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The Internet of Things

Friday, November 20th, 2015

“The internet of things” — a rather unimaginative way to describe something vast.  What did Kevin Ashton mean when he used the phrase for the first time in 1995?

What is it?

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to connected devices communicating with each another and using machine-to-machine (M2M) communication via virtual, mobile or instantaneous connections.

This network of physical objects is embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity, enabling the objects to collect and exchange data.

They can include any object fitted with the right technology and the ability to connect to the internet. For example, home appliances, most forms of transport, shops and machines used for manufacturing, farming, healthcare, etc. Existing M2M applications include smart metering, patient monitoring, CCTV surveillance, vehicle tracking, secure ATMs and digital signage.

network-782707_640What can it be used for?
The main advantages of The Internet of Things is increased productivity, efficiency and better organisation of tools, machines and people.
One area where IoT can be most beneficial, is healthcare. Diseases can be monitored and analysed to create new treatments and also prevented in the long run.
In farming, sensors are connected to crops and cattle to increase production and track herds.
In the home environment security systems and household appliances can be monitored and controlled. In future your fridge will be able to let you know when you are out of milk and possibly even order it online for you. You will be able to activate your coffee machine from your cell phone to have a cup of hot coffee waiting when you get home.
LG recently introduced LG Homechat which enables you to SMS any of your LG home appliances. And yes, they answer back. Unfortunately this functionality isn’t available in South Africa yet, but it’s out there and being used.
These are simple examples, but the possibilities are vast. For more ideas, have at this interactive web application.
Is it safe?
IoT has many advantages, but the biggest concern, especially in its early stages, is security and privacy. To function optimally these devices need your personal data and since everything will be connected, in the cloud or on companies’ databases, it will also be available for if proper security is not in place.
Healthcare is most at risk if data is tampered with or leaked. Deleting sensitive medical information, such blood group info, could have fatal repercussions. (More in the Guardian)
According to experts IoT is relatively safe, but there’s no guarantee.


From tarred hemp and Indian rubber to optical fibre

Friday, November 20th, 2015

The internet began to emerge in the late 1980s and early 90s. However, the infrastructure supporting it has been around since 1839.

Today most of our Internet traffic is carried via submarine cable systems from Europe and the United States.

A submarine communications cable is a laid on the seabed between land-based stations to carry telecommunication signals across stretches of ocean. Before internet, however, submarine cables were used for other types of communications, for example telephones and telegraph.

After the introduction of the telegraph in 1839, establishing a submarine line across the Atlantic Ocean became the next challenge. Samuel Morse accepted this challenge and in 1842 he succeeded in sending a telegraph through a wire insulated with tarred hemp and Indian rubber, which was submerged in the water of New York Harbour.

Laying an undersea cable in Cape Town (Photo credit: Telkom)

The first submarine cable system in South Africa was launched in on 27 December 1879 and for the first time we were directly connected to Europe. This was done via Durban and Zanzibar to Aden with the East Coast cable of the South African Telegraph Company.

Today’s cables use optical fibre technology to carry digital data, which includes telephone, Internet and private data traffic.

“Modern cables are typically about 25 millimetres in diameter and weigh around 1.4 kilograms per metre for the deep-sea sections which comprise the majority of the run, although larger and heavier cables are used for shallow-water sections near shore.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Submarine_communications_cable)

Over the past 15 years four submarine cable systems have been installed in South Africa for telecommunication – SAT-3/WACS, Seacom, WACS, and EASSy.

The most recent addition was made in May 2012 with the West Africa Cable System (WACS). The 17 200 km fibre optic submarine cable starts at Yzerfontein on the west coast and ends in the United Kingdom. (More about the WACS launch)

[SOURCES: www.mybroadband.co.za & https://en.wikipedia.org]

Facebook: the grass isn’t greener

Friday, November 6th, 2015

In the 80s, if you wanted to see your neighbours shiny new BMW, you had to pretend you were trimming the lavender hedge. Now evidence of his latest acquisition is for all to see on his Facebook wall.

You watched in envy as the youngest Petersen from across the road, carried beach umbrellas and beach bats to their car in preparation for their Natal South Coast holiday.

We still envy others. The scope is just considerable larger thanks to social media like Facebook. Sure, thirty years ago you knew what your neighbours were up to. But now you also know about your long lost cousin in Australia’s diving expedition on the Great Barrier Reef or your school friend’s apparently successful business – the same friend you haven’t seen in 20 years.

