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File this one under the ‘Obvious’ (or is it?) tab. According to a new report Tuesday by Geektime, citing sources familiar with their plans, Apple and Nike have banded together to secretly engineer a new smartband said to have been scheduled for a major announcement this Fall.

Needless to say, Geekwire doesn’t have an established track record in terms of rumors so you need to take the story with a grain of salt. Of course, such a notion just makes lots of sense on many levels.

As a reminder, CNET learned last week that Nike is in the process of shuttering its wearable-hardware division that produces FuelBand-branded accessories. These things are worn on one’s wrist, track one’s health and fitness data and work in conjunction with a companion iPhone app.

The sportswear company reportedly let go the majority of the team responsible for the development of FuelBand hardware as it reportedly concentrates its efforts on a secretive collaboration with Apple…

Geekwire has learned from its sources in Cupertino that “a quiet collaboration with Apple” actually prompted Nike’s big reorganization moves.

While leaks regarding the new iPad and iPhone seem to hit the news stands every other day, another product which is currently in its final stages of development in Cupertino is the actual cause for a move by Nike a few days back that led to the dismissal of nearly a third of its digital division’s workforce responsible for the Nike FuelBand.

The report goes on to claim that the iWatch – as Apple’s rumored wearable devices has been nicknamed by the press – is actually a fitness band rather than an actual smartwatch.

Tim Cook wearing a Nike FuelBand.

Tim Cook wearing a Nike FuelBand.

Apple’s been working “for a long time” on this project, asserts Geekwire, adding that Tim Cook & Co. are shooting to launch the gizmo towards the end of 2014. Its many sensors, the story goes, can not only monitor the activity of the wearer, but also “operate other devices as a gestural controller”.

The following excerpt is interesting.

Nike knows something you don’t. Nike is being very secret about the whole matter but when Apple launches its new smart band later this year things will become clearer. Until then we can say that Nike will play a significant part in shaping the next Apple’s next product. 

The notion is echoed by GigaOm:

If Nike exits the physical wearable market, as now seems likely, Apple will be the primary sensor maker for Nike’s future wearable apps given the length and depth of the two companies’ close ties.

Although there are a handful of Nike apps available for Android, there is no app (on any other mobile platform aside from iOS) that supports NikeFuel, which Nike describes as the “heart of the Nike+ ecosystem.”

In many ways, this is the culmination of a process that’s been taking place between the two companies for the better part of a decade: Nike will design the fitness app experience, and the hardware will be made by Apple.

“The Nike+ FuelBand SE remains an important part of our business,” a company spokesperson told CNET last week. “We will continue to improve the Nike+ FuelBand App, launch new METALUXE colors, and we will sell and support the Nike+ FuelBand SE for the foreseeable future.”

Nika’s Move app got air time at the iPhone 5s introduction last Fall.

Nika’s Move app got air time at the iPhone 5s introduction last Fall.

A few things.

Apple and Nike are longtime partners, having created the Nike+iPod shoe-sensor package back in 2006. Nike+iPod gear and other Nike+ products are sold in Apple’s brick-and-mortar and online stores.

Nike will be publicly releasing an API for its Nike+ hardware this Fall, as part of the firm’s Fuel Lab initiative. Its Move app launched as an iOS exclusive, featuring support for the iPhone 5s’s M7 motion coprocessor.

Finally, Apple CEO Tim Cook has been sitting on the Nike board for the last nine years. Plus, he is a FuelBand fan and was spotted wearing the accessory at the iPad mini launch in October 2012.

Can you connect the dots?

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Rumor: Apple Will Tap Beats To Introduce High

Apple’s purported acquisition of Beats Electronics, LCC has set the tongues wagging as pundits race to offer their armchair analysis of the grand strategy behind Apple’s alleged $3.2 billion deal.

The latest in the Apple-Beats saga comes via the rather reliable Japanese blog Macotakara which earlier this morning asserted that Apple will use Beats to introduce support for high-resolution audio files in iTunes and the iOS Music app and also improve sound quality of its pricey pricey $79 In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic…

The Macotakara report [Google translate] also points us to a post by music blogger Robert Hutton who goes to great lengths to explain why high-resolution audio matters.

