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What is the difference between 3G and 4G?

If you have a cell phone or a tablet you will almost certainly have heard people mention 3G or 4G.  Of course, this does not help you to understand what either of these things are and which is the better one for your device to have!

Fortunately, it is an easy concept to understand!

The Basis of ‘G’ technology

The G in 3G, (or 4G), stands for ‘Generation’.  The higher number simply refers to the fact that it is the latest technology.  As time progresses you may even see a 5G or 6G!

3G technology is the third version of this communication method which is available on cell phones.  In fact, the generation refers to a whole section of phones.  The very first ‘mobile’ phones were big and heavy and used to communicate with each other via analog signals; much like your television or radio.  This was, effectively 1G.

By the 1990’s mobile phones had shrunk and now used digital signals to connect to each other; this was known as 2G.  However, the rapid increase in mobile phone use and the uptake of the internet soon left this technology struggling to cope with the demands of consumers.  It was simply not possible to connect to the internet reliably.

The start of this century saw the arrival of 3G; the digital signals are now bounced between radio towers; hence the build-up of these around the countryside.  These enable signals to travel great distances without loss of quality or speed.  Suddenly phones were able to receive and send signals with extreme reliability.

Understanding 3G

3G is built into every cell phone which is sold.  It allows you to connect effortlessly to the internet and browse for any information you need.  The amount of browsing you will be able to do will depend upon the payment plan you have adopted.  The more you spend each month on your contract the bigger the amount of data you can access from the internet.

The 3G network has expanded rapidly and now covers the majority of the country.  However, there are still patches where you are unable to connect.  Alongside this the speed of access to the internet can be variable; this will depend upon your closeness to the radio tower and the amount of people accessing the internet at any given time.

4G – The Next Generation

4G is the next step in the communications industry.  In a word it is designed to be faster.  4G offers improved access to the internet and faster downloads of information.  There is no doubt that it will gradually replace 3G as the dominant or even standard technology.  It operates at approximately five times the speed that 3G does.  In principle it could provide download speeds of 100MBPS; however, in practice there are too many other demands to ever make this possible.

4G has become a necessity as more and more people go online and need to access information on the move.  The old system will eventually overload.  To counter this scientists have established a method of increasing the amount of data taken by one stream of radio frequency.  The communications system remains the same as for 3G; from tower to tower.  However, the increased amount of data in the signal allows for faster delivery and more information.

Alongside this cell phones have started to adopt the two antenna approach which sends an additional signal out; thereby doubling the data movement process.  All of these factors combine to increase the speed of your mobile internet and the amount of information you can obtain.  This is the real difference between 3G and 4G.

It is worth noting that the frequency used by the 4G carriers can vary; a 4G phone in the UK will not necessarily pick-up 4G in the USA.

 

 

 

What is a Smart Home?

Kitchen at the HGTV Smart Home 2013 located in Jacksonville, FL

The smart home is becoming a reality thanks to the power of technological advancements. The basic concept of the smart home involves the ability to control the devices and systems in your home from one source. Ideally, this source should be accessible by you from anywhere in the world.

The initial concept was to make it easier to sit in your home and adjust the heating, lights or even close the curtains without the need to move. This has since extended to allow the control of these systems even when you are outside the home.

How the Smart Home Works

Many modern devices are created with smart technology. This means they already have the processors needed to connect to a smart home hub. The smart home hub is a central device which usually needs to be connected to your internet hub. All hub devices can then be accessed via the central hub which connects to your app.

The app is loaded onto your cell phone and can be accessed anywhere; providing you have internet access. You will be able to connect through the hub wirelessly to the device and adjust its settings.

If you have devices which are not already equipped with smart technology then it is still possible to connect with them. However, you will need to add sensors and possible an additional control panel linked to the existing one. Most of these additions can be completed by an amateur; although there are always some parts which you may prefer to be handled by an expert.

In its simplest form the smart device simply manages the power to a specific item, such as the light, or even the thermostat for your heating. This allows you instant control. For more advanced options you will need to use timers; which are generally built into the smart devices.

Origins of the Smart Home

The smart house has been gradually developing for many years. It can be argued that the addition of electronic devices into the home was the first step in a smart home. Instead of washing clothes by hand or dishes; machines arrived which were capable of doing the job. This automation may be manually controlled but it is automation!

The future will, undoubtedly, lead to advancements in this technology. As well as just controlling the devices at home you will shortly be able to access them, evaluate their performance and even be alerted to any strange behaviour within your home. The logical extension of this technology will be to merge it with voice activated technology; such as Siri and Alexa. You would then be able to access all the information you need and control all the equipment around you; just by using your voice. This is certainly something that not long ago would have seemed like a science fiction dream!

