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MWC 2014 Roundup Part 4: Intel Smart earbuds, Ford automated bike-avoiding car, Behind the Scenes at MWC

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After a week of full of MWC, we’ve come to the last post in my health and fitness coverage of the massive mobile focused convention.  This will be a bit shorter post than the others, and I finish up with some fun behind the scenes pieces to go with the past week.  So, let’s dive into it!

Intel Heart-Rate Sensing Smart Earbud Activity Tracker:

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Back at CES in January Intel sorta debuted a sorta product.  They had announced through a couple of press outlets a pair of heart rate sensing wired headphones that doubled as an activity tracker, which was to be on display for the show.  However, by noon the first day of the show the units had been pulled from the floor without any clear explanation.

So I happened to stumble past Intel and thus decided to…uhh…look inside.

There in the upcoming innovations area they had the units hanging out below glass.  Well, that’s progress over last time.

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Here’s the key points from the conversation:

The unit track steps, similar to a conventional activity tracker.  This information is then transmitted to the accompanying app via the wires.  There’s no battery, because it’s powered by your phone via the wire.

The unit tracks heart rate using optical technology.  This is similar to the optical technology being used for the wireless Dash system that’s being developed.  For the Intel device however, the underlying heart rate portion was developed in conjunction with Valencell, which has also worked with iRiver to produce the iRiver ON system.

The Intel unit includes an Android app that will automatically increase music cadence (beat) to match running cadence.  This is similar to a few other apps out on the market that do this based on other sensors, or the phones movements.  It’s worth noting there are no plans for an iOS app.

As of yet, pricing hasn’t been finalized.  The timeline for the unit is ‘end of the year’, and according to representatives on hand at the show will be sold directly by Intel.  This last piece is a slight change in direction for the company, which previously planned to make them more as a reference design available to other companies to rebrand/leverage.

You can see based on this why I’m so skeptical of the timelines presented by the folks behind The Dash.  In BRAGI’s case (the company), they’re saying October for a product that does 3-5 times more than this unit , and is wireless with an internal battery, and does optical HR.  Not withstanding the fact that Intel is a multi-billion dollar company working with the only company in the space that’s done this (optical HR in an earbud successfully (Valencell).

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Ford Smart Car that could avoid cyclists:

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Unlike the Consumer Electronics Show, there aren’t actually too many cars floating around the MWC show floor, so when one pops up with psychedelic displays behind it and swirling soda-cans on top, I took note.

The car was Ford’s autonomous vehicle – sorta like the Google self-driving car – except a tiny bit less crazy looking.

Oh, I wasn’t kidding about the swirling soda cans.  Actually, the LIDAR units are more like two short baked beans cans. In any case, they swirled, rather fast, continuously scanning the surroundings.  There were four of these in total on the top of the car, which covered all 360 degrees of viewing capability.

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I had a bit of time to chat with one of the engineers on the project.  The goal is ultimately for a self-driving car, or at the very least, a car that’s more aware of its surroundings.  To me as a cyclist, I’d love to see a car smart enough to know when it’s about to take me out, and override the driver’s actions to keep me from being hit.

And to some degree that’s Ford’s long term goal, the more short term goal is to add more automation to the car to compliment humans.  The prototype vehicle is not allowed to drive sans-human on US roads today due to US regulations, but has spent significant time within their sprawling test facility re-enacting all sorts of scenarios – including pedestrians and cyclists within the test grounds.

The below live displays were probably the most interesting things however.  As the car drives it’s essentially creating a 3D world around it.  Depending on the surfaces involved (since they reflect differently), the laser beams being sent out will capture distances up to about 80-100m away – more than enough distance to stop at almost any speed when computers are in control.

You can see in the below image the various items in/around the booth.  For example, behind the car is the wall.  Looped around the car you see the tiny little fabric banner in the first photo up above.  There is a blank spot directly in front of the car, as that’s where a large display panel was.  Can you spot me?

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Of course, this processing power doesn’t come cheap.  Both money-wise, as well as trunk space.  Your Costco haul capacity is a bit reduced with all of this equipment in the back.  Obviously, over time expect that to reduce – and some of that equipment is there more for test validation, than operations.

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In any case, I thought it was interesting.  There’s a lot of car vs pedestrian/cyclist technologies swirling around right now, especially in the last 6-8 months.  Some of them are federal programs, and others private programs.  Ultimately, the more car vs non-car accidents we can reduce, the better – no matter the source.

Behind the Scenes:

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Like most conferences there’s always some sort of media center or press area.  In the case of MWC, it sits right in the middle and is split up into three core areas.  First is a broadcast center that’s on the first floor.  That’s actually the area I had an interview with German Public Radio in (more on that another day).  It’s where organizations like CNN, BBC and the like do most of their broadcasts from.

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Next, upstairs is where the rest of the media hangs out.  In this area it’s split into two further sections.  First up is as seen above, where you can block a conference room for private demo’s.  This is more useful if you have enough pull to sit in one place all day and have folks come to you.  While that would probably work for me at an event like Interbike where I know all the players – it’s less ideal here where I’m sniffing out things I’m not aware of.

Instead, I used – albeit very briefly – the main media rooms which are basically just places you can plug in your laptop, get fast Internet and get work done.  Out of every event I’ve ever been to, this was definitely the best media room.  Each ‘cube’ had two power sources and dedicated space (as well as printers at the back).  Most places have a bunch of shared power outlets and painfully slow Internet.  The internet here was rather quick.  Now, the kicker is there were actually three of these rooms.  That tells you just how big the event was.

My little spot, seen next to the red bag.

