2020 Journal news
Sustainable neem biodiesel
The neem tree, Azadirachta indica, also known as the Indian Lilac, is well known for its oil extracted from its seed and fruit. It has been used in traditional medicine but has also been investigated for the pest control potential of natural products. Work published in the International Journal of Renewable Energy Technology, reports on the production, characterisation and utilisation of neem biodiesel as a green fuel for vehicle engines.
Bheru Lal Salvi and Sudhakar Jindal of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture and Technology in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India, have shown how neem biodiesel can be prepared through a two-stage trans-esterification reaction in approximately 88% yield. The neem biodiesel is of a higher viscosity and density than conventional diesel derived from petroleum oil. It also has a slightly lower energy density, or calorific value. However, neem biodiesel blended with up to 20 percent by volume of petrochemical diesel results in a product with a very similar viscosity to conventional diesel, making it more viable for use in compression ignition engines.
The blended bio-product had little impact on brake specific fuel efficiency. However, it reduced smoke opacity and also led to savings in carbon dioxide emissions. These are two important factors in opting for biodiesel rather than petrochemical diesel. Specifically, analysis of carbon dioxide generated shows that the use of the 20% blended neem biodiesel, led to savings in carbon dioxide emissions of more than 0.14 kilograms per kilowatt hour of power generated. Neem biodiesel may thus represent a potentially sustainable fuel.
Salvi, B.L. and Jindal, S. (2020) 'Study on production, characterisation and utilisation of neem biodiesel as green fuel for compression ignition engine', Int. J. Renewable Energy Technology, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp.207–220.
Cashing in on additive manufacturing
Three-dimensional printing, 3D printing, has developed steadily over the last three decades or so. It has become, if not commonplace, then more well-known and utilised in wide-ranging industries, it is. It has been something of a long-term technological revolution changing the way low-demand objects are designed and produced. So much so that it is often referred to as additive manufacturing.
There is huge potential for bespoke, one-off products, replacement parts made on-demand by an agency or anyone with a 3D printer of their own, and, of course, there is a whole new realm of artistic endeavour available through this technology.
Work published in the International Journal of Business Innovation and Research, reveals how designers benefit from the sharing of 3D designs. According to Annastiina Rintala of the School of Engineering Science at Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland, the falling costs for entry into the realm of 3D printing is making it more readily available and as such, there is a growing demand for designs. There is even the notion, as there is with open source software, that 3D printing represents the first steps towards the democratization of design.
"Additive manufacturing is expected to be most advantageous in market environments characterised by demand for customisation, flexibility, design complexity, and high transportation costs of the delivery of end products," explains Rintala. She has now investigated how designers might ultimately benefit financially from sharing their designs for free.
There are three environments where additive manufacturing could spawn novel industries. Firstly, in commercial markets that do not even yet exist or are too small and uncertain to attract established companies. Second, in industries where some potential users are not yet served by low-cost consumer products. And, finally, in areas where some users are not served adequately in terms of customisation options. Within those areas, there are, she says, four putative strategies that might be employed: The first, where a free design simply serves as a free sample of a commercial product. The second where the design serves as an add-on for a commercial product. The third where the design serves as a sample of expert services. The fourth strategy through crowdfunding.
"This study helps to understand the linkages between hobbyism and business in the case of 3D printing," says Rintala, it also "provides an insight into what types 3D designs attract attention currently, and how sharing free designs could be related to their own business."
Rintala, A. (2021) 'How designers benefit from free 3D design sharing', Int. J. Business Innovation and Research, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp.147–166.
As sure as eggs is eggs
In research published in the International Journal of Computational Economics and Econometrics, Peng Zhou of Cardiff University proposes a new filter technique that can separate the yolk from egg white, figuratively speaking. The filter separates trend and cycle based on stylised economic properties, rather than relying on ad hoc statistical properties such as frequency, he writes. The effectiveness of the approach has been tested against the long macroeconomic data collected by the Bank of England from 1700 to 2015.
Zhou explains how there is a division in macroeconomic theory that segregates studies on long-run economic growth, driven by low-frequency changes, and short-run business cycles, driven by high-frequency changes. There may well be a philosophical distinction, but there is no actual distinction when it comes to the data – the data for economic growth and business cycles are collected together.
The side effect of the philosophical division is that commonly testing or estimating an economic growth theory looks at the growth rate of the raw data and ignores the possible role of business cycles. Conversely, testing or estimating a business cycle theory usually involves filtering the raw data with statistical procedures, which smooths over detail. "Without a proper measurement, the validity and reliability of the empirical inferences are questionable," Zhou suggests.
As a cook might separate egg white and yolk, for different recipes, so Zhou has proposed a filter that neither ignores one philosophy nor smooths over the other but allows two different recipes to be carried out for economic growth studies and business cycle analysing the same data "egg". He makes use of some stylised economic properties of trend and cycles to separate them.
Zhou, P. (2021) 'Separating yolk from white: a filter based on economic properties of trend and cycle', Int. J. Computational Economics and Econometrics, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp.78–83.
Serving up renewable energy
As decisions about nuclear power installations, wind farms, solar plants, and other energy sources are being discussed, new research published in the International Journal of Business Continuity and Risk Management, reviews how the contribution of renewables to the utility energy mix might be maximised.
Roy Nersesian and Joseph McManus of the Leon Hess School of Business at Monmouth University, West Long Branch, in New Jersey, USA, suggest that solar and wind power represent major challenges to energy providers. The main issues are the fact that the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow and sometimes when it does, it blows too hard. As such, solar and wind cannot reliably displace fossil fuels nor nuclear in the present climate, as it were.
The team has therefore developed a generalised methodology that could be employed to more effectively incorporate renewables such as solar and wind and others into the conventional energy mix for electric utilities in light of this. The potential for pumped storage facilities is there to stabilise electricity generation based on renewable, however, as well as helping ensure the reliability of services utilising currently available technology.
Pumped storage could very well represent a major approach to storing electricity generated by wind or solar, or indeed any other method. The electricity is regenerated by a hydroelectric facility on demand. The team does point out that technology is advancing all the time and while pumped storage is a very effective approach, chemical storage, as in rechargeable batteries, may well become more efficient and more viable where creating a reservoir is not possible with sufficient advances in that area.
Nersesian, R. and McManus, J. (2020) 'Maximising the contribution of renewables in a utility energy mix', Int. J. Business Continuity and Risk Management, Vol. 10, No. 4, pp.278–306.
A drop of honey in a pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our lives in 2020. Measures that were adopted to preserve lives and protect health services have been more successful in some parts of the world than others. Nevertheless, millions of people have been infected and a large proportion of those have suffered terrible symptoms of this viral disease. Hundreds of thousands of people so far have died. Medical science continues to work on treatments and the roll-out of vaccination programs.
Aside from the ongoing international medical emergency that Covid-19 represents, there are also widespread social and economic crises that are following in its wake. Work published in the International Journal of Business and Systems Research, has looked at how attempts to "flatten the curve" of infection were aimed at not only controlling the spread of the virus but reducing the detrimental impact of the pandemic on the economy.
José António Filipe of the Department of Mathematics at ISTA – School of Technology and Architecture at the University Institute of Lisbon, Portugal, has looked at the flattening of the curve in the context of a modelling metaphor known as the "drop of honey effect". The effect invokes chaos theory and dynamic systems and shows how early decisions can have a major impact on prognosis and long-term effects. It is akin to the well-known "butterfly effect" of chaos theory but more applicable to the large-scale socioeconomic and political consequences of small changes and decisions.
The disease we would come to know as Covid-19 is due to an emergent pathogen, a novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that was first noted in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. How long the problem had existed and been known about prior to the news announcement from China is a moot point.
The virus is highly contagious even before symptoms appear and spread around the world over the first few weeks of 2020 leading the World Health Organization to declare a global pandemic on 11th March. Many countries began to adopt measures to tackle the virus, unfortunately with limited success in many of them. At the time of writing, vaccination programs had been started in some countries but there was also concern about a new strain of the virus that seemed to be spreading more rapidly than the original SARS-CoV-2 although its morbidity and lethality were not entirely clear at this point.
Filipe uses the honey drop effect to look at how events may have unfolded in very different ways if decisions and actions from the very beginnings of the pandemic in Wuhan to the national decisions made before and after the WHO declared the pandemic had each flowed in different ways.
Filipe, J.A. (2021) 'Covid-19, economy and the 'drop of honey effect' metaphor – a note on the Portuguese case. Situation and measures', Int. J. Business and Systems Research, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp.1-13.
A systematic approach to mobile phone forensics is discussed in the International Journal of Electronic Security and Digital Forensics. Manish Kumar of the M.S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology in Bangalore, India, that insight and understanding the digital tools available in this sphere are important in both civil and criminal legal cases as well as in the broader fight against organized crime and terrorist activity.
With the exponential growth in digital devices, computers, laptops, and mobile phones the demand from law enforcement for digital forensics has grown apace. With every release of new software and hardware, there is a need for the tools to advance, the tools must also be able to cope with broken or otherwise compromised devices. This is especially the case as criminals and others of malicious intent develop the ways and means to protect their devices from forensic examination. Critically, the forensic tools uses must themselves be compliant with the law in order to offer admissible evidence in court that can uphold a conviction.
The forensic investigator must also be aware that a seized device may be PIN or password protected and may be retrieved in either the on or off state, and internal battery status as this can all affect what evidence might be obtained. In a certain state, an outside criminal party might have the ability to erase a device remotely if appropriate protections are not put in place on being seized from a crime scene or elsewhere. An expeditious examination can allow communication data, such as call logs, contact details, even text messages to be extracted from a mobile phone, for instance. Application data and multimedia files might also be accessible as well as internet history, GPS data, and cloud storage data.
Kumar discusses in detail the various levels of forensic examination available and what level of evidence might be retrieved when used expertly. "Evidence extraction and analysis is always a challenging job. The success completely relies on the approach, tools, techniques, and the skill-set of the examiner. There is no single straight-forward approach which can be applied in all situations," Kumar writes.
Kumar, M. (2021) 'Mobile phone forensics – a systematic approach, tools, techniques and challenges', Int. J. Electronic Security and Digital Forensics, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.64–87.
Automatic for the pharma
Researchers in China are developing an unattended intelligent hospital pharmacy system that can dispense seal boxes of prescription drugs. Details are reported in the International Journal of Computer Applications in Technology. Haifei Si, Xingliu Hu, Yizhi Wang, Xiang Luo, and Mingming Huang of Jinling Institute of Technology, in Nanjing, Jiangsu and Zhen Shi of Harbin Engineering University, in Harbin, Heilongjiang, explain how their system cuts patient waiting times for prescription collection by two-thirds (66 percent).
Hospital pharmacies are often overwhelmed by the sheer volume of prescriptions that have to be dispensed on a given day and long delays commonly occur between the time a medicine is prescribed for a patient and it being dispensed. Moreover, delays at the pharmacy on the day of discharge are a common problem for waiting to go home. An automated, intelligent system could reduce the pressure on pharmacists dealing with a large number of patients and many prescriptions. The team writes that there are tens of thousands of hospitals in China but only a couple of hundred have automation in their pharmacies, so addressing the problem more widely could potentially benefit many more people.
The system uses an Automated Guided Vehicle with an optimised path strategy that takes control input from the prescription software to retrieve the boxed medicines from storage. The team suggests it is something of a breakthrough in hospital dispensing. It is reliable, stable, and low maintenance.
Si, H., Hu, X., Wang, Y., Shi, Z., Luo, X. and Huang, M. (2020) 'Research on design of unattended intelligent pharmacy system', Int. J. Computer Applications in Technology, Vol. 64, No. 2, pp.197–207.
Sustainability in a pandemic
A new perspective to be published in the International Journal of Sustainable Development suggests that the current sustainable development framework is strong enough to face long-term global challenges including poverty and climate change and even, emergent diseases, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Mohan Munasinghe, Chairman of the Munasinghe Institute for Development (MIND) in Colombo, Sri Lanka, explains however that the emergence of the virus SARS-CoV-2, which led to the COVID-19 pandemic beginning at the end of 2019 has highlighted major existing unsustainabilities. Among those are potentially unhealthy interactions between ecological and socio-economic systems. Such interactions where people encroach on wildlife habitats can, it seems, facilitate the transfer of pathogens from wild species to domesticated species or humans and occasionally lead to diseases that affect humanity on a global scale.
In 2015, humanity recognised sustainable development as a key objective of our future health and prosperity. The concept gave rise to the universal acceptance of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and 17 sustainable development goals by all countries. When the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a global pandemic in March 2020 those aspirations were put on hold to some degree as humanity attempted to cope with what has become an unprecedented a horrendous health crisis with ongoing socio-economic effects.
From this perspective, seven preliminary policy-relevant lessons can be gleaned that would allow us to reinvigorate our approach to sustainable development issues. This will hold under the proviso that we learn the lessons and follow their guidance.
∘ Protect the environmental base and avoid dangerous feedbacks
∘ Find integrated, globally coordinated, systems-based long-term solutions for multiple problems
∘ Empower individuals to act now
∘ Focus on social issues
∘ Pursue a transformative path to sustainability via balanced inclusive green growth
∘ Promote sustainable urban habitats and lifestyles using digital technology
∘ Use better risk analysis and management.
"The pandemic does have a silver lining – it confirms that achieving sustainability is an effective but urgently needed response," Munasinghe says. "If we do not change, it will not be the end of the world," he adds. "The earth will certainly continue as it has for billions of years, but perhaps with a diminished human presence or none – a relatively minor blip in the greater scheme of things."
Munasinghe, M. (2021) 'COVID-19 and sustainable development', Int. J. Sustainable Development, in press.
Students at the movies
Higher education establishments in Malaysia take many innovative approaches to teaching, particularly in digital learning. Work published in the International Journal of Education Economics and Development suggests that the careful choice of western cinematic output, movies, can be useful in teaching certain economic concepts and how these relate to the real world.
Siew King Ting, Sze Wei Yong, Tze Wee Lai, and Geetha Subramaniam of the Universiti Teknologi MARA in Cawangan Sarawak and Selangor, together with Brian Dollery of the University of New England, in Armidale, Australia, suggest that digital approaches to education have complemented traditional "chalk-and-talk" approaches for many years now. The approach lends itself to innovation as the digital world itself innovates continuously. As such smartphones and tablets, websites and apps, social media and social networking have all been used as teaching tools. They can enrich and engage students in various ways. Recently, educators in business schools teaching economics have employed movies, music, videos, and TV shows to explicate economic concepts to students.
The team writes that those conventional chalk-and-talk lectures often represent a unidirectional monologue with the educator essentially disseminating information to the students with little mutual engagement. As such, they are often criticised as being ineffective, although the approach does have its benefits. Conversely, innovative approaches add to the workload of the educators who must maintain their own up to date knowledge of the digital realm and be constantly under pressure to find ways to use the digital in novel teaching approaches.
Traditional lectures are tried and tested, the digital can be a distraction.
Either way, teasing apart the benefits of traditional as opposed to modern methods in learning and teaching economic courses is difficult. It is appreciated that young students can struggle to understand economic concepts because of their youth, attitudes, and limited worldly experience.
"The net outcome of using conventional and innovative instructional methods thus remains inconclusive and further empirical research is essential," the team writes. This is their motivation for investigating the pros and cons of one particular novel teaching tool – the use of movies in education to impart knowledge about particular aspects of economics. The team also suggests that the analysis of movies could be used to enhance writing and critical thinking skills. They add that making short movies of their own might also be used to reinforce understanding.
Ting, S.K., Yong, S.W., Lai, T.W., Subramaniam, G. and Dollery, B. (2021) 'Assessing the effectiveness of using western movies in elucidating economic concepts', Int. J. Education Economics and Development, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp.45–60.
Boosting science teaching with mobile technology
It can almost be taken as read that mobile communications technology can help with science education. However, there is little detailed research that has investigated how well mobile devices have been integrated into what might be called authentic learning in a formal science curriculum.
Now, Wing Kei Yeung and Daner Sun of the Department of Mathematics and Information Technology at The Education University of Hong Kong, have explored how enquiry-based science might be assisted by mobile technology. They have focused on the learning platform nQuire-it which has scientific mobile sensors. They used a mixed-methods approach to test how well students benefited from using the system in their learning.
Their findings suggest that this kind of platform can be useful in improving academic performance, boosting student motivation and interest in learning, as well as their ability to link knowledge gained inside the classroom with the world outside. All such outcomes are a key part of modern education.
The team points out that any tool used in education is just that – a tool. It is, they conclude, important to have well-designed teaching plans in place alongside effective methods of increasing student motivation and engagement whether mobile technology or other approaches. "To merge this learning approach with a formal curriculum," they add, there is a need to "foster an open learning environment complete with sufficient resources and training."
Yeung, W.K. and Sun, D. (2021) 'An exploration of inquiry-based authentic learning enabled by mobile technology for primary science', Int. J. Mobile Learning and Organisation, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp.1–28.
Minimising the negawatts
Supply and demand…when it comes to power generation if supply outweighs demand it can get very uneconoical as fuel is used at prodigious rates in conventional power stations to produce wattage that goes to waste. Writing in the Asian Journal of Management Science and Applications, a team from Japan discusses the concept of "negawatts" – negative watts – and how they might be traded when power supply exceeds demand.
Masahiro Yamada, Tomoki Fukuba, and Takayuki Shiina of Waseda University in Shinjuku and Ken-ichi Tokoro of the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry in Kanagawa, suggest that vast daily fluctuations in the demand for electricity leads to huge and costly inefficiencies. The team has developed a stochastic programming model is formulated for a negawatt planning operation that can manage uncertainty in power demands, the probability of the customer's failure to reduce it, and a way to optimise operations.
"The experimental results show that customers can choose an operation method tailored to their strategy while controlling the value of the failure probability," the team explains. "Compared to using a deterministic model, this stochastic programming model ensures high profits and a stable supply to consumers," they add. The team concludes that with their approach, negawatt planning can be made profitable for the consumer and a stable supply can be attained for the supplier. Such approaches will be essential for many years to come until viable technology for large-scale electricity storage are available and ubiquitous.
Yamada, M., Fukuba, T., Shiina, T. and Tokoro, K. (2020) 'Negawatt planning via stochastic programming', Asian J. Management Science and Applications, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp.40–55
Let us prey
One of the reasons that prey species migrate is to avoid predators over long time scales, this ultimately has a powerful effect on the balance of predator and prey in a given ecosystem. This is especially the case if the migration is seasonal and the predator lacks the capacity to migrate.
New work published in the International Journal of Dynamical Systems and Differential Equations, looks at how modeling predator-prey interactions in divided into hypothetical reserved and non-reserved areas – the reserved zone is the area to which the prey migrates and is inaccessible to predators – can improve our understanding of the biological phenomenon of migration. Moreover, the creation of artificial reserved zones could be useful in reducing the detrimental effects of climate change, exploitation, random harvesting, poaching, and pollution on prey species without having any significant negative impact on the predators. Prey and predator both deserve a chance at being part of a sustainable, biodiverse environment, after all.
"Several factors should be taken into account in the time of creating protected areas for a particular species, such as the number of individual of species to be protected, the carrying capacity of the reserved area, dynamics of the ecosystem supporting these species and many others," write Jyotirmoy Roy and Shariful Alam of the Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology in Howrah. The team's modeling show how migration into and out of the reserved zone has a powerful effect on the system dynamics, the changing predator-prey balance, in other words. However, the movement of prey from reserved to non-reserved zone has the greatest impact and if that movement falls below a particular threshold then the whole system becomes unstable. Conversely, if there is too great a migration back and forth then the concept of creating a reserved zone becomes meaningless as the prey are essentially perpetually in the purview of the predators.
The next step to modeling such systems will take seasonality into account to create a more realistic system that can be tested more rigourously.
Roy, J. and Alam, S. (2020) 'Analysis of migration pattern of prey species with reserved zone', Int. J. Dynamical Systems and Differential Equations, Vol. 10, No. 5, pp.383–400.
You're beautiful, it's true
Social media, networking, dating apps, and other resources, such as entertainment software, might have a use for an automated system that can analyse a photo of a person's face and determine how beautiful that face might be to other people. Research published in the International Journal of High Performance Systems Architecture, suggests that a deep cascaded forest could be the answer to developing a prediction system of beauty.
The researchers based in China and Italy have used multi-grained scanning to obtain the features of the portrait and then applied multiple random forests to enhance the person's features ahead of classification. Tests with a data set of some 10000 previously categorised portraits showed the new algorithm developed from their approach could accurately assign a degree of beauty, automatically for the people without any eye to behold them.
"The method used in this paper is superior to other methods in feature extraction and prediction accuracy relatively," the team writes. They add that their optimised approach will ultimately offer a stable and accurate facial beauty recognition tool. Of course, as is often remarked beauty is in the eye of the beholder and no automated approach to determining whether someone is handsome, pretty, or other is going to be considered 100% accurate when assessed by real people all of the time.
However, for a dating app or website a rough and ready way to categorise people and so give them a more equitable opportunity to match with a potential new partner could be more successful given that real people really do judge books by their covers however shallow that may seem.
Zhai, Y., Lv, P., Deng, W., Xie, X., Yu, C., Gan, J., Zeng, J., Ying, Z., Labati, R.D., Piuri, V. and Scotti, F. (2020) 'Facial beauty prediction via deep cascaded forest', Int. J. High Performance Systems Architecture, Vol. 9, Nos. 2/3, pp.97–106.
Current city buses
Rechargeable batteries are de rigueur in the modern world. We find them in everything from our ubiquitous smartphones and tablets to the electric vehicles in which we taxi ourselves from A to Z. Unfortunately, despite the advances in battery technology, the lithium-ion battery has its inherent problems. For instance, limited discharge time, an ultimately limited number of charge-discharge cycles, high cost of the raw metal, lithium to make them, and their overall bulk and weight. Writing in the International Journal of Powertrains, a team from the UK has looked at the developments around an alternative, the lithium-sulfur battery, that might find use in electric buses for our cities.
Victor Calvo-Serra, Abbas Fotouhi, Mehdi Soleymani, and Daniel Auger of the Advanced Vehicle Engineering Centre in the School of Aerospace, Transport, and Manufacturing at Cranfield University, in Bedfordshire, explain how they have used MATLAB/Simulink software to build and simulate an electric bus of a similar model to those currently used in London. The software also models a putative lithium-sulfur battery and compares activity and efficiency with conventional lithium-ion batteries used in such vehicles.
"The results demonstrate that the proposed Li-S battery pack can fulfill the requirements of an electric city bus in terms of power while achieving a considerable increase in vehicle's range," the team writes. However, they point out that current Li-S cell prototypes also suffer from limited cycling life that precludes their commercial development for the time being. However, once that limitation is overcome, the technology could ultimately drive forward the move to longer journeys for electric buses. Indeed, there is much promise in Li-S batteries and many advances have been made over the last ten years. It will be interesting to see, after such a long wait, whether three all turn up at once in the very near future.
Calvo-Serra, V., Fotouhi, A., Soleymani, M. and Auger, D.J. (2020) 'How suitable is lithium-sulphur battery for electric city bus application?', Int. J. Powertrains, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp.265–288.
Cryptocurrencies are a revolutionary monetary system. They are decentralized, essentially unhackable, and represent a novel and disruptive alternative to monetary systems controlled by banks and governments. The value of various cryptocurrencies has waxed and waned, but at the moment one of the more well-known is riding high at a record-breaking valuation. A review in the World Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development considers the growth, opportunities, and future prospects of cryptocurrencies.
Shweta Goel of the department of Management Sciences at Jagannath Institute of Management Sciences in New Delhi and Himanshu Mittal of the Department of Computer Science at Jaypee Institute of Information Technology in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India, suggest that cryptocurrencies can be regarded as the safest mode of transferring money and making payments internationally. Moreover, they represent a system that is beyond the control of governments, banks, and even law enforcement, a fact that has its pros and cons in the wider scheme of commerce, international relations, and crime-fighting. They suggest that the likes of Bitcoin, Ripple, Ethereum, etc have over the last decade or so changed the financial sector in unimaginable ways and have yet revealed their full potential especially as the world responds and evolves in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
While many everyday people still perceive folding cash money as the most "real" of currencies, organisations and individuals across a wide range of business sectors have recognised the unfolding of cryptocurrencies. This area of finance, despite some perceived limitations and purported but surmountable authoritarian controls, is likely to grow considerably in the medium to long term. In the short term, there will be a gradual understanding and a shift in perception that will facilitate that long-term recognition and growth.
Goel, S. and Mittal, H. (2020) 'Economic, legal and financial perspectives on cryptocurrencies: a review on cryptocurrency growth, opportunities and future prospects', World Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 16, No. 6, pp.611–623
Where have all the flowers gone?
There are numerous software applications, apps, that can identify birds, trees, flowers, and other living things all with varying degrees of accuracy. New research published in the International Journal of Intelligent Engineering Informatics offers a new approach to flower identification.
Abdulrahman Alkhonin, Abdulelah Almutairi, Abdulmajeed Alburaidi, and Abdul Khader Jilani Saudagar of the Information Systems Department at the Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, explain how flowers are a big part of our lives in the aesthetic and recreational, educational, and even medicinal contexts and beyond.
Deep learning algorithms have been widely used recently in the fields of image processing and computer vision.
The team's new algorithm has been trained on a variety of photos of four well-known flower types – sunflower, dandelion, rose, and tulip. The resulting application tested with colour photos on the Android mobile operating system could then identify new photos of dandelion flowers with an accuracy of 94.6%, sunflowers at 92.5%, tulips with 95.7%. For roses the recognition rate was a little lower at just under 90%. They explain that increasing the training data set will allow the accuracy of the algorithm to be improved.
The team adds that in future work they will incorporate an augmented reality feature in the application as extension that would help with flower identification out in the field, as it were.
Alkhonin, A., Almutairi, A., Alburaidi, A. and Saudagar, A.K.J. (2020) 'Recognition of flowers using convolutional neural networks', Int. J. Intelligent Engineering Informatics, Vol. 8, No. 3, pp.186–197.
Exoskeletons for the elderly
The concept of a powered exoskeleton has been discussed widely in the context of science fiction and in industry where a human operator exploits robotic components that allow them to wield much greater strength in lifting and moving objects than is normally humanly possible. However, a robotic exoskeleton might be just as useful for the infirm who struggle with everyday mobility.
Writing in the International Journal Advanced Mechatronic Systems a research team from India discusses the design and potential of a lower-limb robotic exoskeleton for otherwise immobile older people. The system could help overcome one of the more common problems – rising from a seated position to standing from a chair.
Vishnu Vardhan Dadi, P.V.N.S. Sathwik, D. Mahesh, Dala Jaswanth, Karthik Kumar, M.M. Ramya, and D. Dinakaran of the Hindustan Institute of Technology and Science, Chennai, have designed their exoskeleton so that it can be adapted to varying body shapes, height, weight, and waist circumference. Modelling in Ansys workbench predicts the maximum loads, and static characteristics of the design as well as revealing the vibrational properties of the system. The design can bear 350 kilograms, which is well beyond the 100 kg person for which it was initially designed. Follow-up studies will investigate dynamic characteristics and responses of the design.
Dadi, V.V., Sathwik, P.V.N.S., Mahesh, D., Jaswanth, D., Kumar, S.K., Ramya, M.M. and Dinakaran, D. (2020) 'Structural design and analysis of a lower limb exoskeleton for elderly', Int. J. Advanced Mechatronic Systems, Vol. 8, Nos. 2/3, pp.65–74.
Social media and Sudan
The received wisdom is that the advent of social media has changed our lives significantly, it affects many aspects of business, entertainment, sport, and day to day living. But, according to researchers in the USA writing in the International Journal of Business Forecasting and Marketing Intelligence little research has been done to investigate its role on behavioural and political change. They hope to remedy that situation in the context of the impact of social media on the citizens of Sudan in their seeking civil government and the ensuing uprising.
The Sudanese Revolution led to the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir after thirty years in power in April 2019 following widespread street protests in December 2018 and months of sustained civil disobedience. Ashraf Attia, Merve Yanar Gürce, Rana Fakhr, and Barry Friedman of the State University of New York at Oswego, USA, explain how social media is used by billions of people and that its platforms, most famously Facebook and Twitter have influenced our lives and perhaps even the results of elections and referenda. These tools provide an immediacy in political events from France to the USA, India to Iran, and Nigeria to Malaysia, and many other places besides.
The team suggests that platforms allow people to encourage others to participate in mass demonstrations through the creation of an organic group solidarity. Protestors can mobilize themselves with the help of social media platforms and build a voice that is louder and heard that might ultimately change a government stance or even change the whole government.
In the years before the Sudanese Revolution and coup d'état, economic conditions worsened, food prices escalated, and unemployment among the young increased enormously. Thus a thirst for freedom, democracy, and social justice arose. Social media facilitated the spread of the revolutionary urge and the information that brought together otherwise independent professional unions, rebel groups, and civil opponents with members from diverse race, religious, and ethnic groups. Importantly, it is well known that most of the protestors (80%) were young and 70% of those young people were women.
Attia, A.M., Gürce, M.Y., Fakhr, R.A. and Friedman, B. (2020) 'The impact of social media on Sudan's uprising behaviour', Int. J. Business Forecasting and Marketing Intelligence, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp.186–203.
Philosophical thoughts for the future
Science, philosophy, and religion all attempt to distill the essence of reality, the essence of being – albeit from very different points of departure. Writing in the International Journal of Foresight and Innovation Policy, Austrian scientist Franz Moser presents a foresight paper that looks at humanity's path from ignorance to knowledge and how ego structures have evolved into truth. Moser points out how our history is littered with war, misery, and suffering, yet none of our philosophical meanderings of whatever kinds have reconciled us. None has yet pulled us out of the paradigm that leads to that state of being to give us a new holistic paradigm.
"The present world view, the Newtonian paradigm, confronts us with a divided world of contradictions, antagonism, and egotism," writes Moser. This arises from the basic human delusion of dualism wherein we imagine mind and matter to be separate rather than our minds, our consciousness, emerging from the electrochemistry of our brains. "Ego illusions prevail and dominate man's behaviour towards his fellow man and towards himself," adds Moser.
Our modern scientific understanding and our spiritual lives also thus exist in a dualistic place. The next evolutionary steps in the wellbeing of humanity must find a holistic approach that allows what one might have thought of as the heart and mind to become one and to guide us forward to a better world where misery, suffering, and war are greatly reduced if not entirely precluded from the human condition. The current philosophical paradigms cannot correct this dualistic world view at any level.
Ultimately, once we cast off the dualism, humanity can move from a place of ignorance, scarcity, and fear to knowledge and truth.
Moser, F. (2020) "Mankind's path from ignorance to knowledge – from ego structures to truth: a foresight", Int. J. Foresight and Innovation Policy, Vol. 14, Nos. 2/3/4, pp.264-274.
Strawberry plants schedule nurses
The way in which strawberry plants propagate has been modelled mathematically and used to develop an algorithm that can help solve complicated problems. Writing in the International Journal of Innovative Computing and Applications, a team from Algeria has shown how such a plant propagation algorithm can be used to decide on an efficient nursing roster in a hospital.
Salim Haddadi of LabSTIC at the 8 Mai 1945 University in Guelma, explains that the nurse rostering problem is a combinatorial optimisation problem that has to be solved in every healthcare institution. It is a computationally hard problem with huge numbers of possible solutions and so requires a sophisticated approach that can find the optimal solutions from that huge number. There are many additional constraints on the solutions that might be tenable in a healthcare environment because nurses with different skills are needed at different times. There are also many regulations that must be complied with in the healthcare setting. Such constraints make solving the problem even tougher than a roster for shop assistants would be, for instance.
Plants have evolved many different propagation strategies. The most obvious is sexual reproduction which produces seeds that are dispersed by various mechanisms and grow into new plants. However, some plants, such as the strawberry plant can produce runners that branch from the main plant and generate new plants asexually with roots implanted from those new buds along the branches. The way in which strawberry plants project these runners and the positions of the new asexual offspring along the runners is determined by the plant's sensing of sunlight, moisture levels, and nutrient concentrations. If conditions are inadequate when shorter runners are sent out, the parent plant will allow the runners to grow longer before a new plant bud forms to set roots. The algorithm models this process as a proxy for positioning nursing staff in the roster.
Haddadi, S. (2020) 'Plant propagation algorithm for nurse rostering', Int. J. Innovative Computing and Applications, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp.204–215.
The end of fake news
Fake news is another level of media manipulation beyond propaganda and it is becoming increasingly commonplace thanks to social networking and ubiquitous connectivity. Researchers in India, writing in the International Journal of Advanced Media and Communication suggest that India needs an evolution in policy to stem the flow of fake news.
Raj Kishore Patra of the Department of Mass Communication and Media Technology at Khallikote University, in Berhampur, Odisha, and Arpita Saha of the Xavier School of Communications at Xavier University, in Bhubaneswar, suggest that the spirit and ethics of journalism are compromised by fake news and the public perception of the place of ethical journalism within the modern information sphere. The social media giants seem not to have the strength of policy to cope with fake news and the regulatory authorities too are apparently somehow debilitated by the scale of the issue. The team adds that frail and inadequate public policies cannot monitor nor counteract this progressive dysfunction within the media.
The team has examined the origins of fake news, its gradual emergence and how the advent of social media which gave everyone a place to voice their opinions in public has pushed it to such a level that even those in power not only utilize it without impunity but endlessly accuse their opponents of exploiting it to their detriment.
Fake news can confuse and dupe adults, it can lead to culture jamming, polarization of opinion, obstruction of reality, and harassment of conventional mainstream media who become perceived not only as purveyors of fake news but also being biased against those who believe the fakery and peddling lies those who believe they are beyond that confusion. The presence and spread of fake news on social media and elsewhere represent a setback to what we might otherwise perceive as human progress. In many circles, there is little desire to impose legal constraints, which might be seen as restrictions on free speech. We must hope that journalistic integrity and professional ethics will prevail and ultimately quash the voices of those peddling and echoing fake news.
Patra, R.K. and Saha, A. (2019) 'Fake news circulation on social media and the need for a policy evolution in India', Int. J. Advanced Media and Communication, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp.282–308.
Naked body image and self esteem
For people predisposed to take part in non-sexual nude activities body image, self-esteem, and life-satisfaction are improved by such participation. Now, research published in the International Journal of Happiness and Development suggests that for people who may not be predisposed to such activities, a nudity-based intervention may nevertheless lead to positive improvements in body image.
Negative body image is a mental health problem that is widespread. Surveys of thousands of people across many different countries suggest that dissatisfaction with one's own body is common across many diverse body types. This dissatisfaction can lead to deeper, problems, such as depression, substance abuse, self-harm, risky sexual behaviour, eating disorders, and suicide.
Conversely, those with a positive body appreciation, enjoy better psychological well-being in this context are often proactive in coping with personal crises and other problems, have greater optimism, and take part in safer sexual behaviour. Overall, "Body image is an important aspect of one's self-concept, and has a profound influence on both self-esteem," writes researcher Keon West of the Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, UK.
West emphasizes how a person's body image can profoundly affect their self-esteem and life-satisfaction and if of a negative nature can be a predictor for the onset of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. West has undertaken a small-scale study to test the hypothesis and found that participants reported a positive effect of the intervention that persisted for at least a month after the four-day trial period.
"Results suggest that nudity-based interventions can meaningfully and enduringly improve body image and related outcomes, even among non-nudists," West reports. West adds that this area of research is still in its infancy and much is to be studied and understood. However, he points out that as society becomes more diverse and tolerant of different types of activity once perceived as taboo, we might find new approaches to confronting old and widespread problems, such as those that arise from negative body image.
West, K. (2020) 'A nudity-based intervention to improve body image, self-esteem, and life satisfaction', Int. J. Happiness and Development, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp.162–172.
Education in the time of Covid
With the emergence of the pandemic coronavirus and the spread of Covid-19 throughout 2020, many people who work in the service sector have been forced to work from home rather than commuting to offices. The social and economic impact of such measures, put in place to help restrict the spread of this disease, are yet to be fully understood.
Writing in the International Journal of Social and Humanistic Computing, a team from India describes the impact on the education "industry" of the work-from-home rules that have been put in place in many parts of the world. Rajwinder Kaur and Gagandeep Kaur of the University School of Business at Chandigarh University in Ghruan, Mohali, Punjab, suggest that there have been pros as well as cons for higher education in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The researchers suggest at among the benefits are a reduction in office distractions and office politics for those in the education industry. There are also the benefits of essentially zero commuting time and the ability to schedule work more efficiently. Of course, such benefits have been well-known for many years among those who previously worked from home. Conversely, the delivery of lectures, tutorials, and assessment via online tools while also having benefits means that students are missing out on direct contact and conversation with their educators. There are many barriers to having students take examinations throughout and at the end of a course because of physical (also known as social) distancing measures.
This is the first time that educators have been forced to handle their students in this way and they are only now beginning to face the challenges and recognise some of the benefits. Whether or not we see an end to the Covid-19 pandemic is a moot point, but the "new-normal" must take education into account to ensure a positive future for learners.
Kaur, R. and Kaur, G. (2020) 'A study on work from home in education industry due to COVID-19', Int. J. Social and Humanistic Computing, Vol. 3, Nos. 3/4, pp.339–358.
British publishing not servitised
Researchers have demonstrated that there is very little, if any, servitisation in the UK and Ireland publishing industry. They present their results in the International Journal of Business Environment.
Alexander Kharlamov and Glenn Parry of the Faculty of Business and Law at the University of the West of England (UEW) Frenchay Campus, in Bristol, UK, explain how "servitisation is a strategic transition of firms towards the creation of additional value through services." They have used a data-driven approach to investigate the activities of publishing companies as revealed by the descriptions those companies use to represent themselves. "If there is a trend of traditional publishing firms adopting servitisation strategies, this should emerge from textual analysis of company descriptors," the team suggests.
Despite the apparent servitisation of other commercial endeavours, it seems that there is no significant evidence of strategic diversity in publishing, the team found. An alternative explanation might be that the publicly available dataset is not representative of corporate strategy in the publishing industry but one might assume that for an industry the stock in trade of which is sharing information that this explanation is unlikely.
A critical point that emerges from the research independent of the subject or its research conclusions is that it demonstrates how unsupervised clustering can be used to detect naturally occurring groups in large datasets without the need for prescribing categories of companies. This allows an analysis to be undertaking without introducing bias that would result from anticipating the conclusions that might emerge from said analysis.
Kharlamov, A.A. and Parry, G. (2020) 'Limited evidence for servitisation in UK publishing: an empirical analysis', Int. J. Business Environment, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp.336–346.
Emotion detection in Parkinson's disease
Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that leads to significant disturbances to motor control resulting in involuntary tremor, shuffling gait, muscular rigidity, and other problems. The disease also leads to cognitive decline and a reduction in the patient's ability to understand facial expressions and other people's emotions from their faces. Work published in the International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics, has used bioinformatics to examine this change in this ultimately fatal disease.
K.N. Rejith and Kamalraj Subramaniam of the Karpagam Academy of Higher Education in Coimbatore, India, explain how electroencephalograms (EEGs) have been used in much of the work into understanding the recognition of six "standard" emotions – happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust – in Parkinson's disease.
The team points out that EEG offers a simpler alternative to more sophisticated techniques for studying the brain, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET). But, despite its relative simplicity, the quantification of EEG rhythms could provide an important biomarker for several neuropsychiatric disorders. The researchers suggest that this could be critical for early diagnosis and thus intervention in such diseases allowing better disease management and treatment to be put in place at an earlier stage of the disease's progression.
Rejith, K.N. and Subramaniam, K. (2020) 'A review on emotion recognition in Parkinson's disease using bioinformatics', Int. J. Medical Engineering and Informatics, Vol. 12, No. 6, pp.542–552.
