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Britain's COVID-19 app: The game changer that wasn't – Financial Post

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LONDON — As Britain’s COVID-19 infections soared in the spring, the government reached for what it hoped could be a game changer – a smartphone app that could automate some of the work of human contact tracers.

The origin of the NHS COVID-19 App goes back to a meeting on March 7 when three Oxford scientists met experts at NHSX, the technical arm of the UK’s health service. The scientists presented an analysis that concluded manual contact tracing alone couldn’t control the epidemic.

“Given the infectiousness of SARS-CoV-2 and the high proportion of transmissions from presymptomatic individuals, controlling the epidemic by manual contact tracing is infeasible,” concluded the Oxford scientists’ paper, which was published in the journal Science two months later.

The Oxford researchers believed that a smartphone app could help locate individuals who didn’t know they were infected – and by alerting them quickly could reduce and even halt the epidemic if enough people used it. Within days of the meeting, NHSX began the process of awarding millions of dollars worth of no-bid contracts to develop such an app, government procurement records show.

In the weeks that followed, ministers seized on the technology as a route out of Britain’s lockdown that began on March 23. At a Downing Street coronavirus briefing on April 12, health secretary Matt Hancock announced that testing had begun on what he called the government’s “next step – a new NHS app for contact tracing.”

He explained that people could use the app to report feeling unwell and it would anonymously alert other app users who recently had been in close contact with them. On April 28, he said he expected the app to be ready by mid-May.

Privately, some researchers who had proposed the app were dismayed that the government had stopped widespread testing on March 12, a decision they believed undermined the app’s effectiveness and public health in general. “We were very clear from the start that this thing needed to work with testing,” David Bonsall, a clinical scientist at Oxford who attended the March 7 meeting, told Reuters.

By early May, transport secretary Grant Shapps was heralding a test of the app on England’s Isle of Wight. “Later in the month, that app will be rolled out and deployed, assuming the tests are successful, of course, to the population at large,” he said. “This is a fantastic way to ensure that we are able to really keep a lid on this going forward.”

Pat Gelsinger, chief executive of VMware Inc, a Silicon Valley tech firm hired to develop the app, told a Fox Business television interviewer on May 8, “I tell you, we think this is the best one in the world and we’re really thrilled to be working with the NHS in the UK to help bring it about.”

But by the end of May, government officials were downplaying the app. In an interview with Sky News, Hancock called the app “helpful” but said traditional contact tracing needed to be rolled out first. Quoting another official, he said, “It puts the cherry on the cake but isn’t the cake.”

Behind the scenes, NHSX testers were discovering serious technical problems.

The agency had opted to develop an app that collected and stored data on central servers that could be used by health authorities and epidemiologists to study the disease. It relied on a technology called Bluetooth to determine who recently had been near someone displaying symptoms and for how long.

NHSX testers were finding that while the app could detect three-quarters of nearby smartphones using Google’s Android operating system, it sometimes could only identify four percent of Apple iPhones, according to government officials. The problem was that, on Apple devices, the app often couldn’t utilize Bluetooth because of a design choice by Apple to preserve user privacy and prolong battery life.

The issue was no secret. Apple and Google had jointly announced in April that they would release a toolkit to better enable Bluetooth on contact-tracing apps. But to protect user privacy, it would only work on apps that stored data on phones, not central servers. The NHSX app didn’t work that way.

The government insisted it had developed a successful work-around to overcome the Apple issue. But not everyone was convinced. The advocacy group Privacy International, which had tested the app in early May, “found it wasn’t working properly on iPhones,” Gus Hosein, the group’s executive director, told Reuters. But because of the government’s assurances, he said, “We just assumed we were doing something wrong.”

Other countries, including Germany, decided they would change their apps to work with the Apple-Google toolkit. That raised another problem with the UK app — it likely wouldn’t be compatible with many other contact-tracing apps so British travelers wouldn’t be notified if they were exposed to the virus.

On June 18, weeks after the UK app was supposed to be rolled out, government officials announced a dramatic U-turn — they would abandon the app being tested on the Isle of Wight and try to create one that worked with the Apple-Google technology. Work had already begun on it and they had learned lessons from the test, they said.

