2018 Journal news
Throughout human history, certain professions have been commonly peripatetic – the wandering minstrel perhaps a case in point. Musical entertainers who travelled the lands performing for the peasants in return for food and drink and a bed for the night. The modern "minstrel", more frequently known as a pop star might still travel the world, although the remunerative rewards are often grander than a couple of pints and a bunk-up…but not always.
Researchers in Germany have investigated the ambivalent imaginings that perpetually touring musicians have when contemplating their home and their sense of belong. Writing in the International Journal of Tourism Anthropology, Anna Lisa Ramella of the University of Siegen has looked at touring musicians who spend much of their time "on the road". She has determined that the conventional notions of immobility and mobility are not to be framed as home and away for such people. Instead, they can be more realistically conceptualised as familiar and alien, depending on the individual and their particular circumstances. "The very blurring of the boundaries of movement and stasis enables a shifting of perspectives in which 'home' and 'tour' may be experienced as either a source of stability or transience," she says.
The findings may well be obvious to the musicians themselves, particularly when one considers the 20th-century songbook and the folk, blues, and rock traditions that tell tales of life on the endless road and finding no place like home. Musicians have always been travellers that "need to do the road" and from ancient times to today, that urge to travel has been driven by culture and economic necessity.
Of course, throughout the latter years of the 20th Century, the notion of musicians touring to promote their recorded offerings became commonplace. Now in the age of streaming, digital downloads, and file sharing, the money to be made from recordings has dwindled for many musicians and touring and merchandise has become the revenue-generating vehicle rather than the marketing manoeuvres.
Ramella, A.L. (2018) 'Deciphering movement and stasis: touring musicians and their ambivalent imaginings of home and belonging', Int. J. Tourism Anthropology, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp.323-339.
The library continues to play a critical role in academic life, as one would hope! However, in today's connected world, there is pressure to update the conventional paradigms and an urgency for librarians to embrace online social media for the benefit of their users. Writing in International Journal of Electronic Customer Relationship Management, Melissa Clark and Scott Bacon of Coastal Carolina University, in Conway, South Carolina, USA, point out that the library is not only the repository of information sources for students but represents a hub that connects those students to the university.
The team has now investigated student perception of the role of the modern university library and whether or not following the social media account, or accounts, of their university library improves this perception or otherwise. Fundamentally, they found that "following the library on social media is positively related to a student's perception of their relationship quality with the university; students interested in multiple library services are likely to report the perception of a higher quality relationship with the university.".
One might consider that today's young students are almost all "digital natives" and use multiple social media platforms regularly and very much on a daily basis. Concomitant with that is the notion that education must be marketed in the modern environment in a way that it perhaps was not in the past: "By tapping into this channel, higher education marketers have a viable outlet that could be used to build a long-lasting relationship with their audience," the team reports.
The team adds that "Engagement on university social networks is cyclical by nature, as students enter the university, build networks and then graduate." They point out that there is natural attrition and so the university library's social media content strategy must be constantly tweaked to seek out the "freshers", the new students at the beginning of each academic year and to find ways to serve them better while they study and maybe even after they graduate, especially as alumni are often the greatest marketers for an academic institution.
Clark, M.N. and Bacon, S.D. (2018) 'Utilising social media to improve relationship quality: the case of the university library', Int. J. Electronic Customer Relationship Management, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp.384-410.
Non-contrast computed tomography (NCCT) is a low-cost medical imaging technology that is used widely in investigating damage to a patient's brain caused by ischaemic stroke. However, writing in the International Journal of Image Mining, researchers from Algeria explain that it is not without limitations. As such, they are developing an algorithm that can automatically detect ischaemic areas of the brain from CT images within hours of the onset of symptoms using a comparison of the two brain hemispheres.
Yahiaoui Amina Fatima Zahra and Bessaid Abdelhafid of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, at the University of Tlemcen, explain how subtle changes in ischaemia are difficult to visualise and to extract and although there are techniques that allow radiologists to "score" the damage and to make diagnostic decisions regarding thrombolytic treatment there is always room for improvement. Moreover, commonly only patients with a high baseline score benefit from endovascular revascularisation therapy. This could change if there were a better way to assess the CT images quickly.
The team reports that their algorithm has five steps: pre-processing, segmentation of regions of interest, elimination of old infarcts and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) space, feature extraction and ASPECTS scoring. They have tested it on 25 patients and found it to be effective in comparison with methods previously reported in the scientific literature and it shows high sensitivity at almost 91%.
Zahra, Y.A.F. and Abdelhafid, B. (2018) 'A promising method for early detection of ischemic stroke area on brain CT images', Int. J. Image Mining, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp.139-151.
Consumers have the opportunity to express their views about the products and services they use in ways that were simply not technologically possible a decade ago. Social media and social networks allow them to opine wildly to fellow users and also directly and in public to the companies that provide those products and services.
Of course, with any system involving subjectivity and more critically, money, there is likely to be gaming of that system on both sides. An unscrupulous company may attempt to spam the system and improve its ratings artificially. Conversely, an individual or pressure group with a particular grudge might wish to sabotage that company's ranking.
Writing in the International Journal of Web Based Communities, Meesala Shobha Rani and S. Sumathy of the School of Computer Science and Engineering, at Vellore Institute of Technology, in Vellore, India, have looked to nature for inspiration to find the best way to root out opinion spam. They have reviewed algorithms that use the notions of "a moth to a flame", "grey wolf hunting", or "flower pollination by insects". Their review looks at how well different approaches are able to detect fake opinions on social media. The same approaches might also be useful in spotting fake political opinion and even fake news.
Customers depend on e-commerce sites to save them shopping time and they require accurate and honest reviews on those sites to help them in their decision making, the team reports. However, spammers, often in exchange for payment can post a fake opinion, good or bad and so degrade the quality of the reviews. In their assessment of the different approaches, the team found that "grey wolf" is the more effective and might well be adopted by organizations and companies hoping to detect and delete fake opinion on their systems.
Rani, M.S. and Sumathy, S. (2018) 'Online social networking services and spam detection approaches in opinion mining - a review', Int. J. Web Based Communities, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp.353-378.
The work-life balance and juggling family can lead to emotional turmoil for those who find themselves unable to resolve the conflicting demands of work and family. A research team in India has now looked surveyed 346 employees from 93 organisations in order to ascertain whether "emotional dissonance" caused by work-family conflicts correlates with a person's intention to quit their employment.
Subhash Kundu and Nidhi Gaba of the Haryana School of Business, at Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology, in Hisar, Haryana, India, explain how they used multiple regression analysis on the data to test their hypothesis. Writing in the International Journal of Business and Globalisation, they describe how the analysis shows that the conflict between work and family life has a positive and statistically significant influence on a person's intention to quit. Critically, they showed that emotional dissonance is a key mediating factor in this regard.
Longer working hours, more rigid targets, mobile computing, and other factors and the change in the structure of families from single earners to dual-career couples as well as increased pressure from urbanization and longer-lived older family members are putting many people under new kinds of pressure and stress. There is even specifically on those in employment not only to perform well in their jobs but also to be successful in terms of a family too. But work demands and family demands are very different and pull people in two different directions commonly leading to conflict and what psychologists might refer to as emotional dissonance that a lay person might simply perceive as stress.
New insights into how emotional dissonance arises because of this almost ubiquitous work-family conflict could help policymakers and managers cope better with a changing world and to help retain a happy and less conflicted workforce.
Kundu, S.C. and Gaba, N. (2018) 'Work-family conflict and intention to quit: the mediating role of emotional dissonance', Int. J. Business and Globalisation, Vol. 21, No. 4, pp.464–483.
Haruo Awano of Sugimura & Partners and Koji Tanabe of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo, Japan, have looked at the strategy of repeated 'open' and 'narrow' approaches for standardised media in the context of market expansion where markets utilise international standards. Standardisation leads to the faster spread of a given technology and allows easy entry for many competitors into the market. Of course, this has a detrimental effect on the bottom line of the pioneering companies that invent a given technology as competition means price erosion. It is no surprise that so many electronics companies devise device-specific proprietary and patented peripherals, connectors, and power supplies for the products to help them retain a niche in the market and ward off those companies that would seek to use the existence of standards to circumvent the patents legitimately.
The team points out that there are still opportunities for innovators and inventors. They have now looked at the case of Sony and its 130 mm magneto-optical (MO) media and how the company could take advantage of its intellectual property even in the face of competition using the same technical standards to create rival products.
Fundamentally, one approach that can be taken is to build an entry barrier by creating a market in demand for highly reliable media, so that cheap competitors are ignored in the face of the more well-known product with a greater reputation. A second strategy is to simply update the pioneering product, with new innovation. In the case of MO media, doubling capacity periodically, for instance, while continuing to standardise. Competitors must then play catchup while the pioneer continues to reap the rewards of its intellectual property in new sales to the market. A market that is at once open to competition through standardisation is thus once more narrowed by innovating anew within the same format and niche.
Awano, H. and Tanabe, K. (2018) ' The strategy of repeated 'open' and 'narrow' approaches for standardised media', Int. J. Technology Management, Vol. 78, No. 4, pp.261–279.
