December 16, 2014

KENYA: People will receive from now their electricity bills via SMS and email

Kenya Power, one of companies which operate in the electricity transmission and distribution system in the country will begin to send bills via emails and SMS to its customers. [via MedAfrica]

quotemarksright.jpgAccording to Ben Chumo, Kenya Power acting managing director of the company will save more than US$ 9.3 million every year with the new system.

The company said that the new system will also send alerts to customers on news, products, notify customers who are disconnected for non-payment of bills a day before and updating applicants for new power connections.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 3:54 PM | Mobile Payments | permalink

The Rise of a New Smartphone Giant: China’s Xiaomi

images.jpg In China, the smartphone battle used to be Samsung versus Apple. But not anymore. The New York Times reports.

quotemarksright.jpgOver the summer, a Chinese company, Xiaomi, took the No. 1 position in China’s competitive market and became the world’s third-largest phone maker in the process.

Founded in 2010 as a lean start-up to sell smartly designed phones at cheap prices over the Internet, Xiaomi was decidedly late to the game. Its first handset came out around the time of the iPhone 4S.

But a clever social media strategy and a business plan that emphasized selling services that work on the phone helped Xiaomi build frenzied support from young and trendy Chinese.

With people in China expected to buy 500 million smartphones in 2015 — more than three times as many as will be sold in the United States, according to the research firm IDC — Xiaomi is poised to cement its place as one of the most powerful phone makers in the world’s most important market.

Now the company’s founders, who include the Chinese entrepreneur Lei Jun and the former Google executive Lin Bin, hope that status will help them take their brand globally.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 8:15 AM | News, Buzz | permalink

December 11, 2014

Text alerts 'help prompt people to take their pills'

A text messaging service could help people remember to take the medicines they have been prescribed," BBC News reports, after a small trial scheme in London helped increase drug adherence in people with cardiovascular disease. [via NHS]

quotemarksright.jpgLack of adherence – not sticking to a recommended treatment plan – is a known problem in some people with chronic diseases, such as heart disease.

The BBC reports up to half a billion pounds a year is wasted as a result of people not taking medication and resulting complications that could have been avoided.

The study recruited 303 adults who were taking blood pressure tablets such as Perindopril, or pills to lower their cholesterol (statins).

Half the participants received text messages over a six-month study period and the other half did not – more people in the text group took their medication as prescribed compared with the "no text" group (91% versus 75%).

The main difference between the groups appeared to be related to people being telephoned by a healthcare professional if they did not respond to the text, or if they replied they had stopped taking their medication.

This telephone call resolved medication issues in almost all cases. In contrast, it does not appear any such measures were in place for the other group.

Text messages could be a cost-effective method of improving adherence and could potentially be used for other chronic conditions.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Full article.

December 8, 2014

Text messaging turns 20

imgres.jpg Neil Papworth, a software programmer from Reading, sent an early festive greeting to a mate on December 3, 1992. The Guardian reports.

quotemarksright.jpgAs text messaging turned 20 last week More than 8 trillion were sent last year. Around 15 million leave our mobile screens every minute. There is now text poetry, text adverts and text prayers and an entire generation that's SMS savvy.

Aged 22, Papworth was part of a team developing a Short Messaging Service Centre at Vodafone's site in Newbury, Berkshire. The idea was to use text as an in-company paging service: "We thought SMS was a clever way for a company's staff to send simple messages to one another."

It took seven years from Papworth's festive greeting for texting to become popular, let alone spawn that whole new style of linguistics from LOL to L8TR and other trunc8ed spellings and acronyms that have become universally understood. UK mobile phone companies believed people wouldn't want to type in a message when they could simply speak.

SMS took off. According to a survey by mobile communication firm Acision, it is still the most popular way to message despite competition from email and social networking messaging services with 92% of smartphone users still preferring to text.

