Electric Car

Buying An Electric Car

Electric cars have been on the market for some time, and manufacturers are improving their technology. Some countries such as the UK, plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars from a certain point to better combat climate change (in the UK’s case 2030) and with more and more people becoming more eco-conscious, the sale of electric cars is rapidly increasing. They are becoming more widely available and more affordable. EV’s can be efficient, cheaper to run, requite less maintenance, perform superbly and are better for the environment.

According to the International Energy Agency, ‘sales of electric cars topped 2.1 million globally in 2019, surpassing 2018 – already a record year – to boost the stock to 7.2 million electric cars.1 Electric cars, which accounted for 2.6% of global car sales and about 1% of global car stock in 2019, registered a 40% year-on-year increase.’ Reports have also shown that despite the coronavirus pandemic, the sales of electric vehicles have continued to grow in various countries despite the overall decline in new car registrations. Norway recently became the first country in the world where electric car sales overtook petrol and diesel sales, claiming a 54.3% market share of all new cars sold in 2020 – which is a global record according to The Guardian. The Conversation also reported that: ‘in Germany, EV sales from January to June increased from 47,584 in 2019 to 93,848 in 2020, supported by particularly strong PHEV growth.’ If you are thinking of buying an electric car, here are some considerations as you shop around:

If you use your car mainly for short journeys, errands and commutes an electric car may suit your needs perfectly. Many EV’s offer over 200 miles range on one charge, but some models offer less. Akin to petrol or diesel, there are factors that will affect your range – such as speed, driving habits, the weather, the cars climate control and so forth.

For longer journeys you may need to consider whether an electric car would tailor to your needs. If not, perhaps a hybrid may better suit you until electric cars are better evolved. Those with shorter commutes would still need to look into and learn where their local charging points are and consider if it is feasible to fit this into their schedule. With more and more places installing charging ports in parking bays and accommodating electric vehicles this is becoming easier and if your commute is particularly short, you may only need to charge at home and/or at work.

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Longer journeys may need more planning, mapping out charging stops along the way and considering how far you can go before charging. According to Wired: ‘some systems, as in a Tesla, tell you exactly how many minutes to charge for at each station, and how much range you’ll have left when you arrive at your destination. They also show how many chargers are offered, and how many are currently available or occupied. Today’s longest range cars are still all Teslas, with the flagship Long Range version of the Model S giving you a claimed 405 miles using the WLTP test cycle. This equates to around 350 miles in the real world, but as with all EVs this can reduce in cold weather and also depends on traffic, elevation change and driving style.’

You will also need to consider the charging network available to you. Charging at home is a convenient perk of electric car ownership, but these come with considerations. According to USA News:
‘You can charge your EV using a standard 110-volt wall outlet (Level 1 charging), but it’s going to take some time. Level 1 charging adds about 4 miles of range per hour. If you don’t use many miles of range each day, this may work for you. However, if you deplete a full 250 miles of range, it will take several days to recharge this way. Most EV owners hire an electrician to install a 240-volt outlet in their garage. This allows for Level 2 charging, which can add 25 miles of range per charging hour. Make sure to find out how much it will cost to add 240-volt service at your home.’

You will also have to consider how much it will cost to charge your car. Electricity costs will likely vary depending on where you love and what supplier you use. USA news reported that the average price of electricity in the USA is 13.28 cents per kilowatt-hour, and whilst charging at home is generally cheaper than charging in public and generally cheaper than gas. It is still worth consideration.

Once you have done the research into your model and seeing if it fits into your lifestyle, you may find that an electric vehicle is better than expected. According to The Scotsman many people are happy with their choice of opting for an electric vehicle, ‘Ninety per cent of drivers questioned by the charge point mapping service said they wouldn’t return to a petrol or diesel vehicle for their next car… The majority (73 per cent) of respondents were first-time EV drivers and 52 per cent had bought their car in the last year.’

Smart Watch

Exciting Anticipated Tech Releases To Look Out For in 2021

It is clear that technology provided a lifeline for many in 2020. With the effects of the pandemic causing lockdowns across the world, people relied on technology to keep them connected with their loved ones and colleagues. The use of video calling software, such as Zoom, increased across the world as people hosted virtual games, parties and quizzes and many businesses began to use platforms such as Microsoft Teams to host meetings and keep employees talking. In addition, people used smart watches and apps to track fitness goals during their daily exercise or invested in new laptops and tablets to host streaming sites or video calls.