Word-of-mouth has always been a powerful mantra for marketing, whereby a positive consumer passes on their recommendation of product or service to their friends, family, and work colleagues. In the age of social networking, electronic word-of-mouth (eWoM) becomes a potentially even more powerful tool. Social media can amplify the positive message especially of those one might refer to as "influencers" people with larger than average reach and audience on the various websites and apps. Of course, the negative of the power of eWoM is the potential for negative messages to be amplified too.
Writing in the International Journal of Grid and Utility Computing, an international team has looked at the world of online information bombardment and how eWoM within that might affect consumer purchase intentions.
Muddasar Ghani Khwaja and Shaheed Zulfikar of the Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, in Islamabad, Pakistan, and Saqib Mahmood and Ahmad Jusoh of the Azman Hashim International Business School at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, in Skudai, Johor, Malaysia, suggest that eWoM is a great marketing opportunity. Social media conversations can grow exponentially given how such a large proportion of the world's population now has access to always-connected devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and how so many of those people use social media and networking as well as email on a daily basis.
The team surveyed some 342 social media users with respect to their purchasing intentions and how eWoM affected their decision-making process. Statistical analysis of the responses provided a framework around which the team could build their conclusions. As one might expect the quality of information users receive had a positive effect on their perceptions of how useful that information is and whether it would influence their purchase intentions. The implication is that marketing management has to keep abreast of information that is being disseminated about their products. They must ensure that the information being shared is useful and of the highest quality to ultimately reflect a positive message through eWoM that can translate into sales.
Khwaja, M.G., Mahmood, S. and Jusoh, A. (2020) 'Online information bombardment! How does eWOM on social media lead to consumer purchase intentions?', Int. J. Grid and Utility Computing, Vol. 11, No. 6, pp.857–867.
Nostalgia ain't what it used to be
Memories from childhood can be the most engaging when it comes to marketing. Feelings of nostalgia or of having a shared recognition for times gone by can be strong. Work published in the International Journal of Business Innovation and Research, looks at twelve variables that influence memory and brand engagement and awareness in a group of men and women in the age group 21 to 45 years.
Rajagopal of the EGADE Business School at the Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico City, Mexico, explains how childhood memories can affect how adults make their purchasing choices when it comes to consumer goods. The strongest effect is simply that of nostalgia, adults wishing to recapture the pleasures of their childhood, through rekindled brand loyalty.
Childhood memories are often retrieved when we are in adulthood during leisure time with family, friends, or in social gatherings. The narratives that emerge may well then influence engagement with the brands and products with which we become familiar as children and lead us to look again at those products in adulthood. The study was based on convenience brands familiar to those in Latin American markets. The research suggests that this effect is strongest in women who took part in the research survey.
If a person was not particularly familiar with a given brand in childhood, there will be only a weak nostalgia association and thus re-engaging with that brand in adulthood is less likely. However, ones where a strong memory is present and some degree of emotional attachment will necessarily lead to a stronger sense of nostalgia and a greater chance of said brand becoming familiar and cherished once more in adulthood.
Rajagopal (2020) 'Childhood memories affecting brand loyalty and consumption behaviour among adult consumers', Int. J. Business Innovation and Research, Vol. 23, No. 3, pp.400–420.
TV viewers with second sight
More and more of us choose to watch television while using our smartphones and tablets. This second-screen viewing behaviour often means that viewers are less engaged with the television programming and advertising than they would have been previously because there are the endless distractions of social media, for instance, on that second screen.
This change has been partly driven by the blinkered attitude of television companies to the evolving needs of their viewers. The companies, preoccupied with piracy and surveillance concerns have attempted to control content and information and to limit interaction to their official websites and to have linear programming schedules as their output. Consumers expect more and conventional broadcasting simply does not meet the modern viewer's demands. Viewers are not sufficiently gratified by the programmed content and constantly seek alternative and parallel media consumption opportunities.
Writing in the International Journal of Mobile Communications, researchers in Taiwan have looked at second-screen viewing behaviour in the context of engagement with the "primary screen", the television and the implications for programmers and advertisers of this increasingly prevalent behaviour.
Po-Chien Chang of the Department of Communications Management at Shih Hsin University in Taipei and Cheng-Yu Lin in the University's Department of Radio, Television and Film, explain that traditional television viewing has become a blended experience for many viewers. Some of that second-screen activity may well be related to whatever is being shown on the television at the time. For instance, people may well be discussing a live show, sporting event, or other programming on social networks while it is being broadcast. They may well be involved in gaming or other activities associated with that show. Alternatively, the second-screen activity may be entirely independent of the traditional broadcast.
"New features and behaviour are emerging that create challenges and opportunities for attracting advertising revenues and viewer attention in the second-screen environment," the team writes.
Based on a survey of 562 television audience participants, the team has identified four categories second-screen TV viewing behaviour: control, enrichment, sharing, and participation. From an analysis of their data, they have developed an empirical model that integrates an understanding of audience motivation, media engagement, and second-screen behaviour. From this model, they have found that mobile users who are motivated by common interests and social sharing tend to be more engaged with online activities while watching television. They also found that second screen users are often strongly immersed, if not obsessed, with their social connectivity experiences rather than any interactive features that a television program may have of its own.
Chang, P-C. and Lin, C-Y. (2020) 'The roles of motivation and media engagement in second-screen viewing experiences', Int. J. Mobile Communications, Vol. 18, No. 6, pp.619–640.
Mentoring the good, the bad, and the ugly
Mentoring is usually seen as an important part of one's personal development whether one is in education or employment. But, research published in the International Journal of Learning and Change looks at whether no mentor is sometimes better than a bad mentor.
Jiwon Jung and Barry Bozeman of the Center for Organization Research and Design, School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University, in Phoenix, suggest that the research literature in the field of mentoring in the workplace has given scant mention to the negative effects one might experience under mentoring schemes. The team analysed information from 3000 respondents – full-time workers – asked about their experiences, their job satisfaction, and salary.
The team writes that "The quality of the mentoring experience influences job satisfaction more while a mere presence of a mentor is important for the salary of the protégés." Of course, there are many endogenous factors that affect mentees differently and perception of what is good or bad mentoring are also subjective so it is difficult to unravel the impact of mentoring on job satisfaction and salary.
The team has looked specifically at eight types of bad mentoring and offers suggestions that can explain some of the unexpected and curious findings they report. One particularly surprising finding from their research is that people working in the public sector with a mentor, unlike workers in the private and non-profit sectors, generally have a lower salary and job satisfaction compared to those who have no mentor.
Jung, J. and Bozeman, B. (2020) 'Is a bad mentor better than no mentor?', Int. J. Learning and Change, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp.444–475.
Aircraft air quality
Air quality in aircraft cabins is monitored for levels of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, ozone, and airborne particulates for the health and safety of passengers and crew. Researchers from Turkey writing in the International Journal of Sustainable Aviation, point out that volatile organic compounds are not monitored despite the health and other problems that can arise through exposure to some of these substances. In general, however, organic hydrocarbons are not considered worthy of consideration in assessing the atmosphere to which passengers and crew are exposed as a matter of course in an aircraft.
Veli Gokhan Demir and Enver Yalcin of Balikesir University, Ziya Sogut of the Piri Reis University in Instanbul, and Hikmet Karakoc of Eskisehir Technical University have investigated the potential sources of VOCs in an aircraft and what factors might influence concentrations in the air within the passenger and crew areas. Aircraft that fly at high altitude, such as international passenger aeroplanes are pressurized compartments, often with high occupant density, the effects of any volatile pollutants present in the air in this confined, airtight space, could ultimately have a detrimental effect on frequent flyers whether passenger or crew.
One such source of pollutants discussed by the team is from "bleed air". Air from outside the aircraft is pressurized by the engines and pumped into the interior and recirculated to help maintain an acceptable pressure within. Bleed air can often carry components from engine oil with it. In extreme cases a so-called fume event may occur where concentrations of substances carried in with this bleed air reach uncomfortable levels inside the aircraft. Other VOCs may be present due to reactions with ozone in the aircraft or from other mechanical equipment, such as air conditioning units. Cleaning agents and even cosmetics and perfumes used by occupants can all add to the recirculating load of volatile materials to which all passengers are ultimately exposed during a high-altitude flight.
The team suggests that carbon filtration should be adopted to scrub recirculating air within an aircraft. In addition, there should be dedicated intake vents for bleed air rather than it passing through engines. Given that the presence of ozone can exacerbate the problem of other pollutants because of its reactivity, scrubbers for this compound should also be put in place. An additional factor is to avoid the intake of bleed air during takeoff when ambient pollution from engines and exhaust and service vehicles would compromise air quality for the duration of the flight.
Demir, V.G., Yalcin, E., Sogut, M.Z. and Karakoc, T.H. (2020) 'Volatile organic compounds in aircraft cabins', Int. J. Sustainable Aviation, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp.87–111.
Sustaining the bright sparks
Ambitious, talented, and diligent employees can suffer from burnout in any workplace. Their enthusiasm and energy can wane. Keeping the spark alive is, to a degree, the job of management hoping to retain such workers, ensure good mental health among their staff, and avoid the kind of problems that can ultimately lead to failure within or even across an organisation.
Organisations rely on the enthusiasm and engagement of their workforce for success. This puts a lot of pressure on leaders to retain talented employees and to develop this talent in new ways to encourage them to achieve the organisation's business growth objectives. Unfortunately, recent research suggests that the spark has died a little in many organisation as employees feel increasingly burned out and disengaged from their work. This is nowhere truer than in the healthcare industry.
Writing in the International Journal of Management Practice, a team from Turkey discusses how this spark might be sustained through improved employee engagement with their work. Ugur Yozgat of Nisantasi University in Istanbul, Turkey and colleague Elif Bilginoglu, discuss how potent leadership within an organization can light the spark in workers. The researchers also point out that the same sparking leaders can be there to help employee burnout and improve staff retention.
The team sees several practical implications of their research. Fundamentally, they say, it is the sparking leaders within an organization who must generate the energy and ignite the enthusiasm in their subordinates and so boost engagement, reduce burnout, bolster organizational morale for the mutual benefit of employees and employer.
Bilginoglu, E. and Yozgat, U. (2020) 'Keeping the spark alive: preventing burnout at work while increasing work engagement', Int. J. Management Practice, Vol. 13, No. 6, pp.698–712.
Video monitoring of the degree to which roads in the urban environment become waterlogged during periods of enduring, heavy rain, could be used as an early warning for imminent flooding, according to new research published in the International Journal of Embedded Systems.
Fengchang Xue, Juan Tian, and Xiaoyi of the Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology and Yan Yan of the Meteorological Bureau of Liangyuan District in Shangqiu, China, explain that flood disasters cannot be predicted in a timely manner simply using conventional remote sensing imagery. They suggest that real-time monitoring of predictive markers such as the degree to which the land in a given urban environment is becoming waterlogged would allow a more sophisticated approach to flood prediction to be taken.
The team has employed an image difference operation and support vector machine (SVM) algorithm to help them develop a continuous monitoring and early warning system for flooding. This could be used to save lives in the face of a significant flood as well as helping reduce damage to buildings and other infrastructure. The team adds that most towns and cities already have video surveillance for crime prevention in place at street corners and on roads. The video feed from these systems of closed-circuit television (CCTV) could be adapted readily for monitoring of waterlogging.
Xue, F., Tian, J., Song, X. and Yan, Y. (2020) 'Urban waterlogging monitoring and early warning based on video images', Int. J. Embedded Systems, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp.380–386.
Finding phish faster
A new approach to detecting malicious websites, known as phishing sites, is revealed in the International Journal of Internet Technology and Secured Transactions.
Phishing sites can steal personal information such as logins and bank details, breach your privacy, and even enlist your computer and other internet devices into networks of computers to perpetuate themselves or other malware. Links to phishing sites and pages are often embedded in emails and other communications and disguised as legitimate messages from a trusted source, such as one's bank, utility provider, shop, or other business or organization. They are often very well disguised and even experienced users are occasionally hooked and suckered into clicking such links. Other phishing attacks might exploit hacked websites, banner ads, and even a user misspelling a legitimate website address.
Now, Youness Mourtaji and Mohammed Bouhorma of The University of Abdelmalek Essaadi, in Tangier, Morocco, and Daniyal Alghazzawi of the King Abdulaziz University, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, have adopted a hybrid framework that allows them to detect a phishing site or page. A positive detection would then be used to block the link before the user is duped into following the link in their application and their data and connection being compromised.
The team's tests and comparisons with other approaches show over 99 percent accuracy with the hybrid approach that utilizes both a static and a dynamic detection process. This compares to just over 80 percent accuracy with the static or dynamic processes running alone. The process is a lot faster than at least two well-known antivirus packages that have built-in phishing protection.
Mourtaji, Y., Bouhorma, M. and Alghazzawi, D. (2020) 'New hybrid framework to detect phishing web pages, based on rules and variant selection of features', Int. J. Internet Technology and Secured Transactions, Vol. 10, No. 6, pp.740–757.
Science key to economic resilience after Covid
The global economic situation in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic is becoming one of the deepest social crises the world has ever experienced. In the International Journal of Technological Learning, Innovation and Development, researchers discuss how technology and innovation might be used to make the society and the economy resilient to the trauma.
Fernando Santiago of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization UNIDO) in Vienna, Austria, and colleagues suggest that the lessons of history must be learned and now is the time to advocate coordination, cooperation, and investment in science, technology, productive and innovative capabilities. These are all the essential strategic ingredients for facing the problem and building resilience, they suggest. This is especially the case for developing nations, the team adds. Comprehensive and coordinated policies are critical to our response in those countries as with the wider world.
The team writes that "The COVID-19 pandemic is punishing countries that have failed to invest adequately in healthcare systems, particularly issues related to governance, infrastructure, human resources and research." They add that "As economies begin to reopen, governments should ensure that recovery plans focus more on vital public health structures and how these are supported. This means coming up with innovative solutions and redesigning global supply chains to improve their resilience and transform health challenges into longer-term industrial development opportunities, particularly in developing countries."
At the time of writing, the pandemic is still very much with us and while the need to "reopen" economies is an increasingly pressing issue there remains the threat of a lethal, uncontrolled virus continuing to wreak havoc on lives and healthcare systems. Of course, science and innovation will underpin the very medical response we need to make directly to the virus if we are to overcome it and reopen beyond a new-normal.
"The COVID-19 pandemic and its rippling socio-economic effects have also accentuated the need for actively revitalising the role of industrial development and productive and innovative capability development," the team writes. Innovation and development exist as a symbiotic relationship we would do well to remember that as we work our way through the pandemic.
Santiago, F., De Fuentes, C., Peerally, J.A. and Larsen, J. (2020) 'Investing in innovative and productive capabilities for resilient economies in a post-COVID-19 world', Int. J. Technological Learning, Innovation and Development, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.153–167.
Sensing carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide is an insidiously toxic gas. It can pervade an enclosed space and causes drowsiness and at sufficiently high concentration is lethal to anyone breathing it. As such, there is a need for efficient and fast-reacting carbon monoxide sensor devices in a variety of industrial, commercial, and domestic settings. Devices are available but a new approach is discussed in the International Journal of Microstructure and Materials Properties that utilises the chemistry of a twin film of molybdenum(VI) oxide and indium(III) oxide layers.
Physicists Nimba Kothawade and Arun Patil of the Arts, Science and Commerce College, and Vikas Deshmane of the SICES Degree College in Maharashtra, India, prepared thin films of MoO3-In2O3 using the spray pyrolysis technique on a glass substrate at 400 degrees Celsius. They characterised their film using X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy, and energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy.
Once confident of their materials, the team then tested the electrical properties of their various formulations. They found that the resistivity of the films increased with MoO3 as the dopant in In2O3. They found a maximum resistivity of 1.75 × 104 ?m for 0.3N (MoO3) and 0.1N (In2O3) binary oxide films.
They then tested the dual films gas-sensing characteristics against five different target gases. The film composition ratio 0.3N:0.1N films had 70.50% sensitivity to 300 parts per million (ppm) of carbon monoxide gas at 150 degrees Celsius with high selectivity. The response time, the team reports was 15 seconds and recovery time was just 25 seconds.
Kothawade, N.B., Deshmane, V.V. and Patil, A.V. (2020) 'MoO3:In2O3 binary oxide thin films as CO gas sensor', Int. J. Microstructure and Materials Properties, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp.229–241.
Does going green pay off?
Does going green pay off? Research published in the World Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development hopes to answer that question from a sustainability performance perspective.
Environmental concerns are changing not only the natural landscape but the economic world too. There is a need to understand how so-called stakeholders can influence and affect the commercial and business world in efforts to address environmental concerns including climate change and fossil fuels, plastic and other pollution, as well as food and water security, and resilience to natural disasters. Moreover, the push to "green" the commercial world is driven by marketing as with anything commercial.
Husna Ara, Jasmine Ai Leen Yeap, and Siti Hasnah Hassan of the Universiti Sains Malaysia, in Pinang, explain that worldwide organisations have begun to embrace the concept of sustainability and moved towards environmental strategies to this end. The team's review found that investing in green marketing does not have an immediate positive impact on commercial success despite the growing awareness among consumers of a multitude of environmental concerns. However, it feeds a company's sustainability agenda and they suggest that by improving environmental and social performance economic benefits will be gleaned while concomitantly helping to address many of the issues we face globally.
Ara, H., Yeap, J.A.L. and Hassan, S.H. (2020) 'Does going green really pay off? A sustainability performance view', World Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 16, No. 5, pp.519–537
The language of health and wealth
What impact does a person's proficiency in English as a second language have on their health and economic integration when they settle in the USA? That's the sensitive issue addressed in new research published in the International Journal of Economics and Business Research.
Ibrahim Niankara of the College of Business at Al Ain University in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates has used the statistical technique of Bayesian Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) estimation to analyse annual earnings and medical care spending for a representative sample of data on immigrant families from the US National Health Interview Surveys (NHIS). There is, the research suggests, a negative correlation, as one might expect. Among immigrants, increased English language proficiency improves earnings propensity and reduces medical care spending.
Niankara points out that according to the United Nation's International Organization for Migration, the number of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people across various regions of the world has increased dramatically in recent years. Numbers are in the hundreds of millions and rising with each passing year. He suggests that "policies aimed at raising immigrants' families English language proficiency in the USA would not only contribute to their effective socio-economic integration but also strengthen the US workforce and economy in the long run."
Niankara, I. (2020) 'The role of English language proficiency on immigrants' health and economic integration in the USA', Int. J. Economics and Business Research, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp.255-287.
You can tell me by the way I walk
The walking style, or gait, of women in the third trimester of pregnancy changes significantly from that seen in the earlier steps of the pregnancy and is markedly different from that observed in women who are not pregnant. The adaptations are assumed to be in response to the changing weight, posture and balance of the women at that stage. Understanding the changes could be used to help design footwear or physiotherapy to reduce pain caused by the attendant joint redistribution.
Research published in the International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology discusses the study of gait in pregnancy and offers insights into the problems that arise and how they might best be avoided.
Yang Song, Minjun Liang, and Wenlan Lian of the Human Movement Research Center in the Faculty of Sports Science at Ningbo University in Zhejiang, China, examined the walking gait of pregnant and non-pregnant women using foot kinematics and the Oxford foot model. Three-dimensional motion of the forefoot, hindfoot and tibia during walking were recorded using a Vicon motion analysis system and two force platforms were used to record the ground reaction force.
Pregnant women "demonstrated greater plantar flexion and internal rotation of hindfoot and internal tibial rotation during initial contact, greater forefoot eversion and hindfoot external rotation during push off," the team writes. "Moreover, pregnant women showed greater external tibial rotation than non-pregnant women during toe off and the centre of pressure trajectory moved to the second to third metatarsal at this stage."
Such detailed findings might help guide physiotherapy if the changes are causing pain or perhaps guide the design of specific footwear or supportive equipment in extreme cases to ameliorate pain and discomfort and reduce the risk of injury or persistent damage to joints.
Song, Y., Liang, M. and Lian, W. (2020) 'A comparison of foot kinematics between pregnant and non-pregnant women using the Oxford foot model during walking', Int. J. Biomedical Engineering and Technology, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp.20–30.
The lockdown learning curve
How rapidly does a learning curve decline during a period of prolonged interruption? That's the question asked by US researchers in the International Journal of Quality Engineering and Technology. Adedeji Badiru of the Air Force Institute of Technology in Dayton, Ohio, USA, has specifically looked at how the "lockdown" response to the global Covid-19 pandemic has affected business, industry, academia, and government.
There is perhaps insufficient "live data" to draw solid conclusions. Badiru has nevertheless found that workers, as a result of being barred from practising their normal functions and learning on the job, have experienced a decline in performance. The restrictive nature of lockdown implemented to reduce the spread of the virus has led to performance degradation.
He has postulated an analytical framework that researchers can use as new data emerges to allow empirical modelling of the adverse impacts of the lockdown on learning curves. The inherent concern with such adversity in the face of the global pandemic is that a decline in learning can translate to a decline in quality of work and quality of products. He suggests retrospective research might now follow in the wake of his IJQET column.
Badiru, A. (2020) 'Quality insight: exponential decay of quality learning curves during COVID-19 lockdown', Int. J. Quality Engineering and Technology, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp.106–117.
Improving European smart cities
The rush to urbanisation is inevitably characterised by more and more city dwellers. As population densities increase old infrastructure becomes less effective, less efficient. Air and water quality are compromised, public waste management is over-burdened, and the cities become decreasingly dependent on non-renewable energies and unsustainable systems. There is little time, capacity or resources available to ensure the growth takes into account environmental factors and addresses the issue of quality of life for those city dwellers.
The notion of a smart city might sound quite futuristic but there is an urgency now to face the problems of urbanisation with smart tools and systems rather than clinging to archaic ways. Smart cities could ultimately help us reduce road traffic congestion through improved public transport systems while the digitalisation of many public services would improve management of resources and waste in ways that have not been possible before.
Research published in the International Journal of Environmental Policy and Decision Making has assessed the state-of-art definitions of the so-called smart city and offers a critical reflection of this paradigm for urban growth. Gabriella Arcese and colleagues at the Università degli Studi Niccolò Cusano in Rome, Italy, have analysed smart city best practices in pioneering cities in Italy (Bologna, Florence, Milan) and Germany (Hamburg, Karlsruhe, Leipzig) that have core dimensions of technology, community, and policy.
The team has identified the advances various smart city efforts have made as well as their shortcomings so far.
"Sustainable and safe neighbourhoods, building safety, co-working, waste management; health and welfare, through the optimisation of processes and business intelligence, e-care, e-health; education and technical education, through the development of smart city projects should be included in the development model," they suggest.
Arcese, G., Schabel, L., Elmo, G.C. and Risso, M. (2019) 'Smart city in Europe: comparative analysis between Italy and Germany development', Int. J. Environmental Policy and Decision Making, Vol. 2, No. 4, pp.330–359.
Stock in the time of Covid
Researchers in India have analysed financial data from the quarter immediately before the first public reports of the emergence of a new potentially lethal coronavirus, now identified as SARS-CoV-2, the cause of Covid-19. They have compared this final quarter of the year 2019 with the first quarter of 2020 as the virus spread around the world and was declared an international pandemic.
Amalendu Bhunia of the Department of Commerce at the University of Kalyani, and Soumya Ganguly of the Department of Commerce at Barrackpore Rastraguru Surendranath College both in West Bengal, India, have looked at the daily time-series data obtained from the "yahoo.finance" database looking at eight stock markets. They used various statistical tools, descriptive statistics, the GARCH model, the EGARCH model, and the TGARCH model to examine financial volatility immediately before and immediately after the recognition of the virus as a major threat to human health. The team provides details of their study in the International Journal of Financial Services Management.
The team found from their descriptive statistics results that Germany and Indian stock prices were the most volatile and those in the UK the least prior to Covid-19. During the initial three months of the Covid-19 period, stock markets in Italy and Spain were more volatile than those of the USA and Russia. The data also reveals a leveraging effect alongside volatility that leads to spillover from one stockmarket into another. The work points to how investors might ensure greater resilience in the wake of bad news on a global scale.
Bhunia, A. and Ganguly, S. (2020) 'An assessment of volatility and leverage effect before and during the period of Covid-19: a study of selected international stock markets', Int. J. Financial Services Management, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp.113–127.
What do you want from your smart watch?
New research published in the International Journal of Mobile Communications has surveyed customers regarding their use of branded apps on their smartwatches. The analysis of the survey results reveals the external factors that influence the intention to use and tracks the relationship between factors using a technology acceptance model.
Meuel Jeong, Kyeongjin Park, and Kyungdoh Kim of the Department of Industrial Engineering at Hongik University in Seoul, South Korea, also analysed to survey data to reveal what kinds of smartwatch brand apps users would use and found music, weather information, basic telephone function, social networking, navigation, basic text messaging, productivity, and health were most commonly used. Apps for reading e-books, playing games, associated with sports, entertainment, QR code/barcode recognition, finance, photography, and video were not so popular on smartwatches.
Such insights feed into how brands can best engage with putative customers knowing that they favour certain types of apps on their smartwatches and not others.
They suggest that companies hoping to engage customers through brand apps need to ensure that the app is as easy to use as possible and offering low complexity and no financial risk. They point out that there is a market for those kinds of apps already being used but suggests that certain other kinds of apps that are perhaps more suited to smartphones and tablets not be pursued as avenues for marketing and increasing brand awareness on smartwatches, such as QR code/barcode recognition apps, financial apps and photo and video apps.
Jeong, M., Park, K. and Kim, K. (2020) 'A survey of what customers want in smartwatch brand applications', Int. J. Mobile Communications, Vol. 18, No. 5, pp.540–558.
Lessons from the Thai cave rescue
Twelve boys and their expedition leader were trapped deep inside the "Tham Luang Nang Non" cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand on a birthday celebration trip that went terribly wrong. Ultimately, they were all rescued, but the rescue took two weeks.
Writing in the International Journal of Emergency Management, researchers discuss the lessons that have been learned from this rescue operation. Pichaphob Panphae of the Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna, in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Ravee Phoewhawm working at Chongqing Technology and Business University in China have examined the details of the daily events that ended with a successful rescue and their interpretation may well guide future rescues in similar circumstances.
Their main conclusion is that success may well have hinged on coordination among the teams involved in the rescue. Without coordination there may well have been a tragic outcome.
The team details the lessons in terms of the benefits of rescue teams being creative, innovating to face challenges, dealing with constraints, reducing timewasting, managing accidents and mistakes, and coping with deaths should they occur. Importantly, the wellbeing of rescuers must be taken into consideration at such stressful and often desperate times.
Panphae, P. and Phoewhawm, R. (2020) 'Search and rescue mission teaming lessons from the 13 trapped inside a Thai cave', Int. J. Emergency Management, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp.78–110.
Instagram, the well-known social media and social networking platform that allows users to share photographs, videos, and other images from their smart phones or other devices is ten years old in October 2020. Its first incarnation was as an application or "app" on Apple devices which run the iOS system.
It was eventually made available for all kinds of operating systems. It was bought by the more general social networking platform Facebook in April 2012. The system can be by turns whimsical, amusing, frustrating, trivial, and even worrying, depending on perspective, personal ethics, and politics. But, at heart, it is essentially a way for hundreds of millions of people to share images with each other, publicly or to some extent privately.
Researchers in South Korea have looked closely at how Instagram use is related to affluence estimates, materialism, and self-esteem. Writing in the International Journal of Mobile Communications, they allude to a "glamourous world" and have used cultivation theory to examine in what ways Instagram use related to various personal characteristics, positively or negatively.
Yoori Hwang of the Department of Digital Media at Myongji University and Se-Hoon Jeong of the School of Media and Communication at Korea University both in Seoul, carried out an online survey of 530 adult users in their country. The team found that Instagram use is positively related to affluence estimates and materialistic values. Additionally, it was indirectly related to lower self-esteem mediated by greater materialistic beliefs.
The team alludes to the study putting Instagram into a cultural context. They also say it points out that there is perhaps a need for greater literacy education regarding social networking sites. Such education might help address the potentially damaging, negative effects on self-esteem of using certain digital tools and apps.
Hwang, Y. and Jeong, S-H. (2020) 'The glamorous world: how Instagram use is related to affluence estimates, materialism, and self-esteem', Int. J. Mobile Communications, Vol. 18, No. 5, pp.559–570.
Data mining windpower
Boris Johnson infamously once wrote that wind power can barely "pull the skin off a rice pudding". At the time of writing, he perspective has changed, and speaking as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom he is suggesting that every home might be powered by wind turbines by the year 2030. There remains much work to be done to make such visions, which are widespread among other leaders looking for renewable, sustainable, and zero-carbon energy sources in the face of climate change and uncertain fossil fuel security in coming years.
Writing in the International Journal of Information and Communication Technology, Jianfeng Che, Bo Wang, and Shitao Chen of the China Electric Power Research Institute in Beijing and Guangzhou Maxkwh Information Technology Co., Ltd. in China, point out flaws in the data handling and modelling of wind power that must be addressed to allow the technology to mature more effectively. They explain that data noise and poor fitting between wind measurement values and real values are hampering the modelling process for wind power development.
As such, the researchers are now proposing an approach to data mining of short-term wind measurements through wind farms based on multi-technology fusion. Their approach can identify and correct for anomalous data points. "The short-term wind data are de-noised by wavelet decomposition and normalised," the team explains. The whole process is more effective and faster than other procedures, they suggest.
Che, J., Wang, B. and Chen, S. (2020) 'Analysis of data mining method for short-term wind measurement of wind farm based on multi-technology fusion', Int. J. Information and Communication Technology, Vol. 17, No. 3, pp.211–225.
Tightening water security through rainwater harvesting
Water security is likely to be one of the most critical challenges facing humanity in the coming years. As such rainwater harvesting where it is possible is one possible solution in some contexts. Research published in the International Journal of Hydrology Science and Technology, has reviewed the state of the art for rainwater harvesting in urban areas of developed nations as the technology has changed and evolved from 1980 onwards.
Alvaro-Francisco Morote of the University of Valencia, María Hernández of the University of Alicante, both in Spain, and Saeid Eslamian of Isfahan University of Technology, in Isfahan, Iran, explain that rainwater is paradoxically seen as a risk factor rather than a valuable resource in many developed places. A change in paradigm might involve 'integrated water resources management' and 'demand management' approaches and as such could ultimately address the problem of water security even in such places.
There is growing recognition, that rainwater harvesting could help in terms of water security but could also be useful in reducing the problems of flooding and polluted water problems if the management and technology are put in place in a timely manner. The team reiterates predictions from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that points to areas such as the countries of The Mediterranean where future climate change scenarios, forecast increasing periods of drought interspersed with intense and concentrated rainfall.
Rainwater harvesting can have a doubled-edged benefit in taking pressure of a scarce resource and at the same time putatively handling the problem of flooding at its source in many parts of the region.
Morote, A-F., Hernández, M. and Eslamian, S. (2020) 'Rainwater harvesting in urban areas of developed countries. The state of the art (1980–2017)', Int. J. Hydrology Science and Technology, Vol. 10, No. 5, pp.448–470.
Integrated hydrogen storage for fuel cell cars
There is a drive to displace fossil fuels in power generation and transport with sustainable alternatives. One approach that has been discussed over the last few decades is a future zero-carbon, hydrogen economy wherein hydrogen is generated from renewables and used to feed fuel cells in cars. Fuel cells are essentially electrical batteries that can be fed chemical energy continuously to generate electricity. Unfortunately, hydrogen gas is a hazardous substance and so safe storage in a fuel tank in such a vehicle has been a roadblock to advances in this area.
Now, Saumen Dutta and Sri Harshith Dosapati of Vellore Institute of Technology at VIT University, in Tamil Nadu, India, have discussed how hydrogen storage might be integrated into the vehicular fuel cell itself. Writing in "Progress in Industrial Ecology – An International Journal", the team explains how switching to renewable is now of paramount importance given carbon emissions and their impact on climate as well as the likelihood that fossil fuel sources will become increasingly scarce or inaccessible for geological and political reasons.
The team's work focuses on carbon nanotubes as a storage option for hydrogen as opposed to simply pressuring the gas which comes with the risk of explosion. Carbon nanotubes would provide a vast surface area within a small volume on to which hydrogen molecules would be adsorbed into a much more stable form than pressurized gas. They write that they have achieved uptake at a level of just over 1.14 weight percent at 50 megapascals of pressure at the relatively mild temperature of 283 Kelvin, nominally about 10 degrees above room temperature. The team used germanium-doped carbon nanotubes to achieve this.
They then coupled this storage system to a fuel cell and could demonstrate a constant flow rate of hydrogen into the fuel cell. The cell could consume this chemical energy source and steadily develop more than 10 kilowatts of power.
In a working vehicle, the team explains that lightweight composite materials could be used to contain the doped carbon nanotube powder and to ensure the pressure is maintained to facilitate storage. Some of the power generated would be required to maintain the contents of the integrated fuel tank at the requisite storage temperature of 283 Kelvin. Obviously, in hotter climates this would require a far smaller proportion of the fuel cell output than would be needed when driving in the cold. Optimisation of the synthetic and fabrication procedures for such a storage method would bring it closer to economic viability.
Dutta, S. and Dosapati, S.H. (2020) 'Hydrogen storage system integrated with fuel cell', Progress in Industrial Ecology – An International Journal, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp.140–161.
Logistics logic to reducing hotel food waste
Food waste is a growing problem for humanity. Vast tonnages of fresh food is lost because it never reaches the consumers for myriad reasons and similarly food that reaches individual consumers and food outlets is often not eaten before it perishes and must be disposed of.
Researchers from India and Qatar have looked at this problem in work published in the International Journal of Hospitality and Event Management. Their perspective is that of finding solutions to the problem for hotels by looking at food transportation infrastructure and by considering food portioning while serving the food to their customers. It is estimated that half of all solid food waste is generated by the hotel industry. They have worked with 210 members of management staff from 21 five-star hotels in their study.
"The results have indicated that logistical issues in the hotel industry play a very important role in the food wastage management," the team writes, "This finding is in alignment with earlier research." Hotels must adopt "Just-in-Time" principles in their logistics management to reduce food waste but also ensuring that sufficient food is available when it is needed to fulfils customer demands. The team adds that an additional benefit of improved and more efficient logistics management is that it can maintain a forward and reverse flow of information to the benefit of the hotels themselves and their suppliers. All of this will require the education of managers in the concepts of logistics and improved community awareness as well as finding ways to change attitudes towards food waste.
Nair, G.K., Choudhary, N. and Prasad, S. (2019) ''Can food waste be reduced?' An investigation into food waste management in hospitality industry', Int. J. Hospitality and Event Management, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp.135–154.
Rebooting the United Nations to avoid cyberwarfare
Information and communications technology (ICT) has always had a role in warfare by the broadest definition, from the rolled up scroll warning of advancing troops from the north, to the microdot-bearing carrier pigeon heading south, from the enigmatic encryption machines of World War to the technology of mutually assured destruction of the Cold War.
Of course, in the digital age of smartphones and tablet computers, the internet of things and remote sensors, ICT has an even sharper role to play. The concept of cyberwarfare has emerged into a reality that might see a so-called rogue state disabling critical infrastructure of a nation with which it sees conflict or indeed another nation exploiting the likes of social media to randomise the roll of the political device either in their favour or to nudge voters towards an unanticipated outcome in elections and referenda.
Segun Joshua, Faith Osasumwen Olanrewaju, Lady Adaina Ajayi, and Sunday Idowu of the Covenant University in Ota, Nigeria, writing in the International Journal of Electronic Governance, suggest that the global peace-promoting organisation that is the United Nations might struggle to cope with this new emerging dimension of warfare – cyberwar. They have examined ICT and the UN's peace-keeping role and how the workings of the organisation perhaps require a rethink in order to maintain world peace.
Fundamentally, the study has found that the UN's approach to cyberwarfare has so far been akin to its approach to conventional threats and this is a serious limitation. "The study finds that even though the UN has been applying the laws of armed conflict and some suggested norms to address the possible danger of cyber conflict, they seem not to be sufficient which can hamper state relations and threaten the fragile stability of the international system," the team writes.
Cyberwarfare can escalate to the level of full-blown armed conflict and have far-reaching effects on societies around the world. A reboot of the UN this context must be placed high on the agenda to find ways to guard against that kind of conflict before it is too late. There will be a need to establish new rules that fill the gaps in international law holistically rather than being simple stopgaps. Nations must then be bound by these new laws so that warfare and cyberwarfare remain equally off-limits to ensure world peace.
Joshua, S., Olanrewaju, F.O., Ajayi, L.A. and Idowu, S. (2020) 'Information and communication technology and cyber conflict: rethinking the role of the United Nations in world peace', Int. J. Electronic Governance, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp.290–306.
Public opinion on microblogging sites, such as Twitter, is randomly distributed and so data mining such information offers many challenges technically. Writing in the International Journal of Autonomous and Adaptive Communications Systems, a team from China has now used a multi-visual clustering model to underpin a new algorithm to help them extract opinion from microblogging sites.
Lin-lin Li, Wei-zhen Hou, and Jing Liu of Renmin University of China in Beijing explain how microblogging often provides very timely and by virtue of its nature, succinct, public opinion data. Statistical analysis of such data might provide us with an almost real-time perspective on public opinion in various realms of activity whether political, commercial, artistic, scientific, or any other. Such opinion mining can help guide policy, marketing, and other areas of human endeavour so that it might jibe better with public opinion especially in areas of controversy.
The team has had much success but concedes that there is work still to do in removing invalid data prior to applying the algorithmic analysis. They also point out that there needs to be greater precision in the choice of experimental data so that the algorithm can be tuned to work more efficiently and efficaciously.
Li, L-l., Hou, W-z. and Liu, J. (2020) 'Study on microblog public opinion data mining algorithm based on multi-visual clustering model', Int. J. Autonomous and Adaptive Communications Systems, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp.151-165.
Raising the curtain on cyborg theatre
Michail Kouratoras of the Department of Film, Television and Scenography at Aalto University in Finland has investigated the notion of cyborg theatre as defined by Jennifer Parker-Starbuck in 2011 in the context of video games. In Parker-Starbuck's definition, the organic world of people is merged for theatrical effect with technology. The roots of the concept lie in the fictional world of Frankensteins' "monster", "The Cybermen" of Doctor Who fame, "The Borg" of Star Trek, and countless other fanciful creations wherein the organic and the inorganic are fused, hybridised or otherwise melded into allegorical creations for entertainment and edification.
The cyborg may be fanciful but it is a powerful fancy in fiction and, as real-world technology evolves, we begin to see that fictional fusion emerging through what we might call bionic prosthetics. Where such concepts will lead obviously remains to be seen, we are very much at the dawn of that era. Kouratoras, however, has focused on the contemporary, real-time, three-dimensional and avatar-based interactive fiction video game genre as a model for how cyborg theatre itself is evolving.
As such, he has looked at how the gamer becomes a "real" actor or player within the game. One might look to an episode of the TV series Black Mirror, specifically "Striking Vipers" as an extension of this notion wherein the game players can actually be transported mentally into the action of the game and experience it is reality. Such a scenario is an entirely fictional construct and may always remain so. But, playing a game does become a performance when a player becomes as immersed as is possible in the experience, perhaps even more so when connected to a community of other players.
The converse, where augmented reality is utilised in the real world as a component of a game, is of course, already possible and well known with games such as Pokémon GO. In such games, the virtual world is overlaid on reality through the screen of a portable gaming device. Where the worlds collide we will see new entertaining and edifying scenarios arise. Moreover, where those bionic prosthetics become an increasing reality, we might also so virtuality overlaid on reality in physical ways. It will be interesting to see who emerges from the wings as the cyborg theatrical directors, who the actors are, and who keeps an eye on the evolving script and carries out the safety checks.
