Technology

Alan Turing To Feature on £50 Note

Alan Turing, head of the Enigma code-breaking team at Bletchley Park in World War 2, mathematician and father of computer science who was driven to suicide over the treatment of his sexuality is finally being honoured by the featuring his image on the new £50 note.

Chosen By Committee

The UK Bank of England’s Banknote Character Advisory Committee advises the Governor on the characters that appear on new banknotes. In December, members of the committee were given summary biographies of 989 dead scientists, put forward by more than 225,000 members of the public, from which one would need to be chosen to feature on the new polymer £50 note when it enters circulation at the end of 2021.  The committee chose Alan Turing.

Mathematician & Scientist

Alan Turing 1912 – 1954, born in born in West London and educated in Frant, East Sussex and Sherborne, Dorset, displayed a natural ability for maths and science.  He is reported to have been able to solve complex and advanced maths problems in 1927 (aged 15) without having studied even elementary calculus, and in 1928 (aged 16) he was able to deduce Einstein’s questioning of Newton’s laws of motion from a text in which this was never made explicit.

Father of Computer Science

After studying at King’s College Cambridge, in 1936 Turing published his paper “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem”, with which Turing proved that his “universal computing machine” could perform any mathematical computation if it were representable as an algorithm. This, plus his work developed at Bletchley Park is why Turing is widely thought of as the father of modern computer science.

WW2 Bletchley Hero

Alan Turing is perhaps best known for heading the codebreaking operation during WW2 at top-secret Bletchley Park, where it is estimated that the incredible breaking of U-boat Enigma codes may have shortened the war in Europe by as many as two to four years, and potentially saved millions of lives.  Part of this work involved creating and building the electromechanical machine called the bombe, which could break Enigma more effectively than the Polish bomba kryptologiczna (from where it got its name).

Conviction, Chemical Castration and Suicide

In 1952, Turing was prosecuted and convicted of “gross indecency” over his relationship with another man. In order to avoid a prison sentence, Turing chose to be chemically castrated through injections of synthetic oestrogen.

Alan Turing committed suicide with cyanide poisoning two years later, aged only 41.

Apology and Pardon

In 2013, Alan Turing was given a posthumous apology and royal pardon for his conviction for gross indecency.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Alan Turing’s incredible mind, aptitude for maths and science, and his work in cracking the Enigma code at Bletchley Park have resulted in millions of lives being saved through the shortening of the war in Europe, and in the rapid evolution of computer science that has fed directly into the digital world and workplace that we know today. Despite being a national hero, how Turing was treated was widely regarded as shameful, and the posthumous pardon and apology, along with being honoured on a banknote have been ways in which the UK has been able, in some small but public ways, to right some the wrongs of the past, honour a truly great scientist, and contribute to a greater understanding and acceptance of sexual differences.

Scientists Discover How To Store Data On Matter Smaller Than DNA

Scientists from Brown University are reported to have discovered how to store data on metabolic molecules, which are pieces of matter that are even smaller than DNA.

Storage In Artificial Metabolomes  

The results of the recent research announced on the Brown University website and published in the PLOS ONE journal describe how researchers have discovered a way to store/encode and retrieve kilobyte-scale image files from artificial metabolomes which are arrays of liquid mixtures containing sugars, amino acids and other types of small molecules.  Some of these small molecules are smaller and have greater information density than DNA.

According to the researchers, although DNA is best for encoding larger datasets, the small molecule metabolite data method has low latency so that data sets can be written and read quickly.  The small molecule method is, however, still slower than traditional computers.

DNA Storage Research Not New

Research into storing data in DNA is not new.  For example, back in 2013 scientists in Cambridge spelt out a collection of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets in DNA.

Also, last September UK scientists developed a technique to enable them to store computer files on DNA.  Scientists from the European Bioinformatics Institute developed a method whereby the basis of digital data, which is made up of ones and zeros, is changed into their own code as Cs, Gs, and Ts.

This converted code was sent to a US laboratory, which turned the letter code into physical DNA so that it could act like an incredibly small hard drive. The laboratory used DNA synthesis machines to transform the code into physical material in a similar way to how an inkjet printer lays down ink on paper. The physical result was a tiny piece of dust with the vital digital data stored inside. An estimated 215 petabytes (215 million gigabytes) of data could be stored in a single gram of DNA.

