It's becoming more and more common to find mobile devices with wireless charging capability, either as a built-in feature or integrated into third-party cases. Progress has been somewhat hampered, however, by the fact that no universally adopted standard is available. Of the three major groups trying to corner the market, Qi -- a standard created by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) -- has arguably been the most successful at courting manufacturers and carriers (over 200 have signed up so far). The problem is, its abilities have been limited because it only uses a method called inductive charging; in other words, you can power up your smartphone as long as it's sitting on a charging pad. Wireless, sure, but it's still only marginally more convenient than simply plugging the handset in. Fortunately, Qi's adding some crucial functionality later this year that will allow you to charge your device from nearly two inches away.
With version 1.2, the WPC is adding resonance charging to Qi's features. This makes it so the receiver (the device that needs to be charged) and the transmitter (the charging pad or surface that's pushing the power to the device) won't need to physically touch each other anymore; now they can be up to 45mm (1.77 inches) apart. The new standard is backwards-compatible, so if you already have a smartphone or tablet with Qi built-in, you'll be able to charge them up from as much as 35mm away. The standard also allows multiple devices to charge up at the same time, provided they're both within range, and it will be capable of pushing as much as 2,000 watts to larger products like kitchen appliances.
Qi's newfound ability to charge your gadgets from a distance is much more convenient for end users than what its current products offer. Using this technology, you might be able to place charging pucks under tables so your phone starts charging whenever you're close by; you could put several devices in a Qi-compatible bucket, which would be very handy placed in between the two front seats in your car; and you won't have to worry about placing your device on a precise spot to get it to charge.
Two competing wireless charging standards, Rezence and the Power Matters Alliance, already have adopted resonance charging, but the WPC claims that Qi is more power efficient and has a larger group of partners and products. Representatives couldn't give specific stats on power efficiency yet, since the earliest products are still in development and results will vary from one device to another; that said, their initial estimates were somewhere between 70-80 percent. (Qi's inductive chargers average about 85.)
We should expect to see the first v1.2 products arrive sometime later this year, although kitchen appliances using the standard likely won't hit the market until 2015.
The NBA isn't the only professional sports league in the States getting serious about accurate stats accounting. With some help from Zebra Technologies' location system, 17 NFL stadiums will use receivers and RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags inside player's shoulder pads to track movement. The setup provides real-time position data for each player, offering up precise info on acceleration, speed, routes and distance as part of the "Next Gen Stats" initiative for fans. Referees are getting the tags too, in case you've ever wanted more info on those fellas. "Zebra's tracking technology will help teams to evolve training, scouting and evaluation through increased knowledge of player performance, as well as provide ways for our teams and partners to enhance the fan experience," says NFL VP of Media Strategy Vishal Shah. The 15 venues that are hosting Thursday night games are getting outfitted, with Detroit and New Orleans added in to make sure each team gets tallied.
NFL / Zebra Technologies on-field tracking
See all photos
The web was supposed to be the great equalizer. But, it turns out, the haves and have-nots exist online too. And they're separated by a mark of distinction: verification.
A month ago, William Shatner got into an unfortunate public spat on Twitter with John Colucci, our social media manager, over why he was verified on Twitter. Shatner argued that recognition should only be given to public figures who are in danger of being impersonated. In Shatner's words, "nobodies should not be verified because it shows a huge flaw in the Twitter system." This spiraled into a big kerfuffle involving several other Twitter users. When our Editor-in-Chief Michael Gorman stepped in to defend Colucci by saying he was verified because he's good at his job, Shatner interpreted that as an abuse of the verification system. Things died down eventually, but Shatner held tight to his belief that verification is a privilege for a select few.
- William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) June 21, 2014
Of course, Twitter isn't the only social network that offers verification. Facebook, too, has a verification system for certain public figures and popular brands and so does Google+. Facebook even released a Mentions app specifically tailored for verified celebrities such as Shatner, who recently posted a rather thorough review of the app on his Tumblr (in sum: He wasn't a fan). These social networks are ostensibly open to all members of the public, allowing us to connect with politicians and celebrities directly. But verification is a reminder that just because everyone's using the same network, that doesn't mean everyone's treated in the same way.
In Shatner's words, "nobodies should not be verified because it shows a huge flaw in the Twitter system."
The concept of verified accounts is fairly recent. Twitter implemented it in 2009, Google+ in 2011, while Facebook only started it in 2012 with verified pages appearing in 2013. It began initially as a way to curb account impersonations by authenticating certain individuals and brands -- essentially a way for people to know that you are who you say you are. And for the most part, it works. For example, I know that @MayorEmanuel is a parody account and not really Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Not only because he likely would never tweet, "Fuck you, you motherfucking time vortex. I fucking love dancing with my friends," but also because it doesn't have an identifiable blue check icon next to his name.
Twitter says it focuses its verification efforts on "highly sought users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business and other key interest areas." Similarly, Facebook and Google+ verify profiles and pages that include celebrities, journalists, government officials and popular brands and businesses. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ don't accept verification requests from the general public. We've asked all three for more information as to the exact requirements for verification, but none were willing to cough up much detail, instead pointing us to their respective FAQ pages.