Integration into New Builds

Whilst it is possible to add all the necessary components into your home, it can be difficult to fully integrate the systems without extensive remodelling. It can also be an expensive option as you may need to buy each piece if kit separately and then interlink them.

However, if you are looking to build or buy a new property then you will be able to take advantage of this opportunity to integrate all the necessary smart systems into your home. The result will be the smart house of the future. The essential difference is that you can run wiring behind or in all the walls which will allow every room in your house to be on the smart system. This is the way in which new houses are increasingly being built; homes where you can control everything through one app on your phone or even with your voice!

Advantages of Smart Home

There are many advantages to this new technology; these include:

  • Convenience – Being able to control your home remotely is more than just a gimmick. You can ensure the house is at the right temperature, the music is on and even the oven comes on. Not only will this prevent you from wasting precious time at home; it can also be beneficial to anyone who suffers from atmospheric changes; the system can prevent large changes in air quality or temperature.
  • Security – Smart homes can be easily adapted to include security cameras, motion detectors and even autonomous locks. The result is a secure home, you can check on your property at any time and the system will alert you if anything happens; such as someone entering.
  • Energy Efficient – Surprisingly this type of system can help you to save energy! All you need to do is monitor the house and make sure all systems are off when you are out. In addition, instead of leaving your heating on timers or even on a low setting, you will be able to tell it exactly when to turn on. This will inevitably result in more precise use of the heating system and less energy used.
  • Futuristic – Having a smart home, particularly a new build, will allow you to be flexible as new technology emerges. Is no doubt that this technology will be improving over the coming years, your system can be expanded and adjusted to move with these developments.

Disadvantages of the Smart Home

Of course, any system has disadvantages as well and it is important to be aware of these:

  • Hacking – This is one of the biggest risks at present. Your smart home connects to a hub which is then accessed remotely by you over the internet. Because this is an internet based app it is open to being hacked; allowing someone else access to your home and its systems. You will need a good firewall and anti-virus software.
  • The smart home is an advancement in computing. Anyone who struggles to master the simpler technology, such as cell phones, will struggle with installing and operating a smart home system. At best this can be frustrating; at worse life threatening.
  • Price – The current cost of a smart home or system is high. This is much of the reason why the technology has not yet been taken up on a huge scale. Prices will be likely to gradually come down but at the moment it is too expensive for the average householder.

The smart house is the house of the future, although there are still a few issues which need to be resolved; it will not be long before this is standard in every home.

Technologies that Will Change the World

The world has changed and evolved dramatically over the last ten years. There is no doubt that this is largely the result of new technologies being brought to fruition. Things which just a few years ago were seen as science fiction are now reality. Even the idea of colonizing Mars is looking less and less like a pipe dream and more like something that will happen within the next fifteen years!

Every new technology has the ability to change the world, although some will be more visible than others!

Artificial Intelligence

This is perhaps one of the most obvious technologies which have the potential to dramatically alter the world as you know it. The implications of AI have been discussed many times alongside the idea that it could eventually destroy humanity.

Clearly the finer points and controls on this type of technology would need to be embraced and refined before the AI could ever be fully integrated into human life. However, should it become a reality the possibilities are endless. AI could handle all the tasks that humans currently do; leaving you free to explore new options and develop even better technology!

Wireless Sensor Networks

The wireless network is an accepted part of life, it is already something which surrounds you and is relied on for a variety of day to day tasks. However, there are many more applications for advanced versions of this network. The initial issue is creating a small enough wireless sensor which uses virtually no battery power. This has been successfully created and tests have confirmed the ability to monitor the entire environment. In addition to the environment these tiny sensors could monitor the machines you use and even you! The aim is to provide computers that can react to our every whim before you even ask; simply by monitoring the sensors. Of course, there are concerns regarding the fact that every movement you make will be recorded…

Augmented reality

This is something that is already becoming available. Currently it is aimed at the avid social media user. The idea behind this technology is to improve your connectivity with others. By taking a live video feed and adding in relevant details, such as names, essential details and even activities taking place you will always know what is going on with your friends. The information you have is loaded over the live feed, augmenting the two together.

Again, there are concerns regarding the invasion of privacy but the principle can be life changing. At one look you would be able to discover all the relevant facts for any neighbourhood. Simply add this technology to a pair of glasses and you can have all the information you need; wherever you are.

