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Smile – it’s this weeks’ news mash up from the Canvy Team

This week the Canvy Team scoured the net for a few fun, tech-related news. (Seems like people are getting terrible serious of late about their grown up “toys”… Yes, we know that smartphones and devices are indeed useful in productivity, but let’s admit we all foster at least one game on these gadgets, so more or less secretly, they also are our toys – right?)

So, let’s see the findings…

 

The best office perks

In the spirit of steering away gradually from the work-productivity zone, here’s a great list of amazing amenities, some organizations provide their employees with. You will find from Google pods to maternity concierge services, indoor sports areas and other recreational spaces.

Although this list might make you feel a bit sad if you don’t have your own perks at the office, you may well take it lightly – there is still hope! Knowing how trends work, such attractive features are bound to reach your own work environment… someday.

 

Funny job titles in techworld

How about working as a digital overlord? Perhaps you already do and don’t know it, because that’s the title one company used for Website Managers. Also, plenty of Gurus, Ninjas, and Rockstars, Masters, Evangelists and Sherpas seem to populate the wondrous world of tech. There are even a few Prophets out there, or to be honest at least one, which works “across the globe to identify new opportunities for the business.”

Feast your curiosity and open your horizon by browsing this list here.

 

Next level CVs

This one you surely know about! Have you heard of the guy who Lego-ed himself in order to get better noticed in his job hunt?

You can find out more about this clever guy here. Or just Google him, and make him even more viral – his name is Andy Morris, and he’s a design school grad.

Here’s me, as a figurine… don’t throw out the packaging, there’s my CV there! Nothing more to see here, just move on to…

 

Your cat is controlling your TV

Oh, well, now that Internet streaming is usurping TV as we used to know it, of course your cat is playing with your old TV set in the basement… only that’s not the case here.

It’s all about the TV-remote wars, a society game played in every family of more than one member. We’ve played it with our friends, siblings and relatives. But I bet we’ve never thought of turning them into a remote. Or the cat. Or any other object in the house.

Wait for it… Yes, here it comes: “researchers at the University of Lancaster have developed a system that will let any object in your house become a TV remote – even your sleepy cat”.

Featured here by TechRadar, this odd piece of news, of course, can remain just a “would be”, since it will be a while until its consumer product stage. Nevertheless, we can dream on. I imagine the cats aren’t holding their breath for this innovation to reach the market.

 

That’s all, folks. Have a nice week!

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All or nothing in ISP blocking – here’s why (and here’s AI)

A recent online report shows that the Chinese internet service providers caused intermittent service on the WhatsApp platform. This is just one of the many disruptions experienced by WhatsApp, due to censorship.

This incident leads to the old discussion of “should the ISPs be allowed to block certain websites, platforms or apps, or not?” The blocking reasons may vary, and the risk of encouraging censorship in some regions of the world is just one thing to consider.

ISP blocking, not a generic matter

Generic blocking would represent the “all” version of solving the matter. Yet it is only logical that ISP blocking cannot be allowed in a generic manner, then shifting the power of decision to each provider.

Deciding to block certain websites or platform happened so far as a result of specific court orders. For example, in the UK, the EPL won a High Court Order following which the UK ISPs were required to block certain servers that hosted illegal streams of EPL football matches. This means ISP blocking can be enforced, but a proactive action must be taken by those who are harmed, and the reasons are to be validated by a Court.

In theory, this protects all the websites or platforms that could be unreasonably blocked, if the courtroom stage were not required. However, in a biased governing regime, the legal system would be most likely biased, too. Therefore, providing legal means of ISP blocking may return unexpected results when legal does not equal democracy.

In the UK it has also been proven that ISPs block VPNs by default , which is another way of “censoring” the Internet. No Court Order here, just a legislative promise turned reality, according to the source article.

The not so global Internet

  • When “nothing” is not quite what it seems

When looking at the three examples from the above, we may easily wonder whether our posts or apps reach the big world out there, or not. Well, assuming we are not tackling any problematic issues that might get censored in some country or another, the posts should reach absolutely everyone interested, regardless of their location. At least in theory.

