Featured Article : Apple Avalanche!

Following Apple’s 5-day Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC24) last week at Apple Park in Cupertino, California, we take a look at the many new products announced and their key features.

Showcasing New Products 

At Apple’s WWDC24 from June 10 to June 14, Apple showcased a variety of updates and advancements across its software platforms, including iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS, and visionOS. Key announcements included significant updates for iOS 18 and macOS 15, as well as new AI integrations and improvements to built-in apps like Photos and Apple Music. Crucially, the conference also highlighted Apple’s commitment to AI technologies and its plans to integrate generative AI capabilities into its devices.

Let’s take a look at the key product and other announcements from WWDC24:

iOS 18 

iOS 18, Apple’s latest iOS for iPhones introduces several significant updates, including a more customisable home screen, a redesigned Photos app with AI-powered editing tools, RCS support in Messages for improved cross-platform communication, and enhancements to the Mail, Calendar, and Maps apps. All these improvements are around making the iPhone more intuitive and powerful for users. Also, the Control Centre has now been revamped to feature a multipage layout with third-party widgets.

One other fun new feature for iOS 18 around user-personalisation will be the ability for iPhone users to make their conversations more enjoyable by creating AI images of people they’re messaging with in a way that’s similar to an AI-upgraded Bitmoji.

iPhones To Use Satellites 

There was also the announcement at WWDC 24 that with iOS 18, iPhone users will be able to send messages via satellite. This feature, available on iPhone 14 models and later, expands upon the existing Emergency SOS via satellite capability. It allows users to send and receive iMessages and SMS texts, including emoji and Tapbacks, even when they are out of range of cellular and Wi-Fi networks.

macOS Sequoia 

Apple’s macOS Sequoia, the latest version of its OS for Macs has been given a range of new features including a new Passwords app, redesigned Reader view in Safari with machine learning integration, upgrades to Messages and Notes, and improved window management. The update also includes enhancements to Continuity, such as iPhone Mirroring. With iPhone Mirroring, (through macOS’ Continuity feature), users can mirror their iPhone’s screen and control it from their Mac laptop or desktop.

All this should mean enhanced user productivity and convenience (better password management), a smarter browsing experience, more efficient multitasking, and improved messaging and note-taking capabilities

iPadOS 18 

iPadOS 18 brings updates to the Notes app, including support for Math Notes and a new Calculator app that supports Apple Pencil. It also introduces a floating tab bar for better navigation and similar home screen customisation options to iOS 18.

watchOS 11 

watchOS 11, the latest version of Apple’s operating system for Apple Watch, adds a redesigned Photos face, a new Translate app, and enhancements to the Fitness app, including a Training Load feature and a customisable Summary mode. It also introduces the Vitals app for health monitoring. The hope is that these new features will provide users with a more personalised and comprehensive fitness and health tracking experience, and a more intuitive and visually engaging interface.

tvOS 18 

tvOS 18, the latest version of Apple’s OS for Apple TV includes AI-enhanced subtitles, Amazon X-Ray-style information while watching, and clearer dialogue options, improving the viewing experience on Apple TV 4K.

‘InSight’ For Apple TV+ 

Those who use Apple TV+ may be pleased with the new InSight feature that displays actors’ names and song titles as they appear on the screen and is similar to Amazon’s X-Ray technology. Also, like Shazam, it highlights the song playing in the TV show or film and, as you may expect, then gives the user the option to add it to their Apple Music playlist.

visionOS 2 

Apple’s OS for the Vision Pro headset, visionOS 2, has received upgrades to enhance the Vision Pro experience with new developer frameworks, an international launch schedule, and improved virtual display features. It also introduces new gestures and SharePlay support in the Photos app. For example, it will allow photos to be transformed into interactive experiences using AI. Notably, users will be able to turn existing images into spatial photos (including photos captured on older devices).

New navigation gestures are also being introduced, and it supports higher resolution and larger virtual displays for connected Macs.

Improvements also include new developer tools like volumetric APIs and TabletopKit for games, adds train support in travel mode, and expands content with new 180-degree 8K video formats through partnerships with content creators.

New Markets For Vision Pro Headsets Announced

Accompanying the news of the upgraded features in visionOS 2, Apple has also announced that it will be making its Vision Pro headset available in eight new countries – China, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Canada, France, Germany and the UK, and that the first release of the headset will be in China, Japan, and Singapore on June 28.

Apple Intelligence 

The most significant announcement from WWDC24 is the introduction of Apple Intelligence, a new AI initiative aimed at integrating personal and private AI capabilities across Apple’s ecosystem. There was some concern that Apple has fallen behind in AI and its announcement that it is partnering with OpenAI to include its technology and ChatGPT, which prompted an angry reaction on X by Elon Musk (citing privacy concerns – although possibly more about competition concerns) is a significant strategic shift for Apple.

Apple Intelligence includes, for example, significant upgrades to Siri (as outlined below), making interactions more natural and advanced, and other functionalities with advanced, personal, and private AI capabilities. Apple CEO, Tim Cook, described Apple Intelligence as “the next frontier” in personal AI and explained that the reason why it is so effective is that it will be able to “understand you and be grounded in your personal context, like your routine, your relationships, your communications and more”. 

Siri Upgrade 

The new Apple Intelligence AI initiative has meant that Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant, has received a substantial upgrade. The AI enhancements make Siri more conversational and contextually aware, so it can handle more complex tasks and understand a wider variety of requests. This should include being able to summarise incoming messages, executing commands across multiple apps, and integrating more naturally with users’ daily activities. Apple has also emphasised how most processing will be done ‘on-device’ to help user privacy.

