Category Archives: health

Life In and After Lockdown



Although many of us still remain in lockdown, there’s light at the end of the pandemic tunnel with a number of countries now easing the restrictions. Painful as it has been for many, it’s also been positive in several respects. I spend more time with my children, there’s no hour long commute and I’ve been taking walks every day. Well, nearly every day…

And it looks like I’m not alone. LG Electronics commissioned research in UK to mark the launch of its latest portable and lightweight laptop range, LG gram, and found that

  • Just over a half of those questioned plan to continue with new habits like listening to podcasts, online fitness classes and regular walking once social distancing restrictions are lifted.
  • Two-fifths feel these new habits are better for their wellbeing.
  • More than one in four have found it easier to relax and keep a better routine.

Video calls have become a way of life and the main way to keep in touch with friends and family. In addition to calling for a chat, 25% have celebrated a birthday, 20% have taken part in a pub quiz and 7% have been to a stag or hen do. Frankly, I’d be asking for a do-over when things are more normal…

The study showed that the average person was spending nearly three hours per week on video calls, with half the nation (48%) expecting to continue with video calls after the lock down is finished. I guess what this shows was how much people felt that video calls were either unnecessary or difficult to do, but once people saw how easy the calls were and got past the initial awkwardness, it’s become ordinary. Thanks Zoom.

The poll of 2,000 conducted by OnePoll showed how integral technology is to our lives with laptops (54%), TV (57%) and mobile phones (64%) playing a key role for work and entertainment during the lockdown, allowing us to continue watching our favourite TV shows (51%), follow at-home workouts (19%), and learn a new skill or language (16%). If you include becoming a home school teacher as “learning a new skill”, then it’s three out of three for me.

When it comes to working-from-home this is where I think we will see lasting change. After experiencing working-from-home many will not want to return to long commutes in crowded trains or long traffic jams with the commensurate savings in fares or fuel. A quarter of the people (25%) questioned agreed that they planned on working from home more often after offices reopen. When asked what their ideal space to work from would be in the future, home was the most popular answer (30%) followed by a fixed office (23%) and then outside space (9%).

Hanju Kim, IT Product Director, LG UK said: “It’s both encouraging and uplifting to see some of the positive things coming out of this challenging period. The fact that many people are forming productive and healthy new habits is testament to the nation’s ability to adjust. The nation is working from home and has an appetite to continue working flexibly even after offices reopen. A big part of this can be attributed to technology keeping us connected.

And so to the product launch….the 2020 range of LG gram laptops is available in the UK now coming in 14” (from £1,199.99), 15” (from £1,299.99) and 17” (from £1,449.99) sizes, featuring a 10th Generation Intel Core processor with Iris Plus graphics and up to 24GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory. With the 14” model weighing under 1 kg and the 15” & 17” models allowing up to 17 hours of battery life, the 2020 range sets a new standard for portable computing. Available from all good UK retailers – Amazon, PC World, Argos and Costco.


Former Instagram Founders Created a COVID-19 Spread Tracker



While some states are continuing their “stay at home” orders, others are considering whether or not to end theirs. But, how can a state figure out when it is safe to end that? The former founders of Instagram have created a solution that can help answer that question – the Rt COVID-19 tracker.

TechCrunch reported that Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the founders of Instagram, have teamed up to launch Rt.Live, an up-to-date tracker of how fast COVID-19 is spreading in each state. TechCrunch stated:

One fascinating feature of the site is the ability to filter by region so you can see how the Western states are doing better at suppressing COVID-19 than those in the South. You can also view states with no shelter-in-place orders to see they’re doing worse on average. The charts could help identify how different political orientations and their subsequent policies translate to infection outcomes.

There is plenty of useful information on the Rt COVID-19 tracker website. The metric being tracked there (Rt) represents the effective reproduction rate of the virus calculated for each locale. It lets Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger estimate how many secondary infections are likely to occur from a single infection in a specific area.

