High Prices Becoming Issue for Fitness Wearables and Smartwatches...

Usually, after a house and a vehicle, furniture is the third-most expensive item a person will buy during their lifetime. Of course, that’s starting to change in the digital era, now that smartphones and laptops have become so essential. And while furniture items like sofas can typically last up to 15 years, the latest tablet or smartphone will be obsolete in two to three years. Technological advancements are leading to an increase in consumer spending across virtually all industries, but these smart devices come with significant high costs. In particular, the high price tag that comes with fitness trackers and smartwatches is starting to turn off many consumers. Across the board, wearable technology devices are being developed, marketed, and distributed at prices higher than ever before. In general, smartwatches and Fitbit-style fitness trackers are now much too expensive for the majority of people. According to The Motley Fool, the most expensive wearable device in 2016 was the Apple Watch Series 2 Edition, retailing for $1,299. “Dropout from device usage is a serious problem for the industry,” said Angela McIntyre, research director for Gartner. “The abandonment rate is quite high relative to the usage rate.” Readwrite reports that Gartner’s survey shows that nearly one-third of smartwatch or fitness tracker owners end up abandoning the technology after a brief flirtation with wearables. So what’s the solution? McIntyre’s idea is for these companies to improve their marketing approach, the products themselves, and make the prices much more affordable. “To offer a compelling enough value proposition, the uses for wearable devices need to be distinct from what smartphones typically provide,” McIntyre added. “Wearables makers need to engage users with incentives and gamification.” Many of these wearable items would be great gift ideas, but are just too expensive for...

A Peek into the Future of Shopping: How Retailers Are Responding to E-Commerce...

As Americans continue shying away from brick and mortar stores and more towards the online shopping market, retailers have had to revamp their business models to keep up with consumer needs. When it comes to clothes shopping, one of the biggest reasons people still visit these brick and mortar storefronts it to try things on. Since sizes can vary between brands, collections, and cuts, many people still choose to try on their clothes with unfamiliar brands. In general, people also like seeing what the clothes look like on their bodies before they make the commitment to buy. But the future of shopping may be well under way. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has announced that his company has developed a 3D in-store knitting machine that creates custom fitting garments on-demand, instead of displaying handmade garments knit from one of three different needle sizes. The machine was unveiled in mid-January at the National Retail Federation’s annual convention in New York City and has a lot of potential to eliminate unnecessary costs and bring in more profits. “If you end up selling a model of sweater that goes really [fast], you can keep making it here,” said Joe Jensen, general manager of Intel’s retail solutions division. The machine takes about 45 minutes to create a garment, while it can take a human hours to knit or weave a fabric before even creating the garment. Virtual and augmented reality were also highly showcased at the NRF convention. Gap is currently working with Google and San Francisco-based app developer Avametric to continue the development of its app that shows exactly how each piece of clothing in their collection would look on a specific person’s frame, eliminating the stressful need to try clothing on in the dressing room. Not only...

3 Years After Elk River Spill, Advocates Continue Work to Protect Drinking Water...

The third anniversary of the Elk River chemical spill came and went at the beginning of January. Though the chemical spill occurred over three years ago, advocates remember clearly how more than 300,000 West Virginia citizens were left without usable drinking water for over a week. The chemical leak started at Freedom Industries, located just beyond Charleston. The spill created a serious need for new legislation, which is exactly what the West Virginia Legislature did. The legislature passed a bill that required 125 public water facilities across the state to create new water source protection procedures. The new plans included updated lists of potential sources of contamination, as well as new procedures for responding to imminent spills. In addition, public water systems were required to identify alternative water intakes so that in the event of contamination from one source, another could be used. These preventative measures will ensure that customers will still be getting clean water in the event of a spill. Approximately 16,000 chemical spills occur every year when materials are being transferred to trains, trucks, and storage tanks. Evan Hansen, an advisor to the WV Rivers Water Policy Workgroup, explained that the biggest challenge now is implementing the new laws that have been written. Hansen said that some of the newly written laws will “require changes to the state code or the state rules,” which is placing some strain on getting the job done. This is one of the major issues behind advocates’ work. Citizen organizations and environmental advocates gathered on the spill’s anniversary and explained that while the state has made progress, it needs to maintain its keen focus on providing clean, safe water to its citizens. Angie Rosser, executive director of the Rivers Coalition, said that the groups wanted “to...

Unmanned Submarines Bring Scientists One Step Closer to Understanding the Deep Seas...

It’s hard to believe that there could be life in the deep recesses of Earth’s ocean, but over 13,000 feet below the surface, small shrimp, crabs, and other creatures flourish near hydrothermal vents. An unmanned submarine named SuBastion recently ventured down into the deep to join them. Scientists located a previously undiscovered group of hydrothermal vents in a region titled the Mariana Back-Arc — located near the Mariana Trench — in 2015. They returned to the marked location with SuBastion, a remotely-operated submersible developed by the Schmidt Ocean Institute. SuBastion was launched from their ship, Falkor, which gathered information and broadcasted Subastion’s video via livestream. Video footage revealed chimneys up to 100 feet tall in the Back-Arc region, as well as vast numbers of sea creatures around them. The chimneys teemed with life, which included shrimp, lobsters, and crabs. National Geographic explained that the hard rock around the chimneys provides a better setting for these sea creatures to live on, when compared to the soft mud on the sea floor. But SuBastion isn’t the only submersible setting out to explore the depths. Students at the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay have been working hard to develop Matsya, an autonomous submersible that is capable of controlling its own movements and tasks without the need for human guidance. Right now, the only unmanned submersibles operated by India’s naval forces are remotely operated. Matsya’s technology could actually “train” the equipment currently being used to act independently. Unlike military forces in the U.S. and in China, which have been using unmanned submersibles for some time, India’s entry into the world of unmanned equipment is fairly new. The IIT project’s 21-year-old team leader, Varun Mittal, said that while space exploration has forced the need for unmanned machines, “development of underwater...

Norway Accuses Group with Links to Russia of Executing Cyber Attack...

A recent survey revealed that approximately 87% of small businesses experienced a cyber security breach in 2012 alone, and the number of attempted attacks is increasing. But one group of cyber criminals with alleged links to Russia had a much bigger target in mind. Norway’s foreign ministry, army, and a number of the nation’s other institutions were targeted in a serious cyber attack at the beginning of February. According to Norwegian intelligence reports, a group with suspected links to Russia was allegedly responsible for carrying out the attack. The group, known as APT 29, was called out by Oslo and has already faced accusations of interfering with the U.S. Presidential election. Arne Christian Haugstoyl, an official with Norway’s intelligence service, told television channel TV2 that as many as nine e-mail accounts were singled out “in an attempt at what is called spear phishing, in other words, malicious emails.” Haugstoyl explained that it’s difficult to ascertain the end goal of the attack, but APT 29 has consistently been described as a group “with links to the Russian authorities.” He added that Norway was notified of the attack not from an internal source, but from an allied country. The attack came at a point when Donald Trump had just eased a set of sanctions against Russia implemented by the Obama administration. Earlier in the month, the U.S. Treasury Department allowed some cyber-security sales to go to the Russian Federal Security Service. This is the same organization that was accused by U.S. Intelligence of interfering with the electoral process. While Trump has suggested that all Russian sanctions should be lifted if America sees “some really great things” from the country, Norway is still viewing Russia as a serious security threat. In addition to the PST and the...