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The app tracks exposure using encrypted keys and changing identification codes. Google Apple

The coronavirus pandemic brought the idea of contact tracing to the forefront of many people’s minds. And in a nutshell, it’s difficult to accurately keep tabs on how many people you’ve come into contact with. Now, however, Apple and Google are teaming up to try and leverage the ubiquity of smartphones to help notify users who may have been exposed to the virus while protecting their privacy.

We don’t quite know everything about the project just yet, but it will begin in mid-May when both companies plan to help public health organizations release apps that would keep track of everyone that users come into contact with over the course of a day. Then, if someone with whom you’ve been in close proximity gets a positive diagnosis, the app can alert you to take appropriate action.

The necessary technology has likely been in your phone for most of a decade. It uses Bluetooth Low Energy, which has been in iPhones since 2011 and Android phones since 2012. It’s a variation on the tech that enables devices like wireless headphones. Bluetooth Low Energy—you’ve probably seen it abbreviated BLE—is only meant to transmit small amounts of data in short bursts rather than constant streams, so it’s much easier on battery life.

The tricky part, however, is getting various phones on different platforms to talk to each other in real-time, which is where this new project from Google and Apple comes in. The companies are planning to allow iOS and Android phones to pass unique codes to one another when they’re in close range. By keeping track of these codes, the app can paint a relatively complete picture of every person with whom you’ve had contact.

Once per day, the service will check a database to see if you were close enough to anyone for exposure. If so, the app will pop up an alert with guidance about next steps and possible risk factors.

While it would initially only work between users that have downloaded and activated the app, both Apple and Google are looking towards integrating the functionality directly into their respective mobile operating systems. Even then, however, users would need to opt-in in order to use it.

The companies have released extensive documentation about the way the encryption will work in a downloadable PDF. Essentially, your phone stores encrypted codes that the app can pair with identifiers only if there’s a positive diagnosis.

One of the most important takeaways: It’s not based purely on location data, but rather phones exchanging information while in close proximity. It’s easy to envision a system based on GPS and location tracking, but that opens up more security and accuracy problems—not to mention privacy concerns—that the companies are hoping to avoid.

There are still some major question marks to go along with it, however. We know that once a user gets an official diagnosis, the app will upload 14 days of codes to a server that will trigger the notification for anyone with whom they have had contact. We still don’t quite know, however, how the app will confirm that it’s a legitimate diagnosis, but there will be a safeguard in place. Similar apps like Covid-Watch require patients to get an official code from their healthcare provider that certifies the diagnosis.

We’re also still not entirely sure which organizations will have access to the software However, just this weekend, the UK National Health Service announced that it’s onboard to integrate Google and Apple’s work into its own plans. Singapore launched an app called TraceTogether, which operated on similar technology and quickly achieved wide adoption with users.

We’ll learn more about Google and Apple’s efforts in the coming weeks, but the app’s success will be dependent upon people actually trusting and using it.

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How To Make A Business Continuity Plan For Covid

The COVID-19 pandemic has struck every major country around the globe. To flatten the coronavirus growth curve, governments around the world have imposed partial or total lockdowns in their cities and state. These unfavorable conditions have made running businesses a challenging task.

Companies have to take a proactive and predictive role to maintain business continuity. However, a study has revealed that around 73 percent of companies are not prepared for disaster recovery.

COVID-19 is testing businesses and how well they can perform under stressful conditions. If your company hasn’t formulated any business continuity plan, then you would already have realized its importance till now. However, it is never too late, and you can still prepare for an efficient strategy to ensure the flow of critical operations with minimal to zero disruptions.

In this article, we will discuss how you can prepare a business continuity plan for your organization, which you can implement during the COVID-19 crisis and pandemics in the future.

We will discuss How To Make A Business Continuity Plan

Put your employees first

While drafting a business continuity or contingency plan, you should put your employees first as their health safety is critical for your business to run essential services without any disruptions.

Ask your employees to curb the spread by following all the precautionary measures such as regularly washing their hands, covering faces with masks, etc.

Along with that, you should facilitate working from home for your employees. You should follow the best practices to implement work from home.

Communication is the most crucial aspect of running business services in a hassle-free manner. Your employees should feel connected while working from home, and it is equally essential to deliver continued customer support services.

Also read: 9 Best Cybersecurity Companies in the World

Identify critical services and service level agreements

The ultimate goal of a good business continuity plan is to ensure that critical services keep running during any pandemic or unfavorable situations when a significant portion of your workforce is not available.

Critical services can be defined as a set of time-bound operations or activities which may lead to business failure if not performed.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, you have to identify such critical services for your business and makeshift in policies to ensure smooth operations of these vital services.

