Tech City round-up
A recent trip to the Spitting Image exhibition at the Cartoon museum, just around the corner from the considerably more imposing British Museum, brings home the sometimes insular nature of the Brits.
Some might call the grotesque puppetry on display in this excellent retrospective a throwback to a time when satire, polemic and caricature were forged like diamonds through the social pressure of the oppressive Thatcher years, but a quick glance at the permanent exhibits tells the story of a society that embraces and subverts the norm in equal measure, but seems perversely powerless to alter the status quo.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that the capital city exists in a kind of social stasis, which leads one to question whether London is properly equipped to handle an industry as fast moving and quick to reinvent itself as Tech and its constant companion, the media.
So this week we take a look at what London might learn from other hubs, where new ideas are conceived without the protracted labour pains and screaming defiance that so often characterise change even in a city as populous and diverse as London.
Gin and Teutonic
First up, a comprehensive 140 page dossier from the European Commission suggests that Munich has overtaken London as Europe’s no 1 region for innovation in Tech. Yes, Munich, the lederhosen wearing, BMW driving, sauerkraut munching Bavarian capital, with the big beer festival, is officially Europe’s top Technology hub.
Hang on, now I’m doing it! Stereotyping can be an unproductive game, and speaking with friends who have been to the region, it’s clear that they hold it in high esteem. The people are outdoorsy, friendly and welcoming; bright and hard-working; crime is low, there are forests and mountains where you can ski, and people drink, act and do business responsibly. Lots to admire, then. Shoreditch can be a chaotic place, it needs to make sure it channels all that energy in the right way.
From one place with a strong sense of regional identity to another, the City of York. Sometimes overlooked in the South as a staid backwater, York is a fiercely proud and independent city that knows exactly what it’s about, and what it needs to stay ahead, as evidenced by the growth of Plusnet, a local broadband provider that delivered such a fast, cheap and practical service proposition, that it can be found in more London homes that you might think.
York is now set to have the fastest broadband speeds in Britain after 4 major telecoms groups, Sky, TalkTalk, Fujitsu, and CityFibre, a British firm with which owns 29,000kms of fibre, decided to collaborate on a project that will deliver speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second, faster than both BT and Virgin Media.
The secret to setting a pace that will surely infuriate Virgin Media in particular, who use Olympics sprinting legend Usain Bolt to trumpet their speedy service, lies in using the fibre optic cables, rather a copper wire replacement, for the final journey from street cabinet, to office or home.
The first phase will see up to 10% of the City’s population connected, but the plan is to roll the service out to all 200,000 inhabitants.
The project will then target 2 more cities in the UK, yet to be revealed, but unlikely to be London. With Gold, silver and bronze already taken, it seems that London, home of the Olympics, might suffer the indignity of failing to medal.
Right, that’s enough London bashing, time to celebrate a gold, well ok, a silver medal achievement: the capital has its own .london domain!
The premise is simple: instead of a .com. or a .co.uk, you can now suffix your web address with a .london. Boris Johnson, plus a host of local businesses bigwigs, have signed an open letter encouraging enterprises to take advantage of this unique brand enhancing opportunity.
There’s a good chance that we will witness a domain name scramble reminiscent of the early days of the internet, with most of the population of London fighting each other to sign up Nike.London, tube.London, tourism.London, and the like, although it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the real beneficiaries might be the registrars selling off the gimmicky new domain names. Still, if it doesn’t catch on, London would be in good company. New York has had .nyc since March.
If we’re all too smart to fall for a basic cosmetic change, however, we’re still not as smart as those pesky hackers. It seems that The Harley Medical Group may have fallen victim to a computer hacker who has managed to access the details of nearly 500,000 of its private clients, considering having a cosmetic surgery procedure. It’s nip and tuck, say company spokespeople, who have contacted Surrey police, and the individuals concerned, who may feel that whilst expecting to go under the knife, they did not envisage being hacked in this fashion.
Drone on resources
Finally, The Times has revealed that drug dealers have been using drones to spy on rival cannabis factories. Apparently, drones can be purchased from places like Tesco, or Argos, for as little as £60. A burglar from the West Midlands is quoted as saying “They are fair game — it is not like I’m using my drone to see if people have nice televisions, I am just after drugs to steal and sell. If you break the law then you enter me and my drone’s world.”
So there you have it: the drone assisted democratisation of drug dealing in Birmingham. Boris, take note, could it be time for medical marijuana?