... From his new home in Canada, where he works as a software architect for Tekelec, Papworth yesterday sent the Observer a message: "IMHO, SMS is still the GR8ST :-)"quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

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December 2, 2014

Unplugged Weddings Are The Latest Craze


Over the last year photographers, wedding planners, and even the couples themselves, are planning unplugged weddings in which guests are asked to refrain from recording devices, especially during the actual ceremony.

quotemarksright.jpgCamera phones at weddings are a huge problem for photographers,” Minneapolis-based photographer Liz Banfield tells Yahoo Style. “Not only do these guests get in the way but they also can ruin the background of a photo. Literally every aisle shot I have from the last few years has someone holding out a phone into the aisle.quotesmarksleft.jpg

[via Yahoo! Style]

emily | 8:12 AM | News, Buzz | permalink

November 27, 2014

Yes, There is such a Thing as Smartphone Junkies

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 18.03.39.png

Ultra-wired South Korea takes smartphone addiction more seriously than any other country. Should we listen? A fascinating read by Elizabeth Woyke for Medium. Wokye is also author of The Smartphone, a new book about the smartphone industry.

quotemarksright.jpg... Though the psychiatric establishment has been slow to add technological addictions to its repertoire of diagnoses, a growing band of clinicians in South Korea is finding evidence in favor of them.

Currently, Korean clinicians define smartphone addiction as excessive use that hinders users’ daily lives and triggers symptoms of craving, mood modification and withdrawal.

In one recent study, Korean psychiatrist and addiction specialist Sam-Wook Choi, and several colleagues wrote that smartphone addiction, like other impulse-control disorders, can “interfere with school or work; decrease real-life social interaction; decrease academic ability; and cause relationship problems.”

Because smartphones are portable and easy to conceal, identifying overuse is more difficult than with PC-based online gaming. As a result, researchers feel some urgency to better characterize this condition.

Smartphone addicts tend to use their phones in a distinctive way. Problematic smartphone usage stems more from how and why people use their phones. For example, a recent study by Lee, the KAIST professor, found that people who turn to their smartphones for “mood adjustment purposes,” such as to relieve boredom, stress or depression, may form a habit of using their phones for those objectives, which can lead to addictive behaviors.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

November 24, 2014

The endangered SIM card

Moves to reinvent, or even abolish, the SIM card could have big consequences. The Economist reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe job of the SIM (subscriber identity module) is to store some unique numbers and an encryption key, which are used to identify the subscriber when the device is communicating with the network.

For as long as wireless networks carried mostly voice calls, SIMs worked well. Their chips are hard to hack: prying them open to get at the stored information can make them self-destruct. Since only mobile operators were allowed to issue SIMs, and were given much leeway over the terms on which they did so, they were able to create monthly payment schemes which subsidised the upfront cost of a handset. This helped mobile telephony to get going, and thereafter provided a mechanism for persuading consumers to keep on trading their old phones for ever more sophisticated new ones.

However, now that most mobile devices can connect through Wi-Fi, their SIM cards no longer seem quite so indispensable. Most tablets, even those with SIM card slots, are not bought from a mobile operator; and the cost and hassle of signing up for a SIM card, so as to use the device when there is no Wi-Fi available, is too much for many buyers.

So, Apple’s new SIMs are meant to make it easier to sign up for a mobile operator—and to encourage people to choose the pricier iPad models that contain them.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article

emily | 5:02 PM | Mobile Payments | permalink

November 19, 2014

What texting does to the spine


Sixty pounds is roughly the weight of four adult-sized bowling balls. Or six plastic grocery bags worth of food. Or an 8-year-old. [via Quartz]

quotemarksright.jpgIt is also, according to a new calculation published in the journal Surgical Technology International, the amount of force exerted on the head of an adult human who is looking down at her phone.

According to Nielsen, Americans spend about an hour on their smartphones each day. Unless you train yourself to stare straight ahead into your iPhone screen, you could be continually stressing your spine. For Kenneth Hansraj, a New York back surgeon, “these stresses lead to early wear, tear, degeneration, and possibly surgeries.”

Of course, physical therapists have been howling about the scourge of “Text Neck” for years. But it’s certainly eyebrow-raising to learn that looking at Twitter in the supermarket checkout line is the equivalent of giving an aardvark a piggy-back ride.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

Snapchat launches Snapcash money transfer service

Ephemeral messaging service Snapchat has teamed up with payment processing company Square to launch a new money transfer service called Snapcash, that allows users to send and receive money directly from the app. The Telegraph reports.

quotemarksright.jpgSquare already offers a payment app called Square Cash, which allows users to type a dollar amount into the subject line of an email in order to send cash to friends.

