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How Libra Will Change Social Media Marketing
libra, social marketing

Mark Zuckerberg has already changed the way we market. The rise of Facebook, with its mixture of detailed personal demographics and ongoing engagement, has forced marketers to create new ways of building relationships with leads and customers. As the platform has grown, we’ve all grown used to creating posts, producing videos, broadcasting live, answering questions, and carefully targeting ads. The launch of Libra could change social media marketing.

The new cryptocurrency called Libra.

The new cryptocurrency, managed by an independent association but closely associated with Facebook, aims to provide an easy way to make online transactions. Instead of using a currency controlled by a national bank and limited by national boundaries, anyone anywhere will be able to buy or sell goods using the genuinely international currency.

A basket of fiat currencies will give Libra stability, avoiding the volatility problems that have hindered the use of Bitcoin. The result should be smooth, reliable transactions for Internet-based customers who won’t need to enter credit card details or pay third-parties like PayPal.

Libra taking-off as planned; results for marketers a whole new world.

One of the biggest challenges for social media marketers has been the difficulty of assigning causation. We can see how far a piece of content reaches. We can measure its level of engagement. We can track how much traffic a post or an ad drives to a website.

But it’s much harder to measure the amount of revenue any piece of content produces. We know we’re building engagement, but we can’t always tell the depth of that engagement or how much it’s worth to the business.

That’s what Libra can change. By allowing people to hit a Buy button that will take their money immediately. Social media marketing will acquire a whole new action—and marketers will be able to add a new metric to their statistics.

Actions on behavior.

The quick action will affect behavior. Some marketers will focus solely on the number of sales a post generates. They’ll experiment with different content forms to generate maximum conversions. They’ll worry less about engagement and audience retention and more about the amount of money a post produces immediately.

Producers of live video, currently a critical engagement tool often used for product demos and Q&As, may find that it pays to keep broadcasting. They can turn their live videos into something that looks a lot like a shopping channel, with sales coming in as they talk.

The smartest marketers will find that the addition of an instant Buy button doesn’t take away from social media marketing.

  • They’ll combine those benefits to produce new kinds of funnels.
  • Some posts will introduce the brand to new markets.
  • Other posts will promote the benefits of the brand and its products.
  • Finally, at the end of the funnel, social media marketers will be able to use Libra’s new functionality to turn those previous efforts into cash.

All of this will require a new way of thinking about social media marketing.

  • It will require new sales strategies and new kinds of messages.
  • The exact forms those messages will take will only become clear as Libra takes off, and marketers experiment.
  • We can expect to see plenty of failed hard sales efforts before smart marketers hit on a combination of engagement and call to action that produces the best results.
  • We can also expect that Facebook marketing will become less about branding and engagement and more about conversions.

But whether Libra will be successful and trigger this change is even harder to predict than the form of the new social media marketing itself.

“Libra Cryptocurrency Gold Coin by Facebook” by orgalpari is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The post How Libra Will Change Social Media Marketing appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 18 Oct 2019 | 10:00 am

Report: T-Mobile partners with Jeffrey Katzenberg’s mobile streaming service Quibi

On the heels of getting the FCC’s proposal to merge with Sprint, T-Mobile announced a plan to partner with the Jeffrey Katzenberg’s mobile streaming service, Quibi. According to statements provided to the L.A. Times, Quibi CEO Meg Whitman specifically called out T-Mobile’s “impressive 5G road map” as a good fit for the soon-to-launch streaming service.

The partnership will give T-Mobile’s 83.1 million customers access to Quibi’s premium content, but no details as to how it would be bundled into the carrier’s plans are currently available. It’s possible that Quibi will either be offered at a discount for T-Mobile users, or it could be available as an add-on or available with a special bundle deal.

The deal will present a new competitor to AT&T’s streaming services, AT&T TV Now (previously DirecTV Now) and low-cost WatchTV, as well as its upcoming premium service, HBO Max. Verizon (TechCrunch’s parent parent company) also dabbled with mobile streaming with go90, but that service was shut down last year after failing to gain adoption.

The news of the T-Mobile deal comes on the heels of a series of rapid-fire announcements about the shows and celebs who will be contributing to Quibi, which will provide a range of programming including news, lifestyle, comedy, drama, horror, reality, action and more. And all is broken up into shorter-form bits — or “quick bites,” hence the service’s name.

As for the programming, Quibi has brought in big names like Sam Raimi, Guillermo del Toro, Antoine Fuqua and producer Jason Blum, Liam Hemsworth, Lorne Michaels, Steven Speilberg, Tyra Banks, Idris Elba, Trevor Noah, Queen Latifah, Sophie Turner, and others.

“Quibi will deliver premium video content for millennials on a technology platform that is built exclusively for mobile, so a telecommunications partner like T-Mobile, with their broad coverage today and impressive 5G road map, is the perfect fit,” Quibi Chief Executive Meg Whitman said in a statement, run by the L.A. Times.

“Quibi is leading the way on how video content is made and experienced in a mobile-first world,” said Mike Sievert, president and chief operating officer of T-Mobile. “That’s why our partnership makes perfect sense — two mobile-centric disrupters coming together to give customers something new and remarkable.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

We’ve reached out to T-Mobile and Quibi for further confirmation and comment.

 

Source: TechCrunch | 18 Oct 2019 | 9:51 am

Greylock GP Sarah Guo is as bullish on SaaS as ever

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where each week we discuss other people’s money and what sense their investment choices make (or don’t).

This week was honestly a treat. We had Kate Clark in the studio along with Alex Wilhelm and a special guest, Sarah Guo from Greylock Partners, a venture firm (obviously). Guo has the distinction of having the best-ever fun fact on the show.

We kicked off with Grammarly, a company that recently put $90 million into its accounts. We chatted about for whom it was built, and if we use it today. One thing that felt clear was that consumers are more willing than before to pay for their tooling. And that means that companies like Grammarly may prove strong investment candidates.

Next, we hit on two more rounds, namely Tiger Global’s investment into Lattice and Clari’s $60 million Series D. Starting with Lattice, a performance management company founded by none other than Sam Altman’s brother, Jack. The startup raised $25 million from Tiger Global, read more about that here.

Clari led us a to a discussion of vertical SaaS, and Guo’s views on the future of SaaS products (she’s bullish). Alex and Guo had a lot to say on this subject.

After talking over a few rounds the discussion turned to the Q3 venture market. A few things stood out from the data and projections. First, that early-stage fundraising was a little light in the quarter. It could be a single-quarter wobble, but the data was worth chewing on all the same. And, second, that Seed deal and dollar volume were hot once again.

And we wrapped with a discussion of Tempest, a new sobriety-focused startup that raised a $10 million round. Honestly, we aren’t sure how we feel about the business model. Please let us know if you have thoughts.

It was a good time. A big thanks to Guo for coming on the show, and a shoutout to the team that makes Equity happen: Chris Gates, and Henry Pickavet.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on iTunesOvercast, Pocketcast, Downcast and all the casts.

Source: TechCrunch | 18 Oct 2019 | 9:00 am

Volvo creates a dedicated business for autonomous industrial and commercial transport

Volvo Group has established a new dedicated business group focused on autonomous transportation, with a mandate that covers industry segments like mining, ports and moving goods between logistics hubs of all kinds. The vehicle maker has already been active in putting autonomous technology to work in these industries, with self-driving projects including at a few quarries and mines, and in the busy port located at Gothenburg, Sweden.

The company sees demand for this kind of autonomous technology use growing, and decided to establish an entire business unit to address it. The newly-formed group will be called Volvo Autonomous Solutions, and its official mission is to “accelerate the development, commercialization and sales of autonomous transport solutions,” focused on the kind of transportation “where there is a need to move large volumes of goods and material on pre-defeined routes, in receptive flows.”

Their anticipation of the growth of this sector comes in part from direct customer feedback, the automaker notes. It’s seen “significant increase in inquires from customers,” according to a statement from Martin Lundstedt, Volvo Group’s President and CEO.

Officially, Volvo Autonomous Solutions won’t be a formal new business area under its parent company until January 2020, but the company is looking for a new head of the unit already, and it’s clear they see a lot of potential in this bourgeoning market.

Unlike autonomous driving for consumer automobiles, this kind of self-driving for fixed route goods transportation is a nice match to the capabilities of technology as they exist today. These industrial applications eliminate a lot of the chaos and complexity of driving in, say, urban environments and with a lot of other human-driven vehicles on the road, and their routes are predictable and repeatable.

Source: TechCrunch | 18 Oct 2019 | 7:23 am

Japan will participate in NASA’s Lunar Gateway project for the Artemis program

Japan has officially announced that it will participate with NASA’s Lunar Gateway project (via NHK), which will seek to establish an orbital research and staging station around the Moon. The Lunar Gateway is a key component of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to land the first American woman and the next American man on the surface of the Moon by 2024.

Japan’s involvement was confirmed on Friday at a meeting of the country’s Strategic Headquarters for National Space Policy, at which Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was present. The governing body accepted a recommendation from a panel established to study the possibility that Japan should indeed join NASA’s efforts.

Working with NASA on its Lunar Gateway will serve to benefit Japan in a few ways, the panel determined, including by boosting its profile as a technology leader and by strengthening U.S.-Japan relations when it comes to ensuring space is a place where international collaboration on peaceful ventures and research can take place.

Further details about how Japan will participate aren’t yet available, which makes sense given this decision has only just been made. Japanese lunar exploration startup ispace welcomed the news, and anticipates possibly being able to contribute in some capacity, specifically via the partnership it announced with Draper earlier this year.

“We welcome this development with great optimism for the future of lunar exploration, as well as the relationship between Japan and the United States,” said Takeshi Hakamada, Founder & CEO of ispace in an emailed statement. “We firmly believe the Draper-ispace partnership can complement the US-Japan efforts for a sustainable return to the Moon at the commercial level.”

Source: TechCrunch | 18 Oct 2019 | 6:50 am

Watch NASA’s first ever all-woman spacewalk live

NASA astronauts Christina H Koch and Jessica Meir will make history this morning, as they take part in the first ever spacewalk in the agency’s history featuring only women. The two astronauts will be venturing outside of the International Space Station in order to effect a repair on a failed power controller for the station, with coverage beginning at 6:30 AM ET (3:30 AM PT) via the livestream above, and Koch and Meir set to leave the station’s airlock at 7:50 AM ET (4:50 AM PT).

This historic event is happening seven months after its original intended target date, after that attempt had to be scrubbed because the ISS was missing a medium-sized spacesuit that one of the two woman would need. Astronaut Anne McClain was going to take part alongside Koch at that time, but McClain’s time on the station ended in June. McClain attempted to make a large-sized suit work, but her mobility was too limited.

NASA sent up a second medium spacesuit in October to ensure that they wouldn’t encounter a similar problem a second time around, but rightly faced criticism for the apparent discrimination of having enough suits to ensure multiple men could spacewalk, but not multiple women. The agency seems to have a genuine interest in curbing any perception of discrimination inherent in its spacesuit program, however, and emphasized that the spacesuits designed for its Artemis Moon mission program are designed to provide maximum mobility for astronauts of all shapes and sizes.

This mission will be record-breaking not just for NASA, but for all human space exploration, marking the first time there’s ever been a two-woman spacewalk. Definitely an exciting and momentous event, so be sure to tune in via the stream above.

Source: TechCrunch | 18 Oct 2019 | 6:24 am

Last few hours to apply: TC Top Picks @ Disrupt Berlin 2019

This is it, startup founders. Today, October 18, is the last day and your final opportunity to be chosen as a TC Top Pick, to score a free Startup Alley Exhibitor Package and to shine a bright spotlight on your company at Disrupt Berlin 2019 on 11-12 December.

You have only a few hours left to beat today’s 12 p.m. (PT) deadline. It’s quick, it’s painless and it’s free. What are you waiting for? Apply to be a TC Top Pick while you still can.

Every early-stage startup needs exposure to survive and thrive. Exposure to potential customers, to accredited media and to investors with the backing to make dreams come true. Our TC Top Picks provides exposure to possibility.

If your startup falls into one of the categories listed below, we want you. TechCrunch editors will vet the applications and choose up to five startups that represent the best of each category: AI/Machine Learning, Biotech/Healthtech, Blockchain, Fintech, Mobility, Privacy/Security, Retail/E-commerce, Robotics/IoT/Hardware, CRM/Enterprise and Education.

If you earn a TC Top Pick designation, you receive a free Startup Alley Exhibitor Package and a VIP experience. Your package includes one full day exhibiting in Startup Alley (the Disrupt expo floor), three Founder passes, press lists and invitations to networking parties, to name just a few perks.

Our Top Picks cohort generates a lot of curiosity, and Disrupt attendees flock to Startup Alley to meet and greet. It’s networking nirvana, where you can connect with potential customers, investors, mentors, collaborators — think infinite opportunity.

And yet another great opportunity awaits. TechCrunch editors interview each Top Pick startup live on the Showcase Stage. While we promote the interview video across our social media platforms, you can use it to drive traffic to your website and as a long-term marketing tool for pitching investors and customers.

And then there’s the Wild Card. TechCrunch editors will pick one early-stage startup exhibiting in the Alley to be the Wild Card, and that startup will compete in Startup Battlefield, our epic pitch competition. It’s a chance to win even more investor and media love along with the $50,000 prize. Last year, Legacy earned the Wild Card slot, and then went on to win the Startup Battlefield competition.