Why?

The reasons for developing ways to store data in DNA and even smaller molecules are that we are generating vast quantities of data with no practical and cost-effective way to store it for the future.  For example, it is estimated that there are now 3 zettabytes (3000 billion bytes) of digital data, with more being generated all the time. Storage media such as hard disks are expensive and require a constant supply of expensive electricity, and even the best ‘no-power’ archiving materials e.g. magnetic tape degrade within a decade.

The advantages of DNA and smaller molecules for storage are that:

  • Sensitive data stored in DNA and other small molecules won’t be vulnerable to hacking.
  • Data stored in this way could survive in harsher climates and environments where traditional hardware can’t.
  • DNA provides a highly effective, ultra-compact space-saving solution, that doesn’t require large amounts of costly electricity.
  • DNA can keep for hundreds of thousands of years if kept in a cool, dry place. Data stored in DNA won’t degrade over time, and it can be decoded relatively easily.
  • DNA won’t become obsolete, and unlike other high-density approaches, new technologies can write and read large amounts of DNA in one go.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The incredible science involved in this could give businesses a way to store and back up vast amounts of data in a very convenient and secure way (safe from hackers) with dramatically reduced space, equipment, and electricity costs, and with the assurance that the data could be stored, without decay, for many thousands of years.  Some tech commentators have estimated that commercial DNA storage devices may be on shelves in the next few years.

You could be forgiven for thinking, however, that DNA storage of data sounds (and probably will be) expensive, and it may be the case that most businesses will be sticking to cloud storage for quite some time yet.

‘Mobile-Sensing System’ Could Evaluate Your Workplace Performance

A newly developed ‘Mobile-Sensing System’ that uses a combination of smartphone, fitness bracelet, app and cloud-based machine learning algorithms can track and rank the workplace performance of employees with 80% accuracy.

Based On Student Monitoring App

The underlying technology blueprint for the new system, which was developed by a group of researchers including Dartmouth University computer science professor Andrew Campbell, is a student monitoring app that was used to help improve productivity. The ‘StudentLife’ app monitored student behaviour and predicted academic performance.

The ‘Mobile-Sensing System’

The new ‘Mobile-Sensing System’ uses the combination of a smartphone to track physical activity, location, phone usage and ambient light, a wearable fitness tracker to monitor heart functions, sleep, stress, and body measurements e.g. weight and calorie consumption, and location beacons that can be placed in the home or office to provide information about time at work and breaks.

The number-crunching for the system is carried out by cloud-based machine learning algorithms that have been trained to classify workers by performance level.

Why?

The system provides feedback to both the employee and employer and, according to the researchers, by using this ‘passive’ sensing and machine learning system, companies have another way of assessing how individuals are doing in their jobs, and employees can be helped to see how they can optimise and boost their performance.

The researchers believe that the system can unlock and give greater insight into behaviours that drive performance and offers benefits over more traditional review techniques that can require manual effort and can be biased and unreliable.

Best Performers

The researchers have noted that, according to the new system, the best performers are likely to be those who have lower rates of phone usage, have longer deep sleep periods and are more physically active and mobile.

Surveillance?

Although the researchers have pitched the system as something that could help employer and employee, critics may say that, in the relationship where the employer has the power, this kind of close surveillance and micro-management tool could favour younger physically active people (those without disabilities or sleeping disorders), could create stress in individuals who feel that they are constantly being monitored and ‘ranked’ by a ‘big brother’ system with a view to being replaced based on numbers created by secret algorithms.

It could also mean that employees without home/family commitments or who live closer to work may be ranked as more productive because they are able to stay longer or come into the workplace outside normal hours.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This system does show how new technologies can be combined to provide closer insights into work and performance and in some jobs e.g. repetitive manual jobs where time is a key factor anyway.  For some employers, therefore, this system could have a real value in evaluating and improving working processes, particularly if it is accompanied by a positive rewards-based system, and if support is made available to those employees who don’t rank as highly.

This system, however, may not be able to take account of many of the other dynamics and soft factors that make up good performance, and may not be suitable as the main monitoring method in certain more specialised jobs and roles.  There is also a danger that this kind of system in the wrong hands could be used as a blunt instrument of surveillance and control over a workforce.

