Wij willen met u aan tafel zitten en in een openhartig gesprek uitvinden welke uitdagingen en vragen er bij u spelen om zo, gezamelijk, tot een beste oplossing te komen. Oftewel, hoe kan de techniek u ondersteunen in plaats van dat u de techniek moet ondersteunen.

Over 30 civil rights organizations have penned an open letter that calls on government officials to investigate Amazon Ring’s business practices and end the company’s numerous police partnerships. The letter follows a report by The Washington Post in August that detailed how over 400 police forces across the U.S. have partnered with Ring to gain access to homeowners’ camera footage.

These partnerships have already raised concerns with privacy advocates and civil liberties organizations, who claim the agreements turn neighbors into informants and subject innocent people to greater risk and surveillance.

Had the government itself installed a video network of this size and scope, it would have drawn greater scrutiny. But by quietly working with Ring behind the scenes, law enforcement gets to tap into a massive surveillance network without being directly involved in its creation.

The new letter from the civil rights groups demand that government officials put an end to these behind-the-scenes deals between Amazon and the police.

“With no oversight and accountability, Amazon’s technology creates a seamless and easily automated experience for police to request and access footage without a warrant, and then store it indefinitely,” the letter reads. “In the absence of clear civil liberties and rights-protective policies to govern the technologies and the use of their data, once collected, stored footage can be used by law enforcement to conduct facial recognition searches, target protesters exercising their First Amendment rights, teenagers for minor drug possession, or shared with other agencies like ICE or the FBI,” it says.

Additionally, the letter points out these police deals involve Amazon coaching cops on how to obtain surveillance footage without a warrant. It also notes that Ring allowed employees to share unencrypted customer videos with each other, including in offices based in Ukraine. And it raises concerns about Amazon’s potential plans to integrate facial recognition features into Ring cameras, based on patents it filed.

The groups also point to the map released by Amazon Ring, which now shows over 500 cities with Amazon-police partnerships across the U.S.

The groups’ letter is not the first to demand action.

Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) also last month wrote to Amazon to get more information about Ring and its relationships with law enforcement agencies.

But unlike Sen. Markey’s investigative letter to Amazon’s Ring, today’s letter has specific demands for action. The groups are asking mayors and city council members to require their local police departments to cancel their Ring partnerships. The groups also want local government officials to pass new surveillance oversight ordinances that will ensure police departments can’t enter into any such partnerships in the future.

And they want Congress to investigate Ring’s dealings with police more closely.

The letter itself was published online and signed by the following organizations:

Fight for the Future, Media Justice, Color of Change, Secure Justice, Demand Progress, Defending Rights & Dissent, Muslim Justice League, X-Lab, Media Mobilizing Project, Restore The Fourth, Inc., Media Alliance, Youth Art & Self Empowerment Project, Center for Human Rights and Privacy, Oakland Privacy, Justice For Muslims Collective, The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), Nation Digital Inclusion Alliance, Project On Government Oversight, OpenMedia, Council on American-Islamic Relations-SFBA, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, MPower Change, Mijente, Access Humboldt, RAICES, National Immigration Law Center, The Tor Project, United Church of Christ, Office of Communication Inc., the Constitutional Alliance, RootsAction.org, CREDO Action, Presente.org, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and United We Dream.

According to Evan Greer, Deputy Director at Fight for the Future, the letter has not yet been mailed. But the plan, going forward, is to use it in local organizing when groups on the ground make deliveries to local officials in cities where the partnerships are live.

“Amazon has created the perfect end-run around our democratic process by entering into for-profit surveillance partnerships with local police departments. Police departments have easy access to surveillance networks without oversight or accountability,” said Greer. “Amazon Ring’s customers provide the company with the footage needed to build their privately owned, nationwide surveillance dragnet. We’re the ones who pay the cost – as they violate our privacy rights and civil liberties. Our elected officials are supposed to protect us, both from abusive policing practices and corporate overreach. These partnerships are a clear case of both,” Greer added.


TechCrunch

All over the globe, the population of people who are aged 65 and older is growing faster than every other age group. According to United Nations data, by 2050, one in six people in the world will be over age 65, up from one in 11 right now. Meanwhile, in Europe and North America, by 2050, one in four people could be 65 or over.

