Friday Five: Malfunctioning NHS Covid app causes delays

Zone’s Ross Basham handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…

1. Malfunctioning NHS Covid app causes delays

Travellers were blocked from boarding flights and ferries for trips abroad after a four-hour outage of England’s NHS app on Wednesday left people unable to access a Covid pass to prove their vaccine status. Hundreds tried to download their Covid passes before departure but were told to “try again later”, sparking chaos and fury.

The app and nhs.uk website began malfunctioning before noon, and NHS Digital said the problem had been resolved by 4.30pm. It blamed the outage on “a technical issue with a global service provider that affected many different organisations”. It meant many people could not travel, despite showing their paper vaccine cards.

2. China ban sees US lead in Bitcoin mining

China’s share of global Bitcoin mining has fallen to effectively zero, research by the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index (CBECI) suggests. In June China told banks to stop facilitating transactions, and issued bans on mining. At its peak in September 2019 China had accounted for over three-quarters of all Bitcoin mining.

Global mining requires enormous computing power, which uses huge amounts of electricity, and contributes significantly to global emissions. The latest data, which covers the four months to the end of August, suggests most Bitcoin mining (35.4%) is now US-based, with Kazakhstan (18.1%) second and Russia (11%) third.

3. AI reveals ‘lost’ Pablo Picasso painting

Before he became famous, Pablo Picasso didn’t always have money for art materials, so he’d paint over existing canvases to create new works, thus concealing the earlier images. One such painting, The Lonesome Crouching Nude — cloaked under another for more than a century — has now been revealed, thanks to AI.

Researchers from University College London recreated the painting using an original algorithm that studied dozens of Picasso’s paintings and trained itself in the Spanish artist’s style. Using the X-rayed image (above left) as a guide, it applied its understanding of Picasso to the full-size, full-colour replica (above right).

4. Instagram to encourage teens to ‘take a break’

Instagram will introduce new measures to nudge teenagers away from harmful content and encourage them to “take a break” from the platform, according to Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs. Instagram is also pausing plans for an Instagram Kids platform and giving parents the option to supervise teens.

The moves come after whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before Congress about internal research that showed Instagram can be toxic, particularly for teen girls. Mark Zuckerberg disputed Haugen’s account, saying it was illogical for a company that relies on advertisers to push content that makes people angry.

5. Sherwood Forest set for 5G and robot dogs

Robot dogs, internet-controlled drones and a 5G upgrade are among the technology being trialled to enhance the visitor experience at Sherwood Forest. Nottinghamshire County Council said the £10m project would make it the world’s first 5G-connected forest. The drones and robot could be used to help with environmental research.

Making use of the 5G technology, the forest will also feature what is claimed to be the world’s first interactive holographic film called An Arrow In Time. The film, which uses augmented reality headsets, features well-known characters from the legend of Robin Hood. Just watch out for that nasty Sheriff of Nottingham!

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