Hands-on review: Aipower Wearbuds

June 20th, 2019 no comment

Wireless earbuds are a great innovation, but how often have you been through the pantomime that all users experience when they take them out of patting down your pockets to find the charging case then juggling buds and case?

And in the worst ‘case’ scenario, you pat your pockets down several times before realising that the case, without which the expensive listening equipment is useless, has gone AWOL and left you with some expensive but redundant audio gear until you can source another one.

It’s almost enough to outweigh the hassle of wired headphones, which you can yank out, and stick in a pocket or just leave hanging, safe in the knowledge that they’re unlikely to become detached from your phone.

With a bit of lateral thinking, Aipower has come up with an alternative that provides not only a decent pair of earbuds but also an exercise-tracking smartwatch that acts as a storage unit securely strapped to your wrist, and also charges them up when not in use. It sounds like the sort of elegant solution you’d expect of a company whose team have a track record with the likes of Samsung, Huawei and Alcatel, but so do a lot of other innovative gadgets. We gave the Wearbuds a test run to see how well they work in the real world.

Out of the box, the Aipower smartband is a little bulkier than most smartwatches, but surprisingly light and compact when you realise that it houses two earbuds. Charging is via a proprietary cable equipped with a magnetic connector that fixes to the back of the watch face with a satisfying snap and stays firmly in place.

Getting the silicone band on once charging was complete proved to be a little tricky as one end needs to be hooked over a small metal clip then threaded behind the other rather than over as in most watches. Once we’d got the hang of it, though, it was very secure and comfortable.


Aipower Airbuds black

Image credit: Aipower

Now comes the ingenious bit. Press on each side of the watch face and a spring-loaded mechanism ejects the buds. It shouldn’t come as a pleasant surprise that the right one is on the right and the left one on the left, but that’s not always the case with charging units and is handy when you’re in a hurry.

If all you want is convenient storage, the buds will pair with a phone using Bluetooth and after you’ve done that once will automatically reconnect when removed from the watch. (You can use one at time if you prefer.)

There’s not much point to that though, so you’ll want to activate the smart watch, which involves downloading the Aipower app for Android or iOS, setting up an account and pairing it as well as the buds. All standard operating procedure and stability was reasonable.

Start listening, or using the fitness-tracking functions, and any notions of this being a gimmicky bit of kit that’s stuck ‘smart’ on the front to beguile users is soon dismissed. The earbuds are lightweight and ergonomic, and most importantly for a device designed with fitness in mind stayed securely in place during moderate exercise.

Sound was impressive for a variety of types of music, as you’d expect with true wireless Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, a Qualcomm smart audio chipset, support for the aptX codec and graphene-augmented drivers. Our tester’s gripe with some devices like this is that they go for booming bass while sacrificing clarity on spoken-word podcasts or audiobooks, which are just as popular with users out on a long run. No complaints here though.

Audio is controlled either by a standard set of taps of one or other of the earbuds, or via the watch face. What you’ll really be using the watch’s OLED touchscreen for, however, is to track data such as step count, calories burned, distance run, heart rate etc, all of which are saved back to the Aipower app. When you’re not focused on that, you can get on-wrist notifications from your phone, customisable for calls, texts and the usual social media platforms.

One unusual feature claimed for the Wearbuds is that unlike many competitors they support Mono Mode, a feature that comes from the latest Bluetooth 5.0 spec that allows hands-free phone calls with just one earbud in use.

We had a couple of minor reservations. The charging cable with its magnetic connector is neat but if you lose or break it you’re going to have to go to Aipower for a replacement. Our test didn’t quite get the full four hours use from the fully charged buds that’s claimed, but it was close enough and you can recharge twice by popping them back in the watch to get approaching 12-hours listening. (Our test prototype went from 100 per cent charge to zero in 24 hours when not in use, but Aipower assures us this will be addressed in the production model.)

Finally, it was a little annoying that the watch forces you to switch on location tracking on your phone to enable pairing, even though it doesn’t have any GPS functions. The silver lining was that it prompted our tester to finally set up a handy icon on his phone’s home screen for quick deactivation of this when it’s not needed.


Aipower Airbuds black and white

Image credit: Aipower Airbuds

Of course you’re not really reducing the amount of kit you have to take with you, just amalgamating earphones and watch into a more convenient single unit, but the Wearbuds are a genuinely smart solution to the inconvenience of having to carry around a charging case, and a rare example of an attempt to combine two types of tech resulting in something that’s at least the equal of the two if not an improvement.

