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18th September 2020

Technology Climate change: Removing CO2 could spark big rise in food prices

Technology Climate change: Removing CO2 could spark big rise in food prices


Technology wheatImage copyright
Getty Images

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Wheat prices could be affected by the rise in technologies to remove CO2

Technologies that can remove carbon dioxide from the air could have huge implications for future food prices, according to new research.

Scientists say that machines that remove CO2 from the air will be needed to keep the rise in global temperatures in check.

But these devices will have major impacts on energy, water and land use.

By 2050, according to this new report, food crop prices could rise more than five-fold in some parts of the world.

In the wake of the Paris climate agreement signed in 2015, researchers have tried to understand what keeping the world under a 1.5C temperature threshold would mean in practice.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported on this question in 2018, and found that keeping below this temperature rise would require the world to reach net zero emissions by 2050 but would also need the removal and storage of large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

One of the ideas on how to achieve this is called BECCS – bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. It means growing crops that soak up CO2, then burning them for electricity while capturing and burying the carbon that’s produced.

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Getty Images

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A Direct Air Capture (DAC) machine installed in Iceland

Critics say this idea would need the deployment of huge amounts of land which would reduce the amount of land for agriculture at a time of increasing global population.

Another technology that has raised much interest is called Direct Air Capture (DAC), where machines pull CO2 directly from the atmosphere.

A number of experimental installations of this idea have been successfully implemented, notably in Switzerland and Canada.

But there has been little research to date on how the deployment of DAC would impact crop and food prices.

This new study looks at the large-scale deployment of a range of negative emissions technologies including DAC.

The report says that the energy and water resources needed to drive these machines will be on a very large scale.

DAC will need large amounts of heat to make the process work, say the authors. This would require energy equal to 115% of current global natural gas consumption.

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Getty Images

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Poorer countries will see the worst impacts on food prices

Water for DAC is also a significant cost by 2050, with the machines using 35% of the water currently used in global electricity production.

And while DAC reduces the amount of land required, there will still be a need for significant amounts of energy crops and new forests.

“I want to make clear that we’re not in any way trying to throw cold water on efforts to try and develop DAC,” says Dr Andres Clarens from the University of Virginia, who led the study.

“I think DAC is really very important technology that needs to be developed.”

“But in our simulations, what we find is that the world doesn’t just go 100% all in on DAC, right?

“Even under optimistic pricing scenarios for the technology, the world is still deploying a decent amount of BECCs, if you want to get to 1.5C.

“DAC is not going to be the only thing.”

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Getty Images

Image caption

Rapeseed is an important energy crop and could be used for BECCS

According to the report, with widespread use of DAC, many parts of the world will see substantial price increases in maize, wheat and rice.

The worst affected areas would be in sub-Saharan Africa which could see prices rise by 5-600% by 2050.

India, Pakistan and many other countries in Asia could see three to five-fold increases, while Europe and South America could see prices double or treble.

But some people involved in DAC reject the report’s findings, saying that the authors wrongly assumed that all air capture systems are the same.

“We would like to point out that the paper only analysed liquid sorbent direct air capture technology whilst Climeworks has developed a solid sorbent technology that does not rely on the burning of natural gas or has a need for fresh water to deliver carbon dioxide removal from the air,” said Christoph Beuttler from Climeworks.

“We are confident that if the paper would have made that distinction the reported direct air capture potentials could be significantly higher and the risks lower.”

Despite the questions over methods, all involved in negative emissions agree that the longer it takes to implement these technologies, the bigger the impact on food, energy and water.

Short-term efforts to decarbonise, particularly in transport and energy production will alleviate some of the difficulties with negative emissions.

“I think that negative emissions are going to be important. I think that DAC in particular is going to be important. But I think that it can’t be our first order of business. We have to get off fossil fuels as soon as possible,” said Andres Clarens.

“Anybody that thinks we can continue to burn fossil fuels for another decade, because we’ll just do DAC, you know, down the road. That’s not a viable approach.”

The study has been published in Nature Climate Change.

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16th September 2020

Technology ARM: UK-based chip designer sold to Nvidia

Technology ARM: UK-based chip designer sold to Nvidia


By Leo Kelion

Technology desk editor


image copyrightGetty Images/ARM

UK-based computer chip designer ARM Holdings is being sold to the American graphics chip specialist Nvidia.

