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Surveillance applications – the new normal

Inside Telecom Staff

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Surveillance applications

It has been widely circulated lately, that governments in countries around the world have been using anonymized and aggregated phone tracking to help combat COVID-19. The next wave of technology is digital contact tracing. At the moment, these are optional applications that combine Bluetooth’s Relative Signal Strength Indicator, a duration timer and a masked identifier to timeline individuals who come into contact with new COVID-19 cases. However, to be effective, the application needs a large proportion of a country’s population to voluntarily install them.

It is likely that these applications will become a part of our daily lives after the current pandemic. The debate at the moment is if we should allow these systems to be developed and used by countries or agree a cross-border solution. In Europe, this is currently being discussed and the European Union’s privacy watchdog has now called for a central European application, rather than a state by state approach. 

A couple of weeks ago, Europe also looked at options for cross-border phone tracking between and also within countries to tackle a pandemic like COVID-19. This idea didn’t take off, however, last week, the European Union announced the impending arrival of its own contact tracing application. Known as the Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT), the program is expected to launch initially in Germany. The Chancellor Angela Merkel is reportedly a fan of the application but she will then face the challenge of converting other European Union countries that are now following their own plans.

TraceTogether is another model with a similar approach. The application, from Singapore, shares information on proximity when another device with the same application is installed within close range. The phone are able to work out the approximate distance between the users and the duration. The data is then kept for 21 consecutive days. Once a new patient with the application is registered, the authorities are able to contact anyone who is potentially at risk. 

There are numerous diverse approaches for anonymized phone tracking already in place. Location data is sourced from mobile networks in Europe and access to billions of data records is collected by the mobile marketing industry in the United States. This data is able to provide answers to social distancing, isolation and changes in behavior however, it doesn’t overlap into contact tracing. Google also added data to the mix a week ago, it was similar to the rest.

In China, phone tracking for contact tracing has been used and had a substantial impact. For example: We know you were sitting next to Patient A on the train last week, you may now be infected. Israel also announced the use of counter-terror location tracking for the first time on its own population. However, privacy issues have prevented in the creation and development of these technologies.

The same privacy concerns are likely to divide contact tracing applications too. A team at University College in London has come with an alternative to PEPP-PT which focuses on decentralization and claims that its DP-3T system stops any personal data from leaving a device. 

The United Kingdom has its own plans for a Bluetooth contact tracing application, however this would be run by the government. A report from Wired, said that on April 7th the NHS is considering using the application as a means to enforce social distancing and to warn people if they get to close to others. This comes after a huge debate within the country as to whether or not lockdown is being adhered to. The main issue here is that those that are breaking the rules, will obviously not opt-in to any such application. For this reason the NHS denied these plans.

Of course, the downside to optional plans is the proportion of the population that need to opt-in and install the software for it to be of use. Tracing phones without upsetting the public is a huge concern and so too is asking individuals to install an application and run it on their phones. Despite surveillance issues, the reality is that the contact tracing that China used is the most effective method of ensuring this works.

In recent weeks, the conversation around smartphone tracking has taken-off. Both Europe and the US have now deployed programs and are also looking into the next steps as they attempt to battle this health emergency. Current privacy compromises were unimaginable a couple of months ago.

It will become apparent in the near future as to whether or not the population will trade their freedom for the greater good and install applications that will detect movement and warn on contact. If this does not work, the authorities may perhaps have no option but to look into the digital means integrated into tracking technologies that are already in use. Phone tracking will not cease to exist when Europe and the States relax lockdown restrictions in the summer. There is now the requirement for population and infection monitoring, contact tracing, permission to return to work, isolation and quarantines, and the possibility of further lockdowns next winter. From a surveillance perspective, this new normal has just started.

We’re a diverse group of industry professionals from all corners of the world. Our desire is to provide a high-quality telecoms publication that caters to an international market, offering the latest and most relevant telecoms information to businesses, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts.

Feature Articles

India’s growing production powerhouse

Inside Telecom Staff

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India’s growing production powerhouse

Issues between the United States and China continue, however other countries can be forgiven for wondering why they should be considered as helpless bystanders as the worlds two main superpowers go head-to-head in a battle over which of them should attain or retain dominance in the global telecommunications business.

 

Perhaps one of the most expected responses is that of India. The country will be exercising its leadership and also its dominance in its 1.3 billion consumer market.

 

To avoid finding itself on the wrong side as the tech trade war heats up, the Indian government says it is planning to motivate the big telecoms equipment manufacturers to move towards making all of the telecoms equipment that they provide for India’s giant telecoms operators inside the country. This will mean security of supply. Critics also say that another motivation is to lessen the possibility of spying by foreign intelligence services.

 

There is currently a mandate to buy local telecoms equipment in the case of BSNL, which is a state-run company, however international vendors point out that expanding local production would not make sense just to service one specific network. They would require further incentives.

 

At the moment the likes of Nokia and Ericsson are building telecom equipment in India for the Indian market however the amount of local content going into the finished product is only around 40%.

 

So mainly for reasons of security of supply in a broken telecoms world, the government says it wants to push that proportion to 100%. This may take time, of course, however India represents a vast and increasing market so it must be confident that the big players at least, will be content to display ‘made 100% in India’ stickers on their finished boxes in due course. One of these main vendors will include Huawei.

 

India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is actually scheduled to meet with the vendors, to discuss how Indian telecoms equipment manufacturing in India can be expanded.

