R3 Publishes a New Post-quantum Signature Algorithm Tailored to Blockchains

You might have noticed a few external tweets and reddit posts mentioning that the Corda team has recently announced a new digital signature scheme that unlike RSA and ECDSA, it will remain secure even against a powerful quantum computer. Indeed, our protocol, BPQS, has been published and presented to the IEEE Blockchain 2018 conference which was held in Halifax, Canada a week ago. You can find a copy of the paper in this IACR link.

Note that this post is as less technical as possible and it mainly focuses on: a) presenting why quantum computers pose a threat to classical cryptographyb) showing why we need to explore quantum resistant algorithms before its too latec) highlighting the false impression that a hashed key policy is immune against quantum attacksd) explaining why BPQS is a great candidate protocol for post-quantum secure blockchains* Please read and study the BPQS paper if you want to dive into the cryptographic details on how it actually works and feel free to contact any of the authors for clarifications and potential research collaboration opportunities.It is also true that this work gained the attention of many researchers, blockchain engineers, industry leaders and HSM (hardware wallet) vendors from all over the world and I got really happy, when after our presentation, and especially the following day, I received more than 50 questions for which I had to draw multiple diagrams and modified Merkle-trees on notebooks and whiteboards in order to explain how BPQS works to excited academics and software developers. Well, this is just the beginning of a new collaboration era for R3 with strong connections to academia and probably joint industry research on hot cryptographic topics.

So, how it all begun and what is the secret recipe that makes the BPQS paper unique? To make it clear, its not the first scheme that provides post-quantum guarantees, we didnt even invent a new cryptographic hardness assumption. So whats the trick?

I will just quote three of the reviewers comments:the idea is fresh and interesting in particular with respect to blockchain applications, amazingly, the blockchain structure itself can be used to minimise signature size and worth referencing when consider how to improve the blockchain to be quantum resistant.Quantum ComputersBefore we explain the superiority of BPQS and why it was likely to be invented by a blockchain company, like R3, lets first take a quick look at current state of the art. I am also highlighting that when we hear the word post-quantum it usually implies an algorithm that still runs on conventional CPUs, however it is carefully designed in a way that we dont know of any quantum algorithm that can break it (yet).

Well, we should better say quantum-resistant, but literature usually refers to it as post-quantum, so we stick to it.The threat quantum computers pose to classical cryptography has increased the interest in post-quantum research; this is obvious from the increased number of articles dealing with either quantum-based or quantum-resistant solutions. More specifically, due to Shors algorithm, a quantum computer could easily factor a big integer in polynomial time, thus effectively break RSA in seconds.

Implementations of Shors algorithm can also solve discrete logarithms and render todays digital signatures, such as DSA, ECDSA and EdDSA, useless.10 years ago there was little evidence of practical quantum computers. But the race has already begun.

In 2018, Google unveiled Bristlecone, a new quantum computing chip with 72 qubits, 22 more than the 50-qubit processor announced by IBM in 2017. We should also mention D-Wave, a company that recently announced a 2000-qubit processor optimised for quantum annealing metaheuristics; however, there are reports that D-Waves quantum speedup analysis is debatable. To summarise, even though more research and experiments are required to allow for stable quantum chips with low error and noise rates, it is a fact that quantum technology is progressing.

The reality is we have yet to build a computer with the thousands of stable logical qubits required to make classical public key cryptography obsolete. However, some optimistic predictions estimate that a large quantum computer capable of breaking asymmetric cryptography might be available in the next 10 to 20 years. Im personally more conservative and it might take a bit more than that, but I would highlight that research is driven by market requirements for more time-efficient computing and the ability to solve problems that were previously considered impracticable and human intelligence usually surprises us.

If the quantum-apocalypse ever happens, the security impact of breaking public key cryptography would be tremendous, as almost everything from HTTPS, VPN and PKI in general, is basing their authentication, key exchange and digital signatures on classical cryptography. Blockchains would be hit equally hard, and would perhaps be one of the most affected sectors due to direct and untraceable economic incentives.So, why R3 is exploring post-quantum?

Corda is probably the most cryptographically agile blockchain/DLT and since early 2017, users have the option to choose between multiple signing key-types including RSA, ECDSA, EdDSA and SPHINCS. Note that EdDSA is currently the default scheme in Corda, mainly due to its efficiency and security against side-channel attacks. You might not be familiar with the last scheme though, SPHINCS, which is a quantum resistant algorithm, whose construction and security are completely based on hash functions and nothing else; no elliptic curves, no prime numbers, no special maths.

Many of you might not know, but Corda is one of the first blockchains where obsessed with security users can sign transactions with post-quantum secure keys. Well, this would make sense especially for long-term contracts, like mortgages and pension schemes. In short, post-quantum algorithms are usually a candidate option in cases where assets should remain locked or inactive for dozens of years.

But, why not use SPHINCS for every transaction? Because there are two major caveats that make it impractical for many blockchain applications: a) its relatively slow signing speed and b) its 41KB signature output. Its true there have been various attempts in the literature to optimise SPHINCS and we know how to produce shorter signatures by using stateful hash-based solutions, such as XMSS and its variants.

We went a step further so as to build an efficient post-quantum scheme tailored to blockchains that we could use in Corda and also influence HSM vendors to eventually support post-quantum solutions for demanding customers and applications.BPQS is actually a modified XMSS protocol, best suited to two types of application requirements:a) when signing keys are used once or just a few times (i. e.

, 3 times). The most common example is one-time addresses, which is the recommended approach in public blockchainsand b) when there is an underlying immutable graph structure which can serve the role of a global cache, independently on how many times a key is reused. For instance, in permissioned blockchains some entities are known to sign with the same legal-identity key again and again, i.

e., notaries or oracles.Ah, forgot to mention that the crypto agility feature is one of the differentiation factors between Corda and other distributed ledgers.

For some reason we dont advertise it a lot, but one can practically build a new post-quantum token or secure critical contracts requiring multiple signature key-types. The latter is possible via the CompositeKey feature in Corda, where you can apply a belts and braces approach and simultaneously sign a transaction with multiple keys, such as ECDSA, RSA and BPQS, so that all of these algorithms should break for your assets to be stolen. A similar combined method was recently explored by Google in their CECPQ1 post-quantum cipher suite TLS experiments.

The misconception: hashed keys to the rescue for existing blockchains, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.Most blockchains mitigate the quantum threat by using addresses that are generated from cryptographic hashes of the public keys. This additional layerof security means that a public key only gets exposed to the ledger after the first transaction that it participates in occurs (i.

e. , when a Bitcoin is spent). Until this point, only the hashed recipient key (the address) is exposed and consequently attacks such as Shors algorithm are not applicable at this stage.

