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The dynamic global tech market changes at light speed, but some things are constant — like British innovation. London is still the largest ICT sector in Europe. From the capital’s Silicon Roundabout to Silicon Gorge, booming tech clusters are cropping up all over the UK, Europe’s leading app economy.

Look at my hands manipulating a touch screen, he said.

Together, game-changing inventions, like graphene and the World Wide Web, along with priceless human capital, an enduring national brand, and supply chain efficiency make the UK a global digital economy torchbearer.

watch on wrist
Rather than processing bodily data and feeding it back to users, doppel actually alters feelings and behaviour.

Stress Reduction, A Digital Heartbeat Away

The first wave of wearable technologies may have largely adopted the Fitbit model, measuring human performance, but the next generation of devices, according to Fotini Markopoulou, are aiming at improving performance.

Doppel is an active wearable,” says the co-founder, science lead and CEO of the London namesake tech startup. Rather than processing bodily data and feeding it back to users, the sleek digital wristband actually alters feelings and behaviour.

Doppel is capable of generating almost immediate energising or calming effects in its wearer, depending on speed setting, by emitting silent heartbeat-like vibrations directly onto the wrist’s pulse point.

The smart product is inspired by the concept of ‘entrainment’ — how rhythms can transform a person’s emotional state. For example, music with rapid beats gets people moving at the gym, while slower tempo melodies encourage relaxation. “Our invention was a way to generate a similar effect with something that you could use anywhere,” says Markopoulou.

The wearables startup is a pool of her own know-how in quantum gravity physics, and its other co-founders’ expertise in mechanical engineering, industrial design, and material science.

Rather than processing bodily data and feeding it back to users, doppel actually alters feelings and behaviour.

Crowdfunded By Market Demand

While Doppel was seeded with grants from organisations and programmes such as Horizon 2020, it also got an infusion of capital and public confidence by securing £111,194 in crowdfunding. “Kickstarter was the reality check,” notes Markopoulou.

Things accelerated when a manufacturer in China helped them produce an ambitious debut run of 10,000, investing in Doppel as well.

The co-founders stayed clear of screens, buttons and intrusive functions like alerts when they set out to craft Doppel. “We wanted to design something that integrated with people’s bodies as naturally as possible,” she says.

Doppel has received a strong response in the United States. As such, Markopoulou and her partners are “introducing our baby to the world at CES,” this year’s global consumer electronics and tech trade show in Las Vegas. They also sell it throughout Europe and Canada.

With active interest coming not just from consumers, but coaches on behalf of athletes, and companies keen to spur efficiency and calm in employees, the sky’s the limit.

Look Ma, No Hands, Just Phone!
“We wanted to design something that integrated with people’s bodies as naturally as possible.”

The Workplace of the Future, Kitted Out With Tactile Tech

In the office of tomorrow, getting engaged in work will take on a new meaning, as employees touch, feel and move files and folders around in mid air.

Bristol-based startup Ultrahaptics has developed the world-changing technology behind this futuristic working environment and it’s based on high-frequency sound waves (inaudible to the human ear).

Using proprietary algorithms and a network of speakers, which emit such ‘ultrasound,’ the tech’s inventors have essentially been able to wave-sculpt floating virtual objects which can be touched, felt, held and manipulated by end users, without the need for gloves and wearable gear.

“Our integration will be part of that desk of the future that allows you to feel what you’re working on,” says Ultrahaptics CTO Tom Carter, who co-founded the business in 2013 with his then University of Bristol human-computer interaction professor, Sriram Subramanian, and Benjamin Long, at the time a post-doctoral researcher.

The company, which completed a £17.9 million series B funding round in May of 2017, provides developers (manufacturers, content creators, etc.) with hardware, software, tools and its engineering expertise so they can test, prototype and create their own Ultrahaptics-based products.

“Our integration will be part of that desk of the future that allows you to feel what you’re working on.”

