Class action to target government over ‘robotdebt’ scheme


Centrelink’s controversial ‘robodebt’ scheme will be the subject of a class action led by law firm Gordon Legal with the support of the Labor Party.

The scheme — formally known as the Online Compliance Initiative (OCI) — involves automatically generated letters being sent to former and current welfare recipients demanding that they prove they were not overpaid by Centrelink.

The data-matching program takes Australian Taxation Office (ATO) income records and matches them with Centrelink clients. Centrelink’s algorithm assumes that the ATO-reported annual income of an individual was earned at an equal rate throughout the year, leading to letters being sent asking highlighting a possible debt being owed to Centrelink even in cases where there is no conflict between the data sets.

A 2017 report from a Senate inquiry called for the system’s suspension.

“Throughout this inquiry, the committee heard many personal accounts of the stress and distress the automated debt recovery system has caused recipients,” the report stated. The OCI system involved a “fundamental lack of procedural fairness” that was “evident in every stage,” the report said.




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Woolies primes Olive AI for call centre action – Cloud – Software


WooliesX’s Joshua Rogers.

Woolworths wants its virtual assistant dubbed ‘Olive’ to ease the workload of its customer contact centre by illuminating options to access information about orders or retail locations.

It’s a pivot that will pit the new artificial intelligence bot against human call centre agents in a test it hopes will boost self navigation to boost satisfaction and drive down costs.

At a time of intense competition Woolies between retailing rivals, the grocery giant isn’t exactly putting Olive’s achievements up in lights. But it is talking behind the scenes.

iTnews first reported Woolworths was working on a large-scale conversational AI platform back in January, before revealing some of the architecture and use cases for Olive earlier this month.

Some of this was drawn from slides presented at the Google Cloud Next 19 conference in San Francisco in April.

iTnews has since obtained access to the presentation itself, providing a clearer picture on why Woolworths went down the path to create Olive, as well as the assistant’s architectural make-up.

Joshua Rogers, platform technology manager at the retailer’s digital arm WooliesX, told the conference that Olive exists in the first instance to ease pressure on what Woolworths calls its ‘Customer Hub’ – a contact centre staffed by about 400 agents.

“We started with a very simple task to make sure that we take a real customer impacting event as well as a real business impacting event and we married them together,” Rogers said. 

“Our customers call up our Customer Hub and they want to know specific information – information that’s very readily available, but they don’t have any other way to get it. 

“Calling up our Customer Hub takes up time. 

“There’s a lot of other activities that our Customer Hub endeavours in that take up a lot more time than they probably need to.”

Rogers said there are currently four ways to interact with Olive. 

Customers can interact via a text-based chatbot on the Woolworths Online website, via a Google Home device, via the Hub’s IVR, or via Google Hangouts.

“Olive is able to analyse customer inquiries, align their intents with actionable workflows, and then take that data, package it up and present it back to the consumers in a consumable way,” Rogers said.

“We have features like our store locator and hours of operation. We also have features to modify your lists, manage your shopping list, and answer any frequently asked questions that you might have.”

The voice-based channels are enabled in part using a Google cloud-hosted service called Dialogflow, while the chat-based interface uses technology from a start-up, Inbenta.

The backend of Woolworths’ digital applications is largely microservices-based/containerised and “hosted within GKE” – Google Kubernetes Engine.

These then call on other services and sources of data to complete the customer’s request – a process facilitated with API gateway technology from Google-owned Apigee.

“We operate through Apigee to our backend services to find the data that we need to deliver the experience that we want, [and] funnel it back into applications in GKE which prepares it for delivery to the customer,” Rogers said.

“The key factor there is we have backend services that have our data that the customers want to have access to, and they want to be comfortable accessing that data. 

“They want to be able to interface with our business in the ways that they’re most easily available to them.”

Rogers demonstrated how different parts of a transaction could be completed in an integrated fashion using Olive and other Woolworths’ digital properties.

He used Google Home to talk to Olive to find location information and opening hours for his nearest Woolworths store.

He then used voice commands to add items to a “shopping list” – such as milk – before switching to Woolworths Online on his laptop to complete the order.

At a separate SAP conference in Sydney earlier this month, Olive was used to help customers arrange refunds for items that went missing or were damaged in transit.

The retailer has also previously discussed how Olive can be accessed by customers that hit the Customer Hub IVR seeking outage information about Woolworths’ digital services.

While much of the Olive experience is currently focused on Woolworths Online operations, the aim is for Olive to eventually handle information requests and customer problems from across its portfolio of retail brands.

“We want to make sure that it’s not just our Woolworths Online experience that they have access to Olive but also our BWS, Big W, Dan Murphy’s, our money and financial services,” Rogers said.

“We also want [customers] to be comfortable and connect to us in any way that they would like – over Facebook Messenger, Alexa, and digital assistants of any kind.”


