WINNER of the No Boundaries Data Hack category in the 2016 GovHack Red Carpet Awards, Legends of Tomorrow, could open up new possibilities for predicting Australia’s regional futures.

Legends of Tomorrow, developed by the Shape the future team from Victoria, used a range of government population, environment and weather data to project the future of neighbourhoods, including population, cultural backgrounds, environment including vegetation and waterways,  and potential future climate conditions. 

The 2016 GovHack Red Carpet Awards were held in Adelaide on October 22. The event is backed by Geoscience Australia and entrants to use government data from multiple states and territories to unlock the value of data across borders..

The winner of the Geoscience Australia's Exploring Underground bounty prize was a 3D printed geophysical data model, created by Victoria's Petrified Data team. Using a series of 2D geoscience datasets from Geoscience Australia, the team created a series of hand-painted 3D printed models including a cool-looking 3D map of geothermal temperatures across the Australian continent.

Geoscience Australia judges also gave a mention to the On Earth, We are On Earth team’s Flood Watch entry which aimed to use datasets published by Geoscience Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology to develop a real-time flood warning app.

GovHack is a three day ‘hackathon’ that sees teams from across Australia and New Zealand compete to develop new applications using open government data. The volunteer-run event is sponsored by large technology companies, several government departments and a range of high-visibility start-ups and innovators.

As part of its contribution to the 2016 competition, Geoscience Australia offered key datasets and sponsored the Exploring Underground bounty prize. Together with PSMA Australia, Geoscience co-sponsored the Major GovHack prize for the best No Boundaries Data Hack. Both prizes were presented at the awards ceremony by the Assistant Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Craig Laundy.

Geoscience Australia encourages use of its data for real-world outcomes, and helping people to engage in, understand and use scientific information in their everyday lives. As the national geoscience agency, it holds a vast range of geoscientific and geographic data that supports the management of Australia's precious water resources, hazard modelling for safer communities, exploration for mineral and petroleum resources, as well as helping to manage Australia's maritime jurisdictions.

www.govhack.org

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TECHNOLOGICAL change is happening as such a pace that business leaders can rarely keep pace – yet they must do so in order to make vital decisions on company futures.

Global advisory firm PwC has prepared a report on the ‘megatrends’ of technological breakthroughs and identified eight essential aspects business leaders must get their head around.

For its report, Tech breakthroughs megatrend, PwC evaluated more than 150 technologies globally and developed a methodology for identifying those which were most pertinent to individual companies and whole industries. 

The result is a guide to the ‘Essential Eight’ technologies PwC advisors believe will be the most influential on businesses worldwide in the very near future: artificial intelligence,  augmented reality, blockchain, drones, the internet of things (IoT), robots, virtual reality and 3D printing.

The specific technologies that will have the biggest impact on each industry will vary, but PwC believes the list of eight comprises technologies with the most cross-industry and global impact over the coming years.

To arrive at the Essential Eight, PwC filtered technologies based on business impact and commercial viability over the next five to seven years – shortened to three-to-five years in developed economies.

The specific criteria included a technology’s relevance to companies and industries; global reach; technical viability, including the potential to become mainstream; market size and growth potential; and the pace of public and private investment.

“Most companies have laid a foundation for emerging technology, investing in areas such as social, mobile, analytics and cloud,” PwC’s global new business leader, Vicki Huff Eckert said.

“Now it’s time for executives to take a broader view of more advanced technologies that will have a greater impact on the business.”

NEXT BIG THING 

Ms Huff Eckert said companies continually waited for the “next big thing,” believing that a particular technology trend either would not amount to much, or that it would not affect their industries for years to come.

However, she said, disruption is happening today at a faster rate and higher volume than ever before.

“Innovations throughout history have tipped the balance in favour of the innovators. In that sense, technological breakthroughs are the original megatrend,” she said.

“The ubiquity of technology, with increased accessibility, reach, depth, and impact are what will expedite adoption of the Essential Eight.”

