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Forthcoming Events


Previous Events - technical

Note that these previous events are shown in reverse chronological order


29th April 2015
Geophysics and Volcanoes
Mark Davies
from Bridgeporth Ltd
This event was preceded by a short AGM.
Mark Davies sml 

Dr Mark Davies is CEO and founder of Bridgeporth Ltd. He is a geoscientist with worldwide experience in the interpretation of geophysical data. Mark has also written and presented a series of television and radio programmes in the US and UK on geoscience topics for the BBC, National Geographic and Discovery channels. In addition he was the presenter of Channel 4's series 'Extreme Archaeology'. The BBC even screened a documentary about him entitled 'Volcano Man'.

He gave us an entertaining and wide-ranging talk which described the methodology of potential field geophysics, its applications and the instrumentation used. He also told us of his interest and experience in volcanology and gave us some background on the production of TV documentaries!

 Mark Davies image 1

Mark has spent the last 20+ years working within the mining and hydrocarbon industry and within academia as a natural hazards specialist. A graduate in Geology from the University of Wales, Mark went on to attain a D.E.A. in Volcanology, magmatology and Atmospheric Physics at the University Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand, France where he attained the highest ever mark for a post graduate research project. This was followed by a PhD in volcano geophysics.

Previously, Mark was Chief Scientist at a high-end technology airborne data acquisition company and also acted as a senior consultant for a wide range of oil, gas and mining companies, advising them on their geophysical exploration challenges. His particular expertise is in the application of potential field and remote sensing data to the exploration and hazard mitigation industries.


A film that Mark made for BBC Wales in 2000 is available on YouTube here.

It shows him working in Monserrat, where he visits the obliterated town of Plymouth. He then delivers vital safety equipment (mud flow detectors) to the people of Colombia on behalf of the Open University Geoff Brown Memorial Fund.
Finally we see him climbing to the top of the volcanic crater of Nevada Del Ruiz. Mark is now the CEO of Bridgeporth Ltd., specializing in potential field geophysics. The documentary is narrated by Juliet Stevenson.

There are four other YouTube films when Dr Mark Davies and his team (including an early appearance by Dr Alice Roberts) explore the dangerous old mine workings in Parys Mountain, Anglesey in search of Bronze Age artefacts and attempt the breakthrough from Parys to the Mona mine. This Channel 4 / Mentorn production dates from 2004. Alice Roberts was in her pink hair phase!

Part 1 of 4
Part 2 of 4
Part 3 of 4
Part 4 of 4 


25th March 2015
Developments in weather forecasting
Jim Bacon, Managing Director of Weatherquest, based at UEA in Norwich
Note that on this occasion, all donations were in aid of Jim's favourite charity,
East Anglia's Children's Hospices.
We raised £134.63!
(The buffet meal was still provided)
jim new graphics 2 Jim told us about his career in meteorology spanning 47years. He talked about developments in a science, which uses some of the most complex processing and measurement techniques ranging from satellites to supercomputers. Is there a gap between the output of the forecast models of the atmosphere and the users who have to interpret the subtleties of these complex models?.  He also talked about the use of ensemble forecasts to explore prospects at longer timeframes, what are they and how can they help with forecasts out to 10 days.


We had one of the best turnouts in recent years - nearly 40 people, and the interest engendered by Jim was amply demonstrated by the many and varied questions asked that evening.


25th February 2015
 A joint meeting with the Institute of Physics.
This meeting took place at the University of Hertfordshire, in the Lindop Building, College Lane Campus, Hatfield, AL10 9AB.
The presentation started at 7:00pm, with coffee and biscuits beforehand.
Buncefield - Lessons Learnt
by Colin Howard
Colin gave a packed audiance an informative and entertaining lecture about the Buncefield accident, the causes that led to it, and the precautions that were introduced as a result of the series of reports that were issued.

Please go to the Health & Safety Executive website for further details. Example links are below:-


This meeting was to have taken place on 28th January 2015, but for the first time in many years an insufficient number of attendees was expected, so the talk has been postponed to a future date.
Optimizing on Control and Costs with Positioner Technology
by Jo Kirkbride, ABB

Jo Kirkbride is the UK & Ireland Product Manager for Actuator & Positioner Products at ABB.
Many process plants use compressed air that feeds control valves with pneumatic positioners for modulating actuation of these final control elements.
During her presentation, Jo will examine how improved control and significant cost savings can be achieved by the use of the latest valve positioner technology.

ABB Graph

Improved Control

  • Optimal control of actuator position until set point is reached.
  • New robotics derived algorithms enable overshoot and settling time to be eliminated.
ABB Positioner

Cost savings for new Air Compressors and consumption of Compressed Air

  • Reduction of ‘Steady state’ air consumption (up to 98%) means savings of thousands of pounds is realistic.


25th November 2014
Unleash your phone!!!
by Andy Powell,
Solutions Evangelist at Shoretel

Andy Powell is the EMEA Training Manager (also known as the 'Solution Evangelist') for ShoreTel, a world market leader in unified business communications systems.

He gave us a very interesting talk entitled 'Unleash Your Phone' which demonstrated the possibilities for innovative and exciting uses which are now available thanks to the rapidly developing communications world. An office phone system can now expand to include redirection to one's mobile phone, or appropriate collegues.

Unfortunately, he was not able to bring his banjo this time!


29th October 2014

East-West Rail link
Patrick O'Sullivan, Rail Consultant, East-West Rail Link

Patrick O'Sullivan previously gave us a talk on the East West Rail link on 28th April 2010 (See below), and the project has advanced greatly since that time. The first part of the route is due to open in 2015, and many organisations are now actively involved.
Patrick presented an illustrated talk on the very latest developments of this exciting venture. The East West Rail Consortium was established in 1995 and is formed of local authorities and strategic private sector partners with the sole aim of re-introducing a rail link between East Anglia, Central and Southern England. The Consortium is led by Cambridgeshire County Council.

The reinstatement of the mothballed stretch of railway line between Oxford and Bletchley (the Western Section of the old Oxford – Cambridge line) became a reality with the Chancellor's statement in 2012, when he announced the creation of a 100 m.p.h. electrified railway which would form part of an 'Electric Spine' joining the port of Southampton with the Midlands and the North to carry freight. However, the initial focus is the creation of an East West passenger service between Reading and Oxford to Milton Keynes and Bedford with additional services between MK and Marylebone via Aylesbury.