According to Hutton, Warner Music is readying a Super Deluxe version of Led Zeppelin’s three albums, remastered in the 24-bit 96kHz audio resolution which Apple devices and software currently do not support.

For several years, Apple have been insisting that labels provide files for iTunes in 24 bit format – preferably 96k or 192k sampling rate. So they have undeniably the biggest catalog of hi-res audio in the world.

And the Led Zeppelin remasters in high resolution will be the kick off event – to coincide with Led Zep in hi-res, Apple will flip the switch and launch their hi-res store via iTunes – and apparently, it will be priced a buck above the typical current file prices.

That’s right – Apple will launch hi-res iTunes in two months.

If that’s true, Apple could share the news at its summer developers conference that kicks off with a keynote on June 2.

Apple’s In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic.

Apple’s In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic.

Should the Beats buy get official, word on the street is that Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine will see their grand introductions as Apple executives at WWDC.

Rumors of high-fidelity music in the iTunes Store date back to 2011.

If Apple is about to upgrade sound quality on iTunes to the 24-bit format with 96k or 192k sampling rate, the size of music files could increase up to three times, turning a 100MB album download into a 300MB one.

Jimmy Iovine, a powerful music industry figure and one of the co-founders of Beats Electronics, LCC, was Steve Jobs’s friend and one of the early adopters of the digital music revolution spearheaded by iTunes a decade ago.

He persuaded Jobs to put the first iPod inside a music video by 50 Cent to help push the digital music player and also helped recruit music labels and artists to support the iTunes Store at its start.

Here’s an excerpt from a 2003 interview with Iovine:

I have a background as a recording engineer, so I think I understand what kids want, and when I saw the simplicity of the iTunes system, I said, wow, this is going to work. This is what they want, no muss, no fuss.

An outstanding music engineer who has helped produce a number of well-known acts throughout his rich career, Iovine would later criticize Apple’s music service and headphones for their sub-par sound quality.

“Apple got everything right except that ear bud,” he said last year, according to Bloomberg.

Dr. Dre, the other Beats co-founder, agrees:

“I spend months on a song and it sounds terrible,” said the musician.

Hopefully, Dr. Dre’s penchant for rich bass and impeccable sound quality will be put to good use by Apple because Apple’s in-ear headphones do sound terrible.

Developing A New Weapon Against Hiv

Developing a New Weapon Against HIV MED prof: plant-grown antibodies could hold key

MED’s Deborah Anderson is working to create a cheap and powerful new weapon against AIDS, with a $13 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

The latest news on AIDS is sobering. In 2009, 2.6 million people became infected with HIV, according to data released in November by UNAIDS. That’s down from 3.1 million in 1999, but still amounts to 7,000 new infections and nearly 5,000 deaths every day.

Deborah Anderson is working to reverse this trend. Armed with a five-year, $13.3 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the School of Medicine professor of obstetrics and gynecology and microbiology is developing an innovative approach to AIDS prevention, supplementing the body’s own immune system with novel antibodies grown in tobacco plants. If it works, her system will offer not only a cheap and powerful new weapon against AIDS, but also insights into stopping the spread of viruses from the common cold to the deadly Ebola virus.

The key to Anderson’s strategy is mucus, that lowly, slippery fluid that coats the nose, protects the eyes, and guards women’s reproductive systems from infection. An expert on mucosal immunology and HIV, Anderson has been studying these subjects for decades. For her PhD research at the University of Texas, she investigated the immunology of pregnancy, examining why a mother’s immune system doesn’t reject a fetus and why some women develop an immune response to their partner’s sperm. She garnered a deep understanding of immunology and gynecology, two subjects that became critically important when the AIDS epidemic burst onto the scene.

