As Singapore fights to control its rapidly spiralling number of confirmed Covid-19 cases—the latest total is now at 9,125, after 1,111 new cases were added yesterday— its prime minister has called on everyone to download contact tracing apps as the country puts technology at the center of its epidemic response methods.
“We will need to make full use of information technology, IT, so that when we discover Covid-19 cases, we can trace more efficiently where they have been, and whom they have been in contact with,” said Lee Hsien-loong in a national address, adding that the country was developing other apps in addition to the existing TraceTogether app. “For these apps to work, we will need everyone’s cooperation to install and use these apps, like what the South Koreans have done.”
For weeks, Singapore had managed to keep its case numbers relatively low through a timely campaign of travel restrictions, passenger screenings, fast contact tracing, stringent quarantine measures, and a comprehensive government messaging campaign. But cases began to grow rapidly earlier this month, after clusters were identified in cramped migrant worker dormitories. Of the 9,125 confirmed cases in Singapore, more than 78% (pdf) are foreign workers living in dormitories. The government announced a “circuit breaker” month on April 5 of ramped-up efforts to control the disease, and yesterday extended those measures for another month, until June 1.
Contact tracing refers to tracking down all those who have come into contact with an infected person, and is typically a very labor intensive endeavor. But thanks to the ubiquity of digital devices, technology can now play a much bigger role in the contact tracing process. Everything from GPS data and cellular signals from phones to credit card and other digital payments can now be compiled to quickly sketch out a detailed map of where someone has been and who they’ve crossed paths with. At least 29 countries are now using mobile data to help with contact tracing. South Korea is one country that has successfully leveraged contact tracing technologies (pdf), using the timeline feature of Google Maps to have citizens voluntarily record their locations, as well as drawing on data from credit card and telecommunications companies.
Singapore’s contact tracing app, TraceTogether, was launched on March 20 and claims to be the first national BlueTooth tracing solution in the world. It now boasts about 1.1 million users, just under one-fifth of the country’s population, and the government has made publicly available the app’s protocol. The app works by trading and logging unique identifying codes over BlueTooth signals of nearby phones with the app installed, and the data is accessed to identify close contacts when a user tests positive for the coronavirus. Critics, however, say that BlueTooth is flawed as a contact tracing technology because of its potential to turn up a large number false positives.
Data privacy is another major issue, and Lee acknowledged as much. “There will be some privacy concerns,” he said yesterday. “But we will have to weigh these against the benefits of being able to exit from the circuit breaker and stay open safely.”
Cryptographers are now working on contact tracing apps that better protect privacy. One such initiative is SafePaths, developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A major security risk with contact tracing apps is that a malicious hacker or a government wanting to violate the privacy of a user can still crack the anonymized location and time-stamped data, in a process known as “hash-cracking.” SafePaths is addressing that vulnerability by using two separate servers controlled by different organizations, according to Wired.
Toronto-based duo create custom puzzles
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.
Source: – Eat North
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.
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