Hyundai testing in-car payment system with Xevo

Hyundai testing in-car payment system with Xevo

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Hyundai

is working on a proof-of-concept in-car payment system with automotive software supplier Xevo. With four initial commercial partners in Chevron, Texaco, Applebee’s and ParkWhiz, a future owner could use the

Hyundai

Digital Wallet to buy gas or food-to-go, or reserve and pay for a parking spot without leaving the vehicle. Perhaps even more important than those three,

Hyundai has trialed payments with coffee chains

, too. The service would be tied to the carmaker’s Blue Link app suite and would store an owner’s payment details to enable transactions.

The carmaker still has big questions to answer about the service, such as whether the digital wallet will be contained within the mobile Blue Link app, or be integrated into the vehicle’s infotainment software. An impending pilot program will determine the best deployment, but that means implementation in consumer vehicles remains awhile away.

Hyundai’s announcement moves it into a space slowly gaining more entrants.

Ford’s FordPay

, launched two years ago, contains a digital wallet used for paying for service and parking, and even for keeping up with the car note. Last year,

Jaguar partnered with Shell

to provide in-car payments in three

Jaguar

vehicles. This year,

Chevrolet did the same

as part of the

GM Marketplace

, also with Shell.

Hyundai’s digital wallet comes not long after the

South Korean

carmaker announced another infotainment-based software partner. In April,

Hyundai hooked up with Verisk

, a company that manages a data exchange providing driving data to

insurance

companies. The partnership enables a Hyundai driver to share his driving habits and

be assessed a Verisk Driving Score

. The score would be taken into account for usage-based insurance programs offered by companies like Allstate and Progressive.

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Cars

via Autoblog http://www.autoblog.com

June 11, 2018 at 07:51AM

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Florida Didn’t Run FBI Background Checks on Gun Buyers for a Year Because of a Forgotten Login

Florida Didn’t Run FBI Background Checks on Gun Buyers for a Year Because of a Forgotten Login

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The state of Florida failed to conduct national background checks on tens of thousands of applicants looking to procure a concealed weapon permit for more than a year, and the reason is about as dumb as it gets: the person in charge of performing the checks forgot their login information.

An Office of Inspector General investigation obtained by the Tampa Bay Times showed that from February 2016 until March 2017, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stopped using FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System—the primary database to make sure concealed carry applicants don’t have a checkered past in other states. No applications during that period underwent the required national background check.

That is fucking nuts, and the details of the Inspector General investigation only makes it worse.

According to the report, just two employees regularly accessed the FBI database: Lisa Wilde, the employee who was found to be negligent, and a mailroom employee who had next to no training with the system. Wilde stopped using the database in February 2016 and waited 40 days before reporting that she was having trouble logging into her account to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Infuriatingly, Wilde didn’t go through the proper channels to report the issue, choosing to send an email to the public email address for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s (FDLE) firearm purchasing program instead of directly contacting someone who could help. Her email was forwarded to the proper person, and she was informed the username she provided was wrong. Wilde was given the correct username, which hadn’t been used to login for more than a month, but still reported experiencing issues.

An employee at the FDLE told Wilde that he could help fix the problem, but she would have to contact him via phone call. He also reported trying to call Wilde but she didn’t pick up. Wilde never called and never followed up on the email, opting instead to just not conduct the background checks. This went on for more than a year until another employee finally realized the department hadn’t received a single denial from the FBI database for quite some time.

Wilde clearly holds a significant part of the blame for this massive oversight, but here’s a fun tidbit from the Tampa Bay Times. In an interview with the paper, Wilde said she was working in the Agriculture Department’s mailroom when she was given oversight of the background check database in 2013. “I didn’t understand why I was put in charge of it,” she said. Yikes!

So just how many applications went through without being reviewed by the FBI during that period? According to the Florida Agriculture Department’s annual concealed weapons permit report, there were nearly 275,000 applications from July 1st, 2016 through June 30th, 2017. Just 6,470 of those were denied, and nearly half of those denials were due to incomplete applications.

(For comparison’s sake, the 2017-2018 report shows 200,000 applications during the same period but saw 2,000 more denials with the federal background check in place.)

In the IG report, department employees said the federal background checks are “extremely important” and admitted that without the check, concealed weapons licenses “may have been issued to potentially ineligible individuals.”