Snapcash builds on this by allowing Snapchat users to type the dollar amount into a private message and transfer the money into the recipient's pre-registered account with the touch of a button.

The service is currently limited to Snapchat users in the United States who have a debit card and are 18 or older. However, it is possible the company will roll it out on a wider scale if it proves to be successful.

Snapchat emphasised that no personal financial data will be stored on Snapchat's servers. Square will be responsible for storing all user bank and debit card information, and for handling transactions.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 8:38 AM | Mobile Payments | permalink

November 18, 2014

U.S. Mobile Payments Market to Boom by 2019, Research Firm Says

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 09.08.42.png Mobile-based payments in the United States are expected to reach $142 billion in volume in 2019, according to a report Forrester, from about $50 billion currently. The New York Times reports.

quotemarksright.jpgIn the study, which released on Monday morning, the firm spoke to a dozen payments industry companies, including PayPal, Verifone and Visa. They indicated that the shift to mobile commerce was growing quickly.

Companies like Google, PayPal and AT&T have tried for years to create their versions of a mobile wallet, but they have not gotten much traction. Forrester claims that the market has matured over the last five years, and it expects that the next five will be the tipping point bringing mobile payments into the mainstream.

“It’s not just that we have smartphones. It’s that we’re increasingly dependent or rely on or expect them to deliver more,” said Denée Carrington, a Forrester analyst.

Ms. Carrington expects that Apple Pay, the first major e-commerce product from the tech giant Apple, will accelerate much of the growth of in-person mobile payments at the register.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article

November 14, 2014

Report: Feds Using Airplanes to Target Criminal Suspects’ Cell-Phone Data

The Justice Department is using equipment on board aircraft that simulates cell towers to collect data from criminal suspects’ cell phones, according to a report Thursday.[via TIME]

quotemarksright.jpgCiting “people familiar with the operations,” the Wall Street Journal reports that a program operating under the U.S. Marshals Service is said to use small aircraft flying from five different airports around the country. Devices aboard those planes called “dirtboxes” essentially trick the suspects’ cellphones into thinking they’re connecting to legitimate cell towers from big wireless carriers like Verizon or AT&T, allowing the feds to scoop up personal data and location information about those targeted.

However, the report details those devices could be gathering data from “tens of thousands” of Americans in a single flight, meaning nonsuspects are likely to be included in the data roundup. The new report could shed some light on earlier reports of mysterious “phony” cell towers that security researchers have found around the country.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 8:37 AM | News, Buzz | permalink

November 11, 2014

Reuters wants to convince young people to embrace TV news on their phones

screen-shot-2014-11-10-at-23-20-32.jpg Reuters TV, which the company showed off at an event in New York last night, is intended to be a new kind of TV news for a generation that largely gets its news elsewhere. Quartz reports.

quotemarksright.jpgReuters TV comes in the form of a smartphone or tablet app that will download a tailored video news bulletin at any time of day or night. The content will depend on what’s currently breaking, how long a bulletin you want—you can specify from five to 30 minutes—and your interests, which the app learns as you watch. (Reuters anticipates that people will set it to load up a bulletin before they leave home or work, and watch on the commute.)

It also includes live feeds from Reuters TV crews around the world; should you so desire, you can spend your entire day watching people lounge around their tents at Hong Kong’s Occupy Central.

All this is made possible by some in-house technology and a team of editors, who pull in reports from Reuters’ ma

ssive network of worldwide correspondents and re-edit them into packages of several different lengths. It is slick, well-made, and undeniably clever. Nobody else has built so comprehensive a hybrid between the old format of TV news with modern ways of consuming media.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

November 10, 2014

Mobile Data Collection Apps in Fight Against Ebola


Magpi, a leading provider of configurable, cloud-based mobile data collection and communication applications, today announced several government agencies and nonprofit organizations are already using its technology in the fight against Ebola.

The U.S. Department of Defense, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and International Rescue Committee (IRC) are among some of the organizations currently using Magpi in West Africa for contact tracing, identification of bodies, lab reporting, health supply tracking, and other purposes.