Disrupt Berlin 2019 takes place on 11-12 December. So much opportunity, so little time left to take advantage of it. The TC Top Picks opportunity is free, and the benefits are priceless. Don’t miss your chance — apply to be a TC Top Pick before 12 p.m. (PT) today, 18 October.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt Berlin 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Source: TechCrunch | 18 Oct 2019 | 4:00 am

Mobile game startup Madbox raises $16.5 million after 100 million downloads

French startup Madbox is raising a $16.5 million (€15 million) Series A funding round from Alven. The company is developing mobile games and handles everything from start to finish, from game design to publishing and user acquisition.

Madbox is a young player in the mobile game space. The company is the result of the merger of two tiny Paris-based game studios in July 2018. After a couple of months, the startup released its first game, Dash Valley. And the game quickly ended up trending in the top 50 of top free game downloads in the App Store in the U.S.

The company has released a handful of games since then. At some point, Madbox had three games in the top 10 charts in the U.S. (once again, free game downloads) — StickMan Hook, Sausage Flip and Idle Ball Race. Overall, Madbox has generated 100 million game downloads.

“The core method at Madbox is that we internalize everything,” co-founder and CEO Jean-Nicolas Vernin told me. “We try to automate as many thing as possible.”

In addition to reusing assets from one game to another, Madbox also tries to apply the same method when it comes to user acquisition and marketing. “People often tell us that we have a data-driven culture that is disproportionately developed in our company,” Vernin said.

Madbox has a careful approach when it comes to growth. The company hires slowly and doesn’t release dozens of games in a year.

With 30 to 40 employees and a business model mostly based on ads, the company is currently profitable. Madbox now wants to tackle a wider range of mobile games, from hyper casual to idle games and less casual games. The startup is also opening a second office in Barcelona.

“We are a generation of friends who have worked for well-known casual game studios. And we all think that big game productions will have to become simpler so that people can play them like casual games — and vice versa,” Vernin said. And Madbox wants to be there when these two worlds collide.

Source: TechCrunch | 18 Oct 2019 | 3:10 am

5 Outdoor Activities for Beating Office Burnout

Burnout is bad news. Professionals who feel ground down by their job risk a range of health problems, impacting both their quality of life and their work performance.

Studies show burnout raises the risk for mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Once the stress becomes too much to bear, employees leave, creating costly turnover for their employer.

Beating burnout takes effort from both sides. Employers have to provide ample time off, maintain reasonable expectations, and listen to team members’ concerns. Workers, meanwhile, have to engage in activities that provide relaxation when they’re off the clock.

Outdoor Activities Are Key

Exercising and spending time outdoors don’t just feel good; research suggests they’re two of the best ways to combat burnout. If you don’t already have an activity in mind, try:

1. Backpacking

Backpacking exposes you to beauty that simply can’t be seen from a car window. If you’ve never been before, be sure to follow a backpacking gear checklist. As long as you’ve got the right gear, you’ll find the fresh air and mountain views to be a great antidote to office burnout.
Backpacking can also guard against the health consequences of burnout. In addition to reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke, backpacking — the kind that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat — increases the size of your hippocampus. That means improvements in thinking and memory.

2. Biking

If backpacking seems a little too adventurous, try biking. Because biking is a low-impact exercise, it can be done for longer and with less stress than many other outdoor activities on this list. A study published in Urban Landscape and Planning showed that spending more time in natural areas lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Whether you prefer urban parks or wooded trails, be sure you’ve got a bicycle that fits. The seat should come up to the top of your hip. The handlebars should be positioned so you have to lean forward slightly. Always wear a helmet; if you ride at night, be sure your bicycle is outfitted with front and rear lights.

3. Yoga

Yoga can be enjoyed indoors, but why not find a shaded patch of grass for your practice? Many people find an outdoor environment enhances yoga’s meditative benefits. People who meditate regularly tend to have a smaller-than-average amygdala, the part of the brain that triggers the fight-or-flight response. Although that urge is important when, say, escaping a tiger, it’s not helpful in the office.Get a mat that’s thick enough for uneven ground. Choose a tranquil spot, and clear away sticks and other debris. Start with grounding poses like downward dog before graduating to more complex ones. Even a 15-minute session over lunch can make the office more bearable.

4. Rock Climbing

In the mood for a thrilling outdoor activity? Bouldering, one style of rock climbing, has been proven to build muscle endurance while reducing stress. In fact, it’s so effective that some hospitals in Germany are using rock climbing as a therapy for mild and moderate depression.

There are many styles of climbing out there, including sport climbing, which is a more athletic style that involves mental and physical conditioning. Whichever you prefer, start small and make sure you’ve got the right gear. Climbing and rappelling are exciting, but they’re also dangerous.

5. Kayaking and Canoeing

If you’re a water lover, kayaking or canoeing may be the outdoor activity for you. Urbanites love it because it’s an immediate escape from the stresses of the city, given that most major ones are located along waterways. Between the rhythm of paddling and the rushing sounds of rapids, kayaking and canoeing make it easy to find your flow.

Although kayaks and canoes can be expensive, resale sites are full of secondhand ones. Get a good life jacket, and always bring a partner. Riptides and undercurrents are surprisingly strong, and you don’t want to get caught in one with nobody nearby to help.

What’s the single best outdoor activity for fighting burnout? The one you enjoy most. Having fun creates new connections in the brain. Even if you aren’t a master backpacker or Tour de France cyclist, you’ll do your brain a favor by blowing off steam outdoors.

The post 5 Outdoor Activities for Beating Office Burnout appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 18 Oct 2019 | 3:00 am

Kenyan telco Safaricom’s Alpha incubator faces uncertain future

Safaricom’s Nairobi based Alpha innovation incubator may have an uncertain future, according to sources.

With two high-level departures, and the passing of Safaricom’s CEO Bob Collymore, there are questions on how or if Alpha will continue to operate.

The space was established in 2017 to spur new product development for Safaricom, which is Kenya’s largest mobile operator and the provider of M-Pesa — East Africa’s most used mobile-money product.

As TechCrunch reported, one of the first objectives of Alpha was to build upon the success of M-Pesa.

As a telco, Safaricom has 69 percent of the Kenya’s mobile subscribers and generates around a fourth ($531 million) of its ≈ $2.2 billion annual revenues (2018) from M-Pesa. The fintech product has 20.5 million customers across a network of 176,000 agents.

While these stats have put Safaricom in a coveted position, the company’s former CEO Bob Collymore expressed concerns over the risk of too many eggs in one basket. For years, Collymore pressed his company to diversify product and revenue streams.

Through in-house development and partnerships, Safaricom added consumer and small business-based products, such as ride-hail app Little and website services, to its mobile and fintech network.

In 2017, Safaricom’s Chief Innovation Officer and first head of Alpha, Kamal Bhattacharya echoed Collymore’s mission to diversify the company’s offerings.

“We’d actually like to move beyond M-Pesa by leveraging its power as a social network to connect people to other product solutions,” he told TechCrunch.

Bhattacharya — who’d come to Safaricom after senior positions at IBM Research Africa and a stint restructuring Kenyan innovation center iHub — recruited a team for Alpha, led by founder and computer scientist Shikoh Gitau.

From a market perspective, Alpha was something to watch since corporate incubators in Africa were (and continue to be) a relatively new component across the continent’s tech ecosystem.

Alpha staff in 2018

In a space purposely set up away from Safaricom’s HQ, Alpha’s team of innovators set to shaping new digital offerings.

In 2018, the incubator rolled out its first product, a social networking platform called Bonga, to augment M-Pesa.

Safaricom rolls out Bonga social networking platform to augment M-Pesa

Since M-Pesa was already established as a commercial network, the idea was to amplify that by creating more social media type transactions around it — channeling Facebook, YouTube, iTunes, PayPal, and eBay in one platform.

With Bonga, Alpha appeared to have some momentum into 2018, before the innovation incubator lost two of its biggest backers.

First, Kamal Bhattacharya, exited Safaricom and his position of lead of Alpha in October 2018. The reason given by the company was a bit of corporate say-nothing-speak: “leaving to pursue other interests.”

The real reasons for Bhattacharya’s sudden exit were unclear. There was, however, plenty of scuttlebutt about powers within Safaricom — resistant to the brand of bureaucracy rattling change Alpha could bring — conspiring to push him out.

After losing its head, Alpha lost another key ally in Bob Collymore when he passed away in July of this year after a fight with cancer.

Zwuup SafaricomAlpha said farewell to another senior figure in August when Huston Malande left. It also rebranded Bonga to Zwuup this year — though Safaricom’s last two annual reports don’t indicate how the product has fared under either name, with no mention of Bonga, Zwuup, or Alpha.

What’s next for Alpha?

Several sources close to Safaricom (speaking on background) expressed doubt that it would have the support within the company to continue with Collymore’s passing.

One source suggested Alpha would more likely be morphed into the larger Safaricom bureaucracy rather than shut down completely, to avoid negative news that an abrupt closure would bring.

TechCrunch asked Safaricom directly on the future of Alpha, and specifically if it would confirm or deny reports the innovation incubator could shutdown. A Safaricom spokesperson said it could not comment on anything related to Alpha’s products or performance before Safaricom’s next earnings reporting, scheduled for November 1.

So Kenya’s tech community will have to wait a couple more weeks to see if Safaricom sticks to its experiment to spur inside innovation by creating an outside incubator — or not.

 

 

Source: TechCrunch | 18 Oct 2019 | 1:34 am

Catalan separatists have tooled up with a decentralized app for civil disobedience

Is our age of ubiquitous smartphones and social media turning into an era of mass civil unrest? Two years after holding an independence referendum and unilaterally declaring independence in defiance of the Spanish state — then failing to gain recognition for la república and being forced to watch political leaders jailed or exiled — Catalonia’s secessionist movement has resurfaced with a major splash.

One of the first protest actions programmed by a new online activist group, calling itself Tsunami Democràtic, saw thousands of protestors coalescing on Barcelona airport Monday, in an attempt to shut it down. The protest didn’t quite do that but it did lead to major disruption, with roads blocked by human traffic as protestors walked down the highway and the cancelation of more than 100 flights, plus hours of delays for travellers arriving into El Prat.

For months leading up to a major Supreme Court verdict on the fate of imprisoned Catalan political leaders a ‘technical elite‘ — as one local political science academic described them this week — has been preparing to reboot Catalonia’s independence movement by developing bespoke, decentralized high-tech protest tools.

A source with knowledge of Tsunami Democràtic, speaking to TechCrunch on condition of anonymity, told us that “high level developers” located all around the world are involved in the effort, divvying up coding tasks as per any large scale IT project and leveraging open source resources (such as the RetroShare node-based networking platform) to channel grassroots support for independence into a resilient campaign network that can’t be stopped by the arrest of a few leaders.

Demonstrators at the airport on Monday were responding directly to a call to blockade the main terminal posted to the group’s Telegram channel.

Additional waves of protest are being planned and programmed via a bespoke Tsunami Democràtic app that was also released this week for Android smartphones — as a sideload, not yet a Google Play download.

The app is intended to supplement mainstream social network platform broadcasts by mobilizing smaller, localized groups of supporters to carry out peaceful acts of civil disobedience all over Catalonia.

Our source walked us through the app, which requires location permission to function in order that administrators can map available human resources to co-ordinate protests. We’re told a user’s precise location is not shared but rather that an obfuscated, more fuzzy location marker gets sent. However the app’s source code has not yet been open sourced so users have to take such claims on trust (open sourcing is said to be the plan — but only once the app has been scrubbed of any identifying traces, per the source).

The app requires a QR code to be activated. This is a security measure intended to manage activation in stages, via trusted circles of acquaintances, to limit the risk of infiltration by state authorities. Though it feels a bit like a viral gamification tactic to encourage people to spread the word and generate publicity organically by asking their friends if they have a code or not.

new 04

Whatever it’s really for the chatter seems to be working. During our meeting over coffee we overheard a group of people sitting at another table talking about the app. And at the time of writing Tsunami Democràtic has announced 15,000 successful QR code activations so far. Though it’s not clear how successful the intended flashmob civil disobedience game-plan will be at this nascent stage.

Once activated, app users are asked to specify their availability (i.e. days and times of day) for carrying out civil disobedience actions. And to specify if they own certain mobility resources which could be utilized as part of a protest (e.g. car, scooter, bike, tractor).

Examples of potential actions described to us by our source were go-slows to bring traffic grinding to a halt and faux shopping sprees targeting supermarkets where activists could spend a few hours piling carts high with goods before leaving them abandoned in the store for someone else to clean up.

One actual early action carried out by activists from the group last month targeted a branch of the local CaixaBank with a masked protestor sit-in.

Our source said the intention is to include a pop-up in the app as a sort of contract of conscience which asks users to confirm participation in the organized chaos will be entirely peaceful. Here’s an example of what the comprometo looks like:

TD-app

Users are also asked to confirm both their intention to participate in a forthcoming action (meaning the app will capture attendance numbers for protests ahead of time) and to check in when they get there so its administrators can track actual participation in real-time.

The app doesn’t ask for any personal data during onboarding — there’s no account creation etc — although users are agreeing to their location being pervasively tracked.

And it’s at least possible that other personal data could be passed via, for example, a comment submission field that lets people send feedback on actions. Or if the app ends up recording other data via access to smartphone sensors.