The deal values ARM at $40bn (£31.2bn), four years after it was bought by Japanese conglomerate Softbank for $32bn.

ARM’s technology is at the heart of most smartphones, among many other devices.

Nvidia has promised to keep the business based in the UK, to hire more staff, and to retain ARM’s brand.

It added that the deal would create “the premier computing company for the age of artificial intelligence” (AI).

“ARM will remain headquartered in Cambridge,” said Nvidia’s chief executive Jensen Huang.

“We will expand on this great site and build a world-class AI research facility, supporting developments in healthcare, life sciences, robotics, self-driving cars and other fields.”

media captionWATCH: Nvidia chief explains why he wants to buy ARM

A senior government source told the BBC that it would not block the sale, but said conditions could be imposed on the takeover.

Technology ‘Meaningless’ promises

Softbank made commitments to secure jobs and keep ARM’s headquarters in the UK until September next year.

“So far, when you read the announcement coming from Nvidia they said they will honour that Softbank has made at the time,” said Sonja Laud, chief investment officer at Legal & General Investment Management.

“But with the expiry about to happen and obviously the Brexit negotiations under way it will be very interesting to see how this develops in the future.”

This appears to address concerns that British jobs would be lost and decision-making shifted to the US. Last week, the Labour Party had urged the government to intervene.

But two of ARM’s co-founders have raised other issues about the takeover.

Hermann Hauser and Tudor Brown had suggested ARM should remain “neutral”, rather than be owned by a company like Nvidia, which produces its own processors.

The concern is that there would be a conflict of interest since ARM’s clients would become dependent on a business with which many also compete for sales.

Moreover, the two co-founders also claimed that once ARM was owned by an American firm, Washington could try to block Chinese companies from using its knowhow as part of a wider trade clash between the countries.

image copyrightAmadeus Capital/Tudor Brown

image captionHermann Hauser (left) and Tudor Brown (right) have warned the takeover would have negative consequences

“If ARM becomes a US subsidiary of a US company, it falls under the Cfius [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] regulations,” Mr Hauser told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“[That] means that if hundreds of UK companies that incorporate ARM’s [technology] in their products, want to sell it, and export it to anywhere in the world including China – which is a major market – the decision on whether they will be allowed to export it will be made in the White House and not in Downing Street.”

He added that he believed the pledge to retain and increase the number of UK jobs was “meaningless” unless UK ministers stepped in to make it legally enforceable.

But ARM’s chief executive played down the threat of export bans.

“It isn’t to do with the ownership of the company, it’s all to do with analysis of the product itself,” Simon Segars told the BBC.

“The majority of our products are designed in the UK or outside the US, and the majority of our products don’t fall under much of the US export control set of rules.”

Mr Huang added that ARM had “some of the finest computer scientists in the world” in Cambridge and he intended to both retain them and attract others to what would become Nvidia’s largest site in Europe.

The UK prime minister’s spokesman said “ministers have spoken to both companies”, adding that the government would be scrutinising the deal “including what it means for the Cambridge HQ”.

Technology Chip creators

ARM creates computer chip designs that others then customise to their own ends. It also develops instruction sets, which define how software controls processors.

It is based in Cambridge but also has offices across the world, including a joint venture in Shenzhen, China.

Hundreds of companies license its innovations including Apple, Samsung, Huawei and Qualcomm. To date, ARM says 180 billion chips have been made based on its solutions.

When Softbank acquired ARM, it promised to keep the company’s headquarters in the UK and to increase the number of local jobs, which it did.

Softbank’s founder Masayoshi Son described the firm as being a “crystal ball” that would help him predict where tech was heading. But losses on other investments, including the office rental company WeWork, prompted a rethink.

California-headquartered Nvidia overtook Intel to become the world’s most valuable chipmaker in July.

Until now, it has specialised in high-end graphics processing units (GPUs). These are commonly used by gamers to deliver more detailed visuals, as well as by professionals for tasks including scientific research, machine learning, and cryptocurrency “mining”.

Nvidia is also one of ARM’s clients, using its designs to create its line-up of Tegra central processing units (CPUs).

Under the terms of the deal, Nvidia will pay Softbank $21.5bn in its own stock and $12bn in cash. It will follow with up to a further $5bn in cash or stock if certain targets are met.

Nvidia will also issue $1.5bn in equity to ARM’s employees.

