Viruses Killed By Robots

Robots armed with UV-C ultraviolet light beams that can effectively disinfect surfaces in a hospital room in 10-20 minutes are helping in the fight against COVID-19.

UVD Robots, Denmark

The robots, which are reported to have been shipped in considerable numbers to Wuhan in China, Asia, and parts of Europe are manufactured in Denmark’s third-largest city, Odense, by the UVD Robots company.  The manufacturers say that if used as part of a regular cleaning cycle, they could prevent and reduce the spread of infectious diseases, viruses, bacteria, as well as other types of harmful organic microorganisms.

Breaks Down DNA

These smart robots, which look a little like a printer on wheels with several light-sabres arranged vertically in a circle on top, can autonomously clean traces of viruses from a room by ‘burning’ them from surfaces using UV-Wavelength: 254NM (UV-C light) in a way that breaks down the DNA-structure of the virus.

Research and Testing

The UVD robots are the product of 6 years research, design, development, and testing by leading, reputable organisation Blue Ocean Robotics, and the Danish Healthcare Authority (supported by leading microbiologists and hygiene specialists from Odense University Hospital).

How?

The Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) method of disinfection, which has been in accepted use since the mid-20th century, involves using short-wavelength ultraviolet (UV-C) to disrupt the DNA of microorganisms so that they can no longer carry out cellular functions.

Features

The features of UVD’s cleaning robots include 360-degree disinfection coverage, a 3-hour battery charge, and software and sensor-based safety features.  The operating time per charge for the UV module is 2-2.5 hours (equal to 9-10 rooms).  It is claimed that these units can kill up to 99.99 per cent of bacteria.

HAIs

The primary purpose of the robots is to help and improve quality of care for hospitals and healthcare facilities around the world by providing an effective, low human risk, 24-hour available way to eradicate the kind of Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) which affect millions of patients (and kill several thousand) each year.

The COVID-19 outbreak which has led to many healthcare environments being overwhelmed with large numbers of patients has, therefore, made the need for this kind of cleaning/disinfecting system seem very attractive.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Now, more than ever in living memory, having a device that can simply, automatically, quickly and effectively get on with the cleaning of hospital rooms on-demand, without worrying about infection (as may be the case for human cleaners), and without putting more human resource demands on hospitals must be invaluable, and would account for the increase in orders internationally. Devices like these show how a combination of technologies can be combined to create real value and tackle a problem in an effective way that could benefit all of us.

Tech Tip – How To Clean Your Smartphone

If you’re wondering how you can effectively and safely clean your smartphone as an extra way to help protect yourself from the threat of bacteria and viruses, here’s some advice from a medical expert:

As featured on the BBC and in some national newspapers recently, Dr Lena Ciric, a microbiologist from University College London, advises (in her video, on YouTube – see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwPVqXrJitI) that you can make sure your smartphone is really clean in the following way:

– Unplug your smartphone, turn it off and remove the case.

– Dampen a microfibre cloth with water and household hand soap e.g. the soap dispensing bottle type.

– Gently rub the surfaces of the phone with the damp cloth. Try not to get moisture in any of the openings.

– Dry the phone with a clean microfibre cloth.

– Washing your hands regularly and thoroughly can reduce the number of germs that you put on your phone after you’ve washed it.

In the video, Dr Ciric also notes that Apple says that iPhones can also be safely cleaned using 70 per cent isopropyl wipes alcohol.

As well as computer viruses, everyone now needs to consider biological viruses so maintaining hygiene both personally and professionally will now be more important than ever.

Apple Announces The Closure Of All Stores Outside China Until March 27

Apple has announced that due to the global spread of COVID-19, it will be closing all of its retail stores outside of Greater China until March 27.

Flexible Working

A statement on the Apple website (Newsroom) highlighted how Apple is adopting “flexible work arrangements worldwide outside of Greater China”.

Apple also said that those staff members whose work still requires them to be on-site will be following guidance to maximize interpersonal space.  Also, the statement highlights the “extensive, deep cleaning” that is taking place on all of Apple’s sites, and the fact the Apple is rolling out health screenings and temperature checks.