Restrictions continue across the world, and look set to characterize at least the early part of 2021 in many countries before wider vaccine roll-outs, which only increases the importance of technology. With this in mind, here are some of the most hotly anticipated releases to look out for over the course of this year to help make your life easier. Some of these are confirmed to be appearing on the shelves, whereas others are rumored.

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Apple Silicon MacBook Pro Models
Apple is known for regularly releasing updated models of their core gadgets such as the MacBook, IPhone and IPad and 2021 looks set to be no different. Apple Insider reported that it is expected that in late 2021 Apple will release the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models that will contain the Apple Silicon chips. These will not be the first M1 products as they have already released a 13-inch MacBook Pro, A MacBook Air and a Mac mini last year. On the reviews of the new products to date Apple Insider comments that “The M1 chip has been well-received since its launch in 2020” and that “The M1 in the 13-inch MacBook Pro, for example, is nearly as fast as a 16-inch MacBook Pro model with an Intel CPU” which certainly provides some stiff competition for Intel. The price point for the new releases is unknown however the 13-inch MacBooK Pro with 256GB storage currently retails for around £999.00 (around $1,353.27) which could provide an indication.

LG Autonomous Robot
The previous year has certainly highlighted the need for disinfection in public spaces, such as hospitality venues, hotels and education and to this end in December 2020 LG announced that they are going to release an Autonomous Robot in early 2021 that “will use ultraviolet (UV-C) light to disinfect high-touch, high-traffic areas.”

The press release on the LG website included a quote from Michael Kosla, vice president, LG Business Solutions USA who explained: “We hope LG’s first UV disseminating robot will give our customers, and in turn their customers, peace of mind,” He added: “Whether it’s hotel guests, students in classrooms or patrons of restaurants and other businesses, they can rest assured that the LG autonomous UV robot will help reduce their exposure to harmful bacteria and germs,”

The anticipated robot will be able to move around high-traffic areas by itself and disinfect the most touched areas in quick time to protect the safety of customers in those venues. It will be able to use a single battery charge to irradiate many areas, will be simple to use and easy for cleaning teams to add into their current practices because it can be monitored through a smartphone or tablet. This is a clear demonstration of the innovation in cleaning abilities.

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OnePlus Smartwatch
Smartwatches are becoming increasingly commonplace, with their most used features including step counters, fitness monitors and notifications services when you link to your phone, alongside the traditional telling the time. The Apple Watch is a go-to for many looking for this technology, however OnePlus, another established smartphone company, have confirmed they will be releasing their own smartwatch in early 2021. After much speculation this was confirmed by the CEO and Founder of OnePlus Pete Lau on Twitter in December 2020. Slash Gear highlight that the specifics of the watch and its exact date of release are yet to be confirmed, however they anticipate that we could see it launch in March 2021, when they believe it is likely we will see the OnePlus 9 series, as this is generally when OnePlus reveal its first new releases of the year.

Samsung Neo QLED TVs and Micro LED TVs
It is undeniable that we have been spending lots of time in front of the TV during lockdown. During its CES 2021 First Look event in early January they unveiled some of its flagship TVs that will be released in 2021, although the exact release date is not confirmed. Business Insider reported that the new high-end offering will include 4K and 8K Neo QLED models and 110-inch Micro LED TV.

With regards to the Neo QLED models, Business Insider says: “Unlike regular LED or QLED TVs, Neo QLED TVs use a “Quantum Mini LED” backlight to illuminate the screen. According to Samsung, each Mini LED is about 1/40 the height of a standard LED that you’d find in a typical TV”.

When discussing Samsung’s Micro LED TV’s Business Insider report: “Micro LED TVs offer lots of benefits over other display technologies, like LED, QLED, and even OLED. Like OLED TVs, Micro LED TVs are self-illuminating, which means that each of the TV’s 24 million LEDs can dim, brighten, or turn off individually without the need for a backlight. This results in an infinite contrast ratio with true black levels.”

2021 certainly looks to be an exciting year of new technology releases.

Robotic Healthcare

Three Advances in Healthcare Technology

Healthcare has definitely been in the spotlight for the majority of 2020, as the world faced the global coronavirus pandemic, scientists raced to develop a vaccination and we praised our brave and heroic health workers that cared for and protected our loved ones and ourselves. 2020 has also been a year where technology has been our lifeline, whether that is keeping in contact with loved ones, running our businesses remotely, staying informed or simply staying entertained, technology has been another prevalent factor in the tumultuous and unprecedented year of 2020. However, technology has not only been supporting our everyday lives but has had a hand in the standard of healthcare.

