Weekend takeaway: A taste of the bitcoin fork, Facebook culture and more

4 Aug 2017

Treat yourself to a selection of digestible sci-tech reads for the weekend. Image: Daxiao Productions/Shutterstock

This week’s essential sci-tech reads celebrate Voyager’s 40th anniversary, monitor bitcoin’s split, discover the science behind selfies, and why you really need an office dog in your life.

1. The biggest challenge for autonomous cars is regulation, not tech

Ireland-based IBM Research is quietly building systems for the future generations of connected and autonomous vehicles. Driving this technology is Wendy Belluomini, who is the research centre’s director. She spends just as much time thinking about how governments and companies plan regulations for fleets of autonomous vehicles, as how the technology itself will actually work.

“The hardest thing for car companies is the point when they put that brand on a vehicle and take responsibility for what happens, after it has convinced itself it is safe and has convinced the regulator that it’s safe,” she told Colm Gorey.

2. Want to work at Facebook? Here’s what the company culture is like

Facebook is arguably one of the most exciting tech companies in the world to work for. It was one of the first to drive the relaxed start-up-style culture that we’re all so used to seeing today. But what is the company culture really like? What does Facebook look for in its employees? And what can potential employees expect? We found out at Inspirefest.

3. 40 years on, Voyager 1 and 2 are still rocking it in space

In the 40 years since Voyager 1 and 2 departed Earth’s atmosphere, they have continually delivered answers to questions posed back at base. Voyager 1 is currently in what’s called ‘interstellar space’, around 20bn km from Earth, while Voyager 2 is in the ‘heliosheath’, the outermost layer of the heliosphere where the solar wind is slowed by the pressure of interstellar gas, almost 17bn km from home.

Both spacecraft will have their science instruments disengaged by 2030, though that’s not the end of Voyager 1 and 2. Instead, they’ll be out on their own, travelling at 48,280kph, orbiting within the Milky Way every 225m years.

4. Splitcoin: Two rival bitcoin currencies now exist, but what does that mean?

Bitcoin as we know it is no more, because, this week, the currency split in two. On one side is the technology favoured by traditionalists, called Segwit2x; and on the other side, the splinter currency, simply called ‘bitcoin cash’. The fork in the bitcoin road was two years in the making as the cryptocurrency has changed quite a bit since it was first launched in 2009. Colm Gorey explains what the complex process means for one of finance’s greatest disrupters.

5. Global fintech investments double to $8.4bn in a single quarter in 2017

A KPMG report released this week evaluated the global health of fintech investments for Q2 of this year, finding that they have more than doubled in the space of a quarter at $8.4bn compared with $3.4bn in the previous period. Driving much of this major boost in spending was mergers and acquisitions, with $5.9bn (70pc) accounting for the total investments this quarter at the expense of VC funding.

6. Berlin makes a play for top tech talent as Brexit nears

While Dublin may seem like the obvious choice, other European cities such as Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris are striving to help relocate some of London’s financial institutions following Britain’s exit from the EU. And it’s not just the banks, either. A recent study shows that the UK faces losing as many as half of its highly skilled EU workers over the next five years due to Brexit. And, while a number of cities are in the running to absorb that talent pool, one city in particular has been making its play since the start.

7. Beware of a new Vodafone email scam knocking around Ireland

Vodafone customers found themselves on the receiving end of fake bills emailed with the Nemucod trojan hidden within. Ireland appears to be one of the most successful hunting grounds for Nemucod, with ESET finding a 50.42pc detection rate in the country. Considering the global average is just 15.82pc, that’s quite the figure.

8. How to take the perfect selfie just got a lot more scientific using a new app

A team of researchers from the University of Waterloo in Canada believe they have curated an app that can finally allow people to take the perfect selfie. Presenting their findings to a conference in Scotland recently, computer scientists Dan Vogel and Qifan Li revealed a smartphone app powered by an algorithm that directs the user where to position the camera, allowing them to take the best shot possible.

9. ‘Precision testing for patients is undergoing a revolution’

This week in Leaders’ Insights, Diaceutics CEO Peter Keeling tells us how he built a successful company on the premise that better testing leads to better treatment for patients.

10. 15 reasons why having a dog in the office is the best idea ever

Anyone who has a dog at home would probably love nothing more than to bring the little guy to work. But did you know that there are scientifically proven reasons why having a dog in the office is actually beneficial for employees? Check them out and convince your office manager with this infographic from Headway Capital.

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic