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Social Robots Designed to Mimic and Elicit Human Emotion

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Cynthia Breazeal has a pretty impressive resume. She’s the director of the personal robotics group at the MIT Media Lab, creator of the landmark Kismet robot and now she’s the founder, CEO and chief scientist at Jibo. If you’re not familiar with Jibo, take a moment to go check out its incredibly successful Indiegogo page. The goal is to create the world’s first “family robot.” It’s cute, friendly and smart. Or at least, it will be when it’s delivered to customers. Breazeal acknowledges that other robots and artificial intelligences have made their impact felt in the home, but they’ve hardly become ubiquitous. For her the key isn’t about building a robot that performs some specific function, but about building a relationship with the family, which is the core of any household.

More here (opens in new window)


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ICDPPC 2014

Mauritius Declaration on the Internet of Things


Jacob Kohnstamm – Chairman of the Executive Committee of the International Privacy Conference

Drudeisha Madhub – Chairwoman of the Mauritius Data Protection Office

Mauritius Declaration on the Internet of Things

The internet of things is here to stay. Ever more devices are connected to the internet and are able to communicate with each other, sometimes without the user being aware such communications take place. These devices can make our lives much easier. For example in healthcare, transportation and energy the connected devices can change the way we do things. The internet of things however, can also reveal intimate details about the doings and goings of their owners through the sensors they contain.

Self determination is an inalienable right for all human beings. Personal development should not be defined by what business and government know about you. The proliferation of the internet of things increases the risk that this will happen.

The assembled data protection and privacy commissioners have therefore discussed the possibilities of the internet of things and its consequences during the 36th International Privacy Conference held in Balaclava, Mauritius on 13 and 14 October 2014.

Four speakers representing both the private sector and academia presented the Commissioners with the positive changes the internet of things may bring to our daily lives as well as the risks. The speakers also took stock of what needs to be done in order to ensure the continued protection of our personal data as well as our private lives.

The subsequent discussion led to the following observations and conclusions:

  • Internet of things’ sensor data is high in quantity, quality and sensitivity. This means the inferences that can be drawn are much bigger and more sensitive, and identifiability becomes more likely than not. Considering that the identifiability and protection of big data already is a major challenge, it is clear that big data derived from internet of things devices makes this challenge many times larger. Therefore, such data should be regarded and treated as personal data.
  • Even though for many companies the business model is as yet unknown, it is clear that the value of the internet of things is not only in the devices themselves. The money is in the new services related to the internet of things and in the data.
  • Everyone who lives today will realize that connectivity is ubiquitous. This may apply even more strongly to the young and to future generations, who cannot imagine a world without being connected. It should not though solely be their concern as to whether or not their data is protected. It is a joint responsibility of all actors in society so that the trust in connected systems can be maintained. To this end, transparency is key: those who offer internet of things devices should be clear about what data they collect, for what purposes and how long this data is retained. They should eliminate the out-of context surprises for customers. When purchasing an internet of things device or application, proper, sufficient and understandable information should be provided. Current privacy policies do not always provide information in a clear, understandable
    manner. Consent on the basis of such policies can hardly be considered to be informed consent. Companies need a mind shift to ensure privacy policies are no longer primarily about protecting them from litigation.
  • Data processing starts from the moment the data are collected. All protective measures should be in place from the outset. We encourage the development of technologies that facilitate new ways to incorporate data protection and consumer privacy from the outset. Privacy by design and default should no longer be regarded as something peculiar. They should become a key selling point of innovative technologies.
  • The internet of things also poses significant security challenges that need to be addressed. A simple firewall is no longer sufficient. One way to minimize the risk to individuals is to ensure that data can be processed on the device itself (local processing). Where this is not an option, companies should ensure end-to-end encryption is in place to protect the data from unwarranted interference and/or tampering.
  • The data protection and privacy authorities will continue to monitor the developments in the internet of things. They undertake to ensure compliance with the data protection and privacy laws in their respective countries, as well as with the internationally agreed privacy principles. Where breaches of the law are discovered, they will seek appropriate enforcement action, either unilaterally or through means of international cooperation.
  • Taking into account the huge challenges faced by internet of things developers, data protection authorities and individuals, all actors should engage in a strong, active and constructive debate on the implications of the internet of things and its derived big data to raise awareness of the choices to be made.

