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Smart business needs smart city

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The seamless connectivity between smart city applications and smart buildings can create a completely connected, smart and efficient business world, leading to energy and resource efficiency, says BRENDAN YOUNG of Johnson Controls.

We are globally experiencing some common challenges such as a shortage of energy, water and other resources, which are crucial to sustain our cities and homes. In order to conserve these scarce resources and minimise the impact on the environment, a more ‚controlled’ approach is required where there is significantly less wastage. By controlling excessive use and waste, we can lessen the need to find alternative sources.

Johnson Controls is using technology to help win this battle. Our technology is getting smarter at reducing waste and improving efficiency. Smart technology also ushers in a host of other benefits that promise to take our world into a whole new dimension of Smart Buildings and Smart Cities.

Smart Technology promises to deliver a better quality of life by automating the built environment and extending connectivity. It will also enhance functionality that will change the way we work and conduct business, and digitise the way we interact socially. Automation is at the heart of this technology with intelligent appliances and building equipment at the edge, all interconnected to smart communications system.

Smart Technology applications called Smart Grids and Smart Power Networks are just a few of the groundbreaking solutions to emerge recently that provide for better control over wasted resources. This Smart Technology also delivers the means to improve energy efficiency at various levels of city and building infrastructure.

One such ‚Smart’ application uses the existing power line infrastructure of the city distribution grid to network all the demand loads and responding generation supplies. This includes upgrading the point of interconnection onto the grid with the installation of intelligent computerised control devices. These devices communicate with each other and with master systems, providing a city-wide level of control over energy and waste. The application provides other smart benefits such as automatic meter reading, high speed data and voice communication and granular energy control. It also provides a backhaul data super highway for gigabit internet connectivity that supports social feed applications and more.

However, functioning within the expanded ‚smart city’ are smart buildings that combine automation, smart communication and smart appliances into the commercial or home space. These use resources intelligently to reduce their carbon footprints, lowering energy usage and helping businesses to achieve sustainability goals. At this level, smart applications use the existing power reticulation infrastructure within buildings to enable a smart building to deliver granular control down to the switchboard and appliance level (even up to every light bulb, switch socket or electrical device). These devices can be managed intelligently and networked through to a building management system or a home controller. The systems run independently of each other and continue operating even if the power circuits are switched off, delivering a reliable, uninterruptable solution which saves energy by switching off all unnecessary appliances and controlling the duration of energy usage. Another benefit of the smart building solution is to delivering faster (gigabit), more efficient media and social communication capability.

When viewed in isolation, these technologies have significant benefits both for cities and buildings. However the true power of smart applications only emerges once the two are combined. Seamless connectivity between smart city applications and smart buildings can potentially create a completely connected, smart and efficient world where all devices communicate constantly for the greatest energy and resource efficiency, right down to individual light bulbs in every home. When this is used in conjunction with renewable energy solutions that incorporate intelligent energy storage devices, the smart city can potentially move the focus away from the traditional centrally generated energy supply that we know today, towards micro decentralised solutions that can operate collaboratively in combination with sustainable sources of energy at the edge of the grid.

People are becoming more aware of the need for greater levels of sustainability and eco-consciousness, as well as the need for more effective planning to deal with growing populations around the globe. Saving energy and becoming more efficient are of the utmost importance globally and in particular in South Africa where energy and water resource prices continue to climb. Along with this, regulatory bodies are beginning to adopt tougher carbon reduction and environmental impact compliance standards. In light of this it is vital for organisations to begin looking at initiatives to reduce their base operating cost and optimise efficiency. This can help to produce a significant and sustainable difference in bottom line earnings while keeping up with customer demand and global trends. The idea of the smart city emerged as a solution to all of these needs, using technological intelligence to improve quality of life and economic wellbeing.

The expanded smart city concept features a smarter, more intelligently designed city infrastructure that enables all elements to work in harmony with each other and the environment. It combines elements such as economic development, transportation, social services, education, public safety, healthcare and energies into a holistic entity that uses resources more efficiently and provides a sustainable way of living for the populations of the future. Improving building efficiency and adopting green business and building standards such as those promoted by the smart city concept, as well as implementing smart technology, are the first steps in achieving the goal of reducing waste.

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Prepare for deepfake impact

Is the world as we know it ready for the real impact of deepfake? CAREY VAN VLAANDEREN, CEO at ESET SA, digs deeper

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Deepfake technology is rapidly becoming easier and quicker to create and it’s opening a door into a new form of cybercrime. Although it’s still mostly seen as relatively harmful or even humorous, this craze could take a more sinister turn in the future and be at the heart of political scandals, cybercrime, or even unimaginable concepts involving fake videos. And it won’t be just public figures that bear the brunt. 

deepfake is the technique of human-image synthesis based on artificial intelligence to create fake content either from scratch or using existing video designed to replicate the look and sound of a real human. Such videos can look incredibly real and currently many of these videos involve celebrities or public figures saying something outrageous or untrue.

New research shows a huge increase in the creation of deepfake videos, with the number online almost doubling in the last nine months alone. Deepfakes are increasing in quality at a swift rate, too. This video showing Bill Hader morphing effortlessly between Tom Cruise and Seth Rogan is just one example of how authentic these videos are looking, as well as sounding. If you search YouTube for the term ‘deepfake’ it will make you realise we are viewing the tip of the iceberg as to what is to come.

