Archive for Hardware

NHS … Still Reliant On Fax Machines

A Poll by the Royal College of Surgeons using freedom of information requests has revealed that 8,946 fax machines are still in use in NHS Trusts in England.

World’s Largest Purchaser of Fax Machines

The poll was carried out after a report last year by DeepMind Health revealed that the NHS was the world’s largest purchaser of fax machines.

The new RCS poll revealed that the NHS Trust with the most fax machines still in use is Newcastle upon Tyne NHS with 603. Barts Health NHS Trust still uses 369 fax machines.

Labour Party Says There Are More

In June this year, the Labour Party reported that it believed that there were at least 11,620 fax machines still in use across the NHS in England, costing £137,000 a year to maintain.

Fax Machines

What is considered to be the first commercial version of a modern fax machine (short for facsimile) was introduced (and patented) by Xerox Corporation in 1964. Fax machines, however, reached the peak of their popularity in the late 1980s.

NHS Also Largest User of Pagers

A report by telecoms consultancy CommonTime from last year showed that the NHS is the largest user of pagers, with 130,000 of them still in use in the NHS, mainly in acute hospitals. Pagers reached their peak of popularity back in 1994 (61 million in use), and it is believed that there are now only 1 million users worldwide. The NHS, however, spends £6.6m on them each year.

The reason for their continued popularity in the NHS is thought to be their simplicity, their use of radio frequencies rather than their reliance on Internet connections, their resilience, the fact that there’s an audit trail, they’re easy to carry, and they have a long battery life.

The CommonTime report suggests that the NHS could save up to £2,718,009 per year / over £10m across four years by simply replacing pagers with smartphone-based applications.

Hopes For Greater Move To Digital

These reports and polls appear to show that the NHS is lagging behind in the digital revolution and clinging to obsolete technology where its internal communications are concerned.

The last Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, had wanted a paperless NHS by this year, and the new Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, is known to be a supporter of technology and digitisation.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Those in the NHS have pointed out that years of austerity, cuts, lack of funds, and the need to pare back spending on facilities and technology in order to keep the service going are the reasons why the NHS still uses outdated communications technology like fax machines.

The natural substitute and successor to fax machines appears to be apps like SnapChat and WhatsApp. In fact, during the WannaCry cyber attack that brought down NHS computer systems, many NHS staff used WhatsApp to communicate, with an estimated 500 patients a day being diagnosed from X-ray images sent on the app.

Clearly, there is a need for an affordable, reliable, fast and easy to use day-to-day communications platform for NHS Trust staff to use that could help them to save the Trusts money, save themselves time, and add value to the provision of services. Continuing to rely on fax machines will probably only lead to stealth IT anyway. Apps appear to be the natural way forward, provided they offer the right level of security for patient data, but the NHS also has an internal email system called NHSmail that is not being used widely enough.

Apple Offers Free Replacements / Repairs On Butterfly Keyboards

After numerous complaints over the last two years and even an online petition by a customer, Apple has decided to offer free repairs or replacements for the butterfly keyboard on its MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops.

What Happened?

For quite some time now, some MacBook and MacBook Pro laptop users have been complaining about problems they have experienced with the ‘Butterfly keyboard’. These problems have included letters or characters repeating unexpectedly, letters or characters not appearing, and keys feeling “sticky” or not responding in a consistent manner.

Petition and Lawsuit

The problems have been so bad that one user set up a Change.org online petition asking Apple to recall every MacBook Pro released since late 2016, and two fed up Apple customers have filed a lawsuit against the company (both back in May) in a San Jose, California, federal court.

The petition, which attracted over 21,000 signatures, was set up by someone listed as Matthew Taylor, who claimed that every one of Apple’s current-generation MacBook Pro models, 13in and 15in, is sold with a keyboard that can become defective at any moment because of a design failure. Mr Taylor is reported as saying that he believes that the problems are widespread and consistent, and can be infuriating for users.

The lawsuit has been brought by Zixuan Rao, of San Diego, California, and Kyle Barbaro, of Melrose, Massachusetts, who allege that Apple’s model year 2015 or later MacBooks and model year 2016 or later MacBook Pros are defective.

Hands Up … Maybe

Apple has now held its hands up and acknowledged in a statement online, that the problems of characters repeating unexpectedly, letters or characters not appearing, and keys feeling “sticky” or not responding in a consistent manner “may” exist in a “small percentage” of its Butterfly keyboards.

