Attention all Gadget Thiefs!

What is the last thing you look at before going to bed and the first thing you wearily gaze at in the morning? For a growing number of people it is their smartphone. Smart phones are now engrained in society with 7 out of 10 people owning them. Phones are now an extension of ourselves, holding our pictures, music, contact details, and apps. So imagine having your precious device lost or worse yet stolen.  Until recently a stolen smart phone was a very easy thing to sell on, there’re expensive, portable and in high demand.  Now authorities are catching up with the thieves.

Authorities from around the world have put imagespressure on Google, Microsoft, Samsung and Apple to add a “kill switch” to all devices.  Apple and Samsung devices have already implemented this function and it has been proven that it works. In the first 5 months of this functionality the number of reported thefts of iPhone’s in London dropped by 24%.

These are known as “hard Kill Devices” meaning once activated the phone essentially becomes worthless.  “An activated kill switch converts an easy-to-sell, high-value multimedia device into a jumble of plastic and glass, drastically reducing its street value.” said the report by New York Attorney General.

With 3 million smartphones stolen each year it has become a multi billion pound monster.  This type of functionality is long overdue.  Organised crime routinely target phones as a mean for income since it often is more valuable than people’s wallets or purses. “Almost a third of US robberies involve phone theft.”  There are however concerns over people hacking this functionality being used by malicious hackers remotely deactivating peoples phones and the mill switch can be avoided by putting the phone into air-plane mode.  Other critics state that this will only work for the phones as a complete piece, not stripping down the phone for parts.

With technology advancing all the time, phones get better and better and we are storing more of our lives in them. So it is about time that we take phone security more seriously and develop phones with security systems already installed in the device and not have to rely on third party apps that could potentially be a security risk.

Microsoft plans on rolling out anAntiTheft-e1330012035815 update including this lock by July 2015 and Google has said they will implement Activation Lock on all new devices manufactured and in the next major Android update all phones running the most current OS will be protected. With all the major players in the phone industry agreeing to this it is calculated that 97% of the smartphone market place will be protected by a kill switch resulting in a huge loss to crime around the world.

 

Uber: A lesson from History.

imagesJudging by the headline this afternoon the UBER app which we wrote about a couple of weeks ago is about to deliver a lesson from history. UBER is causing unrest amongst the traditional Black Cab drivers. As reported on the BBC this afternoon, the situation is summed up thus:

“Black-cab driver Lloyd Baldwin is in no doubt. “Our beef with Uber is that these drivers have come straight into London, and have been licensed straight away by Transport for London. We’re regulated to within an inch of our lives.”    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology

Which is a pretty legitimate reason for concern.  The question is however, just how much should the rise of technology be tempered by the logic of social  adhesion, social order or tradition?

This isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened. Remember the luddites? Not first hand ofcourse but through your school days their place in history was often featured.  For a quick reminder visit http://www.victorianweb.org/history/riots/luddites.html  where the following makes the parallel clear.

“Luddites were men who took the name of a (perhaps) mythical individual, Ned Ludd who was reputed to live in Sherwood Forest.  The Luddites were  trying to save their livelihoods by smashing industrial machines developed for use in the textile industries of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire………  The men merely were attacking what they saw as the reason for the decline in their livelihoods.”

And since then there have been countless similarly impassioned cries to temper or regulate the march of technology as it smashes through the professions and skills of our forefathers. Any automation in any factory has destroyed livelihoods of many and created new jobs for a few. The GCE level knowledge of social history that most of us carry around should be enough to help us recognise the tensions that are inevitable when technology advances.  Motor industry, Henry Ford’s first production line, The Coal industry, Steel, and above all, farming. Imagine the dissenting voices as the first motorised tractors took to the countryside, doing the work of 20 labourers for a fraction of the price. There were indeed ructions and convulsions throughout the land as transport improved, allowing movement of machinery by canal and later by road, increase in commerce developed and new methods and ideas spread quickly to revolutionize land use.

