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How Wi-FI can benefit law

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The Internet of Things is changing the way we work and once the new ecosystem is completely connected, many businesses will benefit – including law enforcement, says RIAAN GRAHAM, sales director for Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa.

The internet of things (IoT) is challenging the way we live and work, and how government and businesses interact. In fact, this new eco-system is creating the foundational building blocks for smart cities where traditional models of service delivery are being challenged. While the move towards ‘smart’ is slow as infrastructure and connectivity needs to be deployed to truly drive an interconnected eco-system, for those that are moving towards a more mature model, the benefits are undeniable across all services – including law enforcement.

If we look at today’s judiciary system, often, judges have to rely on alternative links as GSM connectivity is not always possible due to various technical challenges. Use of a Wi-Fi hotspot could result in easy, quicker access to legal and other information, that could be critical in a trial. This could have a significant impact on the productivity of the court.

This fast and reliable Wi-Fi has the added benefit of providing journalists with the means to file stories sooner and get breaking news out more efficiently. Consider also the potential of providing legal teams who might not have the resources of larger firms with online access to research that can assist in their preparations.

Suddenly, technology becomes an equaliser with those legal professionals coming from underprivileged communities having internet connectivity they might not have otherwise had to refine their case work. But these benefits extend beyond the parameters of the court.

Police stations often have to rely on expensive satellite access to file reports and stay updated on various legal and security matters. Creating a network of Wi-Fi hotspots that not only cover the police station, but key areas of the community, could provide a much-needed boost to reducing crime. Additionally police officers in the field can be fitted with hidden cameras on their uniform as well as a dashboard camera in the police car – providing accurate evidence of incidents that can be helpful in a trial.

Such a Wi-Fi network gives community members an opportunity to engage more directly with local police and send out alerts on any criminal activity they might witness or even call for medical services when seconds matter. Extending this Wi-Fi access to a community centre provides additional opportunities for education, employment, and even the enhancement of existing crime watch programmes.

Wi-Fi will give police in these communities the capability to check on suspect IDs and vehicle license plates more effectively and cheaper than before. This also means that police officers who roam the neighbourhoods can leverage VoIP services to create community-wide alerts should the need arise.

Even Metro police officers can benefit from Wi-Fi connectivity during their road-side campaigns. By equipping them with this additional functionality, real-time information on traffic, accidents, and other activities can be monitored online. It also means regional offices will be able to determine where best to send resources during peak travel times.

Streamlining the processing of information, filing of reports, responding to community queries, and engaging with officers in the field are all valuable enhancements brought about with the availability of Wi-Fi.

As we have seen from consumer and business perspectives, Wi-Fi access empowers us  to find different ways of doing things. Having access to the internet and all the related information it provides leads to a smart way of doing things and helps government embrace the concept of smart cities. Even in sectors of the market where Wi-Fi has not been typically seen as necessary, it is incredible what innovation this connectivity can unlock.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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