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Simon Beardow - Deputy Director, British Council, Vietnam

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Memristor Moments & Hurricane Hunting - A Peek At What 2014 Will Bring

It's always good to take a punt on what might happen in the future.  Forty years ago the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov wrote that you might find the following in a 2014 World Trade Fair, and he is not too far off the mark as some of his predictions show:

“By 2014, only unmanned ships will have landed on Mars, though a manned expedition will be in the works and in the 2014 Futurama will show a model of an elaborate Martian colony"

"Men will continue to withdraw from nature in order to create an environment that will suit them better”

"Gadgetry will continue to relieve mankind of tedious jobs. Kitchen units will be devised that will prepare automeals"

"It will be such computers, much miniaturized, that will serve as the "brains" of robots"

"Much effort will be put into the designing of vehicles with "Robot-brains"*vehicles that can be set for particular destinations and that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver"

"Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books".

If anything the pace of change has increased significantly since 1964 so what trends and developments might we expect in the year ahead?  The following are the results of my crystal ball gazing.

The Way We Work

The debate about the merits of remote working will continue to ebb and flow, with no clear cut decision either way. The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach will bring with it  a huge surge in the growth of the mobile workforce.  This will be coupled by a corresponding growth in the need for data and device security as imported malware on personal devices will pose any even greater threat to company security.

As businesses evolve into 'any-time/anywhere' enterprises the change will bring with it a huge societal shift, as new technologies increasingly blurs the line between 'work' and 'play'.  The need to reinforce a work/life balance in the workforce will be greater than ever as the realisation sinks in that the new work practice is not simply about handing out smart devices to employees.  Companies will also need to become less risk averse if they are to succeed.

Mobile But Not As We Know It

Mobile will continue to be one of the dominant trends in 2014 and we will have even greater dependence on our mobile devices. Marketing will increasingly focus on mobile and mobile content marketing strategies will separate out those who succeed in the marketplace and those who do not.

Mobile Apps will be more carefully targeted and smaller.  Their development will surge ahead at the expense of applications.  There is a prediction that app developers will be looking for ways to snap together apps to create larger applications.

It is probable, but not definite, that augmented reality glasses such as Google Glass will finally go mainstream in 2014, as the march towards wearables continues. Smart watches will become 'de rigueur' in all the smartest circles and will live up to their name by becoming even smarter than the existing prototypes we have today.

Transformative Technologies

There are several of these either in use, or in the offing.  Here are my top picks for the year ahead:

  • Bitcoins
    Although I have written previously (with guarded skepticism) about the merits or otherwise of Bitcoins, it is clear that there is continuing adoption of the alternative 'currency'. But it's a case of 'buyer beware' as, while is has apparently been a boon for online drug peddlers, its value fluctuates widely. Between November and December 2013 Bitcoin's value rose from $US 200 to $US 1,200 only to lose half its value by December 7th.
    Little wonder then most holders of Bitcoins are keen to change them into more tangible assets such as bullion. According to Business Insider nearly $US 7 million of bitcoins were spent on Black Friday and a large proportion of them were traded for silver and gold coins and bars.
  • Drones
    Although both loved and loathed in equal measure depending which side of the political fence you are on, robotics and drones in particular are more and more invading our lives.  Miniaturisation and new nano material technologies make this feasible and affordable.
    While military uses of drones are well known, the recent announcement by that it would use drones to convey book orders to customers broadened the debate about their use.
    Other uses include Tijuana authorities using them to monitor traffic, locate landslides and control wildfires. The US uses them to hunt hurricanes, undertake 3D-mapping, monitor the condition of farmer's fields and offer a degree of protection for wildlife.

