2022 Journal news
At this time of year, shoppers are usually out in force or logging in to buy gifts. Within days, however, there will be the inevitable need to return those gifts that ever-so-ungrateful recipients reject. How a retailer handles returns and refunds will fundamentally affect its bottom line when it comes to profit. However, research published in the International Journal of Advanced Operations Management looks into the management of customers' returned goods, how this affects the retail supply chain and ultimately profits, and how retailers might actually benefit from customers sending goods back.
Kamil Ciftci and Yertai Tanai of the Department of Information Systems and Decision Sciences, Craig School of Business, California State University, Fresno, California, and George R. Wilson of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering in the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA, have devised a framework that acts as a responsive reverse supply chain for retailers processing returned goods from customers.
The team explains that their proposal works under a competitive full-refund policy and allows the return of goods to be handled in such a way as to perhaps paradoxically maximise profits across the business. This is achieved as goods are returned and refunded at a lower price point and then re-sold at a greater margin. The researchers point out that delays in processing returns is detrimental to the retailer and so an expeditious means to process those returns is essential, hence their framework, if the company is to minimise losses and perhaps boost profits as wholesale prices shift upwards.
Of course, retailers are probably well aware of the effects of inflation on their profits and also the loss of value as new models to replace old products enter the market. However, if they purchase stock, sell it with their profit margin applied, the customer returns the product for a refund, and the retailer then resells at the price adjusted for subsequent inflation, then provided the new customer does not also return the goods, they will make more money. This would not apply if the new customer negotiates a discount or the goods are offered at a lower, sale price.
Ciftci, K., Tanai, Y. and Wilson, G.R. (2022) 'Consumer returns processing in a multi-period setting', Int. J. Advanced Operations Management, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp.430–455.
Research published in the Middle East Journal of Management has looked at the discrimination and bias experienced by overweight and obese people during recruitment and in the workplace setting.
Ali Junaid Khan, Ezza Naseem, Jawad Iqbal, and Muhammad Farooq of the Institute of Business, Management and Administrative Sciences at The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, in Pakistan and Muhammad Akbar Ali Ansari of the University's Department of Commerce found that there is a significant degree of bigotry against people with obesity.
The team surveyed employees working in the banking sector and analysed the results using structured equation modelling. They found that people who are overweight or obese experience discrimination during the hiring process and then feel less accepted than others once they are recruited into a role. They commonly report that they feel as if other people perceive them as being lazy, lacking self-discipline, and incompetent.
The team suggests that the stereotypes and negative attitudes towards overweight people they have found have several implications for policymakers in the banking sector. They suggest that there is an urgent need to "revise recruitment policies, provide equal employment opportunities, and promote a healthy environment." This awareness is necessary to help the sector educate their employees and to eradicate harmful stereotypes.
Khan, A.J., Naseem, E., Iqbal, J., Ansari, M.A.A. and Farooq, M. (2023) 'Is being obese a crime? An examination of hiring and workplace discrimination', Middle East J. Management, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp.34–50.
The future of electric aircraft and deep space missions will rely on our ability to develop electrical and electronic components that can operate at the very low temperatures of the upper atmosphere and the cryogenic temperatures of space. A review of such technology is presented in the International Journal of Powertrains. The review looks specifically at semiconductor devices, passive components, and superconducting devices that operate at very low temperatures.
Mustafeez Ul-Hassan, Yalda Azadeh, Asif Imran Emon, and Fang Luo of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Stony Brook University, New York, USA, point out that in terms of aeronautics and space travel there is a pressing need to usurp pneumatic, hydraulic, and mechanical systems with electrical components. In terms of aircraft, such components will operate at the low temperatures of high-altitude flight, but also benefit from being held at cryogenic temperatures in terms of improving their efficiency. Indeed, the development of superconducting technology that by necessity operates at such temperatures would not only make electric aircraft more feasible and improve space travel option but improve the generation efficiency of wind turbines. As such, developing the requisite technology for advanced transportation would as a spin-off improve the sustainability of power generation for those on the ground too. The team points out that certain components that would be desirable in various setups are yet to be developed.
Cryogenic, simply means a temperature or condition that leads to freezing. However, in the modern technical vernacular it usually refers to very low temperatures rather than the everyday temperature of freezing water for example. We commonly discuss cryogenic conditions as being achievable through the use of liquid nitrogen, which is at 77 kelvin, liquid hydrogen, 33 kelvin, or liquid helium at 4 kelvin. The Kelvin scale of temperature in absolute scale in which the coldest possible temperature is 0 kelvin and there are no negative temperatures. We do not talk of degrees on the Kelvin scale but the temperature separation between integer values is equivalent to a degree on the Celsius scale. 0 kelvin is -273.15 degrees Celsius. 0 degrees Celsius is thus 273.15 kelvin.
The team surveys devices, passive components, converters, and superconducting machines and suggests that their findings will "help to flesh out the behaviour of such components and can serve as a database for the successful design of cryogenic power conversion systems."
Ul-Hassan, M., Azadeh, Y., Emon, A.I. and Luo, F. (2022) 'Review of power electronics converters and associated components/systems at cryogenic temperatures', Int. J. Powertrains, Vol. 11, Nos. 2/3, pp.243–263.
Research published in the International Journal of Electronic Security and Digital Forensics has looked at the role cyberterrorism plays in the emergence of international crises. Cyberterrorism threatens us at the local, regional, and international levels, the work suggests, and reveals once again how any tool no matter how useful or critical can be subverted and used for malicious intent.
Abedalrzag Aldalbeeh of the Prince Al-Hussein bin Abdullah II Academy for Civil Protection at the Al-Balqa Applied University and Ahmad Alsharqawi of the Faculty of Law at the Applied Science Private University, both in Jordan, explain that the benefits wrought by technological developments can always be exploited for harm. They point out that in terms of online technology on which so many people now rely, "cyber threats have become so complex that it has become difficult to limit them or develop tight strategies to fully confront them, especially with their multiple forms and sources and rapid and continuous development."
Security policies at the national and international level must face up to this growing problem. How they do so is not entirely clear as technology continues to evolve and those with malicious intent continues to exploit it in novel ways. It is important that we understand how malicious activity online, cyber threats, cyberterrorism might lead to international crises if we are to prevent such crises developing.
Cyberterrorism is by definition just as heinous as conventional terrorism, it can instil fear and anxiety in the same way as conventional acts, if we imagine a potentially lethal attack on infrastructure such as hospitals, national defences, manufacturing industries, power supply and beyond.
Aldalbeeh, A. and Alsharqawi, A. (2023) 'Cyber terrorism and its role in the outbreak of international crisis', Int. J. Electronic Security and Digital Forensics, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp.24–32.
A case study of university students in the International Journal of Knowledge Management in Tourism and Hospitality has looked at how COVID-19 affected dining out and food home delivery. The team found that in Bangladesh where app-based food delivery services are becoming increasingly popular, price value and convenience were more important to customers choosing online food delivery rather than service quality, delivery experience, and ease of use during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shahedul Hasan, Md. Imran Hossain Shohag, Imtiaz Uddin Chowdhury, Rubab Miswar, and Md. Ashaduzzaman of the Universities of Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh, suggest that their work offers new insights into how food suppliers might make better use of the apps they offer or are associated with to improve their access to this growing student market.
The team explains that price value is the degree to which consumers perceive the cost of using the system as being reasonable. Service quality is defined as the degree to which the customer is satisfied with using the platform to browse and order and then to receive their food. Delivery service focuses on the latter aspect of service quality and reflects the customer's experience with the receipt of their food being timely and to the right address. Ease of use refers to how little extra effort the customer must put in to make use of an app, place their order, and receive their food. Finally, convenience is simply defined as the benefit in terms of accessibility to food delivery.
As the team found it was the first, price value, and convenience, that are the main drivers for the university students surveyed in this research, and their inclination to use a food delivery app or not.
They point out that their analysis showed that just over three-quarters of the survey respondents were male, 90% were aged between 21 and 30 years old, and more than three-quarters had used food delivery app services previously.
Hasan, S., Shohag, M.I.H., Chowdhury, I.U., Miswar, R. and Ashaduzzaman, M. (2023) 'From eating out to online food ordering amid COVID-19: a case of food delivery apps', Int. J. Knowledge Management in Tourism and Hospitality, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp.50–68.
An empirical study of online pharmacy use in India published in the International Journal of Business Innovation and Research reveals that the perception of associated risk deters many users of such services. As such, there is a pressing need for online pharmacies to understand this issue and to develop strategies to improve the outlook for their business by building customer trust.
Brinda Sampat of NMIMS – Global Access School for Continuing Education (NGA-SCE) at NMIMS University in Mumbai and Kali Charan Sabat of GD Goenka University in Gurugram, India, discuss the recent growth in online pharmacies and the website and mobile phone applications they utilise to market and sell medicinal and healthcare products to the public. It is, they suggest quite common now for such retailers not to have a traditional physical presence but to exist wholly in the digital realm in terms of outlets.
There are many benefits to using an online pharmacy such as rapid home delivery for those who are housebound or those who live a considerable distance from a conventional bricks-and-mortar store. There are numerous online pharmacies in India, including Netmeds, PharmEasy, AppolloPharmacy, Healthsaverz, Buydrug, 1mg, Medplusmart, Merapharmacy, and CareOnGo, all of them offering a service to what is after all one of the biggest potential markets for the products they offer.
The team points out that the rise of e-commerce and, in this context, online pharmacies is driven by the rapid and recent development in India, the growing middle class, and rising income and concomitant standard of living for a proportion of the population. The market value in 2019 was equivalent to almost ten billion dollars. Forecasts suggest that this figure will double for 2023.
Of course, two-thirds of the population of India lives in rural areas. This could be a double-edged sword in the sense that those living remotely from the facilities offered by city life could best benefit from e-commerce, but the converse is that their very remoteness leaves many of those people disconnected from the requisite infrastructure including high-speed internet access and a network of couriers to fulfil orders.
In a developing nation, of course, improvements in such infrastructure are high on the agenda. However, technical improvements need to be accompanied by education so that those who might benefit learn about what is on offer and how to make use of it.
Other obstacles that are perhaps not present in the USA or northern Europe are the burden of somewhat opaque and complex rules and regulations that slow the emergence of online pharmacies that would in the USA and Europe be entirely legitimate but are restricted to some degree by red tape in India. That is not to say that the USA and Europe have a lackadaisical stance on health and safety, security and privacy. Quite the opposite, but the more transparent and streamlined regulations in those regions have allowed online pharmacies to thrive.
Sampat, B. and Sabat, K.C. (2022) 'Adoption of online pharmacies in India: an empirical study', Int. J. Business Innovation and Research, Vol. 29, No. 4, pp.449–478.
Push notifications from the applications on one's smart device can be very useful. They can also be rather intrusive in some instances. As such, within the European Union, there is a requirement for applications, apps, to request permissions from users as to whether they opt-in to such notifications. Research in the International Journal of Mobile Communications looks at how app providers might frame this opt-in request to better serve their own needs, provide a useful service for their users, but also keep within the legal requirements for such apps.
Diana Gavilan of the Research Unit – ESIC University in the Facultad de Ciencias de la Información and Maria Avello of the Department of Marketing in the Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales both at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain, have looked at the two ways in which such opt-in requests might be framed. The researchers analyse those requests from a personal and a social perspective.
Fundamentally, their work reveals that developers and providers hoping to achieve greater opt-in rates for push notifications from their apps need to improve the quality of information that they provide in those requests. This ultimately will lead to a greater number of people choosing to opt-in. The team suggests that their work improves our understanding of the consumer decision-making process on such matters. The team suggests that opt-in requests must inform users of the value added by opting-in in terms of their experience of using the app as well as demonstrating a so-called social proof.
Given that push notifications are often about marketing, the work also offers new insight on how the consumer decision-making process affects response to mobile advertising. The way in which users respond to particular types of opt-in requests also suggests how the wording of a marketing campaign might also be optimised to encourage an improved response. The team also offers a warning to those companies and providers that might follow their advice in terms of opt-in requests. If the request is couched in such a way that it makes promises, such as offering a better experience than a rival app, then the company must be able to live up to those promises or else risk losing consumer trust altogether.
Gavilan, D. and Avello, M. (2023) 'Enabling smartphone push notifications: the effect of a framed opt-in request', Int. J. Mobile Communications, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp.1–18.
The accurate identification of insects is critical in research of ecosystems and in pest control in agriculture and forestry. Writing in the International Journal of Systems, Control and Communications, a team from China has focused on the identification of insects in the Wudalianchi Scenic Area in Heilongjiang Province. This region of China is considered one of the most useful for studying species adaption and the evolution of biological communities. In such studies, rapid and accurate insect identification in the field is critical.
Yao Xiao, Aocheng Zhou, Lin Zhou, and Yue Zhao of The School of Technology at Beijing Forestry University have developed an automatic insect identification system based on the SE-ResNeXt convolutional neural network, which they suggest could reduce the researchers' workload as well as reducing the incorrect assignment to species. The team demonstrated 98 percent accuracy with their system, which coupled with field expertise could improve such studies in a meaningful way. The development of a website and app using the neural network will improve data storage and visualisation. Such efforts will ultimately supplant the archaic storage of insect specimens, especially given that such specimens do not represent the currency of ecosystems.
Research in locations such as the Wudalianchi Scenic Area is vital for conservation efforts especially given the rapid and widespread decline in biodiversity being seen the world over and in particular with respect to insects and other invertebrates as well as birds, fish and many other types of organism.
The team suggests that their app is particularly suited to research in the forest environment. However, in terms of what one might refer to as the bigger picture, the app and the associated website could find use in education, public understanding, and the broadening of conservation awareness.
Xiao, Y., Zhou, A., Zhou, L. and Zhao, Y. (2023) 'Automatic insect identification system based on SE-ResNeXt', Int. J. Systems, Control and Communications, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp.81–98.
Rice is one of the most important food crops for billions of people but the plants are susceptible to a wide variety of diseases that are not always easy to identify in the field. New work in the International Journal of Engineering Systems Modelling and Simulation has investigated whether an application based on a convolution neural network algorithm could be used to quickly and effectively determine what is afflicting a crop, especially in the early stages when signs and symptoms may well be ambiguous.
Manoj Agrawal and Shweta Agrawal of Sage University in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, suggest that an automated method for rice disease identification is much needed. They have now trained various machine learning tools with more than 4000 images of healthy and diseased rice and tested them against disease data from different sources. They demonstrated that the ResNet50 architecture offers the greatest accuracy at 97.5 percent.
The system can determine from a photograph of a sample of the crop whether or not it is diseased and if so, can then identify which of the following common diseases that affect rice the plant has: Leaf Blast, Brown Spot, Sheath Blight, Leaf Scald, Bacterial Leaf Blight, Rice Blast, Neck Blast, False Smut, Tungro, Stem Borer, Hispa, and Sheath Rot.
Overall, the team's approach is 98.2 percent accurate on independent test images. Such accuracy is sufficient to guide farmers to make an appropriate response to a given infection in their crop and thus save both their crop and their resources rather than wasting produce or money on ineffective treatments. The team emphasises that the system works well irrespective of the lighting conditions when the photograph is taken or the background in the photograph. They add that accuracy might still be improved by adding more images to the training dataset to help the application make predictions from photos taken in disparate conditions.
Agrawal, M. and Agrawal, S. (2023) 'Rice plant diseases detection using convolutional neural networks', Int. J. Engineering Systems Modelling and Simulation, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp.30–42.
As means to raise capital for a business venture, crowd-funding has come increasingly to the fore since the advent of social media. A good campaign that goes viral can quickly bring adequate funds for an adventurous start-up. Writing in the International Journal of Entrepreneurial Venturing, a team from Germany suggests that this alternative to venture capital and angel investment might actually lead to overfunding of a startup and that this in itself can lead to the failure of the company.
Crowdfunding has been around a lot longer than the internet, of course, many entrepreneurs, activists, authors, and even leaders have sought money from the general public to help them finance their ventures. The advent of the world wide web in the 1990s and the subsequent arrival of Web 2.0 and social media opened up many more avenues along which an innovative entrepreneur might meet putative backers. Occasionally, those who donate to ventures through crowd-funding campaigns do so out of a sense of altruism, perhaps to finance a worthy venture that might benefit society or an individual in need. More often, the crowd-funding is driven by the potential for reward, a signed copy of that author's book or a discount on the product to be manufactured by a startup, for instance.
There are many potential benefits for the crowd-funder and from the entrepreneur's point of view, their success in such a campaign can often act as a test of the future market. It is now well-known that perhaps half of the ventures seeking crowd-funding fail to reach their funding goal and fall at this first hurdle. However, of those that are successful around half receive more than their initial funding call. A small percentage end up being massively overfunded based on their initial needs. This phenomenon was largely unknown in the era of venture capitalists and angel investors when the investment was made in a much more steady, slower, and considered manner.
The team offers that one of the explanations in many cases is quite obvious: a good marketing campaign to reap crowdfunding that is not underpinned by a solid offering from the company itself in terms of its product development, production, and sales. Ultimately, it is often the case that "this phenomenon leads to the dominance of startups with great marketing campaigns but with little potential to fulfil their promises," the team writes.
They add that their analysis of failed start-ups reveals that there are other factors at play: entrepreneur, misconduct, poor product features, a failure in the product development process, organisational problems, delays, financial resources, poor market conditions, and failures with partners.
Moritz T. Bruckner and Daniel J. Veit of the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Augsburg in Augsburg, Dennis M. Steininger of the Faculty of Business Studies and Economics at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern in Kaiserslautern, and Mark Bertleff, Lead Business Analyst at Capgemini in Munich, explain that the research literature lacks explanations as to why start-ups with adequate funding might be prone to failure and why the seemingly paradoxical notion of too much capital investment might underlie the demise of some companies.
The team's findings challenge the received wisdom regarding the financial backing of a startup and subsequent entrepreneurial success or failure. The framework they have developed regarding backing could be used to guide those who wish to invest through crowdfunding and to help startups avoid the common pitfalls of overfunding.
Bruckner, M.T., Steininger, D.M., Bertleff, M. and Veit, D.J. (2022) 'Crowdfunding and entrepreneurial failure: Why do overfunded startups collapse?', Int. J. Entrepreneurial Venturing, Vol. 14, Nos. 4/5, pp.602–644.
When the world wide web was opened up to the commercial world in the 1990s, there was a suggestion that it would not become popular and so-called "bricks and mortar" sellers with shops on the high streets and in the shopping centres would outlive the online fad. The so-called dot com bubble burst at the dawn of the 21st Century, but more than two decades later we can safely say online shopping is now ubiquitous while many shop fronts are now boarded up and many of the large department stores and chains have disappeared.
Writing in the EuroMed Journal of Management, a team from Egypt discusses an emerging trend that sees the reversal of the original paradigm whereby online retailers are now opening shops and encouraging customers to walk through their doors rather than browse online.
Abeer A. Mahrous and Ola Tarek of the Faculty of Commerce, Business Administration Department at Cairo University and Wael Kortam of the Faculty of Business Administration, Economics & Political Science at The British University in Egypt in Sherouk City, suggest that this move is driven by the consumer's obvious desire to have more certainty when buying, which can be achieved by touching and feeling the goods in a bricks-and-mortar store. However, once the online retailers have hooked customers offline in this way, the hope is that those customers will then opt for the online option with subsequent and repeat purchases.
The team discusses the cognitive attributes that initially draw a shopper to an offline store and how their loyalty to the outlet is transferred to the online shopping experience. Fundamentally, it seems that a goal-oriented shopper drawn to the offline shop is more likely to make further purchases from the online outlet. The research suggests that the design of the offline store and salesperson style and communication within the store is important in persuading new customers to make purchases there initially and then to transfer their loyalty seamlessly to the online store.
Mahrous, A.A., Tarek, O. and Kortam, W. (2022) 'Adding bricks to clicks: Which characteristic of a showroom affects consumers when they shop online?', EuroMed J. Management, Vol. 4, No. 4, pp.332–344.
Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a neurological phenomenon experienced in different ways by different people exposed to various stimuli. It is commonly perceived as a pleasant, almost euphoric, feeling. Often described simply as a tingling sensation, paresthesia, it can be much more subtle. Indeed, it is often referred to as "the tingles". The experience of this pleasurable feeling often leaves the person feeling relaxed or alert, depending on the specific stimulus.
Commonly it is felt in the scalp and is often perceived as travelling down the back of the neck and the upper spine. These pleasant feelings are often triggered by certain types of sound, such as a person whispering very closely in one's ear or when seeing certain images. However, it can also be triggered by realizations or epiphanies or when one recognizes pleasure in others, sometimes even when one recognizes one has done a good deed, for instance.
ASMR is a complex phenomenon and in recent years has been used in millions of videos or music where the creator produces content intended to trigger ASMR in the viewer or listener. Indeed, people do often describe music as giving them "the chills", but in the pleasurable sense as opposed to the edgier notion of fear and anxiety associated with a "shiver down the spine". One has to wonder whether these are two faces of the same coin in terms of neurology, however. There is overlap with the concept of frisson, goose bumps and related phenomena. And, of course, goosebumps can also be triggered by pleasure or fear, and perhaps other emotions arising in response to particular stimuli.
Superficially, the phenomenon may seem frivolous, but it perhaps points to how bonding in mammals and other animal groups is reinforced by interactions undertaken in close proximity such as grooming and petting between social contacts, family members, and mates. In the context of interactions between mates, the putatively erotic nature of particular kinds of ASMR triggers is certainly well-known to researchers and those on the internet who might utilize this phenomenon.
Writing in the International Journal of Human Factors and Ergonomics, a team from Thailand has looked at whether ASMR can have a practical use in helping older people, particularly those with age-related hearing loss. Nattanit Buaban and Sakol Teeravarunyou of King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi in Bangkok, suggest ASMR might be used to grab the attention of someone to alert them to a notification from a device, whether doorbell, smartphone, kettle, washing machine, or alarm, that they otherwise might not notice or hear. In their experiments, an earphone device was used to trigger ASMR, but they added that a touch, haptic, device might also be used. It is early stages, but the team's practical concept for ASMR holds much promise for older people with hearing loss who could, with appropriate smart devices, be notified in this novel way to changes requiring their attention.
Buaban, N. and Teeravarunyou, S. (2022) 'Autonomous sensory meridian response as an alert trigger for older users', Int. J. Human Factors and Ergonomics, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp.389–401.
Wearable fitness devices have become very popular among people hoping to improve their health. They can be used to monitor activities such as walking, running, and cycling, plotting routes, recording speed, hills and valleys. Some can monitor pulse rate and other physiological factors, estimating "calories" burned and other such results. Once a purchase has been made, it would be interesting to know from the marketing and commercial perspective whether those who adopt this technology later upgrade their device or even switch allegiance to another brand.
Writing in the International Journal of Mobile Communications, an international team from Indonesia, Taiwan, and Vietnam have looked at switching behaviour among users of wearable fitness devices.
Jengchung Victor Chen and Nguyen Thi Lien of the National Cheng Kung University in Tainan City, Taiwan, Quang-An Ha of the University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Andree E. Widjaja of the Universitas Pelita Harapan in Banten, Indonesia, point out that this market is growing rapidly and is very competitive with sophisticated offerings from many manufacturers. Research into the market has looked mainly at the early adoption of the technology. The current work has considered how users adapt once they have adopted and when and how they switch to other devices once they are familiar with their original purchase and wish to upgrade.
The team has used the so-called "push-pull-mooring" framework to look at how users adopt and adapt in this market. They discuss low enjoyment and low satisfaction as push effects that drive users away from their initial purchase and make them switch to another model or brand of wearable fitness device. They consider greater attractiveness, better health benefits, and subjective norm as pull effects away from their original purchase and towards other devices. Mooring effects, they add, such as switching cost, maintain the status quo.
The team found that various factors would push and pull users. A lack of enjoyment with a given device would drive switching while all the various push and pull factors would have an impact on switching intention, despite the additional cost. The findings could help guide manufacturers and their marketing departments to improve their products but also to increase brand loyalty so that a user who intends to switch is not pushed nor pulled towards a different manufacturer but maintains their loyalty to the original brand when they upgrade to a new model.
Chen, J.V., Ha, Q-A., Widjaja, A.E. and Lien, N.T. (2023) 'To switch or not to switch? Investigating users' switching behaviours of fitness wearable devices', Int. J. Mobile Communications, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp.95–118.
Removing noise, sharpening blurred areas, increasing resolution, and smoothing areas of similar tone are all useful in improving the quality of a digital photo. Writing in the International Journal of Computational Vision and Robotics, a team from China discusses their novel approach to image enhancement using skin-colour segmentation and smoothness.
Haitao Sang, Bo Chen and Shifeng Chen of the College of Information Engineering at Lingnan Normal University in Zhanjiang and Li Yan of the College of Science at Guangdong University of Petrochemical Technology in Maoming explain how their enhancement algorithm is based on skin texture preservation and works with a mask so that hair detail is preserved during the smoothing and denoising. The mask is created using Gaussian fitting that detects and then feathers the edges of the skin areas in the photo.
Their tests show the algorithm to work more effectively than other approaches. It has a strong adaptive capacity and significantly improves portraits without creating artifacts in the image that would make it obvious changes had been made artificially. In the world of photographic art, magazine publishing, advertising, and in the literature of many other areas, photographic quality is often key to a successful presentation and so tools to improve photographic quality during production are keenly sought by designers of such materials. This is especially the case where a unique photo is available only in a low-quality format. The ultimate aim would be to use machine learning to do the drudge work to improve the quality in an automated fashion and so free up time and resources for the designer to apply their creativity.
Sang, H., Chen, B., Chen, S. and Yan, L. (2023) 'Image enhancement based on skin-colour segmentation and smoothness', Int. J. Computational Vision and Robotics, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.1–20.
Research in the International Journal of Electronic Marketing and Retailing looks at the difference of opinion between Generation Y and Generation Z in the adoption of digital payments. They found that people in the older group were less tolerant of risks associated with digital payment and were more prone to social environmental influences whereas those in the younger group were more concerned with ease of use and satisfaction with the process.
Irfan Fadhilah and Daniel Tumpal H. Aruan of the Department of Management at the University of Indonesia in Depok had various hypotheses regarding the adoption of digital payments and surveyed two demographics to understand better the differences in attitudes. Their findings offer new insights into the world of digital payments that can feed back into research in this area and ultimately help direct the further development of the requisite technology.
Digital payments have become a popular alternative to cash or card among many smartphone users. They can link their bank account to an app on their mobile device and quickly and easily make payments for goods and services in a wide variety of settings. It is often assumed that younger people will be the early adopters when it comes to new technology. There might, of course, be subtle differences between the younger age groups.
People in Generation Y are colloquially referred to as "millennials" and are usually defined as being born in the approximate period 1981 to 1996. They are commonly the offspring of Baby Boomers or Generation X, which encompasses those born 1946 to 1964 and 1965 to 1980. Generation Z encompasses those born from 1997 to the early 2010s. This group is often considered to be the first "digital natives" as they were born after the advent of the world-wide web, near-ubiquitous internet access, and easy access to connected mobile devices.
The team's findings corroborate earlier research and once again show that younger people are more likely to adopt the novel technology of digital payments whereas the older group is generally happier to use cash and card. The team suggests that their findings could guide those in the technology and banking sectors to market their services more appropriately to the older group based on their revealed attitudes and opinions regarding digital payments.
Fadhilah, I. and Aruan, D.T.H. (2023) 'Understanding consumer adoption and actual usage of digital payment instruments: comparison between Generation Y and Generation Z', Int. J. Electronic Marketing and Retailing, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp.39–60.
Music has been at the heart of humanity for millennia. It allows us to express and share emotions in ways that are often difficult or impossible with spoken language. While musical tastes can vary from culture to culture there is the potential for ameliorating relationship problems through music, perhaps even at the level of international diplomacy. That is the suggestion posited in the International Journal of Public Law and Policy.
Mayank Mishra of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi, India, has looked at how music might act as a diplomatic conduit through which relations between India and Pakistan might be improved. In this paper, Mishra traces the evolution of music and its role in bilateral politics, as well as the day-to-day lives of the people of both countries. Where political language and discussion are fraught with the problems of misinformation and the misconstrual of what is said between two parties, music offers a shared diplomacy through its long cultural legacy in this part of the world.
Where diplomacy can be delicate, often it fails if compromise and contrition cannot be formulated in the discussions when each side faces challenges. Problems often arise where there are differences of opinion rooted in differences in culture, beliefs, knowledge, morals, laws, and, even art. However, where art, and music as one form of art, stands alone from those cultural roots it is perhaps in the potential for shared appreciation of music regardless of differences in other cultural traits.
This is not to say that music can reconcile geographical, territorial, and political differences, but through education and exchange there is the potential to highlight and appreciate its shared legacy and perhaps build on the trust the music can bring to us to allow diplomatic discussions to progress on an even footing to the benefit of all parties. Music could help advance not national interests but communication and compromise generating the much-needed goodwill to allow parties with conflicting perspectives on the challenges to come together more readily.
Mishra, M. (2023) 'Instrumentality of music in cultural diplomacy between India and Pakistan', Int. J. Public Law and Policy, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp.75–91.
A team from Brazil has looked at the different stresses on the human body when walking, cycling, and driving. Their findings suggest that taking non-motorised trips is the best option in terms of health and wellbeing.
Wesley Cândido de Melo, Augusto César de Mendonça Brasil, and Rita de Cássia Silva of the Transport Graduate Program at the University of Brasília-UnB, Campus Darcy Ribeiro in Brasília discuss details in the World Review of Intermodal Transportation Research. The team examined data from volunteers – blood pressure, galvanic skin response, pulse, and breathing rate while the volunteers walked, cycled, or drove from their homes to the University of Brasília in the early morning and late afternoon along six dedicated routes for walking, cycling, and driving.
Motor transport is a growing problem in big cities in terms of congestion, pollution, and a reduction in the number of people experiencing the health benefits of self-propulsion, whether walking or cycling. Cities built to a plan based in a 1950s ethos are especially problematic in this sense as those cities were commonly designed for cars rather than pedestrians and cyclists. Rebooting and rerouting those cities will take time, money, and effort to open up the healthier route. Brasília has well over one motor vehicle for every two people in the city. However, the city also now has almost 300 miles of cycle paths. Walking and cycling offer health benefits and potentially lower stress levels than driving.
"The results show that non-motorised trips are less stressful than motorised ones, proving that when walking and cycling the traveller is free to obtain the best body conditions to reduce effort and stress, a fact explained by the cost of the minimum specific energy used during the shift," the team writes.
de Melo, W.C., de Mendonça Brasil, A.C. and de Cássia Silva, R. (2022) 'Assessment of human physiology as indicators of stress when driving, biking and walking', World Review of Intermodal Transportation Research, Vol. 11, No. 2.
How does job satisfaction sit with the notion of work-life balance? Writing in the International Journal of Services and Operations Management, a research team from Portugal point out that a positive and stable work environment can improve an employee's sense of belonging in an organisation. In parallel with such a concept, they say that can enhance commitment. The counterpoint is that this commitment and belonging should perhaps be balanced by freedom to have an active and enjoyable personal life outside of work too. However, it was not known whether the various factors connect in a positive way.
Álvaro Dias of the Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias/TRIE, Carolina Feixeira of ISG Business and Economics, Leandro Pereira, Renato Lopes da Costa, and Rui Gonçalves of the Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, all in Lisboa, Portugal, carried out a quantitative study of survey results from workers. They found that workplace environment positively affects job satisfaction. However, perhaps surprisingly, they found that organisational commitment did not correlate with the workers' balance between professional and personal life.
For many workers, professional and personal life is entwined more than ever. Gone are the days of people physically and figuratively clocking in and clocking off. Work pressures spill over into our free time more and more and this issue is exacerbated by the ubiquitous nature of smartphones and the inevitable expectation to respond instantaneously to any notification whether professional or personal.
Job satisfaction is only one component of a person's mental well-being, there has to be satisfaction outside the workplace and there has to be a sturdier dividing line between professional and personal activities if a worker is to achieve a satisfactory work-life balance. It was hypothesised that somehow improving the workplace environment, which does seem to improve job satisfaction would also improve well-being associated with work-life balance. However, the team's results suggest that this is not the case. They also add that for teleworkers and homeworkers, the issues that might exist are complicated still further where the borders between personal and professional life may well be more diffuse given that the daily commute might be just a few minutes from the living room to home office as opposed to a distinct journey from home to workplace.
Dias, Á., Feixeira, C., Pereira, L., da Costa, R.L. and Gonçalves, R. (2022) 'The work-life balance and job satisfaction', Int. J. Services and Operations Management, Vol. 43, No. 3, pp.401–420.
Is biodiesel truly a viable and sustainable alternative to diesel fuels derived from fossil fuels? Writing in the International Journal of Design Engineering, a team from India investigates and comes to the conclusion that the nature of biodiesel as renewable, biodegradable, and non-toxic does indeed make it a good alternative to petrochemical fuels.
Sanjay Patel and P.K. Brahmbhatt, both affiliated with Gujarat Technological University in Ahmedabad, point out that conventional diesel fuel remains one of the primary fuels for transport and many other applications. However, as with all fossil fuels, its use comes at a cost in terms of pollution, particulates, carbon emissions, and, of course, the fact that it is derived from a limited resource, oil.
Biodiesel as an alternative to conventional diesel has come to the fore in recent years as a renewable, and perhaps sustainable choice for transport. Many buses and other vehicles worldwide are now powered with biodiesel derived from biomass, either generated from waste or from crops grown for the purpose of biodiesel production. There have been concerns over the years that biodiesel was somehow less efficient than conventional diesel. Moreover, there were also concerns regarding carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides formation from biodiesel.
The team suggests that with modern biodiesel technology, these concerns are unfounded in terms of emissions of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons in the exhaust gases. The higher oxygen content of biodiesel allows for improved combustion despite the lower calorific value of fuels derived from vegetable matter. However, the presence of oxygen in the fuel itself, while improving combustion raises the cylinder temperature in a diesel engine and so there is a greater concentration of nitrogen oxides produced in the exhaust gases of a biodiesel-powered engine.
This comprehensive review points to the many benefits and highlights how some of the issues surrounding biodiesel use can be circumvented by the use of blended fuels. These also have the advantage of not requiring any modification of the engine itself prior to use, something that has been an issue with standard biodiesel fuels.
Patel, S. and Brahmbhatt, P.K. (2022) 'Comprehensive review of biodiesel as an alternative fuel for diesel engines', Int. J. Design Engineering, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp.61–76.
Antiviral coatings based on nanomaterials could help reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases, according to new work in the International Journal of Surface Science and Engineering. The Indian team has reviewed the state-of-the-art in the context of COVID-19.
We now know the causative agent in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, is most commonly transmitted through the air from coughs and sneezes, and even just the talking and breathing of one infected person to another. However, a secondary path for transmission involves, fomites, droplets containing viral particles that have impinged on a surface that another person may touch and so pick up the infection.
Manoj Raula and Sucheta Sengupta of Amity University in Noida, India, have reviewed nanomaterials that might be used to coat surfaces that people commonly touch in the work environment, in public places, and even in the home. Nanocoatings have been developed to coat glass and plastic as well as cotton fabrics, for instance. The team's review covers metal and metal oxide nanomaterials and how they might be used as antiviral coatings. Examples of nanoparticles being studied include precious metal nanoparticles, gold, silver, and copper, as well as materials such as perovskites.
While the world of antibacterial coatings has moved rapidly in recent years, it was the advent of COVID-19 that provided an initial motivation for the development of antiviral coatings. Such materials could have wide-ranging efficacy against other viruses, such as influenza viruses too. Events and circumstances have overtaken our concerns regarding COVID-19 transmission, however, innovation in antiviral coatings will not be wasted given the likelihood of as yet unimagined future emerging viruses exploiting fomites as a major route for their transmission.
Raula, M. and Sengupta, S. (2022) 'Recent development of antiviral nano-coatings for COVID-19 management – a review', Int. J. Surface Science and Engineering, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp.317–334.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a lot of people being forced to spend more time at home, often working from home, but also essentially isolated in their homes in order to reduce the risk of spreading or catching the disease. Computer games were perhaps a blessed relief from the potential boredom of enforced indoor life and no doubt many people enjoyed the experience. Gaming and reduce stress and anxiety. However, there is a flipside in that beyond a certain point the gaming itself can sometimes reverse that relief and induce stress and anxiety.
Writing in the International Journal of Modelling, Identification and Control, a team from India investigated the emotional response to gaming to ascertain whether there is a positive or a negative net gain. They used a deep-learning algorithm to analyse and classify electroencephalographic signals from gamers while engaged in playing. The algorithm outperformed other approaches to accurately classifying the gamers' emotions. Indeed, the gaming scenario provides the stressors to allow them to train their algorithm to detect emotions and once trained it might in the future be used as a suppressed emotion detector in scenarious other than the computer gaming environment.
Stress and anxiety are generally considered negative emotions by definition, although they do have their place in a balanced life experience, one might suggest. Anxiety can be perceived as excitement in many contexts, which is normally considered a positive emotion, while stress may well be associated with motivation and drive, again a positive. Too much stress and anxiety, however, over prolonged periods, such as a pandemic, are generally not thought of as desirable in the context of good mental and physical health. There is the potential for serious harm if chronic stress and anxiety are not addressed and, of course, concerns about the person exposed or suffering from them to pursue detrimental life choices.
Ahona Ghosh and Sriparna Saha of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad University of Technology in West Bengal, India, being well aware of the problems of chronic stress and anxiety hope their work will allow those studying stress an anxiety to non-invasive investigate these emotions in various circumstances and so perhaps develop guidance and interventions, perhaps associated with gaming, to help people in different walks of life, especially during a global crisis such as a pandemic.
Ghosh, A. and Saha, S. (2022) 'Suppression of positive emotions during pandemic era: a deep learning framework for rehabilitation', Int. J. Modelling, Identification and Control, Vol. 41, Nos. 1/2, pp.143–154.
Machine learning can be used in the classification of health-drink preferences for older people, according to research published in the International Journal of Industrial and Systems Engineering.
The work undertaken in Thailand during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic showed that the complexities of preference and dietary requirements could be used to help health drinks manufacturers develop products that will be better received by the target market. Moreover, the same work could guide older people and carers and healthcare workers allowing them to stick more closely to the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for such products in terms of nutritional and other benefits.
Athakorn Kengpol and Jakkarin Klunngien of King Mongkut's University of Technology North Bangkok explain that as the world population continues to "age", there is a pressing need to address the nutritional requirements of this growing demographic. With a larger number of older people, there is likely to be a greater incidence of chronic health complaints and nutritional problems. Advances in medicine can address some of the illnesses to varying degrees. However, nutrition plays an important role in staving off illness or helping in the maintanance of general health despite the common issues of multiple conditions.
The emergence of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and the ensuing world pandemic it caused complicated this issue still further. The WHO offered guidance on how older people, who would likely be more vulnerable to the potentially devastating symptoms of the disease, might be protected. Part of the guidance was focused on improved nutrition.
The team's work has led to a decision-support system based upon a machine learning model for classifying the beverages. A neural network trained using particle swarm optimisation could then be incorporated into a drinks vending machine to guide users to the most appropriate health beverage.
Kengpol, A. and Klunngien, J. (2022) 'Design of a machine learning to classify health beverages preferences for elderly people: an empirical study during COVID-19 in Thailand', Int. J. Industrial and Systems Engineering, Vol. 42, No. 3, pp.319–337.
There are numerous incentives for developing semi-autonomous vehicles. For instance, if cars can be coordinated into platoon formation for motorway driving there is the potential to increase road capacity, reduce traffic congestion, and lower the risk of collisions. There is also the possibility that formation driving in this way could also reduce aerodynamic drag and so improve total fuel economy for the vehicles in the platoon.
Research in the International Journal of Vehicle Systems Modelling and Testing examines this concept and investigates how vehicle shape, separation distance, and the number of vehicles in a platoon affect aerodynamic drag. Wei Gao, Zhaowen Deng, and Ying Feng of the School of Automotive Engineering at Hubei University of Automotive Technology in Shiyan, China, and Yuping He of the Department of Automotive and Mechatronics Engineering at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, carried out simulations and wind tunnel tests.
The investigation shows that irrespective of the number of vehicles in a platoon, the average aerodynamic drag on each is less than the drag measured on a vehicle driving in isolation. The more vehicles in a platoon the more beneficial is the average drag reduction on total fuel economy. Cars with what is described as a "squareback" shape as opposed to notchback or fastback, have the most to gain in fuel economy when driving in platoon, with an average drag reduction of almost 20% being observed.
The team suggests that the improved fuel economy of having semi-autonomous vehicles driving in a platoon formation on long motorway journery is worth investigating further in developing intelligent transportation systems that retain the freedom of a personal vehicle on which many people are still hooked.
Gao, W., Deng, Z., Feng, Y. and He, Y. (2022) 'On aerodynamic drag reduction of road vehicles in platoon', Int. J. Vehicle Systems Modelling and Testing, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp.1-24.
New work in the International Journal of Business Information Systems looks at the human side of cybersecurity. We might think of cybersecurity as being mostly about firewalls, antivirus software, spam filters, and dDOS detection, but it is often social engineering and human failure that leads to breaches of computer systems and networks rather than sophisticated malware.
Rajesh Kumar Upadhyay of the Graphic Era Hill University, Dehradun, and Anurag Singh and Brij Mohan Singh of the India and College of Engineering Roorkee surveyed professionals, non-professionals, and students working and studying in the educational sector of the Uttarakhand region. They hoped to explore the relationship between awareness of computer security issues and human behaviour. They focused on various personality traits to determine whether there were correlations between those and a person's understanding of cybersecurity. The team points out that while an organization or individual can put in place policies and tools to protect from intrusion that happens digitally it is almost impossible to protect against social engineering without ongoing education of users who might succumb to the dubious and persuasive skills of the confidence trickster.
Cybersecurity is an enormous challenge worldwide, the team emphasizes. The team has now looked at extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness of personality and how this relates to an individual's perception and understanding of cybersecurity with a view to educating where there are gaps in knowledge or where a particular personality type might well be more susceptible to social engineering than another. Fundamentally, we all have different attitudes to cybersecurity and this can thus be an issue within an organization. However, the team did find that conscientious extroverts tended to be more aware of the issues and more likely to take a proactive approach to cybersecurity than others with different personality traits, and this was regardless of gender.
The team suggests that organizations ought to improve their security awareness among their users as well as instigate practices to help thwart social engineering attacks.
Upadhyay, R.K., Singh, A. and Singh, B.M. (2022) 'Human side of cybersecurity: an empirical study', Int. J. Business Information Systems, Vol. 41, No. 3, pp.408–422.
Don't eat the yellow snow, it's good parental advice to every child playing in their local winter wonderland, but there's a good reason not to eat any snow – it could be contaminated with high levels of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Writing in the International Journal of Environment and Pollution a team from China has analysed snow in the Changping District for 16 priority PAHs. Their worrying analysis reveals that the total PAH content of their samples were all at the high-risk level in terms of environmental health.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon are organic compounds (compounds of carbon other than carbon dioxide and carbonates) that are composed of multiple aromatic rings. The term "aromatic" in this context refers to the way in which the carbon atoms are held together in those rings, although etymologically it does refer to the strong odour of the simpler aromatic compounds, such as benzene.
The simplest PAH is naphthalene, which resembles two benzene rings joined, anthracene and phenanthrene contain three such rings, there are many more with more rings in various arrangements. Many of these molecules are volatile, inflammable, toxic and carcinogenic. They are commonly formed through partial combustion of fuels such as coal and biomass and are present in fossil fuels.
The team's analysis revealed that the most common PAHs in the snow samples contained 4 or 5 rings. PAHs with 3 or 6 rings were next highest concentration, followed by naphthalene and its derivatives. The team suggests that it is rather worrying that the PAHs are present at risky concentrations in snow. Snow persists and is often ploughed to the side of roads. When it thaws the PAH content will be carried into the drainage system and beyond.
"It is interesting and should be noted that fresh snow, which is a naturally occurring substance as one important way of water circulation, was proven to be able to absorb and dissolve PAHs especially for high molecular weight molecules and multiring molecules, and can be monitored to trace pollution sources from the air in a short duration in cities," the team writes.
Wan, Y-Y., Fei, J-J., Zhang, Y., Shi, S-X., Dong, L. and Zhang, Z-H. (2021) 'Characteristics of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in fresh snow in the Changping district, Beijing', Int. J. Environment and Pollution, Vol. 69, Nos. 3/4, pp.277–304.
The pretty and delicate Asiatic Dayflower, Commelina communis, the individual blooms of which last a mere 24 hours, hence the name, can quickly soak up toxic copper ions from contaminated soil. The plant, which is native to much of East Asia and the northern part of Southeast Asia, is known as yazhicao but is known as a noxious weed outside the region.
A team at Wuhan University of Science and Technology writing in the International Journal of Environment and Pollution describes how they have grown potted specimens on the plant in soil contaminated with copper and zinc. These two metals are commonly found in the ground around industrial and brownfield sites and there are many efforts to find simple, effective, and often biological methods to efficiently remediate such sites. Plants that accumulate the metals directly from the soil might be grown on such a contaminated site and once they have matured, they can be harvested for processing. Such processing might simply involve safe disposal of the now-contaminated plant matter or else extraction of the absorbed metal ions depending on the economics.
Zhiqiang Pan, Shuqin Zhang, Dajun Ren, Xiaoqing Zhang, and Shuang Liu found that C. communis was much more tolerant of copper than zinc. However, there was a synergistic effect of each metal on the absorption of its counterpart at low soil concentration. Conversely, at high-contamination levels of both metals, the plant's ability to assimilate copper was reduced.
Such facile biological methods for the remediation of soils around industrial sites, mines, and other areas, contaminated with heavy metals could help reduce the environmental harmful effects of such contamination. Left untreated soluble heavy metal ions represent a long-term environmental hazard as well as affecting detrimentally local ecosystems, the associated food chains, and more widely through contamination of groundwater. The demonstration of hyperaccumulation of copper ions from contaminated soil by C. communis points to this species as being a potentially rather useful tool in the development of concerted efforts at phytoremediation of contaminated brownfield and other sites.
Pan, Z., Zhang, S., Ren, D., Zhang, X. and Liu, S. (2021) 'Growth and accumulation of Cu and Zn by Commelina communis under Cu, Zn and their combined pollution', Int. J. Environment and Pollution, Vol. 69, Nos. 3/4, pp.197–211.
A new study in the Journal of International Business and Entrepreneurship Development aims to identify in detail the various stakeholders in the world of professional football. George Yiapanas, Alkis Thrassou, and Demetris Vrontis of the School of Business at the University of Nicosia in Nicosia, Cyprus, have looked at the growth of this "industry" and its impact on business and society.
The team explains how football clubs operate in a dynamic multi-level setting with a wide range of stakeholders that are often demarcated simplistically but in reality represent a granular and very diverse group. Indeed, the ever-shifting relationships between a football club and those stakeholders is very much the heart of the dynamic.
From fans and followers to management and owners, from the players and coaches themselves to the advertisers and broadcasters and the broader media, suppliers and financiers, national and international regulators and advocacy groups. Ensuring that a club is sustainable and goes from strength to strength in terms of winning matches and retaining follower interest is key to maintaining strong relationships with many of the other stakeholders. To underpin the stakeholder relationships, clubs need to understand who their stakeholders are, what roles and involvement each has, and how this all fits together with their seasonal activities. This new research delves into the details of the stakeholder realm in the world of professional football.
"This study significantly contributes to the football industry policymakers and practitioners a detailed analysis and robust knowledge of the relationships between the industry's stakeholders and the football clubs," the research team writes.
"Managing stakeholders is all about creating as much value as possible, without resorting to trade-offs," the team writes. To spin a cliché or two, at the end of the day, in this game of two halves it is obvious that it is not only the club that scores the most goals that wins, but the one that engages with its stakeholders to mutual benefit the most effectively.
Yiapanas, G., Thrassou, A. and Vrontis, D. (2022) 'A holistic strategic perspective of football industry stakeholders', J. International Business and Entrepreneurship Development, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp.349–377.
Well-being and mental health issues have been high on the agenda for many people during the COVID-19 pandemic. One particular aspect where problems have been seen to arise is among people obliged to work from home where the normal day-to-day interactions of the workplace were suddenly withdrawn from their lives. A team from Brunei has looked at well-being theory in this context and discusses their findings in the International Journal of Work Organisation and Emotion.
Muhamad Azuwan Juna, Muhammad Anshari, Norainie Ahmad, and Mahani Hamdan of the Universiti Brunei Darussalam explain how well-being theory considers five variables involved in a person flourishing or otherwise: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. Taken as a whole these variables are often abbreviated as the trademarked term PERMA. The term comes from the writings of psychologist and self-help author Martin Seligman (b. 1942).
The researchers point out that the research evaluation of PERMA and finding the optimal state is lacking, particularly during the COVID-19 period when countless people were either furloughed or obliged to work from home. The changes applied to the public and private sectors, the team adds. Some research has suggested that for many people working from home there are many perceived benefits, including increased productivity, job satisfaction, reduced stress, improved work-life balance, and better mental health. For others, the reverse was seen and for yet others, the picture was unclear. There were, of course, conflicts and problems for many people forced to work from home in terms of work environment, the intercalation of work into family life, communication problems, work intensity, and other personal and working issues. One important finding in the current work was perceived equity between the genders, an issue where there is commonly enormous disparities in the conventional workplace.
The team concludes that the work-from-home ethos, beyond the pandemic, can be beneficial for both employer and employee, but employers need to ensure that the new-normal if it is sustained must be beneficial to both sides or be revised markedly to ensure that it is. Productivity and positive work outcomes must be upheld but not at the price of compromising the well-being and mental health of the employee.
Juna, M.A., Anshari, M., Ahmad, N. and Hamdan, M. (2022) 'Working from home, COVID-19 and multi-dimensional model of well-being theory', Int. J. Work Organisation and Emotion, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp.230–259.
Agriculture in the developing world can reap considerable benefits from the use of modern information and communications technology. A mobile application launched by the government of Tamil Nadu is a case in point. Research published in the International Journal of Agriculture Innovation, Technology and Globalisation discussed how the app, known as Uzhavan, can reduce the digital divide by fostering extension services in the sector.
S. Aravindh Kumar of the Department of Agricultural Extension and Communication at Swami Keshwanand Rajasthan Agricultural University in Bikaner, Rajasthan and C. Karthikeyan of the Department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India, discuss how the Uzhavan app can improve yields. The team's survey of users revealed that most of them are educated and had frequent contact with extension agents. Moreover, those users were media savvy and well acquainted with social media too all of which appear to reduce the time they take to find the information they need.
The Uzhavan app operates in Tamil and English and has a small footprint in terms of the required computing resources on one's mobile device. Almost six million users have downloaded it from the Apple and Google Play online stores. Once a farmer has downloaded it and registered with the service, they have access to a wealth of useful information across agricultural services such as access to information subsidies, information on the fertilisers and feedstock sector, equipment hire, market prices for their products, pertinent weather forecasting, and agricultural news, as well as information on their extension official.
The team explains that this free app is a major step taken to reduce the digital divide by delivering high-quality, timely, and accurate agricultural information and extension services for a large population of farmers who would otherwise have scant access to extension workers who can help them get the best from their land. The researchers found that many users of the Uzhavan app have numerous suggestions for how it might be improved, which they detail in their paper. Nevertheless, they suggest that the efforts of the state government of Tamil Nadu have through the launch of the app begun to cover a large population of farmers with limited extension workers.
Kumar, S.A. and Karthikeyan, C. (2022) ''Uzhavan app' as a conduit to reduce the digital divide by fostering vital agricultural extension services in the state of Tamil Nadu, India', Int. J. Agriculture Innovation, Technology and Globalisation, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp.1–27.
How companies make the most of their presence on social media has lagged behind growth in the very technology they use, according to work published in the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising. Mathupayas Thongmak of Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand, has looked at Facebook post engagement across nine brand categories, including food, fashion, electronics, and telecommunications services, in Thailand. Fundamentally, despite various brands employing different strategies, the most successful were essentially those that entertained visitors to the brand page.
While Facebook was not the first online social networking site, it is the most widely used worldwide with almost 3 billion active monthly users by the third quarter of 2022. That's approximately 3/8ths of the world's population. Such numbers represent a large commercial market that a brand might access through the network. Thongmak points out that globalisation has increased the level of competition between international brands and local brands, but consumers have different opinions on each and so a different response to social media activity from those brands. There has been little research so far to investigate the disparities.
There are four questions that Thongmak's study hoped to answer with respect to consumers in Thailand. First, what post types do brands in each category and global/local brands post on their Facebook pages? Secondly, how do post types affect fan engagement (likes, comments, shares) in Facebook brand pages? Thirdly, how do fan engagement metrics influence each other? Finally, how do brand categories and brand internationalisation affect the link between post types and fan engagement? Thongmak collected and analysed 1,574 posts from 183 Facebook pages in nine brand categories. She found that different content types were used in brand categories and brand groups.
Thongmak concludes that entertaining posts garner the most engagement from consumers and that brands need to use that to generate greater positive word-of-mouth recommendations for their products and services on social media.
Thongmak, M. (2022) 'Influence of post types on Facebook engagement: the moderating roles of brand category and brand internationalisation', Int. J. Internet Marketing and Advertising, Vol. 17, Nos. 3/4, pp.231–270.
Prosthetic joints are usually fabricated from medical-grade metals, such as titanium and ceramics. However, despite major advances on replacement hip bones made from such materials there always remains the issue of biocompatibility and ultimately corrosion caused by the physiological conditions surrounding the prosthetic. Corrosion leads to deterioration of the structure and loss of mechanical strength in the prosthetic. Ultimately, the replacement hip will itself need to be replaced with all the surgical and physical limitations that will entail.
Researchers writing in the International Journal of Materials Engineering Innovation discuss an alternative material for prosthetic hip joints – the epoxy resin, which is non-toxic, biocompatible, and strong.
Ranjit Singh, Manoj Narwariya, and S. Chauhan of the IPS College of Technology and Management in Gwalior, Avadesh K. Sharma and Rajeev Singh of Rajkiya Engineering College in Mainpuri, India, explain how they have used computer modelling to design an epoxy-based prosthetic hip joint and made a prototype using liquid epoxy and a newly developed 3D-printed mould.
Tests on the epoxy hip showed it to have the ability to cope with a maximum stress of 5.22 megapascals and to be weakest at the neck of the structure, based on use of a polariscope. Compression tests showed it to have very similar mechanical properties to human bone. The epoxy hip has a bone-like elastic modulus, yield strength, and compressive strength of 5.85 gigapascals, 70.63 megapascals, and 116.97 megapascals, respectively.
