2 big shareholders want Apple to investigate how bad iPhones are for children (AAPL)

kid with iPhone

  • Two big shareholders in Apple are pressuring the company to carry out research into whether iPhones are bad for children.
  • Jana Partners and CalSTRS wrote an open letter to Apple citing a growing body of research that shows kids who use smartphones too much may become more depressed, and even suicidal.
  • The two control around $2 billion in Apple shares between them.
  • It’s highly unusual for activist investors to pressure a firm about social responsibility rather than corporate issues.

Two major Apple investors are pressuring the firm to investigate just how addictive iPhones are for children, and the possible mental health impact of using the device too much. We first saw the news via The Wall Street Journal.

It’s an unusual case of activist investors pressuring a firm over social responsibility, rather than corporate changes.

Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) control about $2 billion (£1.47 billion) shares between them.

In an open letter to Apple, the two investors used scientific research to argue that lots of children in the US get distracted by their phones in the classroom, that higher phone usage might be a factor in teen suicide, and that children who use lots of social media may become more depressed.

The letter cited research showing that the average American teen has their first phone at the age of 10, and spends more than 4.5 hours a day using it, not including texts and calls.

The two investors wrote: “It would defy common sense to argue that this level of usage, by children whose brains are still developing, is not having at least some impact, or that the maker of such a powerful product has no role to play in helping parents to ensure it is being used optimally.”

They called on Apple to:

  • Create a committee of child development experts to study the impact of technology on children
  • Add better, more sophisticated parental controls
  • Assign a high-level Apple executive to take responsibility for this whole area

The two organisations argued that Apple shareholders would see long-term benefits in the firm taking responsibility for younger customers.

“We believe that addressing this issue now will enhance long-term value for all shareholders, by creating more choices and options for your customers today and helping to protect the next generation of leaders, innovators, and customers tomorrow,” they wrote.

Jana Partners is a law firm that was founded by activist investor Barry Rosenstein. It has often taken large shareholdings in firms where it has then agitated for change, like pressuring energy firm El Paso to break in two. This is the first time the firm has taken a social responsibility position for an activist campaign, according to The Financial Times.

CalSTRS is one of the biggest public pension funds in the US.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

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    The world population of robots is growing fast – we’ve got the numbers

    • The world robot population reached nearly 300,000 in 2016.
    • HSBC estimates their population will grow to 414,000 by 2019.
    • Currently, robot unit growth is running at 15% per year.
    • Demand from China is driving the market.

    world industrial robot population growth

    China is driving the world’s robot market, and suppliers in Europe and Japan who have “superior technology” are the winners, according to a deep dive report on “Global Robotics” by HSBC analysts Helen Fang, Michael Hagmann, Richard Schramm, and Anderson Chow.

    Their research note contains an illuminating grid of numbers showing how many robots there are globally, broken down by year and geography. Business Insider turned some of their numbers into the chart above. They show just how dominant Asia is in terms of robotics usage. More than half the world’s robots live in Asia, mostly China, the report says. The world robot population reached nearly 300,000 in 2016, based on the most recent numbers available, and HSBC estimates their population will grow to 414,000 by 2019. Currently, robot unit growth is running at 15% per year. The numbers track robotic assembly arms for factories and rail-guided vehicles, from companies such as Japan’s FANUC and Yaskawa, and Sweden’s ABB.

    ‘This growth story is being driven by powerful macro forces – higher wage bills, an ageing population, and supportive government policy’

    “China is the world’s largest market for industrial robots, accounting for about 30% of global demand. This growth story is being driven by powerful macro forces – higher wage bills, an ageing population, and supportive government policy … We estimate robot production in China rose by 58% in 2017 alone, including the production of lower-tier robotics automation equipment,” the HSBC team told its clients.