A spokesperson for the state’s Department of Agriculture told the Tampa Bay Times the following regarding the report:

As soon as we learned that one employee failed to review applicants’ non-criminal disqualifying information, we immediately terminated the employee, thoroughly reviewed every application potentially impacted, and implemented safeguards to prevent this from happening again.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told the paper just 365 applications required the federal background check. Upon learning of Wilde’s negligence, the department “immediately completed full background checks” on the applications in question and ended up revoking 291 of them.

Per Putnam, “a criminal background investigation was completed on every single application.” The Agriculture Department spokesperson echoed that statement, telling the Times it conducted background checks using two other databases, the Florida Crime Information Center database and the National Crime Information Center database.

That’s not particularly reassuring, especially seeing as Florida has been home to two of the most horrific mass shootings in recent memory: the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida and the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. The latter, in which 50 people were killed, took place during the period that Florida was not conducting FBI background checks (though the shooter acquired his firearms license before that time).

Putnam, the head of the Agriculture Department, is currently making a run for governor of the state of Florida. According to the Times, he’s spent much of his time in his current position trying to speed up the process of issuing concealed carry permits. In 2012, he held a press conference to announce the state’s one millionth concealed carry permit. During the event, he said application process time dropped from 12 weeks to 35 days under his leadership.

He’s only doubled down on his position since hitting the campaign trail. In 2017, he tweeted that he’s a “proud NRA sellout” and has made guns a central issue of his campaign. On his website, he brags, “As Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam expanded the state’s concealed weapon license program so it is now the largest in the country.” That’s probably pretty easy to accomplish when you’re just skipping an entire step of scrutiny for thousands of applications.

[Tampa Bay Times]

Tech

via Gizmodo http://gizmodo.com

June 9, 2018 at 05:21PM

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Inventor says Google is patenting work he put in the public domain

Inventor says Google is patenting work he put in the public domain

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Enlarge /

Meet inventor Jarek Duda.

Jarek Duda

When Jarek Duda invented an important new compression technique called asymmetric numeral systems (ANS) a few years ago, he wanted to make sure it would be available for anyone to use. So instead of seeking patents on the technique, he dedicated it to the public domain. Since 2014, Facebook, Apple, and Google have all created software based on Duda’s breakthrough.

But now Google is seeking a patent that would give it broad rights over the use of ANS for video compression. And Duda, a computer scientist at Jagiellonian University in Poland, isn’t happy about it.

Google denies that it’s trying to patent Duda’s work. A Google spokesperson told Ars that Duda came up with a theoretical concept that isn’t directly patentable, while Google’s lawyers are seeking to patent a specific application of that theory that reflects additional work by Google’s engineers.

But Duda says he suggested the exact technique Google is trying to patent in a 2014 email exchange with Google engineers—a view largely endorsed by a preliminary ruling in February by European patent authorities.

The European case isn’t over, though, and Google is also seeking a patent in the United States.

We first started looking into this issue after we got an email about it from Duda back in March. After weeks of back-and-forth discussions, Google finally provided us with an on-the-record statement about the patent—albeit a very bland one. It stated that Google had included information about Duda’s prior work in its application and that “we await and will respect the USPTO’s determination.”

But a few days later, Google sent a follow-up statement with a different tone.

“Google has a long-term and continuing commitment to royalty-free, open source codecs (e.g., VP8, VP9, and AV1) all of which are licensed on permissive royalty-free terms, and this patent would be similarly licensed.”

Duda isn’t convinced, though. “We can hope for their goodwill; however, there are no guarantees,” he said in an email to Ars. “Patents licensed in ‘permissive royalty-free terms’ usually have a catch.”

Duda wants the company to recognize him as the original inventor and legally guarantee that the patent will be available for anyone to use. Or better yet, stop pursuing the patent altogether.

ANS: Better, faster compression

Facebook has created a compression library based on ANS.
Enlarge /

Facebook has created a compression library based on ANS.

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Computers represent data using strings of ones and zeros. For example, the ASCII encoding scheme uses a seven-bit string to represent alphanumeric characters.

Data compression techniques represent data more compactly by exploiting the fact that symbols do not appear with equal frequency. In English text, for example, the character “e” appears much more often than “z” or “x.” So rather than representing every character with seven bits, an efficient scheme might use three or four bits to represent the most common letters while using more than seven bits to represent the least common.

A standard way to do this is known as Huffman coding, which works well when dealing with symbols whose probabilities are inverse powers of two. Information theory says that the optimal encoding makes the length of each symbol (in bits) proportional to the negative logarithm of its probability. For example, suppose you’re trying to encode the symbols A (P=1/2), B (P=1/4), C (P=1/8), and D (P=1/8). In that case, an optimal encoding might be A=0, B=10, C=110, D=111.

