The MG GS – an MG but not as we know and love it

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For the last 10 days or so I’ve been riding around in this SUV. Which means I’ve been able, quite literally, to look down on other road users, and generally drive around like I own the place.

Actually it’s not been too bad. I’ve quite enjoyed the elevated driving position, although when it comes to parking I’ve been worried that I’m going to crush the vehicle behind me – even with a rearview camera and screen which I don’t quite trust.

What I can’t quite get over though is that this big beast is actually an MG. Yes the same manufacturer which brought us the MGB GT – a classic car which I owned in the 1990s and loved on the odd occasion when it actually started – is responsible for something which is so completely and utterly different. The absolute opposite in fact.

The reason for this, of course, is that MG is no longer Morris Garages but owned by SAIC, China’s largest vehicle manufacturer. As a result, the new owner is in the process of rolling out several new models which seem to have very little in common with the original MG ethos.

Maybe that’s a good thing? Maybe people don’t care about funky looking sports cars anymore and just want practical SUVs to put their kids, their shopping and their dogs in? Especially if they have a reasonable price tag attached – this SUV costs from a little over £15K on the road though the model I tested was nearer £20K.

But it seems a shame to buy a brand like MG and not to design something a little more, well, in keeping with the heritage. It’s OK but there’s really very little to distinguish it from a Nissan Qashqai or KIA Sportage and that to me seems a bit of a missed opportunity.

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In short it handles well, has bags of features and a decent leather trim. But it lacks a little in power, has quite a small boot for a big car (see pic above) and doesn’t really get the heart pounding.

Of course it’s early days for the new MG (I haven’t seen a single new MG on the road since I took delivery of this MG S) and, in the words of D:Ream, things can only get better.

Certainly the MG E-motion, the electric supercar concept unveiled at the Shanghai motor show in April (pictured below) looks more like what I would expect a bang up to date MG to look like.

And I can’t wait to get hold of one of these. Bugger practicality and an elevated driving position. Give me a car that makes me feel like I’m 20 again bombing round the streets. But if you could make it a bit more reliable than my MGB GT please I’d be grateful!

Full review to follow on TechDigest.tv later this week.

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Huawei Eco-Connect Europe 2017: Connected cows, delivery drones and more!

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You’ve probably never heard of Huawei, pronounced Waa-Wey. But chances you will have come across them at some point and not realised.

As well as manufacturing various digital set-top boxes, including the YouView box rolled out by TalkTalk in the UK, the Chinese giant is also the world’s third largest mobile phone manufacturer.

Earlier in the year I was fortunate enough to be invited to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona by Huawei and was given one of their P10 smart phones. And I can honestly say it has the best digital camera I’ve ever seen on a smartphone – much better than the iPhone 7.

This time, I’ve come to Huawei’s Eco Connect Conference in Berlin to find out what some of their commercial partners are up to for a piece I’m writing on digital banking for The Telegraph. I’ll also be writing up some of the content for my own tech blog, Tech Digest.

Yesterday I learned all about various applications for the Internet of Things, iOT, most memorably how they work with agriculture tech companies to make dairy farming more efficient.

Not only do farmers can use IoT sensors to detect when a calf is born in order to ensure everything is OK, they also know when is the best time for a cow to mate with a bull – the ideal ‘rutting’ period as it’s known!

Less graphic perhaps was finding out about applications for narrowband IoT, a low power wide area network which can be even be used underground to monitor water usage/wastage for the development of smart cities.

Today, it was the turn of companies like DHL to show how they are using augmented reality glasses, drones and robotic trolleys to make the process of sorting items at their depots more efficient. DHL is even using drones to send important deliveries such as medicines to mountainous regions in the Alps, cutting down delivery time from days to minutes.

But you’ll be pleased to know it hasn’t all been work, work, work. I’ve also had time to take in Berlin, a city I’ve been coming to on and off for 25 years. Yesterday we went to former Eastern Berlin where I took this picture below of the famous Fernsehturm TV tower near Alexanderplatz.

Built in the 1960s by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) as a symbol of Communist power, it’s easily the most striking of Berlin’s buildings. It’s fair to say though that technology has moved on a little bit in the last 50 years with many of us now watching TV programmes over IP (Internet Protocol) – via our Chinese manufactured Huawei set-top boxes of course!

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Digital Assistants: Alexa v Google v Apple

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There really is so much to say about voice recognition technology that I don’t think you can do it justice in a 1000 words. But I gave it a go in this piece for Tech Radar which briefly compares Amazon Alexa with Google Assistant and Apple Siri.

Personally I love my little Amazon Echo Dot, which I use mostly for playing music and checking the weather. But Google seems to be catching up fast with Google Assistant on its Google Home devices.

Arguably, Google Home is probably better for multiple users in the same house and is more intelligent than Amazon Alexa. However, it isn’t compatible with anywhere near as many home automation devices. Yet.

Certainly, Amazon is leading the way in terms of sales of Alexa products following a trajectory that is looking to outstrip that of Apple iPhone in the early days. Could the next couple of years see digital assistants become as ubiquitous as the smartphone?

I don’t think it’s beyond the realms of possibility, especially with units costing from £49.

As for Apple with Siri, it seems that the company is now at the back of the pack. While Siri was introduced well before its rivals back in 2011, Apple fails to have capitalised on its early lead.

Will its promised smart speaker, the HomePod, be a case of too little, too late? Personally I think so.

