Brain-computer interfaces

Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) measure brain activity and can be used to control digital devices. The focus of BCI development has been on using the technology to allow patients to control assistive equipment such as wheelchairs or prostheses. Beyond medicine they are under development for applications in entertainment, marketing and defence. This POSTnote looks at the underpinning technology, its applications and the associated ethical and regulatory challenges. …

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Misuse of civilian drones

Drones (also known as unmanned aircraft) are flying systems that do not carry a pilot. As the technology has become cheaper and more sophisticated, the use of drones for recreational and commercial purposes has grown, with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) reporting a significant increase in the number of permissions obtained for operating commercial drones in the UK. Despite their potential to reduce costs, improve efficiency and provide new services, drones may be misused accidentally or for…

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Access to critical materials

Critical materials (CMs) are key to UK manufacturing, including for the aerospace, automotive, energy and chemical sectors, which rely on materials typically extracted and processed abroad. CMs are vital components of several emerging technologies, including electric vehicles, renewable energy infrastructure such as wind turbines, and digital technologies such as computers and smartphones. The UK imports most of its CMs and faces international competition for key resources. This POSTnote looks a…

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Research for Parliament: Preparing for a changing world

This document builds on POST's previous publication, Topics of Interest 2018 (POSTbrief 27). The subjects are listed under under six category headings based on the drivers of change identified in POSTnote 500: demographic change and healthcare; social and cultural trends; geopolitical and governance challenges; environmental pressures and climate change; resource security and sustainability; and technological advance.…

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Cyber Security of Consumer Devices

Weaknesses in the cyber security of internet-connected consumer devices can undermine the privacy and safety of individual users and can be used for large-scale cyber-attacks. This briefing looks at the cyber threats associated with consumer devices and their causes, as well as initiatives to improve device security, and the related challenges.…

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Biometric Technologies

Biometric technologies identify individuals based on their distinguishing physical and behavioural attributes, such as fingerprints, face, and voice. Unlike passwords or traditional identity documents, biometric attributes are inherently linked to a person and cannot usually be lost or forgotten, potentially providing greater security and convenience. This briefing focuses on how these technologies work, their applications, and the policy challenges raised by their use.…

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Fire Safety of Construction Products

Fires at Grenfell Tower in 2017, Lakanal House in 2009, and other residential tower blocks have raised questions about how construction products affect the severity and spread of fires. This briefing considers how the fire safety of construction products is regulated; how products are tested and classified; and challenges for product testing and the building regulations more widely.…

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Topics of Interest 2018

This list sets out the topic areas identified of possible parliamentary interest under the 9 different category headings (Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Forestry, Crime, Defence, Education and Skills, Energy, Environment, Health, ICT and Robotics and Transport and Infrastructure).…

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Online Information and Fake News

Internet search engines and social media platforms are an increasingly popular way of accessing news and information. In 2017, the proportion of UK adults consuming news online exceeded those who watched news on TV (74% versus 69%). This note considers how people access news online, how algorithms (sequences of instructions) and social networks influence the content that users see, and options for mitigating any negative impact.…

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Quantum Technologies

Quantum Technologies use the behaviour of matter and light that is normally only observed at very small scales. This POSTnote introduces recent advances, applications, and UK initiatives to support their development and commercialisation. It also reviews policy concerns such as privacy, access to new technologies and secure communications.…

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Telecommunications Infrastructure: Cabling, Ducts and Poles

This briefing gives an overview of the UK’s telephone and broadband infrastructure. It covers fixed (static) broadband infrastructure (rather than wireless technologies). It includes an introduction to poles and ducts, and how they can be accessed by other Internet service providers who are wanting to build their own telecommunications infrastructure.…

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Automation and the Workforce

Automation technologies can reduce costs and raise productivity. However, there is considerable uncertainty over their potential effects on the UK workforce. This note provides an overview of how these technologies are being used; and potential implications for employment, skills, education and inequality in the coming decades.…

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Digital Forensics and Crime

Digital forensic science is the process of obtaining, analysing and using digital evidence in investigations or criminal proceedings. Digital evidence ranges from images of child sexual exploitation to the location of a mobile phone. This note looks at the use of digital forensics by UK law enforcement agencies. It covers how evidence is obtained, the legislation and regulation in this area, and the efforts being made to address the challenges faced by practitioners.…

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