Let this fitness tracker motivate you to get moving

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Theres nothing better than being in shape. It prolongs your life, it makes you feel better, and it can even boost your mood. Unfortunately, its really hard to get in shape, and even harder to maintain it.

Luckily, there are some great fitness trackers that can help you achieve your goals like the Moov Now Personal Coach & Workout Tracker. This award-winning tracker actively monitors your bodys motion to ensure that you get the most out of every workout. It even gives you personalized feedback to correct your form and help minimize your risk of injury.

But what really separates Moov Now from the competition is its coaching. Moov Now features a real-time audio coach that gives you positive feedback throughout your workout so youre always pumped to conquer that next hill or set a new personal record. Its the perfect training tool for high-intensity workouts like circuit training, running, cycling, swimming, and cardio boxing.

Moov Now also shows you how to work in proper intervals so you can recover safely, gain results faster, and gradually level up to more intensive workouts. Plus, it constantly changes your workouts so you stay motivated and dont plateau.

With a tracker like this, its much more likely that you’ll actually get your butt off the couch.Moov Now normally costs $79.95, but you can get it for just $49.95, a savings of 37 percent. Buy it here.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/07/29/a-fitness-tracker-thats-also-a-personal-trainer/

TrueFace.AI is here to catch the facial recognition tricksters

TrueFace.AI knows if it's looking at a real face or just a photo of one.
Image: ian waldie/Getty Images

Facial recognition technology is more prevalent than ever before. It’s being used to identify people in airports, put a stop to child sex trafficking, and shame jaywalkers.

But the technology isn’t perfect. One major flaw: It sometimes can’t tell the difference between a living person’s face and a photo of that person held up in front of a scanner.

TrueFace.AI facial recognition is trying to fix that flaw. Launched on Product Hunt in June, it’s meant to detect “picture attacks.”

The company originally created Chui in 2014 to work with customized smart homes. Then they realized clients were using it more for security purposes, and TrueFace.AI was born.

Shaun Moore, one of the creators of TrueFace.AI, gave us some more insight into the technology.

“We saw an opportunity to expand our reach further and support use cases from ATM identity verification to access control for data centers,” said Moore. “The only way we could reach scale across industries would be by stripping out the core tech and building a platform that allows anyone to use the technology we developed.”

“We knew we had to focus on spoof detection and how we could lower false positives.”

TrueFace.AI can detect when a face or multiple faces are present in a frame and get 68 raw points for facial recognition. But its more unique feature is spoof detection, which can tell real faces from photos.

“While working on our hardware, we tested and used every major facial recognition provider. We believe that doing that (testing every solution available) and applying facial recognition to a very hard use case, like access control and the smart home, allowed us to make a better, more applicable solution,” said Moore. “All of these steps led us to understand how we could effectively deploy technology like ours in a commercial environment.”

They made their final product by using deep learning. They trained classifiers with thousands of attack examples they collected over the years, and liked the results.

A “freemium” package is available to encourage the development community that helped TrueFace.AI come up with a solution. Beyond that, the Startup Package is $99 per month while the Scale Package is $199 per month. An Enterprise Plan is available via a custom agreement with TrueFace.AI.

While Moore couldn’t divulge exactly which companies are using the technology, he did say some of them are in the banking, telecommunications, and health care industries.

It’s a service that could become increasingly valuable as companies turn to facial recognition technology.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/07/07/trueface-ai-facial-recognition-photo-attack-detection/

North Korean hackers blamed for worldwide WannaCry cyberattack

Image: mashable

North Korean hackers are allegedly behind the widespread ransomware attack that hit the UK’s National Health Service, affecting computers and hospitals and doctors’ offices last month, according to the BBC.

The hackers belong to a group known as Lazarus, who is believed to have targeted Sony Pictures in 2014 as it planned to release the movie The Interview.

They used a ransomware program called WannaCry which hit multiple countries across the globe, locking up computers and ransoming access in exchange for large Bitcoin payments.

The NHS wasn’t specifically targeted in the attack and the attack affected organisations from across a range of sectors.

The claim that the ransomware attack originated from North Korea was originally made in May by Google security researcher Neel Mehta, who posted a cryptic set of characters on Twitter together with the hashtag #WannaCryptAttribution.

Kaspersky Lab researchers explained that Mehta has posted two similar code samples, one from an early version of WannaCry, and one originating from Lazarus.

Mehta allegedly found evidence that a variant of WannaCry shares code with the 2015 version of Cantopee, a backdoor used by Lazarus Group.

Moreover, WannaCry’s code contained a kill switch a way to stop the malware from spreading indicating that whoever is behind the attack is not (purely) financially motivated.

Another cybersecurity expert, Adrian Nish, who leads the cyber threat intelligence team at BAE, also noticed the overlap with previous code developed by Lazarus.