Program

Apple has, therefore, launched a program which will mean that Apple or an Apple Authorised Service Provider will service eligible MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards, free of charge. The type of service that Apple / the Apple Authorized Service Provider can offer will be determined after the keyboard has been examined, and Apple says that this may involve the replacement of one or more keys or the whole keyboard.

Eligible Models

Apple has released a list of models that are eligible for the repair / replacement program. These models are (courtesy of the Apple website):

– MacBook (Retina, 12 inch, Early 2015)
– MacBook (Retina, 12 inch, Early 2016)
– MacBook (Retina, 12 inch, 2017)
– MacBook Pro (13 inch, 2016, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
– MacBook Pro (13 inch, 2017, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
– MacBook Pro (13 inch, 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
– MacBook Pro (13 inch, 2017, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
– MacBook Pro (15 inch, 2016)
– MacBook Pro (15 inch, 2017)

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

On the one hand it is good news that Apple is prepared to repair / replace keyboards free of charge. On the other hand, some would say that it’s a shame that it’s taken 2 years, thousands of complaints, a petition with tens of thousands of signatures, bad publicity, and even a lawsuit to bring Apple to the point of admitting that there “may” be a problem with the keyboards that warrants free repair / replacement program to be set up at some cost to Apple.

It is all-too-common in the technology industry for products (usually software) to be distributed before all the bugs have been discovered and ironed-out or patched. In this case, many Apple customers were clearly saying that their keyboards didn’t work as they should, and it is this kind of thing that can turn happy customers into very vocal critics of a company. For businesses that have been affected by the problem, the repair / replacement program is likely to be welcome … but long overdue.

If you / your business has been affected by the problem, the advice from Apple is to first back up your data, then find an Apple authorised service provider and make an appointment at an Apple Retail Store (or send your device by mail to the Apple Repair Centre). Apple says that your MacBook or MacBook Pro will be examined prior to any service to verify that it is eligible for this program, and examination will determine the type of service, or whether a replacement will be needed. It is estimated that the service could take a few days, and Apple says that the program covers eligible MacBook and MacBook Pro models for 4 years after the first retail sale of the unit.

New ‘No Cheat’ “Locked Mode” For Classroom on Chromebooks

The Google Forms Quiz in its free, browser-based educational software “Classroom” now features a “locked mode” on Chromebooks which prevents students from cheating during quizzes.

What Is ‘Classroom’?

Google Classroom is a free web service (app) for schools, non-profits or indeed anyone with a personal Google Account, that aims to simplify creating, distributing and grading assignments in a paperless way. It is reported to be used by over 30 million students globally.

Used in an actual educational setting, it enables teachers to ‘create’ classes (set up a class online), distribute assignments, communicate, and stay organised, all in one place. Teachers can invite students and co-teachers, and in the class stream, they can then share information, assignments, announcements, and questions. They can also see who has or hasn’t completed the work, and give direct, real-time feedback and grades.

Classroom works with Google Docs, Calendar, Gmail, Drive, and Forms.

What About Chromebooks?

In the context of this story, Chromebooks are laptops that are sold with the sole purpose of being used in the classroom. They run Google’s Chrome OS and are designed to be used while connected to the Internet, with most applications and documents stored in the cloud.

Cheating?

The problem that many teachers have reported experiencing is that in order to answer questions during Classroom quizzes and tests, some students are tempted to use the Internet connection on Chromebooks to look up the answers (also known as cheating).

Cheat-Proof Feature: Locked Mode

The newly added “locked mode” feature in the Google Forms Quiz prohibits students from surfing the web or opening apps until the answers are submitted. This is the first feature added to the app that’s exclusive to managed Chromebooks, and as such, it has meant that specialised controls have been added to what was basically a standardised system.

Other Features

Other features that have also been added include the ability to organise by topic or unit in the Classwork page, whereas everything was previously just categorised by date. Also, a new People page lets teachers add and remove fellow teachers, students and guardians. The Stream and system settings pages have also received some small improvements.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For educators and trainers who use the system, the “locked mode” gives them greater control, and allows them to get a more accurate view of the level of knowledge of their students. More accurate measurements can help with the better planning and application of teaching resources, and can highlight areas that need improvement.

For Google, with such a popular system that has made inroads into the teaching / training market, it makes sense to keep their customers loyal and happy by introducing value adding improvements that solve long-running problems.

