Apple Watch distracting to drivers, warns motoring group

17 Sep 2014

Apple Watch will come in three different designs

While technology has improved many areas of our lives, there is one part of day-to-day life where the advance of wearable technology poses many dangers: driving.

Ever since mobile phones started to become widely used there have been attempts to stop people from chatting, texting and browsing while in the car. Sadly accidents caused by such activities remain commonplace, as Traffic Cops will attest.

Now, another problem looms: smartwatches. With numerous devices popping up that can sit on the wrist and ping notifications and messages to the wearer, those behind the wheel face even greater likelihood of being distracted.

This is exactly what the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) fears, as it warns those embracing wearables, especially the new Apple Watch, to remember the law of the land.

Neil Greig, IAM director of Policy and Research, said: “An iWatch [sic] has the potential to be just as distracting as any other smartphone device. Indeed more so if you have to take your hand off the wheel and your eyes off the road to interact with it.

“Enforcement will be difficult for the police, but powers exist to seize and interrogate devices in the event of a serious crash. The very device that distracted you also has the power to convict you.”

Underlining the risk such distractions pose, the IAM said that data from its simulator study on smartphone use between 2006 and 2010 found distraction from a mobile phone was a factor contributing to 1,960 road accidents where people were injured; this figure includes 110 fatal accidents.

Wearables could make this situation worse, the IAM added. “Constant alerts will require motorists’ regular attention. As opposed to using a legal hands-free piece of equipment the iWatch [sic] will require drivers to use two hands to operate the device – impacting speed, lane position and time spent looking at the road," it said.

The IAM noted that the Department for Transport has already confirmed that the Apple Watch will be treated the same as a mobile phone. As such, the penalty for using it behind the wheel is three licence penalty points and a £100 fine.

However, if the Watch causes death by dangerous driving a prison sentence of at least two years is enforced. Clearly, this is far too big a price to pay just to learn that someone on Twitter liked your picture of a cat. Watch the road, not your wrist.

Salesforce Tower rebrand to fail amid City of London planning changes

12 Sep 2014

Heron Tower at Bishopsgate in London renamed as Salesforce TowerSalesforce’s plan to rebrand Heron Tower in its own image look set to fail as the City of London plans to introduce new rules that will put an end to the scheme.

Salesforce announced the intention to rebrand the building Salesforce Tower in May. At the time other residents in the building – which included a rival software vendor – were outraged at the move.

However, according to a report from City A.M. the City of London now looks like it will introduce new rules that mean only firms with more than 50 percent of a building’s office space can apply for a naming rebrand.

Salesforce owns just six floors of Heron Tower so will not meet this threshold. V3 contacted Salesforce for comment but the firm was silent on the matter.

The decision to change the rules for renaming buildings will likely be taken at the next City of London Planning and Transportation Committee, which is scheduled to take place on 23 September.

The City A.M. report says the tower will instead take on the somewhat more innocuous moniker of 110 Bishopsgate. V3 contacted the City of London for confirmation of this but had received no reply at the time of publication.

Salesforce may have always envisaged the problems that the move would create and simply announced the plans for a name change knowing it would generate a bit of free publicity.

However, given the hubris of US West Coast tech firms, and Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff, the firm will have been hoping to cast a shadow under its own name in such a venerable and revered piece of the business world.

Ultimately, though, it appears The O2 and the BT Tower will remain the only significant technology-branded buildings on the London Skyline.

iPhone 6 live stream fail outrages Apple fans

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.

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.

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

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.

The issue was, according to Dan Rayburn, executive vice president of Streaming Media, a JavaScript problem caused by Apple's decision to run its own live blog below the video stream.

"Apple decided to add some JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) code to the page, which added an interactive element on the bottom showing tweets about the event. As a result, this was causing the page to make refresh calls every few milliseconds," he wrote.

"By Apple making the decision to add the JSON code, it made the 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.

Verizon $7.4m fine from US FCC shows limits of UK ICO power

04 Sep 2014


The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has handed down a huge $7.4m fine to Verizon for failing to give new customers the ability to opt out of marketing calls from the company.

The FCC's scary-sounding Enforcement Bureau’s found that Verizon failed to notify approximately two million new customers on their first invoices or in welcome letters, of their privacy rights. This included how to opt out from having their personal information used in marketing campaigns.

The fine is a huge amount for something so, ultimately, trivial as to be rung a few times by sales reps from the company, but it underlines the vast disparity between the US's stance on data privacy and the UK's.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which oversees issues of data protection and privacy in the UK, has come down hard on marketing firms in recent years, issuing fines of £45,000, £50,000 and £90,000 against companies that bombarded people with calls, despite being told to stop.

Comparing the two situations, the latter error seems the more egregious. While it may be annoying to not be told you have the right to opt out of marketing calls, to actively tell a company not to contact you and have them ignore that, seems so much worse.

Of course, it should be noted that the fines handed down by the ICO were against small to medium-sized companies, rather than a telecoms giant such as Verizon, and the FCC may have been making a point to other similarly sized companies of the seriousness of the situation.

Even so, though, a UK business giant could only face a fine of £500,000 from the ICO for any data or privacy error, so perhaps it's no wonder that, despite fines repeatedly being handed out by the watchdog, data breach incidents continue to happen.

Monkeys, ghosts and gods denied copyright ownership by US patent board

22 Aug 2014

Monkey selfie image on Wikipedia

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.

