Dutch security service warns government against using tech from hostile states

April 3rd, 2019 no comment

In the coming years, the Dutch government will replace its domestic emergency services network (C2000 TETRA) and oversee the building of the next-generation 5G mobile network. The new telecommunications standard uses higher-frequency waves to transmit information wirelessly, allowing for much higher data rates than previous generations.

Governments and industrialists hope that 5G connectivity could usher in a fresh era of connectivity, with driverless cars and other devices constantly exchanging data.

The US and several of its allies have blocked Huawei (the world’s largest telecommunications equipment supplier) from public projects, including their rollouts of 5G infrastructure. All Chinese companies are bound by a 2017 law to cooperate with Chinese intelligence services, leading to fears that allowing Huawei to provide 5G equipment could allow the Chinese government to eavesdrop on private communications.

Huawei has rejected these accusations that it could be used as an earpiece of the Chinese government.

German and UK authorities have indicated that they are prepared to allow Huawei to participate in building their 5G infrastructure under strict security conditions. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has refused to rule out the possibility of striking deals with Chinese technology companies.

The AIVD has warned the Dutch government of the major security risk associated with technology derived from countries with active cyber campaigns against the Netherlands: Russia, Iran, and China (although the report did not name individual companies). In particular, the service warns that following the downing of flight MH17 in July 2014, Russian intelligence services have been increasingly focused on the Netherlands, with several Dutch embassies in the Middle East and Central Asia being subjected to cyber attacks throughout 2017 and 2018.

“Espionage can take place digitally, for example by breaking into a system, or physically via people,” the AIVD stated. “This can be important political information, for example with regard to decision-making processes and positions of the government. Another country can also try to steal business secrets through espionage in order to boost its own economy.”

The report also warned of the possibilities of “covert political influence”, such as spreading disinformation, sabotaging national infrastructure and intimidating and influencing diaspora.

“It is undesirable for the Netherlands to exchange sensitive information or for vital processes to depend on the hardware or software of companies from countries running active cyber programmes against Dutch interests,” the report said.

During the presentation of the security report, Dick Schoof, director general of the AIVD, commented that: “When it comes to our vital infrastructure or 5G, you don’t want to buy hardware and software from countries that conduct an offensive cyber program aimed at Dutch national security.”

A recent report from security company FireEye found that two Russian cyber threat groups had targeted European governments ahead of the upcoming European Parliament elections. The assaults on these governments (of countries belonging to NATO) increased significantly in mid-2018.

This weekend, a woman called Yujing Zhang gained admission to President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. She was found carrying two Chinese passports and a USB device containing malware.

SSE receives £700,000 fine for smart meter failures

April 3rd, 2019 no comment

Under the government’s smart meter roll-out programme, suppliers are required by law to take all reasonable steps to roll-out smart meters to all homes and small businesses by the end of 2020.

The watchdog said while SSE met its electricity smart meters installation target for 2018, the supplier only reached its gas target in February this year, less than two months after the deadline.

The £700,000 will go towards Ofgem’s consumer redress fund, which supports consumers in vulnerable situations and the development of innovative products or services not currently available to energy consumers.

But the watchdog said it had decided not to take formal enforcement action against SSE, due to the steps SSE had taken.

SSE director of metering Chris Adams said: “SSE Energy Services is fully committed to the rollout of smart meters and to delivering the benefits of smart for customers.

“We worked hard during 2018 to successfully transition to the new generation of smart meter, which brings full functionality to customers, and installed around 600,000 meters during the year. However, while there were many achievements in 2018, we are disappointed that we fell slightly short on meeting our gas target.

“We quickly recovered the shortfall during February 2019 and are on target for the year ahead.”

Under the government’s smart meter roll-out programme, suppliers are legally required to take all reasonable steps to roll-out smart meters to all homes and small businesses by the end of 2020.

They set individual annual targets for smart meter installations as part of this aim and Ofgem monitors performance against these targets.

But there are fears that the 2020 deadline is unrealistic, with recent official figures showing smart meter installation dropped by 16 per cent year-on-year in the final three months of 2018.

Domestic smart meter installation fell 2 per cent in the final quarter compared to the previous three months.

By the end of last year, 12.65 million smart meters were installed in households, representing a quarter of all domestic meters.

Ofgem said it was “closely monitoring” supplier approaches to the roll out of smart meters and vowed to “hold suppliers to account if they do not meet their obligations”.

Last month, the consumer group Which? said that its research had shown that more than half of people are finding their smart meters turn ‘dumb’ when they switch supplier.

This is typically the case for “first-gen” devices, although newer smart meters are capable of switching suppliers.

National Grid prepped to accept 100 per cent zero carbon sources by 2025

April 2nd, 2019 no comment

The National Grid’s Electricity System Operator (ESO) said it currently relies on a mix of generation to balance the system and ensure that electricity is always available when needed.

“There soon will be times in the year when the market could meet the total demand for electricity through renewable generation only and these periods will increase as more and more renewables are connected and more load actively participates in the market,” ESO said in its Zero Carbon Operation 2025 report

“This is very different to the traditional model of power system operation and, to enable all of this low-carbon generation operate unconstrained, requires us to address and solve some critical engineering challenges.”

It said it would start installing “smart digital systems” which are capable of managing and controlling the electricity system in real-time in order to cope with the fluctuating electricity from renewables.

Renewables are making up an increasing share of Britain’s electricity generation. Energy minister Claire Perry said last month that offshore wind will account for more than 30 per cent of British electricity supply by 2030. 

The changing face of the grid in 2018 saw wind generation exceed 15 gigawatts for the first time – the equivalent output to more than four of the new Hinkley Power nuclear power stations – and no coal used for 72 hours straight.

Concerns have been raised in the past about the amount of renewable power that can be integrated onto the national grid system.

Fintan Slye, director of ESO, said the move would require fundamental changes to how the system is designed to operate, incorporating offshore wind farms, household solar panels and more management of demand.

The company will identify systems, services and products that it will need and design a competitive marketplace to deliver them, Slye said.

He added: “The new products and services we will introduce will help reduce the overall cost of operating the system, driving down costs for consumers.

“Operating a zero-carbon electricity system in 2025, whenever there is sufficient renewable generation, is a major stepping stone to full decarbonisation of the entire electricity system.

“This will enable new technologies and removes barriers to ever-increasing levels of renewables.”

View from Brussels: New energy labels promise to slash Europe’s power demands

April 1st, 2019 no comment

In recent years, buying an energy-efficient kitchen appliance has become a bit of an ordeal as labels designed to help consumers have become more and more complex.

What started out as a simple A to G ranking swelled to include A+, A++ and A+++ benchmarks, with an A+ fridge, for example, actually being a rather inefficient option. The B to E rankings were also largely empty. Critics warned that the label risked becoming a joke, ultimately useless.

