Technology

Windows 11

in Technology Insight

Whether you’re a business owner, IT manager or home user, the days of being excited about new operating system releases seem to have faded from view.

They’re costly to implement, in terms of time, nerves and worries about backwards-compatibility. However, they’re entirely necessary as cyber crime marches on into every nook and cranny of life as criminals find and exploit new ways of causing misery while enriching themselves.

It’s against this backdrop that Microsoft has announced the latest iteration of Windows. Windows 11. There is a glaring mistake in the press release from Seattle, however. It proclaims “the web was born and grew up on Windows”. Except it wasn’t. It was born on a NeXT computer and Internet Explorer was very, very late to the internet party – only making up for lost time using practices that landed Microsoft in court. But we digress.

It is prettier than Windows 10. It seems to adopt a more simplistic, clean approach to rendering the windows and menus, called Acrylic. There is a redesigned Start menu and better font depiction. In a feature reminiscent of Apple’s Handoff, you will be able to work on projects on an iOS or Android device and pick-up where you left off on a Windows 11 desktop. There is also a promised cloud version of the operating system. Yes, an OS in the cloud. So perhaps all those worries and niggles about upgrading can be parked for one second, and a try-before-you-install-for-real approach taken? What would be even cleverer would be to do that first and then restore from the cloud to a local disk installation. That would be an IT manager’s dream for mass deployment, bandwidth permitting. Windows 365 will be available later this year (and will also offer Windows 10 as an option).

Wangui McKelvey, general manager of Microsoft 365, admitted that it was already in the works before COVID-19, but “what really put the firecracker behind it was the pandemic, it accelerated everything,” McKelvey said. She explained that customers were asking, “’How do we create an experience for people that makes them still feel connected to the company without the physical presence of being there?”

Gaming also gets a massive overhaul with cross-compatibility for Game Pass with its Xbox cousin. It doesn’t end there. The Microsoft Store will also start to offer Android apps to run natively on your PC through a collaboration with Amazon and Intel. That really is pretty neat.

There isn’t a definite release date yet, but you can join the Windows Insider programme to keep up-to-date.

blogs.windows.com/windows-insider/

Reinventing how cars sound

in Technology Insight

The future of motoring has left vehicle manufacturers with a peculiar dilemma. Do they mimic the internal engine sound? Do they make cars sound like the whirring of the Jetsons? Or do they do nothing at all?

BMW has taken the artistic route in trying to arrive at a new “sound” for motoring. They’ve embarked on a unique collaboration with renowned and highly-regarded composer and sound designer Hans Zimmer.

“Every BMW has its own character, which is reflected in the sound it makes,” says film music creator and Academy Award winner Zimmer. “So for the electrically driven BMW M models we have developed a driving sound which accentuates their emotional driving experience particularly vividly and ensures their performance can be felt with even greater intensity.”

Zimmer had previously been involved in the development of an inspiring ready-to-drive sound for electrically powered BMWs which instils a sense of excitement at the prospect of electric driving when the Start/Stop button is pressed. The latest chapter in this collaboration covers drive sounds for the BMW iX and BMW i4, including a differentiated sound for the M-specification version of the BMW i4.

While the hush of electric driving offers an unprecedented level of comfort, the driving experience loses a degree of emotionality. This is where BMW IconicSounds Electric steps in to put smiles on the faces of customers keen to experience Sheer Driving Pleasure with all the senses. In the future, electric driving pleasure will be enhanced by acoustic feedback to every movement of the accelerator. Like the on-board driving modes selectable at the touch of a button, the driving sound also takes its cues from the driving situation at hand and the driver’s personal preferences. 

Renzo Vitale, Creative Director Sound at the BMW Group explains. “When you press the pedal of an M car, you suddenly get goosebumps all over your body … we translated this feeling into a drive sound that expresses a fusion of superior power and flowing energy.”

The new drive sounds developed as part of the collaboration with Hans Zimmer are expected to feature in the BMW i4 and BMW iX over the course of 2022. IconicSounds Electric comes as standard in the BMW iX and can be specified as an option for the BMW i4. In cars with earlier build dates, the new sounds can be imported retrospectively via Remote Software Upgrade, should the customer wish. The new spectrum includes one ready-to-drive sound and one stop sound, plus a driving sound which will be made available in the relevant version for BMW models and BMW M cars with electrified drive system.

