Could drones solve bed-blocking in NHS hospitals?

All too often there are stories about how patients are stuck in hospitals because they don’t have help at home. I had five days in the hospital, and the first question that was asked before I was discharged – Is someone able to help you when you get home? Because if not, your staying a couple extra days. Thankfully the question was ‘yes’. But what about those people who are well enough to leave, but don’t have anyone to help them do the shopping, pick up prescriptions or deliver clean laundry.

Now drones could be deployed to help with these everyday tasks. Yesterday it was announced that Nats, the national air traffic control service that drones could safely co-exist with aircraft in the UK’s busy skies. This is a huge shift in how the regulator has previously viewed drones, especially because in the past they’ve said that drones need to be kept within in the sight of the person operating it.

According to The Times: “A trial system of drones co-exisiting with aircraft would be in place by the end of the year, with routine out-of-sight drone operations possibly starting next year or in 2020.”

I’m not saying that drones could take the place of social care workers; this is wholly about drones dropping vitals off to people who are well enough to be discharged from the hospital. If used correctly, it could help elevate some of the stress hospitals face when beds could be freed for incoming patients.

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My digital detox fail

It’s 8pm on Friday. I turn my mobile off and hide my laptop under the bed. I plan to go the entire weekend without looking at either one. This will be my first digital detox. Something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time, considering I’m part of the average population who looks at their mobile at least 80 times a day. I feel invigorated. I tell myself I’m going to get so much done this weekend – and read a book – instead of mindlessly flicking between Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and the Daily Mail column of shame.

Saturday turns out to be nasty day. It’s raining. It’s cold. It’s just miserable. And when you have a two-year-old indoors all day, it can be hell. So I decide to check my weather app to see when the weather clears. I turn on my mobile, and straight away I see that I have three missed messages from my friend organising a playdate for next weekend. I message her back, then she messages me back. In the middle of waiting for her to respond, I flick through Facebook and Twitter. In the midst of this, I completely forget that I turned on my mobile to see the weather. To be honest, I didn’t even realise I was doing it. I just swiped my thumb to the next screen and touched the app.

I’ve read that the best way to do a digital detox is to delete all social media apps. And while this sounds easy, I’m still hesitant – probably because I really am addicted to Facebook and Twitter – and I don’t end up doing it. Instead I turn my mobile off again. This time I make it until Sunday afternoon. That’s when my neighbor tells me that the national press has picked up on a story in the local area. Straight away I’m on my computer, reading through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Huge fail. MASSIVE FAIL.

And although I’ve failed, I’m pleased that I learned about this story from talking to my neighbour and not from my social media addiction. I’m going to try to detox again next weekend. I’ll keep you posted …

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#everydaysexism starts young

Women can drive a Porsche too!

Yesterday tech editor at the New York Times, Pui-Wing Tam, interviewed Bloomberg tech journalist Emily Chang about her experience of covering Silicon Valley. It’s of no surprise that Emily is publicising gender imbalance in her soon to launch book Brotopia – this is something that has been written about extensively, especially because of ex-Uber engineer Susan Fowler’s Medium post and the #MeToo movement – but what I did find surprising is why she believes her three young sons would benefit from a more balanced tech community.

Pui-Wing Tam asks: You have three young sons, who you dedicate the book to. What are the implications for them?

Emily Chang response: When things got hard — because it’s not easy to report on sexism — I’d look at the boys and think “I’m doing this for them.” I really do think their lives will be better in a more equal world.

More importantly, Silicon Valley is controlling what we see, what we read, how we shop, how we communicate, how we relate to each other. This is not just tech’s problem. This is society’s problem. This is the industry that is having a greater influence on humanity than perhaps any other. And the same industry that changed the world can change this behavior.

As a mother to a two-year-old son, I struggle with how he already views women in society. The other day when we were looking through a magazine together, there was an image of a Porsche. He pointed to it and said: “That’s a man’s car!”. I asked him if a woman could drive it too, and he said, “No, only a man!” And although he didn’t mean to be sexist, he already thinks that that men and women can attain different things.

So what am I going to do about this?

I’ve put him into nursery another day. I’m hoping that will allow me to have more headspace and be able to work. I’m realising that he’s only seen me as the homemaker, while his father goes off to work every day. And while I love spending time with him, he probably doesn’t understand that I need to go to work too.

I’m also going to try my best to encourage him to realise that men and women can do the same thing – not thinking his comments are a ‘boys will be boys’ talk – and most of all challenge him, ask him why he only thinks a man can have or do something.

If that doesn’t work, I’ll tell him … again … again … and again …until it sticks.

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A world through a baby’s eyes

A couple weeks ago I took my baby to an art gallery in south London. I may have had second thoughts, but I did an interview with the new director for the Dulwich Picture Gallery in May and she told me galleries are alive – bring your baby!

