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A brief summary of Apple announcements of 2017

(TECH NEWS) Apple has had a big year of announcements and we’ve still got six months left. Here’s what they’ve announced so far.

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Apple is doin’ things

In the wake of Apple’s developer conference announcements, we have some substantial insights into the direction the company is headed. That matters a lot, because of the cultural stronghold Apple possesses in the tech space.

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We’ve dug up all of Apple’s significant technology announcements through the current year (WWDC announcements included) to see what patterns we can see:

Apple receives patent approval for fingerprint biometrics reader

March, 2017
With this patented technology, Apple could authenticate users from the actual screen, rather than just the home button. This could also increase the users for fingerprint authentication in areas like downloading apps from the Apple Store, or making online purchases.

Apple announces Clips, an expressive video app

March 21, 2017
This native Apple app lets users augment videos using photos, music, animated captions and other fun graphic overlays. It’s clear from the developments of Snapchat and Instagram that users like creating these kinds of videos, and as a company known for its creative potential, it’s wise for Apple to have its own space in this area.

Apple announces iPad updates

March 21, 2017
Not much exciting to report here, other than the Retina display upgrade. We’ll see more exciting updates to the iPad Pro. More on that later.

Apple acquire Lattice Data

May, 2017
Apple acquired this startup, which specialized in artificial intelligence and data, earlier this year. The company hasn’t specified why they acquired them, but given other announcements, there’s solid evidence to support that Apple wants to invest and innovate in this area.

Apple and Nokia settle litigation issues, sign partnership agreement

May 27, 2017
According to Apple’s press release, “Nokia will be providing certain network infrastructure product and services to Apple. Apple will resume carrying Nokia digital health products (formerly under the Withings brand) in Apple retail and online stores, and Apple and Nokia are exploring future collaboration in digital health initiatives.” We could see this reflected in new technology and accessories to accompany the Apple Watch, outside of the updates revealed at WWDC.

Apple announces changes to Apple Pay

June 5, 2017
In order to compete with Venmo and Paypal, Apple announced a peer-to-peer money transfer feature in Apple Pay. These changes will be a part of the iOS 11 rollout.

Apple announces iPad Pro and iOS 11

June 5, 2017
-With the announcement of their new iPad and operating system, Apple seeks to make the iPad a high-performance machine. Changes to the display tech and processor chip, along with deeper integration of the Apple Pen, suggest that this iPad wants to be more appealing to the hustling creatives and the multimedia carnivores.

Apple announced iOS 11

June 5, 2017
With the launch of their latest operating system update, Apple wants to beef up the iPad functionality. Most notably, this software updates allows for better multi-tasking and file storage management on the iPad, making it more effective as a professional creative tool.

What’s even more notable is the following line from the press release: “Augmented reality is coming to hundreds of millions of iOS devices with a new platform for developers to build apps that let users place virtual content on top of real-world scenes.”

Apple announces HomePod

June 5, 2017
Apple’s version of the wireless speaker builds on the fully integrated Apple system. The speaker also integrates some unique smart technology by using “spatial awareness to sense its location in a room and automatically adjust the audio.” According to Apple’s own press release, you can also use Siri to interact with your Apple library through the speaker.

Apple launches new VR Platform

June 5, 2017
Apple’s new augmented reality platform ARKit is pretty cool itself, but even cooler is what its launch implies: Apple has unleashed some truly cutting edge tech. That cutting edge tech, with a little more development, could open the door for virtual reality.

Apple announces iMac Pro

June 5, 2017
This new Mac is a big step into the enterprise-level market. Thanks to upgrades in the display, processors and graphic computations, the iMac Pro is well-built for “advanced graphics editing, virtual reality content creation and real-time 3D rendering.” We’ve talked before about how Apple is losing its grip over the creative industry, and with these steps, it seems like the company is trying to get ahead of the curve again.

Apple announces new macOS High Sierra

June 5, 2017
The most notable update here is the update to Metal, Apple’s proprietary graphics technology. This tech powers machine learning, VR content creation and everything in between. Many apps, like Final Cut Pro, Epic and Unity will be able to support VR and 360 video functionality with these upgrades. Combined with the iMac Pro appointments, we can confirm that Apple is building its devices for some next-generation media development.

Apple announces iMac upgrades

June 5, 2017
The new iMacs touts an upgraded Retina display, processor, and memory and graphics performance. Not much exciting here, but it is a significant way to support the tech that High Sierra brings to the table.