PwC believes the Essential Eight technologies will shake up companies’ business models in both beneficial and quite challenging ways. Across industries and regions, the emerging technology megatrend will influence strategy, customer engagement, operations and compliance.

As a result, the report outlines, leadership teams should find effective answers to three fundamental questions:

Do we have a sustainable innovation strategy and process?

Have we quantified the impact of new technologies? If not, how can we do that—and how soon?

Do we have an emerging-technologies road map? If so, are we keeping it up to date?

According to PwC’s report, executives should not treat the Essential Eight technologies as a sort of checklist to delegate to the chief information officer (CIO) or chief technology officer (CTO).

Rather, exploring and quantifying emerging technologies — and planning for them — should be a core part of a company’s corporate strategy, involving all levels.

Ms Ms Huff Eckert said before developing an innovation strategy and exploring and quantifying emerging technologies, executives “should educate – or re-familiarise – themselves with these technologies and what they can do”.

www.pwc.com/TechMegatrend

 

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THE Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation, Angus Taylor has launched a Digital Marketplace platform, which aims to make it easier for businesses to work with the Federal Government on technology projects.

Mr Taylor said the Digital Marketplace would provide "a richer and simpler environment for technology procurement and for businesses to provide specialist digital services to government".

"Government buyers can now publish briefs for requirements, suppliers can respond to those briefs and two-way collaboration can take place," Mr Taylor said. 

In March this year, the Digital Transformation Office ran an open tender process asking businesses to join a Digital Service Professionals panel. 
 
"As a result of this process, more than 220 digital service professionals can now be discovered on the Digital Marketplace," Mr Taylor said.
 
He said the Marketplace was simplifying what had been a bureaucratic process for businesses to access government technology work.
 
“This is an important change in the way government has traditionally done business. It’s a new platform for businesses and government to work together in a creative and flexible way.
 
"I congratulate the Digital Transformation Office on delivering the Beta product well ahead of schedule.”
 
Assistant Minister Taylor encouraged SMEs as well as start-ups to get on board.
 
Another feature of the Marketplace will be to allow government buyers to launch challenges to solve digital business problems and for suppliers to pitch creative ideas to solve these problems. This will allow government to create blue sky thinking opportunities, giving businesses the chance to develop innovative digital solutions for government.
 
The Digital Marketplace will also use analytics, allowing buyers and sellers to be rated on performance and the process and outcomes to be continually improved. It is an example of simpler, clearer and faster public services that will benefit businesses and the whole community, Mr Taylor said.
 
The Digital Transformation Office is developing the Digital Marketplace as part of the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda.
 
Businesses seeking further information on the Digital Marketplace can e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
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RECENT cases of computer hackers gaining access to, and exploiting, sensitive business systems by discovering ‘default’ passwords are a chilling development, according to Surety IT technology director Geoff Stewart.

“I’ve heard some horror stories about devices being hacked that had default passwords on them but none as bad as the one I heard last week,” Mr Stewart said. “It has always been best practice to change default passwords on all computing devices to secure them and make them less likely to be hacked.

“A colleague who works in the manufacturing industry made a bee-line for me at an event when he saw me to get my advice.  He told me that their phone system had been hacked and they were being billed for over $40,000 by their telco in call charges.” 

After hours on a Friday the hackers called every direct number in the business and tried the usual default password for a phone system extension ‘0000’ and tried to get access to the admin/set-up of that extension.  When they found an extension with a default password they diverted the phone to a foreign premium rate number, which belonged to them, and set-up an autodial to continuously call the number. On Monday morning, before hours, the hackers logged back in and removed the divert.

Employees came into work on the Monday and were totally oblivious to what had been going on over the weekend. 

“It was only when they got a call from their telco who said about the suspicious number of calls to the foreign number that they knew something had happened,” Mr Stewart said. “The telco asked did they want to block foreign call-outs and the business said ‘yes’. 