The Met office’s moonshot

in Technology Insight

The Met Office and Microsoft have joined forces to build world’s most powerful weather and climate forecasting supercomputer in the UK.

This new supercomputer – expected to be the world’s most advanced dedicated to weather and climate – will be in the top 25 supercomputers in the world and be twice as powerful as any other in the UK.

The data it generates will be used to provide more accurate warnings of severe weather, helping to build resilience and protect British citizens, businesses and infrastructure from the impacts of increasingly extreme storms, floods and snow.

It will also be used to take forward ground-breaking climate change modelling, unleashing the full potential of the Met Office’s global expertise in climate science. The precision and accuracy of its modelling will help to inform Government policy as part of the UK’s fight against climate change, and its efforts to reach net zero by 2050.

UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said, “This partnership between the Met Office and Microsoft to build the world’s most powerful weather and climate forecasting supercomputer is a ringing endorsement for the UK’s credentials in protecting our environment, as we prepare to host COP26 later this year.

“The new supercomputer, backed by a billion-pound UK government investment, will act as a catalyst for unlocking new skills, technologies and jobs right across our economy – from data scientists to AI experts – all as part of our efforts to build back better and create a cleaner future.”

Penny Endersby, Chief Executive of the Met Office added, “We are delighted to be working in collaboration with Microsoft to deliver our next supercomputing capability.  Working together, we will provide the highest quality weather and climate datasets and ever more accurate forecasts that enable decisions to allow people to stay safe and thrive. This will be a unique capability that will keep not just the Met Office but the UK at the forefront of environmental modelling and high-performance computing.

“This investment by the UK government is a great vote of confidence in the Met Office’s world leading status as a provider of weather and climate science and services, as well as in our national commitment to build a more resilient world in a changing climate, helping build back greener across the UK and beyond.”

As the Met Office and Microsoft work together over the next 10 years, it is expected that the collaboration will deliver both scientific and technological innovation that will ensure the Met Office and the UK is ready to harness the next generation of supercomputing and data technologies. This will enable the exploitation of scientific expertise to answer many of the big questions presented by our changing climate – improving forecasting of severe weather and impacts today and in the future.

This will ensure the UK maintains its global reputation for world-leading scientific and technological research and innovation. It is expected that the investment will result in financial benefits totalling up to £13 billion (or £9:1) for the UK over its 10-year lifespan.

The supercomputer will be based in the south of the UK, and will help to bring about employment, apprenticeships, internships, mentoring opportunities, training in digital skills and support for start-ups primarily in the South West of England.

Find out more in the Met Office’s Mostly Climate podcast.

London’s Air ambulance gets appy

in Technology Insight

Medics at London’s Air Ambulance Charity only deal in life and death situations. Their helicopter and rapid
response cars take an advanced trauma team to patients in the capital needing emergency medical treatment and who are unlikely to survive the journey to hospital. London’s Air Ambulance brings the hospital to the scene to deliver urgent medical care when every second counts.

The life-saving charity looks after the 10 million people who live, work and travel within the M25, treating an average of five patients every day. The most common incidents include serious road traffic collisions, stabbings, shootings, falls from height, industrial accidents, assaults and incidents on the rail network. The service has attended most major incidents in London including 7/7 and the London Bridge terror attacks.

Until recently, London’s Air Ambulance teams used paper and pens to create checklists of the equipment that had to be placed into each medical bag, and whiteboards to assign those bags to vehicles. The charity needed to find a digital solution that ensured checklists could be created and shared from mobile phones and tablets, giving all medics one view of their operation, wherever they were, at any time of day or night.

This lo-fi implementation of inventory to keep track of equipment wasn’t working for a team that prides itself on speed, agility and accuracy. London’s Air Ambulance needed a digital solution, so they called upon the expertise of Intelogy, a firm that specialises in helping companies and organisations embrace digital ways of working.

Intelogy came up with the idea of attaching QR codes to every medical bag.

Once the code is scanned by a device, the user can log all the equipment in the bag before it’s ready to go out again.

That information can also be easily shared with other charity staff or the helipad team, who can support the medics by ordering new equipment for them.

