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April 29, 2016

Mobile Shopping Poised for Growth in Kenya

 

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Kenyan retailers might not have fully adopted mobile communications to fuel their business activity, but they are embracing it, and technology is on the rise when it comes to their marketing campaigns. A recent Nielson study conducted on Kenyan retailers and their use of technology reveals that mobile usage in the past has been significant. Moreover, companies are slowly turning to mobile marketing concepts.

 

The Study

The Neilson research group conducted face-to-face interviews with 300 retailers across many spectrums and service channels throughout Kenya. The results show that, right now, most retail business is done in the country through direct communication and transactions. In fact, 96 percent of consumers in Kenya prefer to pay retailers with cash, and 88 percent of them prefer in-person communication. They also like to see new products firsthand. 

 

The Promise of the Mobile Market

Even though retail businesses in Kenya today seem to under-utilize mobile technology—just 12 percent of customers use mobile money to pay for goods—Nielson East Africa MD Jacqueline Nyanjom, says, “In a country with 96 percent mobile penetration, the findings are somewhat surprising – but they do point to enormous potential for growth.”

Kenya’s mobile money market is perfect for growth because of how easy it is for people already utilizing mobile technology to make the jump to purchasing goods online. In other parts of the world, mobile money has already been embraced or made great strides. In Kenya, Safaricom’s M-Pesa currently dominates the mobile money market, as small as it is. M-Pesa launched in 2007 and has more than 25-million subscribers, and about 130,000 retail agents use the technology. Countrywide, 43 percent of the Gross National Product flowed through this channel in 2013.

 

The Future of Mobile Shopping

One of the main reasons that Kenyans rely on cash for purchases is that it doesn’t carry transaction fees. Some shoppers and retailers, however, have expressed concern about the safety of using cash for purchases. Aside from fees, there are few reasons not to convert to the use of mobile money in the retail sector. About 25 percent of retail businesses say that they have not been approached with an offer to use mobile money for purchases, a fact that implies that there is an untapped group of business owners in this market.

Additionally, it seems that the time is ripe to encourage both businesses and consumers to accept mobile advertising and marketing as part of the mix. Companies need to focus on adopting retail apps, mobile coupons, promotions, geo-location deals and ads, and other mobile marketing tools in order to bring exciting new growth to the industry.

 

April 25, 2016

Pet Care Goes Mobile

 

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American’s love affair with animals has opened all kinds of doors for entrepreneurs and capitalists that see the growing obsession as a way to make a quick buck. Gluten-free dog treats and luxury cat towers are certainly more common today than they were just 10 years ago, and that’s just the beginning.

 

The Rough Life 

In the U.S. alone, the ASPCA estimates that there are 70 to 80 million dogs; approximately 37 percent to 47 percent of all US households are “with K9.” As pets become increasingly integrated in our home lives, it makes sense that a slew of products, gadgets, and services would also arrive in the marketplace. The newest of these is available on your mobile device. 

One of the greatest challenges many dog owners face is balancing a healthy schedule for the dog with the need to keep regular business hours. But that’s a lot easier said than done, especially for dog owners who often need help exercising their pooches, as well as ensuring they get regular bathroom time outside. According to this article, millennials in particular struggle with this issue: they prefer the jobs and the lifestyle of urban areas, but they also seek companionship from pets. 

Hunter Reed, a Nashville-area native, is one such pet owner. Long hours at his job meant that his boxer, Bella, would be stuck at home for long periods of time without company. He would look for dog walkers on craigslist, but found that most were unreliable. Reed would ask his friends in desperation, but ultimately found the issue too troubling not to act. 

"It got to the point where you feel bad asking your friends or neighbors," said Reed.

 

Pet-Sitting App 

Reed’s solution, in collaboration with Cody Dysert and Kris Molinari, was to create an app that connected dog owners with dog walkers using similar technology to the one used by Uber and Lyft. Reed’s app is called Walkio, and it’s competing for market space with similar apps in the pet-sitting arena. 

Walkio uses a vetting system, like Uber, that requires all walkers to undergo a background check. The app handles most of the administrative work dog walkers would normal manage on their own, including payments, appointments, scheduling, and key exchanging though lock boxes. Walkio uses basic chat features to let pet owners and walkers communicate as the walker picks up, walks, and returns the dog home. 

