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Pillar is the blockchain built for average folks, not ultra tech nerds

(TECH NEWS) Pillar is a next-level blockchain wallet that will help you keep your digital life in order without the hindrance of having to rely on someone else.

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New and exciting

I’m excited today. In tech, you only get to say the following phrase so often and really mean it. This is new.

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Meet Pillar, which aims to be an equal and opposite option to the present digital trends at work in finance, security and the distribution of economic power.

Use it, don’t own it

If you’re an entrepreneur, a businessperson, a power user of any kind of technology – really, if you’ve interacted with currency and/or tech in the past ten years – you know the prevailing paradigm is “X as as service.”

Everything from public transport to Peggle has been reimagined as something you use rather than something you have.

The resources necessary to functioning in society belong to someone else and are implemented by millions of someone elses, a workforce of service professionals often employed on a contract rather than traditional salary or wage-benefit basis. Them’s the breaks in This Modern World. Ownership is so 20th century.

Pillar says otherwise.

World changer

We’ve talked about blockchain at American Genius. Here’s how it could be a huge deal for tech security. Here’s a great primer on what, you know, it even is. The short version is that a blockchain is a secure, anonymous way to buy goods and services, built on high-end cryptography and the basis that nobody ever has all the information, all the time. Bitcoin’s the one you’ve most likely heard about, but there are all kinds of others.

Pillar would be another, “cryptocurrency” to use the (silly) word, but with a vital addition: it’s actually built to do something.

Bitcoin and its kindred represent a new transaction paradigm, an approach to buying and selling that removes public and private middlemen of all kinds. That’s a big deal by itself – in theory. In practice Bitcoin and its kindred have stayed curiosities. They haven’t put an offer in the world that appeals to anyone outside a core community of early adopters and various fringes. I say it with love: it’s hipster money. By comparison, Pillar claims, direct quote, to be “a world changer.”

It could be.

Pillar as a pillar

Unlike Bitcoin and friends, Pillar isn’t just a blockchain-based currency. It’s an implementation of blockchain-based currency, a means of making it do things that actual people need their money to do. The titular Pillar is a core of information available only to you, accessible through an AI assistant with access to various carefully demarcated parts of it for the services you use it to pay for. It’s a blockchain wallet.

To paraphrase our primer, at present blockchain appeals primarily to people who need or want their transactions to be private.

Frankly, that was a reasonable concern when the biggest security holes in the modern money system were credit card numbers and talkative bank tellers.

As more services are digitized, things get less secure. Honestly, now: how many of you out there use the same password for more than one thing? I do, and I literally do this for a living.

Blockchain security

How many of you trust important data to a service that may or may not exist in ten years? I’ve got a half-terabyte of stuff on someone else’s cloud server and 175 games on Steam. Either one goes belly up, and all that information wafts away like a summer breeze, along with the not inconsiderable amount of money I spent on it.

How many of you centralize with one service for convenience, in spite of what seem like weekly breaches, leaks and hacks?

I swear to Insert Deity Here, right now I am writing this on a Chromebook, in Google Docs, with one eye on a big file I’m uploading to Drive.

Not to be alarmist, but the plain fact is, that’s information you don’t control. It lives with somebody else, and by accident or malice something untoward could go down. It’s the downside of the digitized world: only big companies own the infrastructure to implement day to day services like transactions and identity protection.

Pillar and its $50 million ICO (that’s Initial Coin Offering, since obviously they’ll be taking investments in blockchain currencies) intend to see that changed.

It’s the first serious effort I know of to implement blockchain as a consumer proposition, offering blockchain security with the tools necessary for an ordinary person to actually use the functionality blockchain provides.

Pillar’s paradigm is the opposite of how things are done right now. More often than not, that means it’s nonsense, a geek pipe dream that will never hit the big wide world.

New, but not

But blockchain is already hitting the big wide world. Pillar’s offer, in essence a take on Bitcoin and other blockchain-based currencies that work for the average consumer and have a reason for existence other than Sticking It To The Man™, might well be enough to make it the next step forward in the digital marketplace, “like Uber, but for shifting beyond the Uber paradigm to owning your own dang stuff again.”

That could be a thing.

#Pillar

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Tech News

Australia wants Facebook and Google to pay media royalties

Australia seeks to require Facebook and Google to pay royalties to media companies for use of news content on their platforms.

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Australia is in the process of requiring tech giants, Facebook and Alphabet, to pay royalties to Australian media companies for using their content. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the move the day after the US Congressional antitrust hearing that put the CEOs of Facebook, Alphabet, Amazon, and Apple back in the regulatory spotlight.

In addition to the pressure from the United States investigation into market control by these companies, global leaders are calling for similar regulations. Though none have been successful, media companies in Germany, France, and Spain have pushed for legislation to force Google to pay licensing fees to use their news content. Some companies have been pushing for this for years and yet, the tech giants keep dragging out their changes, even admitting their actions are wrong.