Unsurprisingly, startups increasingly recognize opportunities to cater to this aging population. Some are developing products to sell to individuals and their family members directly; others are coming up with ways to empower those who work directly with older Americans.

BrainCheck, a 20-person, Houston-based startup whose cognitive healthcare product aims to help physicians assess and track the mental health of their patients, is among the latter. Investors like what it has put together, too. Today, the startup is announcing $ 8 million in Series A funding round co-led by S3 Ventures and Tensility Venture Partners.

We talked earlier today with BrainCheck cofounder and CEO Yael Katz to better understand what her company has created and why it might be of interest to doctors who don’t know about it. Our chat has been edited for length and clarity.

TC: You’re a neuroscientist. You started BrianCheck with David Eagleman, another neuroscientist and the CEO of NeoSensory, a company that develops devices for sensory substitution. Why? What’s the opportunity here?

YK: We looked across the landscape, and we realized that most cognitive assessment is [handled by] a subspecialty of clinical psychology called neuropsychology, where patients are given a series a tests and each is designed to probe a different type of brain function — memory, visual attention, reasoning, executive function. They measure speed and accuracy, and based on that, determine whether there’s a deficit in that domain. But the tests were classically done on paper and it was a lengthy process. We digitized them and gamified them and made them accessible to everyone who is upstream of neuropsychology, including neurologists and primary care doctors.

We created a tech solution that provides clinical decision support to physicians so they can manage patients’ cognitive health. There are 250,000 primary care physicians in the U.S. and 12,000 neurologists and [they’re confronting] what’s been called a silver tsunami. With so many becoming elderly, it’s not possible for them to address the need of the aging population without tech to help them.

TC: How does your product work, and how is it administered?

YK: An assessment is all done on an iPad and takes about 10 minutes. They’re typically administered in a doctor’s office by medical technicians, though they can be administered remotely through telemedicine, too.

TC: These are online quizzes?

YK: Not quizzes and not subjective questions like, ‘How do you think you’re doing?’ but rather objective tasks, like connect the dots, and which way is the center arrow pointing — all while measuring speed and accuracy.

TC: How much does it cost these doctors’ offices, and how are you getting word out?

YZ: We sell a monthly subscription to doctors and it’s a tiered pricing model as measured by volume. We meet doctors at conferences and we publish blog posts and white papers and through that process, we meet them and sell products to them, beginning with a free trial for 30 days, during which time we also give them a web demo.

[What we’re selling] is reimbursable by insurance because it helps them report on and optimize metrics like patient satisfaction. Medicare created a new code to compensate doctors for cognitive care planning though it was rarely used because the requirements and knowledge involved was so complicated. When we came along, we said, let us help you do what you’re trying to do, and it’s been very rewarding.

TC: Say one of these assessments enables a non specialist to determine that someone is losing memory or can’t think as sharply. What then?

YZ: There’s phrase: “Diagnose and adios.” Unfortunately, a lot of doctors used to see their jobs as being done once an assessment was made. It wasn’t appreciated that impairment and dementia are things you can address. But about one third of dementia is preventable, and once you have the disease, it can be slowed.  It’s hard because it requires a lot of one-on-one work, so we created a tech solution that uses the output of tests to provide clinical support to physicians so they can manage patients’ cognitive health. We provide personalized recommendations in a way that’s scalable.

TC: Meaning you suggest an action plan for the doctors to pass along to their patients based on these assessments?

YZ: There are nine modifiable risk factors found to account for a third of [dementia cases], including certain medications that can exacerbate cognitive impairment, including poorly controlled cardiovascular health, hearing impairment, and depression. People can have issues for many reasons — multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Parkinson’s — but health conditions like major depression and physical conditions like cancer and treatments like chemotherapy can cause brain fog. We suggest a care plan that goes to the doctor who then uses that information and modifies it. A lot of it has to do with medication management.

A lot of the time, a doctor — and family members — don’t know how impaired a patient is. You can have a whole conversation with someone during a doctor’s visit who is regaling you with great conversation, then you realize they have massive cognitive deficits. These assessments kind of put everyone on the same page.