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Virtual Care and Robotics
The level of minor and routine appointments being undertaken virtually has apparently skyrocketed during the pandemic due to a need for people to stay at home, and this may be a change that could stay. Patients have been able to make appointments via online appointment services, self-service platforms, order prescriptions remotely, video chat doctors or simply have over the phone consultations. Whilst this has not been possible for all conditions, this has meant that more medical professionals can see more patients and the risk of spreading contagious pathogens such as COVID-19 is reduced. Patients may also be able to access advice and care from doctors further afield and general practices could utilize help from consultants who may not have usually been able to fill in due to distance.

Virtual care could advance even further in the coming years with the development of remote robotics which would allow skilled surgeons to operate on patients on the other side of the world. Advances in robotic care may also increase the accuracy of surgery, as Wired wrote: ‘robotic surgery has further advantages over that performed by skilled humans: it provides a digital interface between patient and surgeon that can continually collect important data which would otherwise be lost: image analysis, user’s movements, telemetry from the robotic instruments and much more.’ Robotic and autonomous healthcare assistants are being developed, which would be capable of working in hospitals or peoples homes.

Other areas of technology such as Virtual Reality is being used to help train doctors, guide patients on pain management, help with rehabilitation and sleep, treat phobias and even with physical therapy.

COVID-19 Vaccination
Technological advances in healthcare really helped the development of the COVID-19 vaccination so rapidly. Several factors contributed to the speedy development of the COVID-19 vaccination, new RNA technologies helped this along. Although RNA-based platform its important to note that these technologies have been under research and development for over 20 years.

Wired wrote: ‘Both companies [BioNTech and Moderna] are pioneers in messenger RNA therapeutics, which uses a molecule that can encode genetic information. “Scientists can take part of a virus that is important to induce a strong, effective immune response, encrypt that with messenger RNA, and deliver it in a way that can be taken up by human cells,” says Ugur Sahin, co-founder and CEO of BioNTech. Those cells, as a result, produce the vaccine. This method is, according to Sahin, a very precise way of inducing immune response in patients. “The beauty here is we actually don’t use the virus,” [Tal Zaks, the chief medical officer of Moderna] says. “We’ve never had the virus in our labs, we don’t need it.” All that’s required is the genetic information. RNA vaccines are quicker to produce, more precise and very flexible as a technology. “The infrastructure required is relatively small and quick, which means in the manufacturing space, you have a tremendous agility that usual technologies don’t,” Zaks asserted. Vaccines typically take decades to develop, and Zaks and Sahin explained that their fast development cycles came from doing different stages of vaccine development in parallel, rather than sequentially. “We were planning for phase three and vaccine manufacturing even before knowing if the vaccine works,” Sahin says.’

Scientists in China were able to sequence the genetic code of COVID-19 early on from an early case and made it public – this meant that the information that enabled vaccine production to begin was at the fingertips of scientists across the world. The RNA technology meant that they did not need access to the live virus.

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Gene Editing
Gene editing has already allowed scientists to make large advances in treating major diseases such as Duchenne muscular Dystrophy, sickle cell disease, heart disease, and cancer via techniques such as CRISPR. It has been described similarly to ‘molecular surgery’ in that it allows for the precise correction of disease-causing mutations. CRISPR has also triggered the development of new forms of disease diagnostics.

Writing for Forbes, Bernard Marr predicted: ‘due to breakthroughs in this field, we’re likely to see accelerated development of forms of treatment known as “precision medicine,” where drugs can be customized to match the genetic profile of individual patients, making them more effective, as well as less likely to cause unwanted side-effects. The technology has also been used to create a “lab on a chip,” designed for fast detection of coronavirus infection. A handheld device capable of detecting if people are infected, without having to rely on inaccurate indicators such as coughing or a temperature, could be hugely beneficial in returning a level of normality to our lives.’

Boeing Airplane

Boeing Set To Pay $2.5 Billion In Settlements Over 737 Max Fraud

Boeing will pay more than $2.5 billion to settle criminal charges that the company repeatedly lied about the 737 Max’s engineering problems which eventually led to two catastrophic crashes that killed hundreds of individuals; both crashes had no survivors. 

The company admitted to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, and beyond the settlements the company will face no further charges from the US Department of Justice. Acting Assistant Attorney General David Burns of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division recently released a statement regarding the charges. 

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“Boeing’s employees chose a path of profit over candor by concealing material information from the FAA concerning the operation of its 737 Max airplane and engaging in an effort to cover up the deception.” 

