Tech News : Laser Broadband Success

Alphabet subsidiary X, the Moonshot Factory’s ‘Project Taara’ is claiming 99.9 per cent uptime within the first 20 days of a light beam/laser broadband project.

What Is It?

Laser-based broadband uses wireless optical communications (WOC), which has been described as “like fibre, but without the cables”.  In short, invisible beams of light, about the width of a chopstick, are used to transmit information at super high speeds through the air between two terminals. To make the connection, the terminals search for each other, detect the other’s beam of light, and lock in to create the high bandwidth connection.

Why?

This kind of laser broadband is needed because:

– The challenges of tough terrain can make it very difficult, very costly, and slow to take fibre networks to many areas.

– It offers a cost-effective and quickly deployable way to bring high-speed connectivity to remote areas.

– It can plug critical gaps to major access points, like mobile phone towers and Wi-Fi hotspots.

– It can help bring greater equality of opportunity to countries with more challenging terrain by giving people access to the educational, business, and communication benefits of the web.

– It can be used as a way to extend fibre networks.

What Happened?

Project Taara has set up a network, powered by wireless optical communications (WOC) that links Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Measurements have been taken of how the recently introduced laser-based broadband has performed between the sites, which are separated by 4.8km across the Congo River.

X, the Moonshot Factory, which describes itself as “a diverse group of inventors and entrepreneurs who build and launch technologies that aim to improve the lives of millions, even billions” has reported that the laser-based broadband service has been able to supply nearly 700TB of data within its first 20 days of operation, with 99.9 per cent uptime.

Flexible Technology

The X company website claims that with a clear line of sight, wireless optical communication technology can transmit data at high speeds of up to 20 Gbps, and a single link can cover distances up to 20 km.

Weather Conditions A Challenge

One challenge with this type of technology, however, is that bad weather (fog or haze) can interfere with the light beams, as can fauna such as bats and birds flying in front of the signal. For these reasons, laser-broadband may be more useful in countries with good weather conditions for most of the year.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Those individuals and businesses in areas around the world where it is too complex, expensive, and difficult to be reached with cables in the ground (due to terrain) are at a disadvantage from not being able to access the many benefits of reliable access to the Internet. The promising results from the deployment in the Congo shows that laser-broadband offers a practical, cost-effective, and quickly deployable way to bring high-speed connectivity to remote areas.  It also could prove very valuable in plugging other critical gaps in the world’s communications networks.  This could bring greater opportunities and greater equality to businesses, communities, and individuals around the world while being kinder to the environment at the same time. The challenges posed to the technology by adverse weather conditions could be offset by the fact that it is better to have areas connected for at least some of the time than not at all.

Tech News : Loss of a Legend : Sir Clive Sinclair

The inventor, innovator, EV pioneer (with the C5), electronics and tech businessman Sir Clive Sinclair died recently, aged 81.

Circuit Design

Born in Richmond, Surrey in 1940, and knighted in 1983 for his contributions to the UK’s computer industry, Sir Clive Sinclair started out by designing a circuit for a DIY kit radio (while studying for his A ‘Levels) that was sold was sold through magazines like Practical Wireless.

Most Famous For The Sinclair C5

Many people will remember (or will have heard of) Sir Clive Sinclair as the inventor of the C5 electric vehicle which he launched in 1985, and which received a great deal of media coverage at the time. Although Sir Clive believed that the one-seater, low driving position, three-wheeled, compact (pedal-assisted) electric vehicle offered a new, environmentally friendly, and fun mode of transport that could beat the traffic jams, the public weren’t convinced. Ridicule in the media, attitudes of the day, and the fact that C5 drivers were vulnerable to many dangers (collisions from not being seen, lack of protection, traffic-fumes, etc) meant that only 12,000 were made, the assembly line was mothballed within its first year, and the Sinclair Vehicles company went bankrupt.

…And The ZX Computers

In the computer world, Sir Clive is also remembered for the ZX80 computer (in 1980), its follow-up the ZX81, and the ZX Spectrum, a competing product to the BBC Micro from Acorn (Chris Curry). The ZX computers, which originally came from Sir Clive teaming up with Chris Curry to form Sinclair Research, offered people a relatively low-priced but appealing early computer, made from a small number of components, that could run simple apps and basic games. ZX computers sold well across the world and, importantly, they provided an accessible introduction to home computing, helped a wider market to learn more about computers and basic programming, and helped many people to develop an enthusiasm for learning more about what became known as IT.

