If a human being represents a kilobyte of data, and a London bus a megabyte, what would you use to represent a gigabyte? Or a terabyte? Or even a zettabyte?
Any ideas? Well the answers, in corresponding order, are: The London Eye, the BT Tower and the entire continent of Europe. Well done if you said any of those.
Now, taking this unscientific scale to its extreme conclusion, what object or thing could represent the Internet of Things, and the unfathomably vast amounts of data it will generate? Any ideas? The answer is the universe.
This is the theory of Kevin Ashton (pictured below on the far left), the man who invented the phrase ‘The Internet of Things’. Ashton was speaking at an event at the BT Tower on Wednesday evening, attended by V3.
Ashton’s Scale of Data lacks any clear consistency, but the point is clear. The IoT is going to be huge. It is going to be so far beyond anything we have known that our entire understanding and concept of ‘data’ will become useless.
And this is not something that is going to happen, but already is happening. Ashton started with the idea of the mobile phone. These are networked devices that can be used to plot locations, track movements and gain insights.
The Ebola outbreak that ravaged western Africa was controlled by plotting the movement of people through their mobile phones, and working out their connections with other people, to enable officials to plot and then contain the disease.
Another example of the IoT that’s often cited is driverless cars. As vehicles are connected with all sorts of sensors it will enable them to drive themselves and transmit all this data for analysis. This idea is gaining momentum, and even the UK government has approved trials of driverless cars on UK roads.
Ashton pointed out that driverless cars already exist in commercial environments. The giant trucks used in bauxite mines in Western Australia, for example, now operate without drivers (pictured below).
“The self-driving car is already real,” said Ashton. “Five to 10 years from now, every car will have self-driving capability, whether you want it or not. We're 15 years away from cars without steering wheels being available.”
A final example Ashton cited was RFID, a technology he helped create, which is now used in supply chains across the world to track objects and generate data that can be used to make more informed decisions.
All of this was making the point that the IoT is already here and is only going to grow. This led Ashton to pose a final question.
“If you came here tonight thinking 'Is the IoT going to happen to me?’, well it is going to happen to you whether you like it or not. Is it going to be an opportunity or a threat: that’s your choice.”
A video of a dog dressed as a giant mutant spider was the most popular video on YouTube in 2014, the site has revealed.
As part of an annual run down, YouTube revealed the top 10 most popular videos on the site. While the mutant spider-dog won, there was a notable inclusion in the list of a video showing how the iPhone 6 Plus is susceptible to bending.
The problem of the bendy iPhone 6 Plus, dubbed 'bendgate' by some, dominated the headlines for a few days earlier this year after reports surfaced that the devices could become misshapen in certain circumstances. Apple denied this at the time, claiming that only a few handsets were affected.
Nonetheless, a video (below) demonstrating how this bending can occur - admittedly through brute force - racked up the views to almost 60 million. Be warned: if you're an Apple fan it's not a pleasant sight as the defenceless iPhone 6 Plus is mangled beyond recognition.
Still, while this is scary to some, there is little doubt that millions more were scared witless by the site of the giant mutant spider-dog that roamed the streets of South Africa, terrifying all who encountered the eight-legged canine-arachnid hybrid.
To date it's been watched 115 million times. See why below.
While these video view numbers are impressive, they are not a patch on everyone's favourite South Korean K-pop exponent, Psy, whose Gangnam Style video was viewed so many times that it actually broke the YouTube hit counter.
The video had been watched 2,147,483,647 times at the last count. This was the limit that YouTube's hit counter could handle. It has now amended this to a top limit of 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. That's nine quintillion.
If you want to add another one to the view counter, watch away below.
Social networks are a hubbub of digital noise and chatter, with people posting everything from casual opinions and updates on their breakfast, to breaking news and heated arguments.
Many companies and brands sweep these social platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, to glean information about potential customers in a bid to better target services and products.
But few would ever think of using that social data as a means of suicide prevention. However, the Samaritans charity has revealed a new website dubbed Samaritans Radar which scans and flags "potentially worrying tweets" to a Twitter user once they register their account.
Developed in partnership with digital agency Jam, the service will email registered users with details of tweets from people they follow that contain phrases such as 'tired of being alone', 'hate myself', and 'depressed', which potentially indicate a risk of suicide.
The email will also contain advice from Samaritans on how Twitter users can support their friends and the people they follow, who may be harbouring suicidal thoughts.
The charity acknowledges that the algorithm will take some tuning to filter out sarcasm and dark jokes: "Samaritans Radar is in its infancy and won't get it right every time. But there's a way for you to give feedback on whether a Samaritans Radar alert was correct, so the service improves for everyone as it learns more."
