* Posts by NIck Hunn

62 publicly visible posts • joined 15 Apr 2010


Millions of smart meters will brick it when 2G and 3G turns off

NIck Hunn

It's not that they weren't told...

At the start of the planning, this was pointed out to the committee in very plain terms. It even persuaded them to look briefly at power line comms for the return information, which had worked moderately well in several other countries. At the end of the day, the decisions was largely based on utilities not wanting to engage with companies that hadn't worked with for at least twenty years, along with a fear of any new technology. If anyone had offered them analogue smart meters, they'd have jumped at them.

The problem is that despite having cost around £30 billion, there's no cost to the Treasury, as all of those costs have been added to consumer energy bills. It means that the Government isn't really interested and OFGEM probably see it as a gravy train, as they can fine the utilities for not meeting installation targets. So just expect more of the same.

It's also one of those projects, like HS2, which every party has had a hand in, from Labour, through the SDP and Tories. So unless the Tories lose a byelection based on Smart Meters, we're probably set to throw a few more tens of billions away.

It's time to celebrate the abysmal efforts to go paperless in the NHS

NIck Hunn

Use Health and Safety to drive the move to paperless

Don't they understand the danger of paper cuts, and the resulting costs? If those were factored in, it would probably pay for the new IT system.

Europe floats patent overhaul, which obviously everyone's thrilled about

NIck Hunn


Bluetooth is RANDZ, not FRAND. which means it's not part of the patent gravy train. It's a good example of how working to promote a larger, open market can be successful. It still doesn't stop the patent trolls, but that's another story, which might be a better subject for the European Commission's attention.

Barred from US tech, Huawei claims to have built its own 14nm chip design suite

NIck Hunn

Re: Intel

Once we get beyond 210pm and start splitting the atom I assume that it will be marketed as fission chips. I'll have mine with tartare sauce with mine, please, but no mushy picos.

Yukon UFO could have cost unfortunate balloon fan $12

NIck Hunn

Are you suggesting that a well-lubricated balloon could act as a sidewinder condom?

Shocker: EV charging infrastructure is seriously insecure

NIck Hunn

It's the grid that's different.

Petrol pumps are essentially autonomous. If you hack one, then at worst it spews out petrol and sets one gas station on fire. EV chargers are connected to the grid, so you can cause damage by attacking them in concert. As we get more high current chargers, that can start to be significant, especially if you're also targeting home chargers. Or you can just turn them off and strand enough EVs on the M25 to make the stop oil protest look trivial.

Health trusts swapped patient data for shares in an AI firm. They may have lost millions

NIck Hunn

Re: Lost money?

I totally agree. Any shares in a startup have no value unless it has a successful exit and most of them don't. I would hope that all of these trusts entered into the relationship because they believed in the chance of successful therapies being developed.

We need a much more nuanced debate about the potential benefit of sharing health data. If we make it more difficult to use by posting reports like this, suggesting that it is being "sold" for monetary gain, then it will take longer to develop treatments and more people will suffer and die. That is not responsible reporting.

Secure boot for UK electric car chargers isn't mandatory until 2023 – but why the delay?

NIck Hunn

Re: Pwning UK EV stations

I was at a seminar just before Christmas where Pentest were talking about their latest research. They claimed that a number of chargers claimed conformance to these latest specs, but they found that all

of them were hackable.

Norwegian student tracks Bluetooth headset wearers by wardriving around Oslo on a bicycle

NIck Hunn

Re: ...and in other news

Unfortunate and not surprising, bot also not necessary. Bluetooth supports address randomisation, and as far as I know, every Bluetooth chip supports it. Unfortunately, a lot of developers still seem to think that security makes development and debugging harder, so they turn it off during development, then forget to turn it back on before a device goes into production.

That's what the UK proposals are trying to do - make sure that manufacturers at least do the basics.

Without a trace: Baroness Dido Harding to step down as chair of NHS Improvement

NIck Hunn

Re: Lost her sugar daddy (baby)

Surely it's her sugar baby. Little Matty's only just 12, although he acts a lot younger most of the time.

United Nations calls for moratorium on sale of surveillance tech like NSO Group's Pegasus

NIck Hunn

I suspect what annoys the UN experts most is that none of them were on the list of people being monitored. Someone should give them a copy of Cory Doctorow's "Attack Surface" to read, so they can start wondering which of their colleagues in the UN is already licensing the software.

The old New: Windows veteran explains that menu item

NIck Hunn

"Who among us can say they never created a new class?"

I suspect 99.99% of Windows users, who are not programmers. But why bother with them if you work for Microsoft?

