Home Archive by category Technology

Technology

Twitter removes Rajinikanth ‘s video after false Claim on Coronavirus life span

In a video released by South Indian Super Star Rajinikanth in support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Janta Curfew a initiative against novel Coronavirus. Rajinikanth had said the 14-hour window of total social distancing would curb spread of coronavirus. The statement violated Twitter’s rules on misinformation.

Twitter on Saturday removed the video uploaded by Actor and Upcoming Politician Rajinikanth supporting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to ‘Janata Curfew’ after Twitter found factual discrepancies in his post about the cycle of infection of the novel coronavirus, which has claimed more than 10,000 lives globally so far.

To prevent community transmission, the virus needs to be curbed totally for 12 to 14 hours

Rajinikanth in Twitter video

According to scientists, droplets that fall from a person’s sneeze can possibly remain on a surface for days. A person can contract infection by touching a surface or object with the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

Rajinikanth said the virus was in its second stage in India, appealing to people to stay indoors so that it can be prevented from entering the third stage.

Rajinikanth also made a another tweet urging people to stay indoors and support Modi’s call to stay at home from 7am to 9pm on Sunday. This tweet still remains on his social media page.

We can prevent the virus entering third stage if people stay indoors and for that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced Janata Curfew on March 22,

Rajinikanth Tweet

Curfew in Italy

The Italian government also announced a similar curfew but people did not heed it and because of that a lot of lives were lost to the pandemic; a similar situation should not occur in India, the veteran actor said.

“Everyone, including senior citizens and youngsters, should extend their cooperation on March 22,” he said.

Rajinikanth also praised medical professionals, saying they were working selflessly to prevent the spread of the virus and “as per the words of Prime Minister let us join to appreciate them and pray for their well-being at 5 pm on March 22”.

Meanwhile, actor-politician Kamal Haasan encouraged people to follow ‘social distancing’ to prevent the spread of the virus and appealed to them not to take part in large gatherings.



“By following that, you are preventing the virus from affecting you and your dear ones,” the Makkal Needhi Maiam president said in a video message.

“Stay indoors and ensure you spend time with family and try to be responsible. Maintain social distance and stay safe,” Haasan added.

We can prevent the virus entering third stage if people stay indoors and for that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced Janata Curfew on March 22,

Virgin Media clarifies on Data breach incident of 900,000 users

Virgin Media database containing personal details of around 900,000 users was left unsecured and accessible online for 10 months. The company has admitted the incident. Virgin Media has apologized for the incident and really, there’s very little practical advice to offer in the light of this kind of breach, beyond the usual protocol of staying alert to any messages requesting personal information or access to any kind of finance.

As per the Virgin Media statement, this incident is not a Hack or a Cyberattack to Virgin Database. Its a misconfiguration to the user data which is mainly used for the marketing purpose. The issue was addressed by a Security researcher at TurgenSec Last Friday.

We recently became aware that one of our marketing databases was incorrectly configured which allowed unauthorised access. We immediately solved the issue by shutting down access. Protecting our customers’ data is a top priority and we sincerely apologise. Based upon our investigation, Virgin Media does believe that the database was accessed on at least one occasion but we do not know the extent of the access or if any information was actually used,

Lutz Schüler, chief executive of Virgin Media

Virgin Media in order to clarify its customers released Help and Advice in their official portal. The company also alerts its customers not to fall in Phishing if they receive any calls in the name of Virgin Media and requesting confidential details about their account.

What are the details of customers are leaked?

As per the media statement, the complete Database is Neither hacked nor leaked. Here is the list of data that are set open to public without knowledge.

  • Name
  • Home and email address
  • Phone numbers
  • Technical Information
  • Product information, including any requests Customer made using forms on Virgin Media website.
  • In a very small number of cases, it included the date of birth.

Data leaked dose not contain any critical data’s which includes Passwords, financial statements, Credit Card details, and Banking details.

An independent forensics investigation launched after shutting down all access to the database. All Customers are contacted directly by Virgin media to ensure their data security.

In order to ensure the data safety of customer Virgin Media released several list of safety measures for customers.

  • If you ever receive a call claiming to be from Virgin Media that you don’t trust, please hang up and report it to us straight away
  • Please remember, you should never disclose any sensitive information over email, including banking details, and we will never ask you to do so.
  • If you receive an email that you are concerned about, don’t click on any links, open any documents or reply to it.

