Showing posts with label Tech. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tech. Show all posts
29 April 2021

Chinese Smart TV-Maker Accused of Spying on Owners' Other Devices

 

Chinese Smart TV-Maker Accused of Spying on Owners' Other Devices

Skyworth chief executive Tony Wang unveils premium 8K TV models at the Consumer Electronics Show during the CES Unveiled event at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, Jan. 5, 2020.
 
A China-based manufacturer of smart televisions has been accused of spying on its users by scanning their homes for other devices connected to the wifi network every few minutes, owners of the devices have reported on social media.


Smart TVs made by Skyworth were found to have an app -- Gozen Data -- installed on the Android-based operating system of the TV, according to a post on the V2EX website titled "My TV is monitoring all connected devices."

According to the post, Gozen Data scanned for and collected the names of his computer, his network interface card, IP addresses, and the usernames of those connected to his and other local wifi networks.

"I found that there was something called ‘Gozen Data,' and I had no idea what it was doing," the post said.

"The service was sending back the hostnames, mac, ip, and even the network delay time, as well as detecting the nearby wifi SSID names and mac addresses and sending them off to ... a database," it said.

The data, according to screenshots posted by the user, was sent to gz-data.com, a data analysis platform managed by Gozen Data that counts among its international customers Sanyo, Toshiba and Philips, and which holds data harvested from 103 million smart TVs according to 2018 figures.

Project Xueliang

While the company told the Apple Daily newspaper in Hong Kong that the data wasn't used for surveillance, but for targeted advertising, former citizen journalist Xing Jian said the Android smart TV operating system has been repurposed by the Chinese government for surveillance of people's homes in rural areas, in an operation known as Project Xueliang.

"Project Xueliang uses the Android operating system to achieve full domain coverage, full network sharing, round-the-clock and remote-controlled video surveillance for policing purposes," Xing said.

"This app is a form of spyware that is inserted onto users' smartphones, TVs and other Android devices, and it will automatically scan and collect data about devices, usage information and social connections, and upload it to a government database for online monitoring," he said.

Analysts said the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) appears to be implementing a nationwide surveillance network that includes watching people in their own homes and monitoring their contacts and interactions.

Other social media posts have said that users are worried about using Android TVs at all, while others have reported on Xiaomi routers requesting wifi-related information every few seconds.

A Shanxi-based legal scholar surnamed Song said the surveillance is aiming for total control over what people are saying to each other.

"The government is strengthening control of people's data for the purposes of ideological control," Song said. "They are also hoping to penetrate people's minds and influence their lives with government propaganda."

"They will be the arbiters of what news and information is appropriate for people to have access to," he said.

CCP uses surveillance and propaganda

Xing Jian agreed, saying that the CCP uses surveillance and propaganda as a way to bolster its grip on power.

"[They are] using state power to stop people monitoring the government or pursuing corrupt officials, so as to stay in power," Xing said.

"The Cyberspace Administration of China uses methods such as sending letters and stopping domain name resolution to domestic websites, shutting down public opinion monitoring websites, and taking measures to block overseas websites; the propaganda department forces webmasters and moderators to delete posts under their control by sending letters, and through coercion and manipulation," Xing said.

An employee at Skyworth’s Hong Kong office surnamed Chan told the Apple Daily that the data is purely for commercial use, for the purposes of targeted advertising, and denied it was spying on users.

Users are asked if they accept the data collection policy when they activate the smart system, and could compromise their TV's functionality if they reject it, the paper quoted Chan as saying.

Chinese citizens are already monitored by more than 20 million surveillance cameras as they go about their daily business in public places, according state media reported in 2018.

Artificial intelligence can also identify and "tag" individual cars, cyclists, and pedestrians with distinguishing information that can be stored and searched for descriptions of wanted individuals.

The smart video tool correctly identifies the gender, age, and clothing descriptions of passersby, as well as distinguishing between motorized and non-motorized vehicles, recent media reports say.

The technology comes amid a growing trend towards using facial recognition as a secure form of ID, including to identify rail and airline passengers, physical and e-commerce customers, and missing persons cases.

Facial recognition technology is already used by ride-sharing and robotic package delivery apps, airport and college dorm security, and social credit schemes, as well against jaywalkers.

 

source: Radio Free Asia

05 March 2021

Honda Is Now Selling Japan's First Level 3 Autonomous Car

Honda is taking the lead in autonomous driving sales in Japan. 

The auto manufacturer has announced that sales of its Legend sedans in Japan will be equipped with a "Traffic Jam Pilot" feature that allows the car to drive itself on crowded highways. 

Honda says it is going to make 100 of the limited edition sedans, according to Bloomberg on Thursday. The company was one of the first to be granted a Level 3 self-driving designation in Japan. Hitoshi Aoki, who was in charge of the project for Honda, said: “Long-distance driving will be very comfortable and drivers will have less stress".

The 2021 Honda Legend

Level 3 means that certain features are autonomous, but the driver still must be able to take over. 

The end game for many vehicle manufacturers is seen as Level 5 autonomy, where a car doesn't need any human input to navigate roadways. 

Autonomy has been brought up time after time as a bull case in the Tesla world. For example, Cathie Wood used it as the centerpiece of her Tesla bull case on Benzinga's podcast earlier this week. "Our conviction on its autonomous strategy has increased over last few months," she said, apparently unaware that Tesla has logged just 12.2 autonomous testing miles in California. 

Gene Munster also threw around the world "autonomy" during a CNBC debate with Gordon Johnson earlier in the week.

Elon Musk has claimed that Tesla will have Level 5 autonomy by the end of 2021. C|NET has called Tesla's current level of autonomy not "even reliably Level 3 autonomous". 

And so, once again, the legacy auto manufacturers - which are already vying to pass Tesla in battery, design, quality, hardware and service -  now appear to be passing Musk in sales of bona-fide Level 3 vehicles.

02 March 2021

Starlink Satellite Internet is Open for Pre-Booking

By

Elon Musk's Starlink satellite internet is coming to India – here's how you can pre-book your connection
The Starlink satellite internet service is expected to be available in 2022
  • The Starlink satellite internet service is coming to India in 2022.
  • Starlink has started accepting pre-bookings, with a fully refundable deposit of $99 (approx. ₹7,300).
  • If you want early access to the Starlink internet service, you can pre-book using a debit or credit card.
  • Currently, Starlink promises speeds of 50-150 Mbps, but this could be doubled to 300 Mbps by the end of 2021.
Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet service is coming to India and you can now pre-book your connection. This comes after the debut of Tesla’s electric vehicles in India was confirmed in December last year.

