As September approaches, the summer holiday season is almost over. It’s been great to get back to jetting off to exciting new destinations after a difficult few years for the travel industry. Yet as climate change dominates the headlines, many of us may be thinking more about the environmental impacts of travel than in previous years. Personally, I’ve been pondering whether travel tech could be the solution – let’s think this through together.

Climate concerns are soaring

Air travel is far from the most sustainable way to get from A to B for our summer holidays. Aviation represents 14% of greenhouse gas emissions produced in the EU. This may seem like a small figure, but when considering that rail only represents a 0.4% share, it’s easy to understand why planes are getting a bad rep.

The easy answer to this problem would be to encourage Europeans to take trains as a greener holiday transport method. A myriad of reasons blocks us from doing so at present, including a lack of continental standard for train manufacturing and an almost total absence of operators running trains across European borders. In short, pointing travellers to rail travel isn’t yet a viable option.

Whilst the EU continues its long and arduous journey to liberalising continental rail travel, climate change rages on. Record temperatures of 40.3°C were confirmed by the Met Office in July; an alarming development for all. Travel tech companies have responded with greener operations, leveraging the latest technology to ensure that people can still enjoy a summer break.

Travel tech in the airline industry

Whilst the UK’s beaches offer beautiful surroundings, if you do want to go abroad, chances are that you will be taking a plane. Thankfully, airlines are already making progress towards net-zero emissions goals, and innovations in travel tech are here to make flights even greener.

For example, Alaska Airlines implemented an AI-powered route optimisation tool. The software uses machine learning to assess a range of factors that affect the efficiency of a journey, such as air turbulence and weather conditions. If the AI finds a greener route, flight dispatchers are notified, and they make a final decision on if the recommended route should be followed. As such, safety is maintained at the same time as a more fuel-efficient route is created. It doesn’t get better than that!

Let’s go to the beach, beach, let’s go get away

Once you have arrived at your destination, you will need a place to stay. At present, accommodation accounts for around one fifth of tourism emissions. This may not sound like a lot, but if these emissions were wiped out, the industry would become 20% greener. That would certainly reduce the guilt burden for travellers.

The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance asks hotels to reduce their carbon emissions by 90% – how can travel tech support this endeavour? We can look to IoT devices for the answer. Smart hotel technologies, such as motion sensors for lights and occupancy sensors for air conditioning, can drastically reduce energy consumption. For example, a 2020 study found that implementing an IoT-enabled air conditioning system reduced daily energy usage by 20% during peak summer heat. Considering that this makes life easier for the user too, it’s a no-brainer.

Making travelling that little bit more guilt-free

While the industry still has a long way to go, travel tech is making strides when it comes to making our summer holidays more sustainable. If you’re a travel tech organisation that wants to shout about your commitment to a greener travel industry, get in touch!

Whilst June flew by in a flash of bunting, cakes and picnics in the park, it didn’t fall short on delivering yet more weird and wonderful tech news stories for us to sink our teeth into. Here are a few of my personal favourites:

Giving tech the human touch

Having children sound like too much responsibility? According to Catriona Campbell, babies that exist in the metaverse will be indistinct from those in the real world in 50 years’ time. Parents will be able to subscribe to a digital child that resembles them physically but exists entirely in a digital realm. These ‘Tamagotchi babies’ will be able to interact with their parents and have minimal cost and environmental impact. Will make nappy changes less daunting too I imagine!

From turning real life into tech to turning tech into real life, scientists have developed an artificial skin that gives robots the ability to have a sense of touch. This will enable them to ‘feel’ objects, as well as sense specific chemicals such as explosives.

Speeding towards a tech-driven future

If we move into the transport sector, a new fleet of driverless taxis have been given the go-ahead in San Francisco. With top speeds of 30mph you may not get to your destination in record-breaking speed, but this is certainly a huge step towards autonomous vehicles becoming the norm.

From cars to planes, NASA is nearing the test flight of its first all-electric aeroplane, which is due to take place next month. Instead of being powered by aviation gasoline, aircrafts would run on lithium-ion batteries. If all goes to plan, this could mark the beginning of a greener, cleaner and quieter aviation industry.

Rapid recoveries

Tech is also helping to treat people with life-changing injuries. Rehab centres all over the world are using computer games to aid in the recovery of serious illness. These games are designed to get patients to move instinctively by mimicking real-life scenarios, such as reaching for something in a kitchen cupboard.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to health tech news this month. A woman who was born with a birth defect became the first person in the world to receive a 3D-printed ear made from her own cells. Moving forward, scientists believe that 3D printing could be used to remedy other conditions involving cartilage for nose or knee injuries as examples.

