Technology

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The Latest Highlights & Trends in Tech

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Facebook has your back!

Just when we were all quite content in picturing Facebook as an irredeemable, voyeuristic cess pit, (not that it would stop us using it of course) they’ve only gone and revealed themselves as bastions of the revolution! OK that’s probably overstating a little (a lot), but the social media giant is looking out for your privacy, at least when it comes to the government. Yes, Facebook will now supposedly display a warning message if it ever suspects that your account has been breached by someone working for a government. On the Facebook security page, chief security officer Alex Stamos states: Facebook will notify you if we believe your account has been targeted or compromised by an attacker suspected of working on behalf of a nation-state.” Pretty serious shit. Stamos goes on to say that in order to protect its own security processes, Facebook is not explaining how it can determine whether or not an attack is government-sponsored, and it will only be used in situations in which “The evidence strongly supports our conclusion.” This marks the latest stunt by Facebook in their ongoing campaign to win back then trust of its users. For example, they recently announced that it would now allow users to hide dates they'd rather not be reminded of to avoid being confronted with sensitive posts. A small step, but a significant one.

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Facebook will now supposedly display a warning message if it ever suspects that your account has been breached by someone working for a government

In other Facebook news, the company recently added the Royal Bank of Scotland to the client list of its Facebook at Work network, which is an enterprise version of the social network that Facebook had designed for businesses that want to build social networks for their employees. The RBS is their biggest client yet, and the brand hopes to have 30,000 workers on its FB@Work network by March of next year, and its entire workforce of 100,000 using the platform by the end of 2016. The deal signals a new phase for Facebook at Work. It demonstrates Facebook’s ambitions to scale this B2B service just as it has its consumer product (which now has 1.5 billion monthly active users on desktop and 1.3 billion on mobile). And it demonstrates how enterprises are taking Facebook’s effort seriously. Julien Codorniou, the London-based director of global platform partnerships at Facebook who leads Facebook at Work, says that there are now around 300 businesses using Facebook’s enterprise version. They include some well-known names like drinks company Heineken, whose U.S. workforce is trialling the product; 4,000 employees from real estate firm Century 21 are also on the platform. Codorniou said: “We’re still in beta but we do plan to monetize, based around a freemium business model. We are also building sales and marketing teams for Facebook at Work across the globe right now.”

The Smart Baby Sock that saves lives!

Owlet, a company that made great waves at the Hardware Battlefield competition in Las Vegas earlier this year, have officially taken their revolutionary (and potentially life-saving) new product out of beta testing. The device is being marketing as a “Smart Sock,” and is essentially just that; a small sock-like boot that measures a babies’ breathing and relays it to your smart device SO it’s basically a REALLY thorough baby monitor. The Owlet Smart Sock is designed for new parents who want to make sure their wee ones are breathing at night, and it has already been winning over parents, many of whom have released genuine testimonials praising how they believe the Owlet has saved their babies’ lives!

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The Owlet Smart Sock is designed for new parents who want to make sure their wee ones are breathing at night

Company founder Jordan Monroe, said: “Andrew, Pia, and Easton. These are the names of the babies who were unable to breathe in the middle of the night, and their parents were alerted by the Owlet Monitor in time to intervene. Two of the children were turning blue when their mothers picked them up and stimulated them to start breathing again. This is our announcement to the world today: Owlet has strong initial evidence that it really can alert parents if, for some reason, their baby is unable to breathe. We are also happy to announce that we are now taking Owlet out of private beta and making it available to the public.” Now, I’m not a parent (at least not that I know of), so am a little uncomfortable discussing something I have no right to have an opinion on. For around $250 though, I’d probably want to see one in action before shelling out for one. Still, the company managed to raise $7 million in their first round of investments, so there’s obviously some compelling science behind it!

