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There’s a new wearable that will give LifeAlert a run for their money

(TECH NEWS) A new wearable by UnaliWear is poised to enable the elderly to continue living independently, safely.

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U gotta hear about Unali

UnaliWear created an “OnStar for People” with its new watch that’s essentially a Life Alert minus the embarrassing stigma. The Kanega watch is a voice-controlled wearable device that detects falls, provides medication reminders, and gives emergency assistance. According to UnaliWear, their product aims “to extend independence with dignity for millions of vulnerable seniors.”

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Wearables are further integrating themselves into the mainstream, moving away from fad status.

WHAT IS IT

Like any new trendy technology, wearables have proliferated culture with awesomeness and trash alike. In 2014, one third of wearable technology was abandoned within six months.

However, those with staying power are propelling us further into a futuristic tech-laden world where our jewelry and accessories can assist us with simple needs.

Smartwatches started out as a laughable extravagance, but now they’re fairly common. I still geek out every time someone pays with their smartwatch, though. Unlike easily abandoned fad gadgets, UnaliWear seriously analyzed their product’s purpose.

BACKSTORY

CEO and founder Jean Anne Booth started the company in response to her mom’s refusal to use a Personal Emergency Response System like Life Alert. Booth wanted her mom to remain active, so she created a product that tackled the problems of products currently available on the market.

Many older adults don’t want to be associated with the stigma of personal assistance devices, yet want to remain independent.

This is completely understandable. Stigma plays a huge role derailing anyone seeking help. Removing some barriers to seeking help gives consumers options for more independence.

WHY IS IT SPECIAL

UnaliWear’s watch is geared towards a specific demographic, addressing reasons older adults have traditionally steered away from wearables. For starters, many tech products for older adults are pretty darn ugly.

The Kanega watch doesn’t look like something out of a trite infomercial. It’s simply a discreet watch with smart features.

Another primary hesitation to wearables is ease of use. If a product isn’t intuitive or obviously useful, surprise, people won’t use it. UnaliWear’s goal of treating users with respect makes their product unique. The design team did their homework and really focused on the wearer.

primary function

So what does the watch do? According to their Kickstarter, “Kanega handles all daily intelligence for providing an unobtrusive continuous welfare check.”

Fall detection, medication reminders, emergency assistance, and guidance home if lost are its primary features.

The watch utilizes voice-control commands for its various functions. During setup, users speak with an operator to determine which functions fit their personal needs.

Unlike Siri…

It won’t embarrass you in public by speaking aloud unprompted. It’s not looking to confuse or play Overseer to the wearer.

The Kanega watch also isn’t tied to a home-based system or owning a smartphone, and is waterproof.

This means wearers aren’t tied to their homes in order to use Kanega’s features. However, wifi must be present for the watch to function at full capacity.

Self-updating while you sleep

Machine learning and artificial intelligence updates lifestyle information while the wearer is sleeping.

This sounds creepy, but they use Verizon’s HIPPA-compliant cloud to keep health info secure.

This is how the watch connects with pharmacies to provide medication reminders.

Your very own Elvis

The watch can also pair with new generation Bluetooth Low Energy hearing aids, speaking directly to the user but not through the speaker.

Additionally, users choose the watch’s name so they’re not stuck constantly addressing a dystopic robot character.

For example, the creator’s mom named her watch Fred Astaire.

RISKS/CHALLENGES

Right now the watch is still in product development. Kickstarter backers are expected to receive their watches sometime this spring, and general consumers will get access later in the year.

You can sign up to be a beta tester if you’re in the continental US. However, you must have wifi to register.

The Kickstarter version relies on the Verizon or AT&T network, and coverage is not available everywhere. Wifi access could definitely deter potential customers.

So far, potential connectivity issues seem like the only major problem users will face.

However, it’s important to note that the watch isn’t a replacement for a caretaker if needed.

The fall detection isn’t 100% infallible, and users must be willing to utilize the features.

UnaliWear notes, “medication reminders won’t work for the willfully non-compliant.”

“Kanega is designed to complement normal human forgetfulness; we can’t make you take your medications.”

Revolutionary wearables

The wearables trend is clearly not over.

