The contributions of recent technological developments toward humanity has characterized this period in history as the best time to be alive. From advancements in the field of medicine, to construction, even reaching the service industry, we have made strides in bettering humanity’s quality of life.
But there remains a lot to be done; and the basic necessity that we need to address is that of world hunger, and many foresee that the biggest player to shift this landscape will be Artificial Intelligence (AI).
According to the World Economic Forum, the agriculture sector employs roughly 25 percent of the world’s population, while being responsible for feeding and sustaining 7.5 billion people.
Despite countless efforts by governments, NGOs, non-profits and the like, a staggering 1.9 billion people remain moderately or severely food insecure, and roughly 820 million do not get enough to eat on a daily basis, as per the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
In parallel, the global population is projected to expand to almost 10 billion by 2050, experts estimate that feeding the planet will require farmers to grow 69 percent more calories than they did in 2006.
In the wake of increasing produce to meet global demand, humanity has wreaked havoc on the environment by cutting down forests and ploughing more farmland and grassland, which has contributed to almost 10 percent of global carbon emissions.
Massive areas within South America and continental Africa have taken the worst hits from this, while adding the effects of climate change and urbanization that pose an even greater risk to crop production.
The sooner changes can be enacted, the better.
While AI has suffered from a bad rep in the media due to people’s fearfulness of intelligent machines, new AI-powered businesses and startups are mushrooming everywhere to fight back against humanity’s biggest threats, from climate change to Covid-19.
The role of AI
AI already has hurdles that need to be dealt with and fast; since poverty-stricken people in remote areas require investment in basic infrastructure, social services, as well as law to support the proper distribution of food.
With all that in mind, AI can prove to be the biggest protagonist within this struggle by lowering operational costs, simplifying access to local and international markets. Thus, unlocking this valuable information and knowledge can be the main catalyst in supporting people’s decision-making in the most productive and sustainable way.
In addition, an investment into AI can bring with it a pool of financial and technical resources from a myriad of diverse partnerships that would lay the foundations for more sustainable farming – making it easier for decisions and policy makers to apply AI solutions within their programs.
However, an effective outcome requires alignment between the discourse of AI integration and human values. People, governments, and enterprises across the board need to understand that the role of AI will be placed for the greater good of serving humanity, shying away from the “stealing our jobs” narrative to look at the bigger picture.
AI in smart farming
The world needs to change its direction when it comes to feeding the world, by transitioning from small farming to smart farming.
Smart farming unlocks the power of precision, using real time data coupled with algorithms to analyze a huge volume of data to ascertain common patterns and in turn transform those patterns into predictions.
An example of this can be made through cost cutting in reducing waste, where algorithms and machine learning can apply the necessary resources of pesticides, water, and the like according to the needs of each patch of land.
In parallel, real time insights with the help of sensors, in-field cameras, and micro weather data can provide farmers with the most accurate information to make the best possible decisions. Early signs of damage to the crop can be detected and addressed with the help of deep learning and computer vision algorithms.
“There might be a number of crop related issues that can skip the eyes of humans but can be detected with the help of proven and well-trained algorithms. These smart sensors are able to detect rainfall, humidity, crop water demands, water stress, micro-climate data, canopy biomass, chlorophyll and so much more,” a report by the World Economic Forum said.
What’s happening on the ground?
There are a number of companies and initiatives that are already being worked on as we speak. The greatest example of this is an AI company called Prospera, that is training powerful algorithms on vast new datasets to improve the efficiency and performance of traditional farms.
Prospera collects 50 million data points every day across 4700 fields, which are then analyzed with the help of AI to identify pests and disease outbreaks, while digging up new opportunities to increase yields and reduce the carbon footprint by eliminating waste.
Another approach being taken by companies such as Plenty and Aerofarms is vertical indoor farming which utilizes AI algorithms to optimize nutrient inputs and increase yields in real time.
Others such as Root AI, are using computer vision coupled with robotics to identify when fruit is at its ripest.
It is important to note that the most advanced forms of vertical indoor farming are estimated to produce over 20 times more food per acre than traditional fields, using roughly 90 percent less water.
The industrial meat production sector also has a cut of the action.
Companies such as Latin American NotCo and Fazenda Futuro are using AI tools to analyze plant data to identify the best circumstances to replicate the taste and texture of meat.
The market has obviously taken note of this, with sales of refrigerated plant-based meat growing by a whopping 125 percent. This is necessary since meat production accounts for almost 50 percent of global agricultural emissions, according to the FAO.
The private sector isn’t the only one riding this bandwagon. Governments across the globe are also looking to ride the winds of change in hopes of providing better feeding conditions for their citizens.
An example of this was brought about by a partnership between the World Economic Forum and the government of India to identify high-value use cases for AI in agriculture, develop innovative AI solutions, and drive their widespread adoption.
And the world is swiftly following suit; such as investments by the government of Zimbabwe will intensify climate smart agriculture, a farming technique that helps farmers to be more productive on a warming planet, than adopting “harmful” genetically modified crops.
