Face Masks Beat Facial Recognition

New research has shown that even the most advanced facial recognition algorithms can only identify as little as 50 per cent of faces when masks are worn.


Although necessary in the pandemic, mask-wearing appears to be posing a serious challenge to even the most advanced facial recognition systems, meaning that security and policing may be adversely affected.  The recently published preliminary research results from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology showed that the failure rate of facial recognition algorithms when faced with a mask, could be anything from 2 to 50 per cent.

The test was carried out by drawing digital masks onto faces from border-crossing photos and by comparing these photos with a database of unmasked faces. The research used 6.2 million images of 1 million people and involved 89 algorithms.

The Result

Whereas ideal conditions should yield only a 0.3 per cent failure rate, the addition of digital masks to images led to failure rates of 5 per cent and upwards, with many algorithms (that were developed pre-pandemic) failing between 20 per cent to 50 per cent of the time.

What About Clear Masks?

Aspects of human communication can also be affected by the use of masks and face coverings.  For example, for the 12 million people in the UK who are deaf or suffer from degrees of hearing loss, an opaque face mask can create a serious barrier to communication e.g. stopping lip-reading and obscuring other the visual cues and facial expressions.

The National Deaf Children’s Society, among others, has been campaigning for clear face masks or face masks with a kind of clear window that allows the mouth to be seen. Companies are now producing these masks such as the FDA-approved ‘Leaf’ transparent mask by Redcliffe Medical Devices in Michigan.  The Leaf Mask has a filter and an anti-fog coating. Top of the range versions of Leaf even includes features like a UVC light (to kill pathogens), tiny fans, and even sensors for air quality, humidity, and dust.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The wearing of masks may be an important way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by asymptomatic people and to improve confidence as lockdown restrictions are eased but can create a real challenge to those with hearing problems who need to see the mouth of the person they are communicating with.  They can also create a more general challenge to communications where facial expressions are concerned. 

Mask-wearing in shops and at other sites is, however, likely to be helpful for retail businesses by boosting the confidence of shoppers, and there appear to be many business opportunities and niches for businesses that make masks and other equipment to help create retain social distancing and provide protection while using business premises e.g. screens/visors.  These opportunities are likely to be met with more creative and imaginative solutions as time goes on while the world waits for vaccines and other treatments to be developed.

Test and Trace Breaks GDPR Say Campaigners

The Open Rights Group (ORG) has said that England’s COVID-19 Test and Trace programme is in breach of GDPR.

Test and Trace

The COVID-19 test and trace system requires people to share personal data such as their name and date of birth, their address, places they’ve recently visited and the personal details of those they have recently been in close contact with.

The ORG has alleged that England’s test and trace programme was deployed without the necessary Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA).

Seeking An Immediate DPIA

The ORG, therefore,  threatened to take the government to court unless it agreed to immediately conduct a DPIA, alleging that England’s (under the UK Government) entire Test & Trace programme had been operating unlawfully and in breach of GDPR since its launch on 28 May 2020.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group has said, for example, that “The reckless behaviour of this Government in ignoring a vital and legally required safety step known as the Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) has endangered public health”, and that “we have already seen individual contractors sharing patient data on social media platforms, emergency remedial steps will need to be taken”.

No Breach

The DPO says that The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has admitted that Test and Trace was deployed without a DPIA and Ravi Naik, Legal Director of the new data rights agency AWO, acting on behalf of ORG said that “The Government has made two significant concessions to our clients. Firstly, when asked to justify retaining COVID-19 data for 20 years they couldn’t do so and agreed to reduce the period to 8 years” and that “Secondly, they have now admitted Test and Trace was deployed unlawfully. This is significant. It is a legal requirement to conduct an impact assessment before data processing takes place.”

The Government Says

Although Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said recently on BBC TV that there had not been any breach of the data stored and that a track and trace system needed to be set up quickly in order to help fight the virus,  the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is understood to be already investigating Track and Trace and is providing guidance to the government.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The effects of the virus and the lockdown on UK businesses has been profound and having an effective Test and Trace system working quickly and widely may be one of the tools that could help UK businesses and the economy recover more quickly. That said, just as businesses must operate within data protection laws, and face fines for not doing so, the government also has a responsibility to do so.  As pointed out by ORG “A crucial element in the fight against the pandemic is mutual trust between the public and the Government, which is undermined by their operating the programme without basic privacy safeguards”.