You can read my full article here. 

How technology can help improve our health and save money

healthcareInevitably, the cost of health care is rising dramatically as people are living longer. Obviously this is putting pressure on health systems across the world, including the NHS.

However, technology can play its part in improving our health and reducing costs, for example by analysing ‘big data’ to improve patient outcomes and by the introduction of telemedicine – where it’s possible to monitor patients remotely.

In this piece for the Telegraph’s Social Innovation Forum, taking place on November 28th, I interview Rachel Dunscombe, Chief Information Officer of Salford’s Royal NHS Trust about some of the initiatives they have been working on to improve patient outcomes.

You can read the full interview here.

Taking a trip with Olympus. Getting creative with the new E-M10 Mark III.

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Yesterday I spent a nice afternoon taking pictures on board a boat cruising down The Thames, courtesy of Olympus. I was essentially there to test out its latest digital camera, the Olympus E-M10 Mark III which meant taking lots and lots of pics of London’s iconic buildings and generally behaving like a tourist .

It’s an interesting mirrorless camera, half way between a standard compact and a digital SLR. Aimed at people like me who are perhaps bored of smartphone photography and want to move onto something which offers more creativity but without the bulk, it offers plenty of manual features including the ability to set your own aperture and shutter speed.

It’s also got lots and lots of filters including two black and white film filters which as you can see from the examples below I really enjoyed using.

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Will the iPhone 8 be the first £1000 phone?

iPhone8.pngAmazingly it’s 10 years since the first iPhone launched and it’s highly likely that Apple will mark the occasion next week with the announcement of the iPhone 8, a dummy model of which (apparently) is pictured above on the right.

As you might expect the iPhone 8 is widely expected to have all the latest bells and whistles including an OLED screen that goes right to the edge pretty much, a dual camera system and, possibly, a glass back in order to enable wireless charging.

But what it will also have is an enormous price tag. Rumours have it that even the basic 64GB model will set you back $999 with the 512GB costing a cool $1199.

With the pound falling against the dollar, that means almost certainly you will be paying over £1000 for all but the very basic model.

A few years ago that would have seemed unthinkable, but then I suppose people routinely spend £1000 on computer equipment and for many the iPhone is just as valuable and just as useful.

I don’t think I will be rushing out to buy one just yet though.

8 things we know about the iPhone 8 already
Image courtesy of Marques Brownlee. See the iPhone 8 video here. 

 

Daily Telegraph: It’s time to bridge the gender gap (19/7/17)

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According to statistics from the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) less than 10 per cent of the UK’s engineering workforce is female, the lowest anywhere in Europe. Yet at the same time, we face a massive skills shortage across the sector.

So what is being done to make engineering an attractive career option for women? And once we have got women into the industry how do we support them to return to work if they leave to have children, take a career break or care for elderly relatives?

These were just some of the questions posed to a panel of expert speakers at a recent roundtable event hosted by The Daily Telegraph and supported by BAE Systems.

You can read my full report in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph by clicking on the link below.

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Keep ahead of the curve. Daily Telegraph, motoring section (1/7/2017)

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Thanks to The Daily Telegraph for running my piece on creating a ‘digital twin’ and how manufacturers like Maserati are now using Siemens’ technology to reduce the need for prototypes and to optimise production.

Says Brian Holliday, Siemens Managing Director, Digital Factory: “The digital twin not only enables people to visualise programmes and work together at much lower cost, it means that car manufacturers can make greater progress in designing, simulating and verifying before conducting testing in the real world.”

We’ve come a long way in car production since Henry Ford said way back in 1909 ‘you can have any colour you want as long as it’s black.’

Take your pet into the office on #BringYourDogToWorkDay

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Friday June 23rd is Bring your Dog To Work Day!

Today (Friday 23rd June 2017) marks national Bring Your Dog to Work Day. Obviously if you work as a bus driver or in a hospital that might not be particularly practical. But for a lot of office workers taking a dog into work can add to the positivity and productivity of your workplace.

Personally I’ve always loved dogs and would welcome them in any office, any day of the year. It’s also much better for the dog than being stuck at home by him or her self. However, I mostly work from home so it’s not so much of an issue anymore. 

You can get involved in the conversation online with the hashtag #BringYourDogToWorkDay and see the dogs of the UK’s workforce in the office! 

You can also see the four main benefits of bringing your dog into work here.

Samsung Futurescape – What is the ‘new normal’?

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Most people probably know Samsung best for its range of mobile phones, but it’s fair to say that the Korean giant offers a wide range of tech solutions for businesses as well as consumers.

Recently I went along to the manufacturer’s Futurescape event on behalf of The Daily Telegraph to see how Samsung is working with companies on everything from Virtual Reality to Artificial Intelligence.

For example, one of Samsung’s partners is Thomas Cook which is introducing Gear VR headsets in some of its 700 stores to help bring holidays and holiday excursions to life when people are thinking about booking them.

Other exhibits at this year’s Futurescape included a start-up estate agent that is using VR to guide people through homes and a company using wearable devices, such as Samsung’s Gear 3 smart watches, to alert retailers if a VIP walks into the building.

Says Graham Long, Vice President, Samsung Electronics, UK and Ireland: “I used to apologise to our enterprise customers about Samsung being a predominantly business to consumer brand and our lack of business heritage, but now the behaviour of the market has swung completely to our advantage.”

You can read the full article here.  Or see the content from the newspaper below.

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