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2018 Research news
|SEP||Blue noise cancellation|
A significant problem in computer graphics and digital photography is the presence of high-frequency "noise" in an image, which occurs in the form of random speckles or aberrant pixels that reduce the overall information content of the image especially when magnifying particular regions of the image for examination. The effect is manifest as a phenomenon known as aliasing and anti-aliasing techniques and filters are available to cope with it…to some extent.
Now, researchers in China have developed a new algorithm that utilises the distributed resources of cloud computing to sample blue noise and prevent image-distorting aliasing effects in a digital image. Their approach shows significant performance gains over conventional error-resilient encoding methods and native redundant encoding methods, they report.
Zhan, A., Hu, Y., Yu, M. and Zhang, Y. (2018) 'A blue noise pattern sampling method based on cloud computing to prevent aliasing', Int. J. Innovative Computing and Applications, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp.173-179.
|SEP||Mindful of training|
Researchers in Spain are developing a tool to measure the personal and interpersonal skills of individuals who have engaged in experiential learning based on outdoor training and mindfulness. Employees, master’s and undergraduate students were evaluated looking at teamwork, communication, leadership, motivation, stress tolerance, organisation and planning, responsibility, and analysis, resolution and anticipation of problems.
The success of the tool highlights how important it is in the workplace and in the educational environment to evaluate "competencies" being taught.
del Val Núñez, M.T., Romero, F.J.C., Sánchez, R.C. and Aránega, A.Y. (2018) 'Developing management skills through experiential learning: the effectiveness of outdoor training and mindfulness', European J. International Management, Vol. 12, Nos. 5/6, pp.676–694.
|SEP||Shades of grey reveal breast tumours|
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women. Mammography is the best imaging technology for early detection of tumours in breast tissue.
Now, researchers in India have developed a new approach to the classification of abnormalities in the breast using a decision tree based on GLCM (grey level co-occurrence matrices). This allows useful texture and statistical features to be extracted from a medical image based on the pixel "brightness" value in the digital image.
In the new approach noise is reduced following data acquisition using pre-processing and then the image is examined using the GLCM technique to help discern between benign and malignant tissue seen in the mammogram.
Kamalakannan, J. and Babu, M.R. (2018) 'Classification of breast abnormality using decision tree based on GLCM features in mammograms', Int. J. Computer Aided Engineering and Technology, Vol. 10, No. 5, pp.504–512.
|SEP||South Africa's financial imbalance|
Research from Egypt on financial inclusion in South Africa considering race, education, and income has concluded that Caucasian members of the population are more likely to have bank accounts. the work also showed that higher education is correlated with an increased awareness of financial planning.
Individuals described as "coloured" in the paper and individuals described as "Africans" were shown to be the least likely to own bank accounts. These individuals in the population were shown to have four years less education on average than Caucasian individuals.
The paper notes the considerable evidence that the success of self-employed individuals and entrepreneurs' successes are related to ethnic group even after the end to racial segregation, Apartheid, in 1994. The paper shows a clear inequality between ethnic groups. Financial inclusion is needed for long-term economic growth and poverty reduction.
Omran, M.F. (2018) 'An analysis of the financial inclusion in South Africa considering race, education and income', World Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 14, No. 5, pp.657–667.
|SEP||ICT: The new A & E?|
Researchers in the UK have been investigating the use of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) to improve access to medical services in remote areas. More specifically, they have been working on a practical ICT solution base on a case study carried out in Northern Thailand looking at cleft-lip/palate treatment.
Medical treatment of this condition requires many skills and several differing inputs from numerous disciplines. This means quality treatment is often limited in remote areas and receiving proper and effective treatment is difficult. In Thailand, because healthcare services are centralised, the researchers have proposed a collaborative framework. This includes the supporting of data sharing for medical teams to allow for the empowerment of local healthcare.
ICT can enhance knowledge transfer and one aim of this research is to create an expert system for conditions that require multidisciplinary treatment by generating an e-health service system. The hope is to improve care quality to patients in remote areas and there is continuing evaluation of the current platform implemented for cleft-lip/palate treatment.
Choosri, N., Khwanngern, K., Yu, H., Thongbunjob, K., Sukhahuta, R., Natwichai, J., Boonma, P., Atkins, A. and Sitthikham, S. (2018) 'ICT enabled collaborative e-health for cleft lip/palate treatment', Int. J. Agile Systems and Management, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp.270–292.
Medical emergencies inevitably require an urgent response from doctors and other healthcare workers. Response time can mean the difference between life and death. As such, there are ongoing efforts in many areas of research to find technological approaches to reducing response times in order to improve medical outcomes. Writing in the International Journal of High Performance Computing and Networking, an academic team from Ireland explain how and why mobile cloud computing can be an answer.
The team of Hazzaa Alshareef and Dan Grigoras has responded to the problem by developing a mobile cloud service, which they explain works side-by-side with the existing emergency system. It is "aimed at reducing the time spent waiting for emergency help to arrive, as well as making the best use of medical professionals who may be located in close proximity to the medical case," the team writes.
In earlier work, the team introduced a mobile ad hoc network, MANET, manager service that is hosted in the cloud. This system allows all mobile users to be reached, including those without "cellular" connectivity but who are connected to the internet via Wi-Fi. In subsequent work, they proposed a way to manage active sessions between users on the same MANET to reduce save mobile resource demands and preclude data loss or misuse. In a third paper, they brought the technology together to introduce a novel system that provides healthcare services to people who are involved in an emergency and are out of reach of home or office.
Now, they have extended this work to extend what might be possible to include wearable sensors, approaches to capturing the time needed to connect those involved in an emergency with those who might assist and so optimize the communication channels, and finally they have improved security.
In trials of the application, the team found that the amount of time needed to find a medical professional and establish communication was between 4 (via the internet) and 25 seconds (text messaging, short message service, SMS), depending on the particular communication method used. In other words, negligible time is added to the process, but the new connectivity could improve the chance of a positive outcome.
Critically, the system augments the conventional emergency services by locating professionals in the vicinity of an emergency and notifying them of what is happening and allowing them to respond appropriately and in a much timelier manner.
"Our future work will develop an algorithm for better management of registered professionals' activity to achieve fair and efficient outcome, including when they start/end dealing with emergency cases and how often they provide emergency support," the team concludes. They also plan to extend the options available with wearable smart sensors for people with particular medical needs who might find themselves in an emergency situation.
Alshareef, H. and Grigoras, D. (2018) 'Swift personal emergency help facilitated by the mobile cloud', Int. J. High Performance Computing and Networking, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp.1–12.
|SEP||Bayesian malaria classification|
A type of statistics first developed in the 19th Century could help improve our understanding of the spread of malaria, which very much remains a lethal infection in this century.
Researchers from Nigeria have employed a naïve Bayes as a probability classifier to help them predict whether or not new patients arriving with symptoms first actually have the parasitic disease and if they do what level of severity of infection and symptoms they are suffering. Such classification could help prioritise those patients who need urgent treatment.
The "framework" developed by the team has now been tested successfully on a sample dataset of some 700 records from a hospital in Yola, in Nigeria’s Adamawa State.
Aliyu, A., Prasad, R. and Fonkam, M. (2018) 'A framework for predicting malaria using naïve Bayes classifier', Int. J. Telemedicine and Clinical Practices, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp.78–93.
A "lean" business approach to healthcare could reducing patient times, allow staff to be employed more effectively, improve the quality of healthcare provision, decrease waste and lower costs. However, three case studies carried out in the UK's National Health Service suggests that there are still significant barriers to the adoption of "lean" practices that aim to streamlines processes and interactions and operate on an as-needed basis in terms of the provision of supplies and services. The main barrier for almost nine out of every ten NHS staff interviewed was one of terminology and understanding the fundamental concepts of "lean”. Leadership and better communication of the paradigm are needed if the rewards of implementing a lean approach are to be wrought.
Deara, A., Deara, M., Bamber, C. and Elezi, E. (2018) 'A comparative analysis of lean implementations in NHS England hospitals', Int. J. Lean Enterprise Research, Vol. 2, No. 3, pp.218–239.
Dramatic advances in technology and the intensification of global competition in the business world have disrupted considerably the work-life balance of many people the world over, where prior to the advent of smartphones and “always-on” connectivity, home time was to some extent personal and private, but today work impinges increasingly in that environment through those devices. Moreover, the global nature of business now means that timezones are irrelevant and employees are often expected to be accessible and available 24/7 in many realms of work, particularly those in the employ of multinational companies with worldwide dominance. Researchers in India have studied this imbalance and offer new suggestions as to how employers can compromise in terms of the company's demands and the needs of the individual members of staff.
