E&T news weekly 35 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the week

Monday February 2 2015

Lorna Sharpe  Lorna Sharpe, sub-editor
Green light for nuclear technology

New nuclear power plants have come a step closer in Britain, as the Hitachi-GE UK ABWR has successfully come through the Regulatory Justification process. Horizon Nuclear Power says this is an important stage designed to ensure that the benefits to society of the technology outweigh any potential radiological health detriments.

 

dominic-lenton  Dominic Lenton, managing editor
‘Fracking village’ goes solar

Balcome in West Sussex hit the headlines in summer 2013 as the centre of anti-fracking protests. A case of NIMBYism? Not according to the group of residents who have installed solar panels on the roof of a local farm’s cow shed. The energy co-operative says it will provide the farmer with electricity that’s at least 30 per cent cheaper than the market rate and could be the start of a project to generate enough for the whole village. Whether or not it succeeds, it at least demonstrates that there are a range of ways of keeping the lights on.

‘Havoc’ looms for UK taxman over IT switch

No one will be surprised to hear the warning from MPs that shifting from a big, well established IT contract to short-term deals from multiple suppliers will be an “enormous challenge” for HM Revenue & Customs. It’s not due to happen for another two years though – surely long enough to overcome any problems bearing in mind all the lessons learned from previous ill-fated big public sector IT projects?

 

Alex Kalinaukas  Alex Kalinauckas, assistant features editor

Global Calculator: high life and climate change can co-exist

With the world’s population expected to increase to 10bn by the year 2050, it’s good to hear that despite that substantial increase the Global Calculator, a new analysis tool from the Department of Energy and Climate Change and its partners, indicates that it will be possible for us to enjoy a high standard of living. It’s worth pointing out that this is only possible if we implement vast reduction in fossil fuel use, switch to electric heating and eat much less red meat.

Better ways to find plane crash sites are needed, US officials told

After several high profile incidents involving aircraft lost beneath the waves, it’s good to see that officials are examining a way to pinpoint the location of a downed jet without searching hundreds of miles of ocean. Given the prevalence and improved accuracy of movement tracking technology these days, it seems odd that it takes so long to locate the wreckage of a crashed plane. Hopefully any upcoming improvements will change that.

 

Aasha Bodhani  Aasha Bodhani, assistant features technology editor
BT plans to launch six times faster broadband by 2020

This summer, BT plans to trial a superfast broadband technology, dubbed G.fast, with plans to rollout nationwide in 2016.Currently the average broadband speed in the UK is 20 mbps, but with the new broadband technology, BT reveals a 500 mbps increase, enabling improved HD streaming. The trial will begin with 4,000 homes and businesses in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire and Gosforth.

BMW cars found at risk of being unlocked by hackers

BMW was almost under a cyber-attack, which would have allowed hackers to unlock BMW, Mini and Rolls Royce vehicles, which are embedded with BMW AG’s ConnectedDrive. Security researchers at ADAC identified the glitch within the software, which forced BMW to upgrade and encrypted communications within 2.2m cars.

 

Jonathan Wilson  Jonathan Wilson, online managing editor
White House crash drone operated by spy agency worker

All of sudden, it would seem, mankind has reached a point in history when barely a day goes by without drones being in the news. This particular technology cat is well out of the well-engineered bag. The latest bulletin from the drone news frontline is the crash landing of a spy drone on the beautifully manicured lawns of the White House. It turns out that the pilot of said drone in fact works for the US’ own National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), who was flying his drone at low altitude over the White House grounds for a lark in his own free time. Curiouser and curiouser.

Global Calculator: high life and climate change can co-exist

According to The Global Calculator- an open source programme that examines the likely consequences of key decisions necessary to adhere to existing climate change promises – despite estimates that the global population will rise to 10 billion people by 2050, it will still be possible to enjoy a high standard of living, a new analysis tool indicates. All the human race has to do is rein in its excesses. So, we’re all doomed, then.

 

Laura Onita  Laura Onita, news reporter
Google to change privacy policy following investigation

Privacy lines got a little blurred when Google introduced its new policy in March 2012 that combined around 70 existing policies into one and merged data collected on individual users across its services, including YouTube and Gmail. Countries across Europe found its guidelines were too vague, and either fined Google – see Spain and France, or requested a change in policy that was more transparent about how it handled user information. It was UK’s turn this week to announce that the search giant succumbed to do just that by 30 June, probably in order to avoid another hefty fine.

Scotland announces fracking moratorium

Two days after MPs at Westminster overwhelmingly rejected a bid to suspend fracking for shale gas – with 302 votes to 52, Scotland announced a moratorium on fracking to allow a full public consultation on the controversial matter. And as if the toing and froing between Sturgeon and Cameron over legislation to hand Holyrood sweeping new powers wasn’t enough, Scotland’s energy minister said that planning consents will not be granted to oil and gas companies for now, until Scotland gains full control over fracking after May’s general election.

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