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Gold Level Contributor

UK Police told not to download NHS Covid-19 app

Image: Getty
The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) has confirmed officers are being told not to install the NHS Covid-19 app on their work smartphones.
The app detects when users have been in proximity to someone with the virus.
Some officers have also been told they may not need to obey self-isolate alerts generated by the app when downloaded to their personal phones.
Lancashire Constabulary has told staff to call the force's own Covid-19 helpline instead.
The BBC contacted the North-West of England force after a source said the advice had been given because of "security reasons".
The source also said officers had been told not to carry their personal phones while on duty if they had activated the app.
This applies to staff working in public-facing roles as well as those in back-office positions.
"The health and wellbeing of our officers, staff and the public remains our priority," a Lancashire Constabulary spokeswoman subsequently told the BBC.
"Members of staff, like all members of the public, are personally able to download the Track and Trace application should they choose to do so. Guidance provided to staff within the workplace remains in line with the national NPCC position."
The NPCC confirmed the work-phones policy was common to all forces, but said it was carrying out an urgent review of the matter.
"We have been taking time to review the specifications of the app to assess the implications for policing," added a spokesman.
The council might drop the policy as soon as Tuesday.
NHS Covid-19 launched last Thursday, since when it has been downloaded more than 12 million times.
In addition to contact-tracing, it also offers a way for users to scan codes when they enter a building to log they were there, as well as a means to check if they have symptoms of the coronavirus and to order a test.
The NPCC had previously raised concerns about officers sharing information with human contact tracers on the grounds it could compromise undercover work and other sensitive operations.
But since the app is designed to keep people's identities secret, this should not be a problem in this case.
Originally published by
Rory Cellan-JonesTechnology correspondent | September 28, 2020
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Silver Level Contributor

Fieldwork Robotics’ work already bore fruit with automated raspberry picker.

British farmers could be using robots to fill gaps in recruitment of fruit and vegetable pickers after Fieldwork Robotics began work with Bonduelle Group, one of the world’s leading vegetable producers.

Fieldwork, a spin out from the University of Plymouth, will initially work on the detection and soft robotics technology with a view to produce an early-stage prototype during the second year of the collaboration.

Bonduelle will provide access to fields and expertise in vegetables and knowledge of different growing and harvesting conditions. The partnership is initially expected to last for three years, and is expected to result in a prototype ready for commercial manufacture.

This is the second application of Fieldwork’s patented agricultural robot technology to gain food industry backing. The company has already collaborated with Hall Hunter partnership, one of the UK’s largest soft fruit producers for a raspberry-harvesting robot and is currently working with Bosch to optimise software and the design of the robotic arms.

Raspberries were initially chosen because they are more challenging to harvest than any other soft fruits. Delicate and damaged easily, they grow on bushes with complex foliage and berry distribution.

"Bonduelle has a strong commitment to sustainable and diversified agriculture in all of the territories where we operate globally,” said Iaudine Lambert, Group Agronomy Director, Bonduelle Prospective and Development. “New technologies can play an important part in meeting that commitment, so we are delighted to be collaborating with Fieldwork Robotics and excited by the potential of its agricultural robots."

Rui Andres, CEO, Fieldwork Robotics, said: "We have already enjoyed significant progress through our collaboration with Hall Hunter Partnership on the raspberry-harvesting version of the technology. The agreement with Bonduelle to collaborate on developing a second iteration of Fieldwork’s agricultural robots is a strong validation of the technology. We are very much looking forward to working with them to develop an effective system to harvest cauliflowers."

Significant progress has already been made on the automated cauliflower picking front. Company co-founder Dr. Martin Stoelen, lecturer in robotics at the University of Plymouth and associate professor at the Western Norway University of Applied Science, initially started developing a cauliflower harvesting robot system in a project funded by Agri-Tech Cornwall, an initiative joint-funded by European Union and Cornwall council. He has also worked on a tomato-harvesting project run in partnership with the Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Fieldwork has raised £318,000 so far this year to accelerate development and scale up the technology. It has also been supported by a £547,250 Innovate UK grant as part of a £671,484 project to develop a multi-armed robot prototype. Other partners in the project included the University of Plymouth and the National Physical Laboratory. Innovate UK recently provided further support through a £84,000 continuity grant.

Originally published by
SmartCitiesWorld News Team | September 24, 2020
Smart Cities World

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Gold Level Contributor

UK communities prepare for cash access pilots

Pop-up post offices, purchase-free in-store cash back and a financial hub inside a church are among the ideas being tested to help communities across the UK retain free access to cash.

The pilots follow the publication of the 2019 Access to Cash Review, which found that 17% of the UK population rely on cash, with vulnerable communities, including the poor and those in rural areas, at particular risk from reduced access to cash. The Covid-19 pandemic has further heightened the problem, with many high street businesses spurning cash payments in favour of contactless transactions.

Having picked eight communities to pilot a range of possible solutions in June, the Access to Cash project has now added a ninth and outlined what actions each area will test over the next few months.

Among the plans to be trialled are 'banking hubs’ in dedicated retail spaces, which combine the cash-transaction facilities of a Post Office with access to community banking services offered by high street players. In one community, a financial hub space will be set up in the local Methodist Church, with support from the major banks, debt advice, and support for financial issues.

Existing Post Office branches will be restructured and refurbished with cash services streamlined to make it easier to withdraw and deposit cash quickly and safely. Meanwhile, pop-up Post Office services will let small communities access basic banking services over a counter within an existing small shop.

There will also be a push to increase the number of businesses offering cashback, some without requiring people to make purchases.

Natalie Ceeney, chair, Community Access to Cash Pilot, says: "The rapid switch to digital is threatening the viability of today’s cash infrastructure. This can lead to consumers left without cash access or forced to leave their own village or town to get cash elsewhere, often at significant inconvenience and cost.