“There was no indication at this stage that the system had been hacked.  For whatever reason the hackers were able to still make foreign calls on the extension and the overall damage in phone charges was over $40k.”

Mr Stewart advised businesses to immediately change default username and passwords for all network connected devices.

“This is becoming more and more of a risk with the Internet of Things and also why doesn’t Telstra have something in place that will spot patterns of suspicious behavior and put a block on it temporarily until the owner can confirm that it is legitimate, a bit like banks and credit cards?” he asked.

“The business in question reported the incident to ACORN and the telecommunications ombudsman but as yet neither have been of much help, so they not sure what to do next.”

Mr Stewart said he heard the very next day of a very similar incident happening to another business, with the same outcome, “a bill of $5k from their telco from a hacked phone system”.

www.suretyit.com.au

Surety IT has developed a checklist for business leaders to protect phone networks and head off phone hackers:

  • Read your contract and know what you’ve signed up for.
  • Find out from you provider what kind of fraud protection it offers.  If it doesn’t offer any, it’s probably best to move on.
  • Make sure your PBX is sitting behind a firewall.
  • Make sure every user on the phone network uses a complex password, if possible.
  • Tell you provider to switch off international calls, if you don’t need them.
  • Consider placing limits with your provider on the dollar amount you’re willing to have spent each day on international calls.
  • Create a whitelist of IP addresses that are allowed to make phone calls.

Best password policies for devices:

  • If you can, change the default username to something different.
  • Don’t use a shared administrator password across devices.
  • Make your device passwords strong with a minimum of 9 characters.
  • If you can use passphrases instead of passwords.
  • Store the passwords securely.
  • If you are in any doubt, contact your trusted IT partner.

 

About Geoff Stewart

Geoff Stewart is a highly experienced and skilled technology director at Surety IT. His knowledge is based on years of industry experience having created customised, stable, well performing systems both for multi-national companies in the UK and Australia and Surety IT customers.

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NUANCE Communications customers Jetstar Airways and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) relied on the technology to win Gold Stevie Awards for Innovative Use of Technology in Customer Service at the third annual Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards.

The two award wins, coupled with another seven Stevie Awards linked to Nuance technology in North America, have taken recognition of the systems to new levels.

Jetstar and the ATO were specifically acknowledged for their innovative use of Nuance’s intelligent self-service solutions, demonstrating the demand for advanced self-service technology to maintain a competitive edge in the evolving digital world.

The ATO’s citation explained how the tax office had to overcome distinctive challenges with customer engagement and to strengthen the relationship with Australian taxpayers. The ATO started this by implementing Nuance’s voice biometrics technology across contact centres and mobile app. 

By providing secure, fast and simple tools to verify a customer’s identity, the ATO was able to greatly improve the experience for its customers, according to the citation.

In fact, the ATO became the first organisation to offer voice biometrics authentication to customers across multiple channels by implementing Nuance’s voice biometrics across the desktop and mobile channels.

Jetstar collaborated with Nuance to develop ‘Ask Jess’ – an intelligent virtual assistant who answers customer’s questions through conversational, human-like dialogue. Together with Nuance, Jetstar identified the top questions being asked by customers about the airline’s products, policies and services.

Nuance implemented answers to these common questions into the virtual assistant designed specifically for Jetstar. Ask Jess uses advanced Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technology to deliver a natural, conversational experience. Ask Jess now regularly engages in more than 220,000 conversations per month – not only understanding customer’s words but also their intent, and offering an innovative option for customers to receive personalised responses.

Both Jetstar and the ATO were commended by judges on the impressive use of advanced technology that simplifies the way customers interact with the companies they do business with.

“It’s extremely rewarding to see the benefits of Nuance’s intelligent solutions receive such prestigious recognition,” Nuance Asia senior vice president and general manager for Asia Pacific, Jason Stirling said. “Even more so, it is great to see our customers recognised for their efforts in redefining the customer service experience.”