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Moving on to a few entertaining tidbits…

In the event you ever wondered who’s behind the internet…it’s this man below.  He is the internet.  His sidekick is “WIFI Regulator”.  Don’t mess with either, or you’ll never be seen again.  At least, that’s what I’m told happened to MySpace.

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While leaving one booth, I noticed a foot sticking out of the bottom of a table.  Upon getting a slightly lower perspective – I found this press person trying to get shots of something under there.  I suspect he was attempting to get low-light shots, but no matter, I’m impressed with his dedication.  It only would have been better had he brought a squeaky toy down there with him.

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Over the last year I’ve slowly moved into a non-appointment mode with as many companies as possible.  Typically speaking a company wants to setup an appointment with you for a timeslot.  This is typically done to ensure they have availability to talk with you.

The problem with this though is that you end up wasting an incredible amount of time transitting the show floor between appointments.  I’d guess I’d waste 30% of my day walking in a non-optimized pattern.

So, starting back at Eurobike last summer, I basically shunned appointments.  I showed up, and sorta did it my way.  I’ve got no doubt this doesn’t make booth peoples lives easier, but ultimately, it allows me to spend more time with them and thus cover their product better.

To that end, in the case of MWC as I noted yesterday, I just walked the entire floor in a giant pattern.  Which, is a really long back-story for this next photo.

As I was wrapping up my massive pattern I found myself at the entrance to what was without question the biggest booth there, easily a football field or more as seen below.  The Ericsson booth was beyond massive.  And, it also had an entrance gatekeeper at the front where you swiped your badge.  Upon swiping, most people in front of me were getting rejected, and I figured I’d be as well.

But when it came my turn – magic – green light!

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I swept through the booth looking for any sports technology type stuff, or areas of interest in the health space.  Unfortunately, there just wasn’t anything there of interest to this audience (it as more Telco, Cloud, and Service Provider focused).

However, what is definitely of interest to this group is the sheer volume of free food.  It was like stepping into a carnival, with tons of little stations.  Everything from hand scooped ice cream to drinks for order and even hot dogs.

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Their booth definitely made my day.

With that, I wrapped up my day onside, and then and then headed over to the Samsung event for a number of hours.

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I’d eventually finish up posts and get back to the hotel around 1AM, write till 4AM, and then headed out the door for an openwater swim by 9AM.  While a beautifully sunny day, it was still really damn cold water.  But, no worries, the watches all worked well (was primarily testing Fenix2).  Good stuff there on that accuracy front.

Have a great weekend!

With that – thanks for reading!  And remember, you can read all the MWC2014 posts here.

16 Comments

  1. frank d

    Thank you for the great coverage.
    I don't know how you do it on so little sleep.

    You must be related to the energizer bunny ;)

    Reply
  2. Panos

    Great coverage Ray.
    Nice to have one post a day!

    Reply
  3. gingerneil

    Ray - the reviews and techie bits are great, but just as interesting are the 'behind the scenes' posts like this that educate us all on how these things work. 99.9% of us wont get a to a huge international trade show - so getting some insight into them, as well as the tech on show, is excellent. Thanks.

    Reply
  4. Ray thank you for the coverage of MWC 2014

    Reply
  5. empewu

    Funny and excellent coverage, thank you!

    Reply
  6. Joe

    I can spot you in the picture. You are the guy standing behind the car (rear passenger side) taking a picture of the TV mounted on the wall! :)

    Great article Ray...keep 'em coming!

    Reply
  7. Dr. D

    Ray - many thanks for the coverage. You are the voice of the unseen/unheard.
    Have a great weekend too.

    Reply
  8. Peter

    Slightly random one: on your Fenix 2 swim there's no temperature graph, but it's there for your Fenix 2 run in Paris... Is this an option? I had been thinking it would be interesting to see water temperature for open water swimming??

    Cheers- eagaly awaiting Fenix 2 release!

    Reply
  9. Troy Braxton

    Hi Ray, I'm a junior cyclist and I'm going to do some new group rides. I have a windows phone and was hoping to find a app to track my workouts on these rides, but also have live tracking so my parents can follow along from home. Any suggestions?
    Thanks, Troy

    Reply
    • Brian Darroch replied

      Troy,
      I know it wasn't directed at me but have you looked at the recently released Bing Health & Fitness on Windows Phone. I haven't tested myself as I'm injured but it does have GPS tracking in it but I don't think it does live sharing of your location. I did buy Marathon for live tracking via their website and it can also be sent to facebook and twitter but I'm not sure what the battery life would be like on a long cycle.

      Reply
    • Troy Braxton replied

      Thanks Brian, I'll have to look onto it.

      Reply
  10. Fabian Gruber

    Curious to hear your idea about Intel's plans. If it is true that they are about to pay $ 100-150 million for Basis that is quite a big amount for a company (allegedly) not planning to launch consumer products themselves.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It's definitely interesting. Technology-wise, it doesn't actually make any sense to re-license it honestly. Meaning that technology has advanced enough by others that honestly what Basis is doing technically isn't worth anything.

      What they are doing in terms of the web side however, along with the existing user base and name recognition is worth something. But I'd agree, I'm curious to see what's coming out of it. Oddly enough, some folks put me in touch with the right people at Intel, so hoping to have a bit of a conversation there shortly.

      Reply
    • Fabian Gruber replied

      Basis today sent out the official communication on the acquisition by Intel.

      Interesting: "Basis will be an integral part of Intel’s new devices group" So Intel will start manufacturing consumer devices?! A strategic move out of fear to be "commoditized?

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yeah, it's definitely an interesting move. But if I were a Basis employee, I'd be looking to jump ship as soon as the compensation package that I'm sure they go allowed for it.

      Reply
  11. Eli
    Reply

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