Other Ventures

Prior to his C5 and ZX computers, Sir Clive had designed and released the Sinclair Executive calculator in 1972. It was well received, affordable, won Design Council awards, and was even displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York!

In the early 1990s, Sir Clive launched a lightweight, folding electric bike called the ‘Zike’. Unfortunately, like the C5, it wasn’t popular. Also, in 2011, Sir Clive announced that he was working on another electric vehicle which he called the X1.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Sir Clive Sinclair’s story will be familiar to many entrepreneurs (and is echoed in their own stories). Although not all of his ventures were successful, and he experienced financial ups and downs as a result along the way, he was not deterred and was a very driven inventor and innovator. His contribution to the early development of affordable personal computers has, no doubt, made a positive contribution to the world of IT that has come to play such an important part in the world of business today. Many think that the C5 was before its time and there is a kind of irony that all major car manufacturers are now committed to producing electric vehicles although, of course, they look nothing like Sir Clive’s work and are much more complex (and safer) than the C5.

Featured Article: The Big Switch-Off

In this article, we look at some of the key issues surrounding the planned 2025 PSTN switch-off, the move to VoIP, and what options businesses have going forward.

What’s Happening?

Back in April, BT Openreach announced that starting from the end of this year (and finishing in 2025), it will be “switching off the UK telephone network as we know it” by moving 15 million lines to a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) based replacement telephone service. In essence, this means that the Internet (broadband) will be used to carry telephone calls rather than traditional copper wires.  Switching off the UK’s traditional public switched telephone network (PSTN) will also mean the end for ISDN because it uses the copper wire phone network.  Also, BT Openreach will not be accepting new orders for PSTN, and ISDN2 and ISDN30 services after September 2023.

Why?

As noted by Ofcom, the old PSTN is reaching the end of its life and is becoming increasingly difficult and costly to maintain, and Openreach may be looking to ditch the legacy copper network completely, so it won’t have to pay to run two parallel networks. Also, there are now more up-to-date alternatives that are compatible with how we communicate today i.e., mobile and Internet communications. Broadly speaking, some advantages for customers of the switch-over to VoIP could include:

– VoIP offers a greater breadth of capabilities.

– Cost savings and fewer system failures and outages.

– Scalability and portability (VoIP phone systems can go wherever the company goes).

– Greater communications-mobility, flexibility, and increased productivity and collaboration. The importance of this has been particularly well-illustrated with the need to use remote, cloud-based communications and collaborative working platforms during the pandemic.

– Better security that’s continuously updated.

– Greater reliability.

– Improved customer experiences.

– Clearer calls, making it easier to keep existing numbers, and the choice to have broadband provided separately from the telephone service.

– Better identification and prevention of nuisance calls, thereby saving businesses time and money and potentially protecting against scammers.

Challenges and Disadvantages

There are, however, quite a few potentially serious disadvantages (for some customers/customers groups) to switching over.  These could include:

– Potential problems with latency.

– Vulnerability to phone systems going down and causing (costly) business disruption if there’s a broadband outage or if the electricity supply is interrupted.

– Older customers and/or customers in rural areas/areas poorly served by broadband may be at a disadvantage.

– A lack of awareness in the marketplace about the planned switch-over, and a large number of small businesses in the UK are still using legacy lines.

Not Just Phone Lines, But Downstream Services Too

Ofcom and Openreach have acknowledged that a big area of concern, if preparations are not made sufficiently in advance of the switch-over, is how downstream services will be affected. These include security and fire alarms, telecare devices and panic alarms, retail payment terminals/EPOS, and equipment for monitoring and controlling networks.  Specifically, these downstream services rely on some attributes of the old copper PSTN that may not be fully replicated in VoIP-based platforms, hence the importance of adequate preparation before the big switch-over in 2025.  This will require service providers to test their equipment to see if it will continue to function over IP and then replace, upgrade, or reconfigure it as appropriate. These service provider businesses will also need to ensure that customers (from residential users to large commercial and public sector entities) are made aware of the issue well in advance so that necessary steps can be taken to maintain service(s).

Ofcom has stated that the government will work with the sectors that use these downstream services (e.g., health, energy, transport, and business) so that they are aware of the change and can prepare in time.

Is BT Pushing Customers To Switch To Their VoIP?

