Libraries are often an overlooked part of society, but when you think about it they're pretty amazing places: shelves groaning with books ranging from weighty novels to chick-lit that you can just pick up and take away for free. Just make sure you return them on time.
Now, in an effort to increase the free brilliance of libraries, the government is supporting a £7.1m fund so that libraries across England can offer free WiFi.
Libraries without free WiFi will be given priority, while those with WiFi below the recommended specification can apply for funding to upgrade the service.
The fund will be managed by Arts Council England and the goal is to provide a free WiFi service to all English libraries by March 2016.
Culture minister Ed Vaizey welcomed the plan as a vital step in digitising libraries and meeting the demands of modern citizens.
“Ensuring that communities across England have access to free WiFi boosts the digital economy and enables more people to take advantage of everything the internet has to offer,” he said.
“By channelling the support through libraries, we can ensure that this opportunity to become digitally aware is available to the whole community.”
Brian Ashley, director of libraries at Arts Council England, added that it is important to maintain the social inclusion that libraries provide in the digital era.
“Libraries are excellent community hubs that bring people together, and we hope that free WiFi will encourage more people to use and enjoy their local libraries,” he said.
The move comes as part of efforts by the public and private sectors to spread WiFi services as far as possible into all aspects of society, ranging from the London Underground to sports arenas and museums.
Libraries that are given funding will have to avoid getting overzealous with any filters they deploy, though, as the British Library ran into trouble when its filters ended up banning Shakespeare's Hamlet after it ruled the language too "colourful".
Technology played a significant part in the promises made in the Conservative Party manifesto, including the next steps for the superfast broadband rollout, expanded mobile coverage and startup support.
So it is surprising that chancellor George Osborne's Summer Budget lacked any explicit mention of the government's plans for the technology industry and related sectors.
Osbourne focused instead on touting his vision of a working Britain for working people. However, dig a little deeper into the HM Treasury Summer Budget documentation and you'll find that the Budget affects the technology industry more than at first appears.
Osborne did not mention the superfast broadband programme in his speech, but the government will be allocating up to £10m to support its rollout in the South West, slated to start in April 2016.
The fund will require local projects to bid for financial support, and priority will be given to those that aim to deliver ultrafast broadband speeds of 100Mbps.
The government did not say how it will deliver tax reforms for small businesses or bolster the development of startups, but the chancellor mentioned the need to release London's economic grip on the UK and build up business in the north of Britain.
Osbourne championed the concept of the ‘Northern Powerhouse' and other areas outside the capital that are seeing a growth in new businesses. These include Tech North and the growing technology clusters in Bournemouth and Liverpool.
Larger companies, including UK technology firms, can look forward to corporation tax relief as rates will drop from 20 percent to 19 percent in 2017 and to 18 percent in 2020.
Osborne said that "Britain needs to raise its game" when it comes to skills, and that the government will introduce an unspecified apprenticeship levy on large enterprises to create three million apprenticeships for young people.
The UK is home to many large technology enterprises, and it would not be surprising if such corporations were among the first to be required to provide apprenticeships that address the UK's digital skills gap.
The government also appears to be taking a hard line on filling the skills gap, outlining ambitions to push unemployed people under the age of 21 into education or apprenticeships from the first day of their benefits claim.
Downing Street will doubtless expect the technology industry to be a core provider of such apprenticeships and the work opportunities into which it wants to channel young people.
The Budget said that the government will invest £23m in a further six Next Generation Digital Economy Centres in London, Bath, Newcastle, Nottingham, Swansea and York.
The centres will be created with support from regional councils and local small and medium sized businesses.
"These centres will exploit opportunities across sectors of the digital economy, including the creative industries, finance, healthcare and education," the Treasury said.
Overall, the Budget is still relatively slim on technology investments and initiatives. However, more are expected to surface in the government's Productivity Plan led by Treasury minister Lord O'Neill.
In the meantime, the technology industry is left sitting on tenterhooks, waiting for the government to confirm or renege on its manifesto promises.
If someone asked you to recite your own mobile phone number you’d probably reel it off without having to flex your memory muscles too much.
However, try recalling anyone else’s number - those of your partner, parents or children, for example - and it’s likely you’ll come to an abrupt halt once you’ve said 07.
This is because, according to Kaspersky, we are now in an era of ‘digital amnesia’ in which we have become so reliant on technology to retain phone numbers that our brains are rapidly forgetting the skill.
Kaspersky surveyed 6,000 people aged 16 and older in six European countries and found that most can’t remember the phone numbers of their children (71 percent), children’s schools (87 percent), place of work (57 percent) or partner (49 percent).
However, 47 percent could still recall their home phone numbers when aged 10 and 15, showing that in the past we were better at remembering the key numbers in our lives.
There’s nothing wrong with letting a phone retain all your key data, of course, but if you lose the device, or it’s stolen, things suddenly get a lot worse.
Around 25 percent of women and 38 percent of younger respondents said they would 'panic' if they lost their device as it is the only place they store contact information.
