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How blockchain can back PoPI

Blockchain is built for protecting information, one of its major selling points. But VISHAL BARAPATRE – Chief Technical Officer at In2IT Technologies, asks what effect the PoPI act have on it.

The Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act is looming on our horizon. South African organisations are busily preparing for it despite there still being much debate about what the real impact will be and whether or not it will be truly effective. However, one thing is certain, a legislation that protects personal information (that is, any information relating to an identifiable, living person) is necessary, and any technology which could support PoPI within the business should be seriously considered.

One technology that seems purposefully built for protecting information is the blockchain. Although one of the selling points of blockchain technology is its inherent transparency, it certainly has effective security measures. This begs the question, could the transparency of blockchain technology conflict with the regulations that PoPI lays out, or does it add another mechanism for compliancy?

The blockchain, and PoPI compliancy

With the implementation of PoPI, organisations will need to be more sensitive around the privacy of their customers’ information – or be penalised. To do so, they will have to be more organised around the storage, use and dissemination of this data so as not to overstep the bounds of PoPI, and to take care of their customers’ privacy. There needs to be a level of ‘proof’ of where the data is kept, how it is used and who has access to it at any given time. This requirement fits in with the purpose of the blockchain: to provide a verifiable record of any data transaction, including who accesses the said data.

The blockchain is a shared digital transactional ledger that securely records and regularly reconciles transactions of virtually anything of value. Therefore, Blockchain provides accurate traceability and in turn, promotes accountability. Essentially, what the blockchain does for data storage is provide ratified certainty that all the due diligences have been conducted around a piece of data, and a means for recourse should data be unlawfully used or accessed.

There is also the security factor, which appeals to compliancy requirements of PoPI. The blockchain offers unparalleled security features, given its multi-verification nature and tamper proof mechanism of protecting already verified data. If current trends are anything to go by, the blockchain will only get more secure, which makes it ideal for use as a potentially impenetrable storage mechanism.

Any concerns?

The question around transparency still exists. Surely a platform that specifically highlights transparency as a benefit automatically precludes it from being suitable for an act which stresses the protection of a person’s privacy? Not necessarily…

A blockchain can be programmed with certain pre-defined rules, or permissible actions, around what may be done with any piece of personal information, based on the type of information it is. Although the information may be visible to anyone with access to the blockchain on which it sits, these parameters automatically create alerts when certain data is accessed, used, or disseminated in any way that falls outside their bounds.

Granted, there is still the risk that the data may be accessed by unauthorised individuals, but the organisation will be alerted and can take immediate action. The blockchain provides verifiable proof of who accessed the data illegally, for what reason, and what was done with the data. It can then be raised with the PoPI regulator, if required, or can take internal action, as desired (or as required by policy and/or law).

The only real grey area with using the blockchain for complying with data storage, is that there will exist a permanent, in-erasable record of the data, indefinitely. PoPI does define that an organisation must honour an individual’s request for their data to be removed once it is no longer in use. The immutability of the blockchain could prove a problem, nevertheless an organisation still retains control of who may or may not access the data, and could exercise that control to ensure that the data remains all but invisible for its lifespan.

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Veeam passes $1bn, prepares for cloud’s ‘Act II’

Leader in cloud-data management reveals how it will harness the next growth phase of the data revolution, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Veeam Software, the quiet leader in backup solutions for cloud data management,has announced that it has passed $1-billion in revenues, and is preparing for the next phase of sustained growth in the sector.

Now, it is unveiling what it calls Act II, following five years of rapid growth through modernisation of the data centre. At the VeeamON 2019conferencein Miami this week, company co-founder Ratmir Timashev declared that the opportunities in this new era, focused on managing data for the hybrid cloud, would drive the next phase of growth.

“Veeam created the VMware backup market and has dominated it as the leader for the last decade,” said Timashev, who is also executive vice president for sales and marketing at the organisation. “This was Veeam’s Act I and I am delighted that we have surpassed the $1 billion mark; in 2013 I predicted we’d achieve this in less than six years. 

