The Age of Drones: Technology game-changer series (part 1/3)

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Dronies (selfies with a drone), 90 minute flights from Australia to the UK and zero-carbon cities are just some of the great innovations that we can look forward to by 2021. This technology series showcases some of the best the world has to offer.

In 2007, Jordi Munoz & Chris Anderson met on an online community started by Chris Anderson called “DIY Drones”. Jordi was a 19-year old Mexican immigrant who assembled a drone from parts of a Wii controller and radio-operated toy helicopter. Soon after sharing his discovery on the forum, Chris & Jordi established 3D Robotics to sell drones to the DIY community, however, the co-owners were met with such ferocious demand outside the DIY community that the company expanded into what it has become today.

Earlier in 2015, 3D Robotics raised $50 million in investment funding. Another drone company, DJI, raised $75 million in the same year. DJI, with their popular Phantom drones, are the current market leader and are expecting to make $1 billion this year.

This is just the beginning. In early 2015, GoPro announced that they have joined with 3D Robotics to release their first drone by 2016 and the market loves it. GoPro’s shares received a 6.5% boost on the day of the announcement. In another world first, Singapore Post have announced that they are testing drone deliveries of snail mail.

Governments are responding too. New drone laws have been legislated to protect privacy and security. This includes the extension of anti-peeping laws to prevent unwarranted surveillance and spying, as well as extended civil aviation laws to prevent drones from destroying aircraft and other drones. New laws will also prevent people from destroying/vandalizing other people’s drones.

We are on the cusp of a new age of drones and it is hard to predict just how different our world may look in a few years’ time.

Next: How Space liners may change the way we fly.

Please note: I have no shares in any of the companies mentioned and will not receive any payment for these posts.

Dronies – The new Selfie!

Drones Sacrificed for Spectacular Volcano Video

Cracking the Enigma: How Alan Turing was destroyed by the people he saved

alan-turing-s-100th-12-celebratory-images-from-across-the-web-f0424e174dDuring WW2, Germany coordinated their war strategy through a series of encrypted messages, passed from central command to their armed forces. German cryptologists used an Enigma machine to do this. Enigma used Symmetric Cryptography, meaning that the same key was used for both encryption and decryption. Each letter was sent through a series of circuits (consisting of a plug board and 3 rotating wheels) to create a highly randomized output.  The key is the Enigma set-up itself, which is the choice/order of the wheels, the ring setting and plug connections. Enigma configurations were changed daily. Every month, the Germans distributed a key sheet to Enigma operators. This contained a list of different configurations for each day of the month. This key sheet was critical to be able to decrypt the codes. As there were 159 million possible Enigma settings, the time taken to go through all the possible Enigma configurations to decrypt a message would not have been worth the effort.
2009-09-25_3946 The British needed a fast method to decrypt the codes. German troops were advancing fast and the Allied troops needed an advantage. They hired a team of mathematicians and problem solvers to create a decryption machine. Alan Turing lead efforts in Bletchley Park to create one he called The Bombe (not to be confused with another Polish machine of the same name). Exploiting a critical flaw in Enigma, the Bombe was able to decrypt Enigma messages in under 20 minutes. As the Enigma has a rule that a letter could not become itself, the Bombe worked backwards to deduce all the impossible rotor and plug board configurations that violated this rule. It was able to do this very quickly via electrical circuits.

Click here for more information about how Enigma worked and how it was finally broken: 
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As the British wanted to continue to spy on the German forces, the operation continued on in secret. This action resulted in the saving of countless lives and the allied success of key battles, including D-Day. After the war, Alan Turing went on to work for the National Physical Laboratory and published a paper on Artificial Intelligence in 1950 called “The Turing Test”.

Despite all his achievements, Alan Turing’s contributions to allied war victory went mostly unnoticed. He was disgraced and arrested for homosexuality in 1952. He was given a choice of imprisonment or hormone treatments to “cure” his homosexuality. He chose hormone treatments. This didn’t “cure” his homosexuality, instead it resulted in his suffering of emotional and physical scars during the ordeal, eventually culminating to his death at the young age of 41. It wasn’t until 2009 that Britain issued an official apology to Turing.

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Gordon Brown “He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war,” said Brown. “The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely. … Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted, under homophobic laws, were treated terribly.”

http://www.findingdulcinea.com/news/on-this-day/March-April-08/On-this-Day–British-WWII-Code-Breaker-Goes-on-Trial-for-Homosexuality.html

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Alan Turing is now regarded as a father of Cryptography, Artificial Intelligence and the modern computer. In 2014, Benedict Cumberbatch starred as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, which became the highest grossing independent film in the year. It was nominated in eight categories in the 87th Academy Awards and won the People’s Choice Award at the 39th Toronto International Film Festival. This film was also honored for bringing Turing’s legacy to the public. Alan Turing was also honored at the 2015 London Pride march as a Pride Hero for his contributions. His family represented him in the march. This also happened to coincide with a landmark USA Supreme Court ruling that gay marriage would be recognized under the US Constitution, making all marriages legal across America

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Why China is a parallel universe

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Visiting Shanghai this time felt like stepping into a parallel universe where things were similar but different. In a world where Apple, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Google or Youtube doesn’t exist, people connect through HuaWei, Weibo, WeChat, Baidu and Youku. In the West, where English is the predominant language of the Internet, the predominant language of the internet is Chinese (obviously). In both cases, there is a proliferation of cute cat videos. It is a world where Kim Kardashian doesn’t seem to exist whilst Hugh Jackman continues to be as popular there as he is everywhere (yay!).

