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How VR saves lives

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Innovation and technology play a big part in the South African mining industry, but now it has moved on to a new era. ETHEL NYEMBE of Standard Bank explains how to maintain production and reduce cost using new technology like virtual reality.

South Africa is world-renowned for clawing mineral wealth from the earth, often at depths that are unequalled anywhere else in the world. Working at these great depths means physical discomfort and danger – all risks that have to be considered and planned for. Ultimately, it is the combination of innovation and technology that save lives and ensures that miners return safely to the surface.

Because safety is taken so seriously by mines, millions of rands are spent every year on products and services designed to keep miners safe. Not many people would believe, however, that some of the most important and advanced technological safety solutions have their origins in the world of computer gaming.

“Innovation and technology are game changers in the mining sector. Minimising risks means maintaining production and reducing lost-time incidents,” says Ethel Nyembe, Head of Small Enterprise at Standard Bank.

“Given that mining companies are operating under many constraints, it is to their credit that they have adopted all the technology they can to protect their people. Achieving this has meant investing in computer-generated, advanced visualisation techniques and tools that have crossed-over from the world of video gaming.”

A recent episode of the Standard Bank-supported The Growth Engines series, highlighted how major mining company, Anglo American Platinum, works with specialised SME, The Cyest Corporation, to reduce risks and drive bottom line performance through 3D visualisation technology.

Anglo American Platinum is a key player in the global platinum market, and produces about 37% of the world’s platinum in the Bushveld complex that is home to about 70% of the world’s known resources of the mineral.

However, various factors such as a platinum price that has dropped by about 35% in the last five years, and reduced global demand, have placed a strain on the sustainability of platinum mining. Responding to tough times demands innovative strategies.

Says Ms Jeannette McGill, Head of Technology and Innovation at Anglo American Platinum:

“Innovation and technology in the mining sector is exceptionally important, particularly to companies like Anglo American Platinum.

We look at how we can increase our global competitiveness in terms of being able to produce sustainable operations and create maximum value for our shareholders. This requires a certain level of innovation and/ the application of technology both in underground and open-pit environments.

With shallow resources being depleted, we need to mine deeper. There are significant challenges involved with this, including being able to supply our mines with ventilation and support through a variety of applications. It is about mining safer and meeting our corporate objective of causing zero-harm.

Achieving this involves driving discontinuous change. Our need has been to stop making small continual changes in technology, by bringing about change that leapfrogs us into a different space. This is about being collaborative and comparing ourselves not only with other mining companies, but also about seeing what impacts other sectors as far as technology is concerned.”

Keeping pace with the demand for change led to The Cyest Corporation bringing different  technologies – including advanced visualisation technology – to Anglo American Platinum.

It is in this visual discipline that they are making a majoring impression. The technology is being used in the training arena, where virtual reality software is used to drive home the realities of working underground and making the intrinsically hostile environment as safe as possible for all workers.

Visualisations are used to simulate scenarios that can produce life-saving improvements in the mining industry. The relevance of gaming technology to business technologies is acknowledged by the company – particularly when it comes to promoting safety underground.

Andreas Cambitsis, Director of The Cyest Corporation, says:

“There is so much that technology can do in empowering people and making them more effective at their jobs. Whether it is advanced visualisation or beneficiatiating data to make better decisions, we are only touching the tip of the iceberg. Innovation and technology are the bridge to taking companies forward.

It is important to keep an eye on innovation and the bottom line. You must be clear on how the innovation is going to benefit profitability. It is also something that should be considered as a long-term objective. Great ideas are often stifled because they don’t meet short-term needs.”

* Ethel Nyembe, Head of Small Enterprise at Standard Bank

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Password managers don’t protect you from hackers

Using a password manager to protect yourself online? Research reveals serious weaknesses…

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Top password manager products have fundamental flaws that expose the data they are designed to protect, rendering them no more secure than saving passwords in a text file, according to a new study by researchers at Independent Security Evaluators (ISE).

“100 percent of the products that ISE analyzed failed to provide the security to safeguard a user’s passwords as advertised,” says ISE CEO Stephen Bono. “Although password managers provide some utility for storing login/passwords and limit password reuse, these applications are a vulnerable target for the mass collection of this data through malicious hacking campaigns.”

In the new report titled “Under the Hood of Secrets Management,” ISE researchers revealed serious weaknesses with top password managers: 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass and LastPass.  ISE examined the underlying functionality of these products on Windows 10 to understand how users’ secrets are stored even when the password manager is locked. More than 60 million individuals 93,000 businesses worldwide rely on password managers. Click here for a copy of the report.

Password managers are marketed as a solution to eliminate the security risks of storing passwords or secrets for applications and browsers in plain text documents. Having previously examined these and other password managers, ISE researchers expected an improved level of security standards preventing malicious credential extraction. Instead ISE found just the opposite. 

Click here to read the findings from the report.

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MWC: Next generation of inflight connectivity to be unveiled

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Next week at Mobile World Congress, the Seamless Air Alliance will reveal progress on its mission towards enabling the next generation of inflight connectivity. This follows a significant start for the Alliance, which has seen membership increase five-fold since the first meeting in June of last year. The Alliance has a new research laboratory setup and continues progress through its three working groups, writing specifications for the technology, requirements, and operations.

These developments represent a huge leap towards the goal of making connectivity as easy and enjoyable in the skies as it is on the ground. Appearing as part of the Airbus stand (Hall 6, stand 6G34), the Seamless Air Alliance will reveal specification topics that have been completed and published to its membership.

“The passenger experience with inflight connectivity remains one of the great technology challenges. From Day One we have been determined to deliver on our mission to bring industries and technologies together to make the inflight internet experience simple to access and a delight to use,” said the Alliance’s Chief Executive Officer, Jack Mandala.

“I have been tremendously encouraged by the enthusiastic and committed response we have seen and the widening areas of expertise we can call upon as more and more companies and organisations continue to join us,” he added.

Announced during MWC 2018, the Seamless Air Alliance has since grown to twenty-three membercompanies with more than one-hundred key personnel from across the membership participating in its three working groups, with numbers continuing to increase.

The Seamless Air Alliance was created by founding members Airbus, Airtel, Delta Air Lines, OneWeb and Sprint, and quickly joined by Air France KLM, Aeromexico, and GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes and global technology leaders including Astronics, Collins Aerospace, Comtech, Cyient, iDirect, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Latecoere, Nokia, and Panasonic. 

Today, the Alliance is pleased to announce five additional new members: Adaptive Channel, Etihad Airways, GlobalReach Technology, Safran, and SITAONAIR.

“We are extremely pleased to have these companies join and be a part of the companies driving the next generation of connectivity.” said Mr Mandala.

The Seamless Air Alliance will enable travelers boarding any flight, on any airline, anywhere in the world, to use their own devices to automatically connect to the Internet with no complicated login process nor paywall to scramble over.

The Alliance is also announcing the release of a new research study on the economic benefit of standardization on the inflight connectivity market at Mobile World Congress. This report is available for download at https://www.seamlessalliance.com/publications/

The Alliance is moving rapidly towards an expected demonstration of the technology later in 2019 and anticipates massive interest in Barcelona from the whole communications eco-system.

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