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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 11th Jul 2016

On Wednesday, police in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, shot and killed a man named Philando Castile during a traffic stop. His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, was riding in the car at the time.

She opened the Facebook app on her phone and broadcast the aftermath of the shooting using the new Facebook Live feature. (Warning: content is graphic.) Anybody who tuned in was able to watch the graphic image of Castile bleeding. 

The next day, protests against police violence erupted around the country.

During one of those protests, in Dallas, a gunman shot a dozen police officers. So far, five have died.

This time, a Facebook user named Michael Kevin Bautista broadcast the action live. (Warning: content is graphic.)

As of Friday afternoon, each video had been watched more than 5.4 million times.

By way of comparison, the most popular nightly news broadcast last week, ABC World News Tonight on June 27, reached 8.5 million viewers. 

When Facebook introduced Live in April, it wasn't quite clear what people would use it for. Among other things, BuzzFeed broadcast people adding rubber bands to a watermelon exploding, and more than 3 million people watched it live. It's now had more than 10 million people watch it. 

Now it's clear what Facebook Live is for.

It's replacing the last stronghold of television: live events.

TV is under assault by cord-cutting, where people watch their favorite shows online and dispense with a cable subscription altogether.

Last September, TV ratings started to see a catastrophic year-over-year decline, and Nielsen ratings show a slow but steady decline in the amount of TV watched by nearly all demographic groups over the last five years.

A recent Nielsen poll of more than 30,000 people around the world also found that 20% to 25% of viewers under the age of 49 plan to cut the cord in coming years.

cord cuttingNielsen/Statista

Sure, people might stop watching the latest network drama in favor of a Netflix or Amazonexclusive, but nothing would ever replace TV for live sports and breaking news.

But over the last year, we've started to see the first hints that live sports won't be a TV exclusive forever. Twitter plans to broadcast Thursday-night NFL games next season, and Facebook wasalso in on the bidding.

Live sports is better on TV than when shot by somebody on their smartphone. There's too much value in the expert camera work, the instant replays, and even (sometimes) the commentary. So any tech company that wants to replace the networks is going to have to win a bidding war.

The same isn't true for live news. Sometimes, a good news broadcast can help viewers make sense of what they're seeing. But the decisions about what to broadcast and how to show it are influenced by a lot of people along the way, from reporters to producers. That leaves TV news open to accusations of bias and poor news judgment.

Plus, a lot of TV news is boring. A lot of time the broadcasters seem to be struggling to fill the airtime, endlessly replaying the same video clips over and over again, talking to fill space. It's not particularly interesting or immediate. It feels instantly out of date.

Compare that with millions of people with smartphones, filming and broadcasting big events as they happen. 

Twitter is definitely in the live-video game with Periscope, and both are following Snapchat Stories.

But Facebook has the audience. Nobody has to download the Facebook app and figure out how to use it — over a billion people already have it. 

When a big event happens, anybody on Facebook can tune in to see exactly what's going on, unfiltered, directly from a bystander's point of view. Why run to the nearest TV?

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 11th Jul 2016

Amazon's largest drone delivery test site is a secret site somewhere in the UK, according to the cofounder of Amazon's Prime Air business.

Daniel Buchmueller, who leadsAmazon's drone development operations in the UK, made the announcement at the Amazon Web Services Summit in London on Thursday.

"We have [drone] development centres right here in the UK. In the United States, in Austria, and in Israel," he said.

"These are places where we have dedicated indoor facilities. But we also have outdoor testing facilities. In fact, our largest outdoor facility is right here in the UK."

Several Business Insider sources have suggested that the outdoor site is somewhere in Cambridge, which would make sense as Amazon has an R&D facility in the city.

Business Insider asked Amazon about the Cambridge site. We requested the address, the size, and we also asked how often Amazon uses it.

An Amazon spokeswoman replied: "I did not say our outdoor facility was in Cambridge; just in the UK. As I’m sure you can appreciate, we do not disclose the other details you requested."