Patrick gave us the historical context of the line and the economic case which has made the re-opening essential. He also told us about the engineering challenges which will have to be met, especially with regard to the extension to Cambridge which it is hoped will get the go-ahead soon. Much of the original trackbed has been lost to building and part to a radio telescope operated by Cambridge University, so a completely new alignment will have to be designed and built. This is a huge task and we learnt which options have been short-listed, and which are still very much in the running. 

For further details, please go to the website


24th September 2014
Safety Function Monitoring
by Bill Bambeck
Yokogowa Marex Ltd

Many industrial processes present risks due to the presence of dangerous materials such as fuels, chemicals, gases and operating conditions such as high temperatures and pressures. Safety Instrumented Systems (SISs) are installed to protect people, the environment and equipment by mitigating risks. The specific control functions performed by SISs are called Safety Instrumented Functions (SIFs).

This Lecture addressed the importance of monitoring and collecting data from all SIF activations into a consolidated long-term database. This allows the action of each SIF to be analyzed for proper operation. Reports can be provided to a company’s HSE department for SIF design improvements and government agencies for incident investigations. ILPs (Independent Layers of Protection) was also presented.

Once Bill obtained his Computer Science BSc, he worked as a principal software design engineer on a large number of international communication and military projects for 20 years before joining Marex (now Yokogowa Marex, one of Yokogowa's software development centres) in 1993. For the last 21 years, Bill has worked as an Implementation Engineer and Project Manager across a number of process industries worldwide and is now an MES Pre-Sales Consultant addressing Alarm Management, Safety Management, Energy Management, Production Management and Operator Effectiveness solutions.


30th April 2014

"Plant Safety: The modern approach to an old problem" (Preceded by a short AGM)

 by Robert Sharrock of Emerson

Smart SIS Circle AL
Following a short AGM, Robert explained how a Safety System built for IEC61511 can simplify regulatory compliance.

Using the IEC61508 lifecycle model he showed us:

  • How system documentation tools can eliminate risk of error and improper implementation.
  • How system access controls provide stringent change management, asset management, security management and documentation control.
  • Why carrying out and recording results from proof testing need not impact your production.
  • Why designing a Safety System from the ground up using the principles of IEC61508 can vastly simplify regulatory compliance whilst maximising system availability.
The presentation is available to download from the hotlink immediately below: -
icon modern_safety_300414 (2.24 MB)


26th March 2014
 "The implementation of CAN-bus in mobile and off-highway machinery"

by Mark Wood of Sensor-Technik UK


This presentation explored the engineering processes behind the design of a CAN-bus based system whilst also providing an insight into the benefits of one of the most widely used networking mediums.
Modern working machines require a cost effective and robust control solution in order to achieve their intended use.
Operators expect accurate, repeatable control that won’t break the bank whilst OEMs and service centres need something that is quick and easy to fix, can be serviced from any location and has a pedigree of reliable operation.
CAN-bus provides the platform for advanced control, measurement and instrumentation systems whilst also offering the best in diagnostics, cost-savings and reliability.

Mark Wood is the General Manager of Sensor-Technik UK. Mark has worked for the company for 7 years, starting as an applications engineer and working his way up to General Manager. As General Manager, Mark is responsible for the operations and output of the company, from the day to day management, right through to the engineering of systems and components. Over his time with the company, Mark has built up a significant knowledge of CAN and its implementation.


26th February 2014

 A joint meeting with the Institute of Physics.
This meeting took place at the University of Hertfordshire, in the Lindop Building, College Lane Campus, Hatfield, AL10 9AB.
The presentation started at 7:00pm, with coffee and biscuits beforehand.


"Five things you should never do with a particle accelerator"
by Suzie Sheehy


Image 20140226

Particle accelerators are some of the most advanced machines on the planet. They incorporate an impressive range of cutting-edge technology to do what seems like a simple job to give subatomic particles energy. So what would happen if we tried to use them in unexpected ways?

With the help of demonstrations, accelerator physicist Dr.Suzie Sheehy described her top five things you should never do with a particle accelerators and a few things you definitely should.

Suzie gave a very entertaining and informative lecture, which was enjoyed by a full auditorium. The five things you should not do are as follows: -

1.  Do not put a pet in an accelerator.

Suzie demonstrated the effects of a vacuum on marshmallows.

2.  Do not put your head in the beam of it.

Suzie showed that a man had accidentally put his head in the beam of an accelerator in 1978, and survived.

3.  Do not use as a death ray.

In 1989 the USA had tested a neutral beam accelerator in space, but it was far too weak to be dangerous. However, on earth, beams from a future accelerator much bigger that the large Hadron Collider (LHC) could be used to bombard Thorium in order to produce a failsafe source of power. These beams could also be focussed on high-level nuclear waste, to reduce the half-life from millions of years to less than 200 years.

4.  Do not eat.

Because some parts will become radioactive. Suzie explained that even bananas are radioactive, but you would need to eat 5 million of them in one sitting to be exposed to an unacceptable dose.

5.  Do not destroy the earth.

The LHC does create antimatter, but at the rate of only 0.5 grams per 2 million years. In order to destroy the earth, 2,500,000,000,000 tonnes of antimatter would be required!


Suzie is an accelerator physicist whose research focuses on developing new particle accelerators for future applications in areas such as medicine and energy. She is passionate about communicating science to the public, for which she has been recognised with awards for her lecturing and outreach activities, including the University of Oxford Vice Chancellors Civic Award and the British Science Festival Lord Kelvin Award in 2010.


29th January 2014
"Human Factors in Control Room Design"
(Operator Effectiveness...why spend money for some tables and chairs?)
Colin Pearson of ABB
ABB Control Room

Control rooms can be a very emotive subject where everyone has their own ideas on what it should look like and how it should operate. In the past little regard has been given to the individuals using the facility and they have been more about the 'shop window' effect to management.

Emerging standards such as EEMUA and ISO11064 aim to take out the emotive part and replace this with real scientific benefit for long term production operations. To be competitive these days 24/7 operations are the norm and doing that safely and efficiently is now a must.

Control Rooms are now being built around how we interact with systems and how we interact with each other. When this is done correctly you are able to maximise your employees’ abilities, attain the best possible retention rates and more importantly attract the next generation of Operators.......and still impress the management.

