Archive for April 2017

Your Latest IT News Update

27 Year Prison Sentence For Hacking. Yet More Kids Lured Into Cyber Crime

Youtube is putting on workshops around the UK to teach 13 to 18-year-olds about issues based around free speech, Internet safety and recognising ‘Fake news’.

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Driverless Cars Being Tested On UK Roads

The ‘Driven’ consortium will begin an information-gathering trial of autonomous vehicles from next week, which will see manned but autonomous vehicles being tested on roads and motorways between London and Oxford.

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New App Lets You Book Hotels By The Minute

The new ‘Recharge’ App has launched in the US, which lets users book big city hotel rooms ‘by the minute’.

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Google Translates Business Reviews With AI

If you’re travelling overseas and you want to find a business, bar, restaurant or shop, you will soon be able to read high-quality translations of the reviews that are displayed in Google Search results and Google Maps thanks to an AI upgrade.

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Buy And Sell Subscriptions Through Amazon

Amazon has launched a new ‘Subscribe With Amazon’ service which enables consumers to discover, subscribe and manage a range of digital subscriptions, and enables subscription businesses to reach millions of new customers.

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Tech Tip: Multiple Ways To Take Notes With Windows 10

If you rely on just paper or Notepad to take and keep your business notes, Windows 10 offers you several different ways to record your notes digitally. These include:

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Multiple Ways To Take Notes With Windows 10

If you rely on just paper or Notepad to take and keep your business notes, Windows 10 offers you several different ways to record your notes digitally. These include:

  • Notepad. The app is quick, easy to use, and easy to launch. To access it, press the Windows key and type Notepad.
  • Wordpad. This is a kind of ‘Microsoft Word Lite’. It’s fast, and although it’s generally basic, it incorporates some advanced features.
  • OneNote. There are two versions of OneNote: the desktop version and the universal app. The universal app that comes with Windows 10 is good for mouse and keyboard users, you can password-protect your notes, and there is a search feature.
  • Sticky Notes. It’s quick and easy, you can enable reminders, and you can write on Sticky Notes with a pen if you use a device like the Surface Pro or compatible tablet.
  • Cortana. You can dictate your notes to Windows 10 using the new Cortana digital assistant.

Buy And Sell Subscriptions Through Amazon

Amazon has launched a new ‘Subscribe With Amazon’ service which enables consumers to discover, subscribe and manage a range of digital subscriptions, and enables subscription businesses to reach millions of new customers.

What Is It?

Whereas we are likely to have searched for and purchased all manner of digital subscriptions for products / services e.g. streaming services, apps, fitness classes etc. in many different places around the web, ‘Subscribe With Amazon’ groups, categorises and organises all manner of digital subscriptions in one place.

This means that these subscriptions can be all be managed via an online dashboard. Examples of subscriptions available through the portal include Disney Story Central, cloud storage service Dropbox Plus and Fitbit’s personal training platform.

Not Competitors

As you may expect, Amazon is unlikely to be featuring subscriptions to competitors’ products / services, such as Netflix or Spotify.

The Benefits For Consumers

Clearly, this will make shopping for (and managing) subscriptions much easier and more convenient for consumers. As well as making the selection of subscriptions easier, it may also mean a reduced risk of a break in / lapsing of subscriptions that have been enjoyed. This is because Amazon requires an updated payment method i.e. a valid / non-expired card.

The Benefits For Businesses

Those offering digital subscriptions can enjoy the benefits of increased customer numbers, increased revenues and greater brand awareness by being able to reach millions of new customers through being as a supplier on Subscribe With Amazon.

There are also the benefits of the convenience and ease of being able to use Amazon offers self-service tools e.g. for pricing management, and for receiving orders and updates (through Amazon’s APIs).

Businesses are also able to offer a variety of pricing plans to customers e.g. introductory, monthly annually, and possible Prime member exclusive discounts.

It is, of course, also beneficial to businesses that Amazon’s requirement of an updated payment method is in place, as customers are more likely to keep up unbroken payment of the service for longer.

Some businesses may also benefit from the cross-promotion that can take place by tying subscriptions to physical products.

Threat

With everything arranged so conveniently for customers in one place however, this may also mean that it makes it easier for customers to switch. This could potentially be a threat for digital subscription providers.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

If your business sells subscriptions and if you choose to sign-up to and sell through Amazon, this could represent a great opportunity to increase your customer base and revenue in an easy to manage way. It may also mean more pressures of competition for subscription services providers.

For business users of digital subscriptions, like the recently introduced ‘Amazon Business’ service, it provides an easy way to choose and manage suppliers.

Google Translates Business Reviews With AI

If you’re travelling overseas and you want to find a business, bar, restaurant or shop, you will soon be able to read high quality translations of the reviews that are displayed in Google Search results and Google Maps thanks to an AI upgrade.

