Water affects all of us, no matter where we live. Drought harms everyone, from farmers in the western United States dealing with long-term drought, to people in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan suffering debilitating health consequences from the Aral Sea draining, to millions of people displaced by floods in Kerala, India. About four billion people, or almost two-thirds of the world’s population, experience severe water scarcity at least one month of the year.
Water, critical to daily life, and a key priority in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 6), has proven difficult for most countries to measure. In 2017, of the roughly 200 United Nations Environment member countries, 80 percent of them were unable to provide fundamental national statistics. Even still, many knew substantial changes were happening.
Today, on World Water Day, we’re proud to showcase a new platform enabling all countries to freely measure and monitor when and where water is changing: UN’s Water-Related Ecosystems, or sdg661.app. Released last week in Nairobi at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), the app provides statistics for every country’s annual surface water (like lakes and rivers). It also shows changes from 1984 through 2018 through interactive maps, graphs and full-data downloads.
This project is only possible because of the unique partnerships between three very different organizations. In 2016, European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) and Google released the Global Surface Water Explorer in tandem with a publication in “Nature.” An algorithm developed by the JRC to map water was run on Google Earth Engine. The process took more than 10 million hours of computing time, spread across more than 10,000 computers in parallel, a feat that would have taken 600 years if run on a modern desktop computer. But the sheer magnitude of the high resolution global data product tended to limit analysis to only the most tech savvy users and countries.The new app, created in partnership with United Nations Environment, aims to make this water data available to everyone. Working with member countries to understand their needs, it features smaller, more easily manageable tables and maps at national and water body levels. Countries can compare data with one another, and for the first time gain greater understanding of the effects of water policy, and infrastructure like dams, diversions, and irrigation practices on water bodies that are shared across borders.
Today, countries have very different capacities when it comes to monitoring their waters. Countries with substantial existing resources have found the app results align closely with their current methods, and are evaluating using this new data source, which will enable them to reallocating resources toward other priorities in the future. For countries that have never had this information, the app provides free, scientifically validated data, that will now inform their environmental policies. For the first time ever, we have a globally consistent way of measuring water and its changes over time. And it’s accessible to everyone.
The UN’s theme for this year’s World Water Day is “Leaving no one behind,” and we’re working to do just that. Google platforms are playing an important role to help every country better understand their own environment and resources, so we can all design for a sustainable world.
Editor’s Note: Do you ever feel like a fish out of water? Try being a tech novice and talking to an engineer at a place like Google. Ask a Techspert is a new series on the Keyword asking Googler experts to explain complicated technology for the rest of us. This isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but just enough to make you sound smart at a dinner party.
Growing up, I was taught to say “Schottenfels residence” when answering the phone. It was the polite way of doing things. When the phone rang, it was usually family, friends and, yes, the occasional telemarketer on the other side of the line. Then things changed. Personal calls moved to mobile phones, and the landline became the domain of robocalls. My cell was a sanctuary, free of the pesky automated dialers that plague the landlines of yore. Until recently.
Today, it feels like the only phone calls I get are spam calls. And I know I’m not alone. According to a recent Google survey, half of respondents received at least one spam call per day, and one third received two or more per day.
And people are answering those calls. More than one third of respondents worry that a call from an unknown number is a call about a loved one, and another third think it could be a call from a potential loved one, so they pick up. And almost everyone agrees: Spam calls are the worst. In fact, 75 percent of those surveyed think spam calls are more annoying than spam texts or emails.
So what’s the deal with spam calls? And how can we stop them from happening? For the latest edition of Ask a Techspert, I spoke to Paul Dunlop, the product manager for the Google Phone App, to better understand why, all of the sudden, spam calls are happening so frequently, and what tools, like Pixel’s Call Screen feature, you can use to avoid the headache.
According to Paul, voice-over IP (VoIP) is the culprit. These are phone calls made using the web instead of a traditional telephone line, and today they're cheaper and easier than ever to use. “Using VoIP technology, spammers place phone calls over the Internet and imitate a different phone number,” Paul says. “It used to be that they had a fixed number, and you could block that number. Now with VoIP, spammers have the ability to imitate any phone number.” Paul says this became possible when companies, which wanted to call customers from call centers, made it so one general 1-800 number for a business showed up on caller IDs. So what started as a common-sense solution ended up becoming an easy loophole for spammers.
This is called spoofing, and there’s nothing in phone systems—the infrastructure of telephones—that can prevent spam callers from imitating numbers. “You can actually be spammed by your own phone number,” Paul says. “But the most common is neighborhood spam, using your area code and the first three digits of your phone number, which increases the likelihood you’ll answer.”
Enter Call Screen, a feature on Pixel phones that helps protect you from spam calls by giving you more information before you decide to answer. Before you have to pick up, Call Screen asks the caller to say why they’re calling and, with the help of the Google Assistant, translates the message into text so you can decide whether or not to answer. All of this happens “on device,” meaning it protects your privacy while it makes sure you get the message as fast as possible.