During his very interesting talk, Colin gave an overview of some of the components of sensible design and some of the technology available to ensure you can quickly gain an ergonomic advantage. It also showed how we are starting to move away from the expensive Consultancy based design techniques to more of an 'out of the box' ergonomic design philosophy.

Colin also took a look into the future to show what we are likely to see bearing in mind the rapid pace of technology.

The presentation is available to download from the hotlink immediately below: -


27th November 2013
"Enigma, Concertinas, and the man who never was"
Malcolm North.

The November lecture was a pleasant occasion with a reasonable audience of 28 people. The lecture was a discourse on the English concertina which began and ended with a short recital. The story began with an introduction to the construction and operation of the concertina. The Wheatstone family business manufactured the majority of these, which lead to a digression into a history of the machinations within the Royal Society of that time. Among the revelations was the fact that Wheatstone did not invent the Wheatstone bridge. After a brief excursion into codes and code breaking [of the Bletchley Park type], the saga moved on to include the history of a youthful racing car driver who owned a particular concertina and was in MI5 deceptions in the 1939-45 war.

It was a brilliantly interlinked story told by an excellent raconteur helped by interjections from his wife. The evening concluded with the after lecture discussions and excellent refreshments. It was an evening well spent.


13th November 2013

Deep-Ocean Science, Technology and Conservation
a prestige lecture by the East of England Engineering, Science and Technology Association (EEESTA)
Weston Auditorium, De Havilland Campus, University of Hertfordshire,Hatfield, AL10 9EU

This was an event about how it is now possible to go to extreme depths in the ocean, resulting in some amazing scientific discoveries.  The technology involved was described, together with the discoveries, and the vital conservation
measures required.

With the aid of miniature submersibles, both autonomous and manned, it is now possible to reach depths up to 6,000 metres below sea level. Scientists can explore the volcanic activity (hydrothermal vents) on the sea bed, and research the rich mineral ore deposits, which can be over 90% pure metal.  A vibrant ecosystem of plant and animal life has also been
discovered, originally unimaginable in what was believed to be a very cold and dark environment.

This evening seminar was organised by EEESTA (East of England Engineering, Science and Technology Association) as a joint event with various professional science and engineering Institutions.


23rd October 2013

Experion Orion - Universal Process I/O
Tony Alexander

Honeywell Process Solutions Consultant EMEA


Tony Alexander of Honeywell Process Solutions gave us a Presentation on the new Honeywell Experion Universal I/O product range.

Honeywell has been a pioneer in automation control for more than 30 years, having invented the first distributed control system in 1975, and continues to lead with award winning technologies to maximize operational efficiency, safety & reliability. Honeywell has more than 25 million IO’s in operation across the globe and still counting…

Tony showed us the latest ‘Universal Channel Technology’. Where each channel of the Experion Universal I/O can be individually programmed as an analogue input, analogue output, digital input or digital output. (All I/O is 4-20mA).

Tony explained how this flexibility allowed for pre-packaged solutions, and also makes it possible for 
the product configurations to be adapted to IO changes late in design by just reconfiguring the point to the type or location needed.

It is apparently good for use in systems where Distributed / Remote Architecture is required, and is excellent for Migration Projects.

The system requires fewer spares, and is easy to use and service. 
Process & Safety I/O may be installed in the same remote modular cabinet



25th September 2013

A History of Cardington and the R101 by Alastair Lawson

Vice Chairman & Webmaster Airship Heritage Trust


This talk was very well attended, due to our collegues from the local section of the IET also joining us.
Alastair gave us a most interesting talk, focussing on the statistics of the R101, but will also talking about the history of Cardington as an airship development site. 

The R101 was built between 1926 and 1929, and when completed she was the largest man-made object ever to fly. She was also very fast compared with other modes of transport at that time, and was planned to fly to India in 4 or 5 days with one stop en route, whereas aircraft took 8 days with 21 stops and passenger ships took 4 weeks! JP

Further details of the Airship Heritage Trust can be found at: -


5th June 2013
Visit to Bletchley Park

A small group of us enjoyed a visit to the Bletchley Park museum on 5th June.
We joined a tour of the site led by a most interesting volunteer, who made the complex mathematics behind the wartime decoding operation understandable to all of us.
The museum has received a grant of £7.4 million recently, and as a consequence there is a lot of restoration and renovation work in progress, so that some buildings were not open. However, these buildings will be re-opened later in the year, and buildings that have not previously been accessible will contain new exhibitions.
We would thoroughly recommend a visit, and remember that your ticket will entitle you to unlimited return visits throughout the year!


24th April 2013
Tales of an Anaesthetist
"If I can do it just about anyone can."

Dr John Moyle
(Followed by a short AGM)

I understand that this talk was well received by all those who attended, including a group of pupils from a local school.
Dr John Moyle gave a very interesting and informative talk in which he
encouraged youngsters to apply themselves to engineering and other sciences as careers and to give parents and grand-parents arguments to fuel ambition in the younger generation!
From a miserable start of just 4 O-Levels, John was fortunate (and hard-working) to reach the upper echelons of two science-based careers which overlapped: electronic engineering and medicine. John explained what anaesthetists do apart from crosswords, and also mentioned Tombstone Technology; Monitoring; Electrical safety; the Epidemic that never was; the strange world of “Standards”; EMC…

After the talk, the AGM took place, at which the new committee was elected. Members are listed on the committee page of the Herts section website.


27th March 2013
Non-Destructive Testing in the Nuclear Industry
Dr Bernard McGrath of Serco Assurance

With a background in non-destructive testing in the nuclear industry, Dr Bernard McGrath has built up a formidable amount of experience in the testing of vital welds and structures in hazardous and critical environments.

Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) uses measurement techniques which do not modify or damage the item under test to identify defects of concern.  Although basically simple in concept, NDT techniques bring with them their own particular challenges which may not be faced in conventional measurement applications.

Following a brief introduction to NDT, the inspection process was used as a vehicle to describe current NDT techniques, the assessment of inspection procedures and the impact of the NDT operator.

The talk concluded with a look forward at the potential opportunities for NDT and the trends which may mean it that it integrates more with the measurement profession in the near future.


27th February 2013

The Inerter for Control of Mechanical Systems
Joint Meeting with the Institute of Physics, at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield.