"In turn, local retailers lose custom, as consumers spend their case elsewhere, and then struggle to bank their cash takings without shutting up shop to drive to a bank branch some miles away, losing revenue and frustrating customers. It’s critical that we find ways to protect the viability of cash, for consumers and communities alike.

"These pilots are designed to find sustainable ways to keep cash viable locally, which, if successful, can then be rolled out more widely. The government has already committed to legislate to protect cash, and the financial services regulators are working closely with banks to identify practical next steps. Our aim is to use the pilots to critically inform this work."
Originally published by
Finextra | September 23, 2020

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Silver Level Contributor

Image: Getty Images

Barclays will tell "hundreds" of UK staff who had gone back to the office to return to working from home.

The bank told the BBC it was making the move following the latest guidance from the government that people should work at home when they can.

About 1,000 Barclays employees worldwide returned to the office over the summer.

French bank Societe Generale and the insurance market Lloyd's of London also told their UK staff to work from home.

Barclays said it would not be releasing a country-specific number on those returning to work from home.

The bank had said it would carry out a "gradual" return to the office in October, after chief executive Jess Staley signalled that he wanted employees working from home during the pandemic to return to the office "over time".

"It is important to get people back together in physical concentrations," he told Bloomberg TV in July.

However, not all banks take the same view. NatWest has said staff can continue to work from home until next year.

On Tuesday, Societe Generale said it was also "adapting its position in line with UK government guidance", without stating the number of workers in its London offices would now work from home.

Lloyd's of London said it had told its 800 directly employed staff to work from home but that this did not apply to the independent brokers who use its Lime Street headquarters.

"Lloyd's underwriting room is certified as a Covid-secure environment and will remain open for market participants," the company said.

'Crushing blows'

Business groups have reacted with dismay to the prime minister's call for people to work at home where they can.

The CBI said that it was a "crushing" blow that would have a "devastating impact".

It marks a change in policy following a government advertising campaign to get people back to work where safe.

Campaign group London First said it would discourage people from returning to workplaces and risk "derailing an already fragile recovery".

CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn told the BBC: "We know we need to avoid a second national lockdown at all if we possibly can, but I have to say these are crushing blows.

"The impact on people who are coming back into their offices, the impact on city centres, so dependent on the bustle of city life, our creative industries - this will have a devastating impact on people and businesses.

"And I think that the answer for business, and what I'm hearing in my conversations this morning, is make it a short, sharp shock if it has to happen."

Appearing on the Emma Barnett Show on Radio 5 live, she said she was speaking to the programme from her office and that "about 15%" of her people were in.

"They're excited about coming back, we need to plan to bring more people back. It's good for morale, it's good for learning, it's good for creativity and so many businesses are feeling that, so this is a backward move that won't be welcomed, and let's make it as short as it needs to be."

"The new restrictions must be regularly reviewed to minimise the damage to the economy while safeguarding the health of the nation in the round - not just physical health, but mental health and our economic health, said London First chief executive Jasmine Whitbread.

She also called for the government to extend business rates relief and to introduce a "targeted" version of the furlough scheme, which is due to end on 31 October.

As well as the change in stance on working from home, Boris Johnson also confirmed that pubs and restaurants in England will have to close at 22:00 from Thursday to stop the spread of the coronavirus. He warned that the new measures could last up to six months.

Ms Whitbread said: "A targeted version of the furlough scheme would help those hardest hit in leisure, retail and hospitality."

Roger Barker, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, said the spread of coronavirus was not wholly predictable, but the "back and forth" on office working would cause "frustration".

He added: "Business leaders are eager for the government to focus on the foundations, issues like childcare, public transport, and getting the testing system firing on all cylinders."

Originally published by
BBC | September 22, 2020

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Silver Level Contributor

Manchester scored well in areas such as emissions and eco-measures

The research, carried out by Honda, was based on a range of factors including household recycling, domestic CO2 emissions and household eco measures, combined with survey responses.

Residents in Manchester, Plymouth, Nottingham and Glasgow have emerged as the most eco-friendly in their everyday lives, in a new study from Honda.

The league table was compiled from household recycling data, domestic COemissions and household eco measures. This was combined with survey responses from more than 2,000 UK adults asking about smart meters, commuting methods and their attitudes toward being more environmentally friendly.


Manchester residents claim the top spot for being the ‘greenest’ people in Great Britain, followed by Plymouth, Nottingham and Glasgow. In fact, Plymouth respondents achieved the highest score for their attitudes towards being eco-friendly.

While more respondents in Newcastle upon Tyne reported they have a smart meter installed than any other city (51 per cent compared to Britain’s average of 41 per cent), Southampton takes the crown for the lowest estimate of domestic CO2 emissions, followed by Exeter and Portsmouth.

At the other end of the scale is London, Norwich and Sheffield, with the latter receiving the lowest score for their attitude towards being more eco-friendly.

According to the survey, Norwich’s residents have fewer smart meters among them than any other city in Britain, with only 28 per cent saying they currently have one in their home. Furthermore, while Birmingham places fifth in the overall league table, residents there have the lowest score in the country for recycling their household waste.

“With global warming and climate change being one of the biggest concerns to face our planet, there is no denying that there is an ever-growing importance to address what we do now to protect the world we live in”

To understand the extent to which people’s attitudes towards being eco-friendly may have changed as a result of experiencing lockdown, Honda commissioned a second survey, and while some attitudes remain similar, there are differences to note. While three-fifths (62 per cent) believe their recycling habits have stayed the same throughout lockdown, 26 per cent say they now recycle more and 10 per cent recycle less.

Of those who have been recycling more, half say it is because they have had more time to recycle. However, of those who have recycled less, 29 per cent say do not see the point in trying to recycle more and 27 per cent can’t be bothered.