In the 1980s, a friend at the National Institutes of Health suggested that Anderson study the sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS, which at the time was just beginning to be understood. “I got involved when the epidemic was getting started,” she says. Since then she has specialized in genital tract immunology, examining how the body’s own immune system responds to HIV, herpes simplex virus (HSV), and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Which bring us back to mucus, a secretion that protects cells and wards off infection. Human mucus is made of long molecules called mucins; there’s some evidence that antibodies may tether themselves to mucins and also enter and remain inside skin cells lining the mucus membranes. Anderson is creating a microbicide that a woman can insert in her genital tract via an easy-to-use ring, gel, or film. The microbicide will contain two antibodies that attack different parts of the HIV virus and a third antibody that neutralizes HSV. If the technology works, in the future it could include antibodies that protect against other STDs as well.

“We could keep adding antibodies because the body makes a whole host of them,” says Anderson, pointing out that human secretions are already brimming with antibodies. “The beauty of this system is that we’re just helping Mother Nature.”

Despite the worldwide epidemic, HIV is actually a fragile virus. “It doesn’t infect very easily,” Anderson says. “If a woman has unprotected sex with an infected man, there’s only about a one in 1,000 chance of getting infected with HIV.” However, other factors can raise the risk, she adds. Genital herpes, for instance, causes inflammation and sores that allow HIV to more easily breach the body’s natural defenses, so Anderson’s microbicide is designed to guard against both HSV and HIV. She hopes this approach will tackle one of the recurring problems with microbicides and spermicides: they work, but people don’t use them. “Take condoms,” she says. “They’re very effective, but people don’t use them correctly.” She expects that the new microbicide will be easy to use and hopes it will provide protection from HIV/HSV for up to a month.

To develop the particular antibodies to be used in the microbicide, Anderson is working with biophysicist Kevin Whaley, a longtime collaborator and founder of Mapp Biopharmaceuticals, in San Diego. Mapp is a leader in the production of “plantibodies,” antibodies (in this case, HIV-specific antibodies) grown in plants. Plantibodies can be manufactured in huge amounts quickly and cheaply compared to growing similar antibodies in animals or cell cultures. “The technology has been around for over 10 years, but now it has gelled,” says Anderson. “They have been able to ramp up production and lower costs.” Tobacco in particular is easy to grow and harvest and offers great promise for fast, low-cost antibody production. The current cost of antibodies grown in mammals is about $50 a dose, while the cost of tobacco-grown antibodies will likely be much less—somewhere between 20 cents and $1 a dose.

Anderson’s grant comes from the NIH’s Integrated Preclinical/Clinical Program for HIV Topical Microbicides, created to foster collaboration between industry and academia. Anderson will oversee 6 projects at 10 institutions that will test new antibody formulations, grow the plants, harvest the antibodies, and build and test the application devices. The grant is the largest she’s ever received, and overseeing groups in both academia and industry is new for her. “This one is challenging because all the paperwork is different in working with industry,” she says.

Anderson’s first goal over the grant’s five years is to determine which configuration of antibodies works best when mixed with mucus or applied to mucosal skin cells, a process that will take about a year. Then her team will grow large batches of the chosen antibodies in tobacco plants and will test the antibodies in monkeys to see if they prevent the transmission of HIV. The grant will also include preclinical human trials to make sure the antibodies don’t cause irritation or inflammation and to see how long they remain active in the body.

“Our dream is to put plantibodies on the map for preventing transmission of STDs,” says Anderson. If the technology works, it could have far broader implications. Many other infections enter the body through mucus membranes in the nose, eyes, and lungs. If Anderson’s plantibodies work, they may offer a new weapon for preventing the spread of tuberculosis, influenza, and even that universal annoyance, the common cold.

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Iwatch Rumors: Uv Light Exposure Sensor, August

Apple’s rumored wearable device, dubbed by the press the iWatch, is said to include a plethora of sensors to help measure not only a user’s vital signs and blood oximetry levels but also stuff like the amount of harmful ultraviolet light you’ve been exposed to – presumably in order to ping you when you’ve had enough – according to a new research note from Barclays analyst Blayne Curtis.