Paid As Usual

The statement also makes it clear that despite the temporary closures, flexible and remote working, Apple’s staff will be paid as usual, and that the company’s leave policies have been expanded to take account of personal or family health circumstances created by COVID-19, such as recovering from illness, caring for a sick loved one, mandatory quarantining, or childcare challenges resulting from school closures.

Worldwide Developers Conference Online

Apple has recently announced that its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June will be held entirely in an online format this year.  Despite this change in format, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller, is choosing to see it as an “opportunity” and as an “innovative way” to bring the global developer community together with “a new experience”.

New COVID-19 News Section

In an attempt to help its users avoid fake news about the global health crisis, and to boost its credibility as a trusted brand, Apple has also announced the launch of a new COVID-19 news section, where, it says that its users will find the “latest verified reporting from trusted news outlets”.

Trusted For The Election

Even though the world is in the midst of a health crisis, the US election is still likely to be happening in November.  Apple also has plans to establish itself as a trusted news source then through its own, curated Apple News coverage of the election where it will feature “reliable” news, information and data from multiple trusted news sources.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For Apple employees, the opportunity to work flexibly and more safely from home, still receive pay as normal and receive the benefits of more favourable company leave policies is likely to be very welcome. These moves by Apple also show the company in a very positive ethical and caring light, which many would see as being consistent with its public brand values.

Closing stores only until March 27 (just over a week from now), however, may be seen by some as a trifle optimistic, and could mean that employees in those stores may be very nervous about the thought of having to go back to any customer-facing roles when the illness still has a lot further to spread before it begins to slow down.  It remains to be seen whether Apple extends this date in the light of unfolding events.

Featured Article – Coronavirus and Tech Shares

Coronavirus is firstly a threat to public health but the impact of the virus hitting the Chinese economy (a centre for tech goods), the threat of widescale illness among workers, the effects of measures to contain the virus and other factors have already had a serious effect on economies and tech share prices.

Biggest Hit Since 2008

The disruption and fear caused by the coronavirus (SARS-COV-12/COVID-19) outbreak meant that end of February saw the US stock markets suffering their worst falls since the 2008 global financial crisis with the three big US indexes ending 10% on the week before and with the UK markets following suit and the FTSE 100 index down 3.2% for the day. 

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has also warned that the effects of coronavirus could lead to the UK’s growth prospects being downgraded.

Also, the US Federal Reserve has just slashed interest rates, to between 1% and 1.25%. That’s down from 1.5% to 1.75%, to protect America’s economy from the economic impact of the “evolving risks” of coronavirus. 

Contributing Factors and Reactions

From seeing the first news from China to hearing about the rapid spread through Iran, Korea, Japan and Italy, many tech companies are seeing downward pressure on their share prices caused by the coronavirus outbreak and spread. There are many contributing factors and many reactions by tech companies to these factors that have fuelled the fall. These include:

– China, the country which the virus is thought to have come from, and which has seen whole cities and their industries and markets shut down and seriously disrupted is a major tech component manufacturing country for major tech companies e.g. the US. This has caused shortages in supply chains and other knock-on factors to other big economies and markets and the tech companies that operate within them. For example, Apple has major component supply companies in China, and Korea e.g. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, LG Electronics Inc, and LG Innotek.  Both Samsung and LG Innotek have shut their factories due to a worker testing positive for coronavirus.  Apple is also supplied by STMicroelectronics (chipmakers) in Italy.

– Big tech companies are not attending important tech industry conferences and shows.  For example, Huawei is postponing the hosting of its February developer conference to the end of March, Alphabet (Google) has cancelled its I/O developers conference set for May 12-14, Facebook Inc has cancelled its annual developer conference which was due to be held on May 5 and 6 in San Jose, California (which attracted 5,000 people last year), and Microsoft won’t attend a games developer conference in March.

– Consumers and other tech stakeholders are changing their travelling habits and purchasing habits and are holding onto their money as they anticipate perhaps having to ride-out a work shutdown, store closures, transport cancellations and disruptions and more. Lower revised earnings warnings have been issued by tech companies that are already feeling the pinch and are anticipating a more drawn-out crisis than they had originally thought.  For example, Microsoft has revised its earnings due to fears over how the coronavirus could affect PC supply chains.

