Technology

Facebook’s New Tool Allows You To Port Your Photos & Videos To Google

Facebook has announced that it is releasing a data portability tool that will enable Facebook users to transfer their Facebook photos and videos directly to other services, starting with Google Photos.

Why?

Facebook acknowledged in its white paper (published back in September) that under GDPR currently, and under the California Consumer Privacy Act rules next year, data portability is a legal requirement. Also, Facebook said that it had also been considering ways to improve people’s ability to transfer their Facebook data to other platforms and services for some time e.g. since 2010 Facebook has offered Download Your Information (“DYI”) to customers so they can share their information with other online services.

In addition to the legal requirements and Facebook’s existing DYI service, Facebook highlights its own belief in the principle of data portability, and how this could give people control and choice while encouraging innovation as the reason for the introduction of its new data portability tool.

What Is It?

Facebook says that its new photo transfer tool (the roll-out has just started) is a tool based on code that has been developed through participation in the open-source Data Transfer Project and can be accessed via Facebook settings within Your Facebook Information.

The tool will enable Facebook users to transfer their Facebook photos and videos directly to other services (Google Photos first).

The first part of the roll-out is in Ireland with worldwide availability planned for the first half of 2020.  Facebook says that the tool is still essentially in testing and that it will be refined based upon feedback from users and from conversations with stakeholders

Help From The Data Transfer Project

One of the key factors in the development of the portability tool was Facebook joining the Data Transfer Project (along with Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Apple, and others) which is an open-source software project that’s designed to help participants develop interoperable systems that will enable users to transfer their data seamlessly between online service providers.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Facebook has been offering its DYI service for nearly 10 years, but the new portability tool is something which will enable Facebook to meet its legal requirements under GDPR and the CCPA while helping Facebook to stay competitive with other online services.

Facebook is also acutely aware of the damage done to user trust over the data sharing with Cambridge Analytica, which is why the recent white paper that Facebook published about its portability ideas clearly acknowledged that portability products need to be built in a privacy-protective way.

For Facebook users, this new tool may be one of the many new services that help them to be more trusting of Facebook again by making them feel that they have real options and choices about what they do with their files from Facebook (even though it’s a legal requirement to give people the portability option).

Amazon Announces Smart Office Supply Re-Ordering Device

Amazon has announced the introduction of a ‘smart’ office essentials re-ordering device called Dash Smart Shelf which uses a weight-sensing, Wi-Fi-enabled smart scale to re-order products when they’re running low.

Why?

According to Amazon, monitoring and reordering everyday business essentials (e.g. printer paper) can be unnecessarily time-consuming for the small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that make up 99% of business in the U.S. (99.9% of the business population / 5.9 million businesses in the UK – FSB figures).  Having a smart inventory-tracking service could, therefore, mean that time and money in manual stock checking can be saved, plus the disruption of running out of a particular item when it’s needed can be avoided.

How Dash Smart Shelf Works

Amazon’s Dash Smart Shelf is a weight-sensing, Wi-Fi-enabled smart scale that looks like a closed laptop. The device is around 1-inch-tall and will be offered in three different sizes – small (7” x 7”), medium (12” x 10”), and large (18” x 13”). Amazon says that the Dash Smart Shelf can work on a range of surfaces e.g. from counter-tops to wire shelving.

The idea being that the Dash Smart Shelf is placed on the shelf where stationery is stored and the stationery e.g. packets of printer paper, sticky tape or pens are stacked (one Smart Shelf per item type) on top of it.  When supplies run low, the Dash Smart Shelf automatically orders more.

Incentive

The Dash Smart Self is for Amazon Business Customers and Amazon is offering them “business-only prices” on certain products, and savings of up to 15 per cent on orders for selected products placed using the new Dash Smart Shelf.

Easy

Amazon says that the Dash Smart Self is easy to set up and only requires a wall plug (included) or four AAA batteries, a connection to your business Wi-Fi and that you are logged in to your Amazon Business account via the web or Amazon Shopping app.