“It seems to tie back to the same code-base and the same authors,” Nish told the BBC. “The code-overlaps are significant.”

Lazarus Group is highly sophisticated and very active, according to Kaspersky, who in a blog post called the scale of the group’s operation “shocking”.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), who is part of the GCHQ, led the international investigation.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/06/16/wannacry-ransomware-attack-north-korea-lazarus-group/

Residents of burning London tower tried to warn about fire safety in their blog

Image: REX/Shutterstock

Residents in the west London high-rise block which was engulfed in a massive blaze repeatedly warned that Grenfell Tower was a huge fire risk.

In a blog post from November 2016, Grenfell Action Group accused the building’s landlord the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) of ignoring health and safety legislation on the 24-storey block.

The post, entitled “KCTMO Playing with fire!”, suggests that “only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, theKCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders.”

Image: screenshot

It goes on to affirm that only an incident “that results in serious loss of life of KCTMO residents will allow the external scrutiny to occur that will shine a light on the practices that characterise the malign governance of this non-functioning organisation.”

According to the residents, the incident was narrowly avoided in 2013, when they experienced power surging which was later found to have been caused by faulty wiring.

In October 2015, after a fire hit another KCTMO property, the 14-storey Adair Tower in North Kensington, the management was handed enforcement orders by the local council compelling them to improve the fire safety in the escape staircases and install self-closing devices on all the tower block’s front doors, the blog says.

Grenfwell Tower had recently been upgraded by Rydon, in a 8.6 million ($11 million) contract as part of a 57 million borough-wide regeneration in the borough.

Improvements included rain screen cladding, curtain wall faade, and replacement windows.

However, pieces of cladding could be seen on the streets, and some residents complained “cheap flammable” plastic cladding was used.

Residents also said they never received proper fire safety instructions from KCTMO, or practice drills. They were only informed by a temporary notice stuck in the lift and one announcement in a recent regeneration newsletter “that they should remain in their flats in the event of fire.”

A blog entry posted after the blaze said:

Watching breaking news about the Grenfell Tower fire catastrophe. Too soon to even guess at numbers of casualties and fatalities.

Regular readers of this blog will know that we have posted numerous warnings in recent years about the very poor fire safety standards at Grenfell Tower and elsewhere in RBKC.

ALL OUR WARNINGS FELL ON DEAF EARS and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time.

It also listed a series of blog posts showing that concerns about emergency exits and lack of safety procedures were raised as far back as 2012.

A local building expert told LBC he expressed concern over the fire risk at Grenfell Tower two years ago.

“On the stairwells, the doors are not hermetically sealed fire doors,” he said.

“When you have a fire door, you have a door that’s sealed. You do not have soft wood liners, you have hard wood because they take longer to burn in.

“If it’s correctly installed, nothing could get through a fire door for two hours. But the wrong doors for fire doors were there.”

The London Fire Brigade confirmed there have been a number of fatalities in the fire, which occurred in the early hours of Wednesday. As of Wednesday evening, Metropolitan Police confirmed 12 fatalities but the number was expected to rise.

More than 50 patients have been taken to five different hospitals.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said the causes of the fire “will be fully investigated”:

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/06/14/london-tower-grenfell-fire-residents-blog/

IBM will use data science and tech to tackle the world’s biggest problems

IBM Watson's computer housing case.
Image: Andrew Spear for The Washington Post / Getty Images

IBM is channeling its science and tech expertise into tackling some of the world’s biggest problems.

On Wednesday, the tech giant announced the launch of Science for Social Good, a new program that partners IBM researchers with postdoctoral academic fellows and nonprofits to take on societal issues through data.

With the new initiative, IBM announced 12 projects planned for 2017. Each Science for Social Good project aligns with one or more of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations’ blueprint to address some of the globe’s biggest inequalities and threats by the year 2030.

Science for Social Good covers issues like improving emergency aid and combating the opioid crisis, and the projects all use data science, analytics, and artificial intelligence to develop solutions.

The projects chosen for this years Social Good program cover predicting new diseases, alleviating illiteracy and hunger, and helping people out of poverty.”

One project is called Emergency Food Best Practice: The Digital Experience, which plans to compile emergency food distribution best practices and share it with nonprofits through an interactive digital tool. IBM will partner with nonprofit St. John’s Bread & Life to develop the tool based on the nonprofit’s distribution model, which helps the organization seamlessly serve more than 2,500 meals each day in New York City.

Another project is called Overcoming Illiteracy, which will use AI to allow low-literate adults to “navigate the information-dense world with confidence.” The project hopes to decode complex texts (such as product descriptions and manuals), extract the basic message, and present it to users through visuals and simple spoken messages. While this project doesn’t solve the global literacy crisis, it will allow low-literate adults engage with text independently.

