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How blockchain can back PoPI

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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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The myths of microwaves

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We all know microwaves make cooking a breeze and it helps save those minutes, we rarely have enough of these days. However, some people do have those lingering doubts about whether microwaving food destroys nutrients or that it emits harmful radiation. However, the truth is a lot more comforting and positive.

“The microwave makes life so much easier,” says Tracy Gordon, Head of Product – Home Appliances at Samsung South Africa. “It’s human-centred technology at its most helpful. The Samsung Hotblast for example, has revolutionary functions, which are tailor-made to create fast, tasty and healthy meals in minutes.”

A recent article by Harvard Health Publishingclaims stated that “microwave ovens cook food using waves of energy that are remarkably selective, primarily affecting water and other molecules that are electrically asymmetrical. Microwaves cause these molecules to vibrate and quickly build up thermal (heat) energy.” The article debunks two common myths about microwaving food.

Myth 1: Microwaving kills nutrients

Whether in a microwave or a regular oven, some nutrients, including vitamin C, do break down when exposed to heat. However, the fact is, cooking with a microwave might be better when it comes to preserving nutrients because it takes a shorter time to cook. Additionally, as far as vegetables go, cooking them in water robs them of some of their nutritional value because the nutrients seep out into the cooking water,” states the report by Harvard Health Publishing. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), food cooked in a microwave oven is as safe and has the same nutrient value, as food cooked in a conventional oven.

Myth 2: Microwaving food can give you cancer

The American Cancer Society (ACS) says that microwaves do not make food radioactive. Microwaves heat food but they do not change the chemical or molecular structure of it. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence that microwaves pose a health risk to people when used appropriately, the organisation added.

With those myths well busted, it’s comforting to know one can make full use of the convenient kitchen appliance. And when the time comes to use a microwave to heat up a tasty meal in no time, one can trust the Samsung Hotblast to do the job. The HotBlast has multiple air holes blowing out powerful hot air, which reduces cooking time. Samsung claims the Slim Fry technology ensures that food is perfectly crisp on the outside and delicious and juicy on the inside. Additionally, this versatile microwave has a wider grill, making it easier to brown food fast and evenly. The turntable is wider, measuring 345mm, making it possible to prepare bigger portions of food. And with its Eco Mode power, it significantly reduces energy consumption with its low standby power. Its intelligent features and stylish design makes it very useful and as we now know – a safe, healthy way to enjoy a meal.

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New BMW 3-series ushers in autonomous future

The new BMW 3-series is not meant to be an autonomous car, but it is so close, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK discovers.

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It was not meant to be a test-drive of an autonomous vehicle. But the Driving Assist button on the steering wheel of the new BMW 330i was just too tempting. And there I found myself, on Sir Lowry’s Pass near Cape Town, “driving” with my arms folded while the vehicle negotiated curves on its own.

Every 10 seconds or so, yellow or red lights flashed to alert me to put my hands back on the wheel. The yellow lights meant the car wanted me to put my hands on the wheel, just to show that I was in control. The red lights meant that I had to take over control from the artificial intelligence built into the vehicle.

With co-driver Ernest Page, we negotiated a major highway, the bends of Sir Lowry’s pass, and the passes of Hell’s Heights (Hel se Hoogte) above the Cape Winelands.

As the above video of the experience reveals, it can be nerve-racking for someone who hasn’t experienced autonomous driving, or hasn’t been dreaming of testing it for many years. For this driver, it was exhilarating. Not because the car performed so magnificently, but because it tells us just how close true autonomous driving really is.

There was one nervous moment when the autonomous – or rather, Driving Assist – mode disengaged on Hell’s Heights, but fear not. A powerful sense of responsibility prevailed, and my hands hovered over the steering wheel as it took the curve. Assist disengaged, and the car began to veer towards the other side of the road. I quickly took over, and also sobered up from the giddiness of thinking I was already in the future.

In reality, Driving Assist is part of level 2 of driving autonomy, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers. A presentation on the evening of the test drive, by Edward Makwana, manager of group product communications at BMW Group in South Africa, summed up the five stages as the driver having Feet Off, Hands Off, Eyes Off, Mind off, and finally, only being a Passenger.

However, the extent to which the hands-off mode of Driving Assist mimics self-driving, and easily shows the way to eyes-off and mind-off, is astonishing.

Click here to read about the components that make the Driving Assist work.

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