In mid-March, the European Commission finally decided enough was enough and declared that a stripped-down version of the scale would be the best option for everyone.

Under the new rules, the top A class will be left empty at the beginning of the new label’s implementation, in the hope that it will convince companies to put their thinking caps on and innovate even-more efficient products.

Prospective buyers will also be able to scan a QR code on the label to get more information about the product; details about water consumption and even noise emission levels will be readily available.

The new label will come into force in March 2021, allowing manufacturers time to adapt to the change. Members of the European Parliament and national representatives still have two months in which to object, but it has already been hailed as a popular decision.

Estimates by consumer organisations show that eco-labels have huge untapped potential to save Europe billions in energy costs, simply by reducing energy consumption.

By 2030, the labels could translate into savings of €20 billion per year by cutting the EU’s energy demand by 5 per cent. In a world where every little helps, tweaking labels is starting to look like a genius move.

Socialist MEP Kathleen Van Brempt summed it up in terms that non-energy wonks can get interested in, often overlooked in the debate, by pointing out that the power savings after 2030 would be the same as the energy produced by 16 nuclear power plants.

Industry leaders have also welcomed the Commission’s changes, but cautiously suggested that the EU executive will have to make sure all the new information is communicated correctly.

Paolo Falcioni, head of Europe’s appliance association, said that the existing label has been doing its job for nearly three decades and warned that “a project meant to better inform consumers must not end up confusing them”.

The potential energy savings offered up by the labels will be relief for EU officials, given that it looks more than likely that the bloc will miss its 2020 energy efficiency target.

With just over half a year to go to hit a 20 per cent cuts goal, compared with projected energy use for the end of the decade, the Commission is expected to announce on Wednesday (3 April 2019) that the EU as a whole will fall short.

Cutting energy use by 20 per cent is the equivalent of switching off 400 power stations. Everything from building renovation to more efficient toasters has contributed towards trying to reach the target.

However, energy experts have warned that – for the previous 12 months – household consumption and spikes in energy use for heating and cooling have been the writing on the wall for the 2020 target. Small gains across the board have gradually added up, but simply cannot hold back the tide.

If the EU does miss the target as expected, it will already be on the back foot as efforts begin to try and hit a 32.5 per cent target for 2030. That target might even have to be revised upwards in the mid 2020s if overall climate targets are ratcheted up.

As one Commission official, who preferred to remain anonymous, explained, “The savings have to come from somewhere. If we want to do better on climate change, we have to do better on energy efficiency, not just roll out more electric cars and use less coal.”

High-speed internet in every US home by 2022, Klobuchar promises

March 29th, 2019 no comment

Klobuchar is one among a packed crowd of contenders for the Democratic candidate to take on President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. She has been pitched as a moderate liberal candidate with a pragmatic, proactive and well-informed approach to policymaking.

In a bid to stand out from other contenders and woo Americans, she has laid out her plans for an enormous infrastructure investment package. Her campaign has labelled the plan as a “concrete, commonsense” proposal, in comparison with Trump’s own proposals for a $1tn (£766bn) infrastructure investment. This cornerstone of his 2016 presidential campaign has not come to fruition and was described as a “mirage” and lacking in detail.

“Amy’s infrastructure plan will be her top budget priority and she will work to get it done during the first year of her presidency,” her campaign announced in a blog post.

Her proposals – which she hopes will help the country withstand some of the now-unavoidable effects of climate change – include repairing and replacing roads, highways and bridges; building flood protection; modernising airports and seaports; expanding public transport infrastructure; rebuilding schools; investing in a clean water system, and building “Climate Smart and Green infrastructure” to transform the economy into one which depends on clean energy, as opposed to oil.

Klobuchar has also said that she will work to ensure that every household is connected to the internet by 2022.

“Amy’s plan will help close the urban-rural divide by creating accurate broadband maps to identify areas that lack adequate access, focus on bringing high-speed internet infrastructure to areas most in need, and provide greater incentives for existing providers to use funds to upgrade their networks to cover unserved and underserved areas,” her campaign wrote. Klobuchar has also said that she will push for “dig once” policies, which will encourage ISPs to coordinate the rollout of internet infrastructure with the paving of federally funded roads.

“Broadband creates jobs, opens new economic opportunities and allows America to compete and succeed in an increasingly digital world.”

Broadband is the cornerstone of keeping rural America competitive in the 21st century and beyond. I will help close the urban-rural divide and connect every household to the internet by 2022.

— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) March 28, 2019

She proposes putting more than $650bn (£494bn) in federal funding for the ambitious project, as well as leveraging private funds at state-level, restoring the Obama administration’s ‘Build America Bonds’ as well as creating ‘Clean Energy’ bonds, and adjusting rates of corporate tax from 21 per cent to 25 per cent. She would also close corporate tax loopholes which encourage US companies to move operations abroad. The proposal to raise corporate tax to 25 per cent (still 10 per cent lower than before Trump’s tax overhaul) could be seen as another direct challenge to the White House.

Earlier in March, Klobuchar was one of a small bipartisan group of Senators introducing legislation which would require the Federal Communications Commission to seek feedback on how to improve the accuracy of its broadband coverage maps, which at present are drawn up using data from industry. This data has been criticised as erroneous.

Earlier this year, Elizabeth Warren – a fellow Democratic senator running for her party’s nomination – attracted support for her proposals to break up the world’s largest technology companies in order to allow real competition in the sector. Klobuchar has stated that she would investigate whether breaking up these companies was the right solution and proposed that profit made from users’ data should be heavily taxed.

Is China returning to coal-fired power?

March 28th, 2019 no comment

China might be U-turning back towards dirty ‘coal-fired power’. Results of a new study found that the country – which shows increasing signs of weakening economic growth – has restarted construction on more than 50 gigawatts (GW) of suspended coal-fired power plants. This represents the equivalent of the volume of the entire coal fleet of Africa and Middle East.

The study carried out by Global Energy Monitor, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, claims that China could add 290GW in new coal-fired plants – exceeding the 261GW capacity of the entire US coal-power fleet in 2018. The findings of the report collide with the country’s previous pledges to build a power supply that is increasingly reliant on renewable energies.

On multiple fronts – including in the form of an emissions trading scheme (ETS), a carbon market where emitters can buy and sell emission credits – China has fought to turn ‘greener’. It ran aggressive programmes to replace coal in heating and industry with electricity and gas – figures show a cut in coal’s share of its total energy mix to 59 per cent, down from 68.5 per cent in 2012.

But while China – posing together with India as the two biggest growers in coal capacity since 2005 – managed to reduce the number of new coal plant permits to a record lows, the new report states that global climate goals will not be met “without a full halt in new coal plants and a new retirement of operating coal plants”.


