Spotify’s holiday discount on Premium works for lapsed users too

Spotify’s holiday discount on Premium works for lapsed users too


ASSOCIATED PRESS

Spotify is offering a couple of holiday deals and they’re not limited to new users like these sorts of discounts typically are. First time Spotify Premium users in the US can get three months for $0.99 as long as they haven’t used a 30-day trial before or provided credit card information in the past. And any Spotify Premium user that cancelled their account prior to October 16th of this year can get three months for the price of one ($10).

Spotify says similar discounts are being offered in the majority of its markets globally, though some regions’ deals may have slight differences. They’re available through December 31st and you can see the terms for each here and here.

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Verizon to introduce next-generation RCS texting in 2019

Verizon to introduce next-generation RCS texting in 2019


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RCS support has been slow to roll out, but another major US carrier will soon jump on board. Verizon announced at an event that the company would support the messaging system in “early 2019,” joining Sprint, US Cellular and the limited support currently offered by T-Mobile. While Verizon wouldn’t confirm to The Verge that it planned to support Universal Profile 1.0, GSMA told the publication that Verizon’s RCS would, and if it does, that will be a significant step towards making RCS the SMS replacement it promises to be. Among its benefits, once adopted by carriers, are read receipts, better group chat support and improved media sending.

Verizon didn’t say exactly when RCS support would roll out, but Fierce Wireless reported last week that the company’s new messaging service could come as early as February.

Verizon owns Engadget’s parent company, Oath (formerly AOL). Rest assured, Verizon has no control over our coverage. Engadget remains editorially independent.

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Microsoft briefly tested ads in the Windows 10 mail app

Microsoft briefly tested ads in the Windows 10 mail app


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It’s bad enough when your email inbox gets inundated with subscriptions and promotions you forgot you ever signed up for, but now Microsoft is thinking about injecting advertisements right into your inbox. According to Windows news site Aggiornamenti Lumia, the beta version of the company’s Mail client for Windows 10 has been placing ads right at the top of the inbox — though the company has since turned off the feature and claims that it was just an experiment.

In a now-removed FAQ page on Microsoft’s support website (archived here), the company explains that it was running pilot program testing ads in Mail. The test countries included Brazil, Canada, Australia and India. Per the support document, the ads were visible on Windows Home and Windows Pro but not Windows Enterprise or Windows EDU. Ads were served to “non-work accounts” set up through the mail, including Outlook.com Gmail, and Yahoo Mail accounts. Users who have an Office 365 subscription — which costs $7 per month or $70 per year — linked to their email address were not shown ads.

Despite the pretty detailed plan laid out in the support document, Microsoft’s head of communications Frank Shaw tweeted today that the ads were “an experimental feature that was never intended to be tested broadly” and have now been turned off completely. The FAQ has also been removed from the company’s website.

It’s unclear if the company will revive this plan to serve ads to people not paying for Office 365, but it’s clearly put some thought into it. The company does need to pay the bills, and it did promise that it wouldn’t scan the content of email to generate the ads, which sets it apart from Yahoo and AOL in that regard (Gmail no longer scans emails for ad purposes). That said, no one wants ads in their inbox.

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Nvidia Grapples With Cryptocurrency Miners’ Exit

Nvidia Grapples With Cryptocurrency Miners’ Exit

At the height of the cryptocurrency boom, when even moms in British Columbia were stockpiling videogame graphics cards to generate digital currency, average gamers couldn’t get their hands on their favored hardware. Prices ballooned and inventory vanished.

Those days are over. But inflated prices have taken longer than expected to come down, says Nvidia Corp., particularly for its moderately powerful chips built on an architecture it calls Pascal.

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Scientists say goodbye to physical definition of the kilogram

In between coffee breaks and presentations on quantum physics, scientists today voted to redefine the kilogram, the unit that underpins the world’s system of weights.

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Dodging antibiotic resistance by curbing bacterial evolution: Findings point to possibility of new ‘anti-evolution drugs’ to keep hard-to-treat pathogens from arising

Dodging antibiotic resistance by curbing bacterial evolution: Findings point to possibility of new ‘anti-evolution drugs’ to keep hard-to-treat pathogens from arising

With many disease-causing bacteria ratcheting up their shields against current drugs, new tactics are vital to protect people from treatment-resistant infections.