Social Television

Televisions of the future will be far more interactive. Instead of merely watching the box and adding comments on your social media account; you will be able to comment directly onto the television. Your comments can be shared with everyone or just friends in the same way as social media sites currently do. This technology is in the development phase and will be a reality.

Injectable Tissue

Joint injury is one of the biggest issues for many older people. It can be a result of injury or simply wear and tear. The answer currently is to replace the joint although the results are mixed and many people choose to avoid surgery.

The future will hold an easier and better alternative; preventing immobility issues in millions of people. Injectable tissue engineering involves injecting a mixture of polymers, cells and a range of growth stimulators into the affected joints. This mixture will solidify in your joint and become healthy tissue.

This technology can change many people’s lives and is already in development. However, at present the mixture has not been accepted by the body in the long term. With a little more research it will be possible to complete the project and transform lives.

Nano Solar power

The sun is incredibly powerful and is capable of generating huge amounts of power; at present this is limited to solar panels and huge solar farms. The main reason for this is the cost of generating the silicon wafers which are needed for solar panels.

However, there is research being undertaken into the idea of nanotechnology being incorporated into the solar power collection process. The theory is that the photovoltaic material will be generated from nanotechnology. It will be more like a huge sheet of tarpaulin which can be wrapped around any building or vehicle to generate far more power than the average solar panel does now.

The nanotechnology can even be incorporated into existing building materials to make your building a complete solar collector. This technology will be created at a fraction of the price of the current solar panels; allowing huge amounts of solar energy to be collected and used. It would really signal the end of human’s reliance on fossil fuels! The technology is on its way; it is just a matter of time.

Wireless Energy

There are already plans afoot to develop wireless devices; items like the television and DVD player will be able to connect without the need for a cable. This will be a drastic improvement on the current jumble of cables which every home experiences.

However, scientists have opted to go one further. There has been positive research into the idea of energy being transmitted from the power source to the device; without the need for any cables. In effect, nothing would ever need to be plugged in again! This technology is still being reviewed but there are signs that it will become a fact. The implications are far more than just convenience. With just a power source you would be able to overcome a black out, or provide instant power in areas that currently have none. Humans who have never experienced electricity would suddenly have it on tap!

Indoor Farms

This technology has almost been perfected and is of vital importance to the human race. The idea is to be able to grow produce inside, without the traditional use of sunlight. LED lighting is being used to encourage plant growth and there are even targeted sequences to ensure every plant gets the best conditions to grow.

The beauty of indoor farms is that they can be created anywhere, take up far less room than a conventional farm and can actually generate plants quicker. With just a few more details to work out and issues to solve, indoor farming could soon be a reality and signal the end of world hunger!

 

Smart Home Apps Comparison

Smart apps are one of the latest things to hit the headlines. They have been steadily improving in quality and availability and can now be used for a myriad of features round the home. The smart home app has been designed to make your life easier at home.

There are a variety of different apps providers; all of them seek to assist you in controlling the heating, lighting, home security and even the media systems in your home. Of course, with so many different apps available it can be exceptionally difficult to know which the right one for you and your home is.

Control is provided via your smart phone; hence the title; start home apps. You simply download the app to your phone and purchase the necessary sensors or controls to go in your home. This will then allow the app on your phone to connect to the software at home and you can control the devices!

The following apps are some of the best on the market at the moment:

Samsung Smart Things

This system is designed to be installed by you; there is no need for professional assistance. Simply follow the instructions and set up a network. Every device you wish to connect is paired and can then be accessed by the system and the app on your phone.

It is designed to detect movement and turn lights on and off, adjusts the thermostat in accordance with your preset requirements and whether anyone is at home or not, and, it will even connect to your media system and greet you with your favourite tune!

Perhaps more importantly, it can message you if something is not following its usual pattern.

The Wink Hub

This app is designed to allow you to check on the performance and function of a myriad of devices in your home. It will instantly connect with a range of smart devices and allow you to both monitor and control them; regardless of where you are. You can also create tasks for the system to do when you are not there; these are defined as ‘robots’.

One benefit of the wink system is that it does not need to be physically connected to your network hub. A wireless connection is satisfactory which provides you with a greater range of choice regarding its location.

The Apple Home Kit

Apple’s offering, the Home kit works slightly differently and offers the most promise. Instead of a dedicated hub, you will need to connect to one device using the iOS system and leave this in standby mode. This will be the gateway to connect in and out of your home.

Perhaps most impressive is the fact that Apple is working on a way to link all home devices; regardless of their operating system. This is only available with limited devices at present, but, once fully available it will streamline the entire smart home app; allowing almost effortless control over your entire home through one device.

