As developers for tablets and smartphones we like to keep abreast of the latest mobile technology developments . This is a daily digest of mobile development and related technology news gathered from the BBC, the New York Times, New Scientist and the Globe and Mail to name a few. We scour the web for articles concerning, iPhone, iPad and android development, iOS and android operating systems as well as general articles on advances in mobile technology. We hope you find this useful and that it helps to keep you up to date with the latest technology developments.
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Two experiments with light are trying to help Swedish citizens cope with the long dark winters.
Why We Still Can't Stop Talking About Online Dating
Before a time when the world was obsessed with flavor of the week apps and shiny new tech startups only to forget about them as quickly as you can swipe left, I got hired at an online dating site.
The year was 2010 and I had just turned 21 years old. The concept of dating online was more publicly uncomfortable then, although, almost 5 years later, the reaction remains more or less the same when people learn that I work for PlentyOfFish. Sometimes shock, often an involuntary facial twitch, always questions. Although the positioning of online dating in conversations is changing, one thing remains the same: we’re having the conversations. On the way to work, in the line at Starbucks, out for drinks with friends on Friday night, we’re having the conversations. So what is the big deal about online dating, and why can’t we stop talking about it?
Because We Still Don’t Know How It Works…But It Works
When we create these digital portraits for ourselves online, we’re navigating in a space we don’t really understand, but excites us nonetheless. This also makes us wary, though. We meet a jerk at a bar and we chalk it up to bad luck. We meet a jerk while we’re online dating, and it starts more of a conversation because we can’t make sense of the moving parts. The onus can be on cyberspace for bringing this loser to your inbox and not your own judgement. Still, most days I’d bet on the good judgment of matching algorithms and data scientists behind the scenes of a dating site over a great deal of my friends at the bar.
Even so, in the media you’re still more likely to hear about an online first date gone wrong than Harry and Sally (and thousands of people just like them every year) who met online and lived happily ever after, because those battle stories reassure us that there are still people out there who haven’t found anyone either! The thing is, Harry and Sally have told their friends, and their friends have told their friends, which results in a great deal of signups for us, and at least 1 in 5 marriages for those who are keeping track.
Because We’re Curious
Dating online means putting yourself out there – like really out there. Your hopes and dreams and wish list for an ideal partner is out there for your exes, coworkers and aunt Barbara to stumble across, and that can be scary at first. Maybe aunt Barbara actually met someone, and that pushed you over the edge, or maybe you heard that a celebrity is now considering joining a dating site after her latest breakup. Either way, you don’t want to be left behind.
So before you know it, you’re signing up too. And it’s strangely optimistic, to see those rows of hopeful faces smiling back at you, all of them single. So like a high school dance, you hang out on the outskirts for a while, maybe even until someone makes the first move and messages you. All of a sudden, our false modesty vanishes and the experience becomes more human than humiliating because you’re actually allowing yourself to have fun.
Because It’s Always Evolving
There was a time, so I’ve been told, when dating was not always this way. Despite this, I’m inclined to go the tough love route and tell you, sorry, but this is the way it’s going to be from now on. Technology has been seamlessly and irreversibly integrated into almost every nook and cranny of our existence, and the advancements in the online dating space are remarkable.
We’re obsessed with maximizing efficiency and tailoring all of our experiences to best fit our needs, but when it comes to our love lives, maybe we’re still more old-fashioned than we’re willing to admit. We routinely blog about deeply personal aspects of daily life, order our groceries, reserve a Car2Go, plan trips across the world and customize our own Nike sneakers, all online, but when it comes to dating online, we pretend it’s still just a little too out there.
But that’s OK! We’re still afraid that our stories won’t quite stack up when we’re recounting to our grandchildren that yes, “Grandma was checking her PlentyOfFish app on the commute to work and saw that Grandpa had selected her as a Favorite, and the rest is history.” We may not necessarily have the ancient family feuds or years spent oceans apart, but that’s only because life has changed. Dating has changed, and online dating will continue to evolve. But the hope and the intimacy and the love, that’s still the same. Besides, you have nothing to worry about, because in 10 years all the romantic comedies will be about online daters anyway.
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Video sharing site YouTube celebrates its tenth anniversary.
Best Tweets: What Women Said On Twitter This Week
This week was full of all types of Valentine’s Day preparations from the flowers ordered to anti-love sentiments tweeted. For everyone who happens to be single this holiday, Twitter user NYC Blonde tweeted an encouraging reminder: “If Britney can survive 2007, you can survive another Valentine’s Day alone.” Damn straight.
And if you’re celebrating the holiday with a significant other, Gennefer Gross had some great advice on how to swoon your other half: “If you want to sweep her off her feet this Valentine’s Day, take her to a place with free WiFi and bring a phone charger.” But actually.
For more great tweets from women, scroll through the list below. Then visit our Funniest Tweets From Women page for our past collections.