In addition, Magpi announced it has added photo collection to its technology. Users can now take photos along with form data in order to better collect and analyze information. The new feature will be used to take photos of unidentified Ebola victims at burial, in an effort to let their families locate them later.

“We’re incredibly pleased to be a part of such important work that is helping in the fight against this deadly disease,” said Dr. Joel Selanikio, CEO and co-founder of Magpi. “Using Magpi instead of paper forms will save critical time in gathering and analyzing data as we work to contain and eliminate Ebola as soon as possible.”

[via Press release] Follow Magpi on Twitter @Magpi_Mobile.

Image from US News article: 'Mobile Phones, Social Media Aiding Ebola Fight'.

November 1, 2014

Cell Phones, Social Media and Campaign 2014


Cell phones and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are playing an increasingly prominent role in how voters get political information and follow election news, according to a new national survey by the Pew Research Center.

quotemarksright.jpgAs smartphone ownership has increased dramatically in recent years, more and more Americans are using their mobile devices to keep tabs on political events.

Some 28% of registered voters have used their cell phone this year to keep up with news relating to the election or political events, which represents a two-fold increase compared with the most recent midterm election cycle. In a survey conducted at the end of the 2010 election campaign, just 13% of registered voters said that they had used their cell phones to keep up with election coverage.

40% of registered voters ages 30-49 have used their cell phones to track election coverage this year, up from just 15% who did so during the previous midterm campaign.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full press release.

emily | 8:55 AM | SMS and Politics | permalink

October 31, 2014

Text messaging project helps ease religious and tribal tensions in Kenya’s Tana Delta


A conflict is unfolding in Tana Delta, a remote region of eastern Kenya where two ethnic communities are trading in harmful rumors, misinformation and hate speech. [via Religion News]

quotemarksright.jpg... One false rumor claimed the Orma had been given 3,000 AK-47s to destroy the Pokomo. Another stated that a Pokomo health worker tried to inject Orma children with poison instead of vaccines.

Early this year, Christopher Tuckwood, The Sentinel Project’s executive director partnered with iHub Research, a Nairobi-based technology innovation hub, to launch “Una Hakika,” which means “Are You Sure?” in Swahili. In a region where cellphones are ubiquitous but connections to the Internet are scarce, the project uses toll-free text messaging to monitor such rumors and give community members neutral and accurate information.

Already, some people working on the project think it has wider potential to diffuse religious tensions among communities across the globe.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

October 28, 2014

A New Tool in Humanitarian Relief: Texting


Understanding how Ebola is affecting the food supply is far easier when a robot is running the survey. The Atlantic reports.

quotemarksright.jpgPandemics, like war, have a higher cost than their death toll. On top of the 5,000 lives that Ebola has claimed, there are other sorts of victims in the six West African countries the virus has reached. The emergency erodes trust and infrastructures, threatening local economics and livelihoods.

One infrastructure that’s relatively hard to take down with disease, though, is the cellular phone system. Now, researchers are using it to check on the well-being of people living among the Ebola pandemic.

A UN World Food Programme (WFP) survey earlier this month found that households in Kailahun and Kenema—two districts in eastern Sierra Leone badly affected by the Ebola outbreak—are using “severe food coping strategies.”

“This means people are struggling to meet their basic food needs,” said Jean-Martin Bauer, a food analyst with the WFP. These coping strategies can include skipping meals, reducing portion sizes, and eating less-preferred foods.

The results of the survey are key to understanding who needs support and when, but the methods are important too. The poll was conducted by SMS and “interactive voice” calls—that is, by texting or “robocalling” questions to people who live in the two districts. This automated technique keeps researchers safe, and allows for multiple rounds of surveys to be sent out automatically over time.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

October 27, 2014

The Red Cross Is Using Text Messaging To Take Down Ebola

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 16.19.01.png After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the Red Cross sent text messages across the country with health tips, locations of aid and safety reminders. A similar system is being used in Sierra Leone to combat Ebola. NPR reports.

quotemarksright.jpgIn an effort to contain Ebola, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC has teamed up with local cell-phone provider Airtel and the Sierra Leonean government to send health reminders via text message.