As a bonus for those who like a bit of attention, they’re likely to generate curiosity when you release the earbuds with a quick squeeze on the sides of what appears to be a standard smartwatch.

We’d love to see this concept evolve to eliminate the need to carry a phone while out running by allowing the watch to store just the three or four hours of audio that a single charge can support. In a similar vein, GPS tracking is such a standard feature these days that we really missed it.

For now, though, there are plenty of situations, even when you’re not exercising, where this clever gadget will come into its own.

The Aipower Wearbuds Kickstarter launches on 20 June 2019, with a limited number of units available at the super-early-bird price of $49 and early-bird price of $69, after which they’re $99.

Full details are on the Kickstarter website and at myaipower.com.

After All: An historic German transport link that remains forever Belgian

June 19th, 2019 no comment

In my previous After All column, I mentioned Vennbahn – a now-defunct Belgian railway that used to form several small pockets of Germany inside Belgium. Well aware of E&T readers’ unfading interest in railways, I was not surprised to receive a number of queries about Vennbahn which I will try to address here.

I understand the difficulty the readers might have experienced in getting information on Vennbahn – the historic railway that is simply no more. In fact, the very last section of its former track between Auel and Oudler is currently being asphalted. When finished, all 128km of Vennbahn will become one of Europe’s longest public cycling routes, but that won’t affect its unique enclave-forming capacity.

Here it is important to note that, under the current international regulations, not just the track, but five metres of land on both sides of it, with all the buildings and installations, belong to the country that owns the railway.

Built in 1889 as a fully German railway, Vennbahn was given to Belgium by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles in the aftermath of the First World War. After some years of deliberation, a special international commission agreed that “the trackbed, with its buildings between Raeren and Kalterherbert”, was to be ceded to Belgium, whereas the resulting five enclaves between the line and the Belgian border were to remain part of Germany.

The German names of all five stations on the stretch were retained, freight charges and fares could be paid in either German or Belgian currency, and countless German regulations about ticket-offices, waiting rooms, notice boards, left luggage, etc were accepted by the Belgians. Both countries ran customs controls for both German and Belgian passengers at both ends of the section. And whereas conductors, pointsmen and other ‘minor’ railway workers could be either Belgian or German, the train drivers had to be Belgian nationals.

On 18 May 1940, Hitler ordered that Belgium’s former German regions be re-annexed, and the Vennbahn was triumphantly returned to service as a fully German railway. During the Second World War, it was in much use supplying the German army until it was all but destroyed by the Allied offensive in the winter of 1944-45. Scarcely a viaduct was spared, and it was not until 1947 that Vennbahn was partially reopened under its previous – Belgian – ownership.

By 1990, the railway was not commercially viable, and the local community was trying to raise money to transform it into a tourist attraction – a kind of would-be ‘happy end’ for the world’s only railway to belong to one country and run across another. That unique status has been preserved until now, despite the complete cessation of all railway activities in 2008, due to a special bilateral agreement, according to which the former trackbed, even if no longer in use, will stay Belgian, which in turn means that the German enclaves will remain intact too.

I last visited Vennbahn in 2003, when it was still operating as a railway, if only just. The only trains actually moving at Raeren station were on the screen-saver of an old computer in the office of Edgar Hungs, the line’s acting manager.

“The phone cables at the station are so old that we cannot even have an internet connection,” he complained, sucking on a charred and stinky cigar butt.

Herr Hungs was then Vennbahn’s only employee. His German company, with the tongue-breaking name Eisenbahn-Bau Betriebs-Satisfizierung AG, had just taken over the troubled historic railway. A couple of months prior to my visit, Vennbahn, then a state-run Belgian enterprise, had gone bust, and its entire staff, both German and Belgian, had been made redundant. Hungs was now facing the difficult task of turning the railway around by hiring a new workforce, finding new investors and changing Vennbahn’s whole image.

We left the station building, which, although on Belgian territory, was typically Prussian in its design and architecture – a reminder of Vennbahn’s ‘enclave-forming’ nature. A couple of trains without locomotives were ‘parked’ on rusty tracks, overgrown with brown railway weeds. It was clear they had been stationary for many months.

“Our trains consist mostly of 1935 Belgian carriages and Mitropa cars, built in East Germany,” Herr Hungs said without much enthusiasm.