The Starlink service is operated by SpaceX, an aerospace company. SpaceX was founded in 2002 and was founded by Musk, who also owns US-based Tesla, Inc.

Starlink satellite internet launch date in India

According to information available on its website, Starlink is targeting its India launch sometime in 2022.

The exact launch time frame is not available right now, but you can head over to the Starlink website and pre-book your connection right now.

Starlink availability in India

Most of the major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and others seem to be covered. For exact coverage details and to see if your address is covered, you can head over to the website and enter your details to see if you can pre-book now.

Here is how much Starlink will cost in India

Starlink has started accepting pre-bookings for Indian addresses. The price has been set at $99 (approx. ₹7,300) towards deposit for the service. This payment is towards the Starlink equipment that will have to be installed at your address to access the internet service.

Once you make the payment, your priority access gets reserved in your location. This deposit is fully refundable, so even if you change your mind after paying, you can still get your money back.

Starlink accepts payments via debit and credit cards, as well as Apple Pay. However, Apple Pay is currently not available in India.

What will be the internet speeds offered by Starlink?


During the current beta testing phase, Starlink is offering speeds between 50-150 Mbps. However, Elon Musk has revealed that speeds will be doubled to 300 Mbps by the end of 2021.

Musk also said that the Starlink project will cover “most of the Earth” by the end of 2021.

Should you subscribe to the Starlink internet service?

This depends on where you are located, and whether you have access to reliable wired or wireless broadband services.

If there are no decent broadband options available in your area, the Starlink satellite internet service might make sense in your case.

Broadband access remains an issue in India even now, with there being a little over 22 million wired broadband users in the country. Contrast this to mobile subscribers, which numbered over 115 million, according to data obtained from the latest TRAI report.

A World Bank report has revealed that an increase of 10% in broadband penetration is likely to boost the gross domestic product (GDP) by 1.38% in developing countries like India.
25 January 2021

Could bitcoin ever become gold?

 The Market Ear Picture

Different views have been delivered on this subject. It is the younger generation that is buying bitcoin compared to who buys gold. On the other hand, since the second half of 2020, more institutions have become buyers of bitcoin. As JPM points out;

"...private gold wealth is mostly stored via gold bars and coins the stock of which, excluding those held by central banks, amounts to 42,600 tonnes or $2.7tr including gold ETFs. Mechanically, the market cap of bitcoin at $600bn currently would have to rise by almost x4.5 from here, implying a theoretical bitcoin price of $146k, to match the total private sector investment in gold via ETFs or bars and coins."

Source; JPM

This is just a theoretical exercise. Before serious investments in bitcoin could occur, volatility would need to converge and trade at similar levels to gold volatility. Fund managers need to allocate money according to volatility of each asset. Bitcoin vol converging to gold volatility seems rather distant as of writing.

On the other hand, average of bitcoin 1-2 mth bitcoin vol is around 85%. GLD 1-2 mth average vol stands around 18%. That is aprox 4.7x higher vol for bitcoin than gold. Apply the 4.7x to bitcoin's $600bn market and we have a "vol adjusted" market cap of bitcoin matching gold. This is why we at TME have been coming back to the argument explaining that most people have no clue of how to manage downside volatility, and we see this as the biggest "risk" for "non dynamic bitcoin fans".

So while many are arguing bitcoin is the new gold going forward, you could argue it is already here.

 

Source; Refinitiv

It is easy to get carried away by a narrative that has worked, you made money and lately your p/l diminishes, but you still trade the old narrative. This has partly become the case with bitcoin lately. Same arguments are made, but the price has been all but rosy.

Institutional buying sure, but let's not forget, institutions also have to manage risk, so the new hot buys at 42k by some "smart" guys will need to be sold when bitcoin falls. Grayscale bitcoin trust flow has been declining lately...

Source; JPM

With regards to momentum strategies that were pressing momentum higher, especially during the illiquid Xmas and New Year weekends we outlined weeks ago, they have no directional preference or bias.

Momentum traders do not care about no blockchain nor fundamentals. They chase momentum and have no emotions. Lately these momentum models are all but pointing higher...

 

Source; JPM

What about the short term px action? TME has been pointing out "why not try the 50 day moving average" over past weeks (note Fibonacci 38.2% level trades around that level as well). It would would be a first real support to see how well new smart bulls have managed downside exposure...

 

Source; Refinitiv

If "Facebook Is Private", Why Are They Feeding Users' Private Messages Directly To The FBI?

 Authored by Matt Agorist via TheFreeThoughtProject.com,

Despite decrying censorship when it was happening to them last year, when Donald Trump was banned from Twitter and Facebook earlier this month, the left praised the move by big tech. “Facebook is a private company and can do what they want,” the pro-censorship hypocritical crowd chanted ad nauseum through the digital ether after bad orange man was silenced. But as we have said time and again, Facebook being private is simply not true.

Now, however, Facebook has made an unscrupulous Faustian bargain with the federal government which should eliminate all doubt once and for all. They are now willfully handing over private messages of Trump supporters who talked about the events at the capitol on January 6.

Google, Apple, and Amazon all moved to wipe the pro-Trump social media network Parler from the internet earlier this month because of what users on the platform discussed. It was alleged that the handful of dolts who stormed the capitol on January 6 had solely used Parler to plan their laughable, unarmed, silly, unsuccessful, and pitiful attempt to keep Trump in the White House.

Despite the ragtag group of Trumpians posing for selfies, photo-ops, and hanging from banisters, the only thing they accomplished was having D.C. turned into a scene akin to North Korea for Biden’s inauguration. Most honest experts in the media have acknowledged that though a few members of the mob thought they were part of some historic coup to keep their leader in power, the idea that they had any real chance at an insurrection was misleading at best and sheer propaganda used to further the domestic police and surveillance state at worst.

Deferring all responsibility for the planning of the raid on the capitol, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg had stated shortly after the incident that the protests were largely organized off Facebook. However, she was not telling the truth, and likely knew that large portions of the pro-Trump protests were talked about and organized on Facebook. But was Facebook wiped off the internet like Parler? No, no it was not. Here’s why.

This week, Facebook began furnishing the Federal Bureau of Investigation with data on Trump supporters who discussed the events at the capitol on their platform - up to and including their private messages. Through this action the social media giant is acting as a de facto intelligence collecting arm of the US government.