Swarochi, G., Seema, A. and Sujatha, S. (2018) 'An empirical research on quality of work-life – an employee perspective', Int. J. Management Development, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp.34–80.
We need a clearer understanding of the cognitive activity that happens when we do web searches. Researchers in Spain have carried out an in-depth qualitative case study and suggest that log files, eye movements, and cued-retrospective reports could help us get a clearer picture of how people search. The findings could be important for teaching search skills and helping students understand different approaches to searching. The work could have implications for improving collaborative learning, peer-to-peer interaction, self-regulation learning, and game-based learning.
Argelagós, E., Brand-Gruwel, S., Jarodzka, H.M. and Pifarré, M. (2018) 'Unpacking cognitive skills engaged in web-search: how can log files, eye movements, and cued-retrospective reports help? An in-depth qualitative case study', Int. J. Innovation and Learning, Vol. 24, No. 2, pp.152–175
|SEP||Unzip your genes|
A research team in China is developing a new genotyping method using deletion visualisation and classification. This looks at where parts of genes have been lost during DNA repair after damage. Their results showed that the approach was more accurate than earlier methods, had a wider detectable deletion length range, and was able to perform better with high and low coverage data. Tests on simulated data from a range of diseases with high levels of noise compared well against genotype "calling" methods such as Pindel and LUMPY (a probabilistic framework).
Such an approach might be useful in biomedical research into the rare muscle-wasting disease spinal muscular atrophy and the nervous system disorder "cri de chat syndrome".
Wang, J., Gao, J. and Ling, C. (2018) 'Deletion genotype calling on the basis of sequence visualisation and image classification', Int. J. Data Mining and Bioinformatics, Vol. 20, No. 2, pp.109–122.
|SEP||Can you get no satisfaction?|
A paper from The Netherlands found, through tests of Veenhoven's theory, that life- satisfaction is more about feeling well than having what you want. The researches assessed individual's satisfaction with their lives, as a whole, using two information sources: How well we feel most of the time and to what extent life has brought us what we want from it. The paper focuses on how much an individual likes their own lives.
It highlights the debate surrounding the nature of happiness and weightings of affective experience (need-theory) and the success of meeting wants (comparison theory). Overall, the research fits the theory that life satisfaction draws first on affective experience, that individuals will draw on the experiences they have rather than how well they meet their wants in life.
Kainulainen, S., Saari, J. and Veenhoven, R. (2018) 'Life-satisfaction is more a matter of feeling well than having what you want. Tests of Veenhoven's theory', Int. J. Happiness and Development, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp.209–235.
|SEP||R.E.S.P.E.C.T: The Key to Happiness|
Mutual respect in an authentic relationship may lead to the subjective happiness of the individuals. Research from Turkey highlights key points surrounding the relationship between the authenticity of a relationship, how likely the individuals in the relationship are to see themselves as being happy, and how respected the individuals in the relationship feel.
The results showed that respect towards a partner comes from the relationship being positively authentic. It was also demonstrated that the relationship between authenticity and the subjective happiness of the individuals in the relationship are partially mediated by the respect towards the partner.
Ugur, E. (2018) 'Respect toward partner mediates the relationship between authenticity and subjective happiness', Int. J. Happiness and Development, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp.181–194.
|SEP||Malaysian Airways Flight MH370|
Malaysian Airways Flight MH370 had 239 people on board when it left Kuala Lumpur airport at 00h41 on 8 March 2014 bound for Beijing, China. Its planned flight path would have taken it over Vietnam en route and it had sufficient fuel for the 7-hour flight. However, at 01h19, the aircraft made an unscheduled manoeuvre banking left turn over the Gulf of Siam towards Palau Langkawi, Malaysia and terminating radio voice contact with Malaysian air-traffic control with the final cockpit voice communication recorded as "Good Night Malaysian three seven zero". The aircraft was not seen or heard from again.
An international effort to find the aircraft, or more to the point wreckage, assuming it had crashed into the sea, was fruitless. The search was focused on the anticipated crash site in the area off the western coast of Australia. However, in the middle of 2015, debris was found inexplicably off the coast of south-eastern Africa. The origin of this recovered flotsam could have been almost anywhere in the western half of the Indian Ocean.
Now, four years on from the original disappearance, Alfred Wong of the Friends of Aboriginal Health, in Vancouver, Canada, has suggested that the probable crash site might only be found if investigators turn their perspective to the prevailing geopolitics of the time and the social psychology of the pilots. He points out that even now, the causes of the final flight path are still largely conjectural: electrical or mechanical failures, hijacking by on-board intruders or by external electronic means, and irrational behaviour by the pilots are frequently mentioned, for instance. Conspiracy theories abound.
Wong suggests that it is time to address the problem and investigate the disappearance of Flight MH370 with the assumption that a crime may have been committed rather than an accident having occurred. "The new comprehensive undertaking should include all direct and circumstantial physical, sociological, political and psychological evidence pertaining to motives and opportunities," he says. "It is generally known that in most crime scene investigation anywhere in the World, unbiased thorough investigation and subsequent vigorous prosecution are often hampered by political interferences," he adds. It is now time to circumvent the issues that have hampered the investigations.
Wong proposes that independent qualified experts from disinterested nations, such as Cuba, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Bolivia, and Zimbabwe should be recruited at this point to override the suspicion, distrust, and the conspiracy of silence and to provide an explanation for the loss of the aircraft and all of those on board to the world and to the relatives of those who died on Flight MH370.
Wong, A. (2018) 'Geopolitics in the search for the disappeared Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370', Int. J. Forensic Engineering, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp.47-74.
|SEP||But one drink won't hurt, right?|
A paper from New York has shown that low-quantity alcohol drinks have no significant difference in the number of mentally unhealthy days they experience when compared to non-drinkers. The research was carried out to identify the health-related quality of life consequences by using frequency-quantity measures of consumption patterns.
The results of the study showed that those who are current drinkers regardless of consumption pattern are less likely to have physically unhealthy days than non-drinkers but that they were more likely to have negative mental health outcomes, except those that were low frequency, low quantity drinkers. The study also showed that high frequency, low quantity drinkers benefitted the most physically from their alcohol consumption. The impact on health-related quality of life was shown to be variable and dependent on how much and how frequently an individual consumes alcohol.
Son, C-H. (2018) 'Health-related quality of life in consequences from frequency-quantity measures of alcohol consumption patterns', Int. J. Happiness and Development, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp.236–260.
|AUG||Managing the UK's coasts|
The United Kingdom is surrounded by the sea. As such its coasts and estuaries are geographically, economically, socially, and militarily important to the nation's character, infrastructure, growth, and development.
How the UK manages its coasts and estuaries will be critical in the face of a changing political complexion, climate change, socioeconomic upheaval, and of course geological effects such as erosion. Of the UK's 17,380 kilometre coastline, 3,008 km is suffering erosion and an additional 3,185 km is protected by engineering structures.
"A complex interaction of physical factors (sea-level change, geomorphology, storminess, waves, tides, near shore current) and human factors (land reclamation, river regulation works, unregulated dredging, etc.) are shaping the UK coastline through the dynamic process of erosion and accretion," researchers explain in the journal Interdisciplinary Environmental Review.
It is important that they have now reviewed coastal and estuarine management practices with a view to feeding back new understanding to the stakeholders.
Oyedotun, T.D.T. (2018) 'Coastal and estuarine management in the UK: review and overview of perspectives', Interdisciplinary Environmental Review, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp.103–110.
|AUG||Predicting urban sprawl|
The proportion of the global population that lives in towns and cities has risen from one in fifty, two centuries ago, to approximately half of all people today.
This radical shift from rural to urban life is an especially pressing problem for developing nations, such as India, where mega cities with uncontrolled, unauthorised, uncoordinated, and unplanned urban growth – urban sprawl – are discovering serious health and safety problems for their citizens in terms of infrastructure demands, traffic and other pollution, and waste and sewage disposal, as well as the obvious pressures of increased population density and demands on food, water, and other resources.
A team from India is now using a fuzzy classification model to help identify areas that might succumb to problematic urban sprawl. They have tested their model with satellite imagery of the city of Jaipur and demonstrated that critically it can distinguish between urban and semi-urban areas and how urban sprawl is emerging.