However, the following attack vectors are still applicable, even when hashed keys are utilised:In short, users tend to reuse their keys on purpose, by mistake or some times because they dont have other options. The most interesting example is forked blockchains, where the same key holds assets in two or more chains and at the time you spend on one of them, the public key gets exposed. In-flight transactions and transaction mixing also reveal the public keys for a few moments, and this time-window will be more than enough to derive the private key when a proper quantum computer gets available.

Hash-Based Signature schemesBPQS is a hash-based signature and as such, it uses one-time signature (OTS) schemes as a fundamental building block. Unlike most other signature schemes, OTS requires only a secure cryptographic hash function and no other hardness assumption (about a number-theoretic problem) and is not known to be vulnerable to Shors algorithm. Secure here refers to either hash collision resistance or mere second pre-image resistance, depending on the specific one-time signature used.

Common examples of one-time signature schemes are the seminal one by Lamport, the Winternitz scheme and its recent variant W-OTS. In one-time signatures, the private key consists of randomly generated values and the public key is a function of the private key, involving the underlying hash function. The picture below depicts a very basic voting example where I want to sign one bit of information using Lamports algorithm.

Briefly,a) I initially generate two random values and I use them as my private key (in this picture 2cf24dba5fb0 and ab321687ddf1, respectively).b) Then, I hash both values independently and the resulted outputs form my public key (f3287632cd32 and 90fffe215668). c) I then publish my two public key parts and we all agree that the left part will correspond to bitValue=0 (i.

e., if my vote is NO), while the one on the right corresponds to bitValue=1 (i.e.

, if my vote is YES).d) Now, when I actually submit my vote, I will reveal one of the two private keys depending on my choice. As I am the only person who knows these two values, if I publish ab321687ddf1, then every verifier can check that it corresponds to my right public key part, so they can be convinced I voted YES.

If we use the same logic for extra bits of information, we will eventually be able to sign any message. There is an excellent post that explains with easy to follow diagrams how the major hash-based signature schemes work, thus, if you want to learn more, visit this link. For the time being, Im not getting into the low-level cryptographic details.

But, I need to mention that OTS, as its name states, are inadequate on their own in practice, since each one-time private key can only be used to securely sign a single message. Hm weve already mentioned we might need to reuse a key and sign a second message. Now what?

Blockchained Post-Quantum SignaturesUnfortunately, each time we reuse an OTS key, the advertised bits of security are reduced to half (on average). Surprisingly, there are existing blockchains that assume one-time is enough, which is obviously wrong. IOTA is such an example, and it has been reported that some wallets do not allow you to sign for a second time with the same key.

The latter results to asset freezing if for instance the first transaction never goes through. Im wondering what is the plan in case of a fork, in which case it will be inevitable that one needs to sign at least two times.Although there are extensions of the simple OTS schemes to allow for multiple times signing, such as SPHINCS, they are not that fast and succinct, while in some cases key generation is very expensive.

However, in blockchains, most of the times we need to sign once and in rare cases we need to reuse a key. But because these are exceptional cases, we realised we dont really need the complexity of schemes like SPHINCS and XMSS, but a fallback key, which will be activated only when we need to sign again.BPQS is actually a chain/path of fallback keys.

This way, we always need 2 OTS keys and nothing more. One of them is used to sign the actual message (transaction). The other is the fallback key that will sign a new set of 2 OTS keys and so onAnd what if for any reason I need to sign thousands of times?

Here is the magic behind BPQS, if you signed in the past and it has been recorded in the blockchain, just provide a link to the block that contains your authentication path. Due to above trick, each signature remains very short as previous paths are delegated to existing blocks (which are already verified so no extra computations). Permissioned blockchains, like Corda, can benefit a lot from the BPQS approach, because notaries and oracles need to sign multiple times with their legal identity keys.

If post-quantum security is a requirement, BPQS should definitely be considered. We will keep you updated for any news related to BPQS and I am pretty sure you will hear again from our research team in the next few months, as the hype of BPQS and its potential extensions for use in IoT and Zero Knowledge Proofs seem very very very promising RELATED QUESTION What is your honest opinion about the YouTuber Morgz? He is worthless scum that is always yelling, says you could win an Iphone but never declares a winner, and constantly steals from other Youtubers, overly so by using very similar thumbnails and word for word titles.

He mostly copies MrBeast though. MrBeast posts a video then a month or two later he posts the same video. He does money challenges with his family showing stacks of money saying its whatever amount he thinks is good, but always shows the money from the side so you don't know whether it's all hundreds but it isn't even the amount he says seeing how he says dollars but he lives in the UK.

So if he says $10,000 it's more like 7,989 British pound or if he says $20,000 it's more like 15,979 British pounds and that's not including the exchange rate to get it to British pounds. He uses click bait to get kids to watch his videos making them think they might see some nudity or actual drama by adding Gone Wrong. He even used this: Making people think his mom had sex with him, which was a lie then changed the title later after it got enough views.

He does bullshit challenges such as: 24 hours in an inflatable park - if you watch this one at one point Martin gets caught by security and escorted out and then at 21:32 you can see Martin And Security Guard just standing 20 feet away looking right at him, which shows that the place was open and not closed like they stated. Constantly saying that its 5 am which is bullshit. Lying about finding $100,000 in an abandoned chest.

Always constantly stealing others content. *Yes I know Killem uses some of MrBeast content but he at least gives props to him, which Morgz doesnt do. The biggest issue I have with him is that all his videos are heavily scripted, which you can tell by his horrible acting and product placement of his shit merchandise.

You cant offer up a cash prize if the whole thing is scripted, there is no stakes of whether he will lose money. And I highly believe any of his videos that say he will buy everything thats drawn, told to buy, what you spell I buy, or I bought everything in the mall is all returned. You get a good look at his house frequently but never see anything he as bought in past videos.

And the bit that makes him worse scum than Jabba the Hutt is his constant putting his crap merchandise into every video. Such as: A pause challenge where he paused his mom while she was ironing a shirt, she was freaking out like it was her cloths and then laughs cause its his merchandise. If that were real she would have been laughing the very second he paused her.

Staying in his house without anyone noticing challenge he hides in the closet just so his mom can show off a hoodie during the challenge. Im going to leave it there since if I keep going on about him Ill become more insane. Edit: Fuck it time to go insane, let's bring up his second channel that's worst than the first, Morgz Mum.

Let us start with her response videos to other YouTubers, which if I may point out is still horrible acting with a script just because someone talked shit on her, don't get me wrong a response is called for when someone else calls you out. But it's funny how she said morgz should box a few of them and he says no he ain't a fighter yet he says he'll fight PewDiePie. I don't watch PewDiePie a lot but even I know morgz would get knocked the fuck out.

