New in Tech: A Mini Series

Google Maps is Showing Wildfire Boundaries in Real Time

Google has released a brand new feature to help citizens being burdened by wildfires. Type in any name of an ongoing wildfire into Google search, and the website will now bring up a map with a near-real-time boundary of that fire. This program was piloted last year in California, and will now be available across the US. This innovative feature will also update users with road closures and provide them with alternative routes that will help them avoid the dangerous fires, as well as the roadblocks caused by them.

Being aware of this life saving information can help citizens near a wildfire, as well as first responders who need to know the fastest route to arrive on scene. It is also important to utilize reputable sources to navigate around wildfires. Google’s new mapping feature has been developed with input from California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services as a part of the effort to make key updates easier to find. 

When people previously searched for information on wildfires in the past they ran into one of two problems. The first was that there was not enough information, or too much to reasonably sort through. When there was too much, speculation and unreliable sources had the potential to lead people into danger, rather than safety.

This problem became apparent to Yossi Matias, the Vice President of engineering at Google, in 2010 during the Mount Carmel fire near Haifa, Israel. Matias was working in Googe’s Haifa office when his team saw smoke rising outside. A google search failed to bring them anything helpful. Now, Google has the feature of an “SOS Alert” which provides people with official updates for emergency situations. In addition, Google provides a detailed map showing the boundaries of an active wildfire. The map displays red dashes that outline the area consumed by flames. These displays are made possible through data provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s GOES satellites. Google hopes that this feature will be made accessible to other countries in the future.

TikTok to Sue Trump Administration

TikTok has just confirmed that they intend to sue the Trump administration following an executive order that bans transactions with the app and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance. TikTok said in an emailed statement, “”To ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and users are treated fairly, we have no choice but to challenge the Executive Order through the judicial system.”

Following claims of fears regarding national security, President Donald Trump issued an executive order on August 6, saying that transactions with TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, which is a Chinese firm, would be prohibited. Unless TikTok could find a US buyer, the order would be put into effect. 

Trump and others are concerned with the idea that TikTok collects data on its users, and that data could later be handed over to China’s communist government. TikTok has repeatedly said that those fears are ungrounded. If the ban was to go into effect, it would most likely mean that Apple and Google would no longer be able to list the app in their respective stores. 

Although, TikTok could still be bought. Microsoft has said that they are pursuing a deal for TikTok’s operations in the US, Canada, and New Zealand. TikTok believes that the Administration paid no attention to the facts and has repeatedly tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses.

Apple Remove’s Epic Games’ Fortnite from the App Store

In a court filing, Apple has said that Epic Games asked for special permission to run their own store in the App store, as well as offer a separate payment option for Fortnite. Apple’s argument with Epic Games dates back to June, and it started with Epic requesting a deal to offer a competing app store and payment system separate from Apple’s.

Apple received an email from Epic CEO Tim Sweeney, on June 30, asking for the special deal. This deal would allow the company to break App Store guidelines that other companies cannot. Apple does not allow developers to create separate app stores, nor offer alternative payment processing in their apps. “Apple has never allowed this,” Apple said in its filing. “We strongly believe these rules are vital to the health of the Apple platform and carry enormous benefits for both consumers and developers.” 

After more emails between the two companies, Sweeney said to Apple on August 13 that Epic would break the App store rules. A few hours later, Epic activated a hidden payment system in the Fortnite App, which broke Apple’s regulations. Epic activated a code in Fortnite that lets players use its payment processing instead of Apple’s. Apple responded by removing Fortnite from its App Store. Epic then sued Apple. Apple said that Epic is creating its own problems, and will be allowed to return to the app store when they are ready to abide by the rules.

The root of this argument is money. Apple receives a 30% commission for payments made in iOS apps, despite various developer complaints. Epic claims that Apple “retaliated ferociously they threatened to ban Epic from its developer program. In court and in public, Epic has argued that Apple’s inflexible rules stifle competition and hurt app developers.

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