Links to Original

Mauritius Declaration on the Internet of Things from the 36th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners


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Wearable Technology Show

The Wearable Technology Show 2015

In case you missed it – a video on why this is the biggest event for wearable technology anywhere in the world. Filmed over two days in March 2015 at London’s Excel.


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TED Talks

What’s next in 3D printing

Just like his beloved grandfather, Avi Reichental is a maker of things. The difference is, now he can use 3D printers to make almost anything, out of almost any material. Reichental tours us through the possibilities of 3D printing, for everything from printed candy to highly custom sneakers.

Links to the Original TED Posting


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Applaud Maude, for suggesting boardroom focus on IT security

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Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, has urged businesses to make IT security a boardroom issue.The minister warned that security was no longer just an issue for IT departments alone.

Is it still the case that modern day businesses still need encouragement to make IT security a top priority? Is data protection legislation in itself failing to impress upon organisations, the need to adoption of a more business orientated approach to IT Security investment and management?

perhaps it is that many can be forgiven for thinking that IT security in this modern age is not being addressed properly within the business community, especially give recent high profile issues experienced by some of the top technology providers in the world. If well known technology powerhouses are unable to implement security measures to prohibit cyber attacks on their business then a concern for what hope there is for the rest of the business world is possibly well founded?

It is possible however that a somewhat skewed perspective on matters concerning IT security is created by the penchant for only bad news to be reported in the more popular periodicals and on-line news services. With a little digging around it is possible to find some more positive news.

Investment in IT Security is improving

IT Security InvestmentAccording to a recent news and update bulletin posted on the ISO/IEC 27001 adoption rates of this international standard on IT security continue to improve on an ongoing upward trend basis, albeit in varying degrees in different countries around the world.

Here in the UK the trend is very positive, especially in comparison to that of our fellow members in the EU. According to the executive summary of the The ISO Survey of Management System Standard Certifications – 2013 the status of ISO/IEC 27001 gives the requirements for information security management systems, was:

At the end of December 2013, at least 22 293 ISO/IEC 27001 certificates, a growth of 14 % (+2 673), had been issued in 105 countries and economies, two more than in the previous year.

The top three countries for the total number of certificates issued were Japan, India and the United Kingdom, while the top three for growth in the number of certificates in 2013 were Italy, India and the UK.

Likely that in part, this growth is being driven by the emergence of new computing models, in particular transitioning to Cloud and outsourcing. However any increase in the application of recognised standards during what have been extremely taxing economic times must be something to be welcomed.

A More Positive Picture

ISO LogoSo with due respect t the very challenging economic times that we here in the UK are still yet to fully materialise, the news that in the last two years UK business investment in ISO accredited IT security standards has continued to increase, sufficient to maintain a UK top three ranking is very positive news indeed.

It should be pointed out that the difference in number of 27001 certificates awarded between the top ranking country Japan (7084), to that of India (1931) and the UK (1923) is quite significant, with Japanese businesses achieving more that twice that of the UK and India together in 2013.

So even whilst the UK is doing better than most, perhaps the answer to the questions posed above is “yes” and on both counts?

What else do you think could and should be done to increase focus and investment on improving the state of IT security where this is needed?

Article Links

Move security from IT up to boardroom, says Francis Maude.

World distribution of ISO27001 certifications displayed graphically


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Intelligent Prosthetics and Future Upgrades

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An astonishing story has recently surfaced of technological progress to overcome disability, about a man called Les Baugh who lost both arms in an electrical accident 40 years ago. That with the help of Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), has today a significantly reduced level of disability thanks to the development of Modular Prosthetic Limbs

What is astounding in this story is the fact that the intelligent prosthetic arms are able to interpret muscle movement and nerve signals when Baugh thinks about moving his arms, enabling the arms as a result to respond and move accordingly.

“Baugh is the first bilateral shoulder-level amputee to wear two Modular Prosthetic Limbs at once, according to the researchers. He’s spending a lot of time practising different tasks.”

Man and Machine Co-joined

Technological developments in robotics is certainly starting to break down the human (biological) / machine boundaries and certainly, the early beginnings of a whole new dimension in respect of how disabilities may be overcome is opening up.

Maybe I’ll be able to — for once — be able to put change in a pop machine and get the pop out of it,” Baugh said in a video about the breakthrough. “Simple things like that that most people never think of.

Presently he can only use the arms in the lab for now, but someday he will have two of his own.