UK’s 5G network well within safety limits, Ofcom tests find

A man wearing a white t-shirt with a 5G symbol and a red cross through it holds an obscured banner at a protestImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Protesters – like this man in Warsaw in April – have rallied against 5G

The first UK safety tests of 5G base stations has found radiation levels are at “tiny fractions” of safe limits.

The rollout of ultra-fast 5G mobile connectivity has sparked some fears the new transmission masts could be dangerous to humans.

But Ofcom, the UK regulator, found no identifiable risks in its first tests since 5G technology was deployed.

The highest result they found for the 5G band was 0.039% of the recommended exposure limit.

Those limits are set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) – non-ionizing meaning the type that does not damage DNA and cells.

“The emissions at each site were a tiny fraction of the maximum levels set out in international guidelines,” an Ofcom spokesman said.

The tests covered 16 locations in 10 cities across the UK where 5G-enabled mobile base stations had been set up, and measured the strength of the electromagnetic field (EMF).

Put the term “5G” into Facebook’s search box and you can rapidly disappear down a rabbit hole.

Take a group called Working Together to Keep Devon 5G Free – the first post is a YouTube video advancing the theory the coronavirus originated in Wuhan because the Chinese city had rolled out 5G. Another post talks of pressurising a school to shut down its wi-fi network – those campaigning against 5G have often expressed similar fears about previous technologies.

And the campaigns are having some effect – a number of local councils in the south-west of England have voted to “ban 5G”, although it is not clear they have the power to stop the rollout. The councils and campaigners have been calling for evidence 5G is safe.

Now, Ofcom has provided some. But it seems unlikely the scare stories will just fade away.

The highest EMF emissions for 5G were recorded in Birmingham’s Mailbox development. By contrast, the highest strength for all mobile bands was in London’s Canary Wharf, at 1.5% the safe limit – but a zero 5G measurement.

Is there a health risk?

Ofcom has been measuring EMF emissions from mobile phone towers since 2003. But all four major UK networks have launched 5G in the past year, prompting Ofcom to test that band.

It said the rollout of 5G had seen a renewal of interest in the possible health effects of radio waves and it was receiving an “increasing number of queries” about 5G.

“Clearly, the deployment of 5G networks and the take-up of 5G services is at an early stage,” it said in the technical report outlining its findings.

“We will therefore continue to undertake EMF measurements to monitor the overall trends in the long term.”

Despite the public concern, health authorities have consistently declared 5G safe for use.

Public Health England acknowledges adding 5G to the existing technologies used could cause “a small increase in overall exposure to radio waves”.

“However, the overall exposure is expected to remain low relative to guidelines and, as such, there should be no consequences for public health,” it says in its official guidance.

The World Health Organization, meanwhile, classified radio frequency radiation as a “possible carcinogenic”. That puts it in the same category as pickled vegetables or talcum powder but not as dangerous as alcohol or processed meat.

Courtesy BBC

Would you eat a ‘steak’ printed by robots?

Sonova plant making hearing aidsImage copyright Sonova
Image caption Most hearing aids are made by a 3D printing process

You might not know it, but if you wear a hearing aid, you are likely to be part of the 3D printing revolution.

Almost all hearing aids nowadays are produced using the technique.

Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing involves building up layers of material – plastic, metal or resin – and bonding them together, until eventually you have the finished product.

“Previously, production had been the sole preserve of modellers who finished each unique piece by hand in a time-consuming and costly process,” says Stefan Launer, a senior vice president at Sonova, which makes hearing aids.

“Now, once an order is placed, it takes just a few days for the finished product to be delivered, and the customer receives a hearing aid with individual fit,” he says.

Image copyright Sonova
Image caption 3D-printed hearing aids can be made quickly and to individual fits

When 3D printing began to emerge 20 years ago, its boosters promised that it would revolutionise many industries.

And in many ways it has been a big success. In 2018, 1.4 million 3D printers were sold worldwide, and that is expected to rise to 8 million in 2027, according to Grand View Research.

“In terms of the technology, there are constantly new applications discovered, with new materials and machines unveiled each year,” says Galina Spasova, senior research analyst at IDC Europe.

More Technology of Business

The technique has “revolutionised” the dental sector, she says, cutting the time it takes to make crowns and bridges, as well as making them more accurately.

On a bigger scale, Boeing is using 3D-printed parts in its spacecraft, commercial and defence aircraft, while BAE Systems uses the technology to make components for the Typhoon fighter.

