation Lock feature. During its first six months, thefts of iPhones fells by 38% in San Francisco. Meanwhile, theft of Samsung devices, which had no similar anti-theft technology, rose 12% during that period.

Changing the Way We Sleep

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Sleep is pretty important to most of us, and getting a good night’s sleep can be difficult for some. There are a slew of sleep-aids out there, but a recently successful Kickstarter campaign ($100,000 goal, so far over $300,000 has been raised) has pushed a company named “Hello” to create the module called Sense.

The Sense Sleep Tracker system consists of three parts; the sense module, the sense pill, and the app. The Sense module looks like a trendy rubber band ball, but it monitors things while you snooze along with the sleep pill. It’s a pill by name only, as it clips onto your pillow and tracks how much you toss and turn with a 6-axis accelerometer and gyroscope

What makes Sense interesting, though, is what else it takes into account. By tracking noise, light, temperature, humidity, and even air condition, it figures out a “Sleep Score” based on the potential for rest and how much you actually managed to get. Events such as car alarms sounding outside, or dogs barking are figured into the calculation as well.

The Sense module can record any rumblings it hears, but will also keep an eye on light levels, temperature and other disturbances near the bedside. Just want to relax? That funky module can put out white noise or other soothing sounds to put you to sleep and then wake you up at the perfect time with its Smart Alarm, which wakes you when you are out of your deepest sleep cycle.

The first units are scheduled to roll out in November.

The Internet of Now

Those of us old enough to remember the first desktop computers have watched the Internet emerge as perhaps the defining technology of this generation, the one thing that mankind has invented to date which far exceeds the ability of any one person to understand or encompass. It has put large parts of the recorded wisdom of the ages at the disposal of us all, it allows us to keep up with our high school classmates and watch adorable kittens problem solve on demand. To date it has reordered communication, research, education and entertainment to name but a few.

However it’s not done yet. There are two emerging trends which overlap and complement each other which will further disrupt and perhaps enrich our lives. As an example let me take you through an hour or so of last Saturday evening: I arrived back from a business trip on a United flight from New Orleans to San Diego. On the last leg connecting through Denver the gate was changed on me three times, prompting much confusion and several weary exoduses by other hopeful travelers through the vast airport. On the flight I had a snack and a glass of wine. The stewardess didn’t know what snacks she had on the cart, it took two attempts to run my new debit card. After fumbling through a menu and the cart I eventually paid for the culinary delight and continued to watch the movie which I had previously downloaded to my iPad. I hadn’t checked luggage but if I had I would have been searching the displays and baggage belt for my bag…which looks exactly like every other bag on the plane.  When I arrived at the airport I fished the parking card out of my wallet and paid with my Amex at the barrier. All the way home my radar detector beeped and burped at every potential cop (an essential addition to life in SoCal) as my Wayze ap gave feedback from fellow travelers on 15 north.

What’s impressive to a relatively old coot like myself is how well much of that stuff worked. I was able to pay for everything electronically, I could download the movie (albeit at home as the WiFi in the terminal or on the plane is lamentably slow). I did check in on line, I did download the movie, I didn’t get a speeding ticket.  What is also striking is how much better most of that could have been.  The next big online waves are visible on the horizon and headed our way.

As the internet of things crystallizes most of our personal and domestic technology will get connected to the Internet. That will likely mean that I’d be alerted to those gate changes as they happened, see what’s available on the cart and pay for it perhaps by just putting my finger on the payment pad, my car will know I’m down and might be warming the engine up while I wait for the bag which I can clearly see is only moments away. I would then drive out (no need for parking tickets) my radar detector would contribute seamlessly to the network of fellow citizens seeking to stay one step ahead of the fuzz, indeed with the right smart car perhaps it could drive me home while I nap at the wheel, on the way home my refrigerator might remind me we were out of half and half (we were). On long trips I tend to use a car service as it’s cheaper than parking and sometimes it’s good not to have to stress the journey after the flight. Saturday evening I could have used my Uber app on my phone to magically summons a town car the moment I hit curb side I could also have used my phone to turn up my Nest smart thermostat at home.  What’s interesting about the last two items is that both of those companies are regarded as ground breaking in the next wave…and both of them have recently received stratospherically high valuations and investments. So there is clearly something going on and someone values that very highly.

What’s happening is that more and more of our devices are getting online and the time it takes to get something done or delivered is also dropping dramatically. We are only a few short years away from being able to routinely talk to our devices and have them give us useful data back. That data might be linked to suppliers so that the stuff I need is already on its way from my Amazon (perhaps by drone).

As our devices come on line and out world becomes increasingly more convenient and real time so some aspects of our lives are likely to get more and more real time too. Have you ever broken down roadside and spent what feels like hours negotiating rescue from AAA or Bob’s Tow ‘n’ Go. Have you ever looked at the mess after that great dinner party and thought “I need a maid and I need her now!”  Have you ever had a spare slot in your schedule and thought “Hair…I have to get my hair cut before that interview tomorrow…who can see me now”…or stared at the lake of backed up sewage in your guests bathroom and prayed for a big red “plumber” button on your phone. It’s going to happen…and sooner than you think. Along with the rise of the internet came the fall of traditional media…especially local media. Local businesses have largely lost faith with the traditional which used to bring them new clients but have entirely failed to come to grips with the complex and potentially disastrously expensive mess of new media. In the same way you wish you had a big red “Plumber” button there are thousands of plumbers out there with gaps in their schedules wishing they had a big red “customer” button…and they will…soon.

The sea change has already happened, we just haven quite understood the magnitude of it yet.  Pretty much everyone with an income has a smart phone with internet access.  We are well used to talking to service providers to book jobs…what’s stopping us from smoothing out the last points of contact between customer and provider to produce the Internet of “Now” for all kinds of service providers. The answer is money, technology, vision and delivery…which is where Search Initiatives comes in…we have all four.   What we do today is connect tens of thousands of service providers (Doctors, lawyers, plumbers, landscapers, electricians and beauty spas with millions of thousands of potential customers. We do that by exposing carefully crafted and targeted ads through the crazy matrix of search, social media, real time display re-targeting to customers with a real need. We do that in real time and at enormous scale. The person to person contact is delivered through the good old fashioned phone call…the one medium understood and trusted by all those involved.  What we are doing right now is very fast…is it real-time-on-demand and now to the point where we are able to immediately match need to provider so that all the clients who need plumbers are perfectly match immediately with the nearest plumber with immediate availability…not quite. But it’s coming and when it does you may rest assured that Search Initiatives will be the folk behind the big “NOW” button on your phone…and on your plumbers phone.

So as you get used to the idea of your refrigerator reminding you to pick up milk, or your watch telling you that you are 1,000 paces short of your exercise goal, get used to the idea that waiting to get help with all of the other things your life throws at you is going to be a thing of the past. Welcome to the Internet of Now.