Simon Chalfont, Technical Director at Intelogy, helped London’s Air Ambulance build the PowerApp and, like everything else the medical team does, speed ended up being a key part of the process.

“Because of how easy PowerApps is to use, the development speed was phenomenal,” he explained.

“The QR code idea was suggested during a Friday meeting, we had a proof of concept by the middle of the following week and the solution was designed the week after. That process would normally have taken months, or sometimes years. PowerApps fundamentally changes the way we think about digital transformation at organisations.”

Being “low-code” solutions, they are easy to build and can solve specific problems that organisations are experiencing.

Mike Christian, Doctor and Research & Clinical Effectiveness Lead with London’s Air Ambulance elaborated further. “I’m not a techie guy,” he said. “So when we embarked upon the digital transformation project at London’s Air Ambulance, we made a decision to use Microsoft’s Power Platform because there’s no need for bespoke development and we would have a product that we could maintain ourselves in the future.

Mike and his team want to develop the app further and capture more data that can help them save lives.

“When it comes to the potential of what this technology can do for us, the sky’s the limit.”

Time to go Ultrawide

in Technology Insight

Apart from the clear and present pressure that COVID-19 has given rise to in terms of daily life, it has also unleashed some anxieties regarding careers.

Given the environment the world now finds itself in, devices and gadgets that offer better at-home productivity and entertainment solutions loomed large at this year’s CES. The biggest names in consumer tech offered up a multitude of innovations in their virtual showrooms geared toward making life better for the millions who now work and play primarily within the confines of their homes.

As such, the things on offer tended to have definition at their heart. But it’s not just for work purposes that the shift is happening in the home. The even greater spread of the MMORPG phenomenon during the pandemic was perhaps boosted by the interactivity and interaction it relies on through the course of playing. And treaming services bought and shifted home streaming/video experiences for the latest TV and movie releases. Wonder Woman and Eddie Murphy’s latest outings made their debuts in the home as a direct result of the COVID pandemic.

There is one aspect, however, that was underplayed. The need for a decent audio setup wasn’t quite as prominent in all the glossy brochures and demo videos. Noise cancelling for the multitude of Zoom/Teams calls as well as thunderous bass to be totally immersed in a favourite movie are both equally important sides of the same coin.

As usual, it was LG, Samsung and Sony who led the way with their offerings. And as previously niche innovations become more mainstream, this only benefits the consumer as prices fall in keeping with demand and economies of scale.

But don’t get too excited just yet. The net big thing around the corner will be the wholesaled adoption of augmented and virtual reality. Perhaps the pandemic was training us never to have to leave the home ever again all along?

The Covid Coders

in Technology Insight

Apart from the clear and present pressure that COVID-19 has given rise to in terms of daily life, it has also unleashed some anxieties regarding careers.

Career anxiety is a major side-effect of the pandemic and it’s affecting workers of every age. Young people are concerned about their career prospects, but the over-45s are just as worried about their future. This has sparked a wave of interest in mid-life professional pivots, with our research revealing that one in four over-45s is considering a career switch or role change.

This growing interest in “encore careers” is motivated by insecurity about the future. One-in-three over-45s cite fears about financial security as one of the reasons they’re exploring new career paths.

Technology offers a unique way to dip toes into something new. A few hours a week learning to code, or mastering an application of software specific to a new vocation can reap rewards. Gibraltar is in a special place regarding the make up of its economy – the traditional economy has been built up over centuries, and the newer digital aspects of what is available stands us in good stead for the future. As one of the leading Blockchain/DLT jurisdictions in the world, coupled with a need for Python and Java programmers, this 2.5 square mile micro-state is pretty unique.

Research by Microsoft has revealed that over-45s currently employed in sales, media and marketing (58%), manufacturing and utilities (54%), finance (53%) and travel and transport (52%) are the most likely to be considering a new career.

But despite their willingness to adapt and “upskill”, only 23% of over-45s say they’d consider a technology career, and 60% say they don’t know what resources are available to improve their digital skills.

This, despite estimates that more than three million skilled people will be needed in the technology sector by 2025.