“The projects chosen for this years Social Good program cover an important range of topics including predicting new diseases, promoting innovation, alleviating illiteracy and hunger, and helping people out of poverty,” Arvind Krishna, director of IBM Research, said in a statement. “What unifies them all is that, at the core, they necessitate major advances in science and technology. Armed with the expertise of our partners and drawing on a wealth of new data, tools and experiences, Science for Social Good can offer new solutions to the problems our society is facing.”

IBM hopes the initiative will build off the success of the company’s noted supercomputer, Watson, which has helped address health care, education, and environmental challenges since its development.

Six pilot projects were conducted in 2016 in order to develop the Science for Social Good initiative. These projects covered a broad range of topics, such as health care, humanitarian relief, and global innovation.

A particularly successful project used machine learning techniques to better understand the spread of the Zika virus. Using complex data, the team developed a predictive model that identified which primate species should be targeted for Zika virus surveillance and management. The results of the project are now leading new testing in the field to help prevent the spread of the disease.

To learn more about current and past projects, visit the Science for Social Good website.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/06/07/ibm-science-for-social-good/

iOS 11 is here and it’s packed with tons of new features

Image: apple

The wait for iOS 11 is finally over.

Apple just introduced the next version of iOS during the opening keynote at WWDC in San Jose. The update, which won’t be available until later this year, brings a much more powerful Siri, updated Messages app, revamped Apple Pay with person-to-person payments, redesigned App Store, and so much more.

Building on last year’s Siri update, which added support for third-party apps, Apple’s digital assistant will work with a much wider selection of apps starting with iOS 11.

Image: apple

“Siri understands context, your interests, and how you use your device, said Craig Federighi. “What Siri learns about you on device is kept synced across all of your devices and kept completely private, readable on all of your devices.”

The first thing you’ll notice is Siri’s voice will sound better. Apple says it’s applying deep learning to make her sound more natural. Apple demoed a new male voice.

Siri’s also smarter. It can learn your interests and recommend stories tailored just for you in Apple News.

Additionally, Apple’s beta testing a new Siri translation feature capable of translating between English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. More languages will be added later according to Apple.

Image: apple

Apple showed off an updated Messages app that stores all of your messages all end-to-end encrypted in iCloud so that when you delete messages off one device, it deletes off all others signed into iCloud. Storing messages in iCloud also frees up storage on your device.

Image: apple

There’s an update to Apple Pay that should upset Venmo and PayPal. Similar to Venmo, you can make person-to-person payments through iMessage, which are authenticated with Touch ID.

There are some improvements to the Camera and Live Photos as well. You can trim a specific section on a Live Photo and there are various new camera features including improved low-light performance and optical image stabilization and a neat “long exposure” effect mode.

Image: apple

Theres a major redesign to Control Center. As always, you swipe up, but things look a little different. Shortcut settings are split into smaller units; you can slide up on the volume and brightness controls and tap and 3D touch on units to get more information.

Lock screen notifications also get an upgrade. Instead of seeing a jumble of notifications on the lock screen, they’ll collapse away and you can swipe up to see them all:

Apple Maps now has detailed indoor floor plans for malls and airports:

Image: apple

Indoor floor plans will be supported at all of these airports:

Image: apple

Furthermore, the new version of Maps has lane guidance to help you avoid missing an exit while you’re driving.

For CarPlay, a new “Do Not Disturb While Driving” mode automatically disables notifications when it detects you’re driving to help you keep your eyes on the road. Yeah, the screen turns black (no joke):

Image: apple

HomeKit lets you configure speakers within the Home app using the new AirPlay 2 protocol to build out a multi-room audio setup.

Image: apple

These companies have announced support for AirPlay 2, and there will be a new API for devs to build support into their own speakers:

Image: apple

Apple Music’s got 27 million paid subscribers. New on iOS 11 is a “Friends Are Listening To” feature that shows you guessed it what your buddies are listening to.

Image: apple

A new MusicKit will let developers plug their own apps and tap into all of Apple Music’s features.

With the App Store at 9 years old and over 180 million apps downloaded, Apple’s redesigning the store. It starts with the new Today, Games, and Apps tabs:

Image: apple

Apps are presented in “cards” and when tapped they expand to display a lengthier description. There are also “how to” cards to teach users about how to use an app (i.e. tips for using VSCO). There’s a new “App of the Day” that features a picked app.

On iPad, there’s an expanded dock that’s reminiscent of the one on macOS, improved split-view multitasking, drag-and-drop support, and a new app switcher that shows thumbnails in a grid (instead of giant cards).

There’s also a new Files app that shows all of your files stored on iOS, even ones located within different apps. Moreover, you can move files between apps within the Files app. Hot dang!