In 2019, the Australian government instructed Facebook and Google to negotiate voluntary deals with Australian media to use their content. The Australian government says the companies failed to follow through on the directive, and therefore will be forced to intervene. They have 45 days to reach an agreement in arbitration, after which the Australian Communications and Media Authority will create legally binding terms for the companies on behalf of the Australian government.

Google claims the web traffic that it drives to media websites should be compensation enough for the content. A Google representative in Australia asserts that the government regulations would constitute interference into market competition – which would be the point, Google!

According to a 2019 study, an estimated 3,000 journalism jobs have been lost in the last decade. The previous generation of media companies has paid substantial advertising fees to Google and Facebook while receiving nothing in return for the use of its news content. Frydenberg asserts the regulatory measures are necessary to protect consumers and ensure a “sustainable media landscape” in the country.

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Onboarding for customers and employees made easy

(TECH NEWS) Cohere enables live, virtual onboarding at bargain prices to help you better support and guide your users.

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Web development and site design may be straightforward, but that doesn’t mean your customers won’t get turned around when reviewing your products. Onboarding visitors is the simplest solution, but is it the easiest?

According to Cohere–a live, remote onboarding tool–the answer is a resounding yes.

Cohere claims to be able to integrate with your website using “just 2 lines of code”; after completing this integration, you can communicate with, guide, and show your product to any site visitor upon request. You’ll also be able to see what customers are doing in real time rather than relying on metrics, making it easy to catch and convert customers who are on the fence, due to uncertainty or confusion.

There isn’t a screen-share option in Cohere’s package, but what they do include is a “multiplayer” option in which your cursor will appear on a customer’s screen, thus enabling you to guide them to the correct options; you can also scroll and type for your customer, all the while talking them through the process as needed. It’s the kind of onboarding that, in a normal world, would have to take place face-to-face–completely tailored for virtual so you don’t have to.

You can even use Cohere to stage an actual demo for customers, which accomplishes two things: the ability to pare down your own demo page in favor of live options, and minimizing confusion (and, by extension, faster sales) on the behalf of the customer. It’s a win-win situation that streamlines your website efficiency while potentially increasing your sales.

Naturally, the applications for Cohere are endless. Using this tool for eCommerce or tech support is an obvious choice, but as virtual job interviews and onboarding become more and more prevalent, one could anticipate Cohere becoming the industry example for remote inservice and walkthroughs.

Hands-on help beats written instructions any day, so if companies are able to allocate the HR resources to moderate common Cohere usage, it could be a huge win for those businesses.

For those two lines of code (and a bit more), you’ll pay anywhere from $39 to $129 for the listed packages. Custom pricing is available for larger businesses, so you may have some wiggle room if you’re willing to take a shot at implementing Cohere business-wide.

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Smart clothing could be used to track COVID-19

(TECH NEWS) In order to track and limit the spread of COVID-19 smart clothing may be the solution we need to flatten the curve–but at what cost?

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COVID tracking clothing

When most people hear the phrase “smart clothing”, they probably envision wearables like AR glasses or fitness trackers, but certainly not specially designed fabrics to indicate different variables about the people wearing them–including, potentially, whether or not someone has contracted COVID-19.

According to Politico, that’s exactly what clinical researchers are attempting to create.

The process started with Apple and Fitbit using their respective wearables to attempt to detect COVID-19 symptoms in wearers. This wouldn’t be the first time a tech company got involved with public health in this context; earlier this year, for example, Apple announced a new Watch feature that would call 911 if it detected an abnormal fall. The NBA also attempted to detect outbreaks in players by providing them with Oura Rings–another smart wearable.

While these attempts have yet to achieve widespread success, optimism toward smart clothing–especially things like undershirts–and its ability to report adequately someone’s symptoms, remains high.

The smart clothing industry has existed in the context of monitoring health for quite some time. The aforementioned tech giants have made no secret of integrating health- and wellness-centric features into their devices, and companies like Nanowear have even gone so far as to create undergarments that track things like the wearer’s heart rate.

It’s only fitting that these companies would transition to COVID assessment, containment, and prevention in the shadow of the pandemic, though they aren’t the only ones doing so. Indeed, innovators from all corners of the United States are set to participate in a “rapid testing solutions” competition–the end goal being a cheap, fast, easy-to-use wearable option to help flatten the curve. The “cheap” aspect is perhaps the most difficult; as Politico says, the majority of people have a general understanding of how to use wearable technology.

Perhaps more importantly, the potential for HIPPA violations via data access is high–and, during a period of time in which people are more suspicious of technology companies than ever, vis-a-vis data sharing, privacy could be a significant barrier to the creation, distribution, and use of otherwise crucial smart clothing.

There is no denying that the Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated, among other things, technological advancement in ways unseen by many of us alive today. Only time will tell if smart clothing–life-saving potential and all–becomes part of that trend.

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