Looking Ahead

Mike McLoughlin, the program manager at Johns Hopkins

There’s just a tremendous amount of potential ahead of us, and we just started down this road. I think the next five, 10 years are going to bring some really phenomenal advancements.

These new developments in intelligent prosthetics capability offer hope to millions of people struggling with the disability of a missing limb, and this will likely be the focus of developments for this next 10 years that Mike McLoughlin is referring to.

But what about beyond this? It is likely increased capability and improvements in performance, will create the potential for the application of this technology to go further, some people will want upgrades to deficient limbs, and even perhaps will seek to replace perfectly capable limbs with solutions that offer enhancements and improvements, ones that biologically alone cannot be achieved.

This will likely arise from the perspective that those once inhibited by disability, not only have the disability overcome, but that their individual abilities returned, are perceived to have become artificially enhanced. Ironically, in this scenario the tables become turned, in that the able bodied are now perceived to be the disadvantaged.

In a much more simplistic sense we have already born witness to this notion in the great debate that surrounded the discussion following the decision to allow Oscar Pistorius, “the blade runner”, to compete against able bodied athletes at the London Olympics.

Whilst the decision was arguably a triumph for those living with disabilities, Ade Adepitan, who competed in wheelchair basketball and now presents Channel 4’s That Paralympic Show, had more conflicted views when he offered his thoughts to the Guardian Article, suggesting that Pistorius could be a radical role model for disabled athletes, saying:

If he gets into the final it’s going to send shock waves round the world, and if he wins a medal, wow,” picture a double-leg amputee on the podium at the Olympics. What doors would it open up?

What implications does it have? None of us will know until it happens, but that’s the great thing about what Oscar is doing: he’s asking questions.

 In the same article another, as the Guardian author Tim Lewis put it – reliable erudite Roger Black, the UK’s greatest 400m runner, was one of the first to speak out. No scientific consensus, he pointed out, had been reached on whether the blades provided Pistorius with a benefit and until that was clear we did not have the faintest idea whether he was:

an amazing athlete or a very good athlete with an advantage

Black also placed himself in the spikes of an athlete beaten – maybe even to a medal – by Pistorius. Would they think, perhaps even justifiably, that it was unfair?

Upgrade Anyone?

Given human nature being what it is, humans wanting upgrade to overcome limitation of the human condition are an inevitability. A fact already explored by Yuval Noah Harari a historian in his book Sapiens, within which the human race takes on the role as intelligent designer, to surmount evolution by provision of the ability to upgrade ourselves.

Robotics and Bionics

Bionics

The fundamental problem as Hatari sees it is that this upgrade ability will be restricted to the rich, leading in a relatively short space of time to a social inequality of great significance.

Best summed up by the Guardian article, what we are faced with is a revolution already in progress, borne of engineering and exploits mechanical, electronic, chemical and genetic,

In the 20th century, the main task of medicine was to bring everybody to a certain level of health and capability. It was by definition an egalitarian aim,” Harari told the Guardian. “In the 21st century medicine is moving onwards and trying to surpass the norm, to help people live longer, to have stronger memories, to have better control of their emotions. But upgrading like that is not an egalitarian project, it’s an elitist project. No matter what norm you reach, there is always another upgrade which is possible.

The question perhaps, is given the increasing rate of technological advancement, could this next stage of human evolution be a reality within the next 10 years?

Article Links

Man Successfully Controls 2 Prosthetic Arms With Just His Thoughts.

Is it fair for ‘Blade Runner’ Oscar Pistorius to run in London Olympics?

Body upgrades may be nearing reality, but only for the rich


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Health records on your own Facebook-style page

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AN ambitious hi-tech £11m plan to allow any doctor or nurse to access a patient’s information from anywhere in the country is being launched by Islington health chiefs.

Patients will have their own Facebook-style  health records page or app, detailing all of their information, which they will be able to invite other people to look at from anywhere from “Cornwall to Scotland”.

eCulture Thoughts on Electronic Health Records

As a proposed solution eCulture certainly thinks it is a good way to go in so far as providing a patient consent based interface solution. The key will be however in what platform they build this to integrate with from an existing social network perspective. Or if they decide to establish their own, what additional functionality they would proposed to include beyond that concerning health to keep prospective clients engaged.