In order to trade with markets in China, multinational corporations in the "West" have to share knowledge with their Chinese partners. This, warns a Norwegian team writing in the International Journal of Technology Management, leaves those corporations open to their products being copied. The corporations must share knowledge within a realm in which the familiar copyright and trademark laws that protect them in the West are not applicable.
Kim Van Oorschot and Jan Terje Karlsen of the BI Norwegian Business School, Hans Solli-Sæther of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, in Oslo, have analysed the strategic paradox of knowledge sharing and knowledge security. They have taken the ship-building industry as a case model for their research and looked at the long-term effects of a protection-based and a sharing-based knowledge strategy.
Fundamentally, while sharing knowledge leads to more illicit imitation, the long-term success of protecting knowledge from the Chinese markets is more detrimental as it simply undercuts trust of the multinationals among the Chinese suppliers. Moreover, the team found that protection irreparably reduces innovation rates. By contrast, sharing knowledge with Chinese partners encourages continuous reciprocity between those partners and the Western companies in a way that simply does not happen if trust is lost. "Innovation boosts the potential to keep sharing new and interesting knowledge in the future, thereby feeding this continuous reciprocity phenomenon," the team reports.
The team adds that, "Our simulation shows that giving is a better strategy than taking, which appears counterintuitive, especially in the context of the competitive Chinese market, with its reputation for active imitation." However, they suggest that Western management style wherein "giving" is a rare action, must be modernized to allow both sides to engage positively in the growing Chinese markets.
Van Oorschot, K.E., Solli-Sæther, H. and Karlsen, J.T. (2018) 'The knowledge protection paradox: imitation and innovation through knowledge sharing', Int. J. Technology Management, Vol. 78, No. 4, pp.310-342.
We need safe, secure, and sustainable ways to collect and transport infectious medical waste, according to researchers writing in the International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management. A.R. Tembhurkar and Radhika Deshpande of the Department of Civil Engineering, at Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, in Nagpur, Maharashtra, India, explain that risk assessment is critical to understanding how we can develop new approaches to the infectious medical waste problem. This is not something that has yet been addressed properly in India, they add.
Rapid urbanisation and improved access to medical facilities has come at a price in terms of increased levels of medical waste. Such waste has to be handled carefully given its obvious risks to human health and the environment. Earlier research has looked at how to improve handling through better awareness, training of personnel handling medical waste management, and through quantifying the amount of waste that is being generated. Risk cannot be avoided entirely, but it can be minimized.
The current work looks at developing a scenario-based risk assessment approach to analyse and assess the various risks and confounding factors associated with the collection and transportation of infectious medical waste. The fundamental conclusion from the work is that secure transportation is critical to reducing risk. "The risk assessment model developed in this study is based upon the primary data collected for IMWCT system in India and thus, this will aid in analysing the risk in IMWCT system for Indian conditions," the team reports. They add that the same model might be adapted for other parts of the world.
Tembhurkar, A.R. and Deshpande, R. (2018) 'Scenario-basedrisk assessment model for infectious medical waste collection andtransportation system', Int. J. Risk Assessment and Management, Vol. 21, No. 4,pp.271–282.
Electric rickshaws, e-rickshaws, are becoming commonplace in India, according to researchers writing in the International Journal of Intelligent Enterprise. However, battery power means electricity supply and that is a problem in terms of a lack of sustainable energy sources. Ravinder Kumar and Ravindra Jilte of the School of Mechanical Engineering, at Lovely Professional University, in Phagwara, Punjab, India, and Mohammad Hossein Ahmadi of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, at Shahrood University of Technology, in Shahrood, Iran, outline efforts that might take us down the road to a green city.
The team has investigated the potential of biogas in the face of massive urban population growth in India's cities. They point out that there will be massive and growing demands on electricity supply as the number of people living in India's cities approaches the total population of the USA today. They add that the Smart Cities Mission launched in 2015 aims to undertake urban renewal and retrofitting with a welcome emphasis on integrated planning and the provision of urban services, including power, water, waste, and mass transportation. However, as with any infrastructure project there remain many obstacles to be surmounted.
Transportation is one of the most prominent of those obstacles, which is why the emergence of the e-rickshaw might represent an intriguing alternative to conventional modes of transport, especially if there is potential to make the supply of power to such "vehicles" sustainable and non-polluting. The team describes the results of their feasibility study on generating electricity for e-rickshaw recharging using biogas in their paper.
Kumar, R., Jilte, R. and Ahmadi, M.H. (2018) 'Electricity alternative for e-rickshaws: an approach towards green city', Int. J. Intelligent Enterprise, Vol. 5, No. 4, pp.333-344.
These days, Moore's Law is not so much a scientific law as an aspiration. The notion that there is a doubling every year of the number of components that can be squeezed on to the same area of integrated circuitry was first observed in the mid-1960s by Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel. Ever since the microelectronics industry has strived to Moore's Law although in some periods that annual doubling seems to occur over a period of 18 months if not longer.
Nevertheless, it still offers a rule-of-thumb for how rapidly technology advances and posits a guideline as to what technology industries might aim for. Now, a paper in the International Journal of Technology Management asks whether technology improvement rates in knowledge industries, microelectronics, mobile communications, and genome-sequencing technologies might follow this law.
Yu Sang Chang of Gachon University, in Seongnam, Jinsoo Lee of the KDI School of Public Policy and Management, in Sejong, and Yun Seok Jung of the Institute for Information and Communications Technology Promotion, in Daejeon, Korea, have tracked technology developments to see whether Moore's Law held over the period 1971 to 2010. Their study shows that indeed it did, moreover they suggest that an analogous exponential law also applies to mobile cellular and genome-sequencing technologies.
While there has been no downward trend in transistor density, the team has found that the improvement rate in microprocessor clock speed has not been sustained. That said, for genome sequencing technology which is essentially still in the early stages of development, developments continue apace.
The team points out that the 5-nanometre limit on the quantum tunnelling effect will represent a barrier to the further shrinking of transistors and that we are fast approaching that limit. However, developments in nanotechnology might still allow the industry to sustain Moore's Law in microelectronics even into its centenary year.
Chang, Y.S., Lee, J. and Jung, Y.S. (2018) 'Are technology improvement rates of knowledge industries following Moore's law? An empirical study of microprocessor, mobile cellular, and genome sequencing technologies', Int. J. Technology Management, Vol. 78, No. 3, pp.182-207.
Albert Einstein is famous for a lot of reasons, but the movement of sediments in rivers is perhaps not one of them. Yet, his name is associated with those of Ackers, White, and Shields who developed equations to help explain how grainy materials transported as particles in a river move. Given the importance of sediment from the physical or chemical degradation of rocks in a waterway and the impact they have on erosion, entrainment, transportation, deposition, and compaction, it is not surprising that geologists, geographers, and others involved in understanding waterways are more than a little familiar, however.
Now, Hydar Lafta Ali, Badronnisa Binti Yusuf, and Azlan Abdul Aziz of the Universiti Putra Malaysia, Thamer Ahamed Mohammed of the University of Baghdad, Iraq, have attempted to simplify the Einstein equation for the calculation of suspended sediment transport in rivers. Writing in the International Journal of Hydrology Science and Technology, the team explains how they have validated their simplified form of the equation against data from eleven rivers located in different parts of the world. Indeed, their results show that the new simplified equation performs well when compared with Einstein's and Bagnold's equations and when tested on data from the Atchafalaya, the Red, the South American, the Rio Grande and the Al-Garraf rivers.
It is important to understand river sediment especially in the face of changes driven by natural disasters and global climate changes. Sediment plays an important role after all, in the delivery of nutrients for aquatic ecosystems, as well as for agricultural purposes, the formation and preservation of river deltas, the provision of sand as a building material, as well as the course taken by a river.
The team says that future studies will employ the proposed equation statistically on other rivers around the world to verify its accuracy still further.
Ali, H.L., Mohammed, T.A., Yusuf, B. and Aziz, A.A. (2018) 'A simplification of the Einstein equation for the calculation of suspended sediment transport in rivers', Int. J. Hydrology Science and Technology, Vol. 8, No. 4, pp.393-409.
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer, it is the most lethal of the various forms of this disease. It can be cured but only if detected early enough in its progress. Now, writing in the International Journal of Advanced Intelligence Paradigm, a research team from India has developed a new way to analyse skin lesions that may or may not be melanoma and so allow a more reliable diagnosis to be developed.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that one third of all cancer cases are skin cancers and there are currently more than 135,000 new melanoma cases diagnosed annually. The five-year survival rate for patients with melanoma diagnosed and treated early is 98%, whereas the survival rate is 62% for cases of melanoma that have spread beyond the local tissues. Survival for cases where the cancer has spread to other tissues and bone well away from the primary tumour site is a mere 16% survival rate after five years.
Vikash Yadav and Vandana Dixit Kaushik of Harcourt Butler Technical University, Kanpur explain that the diagnosis of skin cancer is difficult using conventional methods but that modern image processing and analysis could improve the outlook significantly. Their approach looks at asymmetries in high-level features of skin lesions and then combining the data with low-level features to create a computer algorithm that can accurately classify a skin lesion as being melanoma or not. The features that emerge as indicative are asymmetries, border irregularities, and colour differences within the same lesion that mark out a common mole or other skin blemish from a melanoma.