One significant announcement is, of course, that Siri will also be one of the apps that will be able to use OpenAI’s ChatGPT for “expertise”. Tapping into ChatGPT will also mean that users will also be able to include photos with questions for ChatGPT (via Siri) and even ask questions related to docs or PDFs.

Developers And Siri 

It’s also worth noting here that Siri’s new capabilities will also allow developers to enable voice command access to any app menu items and displayed text without additional coding. This means users can issue commands like “show my presenter notes” in a slide deck or “FaceTime him” from a reminder, enhancing app functionality through natural language interactions and improving user experience.

Next-Generation CarPlay 

Apple provided an updated look at the next-generation CarPlay system, the in-car system that allows users to integrate their iPhone with their vehicle’s infotainment system. The improvements include new Vehicle, Media, and Climate apps, designed to offer a more integrated and enhanced user experience.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

The WWDC24 announcements appear to signify a transformative phase for Apple, with their belated yet determined and substantial adoption of AI all the way through their entire estate standing out as a strategic pivot. This initiative, which includes a partnership with OpenAI’s ChatGPT, enhances Siri’s capabilities, making it more contextually aware and conversational. For business users, this means more efficient and natural interactions with their devices, potentially improving productivity and streamlining workflows.

The upgrades across iOS, macOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and tvOS collectively may create a more cohesive and powerful Apple ecosystem. For instance, iOS 18’s customisation options and AI-powered tools should make iPhones more versatile and user-friendly, while macOS Sequoia’s new features may enhance productivity through smarter password management, improved multitasking, and seamless integration with iPhones. These improvements could help businesses better manage their digital environments, ensuring that employees can work more efficiently and securely.

The introduction of Messages via satellite with iOS 18 is significant for businesses operating in remote areas or in sectors where connectivity is often an issue, such as logistics, construction, and outdoor events, i.e. ensuring continuous communication, which is crucial for operational efficiency and safety.

Apple’s Vision Pro headset and the enhanced visionOS 2 signals a move towards more immersive and interactive experiences. For industries such as design, training, and presentations, the ability to turn photos into interactive experiences and use spatial navigation may offer new ways to engage and educate. The expanded international availability of the Vision Pro headset may also open up new markets and opportunities for businesses worldwide.

The updates to watchOS 11, with enhanced fitness and health tracking capabilities, emphasises Apple’s commitment to health and wellness, which may be particularly beneficial for businesses focusing on employee well-being and productivity. The new features in tvOS 18, such as AI-enhanced subtitles and detailed information while watching, enhance the user experience for both personal and professional usage, perhaps making Apple TV a more compelling option, e.g. for business presentations and entertainment.

Overall, Apple’s latest announcements reflect a strategic effort to integrate advanced AI and machine learning technologies across its product range. This not only addresses fears of Apple lagging behind in AI but this could even position Apple as a leader in the AI space. It also offers business users innovative tools to enhance productivity, connectivity, and user-engagement. By leveraging the advancements outlined by Apple at WWDC24, businesses could improve their operational efficiency, employee satisfaction, and customer interactions, which may ultimately give Apple a stronger foothold in the competitive tech marketplace.

Tech News : Apple & OpenAI Partnership : Musk Reacts

Following Apple’s recent announcement that it is partnering with OpenAI for its new AI system (which will see ChatGPT on Apple’s new phones), Elon Musk has threatened to ban Apple devices from his businesses.

Apple And OpenAI 

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, announced at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference that, as part of its new personalised AI system, “Apple Intelligence”, a partnership with OpenAI will see ChatGPT integrated across all platforms – within iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia. This also means Apple’s new phones will have ChatGPT access and Apple’s Siri will also be able to “tap into ChatGPT”.

Musk’s Reaction 

The announcement, however, did not go down well with ‘X’/Twitter and SpaceX boss Elon Musk. His reaction was to take to his ‘X’ platform to say: “If Apple integrates OpenAI at the OS level, then Apple devices will be banned at my companies. That is an unacceptable security violation”. 

In another comment, Musk said: “Visitors will have to check their Apple devices at the door, where they will be stored in a Faraday cage”. 

Fact Checked By Own Platform 

Other comments, however, such as Musk saying it’s “patently absurd” to think that Apple, which “isn’t smart enough to make their own AI” would be able to ensure OpenAI protected the security and privacy of its devices, and that Apple “has no clue what’s actually going on once they hand your data over to OpenAI” attracted the fact-checking of his own X platform over “misrepresenting what was actually announced”. 

Why? 

Musk’s objections are primarily focused around security and privacy issues. For example, Musk called the integration an “unacceptable security violation,” fearing it could compromise device security.

Offering another critical reason why Apple is partnering with OpenAI (a partnership he described as “extremely concerning”) to use its products, Musk said Apple “isn’t smart enough to make their own AI.” 

Some, however, may think that the real reasons why Musk is objecting so strongly to the OpenAI / Apple partnership have more to do with factors like:

– A history with OpenAI. Musk co-founded OpenAI but left due to disagreements over the company’s direction. He has since publicly criticised and even sued OpenAI, particularly targeting co-founder Sam Altman.

– Criticism of AI leaders. Elon Musk has had public disputes with notable AI figures, including Meta AI chief Yann LeCun, reflecting his contentious stance on AI development practices.

– Competitive interests. Mr Musk founded xAI, positioning its chatbot, Grok, as a direct competitor to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, highlighting his interest in the AI market.

– Recent funding and valuation. For example, xAI’s recent $6 billion funding round, raising its valuation to $24 billion, may be an indicator of Musk’s serious investment in competing with OpenAI.

What Does Apple Say?

