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Density’s Open Area radar tracks people in a space, precisely but anonymously

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Everyone in the world is rethinking shared spaces right about now, and part of that rethink is understanding how they’re used, minute by minute and day by day. Density’s tiny ceiling-mounted radar finds and tracks people unobtrusively but with great precision, letting the powers that be monitor every table, chair, and office.

Okay, in some ways that doesn’t sound great. But don’t worry, we’ll get to that.

Density began looking into creating large-scale people-monitoring tech after seeing the possibilities latent in its entryway-monitoring Entry device, which tracks people coming and going using infrared imagery. They settled on radar as a technology that has the range and precision to cover hundreds of square feet from a single point, but also lacks any capability of easily identifying someone.

That’s an important point, as many are wary of installing people-monitoring software on ordinary security cameras. The potential for abuse is high simply because the imagery is easy to match with identities. So while it may be cheaper to layer some computer vision on top of a regular camera, there are non-trivial risks and shortcomings.

Image Credits: Density

Not to mention few like the idea of security cameras watching over every desk and computer, able to read confidential documents and see every minute motion. The system Density has created is very much focused on presence — is someone in that chair? Is someone in that office? How many people are in this room?

The radar produces point clouds, but not the detailed ones you see in the lidar systems of self-driving cars. It really is more like a cloud than anything else — a small, upright cloud standing near the fridge in the office kitchen. When someone else comes in to grab a coffee, there’s another, separately tracked cloud. But there’s not enough detail to tell people apart, or, without careful scrutiny anyway, features like size or clothing.

A GIF showing a person sitting down at a desk and the radar point cloud of her.

Image Credits: Density

Of course you could track the clouds back to their desks and retroactively identify them, but really there’s no shortage of ways to track people now. Why install a new one that’s more useful for other things?

Because the data from something like this is certainly valuable. Cafes can watch occupancy rates of seats and A-B test different layouts; gyms can see which machines are used the most and require maintenance or cleaning; offices can repurpose unpopular meeting rooms or furniture; retail stores can find cold racks. The software that comes with the devices can also tell how far people are from each other, how long they tend to stay at various spots, and whether certain thoroughfares are used more than others.

A screenshot of the Density software in action.

The data is aggregated in real time, so a shared office space can easily tell — without asking or double-checking — which desks are empty and have been all morning. Restaurants similarly wouldn’t have their table counts at the host station lag behind reality. (As you can imagine these applications are primarily for non-pandemic times, but now may be the perfect chance to install the devices.)

Add a layout image to the real-time cloud and all of a sudden things get really real:

Image Credits: Density

Each of the Open Area sensors, which are about the size of a BLT, can cover 1,325 square feet from up to 20 feet off the ground. That’s a circle about 38-40 feet in diameter, into which you can fit a couple meeting rooms or about 20 desks. That’s more than competitive with overhead optical cameras, plus the privacy benefit.

If you’re curious how they look in a real office area, here’s a little “seek and find” puzzle for you. They’re hidden in each of the following office photos. I’ve put them in this gallery in order of difficulty.

Be ready for a bit of sticker shock at first, though. An Open Area sensor costs $399 and there’s a $199 yearly license fee for each one you use. So kitting out a decent size office will probably get you well into the five-figure range. Of course, anyone who runs a space that large knows the costs of things like doing space usage studies (people actually sitting there, watching who uses what) and other useful gear like badge-based entry.

“We’re an order of magnitude less expensive and an order of magnitude more useful,” said CEO Andrew Farah.

Density already counts some major enterprises among its customers, and while the entire office and retail world is being turned upside-down right now, tools like this are likely to figure into whatever comes next. Being smart about how you use a space not only saves money, it’s safer and probably makes for happier people in it.

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How to Deal With Anxiety Related to the Election and Polling Numbers, According to Nate Silver

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Illustration for article titled How to Deal With Anxiety Related to the Election and Polling Numbers, According to Nate Silver

Photo: Never Settle Media (Shutterstock)

At this time four years ago, polls indicated that Hillary Clinton had a 12-point lead over Donald Trump, giving many a false sense of security regarding the election results. Election Night champagne was purchased, and the Javits Center was filled with balloons under a literal glass ceiling in anticipation of the election of the first woman president in American history. And we know how that turned out.

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So now that most current polls have Joe Biden ahead of the incumbent president, it has the potential to increase the election-related anxiety many people have been experiencing for months (or, in some cases, since 2016). To help guide us through the next few weeks, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight has a few tips for handling poll-related anxiety.

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Don’t assume Biden is going to win

Sure, Biden may be ahead in the polls at the moment, and Democrats appear to be doing well in early voting, but that doesn’t mean he has it in the bag. According to Silver, Trump currently has a 12 percent chance of winning the Electoral College. Even if that continues to decline over the next few weeks—say, to a 5% chance—that’s still something to take seriously in a race where the stakes are this high.

And if Biden does win, that doesn’t mean this is all over: the outcomes of the Congressional races—as well as those for statewide office—will have a major impact on our political future.

