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Internet-Enabled Devices Will Shape Global COVID-19 Recovery

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As the world awaits a COVID-19 vaccine, attention is focused on how to track and safely deliver these temperature-sensitive vaccines to billions of people. Sensors and internet-enabled devices are expected to play a central role in this process, much as they have throughout the pandemic.

COVID-19 has accelerated global trends towards remote working, telehealth, distance learning and automation, according to a new report by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the Global Internet of Things (IoT) Council and PwC. The pandemic is also boasting adoption of wearable technologies like fitness trackers and smart-home devices. As the dependency on connected technologies increases, so do the associated risks and the need for good governance.

“The maturity of governance continues to lag behind the pace of technological change,” said Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies of South Africa and Co-Chair of the Global IoT Council. “We must come together and act now to ensure these technologies become a force for shared societal benefit, as opposed to exacerbating existing inequalities.”

According to the State of the Connected World report, strengthening security and privacy is not the only priority to realize the potential of our 22 billion internet connected devices. As IoT continues to expand and provide new benefits to individuals, businesses and communities, the ability of these connected devices and systems to fairly benefit and protect society was highlighted as the largest governance gap, based on surveys and interviews with more than 400 subject matter experts worldwide.

Report findings highlight the need to mobilize in five critical areas:

  • building transparency and trust into the heart of IoT technologies
  • ensuring public privacy and security is protected
  • providing equal access for all
  • incentivizing the use of IoT to help solve humankind’s biggest challenges
  • bringing people together to create a global consensus on these critical issues

To advance these five actions and shape the future development of the IoT, the World Economic Forum has brought together 37 world-leading initiatives in six continents as part of a multi-year, global action plan. These new initiatives include:

  • Consumers International, Carnegie Mellon University, Zigbee Alliance, UL, Arçelik A.Ş. and Libelium are launching a global coalition to improve the trustworthiness of consumer IoT devices and help consumers better understand the benefits and risks associated with these products. Action will focus on building consensus on device safeguards and standards throughout the ecosystem of internet-enabled consumer electronic devices, such as voice assistants, security cameras and wearable technologies.
  • This work will be complemented by an emerging public-private partnership includingHelpful Places, Digital Public Square and the City of Boston, which are working to increase transparency and signage for the use of digital technologies in public spaces.
  • Brazil, Colombia, Kazahkstan, South Africa and Turkey are working together to help build the technological capacity of small and medium-sized enterprises. The partnership aims to reach more than 5,000 companies within the next three years with new training and support services.
  • 36 cities around the world including Buenos Aires, Istanbul, London, Medellín and Mexico City, will pioneer a global policy road map for the responsible and ethical use of connected technologies as part of the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance. This includes the launch of new policies related to privacy, security and digital infrastructure.

The World Economic Forum aims to develop this work through a year-long series of activities, which formally begin on 10 December 2020. An initial report to document progress on the global action plan will be shared as part of the World Economic Forum’s Global Technology Governance Summit on 6-7 April 2021.

“With the emergence of 5G and IoT, we are on the cusp of unleashing the power of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and enabling the digital transformation of industries around the world,” said Cristiano Amon, President of Qualcomm Incorporated and Co-Chair of the Global IoT Council. “The combination of these essential technologies has the potential to shape the future of the internet, connecting everything to the cloud. Through the Council’s close collaboration with ecosystem partners, governments and policy-makers, we strive to ensure privacy, security and equity in the design and deployment of IoT systems.”

“As the internet of things becomes a part of our daily lives, it is essential that we build upon the last three decades of learning from the World Wide Web, ensuring that these technologies create a digital future that is safe and empowering for everyone. Governments, companies and citizens need to work together in innovative public-private partnerships to create this digital future” said Adrian Lovett, President and Chief Executive Officer of the World Wide Web Foundation and Co-Chair of the Global IoT Council.

“This report highlights the enormous potential for IoT to accelerate sustainable and equitable growth, especially as it relates to equipping the next generation with critical skills to take advantage of these emerging technologies,” said Mohamed Kande, Vice-Chair, Global Advisory Leader, PwC. “These insights couldn’t be more timely as IoT has been used to reduce business interruptions and improve workforce safety during the COVID-19 pandemic with contact tracing and other preventative applications. It will also have a critical role to play in solving the global challenge to manufacture and distribute COVID-19 vaccines.”