The Crestron System

The Creston system is designed to be used in commercial premises as well as your home. It is currently the most compatible app available; with the ability to connect to more smart devices than any other system.

However, this is classified as a professional system. It will need to be installed and set-up by a professional. The advantage of this is that you have flawless and hassle free connectivity and control. However, you may struggle to adjust settings or add new equipment without assistance.

Control4

Control4 has been operating in the smart home industry for several years and is known as one of the key players. It boasts compatibility with nearly 10,000 smart devices; this can include your Apple Box, lighting system, heating and even your Blu-ray DVD player.

In addition to easy control smart features it is possible to access and control your music playlists. You can even organize them to play across the various speakers set up in your house!

As with the Crestron system this needs to be professionally installed and there is an annual charge if you wish to control any of the devices whilst away from home.

A good smart home app turns your phone into a remote control for your home; select any of the ones listed above and you will soon be able to control all your home features from anywhere! It is difficult to choose one which is significantly better than the others; although the Apple system shows promise as it is working towards harmonising all home systems

 

Best Music Streaming Apps

Streaming music has increased in popularity dramatically over recent years. A large part of this increased interest is the ease in which you can access this music whilst on the move. Mp3 players, mobile phones and even your tablet can provide you with your music whilst on the go; wherever you are.

There are two ways of listening to music whilst on the move. The first is to download the music through an approved app. This can then be saved on your device and played wherever you want; without issue. Alternatively, you can live stream the music; this is similar to listening to a radio channel; you choose the song you want to listen to and play it. The song is played o the internet and ‘streamed’ to your device; allowing you to hear it. There can sometimes be delays when live streaming; particularly if the internet is busy. You will know this is the case as your screen will show ‘buffering’ instead of playing the tune.

The following apps are considered to be the best streaming ones currently available:

Amazon Music

This is an unusual but worthy contender as it is not often associated with streaming. However, Amazon Music has millions of songs which can be accessed in seconds and played. You can easily buy any song you like through your Amazon account and download it to your phone for later use.

Amazon Music also allows you to upload tunes to your own personal library. These can then be saved online and accessed via streaming anywhere you have an internet signal.

Apple Music

Surprisingly this app only appeared on the market in 2015; despite the fact that iTunes has been in existence for many years. The app, will allow you to access in excess of thirty million songs. You can create your own playlists and even listen to the Apple radio live.

Alongside the music features the Apple Music app will allow you to follow your favourite artists and keep up with their latest activities. There is a monthly charge for membership which allows you to download a certain amount of songs every month.

Pandora

You may have heard of the Pandora music app as it is one of the most prominent. You can access it from almost any device; even some cars can link with it!

The app is only home to one million songs but this is enough to keep the majority of users happy. Access is free although there is little you can do other than skip a track or give it a ‘thumbs up’.

There are plans to bring out a premium version of this service which will incur a monthly fee and will operate on a similar basis to the Apple Music app.

Sound Cloud

This was originally developed to provide a venue for alternate and independent artist to get their songs into the public eye. For this reason, you will find a huge range of different music types. More recently the app has increased its offering to include a good selection of the most popular tunes.

Surprisingly, Sound Cloud has in excess of 125 million songs; this figure is boosted hugely by the massive collection of independent artists and their private released songs.

Spotify

It is fair to state that this is one of the original and still the best of all the music streaming apps. The music library has over thirty million songs and you can also create your own playlists. These can be uploaded to Spotify and even shared. It is possible to access many of the tunes for free; however if you want to make use of all the Spotify features you will need to sign up and pay a monthly fee.

Shazam

This music streaming app is free. You simply tune in and listen to the tune playing. It will then identify the tune and artist for you. There are options to share the tune or see the music video. Alongside this you can instantly link to more information about the song or the artist.

It is possible to load all of these streaming apps onto your devices although you may not wish to pay monthly fees to all of them! No matter what your preference is, there will be a music streaming app here that provides the tunes you like; instantly!

 

Apple iPhone 7 vs Samsung Galaxy S7: full review

There are many different smart phones to choose from but the one which every phone is compared to is the iPhone.  This is partly because the iPhone is seen as the first of its kind; blending a wide variety of the latest technology with a stylish handset.  It is also because Apple constantly works hard to provide new and innovative features on every new handset which is created.

Of course, this leads to the inevitable question of which handset is better.  The Samsung Galaxy S7 is a powerful and good looking phone; it could be called the most powerful Android device so far.  This is the crux of the difference.  The Apple runs on its own operating system, whilst the Galaxy S7 uses the Android platform.