In contrast, when Syed Farook, otherwise known as the San Bernardino mass shooter, wouldn’t unlock his iPhone for the feds, Apple refused to create a backdoor for them to access it acting as an actual private company supporting the privacy rights of its customers. But Facebook is more than willing to open up its data mining services for their friends in the federal government — because, as we have stated numerous times, Facebook is not private.

As TFTP reported in 2018, Facebook announced that it partnered with the arm of the government-funded Atlantic Council, known as the Digital Forensic Research Lab that was brought on to help the social media behemoth with “real-time insights and updates on emerging threats and disinformation campaigns from around the world.”

The Atlantic Council is the group that NATO uses to whitewash wars and foster hatred toward Russia, which in turn allows them to continue to justify themselves. It’s funded by arms manufacturers like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing. It is also funded by billionaire oligarchs like the Ukraine’s Victor Pinchuk and Saudi billionaire Bahaa Hariri.

The list goes on. The highly unethical HSBC group — who has been caught numerous times laundering money for cartels and terrorists — is listed as one of their top donors. They are also funded by the pharmaceutical industry, Google, Goldman Sachs and others. However, the funding that comes from the United States, the US Army, and the Airforce directly negates the “private” aspect of the partnership.

The “think tank” Facebook partnered with to make decisions on who they censor is directly funded by multiple state actors — including the United States — which voids any and all claims that Facebook is a wholly “private actor.”

The Atlantic Council wields massive influence over mainstream media too, which is why when this partnership was announced, no one in the mainstream press pointed it out as the Orwellian idea that it is. Instead, headlines such as “US think tank’s tiny lab helps Facebook battle fake social media(Reuters)” and “Facebook partners with Atlantic Council to improve election security (The Hill)” were put out to spin the fact that a NATO propaganda arm is now censoring the information Americans see on Facebook.

But this partnership with the state-funded “think tank” is not the only reason Facebook is not private.

From government funded censorship arms to the revolving door of high level bureaucrats who fill the ranks of the oligopolies, the “private company” Facebook concept comes crashing down when taking a closer look. Private-sector firms do not need to be explicitly nationalized to further the establishment’s interests; it’s enough to install their alumni in top regulatory positions. Through these methods, Facebook can put on the fa├žade of privatization while actually acting as deputies for the state but alleviating any constitutional checks in the process.

All the while, whenever the censorship acts in their benefit, half of the masses cheer it on and defend it, keeping resistance at a minimum.

What’s more, as the government hangs the threat of antitrust litigation over their heads, it can force these companies to act in their benefit even without explicit partnerships like that of the Atlantic Council. In fact, prior to the state getting involved in the talks of regulation into big tech, information flowed relatively freely with Facebook only removing racist and violent content. Now, however, as they bend to the will of their partners in the federal government, people like myself find ourselves on 30 day bans for saying “censorship leads to tyranny.”

This is why the answer to the government big tech censorship leviathan lies not in regulation but in boycott. The time is now to get off these platforms who spy on you, ban you, sell you to the highest bidder, and who are tearing society apart. Censorship free platforms exist and are far more user friendly and treat you as the actual customer instead of the sheep they are leading to slaughter. You can check them out here.

12 March 2020

A New Streaming Platform for Short Attention Spans

Punk'd and Singled Out revivals on Quibi

Quibi is a company that is trying to capitalize on the ever deteriorating attention span of the consumer.

The service aims to compete with TikTok and YouTube by creating professional content people can watch on their phones that's cut down to 7 minute segments - far shorter than traditional 22 minute TV shows.

The platform is also taking advantage of consumers' incessant need for the ridiculous. Some of the ideas it is launching its service with include "a cooking contest where competitors are slammed in the face with meals fired out of a cannon, a show about customized dog houses called 'Barkitecture', and a home-renovation program that 'removes the stains' from houses where murders were committed," according to Bloomberg.
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19 August 2014

Aircel Expands 4G LTE Services in India


AircelIndian mobile operator Aircel has launched 4G LTE services in Tamil Nadu and Jammu & Kashmir.

The launch comes within a month of operator's recent LTE deployment in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar and Odisha.
Aircel holds 20MHz of broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum in the 2,300MHz band across eight telecom circles Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Assam and North East and Jammu & Kashmir.
Operator has yet to launch LTE in another two circles West Bengal and North East. Another Indian operator Airtel has already launched LTE services while Reliance Jio Infocomm, Tikona Digital and Augere have yet to start using their BWA spectrums.
30 July 2014

70 of the Most Useful Websites on the Internet

By Johnny Webber







1. netflixroulette.net 
— Find something random to watch on Netflix.
2. pintsinthesun.co.uk — Find somewhere to drink a pint in the sun.
3. gfycat.com — Upload your gifs.
4. youconvertit.com — Convert documents.
5. ninite.com — Download all the free software you want at the same time.
6. squirt.io — Speed read the web one word at a time.
7. shouldiremoveit.com — Find out which applications you should remove from your computer.
8. avoidhumans.com — Find places to go in public that are not crowded.
9. keybr.com — Practice your touch typing.
10. oldversion.com — Get old versions of software.
11. readability-score.com — Find out how readable text is.
12. deadmansswitch.net — Have emails sent when you die.
13. mint.com — Budget your money.
14. roadtrippers.com — Plan your route with the best lodging and attractions.
15. duckduckgo.com — A search engine that is not following you.
16. padmapper.com — Maps out possible apartments/homes that fit your criteria.
17. zillow.com — Another great source for finding your next home.
18. printfriendly.com — Make any webpage print friendly.
19. printwhatyoulike.com — Print precisely what you want from any webpage.
20. privnote.com — Write a note to someone that will self-destruct after they read it.
21. freecycle.org — A network of people giving away free stuff in their towns.
22. couchsurfing.org — Crash on someone’s couch anywhere in the world.
23. recipepuppy.com — Search for recipes based on the ingredients you have.
24. pipl.com — A search engine for finding people.
25. charitynavigator.org — Evaluates various charities.
26. newsmap.jp — Popular news headlines.
27. radioreference.com — Listen to radio channels across the nation.
28. jimmyr.com — Link aggregator.
29. wolframalpha.com — A computational knowledge engine.
30. heavens-above.com — Follow satellites and constellations.
31. whatismyip.com — Figure out you I.P. address.
32. spreeder.com — Improve reading speed and comprehension.
33. simplynoise.com — Listen to white noise.
34. camelcamelcamel.com — Tracks prices for any product.
35. ptable.com — An interactive periodic table.
36. retailmenot.com — Find coupons for just about anything.
37. searchtempest.com — Search all of craigslist with one search.
38. join.me — Peek in on somebody’s computer screen.
39. thistothat.com — Find out the best way to glue this to that.
40. woorank.com — Find out what your website is missing, how you can improve it, and how to make Google recognize it better.
41. scribblemaps.com — Draw on maps then share them with friends.
42. mailvu.com — Video email.
43. rhymer.com — Online rhyming dictionary.
44. homestyler.com — Design your dream home.
45. wetransfer.com — An easy way to send big files.
46. pastebin.com — A place to paste text.
47. idlekeyboard.com — Make it sound like you are hard at work.
48. dropbox.com — Backup your sensitive document online.
49. seatguru.com — Find out where the best seats are on your plane flight.
50. unlistmy.info — Find out which websites store data about you, and tell them to unlist your info.
51. twofoods.com — Compare two foods..
52. gasbuddy.com — Find local gas prices.
53. sleepyti.me — Plan out your sleep schedule better.
54. ripetrack.com — Find out when certain fruits are ripe .
55. compassionpit.com — Talk out your problems with others, or help others yourself.
56. paperbackswap.com — Swap books with others.
57. swole.me — Plan out your meals better.
58. weatherspark.com — A graphical look at the weather.
59. network-tools.com — Various network tools.
60. amazon.com — The best place to buy things online.
61. writecheck.com — Correct grammar and check for plagiarism.
62. wakerupper.com — Send yourself a wake-up call.
63. pcpartpicker.com — Plan out your next PC build.
64. nophonetrees.com — Talk to an actual person instead of a machine when you call customer service.
65. loads.in — Find out how long it takes websites to load.
66. calorieking.com — Find nutrition information on various foods.
67. manualslib.com — A database of PDF manuals for various products.
68. eatthismuch.com — Create meal plans to meet your nutrition targets.
69. keepmeout.com — Lock yourself out of time wasting websites.
70. glassdoor.com — Research what it is like to work with certain companies.
27 June 2014

