Solar Foil

5 September 2008 at 0:05 | Posted in Green Energy, Green Initiatives, Ideas, Renewable Energy, Solar Energy, Solar Power | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , ,

[Category: Ideas. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

This is merely an idea, although there are so many initiatives under way globally in the field of solar energy that this will hopefully be a reality sooner rather than later.

Imagine a roll of bitumen roofing, the type of thick “black paper” that is rolled out onto flat roofs and “glued” to the roof my partially melting the material using a burner of some sort.

Now imagine a similar type and size of roll, but the material is metallic. The roll gets deployed in much the same fashion, and will probably be glued to the roof, possibly using a “sticky” reverse side, which can be exposed by removing a protective cover, and the glue of which would be waterproof and withstand prolonged outdoor use.

The material is Solar Foil, a type of material that acts like one big solar cell (in fact, it will probably be using masses of small solar cells on its surface, or even nano-technology based material).

Below the surface of the material there will be a mesh of conductive channels, where the power that is generated accumulates.

To “tap” the power generated by the solar foil, a simple connector is connected to any part of the mesh of conductive channels (at the side of a sheet of the foil), and attached to a device that can store and/or standardize the power.

This structure makes it possible to cut the Solar Foil into any required size (ideally it should be possible to cut it with strong normal scissors), and as long as the mesh of different sheets of Solar Foil is connected at least at one location, the entire surface covered with connected sheets of Solar Foil will act as one large single solar cell.

It will be possible to use this material on roofs and sides of buildings, on roofs of vehicles, and on most other surfaces outside, flat or curved, as long as the material can be stuck onto it.

If the material is sufficiently sensitive, it could also be used indoors – for example I could have a sheet of it somewhere on my desk (for example hanging off the back of my computer monitor, facing artificial or natural light) and it could be used to recharge my cell phone. Similar uses could be thought of in the home, where it could be used to recharge sets of rechargable batteries, for example.

If you like this idea and you work in a type of industry where this is relevant, I would be happy to discuss in more detail, answer questions or assist in other ways. For details and contact information please see the “About itimes3” page.

George Spark

Disclaimer: Any trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.
All usage of this site is entirely at users risk.

Advertisements

Passport of the Future

11 August 2008 at 19:32 | Posted in Airport Security, Aviation Security, Electronic Identification, Ideas, IT Security, passport, Security | Leave a comment
Tags: , , ,

[Category: Ideas. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

Yesterday a friend of mine, who is prone to forgetting his passport as well as losing it from time to time due to forgetfulness, asked me: “George, what do you think is the future of passports?”. He was wondering whether there would ever be a better solution than having to remember carrying a small booklet around the world to prove his identity.

So I gave him my vision of the future of passports, which I believe will be more or less as follows:

First there will be a process of (further) standardisation, computerisation and globalisation. This may lead to the passport as a booklet being replaced, say in 10 to 20 years, by a smart card of some sort (probably a credit card sized plastic document with embedded RFID-type chip). The smart card will contain all relevant user data including travel history, biometric identification data, photo, etc.

All the technology is available, main problems are with global standardisation and systems integration (which can only happen as fast as politicians work, e.g. generally slow) as well as with security.

Once this stage has been reached, further convergence will be possible, towards everyone carrying only one card or similar item which contains the passport data, but which can be loaded with additional functionality such as driver license data, bank card data, health records, phone data, and random additional items such as gym access, security access to buildings, cars, etc. etc.

The main issue there once again will be security, but it will be possible to overcome this (although of course nothing is ever totally secure). The card data may be transferable to authorized devices such as cellphones (so the cellphone could be used as passport, etc.) or for the owner to create a read-only backup copy.

The next step after this will be embedding. The “converged passport” will be embedded into the body in the form of an implanted chip, much like more basic chips (usually based on RFID technology) are already implanted in animals and in some humans.

At this stage, more data will likely be added to the implant (for example it would be nice if we could carry our computer data within our body). Our body would communicate with various wireless networks as we walk down the street (for example receiving messages), access buildings, our bank accounts, enter new countries, enter our cars (which will only start with us or an authorized person at the wheel), etc.

