Friday Five: Apple caves in and Hull’s full fibre diet
Zone’s Ross Basham handpicks and shares the five best stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…
1. Apple capitulates to Chinese censorship
Apple has caved to pressure from the Chinese authorities and removed an app that tracked the movements of Hong Kong police through crowdsourced data. Apple initially rejected HKmap.live from the App Store, then reversed its decision. Now, after it became widely used by pro-democracy protesters, it has reversed its reversal, citing “local laws”.
Only yesterday Apple also removed the Quartz news app from the Chinese App Store due to the publication’s coverage of the Hong Kong protests. With deep business interests in China, Apple invariably abides by the country’s censorship policies, even removing the Taiwan flag emoji for users in HK and Macau.
2. Should we really invite Alexa into our homes?
It’s not been a great year for the reputation of voice-assistant devices, with revelations that all of the big players have been using human contractors to analyse recordings. There have also been multiple reports of devices mistakenly sending recordings of private conversations and activating themselves unprompted.
With more than 100m Alexa-enabled devices in our homes (not to mention Google, Microsoft etc), this article looks at how voice assistants “epitomise the tension between efficiency and privacy” — and whether we should really be inviting the big tech companies into our homes to listen to our private conversations…
3. Hull’s full fibre diet the envy of the country
Let’s hear it for Hull, which has become the first city in the UK where everyone can get full fibre broadband. Full fibre, where a fibre optic cable comes all the way into your home rather than a streetside cabinet, is available to only 8% of UK premises — but all 200,000 Hull homes can experience average speeds of 94.7Mbps (which would make it the fastest country in the world if Hull was a republic).
How come? It’s down to local telecoms firm Kcom, which embarked on a seven-year investment programme to lay fibre to every home, while, nationwide, BT focused on the much cheaper strategy of rolling out fibre to the cabinet. Now BT is playing catch-up, with Boris Johnson promising full fibre in every home by 2025 — a claim that would require a new home to be connected every eight seconds…
4. Buckle up for completely driverless cars
It seems we are that close to completely driverless cars hitting our streets (or at least the streets of a strictly geofenced area in the suburbs of Phoenix, anyway). Waymo, the autonomous vehicle business formerly known as the Google self-driving project, has been ramping up its testing in the past few years.
Now Waymo has sent out an email informing members of its early riders programme that their next car may not have a human safety driver behind the wheel (as all rides up to this point have had). This is a big milestone for driverless cars, although early guinea pigs would be forgiven for being slightly nervous about taking the next step.
5. Zone among the winners at DADI awards
The winners of The Drum Awards for the Digital Industries (DADIs) were revealed last night, with The Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel winning the coveted Grand Prix for its Sleeping Flags campaign, in which Irish veterans took to the streets in a sleeping bag adorned with the national flag.
Zone was also among the winners, taking the prize in the Retail category for its work with the BMW Group. You can read more about how Zone used data to target car buyers here, and more about all the DADI winners here.