Featured Article – Electric Vehicles, Batteries & Renewables

With 7 million electric vehicles already on the world’s roads and with predictions that 31 per cent of the overall car fleet will be electric by 2040 (i.e. 58% of all vehicles sold), how these vehicles are powered by (or can store) renewable energy are the subject of discussion, planning and speculation.

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is a term to describe energy that is collected from renewable resources, which are naturally replenished on a human timescale. The main sources are sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. ‘Green’ and ‘renewable’ are words used interchangeably in this arena but have slightly different meanings with nuclear power (for example) hotly contested as being ‘green’ and certainly not renewable (at least in terms of the actual material used).

Battery Technology

Where electric vehicles are concerned, the battery technology is still an area that is a real challenge to how far electric cars are able to travel on a charge.

Implications For Oil and Electricity

Electric vehicles are two or three times more efficient than conventional petrol/diesel-powered vehicles, plus they have the added benefit of having no emissions.  However, while there are still limitations on electric car battery technology, more electric cars replacing petrol and diesel cars has implications not just for the oil industry, but also for the demand for electricity.  For example, 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.

Battery Innovation

According to recent reports, however, Chinese car battery-maker Contemporary Amperex Technology has developed (and is about to manufacture) a battery that can power an electric vehicle for an incredible 1.2 million miles over a 16-year lifespan. Reports indicate that deals may already be in place for the Chinese battery-maker to supply Tesla, BMW, Daimler, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo for the next two years.

Dyson & Electric Car Batteries

Back in October last year Dyson has scrapped its £2.5 billion ‘N526’ electric car project but announced that work would continue improving the battery technology that would have been used in the car.  Dyson had originally planned to invest £1 billion in development of the car and invest another £1 billion in developing the electric battery technology.

Electric Vehicles Using Renewable Energy

Pilot Schemes are being run, mainly in the U.S., that provide ways for electric vehicle owners to use renewable energy for their vehicles, and to charge at times that help integrate more renewable energy sources on the grid. These schemes include:

– For a small monthly subscription, Austin Energy’s Plug-in EVerywhere Network gives electric car drivers access to a network of charging stations where the electricity is sourced from the wind.  Also, fast charging network company EVgo operated a scheme that gave customers access to power sourced 100% from wind or solar energy.  Customers could choose to pay-as-you-go or via monthly payments to access this renewable energy power for their electric vehicles.

– Pacific Gas & Electric’s ‘Charge Forward’ managed charging program let customers control the timing of their EV charging to align with clean energy availability and grid needs (in exchange for low charging rates).

– Gas & Electric, in partnership with the City of San Diego, gave electric car customers access to charging stations that were powered by photovoltaic (PV) canopies installed right next to the charging stations.  The solar energy was stored in a battery system.

– In January last year, Southern California Edison introduced a discount scheme for customers who charged their electric vehicles on weekdays and during off-peak hours on weekends, when solar was abundant.

Battery Hubs

Although there are currently fewer than 200,000 electric vehicles on UK roads, National Grid, the UK’s energy system operator proposed the creation of a battery hub that a fleet of 35m electric vehicles could feed renewable energy into, thereby helping the UK to reach its net-zero carbon target.

The idea was based upon the prediction that electric vehicles will become the most popular form of transport between 2030 and the early 2040s in the UK and by 2050, tens of millions of electric cars will be using (renewable) wind and solar power to charge up within minutes in a way that can create renewable energy battery packs for when the UK’s grid needs more energy.

It is thought that such a system could use algorithms to help the smart electric cars to balance demand and supply on the grid and make the most of renewable energy as well as saving customers money.

Looking Ahead

With so many electric vehicle purchases predicted in the near future, making serious advances in battery technology, and finding ways to charge electric vehicles using renewable energy sources to make the most of the green benefits are becoming major concerns. It also seems that there will ways in which electric vehicles and the grid can interact to help manage demand and utility companies will be finding ways to help customers to choose renewable energy for their charging needs, and will be able to offer price incentives to customers who are willing to charge their vehicles at times that will benefit the grid.