But being verified is more than just having your identity authenticated -- it's also a status symbol. Verified accounts on Twitter get special "perks," like the ability to filter their Mentions and access to analytics like how much "engagement" a particular tweet gets. The aforementioned Facebook Mentions app provides the verified "celebrity" more tools to engage with their fans like QA posts, for example. Of course, these perks aren't terribly useful to the average person, but it's certainly an indicator that verified users are somehow more special than everyone else.
... Being verified is more than just having your identity authenticated -- it's also a status symbol.
"Verified accounts were created to solve a practical matter, especially as people couldn't tell if celebrities were the celebrity or someone pretending to be the celebrity," says danah boyd, a social media researcher at Microsoft Research and author of It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (she prefers her name to be written in lowercase). "Needless to say, this quickly became a status game and people begged to be verified. Unlike followers, which could easily be purchased by third parties running bot networks, verification required Twitter."
The whole idea of a different tier of Twitter or Facebook reserved just for the elite runs counter to the idea of the internet as a democratizer. Similar to how the printing press enabled the mass dissemination of ideas, so too has the internet, but on a much wider scale. Social media in particular has been upheld as a bastion of democracy, as in the case of the Arab Spring, where ordinary citizens used Twitter and Facebook to organize rallies and spread awareness of government atrocities.
Cartoon by Peter Steiner for The New Yorker
But more than that, the reason the internet is seen as the great equalizer is because no one can see what you look like. There's a famous cartoon in The New Yorker with a caption that simply states, "On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog." It's emblematic of this idea that the internet breaks down real-world barriers like gender, race and class, so that all of us are on equal footing. Unfortunately, that simply isn't the case.
"It's a complete myth," says boyd. "The internet reinforces many inequalities, hierarchies and existing social divisions. ... This technology simply mirrors other aspects of life back at us." After all, our brains are not separate from our bodies -- when we go online, we bring with us a whole host of pre-existing prejudices and preconceived notions of how the world works. In It's Complicated, boyd writes this about inequality on social media: "Social media magnifies many aspects of daily life, including racism and bigotry. Some people use social media to express insensitive and hateful views, but others use the same technologies to publicly shame, and in some cases threaten, people who they feel are violating social decorum."
"No site does the work of democracy. It is people who do that through technologies, not technologies in and of themselves."
When we ask boyd if anonymous forums like Reddit offer a more even playing field than other social networks, she says, "No site does the work of democracy. It is people who do that through technologies, not technologies in and of themselves." Jen Schradie, a sociologist at UC Berkeley, adds to this, telling us that the poor and working class are much less likely to be online in the first place, so there's already a built-in class disparity. "What we are left with is a digital production gap," she says. "The internet in general, and social media in particular, is dominated by the elite. ... The verified/non-verified divide is just the tip of the iceberg."
As is evidenced by Shatner's reaction to some of us being verified, he certainly believes in that divide -- that those who are verified are somehow more privileged than those who are not, and they should be deserving of that privilege. As a verified user on Twitter myself, I'll admit that it's nice to be deemed worthy of the status, if only because it adds legitimacy and credibility to what I do.
- William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) June 22, 2014
But being verified doesn't make me special. It doesn't make me better than anyone who's not verified -- I don't get preferential treatment at restaurants and I don't get to skip ahead in line at the airport. Further, you don't need a verified checkmark to have credibility. Dick Costolo, the CEO of Twitter, does not have a verified account. I was unverified on Twitter for years and I'm still unverified on Facebook. Not having that little checkmark did not and does not impact how I do my work. I'm sure the majority of people I interact with on a daily basis have no idea what in the world being verified on Twitter means. As Colucci himself mentioned in a response to Shatner, the verification status is "just for work, and outside of that it really means nothing."
And yet, the prestige associated with that silly little verification icon persists. At least among the elite few who know what it means.
Sprint isn't the only company hoping to shell out billions for the privilege of scooping up T-Mobile's US branch; according to the Wall Street Journal, a French company called Iliad wants in on the action as well. Iliad, which owns a mobile operator in France known as Free, recently made a bid to counter the reported $32 billion offer T-Mobile is already entertaining with Sprint's parent company Softbank. The terms of the deal are unknown, and it's unclear how Iliad can pay for such a transaction, since its market value of $16 billion is merely half of what Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son is putting on the table.
Iliad's point of view is that its offer will be looked upon more favorably by regulators than a potential merger between Sprint and T-Mobile. If its bid is successful, the company plans to take control of the carrier, which means there would still be four major national players in the US. Since competition is one of the biggest concerns to the Powers That Be, Iliad believes its offer would stand a much better chance of clearing the necessary legal hurdles. And if the company were to use the same strategy with T-Mobile as it does with Free, it's likely the UnCarrier moves would not only continue but get even more aggressive in pricing. It's hard to say at this point if T-Mobile and parent company Deutsche Telekom will entertain Iliad's offer, but at least the situation just became a whole lot more intriguing.
