Covid 19

Kids who head soccer balls are more likely to develop dementia, neurologists say

Alarm bells are ringing in sport about the risk of a group of chronic, neuro-degenerative diseases, commonly understood as dementia. There is an increasingly large body of evidence which has identified that small, repetitive collisions of the brain inside the skull cause this disease.

More high-profile players from England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad are getting dementia and heading the soccer ball is to blame. It is now time for a blanket ban on heading until the age of 18, and from then on it should be closely monitored and reduced.

It is not just the big collisions that end with players being carried off the pitch or taken to hospital for tests that appear to be causing the problem. It is the small, daily collisions – the ones which happen with routine. Research has found that one particular form of dementia (known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE) seems to only exist among those who, as part of routine activities, incur these regular assaults to the brain.

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What is CTE? Dr. Ann McKee explains.

This issue was touched upon in the improperly titled Will Smith movie Concussion (because the disease is located in thousands of small hits, not one big one) and the Netflix Documentary, Killer Inside, about the NFL player, Aaron Hernandez who suffered from CTE. Indeed, recent research on American football has shown that 3.5 years of play doubles the chances of dementia.

This issue is now gaining attention in the UK, with research showing a shift in attitudes in rugby union, and within the “Beautiful Game” as well.

Repetitive impacts

Jeff Astle, a member of England’s 1970 World Cup squad, became the first British soccer player confirmed to have died from CTE – classed as an industrial injury. Astle’s family had long claimed it was heading the ball that was to blame. But it was only when England’s 1966 World Cup-winning heroes began to be diagnosed with dementia that the soccer world really took notice.

This link cannot be dismissed as a result of older, heavy balls that were replaced by lighter balls in recent years. This is a myth, as both older and new balls weigh 14-16oz. And while older balls got heavier when wet, they traveled slower and were less likely to be kicked to head height in games.

Recent studies show that heading the ball, even just 20 times in practice, causes immediate and measurable alterations to brain functioning. These results have been confirmed in other heading studies and are consistent with research on repetitive impacts that occur from other sports such as downhill mountain biking, resulting from riding over rough terrain.

Read more:
Tour de France: does pro-cycling have a concussion problem?

More worryingly, in a large study of former professional soccer players in Scotland, when compared to matched controls, players were significantly more likely to both be prescribed dementia medications and to die from dementia – with a 500% increase in Alzheimer’s.

These findings finally pressured the FA into changing the rules for youth soccer. In February 2020, the FA denied direct causation but followed what America had done five years earlier and changed its guidelines concerning heading the ball.

The current guidelines don’t stop children from heading the ball in matches, but they do forbid heading the ball as part of training until the age of 12 – when it is gradually introduced. These measures do not go far enough.

A new campaign, called Enough is Enough, and an accompanying seven-point charter was launched in November which calls for a radical intervention into heading in soccer. Former England captains, Wayne Rooney and David Beckham have supported it, while 1966 legend Sir Geoff Hurst has also backed a ban on kids heading the ball.

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And the players union, the PFA, has now called for heading in training by professional players to be reduced and monitored.

The demands in this charter will be costly, as they concern aftercare for those with dementia and more expensive research into the issue. But the most significant demand they make is to protect professional players from dementia by severely limiting header training to no more than 20 headers in any training session with at minimum of 48 hours between sessions involving heading.

These progressive policies should not be delayed by those in the sport, such as the medical head of world players’ union Fifpro, Dr Vincent Gouttebarge, who claimed that more research is required. Governing bodies can no longer take half measures or call for further discussion. This discussion has been taking place for 50 years.

Bring in the ban

Brain trauma in sport is not a medical question, it is a public health crisis. If the evidence is strong enough that the PFA has advocated “urgent action” to reduce heading in training for adult athletes, then heading policies for children – in both training and matches – need to be drastically revised as a matter of urgency.

While media attention focuses largely on the tragedy of lost soccer heroes, this is a much larger problem for youth players. Less than .01% of the people who play soccer in this country play at the professional level – but almost half of all children aged 11-15 play the game.

If children are permitted to head the ball between the ages of 12 and 18, this means six years of damaging behavior. Children are not able to make informed decisions and need to be protected. There is no logical reason for the ban on heading soccer balls in training to stop at the age 12. Headers can wait until 18. The sport will survive just fine without them.The Conversation

This article by Keith Parry, Deputy Head Of Department in Department of Sport & Events Management, Bournemouth University; Eric Anderson, Professor of Masculinities, Sexualities and Sport, University of Winchester, and Howard Hurst, Senior lecturer in Sport, Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, University of Central Lancashire, is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Covid 19

RIP Arecibo telescope — you’ll be missed

OK, 2020 — just stop it already.

