Google’s Newest Office Has AI Designers Toiling In a Wi-Fi Desert

Google’s swanky new office building located on the Alphabet’s Mountain View, California headquarters has been “plagued for months by inoperable, or, at best, spotty Wi-Fi,” reports Reuters citing six people familiar with the matter. “Its recliner-laden collaborative workspaces do not work well for teams carting around laptops, since workers must plug into ethernet cables at their desks to get consistent internet service. Some make do by using their phones as hotspots.” From the report: The company promoted the new building and surrounding campus in a 229-page glossy book highlighting its cutting-edge features, such as “Googley interiors” and “an environment where everyone has the tools they need to be successful.”

But, a Google spokeswoman acknowledged, “we’ve had Wi-Fi connectivity issues in Bay View.” She said Google “made several improvements to address the issue,” and the company hoped to have a fix in coming weeks. According to one AI engineer assigned to the building, which also houses members of the advertising team, the wonky Wi-Fi has been no help for Google pushing a three day per week return-to-office mandate. “You’d think the world’s leading internet company would have worked this out,” he said.

Managers have encouraged workers to stroll outside or sit at the adjoining cafe where the Wi-Fi signal is stronger. Some were issued new laptops recently with more powerful Wi-Fi chips. Google has not publicly disclosed the reasons for the Wi-Fi problems, but workers say the 600,000-square-foot building’s swooping, wave-like rooftop swallows broadband like the Bermuda Triangle.

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LG Washing Machine Found Sending 3.7 GB of Data a Day

An LG washing machine owner discovered that his smart home appliance was uploading an average of 3.66GB of data daily. “Concerned about the washer’s internet addiction, Johnie forced the device to go cold turkey and blocked it using his router UI,” reports Tom’s Hardware. From the report: Johnie’s initial screenshot showed that on a chosen day, the device uploaded 3.57GB and downloaded about 100MB, and the data traffic was almost constant. Meanwhile, according to the Asus router interface screenshot, the washing machine accounted for just shy of 5% of Johnie’s internet traffic daily. The LG washing machine owner saw the fun in his predicament and joked that the device might use Wi-Fi for “DLCs (Downloadable Laundry Cycles).” He wasn’t entirely kidding: The machine does download presets for various types of apparel. However, the lion’s share of the data transferred was uploaded.

Working through the thread, we note that Johnie also pondered the possibility of someone using his washing machine for crypto mining. “I’d gladly rent our LPU (Laundry Processing Unit) by the hour,” he quipped. Again, there was the glimmer of a possibility that there could be truth behind this joke. Another social media user highlighted a history of hackers taking over LG smart-connected appliances. The SmartThinQ home appliances HomeHack vulnerability was patched several weeks after being made public. A similar modern hack might use the washing machine’s computer resources as part of a botnet. Taking control of an LG washing machine as part of a large botnet for cryptocurrency mining or nefarious networking purposes wouldn’t be as far-fetched as it sounds. Large numbers of relatively low-power devices can be formidable together. One of the more innocent theories regarding the significant data uploads suggested laundry data was being uploaded to LG so it could improve its LLM (Large Laundry Model). It sought to do this to prepare for the launch of its latest “AI washer-dryer combo” at CES, joked Johnie.

For now, it looks like the favored answer to the data mystery is to blame Asus for misreporting it. We may never know what happened with Johnie, who is now running his LG washing machine offline. Another relatively innocent reason for the supposed high volume of uploads could be an error in the Asus router firmware. In a follow-up post a day after his initial Tweet, Johnie noted “inaccuracy in the ASUS router tool,” with regard to Apple iMessage data use. Other LG smart washing machine users showed device data use from their router UIs. It turns out that these appliances more typically use less than 1MB per day.

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Tokyo Has 20x As Much Wi-Fi As It Needs

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: Tokyo has five million Wi-Fi access points — and that’s 20 times what the city needs, because they’re reserved for private use, according to NTT. The Japanese tech giant proposes sharing the fleet to cope with increased demand for wireless comms without adding more hardware. NTT says it’s successfully tested network sharing with a scheme that starts by asking operators of Wi-Fi access points or other connections if they’re open to sharing their bandwidth and allowing random netizens to connect. In return they get a share of revenue from those connections.

Under the scheme, netizens search for available networks and, as they connect, a contract would be executed allowing a link to be made. That contract would use Ethereum Proof of Authority to verify identities and initiate the back-end billing arrangements before allowing signed-up users and devices to join private networks. The operator of the Wi-Fi access point gets paid, the punter gets a connection, and everything’s on a blockchain so the results can be read for eternity. […] If this all scales, NTT estimates Tokyo won’t need to add any more Wi-Fi access points or private 5G cells, even as demand for connectivity increases. The company also suggests it can enable networks to scale without requiring commensurate increases in energy consumption, and that spectrum will also be freed for other uses.