Electronic Health RecordOther fundamental aspects of concern, build out of the core infrastructures, taking into account the information governance and cyber security requirements, with the need to build in capacity for growth, this is not cheap, even from a start-up perspective.

Opting for a predominantly open source approach will keep costs down, but there will always be an associated cost incurred on a user by user basis some from commercial off the shelf (COTS) technologies, that cannot be displaced by open source alternatives and, subject to what functionality is provided associated increases in platform costs.

Costs

There is potential to offer certain services to clients on a subscription basis to cover this, but this is most easily addressed when the offering is from a commercial third party, not so easily implemented when the solution is being offered from an NHS body?

Affiliate revenues are another potential but considerable care and attention in how this is achieved has to be taken, i.e. if the solution is going to have in time an advertising affiliate revenue based model, then great care has to be taken in what is advertised, again more so if it is presented as an “NHS” solution.

Perhaps the business case at the end of the day can justify the investment and running costs be met by central government, on the basis of strong returns on investment achieved.

Information Governance 

When they launch it will be interesting to see what fair processing notice comes with the launch, if it is developed correctly with the right approach in terms of implementing a patient consent / data access assurance model then the notice becomes much less of an issue.

It’s all doable so one to watch for sure….

Article Links

http://www.islingtontribune.com/news/2014/sep/%C2%A311m-plan-will-put-health-records-your-own-facebook-style-page


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“eCulture” A New Mission

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With a recent refresh of the website and refocusing of what eCulture Solutions was about I thought it was would be good to try and define succinctly a mission, for which I have arrived at…

“To facilitate the exploitation of digital innovation, supporting delivery of positive and inclusive social and business transformation.”

 The pace of technology innovation and digital inclusion is increasing at a significant rate and societies the world over, are transitioning to an digitally orientated way of life as governments and institutions adopt digital ways of engaging in preference over existing methods. Societies are entering the “eCulture” digital age .

 The measure of success in the development of eCulture, will come down to how well society manages to establish “mutually supporting communities” in a digital context.

It is early days, and so as organisations and business start out on their respective eCulture transitions I thought it would be helpful to offer some guidance on what could be key considerations.

Transition

Government, public sector and allied third party service transformation delivered by preference for engagement between service providers and users to becoming wherever possible, a digital process, is presently focused by the premise that this will deliver much needed efficiency gains and cost savings.

UK Government business case estimates presently suggest that transactions online can already be 20 times cheaper than by phone, 30 times cheaper than postal, and as much as 50 times cheaper than face-to-face.

Success however, will not be achieved with this focus alone. Efficiency gains and savings can only be realised by wide scale adoption, that in turn will only be secured by service redesign that delivers mutual benefits to service users, largely recognised by them as improvements in efficiency, effectiveness and / or quality of the service.

Digital Exclusion

Face FrownThere is however something that is fundamentally new in this evolution to eCulture status, on the basis that until now, any digital project concerning the engagement of service users, with notably these being largely commercial ventures, has qualified requirements and measures of success in business plans / profit and loss forecasts, on the basis of focusing engagement on a digitally “included” demographic.

By contrast a key distinguishing factor in the transition to the ‘eCulture’ age, is the social development focus on digital – for example job adverts and applications and critically public services, such as benefits and health and social care services, which for those that remain digitally “excluded”, the prospect of social exclusion and increasing poverty are of serious concern.

Digital exclusion is defined as: 

  1. Access – the inability to actually go online and connect
  2. Skills –  inability to use online solutions
  3. Motivation – not having a personal reason making use a good thing
  4. Trust – loss of privacy, or victim of online crime

Consequently overcoming the digital exclusion challenges is of greater concern to government, public sector and allied third party provider projects. Because the target demographic for online public services is the poor, elderly, frail and socially excluded, these representing the greatest proportion of citizens making most use of public and allied third party services, that unfortunately are also the greatest proportion that are ‘individually’ digitally excluded.

Additional Missed Business Opportunity

In the UK, recent research published by the BBC has found that 21% of UK’s population lack the basic digital skills and capabilities required to realise the benefits of the Internet.

Around a third of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) don’t have a website, and voluntary, community and social enterprises (VCSEs), a great many of which represent the allied third parties supporting public service provision, this figure rises to 50%. Independent analysts estimate full digital take up could add £63 billion value to the UK economy alone!

