Internet of things helps track endangered dugongs in the Philippines

Fishermen in the Philippines are using Android apps and smartphones to track dugongs in the Philippines, in a bid to help save them from extinction.

The fisherman capture data to upload to an internet of things (IoT) platform.

The “citizen science” conservation project – in which scientific research is carried out by nonprofessional scientists – is managed by Smart Earth Network (SEN) and marine conservation non-profit C3 (Community Centred Conservation), with IoT cloud provider Ki supplying the platform. 

Dugongs, also known as sea cows, are marine mammals that are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a species vulnerable to extinction. They face many dangers from local fishing, destruction of habitat and illegal hunting.

As part of a trial in the Busuanga region of the country, around 30 fishermen have been given basic smartphones, supplied by local mobile provider Cherry Mobile.

At sea, the fishermen can photograph any dugongs they spot and upload the images when they are back on land to a central database hosted on the Kii Cloud, using an app developed by SEN.

The fishermen, many of whom are unable to read or write, are being trained to use the smartphones and are being provided with local charging facilities.

Each image will indicate the location of a dugong via GPS, and allow C3 to map the sightings and get a clear idea of the population in the area. This data allows the team to put together recommendations for future protection areas.

The plan is to share the data with other conservationists worldwide, and also with the local Council of Development to help C3 lobby the local government.

“Traditionally, we have had to track these amazing sea creatures from the air, which is expensive and not entirely reliable,” said Chris Poonian, a consultant at C3.

“Using smartphones to monitor endangered species is an innovative and novel approach. This collaborative project is one of the first initiatives of its kind to employ smartphone technology. If successful, these approaches could have important applications for surveys of rare species throughout the world,” he said.

Using IoT and mobile technology for conservation is a simple but effective approach, said Simon Hodgkinson, founder of SEN, which provides a platform for conservationists and technologists to share ideas and network.

“This technology is helping to take the expense and legwork out of conservation, especially in the more remote parts of the world. While this project is in its infancy, the feedback from the local community has been positive and we are seeing early results from the data,” said Hodgkinson.

Serene Chan, industry manager of digital transformation at Frost & Sullivan Asia-Pacific, said IoT technology has made it possible to collect, transmit, store and share data in ways that were not possible before.

“The declining cost of sensors, modules and devices has created a lot of excitement and expectations about the results technology can achieve,” said Chan.

Effective collaboration is key to the successful use of IoT technology in conservation efforts, added Chan. “Extending the collaboration to the public, in this case the fishermen, is a very useful way to support conservation efforts.”

She said that using IoT technology in this conservation effort is effective, as it uses satellite tagging and tracking of sea animals to gain insights on their location, movement patterns and other behavioural parameters.

“Data can also be extracted and presented in the form of a web-based dashboard showing an aggregated view of specific parameters, such as the environmental condition these sea animals are in.”

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Two-thirds of UK firms plan to take their IT estate all-in on cloud, research claims

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of UK firms plan to eventually migrate their entire IT estate to the cloud, with the average company taking 19 months to shift their applications off-premise.

According to the The Cloud Industry Forum’s (CIF) sixth piece of “major research” into business cloud adoption trends, 78% of UK enterprises are using off-premise services, and this figure is forecast to hit 85% in the next two years.

The trade body polled 250 senior IT and business decision-makers working in a mix of private and public sector organisations. It discovered that – of those using cloud – around 77% have deployed two or more services, while 12% are using five or more.

The research name-checked web hosting (57%), email (56%), e-commerce (53%) and collaboration services (52%) as among the most keenly used in the cloud, with respondents claiming it to took an average of 19 months to move their apps off-premise.

Flexibility (77%), scalability (76%) and the need for 24/7 service availability (74%) were flagged by respondents as the top three reasons for initially moving to the cloud. Others cited enabling innovation (45%), improving business continuity (37%) and customer service (31%) as their key drivers.

Alex Hilton, CEO of CIF, said the research highlights the benefits companies stand to gain by seizing on cloud to transform the way they do business.

“These findings once again indicate there are significant benefits to be had by business that pursue both digital transformation and cloud strategies in tandem. The benefits of cloud – and adopting a cloud-first approach – are considerable and well documented,” said Hilton.

“Flexible, on-demand, consumption-based cloud services and applications are removing the barriers to change, allowing businesses to react quickly to changing market conditions and move onto opportunities faster than their competitors.”

With the number of respondents running their own datacentres or on-premise servers falling from 85% in 2014 to 76% today, Hilton said the research also highlights how accustomed the business community is becoming to consuming IT in an as-a-service way.

