In the loop: price hikes and trade deals

As British firms shook hands with a delegation from Malaysia, warnings were made about a looming spike in food prices and a lawsuit provoked thought about how much data we want our most personal devices to store

In the loop: price hikes and trade deals

The robots really are coming for our jobs

Given its reliance on highly skilled labour and a service economy, it may take slightly longer for automation to completely replace humans in the UK. But according to Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, greater automation could “mercilessly” destroy 15 million jobs. Speaking at Liverpool John Moores University, Carney drew parallels between the dawn of the machine age and previous technological revolutions that displaced entire industries.

And while some may dismiss his comments as more fearmongering from ‘the experts’, there are warning signs that his vision might not be far off the mark. Lloyds Bank has already used automation to replace some of its employees. Meanwhile Capita, the outsourcing and professional services company, has just announced plans to shed over 2,000 staff members with a view to automating certain tasks and upping its team in India. It’s clear that as companies adopt automation in a quest for ever greater efficiency, there will be winners and losers.

Malaysia to set up a UK-based tech trade hub in 2017

During a trip organised by the Department for International Trade, officials from the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) have been touring the UK this week. As well as signing trade deals with technology firms, the diplomats announced plans to set up a trade office to facilitate cooperation among digital businesses. And while much of the legwork for this was done before the Brexit vote, the delegation has been encouraged by the openness to international cooperation that British firms are showing in the aftermath.

There’s also a huge appetite in Malaysia for boosting the country’s digital economy, with the country’s secretary general of treasury, Tan Sri Irwan Serigar Abdullah, stating back in October that digital could contribute 20% to its GDP by 2020. As it stands, Britain is the second-biggest tech investor in Malaysia and it seems this trip could be a sign of even closer ties to come.

Internet of things vibrator maker settles privacy suit

While consumers are becoming more comfortable with the thought of being able to control their appliances through an app and having wearables like Fitbits collect data on their health, there are some areas where internet of things (IoT) devices can start to feel a bit, well, creepy.

Standard Innovation, which makes the We-Vibe internet-connected vibrator, is to settle a federal lawsuit surrounding the way the company collected data about how people were using its devices – namely information around temperature and vibration settings.

As more firms integrate IoT into their products, it will be interesting to see how they navigate the thorny cybersecurity waters, especially when the General Data Protection Regulation comes into play. And it certainly seems that when it comes to the most intimate of devices, there is such a thing as being too smart.

Bracing for a hike in food and drink prices

Just when we’ve recovered from #MarmiteGate and the backlash against Toblerone’s decision to introduce wider gaps between segments of its iconic chocolate prisms, representatives from Britain’s food industry have warned that prices will rise if businesses aren’t able to access talent from the EU after Brexit.

In an open letter signed by 30 food and drink industry bodies, including the British Retail Consortium, Scotland Food and Drink and the Food and Drink Federation, the representatives highlighted the critical role that skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour from the EU plays when it comes to the British food industry’s ability to deliver high-quality and affordable food.

Britain’s growers and makers are responsible for £18bn worth of food and drink exports, while food manufacturing contributes more to the economy than the automotive and aerospace sectors combined. Given how sensitive consumers can be when faced with price rises or product shortages, producers feeling the pinch already could be in for a bumpy ride.

Maria Barr
Maria Barr

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