Yadav, V. and Kaushik, V.D. (2018) 'Detection of melanoma skin disease by extracting high level features for skin lesions', Int. J. Advanced Intelligence Paradigms, Vol. 11, Nos. 3/4, pp.397–408.
Many nations have recovered to some extent from the economic crash of 2008 and the subsequent financial downturn although on the whole that recovery has been sluggish at best. Tatyana Boikova of the Department of Business Administration, at the Baltic International Academy and Aleksandrs Dahs of the Centre for European and Transition Studies, at the University of Latvia, both in Riga, Latvia, have now demonstrated that this recovery has been very uneven across the European Union's economic and social area.
Writing in the International Journal of Sustainable Economy, the researchers point out that studies of growth and development do not find a solid relationship between income inequality and the rate of economic growth and there are discrepancies that make interpreting the results and seeing the bigger empirical and theoretical picture difficult.
The team has now explored in detail the impact of income inequality, poverty, and wealth on the rate of economic growth in the Eurozone. "We find that the effect of income inequality on economic growth is statistically insignificant, whereas poverty and savings have a negative, statistically significant effect on growth, while the effect of financial assets is positive and statistically significant," the team reports. They have also seen a negative, statistically significant effect of consumption on growth and demonstrated that the dynamics of the link between inequality and growth across countries do not take the inverted-U shape curve for all observations and the average values per country in the Eurozone.
"Given the still-sluggish recovery after the financial crisis, specific features of economic cycles within each country should be taken as the basis of the macroeconomic regulation of the Eurozone," the team concludes. They add that that effort must be aimed at encouraging business investment in order to enhance smart competitiveness and to create long-term economic growth.
Boikova, T. and Dahs, A. (2018) 'Inequality and economic growth across countries of the Eurozone', Int. J. Sustainable Economy, Vol. 10, No. 4, pp.315-339.
Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints...that well-worn traveller's mantra might be modernised to say "take nothing but photos". Indeed, modern travellers take and share billions of photos every year thanks to the advent of smartphones, digital cameras, and social media. The digital footprints they leave offer a hidden treasure of geotagged information about popular and not-so-popular tourist destinations.
Now, Zhenxing Xu, Ling Chen, Haodong Guo, Mingqi Lv, and Gencai Chen of the College of Computer Science, at Zhejiang University, in Hangzhou, China, have investigated how data-mining online photo collections and their geotags might be used to develop recommendations for other travellers. Until now, most data mining of tourist photographs has focused on time and location and ignored the context of the images. Xu and colleagues have added another layer to a recommendation algorithm.
"[Our system] uses an entropy-based mobility measure to classify geotagged photos into tourist photos or non-tourist photos," they explain. "Secondly, it conducts gender recognition based on face detection from tourist photos," they add. "Thirdly, it builds a gender-aware profile of travel locations and users and finally, it recommends personalised travel locations considering both user gender and similarity."
The team has tested the approach with a dataset of geotagged photos from eleven popular tourist destinations across China. "Experimental results show that our approach has the potential to improve the performance of travel location recommendation," they conclude.
Xu, Z., Chen, L., Guo, H., Lv, M. and Chen, G. (2018) 'User similarity-based gender-aware travel location recommendation by mining geotagged photos', Int. J. Embedded Systems, Vol. 10, No. 5, pp.356-365.
Many people who use the web are concerned about privacy, but they are also concerned about web page load times. If improving privacy led to slower websites there might be some attrition that would turn people away from more secure sites.
Now, a new study from Eric Chan-Tin of the Department of Computer Science, at Loyola University Chicago, in Illinois, and Rakesh Ravishankar of the Computer Science Department, at Oklahoma State University, in Stillwater, USA, reveals that the average time taken to load a web page encrypted with standard certification techniques is a mere a few fractions of a second slower (12 per cent slower the load time of an unencrypted page. They explain that a standard, unencrypted page prefixed with http:// takes 2.6 seconds to load compared to the 2.9 seconds of an encrypted https:// page (the s after the http indicates to the browser and to users that the page is encrypted using TLS, transport layer security).
Given the benefits of encryption and this small compromise coupled with the fact that many browsers now flag sites that are not encrypted as not being secure, and search engines lowering the ranking of the latter, there is a need to push for https to be the default instead of http.
There have been problems with some of the certification authorities in recent years where the very core of the encryption system has been accessed by hackers. However, the team suggests that the strength of ten trusted authorities would allow 80 percent of the web to be protected. They are not advocating the use of those ten specifically but do point out that with those and an additional roster, it should be possible to secure almost the whole of the web.
Chan-Tin, E. and Ravishankar, R. (2018) 'The case for HTTPS: measuring overhead and impact of certificate authorities', Int. J. Security and Networks, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp.261-269.
Textual passwords remain the most common and cumbersome format for logins to online services. For many user groups, such as the visually impaired and the elderly, this can be a problem. Now, a team in the USA has developed an alternative, graphical password system to circumvent some of the barriers to accessibility for the older internet user.
Nancy Carter, Cheng Li, Qun Li, and Jennifer Stevens of the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, Ed Novak of Franklin & Marshall College, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Zhengrui Qin of Northwest Missouri State University, in Maryville, Missouri, USA, explain that not all users have sufficient cognitive skills nor manual dexterity to readily easily create, recall, and enter strong text-based passwords. The new system is based on embedding familiar facial images among random unfamiliar images so that a user with stymied abilities might still be able to use a password to login.
Tests with a group of over-60s showed that the graphical password technique can have recall rate of 97%, shows password "entropy" superior to a short PIN, and authentication time comparable to that possible with short text passwords. The system, as it stands, is particularly suited to users with limited manual dexterity who do not need the additional barrier of having to type convoluted text-based passwords when clicking with a mouse on images or tapping a touchscreen would suffice for many applications.
Carter, N., Li, C., Li, Q., Stevens, J.A., Novak, E. and Qin, Z. (2018) 'Graphical passwords for older computer users', Int. J. Security and Networks, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp.211-227.
Deep learning has been applied to the problem of intelligent plankton classification, which could have important implications for understanding marine ecosystems, the food chain, and the environmental impact of oceanic microbes on climate.
Hussein Al-Barazanchi and Shawn Wang of California State University, in Fullerton and Abhishek Verma of New Jersey City University, Jersey City, USA, discuss the importance of plankton in the International Journal of Computational Vision and Robotics, and outline their intelligent plankton image classification.
Plankton is an umbrella term for any organism that lives in a large body of water, such as an ocean and cannot propel itself against the current. It is an extremely diverse group that encompasses bacteria, archaea, algae, protozoa and any drifting or floating animals that inhabit large water columns. Plankton is a source of food for fish and other marine animals. Moreover, the distribution of plankton underpins the persistence of marine ecosystems as well as having an impact on chemical concentrations of the oceans and the Earth's atmosphere.
The team explains that because of the diversity of plankton in terms of their nature, size and shape, accurate classification is daunting and the mixed quality of images collected for different types of plankton and species makes this problem even more challenging.
The team's new intelligent machine learning system based on convolutional neural networks (CNN) for plankton image classification does not depend on features engineering and can be efficiently extended to encompass new classes. Tests on standard images show the new approach to be more accurate than even state-of-the-art tools available today.
Al-Barazanchi, H., Verma, A. and Wang, S.X. (2018) 'Intelligent plankton image classification with deep learning', Int. J. Computational Vision and Robotics, Vol. 8, No. 6, pp.561-571.
The European Union, EU, is purportedly fighting anthropogenic climate change through its carbon emissions targets. Writing in the International Journal of Management and Network Economic, researchers in Italy point out that: "By 2050, the EU aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80%-95% compared with 1990 levels. New objectives up to 2030 provide for a 40% reduction of GHG emissions and an increase of 27% for renewables and energy efficiency."
In their paper, the team of Idiano D'Adamo and Domenico Schettini of the University of L' Aquila, Michela Miliacca of the University of Rome Tor Vergata, describe their research aims as twofold. First, they present the inventory data of greenhouse gas emissions, final energy consumption, the share of renewable energy, and other data and compare achievements so far with the 2020 targets. Secondly, they look for a correspondence between the increasing number of certified companies and positive results with respect to mitigation.
The team adds that regulatory obligations and a growing awareness of climate change have led companies to adopt systems voluntarily with a view to improving environmental management and/or energy management. The benefit to such companies is not only one of an improved public image but also the improved competitiveness that ensues.
Every member of the EU plays a key role in addressing the major issue of the day: climate change. Eighteen member states have achieved the goals set, but the others are yet to do so, and some are performing once than they were almost three decades ago. It seems that economic stagnation leads to under-achieving in this context. The team will next look at other major economic regions of the world to see whether or not their targets are being approached.
D'Adamo, I., Miliacca, M. and Schettini, D. (2018) 'Climate change mitigation: evidences from the European scenario', Int. J. Management and Network Economics, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp.95-114.