Image: apple

There’s also a new markup feature that works with Apple Pencil. For example, when you create a screenshot, a thumbnail will appear in the lower left corner and you can quickly tap that to start marking it up.

More impressive is searchable handwritten text and inline drawing:

Additionally, the Notes app has a document scanner that takes a photo of an image and then automatically corrects its perspective. RIP OfficeLens.

Apple also introduced new versions for its other platforms, including watchOS 4, macOS High Sierra, and new improvements to tvOS.

iOS 11 is available now to developers via the developer preview starting today and the official release will come in the fall for everyone else. It’s available for iPhone 5S and newer, iPad Air and newer, iPad mini 2 and newer, and all iPad Pros.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/06/05/apple-ios-11/

Apple continues to push into healthcare, this time with developers

Developers working on healthcare will be involved at WWDC this year.
Image: christian BRUNA/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

Working with Apple every day, as Apple sees it, could help keep the doctor awayor at least well informed.

Apple’s push into healthcare is readying its second gear, and this week’s Worldwide Developers Conference is just the start.

Apple started its push into healthcare when it introduced the Apple Watch in 2015. The wearable device made fitness, and then health software, and then medical research, more central to Apple’s mission.

Since then, Apple introduced ResearchKit in 2015 and CareKit in 2016. The two open-sourced platforms, both included under Apple’s HealthKit category, let nontraditional developers without total coding expertise build apps for both medical research and consumer health. Projects so far have included an app from Penn Medicine for the rare disease Sarcoidosis, an app from researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study postpartum depression, and even end-to-end encryption tools available to health apps on the platform.

This year, more of them than ever could be developers working in healthcare, helping to build Apple’s toolsand its growing reputationas a platform for medical research, health management, and caregiving.

There could also be something big in store for this year’s WWDC. Last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook was spotted wearing a wearable device that tracked blood sugar a sign of Apple’s continued interested in the healthcare space.

Apple likes to talk up its developer community. The tech giant claimed last month that it had created 2 million jobs1.5 million of which were jobs in the “App Store ecosystem,” aka not exactly working for Apple. A few days ago, Apple touted that developers had earned $70 billion through the App Store.

Apple won’t provide those kinds of numbers just for its HealthKit apps just yet. The company says that “millions of people” have used “hundreds of ResearchKit apps.”

But moving into healthcare certainly has an upside for Apple. Wearables and health apps give the company a foothold on a $2.8 trillion industryand access to more data from millions of consumers. It also helps Apple sell more of Apple’s core products.

“Their participation in the market is still fringe. It’s mostly about trying to make devices more attractive to people,” said Andy Hargreaves, an Apple analyst at Pacific Crest Securities.

Penn Medicine’s Sarcoidosis app represents exactly how Apple hopes its platform will work. Dan O’Connor, a medical student at Penn at the time, developed the app in partnership with Misha Rosenbach, an assistant professor of dermatology at Penn Medicine. O’Connor had taught himself a few programming languages and developed apps in the healthcare space before using ResearchKit for this project.

The app has had about 900 downloads and drawn about 500 consented participants for a study. Those numbers might sound miniscule compared to the reach of Apple, but it’s already one of the largest studies ever for the rare disease, O’Connor said. Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory condition that affects the lungs, skin, eyes, heart, and brain, and is diagnosed in 11 to 36 of every 100,000 Americans each year.

Through the app, researchers are studying both whether a digital study of a rare disease with patients spread throughout the country and the worldcan even work, as well as the disease itself. The app provides its users information about Sarcoidosis that their local doctors might not be able to give them and then asks them to take surveys about their condition and general health.

“ResearchKit, compared to what we were envisioning initially, enabled us to do more than we ever imagined we could do,” O’Connor said (in what is probably Apple’s dream blurb for the ResearchKit website). “Our initial vision of the app was very simpleto do mostly mobile and web-type programming, simple pages with information and a survey or two. ResearchKit enabled us to tap into data.”

Apple hasn’t revealed any of its specific healthcare plans before WWDC starts on Monday. Most of the conference probably won’t focus on medical research… unless it convinces more people watching to buy a new Apple Watch.

“The data is important, but it’s not important in the way it would be to Google, Facebook, or Amazon,” Hargreaves said. “The Apple business is built around making devices and software.”

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/06/05/apple-healthcare-wwdc-apps/

The teenage developer who quit school to focus on coding

Image: getty images/

Like many developers about to attend their first major developer conference, Amanda Southworth is looking forward to the week-long event. Besides Monday’s keynote, when Apple will unveil the next version of iOS, MacOS and maybe even some new hardware, there will be deep dives into new developer tools and countless networking opportunities.

That’s enough for any developer to get excited about, but Southworth is not like most other developers.