    The demand has cut the robot world into two halves: China is the dominant buyer of robots globally, while Japan and Europe are the superior suppliers of machines. “Our conclusion is clear – the superior technology of Japanese and European companies is the decisive factor for winning the majority of the new business, which requires ever-greater levels of precision. Chinese robot makers remain strong in the low-to-medium segment of the market – e-commerce driven logistics is a good example – but competition is increasing all the time. In the meantime, the Chinese companies are trying to acquire the technology they need to narrow the gap.”

    While China may have the most robots, it is still in catch-up mode compared to the West. The US and Europe are way out in front when it comes to robot usage, as this chart of robot density per 10,000 industrial employees shows. The Chinese government’s policy goal is to close that gap:

    robot density

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      Ethereum hits new record high as price surge continues


      LONDON — Ethereum’s recent surge is continuing on Monday, with the cryptocurrency close to its all-time high.

      Ethereum, the second biggest cryptocurrency after bitcoin, crossed $1,000 per coin for the first time on Friday. Gains continued over the weekend and ethereum cleared $1,200 per coin in the early hours of Monday morning. It hit an all-time high of $1,261.41 at 4.40 a.m. UTC/GMT (11.40 p.m. ET).

      The digital currency, which was worth just $10 at the start of 2017, has since given up some of its gains but is still trading higher on the day.

      Ethereum is up 6.8% against the dollar to $1,191.96 at the time of writing (7.55 a.m. GMT/2.55 a.m. ET):ethereum

      The immediate spur for the recent rally was a fourth quarter report on the performance of ethereum, which is a decentralized network for people to run contracts on. Transactions volume on its network doubled, according to a blog post, “surpassing 10 transactions per second for days at a time.”

      Ethereum’s recent rally means the cryptocurrency now has a market capitalisation of $118 billion, according to data provider CoinMarketCap.com. That equates to 15% of the entire cryptocurrency market.

      Elsewhere in the cryptocurrency markets, bitcoin is down 1.8% against the dollar to $15,875.17 at the time of writing and litecoin is down 2.4% to $264.19.

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        10 things in tech you need to know today (INTC, AMZN, GOOG, SNAP)

        thiel trump

        Good morning! Here is the tech news you need to know this Monday.

        1. Intel faces at least three class action law suits over the Meltdown and Spectre chip bugs discovered by researchers last week. The suits, filed in Oregon, Indiana, and California, cite a potential performance slowdown and also Intel’s response to the bug.

        2. The Consumer Electronics Show, the massive annual tech tradeshow, has said it will add more women to its speaker lineup after critics pointed out there were no female lead speakers, or a code of conduct. CES said in a December it had a “limited pool” of senior female speakers to choose from.

        3. Two activist Apple shareholders want the firm to study the impact of smartphone addiction on children’s mental health. Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System control around $2 billion (£1.47 billion) of shares.

        4. There’s going to be a big battle between Google and Amazon over their smart speakers, Home and Echo respectively, as each firm races to outdo the competition. It’s likely both firms will announce new partnerships and hardware at CES.

        5. The first smartglasses enabled with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant will appear at CES. The glasses are being made by Vuzix, according to Bloomberg, and follows lots of third-party hardware makers integrating Alexa into their products.

        6. One of Uber’s biggest shareholders, Benchmark Capital, is selling almost 15% of its stake in the company to new investor Softbank for $900 million (£665 million)Benchmark had hoped to sell more like a quarter of its stake. 

        7. Snap is hiring someone to spearhead its advertising efforts in China. The company quietly posted a job listing seeking someone to meet “ambitious revenue targets.”

        8. Mobile quiz game HQ Trivia has exploded in popularity, hitting 1.2 million concurrent players for the first time on Sunday night. HQ Trivia lets players win cash prizes for participating in live quizzes.

        9. Samsung won a patent for a phone with screens on two sides. The futuristic device features screens on the front and back of the phone.