I noticed a faded chalk inscription on one of the cargo trucks, which was tucked away in a sideline: “Not in common use: Return to Harwich.”

Just like the forgotten Harwich-bound cargo truck, Vennbahn itself was no longer “in common use”.  

My escort pointed out other signs of dichotomy in Vennbahn, like a grey Deutsche Telecom cabin in front of the Belgian station building. The railway used German signals, but with Belgian colours. Despite being German, the signals were situated on the right side of the track, Belgian-style, whereas in Germany they would belong strictly on the left.

We passed by a deserted pointsman’s hut next to what Hungs called “the last manual-change point in Germany”. I wanted to say that, since the point was actually part of the track, he should have called it “the last manual-change point in Belgium”, but I didn’t, having noticed that the hut itself stood several metres away from the rails – in what could be Germany.

Before leaving Raeren station, we popped into the engine shed, where disused Belgian and German-made diesels and steam locomotives –looking equally tired and forlorn – stood side by side, like exhibits in a deserted transport museum.

Well, even without trains Vennbahn has not disappeared entirely as an odd geopolitical phenomenon. I hope that at least some of the carefree German and Belgian bikers whooshing along the new asphalted cycle path will remember the uniqueness of the very ground they are riding on.

Reminder: Hidden Engineering Heritage competition

I’d like to thank all the readers who have entered E&T’s ‘Hidden Engineering Heritage’ competition so far. We are extending the deadline to 30 September 2019, so more of you can locate and photograph hidden engineering gems this summer. Send your entries to vvitaliev@theiet.org. For terms and conditions, see bit.ly/eandt-competitions.

Windows 10 supports games controlled by eye movements

June 19th, 2019 no comment

The four games – Tile Slide puzzles; memory game Match Two; Double Up for maths, memory, and logic training; and escape game Maze – will use eye-tracking to detect the directions players wish to move. They are available as free downloads from the Microsoft Store.

The games can be paired with a compatible eye-tracking device, but can also be played with a mouse or touch pad.

The introduction of the games is part of a wider Microsoft initiative to improve the accessibility of its services. The four games are powered by Windows 10’s eye-tracking APIs. The APIs, along with an open-source code to enable app developers to build more accessible apps with eye tracking, were announced last May as part of Microsoft’s ‘Eye Control’ experience.

“People with speech and mobility disabilities can face limitations in communicating and using computer technology to play, collaborate, engage, be productive,” said Bernice You, strategy and projects manager at Microsoft. “With innovation in accessibility technologies, such as Windows 10 Eye control, these limitations can be addressed to unlock the potential of their powerful minds.”

Last year, Microsoft introduced an adaptive Xbox controller which allows gamers with limited mobility to use their own joysticks and other equipment to be assembled to mimic a standard controller so that they can add assistive aids. The adaptive controller was featured in its Super Bowl advertising campaign this year.

IET warns of ‘uncertainties’ over re-purposing UK gas network for hydrogen use

June 14th, 2019 no comment

To clean up the air and comply with climate change agreements, the UK is pledged to decarbonise wherever possible, especially so within the electricity sector. Thousand of miles of pipes in the British gas network are filled with a fuel that, by 2050, will be officially banned.

Hydrogen as a heating alternative to gas could be a viable solution – it would offer the ‘right’ properties for a potential solution because it burns cleanly with only water vapour as a by-product.

A review was ordered by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which asked the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) alongside other professional engineering organisations to assess the benefits, risks, and uncertainties of hydrogen use via the natural gas network.

The IET’s findings suggest that “there is no reason why this cannot be achieved safely but there are several risks and uncertainties which need to be investigated”.

The key issue with natural gas is that when combusted it produces CO2. In order to achieve the UK’s 2050 greenhouse gas target, substantial reductions are required. Only recently has it occurred that gas increased its share of CO2 contribution to the UK footprint – coal has been clamped down on, with the result that gas and oil accounted for a greater overall proportion.

Before large-scale implementation can start, the report advises that some issues need to be resolved.

It makes clear that without the simultaneous deployment of carbon capture, utilisation and storage infrastructure, hydrogen would have “no future for large-scale retrofit installation to industry, homes, and businesses”. 

Another problem is the limited experience industry and companies have at present. Large-scale deployment would involve the introduction of new technologies, yet experience would still be modest.

The review’s verdict on whether everything will be in place for the approaching deadline in 2050 is uncertain. “Compressing the deployment to 30 years will be challenging,” states the review. The process could be remedied by “the identification and early deployment of critical new technologies”.