This is optimal because log2(1/2) is -1, so A should have a 1-bit representation, log2(1/4) is -2, so B should have a 2-bit representation, and log2(1/8)=-3, so C and D should have 3-bit representations.

But Huffman encoding doesn’t do as good a job when symbol probabilities are not inverse powers of two. For example, if your symbols are E (P=1/3), F (P=1/3), G (P=1/6), and H (P=1/6), Huffman coding isn’t so efficient. Information theory says that E and F should be represented by bit strings 1.584 bits long, while G and H should be represented by strings 2.584 bits long.

That’s impossible with Huffman coding—any Huffman code will use too many bits to represent some symbols and too few to represent others. As a result, data compressed with Huffman coding techniques will often wind up being longer than it needs to be.

But it is possible to effectively represent symbols with a non-integer number of bits if you relax the requirement that each symbol be represented by a specific, discrete bit string. For example, a technique called arithmetic coding subdivides the real number line between 0 and 1 so that each symbol’s share of the interval is proportional to the frequency with which the symbol is expected to appear in the data. The region corresponding to the first symbol is identified, then that region is sub-divided (again, with each symbol’s share proportional to its frequency) to encode the second symbol, and so forth.

Once all symbols have been encoded, the system uses a long binary string (something like 0.1010010100111010110…) to represent the exact point on the number line corresponding to the encoded string. This approach achieves a level of compression that’s close to the theoretical maximum. But because it involves multiplication of arbitrary-precision fractional values, the encoding and decoding steps are computationally expensive.

Duda’s breakthrough was to develop an encoding scheme, called asymmetric numeral systems (ANS), that provides the best of both worlds. It can represent a string of symbols about as compactly as arithmetic coding. But the encoding and decoding steps are fast, like Huffman codes.

The technique has been picked up rapidly by people making real software. Facebook announced a new compression algorithm called ZStandard based on Duda’s work in 2016. Apple incorporated ANS into its LZFSE compression algorithm around the same time. Google has incorporated ANS into its Draco library for compressing 3-D point clouds, as well as a new image compression format called Pik.

Google is patenting the use of ANS for video compression

Compression of images and video fundamentally works the same way as compression of text. Compression software looks for statistical patterns in an image—colors or shapes that occur much more frequently than average, for example. Video encoders often use mathematical transformations of the data to identify subtle regularities.

Then they compress the image by using shorter bit strings to represent patterns that show up more frequently. ANS-based algorithms can be used to encode image data from a video as easily as a string of alphanumeric symbols.

Duda didn’t just develop the basic ideas for ANS; he has also been an evangelist for the technique. In January 2014, he posted to a video codec developers email list, suggesting that ANS could be used for video encoding formats like Google’s VP9.

Paul Wilkins, a senior technologist involved in developing VP9, responded that “this is not something that we can retro fit to VP9 at this stage, but it is worth looking at for a future codec.”

A couple of years later, Google filed an application for a patent called “mixed boolean-token ANS coefficient coding.” Like any patent application, this one was dense with legal jargon. But the patent claims—the most important part, legally speaking—are fairly clear. The first one claims the concept of using an entropy decoder state machine that includes a Boolean ANS decoder and a symbol ANS decoder—both versions of ANS pioneered by Duda—to decode the stream of symbols. Those symbols represent video broken down into “frames, the frames having blocks of pixels.” Those blocks of pixels, in turn, are represented by a sequence of transform coefficients.

Duda argues that this “invention” just applies ANS to a conventional video decoding pipeline. Most efficient video compression schemes represent video frames as blocks of pixels and use mathematical transformations to represent those blocks using symbols that can be compressed efficiently. The only significant innovation, in Duda’s view, is that this patent claims the use of ANS to encode those symbols.

Over the last couple of months, we’ve repeatedly asked Google to put us in touch with a Google technology expert who can explain exactly what Google invented and how it goes beyond Duda’s own work. Google never made someone like that available to us, so we can’t explain how Google distinguishes its own invention from Duda’s original work. But Duda’s argument that Google’s patent just applies ANS to a conventional video decoder seems pretty plausible.

Indeed, that’s the conclusion the European patent office reached in a preliminary ruling on the topic. “The subject matter of claim 1 does not involve an inventive step,” a February European Patent Office ruling said. The information Duda provided in that January 2014 email thread “would allow a skilled person to reach the invention without having to apply any inventive skills.”

