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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 25th May 2016

Finding new, productive tasks for staff is the real challenge, not just cutting costs

Automating tasks with technology can save staff lots of time, cut costs and improve morale, but firms need to think about how this free time is used in terms of productivity to achieve the true benefits of automation.

Marcus Austin, an analyst at research firm Quocirca, said at a web seminar hosted by V3 sister site Computing that this planning needs to happen far earlier than it does now.

"There isn't a lot of thought put into the next step for the business when automating," he said.

"They've put systems in to reduce complex tasks, but what do staff do with that saved time? Firms need to understand it's a stepped process. Automation isn't a solution in itself.

"You need to start thinking about [how to use this saved time] as you're putting these systems in."

But this saved time is one of the principal benefits of automation, as Donnie MacColl, director of EMEA technical services at HelpSystems, explained.

"When I ask people what I can do to make their working life better, most say 'time'. They want a single pane of glass. They have multiple screens, devices, databases, applications, and it would be good to bring them all together into one screen," he said.

"So bring all those systems into single pane. Bring in all the messages and alerts you need to do something with. Put them into an easily repeatable, automated task, then non-IT people can be empowered to do them.

"For instance, a sales person might want their sales figures at 5pm every day. If it's automated they can run that task themselves at 5pm. It doesn't need a request to go to IT every day."

Computing's own research into automation found that 69 per cent of respondents cited cost reduction as the main driver, while 66 per cent cited increased productivity.

MacColl, however, pointed to other statistics from the research showing that 47 per cent cited increased reliability and 22 per cent less downtime. "If you add those together it becomes joint top," he said.

He added that automation can reduce mundane, repetitive tasks which can lead to improved employee morale and lower staff turnover.

"That leads to reduced costs, but perhaps not in the direct, tangible way you may have expected upfront," MacColl explained.

So what are the first steps to introducing automation into a business? MacColl advised firms to start with the simplest processes first.

"I recommend people start with mundane, boring, repetitive tasks. That's the low-hanging fruit. It's checking servers are OK, applications are up and running, network ports are open and that people have access to the systems they should. Automate that easy stuff first then move on to the more complex stuff," he said.

Further research by Computing found that 54 per cent of those surveyed said that routine maintenance and patching could most usefully be automated, while 51 per cent cited backups as the top choice.

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 25th May 2016

More problems in Europe for search firm

Google’s offices in Paris have been raided by as many as 100 tax officials after the company was accused of failing to pay tax returns amounting to £1.3bn, according to the BBC.

French regulators confirmed the raids, as reported by Reuters, and Google has said that it is cooperating with the investigation.

“We comply with French law and are cooperating fully with the authorities to answer their questions," the company said in a statement.

The move comes amid growing scrutiny of Google in Europe concerning tax payments and alleged anti-competitive behaviour.

The UK government was criticised last year for agreeing a £130m deal with Google over unpaid taxes, which was a fraction of what was owed and of the revenue and profit that the firm generates.

More recently, the European Commission filed a Statement of Objections against Google concerning alleged abuse of its search market dominance to favour its own services at the expense of others.

Google faces the possibility of a €3bn fine if the firm cannot convince the regulators that this is not the case.

Google is also at loggerheads with French authorities over the Right to be Forgotten after the nation's privacy watchdog, CNIL, ruled that successful requests must be applied to the firm's entire search database, not just in EU nations.

However, the company has appealed to the highest court in France, arguing that the ruling would create a dangerous precedent and block access to search results in regions where that access is perfectly legal.

“As a matter of law and principle, we disagree with this demand. We comply with the laws of the countries in which we operate," Kent Walker, senior vice president and general counsel at the company, said last week.

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 23rd May 2016

Google has patented a technology that will attach people to the front of your self-driving car after a collision, The Mercury News reports.

The adhesive layer would coat the front of a self-driving car but be covered by something that's not sticky. When you hit someone, the outer layer would be removed, exposing the glue.

After a crash, the victim would be stuck to the front of the car, preventing them from another injury as they're thrown backwards.

The existence of a patent about gluing people to cars doesn't mean that it's actually going to happen, though. Large technology companies like Google patent lots of ideas, but only a few actually make it to production.

Self-driving cars are, in theory, safer than cars driven by humans. But they still get into accidents. In February one of Google's driverless cars hit a bus in Mountain View. And the owner of a Tesla Model S claimed earlier this month that his car crashed into a trailer while in "Summon" mode.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 23rd May 2016

Queen's Speech promises compensation for any household unable to get at least 10Mbps broadband

The government has outlined plans in the Queen's Speech for every household in the UK to have "the right" to high-speed broadband and automatic compensation for those that get left behind.

