Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired It’s Easier Than Ever to Log Your Kid’s Data—But Should You?

Hexbyte Tech News Wired It’s Easier Than Ever to Log Your Kid’s Data—But Should You?

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Model wearing Tempdrop monitors.

Amy Lombard

The minute I walked onto the showroom floor at CES, one of the world’s largest consumer trade technology shows, a spokesperson for Philips’ Pregnancy+ app accosted me. “Would you like to experience what it’s like to be a pregnant woman?” he asked.

“I already have,” I told him, but it was too late. Before I knew it, I was standing on a platform with a pair of headphones guided over my ears. “Your baby is now as big as a plum,” a solemn voice told me, as I rotated the tiny body on an iPad screen. I’d seen this all before, but still—I was transfixed.

I’m grateful to have experienced pregnancy and having children, but parenthood is a never-ending whirlwind of worry. Is the baby breathing right? Is she gaining the right amount of weight? Am I doing this right? At CES, plenty of gadget-makers seemed eager to capitalize on this anxious, urgent desire to protect the gorgeous gem of a human being that you’ve grown inside your body. Mostly, that means monitoring your baby. Parenting is about vigilance (and, apparently, teaching your toddler to code).

The sooner it starts, the better. We want to know everything, and anything, that will help us get our heads around the fact that this tiny bundle of cells will grow up to be a human with body hair, or one who likes reruns of Seinfeld. We’re hungry for data—and the tech industry is here to provide it.

The quest to quantify your child starts before you’ve even conceived. Wearables can pinpoint the optimum time to conceive; a bracelet can count fetal kicks; a monitor can leverage military-grade technology to count each newborn breath. For those of us who already have a smartwatch permanently affixed to our wrist, it seems like a very natural evolution.

“If you’ve already been using a Fitbit to track your steps for five years, it’s obvious that you can use a wearable to get pregnant,” says Bekah Otto, the editor-in-chief of baby registry website Babylist. “If you’re trying for six months and you’re already 35 years old, you need a tool that’s going to help you, without shelling out for IVF or Clomid.”

The gadget-makers have taken note. Wearable bracelets like the Ava bracelet and the Tempdrop both monitor variables like body temperature and heart rate variability ratio to predict a woman’s most fertile days. Once you’re pregnant—and Ava claims that they celebrate around 40 pregnancies per day—you can strap on the Owlet Band, a soft, stretchy band with soft ECG sensors woven throughout it to monitor your fetal kick counts and heart rate.

Even Apple Watches now offer this kind of granular feedback. Download an app called Airstrip and your Watch can gather all the information you need for a fetal non-stress test to monitor the health of your baby. When I was pregnant with both of my children, I had a checkup every few weeks. If I were pregnant now, I could check four, or 40, times every day.

“If the goal is to assuage anxiety, I’m not sure these devices would do that.”

Naomi Stotland, OB-GYN

Once your kid has been safely evacuated from the interior of your body, you can monitor their nighttime breathing in a number of ways. At CES, the Nanit monitor debuted Breathing Wear technology, which tracks the patterns on the proprietary Nanit swaddle and band to visually track the expansion and contraction of your child’s small lungs.

Miku monitor

Amy Lombard

The doll-like Raybaby monitor combines radar sensors with AI to track the same thing, and the Miku monitor layers optical and wireless sensors to do the same and protects the data stored on the monitor with a tamper-resistant crypto chip. I had the opportunity to try the Miku, which warned me that the rate of my awake, adult, CES-quickened breathing was frankly alarming.

Once your kid is walking and you’re a little less worried that they can, you know, breathe properly? That’s when you stick a GPS tracker like a Jiobit or an Elios on them. You can geofence your kids, or track them in real time on the carpool home.

As a techie parent, I can see the appeal. Logging bits of child-related data into my phone and staring at it feels weirdly good—as satisfying as checking my step count before I go to bed, or my max heart rate when I work out. It’s probably the only compensation for the times when I can’t hold them in my arms.

But if monitoring your own metrics can get mentally exhausting, try monitoring someone else’s. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger they get, the more you need to let them go.

It’s easy to think that a wearable like the Ava or Tempdrop reduce the amount of labor a woman has to perform. No more peeing on sticks, or logging body temperature that’s been taken at specific hours. It’s also worth noting that pregnant women are commonly expected to do kick counts and keep track of contractions themselves, so the Owlet Band could also be considered a labor-saving device.

But Dr. Naomi Stotland, an OB-GYN and professor at the University of California-San Francisco’s obstetrics and gynecology department, sees limited benefits to this kind of constant monitoring. “I don’t know if devices like these would actually reduce the number of stillbirths,” Dr. Stotland says. “But what we do know is that increased monitoring—and not just with pregnancy—increases the chances of unnecessary intervention. If the goal is to assuage anxiety, I’m not sure these devices would do that.”

