Archive for Hardware

Facial Recognition Glasses For Covert Surveillance

The “iFalcon Face Control” AR glasses that incorporate an 8-megapixel camera in the frame and NNTC facial recognition technology (are due to go on sale next year) are reported to have already been deployed into several security operations.

US / Dubai Manufactured

The facial recognition-enabled smart glasses are made by American company Vuzix and use facial recognition algorithms from Dubai-based company NNTC.  It has been reported that the NNTC facial recognition algorithms rank in the top three for accuracy in the US government’s Face Recognition Vendor Test and can detect up to 15 faces per frame per second, thereby enabling them to identify a specific individual in less than a second.

To date, only 50 pairs of the facial recognition-enabled glasses have been produced, all of which have been sold to security and law enforcement and are, according to NNTC, being used as part of security operations in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi.

The iFalcon Glasses Won’t Need An Internet Connection

The iFalcon Face Control glasses that are due to go on sale next year will come with a portable base station.  This will mean that they will have a portable connection to a stored a database of targets, thereby giving the user greater mobility as they won’t need an Internet connection for the software to function.

Similar Used In China

Facial recognition glasses have already been used by police forces in China last year in order to keep blacklisted people e.g. certain journalists, political dissidents, and human rights activists away from the annual gathering of China’s National People’s Congress.

Other Deployments

Known use of facial recognition for law enforcement already happens in the US through its incorporation with body cameras and CCTV cameras, and in the UK it has been used in deliberately overt trials and deployments e.g. a two-day trial in Romford, London by the Metropolitan Police in December 2018 using use vehicle-mounted cameras, at the Champions League final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff 2017, and at the Notting Hill Carnival in 2016 and 2017.

Criticism and Problems

The use of facial recognition technology at events and trials in the UK has, however, come under fire over several issues including poor levels of accuracy, a lack of transparency in how it is used, the possible infringement of privacy and data security rights e.g. what happens to images, and value for money in terms of deployment costs versus arrests.

This led to ICO head Elizabeth Dunham launching a formal investigation into how police forces use facial recognition technology (FRT) in the UK.

Data security and privacy are such thorny subjects for agencies, organisations and businesses alike that even though using facial recognition to help organise photos has been a standard feature across the social media industry, Microsoft is now issuing an update to its Windows 10 Photos app that prompts users to perform the almost impossible task of confirming that all appropriate consents from the people in the user’s photos and videos have been obtained in order to use facial recognition to find photos of friends and loved ones.  This move shifts the burden of responsibility away from Microsoft to the user.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The covert and mobile nature of these new glasses not only seems to be somewhat dystopian and ‘big brother’ but could, in theory, provide a way for users to simply get around existing data protection and privacy laws e.g. GDPR.

As a society, we are to an extent, used to being under surveillance by CCTV systems, which most people recognise as having real value in helping to deter criminal activity, locate and catch perpetrators, and provide evidence for arrests and trials. The covert use of facial recognition glasses is, however, another step further on from this and from the deliberately overt and public trials of facial recognition in the UK to date.  As such, to be used in the UK, it will require faith to be put in the authorities that it is used responsibly, and that its accuracy is proven, and that rights groups are able to access facts, figures, and information about the technology, where and how it is used, and the results.  Presumably, the ICO may also have questions about the use of such glasses.

If there is no public transparency about their use, this could also result in suspicion, campaigning against their use and a possible backlash.

Google AR Glasses Enterprise Edition For Workers

Six years on from the launch of the first Google glasses, Google has announced the introduction of Google Glass 2 Enterprise Edition, glasses incorporating a wraparound camera and AR and designed to help workers by providing instant hands-free access to key information.

Improved

Following on from the original introduction of Google’s ‘Glass’, followed by the last Enterprise Edition back in 2017 which suffered from poor take-up due to an apparent lack of applications, Glass 2 Enterprise Edition is an upgraded version with a clearer target market, and a marketplace more educated to its benefits.