The plans were outlined by the Queen in the State Opening of Parliament today. She said that the government's proposed Digital Economy Bill will "make the UK a world leader in digital provision", in which the country would be "ceaselessly" transformed by technology.

"Legislation will be introduced to ... make the United Kingdom a world leader in the digital economy," the Queen said.

The broadband promises will be underwritten by a new Broadband Universal Service Obligation which expects minimum UK broadband speeds to be 10Mbps initially. The Bill would also, however, deliver direct power to Ofcom to "review the speed over time to make sure it is still sufficient for modern life".

Ofcom will also be given the power to release data on customer complaints and actual broadband speeds to help customers better navigate the market. Automatic compensation is also promised for when things go wrong with a broadband service.

The Bill lays out welcome developments for UK customers still suffering from poor quality connections, especially in low bandwidth areas, while certain government ministers regularly tout their own apparent success with fast broadband rollouts.

However, the so-called "new" nature of the Universal Service Obligation is slightly strange in that 10Mbps has been the government's supposed service standard since prime minister David Cameron's speech on the matter in November.

Cameron also spoke at the time of access to superfast broadband as a "right".

Ofcom laid out its own spin on the plans on 12 May, mentioning an idea to harness a sub-band in the 5GHz frequency range (most routers currently use the 2.4GHz frequency) while ensuring protection for other users, such as satellite services.

The government seems to be presenting old promises as new, but it is encouraging to see realistic broadband provision in rural and other ‘notspot' areas of the UK to counter the ongoing bluster of politicians.

However, 10Mbps per second still seems a low target for a rural UK filled with such digital promise.

Paul Evans, CEO of internet speed boosting company Boosty, is also concerned that the UK's infrastructure isn't robust enough to support such changes in the timeframes envisaged by the government.

"Realistically, even if the government's plans are pushed through, it could still take up to five or six years to roll out superfast fibre broadband," he said.

"By then the broadband infrastructure may not be sufficient to support a new generation of digital services."

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 23rd May 2016

Almost two-thirds of people aged over 75 have never gone online, suggest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Despite this, net use among this group is growing with the numbers trying the net doubling since 2011, it found.

It also revealed that 25% of disabled people have yet to use the net - a figure campaigners called "shocking".
About 88% of all UK adults, about 46 million people, used the net in the last three months, it said.

High cost
The ONS bulletin on net use in the first three months of 2016 revealed that 91% of people living in London went online regularly. By contrast, in Northern Ireland only 82% of people are regular users of online sites and services.

Pete Lee, from the ONS's surveys and economic division, said the statistics revealed some significant changes in usage and exposed those sectors of the population where net use remained low or patchy.

Net use among women aged 75 and over had grown by 169% since 2011, it found. However, it found that a significant number of older people who start using the net did not do so consistently. About 5% of those aged 75 or more had stopped using the net in early 2016.

"While we have seen a notable increase in internet usage across all groups in recent years, many older and disabled people are still not online," said Mr Lee.

Mark Atkinson, chief executive at disability charity Scope, said it was "shocking" that 25% of disabled people had not used the net as it created a significant digital divide.

"Digital access has the power to make life cost less," he said. "Many people go online to compare the best consumer deals and offers."

"Life costs more if you are disabled, from higher energy bills to specialist equipment. Scope research shows these costs add up to on average £550 per month," he added.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 17th May 2016

The BBC has reportedly been encouraged by the UK government to launch an online subscription service that could rival Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The publicly-funded British broadcaster has held talks with competitors, including ITV and NBC Universal, about collaborating to build the new service, according to reports in The Telegraph and The Guardian.

This suggests that the online streaming service, which is reported to have the working title "Britflix," would also include content not produced by the BBC, making it a direct competitor with Netflix.

The BBC and ITV declined to comment, while NBC were not immediately available for a response.

UK culture secretary John Whittingdale told The Telegraph: "We’re moving into a different world where more and more content is going to be made available on demand. Collaboration with other broadcasters and other production companies we think is important. If they want to explore that kind of thing, we’d encourage them."

"Britflix" is also expected to charge viewers to watch a back catalog of programs that were broadcast more than 30 days previously. Currently programs that were aired within the last 30 days are free to watch on the BBC's catch-up service iPlayer.