Kouratoras, M. (2020) 'Interactive fiction video games as cyborg theatre. A postphenomenological approach', Int. J. Arts and Technology, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp.197–217.
Research published in the International Journal of Management in Education has sought to ascertain whether there is a relationship between the psychological characteristics of cynicism, autonomy, and job satisfaction in teachers. Navaneethakrishnan Kengatharan of the University of Jaffna in Sri Lanka has integrated the theories of conservation of resources, reasoned action and affective events to see whether this is a valid hypothesis.
The research collected data from more than 700 teachers working in state schools across Sri Lanka. A statistical analysis then revealed a positive relationship between cognitive cynicism and affective cynicism. Further, it confirmed a mediating relationship between cognitive cynicism and teacher job satisfaction through affective cynicism. In other words, feeling cynical and being actively cynical feed on each other and lead to dissatisfaction in the workplace for teachers so affected.
Such findings can be used to guide management style and have the aim of avoiding complacency and failures at that level that lead to frustration, irritation, and cynicism in teachers. Conversely, mentoring or counselling of teachers would also improve autonomy and their perception of their work given such improved management and thus lead to better teaching standards and students in their charge who are ultimately more academically successful.
Kengatharan, N. (2020) 'Cynicism, autonomy and job satisfaction: evidence from teaching profession', Int. J. Management in Education, Vol. 14, No. 5, pp.471–493.
Growing plastic waste
Humanity is facing many serious problems at the moment, notwithstanding the global viral pandemic that is Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2. Global warming and congener climate change are still with us, water and food security are increasingly problematic for millions of people, and the amount of plastic waste we are generating simply grows and grows.
Kwami Adanu of the Department of Economics at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, in Accra, writing in the International Journal of Green Economics, considers this latter problem. He looks at the lessons policymakers and others might learn in terms of environmental economics.
The research looks at how an environmental solutions decision-making tree might be used together with a plastic waste market to reverse this problem. Some obvious advice for policymakers emerges from the approach such as banning non-recyclable plastic bags, employing centres in that "market" that are both producer- and consumer-run would be more successful, the introduction of taxation to fiscally control the physical problem is also suggested. A putatively controversial finding from the study is that burning plastic waste may well be the only way to dispose of accumulated waste. Although such burning generates pollution, there are ways to remediate that to an extent and the heat generated can be put to good use in powering the plant or heating local homes in colder regions.
Given that common economic policy tools have so far failed us in reducing plastic waste, it is time for radical new thinking, the research suggests.
Adanu, K. (2020) 'The growing global plastic waste problem – lessons for environmental economics policy design and choice', Int. J. Green Economics, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp.121–134.
What drives a musical revolution?
Art takes twists and turns. It finds new ways for humanity to express itself through sound and vision and all of our other senses and sensibilities. When the avant-garde sharpens a new cutting edge buy discovering a new way to work with new materials, and new equipment we see that expression expand beyond the realms of imagination of the earlier generation of creators.
This applies to all artistic media whether we are considering paintings, sculpture, dance, theatre, novels and novellas, poetry, perhaps even food and drink, but nowhere more so than in the realm of music. Some composers hone their art way beyond what is considered normal, they deliberately deviate from the norm, some more than others. Music in the abstract is often atonal in what one might think of as analogous manner to a work by drip paint modern artist Pollock is visually atonal.
Writing in the International Journal of Teaching and Case Studies, Alexi Harkiolakis of The American College of Greece, in Paraskevi, has considered the music of Arnold Schoenberg and how the composer embraced atonality. Harkiolakis is a student at the college but previously studied music composition with Greek composer Spiros Mazis and electric jazz guitar at the Philippos Nakas Conservatory with Yiannis Giannakos. He also studied piano at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City.
Harkiolakis is keen to understand what is needed to start a revolution in art, specifically a musical revolution. A revolution, he suggests, begins with an idea. Schoenberg had several big ideas…first the free atonal style and then the 12-tone method of composition, and others. Schoenberg's earlier works sound surprisingly tonal, albeit highly chromatic, explains Harkiolakis. Chromatic meaning not adhering to conventional scales and musical modes, but using all the tones and semitones across the musical scale without necessarily considering a strict key signature. In other words, in the scale of C major one would use only the piano's white keys to progress through the scale C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C, the conventional "Doh-Rae-Me". Whereas a chromatic scale would utilise the black notes too, the sharps and flats and so we might progress C-C#-D-D#-E-F-F# and so on. Mixing notes out of conventional key signatures is often described as having atonality whereas conventional melodies might be thought of as being more natural and tonal.
In a case study of Schoenberg's work, the Second String Quartet Op. 10 for string quartet and solo soprano, Harkiolakis examines and analyses the musical, personal, and socio-political factors that may have influenced Schoenberg to abandon his late romantic style in favour of this kind of free atonality. In exploring the musical, personal, and societal motives that could have played a part in driving Schoenberg towards this revolutionary style, Harkiolakis finds that it is rather unlikely that a single factor was the spark for this particular revolution, rather several disparate factors fed the musical revolutionary flames.
Whatever the spark, kindling or tinder might have been, a quote from Schoenberg writing in 1937 offers us an insight that suggests that it was an inner drive that pushed him to new places:
I knew I had to fulfil a task, I had to express what was necessary to be expressed and I knew I had the duty of developing my ideas for the sake of progress in music, whether I liked it or not.
Harkiolakis, A. (2020) 'Arnold Schoenberg's embrace of atonality: a brief case study for music educators', Int. J. Teaching and Case Studies, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp.95–104.
Making biodiesel with green solvents
Green solvents for making biodiesel would reduce the environmental impact of such fuels still further. Writing in the World Review of Science, Technology and Sustainable Development, a team from India discusses the potential of ionic liquids in this field.
Biodiesel is a sustainable alternative to conventional oil-derived biodiesel in that it can be manufactured from resources such as waste organic matter from agriculture, the food industry, or even household refuse. It can also be made from crops grown especially for its production. There is, however, a need for volatile organic solvents at various stages of the manufacturing process and these liquids usually come with their own environmental impact. Biodiesel is usually made by trans esterifying vegetable oil or animal fat feedstock with the help of organic and inorganic solvents.
As such, "greener" alternatives are keenly sought. A. Anitha and D. Jini of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Hindustan Institute of Technology and Science in Chennai, explain how ionic liquids might represent such an alternative.
Ionic liquids are non-volatile and non-flammable. They also have low toxicity. This is in sharp contrast with highly volatile, flammable, and toxic organic solvents currently used. Such green credentials have made them a focus for a number of research teams around the world in a wide range of chemical disciplines. Intriguingly, they are nothing more than ionic salts that happen to be liquid at or close to room temperature. However, this character endows them with some unique solvating properties that make them ideal for many applications.
"Energy utilisation across the world has been increasing at a steady rate from 1971 and the demand for energy is projected to increase by 55% at the end of 2030. Fossil fuels are not renewable and would be exhausted within 40–60 years even if the rate of consumption remains constant," the team writes. So, not only are alternatives more environmentally friendly they will ultimately be essential to keep up with energy demand. Ionic fluids can support the enzymatic conversion of feedstock to biodiesel as well as being useful in product purification. They can even be the catalyst themselves for carrying out the necessary reactions. Despite their current high price when compared to organic solvents, they are much more readily reusable, which would reduce environmental impact still further and ultimately costs.
Anitha, A. and Jini, D. (2020) 'Ionic liquids as solvents in biodiesel production', World Review of Science, Technology and Sustainable Development, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp.122–140.
India adopting shared ride-hailing in India
India is the third most polluted nation much of it derived from vehicle exhaust gases. As such, there is an urgent need to address this problem through improved transport infrastructure and technology. One possible way of reducing the number of vehicles on the roads and so lower pollution somewhat is through car-sharing on the daily commute. However, a parallel concept of shared taxi rides might offer a similar reduction in pollution by reducing the need for personal car ownership.
Writing in the International Journal of Business and Emerging Markets, Pooja Goel of the University of Delhi and Piali Haldar of Sharda University, discuss the potential and acceptance of shared ride-hailing in India. Projections suggest that shared hail-riding will account for more than a third of all car miles travelled. This estimate was made prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, which may well curtail the adoption of shared transport in the short term and push this date further into the future.
The present study focuses on the perceived benefits of shared ride-hailing services and shows how educating the public in the benefits of such an approach to transport might nudge them to abandon car ownership or to aspiring to car ownership. Future studies may well highlight the effects of perceived risks and trust on intention to participate in sharing mobility.
Goel, P. and Haldar, P. (2020) 'Shared ride-hailing service in India: an analysis of consumers' intention to adopt', Int. J. Business and Emerging Markets, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp.336–353.
The limits on speed reading by RSVP
Lots of people can read quickly and then there are readers who have learned techniques known as speed reading. This allows a reader to get through printed text at a much higher than normal rate, sometimes as fast as several hundred words per minute. A collaboration between researchers in Italy and Spain has demonstrated that one particular speed-reading technique has a tradeoff in comprehension at that kind of reading rate when it is sustained at more than 250 words per minute for five minutes or more.
Francesco Di Nocera of the Department of Psychology at Sapienza University of Rome, Italy and colleagues there and in Spain have looked at Spritz an app that allows one to speed read by offering rapid serial visual presentation. They tested readers' comprehension of a short piece of text when they used Spritz to read at rates of 250, 350, and 450 words per minute.
Given that comprehension is the main goal of reading not simply the need to scan through a stream of words, the team suggests that users should be made aware that speed reading for five minutes or more even at just 250 words per minute for most users will lead to a deficit in their understanding of what they have "read". Such an insight might also be worth noting among those people using Spritz and similar software on their smartphone or other mobile device who have dyslexia, visual impairment, and other problems so that those people are fully aware of the limitations they might face in understanding a piece of text. Given that the app has been used to address several reading difficulty issues by educators, this work could provide a foundation for improving its use by lots of disparate readers.
Ricciardi, O., Calvani, G., Palmero, F., Juola, J.F. and Di Nocera, F. (2020) 'Speed reading using Spritz has a cost: limits when reading a short text', Int. J. Human Factors and Ergonomics, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp.161–173.
The cardboard crash helmet
In the age of plastic waste, the environmentally conscious are hoping to replace many of the common materials, such as expanded polystyrene in everyday objects with sustainable and recyclable materials. Now, researchers in China report successful crash tests of a new bicycle safety helmet that uses honeycombed and corrugated cardboard instead of polymer foam to provide protection.
The team describes details of the design, its environmental benefits and the positive results from crash-test simulations. Bei Li, Haiyan Li, Shihai Cui, Lijuan He, and Shijie Ruan of the Centre for Injury Biomechanics and Vehicle Safety, at Tianjin University of Science and Technology in Tianjin provide details in the International Journal of Vehicle Safety.
For youngsters on cycles, accidents often end with a blow to the head, which can be fatal or even lead to life-changing injuries and disability. As such all cyclists, young and old are encouraged to wear a safety helmet that will offer some degree of protection should they fall from their bicycle in any kind of accident and risk an impact to the head. Indeed, children's head injury and loss of consciousness has been shown to be 63 and 86 percent less, respectively, when helmets are worn.
The team has now demonstrated that the same safety profile might be possible with cardboard crash helmets that have the added benefit of being fabricated from sustainable resources and precluding the addition of yet more plastic waste to the environment.
Li, B., Li, H., Cui, S., He, L. and Ruan, S. (2020) 'Biomechanical performance of a bicycle helmet design on a six-year-old head impact protection', Int. J. Vehicle Safety, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp.197–213.
Covid and commercial research decline
Inevitably, the rapid spread of an emergent and potentially lethal virus around the world has led to huge disruption of normal life. With talk of a new-normal in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, we do not yet have any way of knowing what that might be. Work published in the International Journal of Research, Innovation and Commercialisation has looked at the effect of the pandemic on the phenomenon of research innovation and commercialization.
Alberto Boretti of the College of Engineering at Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, explains that the economic downturn we are experiencing as the pandemic circulates will have a detrimental effect on almost all research and development budgets. He suggests that the pharmaceutical industry may well receive special funds given its unique position in being an essential part of the fight against the current pandemic and the need for vigilance and preparedness for the next emergent pathogen. He also suggests that the health sector as well as surveillance and defense, communications, digital markets, and distance education may also see some relief from governments and funding bodies. Investment in almost every other area of R&D is expected to plummet.
With no vaccine expected to be available until at least 2021 and no targeted antiviral drugs, it has been necessary to attempt to control the disease through political and legal controls, such as curfews, halting sports and entertainment, massively reduced air travel, social lockdowns, social distancing, and other measures. However, the so-called "second wave" is becoming apparent in the UK at the time of writing.
Many other nations have not achieved real control of the virus where strict lockdowns were entirely unfeasible for geographical and sociological reasons such as population density, a lack of protective infrastructure, and poor water and food security. Natural disasters, such as forest fires and civil unrest following episodes of police brutality, and the ongoing climate crisis have also been part of the undercurrent of 2020. What impact these have had on the ease with which the virus spreads is for future retrospective studies to determine.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has anticipated international commerce to fall by 13% to 32% in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic disturbs normal economic activity and life around the globe, Boretti says. Regarding these predictions proposed only a few weeks ago, it is likely the impact will be even worse than the worst-case scenario considered, he adds. The sharp decline in gross domestic product (GDP) will have a negative impact on R&D expenditure, as it always does. The opportunity to innovate and commercialize new products will decline enormously. "The future for research in 2020 does not look bright at all," Boretti concludes.
Boretti, A. (2020) 'COVID-19 effect on the research-innovation-commercialisation phenomena', Int. J. Research, Innovation and Commercialisation, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp.73–82.
A right to water
Access to drinking water is a fundamental human right, argues research published in the International Journal of Human Rights and Constitutional Studies. Jaroslaw Kowalski of Maria Curie-Sklodowska University, in Lublin, Poland, suggests that climate change, population growth, and burgeoning industrial and agricultural complexes with their growing demands for water mean increasingly that a lack of access to drinking water is an increasingly serious problem for millions of people.
The protection of human rights has been an important problem in the modern world and it is addressed by governments, international organisations, non-governmental organizations, and ordinary people," explains Kowalski. "Changes in the world trigger changes in the way we think and perceive human rights. The challenges of the 1950s and 1960s are sometimes still relevant, but there are many new issues that we must face today.
Kowalski suggests that we need to enshrine in international and local law the concept of access to drinking water as a fundamental human right. Once it is accepted as a human right, the rules and regulations that affect our response to climate change and how we regulate water usage in industry and agriculture with respect to water supply can be more effectively implemented to ensure that nobody dies of thirst.
Kowalski, J. (2020) 'The right to water as a fundamental human right in Poland and worldwide', Int. J. Human Rights and Constitutional Studies, Vol. 7, No. 3, pp.233-246.
Collaborative algorithms at the movies
Friends' movie recommendations are welcomed by a lot of film buffs, but sometimes you might want to catch a movie that fits your taste better, based on particular criteria so that you get something that you will almost certainly enjoy. Enter the movie recommendation engine.
Writing in the International Journal of Business Intelligence and Data Mining, researchers from Nigeria have turned to a statistical tool known as Pearson's correlation coefficient to help them build a new type of movie recommendation engine. Bolanle Adefowoke Ojokoh of the Department of Computer Science at the Federal University of Technology in Akure, Nigeria, and colleagues explain that their approach brings artificial intelligence to personal recommendations. The coefficient allowing collaborative filtering of data based not only on numerical analysis of the data but also the determination of linear relationships among users.
The team tested their approach on datasets assimilate from hundreds of local video shops and information extracted from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and ratings by those who have already seen the hundreds of movies analysed. They also added a parental control function to make it child friendly. When they had volunteers test the recommendations the system generated they found that almost 96 percent of users found the recommendations agreeable.
"The system allows new users to be given more personalised recommendations. It also allows users with similar rating patterns to influence the prediction of items," the team writes. "Our approach offers a more efficient way of managing the cold-start problem in movie recommendation," they conclude.
Ojokoh, B.A., Aboluje, O.O. and Igbe, T. (2020) 'A collaborative content-based movie recommender system', Int. J. Business Intelligence and Data Mining, Vol. 17, No. 3, pp.298–320.
An electronic nose for wine
Researchers in China have applied an array of sensors, an electronic nose, that can sniff bouquet of rice wine and offer an estimate of the vintage. Writing in the International Journal of Computer Applications in Technology, the scientists explain how their artificial olfactory system takes data from sensors sampling a rice wine and uses a computer to carry out a statistical analysis of the signals to give an essentially 100 percent accurate age for the wine.
Wei Ding, Peiyi Zhu, and Ya Gu of the Changshu Institute of Technology in Jiangsu explain how they can quickly record a profile of the volatile substances present in a rice wine sample using a Taguchi Gas Sensor. The data from samples of known vintage can then be used to train an algorithm that applies a range of analytical statistical methods to find a correlation between the chemical profile of those volatile compounds and the age of the rice wine. When the system is then presented with a sample of an unknown wine the training process works in reverse to extract a profile and suggest a vintage.
The team reports that their early tests using Linear Discriminant Analysis as the statistical method could give them an accuracy a little short of 100 percent and at that level could not distinguish between wines that were made within a year or so of each other. They used a more sophisticated analysis based on a Back Propagation Neural Network and this improved the results so that they could give a vintage for any rice wine sample to the precise year it was produced, thus with 100 percent accuracy. Knowing the precise year in which a wine is produced is key to its value and to its consumption.
Ding, W., Zhu, P. and Gu, Y. (2020) 'Age identification of Chinese rice wine using electronic nose', Int. J. Computer Applications in Technology, Vol. 63, No. 3, pp.185–190.
Students, social media, and social change
The use of social media in higher education has the potential to improve student engagement in world affairs but educators must ensure that those they teach have freedom of choice regarding which platforms they utilise and to ensure that they are taught the pros and the cons, the benefits and the pitfalls.
Critically, there is a need to strive to avoid the emergence of so-called slacktivism, wherein involvement in the political realm and beyond relies entirely on social media and does not necessarily invoke real effort or commitment on the part of the student as they emerge into the world beyond academia.
Writing in the International Journal of Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments, Sarah Jernigan of the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, USA, discusses the relationship between social media and social change in the classroom. "A challenge exists for educators to acknowledge social media in students' personal lives, while strategically using it in the classroom," Jernigan writes, "By approaching social media as a tool to connect both students' personal and professional lives, educators can maximise the use of social media."
The study suggests that a course on social media and its role in activism can make a difference in the lives of students provided they are made aware of slacktivism. Discussion and repetition of the key points, as with any educational program, would help the students learn about how social, media and activism might change lives and perhaps even have a positive effect on social injustices. Perhaps the broadest of Jernigan's conclusions is that "College courses can influence how students view the world and impact how they may create social change."
Jernigan, S. (2020) 'How to change the world: the relationship between social media and social change in the classroom', Int. J. Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp.169–180.
Even in the middle of a pandemic lockdown, finding a good parking space can be a painful task. Now, work published in the International Journal of Sensor Networks, offers a new approach to parking space allocation based on a distributed computing algorithm.
Yong Chen of the Business School at Zhejiang University City College, in Hangzhou, China, and colleagues explain that parking space allocation, while perhaps not common in some cities, is an essential part of ensuring drivers can all be accommodated in the busiest of metropolises. The team's approach utilises a driver's navigation system to pinpoint them in the city, to glean their intended destination and to plot a route for them to follow to an available and hopefully optimal parking space. Such a distributed algorithm benefits from knowing where all of the users are, their intended destinations, and the availability of parking spaces across the city.
The team has demonstrated proof of principle under different levels of traffic and parking demand ratios. They point out that their distributed algorithm approach is most suitable for scenarios with high demand and high supply to demand ratio. It works better than other centralised algorithms that either work from the perspective of a single driver or a single car park. The distributed approach offers far greater adaptability, the team says, and provides more reliable results.
Chen, G., Pang, H., Xu, H., Yang, W. and Chen, Y. (2020) 'A parking space allocation algorithm based on distributed computing', Int. J. Sensor Networks, Vol. 33, No. 4, pp.250–258.
Pandemic models need to be responsive
Research published in the International Journal of Global Warming this month suggests that the models for understanding pandemic disease and predicting their likely course need to consider the idea that it is a dialogue with nature rather than a monologue. Global lockdowns of the kind that were put in place at the time Covid-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation might then be avoided or carried out differently if such understanding is clearer.
Alberto Boretti of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University, in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, suggests that as more data became available as the Covid-19 pandemic spread it quickly became obvious to epidemiologists that the mortality plugged into the models that led to specific decisions regarding lockdown was a lot higher than the actual evidence suggested. The daily death rate, he writes, was about twenty times lower than predicted. In addition, the number of people that encounter the virus and do not become infected was much higher than the earlier modelling assumed. The infection fatality rate is now estimated at between 0.12% and 0.2%; this is an exceptionally long way from the 0.9% presumed in the early models, Boretti writes.
The evidence suggests that while the initial response may well have been sensible, once it became more apparent how the disease infected people, how it spread, and the levels of morbidity and mortality, the models should have been updated in a timelier manner. Boretti suggests that how we look at an emergent that becomes pandemic requires a very different approach to the one we have taken with Covid-19 so far. The model predictions must be constantly updated through validation as experimental evidence emerge and it is on the latest data that policy measures should be based not past results that have so obviously proven to be wrong as the pandemic progressed.
We must learn this lesson to help us tackle the current pandemic and to be ready to face the next one more effectively.
Boretti, A. (2020) 'Pandemic modelling is a dialogue with nature, not a monologue', Int. J. Global Warming, Vol. 21, No. 4, pp.407–417.
Academia and industry working together
There is an inherent gap between industry and academia, between a commercial enterprise and a seat of learning. There are similarities in aims and aspirations and many of the differences are little more than misconception especially when one looks at the research spinout companies started by academics and the collaborations between those at the university bench and on the factory floor, as itwere [...]
Srivastav, S., Garg, V. and Gupta, A. (2020) 'Bridging the perceived gap between industry and academia', Int. J. Supply Chain and Operations Resilience, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp.202–216
Inorganic business growth
There is much talk in the business world of what might be referred to as "organic" growth, a kind of natural progression from seeded company, to fledgling spinout to…perhaps even multinational corporate entity. But, the converse of organic in this context is planned, inorganic, growth, the kind of growth that emerges from a strategic approach to the company's inputs and outputs.
Leonard Benning and Tessa Christina of the Technical University of Dortmund, Germany, discuss the notion of planned behaviour and how it affects inorganic growth of a technology venture in the International Journal of Globalisation and Small Business. The team surveyed 153 company founders managing their businesses and investigated how entrepreneurial activities affected inorganic growth. Specifically, the team has looked at acquisitions as part of the strategy for planned, inorganic, growth.
They point out that this is perhaps the first empirical study of its kind that responds to an earlier call from fellow researchers in this field, dating back to 2011, to open up understanding of inorganic venture growth.
Benning, L. and Flatten, T.C. (2020) 'How do new technology ventures grow? A theory of planned behaviour based assessment of inorganic growth', Int. J. Globalisation and Small Business, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp.88–113.
Being physically active is important for overall health and fitness. Now, researchers in India have demonstrated that occupational physical activity is an important factor in body composition, flexibility, and aerobic capacity. They investigated fitness and physical parameters, such as percentage body fat, body mass index, aerobic capacity, weight, strength, and flexibility in a group of men between the ages of 18 and 30 years. Half the men had sedentary, desk jobs, the others had physical jobs in construction. It was perhaps an obvious finding, but those in sedentary work tended towards obesity, larger waist to hip circumference and poor performance in most of the fitness tests.
Prachi Patel and Rauf Iqbal of Industrial Engineering and Manufacturing Systems, NITIE, in Mumbai, India, also showed that construction workers had superior back flexibility, trunk lift scores, and aerobic capacity. Office workers had strong hands but that was as far as it went in terms of strength comparison. However, the team found no significant difference in strength (pinch, explosive leg and back) and endurance (upper and core body) tests between the two groups.
"Physical fitness and health lifestyle habits have been reported to lower the risk of death from disease, foster healthy muscles, joints and bones, and enhance personal function and mental health," the team writes. Physical strength and fitness are important in manual work but much less so in office work, that much is perhaps obvious. However, there is a need to ensure that the increasing numbers of those of us with sedentary jobs achieve comparable strength and fitness for the sake of health and all the implications of the burden of ill health on individuals and society. There is thus an urgent need to encourage sport and fitness regimes in the deskbound.
Patel, P. and Iqbal, R. (2020) 'Comparative analysis of health-related physical fitness levels among the young male workers performing sedentary and heavy occupational physical activity', Int. J. Forensic Engineering and Management, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp.62–75.
Radio astronomy on a budget
When money is tight, an astronomer's eye may well alight on a local disused satellite TV station as a possible option to be co-opted as part of a radio telescope array. However, there are rather a limited number of such installations around.
Now, researchers from Nigeria, South Africa, and Namibia writing in the International Journal of Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing, discuss the possibility of instead utilising active satellite TV technology equipment.
They point out a collaborative effort to improve astronomy would have the benefit of broadening access to free-to-air satellite TV for the public and would be a boon to astronomers and TV watchers in the developing world alike. Given that many users are already moving away from satellite TV to streaming-based entertainment there could well be spare capacity in those still-active satellite TV earth stations.
The new approach is discussed by A.A. Periola of the Department of Electrical, Electronics and Computer Engineering at Bells University of Technology, in Nigeria, L.A. Akinyemi of the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and S. Sesham of the Department of Electronics and Computer Engineering at the University of Namibia.
Periola, A.A., Akinyemi, L.A. and Sesham, S. (2020) 'Multi-location anywhere astronomy paradigm', Int. J. Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp.1–16.
One might imagine that the virtualisation of many areas of life, especially in the present pandemic climate would have led to a boost to in efficiency of knowledge sharing and thus an improvement in many areas of human endeavour. This may ultimately prove to be true. In a study published in the International Journal of Knowledge Management Studies, researchers have found that the benefits of how knowledge sharing might benefit physicians in terms of improving their diagnoses and reducing medical errors are not yet widely understood by physicians.
Anjum Razzaque of Ahlia University in Manama, Bahrain and Tillal Eldabi of the University of Surrey, UK, explain how a physician's social capital may remedy this situation by promoting the benefits to the individual, to other physicians, and to their patients.
The team asserts that this is the first study of its kind, holistically assessing the role of social capital theory, knowledge sharing, and decision making of physicians who are members of a virtual community. Ultimately, physicians need to trust the virtual community and the concept of knowledge sharing. For such a virtualised environment to work they perhaps also need to understand each other's social capital and to have confidence in that too.
Razzaque, A. and Eldabi, T. (2020) 'Physicians social capital aids their medical decisions when they virtually share knowledge', Int. J. Knowledge Management Studies, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp.229–257.
Reducing windpower's bad vibes
Windpower has come to the fore as a major source of renewable energy, with "turbine farms" springing up across the land and across the oceans. Of course, any new technology has its problems and its detractors, but technological problems might be addressed in a way that other concerns might not. Writing in the International Journal of Sustainable Materials and Structural Systems, engineers from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, discuss one of those technological challenges – vibration control.
Breiffni Fitzgerald and Biswajit Basu explain that demand for windpower and so turbines is soaring. But, any new installation must also have efficiency and longevity so that the payback in terms of manufacturing, installation materials and energy is short. The problem of vibration can lead to reduced efficiency and premature failure, both of which can counteract the benefits of installing any wind turbine in the first place and extend payback time and increase waste and losses.
The team has reviewed theoretical and experimental work in this area and focused on passive, semi-active, and active control schemes. They also discuss the development of bespoke auxiliary damping systems and the state-of-the-art in turbine control algorithms that can utilise the extant hardware that controls turbine pitch, generator torque, and yaw control. Passive physical dampening can reduce vibration by up to 50 percent in some of the latest systems, the team writes. By contrast, newer active tendons and other hardware have been shown in some instances to reduce vibration by up to 65 percent.
They point out that those parts of the industry surveyed in their literature review have not been quick to adopt more active and algorithmically controlled vibration control. If adopted soon, such technology might boost those vibration control percentages still further leading to more efficient turbines that have a longer lifespan in the future.
Fitzgerald, B. and Basu, B. (2020) 'Vibration control of wind turbines: recent advances and emerging trends', Int. J. Sustainable Materials and Structural Systems, Vol. 4, Nos. 2/3/4, pp.347–372.
What are words worth to business schools?
Business schools at public universities signalled competence with their websites while private universities demonstrated excitement and sincerity, according to a new content analysis by researchers in the USA discussed in the Journal of Global Business Advancement.
Blake Frank, Sri Beldona, and Scott Wysong of the University of Dallas, in Irving, Texas, USA, have investigated how a business school website informs putative students about what might be referred to as the school's brand personality. They used an analytical approach that extracted words from website content from business school websites and showed how a dictionary-based approach to identifying brand personality is a successful approach. As well as the difference between private and public business schools, the team also found that those establishments with higher enrolment numbers also portrayed themselves as more competent, while those with a smaller rollcall described themselves as being more sincere.
The team explains why their findings are important:
"Business schools today must continually fight for market share. With lower barriers to entry, there has been a burgeoning of online programs around the world," they explain, they quote fellow researchers in adding that "Increasing competition between universities heightens the need for institutions to understand, manage, and leverage a strong brand position."
They suggest that for a business school to simply list the requirements of its courses, application deadlines, and other functional information is no longer sufficient. "Prospective students want to know why they should choose a particular business school or program over the others they are considering," they add. "Business schools have to make a strong case."
They conclude that business schools need to look closely at the words they use on their websites and must ensure that the content meshes with the brand personality they hope to communicate that they might encourage the prospective students they hope to enrol from around the world.
Frank, B., Beldona, S. and Wysong, S. (2020) 'Website words matter: an analysis of business schools' online brand personalities', J. Global Business Advancement, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.53–69.
Deep space mine
Many resources essential to the technology on which we depend are dwindling or are increasingly inaccessible to certain nations for geopolitical reasons. A case in point is that several of the rare metallic elements that are needed to construct the components of modern electronic devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs, fuel cells, rechargeable batteries, photovoltaic systems, and other technology are by definition low in abundance.
Moreover, such elements are often critical in the design of such devices and there are no synthetic alternatives as there might be if one were to substitute for other natural materials such as wood, where organic polymers might do the job just as well, if not better.
With this in mind, research published in the International Journal of Technology Management discusses the issue of whether we might undertake mining operations on an asteroid that comes into the Earth's purview.
José Antonio Peña-Ramos of the Universidad Autónoma de Chile and the Universidad de Granada, Spain, and Fernando Rafael Ramírez-de Luis of the Universidad Pablo de Olavide, in Seville, Spain, ask whether the "scramble for space is a realistic possibility in the short-term or whether it is another dystopian exaggeration doomed to oblivion.
They look at the current state-of-the-art technology that would be needed to putatively mine an asteroid and point out that it is far too immature to be at all viable. They discuss whether there is adequate regulation in this notional industry, and of course, there isn't, with some states suggesting it should be a unilateral decision and others looking for international rules and regulations. There are also many who might be involved and large amounts of money to be made and so the stakes will inevitably be high and given our track record when it comes to land grabs and goldrushes, space mining may well lead to serious conflict between the corporations and inevitably the nation states involved in such endeavours.
Peña-Ramos, J.A. and Ramírez-de Luis, F.R. (2020) 'Resources in space and asteroid mining: where we are and which challenges should be expected', Int. J. Technology Management, Vol. 82, Nos. 3/4, pp.197–205.
Blockchain Pet Adoptions
The blockchain concept underpins digital currencies, such as BitCoin. It acts as a distributed register that holds all transactions of the currency in an encrypted and immutable table. The technology is not limited to cryptocurrencies though, there are many other applications that might benefit from such as secure information system. Writing in the International Journal of Blockchains and Cryptocurrencies, a team from India explain how a blockchain might be used in pet adoption.
The team from the Computer Science and Engineering Department at Vidyavardhaka College of Engineering, in Mysuru, explain that a blockchain can store transaction details associated with a given pet, its previous owners and the people adopting the animal. In addition, other details can be retrieved by using a hash value including the financial transaction that will have facilitated the adoption process, as it were.
The team concludes that their approach is far more secure than centralised systems and precludes "spoofing" whereby a malicious third party might intervene in a transaction and either remove funds from an account illegally or perhaps even still the pet to be adopted.
Gururaj, H.L., Manoj, A.A., Kumar, A.A., Nagarajath, S.M. and Ravi Kumar, V. (2020) 'Adoption of pets in distributed network using blockchain technology', Int. J. Blockchains and Cryptocurrencies, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp.107–120.
Detecting epilepsy with entropy
Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder wherein abnormal firing of neurons in the brain leads to seizures. It can abruptly disrupt the health and life of those people it affects. Its diagnosis can limit certain aspects of everyday life particularly if not fully treated. People with the condition, for instance, are often precluded from driving or operating hazardous machinery to reduce the risk of injury and harm should they have a seizure while doing so. Seizures are commonly associated with loss of consciousness and severe muscle spasms.
A new, non-invasive, approach to epilepsy detection is reported in the International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology that uses a fuzzy entropy algorithm to examine electroencephalograms (EEG). This algorithm abstracts all of the features of the EEG trace, these features are then fed to an artificial neural network trained on known epilepsy EEG traces. The system can very effectively differentiate between brain patterns in the patient during periods of seizure and normal periods.
Gini, A.T.P. and Queen, M.P.F. (2020) 'Epileptic seizure detection in EEG using improved entropy', Int. J. Biomedical Engineering and Technology, Vol. 33, No. 4, pp.325–345.
Keep taking the tablets
New research published in the International Journal of Technology Management, shows how people make the technology transition from one type of device to another following a period of using both classes of device in parallel. For example, many users have a personal computer as well as a tablet computer, but at some point a lot of those people will abandon the PC in favour of the more portable and agile tablet, foregoing some of the benefits of a PC that may well have become legacy features once they are fully embedded in the tablet realm.
Rahul Thakurta of the Xavier University Bhubaneswar and Anamitra Basu Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) both in Bhubaneswar, India, and Nils Urbach of the University of Bayreuth, Germany, have looked at the motivation for technology transition in their two countries.
The team has observed a behavioural phenomenon as analysed using social psychology where many users have made a complete transition at least for private, as opposed to business use, of a tablet over PC or laptop. Of course, there are hybrid devices, such as touchscreen laptops that can be separated into screen and base so that the screen becomes a standalone tablet without a physical keyboard for ease of portability in some circumstances.
"Our model was able to explain roughly 58% variance in desire towards transition in Germany, and about 50% variance in desire towards transition in India, which are considered significant. These results establish the importance of the different antecedents in understanding technology transition at an individual level," the team writes.
Thakurta, R., Urbach, N. and Basu, A. (2020) 'Understanding technology transition: a cross-cultural study on the transition from PCs to tablet computers', Int. J. Technology Management, Vol. 82, Nos. 3/4, pp.276–321.
A study of customers of coffee shops in the Republic of Korea suggests that they would willingly revisit the same outlet if the staff have an attractive and well-dressed appearance. Whereas they often feel less satisfied by their experience if the staff are not and a second visit to the same establishment is then unlikely, according to research published in the International Journal of Services, Economics and Management.
In the hospitality industry, staff interactions with consumers are crucial to operations and influence consumer satisfaction revisit intention. Now, Byoungho Lee and Jinkyung Choi of Woosong University, in Daejeon, South Korea, surveyed coffee shop customers with respect to perceptions and attitudes. Whereas there have been numerous studies of attractiveness and customer service in other settings, coffee shops per se have not been a focus of many studies. The team's findings could help coffee shop owners or managers improve consumer satisfaction by influencing perceived attitudes toward the appearance of staff and their clothes or uniform.
The team emphasizes that the attractiveness to customers of service personnel in this environment may not be solely about facial attractiveness, but their personal grooming, overall demeanour, and attitude as well as how smartly dressed they are and how well-kempt their uniform. The findings perhaps offer a new definition of attractiveness in terms of staff appearance and uniforms in cafes and restaurants and could help guide management to improve the customer experience by their guiding service staff.
Lee, B. and Choi, J. (2020) 'Effect of staff appearance on customer satisfaction and revisit intention', Int. J. Services, Economics and Management, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp.119–136.
Encrypting images chaotically
An artificial neural network approach to image encryption offers many advantages over conventional encryption methods suggests a review published in the International Journal of Services Operations and Informatics. Shaimaa Abbas Fahdel Al-Abaidy of the University of Baghdad in Iraq explains that exploiting what is colloquially known as the "butterfly effect" in chaos theory can be even more effective.
Mobile computing and communications devices are almost ubiquitous now. We rely heavily on mobile phones, tablets, laptops, smartwatches, fitness trackers, smart TVs, and other such devices. They almost all rely on being constantly connected with the internet either through a cellphone network or via Wi-Fi for their many different functions. However, the transfer of data to and from such devices can often be vulnerable to third-party intrusion.
There are some instances where this is not particularly problematic, but there are other cases, such as sharing personal images where the sender and recipient, a student and educator, patient and doctor, employee and executive, may not wish other people to have access to those images. This is where encryption becomes a critical part of the communication.
There are many different approaches to encryption some are very secure but have high overheads, particularly when the files being encrypted are themselves relatively large, such as is the case with high-resolution photographs, for instance. Encryption needs to be smoother, faster, and preclude overpowering the encrypting and decrypting device as well as not adding to the data transfer costs in terms of the connecting network capacity.
The new approach discussed by Al-Abaidy offers protection against the integrity of the encrypted and decrypted image file and protection against common attacks such as a cipher attack, plaintext attack, and brute force attack.
Al-Abaidy, S.A.F. (2020) 'Artificial neural network based image encryption technique', Int. J. Services Operations and Informatics, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp.181–189.
Solid state life extension
Solid-state storage on mobile devices and computers is becoming de rigeur, it offers much shorter read and write times for data than conventional magnetic storage devices with spinning disks and other moving parts, it uses far less power, and it is silent in operation. But, those advantages come at a cost in that all the rapid reading and writing of data can wear out the device much faster than a conventional hard disk. There are techniques for reducing the wear based in software and settings, but ultimately lifespan is rather limited and there is an urgent need to developed solid-state storage that has greater longevity.
Research published in the International Journal of Embedded Systems offers a new approach to reducing the number of read-writes that occur when data is stored on one particular type of solid-state media, the solid-state disk (SSD). These are commonly used to replace magnetic hard disks in personal computers and laptops offering faster bootup and quicker access to data files.
Hai-Tao Wu and Tian-Ming Yang of Huanghuai University in Henan, China, Ping Huang of Temple University, Philadelphia, USA, and Wen-Kuang Chou of Providence University, Taichung, Taiwan, explain that the problem of SSD electronic wear and tear is due to the legacy of traditional file systems on mechanical drives which involvs a lot of partial page rights.
The team has traced the write activity in an SSD and found that partial page writes are most common for the heads and tails of large write requests. This, the team suggests, means that it might be possible to reduce the number of writes made by compressing two partial page writes from the same large write request into a single page before the data are written into flash. This would reduce significantly the number of accesses to each bit of memory and so prolong the lifespan of the device.
The team adds that their novel approach to prolonging the life of an SSD not only reduces erase number but write latency, and read latency by up to 69%, 47%, and 50%, respectively.
Wu, H-T., Yang, T-M., Huang, P. and Chou, W-K. (2020) 'Extending the lifetime of NAND flash-based SSD through compacted write', Int. J. Embedded Systems, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp.129–135.
Whatsapp for helpful social communities
Dutch computer scientists have assessed the value of the Whatsapp mobile communication platform in the context of social support. The research seems rather pertinent in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic that has forced countless people to work entirely remotely, usually at home, to engage with their doctor and other healthcare workers via online applications, and to work with educators to teach their children at home too.