Technology Server chips

Mr Huang has already said that one of the changes he wants to make is to accelerate development of ARM’s designs for CPUs used in computer servers – a rapidly growing sector.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionThe use of internet-based services has led to ever-growing demand for computer servers

But experts say one risk Nvidia faces is that the takeover could encourage ARM’s wider client list to shift focus to a rival type of chip technology, which lags behind in terms of adoption but has the benefit of not being controlled by one company.

“ARM is facing growing competition from RISC-V, an open-source architecture,” wrote CCS Insight’s Geoff Blaber in a recent research note.

“If its partners believed that ARM’s integrity and independence was compromised, it would accelerate the growth of RISC-V and in the process devalue ARM.”

Mr Blaber also suggested regulators might block the deal.

“This process will take months if not years with a high chance of failure,” he told the BBC.

Mr Huang has said that he expects it to take more than a year to “educate” regulators and answer all their questions, but said he had “every confidence” they would ultimately approve the investment.

It’s a deal which the man who founded ARM says is a disaster.

And many in the UK’s technology industry will agree with Hermann Hauser.

He opposed the 2016 sale of the chip designer to Softbank but accepted that the Japanese firm stood by its guarantees to boost employment and research in Cambridge.

But a takeover by Nvidia, one of the many firms that licences ARM’s designs, appears to pose a threat to its business model – why will its hundreds of other customers now have faith that they will have equal access to its technology?

In recent days leading figures in the Cambridge technology sector have lobbied Downing Street, calling for ministers to intervene to bring ARM back under UK ownership. There have been signs that the government is considering a more active industrial policy.

Dominic Cummings, who has talked of the need for the UK to have a trillion dollar tech company, is leading the drive for a more interventionist approach.

Now, with Hermann Hauser and others warning that this deal will make Britain a US vassal state, the government is under pressure to step in and ensure that control over vital home-grown technology is not lost to a foreign power.

16th September 2020

Technology Coronavirus pandemic could be over within two years – WHO head

Technology Coronavirus pandemic could be over within two years – WHO head


Technology Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (file photo)Image copyright

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Dr Tedros said globalisation had allowed the virus to spread more quickly

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) says he hopes the coronavirus pandemic will be over in under two years.

Speaking in Geneva, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Spanish flu of 1918 had taken two years to overcome.

But he added that current advances in technology could enable the world to halt the virus “in a shorter time”.

“Of course with more connectiveness, the virus has a better chance of spreading,” he said.

“But at the same time, we have also the technology to stop it, and the knowledge to stop it,” he noted, stressing the importance of “national unity, global solidarity”.

The flu of 1918 killed at least 50 million people.

Coronavirus has so far killed 800,000 people. Nearly 23 million infections have been recorded but the number of people who have actually had the virus is thought to be much higher due to inadequate testing and asymptomatic cases.

Prof Sir Mark Walport, a member of the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) – on Saturday said that Covid-19 was “going to be with us forever in some form or another”.

“So, a bit like flu, people will need re-vaccination at regular intervals,” he told the BBC.

In Geneva, Dr Tedros said corruption related to supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic was “unacceptable”, describing it as “murder”.

“If health workers work without PPE, we’re risking their lives. And that also risks the lives of the people they serve,” he added, in response to a question.

Although the question related to allegations of corruption in South Africa, a number of countries have faced similar issues.

On Friday, protests were held in the Kenyan capital Nairobi over alleged corruption during the pandemic, while doctors from a number of the city’s public hospitals went on strike over unpaid wages and a lack of protective equipment.

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A demonstration took place in Nairobi on Friday

The same day, the head of the WHO’s health emergencies programme warned the scale of the coronavirus outbreak in Mexico was “clearly under-recognised”.

Dr Mike Ryan said the equivalent of around three people per 100,000 were being tested in Mexico, compared with about 150 per 100,000 people in the US.

Mexico has the third highest number of deaths in the world, with almost 60,000 fatalities recorded since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In the US, Democratic nominee Joe Biden pledged to introduce a national mandate to wear masks if elected, and attacked President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

“Our current president’s failed in his most basic duty to the nation. He’s failed to protect us. He’s failed to protect America,” Mr Biden said.

More than 1,000 new deaths were announced in the US on Friday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 173,490.

Technology What’s happening elsewhere?

On Friday, a number of countries announced their highest numbers of new cases in months.

South Korea recorded 324 new cases – its highest single-day total since March.

