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Rise of Crowdsourced Safety

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The very nature of social media’s open communication and crowdsourced information provides a powerful tool for public safety says co-founder of ttrumpet, GRANT THEIS.

“The growth of social media continues to grow exponentially – and the sharing of information amongst individuals has the real potential to improve vigilance and ultimately lead to safer communities.”

Recent community horror stories have sparked the debate around public safety through citizen engagement, and the role technology is playing here has come to the fore.

“With so many citizens witnessing and experiencing almost daily incidents in their city – imagine the sheer volume and content that can be generated,” adds Theis. “One of the best ways to garner this information is through crowdsourcing – which involves engaging and enabling citizens to actively take a part in the fight against crime and by reporting suspicious activities or crime or vandalism by reporting information in real-time and in a convenient and accessible way using their smartphones.”

Theis cautions that these platforms shouldn’t be mistaken for a security app – but rather they are about connecting individuals in real-time with their communities and syndicating information that enables individuals and communities to empower themselves when it comes to keeping themselves and their families safe.

“Having said that however, follow-me-home features and community channels are just a few aspects that can be incorporated here,” says Theis. “Think of the possibilities of correlating these citizen activities and reports with data from other systems, such as video surveillance, traffic monitoring or even security companies. Having such an integrated system, with the community at the centre, allows officials to gain a better understanding of what is happening at any moment, where their serves are required as well as trends that may emerge over time and work hand-in-hand with the community to eliminate crime.”

Over the last 6 months ttrumpet has been focused on creating a security eco-system with tailored features including:

·         Tag-Me: a my-safety, real time feature within the app aimed at families, friends and active sportsmen. The feature enables individuals to “pin” or mark their journey while travelling, allowing personally selected people to identify their exact location and whether they have gone off route, as well as allowing the user to alert their “followers” in cases of distress

·         Security Channel: a dedicated channel for communities to report and record security issues and other community related information. Ttrumpet’s security gives an intelligent view of all incidents as well as a map and of course, full user control of notifications. Ttrumpet offers this service for free to all resident’s associations, safety/community forums and similar groups.

·         SOS Button: a free SOS service which contacts your loved ones and sends them your location when pressed.

Ttrumpet is being used actively across Pretoria and Johannesburg currently – with over 100 Community Police Forums and Neighbourhood Watches actively using the app for their security communities. Warrant Officer A.C. Holtzhausen Sector Manager, sector 1 Pretoria North SAPS, is currently using the ttrumpet app to connect with his sector community. He says: “Having used it for a few months, I have to say it’s become a must to combat crime in the community as not only does it bring the community together, but it is helping the police to combat crime in the area and encouraging fellow residents to identify hotspots, be more vigilant and be on the lookout to assist the police.”

“Active citizenry, coupled with a strong purpose-built platform that brings together relevant parties, has real potential to change the status quo. It truly is the rise of crowdsourced safety,” says Theis.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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