Wired Audi Innovation Awards – it’s Child’s Play

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Last night I went to the Wired Audi Innovation Awards at Victoria House in London’s Bloomsbury Square. It was a great night with some amazingly interesting technology showcased. I particularly liked some of the educational uses of technology, particularly Kaspar the robot (pictured below).

Although he may look a bit like Chucky from the terrifying Child’s Play films, his look is deliberate. Developed at the University of Hertfordshire, Kaspar was found to be the ideal design for children with autism who are learning to interact with people.

Before developers created the robot, they even recruited a mime artist from London’s Covent Garden to model various guises to see how the children reacted. Apparently they found that a ‘simplified’ human look was the most appealing to children with autism.


Meet Kaspar, the simplified human robot who is helping children with autism

Another interesting technology project for children came from Little Inventors. Simply put, it’s a project that turns the amazingly creative ideas of children into reality. At the Wired Audi Innovation Awards last night there were several ideas from Sunderland school children as young as 6.

I particularly liked the high five machine (see the original drawing below)  which at the press of a button gives you a High Five. It’s been designed using a mould of the child’s actual hand (Oliver, aged 6) and is for times when there isn’t anyone around to give you a high five if you achieve something really good. Isn’t that sweet?


Another idea from one of the children was the War Avoider which lifts your house up into the air on big metal stilts in the event of a war or possibly even a flood! It also comes with a big invisibility blanket so your house can’t be seen by people wanting to do you harm.

You can see my interview with Little Inventors’ Chief Educator Katherine Mengardon in the YouTube video below (apologies for the sound, it was very noisy).

CMA Digital Breakfast: Personalisation of Content


Pictured above: Daryll Scott, Director, Human Technology at Lab

I always love the CMA Digital Breakfasts. You get to meet some interesting people and find out more about topics you might not know too much about. Personalisation of content is a case in point.

Different people have different views about what it means but basically it’s about using data to find out more about who your audience actually is. New technology makes this easier than ever before, but the key is to use the data to guide your content and decision making rather than to become too obsessed with the stats.

Anyway, here’s a report from the last one I attended.



Happy Donkey Hill. What’s in a name? Quite a lot it seems

HappyDonkeyHillLast year we went to see a friend of ours in West Wales. We only wanted to go for a few days and couldn’t find anywhere that would take bookings for less than a week.

One holiday park even told me that they would take my booking but only if I booked it 48 hours in advance after they’d tried (and presumably failed) to find someone who would take it for longer!

‘Why don’t you try Happy Donkey Hill?’ said Sue when I called her in a state of mild panic. ‘Great name,’ I said, ‘do you have a number?’ ‘Just Google Happy Donkey Hill, you’ll find it’.

Sure enough I found it straight away on my phone, called the owner and made a booking over the phone immediately for 4 nights staying in a newly converted static caravan next to a chicken shed (sadly the donkeys  were in a field down the road).

Now I discover that owner Kate Clamp is at the centre of a linguistic row with the Welsh authorities who are trying to, pardon the pun, clamp down on traditional Welsh place names being changed (in this case the original Welsh name is Faerdre Fach).

An internet search for Kate Clamp reveals that she has incurred quite a bit of hatred from local Welsh bloggers since moving to Wales a few years ago, one of whom has branded her a ‘foreigner’ and ‘colonialist’ (she is English) for her actions. It seems a bit harsh to me.

Now, I met Kate and I found her completely bonkers in the nicest possible way, and although I have some sympathy with Welsh speakers trying to preserve their culture and language I can also see her point of view which is basically she needed to change the name in order to attract tourists – especially those searching online.

Would I have Googled ‘Faerdre Fach’ as I was out and about trying to book somewhere to stay via my mobile phone? No almost certainly not. And that’s the reality.

I suspect the vast majority of people staying there probably don’t speak any Welsh whatsoever and the only reason the place survives and makes money (much of which goes into the community) is because of tourists like me who go there for the memorable name ‘Happy Donkey Hill’.

You can hear the feature on Radio 4’s Today programme here. Go to 1 hour 22 mins 30 seconds. 

Daily Telegraph: Cloud computing and job opportunities

CloudcomputingThere’s no doubt that cloud computing, combined with the internet of things, are the future for IT globally.

In this piece for The Daily Telegraph, published in conjunction with online courses company The Learning People, I talk about the opportunities that exist in the cloud computing market.

“Anybody who has experience in cloud computing will go straight to the head of the queue when it comes to IT job interviews,” says IT consultant Nick Bown.