At just 15 years old, Southworth has the distinction of being among the youngest to attend Apple’s developer conference, which awarded her one of its WWDC Scholarships a program that helps “talented students and STEM organization members,” travel to and attend the event.

Though she’s been teaching herself to code for the better part of six years she says it wasn’t until the seventh grade when she really began to throw herself into her coding projects and other “nerd stuff.” Soon, she was spending as much as 30 hours a week to her various projects: first building robots and programming micro-controllers; then picking up web and iOS development.

She was 12 and working on all this on top of her schoolwork. So after about two years of a lot of coding and far too little sleep she decided to leave public school and take up home schooling, which would allow her to spend more time on coding without sacrificing her health.

“Now I do coding about five hours a day and schoolwork for about two hours of the day,” she says.

Much like her, Southworth’s apps are not what you may expect from a young developer. Her first app, AnxietyHelper, is entirely devoted to providing resources for young people facing mental health issues. It has information about conditions like anxiety and depression, guidelines for dealing with anger and panic attacks, as well as links to crisis hotlines.

Image: courtesy amanda southworth

Amanda Southworth was once of the recipients of Apple’s WWDC Scholarships this year.

Image: courtesy amanda southworth

“Basically it’s just to make your life easier because dealing with mental illness as it is sucks,” she says. “This app is kind of reaching out and saying ‘hey, I’m sorry you’re in this predicament but I want to help make this better.’

It’s a message that’s resonated with her peers. The app has around a thousand users and the app’s Tumblr page, where she regularly posts tips on self-care, uplifting memes and words of encouragement, and the occasional baby animals photo, has more than 3,500 followers.

I’m very open and I want to help people

Southworth, who describes herself as a kind of “motherly figure” to her friends and social media followers, says she regularly talks on the phone and exchanges messages with her Tumblr followers and those who use her app.

“I’m very open and I want to help people,” she says of the interactions.

It’s this drive of helping those around her that lead her to create her second app, Verena. Like AnxietyHelper, it’s also focused on supporting young people who may be in distress. But instead of mental health, Verena offers tools for people in the LGBT community who need help feeling safe a kind of “security system for the LGBT community.”

A poster for Anxiety Helper.

Image: courtesy amanda southworth

A diagram Amanda made to help her plan out how her app will work.

Image: courtesy amanda southworth

Seeing her friends many of whom are part of the LGBT community worry the day after the presidential election in November 2016 inspired her to create the app. “That day I saw all of my friends crying and it was really upsetting, you know, when people you love are scared,” she says. “So I decided, I’m going to make something so that I know they’re safe.”

I decided I’m going to make something so that I know they’re safe

Verena, which takes its name from a German name that means “protector,” allows users to find police stations, hospitals, shelters, and other places of refuge in times of need. They can also designate a list of contacts to be alerted via the app in an emergency.

Conscious that some of the app’s users may not be able to be open with their families or those around them about their identity, Southworth included some clever features that help users disguise the app on their phones lest they be caught with an app for LGBT people on their phone.

Go into “incognito” mode and and the app transforms into an app that looks like it’s meant to provide help with math homework (users can get back to the real app by logging back in.) And should somebody need help while in incognito mode, they can hold down the log-in button to automatically send an alert to their contacts.

Image: verena

Though she says Verena is her main priority right now she’s working with translators to make the app available in 10 different languages her ultimate goal is to work in the space industry. SpaceX is her number one choice

“I relate strongly to Elon Musk,” she says of the notoriously hyper-focused CEO.

But with college still two years away she’s content to focus on AnxietyHelper, Verena and her other projects for now in between studying for finals and the rest of her schoolwork.

Even though she sees herself as ultimately having a career in embedded systems, rather than iOS development, she sees WWDC as something of a turning point for her.

“I’m looking forward to meeting people who do the same thing as me because everybody tells me I’m really crazy for like just dropping school and going for this with all of my might.

“But I know there’s other people who do this and I want to meet those people. I want to be inspired and I want to make my app better, so I guess this will help me.”

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/06/04/amanda-aouthworth-wwdc-profile/

How a Silicon Valley veteran created an app that 400 nonprofits use to help refugees

Image: Mashable Composite; RefAid / Trellyz

Shelley Taylor calls herself a Silicon Valley veteran. Veteran, she tells me, “means old.”

Raised in Palo Alto, Taylor has an extensive tech background. She isn’t an engineer, but she wrote the “bible of user interface” back in 1995 at the dawn of website creation, inventing a lot of the language still used to this day to describe websites and ecommerce. She’s launched a bevy of startups and advised companies like AOL, Cisco, Microsoft, and Yahoo in their early days.

“My approach to being a technology founder, which I pretty much have always been, is starting with the user experience and then using that to do product design development,” she says.