Boeing is the nation’s second-largest defense contractor, and is now set to pay the Department of Justice a criminal penalty of $246.6 million. “The families and legal beneficiaries of the 346 passenger victims who died in the Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia in October 2018 and the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in Ethiopia five months later will be paid from a fund of $500 million,” according to Burns. 

If split evenly that would equate to around $1.4 million for each family. A majority of the settlement will be given to airline companies that had purchased the faulty 737 Max aircraft and were forced to ground all of the planes following the two crashes. According to the Department of Justice all of the airlines impacted will receive $1.77 billion in compensations for their financial losses. 

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“The tragic crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 exposed fraudulent and deceptive conduct by employees of one of the world’s leading commercial airplane manufacturers.” 

Both crashes were caused by changes in the airplane’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System which forced the nose of 737 Max to tilt towards the ground, leaving the pilots completely powerless in preventing a fatal crash landing. 

Boeing President and Chief Executive Officer, David Calhoun, recently sent out a note to his employees throughout the nation, explaining that he “firmly believes that entering into this resolution is the right thing to do for Boeing, and is a step that appropriately acknowledges how the company fell short of its values and expectations.” 

“This resolution is a serious reminder to all of us of how critical our obligation of transparency to regulators is, and the consequences that our company can face if any one of us falls short of those expectations,” Calhoun continued. Internal Boeing documents revealed that engineers of the 737 Max aircraft notified the company of the Augmentation System’s “egregious problems” as early as 2016, so many are upset with the settlement announcement, claiming the company should be much more severely punished for such a careless mistake that claimed so many innocent lives.

Apple Logo

Apple To Commence Production of Electric Cars By 2024

As the impact of climate change continues to intensify, countries and organizations across the world are looking for ways to slow down the effects on the planet. One of these ways is the wide-spread adoption of electric cars, over the traditional petrol and diesel vehicles that can be considerable contributors of emissions. For example, the UK government has committed to ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

US Technology giant Apple own project centers around self-driving cars, with the project being known as “Project Titan, yet this is something that has not been publicly confirmed by the company. However Reuters have recently reported that Apple are now in position to aim for vehicles suitable for consumers by 2024 due to the progress that has been made on the project. This is according to sources familiar with the project who did not want to be named due to the project’s confidentiality. Although it was highlighted that this could be delayed to 2025 and beyond by the effects of coronavirus. The vehicle which will be available to the mass-market will have self-driving technology, however it will also be a traditional car too, as reported by Sky News.

Reuters said: “The iPhone maker’s automotive efforts, known as Project Titan, have proceeded unevenly since 2014 when it first started to design its own vehicle from scratch. At one point, Apple drew back the effort to focus on software and reassessed its goals. Doug Field, an Apple veteran who had worked at Tesla Inc, returned to oversee the project in 2018 and laid off 190 people from the team in 2019.”

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The sources cited by Reuters report that Apple has managed to create a new design for a battery that would “radically” reduce the price of batteries and increase the vehicles range, according to a source who has seen the design. Currently electric cars are not an entirely affordable option for most people across the world as they are typically more expensive than petrol cars. Reuters said “Apple declined to comment on its plans or future products.”

In addition Reuters highlighted that Apple has a considerable way to go to be able to create a supply chain suitable to manufacture the cars, even with their financial might, stating that “It took Elon Musk’s Tesla 17 years before it finally turned a sustained profit making cars.” It currently remains to be seen whether Apple will be creating and putting together an “apple-branded vehicle” themselves, but Reuter’s sources say that it is likely they would work with manufacturers or perhaps focus on the technology side, where it is “integrated with a car made by a traditional automaker”.

Reuters also added: “Some Apple investors reacted to the Reuters report on the company’s plans with caution. Trip Miller, managing partner at Apple investor Gullane Capital Partners, said it could be tough for Apple to produce large volumes of cars out of the gate. “It would seem to me that if Apple develops some advanced operating system or battery technology, it would be best utilized in a partnership with an existing manufacturer under license,” Miller said. “As we see with Tesla and the legacy auto companies, having a very complex manufacturing network around the globe doesn’t happen overnight.””

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Of course Apple is not the first company to be manufacturing electric vehicles. Many manufacturers offer hybrid vehicles, such as Toyota, Honda and Ford, that include both petrol and electric capabilities. Tesla is also famous for its electric offerings, offering luxury and some more affordable electric options and their Model S and Model 3. Tesla stocks have risen by more than 500% over the last 12 months. Apple is a non-vehicle specialist company looking to branch into the self-driving space and rivals Alphabet Inc, the parent company of Google, who have been developing the “Waymo”.

