Friday Five: Space trips and TikTok’s parental controls

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

1. Sign up here if you fancy going into space…

Elon Musk’s spaceflight company SpaceX is planning to send four private citizens into space at the end of 2021 or in early 2022. It has announced an agreement with Space Adventures, a space tourism business that has helped seven members of the public visit the International Space Station on a Russian rocket.

Musk has been talking about space tourism for years, but has been too optimistic about when it would happen. Space X won’t disclose the price but it has said that the tourists will orbit the Earth on board the Dragon spacecraft. Of course, not everyone is enamoured with the thought of going into space, as this YouGov survey found…

2. Knock twice to log in as Ring gets protective

After a string of privacy issues, Amazon is making two-factor authentication mandatory for its Ring smart home security systems. The update sends the user a different six-digit code every time they log into their Ring account, and is the latest effort made by the company to prevent device hacks and data leaks.

Ring’s video doorbells and security cameras have proven very popular, allowing people to view and speak to visitors at their home through a mobile app. But it has been hit by negative headlines around data leaks and disturbing incidents such as a hacker being able to talk to an eight-year-old child inside her own bedroom.

3. Adidas turns to WhatsApp to reach fans

Despite Facebook’s decision to scrap the idea of running ads on WhatsApp, Adidas is ramping up its plans to use the platform as a direct marketing channel. The sportswear giant has been using WhatsApp to chat directly with customers for five years but, rather than building ‘hyper-local communities’ (the original plan), it’s now being seen as the main platform for global campaigns.

A recent example of the strategy was the “100% Unfair Predator” campaign, in which Adidas opened a WhatsApp hotline for football teams in need of an extra player — with Adidas-sponsored players then showing up to fill the gap (this video of Brazilian star Kaka got good traction on Twitter — not least because one of the players nutmegged him).

4. TikTok to give parents control over kids’ app

The Chinese social media video app TikTok is introducing a new ‘family safety mode’ designed to give parents more control over what their kids can see on the app. Parents can link their TikTok account to their child’s and turn features on and off remotely, including a ‘restricted mode’ and the ability to receive messages.

To be honest I don’t fully understand TikTok (it’s something to do with lip-syncing) but although it’s supposed to have a minimum age of 13, it’s hugely popular with kids (I keep telling my nine-year-old there is absolutely no chance of her having it yet). I guess the key thing is whether the ‘restricted mode’ actually works or not.

5. Met Office forecasts a £1.2bn supercomputer

Is it ever going to stop raining? (Actually, as I look out the window, it just has). Well, soon we’ll be able to know more accurately than ever if there’s going to be a break in the clouds, with the government about to invest £1.2bn in a forecasting supercomputer that will be the most advanced of its kind in the world.

Not only will it be able to help the Met Office predict severe weather on a more local level and select the most suitable locations for flood defences, it will also inform government policy as part of leading the fight against climate change and meeting emission targets. Can it also make the sun come out, please?

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