Apple had not (at the time of writing) replied to Musk’s comments. However, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, sees ‘Apple Intelligence’ as the company’s next big step, particularly given that it appears to have been slow in adopting AI. Tim Cook said: “Recent developments in generative intelligence and large language models offer powerful capabilities that provide the opportunity to take the experience of using Apple products to new heights”. 

It’s ‘all change’ for Apple recently anyway as it looks like Apple may need to open up its business practices CMA’s Digital Markets Unit (DMU) decides, later this year, it has a ‘Strategic Market Status’ (SMS) and decides that Apple has “substantial and entrenched market power” and a “position of strategic significance”. This could lead to measures for Apple like allowing third-party app stores, enabling app sideloading, unbundling WebKit from browsers, sharing data with competitors, and avoiding preferential treatment of its own services.

What Does OpenAI Say? 

Understandably, Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI (no stranger to criticism from Elon Musk) seems very happy about the prospect of its partnership with Apple, saying: “We’re excited to partner with Apple to bring ChatGPT to their users in a new way. Apple shares our commitment to safety and innovation, and this partnership aligns with OpenAI’s mission to make advanced AI accessible to everyone. Together with Apple, we’re making it easier for people to benefit from what AI can offer.” 

Altman may also be happy about the fact that Apple is reported to have also had talks with Google about perhaps using Gemini but has opted for OpenAI.  OpenAI also works in partnership with Microsoft and this business relationship has attracted attention over possible antitrust concerns.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

The partnership between Apple and OpenAI could represent a significant shift in the tech landscape, particularly for businesses relying on Apple products. For Apple, this collaboration enhances its AI capabilities, integrating ChatGPT into its ecosystem, which could greatly improve user experience and operational efficiency. This move looks like positioning Apple as a major player in the AI field, potentially attracting more customers and boosting its competitive edge.

For OpenAI, aligning with Apple will extend its reach and influence, embedding its technology into widely used consumer devices. This partnership could, therefore, lead to broader adoption of OpenAI’s technologies, fostering innovation and expanding its market presence. However, this could also mean increased scrutiny and the need to ensure robust security and privacy measures to maintain user trust.

Elon Musk’s reaction is a sign of the competitive tensions in the AI industry. His threat to ban Apple devices from his companies highlights concerns over data security and privacy, which are actually critical for businesses to consider. Musk’s stance, however, may also be influenced by his competitive interests, given his involvement with xAI and its chatbot Grok. This rivalry could intensify as companies vie for dominance in the AI market.

For the AI market, this partnership could be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it may accelerate AI integration and innovation, offering businesses advanced tools for efficiency and productivity. On the other hand, it raises concerns about data security, market monopolies, and the ethical implications of widespread AI use. Businesses must weigh these factors when adopting AI solutions, ensuring they align with their security policies and ethical standards.

For business users of Apple products, the integration of ChatGPT means access to powerful AI capabilities that can streamline operations, enhance customer interactions, and drive innovation. However, it also necessitates a reassessment of data security practices to protect sensitive information against potential breaches. As AI continues to evolve, businesses must stay informed and adaptable, leveraging new technologies while safeguarding their interests.

Tech News : NHS Cyber Attack Means Blood Donors Needed Urgently

A recent ransomware cyber-attack on a provider of lab services to the NHS led to so much disruption in several major hospitals that an urgent appeal for donations of O-type blood was issued.

What Happened? 

On Monday 3 June, Synnovis, a provider of lab services, was the victim of a ransomware cyber-attack. The attack on the provider then impacted several major hospitals in London, including King’s College Hospital, Guy’s and St Thomas’, the Royal Brompton, and the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, and primary care services in southeast London. The attack is thought to be the work of Qilin, a Russian group of cyber criminals.

The Effects

Several of the London hospitals affected declared it a critical incident. The effects of the ransomware attack included the cancellation of operations, diverting patients to other trusts, and disruption in key areas such as transplant surgeries and blood transfusions.

Urgent Appeal For Blood Donations 

The attack meant that the affected hospitals couldn’t match patients’ blood as quickly as usual. This, and the fact that blood only has a shelf life of 35 days (so stocks need to be continually replenished), and operations have been cancelled (creating a backlog) because of the cyber-attack led to an appeal. On 10 June, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) issued the appeal for O-positive and O-negative blood donors to urgently book appointments to donate in one of the 25 town and city centre NHS Blood Donor Centres in England, to boost stocks of O-type blood.

This is due to the fact that when hospitals do not know a patient’s blood type or cannot match their blood, it is safe to use O-type blood. O-negative blood type (8 per cent of the population have it) for example, can be given to anyone and is often known as the “universal blood type”, while O-positive, the most common blood type (35 per cent of donors have it) can be given to anybody with any positive blood type.

Following the disruption caused by the ransomware attack, more units of these types of blood than usual will be required over the coming weeks to support frontline staff to keep services running safely for local patients.

The Motivation? 

It’s been reported that seeking to extort money was not the primary motivation for this attack despite ransomware being used, rather the attack appears to have been carried out just to disable the system.

It’s also been reported that NHS London said shortly after the incident that it had launched a cyber response team. That said, just days before the cyber-attack, reports indicate that NHS England had spent £3m on two contracts (with KPMG and Deloitte) to provide “cyber incident response” services for the next two years.

Why Are Hospitals Targeted So Often By Cyber Criminals? 

Hospitals are often targeted by cyber criminals because they hold critical and sensitive data, often operate with outdated systems, and cannot afford prolonged downtimes, making them more likely to pay ransoms. Additionally, the widespread use of networked medical devices and historical underinvestment in cybersecurity measures make hospitals attractive targets for ransomware and other cyber-attacks.