Privacy and security are also a major concern for businesses and employees, and whether or not the data and performance measurements can be linked to an individual, where (and how securely) that data is stored, and who the data can be shared with should be areas of concern.

Visa Adopts Blockchain For Cross-Border, Bank To Bank B2B Payments

Visa is integrating blockchain technology with its core systems to enable participant businesses to make direct, cross-border, bank to bank payments to other corporate participants.

B2B Connect

The news system called Visa B2B Connect is being built using the Hyperledger Fabric framework from the Linux Foundation, and will mean that, rather than paying another corporate by cheque, automated clearing house or wire transfer, all of which require intermediary banks and exchanges, payments can be made directly and instantly from bank to bank of corporate customers.

This will mean cost and time savings, and the ability to pay and get paid 24-hours a day, regardless of location, local time differences, and other problematic traditional banking anomalies such as data truncation, payment delays and compliance issues.

Suite of APIs

The Visa B2B Connect system essentially provides a suite of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) which allow participating banks to automate B2B, cross-border and cross-currency payments, by developing an end-to-end B2B payments solution to onboard customers, set up their suppliers, check Visa B2B Connect foreign exchange rates and submit payments. Alternatively, banks can choose to integrate just a subset of the APIs to address more specific needs e.g. checking on the status of certain payments through the Visa B2B Connect site.

Expansion Plans

Although the new system will only work for those corporates signed-up as participants to Visa’s pilot scheme, there are already plans to expand it so that it will cover more than 30 global trade corridors and 90 markets by the end of this year.

Benefits

The benefits that the blockchain-based B2B Connect system offers include cryptographically secured B2B transactions, transaction transparency and predictability, and the peace of mind and security of operating within a trusted network where all parties are known participants on a permissioned blockchain operated by Visa.

Blockchain Lacking Functionality

Recent research by Gartner showed that Only 11% of CIOs have deployed or are in short-term planning with blockchain, partly because of the fact that, at the moment, blockchain is a technology and not a complete, ready to use application, and therefore, lacks business-friendly features like a user interface, business logic, data persistence and interoperability mechanisms.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For corporates, Visa’s B2B Connect system appears to unlock some of the long-promised benefits of blockchain in terms of fast and easy cross-border payments, security, transparency, and the reassurance of a trusted name in the payments world.  Also, the fact that a suite of APIs are available to participants means that the system can be set up relatively easily, thereby tackling the issue (as highlighted by the Gartner research) of confusion among corporate tech heads about how best to incorporate blockchain and worries about there being few ready to use, complete applications available.

For smaller businesses the hope of being able to use blockchain to add value, reduce costs and gain competitive advantages is being boosted by a growing Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) market which offers the chance to deploy distributed ledgers without the cost or risk of deploying it in-house, and without needing to find in-house developers.  The cloud-based CRM platform ‘Salesforce’ for example, is adding a low code, blockchain-powered service that will allow enterprise users to share data with third parties in a secure, transparent, and auditable way.

New Electric Cars Will Emit Noise For Safety Reasons

In contrast to the vision of a quieter, close-future utopia where vehicles pass noiselessly by, a new law means that from 2021, all new four-wheel electric cars will be required to include a noise emitting device so that pedestrians can hear the cars approaching. At low speeds, at least.

Avas

The EU rules on the inclusion of a noise that is emitted at low speeds to help safeguard pedestrians dates back to 2014 when MEPs agreed that new models of electric and hybrid vehicles would have to make a noise similar to a combustion engine by 2019 and that all new electric and hybrid cars would need to audible by 2021.

The new legislation, which has been approved by the European Parliament, and has been welcomed by the UK government’s Roads Minister Michael Ellis, will mean the mandatory inclusion and use of Acoustic Vehicle Alerting Systems (Avas).  The Avas will emit a sound like a traditional car engine when the electric vehicle is reversing or travelling below 12mph/19km/h.  With electric engines being virtually silent, the hope is that the new law will reduce the risk posed to pedestrians, and particularly the visually impaired if they are not able to hear an electric car approaching.

Warning Sounds Already Developed

The challenges posed to pedestrian safety by electric vehicles that are ‘too quiet’ have long been anticipated by car manufacturers who have been developing electric warning sounds since 2011.  For example, many Nissan, Chevrolet, Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota models already have the noises.