See the full story here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/education/online-learning-courses/12037480/cloud-computing-skills.html

Daily Telegraph: Agile thinking in project management


It’s not only the IT industry that lives in ‘beta’, constantly iterating their latest products. The construction industry is also using agile techniques to deliver projects on time and on budget.

In this feature for The Telegraph, in conjunction with online courses company The Learning People, I look at how Agile Thinking – formalised on a US ski slope in Utah over 10 years ago – is sweeping across other industries.

You can read the article here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/education/online-learning-courses/12037477/benefits-of-agile-thinking.html

My latest features! Daily Telegraph: Technology special (8/12/15)


Great to get a cover feature in a Daily Telegraph technology special yesterday about what’s coming in 2016 – never an easy thing to write in November 2015! Ironically, couldn’t find the piece on line so have taken a picture of the paper instead.

Special thanks to my panel of technology experts who I was able to name check in the piece including Sean Hannam, Editor of Trade Magazine ERT, Paul Lamkin, Editor in Chief, Wareable and my old Tech Digest editor, Gerald Lynch, now Editor of Gizmodo UK. Your time and patience were very much appreciated.

Also inside I wrote a feature on what’s new for tablets in 2016 – clearly it’s all about 2-in-1 devices such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and new professional devices such as the Apple iPad Pro. You can see the feature in its full inky glory below.

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Loving the new Range Rover Evoque. Never thought I’d say that!

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It’s always good to get out the office and sometimes I can’t resist the lure of driving around the Cotswolds testing out new cars. This week I spent some time at the launch of several new motors from Jaguar and Land Rover at the Olde Bell in Hurley, near Maidenhead. These will be on sale in 2016

I’m going to be reporting on the launch for my blog Tech Digest in the next couple of days, particularly around the in car tech. But suffice to say that I was particularly impressed with the new Evoque – a car that I’ve always associated with Footballers’ Wives.

Of course it comes with a lot of tech onboard, but what impressed me most was the handling of the car around the muddy pot-hole ridden Cotswolds villages. A really smooth ride.

Next year also sees the launch of the new Evoque convertible which you can see me pictured in above. Sadly I didn’t get to drive this (it’s a pre-production sample) but I would imagine it will go down very well with the Cheshire set!

You can see the roof going on in this little YouTube clip below:

Panasonic launches new Toughbook at Shangri-La Hotel at the Shard

Panasonic-CF20I’ve been to the top of the Shard a couple of times now. But I’ve never been to the Shangri-La hotel before (and I’ve still not visited the infinity pool on Floor 52, darn it) so the launch of the new Panasonic Toughbook seemed like a good opportunity to check out the views.

Despite the initial embarrassment of having a drink at the wrong press reception (a nice lady from some US insurance firm came over and told me I needed to head down the corridor) eventually I got my hands on the new Toughbook. It looks like a great, versatile product for those who need computing power out in the field – though we wouldn’t recommend dropping it off the 34th Floor where the hotel reception is.

You can see my interview with the Toughbook product guy on YouTube below – needless to say it was very noisy there (I blame all those people from the insurance firms down the corridor). And next time I really want to sneak in with my towel and trunks to visit the pool!

Sensors working overtime: Bosch’s big plans for the IoT

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You probably know Bosch for its power tools or white goods like dishwashers. But actually the German giant is responsible for much of the technology that goes inside our smartphones – including the sensor inside the pedometer which detects walking movement and the one that flips the phone from landscape to portrait mode.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the opening of Bosch’s massive new R&D facility in Renningen, near Stuttgart, Germany. Officially opened by German Chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured below) it’s an impressive place with a US campus feel.

Indeed it’s hoped it will become the hotbed of innovation, inspiring new technological ideas and products for an increasingly internet connected world. You can read my report for Tech Digest here: http://www.techdigest.tv/2015/10/sensors-working-overtime-boschs-big-plans-for-the-iot.html

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Connected car comes of age

After years of not taking technology particularly seriously, it seems car manufacturers have finally woken up to the potential of the hi-tech automobile. And while the Google self-driving car has grabbed all the headlines the truth is virtually every new car has some level of automation to make our lives easier – and potentially safer.

Last week I test drove the latest Audi A4 which has both safety features to avoid obstacles in the road – including pedestrians and obstacles – as well as state of the art information and entertainment features. Smart phone integration is becoming particularly important it seems so that our text messages can be read out to us as we drive and so we can access music from Spotify and from our devices too.

This week I will also pay a visit to Renningen in Germany to check out Bosch’s R&D facilities. Here some of the latest connected car technologies will be revealed to international press for the very first time. Full report to follow on Tech Digest later this week.