Sisodia, P.S., Shekhawat, R.S. and Tiwari, V. (2018) 'A fuzzy classification model for identification of potential areas of urban sprawl', Int. J. Society Systems Science, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp.171–181.
|AUG||Puffed up rice|
Researchers in China have developed a new method for "puffing" glutinous rice starch which produces a material with a water-absorbing nanotextured surface that might be exploited in oral pharmaceutical delivery and alternatively in the adhesives industry.
Glutinous rice starch is a well-known natural biopolymer widely used in the food industry as a raw material for cakes, dumplings, rice glue balls, and other food products. Its chemical character might readily be exploited in a range of environmentally benign and biodegradable non-food products, thanks to this new work.
Zhang, J-l., Yang, K. and Zhai, G-y. (2018) 'Study on the preparation and properties of puffing glutinous rice starch', Int. J. Nanomanufacturing, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp.219–231.
People often find weird and wonderful alternative uses for the products they buy. For example, coal drinks have been used as household cleaner, construction toys such as Lego and Meccano are often used to ad lib rigs for a variety of purposes such as to support cameras, and of course many people "hack" their game consoles or other devices to do computational and communications jobs for which the device was not originally designed. And for many years, people have ripped old clothing into rags for a wide range of cleaning applications.
Understanding how and why consumers engage in such creative re-use, sometimes upcycling, is the focus of research from Thailand. The aim is to help manufacturers and their designers find new ways to build original products for the consumer market. There is also the need to educate consumers about repurposing specific products where there might be new health and safety risks associated with such change of use.
Wongkitrungrueng, A. (2018) 'Exploring how and why consumers create unintended uses of products', Int. J. Business Innovation and Research, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp.453–470.
|AUG||Open access challenges|
Open access journal publishing means different things to different people, whether author, editor, publisher, or reader. However, it is viewed it is a disruptive concept that seeks to change the way in which the traditional academic print literature with its centuries-old heritage is handled in today's world of instant-access databases and online publishing.
Researchers in the West Indies have reviewed the major full-text aggregator databases and other secondary sources and conducted a thematic analysis. Through this research, they hope to identify the main issues involved in open access publishing and the question of its disruptive impact on the industry.
Critically, and perhaps paradoxically given the hyperbole and the activism surrounding Open Access, it is on the increase but academia is actually slow to adopt the concept more widely. Moreover, while there are indications that the traditional business models of publishers are being affected to some degree, it would be premature to claim that Open Access has achieved its potential as a disruptive force.
Allahar, H. (2018) 'Is open access publishing a case of disruptive innovation?', Int. J. Business Environment, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp.35-51.
The underlying concepts of green manufacturing seek to balance environmental concerns without loss of efficiency. Indeed, improvements in efficiency benefit any manufacturer in terms of reduced costs, lower energy bills, and less waste and so is a green motivator in itself. Now, researchers from Australia and Indonesia have reviewed dozens of research papers with a view to understanding what is meant by “green manufacturing” in more detail and how this term and concept are actually having an effect on industry. Overall, they found that the study of green manufacturing concepts is increasing but with special attention is now needed for more inter-regional research collaborations involving Asian researchers and other developing countries in specific sectors.
Setyaningsih, I., Indarti, N. and Jie, F. (2018) 'Bibliometric analysis of the term ‘green manufacturing', Int. J. Management Concepts and Philosophy, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp.315–339.
|AUG||Through the glass ceiling|
Over the last thirty years or so the term "glass ceiling" has come to symbolise the barriers faced by women in attempting to make upward progress in their careers.
Now, a UK team has demonstrated that where women break through the glass ceiling, whether in the corporate, academic or other areas, mentoring has played an important role for them. However, they point out that mentoring is no panacea and that other strategies aimed at reducing gender inequities in the workplace must also be put in place. In the twentieth century, feminist socio-political activism fostered the movement of women into education and the workforce.
The twenty-first century must now aspire to progress through equality in all walks of life. "Mentoring programmes should be such that they help mentees through the processes of relationship building, setting gender-equal dynamics between mentor and mentee and in the organisational context, " the team reports. Moreover, it is important to continue to challenging gendered attitudes and social norms so that predetermined social roles can be discarded and everyone can explore attitudes and behaviour helpful for careers and personal lives too.
Lantz-Deaton, C., Tabassum, N. and McIntosh, B. (2018) 'Through the glass ceiling: is mentoring the way forward?', Int. J. Human Resources Development and Management, Vol. 18, Nos. 3/4, pp.167–197.
|AUG||Polluted parking problem|
A team in Kuwait has carried out a micro-environment investigation of pollution in city parking garages. They measured carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides (NOx), and methane concentrations, in three locations on each parking floor, and repeated the measurements eight times at each floor, over a nine-month period across five parking garages.
Carbon monoxide levels were found to be higher than acceptable in terms of health risk at the parking garages in the morning and evenings, the rush hour periods. Temperature and humidity and parking density played an important role in the absolute figures. They conclude that CO monitoring devices should be installed in parking garages. Whether or not the fitting of such devices would lead to better parking garage management in terms of traffic flow may well be a moot point.
The data could, however, help inform such management and perhaps future design of parking garages in commonly hot and humid parts of the world.
Al-Rukaibi, F., Al-Mutairi, N. and Al-Rashed, A. (2018) 'Concentration of air pollutants in an urban parking garage in Kuwait', World Review of Science, Technology and Sustainable Development, Vol. 14, Nos. 2/3, pp.241–265.
|AUG||Fighting over Russian geo-energy|
The collapse of the Soviet Union led to a decade or more of instability and decay in Russia and its former domains all of which are now largely independent nation states. That said, there have been countless conflicts in the intervening years and many of them are associated with energy security and the rising cost of hydrocarbon fuels.
Researchers in Spain have analysed the history and the socioeconomic history with regard to the three secessionist conflicts in Eastern Europe (Crimea, Donbass, and Transnistria) and suggest that many Russian geo-energy commercial interests have benefited considerably from these crises.
The research illustrates the direct and clear connection between Russia's intervention in those three conflicts and the defence of Russian geo-energy interests in the post-Soviet era, the team concludes, this is especially pertinent with regard to the rise to power of Vladimir Putin who became President in 2000, at the end of the first decade of the post-Soviet era.
Peña-Ramos, J.A. and Amirov, D.S. (2018) 'The role of geo-energy interests of Russia in secessionist conflicts in Eastern Europe', Int. J. Oil, Gas and Coal Technology, Vol. 18, Nos. 3/4, pp.485–511.
|AUG||Old crisis to new customers|
Consumers can quickly lose confidence in a well-known company when that company fails to live up to the expectations and standards of its customers. In a world of always-on, instantaneous communication, and social media, reputations can disintegrate very quickly whether a problem with a given brand is seemingly a small issue or whether it is a major marketing nightmare associated with inadvertent or self-inflicted crises. Recovering the company image after a brand crisis is not always possible and the history of commerce is littered with corporations that did not ride out the storm, not for lack of trying, but simply because they could not counter the negative image generated by the brand crisis. Researchers in India have focused on the brand crises surrounding one particular company and its internationally known food seasonings, instant soups, and noodles. The main takeaway, the authors pun, is that social media, which can so quickly dismantle a reputation, can, if handled well, be useful in rebuilding one following multiple brand crises.
Srivastava, R.K. (2018) 'Recapturing images after a brand crisis through marketing communication in social networks: the Maggi controversy', Int. J. Export Marketing, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp.63–86.
|AUG||The air-conditioned nightmare|
Air-conditioning systems are become more and more widespread and will play a important and ironical role as climate change pans out over the next decades. As temperatures rise, so will demad for cooling of buildings, which will inevitably require more energy and most likely produce more carbon emissions unless sustainable zero-carbo energy sources are found and implemented. Researchers from Korea and Turkey have looked at how the thermodynamics costs of an air-conditioning unit increase when he unit begins to malfunction and how the changes might be a useful diagnostic tool facilitating system repair.
Yoo, Y., Oh, H-S., Uysal, C. and Kwak, H-Y. (2018) 'Thermoeconomic diagnosis of an air-cooled air conditioning system', Int. J. Exergy, Vol. 26, No. 4, pp.393–417.