The new service may also include original content. However, existing shows are not expected to be put behind a pay wall. At this stage, there are no details for how the premium streaming service will look.

The chart shows that Netflix had more than 4.3 million UK subscribers in Q1 2015.

BBC talks with ITV and NBC have been ongoing since at least March, when The Guardian first picked up on it. However, last Thursday Whittingdale announced a raft of proposed changes to how the BBC is governed.

Within the whitepaper, the government said it welcomes "the BBC’s commitment to develop and test some form of additional subscription services."

"Licence fee payers will not be asked to pay for ‘top-up’ services for anything they currently get," according to the proposal.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 17th May 2016

The UK's Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is working on a smartphone version of its driving licence.

Chief executive Oliver Morley tweeted a photo showing a "prototype" using Apple's Wallet app on an iPhone.
He says it will be an "add-on" to the plastic card rather than a replacement.

Wallet already stores boarding passes and credit, debit, gift and discount cards. Payment information is encrypted end-to-end and authorised with the user's fingerprint or passcode.

CCS Insight analyst Ben Wood said: "Security has taken a significant step forward to support digital payments on phones, so the framework is in place for other secure applications, such as a digital driving licence.
"There are not many people in the UK that do not carry a smartphone with them every day, so it is a logical next step."
Chris Green, technology analyst at the business consultancy Lewis, said digital wallets were "a massively underrated and under-exploited resource".
"People are getting more and more used to the technology because of e-ticketing," he said.
"People are far more comfortable with the concept of keeping key information on their smartphone."

Paperless passes
DeLaRue, which prints British banknotes and passports, has already said it is working on a paperless passport.
And the NHS has announced a £4bn plan to move to a "paperless" platform.

British passport
Morpho Trust, a US security company that provides driver's licences, has been piloting a digital licence product in Iowa since August 2015.

It says it:

allows users to change their address, details, and whether or not they are an organ donor without visiting the state's motor vehicle agency
makes it easier for residents to have their licence updated when they reach the legal drinking age of 21
And in Australia, the New South Wales government has announced the introduction of digital licences, which it says will eliminate the need for a physical card.

The first licences issued under the new system are for fishing, the purchase of alcohol, and responsible gambling.
A driver's licence is due to be available in digital format by 2018.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 16th May 2016

The UEFA 2016 Championships kick off in just under a month with the opening match between France and Romania in Paris.

And just as the coaches and players gear up for the big event, hoping that their tactics and training will lead them to glory, so do the teams behind the scenes, not least those in the IT function who play a vital role in delivering the event.

V3 spoke to Daniel Marion, head of ICT at UEFA, to find out more about how the organisation has prepared for the event and how much has changed since 2012.

“In 2012 we were just seeing the rise of tablets and mobile content. This has obviously grown massively in the last four years so we’ve upgraded lots of our apps for mobile devices,” he said.

“Four years ago people were accessing content on their phones but not for long periods of time. But that’s changed now as people can spend hours on their phone. So we design a lot of what we offer for the mobile first.”

Marion explained that this work is not just for fan services that provide information on matches and player stats, but for staff, such as for match day volunteers and event staff so they know their shift times and where they will be based.

He added that it has proved a lot easier to provide this information via apps on iOS and Android devices than on old desktop-based platforms.

“When you have a tablet or phone app it’s very easy for staff to get accustomed to using it, far easier than back-office software, so that’s a real change from last time [2012],” he explained.

UEFA is also set to trial a technological first for the UEFA Championships during the event by allowing fans in Lyon and the Stade de France in Paris to order food and drinks from outlets directly from their phones or tablets.

UEFA uses a private cloud environment to host these services, which is maintained by Interoute via data centres in Geneva backed up in Amsterdam.

“Working in this way gives us the flexibility we need. We are more comfortable with our own private cloud platform [than public] and we can still allocate resources as we need,” Marion said.

One development in the relationship between Interoute and UEFA since the last tournament has been the ability to ‘scale’ the service level agreements on certain aspects as and when required.

For instance, the SLA on its main website can be scaled to the top-level platinum on match days when maintaining availability is critical, before scaling it back to gold or silver during non-match days and the evenings.

However while UEFA prefers the use of a private cloud for its core systems, front- and back-end, it is experimenting with a public cloud for a new ticketing software-as-a-service platform run from a public environment.

Marion added that UEFA is not averse to using a public cloud in other ways in the future, although only when it is comfortable with integrating it into the organisation's operations.

“We don’t have the experience of running our core systems in that way, so it may be more for training and staging for development that we can use [public cloud] more," he said.