Many may remember that the last major cyber-attack on UK hospitals was carried out by the notorious ransomware strain “WannaCry” in May 2020. The attack affected numerous NHS trusts across England, causing widespread disruption to services and leading to the cancellation of thousands of appointments and surgeries. That attack exploited a vulnerability in outdated Windows systems, highlighting significant cybersecurity weaknesses in the NHS’s infrastructure.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

The ransomware attack on Synnovis and its widespread impact on major London hospitals illustrates the critical importance of cybersecurity for businesses and organisations across all sectors. For UK businesses, this is a stark reminder that cyber threats are an ever-present risk that can have far-reaching consequences. The attack on Synnovis was not an isolated event but is part of a broader trend of increasing cyber-criminal activity targeting critical infrastructure and services.

The disruption to healthcare services highlights the vulnerabilities that many organisations face, particularly those that handle sensitive data and rely on complex, interconnected IT systems. For businesses, this means that ensuring robust cybersecurity measures is not just a technical requirement but a fundamental aspect of operational resilience. Regularly updating software, conducting security audits, and training staff on cybersecurity best practices, for example, are essential steps to mitigate the risk of such attacks.

The financial and reputational damage caused by cyber-attacks can also be devastating. For businesses, a cyber-attack can result in significant downtime, loss of customer trust, and potential legal ramifications if sensitive data is compromised. Investing in cybersecurity is, therefore, not just a defensive measure but a proactive investment in the continuity and sustainability of your business.

The NHS’s swift response in this case, including the deployment of a cyber incident response team (and the recent investment in cybersecurity services), illustrates the importance of having a well-prepared response plan. Businesses should develop and regularly update their incident response plans to ensure they can quickly and effectively respond to any cyber threats. This includes having clear communication strategies in place to keep stakeholders informed during and after an incident.

Also, the urgent appeal for blood donations in the wake of the cyber-attack serves as a poignant reminder of the interconnectedness of our modern world. Disruptions in one sector can have cascading effects across others, emphasising the importance of collaboration and support within and between industries. For businesses, this means building strong partnerships and networks to enhance collective cybersecurity resilience.

The Synnovis cyber-attack which led to so many critical UK healthcare services being severely affected is yet another wake-up call for businesses and organisations of all kinds to prioritise cybersecurity. By taking proactive measures to protect their IT infrastructure, investing in robust security solutions, and preparing comprehensive response plans, businesses can better safeguard against the growing threat of cyber-attacks and ensure their long-term viability in an increasingly digital world.

Security Stop Press : Airline Awareness : Fake X Accounts

Consumer association Which? has warned that scammers are posing as airline customer service representatives on social media to steal sensitive data.

Which? says that scammers are crawling social media (often using bots) to find customers contacting airlines, and then contacting them or infiltrating their existing conversations with an airline via fake ‘X’ (Twitter) accounts.

Which? reports that it has “found examples of bogus X accounts impersonating every major airline operating in the UK, including British Airways, EasyJet, Jet2, Ryanair, Tui, Virgin Atlantic and Wizz Air” and that some have even paid for a blue tick in order to appear genuine. Also, Which? claims that the scammers are often faster at responding than the real airlines!

Tactics scammers have been using to steal data for use in identity fraud or to sell to other criminals include sending victims legitimate looking DMs, directing victims to phishing websites (to harvest card details), and using claims of compensation entitlement to trick victims into downloading a payment (money transfer) app such as Remitly, Skrill and WorldRemit.

The advice is this : before engaging with a company on social media, to check the official website for links to its social media profiles, check when an account joined X, and to check how many followers it has to help reveal whether it is genuine.

Sustainability-in-Tech : New Apps Tackle World’s Fishing Sustainability

With the world facing challenges like tackling overfishing while trying to support those in local communities who rely on fishing for a living, a South Africa-based company has developed apps to address both issues and more.

What Are The Issues? 

Today’s ocean and coastal communities are now threatened by rising temperatures, overfishing and biodiversity loss. Add to this a huge rise in global demand for fish supply and you get overfishing. In fact, with 30 per cent of fisheries are currently overexploited and 60 per cent are fully utilised, the scale and nature of some serious issues around fishing soon become painfully clear.

However, to fully understand the scope of the problem so that it can be effectively tackled, governments and marine scientists first need access to current, accurate, critical data about the origin of fish catches. To help tackle the overfishing problem and restore fish populations, they also require the support of local communities who depend on fishing for their livelihoods.

ABALOBI 

ABALOBI is a hybrid social enterprise, public non-profit technology initiative with ideas and technology to tackle these issues. ABALOBI’s technology is designed specifically to support sustainable fishing practices, empower small-scale fishers, and ensure traceability and transparency within the seafood supply chain. Its platform (designed around 3 apps) has been developed to benefit coastal communities by enhancing their livelihoods for social, economic, and ecological sustainability as well as preserving marine ecosystems (from the threat of overfishing). The apps also help ensure traceability and transparency within the seafood supply chain.

What Are The Three Apps & How Do They Help? 

The 3 apps that feed into the ABALOBI’s fishing sustainability platform are:

1. ABALOBI Fisher. This app is designed for small-scale fishers to log catches and manage their activities, such as recording catch data, tracking efforts, managing finances, and getting weather updates. This helps with resource management, operational efficiency, and safety. This app has been designed to enhance sustainability through accurate data logging, empower fishermen with better management tools, and to improves safety at sea.

2. ABALOBI Marketplace. Among its many features, this app essentially enables direct sales of seafood between fishermen and buyers. For example, fishermen can list catches for direct sale, manage orders, and access market prices. It also ensures full traceability from catch to consumer.

In terms of benefits, this marketplace app provides market access and fair pricing for fishermen, enhances transparency and trust in the supply chain, and can support fair compensation and improved livelihoods for fishers.