Timescale and Price

Amazon says that the Dash Smart Shelf will be made available first to Amazon Business customers with a registered U.S. business license “starting sometime in 2020”, and no prices have yet been made available.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Amazon makes the point that if you’re in a location far from an office supplies shop, or if you miss a big order (e.g. because you don’t have a certain sized cable), you will instantly see the value of a product that makes sure that you never run out of essential supplies. This product does appear to have the potential to save time, money and hassle by no longer having to manually monitor stock levels.  However, since this product is aimed SMEs, and one unit will need to be purchased for each office product type and the price per unit Dash Smart Shelf (as yet unknown) is going to be an important consideration. Businesses may wonder how much flexibility they will have in choosing which supplier (via the amazon platform) they can have with the device.

Amazon has made in-roads into our homes and found out much more about us and our listening, viewing and other consumption patterns with smart speakers (Echo), Fire TV, the Ring Doorbell and more, and the Dash Smart Shelf marks a move into our business lives by Amazon. As the company becomes the close, sole supplier of some of our valued home and business services, this should enable Amazon to use the data about us to tailor more services and offers, thereby helping it to increase our loyalty and commitment to Amazon, and further fuelling the growth, power and diversification of this online giant.

The Tech That The Parties Are Promising

With the UK’s General Election due to take place on 12 December, many issues have been covered in the media.  One key area of interest for businesses is technology and for those of you who may not have time to plough through the manifestos of the main parties, here’s a quick look at some of the technology-related pledges and ideas featured in those manifestos.

CONSERVATIVES

With the Conservative government being in power since May 2010 (firstly in coalition with the Lib Dems) the tech vision, policies and direction of travel is, of course, a little clearer to all. The EU referendum under David Cameron heralded the need for UK data protection laws to be aligned with a the EU’s GDPR and an uncertainty and concerns that UK employers would be less likely to seek migrant tech employees, and that fewer overseas tech workers seek on to stay in their jobs in the UK, in an environment where the challenge posed by a tech skills gap was already evident.  Having said that, back in 2017, the Conservative government under Teresa May announced a boost to the UK’s digital and technology industries in the form of £700m of funding as part of the launch of its Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Also, under the Conservatives, a National Cyber Security Centre was set up in London in February (to act as part of GCHQ in Cheltenham), which was intended to enable businesses to report serious data breaches to the NCSC in confidence.

Looking forward to this 2019 election then, the Conservative manifesto features some of the following technology ideas and pledges:

  • The setting up of a new, dedicated national cybercrime force and National Crime Laboratory, both of which are intended to help the police to safely get the benefits from the use of new technologies like biometrics and artificial intelligence, and to use DNA, all within a strict legal framework.
  • Providing gigabit broadband access for “every home and business” by 2025 to help businesses and remote workers, to be paid for under the ‘National Infrastructure Strategy’.
  • Investing £1bn in “completing a fast-charging network” for electric vehicles to make sure that “everyone is within 30 miles of a rapid electric vehicle charging station”.
  • With reference to R&D tax credits, increasing the tax credit rate to 13 per cent and reviewing the definition of R&D so that investments in innovation and productivity-boosting cloud computing and data are incentivised.
  • Creating a new £3 billion (over the next Parliament) National Skills Fund to provide matching funding for individuals and SMEs for high-quality education and training.
  • Creating 20 Institutes of Technology, to connect teaching in science, technology, engineering and maths to business and industry.
  • Investing in “world-class computing and health data systems” to help with research.

LABOUR

In the Labour Party’s 2019 manifesto, party leader and leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn says that he’s planning to “launch the largest-scale investment programme in modern times to fund the jobs and industries of the future so that no one is held back and no community left behind.”

