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Simulation technology to predict refugee crisis

  

refugees are welcome

A new computer simulation of refugees' journeys when they flee major conflicts can correctly predict more than 75% of their destinations, and may become a vital tool for governments and NGOs to contribute to allocate humanitarian resources more effectively and at strategic points.

Researchers at Brunel University London - Diana Suleimenova, Dr David Bell and Dr Derek Groen - from the Department of Computer Science, used publicly available refugee, conflict and geospatial data to construct simulations of refugee movements and their potential destinations for African countries.
The data-driven simulation tool was able to predict at least 75 percent of refugee destinations correctly after the first 12 days for three different recent African conflicts. It also proved to be more accurate than established forecasting techniques (‘naïve predictions') to forecast where, when and how many refugees are likely to arrive, and which camps are likely to become full and need a higher number of resources and assistance. These results were published in Scientific Reports.
The research team created their simulations for Burundian crisis in 2015, which took place after Pierre Nkurunziza attempted to become president for a third term; the Central African Republic (CAR) crisis in 2013, triggered when the Muslim Seleka group overthrew the central government; and the Mali civil war in 2012, which was caused by insurgent groups campaigning for independence of the Azawad region.
The team relied on open data resources to both enable these simulations and validate their accuracy. These sources included refugee registration data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), conflict data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project and geographic information from Microsoft Bing Maps.
While not all refugee movements are accurately predicted in these simulations, their approach emulated the key refugee destinations in each of the three conflicts, thus it can be re-applied to simulate other conflict situations reported on by the UNHCR.
For instance, in Burundi, the simulation correctly predicted the largest inflows in Nyarugusu, Mahama and Nakivale throughout the conflict's early stages. Meanwhile, the simulation correctly reproduced the growth pattern in East camp of Cameroon, as well as the stagnation of refugee influx into Chad's camps. In Mali, the simulation accurately predicted trends in the data for both Mbera and Abala, which put together account for around three-quarters of the refugee population.
The researchers used a new-agent based modelling programme named Free, which was revealed to the public with the publication of their paper. Although agent-based modelling has been used more widely to study population movements, and has become a prominent method to explain migration patters, this is the first time it has been used to predict the destinations of refugees fleeing conflicts in the African continent.
Suleimenova, Bell and Groen explain in Scientific Reports that their simulation is not directly tailored to these conflicts, but a ‘generalised simulation development approach' which can forecast the distribution of refugee arrivals across camps, given a particular conflict scenario and a total number of expected refugees.
This simulation development approach allow organisations to quickly develop simulations when a conflict occurs, and enables them to investigate the effect of border closures between countries and forced redirection of refugees across camps. It also serves of assistance to define procedures for collecting data and validating simulation results, aspects which are usually not covered when presenting a simulation model on its own.
According to the authors, “Accurate predictions can help save refugees' lives, as they help governments and NGOs to correctly allocate humanitarian resources to refugee camps, before the (often malnourished or injured) refugees themselves have arrived. To our knowledge, we are the first to attempt such predictions across multiple major conflicts using a single simulation approach."
The authors also urge greater investment in the collection of data during conflicts and they explain what this is important and what it's hard to get. "Empirical data collection during these conflicts is very challenging, in part due to the nature of the environment and in part due to the severe and structural funding shortages of UNHCR emergency response missions. Both CAR and Burundi are among the most underfunded UNHCR refugee response operations, with funding shortages of respectively 76 and 62%".
With record levels of 22.5 million refugees on a global scale, "more funding for these operations is bound to save human lives, and will have the side benefit of providing more empirical data – enabling the validation of more detailed prediction models."
The research group aims at collaborating with humanitarian organisations, adapting their technology to help specific humanitarian efforts, and to further reduce the time of development by automating the creation of these simulations.
'A generalized simulation development approach for predicting refugee movements' by Diana Suleimenova, David Bell and Derek Groen (Department of Computer Science, Brunel University London) is published in Scientific Reports.