Additionally, there might be services that you need to perform to meet the regulatory requirements.

For these types of services, you should take a legal and organizational point of view. In case there are any legal limitations, then you should include them in your action plan.

Analyze staffing requirements

The next step includes analyzing the staffing requirements for those identified critical services. Classify your employees based on various skill set levels and their dependencies on your critical operations. Maintain data that can help you at the time of the reallocation of resources across the organization.

Make an extensive plan of action

Prepare a plan of action that should have the details on how you will maintain the critical services during the coronavirus pandemic. Document the plan of work during the planning process, and it should include the following information:

Critical services that have to be maintained.

Key staff to keep running these essential business operations.

Legal requirements and service level agreements.

Communication strategy for your employees and company stakeholders.

Reporting information about service operations to top-level management.

Remote work monitoring system.

Decision-making process during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Documenting your business continuity plan

The final step in drafting your business continuity plan is to document your decisions and plan of action. This step should be done only when:

– You have identified business-critical services.

– Issues that might occur when service level agreements are changed.

– You have identified action plans for essential business services.

Testing and improvisations

Also read: Top 10 Business Intelligence Tools of 2023

Wrapping Up

COVID-19 pandemic has alerted companies around the world to have business continuity plans. A well-planned business continuity plan will ensure that your business keeps running smoothly and mitigate economic losses.

Tech Leaders: Google, Apple, And…Starbucks?

The top three culture-shifting technology companies: Apple, Google and… Starbucks?

Starting today, you can walk into a Starbucks and use your phone to pay for your Skinny Caramel Macchiato, extra hot, extra whip with room for sugar.

Prognosticating pundits (including Yours Truly) have predicted for years the dawning age of the mobile “eWallet,” where everything in your wallet, including money, goes digital and lives inside your cell phone.

Despite all our blather, most real people haven’t actually been using phones to pay for much. But I think that will change, starting today, thanks to Starbucks.

This is simply the latest major cultural shift that Starbucks has effected using well-placed, well-timed technology innovation.

Sure, there are lots of technology companies that ship amazing technology without single-handedly, profoundly and directly changing the way millions of ordinary people live every day. Examples include IBM, Oracle, Inteland others.

And some tech companies change culture, but only with a single product or feature — for example Facebook and Twitter.

But very few companies have changed global culture in several ways, several times. The short list includes Apple, Google and, yes, Starbucks.

It’s also worth noting Starbucks’ intimate cultural links with the technology industry.

Starbucks was initially modeled after a Silicon Valley coffee joint called Peet’s, founded in Berkeley in 1966, which served as the rocket fuel for every Silicon Valley tech boom since.

The first Starbucks opened in 1971 in Seattle four years before Microsoft was established in nearby Redmond. From very early on, Starbucks served as the unofficial beverage at Microsoft, long before the chain became nationally ubiquitous in the 1990s. The two companies have also partnered on a wide range of initiatives, from co-sponsoring local events to collaborating on environmental initiatives.

Although Starbucks sells coffee, not gadgets or software, the company has long been considered something of an honorary tech company, both for its affinity and association with technology companies, and also for its culture-shifting innovations.

Starbucks is using technology to change culture in 4 major ways:

The latest innovation, of course, is today’s rollout of the virtual Starbucks debit card app. The app is much better to use than the existing cards. You load them with money yourself by adding your credit card information to the app, then doing a transfer when you want more on the card.

It’s better because you don’t have to carry an extra card. You can see your balance without having to ask a Starbucks cashier. And it’s faster to make purchases because you don’t have to wait for the Starbucks cashier to process it.

On the iPhone or iPod Touch, visit the app store and download the free “Starbucks Card Mobile” app. On the BlackBerry, text GO to 70845. If you already have a card (from the days when you needed an account to use Starbucks’ Wi-Fi), the app should recognize your username and password. Otherwise, set up a new one.

Just add your credit card information, then add money to the virtual card. You can also transfer money from the Starbucks card you already carry in your wallet to the app. In fact, you can add any number of cards.

The app also tells you which stores support the new scheme. Just find a store on the map, tap the pin and look under “Amenities.” If it says “Mobile Payment,” then that store accepts the new Mobile Card.

I believe Starbucks’ popularity will mainstream the digital eWallet concept in the United States.

Even though I live in Silicon Valley, which is Peet’s country, I usually go to Starbucks because the company offers free, unlimited Wi-Fi. Peet’s, on the other hand, has recently reduced its Wi-Fi limit to just one hours (down from its previous limit of two hours).