Samaritans stressed that the Radar will send alerts to Twitter users only by email and will not encroach on their or other users' experiences, nor will it ever post from a registered user account.
While it is not unusual for people to go online for support, the process of applying algorithms to a situation that is open to interpretation and context may seem like a way of dehumanising the provision of personal support - in part digitising empathy.
But with 15 million Twitter users in the UK, Radar could provide an online safety net that has until now been notable by its absence. In turn, Radar could help people take a more active role in giving support to others in a way that has traditionally been the domain of specialist charities.
While Samaritans Radar could be seen as a pseudo nanny state service, it is another example of digital technology that could yield life-saving results.
The Queen has posted her first message on Twitter, in honour of the opening of the new Information Age gallery at the Science Museum that celebrates the role of network technology in changing the world forever.
The £15.6m gallery was opened by Her Majesty on Friday 25 October, and the historic occasion was marked by a 140-character missive on the site.
It is a pleasure to open the Information Age exhibition today at the @ScienceMuseum and I hope people will enjoy visiting. Elizabeth R.— BritishMonarchy (@BritishMonarchy) October 24, 2014
No doubt Liz was impressed by the wonderful array of objects on display at the new gallery, as the curators at the museum have excelled themselves in tracking down and securing some notable items from tech history.
This includes the magnificent Rugby Turning Coil that takes pride of place in the centre of the new gallery (pictured above), as well as the computer used by Sir Tim Berners-Lee at Cern where he invented the concept for the web (shown below).
Another impressive object on display is a Russian BESM-6 supercomputer that was used during the Cold War, the only such machine on display in a museum in the West (below).
The gallery isn't just dominated by large, history-making objects, however, and includes smaller items that show just how fast technology has evolved. Even landline telephones, still in use in many households, have now taken on the air of relics, as the below exhibits demonstrate.
The Snoopy Phone, in particular, is a reminder that people have always enjoyed trying to demonstrate their personalities through their phones, not just smartphones.
Other objects on display include the original galvanometer used to receive the first telegraph messages sent across the Atlantic between President James Buchanan and Queen Victoria in 1858, and the original Marconi radio transmitter that made the first public broadcast in 1922.
V3 was lucky enough to have a preview of the exhibition, and the pictures we snapped represent just a fraction of the 800 or so items on display in the new space. Anyone with even a cursory interest in technology history, or looking to inspire young enquiring minds, should find plenty to enjoy.
The new gallery is open from Saturday 25 October and is free of charge.
Broadband speeds are up again. From rural areas to cities everyone can now browse the web and download content faster than ever. Well, 0.9Mbps faster, after Ofcom data showed the average broadband speed in the UK is up to 18.9Mbps.
This is undoubtedly good news, although many millions more will still be waiting to join life in the fast lane of the information superhighway, as superfast rollouts continue. Still, progress has been made; the UK average broadband download speed was a paltry 3.6Mbps in November 2008, when Ofcom first started taking measurements.
So, download speeds are up and work continues to bring services to as many as possible, a job well done for all involved. Perhaps, but not so fast.
Upload speeds are in a far less healthy state and progress has been poor. In the first report that looked at data from 2008, the average broadband upload speed was a pathetic 0.42Mbps.
This is worth considering: in 2008, when Facebook was already well established and the iPhone was making its mark on the telecoms landscape, the average household would have struggled to upload photos to send in an email, or put files into a cloud-based system.
Now, six years later, after huge investments in the UK's broadband's infrastructure the average upload speed has risen to ... 2.4Mbps. This may be a five-fold improvement but it's still hopelessly slow.
Last year V3 noted with some alarm that the average speed was just 1.8Mbps. It had risen to 2.3Mbps by April this year and has now risen by a measly 0.1Mbps. All-in-all, not very impressive.
This is worrying. In 2008 uploading data was an important part of the web, but it is now fundamental. There is rarely a popular site out there that isn't now used for sending content to the web - Skype, FaceTime, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Twitter and the rest.
For home workers and freelancers who need to send files such as large videos, design drawings, music clips or images, to contacts and the cloud, these low speeds are crippling.
Ofcom's report notes that uploading content is becoming more commonplace, but does little to acknowledge the problems the low average speeds are causing.
"Broadband advertising tends to focus on download speeds. However, upload speeds are important for a subset of the population, such as those sharing large files and using real-time two-way video communications," it said.
V3 did ask Ofcom for a comment on these figures and whether it is being worked on, but had received no reply at the time of publication. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Internet Services Providers Association were also contacted.
No doubt the focus in the near-future will remain on download speeds and this is unquestionably a vital part of the digital backbone of the UK, but uploads must not be ignored.