It’s not just phone numbers that we’re struggling to recall, however. Those surveyed by Kaspersky worried that losing their phone, and all its stored videos and images of their lives, would cause them to forget what they’ve been up to.
Some 44 percent of women and 40 percent of 16 to 24 year-olds would be 'overwhelmed by sadness' since they have memories stored on their devices that they believe they might never get back.
Kaspersky drafted in an academic to back up the digital amnesia findings. Dr Kathryn Mills, from University College London's Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, said that, while forgetting things isn’t bad in itself, it’s the knock-on effects that cause problems.
“The act of forgetting is not inherently a bad thing. We are beautifully adaptive creatures and we don’t remember everything because it is not to our advantage to do so,” she said.
“Forgetting becomes unhelpful when it involves losing information that we need to remember.”
Well, it's always in the last place you look.
Speak to any motorist who's spent time navigating Britain's rural B-roads and you'll probably set them off on a tirade about journey-ruining, tyre-shredding, pothole-riddled roads.
But Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) might just have the answer to these tarmac-based woes after revealing research into using cloud and connected car technology to enable vehicles to identify the location of potholes and broken manhole covers and share that knowledge with other motorists.
Pothole Alert has the potential to save motorists billions of pounds a year on punctures and vehicle repairs, according to JLR.
The system is an evolution of the MagneRide technology found in the Range Rover Evoque and Discovery Sport, which uses sensors to profile the road surface and monitor vehicle motion and changes in suspension height.
The system then adjusts the suspension to give passengers a comfortable ride when they are travelling on rough or damaged roads.
Dr Mike Bell, global connected car director at JLR, said the Pothole Alert research stemmed from the potential the company saw for wider use of the information harvested by the MagneRide system.
"We think there is a huge opportunity to turn the information from these vehicle sensors into big data and share it for the benefit of other road users," he said.
Bell explained that the most accurate data comes from vehicles that have already driven over a pothole, but that JLR is researching ways to scan the road ahead to provide data on such obstacles so that action can be taken before a vehicle reaches them.
JLR said that such alert systems could be used to deliver pothole and road damage data to local councils via the cloud to inform them of road sections in need of repair, something the carmaker is working on with Coventry City Council.
The Pothole Alert research is an example of connected car and cloud technology being explored in a granular and very practical way, rather than from a high-concept and large-scale perspective, in turn helping to inject a ‘real-world' element into modern and often nebulous technology.
That being said, Bell noted that JLR's research is a stepping stone towards developing autonomous vehicle systems and driverless cars, and will help make autonomous driving "a safe and enjoyable reality".
Driverless cars might seem to some like a far-fetched concept lifted from the pages of science fiction novels.
But the fact that Google's driverless cars have been involved in only 11 minor accidents in six years, none of which was the car's fault, and having clocked up thousands of miles of autonomous driving, suggests that driverless cars will be on UK roads sooner than many would have predicted.
19 May 2015
As the dust settled after the General Election and a Conservative-led government emerged victorious from the fray, everyone clamoured to air their views on the result.
Political correspondents fired perspectives into newspapers and across the airwaves, while keyboard warriors leaped to social media to chew over the impact that the Tories will have in the next five years.
TechUK, an organisation that offers the viewpoint of some 850 UK-based technology companies, is in a prime position to give an overview of the tech industry's reaction to what many consider a surprise result.
Anthony Walker (pictured), deputy chief executive at TechUK, told V3 that the industry is pleased to see the Tories back in government, particularly with a majority that allows them to shake off the shackles of compromise imposed by sharing power with the Lib Dems.
"Talking to companies across the sector a day after the election, I think there was a sense of positivity about the fact there had been a clear election result," he said.
"We have a government with a majority in place. Also we have a government that clearly understands how business is the driver of growth in the economy, so I think the starting point is definitely a positive one.
"I think we're also seeing a lot of ambition to address some of the issues that the government couldn't address under the coalition government."
These problems include having a clear and unified approach to the data communications bill and an overall broad approach to the way technology is applied in counterterrorism operations.
Consistency was also touted by Walker as one of the positives of having the Tories back in power, as it gives the party the time and scope to deliver on initiatives such as government-as-a-platform introduced with the Lib Dems earlier this year.
"I think the most important thing for the sector is continuity, and I think that from 8 May there been a sense of: ‘Well, OK we're continuing to go forward.' I think there's a sense that if there had been a different result there might have been time for reflection and a different course," he said.
"The government will seek to continue the reforms they put into place. We've seen a lot of continuity which again I think is good. You've got ministers in place who understand their portfolios very well and how technology plays into those portfolios."
The Tories may be seen in a positive light by the technology industry, but with no Lib Dems to hold them back the government has already revived the controversial Snoopers' Charter, which could leave paranoid British citizens feeling a little queasy.
Animation is usually associated with pens, paper, iMacs and hipsters, not cloud computing and desktop virtualisation specialists.
But a tie-up between Citrix and animation technology company Nimble Collective has seen the firms work together to develop a platform that enables the animation community to create and distribute cartoons and animated videos through a cloud service.