As companies learn from the downfalls and success of other products, wearable tech gets smarter, sleeker, and more mainstream. Click To Tweet

Check out UnaliWear’s fully funded Kickstarter for a great example of a company winning at the wearable game.

#WearablesThatMatter

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Tech News

Making Slack actionable makes you productive

(TECHNOLOGY) Slack is an amazing productivity tool, but of course can add more to your plate – this feature puts you back on track.

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You know when you’re using Slack and you’re having a conversation with your teammate about whether or not you should grab lunch or go to Soul Cycle, but before you can answer, your editor Slacks you about deadlines and your design partner messages you proofs and suddenly you snap back to reality and remember that you’ve been working on a blog post for an hour and your concentration is completely shattered? You know, the exact moment when your productivity is officially derailed?

Well, Slack now offers Actions to help make sure that doesn’t happen. Your day may get busy, but at least nothing will slip through the cracks, work-wise.

Integrated with project management tools like Asana, Zendesk, and Jira, Actions allows users to create and comment on tasks, tickets or issues within conversations. That means no clicking through tabs or apps until you can no longer remember why you started clicking in the first place. More importantly, Actions keeps track of the work you need to do and when you need to do it.

So, how do Actions work?

1. Need to create a deadline or set up an appointment? Anything you see in Slack that needs a follow-up can be turned into an action when you click the ••• icon and choose an “action.”

2. When you’ve completed an action, a message appears in your Slack channel and lets your team know you’ve flagged it for follow-up.

3. Whichever app you’ve integrated with will alert Slack at which point you and your team can determine the next steps.

Bottom-line, Actions help keep your workflow moving. While it may not stop the onslaught of Slack messages from breaking your concentration, at least you’ll know what you should to be concentrating on.

If you’re curious to know more about Actions, the company has ample info on their API pages for your perusal.

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Tech News

Quickly delete years of your stupid Facebook updates

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Digital clutter sucks. Save time and energy with this new Chrome extension for Facebook.

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When searching for a job, or just trying to keep your business from crashing, it’s always a good idea to scan your social media presence to make sure you’re not setting yourself up for failure with offensive or immature posts.

In fact, you should regularly check your digital life even if you’re not on the job hunt. You never know when friends, family, or others are going to rabbit hole into reading everything you’ve ever posted.

Facebook is an especially dangerous place for this since the social media giant has been around for over fourteen years. Many accounts are old enough to be in middle school now.

If you’ve ever taken a deep dive into your own account, you may have found some unsavory posts you couldn’t delete quickly enough.

We all have at least one cringe-worthy post or picture buried in years of digital clutter. Maybe you were smart from the get-go and used privacy settings. Or maybe you periodically delete posts when Memories resurfaces that drunk college photo you swore wasn’t on the internet anymore.

But digging through years of posts is time consuming, and for those of us with accounts older than a decade, nearly impossible.

Fortunately, a Chrome extension can take care of this monotonous task for you. Social Book Post Manager helps clean up your Facebook by bulk deleting posts at your discretion.

Instead of individually removing posts and getting sucked into the ensuing nostalgia, this extension deletes posts in batches with the click of a button.

Select a specific time range or search criteria and the tool pulls up all relevant posts. From here, you decide what to delete or make private.

Let’s say you want to destroy all evidence of your political beliefs as a youngster. Simply put in the relevant keyword, like a candidate or party’s name, and the tool pulls up all posts matching that criteria. You can pick and choose, or select all for a total purge.

You can also salt the earth and delete everything pre-whatever date you choose. I could tell Social Book to remove everything before 2014 and effectively remove any proof that I attended college.

Keep in mind, this tool only deletes posts and photos from Facebook itself. If you have any savvy enemies who saved screenshots or you cross-posted, you’re out of luck.

The extension is free to use, and new updates support unliking posts and hiding timeline items. Go to town pretending you got hired on by the Ministry of Truth to delete objectionable history for the greater good of your social media presence.

PS: If you feel like going full scorched Earth, delete everything from your Facebook past and then switch to this browser to make it harder for Facebook to track you while you’re on the web.

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Tech News

Are we really ready to be under constant video surveillance?

(TECHNOLOGY) Facial recognition technology is happening, now. What does it mean, who does it benefit, and who makes the rules?