Values over 1.0 mean that we should expect more cases in that area. Values under 1.0 mean we should expect fewer. According to Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, when Rt is below 1.0, the virus will stop spreading.

Those who are interested can view data from 2 weeks ago, last week, and yesterday. At the time I viewed the Rt Covid-19 tracker, the data it showed was interesting. Two weeks ago, almost every state (except for Tennessee and Washington) were in the red (above 1.0). Last week, fewer states were in the red, and the majority were yellow, hovering just above or slightly below 1.0. Only a few states (Indiana, Idaho, Louisiana, and Washington) were in the green, below 1.0.

Yesterday, the data formed a curve that goes from Vermont (green and below 0.5) to Georgia (red and above 1.0). It is also possible to see data for an individual state, by scrolling down the website. The line graphs are color coded so you can see if your state is at 1.0. Some states that have hit 1.0 are starting to go back up (which means the COVID-19 virus is still spreading in that state).


Apple and Google Partner on COVID-19 Contact Tracing Technology



Google and Apple announced a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.

Since COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health officials have identified contract tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread. A number of leading public health authorities, universities, and NGOs around the world have been doing important work to develop opt-in contact tracing technology.

To further this cause, Apple and Google will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in contact tracing. Given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy.

In May, both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores.

In the coming months, Apple and Google will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms. This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities.

Apple and Google stated: “Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance and effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders. We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze.”

I understand that Apple and Google are trying to do something that could, potentially, reduce the spread of COVID-19. I can see where having public health authorities involves with the project is important, as that would be a good way to ensure that credible information is presented.

It is wonderful that the project will be opt-in for users. Nobody likes it when companies go ahead and opt-in someone without asking for their permission. My biggest concern about this contact tracing project is that a government could try and us the data to cause harm to people.

Google and Apple really need to get this right when it comes to user privacy.


WhatsApp Bot Gives Out Covid-19 Information



The amount of misinformation around novel coronavirus and Covid-19 is staggering and presents a real danger both to the health of individuals and the wider community. To combat this threat, the UK Government has launched a WhatsApp bot to provide authoritative information on the virus.

The new free service aims to provide official, trustworthy and timely information about coronavirus (Covid-19) and reduce the burden on the National Health Service (NHS) and other under-pressure resources.

To engage with the bot, its phone number is 07860 064422 in the UK and connections are accepted from outside the country on +44 7860 064422.

Using the Covid-19 Bot is a little like using an interactive phone system: it’s respond “1 for this, 2 for that”.

     

Prof Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director, Public Health England, said, “This service will help us ensure the public has a trusted source for the right information about coronavirus, updated with the latest public health guidance and providing assurance that they are not misled by any of the false information circulating.

The Bot doesn’t check symptoms or provide diagnoses – it’s purely for information – but it does provide guidance on what to do if you think you have Covid-19, although the guidance information is UK-centric.

Pressing “7” offers a “mythbusters” section from the World Health Organisation that debunks many of the rumours around Covid-19. Some of the myths are pretty farfetched but now there’s an official source to refute them.

The ubiquity of WhatsApp makes it a great tool for this kind of information dissemination but a downside of WhatsApp is that it requires word of mouth to pass the number on – there’s no central index. So get the word out.


Postmates Now Offers Non-Contact Deliveries



Postmates, an on-demand delivery service that brings the food people order to their homes, is now offering non-contact deliveries. According to The Verge, this new option was designed to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. That said, I can see where non-contact deliveries could benefit people in additional ways.

Today, we’re introducing Dropoff Options which will give our customers the ability to specify how they’d like to receive deliveries. Customers can choose to meet their Postmate at the door, as they have before, meet curbside, or go non-contact and have deliveries left at the door.

Postmates explains that to use this new feature, you should order as you normally would. You will then be prompted to select your delivery preference before checking out. Postmates also makes it clear that they know “there are always people who, for health or other reasons, might prefer a non-contact delivery experience.”