There is even a 3D printer on the International Space Station, where it is used to create spare parts.

Image copyright Nova
Image caption Nova’s plant-based steak mimics muscle using 3D printing

But many applications are still on a smaller, experimental scale.

For example, food can be 3D printed. Barcelona-based Nova Meat recently unveiled a plant-based steak derived from peas, rice, seaweed and other ingredients.

Using 3D printing allows the ingredients to be laid down as a criss-cross of filaments, which imitate the intracellular proteins in muscle cells.

“This strategy allows us to define the resulting texture in terms of chewiness and tensile and compression resistance, and to mimic the taste and nutritional properties of a variety of meat and seafood, as well as their appearance,” says Guiseppe Scionti, the founder of Nova Meat.

By next year, he says, restaurants could be printing out the steaks for themselves.

Image copyright Nova Meat
Image caption Layers of ‘steak’ can be laid down in a criss-cross pattern to create texture

One of the most exciting fields for 3D printing is medicine. For some time now, medical professionals have been 3D printing prosthetics, which can be made for a fraction of the usual price.

They can also be easily personalised for the individual patient – indeed, earlier this year a cat in Russia was given four 3D-printed titanium feet after losing its own to frostbite.

Medicines can be 3D printed – something that’s particularly useful when treating small children, who need lower drug doses as standard.

As co-director at NIHR Alder Hey Clinical Research Facility for Experimental Medicine professor Matthew Peak points out, “The majority of medicines available to children have not been designed with children in mind or, indeed, tested in clinical trials involving children.”

Last year, his team became the first in the world to give a child a 3D-printed pill; meanwhile, other researchers are creating pills that are personalised for the individual patient.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionUS company Desktop Metal aims to make it possible to manufacture 3D-printed parts at industrial scale.

Perhaps most extraordinary of all is the work being done to 3D print human organs. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the US recently announced that they’d developed a way to 3D print living skin, complete with blood vessels, that could be used as a graft for burn victims.

There are still hurdles to overcome – the technique has been used only on mice so far, and work needs to be done to make sure the grafts aren’t rejected. But, says associate professor Pankaj Karande, once grafted onto a special type of mouse, the vessels from the printed skin were able to connect with the mouse’s own vessels.

“That’s extremely important, because we know there is actually a transfer of blood and nutrients to the graft which is keeping the graft alive,” he says.

Image copyright SQ4D
Image caption The walls of this house were built by robots – humans are still needed to build the roof

Some hope the technology can be used on a much bigger scale.

“We believe 3D printing houses and buildings will change the way the world is built,” says Kirk Andersen, chief engineer of New York firm SQ4D.

Earlier this year, his firm built a 1,900 square foot house in just eight days, by using a robot to build up the walls layer-by-layer.

The roof still has to be built by construction workers.

The process “drastically” reduces the amount of material and labour costs used in construction, according to Mr Anderson. The firm estimates that its house costs 70% less to build than an equivalent property built using traditional methods.

The technology is still under development, but a number of 3D-printed buildings have been completed around the world, giving a sense of what could one day be possible.

While 3D printing is common in car making and aerospace where the technique is valued for making prototypes, tools and parts, most of the items you buy are likely to be mass produced on production lines for some time to come.

This article is the third in a mini-series on disruptive industries. You can find the first on blockchain here and the second, on robotics here.

Courtesy BBC

YouTuber ‘became better human’ after race row

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionKian Lawley: ‘I messed up in my life and nobody’s perfect’

YouTuber Kian Lawley says he “became a better human” after a video of him using a racist term resurfaced in 2018.

It resulted in him being fired as an actor from a film inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.

The 24-year-old admits he “messed up” but insists “nobody’s perfect”.

Speaking exclusively to Radio 1 Newsbeat he explains the online criticism he received was “scary” and he didn’t know what impact it would have on his career.

“It was a really big part of my life,” Kian tells Newsbeat at VidCon London, a convention for vloggers and fans that features some of the world’s biggest social-media stars.

“I’ve never claimed to be perfect and I never want to claim to be perfect.”

Image copyright TIFF
Image caption The Hate U Give tells the story of 16-year-old Starr who is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend by a white police officer

Kian used the n-word while rapping with friends.

The controversy led to Kian also being dropped from his talent agency – with the film makers of The Hate U Give explaining he had been removed due to “his past comments and behaviour”.

Set predominantly in a black community, the main character Starr begins to question her place in society and the private school where she is one of a few non-white students.