Foldable Galaxy X Smartphone Could Cost You £1,400!

After its official launch, planned for next year, it has been reported that the new Samsung Galaxy X smartphone could be priced at as much as £1,400!

More Than The iPhone X

This will mean that the world-first flexible-screened, foldable smartphone will be entering the market with a price that’s one-third higher than even the Apple iPhone X which was criticised by some for its £999 price tag.

The high price is thought to reflect the high R&D budget that went into its development, and as a premium for its innovative features.

The Galaxy X has essentially been 7 years in the making, as a prototype version of the foldable phone was shown by Samsung back in 2011.

What’s So Special About It?

The Galaxy X has two inside panels and one outside panel with the two inside panels forming the 7.3-inch OLED screen when the phone is unfolded, thereby giving the user a much larger screen area. As well as having a large screen area, the resolution is expected to be 4K (3840×2160 pixels), thereby giving it high-res when folded.

It is also rumoured that the new phone will have a dual-camera at the rear with one of the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon processors.

LG Also Going Foldable?

There have been rumours that Samsung’s rival LG is also planning to release foldable devices that could feature more advanced outward folding tech than Samsung.

To Be Shown February 2019?

Even though Samsung investors were informed that the new Galaxy X would be launched in 2018, it now looks likely that it won’t actually be shown until the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February 2019.

Production Problems

Part of the delay in the production of a commercial version of the Galaxy X from the first sighting of its prototype 7 years ago is thought to be down to production problems in the development of the flexible plastic screens.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

So much of business is now conducted using smartphones, and innovative smartphones that provide the user with features that have a real value are likely to be popular. It seems that the main benefits of the Galaxy X are that it will offer flexibility and convenience to the user with a screen area between a phone and a tablet (that can be folded), and for the initial interest factor that being seen to own and use one will create.

For the manufacturers, Galaxy X also provides a way to compete with Apple and some of its other larger competitors such as LG, and to be first to the marketplace with a foldable, flexible smartphone.

Fruit Robots

Tests are being completed of ‘robot’ fruit-picking machines that can pick strawberries as carefully and quickly as humans, and can help growers solve the labour shortage challenge next growing season.

Belgian Prototype Very Promising

European strawberry growers in Spain, Belgium and the UK are welcoming tests of robotic prototypes that can harvest soft fruit mechanically.

One example that has enjoyed some publicity is the ‘Octinion’ robotic arm on a self-driving trolley. Produced by a Belgian start-up, it is claimed that the Octinion can compete with a human in terms of price and speed as it is able to pick one strawberry every four seconds, collect between 70% and 100% of the ripe fruit, and leave the berry with only the calyx (and not the stalk), which is the way European consumers are used to buying their berries.

The success of this robot, which can grip and turns the fruit by 90 degrees to snap it off its stalk just like a human, means that it is now completing final tests in partnership with real-world growers in the UK and continental Europe, and looks like being a realistic option for next season.

Dogtooth From Cambridge

Another soft fruit-picking robot prototype that looks like being a serious competitor is the ‘Dogtooth’ which has been produced by a Cambridge-based start-up, has recently been tested in Australia, and is also made up of a robot arm mounted on a self-driving trolley.

The Dogtooth has been designed to be able to pick strawberries the way UK retailers prefer, by leaving around a centimetre of stem still attached, because it has been found to extend shelf life.

Unlike the Octinion’s machine which has been built to work on fruit grown on raised platforms in polytunnels, Dogtooth’s machine has been designed to be able to pick traditional British varieties in the field.

Genuine Labour Shortage

Some commentators have suggested that the motivation for producing the robots is simply to replace migrant labour with a cheaper, more efficient alternative, but strawberry producers across Europe and the US have insisted that they face a genuine shortage of workers to pick their fruit.

In the UK for example, the value of sterling following the Brexit vote has made it difficult to recruit overseas workers, and UK-based workers don’t appear to find seasonal picking work attractive or practical.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This is an example of how a range of technologies have been combined to produce a tool that can meet very real agricultural challenges, and could revolutionize a whole industry across the world. Although these machines may be expensive to buy, they can pay for themselves over time because, unlike humans, they don’t require wages, can work any number of hours, and they don’t take holidays, get sick or leave. They also mean that growers can plan their production with more certainty and don’t have to expend time, effort, and money on recruitment.