Despite being unconcerned with economics, social or environmental problems, and purely with the engineering side, another major issue that arises is funding.

A transition programme to hydrogen would require a substantial amount of investment, over many years. Previous studies estimated the capital investment required at around £23bn (with around 3.8 million meter points converted). Political coordination may perhaps constitute another barrier. Only if central and local government policy plays in harmony with Ofgem, the government regulator for the electricity and downstream natural gas markets in the UK, as well as with other regulatory parties, a “stable funding environment” could be guaranteed.

It would also be valuable to look back in history and improve on mistakes. The UK’s conversion programme in the 1960s (such as the transition from town gas to natural gas) should be learned from. In previous implementation scenarios, the authors also found the importance of the right public relations. This  “is likely to be essential for the conversion to hydrogen”.

Another problem: The UK would need to massively increase the production capacity for hydrogen. To produce enough of it for Britain’s heating needs, a 981 per cent increase to the present annual production volume of 0.74 million tonnes would be required. Hydrogen does not naturally occur on Earth. It is extracted from other primary sources and therefore it is no real energy source but rather a store and carrier of energy.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) launched a report on Friday on the future of hydrogen and the opportunities for embracing it. Clean hydrogen would currently enjoy unprecedented political and business momentum. With it, it would receive strong support from governments and businesses around the world. Policies and projects would flourish rapidly.

Another UK coal plant closes as finances fail to add up

June 14th, 2019 no comment

The Fiddler’s Ferry site at Warrington is the last coal-fired power station run by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), which said it would close the facility by the end of March 2020.

Union officials described the news as a “real blow” to the workforce, but the company said it will seek to avoid compulsory redundancies where possible.

A recent study found that nearly half of the world’s coal power stations are run at a loss, making them a less attractive proposition when compared to natural gas powered stations or renewable alternatives.

Stephen Wheeler, of SSE, said: “The proposed closure of SSE’s coal-fired power station at Fiddler’s Ferry is a very difficult decision because of the impact on our employees and contractors at the station, their families and the local community.

“Fiddler’s Ferry is SSE’s last operational coal-fired station. Environmentally, coal is a major emitter of CO2 and the UK Government has committed to ending unabated coal-fired electricity generation by 2025 at the latest.

“Financially, Fiddler’s Ferry is loss-making and our projections show that it will continue to be so. These losses are unsustainable beyond the end of the current financial year.

“As we move towards the proposed closure, our priorities are to keep the site operating safely and effectively and to ensure that employees have a range of options available to them for the future.

“SSE is keen to ensure, where possible, that employees are redeployed across other parts of the SSE group. SSE will also offer employees voluntary redundancy on enhanced terms and will seek to avoid compulsory redundancies.”

The closure comes just months after EDF Energy announced it would end generation at its Cottam coal-fired power station in North Nottinghamshire later this year, a decision which was blamed on “challenging market conditions”. 

Sue Ferns, of the Prospect union, said: “Today’s announcement is a real blow to the dedicated staff at Fiddler’s Ferry after a long period of uncertainty about the future.

“Prospect understands the necessity of transitioning away from high carbon generation. However, we believe that it is essential that workers are supported during this transition and we will be working on behalf of those affected through this difficult period.

“The failure to resolve the hiatus in the capacity market and the wider uncertainty around energy policy have undoubtedly contributed to this decision, it is absolutely essential that the Government brings forward the Energy White Paper as soon as possible to give the industry a clear framework for the future.”

Unite union regional officer Graham Williams said: “This is very grim news for the workforce – ranging from admin to engineering jobs – and their families, as well as being a devastating blow for the economy in the North West.

“While we recognise that coal-fired electricity generation is being phased out, Fiddler’s Ferry plays a significant role in providing back-up when there are surges in energy demand during cold snaps and the National Grid is seeking additional supplies.

“The fact that the Government is not prepared to pay an economic price to have this reserve at the ready shows that ministers are more interested in the internal energy market than the country’s national interest.”

Huawei requests $1bn+ in licensing fees from Verizon

June 13th, 2019 no comment

The dispute concerns 238 of Huawei’s patents, relating to network equipment (core equipment, wireline infrastructure and IoT technology). Huawei phones are not available to US consumers, and while Verizon does not directly purchase Huawei products, it relies on more than 20 other companies which use Huawei technology. According to the WSJ, some of these companies had been directly approached by Huawei. 

