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Google’s Smart City Plan Upsets Toronto Residents

Sidewalk Labs told the BBC it looked forward to “continuing to work with Torontonians to get this right”, adding it was “strongly committed to protection and privacy” of urban data

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FILE - A woman walks past the logo for Google at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, Nov. 5, 2018. VOA

Google-affiliate Sidewalk Labs’s plan to build an Internet-based smart city in Toronto has sparked fear and anxiety among residents, the media reported.

Sidewalk Labs’ plan of collecting data through sensors placed all around the harbourside development unsettled some, the BBC reported on Saturday.

The company acquired land in the Canadian city and promised a radical mix of offices, retail and makerspaces with a green agenda, robots and underground waste disposal.

According to a group of citizens called Block Sidewalk, people expressed their unhappiness over the project, announced a couple of years back, at a meeting organised by it.

Few raised questions about lack of transparency in the way Toronto Waterfront had awarded the contract to Sidewalk Labs, others expressed doubt if the firm could deliver such an ambitious project. Some had concerns about the company’s long-term plan about the area.

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A man walks past a Google sign outside with a span of the Bay Bridge at rear in San Francisco, May 1, 2019. VOA

“We have not been talking about the fact that it’s normalising massive data collection or even asking whether anyone wants this thing at all. No one here has asked for a sensor-laden neighbourhood,” organiser of the meeting Bianca Wylie told the BBC.

“Our waterfront must be developed for the benefit of citizens of Toronto, not the shareholders of a Google-affiliate,” Wylie said.

Also Read- Blockchain May Make E-Commerce Cheaper, Fairer

Sidewalk Labs told the BBC it looked forward to “continuing to work with Torontonians to get this right”, adding it was “strongly committed to protection and privacy” of urban data.

A report published in the Toronto Star suggested that Sidewalk Labs wanted to build a much bigger neighbourhood at Quayside and provide new transport for it, a claim that has not been disputed by the Google affiliate. (IANS)

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Confirming Pixel Rumours not Enough for Google to Woo Users

"To keep up with competition with Amazon, I'd expect Google to launch several new smart home speakers and devices and to pivot all of them under the Nest brand umbrella," Husson noted

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New leaked images of a pre-release Pixel 4 XL provided by Vietnamese phone shop D Store Mobile. Pixabay

While Pixel smartphones demonstrate Google’s willingness to more tightly integrate hardware and software like Apple, they have not been a massive sales success story for now owing to the lack of a solid strategy to beat the rivals, industry analysts said on Monday.

Google is set to announce two new Pixel smartphones — Pixel 4 and 4 XL along with a 5G version — a rumoured Pixel Watch and a slew of updated home products like Nest series of devices.

Google Pixel currently has a minuscule global market share despite arriving on the scene in 2016. In the second quarter of 2019, it had less than 0.1 market share in the Indian premium smartphone segment.

According to Frank Gillett, Vice President and Principal Analyst at global market research firm Forrester, Google needs to do more than just confirm rumours of the Pixel 4 and its list of flagship phone innovations at its launch event on October 15.

“Keeping the Pixel as a lighthouse Android smartphone to challenge and inspire Android OEM (original equipment manufacturers) partners won’t be enough. Google needs to update their Nest line of devices. We expect to see updates to the Mini smart speaker, at a minimum, plus new Google Wi-Fi units with a smart speaker included,” Gillett told IANS.

They should also update on the Google Buds, the Pixelbook laptop and the Nest Hello digital doorbell, he added.

“Google’s devices team needs to keep up with competition from Amazon, whose Echo and Ring products lines now cover a wide swath of the smart home.

“And Microsoft’s new Surface line of products has put Google on notice that Microsoft is back in the smartphone race (using Android!) and doubling down on thought leadership for laptops and tablets,” Gillett added.

Launched with much fanfare, the first edition of Pixel and Pixel XL were announced during a press event on October 4, 2016, succeeding the Nexus line of smartphones.

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A man walks past a Google sign outside with a span of the Bay Bridge at rear in San Francisco, May 1, 2019. VOA

Pixels suffered from several issues after the release, including excessive optical lens flare in pictures captured through rear camera, connectivity issues with some mobile data bands, unstable Bluetooth connections, unexpected battery shutdowns, and failing microphones.

Google acknowledged those issues and released fixes for most of them but to no avail.

The tech giant has also admitted that it has sold fewer Pixel phones owing to industry-wide pressure on high-end smartphones.

“For the new Pixel 4 smartphones to be successful, Google will have to do two things — to accelerate retail execution and partnerships with telcos and to demonstrate that tighter integration with Android 10 delivers a better experience than the new iPhone 11, Samsung Galaxy S10 and Note 10 devices,” said Thomas Husson, Vice President and Principal Analyst.

The analysts expect Google to also try to differentiate by embedding the latest version of the Google Assistant, enabling new use cases and interfaces with apps.

Also Read: iPhone 11 Takes Apple Ahead of Microsoft in $1-tn Market cap: Report

“It remains to be seen if Google manages to launch the new Google Assistant in multiple languages beyond English. Beyond tighter voice integration, Google may also support touchless hand gestures and advanced face unlock,” Husson added.

Given the slow 5G start and the limited consumer benefits, Google may wait till 2020 for a 5G edition, the analysts suggested.

“To keep up with competition with Amazon, I’d expect Google to launch several new smart home speakers and devices and to pivot all of them under the Nest brand umbrella,” Husson noted. (IANS)