Issue 6: 17 June 2014
Troops wearing Brodie helmet's sheltering in a trench

WW1: Combat helmet technology - the Brodie steel helmet

An iconic symbol of war, the Brodie was the first combat helmet to be specifically designed and engineered for Western Front battlefield conditions – and its legacy extends to the composite material military hard hats worn by today's fighting forces.

Soldiers steer a tank over a trench

From "archaeologists in the trenches" to modern-day enthusiasts of the rich engineering heritage, First World War archaeology keeps uncovering more and more hidden secrets.

Signals troops using a field set in a trench

The exigencies of the 1914-1918 conflict meant that electronic communications on the Allied side had to find new ways to interoperate both on the battlefield and on the Home Front: but can the beginnings of 2014's interconnected domains be found in innovations that came out of the necessities of that war?

A female munition worker, 1915

The First World War was a major defining factor for the professional and social status of women engineers.

First World War
E&T cover image 1406

This month’s cover star saved thousands of lives but remains an unsung hero. We tell the story of the life-saving helmet issued to British soldiers, the engineering that made the Brodie so popular with the Allied troops and by the end of the war had become almost standard uniform. Another life-saver in this issue was battlefield communications, a sort of tele-net of things that foreshadowed today's Internet of Things. 

We also have the second part of the story of the intelligence operations in the Admiralty’s legendary Room 40, cracking codes when computing’s father figure Alan Turing was but a toddler. New forms of transport played their part in the Great War, too, such as the Zeppelins that bombed London and Paris and the battlefield debut of an extraordinary machine codenamed the ‘tank’. Last, but certainly not least, we hear the story of some of the first women engineers for whom the First World War was a unique opportunity to make a real contribution.

Away from the horror of the First World War, we look at fracking in the UK; the BBC's R&D road map; the relationship between embedded systems and the clock; the future for fusion energy; greenhouse technology in the desert and finally we have an exclusive interview with Lord Browne, in light of our recent LGBT survey.

The E&T podcast: hear the story of Deborah the Tank, with archaeologist Philippe Gorcynski

We hear from military archaeologist Philippe Gorcynski, who talks about his beloved excavated and semi-restored British-made D-51 tank, recovered from a battlefield pit near Cambrai, France.

Download the Deborah the Tank podcast now

Also in this issue
The Context team targeted the mesh network used by the LIFX bulbs as a way into the mock smart homes Wi-Fi network

How many security researchers does it take to hack a light bulb?  ET arr

How many cyber-security researchers does it take to hack a light bulb? About six, according to one firm, which has demonstrated that the manufacturers of the growing number of connected devices in our homes appear to have a security blind spot.

Investors see potential in Uber, which is causing black-taxi drivers to protest

Analysis: Why investors are paying top dollar for Uber  ET arr

More than 12,000 black-taxi drivers descended on London this month to protest the rise of taxi app Uber, with Mayor of London Boris Johnson expressing his sympathy for their cause. The company was recently valued at around $17bn in advance of its IPO, so why are investors willing to pay so much?
A truly global Internet of Things needs interoperability, but creating a framework to achieve this is no easy task [Credit: @wilg]

HyperCat: Interoperability on the Internet of Things  ET arr

The rise of The Internet of Things is gathering pace, but unlike the heady days of the early Web big corporations have got a head start and are building it around proprietary solutions that refuse to cooperate. Is there a way to break down the barriers?
Austrain-Hungarian guards circa 1916

WW1: Civil engineering achievements at the Great War’s Southern Front  ET arr

The least-known First World War theatre in the Dolomites was the area of bloody battles over freezing precipices which called for some extreme civil engineering.

BBC's iPlayer as viewed on a laptop

R&D at the BBC: can the Beeb sustain its tech reputation?  ET arr

We have the BBC to thank for many tech advances from the last two centuries, but can the world-famous public service sustain its R&D activities?

Core activities of the UK shale gas supply chain from acquiring land to processing gas

Fracking for shale gas: geologists demand more data for UK  ET arr

We should know more about what lies underground, say geologists, before the UK government urges operators to submit fracking plans. 

NIF’s target chamber

Fusion energy: promises and problems  ET arr

As physicists edge closer to sustainable fusion, we ask what's next for the industry?

A Google branded car

Cyber-physical systems begin to embrace time  ET arr

Despite claiming real-time support, many embedded systems only have a passing relationship with the clock. That is beginning to change as designers try to build safer systems.

Vegetables on a sand background

Seawater greenhouses: growing food in the world's driest regions  ET arr

As conventional farming and climate change aggravates water and food shortages, a handful of entrepreneurs are growing food in the world's driest regions. But can they help?

Tata car plant

Charles Leadbeater: 'The Frugal Innovator'  ET arr

'Frugal innovation' is about harnessing technology to make the world better for the nine billion forecast to populate the planet by 2040. Charles Leadbeater's new book explains how it works.

MRI scan through a human head

Medical systems electronics: new inside stories  ET arr

Advanced medical imaging instruments are getting better at detecting life-threatening conditions - and treating them; but they are also becoming safer for both technicians and patients.

Lord Browne

Lord Browne: Coming out of the glass closet  ET arr

When Lord Browne was 'pulled out' of the closet in 2007, the CEO of BP became the world's highest profile gay businessman. It was a revelation that was to cause him to fall on his sword and lose his job.

Admiralty Building, London

WW1: First World War technology: Room 40 secret intelligence unit  ET arr

After hostilities commenced in August 1914 the Admiralty's secret intelligence unit, Room 40, stepped-up its monitoring and codebreaking operations against Germany, providing the British armed forces with tide-turning information about the enemy's plans. This second of a two-part series highlights Room 40's operations from the outbreak of hostilities to the war's end.


Debate: will innovation in wireless technology be driven by hardware or software?


David Wood is chair at London Futurists and a former CTO at Accenture Mobility.

David Wood



Ray Anderson is CEO of mobile Internet company Bango PLC and was awarded 2006 Technology Entrepreneur of the Year.

Ray Anderson

Innovation in wireless technology will be driven by hardware developments

Please log in to contribute to this debate.

Agree 80%
Disagree 20%
The big picture
German POWs, August 1918
Big Numbers
Freedman Chair

The first chair designed to let your spine and pelvis rest in the positions that they have when you’re standing

Braun BNE001BK Calculator

This is a reissue of the Braun ET66 calculator featuring the same lovely rounded buttons

Healbe GoBe

Wearable fitness tracker adds pulse and impedance sensors to measure blood flow, heart rate and tissue fluid level

3Doodler pen

The “world’s first 3D-printing pen” - it extrudes 2mm plastic string that turns rigid as you draw in air

Amazon Fire TV

Amazon jumps into the “smart” TV set-top box market

Oppo PM-1

Planar magnetic headphones, with a new seven-layer diaphragm with conductors on both sides


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