The apps are however another category, as WhatsApp’s case proves. Enabling fast-paced, real-time communications between people might not be to everyone’s taste. The more efficient such apps are, the less likely they are seen as suited by oppressive regimes. Some might even be marked as dangerous by non-oppressive systems, due to the fact that in the wrong hands, they serve dangerous purposes. In that aspect, the matter meets the iPhone encryption dispute.

Wait, what are we doing? Penalizing the best apps because their efficiency might be used for malicious purposes? Ironically, sometimes this might be the case.

A point where AI’s contribution would be strategic

Stepping back a little, the problem could be summarized like this: modern technology brought along modern peoples’ rights. The way they are currently handled is not standardized, therefore it varies from region to region. How can malicious actions be stopped, without inducing an oppressive approach for all that Internet access means?

Monitoring Internet traffic with the help of Artificial Intelligence is one way to go. It is not a thing of the future, either. Only that AI progresses and learns, and the more developed it is, the more effective its presence. Sifting through the big data bulks of the Internet traffic to point out only the real risks is not easy to accomplish. Too many false alerts and the system is not credible, while missing the true risk points makes it unreliable.

Meanwhile, Internet neutrality advocates try to keep the status quo. Maintaining the current liberties could prove difficult, could prove risky from some angles, but it is important and it’s part of who we are, or of who we want to be as a modern society.

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Trends that caught our attention: Google Pixel 2 news and DNA nanobots

While recovering from a local storm that managed to wreak havoc on the city here, we couldn’t help but browsing the bigger picture trending subjects – in the tech field, which is always a matter of interest here, at the Canvy Team.

 

Gogle Pixel 2 launch confirmed

With a timing that managed to out-trend even the iPhone X post-launch comments (at least in the USA), Google confirmed its October 4th event marking the launch of Pixel 2.

This high-end device competes in the premium segment. The additional Google-related rumors are that the company will replace the defective Nexus 6P with Pixel XL-s, even if the one year warranty term id overdue.

The price for the expected Pixel 2 remains yet to be announced, as well as the validity of the second piece of (unofficial) news.

 

DNA nanobots

On the healthcare-oriented side of next-gen technology, the Caltech researchers managed to make quite a few waves by reviving the idea of microscopic DNA robots set to intervene in favor of the human health by transporting molecules to specific places in the body. This time the robots evolved into a more feasible concept – the specialists speak of “pegs” that would enable the tiny robots to advance their way towards their destination inside the body.

However, as the source article mentions, “there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in order to perfect the technology and understand how the robots could work in a wider variety of situations”, a detail that might temper the enthusiasm, but nevertheless does not impair the fact that the scientists advance on their way to materializing the prototypes.

 

Conclusion in G minor

…Where G can either stand for Google – a brand definitely on top of the digital trends, or you can also look at the trending topics on (again!) Google, and see how G may stand for “games”, a subject that takes at least one of the top places weekly. This may be construed positively (people will always keep their playful nature), or negatively (all this tech primarily serves the gaming field, while other domains are not as appreciated). In fact, the balanced conclusion is nor here nor there.

Modern technology empowered customers like never before – in terms of making choices of high impact. Ultimately, the playfulness or seriousness of any tech product translates not into moral conclusions, but into profitability metrics. The most world saving concept can populate a dusty file if not approached and supported accordingly. Similarly, the video games industry is thriving due to the fact that it manages to captivate people of all ages.

On this note, we leave you to another week of tech discoveries, and we invite you once again to explore Canvy’s full array of features, as you might find things that you’ve missed before. Our Android contact manager app is pretty complex, and we welcome your feedback at out contact addresses!

Canvy, Canvy Team, smartphones, Android Oreo

Android Oreo – what about the smartphones that are not scheduled to update

The fast-paced technology of our days may sometimes feel frustrating. We tend to form bonds with our possessions, especially when their daily use proves satisfactory. Therefore smartphones cross the boundary between indifferent objects and cherished goods. Many appreciate the new, improved devices, yet still hold on to their older ones – it’s an element of comfort. It may also be an action of wise financial considerations or sustainability.

Regardless of the reason, a lot of people desire to keep their current devices, yet would like to benefit from the latest software updates. Depending on the tech leaders’ policies, this may or may not be possible. What else is there to do, besides giving up your older smartphone and getting a new one just because you want the latest OS features and access to the newest apps?