Eminem’s old publicist wakes up in a cold sweat. “I had the dream again,” he says to his wife. “That he had Twitter in 1999.” “Sssh, baby.”
— Nicole Cliffe (@Nicole_Cliffe) February 9, 2015
My compassion is so thin and bitchy right now, it just got offered a modeling contract for Abercrombie & Fitch.
— bourgeois beth (@bourgeoisalien) February 9, 2015
I’m not saying I’m a domestic goddess, but I did just put clothes in the dryer without spilling my wine.
— Sarcastic Mommy (@sarcasticmommy4) February 10, 2015
anxiety is the best alarm clock
— Lindy West (@thelindywest) February 10, 2015
If you want to sweep her off her feet this Valentine’s Day, take her to a place with free WiFi and bring a phone charger.
— Gennefer Gross (@Gennefer) February 7, 2015
Inexplicably, I had a dream about Stephan Hawking. Or Eddie Redmayne. I couldn’t tell. EVEN IN MY DREAM.
— Dagmara Dominczyk (@DagDom17) February 11, 2015
When you stuff your socks into other socks it’s enforced cannibalism
— caitlin stasey (@caitlinstasey) February 12, 2015
There’s a special Hell for ugly criers, and it’s full of mirrors.
— SuperCynthia (@Super_Cynthia) February 12, 2015
Plot twist: WebMD says you’re just thirsty
— Varla (@GelasticGoGo) February 7, 2015
Out of 7 billion faces in the world, yours is the one I most want to smash in with a baseball bat
— les misérSLOB (@B1gBrainsMcGee) February 10, 2015
If Britney can survive 2007, you can survive another Valentine’s Day alone.
— NYC BLONDE (@NYC_Blonde) February 12, 2015
Reading the inside of my Dove chocolate wrappers to feel loved.
Please pity me and send me more chocolates
— NotTHATSheila (@peb671) February 11, 2015
I slipped on ice and discovered I’m a natural at break dancing
— Envy Da Tropic (@envydatropic) February 7, 2015
Calm down shouty museum man. I think it’s pretty obvious that I know how to ride a dinosaur skeleton.
— Noodles (@Dawn_M_) February 11, 2015
There’s a girl in barre class who won’t wear socks even though it’s mandatory, I am certain she hates vaccinations too
— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) February 12, 2015
Deliriously sick & in hotel bed. Watching “19 Kids & Counting” sniffling, “Maybe those Duggars DO have life figured out. That looks nice.”
— Jen Kirkman (@JenKirkman) February 13, 2015
A yawn is a silent scream for coffee.
— Rachel Hollis (@msrachelhollis) February 12, 2015
I can’t wait to be angry at my husband tomorrow because I told him I didn’t want anything for Valentine’s Day and he listened.
— K in VT (@karlainvt) February 13, 2015
Experts anticipate drastic increase in phone malfunction among single males on February 14 with a 90 percent margin for reporting bias.
— Amanda Duberman (@AmandaDuberman) February 11, 2015
10 hour left for me to get a Valentine. I’m now standing on the street singing “Blank Space” at the top of my lungs. This has gotta work.
— Ali Spagnola (@alispagnola) February 13, 2015
Social Media Is Another Canvas for Millennial Artists
I was born at an interesting time because my generation has grown up right in the middle of the internet age. I remember learning how to use Internet Explorer on a bulky desktop computer in grade school, and by the time I finished high school classrooms were beginning to get iPad minis and 3D printers.
The internet has changed many aspects of our everyday lives. How we learn, how we communicate, how we access information, and the list goes on. I want to talk about how the internet has become a game changer in how we view art and other forms of media.
As a millennial artist, I have to be very familiar with the internet and social media. It’s my best option to launch my artistic career, and every young aspiring artist has already realized this.
That’s why teen musicians upload their music to Youtube or Soundcloud, teen filmmakers put their work on Vimeo, and teen artists are all over Tumblr and Instagram. It’s not an uncommon thing for young artists to already have an online portfolio, personal website, or run multiple social media accounts.
Social media provides multiple user friendly platforms for millennial artists to promote themselves: on Facebook I can share my art updates with friends and family, on Twitter I can share links in a witty tweet about my work and hope it goes viral, on Instagram I can post pictures from my studio and get new fans each day. It’s incredibly easy to put work on the internet and the feedback is instant.
The likes and comments start to flood in only seconds after I post a photo and by the next day almost everyone in my network range has seen my latest post, and if I use multiple hashtags then I can reach even more viewers outside my network. It’s easy and efficient, but with a large portion of the art world now digital, there are new distractions for young artists that didn’t exist before.
Because the feedback is instant, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers and the hype. I know very well that there are young artists who fall under this trap. It’s not uncommon for people to experience a kind of buzz from the number of likes they can generate on social media the very same way a smoker gets a buzz from tobacco. That’s why social media can become so addicting.