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Motorola launches a $195 phone with a GoPro-like wide-angle action cam



Motorola launched its One Action phone in India today, with a dedicated wide-angle action camera. The brand, which once dominated India‘s mid-range segment with its G series of phones, has only just launched its third phone for the year in the country.

The phone starts at Rs 13,999 ($195), and has pretty standard budget-phone specifications. The only thing that’s remarkable about it is the action camera on the rear, which is meant to open video capture capabilities similar to what a GoPro might offer.

Specifications

  • Screen6.3-inch Full HD+ screen, 21:9 aspect ratio
  • Processor: Samsung Exynos 9609, clock speed up to 1.6 GHz
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Rear camera: 12-megapixel wide sensor with f/1.8 aperture + 16-megapixel ultrawide dedicated video camera sensor + 5-megapixel depth sensor
  • Front camera: 12-megapixel sensor with f/2.0 aperture
  • Battery: 4,500 mAh
  • Software: Android 9.0 Pie

The company says its wide-angle action cam will let you record videos vertically and play them back in landscape mode. Plus, there’s electronic image stabilization and pixel-binning to improve the quality of videos.

The phone’s in for a tough fight with Xiaomi’s Android One phone, the Mi A3, and the Realme 5 – both packing 48-megapixel main sensors on the rear. It’s hard to say at the moment if the action cam is enough for consumers to choose the One Action over the competition.

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Published August 23, 2019 — 08:29 UTC




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Akaso’s V50 Pro SE 4K action camera is a GoPro alternative at half the price



Akaso’s V50 Pro Special Edition action camera is a wallet-friendly little action shooter that punches well above its weight class. If you’ve been searching for a decent-quality 4K cam you can  use underwater, but you don’t want to spend GoPro money for it, keep reading.

The V50 Pro takes aim at the GoPro Hero 7 Black, but costs half as much. The Special Edition brings 4K video at 60 frames per second and more batteries and accessories to the table. And it’s worth mentioning that a portion of every sale benefits The Center For Outdoor Ethics’ “Leave No Trace” campaign.

Specifications:

  • Video Resolution: 4K@60FPS, 4K@30FPS, 2.7K@30FPS, 1080p@120FPS, 1080p@60FPS, 1080p@30FPS, 720p@240FPS, 720p@120FPS, 720p@60FPS
  • Video Format: MOV (H.264/AVC), MOV (H.265/HVEC)
  • Photo Resolution / Image Format: 20M JPEG
  • Dimensions: 60.2*41*31.5mm
  • Storage: MicroSD (up to 64GB)
  • Display: 2” LCD
  • Operation: Wrist-strap RF remote control, App via WiFI
  • Battery: 3 X 1100mAh
  • Audio: internal microphone, external microphone support
  • Mode features: Burst Photo/ Time Lapse Photo/ Time Lapse Video/ Slow Motion Movie/ Fast Motion Movie

I tested the V50 Pro SE in the Pacific Ocean to see how it dealt with waves and splashing in both video and photo modes. Akaso says that with the included case it’s waterproof for up to 39.6 meters (130 feet) which makes it useful for surfing, snorkeling, and some relatively shallow diving.

I had almost no complaints with the images or videos I captured. There were some definite oohs and aahs as I watched perfectly clear videos of ocean waves lashing out at and curling around the camera. And it handled still photos in total sunlight with aplomb.

The six-gyroscope image stabilization worked as well as any other similarly-priced camera I’ve used. I remained impressed throughout my testing with its ability to maintain focus and stability while being buffeted by water. I did not, however, test the V50 Pro’s chops with anything extreme like mountain biking or skydiving.



When I say I had almost no complaints, I did find it took a lot of trial-and-error to figure out whether the camera would focus on foreground, middle, or background subjects. It tended to lean towards the background in every mode I tried it in, but power-users will probably have better luck than I did.

In the looks department there’s nothing to write home about, but there’s also nothing objectionable. I dig its diminutive factor and the two-inch touchscreen is bright and responsive.

Another place the V50 let me down was in documentation. It’s packaged attractively in a stacked plastic display case that’s filled to the brim with accessories, but there’s not much in the way of instructions. I’m sure experienced action-cam operators can eyeball a glut of gear, but it took me a few minutes to figure out what was what.

It comes with standard fair in the form of tethers and straps, a helmet mount, the obligatory waterproof case, and a nifty wrist-strap remote control that eases one of the camera‘s other pain points: switching between shooting photo and video. Using the buttons on the camera itself you have to push one button to switch modes and another to start shooting in the new mode. This can get a bit confusing when you’re trying to capture a fleeting moment. Using the remote you can switch by pushing the relevant shutter button – it may be a subtle difference, but it’s a welcome one.