A Huawei IP licensing executive wrote in February that Verizon should pay to “solve the patent licensing issue”. The licensing fees for the patents amount to more than $1bn, the source said.

Huawei and Verizon representatives reportedly met last week in New York to discuss whether Verizon may be using equipment from other companies which could infringe on Huawei’s patents.

Verizon spokesperson Rich Young told Reuters that: “These issues are larger than just Verizon. Given the broader geopolitical context, any issue involving Huawei has implications for our entire industry and also raises national and international concerns.”

Huawei has been at the centre of a growing trade war between the US and China, which escalated in May when the US increased tariffs on almost 6,000 Chinese goods from 10 per cent to 25 per cent (a hike on approximately $200bn of products). The products affected include those vital to the engineering and tech sectors, such as industrial machinery, consumer electronics and natural materials vital for manufacturing.

Soon after the tariff hike, Huawei – which is the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer – was added to the US Entity list by executive order. This forbids US companies from working with Huawei unless they have a license. The inclusion of Huawei on the list has resulted in Google, Intel, Qualcomm, and other companies upon which Huawei depends for its consumer electronics business being forced to cut ties with the company. Huawei has been accused by the US of acting as a possible earpiece for the Chinese government, for stealing technology from US companies (including T-Mobile), and for violating trade sanctions against Iran. The US has put pressure on its allies – including the EU – to exclude Huawei from the rollout of next-generation 5G infrastructure.

This week, British lawmakers compared Huawei to companies which continued to work with Nazi Germany and enabled the Holocaust, in response to a Huawei executive insisting that the company does not make moral judgements and will always follow the law.

Nasa to test safer ‘green’ rocket fuel in Falcon Heavy launch

June 11th, 2019 no comment

The non-toxic, rosé-coloured liquid eschews the use of hydrazine, a highly toxic fuel commonly used by spacecraft today. Hydrazine is so toxic that handling it requires strict safety precautions – protective suits, thick rubber gloves and oxygen tanks.

The new fuel, dubbed “Green Propellant Infusion” (GPIM), promises fewer handling restrictions, which in turn will reduce the time it takes to prepare for launch.

GPIM is also denser than hydrazine and offers nearly 50 per cent better performance, meaning that spacecraft can travel farther or operate for longer with less propellant onboard.

“Spacecraft could be fuelled during manufacturing, simplifying processing at the launch facility, resulting in cost savings,” said Christopher McLean, principal investigator for GPIM.

In order to tap into the propellant’s benefits, engineers first had to develop new hardware – everything from thrusters and tanks to filters and valves.

GPIM uses a set of thrusters that fire in different scenarios to test engine performance and reliability. Planned manoeuvres include orbit lowering and spacecraft pointing.

Aerojet Rocketdyne in Redmond, Washington, designed, built and extensively tested the GPIM propulsion system. The hardware consists of a propellant tank and five 1-Newton thrusters to carry the non-toxic fuel.

“If it weren’t for the initial investment and inherent risk of doing something for the first time, this technology would likely already be in space,” said Dayna Ise, executive for Nasa’s Technology Demonstration Missions program that manages GPIM.

“Nasa stepped up to fund it because we see the value and potential for this technology to propel spaceflight forward.”

Building upon the GPIM work, Wilson says Aerojet is moving forward on a range of other thrust-level propulsion systems to utilise high-performance green propellant.

“We see interest in using green propellant across the space industry,” said Fred Wilson, director of business development for Aerojet. “The trend is towards smaller and smaller satellites, to do more missions in a small package.”

The technology appeals to small and cube satellite builders who have modest budgets and serious space and weight limitations. From small satellites to large spacecraft, there’s a wide range of space missions that can benefit from using green propellant. “GPIM has the potential to inspire new ideas and new missions,” McLean said.

Nasa has been charged to land humans on the Moon in 2024 and establish a sustainable presence by 2028. There is potential for this technology to be used for a variety of lunar missions within the Artemis program, but first it must be demonstrated in space. 

5G rollout hampered as tech giants limit employee access to Huawei

June 10th, 2019 no comment

According to information shared by sources with Reuters, chip-makers Intel and Qualcomm, mobile research firm InterDigital Wireless Inc and South Korean carrier LG Uplus have all restricted their employees from informal conversations with Huawei, currently the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker.

