Uber To Share Traffic Data With City Planners

Uber is to publish trip data to help city authorities get more insight into road congestion. It’s an attempt to navigate the tricky balance between privacy and usefulness.

The data will appear on a new site dubbed Movement that will initially be accessible only by city authorities and researchers but will “soon” be publicly available.

Users of the site won’t be able to track individual rides. Instead the data will be anonymized and aggregated. Rather than show specific start and end points, the rides will categorize locations based on the geographic zones used by transportation planners in the relevant area.

The idea is that the data will make it easier to see how journey times in particular places vary with traffic based on the time of day, week and even year, along with the effects of major events. One drawback may be that the fact people have chosen to use an Uber ride may make their journey unrepresentative: for example, heavy traffic might mean fewer passing cabs to hail, in turn pushing people towards using an app.

Uber has previously had problems at both ends of the data privacy scale. At one stage it built an application for internal use that tracked every journey in real time, something it scrapped over privacy fears. But it’s also cited privacy concerns itself in refusing a New York City request for data on driver locations and dropoff times, which officials say they need to check whether drivers are working excessive hours.

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Norway is killing FM radio and folks aren’t happy

Norway has started switching off FM transmitters today, becoming the first nation in the world to dump the 80-year-old standard. The changeover to Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) will give citizens more stations, better coverage, program time-shifting and more, the government says. However, the majority are against the changeover, according to a recent poll. "We are simply not ready for this yet," MP Ib Thompson told Reuters.

There are millions of radios in houses, summer homes and boats that will no longer work, and only a quarter of the nation’s cars have DAB radio. Though much of Europe changed smoothly from analog to digital TV, most folks were able to get adapter boxes for under 25 euros ($30) or so. The same can’t be said for FM — it reportedly costs between 1,000 and 2,000 kroner ($120 – $230) for a DAB car radio adapter. "It’s completely stupid, I don’t need any more channels than I’ve already got," 72-year-old Eivind Sethov told the AFP in Oslo.

Norway has been prepping the switch for years, though, with DAB running alongside FM since 1995. (The US uses HD radio, which transmits both analogue and digital FM bands simultaneously.) Right now, there are 22 national digital stations, but only five can be packed into the analog FM bands. Switching to digital will also increase coverage and reduce transmission costs, as it is difficult and expensive to get FM signals into Norway’s fjords and mountainous regions.

isfjord radio. svalbard. norway

A radio transmitter in Isfjord, Norway (Getty Images)

Nationally owned chain NRK will be the first to turn off its FM transmitters, with private stations following later in the year. Broadcasting chief Thor Gjermund Eriksen told Aftenposten that he’s confident, but anticipates some early turmoil. "We expect a big rush," he said. With the gradual transition, though, Eriksen hopes that people will take action once they notice what’s happening. "We believe that many people will be in touch when they discover that they have lost some of their NRK channels."

Other Euro countries will follow suit, depending on how it goes in Norway. Switzerland and Denmark have made a strong push for digital radio, and Britain says it may turn off FM once half of listeners are using digital formats. The UK recently launched "multiplex" digital stations, despite reported reception issues and other problems. While France and other nations aren’t convinced, successful digital switchovers in neighboring countries might tip the scales there, too.

One area that hasn’t been discussed much is the learning curve. First developed in the 1930s, FM radio is one of the last 20th century technologies to cede to the digital age. By switching to DAB, Norway is cutting off a large group of people, especially the elderly, from one of the few kinds of tech they know how to use. While the nation is one of the more technologically advanced in the world, the switchover may be the most difficult for those folks.

Source: Aftenposten (translated), Norwegian Minister of Culture

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Gain wireless control of your home with the Instant Switch

instant-switchiDevices is a name that is well known in the connected home industry, and they have just come up with the Instant Switch. The Instant Switch comes across as a remote wireless, Bluetooth Smart wall switch which will enable users to designate additional points of power control regardless of where they are in the home. Best of all is, there is no need for any kind of installation or wiring that is needed, as Instant Switch’s patent pending design allows it to remain secure onto virtually any wall in the form of a traditional light switch. With the help of Bluetooth connectivity, you will be able to pair it to any iDevices power and lighting smart home product so that users are able to enjoy unlimited flexibility and extended control of their home.

With the Instant Switch, it will no longer be limited to just light switches that are installed in a home. Users will be able to place the Instant Switch just about anywhere, all without the need for any kind of reconstruction work, wire-running, or electrical installation. It has been specially designed to mimic a permanently installed light switch, allowing Instant Switch to be fitted over any standard two-screw wall plate. Not only that, it is accompanied by an iDevices wall plate for extra convenience. The presence of stick-on, Command adhesive backing would make it possible to help mount the Instant Switch with just a peel-and-stick to the wall. There is also a built-in ball level that ensures perfect placement, and the batteries within ought to be able to last for a couple of years before requiring a replacement.

