Zone’s Mark Sylvester handpicks and shares the five best news stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…
1. Keeping NHS patients app-y
Under normal circumstances, the strain on the UK’s NHS is immense. Throw in a global pandemic and the chances of hearing ‘the doctor will see you’ anytime soon are slim. Covid-19 left the NHS facing a patient backlog of more than 7 million, a major factor behind the UK Government’s plans to revamp the NHS App.
The new functions would allow patients to check waiting times at different hospitals in their areas and take their pick of the less busy places. It’s part of a policy to promote the NHS App as a first-stop portal for health care and help ease pressure on the system at the same time.
2. AI Godfather’s parting shot at bots
Dr Geoffrey Hinton, one of the leading lights of Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) development, resigned this week with a warning to keep a rein on the robots. Bots are already capable of storing vastly more knowledge than humans, but their reasoning is still relatively simple.
However, the computer scientist believes the technology could evolve into a ‘different sort of intelligence’ from humans with the ability to decide for itself what its goals might be. As many players in the field call for more investment in safety and controls, how do we ensure this speeding robot train doesn’t come off the rails?
3. Making passwords a thing of the past
Here’s a figure that should have us all reaching for our devices with trembling fingers. Last year, hackers leaked 721 million passwords, which is one reason why Google has started rolling out a system of passkeys.
Facial recognition, fingerprints and local pins will be the only way to unlock Google-linked platforms. They can’t be stolen and are resistant to all forms of online trickery. And let’s face it, not having to keep all those password plates spinning in our heads has got to be a good thing.
4. The cycle path to sustainability
A first for Europe, the German town of Freiburg has unveiled a cycle path with a roof consisting of highly durable solar panels. Despite hitting the headlines recently for tackling energy shortages by expanding an open-air coal mine, Germany has robust climate goals, including carbon neutrality, by 2045.
And Solarwatt, the cleantech company behind the cycle path scheme, believes it can be a blueprint to unleash the potential of existing open spaces and infrastructure for vast solar panel systems. A major weapon in battling climate change could literally be on our doorsteps.
5. Minds do matter in the workplace
One of the many realisations from the pandemic is that employees’ mental health needs to be at the heart of all organisation’s plans. Many perks once seen as the icing on the corporate cake, such as gym memberships and yoga classes, are now considered essential to the workplace.
Research by management consultants McKinsey makes it clear that systemic interventions and a holistic approach to fitness and mental health are the way forward. And most importantly, the solutions that work best are those that employees are most likely to use.