In this day and age numbers matter more than they actually should. How many followers do I have? How many likes did I get? How many comments do I have on my latest status update? How much hype can I generate?
Eventually “look at what I just made” turns into “how many likes can this get?”
Hype builds ego. It’s the same reason why music artists that were once good at the beginning of their career start to make formulaic radio hit singles just to stay in the spotlight. The fame and hype reaches their head, and suddenly it’s no longer about their art. Some artists lose their concentration with this distraction and will cut corners just to please their audience before they’ve even come close to mastering their craft or reaching their full potential. There’s a certain kind of danger that exists when you start to put your happiness and satisfaction in the hands of others.
That’s also why I’ve personally decided to cut back on my social media use. I deleted my Twitter and Instagram account and temporarily unpublished my personal website and online portfolio. My logic was that I don’t want the hype and numbers to distract me while I’m still developing my craft. I want to be a master in my field, so I don’t have time to get caught up in a distraction that shouldn’t exist. I want to be a great artist someday, and that won’t happen if I become satisfied by likes and nice comments from being a “good” artist.
Social media is every young artist’s best friend and worse enemy. It’s hard to escape the distractions of the internet because it’s also the best place to start our artistic careers. Social media is just another canvas for millennial artists, and how we paint our online presence and usage is another art form in and of itself.
2015 Will Be the Year of the Services Marketplace, But Only if the Price is Right
“Everything in our lives is going to be available in the push of a button.“- @Shervin
The service economy is going through uberification. Service marketplaces are aggregating consumer demand through mobile apps (and some websites) and fulfilling that demand through offline services. This phenomenon has left little in the services sector untouched. All of the industries below are booming with upstarts looking to be the next “Uber for X.”
Transportation: black cars, rideshares, buses, parking, private jets, bikes and rental cars
Home Services: veterinarians, cleaners, baby sitters, handymen, movers, auto mechanics, locksmiths, laundry, errands, dog walkers
Delivery & Logistics: package delivery, messengers
Hospitality: hotel rooms, bed and breakfasts, and quiet spaces
Food & Beverage: groceries, fast food, and booze
Dining & Drinks: reservations, payments
Health & Beauty: massages, beauty services
Goods & Services: creative goods and creative services
At the top of the ladder, 2015 is shaping up to be the year for service marketplace platforms as speculation intensifies around IPOs for Uber and Airbnb indicating that the so-called sharing economy is about to go mainstream. The halo effect of these IPOs will surely impact the future of the platforms listed above.
A potential pitfall for many of these platforms will be their pricing strategies. Pricing strategy is especially important for marketplaces, as pricing doesn’t just effect revenue, but also the incentive structure for their ecosystems. Because these marketplaces need significant liquidity to succeed, small changes in pricing structure can have enormous impact on growth and profitability for these businesses. Over the last year, we’ve seen platforms that have set up the right pricing structure for their marketplaces pull ahead of those who haven’t.
Two Types of Marketplaces
Marketplaces can be categorized as providing commoditized or un-commoditized services. The difference on this spectrum revolves around the degree to which the product or service can be standardized.
For example, Uber provides a commoditized service because the passenger doesn’t care about much besides getting from point A to B in the car they selected. Therefore, they should be setting the price on behalf of their producers. However, Airbnb provides an un-commoditized service because its renters potentially care about location, number of bedrooms, WiFi, pool, pet policy, etc. The more factors that influence a purchasing decision, the less commoditized the service offering will be and the more likely producers should set their own prices for their services.
With all the investment in and press coverage of these service marketplaces, we decided to take a closer look to see which ones could have trouble growing due to a misalignment between pricing and the degree of standardization.
Commoditized service providers should set the prices for their users.
Un-commoditized service providers should allow their producers to set prices.
Commoditized service platforms that aren’t price setters
Commoditized service platforms try to set their own prices so they can provide more value to consumers by setting standards for pricing. Here are a few which may want to reevaluate if they should control prices given the ecosystem they are playing in.
TaskRabbit is in the on-demand home services market and competes with the likes of Handy and Homejoy. They have been around for longer and, as a result, we assume their legacy has been preventing them from adopting a true commoditized positioning. Instead of standardizing price for home cleaning, they give you low, medium and high options. Instead of making it easy for the consumer to know they are getting a quality service by standardizing cost & quality, they leave it up to the consumer to choose if they are getting the right deal amongst their three different options.
If you’re looking for a parking space, ParkMe and SpotHero provide a marketplace to rent one from owners with spare inventory. Owners are able to set their own prices, but the following scenario shows why this strategy is ill-advised. Imagine yourself searching for a parking space and one spot is $10/day whereas the one next to it is $20/day. The $10/day option is obviously a no brainer, which creates a disequilibrium in the ecosystem since the platform isn’t able to optimize for supply and demand.