Whatsapp is a free, cross-platform messaging and Voice over IP (VoIP) service provided by one of the most well-known of the social media companies, Facebook. Whatsapp users can send each other text messages and voice messages without paying the usual charges that might be required of SMS and phone calls by utilizing a Wi-Fi or internet data connection on their phone. They can also make voice and video calls, share images, documents, and other files, and even their location with other users in end-to-end encrypted connections. Users can also build groups of collaborators, friends, and family to communicate and share among that community.
Writing in the International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations, Luuk Simons and Catholijn Jonker of Delft University of Technology in Netherlands and Wouter van den Heuvel of the Health Coach Program also in Delft, suggest that WhatsApp groups can be used as attractive social support systems augmenting existing electronic tools and personal coaching. Their exploratory study of a small number of young professionals revealed that they were all happy to engage with others using Whatsapp. Indeed, the app led to greater engagement than other social media tools.
The team demonstrated that the use of a Whatsapp group by these young professionals led to healthy behaviour and health advocacy and confirmed the potential of the system for peer coaching. The research did show that there is a need to educate potential users on how to form relevant communities more effectively. They offer several ideas in their paper on how Whatsapp use might be improved. For instance, it is perhaps essential in a coaching community environment that at least one of the members of the group is an expert in that realm to ensure the quality of advice and discussions, to catalyse group interactions, to prompt users to act as health advocates within the group and to ensure that help is always given to participants when they need it.
Simons, L.P.A., van den Heuvel, W.A.C. and Jonker, C.M. (2020) 'eHealth WhatsApp for social support: design lessons', Int. J. Networking and Virtual Organisations, Vol. 23, No. 2, pp.112–127.
We'll meet again, online
Virtual conferences and meetings have been around for many years but they have come to the fore and are a standard form of group communication now that we are in a "new normal" because of the Covid-19 global pandemic. A team from India, writing in the International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations, discusses the ways in which virtual teamwork can be made more effective.
Monica Kunte, Sonali Bhattacharya, and Netra Neelam of the Symbiosis International (Deemed) University, in Hinjawadi, India, point out that virtual teams have always offered a way to reduce costs by allowing people to meet online and so preclude the need for transport and accommodation. They have measured perceived effectiveness of participants by looking at goal orientation, interdependency, knowledge sharing, empowerment, and preparedness in a multidimensional second-order construct.
The team has tested and proven their model to offer a useful scale of virtual team effectiveness. As such it will allow organizers and participants to improve their virtual meetings. Factors such as team size, diversity, participant hierarchy and even the timing, length, and frequency of virtual meetings might be optimized using the scale. This should improve efficiency, ensure any agenda is satisfied as well as ensuring all participants are essential to the team at any given point and avoid wasting human resources.
Kunte, M., Bhattacharya, S. and Neelam, N. (2020) 'Shall we ever meet; does it matter: unfreezing the constructs of virtual team effectiveness', Int. J. Networking and Virtual Organisations, Vol. 23, No. 2, pp.128–148.
Cleaning up money laundering
Money laundering is big business but wholly illegal big business. It has an enormously negative impact on local, national, and international economies as well as providing the financial means to fund other criminal activities such as people trafficking and drugs. By definition, money laundering is activity carried out to obscure the source of money that has been obtained illegally.
Writing in the International Journal of Business Intelligence and Data Mining, researchers from the Sultanate of Oman and Saudi Arabia describe a new dynamic approach to identifying suspicious financial transactions that might be part of the chain in a money-laundering scheme.
Abdul Khalique Shaikh of the Department of Information Systems at Sultan Qaboos University in Oman and Amril Nazir of the Department of Computer Science at Taif University, in Al-Hawiya, Saudi Arabia, explain that among the many millions, if not billions, of financial transactions carried out every day, a worrying proportion will be associated with money laundering. Identifying such illegal transactions is difficult especially as the criminals carrying out such transactions are well aware of the tools used by banks and financiers to spot suspicious money movements and as such can usually obfuscate the activity very efficiently.
The team has devised a way to profile individual users and to flag up activity that is genuinely suspicious without the false positives that might otherwise interfere with genuine banking and other financial transactions members of the public might carry out entirely legitimately.
"The approach works based on the dynamic behaviour of customer transactions that measures the customer's own transaction history, profile features and identifies suspicious transactions," the team writes. They have tested the approach against realistic data and validated the result with confirmed suspicious customers. The dynamic approach has an accuracy of well over 90 percent, which exceeds that seen with statistical models based on pre-defined rules, the team concludes.
Shaikh, A.K. and Nazir, A. (2020) 'A novel dynamic approach to identifying suspicious customers in money transactions', Int. J. Business Intelligence and Data Mining, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp.143–158.
How do marketing professionals evaluate the success or otherwise of their guerilla marketing campaigns? That is the question addressed in the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising.
Thérèse Roux of the Department of Marketing, Logistics and Sport Management at Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, South Africa and Marcel Saucet of the University of San Diego in California, USA, explain how consumers are exposed to a wide range of advertising and media every day with countless brands vying for attention. Many advertisers have, for several years, incorporated out-of-home media channels such as guerrilla street marketing to try and grab customer attention through surprising, bewildering, and otherwise novel campaigns.
There have been numerous high-profile examples of guerilla marketing in recent years: Japanese vehicle manufacturer Toyota launched its new RAV4 Hybrid car by creating a gigantic outdoor climbing wall in the in the middle of Times Square in New York City and allowed novice climbers to have a go. Swedish home furniture and fittings retailer Ikea opened a pop-up DIY restaurant in London where locals could prepare family dinners under the supervision of celebrity chefs. Commuters in Colombia were encouraged by sportswear and equipment company Reebok to join an exercise session in pop-up-gymnasiums within bus shelters.
The team has reviewed the research literature as well as interviewing marketing communications professionals from large internationally recognised agencies as well as smaller independent guerrilla marketing companies. "Professionals carefully and purposefully select appropriate environments and combine distinctive instruments to track cognitive, affective and behavioural responses," the team writes. In that context, they have found that the effects of guerrilla street marketing are moving from performance at the street level to acquiring and quantifying online diffusion. They add that their work, which is among the first such investigation, will help improve our understanding of the practices of experienced professionals and identify practical techniques that can be used to evaluate contemporary street guerrilla marketing.
Savvy marketing agencies have already recognized that a guerilla marketing campaign on the street has the potential to "go viral" on social media and extend the reach way beyond those who see it live to the millions who might view videos and photos of such an event captured by the public or even those involved in the campaign. The team suggests that we are now seeing an evolution from asking a limited number of customers to be involved, figuratively speaking, in "dancing in the street" to providing a point of interest and engagement for global, online "socializing" that will hopefully boost brand reach and engagement, and on the bottom line, sales of the product or service being marketed.
Roux, T. and Saucet, M. (2020) 'From dancing on the street to dating online: evaluating guerrilla street marketing performance', Int. J. Internet Marketing and Advertising, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp.336–359.
Hybrid measures to beat phish
A hybrid algorithm that used machine learning to feed off statistical induction ratios can spot malicious web pages known as phishing sites and so alert unwary users to the possibility that their data, privacy or security may be compromised before they access such sites Details are published in the International Journal of Data Mining, Modelling and Management.
Hiba Zuhair of Al-Nahrain University, in Baghdad, Iraq, and Ali Selamat of the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Johor, Malaysia, explain how there are some very powerful machine learning systems that can detect phishing sites. However, the criminal creators of such websites are rather wily and there are always novel page structures and coding that might be missed by such protection systems on the day when the new malware site is first launched and the early unwitting users get hooked. To preclude users falling for such zero-hour phishing sites there is an urgent need for an adaptive approach that can spot the problem even with novel sites.
As such, "Phishing induction must be boosted up with the extraction of new features, the selection of robust subsets of decisive features, the active learning of classifiers on a big webpage stream," the team writes. Their two-pronged algorithmic defence provides a more holistic way to detect phishing sites. They have demonstrated efficacy against existing machines learning-based anti-phishing techniques. The team hopes that their analysis of earlier approaches and the method they suggest could provide a new "taxonomy" for the development of more effective still protection against this ubiquitous security problem in the digital realm.
Zuhair, H. and Selamat, A. (2020) 'Phish webpage classification using hybrid algorithm of machine learning and statistical induction ratios', Int. J. Data Mining, Modelling and Management, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp.255–276.
Back in the day, if you liked a brand, you bought and used its products, perhaps mentioning or even recommending to friends and family. Today, the ubiquity of social media means that consumers have so many additional, albeit online, ways in which to "interact" and "engage" with a brand beyond simply using the product. One might post photos of the brand in action on a personal blog, photo or video site, such as Instagram or Youtube, one might offer updates and critique on platforms like Twitter, and, of course, there is the possibility of endless opportunities for liking, following, and commenting with and about a brand on Facebook.
Now, researchers from Korea and the USA writing in the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising, discuss why some consumers ultimately disengage with some brands they once showed allegiance to on Facebook. They discuss the notion of advertising avoidance and one's shift in the consumer-brand relationship not only in the context of hiding content that is no longer wanted but also as a means of direct self-expression.
A former brand fan that friends and family knew "liked" a brand summarily "unliking" it may be seen as a change in attitude or personal identity. Of course, the rationale may be perceived information overload, attitude towards social media marketing in general, but there is a certain element that pushes the brand detachment as social-identity expression, the team suggests.
Kwon, E.S., Kim, E. and Chung, Y.J. (2020) 'Social break up: why consumers hide and unlike brands on Facebook', Int. J. Internet Marketing and Advertising, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp.299–317.
Less work, more play
In the current global situation many people have been forced to rethink what we previously referred to as a work-life balance. There was much pressure from good mental health advocates for us to opt for more leisure time if that were a possibility. Now, in the time of the global coronavirus pandemic, we can see new ways to look at leisure time with a perspective on life satisfaction. However, in research carried out before Covid-19, Yen-Lien Kuo and Tzu-Hsiu Huang of the Department of Economics at National Cheng Kung University in Tainan City, Taiwan, investigated the relationships between working hours and changes in time spent on leisure and sports activities, as well as perceived health status, and individual life satisfaction.
Fundamentally, they analysed data from the Taiwan Social Change Survey and were able to show that longer working hours almost inevitably led to significantly lower life satisfaction whereas more leisure time improved subjective health measures and enhanced life satisfaction markedly. There was a caveat in terms of health. In that those in full-time work tended to be healthier than those were not. However, there was still the potential to improve mental health by boosting life satisfaction when employees were able to have more leisure time at the expense of working hours.
For Taiwan in particular, it is as a nation third in the league tables for longest working hours among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. It had been suggested in much earlier work that people with long working hours and inadequate recovery time see various problems accumulate over time and become chronic reactions. Work and leisure time may have been upturned in recent months because of pandemic lockdown and other factors. However, part of the new-normal may well see an increased need to balance work and leisure without trying to cram more hours into the day by reducing working hours. We already know that many more people can work from home and avoid the daily commute. This research suggests that government-led initiatives, particularly in Taiwan could drive this forward to the benefit of employees and perhaps even for employers.
Kuo, Y-L. and Huang, T-H. (2020) 'The impacts of increasing leisure time on subjective health and life satisfaction', Int. J. Happiness and Development, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp.26-40.
The almost ubiquitous construction material we know as concrete has high compressive strength but low tensile strength. In order to overcome this problem, reinforced concrete was developed. Unfortunately, reinforced concrete more readily succumbs to corrosion particularly from water ingress so there is a need to develop ways to improve the formulation of reinforced concrete and perhaps to develop additives that allow the self-healing of cracks and fissures that grow so that a structure might be saved from complete deterioration.
Writing in the International Journal of Structural Engineering, a team from the National Institute of Technology, in Raipur, India, explain that there are two major causes of deterioration: carbonation-induced corrosion and chloride-induced corrosion. "Through the random distribution of pore spaces in concrete, aggressive substances, such as carbon dioxide, chloride, moisture, and oxygen may penetrate the structure," the team explains. This, in turn, can break down the protective layer around reinforcing steel bars within the structure leading to their corrosion and ultimate failure.
In terms of the chemistry of the initial corrosion process involving carbonation. The initial alkalinity arising from the hydration process of cement protects the concrete formed from corrosion. However, carbon dioxide ingress leads to reactions with calcium compounds in the concrete which generates calcium carbonate and lowers the alkalinity making the material more acidic, unstable, and thus susceptible to degradation.
Other researchers have already shown that adding Bacillus subtilis bacteria to the cement formulation can have a protective effect. The team has now shown that calcium lactate can boost the benefits of the microbes by reducing the carbonation rate. It also improves the compressive strength of the concrete. Moreover, the living bacteria can refill and repair microscopic cracks within the structure to a degree allowing concrete to self-heal. This was observed in the laboratory by the team using scanning electron microscopy.
Vijay, K. and Murmu, M. (2020) 'Effect of calcium lactate and Bacillus subtilis bacteria on properties of concrete and self-healing of cracks', Int. J. Structural Engineering, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp.217–231.
Working from home has become part of the so-called "new normal" for many people during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, there has been a move underway towards increased telecommuting for many years. Writing in the Global Business and Economics Review a research team from Portugal has set out to explore the potential of telecommuting in terms of productivity and quality of life gains, cost savings for workers and employers, and perhaps even environmental improvements through reduced transport pollution.
Commuting generates enormous economic, social, and environmental costs, although it has been the conventional approach to "going out to work" since the industrial revolution if not before. There are some benefits, of course, but largely these are often outweighed by infrastructure and transport requirements and ultimately increased use of energy and resources and an increase in pollution and carbon emissions. However, with a big shift to online services and the increased use of information technology in this so-called digital age many traditional jobs can readily be performed from the home at least some of the time if not the whole of the working week. Obviously, some jobs, such as construction and manual factory work, farming, and healthcare can rarely be reduced to the working from home paradigm.
Deveani Babu, Nelson Ramalho, and Pedro Falcao of the University Institute of Lisbon suggest that increasing the level of telecommuting across various sectors is entirely feasible. Moreover, given the global pandemic that emerged since the time of their review, it is likely that we will garner more evidence for the personal and societal benefits of this form of working. Our unwitting experiment caused by the pandemic might also offer insights into previously unknown problems with telecommuting too.
Babu, D., Ramalho, N. and Falcao, P.F. (2020) 'Telecommuting potential analysis', Global Business and Economics Review, Vol. 23, No. 1, pp.100–124.
Lyre, lyre – there's an app for that!
Forget Captain Corelli's stringed instrument and Zorba the Greek's theme tune, a team writing in the International Journal of Arts and Technology is investigating whether it might be possible to digitize the Greek music tradition by simulating the Cretan lyre for a mobile device application.
Dimitrios Margounakis, Georgios Tsotakos, and Andreas Floros of the School of Science and Technology, at the Hellenic Open University, Greece and the Ionian University, Corfu, point out that playing the Cretan lyre involves an intriguing technique using a bow and the development of a simulation has not been undertaken previously.
"Contemporary multi-touch-based mobile smart phones have a range of sensory input capabilities, making realistic simulation of musical instruments feasible," the team writes.
They suggest that their app has a recreational and educational aspect as well as a conservation perspective in terms of musical culture. Users employ the same gestures as a real-life player would make to produce the notes and tones of the instrument in a mobile device.
The team adds that their app has embedded within it instructional information allowing even a novice to reconstruct well-known traditional melodies quickly. Moreover, the timbre of the lyre can be overlaid with the sound of the lute to create an even more interesting overall sound. Additionally, many players in Crete use a bow that has bells on, sounds that might also be incorporated into the app, the team reports. So, while the music may not have all of the accoutrements of some simulated instruments apps it will soon have the bells if not the whistles.
Margounakis, D., Tsotakos, G. and Floros, A. (2020) 'On digitising the Greek music tradition: simulation of the Cretan lyre for mobile devices', Int. J. Arts and Technology, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.103–117.
The thermodynamics of Covid-19
When you catch a virus it will hijack your metabolic processes for its own replication. The virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) which is at the heart of the current global pandemic of the associated disease Covid-19 is no exception. It hooks into the body's cellular processes leaching energy and exergy (energy that does work) so that it can duplicate its genetic code and build the proteins it needs to create copies of itself. Obviously, such an energy drain gives rise to some of the symptoms while others are caused by the body's immune response that attempts to stop the virus in its tracks.
Writing in the International Journal of Exergy, a research team from Turkey explains how this novel coronavirus first reported in late 2019, causes a cluster of symptoms not commonly seen in other viral infections: severe pneumonia, pulmonary inflammation, and fibrosis. These symptoms reduce gas exchange between the air sacs, the alveoli, within the lungs, and the blood capillaries that carry oxygen away from the lungs and around the body. As such, patients experience diminished oxygenation of their blood haemoglobin. This then has an effect on metabolic rate.
If metabolic rate falls by one third, then in thermodynamic terms the fall in exergetic and energetic magnitude associated with the damage can be 0.46 and 0.45 Watt per kilogram of body weight, respectively. If the decline is a two-thirds decrease, the exergetic and energetic magnitude of the damage can be 0.92 and 0.90 W/kg, the team reports. Those are the figures for an 18-year old patient. For a putatively more vulnerable 70-year old, they would need to generate almost a fifth as much energy or exergy to compensate for the damage caused by the metabolic decline. This, partly explains why it is harder for older patients to cope with this virus and why they suffer worse symptoms. Additionally, if they have other underlying health conditions such as diabetes or lung disease, then the burden is even greater.
Having such information in hand will not only assists in our understanding of the progression and prognosis of this novel disease but may well point to improving how we treat it to save patients from severe morbidity or even mortality.
Yilmaz, B., Ercan, S., Akduman, S. and Özilgen, M. (2020) 'Energetic and exergetic costs of COVID-19 infection on the body of a patient', Int. J. Exergy, Vol. 32, No. 3, pp.314–327.
Coronavirus and carbon emissions
The emergence of a novel coronavirus towards the end of 2019 that has led to the major ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has already taken its toll on people's lives, healthcare systems, and the commercial world.
Anecdotal evidence early in the "lockdowns" imposed by many governments seemed to suggest that pollution levels fell as road and air traffic density fell considerably and people began working from home across the world's major cities. Consumption of certain products also fell off although initial demand for essentials was high as people panicked and stocked up on food and other supplies. However, as lockdowns are eased, there is now an increased use of plastics for disposable personal protection and in shops, homes, and the workplace, and for packaging to help reduce the spread of the virus.
In the face of such a pandemic, it is as if climate change and pollution have been figuratively put on the back burner as serious concerns for humanity. However, Alberto Boretti of the College of Engineering at the Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University, in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, writing in the International Journal of Global Warming, has looked at carbon dioxide levels during the shutdown. Indeed, emissions have fallen considerably as airlines have been grounded, factories shut down, businesses closed, and citizens confined in their homes.
He suggests our current reduced activity over the last few months at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic could give us novel data to demonstrate exactly how anthropogenic are carbon emissions. In 2014, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) expressed how it is 95% certain that humans are the main cause of current global warming. But, there are denialists and detractors. The data shows there has not been a fall in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere since lockdown, natural drivers as the temperature rises and seasonal variation seem to obscure any effect on such a short timescale. The process of global warming itself is known to increase carbon dioxide emissions from natural sources.
"While we cannot legislate for natural changes, it seems appropriate to better identify every environmental and societal threats to availability of water, food, energy, plus health and ecosystems conservation; then optimise mitigation and adaptation strategies according to the relative risks of the various threats," the team writes.
Boretti, A. (2020) 'Covid 19 impact on atmospheric CO 2 concentration', Int. J. Global Warming, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp.317–323.
Writing quiz-type tests in education can be time-consuming and given the nature of education and home learning during the current coronavirus pandemic, teachers and carers alike need more efficient and straightforward ways to produce quizzes to evaluate learning in their student charges.
New work published in the International Journal of Conttrol Engineering Education and Life-Long Learning suggests that quiz questions could be generated automatically from DBpedia. DBpedia is a project that extracts structured content from Wikipedia and makes it available on the World Wide Web. Users can semantically query relationships and properties of Wikipedia resources, including links to other related datasets.
Oscar Rodríguez Rocha, Catherine Faron Zucker, Alain Giboin, and Aurelie Lagarrigue of the Universite Cote d'Azur, in France, explain that test questions must be generated in compliance with the knowledge and skills necessary to master a specific subject and be appropriate for the school year being tested and in accord with official educational standards. They have now demonstrated how pertinent information can be pulled from a structured database that fits these criteria. Question-generating methods can then be applied automatically to the knowledge scraped in this way to produce the questions and answers for a school quiz.
The educator can curate the information and questions manually to ensure they are wholly appropriate to the students. The automated part of the system can reduce the educator burden considerably freeing up time for less mundane work with the students while at the same time providing an invaluable and validated assessment tool.
Rodríguez Rocha, O., Zucker, C.F., Giboin, A. and Lagarrigue, A. (2020) 'Automatic generation of questions from DBpedia', Int. J. Continuing Engineering Education and Life-Long Learning, Vol. 30, No. 3, pp.276–294.
Having a laugh
The popular view of biometric security often invokes fingerprint readers, iris or retinal scans, and voice-activated systems. However, any unique human characteristic whether the shape of one's ears, the whole face, the pattern of blood vessels in the back of the hand, walking pattern, heart rhythm or even how one types at a keyboard, might be used to provide a secure signature of login. Some traits are easier to analyse than others and some, such as fingerprints, can be spoofed.
Research published in the International Journal of Biometrics has taken an amusing trait to demonstrate how the way a person laughs might be used in biometrics.
Comfort Oluwaseyi Folorunso, Olumuyiwa Sunday Asaolu, and Oluwatoyin Popoola of the Systems Engineering Department at the University of Lagos in Akoka, Lagos, Nigeria, points out that people can recognise other people by the unique nature of their laughter, perhaps in an even more obvious way than their voice. Moreover, while many people are adept at impersonating the voices of other people, mimicking someone's laugh is far more difficult. The team has now used statistical analyses of the various audible frequencies present in a person's laugh to create a digital signature for each unique laugh.
Tests on the approach show their prototype recognition algorithm to be 90 percent accurate, which compares very favourably with the 65% accuracy of a conventional Gaussian model. However, combining their algorithm with the Gaussian approach can boost accuracy overall by more than 5 percent.
"Laughter has thus been shown to be a viable biometric feature for person identification which can be embedded into artificial intelligence systems in diverse applications," the team concludes.
Folorunso, C.O., Asaolu, O.S. and Popoola, O.P. (2020) 'Laughter signature: a novel biometric trait for person identification', Int. J. Biometrics, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp.283–300.
Detecting lung cancer sooner rather than later
A review of forty research papers that discuss lung cancer detection technologies highlights the gaps in the various approaches to the diagnosis of this potentially lethal disease and reveals how research might be targeted to improve detection and thus prognosis. Writing in the International Journal of Bioinformatics Research and Applications, Malayil Shanid and A. Anitha of the Information & Communication Engineering department at Noorul Islam Centre for Higher Education, in Kanyakumari District, Tamil Nadu, India explain the context of their review and its implications.
Lung cancer is one of the biggest killers of the modern age. Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally and is responsible for an estimated 10 million or so deaths annually, which amounts to 1 in 6 deaths. Of that approximately 10 million cancer deaths, about 1 in 5 is due to lung cancer. As with most cancers, early detection can greatly improve the prognosis of the disease, assuming appropriate treatment is available and undertaken. It also allows less invasive treatments to be employed, particularly reducing the level of surgery required, for instance.
Image processing coupled with machine learning has led to many improvements in the identification of malignant tissue in scan images for a wide range of diseases including lung cancer. The various techniques commonly look to distinguish between benign and malignant lesions seen in the scan. Computerised tomography is the tool of choice for detecting pulmonary nodules that might sit in either camp. A benign nodule can be treated relatively easily in contrast to a malignant one, which may develop rapidly and metastasize if not treated quickly.
Shanid, M. and Anitha, A. (2020) 'An exhaustive study on the lung cancer risk models', Int. J. Bioinformatics Research and Applications, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp.151–172.
How do you solve a problem like Pereira?
How do you solve problems in the face of adversity? The question is perhaps oxymoronic or tautological given that a problem equates to adversity. So, we might as well ask how do you solve problems?
Leandro Ferreira Pereira of the Business Research Unit (BRU-IUL) at ISCTE and José Pedro Santos of Winning Scientific Management in Portugal, explain that one of the current challenges in organisations relates strongly to decision-making in adverse, uncertain, and complex environments. There are many formal approaches to problem solving that managers might use: the fishbone diagram, root cause analysis and five whys, for instance.
Pereira and Santos point out that most of them have significant limitations in how they assess a problem and its causes. As such the team has developed and tested "Pereira problem solving" and compared it with ad hoc approaches used in various organizations. The Pereira approach has a more mathematical stance in problem solving. The team explains that the study was preliminary in nature and utilized convenient samples to test the model. Future work will be broader and compare different business sectors, including energy, telecommunications, banking, and retail.
Pereira, L.F. and Santos, J.P. (2020) 'Pereira problem solving', Int. J. Learning and Change, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp.274–283.
What's that smell?
Unpleasant odours are…well…unpleasant. Sometimes we have to endure the stench but legislation is beginning to recognise that people have a right to not be exposed when they are avoidable. This might apply in the context of the environment local to an industrial plant, water and sewage treatment works, refuse sites and other areas, including the workplace, shopping centres, and places of entertainment.
Maurizio Onofrio, Roberta Spataro, and Serena Botta of the Department of Environment, Land and Infrastructure Engineering (DIATI) at the Politecnico di Torino in Turin, Italy, have looked at the impact of odour in the International Journal of Environment and Pollution. The team points out that the type of odourant, human perception and sensitivity, as well as air dispersal, all affect how the issue of unpleasant odours might be addressed.
The team has specifically examined air dispersion models applied to odour impact assessment. They analysed 69 case studies published over the last decade or so and applied Gaussian modelling to examine and validate the experimental data. Their results show that the models are reliable but can be affected by critical issues, such as particular climate conditions, duration of averaging times and position of important receptors. However, if these factors are known and correctly managed, the models can be extremely useful.
Onofrio, M., Spataro, R. and Botta, S. (2020) 'A review on the use of air dispersion models for odour assessment', Int. J. Environment and Pollution, Vol. 67, No. 1, pp.1–21.
Workers engage with the Internet of Things
The concept of an Internet of Things, connected devices, sensors, controllers, and other equipment is rapidly evolving. It has certainly moved on apace since the early whimsical hyperbole surrounding an internet-connected coffee machine or the smart refrigerator. Indeed, the IoT is now pervading almost every business sector. Work published in the International Journal of Business and Systems Research has looked at how employees might become more engaged in IoT technology in the workplace.
Sumi Jha of the National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE), in Mumbai and Preeti Khanna of the School of Business Management at SVKM's NMIMS, also in Mumbai, India, write that "Employee engagement is pivotal to successful commercial and business performance, where engaged employees are the 'backbone of good working environments where people are industrious, ethical and accountable'."
The team has carried out an analysis of human resource management practices and IoT interventions in the context of employee engagement. They also show that in practice, organisations need to continuously realign work practices with IoT to improve employee engagement to the benefit of the various so-called stakeholders associated with that workplace and the business. However, the team's research also suggests that improving IoT engagement and human resource practices may not be sufficient. "The current model indicates the entire roadmap needs to be redesigned to deal with perceptions from the management as well as the user's perspective," the team writes. The point out that the misuse of IoT in the workplace is an important issue that must be addressed.
"It is important to train employees in effective utilisation of IoT and reduce the need for constant monitoring," the team concludes, "This will enhance employees' faith in the system and so improve engagement further."
Jha, S. and Khanna, P. (2020) 'Study of enhancing employee engagement at workplace by adopting internet of things', Int. J. Business and Systems Research, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp.341–361.
Simplifying smart security
Home security for people who have reached middle age and older is an important concern in China, according to the authors of new research published in the International Journal of Embedded Systems.
Guangyi Ma, Hui Xu, Xijie Zhou, and Wei Sun of the School of Automation at Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology explain how current systems are difficult to setup, costly, have high power consumption, and components that wear out rapidly. They have now designed an alternative that has low power dissipation, convenient operation, and high stability.
The team's smart security device has standard master controllers to command a camera module, GSM/GPRS module, smoke sensors, flame sensors, and infrared sensors. They explain that the camera module captures live images of monitored areas, which can be transmitted to the user via the GSM module. ZigBee wireless technology is used instead of conventional Wi-Fi to keep power consumption down and reduce the risk of a security breach by a malicious third party.
"Compared with other security systems, the proposed program optimises the interface to make interaction operation easier for middle-aged and older users," the team writes. Given that the population is "ageing", there is an increased urgency for such systems that are easy to use and offer the requisite security for older people. This, the team suggests, is especially poignant for the younger generation who are the adult offspring of one-child families.
Ma, G., Xu, H, Zhou, X. and Sun, W. (2020) 'Home security alarm system for middle-aged people living alone', Int. J. Embedded Systems, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.65–73.
Reducing food waste
Might a platform-based business model be used in the food industry to reduce waste and improve sustainability? That's the question a research team from Finland sets out to answer in the International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management.
Globally, one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, amounting to about 1.3 billion tonnes per year. Given that food waste also equates to wasted water, lost energy, and needless carbon emissions, and pollution. Indeed, the carbon footprint of food waste is about 4.4 million tones of carbon dioxide equivalent each year, which is almost as much as road transport emissions. We must find ways to drastically reduce this figure. Seemingly, it is consumers that contribute to the larger proportion of wasted food rather than it occurring on the side of production, transport, and retail. However, little information is available about food waste from restaurants, cafés, and canteens, and the catering and accommodation services, this alone could also be generating millions of tonnes of food waste.
Malla Mattila, Nina Mesiranta, and Anna Heikkinen of the Faculty of Management and Business at Tampere University explain how food waste is a growing challenge for companies in the food services sector hoping to improve their sustainability credentials. They have examined the research literature in the realm of business sustainability in the developed world and looked at sustainable business models and digital platforms, that might provide guidance for such companies. They specifically scrutinize two real-life business cases that provide digital services and show how they help food service companies to reduce their food waste. The benefits of sustainable business models are wrought in their scalability and attractiveness the team points out.
While the consumer side seems to be the bigger problem, supermarkets and other outlets generate vast tonnages of waste as products pass their "sell-by" dates. As such, there is a wide open niche for mobile device applications that connect consumers to products that are about to expire in a more effective way so that such stock might be purchased rather than it going to waste. However, applications at every step from farm and factory to retail to outlet or home could reduce waste, the research suggests.
Mattila, M., Mesiranta, N. and Heikkinen, A. (2020) 'Platform-based sustainable business models: reducing food waste in food services', Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, Vol. 24, Nos. 4/5, pp.249–265.
Avoiding malware on the move
Mobile devices are a fairly ubiquitous feature of our lives. Some would say that their huge and yet compact computing power has made life easier for millions of people by providing information, entertainment, and services at a tap or a swipe. Of course, every technology has its abusers and our always-connected smartphones, tablets, and laptops are no different.
Writing in the International Journal of Internet Technology and Secured Transactions, researchers from India discuss the security measures available for mobile devices that utilize Google's Android operating system. They suggest that the more open nature of Android and its applications ecosystem can in some sense make it more vulnerable to malware than the rather more closed and cloistered operating system used by devices manufactured by Apple. Indeed, evidence suggests that 97 percent of malware targets Android rather than any other operating system on mobile devices.
The team has analysed hundreds of Android apps from the official store and unofficial download repositories. They used applied permission-based and behavioural footprinting methods to detect malware. Shockingly, they demonstrated that almost 13 percent of the apps on the official Play store had some kind of malware. This figure was more than double at 28 percent for third-party stores.
Much malware discussed in the context of conventional desktop computing is associated with criminal activity such as harvesting bank details and logins, duplicating and spreading the malware further afield, and creating zombie computers. Zombie PCs not only propagate the malware further but they are recruited into a bot-net and provide the controllers with the computing power to manipulate large numbers of PCs for carrying out denial of service attacks on large corporate or governmental networks with malicious or hacktivist intent.
The team found that almost all of the malware in Android apps was created to steal personal information from the infected device and send it to a remote server. Given that even legitimate applications do this endlessly, it is difficult to see where the line is being drawn. Nobody wants their personal and private information stolen whether by a small third-party app or a major corporate organization such as a search engine or social media company.
As such, the team has also assessed a number of the most prominent apps aimed at precluding infection with mobile viruses and malware. Unfortunately, even the best antimalware apps tested could detect a mere seven of twelve different classes of malware found on Android systems. The underlying reason is that new, zero-day malware, is emerging all the time.
"There remains a need for efficient anti-malware software that accurately detects and avoids malware families," the team writes.
Rani, S. and Dhindsa, K.S. (2020) 'Android application security: detecting Android malware and evaluating anti-malware software', Int. J. Internet Technology and Secured Transactions, Vol. 10, No. 4, pp.491–506.
Pull up to the bumper
Is six-seconds long enough for an advertisement to woo a potential customer? The corporate executives who place short, "bumper ads" on the video-based social media service, Youtube, think so. Now, research published in the International Journal of Electronic Marketing and Retailing, shows what kind of content in bumper ads is most engaging for Youtube users. Ultimately, the insights could help guide advertisers hoping to improve brand awareness and consumer attitude towards a product, and ultimately increase sales.
Youtube introduced this ad format in 2016. Bumper ads are there to boost an advertiser's reach and allow them to deliver a short, but hopefully memorable message to their potential customers. Critically, although bumper ads are of an incredibly limited duration set by Youtube, they are also unskippable, so viewers hoping to watch user-generated content on the site are commonly forced to wait until the bumper ad runs before they can do so. Whether they choose to stare at the screen and absorb the ad is a moot point. Most users are unlikely to turn away knowing that an ad is going to be so short and will thus be exposed to the message within, as is the intention of the advertiser.
Jay P. Trivedi, Siddharth Deshmukh, and Amit Kishore of MICA in Gujarat, India, based their findings on data collected from almost 300 Youtube users analysed in detail with various statistical techniques.
"Video advertising is seeing an upswing in ad spends, and advertisers need to understand the strengths and limitations of each video ad format. This work is arguably the first academic research done to understand the type of content which can work for bumper ads," the team writes. They suggest that it is particularly pertinent to Generation-Y consumers in the emerging market of India. Gen-Y is usually defined as the "millennial generation", people who were born between the early 1980s and early2000s.
Fundamentally, the team found that bumper ads do not lead directly to sales, but if they are able to convey the core message and involve the consumer, then they may drive sales later. "Advertisers can draw from [our results] and plan to convey the message by increased frequency of bumper ads or by placing them across multiple video genres to involve viewers more."
Trivedi, J.P., Deshmukh, S. and Kishore, A. (2020) 'Wooing the consumer in a six-second commercial! Measuring the efficacy of bumper advertisements on YouTube', Int. J. Electronic Marketing and Retailing, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp.307–322.
Securing the smart home
So...you've built your smart home, it's got smart heating and lighting, all the latest smart communications and entertainment systems, and of course, smart power generation to make it smart and green. But, how do you keep it secure and stop forced digital or physical entry? Well, you need smart security too, of course.
Writing in the International Journal of Intelligent Information and Database Systems, a team from India discusses how the sensor-enabled internet of things (IoT) has improved many aspects of daily life and how the same tools and devices might be used to make us safer and more secure too.
Nishtha Kesswani of the Department of Computer Science at the Central University of Rajasthan, in BandarSindri, Ajmer and Basant Agarwal of the Department of Computer Science & Engineering, at the Indian Institute of Information Technology Kota (IIIT Kota), MNIT Campus, in Jaipur, describe their approach to digital security for the smart home.
"We present an intrusion detection system, SmartGuard that can be deployed in the smart home," they write. "The system would be able to detect malicious behaviour within the [home] network as well as any malicious communications from outside." Obviously, a hacker who can break into a smart home's network would easily be able to override security features, such as lights and electronic locking systems.
"In order to reduce the overhead on the energy-constrained IoT devices, a cluster-based approach has been used," the team explains. "The proposed approach will be a smart choice in today's smart homes full of vulnerabilities," the team concludes.
Kesswani, N. and Agarwal, B. (2020) 'SmartGuard: an IoT-based intrusion detection system for smart homes', Int. J. Intelligent Information and Database Systems, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.61–71.
Freedom versus terrorism
We all know terrorism when we see it or so we would hope, although it take many disparate forms. One aspect of the response is the media coverage of such happenings. Writing in the International Journal of Human Rights and Constitutional Studies, a team from Indonesia discusses the urgency of media coverage of terrorism.
Wenly Lolong and Adensi Timomor of the Department of Law at the Universitas Negeri Manado, suggest that the very nature of terrorism feeds on media coverage. However, while people have a right to be informed of what is happening locally and on a global scale, the team suggests that in Indonesia there is a need for regulation to avoid promoting the terrorist cause through discussion in the media.
The researchers suggest that media coverage perpetuates terrorism by providing a platform for the perpetrators to share their tragic world view through violence. The greater the media coverage, the more likely a new recruit to the cause might be found whether they act as a so-called "lone wolf" or become part of a large terrorist "organization". Either way, new criminality is generated by the activity of the mass media, the team suggests.
In their research, they explore the reasons that the media covers terrorist activity in the first place and how this coverage might be regulated without impeding the public's guarantee of the right to information and press freedom.
"The right of information must not be above the right to live safely and peacefully in the country," the team concludes.
Lolong, W.R.J. and Timomor, A. (2020) 'The urgency of media coverage arrangements regarding terrorism', Int. J. Human Rights and Constitutional Studies, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp.138–148.
Voting by blockchain – a stronger link
The term "blockchain" is familiar to anyone who has delved into so-called cryptocurrency. It represents an incorruptible digital ledger of transactions associated with a given digital coin in this technology. However, the notion of such a ledger might be useful in a whole range of human affairs, such as electoral and other voting systems. Work published in the International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, suggests that a blockchain might be viable in the US voting system.
Khaled Zayed and Rebekah Placide of the International School of Management in Paris, France, explain that blockchain technology could be used to build "a secure, efficient, and smart voting system". Used in conjunction with biometric technology, such a system would be far less open to abuse or electoral fraud of any kind. The US has four voting methods commonly used at the moment: optical scan paper ballot systems, direct recording electronic systems, ballot marking systems, and punch-card ballot. Each of those voting methods has its own pros and cons and is open to significant abuse as has been seen in at least one recent election. In essence, the team writes, "The current US voting system is antiquated and in desperate need of a technological and legal overhaul."
In addition, the current voting machines are in a state of crisis. "They run the risk of malfunctioning, lost votes, shutdowns, and incorrect tallies," the team adds. "The inability to maintain and purchase parts for these aging machines is of an even greater burden for election administrators in many jurisdictions."
The team further explains how blockchain technology could fix the voting system in a single step, eradicating many of the problems associated with archaic systems and bringing to bear the benefits of the digital realm on an ancient system.
"Blockchain technology was developed to create security, trust, transparency, and efficiency in communications and business transactions," the team says. "Blockchain allows a recording and transfer of data that can be audited and transmitted safely and more importantly it is resistant to outages. A list of records called blocks linked together using cryptography for secure communication. With blockchain technology, digital information can be distributed but not copied over."
Such positive characteristics, when applied to a voting system, could be used for voter registration, identity verification, and electronic vote counting. This would ensure that only legitimate votes are counted and the creation of such a ledger of public votes would represent a step towards a fairer, entirely transparent, and fundamentally more democratic election system.
Zayed, K. and Placide, R. (2020) 'Advocating for a blockchain voting system in the USA', Int. J. Technology Enhanced Learning, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp.306–315.