Fuck if he comes to Missouri and I'll do it, little bitch needs a beating. His and her bullshit 10 second subscribe challenges need to stop, they are the only ones benefitting from it, although I'm sure other channels are doing it too. Sorry off topic there, Morgz mum channel is exactly the same.

Same videos, constant yelling and loud whispering, clickbaiting, cash challenges with no actual stakes, horrible acting and scripts, overly forced merchandise placement, and worst of all too many midrolls on most to all of her videos. Still unoriginal horseshit just to make money by manipulating kids. They're a fucked up family.

If you want original real content, not bullshit acting, Bullshit cash challenges with actual stakes go check out MrBeast. (Since that's who he steals from the most.)

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Justice Dept Settles with Tobacco Cos on Database
RICHMOND, Va. The nation's two biggest tobacco companies, Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., have agreed to pay $6.25 million to support the country's largest online collection of internal tobacco industry documents, the Justice Department announced Wednesday. The settlement resolves a dispute over an online document database that a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C., mandated in a 2006 ruling in which she found the companies masked the dangers of smoking. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler said the companies were trying to deceive people about the health effects of smoking and nicotine addiction and about marketing to youth and changes to cigarette designs to increase addiction. Over the next four years, the companies will fund and enhance access to the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, an online database of more than 13 million internal tobacco company documents run by the University of California, San Francisco. The 11-year-old database mostly contains documents revealed during lawsuits against the companies. Hard copies are stored in an archive known as the Minnesota Depository. Representatives for Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group Inc., parent of Philip Morris USA, and for Reynolds American Inc., the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based owner of R.J. Reynolds, declined to comment on the settlement Wednesday. The settlement still must be approved by the court. "This agreement helps make sure that these documents will be accessible to researchers, journalists, students, lawyers, the government and the public at large -- anyone who is interested in learning more about the defendants' efforts to mislead consumers about the effects of smoking," Tony West, assistant attorney general for the civil division of the Department of Justice, said in a statement. In addition to the document database, Kessler has said she wants the industry to pay for various types of ads, both broadcast and print, but she has not said what the statements should say, where they must be placed or for how long. The government's proposed corrective ads would cover the addictiveness of nicotine, the lack of health benefits from "low tar," "ultra-light" and "mild" cigarettes and the dangers of secondhand smoke. The companies have argued that the statements are inflammatory, inaccurate and "designed solely to shame and humiliate" the companies. The court is considering delaying that decision while other courts decide newer cases challenging new tobacco marketing restrictions and graphic cigarette warning labels the government has proposed. ------ Michael Felberbaum can be reached at .
2021 05 31
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What Warning Labels Could You See on Products to Be Used in Space?
Nowadays there are warning labels on most everything: this is flammable, that will cause injury because it's sharp, this substance is poisonous, and that canister is under pressure, but what types of warning labels would you need for items designed to be used in a weightless environment? There is a very large set of possibilities. For real-world examples do some research on what NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, CNSA do. The list below is just off the top of my head. Cannot be used in microgravity. Must be used in gravity field greater than X% of earth.Must be used in gravity field less than X% of earth.Cannot withstand acceleration greater than Y. Must be aligned along a certain axis for acceleration.Must be used at an atmospheric pressure greater than X.Must be used at an atmospheric pressure less than X. Cannot be used in Heliox atmosphere. Must only be unwrapped/used in an environment with a scrubber that can handle a particular chemical.Must be decontaminated via (some method) when moving from atmospheric composition X to composition Y.Must be exposed to hard vacuum for X hours before being brought into atmosphere. Requires shielding in a certain EM range. Requires grounding. Requires shielding from certain cosmic rays.Cannot be used during a solar flare of greater than X intensity.Cannot be used if organism X is present.Can only be used if organism X is present. Cannot be taken to an uncontaminated planetary environment.Can be injected into a person only if they have a certain symbiote/implant/genetic marker.Can only be used in temperature range X to Y. Can only be stored in temperature range X to Y.Do not change temperature at a rate greater than Z/sec OTHER ANSWER: The thing about silly warnings on earth is that most of them were added because someone, somewhere actually did it and did try to sue the manufacturer. Whether the warning can be followed in practice is irrelevant, as the only purpose is to try to give the manufacturer more leverage in case of a legal claim.So considering the actual incidents and accidents that have occurred in spaceflight, we can color things up a bit and warn:.
2021 05 31
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Handle with Care: Prepackaged Meal Kits and New Food Delivery Methods Are Serving Up a New Helping o
In June 2016, National Frozen Foods Corp. recalled frozen peas and mixed vegetables it packages under 13 brands. The recalled products, thought to be contaminated with the microscopic pathogen Listeria monocytogenes, were included in several of HelloFresh's meal kits delivered to customers in 21 states. New food delivery methods such as home-delivered meal kits and prepackaged fares are changing the food industry. However, the evolving ways in which consumers now receive and prepare foods are creating new liability concerns that some insurers, brokers and others fear could become a recipe for disaster. On-the-go consumers are flocking to healthy alternative meal solutions. Within the past year, 25% of Americans purchased a meal kit and 70% continued to buy them after making their first purchase, according to Nielsen. But inside the neatly packaged boxes of preportioned ingredients and step-by-step recipes lurks the potential for foodborne illnesses and missed food allergens, and that has the insurance industry developing new offerings and risk management programs to stave off those potential exposures. In a recent study of 169 home meal kits, researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey and Tennessee State University found the majority of meats, poultry and seafood in those kits arrived at consumers' doorsteps at temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, making them unsafe to consume. Part of the problem is the time between refrigeration and delivery of those items. Only 5% of the orders required a signature upon delivery and many of the boxes were left outside for eight hours or more. Also, kits that arrived at temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees had "off the chart" microbial loads--the total number of bacteria and fungi in a given quantity of water or soil or on the surface of food, Rutgers professor Bill Hallman said at the 2017 annual Food Safety Summit in Rosemont, Illinois. Menu of Risks More than 100 subscription and a la carte meal-kit delivery service companies, such as Blue Apron, Home Chef, Chef'D and Plated, have sprung up in the past few years, and more competitors are continuing to crowd the multibillion-dollar market. National retailers, such as Whole Foods Market, Costco and Walmart; food purveyors, including Campbell Soup, Hershey and Tyson Foods, and Martha Stewart and other celebrities have also entered the meal-in-a-box fray. But today's "changing plate" is blurring the lines on how food is produced and delivered, and that's raising liability concerns and prompting the need for clarification of responsibilities and regulations when it comes to new food delivery models including meal kits, said Tami Griffin, national practice leader at Aon Risk Solutions. Under the lid of those kits lie many questions, including where food products and ingredients come from, whether product handlers are following proper