Digital Inclusion

GraphOf 7 billion people, around 40% of the world population has an Internet connection. In 1995, it was less than 1%. The number of Internet users has increased tenfold from 1999 to 2013. The first billion was reached in 2005, the second in 2010, the third will be reached by the end of 2014.

In 2013 in the UK, 89% of young people now use a smartphone or tablet to go online, up from 43% in 2010. At the end of 2013, global smartphone penetration had exploded from 5% of the global population in 2009, to 22%. That’s an increase of nearly 1.3 billion smartphones in four years.

Tablets are showing faster adoption rates than smartphones. It took smartphones nearly four years to reach 6% penetration from when the devices first started to register on a global level. Tablets accomplished this in just two years.

eCulture on a Mission

face-smileSo in conclusion eCulture, is to help the organisations develop their digital skills and understanding of how technology innovation can be utilised operationally to increase the benefits they are able to deliver to their service users, and in the process of engagement help organisations to reach the digitally excluded through the many digitally included. 

After all almost everybody will have a family members, carers, friends or benevolent neighbours that are digitally included……

“their digital community”

A noble quest wouldn’t you agree?


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EU Scoreboard 2013 – Digital Agenda Europe Progress

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The European Commission (EC) Digital Agenda Europe (DAE) – Progress report for 2013EU Flag

Executive Summary

In general, the results across the EU are positive.

  • Internet usage is increasing rapidly, an now stands at 72%, up from 60%. Progress has been even faster among disadvantaged groups.
  • Online shopping is doing well, too, arriving at 47% and 10 points up from the start of the DAE.
  • High-speed broadband is now available to 62% of the population, more than twice the 29% we had in 2010. Still, progress so far has been heavily concentrated in urban areas. Given the limited advancement in rural areas, it is thus too early to judge whether the 2020 broadband targets will be reached.

However, there are a few areas where progress is insufficient.

  • eGovernment take-up by citizens only added four points over four years, is growing more slowly than other online applications and is indeed stagnating in a number of countries. Clearly, neither the potential savings in administration costs nor the potential benefits to citizens are fully exploited.
  • A mere 14% of SMEs use the Internet as a sales channel, only two points up in four years. With such low rates, eCommerce can only be very limited tool for SMEs to grow and create jobs.
  • Public support for R&D in ICT is well below the annual growth needed to achieve a targeted doubling by 2020; budget deficit reductions have taken their toll.
  • Finally, cross-border shopping is growing only slowly.

Next Generation Access

Next Generation Access coverage: Fast broadband technologies capable of providing at least 30 Mbps are available to an average of 64% of the EU population, up from 54% a year ago.

In the UK access is available to over 92% of the population, up from 70% in 2012, well above the EU average and one of the larger leaps of progress of the member states.

Among the Next Generation Access technologies Docsis 3.0 for cable has the highest coverage (42%) followed by VDSL (32%) and FTTP (15%).

GlobeThere are a number of Member states which have already coverage of 90% of homes or more. Most of these have cable and telecom networks competing for customers.

However, rural areas are lagging behind: only 16% of households are covered.

Every European Citizen Digital: consistent progress

Regular Internet use in the EU has increased by 11 percentage points since the launch of the Digital Agenda, from just above 60% to 72%.  Although growth is slowing somewhat, on current trends the target of 75% will be reached by 2015.

The UK is ranked 6thand above the EU average, and achieved and increase of approx. 10% between 2009 and 2013, taking percentage of the population use the Internet at least once a week to approx. 87%

Progress has been largest in countries with a low starting level, especially in Greece, Romania, Ireland, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Croatia. Nevertheless, even Luxemburg has managed to add 10 pp in four years from a very high baseline. Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Luxemburg have now crossed the 90pp threshold, showing that “Every European Digital” is possible in the not-so-distant future.

Conversely, the share of the population which has never used the Internet has declined by 10 points to reach 20%, making the achievement of the target in 2015 possible but not yet assured.

Frequent Internet usage, i.e. connecting at least daily, has risen by 14pp (as opposed to 11pp at least weekly for regular Internet usage), indicating a trend among regular users to more frequent use

Progress has been especially strong for disadvantaged groups, among which regular Internet use has now reached 57%, up from 41% four years ago. On current trends, this target of 60% will be reached even before 2015.

Online shopping is growing, but less so cross-border

The proportion of online shoppers continues to grow, up more than 10 points over the period 2009-2013 to 47% of citizens, advancing in a close parallel with the rate of Internet use.