Colour has psychological and physiological effects on us. We have personal and cultural references associated with particular hues across different societies and within our own society. Nowhere is this more encapsulated in the modern age than through digital photography. Researchers from Taiwan have now reviewed the literature on colour use in digital photography as well as a rage of colour photographs and discuss the characteristics of different colours and the emotions and responses different colours invoke. They focus on how colours in the outside world are affected by the very process of trapping them within the camera and point out something that photographers have known for a long time, and painters before them, that colour is difficult to understand and to get right in an image.
Wu, S-H., Liu, M-Y. and Chen, J-H. (2018) 'Effects of colour terms on the digital photography – a case study of cool colours', Int. J. Cognitive Performance Support, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp.170–180.
|AUG||Drinking is not working|
Researchers from the Korea and the USA have investigated whether or not there is a relation between alcohol consumption and unemployment. The team examined data covering the period 1994-2013 and found that alcohol habits tracked unemployment trends in South Korea.
The team applied a statistical technique known as Granger casual models to the data and demonstrated that there is a substantial causal interaction between unemployment rates and drinking behaviour. On this basis, the team suggests that there are policy implications. Government spending on education about alcohol abuse and abuse prevention programs need to be increased.
There is a need to retrain the unemployed workers, and also to increase taxation on alcoholic beverages.
Kim, M.H., Han, Y. and Cho, W-G. (2018) 'Empirical relation between unemployment and alcohol beverage consumption in Korea', Int. J. Economics and Business Research, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp.1–11.
|AUG||Testing for food contamination|
Food can become contaminated with pathogenic bacteria even when hygiene standards in a kitchen, whether domestic or commercial, and in the food industry. There are so many possible microbes that can come into contact with food from a wide variety of sources including people with poor personal hygiene or outsourced ingredients that have been contaminated elsewhere.
Now, a team from China has reviewed hyperspectral and optical scattering imaging techniques to reveal whether food samples contain problematic microorganisms. These non-invasive approaches circumvent many of the long-winded and complicated laboratory techniques on which such tests have relied in the past.
Optical techniques offer quicker result and avoid the need for destructive testing and even significant operator expertise.
Xu, J., Ma, L., Wu, J., Xu, X., Sun, Y., Liu, Q., Pan, L. and Tu, K. (2018) 'Applications of hyperspectral and optical scattering imaging technique in the detection of food microorganism', Int. J. Computational Vision and Robotics, Vol. 8, No. 3, pp.267–282.
|AUG||A breath of fresh air for hospitals|
Indoor air quality is important for everyone's health but perhaps no more so than in different kinds of medical centre. A team from India has investigated hospital waiting room air quality in terms of patient comfort with respect to ambient temperature.
The team looked at naturally ventilated, passive split ventilated, and active ventilation in hospital buildings for two scenarios in terms of numbers of people in those areas. A comfortable temperature and relative humidity are critical for physiological and psychological wellbeing as is fresh air where expired carbon dioxide levels are not too high.
Their study reveals how better ventilation management can improve well-being for patients, their carers, and healthcare workers. Moreover, active ventilation management is the only optimal choice in such environments.
Lawrence, I.D., Jayabal, S. and Thirumal, P. (2018) 'Indoor air quality investigations in hospital patient room', Int. J. Biomedical Engineering and Technology, Vol. 27, Nos. 1/2, pp.124–138.
|AUG||Fear of cyber-terrorism|
Is cyberterrorism all it's cracked up to be or is it scaremongering by cyber-security firms keen on new business from individuals, other companies, and governments?
Researchers in Australia have reviewed the research literature and debate on this subject and question whether terrorists have ever really had the capability to "weaponize" the internet. Moreover, the predictions of those in academia, as well as the cyber-security and wider internet-associated industries, have not been borne out despite the apparent threats. It seems that rather being a weapon, the internet is mostly useful to terrorists as a communication tool.
That said and to paraphrase a well-worn cliché – The net is mightier than the sword. However, there is a caveat; the team suggests that our individual, corporate, and government responses to perceived terrorist threats could be a goal in itself for the terrorist agenda, leading to costs, service disruption, and other problems.
Droogan, J. and Waldek, L. (2018) 'Should we be afraid of cyber-terrorism?', Int. J. Electronic Security and Digital Forensics, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp.242–254.
|AUG||Text mining the presidency|
A new text mining technique has been developed by US researchers. The system works in two stages. Firstly, it uses a statistical tool known as a naive Bayes classifier, a supervised machine-learning algorithm to train for classes. Secondly, it uses k-means analysis, an unsupervised machine-learning algorithm to determine what categories are emerging from the mentions of each class.
The team has tested the efficacy of their data mining tool on updates from the microblogging platform Twitter extracted during the 2016 US presidential elections. The approach allows text mining to work for knowledge discovery, the team suggests. They explain that the approach thus offers a commentary on the current state of the political arena after analysing the candidate tweets and how people are reacting to these tweets.
Malhotra, R. and Malhotra, K. (2018) 'An analysis of the 2016 US presidential election using Chanakya – a knowledge discovery platform for text mining', Int. J. Knowledge Engineering and Data Mining, Vol. 5, Nos. 1/2, pp.17-39.
|AUG||Pareidolia on parade|
Pareidolia is the tendency to see faces in the environment, buildings and objects that surround us even when those things are most certainly not real faces. The phenomenon has been exploited by humanity for millennia in puppetry, masks, cartoons, car design, and other cultural phenomena. It is perhaps well known that many car designers ensure that the front "face" of a vehicle looks positive, happy even, while the rear is more menacing to subconsciously preclude following drivers from dangerously "tailgating" a vehicle.
Other examples of pareidolia that have nothing to do with marketing and road safety are our recognition of a "man in the moon" and the "Face on Mars", a natural rock formation on The Red Planet that looks superficially like a face. And, of course plenty of moths and caterpillars exploit the ability of their predators to perceived wing and body patterning as a face when they're about to be eaten!
A UK team has now examined this anthropomorphism and the use of faces in design by looking at more than 2300 images from across the internet. They have carried out the first systematic investigation of product types and face characteristics (size, composition, emotion) that are manifest in this phenomenon. They have thus demonstrated that pareidolia is a compelling and prevalent facet of how we interpret products and is a useful tool for product designers and in marketing.
According to Andrew Wodehouse, Ross Brisco, Ed Broussard, and Alex Duffy in the Department of Design, Manufacture and Engineering Management, at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK, of the photos they examined the most common instances of pareidolia were those in which a medium-sized product was shown in which part of the product could be interpreted as a face, and that it conveyed a happy emotion. "The effects of culture and self-congruence are identified as important aspects of our interpretation of facial emotion," the team reports.
They conclude that designers should, if they do not already do so, consider the fundamental geometric elements of products with respect to facial morphology. This should be taken into account whether or not the intention is to exploit the brain's ability to see faces or not. Obviously, it may not be useful for a mundane safety product to appear to have a smiling face, for instance.
Wodehouse, A., Brisco, R., Broussard, E. and Duffy, A. (2018) 'Pareidolia: characterising facial anthropomorphism and its implications for product design', J. Design Research, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp.83–98
Software that can identify a plant from an image of a leaf has been developed by researchers in Malaysia. The system uses statistical operators to reduce noise in images of different leaves to make the process more efficient.
Given the importance of plants for global ecology, it is important as humanity strives towards a sustainable approach to living that we have the right plants in place and that we recognize the rarities we best not lose. The team says their system could help in this regard. It extracts ten features from pre-processed leaf images and with one particular filtering approach, WFT (Wiener filtering technique) has an identification accuracy of 95.1%.
Aliyu, M.G., Kadir, M.F.A., Mamat, A.R. and Mohamad, M. (2018) 'Noise removal using statistical operators for efficient leaf identification', Int. J. Computer Aided Engineering and Technology, Vol. 10, No. 4, pp.364–377.
Active ageing is a positive societal trend that is becoming increasingly relevant as life expectancy rises and the demographic shifts to an older population. Researchers in Israel have investigated the motivation for entrepreneurship in later life.
The researchers suggest that this area of gerontology and social research has so far been little explored. Their study of "retirees" shows that older adults are "pulled" towards becoming entrepreneurs in their senior years as notions of self-fulfilment, increasing personal wellbeing, self-realisation and enhancing personal interests, become increasingly important to them. Push factors, such as the need to earn a living, raise a family, comply with societal norms, are less important in the third age.