“Call Screen gives you that bit of protection from those spam calls, and helps you make sure you don’t miss those really important calls,” Paul explains. “It’s only one piece of the puzzle though.”
But what about the problem of spam calls at large? Paul and other industry techsperts look to technology called STIR/SHAKEN to address that spoof phone number technology, which the FTC is in the process of approving. And, yes, they are acronyms: STIR for “Secure Telephone Identity Revisited” and SHAKEN for “Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs.”
This new technology allows cell phone networks to authenticate calls by validating that the number associated with each phone call is legitimate. You can then know that the caller is a real person using a real phone number.
According to our survey respondents, spam calls are the worst type of call you can get. With new advances in technology, however, the number two most annoying group of callers—exes —might just take the top spot.
When I was growing up, reading the news meant thumbing through the local paper every week on my way to the Sunday comics section. These days, staying up-to-date on world events looks a little different: I skim email newsletters, scroll through social media feeds, occasionally pick up a magazine, and of course, read Google News.
As newsrooms around the world keep up with these changes, there’s one team at Google thinking about how technology can help build the future of media: the News Lab. To mark the one-year anniversary of the Google News Initiative, I sat down with News Lab’s director and cofounder, Olivia Ma, for today’s She Word interview. Here’s what I learned—straight from the source—about why Olivia set out on this career path, how she stays focused in a world where the news never sleeps and what she’s reading outside of the office.
How do you explain your job at a dinner party?
As the mother of two young kids, I don’t make it to that many dinner parties these days. But if I find myself at a table filled with adults, I’d tell them this: I lead a team at Google called News Lab that works with newsrooms across the globe to help them navigate the transition to a digital future.
In the early days of News Lab, we focused on training journalists to use our products that helped them tell stories, such as Google Trends and Google Earth. Now, we immerse ourselves in the needs of journalists, publishers and news consumers so that our engineering teams can build better products. Every day we work to answer the question: How can technology play a role in helping newsrooms grow their audiences and build sustainable businesses?
What initially drew you to journalism?
My dad spent his career working as a journalist at publications like Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report and The Washington Post. As a kid, my class would visit his office to learn about how magazines and newspapers were printed—the old fashioned way, with ink and paper.
It wasn’t until college that I also caught the journalism bug, and I decided to dedicate my career to tackling the tricky challenges facing the news industry. By that time, my dad had started working at The Washington Post where he helped transition the newspaper online. Up until he passed away in 2011 we’d talk about what we thought journalism would look like in the digital age. I’m honored to continue his legacy—albeit from a different vantage point.
How did your parents’ advice and careers leave an impression on you?
Truthfulness and objectivity were important values in my household. My parents taught us to always approach thorny issues with an unfiltered lens, and to gather as much information as possible and see all sides of the story before making a judgment call. Growing up, my brother, dad and mom were always discussing and debating things around the kitchen table. To this day, we still engage in intellectual sparring over what’s happening in the news. No matter how heated our discussions get, we all come out better informed.
Your career has centered around two things that you are passionate about: journalism and technology. What’s your advice to others looking to do the same?
Be patient as you grow your career. The path isn’t always going to be obvious or linear, and sometimes you need to wait for opportunities to emerge.
I feel incredibly lucky that I found something I’m personally passionate about, and that I’ve had opportunities at Google to pursue it. However, there were times when my career wasn’t accelerating as fast as it could have. I almost jumped off of the track that I was on so that I could grow my career in a more traditional sense. I learned to be patient and wait for the right opportunities. Sometimes I waited longer than I would have liked, but in the end it all worked out.
Who has been a strong female influence in your life?
My mom is my role model. She built a career as a lawyer and worked throughout my entire childhood, but I never felt for a moment that I wasn’t getting enough time or attention from her. l look to her for guidance as I try to follow a similar path and balance raising two young daughters with work.
When I have tough days I call my mom, and she is able to give me the perspective of someone who had a long, successful career while raising two happy kids. I know that in the end, it’s all a balancing act, and it’s okay to try and do both.
What’s one habit that helps you be successful?
Right now I’m trying a new habit. I start each week with a list of three to five things that I have to get done or make progress on. These are usually long-term projects where I can add the most value. Sometimes it can feel like pushing a boulder up a hill, but that’s usually a better use of my time than just rolling pebbles around—which can be tempting!
Having this priority list helps me focus my attention on moving boulders and knowing when to say no to the pebbles. And then, anything else I get done that week feels like a cherry on top!
What do you read for fun?
Obviously I’m a big fan of Google News. However, I’m also a fan of email newsletters that have an expert with a clear and engaging voice who curate stories. My current favorites are “The Idea” from The Atlantic, which is a weekly newsletter focused on the business of media, and The Washington Post’s “Daily 202,” which is jam packed with current events and is helpful if you want to look smart at the dinner party.