The Black Cab drivers are appealing to that great friend of civilized society – “Justice”. Their position is that only they, who are regulated by Transport for London, should be permitted to use a “metering system”. This is seen to be sacrosanct amongst cabbies and they are adamant that the use of a smart phone which measures time and distance via satellite and GPRS technology, constitutes metering.  Thats a no brainer isn’t it? Measuring time and distance……. is metering, no argument there! That being a fact they argue that its unfair for UBER to use such a meter. That’s their point and some may say that it’s a pretty feeble one based on arbitrary rule dreamt up in a bygone era (ie the 60s!). Rules change, sands shift, horizons adjust. Why not allow a competitor to meter i.e. measure time and distance?. Cabbies have no IP of measuring time and distance surely?

Well, since this is not meant to be a social history blog that’s history finished for today. Lets treat this topic as food for thought. The UBER app (available on both Apple and Google Play, seems to be a further advancement in what is a technologically determined age that we live in. That’s the point surely. It is widely acknowledged that this is the age of technology so why would anyone be surprised when a little advancement occurs and disrupts the traditions and rocks the Status Quo. Roll on UBER 2. As sure as chips are chips, and satellites are satellites ringing the planet enabling the communications, mapping and other technologies of today, it’ll be along sometime soon. Brace yourselves. or er…beam me up scotty.

Health Technology

2014-Predictions-for-Healthcare-Technology
Good health, Bad health. It’s the most vital of all our concerns- so much so that the idea of Health runs throughout our daily interactions via the daily greeting “how are you?”. Expenditure on health care in all developing and developed countries is immense, especially as health technology continues to astonish. The recent 70 billion bid by Pfizer for UK Company Astra Zeneca hints at the inestimable proportions of the commercial health industry. Drugs, treatments, hospitals, nurses, doctors, equipment, the list is endless.

Annual expenditure by the UK government is a cool £ 132 billion-  23.5% of the total  public spending.  It’s a hot topic. That’s why there’s a buzz in the technology word regarding the new wireless charging techniques enabling tiny embedded sensors to be used as a means of preventing the rapidly rising costs of healthcare spiralling upwards in a seemingly unsolvable social whirlpool.

OK so here’s the pitch, you put this minicomputer into your body, it sends info back in real time so you can make sure that the ol’ ticker isn’t about to bow a fuse. Simple? Well not quite, but that’s the idea in brief. When miniaturisation meets wireless the possibilities expand as to the purposes to which this combination can be extended. The Guardian newspapers technology section explains thus:

A breakthrough in wireless technology could allow a new wave of health tracking tools that can be embedded inside our bodies – in our livers, hearts and even in our brains.

A new wireless charging technique known as “mid-field wireless transfer” can deliver power to tiny electronic devices such as sensors, pacemakers and nerve stimulator’s embedded deep within the body. They can be charged using a device the size of a credit card placed outside the body.

“With this method, we can safely transmit power to tiny implants in organs like the heart or brain, well beyond the range of current near-field systems,” said Dr John Ho, co-author of the study that appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.IAP23902

 As if this revelation wasn’t enough – read on for more heart stopping (pun intended) information on the cyber future possibilities ahead, if not for you then almost certainly for you children.

One of the big breakthrough factors here is that devices don’t need to have large batteries or power sources (like a pacemaker) and neither do they have to be near the surface of the skin, they can be implanted more deeply to the places in the body where the vital organs sit and lets face it if it if we are going to have microchips put inside us we want it to be “vital”. Using a new kind of “near field wave” that can reach deeper into the body the devices can be charged by an external source by wireless charging.

“The discovery opens up greater possibilities for medical implants called “electroceutical” devices, which use electrical stimulation to treat illness or alleviate pain that would typically require long term drug treatment. Diseases like Parkinson’s are already treated with techniques like deep brain stimulation to control shaking symptoms”.

These devices will be designed to handle treatments as well as monitoring health.

Good health and bad health. It’s a big business and its about to get bigger. Just how and when the mobile phone companies engage with this deeper level of technology remains to be seen. On the face of it Apple and Google as well as the big names such as Samsung and others are well positioned to add this area of development into their mid term strategies.