Boris Johnson is said to be currently considering a scheme to give drivers up to £6,000 to tempt them to change their old petrol/diseel cars for new electric ones, as part of a suite of plans to be announced shortly, in an attempt to kick-start the economy’s flagging vehicle sales, which has been hugely impacted by Covid-19.

Flying Taxis – Major Tesla Shareholder Funding

German vertical take-off air taxi start-up company Lilium has just received a major funding boost from Baillie Gifford, the second-biggest shareholder in Tesla.

Additional Funding

Lilium, which had already raised $340 million, $240 million of which came from China’s Tencent, has boosted its coffers by a further $35 million thanks to funding from Scottish company Baillie Gifford, which itself is a 7.67 per cent owner of Tesla.

Air Taxi

The funding will go towards the development and production of an electric-powered, vertical take-off ‘air taxi’ (like a flying car) that’s capable of transporting a small number of passengers over relatively short distances, to be used within a city or regionally.

Prototype

It has been reported that although the five-seater 36-rotor vehicle looks unlikely to enter commercial service until 2025, it is already in its prototype phase. So far, the vehicle is reported to have been able to reach a speed of 62 mph and it is thought that when finally in service, Lilium’s air taxi will have a range of more than 180 miles.

Competitors

Lilian is not the only company developing an air taxi vehicle.  In October last year, electric flight start-up ‘Kitty Hawk’, which is backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, announced that it had produced its third aircraft dubbed ‘Heaviside’ (HVSD). Kitty Hawk reported that HVSD could travel a 55-mile route from San Jose to San Francisco in only 15 minutes.

Unmanned, Autonomous Fighter Aircraft In Development

Meanwhile, in the military world, The American Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is reported to have been working on an autonomous fighter jet that can be controlled remotely.  Reports indicate that the aircraft and accompanying technology may be ready as early as next year.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

As roads have become more congested, environmental factors have come to fore, driven by environmental targets and the commercial introduction of electric cars, and with advances in autonomous vehicles and the accompanying technology, the autonomous vehicle market is now full of opportunities.  Short hop electric-powered flying taxis appear to be an area that is exciting, practical and could appeal to travellers who need to get quickly from the airport to the city centre while avoiding the crowds.  Although trusting a small vehicle with no human pilot may seem like a bit of jump now for many of us now, autonomous vehicles look set to be a growth area in the next few years and this sector could create may new opportunities for existing operators, new businesses and supply chain companies.

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.

Robot Dog Maintains Social Distancing

A remotely controlled robot called ‘SPOT’ that is being trialled in a Singapore park warns visitors to observe safe social distancing measures.

Sign

The 2-week trial in Singapore’s Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park is a collaboration between Singapore’s National Parks Board (NParks) and GovTech.  A sign in the park tells visitors about the presence of SPOT and how the robot will be moving autonomously through the park to help ensure safe distancing in the park and gardens.

Sensors and Cameras

SPOT, the four-legged robot made by Boston Dynamics uses sensors to prevent any collisions with objects or people, and there is a person on-hand to help if there are any unforeseen issues.

Although SPOT is fitted with cameras which can help to estimate the number of visitors to the park, it has been reported that the cameras are not being used to collect personal data or to identify individuals.

Message

As SPOT proceeds around the park, it broadcasts a pre-recorded message that reminds visitors to observe social distancing. 

Singapore Laws

People in Singapore are used to complying with a wide variety of laws governing behaviour in public spaces, so it is likely that even commands delivered by a robot will be observed by most people.  For example, in Singapore, on-the-spot fines are common e.g. for littering, smoking in some public places and e-cigarettes can be confiscated, chewing gum is banned, and not flushing the (public) toilet can also result in a fine.

Used in Hospital

Robot delivery services are already a common sight in many hospitals, but the SPOT robot is also being used at Brigham And Women’s Hospital of Harvard University for remote triage of patients suspected of having COVID-19.