As with its previous outbreak, the new infections have been linked to churches, and museums, nightclubs and karaoke bars have now been closed in and around the capital Seoul in response.

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Media captionAnother church, the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, was identified earlier this year as South Korea’s biggest virus cluster

A number of European countries are also seeing rises.

Poland and Slovakia both announced record new daily infections on Friday, with 903 and 123 cases respectively, while Spain and France have seen dramatic increases in recent days.

In Lebanon, a two-week partial lockdown – including a night-time curfew – has come into effect as the country saw its highest number of cases since the pandemic began.

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Media captionWhy has there been crisis after crisis in Lebanon?

Infections have doubled since a devastating blast in the capital Beirut killed at least 178 people and injured thousands more on 4 August.

The disaster left an estimated 300,000 people homeless and placed massive strain on medical facilities.

In Africa, the average daily cases of coronavirus fell last week, in what the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr John Nkengasong, described as a “sign of hope”.

The continent-wide daily average was 10,300 last week, down from 11,000 the week before.

16th September 2020

Technology Fortnite Apple row: Microsoft backs Epic in court filing

Technology Fortnite Apple row: Microsoft backs Epic in court filing



image copyrightGetty Images

Microsoft has thrown its weight behind Epic Games in a continuing legal battle with Apple.

Apple pulled hugely popular game Fortnite from its App Store after Epic deliberately broke its rules in protest at Apple’s policies.

In an escalation, Apple then said it would pull Epic’s access to developer tools on iOS and Mac.

But Microsoft said this would damage a “critical technology” for many third-party game creators.

That is because Epic also owns the Unreal Engine – a tool widely used by developers from other studios to build games, virtual-reality VR experiences and

special effects in major television shows and films.

Microsoft uses the technology itself.

Technology Marketing push

Xbox head Phil Spencer tweeted: “Ensuring that Epic has access to the latest Apple technology is the right thing for game developers and gamers.”

Epic has objected to what it calls a “monopoly” in the App Store – specifically the 30% cut Apple demands from in-game purchases.

It had legal documentation and a huge marketing push prepared after it decided to circumvent the rule by signposting players to a discount available away from the app.

Microsoft said denying Epic access to Apple’s developer tools would “prevent Epic from supporting Unreal Engine on iOS and macOS, and will place Unreal Engine and those game creators that have built, are building, and may build games on it at a substantial disadvantage”.

“Apple’s discontinuation of Epic’s ability to develop and support Unreal Engine for iOS or macOS will harm game creators and gamers,” it added.

Apple, however, says it applies the rules equally and “won’t make an exception for Epic because we don’t think it’s right to put their business interests ahead of the guidelines that protect our customers”.

Technology ‘Focused conversation’

Microsoft has also previously criticised Apple’s App Store terms.

When it became clear Apple would not allow Xbox game streaming on iPhones, Microsoft said Apple was the only major platform to “deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services”.

Earlier this year, when Apple was engaged in another high-profile stand-off with an app developer over its policies, Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, hinted at the company’s disapproval.

He said regulators should have a “focused conversation” about app stores and the rules they enforced.

However, Microsoft also runs the Windows and Xbox stores, where it takes a 15-30% cut of software sales, depending on the platform, according to its developer agreement.

16th September 2020

Technology China’s Alibaba offers olive branch to Trump

Technology China’s Alibaba offers olive branch to Trump


Technology Alibaba's logo at the company's headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.Image copyright

Alibaba has moved to ease tensions with Donald Trump, as the US president continues to threaten Chinese firms.

Chief executive Daniel Zhang said the online retailer’s policies “support American brands, retailers, small businesses and farmers”.

The comments came as the tech giant announced a better-than-expected jump in quarterly sales.

Meanwhile Mr Trump has promised to impose tariffs on US firms that refuse to move jobs back from overseas.

Earlier this month US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on American technology firms to cut ties with Chinese companies, including cloud-computing providers Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu as part of the Trump administration’s so-called “Clean Network” programme.

It came as Mr Trump signed two executive orders targeting Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok and messaging platform WeChat.

“Alibaba’s primary commercial focus in the US is to support American brands, retailers, small businesses and farmers to sell to consumers and trade partners in China as well as other key markets around the world,” Mr Zhang told investors.

“We are closely monitoring the latest shift in US government policies towards Chinese companies which is a very fluid situation. We are assessing the situation and any potential impact carefully and thoroughly, and will take necessary actions to comply with any new regulations,” he added.