Before lockdown

Less people now turn all lights and electricals off every time they leave a room (41 per cent) compared to the 46 per cent that said they did before lockdown. Cardiff now do this more than any other city (60 per cent), but Norwich’s residents turn all lights and electricals off when leaving a room less often than anyone else (10 per cent).

 “With global warming and climate change being one of the biggest concerns to face our planet, there is no denying that there is an ever-growing importance to address what we do now to protect the world we live in. As Honda continue to work towards a more electrified future, we want to celebrate the people in Britain who are actively thinking of the environment and trying to be more eco-friendly in their everyday lives,” said Rebecca Stead, head of automobile at Honda UK.

She continued: “It’s important we all do what we can to take steps to help the environment and we want to champion those that are doing this. We hope this research will also encourage more people to do the same and take any step they can – big and small – to protect the planet.”

Publication of the research marks the release of Honda’s first fully electric car, the Honda e. The full research can be found here.

Originally published by
SmartCitiesWorld News Team | September 14, 2020
Smart Cities World



Read more…
Silver Level Contributor

The Virolens device, developed by iAbra, uses a digital microscope and artificial intelligence-powered software to visually search a mouth swab sample for signs of the novel coronavirus. (Getty Images)

Two British companies are preparing to launch a simple COVID-19 saliva screening test that aims to provide an accurate result within 20 seconds—following its first uses at London’s Heathrow airport, one of the busiest in the world.

The Virolens device, developed by iAbra, uses a digital microscope and artificial intelligence-powered software to visually search a mouth swab sample for signs of the novel coronavirus.

The machine provides a low-cost, repeatable and self-administered method of screening, allowing hundreds of cartridge-based tests to be performed each day, according to iAbra’s manufacturing partner TT Electronics. Validation studies by the University of Bristol have pegged the system’s false-negative rate of 0.2%, alongside a false-positive rate of 3.3%.

The Virolens device underwent its first rounds of field testing among Heathrow employees, and its developers are now planning full clinical trials to gain certifications for medical use.

“I have experienced iAbra’s test myself, alongside the PCR test—it is quicker and cheaper, and potentially more accurate,” said Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland Kaye. “We urge the government to fast-track this technology to protect the economy and help save millions of jobs in this country.” 

According to a report from the Financial Times, iAbra said the machine will cost less than $20,000, with cartridge testing kits about “the price of a paperback book.” 

Originally published by
Conor Hale | September 10, 2020
Fierce Biotech


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Gold Level Contributor

Echoing Prime Minister’s Boris Johnson pledge to 'double down on levelling up' the UK economy, Citi Bank’s Tony McLaughlin believes the country can become an even more friendly environment for fintech and should be looking outside “a small perimeter around Old Street”.

Tony McLaughlin believes that the UK needs to double down on fintech to spearhead the post-Covid economic recovery, but needs to look outside London for the innovative companies that will be the catalyst of this.

“If you think about fintech as a way of working, companies have got access to global markets because their software is scalable across the world. Naturally fintech is a type of business where software is created collaboratively, where people work in new styles, where not everyone has to be in same office or location,” he tells Finextra Research.

“So, I take issue with the sector being too London focused. I think, if anything, efforts can be made to promote fintech in other locations which have got great software development capability within the UK.”

There may now be an increased desire to harness these capabilities. Large numbers of people have spent the last six months working from home, so the idea of journeying into London for four or five days a week may now seem like an unnecessary exercise.

This may dilute the importance of the capital city and see companies be more aggressive in harnessing the technology capabilities around the rest of the UK.

Beyond Brexit and Covid

Perhaps following the lead of jurisdictions like Switzerland and Singapore, policymakers in the UK should be looking at where its fintech sector has a natural advantage and how this can be augmented.

“In the AI space, for example, there’s some great expertise in the UK - DeepMind came from the UK, for example - so there are places where the country’s natural advantages could be leveraged in fintech,” McLaughlin says.

“Fintech is probably not material enough to necessarily lift the whole economy out of a recession, but it is certainly going to be a big contributor.”

While it is tempting to view the outlook for fintech primarily through a Brexit or a Covid lens, it will be important for companies to set their sights on the bigger picture of how businesses and consumers are likely to interact and transact in the years to come.

Imagining how the financial services will develop and how UK fintech should look to capitalise, McLaughlin refers to a McKinsey report of January 2018, which claimed that some $60 trillion worth of economic activity will be conducted in digital ecosystems by 2025, whether this be through B2B or direct-to-consumer platforms.

If McKinsey were asked to reevaluate this sum post-Covid, it is of course more likely that their lofty expectations would be inflated than deflated.

This will offer the opportunity to provide the financial services for such platforms, whether it be fintech companies, the banks themselves, or even big tech firms doing so.

Taking China as a model, financial services on platforms such as Alibaba and WeChat are provided by the companies themselves, which is also happening in the US with the GAFA firms.

Herding cats

However, the UK’s Open Banking ecosystem should create an environment where there will be room for manoeuvre and collaboration between the different players: banks acting like fintechs, fintechs acting like banks, banks acting like vendors and so on.

“Going forward, the opportunity for fintechs will not be providing an app that tells you how much coffee you’ve drunk, but embedding financial services into these mass-market consumer platforms,” McLaughlin says.

One such example of an area where UK fintech could respond to the needs of the financial markets is in digital identity, particularly how it pertains to the payments space.

According to David Birch of Consult Hyperion, payments equals identity plus accounting entries. While the latter is straightforward, it is identity that invariably proves the difficult bit.

The areas of the payments journey that are broken often come down to knowing beyond all doubt that the person performing a transaction is who they claim to be.

“I think another opportunity for the UK is maybe to focus on our foundational capability or infrastructure for the emerging digital economy, particularly in identity,” McLaughlin says.

“I’d like to see more fintechs take on those big foundational issues.”