If you access the world wide web, you have used a web browser. But, how many of us consider our privacy when doing so, the information and data being harvested by the browser and the companies and organisations with whom we connect online? Moreover, even if one uses a so-called "incognito" mode, data is still being transferred back and forth to the various computers in the chain.
Ryan Gabet of Cisco Systems, Inc., in Morrisville, North Carolina, USA and Kathryn Seigfried-Spellar and Marcus Rogers of the Department of Computer and Information Technology, at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana, USA, have carried out a forensic analysis of web browsers that claim to be "privacy enhanced" and the "private browsing" modes of common web browsers. The privacy enhanced browsers in their study are: Dooble, Comodo Dragon, and Epic and the standard web browsers tested in private mode were: Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Mozilla Firefox. They also looked at how well two forensic tools used by law enforcement FTK and Autopsy were at recovering data and information from these browsers.
Fundamentally, all of the browsers performed about the same as each other in so-called private mode against FTK, which was the better tool at retrieving information. "This study did not produce sufficient evidence to conclude enhanced privacy browsers do indeed provide better privacy," the team reports in the International Journal of Electronic Security and Digital Forensics.
That said, the team qualifies their conclusion for privacy-minded individuals who wish to search the web. They point out that Firefox in private browsing mode and Dooble produced the fewest number of recoverable browser "artefacts"; which might be of use in law enforcement. The might also be of use in espionage or other malicious application. Browsers based on the Chromium platform produced artefacts as well as viewable data as did Microsoft Edge.
Gabet, R.M., Seigfried-Spellar, K.C. and Rogers, M.K. (2018) 'A comparative forensic analysis of privacy-enhanced web browsers and private browsing modes of common web browsers', Int. J. Electronic Security and Digital Forensics, Vol. 10, No. 4, pp.356–371.
Researchers in Italy and the USA have asked the provocative question: "What makes you popular: beauty, personality or intelligence?". They present their answer in the International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business.
Andrea Fronzetti Colladon, Elisa Battistoni, and Agostino La Bella of the Department of Enterprise Engineering, at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, and colleagues Francesca Grippa of Northeastern University, Boston, and Peter Gloor of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, explored the determinants of popularity within friendship and advice networks. They investigated the effects of personality traits (such as extraversion, conscientiousness, neuroticism), self-monitoring, creativity, intelligence, energy, and beauty influence the development of friendships among some 200 college students.
Their results are perhaps not unsurprising: "Our results indicate that physical attractiveness is a key to develop both friendship and task-related interactions," the team reports. "Perceived intelligence and creativity play an important role in the advice network," they say. They add that this supports a kernel of truth in the stereotype that attractiveness correlates with positive social traits and successful outcomes. Of course, the detailed findings also suggest that the relationships between all these factors is rather complicated and confounded in many instances.
Nevertheless, while on average, being liked seems to be as important as being considered intelligent and competent, the team found that the way people look plays a key role in determining the attribution of competence.
Fronzetti Colladon, A., Grippa, F., Battistoni, E., Gloor, P.A. and La Bella, A. (2018) 'What makes you popular: beauty, personality or intelligence?', Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Vol. 35, No. 2, pp.162-186.
Music plays an important role in most people's lives regardless of the genre and in a wide variety of contexts from celebrations and parties to simply providing background while a task is being performed. Until very recently, music was only heard when musicians played it live, the ability to record music displaced that live performance to some degree, and then the invention of electronic musical instruments and digitisation changed our appreciation of music yet again.
Electronic music is incredibly popular and yet the subtle and not-so-subtle difference between musical sounds generated electronically and those played by a musician on a physical instrument are a barrier to appreciation for some listeners. Now, a team from Fiji and New Zealand, Praneel Chand of Unitec Institute of Technology, in Auckland and Kishen Kumar and Kishan Kumar of the University of the South Pacific, in Suva, are investigating the possibility of using robotics to allow non-expert musicians to play a musical instrument well. The idea would allow analogue music to be created on the instrument with the computer providing some of the requisite timing and tonal skills that might well be beyond the performer.
The team has demonstrated proof of principle with a robotic pan pipe. The low-cost prototype can produce the desired musical notes and has the ability to override variations in air flow that a non-expert player might produce during a performance. The team adds that the same software and approach might also be used to control robotic components for other Pacific island instruments such as the percussive Fijian lali.
Chand, P., Kumar, K. and Kumar, K. (2018) 'Development of a low-cost robotic pan flute', Int. J. Intelligent Machines and Robotics, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp.153-170.
The Europe 2020 Strategy sees micro and small & medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as the backbone of the European Union's drive towards a smart, sustainable, inclusive, and growing economy. Diogo Ferraz and Elisabeth Pereira of the Department of Economics, Management, Industrial Engineering and Tourism (DEGEIT), at the University of Aveiro, Portugal, address the question as to the role of small knowledge intensive firms in the EU in this context.
Writing in the International Journal of Knowledge-Based Development, the team explain how they have investigated the relationship between a set of variables that characterises small knowledge-intensive firms and gross domestic product (GDP). They have also looked at the importance of business expenditure on research and development. The research involved analyzing econometrics across 24 EU member states for the period 2008 to 2012 using panel data and cluster analysis. The team found that those nations with high growth values in such companies also have the biggest growth in GDP R&D expenditure.
The team's findings lend support to the strategic decisions of Europe 2020 Strategy, they explain, reinforcing the relevance of SMEs as a key driver for economic growth, innovation, employment, and social integration. The researchers add that, "The relevance assumed by the European Commission about SMEs and the strategy of a competitive European economy based on smart, sustainable and inclusive growth leads to the importance of small knowledge-intensive firm in the European context."
Ferraz, D.E. and Pereira, E.T. (2018) 'The economic role of small knowledge intensive firms in European member states', Int. J. Knowledge-Based Development, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp.221-243.
Online social networks, such as the well-known Facebook, allow users to form connections with each other quickly and easily. A user might invite another to become their "friend", "like" a page they have created on the system, or join a group that forms a community within the overarching community. Of course, it is implicit that one should only "friend" people one knows. But, there are millions if not billions of connections where a user may not be even a passing acquaintance in the offline world and yet well connected to another person in the online.
Researchers in Switzerland, David Weibel and Bartholomäus Wissmath of the Department of Psychology, at the University of Bern, have investigated what inspires a person to accept a friendship request from another on Facebook. It seems that there is something of a stereotypical response: "men prefer cold calls from attractive women while women favour unattractive friends", the team has found. The research builds on earlier work from Wang in 2010 that used fictitious user profiles to study what kinds of response to friendship requests might be seen in an online social network.
In the new work, the team sent out actual friendship requests to 800 Facebook users from male or female profile owners who were considered either attractive or unattractive. The study corroborated Wang's 2010 finding and showed that approximately one in ten users responded to the cold calls, the unsolicited friendship requests from previously unknown users. They also demonstrated, as had Wang, the way in which men responded. However, they found that female users accepted invitations from unattractive profile owners rather than from attractive profile owners, regardless of the profile owners' gender.
"Unlike our offline appearance, the shape of our online appearance is much more malleable and can be rapidly adapted in more subtle ways. Moreover, we believe that this study also raises in offline friendships," the team adds.
Weibel, D. and Wissmath, B. (2018) 'Friendship acceptance on Facebook: men prefer cold calls from attractive women while women favour unattractive friends', Int. J. Web Based Communities, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp.249-256.
Bring your own device (BYOD) is now common in the workplace. Rather than the employer providing specific gadgets, such as smartphones, tablet computers, and laptops workers are allowed and even encouraged to use their personal device in the work environment. From the employee perspective this can simplify the transition between working at home and in the office, for instance. However, it has also led to an always-available attitude that means one's work-life balance is distorted by the fact that work colleagues and one's boss can almost always connect to you even when you are not officially working. Moreover, they expect to be able to connect out of hours too.
There is a putative price to pay for employers who facilitate BYOD and all its benefits of lower costs for IT infrastructure and 24/7 access to their staff and that is the so-called cyber-security risk. By allowing any device into the building and on to the network, a workplace must accede that a device compromised by external malware or one setup maliciously by an unhappy employee, for instance, might wreak havoc on an unprotected system, interfere with day-to-day business and potentially disrupt an entire enterprise.
Fabricio Rivadeneira Zambrano of the Universidad Laica Eloy Alfaro de Manabi, in Chone, Ecuador and Glen Rodriguez Rafael of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, in Lima, Peru, have looked at the differences between security in the BYOD environment as opposed to the employer-provided device approach. It has previously been shown that productivity is much greater in the BYOD environment, but the use of illicit file-sharing, social media, and other apps is commonplace too.
Their study shows that there are many technical solutions and policies that are implemented in the BYOD workplace and these are commonly addressed by the corporate IT department to protect servers from malware and to block inappropriate use of personal devices on the corporate network. However, one aspect that is rarely addressed is the human factor, malice or ignorance, for instance. This must be looked at more closely the issues faced to allow BYOD to thrive and to bring all of its benefits to the workplace without the problems.
