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Middleman (you and I) beware!

AI and Blockchain are contributing to a revolution of trust that has been in the making for a long time, writes ANDRIES BRINIK, CEO, Andile Solutions

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AI and Blockchain are contributing to a revolution of trust that has been in the making for a long time…

There is a common goal, an elevated status pursued by an enormous number of professions.

Legal practitioners, accountants, financial consultants, private bankers, politicians, estate agents, management consultants, stock brokers, car salesmen, life coaches and headhunters (amongst others) all strive for the ultimate compliment: the title of “Trusted Advisor”.

This is a noble pursuit as it implies consistent and correct behaviour over a period of time. If considered carefully, you would find that it is a status that one can apply to any position in work and indeed life.

Why we need trust

Trust is a scarce and critical commodity. The bigger the interpersonal network that depends on it, the bigger the chance of it being broken.

Once there were telephone operators who patched in calls. Consider for a moment the complex job of this person – let’s call her Tant Toekie – connecting telephones in the community in 1939: “Two phones was easy”, she’d recall. “Only one patch possible. Five phones, ten patches, no problem. Twelve phones… O jinne! Even I couldn’t keep up some days, 66 patches and so much information.”

Robert Metcalfe, originator of the Ethernet protocol and founder of 3COM, captured Tant Toekie’s tribulations through Metcalfe’s Law: the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of nodes. As a network grows, the value of being connected to it grows exponentially while the cost per user remains the same or even reduces. For every single new node, one doubles the value – expressed as connections – in the system.

This exponential ‘network effect’ places a huge amount of stress on any system. Middle men are the historic remedy for such stress. Such intermediaries act in the best interest of the end user and connecting that client to the best possible sources.

That’s the theory. But it’s imperfect. We have all been in that dreadful position when trust is broken. This is normally due to two factors: the withholding of relevant information and inconsistent behaviour that is not in line with the requisite best interest.

Trust then suffers when the truth is revealed. Maybe your financial advisor advised you on only the portfolio of investments where his commission was above a certain percentage, or maybe the car dealership did not really mean it when they said that they would always be there for you with the best possible service. Trust is built when we speak the truth and then consistently back it up through our actions.

The new trust

In the past ten years, we have seen the most violent change in the global business landscape yet. The global financial crisis generated a huge amount of broken trust. Accordingly, the market voted against the bankers, the ultimate form of intermediary. As Governments propped up the financial sector, taxpayers lost more and more trust and voted with their investments and spending. The impact has been profound, seeding mistrust around governments, globalisation and the free market.

And yet, the network is tranqualising Tant Toekie’s tongue through technological trust mechanisms. These include unbreakable security protocols, modern systems design with access control and authentication, encrypted data storage and so on. Recently, there was added a new poster child to this list, i.e. BlockChain or Distributed Ledger Technology. And there will be further development as exponential growth demands more innovation.

The impact of this effect is already very visible. Consider the following graph showing the change in the top ten companies in the world, shown in USD-denominated Market Capitalisation:

What distinguished the first column of companies? Most are disintermediating the middle man in different ways. They gun directly for the consumer and we trust them enough to connect to their ecosystems, which scale easily and across borders. Through the use of Artificial Intelligence, they learn about our behaviour and give contextual advice, directly.

This is a profound shift in business culture – and we’ve not yet truly experienced what new technologies such as blockchain can really do. It leads to the question: what industry will be spared the wrath of disintermediation? Read though my list of trusted advisor status seekers again. I can’t think of many…

Hope springs: Be sure to look out for the next installment of this five part series where I consider, in the true Christmas spirit, the three wise men and a revolutionary saviour that might just have a gift for all of us. If we are good, that is.

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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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