Who?

Google’s shorthand definition of its target market for Google 2 is those working in manufacturing, field service and healthcare, primarily because it has development experience, success stories, and easy to transmit benefits in these areas.  For example, Google has worked with several partners in the marketplace to develop Glass 2 and to help hone the glasses and give them maximum value in Enterprise settings in the target markets and beyond.  For example, Google has worked with partners including AGCO, Deutsche Post DHL Group, Sutter Health, and H.B. Fuller.

What and How?

Glass 2 is essentially a hands-free, wearable device for “smarter and faster” hands-on work that provides the information that an employee needs in the periphery of their line of sight.  This means that workers, all of whom have limited time and resources, only one pair of hands, and need to be in one particular place to complete their work can get immediate, safe access to expert advice around the world.

In this way, Google Glass can:

  • Help improve efficiency and client relationships e.g. health care professionals don’t have to spend as much time in front of a computer screen and can spend more time in front of their patients. For example, the technology reportedly saves (on average) two hours of doctors’ time per day.
  • Help reduce processing and training time e.g. in manufacturing and field servicing.  For example, DHL is reported to have seen a 15% jump in operational efficiency in item picking because employees can use Google Glass (2) to receive real-time item picking instructions while on the warehouse floor.

Upgrades

The upgrades in Glass 2 compared to the last Enterprise Edition include:

  • A more powerful multicore CPU (central processing unit) and a new artificial intelligence engine to improve performance and support for vision.
  • Glass-compatible safety frames to help in different types of demanding work environments.
  • Improved camera performance and quality.
  • The inclusion of an SB-C port that supports faster charging and increased overall battery life.
  • The fact that it’s built on Android, so it’s easier to deploy, develop and improve.

Price

The price tag for Glass 2 is reported to be $999.

Criticism

Google’s Glass products have suffered criticism in the past over concerns about privacy, functionality and safety e.g. possibly reducing peripheral vision while driving.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Wearables and AR are both finding many value-adding real-world applications in multiple industries, and with Google’s Glass 2 being a combination of the two it has the huge potential that it always had, but this time with some technical improvements, a clearer marketing focus, and some real business world success stories to help back it up and provide the social proof and ROI information that businesses may be looking for.  The high price tag could, therefore, be offset by the potential efficiency savings, and added employee and customer benefits that could result from enterprise adoption of Glass 2.

Microbe Grown Headphones Offer Hope In Fight Against Plastic Waste

Finnish design house Aivan has shown how its ‘Korvaa’ headphones can be made from natural, microbe-grown, biodegradable materials, thereby offering hope in reducing the amount of plastic waste that goes to landfill or litters the natural world.

Natural Prototype

Although the headphones don’t actually work, the concept that has been created shows how a mixture of fungus, bioplastics, and other natural materials could provide an eco-friendly and equally as functional replacement for the kinds of non-biodegradable toxic plastics and materials that in a throwaway society would end up polluting the environment long into the future.

Design house Avia worked with scientists from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Aalto University, to show how a three-dimensional object that’s familiar to consumers and contains a variety of materials could be made from natural and biodegradable materials.

Made of What?

Aivan’s concept for headphones shows how the main structure for the crown and cup shell can be made from a 3D-printed bioplastic that is a by-product of yeast processing lactic acid.

The padded earpieces can be made from the ‘hydrophobi’ protein which acts like foam because it has bubbles produced by a fungus and reinforced with plant cellulose. The padding can be covered with a fungus-derived mycelium that provides an alternative leathery and flexible material.  A mesh, made from synthetic spider silk can then be placed over the top of the speakers in the headphones

Synthetic Biology

The Korvaa prototype headphones, which took 6 months to develop and used materials which had to be grown rather than simply made in a chemical process are an example of synthetic biology/synbio which is a technology and discipline that fuses engineering with biology to fabricate materials, produce energy and treat illness.