This should help both folks with elevated risk of sunburn and those who are simply concerned about excessive sun exposure. And if you ask Taiwan’s Economic Daily News, Apple has been lining up suppliers for months now and is targeting a third-quarter launch, around the August-September timeframe…

AppleInsider relays the analyst note mentioning the UV light exposure sensor:

These chips measure UV exposure to aid those with elevated risk of sunburn or just a general concern about excessive sun exposure, and we believe they may be of appealing [sic] to OEMs looking to differentiate in a crowded market.

The sensors should be supplied by Austin, Texas-based Silicon Labs.

Conveniently enough, the firm in February unveiled a remarkably small UV light exposure sensor, the industry’s first single-chip digital UV index sensors. Silicon Labs says the sensor is “ideal for activity-tracking wrist and arm bands, smart watches and smartphone handsets.”

Not only can the chip/sensor track your UV sun exposure, it will also take measurements of a user’s heart/pulse rates and blood oximetry. But that’s not all, the solution includes ambient light and infrared proximity sensing capabilities for health and fitness applications and provides proximity/gesture control for wearable products.

According to Silicon Labs:

Conventional UV sensors combine UV-sensitive photodiodes with an external microcontroller (MCU), analog-to-digital converter (ADC) and signal processing firmware. Silicon Labs is the first to combine all of this functionality into a single-chip solution offered in an exceptionally small 2 mm x 2 mm package that helps reduce the design’s footprint and bill of material cost.

Sounds like a fit for the iWatch, don’t you think?

And if you believe the rumor-mill and have been following Apple’s aggressive hirings in the medical field, the iWatch should also measure your sleep activity, perspiration levels and skin temperature, among other things.

As for the expected launch timeframe, DigiTimes passes along a report by Taiwan’s Economic Daily News [Google Translation] which cites supply chain sources as claiming that the iWatch will launch in the third quarter of this year.

Apple is rumored to unveil its wearable device iWatch in the third quarter and will target 65 million units in shipments for 2014.

Apple’s contract manufacturer Quanta Computer will assemble the product (as previously reported), TPK will provide the device’s sapphire touch panel and Richtek Technology (a new Apple supplier) will provide some chips.

Predictably, Apple is said to design the iWatch’s processor in-house, with the actual chip production outsourced to Samsung.

If the firm is really gearing up to launch the iWatch in a few month’s time, expect an announcement at WWDC 2014 which kicks off with a keynote on June 2, 2014.

Moreover, the developer-only event should give us a preview of iOS 8 and its rumored Healthbook application, the next major iteration to Apple’s desktop operating system and other goodies.

iWatch concept image by 3D artist Gábor Balogh.

Astronomer Paul Dalba Developing Model Of Saturn’S Atmosphere

BU’s Shared Computing Cluster: Results Hundreds of Times Faster Helping astronomers study cold atmosphere exoplanets

Paul Dalba used data collected by NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft to develop a model of Saturn’s atmosphere. Photo courtesy of Dalba

To most amateur stargazers, Saturn, with its majestic belt of rings, is the most beautiful planet in our solar system. But to astronomers like Paul Dalba, Saturn is much more than just looks. Because it is a cold giant planet, a large planet that is more distant from the sun than Earth is, Saturn can offer insights into the study of exoplanets, those planets that orbit stars beyond our solar system. Scientists’ big hope for exoplanetary research is that it will lead to the discovery of an Earth-like planet that can support life.

“Although we have not yet discovered an exoplanet with properties exactly matching Saturn’s,” says Dalba (GRS’18), a PhD astronomy student at Boston University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, “a closer examination of Saturn holds important consequences for future studies of giant, cold exoplanets.”

Astronomers have many ways to study these distant worlds. One of them, known as transmission spectroscopy, attempts to analyze their atmospheres by examining starlight that has passed through them. The differences between that light and light that has not passed through an exoplanet’s atmosphere can tell researchers about the density and the chemical makeup of the planet’s atmosphere. By studying Saturn as if it were an exoplanet, Dalba and his team hope to learn if transmission spectroscopy could be applied in the study of cold atmosphere exoplanets.