Some of the key technology-related pledges and ideas that feature in the Labour Party’s manifesto for the coming 2019 General Election include:

  • A proposal which has attracted a lot of media attention (and criticism from the Conservatives) to re-nationalise part of BT and deliver free full-fibre broadband to all.
  • This will involve the creation of two new government entities: British Digital Infrastructure and British Broadband Service (BBS) to help roll out of full-fibre networks and coordinate the delivery of free broadband. Labour says this can all be paid for through the party’s planned Green Transformation Fund and a new tax regime for multinational companies, and there will be a jobs guarantee for all workers in existing broadband infrastructure and retail broadband work.
  • The appointing of a cabinet-level minister dedicated to cybersecurity to help ensure that the nation’s cybersecurity issues are tackled effectively and to offer regular reviews of cyber-readiness.
  • Giving officials working for National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which is the public-facing division of GCHQ, the power to audit public and private sector organisations’ cyber defences and issue warnings to organisations in order to reduce their cyber risk.
  • Ensuring that no services are offered on a “digital-only” basis in order to try and remove the so-called ‘digital barrier’ that may exclude vulnerable people, and also to offer telephone, face-to-face and outreach support.
  • Bringing in a legal right to collective consultation on the implementation of new technology in workplaces in order to ensure more rights and protections for workers whose jobs may be at risk of being lost or reduced as a result of technological advancement.

THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

The big news is that beyond the 12-key policies focused on by the media, the Jo Swinson-led Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) have their eyes set upon a “vision for an innovation-led economy”.  With stopping Brexit as their main focus, the party makes the point that retaining the Freedom of movement that EU membership has given could mean that British tech industries can “have access to the best and brightest talent from the EU” and thereby giving “businesses opportunities to grow and contribute to life and prosperity in the UK.”

Some of the other key technology areas that the Lib Dem’s say in their manifesto that their innovation-led vision will cover include:

  • Positioning the UK to become a world leader in new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI).
  • A belief that the EU should make solid new legislation about blockchain, AI and other new technologies.
  • Giving high priority to matters relating to cybersecurity, data protection and privacy matters.
  • Seeking to encourage competition from companies in the “digital space” and supporting the use of European and UK competition powers to stop “tech giants” from exploiting consumers and ensuring innovation through competition.
  • Increasing the national spend on R&D to 3% of GDP (2.4% by no later than 2027), doubling innovation spend and creating “catapult” innovation and technology centres.
  • Allowing companies to claim R&D tax credits against the cost of purchasing datasets and cloud computing, as well as simplifying regulations speeding up regulatory change.
  • Creating a “startup allowance” to support fast-growing businesses e.g. tech startups.

THE GREEN PARTY

Even though the Green Party’s leader (and Brighton MP) Caroline Lucas was the party’s only MP elected in the last general election, they now have 7 MEPs in the European Parliament. Obviously, Green Party pledges and ideas relate strongly to environmental issues, and some of the technology-related pledges and ideas in their 2019 General Election manifesto (which pledges zero carbon by 2020) include:

  • Delivering financial mechanisms and the transfer of new technologies to help the Global South adapt to climate change in a just way.
  • As part of the “Green New Deal”, including finance and technology to “help the majority world adapt to climate change”, support human well-being,  and to break “the carbon chains of fossil fuel dependence”, thereby bringing about a “green economic and social revolution”.
  • Setting new clean technology standards and investing in research.
  • Applying a Carbon Tax to help incentivise industry to switch to low and zero-carbon technology and equipment.
  • Making finance and technology available to support developing nations.
  • Introducing a Digital Bill of Rights (a new law) in order make the UK a leading voice on standards for the rule of law and democracy in digital spaces and to ensure independent regulation of social media providers. This law will also be designed to safeguard elections from foreign interference.

General Election – 12 December

Obviously, there are other political parties that make up and influence the UK political landscape, and which have technology-related pledges, but hopefully, this shorthand summary of some of the key tech pledges from the main players has provided some insight into where they say they stand on technology matters.

Clearly, elections are decided on a wide range of different issues and subjects and even though Brexit has been a dominant issue for some time now, it remains to be seen how the political and economic landscape will be changed after 12 December.  Technology, however, will continue to advance, and exciting new areas such as AI promise to create new opportunities for businesses going forward.