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Worse, constantly monitoring your kid gives you a sense that you can protect them from everything. While creating a “Batcave-esque baby command center” might seem preferable to sticking your finger under your newborn’s nose every ten minutes, the FDA has not yet cleared a baby product as being capable of preventing SIDS. As for geofencing your kid? I was horrified to find Elios, one tracking company, using Elizabeth Smart—a thriving young woman who was also a famous kidnap victim—as their spokesperson.

“Wasn’t Elizabeth Smart kidnapped in her bed?” I asked Josh Cross, Elios’s CMO. “Are you supposed to put the tracker on the kid while they’re sleeping?”

“I see what you’re saying,” Cross said. “But she’s just saying if she had it, they would’ve been able to find her.”

Most of the manufacturers that I spoke to cited “peace of mind” as the reason why someone would log a child’s every breath and every heartbeat. But unlike the data that I collect on myself, the data that you collect on your children is not always actionable. If my step count is low, I can take a walk around the block. I can’t make my children breathe by staring at a screen.

A consumer product like the Owlet Band can’t protect you from a stillbirth; a smart baby monitor, no matter how detailed and secure, hasn’t been proven to prevent SIDS. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but: You can’t buy anything that will prevent your kid from being kidnapped. It breaks my heart to think of a grieving parent wallowing in guilt and self-blame, thinking that you can prevent the unthinkable by purchasing a gadget.

So I’m telling you now: You can’t stop runaway buses in their tracks, or douse spreading wildfires, or extinguish every gruesome tropical disease. When you’re picking items for your baby registry, pick stuff that is cool-looking, and helpful, and will save you time and energy. But as far as parenting goes, guarding against every distant threat is not the most important task.

The real work isn’t tracking your kid’s every move, but enjoying the ride—watching them grow, helping them learn, and, sure, teaching them how to code before they can walk. And yes, preventing them from being a grown-up who likes Seinfeld. I have yet to see a device that will help me with that.


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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Tor Is Easier Than Ever. Time to Give It a Try

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Tor Is Easier Than Ever. Time to Give It a Try

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Casey Chin; Sean Gladwell/Getty Images

You probably know about the digital anonymity service Tor, but for whatever reason you may not actually use it. Maybe between the nodes, traffic rerouting, and special onion URLs it seems too confusing to be worth the effort.

In truth, Tor has been relatively accessible for years now, largely because of the Tor Browser, which works almost exactly like a regular browser and does all the complicated stuff for you in the background. But in 2018 a slew of new offerings and integrations vastly expanded the available tools, making 2019 the year to finally try Tor. You may even end up using the network without realizing it.

“At the end of the day for Tor what we hope is that our technology becomes underlying, and everything else that happens online happens on top of it,” says Isabela Bagueros, executive director of the Tor Project. “Seeing interest and adoption from for-profit companies and other organizations is a very interesting moment for us, because we are creating different examples to show how our vision can be possible.”

Tor’s primary benefit, for the uninitiated: It encrypts your traffic and bounces it through a chain of computers, making it very difficult for anyone to track where it came from. You can see how easy access to an anonymized services like that might come in handy when you’re working on anything from job hunting to political organizing.

This year, it became easier than ever to do so on Android, with the introduction of Tor Browser for Android. The platform first debuted in September and is still being tested, but is now close to its final, stable release. You can download it on Google Play or directly from the Tor Project. There are also some Tor options for iOS, including an app called Onion Browser, but the Tor Project doesn’t currently have its own offering. Being able to access Tor on mobile is increasingly important, as more and more browsing shifts to smartphones.

Tor on desktop has gotten new options as well. The privacy-focused browser Brave added Tor routing in June as an option for its tabs. Brave makes it easy to have some tabs that are running Tor and others that aren’t, letting you do all of your browsing side by side. In Brave you simply navigate to the File menu and choose “New Private Tab with Tor,” or flip a Tor switch after you launch a new private tab, to add the protection.

“A Brave Private Window with Tor keeps the user history secret from other people who may be using the computer, but also makes it more difficult for ISPs, employers, or guest Wi-Fi providers to track which websites a user visits,” Brave said in a statement. “We’re getting great feedback from users…[and] we’re also adding more Tor functionality in Brave.”

Brave’s integration options are convenient. And the Tor Project’s Bagueros says that Brave has so far shown strong commitment to evolving its Tor implementation to be increasingly secure. While people could just use the official Tor Browser for maximum protection—something even Brave itself recommends “for users who require leakproof privacy—Tor’s Bagueros says the goal is to foster as many implementations as possible to make Tor more accessible. “We don’t want to be the only browser,” she says. “If there are 20,000 browsers doing the same thing we don’t mind. We think that’s great.”

