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Welcome to the high-tech World Cup

Video-assistance may well define the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but the technology shaping this year’s football showpiece runs much deeper, for good and bad, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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One statistic from the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia offers the best advertisement yet for the use of technology in sport.

According to Pierluigi Collina, head of FIFA’s referee committee, the accuracy of refereeing decisions at the World Cup had been raised from 95% to 99.3% through the use of Video Assistant Referees (VARs). While the VARs are still human beings monitoring the games on TV screens and communicating with refs, their reliance on the screen has redefined the role of technology in football.

Under the previous FIFA regime, when disgraced former president Sepp Blatter ruled the roost, technology was regarded by football authorities in much the way dinosaurs would have viewed asteroids: a threat to their very existence. In a post-corruption FIFA, however, good governance has now extended onto the football field.

According to Collina, 335 refereeing decisions were checked in the 48 group stage matches, with 17 VAR reviews. This still didn’t help the ref award a penalty for  Serbia against Switzerland for a blatant foul, but that remains a rare exception.

Meanwhile, off the field, technology has contributed in numerous ways to enhancing the World Cup experience this year.

In seven of 11 tournament cities in stadiums, in fan zones, transportation hubs, and tourist landmarks like Red Square and Gorky Park, fans are enjoying some of the highest data speeds yet experienced in Russia. Thanks to a partnership between global network infrastructure provider Ericsson and Russian service provider MTS, Russia is seeing Europe’s largest deployment of Massive MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output), a mobile broadband technology that uses multiple transmitters to transfer more data.

Just as VAR showcases video technology for refereeing decisions, Massive MIMO showcases the experience we can expect from 5G when this next generation mobile data technology is rolled out in the coming years.

“Through the intelligent reuse of system resources, Massive MIMO improves capacity by transmitting data to multiple user devices using the same time and frequency resources with coordinated beam forming and beam steering,” said Ericsson in a statement last month. “Massive MIMO is making it easier for operators to evolve their networks for a 5G future.”

The downside of technology at the World Cup is the greatest vulnerability yet from hackers and cyber criminals, intent on exploiting the 1,5-million tourists – not to mention the teams – in Russia for the event.

The English Football Association (FA) is believed to have briefd its players,  before their departure for Russia, on the importance of securing their devices. The FA even sought advice from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on how players can avoid being hacked.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) used its own mobile internet connection while its players were in Russia, with staff and players warned to clear devices of any data and information they didn’t want exposed in public. They were also warned never to use public or hotel Wi-Fi .The Croatian and French World Cup teams received similar warnings.

“The apprehension from those football teams competing at Russia 2018 is nothing new, with several previous global sporting events having suffered from cyberattacks and other cyber-related issues,” says Carey van  Vlaanderen, CEO at cyber security provider ESET Southern Africa. 

“In the build-up to the FIFA 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, both held in Brazil, threats detected included phishing attempts, hacktivism and mobile malware. UEFA’s Euro 2016 was also a target for fraudsters looking to dupe fans into buying tickets on newly-created fake websites.”

Kaspersky Lab, a Russian headquartered global cyber security provider, says 7 176 of approximately 32 000 public Wi-Fi networks in FIFA World Cup 2018 host cities do not use traffic encryption. 

Kaspersky Lab’s findings are based on an analysis of public Wi-Fi spots in 11 FIFA World Cup 2018 host cities, including Saransk, Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Volgograd, Moscow, Ekaterinburg, Sochi, Rostov, Kaliningrad, and Saint Petersburg. 

“The results show that so far not all wireless access points have encryption and authentication algorithms – aspects that are essential for Wi-Fi networks to remain secure,” Kaspersky announced in June. “This means that hackers only need to be located near an access point to intercept network traffic and get confidential information from unwitting or unprepared users.”

This hasn’t stopped fans from flocking to technology options for following the World Cup. The Opera News app, geared to regions where data is expensive and often not very fast, reached 10 million downloads in Africa in the six months after its launch in January 2018. The downloads spiked after an update that included a World Cup channel and other football-related features. 

According to app analytics service AppAnnie, Opera News was the most downloaded news app in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and Tanzania in June this year. 

“Africa is crazy about football and so are we,” said Jørgen Arnesen, Global Head of Marketing and Distribution at Opera. “That’s why it’s a pleasure to update Opera News with features designed for football World Cup fans.

“Opera News users will always get fresh and new content related to the World Cup thanks to our AI technology which gathers top articles for them,” said Arnesen. “The app becomes more and more personal and makes it easier for users to find all the information they need.”