Otherwise, I read novels that are totally unrelated to my job. I’m currently reading an absolutely fascinating and gripping memoir called “Educated” by Tara Westover, which chronicles the life of a woman whose family didn’t believe in western medicine or formalized schooling.
Posted by Wojtek Kaliciński, Developer Advocate, Android
Last year, we launched Android App Bundles and Google Play's Dynamic Delivery to introduce modular development, reduce app size and streamline the release process. Since then, we've seen developers quickly adopt this new app model in over 60,000 production apps. We've been excited to see developers experience significant app size savings and reductions in the time needed to manage each release, and have documented these benefits in case studies with Duolingo and redBus.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to give us feedback on our initial launch. We're always open to new ideas, and today, we're happy to announce some new improvements based on your suggestions:
When you adopt the Android App Bundle as the publishing format for your app, Google Play is able to optimize the installation by delivering only the language resources that match the device's system locales. If a user changes the system locale after the app is installed, Play automatically downloads the required resources.
Some developers choose to decouple the app's display language from the system locale by adding an in-app language switcher. With the latest release of the Play Core library (version 1.4.0), we're introducing a new additional languages API that makes it possible to build in-app language pickers while retaining the full benefits of smaller installs provided by using app bundles.
With the additional languages API, apps can now request the Play Store to install resources for a new language configuration on demand and immediately start using it.
The app can get a list of languages that are already installed using the
val splitInstallManager = SplitInstallManagerFactory.create(context) val langs: Set<String> = splitInstallManager.installedLanguages
Requesting an additional language is similar to requesting an on demand module. You can do this by specifying a language in the request through
val installRequestBuilder = SplitInstallRequest.newBuilder() installRequestBuilder.addLanguage(Locale.forLanguageTag("pl")) splitInstallManager.startInstall(installRequestBuilder.build())
The app can also monitor install success with callbacks and monitor the download state with a listener, just like when requesting an on demand module.
Remember to handle the
SplitInstallSessionStatus.REQUIRES_USER_CONFIRMATION state. Please note that there was an API change in a recent Play Core release, which means you should use the new
SplitInstallManager#startConfirmationDialogForResult() together with
Activity#onActivityResult(). The previous method of using
startIntentSender() has been deprecated.
Check out the updated Play Core Library documentation for more information on how to access the newly installed language resources in your activity.
We've also updated our dynamic features sample on GitHub with the additional languages API, including how to store the user's language preference and apply it to your activities at startup.
Please note that while the additional languages API is now available to all developers, on demand modules are in a closed beta for the time being. You can experiment with on demand modules in your internal, open, and closed test tracks, while we work with our partners to make sure this feature is ready for production apps.
In Android Studio 3.3, we introduced a way to build app bundles that contain both the regular, installed version of your app as well as a Google Play Instant experience for modules marked with the
dist:instant="true" attribute in their
<manifest ... xmlns:dist="http://schemas.android.com/apk/distribution"> <dist:module dist:instant="true" /> ... </manifest>
Even though you could use a single project to generate the installed and instant versions of your app, up until now, developers were still required to use product flavors in order to build two separate app bundles and upload both to Play.
We're happy to announce that we have now removed this restriction. It's now possible to upload a single, unified app bundle artifact, containing modules enabled for the instant experience. This functionality is now available for everyone.
After you build an instant-enabled app bundle, upload it to any track on the Play Console, and you'll be able to select it when creating a new instant app release. This also means that the installed and instant versions of your app no longer need different version codes, which will simplify the release workflow.
You need to enable app signing by Google Play to publish your app using an Android App Bundle and automatically benefit from Dynamic Delivery optimizations. It is also a more secure way to manage your signing key, which we recommend to everyone, even if you want to keep publishing regular APKs for now.
Based on your feedback, we've revamped the sign-up flow for new apps to make it easier to initialize the key you want to use for signing your app.
Now developers can explicitly choose to upload their existing key without needing to upload a self-signed artifact first. You can also choose to start with a key generated by Google Play, so that the key used to locally sign your app bundle can become your upload key.
We have now added the ability to permanently uninstall dynamic feature modules that are included in your app's initial install.
This is a behavior change, which means you can now call the existing
SplitInstallManager#deferredUninstall() API on modules that set
onDemand="false". The module will be permanently uninstalled, even when the app is updated.
This opens up new possibilities for developers to further reduce the installed app size. For example, you can now uninstall a heavy sign-up module or any other onboarding content once the user completes it. If the user navigates to a section of your app that has been uninstalled, you can reinstall it using the standard on demand modules install API.
We hope you enjoy these improvements and test them out in your apps. Continue to share your feedback as we work to make these features even more useful for you!
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