Tag: bluetooth

Apple forced to defend stupid headphone decision

Man uses an ear trumpetFruity tax dodger Apple might have been surprised by the backlash that its move to replace headphone jacks has caused.

For those who came in late, Apple’s iPhone 7 phone came without a standard headphone jack.  Instead it had a Bluetooth connection which wirelesses sends its signal to wireless headphone buds.

The reason was that Apple could make its phone a little thinner and it would force all its Apple fanboys to buy new headphones.

Of course Apple is not spinning it that way.  During the iPhone 7’s launch it said Apple said was being “courageous”.  We understand that it is courageous giving people a phone which has limited reasons for anyone to upgrade but saddling it with functionality that no one wants. Courageous is one word “stupid” is another.

Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller claimed that the 3.5mm port, on the other hand, has to go because the company can’t justify the continued use of an “ancient” single-use port.

However, the wireless approach comes with some limits. For a start you will need to recharge the buggers which you don’t with the “ancient” technology.  We have grave doubts that the sound quality will be as good because it relies on a wireless connection going into lower quality headphone receivers.

Needless to say Apple’s spin is not going down that well.

As the normally pro-Apple rag the Verge said: “I was not ready for the revenge of the fucking Bluetooth headset… Don’t kill a good thing if you don’t have a better one waiting, Apple. That’s all I ask.”

Woz says Apple needs to sort out Bluetooth

Wozniak_photoApple co-founder and all round nice bloke Steve Wozniak has warned Apple that its cunning plan to replace the headphone jack in the iPhone 7 is going to end in tears.

Jobs’ Mob thinks it is a super, cool idea to replace the jack with a Bluetooth connection. This will allow it to make the phone slimmer. However Woz thinks that the Bluetooth connection is not up to snuff and will cause problems.

Woz said that the loss of the 3.5mm earphone jack, is going to tick off a lot of people.

“I would not use Bluetooth … I don’t like wireless. I have cars where you can plug in the music, or go through Bluetooth, and Bluetooth just sounds so flat for the same music.”

Woz said he would probably use the adaptor to connect his existing earphones to his next iPhone, and said that, like many other users he is attached to the accessories that he uses alongside the phone.

“Mine have custom ear implants, they fit in so comfortably, I can sleep on them and everything. And they only come out with one kind of jack, so I’ll have to go through the adaptor,” he said.

“If there’s a Bluetooth 2 that has higher bandwidth and better quality, that sounds like real music, I would use it. But we’ll see. Apple is good at moving towards the future, and I like to follow that.

“I think USB-C is going to be the future,” he said.


Most Bluetooth locks are a false security

back-door-to-hellMost Bluetooth locks offer the same level of security as a toothless labrador who rolls over when you give it bacon.

The  DEF CON hacker conference was told that  Bluetooth Low Energy smart locks can be hacked and opened by unauthorised users, but their manufacturers seem to want to do nothing about it.

Researcher Anthony Rose said that of 16 Bluetooth smart locks he and fellow researcher Ben Ramsey had tested, 12 locks opened when wirelessly attacked. Quicklock, iBlulock, Plantraco, Ceomate, Elecycle, Vians, Okidokey and Mesh Motion locks had security vulnerabilities that ranged from ridiculously easy to moderately difficult to exploit. Which is what you want from a doorlock.

Rose said that: “We figured we’d find vulnerabilities in Bluetooth Low Energy locks, then contact the vendors. It turned out that the vendors actually don’t care. We contacted 12 vendors. Only one responded, and they said, ‘We know it’s a problem, but we’re not gonna fix it.'”

The issue is not with the Bluetooth Low Energy protocol but in the way the locks implemented Bluetooth communications, or with a lock’s companion smartphone app. Four locks send their user passwords in plaintext to smartphones, making it easy for anyone with a $100 Bluetooth sniffer to pluck the passwords out of thin air.

Two of those four models, the Quicklock Doorlock and Quicklock Padlock, sent the password twice, Rose said. He  found that they could change the user password by returning the same command with the second iteration of the password changed to something else, freezing out the legitimate user.

“The user can’t reset it without removing the battery, and he can’t remove the battery without unlocking the lock,” Rose said.