The nature of epoxy materials means that they are likely to be far more biocompatible and far less prone to corrosion in the body than a conventional prosthetic hip joint. The team adds that the use of epoxy materials rather than other types of polymer avoids the issue of lower mechanical strength seen with the likes of polylactic acid, poly(l-lactide), and poly(propylene fumarate).
Singh, R., Narwariya, M., Sharma, A.K., Chauhan, P.S. and Singh, R. (2022) 'Design and fabrication of epoxy-based hip implant', Int. J. Materials Engineering Innovation, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp.346–359.
Researchers in India have reviewed the state of play when it comes to plastics recycling in the International Journal of Environmental Technology and Management. Their main conclusion is that there are huge inefficiencies in plastics recycling and that major improvements are needed to the reprocessing systems so that we might begin to address this growing problem urgently.
Soubhagya Keshari Chand of the Central Institute of Petrochemicals Engineering and Technology (CIPET) pat of the Government of India in Odisha and Sasmita Chand of the Centre of Sustainable Built Environment at Manipal Academy of Higher Education in Karnataka, India explain that as with many other nations, plastic waste is an enormous problem thanks to huge consumption and arbitrary disposal. Even places that have recycling facilities in place are often failing to collect and process the vast majority of the plastic waste we produce.
The team points out that there are two major forms of plastics. There are thermoplastics, which can be softened by heating and remoulded into new objects. Among the thermoplastics are polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high density polyethylene (HDPE), low density polyethylene (LDPE), polypropylene (PP) the most abundant polymer, polyvinylchloride (PVC), polystyrene (PS), and several others.
The other group is the thermosetting plastics which simply become tougher when heated, and indeed, are commonly cured into that state for use. There is no straightforward way to recycle them in the conventional sense as can be done with thermoplastics. The thermoset group includes polyurethanes, epoxy resins, polyimides, and many more. However, much research is being done into the repurposing of thermosetting plastic waste often in combination with other materials for engineering and infrastructure as useful low-density and relatively tough materials for fillers and structures.
Worldwide plastic production is almost 400 million tonnes annually, it was around 300 million tonnes a decade ago. The numbers continue to rise. Not surprisingly, it is often said that we live in the Plastic Age. Synthetic polymers came to the fore in the 1940s and our reliance on them in almost every aspect of our lives has grown ever since.
The chemical structures of wholly synthetic polymers fabricated from oil mean that while an individual piece of plastic may well be broken down into tiny fragments, micro-plastics, there is very little chance of these materials degrading chemically to molecular components and so they persist as intractable materials throughout the environment. Moreover, while they cannot be digested they can be ingested and are becoming entrenched in food chains from the animals of the deep ocean to the high flyers.
If plastics cannot be recycled, there is an alternative, photochemical degradation with ultraviolet light, which would represent a highly accelerated form of the breakdown that occurs in sunlight, but this requires a lot of power which brings its own problems unless the electricity used is from zero-carbon, sustainable source. The unacceptable alternatives to that kind of degradation or recycling of plastics are, of course, simply disposing of them in open-air dumpr, burying them in landfill, or incinerating them, which can be highly polluting, although it can be used for power generation. Recycling and repurposing plastics must be the way forward.
Chand, S.K. and Chand, S. (2022) 'Plastics waste management and its sustainable approaches – an overview', Int. J. Environmental Technology and Management, Vol. 25, No. 6, pp.501–518.
In a world of tired or momentarily inattentive drivers, vehicle safety features that mitigate against those problems can reduce the number of road traffic accidents. Work in the International Journal of Computational Vision and Robotics looks at how convolutional neural networks can be used to analyse input from external cameras on a vehicle to detect obstacles in the road and assist the driver in avoiding them.
Ramzi Mosbah and Larbi Guezouli of the University of Batna 2 in Batna, Algeria, have focused their attention on a forward-facing camera on a car that can see the road ahead. Images acquired from the camera are fed to the system which then determines whether an unexpected object is present in the path of the vehicle. They suggest that such an intelligent driving assistance system could alert the driver or be used to apply appropriate controls to the car directly to avoid a collision.
The system uses the Canny edge detector (considered the best algorithm of its kind) and the Hough line transform to identify the edges of the road as well as the horizon and so limit the area of each image that needs to be analysed. This reduces total computation time by allowing the neural network to ignore irrelevant parts of the image. The YOLO neural network is then used to detect any objects on the road ahead in real time.
The team adds that a second camera inside the car and pointed out the driver's face adds a second safety feature to their overall system. This second system monitors the driver's eyes and determines whether or not they remain closed for a significant period suggesting drowsiness or that the driver has fallen asleep. At this point, the system could sound a wake alarm as well as take control of the vehicle until the driver is back in complete control, perhaps warning them that they need to stop safely and rest before continuing their journey.
High-end vehicles already have some such systems. However, there is a pressing need for this functionality to be available to the broader general consumer market. The team is also now working to develop the detection system into a mobile device, which would ultimately make it more accessible at lower cost and without the need for the extra expense that fitting cameras to lower-budget vehicles would entail. Indeed, a standalone system that use the forward- and back-facing cameras on the driver's smartphone might be all that is required to assist.
Mosbah, R. and Guezouli, L. (2022) 'Convolutional neural networks for obstacle detection on the road and driving assistance', Int. J. Computational Vision and Robotics, Vol. 12, No. 6, pp.573–594.
Aviation is a big user of fossil fuels and as such a heavy producer of carbon emissions. Sustainability is high on the agenda. New work in the International Journal of Sustainable Aviation has reviewed the thermo-physical properties of an alternative to aviation fuel based on an oxygenated nanofluid.
Selçuk Sarikoç of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Amasya University in Amasya, Turkey and Nwabueze Emekwuru of the School of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Automotive Engineering at Coventry University, Coventry, United Kingdom, point out that oxygen additives make for a leaner burn in internal combustion engines so reducing pollution. The additives ensure complete and efficient combustion of the fuel. They point out that additives in the form of nanoparticles of metal and non-metal oxides can improve the combustion processes still further. Alumina, zinc oxide, titania, ceria, and silica have all been investigated as nanoparticle additives for fuels.
The team's survey of the state-of-the-art in nanofluid-based aviation fuels reveals that oxygenated additives, such as alcohol and metal oxide nanoparticles improve the thermal and physical properties of fuels even boosting total calorific value of the fuel, accelerating the combustion process, and reducing soot formation through cleaner burning of the fuel. Overall engine performance is improved with such additives. The presence of oxygen within the fuel itself contributes significantly to the improvement in combustion. However, the team also points out that the presence of the nanoparticles leads to better heat transfer and their high surface area to volume ratio allows for more effective interaction between oxygen and the fuel molecules to boost the combustion reactions at high altitude through a catalytic effect.
Improvements in engine performance are always welcome in aviation. Such improvements can effectively boost useful load-carrying capacity, extend flight range, allow higher altitude flying, and improve fuel economy.
Sarikoç, S. and Emekwuru, N. (2022) 'A case for oxygenated nanofluid fuels as alternative aviation fuels: thermo-physical properties and effects on engine performance', Int. J. Sustainable Aviation, Vol. 8, No. 4, pp.369–384.
An improved model for extracting risk information about hazardous chemicals from a database is reported in the International Journal of Reasoning-based Intelligent Systems.
Guanlin Chen, Qiao Hu, and Bangjie Zhu of Zhejiang University City College, Qi Lu of China National Air Separation Engineering Co., Ltd, and Kaimin Li of City Cloud Technology (China) Co., Ltd all in Hangzhou, China, are developing a model that combines word features and character features and encodes them using a bidirectional label distribution transfer model and a self-attention mechanism. The resulting knowledge graph can then provide a timely risk assessment based on inventory information in a warehouse for instance.
This knowledge graph can be coupled with the output from sensors to underpin a management system to ensure that chemicals are being stored appropriately and handled safely in such an environment. Indeed, the same system will be applicable across the whole of hazard chemical logistics – transportation, storage, handling, and delivery. The team suggests that the system could handle 100 million pieces of map data and reveal what we might call contraindications where two or more chemicals should not be stored in close proximity because of their reactions, for instance. All of this would allow facile risk assessment and reduce the number of accidents that could threaten life, property, and the environment.
Chen, G., Hu, Q., Lu, Q., Li, K. and Zhu, B. (2022) 'A hazardous chemical knowledge base construction method based on knowledge graph', Int. J. Reasoning-based Intelligent Systems, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp.184–193.
Many people who suffer insomnia resort to listening to music through headphones to help them nod off. There is a problem with such a strategy in that once they do fall asleep they may well spend many hours with the music playing into their ears. This could lead to long-term, irreversible, hearing problems, such as deafness and tinnitus, especially if the insomniac prefers the music to be played at high volumes despite their need to go to sleep.
Research published in the International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics offers a non-invasive approach to detecting when someone has fallen asleep that would allow their device to automatically mute the music, perhaps with a gentle fadeout. The approach utilizes machine learning to determine whether the user has fallen asleep without the need for the user to wear a fitness tracker device. It simply works with the smartphone operating system Android. It thus does not require the insomniac user to purchase additional hardware.
Aside, from tiredness, unhealthy sleep patterns, such as insomnia, are a risk factor for mental and physical health problems. Music is a useful intervention for insomnia for many people, although the choice of music and its duration are critical if the approach is to be effective. The international team has incorporated a music recommendation system into their software which nudges the user towards a music form that has been demonstrated to be efficacious for inducing sleep, raga, an improvisational form in Indian classical music. The team suggests that they might also incorporate a feedback system that records which particular raga were most effective at quickly inducing sleep, and so feed this data to other users to improve the system.
Millions of people the world over struggle to fall asleep and suffer problems as a consequence. The new work offers a possible technological answer that does not require hardware intervention and could help avoid hearing problems associated with one of the most common interventions for insomnia, listening to music.
Vasudevan, S.K., Raguraman, T.B. and Pulari, S.R. (2022) 'Curtailing insomnia in a non-intrusive hardware less approach with machine learning', Int. J. Medical Engineering and Informatics, Vol. 14, No. 6, pp.537–549.
We are still very much in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, for many parts of the world, there has been some degree of management and control thanks to vaccines, pharmaceutical interventions, and ongoing social measures. A team from Sri Lanka has modelled the impact of quarantine, isolation, and social distancing strategies that were implemented at the height of the pandemic to help them understand what the optimal response to the disease was. The findings could help define a more effective response to the next emerging pandemic. Details are published in the International Journal of Mathematical Modelling and Numerical Optimisation.
L.W. Somathilake and M.C.S. Fernando of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Ruhuna in Matara, Sri Lanka, explain that forecasting the course taken by an emergent pathogen, such as the causative agent in COVID-19, the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is important in reducing the death toll and morbidity as well as the wider detrimental effects on society, the economy, trade, and travel. Understanding the impact of control measures and the costs are critical.
The team has used the Susceptible – Exposed – Infectious – Quarantined – Recovered (SEIQR) model to find retrospectively what level and type of intervention had the greatest impact on controlling the disease. Optimisation at the lowest financial cost is critical in poorer nations. However, greater control and so fewer infections inevitably raises costs. The team suggested at the time of writing that those costs would have to be borne regardless to preclude the rise of another wave of the disease.
Somathilake, L.W. and Fernando, M.C.S. (2022) 'Optimal quarantine, isolation, and social distancing strategies for COVID-19 based on a mathematical model', Int. J. Mathematical Modelling and Numerical Optimisation, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp.351–369.
A clear understanding of the crash risks associated with care sharing might allow insurance companies to tailor their products to drivers and encourage more car sharing without compromising safety.
A team from Lithuania writing in the International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management has looked at the growth of car sharing in recent years in the context of insurance and risk. Obviously, there are significant benefits to car sharing in that it can reduce the total number of vehicles on the roads, reduce pollution and fuel use, and perhaps even reduce the number of road traffic accidents. Kristina Sutiene and Monika Uselyte of the Department of Mathematical Modeling at Kaunas University of Technology in Kaunas, Lithuania, have retrieved data from car-sharing systems and used linear regression and machine learning methods, such as regression trees and random forests, to model crash risk based on those observations.
They found that the average daily trip duration, the month of any crash event, and the make of car correlate most closely with the incidence of vehicle accidents. Holiday periods, working day or weekend, and peak hour had no valuable information for predicting crash risk. Additional the driver's gender had no bearing on crash risk either.
The conventional approach taken by insurance companies in setting premiums usually takes into account the age, gender and other demographic factors of the driver to be insured as well as the make, value, and power of the vehicle. In the sharing economy, this model is somewhat outdated where experienced drivers of any gender may be equally as safe or otherwise. Moreover, there are many other factors that might be better predictors of crash risk as the Kaunas University of Technology team suggests, especially in the context of car sharing.
The team suggests that "After a proper assessment of the risk indicators that have the greatest impact on the occurrence of crashes, companies might be able to enter into personalised car-sharing pricing by developing usage-based or pay-as-you-drive insurance products."
Sutiene, K. and Uselyte, M. (2021) 'Factors affecting crash risk within the car-sharing market', Int. J. Risk Assessment and Management, Vol. 24, Nos. 2/3/4, pp.236–251.
A convolutional neural network can evaluate thermal infrared images of human faces and determine with 93 percent accuracy whether the person is drunk. The system described in the International Journal of Intelligent Information and Database Systems could be implemented in places where drunk driving and drunken behaviour are common problems. There are more than a million deaths worldwide each year from road traffic accidents, a large number of those are a direct result of drunkenness.
Kha Tu Huynh and Huynh Phuong Thanh Nguyen of Vietnam National University of Ho Chi Minh City explain that earlier efforts at developing a way to detect drunkenness have focused on eye state, head position, or functional state indicators. However, such systems might be confused by other factors. The team points out that analysis of thermal imaging offers a less ambiguous approach that is also non-invasive and could allow the authorities to screen people in city centres or at events where alcohol is likely to be consumed and people may opt to drive home.
The team points out that it is important that any system designed to identify inebriated people must have a very low rate of false positives and false negatives. After all, a false negative might see a drunk person driving their car whereas too many false positives would preclude sober drivers from using their vehicles and lead to frustration and a loss of trust in the system among the public.
There will always be a compromise in any such system, erring on the side of caution would be preferable, but optimising the classification through larger training datasets on a diverse population of thermal images should bring it closer to the ideal, which would, of course, be the theoretically unachievable 100% accuracy and zero false positives, and zero false negatives.
Huynh, K.T. and Nguyen, H.P.T. (2022) 'Drunkenness detection using a CNN with adding Gaussian noise and blur in the thermal infrared images', Int. J. Intelligent Information and Database Systems, Vol. 15, No. 4, pp.398–419.
An algorithm based on the altruistic behaviour of honeybees could help those designing wind farms know exactly where to plant each turbine in the array to maximise efficiency and energy output from the wind farm. A team from India discuss the details in the International Journal of Renewable Energy Technology.
Defining the optimal positions on a wind farm for each turbine to maximise energy output is a complex constrained optimisation problem. Such problems are common in engineering and many other areas of human endeavour. Solving such problems usually requires a huge amount of mathematical prowess and computer resources, but thankfully in recent years, researchers have looked to natural systems to help them find solutions much more efficiently and much quicker. Nature has had millions of years to evolve optimal systems for solving the complex problems facing living things. Researchers have, in a few cases, such as flocking and foraging behaviour, studies these systems and modeled them algorithmically. Those algorithms can then be harnessed to solve non-natural problems.
Nirmala Sharma, Harish Sharma, and Ajay Sharma of Rajasthan Technical Univerisity and Jagdish Chand Bansal of the South Asian University in New Delhi, India, explain that the swarming behaviour of honeybees often involves those individuals that are less of a fit for the behaviour sacrificing their position for those of better fit. The self-sacrificing algorithm that models this behaviour translates to the positioning of each turbine in the windfarm so that a position is tested and sacrificed in favour of a position that is better based on wind patterns and the effects of neighbouring turbines on the individual being tested for a new position. The algorithm thus accrues a layout for the turbines in the wind farm where each position is optimal for given geographical characteristics to give the greatest possible power output.
The algorithm can also give the engineers the maximum number of turbines needed for a given site. The optimal number will maximize energy production. Too few and the site would not be extracting all of the available wind power, too many would be a waste of resources and might reduce the total output from the turbines as their rotation interferes with wind flow to and through the neighbouring turbines. The team has demonstrated proof of principle with idealized wind farms of 500-, 750-, and 1,000-metre radius. The next step will be to consider real geographical landscapes and to optimize for non-uniform wind patterns.
Sharma, N., Sharma, H., Sharma, A. and Bansal, J.C. (2022) 'A new effective solution for wind farm layout optimisation problem using self-sacrificing artificial bee colony algorithm', Int. J. Renewable Energy Technology, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp.396–442.
As we are all so very well aware how, a novel coronavirus, latter dubbed SARS-CoV-2, which causes a potentially lethal form of pneumonia as well as having other disparate and desperate effects emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. It spread rapidly during the following weeks despite efforts to control it and a lack of early information and insight about its behaviour and characteristics may well be to blame for its rise. It reached pandemic proportions at some point in the first quarter of 2020 at which point the World Health Organisation officially declared the global COVID-19 pandemic.
It was well recognised that as far as the western world was concerned, Italy was hit hardest and fastest, with the news media full of images of overcrowded hospitals and the tragic sight of coffins stacked high. New research in the International Journal of Computational Economics and Econometrics, looks at a technological aspect of the early dissemination of information regarding the spread of the virus in Italy as the pandemic was growing. The findings, concerning search trends at the time on Google, might help researchers understand better what happened in the early stages of this pandemic as it began to grow in Europe and perhaps offer insights that could help us defend ourselves better when the next lethal pathogen emerges.
Paolo Brunori of the London School of Economics, UK, Giuliano Resce of the University of Molise in Campobasso, and Laura Serlenga of the Università degli Studi di Bari 'Aldo Moro' in Bari, Italy, explain how difficult it was for the authorities to monitor the spread of the coronavirus in the pre-pandemic stages. There were no readily available test kits to allow people to check whether they were infectious or not at any given time. Moreover, official figures proved incredibly unreliable and perhaps delayed the implementation of social distancing, lockdowns, and quarantines. Indeed, the mode of transmission remained ambiguous and what restrictions and controls had been put in place in various places were not necessarily effective.
The team has now investigated how Google Trends, the nature and frequency of search terms being used by the public, might allow the trajectory of the pandemic to be predicted. Fundamentally, the details of the historical Google Trends contain useful information that correlated with the number of patients being admitted to intensive care units, the number of deaths and excess mortality in Italian regions at the time. Such information and correlations will not only allow us to model this pandemic and to see where policy failed and where it succeeded but more critically they could be used to predict the trajectory of a future pandemic and perhaps allow policymakers to implement the necessary controls and restrictions more purposefully at an earlier stage in the spread of that next emergent disease.
Brunori, P., Resce, G. and Serlenga, L. (2022) 'Searching for the peak: Google Trends and the first COVID-19 wave in Italy', Int. J. Computational Economics and Econometrics, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp.445–458.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been marked by ever-present fake news surrounding the behaviour and effects of the coronavirus, the impact of social distancing, lockdowns, and quarantine, and the medical response in terms of vaccinations and pharmaceuticals. Indeed, even some world leaders led the public astray with nonsensical revelations and suggestions regarding how we might address the problem of SARS-CoV-2.
Given that the pandemic is still very much an ongoing problem, research in the International Journal of Artificial Intelligence and Soft Computing, discusses a computer chatbot that uses ensemble learning technique to detect fake news. The chatbot, dubbed CovFakeBot, was developed by a team from the University of Delhi, India, and has been trained using well-established machine-learning models. It can accurately discriminate between genuine news and fake news regarding the COVID-19 pandemic on the microblogging platform Twitter.
Hunar Batra, Gunjan Kanwar Palawat, Kanika Gupta, Priadarshana, Supragya, Deepali Bajaj, and Urmil Bharti of the Department of Computer Science at the Shaheed Rajguru College of Applied Sciences for Women, explain that their chatbot utilises the application programming interface (API) of a well-known messenger app, specifically the WhatsApp Business API, with another communications technology, Twilio, to create a conversational user interface. The team tested the chatbot with ten different machine learning and ensemble learning classifiers on a dataset from Twitter. A soft-voting model was demonstrated as the most accurate.
The team suggests that the CovFakeBot could become a very useful tool for social media users hoping to quickly check whether an update of concern is genuine news or fake news. They add that it would be a relatively simple matter to extend the system to other areas where fake news is an issue by training a new instance of the chatbot with a new dataset in the area of interest. In the long run, they hope that CovFakeBot and its cousins will be useful in limiting the spread of fake news on social media.
Batra, H., Palawat, G.K., Gupta, K., Priadarshana, Supragya, Bajaj, D. and Bharti, U. (2022) 'CovFakeBot: a machine learning based chatbot using ensemble learning technique for COVID-19 fake news detection', Int. J. Artificial Intelligence and Soft Computing, Vol. 7, No. 3, pp.228–241.
How have mindfulness and well-being sat with adult management students during the COVID-19 pandemic? And, does gender have a moderaring role? These are two pertinent questions for our current age that are answered in the International Journal of Knowledge and Learning.
Teena Bharti of the Indian Institute of Management Bodh Gaya in Uruvela, Bihar, India, has considered an important aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic on our future managers and business leaders. The pandemic has had not only an incredibly wide-ranging impact on health across the globe but also on commerce and the economy. Bharti surveyed almost 500 adult management students to explore how mindfulness among them influenced their personal well-being and how gender affected the link between these two traits.
Put simply, the research suggests that mindfulness did indeed lead to greater well-being among the students. Moreover, female students were found to be more mindful and so generally showed greater well-being during these rather troubled times. The findings suggest that offering students guidance in how to be more mindful, might help them cope better with the stresses and strains felt while studying during a crisis. Perhaps the same guidance might even be beneficial to students in other disciplines and indeed the wider public.
Mindfulness is generally thought of as allowing oneself to have one-focus attention. It essentially involves allowing oneself not to be distracted from one's present activity and place by thoughts about other circumstances, the past, nor the future while immersed in that activity or place. It is a key component of many philosophies and is often considered a life skill that can improve one's mental wellbeing or at the very least, if not improve, then help to reduce the risk of problems arising in stressful circumstances.
Bharti concludes that "moment-to-moment attention [mindfulness] induces subjective well-being and is very relevant in coping with the contingent times (covid pandemic in this case), loneliness, and other psychological issues."
Bharti, T. (2022) 'Mindfulness and well-being in management students: analysing the moderating role of gender in corona times', Int. J. Knowledge and Learning, Vol. 15, No. 4, pp.359–372.
The factors influencing Generation X in Thailand and their intentions to travel overseas are discussed in the International Journal of Public Sector Performance Management. Generation X approximately represents those people born between 1965 and 1979, the cohort between the so-called Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) and the Millennials (born roughly between 1980 and 1996).
Chalongrat Rattanakhongsuk, Natchapol Lopiroon, Nunsinee Petcharapirat, Peerapum Hemansutthikul, Suprawee Watchararungroong, Thanaphol Anangosolporn, Warumporn Terdpataweepong, Guntalee Ruenrom, and Apichart Kanarattanavong of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand surveyed 365 Thai Gen Xers and asked them our travel motivations including escapism, excitement, relaxation, knowledge seeking, relationships, self-enhancement and self-actualisation, the influence of friends and family as well as media influencers (travel bloggers and reviewers), their economic circumstances, and foreign-language skills.
The team found that of the various factors that might influence intention to travel abroad among Thai Gen X knowledge seeking, ego-enhancement, media influencer, facilities and foreign language skills were the most significant. This was all in the context of free, independent travelling, the team emphasises. They discuss how governmental agencies and the private sector in destination countries might benefit from the clearer understanding of the motivations among Thai Gen X tourists. This is a significant demographic cohort representing 20% of the Thai population, about 16 million people, indeed it is the largest cohort by "generation" grouping at the moment. Destinations that fulfil the demand of this group of independent, and most-likely affluent, travellers, such as good facilities and an attractive tourist "offering" will reap the rewards.
Rattanakhongsuk, C., Lopiroon, N., Petcharapirat, N., Hemansutthikul, P., Watchararungroong, S., Anangosolporn, T., Terdpataweepong, W., Ruenrom, G. and Kanarattanavong, A. (2022) 'Factors affecting the attitude and intention of Thai Gen Xers to travel overseas as free independent travellers', Int. J. Public Sector Performance Management, Vol. 10, Nos. 2/3, pp.363–376.
Research in the International Journal of Services, Economics and Management has looked at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the livelihoods of migrant workers in the Jalpaiguri region of India at the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains. The study by Nirmal Chandra Roy of the Department of Business Administration (Human Resource) at The University of Burdwan in West Bengal, India, used a structured questionnaire to collect data and the analysis reveals that local migrant workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic were the worst hit by the nationwide lockdown.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected everyone globally in terms of health and mortality but also with regard to livelihood and the wider economy. Where lockdowns, quarantines, social distancing, and other restrictions were implemented in order to stifle the spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 the impact on the workforce was enormous understanding the effect on migrant workers was the focus of the present study. There was a supposition that this particular demographic may well have been affected even more detrimentally than other workers in some ways. India has hundreds of millions of migrant workers with several million migrating each year. It was reported that prior to the pandemic, most migrants travelling to cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Chennai in 2019 came mainly from the Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh. More than 30 million Indians migrated overseas with about 9 million of those settling in Arab states.
Roy writes that the study provides an invaluable benchmark for labour studies and for policymakers in this region where more than half a million people leave their homes to find work elsewhere. The work reveals the plight of migrants from this particular region returning home to no income opportunities during the lockdown. Some small tea plantations offered limited part-time work for a few of the returners, but the long-term prospects were dire for many. Earnings for the majority were negligible. Roy points out that the pandemic itself limited the research to this particular region, but suggests that wider studies might show a similar detrimental effect in other regions and so could help in the decision-making processes among policymakers looking at how the poverty-stricken migrant populations might be helped out of their predicament.
Roy, N.C. (2022) 'Impact of COVID-19 on the migrant worker livelihood: study in the Jalpaiguri Region, India', Int. J. Services, Economics and Management, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp.243–258.
The spread of misinformation as fake news via social media is a serious problem especially when it colours the opinions and actions of people unimpeded by critical thinking. Fake news in the area of politics, health and medicine, and other realms may well have affected the progress of human history in many ways where we have seen inappropriate outcomes that may not have occurred had people been properly informed rather than accepting fake news as truth. The problem is that fake news often feeds a person's biases and existing opinions and the rapid response of social media allows it to spread quickly to detrimental effect. It is estimated that almost two-thirds of news updates on social media is fake news.
Research in the International Journal of Knowledge and Learning has looked to model the spread of fake news on social media and develop tools to identify fake news so that it might be flagged as false.
The team used a dataset of 3000 news items of which 2725 were used to train their algorithms and the remainder were used to test those algorithms. Five types of classification algorithms were tested: support vector machine (SVM), naïve Bayes, logistic regression, random forest, and neural networks.
The team has shown that logistic regression is the most accurate at flagging the test news updates from the dataset. This approach corroborated the two-thirds proportion of fake news versus fake news. The success of the approach could be used to assist fact-checking systems by flagging updates that are likely to be fake news for further analysis.
Riktesh Srivastava of the City University College of Ajman in UAE, Jitendra Singh Rathore of Banasthali University in Rajasthan, Sachin Kumar Srivastava of the IILM Academy of Higher Learning in Lucknow, and Khushboo Agnihotri of Amity University in Uttar Pradesh, India, hope their research will contribute to efforts to reduce the spread of fake news across social media.
Srivastava, R., Rathore, J.S., Srivastava, S.K. and Agnihotri, K. (2022) 'The impact on society of false news spreading on social media with the help of predictive modelling', Int. J. Knowledge and Learning, Vol. 15, No. 4, pp.307–318.
Modern slavery and human trafficking are rife the world over. Indeed, more people are victim to these heinous crimes than ever before. Research in the International Journal of Human Rights and Constitutional Studies looks at one consequence of human trafficking, prostitution.
Letishiya Chaturvedi of the Kirit P. Mehta School of Law, NMIMS and Poorna Dixit of the Rizvi Law College both in Mumbai, India, point out that constitutional safeguards in India have seriously failed to deter human trafficking and the enforced prostitution of young girls. Moreover, police corruption and an irresponsible and corrupt judiciary has enabled these crimes at unprecedented levels. The team offers real-life case studies to highlight the traumatic lives faced by victims. They conclude with two constructive and productive approaches that might help reduce these crimes.
The team writes that "Areas which 'supply' humans are usually battling impoverished circumstances, and those which 'demand' them are in desperate need of cheap labour ready for easy exploitation." They add that for India, this means its impoverished neighbours Bangladesh and Nepal which they note both lack opportunities to break the vicious cycle have ended up feeding an already thriving industry in human trafficking and prostitution in India. Thousands of mainly women are trafficked each year, they add. Human trafficking is deeply entrenched in the criminal realm of Indian society and represents almost endless violations of many disparate human rights.
The solution is represented in a double-edged approach, the team suggests. First, greater efforts must be made to rescue women trapped in this world and to give them an alternative life, a new home, and a potential income beyond slavery and prostitution. Secondly, there needs to be a concerted effort to reduce the potential for exploitation, to defeat human trafficking by catching and punishing the traffickers far more forcefully. Exactly how this might be done remains to be seen, but if the money and resources can be found then the lives of millions of people might be saved from this illegal world.
Chaturvedi, L. and Dixit, P. (2022) 'Violation of human rights through prostitution, in the ambit of human trafficking in India', Int. J. Human Rights and Constitutional Studies, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp.391–406.
Digitalisation is a rather nebulous term with many different definitions in various fields. According to researchers writing in the International Journal of Global Environmental Issues, digitalisation might encompass production, distribution, exchange, and consumption in different ways and is gaining importance in industry, transport, agriculture, and e-commerce. The team points out that governments have an important role to play in educational, healthcare, and social digitalization.
Volodymyr Bilotserkivets and Viktor Tarasevych of the Department of International Economics, Political Economy and Governance at the National Metallurgical Academy of Ukraine in Dnipro, Urak Aliyev of the Department of Economics and Innovative Business at the 'Turan-Astana' University in Kazakhstan, Waldemar Izdebski of the Faculty of Management at Warsaw University of Technology (Politechnika Warszawska) in Warszawa, Poland, and Petr Lemeshchenko of the Department of International Political Economy at the Belarusian State University in Minsk, Belarus, have looked at the processes of economy digitalisation in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and what we might optimistically refer to as the post-pandemic era.
The researchers point out that the transition to digitalized activities during periods of lockdown, quarantines, social distancing, and other measures was profound and often driven by government. Their focus being in East Europe and Kazakhstan shows how the COVID-19 pandemic led to a shift in the role of governments in economy digitalisation. This has happened against a backdrop of climate change, the catastrophic decline of biodiversity, and the continuing deterioration of the human environment.
The team suggests that digitalization could, given the right push, offer a new trajectory for humanity and the planet that sees the cascade of information and communication technologies driving sustainable development. This will need improved digital literacy among the population and improved e-government. State policies need to stimulate such developments.
Bilotserkivets, V., Tarasevych, V., Aliyev, U., Izdebski, W. and Lemeshchenko, P. (2022) 'Development of economy digitalisation: global and national dimensions in the pre-COVID and post-pandemic world', Int. J. Global Environmental Issues, Vol. 21, Nos. 2/3/4, pp.276–302.
The notion that we are in the midst of a "fourth" industrial revolution seems rather whimsical at first glance. But, research in the International Journal of Technology, Policy and Management looks at whether technological advances in recent years have been sufficiently marked and significant to represent a step change from the previous industrial paradigms.
Dominique Nijssen and Roger Bemelmans of the Research Center for Data Intelligence at Zuyd University of Applied Sciences in Heerlen and Harro van Lente of the Department of Technology and Society Studies at Maastricht University in Maastricht, The Netherlands, allude to the re-use of the phrase "fourth industrial revolution" by Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum back in 2016. The researchers have looked at the evolution of 33 promising technologies during the period 2000 to 2019 to gauge whether the term is valid for this period of history.
Commonly, we think of the first industrial revolution as having its start in the middle (circa 1760) of the 18th Century in Great Britain and continental Europe and stretching into the early part of the nineteenth century, 1820 to 1840. This period saw the transition from manual production to machine production and the increasing use of water power and steam power to drive the rapidly developing industrial realm. A slowdown occurred in the middle of the nineteenth century but the subsequent period of economic growth and technological advance occurred as we learned to control electricity and develop long-distance communications technology, such as the telegraph and the telephone. This second industrial revolution lasted from around 1870 to the beginning of World War I.
It was not until the period after World War II, 1947 onwards that we talk of the third industrial revolution. This period was marked by the displacement of analogue electronics, the valves and relays, of the previous revolution, with digital devices and in many ways is still underway. However, we might talk of the rapid developments of information and communications technologies that came out of this third revolution as heralding an Information Age. However, even this paradigm was perhaps only a holding place for the true fourth industrial revolution, the rapid development of interconnectivity among a huge proportion of the world's growing population, the emergence of smart technologies that exploit machine learning, big data, and algorithms that can be said to have artificial intelligence. These paradigm shifts in information and communications technology are occurring in parallel with and driving developments in robotics, medicine, industry, and even art and entertainment. The demarcation between the physical world, the digital realm, and even the natural world of biological systems are becoming fuzzy in Industry 4.0.
The team's analysis of the purported technological visionaries, the products and services being paraded by such people, the actual technologies being adopted and where all of this sits with science and governmental policies around the world is a complicated picture. Indeed, the team's work suggests that there is perhaps no coherence, no single developmental path, rather there exists a somewhat tangled web of technologies, authorities, visionaries, and individuals. This, however, is probably exactly as how observers in the midst of all previous industrial revolutions perceived the changes happening around them at the time.
There are nevertheless visions and changes that are underway that may well represent the paradigm shift that takes us from the old worldview into the new. Underlying the evolution of the revolution are Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, renewable energy, shared autonomy, and transportation systems. However, governments and policymakers may well not recognise this Top 5 just yet, if ever, and it seems that the list is not even at the top of the scientific research agenda. Fundamentally, the concept of a fourth industrial revolution is a diffuse one and agendas and investment are pushed and pulled in different ways depending on the particular definition being tabled at any given time by a particular individual or group.
One thing of which we can be almost wholly assured, however, is that the world will change whatever terms we use to describe the changes. The historians of the future will almost certainly pay no heed to our opinions of those changes and will give us a label to fit with their view of the past.
Nijssen, D., Bemelmans, R. and van Lente, H. (2022) 'Unravelling the fourth industrial revolution: a comparative study of a label', Int. J. Technology, Policy and Management, Vol. 22, No. 4, pp.288–305.
Many of us would, if asked, be able to list a few common computer security risks – viruses inadvertently downloaded with files from sharing systems, malware payloads in emails, "phishing" websites and malicious links in messaging apps. However, the creators and users of malware have many more surreptitious entry points into a computer system that might not be so obvious. For instance, office software, such as spreadsheets, commonly use scripts to carry out sophisticated calculations and these scripts or macros can be abused by third parties with access to the spreadsheet.
A diligent information technology (IT) department at a company or organisation will ensure that its users are using the latest, most secure, versions of any software on the system, that antivirus, malware protection, and firewalls are in place. Moreover, they will preclude the downloading and installation of non-verified software. However, not all IT departments are diligent all of the time and users needing a workaround for a particular problem may well install third-party or older software on their personal computer and potentially render the whole corporate computer system to attack by malicious third parties.
Writing in the International Journal of Business Information Systems, a team from Serbia, describes the findings from a structured questionnaire of computer users focusing on spreadsheet use. Lazar Raković, Marton Sakal, Stojanka Dakić, and Jovica Đurkovic of the University of Novi Sad in Subotica, found that most users see spreadsheets as important in their jobs and to the functioning of an organization. However, few of their correspondents seemed aware of the risks associated with spreadsheet use. These risks are not confined to malicious scripts but consider spreadsheet errors, credibility, security, data abuse, and poor analysis.
Other problems include lack of version control, inadequate user qualifications, a lack of spreadsheet development guidelines, loss of data, breach of legal regulations, and unauthorised access to data all add to the putative risks associated with spreadsheet software in an organization. This is particularly worrying if that software is being installed and run as "shadow IT" rather than under the oversight of the IT department.
The obvious answer to the insidious problems is for organizations and companies to have a well-defined spreadsheet risk management strategy, to adopt appropriate standards and rules, and to better educate their users regarding the risks of shadow IT.
Raković, L., Sakal, M., Dakić, S. and Đurkovic, J. (2022) 'Spreadsheets: risk from the shadow', Int. J. Business Information Systems, Vol. 41, No. 1, pp.1–19.
Research in the International Journal of Human Factors and Ergonomics has demonstrated how an analytical tool can be used to assess breast motion during vigorous exercise. The tool reveals that differences in breast size and structure as well as the type of brassiere worn affects movement and so comfort while exercising. The results of a wider study using the analytical approach could be used to develop more effective and supportive exercise bras for different people.
Joseph E. Langenderfer of the School of Engineering and Technology at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, USA and Ksenia I. Ustinova of the university's Department of Physical Therapy, have demonstrated that recurrence quantification analysis (RQA) can be used to assess variability in the motion of breast, thorax, and upper-arm in people with different breast size and support during exercise. Specifically, the team had volunteers undertake a common exercise, star jumps under experimental conditions.
The team found that breast support from wearing a bra during exercise leads to less predictable motion of the breasts. However, they found that while the motion of larger breasts occurred with greater amplitude, as one might expect, during exercise, the motion was actually less random and more complex than the movement of smaller breasts. Conversely, the team also looked at how breast size and level of support affected how the exercises were carried out and found that there was little difference in how different members of the study group carried out the star-jump exercise.
"These findings increase understanding of the structure of breast and body motion variability and how bras influence the motion," the team writes. "Such information may improve bra design with the goal of allowing more effective human performance in work and exercise." Given that breast and bra biomechanics are important to at least half the population, research tools that help improve our understanding of the biomechanics are worth pursuing with a view to improving exercise comfort for that part of the population.
Langenderfer, J.E. and Ustinova, K.I. (2022) 'Recurrence quantification analysis to assess structure of breast motion variability for jumping jacks exercise', Int. J. Human Factors and Ergonomics, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp.201–214.
A common trope in marketing and advertising is to use sex appeal in its many guises to imply that a product or service has some association with sexual pleasure. Research in the Journal of International Business and Entrepreneurship Development has looked at the secondary effects of sex appeal used in advertising on adolescents exposed to such marketing materials.
Karnika Bains and Prem Prakash Dewani of the Indian Institute of Management in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India, have specifically focused on a purported association between sexualized advertising and the development of aggression and sexual aggression in adolescents exposed to such advertising. Their findings suggest that repeated exposure to certain kinds of sexualized advertising desensitizes adolescents to the nuances of sexuality and to some degree dehumanizes sexuality. They also found that demeaning portrayals of sexuality in advertising can foster inappropriate attitudes and behaviour.
In the current climate, many markets are saturated with sexualized imagery and innuendo, much of which might be described generously as titillating but much of which could be said to touch on the pornographic. Of course, the more graphic often the more publicity a brand gets from its campaign. This is especially true if the advertising is controversial, shock-advertising. It might be felt that controversy could have a negative impact on brand awareness, but this is rarely the case and campaigns continue to push the boundaries of decency. The common stance is one of "act now, apologise later" because "no publicity is bad publicity".
The current research considers the social cost of sex appeal in advertising. The team explains how they have found that "culture plays a multi-dimensional role in determining the acceptance, effectiveness, and consequences of advertisements using sexual appeal." Much of the exploitation of sex appeal in advertising is, they add, demeaning to women, and is at a gratuitous level in many advertisements. They conclude from their review of the literature that "sex in advertisements is detrimental to society." They suggest that it is time for the advertising industry to re-evaluate its self-regulatory norms.
Bains, K. and Dewani, P.P. (2022) 'Effect of sexual appeal in marketing communication on aggression and sexual aggression: a theoretical perspective and future research directions', J. International Business and Entrepreneurship Development, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp.164–187.
Research published in the International Journal Sustainable Economy looks at the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing in India.
Peeyush Bangur and Ruchi Bangur of the Women's Institute for Studies in Development Oriented Management (WISDOM) in Banasthali Vidyapith in Banasthali, Rajasthan, Pratima Jain of the Prestige Institute of Management and Research in Indore (MP), and Abhikrati Shukla of the Shri Vaishnav Institute of Management also in Indore (MP), India, looked at ESG investment data for the period 2017 to 2021 with a particular poignancy on the point at which the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 was first recognised in China in the December of 2019.
Their analysis reveals major volatility implications for ESG investment apparently caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fundamentally, indicators show that certainty in the markets fell with the arrival of the pandemic. Moreover, ongoing news seemed to have a much more immediate effect on value and prices than it had in the period before the pandemic, suggesting that the markets were more sensitive to any news than they had been before. Indeed, the volatility has persisted and the team reports that market nervousness means that confidence among investors in the ESG area has tumbled in India from where it had been before the pandemic.
Perhaps such falls were inevitable, particularly in sensitive investment areas. Indeed, economies have suffered in many ways around the world. However, understanding the patterns followed by the markets when news of the novel disease first emerged and how they evolved with more news and the ultimate realisation that we were in a pandemic could be useful when we face the next pandemic. The team's work could have implications, therefore, for investors, corporate executives, financial market regulators, academicians, and government officials.
"This study may assist in making more informed decisions regarding future consequences and maintaining market confidence," the team writes. "The volatility implications may serve as a roadmap for initiating the first policy action in the event of similar incidents in the future," they add.
Bangur, P., Bangur, R., Jain, P. and Shukla, A. (2022) 'Investment certainty in ESG investing due to COVID-19: evidence from India', Int. J. Sustainable Economy, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp.429–440.
A smartphone application that can utilise a device's idle time could reduce the computational and bandwidth loads for scientific research team members who have large amounts of project data to download from the cloud. Akshay Taywade and R. Sasikala of the School of Computer Science and Engineering at VIT University in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India, provided details in the International Journal of Internet Protocol Technology.
The processing power, data storage space, and battery life are commonly restrictive characteristics of most smartphones. As such, cloud computing systems are key to much scientific data management and manipulation. However, there are times when a scientist will inevitably need to draw down data from said cloud and that can quickly use up processing power and bandwidth as well as drain batteries. If this data drawdown conflicts with other critical smartphone use, then it becomes limiting. The team has developed an app with the simple name "Power Save", which they suggest does just that.
Power Save works to coordinate essential downloads for any member of the scientific research team using the smartphone when it is otherwise idle. The app could find use in medicine, astronomy, geology, physics, and many other areas of scientific endeavour. The team points out that by utilising a Wi-Fi connection power consumption can be greatly reduced when compared to 3G or 4G cellular data usage.
Taywade, A. and Sasikala, R. (2022) 'Processing power sharing using a gadget 'Power Save' for downloading scientific research projects', Int. J. Internet Protocol Technology, Vol. 15, Nos. 3/4, pp.182–188.
There is significant social, economic, and educational imbalance in most rural areas of the Central African Republic. This region is in the midst of a 12-year civil war that has precluded many years of education for its children, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the problem. New work published in the International Journal of Mobile Learning and Organisation, looks at how algorithms to drive chat bots might be used to remediate this situation allowing students living in rural parts of the country to catch up on lost years of education through remote learning.
Ghislain Mervyl Saint-Juste Kossingou, Bessan Melckior Dégboé, Samuel Ouya, and Gervais Mendy of the Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar in Dakar, Senegal, explain that the imbalances that exist in CAR society are most apparent between the rural areas and the capital city, Bangui. Given that many young people of school age and university age have many lost opportunities in education because of the politico-military crises in their country, the team has sought a technological solution to this problem. They have modelled two algorithms and developed a chat bot that could help with remote learning and educational self-assessment. The approach should allow learning at different levels and in various areas to be undertaken remotely.
Other researchers have, of course, investigated the use of chat bots in education, but the specific needs of students in this part of the world are markedly different in many ways, the team suggests. Their system is focused on those specific needs but is also flexible enough to be adapted to a given situation on demand. Fundamentally, the tool allows students living in remote, rural areas and perhaps under social distancing rules to be largely autonomous in their education even if they have been forced to drop out of education through the politico-military strife. Ultimately, the team hopes their approach will redress the educational imbalance between rural CAR and the capital and allow the nation to grow in the post-conflict, post-covid world.
Kossingou, G.M.S-J., Dégboé, B.M., Ouya, S. and Mendy, G. (2022) 'Proposal of algorithms to make up for lost school and university years in post-conflict African countries in the face of Covid-19: case of the Central African Republic', Int. J. Mobile Learning and Organisation, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp.507-525.
There is a pressing need in the world of communications technology to nudge users of older systems towards the state-of-the-art. However, educational level, finance, and wariness, often associated with being older, often preclude upgrades for many users. For instance, the current high-end smartphones utilise the fifth generation networks, 5G, having transitioned from the simple voice and "text" system of 2G to faster feature phones and smartphones on 3G and 4G. There remain millions of users around the world who rely on their simple, cheap, and effective 2G phones.
The problem for the industry is that the network bandwidth used by the 2G networks could be released to the higher-end networks if there were no active 2G users reliant on it. Indeed, in some parts of the world, the 2G networks have already been switched off by the service providers to free up electromagnetic spectrum. This release bandwidth allows for richer, more information-dense transactions in modern systems. Moreover, some providers are hinting at the disabling of even the 3G networks in their regions, which would force phone almost all users in those regions to switch from low-end feature phones to fully-fledged smartphones.
Older users, reluctant to swap their simple and inexpensive devices for higher-end devices are perhaps not given much credit for their savvy, but the higher-end devices inevitably cost more and come with an expensive service contract as well as greater complexity that older users may not wish to learn to use or simply do not feel they need. If those in poverty are also taken into account, then the need remains for the old 2G networks.
Writing in the International Journal of Mobile Communications, a team from South Korea has looked at the various factors influencing users whom they describe as "laggards" and why they remain hooked to the 2G system. While the existence of 2G users may be an annoyance to the industry, the needs of those laggards must be considered. There seem to be few perceived benefits to upgrading from 2G to a more modern network for so many older, impoverished, or simply reluctant. Greater costs, massively reduced battery life, and much greater complexity must be offset for users who are uninterested in the features of a smartphone such as web searching, social media, apps, and photos, for instance. The converse, however, is that with improved education, cost discounts, and other incentives, policymakers might persuade the laggards of the greater benefits of smartphone use recognised by many others. This could help with efforts to close the digital divide between demographics.
The industry and policymakers will ultimately call an end to the 2G system at which point the laggards will either be entirely disenfranchised or forced to upgrade whether they like it or not…assuming they can afford to do so, of course.
Kim, D. and Kim, S. (2022) 'Why do they stay with 2G mobile communications services in the 5G era?', Int. J. Mobile Communications, Vol. 20, No. 6, pp.659–679.
An innovative approach to design has helped with the development of an economically viable trauma-response pack for road-traffic accidents in the developing world. The "parachute design" approach has seen proof of principle demonstrated with the trauma pack designed specifically for Namibia. Researchers in Namibia working with colleagues in the UK provided details of the design and development in the Journal of Design Research.
The World Health Organisation reports that some 3400 people die on our roads each day around the world. Tens of millions of people injured and maimed in road traffic accidents each year. The WHO has targets for reducing this devastation and as such countries such as Namibia, which is referred to as Developing Country with an Upper-Middle Income are an idea environment for the development of first-responder packs that might save lives and reduce the injury toll in a road traffic accident.
An interdisciplinary team based at the Cardiff School of Art and Design at Cardiff Metropolitan University and Cardiff University's School of Medicine previously worked on two trauma packs between 2012 and 2016, The first, a low-cost trauma pack, was designed for use in rural Zambia and the second extended the functionality of this pack for Europe. The design of the newer trauma kit, the Namibia pack, focuses on the specific requirements and available resources of Namibia to create a low-cost system. Fundamentally, by using a human-centred design (HCD) approach that gathers feedback during development from potential end-users and those who will manufacture the packs, the team was able to most effectively address what the WHO refers to as the "Four As" – accessibility, availability, affordability and appropriateness.
Clara Watkins, Steve Gill of Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff, UK, Gareth Loudon of the School of Design at the Royal College of Art, London, Judith Hall of the University of Namibia, Matthew Carwardine of Grange University Hospital in Cwmbran, and Chen Wen Ngua and John Jackson of Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, hoped to make significant inroads into lowering mortality rates associated with road-traffic accidents in Namibia.
The team makes a significant point about such work and its benefits: "It is important to recognise that collaborating with the University of Namibia, having prior knowledge of the context and access and support from key stakeholders, made the project viable," the researchers write.
Watkins, C., Gill, S., Loudon, G., Hall, J., Carwardine, M., Ngua, C.W. and Jackson, J. (2022) 'The challenges of parachute design: the development of a low cost, fit for purpose trauma pack for use in Namibia', J. Design Research, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp.1–34.
Most intrusions on our devices and computers through malware, third-party attacks, and other infractions tend to go unreported unless one is particularly tuned into the information security world and knows the procedures needed to get the message to the right people. Research published in the International Journal of Internet Technology and Secured Transactions, looks at how machine learning might be used to automate the process of reporting policy violations on a system.
Albara Awajan, Moutaz Alazab, Issa Qiqieh, and Mohammad Wedyan of Al-Balqa Applied University in Al-Salt, and Salah Alhyari of JEPCO in Amman, Jordan, point out that computer and mobile devices users frequently face security incidents and violations of their systems and data. They point out that a unified approach to reporting such malicious activity could, to some degree, address this growing problem. They have now proposed an automated client-server citizen reporting system framework based on machine learning techniques that could help.
The system can classify images a user wishes to use to accompany a report and can be used to report any cyber-crime incidents such as bank account intrusion, credit card fraud as well as phishing and pharming attacks on their devices. Tests demonstrated that the new framework is fast, convenient, and performs effectively and efficiently with different mobile devices using the common Android operating system. Classification accuracy is 95.4% and a prediction time of just 5.30 seconds.
The team is now optimising the framework as well as investigating how it might be extended to other additional smartphone operating systems such as Apple iOS, Windows Phone, and the Huawei operating system.
Awajan, A., Alazab, M., Alhyari, S., Qiqieh, I. and Wedyan, M. (2022) 'Machine learning techniques for automated policy violation reporting', Int. J. Internet Technology and Secured Transactions, Vol. 12, No. 5, pp.387–405.
Chemophobia is rife, often driven by ignorance and scientific illiteracy it fires an activist agenda that can often be very misguided and targeting the wrong issues entirely. An unfortunate lack of engagement in science education and a greater number of policymakers with a non-scientific than a scientific background also feed the problem.
And yet we rely on thousands of different chemicals every day – natural and synthetic – and in order to maintain our lifestyles, the benefit-risk equations are generally well balanced. There are exceptions to that rule and the serious problems caused by the misuse or the overuse of certain chemicals ought to be addressed. Indeed, there are substances in everyday products that might best be replaced, but for market pressure, and a lack of consumer interest or the very activism that broadly follows the out-dated "all-chemicals-are-bad" trope.
Rekha Joshi, Aditi Sahni, and Manjary Chaudhary Malik of the Indira Priyadarshini Government Girls P.G. College of Commerce in Uttarakhand, India, consider consumer awareness of harmful chemicals in everyday products. Writing in the International Journal of Business Forecasting and Marketing Intelligence, the team points out that some substances present in everyday products, such as cleaning fluids, represent a serious risk to human and environmental health if misused or disposed of inappropriately.
A detailed and structured survey of 100 consumers in the Nainital District of Uttarakhand revealed, not chemophobia, but an awareness of potentially harmful substances in a range of everyday products. Concern about those substances was high, although it must be added, perhaps not sufficiently high that the consumers would stop using said products. There is very much a pressing need to improve awareness and understanding of the myriad chemicals used in everyday consumer products. This awareness cuts both ways in that consumers need to understand the benefits versus the risks associated with the products they use. Moreover, it is the consumer that can nudge the market away from those products that use particularly harmful substances to alternatives.
"The majority of those surveyed believe it is everyone's responsibility to decrease the usage of products that include compounds or chemicals that are hazardous to human health and the environment," the researchers report.
The commercial world will, for the sake of profits, almost always move to sell alternatives if sales flatline. Given that social media and access to limitless information are available to most consumers, the opportunities for corporate greenwashing are much reduced and this can only benefit human health and the environment if it removes from the market problematic chemicals provided the consumer can maintain their lifestyle with the alternatives offered.
Joshi, R., Sahni, A. and Malik, M.C. (2022) 'Consumer awareness regarding harmful chemicals in everyday products', Int. J. Business Forecasting and Marketing Intelligence, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp.351–361.
Saffron is the world's most expensive spice. It is made from the "threads" or styles of saffron crocus flowers and it takes half a million or so to produce just one kilogram of saffron. It is a delicate spice with uses in perfumery for its scent, cosmetics for its colour, and, of course, in many different cuisines, such as Indian and Arab, where it can add both gentle seasoning and delicate colour to food. Its history stretches back thousands of years perhaps to Central Asia where wild forms of the saffron crocus would have been known to ancient people.
Saffron remains a desirable culinary commodity and in modern-day India, almost 6000 hectares are dedicated to growing the crocus for its threads. Most of that land lies in Kashmir with Pompore at its heart and well known as the hub of the country's saffron industry, an industry that produces 5 tonnes of the spice annually. This represents a not insignificant proportion of the world production of 300 tonnes, although Iran dominates with 90 percent of world production.
Writing in the Journal of International Business and Entrepreneurship Development, a team from India has explored how the saffron industry in Kashmir might be reinvigorated and perhaps take a larger share of the global market. Asifat Shafi and Parvez Ahmad Mir of the Islamic University of Science and Technology in Kashmir point out that saffron from their region is highly regarded.
The researchers explain that the quality of the product depends on high concentrations of three chemical components – crocin, which is a pigment, safranal, an odorant, and piccrocrocin, which helps gives saffron its unique taste. High-quality saffron, they explain, has at least 190 milligrams per kilogram of crocin, 70 mg of picrocrocin, and 20-50 mg of safranal. They add that adulteration of the product is one of the many problems facing the saffron industry whereby quality is compromised by the addition of inferior ingredients or substitutes.
In addition, those involved in the industry have seen decreased production year on year, there is a lack of entrepreneurial intention, a less than impressive ability to compete globally, and often a lack of awareness among all stakeholders in the industry regarding the uses of saffron, particularly in the area of traditional medicine.
The team has surveyed stakeholders in the Kashmiri saffron industry and their findings suggest that the industry might well be revived by cultivating entrepreneurial intention, introducing public-private partnership, and creating awareness among all stakeholders of the potential for a wide variety of products containing saffron. With the governmental development of the Saffron Spices Park and improved distribution channels, the team says Kashmiri saffron has the potential to become a leading global brand. Ultimately, this will benefit the Indian economy as a whole.