Reasons For Move To Electric Cars

The shift towards investment by vehicle manufacturers in electrification is being driven by pressure from regulators in China, Europe and the US to cut carbon emissions from fossil fuels, and plans by China, India, France and the United Kingdom to phase out vehicles powered by combustion engines and fossil fuels between 2030 and 2040.

All the major car manufacturers, including GM, Volkswagen, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar Land Rover, Renault, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Volvo have been investing heavily in electric cars to bring the next wave of profits.  For example, back in January last year, the Ford Motor Co announced its plans to more than double its previously announced target of $4.5 billion investment in electric cars to $11 billion by 2022.  Ford’s aim was to have as many as 40 mainstream, hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its model line-up.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

It may seem a little ironic that instead of being able to completely eradicate the noise pollution of traditional combustion engines, electric engines have ended up being too quiet and will require the specific inclusion of a noise.  Nevertheless, the noise will only be made at low speeds, and drivers will have the power to deactivate the noise-making devices in certain situations.

Car companies have been developing electric vehicles and have known about the need for a noise for many years, and as such, the development and inclusion of such a noise has been part of the overall investment and plans anyway.  The nature of the noise used by each manufacturer may, however, vary and provides another opportunity for differentiation and brand identity as each company works on its own ‘sound signature’.

For pedestrians, the visually impaired, and road safety campaigners, legislation to force companies to include a warning sound in their vehicles is good news and is one way in which road safety can be improved in a new era of electronic transportation.

E-Waste Inquiry

The growing number of connected electronic devices in use in the UK has led to an inquiry by the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) which will focus on reducing ‘e-waste’ (dumped devices) and creating a circular economy.

Mostly As Landfill

One of the most startling statistics which has led to the EAC inquiry is that 90% of the 44.7 million tonnes of e-waste produced worldwide in 2017 ends up in landfill, is incinerated, is illegally traded or is otherwise treated in a sub-standard way.

Plastics & Precious Metals

The need to do something now to prevent an even bigger future problem has been heightened by recent reports of plastic waste and microplastic particles in the world’s oceans, sea creatures, and even frozen in arctic ice.  For example, figures (SAS.org) show that it is estimated there are 5.25 trillion macro and microplastic pieces floating in the open ocean weighing up to 269,000 tonnes.  The UK is also acknowledged to be a major exporter of waste to developing countries, many of which are not equipped to dispose of the waste in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

In the case of e-waste, plastic is just one of the components which could pose a serious environmental risk and could represent a missed opportunity to recycle valuable elements. For example, the UK currently produces 24.9kg of e-waste per person, which is nearly 10kg more than the European Union (EU) average.

In addition to large quantities of plastic, e-waste can include high value, difficult to obtain elements such as lithium, tantalum and tungsten, and other polluting and dangerous chemicals (up to 60 different metals and chemicals) which could pose a risk to public health, wildlife and the wider ecosystem if, for example, they got into the water supply via landfill.   

Need To Create A Circular Economy

In addition to investigating the e-waste problem, the EAC will be investigating the UK’s e-waste industry and looking at how a circular economy can be created for electronic goods.  A circular economy is an economic system aimed at minimising waste and making the most of resources.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

We know that the growing number of devices is creating a massive e-waste problem, and it is good that the UK government is launching its own inquiry, hopefully bringing one more to the 67 countries that have enacted legislation to deal with the e-waste they generate. 

Some commentators have noted that, having a more digital and connected world could actually help to accelerate progress towards Sustainable Development Goals, thereby helping emerging economies, and ensuring that less precious minerals, metals and resources are dumped into landfill.

Some of the suggested ways to help deal with e-waste problem, and which will have an impact on many businesses, not least those who manufacture and sell devices, are looking at ways to dematerialise the electronics industry e.g. through device-as-a-service business models, better product tracking and take-back schemes, and entrepreneurs, investors, academics, business leaders and lawmakers working together to find ways to make the circular economy work.

Is CCTV Surveillance By Amazon Drones The Future?

An Amazon patent from 2015 appears to indicate that Amazon may consider ‘surveillance as a service’ using a swarm of its delivery drones armed with CCTV, as a monetising opportunity in the future.

