Fitbit Ionic review: Tops the Apple Watch with fitness focus, long battery life, detailed sleep tracking

  • fitbit-ionic-5.jpg


  •  9.3 Spectacular
  • $299.95


  • Gorgeous high quality design
  • Bright and clear display
  • Lightweight and comfortable for 24 hour wear
  • Long battery life
  • Detailed sleep and heart rate data
  • Reasonably priced band options
  • Music playback, workout coaching, and accurate GPS tracking
  • Fitbit ecosystem well supported


  • Limited music services
  • Can’t respond to texts or answer calls

While some of us have been mounting high tech wearables on our wrist since 2004, others are just discovering them. The Fitbit Ionic brings everything I have wanted in a GPS sports watch with essential smart watch functionality in a sleek, attractive form factor.


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Just like there are Apple iPhone or Google Android fans that will only buy those phones every time, there are those dedicated to the Fitbit ecosystem that will only buy Fitbit devices as their preferred wearable. With the new Fitbit Ionic it is clear that Fitbit ecosystem users now have the ultimate GPS sport watch, activity and sleep tracker, and basic smartwatch that they deserve.

Fitbit recently announced its third product in the GPS sport watch category with the Fitbit Ionic, technically its first smartwatch when you use the definition of a smartwatch as one that supports applications. The Ionic is exactly what I was hoping to see after trying out the Fitbit Blaze last year.

The Apple Watch Series 2 and Samsung Gear S3 Frontier have been sharing most of the time on my wrist over the last few months, but the one to one and a half day battery life keeps killing those experiences. I thought the Garmin Fenix 3 HR was the one for me and while it is an excellent GPS sport watch, wearing it at night to track sleep nearly knocks my wife out when I roll over.

After testing many wearables over the years I have learned that getting the core experience right and having a battery that lets you get through at least a weekend are keys to satisfaction. The Fitbit Ionic has a perfect mix of health apps, music playback support, mobile payments, and battery life to provide it with the potential for huge success.


  • Display: 36mm LCD Gorilla Glass 3 curved display with brightness up to 1000 nits
  • Materials: 600 series aluminum and elastomer material with stainless steel buckle
  • Wireless: Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, NFC
  • Water resistance: Up to 50 meters and sweat, rain, and splash proof
  • Storage: About 2.5GB to store an estimated 300 songs
  • Sensors: Altimeter, 3-axis accelerometer, digital compass, GPS/GLONASS, optical heart rate monitor, ambient light sensor, vibration motor
  • Battery life: Up to 10 hours with GPS, 4+ days of standard smartwatch usage
  • Dimensions: 38 mm width and 12.7 mm thickness, 50 grams


When I saw pictures of the Fitbit Ionic I have to say I was not that excited about the device. It looked like a slightly improved Fitbit Blaze with integrated bands. I was wrong on both counts.


Google’s iOS app now recommends articles related to what you’re reading


Useful, and also how an entire afternoon can disappear

Image: Google

Today, Google is debuting a new feature for its namesake mobile app on iOS that will recommend articles related to what you’re currently reading.

Now, as you’re on a webpage using the app, you should be able to swipe up to see additional articles that could be of interest. It’s built into the existing bottom bar that already allows you to start a fresh search or share what you’re viewing. (I was not able to swipe up and access the recommendations at the time of publishing, but Google could still be rolling it out.)

Once you swipe up on the bottom bar, a lightbox-esque display appears with automatically populated related content, without having to do any additional searches. Say you’re looking for the perfect way to roast a chicken: the app might show you other recipes or methods of preparation, which can then be accessed by a single tap.

Image: Google

No matter if you’re in a rabbit hole of reading about photography techniques or looking for where to vacation next, the new function could help with finding what you’re looking for an easier and quicker process. As of now, this search and discover feature is only available in the US on iOS. You have to be within the Google app to see it, though, so if you’re browsing with Safari, it won’t appear.

Google has been working on bolstering user personalization in its app in recent months, also introducing a news feed based on your search history and topics you choose to follow.

iOS 11 has arrived — here’s how to update your iPhone or iPad

There are two methods to update your current device to iOS 11. Here’s what you need to know to download and install Apple’s latest mobile operating system.

