Ford has launched e-bikes at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), as part of its plans to extend its footprint beyond cars.
Increasingly car manufacturers are looking to new ways to make money with many developing so-called smart transportation systems.
Ford’s electric bicycles come in two versions – one for use by commuters, MoDe:Me, and one as a commercial bike for couriers, MoDe:Pro.
Both are linked to a smartphone app that provides step-by-step navigation.
The experiment with e-bikes is part of Ford’s smart mobility plan – it is keen to study how such bicycles integrate with cars and public transport.
“There are so many ways to get around a city, but what is really needed is a way to connect all of these transport options together,” said Ken Washington, vice president of Ford Research and Advanced Engineering.
“Being able to seamlessly move between cars, buses, trains and e-bikes and react to changing traffic situations can make a big difference both for commuters and for those delivering goods, services and healthcare.”
Traffic problems and overly long commutes have been proved to have a significant economic and social impact on cities. According to the European Commission, congestion within the EU costs about 100 billion euros each year.
Both Ford’s e-bikes are equipped with a 200-watt motor with a 9-amp-hour battery that provides electric pedal assistance for speeds of up to 15mph. Both can also be folded.
Rear-facing sensors offer riders an alert system that warns the cyclist when a vehicle is overtaking by vibrating both handlebars. Sensors also alert motorists to the presence of the e-bike by lighting up the handlebars.
An app – currently only available on the iPhone 6 – provides step-by-step navigation – it plans an entire route for commuters, from driving to a train station to taking a train and completing a journey via an e-bike. It also offers information about the routes – so if a train service in cancelled it may offer an alternative method of transport.
It also provides navigation for riders, via a Bluetooth headset that uses haptic touch technology to notify the rider of whether to turn left or right.
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Qualcomm has unveiled the Snapdragon Sense ID 3D Fingerprint Technology – a new type of fingerprint sensor said to be able to read prints through glass, metal and plastic smartphone covers – at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC).
The Snapdragon Sense ID 3D Fingerprint Technology is the latest product from the chipmaker.
Qualcomm says its ultrasonic sound wave-based solution can scan through sweat, hand lotion and condensation.
Experts say it has the potential to outclass Apple’s Touch ID.
However, they add that Qualcomm needs to provide more data before the two technologies can be properly compared.
Qualcomm said that its sensor works by using sound waves to penetrate the outer layers of the user’s finger.
The information gathered is then used to create a surface map of the person’s skin including the ridges of their fingerprints and sweat pores.
By contrast, Apple and others use capacitive sensors – which make use of the human body’s electrical properties – to take high-resolution scans of sub-epidermal skin below the outer layer of a user’s finger.
Qualcomm suggests its method is superior because it scans through both contaminants and smartphone covers.
“Snapdragon Sense ID 3D Fingerprint Technology’s unique use of ultrasonic technology revolutionizes biometrics from 2D to 3D, allowing for greater accuracy, privacy and stronger authentication,” said Raj Talluri, a Qualcomm executive.
Qualcomm is pitching its forthcoming component to manufacturers as part of a chipset package that would also include its processors.
The launch at MWC comes a day after Samsung confirmed that its latest Galaxy S6 phones would exclusively use its own Exynos chips.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors had featured in versions of Samsung’s past flagship handsets.
The US chipmaker has also suffered other setbacks recently including a $975 million fine by China’s competition regulator and news that a South Korean watchdog is also investigating whether it abused a dominant position by demanding too much money for its 3G and 4G wireless chip technologies.
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IKEA has unveiled a range of furniture fitted with wireless charging spots for mobile devices at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC).
The Home Smart range will initially include lamps, bedside tables and a coffee table as well as individual charging pads for any surface.
IKEA has used the wireless charging standard QI, which is also supported by Samsung in its latest handset, Galaxy S6.
Environmental group Friends of the Earth urged caution over the recyclability of such products.