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Facial recognition technology is growing quickly. More and more applications are asking for a look at your face as the ultimate in security. What does that mean, and what are the consequences?

You’re a digital-enabled human. That means, in all likelihood, some combination of Apple, Facebook, or Google knows everything about you that matters. ‘Tis the nature of the Almighty Cloud.

At the moment, the cloud(s) consist(s) of data you gave it voluntarily. If facial recognition were to become standard, to replace user IDs and credit card numbers as identification the way those things replaced signatures, it would link your physical self to that data.

In theory, anyone with the dough for a security camera or point-of-sale machine could buy the knowledge of what you’re doing and when you’re doing it, anywhere, anytime, so long as you were in eyeshot of a networked device.

Also in theory, fraud would be impossible, no criminal would go free, and no innocent person would ever be convicted of a crime. Right. Riiight.

Faces are unique, there’d be a camera on everything, and first in line to buy themselves some Every Breath You Take benevolent stalker gear would be the police. After all, if you’ve got a driver’s license, a residency card, a passport, or about nineteen other governmental thingamajigs, the Powers That Be already have your face. They’re just trusting humans to identify it. Robots might be better!

They also might not be (remember when police robots couldn’t tell the difference between a picture of sand dunes and a butt?).

Which is it? Who’s to say? Who gets to say?

The Verge recently asked that very question of a panel of very smart people. The result was a continuum of views on regulation of facial recognition technology, which is to say, at least 1 of these 5 people has probably correctly guessed how you’ll be interacting with technology for the next 50 years.

Listen up.

Lots of people are pro-regulation, but not always for obvious reasons.

First, as always, are the philosophers. Philosophers have been fretting about tech for so long one of the cave glyphs at Lascaux probably translates to “Fire: Is Society Ready?”

But philosophers are by no means always wrong, and in this case several have correctly noted that facial recognition technology is being marketed before the discussion of its limits has even begun.

Right now, all the decisions on what the tech can and can’t do are being made by people who stand to benefit if it sells well.Click To Tweet

More moderate voices, ironically, speak to what could be even more serious concerns. Algorithms remain badly flawed when used in human-facing roles (remember Salter’s Law: for every person you replace putting AI in a customer-facing job, you will have to hire at least two more to handle the fallout when it screws up) and notoriously tend to perpetuate societal failings.

Current facial recognition software, for instance, has white guys down pat, but struggles to differentiate between people of color, women, children and the elderly. Likewise, it has an ugly habit of identifying innocent people as criminals if they happen to belong to the same minority group. The data we collect as a culture reflects our cultural biases, and all an algorithm can EVER do, is parse that data.

This is enough of a problem that many facial recognition companies are in favor of regulation, seeking to set development parameters from “go” in order to keep from perpetuating old ills.

On the anti-regulation side, shockingly, are early adopters who jumped in headfirst without triple-checking the consequences, and a bunch of people who sell facial recognition technology would quite like to have all the money, now, please.

They also have an extremely important point. The plain fact is that regulation cannot keep up with innovation.

Culture moves too quickly for laws to catch up now, and legislators are notoriously not tech-savvy. The people best qualified to understand exactly how facial recognition technology works, and therefore, to determine what limitations are necessary, are the people making it.

Opponents of regulation also point to the successes of facial recognition as implemented to date. Facial recognition has been used successfully in fields ranging from law enforcement to device security to shortening lines at the airport. Don’t know about y’all, but we at AG are all for improving all of those things.

So as of today, you are being surveilled. That’s fact.

If you’re in the States, over the course of your day, you will likely be surveilled by several different private entities. Including us, by the way. Hi! We call it “consumer data,” but it’s surveillance. If you’re in China, Russia or the UK, there’s an excellent chance your primary voyeur is the government instead, since they have the most active state-run surveillance systems. It’s the price of the Digital Age; someone is watching. How much are you willing to let them see?

In China, citizens are used to (therefore fine with) the government watching their every move on camera, but Americans aren’t historically open to Big Brother watching.

So, we’re really asking – is effortless, contactless shopping, travel and tech worth surrendering your face to the Omniscient Eye? Or is inefficiency a price worth paying for holding onto just that much of your privacy?

It bears repeating: facial recognition is happening, now. Decide quickly.

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