You don’t need to spring for an iPhone 8 ($699.00 at Apple) or iPhone 8 Plus($799.00 at Apple) or wait for the iPhone X ($999.99 at Apple) to arrive in November in order to get the latest iOS bells and whistles. On Tuesday, Applereleased iOS 11, the company’s newest mobile operating system for iOS devices. If you have an iPhone 5s or later, a fifth-generation iPad or iPad Mini 2 ($235.93 at Amazon Marketplace) or later or a sixth-generation iPod Touch, you can upgrade it to iOS 11. Here’s the full list of compatible devices from Apple:

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

With iOS 11, you’ll be able to edit Live Photos, customize the new Control Center, make Venmo-style Apple Pay payments, more easily free up storage space — all the while not being disturbed while driving. Meanwhile, iOS 11 will supercharge the iPad with a new Dock, an honest-to-goodness file-management system and drag-and-drop multitasking.

There are two ways to update your iOS device but before you begin, make sure you prepare your device for iOS 11, namely backing up your device and creating enough space to download the update. You’ll need about 2GB of space.

Method 1: Over-the-air update

If you are on a Wi-Fi network, you can upgrade to iOS 11 right from your device itself — no need for a computer or iTunes. Just connect your device to its charger and go to Settings > General > Software Update. iOS will automatically check for an update, then prompt you to download and install iOS 11.

Method 2: Via iTunes

If you are near your computer with iTunes, it might be faster to update this way. In previous years, I’ve found it faster to update via iTunes than over the air.

The first order of business is to update iTunes to version 12.7. On my MacBook, I didn’t see the usual Check for Updates line in the iTunes drop-down menu and instead had to open the Mac App Store where I found an iTunes update waiting to be installed.

With iTunes updated, connect your iOS device. Click the iPhone or iPad icon in the top-left corner of iTunes, next to the drop-down menu for the various sections of your iTunes library. Next, click on Check for Update > Download and Update. Follow the prompts, accept the terms, and let iTunes do its job.

DARPA’s Autonomous System Can Fly and Land a Helicopter with Just a Tablet


U.S. Department of Defense research arm DARPA has been working on a program in tandem with Lockheed Martin company Sikorsky for an autonomous flight kit designed to improve automated aircraft performance. Watch how it works here.

Like a big drone with two rotors, a Sikorsky S-76 commercial helicopter successfully traveled and landed without a pilot actually touching the flight controls inside the aircraft. The demonstration, performed in January 2016, was part of a program developed by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) called Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS).

The video published back in May 2016 shows a Sikorsky S-76 tandem rotor chopper equipped with an autonomous flight system to serve as a Sikorsky Autonomous Research Aircraft (SARA) as part of DARPA’s ALIAS program. This $8-million research was awarded to Lockheed Martin company Sikorsky to test autonomous aircraft flight.

“ALIAS envisions a tailorable, drop-in, removable kit that would promote the addition of high levels of automation into existing aircraft, enabling operation with reduced onboard crew,” according to Graham Drozeski from DARPA. “Easy-to-use touch and voice interfaces would facilitate supervisor-ALIAS interaction.”

For phase 1 of the project, a chopper fitted with an ALIAS kit successfully completed a 48.2-kilometer (30-mile) autonomous flight and landing using just a tablet computer. For phase 2, DARPA demonstrated how an ALIAS kit can work in existing aircraft fleets, installing it in a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter and a Cessna 208 caravan airplane.

A third phase is planned which would demonstrate and enhance ALIAS’ capabilities to respond to contingencies while lessening pilot workload. “ALIAS would also provide a platform for integrating additional automation or autonomy capabilities tailored for specific missions,” Drozeski added. Though designed to enhance automated military aircraft, it’s not difficult to imagine the technology behind ALIAS being used in commercial autonomous flights.

Apple TV app launches in Canada

Apple’s fifth-generation set-top box won’t be launching until September 22, 2017, but in the meanwhile, Canadians will finally gain access to the TV app. The Apple TV app lets users aggregate different subscriptions services, iTunes content and freely available content into a single dashboard. It’s been available in the U.S. since Apple released tvOS 10.1, but it’s only now that Canadians can access the application. The Canadian TV-focussed app will work with City, FX Now, Treehouse, CBC, Crave TV and ICI American users will be able to watch live sports through the TV app “later this year,” according to Apple. It’s unclear if and when the live sports service will be available for Canadians. The TV app is available on Apple TV, as well as iPhone and iPad.