Is China willing to go on a coal diet

Image credit: E&T – Ben Heubl and CoalSwarm

In a report from 2018 CoalSwarm, a global network of researchers developing collaborative informational resources on fossil fuels and alternatives accuses Beijing of reluctance to cancel coal plant projects that are already under development. It argued that the country would re-activate or newly start coal power capacity worth 259GW.

According to the latest report, the 1300GW coal power capacity cap for 2030 proposed by the China Electricity Council would permit the expansion of the country’s coal plant fleet by an additional 290GW.

Boom and Bust 2019 is based on the latest figures from the January 2019 update and shows that 70GW are in pre-construction, 129GW in under construction, 33GW in suspended construction. Added to it are 59GW of pre-construction status which got suspended by name – 92GW total suspended capacity minus an added 33GW of suspended construction.


July 2018 Chinese coal plant pipeline

Image credit: E&T – Ben Heubl and Coalswarm

China would have “quietly resumed” construction in 2018 on dozens of previously shelved plants, making it a “glaring exception to the global decline”, according to the report. If the administration is to go forward with continuing on those plans, it could jeopardise its self-imposed cap of 1,100GW in operational capacity through 2020.

Ted Nace, executive director of Global Energy Monitor and co-author of both reports, thinks that central government’s efforts to rein in on over-permitting last year constitute a failure: “A policy that allows an additional 25 per cent in capacity growth on top of 1TW of power that is running at 50 per cent capacity, wastes hundreds of billions of dollars”.

Last year’s July figures from the Global Coal Plant Tracker (GCPT) database suggested that the central government failed to cover 51GW in planned capacity by restrictions. Another 151GW moved forward in the pipeline despite restrictions, due to loopholes, rule-flouting or individual exemptions, while another 57GW was found frozen in mid-construction by postponement orders – but were expected to be completed eventually.

“From the start, Chinese central authorities’ restrictions have been riddled with loopholes and half-hearted measures. One example is the multiple loopholes in the traffic light system. Another is the orders that merely served to delay start-up rather than cancelling projects”, Nace said.

Though below its 2015 level, China’s domestic coal power capacity under construction was found to have increased 12 per cent in 2018. The report also found that overall coal-fired generation has increased in the country, especially from new ‘coal bases’ in the northwest, even though China has vowed to cap consumption nationally and to make cuts in regions like Beijing, Hebei and Henan.

Reasons behind today’s coal plant construction pipeline

There are signs that a burst of approvals for coal-fired power plants is now endangering China’s ability to meet its emission caps designed to staunch rising global temperatures. CoalSwarm data shows a record spike in coal-fired power plant approvals between late 2014 and early 2016, as the central government transferred authority for new investments to provinces grappling with steeply dropping prices for coal.

Despite cancelling many of those projects after 2016, some of those plants became part of the capacity overhang that threatens China’s targets for reducing coal-fired power generation to rein in emission rates.


National spike in approvals

Image credit: E&T – Ben Heubl and CoalSwarm

A measure supposed to aid provinces to make investment decisions that better aligned their local power demand with supply – with the central government limiting its role to creating total capacity limits and policy guidelines – has instead resulted in an unprecedented three-fold increase in permits handed out between 2014 and 2016 – from an average of 5GW per month in 2013-2014 to 15GW a month in 2015, as local authorities raced to approve projects they believed would stimulate local growth. Next to the permitting spree came favourable guaranteed tariffs and easy access to cheap credit. The spike was most noticeable in Shanxi, Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang – three regions in China that are among the most heavily dependent on coal mining for provincial output.


Three provinces were number of permissions spiked

Image credit: E&T – Ben Heubl and CoalSwarm

Provincial authorities approved the additional construction amid a commodity-driven slump across northern China which left a line-up of coal-fired generation projects that, if they are all completed, could drive China’s coal capacity up 26 per cent (a daring endeavour as the country has already been under 50 per cent load factor in recent years).

Nace adds that what differentiates the various provinces in their coal pipeline today is how they reacted during the brief period of late 2014 to early 2016, when they had the power to grant permits themselves, as opposed to the federal government. “Everything since has been the central government’s attempt to undo damage”, he concedes.

Despite cancelling constructions, data from the GCPT database points towards large disparities among provinces for projects that were put on hold – for which construction had already started – and which are expected to resume by 2021 or earlier instead of being discontinued. While Inner Mongolia was forced to let go of 65.2GW of coal power capacity between 2010 and 2018 and presently shelves 4.7GW, China’s largest coal-producing province, Shanxi, cancelled only 24.8GW but left 15.6GW to be postponed, far above the provincial average of 2GW.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects coal in China’s energy mix to grow less important under a “new policy scenario”.

A rise of electricity and of renewables are closely interlined as diversification could ramp up if regulations are put in place, allowing the share of coal in total generation to reduce from two-thirds today to less than 40 per cent in 2040.

Despite estimates by an IEA report that in 2023 the country will have more than 40 per cent of the word’s solar power capacity, China’s coal-fired power generation is projected to vastly exceed the demands by IEA in the longer run, which requires China to close all its power plants that do not have carbon capture and storage facilities within 30 years  for the world to limit warming to below 1.75C above pre-industrial conditions.

Nace explained to E&T that with the new proposal by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), it would potentially raise capacity in China to 1,300GW over the next decade. “This is the voice of the coal power industry, which obviously will resist the rapid shift toward renewables that needs to happen”. What does this mean in the greater picture of the world’s climate?

Figures from Nace’s team indicate that new capacity in China’s pipeline is out of line with the Paris agreement, undermining global climate goals. To be successful in limiting temperature increases of 1.75°C, China would need to close all coal plants by 2045 and cease generating power from those plants, according to IEA’s 2°C Scenario.

China still has an opportunity to phase out its coal capacity by 2045. But it would demand sacrifices: a cut of an average of 40GW operational capacity per year, or around 4 per cent of the fleet annually, from 2020-2045, the building an equivalent amount of replacement power and the need to retire coal power plants early. As for building replacement power at a fast enough rate to reach climate goals, it is certainly doable, thinks Nace.

In 2016, global solar PV capacity grew at a 50 per cent, and China added almost half of the global new solar PV capacity of 74GW, supported by low auction prices for PV, while wind capacity grew steeply. With prices for alternative cleaner sources of energy expected to drop further, renewables are expected to accelerate over the next two decades.

Other factors may aid in keeping coal low in China’s energy mix. The State Development and Investment Corporation, a central government-run investment group with significant holdings in the power sector, announced earlier this year that it would no longer fund coal projects. But one centric problem remains: despite a slowing trend of newly entered projects into the pre-construction pipeline, the government shows little appetite to cancel plants that have already entered the construction phase. Whether this is due to promises made to investors and commitment by Beijing and local authorities or actual demand for coal power, appears enigmatic.

