Tag Archives: ITU

Updates from ITU

Iceland’s data centers are booming—here’s why that’s a problem
By Tryggvi Adalbjornsson – The southwestern tip of Iceland is a barren volcanic peninsula called Reykjanesskagi. It’s home to the twin towns of Keflavik and Njardvik, around 19,000 people, and the country’s main airport.

On the edge of the settlement is a complex of metal-clad buildings belonging to the IT company Advania, each structure roughly the size of an Olympic-size swimming pool. Less than three years ago there were three of them. By April 2018, there were eight. Today there are 10, and the foundations have been laid for an 11th.

This is part of a boom fostered partly by something that Icelanders don’t usually rave about: the weather.

Life on the North Atlantic island tends to be chilly, foggy, and windy, though hard frosts are not common. The annual average temperature in the capital, Reykjavík, is around 41 °F (5 °C), and even when the summer warmth kicks in, the mercury rarely rises above 68. Iceland has realized that even though this climate may not be great for sunning yourself on the beach, it is very favorable to one particular industry: data.

Each one of those Advania buildings in Reykjanesskagi is a large data center, home to thousands of computers. They are constantly crunching away, processing instructions, transmitting data, and mining Bitcoin. Data centers like these generate large amounts of heat and need round-the-clock cooling, which would usually require considerable energy. In Iceland, however, data centers don’t need to constantly run high-powered cooling systems for heat moderation: instead, they can just let in the brisk subarctic air.

Natural cooling like this lowers ongoing costs. more>

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Updates from ITU

AI, quantum technologies and new cyber threats – are we prepared?
ITU News – Quantum computing is on the horizon. The emerging computing architecture renders possible a form of ‘super parallel processing’ based on quantum physics that can rapidly solve problems beyond the scope of what a classical computer can achieve.

Quantum computing is fast advancing, with governments investing billions and blue-chip technology heavyweights prioritizing the technology.

With far-reaching implications for data security, advances in quantum computing risk unraveling data encryption, with far-reaching implications for security.

What this means is that quantum computers will be incredibly effective at hacking into encrypted data – rendering sensitive data and critical infrastructures, as well as Internet of Things and 5G networks, vulnerable to attack.

Although the technology is not yet commercially deployed, the security threats are already here.

The ‘download now, decrypt later’ attack vector already sees actors downloading existing encrypted data, to be cracked open once the technology arrives.

“Now, it’s not a matter of if it will happen,” said Mark Jackson of Cambridge Quantum Computing during a panel discussion on AI, quantum technologies and new cyber threats at the recent AI for Good Global Summit. more>

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Updates from ITU

How AI can improve agriculture for better food security
ITU News – Roughly half of the 821 million people considered hungry by the United Nations are those who dedicate their lives to producing food for others: farmers.

This is largely attributed to the vulnerability of farmers to agricultural risks, such as extreme weather, conflict, and market shocks.

Smallholder farmers, who produce some 60-70% of the world’s food, are particularly vulnerable to risks and food insecurity.

Emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), however, have been particularly promising in tackling challenges such as lack of expertise, climate change, resource optimization and consumer trust.

AI assistance can, for instance, enable smallholder farmers in Africa to more effectively address scourges such as viruses and the fall armyworm that have plagued the region over the last 40 years despite extensive investment, said David Hughes, Co-Founder of PlantVillage and Assistant Professor at Penn State University at a session on AI for Agriculture at last week’s AI for Good Global Summit. more>

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Updates from ITU

AI for Good’ or scary AI?
By Neil Sahota and Michael Ashley – Some futurists fear Artificial Intelligence (AI), perhaps understandably. After all, AI appears in all kinds of menacing ways in popular culture, from the Terminator movie dynasty to homicidal HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Though these movies depict Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) gone awry, it’s important to note some leading tech scholars, such as George Gilder (author Life After Google), doubt humans will ever be able to generate the sentience we humans take for granted (AGI) in our machines.

As it turns out, the predominant fear the typical person actually holds about AI pertains to Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI).

Specialized, ANI focuses on narrow tasks, like routing you to your destination — or maybe one day driving you there.

Much of what we uncovered when cowriting our new book, Own the A.I. Revolution: Unlock Your Artificial Intelligence Strategy to Disrupt Your Competition, is that people fear narrow task-completing AIs will take their job.

