Amazon Dash Buttons: 9 months later

Amazon Dash Buttons: 9 months later

The spread of Amazon is seemingly unstoppable. One of their latest ways to enter our homes are “Dash Buttons” that allow you to reorder products with the click of a (sponsored) button. The promo video for the product aired just before April Fool’s Day in 2015 and had some thinking it was more of a joke than an actual marketing campaign. But the Dash Buttons hit the market the following July, at $4.99 apiece. Amazon ostensibly wants to do away with any sort of physical shopping altogether; Jeff Bezos is now doing to grocery stores what he originally did to bookstores. Of course, shopping on Amazon is nice; they’ve created an entire culture not only of comfort and ease, but also of excitement – who doesn’t love getting Amazon boxes in the mail? – competing with the instant gratification you get from buying on site. Not only is one of the most comprehensive moves in Amazon’s “Internet of Things” strategy, it appears to be an attempt to revolutionize the way we shop. Again. This is the physical embodiment of Amazon’s, oft-maligned and joked-about, infiltration into our homes and nearly every aspect of our lives. Amazon Dash Buttons Here’s how they work (from Amazon.com):   To use Dash Button, simply download the Amazon App from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Then, sign into your Amazon Prime account, connect Dash Button to Wi-Fi, and select the product you want to reorder. Once connected, a single press on Dash Button automatically places your order. Amazon will send an order confirmation to your phone, so it’s easy to cancel if you change...
Is Chipotle’s E. coli scare over?

Is Chipotle’s E. coli scare over?

Chipotle was one of the few restaurant chains to graduate beyond chain status; one of those restaurants that, despite their corporate structure, enjoyed an almost cult-like following. They were socially conscious. They used quality, “fresh” ingredients. They had what we assumed was integrity, publicly dropping carnitas (one of their most popular protein choices) when they couldn’t source non-GMO pork. They seemed golden. But then, like a beloved Hollywood movie star who can seemingly do no wrong getting arrested on molestation charges, Chipotle fell from grace. One, two, three, then dozens of cases of foodborne illness linked to Chipotle were reported. People were getting sick all across the country, most notably from E. coli. 64 cases of Salmonella poisoning were reported here in Minnesota during August and September of 2015. The source was Chipotle’s tomatoes. It was all over the news. People sick. People scared. Chipotle was cleared by the CDC after the E. coli outbreak was linked to the Australian beef they were using (and their signs now tout ingredients “locally-sourced,” so, at least closer than Australia). They then dumped millions into a new marketing campaign, and even closed completely for a day in February for a “mandatory food safety training” session. But can they survive the scandal? Well, other restaurant chains have. Fast food giants like McDonald’s (in 1982, the first documented case of E. coli linked to food), Burger King (1997), Wendy’s (2006), and Taco Bell (2006, and multiple other times) have all caused foodborne sickness. They’ve continued on mostly unscathed, though without the level of news coverage that Chipotle received. Some might say that this is unsurprising; that when you...
Login with your ear? Yep. And soon.

Login with your ear? Yep. And soon.

We all know how easy it is for our online information to be hacked; for our lives (extending beyond just what is online) to be stolen from us by someone who knows more than we do. To help prevent this, we trust our information to passwords, to fingerprint scanners, to other security measures all the way up the line to what feels like James Bond-esque technology. But we also know how easy it is for these things to be faked. Fingerprints can be duplicated using Play-Doh, and something as simple as a 2D picture can often dupe an eye-scanner. And we all know how terrible passwords are at protecting anything. So, with that in mind, researchers from NEC (NEC; TSE: 6701) developed an ear-based login system, one that allows you to access sensitive information (banking, personal records, etc.) using your internal ear canal. This is not James Bond. Retina scans were James Bond. Voice recognition was James Bond. This is beyond James Bond. Login with your ear Here’s how it works: The system sends sound into the user’s ear and then measures the echoes they receive. The echo is based on sound reflected from the user’s external ear canal, called the tympanic membrane, and by sound that is reflected within the inner parts of the ear. The response received through the echo is converted into digital sound, and this “digital echo” becomes your unique ID. According to NEC (check it out here) accuracy currently stands at >99%, and takes about 1 second to measure. This will be especially useful for smart phones, which we already hold to our ears. As we conduct...