5G Mobile Network is 450% Faster Than 4G in Tests

Tests by Ookla, the developer of Speedtest.net, are reported to have shown that the new 5G mobile network is 450% faster than 4G.

Speed

According to the Speedtest.net website, the results of the testing of 5G in 29 UK cities during Q3 of 2019 generally show download speeds as being 450-475% faster than those on all mobile technologies combined, and that the 5G download speed in Northern Ireland showed a 618.3% improvement due to the fact that mean mobile download speeds on all technologies are slower in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the U.K.

The tests also revealed that mean 5G download speeds are uniformly high across the U.K., with only 6 Mbps difference between the fastest country (England) and the slowest (Northern Ireland).

Availability

Speedtest.net says that mobile operators have embraced 5G across the UK this year.  For example, 5G is now commercially available in 22 English cities such as London, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester and Wolverhampton.

5G is also now available in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Paisley in Scotland, in Belfast in Northern Ireland, and in Cardiff, Llandudno and Penarth in Wales.

Rankings

In terms of ranking operators in terms of their 5G download speed in the UK during Q3 2019, Speedtest.net put EE in first place, O2 in second and Vodafone in third place.

No Three

The Speedtest.net results and analysis didn’t include Three because they currently only offer 5G broadband in certain districts of London and their 5G has not yet been launched.

Three announced earlier this year, however, that new and existing customers with compatible handsets will be able to get 5G at no extra cost(s) when its 5G service is launched.

Upload Speeds Not As Impressive

The test results showed, however, that 5G upload speeds, although good, were not quite as impressive as the download speeds with percentage increases ranging from 38.5% to 110% faster.

Safety Concerns

One issue not covered by the testing was the safety fears surrounding 5G. For example, 5G uses 3 Spectrum bands, low-band spectrum (LTE), mid-band spectrum, and what some believe to be the potentially dangerous mmWave high-frequency spectrum.

The mmWave spectrum, however, is still not close to the kind of ionising wavelengths that can cause damage to DNA and 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.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Ofcom is due to auction additional spectrum for 5G in the 700 MHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz bands in spring 2020 and this should help fuel the further expansion of the 5G networks.  This is likely to be good news for businesses who have been waiting for the speed benefits that 5G can bring, for example in improving file sharing and other communication capabilities.

Although the rollout is currently only confined to major UK cities, which will, of course, favour businesses in those areas, it is good news that 5G has been achieving consistent speeds in its deployments around the world, thereby improving on one of the challenges of 4G.

Different operators look set to take different approaches to their 5G rollouts and offerings, and greater 5G availability will provide a boost to the sales of new generation mobile handsets in the UK where many people and businesses have been holding back on purchasing the latest 5G models until they could reap the benefits of having a much more established 5G network in place.

New Brave Browser: Blocks Ads, Pays Rewards

The new 1.0 browser from Brave removes ads and ad trackers and pays users through a reward system for viewing the ads that Brave presents.

Brave?

Brave is a San Francisco based start-up company, founded in 2015 and led by CEO Brendan Eich, formally of Firefox.

Ad and Tracker-Free

Two of the key advantages of the new Brave browser are that it protects a user’s privacy by removing ad trackers and makes browsing a faster (download time) and less distracting experience by removing adverts.

Displays Its Own Adverts and Pays You For Viewing Them

The big difference about Brave is that it offers its own Brave Rewards system. Users who join the system only see adverts from Brave and are paid 70% of the resulting ad revenue using Brave’s own crypto-token, the Basic Attention Token (BAT).  Brave also sends the revenue you accrue back to the websites you’ve visited.

The advantages of this system should be that it can lure new users to Brave in a crowded browser market with the promise of money and a better browsing experience and improved privacy and that websites can still find a way to support themselves with advertising without having to share the personal data of users with tech companies.  The hope is that, if this browser and model gains user approval on a large-scale it will eventually deter publishers from trying to profile the behaviour of their users via privacy-invading trackers.

