Fixing the IoT problem

Being worried that my new fridge would unilaterally put me on a diet and, having read about criminals compromising cars’ keyless entry systems, plus having seen the video of that jeep being run off the road after its engine management system had been remotely compromised, I asked my vehicle’s manufacturer whether my car was firewalled?

The answer was no, but I need not worry because everything was encrypted. Ditto with the fridge, washing machine, central heating and my burglar alarm system. Well, if encryption were the answer, then we would not have suffered fridges being compromised to send spam, or cars being driven off the road. Before fixing a problem, you need to understand it!
Anything to do with IT security tends to be based around the CIA triage of confidentiality, integrity and availability. The internet of things (IoT) is no different. My house is effectively firewalled through my router and any internal devices connected to my private home network are behind this firewall.
Because it is a software firewall, it is not the best protection in the world and any weaknesses will be known to the hackers, but much like a

Future of speech tech

Systems like Siri and Cortana are now everyday helpers. But the apparent popularity of speech based interfaces belies the fact that comparatively few languages can be processed using current natural language processing technologies.

English, because of its popularity, and the fact its spoken by many academics, has led it to be the focus of most machine learning research. Millions of people, Dr Sharon Goldwater says, are missing out on the advantages speech tech offers and she hopes her research will redress this imbalance.

The 2016 Needham Lecture
Dr Goldwater is a Reader at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics and the winner of the 2016 Roger Needham award – an award made annually for distinguished research contributions in computer science by a UK based researcher. Along with the award, the winner is given the opportunity to give a public lecture.
Dr Goldwater’s talk was called ‘Language learning in humans and machines: making connections to make progress.’ Explaining where she hopes her research will lead, she says: ‘There are languages in Africa that have millions of speakers, yet there’s zero language technology. Especially in areas

Make IT work

Business need drives software development; that’s why concepts like agile and extreme programming have become so popular; they allow development effort to be targeted towards what will really deliver business benefit.

And that’s great if you’re working on powerful servers, with mature platforms, using frameworks that have been developed and refined over years – you know that the security is already there from all that prior experience, even if the product is only at the ‘make it work’ stage.

But when we’re looking at IoT devices, with their small processing footprint, and myriad operating systems, there’s not always a lot of room for security, and the development focus tends to go on what customers pay for – functionality. At the moment, it’s enough that you can switch the light on with your phone.

The software running on many IoT devices right now certainly ‘works’, but is it ‘right’? What if others can switch your light on with their phones? As enterprise IT professionals implementing new technologies, these are the kinds of questions we’re more interested in. What risks are introduced by installing these devices in our infrastructure? And how do we handle those

Monetising the IoT

The internet of things (IoT) is exciting but simply adding sensors to every piece of equipment or every location, from shop floors to petrol pumps, is not going to change the world. While a predicted 20 billion connected devices will be in place by 2020, how many businesses yet truly understand how this connected world will drive new value and create new revenue streams?

The IoT conundrum
It is hard to find any piece of equipment that can’t be hooked up to the all-consuming IoT. The problem is that while these devices are low cost, they are also low value unless organisations find a way to capture and leverage the created data. And these devices, by their sheer number, are generating huge volumes of data.
How many organisations will have the required in house infrastructure to store or analyse this information? Or the people with the skills to determine how best to leverage this data to drive real business value? This IoT-enabled data revolution is not just about finding ways to drive business efficiency or improve customer service; it is about creating data streams that underpin new collaborative business models and can be actionably monetised.


Cognitive Computing

The talk is going to be about the cognitive computing era,’ says Dr Guruduth Banavar, addressing the topic of his 2017 BCS/IET Turing Lecture. Over the past few years, he explains, we’ve witnessed the establishment of a new era in computing – the age of machine learning. And, as we move into this new age, the resulting technical, professional and societal changes will be profound.

Rounding off his summary, Dr Banavar asserts: ‘It means having a very different relationship with machines. We’ll need to start getting used to having machines with us, to having natural conversations with them, and get used to the idea that they’ll be doing a lot of tasks in every part of our lives.’

Dawn of a third age
If you’re a student of such things, the Tabulating Systems Era began in the early 1900s and ran to the 1950s. The Programmable Systems Era – the if and then epoch – began in the 1950s and has served us well. It’s the foundation of much of the digital world that surrounds us.

A career in technology
Born in India, Dr Banavar spent the first half of his life there before moving

Politicians are learning from social media

Demos is a cross-party research organisation and it has brought its investigative skills to bear on social media. The work led, ultimately, to the creation of Demos’ Centre For Analysis Of Social Media (CASM) – a partnership with University of Sussex.