Patent

The details in the patent foresee customers paying for a tiered service that employs the onboard cameras of Amazon’s delivery drones visiting users’ homes in-between delivery routes and filming irregularities and potentially suspicious activities.  For example, the cameras could potentially be programmed to detect evidence of break-ins and lurkers on/near a property, and the onboard microphones could even be programmed to detect suspicious noises such as breaking glass.

Tiered Service

It is thought that such a service could offer different tiers of service (reflected by different pricing) based upon factors such as frequency of visits e.g. daily or weekly, monitoring type e.g. video or still, and alert type e.g. SMS, email, a call or via app ‘push’ notifications.

Privacy

There are likely to be some obvious privacy concerns with a private company using its drones to film an area where it has a customer. However in doing so, avoiding filming an area where it does not have permission to film would present a challenge.

The Amazon patent suggests a possible remedy in the form defining a “geo-fence” around the area that does have permission to be filmed so that the drone’s surveillance activities can be focused (to an extent).  The patent appears to accept, however, that some filming of the outside area of the fence could occur.

National Surveillance Camera Day

In a world first, last week the UK played host to an awareness-raising National Surveillance Camera Day on 20th June as part of the National Surveillance Camera Strategy. As part of the day’s events, an “doors open” initiative allowed the public to see first-hand how surveillance camera control centres are operated at the premises of signatories to the initiative in the UK e.g. local authorities, police forces, hospitals, and universities.

Drone Research Reveals Negative Perceptions Among The Public

For the most part, people accept that the presence of CCTV surveillance cameras in public areas, operated by local authorities, and the presence of CCTV on business premises are generally for the greater good as a crime-reduction tool.

The same cannot be said for drone-based surveillance.  For example, new research from the PwC has shown that public perception remains a barrier to drone uptake in the UK.  The results of the research showed that less than a third of the public (31%) feel positive about drones, and more than two-thirds are concerned about the use of drones for crime.  In contrast, businesses appear to have a much more positive perception of drone use with 35% of business leaders saying that drones aren’t being adopted in their industry because of negative public perceptions despite the fact 43% of those business people who were surveyed believed that their industry would benefit from drone use.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Amazon is a company that has continued to grow and diversify into many different areas in recent years, embracing and pioneering many different technologies along the way, such as parcel delivery drones. It is not unusual for companies, particularly big tech companies to introduce many patents with many new ideas. In that sense, it’s difficult to criticise Amazon for wanting to get maximum (monetising) leverage from its delivery drones from a business perspective.

There remain, however, some serious challenges to the ideas in the drone surveillance patent including privacy concerns, and problems with current negative public perceptions of drones.  This will require education around case-use for drones, and re-assurance around regulation and accountability – this is a public company and could be one of many using the skies to offer the same service once the floodgates are opened.

For some businesses, however, as identified by the PwC and by Amazon’s patent, drones potentially offer some great new business opportunities.  It should also be noted that drones can offer some potentially life-saving opportunities, such as the human kidney for transplant that was delivered by drone, in the first flight of its kind, to a Medical Centre in Baltimore in May this year, thereby getting the organ to the surgeons much faster than by road.

For Drones it seems, there remains many opportunities and challenges to come.

Fire-Prone MacBook Pros Recalled

Apple has announced a recall of some older generation 15-inch MacBook Pro units due to the fire risk posed by a tendency for the battery to overheat.

Repair and Replace Free

Apple is offering a recall and replacement program for units that were sold primarily between September 2015 and February 2017 with the company offering to replace affected batteries, free of charge due to a potential battery fire risk.

Service options for affected customers include finding an Apple Authorized Service Provider (through the online tool), making an appointment at an Apple Retail Store, or contacting Apple Support to arrange mail-in service via the Apple Repair Centre.

Serial Number

The eligibility for the program is determined by the serial number product which can be checked on Apple’s website here:

https://support.apple.com/15-inch-macbook-pro-battery-recall

Second Time

This is the second time that this generation of MacBook Pro units has been recalled.  Back in June 2018 and after numerous complaints over two years and even an online petition by a customer, Apple decided to offer free repairs or replacements for the butterfly keyboard on its MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops.  The petition from the time, which attracted over 21,000 signatures, claimed that every one of Apple’s MacBook Pro models, 13in and 15in, were sold with a keyboard that could become defective at any moment because of a design failure.  Apple responded by launching a program which meant that Apple or an Apple Authorised Service Provider could service eligible MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards, free of charge.