Moto 360: The Watch

By Brian Barrett
Ugh Fine, I'm Buying a Moto 360
I do not need a smartwatch (no one does). I do not think smartwatches are anywhere near fully functional yet, or if they'll ever be. But after seeing the Moto 360 yesterday, I know one truth that supersedes those others: I am going to buy one as soon as they let me.
For as long as the first smartwatch rumors began bubbling, I've been a skeptic. There are too many usability issues, too few benefits. Spending a few hundred dollars on a watch with an operating system feels like spending a few thousand on a bicycle that farts; sure, it's a feature normal bicycles don't have, but it doesn't necessarily improve the experience.
Then the Moto 360 happened. Have you seen it? Of course you have, it's at the top of this post. But just in case, here are a few more glamour shots we took yesterday.
Ugh Fine, I'm Buying a Moto 360
This
Ugh Fine, I'm Buying a Moto 360
is
Ugh Fine, I'm Buying a Moto 360
so
Ugh Fine, I'm Buying a Moto 360
nice.
Yes, we'd seen the 360 before. But not up close, not with its screen in action, not on the wrists of people who aren't paid to say nice things about it. The Moto 360 in real life is every bit as elegant and attractive as the hype machine promised. And by god, against all better judgment, I want one.
If you're thinking I'm an idiot, don't worry, I'm way ahead of you. Here are just a few of the reasons I shouldn't buy the Moto 360:
  • I don't know if it works.
  • I don't know how much it costs.
  • It does this, which is hilarious and annoying.
  • I don't currently wear a watch, and there's no real indication that there is a part of me that wants to on a daily basis.
  • It's the first generation of a new product category, which never ever ever works out.
  • It's still kinda big!
  • Crass consumerism, right? The worst.
  • I still think smartwatches are dumb.
And yet!
We spend so much time hand-wringing about function, don't we? How many apps, how much battery life. The Moto 360 is the best reminder I've had in ages that gadgets aren't just a utility; they have value beyond the next firmware update. The Moto 360 is a smartwatch, sure. It can send me notifications, which is... fine? That's fine. It knows the weather, and when my flight is taking off. But more than any of that it's also just a beautiful watch. One that I'd like to wear regardless of what operating system it runs, or whether it has one at all.
Yes, I'll get annoyed when the battery dies around lunchtime. And okay, sure, I'll be kicking myself when it inevitably lands in my junk drawer. That's fine, I accept that. But I'm going to buy the Moto 360, because it figured out what other smartwatches haven't yet: That a wearable's first job is to be something you'd actually want to wear.
26 June 2014

Google's Sundar Pichai Is the Most Powerful Man in Mobile

By Brad Stone

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, Samsung introduced new software for its tablets, called the Magazine UX. This was a revamped interface that resembled the table of contents in a magazine, allowing users to click directly into videos and articles. Manufacturers often apply their own design flourishes to Android, and this one looked good—not groundbreaking, maybe—but slick, intuitive, and completely unobjectionable. Behind the scenes, though, the announcement enraged executives at Google (GOOG), the company that owns and administers Android. Magazine UX hid Google services such as its Play apps store and required Android users and application developers to learn an entirely new set of behaviors for Samsung devices. The South Koreans were relegating Google to the background.
Defusing the situation fell to Sundar Pichai, the tactful, tactical new chief of Google’s Android division. Pichai set up a series of meetings with J.K. Shin, chief executive officer of Samsung Mobile Communications, at the Wynn (WYNN) hotel on the Vegas strip, at Google’s offices in Mountain View, Calif., and again in February at the Mobile World Congress convention in Barcelona. Pichai says they held “frank conversations” about the companies’ intertwined fates. A fragile peace was forged. Samsung agreed to scale back Magazine UX and, signaling a new era of cooperation, the two companies announced a broad patent cross-licensing arrangement. “We now work together more closely on user experience than we ever have before,” Pichai says.

Ten years ago, the Indian-born Pichai, 42, was a product manager at Google, and his domain consisted of the search bar in the upper right corner of Web browsers. He then persuaded his bosses to wade into the browser wars with Chrome, which in time became the most popular browser on the Internet and led to the Chrome operating system that runs on a line of cheap laptops called Chromebooks. Pichai took over Gmail and Google Docs in 2011. In 2013, CEO Larry Page put him in charge of Android, making him one of the most powerful technology executives in the world. Page says Pichai “has deep technical expertise, a great product eye, and tremendous entrepreneurial flair. This is a rare combination, which is what makes him a great leader.”