Lowering mutation rates in harmful bacteria might be an as yet untried way to hinder the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant pathogens. This proposed strategy comes from recent findings in infectious disease research at UW Medicine in Seattle.

The report on this work is published this week in Molecular Cell, one of the journals of Cell Press. The lead author is Mark N. Ragheb, an M.D./Ph.D. student at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The senior researcher is Houra Merrikh, associate professor of microbiology at the UW medical school.

While most efforts against antimicrobial resistance concentrate on producing better antibiotics, the scientists note, “History shows that resistance arises regardless of the nature or potency of new drugs.”

Deaths from antibiotic-resistant infections, they explain, have reached alarming numbers worldwide, and show signs of surpassing mortality from other causes by mid-century.

In looking for another approach to combating this public health threat, the team of microbiologists, genome scientists, pathobiologists and molecular and cellular biologists found evidence for a key promoter of mutations in many different bacteria. This protein factor, DNA translocase Mfd, seems to speed resistance in diverse species toward every antibiotic that was tested.

The researchers call bacterial proteins like Mfd “evolvability factors” because, by increasing mutation rates, they propel the evolution of bacteria. Unlike many multicellular organisms, bacteria evolve quickly. This allows their species to survive or escape suddenly changing conditions, scarcity of nutrients and hostile environments — including attempts to destroy them with antibiotics or immune responses.

Many types of bacteria produce Mfd, an indication of its important physiological role in cells. While it was once thought to assist in DNA repair, cells missing it are not more sensitive to DNA damaging agents. Those with too much of it are actually more prone to DNA damage.

In studying what is behind trimethoprim resistance, for example, the researchers saw that potent, alternative genes that accelerate antibiotic resistance failed to crop up when Mfd was absent. In certain wild type strains of bacteria with Mfd that were studied, those that gained these so called hypermutator alleles had a mutation rate that was more than 1,000 times that of their ancestral strain.

The researchers estimated that roughly half of the strains under study developed hypermutator alleles during the course of becoming resistant to trimethoprim. These strains also accumulated a high number of mutations across their genomes. Strains lacking Mfd were unlikely to form these hypermutator alleles.

The researchers noted, “Generating hypermutation may offer an adaptive strategy to evolve high-level antibiotic resistance, and Mfd might promote this phenomenon.”

In other aspects of their project, the scientists reported that Mfd depends on certain other proteins that work on the bacteria’s genetic machinery in order to carry out its job in antibiotic resistance. Mdf’s role also might possibly be enhanced or even exaggerated during bacterial infections of living things, in comparison to what happens when these bugs live in lab dishes.

Also, the data acquired in this research project seem to show that the role of Mfd in increasing mutations and promoting antibiotic resistance is highly conserved across bacterial species, and is not specific to only a few types of pathogens.

Among the several pathogens studied, the researchers were particularly interested in the mycobacterium that causes tuberculosis. They discovered what they describe as a “striking” difference in resistance to a representative antibiotic — rifampicin — in strains with and without Mfd.

The finding that Mfd is critical to the development of antibiotic resistance in mycobacterium TB could have potential clinical implications, the researchers noted.

Exactly how Mfd encourages mutations and antibiotic resistance is still unclear. One explanation put forth is that it sets the stage for error-prone repair of DNA, even at sites without damage. Or it could interfere with other biochemical pathways for fixing DNA.

The evolutionary assays in this study tried to mimic the variable concentrations of antibiotics that are common during treatment of infections in patients. It’s possible that Mfd may play a role in producing high levels of antibiotic resistance when bacteria are first exposed to antibiotics in amounts that are not enough to stop them.

The researchers also think that Mfd’s ability to promote multiple mutations may be significant in the development of multi-drug resistance.

Based on their findings, the researchers concluded, “We propose that blocking evolvabilty factors, in particular Mfd, could be a revolutionary strategy to address the antimicrobial resistance crisis.”

