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Hulu Answers Our Dreams of a ‘7th Heaven’ Revival

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UK hospitals use blockchain to track coronavirus vaccine temperature

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1.8ml of Sodium chloride is added to a phial of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine concentrate ready for administration at Guy’s Hospital at the start of the largest ever immunization progran in the U.K.’s history on December 8, 2020 in London, United Kingdom.

Victoria Jones – Pool | Getty Images

LONDON — Two hospitals in the U.K. are actively using blockchain technology to help maintain the temperature of coronavirus vaccines before administering them to patients.

The National Health Service facilities in South Warwickshire, England, are using tech developed by U.K. firm Everyware and U.S. organization Hedera Hashgraph. Everyware uses sensors to monitor equipment in real-time, while Hedera is a blockchain consortium backed by the likes of Google and IBM.

Though originally created as the digital ledger underpinning bitcoin, blockchain has since been adapted by various industries for applications outside the realm of finance. IBM and Walmart, for instance, have used blockchain to trace food supply chains and identify potential contamination.

Tom Screen, technical director at Everyware, told CNBC that its sensors would monitor the temperature of refrigerators storing vaccines. It then transmits the data to its own cloud platform where it is encrypted and then passed on to Hedera’s blockchain network.

The point of this operation is to keep a tamper-proof digital record of temperature-sensitive vaccines, like the ones developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. The hospitals would, in theory, be able to pick up on any irregularities in the storage of the vaccines before administering them to patients.

Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at subzero temperatures (-70 degrees Celsius), and can only last at two-to-eight degree Celsius conditions for up to five days, creating big hurdles for the logistics in distributing it.

The vaccines developed by Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca, however, can be stored at temperatures that are within the reach of the average home refrigerator for longer.

Blockchain saw much hype back in 2017, as the value of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin skyrocketed. It led to several projects from major companies including IBM and Walmart, as well as governments, lured in by the promise of replacing various old, paper-based processes for record keeping.

Today, the buzz around blockchain seems to have died down, with barely any trials and products based on the technology being announced by big corporates.

Asked why blockchain was needed rather than a regular database, Everyware’s Screen said “data held in a private database can be verified against the state of data recorded on the public ledger.”

“The benefits of an immutable ledger to verify the validity of data as close to the source as possible has a positive effect on the accuracy of downstream analytics, where any error in source data would be magnified in output datasets,” he said.

Everyware competed in an open tender process involving other bidders to provide its services to the South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust, Screen said.


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Moonpig confirms £1.2 billion float as London awaits more tech IPOs

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LONDON — Online card retailer Moonpig has confirmed that it plans to go public on the London Stock Exchange in a £1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) float next month after demand for its cards surged during the coronavirus pandemic.

Moonpig, which also operates the Greetz brand in the Netherlands, said Tuesday that it will list at least a quarter of the company on the exchange’s main market through an initial public offering.

U.S. investors BlackRock and Dragoneer have agreed to spend £130 million on Moonpig shares when shares start trading in February.

Moonpig Chief Executive Nickyl Raithatha is expected to make £11 million from the IPO, according to The Guardian newspaper, while chair Kate Swann is likely to make £7 million.

“As leaders of a market undergoing an accelerating shift online, we’re delighted to bring Moonpig Group to the public market. Our data-powered technology platform makes it incredibly easy for our customers to create more special moments for the people they care about,” said Raithatha in a statement.

Moonpig, which has around 450 employees, is expected to publish its full IPO prospectus next week.

Founded in 2000, Moonpig is the clear online market leader in cards, holding a 60% market share in the U.K among online card specialists in 2019, according to estimates by consulting firm OC&C.

The London-headquartered company announced its intention to float last week, saying that it had amassed 12.2 million active customers by Oct. 31.

The Moonpig website features over 20,000 cards and a range of gifts including flowers, mugs, and chocolates. Customers order 46 million cards a year and 7 million gifts, Moonpig said.

For the financial year ending Apr. 30, 2020, Moonpig Group’s revenue was £173.1 million, with £126.5 million contributed by the Moonpig segment and £46.6 million contributed by the Greetz segment. The company said its revenue grew 44% between the financial year of 2019 and 2020.

Moonpig is the first U.K. tech IPO of the year but there are a queue of other companies preparing to go public.

Food delivery service Deliveroo is reportedly planning to list in April at a valuation of between $8 billion and $13 billion, while currency exchange app Transferwise may also go public. Elsewhere, cybersecurity firm Darktrace and pension pot provider Pension Bee are also looking at potential stock market listings.

Many of the U.K.’s biggest tech firms have traditionally opted to list on the tech-focused Nasdaq market or the New York Stock Exchange in the U.S. However, the London Stock Exchange has been trying to convince them to list at home in recent years.


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China’s pivot to Europe in light of the tech war with the U.S.

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SINGAPORE — China’s agreement with the European Union could pave the way for Beijing’s “dual circulation” strategy of being self-reliant in technology while still remaining a part of the global supply chain, an academic told CNBC.

Last year, the Chinese government came out with a batch of policy terms to bolster its economy, putting them under a vague umbrella term of “dual circulation.” The phrase refers broadly to two circles of economic activity — internal and external — with greater emphasis than before on business at home.

“Dual circulation is such an important point in the middle of this China-U.S. tech war,” said Winston Ma, an adjunct professor of law at New York University.

The two superpowers continue to fight for technological dominance and superiority. Reuters recently reported that in its final days, the Trump administration notified Huawei suppliers that it was revoking certain licenses to sell to the Chinese tech company. Huawei had been caught up in ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China as sanctions from Washington seriously hindered its ability to do business globally.

Ma told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Tuesday that a EU-China investment treaty, if passed, may potentially give Beijing an option to circumvent the United States altogether.

“You can see this dual circulation is balanced by focusing on domestic innovation and at the same time to try and find somewhere, other than the U.S., to get to the external circulation such that the global supply chain, the global innovation dialogue can still happen in the middle of China-U.S. tension,” he said.

The European Union’s executive arm, the European Commission, last month announced an investment deal with Beijing that followed seven years of negotiations. The deal would still have to be approved by the European Parliament before implementation and lawmakers have already raised major concerns with the agreement. Ma expects it to be approved by this year.

Experts have said that tensions between the U.S. and China fosters disconnect between the technology development in both countries — the situation is frequently referred to as tech “decoupling.”

Ma said some of that split is already happening and pointed to China’s focus on bolstering its domestic semiconductor industry by putting funds into local research and development. Early last year, U.S. lawmakers also proposed funding to develop 5G alternatives to Huawei. “What we are really seeing is both countries are promoting innovation but promoting innovation in a way to be independent from each other. To that extent, the decoupling is really happening,” he added.

It is not clear that President-elect Joe Biden’s administration would reset relations with Beijing, according to Ma. “I would say there’s a lot of uncertainties,” he said.

While the Biden administration has the power to suspend U.S. sanctions already in place, Ma said they could also choose to keep them “and they can even put on more restrictions to these Chinese companies.”

Smartphone maker Xiaomi, for example, was recently added to a blacklist of alleged Chinese military companies by the Trump administration. Biden could potentially add the Chinese firm to the Entity List that can restrict American companies from exporting technology to Xiaomi, Ma said.


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