Earnings

Users who sign-up to the Brave Rewards system can choose where to direct the BAT they’ve earned e.g. send it certain sites, tip Twitter and Reddit users or choose to convert it into currency (which is unlikely to be a large amount).

Numbers

There are some very well-established players in the Browser market which is currently dominated by Google Chrome which has more than 65% of the market (around 2+ billion installs).

In comparison, Brave says that it is used 8.7 million times each month on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. The company has, however, reported that the number of users is growing by 10% per month.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Privacy is a big concern for all web-users and trying to download web pages that are full of adverts can be a frustrating and a time and power-draining experience. Businesses also need to be able to use the tools available to them to make sure that they can get the maximum ROI from their advertising spend, plus the big tech companies need to be able to offer their business customers an ad system that delivers results, hence the perceived need for trackers and profiling the behaviour of customers.  Web publishers also need to have a viable way to help support their sites and offer content to their users (without a payment gateway) and this has traditionally been through advertising on their pages, much to the frustration of website visitors.  Brave’s browser, therefore, tries to meet the needs of all these groups in one package.  The combination of improved privacy, financial incentives and better browsing experience may prove appealing to users, and publishers may take note of the Brave model and realise that there is another way of supporting their sites. It remains to be seen, however, how much share of the browser market Brave can gain and how well it fares against some powerful and entrenched competitors.

$20 Million Fight Highlights Value of Social Influence and PR

The popularity and influence of two YouTube celebrities making their boxing event an all-time global Top 20 pay-per-view phenomenon and splittin a $20 million prize is a reminder of the magnifying value of online PR.

What Happened?

Two of the world’s leading YouTube celebrities and ‘Generation Z’ heroes Logan Paul and Olajide “KSI” Olatunji followed up on their 800,000+ pay-per-view, £2.7 million earning 6-round boxing match from last year at Manchester Arena with the repeat bout at a Los Angeles basketball arena.  This time, after their fight in the early hours of Sunday morning they were able to split $20 million made from 2 million+ pay-per-view purchases generated from their combined 40 million subscriber fan-base.  Neither of these YouTube celebrities is a boxing professional and their fight was in stark contrast to that of two World Champions, fighting on the same bill, who were “only” paid less than $1 million.

Social Media Power & PR

The world’s biggest YouTube celebrities and social influencers, such as PewDiePie (102 million subscribers), Dude Perfect (47.1 million subscribers) and Badabun (43 million subscribers) are mainly young people who have managed to build a relationship with their generation audience by posting YouTube videos.  Generation Z subscribers (born between 1996-2010) who have grown up with the Internet and social media, and Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) make up large parts of the subscriber audiences. Interestingly, in the case of boxing, this represents an opportunity for promoters to tap into a massive new audience who may not be familiar with the sport.

Even though these influencers may appear to be strongly linked to a generation that they have an innate understanding of (by being part of it) what they are essentially doing is leveraging public relations – building relationships with different publics, building their own credibility and raising their own visibility – on a grand scale. YouTube is simply the media and part of the message that allows them to achieve their PR aims.

PR Often Overlooked By Businesses

The power of PR to business is often overlooked in favour of apparently easier to understand advertising and measuring of responses, and rather than dismissing the kind of influence that some young people have via social media as a generational mystery that doesn’t apply to you, recognising that the value-adding use of PR is within the reach of all businesses is important.  So, what can PR do for your business/campaign/cause/event?

