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Games for a cause

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At the recent GamesCom convention in Cologne, Germany, a startling new trends became apparent, writes game designer JADE MATHIESON.

Your typical gamer is no longer young, white and male. Nor are games strictly for entertainment. The principles behind game design are being applied in other areas, including education and training, public health, advocacy for social causes, and improving organisational productivity.

With South Africa’s high rates of smartphone adoption, games provide a new channel to engage customers, employees and the general public.

Those were some of my insights from GamesCom, Europe’s biggest gaming convention which took place recently in Cologne, Germany. It’s not quite as big as E3 in Los Angeles, but it still attracts all the best-known names in gaming. The Germans accommodated an estimated 350 000 visitors and over 900 companies.

A number of “games for a cause” made me sit up and take notice. Here are some of them:

1. Antura and the Letters

With hundreds of refugees fleeing the conflicts in Libya and Syria, many children are being denied the opportunity to learn. Antura and the Letters is a game designed to help such children become literate in Arabic. The game engine appears solid and could be re-skinned for other languages.

2. Antidote

Created by Pyson Games, Antidote teaches children about stem cells and the immune system. Their aim is to challenge some of the unscientific beliefs that have become commonplace during the Trump presidency. But even though the game is based on scientific facts, it is a classic defense strategy game with nice graphics and engaging gameplay. The game shows that it is possible to take complex subjects like the immune system and dry facts, and turn them into fun learning experiences.

3. Across the Line

The decision to abort an embryo isn’t an easy one. Yet many women who should have the right to choose what happens to their bodies are subjected to ridicule and scorn by protestors outside abortion clinics. Across the Line, which I didn’t see but heard about at GamesCon, uses virtual reality to allow others to experience what it is like to live through the taunting and thereby can create empathy. Other possible applications of the concept can help bridge differences on other divisive topics by allowing people to immerse themselves in the experiences of others.

4. Lost Words

Expanding the vocabulary of children doesn’t have to be as boring as telling them to consult a thesaurus each time. In Lost Words, a player is tasked with choosing between words to explore a story. Each word choice leads down a different narrative arch, encouraging players to think about what the words mean. As the story unfolds, they can use more words to change their environment – illustrating nicely the adage that the pen is mightier than the sword.

* Jade Mathieson is a game designer and creative lead at Sea Monster. She headed up the team behind Old Mutual’s Moneyversity website, among other.

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Bring your network with you

At last week’s Critical Communications World, Motorola unveiled the LXN 500 LTE Ultra Portable Network Infrastructure. It allows rescue personal to set up dedicated LTE networks for communication in an emergency, writes SEAN BACHER.

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In the event of an emergency, communications are absolutely critical, but the availability of public phone networks are limited due to weather conditions or congestion.

Motorola realised that this caused a problem when trying to get rescue personnel to those in need and so developed its LXN 500 LTE Ultra Portable Network Infrastructure. The product is the smallest and lightest full powered broadband network to date and allows the first person on the scene to set up an LTE network in a matter of minutes, allowing other rescue team members to communicate with each other.

“The LXN 500 weighs six kilograms and comes in a backpack with two batteries. It offers a range of 1km and allows up to 100 connections at the same time. However, in many situations the disaster area may span more than 1km which is why they can be connected to each other in a mesh formation,” says Tunde Williams, Head of Field and Solutions Marketing EMEA, Motorola Solutions.

The LXN 500 solution offers communication through two-way radios, and includes mapping, messaging, push-to-talk, video and imaging features onboard, thus eliminating the need for any additional hardware.

Data collected on the device can then be sent through to a central control room where an operator can deploy additional rescue personnel where needed. Once video is streamed into the control room, realtime analytics and augmented reality can be applied to it to help predict where future problem points may arise. Video images and other multimedia can also be made available for rescuers on the ground.

“Although the LXN 500 was designed for the seamless communications between on ground rescue teams and their respective control rooms, it has made its way into the police force and in places where there is little or no cellular signal such as oil rigs,” says Williams.

He gave a hostage scenario: “In the event of a hostage situation, it is important for the police to relay information in realtime to ensure no one is hurt. However the perpetrators often use their mobile phones to try and foil any rescue attempts. Should the police have the correct partnerships in place they are able to disable cellular towers in the vicinity, preventing any in or outgoing calls on a public network and allowing the police get their job done quickly and more effectively.”

By disabling any public networks in the area, police are also able to eliminate any cellular detonated bombs from going off but still stay in touch with each other he says.

The LXN 500 offers a wide range of mission critical cases and is sure to transform communications and improve safety for first responders and the people they are trying to protect.

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Kaspersky moves to Switzerland

As part of its Global Transparency Initiative, Kaspersky Lab is adapting its infrastructure to move a number of core processes from Russia to Switzerland.

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This includes customer data storage and processing for most regions, as well as software assembly, including threat detection updates. To ensure full transparency and integrity, Kaspersky Lab is arranging for this activity to be supervised by an independent third party, also based in Switzerland.

Global transparency and collaboration for an ultra-connected world

The Global Transparency Initiative, announced in October 2017, reflects Kaspersky Lab’s ongoing commitment to assuring the integrity and trustworthiness of its products. The new measures are the next steps in the development of the initiative, but they also reflect the company’s commitment to working with others to address the growing challenges of industry fragmentation and a breakdown of trust. Trust is essential in cybersecurity, and Kaspersky Lab understands that trust is not a given; it must be repeatedly earned through transparency and accountability.

The new measures comprise the move of data storage and processing for a number of regions, the relocation of software assembly and the opening of the first Transparency Center.

Relocation of customer data storage and processing

By the end of 2019, Kaspersky Lab will have established a data center in Zurich and in this facility, will store and process all information for users in Europe, North America, Singapore, Australia, Japan and South Korea, with more countries to follow. This information is shared voluntarily by users with the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) an advanced, cloud-based system that automatically processes cyberthreat-related data.

Relocation of software assembly

Kaspersky Lab will relocate to Zurich its ‘software build conveyer’ — a set of programming tools used to assemble ready to use software out of source code. Before the end of 2018, Kaspersky Lab products and threat detection rule databases (AV databases) will start to be assembled and signed with a digital signature in Switzerland, before being distributed to the endpoints of customers worldwide. The relocation will ensure that all newly assembled software can be verified by an independent organisation and show that software builds and updates received by customers match the source code provided for audit.

Establishment of the first Transparency Center

The source code of Kaspersky Lab products and software updates will be available for review by responsible stakeholders in a dedicated Transparency Center that will also be hosted in Switzerland and is expected to open this year. This approach will further show that generation after generation of Kaspersky Lab products were built and used for one purpose only: protecting the company’s customers from cyberthreats.

Independent supervision and review

Kaspersky Lab is arranging for the data storage and processing, software assembly, and source code to be independently supervised by a third party qualified to conduct technical software reviews. Since transparency and trust are becoming universal requirements across the cybersecurity industry, Kaspersky Lab supports the creation of a new, non-profit organisation to take on this responsibility, not just for the company, but for other partners and members who wish to join.

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