With an election round the corner, V3 would like to see the political parties show some tech nous and make noises about improving upload speeds to help the digital economy thrive, rather than being fixated with downloads and ever-increasing headline speeds.
10 Sep 2014
Apple’s image of a slick, highly polished company took a sizeable blow on Tuesday night as its attempts to live stream the launch of its iPhone 6 turned into a farce.
First of all the live stream seemed to be double-tracking the music that played before the event began, which meant people around the world were subjected to what sounded like an amateur DJ attempting to merge two tracks, without any success.
Apple determined to send me mad by playing Haim *and* mood music all at once on its livestream.— Rachel Weber (@therachelweber) September 9, 2014
Then, almost as soon as the live event began, the stream stopped and a strange piece of holding text was displayed instead. People took to Twitter to express their shock at this state of affairs, while several parody accounts of the TV Truck sprung up too.
OMG APPLE TV… Truck Schedule. pic.twitter.com/YL0owavMMC— James Grosch (@jamesgrosch) September 9, 2014
Once this passed and the stream returned, there was a new, quite interesting problem. A translation, possibly Chinese, was being broadcast on top of the remarks of Tim Cook and co. This made it hard to hear what was being said, as you had to try and ignore the unfathomable translation that was louder than the live event
Is Apple working up to making us all learn Chinese? This live stream is decidedly janky.— John Lilly (@johnolilly) September 9, 2014
This didn't matter too much, though, as the stream soon fell over again. All in all a most frustrating experience and one that Apple top brass are no doubt mortified happened, with recriminations likely.
"By Apple making the decision to add the JSON code, it made the Apple.com website un-cachable."
If that was the case, it certainly doesn't do much for Apple's tech chops. However, given the strength of the company and the clamour for its new products, no doubt the issues will soon be forgotten.
Copyright law is a complicated beast, full of difficult clauses, mitigations and loopholes, all of which would make you think that many would avoid getting embroiled in the topic.
Yet one British photographer, so enraged by a ‘selfie’ taken on his camera by a dexterous macaque, felt the need to assert his claim to its copyright when the self-shot monkey picture appeared on Wikipedia (above).
Unfortunately for photographer David Slater, Wikipedia refused to pull the image denying that the copyright belonged to him or the snap-happy monkey. Cue the internet going ape over the story and attempting to out-do one another with simian-based puns.
Further adding to Slater's slew of bad luck, is a public draft of the third edition of the Compendium of US Copyright Office Practices, which declared that it will only grant copyright to works created directly by human beings.
This means the 'monkey selfie' effectively has no copyright and the internet has free reign over its use.
Forgetting that the world has much bigger problems to worry about, including global warming, war and economic despair, the US office went on to add that neither work created by plants, animals, or even ghosts – divine or otherwise.
“The Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants. Likewise, the Office cannot register a work purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings, although the Office may register a work where the application or the deposit copy(ies) state that the work was inspired by a divine spirit,” stated the public draft.
Debating copyright law over a single shot of a smiling simian may seem like a gargantuan waste of time for all involved.
But regularly revised definitions of copyright law is becoming more important, particularly given the growth of user-generated content being posted online and to social media networks. What the monkeys make of all this, though, remains to be seen.
V3 headed into the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday morning to witness one of the more challenging parts of BT's Superfast Cornwall project, bringing fibre to the Isles of Scilly. Situated miles off the shore of Cornwall, the islands needed an undersea cable to provide fibre internet.
The cable marks the first time fixed internet will be available on the islands, having relied on a radio link access service for many years, which offered just 2-3Mbps speeds. Once the fibre is up and running – likely before the end of the year – speeds of 60-80Mbps should be available.
While watching the deployment in progress, we snapped some pics as it unfolded, as the £3.7m project reached a milestone moment.
The deployment meant Porthcressa Beach was closed, but no doubt those on the islands were happy to forgo one day of sunbathing to let the internet come ashore.
Once the cable is on the beach it will be hooked into the network that is being built around the islands and then buried underground, to keep it safe and secure.
The Dibble & Grub café on the seafront of Porthcressa Beach is just one of many businesses to welcome the arrival of the fibre services. Gaz O’Neill, owner and vice chair of the Isles of Scilly council, said it would transform the lives of residents, and improve things for visitors, by finally offering fast, reliable internet access.
The deployment even drew a small crowd of onlookers, who watched the operation to bring fibre broadband to their island unfold.
For BT the rollout marked a major moment in its multi-year project to bring fibre to 95 percent of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, having spent three years planning the deployment, which involved dodging numerous shipwrecks around the islands.
Services should be online before the end of the year, as the residents of the five islands that make up the remote archipelago – St Mary's, St Agnes, Tresco, St Martin's and Bryher – can enjoy fixed internet access for the first time.