Drones

In other cities in other countries e.g. China, the US, Spain and Israel, drones have been used to deliver social distancing and dispersal instructions where there has been an outdoor grouping of people, and (in Jerusalem) outside apartment building windows and balconies to check whether people who have been ordered to self-isolate are doing so.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For drone and robot companies, such as Boston Dynamics, demand has increased during the pandemic because the flexibility, manoeuvrability, and safety (from cross-contamination) provided by these devices has proven to have real value.  Robots and drones, using cameras, sensors and other tools can safely and quickly carry out a wide variety of tasks, as and when required, 24/7.  Delivery robots and commercial drones have also seen as a boost in demand at a time where human movement has been restricted but where a need for monitoring of property and premises, and delivery of food and other important items is still required.  

Automation is becoming an important cost and time saving and an added-value element of many businesses and organisations and the success of robots and drones and the highlighting during the pandemic of the benefits they offer can only to boost the market further and make many businesses, organisations and sectors see new opportunities for robots and drones.

Tech Tip – Charging Properly To Take Care of Your Phone Battery

You may have found that you’ve been using your gadgets for longer and charging them more during lockdown so, if you’d like to know more about keeping your gadgets’ lithium-ion batteries healthy in the long run, here are a few important tips:

– Lithium-ion batteries do not like being charged fully to 100 per cent each time. Having an energy band of around 60 per cent rather than 100 can double the life of your phone battery.

– Letting your battery get too close to zero charge should be avoided.

– Lithium-ion batteries respond well to being charged in short bursts e.g. for five per cent here or 10 per cent here and there. Bringing your phone charge from 100 per cent right down to zero and then back up again can damage the battery’s performance and cause strange and rapid losses of power.

– Extreme heat is not good for phones and other gadget batteries, and a fully charged and extremely hot phone (left in the sun) should be avoided. However, Lithium-ion batteries like to be just warm while they charge and discharge, so wireless chargers can help battery life.

Featured Article – Facial Recognition and Super Computers Help in COVID-19 Fight

Technology is playing an important role in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic with adapted facial recognition cameras and super-computers now joining the battle to help beat the virus.

Adapted Facial Recognition

Facial recognition camera systems have been trialled and deployed in many different locations in the UK which famously include the 2016 and 2017 Notting Hill Carnivals, the Champions League final day June 2017 in Cardiff,  the Kings Cross Estate in 2019 and in a deliberately “overt” trial of live facial recognition technology by the Metropolitan Police in the centre of Romford, London, in January 2019.  Although it would be hard to deny that facial recognition technology (FRT) could prove to be a very valuable tool in the fight against crime, issues around its accuracy, bias and privacy have led to criticism in the UK from the Information Commissioner about some of the ways it has been used, while (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 were put in place.

However, one way that some facial recognition systems have been adapted to help in the fight against COVID-19 include the incorporation of temperature screening.

Thermographic Temperature-Screening

In the early news reports of the initial spread of COVID-19 in China, news reports focused on how thermographic, temperature-screening cameras backed up by AI could be used to pick out people from crowds who displayed a key symptom, notably a raised temperature.

These systems are also likely to play a role in our post-lockdown, pre-vaccine world as one of many tools, systems, and procedures to improve safety as countries try to re-start their economies on the long road back.

In the UK – Facial Recognition Combined With ‘Fever Detection System’

In the UK, an AI-powered facial recognition system at Bristol Airport is reported to have been adapted to incorporate a ‘fever detection system’, developed by British technology company SCC. This means that the existing FRT system has been augmented with thermographic cameras that can quickly spot people, even in large moving groups (as would normally happen in airports) who have the kind of raised temperatures associated with COVID-19.

In Russia – Facial Recognition Combined With Digital Passes on Phones

It has also been reported that, as far back as March, officials in Moscow have been using the city’s network of tens of thousands of security cameras, which can offer instant, real-time facial recognition of citizens in combination with digital passes on mobile phones. It has been reported that the sheer number of cameras in Moscow, which can also be used to measure social distancing and detect crowds, coupled with the sophisticated FRT at the back-end is enough to ensure that those who are supposed to be in isolation can be detected even if they come outside their front door for a few seconds.  Moscow’s facial recognition system is also reported to be able to identify a person correctly, even if they are wearing a face mask.