At the same time the Hangzhou-based company said sales from its commerce business rose 34% in the three months ending in June, compared to a year ago.

Alibaba’s shares have soared by more than 20% this year as investors around the world poured money into technology companies seen to have benefited from people staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Alibaba’s strong results mirror China’s economic rebound post the pandemic.

In fact, the company said as much during its earnings call – attributing the jump in revenue to China’s “effective management” of the outbreak in much of the country.

But there’s also the fact that the coronavirus fundamentally changed consumer behaviour in China.

In the midst of lockdowns, people flocked online to buy things like yoga mats and face masks.

Since then, as Chinese consumers came out of quarantine, there was a big rise in, for example, cosmetics sales.

But the pandemic also pushed more people online to buy their groceries, and it’s a trend that’s continued in a post-coronavirus China.

Still a rebound isn’t a recovery – yet. And while Alibaba’s recovery depends mainly on the fortunes of the Chinese market, tensions between Beijing and Washington will weigh on both its and China’s growth prospects.

Technology Trump’s China crackdown

The placatory comments from Alibaba’s boss came in a week that has seen Mr Trump using his election campaign speeches to threaten further action to push back against China.

At an event in Pennsylvania on Thursday he said that if he is re-elected, Washington will impose tariffs on American companies that refuse to move jobs back to the US.

“We will give tax credits to companies to bring jobs back to America, and if they don’t do it, we will put tariffs on those companies, and they will have to pay us a lot of money,” he said.

That came on top of the president’s pledge earlier this week to offer tax credits to entice US firms to move factories out of China.

He also threatened to strip US government contracts from companies that continue to outsource work to China.

16th September 2020

Technology The technology firm digitising health in Nigeria

Technology The technology firm digitising health in Nigeria


A technology firm is trying to accelerate the growth of Nigeria’s healthcare industry by digitising health.

“We’ve seen that telemedicine can actually change the face of the healthcare system,” Tito Ovia, co-founder of Helium Health told the BBC.

“Now having these teleclinics in certain areas and certain local governments where patients can walk in and video call a doctor who might be in a different state – that can ensure that you’re able to provide access to care for more people and ensure that people in the far-flung rural areas are still able to access doctors.”

You can tune into In Business Africa every Friday at 18:30 GMT on BBC World News.

16th September 2020

Technology Nvidia chief: ARM is a technology jewel

Technology Nvidia chief: ARM is a technology jewel


The chief executive of the world’s highest-valued chip company Nvidia has promised to create new jobs at ARM if he is permitted to buy it in a $40bn (£31.2bn) deal.

Jensen Huang told the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones that the takeover represented his confidence in demand for artificial intelligence technologies.

Read more

16th September 2020

Technology Coronavirus: How technology could keep football fans safe at stadiums

Technology Coronavirus: How technology could keep football fans safe at stadiums


Technology Fans at Brighton v Chelsea trial matchImage copyright
Steve Bardens/Getty Images

Image caption

A limited number of Brighton fans were allowed to watch the club’s friendly against Chelsea

With the Premier League and EFL kicking off this weekend, eyes will not only be focused on the pitch but also on the surrounding stands.

The 2019-20 season reached its conclusion without supporters in stadiums, and the new one is about to begin with no fans as well.

Trial games, overseen by the DCMS, such as the recent friendly between Brighton and Chelsea, have taken place with reduced numbers, with just 2,500 at the 30,000-capacity Amex Stadium.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the intention to return fans to stadiums from 1 October will be reviewed, as part of wider restrictions to tackle the spread of Covid-19. Pilot test events in September will now be restricted to 1,000 fans.

Football clubs have been working with the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to thrash through the health, safety, and social distancing issues to be tackled.

The government is also thought to be considering the formation of a Sport Technology Innovation Group.

So in what ways might technology safeguard the match-day experience?

Technology Different solutions

Will Durden is a director at Momentum Transport Consultancy, which works with West Ham United’s home the London Stadium, Wembley Stadium, and the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

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Momentum Transport

Image caption

Will Durden says social distancing has to be embedded into the match day

Their experts examine foot traffic around stadiums and look at how to decrease queuing times and crowding – important issues post-Covid.

“Stadiums have been used to doing things in a way which is now going to be very different, and they will need to use software to examine different match-day scenarios.

“Their major question and challenge is: what can be done to safely embed social distancing into the match-day operation? Each stadium is different and each one needs different solutions.”

