Friday Five: Price of big data and thoughtful speech

Zone’s Mark Sylvester handpicks and shares the five best stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…

Damian Bradfield, co-dounder and president of WeTransfer
Damian Bradfield, founder and president of WeTransfer

1. What’s the price of big data?

YouTube really wants me to watch Hindi films. I’m not entirely sure why, but somewhere along the line I must have hinted to the internet that Bollywood is my bag. Which is a simple reminder that for most of our waking hours we are haemorrhaging our personal data into the interconnected ether, from our financial movements to our guilty pleasure playlists.

How and where our data is used is the subject of Zone’s latest Book Club, as WeTransfer president Damian Bradfield discusses his new book, The Trust Manifesto — What You Need to do to Create a Better Internet. Is the pay-off of ultimate convenience and personalisation worth a company in Azerbaijan knowing your waist measurement? Welcome to the trust dilemma.

Google Products

2. A design for life

Most people you meet in the world of tech are considerate, eco-conscious individuals, but they’re often developing essentially disposable, environmentally unfriendly products. All that is changing. Apple is already using recycled materials, and working on putting materials from old Apple products back into its own supply chain. Now new kid on the tech hardware block, Google, aims to design sustainability into all products in the pipeline.

And an interesting aspect to the move, is that it’s been largely inspired by engineers at the production coalface taking the initiative to experiment with recycled materials. It’s costly and time-consuming for Google to ensure recycled materials meet all the necessary specs, but, with the company looking to build its ‘sustainability muscle’, environmentally guilt-free tech has moved a step closer.

Wearable technology

3. Say hello to thoughtful speech

The idea of typing with our thoughts may initially fill some of us with horror. What’s for dinner is a big player in most daytime thoughts, and we all know what pops into our heads uninvited every 17 minutes! But, researchers at Facebook are nevertheless working on non-invasive wearables, aimed at producing words on a computer screen in real time, simply using our thoughts.

And it’s a development with an important, practical application. It could allow those who have lost the power of speech to communicate without using cumbersome computer interfaces that rely on eye or small muscle movements. The tech being developed would read the brain activity that produces coherent speech, and could be incorporated into the company’s AR glasses.

AI for the NHS

4. A healthy respect for robots

From virtual assistants to chatbots, AI has been cosying up to many aspects of our daily lives for some time now. But it’s in the field of medicine that our robotic helpmates are starting to prove their mettle. And now the NHS is spending £250m ona national AI lab to explore the possibilities for AI in research and patient care.

A major strength of AI is in recognising patterns from huge amounts of data, which means it could become an important tool in spotting diseases, assessing the stages of a condition, developing treatments and much more. While concerns around cyber security and patient confidentiality are real, the NHS has to be applauded for a move that will surely boost patient care into the future.

Out of Office messages

5. Putting the ‘OoO’ into out of office

In the about-to-go-on-holiday to-do list, writing your out of office email probably comes just below remembering to sling that carton of milk you’d left in the office fridge. But, some folks have turned the humble OoO into an art form, making it funny, friendly and informative.

But what is the etiquette for the perfect bounced reply? How do you avoid sounding smug or confusing the sender? And, keep in mind, this could be the first contact somebody has with your company. And, how disconnected should you be? Check out some of the best OoO’s and maybe consume some food for thought the next time you’re leaving the daily huddles behind.

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