Vodafone announce UK 5G service.

Vodafone have announced that they intend to launch its 5G service to the UK on 3rd July.  They are the first provider to confirm a UK switch on date, and will rely upon equipment from the Chinese telecoms provider Huawei, among others, to deliver this pioneering service.

Business and consumer customers will be able to enjoy this next generation mobile network service, allowing them to indulge in both faster and more reliable data speeds.

Vodafone have disclosed that this initial rollout will be available in seven major cities across the UK, of which Bristol is one!  Great news for us here at Ignite Digital HQ. The others have been named as Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and of course, London.  

Users of these services will need a compatible smartphone or router to take advantage of these improvements however, and at the current time it is unknown what the 5G price plans may be.  Vodafone have been quick to confirm that they would not be more expensive than its equivalent 4G deals though. Full details of the price plans will be announced next week.

The advantages of 5G are huge and in particular will be of benefit to customers in busy or built up areas.  In a press release earlier this week, Vodafone highlighted the massive potential of this technology.

“Offering speeds over 5G up to 10 times faster than 4G, we’ve shown commuters at busy airports and railway stations that they can download TV box sets or movies in a matter of seconds before they embark on their journey”.

It is not only the speed of 5G which will revolutionise data use for consumers.  5G’s other benefits include lower latencies, meaning less lag between sending a command and receiving a response.  5G will also be able to support more devices simultaneously. This breadth of support should help pave the way towards the wider use of data-gathering sensors. Large enterprise customers with massive data sets across multiple devices, such as public authorities, will be able to make better-informed decisions.  

Although progressive, it will be years or even decades before we get to harness the full potentials of 5G.

Vodafone have limited this early roll out to seven UK locations, they have plans to extend the facility to a further 12 locations over the course of 2019.  

It has not all been plain sailing, however.  The UK government is still carrying out a review of the telecoms sector; the results of which could restrict or even block the use of Huawei’s kit to address cyber-security concerns.   The US is putting the UK under considerable pressure to shun Huawei. They have claimed that the company could be forced to disrupt or even spy on its clients’ communications by the Chinese Communist Party.  Shenzhen-based Huawei have issued a counter argument denying that this is the case. It has said that it is willing to sign “no-spy” agreements with the UK and other governments.

Should this ban occur, it would significantly impact the further roll-out plans of 5G across the UK.   A ban would involve it having to strip out existing Huawei equipment already used to deliver its 4G services. Vodafone has said this would be a major undertaking and take up much of its engineering resources.

Having said that, Vodafone also uses 5G Ran kit purchased from Ericsson so it is not totally reliant upon Huawei equipment.  

A choice of 5G smartphones will be available to buy online or in Vodafone stores over the summer. The first smartphone goes on sale next week.  If Samsung’s S10 5G handset sits in your pocket – great news! It will be one of the first devices to support the service.   

Vodafone started their journey into 5G last year.  Behind the scenes they blazed a trail, upgrading their masts to be able to handle 5G without disruption.  They have set the benchmark in 5G standards; ensuring phones and networks work well together.  More visibly, Vodafone were the first to demo a holographic 5G call.  In September last year they enabled a young football fan to meet her idol, England and Manchester City Captain Steph Houghton MBE.  The footballer’s image was was projected as a hologram at the Vodafone Future Ready Conference, 2018.

Progressive stuff. We are really looking forward to experiencing 5G here in Bristol for ourselves.  We’ll be sure to report back in July!

San Francisco becomes first US city to ban facial recognition.

Facial recognition is a hot topic of contention in the world of tech.  

Opponents of the measure argue that as it exists today, the technology is unreliable, and represents an unnecessary infringement on people’s privacy and liberty.  They argue that in particular, the systems are error prone and discriminate against marginalised demographics…particularly people with darker skin and women.  Those in favour of the technology say not to use it puts people’s safety at risk and hinders efforts to fight crime.

The latest revelation amid the debate sees San Francisco legislators be the first to ban the use of facial recognition in their city. The emerging technology will not be allowed to be used by local agencies, such as the city’s transport authority or law enforcement.

They go one step further.  Any plans to buy any kind of new surveillance technology must now be approved by city administrators.

Matt Cagle is from the American Civil Liberties Union in Northern California.  He remarks

“We applaud the city for listening to the community and leading the way forward with this crucial legislation. Other cities should take note and set up similar safeguards to protect people’s safety and civil rights.”

On the other hand, some campaigners unsuccessfully pressed for the measures not to apply to local police.  While San Francisco’s officers do not currently use facial recognition technology, a number of other police forces across the US do.  The new rules will not apply to security measures at San Francisco’s airport or seaport. They are run by federal, not local, agencies and as such are immune from the results of the vote.

Disclosure from the debate informs us that the vote was heavily supported.  The bill was passed by San Francisco’s supervisors 8-1, with two absentees. The measure is expected to be officially passed into city law after a second vote next week.

Where do you stand on facial recognition and its use within our society?  We’d love to hear your views. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Twitter opens Developer Lab for testing new API features.

