This is what I was on the BBC programme to talk about – Your Money Or Your Life LIVE on the BBC. Not just any old ‘tech but tech around coronavirus and to comment on how the UK government is handling the pandemic from a technological POV.
WHY ASK ME?
I occasional media expert but also as I work as well - at The Landing – the home of innovation and technology at Media City in Salford. And so the producers knew that we had an “inside track” on such technology. Not only as a place for innovation that has worked on health tech accelerators with the NHS. But also, as The Landing are launching an accelerator with a world known and governmental organisation.
This organisation is sponsoring our next accelerator. Which launched this week. And so, the BBC wanted me to go and talk about technology. Not only from a startup POV but also the more established offerings out there. Those that help bars and restaurants with their Covid situation.
There are lots. As like the accelerator – the next technological revolution is all about making the UK a safer place. As our CEO Jon Corner, Chief Digital Officer at the City of Salford, says:
"The GCHQ Innovation Co-Lab at The Landing resonates with our ambitions in Salford and Greater Manchester to build products and solutions that work for all citizens. I’m delighted that The Landing MediaCityUK is a key part of an evolving and growing partnership with GCHQ, which itself is contributing to the strength of the Greater Manchester digital eco-system.”
WHY TALK TECH NOW? WHAT HAPPENS THIS WEEKEND?
This weekend in the UK - the pubs plan to re-open. (Those of you that know the British pysche know what a HUGE deal this is.) So I was asked to go in (zoom in) to discuss track and trace technology and new ideas that might help pubs open.
From mobile apps, to security cameras, from digital menus to clever contactless payment solutions. So it was rather lucky I was wearing - The CashCuff® - The World's First Smart Payment Shirt - www.dresscodeshirts.co.uk But it won’t be JUST contactless payments in your clothing. We will need a LOT more technology to help bars open on July 4th.
As the BBC reports:
“Perspex screens, apps and new doors - just some of the changes you might see in bars”
Underneath all this – there will need to be technology. In the above report – they causally mention you have to download an app. So the bar can track and trace you. In case of an outbreak. In fact, the BBC has been awash with reports on clever apps to help the hospitality sector. As the BBC states
“Apps could be what keeps us safe in pubs and restaurants”
But wasn’t one app in particular meant to do this already?
I spoke about this a while back. Wondering where it was. Even before this on radio a few months ago I questioned whether they knew what they were doing. Posting on LinkedIn about it too. But after a bit of feedback from those that know. I was asked to get behind it.
So I did. I went on the TV (not the BBC) and presented that this app was just the first one they would be building. As at the time – I thought there is NO WAY they can waste £12 million pounds and 3 months making something we can’t use. In fact, the app was meant to the basis of how we would open up society again. To do so we needed not just the app but a host of things in place.
- The track and trace app.
- Some kind of testing system.
- A localised understanding of the R rate.
- And the key measures to be DOWN.
This is HOW other countries have managed it. It’s how they have controlled the spread of the virus and so the deaths it has caused. Not so in England – where we have THE WORST death rate in the world. (Per million I know it’s scary isn’t it…. But we do seriously)
We might not like it – but that’s the numbers. We might not like the fact that Liverpool won the premiership. But it is the way it is.
Saying you don’t like it – don’t change it.
With CoVID – and don’t let people fool you - we have the worst rate in Europe – at time of writing the WORLD. We have different cities not knowing what the R rate is. We have a nation in a crisis and in denial. We have a population eager to get out. And seeping out.
We have voted in ministers and non-voted in ministers – seeming to flout their own laws and rules.
Going to Barnard Castle for an eye test. You couldn’t make it up. And you don’t have to. An eye test that I bet – could have been done through an app – or at least some kind of remote technology. Don’t you think? Which reminds me...
We are a leading force in technology. But we don't have the app we need. Tiny countries do. Huge countries do. Tightly packed places to like Hong Kong or Singapore do. Rich countries like Germany do. So called "Developing" countries like Vietnam do.
(In an edit to first writing....NOW the German Government have offered to cooperate with the UK on the Covid tracking app, and experts have “intensified contacts” says the ambassador.)
How is it....
With all that is Holy...That we don’t have one in England.
There has now been a detailed FT investigation into the failed UK attempt to develop homegrown track/trace app, using 160 coders & a budget of shy of £12m. But I am happy to report....
“One nugget about a British territory that did launch its app this month, having spent £0.1m, after using Ireland’s open source code – Gibraltar”
That was from Faisal Islam - where as last week’s scoop was from Rory Cellan - Jones from the BBC who reported that “Northern Ireland preparing to release its own contact tracing app on Apple/Google model within weeks following failure of centralised NHS England app. Statement to BBC from NI Department of Health”
As reported in the FT ...
“Documents released by the British government’s top scientific advisers showed that experts assumed the UK’s track and trace strategy would “rely heavily on the uptake and use of an app”. As Mr Hancock said in May, the new technology would help “hunt down and isolate the virus so it’s unable to reproduce”.
But having spent £12m on development, the UK now has no such tool.
