Broadband access dominates UK tech awards

The inaugural CNET Networks UK Awards dinner in London last night showed there is still plenty of activity in the UK technology scene, but illustrated the continued need for a focus on access to broadband

The issue of access to broadband dominated the inaugural CNET UK Technology Awards ceremony on Wednesday night.

Most Promising Technology of the Year award went to WiMAX, the IEEE 802.16 Air Interface Standard for fixed broadband wireless access systems. This award was among the categories nominated and voted for by readers of ZDNet UK and sister site silicon.com. "Without broadband, IT won't be able to reach into people's lives to full effect," wrote one reader. "But broadband provision has been patchy. WiMAX will change all that -- a very fast, quick deploying wireless point-to-point technology that will get cities of people connected at speed. It has the potential to be as universal as television, and the power to span the world."

The access to broadband theme continued as the Access to Broadband Campaign, led by John Wilson and Lindsey Annison, took the Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology award for their work helping individuals and small groups to understand the hurdles they need to overcome in order to get high-speed Internet access in rural and semi-rural areas.

Other reader-voted winners included Lastminute.com for E-commerce Site of the Year, and antivirus firm Symantec for Customer Service and Support of the Year.

The awards ceremony was held on the first evening of the UK Tech Summit at the Bloomberg Studios in London to celebrate accomplishments in technology and innovation. In addition to the reader-nominated and voted awards, a judging panel spent hours pouring over entries in other categories.

Zingo, the company that marries mobile phone positioning data with GPS systems to match passengers with their nearest black cab, drove away with the award for Mobile Product or Initiative of the Year.

Zingo -- owned by London black cab manufacturer Manganese Bronze -- was one of the first companies in the UK to use mobile phone positioning data for a commercial service. Using positioning data provided by network operators, Zingo is able to identify a users' location and patch them through to the nearest available black cab. "To allay privacy fears, Zingo has taken great pains to protect the privacy of people using the service as well as that of the taxi drivers, and prevent abuse of the system," said the judges. Zingo managing director Mark Fawcett said he was overwhelmed to receive the award. "But it was the technology guys who did all the work," he added.

Virtualisation server software company VMware won the Enterprise Product of the Year, for VMware ESX Server 2. ESX Server is a piece of software that carves physical machines up into smaller virtual machines, allowing multiple operating systems to run simultaneously on the same Intel-based server. By running services in secure, isolated virtual machines, VMWare software helps save money while gaining greater flexibility and control over computing resources. "ESX Server 2 adds the ability to move live, running, stateful virtual machines from one physical server to another, with continuous service availability, which is an important innovation in the field of grid computing," said the judges. "Also, in a climate of tight budgets, VMware holds great promise for companies looking to use spare server resources, allowing in some cases utilisation to increase from less than 5 percent to over 80 percent."

Other winners included public relations firm GBC, which took PR Campaign of the Year for its work with spam-filtering company Brightmail, which included setting up the UK's first spam summit. Advertising agency Ogilvy Interactive won Advertising Campaign of the Year for its IBM Wimbledon campaign, which brought a live feed from the tennis tournament to people's desktops. BT won Turnaround of the Year for having in less than two years greatly reduced its debt mountain, quickly rolled out broadband ADSL connections and concentrated an approach that marries communications with IT and outsourcing.

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