Monthly Archives: September 2016

Home Security with a New Design

Norton by Symantec on Tuesday announced the Norton Core secure router for smart devices in the connected home at CES in Las Vegas.

The router protects up to 20 PCs, Macs, Android and iOS smartphones and tablets on a home network, and unlimited devices connected to the Internet of Things.

It will update its firmware in background mode automatically, but not the firmware on connected devices, said Ameer Karim, general manager of consumer IoT security at Symantec.

Core Functions

The router scans incoming and outgoing network packets across the home network, quarantines infected connected devices to a separate network, and alerts the user.

It provides a real time security score on network and connected device security, and gives users tips on strengthening security settings.

The router has customizable parental controls.

Users will be able to manage their home devices remotely from a connected mobile device.

Lost or stolen smartphones won’t pose a security problem, because “we’re cloud connected,” Karim told TechNewsWorld, so “users can instantly change the password.”

Users also will be able to add a PIN or Touch ID credentials.

The Norton Core supports Wave 2 WiFi and simultaneously transmits at both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. It uses MU-MIMO technology.

However, it may need to support other wireless interfaces, like Thread, Zigbee and Bluetooth, suggested Jim McGregor, a principal analyst at Tirias Research.

The Norton Core supports speeds of up to 2.5 Gbps for 4K streaming and lag-free gaming.

‘Stellar WiFi’

The router combines an omnidirectional antenna design with advanced beam forming to “ensure your devices get stellar WiFi anywhere in your home,” Symantec’s Karim said.

It can pause the home network as required, and can identify which devices can and can not be paused, he said. IoT devices such as alarm systems, door locks, IP cameras, healthcare devices and appliances won’t be paused.

Consumers can preorder the Norton Core now; it will begin shipping in the United States this summer.

The router is priced at US$200, which includes a one-year complimentary subscription to Norton Core SecurityPlus. The subscription will cost $10 a year after that.

A Good First Effort

The Norton Core is not the first such router on the market; F-Secure, for example, has been shipping a router for the connected home for some time.

Still, Symantec is “a widely known security brand in the consumer space, and they’re using Qualcomm’s latest radios to ensure the device is as current as they can make it,”noted Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

The Norton Core “anticipates mesh networking in the home to provide full coverage,” he told TechNewsWorld, although it has not yet been implemented.

For a first-time product, “this shows an impressive amount of thought,” Enderle remarked. “The only limitation, prior to testing, is that the mesh capability won’t be enabled instantly. Also, Symantec isn’t known as a router vendor.”

Layers of Security

The Norton Core “raises the question of whether your hardware and software solutions should be integrated into a single platform,” Tirias’ McGregor told TechNewsWorld.

“Software needs to change so quickly, and it seems like the top security software solutions change over time,” he said.

The Norton Core is designed as a geodesic dome, but “there’s a reason why the best routers are funky looking,” McGregor noted. “They need to optimize the number and location of the antennas.”

The Core’s design, while unique, “may not provide the best coverage,” he said.

Home Tech Play

Lenovo watchers expected the company to announce a number of new laptops when CES rolled around, but the company surprised on Tuesday when it also unveiled new products aimed at the home technology market.

“The Smart Assistant and Smart Storage line probably caught everyone off guard,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.

Lenovo developed its Smart Assistant with Amazon. Like Amazon’s Echo, the Lenovo assistant uses the Alexa cloud-based voice services to respond to a user’s spoken commands. It can do such things as conduct Web searches, play music, create lists and provide calendar updates.

Pricing for the Smart Assistant starts at US$129.99; the Harmon Kardon edition starts at $179.99. The units are offered in three colors: light gray, green or orange. They are scheduled to go on sale in May.

Lenovo also raised the curtain on a new controller, the Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller. The palm-sized wireless keyboard of the unit acts as both a keyboard and Windows 10 gesture-supported touchpad.

The unit is designed for convenience. Every key is within a thumb’s reach, and the controller’s wireless range is 65.6 feet, more than double the range (32.8 feet) of conventional wireless remotes.

Scheduled for sale in March, the 500 Multimedia Controller is priced at $54.99.

