Voipfone - The Future Of Communication

The Spy in the Connected Car

connected_carI bought a new car this month; I had to, the sat-nav broke in the old one. But I’m not a car man, I use cars for convenience so I tend to buy very ordinary cars very infrequently and use them until they fall to bits.

But I am interested in how cars are changing with communication’s technology and I tend to buy cars with a lot gadgetry in them – even if I never find out how to use the half of them. For a start, I’ll only have an automatic these days, why this country prefers manual gear changing is a total mystery to me. And, as noted, a sat-nav is mandatory for me – as is hands free telephony of course – but now adaptive cruise control is also obligatory

If you’ve never used it, it’s almost magic. Your car’s radar locks onto the car in front and speeds up and slows down depending on what it’s doing. It’ll brake to a standstill or speed up to the limit you’ve pre-set. Essentially the car in front is doing the driving for you. So far I’ve driven for hundreds of miles without using my feet at all. It’s great in stop-start motorway traffic.

This technology is in an otherwise ordinary family car – a VW – so it’s hardly bleeding edge but it shows how far along the road (sic) the driverless car has gone.

My car is now also a Wi-Fi point – which is a bit weird – but along with this I was given a Data Plug. It’s also being given out for free by VW garages after service and I’m wondering why? Why free, that is?

This plug is a dongle that plugs into your car’s computer and records a huge amount of data about how your car is performing and – shudder – where it’s been. It connects with your smart phone which connects to the web. What could possibly go wrong? Well the car mechanic at the garage now knows my every movement and my car can now be hacked.

Voipfone is knee deep in GDPR guano at the moment – this subject is possibly a post for another time when I’m not bleeding so badly on it, but because of this I’m wondering about the security of all this data in the Data Plug; this ‘free’ plug is in exchange for something – I wonder what they’re doing with all that data? Did they get your permission and did you know?

Needless to say, I’m not plugging in the plug just yet.

Blockchain Voipfone

dreamstime_xs_104207765The media is currently fascinated by the rise and fall and fall and fall and rise and rise and fall of Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is, of course, the archetypal example of cryptocurrency – the new kid on the block (geddit?). In the winter of 2009 a single Bitcoin was worth zero but by January 2017 it had risen unsteadily to $968, and almost a year later it was worth $17,800. This is good news for my mate who was given a single Bitcoin a few years ago as a joke and now feverishly checks on it several times a day like a Tamagotchi. Sadly, its value at the time of writing is $10,642.

Bitcoin has been famously used by criminals as a way of laundering their swag anonymously but more legitimate uses are now appearing. Bitcoin does, in fact, leave an audit trail so the scammers are moving to the hundred or so other cryptocurrencies that have sprouted in the last few years. Lately too, there has been much discussion about whether Bitcoin is a currency or an investment – the finance industry leans very heavily towards investment, and a dodgy one at that, showing every indication of being a very fat bubble. I reckon you can measure a bubble by the amount of scammy spam arriving in your inbox about it and Bitcoin is now No 1 in mine.

The technology that cryptocurrencies rely on is called blockchain and its use in digital cash is only one of its many potential targets. The pundits tell us that blockchain is going to be bigger than dot com as it’s a generic way of secure, distributed record-keeping. ‘Secure’ seems to be a relative term in the cryptocurrency world. Just a couple of days ago the Japanese currency exchange, Coincheck, was subject to a modern-day heist when someone blagged 500 million cryptodollars from its virtual vaults. This caused Bitcoin to lose another 2.5%. But fear not, word from George Sorros – currently at Davos – is that while the cryptocurrencies are indeed bubbles they won’t crash to zero because they’re used by despots and dictators to make secret investments outside their host countries. Happy days.

What brought this to my notice was an item on Newsnight that made me laugh out loud.

Way, way back, almost pre-internet, I met a chap called Clem Chambers who had a tiny company in East London trying to sell an online multiplayer game called – I think – Air warrior. Somewhere along the line that company morphed from On-Line Entertainments Ltd into On-line Plc a financial trading company. Back before the dot com bubble burst anything with online and .com was worth zillions just by having the name and Clem was always into these things faster than anyone I knew.

Anywho, Newsnight had him on to explain why he’d recently changed his company’s name to On-Line Blockchain Plc. What he said in reply I don’t recall, but I do remember that the interviewer showed us a historical graph of his share price and called it ‘so flat you could hang your clothes off it.’ After the name change his share price increased by 400%. Nice one Clem, great to see you still in the game.

And so the gold rush has started and companies with blockchain in their name are increasing in value faster than Bitcoin itself. Voipfone will hereinafter be referred to as Blockchainfone.

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