The fact that Amazon is refusing to say where its UK drone testing site isn't that surprising. It probably doesn't want people turning up there and capturing Amazon's drone activities with their smartphones. Tests don't always go to plan and a viral video of an Amazon drone crashing into a tree wouldn't help Amazon to get the drones approved and into operation.



 Buchmueller said that Amazon has over a dozen prototype drones in operation worldwide. That figure may seem relatively low but it's still early days for Amazon Prime Air.

Amazon wants to use the drones to deliver packages to people's homes and offices in under 30 minutes. It claims they will be greener, cheaper, and safer than the vans that are currently used to deliver Amazon packagers.

The battery-powered vehicles rise vertically like a helicopter up to 400 feet before flying up to 15 miles at speeds of up to 50mph. The 25kg drones are "highly automated," according to Buchmueller, who added that they have been designed to carry packages up to 2kg in weight.

Speaking at the same event, Liam Maxwell, the government's chief technology officer, said the UK is "open" and "more progressive" than other countries when it comes to drone testing.

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 11th Jul 2016

Up to 10 million Android smartphones have been infected by malware that generates fake clicks for adverts, say security researchers.

The software is also surreptitiously installing apps and spying on the browsing habits of victims.

The malware is currently making about $300,000 (£232,000) a month for its creators, suggests research.

The majority of phones that have been compromised by the malicious software are in China.

Remote control

A spike in the number of phones infected by the malware was noticed separately by security companies Checkpoint and Lookout. The malware family is called Shedun by Lookout but Hummingbad by Checkpoint

In a blogpost, Checkpoint said it had obtained access to the command-and-control servers that oversee infected phones which revealed that Hummingbad was now on about 10 million devices. China, India, the Philippines and Indonesia top the list of nations with most phones infected by the software.

Hummingbad is a type of malware known as a rootkit that inserts itself deep inside a phone's operating system to help it avoid detection and to give its controllers total control over the handset.

The ability to control phones remotely has been used to click on ads to make them seem more popular than they actually are. The access has also been used to install fake versions of popular apps or spread programs the gang has been paid to promote.

"It can remain persistent even if the user performs a factory reset," wrote Kristy Edwards from Lookout in a blogpost. "It uses its root privileges to install additional apps on to the device, further increasing ad revenue for the authors and defeating uninstall attempts."

Ms Edwards said the recent spike in infections could be driven by the gang behind the malware adding more functions or using their access to phones for different purposes.

The malware gets installed on handsets by exploiting loopholes in older versions of the Android operating system known as KitKat and JellyBean. The latest version of Android is known as Marshmallow.

In a statement, Google said: ""We've long been aware of this evolving family of malware and we're constantly improving our systems that detect it. We actively block installations of infected apps to keep users and their information safe."

Google released the latest security update for Android this month and it tackled more than 108 separate vulnerabilities in the operating system. So far this year, security updates for Android have closed more than 270 bugs.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 29th Jun 2016

A 16-year-old British boy has admitted launching cyber attacks on websites around the world.

The defendant, who cannot be named due to his age, admitted targeting Florida's SeaWorld theme park and Devon and Cornwall Police in the attacks.

The teenager, from Plymouth, pleaded guilty at the city's youth court to three offences, committed between October 2014 and January 2015.
He has denied two charges of sending bomb hoaxes to US airlines via Twitter.
The boy admitted targeting SeaWorld's website in the cyber attacks

The defendant admitted three offences under Section 3 of the Computer Misuse Act, relating to denial of service attacks.
"A large part of the websites that I had taken down were to do with dolphin hunting," the boy told the court.
"I have always been for animal rights and I am really into computers and things so I thought, in protest, and to see what I could do, I would do it.
"I joined up with other people who were doing it. I was fighting for animal rights."
Prosecuting, Ben Samples told the court American Airlines received a threat allegedly made by the boy on Twitter on 13 February 2015.
He said the tweet read: "One of those lovely Boeing airplanes has a tick, tick, ticking in it. Hurry gentlemen, the clock is ticking."

