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The future is intelligent – if you have the vision

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The way all devices are becoming networked, referred to as the Internet of Things, is about to take a leap forward, as vastly greater intelligence gets built into automation. But it requires both vision and investment, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

There is bad news for fans of science fiction movies like Star Trek and Star Wars: the near future does not promise “warp speed” that can take us to the next galaxy in a few blinks of an evolved eye or three. The good news is that we are about to take another warp speed-like leap into the future.

“We’ve barely started – we’re in the first hour of the first day of the first week of the networking revolution,” says Dr Marcus Weldon, chief technical officer of Alcatel–Lucent and president of Bell Labs, which could be said to have started all the trouble with its founder’s invention of the telephone back in the 19th century.

He was speaking at the recent launch in London of the first book by Bell Labs, entitled “The Future X Network”, which argues that automation is about to enter a new era, driven by massive network capacity and interconnectedness. The result will be a revolution across numerous sectors and disciplines, from vehicles to medicine to tourism.

“In each of the industrial revolutions there was a measure of automation. But, most of the time, automation was still local, and a local control room managing the local process. That’s still the world of today.

“What we’re talking about is extreme or remote automation, or the virtualisation of automation. You can run anything from anywhere, so you could create a virtual production line which would have virtual products built in one place, and printed on a 3D printing machine elsewhere.”

This level of networking will be made possible by massive increases in data availability, speed and analysis.

And there is an additional factor that will ensure this is not your great-grandfather’s automation.

“Automation has been an element of previous industrial revolutions, but this is the era of intelligent automation of everything. The Internet of Things is becoming a tired term, because is makes it sound like its just about networking of things. The Automation of Everything (AoE) is what it’s about, in that you have things being networked, but also the intelligence built into it.”

Weldon believes that the AoE will be routinely used to solve problems.

“Let’s start with basic examples: if you place instruments throughout the water supply and immediately know where water is leaking out of conduits and water facilities, you can optimise that infrastructure. Twenty per cent of the world’s water supply is lost through leaks. If you can see where the leaks are as they occur, you can improve the water supply by 20 per cent and, in many countries, by much more than that.

“You can say the same of roads and traffic. If you can optimise traffic flow, you create more efficient use of infrastructure. If you have more intelligent automation of that system, you get more bang for your buck from investment. If you can get 20 or 40 per cent more bang for your buck, that’s free money, just by adding intelligent control.”

Investment in fibre optic networks is an obvious move for creating the supporting infrastructure for more efficiency in all systems, says Weldon. Not only does it result in a greater return on investment, but frees up capital for expanding infrastructure.

“You can add massive amounts of new capacity that allows you to do new things. I may have enough wireless capacity to put sensors along road or railways, but maybe not enough to have 100 sensors per person. But if make it more efficient, then add and add and add, that’s how you create a digital society. That’s how you move from today to tomorrow.”

He gives examples ranging from virtual tours of the Kruger Park to mining companies in Australia being able to analyse massive amounts of data on site rather than having to transport it physically to other locations for analysis. Not only is the analysis faster, but far more can be discovered through applying far more powerful analytics.

“We’re not even talking about new data; they just can’t afford to operate on all the data they have! All kinds of stuff comes for ‘free’ if you’re willing to make the investment.”

The challenge is no longer the technology to make all of this possible. The real challenge is having the vision for a future that is built on the foundation of this technology. In the absence of both the vision and the foundation, one can throw any amount of tablets and gadgets at schools and students, for example, and see little return on investment.

 

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

 

 

 

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How we use phones to avoid human contact

A recent study by Kaspersky Lab has found that 75% of people pick up their connected device to avoid conversing with another human being.

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Connected devices are becoming essential to keeping people in contact with each other, but for many they are also a much-needed comfort blanket in a variety of social situations when they do not want to interact with others. A recent survey from Kaspersky Lab has confirmed this trend in behaviour after three-quarters of people (75%) admitted they use a device to pretend to be busy when they don’t want to talk to someone else, showing the importance of keeping connected devices protected under all circumstances. 

Imagine you’ve arrived at a bar and you’re waiting for your date. The bar is busy, and people are chatting all around you. What do you do now? Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know? Grab your phone from your pocket or handbag until your date arrives to keep yourself busy? Why talk to humans or even make eye-contact with someone else when you can stare at your connected device instead?