        10. US president Donald Trump reportedly promised Silicon Valley billionaire friendship for life — but then never got in touch. That’s according to the explosive new book about the White House by Michael Wolff, “Fire & Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”

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          Google and Facebook broke a promise to advertisers

          Susan Wojcicki YouTube CEO Harvard

          • Tech platforms like Google and Facebook love to boast about being “open.” Too often that means they’re a free for all.
          • In 2017, it became clear that the open nature of these giants means they can’t possibly keep track of what kind of content appears on their platforms.
          • Media selling is, at its heart, about making a promise. If you buy an ad in GQ, the inherent promise is that you’ll reach style-conscious men and be surrounded by content that reflects that.
          • But increasingly, when advertising with the world’s largest tech outlets, you don’t know what you’re going to get. These platforms need to grow up and take more responsibility — or risk harsh backlash.

          Tech platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, have long touted that they are “open.” Anyone with an internet connection can upload a video or an essay or some knee-jerk response to some news, and place their ideas in front of potentially millions of people.

          And, of course, the world is now full of examples of folks who’ve done this quite successfully — showcasing the “anybody can do it” optimism that’s plastered across Silicon Valley. But those in the media and advertising world see things very differently. Since late 2016, viewers of Google’s YouTube have been watching more than 1 billion hours of video a day.

          That eye-popping stat was disclosed in a Wall Street Journal article in February. The story pinned the huge viewership to Google’s use of artificial intelligence to recommend videos, and included boasts from Google executives about the fact that — because YouTube is open to anybody — 400 hours of video are uploaded to it each minute. That’s equivalent to 65 years of video a day.

          YouTube was very proud of that number at the start of the year.

          Lately, it’s hard to find that stat listed on their press site (it used to be listed prominently). It’s not a good brag anymore, after it became apparent that some of those videos include ISIS propaganda or pedophilia promotion. It became apparent this year that the policing of 65 years worth of video a day is entirely unmanageable even by the most amazing computer.

          The conversation became about ‘brand safety’ in 2017

          The “open” problem is present for Twitter (see abusive trolls) and Facebook (fake news, ruble-paying Russians) also. But YouTube has found itself at the center of this issue because those nasty videos and the ads that run before them can easily be screengrabbed or linked to. And those ads often equal money in the pocket of the producer of fake news or hate speech.

          Taken together, the openness once touted by Google, Facebook, and Twitter has taken on a new, shall we say, less positive, meaning in the advertising world. The conversation there became about “brand safety,” and based on the steady string of stories this year wherein Google or Facebook got caught running ads in an “unsafe” fashion, neither company has given the marketing world confidence it has a real handle on the monster challenge of policing massive open platforms.

          YouTube will surely argue about how being open allowed for millions of unknown talents to showcase their talents and find fandom. And Twitter will likely talk about a need to provide voices an outlet, while Facebook will boast of connecting an unconnected world.

          But how much longer will those noble missions pass muster when it comes to bottom-line business concerns? At a certain point, will advertisers demand that their ads be kept far from anything that hasn’t been fully vetted, or else? That’s the power clash to watch for in 2018.

          Brands have heard ‘I’m sorry’ too many times

          Sheryl Sandberg Facebook shrug

          For some reason, as digital marketing came of age, ad buyers and their marketing clients convinced themselves it was OK not to know exactly where their ads were running. “The web is too big,” the argument went, “and people are spending time in hard-to-reach communities and niches, and we must take our messages to them.”

          We now know this theory was most built on faulty thinking.

          Meanwhile, after embarrassment after embarrassment, advertisers acknowledge that where their ads appear on the web actually matters a lot. They don’t want to be humiliated again.

          Always bothered by Facebook’s and Google’s power, ad buyers and advertisers have become increasingly concerned when it comes to those tech giants’ attitudes about being open and what kind of culpability that does or does not entail. Both companies have pledged numerous times to get better and do better going forward. And then more troubling stories emerge.

          For instance, while ads next to racist and ISIS videos seem to be fairly isolated instances, the creepy kids’ videos that BuzzFeed uncovered on YouTube had been building big followings and making money from ads for years. And Google didn’t notice until reporters pointed it out.