Since the Ebola outbreak began last April, the Trilogy Emergency Relief Application (TERA) system has sent out about two million text messages a month in Sierra Leone, reminding people to seek treatment early, avoid physical contact with others and not resist the efforts of community healthcare workers.

Texting isn't the only technology being used to combat Ebola. In West Africa, Twitter was abuzz with health tips and reassurance. Social media analytics firm Crimson Hexagon determined that since July, there have been 1.3 million tweets about Ebola coming out of Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the majority of them discussing treatment. For comparison, since September, 41 percent of tweets coming from the U.S. about Ebola discussed fear.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

October 24, 2014

Next-generation 911 will allow texting, with photos and videos to follow

images.jpg Emergency dispatch centers are gearing up to handle communications beyond simple phone calls. Known as next-generation 911, it will roll out in some places as early as next year and is expected to be widespread within about three years. [via Spokesman]

quotemarksright.jpgPeople will be able to text 911 directly, with more advanced interactions to follow. Before long a witness to an unfolding disaster or a crime in progress will be able to send live video of the scene to a dispatcher, who can patch that through to first responders, giving them a glimpse of what to expect.

... But before the local dispatch center can begin receiving texts, photos and video, Washington must upgrade the statewide 911 network, which routes calls to the appropriate jurisdiction, Mizell said. The state is getting ready to make those improvements now.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

Asian elephant SMS saving Indian live

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 08.42.02.png Biologist work to bring down the number of human deaths from encounters with Asian elephants through mobile phones. AlJazeera reports.

quotemarksright.jpgMobile phones are being increasingly used in one of India's southern states to reduce conflict between Asian elephants and the humans who live near their habitat.

Ananda Kumar of the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) is leading this technological revolution to bring down the number of human casualties from these encounters by sending out mass text alerts to those in the rural areas, where mobile phones are fairly common these days.

Human-animal conflict is a growing problem with rapid urbanisation and clearing of land. A recent report by the National Crime Records Bureau, between 2009-2011, almost 1,000 people were killed in the states of Assam, Maharashtra and Odisha, in confrontations with wild animals, especially elephants.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

October 21, 2014

How An Intelligent Text Message Service Aims To Tackle Ebola In Western Africa

Ebola text.png

A computer-controlled text message service could direct Ebola cases to appropriate medical facilities and track the spread of the disease in the process–provided it can raise the necessary funding. [MIT Technology Review]

quotemarksright.jpgBack in July, Cedric Moro started a crowdsourced mapping service to keep track of the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Moro is a risk consultant who has created several crowdsourced maps of this kind using the openStreetMap project Umap.

Anyone can enter information about suspected or confirmed Ebola cases while hospitals and other health facilities can tell people whether they are open and functioning and how many spare beds they have.

The site tracks other information to such as unsafe burials, hostility towards health workers and links to information about the disease. It even tracks the movement of infected individuals to see how the disease spreads.

Moro’s work has been hugely important in helping to link potential victims with appropriate healthcare facilities and giving a broader overview of the tragedy as it unfolds.

But it also has an important limitation. Anyone hoping to contribute must have access to a computer or smartphone to upload their information. That means the system is accessible only to a relatively small portion of the population.

Today, Mohamad Trad from Doctors Without Borders in Paris, France, and a couple of pals outline plans to build on Moro’s approach and make this kind of information available purely through ordinary mobile phones. “We propose building a recommendation system based on simple SMS text messaging to help Ebola patients readily find the closest health service with available and appropriate resources,” they say.

The system will be easy for locals to use. The idea is that they can report their symptoms via text to a toll-free number where the messages will be analysed by natural language processing algorithms to determine whether theirs is likely to be a case of Ebola. The system will take into account the spatial distribution of known Ebola cases to classify the disease as accurately as possible.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

Canada Wants to Jam Prison Cell Phones So Inmates Can't Run Drug Cartels

Prison_crowded.jpg Canada, like many countries, has a prison contraband problem. Its inmates are sneaking in cell phones at an increasing rate, so, to stop them from running crime rings from the inside, the country is thinking about using cell phone jammers in its correctional facilities.

quotemarksright.jpgDocuments obtained by Motherboard under the Access to Information Act suggest Correctional Service Canada looked into the use of cell phone jamming technologies in March 2012, after the agency reported over 200 illegal cell phones being confiscated from federal prisons in three years.