3. ABALOBI Monitor. This app provides a means for data collection by researchers and fisheries managers. For example, it collects data on fish stocks and socio-economic conditions, conducts surveys, and offers analytical tools for generating reports.

Being able to access this valuable and accurate data could help support sustainable resource management, inform research and policy decisions, and engage communities to address their needs and promote resilience.

Collectively therefore, these apps and the platform can empower small-scale fishermen, promote sustainable practices, and ensure supply chain transparency.

Well Received 

ABALOBI’s technology has been well received and the company was a finalist for last year’s Earthshot Prize, the global environmental award designed to incentivise solutions to the planet’s greatest environmental challenges.

At the time, Serge Raemaekers, Co-Founder and Managing Director of ABALOBI, said of his company’s technology: “Coastal communities are instrumental in the fight to preserve the health of our oceans. Our technology, developed in partnership with fishing communities, is both easy to use and can be adopted at scale, meaning responsible small-scale fishers across the globe can be appreciated as stewards of the ocean”. 

What Does This Mean For Your Organisation?

The development of technology like ABALOBI’s apps shows how innovative tech-based solutions can address significant global challenges and offer benefits across many industries. For UK businesses, this highlights the potential of apps to gather substantial amounts of accurate data and facilitate connections between diverse stakeholders, such as buyers and sellers or scientists and policymakers.

In ABALOBI’s case, its apparent success in developing technology to promote sustainable fishing practices and enhance the livelihoods of coastal communities illustrates how technology can drive sustainability and transparency, and improve lives. Similar approaches can be applied in different sectors, enabling businesses to optimise resource management, improve operational efficiency, and meet consumer demands for ethical practices.

Also, the ability of ABALOBI’s apps to provide real-time data and insights highlights the importance of accurate information in making informed decisions. Businesses can leverage such data to enhance their supply chains, ensure fair pricing, and build trust with customers and partners.

While technology can play a vital role in tackling tough challenges, it’s often not a standalone solution. Addressing complex issues like overfishing, for example, requires a multifaceted approach, including regulatory support, community engagement, and educational initiatives. For example, enforcing sustainable practices, raising awareness about environmental impacts, and supporting local communities are essential complementary measures.

ABALOBI appears to have developed a technology-based solution to help tackle a very real and pressing global food sustainability issue. For businesses generally, however, it provides an example of how the targeted incorporation of technology into a business strategy can help find workable solutions to problems, improve transparency, and foster resilience. Although ABALOBI is a non-profit initiative, it still serves as an example to other businesses and organisations of how technology can contribute to global sustainability efforts while enhancing their own operations and reputation.

Tech Tip – Pin Websites to the Taskbar Using Microsoft Edge

Pinning frequently used websites to your taskbar using Microsoft Edge allows you to access them quickly, just like any other app, enhancing your workflow efficiency. Here’s how to do it:

– Launch Microsoft Edge from the Start menu or taskbar.

– Navigate to the Website you want to pin to the taskbar.

– Click on the three-dot menu icon in the top right corner of Edge.

– Select ‘More tools’, then click ‘Pin to taskbar’.

– The website will now appear as an icon on your taskbar for quick access.

Featured Article : Data and AI Strategies For SME Success

Following a recent AWS survey showing that data-driven SMBs who also adopt AI more quickly and make better use of it are financially outperforming their peers, we look at ways your business could do the same.

The Key Findings Of The Report 

A recent study by S&P Market Intelligence, commissioned by Amazon Web Services (AWS), found that SMBs who prioritise data (i.e. those who are strategiaclly data driven) gain a competitive edge because decisions made are based on evidence. Whilst perhaps not a surprising general conclusion, the survey’s stats show how much of a difference being data-driven can make. For example, the survey found that “65 percent of highly data-driven SMBs financially outperform their competitors”, i.e. almost twice as much as less data-driven SMBs (33 percent).

The report also highlighted other key benefits enjoyed by SMBs that adopt a data-driven strategic approach. These include:

– Helping SMBs remain profitable and cost-efficient in the face of uncertainty, market turbulence, and evolving customer expectations.

– Being twice as likely to experience positive impacts from data across key business outcomes than less data-driven competitors, e.g. customer satisfaction (69 percent compared to 37 percent), revenue (65 percent compared to 34 percent), and cost-reduction (55 percent compared to 25 percent).

– Forecasting far more positive impact across the same key business outcomes than their less data-driven competitors, e.g. 65 percent of highly data-driven SMBs anticipate data positively impacting marketing in the next two years, compared to just 33 percent of less data-driven SMBs.

Mature Data Strategy Important 

The report also revealed that 60 per cent of organisations with a mature and comprehensive data strategy financially outperform their competitors and that SMBs with a high-level of data maturity can harness their data more effectively, thereby empowering both data managers and data consumers.

It also showed that a mature data strategy in a business fosters a data-driven culture and cross-team collaboration, enhances data governance and compliance, and reduces risk. SMBs with extensive historical data also appear to gain more accurate forecasting and customer segmentation.

Being Data-Driven Leads To Faster Adoption Of AI 

One other interesting key point revealed by the report is that “highly data-driven SMBs adopt AI at twice the rate of less data-driven competitors”. The report also appears to show that SMBs with a high level of data maturity that have invested in AI adoption can yield approximately 30 percent more value from the technology.

How Can Your Business Do The Same? 

If you’re an SMB, you may be wondering how you can leverage data to deliver some of the many positive benefits outlined in the AWS report. With this in mind, here are a dozen ideas that you could use to deliver similar positive benefits and outcomes and become more data-driven:

1. Invest in data management tools. Implement robust data management and analytics platforms to streamline data collection, storage, and analysis. For example, tools like Microsoft Azure Synapse Analytics, AWS Redshift, or Google BigQuery may help to manage your data efficiently.

