Week Ending: 23rd April - A Roundup in I.T. & Tech News

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It’s Friday! Not only can you now enjoy a cool pint at the pub, but you may also enjoy catching up on this week’s I.T. and tech news in our weekly roundup.

This week, Amazon announced it will be launching its first high-tech hair salon using augmented-reality mirrors, Facebook has created a Clubhouse clone called Live Audio Rooms and the Bank of England consider a digital money plan.

Let’s get you up to date.

Bank of England to consider digital money plan

The Bank of England and the Treasury have recently announced a taskforce has been set up to explore the possibility of a digital currency, looking at the risks and opportunities in creating this new kind of digital money.

The use of cash in financial transactions has been on a downward slope recently, whilst debit card payments have been on the rise. This new initiative will sit alongside cash and bank deposits. It will not replace them but will be available to households and businesses. The decision to have such a currency is however just a consideration at the stage.

But, if it was to go ahead, what would it look like?

The currency would be a digital version of sterling, backed by the Bank of England with central banks knowing when and where every e-cash transaction occurred. However, this digital cash won’t be a Bitcoin-style speculative asset with wild fluctuations in value. This initiative could help stimulate the economy, especially with the coronavirus pandemic causing many businesses to shut down and left the economy bare.

The bank having its own digital currency is a way of ‘avoiding the risks of new forms of private money creation’ including cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. The bank can establish an alternative digital currency that can be used by the general public and businesses.

The Bank of England commented

“If a central bank digital currency (CBDC) were to be introduced, it would be denominated in pounds sterling, just like banknotes, so £10 of CBDC would always be worth the same as a £10 note. CBDC is sometimes thought of as equivalent to a digital banknote, although in some respects it may have as much in common with a bank deposit.”

Read more here.

Facebook creates Clubhouse clone Live Audio Rooms

Social media giant, Facebook, has recently announced it will be rolling out a series of audio features on its platform. One of the new features, due to be rolled out later this year, is Live Audio Rooms, Facebook’s version of the popular app Clubhouse that allows people to listen and participate in live conversations.

Alongside Live Audio Rooms, Facebook will also launch Soundbites which will allow users to create and share short audio clips.

Both features will give users the opportunity to make money, similar to popular social platforms such as TikTok and YouTube, however it hasn’t been made clear if this will be available for anyone who uses Live Audio Rooms and Soundbites, or if it will be reserved for creators with large followings.

Fidji Simo, Facebook commented

“Audio seamlessly fits within our busy lives, allows us to be inspired by new ideas, and talk with other like-minded people without pressure.”

Unsurprisingly, not everyone agrees with Facebook’s move to audio features as Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook have been accused of anti-competitive behaviour by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Mark Zuckerberg admitted last year that he copied rivals and adapted features that others have led in.

If this is the case, is Mark Zuckerberg up to his old tricks again and simply copying Clubhouse to branch out into the audio market? What will this mean for the success of Live Audio Rooms?

Find out more here.

Amazon is opening a hair salon in London

Amazon continues to surprise us, and this week is no exception.

The online retailer has made a surprise move into the beauty sector with its announcement this week that it’s opening a high-tech hair salon in London.

The salon, which is located at Spitalfields, East London, features Augmented Reality (AR) mirrors which will show clients how different hair colours and styles look on them before the treatment. Customers will also be able to buy hair products by just scanning QR codes which will be processed through Amazon’s shop.

John Boumphrey, UK manager at Amazon commented

“We have designed this salon for customers to come and experience some of the best technology, haircare products and stylists in the industry. We want this unique venue to bring us one step closer to customers and it will be a place where we can collaborate with the industry and test new technologies.”

As with any new Amazon launch, this latest development has caused a stir with independent salons, with some people claiming that going to the hairdressers shouldn’t be about faceless technology but about human interaction. Jan Mercan, owner of Hair Therapy in Blackfen, South-East London commented

“Amazon should stick to their online shopping trade. Salons have been struggling over the past year and Amazon has made a lot of money in lockdown.”

Will Amazon’s growth cause small businesses to fail? Or is this the beginning of a long digital takeover by the shopping giant.

Discover more here.

Those were some of this week’s biggest stories in I.T. and tech, but if you want more content, follow us across our four social media channels.