The lecture discussed the contrasting possibilities of active and passive control in the context of automotive suspensions. The new possibilities for passive control using the "inerter" mechanical device were discussed. The talk was illustrated by examples of practice in Formula One racing. 


In August 2008, the deployment of a novel mechanical control device in Formula One racing was announced.

Developed at the University of Cambridge by Malcolm Smith and colleagues, the device, called an “inerter,” was deployed by the McLaren team in 2005 in Barcelona.

The photo shows an example of a ballscrew inerter with the flywheel removed. This was made at Cambridge University, Department of Engineering in 2003 and was designed by N.E. Houghton.

Professor Malcolm Smith received the B.A. (M.A.) degree in mathematics, the M.Phil degree in control engineering and operational research and the Ph.D. degree in control engineering from Cambridge University, England. He was subsequently a Research Fellow at the German Aerospace Center, DLR, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, a Visiting Assistant Professor and Research Fellow with the Department of Electrical Engineering at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, and an Assistant Professor with the Department of Electrical Engineering at the Ohio State University, Columbus, USA. He is now a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College and a Professor in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge.


23rd January 2013
Emerson Digital Control Valves
John Daw, Project Pursuit Manager, Emerson Process Management
Emerson Valve

This talk was an introduction to 'Smart Control Valves', which are sometimes  digital control valves. 

John Daw explained that this is where the technology of the smart valve positioners (sometimes called digital valve controllers) is used to give access to all the diagnostic data and at the same time give an improvement in the overall performance of the valve and positioner assembly. In addition the diagnostic capabilities of the positioner are now being used on ESD valves in safety shutdown systems.

Digital Valve Controllers

John also gave us an overview on behalf of Emerson Process Management (Fisher Valves) on the impact of Digital Valve Controllers such as FIELDVUE in improving plant operating performance and profitability. The presentation covered the various protocols, selection and specification guidelines, critical applications, diagnostics as well as the performance criterea to be  expected from a Digital Valve Controller.

A PowerPoint presentation giving an overview of the Fieldvue DVC6200 is available here:- dvc6200_overview

A PowerPoint presentation of the Fieldvue DVC6200 in Safety Instrumented Systems is available here:- imc_dvc6200_sis



28th November 2012
Sahara in a Landrover
Anne Fereday

This trip was undertaken some 30 years ago, and Ann was promised two 12-seater vehicles, maximum 8 per vehicle, and air-conditioning. On arrival in Tunis, the numbers had shrunk: one Range Rover, 7 people, but only 5½ seats, one being on top of the gearbox, looking straight at the bonnet-mounted spare wheel! The vehicle was taking supplies for the UN in Niger (news to her), so 3 of the complement were paying passengers – not an auspicious start!

On maps, Ann outlined the route and then ran her slide show, showing us some of the sights in and around Tunis, including Carthage, a mosque and the magnificent Roman aqueduct. She described the hotels, the uninspiring food and some of the geographical and geological sights en route. Timgad, a splendid Roman city at the most southerly point of the Empire, she thought more magnificent than any other Roman site she has seen. We saw interesting rock formations and ancient drawings on rocks, and heard of the practical problems involved in keeping the vehicle going in sand, and in camping - including not getting lost when leaving the group to answer a call of nature!


17th October 2012
The use of infra-red temperature sensors in hazardous areas for preventative maintenance.
Chris Towle (MTL Instruments) and Tim Barry (Technical Director of Calex)

This was a very interesting talk which described a solution to the problem of monitoring machine bearings in hazardous areas, in order to detect when a bearing is overheating and therefore soon to fail.

Previously, this monitoring has been done by thermocouple, thermistor, or platinum resistance thermometer, but this can compromise the machine, and may be short-lived due to the high vibration it may suffer.

Infra-red (IR) temperature sensors avoid these problems, and also permit the measurement of the temperature of moving or rotating surfaces, or of high voltage switchgear.

Intrinsically safe IR sensors are not yet commonly available, but a newly available and novel IR temperature sensor was described. The reliability of sensors and systems used for machine monitoring is very important, and this was also discussed.

Finally some of the aspects of the intrinsic safety of the system, in particular the safety at high temperatures was outlined.


26th September 2012 

Electric Actuator Technology for Valve Automation
Michal Kral-Serrato of PS Automation

This talk was an introduction to Valve Automation using Electric Actuators, their functionality & the technology used.

  • Why use Electric Actuators in Industry?
  • ‘Smart’ Electric Actuators with Integrated Management System (including Actuator Set-up and Demonstration)
  • Comparison of Actuators using technical benchmarks

PS Automation is a specialist manufacturer of electric valve actuators founded in 1989. Working with valve manufacturers, system builders/planners and end users, they specialise in the integration and use of electronic control systems into actuator products used for the operation & regulation of flow control valves

Note: The talk about Cardington and the R101 had been postponed to a later date due to circumstances beyond our control.


27th June 2012

The Works' Triumph TR4 Rally Cars


Ian Cornish

Ian gave a fascinating talk on 4VC, his Triumph TR4. This was one of only four cars (Registration numbers 3VC to 6VC) built and rallied by Triumph. He also brought 4VC to the meeting, so that we could admire the car, and see how he has  restored and maintained it to its current immaculate condition.

Points covered in the talk included: -

  • A brief overview of the Post-War sports car market in Britain.
  • The birth of Triumph TR sports cars.
  • A brief overview of the competition scene for Triumph TRs as it was in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
  • Leyland’s rescue of Standard Triumph from imminent bankruptcy and what led to the formation of a new Works Competition Department at Triumph.
  • How the TR4 was developed from a road car into a competitive Rally car.
  • The rallies in which the TR4s competed and the successes they achieved.
  • How I was fortunate to buy 4VC - and what I discovered I had bought.
  • The rediscovery of 6VC and 3VC, and what has happened since.


15th May 2012

Visit to Chicksands Museum of Military Intelligence.

The Museum has been considerably expanded and upgraded since our previous visit about ten years ago, and was really worth a return visit. The group were divided in two, and were given a guided tour for two hours. However, it would really repay a further visit, to give the exhibits the time they deserve.
The majority of the group them went to the Greyhound in Haynes for an excellent, and very reasonably-priced, lunch.


18th April 2012
WiFi Networks: The practicalities of Implementation
Geraint Williams,
Information Risk Consultant, IT Governance Ltd.

This talk was preceded by a short AGM, at which the present committee were returned unopposed.