Simon Lambert, Chief Learning Officer at Microsoft UK, said “There is a dangerous misconception that the tech industry is just an industry for the young. The truth is that we need people with a diverse range of experiences, backgrounds and ages. And we need them now to fill the growing skills gap which, left unplugged, will significantly impact the economic recovery post-COVID.”

Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, a digital community for the over 50s, said “Investing time into learning digital and technology skills is important for self-development at any age, however one of the biggest barriers for this generation of workers is simply a lack of confidence. Tailored, accessible courses to help boost the digital skills of mid-life career changers will help to open up new career paths as we rebuild a future for the economy post-pandemic.”

One example of a successful mid-life tech career changer is Carol Milligan, 57. After 25 years working on the ground for an airline, she was made redundant at the age of 48. Following some professional career advice, Carol used her transferable skills and landed a role troubleshooting technical problems for customers at leading travel technology company Amadeus, one of the backbone systems to book flights.

More information is available at the following:

microsoft.com/en-gb/home/digital-skills

restless.co.uk

• unigib.edu.gi/courses

srgeurope.com

bctrainingsolutions.com

grasp.gi

Project Titan

in Technology Insight

Every company at the edge of innovation and design finds itself subject to rumours or hearsay.

When you look at Apple, Inc. it has had an incredible ride at the forefront of consumer and business products. Consigned to near bankruptcy in the mid-1990s, it is dominant in a way that its erstwhile and much missed co-founder Steve Jobs managed to embody.

For many years, Apple was the only company to make and market products where it controlled the entire ecosystem. Software and hardware in perfect harmony. However, even in the realm of its desktop and laptop computers it had come to rely on Intel to provide the chips and this – in turn – dictated the architecture of the devices. For iPhones and iPads it was a lot simpler. Apple provided the “whole widget”. For the Mac, GPUs, memory arrays and so on had to be done in a certain way to fit with how Intel chips worked. Power-per-watt is what lead to the migration away from the then groundbreaking PowerPC. This spectre came to haunt Intel when Apple decided to jump to the M1 chipset. It is ruthlessly efficient and we get the sense that this is only the beginning of something very, very big.

So, having sorted out the widget issue, would Apple be so bold to attempt an automobile?

In a word, yes.

Project Titan is the rumoured name given to Apple’s autonomous electric vehicle initiative. Since the early 2000s, the company has striven to be more environmentally friendly and to use its wealth and influence to spread this among the wider population. However, cars are made up of thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of individual components.

Why would Apple become dependent on a multitude of suppliers once again?

This is simple to explain.

The original Apple computers were actually DIY kits. You had to sort the bits and bobs out to make the thing be operational. Through time, the company garnered the best of what was available *at the time* to create what looked like a uniform end-product to consumers.

Take even something as brilliant as the iPod. This was actually a bastardised creation, using many off the shelf components. However, the user experience meant it – at no time – ever felt this way.

Perhaps the “Apple Car” will follow an initially similar path?

Right now, Apple cannot build a motor vehicle itself, with all the will in the world. The Cupertino firm will need to partner with an external expert to make this happen. This could happen in a couple of ways.

Firstly, it could buy someone outright. After all, it has the cash. McLaren is in not the best financial shape, but the design ethos is pretty much a perfect match.

Alternatively, it could form a deep and meaningful partnership with a company like BMW. This could work, but how much of Apple’s secret sauce would it be willing to share to get such a partner on board?

Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in exactly the same way before bringing everything together and in-house as a result of its incredible success and subsequent wealth.

Is the motor vehicle next? Don’t bet against it.

Christmas Tech Guide 2020

in Technology Insight

Playstation 5 

These are being sold on eBay for four times (!) the RRP. Sony’s up-to-8K console has wowed the critics and comes with or without a physical drive as an option. Better upgrade the Gibtelecom broadband! 

RRP £350


ATARI VCS

A bit of a dark horse in the console game, this bit of kit harks back to the early-80s. The thing is, it’s also a PC which enables other OSs to be installed via USB as well has having all your Atari favourites. Anyone for Pong?

RRP £399


Xbox Series X 

Power your dreams, they say. A bazillion munkleflops of power. Not really – it’s 12 teraflops of grunt, so that will more than suffice in Microsoft’s latest Xbox offering. It also features incredible 3D sound.