We were in a long hallway, just opposite a room where a film was playing. I picked him up out of his push chair so he would have a better view. He pointed to abstract letters on the wall and posters in another language, calling out: cat, cow, dada, red, blue, amongst other words. I found his observations amusing, probably wholly because I’m his mother, but nonetheless it was abstract, so how insightful to hear his words.

So you can imagine my shock when a woman glared at him. She was intensely drawing on a sketchpad. Her dark hair perfectly tied back in a ponytail. A few strands of grey glimmering. Why she was sketching, I can only imaging for a foundation degree. But we weren’t exactly at a top gallery. And to be honest, I’d never heard of the artist.

“This is a gallery. I’m trying to get some work done,” she said.

I smiled at my baby. “Shh,” I said to him. This only made him giggle. He started making a ‘Ba, ba, ba’ noise. A happy noise someone said to me when I took him along to an interview the day before.

But the woman was having none of it. She insisted babies shouldn’t be at the gallery. Announcing it to the room. No one acknowledged her. But it left a bad taste in my mouth. We left within a couple minutes. I felt ashamed for taking him.

We crossed the street from the gallery. I put him back in his push chair and pushed him up the treelined Camberwell Grove. And as I did so, I couldn’t help but think: “Isn’t art all about humanity? Shouldn’t this person, who is studying art, applaud what a baby is seeing? He is seeing the world with new eyes? Isn’t that what artists, writers and musicians try to do every day?”

And with that I gave him a little kiss on the cheek. Not because of anything other than I was so pleased to have him.

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Mark Carney: ‘No’ regulatory sweeteners

Not my usual habitat, I somehow blagged my way into the Mark Carney talk about the impact of Brexit on the City at Reuters last Friday. What I mainly learned is that I need to brush up my ‘adult banter’ as I’m so used to speaking with a sixteen-month old, that I now I just nod and smile when I talk to an adult. I swear I used to be able to do this! Ugh.

Financial stuff, FinTech, for example, is something I don’t feel very well versed in. So I thought he might talk a bit about this. But he really didn’t mention much. Only that London being the centre of financial technology innovation brings risks and complexities that need a proper level of regulation.

Regulation was his hot topic. Basically he referred to the current situation as being a ‘fork in the road’ for the global financial system, with the outcome of Brexit negotiations certain to have a significant impact on the way the City is regulated.

I found it particularly amusing that when someone asked if there would be any ‘regulatory sweeteners’ to encourage financial firms to do business in the UK, his response was an emphatic ‘No’. But I really loved that when the moderator said she was putting questions out to the ‘experts’ in the audience the first person to ask one came from the Daily Mail, which caused a roar of laughter in the room. Tough gig!

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Nick Clegg: Those who crave power probably shouldn’t have it

Last Wednesday – triggering of Article 50 day – I heard Nick Clegg speak about Brexit, Trump and the Politics of Fear. I also picked up a copy of his book, which is a good read about the subject too.

Nick is much taller than I expected. I knew he was tall, but he seemed to tower over the podium at St. Bride’s Church on Fleet Street. During his speech he reflected on the ‘heady optimism’ and ‘sense of triumphant liberalism’ of the 1990s, he spoke about the rise of populism, pinpointing what he saw as the shared characteristics of Trump, Wilders, Le Pen et al as a claimed ‘umbilical relationship’ with the ‘real people’, an unwillingness to compromise and a propensity to channel blame and aggression towards a specific group (be it ethnic or religious) or city (London, Brussels, Washington).

However he admitted that there has been a paradigm shift away from the fixed political landscape of left versus right into something far more fickle, volatile and individualistic, noting this period in history will be viewed as a ‘moment of transition’. He highlighted the amount of in-work poverty, citing the anger felt by his Sheffield constituents towards bankers and politicians as being an understandable reason that led so many to vote for Brexit, and underlined the terrible irony of Brexit being a means to an ideological end for free market right wingers, with those most likely to suffer the consequences of reduced workers’ rights and a rolled back state being the workers who voted in their masses for Brexit in the first place.

Turning to the subject of social media, which he noted had originally been seen as a ‘great liberative force’, he observed that it has in fact had the opposite effect, exacerbating the balkanisation of ideological divisions, and providing a ready-made online army for populist politicians.

Nick ended on a more positive note, stating that the power to change matters begins locally in relatively mundane issues such as improved transport links, skills training and welfare, although citing the facts that Trump had in fact lost the popular vote and that ‘only’ 52% of votes were cast for Brexit as causes for optimism struck me as a little desperate.

I really enjoyed this speech. A bit of depression setting in from Brexit, perhaps, but he made me wish he was still in government, although I wondered whether he had perhaps been too empathetic for the job. He came across as one of the good guys – too good, perhaps – and looking at some members of the current administration it brought to mind the paradox of power; those who crave power probably shouldn’t have it.