It should be noted that non-contact delivery is not mandatory. It is simply another option for customers who can choose which delivery method they prefer.

Obviously, this change is intended to reduce the spread of coronavirus. It is possible that a Postmates contractor could have come in contact with the virus, without showing symptoms. Conversely, a person ordering from Postmates could potentially have coronavirus, which might subject the Postmates contractor to the virus. Non-contact delivery could also help prevent the spread of other things people don’t want to catch – such as the flu.

Non-contact deliveries could also be beneficial for people who are chronically ill and who don’t want to answer the door in pajamas. It might make food delivery easier for people who have autism and who don’t want to have to participate in a social interaction just to receive their food order.


Tech Companies Want Staff to Work from Home Due to Coronavirus



It is a smart decision to do everything possible to limit the spread of coronavirus. Big tech companies are using the strategy of asking their employees to work from home. This may be a temporary decision, but I think the move could help normalize working from home.

The Verge reported that numerous tech companies have asked their Seattle-based employees to work from home to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. This includes Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and Bungie.

Microsoft is allowing and encouraging its employees based in Seattle or San Francisco to work from home. These employees can work from home through March 25, 2020.

CNBC reported that Amazon is asking employees at its Seattle and Bellevue, Washington, offices to work from home (if they are able to) until the end of the month. This decision was made after an employee tested positive for coronavirus. Amazon has also restricted all nonessential U.S. travel in response to coronavirus.

CNBC also reported that Facebook encouraged all of its 5,000 employees in Seattle to work from home for the rest of the month. Facebook has closed its Seattle office until Monday.

Twitter announced that it is strongly encouraging all employees globally to work from home if they’re able. Working from home will be mandatory for employees based in Twitter’s Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea offices (due in part to government restrictions). Interestingly, Twitter had already begun moving towards a more distributed workforce that’s increasingly remote.

Bungie stated that it has built a fully remote infrastructure for all Bungie employees across the globe, with the goal of prioritizing the safety of their employees.

My hope is that these moves will help to normalize working from home. Employees would no longer have spend time commuting, and could spend those hours with their families. They could reduce the amount they spend of gas each week. Workers could do their job without the risk of catching the next “office cold” or the flu.


Travel with the HiMirror Slide at CES



HiMirror has unveiled its latest consumer smart mirror, the new HiMirror Slide at CES. Following on from their previous success, the two-time CES Innovations Award winner has developed the Slide for use both at home, when travelling or for popping round to a friend’s house for a bit of shared pampering.

Designed to be compact and portable, the Slide comes with an 8″ screen, a slideable mirror to extend the size in use but protect the screen during travel, and a folding stand. The Slide works in both portrait and landscape modes and to help with beauty treatments, the mirror has LED light strips down each side.

HiMirror‘s range of smart mirrors aim to be “your at-home beauty and health consultant”, and use high resolution digital cameras to record and assess skin condition including wrinkles, fine lines, clarity, dark circles, dark spots, red spots and pores to both identify problem areas and track improvement. Simply, the smart mirror takes a picture of the face, analyses it and recommends personal skincare routines to help improve skin quality. It’s neat stuff.

As a smart mirror, the Slide comes with a host of digital features – Amazon-Alexa, music streaming, social media, weather and news updates, as well as Google Assistant conversation actions.

HiMirror has become a staple at the Consumer Electronic Show over the last few years and we are proud to be bringing even more one-of-a-kind innovations in 2020,” said Simon Shen, CEO of Taipei-based New Kinpo Group. “Our mission is and has always been to revolutionize the beauty industry on both the consumer and business side, with our latest launches – we feel we are doing just that!

The HiMirror Slide is priced at US$119. Additional models and accessories for the HiMirror product portfolio will be available for demonstration during CES at the HiMirror booth including the HiMirror Mini Premium X, Smart Body Scale and the HiSkin. Call into booth #44516 within the Sands Expo Convention Center – last chance today.

There’s a funky video here showing the HiMirror Slide in action.