Category Archives: Smart Phones

Smart phone contact tracing apps mostly ignored, unused

In reality, adoption of contract tracing apps by citizens was largely sporadic and unenthusiastic. A trio of researchers in Australia decided to explore why contract tracing apps weren’t more widely adopted. Their results, published on 23 December in IEEE Software, emphasize the importance of social factors such as trust and transparency.

Source: Why Aren’t COVID Tracing Apps More Widely Used? – IEEE Spectrum

Big reasons cited by the study:

  • Lack of trust in tech
  • Lack of trust in public health
  • Lack of trust in government

There are a host of problems with the Bluetooth-based tech. Some use network-side tracking (most countries) but some like the US and the UK would use Bluetooth due to legal and privacy issues on the network side.

I wrote a lot about these apps in the past. I have yet to see evidence that Bluetooth-based radio signal strength measurements are anything but error prone when used in the real world. Plus, they cannot detect contacts “across time” – that is, person with Covid gets off bus, you board and sit in their seat. The BT systems cannot detect this surface and airspace contact. One study found a 40+% false positive rate, others found high false negatives, for example. Others found decreased battery life of their smart phones, and many privacy questions, particularly about network-side tracking but I identified privacy issues even with anonymous Bluetooth methods.

Privacy: Over half of Covid-19 smart phone tracking apps do track your actual location, and 1/3d even access your photos

An analysis of nearly 500 Covid-related apps worldwide shows major differences in how much data they expect you to give up.

Source: The iOS Covid App Ecosystem Has Become a Privacy Minefield | WIRED

How many Covid-19 cases have been successfully tracked with smart phone-based exposure notification and contact tracing apps? Past reports say close to zero.

Considering exploding cases world wide, it appears we can add smart phone apps to the list of remedies shown to not work.

What is the most power efficient (least electricity use) programming language?

Can energy usage data tell us anything about the quality of our programming languages? Last year a team of six researchers in Portugal from three different universities decided to investigate this question, ultimately releasing a paper titled “Energy Efficiency Across Programming Languages.” They ran the solutions to 10 programming problems written in 27 different languages,…

Source: Which Programming Languages Use the Least Electricity? – The New Stack

With some exceptions, this problem is a hard one to sort out – yet it matters when using battery operated portable devices.

The paper took a hard look at the common assumption that a faster program will always use less energy, pointing out that it’s not as simple as the law of physics that says E(nergy) = T(ime) x P(ower).

I proved this in my Masters in Software Engineering thesis eight years ago. Software developers have long operated on the belief that a “fast” and efficient program would use less energy. But ultimately it depends on how their high level code is translated into compiled code or pseudo-code, or interpreted, and the underlying implementation of any virtual machines that execute the pseudo-code.

Paradoxically, less efficient algorithms can indeed use less electric energy – it ultimately depends on how the hardware is put to use. And in the case of pseudo-code – this means a power optimized app running on one Android phone might even be less – or more – efficient when run on a phone from a different manufacturer using a different virtual machine to execute the pseudo code!

There is a complex, and non-obvious trade-off between algorithm efficiency, memory usage, and power consumption – and it varies by language, and by device.

On phones, the big power users tend to be the display, and GPS, and the camera – and of course, the CPU. Most power reduction strategies work to keep hardware turned off, or in a low energy state, as much as possible.

IOT, Covid: Smart Watch fitness trackers may help predict Covid-19 infections and outbreaks

Combines self reported data and information such as heart rate, from fitness trackers and smart phones to identify potential Covid-19 infections:
Source: Early results from DETECT study suggest fitness trackers and smartwatches can predict COVID-19 infection | Scripps Research

The smart phone app may be downloaded here. The app works with any smart watch phone app that uses Google Fit or Apple Health interfaces. The study has been underway since spring of 2020 and is expected to run for two years. Not only would this app track potential illness (similar to the Kinsa thermometer) but might also be used to eventually measure effectiveness of vaccines.

Contact tracing apps do not track surface or air contacts across time | Coldstreams Business and Tech

Re-running this post with a few minor updates. Contact tracing apps do not track surface or air contacts across time | Coldstreams Business and Tech

Bluetooth-based contact tracing apps are incapable of detecting close contacts across time.

Example: Someone sits on a bus or at a coffee shop seat, coughs, and then leaves, 30-60 seconds later a new person takes that seat, has direct contact with the seat, plus inhales the aerosolized viral particles and droplets expelled by the person who coughed. BLE-based phone apps are 100% incapable of detecting this close contact.