In parallel, the government of Japan formulated “the Basic Plan for Food, Agriculture, and Rural Areas,” in March 2020 which shows the direction of measures with a vision for approximately the next 10 years.
Australia has already allocated millions of its budget to improving landcare, waste management, and farming sustainability.
While no single technology can solve the world’s biggest problems, the integration of AI could be a stepping stone to a more accurate and efficient future that the world is desperately in need of.
Ways for remote workers to stop cybercriminals
The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way humans interact with each other across the board, handshakes have switched to fist bumps, massive conferences have gone digital in the form of webinars, and more importantly, employees have built makeshift offices within the comfort of their own homes.
According to Shefali Roy, former CCO & COO at TrueLayer, a UK-based FinTech firm, working from home has become the new norm.
“People are working longer and harder, which can be a big cause for concern with regards to employee burnout since they’re on high alert at all times due to the sudden merge of workstations and home comfort,” Roy said during a the MoneyFest 2020 webinar.
Thus, it isn’t strange for employees to start asking their employers about their work-from-home policy.
While remote working offers safety from a physical virus, it exposes employees to threatening digital viruses. Cybercriminals have taken advantage of this shift in the workplace and have targeted their sights around remote employees across the board.
According to a report published by Kaspersky there have been almost 726 million confirmed cyberattacks since the beginning of the year; “This has put 2020 on course to rack up somewhere in the region of 1.5 billion cyberattacks for the year,” the report stated.
While some companies have rejuvenated their IT security teams to deal with threats, many other companies haven’t and a big number of businesses are exposed to these breaches every day.
This leaves workers to fend for themselves against sophisticated cybercriminals’ intent on stealing their information and wreak havoc on businesses.
Fret not, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance, a U.S.-based cybersecurity non-profit, there are a number of ways that can help you protect your sensitive company information while venturing out of the digital safety of the office:
- Think before you click. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of people seeking information on COVID-19. They are distributing malware campaigns that impersonate organizations like WHO, CDC, and other reputable sources by asking you to click on links or download outbreak maps. Slow down. Don’t click. Go directly to a reputable website to access the content.
- Lock down your login. Create long and unique passphrases for all accounts and use multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever possible. MFA will fortify your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics or a unique one-time code sent to your phone or mobile device.
- Connect to a secure network and use a company-issued Virtual Private Network (VPN) to access any work accounts. Home routers should be updated to the most current software and secured with a lengthy, unique passphrase. Employees should not be connecting to public Wi-Fi to access work accounts unless using a VPN.
- Separate your network so your company devices are on their own Wi-Fi network, and your personal devices are on their own.
- Always keep devices with you or stored in a secure location when not in use. Set auto log-out if you walk away from your computer and forget to log out.
- Limit access to the device you use for work. Only the approved user should use the device (family and friends should not access a work-issued device).
- Use company-approved/vetted devices and applications to collaborate and complete your tasks. Don’t substitute your preferred tools with ones that have been vetted by the company’s security team.
- Update your software. Before connecting to your corporate network, be sure that all Internet-connected devices ‒including PCs, smartphones, and tablets ‒ are running the most current versions of software. Updates include important changes that improve the performance and security of your devices.
While employees can arm themselves with these helpful tips to fend off cyberattacks and breaches, remote workers can still educate themselves on how to spot phishing and ransomware attempts.
There are more than a handful of hints that could flag emails as suspicious or malicious, such as:
- Strange requests: these types of emails tend to give out information that’s out of the ordinary, maybe an unexpected request or one that isn’t directly relevant to you. The most likely case is that it’s a typical phishing email, even if the domain came from within your very own organization, call the sender and ask.
- Generic salutations: If someone is sending you an email and not addressing you personally, then chances are the sender doesn’t know who you are. Best-case scenario, it could be a marketing campaign, or the worst-case scenario is that you’re being targeted.
- Spelling errors: especially during emails, people will always double and triple check their emails for typos and spelling errors to remain professional. Thus, finding these errors are ‘phishy’ so beware!
- Be wary of attachments: this is exactly how cybercriminals worm their way into computers, which is why if the sender or email seems suspicious, chances are, the virus is laying in wait in the attachment.
- Shady URLs: hiding or spoofing links is the easiest thing to pull off, since the URL could take you to a different destination to where a link reads; although staying away from it is the best course of action, you could always hover over the link to check if the destination leads to where you expect it to.
- You’ve won our competition:while these traps can obviously be spotted, people are still falling for these schemes in 2020. Always remember, if it’s too good to be true, then it most likely is, so stay away.
- Scaremongering: A common approach used by cybercriminals is to claim something like “your account has been breached!”. This creates a sense of urgency and vulnerability and can prevent people from thinking clearly. If the claims in the email were true, would the sender really tell you in this way? Always check through a different means of communication.
- Change of behavior: Maybe you’ve received an email from somebody you trust such as your boss, or colleague, but the language used is different from normal. Maybe it’s too formal or informal. Maybe the email signature isn’t the normal one used. You’re probably used to the way these individuals talk to you, so if it’s not normal, something weird might be going on.
