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Security is key to 5G

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According to SHERRY ZAMEER of Gemalto, if we don’t build robust security into our 5G networks, we will miss the big opportunity this technology offers us.

The current expectation is that the first commercial 5G networks will be rolled out in 2020, just two years away. The early adopters will naturally be those countries whose 4G networks are already in place, but there is no doubt that African players are already busy laying the foundations for their future 5G plays.

“It is clear that 5G has huge potential to unlock all sorts of new solutions, especially as an enabler for the Internet of Things, but all the behind-the-scenes preparatory work will be wasted if security is not prioritised,” says Sherry Zameer, Senior VP IOT in CISMEA region at Gemalto. “5G has the potential to transform the use case for mobility dramatically, but it will require innovative and robust security solutions to be in place.”

Big operators in Africa will be gearing up to demonstrate the performance jump 5G offers: download speeds of 20 gigabits per second meaning that there is very little delay between transmission and reception of a signal. This “immediate” response to commands is essential for many futuristic applications; driverless cars, for example, need split-second responses, as do critical health care and industrial applications.

Sherry Zameer says that Gemalto is deeply engaged in helping develop security standards, primarily interacting with industry organisations like the GSMA (which represents the interests of mobile operators) and NGMN (Next Generation Mobile Networks).

As one might expect, many of the characteristics that make 5G so attractive create some of these critical security vulnerabilities:

5G will be critical for the Internet of Things.

5G’s speed and latency alone will make it a key platform for the expanding Internet of Things. Also, it will enable virtualised network infrastructures designed for specific uses. The result will be a mix of open-source and proprietary software and hardware on the network. This will mean that traditional mobile networks built on hardware/ software combinations provided by trusted vendors will become much more heterogeneous—and will provide a greater attack surface than current cellular networks.

5G will enable a much more flexible use of “edge” resources to take load off the core network. The caching of local content will change the way that data and cellular communications are stored—and secured.

The nature of the threat will change.

As more and more devices come onto the 5G network, mobile networks’ traditional focus on preventing eavesdropping will be supplanted by a need to protect against data manipulation and similar types of attack. Such attacks could be used to instruct a machine to perform an unwanted action, like opening a factory gate to robbers, taking control of an autonomous vehicle or disabling warning systems.

A complicating factor will be that many of the devices connected to the network will not be able to encrypt communications, the traditional first line of network defence. Another issue will be the sheer volume of machine-to-machine communication—maintaining the confidentiality and integrity of this data will be no sinecure.

This complex threat landscape will mean that both network operators and the manufacturers of consumer electronics will have the opportunity to provide security as a service. These offerings would be graded to the level of threat to the particular data stream, and its importance.

“Africa is pre-eminently mobile when it comes to communications technologies and the Internet. 5G thus has a potentially important role to play as the continent seeks to establish itself as a player in the global economy,” Sherry concludes. “We must not fall into the trap of just seeing it as a technical and financing challenge: if we don’t build robust security into our 5G networks, we will miss the big opportunity this technology offers us.”

 

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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