What global leaders are saying about this initiative

“As the world and everything around us becomes smarter and more aware through rapid advancements of IoT technologies, our lives will be increasingly impacted by decisions made by these smart systems. It is therefore crucial for governments, corporations and innovators to be aware and actively engage in safeguards and measures that would detect and eliminate propagation of and any built in, usually unintentional biases,” said Anousheh Ansari, Chief Executive Officer, XPRIZE Foundation.

“COVID-19 has accelerated digitalization at all levels in our society, which is a great opportunity to deal with world challenges. However, in order to make technology accessible it is absolutely necessary to ensure inclusive and understandable privacy at all levels, making sure that nobody is left behind in this process,” said Alicia Asín, Chief Executive Officer, Libelium.

“Companies have tried to build the best experience for their customers with their connected product portfolios. It is clear that trustworthiness is as important as the quality of products. To enable a more connected world, a multistakeholder community is critically important to improve trust globally,” said Nihat Bayiz, Head of Research and Development, Arçelik A.Ş.

“The internet of things presents society and the economy with endless opportunities, but to realize the benefits of these new technologies they must be developed and adopted safely and securely. With these new opportunities come new cybersecurity challenges that must be addressed by collaborative work between the public and private sectors. The PETRAS National Centre of Excellence, the world’s largest socio-technical research centre focused on the future implementation of the IoT, has made great strides in this area and looks forward to engaging with the Future of Connected World initiative,” said Madeline Carr, Professor of Global Politics and Cybersecurity, University College London.

“The inevitably more connected world requires us as business leaders to take responsibility and protect the privacy and dignity of the consumers and enterprises we serve. Businesses have a distinct opportunity to surprise all the stakeholders in their ecosystem by adopting voluntary guardrails respecting the rights of all parties. The Future of Connected World is a profoundly relevant initiative to guide all stakeholders to fulfil these shared responsibilities,” said Fadi Chehade, Co-Chief Executive Officer, Ethos Capital.

“A critical report if you want to put IoT at the service of society. As the use of IoT grows and its presence becomes increasingly more ubiquitous in different areas of our lives, this report tells us both about the benefits and societal challenges of IoT,” said Cristina Colom, Director, Digital Future Society, Mobile World Capital Barcelona.

“A trusted safe and secure connection and communication between the humans and internet of things will enable global collaboration and eliminate the borders by creating smart citizens in a virtual world,” said Sridhar Gadhi, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Quantela.

“More than just digital infrastructure, IoT is a pathway to addressing humanity’s most critical challenges and a global opportunity to democratize access to innovation and technology at a pivotal time for our society. Carnegie Mellon is pleased to be a part of this important initiative and to celebrate the release of the World Economic Forum State of the Connected World report, which will help leaders in government, industry, NGOs and academia come together around a common vision and action plan for maximizing the extraordinary potential of IoT,” said Farnam Jahanian, President, Carnegie Mellon University.

“Global collaboration to accelerate connectivity in under-resourced and underserved parts of our world through new funding models, incentives and capacity building will serve to rebalance profit sharing in the general interest and to harness our awareness of the interconnectedness towards a reality of shared destiny, in which technology becomes a driver for social, economic and environmental sustainability in the Great Reset,” said Fanyu Lin, Chief Executive Officer, Fluxus.

“Recent history has shown how important it is to have honest conversations about the potential negative impact of technology and take action before the worst happens. The Global IoT Council is the best place I can think of to host many of these conversations and prepare the much needed action plans to preserve a Human Rights by Design internet,” said Julie Owono, Executive Director, Internet Without Borders.

“Today, businesses throughout the entire world are connected by IoT,” said Richard Soley, Executive Director, Industrial Internet Consortium. “The next step is leveraging IoT for better business outcomes, or digital transformation, which is the main focus of the Industrial Internet Consortium.”

“A common part of everything we do as humans each day hinges on digital connections; as we evolve that global IoT existence, it’s critical we work across academia, industry, public and private sectors to help build consumer trust, ensure the right levels of security, and provide transparency along the way,” said Tobin Richardson, President and CEO, Zigbee Alliance. “From a connectivity standards perspective, our Alliance bears a major responsibility in unifying and simplifying the internet of things, and we look forward to contributing our collective expertise to the Trustworthy IoT Coalition by working alongside Consumers International, Carnegie Mellon University and other industry colleagues to advocate for smart, safe connections.”

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To Protect Democracies, Digital Resiliency Efforts Are Needed Now

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Across the globe, more than three billion people have no internet access. But with the increased availability of smart phones and other projects such as SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet system, that soon will change. To be sure, this unprecedented level of connectivity has the power to be a boon for democratic advancement and economic development. However, without pre-emptive action, it will likely result in the ills we’ve seen with rapid connectivity elsewhere that threaten democratic norms, institutions, and governance. Authoritarians have an answer to these problems: more control. Democracies need an answer too: building pre-emptive digital resilience and preparedness.

