Friday Five: Google tracks our lockdown movements

Zone’s Ross Basham handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…

1. Google to track our lockdown movements

Google is to publicly track the movement of people during the coronavirus pandemic, showing the places they are visiting on a county-by-county basis in the UK, plus 130 other countries. The readings are based on location data gathered by Google Maps and other mobile services, but it insists individuals’ privacy will be preserved.

The readings will be broken down to reveal how busy places such as parks and train stations are compared with a time before the lockdown (eg retail and recreation sites were down 85% on 29 March). Google says it hopes the information could be used by public health chiefs to help manage the outbreak — and of course it will also help us see if the public is observing the lockdown properly.

2. Be smart with your home office lighting

Seeing as the vast majority of us are working from home right now, you’ve probably given your ‘home office’ some thought — a comfortable chair, raising your screen up to eye level and, if you’re me, trying to clear kids’ toys and food detritus away from your laptop. But have you considered the lighting properly?

Programmable smart lighting could make a big difference to your mood — the advice is to use cool, brighter light to help you wake up properly and stay alert during the day, then have your lights warm up (and thus be less bright) as you approach the end of the day to help you wind down. And try to let in some natural light, if you can.

3. LinkedIn striving to understand inequality

LinkedIn has published a paper that describes how it is keeping new features from promoting inequality. It is pairing product testing with economic metrics in order to reshape research and design practices across teams, increasing understanding of the underlying causes of inequality.

For example, an app update that runs more slowly on older devices may adversely affect some users, but won’t show up in a typical A/B test because it looks at ‘average users’. By including measures of inequality in its testing, LinkedIn hopes to understand the underlying causes and factor them in to future product decisions.

4. Adobe announces Digital Economy Index

At the first-ever virtual Adobe Summit on Tuesday, the company’s president and CEO, Shantanu Narayen (pictured), unsurprisingly highlighted the importance of digital at the moment. And to demonstrate the role tech is playing during the coronavirus crisis, he announced Adobe’s first Digital Economy Index (DEI).

The DEI is a real-time measure of the digital economy, analysing trillions of online transactions within 18 product categories. Between 1 January and 11 March, the index saw an 807% spike in sales for hand sanitiser, gloves, masks and anti-bac sprays, while toilet rolls sales went up 231%. So many people’s houses must have so much toilet paper in them right now…

5. Burger King tells us a Whopper (recipe)

Colonel Sanders may have vowed never to reveal the 11 secret herbs and spices in KFC’s chicken, but in these turbulent times Burger King has decided to help out Whopper lovers by giving them easy-to-understand pictorial directions so they can make their favourite burger at home.

The tweeted advert doesn’t actually give directions on how to make it (flame-grilling possibly isn’t the safest form of cooking) but it’s good thinking from agency Buzzman to keep Burger King front of mind, as going out for fast food is no doubt on many people’s ‘to-do-immediately’ list once this madness is over.

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