Phytochemicals to fight cancer
Phytochemicals from the plant Ipomea sepiaria may be useful in the fight against cancer according to a pharmacoinformatics study published in the International Journal of Computational Biology and Drug Design. The research undertook "in silico", computer-based, studies of the various chemicals found in this species against a range of enzymes known as metallopeptidases. Inhibiting the activity of these enzymes found in cancer cells could impede the replication of those cancer cells and potentially halt tumour growth in its tracks.
Thousands of plants contain natural products, chemicals that have physiological activity. Indeed, around 40 percent of modern pharmaceuticals had their roots in botanical natural products. The convolvulus plant species, I. sepiaria, is well known as a component of Ayurvedic medicine in the form of Lakshmana used as a laxative. It is purported to act as an antidote to arsenic poisoning and also be an aphrodisiac, although solid randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials are not yet forthcoming for many of the claims around this plant's medicinal properties.
S.S. Ariya and Baby Joseph of the Hindustan Institute of Technology and Science, in Chennai, India, and Jemmy Christy of the Sathyabama Institute of Technology and Science, also in Chennai, point out that cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide. As such, the development of anticancer and antineoplastic drugs is high on the pharmaceutical industry's agenda. The team has now screened 247 phytochemicals identified in I. sepiaria against their enzyme computer model.
The screen showed that eight chemicals, tetradecanoic acid, nerolidol, ipomeanine, dibutyl phthalate, cis-caffeic acid, caffeic acid, moupinamide, and N-cis-feruloyltyramine were active against the target enzymes and so might be further explored as potential anticancer drugs. Moreover, these compounds performed better in the tests than four different drugs currently available in the cancer therapy arsenal. Of course, the next step is to take the "in silico" results to the laboratory testing, in vitro, stage and then to animal testing and finally human trials. The compounds are promising, but as ever with drug development, the path from discovery to market is long and tortuous.
It should be noted that while there may be physiological activity in the folklore remedy of Lakshmana, its use is no substitute for a medical consultation with an oncologist when cancer arises and the adherence to proven therapies for the best prognosis for the patient.
Ariya, S.S., Joseph, B. and Christy, J. (2020) 'Exploring the antineoplastic effect of phytochemicals from Ipomea sepiaria against matrix metallopeptidases: a pharmacoinformatics approach', Int. J. Computational Biology and Drug Design, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp.255–271.
Whales identify Arabian horses
A computer program, an optimisation algorithm, that mimics in software the social interactions of the humpback whale has been used by researchers in Egypt to build a system for the identification of Arabian horses.
Identification of Arabian racehorses is critical to owner provenance, vaccination handling, disease control, animal traceability, food management, and animal safety. Traditionally, the horses are hot or freeze branded. Today, the branding might be by electronic tag or implant, or even biometric. Classical approaches are invasive and vulnerable to fraud.
Writing in the International Journal of Computer Applications in Technology, Ayat Taha and Ahmed ElKholy of Al-Azhar University in Cairo and colleagues Ashraf Darwish of Helwan University, and Aboul Ella Hassanien Cairo University, explain how the whale optimization algorithm helps avoid fraud. The WOA is inspired by the hunting behaviour of humpback whales. These marine mammals use a special strategy for hunting fish called bubble-net hunting. The whales produce bubbles in a spiral or a ring around a target school of fish and then swim to shrink this ephemeral boundary, pushing the fish into a smaller volume of water. They then pinpoint fish to capture within this boundary, which not only confuses the fish and confines them but gives the whales an almost fixed area to focus on. The WOA mathematically models this in two phases: creating a bubble boundary and then allowing "prey" features to be identified.
The team has now built their algorithm on an optimised Multi-Class Support Vector Machine. The system analyses muzzle imprints from the horses, it having been trained on known horses. It is possible to identify a horse quickly using this system to an accuracy of more than 97%, which surpasses previous machine learning systems that do not rely on biomimetic models such as the whale optimization algorithm.
Taha, A., Darwish, A., Hassanien, A.E. and ElKholy, A. (2020) 'Arabian horse identification based on whale optimised multi-class support vector machine', Int. J. Computer Applications in Technology, Vol. 63, Nos. 1/2, pp.83–92.
Supercritical answer to waste oil
Lubricating oils deteriorate and oxidize with use as well as accumulating particles from the engines and other machinery in which they are used. Ultimately, their effectiveness worsens and they begin to damage the components they were designed to protect they have to be replaced. Disposing of waste engine oil thus becomes a significant environmental concern. Waste lubricant cannot be simply disposed of as it is highly toxic to ecosystems and harmful to the environment and human health.
Writing in the International Journal of Global Warming, a team from China has turned to a nineteenth century discovery – supercritical fluids – to help them clean up waste oil and remove contaminants efficiently and effectively.
Supercritical fluids are essentially substances held at a temperature above their boiling point but under sufficiently high pressure that they do not enter the gas phase. Under these conditions water, carbon dioxide, and other substances are in a hybrid state between liquid and gas and have many properties that are very different from the substance in its commonly observed state at ambient temperature and pressure.
For instance, supercritical fluids (SCFs) can dissolve many diverse substances that are not normally considered soluble in the "normal" gas or liquid. They also have the advantage of very rapidly reverting to their normal state once the pressure and temperature are reduced. This phenomenon allows a substance such as supercritical carbon dioxide to be used to dissolve a range of compounds so that a dissolved compound might then be separated from a complex mixture. Once the pressure is released the carbon dioxide boils off leaving behind the separated substance.
Xin Yang, Shuo Xiang, Peng Su, Yan He, and Ping Liu of the Department of Oil, at the Army Logistics University of PLA and Ligong Chen of the Engineering Research Centre for Waste Oil Recovery Technology and Equipment, at Chongqing Technology and Business University, both in Chongqing, China, have now modeled the behaviour of dodecylcyclohexane in supercritical carbon dioxide. This compound is one of the major components of lubricating oils. It is soluble in supercritical carbon dioxide at a specific temperature and pressure.
The team found the optimal temperature and pressure to be 313.2 Kelvin and 14.68 Megapascals, respectively. None of the contaminants of degraded components have as high a solubility under these conditions and so the technology might then be used to separate the dodecylcyclohexane from the waste materials, the team suggests.
Yang, X., Xiang, S., Su, P., He, Y., Liu, P. and Chen, L. (2020) 'Measurement and modelling of the solubility of dodecylcyclohexane in supercritical carbon dioxide', Int. J. Global Warming, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp.35–49.
Writing in the International Journal of Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing, Yu-Chi Chen of the Department Computer Science and Engineering, at Yuan Ze University, in Tauyuan, Taiwan , has revisited the concept of plaintext checkable encryption with check delegation that could be utilized in the context of security and privacy in the realm of big data and cloud computing.
Achieving a specific computing over ciphertext, plaintext checkable encryption (PCE) is a relatively new concept explains Chen. It supports the specific functionality between ciphertext and plaintext. "Given a target plaintext, a ciphertext and a public key, anyone can perform a check algorithm (called Check) to test whether the ciphertext encrypts the target plaintext with the public key," he explains.
It allows the user to send search instructions to a database, for instance, that are encrypted so that a third party, such as the service provider themselves, cannot see the search terms, but the server has to know that the search is encrypted in a valid way so that it can send back encrypted results; this is where the check function plays its role.
The new work builds on these concepts and offers a new way to approach them with secure public keys and generic constructions.
Chen, Y-C. (2020) 'Plaintext checkable encryption with check delegation revisited', Int. J. Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing, Vol. 34, No. 2, pp.102–110.
Malaysian mobile markets
Writing in the International Journal of Services, Economics and Management, a team from Malaysia provides details of the main factors affecting mobile shopping there. The researchers, Chi-Yang Hng and Pik-Yin Foo of Jalan Universiti in Perak, and Ai-Fen Lim and Radha Krishnan Nair of the UCSI University Kuala Lumpur Campus, Malaysia, analysed 300 questionnaires offered to people in shopping malls in the city of Ipoh. Fundamentally, ease of use and mobile-friendliness, rather than "playfulness" of the mobile shopping experience are what might drive shoppers to use these services.
Around the world, the advent of the internet, the emergence of the world wide web, and the opening up of the digital realm to commercial applications operators continues to see more and more people spend more and more of their time online. The shopping experience, regardless of the Covid-19 pandemic in which we are in the midst at the time of writing of this Inderscience Research Pick, has increasingly moved from commerce to e-commerce. Indeed, smartphones are an essential item for those in the developed and developing world today rather than a luxury. Mobile shopping has become reliable and secure.
The team concedes that this preliminary research has limitations in that those surveyed were generally in the younger age group, adults under 30, and mostly Chinese. Nevertheless, if the results might apply to other demographic groups, which may well be demonstrated in follow-up work, it is likely the most mobile shoppers would prefer uncomplicated applications through which to do their online browsing and shopping. There is also a need to ensure that users are kept informed of transactions and account updates and such like.
Hng, C-Y., Foo, P-Y., Lim, A-F. and Nair, R.K. (2020) 'The forefront of mobile shopping: an emerging economy's perspective', Int. J. Services, Economics and Management, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp.21–47.
Painting a picture of Van Gogh as entrepreneur
We think of Vincent van Gogh as an artist, famed for his starry nights, his floral tributes, and his raffia-work seating. But, he was also an innovator and an entrepreneur, suggests a paper published in the International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business and modern business people might learn a thing or two from his style.
Jos Pieterse of Fontys University of Applied Sciences, in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, and colleagues have analysed letters from the 19th century and expert observations of Van Gogh's activities and work experts as well as guides to the Vincentre Van Gogh museum. They also asked 25 students specialising in innovation and entrepreneurship to give their opinions of Van Gogh's entrepreneurial skills.
We know that Van Gogh was a hard worker based on his prodigious artistic output. The new findings show the innovative and entrepreneurial potential of Van Gogh to reflect his imagination, creativity, and analytical skills. However, based on his apparent lack of financial acumen we can say only with hindsight that he was artistically far ahead but not recognized by his audience.
"The whole field of artistic innovation and entrepreneurship deserves to be better researched for a mutual learning effect for organisational science to learn from this field and vice versa," the team writes. "The work of Vincent van Gogh both in his drawings, paintings and letters are just one [tragic] example."
Ulijn, J., Veldhoen, A., Bekkers-Vermeulen, J., Hendrikse, S., Pieterse, J. and Saych, N. (2020) 'Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), innovator and entrepreneur: an experiential report of Van Gogh guides in Nuenen', Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp.337–372.
Plastic membrane to treat age-related macular degeneration
A porous polymeric scaffold might be the answer to a sight problem that afflicts millions of older people every year, age-related macular degeneration. Researchers writing in the International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology, discuss in detail their modelling and simulation analysis of these materials, which might be used as a prosthetic for the eye's Bruch's membrane.
Age-related macular degeneration is a medical condition that occurs when the macula of the retina is damaged through oxidative processes usually associated with age but also in tobacco smokers. The macula is an oval-shaped, pigmented area at the centre of the retina so deterioration of this region leads to blurred or no vision in the centre of the visual field. Initially, there are no symptoms but vision in the afflicted person will suffer and loss of central vision occurs making it hard to recognize faces, drive, read, or perform other activities of daily life. At present, there is no treatment for macular degeneration and while not smoking is a good preventative measure, avoidance of the other main risk factors – ageing and genetics – cannot be avoided.
Bruch's membrane is the innermost layer of the choroid, the layer between the retina and the outer layer of the eye, the sclera. It is sometimes referred to as the vitreous lamina because it is a glass-like layer, some two to four micrometres thick. Changes in this membrane are often the underlying cause of the blindness seen in AMD as errant blood vessel growth occurs in this membrane in the condition. More specifically, AMD is characterized by extracellular deposits that accumulate between the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and the inner collagenous layer of Bruch's membrane, causing the death of RPE cells and subsequent loss of photoreceptor cells.
As such, materials to engineer the structure of the membrane and preclude abnormal blood vessel growth might offer a way to slow or even halt progression of the disease once diagnosed.
Susan Immanuel, Aswin Bob Ignatius, and Alagappan Muthuppalaniappan of the PSG College of Technology, in Coimbatore, Tamilnadu, India, have designed a prosthetic Bruch's membrane, which is based on porous polycaprolactone (PCL). The artificial membrane was designed using the COMSOL Multiphysics tool. Its properties, including structural integrity and fluid flow, were analysed using Brinkman's equation.
"The results show that the scaffold with higher porosity has a lower pressure gradient which is necessary for retinal pigment epithelial adherence and is mechanically stable," the team writes. "This proves that a PCL scaffold with higher porosity is a potential replacement for Bruch's membrane."
Immanuel, S., Ignatius, A.B. and Muthuppalaniappan, A. (2020) 'Modelling and simulation analysis of porous polymeric scaffold for the replacement of Bruch's membrane as a therapy for age-related macular degeneration', Int. J. Biomedical Engineering and Technology, Vol. 33, No. 3, pp.290–304.
Commerce in a time of Covid
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic caused by the recently emerged virus SARS-CoV-2 is affecting everyone's lives in many significant and disparate ways. New research published in the International Journal of Integrated Supply Management has looked at how companies are attempting to sustain their supply chains in the face of this disease.
Dmitry Ivanov of the Berlin School of Economics and Law, Germany and Ajay Das of CUNY-Baruch, New York, USA, point out how the impact of the pandemic is unlike any prior natural disaster. They explain that low-frequency-high-impact events can pose a considerable risk to supply chains and the normal functioning of society. The effects of such events ripple through economies and society. The team has now modelled this ripple effect on global supply chains in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Fundamentally, epidemics and pandemics are a special instance of low-frequency-high-impact events, the team suggests. After all, they add, in contrast to geographically centred, singular occurrence – such as a natural or industrial disaster – a pandemic is not limited to a particular region nor confined to a particular time period.
In their analysis, they consider the velocity with which the pandemic propagated, the duration of production, distribution, and market disruption, and the decline in consumer demand. They have also analysed how risk to supply chains might be mitigated in the face of this pandemic and have mapped out potential recovery paths. The creation of flexible and dynamic virtual local supply and demand structures are perhaps key to resilience. However, the team also points out that they believe this is not the end of global supply chains.
"Every crisis ends, and once the situation normalises, global supply chains would continue to offer a degree of efficiency and effectiveness that cannot be matched by domestic or regionally limited supply chains," they write.
Ivanov, D. and Das, A. (2020) 'Coronavirus (COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2) and supply chain resilience: a research note', Int. J. Integrated Supply Management, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.90-102.
The ABC of art and business
A new paradigm in business and entrepreneurial activity is emerging according to a new study. The new paradigm within cultural entrepreneurship differs considerably from the accepted model showing that there is an increased appreciation of "the arts" in business and commerce. The emergence of the so-called "artpreneur" could provide conventional business ventures with new insights.
Marilena Vecco of the Department of Accounting, Finance and Law in the Burgundy School of Business in Dijon, France, provides details of the work in the International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business. Vecco hopes to answer the question as to whether we can talk about cross-fertilisation between art and entrepreneurship.
Historically, one might say that the business world has perceived artists as merely "dreamers", only "useful" and "productive" when generating profitable artistic and aesthetic output. However, the work of painters, musicians, and many others, indeed all artists, has much greater currency in the business world and business education, especially given the advent of the digital era. There is also an increasing recognition among the educated that to recognise one's own artistic and creative spirit as well as those characteristics in others is increasingly important in terms of a rounded, well-balanced, and diverse approach to business, society, culture, and life in general.
The current paper identifies several lessons focusing on the process, skills and behaviour of artpreneurs that might be adopted by traditional entrepreneurs with a particular emphasis on sustainability. It is obvious from this work that the aesthetic dimension represents a competitive advantage for the artpreneur over the conventional business-trained entrepreneur.
Vecco, M. (2020) 'Artpreneurs' lessons to traditional business', Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Vol. 40, No. 2, pp.154-170.
Understanding water-repellent enzymes
The ability of some molecules, such as fatty or oily molecules, to repel water is known as hydrophobicity. The opposite, water attracting, is hydrophilicity. The hydrophobic force that keeps water molecules at bay is one of the most fundamental of chemical interactions, but it is not only about why oil and water do not mix, it lies at the heart of how the proteins, the molecular machinery of our cells fold into their active form and indeed how they work to keep us and every other living thing alive.
Research published in the International Journal of Computational Biology and Drug Design, has investigated the properties of two types of hydrophobic groups in six specific kinds of proteins, the biological catalysts known as enzymes. Anindita Roy Chowdhury (Chakravarty) of the GD Goenka University, in Haryana and her colleagues H.G. Nagendra of the Sir M Visvesvaraya Institute of Technology, in Bengaluru, and Alpana Seal of the University of Kalyani, in West Bengal, India, explain how the hydrophobic properties of aliphatic and aromatic groups on the amino acids that build up a protein chain then allow the chain to twist and turn and fold in on itself to form its active structure. Aliphatic groups, or residues, are essentially chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms while aromatic groups are commonly rings of carbon and hydrogen atoms joined to the amino acid structure.
The researchers had previously identified those aromatic and aliphatic residues that contribute the most and the least to hydrophobic character in six enzyme classes. In the current work, they have examined the relative contributions towards hydrophobicity of the different hydrophobic amino acids in both aromatic and aliphatic categories.
They have found that there is an inverse relationship between residues of similar hydrophobic strength both in aromatic and aliphatic categories. So, for instance, the presence of an amino acid such as tryptophan which contains an aromatic group has the inverse effect to one like phenylalanine . A similar relationship is found in pairs of amino acids with aliphatic side chains, such as isoleucine and leucine. Leucine, isoleucine, and phenylalanine are essential for creating a hydrophobic, non-polar, environment at the core of an enzyme that has to bind non-polar molecules.
"This analysis is likely to provide insight for finer analysis of the enzyme molecule," the team writes.
Roy Chowdhury, A., Nagendra, H.G. and Seal, A. (2020) 'Correlation among hydrophobic aromatic and aliphatic residues in the six enzyme classes', Int. J. Computational Biology and Drug Design, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp.209–223.
The push and pull of R&D
For many companies, their long-term success depends on research and development (R&D) as it plays a crucial role in contributing to a firm's ability to innovate and fight obsolescence. Moreover, companies in emerging countries are investing heavily in R&D in the hope that their investment will help them reach the level of their competitors in the "West". A 2016 report from a major accountancy firm revealed that Chinese firms had the most significant R&D expenditure, with some 130 Chinese companies listed in the report having invested a total of $48.6 billion in 2016.
Now, research published in the International Journal of Technology Management looks at the push and pull of investment in R&D to see which predominates. Xin Pan of the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, in Chengdu working with Xuanjin Chen and Xibao Li of Tsinghua University, in Beijing, China, suggests that there are factors that pull on R&D reducing investment and factors that push, increase costs. They conclude that push effect causes almost 9 out of every ten companies in China to overinvest in R&D and leads to an average overinvestment of 41.33% above the optimal level.
"This R&D investment inefficiency is heterogeneous in terms of state ownership structures," the team reports. "A higher percentage of state-owned firms suffer from severe overinvestment," they add. The team offers managers and corporate policymakers advice and guidance on how they might ultimately reduce R&D investment inefficiency.
Pan, X., Chen, X. and Li, X. (2020) 'The two faces of R&D investments: push and pull factors', Int. J. Technology Management, Vol. 82, No. 1, pp.26–46.
Advertising sensitive products
Internet advertising is big business. Indeed, there are several world-famous brands that have billions of users that have a simple function, such as web search or social networking on which multi-billion dollar advertising revenues hinge. Now, there are legitimate and worthy products that some people might consider "offensive" or to perhaps be more precise associated with a sensitive or taboo subject in some way, such as personal hygiene and health products. So, how do corporate marketing departments advertise such products without upsetting the wider community?
Writing in the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising, a team from Thailand and the USA has considered this issue. Pakakorn Rakrachakarn and Thittapong Daengrasmisopon of the Stamford International University, Bangkok, and George Moschis of Georgia State University and Mahidol University, Bangkok, discuss the level of negative response to advertising of such products.
The team has tested a standard, 4 × 4 factorial design online advertisement to see how internet users respond. The advertisements came in two forms – ones that used a conventional photographic form and the other that used a drawing, cartoon, instead.
"The findings indicate that for the main effects of online banner advertising designs, cartoon advertisements (drawings) have a less favourable effect on attitude toward the brand when it is non-cartoon (photographs), regardless of product type (offensive or non-offensive)," the team reports. They add that there is no interaction effect between advertisement design and product types on consumer response, even though cartoon advertisements used in sensitive product advertising gave a less favourable attitude toward the product than non-cartoon advertisements.
The main conclusion seems to be that these kinds of products can generate negative responses when compared with more everyday products, that much is perhaps obvious. However, the use of cartoons instead of photographs in advertising controversial and sensitive products has an even more detrimental effect on perception. Marketing executives should, the team suggests, take their findings into account in designing future campaigns for putatively taboo products.
Rakrachakarn, P., Moschis, G.P. and Daengrasmisopon, T. (2020) 'Internet advertising of offensive products: the effects of cartoons on adult consumer attitudes', Int. J. Internet Marketing and Advertising, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp.152–167.
Information and telecommunications technology (ICT) has an important role to play in sustaining the quality of life of an aging population. A study published in the International Journal of Innovation and Learning has investigated the impact of ICT, from both the software and hardware perspective, on older people in the Czech Republic. The findings suggest that older men and women use the internet equally and that gender is not a determining factor in whether they do or not.
Ivana Simonova of the University of Jan Evangelista Purkyne in Usti nad Labem and colleagues Petra Poulova, Pavel Prazak, and Blanka Klimova of the University of Hradec Kralove found that older generally use the tools available to them for socialising (communication and sharing images), gaining information (web search and news) and electronic services (banking and shopping). This perhaps reflects the fact that older people are generally no different from younger people who use ICT for the same reasons, perhaps with the addition of employment applications.
The team also found that some older people lack the requisite ICT skills for achieving their goals efficiently. There is also an issue of confidence and training would help them overcome any social or psychological barriers that may well exist. There is also a need to teach older users how to protect themselves from criminals and other online fraudsters, phishers, and scammers. As such, there is a need for training in the use of ICT for older people as well as in teaching them what personal or private information might be collected "legitimately" by the applications and devices they use or harvested illicitly by criminals.
The team concludes that understanding older ICT user behaviour and developing appropriate training should look at seniors as a group but divide them their special and health needs, cognitive function, and previous experience.
Simonova, I., Poulova, P., Prazak, P. and Klimova, B. (2020) 'Older adults as the internet users: age and gender approach', Int. J. Innovation and Learning, Vol. 27, No. 4, pp.467–482.
Synthetic signatures and automatic autographs
One's signature, or autograph if one is famous, is a unique identifier for many people. It is used to sign documents from business contracts, cheques, a marriage license and everything in between. However, for those whose native "pen", as opposed to tongue, is not based in an alphabet that can be written cursively, wherein letters are joined or ligatured in freehand, a signature is often off the cards for them.
Autographic for the people
Researchers from Korea and Japan have now developed a computer application that can generate a unique cursive signature for users whose written words is not based on an alphabet and who may not know how best to utilise such alphabets in the written word. Writing in the International Journal of Computer Applications in Technology, Jungpil Shin, Md Abdur Rahim, and Md Rashedul Islam of the The University of Aizu, in Fukushima, Japan, and Keun Soo Yun of Ulsan College, in South Korea, have used a cubic Bezier curve for the cursive connections between letters, the ligatures, and an affine transformation to modify the input characters to make them appear as if they have been written by a native-writer of the English alphabet. The system allows for modifications in the slant, scale, space between the characters, and line emphasis, so that a unique signature might be generated.
Automatic for the pencil
Once the synthetic signature has been generated, the software generates an animated tutorial video to show the putative user of that signature how to create it with pen on paper so that they might use it in the real-world to sign documents.
Of course, the generation of a unique signature using this technology might have wider application online for any user regardless of their written language. The security associated with the parameters used to generate each signature would need to be guaranteed so that it could not be reproduced by a third party but hashing the data string to encrypt it and preclude its duplication without the legitimate user's password would be possible. It might even be that digital signatures of this sort might exploit the blockchain technology usually associated with digital currencies.
Shin, J., Rahim, M.A., Islam, M.R. and Yun, K.S. (2020) 'A novel approach of cursive signature generation for personal identity', Int. J. Computer Applications in Technology, Vol. 62, No. 4, pp.384–394.
Encrypting images with chaos
Research published in the International Journal of Information and Computer Security details a way to encode an image using a chaotic cryptosystem that makes it harder for someone to illicitly break the encryption by boosting the size of the key space to 180 bits. The system, its authors write, is both robust and highly efficient based on their key space, statistical, and sensitivity analyses.
Assia Merzoug of the Laboratory of Coding and Security of Information at the University Batna and Adda Ali-Pacha and Naima Hadj-Said of the Laboratory of Coding and Security of Information at the University of Oran of Sciences and Technology in Algeria, explain how information security is primarily based on calculation algorithms. The level of security depends on the number of binary digits, bits, used by the system to define the cryptographic key that is employed by legitimate users to unlock the encryption. Too few bits in the key make it easier for a third party to crack the code. Conversely, if the key is too complex, i.e. a very high number of bits then it will require a lot of computer power from legitimate users on both sides to encrypt and decrypt the information.
One way around this need for inordinate computer resources for simple encryption might involve exploiting chaos theory, so that a complex key coding the information with an adequate number of bits might be generated that is difficult to crack. The team has brought together the Hénon attractor and a logistics map from chaos theory to construction their cryptosystem.
The chaotic data can be spliced into a normal image file to produce an encrypted image that will be very difficult to crack. Indeed, the test image once encrypted looks like simple noise to the casual observed with a flat histogram of pixel values. The whole process uses a very low level of computing resources but nevertheless produces an encrypted image this is very difficult to crack with a bruteforce attack.
Merzoug, A., Ali-Pacha, A. and Hadj-Said, N. (2020) 'New chaotic cryptosystem for the image encryption', Int. J. Information and Computer Security, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp.450–463.
Teamwork at the global level
A team leader's emotional intelligence can make all the difference when it comes to conflict resolution. Writing in the International Journal of Information Systems and Change Management, a team from China and Pakistan discuss case studies of five conflict-handling styles in handling interpersonal conflicts. They undertook a statistical analysis of 213 questionnaires completed by 213 of 300 team leaders surveyed. The focus of the work being in what the researchers refer to as a non-western context adds useful insight to the literature in this area.
Many organisations operate on a global scale and within those organisations, employees are considered an asset with team players especially valued. Of course, with team players, one usually needs team leaders to allow working groups to function most effectively, although there are example of non-heirarchical working groups. One of the benefits of team working is that each player brings different working styles and skills to the team and offers alternative perspectives to those that might arise from a top-down approach to working.
Unfortunately, that also brings with it an increased opportunity for interpersonal conflict where one team member's creative perspective does not coincide with the approach of another player in terms of their own attitudes and methods. This can be a positive characteristic of the team, allowing debate to flourish and the optimal solution to a problem to perhaps emerge in the end. However, unchecked conflict might escalate naturally and lead to complex problems that might never be resolved without leadership intervention.
The team's findings can help guide managers and team leaders in handling interpersonal conflict and particularly conflicts that arise as team members from across the globe are relocated to centres, often in different countries where the organisation is based.
Tanveer, Y., Tariq, A., Akram, U. and Bilal, M. (2019) 'Tactics of handling interpersonal conflict through emotional intelligence', Int. J. Information Systems and Change Management, Vol. 11, Nos. 3/4, pp.211–227.
Device to device power saving
When devices communicate they are usually configured to save power by first choosing an appropriate channel, connecting to each other, and then carrying out power control according to the quality of service (QoS) requirements of each device. However, after they have connected the power requirements of each device have usually dropped or at the very least change and so they are essentially not optimised for efficiency. Research published in the International Journal of Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing shows how channel and power reallocations can be performed over several iterations until transmission power drops below a threshold to reduce overall power consumption.
Chih-Shun Hsu of the Department of Information Management at Shih Hsin University, in Taipei, Taiwan, discusses the trade-off among transmission power, throughput, and computation costs based on extensive simulations. He suggests that his simulation results justify the energy efficiency of the proposed refining schemes. The scheme may well allow 5G systems to run more effectively as part of the infrastructure of the 5G network will be to utilise unlicensed bandwidth between devices rather than carrying all packets of information as would be normal across the licensed cellular network.
Three power refining protocols are proposed in the paper: refining scheme with power control (RPC), the refining scheme with channel reallocation (RCR), and the refining scheme hybrid channel reallocation and power control (RCRPC). "All the three refining schemes can greatly reduce the total transmission power and enhance the transmission power efficiency of the scheme with no refining phase," Hsu explains. He adds that of the three refining schemes, the RPC scheme can achieve the highest total throughput with the lowest computation time, the RCR scheme can achieve the lowest total transmission power with the highest computation time, and the RCRPC scheme can achieve a balanced result such that the total throughput of the RCRPC scheme is slightly lower than that of the RPC scheme and the total transmission power is slightly higher than that of the RCR scheme."
Hsu, C-S. (2020) 'Refining channel and power allocation for green device-to-device communications', Int. J. Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp.11–24.
Extending Nucleic Acid Memory (NAM)
Humanity is creating huge amounts of data every day, billions of emails and social media updates, new websites, documents, images, and scientific and commercial big data amounting to petabytes of storage needs and beyond. It is well recognised that nucleic acids, the RNA and DNA that encode the proteins needed to build living things are seemingly quite efficient in storing information and so taking inspiration from this realm, a team from India writes in the International Journal of Nano and Biomaterials how extended nucleic acid memory (NAM) might be the future of data storage technology.
By comparison, a computer hard disk has an information storage capacity of 10 to the 13 bits of data per cubic centimetre, that's about 1.25 terabytes. NAM has the potential to store a million times that amount in the same volume, 1,250,000 terabytes, or 1250 petabytes, 1.25 exabytes. If we consider the information contained in the "big four" of the internet – Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook – that is the sum of all the data they have storable in a single cubic centimetre of NAM.
Saptarshi Biswas of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, at the Meghnad Saha Institute of Technology, in Kolkata, India, and colleagues Subhrapratim Nath, Jamuna Kanta Sing, and Subir Kumar Sarkar of Jadavpur University have now developed a new encoding approach allowing them to talk of extended NAM. Their method efficiently maps binary data on to a hybrid system of standard as well as using non-standard genetic nucleotides (in addition to the familiar G, A, T, and C (guanosine, adenosine, thymine, and cytosine, of DNA) to achieve a higher data capacity. The natural pairing up of the GATC bases in DNA is what gives us the double-helix and allows information to be encoded for the production of proteins whether in a fungus, a bacterium, a rose, or a human being.
The team has added two new non-standard nucleotides, to give them additional pairings Ds-Px (thienylimidazopyridine and a nitropropynylpyrrole) and Im-Na (an imidazopyrimidine and a naphthyridine). These are very stable units to complement the pairings of A-T and C-G in a natural nucleic acid. They are also highly selective in such a molecule, specifically DNA. This could potentially take the hypothetical storage capacity of that single cubic centimetre of NAM to several times the 1.25 exabyte value mentioned above. Indeed, the team writes that extended RAM would have a capacity of more than 630 exabytes per gram of DNA, which assuming DNA has a density of 1.7 grams per cubic centimetre is more more than 370 exabytes per cubic centimetre of extended NAM. that's almost 300 times the total information held by the big four of the internet today.
Biswas, S., Nath, S., Sing, J.K. and Sarkar, S.K. (2020) 'Extended nucleic acid memory as the future of data storage technology', Int. J. Nano and Biomaterials, Vol. 9, Nos. 1/2, pp.2–17.
The true cost of R&D
An analysis of case studies of research and development intensive companies published in the International Journal of Technology Management reveals that companies do not necessarily perceive R&D as a cost, per se. The international team reports and assesses the different strategies companies can employ to respond to growing research costs. Because on the bottom line, R&D is a cost.
Their work shows that companies do see the expense of R&D as a secondary factor. "The main drivers of research investments are based on the expected value of innovations, risk and strategic competence development, and anticipating uncertainty concerning the kind of research that might be needed in the future," the team writes.
Karl-Heinz Leitner of the Center for Innovation Systems and Policy, at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, in Vienna and the Center for Entrepreneurship and Applied Business Studies at the University of Graz, also in Austria, and colleagues in Italy, The Netherlands, and the USA, emphasise that while there is a large body of research literature on studying the different strategies that might be used to exploit R&D investments, researchers actually know little about the relative importance of controlling costs. Their analysis of case studies of European and US firms that are R&D intensive reveals much about how R&D costs are perceived.
They found that "value creation" is the predominant emphasis of R&D managers and cost does not appear to be a key factor in directing and managing R&D nor in their response to growing R&D costs. However, there is no binary decision to be made between cost control and value creation. They conclude that it is important for R&D managers to develop dynamic capabilities and business models that can adjust the company's R&D agenda to the changing technological, market and regulatory environment.
Leitner, K-H., Poti, B.M., Wintjes, R.J.M. and Youtie, J. (2020) 'How companies respond to growing research costs: cost control or value creation?', Int. J. Technology Management, Vol. 82, No. 1, pp.1–25.
Tightening up facial biometrics
Facial biometrics for security applications is an important modern technology. Unfortunately, there is the possibility of "spoofing" a person's face to the sensor or detection system through the use of a photograph or even video presented to the security system. A team from China has now developed a counter-measure that could preclude face spoofing and make such biometric security systems far less prone to abuse. The team reports details in the International Journal of Computational Science and Engineering.
Fei Gu, Zhihua Xia, Jianwei Fei, Chengsheng Yuan, and Qiang Zhang of Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, explain how anti-spoofing technology usually looks to illumination differences, colour differences, or textures differences to spot issues with the presented face to determine whether or not the face is a photo or video rather than a live human in front of the security camera. However, even these approaches are vulnerable.
In order to make a stronger anti-spoofing system, the team has proposed a method based on various feature maps and convolution neural networks for photo and video replay attacks. They explain that facial contour and specularly reflected features are taken into account when verifying a face so that depth and width can be determined, aspects of a living face that are not present in a photograph. Their proof of principle shows remarkable performance against multiple datasets and shows that the method can defend not only photo attack, but also video replay attack with a very low error rate.
Gu, F., Xia, Z., Fei, J., Yuan, C. and Zhang, Q. (2020) 'Face spoof detection using feature map superposition and CNN', Int. J. Computational Science and Engineering, Vol. 22, Nos. 2/3, pp.355–363.
The rules surrounding information have changed with the ongoing development of the digital world. Information has become accessible to almost everyone around the world, any time of the day or night, at the touch of a mobile phone screen or the click of a mouse.
Writing in the International Journal of Big Data Intelligence, a team from Italy, reiterates this point and points out that at this stage in the evolution of those rules there are now a handful of central hubs providing almost all of the information that the vast majority of the population accesses: the major search engines, such as Google and Baidu, the big social media networks, Facebook and Twitters, and a few other repositories, such as Wikipedia and their more local equivalents in Russia, China, and other parts of the world that have certain barriers to globalization.
Massimo Marchior and Enrico Bonetti Vieno of the University of Padua, explain how a system like Wikipedia has many pros but also various cons. It has been enormously successful as a dynamic, online alternative to conventional encyclopedia. However, the distributed nature of its content, sources, and editors, also gives rise to some problems. Fundamentally, the team writes "everybody can contribute and so also manipulate information in a way that is practically invisible to the general public."
They describe the "Negapedia" system, which is an online public service that offers a more complete picture of the underlying layers of Wikipedia. It involves big data analysis and the need to overcome information overload, but it also offers novel insights into the important issue of Wikipedia categorisation, analysing the problem of presenting general users with easy and meaningful category information. Negapedia can, the team reports, reveal the social turbulence that underlies much of the content and the editorial battles that take place, particularly surrounding controversial subjects, such as politics, religion, conspiracy theories, and activism and advocacy.
An additional point of interest that emerges from this study is the connection between controversial information and the level of interest in that subject matter. "We found out that there is in fact correlation between topics of high interest to users and conflict, thus showing that controversy seems to be tightly linked with popularity." They add that perhaps one aspects drives the other. "To some extent, controversy (negativity) can be seen as a natural phenomenon arising from people interest," they add.
Marchiori, M. and Vieno, E.B. (2020) 'To beat or not to beat: uncovering the world social battles with Wikipedia', Int. J. Big Data Intelligence, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp.110–125.
Cockle shells picked to treat dog cancer
The calcium mineral from which many shellfish, such as cockles, make their shells can be used to form nanoparticles. These nanoparticles can then be "loaded" with small drug molecules, such as anticancer drugs.
Writing in the International Journal of Nanotechnology a team from Malaysia and Nigeria explains how nanoparticles made from the cockleshell material calcium carbonate aragonite can be used to carry the anticancer drug doxorubicin. These drug-loaded nanoparticles have been used to successfully treat dogs with solid tumours.
Treating solid tumours is problematic in cancer therapy because the malignant mass is often inaccessible to conventional anticancer drugs. High doses are needed to attack the tumour, but this comes at a price in terms of side-effects, such as damage to the heart with doxorubicin, for instance. Finding ways to target the tumour with the drug more directly would mean a lower dose could be used and still have the same effect but without the cardiotoxicity.
Cockle shell-derived calcium carbonate has been shown to have potential as a drug-delivery agent by using it to fabricate nanoparticles to carry the drug. The present team has now carried out a prospective single centre, non-blind open clinical trial of repeated doses of the nanocomposite on dogs with solid tumours in their bones over the course of fifteen weeks.
The team reports no major adverse effects and success was seen in treating bone cancer in the dogs with great improvement in the quality of life of the animals.
Danmaigoro, A., Selvarajah, G.T., Mohd Noor, M.H., Mahmud, R., Ahmed, H., Abubakar, M.Z. (2019) 'Targeted delivery of doxorubicin-loaded cockle shell-derived CaCO3 aragonite nanoparticles on dogs with solid tumours', Int.J.Nanotechnol., Vol 16, Nos. 11/12, pp. 730-749.
Is honey as sweet by another name?
Can direct advertising work for leading brands in an emerging market such as India. The question is answered with respect to the marketing of honey in the International Journal of Comparative Management.
R.K. Srivastava of the University of Mumbai and his team have measured the impact of direct comparative advertisements in eastern culture for honey, a low-involvement product (compared to something like a readymeal). The study used the Elaboration Likelihood Model to explain why Patanjali brand honey has been so much more successful than others and how religious belief and gender affect buying behaviour.
The paper explains that when a product or a brand is contrasted with another brand in an advertisement to show the other brand to be inferior, this is commonly referred to as comparative advertising. Of course, the advertisers tread a thin line between promoting their product as superior and defaming the rival manufacturers. Nevertheless, comparative advertising in the US has been shown to be more effective than standard advertisements in generating attention, message processing, brand awareness, favourable sponsor brand attitudes, and purchase intentions.
Of course, it is important for companies to know whether that relative success might apply in other markets, where gender, religion, class, and other factors may still play a potent role in nudging consumers to a particular brand and not another. Fundamentally, if comparative advertising is shown to be effective, then it might open market inroads for challenger brands in a marketplace essentially monopolised by the bigger players.
Having demonstrated that gender and religion can affect perception of honey brands, the team hopes to now extend their study to other demographic factors such as income, ethnicity, education, occupation, body weight, health condition, and habits and to other commodities.
Srivastava, R.K. (2020) 'Will direct comparative advertising works for a leading brand? A study of the honey market', Int. J. Comparative Management, Vol. 3, Nos. 1/2, pp.125–141.
Gender in the boardroom
Christina Öberg of the School of Business at Örebro University in Sweden has investigated the "shape" of female representation in the corporate boardroom. Her findings suggest that representation may not be the issue per se when it comes to gender equality at the highest level in management but rather how well "nested" female board members are and the perception of their roles and rank on the board and the effect of being on more than one board and how those connections are interlocked.