Automation, aided by huge technological advances, is a growing trend across most industry sectors. For example, a report by PwC from March 2017 claimed that over 30% of UK jobs could be lost to automation by the year 2030. According to the report, 44% jobs in manufacturing (where there are already many robots e.g. car manufacturing), especially those involving manual work, look likely to go to AI led software or robots. Transportation jobs are also in the high-risk category for robot replacements, and according to the report, 56% of jobs could be lost to autonomous vehicles. Jobs in the UK’s largest sectors, wholesale retail jobs, also look vulnerable to automation into the future.

AI and robotics will alter what jobs look like in the future, but it is also important to remember that, as with the strawberry-picking robots, they could provide huge advantages and opportunities for businesses.

Workers can only really try to insulate themselves from the worst effects of automation by seeking more education / lifelong learning, and by trying to remain positive towards and adapting to changes. How much automation and what kind of automation individual businesses adopt will, of course, depend upon a cost / benefit analysis compared to human workers, and whether automation is appropriate and is acceptable to their customers.

Smart Solar Power Savings From Google

Google, in partnership with energy supplier Eon, with help from German software firm Tetraeder, has released an online tool called ‘Project Sunroof’ that uses Google’s Earth and Maps apps to estimate how much money homeowners could by switching to solar power.

How?

Smart ‘machine learning’ is at the heart of the tool, and it is able to examine factors like its roof area and angle, and weather data, and sun positioning to help it arrive at an estimate of the ‘solar potential’ of a house, and the total amount of sunlight that falls on a particular rooftop every year.

7 Million Rooftops

The partnership with E.On covers seven million rooftops across Germany. It uses E.On’s solar power and battery product offerings to calculate how much a specific household could save by installing solar panels and a battery pack.

Renewable Energy

The idea is part of a move towards countries, including the UK, adopting more renewable energy ideas, and is clearly a way to help inform and convince homeowners to cut energy bills, and help the environment by installing solar panels on their roofs.
International Energy Agency figures show that, even back in 2016, renewable energy accounted for two-thirds of new power added to the world’s grids. Solar power was the fastest-growing source of new energy worldwide that year, and is still growing in popularity now.

In the EU, the Renewable Energy Directive set out for all member countries to reach a 20% renewables target before 2020. Google’s shared project, therefore, helps to feed into that goal.

In recent years, many UK homeowners have taken advantage of grants and tariffs e.g. the Feed-in Tariff and Generation Tariff schemes to install and get money back / save money on the green energy they help produce and feed / sell into the grid.

Fears

Some fears have been expressed that the spread of renewables such as solar and wind across the US (for example) could suffer if the US International Trade Commission imposes tariffs on imports of Chinese solar panels.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

There is wide agreement that sustainable, renewable, green energy sources are needed to meet world demand while minimising the impact on the environment, and not contributing to climate change. Many businesses, some of which are big polluters, are coming to accept the many benefits that renewables and involvement with green projects have to offer.

Google’s involvement with this scheme is consistent with its recent, public commitment to green energy, and having the Google brand name involved in the project is a positive association that could help to convince customers to adopt solar. For example, back in December 2016, Google announced that all of its data centres and the offices for its 60,000 staff would be powered entirely by renewable energy from 2017, a formidable target that it now claims to have met. Even when the announcement was made, Google was already the world’s biggest corporate buyer of renewable electricity.

Google’s image and brand can only benefit from its public commitment to renewable energy, as it will from ‘Project Sunroof’, although Google’s commitment is also based on reducing costs in the longer term, and being seen to pave the way for other corporations.

Fined For Using a Smart Watch At Traffic Lights

In a recent court case in Canada, an Apple smartwatch was classified as being the same kind of distraction as a mobile phone as a student was handed a fine for being observed looking at her Apple watch while waiting at traffic lights.

Distraction Law in Ontario

Student Victoria Ambrose is reported to have fallen foul of Ontario’s strict ‘distracted driving’ law.

In Ontario, the law states that using a phone to talk, text, check maps or choose a playlist while you’re behind the wheel all count as distracted driving, as do other activities like eating, reading or typing a destination into a GPS.

In the case of Victoria Ambrose, the judge likened the Apple smartwatch to being as much of a distraction as a “cell phone taped to someone’s wrist”.