Rather than simply offering white-label solutions (though there will remain a great deal of scope for these), fintechs should look to “herd the cats of the banking industry”, as McLaughlin puts it.

They should be looking to build industry-wide solutions in such areas as digital identity, as there is a great case for banks clubbing together to deliver interoperable digital identity, as already exists in Sweden.

“That’s one of the relatively unexplored avenues in the industry,” McLaughlin says.

Originally published by
Finextra | September 9, 2020

Read more…
Silver Level Contributor

Chip preps £10m crowdfunding campaign

UK smart savings app Chip says 25,000 people have pre-registered for its upcoming Crowdcube campaign, which aims to raise £10 million.

The campaign, which will start later this week, will see any funds raised matched by the Future Fund government initiative.

The funding will be used to build on Chip's 250,000-strong user-base and revenue model and to "continue ongoing discussions with VCs from a position of strength".

Simon Rabin, CEO, Chip, says: "We believe the most powerful way for a business to grow is to have thousands of investors advocating something they believe in.

"Our investor community has helped us get where we are now in more ways than simply investing, so we want to offer them the chance to maintain or improve their stake in our company and share in our success going forward."

The startup recently unveiled plans to offer interest-bearing accounts to customers, with all money bundled into a single shared trust account.
Originally published by
Finextra | September 8, 2020
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Bronze Level Contributor

Rare bit of good news on the jobs front as Amazon says it will create another 7,000 new jobs in the UK to cope with demand

E-commerce giant Amazon has announced that due to growing demand, it will create 10,000 permanent jobs in the United Kingdom in 2020.

It said that it had already created 3,000 jobs to its UK workforce, and when the 7,000 extra jobs are added this year, it will take its permanent UK workforce to 40,000.

The jobs will spread across its UK network of fulfilment centres, sort centres and delivery stations – including at a new hi-tech fulfilment centre in the North East of England which opened in May.

New jobs

The 7,000 jobs will also be located in Amazon’s corporate offices and two new fulfilment centres launching in the autumn in the North East and in the Midlands.

Amazon said the new roles would include engineers, graduates, HR and IT professionals, health and safety and finance specialists, as well as the teams who will pick, pack and ship customer orders.

The firm said it had already offered temporary roles to thousands of people whose job was impacted at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of whom will now be able to transition into a permanent role with the potential for a career within Amazon.

In addition, Amazon is creating more than 20,000 seasonal positions across the UK ahead of the festive period.

“While this has been a challenging time for many businesses, it is hugely encouraging to see Amazon creating 10,000 jobs in the UK this year,” said Business Secretary, Alok Sharma.

“This is not only great news for those looking for a new job, but also a clear vote of confidence in the UK economy as we build back better from the pandemic,” Sharma said. “The government remains deeply committed to supporting retailers of all sizes and we continue to work closely with the industry as we embark on the road to economic recovery.”

“The new state-of-the-art robotics fulfilment centres in the North East and the Midlands, as well as the thousands of additional roles at sites across the country, underline our commitment to the people and communities in which we operate,” added Stefano Perego, Amazon’s VP of European Customer Fulfilment.

Workforce relations

In March Amazon said it would hire 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers in the US, in response to a surge in online orders, as many consumers and households around the world entered self-isolation and lockdowns to minimise the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.

But critics point to working conditions at Amazon, and its refusal to allow its workforce to unionise. Amazon instead has encouraged a policy where workers say their concerns with management.

Earlier this week Amazon reportedly withdrew two job adverts for “intelligence analysts”, and it was forced to deny the roles would entail spying on union activity within its workforce.

In May this year Tim Bray, a senior engineer with Amazon Web Services, resigned over Amazon’s decision to fire staff who had protested what they called insufficient virus protections.

Christian Smalls was fired after he had helped organise a walk out at the location (another took place in Detroit) in protest at Amazon’s alleged lack of protection of the workforce during the pandemic.

Five US senators sent Amazon chief Jeff Bezos a letter demanding more information on the firing of Christian Smalls.

In June the US state of California said it was looking into Amazon’s business practices as part of a broader inquiry into the company.

Originally posted by
Tom Jowitt | September 3, 2020

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Silver Level Contributor

Initially 100 scooters have been made available for residents in Milton Keynes

The Ford-owned micro-mobility unit is working closely with the UK city’s council to roll out its fleet responsibly and said public safety is the top priority.

Spin, the micro-mobility arm of Ford Motor Company, has announced its first UK local trial of its e-scooters for public hire in Milton Keynes.

This marks the company’s first market in the context of the recently legalised e-scooter trials taking place across the UK.

 Initially 100 scooters have been made available for residents to use with the aim of ramping the fleet up to around 300 scooters on the streets by mid-September.

 Public education events

Spin said it is working closely with Milton Keynes Council to roll out its fleet responsibly, with public safety being the top priority. The company has held a series of public education events for Milton Keynes residents to come out and learn more about how to ride safely. Spin plans to hold several additional safety and public engagement events in the next several weeks to raise awareness and ensure full compliance with local and national rules.

To take a trip, riders download the Spin App on their smartphone, review a comprehensive set of rules and safety guidelines, and then start their trip for £0.25 per minute (with no unlock fee, which normally costs £1 per ride). The scooters can be used on the town’s redways, which provide the local community with convenient connectivity across the town.

The company also offers all riders access Spin Safe Digital, an online learning resource that teaches riders how to start and end trips properly, parking techniques to ensure walkways are free of scooter clutter, and safe riding practices during Covid-19. Riders receive a £5 discount if they take an online quiz testing them on the rules.

“We’re excited to bring the first of our UK e-scooter fleets to Milton Keynes and had a highly-encouraging response from local riders at our Spin Safe events. This is the first of many e-scooter trials across the UK as part of our firm commitment to fully integrate e-scooters into local transportation ecosystems,” said Felix Petersen, head of Europe at Spin.

