This Week In Tech And Telco: What Does The Future Hold?

Welcome to your weekly briefing of tech and telecoms news. Aside from the regular run-down, I’ve got some additional news for you today. This week’s tech and telecoms roundup will in fact be your last, for a while, at least. We’ve got an exciting year ahead here at Radial Path, with some changes to come, so decided now would be a good time to take inventory and push the pause button on a few things.

I know what you’re thinking, why didn’t we just tie it all up over Christmas and stop the tech and telco blog in the new year? Well, we like to think we’re non-conformist. SO. In the sentiment of go big or go home, we’re going big and then going home. Here’s is your extra long, last, rundown of tech and telecoms news.

What should we expect from tech and AI in 2020?

In the last decade, artificial intelligence has boomed, or at least public debate around it, and the number of companies claiming to be AI-driven has too. However, this is often not the case. Hype surrounding AI has peaked and the technology’s capability is often overestimated, which then must be re-evaluated. And the cycle continues.

These phases of interest and indifference are often referred to as summers and winters; another way of saying what’s hot and what’s not. Over the last decade, AI has been hot, but its potential remains unfulfilled and may result in some elements of industry fatigue. Still, there were huge technological advancements in the 2010s, along with AI achievements, so perhaps there will be major AI progression in the 20s.

So far, artificial general intelligence can:

  • Play the ancient Chinese board game Go
  • Identify human faces
  • Translate text into practically every language
  • Spot tumors
  • Drive cars
  • Identify animals

What does the next decade have in store? Read the full report from the BBC, packed with comments from those actually building AI.

  • In other AI news, Google’s DeepMind is asking players of the sci-fi video game Starcraft II to battle its bot AlphaStar, but they won’t know when they play it.
  • And while we’re all busy here speculating about the future of artificial intelligence… around half of the world still doesn’t have an internet connection. Why? “The average revenue of a rural cell site can be 10 times lower than one in an urban setting, while the cost of building and maintaining network infrastructure in a rural area is often double,” explained GSMA, the association of mobile network operators. Read more here.
  • Could Open-RAN be the answer?
What will AI look like in 2002?

NSA alerts Microsoft of Windows vulnerability in policy move

When the National Security Agency (NSA) finds a vulnerability in technology, it, traditionally, keeps quiet and exploits the flaw to develop cyberweapons, build hacking tools and gather intelligence.

But this week, the NSA alerted Microsoft to a flaw in its Windows 10 operating system, as well as some versions of its server software, which allows hackers to insert malicious code which appears to be from a trusted source. As a result, Microsoft was able to develop a patch to fix the problem.

The pivot in policy comes after the NSA lost control of developed tools, which were exploited by North Korean and Russian cybercriminals, among others.

But Microsoft said there is no evidence the issue, which would allow an attacker to "decrypt confidential information" on unmatched systems, has not been exploited in real life.

The vulnerability allowed hackers to insert malicious code. Photographer: Chris Ried | Source: Unsplash

Living robots built from frog cells

American scientists have successfully created miniature robots built from African clawed frogs cells – meaning they’re living.

The robots, which are built from heart and skin cells and are less than 1mm long, were designed via an “evolutionary algorithm”, running on a supercomputer, which generated and tested up to a thousand 3D configurations in a virtual environment.

Heart cells spontaneously contract and relax, meaning they act almost like an engine, propelling the robot along. The cell’s energy often runs out after just 10 days, making the robots a finite source.

But there are plans to scale the currently waterborne robots, creating larger anatomies. Xenobots, as they are called, may be built with blood vessels, nervous systems, and sensory cells, to form rudimentary eyes. Sourcing cells from a mammal, instead of an amphibian, may also allow it to live on dry land.

While robots are usually built with plastic and metal, for strength and durability, cells would allow living robots to patch their wounds when damaged and, like any other natural organism, the robots will decay when they die.

New tech: Living robots made from frog cells
Credit: The Guardian, University of Vermont, and Tufts University

Satellite constellations limited by Earth infrastructure

SpaceX and Amazon, among others, may have high hopes for launching satellite constellations into orbit, but Earthly project blockers have emerged.

Putting satellites into space will allow for better internet connections across the globe while being able to access photos and data from space.

The infrastructure in orbit may be progressing nicely, but here on Earth, it is not. The industry's growth is hindered by a lack of ground infrastructure which is needed to receive data and control the satellites.

Ground work is currently “underexploited” by those looking to invest in the satellite industry, but companies are beginning to take notice. In 2019, Amazon announced it would start providing ground station services and recently added a new location in Sweden. There are blockers here too, however, as each country has its own regulations.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy Demo Mission
More ground bases are needed to support the project. Photographer: SpaceX | Source: Unsplash

Are Alexa-enabled spaceships coming?

While astronauts are some of the most physiologically and psychologically sound people in the world, space travel is undoubtedly testing. Confined to a small capsule where you live and work, with just one or two others for months or even years, astronauts face unique challenges in day-to-day routines let alone in life-threatening moments.

NASA already works with different kinds of digital assistants to help support astronauts, but current technology is stunted by a lack of emotional intelligence. An AI assistant able to understand human emotion and respond empathetically could help astronauts adjust to life in space.

Now, the space agency is working with an Australian tech firm to do just that. The collaborative effort hopes to develop an AI that could provide emotional support for astronauts on deep-space missions.

This AI would be able to take initiative and identify when its subject is having an off day, and respond accordingly. If successful and made affordable, this technology could have wide-ranging applications across society, here on earth.

Other tech news we’re reading

  • In a Huawei update, US officials are allegedly visiting the UK in hope of convincing their British counterparts to ban the Chinese company’s involvement in 5G infrastructure. The UK has resisted pressures so far, so will this make a difference? (Web Pro News)
  • It’s natural to reflect on the previous year as a new one ticks over. This week, we’ve picked up an article looking at the biggest tech flops of the decade. A lot of Facebook and Google products feature, along with the Sony PlayStation Vita and Steam console. Take a look. (PC Mag)
  • Colt Technology Services, a FTSE250 telco, has completed a fiber densification project in London, adding 110 kilometers of new fiber in the city. The expansion compliments others in Eastern Europe, Dublin and Berlin. (Comms Business)
  • Cloudflare will provide security tools to US political campaigns for free, it has said, in efforts to protect elections against cyberattacks and interference. Cloudflare for Campaigns will offer DDoS attack mitigation, load balancing for campaign websites, a website firewall, and anti-bot protection. (Tech Crunch)
  • Barcelona-based NovaMeat has been 3D printing meat alternatives for a while now, but the startup has made headlines recently for its accuracy of 3D printed “cuts” of meat. Food 3D printers work by squeezing ingredients out of a tiny nozzle, layer by layer, while creators can choose how much fat to include etc. (Sifted)
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