  • As YouTube celebrities show, influence is something that PR can achieve. Your own expertise and inside knowledge of your business and industry can be a valuable and persuasive asset in your messages that can make you appear to be a trusted and objective source.
  • Finding or creating an interesting and compelling story with a link to your products, services and brand can mean that the ‘reach’ of your message is increased as different outlets and channels pick up on it and share it.
  • The cost-effectiveness of your advertising can be dramatically increased when combined with PR.
  • The search engine optimisation (SEO) of your website can get a real boost from PR as you receive more visitors to your website and more shares of your story on social media and on other websites, and more links to your website thereby giving your rankings a boost for important key phrases.
  • Getting your own feature in an important publication can be a great way to attract investors and new customers as it strengthens your credibility.
  • Talented people such as potential employees and businesses as potential strategic alliances can also be attracted by good PR about your organisation.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The boxing event was not a demonstration of sporting expertise and prowess, but of the power of influence gained through social media and PR.  This event showed that business (and something that’s arguably greater than the sum of its parts) can be generated through paying attention to the building personal brands and online relationships with specific audiences which, over time, can generate its own momentum. One of the key messages for businesses to take away from this is that PR opportunities already exist all around and tapping into them could be a cost-effective way of boosting the power and reach of your messages.  This may be something that has been overlooked in your promotional mix but could make all the difference.

Google Announces New ‘Teachable Machine 2.0’ No-Code Machine Learning Model Generator

Two years on from its first incarnation, Google has announced the introduction of its ‘Teachable Machine 2.0’, a no-code custom machine learning model generating platform that can be used by anyone and requires no coding experience.

First Version

Back in 2017, Google introduced its first version of Teachable Machine which enabled anyone to teach their computer to recognise images using a webcam. This first version enabled many children and young people to gain their first experience of training their own machine learning model i.e. teaching their computer how to recognise patterns in data (images) and assign new data to categories.

Teachable Machine 2.0

Google’s new ‘Teachable Machine 2.0’ is a browser-based system that records from the user’s computer’s webcam and microphone, and with the click of a ‘train’ button (no coding required), it can be trained to recognise images, sounds or poses.  This enables the user to quickly and easily create their own custom machine learning models which they can download and use on their own device or upload and host online.

Fear-Busting and Confidence

One of the key points that Google wants to emphasise is that the no-code, click-of-a-button aspect of this machine learning model generator can instil confidence in young users that they are able to successfully use advanced computer technology creatively without coding experience.  This, as Google mentions on its blog, has been identified as being important by parents of girls as girls face challenges in becoming interested in and finding available jobs in computer science.

What Can It Be Used For?

In addition to being used as a teaching aid, examples of how Teachable Machine 2.0 has been used include:

  • Improving communication for people with impaired speech. For example, this has been done by turning recorded voice samples into spectrograms that can be used to “train” a computer system to better recognise less common types of speech
  • Helping with game design.
  • Making physical sorting machines. For, example, Google’s own project has used Teachable Machine to create a model that can classify and sort objects.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The UK has a tech skills shortage that has been putting pressure on UK businesses that are unable to find skilled people to drive innovation and tech product and service development forward.  A platform that enables young people to feel more confident and creative in using the latest technologies from a young age without being thwarted by the need for coding could lead to more young people choosing computer science in further and higher education and seeking careers in IT.  This, in turn, could help UK businesses.

No-coding solutions such as Teachable Machine 2.0 represent a way of democratising app and software development and utilising ideas and creativity that may have previously been suppressed by a lack of coding experience.  Businesses always need creativity and innovation in order to create new opportunities and competitive advantage and Teachable Machine 2.0 may be one small step in helping that to happen further down the line.

‘Moore’s Law’ and Business Innovation Challenged By Slow-Down In Rate of Processing Power Growth

Many tech commentators have noted a stagnation or slow-down period in computing related to ‘Moore’s Law’ being challenged, but has the shrinking of transistors within computer chips really hit a wall and what could drive innovation further?

What Is Moore’s Law?

Moore’s Law, named after Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, is based on his observation from 1965 that transistors were shrinking so quickly that twice as many would be able to fit into a micro-chip every year, which he later amended to a doubling every two years.  In essence, this Law should mean that processing power for computers doubles every two years.

The Challenge

The challenge to this Law that many tech commentators have noted is that technology companies may be reaching their limit in terms of fitting ever-smaller silicon transistors into ever-smaller spaces, thereby leading to a general slowing of the growth of processing power.  The knock-on effect of this appears slowing of computer innovation that some say could have a detrimental effect on new, growing industry sectors such as self-driving cars.