Finding a parking spot is a commoditized service. There are a limited number of variables to find the right place to park your car. Is it close to me, in a garage vs. on the street, valet or not, etc. Outside of these variables, price is the only other primary determining factor. For the parking platform that can figure out how to bring a level of standardization into the industry, huge success awaits them. The challenge is that there is an existing industry with existing prices and a lack of transparency. When a platform can assert itself as the technology middleman, it should be able to standardize pricing and ensure efficiency in the market.
Instacart is a grocery delivery service that formerly charged a markup on supermarket prices plus a delivery fee. This model was unsustainable and forced them to recently change their business model. Now, they want supermarkets to pay a fee to be a part of their ecosystem. What Instacart recently realized is that grocery shopping and delivery is a commoditized service.
Their former hybrid pricing strategy lacked transparency because there was no information on how the markup was calculated or what its true dollar amount was. This recent reset of their pricing strategy is a step in the right direction because it standardized prices. By subsidizing buyer participation one can expect more buyers to join their ecosystem, which will in turn increase supermarket participation.
Postmates is a delivery service with couriers who buy what you request at any store or restaurant and deliver it to you. They have a different pricing model where delivery fees start at $5 and are determined by the distance from pick-up to drop-off, and the capacity of the platform (surge pricing). Additionally, a 9% service fee is applied to the purchase price of items. While Postmates was more transparent about its pricing from the start compared to Instacart, the grocery delivery platform may soon have an advantage because of its ability to eliminate fees that users still have to absorb when using Postmates.
Price automation in an un-commoditized setting
On the other hand, what happens when an un-commoditized marketplace is a price setter?
YourMechanic is a platform that connects car owners with mechanics. Car owners enter information about their car’s problems and the platform finds them help. Based on the information entered, YourMechanic automates a price. This price is guaranteed even if fixing the problem takes longer than calculated. This practice can upset producers who feel the platforms aren’t pricing their service appropriately since there can be a high degree of customization involved. Price rigidity and the potential for customization in an un-commoditized setting don’t go well together.
For the Winners, the Price is Right
Throughout the services sector, the marketplaces that have correctly aligned their pricing structure with the kinds of services they offer have consistently pulled ahead of those who haven’t. The major winners like Airbnb and Uber have gotten it right, as has more recent up-and-comer Handy. Meanwhile, many potential “Uber for X” companies have simply tried to copy the on-demand nature of Uber without understanding how the business model works. These companies aren’t likely to get very far, while their more astute competitors are poised to have a big 2015.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and if you have any other examples.
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US President Barack Obama has urged technology companies to give the government greater help to improve cyber security.
Modern Love: Swipe Right or Left
My parents met on the side of a small town road in the summer of 1975. My mom’s car broke down and my dad stopped to help. They started talking and that was it. A year later they got married, and this July they will celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary.
Isn’t that the sweetest story? It’s so sweet it gives me diabetes. Basically, my parents owe their marriage to a 1968 Ford Galaxy overheating on a hot day.
Do I want this magical story for myself? Sure, but it’s not likely.
I guess what I am trying to say is that’s not really how things work anymore; in fact, I think that’s actually how horror movies start. It seems that these days, it’s all on social media. I recently went to a friend’s wedding who met her husband on Twitter. Before they met, I literally remember asking her something like, “Who is this (name redacted) weirdo that keeps tweeting you?” Now they’re married and being all cute in California. Seriously?
Some research suggests that as many as one in three to one in five relationships are born online (FYI I don’t think Tinder was included in that research… just saying). Technology has given us a plethora of possibilities in the game of love. But the question is why do we keep losing that game? Allegedly more than half of marriages end in divorce, and as I creep into my late 20s and early 30s, the number of exes people have, even from just dating, is increasing at an alarming rate. Isn’t all that baggage exhausting?
“Our modern dating practices have evolved,” explains Alysha Trujillo, a love and relationship counselor based in Denver, Colorado. Trujillo has a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, but more importantly, she knows how the modern world dates. According to Trujillo, “We have become dependent on things being immediate and easy, and establishing a relationship is no exception.”
I asked Trujillo quite frankly if traditional marriage is even an option anymore, or are we doomed to a reality stuck in season one of Sex and The City? She’s optimistic, stating, “Building relationships is difficult, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”
So what is the problem? Why are so many of us horrible at dating? Why do some people have 10 plus exes? Why do some leap from relationship to relationship like it’s a game where everyone loses and we all catch Chlamydia?
OK, enough questions, let’s get some answers.
Trujillo explains, “A sustaining and fulfilling relationship starts with your own self awareness.” Before even jumping in the dating pool, Trujillo wants us to establish what we need, what we want, and to literally ask ourselves: what are you looking for? If that’s a love connection, then calm down and lower your expectations for yourself and your date. Then take your time.
