Spikes are to be placed on the toll road off ramps, to deter motorists from reversing onto the road.Regulations facilitating the move were approved by the House of Representatives on February 26.A spike is used to impede or stop the movement of wheeled vehicles by puncturing their tyres.Opening the debate, Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. the Hon. Omar Davies noted that over time, the toll road has become plagued by motorists who, in an effort to avoid the toll fees, reverse onto the slip roads adjoining the toll roads.“This has created great cause for concern due to injuries, damage and fatalities from the collision between these motorists and unsuspecting legitimate users who are exiting the toll road. The last fatality occurred on 22 August 2011,” Dr. Davies said.He added that the police have been trying to stop the practice, but due to resource constraints, are unable to provide the physical presence of an officer at the locations at all times.According to the Regulations, the Toll Road Operator is responsible to retract the device for the use of the road by emergency service providers, and that it is an offence to interfere with, alter, damage, destroy or remove the device. Dr. Davies also said signs would be put in place at strategic locations to advise motorists of the device.“There is no denying the fact that we are dealing with an unruly bunch that seek to break the law, in order to benefit themselves by not having to go through the toll. Measures have to be taken to ensure that the travelling public is not endangered, so we accept that,” said Member of Parliament for North Central St. Andrew, Karl Samuda.Meanwhile, Dr. Davies said the Ministry went through the process of seeking an opinion from the Attorney General’s Chambers.He noted that the Ministry was advised by the Attorney General’s Chambers that the Road Traffic Act and the Toll Road Act have a legal basis on which spikes may be installed on a slip road.The Regulations will now be sent to the Senate for approval.
Jamaicans are being urged to plan ahead for the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which is expected to see the Caribbean facing at least one major hurricane.Acting Director of the National Meteorological Service, Jeffrey Spooner, said this is based on projections of Colorado State University, which has, for the first time over a long period, indicated that the Caribbean is “in line” for a hit from a major hurricane.Mr. Spooner was speaking on Wednesday, May 1, at the launch of Hurricane and Disaster Preparedness Month, at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) in New Kingston.The month is being observed under the theme: ‘Plan for Disaster in Advance, Give Yourself a Fighting Chance’. The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins on June 1, and ends on November 30.[RELATED: ODPEM Gearing Up for Active Hurricane Season]Mr. Spooner pointed out that the university is the only institution that has so far released forecast for this season.The overall prediction is for an above average hurricane season with 18 named storms (one less than in 2012). This is against a 30 year average of 12, indicating a 50 per cent increase in the projection for this year.Nine hurricanes are projected, which is one less than 2012. With an average of six using the 30 year mean, this equates to a 50 per cent increase. The projection for major hurricanes (category three and higher) is up by 100 per cent, with four being projected.“The forecast for this year is for 95 activities with respect to tropical storms…up from 60, which is the average…the number of hurricane days (is) up from 21 average to a projected 40, and nine major hurricane days are projected for this year – up by 57 per cent. So, the projection for this year’s activity is (looking) much more active than normal, and about as active as it was last year,” Mr. Spooner said.He said the projections “may well be on track,” and that while it is not certain how many of these systems could affect Jamaica, “if we have one, that’s one too many, and therefore we need to be prepared.”The ODPEM also launched its Twitter “hashtag”, #AskODPEM, as a primary communication tool with social media fan base. This is to facilitate direct responses to concerns and queries during the hurricane season.By Alphea Saunders, JIS Reporter
For a magazine that adamantly claims to not in fact be losing money, OK! magazine unquestionably has had a significant amount of turnover among its editors. The most recent move: Mark Pasetsky is being replaced as top editor by Richard Spencer, the former editor-in-chief of Bauer’s In Touch Weekly.In a statement announcing the staffing change, Spencer says his goal at OK! will be “to enhance content, create sales growth and continuously exceed the expectations of our readers.” Paul Ashford, group editorial director at U.K.-based OK! owner Northern & Shell, says Spencer “clearly brings the kind of experience that can build on the progress we’ve made in our first five years and push our editorial product to the next level.”Prior to In Touch, Spencer served as editor-in-chief of Twist and helped create/served as editor-in-chief of J-14. Spencer stepped down from his post at In Touch this summer. For now, Pasetsky is maintaining his previous position of managing editor, reporting to Spencer. However, a source tells FOLIO: that while OK! management wants Pasetsky to stay, discussions surrounding his role at the magazine are still ongoing. Before joining OK! last fall, Pasetsky served as editor of Life & Style, also a Bauer title.