Shafi, A. and Mir, P.A. (2022) 'Revival of Kashmiri saffron industry: an exploratory study', J. International Business and Entrepreneurship Development, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp.243–260.
In a world where so much information is so readily available to students, educators and student assessors must constantly fight against plagiarism. The time and effort required by an examiner potentially faced with hundreds of essays to check for such problems however small is huge. Semi-automated tools exist for identifying plagiarism in a sample of text but these too take up computing resources and are often unwieldy and more suited to single documents.
Writing in the International Journal of Innovative Computing and Applications, a team from Australia and Sri Lanka has developed a new computational approach to plagiarism detection that uses vector space and exploits the architecture of graphics processing units and their compute unified device architecture (CUDA) rather than a conventional computer chip, a central processing unit, CPU.
Jiffriya Mohamed Abdul Cader of the Sri Lanka Institute of Advanced Technological Education Sammanthurai, Akmal Jahan Mohamed Abdul Cader of the South Eastern University of Sri Lanka, Hasindu Gamaarachchi of the University of New South Wales, Australia, and Roshan G. Ragel Faculty of Engineering, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka explain that conventional serial testing of 1000 documents can take half an hour.
The prototype of their GPU approach improves on that significantly, taking just 36 seconds to process the same dataset and flag any plagiarized sections of text. However, the reserchers further optimized their prototype and were able to reduce processing time to just 4 seconds for one thousand documents. That's almost 400 times faster than conventional approaches. Such speed would be a boon to examiners faced with hundreds if not thousands of student-submitted documents to check for plagiarism.
The next step will be to test the same approach on text found in other kinds of document rather than simply straight-text essays, including notebooks, assignments, reports, theses, and such.
Mohamed Abdul Cader, J., Mohamed Abdul Cader, A.J., Gamaarachchi, H. and Ragel, R.G. (2022) 'Optimisation of plagiarism detection using vector space model on CUDA architecture', Int. J. Innovative Computing and Applications, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp.232–244.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the so-called sharing economy? A bibliometric analysis published in the International Journal of Web Engineering and Technology finds the answer.
There is a growing body of research literature that has investigated the impact of the pandemic on many different aspects of life. Jian Feng and Zhenfeng Liu of the Shanghai Maritime University in Shanghai, China, have focused on the literature published that reports on the sharing economy. They used data from the Web of Science covering the years before the pandemic (2008 to 2019) and the pandemic years (2020 to 2021) to reveal what they refer to as the research themes, scholarly communities, evolution paths, and research hotspots in this developing area of social science.
Despite the idea of sharing being as old as humanity, the term "sharing economy" was most likely coined only in 2008 by Stanford Law School professor, Lawrence Lessig, although the term may well have been used prior to his work. The sharing economy is now generally understood to refer to those novel entrants into industry and various marketplaces that have disrupted the received wisdom about commerce and occasionally usurped the conventional business models. For instance, organisations such as Airbnb in hospitality, Uber and DiDi in transportation, Gridmates in energy, MediCast in health, WeWork in office work, and MakeSpace in logistics.
The Shanghai study revealed that four new research themes were updated, perhaps not unexpectedly, including research into COVID-19 itself in the second tranche of research papers. The team explains that COVID-19 affected not only traditional sectors, such as accommodation, tourism, and transportation but also had an impact on luxury sharing, fashion rental, logistics, food delivery, and the festivals industry.
The team points out that despite the misery, morbidity, and mortality associated with COVID-19 it also represents a transformational point in economics whereby sustainable development goals might be approached more rapidly than in the pre-pandemic era, at least in terms of those companies and organisations in the sharing economy. It remains that the ongoing pandemic is forever presenting new problems and challenges for digital technologies, risk management, supply chain, operation management, and technological innovation among the companies of the sharing economy and their stakeholders. Nevertheless, the inherently innovative nature of such companies means they are quick to rise to those challenges.
Feng, J. and Liu, Z. (2022) 'A bibliometric analysis of COVID-19's impact on the sharing economy', Int. J. Web Engineering and Technology, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp.170–202.
One of the great ironies of lockdowns, border closures, and self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic is that medical students, as with so many other people in education, were forced online for their ongoing studies. Medical education, as with many other vocational areas of learning, requires its students to be very hands-on, at least for a fairly large part of the time. Research in the International Journal of Innovation in Education, has looked at medical education in Italy as it was affected by the pandemic.
Benedetta Agnelli, Silvia Oldani, Valeriano Vinci, Mattia Loppini, Ferdinando Cananzi, Damiano Chiari, and Licia Montagna of the Humanitas University in Milan, and Fabrizio Consorti of the Sapienza University of Rome, discuss how practical activities were relocated online so that students could continue to learn the requisite methodological and cognitive skills associated with medicine. Among those skills are understanding patient history (anamnesis), clinical reasoning, procedural skills, case discussion, and such. They discuss their experience of Professionalising Activities in the form of e-learning and reveal the advantages and limitations so that others in medical education might learn from this experience.
Professionalising Activities are a vital part of the practical training at Humanitas University and so the pandemic presented many major challenges to the educators there hoping to train their undergraduate medical students to be good doctors. Thankfully, innovative technology at this point in history made it possible, despite pandemic lockdowns, for medical students to continue their training online albeit with some limitations.
The team suggests that given the situation of the crisis in which humanity found itself e-learning allowed training to be undertaken in such a way that students could improve reflection and self-learning aspects of their education in a way that traditional training did not necessarily facilitate.
Agnelli, B., Oldani, S., Vinci, V., Loppini, M., Cananzi, F., Chiari, D., Montagna, L. and Consorti, F. (2022) 'Medical education in Covid-19 pandemic: e-learning based professionalising activities', Int. J. Innovation in Education, Vol. 7, Nos. 3/4, pp.193–208.
A study in the International Journal of Mobile Communications has investigated what personality traits and demographic factors are associated with use of one of the most well-known apps in China, the instant messaging, social media, and mobile payment app WeChat.
WeChat was developed by Chinese multinational conglomerate Tencent and first released in 2011. It has more than a billion active monthly users and is often described as China's "app for everything". It has a lot of functionality, which is not uncommon among social media apps, allowing users to swap text messages, make phone calls, carry out video conferencing, broadcast messages to groups, reveal location information to other users, play video games, and share photographs and videos. Apps like WeChat are essentially an always-on digital multi-tool for many people.
Hua Pang of the School of New Media and Communication at Tianjin University in Tianjin, China, has looked at whether it is possible to predict who might use WeChat based on standard personality traits such as extraversion, neuroticism, and openness to experience as well as their demographic characteristics. Data from a web-based survey of adults in China was subject to correlation analysis and multiple hierarchical regression analysis.
The findings suggest that extraversion is most commonly associated with the likelihood of WeChat use in men and women, as one might expect, and this was especially true among young users. Men with neuroticism were also inclined to be heavy users, Pang found. Pang also found that older people who self-reported as being open to new experiences were also likely to be WeChat users. The work reaffirms the findings of other studies in this area and points to new avenues that might be explored to look at the subtleties of social media use as it relates to personality and demographics.
Pang H. (2022) 'Exploring the effects of personality characteristics and demographic factors on WeChat involvement among adults', Int. J. Mobile Communications, Vol. 20, No. 5, pp.590–608.
Electronic waste is an enormous, and growing, problem around the world, with unimaginable numbers of broken and obsolete devices and gadgets being fed into a waste stream that threatens to become a deluge. Not only is the problem one of waste and loss of rare and costly materials, but many of the materials, the metals in particular, represent an environmental threat if they enter ecosystems.
Regulations at the national and international level attempt to address the problem of electronic waste with different degrees of success. Research published in the International Journal of Environmental Technology and Management, has looked at the problem from the perspective of Vietnam where it is estimated that more than ten million units of electronic waste are generated each year.
The study looks at how Vietnam manages its electronic waste under regulations introduced in 2015 on the retrieval and treatment of discarded products and extended producer responsibility. Moreover, it considers how these policies fit into the 2020 law on environmental protection and how the pros and cons of these local regulations and laws might help guide policymakers in other developing nations that are also facing the growing problems of e-waste.
Nguyen Trung Thang and Duong Thi Phuong Anh of the Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment (ISPONRE) in Ha Noi, Vietnam, and Sunil Herat of Griffith University, Nathan Campus in Queensland, Australia, point out that poor handling of electronic waste is a serious concern in terms of environmental health and human health.
Many developing nations are yet to understand fully the implications and develop laws to allow them to cope. In Vietnam, e-waste has not yet been well defined and much of it still enters the general waste stream. Where it is more appropriately processed, recyclers often lack the understanding or the equipment to handle it properly and to safely extract and retrieve rare and toxic materials. Indeed, so-called craft villages set up to extract metals commonly burn old gadgets, generating huge amounts of toxic fumes and using the most rudimentary of methods to retrieve and recycle metals from those devices.
The approach must change, policymakers and regulators need to take control of the electronic waste stream, educate those involved in disposal and recycling and encourage them to recognise the benefits and perhaps offer incentives so that safe and appropriate e-waste processing is more widely adopted. The team adds that the developed world needs both technical and financial assistance in this regard from the developed world to ensure its local electronic waste streams don't simply add to a global problem.
Thang, N.T., Herat, S. and Anh, D.T.P. (2022) 'Current status of e-waste management in Vietnam', Int. J. Environmental Technology and Management, Vol. 25, No. 5, pp.388–405.
Chaos theory can be used to encrypt, with computational efficiency, a colour image, according to work published in the International Journal of Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing. The non-linear approach described performs far better than conventional encryption algorithms for such digital assets.
Subhrajyoti Deb of the ICFAI University Tripura, Bubu Bhuyan of North-Eastern Hill University in Shillong, Nirmalya Kar of the National Institute of Technology in Agartala, K. Sudheer Reddy of Anurag University, in Hyderabad, India, explain how strong encryption is essential for a wide range of digital assets, not least colour images. Traditional encryption tools can treat a file that encodes for a colour image as if it were a text document but that approach is very inefficient given the different qualities of a displayed image when compared with a text document.
As such, there is considerable waste in terms of time and computing resources when encrypting an image using encryption algorithms designed to encrypt text. Moreover, such an approach, not being optimized for an image also makes them susceptible to decryption by a third party because of the characteristics of the encrypted file, wherein it might contain excessive redundancy because of long strings with the same pixel values. Various researchers have suggested alternative approaches such as using chaos theory, cellular automata, or quantum theory, to make encryption of images more efficient and less prone to attack. Fundamentally, there is a need to randomize the pixels encoded by the image file in a reversible way that is efficient and next-to-impossible to breach without the encryption key.
The team has used a modified version of the Grain-128 cipher to address the issues facing those who need to encrypt colour images. The result is an encrypted file that has a satisfactory key space, low correlation and high randomness. The encrypted image has the appearance of random, colour noise when displayed on a screen. Overall, the improvements over traditional text encryption approaches gives the team an efficient and essentially uncrackable encrypted file that cannot be breached using standard occlusion, rotation, and noise attacks.
Deb, S., Bhuyan, B., Kar, N. and Reddy, K.S. (2022) 'Colour image encryption using an improved version of stream cipher and chaos', Int. J. Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing, Vol. 41, No. 2, pp.118–133.
Research in the International Journal of Bioinformatics Research and Applications has investigated the chemistry and behaviour of a useful natural product made by the Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus Bunge). The work could expand the repertoire of a growing area of chemical science – biotransformation – wherein nature's molecular machinery is used to build and alter novel compounds in the laboratory.
Many natural products, by definition chemical compounds made by living organisms, have physiological activity and have been isolated from their source and researched and developed into pharmaceutical products. Indeed, approximately two in every five prescription drugs have an origin in natural products. Commonly, however, the active chemical in a living organism is modified for a particular purpose or drug profile with different, more target activity in a disease, and fewer, or less harmful, side effects, for instance. In addition, modifying a natural product is often a prerequisite to making a new pharmaceutical sufficiently different that a successful patent application can be made and a drug brought to market profitably.
In the last few decades, chemists have found ways to use enzymes to modify natural products and in turn, they have found ways to modify enzymes to make them work differently and allow them to process natural products and other molecules in different ways to generate unprecedented molecular diversity. Any one of these huge numbers of new molecules could have physiological activity that might be useful in treating particular diseases and disorders.
Piotr Szymczyk; Grażyna Szymańska; Małgorzata Majewska; Izabela Weremczuk-Jeżyna; Michał Kołodziejczyk; Kamila Czarnecka; Paweł Szymański, and Ewa Kochan of the Medical University of Lódz, in Lódz, Poland, have investigated part of nature's molecular machinery, an enzyme known as C. roseus strictosidine ß-D-glucosidase. Enzymes are proteins that act on small molecules, their substrates, and convert that substrate into another molecule used by the living organism. The team reports the structure of this enzyme from the periwinkle with a focus on the pocket in its molecular structure that binds to the substrate, the enzyme's active site.
The team built a computer model of the periwinkle enzyme using Discovery Studio 4.1 software and a template for the enzyme based on another known enzyme from a ß-glucosidase found in rice, which they modified to match the known details for the periwinkle enzyme. They could then use a second computer program – an algorithm called CDOCKER – to see how different chemical substrates would interact with the active site of the model periwinkle enzyme. They tested the natural substrate a molecule known as strictosidine and a second chemical D-glucono 1,5-lactone. This latter molecule is known to bind to the enzyme and inhibit its activity. The docking process in which substrate is put into the active site, like a key into a lock, then allowed the team to refine the structure of the periwinkle enzyme to make the fine details of the model closer to those seen in nature. To do this molecular dynamics software was used.
Ultimately, the work extends what was previously known about the periwinkle enzyme and could allow scientists to modify it in such a way to act on other substrates. Before that though, given that the natural product strictosidine itself is a useful starting material for a wide range of different molecules, the work opens up new avenues for working with this natural product.
Szymczyk, P., Szymanska, G., Majewska, M., Weremczuk-Jezyna, I., Kolodziejczyk, M., Czarnecka, K., Szymanski, P. and Kochan, E. (2022) 'Homology modelling and docking studies of strictosidine ß-D-glucosidase from Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus Bunge)', Int. J. Bioinformatics Research and Applications, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp.234–269.
Fear, driven partly by media misinformation, is an important emotion in the context of crises. It can lead to bad, or, at best, suboptimal, decisions, especially in the midst of a global pandemic, according to work published in the International Journal of Business and Systems Research.
José Chavaglia Neto of the Beta L Consulting Group in São Paulo, António Bento Caleiro of the Universidade de Evora, in Evora, Brazil, José António Filipe of the Iscte – Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, Manuel Pacheco Coelho of the University of Lisbon, Portugal, and Gholamreza Askari of Semnan University in Semnan, Iran, have looked at how fear emerged in Brazil during the still-ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A pandemic that led to serious health problems and death and economic devastation irrespective of how fearful anyone felt when the virus emerged and in the ensuing months following the World Health Organisation's announcements regarding the pandemic.
During the early stages of the crises many people were overwhelmed with information, much of it conflicting, by nature of the very novelty of the causative agent, the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, and its effects. As the days and weeks and months went by, disinformation was thrown into the mix and conspiracy theories emerged. A clear picture of how events were truly unfolding was difficult to unravel. This was especially true in terms of the information shared in totalitarian regimes and spreading from there and even more so once we had pharmaceutical interventions and different vaccine responses to COVID-19.
The picture was even muddier given social isolation, lockdowns, quarantining and the closure of international borders all of which was done with the aim of reducing the rate of spread of the disease, the morbidity associated with it, and the mortality rates and so-called "excess" deaths. Nothing is yet particularly clear for many people even more than two years since the declaration of the pandemic, and many people lived in fear from the start and many still do.
Neto, J.C., Caleiro, A.B., Filipe, J.A., Coelho, M.P. and Askari, G. (2022) 'How can fear impact economic decisions in pandemic contexts at the light of decision-making systems? An approach to the COVID-19 case', Int. J. Business and Systems Research, Vol. 16, Nos. 5/6, pp.759–782.
Researchers in Ecuador are using deep learning techniques to identify the characteristics of bullying behaviour in Spanish language text on social media systems. Details are provided in the International Journal of Data Mining, Modelling and Management.
Paúl Cumba-Armijos, Diego Riofrío-Luzcando, Verónica Rodríguez-Arboleda and Joe Carrión-Jumbo Digital School, SEK International University, Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador have extracted expressions and phrases that might commonly be used in episodes of cyberbullying from 83400 updates on one particular social network. They have used this body of text to train a convolutional neuronal network. The algorithm that emerges from this training is a tool that can then autonomically identify insults, racism, homophobic attacks, and so on.
It is perhaps well recognised that although there are huge benefits wrought by social media and social networking tools. However, as with any invention, there are always those who might seek to abuse the system for their own malicious ends. Such activity might involve the further marginalisation of vulnerable groups and young people and so it is desirable to find ways to ameliorate the risk to such groups from cyberbullies. The team writes that in Ecuador, 27% of teenagers have reported suffering marginalisation through cyberbullying, 46% have reported harassment, 17% aggressive behaviour online, and 10% have experienced extortion.
Tests on the trained neural network by the team showed that it works with a high precision of more than 98 percent. The next step, which may well improve that precision, would be to draw in data from blogs and additional social media sites and to incorporate additional Spanish phrases to improve the system's prediction capabilities.
Cumba-Armijos, P., Riofrío-Luzcando, D., Rodríguez-Arboleda, V. and Carrión-Jumbo, J. (2022) 'Detecting cyberbullying in Spanish texts through deep learning techniques', Int. J. Data Mining, Modelling and Management, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp.234–247.
Personalisation and interactivity are key to boost the effect of an advertising campaign on social media, according to work published in the International Journal of Economics and Business Research. The finding has implications for how marketers and advertising teams might get the most value out of their efforts and budgets.
Taanika Arora of the Rukmini Devi Institute of Advanced Studies at the IP University in Delhi, India, has studied in detail one particularly popular area of the world of social media – the networking site, Facebook. Specifically, Arora has used Ducoffe's web advertising model and flow theory to investigate to what extent personalisation and interactivity are determinants of purchase intention among potential consumers exposed to advertisements on Facebook.
At the time of writing this Research Pick, Facebook has almost 3000 million active monthly users. The world population is almost 8000 million, so that number represents a very large proportion of all the people on Earth, almost 40 percent of us. That, by any metric, is a vast advertising market representing a huge number of potential consumers of a product or service, even if we assume a fraction of those accounts are fake, duplicates or themselves companies with something to sell.
Arora carried out a systematic study using non-probability sampling of data obtained from more than 700 active Indian Facebook users. Structural equation modelling was used to demonstrate model fitness and to establish the validity and reliability of the adapted scales, she explains.
"The results indicate that the proposed framework is a robust tool for measuring advertising effectiveness on Facebook," Arora writes. "This study theoretically contributes to the application of the Facebook advertising model and practically contributes influential factors for effective advertising to marketers and advertisers." An important finding that might guide marketers and advertisers is that "credibility" and "entertainment" are critical in Facebook advertising, without the authenticity and the amusement, much is lost. In addition, advertising that is two-way or interactive helps lead potential consumers to making a purchase. The converse of all of this is that personalisation raises privacy concerns and consumers do not often tolerate any invasion of their privacy, despite being active in, to what is to all intents and purposes, the very public realm of social networking.
The bottom-line is that marketers hoping to get the most out of their Facebook advertising budget must be authentic, entertaining, and cognisant of the privacy concerns of their target market.
Arora, T. (2022) 'A framework for enhancing the influence of Facebook advertising: the key role of personalisation and interactivity', Int. J. Economics and Business Research, Vol. 24, No. 3, pp.305–343.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a deep impact on society, human health, and the world economy. Research in the International Journal Medical Engineering and Informatics, offers a conceptual framework for how the necessary preventative behaviours enforced and adopted during a pandemic might be associated with mental health issues that arise.
Rajesh R. Pai of the Manipal Institute of Technology in Manipal and Naganna Chetty and Sreejith Alathur of the National Institute of Technology Karnataka in Surathkal, India, point out how containment and mitigation strategies, such as closure of international borders, national and local lockdowns, quarantine for travellers, hand sanitisation and masks, were put in place soon after the realisation that the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 was approaching an infection rate that would lead to a pandemic. The pandemic was, unfortunately, not halted, perhaps because many of the measures were not sufficiently timely nor enforced rigourously enough by the authorities in different countries.
However, once lockdowns were enforced, many people facing social isolation felt trapped and angry. There has, it seems, been an increase in anxiety and depression associated with the pandemic, while rates of alcohol abuse and suicide incidence have risen. Many areas of society have perhaps been affected more than others and at the least in different ways. Those in healthcare, hospitality, and marginalised communities, for instance, have all faced different kinds of pressure because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The team concludes from their study that while preventative health measures may well have ultimately reduced the total number of infections and deaths from this disease, the dark side is that they may have led to morbidity of a different kind through their effects on mental health. Part of the issue, the team found, was that media exposure was a significant variable in whether or not individuals adopted or accepted various measures but also induces fear and anxiety.
Pai, R.R., Chetty, N. and Alathur, S. (2022) 'Impact of COVID-19 on individuals' mental health and preventive health behaviours: a conceptual framework', Int. J. Medical Engineering and Informatics, Vol. 14, No. 5, pp.454–463.
Research published in the International Journal of Information and Computer Security has looked at the everyday privacy and anonymisation settings in conventional web browsers and compared the enhanced functionality of browsers with greater and layered privacy control that can help hide one's legitimate activity from prying eyes, for instance. The notion of volatile memory forensics is considered a putative way to access at least some of that activity even with privacy-enhanced browsers once criminal investigators have timely access to the laptop or other device on which the browser is running.
Privacy-enhanced web browsers help protect citizens using the internet from those who might wish to see details of their browsing habits and behaviour, perhaps relatives or so-called friends, but also government agencies with no right to access personal information, as well as third-parties with malicious intent, such as identity theft. The flip side of creating such browsers is that criminals too can use these tools to obfuscate their activities and to exploit potential victims of their crimes. The very nature of a privacy-enhanced browser might then make it very difficult for the police to investigate a crime where such a browser has been central to the activity.
Nilay R. Mistry, Krupa Gajjar, and S.O. Junare of the National Forensic Sciences University in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India, explain how digital forensics is central to many a criminal investigation whether the crime happens online or offline. Critically, the wider concept of computer forensics must be able to identify, acquire, preserve, and analyse evidence from a device so that it can be presented in a court of law with the provenance that it is exactly as it was found on the device an so representative of the perpetrator's behaviour.
The team's work compares various privacy-enhanced browsers and the artefacts of browsing and login activity that are held and might remain in the device's volatile memory, essentially the RAM (random access memory) or virtual memory. With their tools, they were able to obtain email addresses, visited website addresses from all the browsers tested from both a live RAM dump of the data on the device as well as a dead RAM dump, where all tabs in the browser had been closed and the browser shut down. Such access could be very important in a criminal investigation but it would be essential that investigators could seize the device before it is completely shut down otherwise the data in volatile memory, as the term suggests, would evaporate and be lost.
In addition, they were able to obtain search terms from a live RAM dump from all browsers on the test devices but not from a dead RAM dump. No downloaded images could be retrieved from either scenario from any browser, nor any passwords. However, for some purportedly privacy-enhanced browsers, the team was able to extract searches from a well-known online video service, live RAM dumps for all and with the exception of three, dead RAM dumps too.
The very minimum of evidence that would be available to investigators finding a shut down device, might be files present or cached on the device's permanent storage and the presence of a given privacy-enhanced browser. That would not be as strong evidence as a live RAM dump of activity in the browser obtained while activity associated with a crime is underway, of course.
Mistry, N.R., Gajjar, K. and Junare, S.O. (2022) 'Volatile memory forensics of privacy aware browsers', Int. J. Information and Computer Security, Vol. 18, Nos. 3/4, pp.313–326.
Adult, or pornographic, content spam is a growing problem on social media. New research in the International Journal of Business Intelligence and Data Mining discusses how such content might be quickly detected and removed in a timely manner.
Deepali Dhaka, Surbhi Kakar, and Monica Mehrotra of Jamia Millia Islamia (Central University) in Jamia Nagar, New Delhi, India, explain how the general user experience and that of younger people using social media might be improved if obscene spam content can be filtered effectively and quickly. Machine learning tools are often the way forward in detecting particular types of content and the team has demonstrated that one such tool, XGboost, can detect adult spam content with over 90 percent accuracy. This was the most effective classification algorithm of the six tested and adapted by the team for detecting pornographic spam on Twitter.
As such, fewer than ten in every hundred updates flagged as adult spam would be false positives. The team's approach needed to analyse just a small number of features, value system, the entropy of words, lexical diversity, and word embeddings, to be able to pluck adult spam updates from the general stream of updates on one of the most well-known social media platforms, Twitter.
Inherent in positive detection is that in general, everyday users of the platform discuss a wide variety of topics in different contexts and write and share in what might be referred to as an organic manner. In contrast, spammers and pornographic spammers, in this case, tend to have a fixed or even entirely automated approach to their updates, limited diversity of subject matter, as one would expect, and a very limited lexicon. These and other characteristics of spam messages, make them recognisable to the algorithm.
Dhaka, D., Kakar, S. and Mehrotra, M. (2022) 'Detection of spammers disseminating obscene content on Twitter', Int. J. Business Intelligence and Data Mining, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp.265–289.
The importance of soil cannot be stressed enough. Fundamentally, without it, we cannot grow the food we need to feed the world. Soils in different parts of the world and even from local region to local region differ enormously and understanding the composition of different soils, their structure, fungal, and microbial characteristics is vital to knowing how to get the best from this finite resource in a rapidly changing world.
Microbes play a significant role in maintaining soil fertility through the recycling of nutrients and influencing the bioavailability of those nutrients to plants, as well as altering soil structure and other characteristics of the soil.
Writing in the International Journal of Bioinformatics Research and Applications, a team from Japan has carried out a clustering analysis of the bacterial profile of soils from around the world. Their work builds a global picture of different soils and how the microbiome of different soils differs from place to place. Their work utilises data from various environments worldwide (23 countries and almost 5000 soil microbiome samples) and uses the microbiome database, the earth microbiome project (EMP) to build a picture of bacteria in soils from paddy fields, vineyards, grasslands, and forests. species, and it was not suitable for examining the microbial composition in a sample.
It was the development of next-generation DNA sequencing that facilitated microbiome analysis and allowed scientists to determine the taxonomic composition of samples without the need to isolate and culture microbial strains from the sample. Metagenomics has given us access to the very depths of the soil. The work offers many new insights from paddy field to Mongolian grassland.
"This research is expected to deepen the understanding of the ecology of the soil bacterial flora and lead to knowledge that will be vital for soil management based on bacteria," the team writes.
Tanaka, T., Cruz, A.F., Ono, N. and Kanaya, S. (2022) 'Clustering analysis of soil microbial community at global scale', Int. J. Bioinformatics Research and Applications, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp.219–233.
Footnote: A citizen/farming science project is underway globally to determine the quality of soil based on how rapidly buried cotton underwear rots in a given patch. An important investigation for the sake of soil science that can be done anyone.
A biosensor network that can detect airborne viral particles could be put in place on animal farms and livestock markets. With appropriate analysis of the data from these internet-of-things (IoT) devices it might be possible to detect the earliest presence of a putative infectious agent that has undergone zoonosis and so made the leap from animal pathogen to a virus that can cause human disease, as occurred with the COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2.
A proposal for such a network, inspired by the One-Health initiative is discussed in the International Journal of Sensor Networks. Humanity has suffered plagues for millennia as has the rest of the animal world. At the time of writing avian influenza is affecting birdlife while the COVID-19 epidemic is still very much with us. Pathogens once thought under control such as those that cause tuberculosis and polio are still with us. However, pathogens circulating in the animal kingdom can evolve into novel forms that might infect people that come into contact with them at any time.
Uche K. Chude-Okonkwo of the Institute for Intelligent Systems at the University of Johannesburg in Auckland Park, South Africa, points out that we need to be on our guard to emerging viral pathogens. Being on guard will allow us to respond faster to the emergence of potential human pathogens originally from animal hosts sources and so put into place controls to reduce the risk of an emergent virus spreading to the wider population and causing another devastating pandemic.
Advances in biology and sensor technology coupled with technological advances in communications and devices could be the answer to a more timely response to an emerging pathogen, Chude-Okonkwo suggests. His work could form the basis of an important aspect of the One Health initiative. This global, interdisciplinary project considers how human health, animal health, and ecosystem health are all linked and have an impact on emergent pathogens and the nature of the next pandemic.
"The One Health initiative promotes the acquisition and processing of real-time health information of all the living things in a given system, as well as that of the environment to enable the timely identification of prime sources and the emergence time of infectious diseases," writes Chude-Okonkwo. "This will enable the appropriate authority to implement intervention protocols early enough to avoid or mitigate epidemics," he adds.
Chude-Okonkwo, U.K. (2022) 'One Health-inspired early implementation of airborne disease spread mitigation protocols aided by IoT-based biosensor network', Int. J. Sensor Networks, Vol. 39, No. 4, pp.215–226.
A study published in the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising has looked at how online rates affect box office takings with respect to Bollywood movies.
Bollywood is, as most fans of cinema will know, a portmanteau of the words Bombay and Hollywood, it is an umbrella term for the Hindi-language movie industry based in Mumbai (formerly Bombay). The industry is an artistic and economic powerhouse, making several hundred films a year which represents the biggest contribution to the vast Indian movie industry as a whole.
Girish Taneja and Anu Bala of the Department of Commerce and Business Management at DAV University in Jalandhar, Punjab, India, point out that there is a wide range of factors that influence whether or not a particular movie becomes popular and makes good takings at the "box office". For instance, the cast, director, and composer might influence some cinemagoers while others may choose to go and see a particular movie based on reviews in the mainstream media. Today, of course, everyone is a critic, as they say, and there are plenty of places online where a film fan might learn about whether a new movie production is worth seeing or not.
The researchers gathered national-level Bollywood movie data from various websites including, bollywoodmovies.com, timesofIndia.com, imdb.com, and bookmyshow.com. They then applied correlation and regression analysis to determine what impact the ratings for a large number of movies had on the recorded box office revenues for each movie.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the team found a strong positive correlation between good online ratings and box office takings. This was found to be the case even when the team accounted for the number of screens at different movie theatres, the "star" power of cast members, the film production budget, and even the size of the distribution company. The bottom line for Bollywood is that good reviews from the media and from cinemagoers are reflected in good takings at the box office.
The implications for film producers are simple, in order to sell a movie well, they must engage more positively with critics, reviewers, and online influencers to generate stronger, positive reviews for their output if they are to attract more cinemagoers to those movies. So much has perhaps been known since the silent era, today it is even more apposite given the world of social media and ubiquitous internet connectivity where the "everyone's a critic" ethos can have an almost instantaneous and widespread impact.
Taneja, G. and Bala, A. (2022) 'Impact of online ratings on the box office collection of Bollywood movies', Int. J. Internet Marketing and Advertising, Vol. 17, Nos. 1/2, pp.217–230.
Journalists tend to be a cynical bunch, it comes with the job – ever questioning. As such, they are rather demanding of their sources and the trustworthiness of websites and brands. Research from Indonesia in the International Journal of Web Engineering and Technology describes a model of website user experience that has now been tested on journalists.
Journalists, of course, need to make judgements as to the trustworthiness of a website, especially when seeking information and sources during an investigation. However, they are not the only user group for whom "brand" trust is important, the same applies to people from all walks of life, whether shopping online, studying, making political choices, seeking out entertainment, or other activities.
Purwadi Purwadi of the Research Center for Society and Culture at the National Research and Innovation Agency and Irwansyah Irwansyah of the Faculty of Social Science and Political Science at the Universitas Indonesia, explain how they used partial least square-structural equation modelling (PLS-SEM) for data processing techniques and hypothesis testing on a survey of 300 journalists.
The team found that there was a significant correlation between the user experience, measured by six components and trust in the brand associated with the website. Those six components are site access speed, culture, design, hedonic, public value, usability, user value, and user emotions. Their second model showed that access speed, user value, and user emotion also correlated with brand trust. Of course, perceived trustworthiness based on such variables as page load speed and access times on a website are not necessarily a true reflection of whether or not the given site is trustworthy. A slow site may simply have technical issues that have not been overcome rather than that technical deficit reflecting poor content. That said, a site that does not look after its technical side, as well as its content, may well be a less worthy resource as such a lack of attention to detail in the technical area may reflect a similar lack of attention to content. The team recommends the use of the first model with its greater number of variables for future studies of the website user experience.
Purwadi, P. and Irwansyah, I. (2022) 'Website user experience model: testing on journalists', Int. J. Web Engineering and Technology, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp.63–87.
Might an analyse of social media use and connections help employers find the right employee? New work in the International Journal of Business Information Systems, has used association rule mining to analyse job seekers' profiles and activity on Facebook to determine personality traits that might be matched to a given job by a putative employer.
An international team of researchers from Finland, Ghana, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Sweden, and the USA explains how personality traits play a significant part in the suitability of an employee for a particular role. They suggest how Facebook use might be analysed to help match unemployed users of the social networking site with an appropriate job. The team looked at data from 3000 unemployed Facebook users in Nigeria. Association rule mining allowed them to extract useful information and identify interesting characteristics and traits that might otherwise remain hidden or not be discernible from a job seeker's application form or resume. The team focused on a particular sector, that which employs public relations officers (PROs), marketers, and advertisers.
The team discusses earlier work from Italy that used an alternative approach to profiling unemployed Facebook users there. They now write that "Much research has been done in the area of Web usage clustering, with the issues involved in data mining for extraction of web navigation patterns, ordering relationships, prediction of web surfing behaviour, and clustering of web user sessions based on weblogs." Nigeria is one of the biggest users of Facebook in Africa, however, and so should provide useful information above and beyond what might be gleaned from web use.
The team demonstrated that sentences and phrases used on the social networking site can reveal correlations with particular personality traits such as conscientiousness and agreeability. Given that employers commonly look to social media as a pre-selection tool before calling prospective job candidates to interview, the development of an analytical approach that might improve and validate this screening approach could be very welcome among human resource managers and recruiters. Moreover, there has been a degree of stagnation in the rising employment rates in many developing nations, such as Nigeria, new tools to help remedy this, COVID-19 impact notwithstanding, are urgently needed.
Olaleye, S.A., Ukpabi, D.C., Olawumi, O., Atsa'am, D.D., Agjei, R.O., Oyelere, S.S., Sanusi, I.T., Agbo, F.J., Balogun, O.S., Gbadegeshin, S.A., Adegbite, A. and Kolog, E.A. (2022) 'Association rule mining for job seekers' profiles based on personality traits and Facebook usage', Int. J. Business Information Systems, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp.299–326.
A new algorithmic approach based on the behaviour of gulls that could improve edge computing is discussed in the International Journal of Web Engineering and Technology.
While the enthusiasm for cloud computing has not blown over, there adjuncts to the services it provides that have already come over the horizon to bring certain aspects of "cloud" closer to the user – so-called edge computing. By bringing certain resources closer to the user's own computer, edge computing can improve performance and reduce lag, or latency, between user command and system response. However, increasing demands on edge services mean that their great promise might not be fulfilled in an increasingly connected and mobile world.
Feilong Yu, Jing Li, Ming Zhu, and Xiukun Yan of the College of Computer Science and Technology at Shandong University of Technology in Zibo, China, have proposed a service-selection model the cloud and edge-computing environments. "The proposed model combines the seagull optimisation algorithm and the simulated annealing algorithm," the team explains. The seagull algorithm encodes the migratory and attack behaviour of gulls in such a way that it can be used to solve problems such as the assigning and routing of computational resources. The use of the simulated annealing algorithm in conjunction with the seagull algorithm will help the system avoid the local maximum and premature convergence problems, which are often the bane of other approaches to similar problems.
The team has carried out comparative experiments on simulated datasets with referencing to some other service selection models and have demonstrated that the proposed selection model improves QoS (Quality of Service) and requires fewer iterations. Such a boost to edge computing will improve the performance of software and applications that utilise natural-language processing, facial recognition, and video processing all of which are what the team describes as "delay-sensitive and demand-intensive".
The next step is to demonstrate proof of principle with a real-world setup and then to optimise the approach in terms of minimising energy consumption to address the issues of processing energy requirements, idle power, and leakage of power.
Yu, F., Li, J., Zhu, M. and Yan, X. (2022) 'Using seagull optimisation algorithm to select mobile service in cloud and edge computing environment', Int. J. Web Engineering and Technology, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp.88–114.
It seems like an oxymoron – working in retirement. And, yet there will be many people who are either forced into working because of finances after they reach statutory retirement age or choose to carry on working, perhaps in an entirely different area to their career. One particular group of people who often choose to continue working into retirement are those in academia. They may feel that do not want to succumb to an arbitrary endpoint to their career and provided a role is still there for them, they will remain active in academia.
Preeti Tarkar and Somesh Dhamija of the Institute of Business Management at GLA University in Mathura, India, have looked at job satisfaction and age and how these moderate work, post-retirement among academics. They published details in the International Journal of Human Resources Development and Management.
The team's survey of retired academics points to a need to understand the intentions of experienced academics and to allow find ways to allow those that wish to work after notional retirement to do so. This is especially pertinent in India, Tarkar and Dhamija suggest that given an aging population and a likely fall in the number of young people over the next ten years. It is likely that there will be a shortfall of qualified academics.
However given the changes that have occurred in academia in recent years, wherein teaching and research are often given less prominence for senior academics who must also subsume managerial and administrative duties, it will be interesting to see how the situation pans out. After all, are "retired" academics who enjoyed teaching and/or research likely to be satisfied with a role that focuses on management and administration. Of course, it might be that those not at retirement age take on more of those duties leaving the older academics free to fulfill non-administrative roles. Job satisfaction will be a critical component of persuading the retired to continue in work to plug the putative workforce gaps.
Tarkar, P. and Dhamija, S. (2022) 'Intentions towards work post-retirement: a mediator-moderator analysis through job satisfaction and age', Int. J. Human Resources Development and Management, Vol. 22, Nos. 3/4, pp.180–196.
In 2019, international education in Australia generated more than 40 billion Australian dollars. Just under a third of that came from students from China. However, the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw Australia close its doors to international visitors essentially halted that revenue stream for the country. Although there is a notion that we are nearing a post-pandemic world, ongoing geopolitical tensions between Australia and China may well somewhat thwart efforts at recovery in the international education sector.
Writing in the International Journal of Agile Systems and Management, Mamta B. Chowdhury of the School of Business (Economics, Finance and Property) at Western Sydney University in Penrith, New South Wales has examined just how much dependency there has been on student visitors from China and how those geopolitical tensions and the effects of the pandemic might affect the future. She makes policy recommendations that emphasise greater diversification of the education sector and improvements in its supply chain management.
Chowdhury points out that since increasing globalization in the middle of the 1980s, there has been increasing attention in research to international education as international student numbers rose. The quality of education and opportunities that developed nations can offer students from developing nations have brought many millions of students to those countries. While in education, they, of course, boost the host nation's economy, and on returning to their home country, their new skills and experience help bolster growth and development there. It is, in the modern vernacular, a win-win situation. Australia has been at the forefront of attracting international students and has benefited significantly from that increased diversity in higher education as well as reaping the financial rewards.
Indeed, there had been double-digit growth in international student numbers in Australia since around 2014. International education was Australia's third biggest "export" after iron ore and coal, in 2018. In December 2019, just as the novel coronavirus, later known as SARS-CoV-2 and the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were almost a million international students enrolled to study in Australia. The numbers fell significantly with the pandemic so that in 2020, there were almost 10 per cent fewer students than in December 2019. 28% of those students originated from China, India (17%), Nepal (8%), Vietnam (4%), and Brazil (3%) across all educational disciplines.
The shocks of a pandemic or geopolitical tensions should serve as a warning, however, to the Australian system that reliance on a particular market within the sector could stifle growth. There is a need for greater diversity and for policymakers to manage the supply chain to help increase growth.
"Designing and implementing forward-looking approaches in diversifying the market in a timely fashion and appropriate intertwined education, employment and immigration policies might facilitate the transfer of valuable foreign exchange earnings into the education sector," writes Chowdhury. Ultimately, this will in turn improve trade and alliances, as well as strategic and diplomatic relationships between Australia and those countries that enjoy the benefits of its education system.
Chowdhury, M.B. (2022) 'A critical review of Australia's China-dominant education supply chain', Int. J. Agile Systems and Management, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp.147–166.
Very few people have been completely unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the developing world, where a burgeoning middle-class was hauling itself out of the poverty trap of its ancestors, we might expect the detrimental effects of the pandemic to have been felt more harshly than for the well-off in the developed world.
Writing in the International Journal of Happiness and Development, A.F.M. Jalal Ahamed of the School of Business at the University of Skövde in Sweden has considered the financial anxieties and subjective well-being of the middle-class of Bangladesh. In this part of the world, as with many developing areas, the middle class commonly falls out of focus during times of crisis.
Ahamed has turned his focus on this demographic and found a worrying state of affairs that should help policymakers in the future ensure that those in this group who are actually on lower incomes are not abandoned. If they are, then there is the risk that such educated workers and consumers will accumulate problems, mental health issues, relationship troubles and potentially fall into the poverty trap that cumulative issues can bring in the developing and developed world, but that are starker in the former.
The research suggests that as well as helping those in the lower classes during a crisis, there is also a need to help those who might be perceived as well off, who suffer too and to put in place universal job security insurance and financial counselling for employees in the post-pandemic world. It was obvious that during the height of the pandemic, lockdowns, firm closures, reduced consumption, limited social interactions, disrupted supply chains, and insufficient medical support would all contribute to a heightened sense of anxiety for everyone.
The aspirational demographic might face its own risks, perhaps hidden from view, while policymakers attempt to assist those in severe poverty. Without a thriving middle-class, however, Ahamed suggests, the notion of "developing" might be stalled or even come to a halt. It should be pointed out that in this country, an income of just over US$700 and up to about $7000 per annum is considered middle-class, $2 to $20 dollars a day. However, Ahamed's study also considered education and culture as criteria for defining the middle-class demographic rather than simply income.
COVID-19 is not the first pandemic, nor will it be the last. Its impact will be felt for many years to come and will inevitably overlap with the next major, international crisis. Ahamed suggests that the developing world needs to be prepared if it is to fulfill its aspirations and that will likely involve securing its middle class.
Jalal Ahamed, A.F.M. (2022) 'COVID-19-induced financial anxiety and state of the subjective wellbeing among the Bangladeshi middle class: the effects of demographic conditions', Int. J. Happiness and Development, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp.142–158.
Technology has brought the cinema to our homes. Huge screens, powerful sound systems, projectors, streaming services, and even active seating and other novelties, have all conspired to keep many cinemagoers away from the traditional venues for watching movies. This coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic that had many of us confined to our homes for the sake of personal and public health also reduced cinema attendance significantly and whether numbers are rising again in the purported post-pandemic era remains to be seen.
Research in the International Journal of Entertainment Technology and Management has looked closely at what factors determine whether or not people become active cinemagoers. Marta Batlle-Beltrán and Manuel Mateo of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain, suggest that those who run cinemas must offer much greater added value than ever before at a reasonable price in order to entice people back to the traditional Saturday night at the movies.
Of course, there remain many good reasons why people will still pay to go to the movies – the scale of the screen and the big sound, the social side, the peripheral activities such as drinking and dining before, after, and during the cinema show, an escape from domesticity, and the anticipation of novelty and difference.
The team found through a comprehensive survey that factors such as comfort, service, and facilities were strong influencers of whether or not they would choose to watch a movie at the cinema, especially given that generally, the same movies may well be available via streaming services, if not immediately, then within a few months of theatrical release. They also found that older people were generally more inclined to go to the cinema and with the right enticements might become loyal regulars.
Batlle-Beltrán, M. and Mateo, M. (2022) 'Analysis of the factors that determine cinema attendance', Int. J. Entertainment Technology and Management, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp.201–221.
Startups face a major challenge in trying to home in on open innovation partners. Research in the International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, looks at the various ways in which startups search for such partners, the platforms they use to find connections, and the advantages and limitations of those platforms.
Izabella Bereczki and Johann Füller of the University of Innsbruck in Austria, and Oana Stanculescu of the Transylvanian Furniture Cluster in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, point out that previous studies have tended to focus on corporate entities and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), startups have not been the subject of research in this context to any significant degree so far. Indeed, previous researchers have highlighted the fact that there is a need to remedy this situation.
Startups it can be said are often highly innovative. Indeed, the very nature of such companies is usually underpinned by an entirely novel idea aimed at fulfilling an unrequited need. However, they, by definition might lack experience and certainly rarely have substantial resources at their disposal. Generally, the researchers say, firms can innovate with customers, suppliers, universities, research institutions or even competitors in order to foster innovation. Seeking out these partners is time-consuming and can be costly. Manual approaches are not always effective nor efficient and so many startups might turn to digital platforms that facilitate networking between those who have and those who have not, as it were.
'We believe open innovation is fundamental to innovation effectiveness because it promotes innovation and a cooperation culture,' the team writes. 'Open business models can be used by start-ups to create and capture value through systematic collaboration with external partners.' The team points out that the platforms at present focus on corporations who want to search for partners. The converse search is not catered for so well and is therefore an opportunity in the making for the platforms that could ultimately be beneficial to all parties including startups, which are currently missing out.
Bereczki, I., Füller, J. and Stanculescu, O. (2022) 'The perfect match! Open innovation platforms – assets for collaborative start-ups', Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, Vol. 26, Nos. 3/4, pp.133–160.
There are literally millions of known chemical compounds. Huge numbers of these substances are used in industry, in agriculture, in the home, as medicines, and in countless other applications. Finding novel compounds with specific properties, such as a new pharmaceutical with fewer side effects than the old one, is a major focus of many research teams around the world. Often, software is used to scan databases of known chemicals but can also be used to predict the properties of previously unknown substances that might be synthesised in a laboratory should those properties fit the brief.
Now, writing in the International Journal of Information and Communication Technology, Faisal Saeed of the College of Computer Science and Engineering at Taibah University in Medina, Saudi Arabia, explains that predicting the characteristics of a new molecular structure in silico, in the computer, in other words, still presents many major challenges to drug discovery teams. In his paper, Saeed, suggests that machine learning might open wide the bottleneck by finding new ways to identify novel substances with particular physiological properties that might make them useful as new pharmaceuticals for a wide range of diseases and conditions.
Saeed has demonstrated that a combined effort might work well. He has tested different machine learning methods on diverse molecular datasets, including naïve Bayes, sequential minimal optimisation, Bayesian network, decision tree, support vector machine, K-nearest neighbours, random tree, and reduced error pruning, REPTree. The tests used different combinations of base classifiers to assess how well they would work against different types of dataset.
The K-nearest neighbour (KNN) approach, Saeed found, works far better than any other approach. Moreover, the ensemble learning method Adaboost (KNN) was the most effective of the KNN approaches. The downside is that this type of base classifier approach requires a lot of computer power to process a diverse dataset and to predict the biological activity of the molecules in that dataset. It might be possible in the next step to improve efficiency and reduce computing costs by adding a pre-processing step before the intensive analysis of the dataset is carried out.
Saeed, F. (2022) 'Machine learning methods for predicting the biological activities of molecules in high diverse databases', Int. J. Information and Communication Technology, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp.170–180.
Researchers in South Korea discuss how we must adapt our approaches to disaster management to help us cope with the potentially devastating effects of climate change. Writing in the International Journal of Business Continuity and Risk Management, the team uses qualitative content analysis to describe and analyse the three levels of natural disaster management. These three levels – international, national, and local – are considered in the context of three proposed stages of climate change – before climate change, the first half, and the second half.
Kyong-Jin Park of Daegu Haany University in Gyeongsan City, Bong-Woo Lee of Seoul Digital University in Seoul, and Kyoo-Man Ha of Inje University in Gimhae City explain that all "stakeholders" the world over need to address international cooperation, sustainability, education, and training for survival. Their work suggests a history and a chronology where management from 1951 to 1990 was provincial, the period 1991 to 2040 will be seen as patriotic, but the period 2041 to 2100 will be the period of survival-oriented management.
The team alludes to the fact that while there may be denialism and ignorance about climate change, the truth is out there. Moreover, given that we are all culpable, we must all now play our role in the disaster management that is needed if we are to mitigate the impact of climate change on our lives, the lives of future generations, and indeed the future of life on earth. There is an ethical obligation on all of us and on all governments.
As they say, there is no Planet B, we have to work to protect and fix this one before it is too late. Lifestyle changes must take place from the local up to the national and then international level. Climate change is not a natural disaster but it will be disastrous for nature and ourselves unless we have the collective will to address the problems and manage them.
Park, K-J., Lee, B-W. and Ha, K-M. (2022) 'Examining the transition of natural disaster management for climate change', Int. J. Business Continuity and Risk Management, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.116–130.
A survey of privacy-preserving data-mining techniques published in the International Journal of Business Intelligence and Data Mining assesses the pros and cons of each approach and offers guidance to potential users.
G. Sathish Kumar of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the Sri Krishna College of Engineering and Technology in Coimbatore and K. Premalatha of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the Bannari Amman Institute of Technology in Erode, both in Tamil Nadu, India explain how data mining has come to the fore as a powerful way to find patterns and correlations in big data.
However, as with any useful tool it can be mishandled or abused. In the case of big data, there are risks associated with breaches of private and personal information. This is particularly important given that data mining is so widely used with disparate data sets including criminal records, consumer shopping habits, bank transactions, medical information, and much more. Third parties might gain access to the identity of individuals represented in a database and so see associated information regarding that kind of personal and private data. A total breach would represent the worst-case scenario where all information and all individuals in a database is revealed to that third party.
There is therefore a pressing need to have full control of the data being mined so that third parties, malicious or otherwise, cannot compromise that data. The team has reviewed the various approaches and describes the benefits and disadvantages of each, including randomisation, anonymisation, condensation, cryptographic, fuzzy, and statistical methods of privacy preservation in data mining.
It is inevitable that there is always compromise in any approach. Indeed, the team has found that no technique outperforms all the others in all measures. Some work better than others in a given situation but there are trade-offs with each, the team writes. As such, there is still a need, despite recent advances in this area, to develop a system that can solidly preserve privacy while allowing data mining to be carried out.
Kumar, G.S. and Premalatha, K. (2022) 'Privacy preserving data mining – past and present', Int. J. Business Intelligence and Data Mining, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp.149–170.
Machine learning has now been used to identify important pests that can ravage vegetable crops, according to work published in the International Journal of Wireless and Mobile Computing.
Changzhen Zhang of Kaili University in Guizhou, Yaowen Ye, Deqin Xiao, Long Qi, and Jianjun Yin of the South China Agricultural University in Guangzhou, China point out that effective pest control requires knowledge of the species affecting the plants and the level of infestation. The team has used a so-called "bag-of-features" model to develop an automatic pest monitoring system has been. They explain that their approach combines remote information processing technology and machine vision technology.
The proposed system can be implemented in a vegetable crop field to monitor four major pests: Phyllotreta striolata (the Striped Flea Beetle, a pest of brassicas), Frankliniella occidentalis (the invasive Western Flower Thrips, feeds on some 500 or more different species of vegetable, fruit, and flower), Bemisia tabaci (the Tobacco White Fly, which affects tomato and other related plants), and Plutella xylostella (the diamond-back moth, a pest of cruciform crops).
The team demonstrated an error rate of less than 10 percent when compared with detection and counting by people trained to spot the pests. Given that B. tabaci can reduce tomato crop yields by 60 percent so the detection of such species is critical to efficient and effective farming. The other species mentioned can all affect a wide variety of crops with devastating consequences when infestation is allowed to run rampant.
The team has demonstrated success in a controlled environment. The next step will be to test the system and improve its abilities in a more complex and realistic vegetable-growing environment.
Zhang, C., Ye, Y., Xiao, D., Qi, L. and Yin, J. (2022) 'Rapid detection and identification of major vegetable pests based on machine learning', Int. J. Wireless and Mobile Computing, Vol. 22, Nos. 3/4, pp.223–235.
Research published in the International Journal of Cloud Computing looks at how machine learning might allow us to analyse the nature and characteristics of social media updates and detect which of those updates are adding grist to the rumour mill rather than being factual.
Fake news has been with us ever since the first gossip passed on a rumour back in the day. But, with the advent of social media, it is now so much easier to spread fake news, disinformation, and propaganda to a vast global audience with little constraint. A rumour can make or break a reputation. These days, that might happen the world over through the amplifying echo chamber of social media.
Mohammed Al-Sarem, Muna Al-Harby, Faisal Saeed, and Essa Abdullah Hezzam of Taibah University in Medina, Saudi Arabia have surveyed the different text pre-processing approaches for approaching the vast quantities of data that pour from social media on a daily basis. How well these approaches work in the subsequent rumour detection analysis is critical to how well fake news can be spotted and stopped. The team has tested various approaches on a dataset of political news-related tweets from Saudi Arabia.
Pre-processing can look at the three most relevant characteristics of an update before the text analysis is carried out and silo the different updates accordingly: First, it can look at the use of question marks and exclamation marks and the word count. Secondly, it can look at whether an account is verified or has properties more often associated with a fake or bot account, such as tweet count, replies, retweets, etc. Thirdly, it can look at user-based features, such as the user name and the user's logo or profile picture.
The researchers found that pre-processing can improve analysis significantly when the output is fed to any of support vector machine (SVM), multinomial naïve Bayes (MNB), and K-nearest neighbour (KNN) classifiers. However, those classifiers do react differently depending on what combination of pre-processing techniques is used. For instance, removing stop words, and cleaning out coding tags, such as HTML, stemming, and tokenization.
Al-Sarem, M., Al-Harby, M., Saeed, F. and Hezzam, E.A. (2022) 'Machine learning classifiers with pre-processing techniques for rumour detection on social media: an empirical study', Int. J. Cloud Computing, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp.330–344.
Traditionally, attendance and exam results have been the main way in which educators can show whether or not a student is struggling with the course. This is done retrospectively. With the advent of cloud-based learning technology and online courses, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, these metrics are not necessarily the best way to catch at-risk students so that they can be helped.
The converse of that is that this technology can be used to provide and analyse useful data about the students, which can itself highlight those that might be struggling more quickly than can conventional assessment. Moreover, it can do this in a much more timely manner than a retrospective look at attendance and infrequent exam results.
Owen P. Hall Jr. of the Graziadio Business School at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, USA, describes a machine-learning approach to detecting at-risk students in the International Journal of Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments. "At-risk" is a three-pronged definition alluding to whether a student is considering leaving a course, whether the institution is planning to end the student's place on the course, or whether they are in a probationary period because of problems they have faced or concerns their teachers have about their course work, attendance, and results.
Machine learning has been used to predict examination grades and even attendance in some educational settings for many years. It is also commonly used to group students for study classes and other activities. It has even been used to detect cheating and plagiarism. It is perhaps therefore not such a great leap to picture the use of machine learning in helping students in another way.