Kian originally played Chris – Starr’s boyfriend – one of the only major white characters in the film.

After the racism controversy the role had to be recast and scenes were reshot with Riverdale actor, KJ Apa, replacing him as the character of Chris.

The fallout meant Kian, who has 17m followers across social media, experienced “cancel culture” – when someone is boycotted online for something problematic they’ve said or done.

At the time he said he “understood” that “words have power and can do a lot of damage”.

He took a break from posting videos on his YouTube channel and says he knows he was “in the wrong”.

Kian says he used the break “to re-establish and re-find” himself but accepts “not everyone’s going to be on my side”.

Follow Newsbeat on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays – or listen back here.

Courtesy BBC

Can we fix our way out of the growing e-waste problem?

Francesco CaloImage copyright Francesco Calo
Image caption It only cost Francesco “a few pennies” to repair his TV screen

“I was a kid of the early 80s, when electronic items were quite expensive and were supposed to last for ages.”

Francesco Calo has been learning how to fix his broken TV at a repair event in Tooting, south London.

It might seem a simplistic idea – but repair initiatives such as this one could be part of a solution to the growing amount of electrical and electronic waste.

This waste is becoming a huge problem. The 50 million tonnes of e-waste generated every year will more than double to 110 million tonnes by 2050, making it the fastest growing waste stream in the world, according to the author of a UN report.

Environmental damage

Francesco says the staggering volume of e-waste was one of the main reasons he wanted to get involved in fixing broken gadgets.

He enlisted the help of volunteers at the Restart Project in London. Other, similar projects exist in the UK and around the world.

“This project allows you to reduce waste, extend the life of objects, and it helps people who cannot afford to get rid of items that have developed a fault,” he says.

“The issue of electronic waste is overlooked, as electronic items that could be fixed easily go to waste instead, contributing to pollution and increasing the demand for components like rare earth elements, which can have a damaging impact on the environment when sourced.”

Dr Ruediger Kuehr, of the United Nations University, which produces the UN’s Global E-Waste Monitor, told the BBC that despite having ambitious collection targets in place, “world-wide collections are stagnating or even decreasing”.

The UN’s next Global E-Waste Monitor is due to be published in April, but with only 41 countries producing official e-waste statistics, the fate of the majority of the waste is “simply unknown”, according to Prof Ian Williams of the University of Southampton.

“In countries where there is no national e-waste legislation in place, e-waste is likely treated as other or general waste. This is either land-filled or recycled, along with other metal or plastic wastes,” he says.

But e-waste from discarded electrical and electronic products is only part of the problem. A significant contributor to e-waste is the release of toxins from mining and manufacturing.

The rare earth elements being mined are currently crucial components in high-tech electronics, but they are hazardous to extract.

“There is the high risk that the pollutants are not taken care of properly, or they are taken care of by an informal sector and recycled without properly protecting the workers, while emitting the toxins contained in e-waste,” Prof Williams says.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption 50 million tonnes of e-waste is being generated every year, according to the UN

By far the biggest contributors to the level of e-waste are household appliances such as irons, vacuum cleaners, washing machines and fridges.

But the rapidly-growing “Internet of things” – internet-connected gadgets – is expected to generate e-waste at a faster rate, as connectivity becomes embedded into everyday items.

There are rules on the management of e-waste. Sellers of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) within the European Union must provide ways for customers to dispose of their old household device when they sell them a new version of the same product.

And in October 2019, the EU adopted new Right to Repair standards, which means that from 2021 firms will have to make appliances longer-lasting, and will have to supply spare parts for machines for up to 10 years.

The UK government has pledged to “match and even exceed EU eco product regulations” post-Brexit.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The “Internet of things” is expected to generate e-waste at an even faster rate

Several high-profile electronics companies have faced criticism over a lack of availability of spare parts or upgrades, or alleged built-in obsolescence.

In 2017, Apple admitted that it had deliberately slowed down some models of the iPhone as they aged. Customers had suspected this was to encourage people to upgrade, although Apple said it was to prolong the life of customers’ devices. In 2018, the company introduced its Daisy robot, used to disassemble iPhones to recover and recycle minerals.

In November 2019, owners of Sonos products criticised the speaker manufacturer for no longer issuing software updates for some of its older models. Affected customers were offered discounts on newer devices in return for recycling their existing product.

Increasingly, investors are only looking at companies that are committed to helping create a cleaner global economy.