The awards were be presented to winners at the Westin Hotel in Sydney on May 27.

www.StevieAwards.com

www.nuance.com

 

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COMPUTER and internet security specialists Surety IT are warning of sophisticated new ransomware coming through internet channels that have caught many companies out – and cost them a lot of money in make-goods.

Ransomware is a type of malware that blocks access to computer files and forces the user to pay a ransom in order to release them, according to Surety IT technology director Geoff Stewart. 

Mr Stewart said the FBI is investigating a particularly nasty version of ransomware known as Samas that attempts to encrypt files on computers across an entire network, rather than just individual computers.

“As reported by Reuters, the FBI has warned businesses that the group behind Samas was utilising an automatic tool to find servers using an out of date version of popular software,” Mr Stewart said.

“They would then take advantage of a weakness in the software to install the ransomware remotely on computers connected to the network. The ransomware is also thought to delete backup files.

“Computer users are advised not to click on links or open attachments in uninvited or unexpected emails and be wary about the websites they visit as security researchers identify hazardous new versions of ransomware,” Mr Stewart said.

“They should keep regular backups of important files and store the backups in a location away from a network.”

Mr Stewart said he had also come across an attack system recently known as Petya. It is an email with a link to an infected file claiming to be a resume.

“Once downloaded and implemented, the malware crashes Windows and overwrites systems on the computer,” Mr Stewart said. “A payment is demanded upon reboot.  The ransom amount is doubled if the user does not pay by the deadline set by the criminals.

“If your computer has been infected by ransomware, you should update your system and restore the affected files from backup.  I would suggest seeking technical advice if you are unsure about the next steps.

“I don’t recommend paying any ransom demanded to decrypt files. There is no guarantee the attackers will give you a working decryption tool, and you are also not protected against future attacks.”

Mr Stewart said affected businesses should also change all passwords and usernames on all computers, choosing strong passwords. 

Surety IT is an Industry Expert member of Queensland Leaders, Victorian Leaders and NSW Leaders, the organisations helping to foster the next generation of leading Australian companies.

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EXTRA >>

THE Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January revealed just how fast new technologies are being adapted by business – even as other disruptive technologies appear on the horizon.

Technology research organisation Ovum uses CES to identify leading trends that impact business and reported that CES 2016 appeared to be more of an ‘evolutionary’ technology showcase than ‘revolutionary’ – and this augured well for business adoption. 

According to Ovum Media and Entertainment division director of research and analysis, Rob Gallagher, many companies launched “me-too” or upgraded versions of existing products rather than breakthrough concepts.

“It’s a welcome sign of maturity for many new categories, which have suffered from poor design and misguided concepts in the past,” Mr Gallagher said. “But that doesn’t mean that companies at the show weren’t willing to talk about the bigger, longer-term trends that will reshape the consumer landscape.”

Mr Gallagher said Ovum identified 10 leading trends from the CES 2016 show floor:

Better and cheaper smartphones from Chinese vendors

Established and emerging Chinese vendors demonstrated their determination to try to dominate the market for the world’s most important consumer electronics product, the smartphone. After launching devices in the rest of Asia Pacific and parts of Europe last year, they are now expected to make a significant push in the very competitive US market.

Chinese entertainment company LeTV made a big splash at CES by launching Le Max Pro, the first smartphone with Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 820 processor and ultrasonic-based fingerprint technology. LeTV, which only started to sell smartphones in China in 2015, has become the most innovative smartphone vendor at CES. This paves the way for an expected US launch in 1Q16. The company is already selling 4K smart TVs in the US by invitation only.

Huawei launched a phablet designed for the European market. Priced from €600 (US$653), the Mate 8 is a dual-SIM 4G handset featuring a 6-inch display, an in-house-developed Kirin octa-core processor; and a 16MP camera sensor. Huawei also unveiled impressive results from its smartphone business: It sold 108 million smartphones in 2015 (+44% YoY) generating $20bn in revenue (+70% YoY).