FBI notified
The tweet was also tagged to the White House Twitter account and the FBI was notified, Mr Samples said.
No action was taken by the US authorities following an assessment of the credibility of the threat and the matter was passed to the UK authorities, the court heard.
A similar tweet was also sent to Delta Air Lines on the same day, Mr Samples said.
The boy has denied two counts of sending bomb hoaxes to Delta Air Lines and American Airlines
Investigators from the Zephyr Regional Cyber Crime Unit traced the threats to the twitter account of the boy and seized his computer, the court heard.
The prosecution said the boy had changed his story about whether he sent the tweets during police interview, before finally denying the charges.

A twitter account used by the boy later tweeted the Zephyr Regional Cyber Crime Unit, saying "to be fair they caught me red handed" and "I still maintain the utmost respect for Zephyr", Mr Samples said.
The teenager was charged with the five offences in November following the investigation.
He has admitted three counts of doing an act to hinder access to a programme or data held in a computer.
Judge Diane Baker has retired to consider her verdict in the case and judgement is due next Wednesday.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 28th Jun 2016

Microsoft has agreed to pay a Californian woman $10,000 (£7,500) after an automatic Windows 10 update left her computer unusable.

Teri Goldstein said her Windows 7 computer had automatically tried to update itself to Windows 10 without her permission.
She said the update had made her machine unstable, leaving her unable to use it to run her business.
Microsoft said it had dropped its appeal to save on legal costs.
Microsoft has been aggressively pushing the latest version of its widely used operating system, which is currently available as a free download for computers running Windows 7 and 8.
However, many people have chosen not to upgrade, because they are running old hardware, have software that does not run on Windows 10, are concerned over the software's tracking features, or simply do not want it.
In February, the company bundled Windows 10 in with its security updates and made it a "recommended update", which meant it was automatically downloaded and installed unless blocked by the user.
Some people accused the company of trying to "trick" customers into installing the update.
The Seattle Times reported that Ms Goldstein's computer had "slowed to a crawl" after the update, and Microsoft customer support had not fixed the problem.
"I had never heard of Windows 10. Nobody ever asked me if I wanted to update," she told the newspaper.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 28th Jun 2016

Beware, Zuckerberg is watching you…​

You know the drill – if a service like Facebook is free, then you're the product. That means letting it know everything about you, including your age, job, friends, family members, tastes and quirks. But Facebook is taking it a step further, and keeping tabs on not only these, but all your activity too.

How? Have a read and find out. Though a word of warning: it might put you off social networking for good.


Make no mistake, Facebook is – mostly – a very sophisticated way of selling advertising. But in recent years, doubts have begun to emerge as to how effective it is at translating ads into actual sales. Now Facebook is trying to prove its worth, but in a rather creepy way.

Starting soon, the social network will use its location-based services feature to monitor which shops you visit. That way, it can show advertisers that so many people who saw their ad ended up going to one of their bricks-and-mortar shops. Bully for them. But it's all a bit Big Brother-ish for our liking.


Obviously Facebook knows a ton of information about you, like your age, where you live, where you went to school, and anything else you've put on your profile. But it also harvests data on your other web activity, like online searches and information you share with retailers.

Facebook claims it's all in order to serve users more relevant adverts. However, critics claim the social network is prioritising profits over users' privacy. Perish the thought…


It's not just your web habits or where you shop that Facebook is watching – it's keeping tabs on you wherever you go. By agreeing to its terms and conditions, you've agreed to let it track your "device locations, including specific geographic locations, such as through GPS, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi signals".

In other words, wherever you go, Facebook knows about it. Though if you only use Facebook on a desktop computer, it won't be able to follow your every move. Just one more reason to use Facebook at work, then.


If you've ever wondered how Facebook knows who's in a photo with you and suggests you tag them, the answer is rather worrying: it's been mapping all of our faces in order to pick us out of a crowd.

Facebook openly admits this in its privacy policy, which states: "We are able to suggest that your friend tag you in a picture by comparing your friend's pictures to information we've put together from your profile pictures and the other photos in which you've been tagged." Though there is a way to disable this. Head to Settings > Timeline > Tagging and turn it off. Phew.