“However, the market is now changing. Backup is still critical, but customers are now building hybrid clouds with AWS, Azure, IBM and Google, and they need more than just backup. To succeed in this changing environment, Veeam has had to adapt. Veeam, with its 60,000-plus channel and service provider partners and the broadest ecosystem of technology partners, including Cisco, HPE, NetApp, Nutanix and Pure Storage, is best positioned to dominate the new cloud data management in our Act II.”

In South Africa, Veeam expects similar growth. Speaking at the Cisco Connect conference in Sun City this week, country manager Kate Mollett told Gadget’s BRYAN TURNER that the company was doing exceptionally well in this market.

“In financial year 2018, we saw double-digit growth, which was really very encouraging if you consider the state of the economy, and not so much customer sentiment, but customers have been more cautious with how they spend their money. We’ve seen a fluctuation in the currency, so we see customers pausing with big decisions and hoping for a recovery in the Rand-Dollar. But despite all of the negatives, we have double digit growth which is really good. We continue to grow our team and hire.

“From a Veeam perspective, last year we were responsible for Veeam Africa South, which consisted of South Africa, SADC countries, and the Indian Ocean Islands. We’ve now been given the responsibility for the whole of Africa. This is really fantastic because we are now able to drive a single strategy for Africa from South Africa.”

Veeam has been the leading provider of backup, recovery and replication solutions for more than a decade, and is growing rapidly at a time when other players in the backup market are struggling to innovate on demand.

“Backup is not sexy and they made a pretty successful company out of something that others seem to be screwing up,” said Roy Illsley, Distinguished Analyst at Ovum, speaking in Miami after the VeeamOn conference. “Others have not invested much in new products and they don’t solve key challenges that most organisations want solved. Theyre resting on their laurels and are stuck in the physical world of backup instead of embracing the cloud.”

Illsley readily buys into the Veeam tagline. “It just works”. 

“They are very good at marketing but are also a good engineering comany that does produce the goods. Their big strength, that it just works, is a reliable feature they have built into their product portfolio.”

Veeam said in statement from the event that, while it had initially focused on server virtualisation for VMware environments, in recent years it had expanded this core offering. It was now delivering integration with multiple hypervisors, physical servers and endpoints, along with public and software-as-a-service workloads, while partnering with leading cloud, storage, server, hyperconverged (HCI) and application vendors.

This week, it  announced a new “with Veeam”program, which brings in enterprise storage and hyperconverged (HCI) vendors to provide customers with comprehensive secondary storage solutions that combine Veeam software with industry-leading infrastructure systems. Companies like ExaGrid and Nutanix have already announced partnerships.

Timashev said: “From day one, we have focused on partnerships to deliver customer value. Working with our storage and cloud partners, we are delivering choice, flexibility and value to customers of all sizes.”

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‘Energy scavenging’ funded

As the drive towards a 5G future gathers momentum, the University of Surrey’s research into technology that could power countless internet enabled devices – including those needed for autonomous cars – has won over £1M from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and industry partners.

Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) has been working on triboelectric nanogenerators (TENG), an energy harvesting technology capable of ‘scavenging’ energy from movements such as human motion, machine vibration, wind and vehicle movements to power small electronic components. 

TENG energy harvesting is based on a combination of electrostatic charging and electrostatic induction, providing high output, peak efficiency and low-cost solutions for small scale electronic devices. It’s thought such devices will be vital for the smart sensors needed to enable driverless cars to work safely, wearable electronics, health sensors in ‘smart hospitals’ and robotics in ‘smart factories.’ 

The ATI will be partnered on this development project with the Georgia Institute of Technology, QinetiQ, MAS Holdings, National Physical Laboratory, Soochow University and Jaguar Land Rover. 

Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI and the principal investigator of the TENG project, said: “TENG technology is ideal to power the next generation of electronic devices due to its small footprint and capacity to integrate into systems we use every day. Here at the ATI, we are constantly looking to develop such advanced technologies leading towards our quest to realise worldwide “free energy”.

“TENGs are an ideal candidate to power the autonomous electronic systems for Internet of Things applications and wearable electronic devices. We believe this research grant will allow us to further the design of optimized energy harvesters.”

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