TC: You’ve raised capital, how will you use it to move your product forward?

YK: We’ll be combining our assessments with digital biomarkers like changing voice patterns and a test of eye movements, and we have developed an eye-tracking technology and voice algorithms, but those are still in clinical development; we’re trying to get FDA approval for them now.

TC: Interesting that changing voice patterns can help you diagnose cognitive decline.

YK: We aren’t diagnosing disease. Think of us as a thermometer that [can highlight] how much impairment is there and in what areas and how it’s progressive over time.

TC: What can you tell readers who might worry about their privacy as it relates to your product?

YK: Our software is HIPAA compliant. We make sure our engineers are trained and up to date. The FDA requires that we we put a lot of standards in place and we ensure that our database is built in accordance with best practices. I think we’re doing as good a job as anyone can.

Privacy is a concern in general. Unfortunately, companies big and small have to be ever vigilant about a data breach.


TechCrunch

German just hit a new milestone in the space where venture capital and the burgeoning Cannabis industry meet.

Berlin startup Demecan has completed a Series A financing round of 7 million euros to expand its production facility for medical cannabis and the wholesale trade in Germany. It’s become the only German company allowed to produce medical cannabis in Germany.

This is a watershed for the country and is the first investment in this sector for btov Partners, a private investor network. The other half of the funding came from a single, named German family office, which is understood to have its roots in the consumer goods sector. Only two other companies, two of them from Canada, were awarded the contract to produce medical cannabis in Germany in May 2019.

btov Partners manages assets of €420 million and has previously invested in tech startups such as Blacklane, Data Artisans, DeepL, Facebook, Foodspring, ORCAM, Raisin, SumUp, Volocopter and XING.

The green light from Germany’s Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM), means Demecan will be able to produce at least 2,400 kilograms of dried cannabis flowers over the next four years. Demecan is also active as an importer and wholesaler of medical cannabis and can thus cover the entire value chain. Since the German government allowed cannabis to be prescribed for therapeutic purposes in 2017 demand has outstripped supply.

Jennifer Phan of btov Partners said in a statement: “Demecan operates in a very attractive market at the right time. Germany currently represents the third-largest market for medical cannabis in the world and is on a growth path. We believe that the company has a first-mover advantage in a highly regulated market environment, especially as it is the only German manufacturing and trading company in the European market”.

Dr. Constantin von der Groeben, co-founder of Demecan, added: “In recent years, we have intensively dealt with the market and reached an important milestone by winning the tender process. We are now focusing on further growth and the start of production in 2020.”


TechCrunch

For years now, Apple’s been judicious with its MacOS updates. Understandably so. Given the massive online outcry every time Facebook changes the placement of a button, it’s in UX designers’ best interest to keep changes gradual and subtle. These days, the overarching philosophy of operating system design seems to be more about guiding the user’s hand and making pronounced changes over time.

By the standard of annual consumer electronic upgrades that Apple has played a key role in perpetuating, updates to MacOS have, perhaps, been too subtle to foster the same sort of excitement. And honestly, that’s perfectly fine. If a laptop is a flashy new car, the operating system is the great steering wheel that doesn’t whiff out the window while you’re driving.

Catalina bucks the trend of recent MacOS updates a bit, in that the updates feel more pronounced. While it’s true that the underlying principles are the same, there are some fundamental changes to day-to-day applications that both impact current use and lay the groundwork for future evolutions of the desktop operating system.

The most pronounced change is the much ballyhooed death of iTunes. The name will continue to exist in some residual instances, but for most intents and purposes, iTunes is being laid to rest with Catalina. Eighteen years was a pretty good run, of course, and signs of the once mighty music application will very much live on in Apple Music. But the new operating system finds the company very much planting its flag with premium content plays, the undisputed future of Apple’s massive revenue generating machine.

That extends, of course, to the arrival of an upgraded TV app, which sets the stage for TV+ and Arcade, which also gets a handful of new arrivals to celebrate today’s public release of Catalina. Podcasts also gets its own desktop app, but for now, at least, that’s not a direct revenue source for the company. It is, however, important for the company to lay claim to the rapidly mainstreaming medium to which it indirectly gave name.