Hall suggests that the machine-learning approach can analyse all the data associated with a student, almost continuously, and determine early on whether a student is at-risk or on the verge of being in that position. At this point, teachers and tutors might intervene to help without delay. The lack of delay to the assistance they give will tend to lead to a better outcome for such students.
"Engaging faculty, educational researchers, and administration in the risk mitigation paradigm is essential for ensuring student success," writes Hall. Machine learning offers a novel tool to help with this process, improve student outcomes, and reduce dropout rates in an increasingly pressured educational system.
Hall Jr., O.P. (2022) 'Detecting students at risk using machine learning: applications to business education', Int. J. Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp.267–289.
Face-recognition technology is advancing apace and has applications in security and biometrics, marketing, education, criminal investigation, and many other areas, it can now not only recognise the person but can ascertain the expression on their face. Research in the International Journal of Biometrics tackles the limitations of face recognition software when the person's face is partly obscured, by a veil or protective face mask, for instance.
The researchers, based in Hungary, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UK, and the USA report a facial recognition accuracy with their deep-learning approach that is 99.95% accurate for facial recognition even for a person wearing a niqab, which most of the face except the eyes. 99.9% accurate for gender recognition, and determination of age. It can recognise that a veiled person or person wearing a covid mask is or is not smiling, through analysis of the eyes, with 80.9% accuracy. Tests were carried out on an image database of 150 people, 41 male and 109 female subjects aged from 8 to 78 years old.
Ahmad B.A. Hassanat of Mutah University in Karak and Abeer Ahmad Albustanji of the Ministry of Environment in Amman, Jordan, Ahmad S. Tarawneh of Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, Hungary, Malek Alrashidi, Mansoor Alghamdi, and Ibrahim S. Alkhazi of the University of Tabuk, Hani Alharbi of the Islamic University of Madinah, Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Alanazi of Cranfield University, UK, and V.B. Surya Prasath of the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, used a deep convolutional neural network to develop their recognition system. The neural network has 4096 features in each layer of the recognition process.
The team points out that their proof of principle – known as DeepVeil – involved the use of an in-house image database, with face-on images of veiled persons taken at close range. The next step will be to work with a more diverse set of images recorded in a range of settings and the photos taken from different angles. That said, in the early days of conventional facial recognition systems, a clear face-on image was needed to verify a person's identity and that is no longer the case as the algorithms and software have evolved. So, the same will, with the right approach and further development, likely become true for DeepVeil.
Hassanat, A.B.A., Albustanji, A.A., Tarawneh, A.S., Alrashidi, M., Alharbi, H., Alanazi, M., Alghamdi, M., Alkhazi, I.S. and Prasath, V.B.S. (2022) 'DeepVeil: deep learning for identification of face, gender, expression recognition under veiled conditions', Int. J. Biometrics, Vol. 14, Nos. 3/4, pp.453–480.
Writing in the International Journal of Intellectual Property Management, a digital technology leader at telecommunications conglomerate Verizon discusses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on digital transformation and digital fraud in the US economy.
Shashidhar Hiremath reiterates just how much of an impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the US economy, broadly speaking. Of course, a similar picture is seen across the globe. Tourism, air travel, the housing market, information technology, hospitality, and food industries have perhaps been detrimentally affected the most. However, there have also been some upturns in the fortunes of those companies facilitating working and learning from home and people sharing activities remotely.
An unwanted area of growth during the pandemic was, of course, cybercrime, says Hiremath. The incidence of internet theft, phishing scams, and financial fraud all increased during the pandemic. This was presumably partly due to it being a time when many people were at their most vulnerable and susceptible. Moreover, infrastructure and IT support that would provide checks and assurances were not necessarily in place in the home, or remote-working, environment for countless computer users in the workforce.
Criminals will always find a way to exploit vulnerabilities and even create new ones. The nature of social change that was wrought by the emergence of a lethal coronavirus at the end of 2019 has given us what is euphemistically known as the "new normal". Unfortunately, the new normal has given criminals new opportunities. It is time for a detailed study of how the world has changed in this realm, suggests Hiremath. In the new normal, we may well need new laws and policies to help protect people from the ever-changing landscape of cybercrime and digital fraud, internet theft, and more.
Shashidhar (2022) 'Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the digital transformation and digital frauds in the US economy', Int. J. Intellectual Property Management, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp.429–448.
The number of people using mobile wallets, financial management software, apps, on their smart phone that allow them to make payments, is increasing. Work in the International Journal of Intellectual Property Management looks at the adoption of mobile wallets across India. Uptake there and in other developing nations is significant but there are many challenges that face putative users and those offering the services that are not so apparent in the developed world.
Ravi Kumar Gupta of the Department of Humanities and Management Science at the Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, has collected data from 500 respondents in the Gorakhpur District of Uttar Pradesh to learn more about user and potential user perception of mobile wallets. He used regression, factor analysis and structural equation modelling to process the data.
There are an estimated 500 million smart phone users in India and that number is rising every day. A fraction of those are using a mobile wallet, but that fraction will likely only increase over time. The growth of the middle-income demographic across India is the underlying driver for this increase in technology adoption.
Gupta points out that while people of all ages are using smart phones, much of the growth in mobile wallet use among the younger demographic. That said, he has found from the survey of 500 people that risks associated with security and privacy are serious concerns that dissuade some people from using a mobile wallet. Conversely, ease of use and social influence both correlate positively with adoption of this technology.
Gupta, R.K. (2022) 'Adoption of mobile wallet services: an empirical analysis', Int. J. Intellectual Property Management, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp.341–353.
Anyone familiar with the landscape of the Mediterranean coast would recognise the terraces and stone walls that are an inherent part of farming there and help people intercalate crops between the garigues. The terraces and stone walls are themselves vital to the conservation of biodiversity in these landscapes as well as in farming, cultural heritage and tourism, and have been a key part of the landscape, particularly of the area for centuries if not millennia.
A new study aimed at improving our understanding of the microclimates, the micrometeorology created by this kind of landscape is discussed in the International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology.
Alexandra Solomou, Nikolaos Proutsos, George Karetsos, Konstantinia Tsagari, and Nikolaos Chatzipavlis of the Institute of Mediterranean Forest Ecosystems part of the Hellenic Agricultural Organisation 'Demeter' (ELGO DIMITRA) in Athens, Greece, have reviewed the research literature on this aspect of the Greek countryside in detail and conclude that it is critical that these micro-landscapes be preserved.
The team points out that Greece is a world biodiversity "hotspot", and its abundance of fauna and flora and the high number of diverse species of fungi as well as its disparate ecosystems and landscapes make it rightly so. It also harbours many species endemic to the region and found nowhere else on the planet. The researchers also explain that the country has a complex terrain, ranging from sea level to quite high mountainous altitudes. It has many islands and a long coastline relative to the total area of the mainland. It thus has a variety of microclimates, which have sustained the rich biodiversity reported for the region. Of course, during recent decades Greece has become more arid as farming practices, water, use, and climate change have their impact.
Based on their review, the team lists the most important benefits of terraces and stone walls as follows:
First, they are an important defence against soil erosion caused by wind and rain and offer protection from extreme events, such as floods and freak winds. Secondly, they provide green infrastructure for island ecosystems, which could help those islands and their inhabitants adapt better to the effects of climate change. Indeed, the microhabitats wrought by this type of traditional manipulation of the landscape will support conservation and protection and even enhance biodiversity.
From the economic perspective, terraces and stone walls can help in the generation of high-value and high-quality agricultural products and other materials of use to industry. Finally, they offer an aesthetic enhancement to the landscape with great cultural value that is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
Solomou, A., Proutsos, N., Karetsos, G., Tsagari, K. and Chatzipavlis, N. (2022) 'Micrometeorology of the agricultural terraces and stone walls and impacts on biodiversity in the Mediterranean landscape of Greece', Int. J. Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology, Vol. 18, Nos. 1/2, pp.3–21.
Artificial intelligence and text mining techniques can be used to detect paranoia among social media users. Specifically, work published in the International Journal of Computational Science and Engineering, has examined the behaviour of Twitter users in their updates regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in order to detect personality disorders associated with paranoia.
Mourad Ellouze, Seifeddine Mechti, Moez Krichen, and Lamia Hadrich Belguith of the University of Sfax in Tunisia and Vinayakumar Ravi of the Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, suggest that the behaviour of people towards the pandemic driven by mistrust of authority and fuelled by disinformation has somewhat hindered the way in which we have dealt with this global crisis.
The team suggests that in parallel with this general behaviour among some people there is a more worrying reaction among those with serious mental health problems associated with paranoia. Such conditions, when faced with the existential angst presented by a lethal pandemic, can lead to serious anxiety, grief, and suicidal thoughts.
Ultimately, the team's analysis of Twitter users discussing COVID-19 could allow them to find people who may be suffering unduly and may be entering a personal crisis. In other words, the tools they discuss could be used as a proxy diagnostic that could allow qualified professionals to offer an appropriate intervention for patients with paranoia. Perhaps it might also be used to guide decisions made by Twitter itself and its algorithms that lower risk for its vulnerable users.
Ellouze, M., Mechti, S., Krichen, M., Ravi, V. and Belguith, L.H. (2022) 'A deep learning approach for detecting the behaviour of people having personality disorders towards COVID-19 from Twitter', Int. J. Computational Science and Engineering, Vol. 25, No. 4, pp.353–366.
The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought tragedy, social and economic decline. However, humanity is finding ways to adapt to the so-called "new normal" in terms of healthcare, society, business, and finance. Writing in the International Journal of Electronic Finance, a team from India discusses how the pressure to move various aspects of our lives into the online world because of the pandemic has led to the mainstreaming of online financial transactions to an unprecedented degree.
Kamakhya Narain Singh of the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs within the Ministry of Corporate Affairs in the Indian government in Haryana and Shruti Malik of the Department of Management Studies at the JCBOSE University of Science and Technology also in Haryana, point out the obvious efficiency and efficacy of online financial transactions when compared to cash transactions. The team has looked at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the various restrictions and lockdowns that were put in place in an attempt to slow the spread of the disease, particularly on financial transactions. They have also considered how financial literacy affected the adoption of online finances, especially among low-income groups.
The team used a logistic regression model to analyse 2019 data from the National Centre for Financial Education 2019 survey of around 36600 households in the low-income bracket. Low income is defined as below 50000 Indian Rupees (just over US$600) annually for a given household.
The fundamental result from the analysis was that financial literacy was instrumental in the adoption of online banking by those in this group. Thus improved education and guidance in this area could improve the outlook for those people who might benefit from online finances in ways that were previously not possible. The researchers suggest that policymakers should look to improve financial literacy. They add that there needs to be better investor protection and a system for addressing customer complaints. They even have the radical idea of there being incentives put in place to encourage financial literacy among low-income households, a financial reward given at random on a regular basis to a household that uses online financial services.
The ultimate aim would be to nudge people in such a way that online financial services become the norm rather than cash transactions, such a nudge would improve processes in the financial sector but also protect people in a future crisis when we come to rely on the online world for the next new normal.
Singh, K.N. and Malik, S. (2022) 'COVID-19 crisis – an opportunity for mainstreaming digital financial transactions', Int. J. Electronic Finance, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp.269–290.
When it comes to the donation of sperm or egg, gamete donation, there is an inherent ethical conflict – the right to privacy of the donor and the child's right to know their biological parent. Hanna Krushelnytska of the National Academy of Legal Sciences of Ukraine in Kyiv discusses the legal nature of gamete donation in the International Journal of Public Law and Policy.
Technology and medicine have brought us to a point in human history unlike any other, where we can carry out biological processes in vitro that once could only be done in vivo. As such, there are now many people in the world who were born through an unconventional meeting of sperm and egg. Technically, we might talk of "assisted reproduction" or "artificial reproduction", but there is, of course, nothing artificial about the person's humanity. The law, however, is often slow to keep up with technological advances and the moral dilemmas they often bring with them.
Krushelnytska has looked at legislation around the world surrounding donor anonymity and the rights of the children born through assisted reproduction. The conflicts are essentially enshrined in different laws wherein they are regarded as medical laws in some contexts but also commercial law where the legislation encompasses the transactions and payments that might be made. Of course, the laws are asymmetrical when considering sperm and egg and how those are obtained and used.
There is an urgent need for tangled legal structures to be unknotted and the rights of donors and children to be clarified. How this might be done successfully given the inherent conflicting status of the various parties remains to be seen.
Krushelnytska, H. (2022) 'On the legal nature of gamete donation', Int. J. Public Law and Policy, Vol. 8, Nos. 3/4, pp.256–270.
Working from home became, if not obligatory, then certainly de facto for many employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. At this stage in the pandemic as the new normal becomes entrenched the advantages of working from home have been recognised by employee and employer alike and for many the pandemic practice has become de rigueur.
Researchers from Oman writing in the International Journal of Technology Transfer and Commercialisation have looked at the stresses and strains that the practice of homeworking has put on employees and the people they live with. Anna C. Bocar of the Faculty of Business Management Studies at Gulf College in Maabelah, Muscat and Shad Ahmad Khan and Ferdinand J. Epoc of the College of Business at the University of Buraimi in Al Buraimi found that fundamentally issues arise because the home does not necessarily have the infrastructure or facilities for many types of job.
Jobs that were pushed out of the workplace and into domesticity by social distancing, lockdown, and isolation rules meant employees had to find ways to carry on their normal work in the domestic setting in a way that many had not done before and also to accommodate family life. Employees in all kinds of sector – legal, financial, media, any where communication and work could be digitalised were affected.
The team found that it is the employee's personal perspective that mattered the most in terms of the stresses and strains they faced during enforced working from home. Moreover, only when employees begin to take action themselves to remove the stressors that their employers recognise the problems and take action themselves, the employers are not proactive in helping their employees, in other words. The research points to how things must change if employees are to carry on working from home and for those who return to the workplace how things must change before the next major crisis.
Bocar, A.C., Khan, S.A. and Epoc, F.J. (2022) 'COVID-19 work from home stressors and the degree of its impact: employers and employees actions', Int. J. Technology Transfer and Commercialisation, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp.270–291.
Researchers in China discuss the concept of "digital twins" as might be used to improve efficiency and yields, cut costs, and improve safety in agriculture. Details are published in the International Journal of Adaptive and Innovative Systems.
A "digital twin" is commonly thought of as being a dynamic, computerized representation of a physical or object or system that models that object or process in real-time. It can be manipulated to see how "virtual" changes made to the object or system might affect their real-world counterparts. The original concept of this kind of simulation emerged from work on "information mirroring models" at the University of Michigan by Michael Grieves, although the term "digital twin" was first used by the US Air Force Laboratory in 2009 and then by NASA in its efforts to model the behaviour and response of its spacecraft. Of course, as with many advanced systems and simulations there is no single definition.
Researchers at the China University of Petroleum (East China) in Qingdao and Qingdao University point out that digital twins have been used in a variety of contexts and suggest that the time is ripe for digital twins to be used in agriculture. The team explains that digital twins can act as "a bridge between the physical world and the digital world". As such, they need to be built on various underlying technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality but might also incorporate aspects of model-based systems engineering and digital threading. There is, of course, the scope for artificial intelligence and machine learning to play a role. The internet of things is the foundation on which a digital twin is constructed acting to connect the real world to the virtual.
Digital twins have been used in manufacturing, in city planning, and even on the battlefield. Given that agriculture in many parts of the world is based on often centuries-old approaches, the digital twin concept is set to revolutionise farming life. It will allow simulations of agricultural activities to be carried out as well as assist with remote monitoring, control, and coordination of those activities on the farm.
Zhao, Y., Jiang, Z., Qiao, L., Guo, J., Pang, S. and Lv, Z. (2022) 'Agricultural digital twins', Int. J. Adaptive and Innovative Systems, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp.144–156.
Fuzzy logic processing has been used to carry out an analysis of performance in social media networking. Details can be found in the International Journal of Fuzzy Computation and Modelling.
Ridhima Mehta of the School of Computer and Systems Sciences at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India, explains how fuzzy logic, with its roots in 1960s computer science, can be used to help us solve a very modern problem: handling the huge streams of data from social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and finding ways to analyse and interpret connectivity and sentiment in those streams.
Social media has become almost ubiquitous in many parts of the world, hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people rely on it for entertainment, news, business, communication with friends, family, and colleagues, and more. The huge quantities of information shuttled around the various networks is almost impossible to process given how disparate messages and updates, content, and context can be. Fuzzy logic, an extension of the far more conventional Boolean logic, offers a tool to process datasets in a more useful manner than attempting to analyse word-by-word or sentence-by-sentence.
The team demonstrated proof of principle with a multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) fuzzy inference system. The inputs, Mehta explains, are processed based on the concepts and operations associated with the fuzzy set theory coupled with the stored knowledge in the form of a rule base. Outputs are based on these inputs. Error rates were at least 90 percent improved on existing methods, Mehta found.
Mehta explains that the proposed fuzzy-based design can be integrated with other multiple-objective optimisation techniques such as genetic algorithms, Markov decision process, particle swarm optimisation to obtain several optimal social networking performance objectives.
Mehta, R. (2022) 'Applying fuzzy logic for multicriteria performance analysis of social media networking', Int. J. Fuzzy Computation and Modelling, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp.51–72.
The "glass ceiling" is a metaphor for the barriers facing women and various minorities in the workplace when they strive for promotion or other improvements in their career. Research published in the International Journal of Services and Operations Management, compares the phenomenon in the European Union and the USA.
Saška Gavrilovska and Balasundram Maniam of the Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, USA, have found that the glass ceiling has been raised somewhat in recent times with many women and members of minority groups achieving higher mid-level positions at many companies and institutions. However, the barrier is still very much in evidence in terms of limited opportunities to break through the glass ceiling to top-level management positions. The team suggests that personality differences, discrimination, and the challenges of motherhood and childcare often reinforce the glass ceiling.
Earlier work and common experience suggest that there remain significant inequities between men and women and between majority and minority groups. Pay and grade disparities remain strong. To reduce workplace discrimination and promote gender and equality in general, there is a need for improved rights and policies, which should be adopted by companies and enacted in law. The EU and USA do have in place policies to improve rights, but there are many gaps, oversights, and loopholes that mean the glass ceiling, while slightly higher than in the past, remains a major barrier for women and minority groups.
Gavrilovska, S. and Maniam, B. (2022) 'The glass ceiling phenomenon in the US and EU labour market: a comparative study', Int. J. Services and Operations Management, Vol. 42, No. 3, pp.422–438.
Research published in the International Journal of Business Process Integration and Management has looked at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on digital payment use in India. The research used a cluster analysis technique to classify two types of banking customer according to their payment behaviour – late majority and early majority. The behaviour of these two different groups of people as the pandemic unrolled and in particular with lockdowns and other restrictions could offer new cues to both private and public sector banks to guide their payment operations and to direct their future policies and practices with a view to improving operations and reducing overheads.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on society and economies around the world has been enormous and is ongoing. Many aspects of the so-called "new normal" have changed the way we live in an unprecedented way. Many of the changes and challenges we have had to face in this pandemic world have been detrimental to quality of life. However, there was technology in place that was less well used than it might have been, before the pandemic, that has come to the fore as a potent solution to some of the problems we have faced in the last few years since the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the ensuing health crisis we faced.
Banking reform in 1991 across India revolutionised the industry. Previously rather limited opening hours at branches were extended, online bank became "24-7" for bill payment, money transfers, cheque book requisition, and online payment for e-commerce. Automated teller machines, ATMs, become more common at select branches. Banks also introduced new products in the wake of these reforms such as new approaches to loans, train booking, and online shopping. Indeed, the very fact that such banking products and technology were already in place when the pandemic arose means that India was ready with financial services in place to face the crisis.
Of course, the disease had devastating and tragic consequences for many people with debilitating infection, death, and long-covid. From the economic point of view, the closure of commercial premises and lockdowns quickly drove down the economy. For many people staying at home and working from home under lockdown and restrictions meant they had to rely on digitalized financial services in a way they never had before, regardless of their technological literacy.
Smartphone usage and internet access are on the increase even in rural areas and given the characteristics of the banking sector in India at the time of the pandemic, there was little option but to utilize those services in a way that had not been done before. The team points out that fear of the pandemic reduced technophobia to some degree and nudged people to digital and online alternatives to the facilities and services they previously used offline.
Parihar, S.S., Siddiqui, M.H. and Mehrotra, S.A. (2021) 'Impact assessment of COVID-19 on digital payment: an Indian perspective', Int. J. Business Process Integration and Management, Vol. 10, Nos. 3/4, pp.259–266.
In many ways, the travel industry has tended to focus on business travellers and richer tourists, ignoring travellers such as backpackers who tend to travel on a tight budget and have little to spend on their journey. However, there is a sub-set of backpackers, informed and educated and highly active on social media that the industry would do well to find ways of engaging with. These digital backpackers commonly review and report on the places they visit and the sights they see, often as video bloggers, or vloggers.
Research in the International Journal of Knowledge Management in Tourism and Hospitality, has investigated the vlogging backpacker and how some of these people have become so-called "influencers". The influencer effect could have a positive impact on tourism especially if the industry can engage well with those people who might encourage others to visit a particular destination.
Hasliza Hassan of the Multimedia University in Cyberjaya and Abu Bakar Sade of the Universiti Putra Malaysia, both in Selangor, Malaysia and Muhammad Sabbir Rahman of the North South University in Dhaka, Bangladesh, point out that already many vlogging backpackers have been recruited as ambassadors. For tourist destinations in many parts of the world that are perhaps not on the usual commercial travel itineraries this could mean a big boom in travel to those places in years to come. This could help reverse much of the decline in tourism caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the team suggests.
The researchers point out that travel vloggers tend to have a positive outlook on the places they visit, the sights they see, and the food and entertainment they take part in while travelling. Followers of the big influencers expect and anticipate this positivity, the team says. The suggestion from the research is that tourism agencies must keep travel vloggers in mind as digitally savvy allies who might be supported through an offering of accommodation and transport and so have an influence on a particular destination or travel route. This could make the digital backpacker a powerful component of promotion in the travel and tourism industry, the team adds.
Hassan, H., Rahman, M.S. and Sade, A.B. (2022) 'Digitalising backpacker to travel vlogger', Int. J. Knowledge Management in Tourism and Hospitality, Vol. 2, No. 4, pp.366–375.
In the words of the song, happiness is the greatest gift that we possess and the singer counts their blessings to tell us that they have more than their share. The notion of happiness, of course, is highly subjective and whether we consider ourselves to be happy might well be determined by the conditions in which we find ourselves, but may well be controlled to some degree by past experiences, genetics, cognitive traits and various other factors.
Adalgiso Amendola, Roberto Dell'Anno, and Lavinia Parisi of the University of Salerno in Fisciano, Italy, have used a "residual-based" approach to distinguish between the direct and indirect effects of various factors on happiness, all mediated by social, economic, and family dynamics. Their findings suggest that such unobservable factors only account for about 25 percent of a person's happiness as extracted from data in the European Quality of Life Survey. Up to 75 percent seems to be due to genetic and/or personality traits. Details are provided in the International Journal of Happiness and Development.
The team points out that most people can be described as having a baseline happiness level. Individuals return to this "default" level following strong positive or negative life events and it is this default that the research sought to examine in terms of the factors that affect it. Given that policymakers may not always consider the happiness of the people under their jurisdiction but have an impact nevertheless, this research provides a useful insight showing that decisions that change society and affect individuals may not be as influential on happiness as was perhaps originally thought.
Policymakers can only really affect socioeconomic, demographic, environmental, and relative deprivation determinants of unhappiness. And, as the research suggests such exogenous factors have a smaller impact on happiness than those factors that control one's baseline happiness level. Improving the quality of life, healthcare, and reducing the poverty gap may not raise a person's baseline happiness but will improve quality of life nevertheless. External factors make a smaller contribution than the endogenous factors that generate that baseline so policymakers may have little scope for improving overall happiness. They may not be able to give the greatest gift, but they can improve quality of life and maybe that will add up above a person's baseline and bring more happiness to more people.
Amendola, A., Dell'Anno, R. and Parisi, L. (2022) 'Why some people are not as happy as they could be: the role of unobservable subjective factors', Int. J. Happiness and Development, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp.40–63.
How much does gender diversity on the corporate board matter to the company's bottom line? A new study in the International Journal of Governance and Financial Intermediation looks to answer that question.
M. Luisa López-Pérez of the University of Santiago de Compostela in Lugo, Spain, explains how the corporate board is a body that is responsible for governing the company, setting its principles and ultimately determining how well the company performs in the context of external factors. The research shows that women bring unique values, knowledge, and skills to the company board. However, despite many advances in gender diversity, the presence of women on corporate boards remains low. The findings of the research suggest that increasing the proportion of women on corporate boards can only benefit the companies that follow this plan of action.
López-Pérez has carried out a comprehensive review of earlier work in this area but also examined how the influence of gender diversity on the corporate board extends beyond the mere presence of women. She adds that financial results together with social and environmental performance are affected by the presence of women on the board, moreover, the interests of shareholders and stakeholders are more likely to be considered by female directors. However, the appointment of women to boards continues to be at a low rate and that factors other than the likely performance benefits are considered in the choice to continue largely appointing men instead.
The findings add to the literature on gender equality at the corporate level. The future must see that "women on boards are no longer considered a minority group and that truly egalitarian boards are formed," says López-Pérez. She adds that the next step in this research area will be to analyse the personal and professional values that female directors bring to the corporate board. This will allow us to gain a clearer understanding of the influence of female directors on board governance.
López-Pérez, M.L. (2022) 'Gender diversity on corporate boards: does it really make a difference?', Int. J. Governance and Financial Intermediation, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp.219–235.
There is a huge and increasing demand for sustainable energy sources across the globe. New work in the International Journal of Renewable Energy Technology, considers fruit and vegetable waste as a potential resource for electricity generation. Chemists Sudha Kumari Jha and Annapurna Jha of Jamshedpur Women's College in Jamshedpur, East Singhbhum, Jharkhand, India, provide details of a microbial fuel cell that uses such waste as its feedstock with thermophilic bacteria, Clostridium cellulose and Clostridium cellulofermentans, obtained from cow dung.
Alternative energy sources are urgently needed in the face of anthropogenic climate change driven by rising levels of carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Much investigation and investment have been put into solar, nuclear, wind, geothermal, tidal, and other approaches. Fuel cells that make use of waste materials have also been a focus of this work.
The team explain how their system is essentially a bioreactor that can convert chemical energy from inorganic or organic components to electrical energy through the catalytic reactions of microbes. The anaerobic breakdown of carbohydrates present in food waste by those microbes promotes the entire process, the team explains. They tested six different microbial fuel cell setups at room temperature and found that the optimal setup was established in ten days with an 800-millilitre sample and could generate 3 Volts. Additionally, the only byproduct of the process is water.
The relatively simple setup could be constructed from readily available materials even in the developed world and used with a kit containing the other components. A 3-Volt power supply fed with food waste and cow dung would be useful for charging portable devices, such as smartphones and small LED flashlights.
Jha, S.K. and Jha, A. (2022) 'Generation of bioelectricity using vegetable and fruit wastes', Int. J. Renewable Energy Technology, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp.306–319.
Research published in the World Review of Science, Technology and Sustainable Development looks at the wastewater from medical institutions in India, they highlight the presence of difficult-to-detect undegraded pharmaceuticals as well as more obvious contaminants such as vomit, faeces, metal particles, hydrogen sulfide, disinfectants, urea, various pathogens, and many other problematic substances.
In several parts of the world, including India and Ukraine, wastewater from hospitals is discharged to urban wastewater treatment plants at huge volumes. Pharmaceutical contaminants are bioactive and can have a detrimental effect on life that comes into contact with these substances, aquatic and human life. This represents a problem of serious concern as basic water treatment may not remove many of the contaminants that are present at higher concentrations than in wastewater from domestic sources. The research focuses on those pharmaceuticals and compounds of particular concern.
The study was carried out by Aastha Dhingra, Nadeem A. Khan, and Sirajuddin Ahmed of the Department of Civil Engineering at Jamia Millia Islamia, Siddhartha Gautam of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, in New Delhi, India, and Sergij Vambol of the Kharkiv Petro Vasylenko National Technical University of Agriculture in Kharkiv, Viola Vambol of the National Scientific and Research Institute of Industrial Safety and Occupational Safety and Health, Kiev, and Svitlana Kovalenko of the National University of Civil Defence of Ukraine, Ukraine.
Hospitals generate several hundred litres of wastewater per patient every day, this represents a huge amount of usage. It is a matter of urgency that hospitals install and deploy water-reduction systems such as rainwater harvesting systems, grey water systems, and adapted shower heads and irrigation equipment that are as effective but have a reduced water flow rate. Hospitals must also consider self-auditing their water usage so that they might identify where savings might be made. All of this could add up to a reduced burden on wastewater treatment.
Dhingra, A., Khan, N.A., Ahmed, S., Gautam, S., Vambol, S., Vambol, V. and Kovalenko, S. (2022) 'Analysis of wastewater from medical institutions in India', World Review of Science, Technology and Sustainable Development, Vol. 18, Nos. 3/4, pp.436–444.
A study of different solar cooker designs has alighted on the optimal form and structure, which can be constructed or bought in the developing world. The most efficient available design meshes well with mathematical models of these cookers. Details are provided in the International Journal of Renewable Energy Technology.
In the developing world is it common to burn locally available materials, such as wood, dung cake, and agricultural residues for cooking purposes. However, such materials lead to indoor air pollution that can have serious consequences for health, with lung disease and cardiovascular problems common in people regularly exposed to this pollution. The solar cooker, is a much cleaner alternative to indoor fires, albeit one that can only be used in daylight hours when the sun shines.
Rajendra Patil and Yogesh Kulkarni of the SNJB's Late Sau KBJ College of Engineering in Chandwad, India, point out that tests on solar cookers in the past have been inconsistent in that they were often tested individually and under different conditions. They have now carried out a more systematic study that compares solar cookers with the same apertures under the same conditions but varies the geometry of the cooker to home in on the most efficient.
The researchers not only measured energy collection but assessed the actual cooking times of various food items to get a practical idea of the best type of solar cooker to recommend. The first modern solar cooker was invented and used as long ago as 1767 by Swiss researcher, Nicholas-de-Saussure, who was able to achieve a cooking temperature of 88 degrees Celsius with his cooker. Modern solar cookers which utilise a highly reflective surface with a geometry that focuses sunlight on to a support for a cooking vessel have been shown to achieve temperatures of well over 300 degrees Celsius.
The team found that two systems the Prince-15 and the SK-14 were both effective and efficient. However, under same conditions, the former excelled in terms of lower cooking times. The segmented Prince-15 also has the advantage of being easily disassembled and reassembled for transportation and storage.
Ultimately, solar cookers could replace the need to burn noxious materials but equally preclude the need for expensive fossil fuel supplies. Given that cooking energy accounts for up to half of the world's energy consumption, the widespread adopt of solar cookers in the sunnier parts of the world could help reduce the environmental toll of this activity.
Patil, R. and Kulkarni, Y. (2022) 'Performance analysis of concentrating solar cookers with a different geometry: comparative study', Int. J. Renewable Energy Technology, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp.265–284.
The rise in online working and collaboration wrought by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that started in 2020 continues apace. In parallel we see a rise in security issues surrounding the enabling technologies. A team from India describe an innovative framework for boosting privacy in online collaborations in the International Journal of Electronic Security and Digital Forensics.
Aashish Bhardwaj of the Guru Tegh Bahadur Institute of Technology in New Delhi and Vikas Kumar of the Central University of Haryana highlight the privacy features of commonly used online collaboration tools. They also look at the major privacy breaches and technological glitches that have occurred and the implications for users. In the wake of this examination, they have developed a privacy framework built on six important supporting points.
The first is that tools should be designed with user privacy at their core. Secondly, any tool must comply with privacy laws. Thirdly, there must be strong access control. The tools must also have transparency. The fifth pillar of their framework is that users should be educated and made aware of the risks associated with the use of the technology. Finally, there should be in place, ethical contact tracing that allows follow-up following a breach that does not itself compromise user privacy. This user-centric approach means it can protect both the individual as well as the institutional user rather than it simply serving to protect the organizations hosting an online collaboration.
Online collaboration systems have served well in many ways during the pandemic and will continue to do so even as many people head back to the "offline" world. There are many privacy issues that have come to light with this new trust in online tools and these must be addressed urgently. The team suggests that careful software design built on their framework will allow developers to roll back privacy matters into the very core of the tools we use rather than relying on rules and enforcement after the fact.
Bhardwaj, A. and Kumar, V. (2022) 'A framework for enhancing privacy in online collaboration', Int. J. Electronic Security and Digital Forensics, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp.413–432.
There have been numerous ideas about how the properties of the genetic material DNA might be used to store other kinds of information, be used in components for self-replicating nanoscopic devices, and much more. Now, work in the International Journal of Electronic Security and Digital Forensics explains how a DNA tape might be used as a key for encrypted images.
Mohammed Abbas Fadhil Al-Husainy of Almaaqal University, Hamza Abbass Al-Sewadi of Iraq University College both in Basrah, Iraq, and Shadi R. Masadeh of Isra University in Amman, Jordan, suggest that there might be applications in medical, financial, military, and national security. They point out that the longer an encryption key, the more secure the encryption. DNA lends itself to ready conversion to computer binary and offers as long an encryption key as is desired. DNA has been used previously in information coding to solve infamous mathematical problems such as the archetypal travelling salesman problem. It has also been investigated widely for a potential role in cryptography.
The new work demonstrates how the binary data that represents a digital image can be mapped to a DNA sequence. Sections of the DNA sequence itself are then used to encrypt the digital representation of that sequence. The team suggests this is a highly efficient process and creates a huge "key space" that will thwart third-party decryption of the encoded image by exhaustive attacks and statistical attacks that might be used to break lesser encryption methods.
The team adds that for additional security the image data encrypted using the DNA technique might be encrypted again with more conventional techniques to create an even more secure, hybrid, file that would multiply the time needed to break it many times over.
Al-Husainy, M.A.F., Al-Sewadi, H.A. and Masadeh, S.R. (2022) 'Using a DNA tape as a key for encrypt images', Int. J. Electronic Security and Digital Forensics, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp.373–387.
A new study with 100 people with anxiety disorder and 100 controls has demonstrated that "excessive" use of social networking sites can worsen symptoms in patients with anxiety disorders. Writing in the International Journal of Mobile Communications, an international team recommends that those involved in mental healthcare, such as psychiatrists and psychologists should consider social networking use when evaluating patients and making treatment recommendations.
Fikret Poyraz Çökmüş of the Manisa Mental Health and Diseases Hospital in Manisa, Turkey, Orkun Aydın and Pınar Ünal-Aydın of the International University of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kuzeymen Balıkçı of the Near East University in Nicosia, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus point out that there have been many studies looking at the pros and cons of social networking sites.
Indeed, numerous studies have shown that excessive use of social networking and social media can have a detrimental impact on health, personal relationships, education, and overall quality of life. Of course, social networking use is only defined as excessive with respect to its negative impact on those parts of our lives and there are millions of people who use these tools positively in their personal, recreational, and business lives with no ill effects.
Nevertheless, whether positive or negative in their conclusions most of the studies undertaken have examined the impact on mental health with the general population. There is a dearth of studies that consider the psychiatric population where the negative impacts might be more profound. Anxiety disorder is well recognised and well studied. As such, it makes a useful entry point for remediating this situation regarding the scarcity of research in the psychiatric population. That said, the team's conclusions suggest that the negative aspects of social networking use can affect both the general population and those with anxiety disorder. However, the detrimental impact of excessive social networking use should be high on the agenda when assessing and treating people with this particular mental health problem. Additional studies with a larger population sample size is now needed to corroborate the findings and to extend the scope of the research to other mental health problems.
Çökmüş, F.P., Aydın, O., Balıkçı, K. and Ünal-Aydın, P. (2022) 'The excessive utilisation of social networking sites affects the symptom severity across patients with anxiety disorders', Int. J. Mobile Communications, Vol. 20, No. 4, pp.406–418.
Research published in the International Journal of Technology Marketing has looked at whether or not marketers using a popular photo- and video-based social media tool are egregiously manipulating consumers to nudge them towards making a purchase they might otherwise not. The conclusion the team draws from a survey of Instagram users is that those third-party brands generally fail to dupe skeptical consumers who recognise when they are being manipulated.
This conclusion suggests that brands hoping to benefit from the popularity of Instagram ought to re-evaluate their methods to reverse the trend towards unfavourable attitudes to their brands triggered by manipulative and cynical marketing methods. Honesty and authenticity, it seems, sell better in the age of social media than attempting to dupe consumers as may well have been the wont of conventional marketers and advertisers.
Souad Maghraoui, Lilia Khrouf, and Azza Frikha of the University of Manouba in Tunis, Tunisia, point out that social media and so-called Web 2.0 presented unprecedented opportunities for the commercial world. They allowed marketing executives to talk directly and almost instantaneously with customers and putative consumers of their products and services. However, for their part knowledgeable individuals using social media would quickly develop skepticism about outlandish promises and offers from companies and brands that failed to live up to expectations.
Moreover, social media allowed those individuals who felt duped to share their opinions directly and almost instantaneously. Such developments empowered consumers and demoted the marketing executives on the commercial world stage to lesser roles that had less of the persuasive power they once had in the conventional advertising world of traditional media. As such, knowledgeable marketers have begun to recognise this paradigm shift. Those that continue to exploit and dupe the consumer are quickly discovered and lambasted publicly, those that find new, less cynical methods to get their message across are finding the sales leads they hoped for. Credibility and authenticity shall reign supreme, as one might hope.
Maghraoui, S., Khrouf, L. and Frikha, A. (2022) 'Suspicion of manipulation on Instagram: is the consumer being duped?', Int. J. Technology Marketing, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp.204–219.
A study in the International Journal of Management in Education has looked at the work-life balance of educators forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to teach online rather than in real-world and associated smartphone use. The global pandemic led to many unprecedented issues in education. This was especially true where only poor technological infrastructure was in place, teachers were not trained or experienced in online teaching, and they also faced the complications of switching from the classroom environment to working from home where work and personal life had much greater potential to clash stressfully.
N. Akbar Jan and Asha Binu Raj at The ICFAI Foundation for Higher Education in Hyderabad and A.K. Subramani of St. Peter's College of Engineering and Technology in Chennai, Tamil Nadu questioned almost 500 teachers from private schools in India to examine the relationship between smartphone use, work-life balance, and stress levels. Their analysis of the respondents' answers to the questions showed a positive correlation between smartphone use and personal life and job satisfaction. However, it also revealed a negative connection between stress and work-life balance.
The team concludes that the appropriate use of smartphones by educators could improve work-life balance and help them to meet the demands of family and job effectively, particularly during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. The use of smartphones among school teachers has given them greater autonomy at work, made the completion of tasks more flexible, and given them greater control over their professional work as well as their personal lives, the team suggests. This all contributes to an improved work-life balance and greater job satisfaction.
Of course, as the pandemic has progressed, infrastructure and training have been prioritised in many places. One would hope that the experience of the past two years or more with online teaching and all its pros and cons will have taught the educators themselves invaluable lessons that could be carried forward in the new normal of the post-pandemic world and when the next crisis comes along.
Jan, N.A., Raj, A.B. and Subramani, A.K. (2022) 'Does smartphone affect work-life balance, stress and satisfaction among teachers during online education?', Int. J. Management in Education, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp.438–462.
A huge proportion of the world's population is vegetarian, eating no meat for a range of reasons lack of availability and poverty, ethical and religious reasons, personal health and environmental health reasons. Among that number are many who are vegan, eating no animals products. However, the environmental impact of raising livestock remains incredibly high, natural ecosystems are removed to create grazing land and to grow crops to feed cattle, for instance. From rearing and farming to slaughter, butchery and processing, the meat industry has an enormous carbon hoofprint, as it were.
There is increasing awareness of the problems facing the world if we continue to eat meat at the rate many people do. There is a powerful movement to urge people to become demivegetarian or wholly vegetarian and a parallel movement promoting veganism. However, many people enjoy meat and while they may recognise the issues, many are unwilling to change their habits. A radical approach to tackling the issues from another direction is discussed in the International Journal of Sustainable Economy.
Stefan Mann of Swiss agricultural research establishment, Agroscope in Ettenhausen, puts forward the argument that animal production itself should be taxed. This would put pressure on those who rear livestock to switch to other sources of income or else face being priced out of the food market when vegetarian options become the more affordable option, and perhaps only option, for consumers. The approach would, Mann suggests, ultimately reduce animal density in agriculture globally.
Of course, there have been many efforts of the last few decades to avoid the huge surpluses of milk, grain, and beef that we saw in the "butter mountains" and other problems of the late 1970s and early 1980s where supply massively exceeded demand. The intellectual drive for Mann's argument, which does not see a "right" or a "wrong" perception to meat consumption, comes from three sources and draws on and interprets arguments from the research literature.
The first "is to acknowledge that global food production depends on the amount of resources invested in agriculture and the efficiency with which these resources are converted into human calories, including proteins and micronutrients." This he explains would nudge us towards political discrimination against animal production. His second driver is to reduce the calorie count of animal products being consumed to reduce our environmental footprint. Thirdly, considering moral arguments and inequities also pushes us towards a need to reduce the number of farm animals raised.
Animal husbandry has been part of human culture in many parts of the world for centuries. It will be a difficult transition to a more sustainable future for coming generations. However, Mann argues, it is a transition that must be made so that we find a more efficient, ethical, and environmental way to convert capital, resources, and labour into the food we need.
Mann, S. (2022) 'Why governments should tax animal production: a system approach to internalise the externalities of agriculture', Int. J. Sustainable Economy, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp.294–308.
The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic led to misery for many millions of people and the tragedy of countless untimely deaths. In the midst of the pandemic, communications technology came to the fore as people were forced to work and learn from home, were isolated from friends, family, and colleagues, and often wholly restricted in their movements with respect to shopping, entertainment, and other activities. Tools that allowed us to access information and engage with other people became more popular than ever before and widespread at least in those parts of the world with the requisite infrastructure.
One particular type of tool was more about controlling the disease than allowing us to cope with the "new normal" and that was the contact-tracing application. Writing in the International Journal of Public Sector Performance Management, a team from Slovenia discusses how these applications allowed the health authorities and governments to alert individuals to disease risk if they had been in contact with other people known to be infected with the SARS-CoV-2. The alert would then allow the at-risk individuals to test and isolate as appropriate.
There were various contact-tracing apps that used different approaches to determine how close and for how long a person had been near an infected individual and in what setting. They all had their pros and cons, as with every kind of software. There were also concerns regarding privacy and the sharing of data that were considered in more detail in the development of some of these applications and perhaps not others.
Boštjan Koritnik of the University of Ljubljana and Peter Merc Lemur Legal point out that many of the issues that arose did so because the adoption of technological advances in the public sector usually takes a lot longer than in the private sector because there are checks and balances to be considered in the assessment of new technologies. However, the sudden and acute demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, meant that the public sector, particularly with regard to healthcare and our coping with the pandemic, had to work that much faster than usual so that more timely interventions could be put in place.
The different approaches to contact privacy in contact tracing apps were meant to balance individual privacy with the requirements of public healthcare requirements. There were many legal and ethical considerations to be made, whether or not these were fully considered and addressed is a moot point. Ultimately, the team suggests that the design of such applications in the future or the development of current software should put privacy at the centre of the design process. Indeed, privacy by design, they assert, should be applied as a minimum standard for government-approved tracking apps. The future might be to exploit the distributed and immutable blockchain technology to ensure privacy and data security by design is embedded from the start in such apps.
Koritnik, B. and Merc, P. (2022) 'New digital public health tools: privacy by design in contact tracing mobile apps for COVID-19', Int. J. Public Sector Performance Management, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp.399–410.
China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is to be a modern-silk road that hooks together around 70 countries and international organizations in Africa, Asia, and Europe, to improve global infrastructure and trade between China and the rest of the world. It was initiated in 2013 as a major part of Chinese leader Xi Jinping's foreign policy. However, the enormous capital investment needed and low profitability so far, mean its potential is yet to be fulfilled. Part of that potential is to contribute to the economic development of nations that have so far been marginalised by globalisation.
The emergence of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, in China at the end of 2019, led to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted global value chains and has also had a major impact on the development of the BRI. Writing in the International Journal of Shipping and Transport Logistics, a team from China, South Korea, and the USA has looked in detail at the impact of COVID-19 on the BRI. They point out how the British withdrawal from the European Union, Brexit, and the US-China hegemonic conflict have also been working against the BRI.
The team explains that the pandemic has led to unprecedented economic damage and disruption to supply chains across the globe because of the need for entry bans, quarantines, and trade blockades as well as the ensuing and global protectionism that has emerged. These, the team writes are all barriers to international trade and have worked against the development of the global value chain. As it stands, COVID-19 has led to the delay of 40 percent of BRI projects with another 20 percent in serious financial strife. The researchers estimate that ultimately the impact may be between about 5 and 20 percent shrinkage of the global value chain.
In order to support the BRI and the long-term plans for the modern-day Silk Road, China must invest in marginalised nations and connectivity between markets despite international suspicions. It must also secure a strong supply chain in order to implement its "double cycle" economic policy to ensure its recovery in the wake of financial downturn and COVID-19.
Cheong, I., Yoo, J.H., Hong, K. and Lee, P.T-W. (2022) 'Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global value chain and implications for the belt and road initiative', Int. J. Shipping and Transport Logistics, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp.371–394.
Researchers writing in the International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, have demonstrated how a gamified social visualisation tool might be used to boost motivation and improve performance among English learners.
Wala Bagunaid, Maram Meccawy, Zilal Meccawy, and Arwa A. Allinjawi of both the Faculty of Computing and Information Technology and King Abdulaziz University and the English Language Institute at King Abdulaziz University, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, point out that it is not only educators who need to be able to monitor student progress but the students themselves.
Given that university classes can be very large, especially when online teaching is also taken into consideration, instructors are not necessarily able to provide individual students with progress reports other than on separate assignments and exam results. Also, given that current e-learning tools often mask student data to protect privacy, for example, students therefore only have limited access to their progress aside from their own subjective opinions of how well they are proceeding through a course.
The team presents a novel tool based on a racing car game that allows the students to glean information about their progress without compromising privacy. The approach offers a useful tool for monitoring student progress especially for those studying through distance learning through choice and for those pushed into the online learning environment in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and any future crises.
The team demonstrated that in the English as a foreign language (EFL) education environment, the gamification tool showed that revealed EFL students were more motivated to catch up with their peers and win the race. Moreover, the tool showed where individuals might be lagging behind so that they could focus on particular areas and accelerate their performance in those areas. The team also found that students were happy to use the tool and would continue to use it throughout their education if they were to be given that option.
Bagunaid, W., Meccawy, M., Meccawy, Z. and Allinjawi, A.A. (2022) 'Tracking English language learners' progress through a gamified social visualisation tool to increase motivation and performance', Int. J. Technology Enhanced Learning, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp.286–306.
Denial of service (DOS) and distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks on computer systems are a major concern to those charged with keeping online services running and protecting systems and those who use them. Such intrusions are difficult to thwart although their effects are often obvious. As the names suggested they commonly overwhelm a system so that services cannot be provided to legitimate users.
Denial of service attacks are often carried out for malicious purposes or as part of a protest against a particular service or company. It might also be done so that loopholes in the system security might be opened up allowing a third party to extract information, such as user details and passwords, while the attack is underway. Such attacks may also be random, run by botnets and the like or even purely for the entertainment of the perpetrator without any malign intent.
Writing in the International Journal of Business Information Systems, a team from India, review the state of the art in how machine learning might be used to combat DOS and DDOS attacks.
Shweta Paliwal, Vishal Bharti, and Amit Kumar Mishra of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at DIT University in Uttarakhand, point out that the advent of the so-called Internet of Things means that there are many more unattended and unmonitored devices connected continuously to the internet that can be recruited to mount DDOS attacks. Fundamentally, a malicious third party can exploit vulnerabilities in the protocols, such as HTTP that serves web pages to legitimate users to overwhelm a system. The distributed nature of such attacks means that focusing on a single source for the attack and blocking it is not possible without blocking legitimate users. Machine learning tools, however, might make transparent those devices addressing the system through HTTP that are not legitimate and allow a security layer to block the attack.
Paliwal, S., Bharti, V. and Mishra, A.K. (2022) 'Machine learning combating DOS and DDOS attacks', Int. J. Business Information Systems, Vol. 40, No. 2, pp.177–191.DDOS
A deep neural network can be used to classify coronary artery disease from clinical heart disease features, according to new work published in the International Journal of Dynamical Systems and Differential Equations.
D. Rajeswari and K. Thangavel of the Department of Computer Science at Periyar University in Salem, India, explain that coronary artery disease is a major cause of death across the globe. Early detection of the disease,however, can allow timely interventions that can lower the patient's risk of heart failure. To this end, the team has developed a prediction model that uses a neural network to process non-invasive clinical data.
The network trained on many known cases can then identify the pertinent characteristics when presented with data from a new patient and offer a prognosis that would otherwise remain hidden without major invasive, investigative work. Patients with coronary artery disease present with various symptoms including the expectedchest pain, but also fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, and pain in the shoulders. A definitive clinical diagnosis is complicated and usually requires electrocardiography, biomedical lab tests, patient stress and treadmill tests. A simpler approach that could be used to assess patients quickly is warranted.
The researchers have tested their system against the Z-Alizadeh Sani data set held in a repository at the University of California Irvine. The results show that their classifier improves prediction accuracy significantly and is at almost 76 per cent when compared to a well-known classifier method K-nearest neighbour. The result combined with other readily available clinical data or follow-up for a patient could be used to obtain an early diagnosis and so potentially save many lives.
Rajeswari, D. and Thangavel, K. (2022) 'Coronary artery disease classification from clinical heart disease features using deep neural network', Int. J. Dynamical Systems and Differential Equations, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.200–214.
The transition of many aspects of human activity into the digital realm is taking place rapidly. This is apparent perhaps nowhere more so than in financial services. Research in the International Journal of Services Operations and Informatics reports on how one particular aspect of "digital" is evolving rapidly in this realm – artificial intelligence, AI.
Renato Lopes da Costa, Miguel Cruz, Álvaro Dias, Rui Vinhas da Silva, and Leandro Pereira of the Instituto Universitário de Lisboa in Lisbon and Rui Gonçalves of PIAGET Almada in Almada, Portugal, have looked at the perceptions of those in the financial services industry and AI experts on the role and potential of AI in the sector.
The team suggests that as technology evolves so rapidly there is now pressure on traditionally conservative industries to reconfigure their business models to take advantage of innovations as never before. Indeed, one of the greatest pressures is on companies to find ways to handle vast amounts of data in smart ways. AI could be a significant part of the answer to this problem.
The team points out that so far the financial services industry may well have lagged behind in adopting and adapting to algorithms and AI, whereas the transportation, cybersecurity, and entertainment industries have been early adopters where solutions to their problems almost presented themselves in navigating logistics detecting fraud and intruders, and in developing recommendation systems and the like.
As with any paradigm shift in practices in an industry, there will be winners and losers, at the present time executives of traditional corporations are perhaps anxious of the competition from new companies with AI expertise. Those older companies may well not be ready to adapt to the new landscape, but they ought to heed the warnings of other staid industries where the old, analog business models failed in the face of digitalisation. The transition to AI systems is still in the early stages even among the most innovative of companies but it will happen whether some choose to ignore it or not.
da Costa, R.L., Cruz, M., Gonçalves, R., Dias, Á., da Silva, R.V. and Pereira, L. (2022) 'Artificial intelligence and its adoption in financial services', Int. J. Services Operations and Informatics, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp.70–86.
A study in the International Journal of Work Organisation and Emotion, has looked at the psychological health benefits of adopting "mindfulness" as an intervention to help healthcare workers reduce their personal stress levels during a medical crisis, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Mental health issues have risen to the top of the healthcare agenda in recent years and were perhaps brought even closer to the fore as COVID-19 spread around the world. Those challenged with looking after the sick and dying often had little opportunity to look after themselves in between highly stressful and demanding shifts caring for critically ill patients. A diverse and international research team from centres in China, India, Indonesia, Iraq, and Thailand has looked at how mindfulness as a mental health intervention affected 600 physicians and nurses working on COVID-19 wards during 2021.
Mindfulness has its roots in various cultural traditions found in religions and holistic health practices with their roots in Asia but also emerges from cultures and practices elsewhere in the world. It might be succinctly defined as "living in the moment". This pithy state belies a much broader concept of being focused on the present, one's current environment, and the task or recreation in hand. It is generally thought of as being a tool to allow one to detach oneself from problems and worries while they are not in one's immediate periphery so that rather than dwelling on past happenings or future worries one is "mindful" of only those things that are immediate and require one's attention at the present moment.
Being mindful is not to forget or ignore any aspects of one's life, relationships, and commitments, but to find a way to not be distracted by those issues that are beyond one's control or observations at a given time. As an intervention, is thought to reduce undue anxiety, stress, and tension so that the mind and body can recover from the acutely stressful times. Both mental and physical stress involve raised levels of stress hormones in the body, often raised blood pressure, and other physiological changes that can be harmful if held at high levels over prolonged periods leading to chronic depression, constant anxiety, and physical harms such as heart problems.
The team found that those healthcare workers who were able to follow the practice of mindfulness saw greatly reduced anxiety levels, less depression, and an improvement in what is known as self-efficacy, which is the belief in one's ability to carry out a required task to the best of one's ability and to achieve particular goals.
Jaenudin, J., Komariah, A., Chupradit, S., Chupradit, P.W., Kurniady, D.A., Singh, K., Ahmed, A.A.A., Mustafa, Y.F. and Alkhayyat, A. (2022) 'Study of the role of mindfulness intervention based on stress reduction in psychological distress and self-efficacy among the health industry staff during COVID-19 pandemic', Int. J. Work Organisation and Emotion, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp.172–185.
A new predictive model described in the International Journal of Critical Infrastructures suggests that we need to be conscientious in our decision-making with regard to the spread of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic this infectious agent has caused.
Sunil Gupta and Durgansh Sharma of the Department of Cybernetics in the School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies in Dehradun, India, point out that others have used various mathematical models to help them track the spread of COVID-19 with a view to predicting the next wave in the pandemic cycle. The team has used the auto ARIMA (auto-regressive integrated moving average method) model to give them an accurate picture of the evolving pandemic as it might unfold in a future 100-day period. This could be useful for policymakers and healthcare leaders hoping to get ahead of any major outbreaks based on emerging data from the pandemic.
The model is built on data from December 2019 to August 2020 from Johns Hopkins University, the first few months of the pandemic, but can be adapted to new data now that proof of principle has been demonstrated. It can offer insight into the way the disease might continue to spread or not during the next three months from when the model is run on recent data.
