Big cities need to be smarter.

The cities we live in are about to be transformed. More than half of us live in urban areas. By 2050, the population of the world’s cities will increase by roughly seven billion – the size of today’s global population.

Take London. In February 2015, the population was about 8.6 million and, according to the mayor’s office, it will reach nine million before New York City does.

This growth means cities have to evolve to keep up with the inevitable overcrowding, climate change, traffic gridlocks and housing crises.

The solution: using digital technology to plan, operate and develop our urban sprawls. In 2016, countries ranging from South Korea to Saudi Arabia will experiment with “smartifying’’ their cities: some will be born digital, such as Songdo in South Korea, while others, including Amsterdam, will be updated road by road, with intelligent infrastructure.

Singapore is testing the most advanced inventions, from self-driving cars to city-wide flood sensors. In the UK, Crossrail will be a digital railway, and innovative local data projects such as Bath: Hacked are using open data to track areas of local deprivation, find a parking space or rent a bicycle in town, and report on air quality.

In China and India, almost 300 smart-city pilots are planned, and Arup predicts a global market for smart-city technologies and services worth $408bn by 2020. David Cameron recently announced a five-year, £10m partnership with the Indian government to develop three smart cities: Amravati, Indore and Pune.

Technology will not be the answer to everything, but it must be part of the answer

Currently, 80pc of the world’s megacities – those with a population of more than 10 million – are in the South: Asia, Africa and South America. These cities don’t necessarily have the infrastructure for high-powered sensors and complex control systems.

A lab led by Professor Gerhard Schmitt at ETH Zurich, Switzerland’s premier technical university, has projects running in 20 of these cities, including Addis Ababa, Lagos and Jakarta, working on projects such as digital energy grids.

As Ed Vaizey, the digital economy minister, told the Telegraph’s Britain’s Smart Cities conference in October, “If we, and our children, and their children, are to live well and prosperously, we have to get cities right. Technology will not be the answer to everything, but it must be part of the answer.”

This article was posted on http://www.telegraph.co.uk on 4th Jan 16, written by Madhumita Murgia – Telegraph head of technology. Amongst the many sharing possibilities provided by the newspaper, WordPress is unfortunately not listed.

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Who’s Investing in the Internet of Things (IoT)?

Many corporate investors and smart money VCs have placed significant bets on the Internet of Things industry, which is expected to see nearly $2B in funding through the end of 2015… Intel Capital tops the list as the most active investor in IoT startups, followed by Qualcomm Ventures. Both small-chip companies’ venture arms have been active investors in wearables startups and sensor companies… The third-most active investor was Foundry Group, the Boulder, Colorado-based early-stage venture fund. Foundry Group has made multiple bets on IoT-related hardware investments: Fitbit, LittleBits, and MakerBot.

Source: Who’s Investing in the Internet of Things (IoT)?

Why are Wearables the Future for Businesses in 2016?

2015 saw wearables force their way to the forefront of the consumer market. The Apple Watch in particular has shown signs of being a success whilst other products such as Google Glass and Samsung Gear have greatly missed the mark. Despite the increasing demand for wearables, we have yet to see a mass adoption of these new gadgets. It’s becoming apparent that wearables are not yet ready for mass consumer acceptance. But is there a case for deploying wearable tech in business?

This new technology has the potential to save organisations both time and money. Like mobile devices, wearable tech can certainly boost productivity, increase efficiency and improve business processes. So as we look forward to 2016, is there the possibility that wearables will make a massive breakthrough in the enterprise?

Wearables have the ability to provide employees with real-time data access in addition to offering a new means of communication across the organisation.

Full article here: Why are Wearables the Future for Businesses in 2016?

JPMorgan hacked in spring, hackers charged in fall.

Last june in my post “Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Lloyds Bank hacked, where I am going to put my money?”  I briefly pointed huge cyber attack against some of the best know banks in the world. (see below).

Wel it looks like things have changes since then as a U.S. prosecutors on Tuesday 10 Nov unveiled criminal charges against three men accused of running a sprawling computer hacking and fraud scheme that included a huge attack against JPMorgan Chase & Co and generated hundreds of millions of dollars of illegal profit.
Let’s see what will be the outcome, always interesting to see how justice responds to the ever changing cyber security challenges.

Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Lloyds Bank hacked, where I am going to put my money?

Once again security concerns are in the news:  Hackers targeting users of Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Lloyds Bank and Santander have been spotted : they sent 19,000 malicious emails in three days from spam servers worldwide, inviting users to download an archive containing a malicious .exe file.

As of today enterprises and corporations increase dramatically their spendings to secure their network. At the same time, the threat surface available to cyberattackers is continuously expanding as enterprises increasingly rely on web, mobile and cloud applications to drive their businesses. It is a chicken and egg situation.

So it’s not surprising that web and cloud based application attacks remain one of the most frequent patterns in confirmed breaches and account for up to 35% of breaches in some industries, according to the 2015 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR).

According to Help Net Security, Executives at major North American companies believe conventional network security solutions aren’t enough to protect their cloud computing environments, especially when it comes to visibility into impending cyber attacks.  For 66% of them security concerns is a barrier impeding cloud infrastructure deployments ( CloudPassage Survey).