Amanda O’Toole, a fund manager at AXA Investment Managers, says that e-waste is “a significant and growing issue”.

“We’re starting to see companies that, I think, are very mindful of their reputation investing quite heavily here. They recognise the reputational damage of not doing so.”

Image copyright Mark Phillips
Image caption Repair pop-ups teach people how to repair their broken tech, rather than discard it

But some consumers are taking matters into their own hands – literally. And they don’t want new devices.

Back at the Restart Project in London – part of a wider repair movement of community based projects around the world – Francesco’s succeeded in repairing his TV screen at the cost of “a few pennies” for a new diode, and the help of one of the volunteers. He tells the BBC he is thinking of becoming a volunteer fixer in the future.

“I love the idea of watching and learning to fix, rather than simply having your item fixed.

“I always try to extend the lease of life of the electronic items I own… by using old mobile phones as music players, or old tablets as digital frames.”

Francesco’s may only be one fix, but Prof Williams thinks this type of action plays a small, but important, role in tackling what he calls the e-waste “tsunami”.

“I think that the repair cafes, the reuse clubs, and people who are trying to prolong the life of electronic equipment – they definitely have a role,” he says.

“But the truth is that one in five people – at best – are going to be motivated to do that, so for the remaining four out of five, we need to put systems in place that are convenient, that match their lifestyles and enable us to get the electronic equipment back… into the next item.”

Courtesy BBC

Why your new work colleague could be a robot

Automata robotWelcome to the future of the workplace – this is robot EVA at work

You hear EVA before you see it. A whirring and whizzing noise greets you as you enter the offices of Automata, a start-up robotics company based in London.

To one side a robotic arm is going through an intricate set of moves: six joints twisting and turning in a sequence which, in the real world, would place a label on a parcel.

That’s EVA, and it has being doing those moves non-stop for months to test its reliability.

Around the office and workshop there are more than a dozen other EVA units, some being dismantled by the engineers, others awaiting testing.

It must be very eerie at night as EVA continues its work, simulating attaching labels, while surrounded by its silent clones.

Image copyright Automata
Image caption Automata founders Suryansh Chandra (left) and Mostafa Elsayed

This robotic arm emerged from the work of former architect Suryansh Chandra and his business partner Mostafa Elsayed.

“We started out with the intention to democratise robotics, to make automation accessible and affordable to as many people as needed it,” says Mr Chandra.

They are betting that there are thousands, if not millions, of smaller businesses which need repetitive tasks completed, but can’t afford a big industrial robot.

So EVA was developed from cheap reliable parts. It uses the same motors that power the electric windows in cars, while the computer chips are similar to those used in the consumer electronics business. This is allowing them to sell EVA at £8,000.

“If I was to give you an analogy, this was a world where there were a lot of luxury cars. Everything was fast, powerful and precise, but there was no Toyota. There was no people’s car,” Mr Chandra says.

More Technology of Business

Automata is just one firm trying to find a wider market for robots and disrupt the way that things are made.

More than 2.4 million industrial robots are operating in factories around the world, according to data from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), which is forecasting double-digit sales growth from 2020 to 2022.

The majority of robots currently do repetitive work in large factories, producing cars, electronics and metal.

These giant industrial arms have long been powerful and accurate, but have lacked adaptability.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionWATCH: A robot safely picking up pastries and cakes

Yet now, developments in artificial intelligence, alongside improved vision technology and better devices for gripping, are opening new markets.

Online shopping has given the industry a juicy opportunity. In giant warehouses millions of objects of all different shapes and sizes have to be sorted and moved around.

Pick and mix

To replace the humans in this growing market, robots need to be able to recognise and grip all sorts of different items.

“Something that a child can do easily, which is to reach into a bin and grab an item, is really hard for a robot. It’s taken a ton of technology to make it possible,” says Vince Martinelli, from US-based RightHand Robotics.

Image copyright Righthand Robotics
Image caption RightHand Robotics use suction and a gripper to grab items

His company was one of the first to develop a gripper that could be fitted to the end of robot arm, allowing it to grab items of different sizes.

Their attachment for a robot arm employs a suction device and three fingers to grab items. First the sucker extends to select the item and then the three fingers secure it.

It uses a camera linked to artificial intelligence to identify and locate the object it wants.

The explosion in online shopping has created a demand for this kind of technology; Amazon alone has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in tech for its warehouses.