2. Develop a comprehensive data strategy. Create a clear data strategy that aligns with business goals. This should include data governance policies, data quality management, and a plan for leveraging data insights to drive decision-making.

3. Utilise cloud-based solutions. Think about how you can leverage cloud infrastructure to store and process data. This is because cloud solutions offer scalability, flexibility, and cost-efficiency, making it much easier to manage large datasets and perform complex analyses.

4. Implement data lakes. Establish ‘data lakes’, i.e. centralised repositories where raw data is stored in its original format until it is needed for processing and analysis. This can be done by selecting a cloud service provider like AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud that offers data lake solutions. This approach can allow for more flexible data processing and analysis, enabling you as an SMB to extract valuable insights from diverse data sources.

5. Adopt AI and machine learning. You may already be using AI to a limited extent, but using AI and machine learning to analyse data and generate actionable insights can, as highlighted in the AWS study, help with customer segmentation, predictive analytics, and automating routine tasks, enhancing efficiency and decision-making. This kind of process could be set up, for example, by selecting a platform such as Google Cloud AI, or Microsoft Azure AI and gathering and preparing data from various sources like sales, customer interactions, and operational processes. With this data, you can build machine learning models (e.g., using TensorFlow and scikit-learn) to address specific needs such as customer segmentation, predictive analytics, and automating routine tasks. Once the models are developed, they can be integrated into business processes to automate tasks and generate actionable insights. Continuously monitor the performance of these models and refine them as needed to ensure they deliver optimal results.

6. Enhance data literacy. Consider investing in training and development to improve data literacy among employees. Ensuring that staff understand how to interpret and use data effectively can foster a data-driven culture.

7. Promote cross-team collaboration. Encourage collaboration across departments to share data insights and drive innovation. For example, tools like collaborative dashboards and data-sharing platforms can facilitate this process.

8. Leverage your historical data. It makes sense to use the historical data you already have to improve forecasting and customer segmentation. Analysing past trends can, for example, can help you to make more informed decisions and tailor offerings to meet customer needs.

9. Automate data collection and analysis. Automating the process of data collection and analysis using tools like ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) systems can reduce manual effort and improve the timeliness and accuracy of data insights. Automation of this kind can be particularly important for SMBs which typically have limited resources.

10. Strengthen data governance. Implementing strong data governance frameworks to ensure data accuracy, security, and compliance can help reduce the risks associated with data breaches and regulatory violations. Data breaches, for example, can be particularly devastating for SMBs, affecting their financial stability, customer trust, and long-term viability, so it makes sense to look seriously at this data governance issue as part of being more data-driven.

11. Utilise generative AI for content creation. Use generative AI tools to create marketing content, such as articles, social media posts, and advertisements. Analysing data on customer preferences, trends, and engagement metrics can mean that generative AI can be used to create content that resonates with customers and enhances marketing effectiveness. Generative AI can, therefore, be a way to save time and ensure a steady flow of high-quality content that is highly relevant (and could be more effective). That said, if you’re still cautious about how you adopt AI, particularly where your data is concerned, you’re not alone. For example, as the AWS study showed, most SMBs are cautious about adopting AI and are still exploring how to leverage it effectively.

Nearly half of the respondents surveyed identified security as the greatest challenge, while other major concerns include a lack of skilled personnel (43 per cent) and a general skills shortage (42 per cent). To meet this challenge, you may want to invest in upskilling your workforce, ensuring you have robust security measures, and perhaps seeking external expertise to effectively leverage AI.

12. Monitor key performance indicators (KPIs). Regularly track and analyse KPIs related to data-driven initiatives. This can help you to measure the impact of your data strategy and make necessary adjustments to achieve better outcomes.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

The insights from the AWS study underscore the critical importance of becoming data-driven to gain a competitive edge. For your business, this means that prioritising data and developing a mature data strategy can significantly enhance your operational efficiency, customer satisfaction, and overall financial performance. By leveraging data effectively, you can make more informed decisions, anticipate market trends, and respond swiftly to customer needs, thereby positioning your business ahead of less data-savvy competitors.

Implementing a robust data management framework and investing in the right tools and technologies, (such as data lakes and AI) can streamline your data processes and unlock valuable insights. Enhancing data literacy across your organisation and fostering a culture of collaboration can further empower your teams to utilise data more effectively. While concerns around security and skills shortages are valid, addressing these challenges through upskilling, robust security measures, and external expertise can mitigate risks and facilitate smoother AI adoption.

Ultimately, building a data-driven organisation is not just about adopting new technologies but about embedding data-centric practices into your business operations. By doing so, your business can harness the full potential of data, drive innovation, and achieve sustained growth in an increasingly competitive market. Now is the time to start laying the groundwork for a data-driven future that ensures your business remains resilient, agile, and ahead of the curve.

Tech Insight : Google Maps Alternatives

In this insight, we look at what’s good about Google Maps, what may be less ideal about it, plus we provide 10 examples of alternative mapping and navigation apps.

What’s Good About Google Maps? 

Before we look at potential reasons for trying alternatives, it’s worth acknowledging why Google Maps (with 1.8 billion monthly active users worldwide) is the ‘Go To’ mapping and navigation service globally. The fact that it’s from tech giant Google with its vast reach, resources and data capabilities, plus the fact that Google Maps has been around for 19 years and (crucially) that it is pre-installed on Android devices (which dominates the global smartphone market) has a lot to do with its popularity. However, as anyone who’s used Google Maps will know, it’s also got some key features that make it a great app.