– Factory and workplace closures, not just of suppliers, but of the tech companies themselves are causing disruption.  For example, Tesla has postponed Model 3 deliveries due to a closed factory in Shanghai, Google has asked thousands of employees at its European headquarters in Dublin to work from home, Twitter is encouraging its 5,000 global staff to work from home, and cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase is asking some employees to start working from home.

– Store closures are also contributing to downward pressures on share prices.  For example, major tech companies have been temporarily shutting down retail stores across China, and in other affected countries and population centres. 

Baidu in China

Chinese tech companies are also suffering.  For example, Baidu Inc, China’s biggest search engine company, has warned that its first-quarter revenue could drop by as much as 13% from a year earlier due to the effect of the coronavirus epidemic on economic activity and advertising.

Opportunity?

Whereas the downside of fall in share prices is being seen as a very bad event for the markets generally, some people, such as US CNBC’s ‘Mad Money’ presenter Jim Cramer have pointed out that tumbling stock values can mean that investors have an opportunity to buy tech stocks at a low price now that will grow in value soon.  With this in mind, and suggesting that those stocks that have little China exposure and work in a largely stay-at-home environment are the best options, Mr Cramer has recommended 10 stocks to buy now while the market is still affected by coronavirus.  These include the tech-related stocks of Adobe, Shopify, Square, Zoom Video Communications.

Expectations

Despite the initial huge fall in share/stock prices at the end of February, when panic was reaching its highest point, the news that central bankers from the world’s biggest economies have been speaking to Group of 7 Finance to discuss a response to the outbreak e.g. lowering of interest rates, fuelling expectations among investors that governments might go with a co-ordinated lowering interest rates has given a boost back up to many stocks and led to shares in Europe making somewhat of a recovery from the initial huge losses.

Looking Ahead

For those seeking information about coronavirus in the UK, the latest government information can be found here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public and the NHS advice and information can be found here https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.

The unknown nature of the immediate future as regards the spread (through clustering) and duration of the coronavirus outbreak, coupled with the many reduced growth forecasts, disruption in global supply chains, and many tech and other companies shutting offices and factories and recommending remote working where possible means that tech share prices are likely to be functioning well below expectations for some time yet.

Billions Of Devices At Risk Due To Wi-Fi Chip Vulnerability

A security threat to devices, Wi-Fi access points (APs), and routers that comes from the Kr00k Wi-Fi chip vulnerability could affect billions according to security researchers.

Kr00k

The existence of Kr00k, also known by the catchy name of CVE-2019-15126 was made public at the recent RSA Conference in San Francisco and its discovery was attributed to ESET security researchers Miloš Cermák, Robert Lipovský and Štefan Svorencík.

Broadcom and Cypress Chips

According to the researchers, the Kr00k vulnerability is present in Wi-Fi chips manufactured by Broadcom and Cypress.  These chips are present in billions of devices and, prior to patches being developed and released already by many major manufacturers, the kinds of devices that were at risk included home smart speakers (Amazon Echo), Kindles, smartphones (Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy), the Raspberry Pi 3 and many Wi-Fi routers and access points that have Broadcom chips. 

What Could Happen?

The Kr00k vulnerability could allow attackers to decrypt Wi-Fi traffic, thereby gaining access to data. Kr00k can do this by forcing an extended dissociation period in Wi-Fi devices, which is the temporary disconnection that occurs when a device moves between access points or when there is a low signal. In this period, Kr00k resets the encryption key used to secure packets to an all-zero value, giving the attackers access to your data.

This kind of attack, however, may not be as easy as it sounds because attackers would need to be within close range of their target’s Wi-Fi network.

Related to Krack

Some security commentators have noted that Kr00k is related to Krack, discovered in 2017, a vulnerability that was also a threat to devices that connected using Wi-Fi and required attackers to be in close proximity to the Wi-Fi network.  Krack was found to be a vulnerability in the Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) protocol.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The security researchers who discovered Kr00k shared their findings with the relevant manufacturers early-on which meant that the major manufacturers were able to quickly develop and release patches, thereby significantly reducing the scale of the threat posed by Kr00k.  Also, the need for attackers to be in close proximity to a Wi-Fi network to exploit the vulnerability is unlikely to be particularly attractive to many cybercriminals who prefer methods that allow maximum financial gain with minimum effort and that position them a long distance from their targets in a way that cannot be traced back to them.