COVID-19 Advances Move To Cashless Society

A survey has shown how the need for most people to pay using a contactless card in shops, digital/ mobile and online means for purchases during lockdown may have sped up the move towards a cashless future.


The survey of 2,000 people, by Nationwide Building Society, showed that the average respondent had gone over six weeks without using cash and that the lockdown led to 27% of respondents to use mobile payments and 25% to use online or mobile banking for the first time.

Big Spike In Contactless

Not surprisingly, the survey revealed that in the first week of lockdown, 23 March, 7.15 million contactless payments worth £77.27m were made by Nationwide customers.  As the lockdown progressed, there was a substantial increase in contactless payments to 10.31 million contactless payments worth £128m in the week beginning 25 May.

Older People Too

The survey also revealed that 75% of older Nationwide customers (over 55) reduced their cash usage during the lockdown. This appears likely to be due to hardly any physical shops being open anyway, limited or no public transport in many places and online shopping becoming more important for safety and convenience reasons, particularly with many older and more vulnerable people sheltering. 

The lockdown appears to have forced older customers to try new payment and shopping routes e.g. Amazon and PayPal and perhaps to discover how easy and secure digital shopping can be.

Use of Cash in Decline Anyway

Before the pandemic, the use of cash had been declining anyway in developed countries in favour of payment-means like contactless, mobile payments and online shopping. For example, for the first time, debit card use, driven by contactless payments, overtook the number of payment transactions made in cash in the UK back in 2017.

Also, Access To Cash research from 2019 showed that cash use appeared likely to end by as soon as 2026, although notes and coins may still be used in 15 years’ time, but only for an estimated 10% and 15% of transactions.

The declining use of cash has also forced the removal of many ATMs, and a move to online and mobile banking has contributed to the closure of many bank branches.

All these factors have put pressure on the whole cash system and have threatened to drive cash out of popular use within 10 years.


The pandemic created a reluctance for many essential stores that were open to accept cash due to possible health risks from its physical exchange, plus the limitations in bank services.  Prior to the pandemic, however, many businesses had already developed a preference for cashless operating because of its ease, convenience, speed of transactions, reduced theft risk and the resulting lower insurance premiums.

Many supermarkets had also been ramping up their competition for online grocery shopping.


The pandemic has also helped to expose how many people in society are old, vulnerable, in poor health, and who need to use cash. For example, many poorer and older members of society, and those with mental health challenges rely on cash and may not have a bank account.

Also, businesses in rural areas have always found it more difficult to go cashless in preference of digital payment due to those areas being less well served by broadband and mobile connections.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Those businesses that have traditionally dealt in cash and digital/online for payment have undoubtedly seen a massive decrease in cash use, but one thing that the survey results may not show, but the assumption could be made from the results, is that the pandemic may have demonstrated to people that they can carry on without needing to use cash for many products and services.  This period of relying on contactless, digital and online payments may turn out to have accelerated the move towards a cashless society as consumers have been forced to try new methods and may have been won-over, and may prefer to carry on this way as much as possible.

Interestingly, Facebook’s WhatsApp has just announced that its users in Brazil can now send and receive money through its messaging app, using a PIN and fingerprint for authentication.  This will, no doubt, be rolled out to other countries soon and will facilitate a greater move away from cash towards digital payment methods.

Once businesses start moving forwards again, they should expect a growing preference by customers to use contactless, digital, and online payments.

COVID Alerts From Google Maps

Google Maps is now issuing COVID-19 related alerts to those looking for public transport directions in cities, looking for medical facilities and testing centres, and for those crossing borders.

New Alerts

Google has announced on its blog that it is augmenting its Google Maps information with alerts relating to COVID-19 restrictions, requirements and advice depending on the subject of the search.  The new features in the latest release of Google Maps on Android and iOS include:

 – Alerts from local transit agencies e.g. if persons are required to wear a mask on public transportation in the area that they are searching for information about.  These alerts are being rolled out by Google in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, France, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom, and the U.S.