 

Android Oreo and smartphone obsolescence

Unveiled on the 21st of August this year, the latest Android version was confirmed to arrive preinstalled on smartphones such as “BlackBerry, HTC, Nokia and Sony”, as GhizmoChina confirms (also see here the list of devices that get the new OS).

The logical assumption is that older smartphone versions will not get the Oreo update.

The same publication mentions that, however, those who really wish to have the latest Android version working on their current smartphones can employ custom ROMS and install Oreo. This “solution” is highly questionable, due to its instability and unofficial character – so if you are thinking of it, better move past it.

 

The hardware-software hybrid comes with its own rules

Whenever we acquire a “bundle” made out of hardware and software, we should understand that this type of property is not autonomous, especially in a world of connectivity. The benefits are many, but the rules are very specific ones we must abide to.

Perhaps the digital generations find it hard to even examine this issue in terms of autonomy versus dependency, but the services’ merging that we are witnessing do cause this type of interlocking for various elements, paid or free.

We buy a smartphone – it comes with a preinstalled OS that is part of our decision process when we decide to make this purchase. We install various apps, some of them free – in many instances because we want to connect and our friends and peers are reachable on those particular networks represented by the apps. Or we simply extend our abilities via the apps and we make our activities easier.

From the get go, the quality of digital user will suffer the impact of various factors.

 

Is the customer a false or a true king?

The idiom “the customer is always king” knows a radical transformation in the digital age. On the one hand, the companies do pay attention to the way users react to their product and services and analyze the market before every change – the slightest annoyance can snowball into a worldwide phenomenon or at least has the potential to impact a brand’s image. Therefore, risk management includes the customer reaction as one of the most important factors.

One the other hand, some changes need to go through, no matter what. As we know, innovations are rarely able to guarantee public approval before they launch – so they need to be introduced, they hold risks and often meet the audience’s hostility.

Of course, not everything comes in A/B tests. Some changes that seem to be pre-approved by the customers go wrong when standing the reality trial, while some innovations prove winners, regardless of the first impact.

The idea here would be that, when considering smartphones and the related software, be it their OS or their apps, any major change turns into a global roll out. When the change implies modifications that we do not like, unwanted updates, or even replacing our smartphones for compatibility – we hardly feel like kings.

 

Enjoy what you have

The good part is that old sayings never go out of business – and the ones about enjoying what you have are the golden rule when in doubt about changes that you are not sure of. Ponder your options – you have the time since usually there is a lag between the new and the old, in the sense that you are able to keep your old options/devices and not be completely out-networked for a while.

The same advice should go to the companies, as well. The truth is that customers appreciate not being pushed into unwanted options, or being left behind because they choose to do things differently. The ethics, the customer-friendliness and the customer loyalty are perhaps harder to quantify, but extremely valuable. When introducing innovations, it would be nice to let them exist along classical options, instead of annihilating these last ones. Just saying… at least when there is enough room for both to coexist.

Canvy Team digital precognition

The Canvy Team ponders on the need for digital precognition, as displayed by the Google Search

In a world of progress and digital revolution, the leading-edge tech companies have made it clear that mastering big data is the key to success. However, not all businesses have the resources to directly tap into this ocean of raw information. Yet all need to get exactly the right details out of it – in order to sell better, and provide better services to their customers. The percentage of companies that pay for “Interpreted-Data-as-a-Service” is most likely higher than the one of the companies that handle their own data needs on premise.

This is definitely one way to succeed in the modern business world – extrapolating and interpreting data. We might even say obsessing about it, when the results prove unsatisfactory – a sort of passion about numbers that holds the promise of the ultimate clarity, of the logical anticipation of the following key strategic steps.

 

Reducing the options, a way of better handling big data

Recently, Google’s search app on iOS got a Twitter-like “trending” feature, as well as the capability of displaying the estimated search results “even before (the users) press the search button”. Of course, the Android users of the Google App are already used with the “trending” suggestions, which appeared approximately one year ago – generating a long line of complaints.

Well, it seems like not all customers complaints’ are seen as constructive feedback by the company. Google simply goes on with certain features, regardless of the way the audience receives them. Probably, the higher purpose in introducing certain changes prevails.

