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IoT takes pulse of nature

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The Internet of Things and other mobile tech offers us the ability to advance our efforts in preserving and saving the environment, writes RESHAAD SHA, Chief Executive Officer, SqwidNet.

Humanity today finds itself living in what is defined as the ‘Anthropocene Age’, or the age of man. This is characterised by the massive environmental modifications occurring on Earth, encompassing such issues as climate change and the rapid loss of biodiversity. Fortunately, there is another age we are also living in at present, namely the ‘Information Age’, where the Internet, social networks, mobile devices and incredible computing power mean that people and things are being more connected than at any time in the past.

The latter clearly offers humanity a huge opportunity to change the impact of the former, as there is enormous potential for data analytics and technology to play a major role in monitoring, modelling and responding to the challenges of global biodiversity loss and climate change. The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) in particular, provides us with an opportunity to continuously monitor the pulse of the natural world.

The IoT has taken off, thanks to cost effective, production at scale of high-tech sensors that enable scientists to capture more comprehensive and complete data in a more contextual, frequent and secure manner than was previously possible.

There are, in fact, multitudes of ways that the IoT is enabling more frequent monitoring of the natural environment, and on a much larger spatial scale. Sensors today allow for finer resolution monitoring to take place in previously inaccessible or dangerous locations, as these allow for the automated capture of data. This means that once activated, these devices require minimal further human involvement. It is obvious that solutions such as these offer clear benefits to conservation science and management.

Ultimately, being able to gather and analyse vast amounts of data rapidly will enable humanity to close the environmental loop, as it will allow us to find out what the consequences of our actions are and thus ensure we take smarter actions as a result. Of course, the environment is a vast and complex entity, so the first question we will need to answer is what do we want to measure? Once we know this, we need to decide what we do with this data and – once we have used the data – how we can manage things differently, based on this information.

Real world applications

The good news is that there are scientists and conservationists out there already hard at work using the IoT to answer these questions. Spain offers a fantastic example of how to save a species on the verge of extinction, using technology. At the turn of the century, there were fewer than 100 Iberian lynxes left. Thanks to a cutting edge captive breeding centre, the numbers within this critically endangered species have more than tripled and it is now being reintroduced into safe habitats, as a second stage of this repopulation effort.

Today, these lynxes are tracked with location collars that geo-reference individual animals in the same manner as an asset management system would. This enables scientists to study behavioural uses of space and territories by these animals in the wild. In addition, connected drones are used to provide additional monitoring, to see how they are doing from a distance. The next step is to move away from the current battery-dependant collars to subcutaneous sensors that would remain under the lynx’s skin for its entire lifetime.

Another good example of IoT-related conservation is the efforts being put in place by the Sigfox Foundation. Its parent company, Sigfox, has recently partnered with Dark Fibre Africa to launch SqwidNet, an IoT network that is built on Sigfox technology. The Foundation is currently using connected sensors to assist conservationists in better monitoring rhino populations, since there are only estimated to be around 29 000 individual animals left.

Although still in prototype form, it uses a GPS tracker that is implanted in the horns of the rhinos, which securely sends out three GPS signals per day via the Sigfox network, on a dedicated secured platform. By knowing the exact locations of these animals, the conservationists are thus better able to protect them. The end goal, naturally, is to produce 29 000 connected sensors to monitor all the living rhinos around the world.

Just a few months ago, there was much ado about three male lions that escaped from the Kruger Park. Despite valiant attempts to find and bring them back to the reserve, two were killed by a farmer after he discovered they had killed one of his cattle, and the third was put down by SA National Parks staff.

This sad story serves to illustrate yet again the benefits of location tracking and real-time IoT connectivity. Had these lions been tagged the way the rhinos in the Sigfox project are, it would have been easy to determine where these animals were at any given time, and SAN Parks staff could have darted them and returned them to Kruger long before they attacked any cattle.

Of course, the three examples given above are just some of the more basic methods conservationists are using to improve the natural world. Many others can also be cited, including initiatives whereby drones are being used as an anti-poaching measure, or where GPS-tagged sharks not only provide scientists with invaluable information about the animals themselves, but the tags can also tweet the locations of these fish to nervous beach-goers. Remote camera traps are starting to lead to the discovery or rediscovery of species in inaccessible regions while still others are using this technology to enable the monitoring of illegal fishing.

The IoT and other modern technologies clearly offer humanity the chance to significantly change the game as far as conservation goes, giving us the tools to tackle some of the trickiest problems facing the natural environment. By properly leveraging the benefits of the Information Age, we at last have the opportunity to eliminate some the greatest challenges posed by the Anthropocene Age.

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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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