– Driving alerts about COVID-19 checkpoints and restrictions along routes e.g. when crossing national borders in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.

– Alerts reminding Google Maps users searching for medical facilities or COVID-19 testing centres about eligibility and facility guidelines to avoid being turned away or causing additional strain on the local healthcare system.

Existing Alerts and Insights

These alerts are in addition to those features already introduced last year, such as crowdedness predictions for public transit stations in Google Maps, and insights introduced in February, such as temperature, accessibility, onboard security, and insights concerning designated women’s sections in regions where transit systems have them.

How Busy?

Google has also announced that those searching for transit stations on Maps will be able to see information about the times when that transit station is historically more or less busy, thereby enabling them to plan trips accordingly.  Also, Google Maps users can now see live data showing how busy a particular transit station is right now compared to its usual level of activity.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Travel, whether it be to or from re-opening workplaces or business trips now involves the need to avoid crowded places and to be aware of the different rules to apply as regards the wearing of masks or any travel restrictions in certain areas.  The introduction of these new features and insights to Google Maps is not only helpful to users in the current situation but will also help Google ensure that its services remain relevant and are used as people are spending more time on and relying more on other COVID-19 tracing and alert apps in different countries around the world.

Facial Recognition, Photo Identity and Privacy Protection

With phone cameras, surveillance cameras with facial recognition seemingly everywhere and the world entering a new phase of social change, many people are looking at how they can take simple steps to retain and protect their privacy rights.


As enshrined in data protection laws, such as GDPR, and with biometrics now being used widely, our faces are part of the personal data that we need to protect. Concerns, such as those expressed by the ICO’s head, Elizabeth Dunham, that police facial recognition systems have issues including accuracy are the reason for many to be looking at ways to protect themselves where necessary.

Public trust in facial recognition systems also still has some way to go as the technology progresses from what is now a relatively early stage.  For example, the results of a recent survey released by Monash University in Australia showed that half of Australians believe that their privacy is being invaded by the presence of facial recognition technology in public spaces.  Also, in the U.S., government researchers of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have said (in May 2020) that not enough is being done to engender trust in any decisions made by facial recognition and biometrics systems, and in Europe in January, the European Commission was considering a ban on the use of facial recognition in public spaces for up to five years while new regulations for its use could be put in place.

Protest Example

In a democracy such as the UK, protests are allowed take place for any number of issues, and the recent protests over the killing of George Floyd and in support of Black Lives Matter have brought into focus how to protect personal data and identity while exercising democratic rights.

For example, those wishing to obscure faces in their own protest photos that they share often use software to paint over faces, or use a mosaic blur technique because these cannot be reversed, rather than a simple blur effect which it is possible for authorities to de-blur using new neural networks.

This process of blocking out faces in photos can be carried out using the built-in photo editor on a smartphone.  For example:

– On iOS, open Photos, tap on the photo, select Edit (top right), tap the three dots to access Mark-up and use solid circles or squares to block out faces.

– On Android (using the native Mark-up tool), in the Photos app, select the photo, tap on Edit (bottom, second left), select Mark-up (bottom, second right), and block out faces e.g. using the Pen tool.

Removing Metadata

Removing the photo’s metadata (data stored in phone photos e.g. type of device and camera, date, time, location) can be achieved by taking screenshots the photos, and making sure that there are no other identifying features in the screenshot.

Masks and Facial Recognition

Tech and news commentators have noted recently how mask-wearing during the COVId-19 pandemic has proven to be a challenge for facial recognition systems, although it has also been suggested that AI facial recognition systems have now had the chance to have more ‘training’ in being able to identify mask-wearing people correctly.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Facial recognition (if used responsibly as intended) can help to fight crime in towns and city centres, thereby helping the mainly retail businesses that operate there, although there are still questions about its accuracy and its impact on our privacy and civil liberties.

Where sharing photos and worries about privacy is concerned, there are apps in place on smartphones that allow faces to be blocked out.  Also, when on Facebook, for example, not using a close up / clear photo of your face as a public profile picture, or revealing too much about where photos were taken, as well as not geotagging or posting photos that reveal your address or show valuable items at your home / where you keep valuables are also steps that can be taken to help retain your privacy and security.  Photos taken in the workplace, particularly those posted on websites and social media should also be vetted to ensure that there are no implications for physical security and that staff featured are happy to have the photo shared.