Apple have made a number of releases throughout 2020 including the AirPods Max, which have been praised for their sound quality although do come with a hefty price tag. They also launched the latest incarnations of the IPhone include the IPhone 12 Pro Max and IPhone 12 Mini in addition to the HomePod Mini. 2020 also saw the release of a new Macbook Air, 13-inch Macbook Pro and a Mac mini powered by M1, Apple’s breakthrough chip for Mac. We are likely to see additional new releases in 2021. In addition, it was in August 2020 that Apple officially became the first US company to be worth more than $2 trillion. Apple was founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne with the current CEO being Tim Cook, who has been in the position since 2011.

It remains to be seen exactly what form the Apple vehicle project will take as it has not been confirmed by the company, but it will be interesting to see if and when these plans begin to take shape.


What Is a Deepfake and How Could It Evolve in 2021?

Deepfake is a term to describe a type of synthetic media, where an existing video is re-dubbed with another person’s likeness. Deepfakes normally utilize Artificial Intelligence to manipulate or create visual or audio content. Deepfakes are becoming more and more common, and can be completely harmless or very dangerous. You may have seen apps on social media, that allow users replace film characters faces with their own, or seen countless clips of Nicholas Cage dubbed into (what is beginning to seem) almost every movie ever created. The process of altering videos can be used to great effect, entertaining and artistic, however, they can also be used dangerously, spreading misinformation and harmful content.

Digital face editing, or CGI has been employed many times within the movie industry, films such as Rouge One: A Star Wars Story, transposed scenes of the late Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing into the film. The application of such digital editing is not classed as a deepfake, and it is often manual, rather than utilizing machine-learning or AI – but the results are similar and often are mistakenly called deepfakes. In some online examples, AI generated deepfakes have actually improved the CGI in films.

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On the term deepfake, The BBC explained ‘in 2017, a few posts emerged on Reddit, showing how it was possible to use Artificial Intelligence to seamlessly swap faces in videos. That technique was called deepfake. The ‘deep’ bit comes from Deep Learning, a branch of AI that uses something known as neural networks. In a nutshell, neural networks are a type of machine learning technique that bears some resemblance to how the human brain works.’

There are often ways to detect a deepfake, although their ability to deceive is becoming more and more absolute. Often, however they are made by amateurs and are not that convincing, albeit in many cases still entertaining. Deepfakes will often have visible artefacts around them, such as blurring or flickering – most easily detected when the face rapidly changes angle. Another common issue is that the eyes move independently of each other.

When deepfakes first emerged, they were largely found in pornography, as Wired explains: ‘the first widespread use of synthetic media – non-consensual deepfake pornography, which almost exclusively targets women – has proliferated wildly since it first emerged at the end of 2017. According to Amsterdam-based cybersecurity startup Sensity, which was founded in 2018 to combat deepfakes in the visual media, the number of deepfake pornography videos online is doubling every six months, and by next summer, there will be 180,000 available to view. By 2022, that number will have reached 720,000.’ The Guardian reported that the AI firm Deeptrace found 15,000 deepfake videos in September 2019, which had risen exponentially in 9 months, 96 percent of these were pornographic, 99 percent of which targeted female celebrities.

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The widespread use of deepfakes in this manner is extremely damaging and problematic, and creating fake media such as this can ruin people’s lives or spread dangerous levels of misinformation. It seems that the misuse of deepfakes are on track to become even more dangerous, as Wired points out, ‘in 2021, deepfakes will develop further as weapons of fraud and political propaganda, and we are already seeing examples of this. In early 2020, the Belgian Branch of Extinction Rebellion used AI to generate a fictional speech by Belgian prime minister Sophie Wilmès. To achieve this, the group took an authentic video address made by Wilmès and used machine learning to manipulate the words she spoke to their own ends. The result: Wilmès is generated in a video making a fake speech in which she claims that Covid-19 is directly linked to the “exploitation and destruction by humans of our natural environment”.’

Due to this misuse, we are moving into a world where video content is becoming less and less trustworthy. Whilst deepfake technology could be utilized in many beneficial ways, in areas such as film, gaming, education and entertainment by creating realistic graphics, improving CGI, translating videos into different languages, creating lifelike portrayals of long-dead important figures and so forth; the exploitation of such technology to spread misinformation will inherently corrupt the validity of all information on the internet and beyond. To avoid this, many have underlined the importance of digital literacy to instigate a level of understanding and awareness around deepfakes alongside establishing suitable human and non-human fact-checking processes, and regulating the creation of deepfakes the technology– in order to create future that will not be damaged by deepfakes but augmented by it.