Online ShoppingThe target of 50% by 2015 is likely to be achieved. While there appears to be no overall relationship between the rate of online shoppers in a country and the rate of increase in this rate over the period observed, the countries with the lowest rates of online shoppers (Romania, Bulgaria, Italy and Estonia) have also seen least progress in increasing rates.

Cross-border online shopping has also increased somewhat over this period, up to 12% in 2013 (+4% over 2009), but this pace is too slow to achieve the target of 20% by 2015.  As could be expected, smaller member states have higher rates of cross-border shopping. However, they also exhibit higher growth. In Poland only 9% of online shoppers purchased cross-border, the lowest share of all member states by far.

SMEs are hardly exploiting the Internet for sales

The share of European SMEs selling online is growing at a glacial pace, reaching 14% in 2012, compared to a DAE baseline of 12%. Even in the best performing countries increases are marginal, and only the UK, the Czech Republic and Slovakia register rises of 5% and more. On current trends, not a single member state will even come close to achieving the EU average target of 33% by 2015.

The UK SME’s ranked 8thin of all member states with approximately 18% online sales >=1% of turnover and approx. 42% of online purchases >= 1% of turnover.

The share of SMEs purchasing online is generally much higher, and the EU average of 26% is much closer to the target. This relative success is partly due to a much higher starting point. Also, it is easy to purchase online (a credit card number is sufficient), but difficult to sell (a platform needs to be set up, with payment and delivery mechanism).

eGovernment: use by citizens increases, but too slowly

The use of eGovernment services by citizens has advanced over the last four years, but the most recent data indicates progress which is somewhat slower than the trajectory of the first years. As a result, overall progress of only four percentage points over four years is insufficient to achieve the 2015 target of 50%.

eGovernmentThere has been considerable progress in a number of countries, but very slow change or even decrease in several large member states (Italy, Poland, United Kingdom, Germany) means that the EU average has moved with limited speed.

The variation of eGovernment uptake is much larger than for most other indicators. Even considering Romania as an outlier, the best-to-worst ratio of 4 is twice as high as for Internet use.

The share of citizens returning filled forms among those using eGovernment services is very stable across the EU at 50%, a share which is roughly valid for most countries as well. The UK comes in just under the EU member state average rank 14th

Among the key cross border public services which have been identified in the Connecting Europe Facility Guidelines, electronic ID, electronic signature, electronic delivery and electronic invoicing will be implemented in 2014.

Public R&D for ICT has stopped growing

After increasing for several years, in 2011 public R&D in ICT had managed to increase despite a fall in total public R&D. In 2012, it has followed the overall decrease and went down by 2.5%, a bit faster than the overall decline.

The target of doubling public R&D by 2020 requires an annual growth rate of 5.5%. Already last year actual performance was below the necessary trend line; now the gap is about 20%.

Links

Link to an easy view of the EU DEA Progress Report


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EU Scorebards 2013 – Broadband Markets

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The European Commission (EC) Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) – Broadband Markets Scoreboard report for 2013

Broadband coverage: Basic broadband is available to everyone in the EU, while fixed technologies cover 97% leaving 6 million homes unconnected. Next Generation Access (NGA) covers 62%, up from 54% a year ago. Deployment of 4G mobile increased sharply. Rural coverage remains significantly lower, especially in NGA.

Basic broadband is available to all in the EU, when considering all major technologies (xDSL, Cable, Fibre Refreshto the Premises, WiMax, HSPA, LTE and Satellite). Taking only fixed, fixed wireless (WiMAX) and mobile wireless (HSPA and LTE) into account, the coverage goes down to 99.4%. Fixed and fixed-wireless technologies cover 97.2% of EU homes.

Next Generation Access technologies (VDSL, Cable Docsis 3.0 and FTTP) capable of delivering at least 30Mbps download are available to 62%.

Coverage in rural areas is substantially lower for fixed technologies (89.8%), and especially for NGA (18.1%). 

Coverage of fixed broadband

Technologies continued to increase slightly with a focus on rural areas. In four Member States, all homes are covered by at least one fixed technology.

The UK ranked 4thin the table and achieved 99% coverage in rural areas.

Primary internet access at home is provided mainly by fixed technologies. Among these technologies, xDSL has the largest footprint (93.5%) followed by Cable (42.7%) and WiMAX (19.7%). Fixed coverage is the highest in the Member States with well-developed DSL infrastructures, and is over 90% in all but four Member States.

