Just over a week ago, Apple and Google announced a joint contact-tracing program “to harness the power of technology to help countries slow the spread of COVID-19.” It was widely welcomed. The privacy-first approach was designed to prevent governments from collecting data on their citizens. And, technically, the U.S. firms behind the world’s leading operating systems resolved issues with getting Bluetooth proximity sensing and anonymized identifiers working in tandem.
The decision to opt for Bluetooth over GPS or cell tracking was broadly made before Apple and Google stepped into the ring. If it works—and this has not yet been deployed at the tens of millions scale—it promises a near real-time reporting and alert system that cannot be achieved with manual contact-tracing options. The issue, as I’ve reported before, is the 60% take-up across smartphone users needed.
We already know that Android smartphones in China will not be eligible for the new technology framework. Google’s software and services are banned in the country, and this will be deployed as an update to Google’s Play Services. Android predominates across China’s more than 700 million smartphone users, with a 75% to 80% market share, impacting 500 million users. We also know that Huawei phones released post the U.S. blacklist last year will also be ineligible for the same reason—and this impacts users outside China who have bought Mate 30s and P40s.
Now we are being told that a large number of older phones outside China do not have the type of Bluetooth chip to enable the system to operate without running down the device’s battery, in addition to those phones that have the right hardware but do not run an updated version of the OS and will not apply the new technology.
The Financial Times estimates that this impacts as many as 500 million phones—a quarter of the smartphones in use today. Counterpoint analyst Neil Shah told the newspaper that “most of these users with the incompatible devices hail from the lower-income segment or from the senior segment which actually are more vulnerable to the virus.”
Taking the 500 million outdated phones and the 500 million Chinese phones together gives a billion users set to miss out—and that doesn’t include the 1.5 billion people still using basic phones that do not run iOS or Android at all, or have the technology required to make such a system work. That means 2.5 billion users around the world will not have access to this new contact-tracing solution.
For those that are eligible, there’s also now a fight brewing between governments electing to go their own way, exploring centralized systems, and academics and researchers who want all such centralized systems prohibited. In an open letter published today, April 20, dozens of academics from around the world warn “we are concerned that some ‘solutions’ to the crisis may, via mission creep, result in systems which would allow unprecedented surveillance of society at large.”
The academics caution that if deployment of such apps is seen as a surveillance move, trust will be broken and uptake will be low: “It is crucial that citizens trust the applications in order to produce sufficient uptake to make a difference in tackling the crisis.” If the apps are not installed, the program does not work. The letter warns that surveillance mission creep would “catastrophically hamper trust in and acceptance of such an application by society at large.”
UCL’s Michael Veale, a signatory to the letter, told me that Apple and Google had drawn the same conclusions as the academics on privacy protections, although “we can certainly be concerned about the network power they have to push code across the world.” That said, he is far more worried about governments tempted to overstep, risking “consequences from the huge mission and function creep potential on our democratic society and liberties.”
We are all set to be inundated with government messages to download these apps—some may even be linked to the lifting of restrictions and the right to travel and work. The issue with take-up, though, is that the technology required is a step too far for many of the less affluent, older and more vulnerable members of society—exactly the people most in need of protection. As ever with schemes like this, the devil is in the detail and there remain many questions yet to be addressed.
Toronto-based duo create custom puzzles to support local businesses – Eat North
A duo of award-winning Toronto-based creatives has found a unique way to support local businesses while providing hours of engagement to fill Canadians’ increased downtime.
Paddy Harrington, creative designer and founder of Frontier, and Rich Pauptit, celebrated printer and president of Flash Reproductions, are teaming up with independent Canadian businesses and artists who are facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 to create custom thematic jigsaw puzzles.
“Puzzle sales have skyrocketed as people look for engaging things to do at home,” explains Harrington. “We believe that people would prefer to do puzzles of their favourite local spots, while also supporting those businesses–and PieceTogether was born.”
Each 300-piece PieceTogether puzzle features an image from a local business and sells for $35, with $15 from every puzzle sold going directly to the business. Customers are able to offer additional donations at checkout.
Since launching on May 27, PieceTogether has partnered with local businesses like Rosalinda Restaurant, Dora Keogh Irish Pub, The Cameron House, Renya, Shacklands Brewing Co., and Stackt market.
According to sources like Calgary’s Castle Toys, puzzle sales have increased by as much as 370 per cent in the last year, and while those numbers are likely to decrease as the Canadian economy gradually reopens, PieceTogether can continue to provide a valuable revenue stream for businesses and artists as they attempt to adjust to the new landscape.
“Even as restrictions ease, many of these smaller businesses will still have to operate at a loss; it’s going to be difficult for a long time,” Pauptit adds. “It’s just devastating to think that some of our favourite neighbourhood places to visit may have to close down. With PieceTogether puzzles, you get something fun to do at home as well as an easy way to support these vital independent businesses. Plus, it’s a special keepsake that people will enjoy for years to come.”
Independent businesses and artists from across Canada can participate by setting up a profile and uploading an image to create their own custom puzzle.
Now you can buy puzzles of Toronto businesses – NOW Magazine
In Toronto, puzzles have become an increasingly popular pandemic pastime. Seemingly endless time indoors means we’re all partying like it’s 1799, with local gift and game shops having a hard time keeping puzzles in stock.
A new Toronto startup wants to combine our newly-minted jones for jigsaws with the opportunity to help out struggling small businesses. PieceTogether is a new project that creates jigsaw puzzles featuring images of beloved local businesses – and gives $15 from every $35 sale directly back to the business.
“Even as restrictions ease many of these smaller businesses will still have to operate at a loss, it’s going to be difficult for a long time,” said co-founder Rich Pauptit in a release. “It’s just devastating to think that some of our favourite neighbourhood places to visit may have to close down.”
By buying a puzzle, he adds, “you get something fun to do at home as well as an easy way to support these vital independent businesses.”
Among the first wave of puzzles available for purchase: The Cameron House’s iconic exterior, the leafy cocktail bar Reyna, a cool bottle of beer from Shacklands, and a bird’s eye view of Stackt, with even more on the way. Check out the full lineup here.
Google Silently Releases Android Auto in More Countries – autoevolution
But more recently, users in a couple of new countries have been provided with the official Android Auto listing the Google Play Store, including here those in the Netherlands and Belgium.
Users who turned to reddit to confirm that Android Auto is now live in these two countries explain that they can “update it legitimately,” as seen in the screenshot here.
Others based the same countries, however, claim Android Auto isn’t available in the Google Play Store on their devices, so the app either rolls out in stages to these users or the Play Store updates are actually the result of the app originally being installed with the APK file.
In other words, if Android Auto is deployed using the dedicated APK installer, then updates are automatically served through the Google Play Store, and this is why some might be tempted to believe the app is now officially supported in their country.
But one user in the Netherlands says this isn’t the case, as updates through the Google Play Store weren’t possible before.
“I couldn’t update it through the store prior tot this, even with android 10. So I had to keep reinstalling through apk. Android auto seem to work different for a lot of people though. On my s9 plus it won’t show up in the store, even if I reinstall it on this phone (s10+)it will still show up in the store. On my phone it’s not a system app though,” one user explains.
Google is yet to officially announce the availability of Android Auto in more countries, so our only option is to actually wait until a confirmation on this is offered. Until then, a healthy dose of skepticism is definitely recommended.
NHL Rumors: Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Red Wings, Sharks, Awards, More – The Hockey Writers
Toronto-based duo create custom puzzles to support local businesses – Eat North
3 new coronavirus cases confirmed in New Brunswick connected to health-care professional – Globalnews.ca
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