Google doesn’t discuss Android’s profitability, and analysts have had a notoriously difficult time making estimates. Yet the operating system is vital to Google, whose revenue was $60 billion in 2013. Android runs on 1.2 billion devices around the world. It drives users to the company’s hugely profitable search engine and the ads on its maps service. Google search and maps are available on phones made by Apple (AAPL) and Microsoft (MSFT), too, but Google pays those companies referral fees. The more people use Android, the more Google can keep that revenue to itself.
Managing Android might be the hardest job at the company. Every phone maker that joins the Android world has to balance its interests with those of Google. The software is open-source, so anyone can adapt the code for his or her own purposes. Google distributes the latest versions free under the agreement that device makers will highlight profitable Google services—especially search and maps—while their own brands and services take a back seat.

Samsung isn’t the only company whose relationship with Google is complicated. Companies such as Amazon.com (AMZN), which recently introduced its own phone, the Fire, and Nokia (NOK) have created custom variations of Android that use older versions of the software and leave out Google services entirely. HTC (2498:TT) and LG Electronics (066570:KS) have taken the deal but make little money from their Android devices and hold negligible shares of the smartphone market. Meanwhile, developers complain about the complexity of making applications for the varied world of Android phones and tablets, all with differently sized screens and processors, particularly compared with the relative ease of developing for Apple’s more orderly universe of iPhones and iPads.

“The openness and flexibility that Android created is a double-edged sword,” says Dave Feldman, co-founder of Emu, which makes a mobile messaging service. “Because carriers and manufacturers can modify Android, the task of creating and debugging an app can be far more time-consuming than for iOS. That is Android’s big challenge.”

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, used the stage at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June to call Android a “toxic hellstew” of security vulnerabilities and fragmentation, running on so many kinds of devices that it fails to offer the latest features to users. Pichai calmly mounts a defense of Android’s security features and its relationship with developers, but it concludes as less of a retort than a sigh of envy. “It must be liberating [for Apple] to wake up and think about your device, your software—and hey, ‘I can even call the chip-set guys and say what the chip should be,’” he says. “I have to think about building a platform and bringing as many people along on this journey and getting it right. I believe that ultimately, it’s a more powerful approach, but it’s a lot more stressful as well.”


Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for Bloomberg BusinessweekPichai’s colleagues talk up his affability and skills as a diplomat, how he bucks the contemporary image of technology executives as vainglorious, out-of-touch men-children. “I would challenge you to find anyone at Google who doesn’t like Sundar or who thinks Sundar is a jerk,” says Caesar Sengupta, a vice president who has worked with Pichai for eight years.
In person Pichai is soft-spoken and self-deprecating. He warns that without proper care, Android’s future might resemble a surfing lesson he recently took in Hawaii with his 11-year-old daughter: It seemed like a triumph when he got up for the first time, but then he fell badly. In a series of interviews in conference rooms at Google’s Mountain View, Calif., and San Francisco offices, he peppers his conversation with idiosyncratic tics, abusing the word “internalize,” and inserting “et cetera” at the end of many phrases. A recently grown, gray-flecked beard adds gravitas to his boyish face. He says not shaving saves time and “reflects the state of mind of having more responsibility.”
Pichai was born in Chennai, a city of 4 million in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. His mother worked as a stenographer before she had children; his father was an electrical engineer for the British conglomerate GEC and managed a factory that made electrical components. “I used to come home and talk to him a lot about my work day and the challenges I faced,” recalls Regunatha Pichai. “Even at a young age, he was curious about my work. I think it really attracted to him to technology.”

Pichai with his parents in California in 1997, when they came to visit him in the U.S. for the first timeCourtesy Sundar PichaiPichai with his parents in California in 1997, when they came to visit him in the U.S. for the first time

The family of four lived in a two-room apartment, with Sundar and his younger brother sleeping in the living room. During much of his childhood, the Pichais didn’t have a television or a car. For transportation, the choice was either one of the crowded, stifling city buses or the family’s blue Lambretta scooter. All four would pile on—Regunatha driving, Sundar standing at the front, and his younger brother perched on the back of the seat with their mother.

The Pichais got their first telephone, a rotary, when Sundar was 12. The phone revealed to him the magical conveniences of technology, as well as an unusual gift: He could remember every number he ever dialed. “My uncle would call up and say, ‘Hey, I lost this phone number, but you once helped me dial it,’ and I would be able to tell him,” Pichai says. “I wasn’t so sure that was useful.” (It is now: Google executives marvel at Pichai’s powers of numerical recall. Alan Eustace, vice president for engineering, says that during a recent meeting, Pichai produced a statistic related to the increase of voice-activated searches. “That’s my area,” Eustace says, “and he knew a number I did not know.”)

Pichai excelled at school and won a coveted spot at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, where he studied engineering. After graduating, he won an additional scholarship to Stanford University to study materials science and semiconductor physics. Pichai’s father tried to take out a loan to cover the cost of the plane ticket and other expenses. When it didn’t come through in time, he withdrew $1,000 from the family’s savings—more than his annual salary. “My dad and mom did what a lot of parents did at the time,” Pichai says. “They sacrificed a lot of their life and used a lot of their disposable income to make sure their children were educated.”

Upon arriving at Stanford in 1993, he tried to buy a new backpack and “was in an absolute state of shock” to learn it cost $60. He later bought a used one on an online bulletin board. Pichai lived with a host family during his first year and spent much of the time miserably lamenting the absence of his girlfriend, Anjali, who later joined him in the U.S. and is now his wife.

Pichai at the Stanford University dorms in 1994Courtesy Sundar PichaiPichai at the Stanford University dorms in 1994

Pichai planned to get a Ph.D. at Stanford and pursue an academic career, but he briefly panicked his parents by dropping out to work as an engineer and product manager at Applied Materials, a Silicon Valley semiconductor maker. After getting an MBA from the Wharton School of Business in 2002 and spending a stint as a consultant at McKinsey, Pichai arrived at the Googleplex on April 1, 2004. On the day of his job interview, Google launched Gmail, the free e-mail service. Pichai says he thought it was one of the company’s famous April Fools’ pranks.

Pichai joined the small team working on Google’s search toolbar. It gave users of Internet Explorer and Firefox, the dominant browsers at the time, easy access to Google search. He proposed that Google build its own browser and won the support of the company’s co-founders, though he faced an objection from then-CEO Eric Schmidt, who thought that joining the browser wars would be an expensive distraction. Chrome eventually proved fast and painless to use while ensuring that Web users had direct access to Google’s search engine and its immensely profitable advertising system. Chrome now holds 32 percent of the browser market on phones and desktop PCs, ahead of Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Apple’s Safari, according to Adobe.