A new class of anti-evolution drugs that target Mfd or other evolvability factors that promote mutations may complement new antimicrobials and alleviate the problem of chromosomally acquired mutations that leads to antimicrobial resistance.

They added that, in principle, drugs designed to target Mfd could be co-administered with antibiotics during treatment of infections. That might reduce the likelihood of resistance developing at the start of therapy.

Beyond the importance of reducing antibiotic resistance, there could be even wider implications of understanding and intervening in the evolutionary capacity of cells, according to the researchers. These include restraining genetic changes in cancer cells, and limiting the diversity in the strains of a pathogen a person’s immune system is trying to overcome.

Supplemental drugs, such as the proposed evolution inhibitors, could, the researchers predict, improve the efficiency and effectiveness of current treatments, and thereby expand the arsenal of drugs available to combat antimicrobial resistant infections, cancers, and other diseases.

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Verily shelves its glucose-monitoring contact lens project

Verily shelves its glucose-monitoring contact lens project


Verily

In 2014, Verily, Alphabet’s life sciences subsidiary, teamed up with Alcon to develop a contact lens that could measure glucose levels in tears. The idea being that diabetics would have an easier, less invasive way of keeping track of their glucose levels. But the companies have now decided to shelve that project, as their work has shown that it’s actually quite difficult to obtain consistently accurate measurements of glucose from tears.

“In part, this was associated with the challenges of obtaining reliable tear glucose readings in the complex on-eye environment,” Verily CTO Brian Otis said in a blog post. “For example, we found that interference from biomolecules in tears resulted in challenges in obtaining accurate glucose readings from the small quantities of glucose in the tear film. In addition, our clinical studies have demonstrated challenges in achieving the steady state conditions necessary for reliable tear glucose readings.”

However, Verily will move forward with two other lens projects. Alongside its glucose-monitoring contact lens work, it has also been working on a smart accommodating contact lens for presbyopia (age-related farsightedness) as well as an intraocular lens to help improve eyesight after cataract surgery. And the company says it’s also still working on technology for diabetes management, including miniaturized continuous glucose monitors that it’s developing with Dexcom.

“We’re looking forward to the next phase of development on our other two Smart Lens programs with Alcon, where we are applying our significant technical learnings and achievements to prevalent conditions in ophthalmology,” said Otis.

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Microsoft’s new experimental app is all about imitating emojis

Microsoft’s new experimental app is all about imitating emojis


Microsoft

Microsoft has released a new app that aims to demonstrate how its Windows Machine Learning APIs can be used to build apps and “make machine learning fun and approachable.” Emoji8 is a UWP app that uses machine learning to determine how well you can imitate emojis. As you make your best efforts to imitate a random selection of emojis in front of your webcam, Emoji8 will evaluate your attempts locally using the FER+ Emotion Recognition model, a neural network for recognizing emotion in faces. You’ll then be able to tweet a gif of your top scoring images.

Emoji8

“This app will give you a great end-to-end example of how you can use the Windows ML APIs to create simple yet magical experiences,” the company said. And it has made Emoji8’s code open-source on GitHub.

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has built an app to show off its machine learning services. Back in 2015, it released How-Old.net to demonstrate how its Azure APIs could be used. The site let users upload a picture and from there, it would try to guess their age.

You can download Emoji8 from the Microsoft Store now, just make sure you’re using Windows 10 with the October 2018 update.

Image: Microsoft

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Google releases gorgeous VR short film ‘Age of Sail’

Google releases gorgeous VR short film ‘Age of Sail’


Google Spotlight Stories

Google Spotlight Stories has released its latest short, Age of Sail. Directed by Academy Award winner John Kahrs (Disney’s Paperman short), it blends beautiful animation with the story of an old, lonely sailor, played by Ian McShane, who is adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in 1900. When he rescues a young woman (Cathy Ang), who fell overboard from a passing ship, his outlook changes to one of hope.

It’s the first Google Spotlight Stories short to include dialogue, and, clocking in at 12 minutes, it’s the longest one to date. Age of Sail was an official selection at this year’s Venice Film Festival, and it also qualifies for the best animated short film Oscar.

