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Google to publish user location data to help gov'ts tackle COVID-19 – Jamaica Observer

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PARIS, France (AFP)— Google says it will publish users’ location data around the world from Friday to allow governments to gauge the effectiveness of social distancing measures, brought in to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reports on users’ movements in 131 countries will be made available on a special website and will “chart movement trends over time by geography,” according to a post on one of Google’s blogs.

Trends will display “a percentage point increase or decrease in visits” to locations like parks, shops, homes and places of work, not “the absolute number of visits,” said the post, signed by Jen Fitzpatrick, who leads Google Maps, and the company’s chief health officer Karen DeSalvo.

For example, in France, visits to restaurants, cafes, shopping centres, museums or theme parks have plunged by 88 percent from their normal levels, the data showed.

Local shops initially saw a jump of 40 per cent when confinement measures where announced, before suffering a drop of 72 per cent.

Office use is possibly stronger than suspected meanwhile, as the decline in that area is a more modest 56 per cent. 

“We hope these reports will help support decisions about how to manage the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Google execs said.

“This information could help officials understand changes in essential trips that can shape recommendations on business hours or inform delivery service offerings.”

Like the detection of traffic jams or traffic measurement Google Maps, the new reports will use “aggregated, anonymised” data from users who have activated their location history.

No “personally identifiable information,” such as an individual’s location, contacts or movements, will be made available, the post said.

The reports will also employ a statistical technique that adds “artificial noise” to raw data, making it harder for users to be identified. 

From China to Singapore to Israel, governments have ordered electronic monitoring of their citizens’ movements in an effort to limit the spread of the virus, which has infected more than a million people and killed over 50,000 worldwide. 

In Europe and the United States, technology firms have begun sharing “anonymised” smartphone data to better track the outbreak. 

Even privacy-loving Germany is considering using a smartphone app to help manage the spread of the disease.

But activists say authoritarian regimes are using the coronavirus as a pretext to suppress independent speech and increase surveillance.

In liberal democracies, others fear widespread data harvesting and intrusion could bring lasting harm to privacy and digital rights.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive

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Google looking to provide support services for satellite internet providers: job listing – 9to5Google

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Within Alphabet, there are currently three products that directly provide internet service to end-users: Google Fi, Google Fiber, and Loon. According to a new job posting, Google looks to be getting into the business of supporting satellite internet providers.

A Google Careers listing today reveals a “Partner Manager” role to “help launch a global satellite-based broadband service.” The emphasis is on “help,” with the next line noting how “you will support satellite broadband service providers, productize the solution and make it available to other satellite broadband ISPs.”

As a Partner Manager, you will help launch a global satellite based broadband service. You will support satellite broadband service providers, productize the solution and make it available to other satellite broadband ISPs. You’ll manage partners on a day to day basis to make sure that we meet their growth plans in existing markets. You’ll manage the pod and service delivery timeline, work with Google and cross functional teams to handle and process monthly/quarterly PO and Invoices, and ensure continued availability of transit in the existing and new markets.

From this description, Google does not appear to be launching its own satellites, but rather helping an existing partner establish their network. It’s unclear who that partner is, but Google will use what it learns to offer similar services to other companies.

A “Responsibilities” section later on provides more details:

  • Negotiate any deal with a 3rd party vendor to support product and partner development.
  • Build a pipeline and start engaging with other satellite broadband service providers to explore expanding product offering to other players.

The satellite internet access space is currently dominated by Starlink from SpaceX, which launched 60 satellites yesterday. The goal is to have internet delivered from space rather than through wires in the ground. Coincidentally, Google in 2015 led a $1 billion investment round into the Elon Musk company.

It’s unclear what Google’s service would look like, but Alphabet’s Loon division provides a possible clue. Known for balloons that provide internet service following disasters, the company last year announced that it was adapting its routing technology for low Earth orbit satellites with Telesat. The system helps ensure a connection between the many moving parts of such a network.

That said, this role is based within Google and located in Mountain View. There are no other satellite job listings at the company, and we’ve reached out to Google for more details.

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Three finalists chosen in Canadian Electric vehicle design competition – MobileSyrup

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The Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (AMPA) in Canada has decided on three finalist designs for its zero-emissions vehicle competition.