On Display

The Korvaa team’s headphones will be displayed at Fiskars Village Art & Design Biennale 2019 (19 May to 19 September), and at Helsinki Design Week 2019 from 5-15 September 2019.

Others

There are companies already marketing eco-friendlier and more sustainable tech and music hardware products such as House of Marley speakers made from natural materials (alongside recycled metals and plastic), as well as ‘LSTN’ and ‘Thinksound’, both of which use wood in their headphones.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Even though the Korvaa headphones don’t work, they do show how microbially grown materials can have a real-life, value-adding application in terms of providing the same functionality as plastic counterparts, but without the long-term environmental risk.  Also, with more research and development, these types of new materials with improved properties could replace plastics in the future, thereby helping to tackle a major environmental issue.  This may of course take time, and there are likely to be cost and other implications for producing goods of this kind.  Nevertheless, it is likely that today’s consumer will find biodegradable goods of this kind an attractive option if they provide equivalent benefits and performance to the existing options, at a price that isn’t prohibitive.

Old Routers Are Targets For Hackers

Internet security experts are warning that old routers are targets for cyber-criminals who find them an easy hacking option.

How Big Is The Threat?

Trend Micros have reported that back in 2016 there were five families of threats for routers, but this grew to 35 families of threats in 2018. Research by the American Consumer Institute in 2018 revealed that 83 per cent of home and office routers have vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers.  These include the more popular brands such as Linksys, NETGEAR and D-Link.

Why Are Old Routers Vulnerable?

Older routers are open to attacks that are designed to exploit simple vulnerabilities for several reasons including:

  • Routers are often forgotten about since their initial setup and consequently, 60 per cent of users have never updated their router’s firmware.
  • Routers are essentially small microcomputers.  This means that anything that can infect those can also infect routers.
  • Many home users leave the default passwords for the Wi-fi network, the admin account associated with it, and the router.
  • Even when vulnerabilities are exposed, it can take ISPs months to be able to update the firmware for their customers’ routers.
  • Today’s routers are designed to be easy and fast to work straight out of the box, and the setup doesn’t force customers to set their own passwords – security is sacrificed for convenience.
  • There are online databases where cyber-criminals can instantly access a list of known vulnerabilities by entering the name of a router manufacturer. This means that many cyber-criminals know or can easily find out what the specific holes are in legacy firmware.

What If Your Router Is Compromised?

One big problem is that because users have little real knowledge about their routers anyway and pay little attention to them apart from when their connection goes down.  It is often the case, therefore, that users tend not to know that their router has been compromised as there are no clear outward signals.

Hacking a router is commonly used to carry out other criminal and malicious activity such as Distributed Denial of Service attacks (DDoS) as part of a botnet, credential stuffing, mining bitcoin and accessing other IoT devices that link to that router.

Examples

Examples of high-profile router-based attacks include:

  • The Mirai attack that used unsecured routers to spread the Mirai malware that turned networked devices into remotely controlled “bots” that could be used as part of a botnet in large-scale network attacks.
  • The VPNFilter malware (thought to have been sponsored by the Russian state and carried out by the Fancy Bear hacking group) that infected an estimated half a million routers worldwide.
  • The exploit in Brazil spread across D-Link routers and affecting 100,000 devices, aimed at customers of Banco de Brazil.

Also, back in 2017, Virgin Media advised its 800,000 customers to change their passwords to reduce the risk of hacking after finding that many customers were still using risky default network and router passwords.

Concerns were also expressed by some security commentators about TalkTalk’s Super Router regarding the WPS feature in the router always being switched on, even if the WPS pairing button was not used, thereby meaning that attackers within range could have potentially hacked into the router and stolen the router’s Wi-Fi password.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

If you have an old router with old firmware, you could have a weak link in your cyber-security.  If that old router links to IoT devices, these could also be at risk because of the router.

Manufacturers could help reduce the risk to business and home router users by taking steps such as disabling the internet until a user goes through a set up on the device which could include changing the password to a unique one.