          Google says it has taken measures to address these challenges. The company has raised the minimum number of views a given channel must have to receive ad support, for example. And it deleted thousands of questionable kid-aimed channels, according to BuzzFeed.

          Yet just this week the Times of London uncovered a group of pedophiles using YouTube to exploit kids. Another thing that was happening for a while right under Google’s nose. Google told the Times that this activity violated its policies and that it is planning a forceful response.

          The platforms use being ‘open’ as an excuse for not minding the store

          home alone

          The persistence of the “open” problem is probably why TV still has an outsized share of ad budgets. Media selling is, at its heart, about making a promise. If you buy an ad in GQ, the inherent promise is that you’ll reach stylish men and be surrounded by content that reflects that.

          Similarly, if you run a commercial during Adult Swim, it will probably be mixed into some weird and edgy stuff that appeals to young men. But at least you know what you’re getting into.

          Increasingly, advertising on the world’s biggest tech outlets is like a box of chocolates. You don’t know what you’re going to get.

          Google and Facebook stick to their “We’re not a media company” stance, even though they make all their money selling ads and invest in original shows. They use this “How can we know what’s going on at all times?” excuse as a way to avoid full responsibility on their platforms that only further irks advertisers.

          So far, advertisers have been talking a bigger game than their actions reflect. It’s time for them to demand more. There’s a big opportunity here for the right media partner or third party to play brand safety insurance provider for ad buyers.

          And there’s an opportunity for top marketing executives, like Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer, Marc Pritchard, to take a stand. Pritchard has given speech after speech urging the digital ad business to get its act together. Unless leaders like Pritchard threaten to hold back money from these platforms, only so much change will happen.

          Otherwise they can just sit back and wait for the next embarrassing screengrab of their ad next to something that does real damage to their brands.

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            A fake ESPN story about LeBron James using ‘Primal Growth Testosterone’ is circulating — and it shows the role the ad industry has in fake news

            lebron

            • An article made to look very much like a story from ESPN.com appeared on the New York Post’s website. Only ESPN had nothing to do with it.
            • The story’s headline implied that hoops legend LeBron James had been caught using performance enhancing drugs.
            • Only the article was a total fake. When people clicked on it, it sent them to an athletic site not affiliated with ESPN peddling testosterone boosters.

            It turns out fake news isn’t confined to bogus social media posts about President Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Sometimes even LeBron James and ESPN get roped in.

            For example, on January 1, Business Insider spotted a shocking headline on the New York Post’s website: “LeBron Devastated After News of His Secret Hit the Tabloids.”

            Above the headline were side by side photos of a disapproving Michael Jordan and James, shedding a tear.

            unnamed 4

            What’s LeBron so upset about? If you click on the link, it sends you to a story that looks and feels just like ESPN.com. And the details are salacious. 

            Turns out LeBron has been taking “special vitamins” which he calls his “secret weapon” allowing him to pack on muscle and presumably dominate on the court.

            In the story, LeBron apologizes for lying, and says he did it for the fans. There’s even an apparent quote from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver (following, according to the story, an emergency meeting with LeBron and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert) in which he claims that “Primal Growth Testosterone is 100% all natural and organic” and “gives athletes a clear advantage.” Regardless, LeBron was being put on probation until further notice.

            All of this would be devastating to the Cavaliers and the NBA – if it were true.

            Instead, it appears that through a third party tech partnership, a paid advertiser placed the dubious story on the New York Post’s website, in this case running it right after a legitimate article about the NFL playoffs.

            The fake new link sends users to “espn.athleticbazaar.com,” which is not actually affiliated with ESPN. 

            That site appears to be part of a Denver-based company, Athletic Bazaar, which sells workout gear and bottles of Dr Formula’s Testo Booster for $25.

            Athletic Bazaar did not respond to several requests for comment.