From CASM came Method 52, a piece of machine-learning software that brings social media analytics and social research in-line with academic standards – rigorous standards that government is willing to listen to. And to help politicians understand its research, Demos has worked with BCS to create an innovative and visual dashboard system.

‘Around five years ago we watched the rise of social media and we thought this would be a potentially useful tool through which we can understand some of the issues that we’re already dealing with,’ said Demo’s Krasodomski-Jones, recalling the decisions that led ultimately to Method 52’s creation.

The idea seemed logical and the necessary tools appeared to already exist. ‘Coke was interested in how many times you click on its site. Nike was interested in sentiment about its shoes online,’ he recalled.

Demos explored these internet marketing insights and the tools that were used to create them. But, when it

Engineering intelligent networks

According to Gartner’s forecast on Public Cloud Services1, end-user spending on public cloud services is expected to record a compound annual growth rate of 17.7 per cent from 2011 through 2016.

This creates a tremendous opportunity for broadband carriers to expand and enhance their broadband networks to better support and offer cloud services, and in fact, many ISPs around the world have already started offering cloud services to their customers, including residential and enterprises.

However, revenue decline, decreasing profitability and the explosive traffic growth on the existing networks hamper service providers as they strive to innovate and differentiate themselves from competitors.

Service providers want to offer cutting-edge and personalised cloud solutions to their customers while they also look to improve operational efficiency, accelerate network deployment and lower total cost of ownership. The challenge of migrating existing network architectures, managements and policy frameworks is impacting providers around the world as they work feverishly to ramp up to this new area of opportunity and demand.

Cloud services are generally understood as being combinations of communications, storage and computing services that enable convenient, on-demand access to a shared pool of configurable, rapidly provisioned resources.

These cloud

Big data trends

Big data has a huge crossover with the business intelligence world. But recently analyst Forrester commented that most organisations still analyse structured and unstructured data in silos, using different tools and serving different use cases. ‘The techniques used, such as statistical analysis, machine learning, natural language processing and artificial intelligence are now bringing text analytics closer to the world of business intelligence’ they say.

Burgeoning technology such as the internet of things (IoT) with its obvious connection to big data due to the sheer amount of data that can be produced means that there will be some tensions in the use of the data. Forrester mention in a recent paper that ‘enterprise applications must handle IoT data in two ways: 1) analyse large volumes to find patterns and insights that can be valuable in the future and 2) perform streaming analytics to glean immediate, actionable insights.’

2015 will be the year, say the likes of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), that analysing the data collected via sensors from the internet of things will really kick in. But as more data is collected, processes will need to be decentralised to provide agility in its use. In their survey ‘Guts &

Demystifying the dark web

As you read on, we’ll explore how the ‘dark web’ works, how big it is (and it is huge) and how most of it is relatively benign, but has gained notoriety because of a few places where illegal goods and services are sold to anyone willing to pay the price – and to take the risk.

What is the ‘dark web’?
Read the term dark web and most people’s minds leap immediately to the stuff of lurid headlines. The media often portrays the dark web as a den of vice and iniquity – a place where you can buy guns and drugs as readily as soap in your supermarket. And sure, there is criminality on the dark web. But this isn’t the whole story by any means.
The dark web also goes by another, much less dramatic name: the deep web. The deep web is probably a more correct term because it conveys the idea that the internet is like an iceberg.

A route to the dark web
The dark web is generally considered to be a group of websites which exist on a special type of network that cannot be seen by the ‘normal web’.

Strong women want to code

Why don’t we have more women in technology, or in business in general? It’s one of the biggest cultural questions of our time, but perhaps the best thing about my job is that every day I get the opportunity to play a personal role in trying to solve it.

As a mother and a leader I do find myself questioning why the problem is taking so very long to solve. Logically we all understand that diversity of gender, religion, age, ability and culture makes teams and businesses more dynamic, more successful and a better breeding ground for creativity.

Consulting firm McKinsey & Company has estimated that ‘companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.’

Even in companies like Cisco where we focus a lot on this issue, we still have work to do. I try not to be offended when a peer of mine, like me, a senior sales leader, calls me ‘kiddo’. But I doubt he would use the same greeting were I not a women. It is this notion of unconscious bias that the BBC journalist and

Computers can be designed to augment human ability

Computers have found their way into nearly every corner of our lives, but in the last few years we have begun to realise they can do much more than just process information. They are beginning to help us directly and indirectly understand how other systems operate: how the brain learns, remembers and recalls information; how DNA is the blueprint for human beings. The work being done in this field was outlined in the Autumn 2015 edition of ITNOW.