As on all previous occasions, Gareth gave a fascinating and informative talk.
On this occasion, it was about setting up and running domestic wireless networks in the most successful and secure manner.

Although the 802.11 protocol was released in 1997 by the IEEE and is by computing timelines is a mature technology with a large take-up of the technology by manufactures and users, there are still issues in implementing a practical network using wireless, especially in the non-commercial environment.

This talk looked at the issues of implementing 802.11 networks, the tools
that can be used and how these apply to the home environment. The talk included practical demonstrations of the tools and techniques discussed in the presentation. Some of these tools are only available to the professional, but others are freely available to the amateur.

A copy of Geraint's presentation is available for download here:-

Herts: WiFi Networks: The practicalities of Implementation


 21st March 2012

Can an online condition based monitoring system be used to determine when a flow meter calibration is required?
Mike Griffiths and Mike Thackray

Elster Metering

 Mike gave a most interesting presentation, explaining that, since the early 1990s multipath ultrasonic flow meters have become the dominant method used for custody transfer of natural gas. Reasons for this are many – excellent accuracy, high turn-down, good resistance to installation effects, to name but a few.

 However, due to the level of revenue passing through them, regular calibration was essential. Depending on the country or nature of the agreement between trading parties, the initial calibration and subsequent recalibrations is either a legal or contractual obligation. The frequency of the recalibration is often time, calendar or volume based, and in the absence of an onsite meter proving facility requires the meter to be sent to a traceable high pressure calibration facility.

 Vendors and end users have been looking at ways to closely monitor the performance of these high accuracy devices and ultimately increase the periods between calibrations. The diagnostics that are available from the meter have proven to be invaluable when studying the health of meter itself, and detecting changes in the environment in which it operates.

 In this presentation Mike explained a recent project to develop a monitoring system; identify the objectives & considerations made along the way; and finally, take a brief look at the first results from beta test sites. JP

 A copy of the PowerPoint presentation is available from the link below:-


22nd February 2012

Joint meeting with the Institute of Physics, at the University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield

Do we owe everything to the stars?

Professor James Hough

The origin of life on Earth remains one of the key questions for science, and the discovery of over 500 extrasolar planets has raised the possibility of discovering life elsewhere in the next few decades.

We now know that all the elements, other than hydrogen, are produced in stars and that process, starting with the Big Bang, is fairly well understood. However, there is a long-standing puzzle associated with the origins of life on Earth that we do not understand. All the amino acids, the building blocks of our proteins, have a left-handed configuration. How this asymmetry, which appears to be an essential pre-requisite for life, originated has remained a mystery for ~150 years. Polarization measurements of star-forming regions has led to the idea that the asymmetry could have been introduced into prebiotic molecules during the formation of the solar system. Image-20120122

Professor James Hough led the astronomy research programme at the University of Hertfordshire for over 30 years and was appointed as the first Director of the Centre for Astrophysics when it was established in 2003. The Centre has over 60 researchers and covers a wide range of astronomy from exoplanets to high-redshift galaxies.

He has published almost 200 refereed papers with a majority of these based on polarimetric observations in the optical and near-infrared using instruments designed and built by himself and used at major observatories in Australia, Hawaii and the Canary Islands.

Professor Hough was awarded the Daiwa-Adrian prize for UK-Japan scientific collaborations in 1998, and the Royal Astronomical Society William Herschel Medal in 2010. He retired as Director of the Astronomy Research Centre in July 2010.



25th January 2012

Innovations in High Temperature Measurement
Prof. Graham Machin

BSc(Hons), DPhil, CPhys, FInstP, FInstMC

Head of Temperature Standards, NPL Fellow, NPL

High Temp_Calibration_furnace_at_NPL


Graham gave us a fascinating and informative talk about the current status of precise temperature measurement from absolute zero to several thousand degrees centigrade.

The precise measurement and control of high temperature processes has always been problematic.

Recent and unfolding innovations in this area promise step change improvements
throughout the measurement chain; from realisation of temperature above the silver point in National Measurement Institutes, dissemination of the scale to calibration laboratories, down to the practice of industrial high temperature thermometry. 

After a brief introduction to the subject, the way these improvements are realised was outlined in this presentation; topics covered included:


  • ·Realisation and dissemination of the international temperature scale of 1990 (ITS-90) with emphasis on temperatures above 1000 °C.
  • ·Novel high temperature fixed-points (HTFPs) above the copper point (1084°C), to above 3000 K, were in discussed. HTFPs are driftless artefacts that can be used for robust scale transfer, remote checking of radiometer performance or reliable sources of known radiance.
  • Development of new ultra-low drift, robust platinum palladium thermocouples. In the near future this type of thermocouple may supplant the traditional type R and S because of its superior performance and potentially lower cost for applications to 1500 °C
  •  ·High temperature measurement and process control above about 1700°C generally uses refractory metal thermocouples or radiation thermometry (often through windows). Both are subject to large drifts compromising the quality of the control. In-process self-validation/correction methodologies that overcome these drift problems enabling optimum measurement to be maintained throughout the process were discussed

And he also explained to us that the thermocouple junction plays no part in the measurement (apart from completing the circuit) – it is the full length of the thermocouple wires that senses the temperature difference. This was news to many of us, who have used thermocouples for many years!!


23rd November 2011 

The Role of GAMBICA
Graeme Philp, Chief Executive, GAMBICA


Dr Philp took over as Chief Executive of GAMBICA, The Association for Instrumentation, Control, Automation and Laboratory Technology in December 2010.

In his talk, Graeme discussed the history and changing purpose of trade associations and how our industry has been represented over the years. The history is fascinating and quite humorous when viewed against today's norms and illustrated this part of the talk with old documents and photos, including some of fathers of the industry looking very youthful(!). He also brought along some pages from the minutes of early meetings, which would see the perpetrators locked up in jail if they were written today!

In the second part of his talk Graeme brought us up to date with the current activities of GAMBICA, technical, commercial and political, and discussed some of the more important issues facing our industry today as well as pointing out a few potential icebergs and opportunities on the horizon.

This was required viewing for anyone wanting to know what lies ahead for our industry and who likes to poke a bit of fun at the past.

A copy of the PowerPoint presentation is available for download at the link below: -



19th October 2011

Gas Detection and Functional Safety
(The use of a gas detection system as a method of Ex Protection)
Doug Longstaff, Draeger.

