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Why data power must shift

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Information is one of the most valuable commodities today and in order for businesses to ensure their livelihood, it is vital for them to move from static to dynamic automated and reliable data storage models, says MARK TAYLOR, CEO of Nashua.

Information is one of the most valuable commodities. Every day, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created and either has a direct monetary value or can be mined for business intelligence to get a competitive edge. Data is the lifeblood of any organisation. Without the Internet and connectivity, business survival and economic growth is impossible.

The original intent of the Internet was the unrestricted flow of information in an open and shared network owned by the community. Data ownership was intended to reside with its creators in a decentralised model, free from monopolistic or centralised control.

However, large corporations quickly realised the value of tracking, storing, organising and monetising information for use in centralised services. Although not owned by a single entity, large corporations and data giants like Google support some of the most critical components of the Internet, such as search engines, web hosting, cloud computing and email services.

The case for decentralisation

As the reliance on the Internet deepens, so does the sharing of sensitive data and the need for greater privacy, data security and integrity. One proposed solution is a fully decentralised Internet independent of centralised control. This can be achieved with Blockchain technology – a decentralised and distributed ledger system that facilitates and verifies secure peer-to-peer data exchanges.

The biggest issues facing the Internet, such as net neutrality, privacy and security, pertain to issues of structure. Under a centralised model, access and convenience is offered to users at the expense of data ownership and privacy. While many service providers offer to store and safeguard data, security can’t be guaranteed. Servers can fail, networks can be hacked and privacy rights can be violated.

Decentralisation enables data and vital services to be owned by users and powered by a network of independent computers. This creates a setting much more resilient to hacks and failures as encrypted data can only be released and accessed through private keys. Decentralisation also breaks down the centralised barriers to business. With reliable high-speed Internet connectivity from Nashua, any business can access better, faster and cheaper services.

Here’s how decentralised models can revolutionise the Internet and cybersecurity.

Decentralised web

A truly decentralised Internet is possible with Blockchain technology. Ethereum is a platform on which apps can be built and run without fraud, censorship or third-party interference. User information is encrypted and stored on the Blockchain which prevents service providers from hoarding and mining user data.

Decentralised web hosting

With only one target to hit, cybercriminals can quite easily shut down a website hosted on a centralised system. On Blockchain-based platforms, thousands of nodes or computers are employed to each serve a part of the website. This makes targeted attacks much harder and reduces hosting costs. It speeds up user access to websites by bringing cached content closer to site visitors. Self-executing smart contracts can also be used to manage resources and payments while users also have the opportunity to rent out idle network and computing resources.

Decentralised data storage

Blockchain enables users to use applications while retaining ownership of their data. By storing data on a decentralised and distributed network, the data is broken up, encrypted and stored across the Blockchain network. To access information, users need a private key to download the data from several locations at once. This not only speeds up the file access speeds but makes it increasingly difficult for cybercriminals to gain access.

Decentralised search engines

Google controls up to 95% of searches. The engine tracks search activities and has access to personal user information. Decentralised search engines store encrypted user data across a network as opposed to in a central location where it remains vulnerable. They also use open and transparent search ranking factors. This will level the playing field for businesses and content creators.

Decentralised social media

Social media platforms add significant connectivity value but at the cost of user privacy and data ownership. Decentralised social media channels will give back to users the ownership of data and reward users who choose to share information.

The full potential of a distributed economy is still unwritten but innovative solutions by emerging Blockchain innovators have already proven that the sky is the limit.

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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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