As might seem appropriate, at the start of 2020, astronomers using Arecibo found an asteroid resembling the head of a person wearing a face mask. The mighty telescope, a victim of multiple disasters, would finally be pushed to the edge and beyond. Before the year was over, the telescope would be dead.

In July 2016, the Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China came online, and Arecibo lost its title of the largest single-aperture telescope in the world.

Hurricane Maria struck the dish in September 2017, destroying 30 of the facility’s 38,000 aluminum panels. Although relatively minor, this was the first in a series of unfortunate events for Arecibo.

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Damage from the first of two cable failures that led to the destruction of the Arecibo telescope. Image credit: UCF

Hurricanes damaged the telescope throughout 2020, and a pair of cable breaks doomed the facility. The first of these, in August 2020, resulted when a cable slipped from its socket, creating a 30 meter (100-foot) gash in the mammoth dish, as well as damage to the platform leading to the dome. The facility was shut down while damage was assessed.

On November 7, a second cable broke just prior to repairs being conducted to the historic telescope. This second cable snapped unexpectedly, destroying a part of the dome itself.

“The second broken cable was unexpected. Engineering assessments following the auxiliary cable failure indicated that the structure was stable… Engineers subsequently found the 3-inch main cable snapped at about 60 percent of what should have been its minimum breaking strength during a period of calm weather, raising the possibility of other cables being weaker than expected. Subsequent inspections via drones of the other cables revealed new wire breaks on some main cables,” the NSF reports.

These events caused the collapse of large portions of the dish. Repairs were hampered by the pandemic raging around the world. Three engineering firms were hired to assess the damage, along with the possibility of resuming operations at the facility.

“Following engineering assessments concluding damage to Arecibo Observatory cannot be addressed without endangering the lives and safety of crew and staff, NSF plans to decommission the 305-meter telescope,” the National Science Foundation tweeted.

The U.S. Army of Engineers determined that the remaining cables were in danger of snapping, resulting in the collapse of the telescope, endangering nearby structures, and are beyond repair.

The loss of any of these ties could result in the collapse of large portions of the dish, potentially killing or injuring anyone standing nearby. The collapse of the Arecibo telescope is now inevitable.

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Interviewing Dr. Anne Virkki, head of planetary radar studies for Arecibo Observatory, who discovered the “asteroid with a face mask” in the spring of 2020. Video credit: The Cosmic Companion.

On November 19, the National Science Foundation, which oversees the observatory, announced the evacuation, and demolition, of what remains of the iconic telescope.

“The decommissioning process involves developing a technical execution plan and ensuring compliance with a series of legal, environmental, safety and cultural requirements over the coming weeks… When all necessary preparations have been made, the telescope would be subject to a controlled disassembly,” the NSF reports.

The NSF hopes to reopen parts of the site, including the LIDAR facility, the Culebra research substation analyzing cloud cover, and the visitor center.

The Arecibo Telescope has had a long and fruitful life, bringing science forward with every year of its nearly six decades of serving the people of Earth.

In addition to Contact, the Arecibo telescope is remembered in pop culture as a setting for the X-Files, and the classic James Bond film, GoldenEye.

Its time to say goodbye to our beloved Arecibo, but this groundbreaking instrument will be forever remembered in our hearts and our minds, as well as in the crude pixelated image of the telescope, traveling forever through the stars.

This article was originally published on The Cosmic Companion by James Maynard, founder and publisher of The Cosmic Companion. He is a New England native turned desert rat in Tucson, where he lives with his lovely wife, Nicole, and Max the Cat. You can read this original piece here.

Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion is also available as a weekly podcast, carried on all major podcast providers. Tune in every Tuesday for updates on the latest astronomy news, and interviews with astronomers and other researchers working to uncover the nature of the Universe.

Covid 19

Here’s a bunch of apps that kept us distracted in 2020 — enjoy

It’s been a hell of a year and not in a good way. We’ve spent way too much time in front of our screens trying to make sense of things, but more often than not those efforts were futile. However, there were some ways we got our dose of distraction from what’s going in the world.

So here’s a list of apps that kept us sane during this crazy 2020:

The coronavirus pandemic meant that I had to be stuck home most of the time. So I dearly missed the movie and TV show binge sessions I used to have with my friends. Thankfully Netflix Party came to my rescue and I could watch a ton of shows while commenting on what’s going on. What’s more, the extension is now called Teleparty and it supports Disney+, Hulu, and HBO.