Supercomputers

One of the great advantages of supercomputers is that they can carry out staggering numbers of calculations per second, thereby being able to solve complicated problems in a mere fraction of the time that it would take other computers to do the same thing.  Supercomputers are, therefore, now being used in the fight against coronavirus. For example:

– Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Advanced Computing Centre (TACC) in the U.S. are using a Frontera supercomputer and a huge computer model of the coronavirus to help researchers design new drugs and vaccines.

– University College London (UCL) researchers, as part of a consortium of over a hundred researchers from across the US and Europe, are using some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers (including the biggest one in Europe and the most powerful one in the world) to study the COVID-19 virus and thereby help develop effective treatments and, hopefully, a vaccine.  The researchers have been using the Summit at Oak Ridge National Lab, USA (1st) and SuperMUC-NG at GCS@LRZ, Germany (9th)  supercomputers to quickly search through existing libraries of compounds that could be used to attach themselves to the surface of the novel coronavirus.

– In the U.S. the COVID-19 High-Performance Computing (HPC) Consortium, a combined effort by private-public organisations, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, U.S. government departments and IBM are bringing together federal government, industry, and academics who are offering free computing time and resources on their supercomputers to help to understand and beat the coronavirus.

Looking Ahead

Facial recognition cameras used by police and government agencies have been the focus of some bad press and questions over a variety of issues, but the arrival of the pandemic has turned many things on their heads. The fact is that there are existing facial recognition camera systems which, when combined with other technologies, could help to stop the spread of a potentially deadly disease.

With vaccines normally taking years to develop, and with the pandemic being a serious, shared global threat, it makes sense that the world’s most powerful computing resources should be (and are being) deployed to speed up the process of understanding the virus and of quickly sorting through existing data and knowledge that could help.

Robot Food Deliveries in Milton Keynes During Lockdown

Delivery robots from U.S.-based company Starship Technologies have come into their own during the lockdown as a way of delivering food to the residents and workers of Milton Keynes.

First Commercial Deployment in the UK

The autonomous robot delivery Service operated by Starship Technologies is the first commercial deployment in the UK, and since the beginning of March, has allowed Milton Keynes residents in the delivery area to get cooked food and small orders from supermarkets without having to leave the house.

Starship Technologies

Starship Technologies was founded back in 2014 by co-founders of Skype, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, who were joined 4 years later by Lex Bayer from Airbnb.

Test Deliveries Started in 2018

Starship first announced that it would be starting a robot food delivery service in Milton Keynes back in April 2018 where it had already partnered with Co-op in order to deliver groceries. At the time, as part of tests of the service, customers in the Milton Keynes area covered by the delivery services could pay a monthly subscription of £7.99 for an unlimited number of deliveries to an address of their choice, with the service operated via a phone app.

In January 2019 Starship Technologies launched a delivery service using the same kind of robots that are now being used in Milton Keynes UK in George Mason University campus in Virginia, USA.

The Robots

The self-driving, six-wheeled delivery robots, which have multiple cameras, ultrasound sensors, radar, and GPS, can identify pedestrians and other obstacles as they make their way along pavements to their target destination.

The robots can carry items within a 4-mile (6km) radius, move at pedestrian speed, weigh no more than 100 pounds, and have a mechanically locked cargo bay that can only be opened by the recipient with their smartphone app.

The robot’s progress on its delivery route can be monitored via the phone app so customers know when to expect their delivery.

Popular With Younger Customers

The company is reported as saying that its robot food deliveries in Milton Keynes have been particularly popular with younger customers and that the lockdown situation has added to what was already a huge surge in demand when the service was first trialled 2 years ago.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Starship Technologies have been building up this service for two years before launch, plus they have some months of commercial experience after running the service on a U.S. university campus. The coronavirus lockdown, however, has meant that more people have been prepared to try the service and have perhaps realised the benefits of speed, simplicity, and relatively low cost, as well as the reduced risk of being able to order from home.  Although it may be predominantly younger people at the moment, and the closure of other food outlets coupled with pressure on companies like Deliveroo have helped boost the demand for Starship’s service generally, robot deliveries do appear to be well placed to take advantage of an opportunity and need in the marketplace for certain quantities and could provide a useful delivery service small businesses in their areas of operation. Post lockdown, their popularity looks set to continue in population centres where road traffic congestion is a problem, and/or on UK university campuses perhaps. Automation and autonomous vehicles look set to play a part in the new ‘normal’, albeit a relatively small but novel and environmentally friendly one to start with.