Defence

In her defence, the student said that she had looked at the watch to tell the time, and that, because the watch was securely fastened to her wrist, it should be subject to an exemption in the Ontario law which covers devices that are “securely mounted”.
The Judge rejected both arguments, and said that the amount of time she was observed looking at the watch meant that she was distracted while driving, rather than simply glancing at her watch to find out the time.

According to Ontario’s Ministry of Transport data, deaths from collisions there, caused by distracted driving have doubled since 2000, and 2013 data shows that one person is injured in a distracted-driving collision every half hour, and a driver using a phone is four times more likely to crash than a driver focusing on the road

Fine

In this case, the student was fined Canadian $400 (£230).

Warning In The UK

Back in 2014, the UK Department for Transport (DfT) issued a warning about looking at smartwatches while driving, saying that smartwatches are covered by existing laws designed to stop people checking gadgets while on the move, and that drivers caught texting from a smartwatch will have given police enough material to be able to charge them.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This story illustrates that while technology can be helpful, it can also be potentially dangerous and / or costly distraction.

In the workplace, for example, studies show that smartphone-users touch their device somewhere between twice a minute to once every seven minutes, and that conducting tasks while receiving e-mails and phone calls can reduce a worker’s IQ by approximately ten points relative to working in uninterrupted quiet.

In an age where 85% of UK citizens use smartphones (Deloitte figures, Oct 2017), there are arguments as to whether they, and other gadgets e.g. with BOYD policies, are helping or hindering productivity.

For companies with employees who drive as part of their work, this story should illustrate the need to warn employees of the current law and safety recommendations regarding distraction, and if possible, to ensure that they have appropriate hands-free equipment to use while handling work calls.

Alexa Records and Sends Private Conversation

A US woman has complained of feeling “invaded” after a private home conversation was recorded by her Amazon’s voice assistant, and then sent it to a random phone contact … who happened to be her husband’s employee.

What?!!

As first reported by US news outlet KIRO 7, the woman identified only as ‘Danielle’ had a conversation about hardwood flooring in the privacy of her own home in Portland, Oregon. Unknown to her, however, her Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa via her Amazon Echo not only recorded a seemingly ‘random’ conversation, but then sent the recording to a random phone contact without being expressly asked to do so.

The woman was only made aware that she had been recorded when she was contacted by her husband’s employee, who lives over 100 miles away in Seattle, who was able to tell her the subject of her recent conversation.

How Could It Have Happened?

Last year Amazon introduced a service whereby Amazon Echo users could sign up to the Alexa Calling and Messaging Service from the Alexa app. This means that all of the contacts saved to your mobile phone are linked to Alexa automatically, and you can call and message them using voice commands via your Echo.

In the case of the woman from Portland, Amazon has reportedly explained the incident as being the result of an “unlikely” string of events which were that:

  • Her Alexa started recording after it registered as hearing its name or another “wake word” (chosen by users).
  • Subsequently, in the following conversation (about hardwood floors), Alexa registered part of the conversation as being a ‘send message’ request.
  • Alexa would / should have said at that point, out loud, ‘To whom?’
  • It is believed that Alexa then interpreted part of the background conversation as a name in the woman’s phone contact list.
  • The selected contact was then sent a message containing the recoding of the private conversation.

Investigated

The woman requested a refund for her voice assistant device, saying that she felt invaded.

Amazon has reportedly apologised for the incident, has investigated what happened, and has determined that was an extremely rare occurrence. Amazon is, however, reported to be “taking steps” to avoid this from happening in the future.

Not The First Time

Amazon’s intelligent voice assistant has made the news in the past for some unforeseen situations that helped to perpetuate the fears of users that their home devices could have a more sinister dimension and / or could malfunction or be used to invade privacy. For example, back in 2016, US researchers found that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos in order to get smart devices to turn on flight mode or open a website. The researchers also found that they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text.

Also, although Amazon was cleared by an advertising watchdog, there was the case of the television advert for its Amazon’s Echo Dot smart speaker activating a viewer’s device and placing an order for cat food.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Although it may have been a series of events resulting in a ‘rare’ occurrence, the fact is that this appears to be a serious matter relating to the privacy of users that is likely to re-ignite many of the fears of home digital assistants being used as listening devices, or could be hacked and used to gather personal information that could be used to commit crime e.g. fraud or burglary.
If the lady in this case was an EU citizen, it is likely that Amazon could have fallen foul of the new GDPR and, therefore, potentially liable to a substantial fine if the ICO thought it right and necessary.