... With cell phones, and especially smartphones, Canadian inmates were being given "unfettered access to the internet and social media sites" that let them touch base with the online free world.

But potential jamming technologies would also raise some serious concerns on the outside.

Cell phone jammers can interrupt the communication of bees, could be powerful enough to disrupt nearby public services like police, firefighters, and ambulances, and could interfere "in national security investigations being carried out by the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police," the documents said.

Brazil tried and failed. Law enforcement agents couldn't jam the full cell phone spectrum in certain prisons and inmates found the "shadows" within cell coverage to continue their criminal activities from jail.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

October 16, 2014

BBC launches WhatsApp Ebola service


The BBC has launched an Ebola public health information service on WhatsApp, aimed at users of the service in West Africa. Te BBC reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe service will provide audio, text message alerts and images to help people get the latest public health information to combat the spread of Ebola in the region.

Content will be limited to three items a day, and the service will be in English and French.

To subscribe, send 'JOIN' via WhatsApp to +44 7702 348 651

To unsubscribe, send 'STOP' via WhatsApp to the same number.

As the biggest "chat app" in use in Africa, the platform is being used as a means of reaching people in the region directly through their mobile phones.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article. Photograph: Sylvain Cherkaoui/Cosmos for MSF published in The Guadian.

October 15, 2014

Ebola text-message system set to expand

_78209541_732a8d1a-6712-4c11-b084-8f23c374ca40.jpg The operators of a text-message-based system used to advise people about Ebola in Sierra Leone aim to extend it to seven other West African nations. The BBC reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe facility allows the Red Cross and Red Crescent charities to send SMS messages to every switched-on handset in a specific area by drawing its shape on a computer-generated map.

It also automatically sends back appropriate replies to incoming texts.

The charities say they hope to complete the expansion within nine months.

However, they will first require the co-operation of local mobile networks and authorities.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

October 14, 2014

SMS service could spot the next Ebola outbreak zone

An Australian doctor is raising funds to launch an SMS service in West Africa that sends people to the right medical facilities based on key words used, and crunches that data to look for the next outbreak spot. Wired reports.

quotemarksright.jpgMohamad-Ali Trad who has a masters in public health and tropical medicine and has worked with MSF in under-resourced areas and conflict zones -- and his friend Raja Jurdak, who works in the telecommunications sector, the initial idea was to use a similar system to reduce A&E waiting times in Australian hospitals. Patients text code words such as "fever" or "cough" to a specific number, and immediately get an SMS directing them to the most appropriate service.

It would save on the lengthy recorded messages many establishments in the NHS favour, but also ensure patients go where there is a doctor or a bed free. It's the secondary element of the system Trad is proposing, however, that is perhaps most interesting. This, he tells us, "records geographical patterns of those code words.

"For example, we will be able to tell how many fever 'code words' have been sent from a particular area, and hence this could act as a warning system for the nearby healthcare centres." This is relevant in any situation -- be it a local flu outbreak in the UK, or the start of the malaria season elsewhere.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

October 13, 2014

Photo-sharing app protects your pics from screenshots

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 14.26.05.pngA new photo-sharing app uses a common optical illusion to make your sent snaps a lot harder for the receiver to screenshot. C/net reports.

quotemarksright.jpgPopular photo sharing app Snapchat may notify you when the recipient of your image takes a screenshot -- but it doesn't actually make it harder to grab that screenshot in the first place.

New iOS app Yovo is looking to make a change in that direction. Created by privacy software company ContentGuard, it uses a novel solution to protect your snaps from screenshots: because it can't do anything about controlling user behaviour, it uses an optical illusion on the images themselves.