Working with data collected by NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn and its many moons since 2004, Dalba and his team used ray tracing—a complex process of calculating the properties and direction of a ray of light as it travels from one point to another—to develop a model of Saturn’s atmosphere. Ray tracing works because in empty space, light travels in a straight line, but in an atmosphere, its path is curved by atmospheric refraction. To describe this deviance from a straight line, researchers must solve differential equations for each of the thousands of rays of light passing through Saturn’s atmosphere. Dalba set out to do that by running the algorithms on his MacBook Pro.

“It wasn’t practical,” he says. “It was clear that it was going to take about a month.”

Dalba filled out what he says is a fairly simple application for use of the supercomputer, and he has since logged about 20,000 computer hours on the cluster. Instead of tracing one ray at a time, he found that he could use hundreds of computers to get his results hundreds of times faster.

“Things that would have taken a month can now be done overnight,” he says.

The cluster enabled precise measurements of the degree that light is bent as it passes through Saturn’s atmosphere, indicating the density of the atmosphere and the amount of energy lost as it passes through the atmosphere. The findings of Dalba and his team were published in the December 1, 2023, issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

What did Dalba learn about Saturn’s atmosphere? It’s mainly methane, followed by acetylene, ethane, and other hydrocarbons. More important, he was able to answer the question of whether transmission spectroscopy could be applied in the study of cold atmosphere exoplanets.

The answer is yes.

Apple Introduces Iphone 6 And Apple Watch

As rumored, Apple today took the wraps off two new iPhones during a streamed media presentation in Cupertino, Calif.

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus boast a new Retina HD screens. “Not any display would do,” said Schiller. Compared to the 4-inch screen on the iPhone 5S, the iPhone 6 sports a 4.7-inch display with a resolution of 1334 pixels by 750 pixels.

The larger, phablet-sized iPhone 6 Plus has a 5.5-inch screen with a resolution of 1920 pixels by 1080 pixels, which translates into over 2 million pixels, 185 percent more than the iPhone 5S, noted Schiller. Both models feature a glass front that curves slightly around the edge.

Highlights include iOS 8, an updated 8 megapixel iSight camera and a faster A8 64-bit processor with 2 billion transistors that is “50 times faster than the original iPhone,” said Schiller. Connectivity is enhanced with a 150 Mbps LTE and a Wi-Fi Calling feature that “seamlessly” hands off to cellular networks. In the U.S., T-Mobile will support Wi-Fi calling.

Eddie Cue, senior vice president of Internet Software and Services at Apple, later showed off the company’s mobile payments solution, Apple Wallet. A combination of near-field communication (NFC) technology, Touch ID, a Secure Element chip and specialized software, the Apple Wallet integrates with Passbook to enable secure payments with retailers and select e-commerce apps.

Cue assured that his company will respect the privacy of Apple Wallet users. “The transaction is between you, the merchant and your bank,” he said.

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus go on sale on Sept. 19. iPhone 6 prices start at the $199 for the 16 GB model and top out at $399 for the 128 GB version. The 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus prices start at $299. Preorders for both models start on Sept. 12.

Apple Watch

The event’s “one more thing” was the long-rumored iWatch, or as the company is branding it, the Apple Watch. Available in two sizes, the wearable “works seamlessly with iPhone,” said Cook. It also serves as a “comprehensive health and fitness device,” he added.

Apple Watch pushed the company to explore new interface and device interaction models. “What we didn’t do is take the iPhone and shrink the user interface,” said Cook.

The touch-capable, sapphire-enhanced display is complemented with a “digital crown” that contains infrared LEDs. Users can press and twist the dial to zoom and otherwise navigate the Apple Watch UI. A rear sensor monitors a user’s heart rate. It also features integration with Apple Pay for mobile payments.

To get developers on board, Apple is making available a software development kit (SDK) called WatchKit to extend iPhone apps to the device. Apple watch requires the iPhone, said Cook, before revealing that the smartwatch is backward compatible with iPhone models stretching back to the iPhone 5.

Apple’s wearable will be available in three versions, the base Apple Watch, the Sport and the 18 karat gold Edition. A range of interchangeable watch bands, from leather to sweat-resistant plastic to an array of metals, add an additional touch of personalization.

Prices start at $349. Apple Watch is scheduled to ship in early 2023.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InfoStor. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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