The other key point is that users only see actions related to their stated availability and tracked location. So, from a protestor’s point of view, they see only a tiny piece of the Tsunami Democràtic protest program. The user view is decentralized and information is distributed strictly piecemeal, on a need to know basis.

Behind the scenes — where unknown administrators are accessing its data and devising and managing protest actions to distribute via the app — there may be an entirely centralized view of available human protest resources. But it’s not clear what the other side of the platform looks like. Our source was unable to show it to us or articulate what it looks like.

Certainly, administrators are in a position to cancel planned actions if, for example, there’s not enough participation — meaning they can invisibly manage external optics around engagement with the cause. Not enough foot soldiers for a planned protest? Just call it off quietly via the app.

Also not at all clear: Who the driving forces are behind the Tsunami Democràtic protest mask?

“There is no thinking brain, there are many brains,” a spokesman for the movement told the El Diario newspaper this week. But that does raise pretty major questions about democratic legitimacy. Because, well, if you’re claiming to be fighting for democracy by mobilizing popular support, and you’re doing it from inside a Western democracy, can you really claim that while your organization remains in the shadows?

Even if your aim is non-violent political protest, and your hierarchy is genuinely decentralized, which is the suggestive claim here, unless you’re offering transparency of structure so as to make your movement’s composition and administration visible to outside scrutiny (so that your claims of democratic legitimacy can be independently verified) then individual protestors (the app’s end users) just have to take your word for it.

End users who are being crowdsourced and coopted to act out via app instruction as if they’re pawns on a high tech chess board. They are also being asked (implicitly) to shoulder direct personal risk in order that a faceless movement generates bottom up political pressure.

So there’s a troubling contradiction here for a movement that has chosen to include the word ‘democractic’ in its name. (The brand is a reference to a phase used by jailed Catalan cultural leader, Jordi Cuixart.) Who or what is powering this wave?

Tsunami Democratic

We also now know all too well how the double-sided nature of platforms means these fast-flowing technosocial channels can easily be misappropriated by motivated interest groups to gamify and manipulate opinion (and even action) en masse. This has been made amply clear in recent years with political disinformation campaigns mushrooming into view all over the online place.

So while emoji-strewn political protest messages calling for people to mobilize at a particular street corner might seem a bit of harmless ‘Pokemon Go’-style urban fun, the upshot can — and this week has — been far less predictable and riskier than its gamified packaging might suggest.

Plenty of protests have gone off peacefully, certainly. Others — often those going on after dusk and late into the night — have devolved into ugly scenes and destructive clashes.

There is clearly a huge challenge for decentralized movements (and indeed technologies) when it comes to creating legitimate governance structures that don’t simply repeat the hierarchies of the existing (centralized) authorities and systems they’re seeking to challenge.

The anarchy-loving crypto community’s inability to coalesce around a way to progress with blockchain technology looks like its own self-defeating irony. A faceless movement fighting for ‘democracy’ from behind an app mask that allows its elite string-pullers and data crunchers to remain out of sight risks looking like another.

None of the protestors we’ve spoken to could say for sure who’s behind Tsunami Democràtic. One suggested it’s just “citizens” or else the same people who helped organize the 2017 Catalan independence referendum — managing the movement of ballot papers into and out of an unofficial network of polling stations so that votes could be collected and counted despite Spanish authorities’ best efforts to seize and destroy them.

There was also a sophisticated technology support effort at the time to support the vote and ensure information about polling stations remained available in the face of website takedowns by the Spanish state.

Our source was equally vague when asked who is behind the Tsunami Democràtic app. Which, if the decentralizing philosophy does indeed run right through the network — as a resilience strategy to protect its members from being ratted out to the police — is what you’d expected.

Any single node wouldn’t know or want to know much of other nodes. But that just leaves a vacuum at the core of the thing which looks alien to democratic enquiry.

One thing Tsunami Democràtic has been at pains to make plain in all (visible) communications to its supporters is that protests must be peaceful. But, again, while technology tools are great enablers it’s not always clear exactly what fire you’re lighting once momentum is pooled and channeled. And protests which started peacefully this week have devolved into running battles with police with missiles being thrown, fires lit and rubber bullets fired.

Some reports have suggested overly aggressive police response to crowds gathering has triggered and flipped otherwise calm protestors. What’s certain is there are injuries on both sides. Today almost 100 people were reported to have been hurt across three nights of protest action. A general strike and the biggest manifestation yet is planned for Friday in Barcelona. So the city is braced for more trouble as smartphone screens blink with fresh protest instructions.

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Social media is of course a conduit for very many things. At its most corporate and anodyne its stated mission can be expressed flavorlessly — as with Facebook’s claimed purpose of ‘connecting people’. (Though distracting and/or outraging is often closer to the mark.)

In practice, thanks to human nature — so that means political agendas, financial interests and all the rest of our various and frequently conflicting desires — all sorts of sparks can fly. None more visibly than during mass mobilizations where groups with a shared agenda rapidly come together to amplify a cause and agitate for change.

Even movements that start with the best intentions — and put their organizers and administration right out in the open for all to see and query — can lose control of outcomes.

Not least because malicious outsiders often seize the opportunity to blend in and act out, using the cover of an organized protest to create a violent disturbance. (And there have been some reports filtering across Catalan social media claiming right wing thugs have been causing trouble and that secret police are intentionally stirring things up to smear the movement.)

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BARCELONA, SPAIN – OCTOBER 17: Protesters take to the streets to demonstrate after the Spanish Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to between 9 and 13 years in prison for their role of the 2017 failed Catalan referendum on October 17, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

So if a highly charged political campaign is being masterminded and micromanaged remotely, by unknown entities shielded behind screens, there are many more questions we need to be asking about where the balance of risk and power lies, as well as whether a badge of ‘pro-democracy’ can really be justified.

For Tsunami Democràtic and Catalonia’s independence movement generally this week’s protests look to be just the start of a dug-in, tech-fuelled guerrilla campaign of civil disobedience — to try to force a change of political weather. Spain also has yet another general election looming so the timing offers the whiff of opportunity.

The El Prat blockade that kicked off the latest round of Catalan unrest seemed intended to be a flashy opening drama. To mirror and reference the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong — which made the international airport there a focal point for its own protests, occupying the terminal building and disrupting flights in an attempt to draw the world’s attention to their plight.

In a further parallel with protests in Hong Kong a crowdsourced map similar to HKmaps.live — the app that dynamically maps street closures and police presence by overlaying emoji onto a city view — is also being prepared for Catalonia by those involved in the pro-independence movement.

At the time of writing a handful of emoji helicopters, road blocks and vans are visible on a map of Barcelona. Tapping on an emoji brings up dated details such as what a police van was doing and whether it had a camera. A verified status suggests multiple reports will be required before an icon is displayed. We understand people will be able to report street activity for live-mapping via a Telegram bot.

Catmap

Screenshot of Catalan live map for crowdsourcing street intel

Our source suggested police presence on the map might be depicted by chick emojis. Aka Piolín: The Spanish name for the Loony Tunes cartoon character Tweety Pie — a reference to a colorfully decorated cruise ship used to house scores of Spanish national police in Barcelona harbor during the 2017 referendum, providing instant meme material. Though the test version we’ve seen seems to be using a mixture of dogs and chicks.

Along with the Tsunami Democràtic app the live map means there will soon be two bespoke tools supporting a campaign of civil disobedience whose unknown organizers clearly hope will go the distance.

As we’ve said, the identities of the people coordinating the rebooted movement remain unclear. It’s also unclear who if anyone is financing it.

Our source suggested technical resources to run and maintain the apps are being crowdsourced by volunteers. But some commentators argue that a source of funding would be needed to support everything that’s being delivered, technically and logistically. The app certainly seems far more sophisticated than a weekend project job.

There has been some high level public expressions of support for Tsunami Democràtic — such as from former Barcelona football club trainer, Pep Guardiola, who this week put out a video badged with the Tsunami D logo in which he defends the democratic right to assembly and protest, warning that free speech is being threatened and claiming “Spain is experiencing a drift towards authoritarianism”. So wealthy backers of Catalan independence aren’t exactly hard to find.

A message to the world from Pep Guardiola 👇👇pic.twitter.com/WdUKEyLyjO

— Jordi Pu1gnerO (@jordiPuignero) October 14, 2019

Whoever is involved behind the scenes — whether with financing or just technical and organization support — it’s clear that ‘free’ protest energy is being liberally donated to the cause by a highly engaged population of pro-independence supporters.

Grassroots support for Catalan independence is both plentiful, highly engaged, geographically dispersed and cuts across generations — sometimes in surprising ways. One mother we spoke to who said she was too ill to go to Monday’s airport protest recounted her disappointment when her teenage kids told her they weren’t going because they wanted to finish their homework.

Very many protestors did go though, answering calls to action in their messaging apps or via the printable posters made available online by Tsunami Democràtic which some street protestors have been pictured holding.

Thousands of demonstrators occupied the main Barcelona airport terminal building, sat and sang protest songs, daubed quasi apologetic messages on the windows in English (saying a lack of democracy is worse than missing a flight), and faced off to lines of police in riot gear — including units of Spanish national police discharging rubber bullets. One protestor was later reported by local press to have lost an eye.

‘It’s time to make our voice heard in the world,’ runs Tsunami Democràtic’s message on Telegram calling for a blockade of the airport. It then sets out the objective (an airport shut down) and instructs supporters that all forms of transport are “valid” to further the mission of disrupting business as usual. ‘Share and see you all at T1!’ it ends. Around 240,000 people saw the instruction, per Telegram’s ephemeral view counts.

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Demonstrators during a protest against the jailing of Catalan separatists at El Prat airport in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. (Photo by Iranzu Larrasoana Oneca/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Later the same evening the channel sent another message instructing protestors to call it a night. ‘Today we have been a tsunami,’ it reads in Catalan. ‘We will make every victory a mobilization. We have started a cycle of non-violent, civil disobedience.’ At the time of writing that follow-on missive has registered 300k+ views.

While Tsunami Democràtic is just one of multiple pro-independence groups arranging and mobilizing regional protests — such as the CDRs, aka Comites de Defensa de la Republica, which have been blocking highways in Catalonia for the past two years — it’s quickly garnered majority momentum since quietly uncloaking this summer.

Its Telegram channel — which was only created in August — has piled on followers in recent weeks. Other pro-independence groups are also sharing news and distributing plans over Telegram’s platform and, more widely, on social media outlets such as twitter. Though none has amassed such a big following, nor indeed with such viral speed.

Even Anonymous Catalonia’s Telegram channel, which has been putting out a steady stream of unfiltered crowdsourced protest content this week — replete with videos of burning bins, siren blaring police vans and scattering crowds, interspersed with photos of empty roads (successful blockades) and the odd rubber bullet wound — only has a ‘mere’ 100k+ subscribers.

And while Facebook-owned WhatsApp was a major first source of protest messaging around the 2017 Catalan referendum, with Telegram just coming on stream as an alternative for trying to communicate out of sight of the Spanish state, the protest mobilization baton appears to have been passed more fully to Telegram now.

Perhaps that’s partly due to an element of mistrust around mainstream platforms controlled by tech giants who might be leant on by states to block content (Tsunami Democràtic has said it doesn’t yet have an iOS version of its app, despite many requests for one, because the ‘politics of the App Store is very restrictive’ — making a direct reference to Apple pulling the HKmaps app from its store). Whereas Telegram’s founder, Pavel Durov, is famously resistant to authoritarian state power.

Though, most likely, it’s a result of some powerful tools Telegram provides for managing and moderating channels.

The upshot is Telegram’s messaging platform has enjoyed a surge in downloads in Spain during this month’s regional unrest — as WhatsApp-loving locals flirt with a rival platform also in response to calls from their political channels to get on Telegram for detailed instructions of the next demo.

Per App Annie, Telegram has leapt up the top free downloads charts for Google Play in Spain — rising from eleventh place into the third spot this month. While, for iOS, it’s holding steady in the top free downloads slot.

Also growing in parallel: Unrest on Catalonia’s streets.

Since Monday’s airport protest tensions have certainly escalated. Roads across the region have been blockaded. Street furniture and vehicles torched. DIY missiles thrown at charging police.

By Thursday morning there were reports of police firing teargas and police vehicles being driven at high speed around protesting crowds of youths. Two people were reported run over.

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Anti-riot police officers shoot against protesters after a demonstration called by the local Republic Defence Committees (CDR) in Barcelona on October 17, 2019. – After years of peaceful separatist demonstrations, violence finally exploded on the Catalan streets this week, led by activists frustrated by the political paralysis and infuriated by the Supreme Court’s conviction of nine of its leaders over a failed independence bid. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP) (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)

Helicopters have become a routine sound ripping up the urban night sky. While the tally of injury counts continues rising on both sides. And all the while there are countless videos circulating on social media to be sifted through to reinforce your own point of view — screening looping clashes between protestors and baton wielding police. One video doing the rounds last night appeared to show protestors targeting a police helicopter with fireworks. Russian propaganda outlets have of course been quick to seize on and amplify divisive visuals.