The illusion it uses is simple -- the Barrier Grid illusion. This is similar to what you might experience driving past a picket fence: as you speed past, your eyes tend to see the stationary scene behind the palings, rather than the palings themselves.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

October 12, 2014

New SMS service to provide deaf with roadside assistance

A new service launched this week by Nati Roadway Services in Israel aims to allow hard of hearing people the possibility of calling for help via SMS.

quotemarksright.jpgThe service, entitled SOS by SMS will allow the deaf and hard of hearing population in Israel roadside and towing assistance by allowing them to send an SMS from their cell phones to call for help. The service is available to the hard of hearing 24 hours a day and seven days a week at a cost of NIS 300 per year.quotesmarksleft.jpg

[via The Jerusalem Post]

October 11, 2014

CDC Tracks Ebola in West Africa With Cell Phone Location Data

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 13.21.24.png The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is tracking the approximate locations of cell phone users in West Africa who dial emergency call centers in an effort to predict the onset and spread of Ebola outbreaks. Mashable reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe data is just the number of calls by cell tower but from that you can get a rough idea of the area that the calls are coming in from, and then derive census, neighborhood data from that," CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund told Nextgov on Thursday.

It's one of the high-tech approaches the U.S. government is piloting to stop the spread of the disease.

There is deep cell phone penetration in many parts of West Africa, where land lines sometimes are nonexistent.

By collecting tower data from telecommunications providers, CDC officials can visualize the beginnings of an outbreak, explained Este Geraghty, chief medical officer at software mapping provider Esri. She's working with the agency on response efforts.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.


-- Commentary: Containing the Ebola Outbreak – the Potential and Challenge of Mobile Network Data - A Sept. 29 article in the online medical journal "PLOS Currents" outlined the potential of mobile network data to restrain Ebola.

October 10, 2014

Apple’s iPhone Encryption Is a Godsend, Even if Cops Hate It

Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 08.12.07.png The improved iPhone encryption built into iOS 8 ensures for the first time, that all the important data on your phone—photos, messages, contacts, reminders, call history—are encrypted by default. Nobody but you can access the iPhone’s contents, unless your passcode is compromised, something you can make nearly impossible by changing your settings to replace your four-digit PIN with an alphanumeric password. Wired reports.

quotemarksright.jpgRather than welcome this sea change, which makes consumers more secure, top law enforcement officials, including US Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI director James Comey, are leading a charge to maintain the insecure status quo.

They warn that without the ability to crack the security on seized smartphones, police will be hamstrung in critical investigations. John Escalante, chief of detectives for Chicago’s police department, predicts the iPhone will become “the phone of choice for the pedophile.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

October 7, 2014

BulkSMS aids the Treevolution

treevolution.jpg An example today of how text messaging helps a community communicate directly and efficiently.

Greenpop is a social business that plants indigenous and fruit trees in schools and community centres and organises reforestation projects in deforested areas.

With over 400 beneficiaries, 100 VIP’s and loads of volunteers in Cape Town and Zambia, Greenpop needs to communicate with them as well as the beneficiaries of previous tree-planting excursions.

A challenge Greenpop faces is being able to send reminders and workshop invitations to people that live in rural areas that lack internet access. And because the majority of people do own cellphones, members, teachers, activists and volunteers can be informed thanks to a text messaging service provided by BulkSMS.

Greenpop has had great success in rallying local support to their projects in Zambia and they are relying on BulkSMS to keep their beneficiaries inspired, interested and engaged with their work.

Read more.

October 6, 2014

Hundreds Of Devices Hidden Inside New York City Phone Booths


According to Buzzfeed, tiny radio transmitters known as 'beacons' — devices that can be used to track people's movements — have been installed in hundreds of pay phone booths across Manhattan.

quotemarksright.jpgTitan, the outdoor media company that sells ad space in more than 5,000 panels in phone kiosks around the five boroughs, has installed about 500 of the beacons, a spokesman for the city's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), Nicholas Sbordone, confirmed to BuzzFeed News.

... One of New York's leading privacy advocates, New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman, denounced the program after learning of it from a reporter Sunday.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

October 2, 2014

Phone boxes turn green to charge mobiles

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 17.35.31.png

Disused phone boxes in London are being put to a novel use - as solar-powered charging stations for mobile phones. The first of six boxes was unveiled on Tottenham Court Road this week.

The service is free to use although users will be shown adverts as they wait for their phone to charge.

[via the BBC]

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