5:11 Comments Facial recognition: Get to know the tech that gets to… Amazon Rekognition is the company’s effort to create software that can identify anything it’s looking at — most notably faces. Business organizations and, yes, law enforcement agencies are already licensing that software for their own use. That means that you don’t need to use Facebook or buy a face-scanning iPhone or a fancy video doorbell from Google-owned Nest or Amazon-owned Ring in order for facial recognition to be a part of your everyday life. With Rekognition, maybe it already is. This is part of a CNET special report exploring the benefits and pitfalls of facial recognition.And maybe you aren’t OK with that. Civil liberties groups such as the ACLU have already raised concerns about the speedy adoption of facial recognition tech among US law enforcement agencies and the potential for its abuse, particularly against immigrants and people of color. Many — including some of Amazon’s own employees and shareholders — want the company to hit the brakes.The controversy caught the attention of Congress last year, and now, with the Senate recently proposing a bill that would limit businesses from collecting and tracking facial recognition data without consent, it seems that Rekognition might be in for a reckoning. All of which is to say that it’s a good time to dive in and get a better understanding of what Rekognition is, how it works and what it’s being used for. Read more: Facial recognition 101: Your face is your fingerprint What exactly does Amazon Rekognition do? Glad you asked. Let’s start by looking at what Amazon says:”Amazon Rekognition makes it easy to add image and video analysis to your applications. You just provide an image or video to the Rekognition API, and the service can identify objects, people, text, scenes and activities. It can detect any inappropriate content as well. “Amazon Rekognition also provides highly accurate facial analysis and facial recognition. You can detect, analyze and compare faces for a wide variety of use cases, including user verification, cataloging, people counting and public safety.” Like a lot of what Amazon is up to these days, Rekognition centers on artificial intelligence and machine learning. If Alexa is Amazon’s effort to give AI ears and a voice, then Rekognition could be seen as the company’s effort to give AI a sense of sight and the intelligence to recognize what it’s looking at. The difference is that Alexa is built for consumers like you and me, while Rekognition is an enterprise offering intended for businesses and organizations. All of that sounds simple enough, right? It’s image- and face-detecting software that developers can license from Amazon for their own applications. But start thinking about the ways that businesses and organizations might be putting Rekognition to use — and some of the ways that they might in the future — and things get more complicated. How does Amazon Rekognition work? Amazon says that its Rekognition software is based on deep learning technology developed by computer vision scientists. It’s actually two separate software tools, or API sets: Amazon Rekognition Image, which analyzes images, and Amazon Rekognition Video, which analyzes video. Like other image recognition applications, Rekognition looks for common structural identifiers called “landmarks” in whatever it’s looking at. With an apple, that might be the shape and color of the fruit, along with characteristics like the stem. With a face, it’s the shape of the features and the distance between them. Once it’s scanned the evidence, the software assesses how confident it is that it knows what it’s looking at. That confidence variable acts as a threshold for declaring a match — one Rekognition user could say that anything above 75 percent confident is good enough to label as a positive match, while another user with a more high-stakes application might want to set the number at 99. The higher the confidence level, the more certain the software needs to be in order to declare a match.A lot of that confidence is dependent on the quality and angle of the image in question, but software like this that’s programmed to recognize what it’s looking at has come a long way in recent years. That’s thanks in no small part to intense research interest from the titans of tech, not just Amazon, but Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and others. “Rekognition is always learning from new data, and we’re continually adding new labels and facial recognition features to the service,” Amazon says. With facial recognition, it’s important to note that Amazon doesn’t keep its own database of faces to match against. Instead, it’s up to the user to provide a “face collection” that they own and manage. For a photo storage service, that face collection could be the photos that users upload. For a law enforcement agency, the face collection could be an existing database of mugshots. What does Amazon Rekognition cost? Companies don’t pay an upfront cost to use Rekognition. They pay as they go based on how much they use it. “With Amazon Rekognition, you pay for the images and videos you analyze and the face metadata that you store,” the company explains, adding that customers can analyze 5,000 images and 1,000 minutes of video per month for free during their first year using the service. Rates after that vary based on region, but in the US, Rekognition customers pay 10 cents for each minute of video analyzed and $1 for every 1,000 images processed. Customers also pay to store the metadata from images and