Additionally, in this case, even though it is technically possible for attackers to use the dissociation period to decrypt Wi-Fi traffic, the data that they would be intending to steal is subject to being additionally encrypted by TLS thanks to HTTPS.

Gigabit, Ultrafast Broadband For One Million Households In The West Midlands

Virgin Media has announced that in the UK’s largest gigabit switch-on to date, it is launching its next-generation Gig1 Fibre Broadband services for 1 million+ homes in Birmingham, Coventry and surrounding areas across the West Midlands.

Speed

Virgin Media says that its Gig1 Fibre Broadband offers broadband speeds up to 20 times faster than the regional average with an average peak-time download speed of 1,104Mbps.

Also, the Hub 4 gigabit-capable router is Virgin’s fastest to date and can manage multiple devices at the same time around the home, thereby sharing the hyper-fast speed.  This could mean that ultra-high-definition 4K films and TV programmes, large files and 360-degree videos could be downloaded almost instantaneously, even with multiple devices using the connection at the same time.

Virgin Media says that it now has the largest gigabit-capable network in the UK which currently passes nearly 15 million UK premises. 

Government

The government’s Digital Secretary, Oliver Dowden, has said that Virgin Media’s gigabit switch-on for households in the Midlands puts them “a million homes closer in delivering our plans to deliver gigabit broadband to everyone in the UK” and stresses that his government are investing £5 billion to make sure that “even the hardest to reach areas aren’t left behind”.

Electronic Communications Code Changes

In October 2019, the UK’s Electronic Communications Code was amended to help speed up fast broadband rollout across the UK. The change to the law gave broadband operators compulsory rights to install their apparatus on another person’s property, thereby getting around the problem of landlords not responding to requests for access to blocks of flats and apartments.

Full Fibre By 2025?

Back in June last year, while on the campaign to become the next Conservative party leader, Boris Johnson proposed a target of full-fibre broadband for the UK by 2025.  This target has since been seen by many not realistic because ‘full-fibre’ would mean digging up land and laying down cables, even in the most remote of homes.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For those in the Midlands who actually need these kinds of speeds, this service could be advantageous, and it could benefit small (home) businesses with large data requirements.

Although it is the beginning of ultra-fast broadband rollout in an area where there is a large population and is, therefore, a step in the right direction, critics say that many users may not need a connection that fast and may simply not know the speed of the connection that they already have. 

Broadband and Wi-Fi are now essential services for business, and businesses would obviously welcome any improvement in broadband speeds in the UK as soon as possible as it would undoubtedly help UK companies to become more competitive and would boost the economy.

Worries About Huawei Persist

Security fears about Huawei products being used in the new 5G networks are still being expressed by the Trump administration, while Google has clarified its position on the matter.

What’s So Bad About Huawei?

Back in July 2018,  espionage chiefs from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. (the so-called ‘Five-Eyes’), agreed at a meeting in July this year to try to contain the global growth of Chinese telecoms company Huawei (the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment) because of the threat that it could be using its phone network equipment to spy for China.  This led to the US, Australia and New Zealand barring Huawei Technologies Ltd. (with Japan more or less joining the ban) as a supplier for fifth-generation networks.

At the time, the Trump administration drew attention to the matter when Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei, was detained in Vancouver at the request of U.S. authorities for violating US sanctions on Iran. 

Since then, other countries have joined the ban and other allegations have been made against Huawei e.g. the US Department of Justice (DOJ) charged Huawei with bank fraud and stealing trade secrets back in January 2019. 

What About The UK

As for the UK government, it will allow Huawei equipment to be used in the country’s 5G network, but not in core network functions or critical national infrastructure, and not in nuclear and military sites.  This has led to White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney visiting just last week to help dissuade the UK from using Huawei’s products in phone networks.