That’s exactly what she’s doing with her latest project, albeit with a more humanitarian twist. Taylor is behind the Refugee Aid app, or RefAid, which connects refugees with crucial services when and where they need them most. More than 400 of the largest aid organizations in the worldfrom the Red Cross to Save the Children to Doctors of the Worldall use it.

In many cases, they even rely on it.

Through a simple, easy-to-use interface, the free mobile app uses geolocation to show migrants, refugees, and aid workers a map of the closest services for food, shelter, health care, legal help, and more. Aid organizations can communicate with each otherand touch base with the refugees they’ve helpedthrough a web-based content management system, as well as update and keep track of the services they offer.

The app began as Taylor’s passion project in early 2016. It’s an offshoot of her company Trellyz, formerly known as Digital Fan Clubs, which launched four years ago to help people manage their brands and monetize their fans on Facebook. But about 18 months ago, Taylor, who has lived in Europe on and off for the last 25 years, felt compelled to do something a bit different.

“I was impacted by the horrible images, and just felt a sense of frustration. I just thought, ‘What can we do?'”

“I was struck, like many other people, by the refugee crisis,” she says. “In Europe, it’s much more prominent. Where I am in Italy, just looking out over the sea where I am, there are people who have been drowning trying to get to Europe, to safety. And so I was impacted by the horrible images, and just felt a sense of frustration. I just thought, ‘What can we do?'”

Since Digital Fan Clubs already created geolocation-based apps with real-time data, Taylor wondered how they could adapt that technology for refugees, who she knew were already using smartphones. So she asked a number of large organizations like the UNHCR and the British Red Cross if an app like RefAid would be helpful. They all had the same answer: “That would be great.”

Over the course of just one weekend, Taylor and her team created RefAid using the company’s app creation platform technology. It launched in February 2016, first in the UK and Italytwo countries where refugees can have very different needs. In the UK, many refugees have already reached their destination, and are focused more on integrating into a new society. Many refugees in Italy, meanwhile, are just arriving off boats after extremely harrowing, dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean.

Image: RefAid / Trellyz

Image: RefAid / Trellyz

Nel Vandevannet, director of Belgian projects at Doctors of the World, and Mark Forsyth, refugee support services coordinator at the British Red Cross, both say RefAid has proven extremely useful for their organizations. Spreading awareness of their services has been difficult, but the app has streamlined the entire process.

“I think the application is perfect for very vulnerable groups of people.”

In Belgium, where many refugees are quickly passing through to get to the UK and other parts of Europe, Vandevannet says the app has helped Doctors of the World explain to them their rights. And, in many cases, it helps point them in the direction of life-saving health care. It’s not always easy to translate this kind of vital information and convince refugees of what they need, but tapping into their smartphoneswhich Vandevannet calls “their compasses”has helped develop more trust between aid workers and refugees.

“I think the application is perfect for very vulnerable groups of people, who, because of bad experiences, repression, violence they had through their traveling … don’t really go to services,” she says. “The application is something they can control. If the police would give information, [refugees] would never go. Because they would think that it’s controlled by police, you would have to give your identity, and so on.”

The app protects refugees’ identities by only requiring an email address, not names or other personal information. There’s also a double-login function that protects their accounts, in case they ever lose their phones.

According to Forsyth, the British Red Cross has mainly used RefAid as a directory of relevant services across the country. It enables them to search for up-to-date information about services, such as locations and opening times.

“It’s not uncommon for refugees and asylum seekers to be moved all around the country,” he says. “So it’s really useful that RefAid covers the whole country, so we can contact services in other cities and refer people on.”

RefAid is now available in 14 countries: Greece, the UK, Ireland, Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Malta, Turkey, and the U.S.

They weren’t planning to launch the app in the U.S.at least not so soon. But as one of his first acts as president, Donald Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 27 to create a 90-day travel ban for citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, as well as a 120-day suspension of the U.S. refugee program. (The ban was ultimately blocked by lower courts, a ruling that a federal appeals court upheld just last week.)

“Because I’m an American, I was so upset by the Trump [travel] ban,” Taylor says. “I’m an expat living in Europe, and I’m so proud of our American history of welcoming immigrants. I thought about it all weekend, and I thought, ‘Well, we just have to do it.'”

She invited her team and a group of friends to her house on the following Monday, and they all got on their phones and called as many organizations with real-time legal services as they could. They wanted to make sure that people who were being detained had access to essential phone numbers. Even though the ACLU and others had set up free legal resources at international airports, many people couldn’t even get out of customs to reach them.

“I thought, if we could at least make this available to people so that they can make phone calls, that would be a great start for RefAid in the U.S.,” Taylor says.

In just that one day, RefAid went live in 21 U.S. cities, focusing on legal services in areas with big international airports.

