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Apple 'not told' about UK's latest app plans – BBC News

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Apple says it did not know the UK was working on a “hybrid” version of the NHS coronavirus contact-tracing app using tech it developed with Google.

The firm took the unusual step of saying it was also unaware of an issue regarding distance-measuring, which was flagged by Health Secretary Matt Hancock in Thursday’s daily briefing.

Apple said it was “difficult to understand” the claims.

Downing Street said the government had “worked closely with Apple and Google”.

In tests carried out in the UK, there were occasions when software tools developed by Apple and Google could not differentiate between a phone in a user’s pocket 1m (3.3ft) away and a phone in a user’s hand 3m (9.8ft) away.

During the briefing, Mr Hancock said: “Measuring distance is clearly mission critical to any contact-tracing app.”

However, speaking to the Times, Apple said: “It is difficult to understand what these claims are as they haven’t spoken to us.”

The firm also pointed out that the tech was already either in use or intended for use in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Ireland.

The tech giant also expressed surprise that the UK was working on a new version of the contact-tracing app which incorporated the Apple-Google software tool.

“We’ve agreed to join forces with Google and Apple, to bring the best bits of both systems together,” Mr Hancock said.

However, Apple said: “We don’t know what they mean by this hybrid model. They haven’t spoken to us about it.”

It told the BBC it had nothing further to add.

On Friday, the Department of Health said the NHS’s digital innovation unit had indeed discussed its ambitions with Apple.

“NHSX has been working with Google and Apple extensively since their API [application programming interface ] was made available,” it told the BBC.

“Over the last few weeks, senior representatives from NHSX and Apple have had productive meetings to discuss both products and future direction.

“There is a commitment between the teams to work together to improve the distance measurement technology, which is integral to have a fully functioning contract-tracing app.”

Google said yesterday that it welcomed the government’s announcement.

A Downing Street spokesman said the government continued to work closely with both Apple and Google on the app, and had done so since development began.

“We’ve agreed with them to take forward our work on estimating distance through the app that we’ve developed and work to incorporate that into their app,” he said.

Apple’s choice

Apple and Google have not created an app.

What they have built is a software tool which enables contact-tracing apps to work more smoothly with both iPhones and Android devices, but which does not store any data centrally.

The UK wanted to store the data as it argued it would be useful for scientists tracking the spread of Covid-19.

Dr David Bonsall from Oxford University, who is an adviser to the NHS app developers, told the BBC the tech giant had made a choice not to support the UK’s original model.

“Ultimately, a decision was taken by Apple to not support the centralised system that had been in development by the UK from March, and six weeks before they announced their own system under a decentralised model,” he said.

“And that has got to be considered in our reflection on the situation that the UK now faces.”

The now-abandoned NHS app was tested on the Isle of Wight where it was downloaded more than 50,000 times.

However, it registered only about 4% of the iPhones that were nearby.

Islanders have now been asked to delete it.

It’s not the first time the government has clashed with Apple over an app – in 2018 an app built to help EU citizens apply to remain in the UK after Brexit was also found to not work properly on iPhones.

On that occasion Apple did eventually agree to make the necessary changes to its system.

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Shopify, Canadian government launch initiative to help small businesses grow online amid COVID-19 – BetaKit

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Shopify has partnered with the federal government to launch a new initiative called Go Digital Canada, aimed to bring more Canadian small businesses online and support them in the new era of digital transformation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We wanted to provide support to help bring these businesses online, and help future proof that backbone of the economy.”

The initiative is set to be announced Wednesday at Startupfest’s virtual fireside chat between Harley Finkelstein, COO of Shopify, and Mary Ng, Canada’s minister of small business, export promotion and international trade. Go Digital Canada will serve as what Shopify called a “central resource hub,” where entrepreneurs can receive support on growing their business online through tools offered by Shopify, as well as partners and experts.

“From our perspective, small businesses, they are the backbone of the Canadian economy. They make up 98 percent of Canadian companies,” Sylvia Ng, general manager of Shopify’s Start product line, told BetaKit. “The fact that they’re faced with these unprecedented challenges due to COVID right now [made us want] to provide support to help bring these businesses online, and help future proof that backbone of the Canadian economy.”

Go Digital Canada’s educational resources will include coursework, resources, and support from experts, all of which businesses can opt in to use. These resources will be provided by Shopify as well as organizations in Shopify’s partner network.

RELATED: Shopify partners with four Indigenous-led organizations to offer e-commerce education

In addition to free courses, Go Digital Canada will offer a 90-day free trial of the Shopify platform for merchants that register before October 1, 24/7 support, a tap and chip reader (while supplies last), and free access to Shopify’s POS pro plan for brick and mortar merchants, until October 31. Other resources include step-by-step guidance from Shopify Compass and live webinars.

One of the partners on Shopify’s new program is Digital Main Street, through its national ShopHERE program.