safety protocols and if adequate packaging and temperature control measures are being taken. The Rutgers-Tennessee State study offered a glimpse into some of those answers. Researchers found dry ice often used inside meal kits fails to come with warning labels or handling information, and only 37% of deliveries had visible information indicating the parcels contained perishable foods. Compounding the problem is that containers used to ship perishable food often are much larger than necessary and often don't have packing materials to fill the empty space, thereby compromising temperature control measures. Also, non- or mislabeled food items inside meal kits bring about potential food allergy concerns, and cross-contamination issues can arise during their transportation, said Steve Kluting, the Midwest regional director of Arthur J. Gallagher & Company's food and agribusiness practice group. Concerns like those pose yet another question: Who is responsible if something goes awry? So far there are more questions than answers. Because of the lack of regulation and the novelty of these delivery models, it is not always clear who to blame when a crisis occurs. Adequate safety measures and protocols can lessen that risk. For example, clearly labeled disclosures about potential food allergens on companies' websites or inside meal boxes is generally adequate enough to protect against liability, said Bill Marler, a managing partner at Seattle-based law firm Marler Clark. He has been a plaintiff's attorney for a number of foodborne illness and food safety cases over the years, including the highly-publicized Jack in the Box E.coli outbreak in 1993. Four children died and 178 other people became ill after eating contaminated beef patties served at 73 of the restaurant's chains. "People with severe food allergies are good at reading labels and knowing what's in products," Marler said. "But if you're sourcing from different suppliers you need to familiarize yourself with each of those companies' food allergy profiles." Labels should also include information about the products' manufacturers or suppliers, he said."Doing so allows the box to work, in a sense, like a grocery store and liability becomes more limited. If some items are included in unnamed packages, the box entity may be on the hook for strict liability as a manufacturer." Liability can fall anywhere along the supply chain--from growers and processors to suppliers and distributors. Amazon, UPS, FedEx and other meal-kit carriers have largely been able to avoid liability because of the contractual relationships they have with their meal-kit providers, said James Neale, a partner at the law firm McGuireWoods LLP in Charlottesville, Virginia. Researchers found shipping companies that delivered meal-in-the-box kits in the Rutgers-Tennessee State study washed their hands of any responsibility if products showed up spoiled. Others in the supply chain, however, are at risk, and that's why traceability is key, said Jana Wilson, managing director of risk services and global lodging and leisure practice leader at Industria Risk & Insurance Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Good Works Financial Group. Also, the shorter the chain, the fewer the risks, she said."Companies need to create and maintain relationships with all of their suppliers--from the guy who caught the fish, to the person who froze the fish, to the individual who transported the fish and finally to all of those who are responsible for preparing and serving the fish." Supply chains have increasingly become more global. That's why companies need a good quality assurance process to test imported products to ensure foods and ingredients are what they claim to be, said Steven Simmons, associate vice president of risk management in Nationwide's agribusiness insurance. He also suggests suppliers secure indemnity agreements which defend and indemnify them in the event of a loss due to use of a supplier of a product/ingredient to include adequate limits of insurance. "When possible have yourself listed as an additional insured on the product/ingredient maker's liability coverage," he said."Good contracts outlining duties and responsibilities will mitigate confusion in the event of a loss." Finding Solutions Food product liability insurance is one of the insurance options companies may want to consider. FPLI protects retail businesses against claims made from the sale of foods sold to the public, and it covers the retail seller's liability for losses or injuries suffered as a result of purchasing a product by a buyer, user or bystander. "Part of the problem is that FPLI is not a mandated coverage. At this point it is primarily the larger food service companies that are requiring FPLI from their suppliers,"Wilson said. That may soon change. Vicarious liability that follows the entire food chain is too large of a risk not to have in place the kind of coverage FPLI provides, she said. General liability policies help companies protect against third-party claims and provide defense and indemnity costs if a contamination or foodborne illness outbreak arises, said Florida-based injury attorney Jason Turchin. Each year, nearly 48 million Americans become sick and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases such as E.coli, salmonella and listeria, according to federal data. General liability, however, is laden with holes when it comes to reputational risks, and smaller farms and local growers may not carry the coverage, Turchin said."All it takes is one major outbreak to bankrupt them and shut down their entire operation." Product contamination and product recall insurance coverages can help fill the gap. The policies provide coverage for reputational harm and lost profits after an event, along with brand-building efforts and financial recovery for items that need to be removed from shelves or inventory stocks, said Amy Lochhead, a vice president and division underwriting manager at Liberty Mutual's national insurance unit. Today's recall insurance market remains relatively soft, and a number of new entrants are flooding the sector, said Caitlin McGrath, vice president of national product recall and accidental contamination risk consulting at Lockton."Despite recent losses, prices have remained low and companies are becoming more competitive with their coverages." Turchin suggests meal-kit providers and their suppliers also consider other coverage options such as medical payment insurance--a no-fault, good faith gesture that helps companies cover medical expenses, up to a certain amount, caused by a food product. Also, stand-alone workplace violence policies, cyber liability to protect the online exchange of customer data in meal-kit transactions and addons such as a vaccination endorsement can cover risks associated with new food delivery models, McGrath said. Risk Action Plans While adequate insurance coverages can certainly help, companies also need to adopt risk mitigation efforts and create crisis management plans, Marler said. For instance, place warning labels outside kits indicating which products need to be refrigerated and at what temperatures they should be stored and cooked, he said. "Taking steps that will help lower a company's risk profile and allow them to share--not shift--risk and responsibility from farm to fork." Also, know where products come from. Decide what kinds of food to include in a kit and which ones to avoid. "For example, raw oysters may not be the best choice," Marler said. Individuals with certain medical conditions, including cancer, diabetes and liver disease, are at risk for becoming seriously ill or dying from eating raw oysters that are contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus--a gram-negative bacterium that occurs naturally in warm, unpolluted seawater. Companies also need to examine their policy language and membership contracts. Blue Apron--the first U.S. meal-kit delivery service to go public, in 2017--requires members to agree to the provisions of a 20-page membership agreement outlining its terms of use and mandating members to go through an arbitration process on an individual basis limiting the remedies available to the consumer in the event of certain disputes, Wilson said. The New York startup, created by a professional chef, a venture capitalist and a computer engineer in 2014, currently serves about eight million meals a month. Blue Apron's terms of use agreement clearly holds its members responsible for inspecting all products for any damage or other issues upon delivery. Wilson said the company even goes as far as to recommend members use a thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature of meat, poultry and seafood is 40 degrees or below. "But each food element has a slightly different temperature requirement. While food safety experts must navigate, even anticipate, trends in food safety practices, consumer behavior is the sole responsibility of