Gupta, S. and Sharma, D. (2022) 'Prediction of COVID-19 spread in world using pandemic dataset with application of auto ARIMA and SIR models', Int. J. Critical Infrastructures, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp.148–158.
Remote learning has been a growing area of education for many years, but in the early part of 2020 with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a sudden new pressure as schools and other educational establishments were forced to close their doors to pupils and students in an effort to slow the spread of the disease. This emergency situation taught us many lessons about how remote learning might be made more effective and how assessment of a student's progress through the curriculum might be made.
Writing in the International Journal of Learning and Change, Anžela Jurane-Bremane Vidzeme of the University of Applied Sciences in Valmiera, Latvia, has considered the perceptions of educators on how assessment has changed in the wake of remote learning. At the time, the acute problem was to cancel face-to-face classes and ensure that students studied from home. Video conferencing, email, and social media replaced the conventional teaching tools and the student's own home became their ad hoc classroom. It was recognized at the time, that little preparation had been made for such a scenario, despite decades of warnings about a coming pandemic, and educators and students alike had to learn to cope with the new situation rapidly. Many perhaps did not and with hindsight, it is obvious that the system could have and should have been more prepared for such a crisis.
Jurane-Bremane describes the situation that arose in education across the globe in the wake of the pandemic as "chaotic". There were obvious gaps in the knowledge and skills of educators plucked from the classroom and lecture theatre and plunged into this new online realm. While youngsters may well have been very familiar with the digital world, often described as they are, as digital natives, many were ill-prepared for the inversion of the conventional educational system. At this point in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that we fully learn the lessons from the obvious failures of government and educational systems to ensure that we are much better prepared for a similar eventuality when it arises.
The work of Jurane-Bremane sought the opinions of Latvian educators and offers some conclusions from that survey that may well help when the next crisis forces students out of the classroom and back online. Specifically, the guidance offered points to how best to approach assessment of student progress on their course given that the traditional methods, such as practical work and examinations might again become inaccessible. A key finding is that there is a need to emphasise the understanding of feedback in the training and professional development of educators.
Jurane-Bremane, A. (2022) 'Changes of assessment in remote learning: educators' perceptions and findings', Int. J. Learning and Change.
A surprising discovery about a company's green credentials and performance is published in the European Journal of International Management. An international team from Japan, Sri Lanka, and Thailand has found that the educational level of female company directors correlates with positive environmental activity in that company in companies with their headquarters in Asia but not those based in Western nations. The findings could have implications for the greening of many industries across the globe.
Gayani M. Ranasinghe of the Department of Industrial Management at Wayamba University of Sri Lanka, in Kuliyapitiya, Yuosre F. Badir of the Asian Institute of Technology in Pathum Thani, Thailand, and Björn Frank of Waseda University, in Tokyo, Japan, point out that companies are under increasing pressure to improve their green credentials. This pressure is not simply for the purposes of marketing, strategic performance, and profits, of course, but because our environment is under incredible stress from pollution, waste, and climate change. So-called "green" practices and performance are high on the agenda, the term umbrella term "green" alluding whimsically to plant life as a proxy for a healthy planet.
In addition to the discovery that superior green performance among Asian companies correlated with having well-educated female directors, the team also found that financial "slack" and the intensity of research & development (R&D) exert a non-linear effect on a company's green performance. The new work solidifies diffuse findings from the research literature regarding the various financial and non-financial factors that affect a company's green performance, the team suggests. The findings were based on the green revenue scores recorded in the international publication Newsweek's green rankings survey. Additionally, the team applied cross-classified hierarchical linear modelling of multi-source data from 156 companies included in that survey.
Ultimately, the team suggests, having more female directors and better-educated directors on the company board can help a firm to achieve "a superior green performance by altering its environment-related decision outcomes".
"We stress the importance of having a strategic configuration of organisational resources that supports the firm in developing a unique set of human, relational and technical capital and of other capabilities that drives green performance as a key basis of competition in today's corporate world," the team concludes.
Ranasinghe, G.M., Badir, Y.F. and Frank, B. (2022) 'Organisational resources as facilitators and inhibitors of green performance: non-linearities, interactions and international differences', European J. International Management.
Artificial Intelligence, AI, is set to be a generationally disruptive innovation just as with previous industrial revolutions. Research in the International Journal of Automotive Technology and Management looks at how the automotive sector might be affected in terms of job losses and changing roles within the industry driven by AI.
António B. Moniz, Marta Candeias, and Nuno Boavida of the Nova University of Lisbon, Campus de Campolide, in Lisboa, Portugal, suggest that sustainability policies, protectionism, and consumers preferences are already leading to major changes in the automotive industry. AI, however, with its broad-spectrum, problem-solving algorithms could revolutionise the kind of industrial robotics used in the automotive industry as well as the software and data communication tools used there. It could even radically change the design and development processes making many workers wholly redundant but creating novel roles in much lower numbers.
The researchers have looked at how AI might enhance product quality, reduce or at least control costs, and improve productivity. They have also examined the implications for human resources in terms of productivity and industrial relations. Their findings based on the collection of new data as well as secondary statistical analyses put various case studies in the automotive industry into context.
They found that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Portuguese automotive industry was growing and the size of the total workforce increasing. Moreover, the trend towards increasing automation in the industry has not yet had an impact on employment. Their explanation is that to use the innovations in this sector requires highly skilled workers capable of implementing the automation, including AI, and ensuring that it ultimately boosts productivity and profit. However, the converse of this finding is that the less educated, less skilled employees may struggle to maintain their place in the workforce as technology adapts around them if they cannot keep pace with the rapid changes we see in this, and indeed many other industries.
Moniz, A.B., Candeias, M. and Boavida, N. (2022) 'Changes in productivity and labour relations: artificial intelligence in the automotive sector in Portugal', Int. J. Automotive Technology and Management
What might a sustainable social healthcare enterprise look like as a mode of public healthcare delivery? Research from Thailand seeks to answer that question in the International Journal of Productivity and Quality Management.
Nuttasorn Ketprapakorn of the School of Business at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce and Sooksan Kantabutra of Center for Research on Sustainable Leadership in the College of Management at Mahidol University, both in Bangkok, explain that while there are many concepts covered in the research literature on social enterprise and sustainable enterprise little is found by way of theoretical models in this area. Researchers and practitioners alike need a model that allows this area to be developed.
Specifically, the team points out that the United Nations reported in 2020 that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) account for some 41 million deaths annually, almost three-quarters of all deaths. As such, the team has focused on exploring the role of a sustainable social healthcare enterprise in pursuing good health and well-being for all to reduce these figures. A model of sustainable social healthcare should help considerably in this regard.
The team has used a sociological research approach known as grounded theory to study the issues. They took Theptarin Hospital as a useful case study through which to develop their theoretical model of a sustainable healthcare enterprise. Theptarin is a small hospital founded in 1985 and having 80 in-patient beds. It is well known for its research into diabetes and its training in this area of medicine. Earlier work demonstrates that it is a sustainable healthcare enterprise. The team also points out that it has previously been described as meeting 15 of the 19 sustainable leadership elements.
The team developed a concept through their work that suggests that a healthcare enterprise might be sustainable if it incorporates five key factors: inspiring a social vision, developing a widely shared organisational culture, creating relevant knowledge, generating a national momentum, and having an international impact. Their study has implications for management and the future development of research in this area beyond the developing world.
Ketprapakorn, N. and Kantabutra, S. (2022) 'Toward a sustainable social healthcare enterprise development model', Int. J. Productivity and Quality Management.
A study in the Global Business and Economics Review looks at the economic and psychosocial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nations of the GCC (the Gulf Cooperation Council).
Talla M. Aldeehani of the Department of Finance and Financial Institutions in the College of Business Administration at Kuwait University, in Kuwait, and Moid U. Ahmad of Scholeio Education in the National Capital Region (NCR), India, explain that they have investigated how government support may have ameliorated the detrimental psychosocial and economic effects of the pandemic on individuals and industry.
The team surveyed citizens of the GCC states and used moderation-mediation techniques and other analytical tools to draw conclusions from the data obtained. The GCC, more formally the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf is an intergovernmental political and economic union that comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The fundamental conclusion is that government support significantly reduced stress levels in individuals during the period studied, October to December 2020. Loss of earnings caused by the pandemic being a major stress factor for workers with men aged 50 and over being worst affected economically. This period coincided with the second wave of infection from the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and would have seen enforced lockdowns, quarantine, hospitality closures, and other restrictions in place in many places in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus.
The researchers say that the conclusions they have drawn might have relevance to nations beyond the GCC. They suggest that policymakers might best serve their citizens and businesses by putting in place a technological framework and other measures to ensure a more effective response to a future pandemic.
Aldeehani, T.M. and Ahmad, M.U. (2022) 'Economical and psychosocial effects of COVID-19: evidence from the GCC economies', Global Business and Economics Review, Vol. 26, No. 4, pp.457–469.
A word-of-mouth recommendation for a product or service is often the best possible marketing. You purchase a product that suits your budget, find it also suits your needs, and then tell your friends or contacts about it, who then go on to make their own purchase.
In the world of always-on and always-connected communications tools such as email messaging, and social media, companies can now benefit from electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) recommendations. They can benefit passively or they can actively encourage recommendations from their customers. Fundamentally, word-of-mouth recommendations are perceived as more trustworthy than advertising messages pushed on putative customers by a company.
Research in the International Journal of Business Innovation and Research looks at the relationship between eWOM, brand relationships, and purchase intention in the smartphone industry. Samer Elhajjar of the University of Balamand in Tripoli, Lebanon, used structural equation modeling to analyse the results from 350 questionnaires. "Structural equation modelling is a statistical method made up of multivariate techniques that study the relationships between dependent and independent variables according to the proposed hypothesis," explains Elhajjar.
The participants in the study were men and women from different age groups, lifestyles, backgrounds and income levels. His study reveals a strong connection between brand and eWOM and suggests ways in which companies might utilize what might be seen as a universal tool of communication between businesses and customers. The study fills an obvious gap in the research literature, suggests Elhajjar.
"It is vital for brands to integrate the reality of digital culture into their own," Elhajjar writes. " A number of factors determine the need for brands to continually evolve, especially in an era of digital communication." This applies to almost any product or brand. Moreover, those brands that have adapted to and adopted a social media presence and increased audience engagement can more often reap the rewards of eWOM than those companies that have ignored it.
Elhajjar, S. (2022) 'Impact of electronic word-of-mouth on brand relationship and purchase intention: the case of the smartphone industry', Int. J. Business Innovation and Research, Vol. 28, No. 2, pp.263–279.
Very few businesses have not been affected detrimentally by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Research in the International Journal of Globalisation and Small Business, looks at how small to medium-size enterprises (SMEs) might respond to such a crisis and rise to the challenges it brings.
Ratan J.S. Dheer of the Department of Management at Eastern Michigan University, in Ypsilanti, USA, and Aidin Salamzadeh of the Faculty of Management at the University of Tehran, Iran, explain how we have seen the laying off employees, supply disruption, financial uncertainties, and company closures across SMEs in the wake of the pandemic. However, the picture of the impact of the crisis on SMEs remains incomplete. As such, we do not yet have a clear understanding of the full impact of the disease on this sector of the commercial world. Without a complete picture, we cannot hope to address the ongoing problems holistically nor find ways to cope when the next such crisis arises, as it inevitably will.
In their research paper, the team discuss key measures that might be implemented to mitigate the negative effects on SMEs. They discuss the advantages and the limitations of those measures and ultimately offer not a complicated nor extensive framework but a simple roadmap by which smaller companies might navigate their route through a future crisis and the external shocks it brings.
The team explains that there are two important measures that might be put in place before a crisis occurs. The first is to accept organisational vulnerability, forewarned is forearmed. Secondly SMEs should be proactive in scanning the environment, ever watchful of indicators of a coming crisis.
Once a crisis has hit, then mitigation measures are needed. First, SMEs must evaluate the scope of the crisis and how they might cope, if they can. Secondly, SMEs must renew their focus on innovation in order to take advantage of opportunities that arise in the wake of the crisis. SMEs must also keep communications channels open with their stakeholders and at the same time display resilience and empathy as appropriate.
In the post-crisis world, SMEs must engage in learning while recovering from the crisis. It is perhaps a cliché but lessons must be learned if an SME is to move forward in the post-crisis world and be ready for a future crisis. The team also offers advice for policymakers that might be heeded if they are to help the SMEs cope, especially in the post-crisis stage.
SMEs must also prepare and learn to help themselves. Nevertheless, there remains a need to support SMEs so that society and the economy might emerge into the post-crisis world in a better position than might be seen if no measures were taken. "Now is the time for scholars and policymakers to act," the team asserts. They suggest that the agenda they have set in their paper could stimulate further research into crisis management.
Dheer, R.J.S. and Salamzadeh, A. (2022) 'Pandemic threats: how SMEs can respond to the challenges from global crises', Int. J. Globalisation and Small Business, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.1–17.
In the bad old days of fraud – corruption, non-disclosure of information, self-dealing, cover-ups, lying, insider trading, and embezzlement were rife. They still are, but they have been given a digital edge by modern technology. This has made crime easier for many more people, but conversely, technology has also provided new tools for detection and prevention.
Research published in the International Journal of Accounting, Auditing and Performance Evaluation looks at the world of fraud in the online realm and shows that it remains a multidimensional and complex world of crime driven, commonly, by greed, sometimes by necessity, but also by a failure of morality that exploits its victims heartlessly. The study author Parvati T. Soneji of the Department of Commerce at Banasthali Vidyapeeth in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, hopes to unravel some of the complexities of modern fraud.
In the world of business, says Soneji, "The desire for achievements, fear of losing one's job, challenges meeting financial targets for bonuses, unhealthy competition, and criminal collaborations" might all lead a person into instigating or participating in financial fraud. There are many factors that might lead someone in management to take this route, personality traits, beliefs and attitudes, social customs, institutional rules and regulations, ethical values, and even the organisational culture within which they work.
Soneji addresses fraud theory through the simple triangle of opportunity, pressure, and rationalization. In this theory, a putative white-collar fraudster spots a loophole or opening that gives them the opportunity, the factors that influence them in deciding whether or not to exploit the opportunity apply the pressure, and post-fact they might then explain away their decision and actions to alleviate their guilt.
This simplistic triangle is expanded to a four-cornered diamond that adds capability, whether or not the would-be fraudster has the knowledge and skills to carry out the fraud. Finally, a fraud pentagon adds the very personal notion of the potential criminal's character in terms of their level of arrogance. With all five factors in place in the fraud pentagon, the committing of the crime is almost inevitable.
Such theories of fraud can give context to the after-effects of the fraud and the evidence left behind. This might allow investigators to trace back the end result to its beginnings in order to identify the perpetrator. It might also give those who would endeavour to prevent fraud an insight into the psychological and other factors that might be exposed and addressed before a crime is committed.
Soneji, P.T. (2022) 'The Fraud theories: Triangle, Diamond, Pentagon', Int. J. Accounting, Auditing and Performance Evaluation, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp.49–60.
The human suffering caused by climate change continues to grow. It is already affecting food and water security, hampering efforts at poverty reduction, and leading to a tragic loss of life through natural disasters. Research published in the International Journal of Global Warming reiterates the received wisdom that developed nations have greater resilience than developing nations. However, the work also demonstrates that resilience is greater in developing nations with higher levels of literacy among the population, higher per capita income, and more openness to international trade.
Adnan Akram, Faisal Jamil, and Shahzad Alvi of the National University of Sciences and Technology in Islamabad, Pakistan, explain how during the last two decades encroaching climate change has led to thousands of natural disasters with hundreds of thousands of lives lost. The devastating impact has also made worse the lives of those living in places at the extremes where temperatures continue to rise way beyond the historical norms, and where food and water security have always been a problem but are now even more so. The terrible socio-economic conditions in which so many people live make the impact of climate-related shocks even more devastating with each event.
The IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, recognises well how climate change will create many more impoverished people around the world and thwart efforts at sustainable development through the remainder of this century and well into the next. There are so many problems that we must face, but one issue that could be addressed sooner rather than later is to improve communication.
The information available to those in the developing world – the citizens and the policymakers – is limited. Improved dissemination of knowledge surrounding climate change and how we might build resilience in the more vulnerable parts of the world must be a priority. Indeed, without better education around the issues and improved communication through the media, the most impoverished and vulnerable will see their suffering increase and greater environmental damage in the wake of climate change and the natural disasters it brings with it.
Akram, A., Jamil, F. and Alvi, S. (2022) 'The effects of natural disasters on human development in developing and developed countries', Int. J. Global Warming, Vol. 27, No. 2, pp.155–172.
There are any number of support networks online aimed at those with problems they wish to solve. One such problem is the need to quite smoking. Research published in the International Journal of Telemedicine and Clinical Practices, has looked at how useful online health communities are in this effort. The study found that if there is a high level of perceived usefulness, then users will be more inclined to support each other in their efforts to give up their habit.
Chenglong Li of the University of Turku in Turku, Finland, looked at perceived usefulness and how this affects satisfaction with the online community and thence the knowledge sharing and recommendation behaviour of users. Given just how ubiquitous the internet now is, such online communities could have great potential in health and other interventions. Earlier research had suggested that the success of such communities hinged on whether or not individuals stayed with the program, as it were, after they had quit smoking but left the community.
Li uses social capital theory to examine this notion further. He finds that success in the community influences a user's knowledge sharing and their recommendation of the community to others after they themselves have quit, which affects the overall success of the community in helping everyone with their goal.
He adds that the service provider making the online community available has a positive role to play. Providers should encourage users to participate in online activities often. This should facilitate the development of shared language and commitment, he suggests. Moreover, providers might define missions and goals more clearly to strengthen the common vision among users. Such actions would boost the perceived usefulness of the community, help users in their struggle with addiction and encourage the spread of the community to other smokers.
Ultimately, widespread smoking cessation is the aim and such communities would at that point become redundant. However, as we know smoking addiction is a powerful force and smokers hoping to quit are likely to be around for many years to come and so such communities will have a role to play for the foreseeable future.
Li, C. (2022) 'Comprehending the roles of perceived usefulness and satisfaction in smoking cessation online health communities: a social capital perspective', Int. J. Telemedicine and Clinical Practices, Vol. 3, No. 4, pp.257–275.
Could users of social media provide the answer to combating fake news? That's the question researchers from Greece hope to answer in their paper published in the International Journal of Electronic Governance.
Fake news has become a serious problem, growing in parallel with the expansion of the world of social media. The term euphemistically refers ton disinformation, misinformation, and downright lies shared online usually with a hidden political agenda. That agenda might be aimed at nudging voters to an alternative conclusion about their political persuasion, it might push them to choose a potentially harmful medical option that is not based on evidence, it might even persuade them to buy a product or service offered by one business instead of another.
The possibilities for exploiting fake news for marketers, politicians, and malicious third parties are possibly limitless given the power and speed with which social media networks can spread information and trigger viral sharing.
Panagiotis Monachelis, Lazaros Toumanidis, Panagiotis Kasnesis, and Charalampos Patrikakis of the University of West Attica, discuss a proposal of the European Union's EUNOMIA project. In this project social media users are encouraged to participate in the evaluation of information being shared online. The system discussed brings together the concepts of peer-to-peer networking (commonly associated with distributed file sharing) and blockchain technology (usually associated with digital currencies, "crypto", and non-fungible tokens, NFTs).
EUNOMIA is powered by an alternative social media protocol and system known as Mastodon, which allows anyone to create and build their own social media network with rules and regulations they set. There are innumerable instances of Mastodon running across the globe now. Ostensibly, any of them might be directly connected to any other, but there is always the option of controlling membership and precluding connectivity.
For the time being, they exist well outside the world of the well-known, proprietary social media sites and apps. As such, they are in many ways protected from the controlling algorithms and advertising systems of those sites. Moreover, given that they are distributed and available to anyone to setup and run, there is in one sense nothing for a commercial concern to make its fiscal prey. This can so easily happen with any of those proprietary sites, which are wholly at the whim of business concerns despite their stated ethos, whereas Mastodon sites and communities are more akin to the communal, rather than the commercial, ethic of the modern internet.
Monachelis, P., Toumanidis, L., Kasnesis, P. and Patrikakis, C. (2022) 'Combating fake news in social networks through the active participation of users: the approach of EUNOMIA project', Int. J. Electronic Governance, Vol. 14, Nos. 1/2, pp.131–144.
Current statistics suggest that well over 6.6 billion of us have a smartphone, that's almost 84 per cent of the world's population. Many users are well aware of the privacy concerns surrounding the apps on their smartphone and choose to ignore those for the great benefits they perceive in using those apps on a daily basis. Legitimate companies generally alert their users to what might happen to their data when they install and use their apps.
Unfortunately, not all developers are as upfront. Many smartphone apps hook into all sorts of personal and private data on your phone and exploit this in marketing and the accrual of that targeted data for other purposes. Many apps share this with third parties for many different purposes. Given that electronic governance, e-governance is on the rise, there may well be risks to our personal data in terms of political intervention and control particularly in what we might refer to as rogue states. Of course, that phrase might apply to any country in the world to different degrees.
Research in the International Journal of Electronic Governance, has investigated the integrity of smartphone apps running on the Android mobile operating system that has access to the location data on your device, such as mapping tools and fitness trackers. The Android operating system represents the major share of the operating system market with almost 3 million apps available to it. Many people use such location-enabled apps – on a daily basis. The tools work only if location services are enabled and permitted on the device.
Stylianos Monogios, Kyriakos Magos, and Konstantinos Limniotis of the Open University of Cyprus in Nicosia, Nicholas Kolokotronis of the University of Peloponnese in Tripolis, Greece, and Stavros Shiaeles of the University of Portsmouth, UK, have looked at a range of apps that use smartphone location services and the GPS (global positioning system) on such devices to reveal what personal data these popular apps have access to on a smartphone.
Fundamentally, the researchers found that too many apps do not fully disclose what personal data they collect from a smartphone, what purpose it is collected, or with whom it is shared. Many of those apps process personal data in ways that are undoubtedly in breach of many different data protection rules and regulations in many different parts of the world. In addition, most of these apps are linked to advertising tracking services and it is likely that every smartphone user with such apps installed is being tracked and profiled on a massive scale entirely unbeknown to them. There may also be other privacy concerns and issues that remain hidden.
The team suggests that app developers must be forced to be fully transparent. Moreover, users must be allowed full control over their data so that they can use chosen apps without compromising their privacy so that data not needed by a given app cannot be accessed by the app, for instance. A new privacy model is needed for the app ecosystem, the researchers add. The regulators that purportedly oversee the use of our personal data in all kinds of areas should have full governance over the app developers so that such suggestions might be implemented and users are given the opportunity to take back control of their personal and private data.
Monogios, S., Magos, K., Limniotis, K., Kolokotronis, N. and Shiaeles, S. (2022) 'Privacy issues in Android applications: the cases of GPS navigators and fitness trackers', Int. J. Electronic Governance, Vol. 14, Nos. 1/2, pp.83–111.
Online reviews from customers of products and services are widespread and influential, it seems. A sale or booking can hinge on a constellation of five-star reviews on the likes of TripAdvisor or a potential customer may be deterred from parting with their hand-earned cash and disappear down a digital black hole if the reviews are anything but stellar.
Writing in the International Journal of Business Intelligence and Data Mining, a team from Turkey, has looked at an approach to analysing reviews on the likes of TripAdvisor using a so-called Bag-of-Words (BOW) model. The BOW model is a popular tool in data mining that takes each word or set of words as a distinct feature of a text document, in this case, a review article. These distinct entities are then given a numerical weight that allows them to be balanced against each other in the analysis and so reveal the nature of the review at a quite detailed level using an algorithm to process the weights.
The team has shown successfully how this BOW model can be used to analyse reviews of hotels. Specifically, their approach has been applied to almost three-quarters of a million TripAdvisor reviews of more than one thousand hotels in different tourist regions of Turkey. Their workflow makes short shrift of the processing when compared to how such a rich lode of reviews might be mined using conventional, manual techniques.
The team explains that the approach demonstrated that building a dimensional model dataset before performing any text mining process is an optimal way in which to make the data retrieval process much more efficient and to help in representing the data by different measures of interest.
The specifics of the study revealed what might be expected of the actual hotels the reviews of which were analysed, in that hotels in the coastal Aegean and Mediterranean regions were the focus of those seeking fun and sun whereas hotels in Istanbul and other historic centres were associated more with the cultural and educational aspects of tourism in Turkey. Interestingly, those whose reviews were in English more prominently discussed bar and à la carte restaurants whereas the reviews in Turkish typically focused on the food itself.
"We conclude that adopting and automating this proposed workflow into the hotel BI systems may prove considerably beneficial, providing hotel managers with essential insights necessary to understand and track customers and competitors," the team writes. They add that most other research in this field has focused on the Chinese and US markets and the current work adds a novel dimension to the literature.
Bektas, J. and Elsadig, A. (2022) 'A unified workflow strategy for analysing large-scale TripAdvisor reviews with BOW model', Int. J. Business Intelligence and Data Mining, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp.102–117.
When it comes to fast food, there is a prerequisite inherent to the name that customers receive their order quickly. In addition there are the issues of the quality of service and the fairness of the price they pay. These might all combine to drive customer happiness and thus loyalty. A new study in the International Journal of Sustainable Strategic Management from a team in Malaysia looks at data from hundreds of fast-food consumers and applies attitude theory to understand this seemingly simply but perhaps complex equation.
The team of Emily H.T. Yapp and Bagos Wahyudi Amin Tohari of the Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Labuan International Campus in Jalan Sungai Pagar found that food quality, the physical environment, and price fairness affected customer satisfaction whereas the quality of service offered by the restaurant's employees did not. The findings were based on an analysis of results from an online self-administered survey of 310 Malaysian fast-food customers.
The team alludes to how badly the COVID-19 pandemic affected the fast-food industry but suggests that for many outlets, there was a rapid rebound once lockdowns and lifestyle restrictions were lifted and the initial waves of disease had passed. People still want fast food even in the peri-pandemic world. The researchers also point out that competition in the sector is greater than ever before and so restaurateurs must rise to this challenge in terms of what they can tempt new customers, what they offer their customers in general, and how they might improve customer happiness and thus loyalty. "Fast-food restaurants have to continuously concentrate and improve their products and services through marketing strategies," the team writes.
Ultimately, the team found food quality – freshness and taste – were key to customer happiness. If food quality is maintained at a high level and coupled with a comfortable and clean environment, then the restaurateur will have a winning recipe for success. The final key ingredient is to offer this food and service at a keen price.
Yapp, E.H.T. and Tohari, B.W.A. (2021) 'Assessing the determinants of customer happiness and customer loyalty in fast-food restaurant', Int. J. Sustainable Strategic Management, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp.123–138.
WhatsApp reminders from healthcare providers to physiotherapy patients improve adherence to home exercise regimes according to research published in the International Journal. Telemedicine and Clinical Practices.
Many physical health problems and injuries respond well to physiotherapy. However, there is usually a component of "self-medication" in the form of ongoing exercises outside the clinical setting. Patients who are improving will do better if they stick with their prescribed regime of exercises and stretches. Unfortunately, as many of us know, once we start to feel better after suffering an injury, illness, or other problem, we begin to revert to our normal daily routines and this may well not accommodate the continuation of the exercises necessary for our complete recovery. With this problem in mind, an international team has looked at how a well-known and commonly used messaging app, WhatsApp, used by millions of people on their mobile devices, might be used to ensure patients stick with their exercise program.
Chidozie Emmanuel Mbada, Mustapha Alabi Lateef, Adekola Babatunde Ademoyegun, Adewale Isaiah Oyewole, and Laminde Maikudi of Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, and Clara Fatoye and Francis Fatoye of Manchester Metropolitan University in Manchester, UK, explain that patient compliance with healthcare recommendations and adherence to prescribed exercises, is often a key factor in whether or not the patient makes a full recovery or the best recovery they can. Unfortunately, many patients can be forgetful or find their exercise regime burdensome. The team recognized that mobile devices have been used successfully by healthcare professionals already in many aspects of their work and so might be extended to this particular realm.
They tested a novel approach to improving patient adherence with 20 patients and also monitored 20 additional patients as a control group. WhatsApp reminders were sent three times a week to 20 patients who had been prescribed a home exercise program while the members of the control group received no reminders. All participants, whether they received reminders or not recorded their daily exercise activity in a diary.
The team assessed adherence to the program at three weeks and again at six weeks. They found a significant difference between the WhatsApp patients and the control group with the former reporting far greater adherence to their physiotherapy exercises at home than the members of the control group. The promise is obvious although the researchers concede that they did not take confounding factors such as disease type or severity, marital status, and caregiver presence into account and so follow-up work with a much bigger study group will be needed to account for such variables and to demonstrate the efficacy of WhatsApp reminders. There is also scope, perhaps to look at alternative mobile apps or even simple text messaging rather than focusing on a proprietary tool,m such as WhatsApp, which some patients may prefer not to use.
Mbada, C.E., Lateef, M.A., Ademoyegun, A.B., Oyewole, A.I., Maikudi, L., Fatoye, C. and Fatoye, F. (2022) 'Effect of WhatsApp-based reminders on adherence to home exercise program', Int. J. Telemedicine and Clinical Practices, Vol. 3, No. 4, pp.341–350.
The problem of bullying has always been a social problem. Until the modern age, it tended to be a face-to-face issue that people faced, but in the age of always-on communications devices, cyber-bullying has emerged as a serious matter that must be addressed. New research in the International Journal of Computational Science and Engineering, looks at an ensemble approach to detecting incidences of cyber-bullying.
Pradeep Kumar Roy if the Indian Institute of Information Technology in Surat, Gujarat, Ashish Singh of the KIIT Deemed to be University in Bhubaneswar, and Asis Kumar Tripathy and Tapan Kumar Das if Vellore Institute of Technology in Vellore, India, point out that modern communications technology has so many advantages for society but as with all inventions comes with a flipside. The negative aspects of the many tools with use in our digital lives include crime, spam, and cyberbullying.
Given that more than half the world's population is now active on the internet in some form via computers and mobile devices and a huge proportion of those use the many disparate social media sites as well as more conventional tools, such as email and the web, there is plenty of scope for the cyberbully to attack.
The team's ensemble machine learning model examines online Twitter posts and uses a two-stage process to analyse content. The first step involves applying k-nearest neighbour, logistic regression and, decision tree classifiers. This is the underlying classification as to whether a post is bullying or not. But, the second stage involves precluding false positives and false negatives by applying a voting-based ensemble learning model to the classification. The team's experiments with known data confirmed that the ensemble model can detect bullying posts with a good degree of accuracy, around 94 per cent.
Such a level of accuracy is sufficiently high that those who have oversight of accounts on various systems might be able to focus an examination of activity from a purported cyberbully so that follow-up decisions might be made in terms of limiting their accounts to preclude further bullying. Future work will involve extending the tools to other social media platforms. The potential for linking together data from more than one such system might allow even greater accuracy to be achieved so that cyberbullies operating across platforms might be identified.
Roy, P.K., Singh, A., Tripathy, A.K. and Das, T.K. (2022) 'Cyberbullying detection: an ensemble learning approach', Int. J. Computational Science and Engineering, Vol. 25, No. 3, pp.315–324.
They say lightning never strikes twice, but that is a spot of deceived wisdom. Indeed, many buildings, trees, and people have been struck multiple times. There are some 3 million lightning flashes around the world every single day. Predicting atmospheric electric activity is important for a number of reasons. Research published in the International Journal of Experimental Design and Process Optimisation looks at lightning prediction that could be vital for space launch operations at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Jared Nystrom, Raymond R. Hill, Andrew Geyer, and Joseph J. Pignatiello Jr. of the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, USA, explain that near real-time prediction of lightning is critical to operations at these sites where the risk to life can be very high and delays and damage very costly. Current approaches to lightning prediction are inefficient, the team writes, as well as coming with large uncertainties in the predictions offered. A new model developed by the team uses the wavelet decomposition of chaotic weather sensor time series and semiparametric single-index models to mitigate the chaotic signal and any possible distributional misspecification.
The new approach benefits from the development of inexpensive sensors that can be deployed widely at a site and can be scalable. Such sensors produce noisy, high volume, and high-frequency time series, with which conventional processing often struggles. Specifically, assumptions made in the modeling process may not be valid and any smoothing of the data may overcompensate for the noise meaning the actual signal can be lost.
The team's new approach offers a significant improvement over a persistence model, the team says, and can give positive identification of whether a given sight is likely to be struck by lightning within the next hour from the point at which the data is assimilated. Moreover, the system can predict the triggering events that might lead to an actual lightning strike. The team adds that the approach might also be adapted to other types of site with a lower density of sensors than a space centre and so allow remote lightning prediction.
Nystrom, J., Hill, R.R., Geyer, A., Pignatiello Jr., J.J. and Chicken, E. (2021) 'Experimental design in complex model formulation for lightning prediction', Int. J. Experimental Design and Process Optimisation, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp.304–332.
As the pressures of climate change begin to bite particularly hard in the developing world and in regions on the margins of extreme environments, water security is becoming increasingly difficult for many people. A review of rainwater harvesting technologies, some of which date back centuries is reported in the International Journal of Water. The review offers a range of solutions to the problem of safely harvesting rainwater for domestic and agricultural irrigation, for grey-water applications such as laundry, and even for obtaining and treating water to bolster the drinking water supply.
Raseswari Pradhan of the Department of Electrical Engineering at VSSUT Burla and Jaya Prakash Sahoo of Central University both in Odisha, India, recognise that there is a vast array of solutions to harvesting and storing water that might incorporated into a city-based strategy for water supply in the modern smart city. Even though many of the approaches are superficially simple, they have been tried and tested over many years. Of course, any approach undertaken will require that the ethos of rainwater harvesting be adopted widely and wholeheartedly. Any approach taken does not preclude mismanagement and nor does it ensure that it will rain.
The team's survey of the various different approaches offers a roadmap for architects and planners in arid regions of the world who can ensure the maximum benefit is gained when the rain does fall.
Pradhan, R. and Sahoo, J.P. (2021) 'Smart rain water harvesting techniques', Int. J. Water, Vol. 14, Nos. 2/3, pp.141-166.
Artificial intelligence can be used to predict the onset of diabetes mellitus given sufficient patient information according to work published in the International Journal of Business Intelligence and Systems Engineering.
Shahid Mohammad Ganie, Majid Bashir Malik, and Tasleem Arif of the BGSB University in Rajouri, India, point out that there are millions of people around the world with the complex metabolic condition diabetes mellitus. Many people who have not yet been diagnosed with the condition may well have health issues of which they are unaware that have set them on a course to developing this serious and potentially life-changing health problem.
Fundamentally, diabetes is associated with high blood sugar concentration over a prolonged period of time. Almost one in ten of us has some form of diabetes. Left untreated it can cause organ damage and even death. There are three forms of diabetes mellitus. Type 1, insulin-dependent diabetes, is an autoimmune dysfunction where the pancreas does not produce sufficient insulin to control blood sugar. It usually develops in childhood or adolescence. Type 2, non-insulin-dependent diabetes, begins with insulin resistance and often proceeds to insufficient insulin. It can affect almost anyone at almost any age. It is most often associated with obesity. Type 3, gestational diabetes, affects women during pregnancy, causing hyperglycemia.
A fourth condition is also noted, pre-diabetes, where genetics, hormonal dysfunction, or exposure to certain exogenous chemicals or other factors ultimately lead to an increase in insulin production.
Type 1 diabetes is treated with controlled injections of insulin. Type 2 can be managed by weight loss, improved diet and exercise, and the avoidance of tobacco products. Type 3 usually resolves after childbirth but for some mothers, having this condition is a risk factor for her or even her child later developing Type 2 diabetes.
The team has trained various algorithms with relevant data associated with diabetes risk and demonstrated that one of them, the gradient boosting classifier, outperformed all others and offered a prediction accuracy of more than 92 percent when tested against known cases.
Ganie, S.M., Malik, M.B. and Arif, T. (2021) 'Early prediction of diabetes mellitus using various artificial intelligence techniques: a technological review', Int. J. Business Intelligence and Systems Engineering, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp.325–346.
There are millions of people around the world who now use remote computer systems to store and even process their files. There are many providers offering cloud services in a highly competitive market. In order to differentiate the companies have to offer something innovative or unique to putative customers. One such strategy is to have a two-stage pricing offer. However, this might come at a cost to the company and other users in terms of reduced security and privacy breaches where malicious third parties can create free, unvalidated accounts and use those to exploit loopholes in the system, such as faults and bugs. The issues are discussed in detail in the International Journal of Sensor Networks.
Mengdi Yao of Wuhan University of Science and Technology and Donglin Chen of Wuhan University of Technology, both in Wuhan, China, explain that a two-stage approach to pricing can entice new customers but comes with the aforementioned risk. They have now devised a two-stage pricing approach that greatly reduces the risk from malicious third parties to other users during the free trial phase. The work addresses both risk-neutral and risk-averse users to devise two approaches within the strategy.
Fundamentally, the team has shown five characteristics of the two-stage pricing strategy. The first, is that for a fixed-term free trial, the cloud security risk coefficient is low. Secondly, if the free trial period is flexible, then cloud security risk is low and subsequent profit increases at first but then decreases with longer free periods. Thirdly, as the security coefficient rises, so the free trial period can be shortened. Fourthly, if the security risk is low, then improvements in quality will boost profits. Finally, for risk-averse users, a shorter free period and better-perceived value will ultimately lead to greater profits.
The team points out that planning and marketing at cloud storage companies must consider the above, especially in the face of competitors who may not offer two-stage pricing at all.
Yao, M. and Chen, D. (2022) 'Two-stage pricing strategy for personal cloud storage: free trial and the cloud security risk', Int. J. Sensor Networks, Vol. 39, No. 1, pp.56–66.
Research into neural networks could lead to a way to identify unexpected and potentially hazardous interactions between different medications being taken at the same time. Details are provided in the International Journal of Data Mining and Bioinformatics.
When a patient is taking several medications simultaneously, there is always the risk that any one of those drugs might interact with another and either inhibit or enhance its activity beyond that which is required for the prescribed benefits. Similarly, one drug may interfere with the normal processing in the body, and specifically, the liver of another drug being taken at the same time, leading to a drug circulating in the bloodstream for longer. Either way, drug-drug interactions can cause side effects that are not seen when any of the given drugs is taken individually.
Serena Rajakumar, G. Kavitha, and I. Sathik Ali of the Department of Information Technology, at the B.S.A. Crescent Institute of Science & Technology in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, point out that there is a vast literature on drug-drug-interactions but extracting the requisite information from countless disparate sources is an almost impossible task, especially under the daily time pressures in a healthcare setting. There are some databases that include drug-drug interactions for many common pharmaceuticals that are easier to search, but these are themselves compiled manually and do not offer a complete picture of all possible interactions and effects.
Healthcare practitioners prescribing multiple drugs for complex conditions in their patients do not necessarily have time to plough through databases. A deep learning algorithm based on a trained neural network could be used to quickly and precisely reveal potentially risky drug-drug interactions without the need for a manual search. The team has demonstrated how their system can automatically extract information from the biomedical literature discussing drug behaviour and then compile a new growing database of potentially troublesome interactions.
The team adds that the current approach does not yet reveal whether any given drug-drug interaction is antagonistic or synergistic, that step will be taken in a future iteration of the algorithm. For the time being, that distinction will need to be considered by the healthcare professional alerted to any interaction by the present system.
Rajakumar, S., Kavitha, G. and Ali, I.S. (2021) 'Extraction of drug-drug interaction information using a deep neural network', Int. J. Data Mining and Bioinformatics, Vol. 25, Nos. 3/4, pp.181–200.
An efficient neural network can now take a series of music files as input and define them quickly by genre and style, thanks to work published in the International Journal of Web Services. Such a system could be a boon to music streaming services that hope to offer their users an effective recommendation system to allow them to access novel music they may enjoy as much as their old favourites.
Many millions of people listen to music through online streaming or download services on their computers, smart devices and mobile phones rather than selecting a plastic disc from a collection to be played on a dedicated machine. As such, there are many aspects of the enjoyment and recommendation of new music that can utilise the vast repositories of information found online as well as the connectivity of online communities. However, for a system to be able to automate recommendations to users, there is an inherent need for each piece of music to be appropriately tagged with respect to genre, style, tempo, and other such characteristics.
Jagendra Singh of the School of Computer Science Engineering and Technology at Bennett University in Greater Noida, India, has tested the system against six types of music, including jazz, hip-hop, electronic, rock, classical, and folk and found it to be effective. The algorithm performs even better when the spectrographic frequency of the sounds and the time sequence pattern are incorporated as variables into their hybrid recommendation system.
While it is inevitable that word-of-mouth recommendations among music fans will persist, the diversity and density of music now available to so many people online means that music can reach new audiences, more quickly. Moreover, the desires of music fans keen to seek out novelty quickly without waiting for a friend or contact to discover the next greatest hit for them could be served well by algorithmic recommendation systems.
Singh, J. (2022) 'An efficient deep neural network model for music classification', Int. J. Web Science, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp.236–248.
An analysis of the micro-blogging updates from investors posted on the social media site Twitter, offers an insight into the personality traits that are most closely linked to investment success. The research, published in the journal Global Business and Economics Review, suggests that successful investors predominantly exhibit two personality traits: emotional stability and openness. An additional finding is that all investors, successful or otherwise, have low agreeableness and do not exhibit extraversion.
Agreeableness and extraversion are two of the so-called Big Five personality traits. Added to those we have openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. They are a common archetype system for exploring personality. Individuals can have any combination of those five traits, each being positioned on a spectrum from a complete absence of said trait to predominance of that trait. So, a person might be an agreeable person who is mildly neurotic, strongly conscientious, extroverted, and a great deal of openness. Some traits are likely to be found to be strongly present with others.
R. Ramprakash and C. Joe Arun of the Loyola Institute of Business Administration (LIBA) in Chennai, India, selected a group of successful investors active on Twitter and performed an analysis of their tweets using linguistic inquiry and word count (LIWC) software. They hoped to reveal from their tweets common personality traits among successful investors. The work might provide clues to the inner workings of a world that always seems to be governed by whim and vagueries and does not succumb easily to analyses that might open up ways in which to predict how investments might rise and fall in a given time period. Opportunity and risk seem to be unknowable quantities, but insights into the personality of investors might add useful knowledge.
The researchers explain that while most research has focused on measuring the investment performance of individual investors and comparing that with their personality traits, the present study provides an interesting insight into the existing literature by identifying successful investors and observing their dominant personality trait, which, in turn, lead to specific behaviour.
Ramprakash, R. and Arun, C.J. (2022) 'A study of the tweets of successful investors in order to identify their personality', Global Business and Economics Review.
The out-moded aphorism – "Behind every great man is a good woman" – might be brought clumsily up-to-date by writing instead that "Alongside every great person is a great partner". Indeed, writing in the International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business, researchers from Israel have investigated the impact of a life partner on the social capital of entrepreneurs.
Ben Bulmash of the Faculty of Technology Management at the Holon Institute of Technology in Holon, suggests that psychological capital is a concept of growing importance in the world of entrepreneurial business. In this world challenges and uncertainties are ever-present and perhaps increasingly so in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, climate change, and war-mongering. There are three psychological components to psychological capita, which might be thought of as a state of mind rather than a character trait: optimism, pessimism, and self-esteem. How, asks Bulmash, are these three traits affected by the presence, support or otherwise of a life partner?
In studying entrepreneurial activities and the world of business, the focus is often on product design, marketing strategy, financial planning, and technological aspects of the business. The right blend can lead to success. That said, previous studies have shown that positive psychological capital can lead to business longevity and success. A focus on the entrepreneur's life may, however, be just as important a factor. Bulmash now has found, as one might expect to some degree, that low levels of support from an entrepreneur's life partner lead to what might be referred to as the least favourable mental states.
"Difficult and unsupportive relationships are detrimental to business success, possibly more so in the early stages of a business, when uncertainty is high and results not immediate," Bulmash writes. It is important when trying to understand entrepreneurial activity to understand that the entrepreneur's life and life partner can play a significant role in predicting the trajectory of their business.
Bulmash, B. (2022) 'At the heart of things: the impact of life-partners on entrepreneurs' psychological capital', Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Vol. 45, No. 4, pp.476–488.
Older adults with or without health problems could continue to live independent lives as far as is practical with the use of smart technologies, such as wearable sensors, and internet-connected monitoring systems that can alert remote carers to acute problems, such as a sudden downturn in health metrics, a fall, or other issues, as soon as they arise.
Writing in the International Journal of Engineering Systems Modelling and Simulation, a team from India provides a user perspective on such ambient assisted living systems. Ashish Patel and Jigarkumar Shah of Pandit Deendayal Energy University in Gandhinagar, India, explain that AAL systems must offer carers timely and detailed information when the older adult's environment or personal conditions change from their normal to a new normal that represents a risky situation has arisen or their health has suddenly declined. There are numerous wearable and situational monitoring devices that can report room and body temperature, air quality, whether a person is mobile, seated, or has fallen, and other such variables.
The team has surveyed AAL system users to get an insider perspective on how well these systems might work. An effective AAL system must offer continuous monitoring but also security and privacy to allow vulnerable or older adults to live independently in their preferred home. It does not offer a complete approach to care, of course, but augments the caring environment for that adult offered by relatives, friends, and professionals, depending on the person's needs and choices.
The researchers present a framework and a practical approach to a hybrid AAL system that brings together personal monitoring devices and environmental monitoring devices with a view to improving the health standards of an older person living alone. The framework takes into account the person's needs and desires rather than simply defining the requisite technological setup. The team points out that in order to incorporate the person's emotional state in such a hybrid system, there must be a certain level of compromise when it comes to their privacy, as the monitoring software and thence the carers who are there to respond to alerts from the system will have some insight into the person's inner life in order that an appropriate response can be made in a timely manner.
Patel, A. and Shah J. (2022) 'Towards enhancing the health standards of elderly: role of ambient sensors and user perspective', Int. J. Engineering Systems Modelling and Simulation, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.96–110.
We live in the information age, you might say. More than 2.5 quintillion bytes* of data are generated around the globe every day. Managing that data is impossible and yet we make use of huge chunks of it in many disparate and sometimes unimaginable ways. Extracting knowledge from repositories and databases, the big data, can lead to a better understanding of natural and non-natural phenomena in climate change, economics, medicine, and beyond.
Predictive analysis is key to making intelligent decisions based on such big data, according to researchers writing in the International Journal of Engineering Systems Modelling and Simulation. However, there are problems that must be addressed especially when such big data exists in the cloud.
Krishna Kumar Mohbey and Sunil Kumar of the Central University of Rajasthan in Ajmer, India, consider the impact of big data in this context. They point out that one of the biggest issues facing those who would work with big data is that while some of it may well be structured, much of it is only semi-structured, and vast amounts are entirely unstructured.
The storage, management, and analysis of all of this data is one of the greatest challenges facing computing today. While cloud computing provides many of the tools needed in a distributed way and to some extent has revolutionized information and communications technology (ICT), there remains a long road ahead before we can truly cope with big data fully.
However, distributed storage and massive parallel processing of big data in the cloud could provide the foundations on which the future of big data and predictive analysis might be built. The team reviews many of the current approaches that use historical data and machine learning to build predictions about the outcomes of future scenarios based on contemporary big data sources. The team points to where research might take us next in the realm of big data and warns of the possible dead-ends.
"The key aim is to transform the cloud into a scalable data analytics tool, rather than just a data storage and technology platform," the team writes. They add that now is the time to develop appropriate standards and application programming interfaces (APIs) that enable users to easily migrate between solutions and so take advantage of the elasticity of cloud infrastructure.
Mohbey, K.K. and Kumar, S. (2022) 'The impact of big data in predictive analytics towards technological development in cloud computing', Int. J. Engineering Systems Modelling and Simulation, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.61–75.
*2.5 quintillion bytes is about 1 million terabytes. A general household computer might have a 1 terabyte hard drive these days, so that's data maxing out the storage capacity of about 2,500,000 computers every day.
Machine learning algorithms can be used to make accurate forecasts about changes in population, according to research published in the International Journal of Data Science. The work demonstrates that the best of the available algorithms trained on historical data works better than conventional demographic modeling based on periodic census data.
Fatih Veli Sahinarslan, Ahmet Tezcan Tekin, and Ferhan Çebi of the Department of Management Engineering at Istanbul Technical University, in Istanbul, Turkey, have compared the predictive power of various algorithms – extreme gradient boosting, CatBoost, linear regression, ridge regression, Holt-Winters, exponential, autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) and prophet prediction model. They trained the algorithms using 1595 different demographic indicators from 262 countries recorded between 1960 and 2017. Indicators include age and gender distribution, labour force, education, birthplace, birth and death rates, and migration statistics.
Their demonstration to predict the population of Turkey for the year 2017 proved the value of the algorithmic approach over traditional modeling. Understanding population dynamics and forecasting how a population might change in years to come is a critical part of policymaking and planning for healthcare, education, housing, transport, and infrastructure. Ten-year census cycles are useful, but they do not give a fine-grained account of a changing population, especially in the light of changes in life expectancy, migration, war, political upheaval, and pandemics, where the character of a population might change radically on a much shorter timescale.
The researchers suggest that machine learning algorithms, ensemble regression models in particular, can offer a "better estimate" of the future population of a country. They are able to do so because they can reduce the number of factors that otherwise make it difficult to make an estimate and also through analysis of any uncertainties in the demographic data.
"Machine learning algorithms on population estimation will make an essential contribution to…the planning of national needs and pave the way for more consistent social, economic, and environmental decisions," the team concludes.
Sahinarslan, F.V., Tekin, A.T. and Çebi, F. (2021) 'Application of machine learning algorithms for population forecasting', Int. J. Data Science, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp.257–270.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on millions of people as well as the businesses on which many of us depend. A new study in the International Journal of Services, Economics and Management, looks at the impact lockdowns and other measures have had on the food and drinks industry, showing how many businesses in this sector have summarily failed because of the emergence of this lethal virus and its effects on society.
Leandro Pereira, Margarida Couto, Renato Lopes da Costa, Álvaro Dias, Rui Vinhas da Silva of the Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE) in Lisbon, and Rui Gonçalves of PIAGET Almada, in Almada, Portugal, have found that as the pandemic progressed, even as lockdown restrictions were lifted, customer fears and discomfort kept many people away from restaurants compounding the detrimental impact of the lockdown periods on the industry.
As one might have expected, early in the pandemic, restaurant trade halved, but many places shut down all but essential services in many parts of the world in an effort to halt the spread of the disease and reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths. At the time of writing this Research Pick, the World Health Organisation has alluded to the total number of "excess" deaths associated with COVID-19 as being around 15 million worldwide. It seems inescapable that people would be fearful of such a disease.
The team has found that in the wake of this, the biggest factors associated with fear and deterring individuals from using restaurants once more are that person's highest level of education, their age, the exaggerated proximity of employees observed in such establishments, a lack of obvious cleaning processes, and the inability to observe the establishment's kitchen and food preparation. Some of these factors such as their putative customers age and education cannot, of course, be altered by restaurant management, but other factors such improving hygiene procedures and making them visible, improving social distancing between employees and clientele within practical limits, and making food preparation visible could be addressed.
It remains to be seen whether people will start eating out as often as they did before the pandemic. If the industry changes in a way to encourage them to do so, then that might be the case. It could be that the new-normal means fewer people going to restaurants regardless. Life is all about change a new disruption might nudge us in a different direction. The industry can do nothing but be proactive in trying to encourage customers and respond in a timely way to new challenges that arise.
Pereira, L., Couto, M., da Costa, R.L., Dias, Á., Gonçalves, R. and da Silva, R.V. (2022) 'Food and beverage industry in a pandemic context', Int. J. Services, Economics and Management, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp.152–181.
Citrus peel and pulp is a growing waste problem in the food industry and in the home. However, there is potential to extract something useful from it. Work in the International Journal of Environment and Waste Management describes a simple steam distillation method that uses a domestic pressure cooker to extract useful essential oils from the peel of sweet lime (mosambi, Citrus limetta).
Waste mosambi peel can be obtained in huge quantities from the many fruit juice shops around the state of Delhi and elsewhere and where people make juice in their homes. The research shows how these extracted essential oils have antifungal, larvicidal, insecticidal and antimicrobial activity and so could represent a useful source of inexpensive products for crop protection, domestic pest control and cleaning, and more.
Using waste streams from the food industry as a source of raw materials for other industries is on the rise. To be truly beneficial in terms of the environment, however, the extraction of useful materials from such waste has to approach carbon neutrality and be largely non-polluting itself. Chemists Tripti Kumari and Nandana Pal Chowdhury of the University of Delhi and Ritika Chauhan of Bharati Vidyapeeth's College of Engineering in New Delhi, India, have used a relatively environment-friendly steam distillation followed by solvent extraction with hexane to access the essential oils from mosambi peel. "The reported method of extraction produces zero waste, is energy efficient and gives a good yield," the team writes.
The team demonstrated antibacterial activity of the extracted essential oils against bacteria including Bacillus subtilis and Rhodococcus equi. The same oils also showed activity against strains of fungi, such as Aspergillus flavus and Alternaria carthami. The extracts also show lethal activity against mosquito and cockroach larvae. The researchers suggest that appropriately adapted to preclude the need for the organic solvent step, it might be possible to develop a domestic approach to making such essential oil products from citrus peel in the home. This would, they suggest, bring science home and provide an effective alternative to costly manufactured sprays and products.
Kumari, T., Chowdhury, N.P., Chauhan, R. and Tiwary, N.K. (2022) 'Eco-friendly extraction of Mosambi (Citrus limetta) essential oil from waste fruit peels and its potential use as a larvicidal, insecticidal and antimicrobial agent', Int. J. Environment and Waste Management, Vol. 29, No. 3, pp.360–375.
Workplace bullying has always been a problem but recognition of this problem and how we must stand up to it and try to eradicate it from the workplace culture has only come to the fore in recent years. A conceptual review in the International Journal of Management Practice looks at the issues, the terminology, and the definitions with the aim of helping researchers fill the many gaps in the literature in a consistent manner.
Rajnish Kumar Misra and Divya Sharma of the Jaypee Institute of Information Technology in Noida, India, explain that there is a need to differentiate between bullying and other forms of negative behaviour in the workplace, such as so-called "desk rage". However, they also hope to identify the antecedents to workplace bullying and look in-depth at its consequences on companies and their staff. Fundamentally, the team's review alludes to a need for research and discussion to be all-encompassing and to recognise the boundaries of the definitions that emerge from the review.
Harassment and incivility are deep-rooted in many areas of human activity. Bullying can take a physical form or play a psychological role, or it can be a combination of both. Either way, it can have detrimental and long-lasting effects on anyone who is a victim. In the workplace, as with many other realms, this can have serious and life-changing consequences for victims, as morale is compromised, job dissatisfaction arises, performance and commitment become less important to the employee, burnout and employee turnover increase. All to the detriment of the victims of the bullying but also to the employer.