Free Wi-Fi wouldn’t be such a big deal, except that Starbucks really dominates the usage of free Wi-Fi worldwide. Unlike other chains with free Wi-Fi, such as McDonald’s, more than half the people in most Starbucks are using the network, either with laptops or with Wi-Fi connected smart phones.

Apple Responds To Location Tracking Controversy: “We Don’t Track Your Iphone”

Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.

Providing mobile users with fast and accurate location information while preserving their security and privacy has raised some very complex technical issues which are hard to communicate in a soundbite. Users are confused, partly because the creators of this new technology (including Apple) have not provided enough education about these issues to date.

The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, it’s maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from your iPhone, to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested. Calculating a phone’s location using just GPS satellite data can take up to several minutes. iPhone can reduce this time to just a few seconds by using Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data to quickly find GPS satellites, and even triangulate its location using just Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data when GPS is not available (such as indoors or in basements). These calculations are performed live on the iPhone using a crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data that is generated by tens of millions of iPhones sending the geo-tagged locations of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple.

The entire crowd-sourced database is too big to store on an iPhone, so we download an appropriate subset (cache) onto each iPhone. This cache is protected but not encrypted, and is backed up in iTunes whenever you back up your iPhone. The backup is encrypted or not, depending on the user settings in iTunes. The location data that researchers are seeing on the iPhone is not the past or present location of the iPhone, but rather the locations of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers surrounding the iPhone’s location, which can be more than one hundred miles away from the iPhone. We plan to cease backing up this cache in a software update coming soon (see Software Update section below).

No. This data is sent to Apple in an anonymous and encrypted form. Apple cannot identify the source of this data.

This data is not the iPhone’s location data—it is a subset (cache) of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database which is downloaded from Apple into the iPhone to assist the iPhone in rapidly and accurately calculating location. The reason the iPhone stores so much data is a bug we uncovered and plan to fix shortly (see Software Update section below). We don’t think the iPhone needs to store more than seven days of this data.

It shouldn’t. This is a bug, which we plan to fix shortly (see Software Update section below).

Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years.

Yes, we strongly do. For example, iPhone was the first to ask users to give their permission for each and every app that wanted to use location. Apple will continue to be one of the leaders in strengthening personal information security and privacy.

Sometime in the next few weeks Apple will release a free iOS software update that:

reduces the size of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone,

ceases backing up this cache, and

deletes this cache entirely when Location Services is turned off.

In the next major iOS software release the cache will also be encrypted on the iPhone.

Business And Tech During And After Covid

It’s great having so many technologies available to us. How else would we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and the quarantine measures!

Let’s take an inside look at what actual value these technologies bring to retailers and eateries. And where it all will eventually lead us.

Shifting to online orders is not that difficult from a technology point of view. But it requires a new business flow to be implemented. Once going online, you will no longer have such an option as:

“Let me check to see if there’s any tuna salad left.” Placing an “available” option online means you have to be able to deliver everything you offer.

So it’s all about the automated menu and inventory management systems. Moreover, coronavirus pushes restaurants into the grocery business and meal kits delivery.

Such changes force restaurants to automate the process. Good news⁠ — they don’t have tens of thousands of products to manage.

Still, business transformation is necessary. Even after the World will be back on track, the question of how to be prepared for the next crisis will remain.

Some might say that being a grocery store from around the corner is a sweet spot these days.  According to research, spending on groceries has grown by up to 40%.

Instead of going to a restaurant, we put on a mask and visit the nearest open store or choose online ordering, which is another growing niche.

Anyway, a boost in sales seems to be temporary for local grocery stores as the lockdown will eventually end. Moreover, we haven’t seen many changes in the way they do business. Besides, there’s competition from delivery services. For example, Walmart brings 2-hour delivery.

According to ComCash ERP CEO, Richard Stack, many of small to medium retailers, groceries and liquor stores were using ERPs and inventory management systems long before the crisis.

But many of them were not operating online actively. After March 2023, things changed, and now the implementation of e-stores is the most in-demand service.

Getting online seems like a necessary, but not sufficient solution. It’s a bit of a different business with its own rules, marketing budgets, and technologies.

What we learned from our retail clients — they know their customer journey in detail. And apply technologies exactly to those cases where it could be most valuable to customers.

With the end of COVID-19, there’s going to be a shift in customer behavior. Perhaps, not that huge as some predict, but still enough to make an impact.

These people are visionaries who can see what customers will look for tomorrow and provide them with value and service.

Here are some use cases of how trending technologies in retail could impact customers.

The Canadian winery brought its customers an augmented experience to stand out from the crowd. Users have to point the camera at the wine label to see AR scenes and get additional information about the product.