"Our findings have implications for designated training programs for older adults that aim to promote their motivation and foster their skills to launch entrepreneurial activities," the team concludes.
Gimmon, E., Yitshaki, R. and Hantman, S. (2018) 'Entrepreneurship in the third age: retirees’ motivation and intentions', Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Vol. 34, No. 3, pp.267-288.
|JUL||The gender innovation gap|
Management research has presented conflicting views on the relationship between gender diversity and business performance, particularly in terms of innovation.
Now, a team from Spain hopes to address the issue and has used social cognitive theory to investigate how innovation in research and development teams can be fostered by a combination of the specific context of R&D tasks and the participation of mixed gender teams. They have data from 3540 manufacturing companies and their findings suggest that gender diversity has a non-linear impact on innovation.
In other words, moderate levels of gender diversity boost innovation, but lower or higher levels lead to less optimal results. However, the data also point to environmental factors having a strong influence.
González-Moreno, Á., Díaz-García, C. and Sáez-Martínez, F.J. (2018) 'R&D team composition and product innovation: gender diversity makes a difference', European J. International Management, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp.423-446.
Might end-of-life recycling of cars be one way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions? Researchers in Germany hope to answer this question in the affirmative. European Union and German regulations and those elsewhere, already push to recycle cars to minimize waste. The team’s analysis shows that there can be significant reductions in carbon emissions if logistics are optimized. The research, the team says, could be used to support local authorities, recycling companies, and environmental organizations in the search for reducing the environmental impact of end-of-life vehicles.
Kuhn, C. and Nunes, K.R.A. (2018) 'End-of-life-vehicle recycling in Germany: alternative for the reduction of CO2 emissions', Int. J. Environment and Waste Management, Vol. 21, Nos. 2/3, pp.120–140.
Researchers in India have investigated beliefs and attitudes to so-called "locavore" food in restaurants, food that is prepared from only locally sourced supplies. They found that most people have a positive attitude to such items on the menu. "Factors such as healthy eating, motivation to the restaurateurs, encouragement to the local food suppliers, commitment to conserve the environment have influenced the attitude," they report. Indeed, those who frequent restaurants are more than happy to be part of the local food movement and this finding should encourage restaurateurs to "go local".
Sudhagar, D.P. (2018) 'Examining Indian consumers belief and attitude about locavore food', Int. J. Business Forecasting and Marketing Intelligence, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp.322–338.
Policies and regulations for the alcohol industry a very different in Ireland and the USA. A new study has looked at whether these differences are reflected in alcohol consumption and associated problems with particular emphasis on advertising of alcoholic beverages. The researchers looked at brand, commercial name, appeal used (image, product, sex or humour), type of alcoholic beverage promoted, and the audience targeted as well as craft beer, health conscious, sports fan niches.
The type of appeal and the drink advertised did not vary in ads in the two regions. However, target audiences did vary widely as did the target audience by drink type. Many ads were obviously designed to appeal to young and even underage individuals. Successful alcohol advertisements reinforce the drink culture in both the USA and Ireland and persist in recruiting new generations of drinkers, the team reports.
Gibic, A., Natarajan, V.S. and Sen, K.C. (2018) 'Appeals and spiels: a comparative analysis on alcohol advertising in the USA and Ireland', Int. J. Business Forecasting and Marketing Intelligence, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp.293-310.
|JUL||Condensing cloud solution|
Researchers in India point out that despite the enormously widespread use of mobile devices there remains the problem of limited storage capacity for many applications on such devices. Studies suggest that mobile cloud computing might remedy the situation. The team has now evaluated three such systems – Mult Cloud, ES File Explorer and Cloud Cube – in terms of CPU usage, battery consumption, time consumption and data usage parameters across Wi-Fi networks. They tested them using two mobile devices the Sony Xperia ZL smart phone and the Nexus 7 tablet. Their findings suggest that while the systems may solve the storage problem and they lead to lower battery consumption, they are all inefficient in CPU usage and data costs. It is time cloud developers stepped up to condense a multi-cloud solution that can address all the issues.
Bedi, R.K., Singh, J. and Gupta, S.K. (2018) ‘Multi-cloud storage systems for mobile devices: study and analysis‘, Int. J. Mobile Learning and Organisation, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp.216-239.
|JUL||Pregnant pause for thought|
Pregnancy by all accounts can be an uncomfortable business with its ups and downs and periodic problems. Indian researchers list morning sickness, backache, bladder and bowel problems, changes in skin and hair, cramps, swelling, the emergence of varicose veins, fatigues, headache, and indigestion as some of the issues.
To that list, you could perhaps add haemorrhoids, high blood pressure, and various other conditions that might arise temporarily or persist post-partum. They point out that many women will seek advice from a qualified medical professional and a conventional prescription while others may turn away from evidence-based medicine and seek alternative therapies.
There is, however, they point out a whole raft of concerns with seeking non-prescription therapies, side effects, not least, but also the risk of harm to the unborn baby or even miscarriage. Their study shows a correlation between age and number of dependents and a woman’s attitude to prescription medicines or otherwise. The team suggests that the government has a role to play in educating women about diet and medicines during pregnancy.
Vasumathi, A. (2018) 'Pregnant women's perception towards the prescription given by the doctors', Int. J. Services and Operations Management, Vol. 30, No. 3, pp.371–382.
|JUL||Silver nanoparticles by design|
A team in India has tested the antibacterial activity of silver nanoparticles generated in the presence of the common microbes Streptomyces species. They used ultraviolet spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction to assess the structures of the AgNPs. Electron microscopy revealed the particles to be spherical and 30 nanometres in diameter. The particles were active against Escherichia coli and other microbial pathogens. However, parallel tests against a laboratory breast cancer cell line showed them to be even more toxic against such cells and to open up the possibility of using such biological AgNPs in a new type of anticancer therapy.
Baskaran, B., Muthukumarasamy, A. and Maruthai, J. (2018) 'Biological fabrication of silver nanomaterials and their applications in pharmaceutical fields', Int. J. Computational Materials Science and Surface Engineering, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp.79–88.
Ngayogyakarta Wayang Kulit is an ancient performance art form. Intricately carved leather puppets are commonly used to project a shadow on to an illuminated screen as a story or fable is relayed to the audience. The art form may encompass traditional, spiritual, or other types of story.
Such cultural importance is this art form from Indonesia that Wayang Kulit is UNESCO-listed. Researchers have now used various techniques to analyze the shapes of the shadow puppets and the characters that they represent with a view to facilitating conservation of the art form.
"We found that various pairs of physical variables can be used to analyze the puppet shapes: the puppet level of details, the puppet surface area, the puppet perimeter length and the puppet height. Our results demonstrate that we can classify the different types of puppet characters using the puppet shapes," the team concludes.
Parikesit, G.O.F. (2017) ‘Quantitative analysis of the puppet shapes in Ngayogyakarta Wayang Kulit’, Int. J. Arts and Technology, Vol. 10, No. 4, pp.241–255.
The success of any metropolitan transport service, the metro, relies on accessibility for the commuters and others who use it. If they can access it on foot or on non-powered wheeled transport, such as a bicycle, then it should be a success because it will allow people to get to and from their destination without the added pressure of vehicular congestion at either end of their metro journey. Researchers in Qatar have looked at the "walkability" of proposed metro stations in Doha. Their method of analysis is facile but provides important clues as to how planners might improve a metro system and make it even more accessible, usable, and useful
Shaaban, K., Siam, A., Badran, A. and Shamiyah, M. (2018) 'A simple method to assess walkability around metro stations', Int. J. Sustainable Society, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp.1–19.
Masonry dams are a critical component in civil engineering infrastructure across the world acting as the stalwart of water reservoirs for drinking and hydroelectric power generation. Given this, there is a need to understand the stresses and strains that such dams face especially when structural damage occurs during and after an earth tremor earthquake. Researchers in Germany have devised a method that can reveal localised damage and identify the degree to which a masonry dam has been compromised under a given scenario. Given that lives may depend on the integrity of such a dam, it is critical to understand the changes they may undergo and the means by which they might be repaired.
Nguyen-Tuan, L., Koenke, C., Bettzieche, V. and Lahmer, T. (2018) 'Uncertainty assessment in the results of inverse problems: applied to damage detection in masonry dams', Int. J. Reliability and Safety, Vol. 12, Nos. 1/2, pp.2-23.
|JUL||Open source movement|
Researchers in Brazil are hoping to understand what motivates the so-called open source movement particularly when it comes to open source innovation (OSI). They have carried out field studies of international companies that have adopted the OSI approach.