 

Google’s DeepMind: Advance in AI

  

DeepMind

Acquired by Google in 2014, DeepMind is a British artificial intelligence company founded in September 2010. The company has created a neural network that learns how to play video games in a fashion similar to that of humans, as well as a Neural turing machine, a network that may be able to access an external memory like a conventional turing machine, resulting in a computer that imitates the short-term memory of the human brain.

The company became famous in 2016 after its AlphaGo program beat a human professional Go player for the first time, and made headlines again after beating Lee Sedol, the world champion in a five game tournament.
Google's DeepMind has made another big advance in artificial intelligence by getting a machine to master the Chinese game of Go without help from human players. Although AlphaGo started by learning from thousands of games played by humans, the new AlphaGo Zero began with a blank Go board and no data bar the rules. After learning the rules, AlphaGo Zero played itself. Within 72 hours it was good enough to beat the original program by 100 games to zero.
DeepMind's chief executive, Demis Hassabis, said the system could now have more general applications in scientific research. “We're quite excited because we think this is now good enough to make some real progress on some real problems even though we're obviously a long way from full AI,” he said.
The software defeated leading South Korean Go player Lee Se-don by four games to one last year in a game where there are more possible legal board positions than there are atoms in the universe. AlphaGo also defeated world's number one Go player, China's Ke Jie.
Go is an abstract strategy board game for two players, in which the goal is to surround more territory than the opponent. The game was invented in China over 2,500 years ago, and thus, it's believed to be the oldest board game that is still played today. The rules are simpler than those of chess and the player usually has a choice of 200 moves throughout the game, compared with about 20 in chess. Top human players usually rely on instinct to win.
The achievements of AlphaGo required the combination of vast amounts of data - records of thousands of games - and a vast computer-processing power.
David Silver, lead researched on AlphaGo, said the team took a different approach with AlphaGo Zero. "The new version starts from a neural network that knows nothing at all about the game of Go," he explained. "The only knowledge it has is the rules of the game. Apart from that, it figures everything out just by playing games against itself."
While AlphaGo took months to get to the point where it could take on a professional, AlphaGo Zero got there in just three days, and only using a fraction of the processing power.
"It shows it's the novel algorithms that count, not the computer power or the data," says Mr Silver.
He highlighted an idea that some may find scary: in just a few days a machine has surpassed the knowledge of this game acquired by humanity over thousands of years.
"We've actually removed the constraints of human knowledge and it's able, therefore, to create knowledge itself from first principles, from a blank slate," he said.
While AlphaGo learned from and improved upon human strategies, AlphaGo Zero devised techniques which the professional player who advised DeepMind admitted had never seen before. It is able to do this by using a novel form of reinforcement learning, in which AlphaGo Zero becomes its own teacher. The system starts off with a neural network that knows nothing about the game of Go. It then plays games against itself, by combining this neural network with a powerful search algorithm. As it plays, the neural network is tuned and updated to predict moves, as well as the eventual winner of the games.
This updated neural network is then recombined with the search algorithm to create a new, stronger version of AlphaGo Zero, and the process begins again. In each iteration, the performance of the system improves by a small amount, and the quality of the self-play games increases, leading to more and more accurate neural networks and ever stronger versions of AlphaGo Zero.
This technique is more powerful than previous versions of AlphaGo because it is no longer constrained by the limits of human knowledge. Instead, it is able to learn tabula rasa from the strongest player in the world: AlphaGo itself.
Many of the research team have now moved on to new projects where they want to apply the same software to new areas. Demis Hassabis stated that some areas of interest include drug design and the discovery of new materials.
Some might see AI as a threat, but Hassabis looks into the future with optimism. “I hope these kind of algorithms will be routinely working with us as scientific experts medical experts on advancing the frontiers of science and medicine - that's what I hope," he says.
Nonetheless, he and his colleagues are aware of the dangers of applying AI techniques to the real world at a fast pace. A game with clear rules and no element of luck is one thing, but the random real world is another.

China pioneers next revolution in mobile tech

  

mobile 5g

The fifth generation of mobile connection is just around the corner. Just like it happened with 4G, 5G will eventually become the leading mobile technology. The only difference is that this time it's not the U.S. or Japan, but China that is pioneering the cutting edge of mobile technology.