“This change could be attributed to the increase in those organisations that consider infrastructure refresh to be an opportunity to adopt alternative deployment models such as cloud, which has risen to 85% from 71% a year ago,” he added.

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Case study: National Rail Enquiries tackles website uptime issues with AWS and SOASTA

The National Rail network plays host to around 1.6 billion passenger journeys a year, prompting around 500,000 people on an average day to visit its website for route planning purposes.

On days such as Monday 28 October 2013, when large swathes of the UK’s rail network were brought to a halt by the after effects of the St. Jude’s Day storm, it is not uncommon to see visits to the National Rail Enquiries (NRE) site increase dramatically.

This is fine, as long as the infrastructure underpinning the site it is equipped to cope with such a large surge in visitors. This turned out not to be the case on 28 October, when winds of up to 99mph lashed some parts of the British Isles.

Several of the NRE website’s core systems were being hosted in a private datacentre infrastructure that should have – theoretically – had sufficient capacity to cope with this unusual rise in site visitors.

However, due to shortcomings in the website’s load testing procedures, it seems the NRE team had been filled with a false sense of security about its ability to take the strain, Jason Webb, director of the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc), tells Computer Weekly.

“There are a myriad of disruption events that can occur, some planned and some not. The net result is a sharp rise in capacity and how quickly people come to the site,” he says.

Atoc is responsible for running NRE, which – along with its website operations – fields around 600 million inbound requests from customers a year for information about their journeys.

“We have a small team of around 30 to 40 people who manage these requests, which are spread predominantly across the mobile app and the desktop. We also have up and coming channels, such as social media, which form part of that 600 million,” says Webb.

To indicate how the nature of these interactions with NRE have changed over time, voice calls used to be the source of around 70 million of these requests a year, says Webb. However, this figure has since dropped to around the three million mark.

“We had our busiest day ever during the St. Jude’s Day storm of October 2013. I think it’s fair to say we had a few customers who could not get through to the site,” says Webb.

“Although we had carried out some form of load testing [in the lead up to the storm], it soon became clear that it hadn’t been good enough.”

The crux of the problem lies in the fact the company had relied on load testing scripts to challenge the robustness of its infrastructure, Webb explains, which did not provide a real-world view of how the site would cope should it receive a sharp rise in visitors.

“Was it cheaper to do things this way? Yes. But was it effective? Absolutely not.”

The fallout from the St. Jude’s Day storm prompted the company to shift the website-related workloads running in its private datacentre to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud for scalability reasons. National Rail also enlisted the help of website performance monitoring company SOASTA.

“We have the ability to add more infrastructure with Amazon, but one of the other drivers for us was to get closer to the pay-as-you-go IT consumption model,” says Webb.

SOASTA’s involvement saw NRE deploy the firm’s CloudTest on Demand technology, which allows NRE to stress test its website by simulating its real-time response to surges in internet or mobile traffic from a variety of locations worldwide.

“When we do a load test now, we will run it up to many times more of the throughput we saw at the time of St. Jude’s Day storm. If we’re running tests that simulate a greater load and velocity of load than that storm, it gives me confidence our systems will bear up to that,” says Webb.

The move over to AWS began in earnest shortly after the St. Jude’s Day storm struck, which the SOASTA team assisted with, and was completed by April 2014.

Since we’ve started using the SOASTA tool, we know we can meet customer expectations and demands Jason Webb, Association of Train Operating Companies

As part of this, the company’s website management system, journey planner tool and its real-time information platform were all moved off-premise.

“We worked with SOASTA for each of those component parts to load test singularly and collectively, giving us a true representation of how our customers use the site,” says Webb.

“Since we’ve started using the SOASTA tool, we know we can meet customer expectations and demands. The tool looks at how customers are using our site currently, plugging that information in and seeing how the site responds.

“As long as we keep a check on how customers use our site and follow that up with load testing, I’m very comfortable and confident we can withstand whatever comes our way,” he adds.

Webb says his team has not ruled out investigating more of what SOASTA’s product portfolio has to offer, as part of its ongoing commitment to ensuring NRE visitors enjoy a good user experience.

It is also toying with the idea of making use of AWS’ auto-scaling capabilities, but – for the time being – Webb says he is happy with the setup it has in place.

“The biggest health warning I’d give to anyone undergoing a similar project is to make sure load balancing is realistic to how your customers use your services, as well as representative of customers coming from many points and places,” he says.

“Don’t just rely on a scripted load test. Live load testing is not massively expensive and can save you a lot of hassle in the long run.”

