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Have you seen Volvo’s newest connected car technology?

(TECH NEWS) Volvo has long been an innovator in safety and technology and their latest connected car is no exception. We hope other manufacturers draw inspiration from their launch.

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Volvo, reigning royalty of safety

Volvo is known for their ingenuity and safety and their latest connected car technology is no exception. Volvo’s Director of Connected Products and Services, David Holecek, recently discussed the new line at the IoT’s Europe World Conference 2016 wherein he touched on just a few of the amazing new car innovations Volvo has been focusing on. The central pivot point for these new features is the “digital key.”

What is this digital key?

The digital key allows you to access and share your Volvo by enabling you to use your phone (or smartwatch) as a key. This digital key will allow you to open and start the car with your phone, share your key with friends and family, and access car sharing services wherever you are in the world all through the cloud.

Volvo is also currently testing a Bluetooth-based technology in Sweden, planning to become the world’s first car manufacturer to offer car sharing to customers in a limited-edition car, in 2017 (which has since sold out). Volvo has also pioneered the first Bluetooth-based technology to allow Volvo owners to take delivery of items they order online directly to their car, no matter where that car is located and regardless of whether or not the owner is with the car, all through digital key technology.

For example, let’s say you’re at work and remember you need a gift for a friend’s birthday party. You could go online, order the item (from participating providers), enable digital key access, and have the item delivered to your car. Once the item is delivered to your trunk, the digital key expires and the company from which you ordered would no longer have access to your vehicle.

While only available in Sweden currently, this technology has the potential to be a complete game changer, not only for the automotive industry, but for the digital shopping experience on the whole. Provided they expand a bit more on how and when the keys expire and how you can protect yourself from digital key theft since it’s in the cloud.

More than the digital key – also about safety

The new features aren’t just about sharing the car; they are also about innovating convenience and safety. Your car can also exchange data through the cloud so your car will know when a service appointment is needed and can even book itself an appointment at your Volvo dealership.

You can enable the digital key to give service technicians entry without handing over your physical key, which is awesome if you’re in a hurry. You can drive in and leave it, and through the digital technology, they’ll already know who you are and what you need.

Volvo takes safety up a notch with the On Call app which gives you remote access and control over your car through your smartphone, tablet, or wearable device, meaning you’ll never lock yourself out of your car again. With On Call, you can locate your car, send directions, lock or unlock doors, check the fuel level, pre-heat/cool the cabin, call for assistance, and even use your Volvo as a wifi hotspot.

Volvo has engineered a Slippery Road Alert to detect icy roads as you drive and alert nearby drivers and road maintenance authorities to the danger through the cloud. There’s also a Hazard Light Alert feature, to warn you if another vehicle has their hazard lights on, enabling you to anticipate danger and traffic jams ahead. Volvo’s IntelliSafe Autopilot cars will use this cloud-based information to continually update and adjust to the surrounding conditions.

Is the digital key safe?

Worried about your information? Volvo states that your information will never be used for a service without your permission and all data is stored securely. Since all your data is stored in the cloud, you don’t have to worry about updating or backing up any information – it’s all done for you, automatically.

Volvo doesn’t explicitly state how your data will be stored and secured, so this may need a bit more fleshing out before handing out your digital key. I would assume all data is encrypted and locked away safely, but please read the terms and conditions when you enable this service before you start handing out your digital key.

Volvo’s new features are pretty amazing, but even more so because they could lead other automobile manufacturers to innovate similar features (just as they did with the seatbelt). When data is backed up to the cloud and has the potential to help other drivers on the road, that’s an amazing use of technology and I hope other manufacturers follow Volvo’s lead on this and their other safety features.

#VolvoTech

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Tech News

Get all your digital organization in one place with Routine

(TECH NEWS) Routine makes note-taking and task-creating a lot easier by merging all your common processes into one productivity tool.

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A desk with a laptop, notepad, smartphone, and cup of coffee settled into an organized routine.

Your inbox can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. Without organization, important emails with tasks, notes, and meetings can become a trash pile pretty quickly. Luckily, there are a lot of tools that aim to help you improve your efficiency, and the latest to add to that list is Routine.

Routine is a productivity app that combines your tasks, notes, and calendar into one easy-to-use app so you can increase your performance. Instead of having to switch between different apps to jot down important information, create to-do lists, and glance at your calendar, Routine marries them all into one cool productivity tool. By simply using a keyboard shortcut, you can do all these things.

If you receive an email that contains an actionable item, you can convert that email into a task you can view later. Tasks are all saved in your inbox, and you can even schedule a task for a specific day. So, if Obi-Wan wants to have Jedi lessons on Thursday, you can schedule your Force task for that day. Likewise, chat messages that need follow-up can also be converted into tasks and be scheduled.

To enrich your tasks, notes can be attached to them. In your notes, you can also embed checkboxes, which are tasks of their own. And if you have tasks that aren’t coming from your inbox, you can import them from other services, such as Gmail, Notion, and Trello.