Pricing for this service ranges from $17 to $75 depending on the length of time the dog needs to be cared for — which includes an overnight option. 

There are several similar apps already on the market for this service, including Wag!, Swifto, Barkly, and Urban Leash. Reed hopes that by focusing on the customer services of the app, and starting in the Southeast region of the U.S., Walkio can become a market leader, at the very least in Nashville.

“The tech community in Nashville is really growing,” Reed said.

Reed and his co-founders are currently looking for funding to take the app to the next level. So far, the team has been primarily self-funded; the user base is still very small.

Will Walkio carve out a niche in the Southeast? One thing is for certain: Bella the dog is likely wagging her tail. 

April 18, 2016

Mobile Device Failure Rates Highest in Asia

 

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Last year, smartphone shipments hit record levels, up 10.1 percent in 2015 to an impressive 1.3 billion units worldwide. What’s more, 20 percent of the world’s population received new smartphones last year, which means 20 percent of the world’s population got rid of their old phones, for one reason or another. 

Blancco Technology Group recently published its quarterly trend report, and one of the fascinating details outlined in the research was the way different cultures used the same technology to achieve different ends. One finding involved the way human behavior in Asia influenced the failure rates of smartphone devices, which may be linked to the number of replacement devices we saw in 2015. 

 

What Went Wrong? 

Throughout the world, there are five primary issues that caused device failures; user behavior plays an important role in how we interpret this data. The top five issues included trouble with the camera, touchscreen, battery charging, microphone, and speed/performance of the device. These issues affect both Android and iOS users. 

In Asia, these device issues have a unique spread, with speed and performance ranking the highest, followed by camera, then battery charging, during Q4 of 2015.

Device failure rates are the highest in Asia. Of all the devices returned, or sent to the manufacture for repairs, 50 percent of the devices were returned ‘NTF’, or No Trouble Found. But what does that mean exactly? Why are so many phones having issues in Asia, but when customer service representatives or repair specialists review the device, there’s nothing wrong with it?

 

Mobile Cultural 

This trend could go back to cultural differences in the way people use smartphones. In places like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, mobile users frequently use messaging apps like WhatsApp and WeChat to communicate socially, even professionally. In some instances, large numbers of users may be communicating simultaneously in a single group chat or bulk text messaging, which can greatly reduce the battery life of the phone, as well as slow down the overall performance. 

Similarly, leaving popular social networking applications open, which regularly cache and store user data, can be extremely draining to battery life, limiting other resources on the device. This makes accessing email and other important functions more difficult, resulting in issues for the user. 

These are not hardware-related problems. In fact, Blancco’s report suggests that human error plays a large role in the number of issues being reported by participating countries.  The U.S. and Europe, for example, report their own distinct device issues, many of which can also be linked to human error. 

 

Why It’s Important

As smartphone use becomes more standardized in our work and professional lives, it’s going to be important for network operators and device manufactures to understand the cultural differences that affect the overall performance of a phone, depending on the country it’s shipped to. This is also important for businesses that have adopted the BYOD (bring your own device) ideology in the workplace, where device failures can have a serious impact on a businesses’ bottom lines. 

Education will play a large role in lowering the excessive cost of device issues for manufactures and repairs specialists alike. Teaching a user how to keep a phone in good working order will ultimately save everyone time and resources.

April 17, 2016

Mobile Marketing and the Emoji Question

 

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New research indicates that mobile marketing campaigns are increasingly turning to emojis to make their messages pop. Marketing automation company Appboy surveyed close to 9,400 campaigns on Android and iOS platforms, and found emoji usage had increased more than seven-fold year-on-year, as of March 2016. The report found e-commerce marketers and retailers were the most likely businesses to use emojis in mobile marketing campaigns.

Why are mobile marketing managers using emojis? Simply put, it’s because the rest of us do, and it’s seen as an easy way to add some color and individuality to a campaign. With so much activity happening in the world of mobile marketing, it’s highly competitive and volatile; some 800 million users got their first smartphone last year alone. Another 600 million will join them this year.