In an interview with Ben Heubl (now investigative journalist at E&T) conducted in October of last year, Simon Powell, head of Asian utilities research at UBS said that even if Beijing wanted to, it remains difficult for the government to simply stop all these projects. Partly due to the deep involvement of local authorities, but also due to a promise to provide residential heating via coal power for cities north of the Yellow River, he said.

However, Reuters has quoted sources stating that the central bank is about to release new guidelines that will prevent ‘clean coal’ projects, including low-emission coal-fired power plants, from issuing ‘green bonds’.


Analysis shelved vs cancelled coal plant projects in regions

Image credit: E&T – Ben Heubl and CoalSwarm

In July last year, China State Council announced it would pledge to continue the fight against pollution. According to Powell, the country would appear much better off than before. Some government measures did work and there are opportunities that could bring relief to the current coal pipeline: “Two years ago it was looking far worse. They [central government] have scaled back on the new build. I think the breakage of the logjam on the nuclear side will provide some relief because there will be an upsurge in nuclear construction”.

China is expected to soon be ready to start commercial operations of the world’s first next generation AP1000 nuclear reactor.

Another point that would give Powell confidence is that the government appears willing to force its wind farms to live without subsidies. Despite being criticised for being too timid by MIT Technology Review, the creation of the world’s largest carbon market is expected soon and would offer additional reassurance.

Dongjie Zhang, power analyst at IHS Markit in Beijing who also spoke with Heubl, remains sceptical whether CoalSwarm’s tallied figure is really what will end up being installed. Recent reactions with counter-measures by the government appear weighty. He thinks estimates are too high and China will be able to meet its 2020 cap: “We did a very rough calculation even before the Chinese government cancelled or delayed some of the projects in the pipeline. Now, the total number will be nowhere near this [259GW]”. With more alternative energy appearing on grid, coal will remain as the government’s choice to stabilise power demand peaks, he adds.

A report by Cnenergy.org from last August states that the country’s energy demands increased slightly in 2018 compared with last year. The report estimates that by the end of the year, China’s total capacity will reach 1900GW, of which 1020GW will be generated by coal power.

Despite still financing more than a quarter of the new coal-fired plants abroad – with a slowing economy – China could soon find itself needing to weigh again the conflict between its domestic needs and its international targets.

No small potatoes: Digital Jersey’s big data ambitions

March 28th, 2019 no comment

If someone were to ask you to name ‘the most connected place on earth’, you might think of San Francisco, Singapore, South Korea or Sweden – places well-known for their superfast broadband speeds. You might not think of Jersey, the small island English Crown dependency that sits just off the coast of Normandy, France, 85 miles from the UK.

That claim to be ‘the most connected place on earth’ stems from the fact that every single broadband connection on the island of Jersey is gigabit fibre broadband, with a guaranteed download speed of 250 megabits per second. This makes Jersey the 10th fastest cable broadband location in the world, beating the UK, USA and Japan.

E&T has come to Jersey to meet Tony Moretta, CEO of Digital Jersey, to hear more about the positioning of the real-world island of Jersey as a digital-twin data source for outside companies to use in order to develop, test and launch cutting-edge IoT and 5G technology.

Whilst perhaps more commonly known for such diverse specialisms as financial services, Jersey Royal potatoes and sandy-beach family holidays where everyone reassuringly still speaks English, Jersey is quietly becoming a compelling territory in which to conduct digital business. These days, it is fintech, the IoT and digital-twin data technologies that suggest one path for Jersey’s future.

Digital Jersey is the island’s government-backed economic development agency and industry association dedicated to the growth of the digital sector on the island. As its website declares, the aim is to “upskill the island’s workforce, create new digital jobs, help companies to increase their productivity and develop strategies to make Jersey a world-leading base for digital innovation”.

Meanwhile, Sandbox Jersey is Digital Jersey’s testbed proposition, offering external companies an opportunity to develop, test and launch new technology products, without the high costs and complex legal, government and regulatory barriers that often present themselves in other cities or markets.

Digital Jersey is positioning itself, and the real-world island, as the ideal location to carry out on-island testing which can then be easily scaled up to meet the needs of a much larger territory. Pursuant to this end, Digital Jersey is busy creating a physical, economic and social ‘digital twin’ of the island, enabling public and private entities to combine data from myriad sources for better scenario planning and more informed decision making. There’s also an element of future-proofing, gathering key data today for the data-intensive businesses of tomorrow.

“[Jersey] is a nice-size train set,” says Moretta, “because Jersey is to all intents and purposes an independent country. The only reason it’s not classed as a nation state is because we share the same head of state in the Queen, but I think the only thing that Jersey relies on the UK for is defence. Everything else – the health service, education, everything – it’s all independent. We have our own Parliament, our own legal system, our own regulation – everything. You’ve got all the components of a much larger country, but in 45 square miles.”

Those key components include one electricity company, one water company, an international airport and a passenger and cargo port. Organisations using Jersey as a testbed can therefore benefit from full critical infrastructure on a micro scale.

“One of the advantages of that is Jersey Telecom is still owned by the government. When they said to the government, ‘We’re going to do fibre, we can do it to the [street] cabinet and this is what it’s going to cost’,” they supported that Moretta explains.

“The fibre rollout finished spring/summer [2018]. They’ve been doing it over five years, because although Jersey is a small place, most of it is countryside, so it’s quite complicated. Apparently, they started in the outlying areas first so they could get the hang of it.”

Even Jersey’s famous Elizabeth Castle, situated several hundred metres out in the sea, has a fibre broadband connection, laid underneath the paved causeway while the tide was out. “The only FTTC you have on Jersey is Fibre To The Castle”, jokes Moretta, referring to Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC). In fact, both castles on Jersey have gigabit fibre.

“We’ve also got three completely separate 4G networks here,” Moretta continues. “I did a speed test the other day and I got 126Mb on 4G in St Helier. Partly that’s capacity because we’ve got three networks with only so many people. We’ve also got three IoT networks here as well, island-wide LoRaWAN network [LoRaWAN being a network layer protocol for managing communication between LPWAN – Low-Power Wide Access Network – gateways and end-node devices as a routing protocol], we’ve got an MBIT network and we had Sony here testing a proprietary IoT network that they’ve been developing. Jersey was the only place they’ve tested it outside of Japan, because again it’s a bit easier to do it a bit off the grid and working with a friendly telco.”

A friendly telco is just one of Jersey’s charms for companies looking to test new digital technologies. The government set up separate companies for the island’s utilities, but still owns them all, “so the degree of cooperation you can get when you’ve got Jersey Electricity, Jersey Water, Jersey Telecom, Ports of Jersey all feeling like they’re owned by the same organisation can be quite useful”.