According to a report published by CSS Insights, 1 billion people will be using 5G connections by 2023. The mobile industry analysts forecasts that China will account for half of all 5G users by 2022. The report predicts that China will maintain a sizeable hold until 2025, accounting for 40 percent of global 5G connections that year. This adoption is expected to take place faster than 4G, but several factors might hinder its progress.
“China will dominate 5G thanks to its political ambition to lead technology development, the inexorable rise of local manufacturer Huawei, and the breakneck speed at which consumers have upgraded to 4G connections in the recent past,” Marina Koytcheva, VP Forecasting at CCS Insight, told CNBC.
According to the report, China will take the lead in 5G users, while Japan, the U.S. or South Korea will launch the first commercial 5G network. Meanwhile, Europe is expected to trail behind by at least a year.
Although 1 billion people are expected to use5G by 2023, the report doesn't foresee the new mobile generation having a dramatic presence in the Internet of Things (IoT). There are no clear expectations on how it will affect autonomous cars, and CSS states that such “mission critical” services will “have to wait even longer to come to the fore.”
CSS cautions there are still some uncertainties pertaining how and where network operators will deploy vast numbers of new base stations, the lack of clear business case for operators, and consumers' willingness to upgrade their smartphones. It all depends on users buying new devices that take advantage of 5G. Otherwise there's no point in continuing investing in it. Meanwhile, Europe is expected to face its own challenges, stemming from market fragmentation, the availability of spectrum, and the influence of regulators.
According to the forecast, mobile broadband access on smartphone will be the principal area of 5G adoption, representing a colossal 99 percent of total 5G connections by 2025.
Kester Mann, Principal Analyst, Operators at CSS Insight said: “The unrelenting hype that has surrounded 5G for several years has seen a diverse range of applications put forward as the main drivers of adoption. Some of them will be relevant at different times of the technology's development, but the never-ending need for speed and people's apparently limitless demand for video consumption will dominate 5G networks.”
However, CSS Insight sees fixed wireless access as 5G's first commercial application. The report forecasts that the US will be an early adopter, boosted by leading advocates like AT&T and Verizon. However, the long-term opportunity will remain small and the report expects it to represent only a small fraction of total connections.
Although the industry is apparently obsessed with everything being connected in the future, 5G will account for a relatively low number of connections in the Internet of Things (IoT) during the forecast period. 4G will fill the gap and will continue to satisfy demand until narrowband technology is fully supported within the 5G standard. Network operators have only just begun investing in LTW technologies such as NB-IoT and Cat-M to support devices that have life spans of several years. According the report, significant numbers of 5G connections in this area are unlikely before the second half of the 2020s.
Other services, the so-called “mission critical” services, such as autonomous driving - regularly touted as a “killer” application in 5G - will have to wait even longer to come to the fore.
Geoff Blaber, VP Research, America at CCS Insight comments: “5G is about creating a network that can scale up and adapt to radically new applications. For operators, network capacity is the near-term justification; the Internet of Things (IoT) and mission-critical services may not see exponential growth in the next few years but they remain a central part of the vision for 5G. Operators will have to carefully balance the period between investment and generating revenue from new services.”

 

Remarkable Technology Quotes

  

bionic arm

Technology has revolutionised the way we live and interact with one another, and as such it has inspired people to describe it in a very clever or emotive way. While some believe that technology has decreased our humanity, others view it as a way to bring the world closer together. For good or for evil, here are some of the best quotes by people who have reflected on the impact technology has had on our lives.