Beware Fake Contact Tracer Messages

Just as you thought that cybercriminals had exploited every aspect of the pandemic with phishing, vishing, smishing and more, there are now warnings to beware of fake contact tracer messages.

Contact Tracing in the UK

Here in the UK, NHS contact tracers are now contacting those persons who are believed to have been in close contact with those who have tested positive for COVID-19.  The system works by those who test positive filling in a form (while they are well enough to do so) detailing where they have been plus when and who they have been in contact with.  From there, the NHS tracer contacts those who are believed to have been in close contact (via phone or text) and asks them to self-isolate for 14 days, the period by which symptoms of an infected person should have shown. Close contact is defined as face-to-face contact/close proximity for more than 15 minutes. 

This contact tracing service has been put into place before the app, which is designed to automatically do the same thing but has not been released yet.

Scam Messages

The type of scam messages that have already been observed by many people was highlighted by Stuart Fuller, Chairman of Lewes Football Club.  On his Twitter page, Mr Fuller shared a screenshot of a text message from the fraudsters and warned that such messages are not genuine and that clicking on the link in the message would lead to a phishing page.

The screenshot showed a text message which had a recommendation for the recipient to self-isolate because they had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for or showed symptoms of COVID-19.  The message included a link to follow for the recipient to get more information.


On his blog, ethical hacker Jake Davis highlights how the problem with the UK government using SMS during COVID-19 is that people are more vulnerable than ever to fake information and SMS messages can easily be made to look as though they come from the government.  In a blog post, Mr Davis says that making an SMS message appear to come from the government is as simple as inserting “UK_Gov” instead of some digits as the sender.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This and other similar types of smishing and phishing attacks are predicted to increase this year, and their success and prevalence is a sign of how vulnerable the COVID-19 outbreak it makes people feel, and how their search for and emotional reactions to information about health and financial matters are playing into the hands of criminals who are happy to exploit anyone.  Companies and organisations need to educate their staff about the threat, while businesses and individuals need to be vigilant and cautious about any unusual SMS messages or unsolicited phone calls, particularly those that offer rewards, create panic, warn of unpleasant consequences, or apply a feeling of pressure to act. Bear in mind that it is relatively easy to fake the source of a text message and although receiving such a message may at first be a shock, it is worth checking that the supposed government/NHS SMS is genuine before thinking about clicking on any links.

Google Store Takes Down App That Removes Chinese Software

Google has removed an app from its Play Store that was designed to help users to detect and delete apps that were made in China.

More Than 1 Million Downloads

The Remove China Apps, which is reported to have been downloaded by more than a million people on its first day has now been removed from Google’s Play Store following complaints from Chinese app makers that the app was clearly a form of market disruption.

The App

The app, which was developed by the Indian company One Touch AppLabs, was designed to help identify and remove any apps of Chinese origin from the user’s phone.  This included identifying extremely popular apps such as TikTok (owned by a Beijing-based company) and Zoom, whose founder was born in China.

If a user chose to delete all the apps that had been identified as being linked to China by Remove China Apps, the user would receive a message on their phone that is reported to have said “Congratulations. You are awesome. No China app found in your system.”

The app was not as successful, however, in being able to identify apps that had been pre-installed on Chinese-made smartphones.


Despite millions of downloads by Indian people hoping to rid themselves of Chinese apps, most smartphones in India were made in China. Also, some tech commentators have suggested that it may be difficult for Indian developers to make good equivalent apps and that a freeze on investment in India by countries like China (announced in April) could actually hit funding opportunities for Indian start-ups.


Remove China Apps, which was developed by an Indian company and has the vast majority of its downloads in India appears to have been released in response to tensions between China and India after Chinese troops were reported to have moved into the disputed Kashmir region.  Also, many people in India blame China for the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown they have been forced to live under since March.

What Did Google Say?