“We hope to responsibly fulfil the need UK residents have for this new transport mode as an accessible, inexpensive and greener alternative to cars and public transport.”

Spin has also applied for several other tenders for the local trials in order to expand the company’s presence in the UK including west of England, Oxford, Solent and Canterbury.

Seeking to become “carbon negative” by 2025, Spin also views the Milton Keynes trial as an opportunity to implement some of its forward-thinking environmental and sustainability goals including utilising Ford’s Transit plug-in electric hybrid vehicles to collect and recharge its e-scooter fleet over using diesel vans.

Originally published by
SmartCitiesWorld news team | August 24, 2020

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Gold Level Contributor

American banking giant JPMorgan Chase is looking to launch its UK digital challenger in the first quarter of 2021, according to Sky News.

Rumours of JPMorgan's intention to launch a Chased-branded online lender in the UK have been circulating for a couple of years. Now a Q1 2021 target has been set, says Sky.

The US behemoth is understood to have signed on with Amazon Web Services for its cloud needs and 10x Future Technologies for its digital infrastructure.

JPMorgan was rumoured to be planning a sizeable equity investment in 10x, the fintech startup founded by former Barclays boss Antony Jenkins, back in 2019.

The bank will be following the lead of rival Goldman Sachs, which launched its Marcus brand in the UK in 2018 and now boasts over 500,000 customers. In June it closed its savings account to new customer after an influx of deposits during the Coronavirus pandemic.

JPMorgan's previous attempt at offering digital-only banking was short lived, with US mobile brand Finn lasting only a year before being shut down in June 2019.

In the UK it will be entering a crowded market, taking on digital challengers such as Monzo, Atom, Starling and Revolut, as well as the traditional high street giants.

Originally published by
Finextra | August 21, 2020

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Silver Level Contributor

The project will consider a broad range of low carbon heating alternatives

The UK Power Networks project aims to help local authorities identify zones where they can target their heat decarbonisation efforts and investment to achieve Net Zero

Electricity distributor UK Power Networks (UKPN) has announced a first-of-its-kind project to help local communities map out their Net Zero carbon future, at street level.

The initiative, called Heat Street, aims to help local authorities identify zones where they can target their heat decarbonisation efforts and investment to achieve Net Zero.

Low-carbon heating

Heating accounts for about one third of UK carbon emissions – almost 120 million tonnes of CO2 according to official estimates. With the Government’s legally binding commitment to Net Zero emissions by 2050 approaching, equipping the country with affordable, low-carbon heating remains a major challenge, according to UKPN.

Heat Street will take a “data-driven look” into the future to help local authorities – and private industry – in London, the South and East of England plan systems to cater for a significant rise in low carbon heating and energy efficiency measures, like better insulation.

UKPN plans to engage with property owners, local councils, property developers, businesses, academics and consumer groups to work out how specific local areas can best remove carbon from one of the country’s biggest emitters – heating.

Its engineers will analyse energy efficiency trends and carry out heat zoning assessments by combining information about the properties, homes and socioeconomics of each area.

This will enable engineers and strategists to create custom forecasts to identify the most efficient pathway to zero carbon heating, and even produce bespoke plans for specific local areas.

The project will consider a broad range of low carbon heating alternatives, including switching from gas boilers to electric heat pumps, installing cavity wall insulation, switching to another type of heating supply, or combinations of all. For the first time, Heat Street will create a model for forecasting uptake of the different technologies, that can be followed by other parts of the UK.

“We all know why we need to rapidly decarbonise heating – this project is about working out the ‘how’, said Ian Cameron, head of customer services and innovation at UK Power Networks.

“We’re excited to be getting out there and collaborate to decarbonise heat, bringing together people from all backgrounds to create a local street level map of net zero heating pathways by 2050.”

Heat zoning assessments will be based on the independent Energy Systems Catapult recommendations for local area energy planning, and the Association for Decentralised Energy’s recommendations in which specific areas are ‘zoned’ depending on their best type of Net Zero pathway.

For example, areas with a high number of flats are less suitable for heat pumps but will benefit from heat networks, or rural villages that are not connected to the gas network may be more likely to switch to heat pumps. Efforts to decarbonise heating could then be focused where the benefits can be most efficiently unlocked for customers.

Heat decarbonisation

“UK Power Networks’ Heat Street project will help to demonstrate the opportunities presented by a local, zoned approach to heat decarbonisation added Charlotte Owen, policy manager at the Association for Decentralised Energy.

“It will provide real examples of how we can strategically decarbonise our homes and buildings, while recognising that different local areas will take different pathways to net zero.”

She continued: “The ADE is delighted to be supporting [UKPN] in the launch of this innovative project, which builds on the work of the association and its members to advocate for a zoned approach to heat decarbonisation and energy efficiency.”

Originally published by
SmartCitiesWorld News Team | August 18, 2020


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Silver Level Contributor

The final sections are added to Manchester's 40 metre Tower of Light

The final sections of the UK city’s 40 metre high Tower of Light have been installed, which will act as a chimney for a low carbon energy centre.

Manchester’s Civic Quarter Heat Network project has reached a key milestone with the final sections of the 40 metre high Tower of Light installed.

Once the project is complete, the Tower of Light will act as the chimney for a low-carbon energy centre, which will generate heat and power for the city, helping Manchester to reach its ambition of becoming zero-carbon by 2038 at the latest.

Carbon emissions

The scheme is projected to save an initial 1,600 tonnes of carbon emissions per year and Manchester City Council claims that the energy centre will become even more efficient as additional buildings are connected.

The tower, designed by award-winning architects Tonkin Liu, is made up of nine sections called “drums”, each one measuring 4 metres wide, 6 metres long and 4 metres high, plus a 1.8 metre crown section.

Work on the Civic Quarter Heat Network project is scheduled to be completed before the end of 2020. It will initially serve seven iconic city centre buildings and has the potential to grow by connecting further buildings across the city centre in the future.

