Tag Archives: UK

UK law mandates software backdoors, jail for disclosing vulnerability

It’s the hottest trend in spooking: Take law-abiding citizens, usually business owners, and use the justice system to compel them into being your enthusiastic deputies. People pitch in by opening their doors, both physically and digitally, so the government can make use of any supposedly private user data they might have. The seeming enthusiasm of the collaboration comes from the fact that these same orders make it a crime to reveal the collaboration, so service providers must also actively deceive their own users about the true level of privacy they provide.

Now the UK is getting in on the action, as it’s been revealed that under the upcoming Investigatory Powers Bill it will have the ability to order companies to build software “backdoors” into their products, and revealing that collaboration could result in up to a year in prison. More than that, the government is also empowering itself to enlist the services of talented individuals like hackers, and to also legally restrain these people from revealing the work they’ve done — even in open court. In the US, these orders are called as National Security Letters (NSLs), and they have come to be routinely served to everyone from a small business owners to major corporate executives.

cameron head

The bill, widely referred to as the Snoopers Charter, could also mean that citizens subjected to these secret orders, who decide to defy them, would be tried by secret courts and appeal to secret tribunals with zero public accountability or even disclosure of its decisions. This fundamentally makes resistance impossible — try to make a stink about what you see as improper use of government power in the UK, and the UK government may soon be able to respond with a judicial system not all that different from a black bag over the head.

The most famous battle over a National Security Letter in the US came when the creator of Lavabit decided that the only way to alert his customers to government snooping without going to jail was to shut down the service without notice or explanation. These sorts of laws, which not only grant powers but build into the system secrecy about those powers, stultify the discourse and make democracy fundamentally impossible. How do you set defense policy when you are not legally allowed to discuss the full range of defensive practices?

snoopers 2In the documentary CitizenFour, among many other places, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden makes a point of saying that of all the Western intelligence powers, GCHQ, the signals intelligence agency of the United Kingdom, is the most invasive. While NSA has a strong sense of entitlement to push the boundaries of its constitutional limitations, it does exist within the context of those limitations and the tyranny-phobic American system in general.

As a Canadian, someone who has tried investigating even minor details about Canada’s SIGINT body, let me just say that while things may be getting worse in America, they are absolutely not the worst out there. The current parliamentary democracies, whether in Britain, Canada, or elsewhere, have the capacity to produce far less restricted governments and government agencies, while also subjecting those agencies to less meaningful public oversight.

Not that Americans should become any less noisy or demanding about their digital rights — things may be bad all over the Western world, but the fact that Americans are willing to complain so loudly is the only reason things haven’t gotten even worse than they are today.

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UK ‘snoopers’ charter’ is a horrible idea, says Dell chief

A back door into customers’ data will create more problems than it solves, claims Michael Dell

Michael Dell, the chief executive of American PC maker Dell, has condemned the UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill – better known as “the snoopers’ charter” – claiming that forcing technology companies to provide access to their customers’ unencrypted data is a “horrible idea”.

In an interview with the Telegraph, Mr Dell said his company would follow the laws of any given country, but he insisted that breaking the encryption that ensures messages cannot be read as they are sent between devices will cause more problems than it solves.

“Our position on creating a back door inside our products so that the government can get in is that it’s a horrible idea,” he said.

“The reason it’s a horrible idea is if you have a back door it’s not just the people you want to get in that are going to get in, it’s also the people you don’t want to get in. All of the technical experts pretty much agree on this.”

However, he acknowledged that the technology industry has a role to play in helping to educate politicians and the broader government about the risks of the proposed legislation.

“We have an active dialogue with governments around the world, and certainly will engage with the UK government to explain our views from a technical perspective on why things may or may not work,” he said.

The draft Investigatory Powers Bill, published earlier this month, requires tech firms and service providers to help decrypt communications if requested through a warrant.

Today, communications services such as Apple’s iMessage and the Facebook-owned WhatsApp messaging service apply end-to-end encryption, which means providers could not read the contents even if they wanted to.

The draft Bill also requires web and phone companies to store internet histories of every citizen for 12 months.

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Black Friday 2015: what is it, when is it and what are the best deals?

There are just over three weeks to go until the biggest shopping day of the year and some deals are already available so it’s time to start getting prepared. Here’s everything you need to know

Black Friday is a shopping phenomenon in the United States but retailers in the UK are following suit with one-off deals

Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year, when retailers offer drastic deals and discount on their products to kick-start the Christmas shopping season.