  • Get your DNA sequenced for just $100
    Surprising as it may seem this is not as revolutionary as it at first sounds.  A new nanofluidic chip developed by BioNanomatrix makes this such cheap sequencing possible.  In the future personalised medicine will mean that your doctor will be able to determine (for example) genetic changes in a cancerous tumor with increased accuracy -  and for the what it would cost you today to have a chest X-Ray.
  • The year of the Memristor
    Your cat is smarter than a supercomputer;  its synapses switch on and interconnects thousands of neurons, modifying brain circuits and boosting functions such as facial recognition. University of Michigan scientist, Wei Lu, told The Register that he believes that "Memristors can potentially learn like synapses and be used to build human brain-like computers".
  • VoIP phone calls (made via the Internet on platforms such as Skype) will surpass the use of standard land-line connections in 2014
  • Your check out operator at the local supermarket will become an increasing novelty as retail turns increasingly to automated systems
  • Apple's Touch ID technology will; find greater use in other applications and products
  • 3D Printing which has already ushered in a new 'industrial revolution' will expand it use exponentially in 2014

..and, remembering another 1964 prediction of Isaac Asimov,

"Complete lunches and dinners, with the food semiprepared, will be stored in the freezer until ready for processing"
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Saturday, 30 November 2013

Fly Me To The Moon...Or Wherever

Those with an eye for innovation will have noted the recent launch of the Indian mission to Mars.  While they haven't got there yet, at time of writing all seems to be progressing nicely.

Quite apart from the desire to be the first Asian country to reach Mars, what is it that motivates a society like India to take up these challenges?  By extension, what innovation processes are necessary to achieve such a goal?

The Psychology Wiki defines innovation as referring "to both radical or incremental changes to products, processes or services. The often unspoken goal of innovation is to solve a problem."

Some may argue that there is no problem to be solved by sending a spaceship hurtling towards Mars, and the real problem remains at home with the grinding poverty of many of India's citizenry.

But such innovation more often than not adds value to society in the broader global context.  In addition, those countries and enterprises that do not innovate run a real danger of being surpassed or destroyed by those that do.

There are two basic types of innovation; sustaining and disruptive. For companies, the former means continuing to approach their core markets in a similar fashion while the latter "significantly changes a market or product category".

By now most people recognise that innovation and a good dose of creativity are essential to an organisation's survival. Globalization, increased competition and the increasingly rapid changes in technology, mean that those enterprises that do not change and adapt simply wither on the vine and die.

"Homo sapiens have, since the 10 commandments, had a bit of a soft spot for concise lists which tell us what to do. They imply that if we follow their advice we will be suitably rewarded. 

But the bad news about innovation is that suggestion-boxes, brainstorming sessions, away days, consultants and 183 techniques to encourage creativity (as listed on Wikipedia) won’t, by themselves, transform your business into the kind of free-thinking, ground-breaking, market-leading corporate utopia you might be hoping for".

It is really all about company culture and not fancy creativity suites.  It also takes dedicated time and budget.

Ranjeet Laungani, Nielsen's VP for Innovation Practice, examined how India innovates in a recent study. Five of his key findings were:
  1. It takes 50% of Indian companies one to two years to bring an innovation from concept to launch.
  2. In the year that they launch their innovation they spend as much as 34% of their budget on advertising and another 30% on trade and consumer promotion.
  3. 75% of organisations measure the level of innovation success by their growth in market share. This followed by brand awareness and health measures and the Return On Investment (ROI) that the innovation has delivered.
  4. Nine out of 10 organizations surveyed identified that sharp consumer insight led to innovations in their organisations.
  5. 20% of industry professionals across sectors relayed that more than 25% of their ideas made it to the shelves
Ranjeet also reminds us that 90% of newly introduced products fail in the year they launch, so innovation is not in itself a guarantee of success.  There are also several factors that can impede the progress of innovation within an enterprise. These include:
  • Too lengthy a period from idea to market
  • Long-term strategic planning being hijacked by short-term priorities
  • Insufficient budget to fund innovation
  • Internal teams with conflicting priorities
  • An unwillingness to accept that failure is very much part of the innovation process
So while the success of a mission to Mars cannot be guaranteed it does prove the point that any innovation is based on risk taking.  As the old adage says "nothing ventured, nothing gained". 

