Welcome back, fellow techies!
September is upon us and with it, our back-to-school edition of #TechAways! I’m Patricia and September is probably my favourite month of the year, bringing back memories of choosing notebooks, testing highlighters and writing my name on all my new belongings, with the smell of new books and leather shoes permutating the air.
Now that I live in Brussels, I can’t help but imagine excited policy officers picking their new ring binders, APAs happily exchanging summer anecdotes that do not involve their MEPs, Commission officials showing off their tans from being anywhere but Brussels for the past month… Though perhaps the biggest change can be perceived in us, public affairs consultants, who in the absence of much legislative gossip, have to engage in ordinary back-to-school chit-chat.
However, the reason I’m this week’s guest editor of #TechAways is not my passion for September, but the one thing that will remain a constant over the autumn, the Spanish Presidency.
The key word of this presidency seems to be ‘’prioritise’’. With negotiations on dozens of initiatives still ongoing, the Spanish presidency is determined to reach January with at least some key achievements under its belt. Among its digital policy priorities, Spain has showed a special interest for the AI Act. Spain wants to become a frontrunner on AI and isn’t just pushing for an agreement, but is already advancing domestic legislation as the first EU member to create a national agency for the supervision of AI.
The EU is currently immersed in discussions on how to strengthen its strategic autonomy through the development of strategic technologies on the continent and protection of value chains for critical raw materials. However, despite the Net Zero Industry Act and Critical Raw Materials Act topping the agenda, it is unclear whether the Spanish Presidency will meet the January deadline. Of course, there’s more to Spanish Presidency than just tech. The Green Deal remains high on the agenda despite Frans Timmermans’ untimely departure, leaving the Spaniards stranded before the European Parliament elections next year
After 13.5 years of waiting for its moment in the spotlight, Spain has found its presidential summer to be as cloudy as national politics. Throughout the summer without a new government, the Spanish Presidency has continued on autopilot, with key priorities unchanged but also little political momentum. Now, September is beginning with uncertainty running high on all fronts. All I can recommend is to sharpen your pencils, pick a new notebook, and read the rest of our newsletter – then, everything will be possible.
Turning the tide with brainwaves 🧠 [The Guardian]
Hold onto your seats – a tech miracle’s here! A woman trapped in paralysis for 18 years is now able to communicate through a digital avatar. Using brain waves as her secret language, this breakthrough turns thoughts into speech and expressions in a blink of an eye – as opposed to the more tedious and slower eye-typing. Scientists at the University of California worked their magic putting 253 minuscule electrodes on the patient’s brain to turn neural waves into words. Yes, it stumbles sometimes, a bit like a baby first’s steps, but this outstanding technology will change numerous lives. The future looks chatty!
Radio killed the railway star 🚋 [WIRED]]
You might think that villainous acts require a sprawling budget, a tailored suit and at least a couple of high-end tech gadgets. However, in these post-Bond times, we can settle for a simple €30 piece of radio equipment to do evil. This is what happened when the Polish railway system – a key piece of infrastructure in NATO’s support of Ukraine – was recently targeted. Simple “radio-stop” commands were sent via radio frequency to more than 20 trains, stopping them in tracks. The Russian national anthem and Vladimir Putin’s speeches were also played. No sophistication required, as lack of encryption or authentication for the commands (Poland hasn’t yet upgraded to GSM cellular radios) meant that anyone could have done it. I guess the villain is as refined as their crime!
The battery-charged tech race 🔋[MIT Technology Review]
China is winning the tech race again. This time, the battery giant CATL pulled a rabbit out of their hat with a lightning-fast battery that can inject a whopping 400 kilometers of energy in just 10 minutes. Coffee break, battery boost, and you’re good to go! But magic always comes with some tricks. The actual vehicle and battery sizes are unclear. Faster charging usually means shorter lifespan and higher cost, which ends up being not so sustainable in the long run. Lastly, CATL’s specifics about costs are missing – watch this space…
AI funding blitzkrieg 💱 [TheNextWeb]
Germany is upping its AI game, with the government doubling funding to €1 billion for AI research. Standing in alignment with the EU’s €1 billion annual commitment to AI research through Horizon Europe, the fund points to Germany’s ambition to win the “technological sovereignty” race and become a leader in an AI-powered world. The plan includes 150 new AI-focused university labs, expanded data centres, and dataset access. The “AI Made in Germany” or “AI Made in Europe” seeks to add a flavour of transparency and trustworthiness, putting the bloc at a competitive advantage. The scope seems clear: Europe, or better, Germany, should come first at the AI innovation finish line.
Sparks fly… but not for long 🎇 [TheNextWeb]
Amidst the surge in climate change-induced forest fires, a noteworthy player arises: “firetech” startups. Dryad Networks is a case in point, slashing fire detection times from hours to minutes, which allows to rapidly mobilise firefighters. Picture it as an “Internet of trees”: forest-laden sensors sniff out fires at inception by sensing trace gases like hydrogen and carbon monoxide. When a fire sparks, an alert is transmitted to a border gateway, promptly reaching firefighters. Tests of this brand-new technology are in full swing – California’s forestry agency is diving into trials amid Northern California’s lush redwood forests. This tech gem is one of many helping adapt to the negative effects of climate change.
In case you haven’t had enough:
Astronaut photographs his ‘office’ during his ride to work [Digital Trends]
WordPress is now selling 100-year domains [Tech Crunch]
Why we should all be rooting for boring AI [MIT Technology Review]
The end of the Googleverse [The Verge]
About this week’s guest editor, Patricia Alonso Castellano:
I’m a Public Affairs consultant with a passion for politics and board games. At SEC Newgate EU, I mostly work with clients in the sustainability sector, but a deep fear of AI destroying the world pushed me to start the AI Taskforce and learn about the impact of the new technology, as well as how we can react. Now I sleep better at night and all crypto currency ads on my social media have been replaced by ones marketing AI tools.