Kahrs and his team had to bear in mind that setting a VR film on the open sea, with a boat rolling on waves, could cause viewers motion sickness. They simplified the look of the sky and ocean, and made sure you’re able to focus on the horizon to minimize the feeling of seasickness.

Age of Sail is available in the Google Spotlight Stories iOS and Android app, Viveport and Steam. If you don’t have a way to watch it in VR, Google also released a theatrical version, which you can watch below.

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Communal rearing gives mice a competitive edge

Communal rearing gives mice a competitive edge

Research by scientists at the University of Liverpool suggests that being raised communally makes mice more competitive when they’re older.

It is well known that in many animals, including humans, early-life experiences have long-lasting effects on the development of behaviours later in life.

In a new study published in Scientific Reports, researchers at the University’s Institute of Integrative Biology have investigated the effects of communal rearing on competitive and exploratory behaviours in adult male house mice.

“Female house mice pursue two flexible social strategies, either raising their offspring in communal or single nests. This makes them an ideal model species to study how these different approaches shape future development,” explains lead researcher Dr Stefan Fischer.

The decision to care communally can vary according to local conditions and has been hypothesised to occur more frequently when social competition is intense. However, it is unknown whether communal rearing of young influences adult behaviours under competitive conditions.

Using a controlled experimental approach, the researchers found that when compared to single reared males, communal reared males were more competitive towards unrelated males than towards related males.

In tests of competitive scent marking, only communally-reared mice discriminated between related and unrelated rivals, depositing more scent marks in close proximity to unrelated males.

Communally-reared mice also displayed higher exploratory tendencies, with, for example, an increased probability of crossing a water barrier.

Dr Fischer said: “Since exploration tendencies and discrimination between kin and non-kin are likely to be advantageous when dispersing from the natal territory or in a high-density population, our findings suggest that communal rearing prepares male house mice for a competitive social environment.”

Senior author Professor Paula Stockley added: “Our results add to growing evidence that the early social environment influences the development of important behavioural competences to cope with social challenges later in life.”

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More companies are chipping their workers like pets

More companies are chipping their workers like pets

The trend of blundering into the void of adopting new tech, damn the consequences, full speed ahead, continues this week. The Telegraph tells us about “a number of UK legal and financial firms” are in talks with a chip company to implant their employees with RFID microchips for security purposes.

Ah, security purposes, our favorite road to hell paved with some kind of intentions. Is it like when Facebook took people’s phone numbers for security purposes and handed them to advertisers? Sorry, I’m just a little cynical right now. The report explained the purpose of corporate bosses chipping their workers like a beloved Pekinese is to set restrictions on areas they can access within the companies.

“One prospective client,” The Telegraph wrote, “which cannot be named, is a major financial services firm with “hundreds of thousands of employees.”

Jowan Österlund, founder of chip-implant company Biohax at the center of this deal, told the outlet: “These companies have sensitive documents they are dealing with. [The chips] would allow them to set restrictions for whoever … In a company with 200,000 employees, you can offer this as an opt-in,” said Mr. Österlund. “If you have a 15 percent uptake that is still a huge number of people that won’t require a physical ID pass.”

Never mind that RFID badge cloning is trivial to the point of funsies for hackers (who have been experimenting with hacking biochips for a while), this is about employee efficiency. A further selling point for companies grinding privacy into bottom-line dust is that it’ll save a company money. “As well as restricting access to controlled areas,” The Telegraph said, “microchips can be used by staff to speed up their daily routines. For instance, they could be used to quickly buy food from the canteen, enter the building or access printers at a fastened rate.”

As some readers may recall, this isn’t the first instance of employee chipping in recent news. Last year, American company Three Square Market in Wisconsin made headlines when 80 of its employees got chips implanted. They use the little RFID chips in their hands (the size of a grain of rice, like the one in your cat) to scan themselves into security areas, use computers and vending machines. Interestingly, Three Square sells vending machine “mico markets” but offers a cottage industry in implants (with an angle on their use for “law enforcement solutions“).