NHSX referred questions about the app to the health department, which said, “Developing effective contract-tracing technology is a challenge facing countries around the world and there is currently no solution that is accurate enough on estimating distance, identifying other users and calculating duration which are all required for contract tracing.”

A spokesman for VMware said it “is proud of the work we have done and continue to do to rapidly develop an application to support the UK’s contact tracing and testing efforts.”

A government official expressed confidence the app would be ready by the autumn or winter — although initially, the official said, it might not contain contact tracing at all, but offer other services that are yet to be determined.

(reporting by Steve Stecklow, edited by Janet McBride)

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Samsung’s Galaxy Note 20 event will take place on August 5 – The Next Web

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Samsung today sent out ‘invites’ for its next Galaxy Unpacked event, when the company is expected to launch the Galaxy Note 20. Indeed, the company teases such in a short video posted with the announcement:

[embedded content]

As previously rumored, the event will take place on August 5, with the livestream beginning at 10 am ET. Samsung itself doesn’t explicitly say much about what to expect, other than confirming it will “explore our latest Galaxy Devices ecosystem.”

That said, the Note 20 is a given; the company appeared to have accidentally leaked the Note 20 Ultra(or Plus) last week, showing off a phone with a similar rose gold finish to that shown in the video above.

The device is expected to include similar specs to the Galaxy S20, including a 120Hz display, a Snapdragon 865, 8/12GB of RAM, and 128/256/512GB of storage. The Ultra/Plus model is expected to come with a 108MP primary sensor, like the Galaxy S20 before it.

You can tune in to the livestream on Samsung.com come the day of the event.

For more gear, gadget, and hardware news and reviews, follow Plugged on
Twitter and
Flipboard.

Published July 8, 2020 — 01:05 UTC

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When does Lillia arrive on League's live servers? – Dot Esports

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One of League of Legends’ newest champions, Lillia, the Bashful Bloom, is set to arrive on live servers alongside the teased “big” summer event, Spirit Blossom.

Riot’s champion design team has been hard at work; the developer released five champions in 2019 and said six new champions would be arriving in 2020. The first arrival of this year was Sett, the Boss, who made his debut in January. 

Riot’s now getting ready to release two champions, and one of them is Lillia. She’s coming to live servers as early as Patch 10.15, on July 22. The date also marks the start of the Spirit Blossom event, which will come with cool thematic skins.

Lillia is the first dedicated jungler release since 2017 that likes to keep her distance from her enemies. Riot describes her as a shy fawn, and she has a spell-kit that suits her nature. Most of her spells are long-ranged abilities, and her ultimate sends her enemies to sleep.

When does Lillia release?

Image via Riot Games

Lillia is expected to release as a part of League‘s Patch 10.15, which is scheduled to hit the Rift on Wednesday, July 22.

As with every patch, Riot’s also planning to introduce some tweaks to existing champions to spice up the gameplay. Ahri and Udyr will be getting a VFX update, making their spells and auto attacks look more updated.

Considering there is still time before the patch releases, Riot can choose to implement more changes, so keeping an eye on PBE is a must if you’re looking to continue your road to Challenger rank on release day.

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OnePlus Nord colors: Here are the rumors – Android Authority

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  • A Nord promo video includes a brief view of four possible Nord colors.
  • It’s not certain which of these colors will make the cut.

OnePlus has been fond of offering its phones in clever colors as of late, so how will it liven up the OnePlus Nord? The company might have offered a clue to perceptive fans.

Part two of a OnePlus Nord documentary series includes an ever-so-brief glimpse (starting at the 8:40 mark) of what appears to be the upcoming OnePlus Nord colors, blurred out to avoid revealing much of the phone itself. If accurate, they suggest you’ll have some vibrant color choices for the sub-$500 device, including a bright blue and a mint green on top of more sober black and gray options. An earlier teaser from OnePlus showed only gray.

There’s a chance that OnePlus could shake up the Nord’s colors. Don’t get too attached to what you see here. However this four-color selection wouldn’t be surprising. It’s largely consistent with existing OnePlus color schemes, and manufacturers sometimes use vibrant colors to draw people to affordable phones like these. It’s mainly a question of whether or not the hue you want will be available with the configuration you’d prefer.

Next: Is the Nord really a ‘New Beginning’ for OnePlus?

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