​Business owners​ using the hub are able to tailor their stores to suit their individual needs, including setting up online payments, gift cards, and local pickup or delivery options, and launching free email marketing campaigns.

The Government of Canada is not providing any financial backing to Shopify for Go Digital Canada, rather Sylvia Ng said the government partnership is aimed to “amplify and guide” Shopify’s work.

“Shopify is an incredible made-in-Canada success story, and their work to help Canadian entrepreneurs go digital, as we increasingly shift online in response to COVID-19, will help create even more Canadian success stories,” said Minister Ng.

One of the partners for Go Digital Canada is Digital Main Street through its ShopHERE program, which has a similar mission of helping small businesses move online. Sylvia Ng said Go Digital Canada’s online hub is mostly self-serve, but businesses that need more dedicated assistance in going online will be referred to the ShopHERE program, which will provide one-on-one support.

RELATED: Facebook commits $1 million in ad credits to ShopHERE initiative

ShopHERE was initially a City of Toronto initiative focused on building online storefronts for local independent businesses and artists. Following a Google Canada commitment of $1 million, ShopHERE went national with a goal to set up 50,000 online stores across the country. Shopify is supporting ShopHERE by assisting businesses in getting their online store built and launched within 90 days.

Sylvia Ng said one unique component of the Go Digital Canada hub is that when businesses complete a learning module, Shopify will provide links for businesses to act on what they have learned directly on Shopify’s platform.

“The hub is going to be very rooted in community,” Sylvia Ng told BetaKit. “All the courses that we have there aren’t just by Shopify, but also by our ecosystem, and [by] bringing our partners like Digital Main Street on, we’ll be growing that community further and bringing the trust that these merchants and businesses need in order to understand how to grow their business.”

Image source Unsplash. Photo by Roberto Cortese.

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Google officially shows off new Gmail with Chat, Rooms integration – MobileSyrup

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Google has developed a pattern of announcing things immediately after they leak. The search giant did precisely that with the recently leaked Nest smart speaker, and now it’s done the same with today’s Gmail leak.

Ahead of next week’s Google Cloud conference, the company showed off its new Gmail app. It’s not really Gmail anymore, though. Instead, it’s a unified hub for all of Google’s communication platforms, and it integrates with Google’s productivity tools like Docs.

The Verge reports that the new Gmail will be available as an “early access preview” to G Suite customers this week. Later this year, it will roll out to all G Suite customers.

However, the consumer version of Gmail likely won’t see any significant change in the short term. Google told The Verge it plans to think through “how and when to bring [the] experience to the consumers who might want it.”

The new Gmail’s main goal is to put all of these tools into one “integrated workspace.” In the future, that means that, for example, the chatbox that shows up in a Google Doc or Meet window might integrate with users’ other chats and rooms. For now, however, the integration isn’t that deep.

Instead, the main difference is that all the tools happen to be in the same space. On your phone, that’s the Gmail app — your PC, the Gmail website. That hopefully means less bouncing around between tabs and apps to get things done.

Another benefit of packing all these communication tools into a single app is that setting something like ‘Do Not Disturb’ can apply app-wide instead of managing the setting across multiple tools. Along with that, Gmail’s search will get more powerful as it’ll work across email, chat and more.

The Verge likens Google’s strategy to that of Microsoft with Teams. The Redmond, Washington-based company leveraged its Office 365 — now Microsoft 365 — tools to push Teams. Google is doing the same with Gmail, its most popular platform, to promote these new collaboration tools.

Unfortunately, outside of G Suite customers who will actively use all these tools, the new Gmail may bring a host of functionality that people don’t want or need. As Google tightens the integration between these platforms, it may make it more difficult to avoid some features.

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Hopefully this marks a turning point for Google. The company has developed a reputation for making competing apps and services. Although chat apps stand out as the most prominent example, other apps like Keep and Tasks seem to offer similar services with slight variations.

Javier Soltero, general manager and VP of G Suite, explained to The Verge how Google is moving in a different direction now.

“The history of these products is that they were all built individually and they all had a core set of opinions that were obvious to everyone: multi-user, user collaboration, etc. … They all had the same set of shared ideas but they were not necessarily driving toward a shared end goal,” Soltero said.

At least for G Suite’s communication platforms, the shared goal is a unified front with deep integration across Google’s services that can fend off Teams and Slack.

Source: The Verge

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Google pledges not to use Fitbit health data to target ads – STAT

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With the clock ticking on a European Commission probe into Google’s $2.1 billion bid for Fitbit, the tech giant offered regulators a concession late Monday, agreeing not to use Fitbit’s trove of health data to help target ads.

Google had been staring down the possibility of a sweeping antitrust investigation by European regulators that was the latest in a series of probes into its deal with Fitbit announced last November. But the tech giant had a potential way to avoid the full thrust of the investigation: A promise, in the form of a binding pledge, not to use Fitbit’s fitness data for ad-targeting. Regulators gave the company until Monday to offer such a statement. Google complied late that day, Reuters reported.

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