Some tech and communications commentators (and smaller IT and comms companies) have noted that while BT is raising awareness about the switch in 2025, it also appears to be pushing for businesses to give up their PSTN lines and move to BT’s VoIP solution.  For example, as noted by the Register, BT Wholesale Hosted Communications (WHC) Express now provides a digital phone line for small businesses and a Broadband One package (full-fibre speeds up to 1Gbps). These may be a way to help BT’s resellers and integrators to tempt businesses to switch now to BT rather than wait a little longer and look around.

In July, while BT-owned Openreach was ramping up the urgency by asking customers to audit their systems for devices that use the PSTN, it also offered a ‘Call Waiting List’.  This is an online sign-up form for Openreach’s newsletter that also asks who provides the phone line(s) and offers an opt-in to share personal details with their “trusted third-parties” in relation to “digital products and services”.  While BT and the companies it owns have a genuine interest in making businesses aware that they need to prepare for the switch-over, they may also help by letting businesses know that there plenty of other providers of VoIP solutions.

What Are The Alternatives?

The old PTSN copper wires are essentially being replaced by a fibre network. With the switch-off of the old PSTN and ISD, as things look now, the main alternatives for businesses are:

– SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), which uses virtual, cloud-based phone lines rather than physical lines. This may be more suitable for businesses with an on-premises phone system. Many existing phone systems are already compatible with SIP.

– Hosted VoIP/ a Hosted IP phone system may suit businesses that don’t want to commit or retain an on-premises phone system.  As this option uses the business’s internet lines, it essentially means that the business rents a phone system.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Although the move is industry-led, there is little doubt that analogue (and old, expensive to maintain) copper wire phone systems will not be able to provide the scope, flexibility, speed, capacity, and economies of the digital alternatives as businesses now rely heavily on the Internet. Provided that there is adequate information and support given by the regulator and BT Openreach, and coordination among communications service providers (CSPs), and adequate advice and help for downstream providers, then change should be manageable, and disruption should be minimised. Obviously, very careful consideration, help, and planning need to be given to those sectors and organisations, many of which are vital to UK business and infrastructure, that still rely on some attributes of the PSTN that may not yet look as though they can be fully replicated in VoIP-based platforms.

One other important message here is that, although it’s a big change, and some test-areas will be switched-over first, the switch-over will generally be spread over four years. Although it’s important to audit systems and be prepared, businesses will have time to shop around and choose from a number of different providers and solutions rather than feeling as if they have to opt for the first offers from the big providers straight away.

Tech Insight : What Are Foldable Phones?

With the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 phone being the latest foldable phone in the spotlight, we take a closer look at what foldable phones are, their advantages, their disadvantages, and likely future development.

Foldable

As the name suggests, foldable phones have either a flexible screen, with a hinge that bisects the handset/device so that the uninterrupted screen can be opened out to twice the size or, as in the case of the Microsoft Surface Duo for Business, they have hinge that separates two screens. Depending on the model, foldable phones can open out to normal phone size (from half-size compact storage size) as with the Galaxy Z Flip or, can open out to tablet size as with the Galaxy Fold or Huawei Mate Xs.

Going Back 10 Years

Samsung first showed a prototype version of the Galaxy X foldable phone back in 2011 and, although originally due to be launched in 2018, it was delayed due to production problems in the development of the flexible plastic screens.

The Screen

The key part of a truly foldable phone (one with a screen that folds) is a screen that is flexible and yet durable enough to withstand regular folding. The display part of the screen in foldable phones uses OLED technology. OLED (organic light-emitting diode) uses LEDs in which the light is produced by organic molecules. OLED panels are made by putting several organic thin films between two conductors so that when an electrical current is applied, a bright light is emitted. The big advantages of this, especially for foldable phone production, are the flexibility of the panels and the fact that each pixel is controlled individually and emits its own light, thereby giving great image quality and bright colours.

The Advantages of Foldable Phones

Some of the main advantages of foldable phones are:

– Flexibility and convenience – space-saving, compact storage.

– Bigger displays, making it easier to see, improving the user experience, and giving the device more scope.

– Multi-tasking potential, i.e., the user can make notes while checking messages, drag and drop photos for quick sharing, and more.

– Entertainment features e.g., better for reading e-books, watching films.

– Optimised photography and videography. Folding out to a bigger screen gives more room and scope to produce and enjoy photos and videos.