Such discussions have typically been a routine part of international meetings in the past, where engineers gather to set technical standards for communications technologies, including the next generation of mobile networks known as 5G.

The US Department of Commerce has not itself banned contact between these companies and Huawei. Following its May 16 blacklisting, barring Huawei from doing business with US companies without government approval, the agency subsequently authorised US companies to interact with Huawei in standards bodies until August 2019 “as necessary for the development of 5G standards”. The Commerce Department reiterated its position on Friday when questioned by Reuters.

Despite this government-level latitude, some major US and overseas technology companies have taken it upon themselves to deter their employees from direct interaction with Huawei, the sources confirmed, as the companies strive to avoid any potential clash with the Trump administration.

Intel and Qualcomm confirmed that they have provided compliance instructions to employees, but declined to comment on them further.

A spokesman for InterDigital said it has provided guidance to engineers to ensure the company is in compliance with US regulations.

An official with LG Uplus said the company is “voluntarily refraining from interacting with Huawei workers, other than meeting for network equipment installation or maintenance issues.” No formal policy is in place, LG Uplus said.

These new inhibitions on professional relationships and conversations could handicap the rollout of 5G. 5G is the latest generation of mobile network technology, which follows 4G. 5G uses shorter-range, higher-frequency millimetre waves to transmit information at speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G. The new standard is expected to be used to transmit high volumes of data between connected devices such as driverless cars and other IoT devices, as well as increasing speeds for mobile devices.

Last week, at a 5G standards meeting in Newport Beach, California, participants privately expressed their alarm to Reuters that the long-standing cooperation amongst engineers worldwide – which has always been necessary for phones and networks to connect globally – could fall victim to what one participant described as a “tech war” between the United States and China.

A representative of a European company that has instituted rules against interaction with Huawei described people involved in 5G development as “shaken”. “This could push everyone to their own corners and we need cooperation to get to 5G. It should be a global market,” the person, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

Huawei is increasingly being viewed as a central figure in the trade war between the US and China. The US alleges that so-called ‘back doors’ in Huawei equipment could be used by China to spy on crucial US networks – particularly the country’s nascent 5G network – despite the US itself having widely used Huawei equipment in government locations for years prior to 2018. Huawei has consistently denied that it could be compromised by the Chinese government, military or intelligence services.

Historically, China, the US and European companies have failed to agree on standards for Wi-Fi, cellular networks and other technologies. It was hoped that closer agreement and cooperation would come together for 5G , but the continuing tension between Beijing and Washington seems likely to damn any such aspirations.

Huawei remains a major influence at global organisations responsible for agreeing upon technical specifications for networks. It is also one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of the hardware necessary for the vital parts of networks, such as routers and switches, as well as consumer devices that run on the networks, such as smartphones and tablets. Huawei will thus need to be allowed a seat at the standards-setting table, as 5G networks spread, regardless of any political situation.

The rollout of 5G has already begun in some countries. In the UK, EE launched its 5G network to the public in six UK cities at the end of May, ahead of a wider rollout across the country. EE launched its 5G network for public use in some parts of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh. It plans to follow this soft launch with 1,500 sites by the end of the year, including the busiest parts of Liverpool, Newcastle, Bristol, Glasgow, Coventry, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham and Leicester. While rolling out 5G, it will also convert 500 3G mobile towers to output 4G signals to help boost speeds in more rural areas.

In May 2019, culture secretary Jeremy Wright said the UK Government is still making up its mind as to whether to allow Huawei to make parts of the UK’s nascent 5G networks. For its part, Huawei has said it is willing to sign a ‘no spying’ agreement with countries including the UK in order to ease concerns about its technology, as confirmed by company chairman Dr Liang Hua during his recent visit to the UK.

The US blacklisting of Huawei has affected companies of all sizes, including those based outside the US but which have a significant technological involvement in the US, such as UK-based ARM. In the US, Google has been pulled into the heart of the conflict, announcing that Huawei (and any of its sub-brands) would not be able to use forthcoming versions of the Android mobile OS. This seismic industry tremor has largely overshadowed recent Huawei product launches, such as the recent UK launch of the latest handsets by Huawei sub-brand Honor. The company pointedly made no reference to the Android issue at the launch event.

China successfully launches its first sea-based rocket

June 5th, 2019 no comment

According to Chinese state media, its Long March 11 rocket blasted off from a platform on a large semi-submersible barge in the Yellow Sea at around 12pm local time (04:00 GMT).