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I only use travel apps

I regularly use eight London mobile travel apps. I tap them all regularly – at least once a week. And my mobile usage stats concur. I use travel apps more than Facebook – shock! Which got me thinking, how did I survive crossing London prior to owning a smartphone? Well, I got lost … a lot!

But I’m quite an odd one. The average person uses two travel apps according to CWT Travel Management, with only 14% of people using more than five.

So what am I using:

Bus CountDown – I used to stand at a bus stop and wait. And wait. But I never walked away. If I invested time, I was getting on the bus! Walking would be giving up. Surrendering to TfL.

Citymapper – Because you can’t exactly get from point A to point B without it!

National Rail – Unfortunately, I live in Southern rail territory. Thank you strikes.

Google Maps – See, above. I get lost … a lot!

Then all the taxi apps. Well, because you have to compare prices – and sometimes they’re all booked up! Uber, Addison Lee, Greentomato, and Gett. I really love Gett. It’s my new favourite app. Hail a black cab from your mobile. They never get lost, and they don’t take you down a wrong street!

Not to mention when I go abroad, this adds to my app usage – XE Currency is invaluable. Google Translate – coffee in any language – and TripIt because who has time to print off all those confirmation emails?

Give my travel apps up for a day – maybe. A week – never!

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What is Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)?

There’s been a bit of a media frenzy about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to take our jobs away. Sure it’s great for headlines – and clicks – but R2D2 is not the future anytime soon.

And the reason for that is because AI is only about mastering one task. For example, how to win a game. Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), on the other hand is about linking and applying knowledge to other tasks. For example, AGI would be the equivalent to how a mouse has learned to outwit a cat’s tongue.

The difference was explained really well in The Guardian last week:

Most AIs are based on programs called neural networks that learn how to perform tasks, such as playing chess or poker, through countless rounds of trial and error. But once a neural network is trained to play chess, it can only learn another game later by overwriting its chess-playing skills. It suffers from what AI researchers call “catastrophic forgetting”.

PathNet is a project being run by Google’s DeepMind to tackle AGI. According to DeepMind, PathNet is a neural network algorithm that uses agents embedded in the neural network whose task is to discover which parts of the network to re-use for new tasks.

James Kirkpatrick at DeepMind explains in the article that AGI is still a way’s off:

“We know that sequential learning is important, but we haven’t got to the next stage yet, which is to demonstrate the kind of learning that humans and animals can do. That is still a way off. But we know that one thing that was considered to be a big block is not insurmountable.”

So rest assure, lawyers and accountants, your job is safe for the time being!

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Illuminated Apparel neon shirt

Image downloaded from www.illuminatedapparel.co.uk

This is my new go-to present for kid parties. It’s a t-shirt they can draw on using a UV light. Then after around ten minutes it disappears. No mess. No fuss. And you can throw it in the washing machine too.

Perhaps a bit gimmicky for adults. I’m not sure many would wear it. Maybe uni students? But it’s cheap at £15/£20 a shirt, so there could be a market there.

The company, Illuminated Apparel, seems to be doing a good job of raising their profile. They’ve been on Dragons’ Den and had a booth at the Wearable Tech Show.

I didn’t get much out of the founder when I talked to him. Although he did seem super keen on the business. Really interested to know where he sees this product and/or business in ten years.

Anyway, here’s for a bit of Friday colour!

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Kerv: contactless payment ring

davOh wearable tech … All the hype! All my problems solved. Even the ones I didn’t know I had. Emails on my wrist. Count my calories. Take my blood pressure. Help me sleep. Wake me up sslloowwly. All the plastic. And all in landfills – eventually.

Admission – I don’t own any wearble tech. And I’ve never accepted the freebies either. Cheap plastic, I’ve always thought. Give me something real. Something that I want to wear. Whatever that may be, I don’t know.

Then last week at the Wearable Tech Show – I saw it – finally something I MAY just wear. My eyes sparkled. A ring. One that looked expensive. Felt expensive. One that made me think: “Yes! I could use that!”.

And you know what, I almost bought it – almost …

It was a ring. One by Kerv. It’s a contactless payment ring. It links to a prepaid Mastercard account. It can be used to buy coffee, a newspaper, or anything under £30.

Second admission – I wouldn’t have looked twice at this a year ago. But why my change of heart? Having a baby.

Have you ever tried pushing a pram on a bus, and then dropping an Oyster card? What about rummaging around a purse for a couple pounds to buy a much needed coffee? This is my life EVERDAY. So yes, this little ring could make my life easier.

So why didn’t I buy it? I decided the technology is too new. There are going to be kinks. They may even make it better – like link directly to my current account. Which wasn’t completely unfounded on my part. Hours after the ring launched, it shut for a system update. Not so handy then …

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