Pichai and his wife Anjali in New York in 2002Courtesy Sundar PichaiPichai and his wife Anjali in New York in 2002
Even Pichai’s effort to develop the Chrome operating system for laptops is showing promise amid an overall slump in PC sales. Chromebooks route users directly onto the Internet, where they store all their information, instead of on a hard drive. When Chrome OS was introduced in 2011, such a stripped-down system that kept data “in the cloud” seemed preposterous; now 21 percent of commercial laptops sold in the U.S. last year were Chromebooks, according to the NPD Group. Pulling that off was a managerial feat: Pichai assembled a large, well-funded group inside Google that was serious about building hardware and forging strong relationships with retailers such as Best Buy (BBY) and PC manufacturers such as Dell (DELL), Lenovo (0992:HK), and Samsung. Those skills would come in handy running Android.

The first Android device came out in 2008, more than a year after the first iPhone. The G1 smartphone, made by HTC (2498:TT), ran only on T-Mobile (TMUS) in the U.S. and had a sliding screen that revealed a physical, BlackBerry-like (BBRY) keyboard. It met with lukewarm reviews. Within three years, boosted by the proliferation of varied, inexpensive Android devices made by Samsung, HTC, and others, Android had become the most popular smartphone operating system in the world. IDC, a tracking firm, expects Android to run on 80 percent of the smartphones that will be sold this year, blowing away Apple’s 15 percent market share. Android now powers everything from Samsung’s new Galaxy S5 smartphone ($650 without a contract) and Motorola’s smaller Moto E phone ($130) to a universe of connected devices such as smart-watches, refrigerators, and a $3,000 treadmill from NordicTrack.

Andy Rubin deserves much of the credit for Android’s success. A charismatic technologist and repeat entrepreneur, Rubin founded a startup called Android in 2003 and sold it to Google in 2005. Then he guided the chief product—the mobile operating system—for the next eight years, building its huge ecosystem of device makers and developers while successfully preventing Apple from utterly dominating the next stage of computing with the iPhone. Rubin kept handset makers off balance by selectively sharing information and choosing a different company each year for early access to the newest version of the software. That approach fostered competition among phonemakers, which outdid each other with faster processors, higher resolution screens, and other improvements.

Click to compare iOS and Android screen sizes.Photograph by Brent Lewin/BloombergClick to compare iOS and Android screen sizes.

Rubin’s style also grated. Hardware manufacturers, vying for special treatment, viewed him as Machiavellian and difficult to work with, according to many executives at these companies. As the operating system gained popularity, every division of Google wanted to plant its flag on Android smartphones. Rubin closed Android’s ranks, and Google employees were fond of saying that it was easier to work with rival Apple than Android. “Part of it was just the phase of the project,” says Brian Rakowski, an Android vice president. “The team really needed to just ignore everybody.” Rubin also fought to keep the platform neutral, giving outside developers as much of a chance on Google phones as internal services such as social network Google Plus. One person close to Google’s management team, who was not authorized to speak publicly, says Rubin’s reluctance to work openly with other parts of Google was responsible for the only shouting matches he’s witnessed in the upper ranks at the company.

In 2012, Google announced a version of Pichai’s Chrome browser for Android, which would replace the mobile browser Rubin had developed within his own group. It seemed a perfect model for friendly collaboration within Google. Yet the relationship between the divisions was so strained that they wouldn’t work together without a term sheet, a contract normally required between two companies that stipulated the responsibility of each side.

“There was nothing ever personal,” Pichai says, when asked whether he got along with Rubin. “We had a good sense of friendship, though we weren’t particularly close, but we never had any major disagreements. We had passionate debates about certain courses.” He allows that their styles differed. “Andy kept a lot about how he thought about things to himself. My sense is that at a base level, that is how he functioned. Andy had a plan and a strategy, but it was inside his own head.” Google declined to make Rubin available for comment, and Pichai says he doesn’t consult with him.
By 2013, Android was winning the smartphone war but lagging in newer markets. Apple’s iPad dominated tablets, while Google-led efforts were struggling. An early attempt to develop Android-based software for TV set-top boxes, called Google TV, also failed.

At the beginning of 2013, CEO Page told Rubin he had to integrate Android with the rest of Google. Rubin agreed at first, then changed his mind and decided he couldn’t do it. He resigned his position, though he remains at Google, working on a skunk works robotics project. A person close to Google’s management says that forcing Rubin’s hand was the most difficult decision Page has made since reclaiming the CEO spot at Google three years ago. Page then handed responsibility for Android over to Pichai.




Pichai says his first task was to do no harm. “I was worried about disruption,” he says. “This was a small team executing well.” Others at Google say he quickly started opening doors between Android and other product groups. He pushed Google Now, the Android feature that sends users customized, intuited information such as driving times and the sports scores of favorite teams. Rubin had introduced it, but Pichai created an interdisciplinary team with the search group, which had voice search technology and algorithms that could discern what information might be most important to users. “Sundar helped me to formalize a relationship,” says Johanna Wright, the product manager who runs Google Now. “Because search and Android sit in two different buildings, we ended up doing a people swap.” It was a kind of Google glasnost that would have been unlikely to happen under Rubin.

Pichai threw extra resources at a project called Svelte, a slimmed-down Android intended to run well on cheap, low-powered devices. It means developers don’t have to create multiple versions of their apps to compensate for old operating systems run by budget phones. And Pichai killed a project to develop a version of Android for touchscreen laptops—it overlapped with Chromebooks—shifting attention toward tablets and new categories such as smart TVs and wearable computers. Deciding that the coming age of connected home appliances needed a separate focus, he helped orchestrate the $3.2 billion acquisition of smart thermostat maker Nest in January. Then he shuttered several smart-home projects inside Android and handed responsibility for connected appliances to Nest because, he says, “I felt it was far enough out and different enough from what we were doing.” Nest has drawn good reviews for its original product, a connected thermostat, but had to temporarily take its newer smoke detector off the market to correct a safety glitch. Nest recently acquired Dropcam, a maker of wireless security cameras, for $555 million and announced it would allow outside developers to link into its devices. (The smoke detector went back on sale on June 17.)

Pichai has tried to improve relations with other companies as well. In April 2013, he took Page and Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora on a trip to South Korea to visit Samsung executives and tour a factory. He says the intent of the trip was to convey respect. “I felt there was more distance than I would like in a partnership,” he says. “I wanted a closer, more direct line of communication.” Page also shook hands with South Korean President Park Geun-hye without causing an international stir by keeping one hand in his pocket, as Bill Gates had done the previous week.