In fact, we have already seen deepfake technology used for fraud, where a deepfaked voice was reportedly used to scam a CEO out of a large sum of cash. It is believed the CEO of an unnamed UK firm thought he was on the phone to his boss and followed the orders to immediately transfer €220,000 (roughly US$244,000) to a Hungarian supplier’s bank account. If it was this easy to influence someone by just asking them to do it over the phone, then surely we will need better security in place to mitigate this threat.

Fooling the naked eye

We have also seen apps making DeepNudes where apps were able to turn any clothed person into a topless photo in seconds. Although, luckily, this particular app has now been taken offline, what if this comes back in another form with a vengeance and is able to create convincingly authentic-looking video?

There is also evidence that the production of these videos is becoming a lucrative business especially in the pornography industry. The BBC says “96% of these videos are of female celebrities having their likenesses swapped into sexually explicit videos – without their knowledge or consent”.

recent Californian bill has taken a leap of faith and made it illegal to create a pornographic deepfake of someone without their consent with a penalty of up to $150,000. But chances are that no legislation will be enough to deter some people from fabricating the videos.

To be sure, an article from The Economist discusses that in order to make a convincing enough deepfake you would need a serious amount of video footage and/or voice recordings in order to make even a short deepfake clip.

Having said that, In the not-too-distant future, it may be entirely possible to take just a few short Instagram stories to create a deepfake that is believed by the majority of their followers online or by anyone else who knows them. We may see some unimaginable videos appearing of people closer to home – the boss, our colleagues, our peers, our family. Additionally, deepfakes may also be used for bullying in schools, the office or even further afield.

Furthermore, cybercriminals will definitely use such technology to spearphish victims. Deepfakes keep getting cheaper to create and become near-impossible to detect with the human eye alone. As a result, alt that fakery could very easily muddy the water between fact and fiction, which in turn could force us to not trust anything – even when presented with what our senses are telling us to believe.

Heading off the very real threat

So, what can be done to prepare us for this threat? First, we need to better educate people that deepfakes exist, how they work and the potential damage they can cause. We will all need to learn to treat even the most realistic videos we see that they could be a total fabrication.

Secondly, technology desperately needs to develop better detection of deepfakes. There is already research going into it, but it’s nowhere near where it should be yet. Although machine learning is at the heart of creating them in the first place, there needs to be something in place that acts as the antidote being able to detect them without relying on human eyes alone.

Finally, social media platforms need to realize there is a huge potential threat with the impact of deepfakes because when you mix a shocking video with social media, the outcome tends to spread very rapidly and potentially could have a detrimental impact on society.

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A career in data science – or your money back

The Explore Data Science Academy is offering high demand skills courses – and guarantees employment for trainees

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The Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) has announced several new courses in 2020 that it says will radically change the shape of data science education in South Africa. 

Comprising Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics and Machine Learning, each six-month course provides vital digital skills that are in high demand in the market place.  The full time, fully immersive courses each cost R60 000 including VAT. 

The courses are differentiated from any other available by the fact that EDSA has introduced a money back promise if it cannot place the candidate in a job within six months of graduation and at a minimum annual starting salary of R240 000.

“For South Africans with drive and aptitude, this is the perfect opportunity to launch a career in what has been called the sexiest career of the 21stcentury,” says Explore founder Shaun Dippnall.

Dippnall and his team are betting on the explosive demand for data science skills locally and globally.

 “There is a massive supply-demand gap in the area of data science and our universities and colleges are struggling to keep up with the rapid growth and changing nature of specific digital skills being demanded by companies.  

“We are offering specifically a work ready opportunity in a highly skills deficient sector, and one which guarantees employment thereafter.”

The latter is particularly pertinent to young South Africans – a segment which currently faces a 30 percent unemployment rate. 

“If you have skills in either Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics or Machine Learning, you will find work locally, even globally. We’re confident of that,” says Dippnall.

EDSA is part of the larger Explore organisation and has for the past two years offered young people an opportunity to be trained as data scientists and embark on careers in a fast-growing sector of the economy.  

In its first year of operation, EDSA trained 100 learners as data scientists in a fully sponsored, full-time 12-month course.  In year two, this number increased to 400.  

“Because we are connected with hundreds of employers and have an excellent understanding of the skills they need, our current placement rate is over 90 percent of the students we’ve taught,” Dippnall says. “These learners can earn an average of R360 000 annually, hence our offer of your money back if there is no employment at a minimum annual salary of R240k within six months.

“With one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world – recently announced as a national emergency by the President – it is important that institutions teach skills that are in demand and where learners can earn a healthy living afterwards.”

There are qualifying criteria, however. Candidates need to live in close proximity (within one hour commuting distance), or be prepared to live, in either Johannesburg or Cape Town, and need to be between the ages of 18 and 55. 

“Our application process is very tough. We’ll test for aptitude and attitude using the qualifying framework we’ve built over the years. If you’re smart enough, you’ll be accepted,” says Dippnall.

To find out more, visit  http://www.explore-datascience.net.

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