“Technology is anything that wasn't around you when you were born.” - Alan Kay (Computer Scientist)
“All of the biggest technological inventions created by man - the airplane, the automobile, the computer - says little about his intelligence, but speaks volumes about his laziness”. - Mark Kennedy (Author)
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic”. - Arthur C. Clarke (Author)
“Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless”. - Thomas Edison (Inventor)
“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”. “The human spirit must prevail over technology.” - Albert Einstein (Scientist)
“One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man”. - Elbert Hubbard (Author)
“Technology is a word that describes something that doesn't work yet”. -Douglas Adams (Author)
“Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons”. - R. Buckminster Fuller (Inventor and Author)
“I think that novels that leave out technology misrepresent life as badly as Victorians misrepresented life by leaving out sex”. - Kurt Vonnegut (Author)
“You cannot endow even the best machine with initiative; the jolliest steamroller will not plant flowers”. - Walter Lippmann (Author)
“The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers.” - Sydney Harris (Journalist)
“If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.” - Omar Bradley (General, US Army)
“The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.” - John Lasseter (Director)
“Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response.” - Arthur Schlesinger (Historian)
“This is the whole point of technology. It creates an appetite for immortality on the one hand. It threatens universal extinction on the other. Technology is lust removed from nature.” - Don DeLillo (Author)
“This is why I loved technology: if you used it right, it could give you power and privacy.” - Cory Doctorow (Journalist)
“The most technologically efficient machine that man has ever invented is the book.” - Northrop Frye
“It's supposed to be automatic, but actually you have to push this button.” - John Brunner (author)
“Books may look like nothing more than words on a page, but they are actually an infinitely complex imaginotransference technology that translates odd, inky squiggles into pictures inside your head.” - Jasper Fforde (novelist)
“Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.” - Aldous Huxley
“Technology... the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it.” - Max Frisch
“Technology frightens me to death. It's designed by engineers to impress other engineers. And they always come with instruction booklets that are written by engineers for other engineers - which is why almost no technology every works.” - John Cleese
“The great myth of our times is that technology is communication.” - Libby Larsen
“Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.” - Pablo Picasso
“TV and the Internet are good because they keep stupid people from spending too much time out in public.” - Douglas Coupland (Canadian novelist and artist)

 

The downside of technology

  

brain workshop

Although technology has allowed us to find any place on the planet by using Google Maps or manage our finances from out smart phone, there's also a downside to technology.

Although having a GPS might be very practical to find a destination while navigating unfamiliar routes, constantly looking down at a GPS app while driving might lead cause an accident as it distracts the driver from watching the road.
According to a study published in 2012 in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, the human brain has a limited capacity in processing information at one time. Therefore, a GPS app might distract the driver from focusing on the road as they try to recall the on-screen directions, increasing the risk of accidents.
Hearing someone next to you talking on a phone might be distract you from what you are doing. According to a study by the University of San Diego, in this situation the brain tries to fill in the blanks in a halfalog - one half of a conversation. When this happens, people find it hard to concentrate on their present activity.
Although kindles have made available almost any you book you can think of anywhere and anytime, according to a study published on Research Gate, people who read a short story printed on paper are more likely to remember more details compared to those who read it on a Kindle.
The study's lead researcher from the University of Stavager in Norway, Anne Mangen, said that those reading on paper also have a tactile sense of progress as they touch and manipulate the pages. The experience is not the same with a kindle, as you flip through digital pages with the swipe of a finger.
“[The differences for Kindle readers] might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story, is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you're reading,” said Mangen.
Although autocorrect might be very convenient at times as it fixes typos and it corrects mistakes, it might worsen your grammar and proofreading skills. Apparently, the brain is able to understand words as long as the first and last letters are correct. Nonetheless, once the brain grows familiar with typos and grammar mistakes, people may stop seeing the difference between what's correct and what's wrong. This phenomenon might lead to failure in noticing their own mistakes while proofreading.
Detractors, including industry leaders, scientists and scholars, argue that the abuse of technology in our daily lives may hinder contemplative thought, conversation, patience and a sense of play previous generations enjoyed.
Endless hours under the influence of hyper-connectivity might hinder human attention and depth of discourse. Meanwhile, shorter attention spans and a need for instant gratification can make it harder to concentrate on and solve complex problems. Always being online can affect genuine human interaction among friends and family.
Multitasking and spending just 140 characters or less on a topic has led to a distracted generation without direction or the ability engage in deeper thinking.
According to Mashable, technology has also altered our sleeping habits. Technophiles are used to falling asleep with their laptops nearby after watching an episode on Netflix on catching with friends on social media. Other read an episode of a book on their Kindle. Those habits might be keeping us from getting enough sleep. Some neuroscientists argue that the light emitted by electronic devices' screens might mess with your body's internal light cues and sleep-inducing hormones.
Although technology may have negative effects on our brain, it makes it easier for artists and non-artists alike to engage with creative media. According to author Clay Shirkey, social media prompts users to engage with texts, images and videos in a way that simply watching television doesn't. As social media encourages users to share images and words with a community, they feel more inclined to create and share something of their own, which includes but is not limited to a Flickr album, a book review, a contribution to Wikipedia or a DIY project.
"We do things because they're interesting, because they're engaging, because they're the right things to do, because they contribute to the world," said Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, in a conversation with Wired and Shirkey.
"Once we stop thinking of all that time as individual minutes to be whiled away and start thinking of it as a social asset than can be harnessed, it all looks very different," said Shirkey. "The buildup of free time among the world's educated population — maybe a trillion hours per year — is a new resource."