The arrival of Catalyst, meanwhile, lays the seeds for the future of Mac apps. Following the arrival of Apple’s own News, Stocks, Voice Memos and Home, the company has opened the program up to all iPad developers to easily port their apps to the desktop. In a broader sense, the move continues to blur the lines between the two operating systems, for better and worse. For Apple, however, the decision is much more pragmatic: Mac software development has stalled as iOS has boomed. This is a simple solution to help keep thing this in check.

Accessibility gets some much welcome updates, too, including much improved Voice Control, while Apple continues to add updates on the security side.

For the sake of this writeup, however, I’m going to start with the bit that gets me the most excited: Sidecar. From my own perspective, Apple tends to bury the lede in its own feature set. Though I completely understand that it’s simply not as universal an application as, say, Music, TV or (likely) Arcade. Maybe it’s because I’m just getting back from yet another work trip (we held a little event in San Francisco), but Sidecar is a legit productivity game changer for me.

Against all recommendations, I opted to run a beta of Catalina on my primary work machine. I know, I know, but when a beta drops while you’re on the road, there’s really no other option. I had some issues with the software I won’t go into here, because betas gonna beta. I surprisingly had some issues getting the feature to work again with the latest version of iPadOs and the GM of Catalina, but everything should be smooth sailing by the final release.

There’s no doubt, of course, that this is the latest bit of Sherlocking — Apple integrating its own version of a popular third-party app into the operating system. But with something like this, there’s really no competing with native support for most users. For those who need fair more nuanced use of things like Apple Pencil for, say, art making, Duet and Luna may still be worth checking out. If, like me, you just want to use the iPad as a second screen for some added real estate on the road, Sidecar’s the thing.

Enabling the feature is as simple as signing into all of your accounts: Make sure all of the relevant wireless protocols are turned on and then select the associated device from the drop-down. Your primary desktop can either be mirrored or used as an extension like a standard external monitor. The primary benefit of mirroring seems to be the ability to essentially use the screen as a touchscreen and iPad input. This should prove appealing for artists and a potential alternative to a pro tablet like the kind Wacom makes.

Screen Shot 2019 10 01 at 3.45.02 PM

For me, the second display is the thing. Hooking up the extending real estate is a big sigh of relief, making it far easier to keep multiple windows open at the same time. Having Slack open on the iPad while I use Pages and Chrome on the main desktop is a pretty significant time saver.

A small quibble: Keeping the Sidecar and display settings separate is a bit of an annoyance. The side I ultimately use for the iPad usually comes down to where I’m sitting. It would be great to be able to swap on the fly. The addition of a virtual sidebar, meanwhile, is an interesting one, but pretty redundant in mirrored mode.

All told, however, Sidecar is far and away the best addition to MacOS in recent memory.

I’m less in love with the loss of iTunes. I totally understand why Apple made the switch, and honestly, I’m a bit surprised it took them this long. I’m a long-time Spotify user with no interest in making the jump to Apple Music. I prefer the device flexibility Spotify affords. Among other things, the move to Music feels like an opportunity to constantly push users to “Try it Free.”

Music can still be used to play a locally stored song, but the move to streaming service has weaned me off of the notion of digital music ownership. Somewhere in my apartment, there’s a dusty old hard drive with hundreds of gigs of music, including weird old stuff that no one bothered to obscure the distribution rights for. Perhaps one day I’ll dive back in, but honestly it’s feeling increasingly less likely.

Screen Shot 2019 10 07 at 1.02.34 PM

The principles of Podcast should be familiar to anyone who’s ever used the mobile app. It’s all pretty simple and, like Music, focused on discovery. Separating it from Apple Music seems to imply that the company doesn’t have much interest in making huge Spotify-esque investments in the category. And for now, at least, why bother? Apple has a pretty massive head start in the space.

Apple TV gets a nice refresh, as well. It, too, is focused on discovery. Even more importantly for Apple’s long game, however, it lays the groundwork from TV+, which is set to arrive next month. Premium channels like HBO, Showtime and Starz have been integrated here, in a bid to become a more robust cable replacement for cord cutters. Also nice is the arrival of a dedicated Kids section with curated all ages content.