I’m an ardent and lifelong Disney fan, so I was going to love Disney+ no matter what. But the app’s such a great one to use that I can’t help but come back to it again and again, even over the likes of Netflix.

It benefits from the years of development it took to get Netflix and Hulu into the states they’re in now — namely, it’s got all the features anyone would want for a streaming service. It also shows off the company’s vast number of owned franchises with specific pages for the likes of Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars. More than any of the other apps, Disney+ has helped me get through the tedium of lockdown in 2020.

The single most-used app across platforms for me this year was Xbox Game Pass. Not only did the service fill a giant need for gamers during a pandemic — that is, providing a giant library of great games for people who would suddenly be spending a lot more time inside — but it also managed to reinvent itself throughout the year to become the best deal in gaming.

Every in-house AAA game launches directly on the platform, you can stream to mobile now, and EA’s entire Play library is now part of the deal at no conditional cost.

Xbox game pass

Yeah, I still use iTunes. What of it?

I still maintain and update an MP3 library, and one of the nice things about being home all year is it’s allowed me to concentrate on further expanding my collection. And that’s what I’ve done. With iTunes. God bless that old ass, discontinued piece of software, you’ll be forever in my heart.

With the pandemic in full swing, I used all those quiet hours to finally figure out why people fuss so much over podcasts. At some point in recent history, Spotify launched a podcasts section, and, perhaps because I spend all day with Spotify open anyway, I started to explore what is on offer.

I’m still searching for a podcast that I can rave about as vociferously as my colleagues do, but so far I’ve found myself gravitating towards those like Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, Michael Lewis’ Against the Rules, Freakonomics Radio, and The Infinite Monkey Cage by BBC Radio 4.

Spotify podcasts

I’m pretty sure without Spotify’s podcast function I wouldn’t have bothered to explore that world of audio journalism, but because of its convenience and my familiarity with the user interface, it seemed rude not to. I’m glad I did, but I’ve probably still got a long way to go to find that podcast which makes me pine for every episode.

Honorable mentions

  • Poolside FM: Retro theme, awesome playlist radios, and it now has an iOS app too. What else do you want?
  • Winamp Skin Museum: Another retro recommendation from us will take you on a nostalgia trip with this amazing music player.
  • Google Tone Transfer: This AI-based tool converts your voice into a beautiful musical instrument tone.
  • New Yorker Crossword Puzzle: Crosswords are a great way to spend time with friends and this game has a co-op mode for you to team up with your mate and untangle mysteries.

Hope these apps will help you in spending some fun time at the end of this morose year. Happy holidays.

Did you know we have a newsletter all about consumer tech? It’s called Plugged In – and you can subscribe to it right here.

Published December 30, 2020 — 22:00 UTC

Covid 19

Watch: Boston Dynamics robots dance to convince us that they’re friendly

Boston Dynamics robots have attracted a mix of amazement and terror for their diverse range of feats. The bots have already sniffed out bombspatrolled oil rigsmonitored COVID-19 patients, done parkour, and occasionally fallen over. But the company’s latest video shows they can also cut up a rug.

The Massachusetts-based firm has released a video of its creations throwing shapes (although curiously not the robot) to the Motown classic “Do You Love Me.”

The whole gang has hit the dance floor: there’s the humanoid Atlas shaking its stuff like a past-his-prime John Travolta in an ill-advised Pulp Fiction reboot; box-stacker Handle rolling along to the rhythm; and Spot the quadruped miming the lyrics through a terrifying jaw that looks poised to eject a Xenomorph-style lethal tongue.

In a shocking breach of social distancing guidelines, the quartet dance in unison, apparently oblivious to the pandemic that prevents us puny humans from joining the fun. But at least we’re spared the humiliation of getting served by insentient objects.

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The moves are a bit janky at times, but the mobility and coordination of their routine is impressively fluid for lumps of metal and plastic.

[Read: Iranian nuclear scientist allegedly assassinated via killer robot]

Boston Dynamics is yet to reveal how the robots learned to boogie. The MIT spinoff — which was recently scooped up by Korean carmaker Hyundai in a $1.1 billion deal — has only said it got the gang together to celebrate the start of what is (hopefully) a happier year.

To me, it looks more like a harbinger of doom. But a robot apocalypse could still be an improvement on the joys of 2020. Shame we likely won’t survive to see the victory dance.