As an added form of security, DNA sequencing should be fast enough at this stage to allow it to be used for authentication purposes (perhaps not sequencing someone’s entire DNA, but a few key points that are unique idetifiers, much like fingerprint scanning only scans for a few unique identifiers and does not deal with the entire fingerprint).

So I answered my friend that in the end, we will be our passports: all current passport data – and much more – will be carried within our bodies.

If you like this idea and you work in a type of industry where this is relevant, I would be happy to discuss in more detail, answer questions or assist in other ways. For details and contact information please see the “About itimes3” page.

George Spark

Disclaimer: Any trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.
All usage of this site is entirely at users risk.

Cloud Computing Security

1 August 2008 at 13:40 | Posted in Cloud Computing, Data Centres, Ideas, IT Security, Online Backup Services, Security | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , ,

[Category: Ideas. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

Cloud computing is the next big thing, or perhaps the current big thing. If you work in the IT industry like me, you’ve read about it and heard sales talk about it for several years now, and the pace is stepping up.

Yet what has been surprising me, particularly now that cloud computing appears to be taking off in earnest, is that there does not appear to be any formal, independent global body as yet that overseas the cloud computing industry.

There are no ISO certifications for cloud computing operators, there is no standardised security benchmark, no governing body, no way you can tell whether a service you may want to subscribe to is run in a secure data centre or on a stack of dusty, failing reconditioned PC’s in the corner of someone’s flood-prone garage.

For the past few years I have been doing my backups online, online backup being probably the most basic form of cloud computing. Problem is: each of the big operators in this market claims they have secure facilities, store your data in a way nobody can access it, use private keys for encryption, etc.

However there is no way I can know for sure that the data centres they use, and the systems they use, are truly secure and compliant with any standard – particularly because there is no standard. One thing is certain: there are vastly differing setups out there, yet everyone claims high levels of security.

Case in point is the use of “private keys”. Several operators claim to offer data security via the use of a private key, and that they cannot access the data because the private key is entered by the user and thus the user is the only one who knows the key and can encrypt and decrypt the data.

However this is not technically possible. Because all these backup services use versioning to track changes in the data and back up files incrementally, which very significantly saves on disk space.

In order to use versioning, the data needs to be decrypted to check the file content and how it changed, then back up the changes and re-encrypt the file. For this, the private key is required. Which means it is stored somewhere and accessed by the backup service on a practically non-stop basis whilst the backup is occurring.

Obviously this is all done in an automated way, no human being is sitting there manually decripting and re-encrypting these files. But it means that if someone at the backup service provider wanted access to your data, all they would need to do is load the private key, which they have to have access to, and decrypt any files they wanted.

And this is just one example. The same applies to any other cloud computing services available today. We do not know what is out there at the data centres. Our data is lost in the fog. A big brand name makes no difference (as recent big outages at one key provider show). What is needed is independent verification and compliance with standards.

So I say: it is time for either the industry or user interests to initiate the creation of an independent governing body, that issues certifications to cloud computing providers that comply with a published minimum security standard. And to verify compliance on a regular basis, through, for example, unannounced annual inspections.

If you like this idea and you work in a type of industry where this is relevant, I would be happy to discuss in more detail, answer questions or assist in other ways. For details and contact information please see the “About itimes3” page.

George Spark

Disclaimer: Any trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.
All usage of this site is entirely at users risk.

Securing the Future of Robotics

26 July 2008 at 19:55 | Posted in Ideas, Robotics, Robots, Security, Think-tank | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , ,

[Category: Ideas. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

The 20th century started with a few early cars and planes which were very limited in performace and highly unreliable, and ended with cars and planes being ubiquitous, reliable and at an advanced stage of development.

In the same way, the 21st century started with relatively few robots with very limited functionality, and believe me, at its end robots will be ubiquitous, reliable, and at an advanced stage of development. Cars, buses, boats, planes will be robots – the human driver will be gone. The armies of the major world powers will be largely robotic. Surgeons, dentists and many other professions which rely on precision and relatively static knowledge will be robotized. Households and offices will have large numbers of robots deployed in different shapes and with different and complex functionality and intelligence. In addition, small robots will roam inside our bodies to control functions, monitor us and enchance us. And much more.

This pattern has already started in a limited way. Within a few decades, robots will start to control and manage the more mundane – and much of the advanced – aspects of daily life to a degree perhaps almost inconceivable today.

