Monthly Archives: November 2014

The World of Fitness Technology

The pedometer has reached a new level; fitness technology is evolving at a rapid rate, and there is a wide range of technology available to help you lose weight and stay in shape. Bands, bracelets, and shoe accessories help fit tech wearers track calories, sleep, and steps. All the information these little gadgets take in is transmitted to an online site so the wearer can update information and get a complete health picture.

Fitness bands and watches have been around for a while now, but new bands entering the market promise more innovation and easier, more reliable fitness tracking. Microsoft recently unveiled a wrist band that does more than track fitness data. It has GPS capabilities and displays social media and cell phone information. Going by a coffee shop after the gym? It has the technology to allow you to pay for coffee via your wrist. At $199, the innovative device is affordable and promises to be a real step in health management.

According to a PWC study, 21% of American consumers own a wearable fitness device, which is roughly equal to the number of tablet users. Wearable tech isn’t the only advancement in fitness technology, though it is an important motivation factor for users. Netpulse, a software company focused on cardio machine technology, is working on incorporating health data from the machine, wearable tech, and entertainment into a one screen experience.

Man’s best friend is also benefitting from the fit tech trends. Many pet parents have started using the trackers to help get Fido in shape, too. Monitoring heart, temperature, and food intake can help pet owners determine exactly what their dog needs to remain happy and healthy.

The real question is whether fitness technology is necessary to reach your fitness goals. The jury is still out, and fitness tech can’t make a person be more active. Fit tech devices are, however, helpful motivational tools that many consumers consider to be an integral piece of fitness training.

Young Inventor Receives Backing by Intel for His Braille Printer

Young people are constantly surprising the world with their gifts and talents. Children and teenagers invented many widely used items today, such as earmuffs, popsicles, and trampolines. Louis Braille originally invented Braille, the system of raised dots allowing blind people to read written words, while he was a teenager at the Paris National Institute for Blind Youth. In more current news, 13-year-old student Shubham Banerjee is building on the inventions of the young Louis Braille by inventing a Braigo, a Braille printer.

Originally a science fair project, Banerjee’s printer began as a prototype created from a LEGO robotics kit and parts from a home renovation store. The prototype was so impressive, it was shown at the White House when the inventor was still 12 years old. Banerjee then used $35,000 to develop working Braille printers, essentially creating his own startup business.

Technology giant Intel discovered his work and was impressed by Banerjee to the point that they provided financial backing to his project. While they have not disclosed the exact amount of money they contributed to the project, it is reported to be several hundred thousand dollars.

Braigo an affordable printing option, which is part of what makes it such a big deal, as well as part of the reason Intel has invested in it. With Intel’s cooperation and backing, the young inventor has been able to improve his printer and is currently working on creating a follow-up printer during his extra time after school.

Intel’s Edison chip, a relatively inexpensive microchip, has been installed in the new printers to allow for possibilities that Banerjee had not previously imagined. The use of 3D printed parts is another improvement. One of the new printer’s features is the ability to print off the headlines of CNN every morning, providing blind people with morning news similar to how sighted people check their smartphones. While not all blind people read Braille, Braigo may pave the way to allow more people to learn, and improve the lives of blind persons throughout the world.

Facebook Enables the Use of Tor for Direct Access to Its Application

Facebook is beginning to send mixed messages to its users regarding the privacy of their information. Facebooks’ recent partnership with ABC News and BuzzFeed to provide political data mining of its users’ conversations seems in direct contrast to its newly official support of the Tor Project, which offers people an anonymous way to browse the web. Tor also works with instant messengers.

Tor is a web browser that allows users to access any site without leaving a data trail behind them. It works by bouncing communications and location information to random places around the world. Those interested in retaining their internet privacy and avoiding potential information leaks regarding their browsing habits, as well as any data that can be construed from those habits, can use Tor. In addition, Tor is a great tool for people in countries restricting internet access to specific sites. By browsing via Tor rather than other web browsers, users can view sites otherwise blocked to them. In some cases, Tor can prove useful in life-or-death situations.

Previously, when Tor was used to access Facebook, any account using the application was flagged as “hacked.” Now that Facebook has opted to provide users with access to directly connect to their Facebook accounts via Tor, they are provided with data encryption and will no longer be flagged as a hacked account.

With internet giants like Google and Facebook pushing hard on user visibility and requiring people to use their real names in conjunction with their activities on the web, there’s an obvious need for an application like Tor. Facebook’s support of Tor flies in the face of its previous actions and statements regarding user privacy. However, Facebook’s stated reasoning for implementing direct access through Tor comes down to providing users with secure and stable accessibility to its application without forcing Tor users to jump through hoops due to the bouncing location integral to Tor privacy.

Has Facebook Gone Too Far? Facebook is Sharing User Political Leanings with News Agencies

Facebook’s tendency to remove privacy for its users has once again reared its ugly head. From practicing psychological experiments on its unaware user base to denying users the ability to maintain a pseudonym, Facebook has repeatedly made its intentions known with regard to user privacy. Now, however, the company isn’t simply making a point. Facebook has entered into an agreement with ABC News and BuzzFeed to cull the political leanings of its users based on their conversations conducted within the application.

The technology and algorithms involved in the Facebook app provide a strong basis from which to discern a multitude of information regarding its users. Going well beyond straightforward targeted marketing within the application, Facebook will now sift through the data streaming into the app and provide political information to these two news companies with the specific intent to help estimate voting trends and candidate approval ratings.

This act begs the question, how far is too far? With Facebook’s access to this information, are there implicit rights for the company to use said information freely? As with any technology, people must take on the responsibility of choosing how to employ their power. Information is power, and Facebook has the lion’s share.

A spokesperson from Facebook stated the data would be mined in “a privacy safe way,” but the fact remains that Big Brother is watching the American people and deciding whether or not their political opinions on candidates and issues are neutral, negative, or positive. This partnership sets Facebook up to become the primary arena in which politicians and citizens debate and discuss political issues of the day, thus reducing the use of other equivalent applications for healthy discourse.

Since many people already regularly use Facebook as a platform for advertising their political views, the data is already present. The 2016 elections will be the first to disseminate statistical and demographic data, officially obtained through social media, regarding the political climate in America.