Jul 18, 2021

The laws of robotics: how regulation will improve our robots

Tom Canning
4 min
The regulatory landscape surrounding IoT automation and robotics is changing
Tom Canning, VP of IoT at Canonical, takes a closer look at the regulation of robotics as automation - driven by 5G and AI adoption - continues to evolve.

Innovation within the field of robotics is gaining pace. Rapid expansion is taking place right across the industry spectrum, as well as seeping into entirely new areas. And these developments have rekindled the crucial discussion around robot ethics, as we consider who and what is responsible for keeping robots on the just and righteous path. 

In legal terms, humans aren’t the only ones governed by predefined law, as artificial entities now have their own legal persona, too. In the assistive robotics sector, several studies have discussed ethics, due to its implications in ubiquitous surveillance, patient autonomy, non-human therapy, deception, and AI interpretability. Robotics start-ups should keep these concerns and challenges in mind, since they have a direct impact on the end-users, while regulation around these topics is coming into play as we speak, to help organisations design better robots. Robotics companies must prepare for future changes by taking a proactive and ethical approach, with user’s rights at the centre of the design process.

To gain people’s trust, clarity around the status of AI will certainly be important. One of the biggest, and legally disruptive, challenges posed by AI is what to do with machines that act in ways that are increasingly autonomous. Here it is vital that the regulation evolves.

There has previously been discussion around creating a new legal status for robots by giving them electronic personhood, whereby AI and robots would be considered “e-persons”. This would attribute them responsibilities and drastically alter the way they are seen through the eyes of human law. In this sense, the AI or robot could be held responsible under current structures if something were to go wrong. The idea was shot down, but the wider discussion remains as to how we situate robots within regulatory processes and where the responsibility ultimately lies. 

Who or what is obligated?

An additional complexity around allocating responsibility for the damage caused by increasingly autonomous robots could be solved by an obligatory insurance scheme. This could reflect, for instance, the automotive industry, which already includes a protocol of this nature. Here the onus would be on the insurance industry to develop new products and types of offers that are in line with the advances in robotics and society today. With this in mind, AI engineers should be aware that the development of the likes of autonomous cars, medical-bots and robo-advisors could soon become highly regulated, expensive, and come with some extensive and burdensome liability strings attached.

In light of this, there is scope for these insurance pressures to result in improved robotics design. If manufacturers are obliged to insure their robotic products for damage and are also liable for providing safe-to-use equipment, there is an added incentive to create products that place user experience at the heart of the design. The good news is that this development is likely to lead to improved product design, as well as better robotics development and delivery of machines into the field because the direction of legislation is geared towards creating products that are of the highest possible standard for user experience. 

The IoT as a blueprint?

 Look at IoT devices, which have been the focus of increased legislation in the UK over recent years, due to historic vulnerabilities and minimal support from manufacturers once they leave the assembly line. The solution has been in the software, which can safeguard beyond the physical form of an IoT device, or in this case, robot, on an ongoing basis. Choosing an operating system that is designed with security and the end-user in mind allows a robot to better evolve with legislation over time.

Using large embedded systems such as Ubuntu Core enables autonomous robots to be fitted with several layers of security already stacked into the operating system, with system integrity ensuring the software is protected against corruption. From an IoT perspective, this provides additional protection over the data that is collated, in line with GDPR and wider security concerns across the robotics industry.

In time, software will replace hardware as the fundamental element in a robot's worth. Because of this, security and reliability will become the foundations of trust in machines, while collaboration will promote more dynamic robots, those that are able to extend their lifespans through third-party apps. That’s where a technology such as snaps comes in. Snaps are containerised software packages that are easy to create and publish. They are safe to run and have the ability to update automatically and transactionally to ensure an update never fails. If a security vulnerability is discovered in the libraries used by an application, the app publisher is notified so the app can be rebuilt quickly with the supplied fix and pushed out. 

Ultimately, there is real value in developing regulation for the robotics industry, because it will provide the strongest possible user experience. Software is the building blocks for robots, and will result in better harmony between autonomous machines and the laws that govern them.