videos they analyze within Amazon’s servers. Discounted bulk rates apply for customers who process more than 1 million images. What’s Amazon Rekognition being used for? Enlarge ImageA sample of Rekognition’s “People Pathing” code, used to track an individual’s movement within a video feed. Amazon That really depends on who’s using it (more on that in just a bit), but Amazon lists the following use cases as examples: User verificationObject detectionText recognitionImage and video content searchUnsafe content detectionCelebrity recognitionOther uses include analyzing the demographic makeup or even the emotional state of whoever the software is looking at, as well as something Amazon calls “People Pathing.” Like it sounds, People Pathing uses Rekognition to track specific people as they move within the frame of a video feed. According to Amazon, it’s capable of tracking:The location of the person in the video frame at the time their path is trackedFacial landmarks such as the position of the left eye, when detectedAmazon did not respond when we asked if there was anything preventing any specific businesses, organizations or law enforcement agencies from using any of the different APIs for Rekognition’s different use cases. The fair assumption is that all of Rekognition’s tools are on the table for all customers acting in accordance with the Amazon Web Services (AWS) acceptable use policy. Who’s using it? That’s a good question, and one that gets to the heart of what makes Rekognition controversial.Though the company has highlighted Rekognition’s use by nonprofits such as Thorn and the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children to find potential leads on missing children and human trafficking victims, Amazon doesn’t disclose its Rekognition customers without their consent — and it wouldn’t tell me the number of total Rekognition customers, either. According to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union in May 2018, the list includes multiple US law enforcement agencies. (We have more reporting on some of the ways law enforcement agencies in places like Oregon and Florida are already using Rekognition, which you can read about here).Police around the world have been using facial recognition technology for years now, but the disclosure was still enough to raise questions about Rekognition’s capabilities, about how it might be used and about who exactly was using it. Before long, the ACLU was calling for Amazon to stop selling its Rekognition software to governments and law enforcement agencies altogether. “The rights of immigrants, communities of color, protesters and others will be put at risk if Amazon provides this powerful surveillance system to government agencies,” said Shankar Narayan, the technology and liberty director of ACLU of Washington. Some of those concerns have even come from within Amazon itself. In June of last year, a group of Amazon employees released a letter to Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos calling on the company to implement strong transparency and accountability measures and to stop selling Rekognition services to law enforcement agencies. “We already know that in the midst of historic militarization of police, renewed targeting of Black activists and the growth of a federal deportation force currently engaged in human rights abuses — this will be another powerful tool for the surveillance state, and ultimately serve to harm the most marginalized,” the letter reads. Amazon declined to comment in response at the time and didn’t respond to a request for comment ahead of this piece, either. In July of 2018, the ACLU claimed that Amazon Rekognition mismatched these 28 members of Congress with mugshots of criminals. ACLU Where do things stand now? The controversy hasn’t subsided. The ACLU continues to press its argument that Amazon shouldn’t be selling Rekognition to government law enforcement agencies, even releasing a report showing that the software misidentified 28 members of Congress as criminals when the confidence level was set to 80 percent. The false matches disproportionately affected people of color, the report notes. Amazon disputed that report, issuing the following testy rebuke via blog post: “When Rekognition is used as recommended for public safety (with 99 percent confidence levels), the same reports that the ACLU claimed contained 5 percent error rates yielded 0 percent error rates. This is inconvenient for the ACLU’s rhetoric, but these are also the facts.” Even so, in November 2018, eight Democratic members of Congress expressed their concerns with Rekognition in a letter to Amazon: “Facial recognition technology may one day serve as a useful tool for law enforcement officials working to protect the American public and keep us safe,” they wrote, “However, at this time, we have serious concerns that this type of product has significant accuracy issues, places disproportionate burdens on communities of color and could stifle Americans’ willingness to exercise their First Amendment rights in public.” The issue isn’t going away. In January of this year, a group of the company’s own shareholders urged Amazon to stop selling Rekognition software to law enforcement agencies. More recently, in March, a group of prominent AI researchers, including experts from Microsoft, Google and Facebook, as well as the 2018 winner of the prestigious Turing Award, penned an open letter warning of inherent biases built into Rekognition and calling on Amazon to stop selling it to the police. Perhaps complicating things is Amazon’s ownership