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Six ways travel is about to get better

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Technology makes traveling easier and according to VIVIAN LO, Cathay Pacific Airports General Manager, it is a about to get a lot better as she outlines six trends that will influence traveling in the future.

Cathay Pacific has a vision of ‘Fast Travel’ that will automate premium self-service technology for passengers. ‘Fast Travel’ includes functional airport areas such as check-ins, document scanning, flight re-booking, self-boarding, self-service bag drops and luggage recovery.

“We are determined to make Fast Travel a reality soon, and are rolling out a strategy to introduce more tech-enabled enhancements in airport operations at Hong Kong International Airport and other airports by 2020,” says Vivian Lo, Cathay Pacific Airports General Manager.

“We are planning self-service offerings at other airports from the fourth quarter of 2015, including self-service bag drops at various outports.”

Lo shares six trends influencing the airline’s implementation of tech-enabled enhancements at airports:

1.       Time has become an expensive commodity

Consumers are hungry for fast, convenient service and companies that want to remain competitive need to look at ways in which their business allows its customers to help themselves to the service they offer. Regardless of the industry you operate in, self-service devices that reduce waiting time, are fast becoming synonymous with service excellence and preferential service providers.

2.       The Next-generation Kiosk is here:

Consumers already experience touch-point automation with common-use self-service (CUSS) kiosks at the airports, however these only eliminate a single time-consuming aspect of a journey. Automated point of sale kiosks at movie theatres and primed computer cubicles at most banks across South Africa are other examples of a global trends in quick purchase or regular transactions. Self-service technology has evolved, with a shift away from single function self-service kiosks to a check-in podium that will be more user-friendly, and offer a fuller suite of functions. This technology will allow for passengers to travel efficiently, and for check-in staff to roam and dedicate assistance where it is most needed.

3.       Consumer IQ has evolved into EQ

Consumers are savvy, they intuitively know how to assist themselves through their daily use of technology interfacing. Human interaction will only become necessary for trouble shooting and premium service seekers who prefer a tailored service approach.  Cathay Pacific plans to further implement fully automated processes above and beyond a single touch point.

4.         Traveller independence is on the rise:

‘Fast Travel’ allows for simplified check-in procedures that are intuitive and that alleviate bottle-neck queues, helping to shorten check-in time. Travellers will be able print their own boarding pass, tag their own bags, drop them off and enjoy a premium lounge experience before travelling, without a single human interface.

5.       Pilot studies are the future – Project Ribbon

Project Ribbon explores the usage of permanent bag tags with magic ink displays, as well as home-printed bag tags to implement the ‘bags ready-to-go’ concept. Developments like Project Ribbon will shape the DIY nature of travel procedures and passenger control.

6.       Smartphone applications

Cathay Pacific is working on creating applications that will help passengers find their way through airports and lounges via iBeacon, a smartphone transmitting system. Airline check-in staff will be completely mobile, and will be able to find passengers in need using the applications, allowing immediate service and a qualitative approach to guiding passengers.

“Our vision is to offer more personalised service through the smart use of technology,” says Lo. “Ultimately, we aim to offer our customers much more than a faceless online transaction – we want them to remember their travels with us as seamless, effortless and luxurious.”

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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By 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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