Amartya Sen, the winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Economics, hypothesises that development is the key to freedom.  Perhaps ultimately it is this motivation that drives mankind to innovate.

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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

If It Itches Don't Scratch It - Your TV's Watching

Best to resist the temptation to scratch that itchy place as you watch your favourite show on the box. What you get up to in front of your Smart TV may not be as private as you think.

According to a UK blogger, his LG Smart TV has a nasty habit of sending back unencrypted data and in the clear, to LG every time he changes channel.

Not that switching off "Collection of watching info" (it's set ON by default) in his settings did much good as his viewing data was still being sent back to LG's servers in a highly insecure fashion.

Source: DoctorBeet's Blog 
Go to the company web site and they boast "LG Smart AD provides the express way for advertisers to engage with targeted audiences through multi device screens in global scale and in the most effective and innovative fashion." i.e. targeted advertising.

On the face of it it would seem that LG are in breach of the UK's strict UK Data Protection Act?  One wonders how other countries are faring and if they are even aware of the nature of this risky data flow from their personal appliances.

According to a BBC report the blogger, Mr Huntley, "suggested that even if LG had never inspected the data, it could still pose a security risk as hackers could take advantage of the practice".

Buying a new television doesn't mean by default that you have agreed to be spied upon and neither it should.

With the Internet of Things upon us perhaps the best advice to give is 'better watch what you say to your toaster'!
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Thursday, 21 November 2013

Bieber or the 'Beeb'?

Ever despaired at emulating the follower feats of Justin Bieber and his ilk?  Perhaps you should not worry too much that your Twitter follower count is considerably lower than his.

As the chart above demonstrates, even the US President isn't immune from the curse of  fake follower.  A quick review of these most popular twitter accounts shows that only a small percentage of followers could be termed 'real' and actively engaged.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Bieber's recent vocal offering  to his besotted fans is titled "All Bad"?.  His real twitter followers number 9.36 million instead of the often promoted 46.8m.

It doesn't get much better for the current leader on the twitter charts, Katy Perry.  Her real and engaged twitter fan base is only 3.33 million.  Poor old Barack Obama suffers a similar percentage fate which may or may not be a reflection on the incumbent.  He has a mere 2.6 million followers hanging on his every tweeted word.

But what of a major corporations, instead of the usual raft of personalities and politicians?  

The  BBC is one media organisation that has truly embraced social media in all its forms.  While the following of their various account varies, some like BBC Sport are doing rather well.  At time of writing they have 3378, 428 engaged followers.  The most preferred hour for their followers to visit is between 4 and 5 pm in the late afternoon, UK time and 60% of them are male with only 6% definitely identified as female.

So when it comes to veracity of your followers all that glitters is not necessarily gold.  Why not check your own following using this tool?
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Thursday, 14 November 2013

Vast, Vibrant & Growing - China's Internet

This video from The China Digital Conference neatly explains the depth and breadth of China's vibrant Internet.  More controlled it may be than its Western counterpart, but the sheer volume of online activity is very impressive.
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Saturday, 2 November 2013

No Wonder There Are More Than One Million Victims Of Cyber Crime Daily

The worry about crime used to be if you had had your wallet stolen; or did you just leave it in a 'safe place' and have forgotten where that 'safe place' was?

You put your valuables in a safe with the local bank, or if you could afford it and wanted to take the risk, within the home.  In many ways this approach has changed over time and in others it has not.

We are still very trusting when it comes to matters financial but if the recent report from Norton is to be believed, perhaps we shouldn't be so blasé.  They surveyed more than 13,000 online adults aged between 18 and 64, from 24 countries.

The results showed that Baby Boomers were less susceptible to cyber-crime than the later Millennials and the highest number of cyber-crime victims were to be found in Russia (85%), China (77%) and South Africa (73%).

Cyber crime victims were more likely to be male (64%) than female(58%) which is probably a reflection of testosterone-fuelled impulses!