Pichai is still walking a tightrope with Samsung, balancing the needs of the Android superpower while keeping rival manufacturers in the fold. Samsung still touts its own rival Linux-based mobile operating system called Tizen, suggesting it may be planning for a day when it decides to reduce its dependence on Android. Pichai shrugs off that possibility. “I view Tizen as a choice which people can have,” he says. “We need to make sure Android is the better choice.”

For now, Samsung uses Tizen primarily to run its Galaxy Gear smartwatch and a new phone, the Samsung Z, which is being introduced later this year in Russia. Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, believes Pichai has quelled the threat. “The relationship is never going to be perfect, but I think it’s in good shape,” he says. “They both need each other is the bottom line.”

On June 25 and 26, 6,000 developers and members of the media will descend on San Francisco for Google’s high-profile annual conference, called I/O. Really, though, it’s “The Sundar Show.” Pichai will serve as master of ceremonies and Google’s public face, pitching Android’s suitability for the workplace and for the coming age of connected televisions, automobiles, and wristwatches.
Pichai has been preparing for I/O since early June, which isn’t a lot of time as major Silicon Valley events go. Google typically plans these events at the last minute, and—with a week to go—Pichai had yet to make several big decisions as to whether certain projects are ready to be unveiled. No doubt there’s been much pacing: Colleagues say Pichai likes to walk when deep in thought and will occasionally wander away during a meeting, only to reappear with an answer to a problem.


This year’s conference is likely to reveal much about how the character of Android will shift under Pichai. The biggest change may seem like a technicality, but for the companies that make Android phones, it’s a big one. In the past, Google often waited until the fall to announce the next annual version of the operating system, each named for a different sweet beginning with the next letter of the alphabet (in the last three years, Ice Cream Sandwich, Jellybean, and KitKat). Device makers complained this was too late to prepare for the holidays and put them at a disadvantage to the one company selected each year to develop the Nexus phone in conjunction with Google.

This year, Pichai will preview the next release (Lollipop? Lemonhead?) for the first time at I/O, rather than waiting until the fall. It’s a significant shift toward greater transparency. “I want the world to understand what we are doing sooner,” he says.
He’ll also talk about Android Wear, a version of the operating system for fitness trackers and wearable computers, and he’ll announce new manufacturing partners and devices. Google is racing against Apple, which will introduce its iWatch in the fall. Pichai says it’s “crazy” that people visit their doctors, at most, once a year to have their heart rate and blood pressure measured. “You obviously need to be able to measure these things so many more times and then apply more intelligence to it,” he says.

Television is also on the agenda, with the introduction of a software called Android TV, according to a person with knowledge of Google’s plans who could not speak publicly because the announcement is under embargo. Google has struggled mightily when it comes to the living room, with the failed Google TV effort in 2010 and, more recently, a $35 piece of hardware called the Chromecast that allows users to stream online video from phones or tablets to their HDTVs. Seeking to avoid the mistakes and inconsistent approaches of the past, Pichai has brought everyone working on TV software into one group within Android.

Apple, Amazon (AMZN), Microsoft (MSFT), and Sony (SNE) all sell for the living room set-top boxes that make movies and TV shows available over the Internet. Samsung and other TV makers want to maintain control of their own smart televisions and are probably reluctant to cede further control to Google. Pichai’s job will be to persuade them to bet on Android all over again.
22 May 2014

Mumbai Gets Its Drone Pizza Delivery

Mumbai, May 22 : The financial capital, notorious for its traffic snarls, has achieved a first in the country after a city-based pizza outlet used an unmanned drone to execute a delivery by taking the aerial route recently.

"All of us had read about (global e-commerce giant) Amazon's plans of using drones. We successfully carried out a test-delivery by sending a pizza to a customer located 1.5 km away from our outlet on 11 May," Francesco's Pizzeria chief executive Mikhel Rajani told PTI today. Screengrab of the video showing the drone delivering a pizza. Screengrab of the video showing the drone delivering a pizza. He stressed that this was only a test-flight but its results confirm that it can be used routinely in a few years.

A four-rotor drone took off with the order from its outlet in central Mumbai's Lower Parel area and delivered it to a high-rise building in adjacent Worli area, Rajani said, claiming that it is for the first time that the ubiquitous drone has been used for such a purpose in the country.

The eatery, which has been in operations for two years, has made a video of the delivery, he said, adding an auto engineer friend helped with making the flight possible.

Rajani, who comes from a family that is into textiles, said the drone saves time and costs for a company like his, which would otherwise depend on a two-wheeler borne agent to deliver the pizzas.

"What we have done now will be common place in the next four-five years," he said, adding every such customised drone costs around $2,000. At present, there are certain restrictions on the regulatory front like the drone not allowed to fly above 400 ft altitude and barred from flying over security establishments, he said, adding the American Federal Aviation Authority's regulations on usage of drones, expected next year, will help.

Apart from that there are technical difficulties like a limited operating radius of 8 km after which the batteries go dry, he said, adding proper infrastructure like having charging stations can help.

Even though the four-rotor version drone had a limited carrying capacity, he said the payload capacity can be increased to up to 8 kg in case of a an eight-rotor drone.

Beyond the strategic applications, the drones are increasingly being used for a cross variety of purposes especially the ones centred around getting aerial imagery like getting videos at weddings, political rallies etc.

At present, Rajani said, the drones are being operated manually but added in future, we can have drones fly by themselves on predetermined flight paths made using GPS data.

During the test-flight, the drone picked up a box containing the pizza but bigger drones will be easily able to lift the special flask box which can protect the pizza from the atmospheric elements, he said.
27 September 2013

From Homeless To Entrepreneur In Just 4 Weeks

Leo (L) is well on his way to success.
Leo (L) is well on his way to success.
ONE man’s simple social experiment may just have spawned something amazing.

Patrick McConlogue offered a homeless man either $100 or the chance to learn code.

He made his choice, and it changed his life.

McConlogue introduced the concept in a blog titled: ‘Finding the unjustly homeless, and teaching them to code’.

According to Business Insider , the 23-year-old programmer from Manhattan approached Leo and gave him two choices:

1. $100 in cash;

2. A laptop, three JavaScript books, and an hour of tutelage in coding and web development each day.
Leo chose option 2. And despite all the public scepticism (Valleywag sarcastically reported on the original idea with the headline ‘Homelessness Solved’), it appears to have been a success.

Leo has been given 8 weeks to study the books and put into practice the lessons taught by McConlogue.