Other types of Tor integrations relate to creating infrastructure so that people’s browsing can opportunistically route over the Tor network and have stronger anonymity protections. Facebook—which has run an “onion service” since 2014 to make connecting to Facebook on Tor even more secure—expanded its offerings in November to make them faster and more efficient. The improvement was also aimed at making it easier for Tor users to access the most secure version of Facebook from within a platform like Tor Browser without having to remember a special onion URL.

Content delivery network and internet infrastructure provider Cloudflare also launched an onion service in September that makes it easier to access the most secure versions of its client sites on Tor. Through its new setup, Cloudflare helps to extend protections on user anonymity without knowing anyone’s identity, even on its own service. “If we can make it easier for more people to use Tor that’s great,” says Matthew Prince, Cloudflare’s CEO. “Other platforms can support this to get an advanced level of security for their users.” Cloudflare’s Tor integration is also set up to more accurately separate legitimate Tor traffic from malicious activity, by making it more costly for hackers to mount attacks without undermining anonymity protections for legitimate users.

With all this new private industry collaboration, the Tor Project’s Bagueros says she thinks that more people will start using the service and be able to integrate it into their lives. The Tor Project has been working on ways to scale more efficiently in anticipation of eventually needing to meet this higher demand. But it also remains focused on the core concept of Tor as a distributed and decentralized network. “We don’t want any corporations to own a big part of the network,” Bagueros says. “So we educate them on how many servers are okay for them to pitch in and if they want to add more they can donate to different nonprofits who run relays so they can still increase the network that way.”

The vision of Tor as the underpinning of the entire internet is still probably a long way off, if it can ever happen at all. But the options available to access the Tor network and use it more easily are rapidly expanding. This is the year to try them out.


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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired It Just Got Easier for the FCC to Ignore Your Complaints

Hexbyte Tech News Wired It Just Got Easier for the FCC to Ignore Your Complaints

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

It may soon be harder to get the Federal Communications Commission to listen to your complaints about billing, privacy, or other issues with telecommunications carriers like AT&T and Verizon.

Today, the agency approved changes to its complaint system that critics say will undermine the agency’s ability to review and act on the complaints it receives.

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Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Announcing an Easier Way to Build Alexa Skills Using Python

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers Announcing an Easier Way to Build Alexa Skills Using Python

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers

We are excited to announce the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) Software Development Kit (SDK) for Python (beta). The SDK includes the same features available in our Java and Node.js SDKs, and allows you to reduce the amount of boilerplate code you have to write to process Alexa responses and requests. If you code using Python, you can use the SDK to quickly build and deliver voice experiences using Alexa and the extensive Python support libraries and tools.

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers
Use the SDK for Common Tasks and Write Your Own Code for Your Unique Ideas

When you build an Alexa skill, you provide a cloud-based service that receives requests (in JSON) sent by Alexa and returns appropriate responses (in JSON) that Alexa uses to respond to the customer. We provide a consistent feature set in our Java, Node.js, and Python (Beta) SDKs to reduce the amount of code you need to write to process the requests and responses, and to handle other common skill tasks. You can use the following key features:

  • Request Handling. Request Handling in the SDK makes it easy for you to invoke the right code when Alexa sends you a request. You can write a single handler for multiple Alexa intents, or invoke different handlers based on nearly any request attribute. The ASK SDK for Python (Beta) also introduces flexible handler registration, allowing you to use either decorators or traditional class-based implementations of handler features.
  • Response Building. You can deliver responses to your customers that include text-to-speech, audio and video streams, and cards and other visual elements. Customers will receive one or more of these elements depending on what Alexa-compatible device they are using. Using the SDK, you can build responses that include all of these elements.
  • Attribute Management. You can store and retrieve information at different scopes using Attributes in the SDK. Attributes allow you to keep track of what happened so far, and to use this information to determine what happens next. You can define attributes that for a single request, for a single customer session, or for the lifetime of your skill.
  • Alexa API Calls. You can call nearly any Alexa API from within your skill logic using service clients in the SDK. The service clients automatically inject relevant endpoint and authentication token information on your behalf.

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers Build Your First Alexa Skill with Python Quickly and Tell Us What You Think

Visit the alexa-skills-kit-sdk-for-python repository on GitHub to find everything you need to get started, from a “Hello, world” sample to the complete technical documentation. You can host your Python skill in AWS Lambda or the infrastructure of your choice. Note that because of the AWS Free Tier and AWS Promotional Credits for Alexa, you can build and host most Alexa skills for free using AWS.

Try the ASK SDK for Python (beta) today, and tell us what you think. You can provide feature requests and feedback on issues you encounter by creating a GitHub issue on the repository. We can’t wait to see what you build.

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