It is this close cooperation that enables the Sandbox Jersey concept, wherein Digital Jersey as an organisation is pitching the island as a real-world testbed. Moretta explains: “The reason we did the Sandbox Jersey thing is that we’ve always thought Jersey is a great place to test things, because apart from the technology platform, it is a walled garden surrounded by the sea. 100,000 people is a good size. You try and do things in cities in the UK and you’ve got people coming in and out from all over the place. I remember doing technology trials in Swindon and places like that and they’re not that self-contained. I’ve actually done technology projects in university campuses because they’re great places, you can control the infrastructure, you can control the population of people using it, it’s a closed environment. Jersey is like a giant campus in that sense.”

Digital Jersey’s core remit is to both diversify the island’s economy – “which is obviously quite reliant on finance, as well as tourism and agriculture” – and also to create a more digital economy. The key questions are how to get other parts of the economy using technology more widely and how to create a more digital society.

“Lots of people talk about smart cities and smart islands, but there’s no consistent way of saying ‘What is that?’ Are we already smart because we’ve got fibre? Are we smart because we’ve got 4G? Everyone’s talking about it. It’s almost become a devalued term. You go around exhibitions and it’s smart everything,” Moretta says.

“It’s also about how companies can come over, they can help us fix problems we have here. We got government funding for what we originally called the Jersey Data Platform. When we talked to a lot of people who’d done future cities projects, what they normally complain about is the time it takes to negotiate with all the different owners of data because they’re all private sector companies. Here [on Jersey], they’re all mostly government-owned, so you get that cooperation.

“Originally, we thought, well here’s something where we can put all the data into and as well as people coming to play with the physical space, we can also give them the data to play with as well on the data platform. That’s the bit that’s evolved into the digital twin. Effectively, you’re talking about a Jersey simulator and that’s where you keep the data.”

As Moretta notes, the data-gathering and analysis process can be a win-win, two-way street for both the companies doing the testing and for Jersey itself. For every new sensor experiment, Jersey gets valuable data that can be used with its digital twin to plan real-world improvements to island life.

“It’s not just about having the data sitting there,” he says. “It’s about saying, OK, maybe I want to test an air-quality sensor, so I’ll put some up, but I also want to see what’s causing the differences. If I can see the data from Ports of Jersey to show, on this day, how many visitors have we got coming into Jersey, is that a particularly high number of visitors, higher traffic on the roads?

“Jersey has got its own Met Office, so I can get the weather data to see what the weather was like in Jersey. If I can get the traffic data from government, to say, OK, that air quality, what’s generating it? You might have your own network of sensors, you might be testing something, but actually having a digital twin to operate in makes it a lot more useful as a test bed. It helps the company and it also helps Jersey.”

As an example, Moretta recalls a visit from the IBM Watson team, which collected all the road traffic accident data for analysis, in order to determine the optimum routes around the island for the police and ambulance services, depending on the time of day and the day of the week. On a small island with limited road infrastructure, such insights are solid gold.

Other projects that Digital Jersey has initiated include updating the air-quality sensors, as the old government-installed ones weren’t online – “somebody had to turn up, plug something in and get the data out, it wasn’t real-time” – and working with Jersey Water and Honeywell to install battery powered sensors on water pipes in order to track flow data on pipes and leakages. Further projects like these are in the offing, to give a more holistic overview of the island’s activity.

“One of the interesting things in Jersey that we’re starting to look at is the interconnection between things. Like, there’s a lot of agriculture here: Jersey Royal potatoes are obviously very famous and they put a lot of nitrates into the soil for that,” says Moretta.

“Now Jersey Water wants to know if there’s any danger of the nitrates getting into the water supply, because we have the reservoirs and they’re all close. So we’re talking about putting those sensors in not only for the soil to give us readings, but also combining that with the water quality sensors, as a sort of early warning system so that Jersey Water knows when companies are going to be spraying nearby. You start to see the beginnings of something, if things are connected up.”

Looking ahead, Digital Jersey’s ambition is to help upskill the island’s workforce to compete in a digital world, as well as attract digital-native companies and start-ups to the island.

“We have [in St Helier] the Digital Jersey Hub, which is a combination of event space, collaborative workspace, a bit like a small version of a WeWork,” Moretta says. “We’ve got 26 permanent desks for startups, meeting rooms, things like that, and we’re expanding, doubling that in size. We do a lot of courses, so we’re building a digital skills academy here.

“Actually, one of the things we got government funding for is a dedicated IoT lab. Over on the west of the island, there’s a Jersey Telecom exchange and of course the thing about exchanges is that the buildings stay the same size, but the kit keeps shrinking into the corner. So we’re converting most of one of these exchanges. That will be a dedicated IoT research lab, so it will have workshops for testing and building sensors, it will have some permanent desks for startups, work areas, a presentation suite with a video wall.”

Given the immutable geographic fact that Jersey is physically closer to France than it is to the UK, it comes as no surprise when Moretta explains that “as well as reaching out to the UK, we’re talking to France as well. A lot of French companies are interested in the UK market. Jersey is a good way of testing things before entering the UK’s big market.”

Uniquely positioned, then, in so many ways, Digital Jersey is effectively making the whole island available to anyone with digital ambition.

“Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is grow the number of jobs in Jersey in the digital sector. If we can create a more digital society and a digital economy – so you’ve got agriculture, tourism, finance, all better users of technology – that’s better for the economy.”

No small potatoes: Digital Jersey’s big data ambitions

March 28th, 2019 no comment

If someone were to ask you to name ‘the most connected place on earth’, you might think of San Francisco, Singapore, South Korea or Sweden – places well-known for their superfast broadband speeds. You might not think of Jersey, the small island English Crown dependency that sits just off the coast of Normandy, France, 85 miles from the UK.

That claim to be ‘the most connected place on earth’ stems from the fact that every single broadband connection on the island of Jersey is gigabit fibre broadband, with a guaranteed download speed of 250 megabits per second. This makes Jersey the 10th fastest cable broadband location in the world, beating the UK, USA and Japan.

E&T has come to Jersey to meet Tony Moretta, CEO of Digital Jersey, to hear more about the positioning of the real-world island of Jersey as a digital-twin data source for outside companies to use in order to develop, test and launch cutting-edge IoT and 5G technology.

Whilst perhaps more commonly known for such diverse specialisms as financial services, Jersey Royal potatoes and sandy-beach family holidays where everyone reassuringly still speaks English, Jersey is quietly becoming a compelling territory in which to conduct digital business. These days, it is fintech, the IoT and digital-twin data technologies that suggest one path for Jersey’s future.

Digital Jersey is the island’s government-backed economic development agency and industry association dedicated to the growth of the digital sector on the island. As its website declares, the aim is to “upskill the island’s workforce, create new digital jobs, help companies to increase their productivity and develop strategies to make Jersey a world-leading base for digital innovation”.

Meanwhile, Sandbox Jersey is Digital Jersey’s testbed proposition, offering external companies an opportunity to develop, test and launch new technology products, without the high costs and complex legal, government and regulatory barriers that often present themselves in other cities or markets.