Arcade certainly isn’t what people are referring to when discussing the Mac’s long journey to becoming a more serious gaming system. And while the titles are largely designed to be played on mobile devices, those subscribing at $ 5 a month will no doubt welcome the ability to play on the desktop. There’s a lot to be said for the ability to take a quick work break with a round of the excellent Zelda knockoff/homage, Oceanhorn 2.

Photos adopts some key features from its mobile counterpart. AI/ML will determine and highlight your best shots, while images are categorized by days/months/years. Photo previews are large and now include live photo and video playback.

On the more pragmatic side of things, syncing and backup get some nice upgrades, now available outside of iTunes. That’s a change that certainly makes sense, with those features now accessible through the Finder. Honestly, that’s where they belong. Accessing them through iTunes always felt like a relic of the early iTunes/iPod days. This information is available directly in the main Finder sidebar.

As ever, there’s no hesitation in recommending Mac users update to the latest version of the operating system. Of course, that’s helped along by the fact that it’s a free upgrade. This is one of the more transformative MacOS updates in recent memory, and most of the new features are welcome — as I said, I’m not in love with Music for personal workflow reasons, but Sidecar is a biggie.

MacOS Catalina is now available for all users.


TechCrunch

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the new Extra Crunch series where we’ll help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps — including everything from the OS’s to the apps that run upon them, as well as the money that flows through it all.

The app industry in 2018 saw 194 billion downloads and over $ 100 in consumer spending. Beyond that, the business of user acquisition and advertising generates even more money. And all because we’re spending more time on our phones than we do watching TV.

This week, the news was centered on the app stores’ ability to censor, the censorship in apps, and also how the antritrust investigations are forcing companies to open up access more to third parties.

Headlines

Third-party iOS apps will get to tap into Siri

According to Bloomberg and confirmed elsewhere, Apple will allow third-party messaging and phone apps to work better with the Siri digital assistant. That means, if you regularly use WhatsApp to message friends, Siri will launch that app instead of iMessage. Currently, you have to say the name of the app you want to invoke. The update is largely about Apple’s attempt to demonstrate anti-competitive behavior, in light of increased regulatory scrutiny and antitrust claims. But the change will also be a huge win for consumers as their iPhones will become more personalized to them.


TechCrunch

In a wide-ranging conversation at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco last week, Postmates co-founder and chief executive officer Bastian Lehmann made light of the company’s lack of IPO documents.

The San Francisco-based on-demand delivery business was expected to publicly file its IPO prospectus in September in preparation for a fall exit, sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch this summer. September, however, has come and gone and we’re still waiting on Postmates to release the critical document.

“The reality is that we will IPO when we believe we find the right time for the business and the right time for the markets,” Lehmann told TechCrunch. “And if you look at the markets right now, I believe they are a little choppy. They are a little choppy when it comes to growth companies specifically … We are hopeful that we find a good window to get out there.”

Lehmann made reference to Uber and other companies to recently float, citing market conditions as an IPO deterrent. Uber, Lyft, Slack and other fast-growing unicorns have struggled since entering the public markets earlier this year despite sky-high private market valuations. WeWork, a money-losing endeavor, recently decided to delay its IPO after demand from Wall Street devalued the business by the billions. Whether Postmates will complete its debut by the end of the year is unclear.

Postmates confidentially filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an IPO in February. Shortly after, Postmates held M&A talks with DoorDash, another food delivery unicorn, according to people familiar with the matter, but failed to come to mutually favorable terms. DoorDash has previously declined to comment on these reports. On stage last week, Lehmann declined to confirm the reports.

“I don’t think it does any good to speculate on M&A,” he said. “I think you have four well-funded players here in the U.S. in this space. I think everyone is well aware of the strengths and the weaknesses of each other and you know at some point down the line, if we take Europe for example, you will see consolidation in the market. People have conversations all the time but I wouldn’t read too much into it.”