A final farewell

And to conclude , I think it’s only right that we bid farewell to our dear old friend, Internet Explorer. It’s been a wild ride, and we wish you all the best in your retirement.

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May has been a month of innovation and continued regulatory shifts in the tech sector. It can be difficult to keep up with the endless waves of change (Elon Musk’s continual indecision over purchasing Twitter spring to mind for anyone?), but the Firefly team always havs our finger on the pulse. Here’s our lowdown on what you might have missed.

Artificial intelligence reaches new heights

It’s no secret that supply chain issues and the candidate crisis have plagued businesses significantly recently. But what if AI innovation could offer the solution?

A growing number of startups are applying AI technology alongside established logistics firms to help businesses ease supply concerns.  In the recruitment arena, AI is becoming an increasingly effective tool for hiring strong candidates. Google has even gone as far to develop almost human-level intelligence. Increasing efficiencies is always beneficial; we will certainly be tracking these developments closely.

Dialling back the power of big tech

As the power of AI innovation grows, so do the legal restrictions within the technology sector. The UK Government is set to introduce new competition rules for large tech companies, paving the way for innovation among smaller businesses.

When it comes to user safety, the discussion on the Online Safety Bill continues. Campaigners argue the current provisions do not sufficiently address violence against women and girls, showing that greater protections are needed. We’re also seeing a crackdown on Big Tech’s data collection, with the global central bank calling for individuals to be given more control.

These moves highlight greater oversight is needed over the sector to ensure that everyone can engage with technology safely and freely.

As virtual reality thrives, cryptocurrencies take a nosedive

June has been a less than ideal month for the crypto world, as several stablecoins crashed in a historic market collapse. Though, if anyone fancies a trip to Gucci’s US-based stores, rest assured you can use bitcoin to complete your purchase there, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

Finally, let’s not forget about the ever-expanding possibilities of VR innovation. Everyone’s favourite music streaming service is now on board, and even the sunny seaside city of Portsmouth has recently launched a VR centre, so that we can all get our fix whilst on our summer holidays.

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Other than losing an hour in bed, April has had a lot to offer: longer days, better weather, and chocolate moulded in perfectly shaped ovals! It’s also when it really begins to look and feel like summer; as the eternally optimistic people of Britain begin to emerge from their long hibernation in the hopes of experiencing the elusive phenomena known as sunshine. Time for this month’s tech news roundup!

The less optimistic folk have decided to flee the country in search of the sun. However, not every passenger has been successful in their pursuit of Vitamin D. Indeed, the news has been filled with travel horror stories as recovering airlines struggle to deal with chronic staff shortages. Those travelling to outer galaxies seem to have had an easier journey. April saw the first paying civilians blast off to the International Space Station as part of Elon Musk’s private space exploration service, SpaceX.

But, what if I told you that you could escape to another country or indeed a different planet without leaving your home? This could soon be possible, as some of the largest tech companies, including Meta and Epic Games, share more details of their vision of the metaverse.

While the infamous billionaire is primarily known for his adventures into space and the (slow) production of his high-performance electric vehicle, the Tesla, Musk has once again been the centre of attention in the media for his involvement in Twitter. This month it was revealed that he was the majority stakeholder in the social media platform, and is now even trying to buy it. I wonder if it was his idea to introduce a new ‘edit button’? Some of his tweets certainly need it…cough, cough…perhaps his tweet declaring that he wanted to take Tesla, private? Breaking SEC rules, and ultimately costing him his position as chairman of Tesla and millions of dollars in fines.

Twitter has largely managed to avoid controversy this month. However, the same can’t be said for some other social media giants or, indeed, Will Smith – talk about awkward! Facebook has been marred with a string of failures this month, which has included claims of failing to protect younger users, and accusations of spreading misinformation.

Once again, there has been little good news for the climate. Although, there have been some exciting advancements in the electric vehicle market. Honda is set to ramp up its production of electric cars with a $64billion budget and NASA has designed an electric car battery that can be charged in 15 minutes. When it comes to saving the planet, every little bit helps!

Enjoy the monthly weather chat, and of course the Elon Musk commentary? Sign up for our daily Firewire newsletter to get updates on top stories in the world of tech. 