The research literature that has been focused on the issue of workplace bullying is inconsistent and contradictory. This new analysis could provide future research with a consistent framework with which to work to ensure that those problems are clarified and the gaps in the research filled so that the problem of bullying can be understood better and guidance emerge for managers and company owners that allows them to implement new policies to address the problem more effectively.
Misra, R.K. and Sharma, D. (2022) 'Understanding workplace bullying: a conceptual review', Int. J. Management Practice, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp.346–363.
Entrepreneurship in post-conflict regions can bridge ethnic divides. That is the primary conclusion of new research published in the International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business.
Ana Kopren of the University of Graz in Austria and Hans Westlund of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, in Stockholm, Sweden, have looked at how business activity has improved relationships in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and North Macedonia where conflict and division between ethnic groups have been serious issues for many years. It was, of course, 18th Century philosopher Immanuel Kant who perhaps first suggested that economic exchange and trade between countries is a significant contributor to peace between the nations. The team adds that business networks that connect different ethnic groups are very much a positive way forward and preclude to some degree a way of life that implies coexistence by means of segregation.
The team has surveyed some 130 entrepreneurs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and North Macedonia and found that, perhaps as one might expect, the driving force for those business people working with diverse ethnic networks is fundamentally to increase company profits. The side effect of this drive, however, is the strengthening of bonds between the various ethnic groups within those business networks.
The team writes that their research points to the idea that economic ties can facilitate cooperative patterns and rebuild the broken bonds and divisions between ethnic groups living in the same regions. "Entrepreneurs alleviate ethnic cleavages and improve relations between ethnic groups," the researchers suggest. In parallel, the researchers add that an influx of refugees from war-torn areas has created new challenges that demand new ways in which to integrate those people into European society for mutual benefit.
"Social values originating from business relationships may be a foundation for reconciliation and collective action," the team adds. "Repeated business interaction instigates an advantageous social outcome that breaks down prejudices and increases cooperative achievement," they suggest.
Kopren, A. and Westlund, H. (2022) 'Entrepreneurship bridging ethnic divides', Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Vol. 45, No. 4, pp.423–449.
The gig economy encompasses a wide range of paid tasks. It exists in the digital realm and in many offline activities. The common ground lies in the nature of the link between "employer" and contractor. Usually, gig workers are independent contractors carrying out a wide variety of mostly ad hoc or short-term jobs.
A new investigation into the nature of the gig economy in the USA shows that while entry into this kind of work is equitable between men and women in terms of motivation. Both men and women hoped to earn extra income and have the freedom to choose where they work. Commonly, however, women's expectations for the actual level of remuneration was lower than that expected by men. This was borne out in reality, the research shows, where the rates for an equivalent job are indeed lower for women.
Robert A. Peterson of the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin in Austin, Texas, explains that the gig economy is a heterogeneous collection of firms and individuals engaged in a wide variety of jobs. In the USA, it represents a $1.4 trillion industry and almost 57 million workers, 40 percent of the US workforce, were involved in the gig economy in 2021. The pre-pandemic rate of growth was three times faster than the growth seen in conventional employer-employee workforces, he adds.
"The present study is perhaps the most broad-based investigation of gig workers to date," writes Peterson, "regardless of whether they obtain or execute their gigs through an online platform or website, work only for a particular company, or engage in only a specific gig."
Fundamentally, the notion of a gig economy is entirely familiar to a previous generation who would recognise it as nothing more sophisticated than the conventional signing of contractors to do requisite tasks within a firm without them being on the employee payroll. However, the various digital platforms – including Uber, Airbnb, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Upwork, DoorDash, and TaskRabbit – that have emerged in recent years have made access to contracting work much more readily available to a wider range of people. Other, traditionally non-digital, companies have also adopted digital platforms to recruit on-demand workers to carry out ad hoc tasks for them.
The relationship between gender and occupation and gender and remuneration has been researched and discussed widely across many disciplines, such as psychology, sociology, business, engineering, medicine, and even the physical sciences, adds Peterson. However, the vast majority of this research has focused on conventional employment and has not yet considered the gig economy and the existence of a putative gender gap that mirrors what has been seen repeatedly in the traditional workplace.
Peterson hopes to correct this and has undertaken a nationwide survey of more than 1000 gig workers who had taken on "gigs" in the previous year. They were contracted in the digital realm and in the offline world and those surveyed were not limited to conventional industry boundaries nor companies involved.
"Hopefully, the present research will provide insights and an initial foundation for, and stimulate, future research that seeks a theoretical understanding of a phenomenon that has major economic as well as social implications," Peterson concludes.
Peterson, R.A. (2022) 'Heterogeneity in the US gig economy with a focus on gender', Int. J. Applied Decision Sciences, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp.365–384.
Scientists are investigating the potential of microbial chemical weapons for use in various industries, such as horticulture, the food industry, veterinary medicine, and even in cancer treatment. A new promising source for extracting such chemicals from dairy waste is reported in the International Journal of Environmental Technology and Management.
Microbes make their own chemical weapons to kill or harm species that might attack them. Microbial fungi for instance make the antibacterial compounds we know as antibiotics. Non-pathogenic bacteria themselves also make such weapons to preclude the growth of other bacterial species around them. One group of such chemical weapons are known as bacteriocins. These compounds can short-chain peptides or even fully-folded proteins. They have a wide range of biological activity.
Harikrishnan Hariharan of Saintgits College of Engineering, Kottukulam Hills, Kottayam District and V.B. Jyothy and Steffy P. Vinson of the MET's School of Engineering in Thrissur District in Kerala State, India, have investigated sludge from the dairy industry and various other sources, including soil and industrial wastewater. The dairy waste showed great potential as a source of bacteriocins, the team reports.
The team writes that bacteriocins from lactic acid bacteria (found in dairy waste) could be used to make food preservatives, therapeutics for veterinary or medical use, and as phytosanitary for protection of plants. Other experiments with bacteriocins have shown some of them to selectively and actively penetrate human cancer cells causing the cells to die. The fact that they are produced by bacteria that do not cause human or animal disease, steps over one of the various hurdles that might initially be barriers to the commercial development of such products.
The team's experiments focused on fluorescent pseudomonads from samples obtained from the dairy industry. The team saw activity with extracts of these against the pathogenic microbe Salmonella typhi. The present study offers a novel source for bacteriocins that could be generated in bulk for a wide range of applications.
Hariharan, H., Jyothy, V.B. and Vinson, S.P. (2022) 'Development of bacteriocins from dairy wastes', Int. J. Environmental Technology and Management, Vol. 25, No. 3, pp.210–217.
A regular eye examination is a solid part of maintaining eye health allowing problems to be identified sooner rather than later. Part of such an examination will commonly involve checking the lens of the eye as well as the interior of the eye. Recording a digital image of the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye is frequently used by ophthalmologists, optometrist and others to detect vascular disorders, such as diabetic retinopathy, evidence of glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and optic neuritis.
One of the issues with using computers to analyse a retinal image is to ensure the precise localisation of the optic disc within the retinal image in the computer so that features can be compared more accurately and problems be detectable by software with fewer false positives or false negatives for pathologies and other concerns. A new Open Access paper, published in the International Journal of Computational Vision and Robotics, describes a JAYA algorithm that performs with 99 per cent accuracy in localising the optic disc within the retinal image It uses a novel fitness function to do so. This new system performs better than other methods previously reported in the scientific literature based on tests with a publicly available database of retinal images.
Around 150 million people are afflicted with glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Both conditions can lead to compromised sight and ultimately blindness. Unfortunately, there are no obvious external symptoms of the creeping pathology of either condition. Regular detailed examination of the eye is therefore essential, especially of those people in at-risk groups, to detect the earliest signs of the conditions as soon as possible so that treatment can be started to retard the problem.
Visual examination of retinal images is time-consuming for optometrists and takes a great deal of skill and patience. As with many other kinds of medical examination, there is always room for error or the need for the proverbial second opinion. As such, a computerised algorithmic approach could be a useful tool for optometrists to quickly highlight problems with their patients' eyes without the labour-intensive screening. Once the computer has highlighted a problem the optometrist can then carry out further visual examination of their own to ascertain the seriousness of any condition that is flagged and then prescribe the requisite course of action for their patient.
Kumar, B.V., Zhang, S., Wu, T., Prakash, J., Zhou, L. and Li, K. (2022) 'A novel JAYA algorithm for optic disc localisation in eye fundus images', Int. J. Computational Vision and Robotics, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp.324-342.
We have known for a longtime now that the COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2 is a mostly airborne disease. Ventilation of indoor spaces is therefore one of the most useful ways in which we can keep people safe. Research in the International Journal of Simulation and Process Modelling, has investigated the fluid dynamics of how mechanical ventilation affects the trajectories of aerosols that might be carrying viral particles from infected people.
R.M.P.S. Bandara and W.C.D.K. Fernando of the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University in Ratmalana, and R.A. Attalage of the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology in Malabe, Sri Lanka, point out that the COVID-19 is known to spread more readily indoors than in the open air. Measures such as face coverings and improved ventilation have been useful in attempting to reduce the rates of infection. However, we have much to learn about how different types of ventilation might affect the movement of virus-laden aerosols indoors. As such, the team has modelled the trajectories of simulated aerosols in cavity flow, displacement flow and two cases of mixing flow ventilation.
The models show that mixing-flow ventilation is the most effective form of ventilation for reducing the risk of the virus spreading between people sharing an indoor space. This form of ventilation finds the aerosol particles pulled along by the ventilation airstream and expelled to the outside through the system's ducting with much less chance of them being inhaled by another person in the room. This is not the case with the other types of ventilation where the air is essentially recirculated within the indoor space to large degree and so virus-laden aerosols might be inhaled by other people.
The team suggests that their models should be used to define optimal mechanical ventilation for different indoor settings and occupancy to minimise the risk of airborne virus being spread from those infected with the virus to others in the room. They point out that the placement of air diffusers and air flow rates, the position of people in the room, whether they are seated, standing, or moving around, as well the geometry of the room, windows and doors, and heating systems are all variables that must be considered to find the best mitigation based on ventilation for any given building. The risk of spread of the virus in a given space must also be weighed against the overall comfort and wellbeing of the occupants of the building.
Bandara, R.M.P.S., Fernando, W.C.D.K. and Attalage, R.A. (2021) 'Modelling of aerosol trajectories in a mechanically-ventilated study room using computational fluid dynamics in light of the COVID-19 pandemic', Int. J. Simulation and Process Modelling, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp.250–262.
Technology start-ups have been the mainstay of emerging industries for many years, particularly since the time of the so-called dot.com era during which many of the devices and systems we still use today were first pushed by the start-ups of the 1990s. According to researchers writing in the International Journal of Business Innovation and Research, e-commerce, healthcare, financial technologies, education, travel, artificial intelligence, and customer services sectors, remain the predominant sectors that continue to spawn innovative start-ups.
Nityesh Bhatt and Punit Saurabh of the Nirma University in Ahmedabad, Gujarat and Ritesh Kumar Verma of the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India, have reviewed the state of the art in the rapidly developing nation of India. They have taken a holistic approach to examine the eco-system surrounding Indian start-ups but also consider the different components of the ecosystem, including the policy framework, the educational environment, financial support from domestic and international funds, and support organisations such as incubators and accelerators.
Indian tech start-ups have been nudged onwards and upwards by demographic, psychographic, and geographic factors while positive macro and micro environmental forces have resulted in a strengthening of the Indian tech ecosystem making it one of the top three countries in the world in this realm. The researchers point out that there has been substantial and beneficial growth in seed funding driven by the growth of incubators, accelerators, angel networks, and venture capitalists in India. They also describe the mergers and acquisitions scene in India as being positive.
Nevertheless, there are still issues to be overcome. The review has allowed the team to identify bottlenecks in the processes that take place within the start-up ecosystem. This in turn has allowed them to make policy suggestions that might widen those bottlenecks and allow a greater flow of information and innovation and so boost the start-ups within the ecosystem to allow them to serve their putative customers and clients more effectively and sooner, rather than later. Policy changes that recognise the nature of the digital age must be made so that archaic laws are not stymieing advancement. Simultaneously, stakeholders must also be vigilant and play their role in sustaining hard-fought momentum. "Change in the societal mindset for start-ups will be a great catalyst," the team concludes.
Bhatt, N., Saurabh, P. and Verma, R.K. (2022) 'Technology startup ecosystem in India', Int. J. Business Innovation and Research, Vol. 27, No. 4, pp.413–430.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to do more activities online than they had in the past, including shopping. However, there are concerns that e-commerce does not match the experience of browsing and shopping in the real world. Research in the International Journal of Technology Marketing has looked at the psychological response of consumers to the increasingly anthropomorphic virtual agents often used on e-commerce sites in an effort to replicate the in-store shopping experience and engagement. Indeed, anthropomorphic virtual agents already exist that can help inform consumers about new products, assist them in making their decisions as to what to buy, and answer questions about a product in which they are interested.
Sihem Ben Saad of the University of Tunis Carthage and Fatma Choura of the University of Tunis El Manar in Tunisia, explain that artificial intelligence has helped many e-commerce sites develop their offering to online customers. However, the experience does not yet match that of customers in "bricks-and-mortar" stores in terms of responsiveness and warmth. The team has surveyed some 660 internet users to examine the nature of their experiences with e-commerce virtual agents and what effects these interactions have on their psychological state when shopping online.
The team explains that the best anthropomorphic virtual agent "is adaptable and can be configured to meet the specific needs of the user. It can even adjust its behaviour according to the situation and to the user's expectations." Moreover, these agents can make more advanced decisions based on customer choices as well as negotiate the closing transaction. Fundamentally, the team found that by endowing a virtual agent with a voice, human gestures and conversational skills, companies could maximise the perceived humanisation of the interface and so positively affect their customers' intentions in ways that static non-interactive e-commerce might not be able to match.
The team adds that such virtual assistants so improve the user experience for many people, that they are then more inclined to spread the word about a successful transaction with friends and relatives and so potentially open up the market to those people through word-of-mouth too.
Ben Saad, S. and Choura, F. (2022) 'Online shopping during the Covid-19 crisis: the impact of anthropomorphic virtual agents on consumers' psychological states', Int. J. Technology Marketing, Vol. 16, Nos. 1/2, pp.27–49.
Software that can correlate musical changes in an audio recording of a song with perceived emotional content would be useful across the music industry, particularly in terms of cataloguing music and developing music recommendation systems for streaming services and sales. The same approach might also have utility in musical composition and music teaching as well as in music-based therapy. Research in the International Journal of Arts and Technology, recognizes that there are numerous limitations in the current software and points the way forward to how such software might be improved.
Yali Zhang of the School of Music at Henan Polytechnic in Zhengzhou, China, explains how earlier research has focused on training a probabilistic neural network to recognise the nuance of a piece of music and correlate it with the likely emotional responses intended by the composer. However, such work has large error margins that Zhang hopes to preclude in developing her new approach to music emotion recognition. Zhang's approach involves processing the music signal in order to obfuscate a proportion of the low-frequency information that is not necessarily a part of the music's emotional content. Her approach also frames the sound signal and then divides the frames by a window function so that they can be processed by the emotion recognition software. In addition, noise is reduced by time-domain endpoint detection, she adds.
With the sound file thus pre-processed, the matter of recognition can begin and this involves analyzing pitch changes, the rise and fall of tone, and the rate at which those changes occur. Zhang explains that a "weight coefficient" of musical emotion can thus be extracted from a sound file. The characteristics thus extracted for known sound files with human-described emotive content can then be used to train the system so that it can automatically recognise the emotive content in a previously uncategorized piece of music. The approach reduces the error margins seen in earlier work considerably making the categorization of musical emotive content much more accurate.
Zhang, Y. (2022) 'Music emotion recognition method based on multi feature fusion', Int. J. Arts and Technology, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp.10–23.
It is perhaps a significant concern that internet users willingly and sometimes unwittingly share their personal and private information through online social networks without a second thought for how that information might be used. There is an ongoing risk of identity theft and users being the victim of other cybercrimes such as scams and phishing attacks. The obverse of perceiving all this shared information is that for researchers hoping to understand the trends within society, the information offers a vast seam of data, opinions, and behaviour that could be mined to extract nuggets of information about humanity. It might even be used to predict how behaviour online and offline might change.
For researchers hoping to dig into this motherlode of data, however, there is a significant obstacle. Many users have accounts on many different social networks and do not necessarily maintain consistency in terms of biography, demographic, data, and identity per se, across the different platforms. Specifically, data obtained from a Facebook or LinkedIn profile can reveal demographic information, such as age, gender, sexuality, relationship status and relatives, race, education, and occupation. Facebook updates and those on Twitter can reveal psychographic information, such as attitude towards a product, online behaviour, and politics.
New research published in the International Journal of Enterprise Network Management, demonstrates an accurate way in which user profiles across different online social networks can be matched. Once matched it is then possible to couple all the demographic information obtained from one platform with the behavioural information from another. One would hope that such information might then be anonymised for the purposes of legitimate research. However, there is always the spectre of nefarious uses being plausible once such data mining tools are available.
Nevertheless, Deepesh Kumar Srivastava of the Institute of Management Technology Dubai in UAE and Basav Roychoudhury Indian Institute of Management Shillong in Meghalaya, India, have demonstrated a way to match profiles on different platforms. Their approach relies on extracting user-generated content and user-shared updates across the different platforms and analyzing it to find the overlap where a user is active on multiple platforms. Their text mining techniques extract high-frequency words and words commonly used in the users' updates on social media platforms. They have tested the current iteration of their approach on publicly available data sets and demonstrated 72.5 per cent accuracy in matching a user's profiles on different platforms.
Such a level of accuracy would be useful when coupled with other techniques, such as basic name and location matching and other relatively mundane data mining approaches. Even as a baseline from which to improve the approach it offers an excellent starting point. Future work will home in on overlapping characteristics in user chronology at the timeline level to improve matching where a user might duplicate the sentiment or content of a post on more than one platform and so reveal a match.
Srivastava, D.K. and Roychoudhury, B. (2022) 'Profile matching of online users across multiple social networks: a text mining approach', Int. J. Enterprise Network Management, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.19–36.
There has been serious discussion about COVID-19 misinfomation. That misinformation has most likely cost many people their lives, driven by messages from those with a hidden agenda to drive everyday people away from science-based medical advice. The question remains as to what is the best way to counter the stream of misinfomation and fake news. Might the mainstream, mass media be able to correct false perceptions about the pandemic and our response to it? Alternatively, is it that many people would respond and engage more fully with corrective information if that reaches them through social media?
Writing in the International Journal of Web Based Communities, a team from Japan has investigated what impact mass media and social media can have on public perception regarding COVID-19 misinfomation. Their model suggests that the way in which people respond to corrective information depends on their level of literacy and the sources that they trust the most.
Tsukasa Tanihara and Hidetaka Oshima of Keio University in Tokyo and Shinichi Yamaguchi and Tomoaki Watanabe of the International University of Japan, also in Tokyo, found that people with an interest and understanding of COVID-19 who saw misinfomation about the disease were more likely to respond to corrective information from the mass media. By contrast, those people with a lower level of literacy regarding the pandemic would more commonly be persuaded to shift their stance if the corrective information came from their social media networks instead. This latter finding, the team says, suggests that those who rely entirely on social media for corrective information may well not have the capacity to distinguish between the facts and the fake.
The findings could have important implications for the education of citizens in the present, ongoing pandemic and in future pandemics as well as in other spheres, such as political elections. The team concludes that it is better to utilize mass media to broadcast corrective information. Secondly, authorized corrections in social media need to be flagged to give them greater prominence so that they reach more people. Thirdly, corrective information must be engaging, if people are disinterested in a topic, they need to be persuaded to assimilate the corrective information before they will accept.
Tanihara, T., Yamaguchi, S., Watanabe, T. and Oshima, H. (2022) 'Effects of corrections on COVID-19-related misinformation: cross-media empirical analyses in Japan', Int. J. Web Based Communities, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp.41–63.
Understanding how infectious diseases, such as COVID-19 (causative pathogen – SARS-CoV-2), spread requires a deep understanding of our social connections and networks. It is the way forward for efficient infection prevention and control, according to researchers writing in the International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics.
S. Mahadevi, Shyam S. Kamath, and D. Pushparaj Shetty of the Department of Mathematical and Computational Sciences at the National Institute of Technology Karnataka in Surathkal, Mangalore, India, explain how it is important that we have effective models of infectious disease, especially those with the potential to cause debilitating global pandemics. The team has used graph energy centrality to study COVID-19 data from South Korea (Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) by building a transmission network from that data and also from the Johns Hopkins University data in the USA. The team has also used data from Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, Italy, and elsewhere to help them validate their model.
The model allows them to home in on the most active nodes, the likely infectious superspreaders, within the network. If such nodes can be detected in a network before a disease has spread widely, those individuals, and perhaps even sites and events might be put under specific isolation rules to slow if not stave off the emergence of a pandemic. The researchers point out that many of the emergent human infectious diseases arise from wild animal hosts where the native virus or other pathogen is often endemic. A problem commonly arises when humans are interacting closely with those animals or other vectors of disease and the pathogen opportunistically makes the leap from species to species reaching a person who would essentially be Patient 0.
Subsequently, the detection of high-risk hosts is important for the management and monitoring of such diseases, especially the identification of those at risk with wide social networks. This will be critical in the face of the next lethal pandemic.
Mahadevi, S., Kamath, S.S. and Shetty, D.P. (2022) 'Study of novel COVID-19 data using graph energy centrality: a soft computing approach', Int. J. Medical Engineering and Informatics, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp.282–294.
Story telling is an ancient human trait. We were perhaps making manifest our imaginings even before we had the spoken word. In the modern world, stories are as important to us as they ever were and are crucial to many human endeavours in the creative arts, in scientific research, and, of course, in the commercial world. Work published in the International Journal of Business and Globalisation, investigates the way in which story telling in the digital realm can be used to influence the choices of millennial consumers.
The so-called millennials, otherwise known as Generation Y, represent those people born in the period spanning the early 1980s to the mid-1990s. The millennials are often thought of as the digital natives having been born into a world of increasingly mainstream information and communication technology. Precise definitions as to the exact dates spanned can vary from treatise to treatise, but 1981 and 1996 are usually considered the boundaries. Generation X preceded the millennials and they were born after the "Baby-boomers" from 1965 to 1980 approximately. They were succeeded by Generation Z (1997-2012) and the next cohort, Generation Alpha (early 20102 to mid-2020s)
Yukti Ahuja and Indu Loura of the Jagan Institute of Management Studies in Delhi, India, allude to the fact that marketers often struggle to engage with millennials. This generation is thought to be the first global generation, one that is highly engaged with ICT and perhaps not readily coerced by the older generation hoping to exploit them using such technology. Their interests are varied and extravagant but are also cynical of inauthenticity and efforts by marketers and advertisers to create fake virality around products.
Companies that can create an authentic story without patently attempting to exploit their target audience, however, can reap the rewards. After all, millennials need to acquire goods and utilize services just as every previous generation and every future generation. Suffice to say, they simply find efforts to patronize them online wholly transparent in a way that the older generation raised on conventional media may not.
Ultimately, millennials, and indeed others, expect authenticity. They are more likely to be enticed if the offering does not seem fake if the "story" around a given marketing drive captures their imagination in a non-patronising way and offers them a product or service in such a way that engages them. At this point, they will feel able to be parted from their hard-earned cash.
Ahuja, Y. and Loura, I. (2022) 'Story-telling in the digital space – a ploy to communicate with millennials', Int. J. Business and Globalisation, Vol. 30, No. 1, pp.3–13.
What effect have self-isolation and quarantine had on body weight and diet during the COVID-19 pandemic. Research published in the International Journal of Environment and Health looks at this troubling issue.
The emergence of a novel coronavirus towards the end of 2019 and the subsequent global pandemic have left few people unaffected by the disease. One significant aspect now being seen as a serious problem is the issue of diet and weight gain among those living under rules aimed at reducing the spread of the disease through lockdown and self-isolation. Behnaz Shahrokhisahneh of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Cihan University-Erbil in Iraq has investigated this issue through a review of some 21 research papers encompassing the diets and body metrics of almost 30000 people.
She found that overall, very few people showed signs of eating disorders during the pandemic. However, many of them did gain weight and many of them displayed behaviour one might refer to as "emotional eating", presumably induced by the stresses and strains of lockdowns and self-isolation. Overall, around half of the populations considered in the research works showed signs of unhealthy eating during the pandemic. Conversely, that does imply that half of those people practiced healthy eating habits despite the worldwide concerns surrounding COVID-19.
Shahrokhisahneh suggests that more research is urgently needed to investigate the issues surrounding diet and eating during a pandemic of this scale. Given that obesity is a significant risk factor for morbidity in COVID-19, it is rather poignant that this should be done. Moreover, there is a need to look at the issue in a more granular manner at the individual country level to see what impact different lockdown rules and regulations had on the diet and eating habits of each nation's citizens. There is a need to provide insights for policymakers as we continue to live with COVID-19 and indeed for any future pandemic where widespread lockdowns and isolation will be required again.
Shahrokhisahneh, B. (2021) 'Dietary and eating behaviours during COVID-19 pandemic: with an emphasis on the impact of self-isolation and quarantine on body weight', Int. J. Environment and Health, Vol. 10, Nos. 3/4, pp.243–269.
Eye-tracking technology has been used to investigate how well users engage with animated advertisements in a mobile application. The results published in the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising, reveal that users tend to avoid focusing on complex advertisements that are over-stimulating. The finding reinforces earlier evidence of a cognitive workload.
Federico Cassioli and Michela Balconi of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, Italy, wanted to understand how users respond to animated advertisements. Earlier evidence had suggested that many users become less engaged with such distracting and over-stimulating content. This, of course, has important implications for marketing and those designing advertisements for display within applications.
Animated advertisements have become commonplace as in-app marketing tools. They assume that users will be more engaged with such content than with a static advertisement and so will be more likely to make a purchase. However, there is a huge degree of saturation with this kind of advertising that must vie with engaging creative content and the applications themselves for user attention. Nevertheless, the team writes, "Ubiquitous connectivity is the fundamental key for the exponential growth of customer daily touchpoints with companies."
The always-connected user, or moreover, consumer, can be reached with much greater efficiency and efficacy than ever before. In addition, the nature of smartphone applications, web 2.0, and social media also means that those very companies have access to personal and even private information about putative consumers – habits, previous purchases and preferences, work, hobbies, day-to-day lives, of which their forebears could only have dreamed. It is, however, up to the marketing executives and advertising people to utilize this wealth of information and accessibility to consumers to their advantage to sell their products and services.
If the advertisers' current approach is conspiring against them from the start then they will inevitably fail and new approaches guided by research such as that by Cassioli and Balconi must be taken as a nudge away from the conventional towards those new marketing methods. The eye-tracking study revealed that over-stimulating animated advertisements are not the way forward, the marketing executives perhaps need to find a compromise that engages putative customers without deterring interaction.
The team suggests that interstitial advertisements might become increasingly useful to companies. In addition, advertisements that fall into the "reward" category, whereby consumers benefit directly from greater interaction with a brand and its products through an advertisement, could become more commonplace. Such an approach rewards users in some way for interacting with the advertisement thus enticing them towards the marketing offer in a subtle manner and thence a purchase.
Cassioli, F. and Balconi, M. (2022) 'Advertising in app: a neuroscientific approach', Int. J. Internet Marketing and Advertising, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp.257–270.
There is much disinformation surrounding the preventative measures that have been implemented across the globe in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and deaths from the disease it causes COVID-19. However, the research suggests that many of the measures, including social distancing, lockdown, face-covering mandates, and vaccination, all help reduce infection rates, hospitalisations, and deaths regardless of the disinformation.
Writing in the International Journal of Mathematics in Operational Research, a team from Brazil and the UK looks at the case of Brazil and shows, using two levels of evidence, how social distancing through lockdown measures led to a significant reduction in COVID-19 in those states that adopted this approach to controlling the disease. Political disagreement between state and the federal government over the implementation of different measures and different levels of flexibility in those measures in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that there were significant differences between the approaches taken by the 27 Brazilian states.
Rafael de Freitas Souza, Luiz Paulo Fávero, and Hamilton Luiz Corrêa of the University of São Paulo, and Michel Ferreira Cardia Haddad of the University of Cambridge, explain that in a lethal pandemic, the decisions made by policymakers can mean the difference between life and death for many people.
"Within the context of political battles where science is constantly questioned by populism, such as the one experienced in Brazil, then the adherence to social isolation – even partially implemented – is considerably more effective compared to the lack of such measures," the team writes. Their conclusion is supported by their analysis as well as evidence from a number of independent studies, they add.
Latin America was hit by the pandemic later than many other regions, but it was hit harder than some. Given that we are still in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic with its emerging variants and outbreaks, despite measures taken and the development of vaccines and treatments, it is important that policymakers are presented with evidence-based information rather than disinformation so that the right decisions can be made regarding how we approach the ongoing pandemic and how we address the problems that the next pandemic will bring.
de Freitas Souza, R., Fávero, L.P., Ferreira Cardia Haddad, M. and Luiz Corrêa, H. (2022) 'Multilevel evidence on how policymakers may reduce avoidable deaths due to COVID-19: the case of Brazil', Int. J. Mathematics in Operational Research, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp.321–337.
The term "superspreader event" has become well known since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, although such events are not without precedence throughout history. Such an event involving a large gathering of people wherein several individuals are carriers of an infectious disease spread the disease to those with whom they come into contact at the event and thence those newly infected individuals take away with them the potential to spread the disease to family, friends, work colleagues and many others.
Williams Chukwu of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health at the University of California San Diego, USA and colleagues at the University of Zimbabwe and the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, explain that superspreader events can increase the public healthcare burden considerably in a short space of time. The researchers have now developed a mathematical model to look at the dynamics of the spread of COVID-19 at large events.
Their model takes into account two important variables that must be considered in assessing the risk and ultimate impact of large-scale events in the face of a major infectious disease: clinical, infectivity level and social or environmental contact level. Ultimately, it provides a way to assess the likely effect on wider public health of running large-scale events and what control measures might be put in place to reduce the risk of such an event being a superspreader.
Indeed, the measures the team suggests in the International Journal of Mathematical Modelling and Numerical Optimisation are those that have been implemented in many parts of the world with varying degrees of success in this pandemic and in previous pandemics – social distancing, curfews, wearing of face masks, use of hand sanitizers, and other measures. The team points out that the adoption and efficacy of vaccination programs should also be taken into account to reflect a more realistic model, where such programs have been instigated and events are being held.
Mushanyu, J., Chukwu, W., Nyabadza, F. and Muchatibaya, G. (2022) 'Modelling the potential role of super spreaders on COVID-19 transmission dynamics', Int. J. Mathematical Modelling and Numerical Optimisation, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.191–209.
Branding is everything in marketing and the public perception of a company and its products and services. If consumers engage with a brand, if they love a brand, they are likely to be repeat customers and moreover will often be evangelical in their representation of a brand to other people whether in the online or offline world.
But, as there is brand love, so there can be brand hate. The concept is discussed in the context of corporate social irresponsibility in the International Journal of Business Governance and Ethics. Whereas much research has focus on the positivity of brand love, a team from Iran has investigated its opposite brand love and found that when corporate entities are irresponsible at the social level this can reflect negatively on their brand identity and consequently be reflected in changing the behaviour of customers detrimentally.
In the digital age, many companies have come to recognise that they must have a strong and positive presence on the internet. Initially, this would have been in the form of a website and conventional advertising of that site in the media and on other websites. The advent of Web 2.0 and the era of so-called social media brought with it new opportunities for engaging with consumers and potential customers where electronic word-of-mouth allowed the crowd to almost dictate the public perception of a brand.
The notion of "going viral" became the dream of marketing executives everywhere hoping to push their product or service to a wider and wider audience. The public relations nightmare was when bad news about the company or its products took the same viral route. Indeed, earlier research has already shown that negative emotions surrounding a brand can have a greater impact than the positive on, in that case, detrimental brand awareness. When they once said no news is bad news, this really is not the case in the world of social media where a reputation can be destroyed by the crowd in an instant and a product "cancelled" for any of countless reasons.
The work of Elaheh Roozbahani and Reza Salehzadeh of Shahid Ashrafi Esfahani University in Isfahan and Seyed Mehdi Mirmehdi of the University of Malayer in Malayer supports the idea that "Brands that do not operate in accordance with the consumer's perception of ethical, legal, and social issues are not ideologically compatible with consumers, which leads to negative emotions and brand hate. Irresponsible behaviour in society ultimately leads to a negative reaction from that society. Companies from the ownership and board level down to the "shop floor" need to be aware of this and adjust their stance so that they and their brands take a more ethical and moral stance for the sake of society and for the sake of their bottom line.
Roozbahani, E., Salehzadeh, R. and Mirmehdi, S.M. (2022) 'Evaluating the effects of corporate social irresponsibility on brand hate and its behavioural outcomes', Int. J. Business Governance and Ethics, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp.158–175.
Luxury brands represent an important part of the global economy, albeit one that is generally accessible only to a small proportion of the world population. Research into the world of digital retailing in this realm has always been sparse in the marketing and business literature. As such, it is difficult to visualise the norms that have changed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and its so-called new-normal. Work in the International Journal of Electronic Marketing and Retailing, offers a qualitative study that hopes to provide some insights into the world of luxury brands.
Giuseppe Colella and Cesare Amatulli of the Ionian Department in 'Mediterranean Legal and Economic Systems: Society, Environment, Culture' at the University of Bari 'Aldo Moro' in Taranto, Italy, point out that several earlier studies focused on the role that digital technologies have played in the communication surrounding luxury brands but have not widely investigated the digital retail distribution strategies of those providing luxury brands.
The researchers explain that despite the rapid advent of the internet and the current accessibility of social media and other such tools, many luxury goods companies have been hesitant in adopting strategic online distribution and sales systems. The perceived fear is that in the digital world they may not be able to ensure the quality, exclusivity and tradition, that are commonly associated with their luxury brands. They add that luxury brands must strengthen their relationships with digital retail channels so that they can provide a new kind of shopping experience for consumers of luxury goods and attain and maintain their dominant positions in the market.
The team has used a qualitative and exploratory approach with semi-structured one-to-one interviews with experts from a leading digital marketing company in order to develop some initial insights and offer markers for which avenues future research in this area might follow.
"Given the current global economic scenario, battered as it is by the COVID-19 pandemic, luxury industry leaders must be committed to longer-term strategic planning," the team writes. "In this sense, e-commerce could be a crucial channel for maintaining sales, communicating with consumers, and driving new consumer activation." They add that "digital marketing could help boost online sales, on the one hand, while enticing consumers to discover and visit stores once they reopen, on the other."
Colella, G. and Amatulli, C. (2022) 'Digital luxury retailing and the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative study', Int. J. Electronic Marketing and Retailing, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp.157–189.
There is an urgent need to address the apparently growing problem of plagiarism in academia. Writing in the International Journal of Data Mining, Modelling and Management, a team from Saudi Arabia has focused on one particular aspect of plagiarism where an author uses images stolen from another source and passed them off as their own without due credit to the original content creator and how this might be detected using technology. Images and figures within a research paper may represent hard-fought experimental data or even core concepts within the research and so are critical to the scientific endeavour.
Taiseer Abdalla Elfadil Eisa of the King Khalid University Mahayil in Asir, explains that detecting plagiarism in the figures and images used in a research publication is particularly challenging, not least because of the complexity of the requisite analysis and comparison but also because of the vast number of research papers published in journals each year. The research looks at a technique that can analyse textual content and structure of the figures in a paper. Image processing and semantic mapping are employed, Eisa explains.
"In scientific publications, quantitative information, results of experiments, frameworks, and statistical facts are represented in infographic form, such as figures, charts, and tables, rather than in text forms," Eisa explains. "However, less attention has been paid to detecting plagiarism in these non-textual elements of scientific publication." The current study addresses this issue directly by overcoming the limitation of current text-matching tools to extract information for comparison from non-textual components of an image, such as a flowchart. The approach can identify shapes within an image, describe those and their relationships within the image textually and annotate this with OCR (optical character recognition) of any text within those shapes.
The approach improves significantly on existing methods, Eisa writes, addressing the problem of text within shapes in a figure in a way that other approaches have not managed.
Eisa, T.A.E. (2022) 'Plagiarism detection of figure images in scientific publications', Int. J. Data Mining, Modelling and Management, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp.15–29.
Until the invention of audio recording devices, the music industry as it was involved live performance and the selling of sheet music for people to play their favourite pieces at home. The invention of recording and playback devices led to a shift to a more one-sided approach to the sharing and appreciation of music where listeners became more passive. The "record industry" would go on to sell millions and millions of units to music fans throughout the twentieth century, regurgitating old material as new technology, such as the compact disc (CD) player, emerged.
The industry saw an abrupt change in the early 21st century as the personal computer and personal audio devices became ubiquitous, access to the internet more widespread and with the invention of software that could extract sound files from CDs, compress them, and then allow users to share those files without limitations. The age of file-sharing had arrived. For many years, the record industry floundered, attempting in vain to block access to the sites and software that allowed millions of music fans to share recorded music with millions of others with impunity and without hindrance regardless of copyright laws.
However, the technology companies recognised that there was likely to be no way of blocking the endless peer-to-peer networks that allowed file sharing and they began, in earnest, to develop novel approaches to music dissemination that might engage the many millions of music fans that had turned away from CDs and were listening to downloads – streaming. Music streaming would become an advertising-led, subscription (freemium or premium) model that would give fans instantaneous access to almost any piece of recorded music that cared to access, on-demand.
There are many music fans who continue to listen to their CDs and there are many that persist with the copyright-busting P2P networks, torrents, and other file-sharing systems. There are even fans who favour the analogue world of vinyl. However, the market for music streaming has grown steadily and access to high-speed internet on mobile phones and other portable devices has led to a shift towards those services. Research in the International Journal of Electronic Business considers the continuous usage intention of subscribers to the music streaming services, such as Apple Music, Spotify, JOOX, and Google Play Music, in a developing nation.
The developing world obviously represents a vast and growing market for these and countless other music streaming services. Shih Yee Yeoh, Xavier J.P. Yuntavid, and Phaik Nie Chin of the Graduate School of Business, Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang, Malaysia, have surveyed users and discovered that, perhaps not surprisingly, ease of use and cost are the two main factors that influence user choice. The team points out that their findings suggest that app designers and service providers should focus on multifunctionality and the social aspects of their services to encourage existing users to engage more with the service, participate in the associated community, which will as a consequence boost the word-of-mouth spread of the service to new users.
Yeoh, S.Y., Yuntavid, X.J.P. and Chin, P.N. (2022) 'Examining the continuous usage intention and behaviours of music streaming subscribers', Int. J. Electronic Business, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp.184–203.
The move out of the classroom and into the realm of online teaching driven by the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the practices and wellbeing of teachers enormously. Work published in the International Journal of Work Organisation and Emotion, considers the problems that have arisen in the Indian higher educational system.
Sheelam Jain of the Vignana Jyothi Institute of Management in Bachupally Hyderabad, Telangana, India, explains the abrupt shift to virtual lessons and remote learning caused by the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the ensuing global pandemic had many disparate effects on wellbeing and performance. She has surveyed a sample of more than 200 teachers in Indian higher education institutes and found that good work-life integration, psychological wellbeing, and organisational support were the saving grace for educators thrust into these new, remote roles.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in one way or another. It has killed millions, left many more with long-term health problems, interrupted lives, careers, and education as well as affecting, to a significant degree, almost every aspect of society and the economy. The response of governments around the world to the identification of this emergent virus in late 2019 and its rapid spread through the early part of 2020 and to this day has been very different. Some governments, such as that of India, implemented stringent lockdown measures very early in the pandemic in an attempt to control the spread of the virus, others were not to tough and perhaps suffered the acute consequences of their response.
Jain points out that the working-from-home aspect of lockdown had some benefits, particularly, in reducing the rate of spread of the virus, but it has come at a price for many people in terms of family life, psychological wellbeing, and finances. She adds that it is important in such times for those in authority to help citizens, such as educators, forced into the new normal of remote learning, to maintain their psychological wellbeing and work-life balance. How this is to be done must now be a topic of public debate among all of those affected in order to address the ongoing problems of the COVID-19 pandemic and to build resilience into our response to the next emergent and potentially lethal pathogen that sweeps around the globe.
Jain, S. (2022) 'Wellbeing and work productivity of Indian educators during imposed online teaching in higher education institutions', Int. J. Work Organisation and Emotion, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.57–82.
The COVID-19 pandemic not only had tragic consequences for the health of humanity but had massive socioeconomic effects. Indeed, at the time of writing, we are still seeing record numbers of people infected with the coronavirus and there is much disruption to the daily lives of many people and the commercial world of supply and demand.
Work in the International Journal of Public Policy, has looked at the so-called "purchasing managers' index" (PMI) to see how this value might work as a predictor of the economic situation during a pandemic and whether it has relevance for decision making. Javier Cifuentes-Faura in the Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Murcia, in Murcia, Spain, explains how the pandemic led to the simultaneous destruction of both supply and demand as consumers and businesses were forced into lockdown, transport limited, working and learning from home enforced, and the demands of many regions were reduced to just the essentials.
The short-term data on how international trade was affected by COVID-19 cannot yet tell us much about whether we are now seeing a longer-lasting global downturn, although it may well be likely. Cifuentes-Faura has investigated the PMI and the European Union's gross domestic product (GDP). The aim is to determine whether there is a correlation between the two that can explain the past and present economic changes and perhaps helps us predict something about the future. The research also looks at the measures taken by public authorities and what if any impact these had on reducing the economic impact of the pandemic.
The COVID-19 will ultimately lead to a major economic crisis and a deep recession across many sectors, Cifuentes-Faura suggests, this will be especially true in the tourism and hospitality sectors. The monthly publication of the PMI offers a way to quickly determine whether policy changes are affecting the economy in a positive or negative way so that they can perhaps be adjusted before their impact on GDP becomes ingrained. First indications that we may have had all along irrespective of PMI and GDP predictions suggest that "A comprehensive package of emergency measures by individual countries is also needed to lessen the impact of this pandemic globally," Cifuentes-Faura concludes.
Cifuentes-Faura, J. (2021) 'The purchasing managers' index as a predictor of the economic situation during COVID-19 and its relevance for decision making', Int. J. Public Policy, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp.1-12.
Wireless sensor networks have many applications in environmental monitoring, safety and control monitoring of industrial processes, in healthcare, and in disaster management. To be effective the devices, the sensors, must be constantly and consistently accessible to the network. There are many problems that can arise in a large wireless network because of energy supply, connectivity, and other factors.
Writing in the International Journal of Ultra Wideband Communications and Systems, a team from India has turned to bio-inspired algorithms to demonstrated how such algorithms can be used in fault detection across a network. Bio-inspired algorithms map the properties and behaviour of a natural system to the solving of a problem at the computational level. Researchers have used ant colony behaviour, foraging bat sonar, beehive swarming, and many other biological systems to create useful tools for solving complex problems that do not succumb to conventional linear computation.
In the present work, the team of Beledha Santhosh Kumar and Polipalli Trinatha Rao of the Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering at the Institute of Aeronautical Engineering in Hyderabad, Telangana, have turned to algorithms inspired by the behaviour of glow-worms (bioluminescent insect larvae) that move and congregate based on the light levels of neighbouring larvae. The second algorithm is based on the courtship behaviour of the male satin bowerbird which constructs and optimises a display of materials it finds in its neighbourhood to attract a mate.
The glow-worm algorithm is programmed to home in on faulty nodes in the network looking for change that indicates a fault, no change is recognised as no fault but uses no energy to determine, a fix can be sent when a fault is detected. The bowerbird algorithm is encoded in such a way into the sensor network that it then routes the required information packets with a minimal of energy demands. The hybrid approach to wireless sensor networks based on these two algorithms working together – with glow-worm detecting and fixing faults and bowerbird sustaining the network and keeping energy costs down – work well, the team reports. Ironically, the hybrid system outperforms two other bio-inspired systems: the emperor penguin optimisation and flower pollination optimisation algorithms.
Kumar, B.S. and Rao, P.T. (2022) 'Cell zooming-based fault identification and optimal routing using glow worm-satin bowerbird optimisation', Int. J. Ultra Wideband Communications and Systems, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp.47–55.
The understanding and response to the impact of climate change on agriculture will have repercussions for many years to come in terms of food security and the ongoing climate crisis itself. It is important that we can assess and validate the studies taking place so that policymakers can be informed in a timely and useful manner. Within the European Union, for instance, there has been much effort put into assessing the impact of many studies. However, as is pointed out in the International Journal of Sustainable Agricultural Management and Informatics, impact assessment has always presented difficulties.
A research team from Greece presents a rapid literature review of studies into climate change and agricultural economics. Thomas Bournaris, Christina Moulogianni, and Ioannis Georgilas of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and George Vlontzos of the University of Thessaly, Volos, Greece, carried out a two-stage analysis. In the first stage, they classified a decade's worth of studies published from 2010 to 2020 using pertinent criteria. In the second stage, they analysed the methods used in those papers to assess the impact of climate change on agriculture.
Fundamentally, the team found that for this research period, researchers were mainly using mathematical modelling and scenario analysis as standalone methods or in combination with other methods. The use of lots of different mathematical models, the team suggests, was helpful in the strategic analysis of the effects of climate change on agricultural economics. Using mathematical modelling in combination with an understanding of multiple drivers allowed researchers to see details and trends in farming practices as they respond, or otherwise do not respond, to policy and climate change.
The team also showed that the density of studies did not change much during the period they examined, there were approximately 21 studies in each of the years. Authors represented some 66 nations across the globe although half of the authors were from the USA or the EU. A third finding revealed that the papers were published in journals covering the areas one would expect rather than there being lots of outliers in broader or inappropriate journals. Most of the work was in journals covering agricultural and biological sciences, environmental science, economics, econometrics and finance, and social sciences.
"The results of this literature review will provide useful information to the researchers that want to apply an impact assessment analysis for measuring impacts of climate change in agricultural economy," the team concludes.
Bournaris, T., Moulogianni, C., Vlontzos, G. and Georgilas, I. (2021) 'Methodologies used to assess the impacts of climate change in agricultural economics: a rapid review', Int. J. Sustainable Agricultural Management and Informatics, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp.253-269.
The distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attack may well be familiar to anyone who has spent time running online services, such as websites. It is a malicious attack on the servers running the system that simply bombards the computers with requests that overwhelm it and prevent legitimate users from accessing the resources.
The DDOS attack is used by malicious third parties for various reasons. The aim may well be to simply block any legitimate use and may be done to sabotage a company, organisation, or government in some way. The DDOS attack might also be used by third parties hoping to gain access to normally hidden information. The attack and the organisation's response to it, can often allow breaches of firewalls and other security measures allowing those third parties to steal information from the servers or even take control of the systems.
DDOS attacks can be carried out by mass coordinated activity of individuals running computers with that intention. They can also be carried out by a malicious third party with control of a botnet (a network of hijacked computers). New work in the International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations, is using deep learning to detect DDOS attacks and so allow service providers to ameliorate their effects.
Hanene Mennour and Sihem Mostefai of the University Abdelhamid Mehri in Constantine, Algeria, explain that DDOS are unremitting and given the current state of world affairs, there is an increasingly pressing need to find ways to detect and block these attacks. The researchers have built and tested a built a deep convolutional neural network (CNN), a stacked long short-term memory (S-LSTM) neural network which they explain is a distinct artificial recurrent neural network (RNN), and a third system that is a hybrid of the CNN and the LSTM systems.
The team tested against three benchmarking tools – CICIDS2017, CICDDoS2019, and BoT-IoT. They found, perhaps not surprisingly, that the scaleable hybrid tool was the most effective in detecting a DDOS attack than either of the separate modules. Moreover, comparison with other approaches shows that this novel tool has lower computational complexity and can also outperform earlier approaches in almost all metrics.
Mennour, H. and Mostefai, S. (2022) 'Deep learning-based distributed denial-of-service detection', Int. J. Networking and Virtual Organisations, Vol. 26, Nos. 1/2, pp.80–103.
Humanity continues to generate waste at unimaginable levels and very little the world over is recycled, it is simply dumped with vast quantities ending up in the wider environment and the oceans or it is burned producing unprecedented levels of atmospheric pollution.
A review of the global scenario with respect to hazardous household waste fits this picture, according to a paper in the International Journal of Environment and Waste Management. The conclusions of this review serve as a stark warning that we must do better with our waste management around the world.
Nisansala Abeysinghe Mudiyanselage and Sunil Herat of Griffith University (Nathan Campus) in Queensland, Australia, point out that rapid urbanisation and changes in lifestyles are to blame for the growing problem of hazardous household waste. They point out that although this particular classification of waste represents only a small proportion of the gross domestic waste, it is that qualification as "hazardous" that means it represents a more worrying problem in terms of environmental impact and the health risks to people and animals.
Limited awareness of the problems associated with hazardous household waste, a lack of infrastructure to deal with it, and an absence of well-defined legislation to reduce it and combat it are to blame for this growing crisis. The team explains that much of the hazardous waste is generated by everyday activities in the home and beyond, such as the use of self-care products (hairspray, nail polish, nail polish removers), home maintenance products (adhesives, detergents, cleaning agents, paints, thinners), pesticides, chemical fertilisers, mercury-containing lamps and thermometers, fluorescent lights, automotive maintenance products (oil, grease), medicine and electrical equipment. The risks and hazards associated with these products accumulate where there is no way to dispose of them safely. Indeed, much of the waste is beyond processing as it simply ends up in the drainage systems, on our gardens and land or in the atmosphere in use or after use. The remainder is dealt with in different ways in various parts of the world.
The developed world, on the other hand, makes some effort towards processing and recycling of components of the waste stream. However, there is much less capacity for such processing in the developing world. Improving awareness of the problems, better infrastructure, and new laws could eventually improve matters. We need to tackle this as a matter of urgency.
Mudiyanselage, N.A. and Herat, S. (2022) 'Management of household hazardous waste: a review on global scenario', Int. J. Environment and Waste Management, Vol. 29, No. 2, pp.230–240.
The shift away from the internal combustion engine to electric vehicles holds great promise for reducing noxious pollution in our towns and cities. It will also reduce the carbon footprint of transport if the electricity is generated from sustainable and renewable sources, such as wind and solar. The shift will also reduce our dependency on the limited resource that is oil. Research published in the International Journal of Energy Technology and Policy looks at the public perception of electric vehicles and environmental awareness.
Noelia Araújo-Vila and José Antonio Fraiz-Brea of the Business and Tourism Faculty at the University of Vigo in Ourense, Spain and Lucília Cardoso of the Instituto Politécnico de Leiria in Peniche, Portugal have surveyed 463 individuals to determine EV purchase intention and to see what pros and cons these people see with EVs when compared to conventional vehicles. Fundamentally, relatively high vehicle prices, limited range between charges and the scarcity of charging stations and specialised workshops are still deterring a lot of drivers from making the shift to an EV.
The researchers suggest that society itself needs to adapt urgently to replace the internal combustion engine with the electric motor. In order for the necessary changes to be made, the advantages to individual drivers and to the environment need to be made more apparent. There is a very pressing need to combat pollution and climate change and in some regions, legislation is forcing the internal combustion engine out of the market and off the roads. At the moment, the team writes, a mere 7 in every 1000 cars driven in Spain is an EV. Fewer than one in five drivers report an intention to switch to an EV with their next purchase.
Many countries and states are reluctant to accelerate the implementation of the necessary laws and so public awareness, opinion and thus purchase intention need to be driven in the right direction towards a sustainable future for personal transportation. Measures need to be put in place that reduce or even eliminate the roadblocks that are preventing from buying EVs. For instance, research must be done to find a better type of rechargeable battery to allow the vehicle range between charging to be extended considerably. The charging network must also be expanded and we must increase the number of specialist mechanics needed to maintain and repair EVs. The potential market is enormous but with too little awareness among the public, the industry and legislators may have to kickstart the process to help navigate the public in the right direction.
Araújo-Vila, N., Cardoso, L. and Fraiz-Brea, J.A. (2022) 'Electric vehicles purchase perceptions. Effect on environmental awareness', Int. J. Energy Technology and Policy, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp.32–56.
Can new media art in public spaces have a positive impact on people's lifestyle and wellbeing? Research from China published in the International Journal of Computer Applications in Technology tackles this question.
Zhigang Wang and Ye Wang of the Academy of Arts & Design at Tsinghua University in Haidian, Beijing, and Yu Sun of the College of Arts and Design at Beijing Forestry University also in Haidian, suggest that public art can have an impact on art communication and appreciation as well as having commercial benefits for business in the public spaces where the art is installed. The evolution of new media art, of course, adds new dimensions to the traditional conception of art as static and non-interactive. Engaging new media artworks have the advantages of giving the people enjoying the art novel ways to experience it and interact with it.
In some senses new media art offers a new form of mass communication, combining as it does experience design and display design. It brings together our cultural lives and the technological world and can be inspirational, enjoyable, and even informative. Moreover, it allows the public consciousness to evolve in the public spaces in which installations are placed in a way that conventional art in galleries and exhibition halls may not.
The team reports that there are many novel and diverse ways in which artistic culture, design, and technology are now being brought together in new media artworks in public spaces. "The ultimate significance is to enhance the cultural communication ability of commercial space, and promote people's cultural consumption level," the team writes. We can perceive new media art in commercial public spaces as an upgrade to those spaces in terms of cultural and artistic communication.
Indeed, the team adds, the development of commercial public spaces is critical to the evolution of cities and their citizens. New media art design fits precisely with the futuristic view we could have for the development of commercial public spaces that benefit those citizens and the commercial concerns that use them.
Wang, Z., Wang, Y. and Sun, Y. (2021) 'New media art design in commercial public space', Int. J. Computer Applications in Technology, Vol. 67, Nos. 2/3, pp.244–251.
There are two approaches to the management of a project. The traditional waterfall, or cascade, model involves creating a detailed plan for the sequences of steps that must be carried out to take the project from inception to manifestation. Such a linear approach can be compromised when problems arise that require changes that can have a knock-on effect further down the line.
An alternative approach to managing a project is the agile approach. A project is considered to be a collection of relatively small stages, known as cycles or iterations, that are interconnected rather than a complete process that runs from beginning to end in a linear manner. This more modular approach to project management allows changes to be made and problems to be addressed by adjusting the components of a small stage without necessarily disturbing the flow of the other stages and so, as is the name suggests is more adaptable. While agile project management initially emerged from the world of information technology it finds application in many disparate areas and itself now takes many different forms each suited to those areas where agile project management is needed.