London calling tech investment and skills away from the North

15 Aug 2014

London's Tech City and Silicon Roundabout are beacons of technology industry success, creating jobs in the capital and courting significant investment. But, arguably these achievements come at the cost of tech hubs beyond the city boundaries.

Head up the M1 and you'll encounter several other tech hot spots dotted across the North. Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle all have their own takes on east London's Tech City.

Yet independent research by Policy Exchange has indicated that the capital is sucking up the lion's share of investment, and is luring northerners with digital skills to the city bright lights. This could end up putting the success of the North's technology sector at risk.

It noted, for example, that for those who have studied Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (the STEM subjects) 35 percent, 34 percent and 52 percent of graduates end up leaving  the North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber respectively.

To combat these problems, Policy Exchange believes that setting up a transport infrastructure which better connects the North's tech hubs is the best way to further boost the nation's technology industry.

"Slow journeys make it harder for people to move between clusters to access and share work, ideas and opportunities and is a major barrier for foreign and London-based investors," it said in the report.

This may help, but Stuart Lynn, chief technology officer of Newcastle-based Sage, is not completely convinced. "The North is home to a wide talent pool of skilled business people and entrepreneurs but it's not just transport infrastructure that can help unlock business potential," he said.

Instead Lynn believes that investment in an improved communications infrastructure will be the key to invigorating the growth of technology hubs outside London.

"Technology acts as the bridge to cross any physical boundary. Effective communications infrastructure can link the North to the South and the rest of the world quicker and more effectively than any physical infrastructure ever could, and that should be the goal for these ambitious projects," he explained.

Whoever's recommendation is the correct course is slightly academic, as reworking either a transport or communication infrastructure will require significant investment which the North is failing to secure.

So it would appear that the North is in a catch-22 situation that might require a more innovative approach to give its tech sector a competitive chance against the might of London.

Monkey selfie copyright claim sends photographer bananas

07 Aug 2014

Monkey selfie image on Wikipedia

It's a riddle that has taxed some of the greatest minds on the planet: if a monkey takes a selfie on a camera, who owns the copyright?

This is the bizarre question that is currently dominating the headlines, as photographer David Slater – who saw his kit monkey-handled by a mischievous macaque – is claiming that he owns the photo. But Wikipedia disagrees.

Wikipedia editors keep uploading the photo of the monkey to the site, claiming it is in the public domain. "This file is in the public domain, because as the work of a non-human animal, it has no human author in whom copyright is vested," the site said.

Slater disagrees, and said that the fact the monkey took the photo is irrelevant as he had to do all the hard work.

“If the monkey took it, it owns copyright, not me, that’s their basic argument. What they don’t realise is that it needs a court to decide that,” he said, reported in The Telegraph.

“Some of their editors think it should be put back up. I’ve told them it's not public domain, they’ve got no right to say that its public domain. A monkey pressed the button, but I did all the setting up.”

Reports say it could cost Slater £10,000 to take Wikipedia to court. V3 thinks he should perhaps seek a kangaroo court for the hearing.

Let's just hope the works of Shakespeare weren't actually written by 1,000 monkeys, as the legal case could prove somewhat complex.

WW1 centenary: Communications technology that rose from World War One

04 Aug 2014

With 4 August marking the centenary of Britain joining the First World War and remembering those that gave their lives in the conflict, V3 looks at some of the early technology used during the Great War.

In order for troops to communicate across the battlefield, early telephones were used with long wires linking telephones via switchboards. Unfortunately, these phones were only as reliable as the wires that connected them.

The wires were often broken by shell fire or the boots of soldiers rushing around in the mud of the trenches. To compensate for the lack of reliability, everything from visual signals, semaphore and written messages carried by dogs and carrier pigeons, were used to ensure that communication was maintained between commanding officers and their men.

Developed from the telegraph, radio was widely used on land, sea and in the air during WWI. However, the longwave wireless sets were fragile, heavy and expensive.

Crucially, radio transmissions were vulnerable to interception by the enemy, meaning codes had to be used which slowed the speed of communication during chaotic exchanges of fire with enemy forces.

When the British government acquired the Marconi Company telecommunications and engineering company, it focused the firm to develop radio for wartime use. This led to radio kits being made more portable and voice to be transmitted along with code, effectively evolving the way radio was used.

However, the static nature of trench warfare meant radio was best used by scout plane pilots who could rapidly report on the enemy's location and the accuracy of artillery fire. The more mobile nature of the Second World War was where radio really came into its own by building upon the technology of the Great War.

By the time the First World War ended, significant improvements had been made in communication systems. Wireless technology was one such evolution that worked alongside the developments pioneered with radio.

Continuous Wave wireless sets were used to transmit messages from relay stations to battalions and military headquarters during the conflict, thereby bypassing the need to rely on messages being delivered by runners or animals. This helped to keep military units coordinated while they endured the to-and-fro of artillery bombardment.

The developments in wireless technology would eventually lead to the foundations of more robust communications technology that was put to use in the Second World War, and eventually led to the rise of modern radio networks.

While World War One will be remembered by many as a bloody and rather pointless conflict that saw thousands lay their lives down for a few yards of land, the war drastically changed politics, warfare, manufacturing and technology. From the ruin of war came the foundations of modern communications that would have a world-changing effect a century later.

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