Revealed: Perfect timings for creation of exemplary full English breakfast

NIck Hunn

Re: Grilled mushrooms? I don't think so

Which is what the Mirror pictures show.

Make sure the pan's hot to sear them, then they don't go runny.

Foxconn builds stuff for everyone. Now it finds vaccines for Taiwan, and TSMC's chipped in, too

NIck Hunn

Fake News Headline

"Vaccine" and "chipped" in the same headline! What audience are you trying to attract?

Qualcomm heads for rural Dorset to test agri-bots (and maybe a nice jar of Scrumpy)

NIck Hunn

5G Antenna design

Is that a mmWave array he's holding in the picture? It looks remarkably like one of the drawings on Qualcomm's Patent Wall.

British govt emits fuzzy vision for UK version of American boffin special forces group Darpa

NIck Hunn

Re: Been there, done the privatisation already

The real risk is that if it's put together by the same people who have done those, then it will end up going down the same route, which gains us nothing.

I have a lot of sympathy for the DREADCO approach, as it does allow thinking outside the box, which might come up with something useful, Certainly more so that pouring the money into universities or Qinetic2. The biggest challenge will be selecting the ideas to fund. I've been involved in judging a number of government funding schemes, and in general the proposals that come through the door are largely requests for money to keep engineers and academics with limited vision or ability off the streets. This needs to be bigger and bolder if it has any chance of working.

Sadly, it's likely to be tarred as a Cummings legacy, which will kill it off. Which would be a shame, as it could be useful, even if it's just to encourage people to think laterally.

AI brain drain to Google and pals threatens public sector's ability to moderate machine-learning bias

NIck Hunn

What is University for?

This seems to assume that the main purpose of university is to produce more academics, rather than educating people to play a useful role throughout society, so that we can continue to pay our academics.

Maybe we should base academic payscales on how many of their student got successful jobs?

UK Test and Trace chief Dido Harding tries to convince MPs that £14m for canned mobile app was money well spent

NIck Hunn

It's not as if they didn't know

It was made quite clear to them at the start that the developers understood nothing about how Bluetooth works. Google and Apple did understand that, which is why they got together to write their new firmware. But Matt Hancock is essentially technically illiterate and preferred to believe his app developing chums who weren't very concerned with firmware, radio or basic physics. Instead, they claimed they knew more than Apple and Google and were happy to let the money roll in while they got to play with the dinosaurs on the Isle of Wight.

It was already a poisoned chalice when Dido came into the picture, but, like the Wicked Queen, she made it even more toxic.

NHS contact tracing app isn't really anonymous, is riddled with bugs, and is open to abuse. Good thing we're not in the middle of a pandemic, eh?

NIck Hunn

Re: Bugs?

c) And most of the testers are probably plastic dinosaurs.

NIck Hunn

Can you tell if it was designed by clowns?

You can't see a red nose behind a mask...

Singapore to require smartphone check-ins at all businesses and will log visitors' national identity numbers

NIck Hunn

Re: oh, id checks, welcome back!

That exactly the plot of Ira Levin's "The Perfect Day". Exactly 50 years ahead of its time.

Nine million logs of Brits' road journeys spill onto the internet from password-less number-plate camera dashboard

NIck Hunn

It's just practice for the Covid tracing app

If you think 726 million scans a year is a lot, just wait until they've got the Bluetooth Covid tracing app out. That's going to generate around 2.5 trillion contact data points every year. Probably all stuffed into the cloud equivalent of a wet paper bag.

UK snubs Apple-Google coronavirus app API, insists on British control of data, promises to protect privacy

NIck Hunn

Why it won't work

As others have pointed out, it's not going to work. Take the example of going to work in London after lockdown is eased. Bluetooth just loves propagating in metal boxes like the tube, escalators and buses, so you can expect 50 - 100 contacts to be logged on your trips in and out of work each day. If you've just caught Covid, you'll do that daily trip five times during the infectious, presymptomatic stage, which means 500 or more people will have you logged on their phone. On day six, when you self-isolate and get yourself tested, they’ll all get a message telling them to self-isolate and get a test.

With a working population of 6 million in London, we’ll see more than one new infection each day. If the infection rate is 0.01%, which is optimistically low, then that’s 600 infected people going to work, meaning 300,000 people with the tracing app will be told to self-isolate on day 6, or whenever the test results come through.

This is very Noddy maths. There will be quite a number of repeat contacts, as most people do the same journey each day, but that will be balanced by the new infections that join the spreading team on days 2,3,4,5, etc. However, it’s a good enough finger in the air check to alert you to the fact that we would need around a quarter of a million home-administered tests EVERY DAY. Otherwise, those 300,000 people sent home will be sitting around at home for three or four days to get their test results. Only a few hundred are likely to be infected, but if it takes four days for them to be cleared, the app will have locked down a quarter of London’s workforce.