            It’s not totally clear how the content made its way to the New York Post’s site. The News Corp.-owned paper did not respond to inquiries. 

            unnamed 6

            It’s unlikely that most hard core NBA fans will be fooled by such a post. But the incident exemplifies just how hard it is for media companies to protect their brands on the web. And it shows just how challenging it remains for publishers employing automated, third party ad companies to monitor what ends up on their sites at a given moment.

            unnamed 3

            Indeed, this is not the first time ESPN has been co-opted in this fashion. In 2016 Deadspin spotted similar bogus stories about New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady using some sort of supplements.

            “We are aware of these sorts of fake ads and have worked through the hosts of these sites, as well as with Twitter and Facebook, to have them taken down,” said an ESPN spokeswoman. “It is a challenge to keep ahead of these imposters, but we remain committed to protecting our IP and support efforts that address issues of online theft and impersonation.”

            To be sure, the New York Post isn’t the only website where such trickery takes place.

            For example, on Wednesday a sponsored article from a company called Epicexperiment.com ran a headline on Yahoo.com reading “”Wheel of Fortune” fans mourn the loss of Vanna.”

            Meanwhile, according to ABCnews.com, longtime TV presenter Vanna White is very much alive, and has recently signed on for three more years of work on “Wheel.” 

            “A trusted digital ad experience is important to Oath and our users,” said an spokeswoman for Oath, a division of Verizon which houses AOL and Yahoo. “Oath ad policies require accurate, transparent ads to support an engaging user experience. We have removed the ad from our platforms.”

            vannawhite

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              Google and Amazon say the performance hit from the ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ fixes is overblown (MSFT, AMZN, GOOG, GOOGL)

              Tom Ford Spectre

              • Techies are going crazy after “Meltdown” and “Spectre,” two new methods for stealing data from seemingly-secure computers, were revealed by Google on Wednesday.
              • One worry was that the fix for the problems could come with a major negative impact on performance. 
              • Google and Amazon say they’re not seeing any major slowdowns. 

              On Wednesday, Google revealed that there’s a big security hole in pretty much every processor, including the one in your phone, the one in your laptop, and the processors running servers “in the cloud.”

              The two vulnerabilities, “Spectre” and “Meltdown,” could even allow an attacker to steal passwords as a user typed them. Even worse, early speculation suggested that the fix for the two related but separate problems, “Spectre” and “Meltdown,” could cause a major performance hit as the CPU would have had to do lots of extra work just to stay secure — maybe even reducing performance by 30%, according to The Register, which first reported the flaw

              Google and Amazon now say all of that gloom and doom is overstated. 

              In a technical blog post published on Thursday, Google says the software it built to fix the issue — it calls it KPTI — causes “negligible impact on performance.”

              Here’s the key passage: 

              There has been speculation that the deployment of KPTI causes significant performance slowdowns. Performance can vary, as the impact of the KPTI mitigations depends on the rate of system calls made by an application. On most of our workloads, including our cloud infrastructure, we see negligible impact on performance.

              In our own testing, we have found that microbenchmarks can show an exaggerated impact. Of course, Google recommends thorough testing in your environment before deployment; we cannot guarantee any particular performance or operational impact.

              Basically: Google’s not stressing about any impact to performance, and it believes that the performance hits that other analysts are seeing were conducted without the right data, leading to an “exaggerated impact.”

              Of course, Google’s findings are only applicable to Google’s cloud and services, which run on Google’s version of Linux, presumably on an Intel processor. 

              But Google’s findings are based on data from some real-deal, heavy-duty services that would be dramatically impacted by a major decrease in performance, including Gmail, Search, and YouTube. 

              Amazon also says all-clear

              Jeff Bezos net worthThe lead cloud provider, Amazon, also said on Thursday that it did not expect performance to be severely impacted. 

              “We don’t expect meaningful performance impact for most customer workloads,” an AWS representative told Business Insider. “There may end up being cases that are workload or OS specific that experience more of a performance impact. In those isolated cases, we will work with customers to mitigate any impact.”