Hinge App

Technology To Help You Achieve Your New Years Goals

With a new year comes a new opportunity to make changes to your life and open yourself up to exciting experiences. It is common for people to use a new year as a time to set goals, but it is unfortunately just as common for people to neglect these goals come February and March, perhaps losing motivation or becoming distracted by life’s pressures. This is where technology could come into play. The technology that is available today can make it easier to stick to these goals by providing ways to document your progress, innovative ways to make it more fun and time-saving ways to make your new goals fit into your daily routine. Here are some examples of tech that could support the most common new year’s goals.

Becoming More Organized
Modern life can feel like pressure is coming at you from all angles, both at home and at work. In 2020 many people found themselves working from home for the majority of the year, which can hinder your work-life balance and productivity. If your goal is to be more organized in 2021, there are some tech products that could be invaluable to you. Many homes now have virtual assistants such as the Google Home and the Amazon Echo, or use our phone equivalents such as Apple’s Siri. These are often used as speakers or to search the internet, but did you know many of these can also help you make lists, set morning and night routines, organize your calendar and switch lights on and off (with the right attachments). Taking the Amazon Echo as an example, if your device is connected to your phone, the lists you make will then be available in the app. These functions can help you to be more organized, just by speaking to your device.

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Looking After Your Mind and Body
It is undeniable that 2020 has been a testing year both physically and mentally and so adding in additional self-care for 2021 is a good way to create new healthy habits for 2021. There are many different options of technology that can help with taking care of your mind and body.

One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is getting fitter and there are a wide variety of tech products on the market that can help you on your way to your fitness goals. Smart watches can be a great way to help you monitor your fitness. There are options such as the Apple Watch that can sync with your IPhone so you can access your fitness data, as well as your messages and notifications on both devices. Other fitness tracking devices include the FitBit and the Garmin VivoActive 3 which can track your heart rate, step count and calories burned so you can gauge how close you are to your goals, with many other features.

Similarly, you may have chosen to become more aware of your alcohol consumption in 2021 or you want to give up smoking and there are apps that can help with that too. The DrinkAware app has options to track your alcohol consumption, a unit calculator and can tell you how much you have been spending on alcohol. Similarly, the Smoke Free app can help keep you motivated when quitting smoking, show you how much money you have saved and how your body is improving too.

Many people find meditation a great way to switch off and take care of their mind and the app Meditopia can help. On the app members can access more than 1000 “deep-dive” guided meditations that can help with anxiety, acceptance and happiness, to name a couple of topics. The app can also help you to fall asleep quicker, a vital part of taking care of your mind and body.

Of course some people find that technology, such as social media, can inhibit their self-care and so a digital detox can also be a great way to take care of your wellbeing too.

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Connecting with New People
One of your New Year’s resolutions for 2021 might be to branch out and try and connect with more new people. Perhaps you want to expand your network for your career, LinkedIn could be your best friend here as you could connect with people in the same industry as you or you could connect with people in the same local area as you if you were looking to expand your local network. Getting to know new people professionally in 2021 could be invaluable if you are seeking to make a career change.

You might find you want to try and start dating again in 2021, and there are apps that can help you with that too. Tinder is famous across the globe for providing a platform for people to get to know each other, but there are also Hinge and Plenty of Fish that can introduce you to new people. On Bumble there is the option to “date” but there is also the option for making friendships too. There are many apps that you could download to help you get to know new people.

Sticking to 2021 goals can be difficult, but why not get to grips with some new technology that could make this process a whole lot easier.

Boeing 737 Max Returns To US Skies With First Commercial Flights After Crashes

American Airlines announced last week that they were set to operate the first US commercial flight of Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft’s since the two deadly crashes that occurred in 2019, prompting a worldwide grounding of all Boeing 737 Max’s in March of the same year. 

The flight at this point has already departed, and was scheduled as American Airlines Flight 718, which departed from Miami International Airport at 10:30 a.m. ET for New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Fort Worth is the Texas-based carrier of the aircraft’s that will be operating daily round-trip flights between Miami and New York, and then will begin increasing services to other cities in the coming weeks of the new year. 

United Airlines plans to begin flights using the 737 Max’s on February 11th out of its Denver and Houston hubs. Southwest Airlines agreed to begin flying the planes in the second quarter of 2021. Gol is a Brazilian carrier of strictly Boeing 737 Max planes that actually performed the first relaunch of the jets earlier this month. 