Disconnection in a connected society

Even though I consider myself a fairly connected and active user of social media, I was almost invisible in China. My current follower base may be humble, but it is big enough for me to feel that I have a voice and am connected. In China, where people were sharing news and photos on their social networks, I was left feeling rather isolated. With one default Weibo follower (Expecting another one soon – I am waiting for a follow back from my cousin) and a handful of friends on WeChat, I am pretty much invisible in the Chinese online community. I also have limited things to share, as the content I consume is blocked in China.

A selfie of a selfie

You know in the past when it was considered polite to walk around someone taking a photo or wait for them to finish? Not possible. If I had to wait for someone to finish taking a selfie, I would never get anywhere! There were people even taking selfies of selfies. The dedication to the selfie has also resulted in the selfie stick, now sold everywhere in Shanghai. These selfie sticks are also like nothing I have ever seen. Multi-tiered and adjustable, these are the full works.

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Another favourite memory is also one of a rainy visit to Yu Yuan market. The rain was so bad that whole crowds had gathered under covered roofs to wait for the downpour to stop before crossing over to the next covered roof. That didn’t stop the dedicated selfie takers from walking into the middle of the downpour to pose for their perfect selfie though!

Solar panels, electric cars? Old news

I was walking around the neighbourhood of ZhongShan, a wonderful part of Shanghai that is characterised by the famous ZhongShan Park which is filled with the old and the young keeping active with dance and Tai Chi. I walked past three electric cars. One was being charged, another drove past me and the third one was parked. On a separate day, I was walking in People’s Square when I also came across Solar Panels fitted on the roofs of random convenience shops. The realisation that China is using solar to power an ice-cream fridge, whilst we (in Australia) focus our efforts on trying to sell coal, is just a little bit scary. Candlesticks anybody?

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QR Codes everywhere

Want to add a friend, search for a link or get information on anything? All you need is a mobile phone and a QR code. Every advertisement seems to have one that allows users to access the URL without having to type it in. It can also be used for website log in, payments, virtual stores (remember those?) and adding friends on WeChat. Whilst QR codes never really seemed take off in Australia, it has in China – big time.

Is cloud ever secure enough?

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The simplest way to define cloud is to describe it as a shared service. Instead of individuals and businesses setting up their own software/platforms or infrastructure to manage their data, they can outsource this to a cloud provider. Cloud is seen as a cost effective and environmentally friendly solution. There are now many providers offering different cloud solutions including SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service). But is cloud secure enough?

This is a big question to tackle and there is no right or wrong answer that can be applied en masse. Instead, deciding on whether adopting cloud will fulfil your business/individual requirements will need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. To make this assessment, here are some of the key questions that may be considered.

1. How good is my local storage?

How good are you currently at protecting the availability, confidentiality, integrity and authenticity of your data?
If your data is stored on a hard-drive on a networked computer then chances are, you may not be applying best practice. However, if your data is stored encrypted & backed up on two or more file-servers, with good physical/logical access control and logging, then there may not be much to improve on than what you already do. These are two extremes and most likely, you will be sitting somewhere in between.

2. How much am I willing to invest?
To avoid spending too much on protecting data that is not really critical or too little where data needs be secured, you should assess the availability, confidentiality, authentication and integrity of your data against current local storage protections to see how it stacks up. This should help you identify whether you have been investing adequately in protecting your data or if it needs to be adjusted. Then, you will be able to determine whether going to a cloud provider will be a cost effective and secure solution for you.

3. How important is availability?
Despite whatever assurances cloud providers give about providing a highly-available solution, end-users will still need an active internet connection to access the data, which is not always guaranteed. This also makes it harder and more time consuming to detect connection problems should they arise. Additionally, there is also the added problem of network latency which can result in additional delay/drop-outs when connecting to the cloud provider. This will only get worse over the next few years with ever more connections choking up bandwidth and causing congestion/more drop-outs.

4. How important is confidentiality and trust?
Cloud offers new challenges for data confidentiality as the data needs to travel over the internet, is stored remotely and is administrated by somebody else. Even with cloud providers providing assurances that they apply best practices to secure your data at rest and in transit, there is still the danger that even given best intentions, their security controls may not be up to the mark. E.g. Adobe’s security breach leading to stolen logins and IDs. . Additionally, transport layer encryption may not always be that secure. I have described in previous blog posts, the security defects affecting SSL and weak TLS encryption.
The best way to guarantee confidentiality is to encrypt the data before sending it to the cloud and to keep the keys yourself!

What do you think of these questions and should there be more? Please add to the discussion below.