The first buildings to be connected to the network will be Manchester Town Hall and Town Hall Extension, Central Library, Manchester Central Convention Centre, the Bridgewater Hall, Heron House and the Manchester Art Gallery.

“The Tower of Light is an impressive new landmark for Manchester and a symbol of Manchester’s aim of becoming a zero-carbon city by 2038 at the latest,” councillor Angeliki Stogia, Manchester City Council’s executive member for the environment, planning and transport.

She added: “On completion, the Civic Quarter Heat Network project will realise significant carbon savings, supporting the council’s current plan to halve its own emissions by 2025 – which will be an important milestone on the road to the city meeting its ambitious goal."

The council is working in partnership with Vital Energi to create the network.

Containing a 3.3MWe CHP engine and two 12MW gas boilers, the energy centre will generate electricity and harness the recovered heat from this process for distribution via a 2km district heating network, which will supply heat for the buildings.

The scheme has been part-funded by a £2.87m grant from the Government’s Heat Network Investment Project (HNIP), with Manchester City Council being one of the first local authorities to receive this funding.

“This project is much more intricate than a standard flue due to its complex geometry but will hopefully become an iconic part of Manchester’s skyline,” said Anthony Shawcross, senior construction manager for Vital Energi. “We’re delighted with how smoothly the installation went and we hope the people of Manchester will now enjoy it for many years.”

Originally published by
SmartCitiesWorld News Team | August 17, 2020

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The impact of the coronavirus in Europe hit the United Kingdom (U.K.) especially hard.

The Wall Street Journal reported England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland saw its gross domestic product, the value of goods and services, shrink more than 20 percent in the second quarter (Q2) to an annualized rate of nearly 60 percent as the nations recorded the highest death toll from COVID-19, according to the Office for National Statistics, the independent agency responsible for collecting data on the economy and its residents.

“It’s been a rough few months,” Richard Swart, global sales and quality director at Berger Global, a Durham, England-based unit of Ringmetall AG, the German manufacturer for the packaging industry, told the WSJ.

May and June sales fell by as much as 40 percent depending on the industry being supplied, he said. While sales improved in July and August, they remain sporadic as customers continue to be uncertain, he added.

“Everybody clings to the hope that there will be a vaccine, that’s the ultimate fix,” Swart told the newspaper.

While the region has seen lockdown restrictions ease and workers return to factories and offices, the Bank of England (BOE) has warned that it could take 17 months to regain the ground lost during the pandemic.

In contrast, the U.S. and Germany lost about 10 percent of their output, Italy 12 percent, France 14 percent and Spain 19 percent. U.K. officials ordered the economy to shutter for most of Q2, starting in late March weeks after other European countries, and gradually eased restrictions starting in late May, the WSJ reported.

One of the factors that contributed to the U.K.’s sinking economy is the region depends on activities that require personal contact. The BOE estimated spending on movie or theater tickets, dining out, or attending sporting events, comprise 13 percent of Britain’s total output, compared with 11 percent in the U.S. and 10 percent in Europe.

The coronavirus took its toll in the U.K. with 46,000 deaths, the highest tally in Europe and the fourth largest in the world after the U.S., Brazil and Mexico.

That’s equivalent to nearly 700 deaths per million residents, exceeding the toll in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the U.S. on a per capita basis, the WSJ reported.

“We responded really late, and in a chaotic manner,” Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh told the newspaper.

Officials of the U.K. government have insisted they acted swiftly and in line with scientific advice.

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Getty Images, Kyle Walsh

The use of automatic facial recognition technology by South Wales Police was unlawful, according to the Court of Appeal.

The “AFR Locate” software automatically scans the faces of pedestrians without them knowing and compares them to images on a database of persons of interest.

Three judges found SWP had breached privacy rights, data protection laws and equality laws by deploying the technology. 

The use of automatic facial recognition technology by a U.K. police force in South Wales was unlawful, the Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday, in what is being hailed as a landmark judgement.

Like other versions of the technology, the facial recognition software used by South Wales Police (SWP) automatically scans the faces of pedestrians without them knowing and compares the faces to images on a database of persons of interest.

Three judges found SWP had breached privacy rights, data protection laws and equality laws by deploying the technology called “AFR Locate.” They specifically looked at two instances where it was deployed, however the police used it on around 50 occasions between May 2017 and April 2019.

The case was brought to court by 37-year-old Cardiff resident Ed Bridges, who is also a civil liberties campaigner. He has been supported by civil liberties organization Liberty.

The Court of Appeal ruled there is no clear guidance from the U.K. privacy regulator on where AFR Locate can be used and who can be put on a police watchlist. It also ruled that the police force’s data protection impact assessment was deficient and that SWP did not take reasonable steps to find out if the software had a racial or gender bias.

The ruling comes after two senior judges at London’s High Court dismissed Bridges’ claim in September 2019, ruling that the technology was in fact lawful.

The Court of Appeal upheld three of the five points raised in the appeal, however, effectively making the technology unlawful until it is approved by the U.K. government.

Bridges, who was in the vicinity of two deployments of AFR Locate by SWP, said he was “delighted” with the decision.

“This technology is an intrusive and discriminatory mass surveillance tool,” he said. “For three years now South Wales Police has been using it against hundreds of thousands of us, without our consent and often without our knowledge. We should all be able to use our public spaces without being subjected to oppressive surveillance.”

Bridges had his face scanned while he was Christmas shopping in Cardiff in December 2017 and at an anti-arms protest which was held at the Motorpoint Arena in March 2018.

SWP said it had no plans to appeal the decision.

In January, London’s Metropolitan Police force said it planned to start using live facial recognition cameras across the city. 

