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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

This phishing simulator tests your company’s (lack of) readiness

(TECHNOLOGY) Phishero is a tool which tests your organization’s resistance to phishing attacks. Pro tip: Most companies aren’t ready.

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In the wake of any round of cyberattacks, many organizations question whether they’re prepared to defend themselves against things like hacking or other forms of information theft. In reality, the bulk of workplace data thievery comes from a classic trick: phishing.

Phishing is a catch-all phrase for a specific type of information theft which involves emailing. Typically, a phishing email will include a request for sensitive data, such as a password, a copy of a W-4, or an account’s details (e.g., security questions); the email itself will often appear to come from someone within the organization.

Similar approaches include emailing a link which acts as a login page for a familiar site (e.g., Facebook) but actually stores your account information when you sign in.

Luckily, there’s a way for you to test your business’ phishing readiness.

Phishero, a tool designed to test employee resistance to phishing attacks, is a simple solution for any business looking to find any weak links in their cybersecurity.

The tool itself is designed to do four main things: identify potential targets, find a way to design a convincing phishing scheme, implement the phishing attack, and analyze the results.

Once Phishero has a list of your employees, it is able to create an email based on the same web design used for your company’s internal communications. This email is then sent to your selected recipient pool, from which point you’ll be able to monitor who opens the email.

Once you’ve concluded the test, you can use Phishero’s built-in analytics to give you an at-a-glance overview of your organization’s security.

The test results also include specific information such as which employees gave information, what information was given, and pain points in your current cybersecurity setup.

Phishing attacks are incredibly common, and employees – especially those who may not be as generationally skeptical of emails – are the only things standing between your company and catastrophic losses if they occur in your business. While training your employees on proper email protocol out of the gate is a must, Phishero provides an easy way to see how effective your policies actually are.

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Tech News

Domino’s asks Supreme Court to take up web accessibility case

(TECHNOLOGY) Domino’s is going all the way to the top to ask the Supreme Court to decide if ADA applies to their (and your) website.

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As long as your company is following the rules and regulations set by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), customers with disabilities should be able to access your brick-and-mortar store. The ADA ensures that stores have parking spots, ramps, and doors wide enough for folks in wheelchairs.

But does the ADA also extend to your business’s website? That’s a question that the Supreme Court may soon have to answer.

As an increasing number of services and opportunities are found online in this day and age, it’s quickly becoming a question that needs answering. Several New York wineries and art galleries, Zillow, and even Beyoncé have been sued because their websites were unusable for people who are blind.

In 2016, Domino’s Pizza was sued by a blind customer who was unable to order a pizza on Domino’s website, even while using the screen reading software that normally help blind people access information and services online. The Ninth Circuit Court ruled that Domino’s was in violation of the ADA and that the company was required to make their sites and apps accessible to all. Three years later, Domino’s is petitioning SCOTUS to take on the case.

Domino’s argues that making their sites and apps accessible would cost millions of dollars and wouldn’t necessarily protect them or any other company from what their lawyer called a “tsunami” of further litigation.

That’s because the ADA was written before the internet had completely taken over our social and economic lives. While the ADA sets strict regulations for physical buildings, it has no specific rules for websites and other digital technologies.

The Department of Justice apparently spent from 2010 to 2017 brainstorming possible regulations, but called a hiatus on the whole process because there was still much debate as to whether such rules were “necessary and appropriate.”

The Domino’s case proves that those regulations are in fact necessary. UsableNet, a company that creates accessibility features for tech, reports that there were 2,200 court cases in which users with disabilities sued a company over inaccessible sites or apps. That’s a 181 percent increase from the previous year.

While struggling to buy tickets to a Beyoncé concert or order a pizza may seem like trivial concerns, it’s important to consider how much blind people could be disadvantaged in the modern age if they can’t access the same websites and apps as those of us who can see. Christopher Danielsen from the National Federation of the Blind told CNBC that “If businesses are allowed to say, ‘We do not have to make our websites accessible to blind people,’ that would be shutting blind people out of the economy in the 21st century.”

If the Supreme Court decides to take the case, it could set an important precedent for the future of accessibility in web design.

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Tech News

Slack video messaging tool for the ultra lazy (or productive) person

(TECHNOLOGY) Courtesy of a company called Standuply, Slack’s notable lack of video-messaging options is finally addressed.

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Slack — the popular chat and workflow app — is still going strong despite its numerous technical shortcomings, one of which is its notable lack of native video or audio chat. If you’re an avid Slack user, you might be interested in Standuply’s solution to this missing feature: video and audio messaging.

While it isn’t quite the Skype-esque experience for which one might hope when booting up Slack, Standuply’s video messages add-on gives you the ability to record and send a video or audio recording to any Slack channel. This makes things like multitasking a breeze; unless you’re a god among mortals, your talking speed is significantly faster than your typing, making video- or audio-messaging a viable productivity move.

The way you’ll record and send the video or audio message is a bit convoluted: using a web browser and a private Slack link, you can record up to five minutes of content, after which point the content is uploaded to YouTube as a private item. You can then use the item’s link to send the video or audio clip to your Skype channel.

While this is a fairly roundabout way of introducing video chat into Slack, the end result is still a visual conversation which is conducive to long-term use.

Sending video and audio messages may feel like an exercise in futility (why use a third-party tool when one could just type?) but the amount of time and energy you can save while simultaneously responding to feedback or beginning your next task adds up.

Similarly, having a video that your team can circle back to instead of requiring them to scroll through until they find your text post on a given topic is better for long-term productivity.

And, if all else falls short, it’s nice to see your remote team’s faces and hear their voices every once in a while—if for no other reason than to reassure yourself that they aren’t figments of your overly caffeinated imagination.

At the time of this writing, the video chat portion of the Slack bot is free; however, subsequent pricing tiers include advanced aspects such as integration with existing services, analytics, and unlimited respondents.

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