“When I go to a store I provide the picking labour for free. I go around the store grabbing the things I want. If I order online I have kind of exported that labour back to the retailer and they’ve got to figure out now how to do the item handling,” says Mr Martinelli.

Image copyright Soft Robotics
Image caption Picking up delicate items has been a challenge for robots

Soft Robotics, also based in the US, is tackling the same problem albeit in a different way.

Its robotic hand has rubbery fingers that fill with air, allowing them to handle delicate food items like biscuits and pastries.

“The food industry is almost entirely manual today, because every piece of food, every chicken cutlet, you name it, varies in size shape and weight. You also have an added dimension of food safety and cleanliness,” says Carl Vause, the chief executive of Soft Robotics.

Mr Vause thinks his firm’s technology will also lend itself to the clothing industry.

Image caption Prof Lepora says creating robot hands is “just an engineering challenge”

While such systems give robotic arms more skill, their dexterity still falls a long way short of the human hand.

Researchers at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (a partnership between the University of the West of England and Bristol University) think the big breakthrough would be to give robot hands a sense of touch.

Prof Nathan Lepora, head of the tactile robotics group, has developed rubber sensors that can detect and map surfaces.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionThe robot that’s being trained to tidy up

The system uses a camera inside each “finger” that detects how the rubber tip bulges and moves when touching an object.

Using a type of artificial intelligence called machine learning, the robot is then trained to recognise objects just by touching them and seeing how the rubber tip responds.

Prof Lepora thinks that by the end of this decade robots will be able to manipulate items, assemble objects and tinker in the same way that humans do with their hands.

“It is just an engineering challenge at the end of the day. There’s nothing magical about how we use our hands,” he says.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Up to one-third of all jobs could be “radically transformed” by automation, says the OECD

‘Emotional reaction’

Future developments in robotic hardware and artificial intelligence mean that robots will be able to do more and more of the jobs that are currently performed by humans.

According to a report by the OECD, 14% of of jobs are “at high risk of automation” and 32% of jobs could be “radically transformed”, with the manufacturing sector at the highest risk.

It’s a sensitive topic for those that work in the robotics industry and companies that use robots.

Mr Chandra argues that his technology will eliminate boring, repetitive jobs that humans don’t like and aren’t very good at, and also create new ones that are likely to replace them.

“There’s definitely tens of thousands of new jobs that exist to suit the current society that did not exist before. So I think this constancy of jobs is a fiction, it’s never really been the case,” he says.

Every time a job dies, there is an emotional reaction… but every time there’s a creation of a new economy.”

  • Follow Technology of Business editor Ben Morris on Twitter

This article is the second part of mini-series on disruptive technologies, you can find the first, on blockchain, here.

Courtesy BBC

Thousands of mobiles and laptops lost by UK government in a year

A stack of smartphones in various coloursImage copyright Getty Images

UK government employees lost their mobile devices – or had them stolen – at least 2,004 times in 12 months.

The numbers, released under a Freedom of Information request, include smartphones, laptops, and tablets.

The Ministry of Defence reported the most missing devices, with 767 lost or stolen, followed by tax authority HMRC, with 288.

While the large majority of devices were encrypted, nearly 200 may not have been, the information reveals.

The Ministry of Defence said its employees lost more devices because there were more of them. The numbers include military personnel in the Army, the Royal Navy, and Royal Air Force. It also said it had “robust” procedures in place around encryption.

The report was commissioned by mobile communications firm Viasat. It contacted 47 public bodies and said 27 answered its Freedom of Information requests with data from 1 June 2018 – 1 June 2019.

Of the 2,004 devices:

  • 1,474 were reported lost
  • 347 were stolen
  • 183 could have been either lost or stolen
  • 1,629 of the total were lost or stolen in an unknown place

The information requests also showed whether or not the data on the phones was encrypted – which would make it much more difficult to access.

More than 90% were – but 65 phones were not, and another 115 were marked as having an “unknown” encryption status.

Devices lost by department

Top 10 among respondents

A government spokesman said: “Data security is a top priority for the UK government and is supported by £1.9bn of investment under the National Cyber-Security Programme.”

Prof Alan Woodward from the University of Surrey, said that modern security policies reduced the risks, allowing IT administrators to wipe phones remotely, or even locate them via GPS.

Only 249 government devices were recovered, according to the information Viasat received.

Prof Woodward said problems arose when good security policies were not followed.