Trujillo believes part of the problem lies with our modern tendencies, “If something doesn’t immediately tickle our fancy, we are on to the next bigger and better thing.” Real chemistry takes time and all the stalking on Facebook people do can sometimes ruin that. So perhaps next time you meet someone you like, maybe don’t peruse through all their photo albums, confirm that you’re cuter than their ex, and fantasize about your yearly trips to Belize.
Technology has greatly improved our options in love, but it comes at a cost, “The modern dating process doesn’t offer the time that could facilitate the growth of (the right) type of authentic connection.” Even though we move at super sonic speed, relationships can move at a glacial pace.
Overall, Trujillo’s advice on dating in a modern world is relatively simple: find out what you want, be yourself, and know that it’s not going to happen overnight.
Quirky Street Sign Warns Of Facebook Dangers
SAN FRANCISCO — Chronic speeding had been a persistent problem along a steep, busy street in a Bay Area city, until officials installed some unconventional safety signs that are getting attention and possibly, obedience.
The signs may help with another modern problem: habitual Facebook updating.
Since January, Hayward Boulevard in Hayward has boasted attention-grabbing signs urging pedestrians to ignore their smartphones for a minute while crossing the block, and telling drivers that speed limits are not optional.
One sign, designed by Frank Holland, the city community relations officer, tells pedestrians: “Heads up! Cross the street. Then update Facebook.”
Another tells drivers to stick to 35 mph because “it’s a speed limit not a suggestion.” It includes an image of 35 written on a sheet of paper slipping into what appears to be a suggestion box.
Holland told HuffPost that traditional signs weren’t discouraging drivers from gunning it on the hilly road.
“If you don’t take an unconventional approach, you run the risk of blending into the background the way everything official does,” Holland said. “If you just drive through any city, you’re bombard with messages. We had to find a way to break through.”
In all, there are seven new signs to supplement conventional signage about speed limits and other roadway hazards.
So far, anecdotal proof shows the signs are working, Holland said. The city hasn’t compiled accident or ticket data.
The concern is that any beneficial effect from the new signs will be lost as the novelty of their message wears away.
The only criticism Holland says he’s heard is that some people have called the signs “corny.”
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Apple Working On Electric Car: WSJ
By Abhirup Roy and Alexei Oreskovic
Feb 13 (Reuters) – Apple Inc has a secret lab working on the creation of an Apple-branded electric car, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.
The project has designed a vehicle that looks like a minivan, the newspaper quoted one person as saying. It would take years to finish the project, and it is not certain if Apple will eventually build a car, the Journal said. (http://on.wsj.com/1zBD9sL)
The news signals that Apple is sharply raising its ambitions for automotive technology, which has become a prime area of interest for Silicon Valley companies ranging from Google Inc to ride-sharing firm Uber to electric car-maker Tesla Motors Inc.
The connected car, or vehicles with a full range of Internet and software services beyond mere navigation and communications, is considered one of the ripest areas for expansion for technology companies.
Last March, Apple unveiled CarPlay, which lets drivers access contacts on their iPhones, make calls or listen to voicemails without taking their hands off the steering wheel.
Now, the head of Mercedes-Benz’s Silicon Valley research and development unit, Johann Jungwirth, has defected to Apple, according to a LinkedIn profile, which said his title was head of Mac Systems Engineering.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
The Financial Times reported earlier that Apple had created the secret lab and that Jungwirth had joined the new research team. (http://on.ft.com/1A4ELi5)
Two sources told Reuters that Apple has recently tried to recruit from the automotive industry in fields such as robotics.
The research lab was set up late last year, soon after Apple revealed its forthcoming smart watch and latest iPhones, the Financial Times said.
The Wall Street Journal said that the Apple project, code-named “Titan,” employed several hundred people working a few miles from Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California.
Apple executives have met with contract manufacturers including Magna Steyr, a unit of Magna International Inc . A Magna spokeswoman declined to comment.
Google is working on plans for a self-driving car, but that is not part of Apple’s plan, the Journal said.
Trying to design and build an actual car would mark a change for the iPhone maker, which researches and discards plenty of projects but has so far mainly stuck to its core expertise in mobile and electronic devices.
But it has been open about wanting to integrate its core iOS software into automobiles with CarPlay.
Along with HomeKit and HealthKit, the idea is to extend Apple’s software dominance into industries including home devices, healthcare, and automobiles. (Reporting by Abhirup Roy in Bengaluru and Alexei Oreskovic in San Francisco; Editing by Edwin Chan, Joyjeet Das, Christian Plumb, Peter Henderson and Lisa Shumaker)
Iowa Wants to Let You Carry Your Drivers License On Your Phone
There’s now a technology to replace almost everything in your wallet. Your cash, credit cards, and loyalty programs are all on their way to becoming obsolete. Money can now be sent via app, text, e-mail — it can even be sent via Snapchat. But you can’t leave your wallet home just yet. That’s because there is one item that remains largely unchanged: your drivers license.