The trigger for a return to waves of technology-fuelled civil disobedience — as were also seen across Catalonia around the time of the 2017 referendum — are lengthy prison terms handed down by Spain’s Supreme Court on Monday. Twelve political and civic society leaders involved in the referendum were convicted, nine on charges of sedition and misuse of public funds. None were found guilty of the more serious charge of rebellion — but the sentences were still harsh, ranging from 13 years to nine.

The jailed leaders — dubbed presos polítics (aka political prisoners) by Catalan society, which liberally deploys yellow looped-ribbons as a solidarity symbol in support of the presos — had already spent almost two years in prison without bail.

A report this week in El Diario, citing a source in Tsunami Democràtic, suggests the activist movement was established in response to a growing feeling across the region’s independence movement that a new way of mobilizing and carrying out protests was needed in the wake of the failed 2017 independence bid.

The expected draconian Supreme Court verdict marked a natural start-date for the reboot.

A reboot has been necessary because, with so many of its figureheads in prison — and former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont in exile in Brussels — there has been something of a leadership vacuum for the secessionist cause.

That coupled with a sense of persecution at the hands of a centralized state which suspended Catalonia’s regional autonomy in the wake of the illegal referendum, invoking a ‘nuclear option’ constitutional provision to dismiss the government and call fresh elections, likely explains why the revived independence movement has been taking inspiration from blockchain-style decentralization.

Our source also told us blockchain thinking has informed the design and structure of the app.

Discussing the developers who have pulled the app together they said it’s not only a passionately engaged Catalan techie diaspora, donating their time and expertise to help civic society respond to what’s seen as long-standing political persecution, but — more generally — coders and technologists with an interest in participating in what they hope will be the largest experiment in participatory democracy and peaceful civil disobedience.

The source pointed to research conducted by Erica Chenoweth, a political scientist at Harvard University, who found non-violent, civil disobedience campaigns to be a far more powerful way of shaping world politics than violence. She also found such campaigns need engage only 3.5% of the population to succeed. And at 300k+ subscribers Tsunami Democràtic’s Telegram channel may have already passed that threshold, given the population of Catalonia is only around 7.6M.

It sounds like some of the developers helping the movement are being enticed by the prospect of applying powerful mobile platform technologies to a strong political cause as a way to stress testing democratic structures — and perhaps play at reconfiguring them. If the tools are successful at capturing intention and sustaining action and so engaging and activating citizens in a long term political campaign.

We’re told the stated intention to open source the app is also a goal in order to make it available for other causes to pick up and use to press for change. Which does start to sound a little bit like regime change as a service…

Stepping back, there is also a question of whether micromanaged civic disobedience is philosophically different to more organic expressions of discontent.

There is an element of non-violent protest being weaponized against an opponent when you’re running it via an app. Because the participants are being remotely controlled and coordinated at a distance, at the same time as ubiquitous location-sensitive mobile technologies mean the way in which the controlling entity speaks to them can be precisely targeted to push their buttons and nudge action.

Yes, it’s true that the right to peaceful assembly and protest is a cornerstone of democracy. Nor is it exactly a new phenomenon that mobile technology has facilitated this democratic expression. In journalist Giles Tremlett’s travelogue book about his adopted country, Ghosts of Spain, he recounts how in the days following the 2004 Madrid train bombings anonymous text messages started to spread via mobile phone — leading to mass, spontaneous street demonstrations.

At the time there were conflicting reports of who was responsible for the bombings, as the government sought to blame the Basque terrorist group ETA for what would turn out to be the work of Islamic terrorists. Right on the eve of an election voters in Spain were faced with a crucial political decision — having just learnt that the police had in fact arrested three Moroccans for the bomb attacks, suggesting the government had been lying.

“A new political phenomenon was born that day — the instant text message demonstration,” Tremlett writes. “Anonymous text messages began to fly from mobile phone to mobile phone. They became known as the pásalo messages, because each ended with an exhortation to ‘Pass it on’. It was like chain mail, but instant.”

More than fifteen years on from those early days of consumer mobile technology and SMS text messaging, instant now means so much more than it did — with almost everyone in a wealthy Western region like Catalonia carrying a powerful, Internet-connected computer and streaming videocamera in their pocket.

Modern mobile technology turns humans into high tech data nodes, capable of receiving and transmitting information. So a protestor now can not only opt in to instructions for a targeted action but respond and receive feedback in a way that makes them feel personally empowered.

From one perspective, what’s emerging from high tech ‘push button’ smartphone-enabled protest movements, like we’re now seeing in Catalonia and Hong Kong, might seem to represent the start of a new model for democratic participation — as the old order of representative democracy fails to keep pace with changing political tastes and desires, just as governments can’t keep up technologically.

But the risk is it’s just a technological elite in the regime-change driving seat. Which sums to governance not by established democratic processes but via the interests of a privileged elite with the wealth and expertise to hack the system and create new ones that can mobilize citizens to act like pawns.

Established democratic processes may indeed be flawed and in need of a degree of reform but they have also been developed and stress-tested over generations. Which means they have layers of accountability checks and balances baked in to try to balance out competing interests.

Throwing all that out in favor of a ‘democracy app’ sounds like the sort of disruption Facebook has turned into an infamous dark art.

For individual protestors, then, who are participating as willing pawns in this platform-enabled protest, you might call it selfie-style self-determination; they get to feel active and present; they experience the spectacle of political action which can be instantly and conveniently snapped for channel sharing with other mobilized friends who then reflect social validation back. But by doing all that they’re also giving up their agency.

Because all this ‘protest’ action is flowing across the surface of an asymmetric platform. The infrastructure natively cloaks any centralized interests and at very least allows opaque forces to push a cause at cheap scale.

“I felt so small,” one young female protestor told us, recounting via WhatsApp audio message, what had gone down during a protest action in Barcelona yesterday evening. Things started out fun and peaceful, with participants encouraged to toss toilet rolls up in the air — because, per the organizer’s messaging, ‘there’s a lot of shit to clean up’ — but events took a different turn later, as protestors moved to another location and some began trying to break into a police building.

A truck arrived from a side street being driven by protestors who used it to blockade the entrance to the building to try to stop police getting out. Police warning shots were fired into the air. Then the Spanish national police turned up, driving towards the crowd at high speed and coming armed with rubber not foam bullets.

Faced with a more aggressive police presence the crowd tried to disperse — creating a frightening crush in which she was caught up. “I was getting crushed all the time. It wasn’t fun,” she told us. “We moved away but there was a huge mass of people being crushed the whole time.”

“What was truly scary weren’t the crowds or the bullets, it was not knowing what was going on,” she added.

Yet, despite the fear and uncertainty, she was back out on the streets to protest again the next night — armed  with a smartphone.

Enric Luján, a PhD student and adjunct professor in political science at the University of Barcelona — and also the guy whose incisive Twitter thread fingers the forces behind the Tsunami Democràtic app as a “technological elite” — argues that the movement has essentially created a “human botnet”. This feels like a questionable capability for a pro-democracy movement when combined with its own paradoxically closed structure.

Divendres, dia de vaga general, una petita elit política i tecnològica ja haurà adquirit la capacitat operativa per paralitzar tot el país llançant convocatòries descentralitzades i en temps real des de la més extrema opacitat.

Han aconseguit crear una botnet humana.

— Enric Luján (@imGeheimen) October 15, 2019

“The intention appears to be to group a mass movement under a label which, paradoxically, is opaque, which carries the real risk of a lack of internal democracy,” Luján tells TechCrunch. “There is a basic paradox in Tsunami Democràtic. That it’s a pro-democracy movement where: 1) the ‘core’ that decides actions is not accessible to other supporters; 2) it has the word ‘Democràtic’ in its name but its protocols as an organization are extremely vertical and are in the hands of an elite that decides the objectives and defines the timing of mobilization; 3) it’s ‘deterritorialized’ with respect to the local reality (unlike the CDRs): opacity and verticality would allow them to lead the entire effort from outside the country.”

Luján believes the movement is essentially a continuation of the same organizing forces which drove support for pro-independence political parties around the 2017 referendum — such as the Catalan cultural organization Òmnium — now coming back together after a period of “strategic readjustment”.

“Shortly after the conclusion of the referendum, through the arrest of its political leaders, the independence movement was ‘decapitated’ and there were months of political paralysis,” he says, arguing that this explains the focus on applying mobile technology in a way that allows for completely anonymous orchestration of protests, as a strategy to protect itself from further arrests.

“This strategic option, of course, entails lack of public scrutiny of the debates and decisions, which is a problem and involves treating people as ‘pawns’ or ‘human botnets’ acting under your direction,” he adds.

He is also critical of the group not having opened the app’s code which has made it difficult to understand exactly how user data is being handled by the app and whether or not there are any security flaws. Essentially, there is no simple way for outsiders to validate trustworthiness.

His analysis of the app’s APK raises further questions. Luján says he believes it also requests microphone permissions in addition to location and camera access (the latter for reading the QR code).

Our source told us that as far as they are aware the app does not access the microphone by default. Though screenshots of requested permissions which have circulated on social media show a toggle where microphone access seems as if it can be enabled.

Qualsevol empresa ho pot fer amb apps q passen el filtre Google Play.
I d moment, sense haver denegat cap permís, de forma predeterminada només estan activats la ubicació (amb un motiu q ja has explicat) i la càmera (per escanejar el QR, amb la qual cosa ja podría descativar-lo). pic.twitter.com/TMgQcN402q

— Albert (@Albertet1981) October 16, 2019

And, as Luján points out, the prospect of a powerful and opaque entity with access to the real-time location of thousands of people plus the ability to remotely activate smartphone cameras and microphones to surveil people’s surroundings does sound pretty close to the plot of a Black Mirror episode…

Les similituds amb un capítol de Black Mirror són, evidentment, esfereïdores: Una entitat de la que no sabem res (excepte el seu alt nivell de sofisticació tecnològica) és a punt de guanyar el control efectiu de tot un territori, operant des de la més absoluta foscor.

— Enric Luján (@imGeheimen) October 15, 2019

Asked whether he believes we’re seeing an emergent model for a more participatory, grassroots form of democracy enabled by modern mobile technologies or a powerful techie elite playing at reconfiguring existing power structures by building and distributing systems that keep them shielded from democratic view where they can nudge others to spread their message, he says he leans towards the latter.

“It’s a movement with an elite leadership that seems to have had a clear timetable for months. It remains to be seen what they’ll be able to do. But it is clearly not spontaneous (the domain of the website was registered in July) and the application needed months to develop,” he notes. “I am not clear that it can be or was ‘crowdsourced’ — as far as I know, there was no campaign to finance Tsunami or their technological solutions.”

“Release the code,” he adds. “I don’t understand why they haven’t released it. Promising it is easy and is what you expect if you want to present yourself with a minimum of transparency, but there is no defined deadline to do so. For now we have to work with the APK, which is more cumbersome to understand how the app works and how it uses and moves user data.”

“I imagine it is so the police cannot investigate thoroughly, but it also means others lose the possibility of better understanding how a product that’s been designed by people who rely on anonymity works, and have to rely that the elite technologists in charge of developing the app have not committed any security breach.”

So, here too, more questions and more uncertainty.

Source: TechCrunch | 17 Oct 2019 | 8:48 pm

Swarm gets green light from FCC for its 150-satellite constellation

Swarm Technologies aims to connect smart devices around the world with a low-bandwidth but ever-present network provided by satellites — and it just got approval from the FCC to do so. Apparently the agency is no longer worried that Swarm’s sandwich-sized satellites are too small to be tracked.

The company’s SpaceBEE satellites are tiny things that will provide a connection to devices that might otherwise be a pain to get online. Think soil monitors in the middle of corn fields, or buoys in the middle of the ocean. Their signals don’t need low latency or high bandwidth — so the requirements for a satellite that serves them are much lower than for consumer broadband.

Consequently Swarm’s satellites are small — so small in fact that the FCC was worried that they would be difficult to track and might be a danger to other satellites. Part of the company’s responsibility in its application was to show that isn’t the case.

The FCC approval is just one step in the long process of getting approved to go to space for commercial operations, but it’s a big one. In addition to granting Swarm permission to send up its planned 150 satellites (and up to 600 if it decides to spread out a little), the FCC assigned Swarm the wireless spectrum it needs to operate. No use being in space if you’re forbidden from transmitting on the frequencies you need, right?

Longtime satellite communications provider ORBCOMM had objected that Swarm would be taking over some parts of the spectrum it has been assigned — but the FCC found that wasn’t actually the case and in fact the company was in a way making a sort of power play that would have extended its control over those frequencies. So their concerns were dismissed.

SpaceX also filed a comment suggesting that Swarm had not adequately considered its orbital debris footprint, neglecting in particular to include its satellites’ antennas in various calculations. It also said the satellites might be a risk to the International Space Station. But documents filed by Swarm addressing these questions seem to have satisfied the FCC completely — “We find that Swarm has taken the appropriate steps to address SpaceX’s concerns,” and it granted the application with the condition that the company abide by any upcoming orbital debris rules.

Leo Labs and its high-fidelity space radar track orbital debris better than ever — from New Zealand

Swarm has clearly moved well past the black mark on its FCC record when it launched test satellites without the proper approvals. The red tape involved in space operations is voluminous and it’s not uncommon to fall afoul of it — especially when your competitors, as evidenced by the above, are making more of it for you.

Now that it has its paperwork in order, Swarm plans to get its entire constellation in orbit by the end of the year.