In other words: whilst the 20th century was the century of cars and airplanes, the 21st century will most definitely be the century of robotics.

I am all for robots and robotics, however there is a problem looming large, and from what I can see, lessons of the past are not being applied: this is the problem of security.

In the past two decades, personal computers have taken over much of our business lives and quite a bit of our private lives too in many cases, and as the usage of computers increases, so have threats, which keep increasing in scale and severity. Recently uncovered security risks in the DNS infrastructure of the Internet is just one of many issues that show how everything is connected and how much of the infrastructure is vulnerable.

These vulnerabilities exists because people who develop the technologies first and foremost focus on functionality – the bells and whistles. It is natural and human to do so. Security is invisible until things go wrong, and therefore is not sexy. Managers and shareholders who do not understand the technology and the risks (or who don’t care), want the product to market and just care for the functionality of it. Security is an afterthought, and will often only be addressed once a serious problem is uncovered.

The problem with robotics is the technology will interfere with our lives much deeper and on a much larger scale. Essentially, whilst computers have largely remained at the periphery of our lives (albeit connected to us and within society as a whole), robots and robotics will eventually almost fully integrate with our lives and society. They will be part of us, to such a degree that there will be a time, not too far into the future, where we will not be able to live without them.

If all computers in the world failed today economies would collapse and humanity would suffer major problems, but we would survive after some adjustments.

If all robots in the world fail 80 or 100 years from now, much of humanity will not survive because the robots will be running our lives and civilization to such a large degree.

An issue with robots is that many people still see them as individual entities: some cute humanoid robot getting us a beer or a robotic pet dog doing funny tricks. The truth is, robots will be part of an integrated “universe” which will be centrally controlled to a large degree. Robots will interact and communicate with us and with each other, and thus will be able to send and receive transmissions of data. They will need to be updated and upgraded, which will likely be a fully automated process (think an advanced version of Windows Update). Manufacturers, governments, service providers and many others will all have a measure of control over armies of robots, which implies an ability to operate, control, update them as part of a network.

Nowadays, viruses, worms, internet hacks etc. spread around the internet in seconds. The result may be that our computer or network is disabled for some time. Once the true age of robotics is upon us, this type of threat will be much more severe because complications can easily be devastating.

The artificial intelligence which many robots will possess is an added risk factor: a human programmer could implant rogue behaviour which could be hidden in the increased complexity of the software and be triggered by random events, sometimes years after the robot is first deployed. In advanced stages, a robot or robotic control entity (“central command” of a group of robots) could “seed” rogue behaviour into other robots without human intervention, and manipulate it so that it becomes vitually undetectable.

Robots will have much more impact, so instead of a virus disabling a personal computer, the “virus” that hits a robot may spur the device (or group of devices) into killing or destruction. And whilst it is inconveivable that your Roomba will rear up from the floor and headbutt you in anger for not emptying its dust tray, the much more advanced robots of the future may very well be programmed to go rogue for whatever reason: by “hackers”, by industry insiders for reasons of personal grievance, by enemies, by criminals, by terrorists, or simply because of human error during the development process of the robot “brain”.

To avoid this type of scenario, I would like to float the idea of setting up a security think-tank for the robotics industry globally, in which top-notch scientists and programmers would participate to design, from scratch ideally, secure operating systems for robots, communications and behavioral protocols, physical security and access to the software, etc. This would have to be a global effort, rising above politics and commercial interests, for the benefit of humanity as a whole (however once secure technologies have been developed and agreed upon, these can then obviously be used in commercial and individual government applications).

Rather than adapting your existing version of Linux or Windows for robotics use, I believe it is essential that new, highly secure methods be developed to create and protect the core intelligence of the robots of this century and beyond.

There will always be rogue elements trying to disrupt daily life, but when it comes to robotics if for once we don’t start with the “outside” (functionality), but rather with the “inside” (that what ultimately powers and protects the functionality) we will be much better off in the long term.

If you like this idea and you work in a type of industry where this is relevant, I would be happy to discuss in more detail, answer questions or assist in other ways. For details and contact information please see the “About itimes3” page.

George Spark

Disclaimer: Any trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.
All usage of this site is entirely at users risk.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.