These include :

– Real-time navigation and traffic updates, providing turn-by-turn directions and alerts about accidents and road closures, helping users find the fastest routes and avoid traffic jams.

– Street View provides a 360-degree photographic view of streets, allowing users to easily visualise their surroundings, which helps in better orientation and planning.

– Live View uses augmented reality (AR) to overlay ‘real world’ directions through the phone’s camera, simplifying on-foot navigation and making it easier to follow directions accurately.

– Detailed information about local businesses, including hours of operation, contact information, and user reviews, helps users make informed decisions about where to eat, shop, or find services, ensuring they choose the best options available.

– Public transport information offers schedules, routes, and estimated arrival times for buses, trains, and other public transport, facilitating the planning of multi-modal trips and optimising travel, thus saving time, and reducing stress.

– Offline maps allow users to download maps for specific areas to use without an internet connection, ensuring navigation and location services are available, even in areas with poor connectivity.

– The ‘Explore’ tab suggests nearby attractions, restaurants, and points of interest based on user preferences and current trends, making it easier to discover new and interesting places.

– Custom maps and saved places enable users to create personalised maps and save favourite locations for future reference, which is useful for planning trips and keeping track of important spots.

There are many other features but not all of them or recent changes to Google Maps may be attractive to all users – there are too many to list in this insight.

Possible Criticisms of Google Maps 

We’ve acknowledged what’s great about Maps, but with Google adding more features to and updating / changing aspects of Maps in recent times, some have criticised aspects of it. Some of the less pleasing aspects of Google Maps for some users may be:

– Having too many distracting coloured pins and markers, some of which may not be relevant to the search, e.g. pink for hotels, orange ones for pubs and eateries, dark blue ones for shops.

– The lighter colour scheme introduced in November (e.g. roads are grey instead of white or yellow) has been described by some as ‘colder’, with maps that may be more challenging for people with colour blindness to read.

– The Explore tab may appear too crowded with photos and user reviews.

– A more crowded layout can sometimes obscure/fail to show basic information such as the name of the street the user is looking at.

– Frequent changes and updates to the interface can confuse users who have become accustomed to a previous layout, making it harder for them to navigate the app effectively.

– Battery consumption is relatively high, especially when using features like real-time navigation and live traffic updates, which can be a significant drawback for users on the go.

– Privacy concerns have been raised regarding the extent of data collection and location tracking, even when the app is not actively in use, which can be unsettling for some users.

– Some users find that the suggested routes and estimated travel times can be inaccurate, particularly in less populated areas or during unusual traffic conditions.

10 Alternatives 

Google Maps is, of course, not the only mapping and navigation app. Whether you’re unhappy with Google Maps or simply want to take a look at or try similar apps, here are 10 popular alternatives:

1.Waze 

Waze has over 140 million monthly active users globally, making it one of the most popular navigation apps worldwide. Waze offers real-time, community-driven navigation, providing alerts about traffic, accidents, road hazards, and speed traps. Users can share live updates, which helps the app suggest the fastest routes based on current conditions. Waze’s popularity is further boosted by its integration with carpooling services, i.e., it’s not just a navigation tool but also a platform for shared commuting.

2. Apple Maps 

Not surprisingly, being integrated into the Apple ecosystem, Apple Maps is very popular with an estimated user base of approximately 74 million monthly active users. Apple Maps provides turn-by-turn navigation, real-time traffic updates, and seamless integration with other Apple services. It also offers features like Flyover for 3D views of major cities, as well as detailed information on points of interest.

3. MapFactor Navigator 

MapFactor Navigator uses offline maps based on OpenStreetMap data, offering turn-by-turn navigation without needing an internet connection. It supports voice guidance, speed limits, and various routing options for different vehicle types.

4. HereWeGo 

HereWeGo provides detailed offline maps, public transport information, and route planning for various modes of travel, including driving, walking, and cycling. It also includes features like fare information for public transport and integration with ride-sharing services.

5. TomTom GO Navigation 

Part the of the same company that was well-known for manufacturing standalone sat navs, which has since had to transition from hardware to software solutions, TomTom GO Navigation offers offline maps, real-time traffic information, and speed camera alerts, making it a reliable choice for navigation.

6. Citymapper 

Founded by Azmat Yusuf, a former Google employee, in 2011, Citymapper’s app is excellent for urban navigation, providing detailed public transport information, bike routes, and walking directions, particularly useful in cities.

7. Maps.me 

Maps.me (developed in Zurich and originally known as MapsWithMe) offers offline maps with turn-by-turn navigation, making it ideal for travellers and those in areas with poor internet connectivity.

8. Sygic 

Sygi, the company, is based in Bratislava, Slovakia, but the Sygic app is very popular, reportedly having more than 200 million users worldwide! Sygi provides offline maps, real-time traffic updates, and speed limit warnings. It also integrates with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for a seamless in-car experience.

9. Komoot

Developed by a German company, Komoot is tailored for outdoor activities like hiking and cycling, offering detailed topographic maps, route planning, and community-generated content for various trails and paths.

10. OsmAnd  

OsmAnd is a highly versatile navigation app that uses OpenStreetMap data to provide offline maps and turn-by-turn navigation. It supports a range of features, including route planning for various modes of travel, detailed offline maps, and the ability to mark favourite locations and points of interest. This app is particularly useful for those who prefer open-source solutions and need detailed offline capabilities.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

For some, recent changes to Google Maps may be less to their liking, e.g. possibly due to a busier (some would say more cluttered) interface with perhaps too many coloured pins, a colder colour scheme (less friendly to those with colour blindness), and perhaps a more crowded layout that sometimes obscures basic information. These changes can potentially make the user experience less intuitive and enjoyable, leading to dissatisfaction among some users.