Published December 30, 2020 — 15:16 UTC

Covid 19

The 10 video games that made 2020 bearable

It’s been a heckuva year, hasn’t it? Global pandemic, mass lockdown, political strife, civil unrest, protests, conflicts, and I’m only just listing the things I can remember. But in the middle of it all, 2020 had one saving grace: video games. Stuck at home, more people turned to gaming than ever before. We had two console launches, both of which turned out to be pretty good. We had a few disappointments this year — the launch of Cyberpunk 2077 is probably the biggest letdown of the year — but for the most part we had some great games and we had a lot to enjoy.

Usually, I do a top 10 list of games, separated out by genre (you can read the ones I wrote for 2018 and 2019). But the way this year has been, it feels arbitrary and unsporting to limit the accolades to only one game per genre. Frankly, games did so much to make 2020 bearable that I don’t want to make them compete against each other for some kind of top slot at all.

Instead, I’m going to list the games of this year that were the most enjoyable, the ones that did the most to distract us from this gloomy, daunting trip around the sun. So let’s celebrate, in no particular order, the best games of 2020!

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Was there any game that was more of a tonic for 2020 than this one? Pretty, low-stakes, child-friendly, and addictive, New Horizons was the game we needed in 2020. Thanks to a release date that coincided with the serious onset of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, most of us were happy to escape to our little island paradises.

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New Horizons has remained a rather self-conscious part of the zeitgeist, becoming a staging ground for public events, including the 2020 US presidential election. It was odd, as this fluffy life simulator would probably, in a less eventful year, have been a niche product for dedicated Nintendo fans. Instead it was discovered by hundreds, if not thousands of new fans, and it continues to be supported to this day.

The Last of Us Part II

In contrast to the above, a game about a communicable disease ravaging the world and destroying lives might have been inadvertently flirting with poor taste. It’s lucky then that The Last of Us Part II is such a darned good game that we can basically overlook that. While the gameplay may not have been a huge evolution from the first, Part II’s most interesting additions were in the story.

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While it may have been somewhat controversial, Naughty Dog’s audacious story decisions and new characters shook up the in-game status quo and introduced a complex central mechanic. It also allowed Ellie to take a deserved step to center stage and grow as a person. It’s a rewarding sequel that doesn’t merely trade on the love of the original, and a damned good horror game as well.

Doom Eternal

Coming out on the same day as Animal Crossing: New Horizons, you couldn’t ask for a more different game than the sequel to 2016’s Doom. Doom Eternal might be one of the only real representatives of the action genre to come out this year, but damned (literally) if it isn’t an excellent one.

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There has been no game this year as guiltlessly awesome and fun as Doom Eternal. Between the explosive speed of the gameplay, and the humor of the cutscenes, the game refuses to let you stop for breath. And I enjoyed every moment of it.


Okay, full disclosure: this is my personal pick for Game of the Year, if you force me to pick just one. Because this game did the impossible of drawing me in for dozens and dozens of hours, and I hate roguelikes. But even I, who could not have been less interested in this game’s central mechanic, found myself absorbed and addicted to Hades.

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This game is a series of great things adding up to something better than the sum of their parts: great music, great character design, great use of classical myth, great blending of story and gameplay, and really great voice acting. It’s a great game and probably the one I will spend the most time playing well into 2021.

Ghost of Tsushima

A game I’ve been dying to see since it was announced, Ghost of Tsushima is the historical ninja-simulator that we’ve kind of been hoping the Assassin’s Creed series would be one day. But I’m not sure how AC could top this, because Ghost tells such a great slow-burn story that I don’t think it could be topped in the same time period.

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On top of that, the game is just great to play. The combat is intuitive, the stealth is challenging without being punishing, and the map is not so large you get open-world fatigue. It’s a game that commits to telling its story a certain way and knows what it wants to achieve, which I both respect and enjoy. Also, the multiplayer has turned out to be excellent.

Fall Guys

Adding onto the above about colorful, joyous games really resonating this year, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout was the multiplayer sensation this year for precisely those reasons. In a year in which many of us were separated from our friends and family, I can think of no better way to bring everyone together than a silly party game like this one.

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Fall Guys is that exact combination of cute and chaos that makes it perfect for everyone from the solo player to the Twitch streamer playing for a huge audience. It’s also kid-friendly, something that I don’t think can be underestimated given how many children were likely stuck inside with little else to do this year.