And definitely a very important role of many of the latest changes, from algorithms to app updates or digital tools’ changes is related to what the machines need, in order to be able to process the global data and produce relevant results. For attaining a reasonable predictability, the algorithms need to evolve or – a more short-term alternative – to be fed logically organized data.

 

The randomness that usually characterizes human nature just isn’t that productive at the moment

Therefore, when searching for whatever goes through your mind on Google, its search app prompts various “nearest” categories, trying to eliminate unnecessary variation. Perhaps you call the same thing a different way, and in fact you are looking for exactly what your next-door neighbor is looking for. Perhaps you are susceptible of being influenced and you will end up looking for the same thing your neighbor looked for… the reasons you might take Google’s suggestions instead of using your own head are countless.

The outcome is what matters – big data becomes more logical, more efficiently digestible. Bots and algorithms can provide valid final predictions and results, businesses adopt these tools on a large scale. This technology is successful, even in its more rudimentary forms (as opposed to the highly advanced projects that try to materialize AGI)…

 

Digital precognition, data and businesses

Machine Learning is built on the (valid) assumption that the human brain works as a machine would, only it is an extremely sophisticated system. Well, this theory would find a lot of opponents, and even when accepted, it includes listing many exceptions, in order to fully describe the way we think and function.

However, the schematics of this concept are enough for the ML promoters to work on. Developing more and more advanced software tools, those who work in this field learn as they go along, combining the commercial value of each step and intermediary tool with their experimental value. The activity is both interesting and profitable.

Digital precognition, or the capacity of anticipating certain elements, from market movements to people’s reactions or choices, is already incipiently present in various software tools. Monitoring or cybersecurity tools, for example, are in some cases capable of alerting the users on the probability of an incident.

Therefore, we may say we already have achieved a certain degree of digital precognition.  Also, by teaching people to organize their thoughts and think in a less complicated/sophisticated way, the point where machines meet human thinking gets closer and closer.

Out of curiosity, just ask yourself what each update in your favorite apps that does not feel quite comfortable is in fact trying to teach you?

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What could AR glasses mean for connectivity and communications? – The Canvy Team answer attempt

Recently, a patent application filed by the members of the Oculus R&D division allowed the online media to make a few educated guesses on how this gadget will look like.

You may read more details on this gadget – Facebook’s AR glasses – in this Engadget article. Essentially, the working principle is that of a “waveguide system that projects images and light into the user’s eyes”. The concept is not innovation per se, which means that the materialization should be excellent and in time, in order to stay ahead of its potential competition.

 

Will AR glasses cut their own niche on the market?

…or perhaps they don’t need to, since they might just work out as a handy and/or fancy accessory to smartphones. Here you may check out a 2015 rundown of the alleged such gadgets at the level of 2015. Just a couple of years later, and we still have not witnessed the large-scale success of the products mentioned in this article. Some of them are even a complete novelty for the 2017 reader, which means they have practically fallen off the board.

We have explained in a previous blog post the reason why AR (and not VR) works for the smartphones – therefore the choice of AR over VR comes without saying. The potential market for AR glasses consists of the mass of smartphone owners. Compatible smartphones, of course.

Therefore, all it might take is a working, attractive gadget, good marketing and attractive features – for this new trend to spread virally. There is, however, a fine line between success and flop when it comes to “accessory” gadgets, which might explain the careful way the tech companies proceed. Long planning stages, testing and re-configuring try to avoid the possibility of this type of gadgets being crushed once they “see the light”.

 

What you see might not be what you get

This does not refer to the above-mentioned gadget itself, so you may rest assured the Facebook team is indeed doing their best to produce a great device. The subtitle allegation concerns the target audience, or the market, if you will.

Sociology is the key to marketing success. Of course, nowadays it is itself based on big data parameters, so having access to correctly-processed big data is also a must. Here’s a factual example –let’s say an employed male in his 30 officially owns a smartphone. Although the account shows up in his name, due to the fact that his days are always busy and that he actually predominantly uses his work phone, the data concerning the use of his phone might in fact be generated by an elderly relative or a young one, with access to his phone.