“It’s no secret many people worry about this type of problem,” Irakli Beridze, who is a speaker at the upcoming AI For Good Global Summit and heads the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, told us when interviewed for the book.

“One way or another, AI-induced unemployment is a risk we cannot dismiss out of hand. We regularly see reports predicting AI will wipe out 20 to 70 percent of jobs. And we’re not just talking about truck drivers and factory workers, but also accountants, lawyers, doctors, and other highly skilled professionals.” more>

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Updates from ITU

What do ‘AI for Social Good’ projects need? Here are 7 key components.
By Anna Bethke – At their core, ‘AI for Social Good’ projects use artificial intelligence (AI) hardware and software technologies to positively impact the well-being of people, animals or the planet – and they span most, if not all, of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The range of potential projects continues to grow as the AI community advances our technology capability and better understands the problems being faced.

Our team of AI researchers at Intel achieved success by working with partners to understand the problems, collecting the appropriate data, retraining algorithms, and molding them into a practical solution.

At their core, an AI for Social Good project requires the following elements:

  1. A problem to solve, such as improving water quality, tracking endangered species, or diagnosing tumors.
  2. Partners to work together in defining the most complete view of the challenges and possible solutions.
  3. Data with features that represent the problem, accurately labeled, with privacy maintained.
  4. Compute power that scales for both training and inference, no matter the size and type of data, or where it lives. An example of hardware choice is at ai.intel.com/hardware.
  5. Algorithm development, which is the fun part! There are many ways to solve a problem, from a simple logistic regression algorithm to complex neural networks. Algorithms match the problem, type of data, implementation method, and more.
  6. Testing to ensure the system works in every way we think it should, like driving a car in rain, snow, or sleet over a variety of paved and unpaved surfaces. We want to test for every scenario to prevent unanticipated failures.
  7. Real-world deployment, which is a critical and complicated step that should be considered right from the start. Tested solutions need a scalable implementation system in the real world, or risk its benefits not seeing the light of day.

At the end of May, Intel AI travels to Geneva, Switzerland, for the UN’s AI for Good Global Summit hosted by ITU and will speak to each of these elements in a hands-on workshop. more>

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Updates from ITU

25 ways to be a more inclusive engineer

This list, created in support of EQUALS by members of its Leadership Coalition, highlights 25 actions that individual engineers can take to be more inclusive, as a complement to steps taken by employers.

Business Leadership

  1. Be sensitive to the impact of micro-inequities. Pay attention to language and assumptions in daily conversations that may inadvertently reinforce stereotypes.
    Listen for and correct personality penalties in casual conversation.
    Interrupt “fixed mindsets” talk by questioning language such as “natural talent,” “born leaders,” “not leadership material,” “a leopard doesn’t change its spots,” or “either you’ve got that special something or you don’t.”
  2. Encourage others to apply or ask for a certain position, award or role.
    Never underestimate the power of simply encouraging others to take on a project or apply for a position you think they are qualified to do,[iv] but do so in ways that do not set people up to fail.

  3. Ensure that the ideas, solutions and approaches of women and men team members are given equal consideration and are not discounted because of gender.
    Ensure that credit goes to the originator of a good point and not just to whoever talked the longest or the loudest, or to the person who repeated someone else’s idea.

more>

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Updates from ITU

Earth observation for weather prediction – solving the interference problem
By ITU News – “Today, several dozen satellites contribute to the accumulation of critical knowledge about the Earth’s system, enabling scientists to describe specific links between a major natural disturbance in the upper atmosphere, and changes in the weather thousands of miles away,” says Mario Maniewicz, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau.

“As accurate weather predictions need to start from the best possible estimate of the current state of the atmosphere, it is crucial that meteorologists have real-time, accurate global observations about what is happening in the Earth’s atmosphere over land and oceans. And for this, they rely on space sensing.”

Space sensing relies on the deployment of sensors to obtain data critical for Earth observation from space. Active sensors are radar systems on spaceborne platforms. They obtain data through the transmission and reception of radiowaves. Passive sensors, meanwhile, are very sensitive receivers that measure the electromagnetic energy emitted and scattered by the Earth, and the chemical constituents in the Earth’s atmosphere. They require protection from radio-frequency interference.