With such vast numbers, it’s crucial for e-marketers to understand who they’re trying to reach, and with what kind of message. In this context, emojis become one contributing factor to the success of a mobile marketing campaign. Used well, they set the right tone for a brand image. 

 

Using Emojis

So how do you use them in the most effective way? One of the most common mistakes brands make is to use emojis in place of text, where text would communicate more effectively. Emojis should complement your written message, not replace it, so for your first campaign, try incorporating one or two relevant emojis. This will give you a chance to feel out your audience to see if they respond well to emojis. Not everyone does!

Remember too that a constant stream of unhelpful, if fun, messages will result in irritated customers opting out of your contact list or deleting your app. Don’t get over-excited with the new plaything and start barraging your user base. Stick to the mobile marketing strategy of only issuing messages when you have a special offer to promote, or other information that will be of genuine interest. Incorporate emojis into these, rather than trying to build a new mobile marketing campaign around emojis.

A recent BI Intelligence report takes a look at mobile marketing tactics such as emojis. One of the key findings was the importance of marketers leveraging different tactics according to demographic and audience size. It’s vital to respect the personal nature of mobile messaging, and be highly vigilant for over doing it. Emojis are a good example of mobile marketing tactics that can go wrong if misapplied, but work wonders when done right.

March 31, 2016

Diabetes Treatment Finds Ally in Texting Services

 

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Texting services are increasingly being utilized by the healthcare industry, as they provide a number of helpful applications, such as reminding patients about appointments and sending tips that contribute to health. Text service health applications now include those relating to diabetes, with Arkansas-based nonprofit corporation ARcare using text messaging to improve its treatment services. 

 

A Valuable Educational Tool

ARcare added SMS texting services to its treatment program for diabetes patients, resulting in a cost-effective way to educate patients about the disease. “Interactive SMS” is utilized to provide patients with vital diabetes information. ARcare CIO Greg Wolverton recommends healthcare organizations focused on population health management recognize messaging tools’ role with regard to electronic health records and care coordination across numerous facilities. He also emphasizes the supreme scalability and efficiency texting services present. 

 

Increased Revenue Options

Implementing text services has been shown to help both the patient and the provider, as it offers an increase in operational revenue. For example, texting diabetic patients about their next appointments significantly reduces chances of no-shows, as most people have their phones with them constantly and look at text messages much sooner than emails. The reduction in no-shows and the ability to easily reschedule should a patient not be able to make the appointment are some of the ways text services are helping the healthcare industry financially. 

 

More Helpful Applications

In addition to its use among diabetic patients and their healthcare providers, text messaging is also increasingly used to treat smoking addiction and pregnancy issues. A recent Swedish study suggested text services make it easier to quit smoking, as the implemented text messaging program “doubled the rate” of self-reported smoking abstinence “with occasional lapses.” It also encouraged quitting cigarettes entirely, though not to the same degree. 

In regard to pregnancy issues, texting was found to help maternal and child mortality problems in Rwanda. The African country’s health workers use text services to keep track of pregnancies, report related health issues, and provide emergency alerts. The latter helps pregnant women obtain emergency care when needed. Health workers also text information about their pregnant patients’ histories for database storage purposes, let women know when it’s time to come in for checkups, and provide doctors with information about any complications. 

 

Part of the Mobile Health Movement

Diabetes, smoking, pregnancy, weight loss, HIV….texting services are part of the mHealth, or mobile health, movement for all of these, according to David Finitsis, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology and author of the February 2014 article Text Message Intervention Designs to Promote Adherence to Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). The article was published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. Finitisis found text messaging of great assistance to HIV patients, as it improved “adherence to drug regimens” among other benefits. The author remarked that the possibilities connected to text messaging and healthcare are endless, and that smartphones, tablet computers, and social media platforms provide many more avenues for treating the chronically ill. 

Is text service a huge part of the healthcare industry’s future? It certainly seems so. 

 

March 24, 2016

Is the Biggest Issue with Smartphones Their Users?

 

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Today’s smartphones are capable of withstanding pretty serious damage, including getting dropped many times over, being subject to dust and other floating particles, or somehow landing in the bathtub when it’s full of hot water. Phones still fail every so often, as do most products whether they’re electronically-based or not. This is quite normal, however a new survey indicates that the biggest problems with smartphones aren’t the devices, but the users. It appears not everyone is as smartphone-savvy as they might think. 