Democracies have been consistently caught off guard by rapid digitization. The disruption of information ecosystems has amplified political and economic inequity, leading to various information disorders such as disinformation, declining trust in journalism, increasing social toxicity and dissatisfaction with government, etc. In Myanmar, for example, internet connectivity empowered individuals, but rampant hate speech also facilitated the military’s campaign against the Rohingya. In the Philippines and Brazil, authoritarian populists have used social media to exploit their publics, foment hate, and win elections.

In attempting to manage the consequences of rapid digitization, governments are increasingly eliciting from the authoritarian playbook – implementing haphazard social media and cyber laws, surveillance, and censorship to the detriment of political freedoms. Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net 2020 report outlined a “dismal year for internet freedom” and showed countries like Brazil, Nigeria, Turkey, and Kyrgyzstan following China’s model of blocking internet services and conducting pervasive monitoring on their people’s virtual activities.

Democracies have not provided clear answers to rapid digitization, despite the fact that successes in countries like Finland and Taiwan demonstrate that the internet can – if combined with a thoughtful, pre-emptive, whole of society approach – actively strengthen social cohesion and democratic governance. The introduction of digital infrastructure must be accompanied by digital literacy campaigns. Governments need to be trained in cybersecurity, online communication, and on key policy issues such as open data and privacy. Civil society, especially those working with local communities and marginalized populations, need to be involved early in national digital coordination plans in order to reach more people and to ensure digital inclusion is a core consideration of these plans. These plans should include mobilization of digital safety campaigns, education initiatives, and digital skills trainings. 

To be sure, taking a pro-active, coordinated approach will require resources and time. Embracing the transparency that comes with digitization and the sheer amount of data available might also seem daunting at the beginning. However, countries and communities soon to come online are in advantageous positions to learn from other countries’ mistakes and better understand the opportunities, risks, and threats that digitization brings. There is no reason for them to experience the same negative effects of rapid digitization that we’ve been observing for years. It is better to invest upfront than be left dealing with the democratic backsliding gripping Myanmar, the Philippines, Ethiopia, and many other countries today.

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Internet of Behavior (IoB) and its Influence on Human Behavioral Psychology

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Internet of behavior is a connection between technology and human psychology which gives it the power to generate patterns and influence human behavior.

It is still in initial phase, but was able to grab a lot of attention from technology experts with its mention in ”Gartner’s Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021”. Gartner predicted that “By the end of 2025, over half of the world’s population will be subject to at least one IoB program, whether it be commercial or governmental”

Source: BMC blog on “What Is the Internet of Behaviors? IoB Explained”

Gartner acknowledges IoB as, behavioral science which can be considered under four key aspects: augmentations, decisions, emotions and companionship

From a human psychology perspective, IoB not only understands the data properly but also applies its understanding to innovate, create and promote new products/services

Currently most of the companies understand buying behavior from the information provided by consumers via interaction between them and application linked to the company. Information collected from interaction via smart devices such as smart phones and its interconnection with other smart devices such as cameras and voice assistance has the power to understand consumer’s likes/dislikes, spending, and so on.

It is aiding organizations to optimize their data from sources such as social media, geolocation, facial recognition, and government agencies citizen data. This data is eventually added and utilized to influence consumer buying behavior.

IoB is using data processing to another level, by connecting collected data from human behavior to analytics and behavioral science. This behavioral data will play a fundamental role in planning and developing strategies for organizations particularly in sales and marketing.

It has the ability to analyse data collected from consumers (such as consumers food choices, how they shop, their preferred travel destination, people with whom and how they interact) and use it to advertise products more effectively and improvise a product’s or service’s overall user experience, thus fulfilling their ultimate goal of selling product. With such capabilities, it aims to generate a substantial enhancement in the development of the sales industry. 

For Instance, a health app that can track sleeping patterns, heart rate or blood sugar levels, can alert users before adverse health situations and suggest them with behavior changes for the positive result. Such information could prove significantly important to companies by providing them with deeper insight into how they should be channelizing their marketing efforts.  

As per Gartner, “The same wearables that health insurance companies use to track physical activities to reduce premiums could also be used to monitor grocery purchases; too many unhealthy items could increase premiums.”

GBKSOFT, a software company has helped golfers to improve their playing skills by correcting their existing ball striking technique and learning new techniques with its app and wearable device. The golfers can connect their handheld device and connect it with their mobile phone, every time the golfer hits the ball the app records and analyses its impact. Thus golfer can not only improvise by analyzing their mistake but also track for any trajectory or stroke force.

