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The data behind dating

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With Valentine’s Day upon us and thousands of South Africans in the pursuit of love within the online realm. SEKETE PATRICK MAPHOPHA, NetApp Africa CTO and Technology Evangelist, asks a vital question – how secure is your personal data?

There are an estimated 1 000 dating sites currently operating in South Africa – some of them stating membership numbers of up to several million.

There is no doubt that the modern world and social norms have shifted, such that online and in-app algorithms are now an acceptable – and often encouraged – way to meet a future partner. It is user data that drives the success of these matches, helping to find that ideal partner, and this data has driven a genuine shift in modern dating habits. How can these dating sites ensure that they are managing and using this data in the best ways possible, as well as ensuring that it’s properly protected? Finally, what does the valuable currency of personal data mean for social norms now and in future?

Each online and app-based dating service attempts to differentiate itself from the competition to tap into one of the many lucrative markets available in this space. Whether they are targeting the young, the old, the professional elite or a specific religion, there is one thing every service has in common. They all use a series of algorithms to analyse each user’s data, to make the best possible matches, based on demographics and shared interests.

Safety comes first when searching for your date with destiny

Data security should also be considered by dating sites. The good news is that there are legal bodies in place that regulate how companies handle users’ data. Companies collecting and processing data must implement technical and organisational measures to ensure a level of security that is appropriate to the risks represented by the processing taking place and the nature of the data in question.

These regulations will soon be made more stringent with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development publishing a revised 2017 draft of the Cyber Security Bill, which will only be introduced to Parliament in the next few weeks. The Bill aims to give SA a co-ordinated approach to cyber security, and puts in place measures to effectively deal with cyber-crime and address aspects relating to cyber security. The department further describes the Bill as a tool to address the current shortcomings in SA law and facilitate the effective prosecution of cybercrimes.  NetApp has storage security solutions which help prevent unauthorized modification or disclosure of data stored which would be ideal in this scenario.

The chemistry of compliance

For dating sites, it’s going to be vital to ensure that they are compliant and looking after user data correctly. These penalties would be nonsensical and something companies should avoid at all cost. For dating apps and websites – just like any other business – this means having an effective data privacy programme and data management practice in place.

Whether they store user data on premise or with an external private or public cloud provider, they should assess and reassure customers that data is collected, processed, accessed, shared, stored, transferred and secured in accordance with all laws and regulations, keeping them safe and ultimately allowing them to eradicate their data, should they be ready to end their online dating days. The NetApp ONTAP storage operating system is one such example, and can be used across cloud and on-premises infrastructure to create a Data Fabric that acts as a single system, meaning that data is more easily managed and controlled.

There is definitely some truth that these dating sites reduce the number of frogs you have to kiss before you meet Mr or Ms Right, but do they really do more than this? Can they truly help you find The One? For all the people that tell you that online and app-based dating is a waste of time, there are plenty more that will tell you they are now happily settled or married as a result.

Thanks to a sophisticated mixture of psychological profiling, data, algorithms and marketing, the online dating industry in South Africa is worth about R90-million. As long as all of the data it produces can be properly managed and secured, there’s no reason why the dating industry can’t continue to be as successful as its happily-ever-after matches, complementing chemistry, rather than negating it.

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CES: Most useless gadgets of all

Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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