Spring has finally sprung at Firefly HQ, with a few sunny days being enough to get our teams outside and enjoying all that our cities have to offer. We’re well into the first quarter of the year and the tech industry is continuing to thrive amidst the waves of geopolitical issues and legal challenges. Here’s everything you need to know from March.

Keeping up with regulatory change and legal protections can be tough in such an ever-evolving industry. We’ve seen multiple different approaches to prevent fraud, all the way from the heights of big tech cracking down on online scammers, to the day-to-day of dating app Tinder introducing criminal background checks on users. Giants Meta and Google were also in the firing line again, as governments in both the UK and the EU delving into their online advertising.

For those of us who want something a little lighter, social and streaming have, as usual, seen a number of adjustments in the last month. CNN has launched a new streaming platform – yay! At the same time, Netflix has increased its prices – boo! TikTok expanded even further to 10-minute videos, but I’m not convinced we have the attention span to avoid scrolling for that long. Discord had the proof for that, as when plagued by outages, it had to tell its users to go outside and focus on something else for a little while. Research even proves that we’re hooked on platforms, as nearly a fifth of young people are ready to take the leap to the metaverse.

We can’t ignore the more serious side of the news this month, with the tragic conflict in Ukraine resulting in a Russian tech brain drain, and the end to numerous financial tools and social media sites in the country. Innovation has also continued, with a new digital front line transpiring in Ukraine and facial recognition technology fighting misinformation.

On the brighter side of things, Wordle continues to dominate our daily routines, with a linguistics expert sharing her top tips. Maybe you can do Wordle while you’re waiting for a takeaway and split the bill with your friends, or one day even connect on the first ever gravity-powered infinity train.

Want to keep in the loop about all these developments and more? Sign up to Firewire, the daily tech and comms news roundup from the Firefly London team.

Some say that January feels like the ‘longest’ month of the year – and while that might not technically be true, it certainly went by in a blur. Now that February is done, we’ve had time to get in the swing of things and plan for the year ahead. People are shifting their focus away from the year that was, and thinking – what comes next?  

 The holidays have officially ended, Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and people seem to be looking to escape reality even further – stories about the metaverse, cryptocurrencies and other novel concepts dominated the headlines this month.   

For those worried about robots taking over, this might not have been the best month. February was characterised by developments in the Artificial Intelligence space, with scientists in Japan developing a robot child with the ability to convey six facial expressions. Research also revealed that in many cases, AI-created faces appear more trustworthy than the real deal. Humans are not skilled at distinguishing between human faces and fake ones, making it important for safeguards to prevent the circulation of ‘deepfakes’ online. 

 People can now go on dates in the metaverse, and McDonalds even announced that they plan to open restaurants there by registering trademarks in the virtual space. YouTube also revealed plans for 2022, introducing the idea of verifying NFTs and watching games in the metaverse. Disney appointed an executive to oversee its metaverse strategy, joining other big tech giants as they invest millions in the virtual world. 

There was, however, some worrying news from the metaverse, as experts raised concerns that violence and harassment are rampant, and steps should be taken to ensure that people remain safe when joining the virtual world. As Meta pivoted its strategy to the metaverse, the team hit a snag at the beginning of the month, with reports that they considered shutting down Facebook and Instagram in Europe if unable to process data from European users on US-based servers.  

The cryptoverse sparked conversation, as investors set their sights on ‘’altcoins’’ to power online games and worlds. Bitcoin attempted to reassert its dominance over smaller challengers in the crypto space. Reports indicated that some cryptocurrencies have an enormous carbon footprint and could be damaging to the environment, leading experts to search for eco-friendly methods of engaging in virtual trading.  

 Gaming news took centre stage this month. Reports from 2021 revealed that the UK video game industry is booming, with M&A investment hitting £1.9bn last year. Wordle took the world by storm, and fans were shocked when the game was purchased by the New York Times, potentially putting the ability to play the game for free in jeopardy. After Microsoft’s purchase of industry-leading gaming company Activision Blizzard last month, Microsoft pledged to play fair as it sought public approval on the $68.7bn deal. 

In futuristic health tech news, new technology is being trialled that enables paralysed people to walk again with an implant that mimics the away the spinal cord is activated by the brain. A medical trial being conducted on Australian sheep is also paving the way to help blind people see again through bionic eye technology.  

That’s it for February’s tech news roundup. Sign up for our daily Firewire newsletter to get updates on top stories in the world of tech.  

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