– The kudos of owning one plus the added value of novelty (self-image and greater emotional value). Foldable phones may be particularly rewarding to technological early-adopters.

Disadvantages of Foldable Phones

Some of the main disadvantages of folding phones are:

– High price. Anywhere between £1000 and £2300 for new foldable handsets.

– Susceptibility to damage and wear and tear. As with any moving parts, (in this case hinges and screens), damage is more likely to occur with repeated use.

– Heavier and chunkier designs despite being compact when folded.

– Concerns about app support.

Necessity?

Some tech-commentors have asked the question “do we need foldable phones?” For example, larger-screened handsets may not pose a major inconvenience to users and many higher-end smartphones already provide much of the functionality, apps, and convenience that most users need.

The Future

At the recent Global Tech Korea 2021, Samsung Display showed off a new 13-inch prototype of a stretchable screen that can add another dimension to user-experience e.g., the panel can ‘pulse’ in time with what is being displayed on the screen (the demonstration showed a pulsating lava screensaver).

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For phone manufacturers and phone retailers, foldable phones represent a potential cash generator to help bridge the effects of the gap left by consumers waiting to switch to 5G phones when the network was available. Foldable phones also offer fashion/self-image appeal to the young age group who are big consumers of phones and tech, and they represent an area of competitive advantage for phone companies such as Samsung as they try to compete against Apple’s offerings. Foldable phones, however, have been a long time in (costly) development and suffering with (as in the case of Samsung) delays, and setbacks along the way (not helped by the pandemic). High prices mean that these phones are still at the early adopter stage and are unlikely to be appealing to smaller businesses. Going forward, innovations like the stretchable screen show that there are still some exciting developments to come in the experiential aspects of communications hardware.

Tech Tip – Stopping Distracting Ads In YouTube

If you’d like a fast and easy way to remove the distractions of ads popping up in and around the frame when watching YouTube videos, here’s how:

– Select any video on YouTube.

– Insert “_popup” between the word “watch” and the question mark the in YouTube URL and click on enter.

– You can now watch a full screen, uninterrupted YouTube video.

Tech News : No More Passwords For Microsoft Logins

In a bold step, Microsoft has announced that it is getting rid of all password logins, and that users will have to use an authenticator app or other solution instead.

Vision

Back in 2019, Microsoft announced that 100 million people were already using Microsoft’s passwordless sign-in (Ignite) each month, and in December 2020, Microsoft announced that 2020 had been “a banner year for passwordless technology” and laid out its vision for a passwordless future. This latest announcement, therefore, marks a major step towards the company making its vision a reality.

The Trouble With Passwords

Microsoft is not the only company wanting to escape from the many negative aspects of relying on password-based logins. Some of the key challenges with passwords are:

– They are a target for attacks. For example, one in every 250 corporate accounts is compromised each month, and 579 password attacks every second (18 billion every year).

– They’re inconvenient and difficult to manage across multiple accounts. For example, users are expected to create complex and unique passwords, remember them, and change them frequently. Also, 20 to 50 per cent of all help desk calls are for password resets (Gartner).

– They’re open to human error. People often choose passwords that are too simple (and very easy to remember), which makes them more vulnerable to being cracked. Also, password sharing (using the same password for multiple websites/platforms) increases the risk.

“The Passwordless Future is Here”

Microsoft has, therefore, announced that in line with its vision of the passwordless future, with immediate effect (and the rollout time over the coming weeks) its users can completely remove the need to use a password for their Microsoft accounts. Microsoft says that instead of a password-based login, users can now choose to use the Microsoft Authenticator app, Windows Hello, a security key, or a verification code sent to the user’s phone or email to sign in to Microsoft’s apps and services including Outlook, OneDrive, Microsoft Family Safety, and more. Microsoft says that those who have two-factor authentication will need to have access to two different recovery methods.

Like Microsoft’s In-House Passwordless System

Microsoft says that almost 100 per cent of its employees already use the new, more secure system for their corporate account and when passwordless login is enabled, users re-logging in to a Microsoft accounts are asked to give their fingerprint, or other secure unlock, on their mobile phone.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Businesses need to make sure that their IT systems are secure and compliant. Also, businesses need to be sure that users, perhaps in different locations (remote or hybrid working), can access their accounts (convenience) and maintain the company’s security at the same time. This bold move by Microsoft seems to tick these boxes and can be a way to help businesses to stay one good step away from cybercriminals who have already found many ways to beat password-based systems. Passorwordless and biometric systems have been highlighted, for a few years now, as the way forward, and Microsoft has now taken the first big step towards this.

