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.
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 malicious purposes. For example, reports of drone sightings at Gatwick Airport in December 2018 grounded around 1,000 flights for almost 36 hours, affecting more than 140,000 passengers.
In 2018, the Government introduced new limits on where drones can be flown and new registration and education requirements for drone operators and pilots. In January 2020, the new Government introduced an Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill to Parliament that included new police powers for enforcing aviation laws (such as the power to issue a fixed penalty notice for certain drone offences). This POSTnote looks at civilian drones and their applications, focusing on potential misuse and possible responses.
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 at the demand and supply of CMs in the UK and ways of improving supply security.
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.
5G is the next generation of mobile communications technology. It follows on from the previous generations of mobile technology, such as 3G and 4G. 5G is expected to improve on previous mobile technologies by providing faster, lower latency (response time) mobile broadband connections and being able to connect a greater number of devices to a mobile network in a particular area while maintaining good quality connections. 5G mobile broadband will be the first widespread application of the technology. However, in the longer term it may have applications in other sectors.
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.
This POSTnote introduces robotic technology and the main ways it has been developed for use in social care. It reviews evidence on the impact of robotics on the costs and quality of social care and its workforce, and explores the main ethical, social and regulatory challenges to its use in social care.
A POSTnote that describes how working outside of daytime hours – shift work – affects physical and mental health and performance through its impact on sleep and circadian timing. It highlights the latest research, explains the implications for policy and how research can inform the design of interventions to improve shift workers' sleep and overall health.
Distributed ledger technology (DLT) is a type of digital records system that allows multiple identical copies of a ledger to be stored on different computers on a network and updated by multiple different users. This POSTbrief provides a technical overview of the different types of DLT and how they work. It discusses some of the main applications of DLT and highlights the benefits and challenges of the technology.
Telecommunications networks are essential for the day-to-day running of UK businesses and public services, however, concerns have been raised recently over their security. This POSTnote outlines the threats to these networks, the ability of networks to cope with disruption, and possible protective measures.
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.
A POSTnote that discusses the age of criminal responsibility and explores issues arising from international legal standards, the scientific research on children's mental and moral development, and alternative approaches to dealing with children in conflict with the law.
Electricity markets in the UK, Ireland and continental Europe are physically linked by ‘interconnector’ cables. These benefit energy system operators and consumers by reducing prices. They can also help integrate renewable electricity and ensure security of supply. This note discusses these benefits, proposals for future increases in interconnection and the potential effects of Brexit.
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).