“The FCC grant of Swarm’s spectrum and launch approvals is a big milestone for the company. Swarm is now poised to be first to market for an entire global satellite data communications constellation before the end of 2020,” said CEO and co-founder Sara Spangelo in a statement to TechCrunch.

“This is an important moment for the satellite industry, for US innovation in space, and for the large number of IoT customers world-wide that Swarm is excited to support with 2-way data services,” added CTO and co-founder Ben Longmier.

Both Sara and Ben were at TechCrunch Disrupt earlier this month, and the former sat on a panel with Bessemer Venture Partners’ Tess Hatch and OneWeb CEO Adrian Steckel (with myself as moderator). We chatted about a variety of topics relating to the new space economy — if you’re thinking of getting up there yourself, you might be interested to watch it below.

Source: TechCrunch | 17 Oct 2019 | 8:33 pm

Leviton’s USB Type-C Wall Outlet: Full Charge Ahead
USB Type-C wall outlet plugs

Having all your devices charged at all times seems to be a priority for most of us. However, it can be challenging in a house or office to find a place or the right adapter to charge your smartphone, tablets, and more. That’s where Leviton came up with the idea of creating USB wall outlets that allow you to charge these devices without an adapter.

With a greater need for USB Type-C access, Leviton now offers two wall outlets that provide for USB Type-C charging. I tried both of these new Type-C outlets, and here is my review.

About Leviton

Leviton engineers products for industrial, commercial and enterprise, and consumer applications. Their product portfolio includes electrical solutions as well as lighting and networking products. Leviton’s objective is to engineer solutions that increase safety, efficiency, convenience, and productivity for businesses and consumers.

USB Type-C outlet

The Benefits of Type-C Power Delivery

There are many reasons to use Type-C power delivery. First, it offers more power to charge larger mobile devices like tablets as well as laptops. Second, it takes charge at a much faster rate, allowing you to unplug and get to work.

Third, it is a universal power delivery system that works across all your electronics. Type-C has a small size, which makes it easier to support thinner electronic devices.

Finally, this type of power delivery is the new charging standard that is being used for current and future products. It already works across the most common Operating Systems like iOS, Android, Google, Windows, and others.

USB Type-C Outlets

Leviton offers two different Type-C outlets: The Type-A and Type-C combination outlet and the Dual Type-C outlet.

The Type-A/Type-C outlet model is a 15 Amp, 125 Volt, Decora Tamper Resistant Receptacle/Outlet. It works with 5.1 Amp, 5VDC, 2.0 Type A, and Type C USB chargers (2.4A and 3.0A max, respectively). The outlet can be installed with either back wiring or side wiring.

There are five colors to choose from that make it easy to match other outlets in your home or office. The colors include white, black, brown, gray, ivory, and light almond.

Then there is the Dual Type-C USB outlet with power delivery. It gives you up to 30 watts of charging power on a single port. The outlet features smart chip technology to optimizes charging and prevent overcurrent. The outlet comes in a choice of colors like white, ivory, gray, light almond, black, and brown. It is also side wired and back wired.

Leviton USB outlet

 

The Good and Bad

The good was the power and charging speed, as well as the straightforward installation. I liked how it worked once I got it installed, which primarily involved removing the old traditional outlet, disconnecting the wires and reconnecting the wires to the Leviton outlet.

The instructions that were provided had me swapping it out in about 15 minutes. Installation probably would take less time, but I hadn’t changed outlets before, so proceeded slowly. If you are not sure what you are doing or you have an older home with outlets and wiring that may not be standardized, it might be best to contact a professional electrician.

What I like best is that I can plug in more than one electronic device but still have plugs to work small appliances in the kitchen, which is where I installed mine. However, for our family, I think we will need to purchase additional outlets to ensure everyone can charge their items.

The Type-A/Type-C outlet retails for about $30 while the Dual Type-C outlet ranges from $40 to $45. While I see the value, the price point has slowed down the purchase of multiple outlets for our home for now.

The only other issue I had with these outlets is that the USB ports are close to the standard outlets, especially the bottom port.  You can still use it at the same time but can’t use a plug that may be larger than a standard plug.

Leviton Type-C outlet

Where to Buy

There are many places where you can buy these USB Type-C outlets. Retail stores include ACE Hardware and Home Depot. Online retailers include Leviton, Amazon, Home Depot, SmartHome, and more.

Overall Thoughts

My overall thought is that it is worth buying the Leviton Dual Type-C outlet because it saves having to use adaptors and offers an outlet that allows for more devices and appliances to be safely plugged into the same outlet. The convenience and safety factors are the biggest reasons to add at least one of these to your home or office.

The post Leviton’s USB Type-C Wall Outlet: Full Charge Ahead appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 17 Oct 2019 | 4:00 pm

Data Security in a Connected Car World
Data Security in a Connected Car

A recent survey from auto shopping and research site CarGurus.com asked consumers questions about their knowledge of connected car security. The results were startling: consumers scored an average grade of a failing 49%.

When this is paired with Upstream’s data showing that connected-car attacks have increased six-fold from 2014-2018. It suggests that consumers haven’t been able to keep up with connected car technology,  despite their increasing adoption rates.

Smartphone Syncing Takes Driver’s Seat in IoT

For many drivers, vehicle-smartphone integration is one of the easiest ways to connect to their car. Of those surveyed, a majority of connected car owners have synced their smartphones to a connected car (70%).

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay make it easier for drivers to sync their phones. Google introduced Android Auto in 2015, and this technology is available standard with many major OEMs.

Apple introduced CarPlay in 2014, and the same is true, with more than 200 automakers worldwide supporting it.

Despite the high number of survey respondents that have synced their phones in the past year, few saw connecting to their cars this as a security threat. While 45% of respondents saw smartphones as a significant data security threat, only 22% saw the same threat in connected cars.

The security risks of connected cars.

Now that most new cars operate like a computer on wheels, they — like other connected devices– become vulnerable to malicious actors. However, there’s a lot more at stake than just having a password stolen. Serious issues such as safety come into play with connected-car security.

Back in 2015, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek exploited a security flaw in Jeep’s Uconnect system that allowed them to take control of a 2014 Jeep Cherokee, ultimately cutting the engine.

Even though the Jeep car hack was quite popular, of the respondents that also owned connected cars, 61% didn’t know that multiple parts of their vehicle were vulnerable to hackers. Hackers can access other vehicle parts, including the engine, brakes, steering wheel, windows, and infotainment system.

Hackers can also access a car’s key fob. Yet only 33% of connected car owners were aware of this as compared to 95% of respondents who identified a smartphone as being accessible to hackers.

The good news is that respondents were aware of some of the risks associated with connected cars.

The respondents were aware, especially when it comes to data. When drivers sync their phones to their cars, their data is stored in the car’s infotainment system. Sixty-five percent of respondents correctly identified that the owner is responsible for removing this data by restoring factory settings.

How to protect your connected car.

Consumers have become used to push notifications, alerting them to necessary security updates for their phones, laptops, tablets, and any other devices. With one tap, consumers can update their device and only have a minor inconvenience of waiting for their devices to reboot.

Perhaps people believe that all security updates are this easy, but it should be noted that the auto industry is still catching up. Ensuring that consumers get the necessary updates can be difficult.

While several automakers implement over-the-air updates, the majority don’t. As a result, there’s no guarantee that consumers will get notified unless it’s for a recall.

Tips to Protect Your Data

Without a standard operating procedure across automakers, consumers must take the initiative to learn how to protect their data. The editors at CarGurus identified some key ways they can do this:

  • Stay up to date with recalls and updates. Address any recalls that strengthen security. Consumers can also verify if their vehicle accepts over-the-air updates or if it requires manual input from a dealer.
  • Restore factory settings. When returning a rental car or trading in a vehicle, consumers should factory reset the car’s information systems. Resetting will ensure that any of their personal information — like contact list or visited locations — are deleted.
  • Use strong passwords for all apps. It’s been said before, but we’ll repeat it. Smartphones that sync to connected cars are also vulnerable to hackers. Using strong passwords for all of your apps provides an extra layer of security.
  • Turn off passive entry. This feature allows the driver to walk up to the vehicle and have it automatically unlock. Drivers can disable this feature through the car’s app or settings menu. If consumers find they can’t (or don’t want to), placing their key fob in a foil-wrapped container can block signals from hackers.

The Future of Connected Cars

Automakers will continue to innovate in-car technology to improve convenience and safety to offer the best possible driver experience. With that innovation, vehicles will have more access to personal data.

For example, GM is spearheading its Marketplace app, available since December 2017 as part of an over-the-air update. It lets drivers place orders at their favorite restaurants, like Dunkin’, without leaving their cars.

The aim is boosting convenience, allowing drivers to place an order without picking up their phones or leaving the car.

To access these conveniences, drivers will have to give up more of their privacy and personal data. And as our survey shows, consumers’ lack of awareness (or just their laziness) of the threats associated with this could leave them exposed.

However, in a sign that progress is being made, twenty automakers have joined the Auto Alliance to uphold agreed-upon privacy protection principles.

Research Survey Methodology 

CarGurus surveyed 1,020 automobile owners. Among them, 264 own a connected vehicle. The study was comprised of two parts: (1) surveying consumers’ connectivity habits and perceived threats of connected technologies and (2) testing consumers’ knowledge of data security vulnerabilities and best practices.

The post Data Security in a Connected Car World appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 17 Oct 2019 | 2:00 pm

Will the Internet of Things Ever Rule the World?
IoT rule the world

Every possible entity, whether it is a machine, a satellite, an object that performs their tasks independently using the internet as a medium, has to transfer relevant data. IoT has been the latest leap of faith made by humans. We are basically allotting essential responsibilities to intelligent machines. But, will the internet of things (IoT) ever rule the world?

The coming of smart IoT devices and machines has dramatically benefitted the influential fields of utilities, healthcare, and transportation.

Humans, in their quest to invent smart devices, came upon a brilliant set of objects that can help them create a sustainable future on earth and beyond. IoT devices such as smartwatches, health monitors, home applications, and traffic regulators have raised the overall standard of living.

The fields of space exploration, defense, and internal security have been highly regulated and governed by IoT, making it flag bearers for the coming generations. The flying drone is one of the most spectacular IoT that has enhanced surveillance and is going to change the whole destiny of the online retail industry.

The rise of technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data analytics have made it possible to create a species even more capable of us. Many Science Fiction movies argue that the giant leap that humans are making in the field of innovation and evolution inherent chances of making us an inferior one.

Hence the biggest question that has aroused is that whether the Internet of Things comes with the capability and fortune to rule over the entire world? With the constant development of flagship government IoT programs such as the coming up of smart cities and infrastructure, the debate has picked up on a certain amount of heat.

What is the future scenario of IoT looking like?

There has been an explosion in the growth of IoT devices where the numbers are estimated to reach 30 billion by the very next year, that is 2020. The more astonishing fact is that across the world market value of IoT is projected to touch the $7.1 trillion by the very year 2020.

The rapid urbanization and sudden population burst have led to the non-monitored growth of IoT devices spread across all public and private domains. There are various dominating roles that IoT is going to play in essential sectors such as consumer, governance, manufacturing, infrastructure, and energy.

  •  Consumer Applications.

Some of the best examples of very popular IoT devices are Amazon Echo, Apple’s Home Pod, Google Home, and Samsung’s Smart Things Hub. The trend of smart home and devices are on a high among urban dwellers with a great liking towards smart IoT devices such as Apple’s Home Kit.

According to the research shortly, every primary task such as lighting, security, conditioning, and media, will be performed by smart IoT devices. Enterprise IoT used in corporate settings has become more popular than ever with current usage of almost 9.1 billion devices.

  •  Medical and Healthcare IoT.

The use of IoT in smart healthcare has led to path-breaking works, especially in the field of remote health monitoring and emergency response system. Many new devices, under the name of the Internet of Medical Things, such as biosensors and wearable trackers, have created awareness about individual health.

The development of complex algorithms will empower IoT in the coming decades to become lifesavers through the management and prevention of chronic diseases.

  • IoT powering Transportation and Logistics.

The development of IoT powered self-driving cars will change the way humans use to travel. Smart Traffic Control, Safety Assistance, Logistics Management have led to the reduction of road accidents and safer driving standards.

With the introduction of smart flying cars engineered on the model of IoT drones, the day is not far away when everyone will fly to their workplaces.

  • IoT in manufacturing.

The use of RFID technologies to automate supply chain operations was the first impactful use of IoT in retail and manufacturing; since then, the journey never stopped. The giant online retailers such as Amazon and WALMART are spending millions of dollars on innovative IoT technology to smoothen their operations.

In the near future, almost all the tasks in every manufacturing domain will be automated with advance IoT devices with a little bit of assistance from human employees. The forecasts show that the Industrial IoT will result in the fourth industrial revolution, capable of generating $12 trillion globally by the year 2030.

  • The future of Agriculture IoT.

The governments and firms such as Microsoft and IBM are spending a substantial sum on advance IoT devices fully capable of assisting all farming techniques. The IoT will play a decisive role by changing the way humans use to do agriculture and soon will even take farming to the far off planets such as Moon and Mars.

  • IoT in governance.

The smart use of real-time data analytics by IoT powered sensors have led to superior work such as disaster response and flawless infrastructure. The future of IoT will ensure transparent government, excellent management, optimization of resources, and better security to all the citizens.