Smart Storage

Lenovo announced a new network storage device, Lenovo Smart Storage, that offers 6 terabytes of disk space. It supports dual-band wireless access and multidevice synchronization, as well as built-in facial recognition software for managing photos by faces.

Lenovo Smart Storage will sell for $139.99 when it becomes available in May.

The company announced the immediate availability of its Phab 2 Pro smartphone ($499.99).

This Will Be a Big One

CES week is here, and it’s the one week of the year I look forward to looking back on. CES is a killer show — not because you are up to your armpits in interesting new products, but because it is so spread out that it’ll kill your legs as you hike all over the damn place. One year, I walked so much I actually ripped the soles off both shoes.

What is weird about this show is that it really comes too early for vendors to have much of what they intend to have in stores by the end of the year. So, it not only kind of messes up New Year’s for a lot of people who have to prepare for it, but also fails to deliver the impact it once did.

However, it remains one of the most powerful tech showcases in the world, and this year we’ll see a ton of things that likely will have us thinking more and more about the world of tomorrow.

I’ll share more on that and close with my first product of the week: the unusual Phab 2 Pro Phone from Lenovo, the first Google Project Tango phone.

Flying CarsFlying cars are a big deal for me, because I first got involved with this technology in the 1970s with a company that started with a flying saucer. My father put down a deposit on one of the vehicles — he died recently and clearly never got the car. This is how far the technology has come.

There was a showcase a year ago of an autonomous flying car that is actually a people-carrying drone, suggesting that Uber one day might fly to your house rather than drive, at least in rural areas.

Folks apparently realized that if you could get a car to drive itself, and if you could create a drone capable of carrying large packages, then you could create one that could carry people. It is this idea of push-button flying that makes flying cars interesting. I know of several vendors that will be talking about this or showing prototypes at CES.

 

Next-Generation Computing

Microsoft last year brought forward the Surface Studio, a product that blends a high-resolution touchscreen with a digitizer to create a unique all-in-one. It makes the iMac look so last decade — which, given it hasn’t changed much in the last decade, wasn’t a huge stretch.

This class of product has proven ideal for creators, and with the next version of Windows 10 designed specifically with creation in mind, the OEMs are stepping up. In short, there will be a ton of Surface Studio-like products at CES, each doing its best both to stand out against Microsoft’s offering, and to showcase the power of Windows 10 Creator’s edition. If you are a creator, this likely will be your year.

 

Prototype Cars

There will be a number of prototype cars at the event. One that recently came to light, Rinspeed’s Oasis, is equipped with Harman LIVS (life-enhancing intelligent vehicle solutions). It showcases the advantages of a car that is designed to be driven by computer.

It’s basically a living room on wheels, with the focus on entertainment, access and range rather than on handling or performance. Cool stuff includes active glass, a steering wheel that turns into a table, and a huge screen for both work and entertainment.

You’ll see a number of these examples, showcasing each company’s vision of the near-term future and the world of tomorrow. I’m a big fan of Rinspeed and have lusted after its Splash car for years.

 

8K HDR TVs and OLED

Yes, you thought that wonderful 4K HDR TV was the be-all and end-all, didn’t you, and that you’d have at least three years before someone made it obsolete. Well, surprise — there will be 8K TVs at the show. The good news is we don’t even have much 4K HDR content, so your 4K HDR TV likely is safe for three years. These 8K sets likely will be wicked expensive initially — so look, but don’t worry about buying until sometime closer to 2020.

Closer in are OLED sets, which combine the marvelous blacks of the old plasma sets with the reliability and brilliant colors of LCD sets. The manufacturers appear to have fixed the problem of the early OLED TVs’ short service life, and this year the prices of OLED, which have been up in the nosebleed range, should drop sharply. That could mean your new TV isn’t that safe after all.

 

VR Everywhere

CES will be the big coming-out party for low-cost dedicated VR headsets and gear. The initial wave from HTC and Oculus was way too expensive, and the next wave is supposed to be far more affordable.

A lot of vendors will be showcasing their VR gear, so be ready for your kid or spouse to start signaling they want one of these things for their next birthday, and be thankful that it likely will be well below US$500 this round.