Adding the Alexa Calling and Messaging service to these devices was really just the beginning of Amazon’s plans to add more services until we are using our digital assistants to help with many different and often personal aspects of our lives e.g. from ordering goods and making appointments, to interacting with apps to control the heating in the house, and more. News of this latest incident could, therefore, make some users nervous about taking the next steps to trusting Amazon’s Alexa with more personal details and important aspects of their daily lives.

Amazon may need to be more proactive and overt in explaining how it is addressing the important matters of privacy and security in its digital assistant and devices in order to gain the trust that will enable it to get an even bigger share in the expanding market, and successfully offer a wider range of services via Alexa and Echo devices.

Tech Tip – One Handed Keyboard On An iPhone

If you’ve struggled to use the keyboard on an iPhone and found it a little unwieldy, or had difficulty reaching across the entirety of the keyboard when you have only one hand free, here’s how to adjust the size and position of the keyboard in iOS 11 so you can use it with just one hand:

– Hold down the emoji / globe icon on the keyboard.

– Three small keyboard icons will appear.

– Selecting the one with an arrow pointing to the right will shift the keyboard to the right, and selecting the one pointing to the left will shift the keyboard to the left.

– To put the keyboard back to normal, tap the arrow in the blank space that’s created by the keyboard shift, or hold down the emoji icon again and select the ‘centre’ icon.

Facial Recognition In The Classroom

A school in Hangzhou, capital of the eastern province of Zhejiang, is reportedly using facial recognition software to monitor pupils and teachers.

Intelligent Classroom Behaviour Management System

The facial recognition software is part of what has been dubbed The “intelligent classroom behaviour management system”. The reason for the use of the system is reported to be to supervise both the students’ learning, and the teachers’ teaching.

How?

The system uses cameras to scan classrooms every 30 seconds. These cameras are part of a facial recognition system that is reported to be able to record students’ facial expressions, and categorize them into happy, angry, fearful, confused, or upset.

The system, which acts as a kind of ‘virtual teaching assistant’, is also believed to be able to record students’ actions such as writing, reading, raising a hand, and even sleeping at a desk.

The system also measures levels of attendance by using a database of pupils’ faces and names to check who is in the classroom.

As well as providing the school with added value monitoring of pupils, it may also prove to be a motivator for pupils to modify their behaviour to suit the rules of the school and the expectations of staff.

Teachers Watched Too

In addition to monitoring pupils, the system has also been designed to monitor the performance of teachers in order to provide pointers on how they could improve their classroom technique.

Safety, Security and Privacy

One other reason why these systems are reported to be increasing in popularity in China is to provide greater safety for pupils by recording and deterring violence and questionable practices at Chinese kindergartens.

In terms of privacy and security, the vice principal of the Hangzhou No.11 High School is reported to have said that the privacy of students is protected because the technology doesn’t save images from the classroom, and stores data on a local server rather than on the cloud. Some critics have, however, said that storing images on a local server does not necessarily make them more secure.

Inaccurate?

If the experiences of the facial recognition software that has been used by UK police forces is anything to go by, there may be questions about the accuracy of what the Chinese system records. For example, an investigation by campaign group Big Brother Watch, the UK’s information Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, has recently said that the Police could face legal action if concerns over accuracy and privacy with facial recognition systems are not addressed.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

There are several important aspects to this story. Many UK businesses already use their own internal CCTV systems as a softer way of monitoring and recording staff behaviour, and as a way to modify their behaviour i.e. simply by knowing their being watched. Employees could argue that this is intrusive to an extent, and that a more positive way of getting the right kind of behaviour should (also) have a system that rewards positive / good behaviour and good results.

Using intelligent facial recognition software could clearly have a place in many businesses for monitoring customers / service users e.g. in shops and venues. It could be used to enhance security. It could also, as in the school example, be used to monitor staff in any number of situations, particularly those where concentration is required and where positive signals need to be displayed to customers. These systems could arguably increase productivity, improve behaviour and reduce hostility / violence in the workplace, and provide a whole new level of information to management that could be used to add value.

However, it could be argued that using these kinds of systems in the workplace could make people feel as though ‘big brother’ is watching them, could lead to underlying stress, and could have big implications where privacy and security rights are concerned. It remains to be seen how these systems are justified, regulated and deployed in future, and how concerns over accuracy, cost-effectiveness, and personal privacy and security are dealt with.