              Amazon said on Wednesday that it had already protected its customers from nearly all AWS instances from the vulnerabilities. 

              Although Microsoft hasn’t yet commented on what performance slowdowns it expects, its Azure service will also be closely watched to see if there are any impacts to processor performance. On Wednesday, it said it was in the process of implementing fixes. 

              SEE ALSO: EXPLAINED: ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ — the massive Google-discovered security exploits that have Silicon Valley in a tizzy

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                Billionaire Democratic donor Reid Hoffman made a satirical Trump game — and it captures the spirit of ‘the Resistance,’ for better or worse

                Trump Game 5

                • Billionaire LinkedIn founder and tech investor Reid Hoffman is also a prominent political donor who has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to Democrats.
                • In January 2016, he and his team created a satirical Donald Trump game meant to entertain him and his friends. It’s based on Apples to Apples and that game’s edgier offshoot, Cards Against Humanity.
                • Hoffman released a public version that September loaded with factual footnotes on playing cards, with the intention of encouraging people to vote against Trump.
                • The game is still for sale, and there have been expansion packs since Trump’s inauguration.
                • We played the game for an hour, and while we had some fun moments, we thought it was trying to do too much from an activist perspective to be as enjoyable as it could be.

                When we heard LinkedIn founder and Greylock Partners investor Reid Hoffman created an intricate card game making fun of President Donald Trump, the scenario sounded so outlandish we had to get our hands on it.

                Hoffman is a billionaire who was a prominent Hillary Clinton donor during the 2016 presidential race and has given hundreds of millions of dollars to the Democrats. In January 2016, he decided to combine his lifelong passion for tabletop games with his passion for seeing Trump lose the election. After developing a version of “Trumped Up Cards” for his family and friends, he decided to release a polished version to the public that September.

                When things didn’t turn out for Hoffman and other Clinton voters, he decided he’d keep the game around and refresh it with booster packs, ostensibly to remind players to vote in the 2018 midterm elections.

                “Inspired by ‘The Daily Show’ and ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,’ we decided that satire that reveals the absurdity of our current situation is the only fitting response to these times,” Hoffman wrote on Medium in September 2016.

                Hoffman’s team said that all profits from the game will go to charities, mentioning the ACLU.

                We got a copy of the game and the two booster packs and arranged a time to play — Rich Feloni in the game and Hollis Johnson on photo duty — and invited some of our colleagues. We were joined by careers reporter Áine Caine, your money reporter Elena Holodny, global head of editorial partnerships Hayley Hudson, senior tech reporter Kif Leswing, video producer Manny Ocbazghi, and media reporter Max Tani.

                SEE ALSO: How LinkedIn’s founder went from studying philosophy at Oxford to building a $26.2 billion company

                The first thing we noticed is how much time Hoffman and his co-creators spent on the game. Everything from the packaging to the playing cards themselves is top quality.

                Trumped Up Cards is based on the card game format pioneered by Apples to Apples in 1999 and further popularized by Cards Against Humanity.

                In Trumped Up Cards, four to eight players each play with hands of 10 White Cards. The White Cards either contain a word or phrase or are Trump Cards.

                The standard White Cards are intended as answers to Blue Cards, which contain either a question or a phrase with a line missing.

                The role of CEO passes from player to player with each round, and it is the CEO’s role to reveal a Blue Card that the other players respond to with one of their White Cards. The CEO then declares the best answer and the person who submitted the winning card is given that Blue Card.

                Each Blue Card has the letter V, O, T, or E on it, and when a player spells VOTE, they win. If players play the DC Gridlock Variation, as we did, then the other players can pool their Blue Cards to spell VETO, sacrificing those cards so that the winning player has to discard their winning cards and the game continues.

                We found the Trump Cards to be the most distinguishing and fun aspect of the game. They allow players to interfere with the regular flow of play.

                For example, “Deport an opponent’s answer!” allows the player who uses that card to dismiss the White Card the CEO chose as the winner of that round, forcing the CEO to make a new choice.