Microchip Hand Implant

Yet the first US company to inject workers with tracking chips was a Cincinnati surveillance firm in 2006, which required all employees working in its secure data center to have RFIDs implanted in their triceps. Coming from a spying company, it’s almost like asking if you’d like your Orwell with a little Orwell on top. California in 2007 swiftly moved to block companies from being able to make RFID implants mandatory, as well as blocking the chipping of students in the state.

Don’t get me wrong: becoming a cyborg sounds pretty awesome. It’s a fairly popular pastime for DEF CON attendees who like their hackery edge-play to get a souvenir implant while at the conference. But those people are hackers, and they know what they’re getting into. And I’m just that annoying person worried about normal people not knowing how they can get pwned, and who has a few irritating questions about personal security and privacy.

According to MIT Technology review, the Three Square Market employees said they liked it — the convenience outweighed personal privacy and security concerns, which could include surveillance by higher-ups, or attackers doing a little drive-by data sniffing (when hackers ping your chip to see what’s on it). President of Three Square, Patrick McMullan, told MIT that only some of the info on the chip is encrypted “but he argues that similar personal information could be stolen from his wallet, too.”

Unlike a company ID card, you can’t leave it at home. We might imagine that with all of these privacy and tracking concerns, female employees dealing with harassment would have an extra layer to worry about. MIT only quoted male employees, so that’s worth noting.

The chip-your-workpets trend spreading to the US and UK got its foothold in Sweden where apparently they are much cooler about becoming the Borg than we are. Swedish incubator Epicenter in Stockholm “includes 100 companies and roughly 2,000 workers, began implanting workers in January 2015,” reported LA Times. “Now, about 150 workers have the chips.”

Microchipped Employees

Jowan Osterlund from Biohax Sweden, holds a small microchip implant, similar to those implanted into workers at the Epicenter digital innovation business center

The chief experience officer at Epicenter, Fredric Kaijser, told press: “People ask me, ‘Are you chipped?’ and I say, ‘Yes, why not?’ And they all get excited about privacy issues and what that means and so forth. And for me it’s just a matter of I like to try new things and just see it as more of an enabler and what that would bring into the future.”

Again, I’ll annoy you by pointing out that the evangelists here all seem to be dudes, which isn’t a bad thing. It maybe might suggest no one’s thinking about the inevitable DEF CON talk “Chipped employees: Fun with attack vectors,” or a possible future headline about employee stalking or chip-based discrimination. I mean, we can already imagine the ones where ICE demands the last known doors opened by all employees on the RFID database who happen to be brown.

I’m sure it’s all well and good until someone gets locked out of their own hand. Or the app used to access your hand gets compromised.

Like I said earlier, it’s at the “damn the consequences, full speed ahead” stage.

Images: LPETTET via Getty Images (Xray); Associated Press (Biohax microchip)

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Cryptocurrency chill causes mining speculator Nvidia’s stock to plunge

Cryptocurrency chill causes mining speculator Nvidia’s stock to plunge

The cryptocurrency market is an exciting one, but it’s also unpredictable — and when things go south, they take related businesses with them. Nvidia, a hardware giant that has been riding the cryptocurrency wave, saw its stock price take a double-digit hit as it reported vanishing demand for GPUs specializing in crypto-mining.

It’s been a wild year in the GPU market as there were points when ordinary gamers, who have relied on Nvidia for years for the powerful cards used to play the latest games, found inventory scarce for the company’s latest generation of hardware.

The cards had been, and continued to be for some time, bought up by cryptocurrency mining operations, all striving to get a leg up on one another. Consumer-grade GPUs are excellent candidates for putting together low-cost, high-performance clusters that excel in solving the type of problems posed in the likes of Bitcoin mining. The cards were essentially paying for themselves due to the profitability of participating in the lucrative markets.

But those markets, which have been booming for much of the year, have cooled — not to say crashed — and consequently demand for GPUs has cooled as well, as Nvidia’s earnings statements show.