Undoubtedly you've seen people on Facebook whose profile pictures have a rainbow filter. That's because they're some of the 26 million people who installed Facebook's Celebrate Pride app last year. Facebook knows the number was 26 million because it keeps tabs on which filters you use, as well as what other apps you install.

The social network has confirmed that it doesn't use this data to target adverts, or to extrapolate information about its users. But it is watching exactly what you're doing, down to which tweaks you make to your own profile picture. Scary.


Amazingly, Facebook even takes note of what you type on the site but never post. That means it knows about those drunk messages to your ex that you thought better of and deleted before you could post.

However, it can't actually read what you wrote, which is a godsend. That's because it can't monitor which keys were pressed. Though it can record when characters and words are typed, how many are typed, and if the typed characters were deleted or abandoned.

In the study Self-Censorship on Facebook, data scientist Adam Kramer (who works at Facebook) and student Sauvik Das analysed the html element of each page for 3.7 million Facebook users. Every time text was entered, even if it was never posted, they could track the changes in the html code. According to the study, 71% of us type something on Facebook then delete it without posting. If only more people had that kind of filter.


Last year, Facebook admitted it had tracked users who don't have a Facebook account, though it claimed this was because of a bug that has since been fixed. (Hmm, a likely story.)

It was claimed a bug mistakenly sent cookies to some people who were not Facebook users, allowing the social network to track their online activities. "This was not our intention," Facebook said in response. Maybe not, but it's worrying all the same.


A couple of weeks ago, Facebook announced it will track all internet users – whether they're on Facebook or not – in order to target adverts to them. Previously, it only showed adverts to its users when they used websites and apps in its Audience Network advertising network. Now it will tailor ads to anyone who visits a property that's within the Audience Network.

It will do this by using Like buttons and other pieces of code on web pages across the internet. Facebook claims there will be an option for all users to opt out. Just don't expect it to be easy to find.


OK, admittedly this one wasn't Facebook itself, but still, it's pretty creepy. Danish hacker Søren Louv-Jansen discovered that most of his friends checked Facebook first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Because Facebook Messenger makes public when a user was last online – even if they've opted out of chat – it's easy to create a program that automatically scrapes Facebook for this data. Which is exactly what Louv-Jansen did.

His sleep-tracking program told him when his friends logged on and off, hence letting him know when they went to sleep and when they woke up. Obviously the data wasn't 100% accurate. But as a broad picture of people's sleeping patterns, it's pretty great, especially considering it only took a couple of hours to make.

Source: digitalspy.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 28th Jun 2016

It is probably not controversial to say that the UK tech scene, and in particular London, was very much in the Remain camp in the EU referendum.

Tech entrepreneurs were worried about what Brexit would mean for access to the single market, the confidence of investors and their access to skilled staff from across Europe.

At an event at the Wayra tech incubator in London on the very day of the referendum, a secret ballot showed an overwhelming majority voting to remain.

But now some powerful voices in the tech community are trying to dispel the gloom and paint a brighter picture of the UK's post-Brexit future as a hi-tech hotspot.

Leading the charge was Rohan Silva, former Number 10 adviser and now the man behind the achingly cool Shoreditch start-up space Second Home.

Writing in the Sunday Times newspaper, he called on his fellow techies to cheer up, roll up their sleeves, and strategise for a profitable future.

Rohan Silva says machine-learning could "transform the efficiency of our immigration system"
His recipe included a big cut in taxes - in particular reducing corporation tax to 10% - and reforming the immigration system by using our expertise in machine-learning and data analytics to make it cheaper and faster.

Some sceptics questioned whether turning the UK into what they described as an offshore tax haven was really the way forward.

And the belief that machine-learning can magically produce an answer to the immigration problem will sound to many like the most naive brand of tech utopianism.

But Mr Silva's upbeat outlook - if not necessarily his tax-cutting recipe - was endorsed by Baroness Martha Lane Fox, now a director of Twitter and probably the best known person on the UK's tech scene.
"I'm an optimist - we have huge potential," she told me. "Let's use the power of the internet as a force not just for business growth but social cohesion and growth."

Her focus, however, is not so much on London tech start-ups, but addressing the concerns of those from the communities that voted to leave.

