• By Sin Mei C
  • November 1, 2013

This Week in Context (20131101)

This week’s most interesting news facts in the industry of context you shouldn’t miss out on are the Nexus 5’s onboard sensors, and some great advances for mHealth. There’s a call for more context-aware security in IT from The Guardian, and Mozilla steps up to create a public service that provides geolocation lookups.

  • Good news for those who have already ordered a Nexus 5, or plan to do so when more become available: the new Nexus 5 has step detectors build in.  According to David Pierce of  The Verge, who studied the KitKat 4.4 feature list, that OS comes with built-in support for step detector and step counter sensors, so your phone can act as a pedometer without requiring apps developers to build fancy algorithms in order to detect when you’re taking a step. So, the Nexus 5 will come with Fitbit alike powers built in, and KitKat 4.4 has native support for this.  All this sensor goodness, is another step in the ‘ubiquitous listening’ direction, as with the Moto X.  (via Stevo, who has already ordered his.)
  • An interesting article by Evgeny Morozov called  The Real Privacy Problem appeared in the MIT Technology Review. Morozov points out that futuristic thinkers have been worrying about ‘big data’ and privacy issues ever since the sixties, and that there might not be one single, easy solution. He argues that the main problem is politics & policy, not technology and market economy. I don’t know if I entirely agree, but it is well worth the read, especially for to-the-point quotes such as “Sharp, bullshit-free analysis: techno-futurism has been in decline ever since.”
  • Amazing news from the telemedicine and mHealth market, as HealthLine reports that a team of neuroscientists at the Medical College of Georgia in August have found a way to measure a person’s heart and breathing rates using any single-channel video camera. That includes a web cam, or your smartphone’s camera.  The researchers say the key is a series of complex mathematical algorithms that help the camera sort mountains of visual data into useful, real-time information about the health of humans, medical research animals, and livestock. As they point out, such innovations in combination with the release of FDA guidelines for medical apps last month, make that we may expect many more mHealth programs hitting the consumer market soon.
  • The Guardian’s Leon Ward calls for a new approach to IT security in Context aware security: why behaviour beats passwords.  Context-aware security? It is what Facebook does when it detects you logging in across the world, and asks you to tell it some more about your friends to prove it is really you using your password. Wouldn’t it be lovely it banks, for example, would do the same?
  • While many commercial services exist in the mobile locations pinpointing space, there’s no public service to provide this type of information.  Mozilla is stepping up, and introducing the Mozilla Location Service,  an experimental pilot project to provide geolocation lookups based on publicly observable cell tower and WiFi access point information. Mobile phones with a weak GPS signal and laptops without GPS hardware can use this service to quickly identify their approximate location.  Currently in its early stages, it already provides basic service coverage of select locations.  If you want to help out with gathering data, you can install their dedicated Android MozStumbler app. And, good words to see written on their blog: “Even though the underlying data is based on publicly accessible signals, geolocation data is by its very nature personal and privacy sensitive. Mozilla is committed to improving the privacy aspects for all participants of this service offering.” So they do plan to avoid the massive fines Google received while doing the same. (via Roel)

I’ll leave you with Will Knight’s article on why driverless cars are further away than we’d like to think. Luckily, although technology can’t drive one for us yet, nothing stops us from using a heap of technology to make driving safer, and to better integrate automobiles with – or connect to – our everyday lives.  Read – or created – something you believe we should mention in the Week in Context? Let us know, on Google Plus or Twitter!

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