 

“No Trouble Found” 

According to a recent survey from Blancco Technology Group, as many as three quarters of smartphone hardware failures are of the “NTF” or “no trouble found” variety. The State of Mobile Device Performance and Health Trend Report: Q4 2015 outlined the top five “trouble spots” result in 39% of mobile phone failures around the world, with the camera causing the biggest issues. Smartphone cameras are responsible of 10% of hardware problems, followed by the touch screen (9%), battery charging (8%), microphone (6%), and performance issues (6%). The report’s findings are based on “aggregate, anonymized data,” according to Blancco Technology Group, and was collected by the company’s SmartChk platform. 

 

Varies By Region

Smartphone trouble areas vary by region, with North American users fussy over performance and blaming hardware issues on slow operation. This is followed by the camera, charger, headset, and microphone. Carrier signal is by far the biggest issue in Europe, followed by calling ability, camera, and Wi-Fi issues. 

 

Misunderstandings

The survey found that user behavior and misunderstandings are the cause of supposed hardware problems. For example, almost 74% of smartphones returned in North America due to “hardware issues” were labeled “no trouble found.” NTF rates are also high in Europe (71%) and in Asia (50%). Such misunderstandings about how to properly use smartphones indicates their complexities continue to baffle users and result in problems for enterprises and carriers alike. 

High NTF rates are particularly problematic for enterprises, according to the survey. 

“The ability to quickly triage mobile device issues – be it legitimate or specious—will mitigate these impacts and deliver on the promise of mobile connectivity for businesses supporting employees’ smartphones, be they corporate-issued or BYOD.” 

 

Up To Device Developers

These issues may cause problems for enterprises and carriers, however they aren’t their inequities to rectify. It’s the job of device developers to create smartphones and other mobile devices easy to use and understand. “Easy” devices won’t result in frustration...and subsequent “send-backs.” 

 

Apple Over Android

The survey also notes that Apple is currently ahead of Android in regards to user-related device problems, which found 85% of such issues came from Android devices compared to 15% of iOS devices. However, industry experts say these numbers don’t reflect the significant differences in the market share, nor the lower price points attached to most Android devices. Experts have remarked that Apple surpassing Android in this regard should be taken with a bucket rather than a grain of salt. 

 

March 22, 2016

How Mobile Apps Are Changing the Construction Industry

 

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General contractors, construction managers, and subcontractors make up a small portion of the working components required to successfully build a home or other outdoor structure. In 2016, it’s no surprise that many of these working parts can now be managed, tracked, and organized using field-ready mobile apps specific to the work of construction. Here’s a look at some popular apps, as well as the tools they offer, that are changing the construction industry. 

 

No Time, No Problem 

One of the biggest challenges faced by construction workers and managers is to keep strict timelines that contain several inspection points along the way. Before the walls go up, the plumbing and electrical wiring must first be inspected, right? So keeping a tight schedule is an important part of the job—especially if you’re working with anxious homeowners. 

Thanks to apps like BuilderTREND, construction managers can handle everything from time constraints to subcontractors, with an interface that can be custom branded for a specific construction company. In addition to looking supremely professional with its customized logo and header, the system offers a great way to keep track of multiple moving parts, while keeping everyone in the loop. 

Now you don’t have to worry about who, what, when, or where. It’s all right there in one easy-to-use app, available on Android and iOS for about $99 a month.  

 

Improve Communication 

Another construction area that’s been greatly affected by mobile is communication. As you might expect, construction requires that communication among several parties be coordinated and constant. If something goes wrong at the job site, say with the plumbing, it’s important that the subcontractor is back on the site to fix it as soon as possible so that next steps aren’t delayed. 

Fieldlens is an app that allows construction managers to keep an open line of communication with every party involved. Fieldlens has settings to allow you to prioritize certain conversations and include or exclude individuals to segregate information. There’s also a “LiveLayer” function that allows contractors to mark drawings in layers to avoid excessive clutter. You can then color code those drawings and share them with the right people without distraction. 