the consumer,"Wilson said. Companies also need to implement and maintain quality control measures, develop testing and traceability plans to monitor supply chain audits and keep abreast of current regulations, Liberty Mutual's Lochhead said. So far the meal-kit delivery industry remains relatively unregulated, experts say. The Food Safety Modernization Act--the most sweeping reform to U.S. food safety laws in more than 70 years--was enacted in 2011. However, other than reminding consumers about safe handling instructions, neither the FDA nor the United States Department of Agriculture have yet to issue any substantial guidance around new food delivery methods such as meal kits. Groups like the California Association of Environmental Health Administrators are hoping to change that. This year, the CAEHA proposed a new bill that would expand state-mandated food safety training to meal-kit delivery employees and would require them to obtain a food handlers card, which is a certificate obtained after an employee attends a food safety training course and passes an examination from an accredited organization. But companies like Blue Apron are pushing back over concerns with the bill. In 2016, the final rule to FSMA's Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food regulation went into effect. The rule is designed to protect foods from farm to table by keeping them safe from contamination during transportation. However, couriers--including meal-kit delivery services--are exempt from the final sanitary transport rule, which "ironically, was passed just as the meal-kit delivery model was on the horizon," Turchin said. Regulators are starting to examine home meal-kit delivery more closely, and as a result, Wilson expects the FDA will soon incorporate technical guidelines into the FSMA that will "stretch the understanding of food safety in our new food technology world." She also anticipates insurers will create micro-niche insurance products that would provide coverage for each of the "big eight" allergens, such as shellfish or peanuts, in an effort to help mitigate potential risks in the market. "As we dive deeper into this fat-free, gluten-free and other food sensitivities-free world we now live in, the government will continue to step in and more stringently regulate information about food allergies or sensitivities already being tested on countless menus and food packaging labels." Technology's Role Technology has a large hand in changing today's food industry. By 2025, 70% of consumers are expected to purchase at least some of their food online, according to reports. And new food preparation and delivery models are being overhauled by advances in robotics, analytics and big data. California startup Zume Pizza relies on robots to prepare and bake its pies. The company also uses artificial intelligence and big data to predict order volume and make its food fresher. Another startup, Chowbotics, recently created a robot it calls Sally to prepare custom, chef-inspired salads using precut products stored in refrigerated canisters. While technology is creating greater convenience, it's also upping the liability ante. And that's why companies need to think through their risk profile and ask themselves: Is convenience worth the risk, Marler said. "It's similar to what we saw 15 years ago with the rise in ready-to-eat salad mixes," he said. "Unfortunately, some of those companies didn't think about all of the potential risks that could arise if the mixes became contaminated while being shipped across the U.S. in refrigerated trucks, giving time for bacteria to grow." Insurers have struggled to wrap their heads around evolving risks like those. And new delivery models including home meal kits are once again forcing carriers to come up with novel ways to underwrite and insure those exposures, Lockton's McGrath said. "The thing about meal kits is that they aren't grocery stores. They're not frozen foods. So insurers have to figure out how to underwrite what is essentially a group of individual, prepackaged, portioned foods coming from multiple sources," she said. Only now are those answers becoming clearer and carriers are starting to feel more comfortable with those risks, McGrath said. Dinner-in-the-box delivery is more than a passing fad. The market is set to become a $5 billion industry over the next decade, according to food industry analyst Technomic Inc. So far claims and losses have remained low, Marler said. "That's probably because these are individual deliveries, and large-scale food safety litigation generally involves outbreaks that affect many people. I don't think meal kits are immune from food safety problems, but this delivery model will probably cause more one-off problems." The challenge will be detecting and pinpointing problems, which may fly under the radar, he said. by Lori Chordas Lori Chordas is a senior associate editor. She can be reached at lori. Key Points A Full Plate: The meal-kit delivery market, which packages convenient, healthy preportioned food in a box, is expected to become a $5 billion industry in the next several years. Hard Nut to Crack: Those kits present new liability exposures throughout the supply chain, as well as the potential for foodborne illnesses and possible missed food allergens. The Whole Enchilada: General liability, food product liability, product contamination and product recall, and cyber liability are a few of the coverages that can help recover losses stemming from those risks.
2021 05 20
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New York Police Officer Contracts Legionnaires' Disease
Officials are investigating a New York police station and water supply after an officer contracted Legionnaires' disease, a potentially life-threatening form pneumonia.Preliminary test results indicate that traces of the bacteria causing Legionnaires' disease were found at the police station in East Harlem. Officials have started inspecting the facility's systems and testing the precinct's water supply. The officer, who was not named, is recovering at a hospital outside of the city, according to the New York City Department of Health.Officials first became aware of the situation on Saturday.Legionnaires' disease is treatable with antibiotics, but it can be deadly if left untreated. Legionella pneumophila, the type of bacteria that causes the disease, thrive and multiply in water systems, cooling towers, indoor plumbing, hot tubs, air conditioners and mist sprayers. Most outbreaks have occurred in large buildings because complex water systems allow the bacteria to grow and spread more easily, according to the Mayo Clinic."Health officials are on site today to sample water in indoor plumbing, and to provide additional assistance and guidance," the health department said in a statement Sunday. "Legionnaires' disease is not contagious, officers can still work in the building but should avoid taking showers at the site until the investigation is complete. There is no public health risk to the larger community."The hot water supply at the station has been temporarily shut down.Officials have ruled out a cooling tower that supports the facility's heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems as a possible origin of the bacteria because it has been shut down since October as part of a renovation project, according to the police department. A new tower was installed last month, but it has not been activated.Legionnaires' disease was first discovered in 1976, when people attending a Pennsylvania American Legion convention at a hotel in Philadelphia developed pneumonia. More than 200 convention attendees and visitors were infected, and some died.People get sick with Legionnaires' disease by breathing small droplets of water containing the bacteria. Symptoms include headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Those at risk of getting sick are adults 50 years or older, smokers, and people with a chronic lung disease, weak immune systems, cancer and other preexisting illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.On Friday, two guests at a Las Vegas resort contracted Legionnaires' disease, according to media reports. One stayed at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in March, while the other stayed there in April, CNN reported. Health officials said Legionella was found in the hot-water system of one of the hotel's towers.Between 200 and 400 cases of Legionnaires' disease are reported in New York City every year, according to the health department.In 2015, an outbreak in the South Bronx prompted health officials to implement tougher cooling tower regulations, hire more inspectors and train city employees on how to inspect cooling towers, officials said.Federal officials said last year that cases of Legionnaires' disease have nearly quadrupled in the United States over a 15-year period. About 6,000 cases were reported in 2015 alone."Large recent outbreaks in New York City and Flint, Mich., have brought attention to the disease and highlight the need to understand why the outbreaks occur and how best to prevent them," CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a briefing last year.Infants born during water births are at risk of contracting the disease.Two infants in Arizona were infected with Legionnaires' disease in 2016, according to the CDC. Both were delivered by a midwife in a home birthing tub. They survived after receiving antibiotics.- - -The Washington Post's Lena H. Sun contributed to this story.