Also, vendors and ISPs could help by having an active upgrade policy for out of date, vulnerable firmware, and by making sure that patches and upgrades are sent out quickly.

ISPs could do more to educate and to provide guidance on firmware updates e.g. with email bulletins.  Some tech commentators have also suggested using a tiered system where advanced users who want more control of their set-up can have the option, but everyone else gets updates rolled out automatically.

Proposed Legislation To Make IoT Devices More Secure

Digital Minister Margot James has proposed the introduction of legislation that could make internet-connected gadgets less vulnerable to attacks by hackers.

What’s The Problem?

Gartner predicts that there will be 14.2 billion ‘smart’, internet-connected devices in use worldwide by the end of 2019.  These devices include connected TVs, smart speakers and home appliances. In business settings, IoT devices can include elevators, doors, or whole heating and fire safety systems in office buildings.

The main security issue of many of these devices is that they have pre-set, default unchangeable passwords, and once these passwords have been discovered by cybercriminals the IoT devices can be hacked in order to steal personal data, spy on users or remotely take control of devices in order to misuse them.

Also, IoT devices are deployed in many systems that link to and are supplied by major utilities e.g. smart meters in homes. This means that a large-scale attack on these IoT systems could affect the economy.

New Law

The proposed new law to make IoT devices more secure, put forward by Digital Minister Margot James, would do two main things:

  • Force manufacturers to ensure that IoT devices come with unique passwords.
  • Introduce a new labelling system that tells customers how secure an IOT product is.

The idea is that products will have to satisfy certain requirements in order to get a label, such as:

  • Coming with a unique password by default.
  • Stating for how long security updates would be made available for the device.
  • Giving details of a public point of contact to whom cyber-security vulnerabilities may be disclosed.

Not Easy To Make IoT Devices Less Vulnerable

Even though legislation could put pressure on manufacturers to try harder to make IoT devices more secure, technical experts and commentators have pointed out that it is not easy for manufacturers to make internet-enabled/smart devices IoT devices secure because:

Adding security to household internet-enabled ‘commodity’ items costs money. This would have to be passed on to the customer in higher prices, but this would mean that the price would not be competitive. Therefore, it may be that security is being sacrificed to keep costs down – sell now and worry about security later.

Even if there is a security problem in a device, the firmware (the device’s software) is not always easy to update. There are also costs involved in doing so which manufacturers of lower-end devices may not be willing to incur.

With devices which are typically infrequent and long-lasting purchases e.g. white goods, we tend to keep them until they stop working, and we are unlikely to replace them because they have a security vulnerability that is not fully understood. As such these devices are likely to remain available to be used by cybercriminals for a long time.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Introducing legislation that only requires manufacturers to make relatively simple changes to make sure that smart devices come with unique passwords and are adequately labelled with safety and contact information sounds as though it shouldn’t be too costly or difficult.  The pressure of having, by law, to display a label that indicates how safe the item is could provide that extra motivation for manufacturers to make the changes and could be very helpful for security-conscious consumers.

The motivation for manufacturers to make the changes to the IoT devices will be even greater when faced with the prospect of retailers eventually being barred from selling products that don’t have a label, as is the plan with this proposed legislation.

The hope from cybersecurity experts and commentators is that the proposal isn’t watered-down before it becomes law.

First Organ Delivery By Drone

A human kidney for transplant has been delivered by drone to a Medical Centre in Baltimore in the first flight of its kind.

Cutting Edge Technology

The drone transportation of the living organ over a one-mile journey used cutting-edge technology in the form of an AI-powered drone that had been specifically designed to maintain and monitor the organ during the journey.  As well as having a specially designed compartment to keep the organ in the right condition for transplant, the drone had onboard communications and safety systems to enable a safe flight over densely-populated/urban areas, and a parachute recovery system in case the drone failed.