Apple revises App Store experience

June 5, 2017
This redesign puts content and expertise front and center of the app store experience, in order to make it easier than before to discover apps. First and foremost, app store visitors can view the Today tab to find features and interviews about apps and app developers. Games and Apps also have their own discover tabs as well.

Apple announces watchOS 4

June 5, 2017
The newest update to the Apple Watch operating system touts a new app called GymKit, which can connect with cardio equipment to run workouts for Watch users. It also increases the incorporation of Siri into the watch so that users can see the information they need the most right when they look at the watch. Finally, Apple optimized the Activity app for daily and monthly activity challenges, to make the Apple Watch a smarter coach for you

Apple allows Amazon Prime Video App on Apple TV

June 5, 2017
After a feud between the two companies, Apple will augment the functionality of its TV app and Apple TV by adding the Prime Video App. This will keep Apple TV competitive with services like Roku and the rest of the TV streaming market.

So, what do we make of all this?

Apple is clearly betting big-time on the future of media, such as AR, VR and 360 video. Between the OS updates and improved graphics capabilities, the company wants to make its devices competitive for this new content creation process.

In other areas, there is a surprising amount of catch-up playing out.

Clips makes Apple a “me three” player in the expressive video game, and HomePod only half addresses Apple’s need for a product to compete with Google and Amazon’s virtual assistants. It will be interesting to see how Apple’s digital health initiative and AI initiatives shape up with their new partnerships and acquisitions.

One thing’s for sure; Apple is still keeping things interesting.

#Apple

Born in Boston and raised in California, Connor arrived in Texas for college and was (lovingly) ensnared by southern hospitality and copious helpings of queso. As an SEO professional, he lives and breathes online marketing and its impact on businesses. His loves include disc-related sports, a pint of a top-notch craft beer, historical non-fiction novels, and Austin's live music scene.

Business Finance

Personal finance steps every freelancer must take to avoid ruin

(FINANCE) The government shutdown showcased financial instability, but what do people that have no paycheck guarantee need to do to be secure?

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In light of the recent government shutdown, there has been a lot of attention in regards to how missing paychecks impacts the average American. Most Americans don’t have a regular savings account and could not handle a $1,000 emergency, let alone miss practically a month of pay.

While things look positive for the backpay of those government workers, we all could benefit from some careful reflection about the precarious nature of our personal finances.

Particularly those of us who don’t receive a regular paycheck.

Entrepreneurs and those invested in the gig economy have volatile incomes, and literally no promise of a paycheck ever – that can impact your personal finances in a number of ways.

Variable incomes are normal for this group and can impact entrepreneurs in ways as simple as handling debt.

If this is you – here a few things to keep in mind that can help you deal with the volatility of living on a variable income and handling your personal finances.  

  • Set up an emergency fund. Start with 500 if you have too, and remember this an emergency fund for your personal expenses, not your business. If you have an emergency fund, make sure you identify what an emergency is and also be prepared to put money back when it comes out. If you have a hard time not spending money in front of you, put your money in a local bank or CU that you don’t have immediate access too.
  • Stick to a budget. when you can’t forecast your income appropriately, controlling expenses is so critical it’s the few things that are in your control.
  • Don’t mix business with personal. While you may be pouring your personal energy and time into your start up or gig, be careful about mixing expenses for two reasons: First, it messes up your budget. You need to have separate budgets for personal and business. Second, there could be tax challenges – consult a tax professional for more information. Here’s a little primer to get you started.
  • Save for retirement. There are tax benefits and come on, don’t wait till you can’t work anymore. Also, an IRA IS NOT AN EMERGENCY FUND.
  • Practice good financial behaviors. Automate bill pay. Online statements. Digital receipt tracking. The more you can automate your life, the better you are. You already have so many demands on your time, reduce that so you can spend more time doing what you love and what matters.
  • Consider diversifying your income. Either ensure you have multiple strings or a backup gig (even if it’s just uber driving); or be prepared to do temporary or contract labor during your slow seasons.

The path to entrepreneurship is rough. What we can learn from the very struggles of the federal employees and the government shutdown is that if the government can be unstable, those of you who work in the world of startups, gigs, and entrepreneurship, need to be even more on our toes. The “normal recommendation” for saving is 10% of your income, but normal may not be enough for you. Be prepared and save (more).

Disclaimer: I am neither a tax or investment professional. This is personal financial advice and I encourage you to visit a professional if you need more specific plans of action.

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Business Finance

Delivery startups skim customer tips to pay employees #wth

(FINANCE) Grocery delivery startups are flourishing, but stealing from employees isn’t a sustainable move…

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Popular grocery app Instacart has been using customers’ tips to pay its guaranteed $10/hour rate to employees, rather than using the tips as, you know, bonus money paid to workers on top of their normal pay. The way that you’d expect something called a “tip” to work.