Other lock manufacturers said they encrypted the user password for Bluetooth transmissions,. But with at least one, Rose discovered that he could simply grab the encrypted password out of the air, then send it back to the lock — and the lock would unlock without the password ever being decrypted.

An Okidokeys smart lock claimed it used a proprietary encryption format. Rose tried a “fuzzing” attack, sending random data to the lock to see how the software responded. By changing one byte in the encryption string, Rose said, the Okidokey entered an error state — and the lock opened.

“We contacted Okidokeys, and then they turned off their website. But you can still buy the locks on Amazon.”

The Mesh Motion Bitlock bicycle lock was harder. Using free software, they replicated the lock’s wireless profile on an Android phone, then were able to stage a man-in-the-middle attack on the traffic flowing between the Bitlock, its smartphone app and Mesh Motion’s cloud servers.

“We contacted the Bitlock’s manufacturer and told them about this,” Rose said. “They said they’d fix the problem, but after three months they still haven’t.”

Kwikset and August locks could not be hacked. All four used encryption properly, offered two-factor authentication and contained no hardcoded passwords buried in the software. However another presentation at DefCon showed how to hack an August Smart Lock.

Nevertheless, Rose said, the takeaway was that 12 out of 16 Bluetooth Low Energy smartlocks had broken security.


Chromebit hits the shops

dsc04016Google and ASUS’s $85 computer in a stick is officially in the shops.

Chromebit is a full Chrome OS-based computer on an HDMI stick all you need to do is find a TV with an HDMI port to plug it into.

It comes with 16GB of onboard storage (in the form of relatively cheap and slow eMMC storage and 2GB of RAM.

It has a dedicated charger, but unlike the Chromecast, it also features a USB port. The Rockchip-based Chromebit comes in “Cacao Black” and “Tangerine Orange”.

You can connect to it to a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard although the USB port allows you to plug in wired peripherals too.

As a full Chrome OS machine, you can pretty much run any web app on it. So that means movies and TV shows from Google Play, Netflix or Hulu. But its main use is as a computer which only uses web apps. It could also turn any modern screen into a single-app kiosk in a hotel or store, for example.

Of course it is not the fastest but the quad-core Rockchip SoC is perfectly usable.

Mobile accessories market worth $81.5 billion

mobileThe market for mobile accessories will be worth $81.5 billion this year and will grow to $101 billion in 2020.

That’s according to market research company ABI Research, which said that protective cases, chargers, screen protectors and headsets are the most sold accessories for mobile phones.

But amongst those categories, the headset market will grow the fastest in terms of revenues, while sales of Bluetooth headsets are also increasing.

The biggest market for these accessories is Asia Pacific, which accounts for 52.9 percent of all accessory shipments, ABI said.

Within Asia Pacific, China has the biggest potential for growth because of its already large and growing customer base, a fast growing online market, and increasing disposable incomes.

Marina Lu, a research analyst at ABI, said that a protective case is a necessity because of the thinness and lightness of smartphones, while wireless charging and digital payment features will also help push this sector of the market.

IBM develops app to help blind navigate better

IBM logoCarnegie Mellon University (CMU) and IBM have teamed up to create smartphone apps that will give blind people information about their surroundings.

The pilot app, called Navcog uses existing sensors and other technologies to help people on the CMU campus move around by “whispering” information through earbuds or by creating vibrations.

CMU has Bluetooth beacons along walkways and also smartphone sensors within campus buildings.

IBM will soon put the app at no charge on the App Store.

Big Blue said it has made cognitive assistance for developers available on the cloud through IBM Bluemix, with the open toolkit made up of an app for navigation, a map editing tool, and localisation algorithms.

Future developments will include localisation technology integrating data from different sensors and include facial recognition software too.

Human magnetic field offers communication hope

Human magnetic field demoResearchers at the University of California San Diego believe they have hit on a method using the human body to allow communication between different wearable devices.

The electrical engineers showed off a wireless communication method that sends magnetic signals through the body which offers a better method of communicating than, for example, Bluetooth.

A demonstration at a conference in Italy showed a “proof of concept” method that they believe could be developed into an ultra low power wireless system to transmit data.

Patrick Mercier, a professor at the university, said: “In the future, people are going to be wearing more electronics, such as smart watches, fitness trackers and health monitors. Currently these devices transmit information using Bluetooth radios, which use a lot of power to communicate.”