If the Iowa Department of Motor Vehicles has its way, that may no longer be the case. According to an article in Des Moines Register, the agency is in the early stages of developing mobile software for just this purpose. The app would store a resident’s personal information, whatever is already on the physical licenses, and also include a scannable bar code. The plans are for the app to include a two-step verification process including some type of biometric or pin code. At this time, it appears that specific implementation details are still being worked out.
The governments of United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates had both previously announced their own attempts to experiment with the concept. It’s becoming increasingly common to see mobile versions of other documents. Over 30 states now allow motorists to show electronic proof of insurance. It only follows that the drivers license would be next. But the considerations around that document are different — it is perhaps the most regulated and important document that a person carries.
At first thought, the idea seems rife with potential security and privacy issues. It is well known at this point that nothing is unhackable; and if a project is made on a government contracting schedule, the likelihood of a breach is only greater. There’s already a contentious legal debate regarding law enforcements’ abilities to search your devices. Everywhere there is growing concern about what else apps, once installed, can be used to collect or carry out in the future.
Questions of security, however, must take into account context, and there, it can be argued that our current regimes of physical documents have been an enormous failure. Having every state choose their own approach for issuing IDs has led to patchwork regulations and glaring weak points in the system that criminals have repeatedly taken advantage of. Drivers licenses today are regularly forged, stolen, and compromised — it’s far from a secure situation.
There have been major advancements in the technologies that are readily available to consumers. New phones now come standard with features like Near Field Communication (for systems like Apple Pay and Google Wallet), and increasingly, biometric scanners (to use your face or fingerprint to unlock your home screen). In combination with existing practices like using end-to-end encryption, smart cards, and PIN codes, a technological solution may be feasible, theoretically. How these systems perform in real world conditions, on this scale, remains to be seen.
Chris Wiesinger, President of Trace Intercept, a consultancy focused on issues related to digital identity, sees the upside to adopting new technologies as far greater than the potential risks. Wiesinger argues that we are “awash in a world of credentials.” It’s become far too much for individuals to properly manage. He explains that with the inclusion of systems like Apple’s Touch ID, there is a unique opportunity to leverage a new security infrastructure, “I believe all the technologies to make this a high-security operation are already in play, and just need to be orchestrated effectively.”
Having viable digital counterparts to the physical documents and cards we use will allow us to lessen the severity of issues like fraud. But Wiesinger believes that the larger issue that needs to be addressed is the way we approach identity as a whole. What he is advocating for is a larger change in empowering individuals to gain agency over what personal information and attributes are shared, and in what context. Digital drivers licenses, as well as all the other credentials, could play an important role in making this ecosystem possible.
In Iowa, the success of their pilot study will likely depend more on issues of policy and execution than technological performance. Current plans allow for digital drivers licenses to be used at airports — it would be wise to restrict security-related use cases till the implementation is much farther along. The state should work with the private sector to start by letting residents use their digital licenses for low-level transactions like verifying age with alcohol and checking into a hotel. It is still too soon to allow a digital license the same authority as the physical one. Although, that day may come down the line.
Some have argued that this discussion will soon become irrelevant because of the amount that is already known about us. When our objects, devices, and institutions know not just who we are, but extremely specific details of our behaviors, the function of a legal identification document becomes unnecessary. It’s true that we are quickly losing our ability to choose when and by whom we are identified.
Despite that, it is unlikely that we will ever see physical documents completely replaced. Throughout history identification documents have been used to signify recognition. A paper document is proof of your existence in the world, it’s an acknowledgement by the government that you have legal rights. There are few forms of control as powerful as the ability to issue or confiscate someone’s identification paperwork. For that reason, don’t expect physical documents to ever go away — their symbolic value will exist long past their day-to-day utility.
This article originally appeared on Forbes — Disruption and Democracy.
Check out my upcoming book, Identified: How They Are Getting To Know Everything About Us.
The Coolest Astronaut In The Galaxy Talks Sade, 'Star Trek' And Why Struggling Is Key To Success
Leland Melvin was propelled by many a rocket during his time as a NASA astronaut, but just two weeks ago the 50-year-old was launched to viral stardom by a single tweet.
While researching the Challenger explosion, reporter Adam Aton came across Melvin’s official NASA portrait from 2009. Within hours, Melvin’s self-described “big cheeseburger smile” — and his two rescue dogs that he snuck into the photo — were a big hit on the web.
This is an official portrait for astronaut Leland Melvin. Also, his handle is @Astro_Flow. I’m in awe. pic.twitter.com/KHWVo94mZO
— Adam Aton (@AdamAton) January 28, 2015
“When you take your picture, you take your family,” Melvin told The Huffington Post. “But I wasn’t married and my family was all in Virginia, so I thought, ‘Why don’t I take my boys?’”
