Friday Five: laceless kicks and quantum computers

Zone’s Letty Key handpicks and shares the five best stories on new digital trends, experiences and technologies…

1. China tops annual app charts

App Annie’s State of Mobile 2019 has landed and, as ever, the annual report on global app downloads, app store spending and more over the past 12 months makes for interesting reading.

This article pulls out the headlines, and it is no surprise that China dominates proceedings. The world’s most populous country accounts for nearly half of all app downloads and 40% of consumer spending. All this despite the fact that Chinese users have fewer apps on their phones due to the prevalence of low-cost, limited storage devices. I guess it just goes to show that (population) size does matter.

2. Nike looks towards a laceless future

Thirty years after their big screen debut in Back to the Future II, self-lacing shoes could be on the verge of going mainstream thanks to Nike. The brand has dabbled in smart shoes before, but its latest offering, the Adapt BB, combines elements of the two previous iterations and homes in on the needs of basketball players.

Adapt BBs can be tightened and loosened via app commands or by pressing a button on the side of the shoe. And while this scope may seem narrow for now, Nike sees it as a gateway to a truly smart shoe that is able to tighten and loosen itself dynamically, responding in real time to bio feedback from the wearer’s feet.

3. IBM makes a quantum leap

We touched on IBM’s announcement that it had created the first commercial quantum computer last week, but this helpful explanation underlines the significance of being the first to get the ball rolling.

There’s a lot of speculation as to the implications of advancements in quantum computing, including fears that it could spell the end for blockchain, but with both Google and IBM investing heavily in the field, there’s little doubt that the future of computing lies this way. So bone up on all things quantum and impress your mates down the pub tonight.

4. Inspiring through the power of podcasts

Facebook has boarded the podcast bandwagon, this week launching a programme focusing on entrepreneurship and the stories of how businesses connect with and inspire each other on the platform. This fits Facebook’s new mission to: “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

The show is called Three and a Half Degrees — a nod to the old saying that everyone in the world is only six degrees of separation from anyone else, but Facebook has recalculated. Based on its oceans of data, the platform’s researchers say that this figure has shrunk to an average of three and a half. If you’re on Facebook, at least.

5. Tech has silver lining for senior citizens

If your grandparents are anything like mine, they probably aren’t the most technologically adept members of our digital society. But this could soon change, as there is a growing field of tech that uses everything from AI to VR to help the elderly retain their independence and avoid becoming isolated.

Gadgets on display at CES earlier this month included a voice-activated home health companion that offers medication storage and dosage reminders, while also doubling as a smart speaker for companionship, as well as non-invasive sensors that track and monitor a person’s daily routine and alert caregivers of anything untoward.

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