Overall coverage of fixed broadband increased by 2 percentage points in the last two years, but there was a remarkable progress in rural areas from 79.9% in 2011 to 89.8% in 2013.

Next Generation Access

Graph2Next Generation Access includes VDSL, Cable Docsis 3.0 and FTTP. At the end of 2013, Cable Docsis 3.0 had the largest NGA coverage at 41.2%, followed by VDSL (31.2%) and FTTP (14.5%). Developments until 2012 were dominated by the upgrade of cable networks, while VDSL coverage grew by more than 60% in the last two years. NGA networks are currently very much limited to urban areas: rural coverage is only 18.1%, coming mainly from VDSL.

The UK ranks 9thpresently in the deployment of FTTP, VDSL and Docsis 3.0 cable, total coverage achieved is at 81% with 25% coverage extending into rural areas.

4G mobile broadband availability reached 59%, up from 27% a year ago. 4G has been commercially launched in all but three Member States.

In 2013, deployments of 4G (LTE) speeded up. Nevertheless, 4G coverage is still substantially below that of 3G (HSPA). As of October 2013, close to 60% of Mobile Network Operators in the EU offered 4G services on LTE networks.

LTE deployments in the UK has reached 63 in respect of total coverage by unfortunately none of those coverage has reached rural classified areas as of yet, this places UK ranking in 12th place overall.

There are 30 fixed broadband subscriptions per 100 people in the EU, which corresponds to a take-up of 76%* of homes. The number of subscriptions are still increasing, but the growth rate is low.

The fixed broadband subscriptions market is still on the increase. The growth in penetration stabilised between 1 to 1.3 percentage points per year. The market grew by 5.4 million subscriptions in the last twelve months.

The slowdown is caused by the saturation of the most advanced Member States, as well as a modest migration from fixed to mobile technologies.

Penetration in the EU is higher than in the OECD (27%), and the same as in the US.

Take-up by Member State varies greatly, from 19 to 41 subscriptions per 100 people. Denmark and the Netherlands are among the leaders worldwide, while Romania, Bulgaria and Poland are lagging behind.

Although still very large differences can be observed in take-up across Europe, the coefficient of variation measuring the dispersion among the Member States decreased from 38% in 2008 to 22% in 2014.

The UK ranks 6thin rate of take up with a subscription as a % of the population at 34%, by comparison to the top rated member state Denmark which has achieved 41%.

>30Mbps subscriptions are getting popular, while >100Mbps is still rare in the EU.

An estimated 15% of homes subscribe to fast or ultrafast broadband.

With the increasing availability of NGA networks, fast broadband subscriptions are getting more and more widespread in Europe. Currently there are 6.3 fast broadband subscriptions (offering a headline download speed of minimum 30 Mbps) per 100 people in the EU, up from 2.5 two years ago.

The UK ranked in 11thplace with 9% penetration of subscriptions as a % of population involving fast broadband connections of at least 39Mbps. By comparison the top ranked country is Belgium at 23%.

Take-up of ultrafast (>100Mbps)

This remains marginal at 1.6 subscriptions per 100 people corresponding to 3% of homes.

Ultrafast connections represent only a fraction of fixed broadband subscriptions despite the fact that FTTH/B and Cable Docsis 3.0 networks are capable of delivering such a speed.

Sweden is by far the leader in this product category, with at least 10% penetration of the population using ultrafast broadband.

The UK ranking out of the member states is at 22, with less than 1% ultrafast broadband user population, this is also 9 places lower than the EU average.

The take up of fast broadband (at least 30 Mbps) falls well below the NGA coverage: NGA is available to 62% of homes in Europe, but only an estimated 15% subscribe to fast broadband.

Countries with higher NGA coverage tend to have higher high-speed broadband take-up, but very large differences can be seen across Member States.

wifiOver 70% of subscriptions are xDSL, although xDSL is slightly losing market share. Cable is second with 18% of the market. Fibre to the Home/Building is emerging.

Although DSL is still the most widely used fixed broadband technology, its market share declined from 80% in 2009 to 72% in 2014. The main challenger, cable somewhat increased its share during the same time period, but most of the gains were posted by alternative technologies, especially FTTH/B. Net gains of DSL, cable FTTH/B were in the same magnitude over the last two years.