Featured Article – Securely Disposing of Old Equipment

When our PCs, laptops, phones, and other devices need to be replaced, disposing of them in a way that does not pose a data security risk is especially important. Here are some tips on how to dispose of devices securely.

Backup

Before you begin the disposal process of your device the first thing to do is to make sure that you have a backup of all your important files and data.

Backing Up Your PC

To back up your PC, you could use:

– An external hard drive e.g. WD MyBook Duo, Toshiba’s Canvio, LaCie Porsche Design (good for Macbooks). Many other options are, of course, available. If you have Mac, make sure your chosen external hard drive is Mac compatible.

– A cloud-based backup service, such as Dropbox, Google Drive or Box. These have large amounts of free storage plus, for a relatively small fee you can buy more storage space if needed. For example, Box gives you 10GB of file storage for free, Google Drive gives you 15GB of storage for free, OneDrive gives you 5GB of free storage space, and Apple iCloud gives you 5GB free.

Transfer Files To A New Computer

If you have already purchased a new computer, you may wish to transfer the files from the old straight to the new, although having an updated cloud backup of your work and critical files is good practice anyway.

Sign Out Of Online Accounts

With everything backed up safely, the next step is to make sure that you know login details for (and have signed out of) any online accounts on the old computer. For example, these services/apps could include Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple and Microsoft.

Wipe The Hard Drive

The next step is to wipe all traces of your data and activity from the hard drive. For those who are planning to wipe the hard drive of a computer that belongs to your employer/the company you work for you will need to first check what the company’s recommended policy or procedure is for doing so, and to check that your actions will be compliant with data protection laws e.g. GDPR.

Wiping the hard drive can involve a number of steps and options, including:

– Delete or overwrite files using software that meets guidelines for secure deletion e.g. File Shredder, Eraser or WipeFile. If you have an older Mac with a hard drive try Secure Empty (Trash option Finder > Secure Empty Trash) but for OS 10.11 and higher and Windows PCs with SSD drives, the drive will need to be encrypted. Although this type of software provides a relatively easy and simple solution, it may take some time to overwrite multiple times.

– Drive Encryption. For PCs, this can be found in Settings > About and Drive Encryption or Bitlocker Settings. For Macs, this can be done via System Preferences > Security & Privacy.

– Deauthorise the computer with relevant accounts. For example, some SaaS accounts (Microsoft 365) and entertainment accounts such as iTunes only allow you to use a certain number of authorised, named devices. If you are getting rid of your device you will need to de-authorise this device with those accounts, thereby enabling you to authorise another device/a new for use in its place with those accounts.

– Delete browser data. Since browsers save information about your browsing history and can store usernames, passwords, and other sensitive personal data, the next step is to delete your browser history, and to make sure that you are signed out of your browsers. For example, to clear your history in Microsoft Edge, go to the three dots (top right) open the browser menu and go to Settings > Privacy & security and select “choose what to clear”, making sure that all checkboxes are selected so everything gets removed. The same will need to be done for all other browsers e.g. Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.

– Uninstall programs. Some programs contain personal data and, therefore, need to be uninstalled.

– Macs (macOS) restart, coupled with Option+Command+R. The process for of wiping the hard drive for Macs is to erase and reinstall the operating system. To do this, go to Apple menu > Restart and, just as it reboots, hold down Option+Command+R until the spinning globe appears. Then, release the keys, choose Reinstall macOS, choose Continue, and follow the instructions.

– Windows PC reset. For a Windows PC, go to Settings (app), click on Update & Security, click on Recovery, choose Get started under the Reset this PC option, and remove all personal files during the process.

