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BBC World Service - Digital Planet

Digital Planet

Technological and digital news from around the world.

Digital Planet

  • Malware on mobiles
    Mobile phones in emerging markets are infected with malware that carries out financial transactions that the owner of the phone is often unaware of. Dimitris Maniatis, CEO of Upstream, a mobile anti-fraud company is in the show. Tech under the ice sheet The cryoegg, is a small device that monitors the most extreme of environments, streams of ice-cold water flowing under glaciers. It's a rugged device that wirelessly transmits data back to the surface of a glacier from one and a half kilometres below the ice. Dr. Mike Prior-Jones and Dr. Liz Bagshaw from Cardiff University are using the device to monitor glaciers in Greenland. Indoor Solar Cells We live in a world with more and more smart devices in our homes and, of course, all of them need electricity. A potential way to supply that power is via the lights we use indoors. A recent paper shows that there are new, environmentally friendly, and safe materials that could help make this a reality. Digital Planet reporter Florian Bohr found out more. (Image: Getty Images) The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington Studio Managers: Bob Nettles and Giles Aspen Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

  • Overcoming internet shutdowns in Myanmar
    Internet shutdowns continue in Myanmar and now two new reports show the impact these have had. Top10VPN estimates these have cost the country’s economy more than $1bn, while cybersecurity firm Recorded Future Inc. has confirmed how people are still trying to connect with each other using Bluetooth and messaging apps like Bridgefy as well as accessing the dark web. Samuel Woodhams, Digital Rights Lead from Top10VPN, is on the show to tell us what they’ve observed. Vietnam water salinity app The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has launched an app in Vietnam to help rice farmers save their crops. High salt levels in the water channels between fields can now be monitored remotely and results sent to farmers’ mobile phones. High salt levels can destroy an entire annual rice crop so the app is significantly improving yields. Kisa Mfalila, Regional Climate and Environment Specialist for Asia and the Pacific region at IFAD, explains how the app works. Computer Modelling of the Canon of English Literature The Canon of English Literature – the books that are considered to be worthy of studying - are overwhelmingly written by white men, with books written by female novelists often considered less literary in comparison. Now, a new project “Novel Perceptions: Towards an Inclusive Canon” aims to use computer modelling to investigate the public’s reading preferences. It's led by Professor Sebastian Groes from the University of Wolverhampton, who has just launched a Reader Review survey asking for responses to 400 recent novels. The novels will also undergo computer analysis that will look at sentence length, vocabulary and grammar difficulty to see if an algorithm can identify a best seller. (Image: Getty Images) The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson. Studio Manager: Nigel Dix Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

  • Phones sending data every 4.5 minutes
    Our smartphones are sharing data every four and a half minutes according to research from Trinity College Dublin. Telemetry, automated recording and transmission of data, from Apple and Android devices back to these company’s servers is going on even if the phone is only used to make calls. Professor Douglas Leith is on the programme and explains that even when a user has logged out of sending telemetry or they are not logged on, data is still being transmitted. R.U.R. versus Q.U.R. The 1921 play Rossum’s Universal Robots (R.U.R.) by Karel C̆apek gave rise to the term “robot,” but the 1941 short story Quinby’s Usuform Robots (Q.U.R.) by Anthony Boucher more accurately reflects today’s robots says Professor Robin Murphy from Texas A&M University. Robin, herself a disaster robotics specialist, is on the show to discuss how these two different ideas developed in very different social and political climates and what we can learn from both these Sci-fi stories. Virtual Stadium Noise If you've been watching sport in the last few months you may have noticed that stadiums are almost empty. But when you watch the game, it's very likely that you will hear a crowd cheering the players on. So what's going on? It looks like broadcasters are turning to video games, for the sound of the crowd. Our reporter Chris Berrow has been finding out. (Image credit: Getty Images) The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Angelica Mari. Studio Manager: Giles Aspen Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

  • China’s online restrictions increase
    The Chinese government’s highly restricted approach to online freedom of expression has intensified during the COVID pandemic – not surprising maybe, but the implication of this on Chinese citizens and countries across Asia is significant. That’s one of the findings of research published by Chatham House. Harriet Moynihan, from the International Law Programme at Chatham House, is one of the authors of the paper and joins us on the show. Cellulose Electronic Thread For electronic textiles to enter the market on a large scale they need to be sustainable. Now scientists at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have developed thread made from conductive cellulose, which can be threaded through a sewing machine. The sewn garments can even be washed in a machine. Sustainable wearable tech would massively reduce electronic waste and could also lead to better healthcare monitoring eg blood pressure or heart rate of the person wearing the smart clothes. Sozan Darabi explains how they developed the thread and how she had to use her sewing skills to create the outfits. Evil Corp – the board game of tech giants Fancy becoming a tech billionaire who can save the world? Well you can by playing a new board game called “Evil Corp”. The game allows you to play as one of 6 Evil CEO billionaires intent on accruing billions of dollars and start-ups. The aim is to “Save the World, No Matter the Cost”. The games’ inventor Alfie Dennon says he wants us to think about the power tech tycoons have over our everyday lives online, in how we shop, work and play. Image: Chinese flag displayed on laptop screen, plus smartphone with block symbol displayed Credit: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson. Studio Manager: Giles Aspen Producers: Emil Petrie and Ania Lichtarowicz

  • AI chatbot takes witness statements
    Court cases can collapse due to unreliable witness statements. These are often taken some time after the crime has happened – but what if it was possible to take a witness statement very quickly using AI chatbots? Dr Julia Shaw is on the programme discussing her latest research into using an AI chatbot in reporting harassment in the workplace. Not only are statements taken more quickly, they are done better by a machine than a person, as people can interrupt, misinterpret, judge or incorrectly record statements. The AI chatbot sticks to a script and allows the witness to do the same. Machine learning to understand Tinnitus AI is helping to advance research into tinnitus, a condition often described as a ringing, buzzing or hissing in the ears, which affects up to 1 in 5 adults. Clinicians currently have no objective means of diagnosing tinnitus and must rely on the accounts of people living with the condition. But machine learning algorithms, combined with brain imaging techniques, are allowing scientists to develop a clinical tool to measure tinnitus objectively. Anthea Lacchia reports. Women’s Engineering Society Prize Shrouk El-Attar describes herself as an Electronics Engineer, a bellydancer, an LGBTQ+ campaigner and refugee. She is the winner of the WES Prize IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Award, to add to a multitude of prizes she has already received. She’s helped design a pelvic floor trainer - a treatment for incontinence - and is redesigning the breast pump to allow women to express their milk much more easily and quietly. Gareth finds out what inspires her and more about the tech she designs. The programme was presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington. Image: AI chatbot Credit: tadamichi/iStock Getty Images Studio Manager: Giles Aspen Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz and Emil Petrie