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Updated: 46 min 34 sec ago

School wearables to surge over next five years

Mon, 05/02/2016 - 6:00pm

Schools are going to see a surge in wearable tech over the next five years, according to a report published by Research and Markets, at an expected growth rate of 46 percent per year.

We’re already seeing experiments conducted by schools to see the advantages of wearable products. Google’s Cardboard VR has been tested in several schools; teachers used the Expeditions app to take the class on a tour to the Great Wall of China and New York City.

See Also: How virtual reality will democratize learning

“The creativity we have seen from teachers, and the engagement from students, has been incredible,” Google’s Ben Schrom, product manager for Expeditions, told The Guardian.

That’s the key word for schools: engagement. If virtual reality and other wearable tech can engage students better than text or video, we will definitely see more investment by schools to make lessons more creative for students, regardless of age.

Cheap wearable may be best wearable for school budgets

Google Cardboard VR is the perfect tool for experiments, since it’s cheap. It might be a few years before we see a move to real VR headsets, like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive VR, into classrooms.

Augmented reality is another potential classroom favorite. Microsoft has already shown Minecraft on HoloLens, which could easily be adapted into a classroom to engage students. Instead of a book describing the different parts of the volcano, imagine being able to look at it in 3D and change the viewing angle from inside to out with one swipe.

Another headset making the rounds in schools is Muse, a brain-sensing headband that shows you how the class reacted to a lesson. That sort of information could give teachers better understanding about what is working and what is not.

It might be a while before wearable tech becomes commonplace in schools, but some schools are already taking advantage of the cheap tech and demos from Microsoft, Google, and other wearable tech firms.

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Categories: Technology

Busy hands: will self-driving cars lead to more road sex?

Mon, 05/02/2016 - 3:58pm

The freeway of love may be about to get a lot more lovin’ thanks to self-driving cars’ ability to allow drivers to, ahem, multitask.

The Daily Mail reveals that a report by the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence is warning that self-driving cars will up the incidents of sexual congress in moving cars.

“I am predicting that, once computers are doing the driving, there will be a lot more sex in cars,” said Barrie Kirk of the Canadian research institute.

And while this may sound like a load of fun, he warns of dangers from increased vehicular-based arousal in his note to Canada’s Transport Minister Marc Garneau.

“[Sex is] one of several things people will do which will inhibit their ability to respond quickly when the computer says to the human, ‘Take over’,” says Kirk. “Drivers tend to overestimate the performance of automation and will naturally turn their focus away from the road when they turn on their auto-pilot.”

Naturally, perhaps being the operative word here.

The report, obtained by an Access to Information request, comes as Canada’s recent federal budget included funding for the transportation department to develop autonomous vehicle regulations. Currently, Canada’s road safety standards do not allow driverless vehicles.

More sex = good. Less attention = bad.

The briefing notes recommend that new regulations ensure that self-driving cars include a fail-safe mechanism that can take over should the driver be unavailable during an emergency, due to passionate embraces or some other distraction.

Canada’s interest in accommodating the new car technology comes amidst a global push to develop regulatory frameworks that can accommodate autonomous vehicles.

The Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets recently formed in the U.S. by such industry heavyweights as Google, Ford, Uber, Lyft and Volvo. The group’s mission is to “work with lawmakers, regulators and the public to realize the safety and societal benefits of self-driving vehicles.”

Meanwhile, China is developing a draft roadmap that will establish standards that will enable self-driving vehicles on highways in five years and on its city streets by 2025.

But until self-driving car regulations fully parse the threat of increased intercourse on the interstate, the best advice for those overcome by passion in an autonomous vehicle might be to simply keep your seat in the upright position.

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Categories: Technology

Rise in IoT pushes government agencies to rethink security

Mon, 05/02/2016 - 3:30pm

It used to be protecting your network meant keeping track of the desktop and laptop computers that access it. Then, smartphones came onto the scene, and now wearables and other IoT devices as well as the cloud computing are making it harder than ever to keep up.

IoT and the cloud have both become hot-button issues in the world of information technology as good security practices are no longer just a matter of securing a single system, but every third-party system that it has connected to it, as well.

“Government institutions are seeing digital transformation at an unprecedented scale, but those changes come at the price of ever-evolving security risks,” said Maria Horton, CEO of EmeSec and former CIO of the National Naval Medical Center.

This challenge becomes increasingly critical with a rise in inter-connected systems between agencies, where users are given access to databases and networks outside of their base network. Contractors, each with their own set of system requirements and security procedures, are often given access to controlled yet unclassified information (CUI) that requires compliance with government and agency standards.

“Government leaders need to outline new processes for authorizing digital identities for individuals or devices across different platforms so partner agencies can better understand access in the context of each user and technology,” said Horton.

Agencies will need to set new rules and guidelines

Doing this will take a lot of work on the part of the government to establish a new set of rules that incorporate this new generation of connected devices and cloud services. One way it is doing this is through the Einstein program and the Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Internet Connections Reference Architecture, but even this stringent set of guidelines fails to prevent possible third-party attacks which are more indirect, yet equally as damaging.

The answer to this growing problem may well be in how risks are prioritized and addressed.

“Agencies can’t take an all or nothing mentality. Compliance isn’t security, and security isn’t compliance. Rather than claiming one or the other, government cybersecurity leaders should use the NIST and FISMA guidelines, and then align specific security controls based on risks,” Horton said. “Many governance, risk and compliance tools focus on mitigating reported risks instead of tackling them in real time. In-the-trench risks will be what IT leaders see exclusively from now on.”