Nimble Collective co-founder Jason Schleifer said the cloud platform has been designed to make access to animation technology available to small firms and individuals who don't have the resources of large animation houses.
"It actually takes about 500 artists an entire year to create one hour of animated content, which is amazing. It's incredible that studios can get all those people to work together to create this. It takes extreme collaboration and a lot of infrastructure," he explained.
"But what about the hundred thousand animation students that graduate every year? What about the small teams of people that want to create something and get it out in the world but don't have the resources, money or infrastructure to make that happen?"
Rex Grignon, president of Nimble Collective, outlined the company's ambitions: "We're here to help the small guy, to help independent artists get their film made. That's our mission."
Using Citrix technology, including the firm's WorkspacePod, the Nimble Collective cloud platform allows animators to tap into high-power graphics tools through a web browser rather than having expensive and extensive IT systems located in their workspace.
By using a cloud platform, multiple animators can work together on an film or project without needing to be in the same office or even the same continent.
Once an animation project is compete, it can be easily spread across the world through social networks such as YouTube and Facebook, allowing animators to showcase their work without needing the support of a major film studio.
At Citrix's Synergy 2015 conference in Orlando, Nimble Collective took to the stage during the opening keynote speech and demonstrated how the software works in real time, and presented a short animation based on unusual animal facts, which can be seen in below.
Nimble Collective might be using Citrix technology to create a cloud platform, but less tech-focused companies have also tapped into the virtualisation giant's products. Aer Lingus used Citrix desktop and app virtualisation to help the airline's planes create paperless cabins.
Corporate social responsibility often involves the creation of foundations and channelling funds into charity organisations, rather than cloud computing and in memory-database platforms.
But technology is being increasingly deployed to find ways to combat crises, such as the use of NASA tech to find victims of the recent Nepal earthquake.
At SAP's Sapphire Now event in Orlando, V3 spoke to Rick Costanzo, SAP's general manager for its global mobility solutions division, who explained how the company's HANA Cloud Platform is used to aid doctors diagnosing and treating Ebola in remote regions of the world.
Costanzo did not name the organisation SAP has been working with but, said that the company provided its HANA Cloud Platform Mobile Services to support the Ebola app.
He explained that Mobile Services allows for the rapid creation of mobile apps on SAP's HANA Cloud Platform, allowing enterprise-grade apps on mobile devices to pull and push data to and from the cloud.
On its own, this capability is useful for doctors working out in the field and recording data on Ebola outbreaks, but the clever part comes from Mobile Services' ‘deep offline' feature.
Deep offline enables a lightweight database to be kept on a mobile device, meaning the app can still fully function without a wireless broadband connection to the cloud, thereby allowing its use in areas where mobile coverage is poor at best.
"When you think about having hundreds of doctors spread across geographically diverse locations and coverage isn't necessarily the greatest thing in all those areas, a mobile platform service like deep offline matters in those types of place," said Costanzo.
He highlighted that this capability means the Ebola app can collect data from patients and then send it to the HANA Cloud Platform when a mobile connection is established, after which the harvested data can then be analysed in real time against other information within the cloud platform.
Costanzo explained that this approach allows for real-time analysis, yielding results that take a fraction of the time it would take if such a system of record was paper-based.
With the app and analysis, doctors can gain better insights into the disease and predict areas at risk of an Ebola outbreak.
SAP is not alone using cloud-based technology to support medical organisations in fighting infectious diseases.
IBM recently unveiled its Watson Health Cloud, which uses cloud-powered cognitive computing to crunch medical data to improve the delivery of patient care and aid new medical discoveries.
V3 is seeking a technology reporter to work on its fast-paced, industry leading website. V3 is a UK site covering business technology news, analysis, video and reviews for IT professionals, so a passion for IT and the tech scene are crucial for this role.
The role is a paid editorial internship based on a rolling temporary contract. We're looking for someone who can work full-time based in our central London office, so you'll get plenty of opportunity to gain experience and hone your skills across all areas of digital journalism, covering content, social and SEO, while working as part of the established V3 team.
As technology reporter, you will write news, analysis, features and blogs, and attend events in London, the UK and across the world. You'll also be working towards taking responsibility for our community and social media presence, and supporting our SEO efforts.
While we don't expect you to already be an SEO expert, having a broad understanding of the discipline and how it can be applied to an online technology news site will be an advantage. You'll be able to pick up tips and tricks on the job, but you'll need to be a quick learner and have excellent organisational skills.
This is a great opportunity for someone looking to take on their first full-time role in journalism, with plenty of scope for growth, development, training and fun too.
An ability to write clean, accurate, crisp copy
A keen interest in the technology market or a general love of technology products
Social media experience
A basic understanding of SEO
An ability to work under pressure to tight deadlines
The flexibility to take on new projects and tasks at short notice
Please make sure you have researched V3.co.uk before applying, and include a covering letter explaining why you are perfect for this specific technology journalist role. Email your covering letter, along with your CV and salary expectation, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Closing date for applications is 15 May.