Collaboration

The drone’s creation was the product of a collaboration between the aviation and engineering experts at the University of Maryland (UMD), transplant specialists and researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), and others at the Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland.  Joseph Scalea, assistant professor of surgery at University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) who was one of the surgeons who carried out the transplant has also acknowledged the collaborative efforts of the surgeons, engineers, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the organ procurement specialists, the drone pilots, nurses at the hospital, and the patient.

Solves Problems

The ability to deliver transplant organs by drone solves the problems caused primarily by traffic problems identified by the United Network for Organ Sharing, which reported that in 2018 there were nearly 114,000 people on waiting lists, with 1.5% of organs not making it to the destination and nearly 4% being delayed by two hours or more.

Medical Sample Delivery Too

There has also been a recent report in North Carolina of a hospital, in partnership with UPS, using a drone delivery program to speed up the delivery of critical medical samples across a hospital campus, thereby cutting 41 minutes off the usual on-foot journey.

Potential

The fact that the organ drone flight and the transplant operation were safe and successful has led to the recognition of the potential of this method e.g. unmanned transportation of organs over greater distances, minimising the need for multiple pilots and flight time and addressing safety issues.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This world-first in organ transportation is an important first step in what could be (if proven to be safe and reliable over multiple flights) an important new technological improvement to the provision of life-saving medicine.

Business owners may also be thinking that if this can be done successfully with something as important and delicate as a human organ for transplant, this system could potentially be scaled up and used to ensure the fast, safe delivery of other items. Amazon, for example, has been testing delivery drones for parcels since 2013 with a view to making its ‘Prime Air’ service a regular reality in the future.

As shown by UPS’s involvement with medical sample delivery, other major delivery companies are also investing in drones and their potential to combat the challenges posed by traffic congestion and labour-intensive and time-consuming on-foot journeys.

Also, the US Federal Aviation Administration has just authorised Alphabet’s (Google’s) Wing Aviation to start delivering goods via drones later this year.  This is the first time that the FAA has granted an “air-carrier” the certification for drone delivery of items such as food, medicine, and other small consumer products.

Drone transportation is clearly moving forward and starting to prove that it offers great potential in many different sectors in the not-too-distant future.

Apple’s Adapter Recall Over Shock Risk

Tech giant Apple has recalled two different types of plug adapter because of a possible risk of electric shock.

Which Adapters?

The affected plugs are the two-prong AC wall plug adapter that came with Macs and some iOS devices between 2003 and 2010, and the three prong plug that was included with Apple’s World Travel Adapter Kit.  Apple USB power adapters are not affected.

The two prong AC wall plug adapter recall concerns those shipped from 2003 to 2015 with Mac and certain iOS devices, included in the Apple World Travel Adapter Kit, and made for use in Continental Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Argentina and Brazil.

Apple’s website says that its three-prong AC wall plug adapters were designed primarily for use in the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Hong Kong, and that the affected plugs are white, with no letters on the inside slot, whereas the newer versions are white with grey on the inside, and with a dimple on the side to make them easier to unplug.

How Can You Tell?

If you’re not sure whether your adapter is one of those affected by the electric shock risk, Apple has provided pictures to help you. Pictures of the two prong adapter can be found here https://www.apple.com/support/ac-wallplug-adapter/ and pictures of the three prong adapter can be found here https://www.apple.com/support/three-prong-ac-wall-plug-adapter/.

What Risk?

Apple says that the two prong Apple AC wall plug adapters in question may break and create a risk of electrical shock if touched.

In the case of the three-prong AC wall plug adapters in question, Apple says that they may break and create a risk of electrical shock if exposed metal parts are touched.

What Next?

If you have one of the affected adapters, Apple is offering an exchange program so you can get a safe replacement adapter from an authorized Apple service provider, or from an Apple retail store (by making an appointment), or by contacting Apple support online.  You will need to know your current adapter’s serial number and Apple provides information about this on the same page where the pictures of the adapter are shown (see the links above in this article).