2021 05 20
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Defense Rests; Zimmerman Won't Testify in Murder Trial ...
The jury in the George Zimmerman murder trial was expected to begin deliberations as soon as Friday afternoon after the defense team rested Wednesday without the neighborhood watch volunteer taking the stand.Judge Debra Nelson said she hoped to hand the case to the jury Friday afternoon, with closing arguments set to begin at 1pm Thursday.The defense team used its final day of testimony to paint the neighborhood watch volunteer as a wimp who was getting pummeled when he shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense, at one point commandeering a mannequin introduced by prosecutors in order to re-enact its version of the fight.Zimmerman did not take the stand, though his team left the option open until the last minute, with Zimmerman finally telling Judge Debra Nelson he would not testify. After OMara announced that he would call no more witnesses, prosecutors called the first of several witnesses back for rebuttal, beginning with Adam Pollock, owner of a kickboxing gym where Zimmerman trained prior to the incident. Like other defense witnesses, Pollock described Zimmerman as a soft weakling, likely unable to defend himself against Martin before firing the gun.Earlier Wednesday, Zimmerman's lawyer literally flipped a prosecution witness -- a gray, foam dummy -- to re-enact the defense's version of the confrontation that ended in Martin's death, straddling the mannequin and bashing its head against the floor as stunned jurors looked on Wednesday. The mannequin was initially introduced by prosecutor John Guy during cross-examination of defense witness Dennis Root, a former law enforcement officer who testified as an expert on defensive use of force. Guy used it to show how, if Martin were straddling Zimmerman, he would have had difficulty reaching for a gun holstered at his waist.After Guy wrapped up his round of questioning, lead defense attorney O'Mara stepped up."May I use your doll?" asked O'Mara.O'Mara straddled the dummy on the floor in front of the witness stand, grabbed it by the shoulders and drove its head into the floor repeatedly."Would the injuries on Mr. Zimmerman, the back of his head, be consistent with someone doing this on cement?" asked O'Mara as he slammed the flopping mannequin's head into the floor."I don't think so," replied Root."How about this?" asked O'Mara, continuing to bash the life-sized dummy against the floor, but placing its arm against his shoulder, as if it were resisting. "How about someone resisting the attack? Could that have come from if someone was resisting me pushing down like this?"Root responded, "I believe so."Earlier in his testimony, Root described how Zimmerman would be no match for the 17-year-old Martin in a fight."Mr. Martin was a physically active and capable person," said Root, who probed both Martin's and Zimmerman's physical conditioning and fighting prowess on behalf of the defense team. "Mr. Zimmerman is an individual who is by no stretch of the imagination an athlete, and . he would find himself lacking when compared to Mr. Martin."Roots testimony jibed with prior defense witnesses who have testified that the neighborhood watch volunteer was overweight, in poor shape and not good with his fists. Root said screams heard on a 911 call, which the defense claims are Zimmerman, show "a high level of stress, a high level of fear."[pullquote]A young mother who lived in the gated community where Zimmerman shot Martin told jurors Wednesday the neighborhood watch volunteer helped comfort her after a home invasion by two young men left her frightened.Olivia Bertalan said Zimmerman supplied her with a new lock for her sliding door and offered to open his own home to her after the incident, which happened about six months before Zimmermans fateful confrontation with Martin,. Although she said the two invaders were African-Americans in their late teens, there was no suggestion that Martin was involved. The testimony was instead apparently presented to show how seriously Zimmerman took his role as a community protector.Zimmerman's father, Robert Zimmerman, also took the stand Wednesday, saying it was "absolutely" his son George on the 911 call that captured the fatal confrontation.GAVEL-TO-GAVEL COVERAGE: ZIMMERMAN TRIALEarlier Wednesday, Judge Nelson denied two requests by the defense, ruling that a computer animation that depicts the February 2012 confrontation as well as text messages that purportedly deal with fighting sent from Martin's phone will not be admissible as evidence.The judge seemed concerned about the animation's accuracy during arguments. While the animation can't be introduced as evidence that can be reviewed by jurors during their deliberations, defense attorneys may be able to use it during closing arguments, she ruled.&quotTo have an animation go back into jury room that they can play over and over again gives a certain weight to something that this court isn't exactly certain comports with the evidence presented at trial,&quot Nelson said Wednesday night.The judge also agreed with prosecutors' concerns about introducing the 17-year-old's text messages. But defense attorney Don West had argued the texts were relevant since they showed Martin's interest in fighting and physical capabilities.The Associated Press contributed to this report.
2021 05 20
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Trump's New EPA Chief Warns Water Is a Bigger Threat Than Climate Change
In one of his first interviews, new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett that Americans should focus less on global warming."We have 1,000 children die everyday worldwide because they don't have safe drinking water. That's a crisis that I think we can solve. We know what goes into solving a crisis like that. It takes resources, it takes infrastructure and and the United States is working on that. But I really would like to see maybe the United Nations, the World Bank focus more on those problems today to try to save those children. Those thousand children each day, they have names, we know who they are," Wheeler told Garrett.Although Wheeler acknowledged to Garrett that the emissions of fossil fuels and other man-made variables "certainly contributes" to climate change, and promised that President Donald Trump would reveal two major regulations later this year in order to curb CO2 emissions, he emphasized that he considered providing clean water to be a higher priority."Most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out," Wheeler argued, adding that people are currently dying from drinking dirty water.America, Wheeler insisted, is "doing much better than most westernized countries on reducing their CO2 emissions, but what we need to do is make sure that the whole world is focused on the people who are dying today, the thousand children that die everyday from lack of drinking water. That is something where we have the technology, we know what it will take to save those children. And internationally, we need to step up and do something there."Wheeler then addressed the Flint water crisis, which began in 2014 when the water for the Michigan city of Flint was changed from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to Flint River, thereby exposing the city to elevated lead levels due to inadequate water treatment."First of all, I want to make sure the American public understands 92 percent of the water everyday meets all the EPA requirements for safe drinking water," Wheeler told Garrett.He added, "We have the safest drinking water in the world. We are working to update a number of regulations, one of which is our lead and copper rule, which takes a look at the pipes. The lead pipes that we have around the country. As part of that, we're looking at what we can do to require regular testing for schools and daycares, so that would be part of that regulation when it comes out later this year."As for the water in Flint, Wheeler told Garrett that "part of the problem with Flint was there was a breakdown in once they got the data, once the city of Flint, the state of Michigan, the Obama EPA they sat on it. We're not doing that. As soon as we get information that there's a problem, we're stepping in, we're helping the local community get that water system cleaned up."Although Wheeler is correct about the problem with contaminated water in both the United States and the rest of the world, his downplaying of the threat posed by man-made climate change is inconsistent with the scientific consensus."There will be and already is major consequences and they grow over time. It does not look good," Kevin Trenberth, a Distinguished Senior Scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, told Salon in August. "The effects are always local but there are more and more of them and the consequences are major. These includes floods and drought, heat waves and wild fires."Michael Mann, he Distinguished Professor of Atmosphere Science at Penn State, explained in October what the world would have to look forward to if global warming goes unchecked."The summer and fall of 2018 provides a glimpse of what will be in store," Mann toldSalon. "We will need to adapt to a world where damaging extreme weather events are far more common. If we dont act, these events will become both more extreme and more common."He added, "A large part of the planet will become unlivable (either too hot or too dry). And more and more of the available land surface will be used for agriculture and farming to feed a growing global population. That means more concentrated human settlementand probably a lot more conflict."