Melvin has since hung up his spacesuit, having retired from NASA exactly one year ago. Now, he hosts the Lifetime competition “Child Genius,” which is wrapping its first season. Melvin took some time to talk to The Huffington Post about having grit, the power of reinvention and the best music to jam to during an international space smorgasbord.
On Balancing Science And Art
“My mom gave me a chemistry set —one of these age-inappropriate non-OSHA certified things — when I was six or seven,” Melvin said. “I blew up her carpet and got a spanking, but that was something that really activated my brain to say ‘Hey, this science thing is cool.’”
As an educator, Melvin preaches STEAM — which doesn’t have anything to do with blowing things up.
“I focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and math,” Melvin said. “Arts has to be in there. When you think about arts and culture, that’s the thread that connects us all on the planet.”
On Embracing Failure As A Stepping Stone To Success
Drafted in 1986 by the Dallas Cowboys, Melvin had dreams of a football career. But a hamstring injury during practice dashed his hopes for good, and he continued with his education until he landed at NASA.
After years of intensive training, Melvin suffered another injury that once again threatened to end his career. At NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, a giant pool used to train astronauts for spacewalking, a technician forgot to include a pad in Melvin’s helmet that would allow him to clear his ears as he was submerged.
“When I came out of the water, I was completely deaf,” Melvin said. “Blood was coming out of one ear, the doctor was talking to me and I couldn’t hear anything.”
After surgery and a three-week hospital stay, his hearing began to return — but he was told he’d never fly in space.
Rather than quit NASA, Melvin went to Washington, D.C. to work in the administration’s education programs.
“That’s when we lost the space shuttle Columbia and all my friends,” Melvin said, his voice breaking as he spoke about the 2003 disaster, in which the shuttle was destroyed during re-entry after a 16-day space mission. “As we went around the country for the different memorial services, the chief flight surgeon said ‘I’m watching you clear your ears and I see the good work you’re doing for this country trying to inspire kids and teachers.’”
The surgeon signed a waiver for Melvin to fly in space.
“You have to have grit,” Melvin said. “What was that thing that got you over the edge? Grit comes from failure.”
On Erasing Boundaries In Space
During a 2008 mission to the International Space Station, Melvin said the lead commander invited his team to a meal: “‘You bring the rehydrated vegetables, we have the meat.’”
“We’re having this meal, we’re floating food to each other’s mouths and listening to Sade on the computer — I think ‘Smooth Operator‘ is playing,” Melvin said.
“Then I looked back on the planet from the space station — there are no borders. It’s one blue marble spinning below you. And here I am working with people from around the world we used to fight against: the Russians, the Germans. We were breaking bread and working in harmony at 17,500 miles per hour. If you had more people able to see this vantage point, it would shift and maybe make you want to do more good to save our civilization.”
On How ‘Star Trek’ Inspired Him
Space has always been ahead of the curve, even in pop culture, Melvin said. He cites ‘60s-era “Star Trek” for its diverse cast and depictions of interracial (and even interspecies) romance.
“[Star Trek creator] Gene Roddenberry was trying to show a future of people living and working together, trying to show a future for the universe,” Melvin said. “I remember when Nichelle Nichols, who was playing Lt. Uhura, said she was going to quit ‘Star Trek.’ She was in a hotel in Georgia and met Dr. Martin Luther King and he told her she cannot quit. She was portraying a leader, an African-American woman on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. He saw her as one of the she-roes of the time.”
On The Power Of Reinvention
“My dad was a science teacher. He played in a band for extra money,” Melvin said. “When I was six or seven he brought a bread truck home and said ‘This is our camper.’ I said ‘No, that’s a bread truck.’
“Over the summer, he worked to convert it into an RV for camping, because as teachers, it’s the cheapest way to take a vacation,” Melvin said. “I learned to be an engineer over that summer.
“That Marita Bread truck became our camper because my dad had the vision to take a $500 bread truck and take us around the country. You can have a vision for something even if other people can’t see it. You just have to actualize it.”
Is the Road to Solar a Solar Road?
By Don Willlmott
If solar power is ever to truly hit the mainstream, we’re going to need a lot more solar panels in a lot more places. Roofs alone won’t do the trick. That’s why the environmental blogs lit up a few months ago with the news that a bike path capable of generating solar energy opened in the Netherlands. Solar bike paths? Solar roads? Sounds great; let’s do it! The only thing getting in the way is some very daunting math.
The world’s first solar road–all 230 feet of it–is in Krommenie, a town outside Amsterdam. A joint project of private investors, the government, and the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, the SolaRoad consists of concrete modules measuring 2.5 by 3.5 meters. Solar cells are embedded in the concrete below a one-centimeter layer of tempered glass on one side of the road. Its creators hope that one day, the solar power the road generates can be used for things like street lighting, traffic control, or even electric cars. Right now it only generates enough power to light up about three Dutch homes.