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Lufthansa Says Passengers Can’t Use Apple AirTags to Track Checked Bags

Citing rules issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), German airliner Lufthansa says it is banning activated Apple AirTags from luggage “as they are classified as dangerous and need to be turned off.” Slashdot reader AmiMoJo first shared the news with us. The New York Times reports: Lufthansa, a German airline, set off confusion recently after telling passengers that they could not use trackers like Apple AirTags in checked baggage because of international guidelines for personal electronic devices. Apple rejected that interpretation on Tuesday, saying its trackers comply with all regulations. It does not appear that any other airlines are requiring passengers to turn off the trackers, which have become popular as a way to find lost baggage.

Lufthansa found itself in the middle of the issue when reports surfaced in the German news media that the devices were prohibited. Though Lufthansa said it has no desire to prohibit the devices that it deemed safe, the airline seems to have stepped in a mess based on the reading of obscure international guidelines and regulations, with no clear consensus on what is and is not allowed in Europe.

Lufthansa said on Sunday on Twitter that the trackers must be deactivated in checked baggage on its flights, citing the International Civil Aviation Organization’s guidelines for dangerous goods as well as the trackers’ “transmission function.” Shutting off the trackers renders them useless. The airline has not issued a specific policy prohibiting baggage trackers. Rather, it says it is at the mercy of the rules. On Tuesday, the airline said it was “in close contact with the respective institutions to find a solution as quickly as possible.” It also indicated its own examination saw no danger from their use. “The Lufthansa Group has conducted its own risk assessment with the result that tracking devices with very low battery and transmission power in checked luggage do not pose a safety risk,” said Martin Leutke, a Lufthansa spokesman. “We have never issued a ban on devices like that. It is on the authorities to adapt regulations that right now limit the use of these devices for airline passengers in checked luggage.”

In its statement, Apple said that AirTags are “compliant with international airline travel safety regulations for carry-on and checked baggage.”

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Matter Smart Home Standard Officially Launches

The Connectivity Standards Alliance and its members that include Apple, Google, Amazon, Samsung, and other smart home manufacturers, today announced the official launch of the Matter 1.0 smart home accessory standard. MacRumors reports: Companies that have agreed to support Matter now have all of the resources that they need to begin implementing Matter into their platforms, so we could see Apple integrating Matter into HomeKit very soon. In fact, iOS 16.1 is already laying the groundwork for Matter, so Matter could be announced with the launch of the update. With the Matter 1.0 launch, authorized test labs are now available for product certification, tools are available, and the open-source reference design SDK is complete. Alliance members with devices that have already been deployed and with plans to update their products with Matter support can do so as soon as their products are certified. The Connectivity Standards Alliance says that the first release of Matter will support a variety of smart home products such as lighting, HVAC controls, window coverings, safety and security sensors, door locks, media devices, controllers, and bridges. “What started as a mission to unravel the complexities of connectivity has resulted in Matter, a single, global IP-based protocol that will fundamentally change the IoT,” said Tobin Richardson, President and CEO of the Connectivity Standards Alliance. “This release is the first step on a journey our community and the industry are taking to make the IoT more simple, secure, and valuable no matter who you are or where you live. With global support from companies large and small, today’s Matter 1.0 release is more than a milestone for our organization and our members; it is a celebration of what is possible.”

Further reading: Google Explains Why It’s All In On Matter, the First True Smart Home Standard

Amazon Promises Most Echo Speakers Will Support the Matter Smart Home Platform

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Stadia Controllers Could Become E-Waste Unless Google Issues Bluetooth Update

With Stadia coming to an abrupt halt, gamers want Google to issue a software update for the controllers that unlocks Bluetooth to allow them to work wirelessly with other game systems. It would also “avoid a lot of plastic and circuit board trash,” adds Ars. From the report: Stadia’s controllers were custom-made to connect directly to the Internet, reducing lag and allowing for instant firmware updates and (sometimes painful) connections to smart TVs. There’s Bluetooth inside the Stadia controller, but it’s only used when you’re setting up Stadia, either with a TV, a computer with the Chrome browser, or a Chromecast Ultra. The Google Store’s page for the Stadia controller states in a footnote: “Product contains Bluetooth Classic radio. No Bluetooth Classic functionality is enabled at this time. Bluetooth Classic may be implemented at a later date.” (Bluetooth Classic is a more traditional version of Bluetooth than modern low-energy or mesh versions.) That potential later date can’t get much later for fans of the Stadia controller. Many cite the controller’s hand feel and claim it as their favorite. They’d like to see Google unlock Bluetooth to make their favorite something more than a USB-only controller and avoid a lot of plastic and circuit board trash.