Ori & the Will of the Wisps

One of the first games of the year, and probably my pick for the most beautiful, Ori & the Will of the Wisps was an amazing follow-up to an already great game. It expands on and refines the platforming fun, and tells a touching story of love, sacrifice, and heroism with very few words spoken.

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I would go so far as to say this game is actually better than the original, because it adds one thing the original was sorely lacking: a cast larger than four or so characters. Here Ori interacts with multiple creatures in its new home, doing actual sidequests and collecting missions on top of the main story. It’s a great expansion of the original’s winning formula.

Genshin Impact

If you’d told me this time last year that a free-to-play, available-on-mobile, anime-style gacha MMORPG would be one of the big hits of this year, I… well, I wouldn’t have doubted you, exactly, but I don’t think even that description would have been enough to help me picture Genshin Impact.

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This game’s Breath of the Wild style and clever monetization are both the major factors that make it so absorbing. The world is so beautiful, and the characters so earnest and likeable that it more than makes up for the time and money it demands (or sneakily suggests) you invest in it.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

There’s something so comforting about diving back into the world of Assassin’s Creed — these games are always some combination of fun and educational, like a particularly stabby episode of Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego. This time, we slide into the shoes of Eivor the Viking and experience the life of this seafaring raider.

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Valhalla does take after the best parts of Odyssey, including the world exploration and the investment in side characters. While I’m not a huge fan of how it overindulges in the Precursor backstory (something I consider to be the weakest part of the AC story), it is a great joy to return to the gameplay Ubisoft has spent over a decade polishing to a sheen.

Honorable mentions

These games weren’t enough to make the list proper, but I felt they deserved acknowledgement.

Madden 2021 & UFC 4: I didn’t play many (or any) sports games this year, so I bow to the superior knowledge of my colleague Tristan, who had this to say: “2020 may have been tough for most gamers, but one silver lining was a return to form for EA’s Madden and UFC series. Madden 2021 solved the biggest problem from last year’s title (imho) by fixing the passing game. The excellent “Face of the Franchise” and “The Yard” modes both came out polished and ready to engage people beyond H2H and card-based modes. And UFC 4 revolutionized its own control system, overhauled the career system and introduced a sweet old-school use-based experience system for individual moves that makes creating a specialist character with a bag of super-powered moves as easy as developing your own play style.”

Astro’s Playroom: Essentially a showcase for the capabilities of the PS5’s DualSense controller, Astro’s is a surprisingly fun little romp and a love letter to the history of Sony’s console line. It may not have a compelling story or art design, but it was far and away the best puzzle game of the year.

Among Us: Technically, I can’t classify this as a great 2020 game because it didn’t come out in 2020, but I would be remiss if I excluded Among Us, the little indie mystery social game that became a phenomenon thanks to Twitch streamers and YouTubers discovering it en masse. It’s always nice to see an underdog triumph, and Among Us had by far the biggest cultural impact of any game this year.

This is my last piece of writing as TNW’s gaming geek, and it’s great to go out on such a high note. May we all have as enjoyable a time gaming in 2021!

Did you know we have a newsletter all about consumer tech? It’s called Plugged In – and you can subscribe to it right here.

Published December 31, 2020 — 09:00 UTC

Covid 19

Here’s what happened in the world of artificial intelligence in 2020

The year 2020 was long and treacherous, but the biggest bright spot for me was the official launch of Neural. That’s our AI sub-brand here at TNW and the section you’re reading this article in.

More specifically, Neural is me (Tristan Greene), Thomas Macaulay, Ivan Mehta, and the contributors and colleagues who help us put out fresh, original, exciting content in the world of machine learning every day.

It was a tough year to be a reporter but Thomas and Ivan managed to exceed our expectations at every turn with incredible insight and consistent excellence. With that in mind, I’m proud to present some of my favorite articles from Tom and Ivan this year.

Between the two of them they covered some of the biggest events, breakthroughs, and stories in the world of machine learning and artificial intelligence. But, more importantly, they provided keen insight and analysis that you won’t find anywhere else. And they also adhered to our biggest principal here at Neural: we cover AI for humans (not robots, businesses, or governments).

So, if you’ll indulge me, here’s an “Editor’s Choice” list of just a few of the many articles my team published this year.

But first, here’s my contribution:

Stories pictured above here and here.

Ivan Mehta

Thomas Macaulay

And those are just a small sample of the wonderful work we’ve put out here at Neural. Check back in with us in 2021 where we’ll continue to bring you news, analysis, and trusted opinions on the world of machine learning and its impact on humans.