Latest Warning From the US

The latest warning about Huawei products from the US has been voiced by Robert Strayer, who is the US deputy assistant secretary for cyber and communications. Mr Strayer, who is on a tour of Europe this week, warned that allowing Huawei to provide key aspects of the 5G network infrastructure could allow China to undermine it and to have access to “sensitive data”.  Mr Strayer piled on the pressure by warning that if the UK adopts Huawei as a 5G technology vendor it could threaten aspects of intelligence sharing between the US and UK.

Google Clarifies

As a US company, tech giant Google has been banned by the Trump administration since May 2019 from working with Huawei which last year led to Google confirming (via blog post) that it wouldn’t be working with Huawei on new device models or providing any Google apps (Gmail, Maps, YouTube, Play Store) for preload or download on Huawei devices. 

In the light of more recent allegations and warnings about Huawei, Google has chosen to clarify its position in an article on its support pages (find it here https://support.google.com/android/thread/29434011?hl=en).  The article states that “To protect user data privacy, security, and safeguard the overall experience, the Google Play Store, Google Play Protect, and Google’s core apps (including Gmail, YouTube, Maps, and others) are only available on Play Protect certified devices”.

Google says in the article that sideloaded Google apps will not work reliably on Huawei devices.  Sideloaded apps are those which haven’t been through a certification process to appear in the Store and to run on a Windows device.  The fear is that sideloading apps could mean that apps could be installed which appear to be genuine and normal, but which may have been altered or tampered with in ways that could compromise user security.  

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The Trump administration in the US is keeping the pressure on as regards discouraging countries with which it has security and defence connections, and leverage as an ally or friend with to avoid installing Huawei products in networks, particularly in critical parts.  Clearly, a Republican administration (and in this case, and apparently inward-looking one championing US companies) in a country which has traditionally seen communist China as a threat is likely to be at least suspicious of Huawei products.  It is of course, unknown exactly what evidence exists to support the idea, and it should also be remembered that it is not long since President Trump launched a trade war with China, and may also be additionally conscious of spying issues from foreign powers after the allegations of Russian influence possibly influencing his own election as president.

For US, European, and other trusted tech network product companies from elsewhere, less for Huawei could mean more for them, and the rub-off bad publicity for Huawei also seems to have negatively affected Huawei’s sales of phone handsets, which has meant that US, Japanese and other phone suppliers have picked up more phone business.

In the run-up to next US presidential election, and with UK looking for trade deals outside the EU, it is likely that the US will continue to try and bring the UK and other countries round to its way of thinking about Huawei.

Featured Article – AI, Supercomputers … and Storm Dennis

The disruption and damage caused by weather events affect businesses across the UK but having the benefit of early and detailed insights provided by a new supercomputer system could enable businesses, organisations, agencies, local authorities and the government to plan and minimise disruption where possible, thereby saving billions of pounds per year.

Climate Change

The widely recognised effects of climate change are likely to be responsible for the seemingly more frequent and record-breaking extreme weather events such as storm Dennis here in the UK which brought a record number (594) of flood warnings across England and devastation to many town and businesses.

The increase of a whole degree in temperature since the Industrial Revolution has, for example, warming the atmosphere, making it able to hold more moisture and become unstable. This is likely to mean, at the very least, more storms and flooding in the coming years, and highlights the need for longer advance warnings (Dennis was forecasted 6 days in advance) and more targeted information.

Met Office

The current Met Office system for weather forecasting utilises 200 billion daily observations from satellites, weather stations and ocean buoys that are interpreted by Cray XC40 supercomputers which are due to reach the end of their life in late 2022.  Even though the Cray XC40 is in the top 50 of the world’s most powerful computers, and performs more than 2 million calculations per second for every man, woman and child on the planet, the need for faster, even more accurate, earlier and even more locally-focused weather forecasting requires an investment in new computers to replace the Cray systems for a 10-year period from 2022 to 2032.

New Investment

The new Met Office supercomputer system, announced against the backdrop of storm Dennis, will cost £1.2 billion (which include hardware and running costs too over a ten-year period) but could, according to the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) deliver £19 worth of economic benefits for every pound spent. 

The new system will create a simulated picture of the weather, will divide the globe into grid smaller squares, and will have a massive increase in processing power (six times more powerful) at its disposal which will mean that:

– Four-day weather forecasts will be as accurate today as one-day forecasts were 30 years’ ago.