RefAid isn’t the only app on the market helping refugees and immigrants at various stages in their journeys. But it’s especially novel because of the unexpected problems it solves for nonprofits overall: managing their resources.

What Taylor and her team didn’t realize is that most of these organizations didn’t have centralized databases of the services they were offering. Information on the different categories of aid they provided and what satellite offices offered was all in aid workers’ heads, or on pieces of paper filed away in drawers.

“Because it’s on my phone, it’s available wherever, whenever, even if I’m not in the office.”

“The first organization that said they would love to use our system said, ‘We’ll get back to you when we’ve collected all of the services.’ I asked, ‘Well, how many are there?’ And they said, ‘We don’t really know,'” Taylor says.

That same organization, which Taylor didn’t name, had 60 offices in the UK. It took them two-and-a-half months to compile everything and give her an Excel spreadsheet with 300 lines of services.

Forsyth says it’s been a similar case for the British Red Cross.

“Services are changing all the time, especially these days, so paper and PDF directories are virtually obsolete from the second they are made,” he says. “RefAid is updated regularly, and because it’s on my phone, it’s available wherever, whenever, even if I’m not in the office.”

It was a revelation, and Taylor saw a market opportunity. She dropped everything else, changed the name of Digital Fan Clubs to Trellyz, and pivoted toward exclusively helping nonprofits manage their resources.

Now, the company is applying RefAid’s technology to a new app called LifeSpots, in which all nonprofits can compile their services by location, helping people find the assistance they need as well as local volunteer opportunities. It’s expected to launch within the next month. Trellyz also plans to do the same thing for cities, offering another app for local governments to list and manage the public services they offer.

RefAid is updated every few weeks or couple of months, as more nonprofits use it and provide feedback. Even governments are starting to hop on board Washington State uses the app to help distribute information about local services available to refugees, as well as the UK’s National Health Service and cities across Europe.

Doctors of the World is also working with Trellyz to integrate a “medical passport” into RefAid, allowing refugees to put their own medical histories in the app. It’s all secure, staying in the hands of users, and solves the problem of not being able to keep such important paperwork with them as they’re traveling.

Ultimately, it all comes down to what Taylor said about focusing on user experience understanding who’s using the app and then developing it to maximize the impact. And with RefAid, that human-centered approach is clear as soon as you register. You immediately get a short, two-sentence email sent to your inbox.

“Thanks for registering for the RefAid app,” the email reads. “We all hope that you find some support near you, and that you have a safe journey.”

With that attitude and the technology behind it to create real, positive change, RefAid is quickly becoming a must-have addition to any refugee’s phone.

WATCH: This is what refugees face when coming to America

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/29/refaid-refugee-aid-app-shelley-taylor/

These new 3D scan fit helmets could make football safer

Riddell's next step in football helmet technology includes personalized 3D head scans.
Image: lili sams/Mashable

Helmets already make the violent game of football safer, but one of the biggest equipment makers in the sport is making them even better. It’s developed a new process to create helmets that could play a role in preventing the traumatic head injuries that currently plague the game and threaten its future.

Riddell, the company behind the helmets worn by around 60 percent of NFL players, will use a new 3D head-scanning process on each player who wears its new Precision Fit headgear. To be sure there are other innovations in helmet tech, but unlike just about every other helmet design on the market, which use inflatable pads that are adjusted manually by handheld air pumps, the inside of the Precision Fit models have a custom-fit liner system made of “energy managing materials” built according to the personalized scan data of each player’s head.

The personalization is meant to make players more comfortable and therefore, safer than ever before according to its makers, who call it “the perfect fitting helmet.” While the custom fit will certainly help to prevent injuries that stem from poorly-adjusted headgear, and perform better than helmets mass produced for the general market, it’s important to note that there’s no current tech that can protect against every single injury. Football is filled with collisions that have been measured on the same scale as car crashes, so as long as the sport is played as it is today, head injuries will be an unfortunate, unavoidable reality.

After four years of development and a successful limited run of beta testing at select colleges, Precision Fit will be available to NFL players for the the 2017 season.

The Riddell team stopped by Mashable HQ so I could check out the scanning process for myself. I played the sport through high school, college, and professionally in Germany, so I’ve worn football helmets for my entire life including the Riddell Speed model the Precision Fit system is built on but I’ve never experienced anything like this.

A standard model of the Speedflex helmet.

Image: riddell

When I played youth football, helmets were given out to players without much thought, with a few pumps of air and a hearty slap on the side of the head to check if it stayed in place. Later in my career, as the extent of the danger that comes with head injuries and concussions came to light, I was specially fitted for each helmet I wore but managing that fit throughout the season was largely left to me.

The status of my helmet was always a major concern for me, but it quickly took a backseat to my focus on the field during games. I often found myself playing with a less-than-ideal fit, which might have contributed to my own experiences with concussions. Football players today need to be able to play without those issues with comfort and function which is why Riddell’s new fitting process caught my attention.