of Ring, the makers of a popular line of smart video doorbells. Recent patents from the company lay out a vision for face-detecting video doorbells that keep an eye out for convicted felons, sex offenders and the like, then relay the information directly to police. Amazon has already begun to let owners of its popular line of Echo smart speakers use the things as makeshift security devices that listen for trouble whenever they’re away from home. “Amazon is dreaming of a dangerous future,” the ACLU’s Jacob Snow said in a statement, “with its technology at the center of a massive decentralized surveillance network, running real-time facial recognition on members of the public using cameras installed in people’s doorbells.” “We are always innovating on behalf of neighbors to make our neighborhoods better places to live, and this patent is one of many ideas to enhance the services we offer,” a Ring spokesperson said in a statement. “However, patents do not necessarily reflect current developments to products and services, and this patent certainly does not imply implementation. Privacy is of the utmost importance to us, and we always design our services to include strong privacy protections.” What does Amazon say about all of this? Amazon didn’t offer any comments about Rekognition ahead of this story’s publication.This February, amid the criticism, Amazon wrote at length on the topic in a company blog post. Along with defending Rekognition, Amazon seemed to join companies such as Microsoft that have already called for greater oversight and transparency with regards to the ways facial recognition tech is being put to use. “In the two-plus years we’ve been offering Amazon Rekognition, we have not received a single report of misuse by law enforcement,” wrote Amazon Web Services’ vice president of global public policy, Michael Punke. “Even with this strong track record to date, we understand why people want there to be oversight and guidelines put in place to make sure facial recognition technology cannot be used to discriminate. We support the calls for an appropriate national legislative framework that protects individual civil rights and ensures that governments are transparent in their use of facial recognition technology.” The blog post goes on to lay out some suggested standards for facial recognition, which I’ll list here: Facial recognition should always be used in accordance with the law, including laws that protect civil rightsWhen facial recognition technology is used in law enforcement, human review is a necessary component to ensure that the use of a prediction to make a decision does not violate civil rights When facial recognition technology is used by law enforcement for identification, or in a way that could threaten civil liberties, a 99 percent confidence score threshold is recommended Law enforcement agencies should be transparent in how they use facial recognition technology There should be notice when video surveillance and facial recognition technology are used together in public or commercial settings “New technology should not be banned or condemned because of its potential misuse,” the blog concludes. “Instead, there should be open, honest and earnest dialogue among all parties involved to ensure that the technology is applied appropriately and is continuously enhanced.” “We will continue to work with partners across industry, government, academia and community groups on this topic because we strongly believe that facial recognition is an important, even critical, tool for business, government and law enforcement use.” Originally published March 19 and updated as new developments occur. 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Meghan MarkleThe Duke and Duchess of Sussex Official Instagram (sussexroyal)It looks like Meghan Markle may not be the people’s Duchess after all. Reportedly, the Duchess of Sussex appeared at Wimbledon last week to cheer on Serena Williams on Centre Court but according to one spectator, the Duchess made one bold demand while there.Meghan Markle is a celebrity. As a former Hollywood star and now a Royal, Meghan Markle has one of the most famous faces in the world. However, according to a media consultant who was seated close to the royal during her Wimbledon experience, Meghan made a request for those seated nearby to respect her privacy when taking photos.It is no secret that Meghan Markle values her privacy and protects it fiercely, even if it rubs some people the wrong way. Namely the public and the press. But Meghan might be taking things a little too far. Reported by The Daily Telegraph, Sally Jones, was ordered not to take any pictures because Meghan was at the event “in a private capacity.” Meghan MarkleGetty ImagesHaving been informed of the request by a royal protection officer, Ms. Jones insisted that it was yet another “another example of silly control freakery.”Ms. Jones added: “I think this royal protection officer was quite embarrassed. Meghan Markle may be entitled to her privacy. But to not allow other people to enjoy a public sporting event the way they want to might be a little too much. Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, a palace source said: “It’s not unusual for people accompanying Members of the Royal Family at private, or public, events to ask members of the public not to take photographs…..It is to enable Members of the Royal Family to engage with people and events.”If this is the kind of engagement with the public the Palace is referring to then people might not want to interact with the Royals at all.
