THROUGH A GLASS BRIGHTLY
In their quest for a durable, affordable, ‘cloud-scale’ storage medium capable of storing archival data for hundreds of years, Microsoft Azure and Warner Bros. have succeeded in storing the entire 1978 film Superman on a piece of glass about the size of a drinks coaster (75 x 75 x 2mm). Researchers on Microsoft’s Project Silica encoded the film in quartz glass, through a combination of ultrafast laser optics, which they used to create layers of three-dimensional nanoscale gratings and deformations in the glass, and artificial intelligence, which successfully retrieved the data by decoding images and patterns created when polarized light was shone through the glass. Find out more at:
Smart Tech SEE, ACT, BREATHE EASY
Airthings describes its new Wave Mini as an ‘ideal first step’ for anyone looking to take control of their indoor air quality. The entrylevel monitor measures air temperature, humidity and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – toxins produced by aerosol sprays, paints, fumes and cleaning products. Current and historical measurements can be viewed on the accompanying app and online dashboard, enabling users to take remedial action, such as opening a window. Through a partnership with BreezoMeter, Airthings customers can also access real-time information on their local outdoor air quality’
Environment AIR POLLUTION COALITION
Blueair has become a founder member of the Business Clean Air Taskforce (BCAT), the UK’s first business coalition dedicated to tackling air pollution. Established by eight businesses, the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and air pollution campaigner Global Action Plan, BCAT aims to tackle air pollution by speeding up the adoption of existing solutions. One of its first projects will be to encourage employers to improve indoor air quality. In a recent UK poll commissioned by Global Action Plan, 52% of respondents said action on air quality was a major priority, up from 33% six months previously. Actions they would like businesses to take include:
* enabling employees to work from home (34%);
*improving air quality in the spaces they run, such as offices or shops (30%); and
*helping employees to use public transport more (29%).
Chris Large, Senior Partner at Global Action Plan, said: “Businesses already provide many of the solutions to our air pollution problem. We just need to choose to use them. This taskforce will help more people to do the things that will cut air pollution i.e. drive less, switch to electric vehicles and reduce activity that makes pollution inside our homes.” The founding members of the Business Clean Air Taskforce are Blueair, Philips, Uber, Engie, Octopus Electric Vehicles, Ricardo, Canary Wharf Group and BP Chargemaster.
Speech processing DO MORE, TALK MORE
Talking to a voice assistant has become a daily activity for seven out of 10 smart speaker owners, up from four 12 months ago, according to a new survey by digital experience agency Code Computerlove and Mediacom North. One in five admits to interacting with a voice assistant at least five times a day. As well as using devices such as Amazon Alexa (owned by 80% of those surveyed), Google Home (28%) and Apple Homepod (3%) more frequently, people are doing more with them, as the following table shows.
Activity 2019 2018
Play music/radio 80% 65%
News and weather 61% 49%
Finding out information 57% 45%
Egg timer 24% 17%
Adding to shopping lists 22% 13%
Travel reports 18% 16%
Play games 18% 6%
Play audio books/podcasts 17% 8%
CHRISTMAS BONUS PAST SELL-BY DATE
In a survey of 1,500 UK residents by gift card provider Hawk Incentives (part of Blackhawk Network Europe), 33% of British workers said they had never received a Christmas bonus and nearly three quarters (73%) were not expecting to receive one this year. Seven in 10 believe the Christmas bonus will soon be a thing of the past due to cutbacks (40%), a profits-first culture (36%) and uncaring employers (30%). Employees who still get a Christmas bonus have seen its value fall from an average of £792 three years ago to a predicted £363 this year. Six out of 10 workers said they would be happy to receive any token of goodwill from an employer, no matter how small. Under ‘trivial benefit’ tax rules, businesses can give each employee up to £50 per year, tax free. Almost all (95%) of those surveyed said they would be delighted to receive something as inexpensive as a £50 shopping voucher.