Caught our eye

Help for hi-fi enthusiasts and poor linguists


Chromecast Audio

Wi-Fi for hi-fi enthusiasts

Following the success of the first Chromecast sticks – by its own account, Google has sold more than 20 million of them – the second generation is now available. As well as the improved Chromecast 2, which makes “mindless” TV devices Wi-Fi capable and feeds them with Internet offers, Google is now bringing out a very interesting twin, Chromecast Audio. This transforms older but high-quality hi-fi systems into intelligently networked music terminals. It can be connected to a receiver or speakers via a 3.5 mm jack plug, a conventional audio cable or an optical cable.

Control via mobile devices

Chromecast Audio is controlled via Android or iOS-capable smartphones and tablets with the corresponding Chromecast app. Windows laptops and, of course, Google’s own Chromebooks are also supported. A key point is the price: at 39 francs, Chromecast Audio is significantly cheaper than alternatives, for example from Apple (Airplay) and Sonos (Connect).

The new Chromecast Audio Video


Drone technology

Drones are reforesting

The start-up BioCarbon has set itself the goal of planting up to one billion trees per year for the purpose of reforestation – fully automatically. This corresponds to around one tenth of the trees that are felled or fall victim to fire clearance each year across the world.

Many regions of the planet that are in need of reforestation are extremely difficult to reach. BioCarbon’s drone-controlled initiative first plans to gather data regarding the topography, nutrient content of the soil and biodiversity using reconnaissance drones. This information will be fed into a self-learning algorithm to generate a “precision planting platform”.

The precision planting itself will be performed by remote-controlled quadrocopters that have been fed the results of these calculations. They will sow germinated seeds embedded in a biodegradable, nutrition-rich gel. According to BioCarbon, the nutritional gel guarantees a greater chance of success for the seedlings than dry planting by hand, for example.

Automatic reforestation: here is how it works


Mobile payment

“Mobile payment is the beginning of completely new shopping experiences.”

People carry their smartphones with them all the time and they are often closer to hand than their wallets. So it seems logical that paying via smartphone is fast becoming commonplace. All you need is an app such as Paymit, which SIX, UBS, ZKB and Swisscom want to develop jointly as a mobile payment standard. At present, Paymit can be used to transfer money between private individuals. Payment is charged directly to the individual’s bank account. The solution is impressive: at this year’s Best of Swiss Apps Award, the jury and public gave the app multiple awards. Starting in 2016, it will also be possible to use it to make retail payments.

Why will Paymit be successful on the Swiss mobile payment market?

Simon Zwahlen, Head of Paymit Initiatives, Swisscom: because the open system and broad-based support from SIX, Swisscom and the banks – currently UBS, ZKB and soon also Raiffeisen as well as the Geneva, Lucerne and Vaud cantonal banks – guarantee widespread use very quickly. We have 140,000 Paymit users already. Furthermore, we pay close attention to the user experience during development. Paymit should be simple, fast and secure for private users – and in the future for the retail trade, too. An example: Paymit payments should be charged directly to the user’s bank account. The title “Master of Swiss Apps” confirmed to us that we are well on the right track in terms of user experience.

Why do we need mobile payment solutions – are cash and credit cards not enough?

Mobile payment will not replace cash and credit cards, it will supplement them. We want to create a convenient alternative for payments that are primarily made in cash. People always have their smartphones with them and mobile payment is faster than paying by cash or card. For example, if we think of a self-service farm shop or a mobile snack stand that serves dozens of customers at lunchtime: up to now, cash has been a necessary but inconvenient evil. Furthermore, offline and online purchases are merging together more and more. We can simplify these processes with Paymit, too. Mobile payment is the beginning of completely new customer experiences. 

Paymit has been a P2P solution up to now. Will this continue?

From early 2016, we will be gradually bringing out Paymit solutions for retail. We will be starting with retailers that previously worked without payment terminals. Later in the year, we will add to the offering for retailers and online retailers on an ongoing basis. The payment function will then be enhanced to include functions that mediate between retailers and customers. These will be location-based, customised offers or collecting loyalty points. Back to the farm shop example: a farmer may not even know me now, but in the future, he will be able to communicate with me directly when my favourite jam is back in stock.

More about Paymit  


El Capitan and iOS 9

Focus on business customers

Apple CEO Tim Cook assured his company at the last dazzling presentation that he does not have any plans to merge the desktop and laptop operating system OS X with the mobile driver iOS. This may be true, and goes against the strategy of arch-rival Microsoft, who have declared Windows 10 the benchmark for all hardware platforms. However, the fact is that the latest version of OS X, named after the prominent cliff El Capitan in California’s Yosemite Park, clearly borrows from the iOS inventory and that El Capitan and the latest version of the mobile operating system, iOS 9, are working ever more closely together.

Attack on Microsoft

The “apple growers” from Cupertino are no longer focussing on home users who are used to luxury or the creative types who work with graphics, film and sound. Tim Cook came straight to the point when presenting the iPad Pro: with this tablet, it is already possible to complete 80 per cent of the business tasks that can also be performed on a PC – but more flexibly, creatively and having more fun in the process. It may remain to be seen whether this typical Apple vocabulary is still up to date – but it is clear that the i-manufacturer is directly targeting Microsoft and its Windows-10-based Surface tablets with this strategy. Moreover, the interaction of the iWorks productivity suite across El Capitan, iOS 9 and iCloud does indeed push Apple closer towards the business world.

New features of the El Capitan OS
The new functions of iOS 9 Video


Digital transformation

The six digitisation trends to focus on in 2016

In 2015, new digitisation projects were launched, digital strategies formulated, mobile apps designed and new Web experiences created. According to PAC, digital transformation will really gather momentum in 2016. It is important for companies to develop fundamentally new business models, which may cannibalise previous models, and make basic adjustments to the organisation and corporate culture.

PAC forecasts the following six developments for 2016:

1. Analysis of customer interaction will move towards data-based business models.

2. The Internet of Things will make integrated cyber security strategies vital in 2016.

3. Customer experiences will become more holistic in 2016.

4. Processes are likely to become less driven by efficiency, but more agile and customer oriented.

5. Organisational structures with divisions of labour will become collaborative working worlds.

6. And last, but not least: rigid control mechanisms will be replaced by lively and learning company cultures.

You can download the entire report here (only in German and French)  


Skype Translator

Do you speak Mandarin?

Users of Skype for Windows 7, 8.x and 10 can now enjoy the simultaneous translation function Skype Translator. The software add-on is being integrated automatically in phases via updates, so if you see a globe symbol in the top right of the screen following an update, this means you have the interpreting app. Skype Translator initially supports live calls in German, English, French, Italian, Mandarin and Spanish, in both directions. Further languages are to follow.

Not perfect – but capable of learning

Lilian Rincon, who is responsible for the development of Skype Translator at Microsoft, admits that the results are sometimes funny during the live translation. However, she emphasises that the system is capable of learning and will thus become more and more reliable through continuous use. Admittedly, the pauses that the speaker has to insert to allow the Translator to follow take some getting used to, and German-speaking Swiss people are advised to use the high German that they learned at school. And this is set to remain the case: there are no plans to include Swiss German.

Key information on Skype Translator Video