Welcome to our latest round-up of news from the technology and hosting world. Here’s what we’ve discovered this week.
Google filling in the blanks
While everyone is keeping in touch using video chat, many get-togethers have been let down by poor connections. Google, however, is aiming to put an end to this by using artificial intelligence to fill in the bits of audio that sometimes get lost in transit.
It does this using WaveNetEQ, an AI application that references a library of speech data to fill gaps of up to 120ms with the right syllable sounds. In this way, conversations can continue without those irritating stutters. For those not using Google apps, don’t worry; the human brain is pretty good at doing the same job.
Moscow facial recognition enforces quarantine
With tens of thousands of facial recognition cameras all over the city, Moscow authorities are using them to enforce its quarantine and social distancing measures. Operating in real-time, the facial recognition software can detect if quarantined individuals have left their house and send police straight to their location if this is the case.
The system is so sophisticated it can even identify people wearing facemasks who have only part of their face on display. It’s also able to detect if people are meeting in groups or whether individuals are keeping the right distance apart. Those found flouting the rules can be given large fines or even prison sentences as the country seeks to minimise social interaction.
The worry for many Muscovites is whether the state will stop such high levels of monitoring people once the virus outbreak ends, or whether it will continue in a similar way to how it operates in China.
Live stream virtual tours helping retailers
Having your store compulsorily closed is causing problems for many retailers; especially for those with perishable stock. Innovative garden centres, garden suppliers and nurseries, however, have come up with a novel idea to keep their products on sale before millions of them die off or need throwing away.
The way they have been doing this is by live streaming virtual tours of their premises on social media and then offering customers deliveries for any products bought from their website. Live streams are also being used to offer customers advice and guidance about how to maintain gardens during the lockdown.
It is not just plants that are being sold, however; garden furniture and other products are also being featured. If this is working well for garden centres, it is, perhaps, a strategy that can help other types of businesses, too.
Apple flaw affects VPN security
Anyone with a VPN running on a device using iOS 13.4 has a potential security issue. This is because a flaw in Apple’s latest operating system stops third-party VPNs from encrypting all user traffic. When a VPN is active, the device’s OS should close off any running connections and reinstate them via the secure VPN tunnel. However, the latest version of Apple’s iOS fails to do this and can leave some connections open outside of the VPN tunnel where they are not as secure. Of particular concern are push notifications, messaging apps and web beacons. If the connections themselves do not have encryption, Apple’s vulnerability could leave user data open to exploitation.
CLOUD Act lets FBI snoop EU data
A new US law, the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act, is causing concern for companies required to comply with GDPR. The statute extends the remit of US law enforcers, enabling them to access data stored on the servers of US cloud providers no matter where in the world their datacentres are located. What’s more, there is no obligation for law agencies to inform data owners that their files have been searched.
As a result, companies that store the personal data of UK and EU citizens in European-based datacentres owned by American service providers may find that they are no longer compliant with GDPR. Rather than risk the significant fines imposed by the ICO or other European data regulators, many businesses may decide its wiser to migrate their data to non-American providers. eukhost, for example, is a UK owned company with all its datacentres located in the UK and over which the CLOUD Act has no jurisdiction.
Rise of the robots
One of the biggest advantages of robots during a virus outbreak is that they cannot get ill. This has led them to be increasingly used throughout the world during the Coronavirus pandemic. The robot, Temi, for example, is being used in China, South Korea, Japan and the US to interact with vulnerable patients in hospitals and care homes.
Temi, which has been in existence for a few years, has been specially adapted for the current pandemic. Now upgraded, it enables social distancing, allowing patients to safely interact with medical staff and care assistants and is even able to take temperatures remotely. Using AI, the robots can navigate their way around their environment, recognise individual patients and even fetch and carry some items.
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