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The Changing Roadscape Tech’s biggest brains are contemplating a future in which self driving and electric vehicles will take over our roadways. People like Jamie Condliffe at MIT Technology Review and Benedict Evans of Andreessen Horowitz imagine a world without gas stations, repair shops and parking garages. This has major implications for American cities, which were designed around the needs of the automobile and its human driver. But there are also implications for sales of cigarettes, half of which are sold at the convenience stores attached to gas stations. Why does this matter? Take this a step further and imagine the transformation of our roadscape with self driving cars. Traffic lights, most road signs, and all parking signs exist for the convenience of human drivers. A self-driving car does not require this guidance. Many rural counties derive much-needed revenue from speeding or parking tickets. They will need to find alternative sources of income. What is the function of a highway patrol when the cars are able to safely drive themselves at high speeds? Highways will be transformed since signage exists to warn drivers of what’s ahead. No drivers, no signage. Outdoor billboards will have to be further simplified since drivers will be passing by at a higher rate of speed. Noise and light pollution may be much reduced. A self-driving car has no need of a horn nor does a self-driving ambulance require a siren. And streetlights that curve over the street at a level sufficient to allow clearance for delivery trucks are quite unnecessary. Raised sidewalks, car lanes, pylons, safety barriers and sand barrel crash cushions could all disappear from view. The car mechanic will join the cooper or blacksmith as a quaint reminder of yesteryear. In a nutshell: The car has had such a totalizing effect on the American landscape that the disappearance of human drivers will change everything we see. Read More Hiding in the noise While most of the Trump agenda has been stymied by forces both internal and external, changes at the FCC under new chairman, Ajit Pai are moving forward quickly. Specifically ISP’s have been given permission to track user’s internet usage for the purpose of selling customized advertisements. Many consumers have reacted to this news with a shrug of indifference. They assume their behavior online is being tracked anyway. But all of the current methods of tracking depend on traffic coming to a site. Granted a site could attach a cookie to the visitor and see where they went next, but the user could always block the cookies. ISP’s are able to track users based on what they type into their browser, meaning the URL or the search queries. This data is certainly more valuable to advertisers and potentially a greater violation of privacy. But people are already figuring out how to thwart the ISP’s and maintain some level of privacy by adding noise to their browsing data. Why does this matter? Your ISP knows what you look at. Soon advertisers will know as well. But one way the cryptologists hide information is to add noise to the system. In this case, you can add a browser extension that visits lots of random sites in the background, depriving the ISP of clean data and making you irreducible to some pre-defined target market. One imagines a more sophisticated version of this tool would allow you to spoof normal looking web traffic and even allow you to create a surfing persona for your fake visits. For example, I could decide my fake traffic should be to maternity sites and mommy bloggers. As a result, the advertisers who paid the ISP to violate my privacy would waste their money serving advertising for products in which I have no practical interest. Yes, a sophisticated ISP might be able to eliminate random noise from my browsing history but they couldn’t eliminate fake profiles. Inevitably, advertisers would grasp that their money was being wasted and the ISP’s will pay the price. In a nutshell: All of your personal browsing data is about to be used by advertisers. Read More Android overtakes Windows According to a research report published by the web analytics company StatCounter, Android has overtaken Windows for the first time when it comes to internet usage. Meaning that more internet traffic is coming from Android phones than from Windows desktops. This reflects a larger trend towards mobile browsing and away from the desktop. For Apple, iOS usage is nearly triple that of OS X. But Windows remained far ahead of any other platform until just this year. Why does this matter? While mobile traffic exceeds desktop and Android greatly exceeds iOS, many companies continue to behave as if the opposite was the case. As a design and development company, we find that no matter how often we advocate for a mobile-first approach to our work, our clients are inevitably desktop web users and they struggle to project themselves into the mindset of a consumer who uses the mobile phone exclusively. In addition, even if they are forward-thinking in the use of mobile, most of our clients have iOS phones and most of the people they know have iOS phones. Therefore, they optimize for iOS even if their Google Analytics data reveals a plurality of their traffic is Android. In a nutshell: Don’t assume your customers' patterns of internet usage match your own. Read More

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