It gets worse. Once they have the all clear and get back to work, it’s probably only going to be a few days before one of their new contacts is tested positive and they’re sent home again. After a couple of cycles of that, I can’t see users continuing to use the app.

Tracing and isolating is really important, but it starts with having massive home-testing available. A tracing app will make that much more effective, but you need the organ-grinder first, not the monkey, however much our politicians may identify with the latter.

NIck Hunn

Why did they take this approach?

It's the baked-in Government approach which killed the NHS patient data scheme and almost every other Government IT project / disaster, which is to impose central control. For more on that, read Richard Bacon and Christopher Hope's book "Conundrum - Why every Government gets things wrong."

What’s worse, is that it seems to be being designed by monkeys. When I spoke to some of the developers a few weeks ago, they weren’t aware of the fact that Bluetooth LE has been designed to be untraceable. So spurning the knowledge of a small group of experts within Apple and Google and the Bluetooth community who actually know how BLE works in phones does not appear to be a great design decision.

So how do the coronavirus smartphone tracking apps actually work and should you download one to help?

NIck Hunn

First, understand the problem you're trying to solve...

Here in London I'd take a guess that every NHS worker will come within range of someone with Covid-19 during the course of their working day, as will most bus drivers and other front-line staff. So they will all be warned to stay at home and self-isolate. Result - London shuts down and lots more people die.

The question is who does this actually help? The fortunate few like us, who have the privilege of being able to work from home, the front-line workers, or politicians desperate for a quick answer? Essentially, we're turning the knobs to balance Government spending, the economy and the number of people we bury. Anyone rushing into developing an app needs to understand that. This isn't just a case of tech going to save the world - it's tech being used to balance Government surveillance, long term costs and the death rate. I don't know where the balance is for that equation, but that's what we need to be debating, not which tech to roll out.

If you've not listened to Emily Maitlis' overview of who is really suffering from Covid-19, watch it now - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6wIcpdJyCI. It's very relevant to this debate.

Mandatory electronic prescriptions was the easy bit in NHS paperless plans

NIck Hunn

Re: Paperlessless

I've also had an electronic repeat prescription set up for the last few years, but in most cases they fail to arrive on time. At which point the pharmacy has to fax (yes, fax!) the surgery to remind them that it's overdue.

Fantastic Mr Fox? Not when he sh*ts on your lawn, kids' trampoline and your soul

NIck Hunn

Re: Need to really P!$$ them off so they go elsewhere

Didn't you see your article on drone technology last Friday?


Never mind Brexit. UK must fling more £billions at nuke subs, say MPs

NIck Hunn


By the time any of these subs are built most of the nuclear powers will have tracking technology which tells them exactly where each submarine is, so the whole premise of the policy disappears. But with £50 billion at stake, no-one in the industry seems keen to point that out.

Top IoT M2M module shipper for 2017 was China's Simcom. Who's surprised?

NIck Hunn

The overall market size is likely to double this year. And it will all be in China.

Strategy Analytics’ comment on the risk of Simcon’s reliance on mature technology seems to indicate that they believe the GSMA’s PR story about 5G a little too much. Looking at what’s happening in China, IoT growth is very clearly around the much simpler NB-IoT standard. According to various players in that market, around 10 million chips were deployed last year, with a prediction of over 180 million by the end of this year - most of them in modules. That means the overall volume of the IoT module market will double this year and most of it will come from Chinese vendors. After MWC I counted seventeen companies developing NB-IoT chips, which will probably feed into between 50 and 100 module manufacturers.

Compared with anything that has gone before, even 2G and GPRS, NB-IOT silicon is simple and cheap. That poses a problem for traditional, higher margin module vendors like Gemalto, Telit and Sierra. NB-IoT module pricing in China is predicted to be $3 at the end of this year and $2 by the start of 2020. It means that the bulk of the companies that Strategy Analytics are looking at won’t be able to complete and will probably look higher up the food chain to 5G, where they have more scope to add value. But that’s not going to have much to do with IoT. If they do retreat from NB-IoT, then the consequence is that China effectively owns the comms portion of the IoT. Which means that Western companies need to concentrate on developing positions higher up the IoT value chain. It’s not just about numbers - it’s about what you’re doing.

Blade Runner 2049: Back to the Future – the movies that showed us what's to come

NIck Hunn

The Year of the Sex Olympics

Don't forget the Beeb's TV drama "The Year of the Sex Olympics" back n 1968. That got most things right about reality TV, as well as providing the style guide for The Hunger Games.