Technology Test events on Saturday, 12 September

Non-league clubs in the seventh tier of English football and below can also admit fans as a distinction has been drawn between recreational sport and elite sport.

Q&A: What will the 2020-21 season look like?

For example, Momentum’s software can examine if bottlenecks would be caused at stadium entrances by any new security and health checks.

It can also model what might happen if frisking and bag searches were replaced by airport-style security scanning.

Image copyright
William Heubner/Momentum Transport

Image caption

A Momentum dynamic crowd heat model of a security screening area at a stadium

“We work through an operations plan for each building,” Mr Durden says. “It might be that to speed up fan entry we run a scenario looking at using stadium exits as entrances.

“Our software can show us if that would work, or if it would cause another problem elsewhere in the stadium.”

Mr Durden adds that stadiums can make a big difference by introducing digital tickets.

“A lot of venues already have the capacity to do that, such as smartcard season tickets,” he says. “Operating costs might also be reduced if there was an industry-wide use of digital tickets.”

Technology Data analysis

Dr Aoife Hunt is a mathematician and associate director at Movement Strategies, which has been working with the DCMS, SGSA and EFL.

The company takes all the available data it can, including previous ticketing information, future ticketing data (including how many people want to sit together in friends and family clusters), stadium layouts, as well as – where GDPR rules allow – historic CCTV footage of fan movement.

The team also has data compiled from physically counting and recording people movement at such venues as the London Stadium and Wembley.

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Movement Strategies

Image caption

Dr Aoife Hunt has been working with the Sports Grounds Safety Authority

Ms Hunt’s team worked at this year’s World Snooker Championship, where there were limited spectators.

“If you can imagine something like a computer game with a 3D stadium, you can change the number of people, how they behave, how they move around inside the stadium, and we can run a number of different scenarios.

“The social distancing element is something brand new that we are factoring in.”

More Technology of Business

That allows them to come up with an optimum attendance number, depending on the stadium and how easily each fan bubble can be safely distanced from the next.

The team also looks at how each computer-generated spectator might interact with others.

“That shows us if there is going to be potential for interactions with other fans outside their designated social distancing bubble for an unacceptable length of time,” she says.

Image copyright
Movement Strategies

Image caption

Movement Strategies can simulate different seating arrangements

“So if we find that X amount of spectators will be interacting with others for too long, we look at how that particular problem can be addressed in terms of reducing fan movement or numbers.

“There may be potential points where fans might be getting too close, be it concourses, food and beverage outlets, toilets.

“If our simulations can’t find a solution, for example around food and drink, then it might be a decision is made that catering can’t open.”

Technology Code embedded

If Movement and Momentum are concerned about managing and predicting spectator movement, software company Crowd Connected is looking at how to actually track fans on match day.

The firm works with several sporting bodies including Uefa and the European Tour Golf, as well as with music festivals.

Image copyright
Bill Wilson/BBC

Image caption

The rules on spectating have been relaxed at lower-tier English football levels

“Our technology works by leveraging the fact a major event usually has an official app,” says director Mark Maydon. “It acts as your guide to the event, for example at a cricket or football match.

“Because people are coming in with mobile phones, by having our code embedded in the app we can then track their movement around the venue, and use that to enhance the experience.”

But he is at pains to point out that they must have fans’ explicit permission for their software to be activated.

“Maybe stadiums will be strictly segregated in future,” he says.

Image copyright
Mark Maydon

Image caption

Mark Maydon says fans must give their permission to sign up to Crowd Connected’s tracking features

“The app can be used to direct you to your ticket entry point at the stadium on a pre-determined route, and then to ensure that you do not stray outside your designated zone when inside the stadium.

“We can also use it to notify people about the entry procedure, telling them, for example, that they are approaching security, then health checks, then ticket barriers.”

Technology Collection points

One of the key challenges in stadiums will be communications, says Mr Maydon.

“For example, if large queues are forming at one food and beverage area, we can inform them if there is a quieter one nearby.

“Or if people buy food or drink via the app, they can be directed to a specific collection point.”

Image copyright
Crowd Connected

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Crowd Connected can trace where people are gathering in large groups

Footfall data may also show that fans have been using some parts of the stadium more than others, and that could inform things like cleaning regimes.

But there is a limit to the technology – it relies on people signing up.

“We need people’s permission to track them,” says Mr Maydon. “But if it was framed as ‘help us to help you’ that could encourage people to sign up.”