The presentation began with an examination of BS EN 1127-1:2007 ‘Explosive atmospheres – Explosion prevention and protection’, where it is accepted that monitoring is critical to the prevention of an explosion.
BS EN 60079-10-1:2009 ‘Explosive atmospheres – Classification of areas’ was then considered, where this standard accepts that the control of ventilation can reduce the ‘zoned’ area.The presentation  then explain how the Metrological Performance standards can be used as a requirement for accurate measurement and control.Finally everything was linked together with a risk reduction factor, concluding with IEC 61508 and the relevant application standards for Functional Safety of a Gas Detection system – BS EN 50402:2005 and IEC 60079-29-3.

A copy of the PowerPoint presentation is available for download at the link below: -



28th September 2011
University of Bedfordshire,
Luton Campus

Measuring Success -
Metrology in Formula One

 Win shot_Malaysia_sml
Image courtesy of Red Bull Racing and Getty Images

The Herts section was offered an insider's view of the world of Formula 1 at our September meeting, and we were very fortunate to host Steve Nevey of Red Bull Racing, and Steve Shickell of Hexagon Metrology. They explained how the Red Bull Racing team operates, and the role metrology plays in maintaining their outstanding success.


The lecture was very popular, and we are extremely grateful to the University of Bedfordshire (particularly Geraint Williams) for allowing us the use of their facilities.

The lecture started with an overview of the team (with some great anecdotes from Steve Nevey) and the logistical challenges in moving around the Formula 1 circuit. They described the mobile "Energy Centre" HQ and some of the creative solutions in locating it, including a floating pontoon in Monte Carlo harbour.

Discussion then moved on to the organisation of the team during the race, including pit stops, data telemetry, analysis, and strategy. We were all surprised at the huge team focussed on real-time performance optimisation, not just at the race track, but in Milton Keynes too.


Steve Shickell then outlined the role of metrology in measuring the fine tolerances and movements of the engineering components, and explained how Hexagon Metrology has helped improve wind tunnel testing and rule compliance for the team.

The audience, which included several local schools and colleges, had plenty of questions, and the evening was only curtailed by the time limit on the lecture theatre! Our Chairman, Graeme Philp, thanked the speakers on behalf of the audience and thus ended a fascinating and enjoyable evening.


27th April 2011

MTL, Luton

How a submarine works: A shallow look at Technology
Alan Blight, GE Intelligent Platforms

(Preceded by a short AGM)


Alan gave an excellent presentation, starting with the earliest theoretical ideas for submarines, leading through the first implementations to the initial practical submarines.

He then covered the important milestones in submarines, starting in the early part of the twentieth century leading through to the present day.

Highlights included a Russian submarine that was able to travel at more than 50mph underwater – but due to the buffeting bits tended to fall off!

This turned out to be a dead-end, and it is actually more important that a submarine should be a quiet as possible, to avoid detection.

There were also many different forms of propulsion, from manpower, to electricity, via coal-fired (!!!) steam, hydrogen peroxide, via diesel, to nuclear.

We were given an explanation of how a nuclear submarine power plant works, and the particular difficulties that must be overcome. Alan then gave us an overview of the weapons platforms, and the systems required for life support.

He also described some of the covert purposes to which submarines have been put.

Alan told us a number of anecdotes about his career in submarines, both in active service and during the regular practicing of escape procedures.

All those present found the talk very interesting, as was evidenced by the fact that discussion continued after the end of the formal presentation, during the buffet.



23rd March 2011

MTL, Luton

Trojan, Exploit & Rootkit: A Practical demonstration
Geraint Williams, Infrastructure Manager, Computer Science & Technology, University of Bedfordshire.


Geraint opened his talk by explaining that what he was about to do was illegal on any network that was not owned by the person doing it.

He then demonstrated on a virtual network installed on his machine how easy it was for a “Script kiddie” (i.e. someone with little technical knowledge) to gain access to a server or domestic PC running software that did not have all bug fixes installed.

That person could then set up their own user account on the PC, upgrade it to administrator rights, hide any files illegally installed, install a “Backdoor” program, download the file containing encrypted passwords, crack those passwords, and then log on using the owner’s administrator account. This gives full and unlimited access to the PC.

Geraint explained that the main reason for breaking into a PC in this way was to use it as a Zombie computer to join their botnet. Botnets consisting of thousands of PCs are used to send Phishing emails, and to set up denial-of-service attacks.

The important information that Geraint said we should glean from his talk was that it was vitally important that we should keep our PCs updated with all the latest bug fixes.

A thoroughly interesting and informative talk. I look forward to Geraint’s next talk to us, in April 2012 on “Domestic Wireless Security”.



23rd February 2011
Lindop Building, College Lane Campus, Hatfield.

Optical sensing in medicine
Panicos Kyriacou

This was a joint meeting with the Institute of Physics.

For details of the talk, please see the report for the meeting on 27th October, 2010.

26th January 2011
7pm at MTL, Luton

Electronic Ballot Counting
Steve Beats of DRS


The evening was an enjoyable introduction into the art of electronically counting the more complex ballot forms, which are common where voting is not 'first past the post'. The lecturer's knowledge and enthusiasm enabled him to make light of a minor failure in his demonstration equipment. [we have all been there]

The almost impossible task of manually sorting the more complex ballot forms was explained. Some of the African ones have countless delegates with multiple choice and more than one ballot all on the same form. These are almost impossible to count manually but the ballot machine photographs the form, a computer program analyses and presents  the result and the machine sorts the documents into appropriate piles. It is marginally comforting that where the acceptability of a form is in doubt then a human being adjudicates. The idiosyncrasies of voters, officials and politicians were discussed at some length. Steve's faith in the accuracy of the machine count and perhaps more surprisingly the existing UK voting remained unshakable. [100% was claimed??]. The questions from the audience were frequent and reflected the interest generated.

The evening ended in the usual convivial manner with the discussion continuing for some time.


24th November 2010
7pm at MTL, Luton

Games Programming
Stephen Wilson and David Fletcher, University of Bedfordshire


For this meeting the publicity was aimed at the younger generation with the positive result that a goodly number of students from a local college and school were enticed away from their own computer consoles to see how their games programming is effected, with the possibility of developing their own careers in this field. Stephen and David, both working on PhDs at the Luton Campus, performed a well integrated double act that hardly paused during a fascinating insight into their art.