What’s The Problem?

If you don’t have much local or prior knowledge about the best shops, businesses, and attractions of an overseas town / city that you’ve traveled to for a holiday or business (and if you don’t speak the language) your opportunities and experiences can be limited. Turning to Google to get insider knowledge has, up until now, meant the wasted time and hassle of copying and pasting reviews in piece-by-piece sentences, into translation tools with often confusing results.

Automatically, Intelligently Translated

The new service from Google means that AI technology in the form of the Google Neural Machine Translation system (GNMT), which was first introduced last autumn can now automatically display reviews in the language that your phone / device is set to.

Not only that, but because the system takes advantage of deep neural networks to translate entire sentences and not just phrases (plus the fact that it is able to improve its translation the more it is used) means that translations are displayed that are more like the way a language is actually spoken.

This saves the viewer the time and trouble of trying to find meaning from often confusing chunks of sentences, and therefore enables faster, better choices (based on the reviews) of locations / destinations.

Expansion

The GNMT system, which initially supported English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Turkish has had its capacity expanded since the end of last year to include Russian, Vietnamese and Thai.

Positive media reports in India have highlighted the improved translations between English and nine major Indian languages – Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi and Bengali.
Competitors

Google has been building up its local reviews feature (with the help of its users) in recent years, so the improved and enhanced translation service can now present some serious competition to rival travel apps and Facebook’s ‘City Guides’.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

If you travel abroad for business for example, this service from Google could prove to be a valuable source of reference for both the business and leisure part of your stay. For businesses in this country, access to this service by visitors from overseas could help to generate more business (provided the online reviews are good).

New App Lets You Book Hotels By The Minute

The new ‘Recharge’ App has launched in the US, which lets users book big city hotel rooms ‘by the minute’.

Why Book By The Minute?

The app, developed by two-year old San Francisco-based start-up Recharge is designed to appeal to people who just need a base in the city for a short space of time. These user groups include business people who want to freshen up prior to a meeting, families who are shopping in the city but need a place to relax, or people who need a place to stay between spread-out meetings /appointments on the same day.

The app charges rooms out at anything from 66 cents to $3 a minute, depending on the quality of the hotel. The service offers an affordable, practical and flexible solution to users, and an opportunity for hotels to generate more revenue and gain new customers.

Good Hotels

Although some technical commentators have been quick to identify possible illicit uses for the service, Recharge now has partnerships with 15 high quality properties in its home town of San Francisco (including the five-star hotel Taj Campton Place), and now many good hotels in New York including Pierre, W New York, The Knickerbocker and 1 Hotel Central.

Popular

To date, the Recharge service, which was tested for a year in San Francisco prior to its New York launch this week, is reported to have been used by 25,000 people. The average stay using the services is two hours, and 75 percent of the people who’ve tried the service have used it more than once. Many customers are reported to have used the service several times a week, and sometimes more than once in the same day.

Scope

The Recharge service is already thought to have plenty of scope for augmenting and expanding the offering and focusing on more market segments. For example, partnerships with airlines could see Recharge being offered as a perk to for first-class travellers, Recharge packages of 10 hours to stay in hotels in San Francisco or New York could be offered, and food, massages, and even personal trainers could be included with the packages.

Venture Capital And Seed Funding

Recharge has been able to get off the ground so quickly thanks to venture capital from JetBlue Technology Ventures, and seed funding investment from a number of entrepreneurs and organisations including Binary Capital, Floodgate, Google engineer Harry Cheung, and entrepreneur Rick Marini.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This is an example of how an existing need in a market can be met and new services and revenue streams can be developed with the addition technology in the form of a user-friendly app. Businesses that offer services, particularly those where space / physical locations lie empty for periods of time / spare capacity e.g. offices, storage facilities etc. may take inspiration from this kind of booking / scheduling innovation. This story goes to show that many businesses may have hitherto unnoticed strengths and opportunities that could be tapped with the addition of technology.

Driverless Cars Being Tested On UK Roads

The ‘Driven’ consortium will begin an information-gathering trial of autonomous vehicles from next week, which will see manned but autonomous vehicles being tested on roads and motorways between London and Oxford.

Driven

The 10-member ‘Driven’ consortium of technology firms (which includes Nominet and the Atomic Energy Authority) who are conducting the trials over the next 30 months has AI company Oxbotica’s tech’s expertise and its links with Oxford Robotics Institute (University of Oxford) at its core.

Technical commentators have noted that this is the first time that a company or consortium has attempted tests of this kind and on this scale.

Oxbotica’s Selenium autonomous vehicle control software from the UK will be used to operate the vehicles.

Backed By A Big Grant

Much of the funding for the trial has come from a £8.6m government grant.

Why?