Why the Apple Watch with LTE means a very Apple-y sort of freedom

NIck Hunn

It's LTE folks...

I suspect there's a clue in the fact that it's marketed as LTE, not 4G. LTE doesn't support native voice, but relies on using VoLTE. If you look at the supported networks list, they're the networks who currently have VoLTE support up and running. 4G normally implies fall back support for 2G and 3G; LTE doesn't. Hence my guess is that there is no legacy support for 2G or 3G and they're playing some clever tricks with voice packets over LTE. That should also help them with power consumption, as VoLTE's much more efficient.

Mad scientist zaps himself to determine the power of electric eel shocks

NIck Hunn

It's been done before

There's a great 1954 film clip at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdMp7qyyhB8

Bluetooth makes a mesh of itself with new spec

NIck Hunn

Re: mesh ?

Probably best described as "evolved from" CSR mesh, in much the same way as Bluetooth Low Energy evolved from Wibree. It's had multiple tens of man-years of work added in to get to the published spec.

Utility company picks NB-IoT, actively spurns rival techs' USPs

NIck Hunn

It's hardly surprising

As they say - they're sticking to their core strengths, of which comms is not one. So it's natural that given the need to choose between multiple unproven options, they go for the only one one which offers an SLA. What's surprising is to see a utility make a sensible decision when technology's involved.

Get lost, Windows 10 and Phone fans: No maps HERE on Microsoft's OS

NIck Hunn

Maps for Life

It seemed a little ironic that the message on my Lumia saying that the app would not continue to be supported showed up under their strapline of "Maps for Life".

But I guess they're probably using the marketing experience from the VW group. Another one for trading standards and the ASA.

Rounded corners on Android phones cost Samsung $548m: It will pay up to Apple after all

NIck Hunn

Rounded corners - what's novel or inventive

I remember a presentation from Sebastian Conrad - the lucky man who designed the well rounded Nigella range of kitchenware, where he recalled that when he was studying at the Central School of Art and Design in the late seventies, the Industrial Design course was known as the Department of Rounded Corners. Sounds suspiciously like prior art.

BBC Micro:bit delayed by power supply SNAFU

NIck Hunn

Why not a Pi

I think Andrew's answer says it all - they're small enough to sew onto clothing, bluetak onto lego, glue to stuff, etc, which makes them a lot more appealing as they then become a project about coding for something you already own. Much as I love the Pi, I suspect the vast bulk of users are of the age that grew up with BBC micros, or even Sinclair calculators. Or in my case log tables and slide rules. And the Pi is more for new projects, rather than adding functionality to something you already use.

I do think that adding Bluetooth to the device is a valid reason for not going with the Codebug, as it ticks the other box of letting kids connect it to their phones.

It's a shame about the power supply delay, but they're not the first to hit that problem. I've seen too many other product launches hit the same problem. The part everyone thinks is easy turns out not to be. Although numerous shocks with stuff I built as a kid never seemed to do me much harm. It did teach me that not insulating mains terminals is a bad idea.

Smart meters are a ‘costly mistake’ that'll add BILLIONS to bills

NIck Hunn

Keeping the Quangos funded

The Smart Energy GB response is interesting, as it illustrates how their main interest is remaining funded as a quango, even if that means screwing the consumer. Sacha Deshmukh’s opening riposte is that “The Institute of Directors wants to reverse the modernisation of Britain’s energy system and take us back to an analogue dark age”. Had he spent time looking at the technology in these smart meters he’d have realised that they are the dark age. They were specified before the world saw the iPhone or had grasped the concept of the Internet of Things. The IoD’s main complaint is that the current smart metering programme is effectively a dark ages of smart metering technology. Out of date, over-priced and incapable of delivery any of the benefits which DECC claim. And the world is still waiting for DECC to release its financial justifications, resisting Freedom of Information requests to make then public.

There are important benefits that smart meters provide. The problem is that the UK deployment won’t provide them. The IoD report is a timely warning that DECC and the industry is sleep walking into another Government IT disaster.

Coming clean: Ten cordless vacuum cleaners

NIck Hunn

Why cordless drills came first

Could the delay in cracking the problem of cordless vacuum cleaners have anything to do with the gender of those who are normally assumed to use them?

Intel goes high-fashion with wearable supermodel

NIck Hunn


Is it just me, or are the first two letters redundant? Where do they get their branding people from?

Google Nest, ARM, Samsung pull out Thread to strangle ZigBee

NIck Hunn

Is Google and Nest’s Thread a ZigBee Killer?