Their study confirms earlier explanations of the motivations but also adds to our understanding in areas beyond the software industries where open source has been a common ethos for much longer than other industries. Fundamentally, OSI offers businesses a way to break free strategically from the constraints of more conventional approaches to innovation.
The team suggests that the open strategy proposed by the OSI model could empower companies to up their competitive game.
Burtet, C.G., Verschoore, J.R. and Bittencourt, A.C. (2018) 'Open source innovation: what makes it move?', Int. J. Business Innovation and Research, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp.324-341.
|JUL||How not to go viral|
The spread of the viral disease Ebola is a major worldwide health concern. Recent outbreaks in Africa have ultimately been well controlled, but a new emergence could occur and cause significant loss of life not only to those local to the epidemic but across the globe as the disease can spread so quickly with international air travel.
Researchers in China have investigated the logistics and dynamics of how Ebola spreads with the hope that their model can inform a future response to an outbreak quickly and effectively before it spreads.
Moreover, the approach ensures minimal cost, which is important given that emergence of the lethal hemorrhagic disease commonly occurs in undeveloped and developing nations.
Zhu, J-M., Xia, W-Y., Sun, J-J., Liu, J-B. and Yu, F-H. (2018) 'The spread pattern on Ebola and the control schemes', Int. J. Innovative Computing and Applications, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp.77-89.
|JUL||Forensic data retrieval|
Researchers from Nigeria have looked closely at the latest tools for forensic analysis of data on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers. They explain that at the moment retrieval of data from such devices remains a significant problem in terms of obtaining standardized data that will hold up in a court of law. There are also the issues of digital evidence being overwritten and so lost as new data is added to a device with its finite storage capacity as well as the possibility of a remote command being sent across a wireless or other telecommunications network to wipe and even “brick” a device before law enforcement is able to extract useful evidence in an investigation. The team’s approach, tested with retrieving data from one social media app can circumvent this problem by using a forensic peer-to-peer application that duplicates and disperses information across three servers before it can be deleted or destroyed remotely.
Alhassan, J.K., Gbolahan, A., Idris, I., Abdulhamid, S.M. and Waziri, V.O. (2018) 'A forensic evidence recovery from mobile device applications', Int. J. Digital Enterprise Technology, Vol. 1, Nos. 1/2, pp.79-95.
|JUL||Did you mean to say that?|
Plagiarism, wherein an author or other creator, simply copies the original output of another and passes the work of as their own with giving due credit is on the rise, it seems, particularly in the realm of research. An author can simply copy and paste great tracts of text from another author and hope that the editor who receives their manuscript is disinterested in checking that the submitted text is entirely original or otherwise lacks the skills or inclination to check.
Most plagiarism detection software which seeks to flag such offences compares chunks of text in a larger document with documents in a database or searchable on the web. There has been little attempt to look at context and semantics. This is an ongoing problem as a plagiarist may copy and paste whole paragraphs and pages, they may also be wily enough to change some of the text order or substitute synonyms in their version of the plagiarised text for the purposes of obfuscation.
Researchers in India suggest that their semantic analysis of text reveals similarities and so could lay bare that kind of fraud.
Mukherjee, I., Kumar, B., Singh, S. and Sharma, K. (2018) "Plagiarism detection based on semantic analysis", Int. J. Knowledge and Learning, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp.242–254.
|JUL||Enmeshed in networks|
Many people enjoying using online social networks and for many varied purposes from simple entertainment and education to marketing and campaigning. However, the call and response, the likes and follows, the thumbs-up and the thumbs-down are thought to invoke feelings of need in susceptible individuals that may or may not become what in more familiar contexts be described as addictions.
A study of hundreds of students at a private American University in the State of Kuwait suggests that approximately two-thirds of the students may be addicted to using online social networks. Whether or not true harm is being done to such individuals remains a question to be answered especially given how increasingly enmeshed in contemporary society are the rapidly developing tools of online social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Instagram and many others.
Society needs to understand and educate those who may develop problems associated with low self-esteem, withdrawal effects, habit, and depression associated with the constant use of online social networks.
Rabaa'i, A.A., Bhat, H. and Al-Maati, S.A. (2018) 'Theorising social networks addiction: an empirical investigation', Int. J. Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp.1-24.
|JUL||The bald truth about bro-science videos|
Lots of people now share personal accounts of their health and wellbeing and tips on how to improve the same. Indeed, a whole sub-genre of motivational videos on systems such as Youtube has emerged in which individuals discuss their success and failures with various healthcare products. Within that sub-genre, there are also "bro-science" videos.
This sub-genre is commonly frequented by male bodybuilders looking at how to improve themselves their sport, but there are other bro-science video producers who consider products for baldness and other generally male “afflictions” and putative remedies for such conditions. UK psychologists have studied dozens of bro-science videos on this topic on Youtube with a view to understanding what motivates these amateur motivators to create their videos.
Understanding the gendered concept of bro-science videos also represents an intriguing and pertinent avenue of investigation in the social sciences, especially given that women also create and watch similar videos.
McNeill, A. and Sillence, E. (2018) "Motivations and stake management in producing YouTube 'bro-science' videos for baldness treatment", Int. J. Web Based Communities, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp.97-113.
|JUN||What do you really mean?|
Huge efforts are being put into extracting information and meaning from the written word. Sentiment analysis and opinion mining in natural language processing are high on the information research agenda, in other words.
There is a need for many applications to be able to extract opinions, sentiment, and emotional response from disparate resources, such as product reviews, blogs, social networks, political manifestos, and more. Now, a new approach can even find hints of opinion in apparently objective and bald statements of fact.
The approach has so far been tested successfully in the area of product reviews.
Lazhar, F. (2018) 'Mining hidden opinions from objective sentences' Int. J.Data Mining, Modelling, Management Vol. 10, No. 2, pp.113 - 126
|JUN||Cyber threats to connected cars|
Connected cars could be as vulnerable to so-called "cyber attack" as the smartphone in your hand or the personal computer on your desktop, according to a new study from the UK. "Connected cars are no different from other nodes on the internet of things and face many of the same generic cybersecurity threats," the team reports. They point out that the sheer number of putatively connected vehicles represents the biggest problem to be addressed and yet there have been few contributions to the debate. There are threats that are peculiar to connected cars rather than any other Internet of Things (IoT) device, PC, or mobile.
The team – David Morris, Garikayi Madzudzo, and Alexeis Garcia-Perez of the Centre for Business in Society, at Coventry University, UK – highlights several features of connected cars:
The team adds, however, that each additional feature and function in a connected car brings with it digital security risks and vulnerabilities that could expose critical vehicle systems to those who might exploit them for illegal activity. "The potential costs of vehicle cybersecurity attacks and their prevention measures need to be weighed up against the undoubted benefits which technological innovations in connected cars may bring," the team says.
There are four prominent features that must be investigated to which the researchers allude. First, the largely commercial nature of "cyberspace" makes regulation and usage very difficult to control. Secondly, there is such a vast array of components across the globe with countless sources and intermediaries handling them during manufacture and in use. Thirdly, there is huge potential for new vulnerabilities and risks to emerge suddenly, so-called zero-day attacks, for instance. Finally, the very nature of cyber threats is highly covert and so the public, business, and government assessment of potential risk underestimates the reality by a long way.
The team concludes that in order to mitigate the threat of cybersecurity, "Coordinated research and development strategies must be developed. Cross-disciplinary research in implementing security into control systems will be needed to provide the solutions necessary to combat cybersecurity incidents."
Morris, D., Madzudzo, G. and Garcia-Perez, A. (2018) 'Cybersecurity and the auto industry: the growing challenges presented by connected cars', Int. J. Automotive Technology and Management, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp.105–118.
|JUN||Personalised social engineering|
Anybody can become the victim of a confidence trick, in the modern parlance they might succumb to social engineering. Through such illicit tools, a third party might gain access to the contents of one's hard drive, one's bank account, or even steal one's identity for nefarious purposes. Human behaviour and deception cut to the core of the modern hacker's approach to breaching so-called cyber security.