 

Technology revolutionises the Church

  

 

church tech

If you enter a Mormon Church, you'll come across a group of missionaries holding an iPad and although you might blame it on Millennials, the truth is that missionaries use those iPads for religious purposes. They use those iPads with contact one another, to keep the Book of Mormon and other religious books handy, and to organise their lives around the Church. Technology hasn't just impacted the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) but most Churches.

Whether it enhances the worship experience as projectors empower the words on screen or allow religious communities to stay in touch in their everyday lives, technology has proven to be a great addition to the church. Technology serves as a tool to empower the religious message and to allow to reach more people on a global scale. Social networks has also helped to advertise church programmes and seeking assistance for outreach programmes.
Technology has also impacted the church's ministry. Pastor Joan Gumbs of How Ya Livin' Now share with Family and Religion that one of the negative effects of technology on anyone including Christians is the addiction element.
“Times have changed, and one can find oneself being addicted to the Internet. It is amazing to see during a service, church members checking out their Facebook profile. And if that wasn't bad enough, they an also be found tweeting about the service on the Twitter platform,” she shared.
According to Gumbs, this addiction to technology can lead to alienation of some church members from others.
"Whereas there has always been cliques in the church, it was never as bad as it has become since the advent of technology in the church. If you don't have an iPhone or iPad you are not a part of the 'in' crowd," she said adding that this kind of materialistic behaviour should never be a part of Christendom.
While technology has helped the church attract non-believers to their religion, it has also led to many believers falling into the trap of being distracted from God. As people's fascination with technology grows, their beliefs start to be replaced by Internet and new electronic devices.
In this day and age, even believers are so consumer by social media that they forget to pray at night or would say a quick prayer before falling asleep.
According to Gumbs, many Christians spend more time sharing Whatsapp chain messages than spreading the word of God. The fascination with social media is such that it even steals time from community outreach.
“Some church members have abandoned actual visitation of members or those in the communities and instead replace it with 'Whatsapp groups' and 'socialising' on their phones," said Gumbs.
It's common now to see parents enjoying the message while the child sits beside them engrossed in their tablets. Although it might seem like a negative occurrence, Gumbs begs to differ.
“While it may seem counter-productive giving children tables to quiet them down in church, the reality is, tablets can be effective tools. For instance, a tablet, which is a mini computer, can have Christian programmes designed for children that can keep them engaged during service, so as not to disrupt the service," she shared.
Meanwhile, social media can also hurt the church as members of the community might tweet or post on Facebook something they dislike about the church and that might go viral, hurting the assembly.
"They can also use the video camera feature on the phone to video anyone in the congregation or on the podium for the same reason," she said.
"Technology of the 21st Century allows man to call his neighbour in Timbuktu on a device in which they can see each other even though they may be thousands of miles apart. Technology allows churches to better communicate with their members, especially those living afar," she said, adding that nothing is wrong with technology. "It has always existed and will continue to do so, with or without those of us who oppose it."

 

Facial recognition technology

  

Facial Recognition

In 2018 we realise that Facebook is now doing facial recognition even on photos you're untagged in.