Writing in the International Journal of Comparative Management, Öberg has found that the power of women on boards varies with various different factors. Among those are the existence of few or many interlocks on the board, the number of representations held by the female board member, the fragmented or large network that the female board member is part of, and whether the network consists of direct or indirect links.
Öberg points out that the gender diversity debate has led to a new focus on the question of female board representation. In some countries, this focus has led to welcome legislation. The important point is that for too long representation on corporate boards has not reflected society's gender composition nor looked to equality. This new work contributes to research on gender diversity by introducing relative power as an important concept related to interlocks on the board and to the shape of interlock networks. There are implications for ensuring that boards represent gender diversity and have equality and also for how directors might benefit from this and be guided by such research in the appointment of board members.
Öberg, C. (2020) 'The shape of female board representation', Int. J. Comparative Management, Vol. 3, Nos. 1/2, pp.53–72.
Modelling the spread of COVID-19
New research suggests that a different approach to modelling the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2, could be beneficial for developing new strategies for coping with the ongoing global pandemic. Details are reported in the International Journal of Simulation and Process Modelling.
Shan Bai of the Karlsruhe Institut für Technologie (KIT) in Germany has evaluated how well two approaches to epidemiological modelling – a system of first-order ordinary differential equations (ODEs) and spatial agent-based model (ABM) – work in the face of different interventions. She explains that specific intervention strategies are introduced and the effectiveness of the strategies can be assessed by comparing the results of the models with or without these strategies.
It is now relatively well-known that a proportion of people carrying the virus might have mild symptoms or be apparently asymptomatic but nevertheless shed viral particles in their bodily fluids, specifically saliva and mucus from the respiratory tract. These particles may enter the respiratory tract of other people through various physical mechanisms, such as exposure to a sneeze or cough from the infected party, simply being in close proximity and breathing the same air or touching surfaces that on which infectious droplets have landed followed by transfer from hand to face and thus the eyes, nose or mouth.
The joint mantras of stay socially distanced from other people, do not touch your face, and wash your hands thoroughly and frequently remain good advice in the face of this health crisis. Moreover, given the nature of Bai's analysis of the situation, she says that "It is thus very important to assess the potential for sustained transmission, taking such infected people into account, in order to thoroughly understand the transmission dynamics of the infection and evaluate the effectiveness of control measures." This is where solid epidemiological modelling comes into play especially as new knowledge about this emergent virus and the complex disease it causes is obtained.
The spatial ABM integrates several new features to the epidemic models compared to the ODEs-based model, Bai adds. "The implementation of spatial ABM brings novel features to the epidemics modelling: new states being easily incorporated; the parameter illustrating the moving willingness of people; and sub-models for hospital beds to reflect demands of medical resources," Bai adds. The results suggest that the flexible nature of ABM make it a useful addition to the toolset of epidemic simulation models.
Bai, S. (2020) 'Simulations of COVID-19 spread by spatial agent-based model and ordinary differential equations', Int. J. Simulation and Process Modelling, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp.268–277.
Optimising emergency routes
Research published in the International Journal of Computational Science and Engineering, investigates how optimal routes might be calculated for emergency vehicles responding to a shout.
Jiao Yao, Yaxuan Dai,and Yiling Ni of the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, Jin Wang Changsha University of Science and Technology, both in China, and Jing Zhao of Delft University of Technology, in The Netherlands, look at this issue of queing traffic and how it impedes the movement of emergency vehicles.
The team lists the various types of vehicle they are considering: ambulances, natural disaster rescue vehicles, fire trucks, police vehicles, engineering rescue vehicles, municipal repair vehicles, traffic accident vehicle rescue equipment, evacuation vehicles, and emergency rescue vehicles. They point out that drivers of these vehicles cannot judge the optimal route in real-time as a situation develops and normal and additional traffic moves around the road systems they are attempting to circumnavigate.
The team has simulated three major situations that might unfold in an emergency situation and used a computer to devise a way to work out the more optimal routes that would allow the emergency vehicles to reach the scene quicker. In one situation, their approach gives a time saving of 22.2% but in another they can actually half the time in transit. They ultimately come to the conclusion the traffic lights used only in emergencies are essential to allow vehicles to breach the queues safely and reach the emergency in a timely manner.
Yao, J., Dai, Y., Ni, Y., Wang, J. and Zhao, J. (2020) 'Deep characteristics analysis on travel time of emergency traffic', Int. J. Computational Science and Engineering, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp.162–169.
Making a wonder material more wonderful
Graphene is a form of the chemical element carbon. Well-known forms of carbon include the world's hardest material, diamond, and the soft black material known as the "lead" in a pencil, which is graphite. Graphite can be visualized as layers of carbon atoms stacked together in sheets with each sheet resembling a hexagonally woven chicken wire fence or a very thin honeycomb. Graphene is to all intents and purposes a single sheet from one of those stacks. It is thus one of the thinnest materials known, an atomic monolayer of carbon atoms.
It has become the focus of much research in recent years with its potential to weave the fabric of a future of molecular electronics devices because of its unique chemical, optical, and electronic properties.
Now, writing in the International Journal of Biomedical Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, a team from Malaysia reports on advances in how graphene sheets might be modified for different applications by attaching different chemical groups to the sheets. Geoffrey Ijeomah and Fahmi Samsuri of the Universiti Malaysia Pahang, Felix Obite of the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, and Mohamad Adzhar Md Zawawi of the Universiti Sains Malaysia, discuss the chemical functionalization of graphene with a view to its development as sensor materials for environmental monitoring, biomedical research, and medical diagnostics as well as in other areas.
An important conclusion from their review is that among the fundamental synthetic methods for the fabrication of graphene, such as chemical vapour deposition, mechanical exfoliation, reduction of graphite oxide, thermal deposition, and unzipping carbon nanotubes are sensitive to the exact conditions used and that affects the reproducibility when functional, chemical groups, are attached to the graphene layers.
"An improved understanding of the workings of graphene at the molecular level will ultimately advance graphene surface engineering and its applications in sensor development and technology," the team concludes.
Ijeomah, G., Samsuri, F., Obite, F. and Zawawi, M.A.M. (2020) 'Recent advances in chemical functionalisation of graphene and sensing applications', Int. J. Biomedical Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Vol. 4, Nos. 1/2, pp.1–48.
People can usually make a good guess at a person's age by looking at their face and assessing the smoothness or otherwise of their skin, the general condition of the skin, jowls, and other features. Face recognition software, on the other hand, can recognise a face with varying degrees of success based on the training data used by estimating age has not yet become a trivial computational matter. Part of the problem is that faces change from moment to moment as we show our emotions through laughter, frowns, sadness, disgust, and other facial expressions.
Now, a team from India, writing in the International Journal of Intelligent Systems Technologies and Applications, describes a new approach to age estimation that fuses local and global features in an image of a person's face to look through the facial expression to estimate a person's age.
Subhash Chand Agrawal, Anand Singh Jalal, and Rajesh Kumar Tripathi of the GLA University, Mathura, explain how they use the Viola-Jones algorithm to pick out a face from any given photograph. It then partitions the face into 16 by 16 non-overlapping blocks and applies a grey-level co-occurrence matrix to these blocks. This then allows the system to calculate four facial parts – eyes, forehead, left and right cheek – from the facial image. The algorithm then examines the detail in these blocks according to region examined and compares it with similar blocks from a training set of faces where the age of the person in the photograph was already known.
"Our experimental results show that fusion of local and global features performs better than existing approaches," the team writes. Their tests were able to estimate a person's age in a photo to within a mean absolute error of 6.31 years for a neutral expression and at similar values for angry. For happy, sad, disgusted, and surprised the errors were slightly higher although generally better than the state-of-the-art algorithms against which they tested their approach.
Aside from refining the system, they will also next attempt to apply it to photographs with complicated backgrounds and to faces of different ethnicities.
Agrawal, S.C., Jalal, A.S. and Tripathi, R.K. (2020) 'Local and global features fusion to estimate expression invariant human age', Int. J. Intelligent Systems Technologies and Applications, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp.155–171.
Cooking Raspberry Pi for the smart home
Researchers in India describe the potential of the low-cost Raspberry Pi computer to be used as a control system for home automation using the so-called Internet of Things. They outline details in the International Journal of Advanced Intelligence Paradigms.
Vikash Yadav of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the ABES Engineering College, in Ghaziabad, Deepak Kumar Mishra, Prathmesh Singh, and Priytosh Kumar Tripathi of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, at the GL Bajaj Institute of Technology and Management, in Greater Noida, demonstrate specifically how a Raspberry Pi Zero W can be used to connect net-enabled domestic appliances and other smart electronic devices in the home or even the workplace so that they can be monitored and controlled from a location anywhere in the world with internet access.
Home automation systems seek to improve our quality of life and remove the need for human intervention in many menial everyday tasks. Sensors, actuators, controllers, and devices exist that one might refer to as "smart" or "internet-enabled", these are commonly referred to as the Internet of Things, the IoT, and an inexpensive and versatile computer also connected to the internet can be used to monitor and control them all, acting as a connection point within the home for the user to access from outside. The team's approach, they report, offers a reliable, scalable and highly cost-efficient way to enable home automation. Moreover, the same approach might be used to automate equipment, heating, lighting and other systems in the home and in the workplace.
Yadav, V., Mishra, D.K., Singh, P. and Tripathi, P.K. (2020) 'Home automation system using Raspberry Pi Zero W', Int. J. Advanced Intelligence Paradigms, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp.216–226.
An international team from Bahrain, Estonia, Germany, and Hungary has looked at the notion of unlearning in the face of new paradigms, understanding and knowledge.
Information and communication technology (ICT) has changed the way we work and in the current crises of climate change, pollution, and emergent disease is more important than ever. Workers, students, and the populus in general must learn new skills and develop new capacity to utilise the ICT of the day as it evolves rapidly. Critically, this is where forgetting the old ways, or unlearning redundant and obsolete knowledge and skills becomes important so that the culture of old technology is not conflated and confused with the new.
Susanne Durst of the Department of Business Administration in the School of Business and Governance at Tallinn University of Technology, in Estonia, Ilka of the Heinze School of Management and Organizational Science at Kaposvár University, in Hungary, Thomas Henschel of the Business School at the Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin, Germany, and Nishad Nawaz of the College of Business Administration at Kingdom University in Bahrain discuss the concepts and provide a literature review of unlearning in the International Journal of Business and Globalisation.
"Unlearning of old knowledge, practices, and routines may be key to success. It is argued that an unwillingness or inability to unlearn old knowledge can hamper creativity and innovation in organisations when employees are unwilling to view new knowledge that they do not possess or control as useful or applicable," the team writes.
Their review reveals gaps in the business knowledge of unlearning. When looking both at the individual as well as organisational levels, there is a clear call for the application of more sophisticated research methods to allow for triangulation, they report. The research findings are practical for entrepreneurs and managers but also highlight where more research might be done to create a more coherent literature in this area and provide guidance for those entrepeneurs and managers, as well as others.
Durst, S., Heinze, I., Henschel, T. and Nawaz, N. (2020) 'Unlearning: a systematic literature review', Int. J. Business and Globalisation, Vol. 24, No. 4, pp.472–495.
For Peat's sake
Low wetlands known as fens, store huge amounts of organic matter, usually in the form of peat, which is old, decomposed vegetable matter. Drained, agricultural fenland is thus of great importance in terms of growing crops and also fens in general from the perspective of the organic carbon biogeochemical cycle. Work published in the International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology has looked at the chemical characterization of the vast range of humic acids present in fenland peat.
Janis Krumins, Maris Klavins, and Raimonds Krukovskis of the Department of the Environmental Science in the Faculty of Geography and Earth Sciences at the University of Latvia, in Riga, Latvia, explain how humic acids form the major part of fen peat organic matter. "They are also the most refractory and recalcitrant natural substances to degradation," the team writes, "and thus they contain essential information regarding mire and peat development over large periods of time as well as the organic carbon biogeochemical cycle."
The team has compared the properties of humic acids isolated from different fen peats of varied botanical compositions and origins. They hope to understand better the humification process that leads to the formation of peat. "The formation of humic acids of varied origins shows similarities; however, at the same time, differences can be found in the further development of humic acids, depending on the environment in which they are present," the team reports.
At a time, when the importance of fenland and peat conservation are high on the environmental agenda, the work could guide the use of this invaluable resource in a less potentially malignant way. "Fen peat is a potential source for humic acid extraction on an industrial scale; however, geological settings and peat botanical composition of a potential excavation site must be evaluated in high detail in future studies," the team writes. The better a picture we have of the chemical composition of peat, the easier it will be to utilize this limited resource more wisely.
Krumins, J., Klavins, M. and Krukovskis, R. (2020) 'Characterisation of humic acids in fen peat', Int. J. Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp.74-89.
Acclimatising in a new country? There's an app for that
Social networking applications have taken their place in almost all parts of our lives. Writing in the International Journal of Mobile Communications, researchers reveal how immigrant children, adolescents, and young adults are using these apps, which include WhatsApp and Facebook, to maintain contact with the family and friends they have left behind in relocating to a new country.
Gila Cohen Zilka of Bar-Ilan University, in Ramat Gan, Israel, has looked specifically at how youngsters are using these apps to help them acclimatize in Israel as their new home. The research surveyed 551 participants of whom 110 were also interviewed directly. Interviewees shared both positive and negative feelings and experiences.
Fundamentally, writes Cohen Zilka, "participants feel that communication alleviates the sense of longing, enables intimate discourse, sentiment sharing, release of anger, and relief of frustration." She points out that the use of web applications encourages significant interaction with those who remained in the country of origin, but conversely, to a certain extent, causes social isolation in the new country.
The study found that many young immigrants to Israel did not feel as if they had been uprooted from one country and placed rootless in a new land, but rather that they still had roots in the country of origin and were already putting down new roots in their new home. "The use of internet applications for communication made them happy and gave them a sense of relief in the process of acclimatisation in the new country," the team reports.
Zilka, G.C. (2020) 'Use of social networking applications by immigrant children, adolescents, and young adults to maintain contact with those who remained in the country of origin: usage characteristics and habits', Int. J. Mobile Communications, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp.257–272.
Reducing the net risk to children
Keeping children safe online should be a major priority of internet providers, content creators, and the authorities. Writing in the International Journal of Web Based Communities, a team from India has surveyed international efforts.
To overcome online risks, we need to understand the characteristics of the online ecosystem and to learn how to cope once risks are faced. The online ecosystem involves different stakeholders such as service providers, the physical network, online users being connected, social media sites and tools and technology, the team reports. "Elimination of online risks is difficult," they have found, "but the intensity of risks can be reduced."
Dittin Andrews of the Center for Development of Advanced Computing, in Electronics City, Bangalore, worked with Sreejith Alathur and Naganna Chetty of the National Institute of Technology Karnataka, in Surathkal, Mangalore, on the survey.
With an increase in the availability of rich content over the internet, information and communication technology (ICT) has brought many benefits to users of all ages around the world," the team writes. ICT is transforming societies and economies. It has also attracted children to its benefits, with many regularly accessing social networking sites, playing video games, and sharing videos, for instance. With any positive benefit, there is always a negative, however, and access to the boundless resources of the online world brings with it risks to vulnerable young people. This might be through exposure to inappropriate materials, exploitation through malware or social engineering, cyber-bullying, and even the risk of physical and mental harm when the online world spills into their offline lives.
"International bodies are providing assistance to children online with different tools, technologies, regulations, legal protections, safety resources, education, training, guidance, safety measures, crime reporting system, and child-friendly search engines," the team writes. However, much remains to be done to address the countless risks to which children are exposed online.
Andrews, D., Alathur, S. and Chetty, N. (2020) 'International efforts for children online safety: a survey', Int. J. Web Based Communities, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp.123–133.
Parental alcohol impact on children
A paper published in the International Journal of Behavioural and Healthcare Research looks at the link between parental alcohol consumption and the mental wellbeing of children in the household. Nazli Ezgi Sidal and Tekin Kose of the Department of Economics, at TED University, in Ankara, Turkey, have taken their home country as a case study on this issue. They use data from the Turkey Health Survey of 2016, which is conducted by the Turkish Statistical Institute.
In their analysis, the team looked for correlations between mental deficiency, learning disability, attention deficit, late talking, and behavioural issues in children within a household where the parents consume alcohol. They found that there is a negative association with the children's mental wellbeing status and alcohol consumption. Additionally, the self-assessed health status of mothers was positively correlated with children's mental health. The greater the alcohol use in mothers, the more likely were offspring to have problems.
It is well-known that parental behaviour can have a significant impact on children's life outcomes such as health status and educational performance. That said, many other factors are involved. Smoking and alcohol use, for example, can have an impact on the parents' health as well as direct and indirect effects on offspring.
"Policymakers should consider giving priorities in enhancing life and health conditions of parents in Turkey to improve life outcomes of children," the team suggests. They add that "Improvements in health literacy of parents and specifically health statuses of mothers may significantly contribute children's life outcomes."
Sidal, N.E. and Kose, T. (2019) 'Parental alcohol use and children's mental health: the case of Turkey', Int. J. Behavioural and Healthcare Research, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp.65–76.
Internet addiction and quality of life
Quality of life is an ancient concept dating back to at least Aristotle, although the philosopher equated a good life or doing tasks well with happiness, rather than what we refer to today as quality of life. There is much talk of mental health and wellbeing today and the purported problems of neuroticism and addictive behaviour. Nowhere does this seem to be more sharply in relief than when we talk of internet addiction and how this might be modulated by the neurotic type personality and be detrimental to quality of life.
Writing in the International Journal of Behavioural and Healthcare Research, a team from Iran discusses exactly how so-called internet addiction can have an effect on people of a neurotic disposition and their quality of life. Fundamentally, their study shows that neuroticism as a personality trait can lead to avoidance of everyday life as a coping mechanism and this is commonly manifest in dependency and addiction to the internet and perhaps more obviously online social media.
"Our results indicate that those [students] who score high in neuroticism are more prone to move towards addictive behaviour such as internet addiction," the team writes. This corroborates earlier independent work and also resinforces the idea that neuroticism is usually accompanied by an avoidance of face to face communication with other people. The internet and online social media lend themselves heavily to this behaviour. The team adds that overuse of the technology required to engage with the internet – computers and mobile phones, for instance – often do not lend themselves to appropriate posture nor physical activity and in many cases lead to avoidable repetitive strain injury, all of which can have a negative impact on quality of life.
Khayyer, Z., Najinia, M.A. and Harandi, R.J. (2019) 'Neuroticism and quality of life: the mediating role of internet addiction', Int. J. Behavioural and Healthcare Research, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp.37–48.
No driving required
Researchers from Brazil and France have undertaken a review of the value curves and motivations implicit in the choice between autonomous and traditional vehicles. Their findings suggest that self-driving cars will eventually become more and more widespread and as they do the concepts of affective attributes and symbolism associated with conventional driving will be usurped by instrumental attributes. Fabio Antonialli of the Universidade Federal de Lavras, in Lavras, Brazil, and colleagues provide details of their work in the World Review of Intermodal Transportation Research.
Although in some sense, autonomous vehicles remain something of a futuristic option, many vehicles already have cruise control, steering correction, emergency braking systems, and self-parking features. Autonomous vehicles, which are essentially robot vehicles are used in logistics and agriculture in many parts of the world. It is perhaps only a matter of time before a much greater proportion of road users are no longer drivers, but simply passengers in their vehicles. Autonomous vehicles will hopefully provide accessibility to transport for people in need, boost efficiency, reduce costs and time, improve comfort, and reduce road traffic accidents caused by errant driving.
The transition will occur when the attributes of traditional vehicles are no longer seen as essential and the functionality and features of autonomous vehicles displace those not only in the vehicles themselves but in the popular perception of driving and cars. It is likely that autonomous taxis are likely to represent the biggest wave of uptake and will represent a vast investment opportunity, the team suggests. There is "a massive growth opportunity for technology players or automakers that are able to piece together a successful autonomous strategy," the team writes.
Antonialli, F., Cavazza, B.H., Gandia, R.M., Nicolaï, I., de Miranda Neto, A., Sugano, J.Y. and Zambalde, A.L. (2020) 'Human or machine driving? Comparing autonomous with traditional vehicles value curves and motives to use a car', World Review of Intermodal Transportation Research, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp.137–156.
Blood supply security in a disaster
When natural or other disaster strikes there is usually an enormous increase in demand for donated blood and blood products for those who have suffered serious injury. Writing in the International Journal of Modelling in Operations Management, a team from Iran has taken a fault-tree analysis approach to understanding risks to the chain of blood supply.
The study involves the design of a process map that shows the workflow of the blood supply chain visually from donation to distribution. This, then allows the team to look at the risks associated with each step and activity from donor to hospital. The researchers can then pluck out each significant risk and work out a probability of supply chain failure and so identify the most vulnerable parts of the process.
The blood supply chain has four main processes: blood collection, product processing, laboratory testing, and storage and distribution of blood products.
The team's work could help eliminate certain serious risks while other risks might be mitigated rather than precluded and the process still function. "Proper planning and accurate prediction of the amount of required equipment at the time of disaster would decrease this risk and can control its impact on the blood supply chain," the team adds. Ultimately, the risk will depend on the exact nature of the disaster in hand. But, anything that can be done to reduce the overall impact on human lives is welcome.
Abtahi, A-R., Zenouz, R.Y., Ghaderian, M-R. and Aghaie, A. (2019) 'Blood supply chain risks in disasters – a fault tree analysis approach', Int. J. Modelling in Operations Management, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp.269-283.
Food fighting climate change
Humanity bounces from one crisis to another as history shows us. Food waste and climate change are perhaps part of the same crisis. Now, research published in the International Journal of Global Warming suggests that finding secondary uses for food waste might reduce the overall impact of this problem.
Mustafa özilgen and colleagues at Yeditepe University, in Istanbul, Turkey, explain how the issue is a self-perpetuating problem: "Global warming increases the food waste; in return, the food waste causes further increase in global warming," they say. Remedies that have been suggested at least for kitchen waste suggest that burning such waste instead of fossil fuels might help. The team has now used thermodynamic calculations to show that food waste from a fast food outlet after compression and drying to produce one tonne of waste could be used to generate 3.5 gigawatts.
They have estimated that all the fruit and vegetable waste in Turkey, including agricultural waste, could produce 7.2 gigajoules of energy each year. Of course, part of the problem of food waste is the plastic and paper packaging and some of this will be a component of the overall dried and compressed material from the food outlets.
"Our analysis indicates that trying to find a secondary use for food waste is not a feasible process, when compared with electric power production via combustion in a Rankine cycle with regeneration," the team reports. There may well be niche secondary uses for normally inedible fruit peel, vegetable stems, and other unusable plant materials that do not simply involve burning them for energy, but thermodynamically we would benefit more from burning such food waste instead of fossil fuels.
Gökbulak, S.K., Nazir, S., Tunçel, S. and Özilgen, M. (2020) 'How to benefit from the food waste in the era of global warming?', Int. J. Global Warming, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp.216–236.
Connecting Wi-Fi and 5G
It is possible to integrate conventional wireless internet, Wi-Fi with the fifth generation of cellular mobile phone networks, so-called 5G. Writing in the International Journal of Wireless and Mobile Computing, a team from the USA discusses how Wi-Fi traffic can move flexibly between 5G cells and Wi-Fi cells. It does this through overflow, vertical handoff, horizontal handoff, and take-back operations, the team explains.
Shensheng Tang of St Cloud State University, in Minnesota, John O'Rourke of Altec Industries in Joseph, Missouri, and Grace Tang of Central High School, also in St. Joseph have proposed a traffic modelling method that allows for generally distributed user-dwell times.
"We consider an integrated wireless network using 5G cellular architecture as mobility support for Wi-Fi traffic and perform traffic modelling of the integrated architecture with generally distributed user-dwell times. In the integrated architecture, the Wi-Fi traffic takes on complete user mobility," the team explains.
The researchers add that the same approach to quality assurance might also be extended to 5G integrated with other types of system, such as sensor networks, intelligent vehicle networks, and Internet of Things applications.
Tang, S., O'Rourke, J. and Tang, G. (2020) 'Traffic modelling of an integrated 5G/Wi-Fi network with generally distributed user-dwell times', Int. J. Wireless and Mobile Computing, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp.242–254.
Antibacterial biopolymer, just add silver
A natural biopolymer, bacterial cellulose, is synthesised by the microbe Gluconacetobacter hansenii. Researchers are intrigued by its properties but one that it lacks in the native state is antibacterial activity and that is something could be useful for a wide range of healthcare and other applications, if only it could be engineered into this natural material.
Now, a team from Russia, has created a composite of bacterial cellulose with silver nanoparticles, which endows the biopolymer with the requisite antibacterial activity. The team describes details in the International Journal of Nanotechnology where they report on antimicrobial activity and cytotoxicity. Tatiana Gromovykh of the I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University is the corresponding and first-named author on the paper.
Metal-vapour synthesis was used to embedded nanoparticles of silver metal with diameters of between in 8 and 12 nanometres in the biopolymer. Biological testing showed the composite to be active against three important types of potentially pathogenic bacteria, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and acid resistant Bacillus coagulans. It had no fungicidal effect against Aspergillus niger nor Candida albicans, however. The findings hint at applications as an antibacterial, but not antifungal, coating for medical devices.
However, additional tests in a different sphere showed that the same composite material had activity in reducing the viability of human melanoma cells and mesenchymal stem cells in laboratory cultures pointing to potential in a novel approach to treating tumours arising from skin cancer. The team suggests that a scaffold with an antitumour effect might one day be fabricated from their composite with this aim.
Gromovykh, T.I., Vasil'kov, A.Yu., Sadykova, V.S., Feldman, N.B., Demchenko, A.G., Lyundup, A.V., Butenko, I.E. and Lutsenko, S.V. (2019) 'Creation of composites of bacterial cellulose and silver nanoparticles: evaluation of antimicrobial activity and cytotoxicity', Int. J. Nanotechnol., Vol. 16, Nos. 6/7/8/9/10, pp.408–420.
Writing in the International Journal of Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing, a team from India suggests that existing security algorithms cannot meet the needs of cloud computing. The team of Deepak Garg and Shalli Rani of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Chitkara University, and Jagpreet Sidhu of Jaypee University of Information Technology in Solan, India, provide an analytical approach to the problem that might help lead the way to a solution.
Cloud computing has been the "new" paradigm for many years now in delocalised, distributed, and shared services. It allows organisations and individuals to offload storage and computer processing requirements on to a third party, usually for a fee. There are many benefits, distributed servers, greater processing capacity, and more. The USA's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines cloud computing as follows: "It is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction."
The downside to cloud computing is that the user is ultimately dependent on a third party for the privacy and protection of any data they upload to the "cloud". Unfortunately, there are so many disparate implementations in use that the research literature into cloud computing security is not a cohesive nor even coherent body of work that security specialists might turn to with a view to revealing the state-of-the-art exploring and filling loopholes in security.
The team's analytical approach to the literature offers a way forward to clarifying the nature of cloud computing's insecurities. It might, the team suggests, assist in finding a better understanding, of the patterns and trends, and other factors important to users, providers, and the information security community.
Garg, D., Sidhu, J. and Rani, S. (2020) 'A note on cloud computing security', Int. J. Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing, Vol. 33, No. 3, pp.133–154.
Blending education in the science museum
A blended mobile learning environment could be useful in helping teach students how to employ their scientific inquiry skills in a science museum, according to research published in the International Journal of Smart Technology and Learning.
Hua Du and Xiaoqing Gu of the Department of Educational Information Technology at East China Normal University, in Shanghai, explain how science museums are ripe for development as teaching environments for developing scientific skills. In the age of the always-connected mobile device, phones and tablets can be pulled into this scenario to develop the concept still further. Blending the online environment with the offline, physical world of a museum has great potential, the work suggests.
The team has explored how well such a blended mobile environment might function in education and tested the approach with two groups of students and activities designed for particular capabilities and educational maturity. The bottom line, reports the team is that "a well-designed blended mobile learning environment in science museums is effective in developing students' scientific inquiry skills." Critically, however, the best results were seen with those students for whom specific scientific tasks had been appropriately tailored.
"The findings strengthen our view that learner-centeredness is an important perspective in mobile device-based science museum experiences," the team concludes.
Du, H. and Gu, X. (2019) 'Exploring a blended mobile learning environment to develop students' scientific inquiry skills in science museums', Int. J. Smart Technology and Learning, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp.310–322.
Modelling the spread of disease
A theoretical model of the spread of viral transmission is reported in the International Journal of Mathematical Modelling and Numerical Optimisation. The paper discusses Zika virus transmission but could have implications for understanding the spread of other viruses, with particular pertinence to the development of a pandemic disease.
Maghnia Hamou Maamar, Leila Bouzid, and Omar Belhamiti of the University of Mostaganem, in Algeria, and Fethi Bin Muhammad Belgacem of the Department of Mathematics, in the Faculty of Basic Education, at PAAET, in Al-Ardhiya, Kuwait, have created a compartmental model for human and mosquito transmission of Zika virus. They have also investigated how a non-human primate, a monkey, may have acted as a disease reservoir. Such reservoirs can act as routes from the native host in which a disease may be endemic or asymptomatic into a human or other population where it becomes a serious health problem.
The mathematical model looks at incidence, spread, and transmission and shows how different parameters will lead to the development of the disease to the endemic situation. The implications are there for how a pandemic disease might arise, particularly when a non-human vector amplifies the spread of the pathogen.
Maamar, M.H., Bouzid, L., Belhamiti, O. and Belgacem, F.B.M. (2020) 'Stability and numerical study of theoretical model of Zika virus transmission', Int. J. Mathematical Modelling and Numerical Optimisation, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp.141–166
Mapping internet toplogy
What does the Internet look like and how can data be navigated it around it most efficiently and effectively? That is the question that a paper detailing a multilayer graph model of the internet topology could answer. Details are reported in the International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations.
Georg Tilch and Benjamin Fabian of the Humboldt University of Berlin, and Tatiana Ermakova of the Central Research Institute of Ambulatory Health Care, in Germany discuss how internet maps can be used to develop effective routing algorithms. The same maps can also be used to improve security mechanisms and resilience management at the internet service provider and commercial user level through detailed structural decomposition.
The team has studied so-called traceroute datasets from various large-scale measurement campaigns such as iPlane, CAIDA, Carna, DIMES, RIPE Atlas and RIPE IPv6L. Traceroute is a internet command that, as the name would suggest, traces the route taken by packets of data as they travel from user A to user Z via various servers and nodes on the internet. They have integreated this traceroute data into internet graphs to give them a view with an unprecedented level of detail and a solid scale.
"By employing a broad diversity of graph measures, this study creates an exhaustive snapshot of the global internet topology," the team writes. "This work creates a baseline for future internet research." They additionally suggest that repeated measurements and automated data integration could enable a better understanding of internet dynamics.
Tilch, G., Ermakova, T. and Fabian, B. (2020) 'A multilayer graph model of the internet topology', Int. J. Networking and Virtual Organisations, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp.219–245.
Hong Kong's ongoing housing crisis
Efforts known as 'spicy measures', which included a series of stamp duties and charges on non-local and local home buyers, were put in place in an attempt to slow the escalation of house prices in Hong Kong. They ultimately failed. New research published in the International Journal of Sustainable Real Estate and Construction Economics, discusses the measures and the implications.
Jing Li of the Department of Geography and Resource Management, The Chinese University of Hong Kong worked with Wui Wing Cheng and Kam Hung Chui Department of Economics and Finance, The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. They have attempted to unravel this puzzle in terms of overflow of liquidity and low interest rate environment.
The team found, through their carrying out of a Granger causality test, that the impact of artificially low interest rates lasts only in the short-term. By contrast, the impact of excess monetary supply has a much longer-lasting impact. "The findings challenge the prevalent view that Hong Kong government has little to do with housing market exuberance, as spicy measures increased the transaction costs of home buyers according to the Coase theorem," the team explains. They add that the major policy implication is that charging tax may be ineffective in cooling house prices in the face of a strong market. "The paper sheds light on understanding the housing price dynamics with varying market demand over time, an academic void not adequately filled in so far," the team says.
There is huge economic inequality in Hong Kong the team suggests. Others have asserted that housing ownership stands out as a pivotal tool for personal wealth deposit and accumulation. The team adds that despite various interventions, to increase housing supply by the government, Hong Kong remains the world's least affordable city in which to live. The decades come and go and nothing much changes, the team points out.
Li, J., Cheng, W.W. and Chui, K.H. (2019) 'Why 'spicy measures' fail to cool down Hong Kong's housing market?', Int. J. Sustainable Real Estate and Construction Economics, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp.298–313.
Global battles in the marketplace
Throughout history, foreign expansion has been seen by leaders as a way of increasing and acquiring resources, crafts, knowledge, and markets. Often that expansion has involved invasions and wars. Today, the globalisation of society has driven us to the point where the battles are mostly fought in the board rooms of multinational companies rather than in the green fields of distant lands.
Research published in the Journal of International Business and Entrepreneurship Development looks at the theory underlying foreign market attractiveness and takes it as a reference for multinational entrepreneurial expansion and the prospects of related foreign ventures.
Maher Al Sayah, Charbel Salloum, and Hajer Jarrar of the USEK Business School, in Jounieh, Lebanon, Jacques Digout of the Toulouse Business School, in Paris, and Catherine Mercier-Suissa of the IAE Lyon School of Management, in Lyon, France, have tested the validity of the theory's constraints in terms of social ties and relations. In so doing, they analyse how entrepreneurs weigh information regarding a foreign market opportunities brought to them through socially tied sources.
The team found that the trust factor between the entrepreneur and their socially tied sources of information negatively influences foreign market entry attractiveness theory. In other words, an entrepeneur might give less weight to economic indicators and political security factors when offered perhaps contrary information from a trusted source and so foreign markets that might be seen as wholly unattractive to another entrepeneur lacking that information.
Al Sayah, M., Salloum, C., Digout, J., Mercier-Suissa, C. and Jarrar, H. (2020) 'Social ties, foreign market attractiveness and trust', J. International Business and Entrepreneurship Development, Vol. 12, Nos. 2/3, pp.83–108.
Exercise, exergy, and meateaters
Life is about thermodynamic extremes. When scientists first began formulating the Laws of Thermodynamics and talking about disorder and entropy, it seemed that somehow living things were in breach of the laws. How could they be such self-contained ordered, non-chaotic entities? But, of course, the answer lies in the fact that they are not self-contained, they do not represent a closed system.
There is, of course, no decrease in entropy when we look at the complete system. Living creatures draw their energy from the sun and as the sun pours out its heart, it is the entropy of that body that increases. Life on Earth is essentially paying for its perceived order through the increased entropy of the solar system and the space that surrounds it.
Writing in the International Journal of Exergy, a team from Turkey discusses how organisms live far-from thermodynamic equilibrium with their surroundings. They import exergy, export entropy and maintain constancy of their vital internal physiological constituents via homeostasis. Exergy is a measure of energy with the capacity to do what is referred to technically as work in the thermodynamic sense.
Cennet Yildiz, Volkan Adem Bilgin, Bayram Yilmaz, and Mustafa Özilgen of Yeditepe University, in Istanbul, Turkey, have used data from the scientific literature to calculate how homeostasis helps organisms to save exergy when carrying out their life processes. Maintaining body temperature, by contrast, they show, costs exergy.
Intriguingly, the team has found that there are big differences between mammals and reptiles in terms of their exergy requirements. The daily exergy expenditure rate of an animal depends on metabolic rate, body mass, and nutritional exergy uptake, the team explains. Their calculations show that endothermic (homeothermic) mammal that spends about one-third of its time in active metabolic mode and the rest of the day at rest needs a mere 6 grams of meat per kilogram of body mass each day to satisfy its exergy requirements. In contrast, an ectothermic reptile with the same level of activity needs 500 grams of meat per kilogram of body mass.
Yildiz, C., Bilgin, V.A., Yılmaz, B. and Özilgen, M. (2020) 'Organisms live at far-from-equilibrium with their surroundings while maintaining homeostasis, importing exergy and exporting entropy', Int. J. Exergy, Vol. 31, No. 3, pp.287–301.
Cloud computing for well-travelled coffee
How might cloud-based inbound logistics work in the coffee industry? That's the question that research published in the International Journal of Manufacturing Technology and Management looks to answer.
Anderson Nascimento, Eduardo Tavares, Gabriel Alves, Erica Sousa, and Bruno Nogueira of the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE), in Recife, Brazil, explain how the adoption of cloud computing across supply chains the world over has been growing and bringing with it many benefits in terms of on-demand resource provisioning and cost reduction. They point out that in the context of inbound logistics, there are also mechanisms by which cloud computing can facilitate information sharing for better decision making in terms of transport options for specific goods and suppliers.
Cloud computing has been around for many years but is yet to be as widely adopted in some industries as it might. The team's work points to an analysis of its utility as well as its pros and cons that might help those in coffee industry understand how it might best be used for enhancing performance and efficiency in transportation. In their analysis they demonstrate how managers now have a useful decision-making tool to hand for their inbound logistics that could lead to considerable improvements in delivery throughput.
Nascimento, A., Tavares, E., Alves Jr., G., Sousa, E. and Nogueira, B. (2020) 'Performability evaluation of transport modes for cloud-based inbound logistics: a study based on coffee industry', Int. J. Manufacturing Technology and Management, Vol. 34, No. 2, pp.126-147.
Multimedia science education
A study from Pakistan alludes to a lack of engagement in science subjects from young students. Biology, chemistry, and physics are demanding subjects, essential to so many areas of modern life. However, it might be said that traditional teaching methods are no longer grabbing student attention. The team, writing in the International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, suggests that multimedia audio-visual aids could be used a lot more in schools to captivate and engage science students.
Zeeshan Iqbal of the Department of Commerce at Bahauddin Zakariya University, in Multan, Pakistan and Aisha Sami of the Department of Psychology there have surveyed 240 secondary school students and analysed their responses statistically. Their findings showed that using multimedia audio-visual aids in the classroom is an effective strategy that increases students activity, maintains a high level of interest in lessons, and encourages students to participate more.
"The present study enriches the existing knowledge on use of advances technologies in various sectors including education sector. The researchers focus on the use of multimedia audio-visual aids in the science classrooms. They conclude that the utilisation of audio-visual aids play a very important role in effective learning of science subjects. This study provides significant insights in terms of taking reviews from teachers and students," the researchers explain.
Ultimately, the team will extend their approach to bigger sample groups and other cities with the aim of gleaning more general conclusions.
Iqbal, Z. and Sami, A. (2020) 'Role of technology in science classrooms: an exploratory study of Pakistan', Int. J. Technology Enhanced Learning, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.115–126.
Saving the IoT from botnets
The advent of the Internet of Thing, essentially smart devices with connectivity to the internet has wrought many benefits, but with it comes the problem of how to cope with third party users with malicious or criminal intent.
Ivan Letteri, Giuseppe Della Penna, and Giovanni De Gasperis of the Department of Information Engineering at the University of L'Aquila, Italy, writing in the International Journal of High Performance Computing and Networking have looked at an aspect of IoT insecurity, attacks on smart devices by so-called botnets. A botnet is a network of computers or other devices that have been repurposed by a third party, often surreptitiously and almost always with improper use the ultimate aim. The improper use might be for personal gain, financial or otherwise, sabotage or other destructive or disruptive purposes.
Botnets are propagated through malware and might be operated by malicious individuals, hacker groups, corporate entities, criminal gangs, organized crime cartels, or indeed rogue states. One particularly insidious purpose to which they are put is to apply a directed attack on a target's computers so that they are overwhelmed. Such a distributed denial of service attack, leads, as the name would suggest to disruption of the normal computing activities of the target. This might be simply for the purposes of sabotage, perhaps to interfere with the day to day operations of an individual, company or even a government. But, often the dDOS is carried out so that while the system is overwhelmed, its security might be breached at another exposed entry point.