Apple iPad Battery Gas Leak

To make things worse, in August 2018 the leaking of vapours from a damaged iPad battery led to an Amsterdam shop being evacuated and 3 staff being treated for breathing problems caused by the released gas. The fire brigade was called and attended, but there were no reports of any actual flames/fire coming from the affected iPad. Staff had, however, initially reacted to the smoking iPad by putting it in a sand-filled fire bucket. At the time, however, other online reports indicated that similar faults had occurred elsewhere since Apple had started its iPhone battery replacement programme.

Apple Adapter – Fire Risk

In May this year, Apple recalled two different types of plug adapter because of a possible risk of electric shock.  The affected plugs were the two-prong AC wall plug adapter that came with Macs and some iOS devices between 2003 and 2010, and the three prong plug that was included with Apple’s World Travel Adapter Kit.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This latest fire-risk recall appears to be part of pattern that could indicate that some Apple products/components/accessories have been released for sale despite having some potentially serious risks, but that the company (perhaps after some time has elapsed and complaints have been made) has made an effort to admit to risks and at least offer repair and replacement programs.

Apple is one of those brands however, that has built a strong reputation for products that are user-friendly, reliable, not prone to the security risks of PCs for example, and for products that look stylish.  As such the company has built a loyal base of fan-like supporters, many of whom are prepared to accept fire and electric shock risk hiccups, and carry on paying premium prices as they perceive the products to be worthy of their generally positive image and relatively high prices.

It is good to note that this product repair and replacement program was offered swiftly, but it is worrying that the same model has been the subject of two such recall programs to date.  Let’s hope it’s the last.

Could Facebook’s Libra Cryptocurrency Be The Future Of Money?

Facebook has announced the launch of its new crypto-currency called ‘Libra’ 2020 which will enable payments to be made by a special phone app and by messaging services such as WhatsApp so that spending the new currency could be as easy and fast as texting.

Libra Association

Management of the currency, units of which can be purchased via Libra’s platforms and stored it in a digital wallet called “Calibra” will be the responsibility of an independent group of companies called the Libra Association.

In addition to Facebook, the Association has 27 other members/partners, all of whom will most likely have to accept Libra, including Mastercard, PayPal, eBay, Spotify, Uber, Vodafone, and a variety of charities such as Women’s World Banking.

Not Like Bitcoin

Libra will be protected from the kinds of wild fluctuations and instability that plagued the Bitcoin crypto-currency because Libra will be asset-backed and pegged to other currencies.

It also has the major payment and credit companies on board as members of its Association which means that it has already been legitimised and is likely to gain widescale practical use in the real world rather than simply be seen as a fast money-making opportunity.

Advantages

One of the major advantages of the Libra currency is that it has no traditional bank ‘middleman’, therefore enabling fast and frictionless transactions. This could help it to eventually become a global currency, therefore enabling easier international spending. It will also have the advantage of being fast and convenient to use.

Target

According to Facebook, the initial main target market for the use of Libra is the 1.7 billion adults worldwide who do not have a bank account, although 1 million plus of these already have a smartphone, thereby enabling them to use the apps through which Libra can be operated.  This “unbanked” segment of the potential market is known to contain mainly people from developing countries, a large proportion of which are women.

Some questions have already been raised, however, about how Libra will be able to meet other challenges such as being able to verify the identity of people in this demographic (many of whom don’t have ID documents), and how Libra can meet compliance challenges.

What’s In It For Facebook?

In addition to being recognised as being the company at the heart of what could potentially become a global currency, Facebook will receive a small commission amount for every transaction.

Security and Trust?