The best part about this app is that it’s free, but only for up to three users per project. You can upgrade to the pro plan for $25 per user per month on both iOS and Android phones. 

 

Clean Up the Clutter

Like most industries, construction has looked for ways to reduce its carbon footprint, and thanks to mobile apps, a lot of the waste and clutter has been eliminated. 

The Canvas app is a great example of how streamlining the paperwork on a cloud-based system is both eco-friendly and extremely productive for construction managers and workers. 

Canvas is a pick-and-build your own construction app featuring more than 5,000 specific apps to fit needs on a per-project basis. Just drag and drop what you want—virtually everything is done on the cloud. You can even get signatures on your phone to complete inspections, fulfill requests, and place orders. 

Save paper on bids, estimates, and contracts with this app, which starts at $13 a month and is available on iOS, Android, Windows 8, and Windows 5.0-6.5. 

Construction may require you move a stone or two from time to time, but it sure doesn’t mean you have to live in the Stone Age. Check out one of these apps or look to others for a mobile solution that fits your construction needs. 

March 14, 2016

Top New York Hospital Embraces Mobile Technology

 

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People use mobile technology in many aspects of their lives, from ordering to-go meals and finding the closest coffee shops to banking and getting consumer ratings. Now, folks can turn to mobile technologies, including apps, to help them with something else: healthcare.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is adopting mobile platforms, such as apps, to take care of many patient needs and to make providing healthcare easier for doctors. The No. 1 hospital in New York recently launched the NewYork-Presbyterian app for phones and tablets, which enhances the experience of patients and gives them more ways to communicate with the hospital. 

They’ll be able to get in touch with physicians through the application and use an online payment system to settle bills. The app offers assistance navigating around the hospital, viewing information about services and medical professionals, and connecting with NewYork-Presbyterian’s social media channels.

 

A Health Care App for the Way We Live Our Lives

Since mobile technology has become so integrated in day-to-day living, the NewYork-Presbyterian app makes sense. It’s in its infancy, so there’s room for it to grow and become more perfect, but it’s a useful tool for people looking for a simple way to stay informed and correspond with those assisting with their care.

“If you were to come in for an operation, you would be able to give your loved one’s phone number to the registration desk and while you are having your operation, it sends automated messaging to your loved one’s phone number,” says NYP Chief Innovation Officer Peter Fleischut. The app allows you to make sure friends and family members are updated in real time, so that they always know what’s going on. 

Future updates to the NewYork-Presbyterian app will include a telehealth feature that allows for scheduling of follow-up visits and remote patient monitoring. The anticipated version of the application will also have a visitor’s guide and a way for users to request second opinions from doctors.

 

The InnovateNYP: Pediatric App Challenge

Along with the NewYork-Presbyterian app, the hospital has recently launched the InnovateNYP: Pediatric Challenge, a contest that asks techies and forward-thinkers to come up with games, creative tools, and activities to encourage the best healthcare for our kids. The Challenge is open to hospital employees and the public, and it’s the first of its kind, bringing designers, developers, technologies, and clinicians together in an effort to advance new ideas in pediatric care. The kick-off activity for the Pediatric Challenge is a 10-week InnovateNYP: Pediatric Appathon that will have participants from around the world creating what will hopefully be the next huge advancement in healthcare for children.

 

Patients Are Embracing Mobile Technology to Make Important Health Decisions

Fleischut says that patients are embracing the hospital’s mobile offers, in particular the text feature that lets them get in touch with the hospital when they need to. However, the actual usefulness of this feature, as well as the importance of future additions to the app and the hospital’s technology, is yet to be determined.

“It’s one thing to get initial downloads but I’m more interested in being able to engage with our users,” Fleischut stated. “How long are they staying in the application? How frequently are they coming back to the application?” 

With the tech community involved in the venture, there’s likely to be constant monitoring of the processes to build technology for the hospital that focuses on exactly what patients and medical staff need.

 

February 16, 2016

How Mobile Tech Is Helping People with ASD

 

“Mobile technology is not just about convenience – it’s about enhancing lives.” That’s what the clinicians and caregivers at Spring Arbor University say about the use of mobile technology in their health programs. For children with autism, their future has never been brighter. 