The truth is, our use of devices is making it much easier to avoid small talk or even be polite to those around us, and new Kaspersky Lab research has found that 72% of people use one when they do not know what to do in a social situation. They are also the ‘go-to’ distraction for people even when they aren’t trying to look busy or avoid someone’s eye. 46% of people admit to using a device just to kill time every day and 44% use it as a daily distraction.

In addition to just being a distraction, devices are also a lifeline to those who would rather not talk directly to another person in day-to-day situations, to complete essential tasks. In fact, nearly a third (31%) of people would prefer to carry out tasks such as ordering a taxi or finding directions to where they need to go via a website and an app, because they find it an easier experience than speaking with another person.

Whether they are helping us avoid direct contact or filling a void in our daily lives, our constant reliance on devices has become a cause for panic when they become unusable. A third (34%) of people worry that they will not be able to entertain themselves if they cannot access a connected device. 12% are even concerned that they won’t be able to pretend to be busy if their device is out of action.

Dmitry Aleshin, VP for Product Marketing, Kaspersky Lab said, “The reliance on connected devices is impacting us in more ways than we could have ever expected. There is no doubt that being connected gives us the freedom to make modern life easier, but devices are also vital to help people get through different and difficult social situations. No matter what your ‘connection crutch’ is, it is essential to make sure your device is online and available when you need it most.”

To ensure your device lifeline is always there and in top health – no matter what the reason or situation – Kaspersky Security Cloud keeps your connection safe and secure:

·         I want to use my device while waiting for a friend – is it secure to access the bar’s Wi-Fi?

With Kaspersky Security Cloud, devices are protected against network threats, even if the user needs to use insecure public Wi-Fi hotspots. This is done through transferring data via an encrypted channel to ensure personal data safety, so users’ devices are protected on any connection.

·         Oh no! I’m bored but my phone’s battery is getting low – what am I going to do?

Users can track their battery level thanks to a countdown of how many minutes are left until their device shuts down in the Kaspersky Security Cloud interface. There is also a wide-range of portable power supplies available to keep device batteries charged while on-the-go.

·         I’ve lost my phone! How will I keep myself entertained now?

Should the unthinkable happen and you lose or have your phone stolen, Kaspersky Security Cloud can track and protect your device from data breaches, for complete peace of mind. Remote lock and locate features ensure your device remains secure until you are reunited.

 

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Five key biometric facts

Due to their uniqueness, fingerprints are being used more and more to quickly identify and ensure the security of customers. CLAUDE LANGLEY, Regional Sales Manager, for Africa at HID Global Biometrics, outlines five facts about the technology.

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How many times in a day are you expected to identify yourself? From when you arrive at work you are required to sign in, visiting your bank, receiving healthcare services… The list is endless. When a system knows who you are, you are able to do any number common, everyday activities. Your identity is unique and precious. It is also easily stolen and the target of many hackers across the globe. Technology is constantly evolving alongside the criminal element, always looking for ways to protect data and identity. One such solution happens to be biometrics and it is rapidly gaining traction in our increasingly complex modern world.

Reliable, secure and fundamentally YOU, unique biometric traits such as fingerprints are being used by banks, enterprises and consumers to verify identity. Biometric solutions offer significant identity protection because they use unique biological details to ensure an account is only accessed by the account holder, a door only opened by the owner. Here are five things that are little known about this technology…

  • The uncut identity. Your fingerprint is unique to you. Nobody can use a copy of it to impersonate you. Good technology is capable of scanning down into the layers of the fingertip to differentiate unique elements of a person’s fingerprint, this data is then encrypted and used as a key to unlocking whichever physical or virtual door that the biometric system protects.
  • The living proof. No, there is nothing to the stories of fingerprints being used without their owner’s knowledge or permission. Biometric solutions can use specific variables to determine if the finger used to access the system is that of a present, living person.  A copy or a fake cannot be used to access a cutting-edge biometric solution.
  • Easy and convenient. Queues and documents and paperwork may well be a thing of the past should biometrics take a firmer grip of government and banking systems. The process of registering is easy, and access to identity documents and records is yours alone.
  • Security blanket. A thousand passwords and a hundred post-it notes stuck on walls and drawers.  An excel file with a list of sites and applications and their corresponding passwords, all a thing of the past.  Nobody needs to remember their password with biometrics, they only need to show up.
  • Anywhere is cool. Schools, airports, networks, offices, homes, toilets, banks, libraries, governments, border controls, immigration services, call centres, hospitals and even clubs and pubs – knowing “who” matters and biometrics can quickly and conveniently confirm your identity where needed.

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