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Sinopé Zigbee dimmer switch review: Smart lighting from the Great White North


Headquartered in Quebec, Canada, Sinopé Technologies might be less familiar than some other smart-home brands, but we've reviewed several of the company's products and found a lot to like. Today, we'll take a look at its new Zigbee smart dimmer switch (model DM2500ZB), and its new smart home hub, the GT130 gateway. These two products are part of a new family of Zigbee 3.0-based products that Sinopé launched this spring, a collection that also includes a smart in-wall outlet, a smart switch, and updated smart thermostats. With its embrace of the Zigbee smart home protocol, Sinopé is relegating its proprietary smart home family--the Mi-Wi series, which included the GT125 gateway--to "legacy" status. Now when you buy a DIY Sinopé smart home product, you can control it with the company's own GT130 gateway or with any other Zigbee-based smart home hub, including Samsung SmartThings or any of the Amazon Echo smart speakers and displays that are equipped with Zigbee radios.

Amazon's Echo Auto comes to the UK, Canada and parts of Europe


Amazon launched Echo Auto in the US back in 2018, designed to bring Alexa voice commands to vehicles where they wouldn't normally be an option. Now, finally, it's arrived in the UK and Canada, as well as Germany, Italy and Spain (it was previously also available in Australia and India). The device uses your phone's cellular connection via a Bluetooth link, letting you talk to Alexa in the usual way -- asking about the weather or to play audiobooks, for example -- as well as carrying out journey-orientated tasks, such as turning on your houselights as you pull into your driveway. Many newer cars already include some kind of voice assistant as standard -- drivers of vehicles without have also had other Alexa-based options to choose from, such as Garmin's Speak series and Anker's Roav Viva. However, a more'official' Amazon Alexa device could be the thing to convince those that haven't yet adopted the technology, even if it's a couple of years in the making.

Apple Buys Machine-Learning Startup to Improve Data Used in Siri


Apple Inc. bought machine-learning startup Inductiv Inc., adding to more than a dozen AI-related acquisitions by the technology giant in the past few years. The engineering team from Waterloo, Ontario-based Inductiv joined Apple in recent weeks to work on Siri, machine learning and data science. Apple confirmed the deal, saying it "buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans." Inductiv developed technology that uses artificial intelligence to automate the task of identifying and correcting errors in data. Having clean data is important for machine learning, a popular and powerful type of AI that helps software improve with less human intervention.

Apple buys an AI startup to improve Siri's data


Apple is continuing its string of AI startup acquisitions, this time to improve Siri's performance. The company has confirmed to Bloomberg that it recently acquired Inductiv, a Waterloo, Ontario, Canada-based company that uses AI to correct data -- which, in turn, improves machine learning. The company didn't elaborate on its plans and relied on its standard response that it "buys smaller technology companies from time to time," but Siri appears to be the focus. The iPhone maker appears to be focused on improving its voice assistant's understanding as of late, most recently acquiring Voysis to boost natural language comprehension. Cleaner data would go a long way toward that goal by reducing the chances that garbage information confuses Siri.

Virtual Assistants Provide Disappointing Advice When Asked for First Aid, Emergency Information: Study


A study at Canada's University of Alberta found some virtual assistants are far better than others at providing users reliable, relevant information on medical emergencies. Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada have found that virtual assistants do not live up to their potential in terms of providing users with reliable, relevant information on medical emergencies. The team tested four commonly used devices--Alexa, Google Home, Siri, and Cortana--using 123 questions about 39 first aid topics, including heart attacks, poisoning, nosebleeds, and splinters. The devices' responses were measured for accuracy of topic recognition, detection of the severity of the emergency, complexity of language used, and how closely the advice given fit with accepted first aid treatment and guidelines. Google Home performed the best, recognizing topics with 98% accuracy and providing relevant advice 56% of the time.

What Happens Next: Microsoft Is Ending Cortana Support For Android & iOS


Microsoft is devising a new roadmap for Cortana by integrating it with various applications. Earlier in 2019, Satya Nadela, CEO of Microsoft, said that the firm no longer sees Cortana as a competitor to other prominent virtual assistants Alexa and Google Now. The company is rather working towards revamping the way Cortana is being leveraged across the world. In an announcement on Friday, Microsoft notified users of several countries that they are pulling out Cortana support from Android and iOS platforms. Come 31 January 2020, Cortana will disappear from India, UK, Australia, Mexico, Spain, Canada, Germany, and China.

ProBeat: A plea to the machine learning for health community


The room was packed at the annual Machine Learning and the Market for Intelligence conference in Toronto last week. Now in its fifth year, the lengthy name of the event matches the depth of the discussions. But one speaker and her talk stood out to me in particular: Marzyeh Ghassemi, who also happens to be a veteran of Alphabet's Verily, presented "Machine Learning From Our Mistakes." Ghassemi, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, talked about the importance of predicting actionable insights in health care, the regulation of algorithms, and practice data versus knowledge data. But at the very end, saving the best for last, she emphasized the importance of treating health data as a resource.

McDonald's Claims First 'Voice Apply' Process


"Alexa, help me find a job at McDonald's." That's how interested job seekers can start an application with the global fast-food company, McDonald's recently announced. Claiming it to be the world's first voice-initiated job application process, the company has launched McDonald's Apply Thru, which works on Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The app is currently available in the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom and is expected to roll out to other countries in the coming months. Once Alexa or Google Assistant responds, users are asked to provide basic information, such as their name, contact information, job area of interest and location. Potential applicants then receive a text message with a link to the McDonald's careers site to continue their application process.

Digital Voice Assistants – The rise of Genies


Aviva Canada with Amazon Echo helps consumers find answers to common insurance questions and get an insurance quote. If a person is curious about accident benefits, for example, all they have to do is ask, "Alexa, what is my accident benefits coverage?" Manulife with Amazon Echo advises customers on what is left on their health benefits. Need new glasses but not sure how much coverage you have? Simply ask, "Alexa, ask Manulife Benefits how much I do have left for glasses?"

Hey Siri, will our banks be digital casualties?


Moven, which works with banks in eight regions, including Westpac New Zealand, provides behavioural models that help banks drive better engagement and retention – little "nudges" such as spending alerts and notifications, and savings prompts. Brett King says Australian banks will struggle to keep up with the likes of Chinese giant Ant Financial. King, who grew up in the Melbourne suburb of Berwick and was speaking at the FINSIA summit in Melbourne on Tuesday, says Moven's experience with TD Canada Trust – Canada's second-biggest bank – provides a good example of what the future might hold. Half of TD's customers use Moven's platform, called My Spend. This group has seen a 4 per cent to 8 per cent reduction in monthly spending thanks to the various "nudges" they receive compared with a controlled group.