Vandalized car of Abdul Latif Siddique. Photo: Prothom AloFormer Awami League minister and independent candidate from Tangail-4 constituency Abdul Latif Siddique’s motorcade came under attack during campaign on Sunday.Latif Siddiqui alleged that supporters of Awami League candidate there Hasan Imam Khan carried out the attack in the afternoon.Latif, a former presidium member of the AL, staged a sit-in demonstration in front of Tangail deputy commissioner’s office, in protest against the attack and sought punishment of the attackers.He allehed that a group of AL men led by Gohaliabari union parishad chairman Hazrat Ali Talukder swooped on his motorcade when he was carrying out campaign.At one stage of the incident, Latif Siddiqui and his supporters took shelter at former UP chairmen Mohir Uddin’s house, where they were attacked for the second time.At least four vehicles of the motorcade were vandalised and several activists of Latif Siddique got injured in the attack.Latif then went to Tangail town and submitted a written complaint to the deputy commission who is the returning officer. The candidate demanded withdrawal of the officer-in-charge of Kalihati police station and punishment of the attackers.When asked about complaints of his supporters’ complicity in the attack, AL candidate and current member of parliament Hasan Imam denied.The AL candidate, however, said: “Activists of the Awami League attacked Latif Siddique as he made derogatory remarks about the prime minister and Awami League [Sheikh Hasina],” he said.Deputy commissioner of Tangail Md Shahidul Islam said the authorities would take appropriate measures against the attackers following investigation into the incident.Latif Siddiqui was elected MP from Kalihati in 2008 and 2014 and served as member of prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s cabinet since 2009. Following his derogatory remarks about Hajj pilgrimage while addressing a meeting in New York in 2014, he was removed from the cabinet and the ruling AL. He resigned from the post of member of parliament in 2015.
Experimental setup. As clean water is poured from the upper to the lower container through a horizontal channel, particles added to the surface of the lower container eventually ‘climb up the stream’ and contaminate the channel (as illustrated by the arrow). Image credit: arXiv:1105.2585v1 Explore further Citation: Some particles are able to flow up small waterfalls, physicists show (2011, May 18) retrieved 18 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2011-05-particles-small-waterfalls-physicists.html More information: Upstream contamination in water pouring, arXiv:1105.2585v1 [physics.flu-dyn] arxiv.org/abs/1105.2585AbstractWe report the observation of upstream transport of floating particles when clear water is poured on the surface of a flat water surface on which mate or chalk particles are sprinkled. As a result, particles originally located only at the surface of the lower container can contaminate the upper water source by “riding” on vorticial water currents. We speculate that Marangoni forces in combination with geometry-induced vortices may explain the observed phenomenon. Water running uphill a cooling idea This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. © 2010 PhysOrg.com With just a small bit of research, the team was able to show what seems to be counterintuitive; that it truly is possible for some particles (and some of the liquid itself) to travel up a very small waterfall and into the reservoir behind it. While most anyone that has observed moving water has likely noted the whirls and eddies that form when water tries to flow along or past obstacles, it’s difficult to imagine such counter-flows being created with sufficient force to actually push the fluid uphill. Althsuler et al. show that in fact, it can.To see what was going on, they used two lab containers; one to hold the room temperature water, the other to hold the chalk they used instead of mate leaf bits (figuring it would be much easier to follow with the naked eye). They then placed an open half-cylinder shaped channel between the two containers that would allow water to flow smoothly from the first container down the channel, where it would then drop into the second container. With this setup, they discovered that as the liquid came rushing down the channel, the main mass of water traveled down the center, creating vortices that caused small amounts of fluid to travel along the edges of the channel in the opposite direction, allowing the chalk to work its way up to the higher level container. But, they also discovered by varying the height of the channel, that it only occurred when the dropping distance was very slight; in this case, 1 centimeter, or less.As a result of this study, it’s likely that certain industrial processes might have to be modified to make certain unintentional contamination doesn’t occur that is currently being overlooked. Also, its likely future research on this phenomenon will need to be done to determine if other factors can affect the height of the fall or the amount of particulate that is able to travel uphill to another vessel. (PhysOrg.com) — In a paper published on arXiv, Cuban physicist Ernesto Althsuler and his team at the University of Havana, describe how they set out to reproduce a phenomenon they had observed while brewing the Argentinean drink mate, a type of tea. Althsuler noticed that after causing hot water to drop from one vessel down a very slight waterfall into another containing tea leaves, some of the leaf particulates managed to make their way back up the waterfall and into the hot water vessel. In their subsequent research, they discovered that a small counter-flow can come into existence in small drop waterfalls along the sides; enough to carry small particles.