The Swedish furniture giant will sell charging covers for incompatible iPhone and Samsung models.
There are currently more than 80 QI-compatible handsets and 15 QI-enabled cars on the market according to QI’s backers the Wireless Power Consortium, an industry body whose members includes Belkin, Motorola, Panasonic and Sony.
However, it is not the only charging standard in development.
Samsung Galaxy S6 will also be compatible with PMA, a rival wireless charger solution provided by the Power Matters Alliance, whose members include Starbucks, Duracell Powermat, Huawei and Lenovo.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in January a company called Energous demonstrated WattUp, a non-inductive system which it claims can charge gadgets that lie in a 30ft radius around the charger.
Environmentalists said they hoped recycling was a priority for designers incorporating wireless charging equipment into their work.
IKEA said in a statement that its wireless charging products are “easy to fraction at end of life”.
“By adding wireless charging to home and office furniture, we minimize the amount of separate chargers needed,” it added.
The IKEA range will go on sale in the US in April 2015, the company said.
Samsung has unveiled two versions of its next flagship phone Galaxy S6, one of which has a screen that curves round its sides.
The Galaxy S6 Edge uses the feature to provide a quick way to stay in touch with select contacts, and to alert owners to important information.
It will be sold for a higher price than the standard S6, which otherwise has the same specifications.
Samsung lost market share to Apple and others after the S5 sold fewer copies than its predecessor in many countries.
Its replacements were unveiled in Barcelona, ahead of the start of Mobile World Congress.The MWC will take place from March 2 to 5.
The new phones will go on sale on April 10 in 20 countries.
Samsung said it had set out to address past “missteps”, and had codenamed the devices “project zero” to reflect the need for a rethink.
Changes include making the TouchWiz user interface simpler to use by cutting the number of pop-up messages and introducing a metal frame and glass back instead of the plastic styling of earlier models.
The redesign has, however, meant some features have had to be jettisoned: the phones are not water-resistant, they do not have a microSD slot for extra storage and their backs cannot be removed to change their batteries.
The three topics Samsung is focusing on are:
- Revamped designs, including the premium model’s curved screen
- Camera upgrades
- In-built support for wireless charging, with support for two rival standards
The S6 Edge uses its curves to provide a couple of services.
The first is called People Edge, which provides a quick way to bring up calls, texts and other messages from five acquaintances of the owner’s choosing. Each person is assigned a different color, which the phone’s edge flashes when it rings, providing a hint of the caller’s identity even if the device is face down.
The second is Information Stream, which displays the time, weather and selected notifications on the curved part.
It appears Samsung has deliberately kept the functionality more basic than on its Galaxy Note Edge – a larger handset whose screen curves only around one of its sides. The older phone uses the extra space to both run apps of its own and to add controls to other apps.
The S6 phone’s front camera has been upgraded to five megapixels, while the rear one stays at 16MP.
Both gain from a wider aperture, which should improve their ability to take photos and videos in low light conditions.
Samsung has also taken steps to make the camera quicker to use, saying it now takes less than a second to double tap the home key and snap a shot.
The South Korean company is claiming a “world first” by embedding support for both the PMA and WPC’s Qi wireless charging standards.
The Android-powered handsets are also faster to recharge, and should return to 50% battery strength within half an hour of being plugged in.
Samsung said that this was half the time it would take to charge an iPhone 6.
Other improvements over the S5 include:
- Increased screen resolution – now 577 pixels per inch – and the ability to go 20% brighter
- A new 14 nanometre processor designed by Samsung, rather than bought from Qualcomm, that should be more energy efficient
- The addition of Samsung Pay, a smart wallet service that allows the handsets to act as a credit or debit card when tapped against a shop’s NFC chip reader or used to transmit magnetic stripe data. It will initially be limited to the US and South Korea
Samsung also revealed it had developed a new version of its Gear VR virtual reality kit that uses the S6 models as a screen.
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