Digital Jersey is positioning itself, and the real-world island, as the ideal location to carry out on-island testing which can then be easily scaled up to meet the needs of a much larger territory. Pursuant to this end, Digital Jersey is busy creating a physical, economic and social ‘digital twin’ of the island, enabling public and private entities to combine data from myriad sources for better scenario planning and more informed decision making. There’s also an element of future-proofing, gathering key data today for the data-intensive businesses of tomorrow.

“[Jersey] is a nice-size train set,” says Moretta, “because Jersey is to all intents and purposes an independent country. The only reason it’s not classed as a nation state is because we share the same head of state in the Queen, but I think the only thing that Jersey relies on the UK for is defence. Everything else – the health service, education, everything – it’s all independent. We have our own Parliament, our own legal system, our own regulation – everything. You’ve got all the components of a much larger country, but in 45 square miles.”

Those key components include one electricity company, one water company, an international airport and a passenger and cargo port. Organisations using Jersey as a testbed can therefore benefit from full critical infrastructure on a micro scale.

“One of the advantages of that is Jersey Telecom is still owned by the government. When they said to the government, ‘We’re going to do fibre, we can do it to the [street] cabinet and this is what it’s going to cost’,” they supported that Moretta explains.

“The fibre rollout finished spring/summer [2018]. They’ve been doing it over five years, because although Jersey is a small place, most of it is countryside, so it’s quite complicated. Apparently, they started in the outlying areas first so they could get the hang of it.”

Even Jersey’s famous Elizabeth Castle, situated several hundred metres out in the sea, has a fibre broadband connection, laid underneath the paved causeway while the tide was out. “The only FTTC you have on Jersey is Fibre To The Castle”, jokes Moretta, referring to Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC). In fact, both castles on Jersey have gigabit fibre.

“We’ve also got three completely separate 4G networks here,” Moretta continues. “I did a speed test the other day and I got 126Mb on 4G in St Helier. Partly that’s capacity because we’ve got three networks with only so many people. We’ve also got three IoT networks here as well, island-wide LoRaWAN network [LoRaWAN being a network layer protocol for managing communication between LPWAN – Low-Power Wide Access Network – gateways and end-node devices as a routing protocol], we’ve got an MBIT network and we had Sony here testing a proprietary IoT network that they’ve been developing. Jersey was the only place they’ve tested it outside of Japan, because again it’s a bit easier to do it a bit off the grid and working with a friendly telco.”

A friendly telco is just one of Jersey’s charms for companies looking to test new digital technologies. The government set up separate companies for the island’s utilities, but still owns them all, “so the degree of cooperation you can get when you’ve got Jersey Electricity, Jersey Water, Jersey Telecom, Ports of Jersey all feeling like they’re owned by the same organisation can be quite useful”.

It is this close cooperation that enables the Sandbox Jersey concept, wherein Digital Jersey as an organisation is pitching the island as a real-world testbed. Moretta explains: “The reason we did the Sandbox Jersey thing is that we’ve always thought Jersey is a great place to test things, because apart from the technology platform, it is a walled garden surrounded by the sea. 100,000 people is a good size. You try and do things in cities in the UK and you’ve got people coming in and out from all over the place. I remember doing technology trials in Swindon and places like that and they’re not that self-contained. I’ve actually done technology projects in university campuses because they’re great places, you can control the infrastructure, you can control the population of people using it, it’s a closed environment. Jersey is like a giant campus in that sense.”


Jersey in the sunshine

Image credit: PR

Digital Jersey’s core remit is to both diversify the island’s economy – “which is obviously quite reliant on finance, as well as tourism and agriculture” – and also to create a more digital economy. The key questions are how to get other parts of the economy using technology more widely and how to create a more digital society.

“Lots of people talk about smart cities and smart islands, but there’s no consistent way of saying ‘What is that?’ Are we already smart because we’ve got fibre? Are we smart because we’ve got 4G? Everyone’s talking about it. It’s almost become a devalued term. You go around exhibitions and it’s smart everything,” Moretta says.

“It’s also about how companies can come over, they can help us fix problems we have here. We got government funding for what we originally called the Jersey Data Platform. When we talked to a lot of people who’d done future cities projects, what they normally complain about is the time it takes to negotiate with all the different owners of data because they’re all private sector companies. Here [on Jersey], they’re all mostly government-owned, so you get that cooperation.

“Originally, we thought, well here’s something where we can put all the data into and as well as people coming to play with the physical space, we can also give them the data to play with as well on the data platform. That’s the bit that’s evolved into the digital twin. Effectively, you’re talking about a Jersey simulator and that’s where you keep the data.”

As Moretta notes, the data-gathering and analysis process can be a win-win, two-way street for both the companies doing the testing and for Jersey itself. For every new sensor experiment, Jersey gets valuable data that can be used with its digital twin to plan real-world improvements to island life.

“It’s not just about having the data sitting there,” he says. “It’s about saying, OK, maybe I want to test an air-quality sensor, so I’ll put some up, but I also want to see what’s causing the differences. If I can see the data from Ports of Jersey to show, on this day, how many visitors have we got coming into Jersey, is that a particularly high number of visitors, higher traffic on the roads?

“Jersey has got its own Met Office, so I can get the weather data to see what the weather was like in Jersey. If I can get the traffic data from government, to say, OK, that air quality, what’s generating it? You might have your own network of sensors, you might be testing something, but actually having a digital twin to operate in makes it a lot more useful as a test bed. It helps the company and it also helps Jersey.”

As an example, Moretta recalls a visit from the IBM Watson team, which collected all the road traffic accident data for analysis, in order to determine the optimum routes around the island for the police and ambulance services, depending on the time of day and the day of the week. On a small island with limited road infrastructure, such insights are solid gold.

Other projects that Digital Jersey has initiated include updating the air-quality sensors, as the old government-installed ones weren’t online – “somebody had to turn up, plug something in and get the data out, it wasn’t real-time” – and working with Jersey Water and Honeywell to install battery powered sensors on water pipes in order to track flow data on pipes and leakages. Further projects like these are in the offing, to give a more holistic overview of the island’s activity.

“One of the interesting things in Jersey that we’re starting to look at is the interconnection between things. Like, there’s a lot of agriculture here: Jersey Royal potatoes are obviously very famous and they put a lot of nitrates into the soil for that,” says Moretta.

“Now Jersey Water wants to know if there’s any danger of the nitrates getting into the water supply, because we have the reservoirs and they’re all close. So we’re talking about putting those sensors in not only for the soil to give us readings, but also combining that with the water quality sensors, as a sort of early warning system so that Jersey Water knows when companies are going to be spraying nearby. You start to see the beginnings of something, if things are connected up.”