“Now if you’d just enable Bluetooth on the controller, we could help the environment by not letting them become electronic waste,” writes Roadrunner571 on one of many controller-related threads on the r/Stadia subreddit. “They created trash and they at least owe it to me to do their best within reason to prevent millions of otherwise perfectly good controllers from filling landfills,” another wrote. Many have called for Google, if they’re not going to push a firmware update themselves to unlock the functionality, to open up access to the devices themselves, so the community can do it for them. That’s often a tricky scenario for large companies relying on a series of sub-contracted manufacturers to produce hardware. Some have suggested that the full refunds give Google more leeway to ignore the limited function of their devices post-shutdown. It’s worth noting that you can still plug a Stadia controller into the USB port on a Smart TV, computer, or gaming console and use it as a controller through a standard HID (Human Interface Device) connection. But, currently, it’s not possible to connect the controllers wirelessly, unless you go through a lot of effort.

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Intel To Introduce Wi-Fi 7 In 2024 As Apple Plans Imminent Move To Wi-Fi 6E

According to a new report from ETNews, Intel is planning to install its next-generation Wi-Fi 7 (802.11be) technology in devices by 2024 as Apple transitions its devices to Wi-Fi 6E. MacRumors reports: Wi-Fi 7 is the successor to Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax), bringing two times faster data processing speeds of 5.8 Gbps and more stable 6 GHz bandwidth stability, as well as support for up to 36 Gbps when working with data. Intel plans to expand its Wi-Fi 7 development efforts ahead of its introduction to the market in 2024 and intends to apply its technology predominantly in laptops before expanding to other devices. “We are currently developing Intel’s Wi-Fi ‘802.11be’ in order to obtain the ‘Wi-Fi Alliance’ certification, and it will be installed in PC products such as laptops by 2024. We expect it to appear in major markets in 2025,” Eric McLaughlin, vice president of Intel’s wireless solutions division, said at a recent press conference in Asia.

Meanwhile, Apple is on the cusp of transitioning its devices to Wi-Fi 6E. While it was heavily rumored to debut with the iPhone 13 lineup last year, Apple has yet to release any devices with support for Wi-Fi 6E. That is expected to change this year starting with the iPhone 14. Apple’s long-rumored mixed-reality headset is also expected to feature Wi-Fi 6E. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that head-mounted display devices in 2022, 2023, and 2024 will offer Wi-Fi 6/6E, Wi-Fi 6E/7, and Wi-Fi 7, respectively, but it is unclear if this information was related to Apple’s product roadmap specifically. “Wi-Fi 6E offers the features and capabilities of Wi-Fi 6, including higher performance, lower latency, and faster data rates, extended into the 6 GHz band for processing speeds of 2.4 Gbps,” notes MacRumors. “The additional spectrum provides more airspace beyond existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi, resulting in increased bandwidth and less interference.”

Other tech giants like Qualcomm, Broadcom, and MediaTek are also planning to release Wi-Fi 7-based products in the next few years.

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FAA Estimates 78% of US Planes Can Now Land At Airports With 5G C-Band

The FAA has announced that an “estimated 78 percent of the U.S. commercial fleet” have been cleared to land at airports with 5G C-band, even under low-visibility conditions. The Verge reports: The agency’s statement comes after a week of controversy surrounding the rollout of AT&T and Verizon’s upgraded cellular tech, which saw US airlines warning of “catastrophic disruption” to travel and shipping and some international airlines announcing they’d halt flights to some US airports. At issue are concerns that some radio altimeters won’t properly ignore signals from the new 5G transmitters. While there are precautions that should keep this from happening, including creating buffer zones around airports, an incorrect altimeter reading could cause real problems during a low-visibility landing.

Given the high stakes, the FAA has said that only planes with altimeters that it has tested and cleared will be allowed to land in sub-optimal conditions at airports where the new 5G tech has rolled out. […] On January 16th, the agency announced that it had cleared two altimeters, which it bumped up to five on Wednesday. It said the cleared altimeters were installed in “some” versions of planes like the Boeing 737, 747, and 777. The FAA changed that language on Thursday, saying that the 13 cleared altimeters should cover “all” Boeing 717, 737, 747, 757, 767, 777, 787, MD-10/-11, and Airbus A300, A310, A319, A320, A330, A340, A350, and A380 models. It also notes that “some” Embraer 170 and 190 regional jets are covered.

The FAA is still predicting that some altimeters won’t pass the test and will be “too susceptible to 5G interference.” Planes equipped with those models won’t be allowed to land at airports with the new 5G tech in low-visibility conditions — which could prevent airlines from scheduling any flights using those planes to airports of concern, given the unpredictability of weather and the disruption such a diversion would cause.

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