Published December 29, 2020 — 22:00 UTC

Covid 19

How high-end cameras and algorithms are making escooters safer

This article was originally published by Christopher Carey on Cities Today, the leading news platform on urban mobility and innovation, reaching an international audience of city leaders. For the latest updates follow Cities Today on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube, or sign up for Cities Today News.

Swedish micromobility firm Voi is adding computer vision technology to its e-scooters to automatically reduce speeds when they enter heavily pedestrianized areas.

The firm has partnered with Irish tech startup Luna to implement the technology, which comprises high-end camera sensors.

Algorithms interpret input from these sensors, and the data is processed using edge computing – an approach where data crunching is carried out closer to the location it is needed to reduce latency.

The technology will also be able to detect the surface that an e-scooter is being ridden on, such as a bike lane or pavement, and adjust its speed accordingly.

Fredrik Hjelm, Co-Founder and CEO of Voi Technology, said: “We are embracing pioneering technology like this so that we can help shape cities for living, and to ensure that municipal authorities feel confident in including e-scooters as part of their smart city strategies.”

UK trials

Trials of the new solution are currently underway in the UK city of Northampton, and the first phase will see local Voi staff fit scooters with the technology, so they can learn their environment.

Once this phase is complete, the technology will be integrated into Voi’s e-scooters for public use in the city.

Northampton’s e-scooter trial is part of a UK-wide government-led initiative to test the effectiveness of e-scooters in UK cities.

Last week Transport for London (TfL) launched a competition to determine which three e-scooter firms will take part in its trial, set to launch next spring.

Ensuring safety has become a critical feature of the UK trials, with e-scooter firms introducing features like one-second geofencing technology and artificial sounds to warn pedestrians.

UK motoring association The AA has also teamed up with German e-scooter firm TIER Mobility to run road safety lessons, where e-scooter riders will be taught how to operate and park the vehicles and share the road safely with cars, pedestrians , and vulnerable users.

Micromobility safety

While the safety of e-scooters has come under heavy scrutiny in recent years, research by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found they are not any more dangerous than other forms of micromobility, including bicycles and e-bikes.

Earlier this month, the Dutch government successfully piloted a safety feature designed to limit the speed of e-bikes on a four-kilometer stretch of bike lanes at Schiphol airport, Amsterdam.

Using digital technology, the motor of the e-bikes cuts out when the devices enter built-up areas.

The non-profit Townmaking Institute, which is behind the concept, is working with e-bike firms and government authorities with the expectation that the technology could be rolled out by 2022.

Discussions over the use of the technology are most advanced with the municipality of Amsterdam, but the provinces of Gelderland and North Holland are also said to have shown an interest.

The standard e-bike reaches speeds of 20-25 km/h, but faster-advanced models can reach 80 km/h.

In 2019, 65 people were killed while riding e-bikes in the Netherlands, up from 57 in 2018.

SHIFT is brought to you by Polestar. It’s time to accelerate the shift to sustainable mobility. That is why Polestar combines electric driving with cutting-edge design and thrilling performance. Find out how.

Published December 29, 2020 — 15:00 UTC


4 cloud and data trends to look for in 2021

In the previous decade, when all the talk for 2020 was about the 5G revolution, IoT, distributed ledger technologies, and quantum computing, no one could have imagined the turbulence that lay ahead, or the important role cloud would play in making the transition to digital work a little less bumpy. And it’s importance will only increase in the years ahead.

Gartner is forecasting global public cloud revenue to grow by 19% from $258 million in 2020 to $307 million by 2021. Despite cloud’s flexibility, scalability, accessibility, and security, there have been challenges with the adoption of a more cloud-based way of working. We spoke with experts who explained that 2021 will be a year when those obstacles — workers unaccustomed with cloud tools, applications that aren’t optimized for the cloud, and remote security — will be addressed. They foresee four trends in particular.

1. The sky’s the limit with cloud

Throughout 2020, businesses have had to adapt their models to a new way of working with 92% of small businesses in the US pivoting to online. The cloud has enabled this digitization through remote work tools and facilitating workers’ access to files and data from anywhere. IT experts predict a doubling of people working from home by 2021, and cloud usage is set to grow even more in the year ahead.

Christian Kleinerman, Senior VP of Product at Snowflake, said as much to TNW: “We’re likely to see an acceleration of the cloud and especially with the pandemic, there will be a variability of business demand and activity meaning that people will want a more elastic platform, rather than a fixed infrastructure.” 