For Google, it appears to have simply been a matter of removing an app that potentially breached guidelines.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Clearly, there is a great deal of anti-Chinese feeling in India at the moment but it’s quite surprising anyway that an app that looks likely to have had a serious effect on competition and access to a large app market for companies simply because of their geographical base and/or origins was able to make it into Google’s Store in the first place.  Google itself is now facing criticism from some Indians for removing the app and, therefore, appearing to some to support China in the argument.  There is currently still a stand-off between the troops of both countries and the argument has also highlighted how many tech products and services used in India come from China, and how popular they are.  This is something that was also discovered by the US government in recent arguments relating to Huawei products. Global tech companies are now often finding themselves involved in global arguments.

NHS Immunity “Passport” App

Andrew Bud, chief executive of iProov, the company behind the NHS app, has floated the idea of using facial recognition for Covid-19 “immunity passports”.


The iProov-made NHS app system, for Android and iOS, not to be confused with the in-development COVID-19 app, is a system for use in England that allows users to access a range of NHS services via smartphone or tablet.

The app can currently be used to get advice about coronavirus, order repeat prescriptions, book appointments, check symptoms (against NHS information), view the user’s medical records, register a user’s organ donation decision, and to find out how the NHS uses a user’s data.

Facial Recognition

Users of the app have to submit a photo of themselves from an official document such as their passport or driving license which the app system uses as the basis for facial recognition to enable a user to verify their identity and access NHS services via the app.

Each time the user logs in using facial recognition, the system scans a person’s face using their phone/tablet camera which involves the user seeing a short sequence of flashing colours.

The Basis of an Immunity Passport

In support of a suggestion made previously by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Andrew Bud, chief executive iProov has suggested that the trusted identity system of the NHS app could provide the basis for an “immunity passport”.

Immunity Passports

According to the Lancet, an immunity passport is a “digital or physical document that certify an individual has been infected and is purportedly immune to SARS-CoV-2” (the disease associated with the 2019 COVId-19 virus).  The idea of an immunity passport is something that has been considered by governments including Chile, Germany, Italy, the UK, and the USA.  An immunity passport could be used to exempt individuals from physical restrictions and could enable them to return to work, school, and daily life.


While an immunity passport is an option, some of the issues with this idea are that:

– There is no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection (as stated by the WHO, April 24).

– A false-positive and an immune status could make that passport holder change their behaviour, despite still being susceptible to infection and able to infect others.

– Artificial restrictions in society could result for those who don’t have an immunity passport, and this could lead to discrimination, inequality, corruption, bias and even to extra costs for those in countries that don’t have access to (free) health care at the point of delivery.

– Immunity passports for some could restrict travel and civil liberties and could even incentivise people to become infected in order to get the benefits that such a passport could bring.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

All businesses want to provide a safe environment for their staff, their customers, and other stakeholders as we move out of lockdown restrictions where economies still must function in an environment where COVID-19 is still a serious threat.  Whereas an immunity passport sounds as though it could indicate that a person is less of a risk e.g. when accessing services, not enough is known about whether a person can contract the virus more than once, thereby limiting the effectiveness and validity of the system.  Also, it depends upon how rigidly and widely such a system is used as to its effectiveness, and there are clearly many other issues based around discrimination to consider.

Facial recognition on an app however does sound like it could form a trusted base for a system that requires accurate verification.

Fuel Engine Car Sales Fall Faster Than Electric Cars

A Bloomberg NEF (BNEF) report forecasts that sales of combustion engine cars will drop 23 per cent in 2020, whereas worldwide electric car registrations are set to fall by only 18 per cent.

Pandemic Causing Huge Car Sales Downturn

With lockdown measures, a mass loss of income and jobs, the closure of car plants and showrooms worldwide, and a huge dent in ‘consumer confidence’ has come an inevitable downturn in the sales and registrations of new cars in 2020.

Three Years

Colin McKerracher, head of advanced transport at BNEF has said: “The long-term trajectory has not changed, but the market will be bumpy for the next three years.”

Electric Models

The BNEF has also forecast that electric vehicle models will reach 31 per cent of the overall car fleet by 2040, accounting for 58 per cent of new passenger car sales. Combustion engine cars, however, are forecast to continue to gradually decline from their peak in 2017.