According to digital audience measurement organisation GlobalWebIndex, online TV viewing now accounts for 38% of global World Cup Fans’ total daily TV viewing time. While the majority of fans will still be tuning in via their TV sets, more are turning to online streams than ever before in sports history.

To read how to stay safe while watching the World Cup check out Arthur’s safety tips on the next page.

World Cup safety tips:

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

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Welcome to world of 2099

The world of 2099 will be unrecognisable from the world of today, but it can be predicted, says one visionary. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK met him in Singapore.

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Futuristic structures tower over the landscape. Giant, alien-looking trees light up with dazzling colours amid the hundreds of plant species that grow up their trunks. Cosmetic stores sell their wares via public touch-screens, with products delivered instantly in drawers below the screens.

This is not a vision of the future. It is a sample of Singapore today. But it is also an inkling of the world we may all experience in the future.

Singapore was the venue, last week, of the World Cities Summit, where engineers, politicians, investors and visionaries rubbed shoulders as they talked about the strategies and policies that would enhance urban living in the future.

As part of the Summit, global payment technologies leader Mastercard hosted a small media briefing by one of Singapore’s leading thinkers about the future, Dr Damian Tan, managing director of Vickers Venture Partners. The company’s slogan “We invest in the extraordinary,” offers a small clue to Tan’s perspective.

“We look as far forward as 2099 because, as a venture capital firm, we invest in the long term,” he tells a group of journalists from Africa and the Middle East. “Companies explode in growth because there is value in the future. If there is no growth, they won’t explode.”

The big question that the Smart Cities Summit and Mastercard are trying to help answer is, what will cities look like in the year 2099? Tan can’t give an exact answer, but he offers a framework that helps one approach the question.

“If you want to look at 81 years into the future, and understand the change that will come, you need to double that amount and look into the past. That takes us to 1856. The difference between then and now is the difference you can expect between now and 2099.”

Click here or on the page link below to read on: Page 2: Soldiers and Health in 2099.

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

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Street art goes electric

Kaspersky Lab and British street artist D*Face have unveiled the first-ever “art helmet” design at the Formula E finale for electric cars in New York.

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The ‘Save The World’ helmets will be raced by DS Virgin Racing’s drivers, Sam Bird and Alex Lynn, as they traverse the New York street circuit during the final races of the Formula E season.

The announcement signals the first art helmet by a Formula E team, continuing the heritage of art in motorsport and the cybersecurity brand’s commitment to contemporary art, creativity and innovation. D*Face took inspiration from Kaspersky Lab’s tagline, “A Company To Save The World”, and hopes that his colourful work will inspire people to take positive action.

D*Face will announce his first-ever art car design with a custom-made livery for the DS Virgin Racing Team. Its design will be released at the “Art Goes Green” event after Saturday’s race. The helmets and art car are the latest installations in the “Save the World” collection, following a major permanent public mural that was installed in Brooklyn, New York, in May.

D*Face, whose real name is Dean Stockton, said: “It is exciting to work with Kaspersky Lab on this project and create art with a real message of hope for a better future. After all, this is our world and we need to look after it. It will take every one of us to make a real lasting, impactful change. I love the mentality of the DS Virgin Racing Team and that of Formula E by showcasing sport in a way that doesn’t harm the environment, but is still just as exhilarating and fun.

“It is time for us all to stand together and make a change… be that stopping data steals, climate change, plastic waste or using damaging fuels. I want everyone to make a pledge to do one thing that will help make a change.”

As a sponsor of DS Virgin Racing Team, Kaspersky Lab is responsible for protecting the team’s devices against cyber threats. The company sees the technical environment in the global sport of Formula E as the next frontier in furthering its research and development of new technologies to keep vehicles secure in the digital world.

Sylvain Filippi, Managing Director at DS Virgin Racing, said: “The whole team fully supports this great initiative and our thanks got to Kaspersky and D*Face for their collaboration. It’s an honour to have such an innovative artist bring his talents to bear in our team ahead of the season-finale; the car, drivers’ crash helmets and mural all look amazing.”

Aldo Fucelli Pessot del Bo, Head of Global Partnerships and Sponsorships at Kaspersky Lab added: “There is a need for innovation on a global scale, both in contemporary art and in the fast-growing sport of Formula E. Now, for the first time ever, Kaspersky Lab is proudly bringing together the two sectors in an effort to Save the World and unleash creativity, encourage freedom of expression and further innovation.”

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