Less than half of the British public (47.5%) trust the use of facial recognition technology to benefit society in the coming five years, according to a study from U.S. tech firm VMware. The same study found that 54% of the British public advocate for restricted access to biometric data, which includes things like facials images or fingerprint data. 

Joe Baguley, VP and CTO of VMware in EMEA, said it was right to show caution with facial recognition technology at this time.

“Recent cases have seen high instances of ‘matches’ that are later labelled as false positives, suggesting the technology does not yet possess enough intelligence to guarantee accurate results or overcome any unconscious bias which may have impacted its development,” he said.

Originally published by
Sam Shead | August 11, 2020

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Businesses will have access to expert advice on unprecedented issues to cope with challenges faced during the pandemic

As lockdown measures begin to ease, thousands of businesses across the UK are preparing to return to normal operations after shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, many businesses may find it difficult to bounce back. The government has announced a new £20 million package to support the recovery of small businesses following the coronavirus pandemic, set to include a specialised programme rolled out in business schools across the country. 

The government has partnered with the Small Business Charter to provide a specialised programme for leaders of small businesses, giving them the tools to survive and thrive in a post-coronavirus world. This new scheme comes as part of a £20million package the government is providing to help small businesses in the long term. The Small Business Leadership Programme will be held by some of the top business schools around the country, who will create peer groups in order to develop stronger leadership, innovation, operational efficiency, marketing and finance to encourage future growth and resilience in today’s climate. 

All business schools delivering the programme have been accredited by the Small Business Charter (SBC), a national accreditation awarded by small businesses to business schools who excel in supporting SMEs and the local economy. Business leaders will be granted access to small business and management experts at some of the UK’s leading business schools. The Small Business Leadership Programme is free and fully funded by the Government to enhance small business resilience and recovery from the impact of COVID-19 and develop the potential for future growth and productivity. 

The programme will be delivered online through a course of eight 90-minute webinars over 10 weeks. Business leaders will learn how to effectively tackle the current crises and the programme will also allow businesses to strengthen their business network. Participants will develop strategic leadership skills and the confidence to make informed decisions and learn tips on how to boost business performance for the future. The programme will begin in September 2020 and end in January 2021. 

This programme comes at a time of mass uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has put a dent on the UK’s economy. Now, directors and CEOs of small companies are facing immense pressure as they navigate unchartered waters. According to a recent McKinsey online survey of UK SMEs, 80 per cent of small businesses reported their revenues were declining in June 2020.  

“The effects of COVID-19 have been particularly damaging for small businesses and providing their leaders with the experience and knowledge to survive and thrive will be essential for the future success of the country,” Anne Kiem OBE, Executive Director of the Small Business Charter and CEO of Chartered Association of Business Schools. “While cash injections are important, for the long-term, business leaders need the skills to ensure they and their businesses are resilient and can grow throughout this period and beyond. Accessing experts from the world-leading business schools we have in this country will be an essential resource for businesses in the months and years to come.”  

“Half of small businesses in the UK expect revenues to drop by more than a half following the coronavirus pandemic,” Michelle Ovens MBE, Chair of the Small Business Charter said. “Small businesses are finding themselves under a huge amount of pressure from the complexities of opening up again, social distancing, protecting staff and customers, drop in footfall and spend across the board. This new programme is a fantastic opportunity with the greatest business minds to ensure business leaders can get the expertise and knowledge they need to recover and thrive.” 

The coronavirus pandemic has brought a series of challenges for SMEs as they navigate through the uncertainty of the pandemic. With the tools and support in place, small businesses can access resources and advice to help them bounce back from this difficult time.

Originallyy published by
Latifa Yedroudj | August 5, 2020
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Monzo Bank Ltd,  the London-based online bank, must now have a capital worth of 13.6 percent of its risk-weighted assets to guard against potential losses.

The Financial Times (FT) reported the new requirements are among the first signs the Bank of England (BoE), the United Kingdom’s (U.K.) central bank, will implement its promise to strengthen capital planning and governance at fast-growing, smaller lenders.

Before the rule change, Monzo was required to have capital worth at 9 percent of its risk-weighted assets as a shield against losses.

FT reported a check of recent regulatory filings revealed the number was increased by more than half. That’s more than more than twice as high as many mainstream banks in the U.K., the newspaper reported.

In May, a Monzo investor noted that the bank needs at least 20 million pounds ($26.3 million) to avoid violating the BoE’s revised regulatory capital requirements.

Regulatory experts told FT the central bank was implementing higher standards among fast-growing, so-called challenger banks, the name given startup digital banks, as a condition of easing restrictions that have limited competition.

Small- and mid-sized banks have objected to the costs, insisting that it makes it a challenge to grow in the U.K.

In July, the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), the BoE division that supervises large banks, warned that some new lenders had underestimated the cost required to become an established bank, and called for improved planning, stronger governance and clearer paths to profitability.

“They’re saying, ‘you wanted us to treat you like adults and we’re doing so’,” Monique Melis, global head of compliance and regulatory consulting at Duff & Phelps in New York, told the FT. “We will flex requirements a little bit to make it a survivable environment for mid to small banks. However, if we do this you’d better behave as grown-ups too and listen to everything we say both in terms of conduct and prudential regulation.”

A source close to the regulator told the FT that its recent changes were not targeted at any one bank. Monzo’s annual report, released last week, showed auditors raised some of the same concerns.

In its audit, Ernst & Young  wrote the pace of improvement is not keeping up with the pace of growth in the business and the accompanying risks.

Last month, Monzo CEO TS Anil said the bank,  damaged by the pandemic, is betting new products will help it to survive. He pointed to new services including business and premium accounts as ways Monzo would be able to weather the pandemic and come out solvent.

Originally posted

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Image: Getty Images

The UK economy could take until 2024 to return to the size it was before the coronavirus lockdown, according to analysis from the EY Item Club.

