Friday Five: Strava takes heat, digital currency goes physical

Each week Zone's Letty Key handpicks and shares the five best stories on new trends and technologies...

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1. Amazon primed to disrupt healthcare industry

Amazon is dipping its rather large toe in healthcare. Not much is known about the creation of the joint Amazon-JP Morgan-Berkshire Hathaway venture but it’s sent people into a frenzy, with some suggesting the trio's collective expertise could transform health insurance in the US.


There is some concern about data privacy, given that an organisation that knows its users' consumption habits could also be setting their insurance premiums. There are regulations around this but the vaguely expressed goal of the venture is to sort a malfunctioning system out so clearly, in their eyes, something will have to give.


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2. Strava palaver shows up data dilemma

You may have heard that fitness tracking app Strava 'leaked military secrets'. But did it? Or did some users in high-security locations not pay enough attention to configuring their privacy settings? It's still being debated where the fault lies, but it seems a little harsh to paint this entirely as a mess-up on Strava’s part.

Presumably military bases are tight on security with other forms of social media, and Strava is a platform based on sharing. This episode should be seen as a call to all social networks to be more explicit about what they store as default and how to change this, so that users can take better ownership over protecting their data.


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3. Google camera will take clips of your life

If you’ve ever wanted you and your family to be captured on film 24/7 but can't afford to hire Louis Theroux, the Google Clips camera has gone on sale this week. It's another always-on device like Amazon Echo, but this time it’s always watching rather than listening.

It operates without user interaction, deciding what images and footage to retain based on judgements about the quality of the visuals and the moment captured. This is a lot trickier than the developers initially thought: this blog post explains how they trained the little camera to develop a sense of aesthetic and emotional judgement.


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4. Cake leaves slightly odd taste in the mouth

People love the swiping fun of Tinder’s interface, and it makes sense to consider each option in isolation (if only for a second) when it comes to humans. But when it's in the context of a browser, like the Cake app released this week, which loads up what it deems to be the most relevant page rather than search results, it’s... odd.

General consensus is that it’s an intriguing idea (you swipe à la Tinder if you want to see other results), but unless we are happy to put more trust into the browser’s judgement it might need tweaking for anything beyond simple search. Or maybe we'll have to start typing very precise query terms reminiscent of the very polite full sentence enquiries to Ask Jeeves.


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5. Let's get physical

Worried about how slippery all that digital currency can be? Think you’re probably better at keeping track of your physical wallet than your Bitcoin one, like this guy whose excruciating account of trying to recover his Bitcoin includes resorting to hypnotism? Then get these new Bitcoin smart banknotes, which you actually hand over when paying.

Check out this site to see where you can spend bitcoin irl near you. It's accessible to people who don’t want to get into the computational nitty gritty themselves, so let’s see how this retro-but-not-really currency plays out.