– With the grid that the simulated picture of the earth’s weather is divided into, the new system will be able to operate (and deliver accurate forecasts) for a resolution as sharp as 100m squares.

– Extreme weather conditions will be spotted earlier.

– Improved daily to seasonal forecasts and longer-term climate projections can be made.

– The effects of a hotter world in the future can be explored, and more detail can be added to projections taking account of factors such as the way nitrogen reacts with the carbon in the air.

– Scenarios such as how the country can make the best use of the land if/when the target of net zero emissions by 2050 is reached can be explored.

– Data from the supercomputer can be used to inform UK government policy as part of leading the global fight against climate change.

Artificial Intelligence

The Business and Energy Secretary, Alok Sharma, has highlighted how the new supercomputer looks likely to drive forward innovation and grow world-class skills across supercomputing, data science, as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence.  The Met Office’s new supercomputer will, for example, be able to use artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to carry out even more detailed climate model analysis.

Supercomputer Carbon Footprint?

Some commentators have pointed out that the new supercomputers will require a massive amount of electricity to operate them (as the existing ones do), thereby meaning that ironically, they could be contributing to the global warming that is producing the changing weather conditions that they have been introduced to predict.

The Met Office has, therefore, invited potential providers to come up with low-carbon options and it is likely that much of the processing work could be located in countries with easy and abundant sources of clean energy within the European Economic Area e.g. Iceland (geothermal energy) or Norway (hydropower).

Other Weather Forecasting Options For Business

Weather Source and its Snowflake, cloud-based (AWS) data exchange is an example of another accurate forecasting service for businesses that helps them to quantify and manage climate risks. In addition to being fast and providing forecasts projected over 15 days, the service requires only a few hundred gigabytes of new data to be processed per day, therefore, making it a very efficient option.

Benefits

Looking forward, the socio-economic benefits of the new Met Office system are likely to be many.  These will include better forecasting at airports to help the aviation and travel industries,  more sophisticated modelling of flooding to help businesses with premises in flood areas with continuity and contingency planning, providing more detailed information to the energy sector which will have knock-on benefits to many businesses, and providing insights and early warnings that are vital for the UK’s transport infrastructure and for business transportation, delivery and distribution services.

In a world where the climate is capable of causing massive damage and disruption on a more regular basis, the investment in even more powerful supercomputer technology and AI by the Met Office could actually bring considerable savings for businesses of all kinds and provide a better basis for government decisions.

Apple Fined £21M For Slowing Old iPhone

The French competition and fraud watchdog DGCCRF has fined tech giant Apple €25 million (£21 million) for slowing down some old iPhones and not telling people how to fix the problem.

What Happened?

Back in 2017, some iPhone users were sharing concerns online that their iPhone’s performance had slowed with age but had sped up after a battery replacement. This led to a customer sharing comparative performance tests of different models of the iPhone 6S on Reddit, which appeared to support the customer suspicions.

Technology website Geeknebench also shared the results of its own tests of several iPhones running different versions of the iOS operating system where some showed slower performance than others.

After customers concerns mounted and received more press, Apple publicly admitted that it had made changes one year earlier in the iOS 10.2.1 software update that is likely to have been responsible for the slowdown that customers may have experienced in iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE.

Apple issued an apology to customers in January 2018.

Why?

According to Apple, the slowing down of the phones was due to the lithium-ion batteries becoming less capable of supplying peak current demands over time, so in order to prevent the phones from shutting down (and to protect their components), Apple released a software update to smooth-out the battery performance.

What The Watchdog Says

The DGCCRF has ruled, however, that Apple needs to pay €25 million fine and to display a statement on its website for a month because the iOS software update negatively affected the performance of ageing devices, customers were not told that the 10.2.1 and 11.2 iOS updates would cause a slowing down of their devices and that customers were also not told that replacing the battery rather than replacing the whole phone would solve the problem.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

When this story first made the headlines, it was a serious embarrassment for Apple and a blot on the copybook of a brand that had managed to maintain an image of trust and reliability. This story illustrates how managing customer relationships in an age where information is shared quickly and widely by customers via the Internet involves making smart decisions about transparency and being seen to be up-front with loyal customers.