As time passes, and technologies get more and more advanced, so do cybercriminals, as they stay up to date with the technological winds of change to further find their weak points. Thus, employees who choose to stay remote have a responsibility toward their employers to remain safe online, as the damages are no longer measured on an individual level, but can take down entire organizations.
The importance of IoMT security across the healthcare system
In our hyper-connected world, advancing technology in IoT is bringing promise to many systems across industry sectors.
The Internet of Medical Things or IoMT which is a subset of the Internet of Things is one of the many emerging technologies that has impacted the healthcare system and our lives.
Hospitals and medical centers depend on smart devices for doctors to monitor their patients and their medical situations quickly and efficiently. In addition, these devices offer more precise analysis and earlier recognition of medical issues with the help of information flow.
According to a report published by Deloitte, “Hospitals in the U.S. have an average of 15 smart medical devices per bed, while the IoMT market is expected to reach $52 billion by 2022.”
Security risks for smart devices
IoMT, like any other technological device, is also subject to security risks such as cyberattacks. Malicious activities have increased in number in the last few years targeting medical institutions and being the cause of major disruption in the healthcare system, financial losses, which has lowered patient’s confidence in healthcare.
For example, hackers disabled computer systems at Düsseldorf University Hospital in Germany last September and led to the death of a patient while doctors attempted to transfer her to another hospital. The ransomware attack scrambles data, making computer systems inoperable.
The hospital’s President Arne Schönbohm said hackers took advantage of a well-known vulnerability in a piece of VPN (virtual private network) software developed by Citrix and warned other organizations to protect themselves from the flaw.
The need to implement robust IoMT security solutions in the medical industry has never been more important. Encryptions and conducting a secure boot – making sure that when a device is turned on, none of its conﬁgurations have been modiﬁed – are some of the basic yet fundamental security measures providers and manufacturers of IoT devices can take.
Other important security measures:
- A defense strategy should be put in place and implemented with multiple layers of security available to protect against any risk. Make sure that authentication is properly followed, device access is limited, and device-to-device communication is monitored carefully.
- The IoT device should be tested before it is put into production. Monitoring device security should be done throughout its life cycle to ensure fewer vulnerabilities. After the machine has been produced, security measures should be incorporated into its design such as conducting a risk assessment before the device is released for use in the market. Authentication measures should be built into the device.
- Create an environment for teaching the culture of security, where the IT department can inform employees about issues and their dangers on the system or company they work for. In addition, conducting regular trainings to recognize vulnerabilities, cyber threats, risks and anomalies will speed up breach response.
Cyberattacks will never simply vanish. No matter the level of precautions we take, there will always be a degree of risk but making sure devices are secure and teams are vigilant and prepared, may help reduce overall disruption caused by cybercrime.
Taiwan: plans that will enable Fintech firms to access more customer data
An open database of information is highly relevant for enterprises to get an idea of people’s needs and preferences which will give companies a chance to improve the quality of their products and services and help cultivate new ones.
The Joint Credit Information Center (JCIC) in Taiwan is planning to establish a database for local financial technology firms to obtain information on consumers’ credit risk information, the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) reported.
One of the ways in which financial service providers tend to use or deliver innovative services, is by adopting new technology. This has led Taiwan financial industry to spend over $700 million in 2017, on FinTech R&D and solutions in the areas of AI, AML, biometrics, blockchain, cloud services, cybersecurity, data analytics, payment, among other tech initiatives.
More info, better service
Taiwan’s information technology infrastructure is well-developed, with 90% 4G penetration and 80% mobile penetration, according to the International Trade Administration. “Taiwan is a strong market for e-commerce, online entertainment, mobile payment, and other technology-driven services.”
According to FSC Banking Bureau, electronic payment users exceeded eight million people in April 2020.
Respectively, information about consumers is a crucial part in company’s businesses and continuity as well as its success, that is why sharing is essential to progress.
After Fintech companies held a meeting in June 2020 with Taiwan’s Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) Chairman Thomas Huang, suggestions circulated during the discussion noting that the center should make its data accessible to the fintech firms for the fact that the type of information it provides could help with developing various financial products or services.
As plans go ahead, the database would be launched in October 2021, according to the Banking Bureau, adding that fintech companies could also use the National Development Council’s open data service.
According to the Taipei Times, up until this time, 426 financial sector companies including local banks, securities firms, credit cooperatives, insurance providers and credit card issuers are among the businesses that have benefitted from JCIC’s raw data – currently not including Fintech enterprises.
Consumer approval before gaining access
Accessing information related to consumers is not as simple as one might think because it depends on customer approval and whether they agree to share their personal preferences online for a specific service.
Banking Bureau Chief Secretary Phil Tong said, “With consumers’ approval, the agency (JCIC) would provide their lending and repayment data to the companies, including how much money they have borrowed, what kind of loans they have taken and whether they have repaid on time.”
According to sources, the new database will not include consumers’ raw data and will follow personal data protection rules. The JCIC doesn’t share customers actual financial records.
Obviously, the new normal in business practice is for companies to obtain information about their customers, whether by their own efforts or by the help of a third party. Today, data enables growth.
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