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Alex Heshmaty

Alex Heshmaty is a legal copywriter and journalist with a particular interest in legal technology. He runs Legal Words, a legal copywriting agency based in Bristol.

laptop, tablet, smartphone

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) refers to the growing trend of employees using their personal laptops, smartphones and other communications devices in the workplace or elsewhere for work-related purposes. The related Bring Your Own App (BYOA) is essentially the software version of BYOD, where an employee uses personal (often cloud-based) software for work purposes, which could be something as simple as forwarding work-related emails to a personal Gmail address. According to recent research, more than half of UK workers have already adopted BYOD, and employers are increasingly asking their lawyers for advice on managing the employment law aspects. Both BYOD and BYOA throw up similar issues concerning security, privacy and ownership.

big data for law

The term “big data” essentially refers to very large sets of data, as well as the processes used for capturing, analysing and extracting value from these data sets. An often-quoted definition of big data is Gartner’s 3 Vs: “Big data is high-volume, high-velocity and/or high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing that enable enhanced insight, decision making, and process automation.” Discussions around big data often focus on public benefits (such as crime prevention or health research) or its value to business (such as upselling and recommendations engines). Big data techniques can help people to spot general patterns or trends (often with the use of visual displays) but can also be applied on an individual targeted level.

driverless car

Advances in electronics and computing have gradually been automating various driving functions over several decades, introducing intelligent systems such as ABS and traction control and the more novel automated parking features. However, although Carnegie Mellon University’s Navlab project experimented with the idea of a truly autonomous car back in the 80s, the spectre of a roadworthy car which drives itself has remained in the realm of science fiction – until recently. Over recent years, Google has been regularly making the headlines with its self-driving car project, which applies a range of sensors (lasers, radars and cameras) along with powerful computing software and extensive mapping to enable customised vehicles to drive themselves on public roads, safely transporting passengers from A to B.

Much of the free content we enjoy on the web is supported by the advertising publishers sell on those pages. Until recently we have readily accepted this bargain. However, as advertising methods have become ever more distracting and intrusive, users have in increasing numbers taken to installing ad blockers to mitigate the effects: they facilitate a faster and cleaner browsing experience, enhance privacy, reduce the chances of picking up malware and save data.

According to a recent report by “anti-ad blocking” company PageFair, ad blocking has grown by over 40 per cent globally over the past year, taking the worldwide numbers of ad blocking users to almost 200 million. However, UK ad blocking users rose at a far greater rate over the same period, by 82 per cent to 12 million.

Web by Ryan DickeyThe term “Deep Web” was coined in 2001 by Computer scientist Mike Bergman in his white paper “The Deep Web: Surfacing Hidden Value”. He used the term to describe the parts of the web containing content which was not indexed by traditional search engines, claiming that it was “400 to 550 times larger than the commonly defined World Wide Web” (or “surface web”). In effect, this means that a Google search which produces millions of results only reveals the tip of an iceberg of data, the majority of which is hidden below the surface.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more commonly known as drones, generally refer to aircraft without an on-board pilot, which are controlled remotely or by computer software. Originally the preserve of the military carrying out surveillance or deploying bombs, drones have been adapted for a wide range of uses in all kinds of industries including agriculture, security and law enforcement, film production, journalism, medicine and scientific research. With the dawn of mass produced inexpensive drones, these flying cameras have now become extremely popular amongst consumers, both for purposes of photography and simply for fun; kites 2.0!

Over the last few years, apps have proliferated on smartphones and tablets and there are now over a million individual apps available for both Apple and Android devices. Although generally only games and entertainment apps receive attention from the press, there are also many apps available for professionals, including lawyers. It’s worth noting that the […]

The first incarnation of wearable technology consisted of the calculator watches which were popular in the 1980s. Mainly produced by Casio, these were mass marketed and relatively cheap but came to be seen as tacky. Aside from telling the time and calculating sums, functionality often included stop watches, countdown timers, a multitude of alarms, phone number storage and later versions could even act as remote controls.

Bitcoin refers to a type of digital currency known as a cryptocurrency, as well as the peer-to-peer system on which it relies. Bitcoin describes itself as “an innovative payment network and a new kind of money”.

Cryptocurrencies are based on principles of cryptography and generally entail complicated mathematical equations which need to be solved in order to generate each unit of the currency (such as a bitcoin). The number of potential units is finite and it’s extremely difficult to manipulate the speed at which the currency units are created. In theory this inherent system of control should make cryptocurrencies more stable than traditional currencies which are subject to radical government manipulation, such as through quantitative easing (printing money) which naturally leads to inflation as the currency quickly becomes less valuable.

hummingbird

As the world’s most popular search engine celebrated its 15th anniversary in September 2013, it revealed a new search algorithm named Hummingbird. According to the head of search at Google, Amit Singhal, Hummingbird represents the most dramatic change to Google search for over a decade. Google has been reluctant to disclose any specifics of the changes, but provided the following statement:

Hummingbird pays more attention to each word in the query, ensuring the whole query is taken into account – so if a resulting page is a bit less strong in general, but it’s the most relevant to your search terms, that’s the result you’ll get ”¦ And if there are plenty of relevant matches to your search terms, Hummingbird does a better job picking the strongest page for you.

Much has been written about the pros and cons of working in “the cloud”. Even in this Newsletter, if you search under “cloud computing” you will find 26 articles, written over several years! Just to re-cap, the essential concept is that data is stored in an online location which is accessible from an internet-connected device, as opposed to being kept on a local hard drive or portable storage medium. In theory, cloud computing enhances data security as logins are generally required for access, and it’s less susceptible to hard drive failures because of backup procedures. It also improves collaboration opportunities and makes data easier to access from multiple locations and devices.

Launched in 2003, Skype was one of the first mass market freely available forms of internet video conferencing. It took advantage of early developments in Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology to allow users to communicate with each other using their microphones and webcams. Previously video conferencing had been prohibitively expensive for the general public and was largely only used by companies. The burgeoning popularity of broadband over the last few years has led to an increase in the use of a constantly improving VoIP and a surge in the popularity of Skype.