Virtual Showrooms

At this year’s CES, Ultrahaptics brings to life how a consumer may benefit from buying a car in a virtual showroom (featuring an AR headset by Meta and 3D graphics by ZeroLight). The display invites conference-goers to change the vehicle’s colour and feel its engine rev.

The tech can also be employed in automotive design and engineering. “If you’re working on CAD modelling, designing a new supercar, you can see what you’re working on right there in front of you, reach out, touch it, and feel it,” says Carter.

Ultrahaptics has been embraced in the automotive industry, and showcased its haptic controls in the dashboard of a demo Bosch concept car at 2017’s CES. It has also partnered with Jaguar Land Rover in investigating a mid-air touch system for its Predictive Infotainment Screen.

man with light

The Wireless Connection Beneath Your Desk Lamp

Audiences at a 2011 global TED conference in Edinburgh were left speechless when speaker Professor Harald Haas switched on an ordinary-looking desk lamp and used its light signals to play a high definition video over the internet.

Dubbed LiFi, the professor’s extraordinary invention requires the use of LED bulbs. As semiconductor devices, their illumination can be altered at very high speeds. Modulating the light at different rates sends a signal, received by a detector, which then interprets the intensity shifts as data.

While a connection is only possible when a user is situated beneath the LED source, lighting can be dimmed low and still transmit data.

On the heels of Professor Haas’ TED talk, he co-founded the company pureLiFi in 2012 with CTO Mostafa Afgani, as a spin-off from the University of Edinburgh, where he also based his LiFi Research and Development Centre.

The Edinburgh firm, which operates in the B2B arena, has been gradually rolling out its technology — 65 deployments in 20 countries to date — and developing market-ready products such as the LiFi-XC USB plug and play system for smart appliances, laptops and tablets.


Secure and Eco-Friendly

LiFi benefits from built-in security. Each outfitted LED luminaire transmits data for up to eight users within a contained cove of light. “Light doesn’t pass through walls,” says Banham, “If you’re standing on the other side of a wall you cannot access that cove.”

This is particularly useful in maintaining secure boardroom communications, something real estate developers Sogeprom and Nexity targeted when they included the technology in their value proposition for end customers in their Paris headquarters.

As such, the company’s flagship regtech product, the Market Abuse Regulation-compliant Kx for Surveillance, has been a favourite with tier one global investment banks.

The cove effect can improve data density as well. “You get your own lamp above you where you can transmit and receive information,” says Banham, “You don’t steal bandwidth from anyone else in the room who may be under another lamp.”

The high-speed LED based technology is also eco-friendly. “The world is transitioning to LEDs for one reason: they use less power than fluorescents and sodium lamps,” says Banham. “You get improved environmental impact or less power use.”


A New Industry Takes Form

Not only is LiFi dual purpose, illuminating a space and providing a wireless connection, it is also poised to turn lighting companies into wireless communication providers.

In this vein, pureLiFi entered into a partnership with French LED lighting manufacturer Lucibel, which resulted in the 2016 launch of the first co-developed LiFi-ready luminaire.

“We are standardising the technology,” says Harald Burchardt, pureLiFi’s CCO. As such, he cites Cisco, Huawei, Orange and Nokia – the same group that standardises Wi-Fi – as some of the major players contributing to the harmonisation of this new technology, driving adoption. “We’re building the LiFi eco-system. A new industry is taking form.”

LiFi’s remit is huge. The company has deployed 16 use cases, ranging from offices, cars and airplanes to hospitals, where RF is not permitted (but light is). Although indoor use is pureLiFi’s main commercial focus, the tech works in sunlight, opening up new possibilities for smart cities of the future.

“You can envision a world which has street lamps sending wireless information to people’s devices as they walk by,” says Banham, who has been in talks with smart nations and smart city businesses about potential collaborations.

From smartphones to smart nations, LiFi’s applications stretch the imagination and will clearly have a far-reaching impact in the time ahead. Banham concludes: “This technology will be pervasive and it will touch everyone on this planet.”

Half of a British Flag