Friday Five: New app helps NHS staff request PPE

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

1. New app helps NHS staff report PPE shortage

A new web-based app is enabling NHS staff to report personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages. Frontline.Live was launched last Saturday and allows staff to tweet the items they need, such as masks, goggles and gowns. The PPE requests are plotted on a real-time map that can be viewed by policymakers and suppliers.

The app is a collaboration between technologists, social enterprise founders and volunteers, and was initiated after they identified 25,000 tweets last month from NHS staff about PPE shortages. Those working in care homes and sheltered housing can also make requests through the app.

2. Google releases virtual Braille keyboard

Google has created a virtual Braille keyboard for Android that requires no new hardware. Previously, blind or severely vision impaired people needed a physical Braille computer in order to type out messages, but the new TalkBack keyboard will allow them to rattle off a quick reply using just their phones.

Google says its team collaborated with Braille users and developers to come up with the feature, and the keyboard should be familiar to any Braille users. Google’s other Android accessibility features for the visually impaired include the ability to get spoken feedback on your actions and having your notifications read out loud.

3. Pinterest brings in direct shopping from pins

With so many people at home right now, searches for shopping inspiration and supporting small businesses are on the rise. So Pinterest has announced it wants to make it easier for Pinners to explore products and discover new brands while bringing traffic to retailers both big and small.

So it is introducing new ways to shop directly from pins, on boards, from search and through new browsable recommendations for home decor. Apparently 97% of the top searches on Pinterest are unbranded, meaning people come to shop for generic terms, so it is levelling the playing field for businesses of all sizes to be discovered.

4. Apple tool shows if people are staying home

Apple has released a tool that shows how many people in a region are staying at home during the coronavirus lockdown. It gathers anonymised data from Apple Maps users to show trends in movement. Google has already released a similar tool, while Facebook has developed a movement tool only available to health agencies.

Apple and Google are also working together on a new contact-tracing technology that uses Bluetooth on smartphones to alert people when they’ve come into contact with someone who has Covid-19. However, that technology isn’t likely to be available for several months.

5. Add a touch of llama to your Zoom meeting

With every crisis comes an opportunity, and an animal sanctuary in Silicon Valley has spotted a novel way to recover some of the revenue it has lost because of coronavirus. For less than $100, you can request a cameo appearance in your video chat from Sweet Farm’s llamas, goats and other farm animals.

The project is called Goat 2 Meeting, and since its inception in mid-March more than 300 requests have been made, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups. Llamas are by far the most popular choice, apparently, although their ideas on how to increase revenue can be a bit woolly…

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