Looking ahead, Digital Jersey’s ambition is to help upskill the island’s workforce to compete in a digital world, as well as attract digital-native companies and start-ups to the island.

“We have [in St Helier] the Digital Jersey Hub, which is a combination of event space, collaborative workspace, a bit like a small version of a WeWork,” Moretta says. “We’ve got 26 permanent desks for startups, meeting rooms, things like that, and we’re expanding, doubling that in size. We do a lot of courses, so we’re building a digital skills academy here.

“Actually, one of the things we got government funding for is a dedicated IoT lab. Over on the west of the island, there’s a Jersey Telecom exchange and of course the thing about exchanges is that the buildings stay the same size, but the kit keeps shrinking into the corner. So we’re converting most of one of these exchanges. That will be a dedicated IoT research lab, so it will have workshops for testing and building sensors, it will have some permanent desks for startups, work areas, a presentation suite with a video wall.”

Given the immutable geographic fact that Jersey is physically closer to France than it is to the UK, it comes as no surprise when Moretta explains that “as well as reaching out to the UK, we’re talking to France as well. A lot of French companies are interested in the UK market. Jersey is a good way of testing things before entering the UK’s big market.”

Uniquely positioned, then, in so many ways, Digital Jersey is effectively making the whole island available to anyone with digital ambition.

“Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is grow the number of jobs in Jersey in the digital sector. If we can create a more digital society and a digital economy – so you’ve got agriculture, tourism, finance, all better users of technology – that’s better for the economy.”

No small potatoes: Digital Jersey’s big data ambitions

March 28th, 2019 no comment

If someone were to ask you to name ‘the most connected place on earth’, you might think of San Francisco, Singapore, South Korea or Sweden – places well-known for their superfast broadband speeds. You might not think of Jersey, the small island English Crown dependency that sits just off the coast of Normandy, France, 85 miles from the UK.

That claim to be ‘the most connected place on earth’ stems from the fact that every single broadband connection on the island of Jersey is gigabit fibre broadband, with a guaranteed download speed of 250 megabits per second. This makes Jersey the 10th fastest cable broadband location in the world, beating the UK, USA and Japan.

E&T has come to Jersey to meet Tony Moretta, CEO of Digital Jersey, to hear more about the positioning of the real-world island of Jersey as a digital-twin data source for outside companies to use in order to develop, test and launch cutting-edge IoT and 5G technology.

Whilst perhaps more commonly known for such diverse specialisms as financial services, Jersey Royal potatoes and sandy-beach family holidays where everyone reassuringly still speaks English, Jersey is quietly becoming a compelling territory in which to conduct digital business. These days, it is fintech, the IoT and digital-twin data technologies that suggest one path for Jersey’s future.

Digital Jersey is the island’s government-backed economic development agency and industry association dedicated to the growth of the digital sector on the island. As its website declares, the aim is to “upskill the island’s workforce, create new digital jobs, help companies to increase their productivity and develop strategies to make Jersey a world-leading base for digital innovation”.

Meanwhile, Sandbox Jersey is Digital Jersey’s testbed proposition, offering external companies an opportunity to develop, test and launch new technology products, without the high costs and complex legal, government and regulatory barriers that often present themselves in other cities or markets.

Digital Jersey is positioning itself, and the real-world island, as the ideal location to carry out on-island testing which can then be easily scaled up to meet the needs of a much larger territory. Pursuant to this end, Digital Jersey is busy creating a physical, economic and social ‘digital twin’ of the island, enabling public and private entities to combine data from myriad sources for better scenario planning and more informed decision making. There’s also an element of future-proofing, gathering key data today for the data-intensive businesses of tomorrow.

“[Jersey] is a nice-size train set,” says Moretta, “because Jersey is to all intents and purposes an independent country. The only reason it’s not classed as a nation state is because we share the same head of state in the Queen, but I think the only thing that Jersey relies on the UK for is defence. Everything else – the health service, education, everything – it’s all independent. We have our own Parliament, our own legal system, our own regulation – everything. You’ve got all the components of a much larger country, but in 45 square miles.”

Those key components include one electricity company, one water company, an international airport and a passenger and cargo port. Organisations using Jersey as a testbed can therefore benefit from full critical infrastructure on a micro scale.

“One of the advantages of that is Jersey Telecom is still owned by the government. When they said to the government, ‘We’re going to do fibre, we can do it to the [street] cabinet and this is what it’s going to cost’,” they supported that Moretta explains.

“The fibre rollout finished spring/summer [2018]. They’ve been doing it over five years, because although Jersey is a small place, most of it is countryside, so it’s quite complicated. Apparently, they started in the outlying areas first so they could get the hang of it.”

Even Jersey’s famous Elizabeth Castle, situated several hundred metres out in the sea, has a fibre broadband connection, laid underneath the paved causeway while the tide was out. “The only FTTC you have on Jersey is Fibre To The Castle”, jokes Moretta, referring to Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC). In fact, both castles on Jersey have gigabit fibre.

“We’ve also got three completely separate 4G networks here,” Moretta continues. “I did a speed test the other day and I got 126Mb on 4G in St Helier. Partly that’s capacity because we’ve got three networks with only so many people. We’ve also got three IoT networks here as well, island-wide LoRaWAN network [LoRaWAN being a network layer protocol for managing communication between LPWAN – Low-Power Wide Access Network – gateways and end-node devices as a routing protocol], we’ve got an MBIT network and we had Sony here testing a proprietary IoT network that they’ve been developing. Jersey was the only place they’ve tested it outside of Japan, because again it’s a bit easier to do it a bit off the grid and working with a friendly telco.”

A friendly telco is just one of Jersey’s charms for companies looking to test new digital technologies. The government set up separate companies for the island’s utilities, but still owns them all, “so the degree of cooperation you can get when you’ve got Jersey Electricity, Jersey Water, Jersey Telecom, Ports of Jersey all feeling like they’re owned by the same organisation can be quite useful”.

It is this close cooperation that enables the Sandbox Jersey concept, wherein Digital Jersey as an organisation is pitching the island as a real-world testbed. Moretta explains: “The reason we did the Sandbox Jersey thing is that we’ve always thought Jersey is a great place to test things, because apart from the technology platform, it is a walled garden surrounded by the sea. 100,000 people is a good size. You try and do things in cities in the UK and you’ve got people coming in and out from all over the place. I remember doing technology trials in Swindon and places like that and they’re not that self-contained. I’ve actually done technology projects in university campuses because they’re great places, you can control the infrastructure, you can control the population of people using it, it’s a closed environment. Jersey is like a giant campus in that sense.”


Jersey in the sunshine

Image credit: PR

Digital Jersey’s core remit is to both diversify the island’s economy – “which is obviously quite reliant on finance, as well as tourism and agriculture” – and also to create a more digital economy. The key questions are how to get other parts of the economy using technology more widely and how to create a more digital society.

