Welcome to C8’s top stories of the month! A recurring blog where members of the C8 team are invited to explore a story they found particularly interesting or ‘game-changing’ in the world of tech.
In July, the C8 team explored a wide range of stories, from the saturation of the ransomware market to BMW’s decision to introduce a seat warming subscription service. Read below and let us know what you think. What was your top story of July? Use #C8storytellers and explain why!
MEGAN MACKINTOSH – SENIOR ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE
I thought this TechCrunch story about lock screen advertising was a really interesting, and perhaps inevitable, development in digital advertising. The article describes how the “prized real estate” of US Android users’ lock screens is the target of an Indian start-up as part of a global expansion, comparing it to Google and Apple allowing users to personalise and interact with their locked phones through a range of widgets and features.
This move, however, would be sizeably different. Promising content based on the users’ interests, from gaming to videos, it is just another forum for paid placements and advertisements, but without the active engagement of a user who is on their phone. I recommend reading the debate in the article’s comment section, as some call the idea of monetising even our phone screens a step too far, while others argue that, by showing us what we want to see without even unlocking our phones, it might actually reduce screentime.
I think there is something to be said about removing a users’ right to decide when to engage with their own personal devices: a lock screen flashing with videos and animations is not a lock screen. It will be interesting to see how this affects people’s relationships with their mobile phones after a pandemic that increased our screen time more than ever.
LIAM HODGSON – PR EXECUTIVE
As a football fan, this story in The Guardian interested me, with Manchester City partnering with Cisco in the development of what has been labelled a “Smart Scarf”.
The scarf has a biometric sensor integrated within the fabric and is able to monitor emotional, physiological and movement data. Therefore, it allows the operator to monitor the heart rate, body temperature and emotional responses of the fan. This may be quite an ordeal depending on the game and of course the fan who is involved! But the scarf has the potential to reveal data on what part of the game carries the most emotional weight.
Of course, this technology won’t be for everyone, but it is intriguing to see the continued collaboration between sports and tech. Viewing the readings will undoubtedly showcase the highs and lows of following a football team, but it also highlights the different ways that clubs are trying to connect with their fans, with the scarf providing a new way of potentially monitoring the game simply through a biometric sensor.
NATALIE YOUNG – JUNIOR PR EXECUTIVE
As we are all aware cybercrime is on the rise, but recent research indicates the price of ransomware associated with attacks is not rising at the same rate as that of the cost to business. Begging the question – has the market become too saturated? This story in Computer Weekly reveals that it has never been cheaper to join the cybercriminal economy, as yet another barrier to entry is lowered.
Ransomware researchers found that 76% of malware advertisements and 90% of exploits are advertised on the dark web for about £8.40 or less. The research also revealed ransomware ‘deals’, where the buyers receive plug-and-play malware kits, tutorials, and mentoring.
Whilst there are still far higher prices, hiking to the tens of thousands, for information on undiscovered vulnerabilities. The fact that these services are offered at such cheap prices cements the idea that there is a surplus of threat actors and cyber risk has never been higher, so all companies must ensure their cyber hygiene is up to scratch.
Who knew you could become a cybercriminal for almost the same price as a pint in London!
KIRI O’LEARY – PR MANAGER
An interesting story I read last month detailed how a robot is being used within a hospital to improve the outcomes for patients undergoing prostate cancer surgery. The robot, currently being used by Cambridge University Hospitals Trust, can reduce blood loss and pain by making tiny incisions during a procedure to remove cancerous tissues.
The surgery dramatically cuts down the amount of time patients typically spend in hospital, with robotic prostatectomy patients able to return home 24 hours later as opposed to four or five days. The story highlights the remarkable benefits of robotic technology within healthcare. These developments within robotic surgery clearly demonstrate the positive impact on patient’s lives, while it also frees up bed space in the hospital enabling more patients to be treated.
Surgical robots are being utilised more and more – very recently, it was announced that researchers are testing a robot that could be used to repair an astronaut’s ruptured appendix on a mission to Mars.
JIM POPLE – PR DIRECTOR
Upon seeing this story on BBC News on BMW charging owners of its vehicles for luxuries such as heated seats and steering wheels, I reacted with a mix of shock, amazement and a predictable shrug of the shoulders, accompanied by “that’s the way the world is going”.
Microtransactions have been around for years – even from BMW, who charge users for a variety of subscriptions – most notably in gaming, when the player can purchase more players, cars, teams, etc., on games such as FIFA, spending real money in the virtual world. However, the notion that BMW has taken the time and effort to install features that allow heated seats to be used, subsequently blocking the functionality through a piece of software until payment is made, is astonishing. Yes, if you select this option when the car is ordered, you don’t have to pay afterward, but paying tens of thousands of pounds for a car – or hundreds per month on lease – and then being expected to fork out another £10 per month is laughable. This truly is microtransactions gone mad.
And yet, people will still pay for it. As I said in the C8 blog on May’s top tech stories, build it and they will come. In this case, if a premium manufacturer offers a premium product, it’s for a good reason – drivers will pay for it. I’m old enough to remember cars not starting on cold mornings, and the choke being given a firm twist as cars croaked into life. Fast forward 20+ years and we’re now paying monthly direct debits to stay warm in a car. Where does this end, I wonder?
One thing is for certain; surely the Bavarian manufacturer is not short of a Euro or two.
JOHN VIGNAUX – JUNIOR PR EXECUTIVE
This story from Computer Weekly highlighting the data centre outages Google and Oracle cloud faced as a result of cooling system issues caused by the extreme temperatures amazed me. How could something like this happen in the UK was my initial reaction? It highlighted the dangerous world we now live in, and was a reminder of what is to come, more frequently and more intensely in the future. Reminding organisations of the new and growing threat climate change has on business continuity.
As we continue on our digitisation journey, it will be interesting to see how organisations adapt to extreme weather.
HANNAH RICHARDS – JUNIOR PR EXECUTIVE
As a History graduate, this story on the World Economic Forum really caught my attention when scrolling through the news. It outlines six ways in which AI has the ability to inform historical research.
From restoration to identification, AI has shown historians how valuable technology can be when trying to piece together historical sources. Mind-blowing discoveries are being made in the present about the past, that could perhaps affect our future.
One major result of using this technology, is the ability to track climate changes. By using historic data, scientists at Kyoto University in Japan were able to accurately predict future climate trends using machine learning technology. As we continue to swelter in the current heatwave, it could be incredibly beneficial moving forward.
One standout point for me, this article showed how AI was able to decipher ancient languages, and identify people who appeared long-lost. This underlines how technology is not always built for the future, but perhaps can help decipher pieces of the past.
For more information about how C8 Consulting can help to create compelling campaigns and kick-start conversations for your business, or to understand more about the social and digital activities that we are undertaking for our clients please feel free to contact us.