Some of the best examples are Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City, San Jose California, the smart city of Vijayawada and New York Waterways.

  • IoT for Energy and Resource Management.

Inventions such as smart grids and advanced metering infrastructure are ideally looking after the energy needs of various global cities. The future will commend the heroic role of IoT in clean energy generation and quest for an alternate source of energy.

  • Role of IoT in environmental monitoring.

The role of IoT powered trackers and sensors has already played an immeasurable play in saving many endangered species of flora and fauna. The future of the planet will depend upon the smart use of IoT due to its potential for early detecting of disasters as well as smart monitoring of environmental conditions.

  • IoT developed as a living lab.

Many public and private stakeholders have come together to pool resources to develop IoT technology accessible for all. The future will witness smart IoT technologies available to everyone so that the whole world can be enlightened with the benefits of intelligent machines.

  • · IoT for Space Explorations and Beyond.

The use of IoT is more than necessary if the humans want to successfully habitat far off planets. The rise of intelligence and data processing capabilities have led machines to derive solutions that were never thought of before.

The future of IoT will take humans to unexplored regions and dimensions and will help us to seek answers to unresolved problems.

What is stopping IoT from quickly emerging as a leader?

Any unmonitored growth of technology must be scrutinized, and similar is the case of IoT. The roles and responsibilities of IoT have risen to such extent that it must always be kept in safe hands. Superior intelligent IoT, if placed in the wrong hands, can result in mass destruction and loss beyond control.

(Script All DNA) provides very secure IoT solutions to meet your daily business requirements.

Many reasons are leading to criticism and adoption barriers for future IoT.

  • The government regulations on the management of data by IoT.
  • Adoption of appropriate standards such as data security, consent, and minimization.
  • Recent cyber-attacks have led to the detection of various present vulnerabilities.
  • Issues regarding the safety of various IoT based automation devices.
  • Usage of damaging heavy metals and toxic synthetic chemicals in manufacturing IoT devices.
  • Underdeveloped regulatory and policy frameworks.
  • Unclear propositions of value and traditional structures of governance.

Summary

The future of IoT can be visualized in various Science Fiction Hollywood movies such as Matrix, I Robot, and Terminator. Humans are putting their trust in highly intelligent machines because it is their only hope for eternal survival.

IoT at the current stage has been beneficial in assisting the human race, but as its capability rises shall also raise its ego and the will to dominate. The primary concern about giving enough power to artificially intelligent IoT machines is the lack of emotional intelligence and years of experience inherited by us due to evolution.

In better hands, IoT will perform heroic deeds for the whole of the human race and at the correct time will help us start a new life on far off planets. The real danger arises if future IoT falls in evil hands, which can result in the domination and annihilation of the whole of earthlings.

The future of IoT will initiate the next stage of evolution with the creation of highly intelligent species capable of ruling the world.

Image credit: bence-boros

The post Will the Internet of Things Ever Rule the World? appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 17 Oct 2019 | 11:00 am

4 Effective Ways to Manage Work Stress
manage work stress

If you are a hardworking, ambitious, and active person and are fond of fulfilling goals and achievements, perhaps work stress is familiar to you. Stress is a natural body’s reaction to extraordinary situations that require survival. It’s a complicated biochemical process that includes the release of certain hormones and a bunch of physical manifestations. There are ways to handle stress, and here are four effective ways to manage work stress.

Is it possible to fully manage your stress? It isn’t a conscious process, but it can indeed be processed. Today, people don’t need to fight wild beasts or chase prey. Now our prey is our careers and life goals, and our fight is with the numerous responsibilities. The circumstances have changed, but our reaction to irritants hasn’t.

How Work-Related Stress Affects Us

The problem of work stress is being studied since the 1960s. Every company that values its human resources provides management techniques to reduce stress in its employees. Reducing stress requires schedule planning, bonuses, extra holidays, or even psychotherapist’s help. Each company chooses its own techniques to cope with stress in the workforce.

Let’s see what manifestations work-related stress may have on people who are exposed to it.

Physical discomfort.

Some jobs require long periods of sitting or standing. Certain require frequent trips to different climate zones or deprive employees of night sleep. Remaining in steadily uncomfortable conditions leads to lifestyle health issues such as obesity, chronic back pain, fatigue, poor sleep, and headaches.

Emotional challenges.

Emotions are involved in any activity we’re engaged in. Emotions related to occupational factors may be very intense and devastating. Usually, the most stress-causing negative emotions related to work are associated with professional ethics, multi-tasking, or a lack of motivation to move further.

Informational overload.

Some jobs require informational overload that causes stress and may lead to mental depressions or a breakdown in thinking. These pressures can also happen to ambitious people who have several jobs or combine work with studying. However, entrepreneurs, startups, and most career hunters will be exposed to informational overload.

Problems in communication.

If you don’t work remotely, it’s impossible to go without interaction with people. If we work together, we have to communicate. Where there is communication, there will always be stress factors. Introverts are especially exposed to this type of job stress because communication is a  challenge for them.

Management-related problems.

The higher your position is in the company, the more organizational responsibilities you have. Controlling and motivating employees, solving conflicts, being in charge of finances. All these tasks require accuracy, accountability, and concentration. It’s a great strain for one person. But it’s not just the managers that are exposed to this. Regular employees suffer from poor managing skills of their bosses.

Symptoms of Occupational Stress

If you notice these symptoms, you should think of ways to process the stress at work you are exposed to:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Frequent headaches
  • Reduced concentration and memory
  • A feeling of fatigue that doesn’t go away
  • A weak immune system that results in frequent infections and other related problems
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • The feeling of depression, anxiety or irritability

If you can relate to everything mentioned above, it’s time to add some self-love into your tight daily schedule. Below are tips on fighting your work-related stress.

Body relaxation techniques.

You can practice them right in your workplace. A helpful technique is to relax all your body parts one by one. Focusing on your physical self will help you distract and process your negative emotions. These exercises came from yoga.

It’s sad that some people are so stressed that they have problems even with relaxing their muscles. Such a situation requires relaxation self-teaching, including meditation, massage, or special breathing techniques. [Inhale slowly to the count of four, hold your breath for four counts and slowly breathe out to four counts.]

Quick physical help.

If some situation that happened during your working day pushed you into the abyss of stress, try to move it out. Take a 15-minutes break and try to move your body to boost blood flow. You can take a little walk, wipe the dust off your table, or even perform a short workout.

Exercise it out.

During physical exercises, our body releases hormones that help us feel happier and overcome the negative consequences of stress. Include workouts into your daily schedule, even if it seems too tight for them to fit. This is necessary to be physically and mentally healthy.

Love yourself.

Even if you did something wrong or faced negativity from your colleagues, focus on the good things you did in this situation. You may not have done anything at all, and this can still be a benefit, at least by not making it worse. Learn to see any situation from a positive angle, and you will notice that you will feel less stress.

Remember that you are your own most valuable resource and always take good care of yourself!

The post 4 Effective Ways to Manage Work Stress appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 17 Oct 2019 | 10:00 am

Lamicall: A Clever Way to Hold Your Tech Gadgets
lamicall gadgets

There are numerous holders and stands available for your mobile devices and the rest of your tech gadgets. However, one company caught my eye because of the full range of stands and holders they offer for everything from laptops and smartphones to tablets and Apple Watches. Plus, they even have holders for the car.

Although it was difficult to choose, I opted to test three of their products: tablet holder, smartphone holder, and gooseneck holder. Here is my review of those three products, which I tested over the course of a few weeks at my office and on the road.

Lamicall Tablet Stand

Tablet Holder

Lamicall offers three tablet stands. The smallest is also adjustable (Multi-angle Tablet Stand A1). Then, there is the S2, followed by the S, which is the largest and the one I purchased.

The Adjustable Tablet Stand S is 5.3 x 3.3 x 5.5 inches and weighs close to 11 ounces. Color choices include black, gray, silver, and rose gold.

The tablet stand is made to work with just about every tablet out there, which gives it the most versatility among tablet holders available. It works with tablets that are anywhere from four to 13 inches. The tablet stand is great to include with your iPad 2017 Pro 9.7/10.5, Air Mini Surface Pro, Samsung Tablet, Kindle devices, and more. Any tablet that is larger than twelve inches can be placed on the stand horizontally to provide more stability. Frankly — half the time I also set my phone on this stand, though the phone holder is okay too — I can seamlessly text with the phone on this stand.

Another standout feature is just how light it is compared to other bulky tablet stands. It makes it easier to pack up and take with me. Yet, it doesn’t compromise stability and provides multiple angles for easy viewing and binge-watching. Prices range from $13.99 to $18.99 based on the size and color you select.

Lamicall Phone Holder

iPhone Holder

The Lamicall Cell Phone Stand S1 is made from an aluminum alloy material and delivers sturdy construction and workmanship, yet it weighs just under three ounces. It has rubber protection on the bottom to protect the surface it sits on. Plus, this helps the phone holder to not slide around.  You can choose from five colors, including black, gray, silver, red, and rose gold.

This particular phone holder and phone dock are compatible with Switch, all Android smartphones, and the iPhone 6, 6s, 7, 8, X, and 5, 5s, and 5c. The compact size makes it convenient for displaying on a desk, nightstand, and kitchen table. 

What I liked best about it was the height for using it for certain phone activities like Facetime and YouTube. It also makes it easy to read messages and other online content without picking the phone up. At $9.99, I thought the price was excellent for the quality and design it offered.

The only issue I had involved plugging in the charging cord. The angle at which you have to plug it into your phone means the cord gets bent at a weird angle. That has me thinking that I may end up wearing that cord out faster with a possible replacement in the near future. For now, it’s charging well, but it looks strange. I decided to use this as a holder and not a charger because clients who come in the office think it’s cool.

Lamicall Gooseneck Holder

Gooseneck Holder

Lamicall gives you four gooseneck holders to choose from. The options include the bed phone holder mount, the phone holder for bed, and two tablet holder products. I selected the Gooseneck Tablet Holder LS02 for $19.99. This particular gooseneck holder is available in black or gray.

The gooseneck holder is by far my favorite of the three holders I’ve bought from Lamicall due to the design and functionality. It offers one of the best and most comfortable positions to watch movies on a tablet. This tablet holder delivers maximum flexibility. You can angle the tablet in many different ways versus the traditional tablet stand. The 360-degree rotating features facilitate that flexibility.

I also like how easy it is to clamp to a table and to adjust it to my viewing preference. Just be careful to not over-screw the gooseneck holder.

The gooseneck holder seems to work for just about every device we had around the house, including iPads, and Android mobile device, Nintendo Switch, several Kindle Fires, and smartphones like the iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Lenovo, and Google Pixel.

Where to Buy

You can buy these holders and stands directly from Lamicall’s online store. Other retailers that sell Lamicall products include Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart.

More to Like

Other things I like about buying from the company is free and fast delivery. There is a three-year hassle-free warranty on their products. They will give you a full refund or a brand new replacement if you are not satisfied. You can also use PayPal or Stripe to pay for your purchases through the Lamicall online store.

Finally, the company satisfies expectations when it comes to service. I called them, and they were very responsive, personable, and eager to solve any concerns I had immediately. Lamicall seems to be a company that cares about its customers, which is just as important as the products these days.

Overall Thoughts

These holders and stands are high-quality, durable options that offer good value, convenience, and dependability. The stands worked great in my office — and traveled well. I also bought one of their vehicle holders for my commute, but I see they also have the holders that go over the seat for passengers to watch their tablets from the backseat. I just put the computer stand hanging over the seat to hold the iPad for a quick movie for a screaming child. It worked and held fine and out of the way of sticky fingers.

There are numerous stands and holders available for the tablet, iPhone, or gooseneck holder, as well as for other devices like the Nintendo Switch, Apple Watch, and headphones. The thing I really like most is that some of the stands fit multiple devices, so you don’t have to buy one of each. And they work for multiple fast-fix-life situations. I’m leaving one in the car.

The post Lamicall: A Clever Way to Hold Your Tech Gadgets appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 16 Oct 2019 | 6:00 pm

Design Product with Consumer Privacy in Mind
consumer privacy

Why can’t products be designed with consumer privacy in mind? A recent controversy surrounding FaceApp collecting its users’ images has brought to light several data privacy issues. We only need to look at FB terms and conditions agreement to see that consumers are signing away rights to their personal information. The fact that the designed product, Facebook, doesn’t have consumer privacy in mind at all.

Tech companies need to design the product with consumer privacy in mind.

Many businesses collect consumer data in a way that has been a topic of controversy. Consumers are now demanding both the federal and state take action by enforcing new rules and regulations protecting their rights to their own data.  The larger tech companies seem to be the most culpable in allowing a lack of consumer privacy to continue.

Businesses have a responsibility to be transparent with their customers about the use of personal data — consumer privacy must come first.

Consumers have made clear with the recent pushback against data collection practices; something must change. A lack of clarity around how a company collects or uses customer data hurts the business. Lack of clarity also:

  • Hurts a brand’s reputation.
  • Takes away from any positive buzz around a product or service.
  • Causes internal scrambling to fix issues that may arise.

Consumer Expectations and Transparency

In response to cultural and legal changes happening in the U.S., consumer expectations around privacy are shifting. Consumers expect businesses across all industries to have a quick and concise response to inquiries around how their data is being used. The sentiment is likely rooted in expectations from eCommerce or IT services. But the standard for any business that interacts with consumer data in one form or another has to design and market with consumer privacy at the top of the list.

