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It’s IoT vs Evil Spores

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In order to prevent crop diseases from spreading, Eseye has developed IoT real-time crop monitoring equipment as an early warning system for farmers.

IoT M2M connectivity specialist Eseye has partnered with Burkard, designers and builders of air samplers for agricultural research since 1953, to harness the power of the IoT. Burkard has developed a piece of real-time pathogen monitoring equipment to predict and provide an early warning system of crop disease risk. The collaboration with Eseye and its AnyNet Secure SIM and technology, delivers highly secure and reliable global cellular network data through its AnyNet Secure SIM, and provides automatic routing onto up to 440 cellular operators in 190 countries and links seamlessly to the AWS Cloud.

Increasing the world’s food supply is a major issue, crop diseases can have a devastating humanitarian and economic impact and with sustained global population growth it is estimated that by 2050, a 70 per cent increase in food production is required to ensure the world is fed. Jeremy Potgieter, regional head, SADC, Eseye says that 20-40 per cent of crop losses are attributed to disease: “The accurate prediction and prevention of diseases is a vital area to address in the battle to enhance yields, and is now an area in which cellular IoT and the AWS Cloud is providing support to an innovative solution.”

Traditionally, the method of identifying signs of crop disease has been time-consuming, cumbersome and costly, involving research scientists assessing the contents of in-field samplers under a microscope. Preventative pesticide spraying is also used to protect crops from possible disease, with weather or planting dates informing decisions on the chemicals to be applied. This is less effective and more costly than targeted spraying, it may be detrimental to consumer health and the environment, and over time, sees pests and diseases becoming resistant to the treatment.

Burkard’s innovative product uses Eseye’s AnyNet Secure global cellular connectivity and AWS IoT to enable farmers to receive tailored information from their own fields, whenever they want it, and to have full control over that data.

Potgieter says that the Burkard Auto Sampler sits permanently within a farmer’s field remotely collecting DNA release and uses a LAMP assay to quantify airborne spores: “Crop data is transmitted, over-the-air via the AnyNet Secure SIM, back to the AWS Cloud where it is analysed and reported in a matter of minutes using AWS IoT Gateway tools, which do the mathematics behind the forecasting. Information is stored and presented back so farmers can see exactly which fields are at risk and act accordingly to treat the crops.”

Historically, for similar agricultural projects, Burkard used a general modem and SIM card to send texts to alert on potential crop risks. However, Burkard found this unresponsive because the lack of reliable connectivity across different locations resulted in the frequent need to change providers.

Stuart Wili, managing director at Burkard, says, “While working on a similar project a few years ago, we had to send operators out with mobile phones from as many different providers as possible to find out which had the best signal in certain fields. It was not only extremely inefficient but often connectivity was lost anyway. This time we knew we needed a reliable connectively solution to make the project a success.”

The AnyNet Secure™ SIM enhanced features also enable IoT devices to remotely and securely activate, provision, authenticate and certify devices or ‘things’, in field, over-the-air. Integration with AWS Cloud Services, further simplifies project set up and deployment by reducing the need for investment in specialist in-house infrastructure and development resources. By adding AWS’ software tools and cloud the business establishes the means to simply and quickly analyse data and to scale instantly and securely, on demand.

Wili says: “With the AnyNet Secure SIM, farmers don’t need to rely on single local network coverage, which often can’t be guaranteed. Instead they can be assured accurate data from the field is being securely and accurately transmitted back to the server, without any concern over connectivity, the AnyNet Secure SIM will utilise any and all connectivity available. Farmers can completely trust the system data will forewarn about any potential issues with their crops, they can then act quickly to resolve them.”

The module deployed, an Eseye Hera 604 with add-on logger functionality, can store all data and publish to AWS as required, ensuring there is no loss of information. A key challenge to the solution is to deliver secure and resilient connectivity, otherwise the farmers’ data will be void.

Wili explains, “We are finally giving farmers an answer to their concerns over the ramifications of crop disease. This not only provides peace of mind, but the solution also supports the environment and saves precious time, resources and ultimately money. Looking to the future, we plan to roll out the technology across the globe, particularly in developing countries, where the importance of farming is far higher, and therefore the need to prevent disease to ensure a healthy crop is even greater.”

Paul Marshall, Chief Customer Officer at Eseye, says, “Eseye’s work with Burkard and AWS is a prime example of the range of economic, social and environmental benefits which can be reaped through IoT. By using AnyNet and AWS solutions, the agricultural industry can harness the knowledge and foresight from accurate data in making informed decisions. We are delighted to be part of this project and look forward to seeing the benefits rolled out across the globe.”

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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SAFTA awards get first streaming video nominees

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The 2019 nominations for The South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) were announced late last week, and for the first time in the 13-year history of the awards, a TV series produced for a video-on-demand service was in contention. The result was a surprise boost to streaming service Showmax.

The comedy series Tali’s Wedding Diary, which premiered in December 2017, represented a major step for the then two-year old streaming service. It was the debut Showmax Original, the first time Showmax ventured into producing its own content. The gamble paid off, with the show becoming the most watched of any series on its first day on Showmax, and now Tali’s Wedding Diary has been further recognised with seven SAFTA nominations, making it this year’s most nominated comedy.

“When we first floated the idea of Tali’s Wedding Diary, we joked about winning awards,” says Candice Fangueiro, Showmax’s head of content. “At that point, just getting our first Showmax Original off the ground was already a major challenge and it was more than we could hope for to actually hit it out of the park. I was stunned when I heard the news about the nominations – it’s amazing to be considered in the same company as these other shows and thanks to this we’re already seeing a fresh spike in Tali views.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary was also a first for co-creator and star Julia Anastasopoulos, who until then was best known as YouTube star SuzelleDIY. “I am so thrilled about the SAFTA nominations for Tali’s Wedding Diary,” says Julia, who is up for Best Actress – TV Comedy and Best Achievement in Scriptwriting – TV Comedy, along with her husband Ari Kruger and Daniel Zimbler. 

“It was such a big and daunting step to create a full TV comedy series and intro a brand-new character. I really didn’t know how it would be received and am so happy to have received such positive feedback for the show and the Tali Babes character, along with the nominations. It feels so good to be recognised for something we poured our hearts into. None of it would have been possible, of course, without the incredible hard work and vision of my husband Ari and the incredible team, cast and crew that were part of the show. And a huge thank you to Showmax of course for making it all possible. Congratulations and best of luck to the entire team and to all the other nominees.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary is a mockumentary that follows Tali, a self-obsessed Joburg princess who’s moved to Cape Town and is planning her wedding to property-agent fiancé Darren (Anton Taylor). The series was inspired by Julia’s own wedding to Ari, her SuzelleDIY and Tali’s Wedding Diary co-creator, who is also up for Best Achievement In Directing – TV Comedy.  

In addition to Julia and Ari’s nominations, Tali’s Wedding Diary is up for Best TV Comedy, Art Direction (Keren Setton),  Cinematography (James Adey), and Editing (Richard Starkey). Winners will be announced on 2 March 2019 at Sun City Superbowl.

Following the success of Tali’s Wedding Diary, the second Showmax Original, The Girl From St Agnes, was released earlier this month. A third Showmax Original, Trippin With Skhumba, is slated for release at the end of February.

“With three Showmax Originals now under our belt and more on the way, we’d like to think this is the start of many more SAFTA nominations for shows from a streaming service,” concludes Candice.

South African content currently on Showmax has 110 nominations and includes the most nominated movie (Five Fingers With Marseilles), telenovela (The River), drama (Lockdown) and soap (Isibaya), with more SAFTA nominees scheduled for the coming months.

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