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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.

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iOS 15 beta has blur nude photos opt-in, but its not without fault

(TECH NEWS) To protect children from explicit content, the most recent beta version of iOS 15 includes a feature that allows users to blur nude photos.

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Woman looking at Apple iPhone representing new iOS 15 beta that will blur nude photos.

In a move to protect children from explicit content, the most recent beta version of iOS 15 includes a feature that allows users to blur nude photos received in the Messages app. Amid privacy concerns, the feature has yet to be released.

The option to blur nude photos is opt-in, reports The Verge, and does not prevent users from choosing to view the photos in question even after being implemented.

This iteration of the feature is distinct from the original one insofar as it will no longer alert a parent or guardian when nude photos are encountered. While this may seem like a controversial change, several experts pointed out that exposing nude content on a child’s device in some households could result in abuse or, as Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic instructor Kendra Albert suggests, the outing of “queer or transgender children to their parents.”

With the most recent version of this feature enabled, children who receive inappropriate photos via the Messages app would be able to do two things: choose to avoid (or see) the content, and choose to send a report to a trusted adult if they see fit to do so.

Blurring photos is just one of several aspects of Apple’s Communication Safety suite, a feature that aims to prevent child sex abuse by making it easier for children to avoid and report predatory content.

 

Child on electronic device- iOS 15 beta that will allow blur nude photos should protect children.

Another feature that Apple has tested – but not released – is their Child Sex Abuse Imagery Detection (CSAM-detection), which scans and reports iCloud content that shows child pornography or abuse to Apple moderators for further review. As one can imagine, the feature drew mixed criticism, the majority of which came from privacy advocates.

While the vast majority of humanity can (hopefully) agree that fighting against child exploitation is a noble cause, these groups argue that scanning and reporting individuals’ personal photos via an algorithm opens the door to government interference and increased surveillance. Switching the algorithm’s baseline to scan for things like anti-government content, for example, would be easy, these groups posit, making the feature extremely dangerous in principle.

There is no current release date set for any of these aforementioned features, though iPhone users can reasonably expect them to drop at some point during iOS 15’s development.

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Amazon Music debuts synchronized text transcripts for popular podcasts

(TECH) The first feature to hit Amazon Music is auto-generated and synchronized text transcripts for their most popular podcast shows. Sign us up!

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Amazon Music Transcripts

Amazon set out to accelerate the growth and evolution of podcasts last year by acquiring the podcasting network, Wondery. Now, the company is doing just that with the launch of its auto-generated and synchronized podcast transcripts feature on Amazon Music.

According to an Amazon Music tweet, with this feature, you’ll be able to “Roll it back, jump ahead, and follow along” with the podcast you’re listening to. For instance, you can scrub through the transcript to find that line of text with that quote or movie and book suggestion you can’t quite remember. When you tap on a particular line of text in the transcript, you’ll be able to jump straight into that specific part of the podcast. I can already see all the time saved! But, if you just want to read along as you listen, you can do that, too. The transcript will match the audio as you’re hearing it.

Right now, the company is only rolling out podcast transcripts in the US on both iOS and Android devices. When it will expand to other countries isn’t known, and the feature isn’t available for all podcasts yet. For now, it is only available on a selection of popular podcasts like Smartless, Crime Junkie, This American Life, Uncommon Ground, and Modern Love, but more are coming.

Amazon Music Homescreen

To use it, all you have to do is open the podcasts tab on Amazon Music and select one of the podcasts you’d like to listen to. Of course, you’ll need to select a show with the podcast transcription feature to see it. When your show is playing, on the top of the album art and in fullscreen mode, the transcriptions will be available for you to read along to.

Oh, and if you’re worried about having to read through the ads, you have nothing to fret about. Ads won’t be transcribed. Instead, the transcription will read “audio not transcribed” when they are playing.

So far, Amazon seems to be going strong in the podcasting game with the release of podcast transcripts. The feature makes it easy to search and find what you are looking for in a show. And, for those on a long and noisy bus and subway ride, you’ll finally be able to read the information you previously couldn’t hear.

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UX design: If you don’t have it, get yourself an audit made easy

(TECH NEWS) UX design is important. By conducting a simple audit to make sure your site is accessible, you can minimize the number of people that quickly go away.

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Two UX design people standing in front of a whiteboard with a UX map.

A good UX design is essential in attracting and retaining customers. A seamless and positive experience will keep customers happy and bring your business many benefits, like increasing audience engagement and sales.

But, how do you know if your user experience is in need of help, so people don’t bounce away quickly? Well, if UX is not your forte, the best thing to do is to hire a good UX designer. Unfortunately, sometimes hiring one isn’t always within the budget.

So, what do you do then? The next best thing is to conduct a UX audit of your website or app. Not sure where to begin? Fulcrum’s Do It Yourself UX Audit kit is one place to start.

According to the website, this DIY UX audit “can help you gain valuable insights about the usability of your product.” The tool detects problems in your UX, prioritizes them for you, and finds out how you can fix any existing issues.

The tool is made out of free easy-to-use Notion templates. These UX audit checklists are all customizable, and you can print them or save them on your Notion dashboard to use later.

Inside each template, there are cards with descriptions and examples. Depending on if you meet certain criteria or not, you drag and drop the card into the “Yes” or “No” column. When you’re finished, you will easily see what issues you have, and you can work on fixing them.

The templates are divided into Junior and Middle-level templates.

The Junior level has templates for things such as field and forms, login, mobile UX, and architecture. Most of these templates help make sure you cover your basic UX bases. For instance, it looks at whether your website is desktop and mobile-friendly, and if each element makes sense and is easily identifiable.

The Middle Level dives in a little deeper. The “Visibility of system status” audit checks if you are keeping your audience informed on what’s going on. Things like battery life, loading, or Wi-Fi connection indicators can make a huge difference. No one wants to stare at a screen with no clue if what they clicked on is working or not.

If you can afford it and want a UX virtuoso to do the work for you, you can get a UX audit from Fulcrum. The experts will conduct a full-fledged UX audit and create wireframes with solutions for your UX issues.

However, no matter how you go about it, a good UX design is important. Higher rate conversions and user retention won’t happen if your product is just pushing people away.

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