Tech giants such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon are continuously tracking and working on algorithms to configure and anticipate consumer desires and behaviors

Covid has brought a wider acceptance of IoB for human behavioral surveillance. IoB can prove to be an extremely effective method to avoid spread of virus. For instance, computer vision or facial recognition can be used to determine if employees are complying with mask protocols or not. While, electronic devices such as RFID tags and sensors on employee or in the environment can be used to check if they are washing or sanitizing their hands regularly or not. Speakers can be used to warn people violating such protocols.

Test and Trace app on smart devices can be used by government agencies to monitor and curtail people’s location and activities to ensure their chances of contacting virus, while effectively enhancing overall public welfare.

While IoB has a great potential to improve our lives it has some negative aspects as well, cyber security being the prime concern. It can give access to cyber criminals with not just behavioral data such as consumer buying patterns or their likes/dislikes but also give access to their banking code, by which they can create advance scams, and take phishing to another level.

Moreover, data generated from social media platform such as Facebook and Instagram is changing the dynamics of value chain, and companies are using this opportunity to modify human behaviors. This goes well with the saying “If you are not paying for it, you are no longer the customer, you are the product being sold”

Some people might find surveillance of behavior as an Invasion of their privacy. “China’s Social Credit System” a Chinese government based surveillance programme is one such example, which includes all characteristics of judging citizens’ behaviour and trustworthiness. With this system the government is supporting good human behaviour and discouraging bad behavior. This is not going well with people who value their civil rights.

Moreover, laws regarding IoT vary widely, and considering IoB has much more sensitive data, both government and private organizations need to establish robust privacy laws to bring legal consistency.

As per Gartner, “Much of the scope and execution of an IoB will depend on local privacy laws, which may affect how data can be used and in what way”.

Regardless of the apprehensions expressed above, IoB has the ability to make our lives effortless, be it improving business, encouraging us to live a healthy life or ensure our safety during pandemic situations. Any government of private organization who implement IoB needs to make sure of strong cyber security and data protection laws.

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160 million degrees Celsius reached in China: The artificial Sun

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Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) /VCG Photo

Another important step has been taken by Chinese researchers in developing the ultimate energy source for nuclear fusion.

On May 28, the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), known as the “artificial sun”, operating at the Institute of Materials Science in Hefei (Chinese Academy of Sciences), achieved the new limit of the planet reaching the highest temperature ever recorded.

It reached one hundred and twenty million degrees Celsius, for one minute and 51 seconds. EAST also managed to maintain a temperature of 160 million degrees Celsius for 20 seconds. This is a higher peak than that of the sun’s core, which can reach a limit of 15 million degrees Celsius.

A tokamak (Russian: toroidal’naja kamera s magnitnymi katushkami: Russian acronym for “toroidal chamber with magnetic coils”) is a device which uses a powerful magnetic field to confine plasma in the shape of a torus. Torus is a ring-shaped device in which a hot, rarefied gas (usually hydrogen, in the plasma state) is kept cohesive and away from inner walls by a magnetic field created by electromagnets outside the chamber. It was originally conceptualized and invented in the 1950s by Soviet professor Sadyk Azimovič Azimov (1914-88) and others at the Kurčatov Institute in Moscow.

China’s experimental nuclear fusion device was created in 1998 and was called HT-7U at the time. With a view to making it easier to pronounce and remember, as well as having a precise scientific meaning for national and foreign experts, HT-7U was officially renamed EAST in October 2003.

In 2006, the EAST project was completed in a definitive and higher quality manner. In September-October 2006 and in January-February 2007, the EAST device performed two discharge debugs and successfully achieved stable, repetitive and controllable high-temperature plasmas with various magnetic configurations.

EAST has a nuclear fusion reaction mechanism similar to that of the sun. Its operating principle is to add a small amount of the hydrogen isotope deuterium or tritium to the device’s vacuum chamber and generate plasma through a transformer-like principle, then increase its density and temperature to cause a fusion reaction – a process that generates enormous energy.

Over the ten years since its construction, EAST has continually made progress in the search for controllable nuclear fusion.

In 2009, the first round of EAST tests was successful, thus putting China at the forefront of nuclear fusion research. In February 2016, EAST’s physics tests made another major breakthrough, achieving the longest temperature duration reaching 50 million degrees. In 2018, EAST reached a number of important milestones including 100 million degrees.