 Specialisation v smartness: Competition in wearables

There are three camps in the smart-watch market: Products focusing exclusively on activity tracking and sports/fitness; multipurpose watches offering a wider variety of features and apps; and premium or luxury watches where notifications and activity tracking are provided as discrete add-ons. The customer segment each type of watch targets is relatively distinct.

Fitbit and Withings launched advanced versions of their activity trackers to address competition from multipurpose smart watches from Apple, Samsung, and Huawei. Besides focusing almost entirely on activity tracking, as opposed to notifications and apps, battery life was also featured as a key differentiator. For example, Withings Go watch battery lasts up to eight months.

Smart-watch makers are expanding to new categories to try and sustain sales growth in a market that still remains niche (less than 10 percent adoption). Samsung and Huawei launched new versions of their latest smart-watch models, featuring more precious materials and premium designs.

Microsoft resurges – mainly on tablets and two-in-ones

Many tablet models based on Windows 10 were launched at CES, including offerings from Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung, mainly targeted at business users.

The Samsung TabPro S was the most surprising announcement and is well positioned to compete with Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 and Apple’s iPad Pro throughout 2016. Global tablet sales declined overall in 2015 but sales in the two-in-one segment increased, and many of the tablets launched at CES 2016 are two-in-one devices.

Microsoft also released some numbers on Windows 10 adoption: There are 200 million monthly active Windows 10 devices, of which 40 percent have been activated since November 25 (Black Friday). This corresponds to 11 billion hours of usage, including 44.5 billion minutes on Microsoft Edge, 2.5 billion questions asked to Cortana, 82 billion photos viewed via the photo app, and 4 billion hours of PC game play.

The data shows that Windows 10 is performing relatively well compared with the two previous versions of Windows, which shows that Microsoft is moving in the right direction. Nevertheless, Windows 10 adoption on mobile handsets is still very limited, with only Alcatel and Acer announcing new products at CES.

 Business-class computers people want to be seen with

The ongoing ‘consumerisation’ of business technology means CES has become an important show for vendors to the enterprise market. Lest employers forget, employees are consumers too, and many are increasingly choosing to bring their own smartphones, tablets, and laptops to work.

The Apple MacBook Air, Microsoft Surface Pro, and Dell XPS 13 are just three examples of computers favoured by ‘the Technorati’, but what about the rest of us? Well, it appears that Dell has finally realised that looks do matter, because the company used CES to announce an expanded line-up of commercial devices, most of which offered enhanced design aesthetics to complement the security, manageability, and reliability features that are generally of prime interest to IT purchasing managers.

In 2015, Microsoft partnered with Dell (and HP) to sell and support the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 in the North American corporate market, but, with its new Latitude 12 7000, Dell believes it can offer a sexier, lighter, and more feature-loaded tablet than Microsoft’s Surface. Dell also claims that the Latitude 13 7000 Series Ultrabook is the world’s smallest 13-inch business-class PC, and that by using space-age materials, such carbon fibre, the computer can endure the rigor of heavy business use while maintaining an attractive allure.

From more pixels to better pixels: HDR enshrined in 4K’s future

LG, Samsung, and Sony brought down 4K entry-level prices by bringing the technology to their low-tier product lines. High Dynamic Range (HDR) took centre stage at CES with all major TV manufacturers now featuring HDR on all 4K TV models including Chinese vendors such as HiSense and TCL.

The UHD Alliance, a trade association of over 35 companies that includes Dolby, LG, Netflix, Panasonic, and Samsung, agreed on a new standard and logo to capture HDR capability called Ultra High Definition Premium.