The designs come from teams at the Wilson School of Design in B.C, Humber College in Toronto and Carleton University in Ottawa, according to a report from Automotive News Canada.

The AMPA launched this competition in January as a way to showcase how Canadian automotive manufacturing talent could build an electric vehicle from start to finish in Canada. The car is a concept that aims to showcase the power of the Canadian automotive sector and will be named Project Arrow. While a bit of a long shot, I reached out to the AMPA to find out if the name has anything to do with the cancelled Avro Arrow Canadian fighter plane project from the late 50s.

The three finalists have been chosen out of a pool of nine applicants by a panel of Canadian judges who have worked, or are working, in the Canadian automotive space. You can find out more about the judges on the AMPA’s blog. 

The designs are as follows:

The Sea to Sky Electric’s E-Nova

Submitted by Marie-Peir Alary and Bailey van Rikxooort from the Wilson School of Design in Richmond, British Columbia, this design appears to be more in the shape of a large SUV with giant wheels and wide windshield, based on the drawing in the report. The name and its offroad looks lead me to believe it’s named after the popular Sea to Sky hiking trails in B.C.

The Archer

From Stephen Byowy, a Humber College student in Toronto. This design seems to be the most practical in terms of it looking like a modern-day SUV.

The Traction

Sent in by Kaj Hallgrimsson, Jun0Won Kim, Mina Morcos and Matthew Schultz from Carleton University in Ottawa, this drawing seems to be the most unique, with all the seats facing the center so people can face each other while the car presumably drives itself.

What’s next?

The second phase of the competition is ‘Engineering Specifications’ and its set to conclude in the Fall. There isn’t much on what teams will need to do, but they are tasked with creating supplier RFP report to request any odd or custom parts they might need for their vehicles.

Then in 2021, we’re expected to see a virtual unveiling of the cars and finally, in 2022, the concept car will release and people will be able to tour it.

Image credit: Automotive News Canada

Source: Automotive News Canada, AMPA, Project Arrow

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Rumor: Alleged 2021 5.5-inch iPhone prototype shows notchless screen and USB-C port – 9to5Mac

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A new mock-up of the 5.5-inch 2021 iPhone has been shared by Macotakara today that suggests a notchless screen and USB-C instead of a Lightning port (or nor port at all) could be in the works. The prototype also shows what could be a different camera setup compared to what we’re expecting on the iPhone 12 later this year.

At the end of last year, we learned that Ming-Chi Kuo expects the highest-end 2021 iPhone to be a fully wireless device, ditching the Lightning port and also skipping the USB-C port. However, today’s alleged 5.5-inch 2021 iPhone prototype shared by Macotakara suggests that the entry-level model could make the switch to USB-C along with a notchless screen.

This 2021 iPhone mock-up was made based on data from Alibaba, so it’s worth taking this rumor with grain of salt.

A 5.5-inch 2021 iPhone likely means it would be the entry model based on what we’re expecting for the 2020 iPhone lineup, with the more affordable iPhone 12 models coming in 5.4- and 6.1-inch sizes and the iPhone 12 Pro landing with 6.1- and 6.7-inch displays. Macotakara does mention that this is just one prototype that Apple is considering so naturally, there’s no guarantee this design and features will make it to market.

Macotakara says the case dimensions of this prototype are the same as the 5.4-inch 2020 iPhone but with a slightly larger screen at 5.5-inches. However, one interesting part of this prototype would be the entry-level 2021 iPhone gaining what could be a 3 or 4 camera setup. One major way Apple has differentiated its iPhone lineup is with camera hardware and features, like the 11 Pro having an additional lens over the iPhone 11.

Apple has been working toward a making iPhone with a “single slab of glass” design for many years. The iPhone X display design is still seen today in the iPhone 11 lineup (expected in the iPhone 12 series too) so removing the notch totally that houses the Face ID components and TrueDepth camera would be a big step forward in the screen to body ratio and Apple evolving the iPhone display’s design.

The iPhone 12 lineup may feature slightly smaller notches but if this prototype does turn out to ring true, the entire 2021 iPhone lineup would likely go notchless if the 5.5-inch entry-level model did.

The Macotakara video below suggests that Apple could launch its first under-screen front-facing camera with the 2021 iPhone lineup to make this potential notchless design happen.

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