Postmates operates its on-demand delivery platform, powered by a network of local gig economy workers, in more than 3,500 cities across all 50 states. The company does not yet operate in any international markets aside from Mexico City, however, Lehmann’s comments suggest the business could be plotting a foray into Europe, where Deliveroo, Just Eat and others dominate the market.

Postmates has raised about $ 900 million to date, including a $ 225 million round announced last month that valued the company at $ 2.4 billion. DoorDash, on the other hand, reached a $ 12.6 billion valuation in May with a $ 600 million Series G and has raised more than double that of Postmates. When asked why DoorDash, a similar and competing business, needed that much more capital, Lehmann joked “Maybe [DoorDash CEO Tony Xu] needs a jet, I don’t know.”

Postmates, founded in 2011 by Lehmann, is backed by Spark Capital, Founders Fund, Uncork Capital, Slow Ventures, Tiger Global, Blackrock and others. In our interview with Lehmann, the long-time CEO discussed the ‘choppy’ public markets, competitors, the company’s autonomous robotics delivery efforts and more.


TechCrunch

Several months back, we invited HTC cofounder and CEO Cher Wang to appear on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt. Sometimes, however, life happens. Two weeks ago, the company announced that Wang would be stepping down from the role, which would immediately be filled by longtime telecom vet, Yves Maitres. Thankfully, the former Orange exec also agreed to appear on stage at this week’s event.

Maitres took the stage immediately following a one on one with OnePlus cofounder, Carl Pei. The contrast of the two companies couldn’t be more stark. In six short years of existence, OnePlus has managed to buck a number of industry trends with a controlled growth that flies in the face of wider industry smartphone trends.

HTC, meanwhile, has been struggling for years. In Q2, the Taiwanese hardware maker posted its fifth consecutive quarterly loss. Last July, it laid off around a quarter of its staff. It’s been a precipitous fall. In 2011, the company comprised around 11 percent of global smartphone sales, per analyst figures. Now its figures are routinely classified among the “Others” in those reports.

Speaking to Maitres at an event such as this offers a rare opportunity for insight from a newly minted exec who has spent years watching his new company from the outside. As such, he addressed HTC’s struggles with a refreshing candidness.

“HTC has stopped innovating in the hardware of the smartphone,” he told the audience. “And people like Apple, like Samsung and, most recently, Huawei, have done an incredible job investing in their hardware. We didn’t, because we have been investing in innovation on virtual reality. When I was young, somebody told me, ‘to be be right at the wrong time is to be wrong and to be wrong at the right time is right.’ I think we’ve been right at the wrong time and now we have to catch up. We made a timing mistake. It is very difficult to anticipate the time. HTC made a mistake in terms of timing. It is a difficult mistake and we are paying for that, but we still have so many assets in terms of innovation, team and balance sheets that I feel we are recovering from the timing mistake.”

‘Timing,’ here, is primarily a reference to the company’s decision to move much of its R&D money into XR (primarily VR through its Vive wing). Maitres said he anticipates that HTC’s XR offerings will overtake the mobile side in about five years.

“We’ll do our best to make it shorter, but customer adoption is key,” he explained. “How people are adopting your technology. And we all know know it is absolutely critical. And the end of the day, we have human beings in front of us, and they’re dealing with something total new and totally unusual, which is virtual.”

On the mobile side, Maitres sees 5G as the primary bottleneck to growth. Contrary to suggestions that the company’s best play is in developing nations, he says HTC’s play going forward will be more premium handset focused on “countries with higher GDP.”

“The competition is changing,” he says. “We’re all having a situation where worldwide marketshare is going down and the customer is disappointed in not being to have the latest Huawei phone anymore. How to give our customers the ability to come back to what they wish, in terms of best in class hardware and photography that HTC to will to solve in the next few months.”

While figures will largely be dependent on decisions Brough to HTC’s board, Maitres maintains optimistic projections when it comes to returning the company profitability.

“I truly believe that it is going to depend on the way carriers deploy 5G,” he says. “And you know that 2020 will bee the starting point for 5G. Usually it takes two years to deploy a network. So 2023 will have significant coverage. That’s why I believe that 2025, probably even earlier will be the turning point. We are dependent on carrier deployment speed.”


TechCrunch

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