There are some good reasons for a new protocol for home automation, as most of what we have is trying to adapt the needs of devices to it, rather than vice versa. Whether Thread goes far enough remains to be seen, but at least the folk at Nest come from an embedded device background which should give them a better perspective.

I do think it will kill ZigBee (http://www.nickhunn.com/is-google-and-nests-thread-a-zigbee-killer/), which will have some other ramifications, not least that we'll soon be deploying 50 million smart meters with an obsolete wireless standard that connects to nothing.

Proper boffins make your company succeed, even if you're not very technical

NIck Hunn

Lessons for Government

It would be nice to see the same principle applied to Government. A few more Ministers with a technical background and the ability to make some evidence based judgments would be a vast improvement on the knee-jerk reactions of the present incumbents..

Build your own WORKING Sonic Screwdriver... for a UNDER A FIVER

NIck Hunn

The Sonic Screwdriver X-Prize?

Given that Qualcomm has persuaded the X-Prize foundation to run a $10 million prize competition for someone coming up with a healthcare device similar to the Tricorder, how about lobbying someone like ARM to fund the equivalent Sonic Screwdriver prize?

Wow! British Gas bungs a million remote-controlled sales-droids in UK homes

NIck Hunn

What it's really about

There was an interesting perspective from a senior manager at a US energy supplier earlier this year. When asked what the best thing about their smart meter roll-out was at an industry conference, he claimed it was the fact that the data gave them a greater ability to blame the customer.

Dialog Bluetooth chip boasts battery life of four YEARS

NIck Hunn

Late, but on its way.

The industry has been toying with Bluetooth for some time. Unfortunately they got side-tracked by ZigBee's PR and have spent a few years playing with RF4CE. That has given Bluetooth time to get its act together with Bluetooth Smart, which should start appearing in consumer products soon.

The good news for TV manufacturers is that Bluetooth Smart comes as standard in most Smartphones, and both Apple and Android have released APIs for developers. So by switching to Bluetooth, the industry sees the prospect of a future where they no longer need to include any remote control.

Black-eyed Pies reel from BeagleBoard's $45 Linux micro blow

NIck Hunn

Re: The board has rounded corners

I recall AutoCAD having a CTRL-R shortcut to do that back in the 1980s. I'm surprised it was never cited as prior art.

UK faces hacking doom, but think of the money, security startups!

NIck Hunn
Thumb Down

First learn to count

We start off with 33,000 malicious emails a day, but by the time Chloe Smith starts to wax lyrical halfway through that's down to 33,000 a monnth, or just 1,000 a day. Even assuming that users only get one malicious emial per day, which is very low, that implies that only 1,000 people have government email accounts.

So someone either needs to tell George Osborne about an unexpected level of cuts, or take Chloe out of the kindergarten and tell her something about the real world. 1,000 phishing emails a day is not DOOM. We don't need CUTTING EDGE TECHNOLOGY to counter it. But it would be nice to have a Government minister that doesn't descend into braindead mode the second they encounter a number bigger than ten.

Out of interest, I wonder how the cybersecurity folk like being lumped into the same industry sector as G4S security guards. Although now we've got 26,000 of them, there's probably enough to hold a red flag in front of every government PC.

Flexible flywheel offers cheap energy storage

NIck Hunn

What about the other losses?

I worked on rotating anode X-ray generators many years ago, which were very similar, in that they had a large mass of metal spinning at high speed in a vacuum. The biggest problem was maintaining the vacuum across a bearing that's rotating at high speed, whilst supporting a large mass. This won't need as high a vacuum as an X-ray generator, but even with the progress in ferrofluidic seals you'll still need pumps running to maintain the vacuum, contributing to the losses.

The other think he'll need to think about is the housing. When the bearing fails on a flywheel this size, the flywheel does a scary amount of damage, like ripping through several inches of steel. So you'll end up with something that probably weighs in excess of a ton. Which means you might be better off sticking with batteries.

Wi-Fi hotspots, phone masts: Prepare to be assimilated by O2's Borg

NIck Hunn

What comes around...

Wasn't it 2003 when Ericsson launched this concept as Unlicensed Mobile Access?

WTF is... IEEE 1905.1?

NIck Hunn
Thumb Down

And where's the Interoperability

At least DNLA understood that you need to specify conformance tests if it's going to work in the wild. Which is a rather important detail which is stangely missing from most IEEE specifications. As a result they tend to flounder in the market until an external body like the Wi-Fi Alliance comes along, takes them over and adds the missing bits.

So I'd conclude that it does look like DNLA, but without any interoperability or testing. Perhaps it would be wise not to ask Santa for any 1905.1 stuff for the next few decades.