In the first article of the series, we explored what we are beginning to learn from comparing and contrasting the brain and computers, and the benefits both communities can gain from studying the basic architecture of each other’s systems.

However, computing can offer us an even greater prize. Professor Daniel Dennett, arguably the world’s leading philosopher of cognitive neuroscience, has sparked an interdisciplinary debate on the novel potential of computers: ‘How can we communicate directly with our computers as partners to extend everyone’s personal ability to learn, understand, master complex topics and even learn to be more intelligent?’

Unlimited opportunities
Alan Turing argued in his 1936 paper, ‘Computable Numbers’, that if we could work out the formula

Getting of the mobile app problem

As the planet increasingly plugs into mobile, a new generation of apps is changing how we consume media, how we shop, how we spend our time and how we communicate with each other.

It is hard to imagine that it was only in July 2008, that the Apple App Store was launched – a year after the first iPhone was released. At the time it had 500 apps and, to many, it was a revelation. 10 million applications were downloaded in the first weekend alone. Now as apps have become so much a part of our everyday lives it is almost impossible to accept that this is still, in fact, a very immature industry – especially in the enterprise.

While enterprises are just starting to scratch the surface of the potential of mobile, almost all have grasped that mobile is an opportunity to drive income and competitive advantage. In a new survey undertaken by Opinion Matters and sponsored by OutSystems, over 200 UK and US respondents were asked about the primary goal of their new mobile app initiatives. The top aim cited was to generate revenue (64 per cent).

The explosive growth that we are

Shaping the internet together

I had the opportunity to speak for BCS on two panels at EuroDIG on aspects of data protection and privacy – one related to identity and payments and the other to big data analytics and the internet of things.

European Digital Single Market initiative
The proposed European Digital Single Market is a very ambitious set of proposals intended to be implemented in an (unrealistically) ambitious timescale by 2016. A European Commission spokesman estimated that full implementation of the Digital Single Market would lift EU GDP by 15 billion euros. It was claimed that EU regulations (such as the roaming regulation) had already reduced cross-border communications costs significantly.

Building on NETmundial
All 47 members of the Council of Europe (except Russia) agreed to take the NETmundial principles forward as the single set of principles for internet governance and to use these as the basis of the global Internet Governance Initiative. This is in accordance with the calls over the last three years at the UN IGF (which is the long term forum – NETmundial was a one-off conference) to agree a global set of principles and is a major step forward for internet governance.

Cross-border internet

A new culture of data sharing

At the moment it feels like we either choose not to participate in modern life, or submit ourselves to corporate whims and mistakes, says David Evans, Director of Policy & Community at BCS.

Is this the lot of the modern man? The tragic disclosure of their affair online, the violation of their person through identity theft. Their data taken, used, lost by corporations so faceless, so uncaring. Subject to the vagaries of outrageous privacy policies. Their right to be forgotten something devoutly to be wished for? Is our digital world just another stage for human anguish?

Perhaps. Yet that is not how most of us act; for most of us the prospect of harm from data sharing is abstract and somewhat disconnected from our experience. Surveys regularly indicate that around three quarters of us will share our data if there is some perceived benefit – and sharing data for free services has been one of the most successful business models of the internet; a business model that generates a lot of the content we enjoy, and arguably makes the internet function.

It would be terribly easy to respond to disasters by calling for public awareness

State of play: Social media in the enterprise

Social media is not very old. Twitter started in 2006 and now boasts 302 million users; Facebook was launched in 2004 and by 2015 has 1.18 billion monthly users; LinkedIn, a venerable old man of social media launched in 2003 now has 364 million users. How well are they being utilised by business? Brian Runciman MBCS reports.

Businesses quickly latched onto the IT-driven phenomenon of social media – with motivations ranging from better measurement of interaction to simply taking advantage of a bigger shop window. One attraction is its ability to measure things that were more intangible in times past such as customers’ sentiment about a product and also for more time-honoured business pursuits such as analysing the competition and helping determine strategy.

What is more difficult to assessing real return on investment (ROI). Revenue data is difficult to come by, if not just irrelevant in some social media contexts. It has seen success, however, in measuring conversion of a potential customers from passive users into a subscribers. And, according to Women’s Wear Daily, a line can be drawn between engagement on social media and effective predictions of ROI. Just the goal of increased interaction with

Information management

Information management (IM), as it’s normally understood, is really about the management of information technology, or perhaps data management and software tools. Similarly, the chief information officer (CIO) role isn’t really about information either; it’s about technology.