Baroness Fox thinks the internet could be a cohesive force
"It's interesting that when asked if the internet is a force for good, over 70% leavers said no," she said.
"This is something to address in rural and excluded communities - we should use the miracle of connectivity to connect ourselves together better."

Baroness Fox has faith in the power of technology to see us through the short-term turbulence.
But that isn't to say there won't be pain along the way for the tech sector.
I've spoken to an entrepreneur who has already experienced that pain.
The man, who did not want to be named, has spent the past three months on a funding round for his growing technology business.
He says there was already a "chilling effect" on venture capital in the run-up to the referendum.
"They were sitting on their hands waiting to see what happened," he said.
Then at 10:00 BST on Friday morning, he got a call from the manager of a fund that had signed up to invest in his business.
"He said they were pulling out - I asked why. He said that after today's news I shouldn't be surprised," he said.
The entrepreneur believes it will be hard to get investors to step forward until the future is clearer.
"Too many unknowns, too many risks," he said.

Techcrunch's editor-at-large Mike Butcher, who knows more about the European tech scene than just about anyone, remains optimistic about the UK's long-term prospects. But he has profound concerns about the here and now.

Techcrunch's Mike Butcher says he has been told of start-ups losing their funding
He too has been in touch with several tech start-ups that have had funding postponed or withdrawn since the referendum result. As well as access to the single market - and the digital single market which is being negotiated right now - he says it's talent that is the key issue.
"Tech start-ups don't just run on cash, they run on people," he said.
"Without access to EU talent, many early stage firms will struggle to find the talent they need."

The UK - and London in particular - remains an attractive location for anyone looking to start a technology business. But Berlin, Dublin and other European cities are already making encouraging noises to anxious companies thinking of moving.

Mind you, there is an alternative - stay in the UK but apply to Estonia for e-residency allowing you to run your business from inside the EU.

The e-Estonia organisation has been marketing this service over the weekend - and it tells me it has seen almost a tenfold increase in visits to their website from the UK in the days following the referendum.

Perhaps a virtual bridge is being built between London and Tallinn that means trade will prosper whatever the UK's relationship with the EU.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 28th Jun 2016

Crooks use connection information to craft phishing emails

UK staff are putting their companies at risk of phishing attacks because they are too willing to accept friend requests from random people on LinkedIn.

A survey of 2,000 workers by Intel Security found that around 24 per cent admitted to accepting requests from people they don’t know, opening company information to hackers.

Crooks can target phishing campaigns more effectively by using the information that connections on LinkedIn offer, as it gives a good insight into the networks and connections between high-ranking executives.

Phishing attacks targeting the CEO often take advantage of this, as Raj Samani, EMEA chief technology officer at Intel Security, explained.

"Social networking sites are a treasure trove of data used by malicious actors to research potential targets for attack, not only requesting to connect with senior executives but as many junior or mid-level employees at a company as possible," he said.

"They then target senior-level execs, using their existing connections with colleagues as proof of credibility by leveraging the principle of social validation. Once these connections are in place they can launch a targeted phishing campaign.

“For example, it could well be used as a precursor to a CEO fraud attack, a type of attack that continues to affect more victims and lead to even greater financial losses.”

A recent example of this cost the CEO of an Austrian manufacturer his job (and his company $40m) after he approved a payment that he believed to have come from another senior member of staff.

Abby Ewen, IT director at law firm BLM, told Computing recently that her organisation recently experienced a determined phishing attack using LinkedIn as the precursor.

"We had one this week, a scam email passed to me by a partner, and the person who sent [the scam mail] had connected with the partner on LinkedIn prior to sending the email. LinkedIn was used as the front door into the scam," she said.

Samani warned that companies should train staff to be aware of this tactic.

“Companies are falling for tricks by cyber criminals who get in contact using details skimmed from the internet to legitimise their own fake profile in order to better target businesses,” he said.

"When a person in a similar industry to us, or a recruiter, requests to connect on LinkedIn, it may look harmless, but hackers prey on this as a means to target senior-level professionals and ultimately the corporate network."