“Lots of people talk about smart cities and smart islands, but there’s no consistent way of saying ‘What is that?’ Are we already smart because we’ve got fibre? Are we smart because we’ve got 4G? Everyone’s talking about it. It’s almost become a devalued term. You go around exhibitions and it’s smart everything,” Moretta says.

“It’s also about how companies can come over, they can help us fix problems we have here. We got government funding for what we originally called the Jersey Data Platform. When we talked to a lot of people who’d done future cities projects, what they normally complain about is the time it takes to negotiate with all the different owners of data because they’re all private sector companies. Here [on Jersey], they’re all mostly government-owned, so you get that cooperation.

“Originally, we thought, well here’s something where we can put all the data into and as well as people coming to play with the physical space, we can also give them the data to play with as well on the data platform. That’s the bit that’s evolved into the digital twin. Effectively, you’re talking about a Jersey simulator and that’s where you keep the data.”

As Moretta notes, the data-gathering and analysis process can be a win-win, two-way street for both the companies doing the testing and for Jersey itself. For every new sensor experiment, Jersey gets valuable data that can be used with its digital twin to plan real-world improvements to island life.

“It’s not just about having the data sitting there,” he says. “It’s about saying, OK, maybe I want to test an air-quality sensor, so I’ll put some up, but I also want to see what’s causing the differences. If I can see the data from Ports of Jersey to show, on this day, how many visitors have we got coming into Jersey, is that a particularly high number of visitors, higher traffic on the roads?

“Jersey has got its own Met Office, so I can get the weather data to see what the weather was like in Jersey. If I can get the traffic data from government, to say, OK, that air quality, what’s generating it? You might have your own network of sensors, you might be testing something, but actually having a digital twin to operate in makes it a lot more useful as a test bed. It helps the company and it also helps Jersey.”

As an example, Moretta recalls a visit from the IBM Watson team, which collected all the road traffic accident data for analysis, in order to determine the optimum routes around the island for the police and ambulance services, depending on the time of day and the day of the week. On a small island with limited road infrastructure, such insights are solid gold.

Other projects that Digital Jersey has initiated include updating the air-quality sensors, as the old government-installed ones weren’t online – “somebody had to turn up, plug something in and get the data out, it wasn’t real-time” – and working with Jersey Water and Honeywell to install battery powered sensors on water pipes in order to track flow data on pipes and leakages. Further projects like these are in the offing, to give a more holistic overview of the island’s activity.

“One of the interesting things in Jersey that we’re starting to look at is the interconnection between things. Like, there’s a lot of agriculture here: Jersey Royal potatoes are obviously very famous and they put a lot of nitrates into the soil for that,” says Moretta.

“Now Jersey Water wants to know if there’s any danger of the nitrates getting into the water supply, because we have the reservoirs and they’re all close. So we’re talking about putting those sensors in not only for the soil to give us readings, but also combining that with the water quality sensors, as a sort of early warning system so that Jersey Water knows when companies are going to be spraying nearby. You start to see the beginnings of something, if things are connected up.”

Looking ahead, Digital Jersey’s ambition is to help upskill the island’s workforce to compete in a digital world, as well as attract digital-native companies and start-ups to the island.

“We have [in St Helier] the Digital Jersey Hub, which is a combination of event space, collaborative workspace, a bit like a small version of a WeWork,” Moretta says. “We’ve got 26 permanent desks for startups, meeting rooms, things like that, and we’re expanding, doubling that in size. We do a lot of courses, so we’re building a digital skills academy here.

“Actually, one of the things we got government funding for is a dedicated IoT lab. Over on the west of the island, there’s a Jersey Telecom exchange and of course the thing about exchanges is that the buildings stay the same size, but the kit keeps shrinking into the corner. So we’re converting most of one of these exchanges. That will be a dedicated IoT research lab, so it will have workshops for testing and building sensors, it will have some permanent desks for startups, work areas, a presentation suite with a video wall.”

Given the immutable geographic fact that Jersey is physically closer to France than it is to the UK, it comes as no surprise when Moretta explains that “as well as reaching out to the UK, we’re talking to France as well. A lot of French companies are interested in the UK market. Jersey is a good way of testing things before entering the UK’s big market.”

Uniquely positioned, then, in so many ways, Digital Jersey is effectively making the whole island available to anyone with digital ambition.

“Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is grow the number of jobs in Jersey in the digital sector. If we can create a more digital society and a digital economy – so you’ve got agriculture, tourism, finance, all better users of technology – that’s better for the economy.”

Protecting driverless car data from signal-jamming hackers

March 27th, 2019 no comment

Driverless vehicles are designed to collect the same kinds of information that a human driver might, such as traffic lights and the behaviour of other cars, in addition to relying on communications from mobile networks and GPS.

However, ‘adversarial’ signals could jeopardise their operation – a problem that needs to be remedied before autonomous technologies become mainstream.

“The ability to transmit data from a source to a destination reliably in the presence of adversarial intervention, such as jamming, is of paramount importance and concern,” said professor Tamer Başar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, lead author on the study.

“The prototype introduced in the paper captures scenarios that arise in many application areas, such as remote sensing systems, networked control systems and cyber-physical systems.”

For example, a sensor may collect information over a period of time and transmit the data to a decision centre that must work to accurately process the original data.

The data can become corrupted as it must be encoded prior to the decision centre and decoded afterwards. Time constraints and limited energy resources further complicate matters: a jammer can stop everything by literally jamming the system with a gluttony of noise.

“The sensor, the encoder and the decoder act in unison, toward a common goal, whereas a jammer operates in a way to counteract the actions of the first three,” Başar said.

The researchers grouped the three pieces together, comprising one actor in the system, working to counter the actions of the jammer. By having all three pieces work as one, they simultaneously announce their policies regarding information.

When the sensor, encoder and decoder work together, they commit to their next actions together. They don’t block the jammer entirely, but the jammer doesn’t have the opportunity to interrupt the work and cause a substantial error as the actors communicate back and forth.

Called a ‘Stackelberg feedback solution’, this hierarchal manoeuvre allows the system to commit to processing information based on a set of pre-computable thresholds, which depends on time and the number of transmission opportunities left. The jammer is left out of consideration as the sensor, encoder and decoder decide together what, how and when to process.

“Our goal is to extend the model introduced in the paper to more complex systems, allowing for more general source processes, multiple sensors, multiple channels and sensors that are equipped with an energy harvester that has the potential to replenish the sensor’s used energy based on random availability of such resources, such as solar or wind power,” Başar said.

In 2017, Nvidia announced a custom chip designed for driverless vehicles that includes an AI ‘nanny’ that constantly monitors how the software is interacting with the vehicle and if it sees something awry, it will attempt to either prevent the unwarranted action from taking place or bring the car to a standstill.