The myth of the surveillance society is nothing more than a myth. Just because there are security cameras in every street corner, it doesn't mean that it's infallible or that CCTV is delivering a safer society. When it comes to real-life situations, camera-based visual surveillance is not really accurate nor practical because you ultimately you need a human to watch the footage as they cannot rely on technology alone. For instance, during the 2011 London riots, facial recognition software contributed to just one arrest out of the 4,962 that took place. That is why visual surveillance still relies on people watching hours of footage - which is time consuming and unsustainable.

Software advances made in DNA sequence analysis could be a game changer in the field of video analysis software. These software tools and techniques, which treat video as a scene that evolves in the same way DNA does, could revolutionise automated visual surveillance.
While CCTV cameras create endless and complex video footage to analyse, automate video surveillance remains limited to tasks in relatively controlled environments. Although it is easy to detect a trespasser into somebody's property can be complete quite accurately, analysing footage of groups of people or identifying someone in particular in a public space is not as accurate since outdoor scenes vary and change so much.
The way to improve automated video analysis is by devising a software that can deal with this variability rather than treating as an inconvenience. One area that deals with large amounts of very variable data is genomics. The three billion DNA characters of the first human genome (the entire set of genetic data in a human) were sequenced in 2001, and since then, the production of this kind of genomic data has increased at an exponential rate. Given the amount of this data and the degree to which it can vary has led to vast amounts of money and resources being deployed to develop specialised software and computing facilities to handle it.
Thanks to this software, today it's possible for scientists to relatively easily access genome analysis services to study all sorts of things, including how to combat diseases and design personalised medical services, and even uncovering the mysteries of human history.
By investigating the mutations that have taken place over time, genomic analysis studies the evolution of genes. This can be compared to what visual surveillance is up against, which is the challenge of interpreting the evolution of a scene over time to spot and track moving pedestrians.
If we apply the same principles that are used in genomics to video surveillance, treating the images that make up a video as mutations, that we can solve the system's biggest challenge.
This practice is called “vide-omics” and it has already demonstrated its potential. For instance, one research group led by Jean-Christophe Nebel, associate professor in Pattern Recognition, Kingston University, has, for the first time, show that videos could be analysed even when captured by a freely moving camera. “By identifying camera motions as mutations, they can be compensated so that a scene appears as if filmed by a fixed camera,” Nebel explained.
At the same time, researchers at the University of Verona have demonstrated that image processing tasks can be encoded such a way that standard genomics tools could be exploited. “This is particularly important since such an approach reduces significantly the cost and time of software development,” Nebel said.
“Combining this with our strategy could eventually deliver the visual surveillance revolution that was promised many years ago,” he added. “If the ‘vide-omics‘ principle were to be adopted, the coming decade could deliver much smarter cameras. In which case, we had better get used to being spotted on video far more often.”

 

Asian markets

  