It is very likely that Apple regrets the entire incident and that even though the French regulator, in this case, has decided to impose a big fine, it is likely to be of more annoyance to Apple that customers have to be reminded of the incident again several years later and that the company will now have to display a notice on its website for a month as a further reminder.

Featured Article – Innovations/Gamechangers to Expect in 2020

This is the time of year for looking ahead to how technology could be affecting and hopefully, enhancing our lives over the coming year and here is a selection of just some of the possible game-changing technological innovations that could be making an impact in 2020.

5G Technologies

Technology and communications commentators are saying that 5G’s increased bandwidth and speed, along with other benefits could start to improve file sharing and other communication capabilities for businesses this year (in the geographical areas where it’s deployed).

Quantum Technologies

Back in October, we heard about the paper, published in the journal Nature, that told how scientists may have reached quantum supremacy, whereby a quantum computer can now to do something significant that a classical computer can’t.  With Google’s Sycamore chip (54-qubit processor), an algorithm output that would take 10,000 years using a classical computer only took 200 seconds, and heralded greater potentially game-changing developments this year and beyond. With results from computing power of this kind, many hitherto extremely challenging problems could be solved quickly across a range of industries, and this is likely to attract much more investment in Quantum technologies in 2020.

AI and Health

The possibilities for AI are still being explored, but thanks to start-ups like Imagen which builds AI software for the medical field e.g. OsteoDetect which uses algorithms to scan X-ray images for common wrist bone fractures, and AI software developed by Good Health researchers (in conjunction with other key partners) which has proven to be more accurate at detecting and diagnosing breast cancer than expert human radiologists, AI could be finding more positive ways to impact upon healthcare in 2020 and beyond.

Although AI has promise in so many areas, including health, one of the predicted downsides of AI developments for workers is that the automation that it brings could really start to replace many more human jobs in 2020.

Neural Interfaces

There are many predictions of how commercial applications of neural interfaces may bridge the gap between humans and computers, perhaps allowing people to think instructions to computers.  One of the key challenges is, of course, that neural communications are both chemical and electrical, but this didn’t stop head of SpaceX and Tesla, Elon Musk, announcing in July last year that brain implants (‘Neuralink’) that can link directly to devices could be a reality within a year i.e. by the end of 2020.  It remains to be seen, however, how much progress is made this year, but the idea that a near-instantaneous, wireless communication between brain and computer via an implant is that human brains could be offered a kind of ‘upgrade’ to enable them to keep up with and compete with AI.

Electric Vehicle Explosion

The many technologies (and government subsidies in some countries) that have led to a commitment by big car manufacturers to the production of electric vehicles mean that sales are predicted to rise 35 per cent in the first nine months of 2020.  More electric cars being produced and purchased in developed countries could herald game-changing results e.g. lessening the negative environmental impact of cars.

One other innovation that could help boost the growth of electric cars is a breakthrough in battery technology, such as that announced by Tesla’s head of battery research and university academic Jeff Danh, who has published a paper about a battery that could last a million miles without losing capacity.

Display Screen Technology

Advances in technologies used for display-screen e.g. for phones are likely to prove game-changers in their industries. With new screens becoming ultra-thin LEDs and, therefore, able to be added as computational surfaces to many different surfaces and objects e.g. walls and mirrors, and with advances like foldable screens e.g. Microsoft’s Surface Neo, our environment and communications tools could see some real changes in 2020.

Translation

Technology for mobile devices, AI, and language have converged to create translation apps such as Google’s interpreter mode real-time translator that’s just been rolled out for Assistant-enabled Android and iOS phones worldwide.  Having a reliable tool to hand that enables back and forth conversation with someone speaking a foreign language (and is loaded with 44 languages) could be a game-changer for business and personal travel in 2020.

Augmented Reality

Several tech commentators are predicting (perhaps optimistically) that 2020 could be the year that reliable Augmented Reality glasses find their way onto the market e.g. perhaps from Apple and could see large-scale adoption.

Looking Ahead

2020, therefore, holds a great deal of promise in terms of how different existing and some new technologies and developments combined in new products and services could become game-changers that drive positive benefits for businesses and individual users alike.