Source: v3.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 28th Jun 2016

Now the UK has decided to leave the European Union, technology firms have been left to wonder what the future holds.

As news of Brexit broke, tech firms including BT, TalkTalk and software firm Sage reported share price falls.
For years, the UK - and particularly London - has championed the role of tech firms in buoying the economy.
Hundreds of start-ups have benefitted from the government's Tech City initiative, for example, and both employees and customers have been plucked from EU member states.
Much was once made of British companies' potential to compete with Silicon Valley - hence the nickname of the London hub of "Silicon Roundabout".

In 2012 the Chancellor, George Osborne, visited the Google Campus start-up hub and meeting centre in East London
Earlier this year, the Tech City cluster of businesses reported that 1.56 million people were employed in digital companies in the UK, with 328,000 of those in London.

The report also noted that the digital economy grew a third faster than the UK economy as a whole.
But does this success now hang in the balance?
"I have concerns that the local market might slow down," said Drew Benvie, founder of London-based digital agency Battenhall.
"Over recent years, it's been clear to anyone in technology that London has become a major technology centre - all the major tech companies have big offices in London."

Mr Benvie, who employs 34 people, also told the BBC he was concerned because many of his staff are EU citizens or present in the UK via EU visas.

Drew Benvie employs 34 people in London - he's concerned about post-Brexit uncertainty
While he believes that trade will ultimately overcome boundaries, he said: "Uncertainty just does not help."
A survey of 1,000 European and British businesses by London law firm Pinsent Masons found that only a quarter had a "tangible plan" for dealing with the risks arising from Brexit.
"The vast majority of large technology companies have invested in a presence around the Reading and outer London area," said Theo Priestley, a Scottish tech evangelist and start-up mentor.
"The Brexit vote does call into question whether that remains as a sound decision."

Start-up mentor Theo Priestley thinks tech firms clustered in and around London may be disappointed by Brexit
In a statement, trade body TechUK, which represents British tech firms, expressed disappointment at the referendum result and said: "Without the benefits of EU membership, the UK needs to be at its very best to succeed."
Then there is the issue of EU funding - many firms, such as C-Tech Innovation in Chester, participate in collaborative research projects on future technologies that benefit from EU sources.
The EU and tech in the UK - by numbers
20% of digital businesses say that EU countries besides the UK are an important source of talent
Over half of European financial tech "unicorns", such as TransferWise and GoCardless, are based in the UK
There are 21,000 jobs across the EU in mobile gaming - the UK has the largest single share with 5,000 full-time employees
5m euros (£4.1m) in prizes available for the development of clean tech from the European Commission's Horizon 2020 programme
In total, the British private sector received £1.4 billion in funding from the EU in 2013
Some have met the news with optimism, however.
"Technology is a sector that will only increase in importance and works without borders," said Tudor Aw, head of technology at KPMG UK.

"I therefore continue to see the UK tech sector as one that will not only withstand the immediate challenges of the referendum result, but one that will continue to grow and thrive."
And David Cameron's former adviser Rohan Silva, who is credited with helping to forge Tech City in the first place, tweeted a rallying cry: "I also believe that Britain will always be open, creative and entrepreneurial."

Rohan Silva, who helped to found Tech City, tweeted an optimistic take on the referendum

How will London's position be affected, specifically?

There's always the possibility that some of the more mobile firms in the British tech sector will simply find it easier to migrate to hubs in the EU.
That's the hope of the German Startups Group, at least.
"We expect a significant decrease in new incorporations in London in favour of Berlin, as well as an influx of successful London start-ups," said chief executive Christoph Gerlinger.
And Mr Priestley thinks that in the event of a Scottish independence referendum that leads to reunification with the EU, it's possible some start-ups could move north of the border, perhaps to rekindle "Silicon Glen" - a 1980s attempt to compete in the semiconductor industry.
One London business, Techspace - which offers co-working spaces for new, fast-growing companies - has itself just announced an expansion in Berlin.
But chief executive and co-founder David Galsworthy said that, given how "interconnected" the world is, he had little doubt that London would continue to be "a central hub globally for this sector".

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 21st Jun 2016

The adult industry has a history of ushering in media revolutions.