But also don’t completely discredit the polls

Strictly based on the difference between some of the polls leading up to the 2016 presidential election and the actual election results, it can be easy to simply write polls off as ineffective and pointless. But Silver cautions against this:

Polling is an imperfect instrument, more so in some years than others. However, 2016 — while far from a banner year from the polls — was not quite so bad as some critics assume. The national polls were pretty good, and Trump’s wins in the swing states were not that surprising based on the close margins in those states beforehand. Meanwhile, 2018, with the midterms, was one of the more accurate years for polling on record.

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Try not to obsess over 2016

Clearly, this is easier said than done, but Silver says that some comparisons between 2016 and 2020 are misguided. For starters, we shouldn’t draw any absolute conclusions based on a sample size of one election (no matter how devastating the consequences have been). Also, even if the current polls are wrong, Silver says that it’s still possible for Biden to win the election. Plus, there’s no guarantee that polling errors would favor Trump the way they did four years ago.

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Wait for polling averages

Sometimes, the results of a single poll can be pretty startling—which is why Silver recommends waiting for data on polling averages (coincidentally, like the ones provided by FiveThirtyEight):

But while there is such a thing as underreacting to news developments, the more common problem in the last days of a campaign is false positives, with partisans and the media trying to hype big swings in the polls when they actually show a fairly steady race.

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In other words, if you see a poll with results you find upsetting, wait until you’re able to put them in context with other polls, rather than panicking right away.

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US charges six Russian intelligence officers with hacking Ukraine, 2018 Olympics, and Skripal investigation

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The Justice Department has charged six Russian intelligence officers with involvement in an extensive hacking campaign, including the notorious Petya ransomware attacks that targeted Ukraine in 2015. According to the indictment, the efforts also targeted the country of Georgia, the French elections, the 2018 winter Olympics, and investigations into the poisoning of former Russian military officer Sergei Skripal.

Many of the specific incidents in the indictment have been previously reported, but no law enforcement agency has publicly charged Russia’s GRU with orchestrating the attacks. Russia’s primary military intelligence agency, the GRU has previously been associated with a wide range of cyberattacks dubbed “Fancy Bear” by private-sector researchers. In this case, prosecutors even pin the operation down to a specific GRU building located at 22 Kirova Street in Moscow, which the indictment refers to as “the Tower.”

The indictment follows previous prosecutions concerning GRU campaigns against the 2014 Olympics or the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 campaign. One of the six defendants, Anatoliy Kovalev, was also named in the DNC indictments. But Monday’s indictment reaches further, alleging an international campaign of cyberattacks and political influence campaigns to further Russian national interests.

The most devastating of the attacks came against Ukrainian power grids in 2015. The first attack compromised internal networks at all three of the country’s major energy distribution companies, rendering computers inoperable and leaving more than 200,000 people without power in the dead of winter. The following year, a subsequent attack was launched against the country’s Ministry of Finance and State Treasury Service.

As with previous indictments against foreign hackers, Russia is unlikely to extradite the defendants, and it is unlikely that they will ever stand trial. Nonetheless, the new prosecution is a significant milestone in the ongoing efforts to hold the GRU accountable for its digital attacks.

The indictment is the result of more than two years of investigation by the FBI, a point that was emphasized by agents who worked on the case. “The exceptional talent and dedication of our teams in Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Oklahoma City who spent years tracking these members of the GRU is unmatched,” said Michael Christman, FBI special agent in charge of the Pittsburgh field office, in a statement. “These criminals underestimated the power of shared intelligence, resources and expertise through law enforcement, private sector and international partnerships.”

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Juniper Networks acquires Boston-area AI SD-WAN startup 128 Technology for $450M

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Today Juniper Networks announced it was acquiring smart wide area networking startup 128 Technology for $450 million.

This marks the second AI-fueled networking company Juniper has acquired in the last year and a half after purchasing Mist Systems in March 2019 for $405 million. With 128 Technology, the company gets more AI SD-WAN technology. SD-WAN is short for software-defined wide area networks, which means networks that cover a wide geographical area such as satellite offices, rather than a network in a defined space.

Today, instead of having simply software-defined networking, the newer systems use artificial intelligence to help automate session and policy details as needed, rather than dealing with static policies, which might not fit every situation perfectly.

Writing in a company blog post announcing the deal, executive vice president and chief product officer Manoj Leelanivas sees 128 Technology adding great flexibility to the portfolio as it tries to transition from legacy networking approaches to modern ones driven by AI, especially in conjunction with the Mist purchase.

“Combining 128 Technology’s groundbreaking software with Juniper SD-WAN, WAN Assurance and Marvis Virtual Network Assistant (driven by Mist AI) gives customers the clearest and quickest path to full AI-driven WAN operations — from initial configuration to ongoing AIOps, including customizable service levels (down to the individual user), simple policy enforcement, proactive anomaly detection, fault isolation with recommended corrective actions, self-driving network operations and AI-driven support,” Leelanivas wrote in the blog post.

128 Technologies was founded in 2014 and raised over $97 million, according to Crunchbase data. Its most recent round was a $30 million Series D investment in September 2019 led by G20 Ventures and The Perkins Fund.

In addition to the $450 million, Juniper has asked 128 Technology to issue retention stock bonuses to encourage the startup’s employees to stay on during the transition to the new owners. Juniper has promised to honor this stock under the terms of the deal. The deal is expected to close in Juniper’s fiscal fourth quarter subject to normal regulatory review.

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