Tech News : Apple Issues Patch To Stop iPhone ‘Zero-Click’ Spyware

Apple has issued a security update following the discovery of a zero-day, zero-click “spyware” that could infect iPhones and iPads.

Discovered By Researchers

The threat was discovered by independent researchers from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab while they were analysing the phone of a Saudi activist infected with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.

What Is It?

The Citizen Lab has described the threat as a zero-day (unknown, or known but with no patch yet), zero-click “spyware”. This is spying malware that doesn’t need users to click on a link or file to launch it. The Citizen Lab, which has identified the threat as being “in the wild” (already in circulation), says that a “maliciously crafted” PDF file could lead to arbitrary code execution. The threat uses malicious Adobe PDF files disguised to look like GIF (files with the “.gif” extension). The exploit has been dubbed “FORCEDENTRY” and, is believed to target Apple’s image rendering library, and works by exploiting an integer overflow vulnerability in Apple’s image rendering library (CoreGraphics).

iOS, MacOS, and WatchOS Devices At Risk

The researchers found the threat to be effective against Apple iOS, MacOS, and WatchOS devices, and that it has been used by a mercenary spyware company called “NSO Group” to remotely exploit and infect the latest Apple devices with the Pegasus spyware.

Patch Issued In Response

After The Citizen Lab passed the details of its findings to Apple, the tech giant released a patch/security update. Apple issued iOS 14.8 and iPadOS 14.8 patches for iPhone 6s and later, iPad Pro (all models), iPad Air 2 and later, iPad 5th generation and later, iPad mini 4 and later, and iPod touch (7th generation). Apple says that it is “aware of a report that this issue may have been actively exploited”.

Bad Timing

The news of the discovery of the exploit, which may have been in use since at least February this year, came at a bad time for Apple as the company prepared to unveil its new devices, including its new iPhones and updates to its AirPods and Apple Watch, at its annual launch event (Tuesday).

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The Citizen Lab researchers have blamed the Israel-based NSO Group for selling technology that is being used as “despotism-as-a-service” by unaccountable government security agencies. Even though this is a real threat to iPhones, iPads, and Apple watches, security commentators say that the vast majority of iPhone owners don’t need to be too concerned because this type of attack is usually highly targeted. Nevertheless, the discovery has come at an unfortunate moment for Apple which has been busy trying to promote the benefits of its new products while competitors like Microsoft have announced the launch of a new, secure, passwordless login system.

Featured Article: Charging Electric Vehicles – What You Need to Know

In this article, we look at the different types and locations of EV charging in the UK, plus the challenges and legislation relating to it.

How Many Electric Cars In The UK?

By the end of August 2021, there were more than 600,000 plug-in vehicles, and nearly 300,000 BEVs (Battery-Powered Electric Vehicles) and 300,000 PHEVs (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle ) registered in the UK. Electric vehicles are often simply referred to as EVs.

Charging EVs

Electronic vehicles contain batteries that need charging. Although hybrid EVs are powered by an internal combustion engine and electric motor (which uses energy stored in batteries), they can’t be plugged in to charge the battery (the engine and regenerative braking charge the battery).

For normal EVs, three main types of charging are available (rapid, fast, and slow). These represent the power outputs (measured in kilowatts kW) and charging speeds. Each charger type has a different type of connector for low or high-power use, and for AC or DC charging.

Rapid chargers, using tethered cables, are the fastest way to charge an EV, and they supply high power as direct or alternating current (DC or AC). Typically (depending on the model), rapid charging can recharge EV batteries to 80 per cent in around 20 minutes. Types of rapid chargers include rapid DC chargers (providing power at 50 kW/125A, ultra-rapid DC chargers providing power at 100 kW or more, Tesla’s own Supercharger network providing rapid DC charging (using the Tesla Type 2 connector or a Tesla CCS connector) up to 150 kW, and rapid AC chargers providing power at 43 kW.

Fast chargers (mostly AC charging) can typically recharge an EV with a 40-kWh battery in 4-6 hours using a 7-kW charger, or in 1-2 hours using a 22-kW charger. Most fast chargers are 7 kW and untethered (a cable that is not permanently fixed to the charge point connects the EV with the charge point). Some home and workplace units have cables attached.

