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Coronavirus: UK considers virus-tracing app to ease lockdown

A coronavirus app that alerts people if they have recently been in contact with someone testing positive for the virus “could play a critical role” in limiting lockdowns, scientists advising the government have said.

The location-tracking tech would enable a week’s worth of manual detective work to be done in an instant, they say.

But the academics say no-one should be forced to enrol – at least initially.

UK health chiefs have confirmed they are exploring the idea.

“NHSX is looking at whether app-based solutions might be helpful in tracking and managing coronavirus, and we have assembled expertise from inside and outside the organisation to do this as rapidly as possible,” said the tech-focused division’s chief Matthew Gould.

Instant alerts

The study by the team at the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute and Nuffield Department of Medicine was published in the journal Science.

It proposes that an app would record people’s GPS location data as they move about their daily lives. This would be supplemented by users scanning QR (quick response) codes posted to public amenities in places where a GPS signal is inadequate, as well as Bluetooth signals.

If a person starts feeling ill, it is suggested they use the app to request a home test. And if it comes back positive for Covid-19, then an instant signal would be sent to everyone they had been in close contact with over recent days.

Those people would be advised to self-isolate for a fortnight, but would not be told who had triggered the warning.

Infographic shows how app would trace contacts using location and QR barcode scans and send them a notification when they'd been close to someone diagnosed with Covid-19

In addition, the test subject’s workplace and their transport providers could be told to carry out a decontamination clean-up.

“The constrictions that we’re currently under place [many people] under severe strain,” said the paper’s co-lead Prof Christophe Fraser.

“Therefore if you have the ability with a bit more information and the use of an app to relax a lockdown, that could provide very substantial and direct benefits.

“Also I think a substantial number of lives can be saved.”

To encourage take-up, it is suggested the app also acts as a hub for coronavirus-related health services and serves as a means to request food and medicine deliveries.

The academics note that similar smartphone software has already been deployed in China. It was also voluntary there, but users were allowed to go into public spaces or on public transport only if they had installed it.

BBC

How to send a WhatsApp chat without saving the contact

WhatsApp is one of the most popular applications. It makes communication as simple as adding the correct number of anyone in the world and voila, that’s it. However, it can be somewhat annoying that in order to message someone, you always have to first add that person in your address book, but there are so many occasions where you just want to communicate with someone for a couple of messages and nothing else.

That’s why many third-party apps take care of this simple task for you. It shouldn’t be that difficult to send messages through WhatsApp without saving the contact. The problem is that these apps can compromise the security and functionality of your smartphone. They might also be incompatible with certain operating systems.

To help you resolve this issue, we’ll show you how to send messages through WhatsApp without having to add the contact to your address book. And best of all, this method doesn’t require that you install other apps and it works for both iOS and Android operating systems.

The Process:

This process may at first glance seem somewhat confusing for users who are not very experienced using their smartphone. But once you complete the process one time, it will be a piece of cake every time after that.

  • Open your preferred browser on your smartphone.
  • Type the following link in the search bar: https://api.whatsapp.com/send?phone=XXXXXXXXXXX (In place of the Xs type the phone number of the person you want to contact, including the country code, but without the + sign.)
  • That means that if the person has a Nigerian number (with the +234 prefix), it would look something like this: https://api.whatsapp.com/send?phone=2348038657737
  • Press ‘enter‘ on your smartphone.
  • A WhatsApp window will open asking if you want to send a message to that phone number. Press on ‘send message‘.
  • You will automatically be redirected to WhatsApp with the ‘start chatting‘ window to the person you entered in your phone.

China creates app to tell you if you are near someone in debt and encourages you to report them

The Chinese Government has developed a mobile app that tells users if they are near someone who is in debt. The app, called a “map of deadbeat debtors,” flashes when the user is within 500 meters of a debtor and displays that person’s exact location.

News of the app has caused quite a bit of controversy after it was originally reported by the state-run China Daily. It is an extension to China’s existing “social credit” system which scores people based on how they act in public. It’s no secret that China keeps a very close watch on its citizens, but this new public shaming approach takes it one step further.

The app is available through the WeChat platform which has become immensely popular in China. The government stated that “Deadbeat debtors in North China’s Hebei province will find it more difficult to abscond as the Higher People’s Court of Hebei on Monday introduced” the app.