If you think Boxing Day gets a little messy, you’re in for a nasty surprise.

Last year, British consumers spent £810m on Black Friday. That’s a rate of £9,375 every second. This year, sales are expected to surpass £1bn, with some predicting that’s how much UK shoppers will spend just on online purchases.

When is Black Friday?

The sales bonanza takes place the day after Thanksgiving, which is the fourth Thursday in November. This year, Black Friday falls on November 27.

Most sales kick off at midnight or at 8am, although the day is creeping earlier and earlier, with some retailers (particularly in the US) launching the deals the evening before. Last year, Amazon released flash deals every 10 minutes for the full week running up to Black Friday, and this year it seems to be running deals for the whole of November.

What are the best deals?

Now it’s November, retailers are starting to promote their deals. Here’s the current offering:

Amazon, which received orders for more than 5.5m goods on Black Friday last year, selling 64 items per second, is offering daily flash deals throughout November

John Lewis has launched its Black Friday website and, like last year, has promised to honour its Never Knowingly Undersold pledge and match its competitors’ prices.

Black Friday to boost footfall – is it stealing sales from Boxing Day?

Argos, which saw 660,000 visits to its website within one hour of launching its Black Friday deals, is encouraging shoppers to pre-register online for quicker access to its best deals.

Currys PC World has launched a price comparison app and is promising to match cheaper prices at its major competitors, including John Lewis, Argos, Asda and AO.com.

Very.co.uk is running “thousands” of deals in the run up to Black Friday, including a £1,299 Samsung 55-inch Curved Full HD Smart TV for £849.

• If you’re looking to buy a new laptop, you might want to wait until Black Friday. Context, the IT supply chain analyst, said that UK retailers imported a record high number of laptops last month.

For an idea of what else to expect, these are the deals that were available last year on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

What is Cyber Monday?

The term Cyber Monday was coined in 2005 to refer to the first day back at work after the Thanksgiving weekend, when people would continue their shopping online on their office computers. This year, Cyber Monday is on November 30th.

While many retailers offer online deals on Black Friday, usually a new trove of internet-only discounts are unleashed on Cyber Monday.

There’s also Small Business Saturday, an initiative started by American Express in the US that was picked up in the UK two years ago. It encourages consumers to support their local retailers.

Then there’s Sofa Sunday, a slightly less established term for the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, when turkey-bloated people who have shopped until they’ve dropped can continue the spending via mobile devices from the comfort of their own homes.

And if all this consumerism is getting you down, look forward to Giving Tuesday, a day that encourages the more charitable side of things.

Why does the UK care about Thanksgiving?

A worthy question.

Black Friday first arrived in the UK five years ago when Amazon thought it would try its luck bringing the shopping sensation to a new market. In 2013, Asda, which is owned by American retail giant Walmart, participated in UK’s version of Black Friday, and last year most major UK retailers including John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Argos and even British Airways jumped on board.

And with that, any remaining English decorum flew out the window. Shoppers trampled over each other in their rush to enter stores and police were called to break up fights as consumers grappled over discounted televisions and behaved “like animals”.

Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland even tabled a motion in the House of Commons criticising “large retailers who chose to adopt the American retail custom of Black Friday” for enabling public disorder and wasting police time. The motion, which was signed by Jeremy Corbyn, called on UK retailers not to engage in Black Friday again.

What will Black Friday look like this year?

While Jeremy Corbyn might be avoiding the sales mayhem, bargain-hungry shoppers are expected to descend in their droves on UK high streets and online stores.

Internet spending on Black Friday alone is expected to hit £1.07bn, a 32pc increase on last year’s £810m, according to Experian-IMRG, which will mark the first time that online retail sales in the UK will surpass £1bn in one day.

Britons will increase their web spending by almost a third on Cyber Monday and New Year’s Day too, to £943m and £638m respectively, while Boxing Day sales will tempt consumers to part with 22pc more than last year, or £856m. Even Christmas Day will not provide respite for wallets, with online spending expected to increase 11pc to £728m.

Over the entire five-week festive period, consumers are expected to spend £4.9bn on internet shopping, up from £4bn in 2014.