There are several main reasons why this trial is taking place, and why the government is investing in it. These include:

  • To learn how to successfully operate a fleet of autonomous vehicles in a way that has viable commercial applications.
  • To learn about the technical aspects of autonomous vehicles e.g. how each of the 6 vehicles involved in the test communicate with each other.
  • To learn lessons about data protection, cyber security and how driverless cars should be insured.
  • To develop and keep the expertise in AI and autonomous vehicle technology in the UK, and to develop a cluster of excellence” along the M40 corridor (Birmingham, Coventry, Oxford, Milton Keynes and London).
  • To let the public see and get used to the idea of autonomous vehicles.

Will The Trial Be Dangerous?

Although the cars taking part in the trial will be autonomous, like the autonomous Uber car trials in the US, there will be a person in the vehicle to ensure that things go to plan. The Driver Consortium has also given assurances that all safety-critical driving functions will be performed, and road conditions will be monitored for each entire trip.

Not The Only One

The Driver consortium’s government-funded test is not the only one of its kind. A consortium called Streetwise have won £12.8m in the UK government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles “CAV2” competition. This will go towards a £32m project by the consortium to get a road certified fleet of autonomous cars ready for use by 2019.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Having an emerging industry, with all its talent, technology and development centres here in the UK represents a huge opportunity for UK businesses as potential suppliers, beneficiaries of the technologies and products, and spin-off market opportunities. It also represents an opportunity for UK insurers.

Whereas the UK has a skills gap in many areas of the technology market, with the right amount of support and backing from the government and other investors, this could be one area where home-grown talent is tempted to stay in what will be a world-centre of excellence for autonomous vehicle / AI technology.

27 Year Prison Sentence For Hacking. Yet More Kids Lured Into Cyber Crime.

Youtube is putting on workshops around the UK to teach 13 to 18-year-olds about issues based around free speech, Internet safety and recognising ‘Fake news’.

What’s The Problem?

Young people (particularly teenagers) spend the most time online, especially on social media.

The Google-owned video-sharing platform YouTube has faced criticism about not tackling ‘hate speech’ videos and inappropriate material on its website, even to the point where government and media adverts (including those of the BBC and Channel 4) were removed for fear of them being displayed next to such content.

Concerns have also been raised in the media about how vulnerable teenagers may be to the negative aspects of the Internet, such as being deceived and influenced by ‘fake news’ or drifting into cyber crime.

What’s The Solution?

YouTube, using the leverage of the awareness-raising National Internet Citizens day (the global Creators for Change initiative) and working in conjunction Upworthy (a company focusing stories about people trying to do good in the world), hopes to help create better and healthier online behaviour and experiences for the UK’s young people.

Youtube aims to do this by educating and inspiring teenagers to embrace and share the positive aspects of life online, and be equipped to spot and deal with the negative aspects in a healthy way.

Workshops and Ambassadors

YouTube will be offering educational workshops to teenagers in cities across the UK. Several prominent and influencial YouTubers will be also be acting as ambassadors for “social change”, to help inspire and teach teenagers to tackle social issues and promote awareness, tolerance and empathy on their YouTube channels.

Powerful Peer Pressure And Bragging Rights

These efforts to help teenagers to deal with life online in a positive and healthy way come just as a widely publicised report by The National Crime Agency points to peer pressure and kudos / bragging rights, rather than financial gain as key reasons why youngsters engage in more dangerous online behaviour, such as cyber crimes like hacking and DDoS attacks.

The NCA report highlighted many of the reasons why young people, who are honest in other aspects of their life, could easily become criminals in the online world.

The report shows how low barriers to entry (due to widely available, cheap and easy hacking tools), easy access to illegal programs, a low risk of being caught, the possibility of making friends quickly and getting admiration from peers for hacking skills, can all contribute to the lines between right and wrong becoming blurred for some young people. Some technical commentators have noted that the Internet has therefore produced a new kind of criminal.

Wrongly Perceived As A Victimless Crime

One real worry, therefore, is that the mainly young perpetrators of cyber crime don’t appear to really perceive the implications of their actions, almost seeing their crimes as victimless. The fact that crimes can be committed from a safe, home environment, and can appear to be like the computer game challenges that perpetrators have essentially trained upon, make this a unique challenge for governments and businesses.

Courts Take A Very Dim View

Courts worldwide, however, take cyber crime very seriously, as is now reflected by their sentencing. The legal outcomes can be even worse where the states / countries involved don’t have the best relationship and where political points can be scored.

For example, the son of Russian parliament member Valery Seleznev, recently received the longest ever sentence for cyber crime in the U.S. (27 years in prison). Roman Seleznev, who was reported to be well known in the cybercrime world, was found guilty of stealing millions of payment card details from businesses by infecting their point-of-sale systems with malware.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Making the online environment more positive by inspiring, educating, protecting and equipping young people with the tools they need to cope with the challenges and opportunities of the Internet has to be a good thing for businesses.