A kettle that cooks cleans and grows wins the Electrolux Design Lab comp

A UK designer has created a rather unique kettle which not only makes a cracking cup of tea (or so I’d imagine), but doubles as an educational tool to teach children how to cook, clean and grow plants. The device was created by designer Jordan Martin for the international Electrolux Design Lab 2015 competition, which this year was based around the “Healthy Happy Kids” theme. Martin claimed first prize for the design, which makes him the first UK designer to do so, and netted him a £7,300, prize and a six-month paid internship at an Electrolux Global Design Centre. Martin’s design for “Bloom,” channels wasted steam and hot water into three separate pods, designed for cooking, cleaning and growing plants. He was inspired by watching the learning responses of his autistic brother. He said: “When my brother was shown a task visually, instead of just verbally he was very capable and enjoyed being able to help out with everyday tasks. This gave me the idea for Bloom. To create a safe, entertaining and educational device for children to take part in cooking, cleaning and growing their own food.”

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A UK designer has created a kettle which doubles as an educational tool to teach children how to cook, clean and grow plants

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This year’s £4,300 second prize goes to Dominica’s Burdines from Lithuania for her Airshield baby stroller that creates a purified microclimate and a third prize of €4,000 has been awarded to Jeongbin Seo, from South Korea for QH, an all in one hula hoop and air purifier. There were more than 1,500 entries this year from 56 countries and that the People’s Choice award went to Larissa Trindade from Brazil, who received 4,300 public votes for Weaver, a product which can repair clothes by fostering a bio-culture of green tea, sugar and bacteria.

Finally, an affordable Segway!

Chinese company Xiaomi has introduced a smaller, more affordable Segway-like scooter device for a mere $315, which might seem a lot on paper, but is peanuts compared to the $5000 asking price for a conventional Segway. These are not mere knock-offs either, as Xiaomi is a big investor in Chinese company Ninebot, which itself recently purchased Segway. The new scooter is known as the Ninebot mini, and can move at around 10 mph, tackle inclines as steep as 15 degrees and can travel 22 km on a single charge, (roughly 13.6 miles).

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Chinese company Xiaomi has introduced a smaller, more affordable Segway-like scooter device for a mere $315

The device only weighs 28 pounds, meaning it can easily be lugged from location to location and can fit into the trunk of a car, for long-distance scooter road trips with the rest of the gang from your start-up. It will be available in China from November 3, but there's no word yet as to what other countries will be getting their in on the action. In the UK, however, government regulators recently banned the use of similar self-balancing scooters in public, as the devices fall under our definition of a motor vehicle, and therefore are bound by motor vehicle laws, so if the Ninebot mini does find its way to the UK, it would likely face similar restrictions. Can’t say I’m not more than a little disappointed.

The Week in Apple

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Apple released two notable updates for its mobile devices this week. For the iPhone ad iPad, iOS 9.1 introduced an update to Live Photos, new emoji, and more. Live Photos now senses when you raise or lower your iPhone, so it will no longer record unnecessary footage at the beginning and end of each Live Photo. 9.1 also includes over 150 new emoji characters, including a burrito, hot dog, lion, unicorn, upside-down smiley, robot, and even a rather sly middle-finger emoji (expect that one to get a LOT of use). The update also introduces Apple News to iPhone owners in the UK, as well as compatibility updates for upcoming Apple products such as the new Apple TV launching next week.

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Apple released two notable updates for its mobile devices this week

Apple has also released the watchOS 2.0.1 update for its Apple Watch. The update adds the new emoji found in the aforementioned iOS update, as well as improvements to the battery life. Among the additional bug fixes, several address issues that have been plaguing users, such as software updates that would occasionally stall; an iPhone being unable to sync Calendar events to Apple Watch, and another that could cause instability when someone set Live Photo as their watch face. In other news, Apple also just unveiled three new ads showing off a few of the new features on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Unlike past ads focusing exclusively on the aggressively hipster everyman (your average Apple fan boy), these ads feature some major star power. I won’t spoil the surprise for you, see for yourselves!

Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and musician from Kidderminster in the UK.

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