This week it has been revealed that Twitter has extended a long-awaited helping hand to developers.  

Twitter have opened its doors to its Developer Lab, allowing devs to test new API products from the social network before release.

In these early stages, they plan to focus their attention upon conversational data, targeting academics and researchers who have a focus on interactions on the platform.   Social listening and analytics providers who build products for other businesses have also been targets of the plans.

For a long time, Twitter has vowed to improve its relationship with developers following updates to the main API back in August 2012.  This saw the implementation of things such as rate and token limits which killed off many third-party clients; understandably, sparking resentment amongst the developer community.  This latest move though looks to make amends, seeing them encourage a dialogue wherein developers can give feedback upon their likes and dislikes. Twitter hope to establish a community in which developers can collaborate and help create “the next generation of the Twitter API’.

Ian Cairns, Group Product Manager at Twitter writes

“…Going forward, we want to make it easier for more developers to get started and grow with us while continuing to provide a useful, open and free API offering…We’re building the future of our developer platform with a diverse range of developers in mind.”

With this move Twitter will simplify and extend its services for developers. Opening up the Developer Lab will help Twitter rebuild the bridges it succeeded in burning in the past.  While these efforts are welcome, it remains to be seen if these noises are just that or whether they will be followed through with positive action.

Cairns acknowledges that Twitter still need to do “a better job listening to and learning from our developer community”.  Labs is a test program to help them do just that.

Anyone with a developer account can sign up to Developer Labs to receive updates when the first endpoints will go live in the coming weeks.

If you are a developer and are interested in further updates on the program, you can follow the progress by following @TwitterDev.  A #tapintotwitter event will also be hosted in New York on 4th June where Twitter will meet with their developer community and share more details.  

GozNym Cyber Crime gang busted.

Information from the European police agency, Europol in The Hague has revealed the details of an extensive, complicated and global police investigation; one which has led to the unravelling of an international cybercrime gang.

Forces from across the globe have come together in an unprecedented effort to break up the unit who have used malware to steal $100m (£77m) from more than 40,000 victims.

The gang infected computers with GozNym malware which captured online banking details allowing them to target bank accounts.

The gang comprised of hackers from as far afield as the US, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.  They were able to come together after advertising their nefarious skills across online forums.

10 members of the network have been charged in Pittsburgh, the US on a range of offences, including theft and money laundering.

5 Russian nationals are still alluding the authorities, however, and remain on the run; including (as is so often the way), the mastermind behind the development and management of the GozNym malware.

Other members of the gang have not been so lucky though and are being held to account.  In Georgia, the leader of the network faces charges, alongside his technical assistant. Another member, whose role was to take over the different bank accounts, has been extradited to the US from Bulgaria to face trial, while another faces charges in Moldova.

Not content with using it themselves, the gang was also able to lease the use of the malware to other cybercriminals. Prof Alan Woodward, a computer scientist from the University of Surrey has remarked that “The developers of this malware advertised their ‘product’ so that other criminals could use their service to conduct banking fraud.

Cybercrime and in particular “crime as a service” (when malware and the skills of those using it is sold to others) have risen in prevalence over recent years.  Criminal networks have favoured these “hidden” methods over other forms of large scale organised crime. It has proven to be more lucrative and anonymous than drug trafficking for example.   Perhaps in evidence of this, recent police records suggest that cybercrime victims across the UK lose up to £190,000 a day.

This particular piece of malware is a dangerous hybrid of two other pieces of malware, Nymaim and Gozi.  So severe, it has been dubbed by some experts as a “two-headed monster”.

Nymaim is what is known amongst techies as a “dropper”; a piece of software that is designed to sneak other malware on to a device and install it.  Up until recently, it was used primarily to get ransomware on to devices.

Gozi has been around since 2007.  Since that time though it has been re-worked and has surfaced with new techniques; all of which have been aimed at stealing financial information.  In particular, it has been used in heavily targeted attacks on US banks.

And Finally:

Evil Alexa device takes over the world.

If ridiculous sci-fi dystopia is your thing, this will be right up your street! This week, Fox have announced the launch of their latest Netflix offering, “neXt”.

If you thought AI couldn’t get any more disobedient than HAL, featured in the 60s film “2001: A Space Odyssey” you were mistaken.  NeXt follows the story of Illiza, a cylindrical, kitchen-based, AI device complete with blue flashing lights as she looks to take over the world.  Yes. Really.

The trailer doesn’t really provide any true clues as to what exactly the neXt AI is, but in essence we can expect the plot to see John Slattery, probably best known for his role in the brilliant Mad Men, play the CEO of a tech firm as he battles to save the world from the evil AI he has helped create.

Silly escapism?  Absolutely.


About the author: I aspire to help clients connect the dots by offering an extensive and honest experience. I am passionate about digital and in prior roles have assisted C level executives to overcome the challenges posed by a fast-moving, disruptive business environment – I believe that people and not solely technology is imperative in instilling forward-thinking, sustainable business development.

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