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For Apple, publicly explaining the danger, having a recall, and offering customers an exchange is making the best of a bad situation and gives a good PR message to customers.  It is a little alarming though that the adapters (of which there are likely to be many because of the 7-year period for the three prong and 12-year period for the two prong) have been in use could have been dangerous for so many customers in all that time.

For customers who have one of the affected adapters, it may be a surprise and a little worrying that there is an electric shock risk, but its reassuring that Apple is offering a replacement.

It’s not the first time that Apple has had to offer customers help with products. Back in June 2018, following a couple of years of complaints from customers (and a petition), Apple decided to offer free repairs or replacements for the butterfly keyboard on its MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops. At that time, Apple offered to repair/replacement a list of nine eligible models of keyboard.

No Windows 10 Updates For PCs With USB Devices or SD Cards Attached

Microsoft has announced that if your PC has a USB device or SD card attached it will not be possible to upgrade the computer to the Windows 10 May 2019 Update because of an “Inappropriate drive reassignment” issue.

The Scenario

On its support site, Microsoft has announced that an attempt to upgrade a computer with the Windows 10 May 2019 Update will result in an error message being displayed if the following three factors are in place:

  1. You’re running a Windows-10 based computer that has either the April 2018 Update (Windows 10, version 1803) or the October 2018 Update (Windows 10, version 1809) installed.
  2. An external USB device or SD memory card is attached to the computer.
  3. You try to upgrade the computer to the May 2019 Update, or you have automatic updates turned on in the Windows Update settings.

Inappropriate Drive Reassignment

Microsoft says that the upgrade will not be able to occur in these situations because of the risk of inappropriate drive reassignment.  For example, a user may have booted Windows from external storage and may have left an external storage device (USB device or SD memory card) attached during the installation of the May 2019 upgrade.  Prior to the upgrade, the external device would have been mounted in the system as drive G based on the existing drive configuration, but after the upgrade, the device is reassigned a different drive letter e.g. H.  This is a situation that Microsoft is trying to avoid – hence the error message and the blocking of computers with external devices attached from receiving the upgrade.

The Workaround

According to Microsoft, the simple workaround is to remove the external media and restart the May 2019 Update installation.

Microsoft also says that the issue will be resolved in a future servicing update for Windows 10, and for Windows Insiders, the issue is resolved in build 18877 and later builds.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

There is more than just a small element of Microsoft being cautious in issuing this error message and putting out information about the nature of the issue and workaround, after the many problems and bugs that led to Build 1809 having to be withdrawn after a few weeks before a re-issue. This time, Microsoft wants good publicity and good customer experience for its ongoing WaaS strategy.

If you’re planning to upgrade Windows 10 with the May 2019 Update and you want things to go smoothly, the advice is to make sure that you don’t have external storage devices connected to the computer at the same time.

UK Government Services Information Accessible Via Voice-Activated Smart Speakers

After a six-month trial by the Government Digital Service (GDS) with a view to future-proofing the delivery of online services for citizens, 12,000 items of government information can now be accessed via voice-activated smart speakers and virtual assistants, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home.

Wider Plan

The GDS trial that has made the information available via voice-activated smart -speakers is part of a wider plan to employ the use of third-party (voice) apps, machine learning, and other new technologies in order to simplify interactions between citizens services going forward. The millions of smart speakers now in use in UK homes means that voice-activated technology has provided an important first step for the government’s plans.

What Kind of Information?

Examples of the kind of government services information that’s now available via Alexa and Google home includes the dates of UK bank holidays, the minimum wage level, information about how to apply for a passport or pension, as well as the answers to childcare and tax-related questions.

Started A Year Ago

The plans to future-proof government services in this way were first made public a year ago when Neil Williams, head of Gov.uk at the time, said that around 400 services had already been identified as potential use cases for voice technology.