The flexibility and scalability offered by cloud computing will assist businesses and organizations as they continue to grapple with an uncertain business environment. However, the shift to cloud will not be wholesale.

Kleinerman added: “The vast majority of companies will become cloud-only as the destination, but there’s still some way to go. It won’t be too surprising if we see a hybrid world for the next five years, as it’s very difficult to completely replace your on-premises legacy infrastructure overnight.”

2. A culture of cloud and democratized data

Creating a cloud-based culture and democratizing data will receive a lot of focus in 2021.

A workforce, outside of IT departments, that understands the benefits of cloud and can access and analyze files and data self-sufficiently, is more likely to use the cloud to its full potential. 

Manoj Nair, General Manager at Metallic, a DPaaS company, said he foresees companies investing in training and other management services that will enable them to build a cloud-based culture for their distributed workforces.

Helena Schwenk, Market Intelligence Lead at Exasol told TNW that she expects to see greater investment around self-sufficient access and analysis of data.

“Data democratization demands a shift in behaviour. This means 2021 could see a wide-spread drive across industries to foster a better data culture and form new organizational behaviors, supported in part through self-service analytics and improved data literacy programs,” said Schwenk.

Companies that invested in digital transformation projects were truly tested as lockdowns began, in some cases revealing flaws in their systems, which could be remedied by sound investments in data literacy and the right data tools and processes. 

This is according to Natalie Cramp, CEO of Profusion, a data science company, who said: “A significant number of businesses believed they had wisely invested in digital transformation or data services…but [had] not actually adapted the business itself to become data-focused or even data literate.” 

3. Multi-factor authentication and shifting perimeters

Given the sharp uptick in cybersecurity incidents when the massive shift to remote working took place, it is logical that organizations are looking to secure and protect their cloud-stored data.

The move to cloud-stored data requires a shift in the secure perimeter of an on-prem location type solution to a secure perimeter based on authentication and identity as business moves into the cloud. 

Jonathan Sander, Security Field CTO at Snowflake told TNW, organizations can no longer rely on a secure network used by all employees in the same location as its primary layer of security for data protection. He said: “There are many variables in terms of location and this means you can’t trust any network that employees might be using or accessing. Authentication comes first, trust comes later.”

He said that mature organizations are using true multi-factor authentication. This involves looking at which network, device, action the user is taking. There are even advanced solutions measuring the rate in which the user is typing, allowing for in-depth analysis of more complex factors to ensure access is granted to the correct user.

Sander added that Snowflake has always been designed to fit into a ‘zero trust model’ and having authentication as its perimeter.

4. Cloud-native design

The shift to cloud has revealed that some applications are best suited to on-prem computing. So 2021 will see greater creation and use of applications that have been designed or redesigned specifically for use in the cloud, and increased demand for platforms on which to create them.

According to Vice President, Principal Analyst at Forrester, Dave Bartoletti, his market research company predicts the percentage of developers using containers and serverless functions to modernize old apps and build new ones before the pandemic will increase 50% by 2021.

Don Foster, Global Vice President of Sales Engineering at Commvault, data protection, and cloud back-up company said to The Next Web that the pandemic has pushed many organizations to outsource their computing, storage, and other infrastructure to cloud service providers and keep them there.

He said: “Expect IT organizations to make the rearchitecting of their applications and workloads into cloud-native formats one of their top digital transformation priorities for 2021.”

Looking ahead

The uptake of cloud will no doubt continue to grow given its utility and ability to accommodate spikes and lulls in usage, in the uncertain months ahead.

Organizations that may have been hasty in their choice of cloud product or providers are able to migrate to alternative solutions that better suit their needs. They will also need to bring their people with them as they introduce more cloud tools in the future, and shift to cloud-native design.

Businesses are realizing the implementations, whether cloud-first or hybrid, have many benefits. They will be investing in these solutions to iron out the kinks and ensure they are robust enough to carry them through 2021 and beyond, no matter what that future looks like. 

Join Snowflake’s on-demand webinar to hear more about the latest trends happening in data science, data engineering, data governance, and data sharing. 

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Covid 19

Cities are betting big on smart streetlights — 23% will be connected by 2030

This article was originally published by Sarah Wray on Cities Today, the leading news platform on urban mobility and innovation, reaching an international audience of city leaders. For the latest updates follow Cities Today on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube, or sign up for Cities Today News.

Global investment in LED and smart streetlighting, as well as additional sensors attached to streetlight infrastructure, is forecast to reach a total of US$28.1 billion over the next decade, according to Northeast Group’s latest market forecast.