Nor does it have a firm date for when it might get one, even though new infections are still averaging more than 1,000 a day and the recent heatwaves have stoked fears of a spike after crowds flouted social-distancing rules and flocked to beaches this week.”
So the UK government haven’t listened. They tried to make their own app. Their own version. And people will now literally be dying for a pint. A saying in the UK. Where you really want a drink. You can replace the word dying for gasping or for gagging. It's all pretty terrible. What you can't replace is our NEED for the #Covid Track And Trace app.
The track and trace app was to be - the corner stone of the anti -corona virus technology -that had to be in place before we opened up society. The government said so themselves.
However, they have now put this into the hands of the hospitality industry. Without access to a centralised database. And asked them to step in and do it for them. Only problem being...
Bar owners aren’t techies.
Take is from someone who tried to sell them bar apps for years. They don’t get tech. They don’t particularly like technology, and they even find their own tills annoying. This might not be true anymore but it was a while back.... Anyhoo…
The piece of technology for making the UK app has been around for a while. So has the technology for buying a pint from your table. There are many apps where you can do this. I will list some of them in the comments below. To answer Miss Marsh's question...
In reality, we will NEED apps for all sorts of companies not only bars and restaurants. It will be a boon for tech companies and for startups making apps. Not only for tech companies in The Landing - as app developers Foresight Mobile happily state…
“It’s an inescapable truth. Simply put - companies have to entice people in through their doors, persuade them to buy, and retain them as customers.”
To help the hospitality sector. The UK government has published a lengthy document, giving guidance to restaurants, pubs and takeaways on all the measures they will need to take to operate safely. But most of this is unclear and so - as I said on the programme - they have...
“Thrown the hospitality industry under the bus on this one"
Which is ironic as the government has proven itself unworthy to organise a drinking session in a brewery. Or words to that affect.
Which is why research from Greater Manchester says that many bars and restaurants will simply not open – 29% in fact – until August.
It will be interesting to see who opens up fully first – all the bars or all the schools.But even if your local opens.
“Who do you trust more? Your local bar or your local government.”
When I was asking bar owners, a decade ago to consider digital transformation – many bars never had a database of customers. Now overnight we are to trust them with your details.
- Do they have the right people in place?
- Do they have a data protection officer or any idea of GDPR?
- Who is responsible if there is an outbreak of covid?
- And HOW the heck do they find out anyway?
- Who do they then tell? You – your doctor – the government – the police?
- What if they suspect someone of having the virus can they refuse right of entry?
- What if their own staff have COVID first and give it to everyone who visits?
- What if they don’t clean the table enough before you swap tables with someone?
Surely the better way – if we don’t have a national roll out of a track and trace app is to use technology that orders a pint from your table. This doesn’t solve the tracking problem but it minimises movement in the bar itself. And you don’t need a mobile phone.
- You book your table online.
- And you get there with ID to prove its you.
- You have your allowed slot.
- You place your order for drinks on a digital menu.
- Which links to your contact payment.
We can already do this – in Social7 – at The Landing – surely, we can roll out such hardware into other places. And many places have such technology as well – I can remember places where you can even serve your own drinks at your tables – for goodness sake.
So, like with many things it is NOT the technology. The tech is already here. A bit like with video conferencing and e-sports the tech has been around for a decade. It’s the interface – it’s the human being that’s not doing it.
We have needed the motivation. But should we really be out NOW?
I get it. Heck I drink. I drink a lot. I love pubs and bars and networking. And I love technology too. But right now the piece of technology we all need isn’t here yet. To do everything else you need a track and trace app in place. That are rapid and at home testing. And a lot of other political and social buy ins.
- What about in the toilets or the smoking areas?
- What about the air conditioning?
- What about on the way to the pub?
- Or on public transport afterwards?
I understand (perhaps) people being asked to go back to the office to work. But surely no one is forcing you - economically - to go for a drink. Heck, economically it’s better to have your friends over.
Which apparently you can from July 4th anyway.
“Not being a killjoy about the bars but I don’t want people to be killed over your joy and love of them.”
This is a moral moment – not a tech one. It’s the modern equivalent to the marshmallow test. Or when people were asked to wear seatbelts. Accept you are doing it for your parents rather than for you. As it is them that will end up dying due to a second wave.
Truly if you are gasping for a pint so much you will risk your parents ending up gasping for air for the end. You have to have a chat with yourself.
I get it. People need to make money. Bars need to reopen but think about it. At what price? At what cost? And when? As at the moment we don’t dare allow schools to go back. As kids won’t obey the rules. Do you think 100 drunk adults will? On a summer evening after kicking out time?
It is likely to be carnage.
I just hope it’s not carnage 2 or 3 weeks later.
Remember, not overwhelming the NHS only means they have space for you in the ICU ward. Or space for your parents. It’s that simple.
It is until the government can do what it is MEANT to do. And be responsible for our welfare.
You can’t expect bars and resultants to be RESPONSE able.
They can’t be. They are not.
Even if they were all owned by one company. It wouldn’t be fair. The public sector is responsible. Not private. No matter what the government want you to believe.