 

In the meantime, India is already launching major initiatives to boost electronics manufacturing including components distant from mobile phones. This year alone, it has approved three separate schemes – the Production Link Incentive Scheme for large-scale electronic manufacturing; the Scheme for Promotion of Manufacturing of Electronic Components and Semiconductors, and the Modified Electronics Manufacturing Clusters Scheme. The three schemes offer either cash incentives for sales goods that are manufactured in India; capital expenditure subsidy for electronic goods; and in the case of EMC 2.0, support for the development of “common facilities and amenities,” such as ready-built factory sheds for attracting major global electronics manufacturers.

 

It is predicted that these three schemes could result in smartphone and component production worth an amount of US$133 billion by 2025 and will more than likely attract global players like Samsung. Apple suppliers Foxconn and Wistron have already increased local production, due to India’s huge market of 1.3 billion people.

 

Globalisation rollback will not be going in one direction. The European Union has also announced that it is going full steam ahead on digital service provider platform regulations. This includes clipping the wings of Google, Facebook and Amazon. It has been on the agenda for several years and the United States government has not been slow to voice its opposition to such developments. Now the European Union has launched two consultations. The first is to update the e-commerce directive from 2000, and the other suggests new competition regulations to prevent the big digital platforms acting as gatekeepers to stymie European entrants.

 

 

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Feature Articles

4 ways 5G will change our lives

Karim Hussami

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4 ways 5G will change our lives

5G technology is being rolled out in many countries worldwide, and is expected to have a substantial impact on our lives. Here’s how it will change things.

  1. 5G will change the way we shop for good – and will support the unprecedented shift in consumer behavior that was triggered by the health crisis. It offers high-performance, ultra-low latency networks that enable retailers to use immersive technologies such as AR to integrate the physical and digital worlds. This allows shoppers to try products virtually without the need to go to the store physically. The shopping experience will be enhanced with hyper-personalized digital experiences for customers, when in-store activity resumes.

 

  1. For the fact that 5G enables us to realize the potential of a fully connected world, it will push autonomous cars and drones more into the public space. 5G will give life to better and safer self-driving cars that will connect to other people, buildings, vehicles and street lights. Road safety will also benefit from a streamline system aided by 5G technology. Data collected from more IoT devices will be made possible which will expand a city’s ability to manage traffic flow, air quality, power use and public safety.

 

  1. Moving to more advanced forms of digital technology is a very important principle especially in regard to supply chain management. 5G will improve network speeds, simplify workflows among varying groups and will add new levels of end-to-end visibility on operations. Such improvements will translate into services that embody efficiency, quality and transparency for customers.

 

  1. Our trips to the doctor’s office may become a thing of the past as 5G facilitates virtual visits by low-latency, HD quality wireless networks. Telehealth services are being used more, since the start of the pandemic as it offers long distance patient and clinician contact, care, advice, reminders, intervention and monitoring. With 5G technology, wearable or implanted medical devices will capture your vitals and transmit them more efficiently to health care providers, to allow them to detect early signs of heart attacks, strokes, or other life-threatening events.

 

 

 

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Feature Articles

Confidence levels among tech startups have been shaken amid health crisis

Inside Telecom Staff

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Confidence levels among tech start-ups have been shaken amid health crisis

The pandemic has impacted industries across the world –with figures showing that almost 40 million people have lost their jobs since the health crisis. It therefore comes as no surprise that business confidence has been shaken. Many aspiring companies set out with a promising vision for a future – that did not include the pandemic.

The sharp drop in confidence levels has undoubtedly been caused by the prevailing and unprecedented impact of Covid-19. Studies have shown that many startups are worried about surviving the pandemic – as many reported having no contingency plans in place. A ‘plan B’ always comes highly recommended in case a company’s initial launch does not meet expected sales figures. Should a primary target not be met, a viable alternative must help diversify channels to help mitigate the impact of potential loss. The formal documenting of policies and procedure for startups, might seem cumbersome but there is a lot to gain from a careful, methodological approach; such information can be of great value when you are in need of clear guidelines to help you in a moment of crisis.

Despite the sharp decline in confidence levels, experts believe that tech startups are the most likely businesses to bounce back from the crisis. Ritam Gandhi, founder and director of Studio Graphene, said that while coronavirus is the biggest challenge faced by businesses today, startups are well positioned to overcome adversity of this scale. “They are nimble, agile and able to respond to the challenges that arise on a day-by-day basis,” he said. “What’s more, demand for technology is higher than ever – consumers and businesses need innovative solutions to the problems they are currently facing. So, there are opportunities for those who can pivot and keep pushing forward.” In fact, many businesses in e-commerce, digital payments, e-learning and med tech have seen positive impact amid the health crisis. But travel and tourism platforms have not been so lucky.

With revenues hard hit in these few months, many small business owners have experienced significant cash flow difficulties. While adaptability is a key characteristic of smaller companies, dried up resources and funding may disrupt plans to move forward post-pandemic. Law360 reports, that “regardless of sector, the inability to generate adequate cash flow jeopardizes the ability to meet obligations to lender, creditors and investors.”

While the pandemic has shaken confidence, reports show that the vast majority of tech startups will plan to hire more staff and hope to raise further investment this year. Businesses need to explore new markets if they are to survive more permanent changes caused by Covid-19. The shift in consumer behavior may even bring about new opportunities for those who started out with an entirely different vision. But, strategies must align with and not fight, new, emerging trends.

 

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