What’s Been Happening?

Big computer chip manufacturers like Intel have delayed the next generation of smaller transistor technology and increased the time between introducing the future generations of their chips. Back in 2016 for example, Intel found that it could shrink chips to as little as 14 nanometres, but 10 nanometres is going to be a challenge that would take longer to achieve.

The effect has not only been a challenge to Moore’s Law, and a challenge to how the big tech companies can keep improving their data centres, but also how computers are able to work for (and keep up with) the demands of business.

Mobile devices, which use chips other than Intel’s may also have the brakes put on them slightly as they now also rely, to a large extent, on the data-centres to run the apps that their users value.

What About Supercomputers?

Some experts have also noted that the rate of improvement of supercomputers has been slowing in recent years and this may have had a negative impact on the research programs that use them.

That said, the cloud means that IBM is now able to offer quantum computing to tens of thousands of users, thereby empowering what it calls “an emerging quantum community of educators, researchers, and software developers that share a passion for revolutionising computing”.  It is doing this by opening a Quantum Computation Centre in New York which will bring the world’s largest fleet of quantum computing systems online, including the new 53-Qubit Quantum System for broad use in the cloud.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Many smaller businesses that are less directly reliant upon the most-up-to-date computers may not be particularly concerned at the present time about the challenge to Moore’s Law,  but all businesses are likely to be indirectly affected as their tech giant suppliers struggle to keep improving the capacity of their data-centres.

Many see AI and machine learning as the gateway to finding innovative solutions to improving computing power, but these also rely on data-centres and other areas of computing that have been challenged by the pressure on Moore’s Law.

A more likely way forward may be that chip designs will need to be improved and highly specialised versions will need to be produced, and Microsoft and Intel have already made a start on this by working on reconfigurable chips.  Also, the big tech companies may need to collaborate on their R &D in order to find the way forward in increasing the rate of improvement of computing power that can ensure that businesses can drive their products, services and innovation forward.

Microsoft Edge Gets Business Upgrade

Billed as “the browser and search engine for business”, Microsoft’s new Chromium-powered version of Edge (and now more serious competitor to Google’s Chrome) is set to be released in January with new business-focused capabilities.

Chromium Source

Back in December 2018, Microsoft announced that it was adopting the Chromium open source project, which is the web rendering engine that powers Google Chrome.  This forms the basis for the new, upgraded version of Edge which many see as a serious attempt by Microsoft to make it more relevant, particularly to larger business customers, and compete more seriously with Google’s Chrome.

January 2020

The new business-focused version of Edge has only been released as ‘Beta version 79’ (the final Beta before it becomes a general “Release Candidate”), with the general release of the download of the stable version for Windows and macOS scheduled for 15 January 2020.

More Productive At Work

One of the key challenges that Microsoft says it’s trying to address with the improved version of Edge is difficulty in finding and accessing corporate information that is known to exist on company intranets.  With this in mind, Microsoft says that it has added “new experiences” to Microsoft Search in Bing such as enabling users to type in the address bar to search for people on the company Intranet, using natural language, such as by their title, team name and office location.

Also, users will be able to:

  • Search for office location and find answers that show floor plans for directions.
  • Get definitions for company acronyms.
  • Use a broad set of question and answers to find internal company information.

What Else?

Other business-focused features that the new version of Edge will offer are:

  • Expansion of Microsoft Graph connectors which expands the reach of Microsoft Search for 365 customers by adding over 100 connectors including Salesforce.com, ServiceNow, and Box. This will mean that business users can find more using Microsoft Search.
  • The ability to easily access Search in Bing on a mobile phone so that workers can search for company information on the go.
  • SmartScreen and Tracking prevention to protect users from phishing schemes, malicious software and new types of malware (crypto-jacking).
  • A new InPrivate mode for Microsoft Edge and Bing (for searching and browsing) to help improve privacy and security
  • A ‘Collections’ feature for Microsoft Edge to help users to collect web content, organise research and export that content into Word and Excel for analysis and collaborative working.