2021 05 20
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New Apps Help Shoppers Identify Items Using Image Recognition
TORONTO (Reuters) - A new app lets shoppers flipping through retail flyers purchase items that catch their eye using image recognition technology. The iOS app Pounce allows shoppers to scan images they spot in print media with their devices camera, then purchase the item online directly from the retailer running the advertisement. We are able to match an image with an actual product available online, said Avital Yachin, chief executive of BuyCode, Inc, the Tel Aviv, Israel-based company that developed the app, one of a growing number of apps using image recognition to bridge the physical and online worlds of e-commerce. Our vision is to allow purchasing of any product in any print ad, he said, adding that the company plans to expand to catalogs, magazines and billboards. The Pounce app recognizes products that its retailing partners, which include Staples Inc, Target Corp, Toys R Us Inc and Ace Hardware Corp, sell online. After scanning an image, the app displays the items price and shipping cost, then allows shoppers to make the purchase directly from the retailer. Other companies such as eBay and Amazon have apps that use image recognition to identify objects such as books, cars and even clothing to help shoppers find similar items in their online marketplaces. The potential of image recognition lies in its ability to determine the make and model of any item in the world, especially those that consumers are otherwise unable to identify, said Steve Yankovich, the VP of Innovation and New Ventures at eBay Inc. EBay has experimented with adding image recognition to their eBay Fashion and eBay Motors iPhone apps. With eBay Fashion, for example, users can upload an image and the app will suggest items that have similar colors, styles, and fabric. Its RedLaser app for iPhone and Android allows users to take photos of items and shows similar items available for sale at retailers online and locally, which eBay says fosters its main mission of partnering with retailers, not competing with them. Yankovich predicts that image recognition technology will help make shopping more seamless as it evolves over the next 10 years. Amazons app Flow, for iPhone and Android, allows users to use the camera to identify a product sold on Amazon and get such details as its description, reviews and video or audio clips. The company says the app can recognize packaged goods with distinguishable features such as books, DVDs or even items such as candy bars or a box of cereal. Users can then read reviews and purchase them from the online retailer. But Yachin said it will be some time yet before consumers can identify everyday items such as clothing on another person. The broader vision of recognizing real-world objects will take a little longer, he said, adding that the technology relies on a large database of product images. Pounce is free and available in the United States, with plans to expand to Canada and Europe. Amazon Flow is only available in the United States and is free and EBay Fashion is also free and available worldwide.
2021 05 20
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New InkSoft Feature: Custom Personalization
Some customers will not have a need for custom designs for their online stores and printed product needs. A team will already have a mascot and a company or organization will already have a logo. In this situation, selected products are displayed in the InkSoft powered online store as pre-decorated products. However, many times, customers also will want a name, number, or some other type of individual personalization added to the preprinted product. Recently InkSoft has added the capability to do this. The new custom personalization feature allows for the collection of individual customer personalization information per product. So if its a team uniform, the parent or coach can order the uniform and add the name and number to be embroidered or screen printed. Theres a split function so that a parent with more than one child can order multiple quantities of a shirt and indicate personalization for each child.Admin controls allow you to set up the options as needed for each customer and product. If theres any concern that a customer may not understand what is being asked in any part of the customization form, a tip can be created that pops up explaining it.To learn more about this new feature please review this step-by-step guide, or contact the InkSoft Success Squad at 8004103049 Ext. 1Custom Personalization Example: Multiple fieldsCustom Personalization Example: Single fieldCustom Personalization OptionsOriginally published at . RELATED QUESTION What can I do as a small printing company nowadays? This is a tough question, because the printing industry has changed drastically over the past several decades. Lawrence Finn noted the range of things that a small printing shop usually does, but unfortunately even those are on their way out. And in cases where they are still around, mass-market shops with economies of scale (such as FedEx Office) can typically do anything you can do, faster and cheaperand include online ordering and previewing, etc. So the real issue comes down to what special things you can do that they cant. The closest to your current operation might be (talk about back to the future, or, more accurately, forward to the past) to get a letterpress and start doing custom, high-end work such as wedding invitations and letterhead. The equipment isnt crazy expensive, the market is not insanely expensive, and you can transfer much of what you already know. You can get a new high-speed digital press and offer large scale custom commercial printing. You can get new equipment and specialize in die cutting and embossing, and perhaps form mutual referral partnerships with local folks who do flat printing. You can get new screen printing equipment and specialize in t-shirts and the likebut thats a very different business, and already somewhat competitive. You can get new flexographic printing equipment and print small productsbut thats got the same problems of a new business with existing competition. You might try getting a laser engraver and doing on-the-spot engraving and customization (my guess is that this might be your best option, but probably only as an add-on service). You could get a number of 3D printers and offer that as a service, along with design. You could specialize as an integrated online/offline shop, combining web work, business cards, etc. with the emphasis on design, leaving the production to a larger firm like VistaPrint . Whatever you do, I wish you the best of luck integrating printing into the 21st century!
2021 05 20
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Why Inflatable Kayaks May Be the New Wave in Kayak Fishing