RRP £440


BEATS FLEX 

Available in four stylish colours: Beats Black, Yuzu Yellow, Smoke Gray and Flame Blue. It features USB-C charging and the Apple W1 Bluetooth enhancing chip and up to 12 hours of listening time.

RRP £49


Polar M430 GPS Watch

Equipped with Polar’s wrist-based heart rate technology, integrated GPS, and personalized, adaptive training guidance, Polar M430 is the ideal tool for runners aiming to reach their personal best.

RRP £200


DYSON PURE

Beat the humidity blues in Gibraltar with this special Dyson fan. Designed with air purity in mind, it aims to capture up to 99.97% of air pollutants, as small as 0.3 microns, in your home. And with everyone spending more time in their cribs these days this cannot be a bad thing.

RRP £800

Technology Insight

in Technology Insight

Best Buds… 

Technology Insight

With smartphone refresh season in full swing, it’s also time to revisit audio accessories. Here are some of the latest in-ear headphones from LG, Sony and Samsung.

LG

The HBS-FN7 features technology from Meridian Audio, the renowned British audio technology company and LG’s trusted partner in delivering superior sound. Powered by Digital Signal Processing, a technology that Meridian has been perfecting for over 25 years, the LG Tone Free FN7 can recreate a realistic soundstage that simulates the experience of listening to real loudspeakers.

Sony

At full charge, the headphones offer 9 hours of power, while the handy charging case provides an extra 9 hours. That’s up to 18 hours of noise-free listening. With noise-cancelling switched off, it’s even longer – 13 hours of power on a full charge, with an extra 13 hours provided by the charging case, for up to 26 hours of playtime. That’s enough time to go up and down the Med Steps a few times!

Samsung

The South Korean electronics firm offers this latest iteration of their Galaxy-branded wearable products. Like LG, this is a collaboration. 12mm speakers with sound by Grammy-Award winning AKG work together with Galaxy Buds Live’s ergonomic design to deliver spacious sound, while the large driver and bass duct help emit deep bass with airflow that helps the sound flow.

The RRP for each one of these earbuds is circa £200.

The need for speed…

in Technology Insight

Gibtelecom has today unveiled the next generation in fibre technology for Gibraltar and is today launching its Gigabit Gibraltar plan, bringing hyperfast connectivity to everyone, Gibraltar-wide, by the end of 2022. 

Gibtelecom’s new 1Gb fibre broadband is already available to over 2000 homes across 13 large residential estates. 

Gibtelecom’s Chief Executive, Noel Burrows said: “this is a giant digital leap forward for Gibraltar.  For the first time ever, all of Gibraltar will be able to experience hyperfast and reliable gigabit internet connections thanks to the latest technology and the power of our network.”

“This upgrade plan will see gigabit speeds rolled out at an unrivalled pace right across Gibraltar, bringing our customers the future-proof connections of tomorrow” he added.

Thanks to Gigabit Gibraltar, customers will be able to take advantage of emerging consumer technologies such as cloud gaming, virtual reality entertainment and 8K video streaming across the home.

“The latest in Fibre-To-The-Premises (FTTP) technology is being rolled out across the entire country. Our network, which has been meticulously engineered using Point 2 Point direct fibre, will not only be faster, but will also deliver more robust, superior and future-ready solutions. With this technology, Gibtelecom will have the capability to roll out multi-gigabit connections and further improvements over the next decade.” said Jansen Reyes, Director of Technology.

Adrian Ochello, Director of Consumer and Marketing, said “This is a huge technological stride for Gibraltar and we’re proudly leading the way, making it faster and accessible to everyone. With our hyperfast 1Gb broadband, ultra-high definition content can be streamed without buffering and very large files can be downloaded and uploaded in a flash, even across multiple devices sharing the connection simultaneously. This launch comes only weeks after introducing great new mobile plans loaded with much more data, new landline plans with inclusive minutes, simpler tariffs, and an improved fully licensed TV service which now carries over 100 TV channels, popular on-demand content, catch-up and a mobile app to watch TV on the go. Our service bundles are extremely popular and offer great savings, and there’s plenty more to come… so watch this space.”

Customers can check 1Gb availability and pricing, as well as register online at gibtele.com/gigagib.

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