Source: 2013 Norton Report

With an estimated $US113 billion of cyber crime taking place over a year, the situation is likely to get worse with an increasing move away from desktops to mobile devices.  The survey revealed that almost half of respondents leave security concerns behind when they hit the street. They don't use basic precautions such as password protection, security software of any kind, or backup their important files.

Here's another sobering revelation; 57% aren't even aware that security solutions for mobile devices even exist!

No wonder then that there are more than one million victims of cyber crime daily. With the lines blurring between home personal life and work there are increased security concerns for business as well. One in five respondents admitted sharing work information with friends and family.  

36% reported that their company had no policy in place when it came to the use of mobile device for work and 27% of all adults admitted they had lost their mobile phones or had them stolen.  So considering these results, how secure is your business data?

Other points of interest to those concerned with online security include:
  • 41% of online adults surveyed have been victims of hacking, malware, scams, viruses, fraud and theft in the past year
  • Half (50%) have been victims of either cyber crime and/or 'negative situations' over the same period.  This includes being bullied or stalked online, or receiving nude images from perfect strangers.
When it comes to social media people appear to be just as lax, if not more so. 39% didn't bother to log out after a social media session and a quarter actually share their social media log-in details and passwords with others. Somewhat surprisingly then considering the slack attitude portrayed, only 12% of the sample admitted that someone else had hacked into their social media account and pretended to be them.

We've grown very attached to our mobile devices but have largely forgotten the Internet security risks and the security protocols that we rigorously applied to our desk top systems.  

Given all of the above, perhaps it is now time to think far more seriously about how we can personally fight cyber crime by being more diligent; especially if we are wedded to our smartphone or tablet.

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Friday, 18 October 2013

Wearing Thin - Copy Watches, Cops and Cop-Outs

At one stage in my life I had a draw full of watches, albeit a small drawer and a few of the watches were euphemistically titled "copy watches".  One only had to visit most Asian cities a decade or two ago to be propositioned by furtive street vendors who offered you a 'Rolex" for a couple for dollars.

Not only were they bad fakes but their guarantee lasted only as long as its battery life.  After moving up the corporate ladder a real dress watch may be added but that was really the limit of my interest in timepieces as fashion accessories.

So the recent release of the over-hyped iWatches offers no appeal to me at all.  In fact I would go so far as to say that thus far, the whole iWatch movement (pun intended) is a bit of a cop-out.  These are not wearables that dazzle with innovation and I really can't see the point of having an adjunct to my smartphone strapped to my wrist?

While I made an earlier prediction in 2011 that wearables would be a significant megatrend, iWatches were not what I had in mind.  To me these 'wristlets' are examples of the dangers of moving away from innovation to commercialisation; the latest iPhone being another example.

Another example of where technology innovation doesn't quite fit the gadget is the taking of photographs with an iPad.  To see a horde of avid photographers holding their iPad's aloft always reminds me of Charlton Heston holding up the tablets of stone in the Ten Commandments.  The results though are far from similar.

Some wearable tech is moving in the right direction. The BioMan shirt keeps track of your body vitals through a weave of embedded steel threads which transmit data via Bluetooth to another device such as a smartphone.  Great for fitness fanatics but with a more serious capability of alerting your health professional in the event of your 'ticker' playing up.

According to an article looking at the intersection of the fashion industry and technology there were some 14 million such items on the market by the end of 2012 and the prediction is that this number will rise to 171 million by 2016. Another guesstimate from Juniper Research is that there will be 15 million wearable smart devices sold worldwide in 2013, rising to 70 million in sales by 2017.

So to put it succinctly, what is my expectation of the 'wearables' of the future?

I see such devices as being embedded into the Internet of Things and not operating as a standalone body add-on.  For example, my hat turning into a weather station and transmitting data, my clothing adjusting to the climatic conditions during the tropical hear or Arctic cold, better still priming my washing machine form afar to say that grimy work clothes were coming its way.