Therefore, when estimating the chances of success on the market of a new device – the predictive capacities, even when automated, are not certitudes per se, even if some companies try to get to that point. There are a lot of smoke screens coming from the way things go in real life.

Sometimes it is hard to find the explanation for why a certain device did not meet its success, or why, on the contrary, the sales practically exploded on the market.

 

Key takeaways from the AR glasses (ongoing) saga

It turns out that when you are keen on an idea, and you also have the financial backup for it, it may be actually wise to go on perfecting it – don’t give up on your dream!

The market gets ripe for certain concepts, although it takes time – so pay attention and strike the iron while it’s hot – timing is important!

Keep your target audience on their toes, without revealing more than necessary, since the competition might be following your moves too.

(Well, some of you might already be extremely familiar with these best practices, but it never hurts to express them once more).

Good luck in your endeavors from the Canvy team. We are wondering how communications will look like with the AR glasses available for our users…

 

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Samsung Galaxy Note 8 teaser takes things one step ahead

While eagerly waiting for Samsung Galaxy Note’s launch during the event held in New York on 23rd August 2017, the teaser video for this most expensive Samsung phone so far has rolled out on the web. The video features a clear “one step ahead” strategy. Under the taglines “Do bigger things” and “DoWhatYouCant”, it packs a lot of promising words in just 37 seconds, inducing the expectation of a truly great device.

Why are we interested? Well, Samsung means Android, and Android means Canvy – enjoy a neat, organized style of connectivity and reimagine the way you connect by using our app!

Find out more about the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, also dubbed “the biggest comeback story in phones”, from this Tech Radar article.

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Six leadership & management clues, from a startup founder

Author: Horia Damian, CEO and Founder Partner of the contact management app Canvy, startup entrepreneur and tech passionate

Leadership and management sometimes are one and the same, while in other instances one of them needs to take control, when getting your team through significant moments. Need to motivate and inspire? The leader takes the scene. Need to solve a situation efficiently? Perhaps it’s time for the manager to enter the spotlight.

It depends upon each of you to decide which to apply when. However, at the core of each entrepreneur there is a mix of courage, innovation, efficient habits and lifetime beliefs – out of which he provides for the team.

 

Empowering behaviors – checklist

Nevertheless, what makes the person behind the above-mentioned roles the right person for the job? Speaking from my own experience, you definitely have to believe in yourself. Of course, the abilities and personal experience are fundamental. Never forget that you have what it takes for leading a team. Never forget the importance of your activity – personally, I strongly believe that management has an important role in empowering team members to deliver results in a particular project.

Here are 4 basic empowering behaviors:

– Share the goals and the strategy with your team members & even involve them in defining or adjusting these key elements

– Maintain an open atmosphere that encourages personal contributions

– Allow individual freedom of decision whenever possible

– Openly and clearly approach the role each member plays in the team and define the area of allotted responsibility

 

Mentorship – the not-so-distant cousin of leadership

The two aspects of receiving valuable advice – being mentored and mentoring – are a welcome presence all along an entrepreneurial career. On purpose or even incidentally, there are always people who leave their mark upon our way to approach things in life and, of course, make our presence felt in a similar way to those who come after us.

For me, understanding that there is always something to learn represented an essential step in itself. Once you have this inner approach, you are the first to gain – by enriching your inner universe constantly; secondly, of course, this benefits to your organization.

Carrying the team over difficult moments – duty or option?

 

When it comes to the way we surpass difficult moments here at Canvy, I would not put the issue in terms of duty or fairness – though this is a way of approaching it too. It is only fair to appreciate the hard work even through difficult times, and give back support and continuity – and optimism.  But I would rather bring into question the right entrepreneurial attitude I think it is absolutely necessary to have towards the team. The rest comes from here.
I think it is important to see yourself as the central support element of all team members and thus to create, facilitate and maintain the frame within which the team is at its highest level. How do you know you are on the right track? When you see signs that you are truly making each individual feel more powerful, when you seem to add 1 + 1 and the result is more than just 2. The more the better for the project, and this should also be mirrored by each team member.

 

Find your own recharge method – and use it!

A technique that I’m trying to always employ when faced with difficult times is to leave it for a day or two. The fresher an event is, the more it risks to influence the rational decision that needs to be taken.