Competition

Incumbent operators are market leaders in almost all Member States, although their market share is decreasing. During the last eight years, new entrant operators always posted higher net gains then the incumbents. In the last six months, new entrants yielded 80% of the total net gain in the market. This, however, could not result in a large change in the overall market share of new entrants because of the low growth rate of the total market.

Market shares are calculated at the national level for the incumbents and new entrants. However, broadband markets are geographically fragmented suggesting that a large number of homes are served by only one provider (most likely by the incumbent operator in this case).

In the UK, the split has been calculated to be incumbents 33% of the market share with new entrants having the remaining 67% suggesting a perhaps somewhat healthy level of competition?

However new entrant subscriptions remain largely dependent on using incumbent infrastructure (69%) as opposed 31% that are utilising their own infrastructure, which placing the UK ranking 4th from bottom of the table in comparison to other member states, where greater proportions of new entrants have their own infrastructure.

Speeds

Low speed fixed broadband subscriptions are getting marginal: only 3% of all subscriptions have lower than 2 Mbps advertised download speed as opposed to 36% six years ago. At least 10Mbps applies to two thirds of subscriptions, up from 9% in 2008.

CogsFast and ultrafast broadband subscriptions grew by 44% in twelve months. Despite the growth of fast and ultrafast subscriptions, they are still rare in the EU. In January 2014, only slightly more than one in five subscriptions were at least 30 Mbps and only 5.3% at least 100Mbps.

Speeds of broadband products are advertised as “up to a certain Mbit/s”, but there are significant differences between the advertised speed and the actual speed that consumers receive. In the EU, the actual download speed is 76% of the advertised speed. DSL delivers only 63.8% of the advertised headline download speed, compared to 89.5% for cable and 82.7% for FTTx.

As for the xDSL being the most widely used technology in Europe, there are large differences across Member States: 90% of the advertised download speed is attained in Poland, but only 45% in France and 50% in the UK and Ireland.

The UK achieves on average better speeds overall that a good number of other member states, with 17% achieving speeds between 2Mbps and 10Mbps and a decent 83% benefiting from speeds above 10Mbps.

Mobile Broadband

There are 62 active mobile broadband SIM cards per 100 people in the EU, up from 26 three years ago. The growth in subscriptions somewhat slowed down in the last twelve months.

Mobile broadband represents the fastest growing segment of the broadband market, although the growth somewhat slowed down in the last twelve months in terms of active subscriptions. Take-up increased by 15% in 2013 compared to 18% in 2012. 

iPadIn the Nordic countries, there are already more than 100 subscriptions per 100 people, while in Hungary, Greece and Portugal the take-up rate is still below 40%. Most of the mobile broadband subscriptions are used on smartphones rather than on tablets or notebooks.

Mobile broadband is mainly used a complementary connection rather than a substitute to fixed broadband.

The correlation between fixed and mobile broadband take-up remains rather weak in the EU. More than 30% of homes with internet access use mobile broadband, up from 16% in 2010. However, in most of the cases, mobile broadband does not substitute a fixed connection: only 8% of homes with internet access rely purely on mobile technology.

Broadband and Bundle Prices

Prices of high speed broadband access across the EU Member States tend to decrease over time but remain dispersed across Member States.

Broadband access prices remain dispersed across Europe: the median prices (calculated on Purchasing Power Parity) vary between €22 and €102 for a standalone offer with a download speed between 30 and 100 Mbps.

The UK retail prices (EUR PPP) on standalone offers came in under the EU average for 12-30Mbps at €28.63 by comparison tom the average at €36.65 and over the average for 20-100Mbps at €40.29 against the average of €33.99.

Prices of triple play bundles including broadband access, fixed telephony and television has come down considerably since 2009.

The median prices of triple play bundles including broadband access (with a download speed between 30 and 100 Mbps), fixed telephony and television vary between €38 and €90 in the EU.

The UK retail price (EUR PPP) for bundles including broadband, fixed telephony and television average at €62 in line with the overall EU average.

Broadband take-up tends to be lower in countries where the cost of broadband access accounts for a higher share of income.

The correlation between fixed broadband take-up and the relative price of broadband access is negative (-66%), so broadband take-up tends to be lower in countries where the cost of broadband access represents a higher share of the income.

26% of those households without internet access considers the broadband access prices a barrier to take-up, while for 30% the required equipment is not affordable.


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