16th September 2020

Technology Man who believed virus was hoax loses wife to Covid-19

Technology Man who believed virus was hoax loses wife to Covid-19


Technology Man and woman at baseball game.Image copyright

Image caption

Brian with his wife Erin, who passed away this month

A Florida taxi driver, who believed false claims that coronavirus was a hoax, has lost his wife to Covid-19.

Brian Lee Hitchens and his wife, Erin, had read claims online that the virus was fabricated, linked to 5G or similar to the flu.

The couple didn’t follow health guidance or seek help when they fell ill in early May. Brian recovered but his 46-year-old wife became critically ill and died this month from heart problems linked to the virus.

Brian spoke to the BBC in July as part of an investigation into the human cost of coronavirus misinformation. At the time, his wife was on a ventilator in hospital.

Technology Deadly conspiracy theories

Erin, a pastor in Florida, had existing health problems – she suffered from asthma and a sleeping disorder.

Her husband explained that the couple did not follow health guidance at the start of the pandemic because of the false claims they had seen online.

Brian continued to work as a taxi driver and to collect his wife’s medicine without observing social distancing rules or wearing a mask.

They had also failed to seek help as soon as possible when they fell ill in May and were both subsequently diagnosed with Covid-19.

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Brian and Erin both came across conspiracy theories on Facebook

Brian told BBC News that he “wished [he’d] listened from the beginning” and hoped his wife would forgive him.

“This is a real virus that affects people differently. I can’t change the past. I can only live in today and make better choices for the future,” Brian explained.

“She’s no longer suffering, but in peace. I go through times missing her, but I know she’s in a better place.”

Technology ‘This thing is real’

Brian said he and his wife didn’t have one firm belief about Covid-19. Instead, they switched between thinking the virus was a hoax, linked to 5G technology, or a real, but mild ailment. They came across these theories on Facebook.

“We thought the government was using it to distract us,” Brian explained, “or it was to do with 5G.”

But after the couple fell ill with the virus in May, Brian took to Facebook in a viral post to explain that he’d been misled by what he’d seen online about the virus.

“If you have to go out please use wisdom and don’t be foolish like I was so the same thing won’t happen to you like it happened to me and my wife,” he wrote.

In May, a BBC team tracking coronavirus misinformation found links to assaults, arson and deaths.

Doctors and experts have warned that the potential for indirect harm caused by rumours, conspiracy theories and bad health information online remains huge – especially as anti-vaccination conspiracies are being spread on social media.

While social media companies have made attempts to tackle misinformation about coronavirus on their platforms, critics argue that more needs to be done in the coming months.

A Facebook spokesperson told the BBC: “We don’t allow harmful misinformation on our platforms and between April and June we removed more than seven million pieces of harmful Covid-19 misinformation, including claims relating to false cures or suggestions that social distancing is ineffective.”

13th September 2020

Technology Scotland to get dedicated Covid-19 tracing app

Technology Scotland to get dedicated Covid-19 tracing app


Technology How will test, track and trace work?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced a new “proximity tracing app” to combat the spread of Covid-19.

Ms Sturgeon described Protect Scotland as a “significant enhancement” to the existing test and protect system

And she vowed that important assurances about privacy and confidentiality would be given when it launches later this month.

She added: “I encourage everyone to download and use the app as soon as it becomes available.”

The announcement comes as the number of confirmed cases increased by 154, including 66 in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area.

Technology ‘Additional means’

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs: “The app will provide an additional means of notifying and giving advice if you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive, even if you don’t know that person and they don’t know you.”

Contact-tracing apps are designed to help prevent a second wave of the coronavirus.

They work by logging when two people have been in close proximity to each other for a substantial period of time.

If one of the users is later diagnosed as having the disease, an alert can be sent to others they have recently been close to, telling them that they should also get tested and/or self-isolate.

In July the Scottish government confirmed the app was in development and will focus on using Bluetooth technology to anonymously alert users if they have been in close contact with another user who has tested positive for Covid-19.

If an individual tests positive for the virus they will be sent a unique code to their mobile.

If they give permission, the data will then be sent to a server so close contacts also using the app can be traced.

The app will use the same software as the Republic of Ireland app, which has been adapted for use in Northern Ireland.

In June, the UK government ditched its coronavirus-tracing app and shifted to a model based on technology provided by Apple and Google.

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