Once a user is alerted that they are close to a debtor, the user can then view their personal information. This will reveal their name, national ID number, and why they were added to the debtor list. The debtor can then be publicly shamed or reported to the authorities if it is deemed that they are capable of repaying their debts.

The full social credit system will be operational in 2020 when plans indicate will be used to bar people with low scores from traveling, getting loans, and getting jobs. A person’s score can be lowered if they do things like playing an excessive amount of video games or posting fake news. On the other hand, a social credit score can be raised by things like volunteering or donating blood.

TechSpot

Android P to stop apps from monitoring network activity

In the future, it looks like Android apps will no longer be able to detect when other apps on your device are connecting to the internet.

It’s about time Google patches this nasty privacy flaw. Any app can monitor your network activity without your knowledge to see when you connect with a competing app, or perhaps worse.

XDA Developers first noticed the new changes coming to Android’s SELinux rules for apps targeting API level 28 running on Android P:

A new commit has appeared in the Android Open Source Project to “start the process of locking down proc/net.” /proc/net contains a bunch of output from the kernel related to network activity. There’s currently no restriction on apps accessing /proc/net, which means they can read from here (especially the TCP and UDP files) to parse your device’s network activity.

The SELinux changes only enable designated VPN apps to access some networking information, according to the code. As XDA Developers points out, Android apps won’t have to target API level 28 until 2019 — meaning the flaw could still be accessed for some time.

We’ll be looking for changes in the next release of the Android Open Source Project. Hopefully Google will jump in and patch things before Android P’s future release.

zdnet

Samsung releases SoundAssistant app for improved audio experience on Galaxy phones


Samsung has launched a new app to allow Samsung Galaxy owners to customize a wealth of audio settings on their devices.

Known as SoundAssistant, the app offers “150 steps” of volume adjustment, a floating EQ, mono and stereo balancing, as well as the chance to set individual volumes for different apps.

What’s more, SoundAssistant can alter the hardware volume keys so that they default to media volume control rather than call volume. Typically, these keys will automatically switch to control whatever sound is playing at the time, but this can be a little finicky and doesn’t always adjust the desired setting. As a person who usually has their phone on silent, though, having it default to media volume would be far more useful than call volume.

If you own a Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus, SoundAssistant can even allow you to set different outputs for different apps, like using a Bluetooth speaker for Spotify and the phone’s speaker for Clash of Clans.

On paper, the app looks like it could be a useful tool and I expect that many Android users would appreciate the features it offers: here’s hoping Samsung opens it up to non-Galaxy devices sometime (and non-Android 7.0 Nougat devices, as that’s another current restriction).

You can download SoundAssistant via the link below and let us know in the comments what your favorite Android audio customization tool is.

Amazon Lex, the technology behind Alexa, opens up to developers

Amazon Lex, the technology powering Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa, has exited preview, according to a report from Reuters this morning. The system, which involves natural language understanding technology combined with automatic speech recognition, was first introduced in November, at Amazon’s AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas.

At the time, Amazon explained how Lex can be used by developers who want to build their own conversational applications, like chatbots.

As an example, the company had demoed a tool that allowed users to book a flight using only their voice.

However, the system is not limited to working only in the chatbots you find in today’s consumer messaging apps, like Facebook Messenger (though it can be integrated with that platform). Lex can actually work in any voice or text chatbot on mobile, web or in other chat services beyond Messenger, including Slack and Twilio SMS.
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Google’s AutoDraw uses machine learning to help you draw like a pro

Drawing isn’t for everyone. I, for one, am definitely not very good at it. But with AutoDraw, Google is launching a new experiment today that uses machine learning algorithms to match your doodles with professional drawings to make you look like you know what you’re doing. Read more

More university students are using tech to cheat in exams

A growing number of UK university students are cheating in exams with the help of technological devices such as mobile phones, smart watches and hidden earpieces.

Data obtained by the Guardian through freedom of information requests found a 42% rise in cheating cases involving technology over the last four years – from 148 in 2012 to 210 in 2016. Last year, a quarter of all students caught cheating used electronic devices.

Among the worst offenders were students at Queen Mary University of London, where there were 54 instances of cheating – two-thirds of which involved technology. At the University of Surrey, 19 students were caught in 2016, 12 of them with devices. Newcastle University, one the bigger institutions to provide data, reported 91 cases of cheating – 43% of which involved technology.

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