Comprehensive coordination between agencies and contractors is key to building a plan that takes these new technologies into account, protecting CUI and safeguarding networks from unwanted intrusion.

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Categories: Technology

World Bank getting ready for billions in smart city loans

Mon, 05/02/2016 - 1:00pm

With over $1.5 billion on the line, the Indian government urging the country’s top 20 smart cities to quickly apply for funding from such international bodies as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the BRICS Development Bank. This comes as India continues to prove one of the world’s biggest supporters of smart city initiatives as a driver of economic development.

According to Voice & Data, the Ministry of Urban Development is pushing the 20 cities that were chosen in a first round of competition to waste no time in firming up bankable smart city projects that could get loan assistance. This comes as global financial institutions earmark increasing amounts of money for smart city initiatives. ADB has agreed in principle to $1 billion in smart city project loans, while the World Bank has said India’s smart city mission could access up to $500 million.

Ministry Secretary Rajiv Gauba discussed the pursuit of funding in relation to smart city plans of eight cities: Udaipur, Jaipur, Ludhiana, Ahmedabad, Jabalpur, Surat, Pune and Bhubaneswar.

World Bank will be looking at cities’ credit

Specifically, he urged India’s smart cities to quickly work to establish credit ratings from agencies that were approved by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) in order to more easily access international funding. 85 cities had already initiated the move to establish credit ratings and he said that within a year all 500 cities under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) would get credit ratings.

Gauba stressed the importance of Indian cities enhancing their smart city initiatives by embracing resource mobilization through municipal bonds. During this discussion, it was revealed that the U.S. Treasury said it was willing to act as Transaction Advisor for a bond issue by Pune Municipality, which has a credit rating is ‘AA Stable’.

A smart city project that proved quite popular in Gauba’s discussions was the conversion of gas-powered three-wheeled rickshaw taxis into electricity-powered e-rickshaws. He said he had requested senior Ministry officials to prepare a policy paper on rickshaw conversion. The request for a policy framework comes after Ludhiana’s smart city plan to convert 30,000 vehicles into e-rickshaws, a which many other Indian cities were keen to emulate.

Also discussed at the smart city meeting were projects that could be launched by June of this year. They covered such areas as waste management and water supply, transportation, lighting, e-governance, public Wi-Fi and common payment cards.

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Categories: Technology

Widespread IoT adoption requires good user experience

Mon, 05/02/2016 - 11:30am

When it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT), the key to widespread adoption isn’t a mass of features, but on how much attention is paid to user experience.

Where corporate and industrial buyers may focus on a device’s spec sheet and feature set, consumers care more about how a product is designed and how easily that product integrates into their everyday lives.

Gartner Research released a report estimating that a typical family home could contain more than 500 smart devices as early as 2022. This bolsters another report by Xfinity and August that estimates 1 in 4 homes in the United States will contain smart home technology by 2017.

It’s clear that IoT technology is exploding right now with a surge of new research and development being done by leading manufacturers, crowdfunding projects, and unprecedented interest in autonomous vehicles.

Appealing to consumers takes more than great features

However, in order for every homeowner to want this technology in their home, it has to be sexy enough for them to. A device can be capable of telling your water heater to lower its temperature when you’re away from the house, but if doing so requires you to install a box the size of a football next to your thermostat, you might not want it in your home.

Good design is critical to customer adoption. In a recent article for the Harvard Business Review, Scott A. Nelson, the chief executive and CTO of Reuleaux Technology, and Paul Metaxatos, a co-founder and a principal at Motiv, shared their thoughts on the importance of design in creating the next generation of the Internet of Things.

“Effective product design and innovation are the result of an integrated, thoughtful process that focuses on making things that simplify, delight, or enrich the lives of people,” they said. “Developing mutual respect and creating an effective technology-design dynamic are essential if the connected device market intends to move beyond its current hype bubble over the next few years.”

The strength of IoT is in its ability to be invisible to the user. Low-powered wireless connections, long battery life, and small electronics are just a few of the critical pieces of the IoT puzzle that engineers have to solve.

Ideally, consumers want the products they use to improve their lives, not to create an eyesore or stress them out through poor user experience.

Solving the design puzzle

Apple is a prime example of a company that benefitted from going against the grain and focusing on solving a problem, then developing the technology around a design concept.


During an Apple event held in March 2011, Steve Jobs emphasized the importance of design in the development of technology, “It’s technology, married with liberal arts, married with the humanities that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing. And, nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices.”

Among Apple’s top design choices was simplicity. Consumers demand simplicity in the products they by. If a product too frustrating, there is a good chance the consumer will give up and walk away, never to become a return customer. Or worse, they will address their frustration in a public forum such as Twitter, preventing additional sales.

The individual leading the development team must also have clear understanding of the importance of design in the final product. The team should have a definite list of priorities and problems that the technology should solve for the customer, as well as constant testing to ensure that the solution doesn’t itself create new issues.

A product team’s designers should have access to and a general understanding of the technology. They can draw a circle, but with no clear sense of what should go inside the circle, the team will be at a disadvantage.

With good communication between these two vital parts of the product development team, and enough understanding to the priorities of the project, the product will become inherently more appealing to consumers and more likely to end up in their homes.

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Categories: Technology