Zambrano, F.R.R. and Rafael, G.D.R. (2018) 'Bring your own device: a survey of threats and security management models', Int. J. Electronic Business, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp.146–170.
The music business has changed dramatically in the last couple of decades since the massive expansion of the internet, the development of music file compression algorithms, and the concept of anonymous file-sharing services. The business has perhaps been slow to respond to the technological change having attempted, often through the law, to try and stem the tide of illicit file sharing with scant regard for the fact that those who use such systems to obtain digital goods, such as music, are now entrenched and rather reluctant to go back to the old model of paying for those goods.
However, the emergence of on-demand streaming services has taken some of those users who felt some degree of guilt and given them an offering that, while not as lucrative as the original models of physical sales, offers an alternative revenue stream that is absent with what might be thought of as that conventional non-demand streaming service, the radio. Of course, users are keen to get as much from a streaming service as they can for free. The job of the services' marketing departments is to convert those free streamers into subscribers.
US researchers have surveyed hundreds of music streaming users and found that social influence primarily affects a consumer's attitude towards music streaming. This, in turn, drives their purchase intention, or otherwise. In contrast, the user's simple hedonic performance expectancy seems to push those who already subscribe to maintain their subscription. Fundamentally, the music industry must begin to understand what is driving different types of user and to respond to their needs in a way that they never have before if they are to survive and thrive.
Chen, C.C., Leon, S. and Nakayama, M. (2018) 'Converting music streaming free users to paid subscribers: social influence or hedonic performance', Int. J. Electronic Business, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp.128-145.
Smart farming uses technology to access real-time information on crop yields and soil-mapping, fertiliser application, weather data, and intelligent assessment and so improve agricultural efficiency and crop yields. However, for some economies, there remains a huge gap between farmer and app, as it were. For those valuable commodity products such as cocoa and coffee beans, the mobile technology revolution is yet to reach the farm in anything but the most superficial way.
Researchers in Canada, writing in the International Journal of Sustainable Agricultural Management and Informatics, highlight how that gap might be narrowed specifically for cocoa bean growers in Ghana. Ultimately, their research could help farmers find ways to use smartphones to access agronomic information on cocoa management, carry out self-assessment exercises on cocoa pod infestation, as well as perform stock analyses of their produce. They also suggest that technology could open up a crowd-sourcing forum for farmers to discuss issues and problems.
The team has already shown the farmers would be receptive to such technology having obtained positive feedback in most cases from 32 cocoa producers with regard to the concept of a forum and all of them were keen to use an app that could help them improve cocoa production. The team hopes that the success of their research will push stakeholders and policymakers to improve smart agriculture in Ghana where the government is yet to invest in technology in the way that has happened in advanced nations.
Lomotey, R.K., Mammay, A. and Orji, R. (2018) 'Mobile technology for smart agriculture: deployment case for cocoa production', Int. J. Sustainable Agricultural Management and Informatics, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp.83-97
Researchers in Italy have devised a new social network analysis-based approach to studying research scenarios. The multidimensional picture they can obtain of research in a set of countries using this technique can reveal interest and might even be able to detect hubs operating within those countries. Paolo Lo Giudice and Domenico Ursino of the University 'Mediterranea' of Reggio Calabria, Paolo Russo of Negg International, in Rome, explain that such improved understanding might lead to new insights into how socio-economic factors influence research.
The team has investigated the North African countries of Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia in the anticipation of providing new knowledge to policymakers who might then be able to sustain the accumulation of scientific and technological capabilities in the region in a way that has not been possible previously.
The data available for scientometrics and bibliometrics investigations of scientific and technological research continues to grow apace. There is therefore an urgent need, if use is to be made of this "big data", to develop the necessary tools examine and interpret this data and to plot out meaning and extract knowledge from it. The team's success with their social network analysis (SNA) approach now points them towards developing the approach still further to extract knowledge patterns about patent inventors and how they cooperate, to verify the presence of 'power inventors' in a given country, and to verify the existence of a backbone and of possible cliques among them.
Giudice, P.L., Russo, P. and Ursino, D. (2018) 'A new social network analysis-based approach to extracting knowledge patterns about research activities and hubs in a set of countries', Int. J. Business Innovation and Research, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp.147-186.
Are environmental changes in the Mediterranean region influencing human mobility in the West Asia and North Africa (WANA) region? That is the question that Bruno Venditto of the Institute of Studies on Mediterranean Societies, at the Italian National Council of Research, in Naples, Italy, sets out to answer in the International Journal of Migration and Residential Mobility.
He points out that for this region, mobility has been an important aspect of humanity for millennia. However, in today's environment of climate change marginalizing those who live on the fringes of the habitable zones of the world, there are growing issues of broader security and geopolitical challenges to face too, including water scarcity. While other observers have warned of mass migrations that might arise because of climate change and the problems it brings in this region, their predictions often ignore the rich heritage of human mobility in this region as well as not necessarily taking into account the adaptability of the people of this and neighbouring regions.
"Human mobility is a prominent feature of the geographic area of the WANA countries, 'pull' factors (such as the presence of rich countries, the commonality of language and culture, etc.) and 'push' factors (represented by persistent poverty, political and social instability leading to conflicts, environmental calamities, just to mention a few) have made the movements between and within the states, a phenomenon typical of the region," explains Venditto. He adds that migrants moving from Sub-Saharan Africa towards the Western European countries often stop in the nearer countries along the journey, creating what is now known as transit migration. This does lead to potential instability and conflicts in and among the countries affected.
Venditto concludes that ultimately, we must consider both environmental and climate effects with a broader perspective on how they might influence migration. This will require a multidisciplinary approach that can grasp the complexities and variables that drive or slow migration.
Venditto, B. (2018) 'Water, migration and environment in a Mediterranean perspective', Int. J. Migration and Residential Mobility, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp.283-299.
Sanguinarine is a natural product, a chemical made by certain plants including the bloodroot plant (Sanguinaria canadensis), the Mexican prickly poppy (Argemone mexicana), Chelidonium majus, and Macleaya cordata. It is a slightly toxic polycyclic ammonium ion, an alkaloid, and has been demonstrated to have antitumour and antiviral properties. It also blocks the formation of blood vessels, it is antiangiogenic, and so has even greater potential as an anticancer agent.
Now, a team from Russia has investigated the potential of this compound to be delivered to diseased target sites in the body using nanoscopic carriers known as liposomes. The team suggests that the liposomes can more efficiently deliver the putative drug compound to cancer cells than it simply being delivered by conventional chemotherapy methods (as a drug solution given either by mouth or intravenously).
Their tests revealed that the liposome preparations gave a prolonged release of the drug rather than it being processed quickly by the liver and excreted by the kidneys as happens with conventional drugs. Indeed, the drug-bearing liposomes showed a dose-dependent response in terms of cytotoxicity in the laboratory against B16 cells (experimental mouse melanoma cells).
"Liposomal sanguinarine may have advantages for in vivo anticancer therapy, due to its lower toxicity and 'passive targeting' as a result of enhanced permeability of tumour vessels," the team reports in the International Journal of Nanotechnology.
Feldman, N.B., Kuryakov, V.N., Sedyakina, N.E., Gromovykh, T.I. and Lutsenko, S.V. (2018) 'Preparation of liposomes containing benzophenanthridine alkaloid sanguinarine and evaluation of its cytotoxic activity', Int. J. Nanotechnol., Vol. 15, Nos. 4/5, pp.280-287.
Anderson Sasaki Vasques Pacheco and Karin Vieira da Silva of the Centro Universitário de Brusque in Santa Catarina, Brazil, Maria João Santos of ISEG (the Lisbon School of Economics and Management), Portugal, have endeavoured to create a scientific framework for the most relevant research outputs on social innovation.* They looked at more than one thousand papers to outline the historical evolution of social innovation studies, the scientific fields that have done the most research on this theme as well as those works with the greatest influence over subsequent research. The result is a map of this field and how it has changed over the years.
The team points out that while there has been an increased interest in studying social innovation in recent years, the resulting heterogeneous research output is difficult to assess. Moreover, this diversity of research type and output has perhaps hindered the development of a coherent paradigm for the understanding of social innovation.
"Currently, any researcher wishing to embark on studying this theme would have to wade through a tide of articles with multiple definitions and various means of analysis of distinct and different aspects of social innovation," the team laments.
With this in mind, their efforts could provide an integrated vision of the scientific field and so allow research to move forward much more effectively. They explain that the main contribution of their present work derives from the guidance it might provide to those hoping to carry out research in this field by identifying which articles and theoretical conceptualisations are the most relevant in their associated fields of knowledge.
Pacheco, A.S.V., Santos, M.J. and da Silva, K.V. (2018) 'Social innovation: what do we know and do not know about it', Int. J. Innovation and Learning, Vol. 24, No. 3, pp.301-326.
*Social innovation is defined in Wikipedia as "new strategies, concepts, ideas, and organizations that aim to meet social needs resulting from working conditions, education, community development, and health."
Its objectives are to extend and strengthen society using open source methods and techniques, innovations with a social purpose, such as activism, online volunteering, microcredit, distance learning, and more.