Starting with a run-through of the games scene from the Ataris of 1979 to the Oliver twins and the first bedroom codes, they arrived at the development tools available to today’s budding games makers. One such is the Indy programming tool, down-loaded free from Apple who will then pay $5k – 10k for iphone apps they like, even if they are not released.

Moving on to 3D modelling, where the tools include Autodesk, 3D Studio Max and the most popular Maya, they showed how organic shapes are built from polygons, using as few as possible to keep the PC loading to a minimum. The image processing software Photoshop comes into play to add surface detail, known as texturing.

Simulated physical geometry, i.e. animation, can be developed by hand but it is not easy to reproduce ’walking’ actions. The more economical method, as employed for “Lord of the Rings” is to use up to 32 cameras filming an actor’s movements which are strobed via infra-red markers on the actor’s clothing.

These models and animations can be taken and built into a functional game prototype using UNITY 3D. For a small fee games engine UNITY 3D can be used to release any game produced on it almost anywhere. It has a library of pre-built structures, space invaders and a tank for example. Again the Indy version is free.

Having adapted the pre-built tank, installed headlights and fire-power, the presenters concluded with a demo battle in which space invaders passing across the screen were spectacularly destroyed to the accompaniment of a synchronised sound track.  

There followed a lively Q & A session which continued for some time after the Vote of Thanks had been given to what was an excellent and stimulating presentation.


27th October 2010
7pm at MTL, Luton

Intelligent Sensors for Biomedical Applications

Professor of Biomedical Engineering at City University London, 
Associate Dean for Postgraduate studies in the School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences,
Director of the Biomedical Engineering Research Group.

Professor Kyriacou explained the fascinating work in which he and his colleagues were engaged, and gave us a taste of the possibilities to come.

Biomedical Engineering is the science of engineering and medicine for the development of technologies used in the prognosis, diagnosis and treatment of the sick and injured. This includes Instrumentation, biomechanics, biosensors, biomaterials, medical imaging, physiologic modelling, medical informatics, and biosignal processing.

The European market for medical devices is currently well in excess of 50 billion Euros.


Professor Kyriacou's current research activities cover medical sensors and instrumentation, biosignal analysis, biomedical optics, physiological measurement and physiological modelling. He works with many industrial collaborators including Dreager Medical, BioInteractions Ltd, GE Healthcare, Intelligent Fabrics PLC, Siemens Medical, and GWS Pharmaceuticals.

  • The research is ‘leading edge’ resulting in novel patient monitoring systems
  • The research has a clear national and international networking dimension
  • Multidisciplinarity and collaboration between industrial, academic and clinical partners, is an essential ingredient
  • Proactive in the commercial exploitation of produced technologies 

He told us about many interesting recent projects, but highlights included: -

  • Non-invasive optical sensor to monitor blood glucose in diabetes (With Great Ormond Street)
  • Optical sensors in Neonatal monitoring (with Great Ormond Street)
  • Implantable spinal stress sensor (With The Royal London). This allowed real-time monitoring of forces within the spinal cord of patients, and so improving the treatment of back pain.
  • Optical sensors in reconstructive surgery (with St Andrew's Centre for Plastic Surgery & Burns). This will give surgeons to monitor in real-time of how well replacement tissue is accepted by the rest of a patient's body, improving the likelihood of success.
  • Fibre-optic sensors in Spinal Healthcare (With GE healthcare, BioInteractions, & The Royal London)

Professor Kyriacou's enthusiasm for his subject made this a fascenating and educational evening, and it is clear that although the technology has already improved the lives of many people, there are so many more possibilities in the future.


29th September 2010
7pm at MTL, Luton

An Introduction to Wireless Instrumentation in the Process Industries
Presenter: Andy Wallace, Wireless Solutions, Emerson Process Management

     This first lecture in the Hertfordshire 2010-11 session was presented in an enthusiatic well-informed manner adequately supported by convincing demonstrations and attracted a good attendance [24] by the section's standards

    The lecture began with an introduction to some possible applications and financial implications. The ease with which a system could be set up  was demonstrated and its proven reliability discussed. A brief discussion on battery design and life ensued, followed by a discussion on networks and the ease with which they could be set up. The Thum, a small loop-powered wireless transmitter, was introduced, which can act as a repeater but has many other fascinating possibilities. An illustration of some existing installations concluded the lecture.

    A short question and answer session, which was carried on through the subsequent refreshments brought a very satisfactory evening to an end.


Thursday 3rd June 2010
6:30 p.m. for 7:00 p.m. start, at the University of Hertfordshire, College Lane Campus, Hatfield AL10 9AB
"From Airships to Swing-Wings - The Life and Work of Sir Barnes Wallis"
Presenter: Mr Chris Henderson 

This was a joint meeting with the IET Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Network, organised by their Young Professionals Committee.

The lecture traced the amazing career of one of Britain’s greatest inventors and engineers. World famous for his bouncing bombs, Sir Barnes left school at 16 without qualifications but nevertheless became the Chief Designer of the R100 airship, pioneered geodetic structures for aircraft such as the Wellington bomber, designed specialised weapons for destroying V-weapon sites, Uboat pens and German battleships. Post-war he developed the swing-wing concept for supersonic aircraft and planned aircraft that could fly to Australasia in less than four hours.

A very interesting meeting.


Wednesday 28th April 2010
7:00 p.m. at MTL, Luton.
A short AGM followed by a presentation entitled "East-West Rail Link"

Presenter: Chris Wright, Secretary of OBRAC (Oxon & Bucks Rail Action Committee)


Following a short AGM, Chris Wright gave a comprehensive presentation on the history and future prospects of this railway line to link Swindon in the west to Norwich and Ipswich in the east, the core of which originally joined Oxford to Cambridge and was used for travel between these two famous university cities.

The last through train ran in 1967. Closure was not included in the Beeching report, which recommended that the line should be developed as a through route. The only section that remained open was between Bedford and Bletchley, which itself was threatened with closure and prevented from doing so thanks to the active work of the Bedford to Bletchley Rail Users' Association (BBRUA). In 1987 passenger trains were re-introduced on the Oxford to Bicester section, and freight trains continued to run on part of the line via Aylesbury, Calvert and a junction at Claydon.