Construction of the world’s first solar road in Krommenie, outside Amsterdam
Although it has a glass surface, the designers have given it some friction so its 2,000 daily riders don’t slip. The bigger design issue is that the road can’t face the sun head-on, so its energy-collection capabilities aren’t optimized. The good news is that a solar road doesn’t have to eat up additional land and can run right through the middle of densely populated areas.
How much did this small-scale experiment cost? Would you believe $3.7 million? That’s a little more than $16,000 per foot for those of you keeping score at home. At that price, a solar bike path running the entire 13-mile length of Manhattan would cost about $1.1 billion, making it cost-prohibitive, to say the least.
Artist’s rendition of a solar road in Sandpoint, Idaho
Still, future costs are sure to trend downward as others innovators push the technology forward. One example is Idaho-based Solar Roadways, which launched a successful Indiegogo campaign last year to fund its vision of replacing asphalt and concrete surfaces with solar panels you can drive on–compete with LEDs to “paint” lines and heating elements to melt snow and ice in northern climates. The company has also received two rounds of funding from the Federal Highway Administration.
The folks at Solar Roadways contend that if every road in the United States were solar, we’d cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent. This may be a road worth traveling.
Don Willmott is a New York-based journalist who writes about technology, travel, and the environment for a wide variety of publications and websites.
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Weekend Roundup: Merkel in the Middle as Post-Cold War Europe Falters
The whole idea of European integration was to anchor Germany in Europe to avoid another world war and to spread prosperity across the continent with a single market and common currency. Russia agreed to German unification after the Cold War in exchange for the West not absorbing Europe’s eastern frontier into its sphere of influence.
Now democratically elected governments in Athens and Kiev — and the responses in Berlin and Moscow — are challenging both post-Cold War arrangements. Angela Merkel, as chancellor of Europe’s unrivaled power, has become, for better and worse, the crisis manager in the middle.
In an interview, European statesman Carl Bildt says Merkel is best to deal with Putin, but Ukraine is a free country that should decide its own status. Writing from Moscow, Ivan Sukhov places the West’s betrayal of its promises to Russia at the heart of the crisis. Nina L. Khrushcheva argues that Putin holds the upper hand with the ready military capacity to keep the West guessing what he’ll do next. Writing from Vladivostok, analyst Artyom Lukin expresses the worldview held by many in Russia and China that the West is seeking to subvert its governments through civil society organizations seeking to foment “democratic revolutions.”
Gianna Angelopoulos pleads for the rest of Europe to give Athens some breathing space, writing, “all we are saying, is give Greece a chance.” Phil Angelides calls on Europe to take Obama’s advice on Greece and fashion a policy of growth instead of austerity. Writing from Paris, European parliamentarian Sylvie Goulard scores Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ call for WWII reparations from Germany as a “truly bad” idea that strikes at the very foundation of the European Union. To round out the European political landscape, The WorldPost offers a useful field guide to the rising far-right parties that are emerging across the continent as European unity cracks.
In light of its February anniversary, Mahmood Delkhasteh remembers the democratic sentiments of the “Iranian Spring” in 1979 as the Shah was overthrown — but before the ayatollahs took over.
As Jordanian jets pound ISIS positions in Syria, Prince Hassan writes from Amman that promoting human solidarity is a better strategy than seeking revenge. Writing from Beirut, former MI6 agent Alastair Crooke says that the aim of the brutal immolation of the Jordanian pilot was to light the fuse of polarization in the pro-American kingdom that has a peace treaty with Israel. Pakistani activist Farheen Rizvi laments the waning enthusiasm for fighting jihadis in her own country. In a joint appeal, Felix Marquardt, Anwar Ibrahim, Tariq Ramadan and Ghaleb Bencheikh call on “Muslim democrats” around the world to unite.
WorldPost Middle East Correspondent Sophia Jones reports from Istanbul on the worldwide social media outrage over what appears to be a hate crime against Muslims in North Carolina.
As Boko Haram launches its first attack in another African country — Chad — and a Nigerian archbishop warns of the threat the group poses to the continent, this week’s “Forgotten Fact” turns to Nigeria and asks whether the upcoming elections could deepen that country’s divisions.
Turning toward the future, our Singularity University series this week chronicles how transformative technologies are arriving sooner than we could have imagined and also looks at the future of crime. In advance of the WorldPost conference on the future of work in London on March 5 and 6, author Nicholas Carr wonders whether we might be too quick to surrender meaningful work to robots. Fusion this week takes us on a tour of “the coolest cloning lab” in Argentina, which reproduces competitive polo ponies. It also examines <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/13/brain-on-love_n_6680486.html?1423859778" target="_h