According to the report, “Instacart confirmed that when its payment algorithm determines a driver should be paid below that guaranteed $10, the company uses the customer’s predelivery, ‘up front’ tip to cover the difference. The ‘up front’ tip is automatically set to 5% on the Instacart app; if the customer removes the tip, and the payout would be below $10, Instacart itself covers the cost.”

In this system, the customer’s tip for the deliverer subsidizes the company’s commitment to its employees. Once the change to the tipping policy was announced in workers began complaining about how it affected their earnings in 2017.

Even though the app’s customers have taken to social media to compare the policy to wage theft, the practice is actually legal. Because Instacart and other apps in the gig economy classify their workers as contractors instead of employees, they do technically still get 100 percent of the tips in their wages (even if the company doesn’t supply the same percentage of the wage they’d give the worker without the customer throwing in).

This kind of payment structure may be familiar to you if you’ve ever working in restaurants, bars, or another establishment that uses subminimum wages.

Sadly, Instacart is not the only grocery app that uses a dodgy tipping system. Shipt, DoorDash, and others have similar tipping policies. And they aren’t interested in changing them after all this week’s backlash.

If you’re concerned about making sure that you’re supporting the contractors for these grocery delivery services, some of the contracted workers have requested that you provide the tip in cash instead of tipping through the app and activating its algorithm.

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Tech News

How blockchain has the power to improve democracies

(TECH) Blockchain is changing the face of democracy with a magical fix to basically all the problems.

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Despite our best intentions to be active, informed citizens in democratic practices, not everyone has time, figuring out how to be engaged can be confusing, and reps don’t always vote how you want. Plus, confidence in Congress is hilariously/depressingly low with all the scandals and thinly veiled corporate interests.

Well hooray for the future, because now we have blockchain technology to propel us out of the murky waters of representative democracy and into a more efficient liquid democracy.

A liquid democracy platform, also referred to as delegative democracy, has voters select a personal representative as a proxy for their vote. In our current set up, elected representatives vote for things on your behalf, and the best you can do other than running for office yourself is call in and ask them to vote your way.

With a liquid democracy, everyone votes on each piece of legislation.

You can assign a delegate to vote on your behalf by proxy when you’re not available. Personal representatives can be removed and reassigned at any time unlike set terms for elected officials.

The delegate can even select a proxy for their votes, creating a directed network graph, where voters and politicians are connected on a publicly verified blockchain. Anyone can be selected as a delegate as long as they’re a legal resident of your jurisdiction registered to vote.

Quick refresher course: Blockchain is essentially a decentralized digital list of records with timestamps and transaction data information. Each individual record is considered a block, which is cryptographically secured and resistant to modification.

Blocks contain a cryptographic hash of the previous block, creating a chain. Once recorded, data cannot be altered without network majority consent. As an open, peer-to-peer distributed ledger, blockchain is a permanent and efficient way to record transactions.

Used by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 for cryptocurrency exchange to create Bitcoin, blockchain has now expanded to the healthcare industry, banking, and now potentially democratic practices.

David Ernst, one of the leaders of the liquid democracy movement, founded United.vote, a platform established to get the ball rolling. The site helps connect voters to personal representatives, and provides a scorecard that tracks how elected politicians’ votes compare to constituents wishes.

“What if instead centralizing authority into the hands of a few strong men, we expanded political power to many, many more voices,” Ernst suggested at the 2017 CyFy conference.

His plan to expand power is liquid democracy via the United.vote platform, which he notes is backwards-compatible with our current system. Ernst is also running as an independent candidate for California Assembly District 19.

He was partially inspired by the Flux Party’s 2016 campaign in Australia, who tried to implement an issue-based direct democracy similar to liquid democracy. Although the party only got 0.15 percent of the vote nationwide, Ernst stands by the idea.

A liquid democracy via blockchain would theoretically increase accountability, participation, and representation.

Through direct participation and personal representation, elections would no longer be necessary.

Instead, voters simply choose someone to represent them, and can select a different person for individual issues. Delegation can be changed at any time, so you’re not stuck with someone if they end up being a total weasel.

So far, only a little over one thousand people have signed up for United.vote, but Ernst stated, “If I got elected, but only 20 people were actually using [the platform], I would still follow those people.”

Although the concept may be ahead of its time (and possibly a wishful Utopian dream), Ernst is confident that these changes can fix democracy.

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