Asia has a longstanding history of lucrative trade routes. In the 21st century, much of the cross-frontier commerce relies on organizations utilizing the power of the internet. But its worth considering how many of Asia's key trade associations were first established, many centuries ago. A lot of these relationships persist to this day.Asian markets old silk road
Innovation and good business ideas travel a great distance – and one of the fundamental drivers of this is travel. There is nothing new in this as a concept – in Asia, the routes that were most responsible for the dissemination of innovative ideas were the so-called silk roads.
The beginning of the Silk Road trade network that extended to the Roman Empire. The main route of the Silk Road traveled through China into Central Asia, Korea, India, Pakistan, Tibet, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Persia, Iraq, Turkey, Greece and the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Together with merchant caravans Buddhist monks went from India to Central Asia and China, preaching their religion. While many different kinds of merchandise traveled along the Silk Road, the name comes from the popularity of Chinese silk with the west, especially with Rome. 1271-1295. Marco Polo. The most famous of the Silk Road travelers, who, by his own account, worked for Qubilai Khan traveled the Silk Road.
Think of one of humankind's most important inventions – of all time. That would be paper. This was first created in China, during the Han dynasty, coinciding with trade becoming increasingly prevalent along the silk road. Paper was considered so revolutionary at the time, because prior to its appearance amongst the caravans plodding along the vast cross-Asian highways, written communication relied on narrow wooden strips, or cumbersome rolls of silk. But thanks to the demand for this new substance that could be satisfied with the convenience of the silk roads, the idea quickly took hold in other parts of Easy Asia.
It took longer for paper to establish itself as the writing platform of choice in the northwest of China. Apart from proving ever more popular in Buddhist temples, the surrounding towns and villages were more content to hang on to the archaic papyrus and parchment methods of writing. But with the ebb and flow of civilizations in that part of the world, the influence of the all-conquering Mongols ensured that papyrus was superseded throughout China. As the world grew increasingly open over the centuries, Chinese ingenuity began arriving in the Middle East, and then making its way to Western Europe.
Another invention that spread across the world in a westwards direction was the use of water wheels for irrigation. Attributed to ancient engineers in the Roman province of Syria, the use of pots attached to a vertical waterwheel, driven by river currents, became relied upon for lifting water from its source. The fact this could be done without the input of human or animal force made it very appealing to all manner of tradespeople.
As well as these innovations, the silk roads winding their way across the vast Asian steppes, across the Caucasian Mountains and eventually into Europe, brought with them a host of exotic foodstuffs. Oranges, grapes, spices and a tremendous range of produce began making its way across the huge distances between nations, with demand rising as products gained new audiences.
The camel caravans that once plied their trade along the silk road have long been superseded by quicker, more efficient mechanized transport. But the essential ingredients of the Asia trade sector remain unchanged. Different cultures can have their diverse demands for items satisfied. Except, with the benefit of today's technological advances, it is possible for a consumer in Europe to order services from someone in China, with a few clicks of a keyboard.

 

Cyber health checks

  

Given that malware and other forms of internet sabotage have the potential to cost e-Commerce companies a vast amount of money, a timely announcement has come from IT Governance. This cyber security service is launching a specific ‘cyber health check' aimed at providing a sense of reassurance for a cross-section of small to medium-sized organisations.IT Governance
This check, instigated back in 2014, will not be tailored to the size of the company under the spotlight. Instead the check will be available at a fixed-rate price. Consultancy will be offered on-site, as well as a full audit of respective computer infrastructures. Following-on from the exhaustive data checking, a report into the remote vulnerability assessment will enable managers to get an accurate snapshot of exactly how robust their organisation currently is.
A survey conducted by British Telecommunications last year demonstrated that companies in the United Kingdom were lagging some way behind their American counterparts in several crucial area of IT security. This discrepancy was most marked in respective levels of preparedness for countering threats. This attitude extrapolates to how robust any organisation is likely to be in combating the incredibly diverse range of online threats, whether that be non-malicious insider threats, or direct attacks by hackers. Perhaps the fact that the US continues to shrug off the paralysing effects of the September 11 attacks has implanted a more deep-rooted fear of malicious cyber activity.
The Founder and Executive Chairman of IT Governance, Alan Calder, stated: ‘With the proliferation of cyber attacks, the UK organizations' ability to assess the cyber risks and put relevant controls in place will be increasingly tested. Those who take the right measures, and on time, will be able to withstand an attack and those, who don't, will fail. Identifying the gaps between your targeted risk mitigation position and your current situation is a critical step for developing a business-led cyber security strategy that will ensure your future business resilience'.
If organizations are in any way under-prepared for perceived cyber threats in the current environment, they would be advised to take the appropriate action. The future of the internet, with technology such as Cloud services emerging, means that the number of potential areas to be exploited by hackers is increasing rather than shrinking.
According to security spokespeople, migration to the web, coupled with increasingly sophisticated software, will create ever more vulnerability for e-Commerce. This, in turn, will draw cyber attackers like a magnet. What may well inspire management teams to shrug off their complacency are the results of these cyber health checks. It might come as a surprise to these organizations to find that they are not currently under attack – but their defenses were breached many months ago.
 
 
10 ways BT Virus Protect helps keep your computer safe

1. VirusScan

VirusScan runs in the background of your computer, continually monitoring in-real time for viruses, Trojans, tracking cookies, adware, spyware, unwanted programs and threats from email or instant messaging.