Businesses can benefit as employers, and as recipients of services provided by bright young people who have been offered opportunities to make positive use of their online talents e.g. in cyber security. By working together, schools, cyber security agencies and companies, technology companies, government and businesses can reach young people before they ever become involved in cybercrime, and offer them opportunities to use their cyber skills as part of a productive, career helping and contributing to UK businesses, and helping to bridge the UK’s cyber skills gap.

Your Latest IT News Update

Parcel Robots On Trial In London

Hermes, the courier company, is to operate a trial scheme of autonomous, parcel collection robots on the streets of Southwark in London.

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Scammers Burgling Airbnb Users. Again.

Scammers have used the stolen account details of Airbnb users to target properties for burglaries.

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No More Vodfone Roaming Fees In Most of Europe

Vodafone have announced that they will be scrapping roaming fees for their new customers in most European countries.

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Virgin Now Making Customer Hubs Into ‘Wi-Fi Hotspots’

After a successful trial last year (and following BT’s lead) Virgin Media is boosting its public Wi-Fi network by making customers’ SuperHub routers double as public Wi-Fi hotspots.

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Your Ad Blocker Be Helping Advertisers To Target You

A French study has shown that even though your ad blocker may be stopping unwanted adverts, it could also be identifying you to advertisers, thus making you more likely to be targeted in future!

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Clever Drawing App from Google With “Auto-Correct”

Google has launched Auto Draw, an innovative AI ‘auto correct’ art app that uses predictive and shape recognition technology to help improve and complete drawings with a professional artistic flair.

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Tech Tip : Turn Off “Quick Access” View

In Windows 10, although the ‘Quick Access’ view can help you find a recently or commonly used file or folder, you may also find it helpful and faster to have the familiar “This PC” view from Windows 7 and Windows 8. Here’s how to switch Explorer to it:

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Tech Tip: Turn Off “Quick Access” View

In Windows 10, although the ‘Quick Access’ view can help you find a recently or commonly used file or folder, you may also find it helpful and faster to have the familiar “This PC” view from Windows 7 and Windows 8. Here’s how to switch Explorer to it:

• Click “View” then “Options” on the far right. The “Folder Options” menu will appear.
• Next to the “Open File Explorer to” option, select “This PC” from the dropdown menu.
• Click “Apply”.
• Click “OK” to confirm the change.

Clever Drawing App from Google With “Auto-Correct”

Google has launched Auto Draw, an innovative AI ‘auto correct’ art app that uses predictive and shape recognition technology to help improve and complete drawings with a professional artistic flair.

Improves Your Doodles

Using the same technology as its earlier ‘Quick Draw’ experiment which employed AI to guess what a person was drawing, the new AI ‘Auto Draw’ online app allows you to create a doodle which is then improved upon by the app. You can then choose to replace your doodle with the app’s improved version. You can also choose to use your own version of the drawing, choose to use drawings submitted by other artists or even submit your own drawings to Auto Draw.

How To Use It

Auto Draw is a free online app that can be found at https://www.autodraw.com/. It can be used anywhere on any device – Chromebook, PC, desktop or phone.

Once at the website, click on the Auto Draw pen tool and draw your doodle / shape. Suggestions (better pictures) of what your shape is will then be displayed above the picture. Clicking on one will mean that your shape / doodle is replaced with the improved version. The size and colour of the shape can be changed, and text (with 15 different font style choices) can be added.

This new version of your image / annotated image can then be downloaded as a .png file or can be directly shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ (because it’s a Google app).

AI Trained

Google’s Auto Draw uses Google’s neural network to power the predictive aspect of the app. Auto Draw’s AI learning was partly achieved by asking multiple web users to draw an object in under twenty seconds. The more people that drew shapes with the online app, the better the AI system got at interpreting what that drawing was and at suggesting (improved) relevant versions of it.

Poker Example

A recent high-profile example of how significant AI learning can be achieved was the Lengpudashi Poker program that learned how to play Poker and to bluff successfully to the point where it defeated 4 of the world’s leading human Poker masters. The program honed its skills by incorporating the lessons learned from playing 360,000 hands over a five-day period.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

At the very least, Auto Draw is another free drawing app that your business can use for all kinds of digital needs e.g. websites and multiple document types. However, Auto Draw also offers you a fast way to produce high quality, tidy, basic sketches / doodles that can be used / shared by your business to help communicate plans and ideas e.g. as part of business projects and communications. It means that individual artistic ability or ability to use image programs like Photoshop needn’t be a barrier for anyone who needs to produce presentable doodles / sketches. The AI aspect of the app means that is likely to get even faster and better the more that it is used.