With IoT and other networked smart devices being recruited by botnet operators for nefarious purposed, the team has focused on how such dDOS attacks might be detected and halted by the system using deep learning techniques. Obviously, it is difficult to distinguish between normal activity and activity from distributed sources that are designed to overwhelm a system. To the system, it simply sees lots of requests and knowing which are from genuine users and which malicious cannot easily be discerned. The team points out that with the rise of software-defined networking (SDN), which is increasingly replacing conventional networking in IoT, the problem is becoming more acute.
The team's deep learning approach has been tested on two state-of-the-art frameworks, i.e., Keras and TensorFlow, and found to have 97 percent accuracy in detecting botnet attacks on the systems.
Letteri, I., Della Penna, G. and De Gasperis, G. (2019) 'Security in the internet of things: botnet detection in software-defined networks by deep learning techniques', Int. J. High Performance Computing and Networking, Vol. 15, Nos. 3/4, pp.170-182.
Tracking the spread of disease on social media
For many years, researchers have turned to the public logs of search engine terms to help them track the spread of disease. They can analyse the keywords and phrases that people use and when they become interested in a disease or have symptoms. Much value has been recognised in this kind of disease tracking and it has been used to research influenza outbreaks, the spread of MERS and the Zika virus, and other health problems. At the time of writing, it is approximately three months since we first recognised the emergence of a new coronavirus in China that would ultimately become known as the pathogen to cause the novel pandemic disease, Covid-19.
Writing in the International Journal of Web and Grid Services, in rather prescient work undertaken long before the disease name Covid-19 had been coined, a team from Gachon University in Korea, was asking whether social media content might be harvested to allow researchers to spot the emergence of new diseases and to track them once they appear.
SoYeop Yoo, DaeHo Kim, SungMin Yang, and OkRan Jeong of the Department of Software at Gachon University, explain how social media has become as a sensor for a wide range of topics in almost every area of human endeavour. Mining the vast daily output of this realm is a daunting task, but it can be done and many trends in politics, finance, science, health, medicine, entertainment, celebrity, and beyond can be tracked.
The team has now built a workflow that allows them to carry out real-time processing of social media data and to develop a model that manages the data and can detect the emergence of disease accurately. "If we can detect information about an infectious disease in real time, we can cope with it more quickly," the team suggests. Moreover, "We can obtain information about the symptoms of specific diseases and hospital information by analysing various opinions and information on the disease."
Yoo, S., Kim, D., Yang, S. and Jeong, O. (2020) 'Real-time disease detection and analysis system using social media contents', Int. J. Web and Grid Services, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp.22-38.
Voting on a blockchain
The "blockchain" concept on which cryptocurrencies work might be extrapolated to many other areas of life, such as voting systems, where it's incontrovertible chain of decisions and evidence could ensure validity in a political or other election.
Writing in the International Journal of Web and Grid Services, a team from Lodz University of Technology, in Lódz, Poland, explain how it was the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, introduced by an individual (or a group) under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008, that revealed the blockchain concept. The blockchain concept was invented to be used to give value to a cryptocurrency but its description shows that it might be used in other areas equally as well:
A blockchain is essentially an open and distributed ledger, a growing list of records (blocks) that are linked sequentially and encrypted. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data (generally represented as a mathematical Merkle tree). The nature of a blockchain means that previous entries cannot be modified without all users seeing the modification, which makes it tamperproof.
Aneta Poniszewska-Maranda, Michal Pawlak, and Jakub Guziur of the Institute of Information Technology at LUT, explain that current electronic voting systems have their pros and cons. However, a common problem with all of the approaches used so far is that they suffer from inadequate transparency and auditability. There are four main approaches to electronic voting – dedicated voting machines, voting with optical scanning voting machines, voting with electronic ballot printers, and voting through the internet. Each has benefits, each has drawbacks. Moreover, the field is very fragmented by diverse technology and solutions to each of those main four methods.
This, the team suggests, is where blockchain would come into its own. Blockchain could underpin an existing approach to electronic voting but add the requisite ability to supervise the process and make it auditable to preclude fraud. Not only might the blockchain approach be used to prevent fraud it opens up the voting system to independent inspection beyond those holding the ballot, whether government, company board or other organization. It opens it up to being audited and inspected without compromising voter anonymity or the integrity of the result.
The team concedes that there are limitations to even the blockchain approach at the moment in that voter anonymity might be compromised to a limited degree by the proximity of given blocks in the system. However, they suggest this will be surmountable with additional research.
Poniszewska-Maranda, A., Pawlak, M. and Guziur, J. (2020) 'Auditable blockchain voting system – the blockchain technology toward the electronic voting process', Int. J. Web and Grid Services, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp.1–21.
Cashing on cryptocurrencies
Heed the words of their profits – In uncertain times, uncertain things can happen. Writing in the International Journal of Business Performance Management, a team in the United Arab Emirates asks whether cryptocurrencies, of which Bitcoin is perhaps the most infamous, might ultimately overtake conventional currencies, the fiat money.
Avaneesh Jumde and Boo Yun Cho of the Higher Colleges of Technology on Dubai Women's Campus, Al Nahda, Dubai, point out how Bitcoin made the terms "cryptocurrency" and "blockchain" familiar to financiers and investors the world over. The technological roots of these terms quickly attracting those who live by the words of their profits. At first, there was a cryptocurrency bubble, which has waxed and waned, but always in the background and barely acknowledged by the bankers and financial regulators is the idea that such forms of money might somehow usurp hard cash.
The team has now used statistical analysis to hedge their bets as to which of the cryptocurrencies might eventually predominate following the proliferation of such forms of money and whether there might be a displacement of fiat money. There is, of course, the possibility that cryptocurrencies would exist in parallel with the fiat in a similar way to gold bullion existing alongside folding paper money, for instance. They have looked at the likes of Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ether, and Ripple and compared and contrasted their characteristics against the fiat money of different countries.
At the moment, fiat money remains the main contender in the battle for dominance in terms of accessibility, utility, the ability to convert to the currency of other nations, liquidity, volatility, and even financial speculation. Fiat money is more amenable to these requirements and remains preferable for the vast majority of people. However, major uncertainty about human behaviour driven by disease, climate change, and other uncontrollable factors, could lead to gradual or sudden change in our perception of money, its worth, and its utility.
Jumde, A. and Cho, B.Y. (2020) 'Can cryptocurrencies overtake the fiat money?', Int. J. Business Performance Management, Vol. 21, Nos. 1/2, pp.6–20.
Decidedly deleting data
A survey of secure deletion of data held "in the cloud" has been undertaken by Minyao Hua, Yinyuan Zhao, and Tao Jiang of the School of Cyber Engineering at Xidian University in Xi'an, Shaanxi, China. The team reports details in the International Journal of Embedded Systems.
Cloud computing utilizing third-party computer systems, servers, processors, data storage equipment to allow uses to offload the resources they would otherwise require on their premises on to remote systems. There are many different levels of cloud service, some are free or freemium or paid and aimed at individual consumers all the way up to the demands of the corporate and enterprise level. Security and privacy of the data any user stores in the cloud is critical to their ongoing success and sustainability. Breaches occur.
There is a secondary, but just as important issue in that when a user deletes the data they have stored in the cloud, they need to be assured that the data is securely deleted and can no longer be retrieved either by the cloud service provider or malicious parties that might illicitly access those services. The team's survey compares private and public cloud services and reports on the deletion security of the various services available.
In conclusion, the team recognises that there are problems facing users and have recognized two obvious, fundamental deletion methods that are used to purportedly ensure deletion security for users. The first is the extreme, physical destruction of storage media. The second usually involves software deletion that encrypts the data irretrievably if the key is discarded or lost. There is inevitably a trade-off between efficiency and security. The next challenge will be to ensure deleted data cannot be recovered by future quantum computing technology.
Hua, M., Zhao, Y. and Jiang, T. (2020) 'Secure data deletion in cloud storage: a survey', Int. J. Embedded Systems, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.253–265.
Invertebrates indicators for compost
Researchers in Nigeria are investigating how organic composting of cow rumen and vegetable waste affects macro-invertebrate populations at a market composting site. Composting is an important way to deal with such waste and the changes in populations of flies (Diptera), beetles (Coleoptera), and mites and ticks (Acarina), can act as a useful proxy for how well the process is working. The shifting populations coupled with physical and chemical examination can then be used to fine-tune the composting process for best end results.
Oluwatobi Oni of the University of Ibadan and his colleagues point out that it is critical that waste generated by people is managed properly whether it is of animal or other origin. The team points out that improper management can lead to the formation of breeding sites for pathogen-carrying invertebrates, such as malaria-bearing mosquitoes. The presence of waste in a market might also lead to food poisoning and diarrhoea, surface and groundwater contamination, the emergence of diseases such as cholera, poor indoor and outdoor air quality, and even increase the risk of flooding. As such, better methods of waste management are high on the agenda in the developing world, for instance.
"It is certain that composting remains important in the management of organic waste, especially in this part of the world and extensive study is proposed as regards species biodiversity associated with the different composting stages and their impact on compost quality," the team concludes.
Oni, O.D., Oloruntoba, E.O., Sridhar, M.K.C., Hammed, T.B., Ibrahim, K.T. and Popoola, K.O.K. (2020) 'Macro-invertebrate population changes during composting of organic waste at Alesinloye Market, Ibadan', Int. J. Agriculture Innovation, Technology and Globalisation, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp.266–284.
Special educational needs
New research published in the International Journal of Learning and Change discusses the psychological needs and educational support of children with special physical needs.
Sofia Usmanova and Regina Gazizova of the Bashkir State University in Sterlitamak, Russia, discuss the promotion of what they refer to as a "harmonised personality" in learners with physical disabilities and how the necessary support can ensure that these young people have the tools to grow to be important and valued members of society.
There is an increasing number of children with special educational needs that require complex support in their educational activities, socialisation, upbringing, and development. We need to accumulate all available experience and attract various specialists to increase the level of development and adaptation in children with special needs, the team writes. An important part of that, the researchers suggest is providing diagnostics of a child's development based on several criteria, including verbal and non-verbal communication, motor skills, adaptation within the group, development of attention and concentration. Ultimately, training of educators based on improved knowledge is key.
Usmanova, S.G. and Gazizova, R.R. (2020) 'Characteristics of psychological and pedagogical support of children with special needs', Int. J. Learning and Change, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp.55–75.
A computer algorithm based on how bats fly at night tracking flying insect prey with their bio-sonar could help meteorologists predict wind patterns more reliably, according to new research published in the International Journal of Embedded Systems. The work could have implications for the optimal running wind turbines for sustainable power generation.
Dingcheng Wang, Yiyi Lu, Beijing Chen, and Youzhi Zhao of the School of Computer and Software at Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, in Nanjing, China, explain how wind power has come to the fore as one of the most important alternatives to electricity generation without the need to burn fossil fuels. However, it depends on steady winds. The stability of wind turbines is also susceptible to gusting and winds that are too fast-moving.
The team has now tested a bat algorithm model of wind direction and speed that in simulations shows that a multi-output least-squares support vector machine prediction is the most effective approach to prediction. Such predictions would not only help operators ensure the safety of the wind turbines by shutting them down at appropriate times but allow them to manage the output in the context of other power supplies feeding into the local or national electricity grids.
Wang, D., Lu, Y., Chen, B. and Zhao, Y. (2020) 'Wind weather prediction based on multi-output least squares support vector regression optimised by bat algorithm', Int. J. Embedded Systems, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.137–145.
Internet of Healthcare privacy protocols
How can we keep electronic healthcare information secure in the world of the Internet of Things where diagnostic, devices, monitors, and other equipment are all connected? A team from India, writing in the International Journal of Computational Science and Engineering offers one possible solution.
Aakanksha Tewari and B.B. Gupta of the National Institute of Technology Kurukshetra, explain how they have developed a secure and low-cost environment for the IoT devices in healthcare. Their aim is to make the lives of patients easier and more comfortable by providing them with more effective treatments but at the same time not compromise their privacy.
They describe their solution as utilizing a very simple mutual authentication protocol. This, they say provides strong location privacy by using one way hashing, pseudo-random number generators, and bitwise operations. They add that strong location privacy is critical to ensuring healthcare security and they can enforce this property by ensuring that tags in the network are indistinguishable and the connection protocols ensure forward secrecy. The team has now verified through a formal proof model just how secure is their approach to location privacy. The team adds that the system is suitable for any kind of IoT healthcare device however large or small. Moreover, the protocol is suitable for both passive and active tags.
Tewari, A. and Gupta, B.B. (2020) 'An internet-of-things-based security scheme for healthcare environment for robust location privacy', Int. J. Computational Science and Engineering, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp.298–303.
Opening the museum door online
At the time of writing, museums the world over are being forced to close their doors to the public because of Covid-19. They will hopefully re-open at some point. In the meantime, a study published in the International Journal of Digital Culture and Electronic Tourism discusses the nature of so-called stakeholder engagement on Facebook among the world's most popular museums. This may well have implications during the current crisis as museums seek support through the closure period.
Vincenzo Scafarto of the Department of Human, Social and Health Sciences at the University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, in Cassino, Federica Ricci and Gaetano della Corte of the Department of Law and Economics of Productive Activities, University of Rome 'Sapienza', and Carla Morrone of the Department of Business and Economics at the University of Naples 'Parthenope', Italy provide the details. They point out that social media and social networking have become one of the more immediate ways in which organizations can connect with their stakeholders. There are many advantages in terms of marketing new exhibits when it comes to running a museum as well as gleaning feedback from visitors in a way that was never possible with the conventional "suggestions box" at the exit approach of yesteryear.
However, the team has found that some museums have struggled to embrace the new technology and its opportunities for any number of reasons. They have now looked at the most well-attended museums and their Facebook activity to see whether insights can be garnered as to whether that particular realm of social media is engaging potential and past visitors in a positive manner. They found that on the whole, museums were simply using social media as a one-way promotional tool and not recognizing the importance of the true dialogue that the new tools offer the provider and the customer.
They suggest the museum stakeholders must use more finely grained metrics to investigate their own activity and the visitor response on social media. During the current "lockdown" of so many such attractions the world over, the time may well be ripe for museums to fully engage with their putative and past visitors before they re-open their doors once the crisis is history, as it were.
Scafarto, V., Ricci, F., della Corte, G. and Morrone, C. (2020) 'Stakeholder engagement via Facebook: an analysis of world's most popular museums', Int. J. Digital Culture and Electronic Tourism, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp.6–21.
OCR for graffiti
Researchers in China have recognised that optical character recognition (OCR) has matured and can identify and extract information from documents that use standard writing styles. However, the world over people have very different ways of writing that might remain obscure to OCR. Moreover, people scrawl and gesture on tablets and phones and other devices in ways that are not even close to their normal handwriting and so are likely to be illegible to a computer.
The team has now developed an algorithm that can, with fine granularity, extract information from what might be loosely terms graffiti, convoluted handwriting that might even be indecipherable to some extent to a human reader, let alone a computer.
Jiashuang Xu and Zhangjie Fu of the Computer and Software College at Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology in Nanjing City, Jiangsu Province, and Xingyue Du of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Xi'an Polytechnic University in Xi'an City, Shaanxi Province, China, provide details of their approach in the International Journal of Computational Science and Engineering.
So far the team has trained their system to recognise 26 letters of the Latin (English) alphabet with almost 86 percent accuracy and are now working on extending and improving the technology. An additional, point is that the system utilizes a motion-detection approach rather than requiring touch input and so could be adapted for non-screen input devices such as wearables, where one might gesture to a device embedded in clothing, for instance.
Xu, J., Fu, Z. and Du, X. (2020) 'Graffiti-writing recognition with fine-grained information', Int. J. Computational Science and Engineering, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp.163–172.
Selfies and self disclosure
A complementary structural equation modelling (SEM) and artificial intelligence (AI) approach could be used to determine what drives learners, students, to share information about themselves, so-called self-disclosure, online. Fundamentally, it seems that privacy has no direct effect, according to research published in the International Journal of Mobile Communications, although the indirect effect of privacy concerns on trust does have an effect.
Ibrahim Arpaci of the Department of Computer Education and Instructional Technology at Tokat Gaziosmanpasa University, in Turkey, explains that his model has focused on the role of security, privacy, and trust perceptions in predicting the attitudes towards the posting of "selfies", photographic self-portraits on social networking sites. His survey and analysis of the behaviour of some 300 undergraduate students provide important clues surrounding this concept.
It has been shown previously using "privacy calculus theory" that there is an inevitable trade-off between the need for personal privacy and the perceived benefits of self-disclosure in various settings and not least in the online world. It can explain the privacy paradox, for instance, where see people not wishing to have their data and personal information such as photos exposed and the urgency with which many people share that information willingly with other members of the public and perhaps unwittingly with third parties associated with the online tools and apps they use.
It is important from the sociological perspective to get a clear view of how online behaviour is driven, how paradoxes are sidestepped, and how the online world might evolve as social media and social networking mature.
Arpaci, I. (2020) 'What drives students' online self-disclosure behaviour on social media? A hybrid SEM and artificial intelligence approach', Int. J. Mobile Communications, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp.229–241.
Summarising opinions automatically
Documents that express an opinion abound, especially in the so-called web 2.0 era of social media and social networking. Jae-Young Chang of the Department of Computer Engineering at Hansung University, in Seoul, South Korea, suggests that there is a need to find ways to summarise their contents for a wide range of applications.
Writing in the International Journal of Computational Vision and Robotics, he points out that conventional text summarization methods do not work well with multiple documents authored by different writers. He has now proposed an algorithm that can identify and extract the representative documents from a large number of documents. Applying the process might be the first step towards a new approach to "opinion mining", which could be useful in politics, marketing, education, and many other areas of human endeavour.
The approach involves detecting the sentiment of the most important – judging – document in a corpus and then ranking the relevance of others from this central point to allow a summary of the opinions expressed to be constructed. A successful proof of principle was carried out on movie reviews. The same approach should work well with product reviews and other kinds of opinion.
Chang, J-Y. (2020) 'Multi-document summarisation using feature distribution analysis', Int. J. Computational Vision and Robotics, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp.111–121.
Reducing the impact of a fall
Falls account for a lot of morbidity and mortality among older people. According to the World Health Organisation, almost 40 million falls are recorded each year with around 650000 of those ultimately leading to the person's death.
Writing in the International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics, a team from the Amrita School of Engineering, in Coimbatore, India, provides details of what they refer to as a "frugal and affordable system" that can monitor a person's movements. The system uses motion sensors and data analytics to determine whether a particular motion of an old person is indicative of a fall.
The system can then alert a carer, friend, or relative to come and assist. One of the biggest problems in a fall is sustaining a hip fracture and it is often the hospitalisation and ensuing complications that lead to a fatality. Attending quickly to the person who has fallen is often critical in reducing morbidity and the ongoing risk of mortality.
The team explains that 20 to 30 percent of older people who have a fall, suffer moderate to severe physical injuries such as broken bones, cuts, and bruises. There are often ongoing mental health issues caused by the embarrassment and loss of self-esteem associated with a fall as well as the mobility problems that arise and decreased physical activity.
The team's system utilises various sensors, an accelerometer, piezo sensor, infrared sensor, and a gyroscopic motion sensor. The output from these is fed to a microcontroller and a wireless transmission module (Bluetooth in the prototype, but Wi-Fi would be plausible) to transmit the output to a receiver, which quickly ports the data to a server and the data analytics to generate an answer regarding whether or not the user has fallen. The server-side system can then trigger an alert if they have. The team suggests that the same device might also incorporate a heart-rate monitor to add an extra layer of useful data for carers and emergency healthcare. The team has demonstrated efficacy with the prototype and describes it as "foolproof".
Kowshik, G., Anudeep, J., Krishna, P.V., Vasudevan, S.K. and Shah, I. (2020) 'An inventive and innovative system to detect fall of old aged persons - a novel attempt with IoT, sensors and data analytics to prevent the post fall effects', Int. J. Medical Engineering and Informatics, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp.1–18.
Intruding on big data
Plain text documents and databases are vulnerable to intrusion by malicious third parties in a way that encrypted, password-protected materials are not. However, there are computer overheads and costs to adding encryption and so documents are often held on servers in plaintext nevertheless. Writing in the International Journal of Information and Communication Technology, a team from China is developing an intrusion detection system that is not resource hungry but can protect plaintext materials.
The team points out that with so-called "big data" the resource costs of encryption can make such protection a non-negligible task. Processing big data files can become unfeasibly slow with the constant need to decrypt and re-encrypt materials as they are retrieved, edited, curated, and otherwise processed and saved. However, the storage of information in plain text is prone to information leaks.
The team has suggested that pattern recognition and information filtering methods could be used to recognise intrusion and allow plaintext attacks to be quickly blocked before significant amounts of data are leaked but without those massive encryption-decryption overheads. An additional benefit is that the information can be shared between legitimate users without the need for cumbersome password protocols and systems being in place.
The reports that their system has a "relatively high probability of intrusion detection and low false alarm probability at low signal-to-noise ratio, which improves the intrusion detection and interception capability."
Ma, Z., Ma, Y., Huang, X., Zhang, M., Su, B. and Zhao, L. (2020) 'User information intrusion prediction method based on empirical mode decomposition and spectrum feature detection', Int. J. Information and Communication Technology, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp.99–111.
Avoiding a technological anxiety attack
Almost everywhere you look where two or more people are gathered together, someone is staring at the screen of a mobile phone or other device, swiping left, swiping right, tapping icons, scrolling...
...some research would suggest that the world is addicted to its smartphones and tablets. Another, more positive, interpretation would be that as a social animal we are simply better connected across our societies and globally than any earlier generation could ever have dreamed of. There are pros and cons to our so-called 24/7 connectivity. We are by turns better informed in a more timely manner about local happenings and global events. We have access to almost any piece of information we might need almost instantaneously. We can "speak" to almost anyone we might ever need to, from friends and family, work colleagues, celebrities, politicians, and business leaders.
Conversely, there are times when email, social media, news notifications, trending updates, and viral memes might become overwhelming and people talk of taking a digital detox. They disconnect, albeit temporarily, they go, to a limited extent, off-grid. We talk of finding me time, being mindful, mental wellbeing, and simply avoiding the endless stream of cat/dog videos that seem to pervade even the most stringently business-like timelines on our devices.
Work published in the International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations, has investigated the notion of technology-induced job anxiety and how it arises during what we used to think of as non-work time, the out of hours period at the end of each day, the weekends, days off, vacations etc.
Jinnan Wu, Nannan Wang, Wenjuan Mei, and Lin Liu of Anhui University of Technology in Ma'anshan, China, suggest that the way in which work-related technology invades our purportedly personal time needs detailed investigation. In their paper, they were keen to look at how this invasion affects job anxiety itself.
Fundamentally, the study shows that "techno-invasion positively predicts job anxiety. However, employees have better organisational support and demonstrate computer self-efficacy (personal control over their digital domain in other words) show less job anxiety. Moreover, when an employee has good computer self-efficacy but perceives organisational support as being low, they can still avoid much of the anxiety felt by those who have less control of their digital realm even if they are well supported by their organisation.
In other words, employees learning to have more self-control outside of work time and not succumbing to the pressures of job-related technological notifications will inevitably reduce anxiety relative to those employees who do not feel in control.
Wu, J., Wang, N., Mei, W. and Liu, L. (2020) 'Technology-induced job anxiety during non-work time: examining conditional effect of techno-invasion on job anxiety', Int. J. Networking and Virtual Organisations, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp.162–182.
Peer-to-peer, P2P, computer systems became infamous as the architecture that allowed users all over the world to share digital content, music, videos, software, much of which was "pirated" or distributed in breach of copyright laws. However, as with most inventions, there are always illicit and legitimate applications.
As the concept spread, so it became obvious that the benefits of a network where each node is a peer on a distributed unfixed network infrastructure could be used to reduce the burden on centralized servers in terms of computing power needed by applications, communications protocols, and storage. Indeed, many cloud-based applications utilize P2P frameworks to share the processing and storage loads so that increasingly powerful servers and bigger data storage facilities are no longer necessary for a wide range of applications.
Of course, P2P is not perfect. Typical systems can suffer from unreliable network transfers and unstable availability of data files. A new approach to circumvent these problems is outlined in the International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations.
Hong He of the School of Computer and Communication at the Hunan Institute of Engineering in Xiangtan City, Hunan Province, China, has proposed a new type of P2P-based storage framework that has a set of "virtual" peers. This improves the reliability of networking transfers and storage by exploiting network coding technology. His study of the new system reveals it to be capable of achieving better tradeoffs between reliability and efficiency. Indeed, the system "outperforms the existing solutions in terms of many performance metrics, including data availability, resource utilisation, and communication cost," He says.
He, H. (2020) 'A reliable peer-to-peer storage framework based on virtual peers model', Int. J. Networking and Virtual Organisations, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp.129–146.
More wind, less hot air
Predictions about how much wind power will be in place by the year 2040 have been too conservative according to research published in the International Journal of Energy Technology and Policy.
Yu Sang Chang, Hann Earl Kim, and Seongmin Jeon of Gachon University, South Korea and Yoo-Taek Lee of Boston University, in Massachusetts, USA, have looked at the forecasts for electricity generation using wind turbines for the dates 2020, 2030, and 2040 for Canada, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and the USA from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). They have compared those figures with their own alternative projections and those of other organisations and suggest that, with the exception of Japan, more electricity will be generated using this sustainable power source than had been thought.
The researchers point out that in 2015 there were well over 300,000 wind turbines around the world generating, nominally at least, well over 400 gigawatts of power. Capacity quadrupled between 2007 and 2015 and has continued to grow. There are around 85 countries using windpower on the commercial scale. China has one of the biggest on-shore installations with several thousand turbines having a combined power output of 6 gigawatts in the Gansu Wind Farm. One of the largest off-shore facilities is the London Array in the UK with a capacity of 630 MW and there are plans for one of double that capacity to be sited at Dogger Bank in the North Sea off the Yorkshire coast of England. This facility is expected to power 4.5 million homes.
These kinds of details can feed predictive models but the team suggests that earlier efforts have been hampered in their forecasts by data inconsistencies. They hope that their new approach provides a better perspective. Fundamentally, their analysis coincides with predictions for Canada, India, and Japan, but they have more optimistic outcomes for China, South Korea, and the USA. In sum, global capacity, they suggest will be much greater by 2040. They believe that technological breakthroughs in turbine design and power transmission have been ignored in conservative estimates of future output and it is these that give them hope for a more sustainable and wind-powered future.
Chang, Y.S., Kim, H.E., Jeon, S. and Lee, Y-T. (2020) 'How much wind-powered electricity may be generated in 2040 by China, USA and four other countries?', Int. J. Energy Technology and Policy, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp.196–212.
Putting off the procrastination
It is a common foible of many of us. Putting off until tomorrow what we might do today. We commonly refer to it as procrastination. Research published in the International Journal of Business Environment suggests that time management, perfectionism, and fear of failure often trigger task avoidance. The researchers add that the organisational result is commonly greater stress in our work and lower job satisfaction.
Elif Bilginoglu and Murat Yalçintas of Istanbul Ticaret Üniversitesi, in Turkey, suggest that the common perception is that procrastination is a negative personality trait, a destructive habit, it causes trouble in education, career, and personal life. It interfere with outcomes and success and can be a significant problem in many areas. It's usually perceived as being born of laziness and is an irrational approach to one's tasks. The team suggests, however, that a certain amount of procrastination is perhaps normal and necessary. Everyone needs to take a little timeout here and there during the working day.
There have been numerous studies of procrastination in education, specifically among students. The team has now focused on the work environment. Their specific focus is on Turkey where they suggest that many people are chronic procrastinators. With the details of this new research in hands, managers might be guided to help address the problem of procrastination and to plan to overcome its worst effects. Time efficiency habits can be encouraged as well as positive feedback where merited to reduce the fear of failure. Not only will reducing the amount of procrastination that is done by employees help the employer it could benefit the employees through reduced stress and greater job satisfaction.
Bilginoglu, E. and Yalçintas, M. (2020) 'Procrastination, its antecedents and its organisational outcomes among employees in the public sector in Istanbul', Int. J. Business Environment, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp.47–68.
In light of the recent incidence of natural disasters, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, and the spread of a potentially lethal disease, COVID-19, it is timely to consider how we might develop community resilience to reduce the loss of life, disruption, and other problems in the wake of such events.
Writing in the International Journal of Critical Infrastructures, a research team from Australia and Vietnam, has taken three past events as case studies. They have looked at the research literature surrounding those events and the secondary work and have combined information to help them build a conceptual model of disaster. Their work offers new concepts that might improve community resilience capabilities but also identifies effective ways to improve still further. The same work expands on the potential of social media for preparedness strategies and discusses community empowerment, and the shared responsibilities of all those affected and involved, particularly the response and regulatory agencies.
The team also reveals the gaps in the literature in this area and attempts to fill them. Their focus was on the floods in Queensland, Australia, the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Japanese earthquake. The team suggests that their findings demonstrate that "in order to sustain effective and efficient strategies and practices, supportive policies, legislations, and resource allocation must be established."
Whittaker, S., Khalfan, M.M.A. and ulHaq, I. (2020) 'Developing community disaster resilience through preparedness', Int. J. Critical Infrastructures, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp.53-76.
Smart phone posturing
Writing in the International Journal of Human Factors and Ergonomics, a team from South Korea investigated whether phone use while sitting, lying on one's back or lying on one's side was more or less likely to lead to problems in the upper extremities of the musculoskeletal system. The team recruited thirty healthy young adults and instructed them to type on a smartphone for five minutes at a time and to have a five-minute rest. They used electromyography to measure muscle response in different postures and measured wrist and elbow joint angles during use.
Different muscles were more active in different positions but were highest in the sitting position and the joint angles were suggestive of greater strain in this posture. Using the phone while lying on one's side demonstrated a neutral wrist angle, so better alignment, in contrast, and the least muscular activity. As such, the team recommends phone users will be more comfortable and suffer less from problems of the upper musculoskeletal system if they lie on their sides while using their phones. Of course, the demands of the workplace, public transport, and other circumstances may preclude this more relaxing posture.
The next step, of course, will be to persuade phone users to not use the phones while walking to prevent pedestrian collisions and the development of a stoop.
Yun, H-Y. and Yoon, T-L. (2019) 'Exploratory study on adequacy of upper extremity position during smartphone usage', Int. J. Human Factors and Ergonomics, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp.390-402.
Nature has provided a great deal of inspiration for computer scientists developing search algorithms and ways to solve complicated problems with as little computing power as possible. Ant colonies, beehives, bat hunting, and now slime mould foraging can be used as models on which an algorithm can be constructed.
Writing in the International Journal of Innovative Computing and Applications, Anthony Brabazon and Sean McGarraghy of the University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland, explain how 99.5% of the living things on earth lack neurones and yet are proven success stories despite what we, as neuronal creatures, might whimsically perceive as a deficiency. One group of organisms that have been rather successful for millions of years are the so-called slime moulds. The term is an informal name for several different groups of organisms that are actually unrelated. They are not moulds, rather they are organisms that can live freely as single cells, but under certain conditions will form communicating aggregates that work in concert as if they are a multicellular reproductive structure.
The team explains that the plasmodial slime mould Physarum polycephalum, which forms from aggregates of individual amoebae, encases itself in a thin membrane and can act as a single organism. The researchers explain how "Inspiration has been drawn from some of its foraging behaviour to develop algorithms for graph optimisation." They report examples of the algorithms that can be developed and make suggestions as to how future research might proceed to utilise the benefits and minimise any limitations.
Of course, the slime mould itself is, despites its lack of neurons, carrying out computations all the while, chemical computations, you might say. So, in a sense modelling its behaviour in an algorithm is an excellent foundation.
"Of course," the team concedes, "it is also important to note that the developed algorithms are very simplified representations of (the imperfectly understood) real-world foraging behaviours of P. polycephalum and other slime moulds and doubtless future biological research concerning these organisms will open up new avenues of investigation."
Brabazon, A. and McGarraghy, S. (2020) 'Slime mould foraging: an inspiration for algorithmic design', Int. J. Innovative Computing and Applications, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp.30–45.
Social media and online social networking are almost ubiquitous billions of people use the big four" services: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp; the latter three now all owned by Facebook. Many of these platforms have large financial turnover and employ thousands of staff. It's big business. But, asks a new paper in the International Journal of Procurement Management is advertising on social media effective?
Mohammed Nuseir of the Department of Business Administration at Al Ain University of Science and Technology Abu Dhabi Campus, in the United Arab Emirates, points out how social media has over more than a decade created a new space in which business can sell their goods and services like never before. The big four applications link individuals through various formats – textual updates, graphics, and videos, for instance.
Nuseir has found that there is indeed a reciprocal relationship between users/consumers and the companies that are marketing to them via social media. This is underpinned by the nature of social media where users feel that they have more agency than they ever had with conventional media such as newspapers and magazines, radio, television, and even the internet before web 2.0. Users perceive themselves as having their own personal space within the realm of social media and that they have control of what they share and what passes before them on the various apps that give them access to these sites.
"This ownership and personalisation speak to the degree to which relationships are formed between corporate entities and individuals in contemporary society," explains Nuseir. As such, marketers must recognise the personalisation of the advertisements they present to potential clients and they need to understand and build on the very reasons why people use social media in the first place. This is the route to successful marketing in the age of "social".
Nuseir, M.T. (2020) 'Is advertising on social media effective? An empirical study on the growth of advertisements on the Big Four (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp)', Int. J. Procurement Management, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.134–142
Live chat versus phonecall
A new study from the USA published in the International Journal of Business and Emerging Markets, suggests that when people interact with non-domestic, i.e. foreign, e-commerce websites they prefer to use online "live chat" channels rather than the telephone.
Daniel Brannon and Muhanad Manshad Monfort of the College of Business at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado, have looked at the benefits of computer-mediated environments and how they function in the context of cross-cultural services. The team points out that growth among e-commerce sites outside the USA and the English-speaking world, particularly in emerging markets is seeing enormous growth. "Several of the world's fastest-growing e-commerce retailers are located in emerging economies," they point out. "For instance, Chinese retailers JD dot com and Alibaba."
Despite this growth, the team reports that several non-domestic e-commerce sites have struggled to gain a foothold in the US markets. There may well be a perception that these companies are somehow culturally distant and many US consumers are therefore reluctant to encounter or deal with "foreign" customer service personnel. Of course, many non-domestic companies invest heavily in so-called cultural intelligence so that they can engage more authentically with non-native customers. This is thought to make any interaction between a US consumer and a foreign service agent smoother and more positive.
However, there is evidence that the inverse of that effort might work better in many instances. De-personalising the transactions by switching to computer-mediated live chat instead of communication via a telephone call, can have many advantages. The business can control more easily the characteristics of the interaction, especially where automated responses are utilized. When an operative is required to interject, there will be scripted responses and their training will be useful in ensuring communication smooth and polite communication with a lower risk of miscommunication through spoken-word language barriers.
"Given the recent global expansion of online retail, managers should be aware of how foreign (vs. domestic) consumers using their websites prefer to communicate and interact with them," the team explains. As training of service staff in matters of non-native cultural etiquette as well as language skills is inevitably costly. Live chat can preclude ambiguity in communication to some degree as well as circumventing the need for the comprehensive training that a telephone operative would need.
Brannon, D.C. and Manshad, M. (2019) 'Bridging the divide with a chat window: why consumers prefer using live chat support on foreign e-commerce sites', Int. J. Business and Emerging Markets, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp.335-347.
Computers against Creutzfeldt-Jakob
Computational methods have been used to design a new drug that might be used to target the defective protein present in familial Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (fCJD). The de novo pharmacophore-based drug design and virtual molecular docking work is described in detail in the International Journal of Computational Biology and Drug Design.
To create their designer drug, the team starts with a data file that describes the complete structure of the target protein obtained from the Protein Data Bank (RCSB PDB). They use a computational model, the Yasara energy minimisation webserver to drill down on this structure to obtain its likely shape and form in the body. This minimized structure is then validated using the RAMPAGE webserver.
The next step is to use yet more computational tools to home in on hollows or "pockets" in the protein structure into which putative small molecule drugs might fit, or dock. With those pockets in hand, they then use another tool to generate likely chemical structures that might fit, this ultimately gives them an optimal "pharmacophore", a plausible drug structure, which can be used as a template to search the PubChem database of known chemicals that have a very similar size and shape. The team then uses a docking program to see which of those chemicals in the database are most likely to fit the pockets in the target protein in this disease.
They identified five small molecules that might be active in this context. Analysis of these chemicals' ADMET (absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, and toxicity) properties show that any of the five might ultimately be proven to be candidates for further investigation in the laboratory and ultimately in the clinic as drug development leads.
The team says that their approach could be helpful in the design and development of many more potential anti-prion drugs. Optimising the method to incorporate more sophisticated modeling techniques could improve the drug leads obtained.
Alam, R., Rahman, G.M.S., Hasan, N. and Chowdhury, A.S. (2020) 'A De-Novo drug design and ADMET study to design small molecule stabilisers targeting mutant (V210I) human prion protein against familial Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (fCJD)', Int. J. Computational Biology and Drug Design, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.21–35.
Optimal staffing of call centres
How do call centre managers most effectively decide on staffing levels. New research published in the European Journal of Industrial Engineering offers a new approach.
Rodrigo Barbosa-Correa, Alcides Santander-Mercado, and María Jubiz-Dia of the Universidad del Norte, in Colombia, and colleague Ricardo Rodríguez-Ramos of Bienestar IPS also in Colombia, explain that optimizing staffing levels in a telecommunications company call centre generally needs to be done at the same time as keeping costs down. They carried out an analysis of daily tasks to work out hourly workloads. They then applied an aggregate planning model to get an initial solution for requisite staffing levels based on workforce costs, service level, personnel hiring and migration, and work supplements.
The output from that analysis was then fed into a discrete-event simulation model. This allowed the team to assess the system performance based on queuing characteristics, demand variability, and resources utilization. They could then look at different schedules and capacity levels to see which would perform best and match the demands of a call centre.
The team suggests that their approach gave better results with lower waiting times and more balanced resource utilization than other analytical techniques previously used. "The approach is useful for planning capacity levels in projects and locating new centres," the team writes.
Barbosa-Correa, R., Santander-Mercado, A., Jubiz-Diaz, M. and Rodríguez-Ramos, R. (2020) 'Establishing call-centre staffing levels using aggregate planning and simulation approach', European J. Industrial Engineering, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp.1–33.
Sorting the social network fakers from the movers and shakers
How can we detect fake profiles to preclude their disruptive and deleterious effects on social media and social networks? Writing in the International Journal of Information and Computer Security, Somya Ranjan Sahoo and B.B. Gupta of the National Institute of Technology at Kurukshetra in Haryana, India, discuss the issues and possible solutions.
Recent research in fake profile detection, they explain has focused on machine learning in order to reveal the kind of suspicious account activity that might betray a fake account. The team is now taking machine learning to big data to find a better way to distinguish the fakers from the movers and shakers, on the well-known social networking system, Facebook.
Facebook is an important part of life for many people, for organizations and other entities. There are some 2.5 billion monthly active users and approximately 1.7 billion people use a Facebook account every day. It is not known how many fake accounts lurk within those statistics. It is known that many malicious third parties hoping to gain access to personal, private, and other data with malicious intent will exploit loopholes in the Facebook system. That combined with social engineering confidence tricks and other exploits can provide them with sufficient data to access other people's accounts and from there to steal personal information and then even break into other systems such as email and banking systems.