Personally, I try to avoid the effects brought on by a strong emotional load. This way, by distancing myself a bit, the perspective is restored and I may place that event/moment in its rightful place – the decision will be objectified and – I think – better.

 

Honesty and leadership/management – a match made in heaven?

Honesty is essential for me, and is directly related to the mutual trust you ideally work on building – bidirectional –on the one hand, within the team, and on the other hand, with all the stakeholders involved in a project.
There are further points of trust and honesty in managing a startup project – the customer will only use your product, if he or she feels that – at least – you are striving to make the world’s best product in a particular category. Ideally, you can involve the stakeholders in the project and thus find themselves in it. Generating meaningful bonds puts extra value in our work – and provides honesty, to ourselves and towards the others.

 

Entrepreneurship predetermination – the “type games”

Talking about types of people that are most suited to lead than others would be a stretch. I feel it is a rather limited take on what being an entrepreneur really means. Between predetermination and choice, I value the second one the most.

We are all children of our times in certain ways, as well as the result of our ancestors and family. Yet, by looking exclusively at these two factors, we ignore the power of will and of change held by each individual – which would be false. We constantly work on our own development and growth. What we get out our personal experiences can mold into a unique, personal style of leadership & entrepreneurship.

When we are fully there, there is this wonderful feeling of being at ease, which transmits to all those who interact with us and is perceived positively by all those who matter in various situations, from the clients and the team members to the shareholders.

 

 

Tekke, Street Fighter, video game, Canvy Team, news,

Analysis of a trending piece of news in gaming – the Canvy Team

Besides keeping an eye on the latest in technology, and especially in apps, we all know that signaling, “digesting”, and perhaps adding a bit of a different angle on the most recent stories serves in riding their ranking wave. This technique is established in the online environment.

When the spotlight news happens to be on a topic that we already know, fully understand or at least partially grasp – all for the better. But when the leading lady of the tech news is more of a niche subject for us – the Canvy team members that love to share weekly trending articles with our audience – we may be in a bit of a tight spot.

 

Exercising a different kind of topic

However, we decided to take the bull by its horns and attack the top trending tech story in the US region – two famous Japan-based fighting video games just got “DLC characters from old beat-’em-ups”, according to vg247.

Now, you may wonder what the link between this and the target audience for Canvy is. It might be that we have Canvy users that are passionate about fighting video games. Or not. Anyway, these games have a huge mass of fans, and most definitely their fans also own smartphones and have contact lists, therefore a potential need for our contact management app. But enough with the backstage justifications – let’s dive into the main story we picked for today.

 

What happened and why should the gamers feel thrilled?

As we mentioned above, two renowned games just got new DLC characters. FYI “DLC is extra content for a video game you download from the internet, either distributed by the game’s official publisher or a third party content producer.

Let’s also disclose the games – it’s all about Street Fighter – created by Capcom, and Tekken (Iron Fist, in Japanese) – created by Badai Namco Studios. Fighter fans will add to their arsenal in Street Fighter 5 the character Abigail – from Final Fight. Meanwhile, starting with Tekken 7 Geese Howard is the next add-on character.

The announcement was made on 16th July 2017 during the Evo (Evolution Championship Series) 2017, held in Las Vegas.

 

The humans behind the two games – and their alleged friendship

That’s the news – in a nutshell. Also, adding to that, it seems like for the first time (?) the two competitor developer companies teamed up, in a move that serves for the good of the fighter game genre – as the source we quoted in the beginning of our piece mentions.

A human-to-human friendship might be behind this move – respectively Yoshinori Ono (Street Fighter) and Katsuhiro Harada (Tekken) are rumored to get along, especially that in 2012 they collaborated on the crossover release Street Fighter X Tekken ( – now look back at our question mark from 5 rows above, and fully understand its purpose…).

 

The bigger image in all this

Software developers create games, programs or applications, which in turn expand their own life and meaning when imbued with the perspective, actions and energy of all the users around the globe. It’s a case of double creation – the backbone fueled by developers gets full life only once the audience fills it with actions, purpose, feedback, and continuous use.