As long as the Instant Switch is paired to a hard-wired iDevices Wall or Dimmer Switch, this will end up with an instant 3-way control configuration. With it, one can add an Instant Switch just about anywhere you’ve always wanted. However, you will need to wait a little bit more as the Instant Switch will be released in the middle of this year onward for $49.95 a pop.

Press Release
[ Gain wireless control of your home with the Instant Switch copyright by Coolest Gadgets ]

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A New Type Of Food Pantry Is Sprouting In Yards Across America

Maggie Ballard of Wichita, Kan., and her "blessing box" filled with food and personal care items that she and others have donated.

Deborah Shaar/KMUW

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Deborah Shaar/KMUW

There’s a small-scale charity movement starting to take hold in neighborhoods across the country. Think of those "little free library" boxes, but with a twist: These are small pantries stocked with free food and personal care items like toothbrushes and diapers for people in need.

They’re found near churches, outside businesses and in front of homes. Maggie Ballard, who lives in Wichita, Kan., calls hers a "blessing box."

"I felt like this is something that I could do — something small that you know, would benefit so many people so long as the word got out about it," she says.

The bright red box is about two-feet wide and is mounted on a post near the street. Ballard and her son check on it every day and restock as needed.

"My son is 6 years old, so it gives him a little chore to kind of watch it and see what comes and goes and who comes and goes, and maybe learn a little lesson from it," she says.

There’s a door on the front of the box but no lock, so anyone can take what they need 24-7. In the beginning, Ballard was providing all of the food. Then word spread and donations from the community starting pouring in.

Stacey Schwanke has stopped by with food donations a few times since the box went up in October.

"We dropped off some breakfast food, some pasta, some sauce, some crackers and some soups," Schwanke says.

The food pantry idea has been spreading through social media over the past six months. Ballard’s friend built hers after she saw a picture of one on Facebook.

Similar "yard-based" food pantries have gone up across the country, in states like Oklahoma, Indiana, Kentucky, Florida and Minnesota. Much of it seems to trace back to Jessica McClard, who created what she calls the "little free pantry" in northwest Arkansas.

"The products that are stocked are put directly inside the pantry and turnover is in about 30 to 45 minutes," McClard says. "The frequency of the turnover and the fact that other sites in town are also turning over that frequently, it suggests to me that the need is tremendous."

All of the items inside the boxes are free and there are no forms to fill out. Those using the boxes come and go as they wish. And that sense of anonymity is something you won’t find at traditional community food pantries.

Ballard has only seen a few people using her pantry, because most visitors come when it’s dark.

"Most of the traffic is in the middle of the night, I would say between midnight and 7 in the morning," she says.

Ballard says it’s both awesome and sad to see the turnover of goods every day.

On Christmas Eve she watched as a family of three opened her box to find a bag of bagels and started eating them right there.

McClard says these community-supported pantries are multiplying because of their simple concept.

"We’re all short on time and money, and this is a way that people can feel like they are making a difference," she says.

The food pantries come in all sizes. Some have religious connections and are located near churches. Others are adopted by businesses whose employees want to pay it forward. All are serving up food and supplies to anyone in need.

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The Future: Honda Builds A Self-Balancing Motorcycle

"Look, ma, no han–"

This is a short video demonstration of a self-balancing motorcycle built by Honda. Impressive, but this is 2017, I want to see a motorcycle that drives itself and can go do my grocery shopping for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the grocery store, it’s just the other shoppers I can’t stand. MOVE YOUR CART. Jesus, you’re sideways in the middle of the aisle, how did you even get like that?

In a global debut at CES, Honda unveiled its Riding Assist technology, which leverages Honda’s robotics technology to create a self-balancing motorcycle that greatly reduces the possibility of falling over while the motorcycle is at rest.

Wait — what happened to kickstands? I thought those were working just fine, plus don’t cost that much. Still, this will make it easier to do all those motorcycle stunts I’ve always dreamed of. And I do like the bike’s follow feature. Apparently if you tap it on the front fender and tell your bike that it’s a good boy it’ll follow you on its own. Who knows, maybe your bike will come to your rescue one day when you’re getting bullied for being the new kid in town. Or maybe its sensors will get dirty and it’ll ram you into traffic. That’s the best part about the future: it’s unpredictable. The worst part about the future? "The apocalypse." Yep, not looking forward to that.
Hit the jump for the video.

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