Free Webinar | Sept. 9: The Entrepreneur’s Playbook for Going Global Growing a business sometimes requires thinking outside the box. 4 min read I’ve been writing a tech predictions column for over 30 years now. I study research from my firm, Creative Strategies, and look for data that provides hints of what might be the hot topics, trends or issues in the coming year. Here’s what I see on the horizon for tech in 2018.Cyber-security threats worsenThis is not a new prediction, but “state” actors have now entered the scene, reportedly with backing from countries like North Korea, Russia and China. They fund armies of hackers, who try to steal everything from nuclear secrets to bank codes, hacking into power grids and private accounts.So it is not a stretch to predict that this will get even worse in 2018 now these hacking armies have learned how to game U.S. systems, especially as we head into midterm elections next fall.What makes this worse for us in America specifically is that we just don’t have enough security experts to counter many of these major threats. Without the talent to develop more powerful cyber-security tools (and hold on to the ones we do have), our networks are highly vulnerable. I fear this will lead to new hacking disasters in 2018 that we are ill-prepared to fend off.More folding smartphones, tabletsI saw some very interesting folding and dual-screen phone prototypes in late 2017, and I expect to see market-ready products next year.ZTE released the dual-screen Axon M last month, but it’s exclusive to AT&T, limiting its reach, and PCMag found it to be a bit buggy in testing. With a few tweaks, though, we could see at least one foldable smartphone and one foldable tablet late in 2018 from major players, setting in motion a new trend in mobile design going into 2019.You can’t escape augmented realityIn 2017, Apple finally embraced augmented reality with ARKit, while Google revealed ARCore, leading many to believe we’d see the first killer AR apps by the holidays. But as of now, I have not seen an AR app I can’t live without.I do think the smartphone is a great place to start in terms of getting people interested in the technology; we’re already staring at the devices all day anyway. But I am becoming more and more convinced that for AR to really impact our lives, it will have to be delivered through some type of smart glasses, which I don’t see happening before 2020.AR, meanwhile, is often mentioned in the same breath as virtual reality. But I see VR taking off largely in vertical markets, where all types of industries are experimenting with it to see how it affects their workflow and potential profitability. For more on that, check out PCMag’s October feature, How Augmented Reality Is Transforming Work.All-day laptop battery lifePCMag’s Sascha Sagan and I were in Hawaii recently for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Summit, where it talked up its always-connected PC initiative. The premise is that these Snapdragon 835-based devices, like the HP Envy x2 and Asus NovaGo, have built-in LTE radios that provide constant internet connections and 20 hours of battery life.I’m not quite sure the always-on aspect will be these machines’ biggest selling point, though. In our iPad research, we found that 50 percent of iPads sold include the LTE radio chip, but that only 25 percent of those machines ever have their LTE activated. I think the bigger story from Qualcomm’s event is that incredible battery life. Imagine heading off for the day and not having to think about carrying a power cord for your laptop since you know you will get at least 20 hours of real use.Social media regulationI know this might be considered a bold prediction, but my contacts in Washington say legislators from both sides of the aisle are increasingly concerned about the negative impact social media has had on the election process and the political climate in general.Although Washington had hoped Facebook, Twitter and Google would police themselves, insiders I speak with are growing skeptical that these companies can handle it alone. Full regulation is probably not likely, but I would not be surprised if we do see some legislation. After all, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai already went after Twitter during the net neutrality debate. This story originally appeared on PCMag December 27, 2017 Register Now »
