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UK using drones to send coronavirus tests to remote Scottish islands

The Independent - Tech

The UK's new Space Agency funding will be used to support drones that deliver coronavirus testing kits to a Scottish island. Skyports, the company behind the drones, started a two-week trial in May with NHS Highland, which serves a group of islands off the west coast of Scotland. The technology was able to cut delivery times between Oban and the Isle of Mull to around 15 minutes, instead of going via road and taking a 45-minute ferry crossing. An initial £2.6 million was made available by the UK Space Agency and European Space Agency (ESA) to find and support space-enabled technologies and services that can support the NHS response to coronavirus. Skyports along with two other initiatives have been awarded a share of £1.1 million in funding, while the rest is open to bids until the end of September.


Rainbird develops AI tool to assess frontline workers' Covid-19 risk

#artificialintelligence

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, along with artificial intelligence firm Rainbird, have developed a tool to assess the risk of frontline workers being exposed to Covid-19. The tool uses intelligent automation, a combination of robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI), to evaluate a range of factors including age, health history, cultural/religious beliefs, disability and pregnancy. It also factors in the impact of Covid-19 on Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups. According to a report by Public Health England, a disproportionate number of BAME people have died from Covid-19, with people of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, other Asian, Caribbean and other Black ethnicity having between 10 and 50% higher risk of death when compared to White British. As a result, Public Health England has called for "culturally competent" risk assessment tools for key workers.


In These Factories, Inspector Robot Will Check Your Work

#artificialintelligence

The UK company P2i adds water-repelling nanocoatings to smartphones and other gadgets. Normally, it flies engineers to its clients' factories to identify and solve quality-control problems. That's not an option in a world where flights are grounded, borders closed, and security tightened. So in some plants, P2i now relies on a system that uses artificial intelligence to look for even the slightest defects. "Over the last four months, since the coronavirus, we've had to reevaluate how we are going to service and deploy our machines worldwide," says Neal Harkrider, chief operating officer at P2i.


AU$8m fleet of shark-spotting drones and drumlines for the NSW coastline

ZDNet

In a bid to protect beachgoers from the animals that live in the water they're entering, the New South Wales government will spend AU$8 million on a new strategy that includes a fleet of shark-spotting drones to patrol the state's coastline. Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall is calling the strategy "shark management" and said it is based on five years of scientific research into shark behaviour and the most effective ways to protect beachgoers. "As a government, our number one priority is keeping people at our beaches safe and that's why we're rolling out a revamped strategy to reduce the risk of shark attacks," Marshall said on Wednesday. "Our world-leading research showed SMART drumlines and drones are the most effective detection and surveillance tools." The government, in partnership with Surf Life Saving NSW, will deploy new drones at 34 beaches across the state and deploy 35 SMART drumlines in locations deemed high-risk along the state's north coast.


Honeywell launches new business unit to capture drone market

Reuters: Technology News

Stéphane Fymat, the head of that new business, said Honeywell expects the hardware and software market for urban air taxis, drone cargo delivery, and other drone businesses to reach $120 billion by 2030 and Honeywell's market opportunity would be about 20% of that. He declined to say how much of that market Honeywell was targeting to capture, adding only that the unit has hundreds of employees with many engineers. Honeywell doesn't build drones itself but provides autonomous flight controls systems and aviation electronics. The new business creation comes as the coronavirus pandemic creates a surge of interest in drone deliveries; Fymat said it's accelerating the drone cargo delivery programs of some of its partners. Some of Honeywell's customers include Intel-backed Volocopter, Slovenia-based small aircraft maker Pipistrel, which is developing an electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft for cargo delivery, and UK-based Vertical Aerospace, which has test flown a prototype vehicle last year that can carry 250 kilograms and fly at 80 kilometers an hour.


Service robots may help COVID-19 impacted hotels recover faster: Study – IAM Network

#artificialintelligence

Robotic interaction could facilitate more socially distanced models of operation to enable a safer and faster reopening and recovery of some hotels impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, according to researchers. The researchers, including those at the University of Surrey in the UK, spoke to 19 hotel human resource (HR) experts to identify the key trends and major challenges that will emerge in the next ten years. They said while service robots are anticipated to increase efficiency and productivity of hotel activities, they may also pose challenges such as high costs, skill deficits and significant changes to the organisational structure and culture of hotels. The anticipated applications and integration of robotic technology will require leaders of the future to carefully consider the balance between the roles of service robots and human employees in the guest experience, according to the paper published in the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management. The researchers noted that their project completed in March 2020 just as COVID-19 broke out and as the virus rendered non-essential travel impossible, most hotels around the globe are feeling a catastrophic economic impact.


The five: robots helping to tackle coronavirus

The Guardian > Technology

Singapore park-goers have been reminded of their social distancing obligations by Boston Dynamics' yellow "dog". The robot hound is equipped with numerous cameras and sensors, which it can use to detect transgressors and broadcast pre-recorded warnings. The authorities have reassured locals it is not a quadruped data-collection device. In Milton Keynes a recently expanded fleet of six-wheeled robots has been delivering food and small supermarket shopping consignments to hungry residents. The town's large network of cycle paths makes it ideally suited to the knee-high machines, which trundle along at a top speed of 4mph.


The five: robots helping to tackle coronavirus

The Guardian

Singapore park-goers have been reminded of their social distancing obligations by Boston Dynamics' yellow "dog". The robot hound is equipped with numerous cameras and sensors, which it can use to detect transgressors and broadcast pre-recorded warnings. The authorities have reassured locals it is not a quadruped data-collection device. In Milton Keynes a recently expanded fleet of six-wheeled robots has been delivering food and small supermarket shopping consignments to hungry residents. The town's large network of cycle paths makes it ideally suited to the knee-high machines, which trundle along at a top speed of 4mph.


Return to work: Automation projects move up the agenda

ZDNet

As businesses slowly start reopening their doors with the ongoing imperative of sticking to stringent social-distancing rules, more organisations are likely to be willing to embrace automation projects. A new survey carried out by Internet of Things (IoT) company Pod Group shows that almost three-quarters of business leaders in the UK expect the pandemic to spark a new wave of automation in the workplace. Although most organizations were already thinking about automating some of their tasks prior to the crisis, some sectors – those that are most public-facing – are giving automation, from software bots to actual robots, a lot more consideration than before the pandemic. In arts and culture, for example, only a quarter of leaders were considering automation before COVID-19; as a result of the crisis, this proportion has now increased to three-quarters. SEE: An IT pro's guide to robotic process automation (free PDF) Similar jumps have been seen in education, healthcare or retail, highlighting how businesses expect automation technology to potentially replace a considerable proportion of their labor force over the next few years.


Lockdown: Ofcom says internet speeds functioning as normal despite major Virgin Media and other broadband outages

The Independent - Tech

Internet speeds are still running largely as normal despite the increased pressure of lockdown, according to research from regulator Ofcom. Download speeds have only dropped by an average of 2 per cent, according to the research, even with the extra load. That is despite some high-profile outages, including Virgin Media problems that took the internet offline for users across the country. Networks have been under increased strain with more people across the country working from home, children using online platforms to carry on school work, and greater gaming and streaming as a source of entertainment. The communications regulator measured broadband performance for 3,481 users at the beginning and end of March, to compare results before and after lockdown started.