There has been a considerable amount of hyperbole expounded around the topic of cloud computing. However, it is a paradigm that offers many benefits to those with limited computing resources or simply a need to shift the processing and data storage to external systems and reap the benefits of distributed, networked tools and memory.
Now, Aurelia Nicholas-Donald of Virginia State University Petersburg and Mo Adam Mahmood and Laura Lunstrum of Trevino University of Texas at El Paso, USA, have asked the provocative question: "Does adoption of cloud computing matter?". Writing in the International Journal of Information Systems and Management, they reveal their findings regarding the economic worth of the implementation of cloud computing and how that might affect the market value of a company.
The team used a resource-based view and the efficient market hypothesis to analyse a sample of 136 companies on the US stock exchanges that use cloud computing. Intriguingly, the team found that announcements regarding cloud computing aspirations or executions are actually associated with a drop in market returns, although scientifically speaking these returns are not statically significant. However, the trading volume and the risk of these companies did show a significant increase and both were found to be statistically significant in the face of cloud computing announcements.
The researchers suggest that the stock market reaction is mixed. "The key features affiliated with cloud computing, such as lower startup costs, less training requirement, ease of governance, and ease of maintenance appears to impact the financial outlook of the firm," they explain. However, "The significant increase in volume reflects that investors see the adoption of cloud computing as a means for enhancing the abilities of a business," the team reports.
"We believe the present research shows that cloud computing adoption does provide financial benefits to the adopting firms," the team concludes.
Nicholas-Donald, A., Mahmood, M.A. and Trevino, L.L. (2018) 'Does adoption of cloud computing matter? The economic worth of cloud computing implementation', Int. J. Information Systems and Management, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp.328-342.
The diagnosis of the mental disorder schizophrenia is a highly subjective and qualitative process. If a patient presents with particular characteristic symptoms such as false beliefs, unclear or confused thinking, hearing internal voices, poor social engagement and emotional expression, and a lack of motivation, then a diagnosis might be made. Usually, a psychiatrist will, after several sessions of assessment and interviews with the patient and those who know them, conclude that the patient has the condition. Despite the confused public perception of this mental disorder, schizophrenia is not "split personality" nor dissociative identity disorder.
Now, Reza Boostani of Shiraz University and Malihe Sabeti of the Islamic Azad University, in Shiraz, Iran, have developed an approach that could lead to an objective diagnosis of schizophrenia. The approach aims to preclude the misdiagnosis of other psychotic disorders such as schizoaffective or delusional disorder, which have similar clinical manifestations.
The team has developed a quantitative diagnosis tool in the form of a novel brain map based on electroencephalogram (EEG). The proposal is that this brain map will reveal the schizophrenic-dependent changes which are spatially distributed over the brain of patients with this specific condition rather than others with which it is often confused. The team used a genetic algorithm, particle swarm optimization (PSO), and ant colony optimization to analyse the EEGs and to create the brain map that allowed for an objective diagnosis with more than 80 percent accuracy under experimental conditions.
Of three approaches, PSO was the most effective, the team reports. Indeed, this technique revealed all the differences which are revealed by sophisticated brain scans, such as positron emission tomography (PET), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and computerized tomography (CT). The next step will be to test the approach on a larger sample of patients and to examine the effects of medication on their EEGs and how this might confound the analysis.
Boostani, R. and Sabeti, M. (2018) 'Optimising brain map for the diagnosis of schizophrenia', Int. J. Biomedical Engineering and Technology, Vol. 28, No. 2, pp.105-119.
The examination of CT scans (computerised tomography scans), which are essentially a type of X-ray image can be used to provide clinicians with a detail view of our internal organs often of the diagnosis of various forms of cancer. The use of CT in liver cancer diagnostics is stymied to some degree by the variations of liver shape and structure between individuals and the similarity of tissues in adjoining organs in the CT image.
Now, Amita Das of the Institute of Technical Education and Research, Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering, at Siksha 'O' Anusandhan University, in Odisha, and colleagues in the Department of Surgical Oncology there, the SCB Medical College and Hospital, and the Department of Electronics Engineering, at DY Patil Ramrao Adik Institute of Technology, in Nerul, Navi Mumbai, India, have developed a new technique - adaptive fuzzy clustering-based texture analysis - for the segmentation of abdominal CT scans for classifying liver cancer. The approach is based on extracting texture, morphological, and statistical features from the scans and using them as the input for a neural network classifier to distinguish between malignant and benign tumours of the liver.
They have now tested their approach with a series of 45 images and looked at sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy. The team was able to achieve an accuracy of almost 99% in detecting tumours, which they say is comparable with published results. The next step would be to feed and train the system with even more data and so improve the reliability of the technique still further and so allow an automated diagnostic approach that does not have the potential for human error to be developed.
Das, A., Das, P., Panda, S.S. and Sabut, S. (2018) 'Adaptive fuzzy clustering-based texture analysis for classifying liver cancer in abdominal CT images', Int. J. Computational Biology and Drug Design, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp.192–208.
A mixture of nanoparticles and water can be used in the nano-water alternating gas approach (NWAG) to enhance oil recovery from an oil field. Now, the wettability of rock, relative permeability curves, and the interfacial tension has been analysed by a team from Oman with a view to improving the process.
Manal Al-Matroushi, Peyman Pourafshary, and Yahya Al-Wahaibi of the Petroleum and Chemical Engineering Department at Sultan Qaboos University and Nader Mosavat of the Oil and Gas Research Centre there explain that the gradual depletion of oil reserves has led to worldwide attention on how we might improve current enhanced oil recovery techniques. Changing the wettability of carbonate rock, which is less permeable, fractured, and oil-wet, is one way forward. Indeed, steam, gas, or chemicals can be injected to alter the fluid-fluid and rock-fluid structures by modifying interfacial tension, wettability, the mobility ratio and permeability and so allow more oil to be recovered. In a more exacting approach, water and gas are injected alternately to improve efficiency.
The addition of water-repellant silica nanoparticles to the formulation leads to their forming a coating on the rock and this improves wettability. The team has now shown that using "nano-water" instead of water alone in the wetting cycle of the process enhances oil recovery. Indeed, they found that in a six-month-long cycle with five months of nano-water and one-month carbon dioxide gas injection that oil recovery rose by 13% compared to conventional alternative water and gas enhancement.
Al-Matroushi, M., Pourafshary, P., Al-Wahaibi, Y. and Mosavat, N. (2018) 'Efficiency of nano-water/gas alternating injection technique to enhance oil recovery in an oil field', Int. J. Oil, Gas and Coal Technology, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp.149–162.
Entropy, a term loosely referring to the disorder of a physical system and infamously associated with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, wherein we know that it ultimately increases in any closed system, might be used as to gauge something altogether different in the digital world - search engine optimisation.
S. Lakshmi of the Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering, at RVS College of Engineering, in Dindigul, B. Sathiyabhama of the Department of Computer Science Engineering, at Sona College of Technology, in Salem, and K. Batri of the Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering, at the PSNA College of Engineering and Technology, also in Dindigul, India, have attempted to analyse and measure the uncertainty associated with the relevant document selection in web-search engines.
Search engine entropy is thus important not only for the efficiency of search engines and those using them to find relevant information as well as to the success of the companies and other bodies running such systems but also to those who run websites hoping to be found and visited following a search. Search engine optimization (SEO) encompasses a multitude of strategies a website owner might employ in their efforts to ensure that their website reaches a higher position in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
The team explains how they are using entropy to add a metric to the number of index terms, and their frequency and how this influences the relevance calculation carried out by search engine algorithms. "The variation in term frequency either in processed web documents or in users’ query influences the relevance calculation," the team explains. "This," they suggest, "leads to an uncertainty associated with the document selection, and it is relevance calculation." As such, a measure of entropy can be made by varying the documents’ term frequency or user’s query term frequency to reveal how SEO might be carried out. The team has successfully tested their entropic approach to SEO against two of the most well-known search engines Bing and Google.
Lakshmi, S., Sathiyabhama, B. and Batri, K. (2018) 'Entropy a new measure to gauge search engine optimisation', Int. J. Enterprise Network Management, Vol. 9, Nos. 3/4, pp.189–204.
Riots in Istanbul's Gezi Park in 2013 lasted two months and had a significant and ongoing impact on Turkey's social, cultural and economic life. A study by Mehmet Ali Turkmenoglu of the Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Mus Alparslan University suggests that the multi-layered crisis seriously affected food sector businesses in the neighbourhood around the park. He has interviewed dozens of managers in this sector to find out how they coped with the problems and how they are addressing the long-term issues that arose from the riots.
His survey of managers reveals that there were two main psychological copying mechanisms that food sector managers used. The first was simply being hopeful about the future and the second being patient against the multiple challenges they were facing including those surrounding emotional, physical, interpersonal and financial problems that emerged.
"Many managers stated that they consider their shops as ekmek teknesi (their bread and butter)," Turkmenoglu explains. He adds that "managers endured challenges by keeping this notion in their minds." Motivation was also found in the proverb “umut fakirin ekmegidir” - hope is the poor man's bread.