I didn’t spend much time with the camera‘s app – my phones aren’t waterproof – but I did put it through the paces just to make sure it wasn’t a problem. I couldn’t find anything not to like and the social media sharing options functioned as expected. If you like to share videos and images directly from your shooting apps it should suit your purposes.

I’m not a professional photographer by any means, but I consider myself an enthusiast. For the cost – just $154.99 on Amazon – the V50 SE has more value to me than anything GoPro sells. Don’t get me wrong, the V50 isn’t better overall. If the price difference is meaningless to you, get the GoPro: it remains unrivaled. You’ll get more robust live-streaming options, better image stabilization, and a camera that’s waterproof without a case.

But on sheer value prospect, you have to ask if you’re a professional user that simply can’t afford a slightly less-premium experience, or if the next best thing is good enough. The V50 Pro SE probably makes more sense for most people. You can also track down an older GoPro if the name brand is that important, but you’ll be running up against older specs and features.

I recommend the Akaso V50 Pro Special Edition to anyone just getting into 4K action cameras or looking to upgrade to something newer. It’s a steal at $154.99, you can pick yours up here. Otherwise, if you’re willing to come out of pocket a lot more, you can pick up a GoPro Hero 7 Black here.


This post includes affiliate links to products that you can buy online. If you purchase them through our links, we get a small cut of the revenue.

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Published August 13, 2019 — 20:57 UTC

Price
$
154.99

ProductV50 Pro Special Edition by Akaso




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SEC takes action against financial charlatan who operated a $14M fraudulent ICO



The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is taking action against a New York-based individual in an attempt to safeguard investor funds that were raised through an allegedly fraudulent initial coin offering (ICO).

The SEC filed a complaint yesterday against “self-described financial guru” Reginald Middleton and two of his companies, Veritaseum LLC and Veritaseum Inc.

In the complaint, the SEC is calling for emergency stop action to prevent Middleton from being able to access what remains of the funds he raised in the “VERI Token” ICO. At present, Middleton is in possession of $8 million worth of investor funds – the ICO originally raised $14.8 million.

Middleton ran the ICO during the infamous cryptocurrency bull run between mid 2017 and early 2018. According to the SEC, he raised funds by “making material misrepresentations and omissions about the unregistered securities they [his companies] offered: digital assets called “VERI Tokens,” “VERI,” or “Veritas.”

From here on in, the SEC‘s allegations against Middleton and his companies reads like a rap sheet of ICO clichés.

Middleton and his companies “knowingly misled investors about their prior business venture,” “touted outsized – but fictitious – investor demand for Veri,” and “claimed to have a product ready to generate millions of dollars of revenue, when no such product existed.” It all sounds eerily familiar, doesn’t it?

While Middleton tried to pass off VERI tokens as “software,” and even likened them to “gift cards” the SEC takes a different perspective – that VERI tokens are securities.

According to the SEC, the offering was illegal, “there was no registration statement filed or in effect for the offers and sales of VERI, and no exemption from registration applied.” In lay terms, Middleton failed to alert the SEC to his intention to sell a financial product.

What’s more, the document states that Middleton traded with VERI on an unnamed digital asset platform to artificially boost its price. In just one day of trading VERI, Middleton was able to pump the token’s price by 315 percent.

Earlier this month, SEC staff requested Middleton to voluntarily agree to refrain from selling or dissipating any of the remaining investor funds. Middleton and his associated companies declined, leading to the SEC’s current complaint.

Given the allegations stacked against him, and the SEC‘s long-running war against ICO’s as unregistered securities, the prognosis doesn’t look too good for Middleton.

H/T – Hindenburg Research

Published August 13, 2019 — 12:34 UTC




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Mark Karpelès faces US class action lawsuit over Mt Gox’s demise



Mark Karpelès, the ex-CEO of defunct cryptocurrency exchange Mt. Gox, will have to face a class-action lawsuit in Philadelphia about the notorious company‘s demise five years ago.

It comes after District Judge Robert Kelly threw out Karpelès’ request to dismiss the suit, which alleges he hid problems at the exchange from its users, Reuters reports.

The case was brought forward by Gregory Pearce, a former Mt. Gox customer, who is representing himself as well as other victims affected by the exchange‘s failure.

According to documents submitted in court, Pearce claims Karpelès was aware of “security bugs in the system but did not make these defects known to the public.”

Karpelès has been involved in several lawsuits over the years. In fact, back in March, he said he would appeal a court ruling, which found him guilty of manipulating the financial records of his embattled cryptocurrency exchange to conceal its massive losses.

By 2013 and into 2014, Mt. Gox was reportedly handling more than 70 percent of all Bitcoin transactions worldwide. When the company collapsed in early 2014, it said it lost almost 750,000 of its customersBitcoins, as well as around 100,000 of its own coins, a total sum of approximately $473 million near the time of the filing.

Published July 30, 2019 — 14:52 UTC




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