He said that Bluetooth uses electromagnetic radiation to transmit data but radio signals are partly blocked by the body and so need extra power.

The demonstration used a technique the boffins call magnetic field human body communication, which isn’t blocked by human tissues meaning that less power consumption is needed and data loss is far, far lower than Bluetooth.

If the method is successfully turned from proof of concept to commercial reality, it means longer battery life for wearable devices.

The engineers were quick to point out the technique doesn’t pose any serious health risks because the signals are far lower than MRI scanners, for example, or wireless implant devices.

The illustration shows the prototype developed by the engineers with magnetic field generating coils on three parts of a body including the head, an arm and a leg.

Apple Watch taken apart

WatchABI Research has taken apart an Apple Watch but said it was a difficult job.

The firm said the design is based on a custom Apple microprocessor – the APL 0778 – but also includes components from Broadcom, NXP, AMS, IDT, Elpida, Sanddisk and some ADI capacitive components.

Jim Mielke, VP of engineering at ABI, said the design is very different from Apple smartphones and includes chips that you just wouldn’t find in an ordinary watch.

“Judging by the complexity of the printed circuit board (PCB) and the number of parts on the PCB, one might think the Apple watch is a full fledged cellular connected watch but in fact connectivity is limited to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC,” he said.

The touch controllers from ADI and that’s a change for the company which hasn’t been very active in wins for mobile devices over the last three to five years, he added.

ABI has published a photograph which shows the PCB of an Apple Watch.Photo courtesy of ABI Research

Forget the Apple Watch, analysts say

Withings Activite PopThe people at ABI Research have torn apart the Withings Activite Pop watch and described it as elegant and simple.

The watch, said Jim Mielke, VP of Teardowns, at ABI, provides eight months battery life and uses micro amps of current. The watch is a combination of semiconductor tech and mechanical hand movement mechanisms.

Mielke said the battery life is impressive because most time or activity trackers “are working hard just to get a few days of battery life”.

The machine has a Bluetooth system on a chip, and an accelerometer built into its design. It retails in the UK for about £120.

Mielke said: ‘This merger of technology could become the standard for a long battery life, always on smart watch and or fitness trackers, especially for traditional watch makers. Enabling a long batter life provides clear advantages over the smart watches coming from smartphone vendors.”

The watch synchronises with your smartphone clock. It’s compatible with both Apple iOS and Android operating systems and connects to the smartphones using Bluetooth.

In-car wi-fi to boom over next five years

In-car wi-fi is set to boom as the automotive industry gets to grip with the popularity of mobile devices.

Car manufacturers have been fitting vehicles with cutting edge technology for some time, and more and more microchips have been finding their way into cars. According to IC Insights, chips sold to the automotive industry will grow at a faster pace than the overall industry, with the market growing to $28.0 billion by 2016. As Google lives out its sci-fi fantasies with its driverless car projects, we can expect the average car to be looking very different over the coming decades.

In addition to this, analysts are forecasting that the introduction of wi-fi will allow the integration of tablets and smartphones with onboard systems to be greatly increased in the next few years.

So far only a few manufacturers have bothered with in-car wi-fi, Audi being one of those which has included it either as a feature or an optional extra.  

Increasingly this is changing, and, according to analysts IMS Research, the market for in-car wi-fi will increase eightfold over the next seven years across America and western Europe.

While Bluetooth has been used by manufacturers, it has not been able to deliver the speeds that would be made possible by wi-fi, which is likely to be plug the gap and be introduced as a standard in the future.

By fitting cars with wi-fi, drivers and passengers would be able to share content from internet enabled devices as well as creating in-car hotspots, enabling camera modules or allowing wireless screen duplication. More specific automotive applications such as wireless car diagnostics or wirelessly upgrading software would also be enabled.

Filomena Berardi, senior analyst at IMS Research said that wi-fi uptake is expected to grow swiftly, particularly with advances such as Wi-Fi Direct and Miracast.

“The uptake of wi-fi in vehicles will be fairly aggressive,” Berardi said in a statement. “The recent Wi-Fi Alliance announcement regarding Wi-Fi Miracast, is very exciting. Some in the industry see this being used in conjunction with MirrorLink for wireless screen duplication.”

“All in all, the future for Wi-Fi in the car is very promising,” Beradi said.