Meet the scientists who want to harness the power of the Sun

Tuesday, September 19, 2017, 4:10 PM – Fusion is the power source of the future, according to science fiction, but did you know that scientists have been working on this for decades, and are drawing ever closer to harnessing the power of the Sun?

What is Fusion Power?

When we look up into the sky, and see the Sun burning brightly during the day, or the stars twinkling at night, we are seeing the products of fusion. Each of these stars, our Sun included, is an immense ball of mostly hydrogen gas, and the weight of the star crushes all that hydrogen down towards the middle, where temperatures reach somewhere around 15 million degrees Celsius. These incredible temperatures cause the hydrogen atoms to fly around so fast that they slam into one other with enough force that they fuse, producing an atom of helium, along with some energy.

A star like our Sun converts roughly 600 million tonnes of hydrogen into helium every second. With just one gram of hydrogen containing 602,300,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms, when tally everything up, the little bit of energy released by each pair of atoms fusing turns into A LOT OF ENERGY. This energy is absorbed by the outer layers of the Sun, turning them into churning circulations of hydrogen, and this outward force keeps the star from collapsing in on itself. The energy that reaches the “surface” of the Sun escapes into space, providing us with light and heating the daylight side of our planet.

Now, if we could harness just a fraction of that energy, we would never need another source of energy, ever.

We can’t bring a star down to Earth, of course, or even a piece of one, but what if we could safely mimic the way it generates energy?

This is the story behind the new documentary film, Let There Be Light, co-directed by Mila Aung-Thwin and Van Royko, which made its Canadian debut at Toronto’s 2017 Hot Docs Festival.

Now, the film is back, at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, from Sept 22 to 28, 2017.



How does a fusion reactor work?

There has been this somewhat “pie in the sky” view of fusion power, for decades now. Stories in the media have made promises that were never kept. For awhile “cold fusion” was the big thing, as it was supposed to deliver limitless energy by fusing elements at room temperature (or close to it). To date, while a few projects have produced “first plasma”, if only for a fraction of a second, we have yet to see actual fusion power produced in any significant quantities.

When it comes down to it, the concept of fusion power is simple enough – get two atomic nuclei to bang into one another with sufficient speed that they stick together, and harness the energy that is produced by that collision. Actually accomplishing that, using technology, instead of the gravitational forces at the core of a star, is far more complicated than it sounds, though.

For one, in order to overcome the natural repulsion that atomic nuclei have for one another, you have to get them moving so quickly that their speed overcomes that repulsive force. When you’re working with a plasma gas, this means driving up the heat, and it just so happens that if you want to do that in a reactor, you need to heat the plasma to around 150 million degrees.

While we still do not have a fusion reactor delivering power to our electric grids, today, Let There Be Light gives us a fascinating look into just how much progress has been made!


One of the largest, most expensive, and probably the most promising fusion project in the world is ITER – the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor.

Located in the south of France, this multinational effort has already been going for decades now, slowly evolving over the years into its present state. The goal of ITER is to build a Tokamak reactor, which will produce a giant magnetic bubble, shaped like a doughnut, that will be used to confine a volume of heated, electrically charged gas, known as a plasma. Keeping the plasma away from the sides of the container, while it is heated up to 150 million degrees C (by something like lasers or acoustic waves), the Tokamak will act as the “containment field” for the fusion of the plasma particles to take place in.

A cut-away view of the ITER Tokamak. Credit: ITER Organization

We sat down with Mark Henderson, the scientist in charge of the ITER project’s microwave heating system, to talk about ITER, its importance to the world and the obstacles the project faces.



General Fusion

Fusion projects are not all immense, multinational efforts, though. Another promising one detailed in the film is taking place right here in Canada, just east of Vancouver, in Burnaby, British Columbia.

Although ITER may have the best chances to actually produce fusion energy, General Fusion’s plan is to produce a smaller, cheaper way, which has a better chance of actually delivering a viable commercial reactor, in the end.

The way it will work is that it suspends a metallic fluid inside the fusion chamber, with the plasma at the very core. The metallic fluid keeps the plasma from touching the sides of the chamber, while at the same time, it acts to compress the plasma, when all the pistons along the outside of the chamber thrust inward. This increased pressure makes it easier to pump the plasma up to the temperatures needed for fusion to take place.

The core and pistons of the General Fusion reactor. Credit: Eye Steel Film

Michel Laberge, Founder and Chief Science Officer of General Fusion, talked with us about this much smaller project, and why it may be even more important than larger efforts like ITER.