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The planes in general are much more fuel-efficient when compared to traditional commercial planes, which makes them central to a lot of airlines plans around the world. More than 3,000 of the jets are currently on order internationally. 

When all Boeing 737 Max jets were forced to ground in March of 2019, it was quickly recognized as the largest grounding in US history. The Federal Aviation Administration just recently cleared the 737 Max for commercial flight again after Boeing made several safety-related changes to the aircraft. 

Lion Air flight 610 in Indonesia in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in Ethiopia in March 2019 were the two flights that resulted in deadly crashes. Pilots on both flights claimed to have battled an automated flight-control system that was incorrectly activated somehow. All 346 individuals on both flights were killed.

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Changes made to the jets include “making the flight-control system less aggressive, providing more redundancy and implementing more robust pilot training that includes time in a flight simulator,” according to news reports. Investigations into both crashes found that there were a multitude of problems with each plane’s development, design, and certification by US regulators.

American Airlines and other carriers of the jets have said that if customers booked a flight on the 737 Max without knowing and didn’t feel comfortable flying on that model, they could switch their flight for free. FAA Administrator Steve Dickson spoke with the media last month, claiming he is “100% confident in the jets and a repeat of the scenarios that led to the two crashes is impossible.”

“In a way, the best thing for the 737 Max has been that it is has taken them 20 months to get the planes ready to going back into service and for almost a year we have had news of the coronavirus that has consumed more attention related to travel than the 737 Max,” said Henry Harteveldt, a former airline executive and president of Atmosphere Research Group, a travel consulting firm.

American Airlines has ordered 76 of the planes and originally had 24 in its fleet when the original grounding occurred in 2019, proving their confidence in the jets as well.

Zoom App

Zoom Lifts 40-Minute Call Limit For The Festive Period

Zoom has played a somewhat integral part in our lives during the majority of 2020 and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – from staying connected with loved ones to running businesses – video conferencing has carved out an integral role in COVID life. According to Market Watch, the tech company made as much money in three months (May, June, July) as it did in all of 2019, and stocks are skyrocketing. Going from a somewhat popular videoconferencing software to a heavily-relied upon cultural staple within a few months, as synonymous with video conferencing as ‘hoover’ is with vacuum cleaners. According to app tracking firm, Apptopia, on the 23rd of March Zoom was downloaded 2.13 million times around the world. Now, as the Christmas period is upon us, at a time where safety restrictions will keep many apart, the tech company has announced that it will lift its 40 minute call limit for free users, so that more people can easily enjoy the festive period with loved ones.

In the announcement, the company stated: “Covid-19 has changed how we live, work and celebrate in 2020, and like everything else this year, the holiday season doesn’t look the same. As a token of appreciation to our users during an extraordinary time, we’re removing the 40-minute limit on free Zoom accounts for all meetings globally for several upcoming special occasions. Whether coming together on the final day of Hanukkah, celebrating Christmas, ringing in the new year or marking the last days of Kwanzaa, those connecting with friends and family won’t get cut short.”

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The limit will be lifted on several occasions during the festive period, beginning on Thursday the 17th, which is the last day of Hanukkah, until Saturday the 19th. Then, it will be lifted again on the 23rd of December and remain lifted until Saturday the 26th of December. To welcome in the new year, the limit will be paused between Wednesday December 30th to Saturday January 2nd. Users will not be required to make any updates to access these benefits, and the limit will be altered automatically.

During this period the firm urged customers to follow security practices, such as using meeting passcodes to keep calls secure, not sharing meeting IDs publicly, such as on social media and enable waiting rooms to protect users from uninvited guests. These limits were also lifted in America over the Thanksgiving period.

In countries such as the United Kingdom, where restrictions over Christmas have been eased but are still limited, the option of virtual meet-ups will be a welcome life-line for many. Even though the easing of restrictions has meant that some will be able to gather in smaller numbers, it is still urged that you keep in-person social interactions at a minimum to avoid transmission and the devastating effects of COVID-19 to families.

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In an article from The Guardian, Stephen Reicher, a professor of social psychology at the University of St Andrews, hoped that others would follow in Zoom’s example and the UK government and other companies would use such incentives to encourage people to refrain from in person socializing. “They could ask various sectors (especially those that have done well in the pandemic) to help out in a whole series of ways – say give the latest games to young people asked to self-isolate. The problem then – and I speak as the father of a 16-year-old – would be ever to get them out of their rooms rather than trying to keep them in. Or, say, free connection over Christmas so everyone can keep in touch as much as they like without data limits.”