– Chromebook factory reset. To wipe your Chromebook, sign in to the Chromebook with the owner account, from the taskbar, click on Settings > Advanced > Powerwash > Restart. When the Chromebook restarts, select Powerwash and click on Continue.

Destroy The Hard Drive

Before recycling a computer, some experts recommend destroying the hard drive in order to be absolutely sure that any sensitive data stored on it cannot be recovered. This can be achieved by removing the hard drive and e.g. hitting it with a hammer or drilling holes in it.

To remove the hard drive, disconnect the PC from its power source, open the casing and locate the hard drive, which generally connected to a SATA data and power cable (or to a flat, wide IDE cable in much older computers), and remove the hard drive from its housing by undoing the screws.

If the device is on the premises of your business at the time, you will need to ensure that care is taken in order to comply with health and safety regulations if trying to physically destroy the hard drive.

Laptop

As with a PC, make sure all important files are backed up, accounts are signed-out of, de-authorisation is completed, and browser data is removed. With laptops, use software to erase the data e.g. File Shredder or Eraser, and remove the hard drive, while taking care to avoid and damage to the inside of the laptop. There are many online guides and videos to help with the removal of laptop hard drives.

Tablet

After backing up your important files and data, the best method for preparing to dispose of a tablet in a way that maintains data security is to use a full factory reset. To do this, tap the app drawer and find the Settings icon, select Backup and reset (left-hand side), uncheck the Back up my data and Automatic restore checkboxes (right-hand side), select the Factory Reset option and follow the instructions. As a ‘belt and braces’ option, select the app drawer, select Settings, select Storage (left-hand side), select Miscellaneous files (right-hand side), select the checkboxes for folders and select dustbin.

Phones

Our phones contain vast amounts of personal data and potentially sensitive company data. It is, therefore, extremely important to dispose of them in a way that does not compromise the security and privacy of yourself, your business/your employer, or any stakeholders and contacts.

Back-Up

Firstly, ensure that you have backed up your phone contacts. After backing up your important data the process is:

For Android

Most up-to-date android phones have a microSD card where the phone’s data is stored. Remove the back of the phone, remove the battery, and remove the microSD card. This can be used in your replacement phone. You will also need to remove your SIM card.

If you need to wipe a microSD card, you can attach it to a laptop (with a USB cable), open ‘My Computer’, locate the microSD card, select all files stored on it and click delete.

For iPhones

An iPhone has an in-built way to return it to its factory default settings, thereby removing your personal data. To do this, go to General, Settings, Reset, and Erase All Content and Settings. This will require you to enter your username and password, and you will be given the chance to update your iCloud backup before you go ahead with the erasing as part of this process.

Data Wiping Company/Charity

Another option is to simply use a trusted third-party data wiping company or charity to professionally clean all data from your devices, hard drives, network routers, switches, and servers. Examples include WeeeCharity, PC4 Recycling, Secure IT Services and Medecon although there are many other similar services.  Your IT Support Company may also be able to provide these services or recommend a company in your area. Contact your IT Support Company for details.

Afterwards

After you have wiped your device, and depending on whether the device belongs to you or the business/organisation/your employer, your options may be:

– Recycle the device. Many recycling centres, for example, take old PCs.

– Sell the device. You could choose to sell the device privately online e.g. eBay, Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace, or to a private company that buys devices e.g. Mazuma, Music Magpie, WeBuyAnyPhone or others.

– Donate your device to a charity e.g. Computer Aid International, Turing Trust or IT For Charities.

– Donate your device to a local school, centre, or Freecycle network.

In any case, if the hard drive has been removed, you will need to inform the person, or organisation that you are selling or donating the device to.

N.B. You may wish to consult your IT support company first as they may be able to provide data wiping and IT equipment recycling services or put you in touch with a good service near you.

Important

It is surprising how much personal and sensitive data we store on our devices, so following proven procedures to make sure personal and company data is removed from devices before selling them, recycling them or donating them is a very important consideration for businesses and individuals. As person’s and businesses circumstances are different, please get in touch before disposing of any IT equipment for a detailed and appropriate course of action, specific to your requirements.