UHD and HDR standardisation will have a significant impact on 4K TV adoption as non-HDR capable TVs will not be compatible with most 4K set-top boxes and pay-TV services. In addition, HDR significantly enhances the 4K experience, driving consumers’ purchase intention. For the top TV manufacturers, 4K TV sales already generate more than 20 percent of their revenue. This percentage is set to increase rapidly as 4K is cascaded down to other models throughout 2016.

 One UI to rule them all? Unified search comes to TV

Various companies offered solutions to one of the biggest problems facing modern TV – too much choice. CES 2016 saw many new developments aimed at helping viewers to search and discover TV shows, movies, and other content spread across pay TV, broadcaster catch-up services, and OTT apps such as Netflix. Time Warner Cable’s app integration on LG Web OS 3.0 and Roku OS 7, along with Dish’s new set-top box, the Hopper 4, were among the best demos at CES.

 Auto-makers drive towards a new kind of mobility …

Many car manufacturers spoke about a new future for themselves, as ‘mobility companies’. A fundamental part of this change – and without doubt the connected-car super-theme of CES 2016 – was autonomous vehicles. Autonomy was the focal point of every major auto OEM’s press conference, from the mass-market brands of Ford, Toyota, and Kia to the luxury brands of Audi and Mercedes.

What is the connection between autonomy and mobility? Autonomous vehicles have the potential to democratise personal transportation, using both privately owned and shared vehicles, to a new degree: To those that are too young or too old to own a driving license.

But do consumers really want autonomous cars? Ironically the question is moot, for, in the words of one Ford representative, it is simply the case that, “in order to stay competitive every auto OEM needs to have an autonomous driving strategy”.

 …while strengthening ties with Apple and Google

Industry support for applications that mirror smartphone screens on car head units was strengthened as Ford, Chrysler, and Mercedes all launched connected services with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration – Ford sync 3, U-Connect V4, and the as-yet unnamed new Mercedes head unit, respectively.

No additional manufacturers announced products with support for MirrorLink, the open source alternative to Android Auto and CarPlay – Volkswagen remains the only one with commercially available units.

No question remains as to the role of smartphone screen mirroring. Although all indications are that in five years’ time even the most affordable, mass-market vehicles will be manufactured with dedicated modems, drivers will still be bringing their own mobile devices into vehicles – and will need to use them safely.

Virtual and augmented reality connect to the Internet of Things

While virtual reality was once again a big draw for CES attendees, with lines stretching all around the outside of the Oculus booth, a slightly less heralded – but no less intriguing trend – is the move to integrate computer vision with connected devices.

One key example was ThingWorx, which was at the AT&T Developer Summit the day before CES, showing off how it has integrated the Vuforia augmented reality platform into connected devices such as bikes, giving real-time data on function and positioning, among other information.

Retail is another area where virtual reality and IoT is expected to converge, with connected VR or AR devices enabling on-the-spot purchases – MasterCard’s Worldwide CMO predicts that this vision could become a reality within 5–7 years.

Netflix, consumer electronics, content, and the cloud

The biggest announcement at CES was not about consumer electronics per se, but about content and the cloud. But Netflix’s decision to make its service available in a further 130 countries, taking the total to 190, will have a significant impact on device sales.

Netflix has proved to be a ‘hero’ service for subscription-based video-on-demand (SVOD), stimulating adoption and competition almost everywhere it has launched. These benefits have flowed to consumer electronics manufacturers as well, as consumers have bought devices to enjoy the service on new screens.

LG showed how device manufacturers can capitalize on Netflix’s success more directly. The South Korean company said it will work with Netflix to offer prepaid access to the streaming video service, which could help attract new subscribers, particularly in emerging markets where credit and debit card penetration is low.

A less-reported, but important development was LG’s move to add access to 50 streaming channels from brands including Buzzfeed, GQ, Wired, and Vogue to several of its new smart TVs. Expect more device vendors to promote digital video services from leading publishing brands as they continue to capture viewers’ attention. – Rob Gallagher, Ovum.

www.ovum.com

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