Shops themselves will be busy, too. Springboard predicts that footfall on Black Friday will be 11.5pc higher than last year, driven by a 17pc boost in visits to retail parks.

However, that doesn’t bode well for later on in the Christmas shopping period. Footfall is expected to be 8.8pc lower on Boxing Day than it was last year as consumers splash out on earlier sales or choose to shop online.

Last year was the first time that Boxing Day was not the highest retail spending day of the year in the UK.

Where did Black Friday get its name?

The term was first used in this context more than 50 years ago by Philadelphia police officers to describe the chaotic day after Thanksgivingwhen the city was overrun with the traffic of consumers flocking to the Christmas sales and sports fans travelling to the annual Army vs Navy American football match.

Retailers tried to rename the day “Big Friday”, but it didn’t stick.

It is also believed that the name comes from the day when many retailers, which do not make a profit until the Christmas trading period, move from the red into the black.

Due to the chaotic scenes that have become part and parcel of Black Friday, The Telegraph’s front page last year christened the day “black and blue Friday”.

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UK’s first ‘smart Wi-Fi pavement’ to be installed in Chesham

Chesham high street will be the first in the UK to get its own smart Wi-Fi pavement, providing download speeds of up to 166Mbps

The UK’s first “smart Wi-Fi pavement” is to be installed in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, providing over 21,000 residents, businesses and visitors with free superfast public Wi-Fi from under their feet.

The smart pavement will cover Chesham’s high street and parts of Lowndes Park, according to Virgin Media, which is installing the network, and will provide download speeds of up to 166Mbps – seven times the average UK broadband speed.

Local people will reportedly be able to download an episode of Coronation Street, Strictly Come Dancing or Gogglebox at the bus stop with a download speed of less than 35 seconds, assuming a file size of 634Mb.

The network is provided by Wi-Fi access points concealed under manhole covers in the pavement, as well as other “street furniture” such as lamp posts. The manhole covers are made from a specially developed resin that allows radio signals to pass through it.

A specially developed resin manhole cover. Photo:  Jack Terry/Virgin Media/PA Wire

This allows users to pick up ultrafast Wi-Fi at distances of up to 80m from Virgin Media’s high street cabinets, according to Virgin Media.

Users will be able to connect to the network by selecting “Virgin Media Wi-Fi” within the Wi-Fi settings on their device. Virgin Media mobile customers with an Android device will also be able access it through the Virgin Media Wi-Fi Buddy app.

“Not only is this the first time we’ve built metropolitan Wi-Fi directly from our street cabinets, it is also the UK’s first deployment of a Wi-Fi connected pavement. It is literally public Wi-Fi under your feet,” said Gregor McNeil, managing director of consumer at Virgin Media.

“We want to build more networks like this across the UK and encourage more forward thinking councils just like Chesham to get in touch.”

Virgin Media said it chose to work with Chiltern District Council, and Chesham in particular, as the local authority is actively engaged with the local people in trying to find ways to enhance the area for both residents and businesses.

Chesham is demographically representative of the UK population as a whole and is of a size that allows a quick deployment of services across the whole town, rather than specific locations.

In addition, there is a significant presence of independent businesses in the town centre that allow for local-level discussions when piloting new ideas and technology.

“Efficient connectivity is pivotal to running businesses today and I am proud we are part of a project which is crossing new boundaries,” said Councillor Fred Wilson, Chiltern District Council’s cabinet member for customer services and Chesham Town Councillor.

Earlier this year, Virgin Media announced that it was preparing a major expansion of its Wi-Fi network to mount as stronger challenge to BT as broadband and mobile services come together.

This is the first in a series of initiatives to deliver better out-of-home connectivity. The company said it is already in talks with two more local councils on similar public Wi-Fi projects.

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UK firms develop drone-freezing ray

Three British companies have created a device to deter drones from entering sensitive areas by freezing them in mid-flight.

The Anti-UAV Defense System (Auds) works by covertly jamming a drone’s signal, making it unresponsive.

After this disruption, the operator is likely to retrieve the drone believing that it has malfunctioned.

The system joins a host of recently announced technologies which can blast larger drones out of the sky.

A drone flying in sensitive airspace can be detected by the Auds radar and then sighted via a camera equipped with thermal imaging capabilities so that it can be targeted visually.

Then, a high-powered radio signal can be focused on the drone – essentially overriding the connection to whoever is operating it.