Slow chargers are mostly untethered, and a 3-kW unit typically takes 6-12 hours to fully charge a car battery.

Different Connectors for Charging

Connectors (to the car from the charging point) differ depending on the charger type (socket) and the vehicle’s inlet port. For example, rapid chargers use CHAdeMO, CCS (Combined Charging Standard) or Type 2 connectors, whereas fast and slow units tend to use Type 2, Type 1, Commando, or 3-pin plug outlets.

Where?

The choices of where EV owners can charge their vehicles include vary. For example, there are 20+ EV charging networks are currently available in the UK. Examples of these networks include the ESB Energy public network (rapid charge points, London, and Coventry plus charge points for taxi drivers), Osprey (formerly Engenie) with its UK-wide network of rapid chargers, and bp pulse (formerly Polar) which is one of the UK’s largest public charging networks.

EV charger types and their location typically include:

– Rapid chargers, which can be found (typically) at motorway services and near main travel routes.

– Fast chargers, found (typically) at car parks, supermarkets, and leisure centres.

– Slow Charging points are mainly used outside private homes (for charging overnight), at workplaces, and in some other public places. Slow public chargers tend to be older devices.

Paying

Different networks offer different payment methods for using their chargers. Payment methods include Zap-Pay (an app-based, pay-as-you-go credit or debit card system), contactless credit or debit card payments, MFG app contactless payments, subscription memberships, and more.

Most Use Public Chargers

A Zap-Map survey (of 2,200 people) found that 90 per cent use public chargers when they’re out. Supermarkets are the most popular public charging place (48 per cent of respondents), followed by motorway service stations (47 per cent) and public car parks (32 per cent).

Ultra-Rapid Charging Point Growth

Recent figures have also shown a growth in ultra-rapid charge points with 16 per cent of EV owners now using them. This trend has been helped by more cars being able to take higher charge rates as well as an almost doubling of the number of ultra-rapid charge points available.

The UK Law

In the UK, the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 (AEV Act), was essentially designed to ensure that the UK’s infrastructure and insurance system could cope with the large-scale switch from petrol/diesel to electronic vehicles. Whereas the first part of the Act is mainly concerned with how insurers deal with claims related to operating EVs in automated technology mode and keeping the software up to date, the second part deals with the EV charging infrastructure (availability, compatibility vehicle types, reliability standards and standardising how they are paid for).

Government Consultation

In 2019, the UK government held a consultation with stakeholders in response to the introduction of the Act. Some of the key points in the responses include:

– The time of day at which Electric Vehicle (EV) charging occurs could have significant implications for the electricity system. With more people getting home charging points, this could lead to most EVs being charged at peak times (between 5pm and 7pm), this could mean that greater investment is needed in the charging networks, and in and in electricity generation capacity to meet increased demand.

– Shifting EV charging to a different time of day (e.g. overnight) when there is lower demand on the electricity system, or to times of high renewable energy generation, could help reduce the need for costly electricity network reinforcement to meet increased demand, and could give consumers savings on their energy bills.

– The AEV Act 2018 gives the UK Government powers through secondary legislation to mandate that all EV charge points sold and installed in the UK have smart functionality and meet minimum device-level requirements.

Peak Times?

Due to the increased demand and possible disruptive effect on the UK energy supply from EV owners all charging their cars at the same time, there have been concerns that new EV chargers could be preset to turn off for nine hours a day, and automatically set to not function at ‘peak times.’ However, public chargers and rapid chargers (e.g. on motorways) are exempt from peak times. Smart charge points may, however, come pre-set to prevent automatic charging during peak times (8 am to 11 am, 4 pm to 10 pm weekdays) but the legislation specifies time windows instead of an off-peak period.

Although the UK government requires smart EV charger makers to include a function that randomly delays the start time of any load control action (to delay EV charging when there is grid instability), they have also said that users should be allowed to override this delay function.