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Ministry of Defence collaboration contract goes to G-Cloud SME Inovem

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has made good on its pledge to increase its use of commercially available, commodity cloud services through the roll-out of Inovem’s off-premise collaboration platform Defence Share, procured via G-Cloud.

The MoD’s Information Systems and Services (ISS) division is rolling out the cloud-based collaboration technology, which has already been widely adopted within other parts of government.

Based on UK SME Inovem’s flagship online workspace product Kahootz, Defence Share will let MoD staff store and share “official-sensitive” classified data with other government departments, third-party commercial organisations and allied nations via private and public internet networks.

Speaking to Computer Weekly, Inovem managing director Peter Jackson said the deployment marks a change in procurement strategy for the MoD, which has previously favoured the use of costly and bespoke products for its collaboration needs.

This time around, before embarking on a series of free product trials, the MoD drew up a shortlist of suppliers that list their products on the government’s Digital Marketplace platform.

“They whittled down the list and eventually chose us, but we did not actually meet with the team at the MoD until after the contract had been awarded,” said Jackson.

This hands-off approach to doing business is not unheard of for securing business via G-Cloud, he continued, and is indicative of how much easier the framework has made the act of winning government IT contracts for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Indeed, before G-Cloud, the effort and cost involved in responding to a tender for a project such as this would have put the deal out of reach of the likes of Inovem, he added.

As it stands, the company has 40 active deployments of its technology, equating to a public sector user base of more than 22,000 seats, having secured high-profile contract wins within the Department of Health and the Ministry of Justice.

John Glover, Inovem’s sales and marketing director, said G-Cloud now accounts for around 70% of the company’s annual revenue.

“The size of our client sites ranges from 10 users to over 10,000 users, and without exception we are seeing licence growth across all client sites as their projects develop or they find new ways to be in Kahootz,” he told Computer Weekly.

“This growth dynamic is key as it provides a leaner way for our public sector clients to consume cloud services and allows us to confidently increase investment in the development of our products and business.”

Computer Weekly contacted the Ministry of Defence for comment on the deployment, and received the following statement: “Inovem were awarded the contract to provide a secure collaborative working environment solution following an extensive technical, commercial and security evaluation process.”

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Midco® Launching Field Trials for Gigabit-Speed Broadband Services With Cisco

ORLANDO, CABLELABS WINTER CONFERENCE, February 9, 2016 – Following successful lab trials with a DOCSIS 3.1-powered cable modem, Midco is preparing for field trials of its Midco Gig Internet service in Fargo, North Dakota, in March. The company is also announcing that the second metro area – Sioux Falls, South Dakota – will be ready for Midco gigabit Internet speeds by the end of 2016.

Midco has committed to delivering gigabit to its entire service area by the end of 2017. The company serves more than 330,000 customers in nearly 350 communities across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Last year, Midco announced that it deployed the Cisco® cBR-8 converged broadband router to increase network capacity for DOCSIS 3.1 broadband and to accelerate the growth of its cable broadband network.

What is DOCSIS 3.1?

It is the industry specification that enables high-bandwidth Internet services to be delivered over existing cable TV infrastructure.It lays the groundwork for a new generation of cable services that meet consumer demands for faster broadband connections.With this new network technology in place, Midco business and residential customers can enjoy all the latest Internet-powered video, voice and data services with gigabit speeds, requiring only a DOCSIS 3.1 modem and a wireless gateway.Gateway versions of DOCSIS 3.1 modems with integrated Wi-Fi and other features will be available to customers later in the year.

“Speed matters to our customers, and we have made it a priority to reshape our network to deliver the fastest, most reliable Internet service possible,” said Jon Pederson, Chief Technology Officer at Midco. “Cisco shares our vision for a fully scalable, efficient network that will take us into the future and manage the bandwidth demands of our increasingly connected lives.”

“Midco has been full speed ahead with its plans to deliver a DOCSIS 3.1-ready network,” said Kelly Ahuja, senior vice president, Service Provider business, products and solutions, Cisco. “Through our collaboration, Midco customers will be among the first in the country to enjoy the fastest Internet connection available, unleashing a host of new experiences that can help make their lives better.”

Supporting Resources:

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About Cisco

Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) is the worldwide leader in IT that helps companies seize the opportunities of tomorrow by proving that amazing things can happen when you connect the previously unconnected. For ongoing news, please go to http://thenetwork.cisco.com.