To make sure you can stay focused on the events and tasks at hand, Routine makes it easy to take everything in. By using the tool’s keyboard-controlled console, you can access your dashboard to quickly see what tasks need to be addressed, what’s on your calendar, and even join an upcoming Zoom session and take notes about the meeting.

Routine is available for macOS, iOS, web, and Google accounts only. Overall, the app centralizes notes and tasks by letting you create and view everything in one place, which helps make sure you stay on top of things. Currently, Routine is still in beta, but you can get on a waitlist to test the product out for yourself.

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Tech News

The paradox of CAPTCHAs: Too smart for humans vs AI?

(TECH NEWS) AI is catching up to our cybersecurity technology and often tricking humans too — so what’s next for CAPTCHAs and the internet?

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Person using phone with laptop to verify CAPTCHAs and code.

We’ve all encountered it before: The occasional robot test that feels impossible to beat. If you’ve felt like these tests, also known as CAPTCHAs, have gotten harder in the last couple of years, you aren’t wrong—and the reason is as ironic as it is baffling.

Simply put, AI are just as good as—and often better than—humans at completing CAPTCHAs in their classic format. As machine learning and AI become more advanced, the fundamental human attributes that make consistent CAPTCHA formats possible become less impactful, raising the question of how to determine the difference between AI and humans in the future.

The biggest barrier to universal CAPTCHA doctrine is purely cultural. Humans may share experiences across the board, but such experiences are typically basic enough to fall victim to the same machine learning which has rendered lower-level CAPTCHAs moot. Adding a cultural component to CAPTCHAs could prevent AI from bypassing them, but it also might prevent some humans from understanding the objective.

Therein lies the root of the CAPTCHA paradox. Humans are far more diverse than any one test can possibly account for, and what they do have in common is also shared by—you guessed it—AI. To create a truly AI-proof test would be to alienate a notable portion of human users by virtue of lived experience. The irony is palpable, but one can only imagine the sheer frustration developers are going through in attempting to address this problem.

But all isn’t lost. While litmus tests such as determining the number of traffic cones in a plaza or checking off squares with bicycles (but not unicycles, you fool) may be beatable by machines, some experts posit that “human entropy” is almost impossible to mimic—and, thus, a viable solution to the CAPTCHA paradox.

“A real human being doesn’t have very good control over their own motor functions, and so they can’t move the mouse the same way more than once over multiple interactions,” says Shuman Ghosemajumder, a former click fraud expert from Google. While AI could attempt to feign this same level of “entropy”, the odds of a successful attempt appear low.

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Tech News

Move over, Clubhouse: Slack adds their own audio chat rooms

(TECH NEWS) Slack planning to co-opt Clubhouse’s synchronous audio rooms has lead to mixed response. Did it really need to be done?

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Woman in green cardigan and headphones listening to audio chat room on mobile, where Slack becomes a competitor.

Slack is adding a synchronous audio chat room feature similar to what Clubhouse already has. While not everyone is happy about it, the addition is true to Slack’s ongoing form—if a little redundant.

Slack’s audio rooms would work similarly to Clubhouse’s current feature of the same persuasion. The rooms themselves would be ongoing for as long as they were open, and users would be able to drop in and out of calls at their leisure, even joining the conversation when permitted by the host or settings. In theory, it’s a cool way to round out Slack’s platform and make for yet another way for people to engage during the work day.

But not everyone is stoked about the addition. Pocketnow’s Nadeem Sarwar makes a strong point about the redundancy of adding a Clubhouse feature to the already-packed Slack deck: “…from a regular remote worker’s perspective, I’d rather use services such as Telegram, Discord, or Google Meet that we’ve grown accustomed to using for jumping into a group call with my teammates.”
“…[T]he need for audio chatrooms to get in a chaotic chat with colleagues, with whom you already chat over work and share memes five days a week, doesn’t make much sense,” he adds.

Sarwar also references research about remote meeting fatigue from Stanford and The Washington Post, positing that—since video conferences are already played out at this point—adding another quasi-conference option to Slack doesn’t serve much of a purpose.

He isn’t wrong. There are multitudinous conference options on the market now, many of which are free. One could argue that Slack, having marketed itself as a text-first communication hub, has no business entering the audio chat landscape.

That argument falls on its face when you consider Slack’s model—something both Sawar and the Slack CEO himself mention—involves “stealing” and implementing “good ideas” from others in order to make their own platform as comprehensive as possible. If one is able to use Slack for the majority of tasks that Google, Discord, and Clubhouse offer, that makes the platform a lot more attractive to users who are on the fence.

And, perhaps more importantly, it ensures that current users won’t migrate to a comparable platform in the future—especially if their colleagues are making the same choice.

It’s a smart move for Slack, especially given Clubhouse’s lack of Android support at this time—something Clubhouse has said probably still won’t launch for a couple of months.

The Clubhouse team, for their part, continues to add new features in efforts to maintain the platform’s upward mobility. One such feature is the option for paid subscriptions to content creators, allowing for people to monetize their presence on the platform. At the time of this writing, Clubhouse is valued at around $1 billion.

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