For Google, such criticisms may represent challenges in balancing the addition of new features with maintaining a user-friendly interface. While Google Maps continues to be extremely popular, to evolve and innovate, addressing these user concerns is crucial for retaining its vast user base and ensuring continued satisfaction.

For businesses and users considering alternatives, this landscape presents an opportunity. Trying other mapping and navigation apps can not only address specific user needs better but also foster competition and innovation in the market. Alternative apps like Waze, Apple Maps, and HereWeGo, each with their unique features, might offer a more tailored experience, particularly for users dissatisfied with recent changes in Google Maps.

As Google Maps continues to develop, it will likely focus on integrating more advanced technologies and enhancing its features to maintain its competitive edge. This includes leveraging AI for improving real-time traffic predictions, providing more accurate estimated times of arrival, and enhancing route planning by analysing historical and real-time data. Features like Live View, which uses augmented reality to provide on-the-ground navigation, show Google’s commitment to using cutting-edge technology to enhance the user experience.

For businesses, staying informed about these developments is essential. Exploring various mapping and navigation tools can help optimise navigation and improve customer experience. Adopting the latest technologies can ensure businesses provide accurate, efficient, and user-friendly services. This proactive approach can ultimately benefit both the business and its customers, ensuring that they stay competitive in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Tech News : ChatGPT Says Labour Has Already Won

A recent Sky News report said that when ChatGPT was recently asked by a journalist “who won the UK general election 2024?”, the chatbot replied that Labour had won a “significant victory”, even though the general election hasn’t happened yet.

Context Too 

The Sky News report highlights how, despite being asked the question by one of their journalists several times, “in a variety of ways”, it still replied that Labour had one. It’s also been reported by Sky News that it even gave the context, as “Labour secured a substantial majority in the House of Commons, marking a dramatic turnaround from their previous poor performance in the 2019 election,”  and that “this shift was attributed to a series of controversies and crises within the Conservative Party, including multiple leadership changes and declining public support under Rishi Sunak’s leadership.” 

How and Why? 

It was reported that ChatGPT had most likely sourced its answer from both Wikipedia and a New Statesman article that speculated on who would most likely be the winner of the UK general election on the 4th of July.

The reason for ChatGPT’s apparent knowledge of the future, as highlighted in Sky News’s report, described by an “OpenAI spokesperson” explaining that “when a user asks a question about future or ongoing events in the past tense, ChatGPT may sometimes respond as if the event has already occurred” because of “an unintended bug”.

Others Don’t 

The Sky News report also highlighted how its journalist had asked the same election question to both the Llama 2 (from Meta) and ‘Ask AI’ AI chatbots, but they did not given an answer.

It’s worth noting here, however, that ChatGPT displays the message beneath its conversation box that “ChatGPT can make mistakes. Check important info”. Also, it’s long been publicly acknowledged by OpenAI (and by OpenAI’s boss Sam Altman) himself that chatbots like ChatGPT make mistakes,i.e. they can make things up as “AI hallucinations”. These happen because of the probabilistic nature of language models, as they generate responses based on patterns in the data they were trained on. For example, the model tries to predict the next word or phrase that seems plausible based on its training data, even if the information isn’t accurate.

Problem In Election Year? 

ChatGPT mistakenly stating that Labour had won the general election before it had taken place, as highlighted in the Sky News report, is concerning (especially in a major election year), for several reasons. Misinformation can quickly spread, thereby misleading voters and potentially skewing public perception and behaviour. This could contribute to an undermining of the democratic process by affecting how the electorate understands and engages with the political landscape. Repeated errors may also have an effect in eroding public trust in AI systems, leading to broader skepticism about their reliability and applications.

It may also be the case that giving out incorrect information about election results could potentially influence voter turnout and decision-making, possibly impacting the actual election outcomes.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

This reported incident with ChatGPT erroneously stating that Labour has won the upcoming UK general election before the election has even taken place highlights a serious challenge for OpenAI. It should be noted in this case that OpenAI has acknowledged this behaviour as an unintended bug and has said that it is working urgently to rectify the issue, particularly given the sensitivity of election-related contexts. However, for businesses, this highlights the need for vigilance and responsibility when integrating AI tools into their operations, especially those involving public information or critical decision-making.

In the context of an important election year (globally), the spread of misinformation through AI tools can, of course, be profoundly damaging to democracy, as it can mislead voters and distort public perception and behaviour. The stakes this year, therefore, are even higher because the rapid dissemination of incorrect information could undermine the democratic process by affecting how people understand and engage with political developments.

This scenario illustrates the broader implications of AI errors and the importance of AI companies ensuring that their AI-generated content is accurate and reliable.

Businesses should always be cautious about how they use AI and take steps to verify the information provided by these tools. Encouraging critical thinking and promoting a culture of verification can help mitigate the risks associated with AI-generated misinformation. Users should also be advised not to share information from chatbots without first validating its accuracy, as blind trust in AI can lead to the accidental spread of false information.

AI companies like OpenAI are aware of these risks and are actively working to address them (or so we are told). Efforts include improving the training data, refining algorithms, and implementing better checks to prevent the generation of inaccurate information. Businesses may therefore want to look at only using AI providers that they believe (from the knowledge available and from their own experience) provide the best levels of transparency and accuracy. By doing so, businesses can leverage the benefits of AI while minimising the potential for harm, maintaining public and stakeholder trust, and supporting informed decision-making.

All that said, there’s still a long way to go in the UK election, and the fact that former UK prime minister, David Cameron, was recently fooled by a hoax video-call highlights the fact that ‘deepfakes’  and related digital scams are likely to be as much a problem (if not more so) than chatbot answers in the election process going forward.