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The future is intelligent – if you have the vision

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The way all devices are becoming networked, referred to as the Internet of Things, is about to take a leap forward, as vastly greater intelligence gets built into automation. But it requires both vision and investment, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

There is bad news for fans of science fiction movies like Star Trek and Star Wars: the near future does not promise “warp speed” that can take us to the next galaxy in a few blinks of an evolved eye or three. The good news is that we are about to take another warp speed-like leap into the future.

“We’ve barely started – we’re in the first hour of the first day of the first week of the networking revolution,” says Dr Marcus Weldon, chief technical officer of Alcatel–Lucent and president of Bell Labs, which could be said to have started all the trouble with its founder’s invention of the telephone back in the 19th century.

He was speaking at the recent launch in London of the first book by Bell Labs, entitled “The Future X Network”, which argues that automation is about to enter a new era, driven by massive network capacity and interconnectedness. The result will be a revolution across numerous sectors and disciplines, from vehicles to medicine to tourism.

“In each of the industrial revolutions there was a measure of automation. But, most of the time, automation was still local, and a local control room managing the local process. That’s still the world of today.

“What we’re talking about is extreme or remote automation, or the virtualisation of automation. You can run anything from anywhere, so you could create a virtual production line which would have virtual products built in one place, and printed on a 3D printing machine elsewhere.”

This level of networking will be made possible by massive increases in data availability, speed and analysis.

And there is an additional factor that will ensure this is not your great-grandfather’s automation.

“Automation has been an element of previous industrial revolutions, but this is the era of intelligent automation of everything. The Internet of Things is becoming a tired term, because is makes it sound like its just about networking of things. The Automation of Everything (AoE) is what it’s about, in that you have things being networked, but also the intelligence built into it.”

Weldon believes that the AoE will be routinely used to solve problems.

“Let’s start with basic examples: if you place instruments throughout the water supply and immediately know where water is leaking out of conduits and water facilities, you can optimise that infrastructure. Twenty per cent of the world’s water supply is lost through leaks. If you can see where the leaks are as they occur, you can improve the water supply by 20 per cent and, in many countries, by much more than that.

“You can say the same of roads and traffic. If you can optimise traffic flow, you create more efficient use of infrastructure. If you have more intelligent automation of that system, you get more bang for your buck from investment. If you can get 20 or 40 per cent more bang for your buck, that’s free money, just by adding intelligent control.”

Investment in fibre optic networks is an obvious move for creating the supporting infrastructure for more efficiency in all systems, says Weldon. Not only does it result in a greater return on investment, but frees up capital for expanding infrastructure.

“You can add massive amounts of new capacity that allows you to do new things. I may have enough wireless capacity to put sensors along road or railways, but maybe not enough to have 100 sensors per person. But if make it more efficient, then add and add and add, that’s how you create a digital society. That’s how you move from today to tomorrow.”

He gives examples ranging from virtual tours of the Kruger Park to mining companies in Australia being able to analyse massive amounts of data on site rather than having to transport it physically to other locations for analysis. Not only is the analysis faster, but far more can be discovered through applying far more powerful analytics.

“We’re not even talking about new data; they just can’t afford to operate on all the data they have! All kinds of stuff comes for ‘free’ if you’re willing to make the investment.”

The challenge is no longer the technology to make all of this possible. The real challenge is having the vision for a future that is built on the foundation of this technology. In the absence of both the vision and the foundation, one can throw any amount of tablets and gadgets at schools and students, for example, and see little return on investment.

 

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

 

 

 

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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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