The smart infrastructure market intelligence firm expects coronavirus to cause only “limited disruption” to the smart streetlighting sector but predicts an increase in the use of new financing models and market consolidation.

Globally, there are 326 million streetlights and this is expected to grow to over 361 million by the end of 2029. Overall, LED and smart streetlights are projected to reach 73 percent and 23 percent of the total streetlight market, respectively, by then as cities seek to save money and lay the foundations for smart city projects related to mobility, public safety, sustainability and more.

To date, a quarter of all streetlights globally have been converted to LEDs and over 10 million smart streetlights have been connected.


The report notes that infrastructure investment funds, energy services companies (ESCOs) and urban management companies are playing a growing role in financing and carrying out smart streetlighting projects. It forecasts that this trend will be exacerbated by municipal budget shortages caused by Covid-related economic issues.

“The challenges of 2020 have reinforced some of the key trends that were already developing in the smart streetlighting market,” said Chris Testa, Research Director at Northeast Group.

“Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of automation and resiliency for cities, but reduced municipal budgets mean that access to financing through ESCOs and other third parties is increasingly important. Likewise, a phased-in approach to smart cities that starts with smart streetlighting before proceeding to other applications and a focus on choosing interoperable software platforms that can serve multiple smart city segments are also key trends that have only become more salient in the past year.”


The sixth edition of the Global Smart Street Lighting & Smart Cities: Market Forecast finds that large-scale smart streetlighting initiatives are now underway in almost all regions of the world.

As the market develops, the vendor landscape for smart streetlighting remains extremely fragmented and “ripe for consolidation,” Northeast Group says.

San Diego’s smart streetlight program has sparked controversy over privacy and surveillance concerns, leading to the Mayor recently ordering the sensors and cameras to be deactivated until a governance ordinance is in place. The city is in the process of developing ordinances to govern the use of surveillance technologies, including establishing a Privacy Advisory Board comprised of volunteer citizen members.

SHIFT is brought to you by Polestar. It’s time to accelerate the shift to sustainable mobility. That is why Polestar combines electric driving with cutting-edge design and thrilling performance. Find out how.

Published December 30, 2020 — 01:00 UTC

Covid 19

Looking for a new 2021 side hustle? Here are some smart freelance options you should consider

TLDR: These 10 course bundles can get you started on writing, coding, or selling your way to a lucrative 2021 side hustle.

Chances are high that you’ve got a reservoir of talents that are mostly going untapped. We all have skills and abilities that we develop, then often set aside to gather dust as we pursue a new profession or new life path.

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Plus, you can enjoy some extra savings for a limited time by entering the code CHEERS when you checkout to earn an additional 20 percent off those packages.

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Copywriting is all about the subtle art of persuasion. With this collection of eight courses and more than 35 hours of training, you’ll learn how to launch digital marketing campaigns, craft copy that can grab attention and change minds, and use those skills to launch a copywriting business of your own. There’s even guidance in how to get your first clients on board.

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For creative pros, there’s no more powerful tool to ply the trade than the Adobe Creative Cloud. This eight-course, 60-plus-hour training collection introduces users to all the most popular Adobe CC apps, including Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere, After Effects and more. From image and video editing to graphic design to even social media posting, learn the real skills to do it all better.

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Few understand the steps for reaching the top of Google search results. With this nine-course training bundle, you’ll get inside how search engine optimization (SEO) works, how SEO, backlinking, Google advertising and more drive web awareness, and how to position yourself as an expert in the steps for driving more traffic to a website or digital content.

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Email marketing remains one of the most effective tools for developing new business. Across seven courses, learners discover how to write professional business emails that get results, how to build email customer lists, and how to create email strategies that can triple sales. The tools are all here to get any business on an email campaign toward higher 2021 profits.

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If you’d like to focus your Adobe knowledge on how to use it for building better websites and online experiences, these 11 courses can get you there. This training in Photoshop, Premiere, Adobe XD and more explain how all these apps work in tandem to create brilliant responsive websites that you can build for clients from home as a freelance web development pro. 

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Data analysis is driving all smart business decisions these days. This training covers six courses and over 64 hours of instruction in data science, how to organize and mine information, and exploring how powerful data app Microsoft Power BI can help unlock hidden truths inside all those mountains of business data. There’s even a full course in how machine learning and how it can be used to help create machines that can think for themselves.

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Prices subject to change. Some exclusions apply.

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