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The Appliance Technology Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about Consumer Electronics; Medical Products; Home & Office Equipment; and Power Tools, Lawn and Garden. Here, you'll find everything from application ideas, to news and industry trends, to hot topics and cutting edge innovations.

Electrically Reversible Magnetism

Posted February 27, 2017 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

By designing a particular non-metal, the scientists were able to achieve a multiferroic state where magnetism can be manipulated with an electric field. This is a step toward improving the storage and retrieval of information on hard drives and other magnetic memory devices.


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1 comments; last comment on 03/01/2017
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Smartphones in 2017 and Beyond

Posted January 04, 2017 12:30 PM by MaggieMc

As we move into the new year, it’s ‘out with the old, in with the new.’ In this case, “the new” are the latest and greatest smartphones. Here’s a little bit of what you can expect from smartphones in 2017, and beyond.

In 2017…

1. An All-glass iPhone.

At least one of the iPhones released in 2017 is reported to have an all-glass body. According to Robert Scoble, “[t]he next iPhone will be, I am told, a clear piece of glass (er, Gorilla Glass sandwich with other polycarbonates for being pretty shatter resistant if dropped) with a next-generation OLED screen.” Others are more skeptical about this description, but if true, this change would do away with the physical home button (a reoccurring theme, wait for it), as well as integrate the touch scanner into the screen. LG is also planning on adopting a glass front and rear, but only the releases will tell how it compares to the new shard-of-glass iPhone.

2. I Repeat, No More Home Buttons.

Samsung is also rumored to be ditching the home button. Evidently, the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus will no longer have a home button, and the fingerprint scanner will be integrated into the screen.

3. No More Headphone Jacks Either.

Copycatting again, Samsung is rumored to be removing the headphone jack from its Galaxy phones. Instead, Samsung is “expected to [favor] USB-C for digital audio.” Perhaps this change is due to the fact that headphone producers seemed on-board when Apple removed the headphone jack in the iPhone 7, even if consumers weren’t. Either way, it looks like the headphone jack is on the outs.

4. Introducing Iris Scanning.

In 2017, it looks like the newest iPhone products will have biometric features like facial recognition and iris scanning. Producers hope iris scanning will bring a new kind of user interface. The real news in iris scanners is that LG will also feature a scanner integrated into the front camera. This innovation, made possible by a filter on the camera, would bring down build costs and the amount of space required. Unfortunately for LG fans, its use in the upcoming LG G6 hasn’t been confirmed, I guess we’ll have to wait and see. (Yes, corny pun intended.)

5. Bendable Phones?

While flexible display technologies are technically already in use, they account for only a small portion of display unit shipments. That’s going to change in 2017 as shipments increase by 135%. Apple is rumored to be releasing an iPhone with flexible AMOLED display in 2017, but according to Jerry Kang, principal analyst of display research for IHS Markit, it is unlikely we’ll see the truly flexible phones just yet. He predicts, “consumer device manufacturers will eventually move from the conventionally designed flat and rectangular form factors to the latest curved, foldable, or rollable screens, but only once their product roadmap for newer innovative devices becomes more mature.”

…and Beyond

6. Movement-powered Devices.

Recently, researchers at Michigan State University developed a way to power smartphones with human energy. The technology creates energy by “compressing the device through mechanical energy or human motion.” At this stage, researchers used a palm-size version of their device (a biocompatible ferroelectric nanogenerator) “to successfully operate an LCD touchscreen, a bank of 20 light emitting diode (LED) lights, and a flexible keyboard.” As this technology is advanced further, it’s possible we could see motion-powered smartphones on the market.

7. Holographic Projections.

Now that 3D has been integrated into select smartphones, people are buzzing about the possibility for hologram-capable phones. This capability would go beyond placing a plastic pyramid on your phone screen to recreate a hologram. Instead, it would be fully integrated. In 2011, MasterImage 3D reported they were “prepping a system that allows a hologram to be projected from smartphones” and interacted with by the user. Unless I’m missing that particular innovation, not much but talk has occurred since then, but I for one expect someone will roll this function out sooner or later.

Image & GIF credits to Geek Says, CNET, and Popular Mechanics.

3 comments; last comment on 01/06/2017
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Which Smartphone Are You? Android vs Apple

Posted December 13, 2016 8:35 AM by MaggieMc

I promise this blog will not provide a smartphone personality quiz, but researchers from the UK can. The study, publicized by Lancaster University, examined the relationship between our smartphones and our personalities. Not only did they discover some pretty interesting correlations, but they also created a quiz that was able to predict a user’s smartphone type (Android vs Apple) based on their answers to personal questions.

Researchers assert that our “smartphones have become an extension of ourselves,” (which is something Apple said a while ago, apparently.) But now, we have proof. Researchers surveyed over 500 smartphone users and came up with the following associations:

Reactions to this study have been wide and varied among both types of smartphone users. Some agree, but others don’t like what they believe the study is insinuating. Still, this academic study shares marked similarities with a survey conducted by Hunch Inc. between 2009 and 2011.

According to the co-lead of the study in the UK, Heather Shaw, our smartphones “are becoming a mini digital version of the user” that hold more than sensitive personal information, they hold our personalities, and that’s why “many of us don’t like it when other people attempt to use our phones because it can reveal so much about us.”

38 comments; last comment on 12/16/2016
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Buying a Security Risk: IoT Devices

Posted December 07, 2016 12:00 AM by MaggieMc

As we all prepare for the holiday season, it’s time for a lot of us to come up with the perfect gift for countless different people. If your plan was to go technological, is it time to reconsider?

Many people have been raising red flags about IoT devices, in particular, especially after the Distributed Denial of Service attacks back in October. The attacks have been widely attributed to “hackers compromising Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as surveillance cameras and entertainment systems inside homes that are connected to the internet.”

In the age of big data, we are accustomed to turning over boatloads of information to the internet every single day—and for many of us every second of every day. Whether we are tracking our steps with a smart watch, unlocking our doors remotely, or even going about our day with our phone’s GPS tracking on, that information is available to be hacked.

And, it doesn’t stop there. Researchers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) have recently demonstrated that existing malware can covertly transform “headphones into a pair of microphones that can then be used to exploit the public.” The implications behind this idea are daunting to say the least.

As noted by Brian D. Wassom, “for advertisers and retailers, this will be a goldmine of information… that can be used to send out even more precisely targeted commercial solutions. Without doubt, those providing IOT services will not only want to recognize who we are, but also to remember where we’ve been. And just like we don online now, many users will consent to their information being collected.”

Myself, I probably will consent to my information being collected, I’m too in love with the idea of my devices being connected, too in love with the possibility that when I walk into a grocery store, my phone knows to remind me of what I wanted to buy… but should I be?

Are you going to pause before buying a new Google Home this holiday? Or will you give marketers (or worse) the ability to track your mother through her brand new Fitbit®?

1 comments; last comment on 12/07/2016
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The Dangers Facing Smart Homes

Posted October 21, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

All too often, the designers of wearable and smart home devices overlook vital security measures, exposing consumers to privacy and safety threats. In this article, the Online Trust Alliance highlights the "glaring failures" found in these systems, covering issues like network pairing control, common code injection exploits, transport security, and encrypted storage.


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15 comments; last comment on 10/26/2016
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