Chris Wright is Secretary of the Oxon & Bucks Rail Action Committee (OBRAC). For many years he has played a key role in generating interest in re-opening of the closed and disused parts of the route and providing a rail link between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes. Despite many frustrations and disappointments re-opening, at least in part, appears at last to be a real possibility. A consortium of all the local authorities along the proposed route (the East West Rail Consortium) is now the driving force behind re-opening (see

The strategic potential of this cross-country route for passengers and freight is clear. Not only will the line cross or join other lines originating in London, it also opens up the possibility of through traffic beyond Swindon, Norwich and Ipswich with the potential of reducing the amount of east-west road freight. In addition, the line would pass through areas of population growth, so there could be fewer cars on the road.

However, problems remain. Apart from the matter of cost, the rails between Bedford and Sandy have been removed and in places the track bed has been breached or built upon. This has led to discussion about whether the rails should be relaid on this section so that the route would pass once again between Bedford and Sandy, from where it would eventually join the Hitchin to Cambridge line (restoration of the previous route between Sandy and Cambridge no longer being a viable option), or whether it should be diverted at Marston vale to join the line from Bedford to Luton and thence run to Hitchin and Cambridge via Stevenage. The final choice of route will be made shortly, but both will present construction problems. The Bicester to Oxford section will benefit considerably from the decision by Chiltern Railways to construct a spur at Bicester, to enable the introduction of a new fast passenger service between Oxford and London (Marylebone).


Thursday 25th March 2010
7:30 p.m. at the University of Bedfordshire, Putteridge Bury Campus
"The Astronomy of Stonehenge and similar Neolithic Monuments"
Presenter: Dr Derek McNally, from the University of Hertfordshire 

This fascinating talk was a joint meeting of the LAS (Luton Astronomical Society) with the Inst.MC Hertfordshire Section. The meeting was held at the University of Bedfordshire Putteridge Bury and the speaker was Dr. Derek McNally of the University of Hertfordshire. The meeting was well attended by members and visitors of both the LAS and InstMC.

Dr. McNally started his talk by putting forward some of the theories for the existence and construction of Stonehenge. In particular, the reason the lintels were positioned on the top was to produce an artificial horizon. The estimate is that its existence goes back 5,000 years and the stone structure about 4,500 years. One of the theories for its existence and layout relates to the position of the night sky for navigation but Dr. McNally reminded the audience that the visible position of the stars is different from the view we have today.

Dr. McNally put forward the theory that the structure had a practical use because of the trade between England and the continent . He described how the alignment of the stones coincided with the orbit of the moon, which would have had a bearing on the tides, important information for navigating into ports.

He concluded his talk by looking at the alignment of the stones and a slide show on the construction of Stonehenge and pictures of the night sky.


Wednesday 24th February 2010
6:30 p.m. for 7:00 p.m. at the University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield
"Nanometrology: traceable measurement of tiny dimensions"
Presenter: Prof. Richard Leach, NPL (National Physical Laboratory)

nano-metrology This was a joint meeting of the InstMC Hertfordshire Section and the London & South East Branch of the IOP, at the branch's centre at the University of Hertfordshire.

The speaker was Prof. Richard Leach, Principal Research Scientist Mass & Dimensional at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and Visiting Professor at Loughborough University. His talk, which was well received, was delivered to a large audience that included many young people.

Prof. Leach began by asking what we understood by 'order' and 'chaos', and then compared micro and nano sized structures that occurred in nature or were man-made. His talk principally focused on the challenges of measuring surface topography when the dimensions are extremely small. He compared mechanical (two-dimensional) methods with optical (three-dimensional) methods.

The challenge presented by mechanical methods has been solved at NPL by the invention of an instrument, which has been patented, whose stylus is suspended so that it can move in more than one plane. However, the speaker admitted that a device invented and patented in the USA is even more sophisticated.

Optical methods, which involve laser interferometry, present quite different challenges. For instance, there is a considerable amount of complex mathematics involved in analysing the results of measurements, much of which is tackled at Loughborough University.

The funding of work at the NPL comes principally from the Government, which is keen to see practical applications emerging from the work carried out there. Prof. Leach concluded by talking about the relevance of his work to industry.


Wednesday 27th January 2010
7:00 p.m. at MTL, Luton
"Hollywood Effect On Digital Forensics"
Presenter: Geraint Williams, from the University of Bedfordshire





This was a joint meeting with the IET Beds and Herts Network achieving 44 total attendance.

Geraint Williams is the Infrasctructure Manager of the academic department of Computer Science and Technology at the University of Bedfordshire, and a part time lecturer in Computer Security and Digital Forensics. He is a Certified Information Security System Professional, a Certified Ethical Hacker and a Certified Hacking Forensic Investigator.

His talk looked at how digital forensics was presented by Hollywood and how that differed from its practice in the real world. Clips from forensics-based dramas, such as CSI, illustrated how that unreality has given the public, in particular some members of juries, inflated expectations of computer forensic analysis.

Digital forensics is about interrogating memory or storage in a digital device to identify cyber crime. In this exercise a computer can be a victim or a witness. The first cyber crime in film was the 1969 'Italian Job' where discs were changed in the Milan traffic computer control system.

It is generally understood that information gained illegally cannot be used in evidence but it came as a surprise that, in a CSI episode, an offence was effectively committed by a scientist simply turning on a nearby computer. This is due to the strict requirement of proving that no evidence has been tampered with, so the contents of a computer have to be examined in controlled conditions using an interface that prevents any 'writing back'. The 'Hollywood' approach to a crime scene is often to break in, find computer, crack passcode, - totally illegal.

A frequent feature of 'The Hollywood Operating System' is enhancing an image with some clever software. This is mostly a figment of the screen-writer's imagination.

The talk covered many aspects and examples of digital forensics; the GPS recorded on some mobiles that show where a picture was taken, a crime location perhaps; the Sat Nav records that show where you have been; Dr Shipman's computer that showed that he had changed comments purporting to have been made while the victim was still alive, but actually altered after the death; criminals who try to cover their tracks by deleting files or wiping a hard drive. It was noted that 'deleted' files are only secure if they are overwritten with 0s and 1s and with pseudo-random data. The Government standard is to shred files with a degaussing magnetic field.

Geraint's final item of an enthralling talk was a piece of advice to defeat those intent on hacking into your PC by always using patches ASAP, since hackers will take note of an update and seek to exploit the loophole identified for them.



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