Scanning for a perfect fit

I was given a cowl to put on under a demo helmet, which I then strapped on tightly so the scanner could record exactly where it sat on my head.

I got the helmet set comfortably on my head, as if I were putting it on for a game.

Image: lili sams/mashable

The Riddell tech walked around me in a circle to capture a 360-degree scan of my head with the helmet on, using a 3D scanner hooked up to a Surface tablet running the company’s proprietary software.

The scanner captured images of exactly how the helmet sat on my head.

Image: lili sams/mashable

After recording the helmet, a second scan was taken with only the cowl to capture the exact shape of my head for the mold.

After capturing my head in the helmet, a second scan was taken with the lining cap.

Image: lili sams/mashable

My Precision Fit scan experience, which took about five minutes, was only a demo. Riddell won’t be making me a helmet of my own, due to cost and time constraints; players typically get their helmets four to six weeks after the scan.

But a scan is just the start for the players who will depend on the helmets on the field this upcoming season. First, Riddell engineers import each players’ scan data into CAD design software to recreate the exact surface and head placement for production. Using the scan data, the eight-pad custom linings are then machined (cut) from the energy-managing material, which Thad Ide, Riddell’s Senior Vice President of Research and Product Development, told me is a composite polyurethane, engineered to possess “multiple densities tuned to perform the way we want it to perform.”

The liner feels more solid than the air pockets in helmets I wore back in the day, and it’s designed to “grow” to match the surface of its wearers head, kind of like an extra protective layer of memory foam.

The Precision Fit helmet lining.

Image: lili sams/mashable

Ide didn’t share exactly how much a Precision Fit helmet will cost for each individual player because it’s a prototype, but one of Riddell’s standard Speedflex units costs $409.99, so a custom fit would presumably be even more expensive. Instead, Riddell will offer the custom helmets as an option for teams to buy in bulk, which Ide said is standard practice already across all levels of football. He doesn’t think cost will be a problem for smaller programs in the future.

“Scaleability and affordability are important to us on this platform,” he said. “Were rolling it out for large colleges and professional teams, but as we scale it I can see this becoming an affordable option for high schools, junior highs, youth programs these are all things were working on.”

The Precision Fit helmets are made to last for a player’s entire career, too, which could help with affordability. The headgear would be reconditioned and re-certified every year by Riddell which is standard protocol for all football helmets at every level of play already, as Ide said it would be “atypical” for even a high school program to not recondition its helmets every year so the helmets will conceivably perform just as well after a few seasons as it did new.

Smarter innovation

Precision Fit is just a step in Riddell’s plan to bring the football helmet in line with modern technology. Ide said the company has two distinct development paths: one focused on harnessing sensors and computing to capture impact data for future development, another for the more immediately pressing matter of a helmet maker, head protection.

“Riddell invested more than 10 years ago in head impact monitoring and helmet-based sensor technology that can transmit impact data from the field to the sideline,” he said. “Weve collected about five million impacts, and we have enough of a database now that you can really see differences in impact profiles. We think were at the point where we can tune helmets to be optimized for playing position, skill level, because players see different types of impact profiles depending on those factors.”

Ide said integrated sensor tech and position-specific helmets will be expected in helmets in as little as five years, and individual “impact profiles” tracking their on-field collisions will give players, coaches, and medical staffs better insight into each individual’s playing style and how best to protect their heads.

The company has a plan to bring its sensors and head protection together by 2022.

Image: riddell

Riddell is far from the only company working to improve football helmet design its biggest rival, Schutt (which claims 37 percent of the NFL market), released two new models last year, the Vengeance Z10 and the Vengeance Pro, which tout new lightweight builds with high safety ratings. The two companies are currently locked in a legal battle over patent infringement but a new player is primed to enter the scene.

Starting this year, NFL and college players will be allowed to wear headgear made by Vicis, a Seattle-based startup whose Zero1 helmet is designed to yield to contact and “deform” at the point of impact, unlike Schutt and Riddell’s designs, which have rigid outer shells and pads to cushion the head after each collision. The Zero1 was the highest-performing helmet in an NFL-sponsored safety test, so it will likely be adopted by players looking for increased protection.

In this field, competition and new innovations should be more than welcome by the helmet makers and everyone else involved in the effort to make the game safer. For now, though, increased levels of protection is all these helmet makers can offer players and teams.

Concussions, which most typically occur in football when a high level impact causes the brain to strike the skull and begins to swell, can’t just be prevented by a better fitting helmet. They’re an unavoidable reality for the sport as it’s currently played, and no helmet can promise a truly concussion-free football experience so bringing new safety technologies onto the field will be integral to football’s future.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/27/riddell-precision-fit/