If it identifies a threat, it deals with it before it can do any damage, or lets you know if you need to take further action.

2. SiteAdvisor

Some websites include spyware, spam and online scams. SiteAdvisor checks for threatening websites and warns you before you interact with them.

3. Personal Firewall

Virus Protect has a built in-firewall which protects your network, acting as a virtual gateway for incoming traffic, letting in safe traffic and blocking incoming threats including hackers.

4. Parental controls

Protect your children from online dangers with Virus Protect's Parental Controls. Turn on age-appropriate searches, set web browsing limits and filter inappropriate websites. You can also chose to restrict access to specific websites and block access based on keywords.

5. Clean-up tools

Keep your home PC running at optimum performance with Virus Protect's health tools, including automated file, browser and browser history clean-up and disc defragmentation.

6. Spyware protection

Spyware is software that gets information from your computer without your knowledge and can make changes to your computer, slowing it down in the process. Virus Plus protects, detects and removes spyware and adware, as well as blocking tracking cookies.

7. Stealth mode

This mode allows you to use the internet anonymously, so your machine can't be seen by hackers.

8. Vulnerability Scanner

Companies like Microsoft, Google and Adobe continually releases software updates for their software often containing crucial security updates, so it's important to keep your machine up to date. Vulnerability Scanner installs the latest Windows updates, and those from other programs.

9. McAfee SystemGuards

McAfee SystemGuards monitor your computer for tell-tale signals of viruses, spyware and hacking activity.

10. McAfee Security Centre

Use this to review your computer's security status, check for updates and fix security issues.

 How to get Virus Protect:
1. Visit My BT and log in or sign up
2. Scroll down to My Extras, look for the BT Virus Protect panel and click Get Started.
3. Follow instructions to activate Virus Protect and begin the download.
4. Download and install it, look for the McAfee icon in your system tray, which means you are protected.

McAfee are one of many well-known security companies that produce apps for anti-virus/malware. We suggest it might be a good idea to have a few different security apps available from companies including Trend micro, Avast, Kaspersky.

 

Deep sea exploration news

  
When it comes to boldly going where no man has gone before, to paraphrase the somewhat sexist statement from television's Star Trek series, one thing is for sure. The deepest points in the ocean of our planet are far more mysterious and impenetrable than some of the locations in outer space. This is a fact – we know more about what the surface of the planet Mars looks like than we do what lies at the foot of the Pacific Ocean.Deep sea exploration news
Uncovering the foreboding undersea world has captivated the imagination of humankind for centuries. The difference is that technology has advanced to a stage that we can now send vessels to depths that were unimaginable until fairly recently. The deepest portion of the ocean is the Challenger Deep, lying at the base of the Mariana Trench. This is a mind-boggling 11 kilometers beneath the surface. In March 2012, the movie director James Cameron (perhaps most widely known for his blockbuster Titanic) entered a self-designed submersible, called the Deepsea Challenger. This was kitted out for exploration and research, allowing Cameron to take samples as well as thoroughly documenting his dive in high-resolution 3D film.
Cameron's CV might well be headed ‘movie director', but he is the veteran of 72 submersible operations to date. 51 of these were accomplished in the Russian craft Mir. The latter vessels were used for dives to 4,900 meters during his research for the Titanic. In his most recent exploration, to the uncharted depths of the Challenger Deep, his craft was a claustrophobic vessel made primarily of specialized glass foam. This material had to be robust enough to withstand the tremendous pressures at that depth. As Cameron slipped through the waters, he sampled material for scientific research, as well as making a feature-length documentary.
This was a particularly tricky assignment because sunlight does not penetrate to these depths, and the pressure exerted by the sheer weight of water is equivalent to a thousand times what is experienced above the surface. Nevertheless, the research vessel filmed previously unseen aquatic life-forms, as well as scooping up samples of rocks, minerals and animals. As well as being of vital importance to natural historians, the rock samples help geologists to understand the forces that cause earthquakes and tsunamis. The dive also provided answers to questions about the very origins of life on earth.
  
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