When will we see fusion power?

When it comes down to it, this is the big question. With all the efforts being put into this, when will we actually see a fusion reactor come online and produce energy that feeds into our electric grids?

The answer, really, depends on us, and it depends on our politicians.

If you like the idea of limitless, safe, clean energy, these projects deserve your attention, and they deserve substantial investments, both from private sources and from our governments. Even then, it still could take a decade or more to achieve their initial goals, and even longer for a fully operational power plant. That should not deter us, though.

With the state of the world, today, the need for long-term thinking is crucial, especially when it comes to thinking of our energy needs. And really, when it comes down to it, what’s a couple of decades, when it comes to the potential to power human civilization for millions of years to come?

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‘Smart’ Campuses Invest in the Internet of Things

Forward-thinking CIOs are exploring the potential of IoT technologies in higher education and heading off challenges along the way.

At Sun Devil Stadium on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe, sensors connected to the WiFi and cellular network collect temperature, humidity and noise data for use by facilities staff. As part of a longstanding cheering contest, the noise data analysis identifies the section of the stadium that is making the most noise and puts the results on a big screen. Sensors can identify if a faucet anywhere in the stadium is left running after a football game is over, to help cut water usage. ASU also is exploring providing information through a mobile app on the availability of parking and wait time estimations for concession lines and restrooms.

The tech-infused stadium has been a test bed for a larger investigation of and investment in Internet of Things (IoT) technologies at ASU, according to Gordon Wishon, the university’s chief information officer. “We built the back-end infrastructure to support those proofs of concept,” he said.

Wishon is convinced that research universities are the perfect place to test and deploy IoT. “The enterprise of a large research university has some component of every industry vertical in the larger world around us. We not only support academic and research operations, but also very large business enterprises with retail operations, transportation, healthcare, ticketing, supply chain,” he said. “We have been working with industry partners such as Intel and investing in the infrastructure we think we will need to support the broader deployment of IoT technologies. As CIO, it is my responsibility to be sure that the university is prepared for emerging technologies and the impact they will have on our campuses.”

Coordinating IT and Facilities

As campus executives start to develop their IoT strategies, it is not just CIOs who have to be involved. Sometimes, facilities groups have their own IT executives working on data pipelines from IoT devices. Chuck Benson, assistant director for IT in Facilities Services at the University of Washington, chairs a campuswide IoT risk mitigation task force.

Energy management is a great example of where IoT is having an impact, Benson said. With help from a federal grant, UW has made an effort to meter much of the campus. There are about 2,000 data points where power and building controls are sampled. “I work with our energy conservation managers making sure all the samples are coming through,” he said. Data flows into an aggregation point and from there to consumption for reports, dashboards or ongoing research. “We do a lot of work in building that data pipeline, and there are challenges all along the way that involve different groups on campus,” Benson explained. If a meter goes offline, initially you don’t know why — or who is responsible. Did the device or routing have a problem, or is there a problem with the configuration somewhere in the data pipeline? “We have a team made up of the energy conservation manager, electrical engineer for power, our mechanical engineer for HVAC, a vendor and a subcontractor who helps us support this,” he said.

Benson is interested in the organizational challenges to make sure responsibilities don’t fall through the gaps. For example, in a new facility being built at UW, there are IoT systems for environmental control monitoring, HVAC and lighting controls. Planning and budgeting, capital development and facilities management are involved. Central IT provides the backbone, local IT helps facilitate implementation and countless vendors are involved, so that creates gaps through which accountability and ownership can fall, he said. “That is one of the things that makes this different from traditional enterprise systems — [IoT spans] so many different organizations, it makes it a different animal, and these are groups that are not used to working together in this way. That is one of the biggest challenges higher education institutions face. If this is going to be successfully implemented, there has to be oversight and coordination — not that it is going to be easy. But to have all these groups operating independently is not going to work.”

Wishon agrees that IoT could ultimately change the role of the CIO and require much closer working relationships with many different departments on campus — residence halls, facilities, retail operations, parking, transportation and public safety. “This has allowed us to establish much closer relationships with each one of those organizations on campus,” he said. “We are working with each one of them to help them understand the potential benefits as well as the potential risks of deploying these technologies.”

He used facilities as an example: ASU has five campuses with more than 2,000 buildings. All were constructed with different materials, standards and techniques. In the cases where there are building information management systems installed, there is no set of standards that allow facilities managers to share data across different systems. The challenge is to develop a “single pane of glass view” into all facilities and operations, which facilities executives can leverage to drive down consumption of energy and resources as well as do predictive maintenance.