Consumers are increasingly aware that their personal data is being collected. Businesses need to help their consumers understand exactly what data is being stored and used. Companies can take a more transparent approach by using clear, visible notices whenever the consumer will be sharing information or where data is being collected.

Data privacy pain points can help businesses to keep consumers privacy in mind during their product design process:

  • Think About Privacy Early — Enacting a Privacy by Design framework helps with proactively embedding privacy into the design and operation of a product. Business practices, including IT framework, can work toward complete privacy. The concept allows product designers, from the very early development stages, to think about privacy and consumer data.
  • Consumer privacy is less expensive and disruptive to take care of right up front in the design phase. The industry should demand this right, rather than trying to tack on protections later.
  • Get Insights from a Neutral Party — One of the most difficult challenges businesses face when it comes to designing their product is stating an objective. But the aim of privacy details should be precise, even for new or unfamiliar customers.
  • Additional, unauthorized data usage should be stopped. Businesses can garner insights from third-party resources by surveying people they trust about their comfort level on their business’ data collection practices.
  • Privacy issues often stem from consumers feeling like their data is being used for purposes they aren’t familiar with.
  • Consumers need to grant permission for additional usage of their data.
  • Companies should be required to stay up-to-date on best practices — While no business has cracked the best way to effectively communicate data collection practices to consumers. But industry best practice can be implemented.
  • Innovations and marketplace best practices should be regulated. The world of privacy is ever-changing, and it’s crucial to note that the best practices that are followed today may be different tomorrow.

Data collection practices and privacy laws are not one-size-fits-all, and every business has its own method of collecting data from consumers.

If a business needs to respond to a customer’s privacy concern, having a plan in place is beneficial–from seeking legal advice to being transparent with consumers, to painting their product or service in a positive light. Being prepared is crucial to preventing privacy issues from the get-go.

The post Design Product with Consumer Privacy in Mind appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 16 Oct 2019 | 2:00 pm

The False Choice Between Privacy and Safety in Smart Surveillance
Privacy and Safety in Smart Surveillance

Is there a real choice between privacy and safety in surveillance? As artificial intelligence continues to advance, we’ve seen an increased focus on privacy. A 2019 report from the American Civil Liberties Union contains an ominous warning: Artificial intelligence-enabled video surveillance will soon compromise our civil liberties in a dangerous way. Consider a false choice between privacy and safety in smart surveillance.

The ACLU isn’t wrong: Some technology could indeed contribute to this dystopian vision.

A dystopia is a community or society that is undesirable or frightening — translated as “a bad place.” Some systems attempt to use technology that’s not yet advanced enough, raising the specter of misuse; others invade the privacy of citizens, all for minimal security benefits.

But there are avenues of AI video surveillance that can bring greater public safety without sacrificing civil liberties.

The key is using AI to enable human security professionals to do their jobs better, not overextending AI’s capabilities to take over their jobs entirely. I see AI surveillance existing within three main categories: behavioral analysis, facial recognition, and object detection. The first two categories raise concerns. To understand what makes the last more viable, it’s important to break down the issues with the others.

AI Isn’t Advanced Enough for Behavioral Analysis

Behavioral analysis is essentially an attempt to detect so-called suspicious behavior before any crimes are committed. The ACLU’s “Th­e Dawn of Robot Surveillance” report touches on a few areas here: human action recognition, anomaly detection, and contextual understanding. Contextual understanding is the most advanced, but researchers have yet to make it genuinely feasible, and it’s unclear whether current technology provides a path to this type of general intelligence.

The problem is that computers lack the “common sense” to relate things to the rest of the world. A computer can recognize a dog thanks to thousands of images of dogs. It’s seen, but it can’t understand the context around a dog. 

AI can’t infer — it can only recognize patterns.

Some companies are already putting this technology into action, however. The New York Police Department has partnered with Microsoft to produce what it calls the Domain Awareness System. Part of the system would involve smart cameras that aim to detect suspicious behaviors.

But it’s not a finished product; developers have been working with officials to tweak the software since it was put in place. I’m confident that Microsoft will eventually crack the code to getting this technology working, but behavioral detection is still in beta.

The one area where behavioral analysis may be feasible is in detecting theft, and that’s primarily due to the lack of other viable options. 

Without Amazon Go-style camera installations, tracking every item in a store isn’t possible — so the next-best option is to guess whether a person is suspicious based on certain detected behaviors. But that, in itself, draws civil liberties concerns. The ACLU report notes the problems inherent in identifying “anomalous” behavior and people.

The big concern with action-detecting systems, then, is that the technology isn’t yet advanced enough to produce accurate results outside of small niches such as theft. Security professionals would be left with ambiguous data to interpret — likely reinforcing existing biases rather than making objective observations.

Facial Recognition Creates a Target for Bad Actors

Facial recognition works significantly better than behavioral analysis, and many law enforcement agencies and security firms already use the technology. That’s not to say it’s anywhere near perfect. False positives are common — especially when it comes to people of color. As a result, cities like San Francisco have banned the use of facial recognition software by local government agencies.

Even if facial recognition technology was 100% accurate, it still might not stop the worst of crimes. 

Acts of violence such as mass shootings are regularly perpetrated by students, family members, employees, or customers: in other words, people who “belong” in the location. It’s unlikely that a facial recognition system would flag these individuals.

Is it really just a “false choice” for facial recognition to protect people in their own neighborhoods and homes?

Then, there’s the severe invasion of privacy that’s required to make this technology work. To identify a suspect, facial recognition requires an external database of faces as well as personally-identifying information to match the face to a name. A database like that is an attractive target for bad actors.

Case in point: In July 2019, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency announced that hackers had gained access to a third-party database containing license plate numbers and photo IDs. The CBP has, in recent years, begun collecting facial recognition data and fingerprints, among other things, from foreign travelers. It’s not hard to imagine a world where hackers gain access to this kind of information, endangering individuals as a result.

We Don’t Have to Sacrifice Privacy for Safety

The issues associated with behavioral analysis and facial recognition all lead back to the human element of threat detection. That’s where object detection differs. Object detection, as its name suggests, is entirely self-detained and functions by flagging known items, not individuals. Therefore, people’s private information remains just that — private.

Still, there’s room for improvement. For instance, nonthreatening but unusual items such as power tools may be flagged. And the technology cannot detect concealed weapons that aren’t otherwise raising suspicions.

No type of AI surveillance technology is perfect.

We’re amid constant advancement and refinement. But currently, object detection — flaws and all — is the best avenue for keeping citizens safe without compromising their privacy. As AI video surveillance continues to advance, we should focus on letting security staff members do their jobs better instead of trying to automate them away.

During most mass shootings, for example, police officers know little about the shooter’s location, appearance, or armaments. Not having real-time updates limits police in their ability to respond.

Object detection AI surveillance systems, however, can detect weapons, abandoned objects, and other possibly threatening items with high accuracy.

Upon dection, the AI system can then notify security professionals of their location in real-time. Real-time allows for nearly instant responses. In the recent Virginia Beach shooting, officers took nearly 10 minutes to locate the gunman after they entered the building, and by the time the officers had subdued the gunman, the attack had lasted about 40 minutes.

That may not seem like long, but when there’s an active shooter involved, every second counts. An active shooter is the exact sort of practical situation in which AI can offer real, valuable data instead of a false sense of security.

Personal privacy and public safety don’t have to be mutually exclusive and may not be a false choice between privacy and safety.

It’s time we stopped trying to overextend AI video surveillance to do the work of security professionals. Instead, let’s focus on technology that already works to provide them with real, actionable data that can help them do their jobs better. We can create a safer society without sacrificing civil liberties.

Image credit: rishabh-varshney – Unsplash

The post The False Choice Between Privacy and Safety in Smart Surveillance appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 16 Oct 2019 | 11:00 am

Maintaining a Software-Obsessed Tech Industry is Self-Sabotage
Software-Obsessed Tech

Can we see that maintaining a software-obsessed tech industry is self-sabotage? As a venture capitalist, I know there’s incredible excitement around quantum computing. Yet, as a material scientist, I also see the technology is at least five years away from commercialization. Once again, we see a bias that plagues the tech community: software overshadowing hardware. But, continuing with the software-obsessed tech industry is self-sabotage.

Investors have spent much of the last decade focused exclusively on applications (and still seem to be), just as platform providers like Google and Amazon have come to dominate.

With the maturation of artificial intelligence, however, the software-first focus must shift increasingly toward hardware.

Even more nuanced, we should work toward hardware-software integration.

The good news: It seems that shift has already begun — and with the biggest fish in the pond. Apple is already well-known for its game-changing hardware innovations. It very recently hinted toward its latest watch, touted as an impressive piece of hardware that Apple fans are already drooling over.

Other industry leaders would do well to follow suit with oving the software-obsessed tech industry.

In healthcare, for example, a 2019 Accenture survey shows that two-thirds of executives believe that “DARQ” — distributed ledger, AI, extended reality, and quantum computing — technologies will transform their organizations. 89% are already pursuing implementations. If their focus is solely on software, however, these initiatives will fail. Fitness trackers capture in-depth patient data, and hardware is the portal through which data flows. Without this data, AI is irrelevant.

True innovation lies in the integration of hardware and software. Hardware is the data entrance and collector, while the AI software layer handles analysis and delivers insights. If data-driven technologies are going to drive the future of tech, we must adopt a hardware-software integration approach.

Hardware at the Forefront

Reorienting toward hardware won’t be easy for a tech ecosystem that remains so focused on software. The existing giants must adopt drastically new business models, and startups must work to master hardware. Whoever successfully integrates hardware and software will win the next era of tech.

Acknowledging this reality, Google and IBM are racing to develop data capabilities.

Being able to process mass amounts of data at the point of collection (the hardware), rather than sending it first to the cloud, is critical for giving “smart” technology the intelligence it needs.

Therefore, experts project only 20% of all data will be stored in data centers and the cloud by 2025, down from 80% currently.

As more time and money go toward hardware, our assumptions about tech will change. Consumers, for example, have grown used to a model where they exchange personal data for a “free” service. However, privacy concerns sparked by platforms like Facebook make this model less sustainable.

More importantly, collecting data through hardware rather than platforms yields richer data in more significant quantities. Moving forward, consumers will likely pay for more services (and their attendant hardware) but expect more privacy in exchange.

Similarly, the demand for tech talent will evolve. Tomorrow’s computer scientists must understand the engineering behind hardware just as well as they understand the software. Cybersecurity skills will also become a priority. Software is already rife with vulnerabilities, but a world filled with internet-connected hardware increases possible points of attack. Hardware will not fulfill its potential without addressing security concerns first.

Adjusting Expectations Around Hardware

Taking a hardware-first approach sounds like a substantial change from the current tech landscape, yet some companies have already adopted it. Apple, for instance, creates hardware and software, and it succeeds because both are integrated. Essentially, Apple owns the entire ecosystem its users occupy, which allows the company to deliver greater privacy and security while also monopolizing user engagement.

It’s time for the investor community to admit that hardware matters, and though the timelines may take longer, the returns are just as rewarding.

Similarly, founders must begin grappling with hardware development challenges if they’re going to remain relevant. Finally, consumers should expect more from tech and be ready to pay for it.

The post Maintaining a Software-Obsessed Tech Industry is Self-Sabotage appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 15 Oct 2019 | 2:00 pm

This service turns your favorite tweets into a piece of art
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TL;DR: Framed Tweets immortalizes hilarious and awe-inspiring tweets from celebs, politicians (ahem), and regular people alike — get your own on sale for $67.50, down from $75.


Ah, Twitter. Years ago it was just a place to complain about stuff. Today, those complaints are basically the greatest form of art in the 21st century. We live in weird times.

Hundreds of millions of tweets are posted every day, and to be honest, most of them are garbage. But amongst that garbage is pure gold. You know the ones we're talking about: the hilarious, the ridiculous, the juicy, the cringe-worthy. Those kinds of tweets should be showcased forever and thanks to this tweet-framing service, they can be.  Read more...

More about Twitter, Art, Mashable Shopping, Culture, and Web Culture

Source: Mashable | 30 Sep 2019 | 2:55 pm

Land your dream job by upping your LinkedIn game
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The Complete LinkedIn Marketing and Sale Bundle will help you boost your LinkedIn presence, and it's on sale for $34.


Applying to jobs can feel a lot like dating — awkward first meetings, overanalyzing every message you send (while waiting not-so-patiently for a response), and the crushing knowledge that even if it does work out, it probably won’t last forever. Fortunately, unlike dating, there are actual courses you can take to make the job application process a whole lot easier. 

A recent survey suggested that nearly 85 percent of jobs out there are filled via networking — and in 2019, the name of the career networking game is LinkedIn. Of course, you really only reap the benefits of the platform if your profile is optimized. Growing your connections, collecting colleague endorsements and recommendations, and creating a résumé that stands out from even the most competitive of crowds are just the start. Read more...

More about Jobs, Linkedin, Online Learning, Mashable Shopping, and Shopping Onlinelearning

Source: Mashable | 30 Sep 2019 | 2:48 pm

'Destiny 2: Shadowkeep' has a NASA Easter egg buried on the moon
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When Destiny 2 players touch down on the moon to explore Shadowkeep starting Oct. 1, they might also stumble across a piece of our IRL future buried in the airless wastes.