Laptops For Online Lessons at Home

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has announced that the UK’s Department for Education will be providing disadvantaged children across England with a supply of laptops and tablets to help them study at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

Those In The Most Vital Stages of Education

The government says that the devices are intended for children in the most vital stages of their education (15-year-olds), for those who receive support from a social worker, and for care leavers.

Mr Williamson says “By providing young people with these laptops and tablets and enabling schools to access high-quality support, we will enable all children to continue learning now and in the years to come. We hope this support will take some of the pressure off both parents and schools by providing more materials for them to use.”

Also 4G Routers

The government has also announced that it will be providing 4G routers to disadvantaged secondary school pupils and care leavers where their families do not already have mobile or broadband internet in the household.

Oak National Academy Too

The UK government has also announced that it will be backing the funding of the Oak National Academy, a new enterprise created by 40 teachers from some of the leading schools across England. The new online Academy will be providing 180 video lessons each week, across a range of subjects, for every year group from Reception through to Year 10.

Other Tech Resources and Online Lessons

At the end of March, the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) announced that it would be spending £2 million on 9,000 Chromebook laptops to help pupils in receipt of free school meals or with an education health and care plan (EHCP) to access its programme of digital learning.

Also, the BBC has announced that it will be launching a range of educational resources online and on TV.

UK non-profit ‘Brilliant Club’, which works with 800 schools and colleges across the UK to increase the number of pupils from underrepresented backgrounds progressing to highly selective universities, has also released a series of online resources, free of charge, which are suitable for pupils aged 10-18.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Education directly benefits business and the economy so, at a time when it is unclear when children will be able to return to school, having the resources, help, funding and infrastructure to enable online, remote learning is important for the future of young people and for the UK.  It should be recognised, however, that challenges such as wealth gaps in education and exclusions like a lack of devices, the affordability of internet contracts and how a young person’s broadband status could affect their ability to keep up with learning do exist.  It is, therefore, good news that the government has recognised this and is providing some practical help at a time that is particularly important in educational terms.

Featured Article – 5G and COVID-19

Last week it was David Icke and this week it’s TV presenter Eamonn Holmes who’s given media momentum to the conspiracy theory that suggests a link between the emergence of COVID-19 and the use of 5G.  What’s going on, why, and how?

The Conspiracy Theory

This particular theory, which has led to attacks on 5G masts, Google’s YouTube banning any videos relating to it, self-styled truth-sayer (and former Coventry goalkeeper and TV presenter) David Icke and TV presenter Eamonn Holmes being slammed in the media for their comments focuses on a suggested link between new phone technology and the emergence and spread of a real-life virus.

The theory quite simply suggests that the roll-out of 5G has, in some way, triggered the emergence of (and helped the spread of) a brand-new type of coronavirus, COVID-19.  Also, some allege that 5G phone signals may be suppressing human immune systems, thereby helping the virus to get a wider grip. 

To those who are most taken with (and most willing to act in relation to) this theory, attacking and destroying/disrupting 5G infrastructure appears to be a way to try and stop the spread of the virus. This has led to 5G masts being damaged.

What Did David Icke Say?

David Icke recently took part in a live-streamed interview, watched by a reported 65,000 people. In the interview, Mr Icke alleged a possible link between 5G and the COVID-19 health crisis, appeared to say that a continuation of 5G would lead to the end of human life, and alleged that when a vaccine is developed, it will somehow contain small microchips that will allow those who have been injected with it to be controlled.

This led to YouTube banning all videos promoting this theory from its platform.

What Did Eamonn Holmes Say?

In a recent daytime ITV programme, Eammon Holmes appeared to have said that no one knows whether the conspiracy theory that 5G masts help spread the novel coronavirus was true or not.

This led to Ofcom receiving 419 complaints and Mr Holmes being widely criticised in the media. Mr Holmes later said that there is no connection between the NHS crisis and 5G and that it is wrong and possibly dangerous to make the suggestion.

Equipment Attacked

Some believers in the theory are thought to have been behind arson attacks on 22 EE (BT) mobile network sites and 20 Vodafone sites over the Easter holiday.