Also, retailers use augmented reality for marketing and branding   —  virtual instructions, presentations, and online fitting rooms.

ChatBots are not that hard to bring onboard. There’s plenty of ready to use solutions. But let’s be realistic — chatbots can not replace real customer service (yet).

It can, however, speed up service and increase engagement. For example, a chatbot can suggest additional goods to your customers, help to navigate and perform checkouts. According to most analytics, the revenue generated with chatbots’ help is growing and will continue to grow in the future.

Clients have changed during COVID-19. Probably, many people will avoid crowded lines. Thus, SmartTab POS brings a different experience with its customer mobile application.

Since the app is integrated with the bar’s point of sales solution, it reduces interactions between bartenders and visitors. The idea is to let customers open and close their tabs, make payments through the app with zero interpersonal communication.

Machine learning application in retail is another dominant technology trend. It often sounds complicated and expensive.

And in most scenarios, it is really complicated, costly, and not needed for small or medium retailers. Still, there are cases when it could bring value. For example, you can detect and identify your visitors if you have their photos by utilizing face recognition technology.

But make sure that they are ok with it. From a technology perspective, the task to match visitors’ faces with your database is not that complicated. But it could give significant personalization to the in-store experience.

Also read: Blocked On Snapchat: Figure Out What-To-Do, The Fixes, and FAQs

As you might see, there’s nothing new among those priorities. It feels like this crisis will boost prior existing technology trends, not necessarily bringing new ones.

Serhii Maksymenko

My career started with iOS applications development but growing interest in various fields of AI made me get into researching Machine Learning and Deep Learning solutions. I’ve been working on different Data Science projects at MobiDev, from time series forecasting to face recognition. I am a speaker at the Machine Learning conference and author of articles in online Data Science communities.

How To Track Time Spent On Youtube And Control It Easily?

YouTube users across the globe consume billions of hours of videos on the Google-owned platform each passing day and in an effort to keep up with its push into digital well-being, the search giant is making it easy for users of this video sharing platform to manage the time spent on the app.

The company’s latest and greatest OS, Android 9 Pie, has even more focus on digital well-being, something we’ve dived deeper into here. As for the YouTube app, here’s how you can easily track time spent watching videos today, yesterday, or even the entire week, among other things.

Related: Android Pie update roadmap for all devices

How to track time spent on YouTube

It’s quite easy to get going, just follow these steps:

Open the YouTube app on your phone or tablet.

Tap on profile photo in the top right corner to open the Account Menu.

In the menu, tap on ‘Time watched’ to open the Stats.

Here, you can see the time you’ve spent watching YouTube videos today, yesterday, the past week and a daily average. These stats are collected from all of your signed-in YouTube products other than the YouTube Music app. Also, details of videos you’ve watched and then deleted or those watched in Incognito mode won’t be included in the Stats.

Related: How to get YouTube dark theme now!

How to set a reminder to take a break from YouTube

Besides letting you into an overview of the time you’ve spent on YouTube, you can also manage your time on the platform. And it’s quite easy to do this.

Under the ‘Tools to manage your YouTube time’ section in the Account Menu from the section above, toggle on ‘Remind me to take a break’ option.

In the Reminder frequency window, pick the duration you want and YouTube will remind you when you reach this limit.

When through, tap on ‘Done’ and that’s it.

Related: How to download videos and get background playback in YouTube

How to turn on scheduled digest

Another cute little addition in the YouTube app is more control over push notifications. Maybe sometimes you don’t want to check out the app, but due to a notification, you are lured into doing so. Well, with the scheduled digest feature, you can bundle all of your YouTube notifications into one single notification that is then sent out once per day at a time you prefer. Here’s how you can do this.

Under the ‘Tools to manage your YouTube time’ section in the Account Menu from the first section above, toggle on the ‘Scheduled digest’ option

To set a specific time to receive the bundled notifications, tap on Scheduled digest and pick your preferred time from the list that pops up.

How to disable sounds & vibrations

Resisting the urge to check out notifications can be quite hard and in the new YouTube app, Google is making things a little easier for you. From today, you can choose to receive all notifications without any sound or vibration from 10 PM to 8 AM, but of course, this duration can be altered to fit your own preferences. Here’s how to go about it.

Under the ‘Tools to manage your YouTube time’ section in the Account Menu from the first section above, toggle on the ‘Disable sounds & vibrations’ option, if not already

Tap on it and hit “Done” to stick to the default settings

To customize the time, tap on “Start time” and choose your preferred time from the list. Tap on “End time” and also select your preferred time.

Select “Done” and that’s all!

Google started rolling out these features to the YouTube app on August 27, so it should be a while before all platforms and devices receive the update.

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