“The responsibility of the CIO becomes helping to lead and educate peers across the institution on what the impact of these technologies will be and how to prepare for it,” Wishon said. “In our case, we have the responsibility in central IT of ensuring that the security architecture and data architecture we are building can accommodate all the different forms and sources of data and the applications that will be used to leverage it across campus. The privacy conversation cannot be understated. The potential advantages of these technologies in terms of benefitting student, faculty, staff and visitor experience are going to be huge.”


IoT and Student Success

Some campus academic leaders are interested in the possibility that IoT devices could help improve student success efforts, although obviously these efforts raise a number of privacy concerns. Arizona State University has launched a pilot project to see if using IoT to take attendance could help advisers reach out to students.

The university offers an introductory course called ASU 101 for first-time freshmen. “We know that students who fail to attend that course on a regular basis have a very high probability of failing to persist,” said CIO Gordon Wishon. “So we have a vested interest in understanding which students are attending that course on a regular basis and those who are not.” But with section sizes of up to 300 students, faculty members have no time to take attendance. With the approval of the institutional review board, the provost’s office is sponsoring a pilot project asking the students to opt in to allowing ASU to track their location using a virtual beacon when they enter the classroom. Wishon said the data would not go to the faculty member but could help the institution identify which students might be at risk because they are failing to attend.

Dealing with IoT Data

Some IT leaders may find the amount of data being generated overwhelms the campus’s ability to organize it, analyze it and act on it. “Just because the data is there potentially for us to collect does not mean we have the tools we need to do anything about it,” said David Allen, director of enterprise systems at Pacific Lutheran University (WA). “It is one thing to connect a device. It is another level of complexity to do something with it beyond turning lights on and off and changing temperature settings. Every campus is a little different in terms of where the responsibility lies to work with the data and act on it,” he said.

Pacific Lutheran has had to think through the impact of IoT on its network, involving everything from its BYOD policy for students to washers and dryers in the residence halls that have IP addresses. “In our architecture, we have multiple network segments that we can put different kinds of devices on,” Allen explained. “Our access control system is on a different segment from everything else. We have to think about whether we want all the facilities-related devices on one network, or work with the facilities team to figure out how to segment that more granularly. Maybe lighting controls are on one segment and HVAC controls on another — in part, because there is some risk if one segment is compromised.”

UW’s Benson noted that it can be difficult for IT leaders to find time to study the potential impact of IoT and work to prepare for it. “CIOs have to work on big projects such as ERP replacements, which take a ton of effort and resources. That in turn distracts from other things like thinking about IoT,” he said. “I believe CIOs are increasingly aware of coming issues around IoT, but their plates are full with other IT challenges. I think we’ll see some organizational changes to help CIOs with IoT issues.”

Smarter Together

When the nonprofit organization Internet2 created a Chief Innovation Office in March 2015, it surveyed members asking which key areas they wanted to work on. The three top choices were Internet of Things, end-to-end trust and security, and distributed big data and analytics, so working groups were established around each topic. “Interestingly, two of those working groups — IoT and distributed big data — chose the smart campus as one of their focus areas,” said Florence Hudson, senior vice president and chief innovation officer at Internet2. “And when you think of the smart campus, it is the culmination of all three working groups: IoT devices create distributed big data you have to do analytics on, with end-to-end trust and security. Looking at that, our CEO at the time, Dave Lambert, suggested we create a Smart Campus CIO Advisory Council. I reached out to 10 CIOs and they all joined.” (Both Arizona State University‘s Gordon Wishon and University of Washington‘s Chuck Benson are members of the advisory council.)

Hudson said CIOs are figuring out who on campus needs to be involved in IoT. She described a recent summit meeting on IoT in which CIOs were asked to bring with them the one person they are working most closely with on IoT issues. “One guy brought his provost,” she said. “A few people brought their chief facilities officers. Some people brought manufacturing/engineering professors who run IoT labs. Some brought their CISOs. What you see is that it takes a village. I like to say ‘IT plus OT equals IoT — Information Technology plus Operational Technology equals the Internet of Things.’ Different players need to come together to deploy these solutions. A lot more people are asking questions about it now, and that is good because we can get all these brilliant people in the academy to work on it together.”