For more than a decade, the tens of thousands of gadget nerds and tech geeks who converged upon Las Vegas every year for the Consumer Electronics Show were exposed to more than just the latest technology. Until 2012, the colossal electronics trade show coincided with the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, which often occupied a space in the same building. The overwhelmingly male CES attendees could peruse the latest flat-screen TVs, then slip across the hall to mingle with porn stars.

It’s no coincidence that the two events coexisted for so many years. The pornography expo was born out of the adult-video section of CES in the 1990s, after its participants grew tired of being relegated to a dark basement of the convention center. In 2011, an AVN representative estimated that CES and AEE shared about 40 percent of their attendees. (The 2012 split was driven by the rising travel and lodging costs of holding two large conferences at the same time; the events are now held at separate venues one or two weeks apart.)

CES attendees who crane their necks into the pornography-filled exhibition hall next door have reasons to do so other than to ogle at scantily clad adult performers. If they’re attending CES to get a sense of the next big communications technology, they’d do well to visit the adult expo as well: Over the past few decades, the porn industry has played instrumental role in driving adoption of new technologies.

Without porn, “there’s a very good chance that the VCR might never have taken off.”
Porn’s outsize influence on technology had its first big part in the early days of the VCR, says Patchen Barss, the author of The Erotic Engine, a book that chronicles the history of pornography’s effects on mass communication. Before VCRs started making their way into living rooms, people had to sneak into shady theaters to watch adult films. The prospect of watching them in the privacy of their own homes helped create an early market for home-video equipment, Barss says. Without porn, “there’s a very good chance that the VCR might never have taken off.”

Some of the same forces that helped along the VCR also had a hand in the proliferation of cable television, Barss said. Cable TV allowed for more suggestive programming, which became one of the factors that convinced people to pay for “premium channels” despite getting broadcast channels for free.

With VCRs and cable TV, the adult industry drove a crucial wave of early adoption. “Pornography exerts a disproportionate influence over technologies at the stage when they are new and glitchy and expensive and difficult to use,” Barss said. “They create an initial market that allows them to develop to the point where they’re ready for the mainstream.”

The main consumers of adult content—young men—also tend to be more willing to take on the expense and risk of adopting early, says Jonathan Coopersmith, a professor of technology history at Texas A&M University. If they gamble on the wrong technology, their newly purchased equipment can quickly turn into expensive hunks of plastic and metal.

The pornography industry isn’t creating new communication technologies, Coopersmith said, nor is it particularly prescient about what technology is likely to take off. It’s simply taken advantage of new developments before others, and has enough of a draw that people are willing to follow it.

Its position on the leading edge of technology comes partly out of necessity. “There’s a nimbleness to being in the marginalia,” Barss says. Once technologies and platforms reach mainstream status, they may become less friendly to adult content, and the social stigma attached to porn has repeatedly drawn consumers to new, largely untested technologies that provide better privacy.

The ultimate in private access to pornography came with the internet. On the web, not even the checkout-counter guy at the video store has to know what you’re up to. But even though it was another step toward isolation, Barss says the internet also injected porn with a sense of community. Early online bulletin boards and forums allowed people to share user-generated erotica and pornography, while maintaining distance and anonymity. For once, it wasn’t a porn company luring people to a platform with promises of smut; it was people creating and sharing it themselves.

Of course, people had been able to make their own porn at home for decades. The boom of home pornography came with the spread of the camcorder in the seventies and eighties, a device that Coopersmith says “really changed the world of pornography by destroying the traditional distinction between producers, distributors, and consumers.” Once the internet made transferring data simple—whether from a home server, via BitTorrent, or by online streaming—the general public could participate in generating, sharing, and even making money from explicit content.

That social aspect is what most surprised Barss during his research. And whether the next frontier is in virtual reality, haptic feedback (“teledildonics”), or another new invention, the adult industry will likely be ahead of the game—and a new community could spring up around it, he says. “Pornography driving technology has been as much about people finding new ways to connect to other people as it has been about people finding more private ways to consume pornography.”

Source: theatlantic.com
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