Turkmenoglu, M.A. (2018) 'Hope and patience as coping mechanisms of food managers in the face of challenges: the Turkish case', Int. J. Work Organisation and Emotion, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp.209–223.
A new approach to detecting the addresses of potentially malicious websites that might compromise an individual or corporate computing environment is being developed by researchers in China. The approach avoids a simplistic analysis based on keywords in the address, the URL (uniform resource locator) and instead uses statistical analyses based on gradient learning and feature extraction to feed the machine learning of an algorithm that can quickly detect malicious website addresses.
Baojiang Cui, Shanshan He, and Peilin Shi of Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications worked with Xi Yao of QIHU 360 Software Co. Limited on the study and report details in the International Journal of High Performance Computing and Networking.
The approach has been validated against the naïve Bayes, decision tree, and support vector machine (SVM) and found to be efficient and to have an accuracy rate of 98.7%. Moreover, the team reports that their system is in practical use and analyzing approximately 2 terabytes of data every day automatically classifying URLs as benign or malicious and blocking access to the latter. The system does not defer to a blacklist of sites as have other security approaches nor does it rely on any single characteristic of the URL being tested.
The approach, the team says, represents "a comprehensive approach that utilises all the features of machine learning." They hope to be able to improve the accuracy to close to 99.99% by better keyword analysis and the extraction of additional features. The same technique might also be used to identify other types of web attack that appear not only in URLs but also in user agent strings, cookies, and other features of internet traffic.
Cui, B., He, S., Yao, X. and Shi, P. (2018) 'Malicious URL detection with feature extraction based on machine learning', Int. J. High Performance Computing and Networking, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.166–178.
Emissions reduction and decarbonisation targets are two common phrases on the political agenda of governments around the world. Jelte Harnmeijer of the University of Edinburgh, David Toke of the University of Aberdeen, and Bill Slee of the James Hutton Institute, in Aberdeen discuss these concepts in the context of UK community renewables policy and uptake and the differences between Scotland, England and Wales.
They suggest that until very recently, most of the community renewable capacity (in terms of megawatts of electrical power) has been seen in Scotland rather than England and Wales. This, the team explains, is perhaps due to the more egalitarian approaches taken in organising community renewables in Scotland, whereas an individualistic approach has been adopted in England and Wales. The presence of "communitarian" local institutions in Scotland that are not seen in England and Wales might underpin this difference.
However, the team says, trends towards community renewables policy are moving towards a more hierarchical modality. They point out that governments are now stressing the advantages of partnering community renewable initiatives with commercial renewable energy schemes. Their study points to how "community energy might present a clear example of a domain that benefits from bespoke, fit-for-purpose, regional policymaking that furthermore leaves appropriate space for local institutional innovation."
Harnmeijer, J., Toke, D. and Slee, B. (2018) 'Community renewables in the UK – a clash of cultures?', Int. J. Technology Intelligence and Planning, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp.99–120.
Commercial operation of the CHASNUPP-1 996 megawatt intermediate type pressurised water reactor began in May 2000 in Pakistan. It is a conventional two-loop PWR and is run by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. Now, scientists Khurram Mehboob and Mohammad Aljohani of the Department of Nuclear Engineering at King Abdul Aziz University in Saudi Arabia have carried out simulations of the activity of the unit using MATLAB to probe the risks associated with a putative coolant leak that might see radioactivity entering the environment. The team reports details of their study in the International Journal of Nuclear Energy Science and Technology.
The researchers point out that as energy demands growing around the world, there is a pressing need to meet this demand and nuclear power or sustainable sources can provide the alternatives that avoid the burning of fossil fuels. However, there are perennial concerns with the operation of nuclear power stations and the associated risks of radiation leaks that might be caused by human error, systems failure, accident, or even criminal activity.
Mehboob and Aljohani have used a kinetic model in MATLAB to simulate the anticipated amount of radioactivity that might be released from the CHASNUPP-1 nuclear power plant in the form of contaminated coolant following an accident leading to core damage. The model suggests that leakage would be similar to another reactor the South Korean KORI-1 reactor and that the containment would be sufficient to preclude anything but negligible leakage into the outside world. Given the potential global impact of a leak from a nuclear reactor anywhere in the world, it is important to model worst-case scenarios and to understand the implications for the local and wider environment.
Mehboob, K. and Aljohani, M.S. (2018) 'Estimation of radioactivity released from CHASNUPP-1 nuclear power plant during loss of coolant accident', Int. J. Nuclear Energy Science and Technology, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.111–126.
Researchers from Greece and France have worked together to use an agent-based methodology to research pedestrian behaviour and to help them develop a decision support system for urban planners hoping to improve "walkability" of the built environment. Writing in the International Journal of Decision Support Systems, Georgios Tsaples of the University of Macedonia, in Thessaloniki and Giovanna Fancello of the Université Paris Dauphine, explain how pedestrian accessibility in our cities is one of the most important aspects of developing urban public policies.
In recent years, pedestrian accessibility has received attention from research fields as diverse as medicine, social and environmental sciences, engineering, healthcare, and the arts and humanities. To be effective, such research has to consider more than transport, the distances involved, services, and activities, but must also take a dynamic view of how people interact with the environment, each other, and traffic within the city. However, as the team points out, "rarely [are] dynamic methods used with the aim of analysing and estimating the processes that influence the behaviour of individuals in space and in time." They add that this is something a multi-agent model can do.
The team has now used a computational technique known as agent-based modelling to simulate an urban environment and the movement of people within it and the various modes of transport available to them. Their approach encodes the people, the "agents", and their interactions in simple rules, which then allows the team to predict the outcomes of those interactions.
Ultimately, the models revealed by studying different scenarios, that improving the urban environment people is conducive to people walking more and parts of the environment become favourite places for walking. Moreover, walking behaviour has a positive effect on the individuals and even the economic activity of the city, the team found. The next step will be to assimilate real behaviour in different environments and to improve the models still further to make more definitive predictions about urban human behaviour and guide policymakers and town planners with greater precision.
Tsaples, G. and Fancello, G. (2018) 'An agent-based model to explore urban policies, pedestrian behaviour and walkability', Int. J. Decision Support Systems, Vol. 3, Nos. 1/2, pp.4–18.
Given the environmental pressures that society faces today, is there room for the concept of an eco-airport? And, if so, might airline passengers be willing to pay more to fly from such an airport if it means that the environmental impact and the carbon footprint of their journey are somehow offset by the airport's "green" credentials? Researchers in the USA have carried out a study with over 1100 participants in an attempt to find out.
They found that most participants were willing to pay for the development of a green airport if it was to have significant environmental benefits. Indeed, anger and disgust were felt towards the idea of having to for a new airport that did not use renewable resources. The team reports that "As awareness of climate change, and its consequences, continues to grow, support for eco-friendly practices have steadily increased. Current behavioural trends indicate that consumers favour eco-friendly businesses utilising green initiatives."
The team suggests that the findings should be reflected in new design procedures for future airports and even for the upgrading of existing airports. "Developers can [thus] accommodate a changing attitude in the current and future society while cutting operational costs," the team concludes.
Walters, N.W., Rice, S., Winter, S.R., Baugh, B.S., Ragbir, N.K., Anania, E.C., Capps, J. and Milner, M.N. (2018) 'Consumer willingness to pay for new airports that use renewable resources', Int. J. Sustainable Aviation, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp.79–98.
Chitosan is a natural substance extracted from the chitin shells of crustacean. It is a linear polysaccharide comprising randomly distributed deacetylated glucosamine units and acetylated units. It has been the focus of much research in materials science for medical device applications for many years because of its biocompatibility and the potential for it to be bio-absorbed by the body given sufficient time. Similarly, collagen is another natural material, a connective tissue protein found in animals' bodies. It too has been the target of much research given its strength and structural properties. However, collagen shows rapid biodegradation.
Now, a team from Costa Rica has developed a hybrid material from chitosan and collagen, which they suggest combines the useful properties of both materials synergistically. They say it can be fabricated into highly porous three-dimensional solids with almost any shape that can then serve as 3D scaffolds for tissue engineering applications. Living cells can grow on and within such a scaffold and the product might be used to create implant as prosthetic devices for a wide range of medical problems as well as biocompatible wound-healing materials.
The team reports that the hybrid 3D scaffold material has 'improved stability, greater porosity, increased thermal stability, and mechanical properties, as well higher biodegradation as compared to single 3D scaffolds.' The team has now demonstrated that their scaffold materials can support the attachment of living cells, promote their growth, and differentiation, making them a good candidate for tissue engineering applications.
Ureña-Saborio, H., Alfaro-Viquez, E., Esquivel-Alvarado, D., Esquivel, M. and Madrigal-Carballo, S. (2018) 'Collagen/chitosan hybrid 3D-scaffolds as potential biomaterials for tissue engineering', Int. J. Nano and Biomaterials, Vol. 7, No. 3, pp.163–175.
Data lakes allow information to be added to a system without pre-processing or modelling. Contrast this with a conventional database where data must be delivered in a much more refined and formal manner. Thus a data lake offers much timelier speed of entry. However, as research from Brazil shows, even though a data lake preserves highest granularity level of the data, that useful flexibility can be problematic too. "If not managed, it is easy to lose control of the repository because of the volume it holds and its growth", the team explains.