 

Children and Mobile Technology 

It’s no secret: most children love mobile devices. And that’s true especially for autistic children, according to Rebecca M. Jones, a neuroscientist at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division in White Plains. 

“The majority of parents and caregivers who interact with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have mobile devices,” explained Jones. “And children with ASD find smartphone technologies particularly engaging.”

According to Autism Speaks, a nonprofit founded in 2005 to help develop awareness and research, “Autism spectrum disorder…and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors.”

Until recently, doctors and educators were not clear about the various ways in which autism presented itself in children and young adults. In the past, children weren’t challenged educationally; they were marginalized and labeled inadequate to perform menial tasks that required communication. Thanks to mobile technology, these children are now able to communicate more comprehensively, which helps doctors and educators determine their strengths and abilities on an individual basis. This ultimately allows caregivers to help cultivate these abilities and transform them into life skills for the children. 

 

Mobile Technology Goes Beyond Basic Communication 

What’s more, people with ASD have learned to creatively express themselves using a variety of mobile apps, programs, and features. Story Maker For Social Stories provides users with the ability to communicate using pictures, text, and audio. Even the basic calendar function on a smartphone helps people with ASD stay focused on moving forward with their days rather than fixating on basic daily tasks. 

 

A Mobile Support System 

Growing up with ASD is challenging, and bringing mobile technology into the fold can only make things better, both for people with ASD and their families and friend. 

“Smartphones offer convenience and most importantly, immediacy,” said Jones. “Parents can answer various questions about their child in real-time, which works to better understand and treat those with ASD."

In the future, the mobility of health-related services that focus on people with ASD could help treat and even prevent some of the associated developmental and behavioral challenges faced by patients. 

For now, the progress made by those at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital is a great leap forward for people with ASD and their families. 

 

 

January 29, 2016

What Is 'Vuvuzela Texting'?

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Is privacy something you value on your smartphone? Most of us assume some level of inconspicuousness while using any number of electronic devices. From cell phones and Internet browsers to desktop computers and software, the information we send and receive on a daily basis is actually a lot less secure than you may realize. And that’s okay, for most of us.

Most of us don’t need super tight, military-grade security on our devices. For most people, security can be managed using encryption software, firewalls, passwords and so on. But even still, the security of our most basic communications, like texting, can be compromised. That is, until now. 

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have developed a text messaging system called Vuvuzela—a system they believe almost guarantees a user’s privacy and anonymity. 

 

How Does Vuvuzela Work?

Here’s how it works: the system sends different encrypted messages to three different servers designed to unwrap the encryption one at a time. For anyone attempting to intercept these messages the process is made far more difficult. However, successful interception of one of the three messages can still reveal information about the sender and the intended recipient. 

Vuvuzela takes the process one step further by sending out decoy messages from each server after a communication has been transmitted. These messages are encrypted and sent to other secure destinations. Moreover, this process repeats itself every time a message is received, creating a massive amount of traffic and noise. 

This noise is precisely what protects these messages—it also birthed the name Vuvuzela, which comes from popular noise-making devices used by fans at sporting events. The idea is pretty simple: make an online environment so loud no one can make sense of it.

 

Similar Technologies 

The new security system comes to light just as another recedes into the shadows. In Dec. 2015, Tor (the onion router), an anonymity tool used on the Dark Web, was hacked by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in alleged collaboration with the FBI. 

The nature of the research is still shrouded in mystery, but the online software that promised Dark Web users discreteness wound up getting a bunch of people arrested and several websites disbanded. 

Vuvuzela may be the anonymity tool that was promised by Tor—except, this time, it might actually work. 

It’s hard to say if technology like Vuvuzela is really necessary for everyday communications like texting—unless you’re Edward Snowden. Some people don’t even like the idea of complete anonymity on the web, period. And still others suggest it’s the only way to maintain a truly democratic online space.  

Either way, knowing more about where security breakdowns occur on our personal devices is a lot better than being completely in the dark. For people that text (which is pretty much everyone), unless you plan on using a security system like Vuvuzela, know that these messages can be intercepted rather easier by a person (or government agency) with the correct tools and wherewithal.