Wearables that monitor the smells that surround us, eliminating the less desirable. My personal tastegraph influencing such decisions.

Some wearables are  designed in a slightly less serious vein. The Cocktail Making Robot Dress in this video is enough to drive one to drink; quite literally.

Let us also not forget the commercial value of wearables and how they can potentially drive traffic for retailers.  Econsultancy, in collaboration with YouGov, looked at the impact of Google Glass as an example of wearable in-store.

Their key findings were:

  • 38% of customers said they would use Google Glass to create a shopping route
  • 27% would use Glass to check stock availability
  • 22% saw Glass as an opportunity to unlock additional offers and promotions. 
  • 70% of women however felt they would be embarrassed wearing such a device and the figure for men who felt similarly disinclined was 54%.

This UK reticence when it comes to wearing Google Glass ties in with other research conducted by Omnibus in May.  In that poll, less than a quarter of those surveyed (24%) said they would consider buying and wearing a pair of Google Glass-es.

It could well be that wearables will have a greater future with enterprises than consumers and Forrester sees this as a more likely trend.  If you doubt their findings look no further than  Motorola's Connected Law Enforcement Officer Of The Future.

Source: Motorola
Which reminds me, I need to get a new battery for my watch.

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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

On the Rocks? What a Shipwreck can teach us

English: Costa Concordia Polski: Statek pasaże... The plight of the ill-fated Costa Concordia (pictured) is by now well known.  How someone could navigate as 114,000 ton company asset on to the rocks in a sea of calm is quite mind boggling. 

Equally impressive, but in a more positive vein, are the logistics of salvaging the huge liner. The assembly of cranes, experts and tons of concrete as well as the professional expertise needed to right the ship.  

The marshalling of assets is something all companies face albeit rarely on the scale of a liner salvage or in the face of such a human disaster.  But it is not uncommon for poor asset management within an enterprise to figuratively and quite literally 'sink the ship'. 

 If you are relying on spreadsheets to manage allocation and asset redundancy then you face the likelihood of following the fate of the Concordia, being left high and dry while others go about their business in a successful fashion. 

A recent article in Business Day came to the conclusion that if an enterprise is aiming for service, performance and financial improvement it needs to devise a good asset management strategy.

"Every asset needs to be managed and maintained to ensure it functions within the design parameters". 

 "The operational phase of an asset is the most useful period of its life and this is when the asset is managed and used to deliver services to support the core business of an organisation." 

Allocating,  tracking and monitoring physical asset depreciation all all key elements in the success of any business.  Being fully aware of the life-cycle of any asset is important.  It is no good waiting for a financial shortfall or the sudden realisation of an assets age to prompt action on asset management.  

Whole-life asset management is the name of the game if you hope to get the best out of your investment. 

The advance of technology also means that the assets you have invested in today will not necessarily be the assets you need tomorrow.  Consider for example, how data centres and company IT departments  full of server hardware have been largely superseded by server virtualization, which in turn made infrastructure clouds possible. 

The Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) provide a very good guide on realising a world class infrastructure and the guiding principles of asset management.  In looking at the future they identified the following challenges:
  • Adapting your assets to climate change given the impact that this having and will have in the future
  • Social change with different demographics and the way we will interact with our infrastructure
  • Economic challenges of asset maintenance, made more difficult when world economies are sluggish
  • Critical skills shortages to manage and maintain older technologies and assets
  • Political inability to foresee the need for infrastructure provision and the impact that will have on society
  • New uses of technology which for some will be a challenge but is also an opportunity to overcome ineffective data capture and knowledge management.
So investment in a good asset management system has become a must to keep your business ship on a  true course
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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

I Share Therefore I Am

This video presents a hypothesis that I don't entirely agree with, but does touch on the sociological implications of social media at the expense of "real" relationships.

There is little doubt that there are those who hide behind online persona rather than facing the trials and tribulations of the 'real world'. But equally there are others who use social media to advantage; expanding their already formed networks and staying in touch with old friends.