The whole process takes as little as 25 seconds, according to the manufacturers.

Radio jam

“It’s a radio signal. There are a number of frequency bands that are used by all of the manufacturers,” explained Paul Taylor of Enterprise Control Systems, which developed the product along with Blighter Surveillance Systems and Chess Dynamics.

“We transmit into those frequencies in the direction of the UAV using a directional antenna,” he told the BBC.

“There’s quite a lot of radio power on to the UAV – so much so that it can only hear our Auds signal.”

The Auds operator can then choose to freeze the drone just for a short time – to convince its owner that there’s something wrong with it – or for a longer period, until its battery dies and it crashes.

Auds has been tested in the UK, the USA and France, said Mr Taylor, and government organisations in all three countries had been involved in those tests.

By training the jamming signal on the drone for a long time, Auds can halt it until the batteries run out

Aviation authorities are increasingly concerned about nuisance hobbyists flying drones close to large aircraft at airports.

The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is now receiving around 100 reports per month from pilots who have sighted drones within a five-mile radius of their aircraft.

Last year the sightings numbered only a few per month.

In response, the FAA recently signed an agreement to test new technology which detects drones and identifies the location of their operator.

A spokesman for UK’s Civil Aviation Authority, however, told the BBC that the organisation was not likely to consider investigating similar technologies any time soon.

“It’s not something that we really feel the need to be doing,” he said. “Our focus is on educating consumers.

“We’ve had our rules in place for over six years now.

“The FAA are a little late to the party in many ways – they developed their regulations only recently.”

Drone killers

Beyond simply halting a small quadcopter drone while in flight, there are also military grade weapons now available to blast larger UAVs out of the sky.

The US Army recently demonstrated a prototype weapon which fires special projectiles at UAVs to damage them.

These projectiles can be steered on approach to the drone, which is tracked on the ground with radar.

Once close enough, warheads on the projectiles can be detonated, theoretically destroying the target vehicle.

Alternatively, militaries around the world could also soon be swatting UAVs out of the air with lasers thanks to Boeing’s Compact Laser Weapons System.

A recent video published on the company’s YouTube profile shows the weapon in action as it burns through the tail of an airborne drone.

Although the technology might sound futuristic, earlier prototypes of so-called “beam weapons” were being tested as long ago as 1974.

It’s taken decades of development for them to be considered viable weapon systems for the military today.

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The super-laboratories bringing the UK to the forefront of life sciences

UK is shaking up its research community with four futuristic research projects that will drive our economy

When the Francis Crick Institute opens its doors in November this year, in London’s Euston, it will be the in Europe. The £700-million, 93,000-square-metre glassed structure will house 1,200 scientists, making it a bleeding-edge life sciences hub, competing with the largest institutions in the US and around the world. Already, it has applied for a license to be the first in the world to edit the genomes of embryos for research purposes. If approved, it will be a historical first for scientific research globally.

Just down the road from the Crick Institute is the British Library — the biggest public structure erected in Britain in the twentieth century. It houses the UK’s second gauntlet thrown down to the global scientific community – the £42-million Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s first national institute for data science. The goal of the newly-opened Turing Institute is to tackle big data, analysing patterns behind major global risks on the horizon: food, water and energy security, climate change, pandemic disease and unstructured urbanization.

Add to this two unique biological datasets – the £300m 100,000 Genomes Project launched by Genomics England in 2014 which will analyse the DNA of 100,000 Britons and link it to their NHS records, and the £95m UK Biobank initiative, which has collected samples from more than half a million UK citizens to research disease and ageing – and the UK is at the forefront of a revolution in life sciences research that will be a vibrant economic engine for the country.

The hope is that these four big bets, which have had over £1bn funnelled into them by the government, UK universities and research bodies, will act as a magnet for for-profit companies in life sciences, bioinformatics, pharmaceutical and biotech.

“We already have a number of companies from elsewhere in the world looking for lab space around us at the moment,” said Sir John Chisholm, who is the Executive Chairman of Genomics England, and the millionaire former chairman of the Medical Research Council. “They are all seeking to position themselves here because they see it as a world leading example of genomic medicine in action.”

Here’s a breakdown of the new British superlabs: what makes them unique, what business opportunities they throw up, and how they’re going to transform the landscape of global biomedical and data research.