There have been many security exploits used to gain malicious access to information but the use of fake accounts can be the most successful especially when the person being attacked assumes the legitimacy or honesty of the fake account, accepts a friendship request or clicks on a malware phishing link, for instance.
The team's tailored extension for the popular Google Chrome browser allows them to successfully spot fake accounts. This might be used by security experts as a third-party reporting tool to help Facebook cleanup its systems or ultimately perhaps by the company or users. The team is also now extending the approach to other popular networking sites such as Twitter and Google+.
Sahoo, S.R. and Gupta, B.B. (2020) 'Fake profile detection in multimedia big data on online social networks', Int. J. Information and Computer Security, Vol. 12, Nos. 2/3, pp.303-331.
Antimicrobial velvet bushwillow nanoparticles
Extracts from the leaves of the African tree, the velvet bushwillow, Combretum molle, can be used as a bio template for the environmentally friendly synthesis of silver nanoparticles with antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant activity. Chemists Z. Nate, M.J. Moloto, P.K. Mubiayi, and F.M. Mtunzi of Vaal University of Technology, and N.P. Sibiya of the University of Kwazulu-Natal, and South Africa, explain details of their novel process this week in the International Journal of Nano and Biomaterials.
Plant extracts have been used successfully in the synthesis of metal nanoparticles. Indeed, aqueous extracts of Combretum molle have been used previously. The presence of tannins, proteins, flavonoids, and phenols allows the extracts to reduce metal salts in solution to insoluble metal particles while the same biomolecules can also act as capping agents that control the growth of those very nanoparticles and act to "cap" the surfaces.
In the present work, the team has successfully generated silver nanoparticles in a narrow range of sizes from 1 to 30 nanometres. They found that silver nanoparticles made in this way were more effective against a range of microbes than nanoparticles made using a standard non-biological procedure. Activity was demonstrated against important pathogenic species: Candida albicans, Cryptococcus neoformans, Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis, Klebsiella pneumonia, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
"These results indicated that the synthesised silver nanoparticles can be used as growth inhibitors against the studied bacteria and fungi species as they showed better inhibition than the already available antibacterial and antifungal agents," the team writes. They add that the capped silver nanoparticles have antioxidant activity but it is not as great as the activity of the aqueous extract from the plant itself.
Nate, Z., Moloto, M.J., Sibiya, N.P., Mubiayi, P.K. and Mtunzi, F.M. (2019) 'Green synthesis of silver nanoparticles using aqueous extract of Combretum molle leaves, their antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant activity', Int. J. Nano and Biomaterials, Vol. 8, Nos. 3/4, pp.189–203.
Making it last on St Valentine's Day
On St Valentine's Day, 14th February, some people may have been lucky enough to receive fresh-cut roses. A new study published International Journal Postharvest Technology and Innovation has advice on how to make the blooms, if not the love, last.
Esmaeil Chamani of the Department of Horticultural Sciences at the University of Mohaghegh Ardabili, in Ardabil, Iran and Carol Wagstaff of the School of Food Biosciences at the University of Reading, Reading, UK, have evaluated the effect of different levels of relative humidity (60%, 75%, and 90%) and re-cutting of the stems at 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 centimetres re-cutting at the end of the stem on "vase life". The team carried out two parallel experiments using either a bucket or a vase. Conditions were randomised and eight replications in the bucket experiment and five replications in the vase experiment were carried out.
The basic result was that re-cutting stems had little effect on how long the blooms retained their floral prowess. Increasing humidity from 60 to 90 percent was the optimal alteration for prolonging the display. The findings corroborate how shortened longevity of cut roses is primarily related to water loss from their large leaf area and the essentially unfavourable growth conditions for a cut flower. That said, the team also found that higher humidity would increase bacterial growth. This could be counteracted by cutting 5 centimetres from the end of the cut stem.
The blooming bottom line for Valentine's lovers – trim your rose stems and make sure things are kept quite steamy around the vase.
Chamani, E. and Wagstaff, C. (2019) 'Effects of postharvest relative humidity and various re-cutting on vase life of cut rose flowers', Int. J. Postharvest Technology and Innovation, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp.70–82.
The digital whistleblower
Research published in the International Journal of Technology Policy and Law sets out to answer the question: Can artificial intelligence (AI) replace whistle-blowers in the business sector?
Kafteranis Dimitrios in the Faculty of Law at the University of Luxembourg, suggests that major technological developments in recent years have changed significantly the way we business and at the same time they have created new ways for insiders to expose unethical behaviour in those businesses. Evidence of wrongdoing can be accrued digitally very quickly and modern communication tools allow for the almost instantaneous dissemination of such information to regulatory authorities, the media, and the public.
The emergence of so-called artificial intelligence and machine learning also now means that the extraction of evidence of wrongdoing might be automated. This could remove the human whistleblower from the equation allowing problems to be flagged far more effectively and efficiently without making any one individual a target for remonstrations from those involved in the wrongdoing. This could apply equally to exposure to management within a company or beyond the company when it is the management or the company itself that is involved in the wrongdoing.
The research as it stands suggests that artificial whistleblowing is not credible but could be used to assist a human whistleblower in reporting misdemeanours at various levels to the appropriate authority.
Dimitrios, K. (2019) 'Can artificial intelligence replace whistle-blowers in the business sector?', Int. J. Technology Policy and Law, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp.160–171.
Smoothing out the rough diamonds
Easier access to information and better communication tools has empowered consumers and allows them to make informed and perhaps more socially responsible purchasing decisions. At the same time, corporate responsibility and sustainability are gaining momentum. One might imagine that such positive moves in the world of commerce are universal. However, the diamond industry remains opaque.
Writing in the International Journal of Sustainable Society, Meike Schulte and Cody Morris Paris of Middlesex University Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, suggest that the Kimberley Process was set up to allow the rough diamond trade to monitored and to impede the flow of conflict, or blood, diamonds. Such products hewn from areas of conflict and where human rights abuses, child labour, and slavery, are manifest should not be on the market in a socially responsible world.
The team reports that one in five diamonds in terms of volume and one in ten diamonds in terms of value may have been produced under conditions that cannot be regarded as sustainable or ethical. Human rights abuses in the industry are thus incredibly common across several African nations where diamonds are mined with Angola having the worst record for conflict diamonds where the ethics of human rights are taken into account.
The team suggests that human rights violations are systematic and systemic in the rough diamond industry. Global rough diamond production amounts to around 150 million carats each year with a market value of around 16 billion US dollars. It is time, some of these vast revenues were turned to improving the lives of those working in the mines and to extracting child slaves from the often-horrendous working conditions they face. The team adds that related industries – gold, tin, tungsten, and tantalum – have similar ethical problems that must also be addressed.
Schulte, M. and Paris, C.M. (2020) 'Blood diamonds: an analysis of the state of affairs and the effectiveness of the Kimberley Process', Int. J. Sustainable Society, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp.51–75.
The recency period
The notion of "recency bias" is related to hubris. It is the perception that the events and happenings of recent history will persist into the future. It suggests that the status quo will generally be maintained. Unfortunately, it does not take into account the random effects of human behaviour, environmental response, and many other factors that can upset a recent balance. Of course, hubris usually implies that complacency and recency bias will have a negative outcome as the future unfolds, but occasionally good things do happen.
A team writing in the International Journal of Trade and Global Markets, considers the effects of emotions on recency bias in the context of managerial decision making. Felizia Arni Rudiawarni, Made Narsa, and Bambang Tjahjadi of the Faculty of Economics and Business at the Universitas Airlangga in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, have carried out an experimental study to investigate the emotional baggage associated with recency bias in international financial markets with a specific focus on emerging markets rather than the established markets of the developed world.
Previous studies have demonstrated the existence of recency bias where people give more weight to the latest information they receive rather than considering all previous information too in their decision making and judgement. The present study looks at how elements of emotion affect recency bias. The team has found that recency bias is so strong and ingrained in our behaviour that emotions do not seem to affect our decisions. However, there is an impact on judgement of the order in which positive and negative information is received and perceived. Fundamentally, people don't like to hear bad news.
As such, the team has some advice for strategists in the corporate communications department: When a company has mixed information to disseminate, it is essential to disclose the bad news first and then quickly follow up with positive information to avoid the severely punishing effects of recency bias on the company's share price, for instance.
Rudiawarni, F.A., Made Narsa, I. and Tjahjadi, B. (2020) 'Are emotions exacerbating the recency bias?: An experimental study', Int. J. Trade and Global Markets, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.61-70.
Making money on Youtube
How do "Youtubers" make money? This is an important question for the modern aged posed in the latest issue of the International Journal Business Information Systems. Bo Han of the College of Business at Texas A&M University-Commerce, in Commerce, Texas, USA, offers an answer.
There might be several ways for someone who uploads video content to the site Youtube. Advertising revenue and the marketing of products, services, and digital resources are a couple. However, under the company's current guidelines only Youtubers with more than a threshold number of subscribers will earn advertising revenues from advertisements displayed alongside or within their content and channel.
"YouTube has been a critical social media site for users to share their self-made videos such as 'vlogs', amateur performances, parodies, and funny 'fail' videos with the public," Han explains; there are more than one billion active users and some 400 hours worth of content is uploaded every minute generating billions of video views every day.
Han's analysis of the most popular Youtubers suggests that annual revenues are in line with the number of views received on a given channel, the after-view comment rate, and the attitude of viewers. Revenues tend to slide for older Youtubers, suggesting it is very much a youth phenomenon.
Han has some advice for those hoping to earn a living as a Youtuber:
"We expect our findings can inform entrepreneurial YouTubers that their monetisation model is strongly dependent on both their impact breadth and how well they utilise the acquired resources," he says. "The traditional marketing strategy is critical (e.g., more views leading to more revenues), but it is also important for YouTubers to utilise the social media features offered by YouTube to deepen their impacts on the audience, in order to achieve the expected monetisation success."
Han, B. (2020) 'How do YouTubers make money? A lesson learned from the most subscribed YouTuber channels', Int. J. Business Information Systems, Vol. 33, No. 1, pp.132-143.
Crawling the invisible web genetically
The World-wide Web, WWW, or the web, has grown immensely since its academic and research inception in 1991 and its subsequent expansion into the public and commercial domains. Initially, it was a network of hyperlinked pages and other digital resources. Very early on, it became obvious that some resources were so vast that it would make more sense to generate the materials required by individual users dynamically rather than storing every single digital entity as a unique item.
Today, countless websites are dynamic, every unique visit draws information and data dynamically from a back-end database and presents it to the user on-demand. Whereas static pages can easily be spidered by search engines, database content that drives dynamic websites is inaccessible. Even as long ago as 2001 when there were already several terabytes of public, static web data, it was estimated that the "invisible web", or "hidden web", not to be confused with the "dark web", was some 550 times bigger than the visible resources.
Writing in the International Journal of Business Intelligence and Data Mining, a team from India describes how they have developed a genetic algorithm-based intelligent multiagent architecture that can extract information from the invisible web. The tools could allow even materials that are purportedly off-limits to conventional search engines to be spidered, scraped, and catalogued for a wide range of applications.
D. Weslin of Bharathiar University and Joshva Devadas of Vellore Institute of Technology describe the details and benefits of their approach in the latest issue of the journal. "The experimental results show that the proposed architecture provides better precision and recall than the existing web crawlers," the team writes.
Weslin, D. and Devadas, T.J. (2020) 'Genetic algorithm-based intelligent multiagent architecture for extracting information from hidden web databases', Int. J. Business Intelligence and Data Mining, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp.204–213.
Safely ageing in a smart home
With an aging population, there is an increasing need for a smart home to be able to monitor health and behaviour with a view to allowing people to continue to live in their homes independently. Research published in the International Journal of Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing shows how motion sensors, actuators, and surveillance systems can be used in different rooms in a home to monitor people are they carry out household chores, such as cooking and cleaning, and other activities, such as using the bathroom, watching television, partaking of hobbies, and sleeping.
Yo-Ping Huang of the Department of Electrical Engineering at the National Taipei University of Technology, in Taiwan, and colleagues suggest that the outputs from sensors and monitors can be fed to an algorithm trained to recognise normal behaviour and to flag issues when a person is unexpectedly immobilized or carrying out an unusual activity in a part of their home where such activities are not commonly undertaken. The system can then alert healthcare workers or family members that there may be a crisis underway and the elderly person can be contacted or emerging services sent to assist.
The team has simulated behaviour and tested the system and its results show that the proposed system outperforms support vector machines in terms of score and accuracy in identifying daily activities.
The researchers add that they will next integrate the system with voice recognition to allow the remote control of appliances used in daily life as well as making wireless and mobile devices connectable so that carers can be availed of potentially hazardous or life-threatening situations as they arise in the person's home without the carer needing to be in the home continuously to look after the person.
Huang, Y-P., Basanta, H., Kuo, H-C. and Chiao, H-T. (2020) 'Sensor-based detection of abnormal events for elderly people using deep belief networks', Int. J. Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing, Vol. 33, No. 1, pp.36–47.
Recommending children's books
Yiu-Kai Ng of the Computer Science Department at Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah, USA, suggests that promoting good reading habits in children is critical to their learning and development as mature members of a thriving society. Writing in the International Journal of Business Intelligence and Data Mining, he also suggests that we need novel ways to recommend reading matter to children that is not based simply on popularity.
Given the prevalence of the internet and mobile phone apps, there is surely a way to extract reading habits and create a so-called recommendation engine based on wider data points than simple popularity. The development of such a tool would allow customisation and personalisation to come to the fore and at the same time avoid what one might perceive as a reading "echo chamber" based on a few popular authors. This is especially important in a multicultural world where exposure to diversity is increasingly important to help us combat bigotry and prejudice and to create a more accepting world as our children grow.
Ng and colleagues have now developed "CBRec". This is a book recommendation system for children that uses matrix factorisation and content-based filtering approaches to offer suggestions of what the child should read next with greater potential for their enjoying and learning from those books. The new system avoids the need for any kind of social "tags" that might be gleaned from adult users of online social networking sites but at the same time also considers age and reading level.
Given that there are tens of thousands of books for children published every year, this tool could become a significant part of engaging young readers with a wider authorship than the bestsellers lists might otherwise offer them.
Ng, Y-K. (2020) 'CBRec: a book recommendation system for children using the matrix factorisation and content-based filtering approaches', Int. J. Business Intelligence and Data Mining, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp.129-149.
Attacking the clones
It is relatively easy to clone parts of an image with photo editing software to remove objects and backgrounds or even to duplicate objects. A skilful digital artist will be able to do this almost seamlessly. Such artists with malicious intent can use cloning tools and to fake and forge images and detecting such distortions of the originals can be difficult even to those trained in the art themselves.
Now, work published in the International Journal of Forensic Software Engineering shows how two distinct analytical techniques – ad hoc method and principal component analysis (PCA) based scale-invariant feature transform (SIFT) method – can work together in a hybrid system to analyse an image and reveal where such cloning techniques have been used for illicit purposes. Ashish Kumar Chakraverti of IKG-Punjab Technical University, in Jalandhar, and Vijay Dhir of the M.K. Group of Institutes, in Amritsar, Punjab, India, provide details in the latest issue of the journal.
The approach involves a pre-processing step in which the image of interest is adjusted in terms of contrast and colour and other factors to create a version of the image that can be analysed more readily. The hybrid analytical technique then works its way through the image to reveal errant regions of the image. The team has tested its hybrid approach successfully on the CoMoFoD image database. They had fewer false positives and negatives than state-of-art detection programs, which bodes well for its application in defeating criminality involving such image manipulation.
Chakraverti, A.K. and Dhir, V. (2019) 'A hybrid approach to find cloned objects in copy move forged images', Int. J. Forensic Software Engineering, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp.3–20.
Ozone levels and climate change
The oxygen in the air that we breathe is O2. Two oxygen atoms joined together to form a diatomic molecule. It is essential to life. However, there is another form of oxygen where three oxygen atoms join together to make an O3 molecule. We call this triatomic oxygen, ozone. Ozone is present in the upper atmosphere and protects the planet to some extent from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. However, combustion and other processes at ground level generate ozone as a noxious and toxic pollutant that can cause smog and is deleterious to air quality and so human and environmental health.
Writing in the International Journal of Environment and Pollution, an international team has developed an advanced algorithm that can be used to investigate the impact of climate change on ozone levels. Zahari Zlatev of the Department of Environmental Science at Aarhus University in Roskilde, Denmark, Ivan Dimov and Krassimir Georgiev of the Institute of Information and Communication Technologies at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia, Bulgaria, and István Faragó and Ágnes Havasi of the MTA-ELTE Numerical Analysis and Large Networks Research Group in Budapest, Hungary, discuss details in the paper. Their model is built on a system of non-linear partial differential equations. They use it to analyse a sixteen-year timeframe across the whole of Europe and environs.
The team has to some extent overcome the complexities of the data and its uncertainties, but their conclusion is that climate change will ultimately lead to higher levels of an atmospheric pollutant like ozone.
Zlatev, Z., Dimov, I., Faragó, I., Georgiev, K. and Havasi, Á. (2019) 'Advanced algorithms for studying the impact of climate changes on ozone levels in the atmosphere', Int. J. Environment and Pollution, Vol. 66, Nos. 1/2/3, pp.212-238.
Lean job satisfaction
Lean principles and lean management are business principles that aim to make manufacturing and other processes more efficient by only have the absolute requisite resources to hand at the right time in any given stage of the process. Thus, excess starting materials, equipment, and essentially redundant staff do not increase the burden on storage, systems, waste disposal, and other factors any one of which might reduce efficiency and so profits.
Now, writing in the International Journal of Intelligent Enterprise, a team from India, discusses the implications of running a lean operation on employee job satisfaction. A. Varadaraj and S. Ananth of the Alliance School of Business, at Alliance University, in Bangalore, suggest that "Lean has shown visible effects in enhancing productivity, reducing wastage of time and materials while still maintaining customer satisfaction as well as employee satisfaction." Part of the overall lean philosophy is about people understanding their motives and aspirations and lean relies on always focusing on employee motivation and work performance.
The team has carried out a detailed survey of employees working in a lean environment and used various statistical tools to analyse the results. They found that employees with a positive attitude coupled with good leadership style both play a vital role in the continuous improvement of lean implementation and have a big influence on job satisfaction. That said, they also found that "A dedicated employee can help the organisation to achieve its goals and benefits only when the leadership appreciates their contribution in the workplace."
In order to be most effective, there has to be good awareness among employees of how lean can benefit them and the company they work for in different ways, training and management must also be positively linked to the whole ethos and what is commonly referred to as work-life balance must be maintained at an optimal level for the sake of employee job satisfaction and to the benefit of the organisation.
Varadaraj, A. and Ananth, S. (2020) 'The effect of lean on job satisfaction', Int. J. Intelligent Enterprise, Vol. 7, Nos. 1/2/3, pp.137–154.
Motherly career paths in India
Marriage and motherhood are almost universal in India, writes a team from Amity University. They then ask in the International Journal of Gender Studies in Developing Societies, whether women have a choice in this matter or whether society so effectively defines their roles almost from birth that the majority do not recognise that there is a choice at all.
Priya Gupta of the Amity School of Fine Arts and Mili Sharma Amity School of Communication additionally ask whether those women who are in fact career-oriented can enjoy motherhood without marriage. They have studied the issues via focus group discussions, spread across four strata in the hope of answering some of the questions that face women in Indian society as it develops. They introduce the concept of "single mothers by choice" or what one might more colloquially call "choice moms" in a pseudo-American vernacular. Moreover, they argue the case of a choice for career women in India to use surrogacy and in vitro fertilisation for their aspirations of motherhood outside of marriage.
Those involved in the study were well aware that many women sacrifice their burgeoning careers to marry and have children. But, they were also aware of celebrity women who had taken unconventional routes to motherhood. Various advantages were perceived by the women in the study of unconventional approaches.
Most respondents believed that their feminine identity can remain intact, and they can retain their independence by side-stepping marriage in their lives, which challenges the patriarchy. However, many were torn on the idea of motherhood without marriage, or even a male partner, given society's entrenched views on such matters. Indian society is changing, but there remain obstacles in the path of women hoping to have a career, avoid marriage, but still take the option of becoming a mother.
Gupta, P. and Sharma, M. (2020) 'Role of media in motivating career-oriented females in challenging the norms of patriarchy', Int. J. Gender Studies in Developing Societies, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp.243–255.
Virtual reality could be used as a powerful marketing tool for urban tourism. Natasha Moorhouse of the Faculty of Business and Law at Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom discusses the details in the International Journal of Technology Marketing.
"In an increasingly complex and global marketplace, it is vital that urban tourism destinations develop novel marketing strategies to differentiate, remain competitive, and ultimately attract and retain visitors to facilitate long-term tourism growth," she writes. Virtual reality has been long anticipated in tourism marketing, offering those selling destination experiences the opportunity to share the wonders of different places from the comfort of the travel agent office or even the holidaymaker's home. But, adoption has been slow despite the potential. Marketers need to understand better the possibilities of these tools as well as their limitations in order to give consumers the best opportunities.
Moorhouse's work contributes exploratory work that could offer valuable insights into the various factors associated with virtual reality tools in this context. She puts particular emphasis on the marketing of urban destinations. Virtual reality will remain a challenge for many tour operators and the public perception of such systems may well slow the uptake. However, there is also the potential for embedding virtual reality into the detailed planning of a trip allowing the traveler to investigate places in detail before they map out their itinerary.
Of course, it might be in the age of lowering our collective carbon footprint, that virtual reality tourism could be a less costly alternative to travel, both financially and environmentally.
Moorhouse, N. (2019) 'Virtual reality as an urban tourism destination marketing tool', Int. J. Technology Marketing, Vol. 13, Nos. 3/4, pp.285–306.
Data mining and extraction of knowledge from disparate sources is big data, big business. But, how does the search software cope with entities that are mentioned where only part of their name is used or a name is hyphenated when it normally isn't? Research published in the International Journal of Intelligent Information and Database Systems reveals details of a new approach to improving named entity recognition and disambiguation in news headlines.
Jayendra Barua and Rajdeep Niyogi of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, at the Indian Institute of Technology, in Roorkee, Uttarakhand, India, explain that their approach to such an analysis of current news headlines builds on a trained algorithm that has been taught to remove the hyphens and complete incomplete names to remove ambiguity.
The team's evaluation of their novel approach shows that it works with approximately 10 percent greater accuracy than conventional systems and so could improve the automated retrieval of news associated with particular companies, organizations, events, public figures, and other entities of interest to those data mining the news. The system works well with newsfeeds, such as the RSS type of newsfeed generated by regularly updated websites. Headlines from such sources might commonly be longer than conventional newspaper headlines but are nevertheless succinct, commonly being ten or fewer words long. Each word might then be important in a data mining context and so disambiguation is critical.
Barua, J. and Niyogi, R. (2019) 'Improving named entity recognition and disambiguation in news headlines', Int. J. Intelligent Information and Database Systems, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp.279–303.
Using social media at work
A new study by researchers in the USA suggests that the use of social media can sometimes have a negative impact on a work project and sometimes correlate positively with success. Writing in the International Journal of Information Technology and Management, the team suggests that using one of the most well-known social media systems, Facebook can have a negative effect on project success whereas LinkedIn has a positive effect.
Joseph Vithayathil of the School of Business at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Majid Dadgar of the School of Management at the University of San Francisco, and Kalu Osiri of the College of Business at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, based their conclusions on an empirical study that analysed the relationship between the use of social media at work and project success at work.
It is well known to employers and employees that workers somehow find time during working hours to use Facebook, LinkedIn, personal Google Mail, Youtube, and many other apps and services unrelated to their work. There are numerous examples of employees being fired for using online services during the working day for personal reasons, such as online shopping, sharing photos and updates, and simply chatting to friends. The rationale is that the use of such services will inevitably have a detrimental effect on work and project success, individual implications for morale aside. Social media use continues unabated regardless of employer perception.
However, the US team has shown that for educated employees their use of LinkedIn, which is often considered a more business and work-related social media platform, correlates positively with project success at work. It may well be that this particular social media service is considered less flippant than others and is used for creating and building contacts at the professional level as well as gaining information pertinent to one's employment.
Vithayathil, J., Dadgar, M. and Osiri, J.K. (2020) 'Does social media use at work lower productivity?', Int. J. Information Technology and Management, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp.47–67.
Refurbished smart phones – the Millennial or Gen X choice
Millions living on the Indian sub-continent aspire to ownership of the technological breakthroughs, smartphones, tablet computers, etc that are now almost ubiquitous in other countries. The question of sustainability arises as does the notion of a so-called "green" economics when considering the huge numbers involved.
A new report in the International Journal of Green Economics, discusses one aspect of technology that might allow such issues to be addressed to some extent. Namely, the idea that a large proportion of the population with disposable income is keen to own and use such technology but also quite well aware of the consequences in terms of material resources, waste and pollution, and climate change. Might those born in the two to three decades from the mid-1960s onwards, the so-called "Generation X" and their successors the "Millennials" perhaps be more inclined to take a refurbished mobile phone rather than a brand-new gadget in the name of "saving the planet".
Prathamesh Mhatre formerly of Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences in Bangalore and Hosur Srinivasan Srivatsa of the M.S. Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences, in Karnataka, India, point out that in the face of consumer pressure born of environmental concern, many companies have been forced to implement refurbishment, recycling, and reuse strategies. This not only gives them a new market but will hopefully have the benefits that consumers are hoping to see in terms of an improved environment.
The team surveyed people born after the so-called "Baby boom" of 1946 to 1964, thus during the approximate periods 1964 to 1980 and then onwards to about 1997, representing "Generation X" and the "Millennial" generation. They looked at purchase intention of people in those two groups living in metropolitan cities of India and analysed their data using Structural Equation Modelling.
"Attitude towards refurbishment, perceived risk and perceived benefit have a significant impact on the purchase intention of Generation X consumers," the team found. Gen X consumers seek direct benefits from purchasing refurbished phones, in other words. "By contrast, the results for Millennials show that product knowledge, perceived risk, attitude towards refurbishment and subjective norm significantly impact their purchase intention, the team reports. The results contradict earlier studies that suggested that behavioural control does not affect purchase intention and suggests that theoretical models do not always assess different demographics correctly.
Mhatre, P. and Srivatsa, H.S. (2019) 'Modelling the purchase intention of millennial and Generation X consumers, towards refurbished mobile phones in India', Int. J. Green Economics, Vol. 13, Nos. 3/4, pp.257–275.
Homomorphic encryption for cloud users
A new approach to encryption could improve user perception of cloud computing services where the users are concerned about private or personal data being exposed to third parties. Writing in the International Journal of Cloud Computing, the team outlines a proposed homomorphic encryption system.
Homomorphic encryption was developed more than a decade ago and represented something of a significant breakthrough in security. By definition, it allows computations to be carried out on a ciphertext (the user's data in the cloud service, for instance), generating an result that is still encrypted but when decrypted by the user matches exactly the result that would be obtained if the same computational operations had been carried out on the user's plain-text as opposed to the uploaded ciphertext. It is thus very useful for ensuring the privacy of data uploaded to cloud and other outsourced computer services.
Despite all the benefits of cloud computing, the very nature of the services wherein a user by necessity must share data with a third party, the cloud service provider, means that there are endless issues of trust. Indeed, many users have not adopted cloud services because they recognise that those services being in a different domain to their own personal or private system offers malicious third parties an opportunity to access their data in a way that would not be possible if that data were held only on the user's domain. The use of sophisticated tools such as homomorphic encryption adds a layer or reassurance that should open up cloud services to all but the most neurotic of user at least within limits.
Swathi, V. and Vani, M.P. (2019) 'Secure cloud computing using homomorphic construction', Int. J. Cloud Computing, Vol. 8, No. 4, pp.354-370.
Heat check on a chip
Scientists working in medical research, biology, cellular studies, and in understanding bacteria and other pathogens often need to know about temperature rises and falls in the systems on which they focus. Many processes involve heat production and tracking those changes can get to the core of understanding a process, diagnosing a disease or perhaps investigating whether a pharmaceutical, such as an antibiotic, will work.
Now, Joohyun Lee and Il Doh of the Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science, in Daejeon, South Korea, have developed a tiny device that measures otherwise undetectable heat changes. They describe their "chip calorimeter" in the International Journal of Nanotechnology. The devices is based on a thermopile made from bismuth and aluminium and can detect sub-microwatt changes in the energy levels, and thus the heat generated by very small scale systems such as cell samples or bacterial cultures.
The chip calorimeter measures 8 by 10 millimetres and comprises four identical measurement units. A platinum electrode to generate heats in the centre and two thermopiles on both sides of the heater and maintains the device at a known temperature within a range of 20 millikelvin, this is technically the furnace and acts as a baseline for the system so that any heat increase from a sample can be detected. The whole device is supported on a membrane of silicon nitride just 1 micrometre thick. "Any heat generation by sample or heater in the area of the inner thermopile connection induces temperature difference between the outer and the inner connections so that it produces voltage signal measurable with a nanovoltmeter," the team explains.
The chip calorimeter could ultimately be employed in measuring metabolic heat of cells for antibiotic research, changes in environmental samples, and temperature changes associated with disease for diagnosis, the team writes.
Lee, J. and Doh, I. (2019) 'Development of chip calorimeter based on Bi/Al thermopile for biological sample measurement', Int. J. Nanotechnol., Vol. 16, Nos. 4/5, pp.281–288.
Predicting hurricane damage
Predicting the damage caused by a hurricane might be possible thanks to an analysis of semantic web resources, according to work published in the International Journal of Computational Science and Engineering.
Quang-Khai Tran and Sa-kwang Song of the Department of Big Data Science at the University of Science and Technology in South Korea, explain that they have created an algorithm trained with reported damage from 48 sites in the USA hit by five different hurricanes. The algorithm can then show the damage that would be seen six hours after landfall of other hurricanes based on the statistics. It works well even with sparse and incomplete data sets, the team reports, which could be important in the face of climate change and very variable weather reporting.
"[The system] was able to estimate the damage levels in several scenarios even if two-thirds of the relevant weather information was unavailable," the team writes. Of course, additional information and training can only improve the system.
In the current version of the algorithm, the team explains that their statistical components should ultimately be able to cope with real-time streaming data with some additional development of a kind outlined in the paper. The system might then be able to predict damage should we once more see hurricanes of the scale and devastation of Katrina in the USA in 2005, cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008, and super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013.
Tran, Q-K. and Song, S-k. (2019) 'Learning pattern of hurricane damage levels using semantic web resources', Int. J. Computational Science and Engineering, Vol. 20, No. 4, pp.492–500.
Researchers in China have investigated what we mean by "information overload" in the context of a social media application, WeChat. Their findings have implications for those who use and run such services as well as other researchers in the field and psychosocial practitioners.
Writing in the International Journal of Mobile Communications, the team reports how the amount of information received and the length of content correlates with user perceptions of information overload as one might expect. However, the number of subscriptions within the service that a user has was not a significant factor in this perception. However, the perception of information overload was associated with negative emotions and an increased (but ongoing) intention to discontinue usage. Negative emotions and this urge to disconnect from the service was higher with a higher level of experience.
Information overload has been defined as the point at which users of any given service receive so much information in a short space of time that they no longer have the capacity to process all of that information satisfactorily and this leads to stress or anxiety and diminished decision-making ability for those people.
"Living in a [so-called] digital society, we are bombarded with information whether or not we actively seek it," the team writes. "We are all affected by the increasing number of sources from which information emanates." They add that "Recognising the antecedents and consequences of information overload can help us to prevent it or at least deal with it."
Zhang, X., Ma, L., Zhang, G. and Wang, G-S. (2020) 'An integrated model of the antecedents and consequences of perceived information overload using WeChat as an example', Int. J. Mobile Communications, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp.19–40.
Obesity as a growing social norm
From a philosophical point of view, we cannot reconcile a world in which so many people are suffering from malnutrition and starving for want a few grains and yet others are killing themselves through obesity.
Now, L. Manning of the Food Policy and Management Food Science and Agri-Food Supply Chain Management at Harper Adams University, in Newport, Shropshire, and J. Kelly of the Aston Business School at Aston University, in Birmingham, UK, discuss how we might locate the social responsibility for obesity in the context of evolving norms. Writing in the International Journal of Innovation and Sustainable Development, the team suggests that most countries have experienced a significant increase in the incidence of obesity in their general population over the last two decades. "Indeed, the condition is now so common, commentators conclude that obesity has become normalised and no longer attracts social opprobrium," the team writes.
Obesity comes with many morbidities and an increased risk of premature death due to a greater incidence of many serious health conditions. Governments and regulators have looked at how individuals should become responsible for their own health but have also applied pressure to food and drink manufacturers to take some of the responsibility for providing citizens with healthier choices. But, are individual and social responsibility the appropriate response to what is a growing crisis, especially as being overweight or obese is increasingly seen as normal despite the health effects.
The notions of gluttony and sloth are often raised in discussions of obesity, but these are at odds with a more enlightened view of the problem that looks at vulnerability that arises through a range of social and economic factors influence an individual's ability to make an informed choice about what they eat and drink, exercise, and their tendency to gaining weight to a problematic degree.
Manning, L. and Kelly, J. (2020) 'Obesity: locating social responsibility in the context of evolving norms', Int. J. Innovation and Sustainable Development, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp.8-29.
How pure is your patchouli?
Indonesian patchouli oil represents a significant share of the world market, supplying some 90 percent to the perfume industry as a common fixative agent for scents. Some 1400 tonnes are produced annually. New markets for this product may open up in medicine, given the efficacy of this substance in certain contexts for cancer chemotherapy. As such, there is an increasing need to look at its distillation from aqueous mixtures to make improved products.
Chemical engineers Chandrawati Cahyani and Wa Ode Cakra Nirwana of Brawijaya University, East Java, Indonesia have investigated how well turbidity might be used as an indicator of how far the distillation process has gone. This approach could offer a less technically onerous and so less costly test than standard gas chromatographic techniques. The team has now demonstrated that there is a linear relationship between turbidity and oil content in the aqueous emulsions of patchouli oil during distillation.
The study also demonstrated that a distillation temperature of 60 degrees Celsius is optimal and minimises the additional cost due to the need for cooling the distillate with chilled water. The process was also shown to work better at pH 4 and with the addition of a 0.2 percent concentration of sodium chloride (common salt).
"Turbidity data proved to be an excellent indicator of separation efficiency, meaning that for field operation in a rural area it will be a beneficial tool," the team reports in the International Journal of Postharvest Technology and Innovation.
Cahyani, C. and Nirwana, W.O.C. (2019) 'The use of turbidity as a separation indicator of patchouli oil from its aqueous mixture in community distillation practices', Int. J. Postharvest Technology and Innovation, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp.1–10.
Bright eyes makes better bactericide
An aqueous extract from the root of Catharanthus roseus, a plant commonly known as bright eyes, can be used as both a reducing agent as well as a capping agent for the synthesis of bactericidal silver nanoparticles, according to research published in the International Journal of Nanoparticles. Researchers from India and The Netherlands reveal details in the latest issue of the journal.
C. roseus goes by several names, the quite whimsical "bright eyes" and the more floral Cape periwinkle, graveyard plant, Madagascar periwinkle, old maid, pink periwinkle, rose periwinkle, and others. It is a member of the dogbane family, or Apocynaceae. The plants in this family can be poisonous to dogs, hence the common name.
A root extract of C. roseus specifically contains a range of bitter, nitrogen-containing alkaloids, flavonoids, carbohydrates, amino acids, and various phenolic compounds. V. Subha of the National Center for Nano Science and Nano Technology at the University of Madras, in Chennai, Tamilnadu, India, and colleagues have exploited this rich chemistry to carry out a biotransformation of silver nitrate solution to generate silver nanoparticles.
The team used UV-visible spectroscopy to investigate the products and found that surface plasmon resonance of the nanoparticles reveals a shallow peak at 490 nanometres, consistent with chemical consistency. X-ray diffraction analysis showed their crystalline nature while transmission electron microscopy showed them to be mono-disperse with a size of about 100 nanometres.
Such biotransformations to generate nanoparticles precludes the need for sophisticated technological solutions and separation techniques. It is not only more cost-efficient but avoids many of the hazardous steps in the synthesis involving toxic solvents and other reagents. Critically, the team's tests of efficacy of these biotransformed silver nanoparticles showed them to be more potent against the likes of Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Bacillus subtilis than silver nanoparticles made by more conventional means.
The team suggests that silver nanoparticles manufactured in this way might have utility in human healthcare against bacterial pathogens. Conversely, they might also be used in some form as alternatives to bactericidal sprays for food crops and other financially important plants.
Subha, V., Ravindran, E., Kumar, A.B.H. and Renganathan, S. (2019) 'Bactericidal effect of silver nanoparticles from aqueous root extracts of Catharanthus roseus', Int. J. Nanoparticles, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp.294–304.
The conservation of cultural heritage
Cultural heritage can be destroyed. It can decay. Once it is gone, it is gone forever, sadly. Writing in the International Journal of Global Warming, Portuguese researchers discuss the potential impact of climate change on cultural heritage and how we might lose artifacts as extreme weather has a worsening impact on our world.
Guilherme Coelho, Hugo Entradas Silva, and Fernando Henriques of the Universidade NOVA de Lisboa explain that museum pieces are subject to deterioration depending on the conditions in which they are stored, whether or not they are being exhibited or archived. The indoor climate is obviously more controllable than the outdoor, but nevertheless the increasing cost of air-conditioning, (de)humidification, and temperature control, are all likely to affect in a detrimental way how conservators look after their charges. In addition, sometimes the building themselves are the cultural heritage.
The team has now modeled various climate change scenarios to see how weather conditions might affect a building such as Lisbon's historic church of Saint Christopher. They modeled conditions in Lisbon, but also applied likely conditions associated with Seville (Mediterranean climate), Prague and Oslo (Continental climate), as well as London (Oceanic climate). They not only consider the integrity of artifacts within but also visitor comfort. After all, what is the purpose of conserving cultural heritage without allowing people to appreciate it? Ultimately, climate change is unlikely to be of benefit to house artifacts in buildings that are themselves cultural artifacts.
Coelho, G.B.A., Silva, H.E. and Henriques, F.M.A. (2019) 'Impact of climate change on cultural heritage: a simulation study to assess the risks for conservation and thermal comfort', Int. J. Global Warming, Vol. 19, No. 4, pp.382-406.
Planning Industry 4.0
A collaboration between scientists in India, Portugal, and the UK, has used social network analysis to solve the problem of industrial plant layout design. The approach allows the optimization of location and connectivity of personnel, jobs, and resources to make the plant as efficient as possible. The team uses maximum completion time of a job (makespan), resource utilisation, and throughput time to evaluate system performance in this context. Overall the approach offers a new way to move forward with plant design in the context of "industry 4.0".
Industry 4.0 is a phrase used to refer to the subset of the fourth industrial revolution and encompasses areas that are not normally classified as an industry, such as smart cities but more commonly is used to discuss industrial plant or factories that use machines and robots connected wirelessly to controllers and sensors and ultimately networked to allow the personnel hierarchy to view processes and production at different levels and to make decisions based on their purview.
M.L.R. Varela of the University of Minho, in Guimarães, Portugal, Vijay Kumar Manupati of NIT Warangal, in Telangana, Suraj Panigrahi of VIT University, in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India, and Eric Costa Research of the Solent University in Southampton, UK (also at INESC Technology and Science, in Porto, Portugal) discuss details in the International Journal of Industrial and Systems Engineering.
"The experimental results revealed that the proposed SNA approach supports to find the key machines of the systems that ultimately lead to the effective performance of the whole system," the team writes.
Varela, M.L.R., Manupati, V.K., Panigrahi, S., Costa, E. and Putnik, G.D. (2020) 'Using social network analysis for industrial plant layout analysis in the context of industry 4.0', Int. J. Industrial and Systems Engineering, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp.1-19.