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Jul 29, 2021

HMD Global launches “rugged” Nokia smartphones

4 min
HMD Global, a Finnish mobile phone manufacturer, is launching three “toughened” Nokia smartphones and expanding its range of audio accessories.

Finnish mobile phone manufacturer HMD Global, often referred to as the home of Nokia, has launched three new smartphones for the brand, the Nokia XR20, the Nokia C30, and the Nokia 6310. The company is also expanding its portfolio of audio accessories.

Explaining the reason behind the launch of the devices, Florian Seiche, CEO, HMD Global, said: "We are tapping into consumer pain points around durability and longevity. We did a global trend report8 and found that 73% of consumers want to keep their phone for longer and would if their devices were maintained over time. 

“At HMD, we are empowering people to avoid early device replacement and encouraging more sustainable consumption through our longevity promises. We are delighted to announce the Nokia XR20 – a life-proof phone2 with our trademark sleek, Nordic design that we built for both consumers and enterprises,” Seiche said. 

The Nokia XR20: The “life-proof” phone 

According to HMD Global, the Nokia XR20 is built for longevity and toughness. The company claims it can withstand extreme temperatures, falls from 1.8m above ground, and can survive being in water for up to an hour. Features include the Corning Gorilla Glass Victus screen, said to be the toughest glass ever manufactured. 


To prove its durability, Brazillian footballer Roberto Carlos and female world champion freestyler Lisa Zimouche put the XR20 through several tests including placing it in icy water, kicking it, and spinning it screen side down across a concrete football pitch. Carlos also kicked the phone in a move that recreated his infamous “banana shot” last seen in the Brazil vs France match in 1997. 


The Nokia XR20 during testing. Image: Nokia

Roberto Carlos, Brazil World Cup winner and Real Madrid legend, said: “I’ve been asked to recreate my ’97 free kick many times over the last twenty years, but never like this before, so I had to accept the challenge. Surely a mobile phone couldn’t survive the wrath of a football. I didn’t think the Nokia XR20 could have withstood the power of my kick. I may not be professional anymore, but I know I still pack a punch, so it was an impressive result.”

HMD says that the XR20 also comes with a  48MP+13MP dual camera with ZEISS Optics, OZO spatial audio, and innovative imaging solutions. “The all-new SpeedWarp mode lets you capture a whole lot of adventure in a compact, exciting montage. Pushing the boundaries of the mid-range, it also comes with 5G speeds, 15W wireless charging, and superior durability,” the company added. 

The mobile manufacturer’s two other releases, the Nokia 6310 and C30 also have new characteristics, with the C30 offering both the largest battery and biggest screen ever fitted to a Nokia device. The battery is said to last up to three days on a single charge. 

The third phone, Nokia’s 6310, aims to bring advanced accessibility, optimised ergonomics, and also has a long battery life. It features a larger display and buttons, as well as zoomed-in menus. 

Nokia’s audio accessories

In addition to the release of smartphones, HMD has also announced an expansion of its audio accessory range. This includes four, new distinct audio lines: Go, Micro, Comfort, and Clarity. 

  • Go: ultra-high value products offering the highest quality at the lowest possible prices
  • Micro: meeting the demand for compact form factor
  • Comfort: a result of consumers seeking optimal comfort in wearables
  • Clarity: top-of-the-range quality earbuds integrating the latest tech

One of the products in the new audio range, Nokia’s Clarity Earbuds Pro, aims to give customers high-performance sound, battery life, and build quality. The powerful combination of dual-mic environment noise cancellation (ENC), Qualcomm cVc, Echo Cancelling, and Noise Suppression Technology captures and eliminates background noise for superb call and music clarity, HMD said. 

Alex Lambeek, Global Head of Accessories, HMD Global, said: “Much like our smartphones, the excellence in Nokia accessories is a result of industry-leading testing for quality. The invaluable insight from our Nokia smartphone community combined with regional insights across the globe has allowed us to grow our ecosystem of companion products to an impressive portfolio. 

“It’s supported by a network of strong partnerships like Binatone that allow us to provide the best for our growing fanbase. Inspired by nature and packaged in paper and soy-based ink to protect it, each new line delivers premium lifestyle experiences at accessible price points,” he added. 


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