There are already 7 million electric cars on the road and electric car sales for this year have been 1.7 million. 

Implications For Oil and Electricity

The demand for oil is predicted by BNEF to reduce by 17.6 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2040 as anti-pollution legislation and the resulting increase in electric-powered transport takes over. BNEF also says that the increased number of electric cars could mean a 5.2% increase in the demand for power as well as the need for 290 million charging points by 2040.

Cars Not Sold

The Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) figures show that only 4,321 cars were registered in the UK in April, which is the lowest monthly level since 1946 and marks a massive 97 per cent plunge in sales from the same month in 2019.

Large numbers of unsold cars are now simply stored outside, waiting for lockdown restrictions to be lifted and some kind of upturn in the economy.  For example, the Upper Heyford airbase close to Bicester, in Oxfordshire is currently home to a vast quantity of cars estimated to be worth £35 million.

Air Quality

Lockdown around the world has brought a fast and dramatic decrease in air pollution and subsequent increase in air quality.  For example, nitrogen dioxide levels are reported to have fallen by 40 per cent around over urban areas in China, 20 per cent over Belgium and Germany, and anywhere from 19 to 40 per cent in different parts of the U.S.

The chance to see how much the environment has benefitted from coronavirus restrictions on industry and transport (road, aircraft, and rail) is likely to strengthen the case for electric vehicle ownership worldwide.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

New car registrations are often used as a key economic indicator and the pandemic has clearly been disastrous for the car market including manufacturers and their supply chains around the world. Little or no demand from hard-hit consumers is, of course, at the heart of this massive slump in a huge industry.  It is not surprising, therefore, that the BNEF is suggesting very bumpy times in the industry over the next 3 years.  Electric car ownership, driven by climate targets, industry investment and commitment, and now a perhaps improved perception by consumers who can see how a clean-air electric future could look appears to be something that, once the initial round of recessions starts to lessen could increase towards its projected trajectory.  As well as having implications for the oil and electric industries, increased demand for electric cars could create more opportunities for businesses going forward.

Virtual Restart For Housing Market

The housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, has said in a speech about safely restarting the housing market that technology such as virtual viewings looks set to play an important part.

Hard Hit Housing

The housing market has been hit extremely hard by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and by the measures taken to curb the spread of the virus. Mr Jenrick highlighted how 450,000 property buyers had to put their plans on hold and 300,000 tenancies come up for renewal each month.  Also, the pandemic has meant that people have been unable to move, many people have been forced to take mortgage holidays or have struggled with rent payments and estate and letting agents around the country have been closed. Housing experts are now predicting a sharp drop in house prices this year.

The construction industry also ground to a halt as lockdown measures were introduced.

It is only now that some estate agents and housebuilding firms have begun to reopen as lockdown restrictions have been relaxed.

How Technology Is Helping

Technology is reported to be helping with the restart of the housing and construction industries in several ways including:

– Estate agents being encouraged to conduct virtual viewings rather than in-person visits to properties.

– Digital transformation projects under the Digital Street plan by HM Land Registry that should allow buyers to carry out parts of the property buying process digitally e.g. using blockchain for contracts and signing deeds online.

– The first-ever virtual hearings for the planning inspectorate which Mr Jenrick has said should take place “within weeks”.

– The UK government using video, phones, and computers to vote remotely on debates.


On 13 May Mr Jenrick announced the following other measures to help get the housing market and construction moving in the right direction again:

– The First Homes programme (later this year) will give a 30% discount on new homes for key workers including nurses and teachers and police officers as well as local first-time buyers.

– The opening of estate agents’ offices and show homes and allowing and removal companies and the other essential parts of the sales and letting process to re-start.

– Allowing house-building sites to apply to extend their working hours to 9 pm Monday to Saturday in residential areas and beyond that in non-residential areas.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The pandemic has forced many of those in government, business and other walks of life to use and realise the value of technology in order to carry out what work they can whether it is video conferencing, collaborative cloud-based working platforms, or other tech tools. The fact that aspects of the housing market and planning can be carried out in a ‘virtual’ way provides safe and effective ways to help to get things moving again and is making a positive contribution at an exceedingly difficult time.