The forecasters, who use a similar economic model to the Treasury, suggest unemployment will rise to 9% from 3.9%.

They also estimate the economy will shrink by 11.5% this year, worse than the 8% they predicted only a month ago.

Consumers have been more cautious than expected, they said, while low business investment will dampen growth.

As a result, they now expect the post-coronavirus economic recovery to take 18 months longer than previously forecast.

However, the Item Club says it is early days and useful data has only recently been made available.

“Unsurprisingly, without hard data, a wide range of views on the performance and outlook for the UK economy emerged,” said Mark Gregory, UK chief economist at EY.

Last week, the Bank of England’s chief economist Andy Haldane told MPs the UK economy had “clawed back” about half the fall in output it saw during the peak of the coronavirus lockdown in March and April.

There had been a V-shaped “bounceback”, he said, referring to the shape that indicates a rapid economic recovery.

Last month, Mr Haldane said the economy was “on track for a quick recovery”.

However, other economists have expressed doubts about the potential for such a swift recovery in activity.

“Even though lockdown restrictions are easing, consumer caution has been much more pronounced than expected,” said Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club.

“We believe that consumer confidence is one of three key factors likely to weigh on the UK economy over the rest of the year, alongside the impact of rising unemployment and low levels of business investment.

“The UK economy may be past its low point but it is looking increasingly likely that the climb back is going to be a lot longer than expected.”

The government has moved to cut taxes, support wages and offer incentives to spend in an effort to keep the economy going and encourage consumers to spend.

Earlier this month, Chancellor Rishi Sunak cut VAT on hospitality and promised to pay firms a £1,000 bonus for every staff member kept on for three months when the furlough scheme ends in October.

But he also conceded that not every job would be saved, and his £30bn package was criticised for helping certain sectors, such as restaurants and tourism, but ignoring others.

Last month, the Bank of England said it would pump an extra £100bn into the UK economy to help fight the “unprecedented” coronavirus-induced downturn.

Originally published by
Western Capital News | July 27, 2020


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British Airways has said it will retire all of its Boeing 747s as it suffers from the sharp travel downturn.

The UK airline is the world’s largest operator of the jumbo jets, which it first flew in 1989.

“It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect,” a BA spokesman told the BBC.

Airlines across the world have been hit hard by coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

“It is unlikely our magnificent ‘queen of the skies’ will ever operate commercial services for British Airways again due to the downturn in travel caused by the Covid-19 global pandemic,” the spokesman added.

BA, which is owned by International Airlines Group (IAG), currently has 31 747s in its fleet. They will all be retired with immediate effect.

It had planned on retiring the planes in 2024 but has brought forward the date due to the downturn.

The British carrier added it will operate more flights on modern, more fuel-efficient planes such as its new Airbus A350s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

It expects them to help it achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Boeing’s 747 helped democratise global air travel in the 1970s, and marked its 50-year flying anniversary in February 2019.

US-based Boeing signalled the end of the plane’s production a year ago.

A wave of restructuring triggered by the virus outbreak is hitting airlines across the world, along with plane-makers and their suppliers. Thousands of job losses and furloughs have been announced in recent weeks.

Hundreds of BA ground staff face redundancy as the airline slashes costs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Originally published by
Western Capital News | July 17, 2020

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Saughton Park in Edinburgh has become the UK’s first fully eco-powered greenspace. 

The system uses unique micro-hydro technology on the Water of Leith, generating electricity for all the park’s needs, including the running of two ground source heat pump systems. These provide heat for the park’s glasshouse, buildings and the café.


The ground-breaking project was awarded almost £500,000 from SP Energy Networks’ £20million Green Economy Fund to support the installation of the low carbon energy solution.

By combining a micro-hydro scheme to generate electricity and ground source heat pumps to generate heat, the park’s natural assets are now helping decarbonise its energy demand. Estimates suggest this new technology will prevent more than 90 tonnes of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere each year – the equivalent of fully charging 11.5 million smartphones.

This project will allow the local community to fully benefit from the new technology, with over £18,000 being saved each year in energy costs. These funds will be re-invested in the park to create new educational and social facilities for locals to enjoy.

In 2013, an £8m regeneration project to modernise the 48-acre park launched as part of the City of Edinburgh Council’s ambitious plans to make the capital a carbon-neutral city by 2030.

This project aligns with Scotland’s mission to become the UK’s first net zero emissions country by 2045 and the Scottish Government’s efforts to meet climate change targets. Funded projects will be critical to green recovery as the UK economy recovers from the impact of Covid-19.

“The completion of this incredible project makes it the UK’s first eco-powered greenspace, proving that modern technology can be introduced to historic public parks,” said councillor Donald Wilson, culture and communities convener, City of Edinburgh Council.

“These are both aspects I have been personally involved in and I’m passionate about. It has been a dream of mine for over a decade and to have it become reality in such an impressive way is just fantastic.”

He continued: “Working collaboratively with partners like SP Energy Networks on innovations like this has allowed Edinburgh to lead the way in sustainable energy. The scheme will harness natural energy from the nearby Water of Leith and use it to power the park’s conservatory, café, and buildings, providing cleaner air for our local community and contributing greatly to Edinburgh’s ambitious net zero carbon goals.”

Frank Mitchell, CEO at SP Energy Networks, said Scotland and the UK have ambitious plans to achieve net zero carbon emissions and investing in community projects like this makes big strides towards a cleaner future for all of us.

He added: “We created the Green Economy Fund to help communities build their own green economy and decarbonise infrastructure and Saughton Park is a great example of how that can be done. Decarbonisation is more important than ever as we continue to drive a green recovery from the economic impact of Covid-19 and I’m very proud Saughton Park can now play its part to help achieve that ambition.”

So far, 36 projects have been awarded funding from SP Energy Networks across Central and Southern Scotland.

Originally published by
Smart Cities World Team | July 13, 2020
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