“There is nothing to stop users using their personal devices to store sensitive information,” he said. That includes simple things like sensitive contact details or calendars – but potentially, other passwords, or access to two-factor authentication.

“They shouldn’t, but it is then very reliant upon the strong Pin code being in place – and it’s surprising just how many people either don’t use a Pin or use weak Pins that can be guessed before the data is erased.”

And even a strong password is not iron-clad, he warned, because “not all phones are equally secure… some phones are easier to recover data from without the user’s Pin”.

Courtesy BBC

Can computer translators ever beat speaking a foreign tongue?

Crottin de Chavignol French soft cheese made of goat milk

Put crottin de chèvre into Google Translate, and you’ll be told it means goat dung.

So if it appeared on a menu, you might pass. Alas, you would be ruling out a delicious cheese made of goat’s milk that is often served as a starter in France.

Such misunderstandings are why Google admits that its free tool, used by about 500 million people, is not intended to replace human translators.

Tourists might accept a few misunderstandings because the technology is cheap and convenient. But when the stakes are higher, perhaps in business, law or medicine, these services often fall short.

“Using Google Translate can lead to some serious errors, especially when words have multiple meanings, which is often the case in fields such as law or engineering,” says Samantha Langley, a former lawyer who is now a court-approved French-to-English legal translator based in Meribel, France.

That is not to say professional translators do not use computer assisted translation (CAT) tools. More sophisticated applications can help them take the donkey work out of repetitive translations.

CATs are even used as part of modern language degree courses these days. So how good are they?

More Technology of Business

One of the most popular new tools is the so-called translation earpiece. Usually paired with a smartphone app, they pick up spoken foreign languages and translate them for the user.

“It has taken decades of research to create a framework of algorithms designed to recognise patterns in the same way as the human brain – a neural network,” says Andrew Ochoa, chief executive of US start-up Waverly Labs, which produces translation earpieces.

“Combining that with speech recognition technology has allowed us to make a huge leap forward in terms of accuracy.”

There’s no doubt that CAT tools have taken some of the hard grind out of text translations like instruction manuals or questionnaires, says Milan-based Paola Grassi, a professional translator for Wordbank, a global marketing and translation agency.

“Survey contents are among the most repetitive ones and a good CAT tool can hugely speed up the process,” she says.

Image copyright Waverly Labs
Image caption Earpieces can provide instant translation

For meetings and conferences, wearable translators like Waverly’s are undoubtedly popular. But even this new generation tech, which combines speech recognition neural networks and internet-based translation engines, has limitations.

Users must wait at least a few seconds for a phrase to be translated, or more if the internet connection is poor.

And computers still lack the subtlety of human communication.

“Translation technology is undoubtedly a useful tool for certain content such as manuals,” says Zoey Cooper, brand and content director at Wordbank.

“But if you want to create a relationship with the reader, you need a human translator to make it sound natural and capture the sentiment, which often involves restructuring a sentence completely.”

“I believe CAT tools hinder creativity,” says Antonio Navarro Gosálvez, an English-to-Spanish translator based in Alicante, Spain.

Image copyright Gooseberry Creative
Image caption Translator Antonio Navarro Gosálvez says computer tools ‘hinder creativity’

“If the tool shows you a partial translation match, I find it’s actually harder to discard part of the sentence and rebuild it than to just create something from scratch.”

Mr Ochoa thinks this problem could be resolved within the next 10 years.

“When it comes to expressing emotion and intonation, we need sentiment analysis, which is not there yet but may well be in ten years time,” he says.

Foreign language skills are still in demand in the labour market.

In the UK about 15% of the jobs posted on recruitment website Reed ask for a foreign language.

New research from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages shows 75% of manufacturing companies need employees with diverse language skills.

Yet languages have fallen out of favour in UK schools.

Recent BBC analysis revealed drops of up to 50% in foreign language learning in secondary schools since 2013.

The UK’s Department for Education is taking measures to halt the decline.

“We are committed to ensuring more pupils are studying languages, which is why it is now compulsory in the national curriculum for all children between Years 3 and 9,” it said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Learning the language is still the best way to get to know a country

For Ms Cooper at least, speaking a foreign tongue remains a precious skill.

“There are still lots of opportunities for language graduates, both in specialist translation and global marketing,” she said.

And even if you don’t use your language professionally, it has other benefits.

“How can you get to know a country and embrace the culture if you don’t speak the language?” says Ms Cooper.

“Even with the voice-activated apps available, you will still miss out.”