Spaceborne sensors measure the background natural radiative emission floor, therefore any man-made signal (e.g. communications, radars) that rises above this natural emission floor will likely interfere with the measurements. This interference can be tolerated only if its energy is well below the sensor sensitivity. more>

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Updates from ITU

Monitoring our changing planet
By Houlin Zhao – The Earth is a fragile planet with finite resources to sustain the world’s growing population. As we work together to build a sustainable global economy, spaceborne remote sensors are poised to play an increasingly important role in achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Indeed, ITU Member States and the global community now see the potential for using Earth observations and geospatial information as fundamental inputs for achieving the SDGs. Remote sensing provides critical information across a wide range of applications, including air quality, disaster management, public health, agriculture, water availability, coastal zone management, and the health of the Earth’s ecosystems.

For example, spaceborne sensing data is used to assess the impact of natural disasters and to be better prepared for hazardous events around the globe. Data from spaceborne remote sensors is also increasingly used to guide efforts to minimize the damage that urban growth has on the environment.

These are just a few examples of how remote sensing measurements — and the science they enable — provide a great service to humanity. This edition of the ITU News Magazine provides more such examples and a wealth of insight into how ITU’s work helps realize the social and economic benefits of Earth observation from space. more (pdf)>

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Updates from ITU

Time to eliminate the password: New report on next-generation authentication for digital financial services
By ITU News – “We don’t want digital financial services to be built on the wrong foundation, which is the password,” says Abbie Barbir, Rapporteur for ITU standardization work on ‘Identity management architecture and mechanisms’ (Q10/17).

Over 3 billion usernames and passwords were stolen in 2016, and the number of data breaches in 2017 rose 44.7 per cent higher than that recorded in 2016.

“We are moving away from the ‘shared secret’ model of authentication,” says digital ID strategist and standards expert, Andrew Hughes of InTurn Consulting, referring principally to the username-password model of authentication.

“Considering the prevalence of data breaches, there are no secrets anymore,” says Hughes.

Designed to overcome the limitations of passwords, specifications developed by the FIDO Alliance (‘Fast Identity Online’) enable users to authenticate locally to their device using biometrics, with the device then authenticating the user online with public key cryptography.

This model is not susceptible to phishing, man-in-the-middle attacks or other forms of attacks targeting user credentials.

“This is the biggest transformation we have seen in authentication in 20 years,” says Jeremy Grant, Managing Director of Technology Business Strategy at Venable. more>

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Updates from ITU

New ITU standards bring broadband to places as remote as Mount Everest
ITU News – New ITU standards aim to bring high-speed broadband services to rural communities with lightweight, terabit-capable optical cable that can be deployed on the ground’s surface with minimal expense and environmental impact.

The standards are giving developing countries the confidence to consider the roll-out of optical networks in some of the world’s most challenging conditions.

Nepal, for example, has highlighted its intention to use ITU-standardized lightweight optical cable to connect places as remote as Mount Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Trekking Trail.

Why lightweight optical cable?

Satellite communications are characterized by high latency, struggling to support the interactive services associated with broadband. Radiocommunications can provide ‘last-mile’ connectivity. But in the broadband era, optical infrastructure is indispensable – rural communities are often many, many kilometers away from core networks.

The Editor of the new standards, Haruo Okamura of Waseda University, offers a compelling example: “Optical cable is becoming an absolute must for telemedicine. Only optical cable provides capacity high enough and latency low enough for the live transmission of HD medical imagery to remote medical professionals.”

The installation of ultra-high speed optical networks, however, comes with a great deal of cost and complexity.

“Today the costs of optical cable installation are typically 70 to 80 per cent of the entire CAPEX of the network,” says Okamura. “The designs of conventional optical cables are specific to their installation environment – whether duct, directly buried, lashed aerial or submerged – with installation methods relying on specialized machinery and skilled labor.”

This challenge is made even greater by the low densities of remote rural communities, where fiber roll-outs demand a disproportionate level of initial capital investment relative to the potential return on such investment.

New ITU standards aim to change that equation by providing a low-cost ‘do-it-yourself’ solution able to be deployed in even the world’s most remote areas. more>

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