Although, when the role was first created following the 1977 report of the U.S. Commission on Federal Paperwork (chaired by Forest W. Horton and otherwise known as the Horton Report), it really was about the management of information as a strategic resource, rather than the technology management role it later morphed into.

What I want to look at here is a much wider understanding of information and a much broader concept of information management, what I’ll call authentic information management (AIM). Let’s consider Pareto’s 80/20 principle which states that, for many events, roughly 80 per cent of the effects come from 20 per cent of the causes so it wouldn’t be too surprising if just 20 per cent of all information in organisations is actually useful.

The rest is useless or less than useful. If true, that’s a huge waste of resources and a big drag on efficiency. Not only that, but the less-than-useful stuff is blocking out the useful, and this has big implications for

Wireless wave of change

This won’t be a gradual evolution. It is being driven by users and will be a fundamental change, similar to some of the other seismic shifts in computing such as the arrival of PCs, which freed users from the dominance of mainframes.

A key driver behind these developments is the introduction in 2013 of the new wireless standard 802.11ac, followed in the next couple of years by 802.11ad. These standards will fuel the increase in mobile devices and BYOD, leading to wireless becoming the status quo instead of wired.

There are many elements supporting this change. 4G with faster and bigger data-handling capabilities will drive expectations in the office. The growing deployment of mobile IPV6, with its significantly enhanced capabilities, enables better roaming. Cloud and virtualisation shift both the perception and the very nature of company boundaries, making mobility even more relevant.

The real dilemma is how do you secure, implement and manage what you don’t know? Already developments such as learning apps, Google Glass, payments from mobiles, Tizan 2.1 (multi-device operating system) and CloudOn (which allows users to run business apps on their mobile in the cloud) are all throwing up new areas to

Social political engagement

Existing social media platforms aren’t providing effective political engagement, because they weren’t designed to. BCS has been calling for a purpose-built platform to improve meaningful communication between the public and MPs. James Davies looks at the work to be done.

The way that many of us live our lives online nowadays is naturally spilling over into the way people engage with politics and with politicians. Accompanying the rise of online campaigns, e-petitions and political memes, the internet and social media specifically is shifting the ways in which citizens engage with their elected representatives.

This shift is as fundamental as the one that came with the advent of radio or television. Huge numbers of citizens have taken to social media platforms to communicate with their local MPs, but with wildly varying levels of success. Some MPs try to avoid digital communications altogether. Others struggle to manage the immense volume of direct public engagement made possible by social media channels. Many receive daily abuse or even death threats online.

Soon after being re-elected in June, Conservative MP Ranil Jayawardena let his constituents know he would not be using Twitter anymore, ‘because it has become a platform full

Make the Web Better for Everyone

The Web has serious problems: peddler of unreliable information, haven for criminals, spawning ground for irrational conspiracy fears, and tool for destructive people to broadcast their violence in real time and with posted recordings.

No doubt your list of Web pathologies is different from mine. But surely you agree that the Web disappoints as much as it delights.

Now the hard part—what to do about it?

Starting over is impossible. The Web is the ground of our global civilization, a pillar of contemporary existence. Even as we complain about the excesses and shortcomings of the Web, we can’t survive without it.

For engineers and technovisionaries, the solution flows from an admirable U.S. tradition: building a better mousetrap.

For redesigners of the broken Web, the popular impulse is to expand digital freedom by creating a Web so decentralized that governments can’t censor it and big corporations can’t dominate.

However noble, the freedom advocates fail to account for a major class of vexations arising from anonymity, which allows, say, Russian hackers to pose as legitimate tweeters and terrorist groups to recruit through Facebook pages.

To be sure, escape from government surveillance through digital

The Language the Dark Web

Part of the mythology of the early Internet was that it was going to make the world a better place by giving voice to the masses and leveling playing fields. Light was the metaphor of choice. For example, Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak once said that “when the Internet first came, I thought it was just the beacon of freedom.”

You can easily make a case for how much “brighter” the world is now, thanks to ubiquitous connectivity shining a light on misbehavior and malfeasance, but the Internet has a dark side as well.

For example, when you enter a search term into Google and it spits out the results, you might think that the search engine spent those few milliseconds querying the entire Web. Nope, not even close. What Google indexes is a fraction of all the available Web, perhaps just 4 percent of the total, by some estimates. That indexed soupçon is called the surface Web, or sometimes the visible Web. What about the other 96 percent? That nonsearchable content is called the deep Web, dark Web, or sometimes the invisible Web. A related idea is dark social, those online social interactions that are not