The researchers explain further that data lakes carry none of the semantics of a conventional database, but while this can be advantageous in avoiding certain types of bias when re-extracting and analyzing days, it does mean that understanding the contents of the data lake can become a rather cumbersome task. This, the team suggests, has perhaps undermined the widespread adoption and use of data lakes within the corporate environment and stymied acceptance of this useful tool because of certain misconceptions regarding how they might be used in data science efforts.
The team has now turned to knowledge management models to help them address the issues associated with data lake use and to enrich the data floating within to enhance information usability. They also add that through the use of a data portal platform and associated metadata they reason that their approach would provide easy access to the data lake maintaining and boosting its usefulness and precluding its denigration into a so-called data swamp.
Ferreira, M.C., dos Santos, F.B., Barbosa, C.E. and de Souza, J.M. (2018) 'Using knowledge management to create a Data Hub and leverage the usage of a Data Lake', Int. J. Knowledge Management Studies, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp.260–277.
Human waste is a big problem, but might it be turned to our advantage, offering a sustainable source of biofuels to usurp oil-derived petrochemicals? An international collaboration in Africa has assessed the potential of extracting lipids (fatty molecules) from sewage sludge and converting those fatty compounds into the kind of compounds that can be blended with conventional fuels for use in vehicles of all kinds.
The team tested the process by extracting lipids from dried sewage sludge using the soxhlet extraction technique. They then carried out a conversion to biodiesel acid catalysis transesterification to make the requisite fatty acid methyl esters. They used gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis to test the product. The materials contained a high lipid yield of almost 80 percent and the biodiesel properties considered conformed to global specifications, the team reports.
"Sewage sludge could serve as an alternative and a cheap feedstock for biodiesel development," the team concludes.
Obisanya, J.F., Oyekunle, J.A.O., Ogunfowokan, A.O. and Fatoki, O.S. (2018) 'Evaluation of biodiesel potential of sewage sludge', Int. J. Environment and Waste Management, Vol. 22, Nos. 1/2/3/4, pp.61–73.
Pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) has been cultivated as a food crop for at least 3500 years. It is a great source of protein and widely consumed in South Asia, as well as Asia as a whole, Africa, and Latin America. Researchers in Kenya point out that land degradation and drought conditions can seriously constrain agricultural production in arid and semi-arid areas. However, even without significant rain there can be bumper harvests of this crop plant.
The researchers have looked at the yields of sole- and inter-crops of maize and pigeon ea varieties under different weather conditions over the period 2009 to 2013 and found that harvests where the Mbaazi II strain of pigeon pea was intercropped with maize offers the best option for marginal farmers especially if water conservation methods are employed and excess crop and waste plants parts are ploughed back into the soil rather than being fed to livestock.
Kwena, K.M., Ayuke, F.O., Karuku, G.N. and Esilaba, A.O. (2018) 'No rain but bumper harvest: the magic of pigeonpea in semi-arid Kenya', Int. J. Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp.181–203.
Your smartphone could be used to monitor your level of activity – whether you are running, walking or standing, according to research in China. The benefits might be in healthcare, checking up on patients with mobility issues of fall risk as well as in health and fitness apps that allow the user to set targets for different levels of activity.
The team has developed a two-stage method for analyzing the data from the smart phone's built-in accelerometer. The team's algorithm looks at the acceleration in three dimensions, x, y, and z and can then determine whether the person carrying the phone is running, walking, or standing with an accuracy of more than 97%. The next steps will include improving accuracy still further as well as developing the technology so that it can distinguish other physical actions, perhaps sporting activity such as cycling or rowing.
Ali, S.A. and Amin, R.U. (2018) 'A two-phase human activity classification design using accelerometer data from smartphone', Int. J. Intelligent Systems Technologies and Applications, Vol. 17, No. 3, pp.281–291.
Researchers in India have reviewed the potential of using Brassica plants (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, rape, kohlrabi, cauliflower, rutabaga, brown mustard, and turnip) as biological processors for the environmentally friendly reduction of silver and gold to nanoparticles of those metals.
Engineered nanoparticles can be made using various physical and chemical "bottom up" approaches as well as biological methods. Bacteria, fungi, and yeasts have been used to make nanoparticles, but there is great potential for a wide range of crop plants to be used too. The approach offers great cost savings versus physical and chemical methods and the resulting gold and silver nanoparticles have been demonstrated to have antibacterial and even anticancer activity.
Yadav, M. and Kaur, P. (2018) 'A review on exploring phytosynthesis of silver and gold nanoparticles using genus Brassica', Int. J. Nanoparticles, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp.165–177.
A narrow interpretation of the term "crisis" in the context of refugees and migrants seeking a new home in the European Union and EU border control regimes could have grave consequences of the lives of many people, according to research from Italy.
Moreover, the intense public debate on the "crisis" has not allowed the public and policymakers alike to recognize that the crisis is not a manifestation of external factors but a problem arising because of the intrinsic weaknesses in the EU border control regime and political instability in the Mediterranean region.
"The ongoing crisis at Europe's borders can be seen as an ‘epistemic crisis', signalling the contradictions and fluidity in the language and labels used when discussing human mobility and its governance," it is argued.
Campesi, G. (2018) 'Crisis, migration and the consolidation of the EU border control regime', Int. J. Migration and Border Studies, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp.196-221.
In 2014, Indonesia introduced National Health Insurance. One of the goals of the new program was to increase the use of generic, rather than expensive proprietary pharmaceuticals. In 2011, generic use was low at 14% whereas policymakers and purse-string holders felt that if the use of generics was broadened much greater savings could be made. A large survey of patients revealed that information from one's physician has the biggest effect on whether or not patients opt for a generic version of the medication they require. Additionally, experience with a given pharmaceutical also has a significant impact on whether or not the generic drug is chosen in preference to the proprietary product.
Generic drugs are essentially identical to the products offered by large drug companies even after the drugs' patents have long expired with one important difference that has an even more significant effect in the developing world – they are cheaper. It is critical that policymakers and healthcare workers push for greater use of generics products in order to cut the healthcare bill and allow healthcare to be more widely available through those cost savings.
Amelia, A. and Ronald, R. (2018) 'Generic drug in Indonesia: why physicians and pharmacists matters', Int. J. Monetary Economics and Finance, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp.307–315.
Researchers in The Netherlands and Italy are developing a new approach to identifying and providing prioritized regulatory follow-up actions for new or emerging chemical risks. The approach could benefit workers, consumers, and the environment. The team describes their approach as "a comprehensive and systematic approach for the identification of new or emerging risks of chemicals".
First, new information is assimilated, then exposure and adverse effects are evaluated and prioritized, and where a problem is apparent an analysis of regulatory risk management options is undertaken so that timely recommendations of follow-up steps can be carried out to reduce or eliminate putative risks for a given substance.
L.G., Hogendoorn, E.A., Bakker, J., van Broekhuizen, F.A., Palmen, N.G.M., de Bruin, Y.B., Kooi, M., Sijm, D.T.H.M. and Traas, T.P. (2018) 'An approach to identify, prioritise and provide regulatory follow-up actions for new or emerging risks of chemicals for workers, consumers and the environment', Int. J. Risk Assessment and Management, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp.248–269.
Do attractive celebrity figures have more influence on public opinion than experts when it comes to consumer fashion choice? Given that influencer marketing is on the rise - essentially exploiting word-of-mouth from the words of well-known and favoured individuals - then understanding whether or not this kind of marketing is more effective when the influencer is a celebrity or a well-known fashion expert is an important topic of research for the fashion industry.
Researchers in India have surveyed several hundred individuals in the "Generation Y" cohort, those born after 1980, and looked at how they made their fashion choices in the wake of following celebrities and fashion experts on social media. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, the research established that attractive celebrity influencers have a much greater impact on the choices made by Gen Y individuals over fashion experts, pointing to the seemingly obvious idea that attractive celebrities can be used to market products more effectively than the less famous but more expert individual.
Trivedi, J.P. (2018) 'Measuring the comparative efficacy of an attractive celebrity influencer vis-à-vis an expert influencer - a fashion industry perspective', Int. J. Electronic Customer Relationship Management, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp.256-271.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
DOI: DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2018.10012584
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
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:
- Improved safety through better road infrastructure, onboard safety systems, automatic 'Smart SOS' emergency services' calling (for example, e-Call)
- Enhanced vehicle security through more sophisticated access systems
- Better use of road infrastructure to reduce congestion, enable smart parking, and spread journeys through time
- Safer and more accessible driving for those whose driving abilities are compromised enhancing employment and leisure opportunities
- Greener driving through reduced emissions
- User and usage-based, including driving style and habits, insurance premiums providing an incentive for safer driving
- Improved vehicle maintenance and reliability
- The improvement of air quality
- Opportunities for passengers to use the time spent on car journeys in more interesting and/or productive ways
- Improved payment services for fuel (including e-car battery charging), pay-as-you-drive insurance, parking charges and other car-related mobility services.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
DOI: DOI: 10.1504/IJCAT.2017.088197