[Image credit: Getty Images]
Back in March 2014, two United States senators accused the Central Intelligence Agency of infiltrating Senate computers. Worse, they accused the CIA of hacking Senate computer networks and accessing files while the Senate's Intelligence Committee was actively investigating CIA detention practices. Following an internal investigation by the CIA, it turns out that the senators were right. "Some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding reached between SSCI (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) and the CIA in 2009," a statement issued by the CIA spokesman Dean Boyd says.
As McClatchyDC points out, the battle between the Senate's intelligence committee and the CIA stems from a 2009 agreement that formed the basis of the Senate's investigation into the CIA detention program. According to that agreement, the Senate committee could access classified CIA files through a database set up for and only accessible to the Senate. When CIA director John Brennan privately raised concerns to Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, Feinstein realized that the CIA were monitoring the files her committee was supposed to access exclusively.
Feinstein then took to the Senate floor, accusing the CIA of intentionally intruding on her investigation. The CIA's denied that claim. CIA director John Brennan said, "When the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong." This week, Brennan met with Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and vice chairman Saxby Chambliss to apologize. The Senate Intelligence Committee's report is set for release in the near future.
[Image credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images]
Have a Windows Phone and crave access to BlackBerry's famed messaging app? Today's your lucky day. Announced in a video posted today, BBM is now exiting beta to become available for download in the Windows Phone store. The company said it spent considerable time tweaking the app's interface to fit with Microsoft's mobile OS, and the result is a clean UI that looks considerably different than the versions you'll see on iOS and Android (not to mention BlackBerry OS 10). BBM for Windows consists of three main screens -- chats, feeds and contacts -- and you'll have the ability to pin a chat right to your phone's start screen. Windows Phone users who are new to BBM can pick up a few tips on getting started via the video (posted below). As of this posting, the app wasn't yet live in the Windows Phone store, but the rollout should begin shortly.
Twitter really wants to tell you more about the kind of national security requests it gets from organizations like the Department of Justice and the FBI -- but the government just won't let it. The company's latest transparency report is prefaced with the sad tale of the company's failure to get permission to share more details about requests concerning national security. Twitter wants to be able to disclose how many requests are made each year or, failing that, smaller sets of data that still provide meaningful context to users. Sadly, the company wasn't able to make any significant headway: the existing DOJ restrictions stand.
That said, the company does have some interesting statistics to share. Specifically, Twitters says that its global requests for account information, copyright takedowns and content removal has seen a notable increase since its last report. Requests for account information has almost doubled since last year, totaling to 2,058 requests from 54 countries -- eight of which were filing requests for the first time. This report has more detail on the requests too, and breaks down US account information queries by state and territory. You can check out the entire report (stats and maps included) right here.
[Image credit: Getty Images]
If you're an iOS or Mac user, your downloads and streams are going to improve in the near future -- if they haven't already. Apple has quietly switched on its own content delivery network (CDN), letting it deliver files directly instead of leaning on services from Akamai and Level 3. The change gives the folks in Cupertino a ton of headroom, according to Frost Sullivan analyst Dan Rayburn. In addition to offering "multiple terabits per second" of bandwidth, Apple has clearly struck Netflix-like connection deals that link it directly to internet providers. If all goes well, you should get speedy app updates and media streams even when the internet is extra-busy.
Don't expect to see upgrades across the board, at least not right away. Rayburn has only seen the CDN handling OS X-related downloads, so it could be a while before it's taking on your iPhone backups or iTunes movie rentals. He also suggests that Apple is unlikely to completely forego third-party help. Given that Apple is getting serious about cloud storage in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, though, it won't be surprising if the company puts more services on its own network and (hopefully) provides a smoother experience.
We've heard quite a bit about Mr. Zuckerberg's plans to bring low-cost internet access to the otherwise disconnected, and today, his social network announced plans to do just that in Zambia. The new Internet.org app allows users to browse weather, health and employment info at no cost. And that's not all Google Search, Facebook, Messenger and Wikipedia are available as well. Right now, the option is available to Airtel subscribers in the country, but it will roll out to other parts of the world in the future. Cellular service blankets much of the globe, however the cost of the mobile web deters many from opting in. This will certainly help.
Beantown, Titletown, Bahston or Bawston; whatever you call this strong Massachusetts city or how you pronounce it, we're excited to be heading back there. On Friday August 22nd, we'll head to Royale on Tremont St. at 7PM for our third Engadget Live of the year. But why is this the can't-miss event of the summer? Click through our gallery below to find out.
What to expect at Engadget Live in Boston
Only chowdaheads will miss this event, so don't be like them -- get your free tickets right here. After Boston, we'll wrap up our Engadget Live series in Los Angeles on October 3rd, which for those of you keeping score, leads us into Engadget Expand. Our flagship event hits the Javits Center in New York City on November 7-8 and tickets won't cost you a thing.