That obviously isn’t an encouraging sign for Google. But the European patent process isn’t over, and we’re still waiting for a ruling from the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Listing image by Photograph by Adrian Libotean

Tech

via Ars Technica https://arstechnica.com

June 10, 2018 at 07:14AM

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Company Developing A Drone Umbrella That Follows Your Head

Company Developing A Drone Umbrella That Follows Your Head

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dronebrella.jpg

These are a couple preliminary test videos of Asahi Power Service’s freeParasol, a DJI Mavic Pro drone with an umbrella attachment that, with the eventual addition of an artificial intelligence tracking system, will allegedly be available for sale next year and be able to follow your head and keep you dry, hands-free. Will it stop other people from swatting at your dronebrella? No. Will it stop dronebrellas from bumping into one another and causing pandemonium? I doubt it. Does the test dronebrella in the second video crash into the floor? Yes. How practical will dronebrellas actually be? No. “That wasn’t a yes/no question.” Yes. “No.” For you, anything.

Keep going for three videos, the second featuring a crash, the third entirely CG.

Thanks to blue16, who agrees the easiest way to stay dry is to take a page from your good friend GW’s book and never leave your apartment, not even for a fire.

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Tech

via Geekologie – Gadgets, Gizmos, and Awesome http://geekologie.com/

June 4, 2018 at 12:59PM

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Company Developing A Drone Umbrella That Follows Your Head

Company Developing A Drone Umbrella That Follows Your Head

https://ift.tt/2LXE2Lh

dronebrella.jpg

These are a couple preliminary test videos of Asahi Power Service’s freeParasol, a DJI Mavic Pro drone with an umbrella attachment that, with the eventual addition of an artificial intelligence tracking system, will allegedly be available for sale next year and be able to follow your head and keep you dry, hands-free. Will it stop other people from swatting at your dronebrella? No. Will it stop dronebrellas from bumping into one another and causing pandemonium? I doubt it. Does the test dronebrella in the second video crash into the floor? Yes. How practical will dronebrellas actually be? No. “That wasn’t a yes/no question.” Yes. “No.” For you, anything.

Keep going for three videos, the second featuring a crash, the third entirely CG.

Thanks to blue16, who agrees the easiest way to stay dry is to take a page from your good friend GW’s book and never leave your apartment, not even for a fire.

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Tech

via Geekologie – Gadgets, Gizmos, and Awesome http://geekologie.com/

June 4, 2018 at 12:59PM

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What The?: Custom Chevy Truck With Two Front Ends Confuses Other Motorists

What The?: Custom Chevy Truck With Two Front Ends Confuses Other Motorists

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coming-and-going-truck.jpg

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s reverse driving expert, this is a video captured on Interstate 93 in Massachusetts of an old Chevy pickup truck that was heavily modified to appear to have two front ends so you can’t tell if it’s coming or going. There’s even a passenger riding in a rear-facing seat so she looks like she’s driving, and a custom ‘WHT THE’ license plate. Very cool, but I’m fairly certain the last thing you want to do is confuse other motorists on the road. They already have a hard enough time not crashing into things, why give them another reason to not pay attention to the road or try to film and drive? That said, you need to pull up right behind this truck then wake up your passenger yelling HOLY SHIT THEY’RE HEADED RIGHT FOR US!

Keep going for the video. Also, the wake-up prank performed in real life HERE.

Thanks to Corncorn, who may or may not still be on the cob.

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Tech

via Geekologie – Gadgets, Gizmos, and Awesome http://geekologie.com/

June 7, 2018 at 02:06PM

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A Pizza Box Designed For Eating Pizza In Bed

A Pizza Box Designed For Eating Pizza In Bed

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To celebrate Father’s Day, this is the limited edition pizza box created by Boston Pizza and John St. Advertising with two legs that fold out like a breakfast-in-bed tray for eating pizza in the sack. Cool, but aren’t ALL pizza boxes made for eating pizza in bed? What’s wrong with just resting one on your belly like I do? “Besides making you look like a gluttonous monster?” My girlfriend happens to like the look, thank you very much. Isn’t that right, honey? Honey?! Wait — what’s this note? Can you read it to me? “It says ‘My dearest love, despite your penis being the absolute perfect specimen, I have to leave — the pizza in bed has just become too much for me to bear.'” I’m heartbroken. “The rest looks like you practicing your girlfriend’s signature.” Give me that!

Keep going for a brief video.

Thanks to marnie, who knows what I like, and I like eating in bed. Actually I like doing everything in bed.

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Tech

via Geekologie – Gadgets, Gizmos, and Awesome http://geekologie.com/

June 8, 2018 at 12:08PM

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