Extras For IT Professionals

The new version of Edge will also include some new features for IT professionals including the expansion of the Microsoft FastTrack deployment program to deploy the new Microsoft Edge in Q1 2020, the expansion of the App Assure program to cover Microsoft Edge in Q1 2020, and a new security baseline for the new Microsoft Edge.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The migration to Chromium last year was a clear sign that Microsoft was looking to make Edge browser a much more serious competitor to Google’s Chrome.  Microsoft has identified some key challenges that businesses (with Intranets and programs like Salesforce) have with accessing important company information through a browser search.  Microsoft has, therefore, incorporated some very business-focused, productivity-boosting solutions in this version of Edge that can help office and mobile/remote workers.  Focusing on the needs of business-users could help Microsoft maintain its position at the top of the business OS market as well as giving its Edge browser a long-overdue boost.

BBC Puts News On ‘Dark Web Browser’ To Avoid Censorship

The BBC has announced that it is making its International news website available via the ‘Tor’ browser (usually associated with the ‘dark web’), in order to get around censorship in other countries.

Blocking by Some Countries

The BBC is concerned that countries including China, Iran and Vietnam have tried to block access to its website or programmes in the past.

With this in mind, and with the BBC wanting to compete in the world broadcasting market and widen its audience, as well as wanting to maintain and extend the perception of its World Service as a trusted news source, the BBC has turned to the Tor browser as a way of stopping states from blocking/censoring its content.

Why Tor?

The ‘Tor’ browser, an acronym for ‘The Onion Router’ because of its many layers of encryption, is most well known as the browser that’s used to access the dark web. In these days of worries about privacy and the prying eyes of and rules imposed by states and their agencies, plus worries about cybercriminals and fraudsters, end-to-end encrypted communications channels have become more valuable and more widely available.

The Tor browser, which came out of a US Naval Research Laboratory (and which is partly funded by the US State Department) can hide a user’s location and identity due to its routing process through multiple node encryption points. Tor can, therefore, be used to browse the web (and dark web) anonymously, and to host hidden websites (with a .onion suffix).

International Edition On Tor

The BBC plans, therefore, to host a version of its international news website within Tor thereby evading restrictions imposed by others states and protecting the identity and quite possibly the safety of any viewers of that news who reside within a state where the BBC news online faces restrictions.

This version of the BBC’s international news website will not feature the BBC iPlayer service but will include foreign language services e.g. BBC Arabic, Persian and Russian.

Soft Power

The BBC’s World Service has been described by many as being part of the UK’s ‘soft power’ i.e. part of the UK’s ability to portray a certain image of itself overseas and to influence the thinking and action of others using the power of attraction as opposed to the power of coercion and threats.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

In western democracies and capitalist countries where certain freedoms of consumption are seen as good and necessary to maintain the market-based system, there is an interest in wishing to promote these values and beliefs around the world. This can lead to the widening of markets for goods, services and lifestyles as people in less open countries see them online or television, and this can be good news for businesses who are able to export.  Stable, open countries, with good diplomatic and trading relationships and freedom for communications, are good news for businesses who want to export or set up operations in those countries to gain access to bigger markets.

Sates that are seen to perhaps be more oppressive and authoritarian and which use censorship to maintain a certain power balance and message/perception of the outside world are likely to fear news reports and views which conflict with their own.  The BBC has found itself to be a global market media player as well as a national broadcaster with UK state interests and this, coupled with wider use of encrypted message and  web services have turned a browser that once had a dubious reputation (by association with the dark web) into a handy tool for accessing for expanding the corporation’s, the UK’s, and the democratised West’s reach into untapped market areas.  The hope would be that this would benefit the interests of all, including those citizens of censored states that are able to access a ‘trusted’ external news source for the first time in years.