A snippet of information, a date of birth, a mother's unmarried name, a home address leaked by the gullible or deceived can be added to information gleaned from social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter where users commonly share their innermost secrets with no regard for privacy or ultimately their personal online security. Researchers have previously demonstrated that human personality traits can influence the susceptibility of an individual to manipulation related to social engineering deception attacks and exploits. By creating a cognitive dissonance, a trickster might obtain useful information, such as login details, by simple of sophisticated deception. The end result will always be the same – a third party having access to an account, information, and data to which they have no legitimate claim.
Now, James Stewart of Keiser University, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Maurice Dawson of the Illinois Institute of Technology, in Chicago, USA, have undertaken a quantitative and non-experimental study to investigate what specific factors lead to gullibility in an individual faced with social engineering threats based on personality traits. The team points out that security professionals are yet to address completely the human factors involved in data breaches and other hacking and cracking efforts. Nobody has yet found a viable strategy for investigating these nor has conventional training in security whether homeland security or business security squared up to the risks in a satisfying manner. "However, the human element has the greatest potential to compromise the embedded technology," Keiser and Dawson assert.
It has previously been observed that behaviour patterns and indicators, such as threat vulnerability, threat severity, trust, commitment, fear, and obedience to authority can often be manipulated by confidence tricksters of all kinds. The presence of such personality traits is commonly a strong indicator of social engineering susceptibility. The team has also looked for correlates with age, education level, country and other factors, such as ethnicity.
"The principle of influence independent variables were reactance, affective commitment and continuance commitment. The dependent susceptibility variable was a scored grouping of the principle of influence factors that included trust, vulnerability and threat and obedience," the team concludes.
Stewart, J. and Dawson, M. (2018) 'How the modification of personality traits leave one vulnerable to manipulation in social engineering', Int. J. Information Privacy, Security and Integrity, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp.187–208.
|MAY||Alexa... check my security settings|
Do you trust the Internet of Things? More to the point, do you trust "Alexa" the voice-activated software in the Amazon Echo and related IoT devices? There is not necessarily any particular reason not to trust Alexa and Amazon, although one must always remember that data held by any company on its servers may be compromised by hackers or malware. In addition, might your "conversations" with Alexa and the Echo's recordings of your voice while it is in seemingly passive mode might be exploited by third parties or perhaps even used as evidence in a court of law.
Writing in the International Journal of the Internet of Things and Cyber-Assurance, Catherine Jackson and Angela Orebaugh of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, highlight several issues and offer some advice for users. The same problems and how to address them might equally apply to any other voice-activated IoT device.
Problem 1: Alexa trusts and responds to requests from anyone, including those on TV or passing by an open window. This means that it will respond to a command from a passerby or a personality on the TV. The team suggests that without adequate security measures, unauthorised users might order items from Amazon, unlock the doors of the house, control thermostats, locate phones, and control devices such as ovens and other domestic appliances. Recommendation 1a: Users worried about problem 1 should assign another wake word, such as "echo", "computer", or "Amazon" instead of using "Alexa". This will preclude radio and television advertisements, news broadcasts, and films and television programmes with characters named Alexa from activating the device.
Recommendation 1b: Users should enable a request notification sound at the start and end of a request to know when the device has been triggered. This might alert the user to an accidental or malicious activation.
Recommendation 1c: Users should keep their Amazon Echo device away from windows, doors, and out of "earshot" of their telephone answering machine, television or other audio device.
Problem 2: There are many benefits to having an "intelligent" digital assistant, but voice activation requires the device to be constantly alert to its wake word. However, there may be times when you might not want any device to "hear" your conversation.
Recommendation 2a: Engage the mute button so that your Amazon Echo stops listening. The LED indicator for the mute button will turn red to indicate that Alexa will no longer hear you as the microphone circuit has been disconnected by this action.
Recommendation 2b: Instead of only temporarily muting the Echo, you can leave it in mute mode perpetually and use the app or remote control.
Recommendation 2c: Disconnect the power supply when you are away from your device or not using it for extended periods of time. Not only does this save the trickle of standby electricity, but ensures privacy.
Problem3: Alexa stores a log of requests on Amazon's cloud servers, which are linked directly to the Amazon account associated with the device.
Recommendation 3: Review your stored history periodically to check for unexplained or unauthorised actions and delete stored recordings when you feel the need.
Problem 4: Voice-activated purchases from Amazon are enabled by default. Recommendation 4: disable voice purchasing or add a 4-digit PIN for purchases through the Alexa app to preclude third-parties, including children, friends, relatives, and visitors to your home from ordering items on your account.
"While these recommendations can improve consumer security and privacy for the Amazon Echo, similar actions should be taken for other intelligent personal assistants. Additionally, it is important to raise overall consumer awareness of security and privacy," the team concludes.
Jackson, C. and Orebaugh, A. (2018) 'A study of security and privacy issues associated with the Amazon Echo', Int. J. Internet of Things and Cyber-Assurance, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp.91–100.
|APR||Bricking arsenic from contaminated water|
Arsenic contamination of drinking water is a serious problem for many people living in places are disparate as the Indian sub-continent, South America and the American mid-west. The problem affects mainly groundwater sources, and arises by dissolution of arsenic-containing rocks and ashes of volcaninc origin (and their weathering products), by oxidation of sulfur-containing minerals, and/or by mobilization of arsenic-retained iron oxides due to reductive dissolution and/or by arsenic desorption, which in turn is due to phosphate competition. These processes are in general naturally occurring, but human activities such as mining or mismanagement of groundwater resources can also be held responsible for arsenic pollution.
Chronic ingestion of arsenic at sub-toxic levels leads to a condition known as arsenicosis. The pathology of this disorder causes skin lesions such as dermatosis and keratosis, and ultimately skin, lung, bladder, kidney, and liver cancer, among other problems. The World Health Organization established guidelines on exposure and suggest that a total arsenic concentration of 10 micrograms per litre for arsenic in drinking water is the upper safe limit that balances likely levels in the developing world with a relatively safe rate that the body might clear this element once absorbed. Nevertheless, there are an estimated 226 million people exposed to much higher, and thus hazardous levels around the world.
In Argentina alone, around 4 million people, about one in ten of the population, are at risk of drinking groundwater containing natural, but nevertheless toxic, arsenic at concentrations exceeding the 10 micrograms per litre limit.
The decontamination of drinking water and well water is possible, but is generally rather costly and relies on technical equipment that is usually out of the reach of villages and other remote locations in the developing world, making thus necessary a continuous effort to develop new, more efficient and cheaper methods for arsenic removal. However, this decontamination will always generate a toxic waste product that itself must be contained to prevent arsenic leaching back into the environment and waterways.
Now, Jorge Martín Meichtry and Graciela Elizabeth De Seta of the Universidad Tecnológica Nacional, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and their colleagues have devised a novel method of handling arsenic-containing waste in the form of a mortar formulation for the fabrication of materials that removes the arsenic from the environmental equation by locking it up into bricks made with Portland cement. The bricks can be safely used as construction hardcore or foundation materials or buried in a landfill with very little risk of the arsenic becoming soluble and leaching into soil and water. The team provides details of their work in the International Journal of Environment and Health.
De Seta, E.G., Reina, F.D., Mugrabi, F.I., Lan, L.E., Guerra, J.P., Laburu, A.P., Domingo, E.J. and Meichtry, J.M. (2018) 'Safe disposal of solid wastes generated during arsenic removal in drinking water', Int. J. Environment and Health, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp.50–65.
|MAR||The power of crowdfunding|
Once upon a time, entrepreneurs and others might seek financial backing for a project from corporate entities, government, grant-awarding bodies, and perhaps even public donations. In the age of online social networking and social media, a new opportunity for raising capital has emerged and has been dubbed crowdfunding.
With the help of crowdfunding, aspiring entrepreneurs can raise money from a large number of ordinary people (the "crowd"). Since crowdfunding is Internet-mediated, it generally involves offering incentives and recruiting donations through social media activities, such as blogging, sharing videos and photos, and perhaps even podcasting. Now, researchers in Germany have investigated how three of the most well-known "Web 2.0" systems – Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn – interact and can be best used to improve the outcome of a crowdfunding campaign.
Kaja Joanna Fietkiewicz, Carina Hoffmann, and Elmar Lins of the Heinrich Heine University, in Düsseldorf, Germany, have focused on the various factors that actually lead to success in a crowdfunding success. Importantly, they point out that the emergence of countless Web 2.0, social media, and social networking websites and applications, and almost certainly the advent of the smartphone have made national boundaries almost transparent. This allows an entrepreneur in one place to reach a global audience.