In 2013 Ethan Kross, a psychologist from the University of Michigan did research on a group of students and came to the conclusion that using Facebook made them alone and sad. Kross and his colleagues studied their subjects over two weeks and frequently asked them questions to establish their mental state. (Facebook use predicts declines in subjective well-being in young adults: Kross E, Verduyn P, Demiralp E, Park J, Lee DS, Lin N, et.al (2013))

Does this mean social media is inherently bad for us? Not entirely, but we need to be attentive as to how we use it and its effect on our lives.

As early as 1998 Robert Kraut, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University found that subjects became progressively more depressed and isolated when they spent more time on the internet. The cause for our addiction to social media lies in our innate social make-up. We want to make connections with other people, but inevitably we also end up compare our lives to theirs.

Sharing information activates the part of our brain associated with reward processing. Sharing with others is a normal, acceptable, social action, passively being exposed to a large amount of information about those we are connected to on social media, and would normally not even be aware of, is not. What we don’t realise is that this information has been carefully selected and posted to present the best possible image. It’s not a realistic representation of someone’s life.

According to Mai-Ly Steers’ article “Seeing Everyone Else’s Highlight Reels: How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms”, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, social comparison is nothing new. Social media’s arrival just intensified the phenomenon.

“It doesn’t mean Facebook causes depression, but that depressed feelings and lots of time on Facebook and comparing oneself to others tend to go hand in hand”, says Steers.

[SOURCES: www.livescience.com; www.sciencedaily.com; www.newyorker.com; http://blogs.plogs.org]



ONTAPtv.com launches in South Africa

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

ontaptvLast month we reported on the future of television and looked at the main role players on the VOD (video on demand) field – Naspers’ Showmax, VIDI and FrontRow.

Barely a month later, last Wednesday, a new contender, ONTAPtv.com, was announced. And with packages starting at R39-00 it will be an attractive choice if you need to keep your budget in check.

Standard packages include a family package with family friendly content, one for just TV series, one for the movie buffs, a package for over 16s and a Mega Pack, which includes all these options. Package are R69-00 per month, but you can also subscribe to two per month at a cost of R79-00 or opt for the Mega Pack at a monthly fee of R89-00.

Apart from the local content, ONTAPtv provides the opportunity to watch specific African content at R39-00, Chinese television (nowTV) at R88-00 and FightSports at R69-00 per month.

Alternatively, if you don’t feel like committing just yet, you can just download movies at R15-00 (old movies) and R25-00 (new releases). Just like ShowMax you don’t have to sign your name away immediately – ONTAPtv does provide a trial period to ensure you are happy with your selection.

What makes ONTAPtv different from other VOD choices, is the option to download your chosen content instead of watching it online. Series and movies are also available in lower resolution to save bandwidth.

ONTAPtv.com is accessible via the service’s web platform and is currently compatible with PC, Mac, iOS- and Android devices. The platform was built with Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari in mind. At the moment it does not support on Google Chrome, but this might change in the future.

[SOURCES: www.memeburn.com]


Think you’re safe online?

Friday, June 12th, 2015

Memeburn, a website specialising in tech news and analysis recently reported on the state of cyber security in South Africa. (Read the article here)

According to the article, it was announced during the 2015 Security Summit in Johannesburg that over the previous six month, South Africa was the most popular target in Africa for criminal cyber attacks. DDOS attacks in Africa also increased 150% over the past 18 months.

Antonio Forzieri, an executive at Symantec, stated that one out of 214 e-mail sent in South Africa last year, was a spear phishing attempt.

South Africans are losing R2.2 billion per year to cybercrime. Statistics like these emphasise the importance of being informed and careful with personal information.

Online sales are on the increase and providesan additional platform for cybercrime.

onedollarKaspersky Lab, a company renowned for their expertise in security, launched a new project which, in a very visual, simple and interactive way, demonstrates the danger of cyber threats.

The one dollar lesson is an animated website which shows what happens to your money when you shop online and your information is intercepted.

One dollar lesson also hosts three training modules – each of which shows one dollar’s virtual trip to the bank and the possible obstacles it can encounter along the way.

Don’t assume you know everything there is to know about cyber safety. Stay up to date on new cyber threats and be careful with your personal information.


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