Machine Learning Added To Gov.uk website

The idea of integrating machine learning with the Gov.uk website is reported to have led to the creation of an algorithm that helps to tag all the content and develop a taxonomy, thereby making it much easier for users of the website to quickly access relevant information.

The Gov.uk website, which came online back in 2012 is reported to have resulted in huge efficiency savings, as well as making it much easier for citizens to access government content.

Innovation Strategy

In a recent blog post, The Minister for Implementation, Oliver Dowden, highlighted the importance of the GovTech Catalyst initiative in matching innovative private sector solutions with public sector challenges. Mr Dowden also announced the publication of an Innovation Strategy later this year that will share the government’s vision of how GDS and wider Cabinet Office will lay the foundations for the government to use emerging technologies.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

There are many services that businesses need to access information about and having the information available quickly via smart speakers and virtual assistants could save time and money and help businesses to comply with government rules and regulations.  It could also help businesses to discover opportunities and help that may be available via government services for both the business itself and employees and other stakeholders.

The Gov.uk website has also been a money-saving tool for the government, and making more information available via smart speaker and apps, while improving the website and its operation using machine learning could provide greater savings in the future, while demonstrating how the government is making efforts to embrace and utilise the strengths of new technologies, and simplify access for to information for citizens.

Samsung’s Folding Phone Faults Delay Release Date

The release date of Samsung’s new dual-screen Galaxy Fold mobile handset has been delayed after reviewers reported having removed the top layer of the display causing damage to the screen, problems with hinge areas, and debris getting trapped under the screen.

The Galaxy Fold

Announced as the Galaxy X last summer, the Galaxy Fold handset has two inside panels and one outside panel with the two inside panels folding out to form the 7.3-inch OLED screen, thereby giving the user a much larger screen area.  The fact that the flexible screen folds in on itself when closed also adds protection for the touchscreen when the phone is not in use.

Reviewers

A number of reviewers, including many journalists, were given Galaxy Fold handsets for trial use.  It appears that faults were discovered and were perhaps even caused by many of the reviewers who peeled off what they believed was just a protective layer (despite being warned against doing in the handset’s documentation) that was, apparently, an important part of the screen display’s protection.

Several Faults

Several faults were identified by reviewers and confirmed in a statement from Samsung, including:

  • Issues on the display associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge.
  • Substances being found inside the device affecting the display performance.

It has also been reported that some reviewers saw creases on the fold and other display glitches which the folding robot really should have found.

Production Problems – Is The Technology Ready Yet?

Part of the delay in the production of a commercial version of Galaxy’s folding phone from the first sighting of its prototype 7 years ago is thought to be down to production problems in the complexity of developing durable but flexible plastic screens.

Also, the fact that competitors LG and Sony have many patents on foldable mobile displays but have not produced a foldable phone yet has led some commentators to suggest that the technology may simply not be fully ready for use in the current generation of phone handsets.

In Samsung’s own statement about the reported faults the company said that “how the device needs further improvements”.

Huawei

Another major phone market player (Huawei) also has a foldable phone in the development pipeline.  Huawei’s ‘Mate X’ version folds outwards, which some have speculated may leave the most vulnerable part of the device exposed all the time. The fact that Huawei has not yet gone to market with its foldable offering may also be a sign that it too is wrestling with similar screen problems i.e. screen creasing.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

In the phone market, there has been a degree of stagnation as customers delay upgrades while waiting for more innovative models and new features.  A folding phone offers value in terms of its versatility as a kind of “2-in-1” tablet and phone, as well as the novelty value and kudos of having a device with the very latest folding screen.  As expected, however, the Samsung Folding (when is eventually launched), and competitor folding phone models will have a premium price tag (thought to be around £1,500), and although this would decrease as volumes increase, many businesses may decide to wait a bit longer before they buy one.

The fact that Samsung has called-off the launch and not given a future launch date for the Samsung Folding may indeed indicate that the technology is not quite ready, and that simply introducing a model with design faults just to be first to get a folding phone out there is not something they’re prepared to risk.