100,000 Genomes Project

Worldwide army of scientists cracks the 'junk DNA’ code

As the name suggests, the 100,000 Genomes Project will collect and sequence the genetic information of 100,000 British patients, selected to study the roots of rare genetic diseases such as congenital hearing loss, as well as various cancers like breast and colorectal.

This project is unique and un-replicated globally in how it interlinks an entire national health system – the NHS – with the new field of genomic medicine. “This is something that’s a dream for many places around the world. No one has linked genetic information with records of long-term medical care at the scale that we are doing it in the UK,” Sir Chisholm told the Telegraph.

The genomic data of these patients, collected over three years until 2017, will be used to pinpoint the genetic cause for diseases that no one has been able to diagnose before. “Our very first analyses of 5000 genomes have already discovered some new diseases,” Sir John says. Brothers Allan and William Carpenter, who are aged 69 and 79, were diagnosed with inherited nerve damage based on a marker in their genes, and are now being treated for the first time.

Because the program is anchored in the NHS, and has access to routine medical care records of patients, this means that long-term health problems, medications you’ve taken, previous hospitalisations and your general well-being can be linked with your genetic data to get a much more richly detailed picture of what causes certain diseases.

“We are on the worldwide genomic medicine tourist trial,” Sir John said. Countries all over the world – from the Americas, the Pacific region, Asia and Europe – have visited the centre, with ambitions to run similar programs.

To encourage commercial interest, Genomics England is collaborating with a consortium of 12 companies, including large pharmaceuticals like Astra Zeneca and Glaxo SmithKline, as well as smaller biotech companies. They are currently working on a potential business model for developing drugs or other treatments that come out of the project’s data.

Researchers from these organisations are allowed to access anonymised versions of genomic data, in order to develop commercially viable products, aimed at underserved patients. “It never leaves our servers, so privacy and control is preeminent,” Sir John says.

The project has now expanded to include 11 genomic medical centres including educational hubs like the University of Cambridge, which coordinate 70 nationwide hospital trusts. In total, about 2500 researchers are working to not only to collect DNA data from thousands of people, but sequence, examine and analyse it within the next two years.

Ultimately, the impact of this one-of-a-kind dataset won’t just touch the participants in the trial – it will feed new discoveries and inventions that build on top of it. “We’ve already stimulated the start up of new companies in the UK, in Oxford and Cambridge, which are bringing to market products based on our data,” Sir John said. “Hopefully they will become early players on the world scene.”

UK Biobank

Obesity crisis 'will force hospitals to use super-size MRI scanners at zoos'

The UK Biobank is the largest and deepest dataset of human health and disease in the world. Between 2006 and 2010, the project recruited over half a million participants aged between 40-69 years from 22 centres across the UK, and collected 15 million biological samples.

These volunteers have undergone physical tests, provided biological samples like blood and saliva, and have agreed to have their health status followed until 2016.

Over the next decades, this will build into a powerful resource to help scientists discover why some people develop particular diseases – everything from diabetes to deafness and dementia – and others do not.

Part of the Biobank vision is to figure out what risk factors are associated with diseases, particularly in middle and old age. “Not just the diseases that kill you but also those that lead to hospitalisation, those that affect mobility like pain, or depression,” explained Professor Rory Collins of Oxford University and Principal Investigator of the UK Biobank.

This aim dovetails with Prime Minister David Cameron’s view of turning every user of the National Health Service into a “research patient” to increase life expectancy in the UK. The result: Biobank data will be anonymously linked to each participant’s NHS records so their health can be studied at even greater detail and placed in context of their health history.

All the data from the Biobank is available to commercial and academic research for a nominal fee.

The idea is to turn it into a dataset that commercial partners can use to develop new diagnostics, analytics and treatments. “Pharmaceuticals could use it to identify targets for drugs through genetic studies. The data could help identify if they’re on the right track for certain diseases,” Professor Collins said.

The bioinformatics industry, which analyses biological information using computer algorithms, is also a big commercial opportunity. Swedish researchers have already developed an automated analysis platform to examine MRI images of obese patients, collected by Biobank, and have connected it to Pfizer’s drug database.

“They turned our images into data that could be distributed, which means industry partners could gain hugely from applying their methods to our data and identifying links between risk factors and various diseases like obesity,” Professor Collins said.