Here’s what Leo originally thought of coding.

“I thought coding was something that went over like, a dessert,” he told the Bsiness Insider.

Incredibly, after just four weeks of the project, Leo claims he can write 50 functions of JavaScript code, and has already begun developing an app with McConlogue.

A story that reads like the script from The Pursuit of Happyness, Leo has now been to meet with Google and has been profiled by the tech superblog Mashable.

But that’s not about to change who he is, even if his life is about to take a few exciting new turns.

“I’m learning something, right? I know I’m learning something and that’s what I care about. Patrick’s my man,” he said.

This App Could Get You Kidnapped

By Lex Berko


The app bubble has somehow yet to burst and everyday more start-ups emerge hawking their mobile services. Some of these are useful, like the crowd-sourced navigation tool Waze and the language instruction app Duolingo. Others are not-so-useful, like the much maligned and very confused LeftoverSwap.

Now there’s even an app for kidnapping. Voluntarily kidnapping, more specifically.

When I stumbled upon kidnApp for the first time yesterday, I couldn’t immediately tell if it was a bizarre new startup or a marketing ploy hoping to go viral. I’ve heard of voluntary abductions before and even have a friend who participated in one, so I’m not totally unfamiliar with the concept. But the idea of an app whereby these experiences can be accessed very easily seemed unreal.

According to the getkidnapped.com, kidnApp is both an app and a social network. Members who wish to be kidnapped are called Waiters and pay $4.99 per month for the privilege of scheduling their own abductions. The kidnappers are called Takers. Waiters and Takers alike have public profiles and can be followed, as you would on Facebook or Twitter, by fellow members.

To find out more about kidnApp, I reached out to the contact email on the site, which led me to Justin Sirois. Justin is the author of a series of books called So Say the Waiters, in which a fictional version of kidnApp plays a central role in the plot. The story is currently optioned for television and the kidnApp website was, as I suspected, initially intended to be an advertising gimmick.

However, Justin is having second thoughts about confining kidnApp to the realm of fiction. Over a series of emails, I chatted with him and his television producer, who wanted only to be known by the pseudonym McCaslin, about the app and what we may see if it ever makes the jump from the page to your smartphone.

MOTHERBOARD: First of all, is this for real?
Justin Sirois: Right now, the app isn’t real, but we are open to anyone who might want to help us create it. I guess the only thing stopping us would be the financing and then the legality of it. An app like kidnApp would require lawyer fees.

I’m surprised it hasn’t been tried already though. The infrastructure exists already: just take Grindr and apply kidnApping to it, right?

Can you give me a brief synopsis of So Say the Waiters and how this app connects to the book?
Justin: The series is about an app and social network that allows people (Waiters) to submit their own kidnAppings. They can literally disappear themselves for an hour or three days. The books follow two main characters: Henry, a sort of conservative IT guy who is hired by the company, and Dani, a young bartender who has been getting kidnApped for about a year. Throughout the series, they partner up, in secret, as a kidnApping pair.

The app’s history and origin are revealed slowly throughout the series as smaller characters move into the spotlight. As some Takers become celebrities in the network, you can see how alluring the abuse of power becomes.

Was kidnApp supposed to be solely a marketing tool or do you intend to follow through with it?
Justin: The app site is definitely in a very early Beta form. We’ve had so much positive feedback from the site that it’s hard not entertaining the idea of creating the app. We’ve had so many people contact us asking if it’s already real and where they can get it. Hell, it already feels feel. Fiction or not, the app and site will give us a lot of flexibility to tell the story.

McCaslin: kidnApp was initially created as a marketing tool for the book, certainly. But as we started to explore the possibilities of adapting the book into a television series, we realized that it could develop even more. We see it becoming a two-way street of communication between the
readers/viewers and the creators. People can write in about their dream take scnearios, they can leave feedback, and then we can leak out story elements, casting information, cast bios, possible plot twists, trailers, omitted scenes, etc.



How seriously have you considered following through on it?

McCaslin: More seriously now than a month ago. The majority of our visitors have asked when we will be up and running. I would say about 65 percent are interested in actually becoming Waiters, 10 percent have inquired about our application process for becoming Takers. The rest are a mixed bag of comments from people who think we are out of our minds and others who simply loved the books.
Justin: If I can quit my day job and run kidnApp for a living, then why not? It’s been both fun and enlightening getting submissions from people. How else would I have learned about “recreational prisons” in Arizona? That’s definitely not the direction kidnApp would go in, but it shows we have a wide range of people interested in the app.

What are some of the legal concerns that you imagine might pop up with an app like this?
McCaslin: Our biggest concern would be with copycat scenarios or imposters posing as being from kidnApp when in fact they are not. Real crimes could be committed and it would be an easy thing to point the finger at us. However, the police, victim, and kidnapper would have to prove it was us. Every take would be submitted through the app and would be easily traceable. The Takers would only know a small amount of information about the Waiters. And only the Administrators know both sides. It is very controlled.

Justin: The terms and conditions would clearly state that kidnApp is a recreational service. Vetting Takers would be very important too, but I think once a Taker has a few good reviews and a bunch of followers, Waiters would be more apt to trust that Taker.

Ridesharing apps, like Lyft and Uber, have faced criticism over the creepiness of some of their drivers, all of whom they tout as having been thoroughly background checked. Wouldn’t this be an even bigger problem with something like kidnApp, because people are in a far more vulnerable position?

McCaslin: Yes, there is a creepiness factor involved. But we have to think about the people who are submitting to being taken. They are looking for a certain type of experience. Vulnerability, endorphins, and the unknowns are all part of that experience. Our database of information will pair Waiters with the right Takers. What we intend on building is similar to how dating sites work, cross referencing multiple elements to find the right match. The major difference is that our Takers are “in house” and not some random people off the street. One side, our side, is controlled, whereas a dating site has two uncontrolled sides.

Justin: Transparency is key here. In the books, kidnApp is very much like Facebook in the way that all Takers are public. You can read their profiles and “follow” them. The more positive reviews the Taker has, the more popular they are. So that does take a lot of the creepiness out of the experience. If you know who is coming for you and other Waiters have vouched for that person, then you’re safe.

Is the kidnApping always a sexual experience? Or can you just be taken and do whatever for however long?

Justin: kidnApping can be whatever you want it to be. That’s the magic of it. We aren’t interested in the sexuality of the experience; we want to create an ever-present tension and a life-altering event. All of a sudden, you have a portal—your phone, the app—in your pocket. Use it to disappear.
All images courtesy of Justin Sirois.