The small rocket, designed to be deployed quickly and from mobile launch sites such as a ship, carried seven satellites, including one that measures sea-surface winds to forecast typhoons.

Furthermore, the media reported that the rocket also carried two communications satellites courtesy of China 125, a Beijing-based technology company that plans to launch hundreds of satellites to provide global data networking services.

About six minutes after its launch into space, five commercial satellites and a pair of “technical experiment” probes – called Bufeng, or Wind Catchers – reached their designated orbits.

JUST IN: The Long March-11 carrier rocket, carrying two experimental technology satellites and five commercial satellites, successfully launched from the Yellow Sea at 12:06 pm on Wed local time, marking the first sea-based space launch in China pic.twitter.com/tluQUjcokZ

— People’s Daily, China (@PDChina) June 5, 2019

The China National Space Administration said in a statement: “Launching a rocket from the sea has the advantages of high flexibility, good adaptability for specific tasks and excellent launch economy.”

It also said the Long March 11 rocket could assist in the development of ‘Belt and Road’, the country’s plan to grow its global trade network.

The statement read: “It can flexibly select the launch point and touchdown area to meet the needs of various payloads for different orbits and provide better aerospace commercial launch services for countries along the belt and road.”

The sea-based launch is the latest move in China’s space programme as it races to catch up with the United States and become a major space power by 2030, although the country insists that its space ambitions are “purely peaceful”.

However, while China has insisted its ambitions are peaceful, the US Defense Department has accused it of pursuing activities aimed at preventing other nations from using space-based assets during a crisis.

The news comes as Beijing announced plans to begin construction of its very own manned space station in 2020.

The race is on for countries to become the leading space power in the world. At the end of May 2019, the US and Japan agreed to cooperate on the next mission to the Moon, as Nasa now intends to accelerate humans’ return to the lunar surface by 2024.

Also regarding recent launches, in April 2019, Elon Musk’s company SpaceX successfully launched the first operational mission of its Falcon Heavy, achieving a triple-rocket landing more than a year after its demo mission catapulted a cherry-red Tesla and a dummy, nicknamed Starman, into space.

China successfully launches its first sea-based rocket

June 5th, 2019 no comment

According to Chinese state media, its Long March 11 rocket blasted off from a platform on a large semi-submersible barge in the Yellow Sea at around 12pm local time (04:00 GMT).

The small rocket, designed to be deployed quickly and from mobile launch sites such as a ship, carried seven satellites, including one that measures sea-surface winds to forecast typhoons.

Furthermore, the media reported that the rocket also carried two communications satellites courtesy of China 125, a Beijing-based technology company that plans to launch hundreds of satellites to provide global data networking services.

About six minutes after its launch into space, five commercial satellites and a pair of “technical experiment” probes – called Bufeng, or Wind Catchers – reached their designated orbits.

JUST IN: The Long March-11 carrier rocket, carrying two experimental technology satellites and five commercial satellites, successfully launched from the Yellow Sea at 12:06 pm on Wed local time, marking the first sea-based space launch in China pic.twitter.com/tluQUjcokZ

— People’s Daily, China (@PDChina) June 5, 2019

The China National Space Administration said in a statement: “Launching a rocket from the sea has the advantages of high flexibility, good adaptability for specific tasks and excellent launch economy.”

It also said the Long March 11 rocket could assist in the development of ‘Belt and Road’, the country’s plan to grow its global trade network.

The statement read: “It can flexibly select the launch point and touchdown area to meet the needs of various payloads for different orbits and provide better aerospace commercial launch services for countries along the belt and road.”

The sea-based launch is the latest move in China’s space programme as it races to catch up with the United States and become a major space power by 2030, although the country insists that its space ambitions are “purely peaceful”.

However, while China has insisted its ambitions are peaceful, the US Defense Department has accused it of pursuing activities aimed at preventing other nations from using space-based assets during a crisis.

The news comes as Beijing announced plans to begin construction of its very own manned space station in 2020.

The race is on for countries to become the leading space power in the world. At the end of May 2019, the US and Japan agreed to cooperate on the next mission to the Moon, as Nasa now intends to accelerate humans’ return to the lunar surface by 2024.

Also regarding recent launches, in April 2019, Elon Musk’s company SpaceX successfully launched the first operational mission of its Falcon Heavy, achieving a triple-rocket landing more than a year after its demo mission catapulted a cherry-red Tesla and a dummy, nicknamed Starman, into space.