This means that mankind has made another major advance in its efforts to turn nuclear fusion into new, clean and inexhaustible energy.

Energy is the fundamental driving force behind the functioning of every aspect of life. The energy used today has many shortcomings and cannot fully meet human needs, while nuclear fusion energy is considered the ideal energy par excellence.

According to calculations, the deuterium contained in one litre of seawater can produce the equivalent of the energy of 300 litres of petrol, released after the nuclear fusion reaction, besides the fact that the product is not harmful. Although it is not a “perpetual motion machine”, nuclear fusion can provide energy for a long time. Not only can Marvel’s hero Iron Man rely on the small reactor in his chest, but also raw materials can be obtained from seawater at an extremely low cost.

The first condition for nuclear fusion is to keep fuel in the fourth state of matter, after solid, liquid and gas – i.e. the plasma state.

When the plasma temperature reaches tens of millions of degrees Celsius or even hundreds of millions of degrees, the atomic nucleus can overcome the repulsive force to carry out the polymerisation reaction. Coupled with sufficient density and a sufficiently long thermal energy confinement time, the nuclear fusion reaction is able to continue steadily.

Nevertheless, it is particularly difficult to achieve both the temperature of hundreds of millions of degrees Celsius and the long-term confinement control of plasma stability.

While recognising that nuclear fusion is the ultimate goal for solving the problem of mankind’s future energy, there is both cooperation and competition in international research.

A sign of cooperation is that on July 28, 2020, a ceremony was held in France to launch the major project to install the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). The ITER project is jointly implemented by China, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Japan, India, Russia, the European Union and the United States.

On December 28, 2020, Seoul’s Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) set a new world limit at the  time and its ionomer maintained a temperature of over 100 million degrees for 20 seconds.

In early 2018, the Plasma Science and Fusion Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had begun designing and building a Soonest/Smallest Private-Funded Affordable Robust Compact fusion reactor more advanced than ITER, with a volume tens of times smaller and significantly reduced in cost. But it remains to be seen whether this goal can be achieved.

Chinese researchers have now achieved significant progress in this field and taken another important step towards obtaining energy from nuclear fusion.

In the future, if the production capacity and energy supply of the “artificial sun” is achieved, it will be another technological revolution that can promote social progress even more than the industrial revolution which, in fact, meant the beginning of pollution for the planet and exploitation by capital.

Although there is still a long way to go before the construction of the naval port on Jupiter described by the Chinese writer, Liu Cixin, in his novel The Three-Body Problem (San Ti), mankind is indeed advancing on the road to controllable nuclear fusion.

Nuclear fusion energy has exceptional advantages in producing rich resources, as well as no carbon emissions, so it is clean and safe. It is one of the ideal energy sources for mankind in the future, and can contribute significantly to achieve the goal of eliminating said carbon.

The two greatest difficulties in generating energy from nuclear fusion lie in regularly reaching hundreds of millions of degrees, and in stable ignition and control of long-term confinement.

For the time being, multiple extreme conditions are highly integrated and organically combined at the same time, but this is very difficult and challenging.

In hitting the record, it is the first time that the EAST device has adopted key technologies such as the first water-cooled all-metal active wall, as well as the high-performance tungsten deflector and high-power wave heating states.

At present, there are over 200 core technologies and nearly 2,000 patents on EAST, bringing together cutting-edge technologies such as ‘ultra-high temperature’, ‘ultra-low temperature’, ‘ultra-high vacuum’, ‘ultra-strong magnetic field’ and ‘ultra-high current’.

The total power is 34 megawatts, which is equivalent to about 68,000 domestic microwave ovens heating up together. For 100 million degrees Celsius and -269 °C to coexist, it is necessary to use “ultra-high vacuum” with an intensity of about one hundredth of a billionth of the surface atmospheric pressure suitable for insulation. With a view to supporting this complex extreme system, almost a million parts and components work together on EAST.

The new EAST record further demonstrates the feasibility of nuclear fusion energy and also lays the physical and engineering foundations for marketing.

Energy on earth, stored in the form of fossil fuels, wind, water or animals and plants, originally comes from the sun. For example, fossil fuels evolved from animals and plants millions of years ago, and their energy ultimately comes from solar energy stored by the photosynthesis of plants at the base of the food chain. Therefore, regardless of the type of energy used by humans, they ultimately use the sun energy that comes from nuclear fusion.

If mankind could master the method for releasing the nuclear fusion energy in an orderly manner, it would be equivalent to controlling the sun energy source. Therefore, this is the reason why the controllable nuclear fusion reactor is called the “artificial sun”.

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