Credit: Keisuke Jinushi
Some sad cases who have very few friends have to pretend that they do, to keep up with the small circle that they actually have.  

Not that I am recommending taking this course of action to the extremes of the Japanese photographer (right), who faked a romantic attachment by using Instagram, a smartphone and dollop of nail polish!

A sad lad maybe but I guess he was really just making a point.  See his full account here and turn on Google's translation if you can't read Japanese.

Apparently overuse of Facebook can be totally depressing.  A study by  the University of Michigan over a two week period resulted in Facebook participants  experiencing a darkening of mood the more they browsed the social medium.  The sample of 82 college-aged volunteers was large enough to get a reasonable result.  As media has reported, this is the core demographic among Facebook's nearly 700 million active daily users.

University of Michigan social psychologist Ethan Kross said: “Loneliness predicted Facebook use, and loneliness also predicted how bad people felt. But the effect of Facebook on how people felt was independent of loneliness.

So what may you well ask is causing this sinking feeling after excessive exposure to Facebook? 

According to The Economist the University of Michigan study didn't really address the differences between socialising on Facebook and socialising in person.  The paper  suggests the answer to social media depression is  one of green-eyed envy.

"An earlier investigation, conducted by social scientists at Humboldt University and Darmstadt’s Technical University, both in Germany, may have found the root cause. These researchers found that the most common emotion aroused by using Facebook is envy. Endlessly comparing themselves with peers who have doctored their photographs, amplified their achievements and plagiarised their bons mots can leave Facebook’s users more than a little green-eyed. Real-life encounters, by contrast, are more WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get)".

One wonders if reading blogs on a regular basis has the same effect?  I suspect not, but to play it safe I will think twice about promoting this post on Facebook - it might be too depressing to contemplate!
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Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Percussion Obsessions - The Sound Of Distant Drums

Advertising should be a multi-sensory experience rather than a one dimensional prod.  Those of us who have watched the costume drama based on the life of Harry Selfridge in London will have acknowledged the reality that the greatest advertisers are those who are prepared to innovate.

It was Harry who opened London's first department store in the then unfashionable western end of Oxford Street and invented (although not many people know it) the oft-used catch cry ""Only ___ Shopping Days Until Christmas"..

Had he still been alive, Selfridge would have been proud to have been associated with another more recent British revolution in advertising. An English company, Novalia, have come up with a drum-kit poster that you play with the tips of your fingers.

The poster is produced on interactive paper with conductive inks, rendering a variety of drum sounds - from cymbals to snare, with the odd tom tom beat thrown in for good measure. As an ex-rock drummer myself I am delighted with this development although others who value their peace and quiet might be less than ecstatic.

The inventor of the process, former sheep herder and physicist Kate Stone, has a PhD in electronics from Cambridge University and is described by TED as a "Shepherd of electrons".

"I love paper, and I love technology," says Kate, who's spent the past decade working to unite the two. Her experiments combine regular paper with conductive inks and tiny circuit boards to offer a unique, magical experience. To date, applications include a newspaper embedded with audio and video, posters that display energy usage in real time, and the extremely nifty paper drumkit and set of DJ decks she demonstrates onstage." TED Talk video below.

So the 'sound of distant drums' emanating from a subway, bus shelter or shopping mall near you is about to become a reality.  It could well be the 'next big thing' in advertising, with perhaps a set of suitably branded earplugs thrown in for good measure.
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Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Bathroom Attack of the 'Apless Apps

We live in a time where NSA and PRISM, the Internet of Things and Mobile Apps dominate online and off-line chatter.

Sometimes convergence of these technologies can come together in the most unexpected of ways leaving the user wondering why more robust user testing wasn't in place before release.  And in the context of this article I use the term "release" advisedly!

Those of you who have ever stayed in a Japanese hotel will know that the toilets are high tech with a series of buttons designed for an internal car wash, post purge.