New Build Homes and Offices Must Include EV Chargers

One of the big challenges to getting people to buy an EV vehicle is whether they can have charging points available at home (or at work). The UK government is therefore introducing legislation later this year that will require all newly built homes and offices in England to feature EV chargers.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Having a charging network that is widespread, effective, easy, and cheap to use, and having home and/or office charging points as well as public charging points are of major importance in influencing more people to make the switch to EV ownership. There is, however, still some confusion in the marketplace about charging options which is one of the reasons why The Department for Transport (DfT) has introduced contactless payment at charge points, forcing operators to provide a 24/7 call helpline for drivers and making location data, power rating and price information more accessible, with the hope of reassuring motorists that charging EV’s can be easier than refuelling with petrol or diesel. Also, the government needs to be able to ensure that the energy infrastructure is capable of dealing with the demands of EV charging (e.g. home charging) on a large scale, and that this will not disrupt/destabilise the grid, especially at peak times, hence the government’s consultation. This is a challenge that must be tackled soon due to legislation coming in to require all new homes and offices to have a charging point. The EV charging network market is also likely to expand, thereby providing more new opportunities for energy companies and charging network suppliers. How the situation is balanced and managed as EV ownership takes off is a critical matter for government, businesses, and individuals over the next few years.

Tech Insight : What Is A Solid State Battery?

In this tech-insight, we take a brief look at what solid-state batteries are, their benefits and challenges, and how why they hold a great deal of promise for use in electric vehicles in the near future.

Solid State

A solid-state battery is a battery that has solid electrodes and solid electrolytes to transfer ions from the cathode to the anode when charging (and vice versa when discharging).  This differs from lithium-ion/ lithium polymer batteries which have a liquid or polymer gel as the electrolyte.

The Benefits of Solid-State Batteries

Some of the main benefits of solid-state batteries are:

– Longer battery run time in relation to the battery size due to higher energy density.

– Safety. There’s no risk of explosion or fire, as there is with some batteries with liquid electrolytes.

– Better use of space and lower costs (compared to lithium-ion batteries) because there is no need for (fire/explosion) safety components.

– Increased battery capacity due to the better use of space, allowing for the inclusion of more active materials.

– Compact/small and light, therefore giving flexibility in where they can be used.

– Longer lifespans, plus solid-state batteries can be charged more times than lithium-ion batteries.

– Fast charging time, better performance over time, a longer life cycle, and better recycling potential than lithium-ion batteries.

Disadvantages and Challenges

Some of the disadvantages and challenges of solid state batteries include:

– Expensive to manufacture because it’s an emerging technology, so the economies of scale aren’t in place, and electrolytes are expensive to produce (and are prone to cracking).

– Uncertainty about the best chemical and atomic composition for a solid electrolyte between metallic anodes and cathodes.

– Difficult to manufacture at scale.

Applications of Solid-State Batteries

Some of the current places where solid-state batteries are used include within pacemakers, smartwatches/wearable devices, and RFID tags (in industry).

Electric Vehicles

Factors such as the high energy density per unit area (providing a higher capacity and longer run time) have made solid-state batteries a very promising prospect for the EV market, with many automobile and tech companies investing in moving solid-state technology forwards.  For example, Samsung’s Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) claims to have made a breakthrough in solid electrolyte technology which has enabled the size of a solid-state battery to be halved.  This could, in theory, double the range of today’s first-generation EVs on one charge. Many tech commentators are predicting that solid-state batteries may take over from lithium-ion batteries.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Smaller, more powerful, longer-lasting batteries that offer the promise of greater sustainability are surely an attractive prospect in many industries, particularly the emerging EV industry. All the major car companies are now committed to electric vehicle production and how well a battery performs is an important value-adding factor for motorists to consider as they buy their first electric vehicles. There are still several challenges to overcome with solid-state batteries (e.g. finding the best composition and manufacturing at scale) but momentum is now building towards making the breakthroughs that could see solid-state batteries delivering benefits in more industries.

Tech Tip – A Quick Look At Your Desktop

If you’re browsing the Internet or working on file in Windows 10 but you need a fast look at your desktop here’s how:

– While in a browser or working on a Microsoft Office file e.g., Word, find the tiny vertical line to the far, right hand-side of the bottom taskbar.

– Click on the line. Everything will be minimised so you can see your desktop.

– Click on the same line again to restore your Windows.

Alternatively, you can:

– Right-mouse click over the line (far right of the taskbar) and select ‘Show desktop’.

OR

– Right-mouse click over the line (far right of the taskbar) and select ‘Peek at desktop’. Clicking on it will make a checkmark will appear to its left.

– If you hover your cursor over the “Show Desktop” button, you will see a quick peek at the desktop.