News Roundup: CES, and other stuff

A roundup of the week's tech news including Finnish UBI, undersea living data centres, and Bitcoin ups and downs.


It’s that time of year again. Thousands of tech types gather to show off their latest gizmos, and grumpy journalists gather to inspect and lay scorn upon them. It’s CES!

Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association [which organises CES], called the UK’s lack of activity at the conference “a source of embarrassment.”

Despite not actually officially attending, Amazon’s Alexa has been an ever-present force, being included in everything from household appliances and cars to actual phones. Both Baidu and Lenovo also revealed their own take on the Echo, while a number of other companies revealed robotic takes on the home assistant, from Pixar-designed bots and chunky Frisbees to an ‘Alexa for cooking’ bot for when you need really good eggs.

On the wearable tech front, Lenovo showed off its take on Microsoft’s HoloLens, ODG revealed some pricey AR glasses that could almost pass for regular specs, Sony demoed an odd neckband thing, and Misfit revealed a fully digital smartwatch.

In the usual bag of oddities, there was a jacket with 42 pockets for gadgets, a 3D printer from Polaroid, a transparent TV, smart wheelchairs, barely portable laptops, and superfast self-driving cars.

LG promised/threatened to make all of its products Wi-Fi connected, and someone thought the world needed an IoT hairbrush.  

Finland begins UBI

Is giving everyone unconditional free money the answer to robots taking over everyone’s jobs? The arguments over the effectiveness of Universal Basic Income have been largely theoretical thus far, but Finland this week begun a two year experiment to see whether free money promotes laze or creativity. 2,000 unemployed Finns aged 25 to 58 will be given €560 monthly in lieu of other benefits, which will continue even if they find work. The average wage in Finland is €3,500 a month, and unemployment currently stands at around 8%.

On a related note, the World Economic Forum predicts women will be worse hit by the fourth industrial revolutions wave of automation. The WEF predicts automation will see men face around 4 million job losses and 1.4 million gains (equating to around one job gained for every three lost), while women will face 3 million job losses and only 0.55 million gains (the equivalent to five jobs lost for every job gained).

Under the sea, under the ground

Microsoft’s Project Natick undersea data centre was one of the more interesting ideas of 2016. The company recently filed a new patent where undersea data centres are used to create an “artificial reef” and promote biodiversity. Cool and environmentally friendly.

And on the subject of under the surface patents, Amazon’s latest idea for package delivery is a series of underground tunnels that go from the fulfilment centre to your house/garden. Sounds like a hell of a lot of work and no doubt massive legal costs.


DJI has reportedly (yet to be confirmed) acquired Swedish camera manufacturer Hassalblad, Google has bought Limes Audio, Clearlake Capital has snapped up LANDESK, Qlik has got its hands on geo-analytics startup Idevio, Gartner now owns fellow analyst firm CEB, and Freshdesk has purchased Pipemonk.

Cloud storage startup Bitcasa is either shutting up shop or being acquired. The CEO’s goodbye letter is a bit vague.


-          A bipartisan congressional report says Congress shouldn’t weaken encryption

-          Someone may have hacked SexyMP.co.uk

-          The FTC says drones are still really easy to hack


MIT says a fleet of 3,000 ride-sharing cars could replace all 13,000 yellow cabs in New York.

Switzerland has ruled that Uber drivers are employees, not an independent contractor, meaning the company is responsible for workers’ health care and accident compensation coverage.

China is to introduce a vehicle-to-vehicle communication standard for driverless cars in or after 2018.

The potential reduction in accidents driverless cars could cause might result in a massive shortage in organ donation. Car accidents contribute around one in five organ donations in the US.

Bitcoin’s ups and downs

We’re barely a week into the new year and already Bitcoin has had a hectic week. The world’s best-known cryptocurrency soared to a record $1149 a coin – higher even than the crazy spike of 2013/2014 – only to come crashing down back to around $890 a piece. As ever, the reasons behind this spike and crash are hard to gauge: China? Trump? The wind?

Coindesk asked a bunch of Bitcoin experts how valuable the cryptocurrency could be by the end of the year; anything between $1400 and $3000 a coin, depending on which wizened sage you prefer.

Smoking vs. social media

2017. New year, same questionable statistics. More people want to quit social media than stop smoking in the UK according to employment site Bidvine; 10% of UK people want to quit social, compared to just 8% who want to quit the cigs. Ergo, social media is worse than smoking, right? When you look past the headline, more people want to “spend less time” on social media, which is a bit less extreme than quitting.

Xmas news

Some headlines you may have missed over Christmas:

-          An Amazon Alexa may hold evidence relating to a murder case

-          Amazon filed a patent for a flying warehouse: aka “The Death Star of eCommerce”

-          Snapchat acquired Cimagine, Oculus bought the Eye Tribe, and Swiss defence form RUAG now owns Clearswift

-          The makers of the Raspberry Pi have released a lightweight OS for old computers

-          An Oracle exec quit the company over CEO Safra Catz’s offer to assist Donald Trump

Morgan Freeman is the voice of Jarvis, Mark Zuckerberg’s home AI system


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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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