The Satis Smart Design boasts the most sophisticated of toilet innovation according to its manufacturers Laxil, one of Japan's biggest toilet companies.  It's mouth-like lid opens automatically to greet you as you draw nigh and when you step away the toilet flushes automatically.

There is now even a free Android app with a hard-wired Bluetooth code available which means you can operate the Satis remotely, all of which sounds fine in theory.  There is however one fatal flaw that the manufacturers have failed to realise in their rush for innovation - their high tech toilet can be hacked.

IT security firm Trustwave has issued a Bluetooth security vulnerability warning that the app could be hacked. Trustwave issued an advisory that a pin for the Bluetooth app is set at '0000' and can therefore be used by anyone - even remotely. In short, anyone with the 'My Satis' app can control any Satis toilet.

Trustwave advisory
While it remains to be see if bidet hacking will become as popular as gangam style dancing, the temptation for pranksters is obvious. Facing a cyber attack in the bathroom from an out of control two-nozzle bidet spray could have dire consequences.

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Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Chew Controlled Gaming Is In Your Face

When I gave up smoking some thirty plus years ago I resorted to the less than edifying habit of chewing gum to satisfy my oral craving.  The thing about chewing gum is that the first couple minutes provide a sugar hit and a mouthful of flavour.  After that the sensation is one of masticating on old tennis balls.

Manufacturers of the stuff would now have you believe that health hygiene for the mouth is improved by chewing their product;  not that this cuts much ice in Singapore where the stuff is thankfully banned.

What might you well ask has all of this got to do with anything digital?

Well the short answer is that there now a game called Gumulon which encourage you to chew the future. I kid you not.

Using facial recognition technology you participate in this action game simply by chewing at various speeds which changes the character moves. They even claim that if you record your chewing and then play it backwards, you will discover the identity of your future tag-team partner. i.e. chew more gum to win.

Chew controlled gaming is an innovative piece of marketing from Mondelēz International's Stride Gum, who are using social media to promote their product to the age demographic that uses it most; and that is not ex-smokers.

Thomas Adams of New York received his first chewing gum machine patent in 1871 and in 1899 joined with others to form American Chicle Company which at that time controlled 85% of the chewing gum business in the USA. The sap of the large, tropical, American sapodilla tree was called a chicle and it is this that was used to create the gum base.

Though a series of amalgamations and takeovers the company eventually ended up as part of the Cadbury stable and it was they who introduced Stride Gum in 2006, before being swallowed up themselves three years ago by Kraft Foods Inc.  Mondelēz International (a.k.a. Kraft), is an interesting food conglomerate in its own right and owns many other brands that were established over a century ago, such as Pascalls and Nabisco.

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Saturday, 13 July 2013

Beauty and The Beast - When Flying Becomes Really Interesting

Flight Trails
The joy of flying and visualisation combine in Contrailz, an interesting project from Russian software engineer Alexey Papulovskiy and his collaborator Nikolay Guryanov.

There are those of us who find beauty in these transport patterns and no doubt others who see them as evidence of the beastly spread of CO2 emissions.

For lovers of abstract art these visualisations have a certain ring of familiarity as the Singapore/Malaysia map (above) and Stockholm (below) demonstrates.

Flight Trails
Alexy began by  collecting tracking data for civil plane routes from The data set of 1 billion “dots” was for the month of October,2012.

Flight Levels are colour coded, with the red signifying lower altitudes and blue, higher altitudes. The project mapping demonstrates that commercial aircraft have specific routes that they follow and these routes regularly intersect.

All of which goes to show why you can see so many aircraft at different holding altitudes as you are preparing to land at a busy airport such as Changi or Heathrow (below).

And while you suddenly realise how much you are in the hands of your pilot and rush to check your travel insurance, take a good look at  the data source, PlaneFinder.  It picks up "ADS-B plane feeds used by commercial and private planes to transmit their name, position, callsign, status and lots more."

The crowded skies of the USA - PlaneFinder
Happy Travels!
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