If Nvidia had seen the cryptocurrency boom for what it was at the time — an important but misleading flare in value — it likely would not have produced the estimated $57 million in excess inventory aimed at the miner market. Mid-range gaming GPU sales declined as well, though this seems to have been part of a larger trend.

It will take a couple of quarters to get through all that inventory, during which time of course it will have to be steeply discounted, since miners and gamers understand implicitly that improved versions are just around the corner and are unlikely to pay full price for hardware approaching even a minor degree of obsolescence. The misstep caused Nvidia’s price to drop more than 19 percent Thursday, and it has not rallied today.

“This is surely a setback and I wish we had seen it earlier,” said CEO Jensen Huang on a press call following the announcement of the results.

Cryptocurrency markets may never return to the feverish state of competition they existed in for much of 2018. An explosion of “alt coins” and Initial Coin Offerings baffled casual investors in the ecosystem, and scams were (and are) rife. This led to an overall skepticism in the systems as a class, and even sophisticated and proven ones like Ethereum have suffered major devaluation.

There’s no doubt that blockchain and token economies will be a major part of the financial future (among other things) but the feeding frenzy of 2018 seemed unsustainable from the start. Already many cryptocurrency systems are moving away from the arms race of “proof of work” to the more equitable “proof of stake.” That change alone could decimate computing requirements if adopted at large (although established systems like Bitcoin are too far along to change, outside ill-advised forks like Bitcoin Cash).

Don’t bother shedding a tear for Nvidia, though. The company is rolling high and the GPU market is strong. But it seems that it too, alongside millions of others, has suffered the consequences of speculating on cryptocurrency.

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Senate bill takes aim at illegal robocalls

Senate bill takes aim at illegal robocalls


Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

Three senators have proposed new legislation aimed at deterring robocall scams. The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Protection, or TRACED, Act would give the FCC broader authority to penalize those that violate telemarketing restrictions, give the commission a longer window in which to act and establish an interagency working group that would explore additional actions that might deter robocall scams going forward.

“As the scourge of spoofed calls and robocalls reaches epidemic levels, the bipartisan TRACED Act will provide every person with a phone much needed relief,” Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), a cosponsor of the proposed legislation, said in a statement. “It’s a simple formula: call authentication, blocking and enforcement, and this bill achieves all three.”

With this legislation, the statute of limitations on penalties for robocall violations would be extended from two years to three, and the FCC would be instructed to propose new rules aimed at protecting individuals from receiving calls or messages from those using unauthenticated numbers. Further, an interagency working group — which would be made up of both federal agencies and state entities such as the Departments of Justice, Commerce, State and Homeland Security, the FCC, the FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and state attorneys general — would be tasked with providing Congress with recommendations regarding both prevention and prosecution of robocall violations as well as strategies for how federal agencies might implement those recommendations.

Additionally, the TRACED Act would require the FCC to ensure voice service providers implement call authentication frameworks that can verify incoming calls are legitimate before they reach consumers.

“The TRACED Act targets robocall scams and other intentional violations of telemarketing laws so that when authorities do catch violators, they can be held accountable,” said Senator John Thune (R-SD), who introduced the bill. “Existing civil penalty rules were designed to impose penalties on lawful telemarketers who make mistakes. This enforcement regime is totally inadequate for scam artists and we need do more to separate enforcement of carelessness and other mistakes from more sinister actors.” Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) cosponsored the bill.

In the last year, the FCC has approved new rules targeting robocalls that spoof caller ID information and urged voice providers to begin validating calls before they reach recipients. “Combating illegal robocalls is our top consumer priority at the FCC,” Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement earlier this month. “That’s why we need call authentication to become a reality — it’s the best way to ensure that consumers can answer their phones with confidence. By this time next year, I expect that consumers will begin to see this on their phones.” In May, the FCC issued a robocall operator responsible for 96 million automated calls a $120 million fine.

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Garage door automation made easy

Garage door automation made easy

Smart garage door controllers make getting out the door to work or coming home at the end of the day safer and more seamless. With features like automatic opening and closing, scheduling, user management and voice commands, your garage can be as automated as the rest of your smart home

The Tailwind iQ3 delivers reliable and well-integrated smarts that work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. HomeKit users are left out and you’ll have to be willing to add wires to your garage walls, but the Tailwind iQ3 is a good value at $110 and an excellent choice for secure garage smarts.  

tailwind-garage-1

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Tailwind can automate up to three garage doors with one controller.