Covid-19 tracing apps: UK’s tracking app continues to be a mess

3 days after official launch the UK’s contact tracing app is a mess:

  • Users who report symptoms but then get a negative test result still must isolate because there is no way to report a negative test result.
  • About one-third of the positive test results – any done at NHS basically – cannot be reported so that one’s contacts cannot then be alerted.
  • The app logs when you enter a venue – but not when you leave. Thus, you stop by a pub at 8 pm and leave at 8:15 pm. Some who then enters at 9 pm subsequently tests positive – so you are told you were in contact. This would be a “false contact”.

For reasons outlined months ago, I do not believe smart phone contact tracing will prove particularly useful. It has been a virtue signaling endeavor from the tech industry, with up to a 45% false positive rate.

Here’s the summary of the problems, quoted from a UK web site named “Lockdown skeptics”.

It only took three days for the NHS COVID-19 app to acquire a litany of problems.

Users cannot report negative test results because the app asks for a result code and negative tests don’t have a code. If you reported symptoms to the app when booking that test then your self isolation counter continues to count, even though you have a negative test.

How about positive tests? According to the @NHSCOVID19app twitter account responding to complaints: “If your test took place in a Public Health England lab or NHS hospital, or as part of national surveillance testing conducted by the Office for National Statistics, test results cannot currently be linked with the app whether they’re positive or negative.” This shouldn’t be a surprise to the team building the app as they told us about it in their own documentation. But as this tweet from an incredulous user points out: “So if I get symptoms, and as an NHS nurse, get a test through work (because that’s the only way you can get a test these days), then if I am positive the app will not automatically alert my contacts? Same for a patient with a positive test?” That’s right, if you have your test done in an NHS hospital you cannot tell the NHS app about it.

The ludicrous levels of optimism around this app are evident in the twitter stream: “For every 1 to 2 people who download the app, an infection could be prevented.” Really? Could we see “the science” behind that please?

Meanwhile the venue check-in function doesn’t have a way of telling it when you leave a venue. That’s by design apparently: “You do not need to check out of a venue. Your phone will register when you check into somewhere new, and it will automatically check you out of your last venue at midnight.” So if I visit a venue for a few minutes at 9pm, then go home, and someone who later tests positive visits that venue at 10pm, I will be alerted and asked to isolate. No prizes for seeing the problem with that.Presumably this level of incompetence is all part of the new normal?

Source: Latest News – Lockdown Sceptics

California to ban sale of new gas-powered cars in 2035 

California will ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars to combat climate change starting in 2035, a move that could help reshape the nation’s automobile market and its output of greenhouse gases.

Source: California to ban sale of new gas-powered cars in 2035 under Newsom order – SFChronicle.com

The State that is currently unable to provide sufficient electricity to its people, will require that all new vehicles sold after 2035 be – basically – electric. Will be interesting to see how they solve the infrastructure challenge in just 14+ years. The State is presently building just half of a high speed rail system over a period of 25 years.

Related: I do not understand the full concept of Executive Orders. The report notes this mandate is done via Executive Order in order to bypass the Legislature and public input. That is not a democracy in action – that is an authoritarian and undemocratic government.

Separately, the SF Bay area Metropolitan Transportation Commission has voted to mandate that 60% of all workers must work from home – with exemptions for work that cannot be done from home.

Issues have been raised as to how this creates social isolation, difficulties for many people who do not have homes suitable for work, and wipes out large numbers of businesses and jobs that support workers downtown. It also treats those who already walk or take public transport to work the same as everyone else – they too would be required to work at home.

Continue reading California to ban sale of new gas-powered cars in 2035 

Public health does not understand math

Proximity technology is controversial, particularly among some Americans who are unwilling to share personal data for privacy reasons and skeptical of the big tech companies offering the service. But it’s been embraced in some places, including Scotland, where a new app was reportedly downloaded 600,000 times.

Source: Your phone could determine if you’ve been exposed to coronavirus. Oregon’s ready to embrace the tech – oregonlive.com

600,000 sounds impressive based on intuition (everything in public health seems to be based on intuition).

The population of Scotland is estimated as 5.5 million.

600k of 5.5 million is 10.9% of the population.

If we assume everyone has a compatible smart phone (which is a false assumption), then the probability that an individual has the app is 10.9%.

The probability that two people have the app is 10.9% x 10.9% or 1%. It takes two to have a detection.

Continue reading Public health does not understand math