About Midco

Founded in 1931, Midco is the leading provider of Internet, cable TV, phone, home automation and advertising services in the Upper Midwest. More than 330,000 residential and business customers count on Midco services in 335 communities in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Midco will deliver advanced gigabit Internet technology to most customers by the end of 2017. Visit Midco.com to learn more about Midco and how the company gives back to the communities it serves.

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Cisco and the Cisco logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Cisco and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and other countries. A listing of Cisco’s trademarks can be found at www.cisco.com/go/trademarks. Third-party trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective owners. The use of the word partner does not imply a partnership relationship between Cisco and any other company. 

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Asia-Pacific’s most advanced datacentre coming to Asean

Thailand will have the first Tier IV Gold datacentre, as rated by the Uptime Institute, in Asia in the first quarter of 2017. This will make it the most advanced datacentre in the Asia-Pacific and the largest in Thailand, with capacity for more than 6,000 data server racks.

The Uptime Institute’s datacentre tier certification is awarded at four levels, and Tier IV represents a certification for a fault-tolerant site infrastructure.

Located in Hemmaraj Industrial Estate in Thailand’s eastern province Chonburi, the 11bn THB (US$300m) Supernap datacentre is being developed by Supernap International, together with a group of leading Thai organisations, including CPB Equity, Kasikorn Bank, Siam Commercial Bank and True IDC.

“The Supernap Thailand datacentre is a mirror of Switch Supernap US facilities, which are the first Tier IV Gold carrier-neutral colocation datacentres. This cutting-edge datacentre will meet the global demand for innovation in Asia-Pacific,” said Khaled Bichara, CEO of Supernap International.

Te datacentre will generate “intense competition” in the industry for customers in Thailand, said Tuang Cheevatadavirut, senior market analyst at IDC.

“This will create a huge impact in the Thailand ICT/IT industry, as the datacentre supply will grow significantly and an international player such as Supernap will cater mostly to the premium customer segment in the Asian or Asean region. The local operators will need to compete with a new standard for quality, security and innovation to differentiate their services,” added Cheevatadavirut.

IDC expects the existing local operators to initially compete on price. Enterprises are expected to be attracted to their lower price points and may try outsourcing non-core business processes.

Later, these local operators will realise that enterprises are willing to pay a premium for datacentre services that drive business growth through systems of engagement, insight and action, rather than maintain existing systems of record,” said Cheevatadavirut.

He said the datacentre is a result of a partnership between five different entities, which means some of the datacentre’s capacity will be utilised by the partners, with the remainder of the capacity being rented out to customers.

The Supernap datacentre is likely to be the most technologically advanced datacentre in the region, as there is no record of any Uptime Institute rated Tier IV datacentres in Japan, Singapore, India, South Korea or China, said Cheevatadavirut.

“These countries may use different standards or they may build to match Tier IV standard, but are not certified and registered with Uptime Institute.”

The Supernap datacentre will cover an area of nearly 12 hectares and will be built outside the flood zone, 110 meters above sea level. It is built 27km away from the international submarine cable landing station, which links the facility to national and international telecoms and IT carriers. 

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Nokia expands professional services portfolio to help mobile operators embrace cloud

Nokia is rolling out a range of datacentre and cloud-related services for mobile operators that want to run more of their business operations off-premise.

The services are designed to prepare operators’ datacentres for running their business processes in the cloud, and allow them to scale up their network capacity more easily during times of high demand.

Operators will also be given access to the Nokia Telco Cloud Index, which helps them gain a better understanding of their current market position so they can plan how best to start shifting their operations off-premise.  

The datacentre part of the proposition will give operators access to services to help them evaluate how to make best use of their facility’s compute, storage and network resources when launching their own cloud services.

Nokia’s datacentre services are also geared towards helping operators tap into agile software deployment methodologies, so they can bring their services to market more quickly and add new features more often.

To underpin this, the Finnish company has outlined plans to open a UK-based design centre to support operators through the datacentre transformation process.

The company is also set to give operators access to cloud transformation consulting services to help them make decisions about the architecture, tools, operational and staffing changes they need during their move off-premise.

Since selling off its mobile devices and services business to Microsoft in 2014, and buoyed by its acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent in January 2016, Nokia has been seeking to position itself as a major player in the network hardware and wireless space.

Igor Leprince , executive vice-president for global services at Nokia, said the firm has invested a lot in building out its datacentre- and cloud-focused professional services portfolio.

“The company has made a significant investment to ensure that our new datacentre services provide a strong foundation for the cloud,” said Leprince.

“We offer the right telco expertise and are committed to being a trusted partner for operators as they look to adopt the telco cloud to help them create competitive advantages in terms of agility and costs.”

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