Others have echoed this sentiment, as although videoconferencing and tech companies have kept many of us afloat, it has also revealed a massive technology disparity in countries such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Showing that there are thousands of people that are not able to afford the technology required for video-conferencing, or have suitable access to the internet and therefore would not be able to take advantage of digital socialization. Many have therefore called on local governments and companies to address the tech-disparity, which is seen as more urgent than ever in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sadly, the vast technology disparity has particularly been seen in schools where some children have been unable to keep up with virtual learning, due to the lack of hardware, software or suitable broadband. Other children whose parents have a higher income have not had this issue, but it has shown that many are at a severe disadvantage when it comes to technology access. Reforms in the internet and technology sectors have been called for, to address these issues.

Twitter App

Twitter Fined For Breaking EU Privacy Law Making Private Tweets Public

The handling of data by social media companies is regularly debated by lawmakers and business leaders across the world. There have been a number of landmark events over the last 20 years resulting in calls for sanctions being placed upon large tech organizations companies, perhaps most famously the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica data scandal that saw the data of around 50 million users shared without their consent.

It was recently reported that Twitter is the latest social media organization to be sanctioned after being fined by Ireland over a bug that caused private tweets to be made public. Twitter were fined €450,000 (equivalent to around $546,000 the WSJ says) because in 2019 they failed to report the breach within the 72 hour statutory notice period given to organizations upon uncovering it. The breach meant that tweets made by accounts that should have been protected, may have actually been made public if users made certain changes to their account, such as changing the email address, between November 3, 2014, and January 14, 2019.

This ruling is unique as a US company has never been fined under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) program before. The new set of data protection regulations were introduced in May 2018 and they replaced some regulations that were as much as twenty years old. The full GDPR text contains 99 articles and creates a framework for laws across Europe on how organizations can use data and how individuals can access the data about them. It took more than four years to agree on the final version and it does allow countries some flexibility to make small amendments when enshrining the document in their laws. It has been widely praised and “comparisons have been made with the subsequent California Consumer Privacy Act.”

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Alongside this being a landmark ruling for the relatively new GDPR rules, the decision was also made using the new “dispute resolution” process. All of the EU counterpart regulators were consulted to make this decision on this global company for the first time. It did take almost two years for the decision to be made, including five months of discussion between the commission and equivalents in other EU countries, with some arguing that this is too slow. Helen Dixon is the head of the Irish Data Protection Commission which enforces the GDPR for Google, and the Wall Street Journal reported that at a tech conference earlier in December she said of the Twitter case: “Am I satisfied? No. The process didn’t work particularly well. I think it’s too long,”. She added: “On the other hand, it is the first time EU data-protection authorities have stepped through the process, so maybe it can only get better from here.”

On the ruling, the BBC reported that “The IDPC said it believed the fine was “an effective, proportionate and dissuasive measure””.

“Twitter worked closely with the Irish Data Protection Commission (IDPC) to support their investigation,” said Damien Kieran, Twitter’s chief privacy officer and global data protection officer, as reported in the Independent. He added: “We have a shared commitment to online security and privacy, and we respect the IDPC’s decision, which relates to a failure in our incident response process. An unanticipated consequence of staffing between Christmas Day 2018 and New Years’ Day resulted in Twitter notifying the IDPC outside of the 72 hour statutory notice period. We have made changes so that all incidents following this have been reported to the DPC in a timely fashion.”

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He also said: “We take responsibility for this mistake and remain fully committed to protecting the privacy and data of our customers, including through our work to quickly and transparently inform the public of issues that occur. We appreciate the clarity this decision brings for companies and consumers around the GDPR’s breach notification requirements. Our approach to these incidents will remain one of transparency and openness.”

Also in recent news regarding data privacy, The EU are also about to launch further tightening on social media organizations through the ePrivacy Directive, which will now encompass messaging apps from the 21st December. With this in mind, popular messaging platforms Facebook and Instagram have been changing some of their features in preparation for the new rules to take effect.
Group polls, adding nicknames to chat participants and some of the face filters that are available in Instagram’s direct messages are all among the features that have been removed. Facebook have opted to not release a full list of the features that have been deactivated as they hope to be able to reinstate some of these straight away if they are compliant with the new rules.

This is the first time a US company has been fined for breaching the EU GDPR data privacy rules and it will be interesting to note how, or if, this will impact upon any future rulings.