The researchers have found that it seems that Facebook offers the greatest opportunity for electronic "word-of-mouth" marketing of a campaign whereas LinkedIn and YouTube, which are in several ways more passive online tools than Facebook, offered a different type of eWoM. YouTube can increase interest despite the weak ties between users in contrast to the strong communities on Facebook. Any impact of LinkedIn a crowdfunding campaign seems to rely on priming via Facebook and/or YouTube.
Fundamentally, the team says, "An optimal solution for founders appears to be to focus on the connection of two social media platforms, e.g., Facebook or YouTube for eWoM, and LinkedIn for social capital." They add that the common assumption that if nobody sees it, it didn't happen holds true. "A great business-oriented network might be the decisive point for many investors," they add. Hence, entrepreneurs must either turn to their own network and start the domino effect of eWoM on Facebook, or make an appealing and informative video that will be distributed by those who are not necessarily familiar with the project, but will be interested to see something engaging on YouTube and share their thoughts and perhaps even pledge to the campaign and encourage others to do so also.
Fietkiewicz, K.J., Hoffmann, C. and Lins, E. (2018) 'Find the perfect match: the interplay among Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn on crowdfunding success', Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Vol. 33, No. 4, pp.472-493.
|FEB||Fake news and the public vote|
In recent political processes with potential global impact, such as the 2016 US presidential elections in which Donald Trump was made President and the UK Referendum result that will ultimately lead to Britain's exit, Brexit, from the European Union, it seems that "fake news" has played a critical role in manipulating public opinion and thus the final outcome. Writing in the International Journal of Web-Based Communities, Greek researchers have analysed the effect of the social media platform, Twitter, on an earlier instance of bad rumours, the referendum in Greece that would have led to Grexit, but ultimately did not.
Dimitrios Kydros of the Department of Accounting and Finance at T.E.I. of Central Macedonia, in Serres, Greece, has social network analysis to investigate the patterns in the data surrounding rumours spread in serious economic situations. Kydros analysed the keyword "Grexit" and looked at how Twitter updates using this term changed with time in the run-up to a proposed referendum in 2015. Kydros attempted to distinguish between tweets from Greece and abroad and looked for clusters and communities sharing information about Grexit.
In attempting this analysis, Kydros was hoping to find out whether something other than the received economic wisdom that economics is driven by the scarcity of resources, supply and demand, and production costs, or whether other factors were driving the decisions of individuals in making choices that might affect them through national and international economic shifts, such as a country departing the European Union. He suggests that with the advent of 24-hour access to news and instantaneous communication either through email or across social media and social networks that financial or political news spreads and influences decision makers at all levels within organisations and at the individual and private level much more efficiently than in the past.
As such, those organization or people who are nodes and hubs in the network might be able to influence popular decisions more than traditional media. Moreover, if the opinions, perspective and political viewpoint of those hubs are aligned with a particular agenda, which may or may not be coincident with particular sectors of the media or politics, then their use of what might be termed "fake news" might influence popular decisions for better or for worse. Such effects are well-known through history, of course, and are usually referred to by the term propaganda. However, as we are all increasingly aware, instantaneous one-ton-one and one-to-many, and even many-to-one communications are very efficient with the ubiquity of the internet and perpetual connectivity for a huge proportion of the population.
Filtering news to preclude the spread of "fake news" might at first glance appear a desirable process, but who is to police such filtering, who is to decide what is and isn't fake news? If the hubs are controlling the spread of information then it is one hub's word against another's as to what is genuine information that a reasonable person might trust and what is wholly propaganda that side-steps evidence and facts.
"Fortunately, even though the outcome of the Referendum was a straight road to a Grexit, the Greek political leaders were brave enough to put it aside and negotiate a new economic program for Greece," Kydros says. "It seems that in such big questions, almost everybody (inland and abroad) has something to say. Twitter by its nature is an extremely fast and penetrating medium but due to its character limit it cannot carry integrated messages." He adds that "It is now generally understood that some people or groups of people may use Twitter in order to lobby on special issues. Users, followers, and the general public should be aware of such situations and be conscious to double check not only the messages but also the corresponding Twitter updates and the general context."
Kydros adds that we should teach children even as young as primary school age, "to realize that not everything that is said or written is true or accurate!"
Kydros, D. (2018) 'Twitting bad rumours – the grexit case', Int. J. Web Based Communities, Vol.14, No.1, pp.4 - 20
|FEB||Standing room only|
The promotion of active workstations, such as standing desks and even treadmills in the office has been promoted by manufacturers recently with claims of better physical health, improved posture, even reduced mental stress, and a general boost to wellbeing. A new study by researchers in Finland suggests that many of the proposed benefits and claims are little more than marketing hyperbole.
Markus Makkonen, Minna Silvennoinen, Tuula Nousiainen, Arto Pesola, and Mikko Vesisenaho of the University of Jyvaskyla, explain that several studies in recent years have added to warnings about the perils of prolonged sedentary behaviour on our health and wellbeing. These studies have ultimately led to a new sector of ergonomics and thence products aimed at improving work posture and other factors. The team points out that one particular field of work seems more stereotypically prone to issues associated with being sedentary in the workplace and that is the software industry. As such, the team has investigated a small cohort of individuals in this sector to see whether or not there are benefits to standing workstations.
The team has investigated the physical activity, mental alertness, stress, and musculoskeletal strain in employees of a large software company in Finland. The employees completed a questionnaire and participated in the Firstbeat Lifestyle Assessment service.
The team found that the benefits of standing at work over sitting for workers in this industry were not at all as clear-cut as the marketing hype for standing workstations might suggest. "the findings of this study suggest that the use of standing instead of sitting workstations results in only modest promotions of physical activity," the team reports. Moreover, the change "does not have an effect on mental alertness." Indeed, standing to work seems to shift the stress-recovery balance more towards stress than recovery. They did see a decrease in musculoskeletal strain in the user's neck and shoulders, although stress and strain were raised in the legs and feet. Interestingly, the use of standing workstations did not have an impact on work posture comfort or workstation satisfaction, the team found.
The modest physical improvements to health – heart rate increased by 4.2 beats per minute on average, a rise in VO2 of 0.3 ml per kg body mass per minute, and in an extra 6.1 kilocalories burned per hour and marginally reduced upper body tension – would have to be offset against the increased risk of varicose veins, common in those who stand for long periods, and perhaps lower back problem exacerbated by always being upright.
Makkonen, M., Silvennoinen, M., Nousiainen, T., Pesola, A.J. and Vesisenaho, M. (2017) 'To sit or to stand, that is the question: examining the effects of work posture change on the well-being at work of software professionals', Int. J. Networking and Virtual Organisations, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp.371-391
Birds play an important role in a wide variety of ecosystems as both predator and prey, in controlling insect populations, pollinating and seed dispersal for many plants, and in releasing nutrients on to land and sea in the form of guano. From a scientific perspective it is therefore crucial to monitor bird populations. Now, research published in the International Journal of Computer Applications in Technology could pave the way to an automated bird identification system based on bird calls and song.
Arti Bang and Priti Rege of the College of Engineering, in Pune, India, explain that bird songs and calls are made up of syllables and each call and song unique to a given species consists of a group of syllables which in turn are made up of elements. It is possible to carry out a spectrographic analysis of the sound, but this is laborious and requires experts with a good ear for the sounds birds make. Ultimately, however, such an approach will be subjective when it comes to distinguishing between birds with very similar sounding calls and songs.
The team suggests that automated bird recognition based on recordings of the sounds the birds make is a pattern recognition problem. As such, they have developed an automated system that circumvents the problems associated with previous attempts to automate the process and is based on extracting syllables with 10-millisecond audio frames. The analysis then builds on techniques that have been used to extract information, such as tempo, key signature, and genre from recordings of music.
The team tested the algorithm developed from the study on samples of bird songs and calls from the comprehensive and well-known international database Xeno Canto. They did preliminary testing of the system on with classification of ten bird species native to India carried out using Gaussian Mixture Modelling (GMM) and Support Vector Machines (SVMs). The same approach could equally be applied to species found anywhere in the world. Redundancy reduction within the system allows them to cut down the effects of background noise in any given audio recording and so improve accuracy still further.
Bang, A.V. and Rege, P.P. (2017) 'Evaluation of various feature sets and feature selection towards automatic recognition of bird species', Int. J. Computer Applications in Technology, Vol. 56, No. 3, pp.172-184.