Alan Turing Institute

Announced by Chancellor Osborne in 2014, the Turing Institute was established to bring the UK to the forefront of data science. Founded by a group of UK universities, including the Universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, Warwick and UCL, the aim is to bring together the brightest mathematicians and engineers to wrangle big data patterns across disciplines ranging from climate change to cryptography.

In the months running up to its official opening in November 2015, it has announced £10 million of research funding from Lloyd’s Register Foundation, and a new director: Professor Andrew Blake, who currently runs the Microsoft Research Lab in Cambridge.

“The vision of bringing together the mathematical and computer scientists from the country’s top universities to develop the new discipline of data science, through an independent institute with strategic links to commerce and industry, is very compelling,” Professor Blake said.

Turing has also announced a partnership with GCHQ. The two have agreed to work together with the wider national security community for the benefit of data science and analytics research in the UK. They will cooperate on training and research in data-analytical methods that may be applied in open access and commercial environments.

As part of its push to make basic science commercially viable, the Institute is also partnering with Seattle-based supercomputer company Cray Inc. Within this collaboration, Cray Inc will upgrade the ARCHER supercomputer, based at the University of Edinburgh and currently the largest supercomputer for scientific research in the UK, to imbue it with advanced data analytics capabilities.

They will provide a scalable platform for the Turing Institute’s commercial and industry partners to convert data patterns and analytics into for-profit products and services.

Francis Crick Institute

The Francis Crick Institute

As Europe’s largest biomedical research centre, the Crick is one of the most ambitious ideas to come out of the UK life sciences community.

The brain child of Nobel Prize-winning geneticist Paul Nurse, the institute is an eccentric gamble: it won’t have anydepartments, permanent research staff or any sort of scientific focus.

Instead young researchers will be brought in for upto 12 years maximum, and study subjects that are currently trending, in order to make a fast and powerful impact on the study of life sciences.

The first set of researchers will come in from the National Institute for Medical Research and Cancer Research UK, along with scientists from nearby universities Kings College London, University College London and Imperial College. They will study everything from genome editing to heart attacks and will have access to drug-screening robots, top-end electron microscopes and a host of laboratory animals including opposums.

Before the Institute has even opened officially, the researchers it will house have been making waves in the scientific community. In early September, the Institute’s Professor Caetano Reis e Sousa found that widely-used painkiller Aspirin could help boost cancer treatments. And just last week genetics expert Kathy Niakan became the first person to ask permission to edit the genomes of human embryos to understand how humans actually develop.

The Crick’s supporters are hoping it will drive commercial activity in Britain. Its chief operating officer David Roblin, was head of European research and development at pharmaceutical giant Pfizer until 2011. “The Crick is a discovery research institute that is very interested in translation,” Mr. Roblin told Nature. He is trying to lure pharmaceutical companies to place researchers at the Crick in the hope of speeding the transition to the clinic.

His strategy seems to be working.

In July, GlaxoSmithKline become the first pharmaceutical company to tie up with the as-yet-unopened Institute. The deal with GSK does not involve any money changing hands but allows teams of scientists from each organisation to work side by side on the underlying biology of diseases, with the goal of discovering better targets for new medicines. Ultimately, this could lead to money being pumped back into the UK economy from the sale of patented drugs or vaccines.

On top of the Crick’s £750m construction costs, it will have an annual budget of £150m. Because of its sheer size, the Crick will be watched closely – every victory for its scientists could lead to a ripple effect not only in our scientific understanding of superbugs like Ebola or influenza, but in our ability as a nation to impact global health and human longevity.

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Facebook to send out ‘missing child’ alerts in UK news feeds

Facebook users in the UK will now get Child Rescue Alerts in their news feeds if a child has gone missing in their local area

Facebook will start diplaying pictures of missing children in people’s news feeds, in an attempt to alert the public when a child’s life is at risk, and galvanise people into sharing information.

The social network has teamed up with Missing People, the National Crime Agency and Groupcall Limited to launch Child Rescue Alerts, which it claims will help to get information out to the public as quickly as possible and increase eyes and ears on the streets.

“More than half of the people in the UK use Facebook. All over the world, we’ve seen communities rallying together in times of need, using Facebook to spread the word – and these alerts will make that quicker and help to reach more people than ever before during these exceptionally stressful and worrying times,” said Emily Vacher, trust and safety manager for Facebook.