Another notable change in 2016 is that the tournament has been extended from 16 to 20 teams. This means using 10 rather than eight stadiums, adding more sites for the ICT team to maintain.

Marion said it has not proved too much harder in terms of time and effort, but has increased the need for skilled staff who are not always easy to find, a common problem for all organisations.

“Having two extra venues does make it more challenging because we need good people and they are scarce, so this was a challenge to find them because we have to be as resilient as possible,” he said.

However, everything is on track for the big launch, and when football fans turn to their TV, tablet or phone, or appear at the match itself, it'll be thanks in no small part to the efforts of the UEFA ICT team managed by Marion.

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 16th May 2016

Tens of millions of usernames and passwords for Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo email accounts have been hacked and details traded online, according to a security expert.

Data from around 97 million accounts have been stolen as part of a huge cyber attack that is thought to affect around 272.3 million users worldwide, said Alex Holden, founder and chief information security officer of Hold Security.

In one of the biggest data breaches in years, the information is being traded in Russia’s criminal underworld for next to nothing, it has been claimed.

It is thought that credentials from around 40 million Yahoo Mail accounts, 33 million Hotmail accounts and 24 million Gmail accounts have been accessed.

But the majority of the usernames stolen are from Russia’s most popular email service Mail.ru

Holden, who was speaking to Reuters, has previously uncovered huge data breaches affecting millions of users at at AdobeSystems, JPMorgan and Target.

His latest discovery is said to come after researchers found a young Russian hacker bragging in an online forum that he had collected and was ready to give away a far larger number of stolen credentials.

Mysteriously, the hacker asked just 50 roubles – just over 50p – for the entire trove, but gave up the dataset after Hold researchers agreed to post favourable comments about him in hacker forums, Holden said.

He said his company’s policy is to refuse to pay for stolen data.
‘This information is potent. It is floating around in the underground and this person has shown he’s willing to give the data away to people who are nice to him,’ said Holden.

‘These credentials can be abused multiple times.’

A Microsoft spokesman said stolen online credentials was an unfortunate reality. ‘Microsoft has security measures in place to detect account compromise and requires additional information to verify the account owner and help them regain sole access.’

Yahoo and Google did not respond to requests for comment.

A Mail.ru spokeswoman said it was checking whether the email combinations match those still actively in use.

Source: metro.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 16th May 2016

Launched out of his i.am+ business, musician-cum-entrepreneur will.i.am has unleashed his Dial “smart band” on the UK market. Impressively, it works independently without the need for a mobile to be connected – ideal for on-the-go leaders.

The reliance smartwatches have on connecting to smartphones to work, like the Apple Watch and iPhone, has been a common complaint for users.

As such, it’s meant that growth of that particular wearable sector has been stunted with people claiming they’re unsure there’s a need for an extension of their phone.

will.i.am is looking to change that with his Dial wearable, which is dubbed a “smart band” rather than the commonly used term of smartwatch. Fitted with its own sim card, Dial provides the ability to make calls, text, send emails and so on without a mobile in the vicinity.

Available to pre-order exclusively from Three, the gadget comes complete with a music streaming service boasting over 20m tracks. Not only is the platform ad-free, there isn’t an extra charge attached to accessing it in the same way that there are costs for Spotify, Tidal and so on.

Additionally, the mobile network says all music streaming and downloads on Dial plans will be free of data charges.

The band has been designed to blend wearable technology with fashion and comes complete with artificial intelligence (AI) feature AneedA, which has been produced to recognise usage so responses can be tailored to customers.

Functions supported by AneedA include track selection, playlist customisation, news updates, restaurant discovery, social media, taxi and flight bookings, photos and more.

The particular feature would probably be of interest to Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, who is eagerly working on developing tech witnessed in the Iron Man films from Marvel.

Lianne Norry, director of brand and marketing communications at Three, said: “We are really excited about the launch of dial and its new music service, is a step towards a new and exciting mobile experience for our customers.

“We pride ourselves in being ahead of the curve and identifying future mobile technology trends and felt that zero-rating all related music to this device gives our customers the freedom to enjoy music whenever they want.”

All devices come completed with Bluetooth-enabled EP headphones from i.am+, while other Dial features include 3G, WiFi, GPS, 1.63-inch screen, 2MP front-facing camera, and 32GB of storage.

On a 24-month contract, Dial prices start at £22 a month with a £49 upfront cost or £25 a month with a £19 upfront fee.

Source: realbusiness.co.uk
 
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