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Installation and setup

Setting up the Tailwind iQ3 isn’t difficult, but you will need a half hour or so and a few tools. Door switch and magnet brackets clamp onto your garage door frame. Once the brackets are aligned, the controller will be able to tell if the door is open or shut. 

The Tailwind iQ3 is a wired system, and while stringing wires along your garage ceiling isn’t pretty, I’ve found it to be the most reliable method for smart garage door controllers. Wires run from the door switch up to the Tailwind iQ3 controller mounted on your garage door opener via adhesive strips. Tailwind makes the wiring process simple with helpful adhesive hooks to harness any extra slack in the wire.  

The Tailwind iQ3 ships with one garage door wiring kit, but you can purchase additional kits for $35 and automate up to three garage doors with the same controller. Once you’ve connected all the wires, the Tailwind app for iOS or Android will walk you through connecting the iQ3 to your home’s wireless network. Tailwind also learns the exact GPS coordinates of your garage during setup, in which you’ll walk up to and around the garage to pinpoint the exact location.

The version of the Tailwind iQ3 I tested used a Wi-Fi access point to connect to your home’s 2.4GHz network, but the team at Tailwind say a new firmware version is coming soon that simplifies this step by using Bluetooth to find the controller faster. If that works as well as the Wi-Fi access point method did in my testing, you’ll be up and running in just a few minutes. 

Proximity sensing 

One of the more luxurious features of smart garage door controllers is the option to enable automatic opening and closing. This type of proximity sensing is commonly accomplished with geofencing, using your phone’s GPS location and boundaries set during installation to decide when to open or close the door. Tailwind takes a difference approach and for good reason. 

Let’s say someone steals your mobile phone. Technically, that person could approach your garage and it would automatically open if you’ve enabled the auto open feature. The Tailwind iQ3 requires more than just your phone to open your garage door.

tailwind-garage-5

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Tailwind’s Vehicle Sensor creates a Bluetooth connection sensed by the iQ3 controller. 


Chris Monroe/CNET

The iQ3 needs to sense a Bluetooth connection in order to open the door. That prevents someone from opening your garage with just your phone. However, it also means you might need to purchase Tailwind’s Vehicle Sensor, a Bluetooth fob that creates that connection. That depends on your mobile phone and your vehicle. 

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Scoot will add locks to its scooters to combat theft and vandalism

Scoot will add locks to its scooters to combat theft and vandalism


Bloomberg via Getty Images

In August, San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency awarded two companies, Scoot and Skip, permits to operate their scooters in the city. The scooter pilot program has now been running for a month and Scoot says it has learned a few things during that time, including that its Kick scooters are a lot easier to steal and vandalize than it once thought. Because of that, the company will start adding locks to its scooters come December.

Scoot says that in just the first two weeks of operating, more than 200 Kicks were stolen or damaged beyond repair. “We treat our electric vehicles as precious assets that we carefully maintain, recharge and make available to our riders for as many years as possible so our riders can use them for fast, fun, affordable, green transportation,” Scoot said in a blog post. “The idea of putting vehicles on the street just to be stolen or vandalized is antithetical to Scoot’s environmental and civic mission.”

The company said its upcoming Kick locks are similar to those that it deployed for its electric bicycles in Barcelona. It added that in the meantime, it’s experimenting with other ways of securing its scooters in the hopes of keeping theft and vandalism down to sustainable levels.

So far, Kicks are being used more often than Scoot’s other shared vehicles, particularly in Santiago, and in San Francisco, Scoot and the MTA have received “very few” complaints regarding safe use of Kicks. “Our goal is zero complaints, so we are listening to the community and correcting our riders who don’t use our Kicks safely, and improving our instructions to avoid unsafe behavior in the future,” Scoot said.

The company noted that it would be bringing more of its scooters to both San Francisco and Santiago.

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