“Working in partnership with several of the UK’s most critical support organisations, we hope we can enlist even more people to help reunite children with their families.”

When a Child Rescue Alert is issued, a Facebook post will now be shown in the news feeds of people who are located within the designated search area.

If an alert is activated by law enforcement and you are within the vicinity of the incident, the alert will appear on your Facebook page as the second item in your news feed. Alerts can be issued on a local, regional or national basis, so police can focus their resources based on the best available intelligence about a child’s whereabouts.

The alert may include a photo, description, location of the disappearance, and any other available information that can be provided to aid in the search. People on Facebook can then share it with friends to spread the word.

In the case where someone has information to share or believes they have seen the missing child, they can access the number to call directly from their Facebook post.

“When a child goes missing, public awareness is a vital tool which can help the police to save a life. Facebook’s support of Child Rescue Alert will not only enable an even larger number of people to be reached quickly – it means we can target the alert to greater effect by focussing on a specific search area,” said Sherri McAra, for the National Crime Agency.

“By harnessing the power of its community, Facebook is making our collective efforts to bring missing children to safety even more powerful.”

Facebook added that a Child Rescue Alert will only be issued if the missing child is believed to be at risk of serious harm or their life is in danger, so they should be taken seriously.

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Three beats EE to launch UK’s first 4G mobile voice service

Three has launched a new service called 4G Super Voice that allows customers to make voice calls over 4G – improving indoor coverage

Three UK has introduced a new technology that it claims will allow mobile signals to travel much further into buildings and reach more rural areas, removing many of the current coverage “blackspots” across the country.

Although around 4.5 million people subscribe to Three’s 4G network for data services, they previously had to drop to 3G when they made regular phone calls. The downside of this was that 3G doesn’t penetrate very far into buildings, so indoor coverage was often poor.

The new service, called 4G Super Voice, will enable Three to carry voice calls over its 4G network, using voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) technology. This means that customers will be able to make calls, send texts and get online in places that previously had poor or no signal.

4G Super Voice is made possible by the addition of low-frequency 800 MHz spectrum to the Three network, following the 4G auction in 2013. The 800 MHz spectrum has shorter wavelengths than Three’s spectrum at 1800MHz, meaning it is better at penetrating through walls.

“Indoor coverage across the industry is always the hardest problem to solve, so all networks, whether it’s 2G, 3G or 4G will always have coverage blackspots,” said Bryn Jones, Chief Technology Officer at Three.

“The way I always think of it is, if you’re trying to get to sleep at night and there’s a party at the end of the street, the sound you hear is the bass, which is the low frequency. You don’t hear the singing, which is the high frequency.”

4G Super Voice is Three’s latest initiative to improve indoor coverage, which includes adding new cell sites to the network and launching its WiFi calling application, Three InTouch, last year.

Three said that 4G Super Voice already covers 50 per cent of the UK population for indoor coverage and more than three quarters of London, Edinburgh, Exeter and Birmingham.

It has also begun rolling out the technology in many other towns and cities across the country including Cardiff, Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol, and hopes to extend it to 65 per cent of the country by the end of 2015.

Young male professional using a smartphoneIndoor mobile coverage is a common problem

Customers require a compatible handset to access the new technology, meaning it has an antenna that picks up 800MHz. This will include the Samsung Galaxy S5 and LG G4 at launch, with new devices – including the recently announced iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models – added later this year.

Customers will need to update their software to the latest version to access 4G Super-Voice. When the update is ready for a customer’s handset an alert will be sent, notifying them to update their operating system, by following the on-screen instructions.

Three UK is the first UK mobile operator to launch VoLTE, but it is not the only one working on the technology. Last year EE announced that it was working on enabling voice and text services over 4G, with a view to launching the service this summer.

O2 and Vodafone are also reportedly conducting trials of VoLTE in the UK. However, none of them have yet launched a commercial service.

“It is the most complex technical project that we’ve done in the network, because if you’re travelling, and you move from a 4G area to a 3G area, you have to transfer the call across without disconnecting it,” said Mr Jones.

“We took an agile approach, which was building a prototype, getting it working and then building upon that prototype, whereas a traditional network organisation would design it on paper first and then try to get it working. That approach helped us to remove all the technical gremlins early.”