                “Reframe the narrative!” makes the CEO for that round select a new Blue Card for the other players to respond to.

                We found the rounds in which a Trump Card was played to be more enjoyable than those in which one was not.

                See the rest of the story at Business Insider


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                  After months of keeping my phone unlocked, I tried the Galaxy S8’s futuristic security features — here’s what I thought

                  iris scanner samsung

                  • Samsung’s premium smartphones have several different security features.
                  • After many months of leaving my Galaxy S8 with no unlock features set, I decided to give some another try. 
                  • Iris scanning and facial recognition have proven cumbersome in the winter weather, but the oddly-placed fingerprint sensor isn’t bad once you get used to it. 

                  I’ve owned a Galaxy S8 since April 2017, but for several months, I didn’t use any of the phone’s security features to unlock my phone. Recently, though, I decided to give them another try. Here’s how it went.

                  The Samsung Galaxy S8 has six ways to unlock your phone: a fingerprint scanner, an iris scanner, a facial recognition system, as well as the more standard PIN, password, and pattern-unlock features. For the past two weeks, I’ve chosen the fingerprint sensor, iris scanner and a PIN code as my main three options to unlock my phone.

                  When I first got the Galaxy S8, I flip-flopped between the iris scanner and facial recognition systems (you can’t have both set at the same time). Facial recognition works like a dream in ideal conditions, but limitations quickly arise: It doesn’t fare well in darkly-lit areas and the Galaxy S8 must be held directly in front of your face to identify you. Holding the phone in a slanted position can affect its ability to recognize your face.

                  The iris scanner, on the other hand, presents you with a frame to let you align your eyes with the sensor. Under the right conditions, the iris scanner can authenticate you before the frame even has a chance to appear. Overall, it fails slightly less than facial recognition.

                  The second run

                  I don’t like feeling like there’s a wall between me and my home screen, period. There’s nothing more immediate than swiping directly into your device, which can make authentication failures frustrating. If the iris scanner fails, I can tap the screen to reactivate the frame and try again, or just enter my PIN, but all of this time adds up when you’re unlocking your phone dozens of times a day.

                  This is why, for most of the time I’ve had the Galaxy S8, I’ve usually left it unlocked. 

                  Of all the various security features, though, I favor the Galaxy S8’s rear-facing fingerprint scanner. The feature has been heavily criticized due to its odd placement, but it isn’t so bad once you get used to it — but you do have to get used to it. I have an app that allows me to use a PIN or my fingerprint to log in, and I’ve found my fingerprint to be the fastest method. I rarely experience failures.

                  I’ve also found having a smartphone case helps me quickly identify the fingerprint scanner. Once my finger hits the right edge of the cutout, which exposes the camera and fingerprint scanner, I know where to place my finger. The device is particularly easy to use with your left hand, due to the location of the fingerprint sensor being to the right of the camera (if you’re looking at the back of the phone).

                  Unlocking my Galaxy S8 during New York’s winter season has had its own special challenges. My glasses constantly fogging up axes the iris scanner, while below-freezing temperatures can make the fingerprint scanner and the back up PIN a no-go, especially if you’re wearing gloves.   

                  Options outside of screen unlock

                  Still, despite my complaints about the Galaxy S8’s security features, there are some clever built-in solutions.

                  Since the Galaxy S8 is an Android phone, it has Smart Lock settings, which let the phone identify when it is safe to remain unlocked. These options include “On-body detection,” which keeps the phone unlocked while it’s being handled by the owner; “Trusted places,” which keeps the phone unlocked while in certain registered locations; and “Trusted devices,” which keeps the phone unlocked while paired with certain nearby devices. I’ve made use of Trusted Places and my Galaxy S8 remains unlocked while I’m at home and at the gym.

                  While running this experiment, I’ve wondered on several occasions: “Do we need our devices to be this secure?” It’s true, all of our most private information is stored on these devices, but we live in an age where things still get hacked and vulnerabilities are found regardless of how many security measures are put in place. This was my rationale for leaving my Galaxy S8 unlocked for several months in the first place.   