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Register Now » Recently, in Entrepreneur, I examined eight different ways your business could benefit from offering a mobile app. These included keeping up with your competitors, solving a problem that your customers face, retaining customer data to simplify conversions, and effectively managing customer loyalty programs.Related: 4 Steps to Launching a Mobile App Even If You Don’t Know How to Build ItIf you’ve determined that the time is right for your own business to launch a mobile app, you’re certainly not alone. Statista estimated that as of the first quarter of 2018, over 7 million apps were available for download in the leading app stores. Mobile analytics powerhouse App Annie, meanwhile, found that the average U.S. consumer uses mobile apps for two hours and 15 minutes each day — which adds up to over one month during the course of a year.With numbers like that, it’s easy to see how launching an app that your customers adopt and use can be an enormous opportunity for your business. But remember: The quality of your app is paramount. According to a study by Localytics, 71 percent of mobile apps looked at by researchers were uninstalled within 90 days of installation.Real estate on your customer’s mobile devices, then, is valuable; so your app needs to deliver value in order to be retained. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a developer to be able to deliver that value. Here are four ways and (and the corresponding best tools) with which your business can develop and launch a mobile app that your customers will use and retain.The plug-and-play option: BuildfireBuildfire offers customers two options for building a mobile app. You can hire its team of professional developers to create an app for you, or you can utilize its intuitive plug-and-play app builder. The platform has a wide range of templates to suit almost any business type.That’s useful if your service feels less straightforward than apps you may admire. You can also use an assortment of plug-ins to help you customize the functionality, as well as the look-and-feel of your mobile app.Once your app is ready to launch, Buildfire will then submit your app to Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store for Android. A platform like Buildfire works for businesses which have a clear picture of what functions they want and how the app should appear. In terms of the app’s drag and drop interface, the app allows you to test different options until you find one you’re happy with.Buildfire’s built-in emulator will also allow you to test how your app looks and behaves on a wide variety of mobile devices. If you want to build your own mobile app without writing a single line of code, Buildfire is an option worth exploring.The back-end option: FirebaseFirebase is Google’s own mobile development platform and can help you power apps that work on iOS, Android and the web. While Firebase eliminates the need for server-side programming and offers robust database and analytics capabilities, you will still need to develop the front-end of your mobile app ( i.e., the part of the app your customer sees).For people who don’t know how to code, the Firebase option is less user-friendly than platforms like Buildfire, but its powerful database functionality handles all the heavy lifting on the back-end once your client-side app is developed.The DIY approachIf you’re the type of person who likes to get your hands dirty and aren’t intimidated by learning to write code, building your own mobile app from scratch may just be the right challenge for you.Though considerably more time-consuming and demanding than using an intuitive solution like Buildfire or hiring a developer, building your mobile app yourself not only offers greater control and flexibility over the final product, but provides a significant learning opportunity. One of the benefits of having built your app from the ground up is that you will be well-positioned to make detailed improvements and customize your app, based on user feedback.Related: 6 Reasons Why You Should Launch a Mobile App for Your Business — and 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’tWriting code is no longer as daunting a prospect as it once was, and there are a wealth of web-based resources and communities of freelance web developers offering step-by-step tutorials on mobile app development.The freelance approachIf you’ve concluded that a mobile app could be a significant boon to your business; if you’re looking for customization in design and functionality beyond what a template-based approach can offer; or if you need to build an app quickly, there are few (if any) substitutes for hiring an experienced developers.While finding the right developer with appropriate experience and expertise can be a challenge, professional platforms such as CodementorX screen their freelance web developers stringently and even offer a risk-free trial period to ensure the developer is a good fit for your project.Final thoughtsAccording to Statista, over 52 percent of website traffic took place on mobile devices in 2018. As more and more aspects of our online lives move to mobile devices, developing a mobile app for your business is becoming more of a necessity than a luxury.Related: The Real Costs of Building a Mobile App for iOS and AndroidThankfully, this reality has helped create a vast pool of talented mobile app designers who can help you develop a highly customized mobile app at a very competitive price and lead to plug-and-play solutions like Buildfire. The future is mobile; isn’t it time for your business to be part of it? Free Webinar | Sept 5: Tips and Tools for Making Progress Toward Important Goals July 25, 2018 5 min read Attend this free webinar and learn how you can maximize efficiency while getting the most critical things done right.