Hello and welcome to the weekly bulletin featuring the latest developments on travel and technology around the world, published every Tuesday at 07:00 GMT / 08:00 CET.
Google Home Mini
First of all, some thoughts Google’s Home Mini smart speaker which is now on sale in the UK for £49. And first impressions are quite positive. Having personally thought the idea of talking to a voice-activated speaker as faintly ridiculous, you soon get used to issuing commands to it with the words “OK / Hey Google”. And there are benefits of using a hands-free device when in the home over a handheld tablet / smartphone.
On the positive side, the voice recognition is very good and certainly better than the technology by many call centres. Google Home can “tell me about my day” with a brisk update of the time, news headlines, weather and items in the diary for the day. It can also deliver news headlines on demand from a variety of sources such as the BBC and CNN. Though, at the weekend it had two day old bulletins from Bloomberg and the Financial Times. Some sources such as NPR are absent.
Google Home can also play radio stations on demand. But there are limitations. A request to play a TV programme from the BBC iPlayer to the house Chromecast yielded a YouTube video instead. So it does need greater interaction with apps that are popular in the UK.
But all in all, for a reasonable price point of £49 it’s worth a punt and this is certainly a technology we can foresee resulting in mass adoption.
Jay Hunt joins Apple
To another technology Giant, Apple. Jay Hunt is reported to be joining Apple as its Creative Director of Europe worldwide video. Jay was previously Chief Creative Officer at Channel 4 (for readers outside the UK Channel 4 is a public broadcaster, but funded by advertising) and also held a number of roles at the BBC, including Channel Controller for BBC1. This is not the first time Apple has tapped the UK for its media ambitions. It recruited Zane Lowe from BBC Radio 1 for Apple Music and Beats 1. This does show a strong commitment, like Amazon and Facebook, to develop television content with broad appeal. I suspect that extremely well funded technology companies with a global reach are going to become increasingly problematic for the BBC and their counterparts around the world.
Amazon introduces Amazon Key
Amazon has announced a new delivery service known as Amazon Key which, on installation of certain equipment, permits an Amazon courier to enter your own home to make deliveries. Initially, it is only available in certain US cities. Some may balk at this. However, it shows how intent Amazon is on removing any barriers to online shopping. What happens at Amazon in the US soon comes to the UK, so expect this to be announced on this side of the point at some point in the medium term. There more on Amazon’s US website.
New Transport for London app
Transport for London has finally released its own app on Apple’s app store. In the past it has eschewed launching its own app in favour of making data available to third parties. At present all you can do is top-up your Oyster card on the app and it is only available for iOS for now. Note that first generation Oyster cards do not work with the app.
Also of note in the past week:
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