On another hand, what is also quite worrying is the fact that financial services organization say they have policies in place to proactively remediate most of their vulnerability… yet big names like Barclays, RBS, HSBC, Lloyds Bank and Santander are in the news…. Again.

Oh what a bright future for security and cyber security companies!

My voice is my password, or not…

Way back in September 2014 Yuval Ben-Itzhak, chief technology officer at the anti-virus company AVG, has carried out several experiments which revealed the new techniques hackers might use to gain control of voice-controlled devices. In an interview with Forbes magazine, he even made these comments about devices with voice recognition capability:

“Microphones should be disabled immediately and our current recommendation is that the user switch off features [involving voice commands]… At the moment, leaving biometric technology as it is today is like leaving a computer without a password and just allowing anyone to walk by, click and take an action.” Scaring, isn’t it?

He also added that a “thief outside the door” could take control of gadgets such as smart televisions or laptops from outside a target’s home, potentially burgling them without even smashing a window. Even more scaring.

Voice as a password.

Voice Biometrics is essentially a voice signature, allowing customers to “speak on the dotted line”.Voice Biometrics software identifies a person through their unique voiceprint. In the same way that everyone has a unique fingerprint or retina, voice biometrics technology is used to identify a person through their voice patterns. To put it simply, because of its unique nature, voice can serve as a password, facilitating authentication processes and decreasing the risk of fraud for both organisations and their customers.

Though it looks “simple” and wonderful it seems that there is a consensus in thinking that the vulnerability of technology which uses voice commands is likely to become an important issue in the coming years, as smartwatches and connected home devices grow in popularity and the technology becomes commonplace.

The latest reminder regarding the potential weaknesses of voice recognition technology was published yesterday by the International Business Time in a very informative and graphic article explaining that hackers could steal our voice to access our bank account:

The University of Alabama at Birmingham, US discovered they were able to penetrate automated and human voice verification systems by capturing speech and using a simple, off-the-shelf, voice-morphing tool. The study highlights how it could be used for access to bank accounts, identity theft or even to damage somebody’s reputation. It also uncovers how vulnerable we are to leaving our information around without us knowing. “People often leave traces of their voices in many different scenarios. They may talk out loud while socialising in restaurants, giving public presentations or making phone calls, or leave voice samples online,” said Nitesh Saxena, the director of the Security and Privacy In Emerging computing and networking Systems (SPIES) lab and associate professor of computer and information sciences at UAB.

In a previous post I worried because major banks such as Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Lloyd Bank and Santander had been attacked by hackers who sent 19,000 malicious emails in three days from spam servers worldwide, inviting users to download an archive containing a malicious .exe file. Now it seems that, with “voice theft” security is still a number one issue, bright future for security and cyber security companies!

Smart Cities Council | More people, more garbage: Report forecasts rapid growth in smart waste market

Cities around the globe are driving demand for innovative solutions to municipal solid waste. Fortunately, emerging smart technologies are on the way to enhance solid waste collection, generate renewable energy from it and optimize environmental performance of landfills. This very nice article is  complementary to my post on garbage collection issues in Barcelona. Have a good reading.

Source: Smart Cities Council | More people, more garbage: Report forecasts rapid growth in smart waste market

Welcome to the Internet of Things Security Foundation.

A consortium of leading tech firms including BT and Vodafone have joined forces to create the Internet of Things Security Foundation (IoTSF), designed to ensure the security of IoT devices and respond to rising cyber threats. You may have missed the news as it does not seem to be  super exiting; I can hear you say “yes one more time another industry body is being created, so what!”. However the important thing here, is that the foundation includes big names such as BT or Vodafone and that it is about the Internet of Things, one more proof that not only the IoT is here to stay, but that it is big and will get bigger and bigger.

The foundation, which has been set up as a non-profit body, also includes members such as Imagination Technologies, Royal Holloway University of London, Copper Horse Solutions, Secure Thingz, NMI and PenTest Partners as founding members, which make me think that it is mainly UK focused. Well I need to watch its coming activities to confirm or not. In the meantime, its mission and goals seem pretty clear:

The IoT Security Foundation has been established to respond to the many challenges and concerns over security:

  • It is a non-profit organization dedicated to driving security excellence.
  • It is a collaborative, vendor-neutral, international initiative which aspires to be the expert resource for sharing knowledge, best practice and advice.
  • It is an interactive resource led by an executive steering board.
  • It has an on-going program designed to propagate good security practice, increase adopter knowledge and raise user confidence.

So yes, they want to address security issues and concerns in the IoT space. Security is also one of the reasons why the Industrial Internet Consortium was created in 2014. Not surprisingly, amongst its goals we can find “build confidence around new and innovating approaches to security”.

Both associations seem to agree that as more and more devices will be connected (e.g. cars, home automation, NFC smartphone, etc…) this should multiply the number of potential entries for a network intrusion.

The IIConsortium focuses more on the Industrial space with the objective to accelerate the adoption of Internet-connected technologies across industries while the IoT Security Foundation seems to focus more on a consumer space, they both share the same interest, concerns about security and how to respond and tackle cyber threats. Their members are major actors in the IT industry, so why don’t they work together?