Writing in the International Journal of Project Organisation and Management, a team from Poland has looked at a particularly popular form of agile project management – Scrum – originally devised by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber as a tool for managing complex software development. The team, Ewa Marchwicka, Paulina Tusz, and Jan Betta of the Wroclaw University of Science and Technology in Poland suggest that the Scrum approach is well suited to organizing a musical concert.
The Scrum website itself describes the approach as "a lightweight yet incredibly powerful set of values, principles, and practices." It relies on cross-functional teams that can deliver products and services in short cycles, which means it offers fast feedback, quicker innovation, continuous improvement, and rapid adaptation to change. The team hopes these benefits will be applicable to organising concerts under the auspices of The National Forum of Music in Poland. Indeed, their initial investigations and interviews, although not definitive at this point, do suggest that music institutions would benefit enormously from adopting the Scrum approach to managing their projects.
Marchwicka, E., Tusz, P. and Betta, J. (2022) 'Adopting scrum methodology in the project of organising a concert', Int. J. Project Organisation and Management, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp.1–19.
A new analysis of the prosecutions of refugees and asylum-seekers in the UK suggests that there are three main reasons why they do not fare will. Work published in the International Journal of Migration and Border Studies, suggests that there is only a 'patchwork' of protections to safeguard refugees and asylum-seekers from unwarranted prosecution. There is also a major problem in that state and legal institutions operate in policy silos and fail to communicate with each other. Finally, there is a significant indifference among legal institutions to the plight of desperate people and moreover, they are deeply hostile towards them.
John R. Campbell of the Department of Anthropology & Sociology at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies), University of London, UK, explains that the UK government has consistently prosecuted and convicted asylum-seekers. This he suggests is in contravention of the government's obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention. The underlying terms of the pertinent Article of the convention say that people 'coming directly' from a country of persecution cannot be punished by the receiving state on the basis of their entry or presence in that state as being deemed 'illegal' by the host government. Indeed, it says that 'as far as possible states should facilitate the assimilation and naturalization of refugees'. There is a caveat in that those who have gained nominally illegal entry to a country under these circumstances should present themselves to the authorities in a timely manner.
The UK is not the only country to flout the Convention, Campbell adds, but in so doing repeatedly, the UK has also then felt at liberty to adopt numerous measures and pass laws that are, he suggests, aimed explicitly at criminalising and demonising refugees and asylum-seekers. The legislation also sanctions 'carriers' – the airlines and shipping companies, for instance. The UK now enforces passport and visa obligations on refugees and asylum-seekers that allow prosecutions to take place in order to reduce the number entering the country. The penalties have been maintained over years and have been buttressed by additional restrictive laws.
Campbell suggests that the UK not only fails in the context of the 1951 Refugee Convention but its legal actions can be seen as an attempt to end the right of asylum. He writes that the British government needs to revise existing legislation so that refugees and asylum-seekers are given immunity from prosecution and it must rein in the tendency of the Home Office to undermine international law. In addition, it must reject the proposed Nationality and Borders Bill 2021, which criminalises asylum-seeking.
Campbell, J.R. (2022) 'Legal silos and indifference: the wrongful prosecution of refugees and asylum-seekers in the UK', Int. J. Migration and Border Studies, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp.35–50.
Arid regions of the world have always struggled to grow crops but climate change and drought coupled with stronger winds can lead to a greater rate of soil erosion exacerbating the problem. Work in the International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology, looks at how the problems facing horticulture might be addressed with the use of innovative technology.
Alevtina Danilova, Andrey Vinokurov, and Elena Isakova of the Altai Botanic Garden part of the Kazakh Academy of Sciences in Leninogorsk, and Naziya Suleimenova and Yerzhan Abildaev of Kazakhstan National Agricultural University in Almat, Kazakhstan, have focused on a group of fruit trees and other trees and shrubs grown in the arid South-East and East Kazakhstan. They have investigated the water-saving potential of an absorbent hydrogel polymer 'AQUASORB', which can improve the agrophysical properties of soil. Aquasorb is a polyacrylamide that can absorb 400 times its own weight in water. The soluble material has been used elsewhere to flocculate irrigated soil, which improves water penetration, soil aeration, and reduces soil erosion.
In their experiments, with test growing sites, the team found that the use of granules of this polymer at up to just 2 kilograms per cubic metre of soil, increases the total and productive moisture reserves in the soil. This in turn leads to a significant (11 per cent) increase in the holding capacity of the leaves of the trees and shrubs. Species tested included Thuja occidentalis (white cedar), Berberis iliensis (barberry), Crataegus oxyacantha (hawthorn), Padus virginiana (bird cherry), Ribes (currant), Malus (apple tree), Picea obovata (Siberian spruce), Betula pendula (silver birch), and Acer platanoides (Norway maple). This increase in holding capacity, the team explains, boosts their potential to cope with dry periods.
Danilova, A., Suleimenova, N., Vinokurov, A., Isakova, E. and Abildaev, Y. (2021) 'Development of horticulture in arid conditions of Kazakhstan with the use of innovative technology to hydrogelision 'AQUASORB' in the soil', Int. J. Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology, Vol. 17, Nos. 2/3/4, pp.225–237.
There are numerous methods of sperm acquisition in livestock rearing when artificial insemination of females is required. A team writing in the International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology, explains that "voluntary collection by positive mammalian encouragement" is commonly used with sheep. They point out that proper organization of herd reproduction is one of the key issues of sheep breeding and describe how ensuring a suitable microclimate in a particular location can improve lambing yields from gimmers (two-year-old ewes).
R.A. Omarov, K.M. Kuder, and D.R. Omar of the Research and Production Centre of Agricultural Engineering, in Almaty, J.M. Alikhanov Kazakh of the National Agrarian Research University, and B.I. Musabayev and T.E. Kenzhebayev of the Medeubekov Research Institute of Sheep Breeding of the Kazakh Research Institute of Animal Husbandry, explain how they have compared acceptable approaches that involve microclimate-managed static or mobile insemination pens and found that the operating costs of a mobile pen in the pasture can undercut the static pen approach by 20 to 25 per cent. Part of the benefit of using a mobile pen is reducing the number of sheep that require handling at the same time in the same place when a static pen approach is used. There are thus hygiene benefits with a mobile pen. Also, it is the only option for many farms that do not have a suitable site nor the resources to construct and use a static pen.
Natural insemination may well be favoured among livestock holders with small flocks or specialist breeders of rare breeds. However, for very large farms with huge flocks putting a tup (breeding ram) to the ewes has several disadvantages regardless of the enthusiasm of the tup. Artificial insemination allows the breeder to obtain sperm from a specific high-value breeding stock from a supplier. The sperm will be quality controlled. Artificial insemination also reduces the risk of spreading infectious diseases through a flock. It also allows the farmer to control the timing of insemination so that the birth of the lambs can be coordinated to fit favourable weather conditions and even the markets.
Omarov, R.A., Alikhanov, J.M., Musabayev, B.I., Kenzhebayev, T.E., Kuder, K.M. and Omar, D.R. (2021) 'Digitalisation effect on the microclimate and functional characteristics of the artificial insemination point for mobile sheep', Int. J. Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology, Vol. 17, Nos. 2/3/4, pp.287–300.
While vaccination and public education concerning the transmission of the coronavirus causing COVID-19 have been at the forefront of our response to the pandemic, there remains an urgent need for pharmaceutical interventions in cases where infection occurs and leads to severe morbidity with a significant risk of death. New work in the International Journal of Computational Biology and Drug Design has focused on three protein targets in the body that are thought to be critical to the propagation of the virus in the body following infection and lead to symptoms.
According to Srija Mukherjee and Santanu Paul of the Laboratory of Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Calcutta, India, angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 receptor (ACE-2) represents a promising target for small molecule pharmaceuticals. SARS-CoV2 enters human cells via the ACE-2 receptor located in the membrane of lungs, arteries, kidneys, and intestine. As such, a small molecule that selectively targets this protein could be used to reduce the interaction of the virus with those proteins and so impede its cycle of infection to replication.
The team has turned to a computer program that has a model of the protein target. Molecular structures for the drug candidates are then matched to the docking site in the protein model to determine how well they might fit the site and how well they bind to it. This kind of in silico screening of drug molecules allows the team to quickly determine which of ten candidates might be worth pursuing in experiments that would be carried out in the laboratory in vitro and then any that prove useful in those tests would be moved to an animal model for in vivo assessment.
The primary benefit of in silico tests being that any candidates that look very unlikely to dock well with the target protein can be discarded and time and resources not wasted on in vitro and in vivo experiments that would most likely reach a dead-end.
As such, the team has tested ten drug candidates against the target protein models in silico. These drugs are Hydralazine, Fostemsavir, Trandolapril, Triamterene, Isuprel, Albuterol, Benadryl, Ro 28-2653, Theophylline, and Osimertinib mesylate. They determined that a molecule known as Ro 28-2653 has the greatest promise in the treatment of COVID-19. This compound, which has the chemical name 5-biphenyl-4-yl-5-[4-(-nitro-phenyl)-piperazin-1-yl]-pyrimidine-2,4,6-trione, is already known as a drug molecule and has been tested as an inhibitor of a type of protein involved in the growth of blood vessels in cancerous tumours.
"Our study shows that Ro 28-2653 can be a potent inhibitor against COVID-19," the team writes. They point out that the drug is poorly soluble in water and so would need a carrier, such as the ring-shaped "starch" molecule cyclodextrin, to allow it to be taken by mouth. However, the drug has an important advantage in that it has a long half-life in the body once absorbed and so would hopefully remain active against the virus for a significant length of time. Indeed, because it targets a protein in the body, it should be active against any current or novel strain of the coronavirus.
The next step will be to take the in silico experiments to the in vitro level to see whether the drug works in the laboratory against the target protein.
Mukherjee, S. and Paul, S. (2021) 'In silico study identifies RO 28-2653 as a novel drug against SARS-CoV2 mutant strains', Int. J. Computational Biology and Drug Design, Vol. 14, No. 6, pp.457–480.
COVID-19 remains a significant challenge the world over. Research in the International Journal of Computational Biology and Drug Design, discusses how X-ray images and CT (computerised tomography) scans can reveal much about the effects of the disease on a patient's lungs. However, the use of convolutional neural networks (CNN) can now be used to improve detection of the disease.
The standard tests for COVID-19 with which the general public have become rather familiar during the last two years – the so-called lateral flow antigen tests (LFT) and reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests – have many several pros and cons. The LFT system was quickly developed into a portable test, not dissimilar to a pregnancy test kit.
LFTs have been made widely available to the public in many parts of the world and can be carried out at home quickly and easily. They allow anyone to determine whether or not they are infectious regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. While the LFTs are simple to use they can be prone to false negatives depending on how well the preparation is carried out and very rarely they can give a false positive. The PCR tests, on the other hand, are always carried out in a laboratory by trained professionals. PCR is more reliable than the LFT although can also susceptible to problems when an untrained individual carries out sample acquisition. However, PCR tests are known to give a fair proportion of false positives, which are not commonly seen with LFTs.
Either way, it is critical for healthcare professionals, treating patients with suspect COVID-19, to have a definitive diagnosis of the disease rather than relying on tests that have fairly wide error margins. X-ray images and CT scans could offer such a definitive diagnosis in the clinical context identifying the presence of patchy infiltrates or opacities that are associated with pneumonia caused by the virus. An automated approach to analysing such images could speed up the diagnostic process and preclude false positives and negatives with these diagnostics.
Kewal Mehta, Hritik Patel, Vraj Patel, and Ankit K. Sharma of the Instrumentation and Control Engineering Department at Nirma University in Gujarat, India, implemented and compared several CNN architectures, including VGG16, ResNet-50, Inception-v3, DenseNet 201, Xception, and InceptionResnet-v2 to determine which if any can give a solid diagnosis. The DenseNet 201 CNN architecture proved to be the most effective at identifying COVID-19 and excluding other conditions which may present with similar symptoms, including tuberculosis, pneumonia, and lung cancer.
Mehta, K., Patel, H., Patel, V. and Sharma, A.K. (2021) 'Detection of COVID-19 virus using deep learning', Int. J. Computational Biology and Drug Design, Vol. 14, No. 6, pp.429–446.
"Big data" and "artificial intelligence" are two perhaps two of the most frequently used phrases in the search for technological solutions to human problems. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tools and techniques have been applied widely and bring with them pros and cons. A literature review in the International Journal of Applied Decision Sciences has looked at exactly what role smart technologies can play in medicine faced with a global epidemic disaster.
The primary structured literature review by Rosa Lombardi of Sapienza University of Rome, Raffaele Trequattrini and Benedetta Cuozzo of the University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, and Alberto Manzari of the University of Bari Aldo Moro, Italy, stretch their review of smart technologies and epidemics back through two decades, well before the current pandemic.
"The role of smart technologies and particularly big data and artificial intelligence is useful in tracking, preventing and managing the emergency by organisations, institutions and policymakers," the team writes. However, they add that the decision-making processes taken out of the hands of healthcare workers may well come at a price. The automation of medical decisions might remove the doctor's primary role and without the appropriate checks and balances could lead to misdiagnosis of patients and inappropriate prescribing.
There is thus a pressing need, as we come to rely more and more on big data and artificial intelligence, to put in place safeguards for public health, economical systems, and societal wealth. The basic purpose of these safeguards would be to protect patients, they would ensure medical integrity, privacy, and security, but also extend to protect healthcare workers themselves and to preclude the errant application of results from smart technologies that would be detrimental. Also, the safeguards would help to ensure that money and resources are not wasted on smart technologies when human intervention would be the most appropriate option at any decision point in the healthcare process.
Lombardi, R., Trequattrini, R., Cuozzo, B. and Manzari, A. (2022) 'Big data, artificial intelligence and epidemic disasters. A primary structured literature review', Int. J. Applied Decision Sciences, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp.156–180.
A new approach to recycling textiles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is discussed in the International Journal of Technology Management and demonstrates environmental benefits in terms of life cycle assessment.
Lynn Luedemann, Andreas Felber, and Marcus Golder of the Institute of Materials Handling, Conveying and Plastics Engineering at Chemnitz University of Technology in Chemnitz, Germany, point out that recycling is an important part of efforts to reduce our carbon footprint as well as avoiding pollution. Indeed, there is a rather pressing need to ensure that materials, such as plastics, manufactured from petrochemicals are not simply incinerated, dumped, sent to landfill at end of life nor ended up fragmented and destined for the oceans. There are multiple pollution issues such as climate change and microplastic waste in our ecosystems to consider.
PET is mainly used in the manufacture of textile fibres, which represents almost two-thirds of use whereas bottles account for just under a third of applications of this plastic. While, different recycling processes exist for PET bottles and other containers, there is no straightforward method for recycling PET fibres.
The Chemnitz team has developed an approach to recycling PET fibres from textiles that can offer a 60 percent improvement on environmental impact of these materials at end of life. Of course, the recycling process must offset the energy, materials, and other resource costs to represent a sustainable approach to recycling and the team has now demonstrated proof of principle in this regard.
Given that half of all the world's clothing is made from polyester, amounting to more than 100 million tons every year, this could represent a significant step towards reducing the carbon footprint and waste stream. It will also have an impact on reducing our dependency on limited supplies of petrochemical feedstock. Indeed, the team's calculations show that the biggest environmental and sustainability impact of their project will be in the savings on raw materials offered by the recycling process.
However, the team offers a word of caution as concerns remain if we continue in our seemingly endless dependency on synthetic fibres. Recycled synthetic fibres might offer considerable savings on resources but still have a greater environmental impact than natural fibres obtained from hemp, wool, and cotton. There are asymmetries to in how we evaluate products when comparing textiles, their uses, the waste they generate, and their recycling. Recycling is a critical part of moving towards a sustainable future, but it is just one part of a much bigger picture and we are yet to paint that picture clearly.
Luedemann, L., Felber, A. and Golder, M. (2022) 'Development of a recycling process for textiles made from PET, and proof of its environmental preference with life cycle assessment', Int. J. Technology Management, Vol. 88, Nos. 2/3/4, pp.134–154.
Mobile learning became a mainstay of education during the lockdowns and self-isolation periods of the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe. There were many problems facing teachers and students alike during these times, but there were also some advantages of this enforced distance learning. There have been numerous studies that have looked at the pros and cons as well as predicting the long-term effects on education. One area that has not been addressed wholly is vocational education where the hands-on requirements of such courses are perhaps not served well by remote, mobile teaching and learning methods.
Work in the International Journal of Mobile Communications, describes the results of a collaboration between researchers in China and the USA looking at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on vocational learning in higher education. Zheng Li and A.Y.M. Atiquil Islam of East China Normal University in Shanghai, China and Jonathan Michael Spector of the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas, USA, have looked at the acceptance and use of technology in this context. They surveyed 900 students on vocational higher education courses in China and analysed their responses to detect patterns and trends.
Fundamentally, the research showed that self-efficacy is important in mobile learning as are acceptance and effective use of the technology itself. Moreover, self-efficacy directly correlated with the effort and performance expectancies, social influence, and facilitating condition among the students.
The team reports that their study offers suggestions for government, higher vocational colleges and learning platform development enterprises. These suggestions are aimed at enhancing student acceptance of mobile learning. In particular, the team suggests that developers should focus on content quality in their mobile learning platforms, while government and schools should focus on the optimization of the mobile learning environment in terms of both hardware and promotion of this approach to learning.
Li, Z., Islam, A.Y.M.A. and Spector, J.M. (2022) 'Unpacking mobile learning in higher vocational education during the COVID-19 pandemic', Int. J. Mobile Communications, Vol. 20, No. 2, pp.129–149.
Driving at night brings its own risks when compared to daylight driving, not least when heading into a blind bend on an unlit road. Moreover, conventional headlights always face forward and so as one steers into such a bend there is a blind spot to the left or right until one has travelled through it. This is the underlying cause of many road traffic accidents, particularly those that involve obstacles in one's lane that remain out of sight until it is too late for the driver to avoid them safely.
Research in the International Journal of Vehicle Safety, discusses a new approach to vehicle headlights that will allow them to turn with the steering into a bend in the road and so illuminate the path of travel directly rather than its periphery.
Mitchell Dsouza, Sunita Ugale, and Dinesh Chandwadkar of the K.K. Wagh Institute of Engineering Education and Research in Nashik, India, point out that adaptive headlight systems have been tested before. However, they have devised an electronic model of a new system that might be used for the development of a viable approach to improve road safety.
Throughout the history of motor vehicles, safety features have been devised and added ad hoc – from bumpers, crumple zones, and airbags to seatbelts, antilocking brakes, and shatterproof windscreens. But, headlights have remained stationary in many ways.
Despite the evolution of the lamps used in headlights and the reflector and focusing systems, little has been done to develop this critical component for the night driver. That said, some higher-end vehicles have side-directed cornering lights which are illuminated when the car is turning. Various patents have considered moving the focusing reflector to follow the turning curve of a vehicle as it travels around a bend in the road.
Dsouza, M., Ugale, S. and Chandwadkar, D. (2021) 'Adaptive headlight system', Int. J. Vehicle Safety, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.109–117.
Blockchain technology is perhaps best known for its role in digital, or crypto, currencies. However, it is simply an immutable, electronic ledger and so can have other applications such as the writing and signing of smart contracts. New work in the International Journal of Critical Computer-Based Systems, shows how the blockchain might also be used as a secure identity system. Such a system coupled with the aforementioned smart contract could then be used in personal and business negotiations to ensure the privacy and validity of interested parties' identities.
Mohith C. Shekar and H.L. Gururaj of the Department of CS&E at Vidyavardhaka College of Engineering in Mysuru, India, and Francesco Flammini of the Department of Innovative Technologies at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland in Lugano, Switzerland, explain that, as it stands, the sharing of a trusted identity is complicated and prone to privacy and security breaches. There is no universal method for ensuring a person is who they say they are in a digital or online transaction and no universal way to protect the personal and private data that might be shared in such a transaction from malicious third parties.
Blockchain technology, the researchers explain, offers a credible and tamper-free way to share an identity between two legitimate parties. Moreover, by coupling this blockchain identity with a smart contract, it should also be possible to ensure that only the components of the person's identity they wish to share are made available when the negotiating party inspects their blockchain identity. A public (encryption) key allows the user to share their identity but protects it from intruders. A blockchain identity might find immediate applications in banking, e-commerce, government and elections, employment and even in gaming, online dating, social media, and other common activities.
There are estimates that in some parts of the world identity theft as many as four in ten people have been victims of identity theft. The widespread adoption and acceptance of blockchain ID could help reduce the number of future victims. Blockchain ID could reduce the risk of information leaks, preclude theft of electronic records, allow identity information to be stored securely on digital devices such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, and wearable devices. It would also reduce the sharing of excessive or unnecessary information with organizations. Ultimately, we, as users, take back control of our identities in the digital world.
Shekar, M.C., Gururaj, H.L. and Flammini, F. (2022) 'Securing personal identity using blockchain', Int. J. Critical Computer-Based Systems, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp.248–267.
The days of "chalk and talk" lectures are not yet ancient history, but teaching has adopted new paradigms in recent years. One of these is the use of cinematic output to teach principles in seemingly unrelated subjects. A paper in the International Journal of Pluralism and Economics Education focuses on a small group of films and a documentary to demonstrate how a teacher might extract pertinent concepts from the plot of such films, or movies, to expose their students to those concepts in an entertaining and informative manner.
Daniel Diaz Vidal and Robert Beekman of the John H. Sykes College of Business at the University of Tampa, Florida, USA, suggest education in economics is already using innovative and attractive approaches to teaching. Given the world of multimedia output, always-on communication devices, and social media, it is almost obligatory that teaching involve those aspects of the modern world. The wily teacher can use them intelligently and subtly to educate in memorable ways to the benefit of their students.
The team presents several movies and a documentary and offers economic theories and concepts that can be related to specific clips within those movies. The team has chosen the following as their exemplars: Wall-E (2008), The Last Samurai (2003), Boyz 'n the Hood (1991), and American Gangster (2008). They also examine the first episode of the television series Altered Carbon (2019).
"The economics classroom has changed, and we live in a time in which an economics class session can be engaging, interactive and fun for both students and faculty," the team writes, "We enjoy a vast supply of technology and educational resources at our disposal to be tapped by an instructor's creativity and passion." In this context, they offer the titles as useful examples of how teaching might evolve given the ease of access to movie and TV streaming and related services. The handful of examples they give are merely suggestions, there are many other movies and television programmes that offer lessons to be learned in economics and across other disciplines.
Vidal, D.D. and Beekman, R. (2021) 'Using cinematic gangsters, samurais and robots to teach economics through film', Int. J. Pluralism and Economics Education, Vol. 12, Nos. 3/4, pp.282–307.
Music recommendation systems commonly offer users songs that others have enjoyed in the genres that the user requests. This can lead to popular songs becoming more popular. However, it neglects the less well-known songs, the long-tail songs that users may well enjoy just as much but have less chance of hearing because of the way the recommendation algorithms work.
New work in the International Journal of Computational Systems Engineering, offers an approach to a music recommendation system that neglects the popular in favour of the long-tail and so could open users to new music. M. Sunitha and T. Adilakshmi Vasavi of the College of Engineering in Hyderabad, India, have developed a multi-stage graph-based method and a K-nearest neighbours (KNN)-based method to identify long-tail songs and feed these new works to the system's users.
Music recommendation systems have been developed to allow listeners to be offered content from huge digital libraries that might suit their tastes and preferences without any human intervention. Simpler systems are based on the prior classification of songs by artist, genre, and style and simply present seemingly related music to the listener. Other, more sophisticated systems, have subtler classifications and respond to the likes and dislikes of other users as well as the present user to find new material that the user might like; collaborative filtering. There are other mechanisms too and almost all of them will suffer from bias that might preclude the introduction of a little-known song to the user.
A recommendation system that can find music in the long-tail that a listener seeking novelty may not otherwise encounter would be a boon to those users bored with the same old popular artists and songs that can be heard endlessly across radio, television, cinema, and online. The long-tail approach, in some ways, mimics the discovery process of listening to an esoteric DJ on an obscure radio station and hearing one's new, earworm or finding one's new, favourite artist. The advantage is that one does not have to seek out that esoteric and obscure DJ nor be limited by the length of their show, there will be almost unlimited new, long-tail songs and artists to hear.
Sunitha, M. and Adilakshmi, T. (2021) 'Addressing long tail problem in music recommendation systems', Int. J. Computational Systems Engineering, Vol. 6, No. 5, pp.246–254.
Humorous content underpins much of the material that goes "viral" online, whether across social media, on websites, or even in text messages. Despite the important part it plays in many people's lives there is scant research that has focused on humour in social media. New work in the International Journal of Information Technology and Management looks to remedy that situation.
Suzanne Elayan, Martin Sykora, Thomas W. Jackson, and Ejovwoke Onojeharho of the Centre for Information Management at Loughborough University, UK, suggest that understanding humourous content and the dynamics it follows on social media could help improve applications that carry out sentiment analysis of online content. The team has focused on the heterogeneous nature of humour on the well-known and popular microblogging platform, Twitter. Specifically, whereas the earlier work that does exist concentrates on English language humour, the present study investigates Arabic content. In this context, the team suggests that "Automated humour detection in its own right has potential in understanding public reactions and should be explored in future studies."
While there is growing evidence from the animal kingdom that other species might understand and react to comical situations, the notion of humour, seems at its deepest levels to be a human trait with many social, psychological, and biological benefits. It is a trait that has provided entertainment, social coherence, and release to humanity for thousands of years. We can consider jokes, anecdotes, wordplay and puns, irony, and schadenfreude/sarcasm/mockery to be the basic categories of humour. In the era of social media, we now have at our fingertips a way to share a joke with millions, if not billions of people almost instantaneously.
Of course, everyone's sense of humour differs and there are some people who may find a particular piece of humour to be side-splittingly hilarious while another might perceive the same joke as unfunny, or worse, highly offensive and upsetting. It is the subjective nature and the many unknown factors surrounding humour and its effects that have perhaps meant that little solid research has been undertaken that gives us solid results about the topic. The team's review of the literature nevertheless points to a way to develop tools that might be able to extract humourous sentiment from given content in an automated manner that would be useful to researchers in sociology and psychology as well as more broadly the study of social media itself.
"It is hoped that this paper will aid in establishing further research activities in this exciting and interesting field, helping to lead this new stream of research," the team concludes.
Elayan, S., Sykora, M., Jackson, T.W. and Onojeharho, E. (2022) '"Are you having a laugh?": detecting humorous expressions on social media: an exploration of theory, current approaches and future work', Int. J. Information Technology and Management, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp.115–137
Blockchain is a decentralised ledger technology that secures the integrity of transactions through digital signatures and will be familiar to anyone who has investigated digital or "crypto" currencies. The technology has many more putative applications than crypto currencies, however, and has been discussed in the context of secure, digital voting and governance systems and corporate contracts. As with any technology, there are ways it might be abused for nefarious purposes such as the spreading and implementation of malware.
Commonly, networks of interconnected computers, botnets, surreptitiously recruit thousands of computers often through phishing and malware attacks for the benefit of a central entity, the bot commander. The commander might then use the botnet to carry out distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) on other systems with malicious intent. A botnet might also be used to send spam, host criminal websites, and perform other activities, such as spreading yet more malware and implementing phishing attacks. The key point, however, is that security experts can often identify botnet activity through the internet addresses of the central command machine or simply the activity of the bots within the network.
A new study in the International Journal of Information and Computer Security, shows how blockchain technology and smart contracts might be exploited to create a distributed network of computers. Such a network, lacking a central server, could be used to build a botnet, a system for attacking and hacking other online resources for criminal gain or other malicious purposes.
The proof of principle offered by Omar Alibrahim of Kuwait University in Safat, Kuwait and Majid Malaika of omProtect LLC in Washington DC, USA, should offer fair warning to those running potentially vulnerable computer systems to be on the alert from a new type of attack from bot contracts, "botracts". They point out that commands added into a blockchain-based smart contract cannot be removed nor modified making a botract highly resilient to any attempt to disarm it by security experts.
The very nature of blockchain technology, being self-sustaining, distributed, and immutable is what makes it vulnerable to this newly demonstrated exploit. It is the design issues of the underlying technology for deploying smart contracts – implicit end-user trust, lack of code scrutiny, and absence of governance – that are its advantages in legitimate use that might now be exploited for criminal and malicious purposes with unqualified anonymity.
In the short-term, the blockchain community must quickly develop tactical defences against botracts, now that they have been described, but without resorting to expensive operations. In the long-term, the community needs to undertake a fundamental rethink and redesign of the blockchain with security in mind.
Alibrahim, O. and Malaika, M. (2022) 'Botract: abusing smart contracts and blockchain for botnet command and control', Int. J. Information and Computer Security, Vol. 17, Nos. 1/2, pp.147–163.
With the growth of 24-hour connectivity, always-on news, and social media we have access to more instantaneous information than at any time in history. Unfortunately, with the news comes "fake news". We must rage a constant battle against the disinformation, misinformation, propaganda, and lies with which we are faced each day in our timelines. New research published in the International Journal of Multimedia Intelligence and Security, addresses one aspect of this problem – the manipulated image.
Xichen Zhang, Sajjad Dadkhah, Samaneh Mahdavifar, Rongxing Lu, and Ali A. Ghorbani of the Faculty of Computer Science, Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity at the University of New Brunswick, in Fredericton, Canada, have developed a framework that uses entity matching to analyse a suspect image and determine whether it can be verified as authentic.
The team suggests that manipulated images represent fertile ground for sowing fake news and as such must be weeded out if we are to fact check sources and validate the news that reaches us from so many disparate media. It is well known that social media users share and engage more with visual content. Moreover, it is certainly true that a picture can paint a thousand words and as such the fake news that begins with a manipulated or inappropriate image can affect our perception summarily in ways that textual content might not.
Conventionally, fact-checkers can often determine the veracity of a news item by validating the creator, the source, and evaluating the content and stance. However, a fake image associated with even the most effectively camouflaged fake news would be immediately obvious to an expert. However, there are so many images to fact check that an automated algorithmic approach has to be the way forward at least in the initial validation steps.
The new framework developed by the UNB team can retrieve valuable information and knowledge related to an image. Moreover, their statistical analysis shows the framework can offer 86 per cent accuracy. This number might well be improved significantly, but offers a solid starting point from which fake images might be weeded out. Moreover, coupled with tools that allow the textual content to be analysed in parallel, it might be possible to achieve much greater accuracy in classifying any given item and its associated images very quickly.
"Our framework is practical and effective in many different application scenarios, such as image information retrieval, image caption generation, image geo-location analysis, image tagging, stance detection between image and text content, and online image fact-checking," the team writes.
Zhang, X., Dadkhah, S., Mahdavifar, S., Lu, R. and Ghorbani, A.A. (2022) 'An entity matching-based image topic verification framework for online fact-checking', Int. J. Multimedia Intelligence and Security, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp.65–85.
The seeds of the wild castor oil plant, Ricinus communis, can be converted into biodiesel according to a new study in the International Journal of Oil, Gas and Coal Technology. The Mexican research team shows how the requisite transesterification reaction of oil from the seeds using methanol in the presence of sodium hydroxide as a catalyst can produce a fuel product that meets the standards set out by the American Society for Testing and Materials and the European Organization Standardization. A ratio of oil to methanol of 1 to 9 is the most efficient.
The team explains how in the search for sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels, techniques for biodiesel production using a transesterification reaction of a biological product have been used for many years. The process involves transforming esters in the plant-derived oil into another fuel-type ester and glycerol as a byproduct. The different densities of ester and glycerol means they can be readily separated by gravity and the glycerol removed. The alcohol reagent can then be removed from this biodiesel by distillation and recycled for use in the next batch.
Manuel Flota-Bañuelos and Liliana San-Pedro of the Autonomous University of Yucatan, and Carlos A. Victoria-Graniel of the National Technological Institute of Mexico (Tizimín Campus), Yucatán, Mexico, point out that for the greatest benefit, biodiesel should be derived from sources that are abundant, renewable, and local to the production plant. "The different feedstocks used in biodiesel production vary by location, either by their weather or by their availability, the most common are the oils and fats that are most abundant in each region," the team explains.
The team adds that the most common raw materials are oils and fats of natural origin as they are rich in a mixture of lipids including glycerides (acylglycerols), formed by esters between fatty acids and glycerol. Commonly sunflower oil and soybean oil are the most well-known biodiesel sources. However, oils from other seeds, and even fish oils, are used increasingly. For greater environmental benefit, it might be best to use inedible seeds that can grow on poor-quality soil, so that biodiesel production does not compete with the cultivation of food crops.
Castor oil plants have been grown for many years to give us oil for lamps and lubricants. The oils are even used as a chemical feedstock for the production of polymers, surfactants, and other substances. As such, much is already known about the cultivation and conversion of castor oil. The team suggests, based on their reaction study that wild castor oil plants could represent an important part of our conversion to biodiesel without compromising food crop production.
Flota-Bañuelos, M., Victoria-Graniel, C.A., San-Pedro, L., Hernández-Núñez, E., Díaz-Ballote, L., Paniagua-Solar, L.A., Victoria-Pérez, C.A. and Téllez-Méndez, N. (2022) 'Obtaining biodiesel from seeds of Ricinus communis: methodological proposal', Int. J. Oil, Gas and Coal Technology, Vol. 29, No. 4, pp.408–425.
The drive towards electric vehicles (EVs) is moving apace. The pressure is mainly being pushed by the need to remove polluting vehicles from our towns and cities and to curb our carbon emissions by switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. As more and more drivers switch to EV, there is a pressing need to ensure that the rechargeable batteries on which they rely are running under optimal and safe conditions. Research in the International Journal of Energy Technology and Policy considers the design and implementation of a new type of battery-management system for the lithium-ion batteries commonly used in EVs.
Jishna Ramakrishnan, Aji Joy, and Sithara Jeyaraj of the Electronics and Communication Engineering Department at Mar Athanasius College of Engineering in Kothamangalam, Kerala, India, explain that lithium-ion batteries are currently the most advanced option for powering EVs. Lithium-ion batteries have several advantages over lead-acid and nickel-metal hydride batteries. Lithium is the lowest density metal and thus has considerable potential for greater energy capacity by weight. Lithium-ion batteries also require little maintenance when compared to some alternatives.
However, catastrophic failure can occur with this kind of battery if they are not used within the safety parameters associated with charging and discharging, operating temperature and other such factors. And, even if they do not fail catastrophically lifespan can be limited by over-charging or complete depletion.
The team has developed a system that can monitor and take into account the various parameters to ensure optimal and safe use of EV lithium-ion batteries. "The proposed system performs measurement of cell voltage, current, temperature, state of charge, state of health, remaining useful life determination, monitoring and controlling the charge and discharge characteristics and cell balancing," the team writes.
Ramakrishnan, J., Joy, A. and Jeyaraj, S. (2021) 'Design and implementation of a battery management system for lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles', Int. J. Energy Technology and Policy, Vol. 17, No. 6, pp.529–555.
The visual and tactile examination of plant leaves is a standard method for identifying disease in crops and horticultural products. However, such an approach can be highly subjective and is dependent on the skills of the examiners. Writing in the International Journal of Computational Vision and Robotics, a team from Egypt describes a new approach to plant leaf disease detection using deep learning on a mobile device. The team's tests against a standard database of diseased leaf images showed their system to be capable of up to 98 percent diagnostic accuracy. The process is rapid and showcases the sophisticated computational power available in modern mobile phones for this kind of intensive task.
Shaheera A. Rashwan and Marwa K. Elteir of the Informatics Research Institute at the City of Scientific Research and Technological Applications in Alexandria, suggest that for busy farmers in remote regions with no immediate access to plant disease experts, a mobile application that can help them spot disease and so treat the crops in a timely manner could be vital to their ongoing agricultural viability.
The team's approach exploits the recent evolution of computational systems and especially graphical processing units (GPUs) that allow machine learning operations to be carried out efficiently in ways that previous generations of devices simply could not match for speed. Such operations facilitate the running of tools such as convolutional neural networks, which mimic certain characteristics of brain function, and allow image recognition and related tasks to be carried out quickly. The team thus embedded image recognition of the characteristics of disease in leaves for the present research.
Despite the great speed and accuracy of disease diagnostics that the team has shown, there is still room for improvement. They highlight an issue with shadows on images and confusing backgrounds when a user takes a photo of a suspect leaf. They hope to be able to develop a pre-processing step that will reduce any problems and the inaccuracies that might arise if the acquired leaf image is not as perfect as it might be for image recognition. Fundamentally, automated light level adjustment in the image would preclude issues arising because of shadows, while a step that isolates the leaf from its background in the image and effectively removes said background would ease the whole process still further and hopefully nudge the accuracy upwards.
Rashwan, S.A. and Elteir, M.K. (2022) 'Plant leaf disease detection using deep learning on mobile devices', Int. J. Computational Vision and Robotics, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.156–176.
Digital technology and innovation is reshaping our world. It affects how we live, work, learn, and socialise. Everyone with access to a smartphone or computer has near-instantaneous access to almost unlimited information and every topic imaginable. They have the potential to connect with friends and family across the globe, and can even address politicians, organisations, celebrities, and others at the tap of a screen or the click of a mouse.
Within this brave new world, creativity is critical, especially when it is collaborative. Writing in the International Journal of Business and Systems Research, a team from Italy discusses how the co-evolution of human society, technology and creativity are all intertwined. The researchers, Carmen Bruno and Maria Rita Canina of the Department of Design at the Politecnico di Milano, in Milan, present Creativity 4.0 a new framework that can support the different steps of the design process as well as identify the necessary conditions that allow creativity to bloom in the digital age.
The research alludes to the "emerging ubiquitous and invisible technology", which we are seeing in more and more areas of life such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, and robotics. These are all transforming what skills individuals need to live and work in the so-called digital economy. Indeed, the team writes, it is more than that "what makes this digital transition different, is the combination of disruptive transformative digital technologies, tools, processes and most importantly people culture, skills, and mindset."
The World Economic Forum predicted that the new collaborations between humans, machines, and algorithms in the work environment will create countless new roles, perhaps even allowing humanity to shed undesirable routine work.
"Digital technology is, therefore, a critical piece of the digital transition as well as the development of a creative and proactive approach for anticipating the foreseeable opportunities as well as the threats offered by the technological evolution, guiding the adoption and application of such disruptive technologies," Bruno and Canina write.
Bruno, C. and Canina, M.R. (2022) 'The Creativity 4.0 framework: outlining the influences on creativity in the digital era', Int. J. Business and Systems Research, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp.144–162.
Opportunistic networks are ad hoc networks that allow connectivity between users where conventional network infrastructure may not be present, allowing people to work together over the OppNet and share data. Writing in the International Journal of Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing, a team from France and Saudi Arabia has investigated how OppNets might be used successfully in collaborative editing.
Noha Alsulami and Asma Cherif of the King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Abdessamad Imine of Lorraine University, Campus Scientifique in Nancy, France, point out that much of the OppNet research is focused on message routing and data dissemination. Moreover, the files, photos, and videos that are being discussed in that research tend to be immutable packets of data for reading and viewing.
Files that are to be shared for subsequent editorial or other manipulative work represent an entirely different set of problems to be addressed. Each user receives a replica on which to carry out their tasks, but the final output must then bring together all of the changes in a single file at the end of the job. This file must be consistent, contain all necessary changes, and also ensure that there are no conflicts in work done by different users.
Fundamentally, there needs to be a way to share a file that requires changes and to allow numerous users to make the necessary changes and somehow for those to converge on a single, finalised digital entity. Data convergence of the various replicas is key. The team has tested various OppNet systems, including PRoPHET and Epidemic and found that the former outperforms the latter in achieving the requisite convergence of file replicas.
There remain some issues yet to be addressed relating to the potential for data loss and data convergence delay. The team is now working on those problems as well as investigating how they might enforce consistency and increase the awareness within each OppNet node of convergence based on the operations stacked in the OppNet's routing buffer.
Alsulami, N., Cherif, A. and Imine, A. (2022) 'Collaborative editing over opportunistic networks', Int. J. Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing, Vol. 39, No. 3, pp.141–156.
Can a computer be used to analyse the mood and genre of different pieces of music and so offer an insight into how influential a piece might be, might it even be used to write the next mournful classical movement, angst-ridden emo rock song, or bouncy, hooky, catchy one-hit wonder?
Research International Journal of Arts and Technology from a team in China demonstrates how a directed weighted complex network and statistical methods can be used to carry out an evaluational analysis. Xinyan Ma, Xinyu Zhou, and Tingting Mo of the School of Mathematics and Information Science at Guangxi University in Nanning have used their knowledge of graph theory and cluster analysis in their work. Through this, they can observe trends of musical development among artists and genres.
One might suggest that given the perhaps entirely subjective and emotional responses we have to music that a mathematical analysis would not be possible. But, the underlying forms and formalities of music, its structures and styles, are in many ways mathematical and can be teased apart to reveal insights that perhaps go beyond our emotional response. Moreover, the tools of machine learning and artificial intelligence might even be taught to extend this kind of analysis to allow us to extract or even recreate particular musical notions from music. An objective means of music analysis could also be useful in studying how specific pieces of music and genres affect culture over time.
The network models generated by the team offer a visual way to look at music in terms of its various characteristics and how these correlated historically with popularity and the place of that music within the cultural environment. Ultimately, the team writes, "this project can help music lovers to further understand different types of music." But, the findings offer much more than that, pointing to a deeper appreciation of different musical genres. The work might also be useful in priming music recommendation tools and so open up listeners to the experience of artists and genres they may not have heard before but find that they enjoy listening to.
Ma, X., Zhou, X. and Mo, T. (2021) 'Evaluation analysis of music based on directed weighted complex network and statistics', Int. J. Arts and Technology, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp.315–335.
There is much work to be done to simplify the use of big data in healthcare for the ultimate benefit of patients, but researchers are making huge progress and addressing privacy and other concerns. Writing in the International Journal of Cloud Computing, a team from India suggests that the knowledge and insights that emerge from our use of big data in medical research, diagnostics, and dispensing will save lives as well as hopefully reducing the costs associated with healthcare provision.
R. Vijay Anand and Iyapparaja Meenakshisundaram of the School of Information Technology and Engineering at Vellore Institute of Technology in Vellore, R. Jothikumar of the Department of CSE at Shadan College of Engineering and Technology in Peerancheru, Hyderabad, and P. Krishna Chaitanya of the Ramachandra College of Engineering in Eluru, Andhra Pradesh discuss the issues surrounding healthcare big data in detail.
The researchers suggest that the statistical tools and analyses that are allowing us to handle big data ever more efficiently and effectively is, in many places, already feeding into the clinical environment. They add that big data, of course, is useful even earlier in the healthcare process, improving trials and research itself. They point out that on the other side of the ecosystem, it might even be used to reduce the incidence of healthcare insurance fraud and other related problems.
The team has reviewed many of the tools, such as machine learning tools, available to big data scientists in the context of healthcare with a focus on cardiovascular diseases, cancer, asthma, and other conditions.
Anand, R.V, Meenakshisundaram, I., Jothikumar, R. and Chaitanya, P.K. (2022) 'Big data in healthcare made simple to save people's lives', Int. J. Cloud Computing, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp.112–122.
A new approach to interviewing people in the aftermath of a disaster aims to avoid interview fatigue symptoms, according to new research in the Journal of Design Research. Carlota Cubelos and Motoharu Onuki of The University of Tokyo and Miguel Esteban of Waseda University, in Tokyo, Japan, explain how the gamification of the interview process can be useful in collecting survivor experiences.
Interview fatigue commonly arises where researchers repeatedly approach survivors of a disaster or crosis for their thoughts, insights, and experience. The feelings of weariness or the dulling of experiences through repeated telling can lead to colouring of the very memories and insights the interviewers hope to glean from their interviewees. The researchers point out that before starting any new study, the emotional status of prospective interviewees should be considered and techniques adapted accordingly to make study participants feel comfortable and able to reflect constructively. The gamification of the interview process might well be useful strategy in this context and a positive way to preclude interview fatigue.
The team used the approach to establish what older people needed in the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Their work showed that the game created an environment where people felt comfortable sharing their experiences and thoughts as well as being able to discuss their needs and strengths. The findings could be useful in developing solutions to improve resilience in the face of future disasters, the team suggests.
The team writes that in future research, the gamification framework will be developed further and they will continue to develop solutions for those vulnerable to natural hazards. "Establishing and strengthening an inclusive society to ensure that the most vulnerable people are safe even in extreme situations should become a priority for design researchers, practitioners, and end-users," they conclude.
Cubelos, C., Onuki, M. and Esteban, M. (2021) 'Design for sustainability on inclusive post-disaster recovery: gamification techniques for collecting survivors' experiences', J. Design Research, Vol. 19, Nos. 1/2/3, pp.82–105.
A new study in the International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business, looks at how university-based accelerators contribute to the development and growth of start-up companies and to the viability of a start-up ecosystem. The research adds to the burgeoning literature of the last decade or so that has investigated the growing phenomenon of start-ups from numerous perspectives.
Fabio Greco and Marco Tregua of the Department of Economics, Management, Institutions at the University of Naples Federico II in Naples, Italy, considered "actors", geographical contexts, and resources and see these as the three main driving forces shaping start-up ecosystems and the impact of university-based accelerators on those start-ups. They have undertaken a preliminary analysis of several start-up ecosystems across the globe and have also carried out two in-field studies.
The researchers found that university-based accelerators provide methodological, theoretical, and practical advances that are a hard-to-replicate combination. The conditions accelerators offer start-ups bring prestige in the business context, operational models and methods, and allow the sewing of commercial seeds in fertile ground.
The team points out that from a practical perspective, accelerators provided contextual understanding for start-ups based partially on earlier successes and failures. However, given that finding, it is quite surprising that the heritage seems to be lost with the growth of each generation of new companies. The relationships and the learning process may well be embedded within the accelerator, but the established companies that benefit from the accelerator do not tend to be present in a supportive role for the newcomers, which is surprising.
University-based accelerators are, by definition, in the university-based context, and should, the researchers suggest, perform the role of alumni in facilitating the role of newcomers and in helping to increase the prestige of the accelerator itself. This would benefit all actors, just as an alumni association might benefit former and new students alike as well as one's alma mater.
Greco, F. and Tregua, M. (2022) 'It gives you wheels: the university-based accelerators in start-up ecosystems', Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Vol. 45, No. 2, pp.235–257.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a massive economic downturn on a par with that experienced in the 2008 financial crash. Work published in the Global Business and Economics Review looks at this crisis from the perspective of the Indian stock market and how lockdown and unlocking society affected it.
Narinder Pal Singh and Himanshu Goel of the Jagan Institute of Management Studies in Rohini, New Delhi, India, suggest that rather than being a rare and unpredictable and potentially devastating "black swan" event in the parlance of randomness expert Nassim N. Taleb, the COVID-19 pandemic is a "white swan" event. One that had been predicted to some degree many years prior to its emergence. Moreover, given what we already knew about pandemic evolution we might have been able to understand this latest pandemic in many more ways than we might originally have conceived. At this point in history, we must look to the white swan events to guide us and help us address the challenges that arise in the next crisis with greater insight.
However, as we are still in the middle of this White Swan crisis, the researchers point out that: "The enforcement of lockdown in countries resulted in the crashing of global economies, a major drop in oil prices, falls in production and exports, an increase in unemployment, and the downfall of economic activities. The aforesaid has majorly hit the economies and financial markets across the globe including India." The team then asks in what ways might our understanding of the ebbing and flowing of covid waves affect our understanding of the rise and fall of the Indian stock market. They specifically wanted to know whether the number of daily confirmed cases was linked with the Indian stock market index? "The novelty of this research [is] that [it] examines the impact of the lockdown and the unlock periods of COVID-19 on the volatility of the BSE Sensex returns," the team adds.
The team found that lockdown very much affected the volatility of returns, but unlocking again didn't have much effect at all. However, they identified a significant long-term relationship between daily case numbers and the closing prices of the BSE Sensex. "The findings of this research are central to investors of all categories…and can help in formulating the optimal strategy to regain the attention of domestic and foreign investors," the researchers suggest.
Singh, N.P. and Goel, H. (2022) 'White Swan – the pandemic crisis, lockdown and unlock effect on the Indian stock market', Global Business and Economics Review, Vol. 26, No. 2, pp.152–162.
Among the more popular social media software is the Whatsapp software, which exists under the Meta company umbrella alongside Facebook and Instagram. Whatsapp is generally used on an internet-connected mobile device, such as a smartphone, as a communications tool. Whatapp's purported two billion active users can connect with each other video, voice, or text messaging on the system provided they have a data connection on their device and the phone number of their contact.
The app also allows users to share media files and form groups of contacts to communicate privately and share information. The latest statistics suggest that 100 billion end-to-end encrypted messages are sent each day on the application.
There are almost 400 billion Whatsapp users in India and researchers there ask in the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising, whether Whatsapp represents a next-generation opportunity for advertising.
Mallika Srivastava of SVKM's Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies and Semila Fernandes of the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Bengaluru have looked at the demographic born between 1982 and approximately 2002. This large grouping encompasses the so-called digital natives, people who were born after the advent of mainstream digital technologies, such as email, the web, and phones that allow users to do more than make phone calls. Their study looks at how this group, specifically the urban sector, perceives corporate marketing within Whatsapp.
The team's analysis reveals what effect different types of advertisement, user gender, active time on Whatsapp, and various other factors affect brand awareness and brand trust as well as the way in which a packet of advertising information might go "viral", and critically purchase intention. This kind of insight can feed into marketing strategies for companies hoping to make the most of their spending on social media and the way in which they engage with their customers and prospective clients.
Srivastava, M. and Fernandes, S. (2022) 'Is WhatsApp a 'new age advertising tool'?', Int. J. Internet Marketing and Advertising, Vol. 16, Nos. 1/2, pp.120–141.
In what way is social media affecting the "green" behaviour of people in India? Research published in the International Journal of Indian Culture and Business Management looks to answer that question with respect to motivational factors revealed by an analysis of social media and attitudes to eco-friendly consumer choices balanced against costs.
Meesha Gupta and Asif Ali Syed of the Faculty of Management Studies and Research at the Aligarh Muslim University in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, collected data from 536 respondents who use social media and are also inclined towards eco-friendly products as opposed to less environmentally benign purchases. The team used exploratory factor analysis and structural equation modelling techniques to analyse the data.
The study revealed that Indian consumers are quite willing to pay a higher price for products that are greener. As such, the researchers suggest that companies can benefit from this attitude by offering novel and innovative products through their social media marketing efforts. They add that this must be done subtly so as not to over-saturate an account that might render it annoying rather than enticing. Moreover, they stress that companies must be transparent and communicate openly with their customers and putative customers, without that approach trust in a brand's green credentials might be easily lost.
In a world where social media has levelled the relationship between producers and providers and those to whom they sell products and services, those providers must put themselves in a position of trust. Social media can be powerful, attempts at "greenwashing" become obvious in the face of the hive mind where customers share and discuss products openly and frequently on social media and any issues can be shared very quickly and become serious problems for companies that attempt to fake their credentials, for instance.
"Green firms should foster relationships based on mutual gain and mutual interest. This can leverage customer loyalty," the team writes.
Gupta, M. and Syed, A.A. (2022) 'Social media impacting green behaviours of Indian consumers', Int. J. Indian Culture and Business Management, Vol. 25, No. 1, pp.116–138.
Copyright in the music industry is a contentious issue, it has been from the very first printed sheet music, through recorded music, home taping, and the digitisation that led to the ongoing file-sharing debacle that nudged the industry towards streaming solutions and new business models.
For those managing musical databases within a firm, there are esoteric issues to consider in that the nature and structure of a database itself might be protected by copyright but the contents held within may have their own copyright limitations and considerations. Writing in the International Journal of Digital Culture and Electronic Tourism, a team from Italy hope to unravel the social and economic factors surrounding copyright issues in this context.
Bruno Marsigalia of the Department of Economic and Business Science at the University of Rome 'Guglielmo Marconi' and Giovanni Calcagni of the Department of Economics and Law and the University of Cassino and Southern Lazio explain that the double copyright protection for databases offered by European Union law does not extend to the contents of the database and so should not prejudice the rights holders of copyright material held within said database.
The team explains that it is not always possible to estimate the value of a database because it needs to be considered in a much broader context rather than as a single entity. "The database can be estimated as a part of an intangible asset portfolio, and can be tied to patents, brands and trademarks," the team writes. "The methods of estimating the value of intangible assets can first of all be used to calculate the economic worth of the databases," the researchers add. As such, their paper sets out to identify the factors that will have the greatest impact on the value of copyright material provided by a music streaming service.
The valuation must be seen in the context of the artists and performers, songwriters, and others invested in the creative process to produce a new song who reputedly see little of the revenue in many cases despite the growing multi-billion dollar stature of the streaming services that profit from those songs. The law surrounding copyright is evolving from the artists' and creatives' perspectives it must be nudged towards allowing them to make a living from their endeavours and not simply a cash cow for the companies that run the databases containing the copyright material.
Marsigalia, B. and Calcagni, G. (2022) 'The impact of social factors on the economic evaluation of copyright in musical databases of firms', Int. J. Digital Culture and Electronic Tourism, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp.81–96.
Wheelchair users can periodically suffer from skin ulcers or sores caused by friction, pressure, and shear stresses where their skin is constantly in contact with the synthetic materials of their wheelchair. Pressure sores can become a chronic problem, always susceptible to serious infection or additional damage to the skin. New research in the International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology, looks at how a load-distribution approach can be used to customise wheelchairs for their users to avoid such pressure sores.
Sivasankar Arumugam, Rajesh Ranganathan, and T. Ravi of the Coimbatore Institute of Technology in India, point out that every wheelchair user is different, different body shape, weight, posture, and different mobility of issues. As such, a single answer to the problem of pressure ulcers is not feasible if all wheelchair users are to be helped. Their studies with a group of volunteer users reveal, based on pressure measurements, that individual customisation is needed for each user to reduce the shear and frictional forces that lead to pressure ulcers.
Wheelchair patients who spend prolonged periods of time sitting, due to a range of health problems such as spinal cord injury (SCI), paraplegia, tetraplegia, and quadriplegia are at risk of pressure ulcers. When seated, approximately three-quarters of one's total body weight is distributed through the buttocks and the back of the thighs. Commonly wheelchair users have reduced musculature in that part of the body and so less ability to resist the very tissue deformation that makes those tissues susceptible to damage leading to ulceration. Generic cushions for wheelchairs by virtue of their off-the-shelf disease offer no customisation to suit a particular wheelchair user and so give only limited protection from the development of pressure ulcers.
Pressure ulcers are the third most costly health problem after cancer and cardiovascular disease, so there is a need to find solutions not only to benefit wheelchair users themselves, obviously, but to keep costs down for those users and the healthcare systems on which they rely. The team emphasises that a scientific approach to the customisation of cushions and other components that might help reduce tissue damage and ulceration is needed urgently. Their work provides an outline of the problems that exist for wheelchair users in the context of pressure ulcers. A scientific approach will, they hope, ultimately lead to an optimal approach to customisation for wheelchair cushions and padding suited to the individual wheelchair user.