Ever since the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica personal data protection scandal, Facebook has suffered from a lack of trust.  The thought of Facebook overseeing a currency has, therefore, made some commentators raise questions about the governance and security issues of Libra.  In fact, even though Libra is Facebook’s currency, the governance of it will be split between all of the Association members.  Also, the Calibra payments system will have strong protection to keep money and personal information safe by using the same verification and anti-fraud processes that banks and credit cards use.  Also, any money that is stolen from the system will be refunded, thereby providing greater reassurance to users of the new currency.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Libra will give Facebook the opportunity to monetise another of its services, and an opportunity to diversify.  The idea that Libra is for use by the 1.7 billion people without bank accounts is also good for PR, but it is more likely that Libra will gain more users with bank accounts in developed countries more quickly.  It is also worth noting that even though the banks will not be middlemen in the use of Libra, banks will still be needed for people to use to buy Libra in the first place.

Many of us are personally unlikely to be regularly using or benefitting from the frictionless cross-border transferring of money, although this may be of real benefit to some businesses.  That said, it is thought that only 12 markets will actually be ready for Libra when it launches, and although Libra is ready to go in the US, some countries e.g. India have restrictions on the use of digital currencies.  Financial commentators have noted that Libra will also need to comply with regulatory structures in order to become a successful global currency.

Libra, however, already has the backing of the big payment and credit companies (who are partners in Libra), plus it offers the reassurance of being asset-backed and linked to other ‘real’ currency values. This may mean that (unlike Bitcoin) it appears to have a low risk for users which could fuel its rapid growth.  Easy payments globally could, therefore, have a beneficial effect for businesses and economies worldwide, if security and regulatory issues can be tackled effectively.

Libra’s introduction also comes at a time when there is a worldwide trend of decline in the use of cash, and Libra may, therefore, be well placed to jump in to fill that gap.

UK National Surveillance Camera Day

In a world first, the UK played host to an awareness-raising National Surveillance Camera Day on 20 June as part of the National Surveillance Camera Strategy.

National Surveillance Camera Day

The National Surveillance Camera Day, which is part of the UK government’s National Surveillance Camera Strategy for England and Wales consisted of events around the country that were designed to raise awareness, inform and lead to a debate about the many different aspects of CCTV camera use (and facial recognition use) in the UK. The Surveillance Camera Commissioner (SCC) wanted the public to take the day as an opportunity to have their say about the future of surveillance cameras with the regulators and service providers listening.

It is hoped that points raised in the debates triggered by the day could help inform policymakers and service providers about how the public feels about surveillance practices and how surveillance camera system use fits with society’s needs and expectations.

One of the key events to mark the day was the “doors open” initiative to allow the public to see first-hand how surveillance camera control centres are operated at the premises of signatories to the initiative e.g. local authorities, police forces, hospitals, and universities.

What / Who Is The SCC?

The Surveillance Camera Commissioner (SCC) for England and Wales is appointed by the Home Secretary as set out in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (PoFA) and it is the Commissioner’s role to ensure surveillance camera systems in public places keep people safe and protect and support them. The current SCC is Tony Porter.

What Is The National Surveillance Camera Strategy?

The National Surveillance Camera Strategy is the government document, presented by the SCC that outlines the plans for surveillance camera use going forward.  The 27-page document is available online here:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-surveillance-camera-strategy-for-england-and-wales

Two Related World Firsts

Another related world first that took place on the same day as National Surveillance Camera Day was the launch by the SCC of a “secure by default” list of minimum requirements for manufacturers of video surveillance systems, designed for manufacturers by manufacturers.  The hope is that where manufacturers meet the new “secure by default” minimum requirements, this should ensure that the default settings of a product are as secure as possible, and therefore less likely to be vulnerable to cyber-attacks that could lead to data breaches.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Most of us are used to (and often no longer notice) CCTV cameras in use in business premises and public spaces, and we accept that they have a value in protecting us and our businesses in terms of deterring criminals and playing an important role in identifying them, and in providing valuable evidence of crime.

Holding a National Surveillance Camera day highlights the fact that new and emerging technologies e.g. facial recognition and AI are currently causing concern in terms of possible infringements to civil liberties, privacy and security, and an ‘open-day’ style approach could have benefits both ways.  For example, it could serve to reassure the public and at least let them feel that their views and concerns will be listened to, while at the same time giving policy-makers an opportunity to gauge public opinion and gather information that could help guide their strategy and communications.

It is good news that manufacturers are setting themselves minimum security standards for their CCTV systems as part of “secure by default”, as this could have knock-on positive effects in protecting our personal data.