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UK lags behind Europe in adopting driverless car tech

As trials for driverless vehicles take place around the world, Britons have been slow to buy cars with semi-autonomous features

Britons lag behind their European peers when it comes to adopting semi-autonomous technology in their vehicles, despite the Government’s attempt to put the UK at the forefront of the driverless car revolution.

Just 19pc of Ford cars sold in the UK in the last year were fitted with parking assistance technology, compared to one in three cars sold across Europe, according to Ford Car Buying Trends 2015.

As many as 72pc of cars sold in Switzerland came equipped with Active Park Assist, which uses sensors to guide the vehicle’s steering system into a parking space, while six in 10 cars bought in the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Germany incorporated this feature.

Of the 22 countries featured in the report, just five were less willing than the UK to purchase vehicles with semi-autonomous driving tools.

In July, the Government launched a £20m research and development fund dedicated to testing driverless cars, as part of the £100m committed in this year’s Budget to researching “intelligent mobility”.

This followed the establishment of the world’s first code of practice in the UK, developed by the Department of Transport, allowing Britain to start testing driverless cars in Bristol, Coventry, Milton Keynes and Greenwich in south-east London.

Google unveils first 'fully functional' driverless car. The internet giant posted a picture online of the white, bubble-shaped car, the most complete self-driving vehicle it has yet put together Google’s driverless car, unveiled in December 2014  Photo: Google/EPA

The global autonomous vehicles industry, which has seen Google and Apple compete with traditional automakers, is expected to be worth £900bn by 2025, boosting the UK economy to the tune of £51bn by 2030.

However, the Ford report suggests that British drivers have not yet embraced technological steps towards autonomous vehicles.

While more than half of Ford cars bought in Europe in the last year were fitted with Adaptive Cruise Control, allowing cars to maintain a constant distance behind the vehicle in front even if it is travelling at a slower speed, just 42pc of British buyers opted for this feature.

Turkey was the biggest adopter of speed control, with 86pc of cars bought in the last year including this technology, followed by Finland with 84pc, Sweden with 79pc and France, the Netherland and Switzerland with 75pc.

ATNMBL is a concept vehicle for 2040 designed by Mike & Maaike ATNMBL is a concept vehicle for 2040 designed by Mike & Maaike  Photo:http://www.mikeandmaaike.com

While 13pc of cars sold across Europe in the last year came with Active City Stop, which automatically applies the brakes if a driver does not react to traffic ahead – rising to nearly 60pc in Sweden and Norway – just 3pc of drivers in the UK bought a car with this feature.

The report also found that 3pc of cars bought in Britain had Lane Keeping Aid, a tool that alerts drivers if they veer outside their lane, compared to 51pc in Sweden, 28pc in Norway and 21pc in Switzerland.

“While manufacturers including Ford are working toward autonomous vehicles, our customers are already embracing many of the smart technologies that make driving and parking easier and safer,” said Roelant de Waard, European vice president of marketing, sales and service at Ford.

“We are seeing increasing demand for features that relieve the stresses of driving, and make it more enjoyable. For example, people have very quickly become accustomed to systems that help them to find a suitable parking space and reverse into it.”

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London, you can now order burgers using emoji

Hungry Londoners can now order burgers using nothing more than emoji.

The inventively named BurgerBurger asks people to place orders for burgers, fries and beers using the relevant emoji. “Want two burgers? Send two emojis” the website explains.

The burgers are delivered from “London’s finest”, with Patty & Bun, Tommi’s and Meat Liquor all listed — although Honest Burger is nowhere to be seen. All deliveries are couriered to an address of your choosing. The site and service itself are the work of social networking app Togethera.

WIRED.co.uk tried to place an order for one burger using the service but, somewhat disappointingly, we were asked to complete our order online — there is also a £2 delivery fee for lazy diners.

The app comes as Amazon, Deliveroo and Gett, among other services, are exploring to varying degrees of commitment the concept of on-demand deliveries. Uber is among those services which has made stuttering progress in the area too, and though it seems content for now to stick with taxis the suspicion is that ultimately its infrastructure will be applied to other, broader services.

It remains to be seen whether offering one product — or rather three, in the form of burgers, fries and beer — will give Burger Burger enough momentum to make any sort of headway in the machine-learning gap between itself, Uber, Google et al. But one thing is for sure — August 27 is National Burger Day, so order away hungry Londoners.

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