The Lunar Polar Hydrogen Mapper, which shortens to LunaH-Map, is one of 13 CubeSats that is scheduled to head to the moon in 2021 aboard Artemis-1. It's one of several specialized satellites built to look for the presence of water-ice on the moon. 

Once that mission is complete, LunaH-Map will crash somewhere in the Lunar South Pole – and that future crash site also happens to be tucked away somewhere in Shadowkeep's moon map. Read more...

More about Nasa, Bungie, Artemis, Destiny 2, and Destiny 2 Shadowkeep

Source: Mashable | 30 Sep 2019 | 2:43 pm

Facebook now blocks all links to The Pirate Bay
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Arrr, you can no longer share links to The Pirate Bay on Facebook.

“Your post couldn’t be shared, because this link goes against our Community Standards,” reads Facebook’s notification, which pops up when users attempt to share a link to The Pirate Bay. The ban extends to Facebook Messenger as well.

According to TorrentFreak, which first noticed the update, The Pirate Bay wasn't blocked from Facebook just a few weeks ago, even though the social media company was cracking down on other torrenting sites. 

SEE ALSO: Facebook Messenger's role in child sexual abuse online raises troubling questions Read more...

More about Facebook, Copyright, Facebook Messenger, Torrents, and The Pirate Bay

Source: Mashable | 30 Sep 2019 | 2:29 pm

How to actually find the right kind of light for your plants
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It's easy to figure out what type of light your plants need. If they didn't tell you at the plant shop, Google it. But what does "bright indirect light" look like, exactly? 

Categorizing types of light can be particularly difficult indoors, where shade from the trees and buildings outside your window come into play. That's why, in the interest of keeping your and also my plants alive and well, I consulted Joyce Mast, longtime greenhouse grower and the resident "Plant Mom" at online plant shop Bloomscape. (She's also actual mom to Bloomscape's founder, Justin Mast.)

Here's what I learned. Read more...

Types of light

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Source: Mashable | 30 Sep 2019 | 2:06 pm

Netflix confirms 'Stranger Things 4' in sinister teaser
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"We're not in Hawkins anymore." 

On Monday, Netflix confirmed the fourth installment of the Stranger Things franchise with an ominous teaser. The 45-second clip doesn't reveal much about the fate of our favorite characters, but promises big things for Matt and Ross Duffer, the creative duo behind the successful property. 

In addition to signing off on another Stranger chapter, Netflix has signed a multi-year film and series deal with the pair, allowing them to bring their talents to stories outside the Upside Down.

“The Duffer brothers have captivated viewers around the world with Stranger Things and we’re thrilled to expand our relationship with them to bring their vivid imaginations to other film and series projects our members will love,” said Netflix's Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos.  Read more...

More about Netflix, Teaser, Stranger Things, Duffer Brothers, and Stranger Things 4

Source: Mashable | 30 Sep 2019 | 12:27 pm

Best TV deals this week: Save on LG, Vizio, Sony, and more
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Happy last day of September, all — it's officially the last day that anyone can roast you for watching Hocus Pocus "too early." 

Freeform's 31 Days of Halloween kicks off midday on Oct. 1, and you can expect plenty of horror flicks from AMC and FX in the coming days. (AMC's FearFest officially starts on Oct. 13.) Netflix and Hulu will also undoubtedly curate Halloween-themed collections for you to compare your options in one place. Pro tip: Watch Marianne on Netflix. Even Stephen King recommends it.

Binge-watching in the dark is a must, but getting a 4K TV is what will really make those jump scares pop. Millions of pixels and HDR contrast ensures that you're able to decipher the dark scenes and won't miss that brief flash of Michael Myers' face in the corner. Plus, Dolby Atmos sound support is the closest thing you'll get to someone *actually* breathing down your neck. Fun! Read more...

More about Lg, Horror, 4k Tv, Vizio, and Mashable Shopping

Source: Mashable | 30 Sep 2019 | 12:22 pm

HP, Acer, Samsung, and more laptop and tablet deals for this week
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Is it just us, or does this Monday feel way busier than the last one? And the one before that. Bottom line: There’s a lot to get done today, so let’s just cut to the chase this week so you can spend your lunch break shopping (and also eating lunch, we guess). 

SEE ALSO: Best cheap laptops: 10 options for under $500

As per usual, we scoured the web for all the best deals on laptops and tablets for this week — and also as per usual, we found some really good ones. The new Galaxy Tab with an included S Pen, HP laptops, and Acer devices are all on sale, plus a bunch more.

Get scrolling through this list and pick your favorites ASAP so you still have time to get your work done today. Go! Read more...

More about Tablets, Acer, Laptops, Dell, and Mashable Shopping

Source: Mashable | 30 Sep 2019 | 12:10 pm

Activists occupy Amazon office and put giant Jeff Bezos head on Whole Foods roof
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Jeff Bezos is looming over San Francisco. Literally. 

A group of animal rights activists mounted a 15-foot tall version of the CEO's head atop the 24th Street San Francisco Whole Foods Monday morning, calling attention to the Amazon-owned chain's work with factory farms allegedly engaged in animal abuse. What's more, a second contingent has chained themselves together inside a San Francisco Amazon office located on Sansome Street. 

The group responsible for the protest, Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), explained to Mashable over Signal that this is just the latest effort to bring the issue of animal abuse to the attention of Bezos. An activist working with DxE, Priya Sawhney, also confronted the CEO on the stage of the re:Mars conference in Las Vegas in June.  Read more...

More about Amazon, Animal Rights, Whole Foods, Tech, and Big Tech Companies

Source: Mashable | 30 Sep 2019 | 12:06 pm

Google Flights will refund the difference if prices drop unexpectedly
Just after shutting down its Trips travel-planning app, Google has announced a raft of travel-related features for other products, including a flight price guarantee. For a limited time, when it tells you prices won't drop on a trip you book through...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 11:54 am

iHeartMedia is returning podcasts to their radio roots
If you own a radio network, how do you promote your podcasts? By calling back to the roots of podcass and airing them on the radio, of course. iHeartMedia has unveiled a Sunday Night Podcasts initiative that will air podcasts on 270 of its radio st...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 11:42 am

The best desktops for back-to-school season
Please enjoy this guide to the best desktops for students, just one part of our larger 2019 back-to-school series. In addition to top picks in 11 categories -- everything from laptops to smartphones to gaming and dorm gear -- we went big on tips and...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 11:31 am

How would you rate Apple's newest AirPods?
The original Airpods from 2016 had issues with sound quality and fit, but the second generation packed in a few upgrades, including a H1 chipset that bolstered Bluetooth connection speeds and a wireless charging case. In his review Senior Editor Chri...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 11:30 am

Human Things' Switch charger is also a portable TV dock
If you're looking for a portable way to play Nintendo Switch games on a big screen, a new Kickstarter project from accessory maker Human Things, creators of a Switch Bluetooth audio dongle, might be just what you need.

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 11:00 am

Peer-to-peer 8Chan mirror makes users responsible for its child porn
It's been a few days since Cloudflare stopped providing security protections to 8Chan, which led to the notorious site going offline. While 8Chan's leaders are still trying unsuccessfully to bring the site back, some of its users have found a way to...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 10:14 am

Facebook tests paid video subscriptions, starting with CollegeHumor
Facebook is testing a new video subscription service in Watch. You'd be forgiven for confusing this news with the announcement of "fan subscriptions," which Facebook made last month, but no, video subscriptions is an entirely separate thing.

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 10:00 am

From indie development to Guerrilla Games: The 'Gravity Ghost' story
Erin Robinson Swink knows when someone has actually finished her game, the hand-painted physics-based adventure called Gravity Ghost. "I can usually tell if they played it until the end based on the way they say that to me," she said. "Like, 'Yeah I...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 9:15 am

Google puts playable podcast episodes in Search
Google continues its push into the world of podcasts, not only through its own podcast app but also by adding a new podcast feature to search.

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 9:00 am

Project Athena gets its own version of the 'Intel Inside' badge
Intel teased Project Athena at CES at the start of this year, then in May the company revealed what the program really hopes to achieve: super long battery life, fast charging and 5G all packaged neatly into ultra slim, lightweight devices aimed at t...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 9:00 am

14 of the best blenders for smoothies, soups, and everything in between
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BEST DEALS ON BLENDERS THIS WEEK:


Today's lesson in Cooking as a Grown-Ass adult: Blenders are used for more than frozen margs in summer and collecting dust in winter.

Hot soup without a stove, coffee without a coffee maker, and whipped cream without a hand mixer are just a few of the tasks these multitasking appliances can tackle. Similar to the way the mystical Instant Pot replaces a sauté pan or slow cooker, blenders can expand your meal possibilites tenfold without the clutter of multiple machines. Read more...

More about Tech, Food, Kitchen, Mashable Shopping, and Blenders
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IMAGE: Amazon

BEST OVERALL

Vitamix Professional Series 750

This classic Vitamix annihilates fruits and nuts and has presets to make just about anything.

  • Power: 1,560 watts
  • Container size: 64-ounce
  • Automated settings: smoothies, hot soups, frozen desserts, purées, self-cleaning
  • App-connected: No
$599.95 from Amazon
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IMAGE: Amazon

BEST FOR MIXING DOUGH

Ninja Mega Kitchen System (BL770)

Expand to pizza or cookie dough with this food processing bowl — just ignore the noise.

  • Power: 1,500 watts
  • Pitcher size: 72-ounce
  • Automated settings: dough, blend, crush, single serve
  • App-connected: No
$139.99 from Amazon
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IMAGE: Amazon

BEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK

Calphalon Auto-Speed Blender

Novices and experts alike will appreciate the auto-adjusting speeds, screen, and long warranty.

  • Power: 1,100 watts
  • Container size: 67.6-ounce
  • Automated settings: smoothie, dip, milkshake, frozen drink
  • App-connected: No
$109.99 from Amazon
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IMAGE: Walmart

BEST PERSONAL BLENDER

NutriBullet Balance

Track fitness goals and nutrition facts with the Bluetooth smart scale and Balance app.

  • Power: 1,200 Watts
  • Container size: 32-ounce
  • Automated settings: None
  • App-connected: Yes
$109.99 from Walmart
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IMAGE: Amazon

BEST SMART BLENDER

Vitamix A3500

Walk-away convenience and the touchscreen are life-changing, but iPads can be bought for cheaper.

  • Power: 1,500 watts
  • Container size: 64-ounce
  • Automated settings: smoothies, hot soups, dips and spreads, frozen desserts, self-cleaning
  • App-connected: Yes
$619.95 from Amazon
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IMAGE: Amazon

BEST HAND BLENDER

Breville Control Grip Immersion Blender

Dressing, soup, merengue, and whipped cream can achieve the perfect texture with 15 trigger speeds and an ergonomic handle.

  • Power: 280 watts
  • Pitcher size: 42-ounce
  • Automated settings: None
  • App-connected: No
$84.99 from Amazon
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IMAGE: Amazon

BEST FOR WORKOUTS

Oster Blend-N-Go

A pre-gym smoothie always feels rushed, but this blending pitcher doubles as a sport bottle.

  • Power: 400 watts
  • Pitcher size: 20-ounce
  • Automated settings: None
  • App-connected: No
$24.99 from Amazon
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IMAGE: Amazon

BUDGET PICK

Hamilton Beach Wave Crusher (58163)

This classic blender is great for newbies and triples as a personal blender and food processor — but you get what you pay for.

  • Power: 700 watts
  • Container size: 40-ounce
  • Automated settings: milkshake/easy clean, purée/smoothie, dice/salsa, crush ice/grate
  • App-connected: No
$59.99 from Amazon
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IMAGE: Amazon

BEST FOR TRAVELING

PopBabies Personal Blender

USB charging makes this great for going off the grid or for work.

  • Power: 175 watts
  • Container size: 14-ounce
  • Automated settings: None
  • App-connected: No
$31.44 from Amazon
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IMAGE: Amazon

BEST FOR SWITCHING UP RECIPES

NutriBullet

Though it only has one speed, you'll get two different blade options included with the set.

  • Power: 600 watts
  • Cup size(s): Two 18-ounce, one 24-ounce
$59.99 from Amazon
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IMAGE: Amazon

BEST FOR EXTRACTING NUTRIENTS

Nutri Ninja with FreshVac Technology

Get the most nutrients and best flavors from your produce with this blender's FreshVac pump.

  • Power: 1,100 watts
  • Cup size(s): Two 24-ounce
$129.99 from Amazon
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IMAGE: Amazon

BEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK

Magic Bullet

A cheap, reliable blender that isn't too feature-heavy.

  • Power: 250 watts
  • Cup size(s): One 12-ounce, two 18-ounce
$39.99 from Amazon
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IMAGE: Amazon

BEST FOR TAKING IN THE CAR

Homgeek Personal Mini Blender

With two slim sports bottles, this compact blender is a solid choice.

  • Power: 300 watts
  • Cup size(s): Two 20-ounce
$23.99 from Amazon
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IMAGE: Amazon

BEST FOR CAMPING

Cozibot Travel Blender

Just because you're far from an outlet doesn't mean you need to skip your smoothie.

  • Power: 65 watts
  • Cup size(s): One 13-ounce
$35.98 from Amazon

Source: Mashable | 22 Jun 2019 | 4:00 am