True, the video games are sort of a supreme example. The audience is unrestricted by age, race, interests, special abilities or whatever other characteristics might there be. On the opposite side, people who employ business apps should have something to do with the business environment, those who employ creative apps should be potentially creative and so on. But the pattern is the same – the work of a team of developers holds the potential to expand it influence and power with the contribution of the product’s users.

Developers provide a framework, whilst aiming to improve upon a certain starting product via user feedback, market monitoring and so on.

And, some day, there is the passing of that magical threshold when you realize your product has really turned into an inanimate friend for all those who employ it – a friend in need, a skill expander, a loyal assistant or whatever other role a software product might take.

Do you agree?

Amazon Echo, Alexa, emergency calling, incident, technology, smart devices, ML, Canvy Team

Why is the Amazon Echo incident important – a few takeaways from the Canvy Team

Update: According to Buzzfeed, the entire story is highly questionable, due to the fact that Amazon “said on Monday that its devices are not capable of calling 911”. Nevertheless, our point about smart devices potentially being responsible for people’s safety in the future is not invalid, even if the entire incident proves to be “embellished”.

***

What did the news report this week (on this subject)?

Who you gonna call? – Well, not the ghostbusters, since there was no ghost involved in the entire conundrum. And more to the point, the latest incident pointed out that the calling in emergency situations could go from a “who” to a “what”. The Amazon Echo (Alexa, in fact) system mistook a reply shouted during a domestic incident for an instruction – and called the sheriffs. This led to the de-escalation of the incident and generated quite a buzz in the online media – can smart devices safeguard humans?

Although perhaps a premature question, this surely falls upon a concept long-thought about in the R&D departments of many tech companies. Why premature? Due to the fact that the Amazon Echo’s intervention was accidental (nevertheless useful), and unexpected, it may be a long shot to see too much into it. A fortunate incident does not replace accurate and oriented tests, nor does it make a general rule.

What is beneath dispute, however, is the fact that this incident opened up to the wider public the idea of smart devices serving as a help in critical situations.

 

“Potentially life-saving” AI assistants

The image projected by such a sequence of words is truly appealing. Technology is appealing, in general, when placed in the context of helping humans, enhancing their abilities, helping them get through the mundane tasks quicker and better.

The downside of this image consists of, as always, the current ways we manage to fall short of this wonderful concept. Take cyber security alerts, for example. There is a notion related to having too many warnings, or warnings that are wrongfully triggered by not-so-dangerous security events – “alert fatigue”. The tool – a smart, real-time, alert generator cyber security system – when calibrated less than smart, ends up by defying its purpose. Important alerts end up by being ignored.

 

Smart devices for a safer life – but what are the requirements?

In a similar way, having smart devices safeguard people would be useful only if they are:

  • Optimally set up (with proper reaction thresholds, and the capability to integrate unexpected situations);
  • Accessible (while technology cannot break the cost barrier and remains inaccessible to a wide part of the population, no ubiquitous networks can exist, therefore the learning pool available for ML would remain limited, creating inaccurate patterns and sub-environments);
  • Endowed with the other part of the reaction chain – services specially tailored to pick up on the alerts and intervene;
  • Continually able to improve, with every new experience fed into the AI (wait – that is, in fact, the definition of Machine Learning – ML).
  • Cyber- secure: stories on how smart networks were hacked into serve as a warning, since this is the reality we live in.

Crossroads in technology

As wave breakers, the trials that transform tech concepts into prototypes and commercial versions often are a harsh reality check. We dream of AI, AGI, Machine Learning, digitizing everything – some of us even fear the day when machines will be able to design and produce other machines independently, or software would be capable of programming itself. Yet the reality represents most likely a hectic mix of concepts & limitations.

The road from theory to product, be it hardware or software, is a long, winding one. That is why devices and applications that can be trusted with human lives are extremely scarce. Making a completely autonomous, reliable prototype is extremely difficult and it takes a lot of trials.

Our app aims to be a friend to the people who employ it. Don’t take it this means developing such an app is easy – especially that we covered various elements of complexity. However, the challenges when developing a health or safety app are way higher.

What remains to be done is for us to keep looking forward, to aim for innovation, while threading carefully and detail-attentive towards each element that stands the test of reality.