“Complete Rubbish,” Says Expert

In a recent press release from Reading University, Dr Simon Clarke, Associate Professor in Cellular Microbiology said that “The idea that COVID-19 is caused by 5G mobile phone signals is complete rubbish” and went on to say, in relation to the electromagnetic waves that make up 5G radio signals,  “Electromagnetic waves are one thing, viruses are another, and you can’t get a virus off a phone mast.  Similarly, sensible studies have failed to corroborate the claim that the signals emitted by 5G masts are able to suppress our immune systems.”

Who Believes In Conspiracy Theories and Why?

According to many scholars and experts, the reasons why people choose to believe in conspiracy theories include:

– Some people in societies where there is a large gap between the governing and the governed classes and where there’s an oppositional culture create their own popular theories and don’t share those of the experts who are perceived to out of touch with ‘the people’.

– The need for easy answers and to see the world as simpler and more predictable than perhaps it is.

– Attempts by non-experts to make sense of information that doesn’t fit with their personal values, experience, and their own trusted beliefs, and evidence and the opinions of people they trust.

– Wanting to quickly make sense (and feel safe and in control) of your environment, and to maintain a positive image of ‘self’ and of the social group.

– Social proof – the fact that others who are perceived as important or influential appear willing to at least consider or even accept a theory.

– A preferred belief in things like intuition and truths of the heart rather than a simple acceptance of scientific facts.

– A gap between science and belief systems like religion which may go back hundreds of years and a rift between those who understand mathematics and science and those who don’t.

– Perceptions of a lack of convincing evidence to the contrary.  For example, back in 2013, more than one-third of Americans believed that global warming was a hoax (Swift), whereas 69% of Americans now believe it is happening.

Why Should Anyone Fear 5G?

Just as when mobile phones first became widely used, there were many popular theories linking serious health issues such cancer and brain tumours to prolonged exposure to low-energy, non-ionising electromagnetic radiation radio waves, like those in mobile phone signals.  It is interesting to note that this may not have been helped by, back in 2011, the World Health Organisation (WHO) classifying mobile phone radiation as a “possible” human carcinogen.

With 5G using 3 different Spectrum bands, including what some believe to be the potentially dangerous mmWave high-frequency spectrum, similar fears have been expressed, and some say that 5G signals could damage human cell DNA.

Not Enough Energy

In reality, this type of radiofrequency (RF) radiation does not have enough energy to ionise an atom or molecule, and therefore, is unlikely to have enough energy to damage cell DNA in a way that would harm it, for example by causing cancer. 

In fact, mmWave high-frequency spectrum technology appears to be quite some way from the maximum human RF absorption frequency of about 70MHz. Also, mmWave will mostly be deployed in a spectrum that suffers from high reflection rates – 24 to 29GHz.  This should mean that any absorption by the body will be confined to the surface layers of the skin rather than the deeper tissue that is reached by lower frequency radiation.

The science of radiation, and current evidence and limits relating to mobile phone use means that there’s nothing to directly suggest 5G mmWave poses any significant health risk.  That said, 5G is not in popular use yet, so more research will need to be done on the subject in future, and some critics still say that 5G technology appears to be getting introduced without enough pre-market safety testing.

Looking Ahead

The 5G and COVID-19 conspiracy theory has been frustrating and expensive for mobile operators and may be potentially dangerous for those who believe it, for those who come into contact with them, and for those people who need to communicate with loved ones at a time when they must be physically apart but may not be able to reach them due to damaged mobile phone infrastructure.

5G appears to represent a good opportunity for business.  Its increased speed and lower latency allows the downloading of films and games in seconds and watching them without any buffering, something which many people may at least have valued more in lockdown.  Also, many different types of businesses could benefit from improved connectivity with remote workers or with salespeople in remote areas.

O2 has also forecast that 5G could deliver time savings that could bring £6 billion a year in productivity savings in the UK and that 5G-enabled tools and smart items could save UK householders £450 a year in food, council and fuel bills. These things could be very important in supporting and strengthening recovering economies in future.