Design of the Phone

Apple iPhone’s are traditionally slim and attractive and this is certainly true of the iPhone 7.  The phone is fractionally smaller than the Galaxy but weighs just 138g; the S7 comes in at 152g.

Both phones come in a choice of five colours; the S7 offers black, white, gold, silver and pink gold; whilst the iPhone has Gold, Silver, rose gold, black and jet black.  The matte black option has become extremely popular.

The structure of both phones looks solid; however, there have already been several incidents regarding the rear of the S7 cracking; this is not something that is an issue with the iPhone.

The design of the S7 is fresh it provides the appearance of an extra large screen; although the screen is only fractionally bigger than the iPhone.  In contrast the iPhone continues its long standing approach.  Whilst it looks good it is not radically different to the previous models and may appeal more to die-hard iPhone fans.

Waterproof?

There is a little difference in the waterproof qualities of these phones but not significant enough to influence your decision.  The iPhone is rain and shower proof whilst the S7 can handle a quick dunk.  But neither of them should really be taken swimming with you.

The Display

The screen on the S7 is 5.1 inches and is coated with gorilla glass.  This should help it to survive several drops; although the back casing is liable to crack!

In contrast the iPhone 7 has a slightly smaller display; 4.7 inches.  Its resolution is 1,334 x 750 as opposed to the higher spec of 1,440 x 2,560 which comes with the S7.  However, the difference in screen resolution is barely noticeable thanks to the slightly smaller iPhone screen.

The Samsung uses a super AMOLED which displays brilliant colours whilst the iPhone sticks to its traditional Retina HD.  Apple has increased the colour range of their phone which now conforms to the cinema standard and the difference in brightness is noticeable.

The iPhone also sees the new 3D Touch feature.  Instead of a long press to access deeper menus you can now opt for a hard press; the soft press will still access the main menu.

The Specs

Perhaps the most crucial part of any phone is how well it performs.  The S7 s with a custom built Exynos 8890 processor.  It is designed to provide 2.3GHz of processing power and runs on eight cores.  It is also possible to obtain an S7 with four cores and a 530 GPU.  This is state of the art and provides a smooth, virtually seamless glide between applications.

The S7 comes with 4GB of RAM and you can choose between 32GB or 64GB of memory; it can also accept a microSD card which will increase this by another 256GB.

The iPhone 7 has an all new chip developed by Apple exclusively for this phone.  It is known as the A10 fusion and runs at 64 bit using four cores.  Two of these cores are designed to handle the most demanding tasks you can supply them with; they are the high performance processors.  The other two use much less power and deal with the more run of the mill tasks.  The idea behind this set-up is to provide as much power as possible without draining the battery too quickly.

Apple has been busy, the new chips and variable performance needed a new controller designed to handle monitoring and controlling this processing power!  Alongside this they have improved the graphics on the phone; performance is reported to have increased by 50% over the chip in the iPhone 6.

The Iphone has just 2GB of RAM and on paper appears to be beaten by the impressive specs of the S7.  However, users and tests have reported that the iPhone 7 is far faster than the Galaxy, or anything else currently available.  In fact; there is no task that it cannot keep up with yet!

The Software

The Galaxy runs on the Marshmallow system which has just been superseded.  The system works as you would expect with no real changes or surprises from previous versions of the Android operating system.  Samsung have designed several features to work with the Android but they are noticeable customisations and not flawless controls.

In contrast the iPhone 7 has been designed round the latest Apple system; the iOS 10 sees its first appearance on the iPhone 7.  There are several new features; including opening up more pathways to allow app developers to link in smoothly with the iPhone.  It is a well designed and laid out package.

However, the decision between Android and iOS will still be a case of personal preference.  They both work very efficiently and are easy to use.

Camera

No analysis would be complete without taking a look at the camera on offer.  The Galaxy benefits from a 12 megapixel front camera and a 5 megapixel rear one.  Both have a 1.7 aperture and benefit from the dual pixel technology.  This allows the camera to focus much faster.

In contrast the iPhone also has a 12 megapixel display but a slightly lower, 1.8 aperture. It does benefit from a quad flash for improved light when taking pictures.  There is very little difference in the quality of the pictures taken by these two phones.

Summary

It is an exceptionally close call between the phones.  The galaxy is cheaper to buy and provides a better screen than the iPhone.  However, the speed of the iPhone will ensure you are always ready to react and process any app.  It is also less likely to break when dropped than the Galaxy.

Overall, the iPhone 7 is the more desirable phone simply because it has a more practical approach; by being faster.  Of course, there are many who will still prefer the size and vividness of the screen on the Galaxy!