Arumugam, S., Ranganathan, R. and Ravi, T. (2022) 'Need for customisation in preventing pressure ulcers for wheelchair patients – a load distribution approach', Int. J. Biomedical Engineering and Technology, Vol. 38, No. 1, pp.44–64.
The Bhagavad Gita is an ancient text, a 700-verse Hindu scripture dating from the second half of the first millennium BCE. It has provided guidance for many millions of people. Now, writing in the International Journal of Management Concepts and Philosophy, a team from the Manav Rachna International Institute of Research and Studies in Faridabad, Haryana, India, suggest that the text is very much still relevant in today's post-pandemic world. It may well provide relevant philosophical nutrition to help people, including those in business, cope with the harsh realities of life, instability, and the challenges they face in their personal and professional lives.
Monika Bansal and Surbhi Kapur suggest that the Bhagavad Gita, more formally the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, but often simply referred to as The Gita, has a narrative framework based on a dialogue between Pandava prince Arjuna and his guide and charioteer Krishna, the Supreme Personality of the Godhead. The text brings together teachings regarding righteousness, attachment, and the yogic ideals of physical and mental health.
The team explains how the emergence of a novel and potentially lethal coronavirus in late 2019 wrought many problems through the COVID-19 pandemic it caused and that we are still living through more than two years later. Much sickness and death has taken place as well as massive disruption to millions, if not the many billions, of people around the world, society as a whole and our economic systems. We have faced many dilemmas and anxieties and many people have realized that there is a pressing need for us to relearn important life skills such as empathy, communication, adaptability, and emotional intelligence. With those tools we might better face the new-normal of this post-pandemic world.
A philosophical analysis of the ancient Indian literature found in The Gita has allowed the team to find practical solutions to many of the spiritual and mental problems we face at this time in human history. They suggest that leaders might learn new lessons from this text to offer the citizens help and new hope as we attempt to emerge into a post-pandemic world. The Gita is extensive and has many disparate sources and interpretations. The team concludes that future research "will help in simplifying and uncovering pearls of wisdom scattered across the firmament of ancient texts." In addition, empirical work suggested by their literature review could provide nuanced corroboration of the benefits to humanity of The Gita as guide.
Bansal, M. and Kapur, S. (2022) 'Life skills from Bhagavad Gita: a vital enabler for leadership excellence in pandemic times and the world beyond', Int. J. Management Concepts and Philosophy, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp.80–95.
Evolving technology has had a massive impact on how we make and experience music. Many of the changes have been driven by musicians themselves in terms of the creative aspects of music-making, but consumers too pushed the music industry in new directions. Of course, while genres wax and wane in terms of popularity, the underlying technology, at least in the popular context, is always looking to find the next big thing, the next more than one-hit-wonder.
Writing in the International Journal of Arts and Technology, a team from Taiwan discuss one of the next evolutionary steps in popular music – the "single" with interactive lyrics and composition. In the age before recorded music and to this day in the realm of live music, each performance is unique, a song reborn each time a singer or musician counts in the band, a conductor taps their baton, or the pianist tinkles the ivories. In the world of recorded music there are different options, there is multi-tracking, overdubs and retakes, samples and loops, many different ways to restructure the sonic landscape for greater listening pleasure.
Musician David Byrne, the erstwhile singer and guitarist with American new wave band, Talking Heads, predicted many years ago that technology would soon be available to allow listeners to remix the songs from their favourite artists. In subsequent years a whole other wave of bedroom-based record producers and mix DJs emerged as genres such as electronic dance music (EDM) and hip-hop developed. In a parallel world and contemporary with Byrne's forecasts many years before the world wide web and the mp3, other big-name, exploratory musicians such as Peter Gabriel and David Bowie were looking into the multimedia potential of the technology for their music.
Of course, there was and is much innovation taking place well beyond the USA and Western Europe. Indeed, in South Korea, Taiwan, China, and elsewhere, big changes have taken place in music-making and music consumption that are being enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people. The West may well eventually catch up with the advances taking place in Asia, but that is by the by from the commercial standpoint. Kuei-Yang Chiu and Wen-Hung Chao of the Department of Digital Media Design at the Asia University in Taichung, Taiwan, explain that there are many opportunities for Chinese popular music offered by technological progress and internet penetration.
The team has now developed a popular music single that has interactive lyrics and composition. The approach uses innovation diffusion theory and interactive movies with a non-linear narrative to develop the music and associated video. The basic concept is not dissimilar to interactive storybooks that give readers different options for plots to follow at pertinent moments in the story. The music system can then be experienced on an interactive web application. The team has had a positive response from test audiences. Importantly, from the commercial perspective, they have found that the "replay" function can engage users. Moreover, listeners who usually pay to listen to music rather than using illicit file-sharing services, were more inclined to have a positive experience with the system.
Chiu, K-Y. and Chao, W-H. (2021) 'Research on the development and experience of popular music single with interactive lyrics and composition', Int. J. Arts and Technology, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp.137–160.
A system that can analyse a segment of video and identify the yoga postures, asana, being practiced would be a useful tool for instruction and learning in this art.
Yoga practice combines physical and mental health and has its origins in ancient India. Yoga is now practiced worldwide by millions of people. Research has shown that regular yoga practice might be beneficial in managing chronic pain, reducing anxiety and depression, and in improving one's quality of life. Of course, there is a potential downside to yoga practice, particularly for those learning via video link or from online video tutorials and the link. The main risks are in a novice, or indeed, experienced practitioner pushing themselves too far. Muscular, ligament, tendons, and joints can be vulnerable in such a scenario particularly in the transitions between postures.
A system that a practitioner might use in their solo practice that recognizes when they are holding a posture correctly might be developed to warn them of issues that might arise in a given posture based on an analysis of their efforts.
Human activity recognition in a video is a growing area of research for many applications including the detection of criminal activity in closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, diagnostics of postural and gait problems in healthcare, the identification of individuals from their movement, confirming that social distancing regulations are being observed, and many other areas. Writing in the International Journal of Arts and Technology, a team from India explains how they have used an end-to-end deep learning pipeline that includes a convolutional neural network (CNN) and a bidirectional long short-term memory (LSTM) network to identify yoga-asana.
The team first trained their system using known postures in videos down-sampled to twenty frames and extracted pertinent spatial features from the frames. The training involved seven well-known yoga-asana: Bhujangasana, Bidalasana-Bitlasana, Trikonasana, Vrikshasana, Padmasana, Shavasana, and Tadasana. Their system was then tested with previously unclassified video and shown to have an accuracy of almost 97 percent when cross-validated by experts. The next step will be to add more asana to the data set. In addition, the team hopes to extend their system to recognise yoga postures being carried out by more than one person at a time so that an online class might be guided more accurately.
Paharia, N., Gupta, R., Jadon, R.S. and Gupta, S.K. (2021) 'Recognition of 'yoga-asana' using bidirectional LSTM with CNN features', Int. J. Arts and Technology, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp.215–227.
At the heart of much Buddhist practice is the notion that meeting with other people and practicing together in real life are the most beneficial approaches. However, individually art can be used for mindfulness and meditation. Indeed, paintings and sculptures have helped individuals and in the modern era digital media and technology can offer something to practitioners too.
Writing in the International Journal of Arts and Technology, a team from Silpakorn University, Thailand discuss how virtual reality might be a useful and innovative tool in Buddhist teaching. Gomesh Karnchanapayap and Atithep Chaetnalao explain how they have developed what they refer to as a ground-breaking tool by bringing together artworks and virtual reality. They suggest that this approach to teaching enables a multi-level learning experience for students.
The team explains that the experience within a virtual reality environment can encourage better memory in students. Moreover, it allows the user to "experience" an environment in safety allowing them to "know" events indirectly but with greater authenticity than is possible with conventional photographs or movies. They add that by purposefully creating an appropriate virtual world it might be possible to imbue a better understanding of the core philosophy of the given artworks.
"This learning innovation is not only an effective learning tool but also suitable for new generations as a new medium to pass on the faith of Buddhism," the team writes. Indeed, the researchers have evaluated their new VR tool with student evaluation of their learning undertaken with the system and found it to provide a positive experience in terms of test scores. Test results before students were offered the VR experience were commonly around 50% but rose to almost 80% in some cases after training with the VR system.
Of course, it is important to recognise that virtual reality is, like any other technology or indeed more traditional teaching approaches that rely on imagery, simply a tool. It should form part of a broader learning experience in this context for the students just as it would in any other realm. It is the teaching and the learning, not the technology that is the important part of the process.
Karnchanapayap, G. and Chaetnalao, A. (2021) 'Virtual reality art as an innovative Buddhist learning tool', Int. J. Arts and Technology, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp.255–277.
Research in the World Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development has investigated the effects on the COVID-19 pandemic on entrepreneurialism and gender differences in the propensity of business people to start a new venture during this period.
The COVID-19 pandemic is both health and social crisis, financial disruptor, and unpredictable disaster that has affected us all and in the current context, the entire global economy.
Now, Dafna Kariv of the Adelson School of Entrepreneurship at Reichman University (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel, Rico J. Baldegger of the School of Management Fribourg (HEG-FR) at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland (HES-SO) in Fribourg, Switzerland, and Gavriela Kashy-Rosenbaum of the Multidisciplinary Department of Social Sciences at Ashkelon Academic College in Kfar-Hanagid, Israel, explain that the pandemic took entrepreneurs by surprise. Moreover, the shock affects women entrepreneurs, they add, to a greater degree. However, the details of that initial pandemic shock have not yet been explored. The team hoped to consider the gendered perceptions of opportunity, fear of failure, and motivations before and during the pandemic to explore what impact these had on the propensity to start a business during the crisis.
The researchers used the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) datasets covering 2019 and 2020 to help them answer their questions. Their findings suggest that while the pandemic affected women entrepreneurs more severely than men, women perceived greater opportunities during the pandemic that were more tightly enmeshed with financial motivators.
"The full impact of COVID-19 on entrepreneurial launches is still unknown as we are in the midst of the crisis," the team writes. And yet, they add, "Research has shown that launching new businesses is a critical response for recovery from crises…[this is] even more important for women-led entrepreneurial businesses, as these are depicted as smaller and less growth-oriented than those run by men in normal times."
The team suggests that their work opens up several new avenues for investigation. However, they can also provide a conclusion useful to other researchers at this point as well as to governmental and private companies and associations, accelerators and academic institutions. They suggest that these organizations should monitor, prepare, and implement programs that tap into entrepreneurial motivation in times of crisis. There is a need to equip entrepreneurs with the necessary skills and mindset to take advantage of any opportunities that arise especially when those appear during a major disaster.
Kariv, D., Baldegger, R.J. and Kashy-Rosenbaum, G. (2022) '"All you need is... entrepreneurial attitudes": a deeper look into the propensity to start a business during the COVID-19 through a gender comparison (GEM data)', World Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 18, Nos. 1/2, pp.195–226.
A new study in the International Journal of Work Organisation and Emotion investigates whether or not job satisfaction in US social workers correlates with subjective well-being. The quantitative correlational study examined whether motivating factors of job satisfaction predict subjective well-being. The team reports that there is indeed a significant relationship but advancement in one's job is the only factor that significantly affects the wellbeing of these workers.
Onick Lewis of Troy University in Troy, Alabama and Andrew Babyak of Messiah University in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, USA, had two questions they wishes to answer in their research. The first: to what extent, if any, does general job satisfaction, as measured by the Minnesota satisfaction questionnaire (MSQ) predict subjective well-being, as measured by the satisfaction with life scale (SWLS)? The second: to what extent, if any, do the five dimensions of the MSQ (work itself, recognition, achievement, responsibility, and personal growth), together and separately, make the same prediction?
The team surveyed almost two hundred practicing social workers to collect the primary data to help them answer those two questions. They then used a regression analysis to extract from this data the requisite information with which to draw their conclusions. The team points out that job satisfaction is known to commonly imply life satisfaction for many people and vice versa and these correlations have been extensively studied for decades.
The findings from this present study, in showing that advancement in one's job is a primary factor in job satisfaction, suggest that there is much work to be done to explain why this is so. There are implications for benefiting employees and employers alike in this area if a clear understanding of how job satisfaction meshes with well-being can be gleaned from this work and follow-on studies. The bottom line might be to recommend to employers that they talk about such issues with their staff so that job satisfaction levels and employee well-being might be improved even if there is no scope for achievable personal advancement in a particular role.
Lewis, O. and Babyak, A. (2021) 'An exploration of whether job satisfaction predicts subjective well-being among social workers', Int. J. Work Organisation and Emotion, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp.325–338.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought devastating human suffering and major economic disruption. New work in the European Journal of International Management, has considered the impact on multinational enterprises (MNEs) and how in the post-pandemic world restructuring of global value chains is needed that may lead to a potential retreat from the globalization that we have seen in recent years.
Sarah McWilliam and Bo Bernhard Nielsen of the University of Sydney in Darlington, New South Wales, Australia, and Constantina Kottaridi of the University of Piraeus in Athens, Greece, reveal the consequences of the pandemic for MNEs and develop a new concept of the Liability of International Connectivity (LOIC). The team also show how the LOIC affects ownership, location, and internalisation advantages. They suggest that it might compromise control of supply, production, or distribution because of changes in global value chain (GVC) governance, the evolution of power asymmetries with nation states, and power asymmetries with suppliers.
Of course, MNEs that can adapt in the face of massive disruption may well thrive in the post-pandemic world. The team points out that new strategic directions that allow those companies to pursue optimal ownership, location and internalisation could lead to commercial advantages for them. However, the research suggests that the changes wrought by COVID-19 on MNEs will sit on a spectrum of adaptations where some companies need only make minimal changes to face the challenges and those at the other end of the spectrum will need to undergo major restructuring in governance and geography.
The researchers add that their findings suggest that there are many problems facing MNEs and how they can cope with the post-pandemic world and a perceived retreat from globalization. The major economic shakeup has also provided what might be couched positively for MNEs as new opportunities to improve their resilience through enhanced ownership advantages created from growth, diversification, digitalisation, automation, distributed production, and remote working.
McWilliam, S., Nielsen, B.B. and Kottaridi, B. 'Global value chains and liability of international connectivity: MNE strategy post Covid-19', European J. International Management.
Web-based application programming interfaces (APIs) provide researchers studying online social networks with a sophisticated route into those networks that can allow them to study the activity of users in detail, given ethical constraints and specific limitations of the APIs. Writing in the International Journal of Services Operations and Informatics, a team from India reviews the state-of-the-art in this constantly evolving realm. In their review, they reveal the challenges that might be faced in using an API, the suitability of a given API for particular research purposes. They also discuss how social media analytical tools might be adopted to support knowledge-based business strategies.Pooja Nanda of Sharda University in Greater Noida and Vikas Kumar of the Central University of Haryana, suggest that their review will be useful for organisations hoping to identify the various tools on the market for assisting in the making of knowledge-based strategic decisions.
Fundamentally, analysis can find out, at scale, what it is customers and potential customers are saying about a company and its products and services in great detail. Social media in this context is so much more than an advertising or marketing vehicle for those products and services it is a rich seam of opinion and user knowledge to be tapped to allow companies and improve their "offering", how they market it, and how they adapt to consumer opinion.
As the team's review suggests, to get the most from such analysis, careful consideration of the available tools, their benefits and limitations, is needed. "Available social media analytics tools should be mapped to the specific knowledge needs of the organisation and they should be implemented and monitored accordingly," the team writes. "Outcomes from the social media analytical tools need to be well understood and combined into the business strategy to reap their actual benefits," they conclude.
Nanda, P. and Kumar, V. (2021) 'Social media analytics: tools, techniques and present day practices', Int. J. Services Operations and Informatics, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp.422–436.
The modern world relies on a small number of precious and rare metals that are vital for the components of our electronic devices. These elements are critical to the functioning of everything from mobile phones and tablet computers to the circuitry that underpins medical scanners and military installations. The design of current technology means they cannot be substituted with another metal, each component relies on the very specific electronic properties of each in the components from which it is built.
Unfortunately, access to sources of these elements is not only limited by geology and politics, but the rarest of the metals, which are often the ones on which we rely the most are present on earth in only limited quantities. As such, every electronic device that is discarded or abandoned represents metals wasted. If there were a simple and environmentally viable means to extract those metals so that they could be reused in the next tranche of devices, then at least some of the issues of accessibility and waste might be addressed.
At this point we must turn to the pre-electronic age and the discovery of a scientific phenomenon that could come to our rescue in the modern age – supercriticality. Supercriticality is a physical characteristic of substances that are heated while being compressed and give rise to properties in the substance that are very different from the substance under normal conditions. For instance, if we heat liquid water above its boiling point the liquid is converted into gas, steam, and this evaporates into the atmosphere.
However, seal the liquid water in a high-pressure vessel and heat it above its boiling point and the water vapour cannot escape. Indeed, the liquid cannot even undergo the transition from liquid to gas if the pressure is high enough. It becomes a supercritical fluid (SCF). As such, SCFs are fluids above their boiling point that remain liquid, they are liquids with more thermal energy than the gas, but neither true liquid nor gas. The nineteenth century scientists who first worked with SCFs recognised that these fluids had properties that allowed them to dissolve other substances that are not normally soluble in the liquid whether that was water or an organic solvent.
Water, organic solvents, even carbon dioxide can form SCFs if the temperature and pressure they are exposed to render them above the supercritical point. An important point about SCFs, however, is that if the pressure is released the substance will quickly convert to gas and evaporate from the now-open pressure vessel. This characteristic has led to numerous applications for SCFs where they can be used to dissolve seemingly intractable substances, which can then be separated from whatever else they might be bound to, the SCF pressure is released, the fluid evaporates, and the separated substance is left behind.
Writing in the International Journal of Environment and Waste Management, a team from Iran have shown how SCFs can be used to dissolve metals in electronic components and so separate those metals from the plastics and other materials of the circuitry. Different metals present can be dissolved in different SCFs and so extracted efficiently in what might be considered an environmentally benign way without recourse to toxic and corrosive solvents and acids. Additionally, the vented SCF can be easily trapped by additional equipment so that the fluid itself, now entirely free of any dissolved component, can be re-used. This would apply to water, organic solvents, or carbon dioxide used as SCFs in extracting metals from electronic waste.
Seyed Mohammad Fayaz, Mohammad Ali Abdoli, Majid Baghdadi, and Abdolreza Karbassi of the University of Tehran, point out that the primary aim of SCFs in this context might simply be to remove harmful metals from a waste stream containing electronic devices and components. However, the additional benefit is so obviously the possibility of recovering those metals for re-use in industry.
Where electronics have not been processed in any way before and simply dumped or buried in landfill, those sites might now represent a rich seam that could be "mined" and processed using SCFs. There are vast quantities of rare and precious metals locked up in waste sites that could one day be tapped and allow manufacturers of the electronics on which depend so much to access the metals they need without having to surmount geopolitical barriers.
Fayaz, S.M., Abdoli, M.A., Baghdadi, M. and Karbassi, A. (2022) 'Extraction of precious metals from electronic waste by using supercritical fluid technology', Int. J. Environment and Waste Management, Vol. 29, No. 1, pp.95–109.
The times in which we live have often been described as "The Plastic Age" for obvious reasons. The invention and widespread adoption of synthetic polymers in the 20th Century as alternatives to wood, ceramics, stone, metals and alloys, and countless other materials has revolutionised the world we live in. We extract the starting materials from crude oil and have made from those myriad variations on the polymer, plastic, theme, for an incredible range of applications in construction, manufacturing, healthcare, food and water supply and beyond.
Unfortunately, our reliance on plastics has increased considerably in the last few decades and the inevitable disposal of products made with these materials, particularly single-use plastic items such as food and drink packaging has led to the accumulation of vast quantities of waste in landfills and dumps. Worse much of our plastic waste is never recycled and much of it finds its way from landfills and waste streams into the environment, into rivers, and into the sea.
Plastic waste now represents an unimaginable environmental burden, a problem we cannot easily solve. More than 5 million tonnes of plastic is disposed of each year in landfill and the ocean. Add to this the fact that we now know that many plastic products end up as near-microscopic particles in waterways and oceans and the problem is obviously worse than the notion of plastic bottles and bags accumulating in oceanic gyres and such. The microplastics can readily enter the food chain and pose an increasingly worrying risk to the health of marine life and ultimately those who depend on it for food.
There have been many efforts over the years to find simpler ways to collect and recycle plastics into secondary use products, but these have limited success given the huge scale of production around the world. There has also been considerable research effort put into finding ways to make biodegradable alternatives to plastic, some of which may still be derived from petrochemicals but others that turn to crops raised for the specific purpose of making novel materials.
New work published in the International Journal of Industrial and Systems Engineering, has looked at the possibility of making biodegradable plastics using natural additives to replace wholly synthetic materials.
Amal Elhussieny, Marwa Faisal, and Irene S. Fahim of the Nile University in Giza, Egypt, and Giacomo D'Angelo, Nesma T. Aboulkhair, and Nicola M. Everitt of the University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK, explain how they have looked at the alternatives to plastic film that have natural additives for reinforcement. Plastic film is considered to be one of the major polluters given it is commonly single-use in almost every industry. Natural additives derived from chitosan extracted from shellfish shells and rice straw waste are the focus of the current study.
The team carried out experimental and statistical analyses of natural filler types and the concentration in biodegradable films in terms of the composite materials' physical, biological, mechanical, and thermal properties. The team reports that both chitosan and rice-derived additives added to levels of 25% and 35% by weight, respectively, can improve all these various properties.
"Further characterisation work is underway with promising results that will pave the way for industry uptake of these materials and their manufacture in the form of pellets," the team concludes.
Elhussieny, A., Faisal, M., D'Angelo, G., Aboulkhair, N.T., Everitt, N.M. and Fahim, I.S. (2021) 'Biodegradable plastics with natural additives as a replacement for synthetic plastics', Int. J. Industrial and Systems Engineering, Vol. 39, No. 4, pp.520–535.
A multiple naive Bayes algorithm can classify artworks by preprocessing and analysing the histogram of the hues in the image with 99.6 percent accuracy according to work published in International Journal of Arts and Technology.
Gang Liang of the School of Art and Design at Taizhou University in Taizhou, China, points out that in the digitized world there is a pressing need to find ways to search for specific images but too many classification systems for those images to allow us an efficient and simple way to home in on a particular image. Liang hopes his approach will change that by allowing the rapid classification of digital images of artworks, which can then be used as the source material for a search engine.
Until very recently classification of artworks was an entirely subjective process carried out by visual inspection. The advent of digital image analysis then allowed curators of even the largest collection of artworks to classify the images using image brightness, colour entropy, and other characteristics, all with varying degrees of success. However, even though such approaches might be automated they are nevertheless rather time consuming and not without other problems such as low accuracy of classification.
Quantifying the hues within an artwork and comparisons with other artworks is difficult, hence Liang's turning to the multiple naive Bayes approach. Liang points out that in the current iteration of the system it takes just 2 seconds to carry out a classification of a terabyte of image data. This compares rather well with earlier approaches which take 30 or 40 seconds to classify the same amount of image data.
Liang, G. (2021) 'Image classification of artworks based on multiple naive Bayes algorithm', Int. J. Arts and Technology, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp.79–90.
How might a nation protect its citizens in times of disaster such as earthquakes or war? New research in the International Journal of the Built Environment and Asset Management looks at the concept of "safe hubs". Spaces to which people might flee during an acute or ongoing incident that takes them a place sufficiently far from the danger zone.
Hesham Salim Al-Rawe and Ali Jihad Hamad of the Engineering Technical College of Mosul at the Northern Technical University in Mosul, Iraq, suggest that crowded places such as cities and city streets make people especially vulnerable. Often there is nowhere for the people to flee a lethal event nor any route by which they might make their escape.
The researchers point out that cities such as Tokyo, Los Angeles, Jakarta, and many others have high-rise buildings designed specifically to be resilient in the face of earthquakes, but there are still enormous risks of being trapped in a city even if the buildings remain standing. The team has taken the city of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia, as a case study to examine the concept of safe hubs and the routes that might be followed in the face of disaster to reach them.
Given that cities often have underground structures and conduits far below the surface that are essentially safe from events occurring above ground to some degree, it would seem that they might offer an escape route to a safe space beyond the city centre and away from the present danger. There are other considerations that must be taken into account before a strategy based on deep underground tunnels might be implemented, such as the possibility of collapse of subterranean structures or the flooding of tunnels, for instance.
Nevertheless, when faced with a major disaster that might lead to many deaths, there are risks and benefits that must be balanced. A typical powerful earthquake might lead to tens of thousands of deaths whereas allowing many more people to escape to a safe hub with a much smaller risk of death during their escape would balance the equation in favour of that approach, it might be said.
There remains much work to be done in working out how to implement the underground realm as a potential escape route in vulnerable cities but the team suggests that, as our city population densities grow and more and more buildings reach for the skies, for future generations, finding safe hubs beyond the built environment to allow them to escape disasters, such as earthquakes could be an important part of their way of life.
Al-Rawe, H.S. and Hamad, A.J. (2021) 'Safe hubs during earthquakes and emergency events', Int. J. Built Environment and Asset Management, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp.124–131.
Hand tremor can be debilitating, interfering with everyday activities such as eating and drinking, writing, and use of technology. It can also be indicative of a serious underlying health problem.
Dana Vishnu, G.A. Dhanush, S. Siddharth, and Kiran S. Raj of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the Amrita School of Engineering in Coimbatore and Shriram Vasudevan of Software Services MNC in Bengaluru, explain that most tremors in a person's hands are not critical medical issues nor life-threatening, but can interfere with normal life and for some may cause embarrassment.
The problem facing healthcare when it comes to hand tremor is that there are many different types of tremors with a range of causes. There are ways to address the problem in some cases, but the conventional solutions work only with one specific type of tremor. There is no current medical intervention to relieve hand tremor.
Work from India published in the International Journal of Intelligent Systems Technologies and Applications, discusses a wearable solution to hand tremor in the form of an electronic glove and a feedback system linked to software that the user can access and control. The device can detect problematic muscle activity in the hand and suppress it safely without interfering with conscious movements.
The team explains their approach: "Our system contains two models that work together in order to reduce the tremors," the researchers write. "The first model is a time series analysis model which is used to predict the hand tremors in advance and the second model is a deep learning LSTM model which receives input from the previous model along with the signal from actuators and figures out the correct intensity that reduces hand tremors of the patient."
The next stage of the research will be to reduce the "handprint" of the glove by streamlining the circuitry and wiring. In addition, the team hopes to be able to imrove latency so that the response to involuntary movements can be made by the technology much faster. Finally, they hope to unshackle the device from the internet with software that is on-board and so the glove functions entirely autonomously addressing the patient's needs.
Vishnu, D., Vasudevan, S.K., Dhanush, G.A., Siddharth, S. and Raj, K.S. (2021) 'Innovative and affordable wearable solution for suppression of hand tremors', Int. J. Intelligent Systems Technologies and Applications, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp.233–244.
Big data is big, as it were, and the buzz phrase is often accompanied by associated terms such as data mining, machine learning, computational intelligence, the semantic web, and social networks. Research published in the International Journal of Cloud Computing looks at big data in this context and asks how social big data might best be analysed with state-of-the-art tools to allow us to extract new knowledge.
Social media and social networking represent a vast information resource with hundreds of millions of people using dozens of tools, such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook on a daily basis and posting billions of updates, images, videos, and much more. All of this information, much of it publicly accessible might well be mined for useful knowledge that could, in turn, be useful to a wide range of third parties in various types of business, not-for-profit organisations, law enforcement, those in commerce and marketing, researchers in socioeconomics, healthcare, and many other fields besides.
Brahim Lejdel of the University of El-Oued in El-Oued, Algeria, points out that the combination of big data technologies and traditional machine learning algorithms has already led to some new and interesting challenges social media and social networking. Among the challenges are how best to process, store, represent, and visualise the vast repositories of information that big data represents.
The new research uses a hybrid approach of multi-agent systems and algorithms. It offers what Lejdel describes as a "new approach that can extract entities and their relationships from social big data." This, he suggests, will allow researchers to pull meaningful knowledge from big data. Lejdel points out that research into big data and social network is in its infancy, of course. Each small step in research takes us closer to understanding and making use of big data and addressing those challenges.
In the current work, he proposes what he describes as "a conceptual model helping decision-makers and customers to find the most relevant solutions that are currently available for extracting, managing, controlling, analysis and visualise knowledge in social media for better user experiences and services."
Lejdel, B. (2021) 'Analysing knowledge in social big data', Int. J. Cloud Computing, Vol. 10, Nos. 5/6, pp.480–491.
It will soon be two years since the World Health Organisation declared that COVID-19 had reached pandemic status. In that time, millions have died from the disease and many more than that have been infected, some suffering from seemingly chronic illness after recovering from the initial symptoms. From the beginning, there was an obvious need to detect those who were infected with the causative pathogen, SARS-CoV-2. This was not only important for treating those people or ensuring that they self-isolated but also to alert anyone with whom the infected and putatively infectious person had come into contact.
Research in the International Journal of Computer Applications in Technology, has used a statistical analysis using artificial intelligence to show that social network communications might be a useful tool in contact tracing during a pandemic. An international team from India, Iraq, and Malaysia explains that contact tracing is used to alert people who have been in contact with a person who has reported testing positive for the disease.
"Creation of awareness and preventive measures against any infectious disease demands the need of certain methods like contact tracing approach," the team writes. The researchers have now used Natural Language Processing (NLP) to analyse social media data. They have validated their analysis based on online social networking and conventional contact tracing tools. They point out that to be effective any test and trace service needs to be quick to note those who are reported as carrying the infection and then to be quick in contacting those people they may have encountered in the preceding days. As we know, many infectious disease, including COVID-19, can be infectious even when the carrier is asymptomatic or before symptoms appear.
The team suggests that contact tracing is key to bringing the present pandemic under control. Conventional contact tracing tools are vital, but the addition of approaches based on analysing social media could allow more people who are potentially infectious to be caught in the net and advised to self-isolate before they pass on the virus to other people.
Swain, A., Satpathy, S., Dutta, S., Sahoo, S. and Hamad, A.A. (2021) 'A statistical analysis for COVID-19 as a contract tracing approach and social network communication management', Int. J. Computer Applications in Technology, Vol. 66, Nos. 3/4, pp.279–285.
Fake news represents an important challenge for democracy as it can interfere with public perception of actual events and happenings in society, politics, economics, and influence them in untoward ways to holding and acting on opinions based on lies and misinformation.
We all have access to far more information than we ever did at any point in history. Every hour of every day is filled with streams of information from news outlets, social media and beyond. Much of that information is output with intent well beyond its sharing for the sake of knowledge. Much of it is misinformation or disinformation, propaganda, manipulative content designed to help a third party fulfil their agenda. We have come to know this as fake news in the era of soundbites and social media doom scrolling.
Writing in the International Journal of Applied Decision Sciences, researchers in Germany, explain how they have taken an empirical view of internet-based false news stories and looked at the experiences, problem awareness, and responsibilities associated with those stories among university students exposed to them. Hypotheses that emerge from the work of Sven Grüner at the Institute of Agricultural and Nutritional Sciences, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Saale, Germany, are multifarious and require careful consideration if we are to address the problem of fake news. Grüner describes the hypotheses to be tested.
First, people are less likely to assume that they are dealing with false news stories the greater their trust in others and the more emphasis they put on the opinions of others. Secondly, fake news are perceived as a problem at the societal level but not at the individual level. Thirdly, men overestimate their ability to spot fake news. Finally, people perceive the operators of media platforms as being in charge of fake news.
The unimaginable challenge we face is how to develop an efficient and effective information system that precludes the dissemination of fake news. Unfortunately, in the words of George Orwell
In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act
Grüner, S. (2022) 'An empirical study on internet-based false news stories: experiences, problem awareness and responsibilities', Int. J. Applied Decision Sciences, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp.15–45.
Workplace policy and training in addressing matters concerning sexual harassment need to ensure that the youngest members of the workforce are also protected from this kind of abuse, something that has not necessarily been dealt with comprehensively by many companies in the past. Research in this area published in the International Journal of Human Resources Development and Management focuses specifically on members of the workforce in the demographic group commonly referred to as Generation Z.
Those people classed as being in Generation Z are considered to have been born any time from the mid to late 1990s into the early 2010s. They are thus the successors to the Millennial Generation (the Millennials) who would have reached adulthood at the turn of the century. They are commonly the children of Generation X who succeeded the Babyboomers. Generation Z people are often known as "digital natives" as they were born after the advent of the World Wide Web and the broad emergence and ubiquity of portable electronic communication devices, such as tablet computers and smartphones. They are the predecessors to Generation Alpha who are those people born from the mid-2010s onwards.
Susan M. Stewart of the School of Management and Marketing at Western Illinois University-Quad Cities in Moline, Illinois and H. Kristl Davison of the Department of Management at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, USA, suggest that members of Generation Z are increasingly finding themselves victims of sexual harassment hence the importance of a new focus on this worrying issue from their perspective.
As such, the researchers consider the following points in some detail: the rights and responsibilities of Generation Z workers regarding sexual harassment and the legal issues and recent court cases involving Generation Z workers. They also suggest various ideas for how research in this area might pan out in the future and the organisational actions that might be instigated to address the problems. Certainly, they point out there may be more victims of sexual harassment among those of Generation Z in specific demographic groups and that should be a topic of future research too.
The team adds that it might also be time for human resources development and management to draw learning from other disciplines such as developmental psychology. This they suggest might lead to a better understanding of emotional, cognitive, moral, and sexual development in youngsters of this generation, who are of working age and yet still teenagers.
"It is hoped that this article inspires more research ideas and discourse, as well as human resource management practices, on this important topic in an effort to better protect Generation Z workers," the team writes. Sexual harassment is abuse at any age, but protecting the younger members of the workforce who might suffer long-term consequences in a way that older adults might not simply because the youngsters are still developing psychologically, educationally, and physically is an important consideration in protecting all members of the workforce.
Stewart, S.M. and Davison, H.K. (2021) 'Generation Z workers and sexual harassment', Int. J. Human Resources Development and Management, Vol. 21, No. 4, pp.243–251.
When utilising cloud computing services for data storage and processing there are many issues to consider that might offset the benefits of this off-site approach to one's computing resources, not least confidentiality, privacy, and security. However, there is another consideration – copyright. Might there be ways in which the cloud provider might somehow stake a claim on your data and undermine the normal copyright consideration rules?
A team in the USA writing in the International Journal of Forensic Engineering and Management discusses the legal issues surrounding cloud copyright.
Dennis B. Park, Xiaolong Li, and A. Mehran Shahhosseini of the College of Technology at Indiana State University, in Terre Haute, Indiana, and Li-Shiang Tsay of the College of Science and Technology at North Carolina A&T State University, in Greensboro, North Carolina, muse on the idea that someone utilising a third-party file server might somehow succumb to a copyright grab by that third part if the terms of service are not sufficiently well define to protect the user from such interference.
The team first points out that cloud computing – whether for data storage, data processing, or both offers many advantages to users. It delocalises the burden of computing resources, which is otherwise generally not possible except for users with multiple sites. It allows them to offload many of the information technology demands on to the provider. In addition, hardware and software costs can be reduced enormously as well as precluding the need for the endless update cycles faced by companies and individuals purchasing and running their own systems.
However, as mentioned, there are also several cons that have to be weighed up against all of the pros. Data breaches at a cloud provider are perhaps the most obvious of the problems a user might face. But, there are more insidious ways in which a user's data might be compromised without a malicious third party being involved – data and copyright assimilation by the cloud provider itself. The team's assessment of the state-of-the-art and the multifarious legal issues that surround data and the use of cloud services leads them to advise putative users to ensure they read and understand any service agreements they make with such providers in minute detail to ensure that the cloud provider gains no rights over any of the user's copyright materials that might be uploaded to the cloud servers or data that emerges from the use of processes at a cloud service.
Park, D.B., Li, X., Shahhosseini, A.M. and Tsay, L-S. (2021) 'Data ownership in cloud: legal issues', Int. J. Forensic Engineering and Management, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp.125–148.
The unimaginably disruptive crisis the world is facing in the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented uptake of virtual teamwork. Workers in many different fields are solving problems and doing their jobs together through video conferencing tools and software in ways that were perhaps optional before the pandemic but are now essential Moreover, many of the members of countless disparate teams are collaborating and conversing online when they may well never have even met offline.
Archana Shrivastava and Pooja Misra of the Birla Institute of Management Technology in Greater Noida, India, have looked into the effect of the pandemic on home-based learning in detail and touch on the parallel world of corporate remote working. The COVID-19 pandemic, as we know, has not been only a global medical crisis but a social and economic crisis. However, there is no history of pandemics that fits with the situation in which we find ourselves today and the tools that are available to us that were not even invented when previous pandemics struck humanity. The team offers details in the International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations.
The team turned to qualitative methodology for capturing responses related to the pandemic and its impact on the higher education communities, they explains. "Qualitative methods are valuable given their open-ended nature and focus not just on 'what' but on 'how'," the team explains. They add that the method proved to be "extremely useful" given how rapidly the situation surrounding COVID-19 and socioeconomic and educational responses are to it. They were also rather aware that personal perspectives and researcher bias can influence the results that might be gleaned from such studies they made a concerted effort to pursue objectivity in evaluating their results.
"The goal of our study was…to provide insights for higher education institutions, faculty, education policymakers, and corporate organisations to understand the prevailing situation and formulate suitable long and short-term policies for the attainment of optimal performance in this unprecedented time," the team concludes.
Shrivastava, A. and Misra, P. (2021) 'COVID-19 and its impact on global virtual teams: exploring the unexplored', Int. J. Networking and Virtual Organisations, Vol. 25, Nos. 3/4, pp.217–231.
Companies come and go. Startups start and then stop, Spinouts whirl and then falter. In one part of the world, however, it is not hard to find companies the history of which might stretch back more than a century, sometimes two or three centuries, and in many cases much, much longer. That place is Japan. Most Western countries might boast a handful of corporate entities with great longevity stretching back to the pre-Industrial era, but Japan has an astonishing 33000-plus companies that are at least a century old. Some of them have their foundations built in the 6th Century of the Common Era.
New research published in International Journal of Management Concepts and Philosophy mentions how in 2016 Shoko Research listed seven companies with more than 1,000 years of business, but there are two other well-known companies – Nakamura Shaji, which was founded in 970CE and Ichimonjiya Wasuke, which was founded in 1000CE. Of the ten biggest companies in the world, half of them are Japanese, although the oldest is now a subsidiary of yet another Japanese company.
Yasuyuki Yamaoka of The Open University of Japan in Chiba and Hiroko Oe of Bournemouth University, UK, interviewed the business owners of ten Japanese companies that were established more than three hundred years ago. The team text-mined their survey results to extract the key themes associated with their longevity.
The team found that there are four key factors perceived by the owners of these ancient companies that feed into their ethos: 'customers and products', 'owner and employees', 'management and business credo' and 'change and risk management'. The team also demonstrated that non-economic values and the perception of the company as being part of the wider community (Sanpo-Yoshi) are also embedded in the mindset of these business owners. The various factors have been the driving force for the companies' approach to business, the researchers suggest.
"The developed framework will be a guideline for researchers and practitioners to further share the wisdom of long-established firms," the team writes. They add that the work is exploratory in nature at this stage and suggest company size and business sustainability might be examined in research that expands the scope of the present study.
Yamaoka, Y. and Oe, H. (2021) 'Business strategies of companies with a longevity of 300 years or longer in Japan: a concept model', Int. J. Management Concepts and Philosophy, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp.283–295.
Might scoring the contents of scientific papers based on semantics and lexicon allow a representation of textual experimental data from scientific publications to be extracted? That is the question a team from France hope to answer in the International Journal of Intelligent Information and Database Systems.
Martin Lentschat of the University of Montpellier and colleagues there and at the University of Paris-Saclay explain how their approach uses the scientific publication representation (SciPuRe) to describe extracted data through ontological, lexical, and structural features based on the segments in a scientific document. The scientific literature is vast and in many ways readily accessible to experts. However, a substantial amount of the information contained in this enormous space can only be mined, or harvested, for use by those experts, inclusion in meta-analyses or fed into advanced decision-support tools, if it is somehow processed and the data, information, and knowledge extracted into a form that can be used by the available tools.
The team points out that in the biomedical research domain there has been a lot of focus on how knowledge can be extracted automatically from the published literature because of the nature of the often date-rich experimental outputs. However, in other areas, there has been a lack of tools that can home in on useful information without the need to take prior knowledge and expertise into account. Where biomedical research pivots on big data other areas of research require smart data.
Big data needs no assessment, no scoring based on content and context, it can be pulled from a publication and processed because the prior knowledge about what the data mean is intrinsic to the data in a sense. To work with smart data, on the other, hand requires it to be assessed so that irrelevant data in a publication can be discarded, the new work points to how this very process might be automated to allow tools related to those used to handle big data in biomedical research to be used with smart data from other less data-intensive areas of research.
The team's success with the specialist topic discussed suggests that future studies might open up the same approach to other research domains, although whether those are equally as successful will remain to be seen.
"Experiments were carried out on a corpus of fifty English language scientific papers in the food packaging field," the team reports. "They revealed that article segments are an effective criterion for filtering out the majority of the quantitative entity false positives using lexical scores."
Lentschat, M., Buche, P., Dibie-Barthelemy, J. and Roche, M. (2022) 'Towards combined semantic and lexical scores based on a new representation of textual data to extract experimental data from scientific publications', Int. J. Intelligent Information and Database Systems, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp.78–103.
New work in the International Journal of Economic Policy in Emerging Economies debunks the notion of ever-increasing consumption in China. The topic has been the subject of much debate wherein it had for many years that economic household consumption was consistently rising across the nation. However, the analysis by Kerry Liu of The China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney in Australia, looked at gross domestic product data, household survey data, and retail sales data from a new perspective and concludes that expenditure has been slowing since 2011.
There has been an inkling that consumers in China have been "downgrading" their spending, choosing lower prices rather than expensive high-quality goods. Whimsically, it has been reported that Chinese consumers have given up their avocados, switched back to the bicycle rather than taking a taxi ride, slinging their cocktails in favour of beer, and cancelling their gym memberships to exercise outdoors as their grandparents did. There have been some conflicting findings such as increasing numbers of vehicle purchases, particularly sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) and some other goods. There are four times as many cars sold in China each year as there are in the great gas-guzzling nation of the USA.
Liu's findings point to an explanation as to why this might be:
The main findings are that disposable income plays a significant role in consumption growth; that wealth effects from the real estate market [rising home rental costs] play a significant role in consumption upgrade; and that increasing rent has significantly contributed to the consumption downgrade.
"In view of the importance of consumption to the rebalancing of the Chinese economy, this study makes significant contributions to the debate on China's economic policies," says Liu. He adds that while some recent government policies have had a positive effect, more needs to be done. "China should improve its monetary policy by balancing the goals of meeting the needs of the real economy and not further inflating asset markets," he concludes.
Liu, K. (2022) 'The Chinese consumption myth', Int. J. Economic Policy in Emerging Economies, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp.103–120.
We are, in the pandemic world, even more dependent on online services than we ever have been before, whether as remote workers, those learning from home, or in healthcare. As such, there is an increasing need to ensure those services are protected from malicious third parties and malware.
New work published in the International Journal of Electronic Security and Digital Forensics, discusses how the entropy level of critical files might be measured and provided a proxy for determining whether or not those files have been corrupted by a virus or usurped with malware. Tay Xin Hui, Kamaruddin Malik Mohamad, and Nurul Hidayah Ab Rahman of the Universiti Tun Hussein Onn in Malaysia, explain their investigations using "myEntropy" an entropy calculator tool that they have used to examine SQL files, SWF files, and Java files. These three filetypes Structured Query Language, Small Web Format, and Java files are commonly used in a wide-range of online services and can be highly vulnerable to attack.
The team used 250 sample files to calculate the entropy level for each filetype. They could then discern the average entropy level for each. Thus the myEntropy tool might be developed further to be used to quickly and with little computer resources ascertain whether a file of these critical type has been corrupted or replaced with one carrying embedded malware, which would change the entropy of the file considerably.
The team suggests that the tool can be developed for the analysis of many other vulnerable filetypes. They add that a user-friendly front-end for the tool might also be developed to facilitate its adoption by those managing digital devices, emerging computing infrastructure such as Internet of Things systems, cloud computing services and so address the growing problem of cybersecurity threats.
Hui, T.X., Mohamad, K.M. and Ab Rahman, N.H. (2022) 'myEntropy: a file type identification tool using entropy scoring', Int. J. Electronic Security and Digital Forensics, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp.76–95.
New research published in the International Journal of Mathematics in Operational Research plots a new route for viral propagation in a computer network.
Anis Rezgui of Ecole Polytechnique de Tunisie and Carthage University in Tunisia has examined an earlier approach to studying the way a virus spreads through a network and found that approaches based on stochastic ordinary differential equations. A second approach, a microscopic approach based on a Markov chain has many similarities with SODEs but can take into account the interconnections between nodes in the network and so provide a clear picture of propagation.
Computer security is a multi-billion dollar industry but money aside it is such an important part of the modern world that it must be the focus of much research out of necessity. Rezgui explains that modelling viral propagation through a computer network has been modelled historically in the same way that we model biological viruses, epidemiologically, in other words. There have been two major types of model used, deterministic and stochastic ones each with pros and cons.
This new work focuses on the latter but introduces a novel approach based on the aforementioned Markov chain, which offers a rigorous way to model viral propagation mathematically. It allows researchers to understand the global behaviour of the network when exposed to malware infection but homes in on the dynamics occurring at each node in the network alone. Such modelling is critical to understanding how a virus spreads and so offers insights into how it might be stopped in its tracks through network analysis. Incorporating a model into an antivirus system might ultimately be able to halt a novel, or zero-day, infection when the viral signatures are not known beforehand and the virus is starting to spread.
It is perhaps a whimsical notion that such modelling when applied to human society might allow biologists and epidemiologists to spot a new and emerging pathogen, such as a coronavirus, before it spreads widely and to stop infection of social nodes that would otherwise lead to a pandemic, for instance.
Rezgui, A. (2021) 'A model for viruses propagation throughout networks', Int. J. Mathematics in Operational Research, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp.373–384
Can small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across Africa address the cybersecurity risk adequately? New research from Christopher A. Moturi, Nabihah R. Abdulrahim, and Daniel O. Orwa of the School of Computing and Informatics at the University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya, off an answer in the International Journal of Business Continuity and Risk Management.
The team suggests that SMEs are key to economic growth in Africa but as many companies become increasingly entrenched in digital and online operations and services, the risks they face from malware and hackers increases. The team has the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cybersecurity framework to undertake an in-depth study of selected SMEs to identify the critical issues that are causing those companies problems and to help find solutions that might be applicable to many other SMEs. In Kenya alone, cybercrime is costing SMEs there the equivalent of millions of dollars every year.
Their work could help guide those very companies to a more secure future but also provide e a roadmap for governments and regulatory bodies. Importantly, the study could be used to raise awareness and instil a security-aware culture across SMEs where that culture does not yet exist. Given that cybersecurity has no unique definition across companies and regulators, it is important that agreement on meaning be made so that risks can be identified and security implemented. This definition must encompass evolving social media, mobile computing, big data, cloud computing, and the internet of things to ensure cybersecurity measures are in place that stay one step ahead of the many threats facing companies.
"SMEs are in a position to become more resilient even with limited resources by applying the NIST cybersecurity framework within their environment to gain an in-depth understanding of the cybersecurity risk management practices," the team writes. The NIST framework can offer SMEs a strategic approach that may cost them money initially but will save them money in the long term by reducing the risk of them succumbing to security breaches and cybercrime.
Moturi, C.A., Abdulrahim, N.R. and Orwa, D.O. (2021) 'Towards adequate cybersecurity risk management in SMEs', Int. J. Business Continuity and Risk Management, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp.343–366.
The lockdowns, travel restrictions, and remote working and remote learning that became obligatory for many people around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic may have been inconvenient for some of them but they also represented a lesson we might learn regarding how well we can cope without the daily commute. Such a lesson could point us to new ways of working and learning that might even have a reduced carbon footprint, suggests work published in the International Journal of Global Warming. Indeed at the height of the lockdown and enforced remote activity, during the second and third quarters of 2020, carbon emissions fell enormously.
Aseel A. Takshe, Davide Contu, and Noelia Weber of the Canadian University Dubai, UAE, Jon C. Lovett of the School of Geography at the University of Leeds, and Paul Stenner Faculty of Arts and Social Science, School of Psychology and Counselling, The Open University, UK, suggest that change is afoot. They explain how the various restrictions implemented in efforts to curtail the spread of the coronavirus may have altered our perceptions of effective climate change actions. The team has now surveyed environmental students to see how their perceptions have changed and through their statistical analysis of the results have found four discourses that emerge.
The first sits well with the notion that we ought to learn the lessons of the so-called new normal and that this could benefit us in slowing climate change. The second is more pessimistic but suggests that we should at least endeavour to not return to pre-pandemic habits. The third discourse from the survey analysis demonstrates that many think economic recovery will have precedence over any consideration of the huge problem of climate change. Finally, the opportunities for sustainability after COVID-19 emerge.
The team suggests that, in the UEA, at least, projections for lowering carbon emissions could be achieved if the government implements a 'green' economic recovery in parallel with more stringent climate policies, such as abolishing any carbon-intensive investments. They add that adaptation will, of course, be a shared responsibility between governments, communities, and individuals. There is now a need to undertake similar surveys in other nations to determine whether or not similar discourses emerge and to measure the temper of environmental students elsewhere.
Takshe, A.A., Lovett, J.C., Stenner, P., Contu, D. and Weber, N. (2022) 'Prioritising climate change actions post COVID-19 amongst university students; a Q methodology perspective in the United Arab Emirates', Int. J. Global Warming, Vol. 26, No. 1, pp.120–139.
Researchers in Fiji have used the recently developed COVID-19 based global "fear index" to investigate the impact of the pandemic on nine major Asia-Pacific countries, specifically: Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand. The results for the period February 2020, just before the WHO declaration of the pandemic status of the disease, to November 2020 are discussed in the International Journal of Monetary Economics and Finance.
The findings of Keshmeer Makun of the School of Economics at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, suggest that there was a cointegrating relationship between the global fear index and stock returns for the nine countries. This implies that the index has a significant negative impact on stock returns in the short run. In a parallel analysis, Makun also demonstrated how exchange rates and oil prices also affected stock returns during this major global crisis in the Asia-Pacific markets.
At this point in human history, there are few people who remain unaffected in some way by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. It has killed millions, left many people seriously ill, and disrupted normal socioeconomic activity considerably since its emergence as a global pandemic in early 2020. At the time of writing, many nations are still attempting to control the spread of novel variants of the disease that continue to claim lives and disrupt even the so-called "new normal" of our daily lives.
The true long-term impacts of the disease remain to be seen as we move towards the second anniversary of the pandemic. From the economic and investment perspective, there remains much uncertainty and rational investors and shareholders might feel in a precarious position as the pandemic continues to unfold.
Makun, K. (2021) 'Covid-19 based global fear index, economic fundamentals and stock return nexus: analysis of Asia-Pacific stock markets', Int. J. Monetary Economics and Finance, Vol. 14, No. 6, pp.532–550.
The digitalisation of the music industry has been massively disruptive, to say the least. From the studio mixing desk to the world of downloads, nothing has caused more friction and more opportunity. Indeed, access to music has never been easier nor has the ability for musicians to reach an audience.
Writing in the International Journal of Indian Culture and Business Management, researchers in India discuss the dismantling of long-standing practices to make way for innovation in terms of Schumpeter's "creative destruction". They examine how innovation across the music industry has ultimately increased productivity. They ask whether the creative destruction of analogue technologies paved the way for the new digital world. This fits neatly with their assessment of the Indian music industry, which they explain was one of the largest producers of music cassettes in the 1980s.
"With peer-to-peer networks and social connectivity new ways to create and promote music evolved. Middlemen could be laid off. The creations of artists reached the final consumers through costless digital transmissions," write Bindu Balagopal of Victoria College, Palakkad, and Chacko Jose P. of Sacred Heart College, Chalakudy, Kerala, India.
The team has found that small, independent record companies are currently thriving. "The resilience of supply and a boom among fringe suppliers in spite of falling industry revenues is consistent with a process of creative destruction in the context of radical technological change," the team adds. The researchers point out that the music industry has evolved significantly since the early days of printed sheet music to the world of digital downloads. "Developments in the music industry have been many and varied and have kept pace with the technological changes happening all over the world," they conclude.
Balagopal, B. and Jose P., C. (2021) 'Innovations in digital technology and creative destruction in the music industry', Int. J. Indian Culture and Business Management, Vol. 24, No. 3, pp.303–318.
Can artificial intelligence (AI) have emotional intelligence? Research published in the International Journal of Engineering Systems Modelling and Simulation, plots the roadmap.
AI is something of a buzzword in computer science and beyond, but the concepts have a long history dating back to the 1950s if not earlier. The definition of AI has evolved over that time, however. Originally, AI encompassed the notion of creating a system, a machine that would mimic the naturally intelligence, the cognitive skills of animals. However, the idea of "intelligent agents" that can process exogenous information (input from sensors) and use the output from that processing to fulfil particular goals is now considered a more precise way to view AI. Nevertheless, the current state-of-the art sees the kind of processing that AI might do as problem solving or the machine learning paradigm that is inclined more towards biomimicry of cognition.
AI is already having an impact on areas of human endeavour as diverse as medicine and healthcare, transport, education, agriculture, finance, marketing, even entertainment, and, of course, robotics and computing itself.
Sharmistha Dey of the Department of Computational Sciences at Brainware University in Barasat, Kolkata, and Chinmay Chakraborty of the Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering at Birla Institute of Technology in Mesra, Jharkhand, India, suggest that AI is changing the world, allowing us to develop intelligent solutions that are capable of autonomous decision-making and self-diagnosis. They point out that the inclusion emotional intelligence in the development of AI is perhaps at a critical stage as it could allow us to develop AI that precludes the system succumbing to the inherent biases of those who develop a given AI system and choose its initial training inputs.
"If a machine can think or feel like a human, it can be converted into a better decision-making system," the team writes. Importantly, an AI system needs to have an inbuilt emotion detector that it might understand the emotional context of its inputs, but likewise needs a way to represent the emotional context of any solution it offers to a given problem or situation. Deep learning algorithms that go beyond the standard approaches to machine learning will take AI to the next destination on the roadmap. More data and moment-by-moment processing will help create the context and allow AI to evolve to our benefit.
Dey, S. and Chakraborty, C. (2021) 'Emotional intelligence – creating a new roadmap for artificial intelligence', Int. J. Engineering Systems Modelling and Simulation, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp.291–300.