Kayak fishing has quickly evolved over the last ten years into a mainstream style of fishing. The greatest difference between fishing kayaks and other kayaks is generally in the way they are rigged with an elaborate array of fishing accessories attached into a relatively small area. The ease with which these accessories could be added to a regular kayak soon led to the development of a separate line of kayak models designed specifically for the angler. Yet even with all of these popular advancements, there is now another style of kayak that is becoming more and more popular among avid kayak fishermen. The inflatable kayak was once often thought of as a toy as compared to other kayaks, but the inflatable kayaks of today are not anything like their early counterparts. Previous inflatable models were sometimes as light and flimsy as an average swimming pool raft. The modern inflatable kayaks have proven to be extremely safe and are available from quality manufacturers. They are known to be quite durable and puncture proof. So while there are both pros and cons with inflatables, as there are with any other style of kayak, the cons seem to be an acceptable trade off in return for the advantages that are available in no other type of fishing kayak. First, a look at the cons. Inflatable kayaks are somewhat more difficult to paddle and maneuver, and in general lack the speed of a rigid kayak. This might make a big difference if purchasing a kayak for touring, but in kayak fishing, speed is not really that big of a deal. Kayak anglers spend most of their time sitting still in one spot or possibly drifting while casting and retrieving, rather than paddling along at full speed. Another consideration is that it may be more difficult to add the numerous accessories most individuals like, which is widely known as "rigging". On rigid kayaks, it is relatively easy to drill a mounting hole into the deck of the kayak and add just about anything a person might want. A short list of common accessories would probably include such things as rod holders, tackle box mountings and compartments, bait containers, and a wide variety of electronics such as fish finders, GPS, cell phone holders, marine radios, air pumps for bait tanks and running lights. Obviously, it is not advised to drill holes into an inflatable kayak! However, many enterprising DIY riggers have found that a few plastic "D-rings" and some duct tape will make a handy group of mounting and attachment points on an inflatable kayak. One of the latest and greatest discoveries among self-rigging enthusiasts is that a heavy duty plastic cutting board, normally for kitchen counter use, can be bungee corded to an inflatable kayak which then makes an excellent hard surface for mounting the normal electronics. So what exactly is it that is causing such an uprising in the popularity of inflatable kayaks? The number one reason is portability. An inflatable fishing kayak can be folded into a carrying pack and easily backpacked to remote fishing areas that no other boat can be taken to. Most inflatables can be purchased with a carrying pack that can either be used as a back pack, or as a shoulder bag, and taking them to remote fishing spots is no more trouble than taking along an extra tackle box. Most fishermen have a well kept list of those secret and remote fishing spots that can only be reached by a long hike. Carrying any type of watercraft by hand to those sites has simply never been an option. After years of only being able to walk around the edges and do some shore fishing, those sites have now become opened up to getting out on the water where the big ones are. The slight inconvenience of having to inflate your watercraft before getting started is easily compensated for by being the only person there with a fishing kayak. The average person can easily take an inflatable kayak to places where they would not even consider carrying a rigid kayak or canoe. To seal the deal on the rising popularity of the inflatable kayak, there is a long list of additional pros. Their light weight not only makes taking them along on a hike a definite plus, but also makes a nice difference in getting the kayak out of your vehicle and to the shoreline even when you are able to drive right up to the launch. On average, an inflatable kayak will weigh about half that of a similar sized rigid kayak. Even many tandem inflatable kayaks weight less than single rigid kayaks. There is no need for a trailer or roof rack, since they easily will fit into the trunk of even a compact car, or into the back seat. This ability to fit into a small space adds another big benefit, storage of your kayak in the off season. While storing your rigid kayak in the winter months usually means either having sufficient garage space, a storage building, or an outside rack or cradle of some kind, a deflated kayak will usually need no more storage space than that of a cooler. Finally there is the price consideration. Inflatable kayaks are generally about half the cost of a similar sized rigid model. The additional savings of not having to also purchase a roof rack or trailer has influenced many fishermen to become kayak fishermen when price is their main consideration. With a long list of pros, that outweigh the few cons, it is easy to see why the inflatable kayak is quickly becoming the next big thing in kayak fishing.
2021 05 20
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Is the Sound Quality of Wireless Speakers Good Enough for High-end Applications?
When setting up speakers, you may not be able to run speaker cables to the space that you want to set up your speaker in. Wireless speakers promise to solve the speaker cable problem. They can be set up virtually anywhere without the hassle of running speaker cable. Many people hesitate when buying wireless speakers since they may not be able to match the sound quality as corded models. In this article, I will investigate whether modern wireless speakers have improved on the inferior sound quality of classic models. Wireless speakers integrate a number of components. These components all affect the speaker sound quality. Only if all of these components are designed well will the wireless speaker have optimum sound quality. The sound quality of the speaker can only be as good as the quality of the wireless signal. Older transmission methods would use FM which causes hissing and popping of the speaker depending on the distance between transmitter and speaker as well as the presence of interference. Today's wireless transmitters use a different approach. Prior to transmission, the audio is sampled and converted to a data stream. This data stream is then sent via radio signal. Not only does digital wireless audio achieve CD-quality audio fidelity but it also has advanced methods for dealing with radio interference. The audio fidelity of the internal power amplifier also has a large impact on the speaker sound quality. Linear and switched-mode (Class-D) amplifiers have quite different operating principles. In order to provide a low output impedance, a linear amplifier has a power-transistor stage which typically consists of two complementary power transistors. These transistors are driven by an analog audio voltage. The amplified signal is proportional to the original audio signal. This operating principle, however, has fairly low power efficiency. The power stage of Class-D amps also has two complementary transistors. Typically MOSFET transistors are used for this stage. Class-D switch this power stage to both voltage rails and thereby generate a square wave voltage. This square wave output voltage contains several spectral components. The main energy is located around the switching frequency. This switching component which is usually located between 300 and 800 kHz is filtered by a subsequent low-pass stage. The operating principle of Class-D amplifiers is non-linear. The pulse-width encoder as well as the switching stage cause harmonic audio distortion. Newer amplifiers, however, continue to minimize the amount of harmonic distortion. Newer types of Class-D amplifiers compare the amplified audio signal with the original audio signal and are able to compensate for offsets and thereby lower the harmonic distortion of the amplified signal. This feedback mechanism, however, is sometimes overdone. The result is an audio amplifier with ultra-low audio distortion. However, in listening tests this amplifier won't sound as good as another amplifier with regular distortion. The enclosure of the speaker itself as well as the woofer and tweeter are critical for a good-quality speaker. Poorly designed speaker enclosures are often causing poor sound quality. Similarly, having good-quality transducers is key when it comes to making a good speaker. Designing a wireless speaker poses some challenges. The speaker needs to integrate a power supply, power amplifier and wireless circuit. All of these components will affect the sound waves inside the speaker. These parts are usually fairly large. Therefore they will impact the air volume of the speaker. Also, sound waves will bounce off these components and possibly cause rattling which will impact the sound. Wireless speaker enclosure designers don't just have to worry about maximizing the sound quality. In addition, they need to worry about how to place all of the internal parts and also how to allow access to the electronic controls and indicators. All of these parameters will have an affect on the speaker sound. While some models of wireless speakers finally are starting to emerge which have a sound quality that comes close to corded speakers, there still is room for improvement.
2021 05 20
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