                  That said, the many security options afforded to smartphone users do have the some merit. As I previously mentioned, I have my fingerprints set up to unlock certain applications on my phone I feel need that extra security. Perhaps the simple function of unlocking a device doesn’t need to be that challenging, but there should be a wall of protection between certain sensitive in-app information and the data-hungry outside world.

                  My secure future

                  Using the Galaxy S8’s security features isn’t nearly as annoying as it was two weeks ago when I started this experiment, but I do see myself removing them sometime in the future. I plan to keep them set for now, as my paranoia has heightened as of the publishing of this piece. Perhaps I’ll return to my old favorite pattern unlock. 

                  Overall, though, I do recommend at least registering some or all of the security features on your smartphone, so it’s just a matter of turning them on whenever you’re ready to use them. Whether you’re unlocking your phone, or authenticating an app or service, or paying for goods, having a plethora of security options is the new normal. 

                  SEE ALSO: Password-free smartphones are no longer the stuff of science fiction — they’re everywhere

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                    Silicon Valley giants are investing hundreds of millions in housing projects across North America

                    Facebook willow campus

                    Tech giants like Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn are known for their digital products. But in the past several years, these companies and others like them have started to focus on an industry beyond their core business: real estate development.

                    From the lure of tax credits to efforts to provide residences for employees, there are several reasons why Silicon Valley companies are looking to build housing and even entire cities.

                    Take a look at some examples below.

                    SEE ALSO: Facebook and Amazon are so big they’re creating their own company towns — here’s the 200-year history

                    In 2017, the Mountain View City Council approved a Google-backed plan to construct nearly 10,000 homes.

                    Google recently won city approval to construct a giant campus — which will include housing, offices, shops, businesses, and a public park — in the North Bayshore area of Mountain View, California. 

                    Advocates of the 3.6 million-square foot development say that it will help alleviate the area’s affordable housing crisis. Around 20% of the homes will be priced at below-market rate.

                    Though Google threatened to block the construction of the homes unless city officials gave the company permission to build another 800,000 square feet of office space beyond its original proposal, Mountain View City Council green-lit the plan for the homes in December, The Mercury News reported. 

                    It calls for three new residential neighborhoods — Joaquin, Shorebird, and Pear — that will span 154 acres and include homes ranging from studios to three-bedroom units.

                    In late 2017, a division of Google parent company Alphabet announced plans to develop a swath of Toronto’s waterfront into a “smart city.”

                    Sidewalk Labs — the urban innovation unit of Google parent company Alphabet — will design a high-tech neighborhood on Toronto’s waterfront in a project dubbed “Sidewalk Toronto.”

                    Called Quayside, the neighborhood’s plan will prioritize “environmental sustainability, affordability, mobility, and economic opportunity,” according to Sidewalk Labs.

                    From the renderings, it looks like Sidewalk Labs wants Quayside to be a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood. The preliminary illustrations include bikeshares, apartment housing, bus lines, and parks. Though details of the plan are still unclear, Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff, a former New York City deputy mayor, has spoken about how self-driving cars, embedded sensors that track energy usage, machine learning, and high-speed internet could improve urban environments.

                    Sidewalk Labs has committed $50 million to the project’s first phase, and the 12-acre development is expected to cost at least $1 billion. 

                    In the years following the 2008 recession, Google provided hundreds of millions of dollars in equity for several low-income housing projects in California and the Midwest.

                    In the years following the 2008 recession, Google, along with other large corporations, took advantage of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs) to build affordable residential units. Since the program’s creation in 1986, LIHTCs have helped finance more than 2.4 million affordable rental units across the US.

                    The tech giant has bought hundreds of millions of dollars worth of LIHTCs to fund developments in Iowa, Wisconsin, and California, according to CNBC.

                    See the rest of the story at Business Insider


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