Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What Does it Take to Get Known Around Here?

One of the constant sources of frustration for users and corporate security is passwords. Everyone has them, and everyone hates them. Some people choose the simplest possible password -- such as "password" or "123456" (seehttp://splashdata.com/splashid/worst-passwords/). So easy for hackers to get in.

Others have so many different and complex passwords that they can't remember any of them. So they write them all down. Now hackers merely need to be thieves to get to all of your system data. Do you leave your password on a piece of paper with your secretary? Better hope there isn't a temp in the office the day a hacker calls pretending to be you.

What can be done about this?

One promising solution is to replace text-based passwords with graphical ones. By selecting images and then areas within images, an authentication scheme can thwart some of the simplest hacker tactics (common passwords, default passwords, dictionary attacks) and also make the password more intuitive and simpler for users to remember. Of course, shoulder surfing becomes a bigger problem with these approaches. A couple of good discussions are available at http://www.acsac.org/2005/papers/89.pdf and http://rutgersscholar.rutgers.edu/volume04/sobrbirg/sobrbirg.htm.

One of the most common (and annoying) graphical authentication schemes currently in use is called reCAPTCHA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/reCAPTCHA). It's aim is often to prevent automated systems from posting spam or registering for free accounts. The means is to use really hard to identify characters from digitizing old documents. The fact that OCR couldn't figure out the characters initially makes them very hard for spambots to handle also.
Of course, there's always the CSI approach -- fingerprints and retinal scans and the like. While these are more and more common for physical access control (the Holiday Gym here in Madrid even has a fingerprint scanner at its turnstiles), now they are starting to show up as software security as well. ASUS is using the webcam in it's laptops to logon with facial recognition instead of a password.

And also on the horizon, recognizing how you type instead of using a standard password. http://arstechnica.com/uncategorized/2012/03/darpa-dreams-of-authentication-using-the-way-you-type/ Of course, if you've a broken hand, this might lock you out of all your systems. And, as we move to input devices other than keyboards, this becomes even less relevant.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hello...your house is calling!

At the office, you connect to your mail account and ...the fridge wrote you: "I need to be replenished - no more milk". Again, your phone is ringing, but, on the other side, there is no the usual boring oppressive client, but... "I have two letters for you today" -  the postman at your house entrance is kindly answering you...But not only, is your energy bill skyrocketing? Are you always wondering if all the windows are closed?
Domotics is the solution! Don't you believe?  Take a look at this video!

...not really what the writer of "Here the future of house and cities" imagined in 1979, but we are almost there...

If you are excited and want to look more in details to current packages available in the market, and understand which features are usually integrated (and if you can connect the system to  your I-phone), take a look at Home Automation Systems Review.
Buying a domotic system, you are going to contribute to the worldwide growth of this business, expected to be more than 16% per year till 2016.
So Domotics is not only going to offer the most effective interaction with our houses, but it will enhance the lives of millions of people. Our society is aging -  by 2030 there will be 9 million Americans older than 85 - and they need a support for their daily routine. Home robotics, security systems, automatic emergency assistance 24H are out there...

Once again the Human Interface is not only becoming "how" we communicate to the machines, but the technology itself is revolutionizing our lives, guaranteeing safety and independence! But also taking care of what we hate the most...


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Talking to machines? Ok. But are you ready to swallow them?


Perhaps you remember the "Innerspace" movie from the 80's, where a man in a kind of submarine, both miniaturized, where travelling inside a man's body, and talking to him using a loudspeaker.
A good comedy, very funny of course, since it is so unusual to imagine oneself having a robot swimming inside one's body.
Does this technology will soon exist? Probably yes. And some improvements are fore-casted compared to the "Innerspace's submarine"!

Here is an example of blood swimming robot, that provides a dose of medication directly to the infected area. It also illustrates the basic principles of nanorobots' design.


There are also some ambitious projects, like solving infertility problems using robots able to detect and bring suitable sperm cells.


Ok, these robots seem to be hard workers, fair enough. But we are here to talk to machines, so what about talking with these robots?

Is the loudspeaker missing ???

At first, these robots will take wireless instructions from a computer host outside of the patient's body. This is essential for patients requiring constant monitoring, such as tumor status or diabet.
But let's recap: wireless connection, computer, so...

Will I be able to use my smart-phone to monitor my body ???

Probably yes. Some applications already exist, for example the Sanofi's blood glucose monitor system dedicated to diabetes (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2113676), but are based on a combination of an application and a hardware external device.
This is emphasized on the following system, which manages ECG monitoring.

So we know that the business applications are here, but the challenge now is to replace the external device by an internal specialized nanorobot, able to send monitoring info using wireless connection.

Here are some challenges of this future technology:
  • To be able to get the robot out of the patient's body (assuming that it will not be as easy as a sneeze, like in Innerspace movie)
  • To manage the maintenance of the robot once in the body
  • To ensure that the robot cannot harm the patient's body

Friday, June 1, 2012

X-ray specs for big data

Much of the discussion on this blog has focused on how we will control computerized devices in the future. Going back to the original post, this has been a focus on transforming the keyboard and mouse/trackpad. But, there is another important facet of the interaction – the communication is two-way and people have to be able to receive information as well.

The old CRT monitors gave way to the LCD flat panel and the touch screen. We may soon see such advances as flexible screens, displays on glasses, and portable projection onto any available surface in common use.

But, no matter how the display hardware changes, we will still need to innovate ways to show the increasingly complex relationships that emerge from our data.

Mendeleev's original periodic table (from 1869) was such a ground-breaking and insightful display of a very complex subject that it was used to predict the existence and characteristics of undiscovered elements.
A more modern example from 2006 uses color gradients to make population changes pop out.

As computing power and storage capacity have surged, we now have the ability to address enormous data sets and seek out the often-hidden connections that pervade our world.

These networks are driving innovation and insight, but they are often totally opaque. How can we make them perceptible in such a way that we can identify the key linkages and, especially, the non-intuitive structures that these big data analytics bring to light?

One of more common new visualizations for public consumption is the word cloud. A common form uses font size to reflect how often a term appears, allowing patterns to emerge more clearly.

Taken from the Many Eyes software projected developed by IBM.

Another graphic by Chris Harrison attempts to create art from the cross-references in the Bible.

Another site links TED videos into a network sphere that both allows the user to navigate among the content and also visualize linkages.

The graphic below shows citation links between scholarly journals in a number of different fields. Some links make intuitive sense: gastroenterology and medical journals. In a couple of cases (psychology and economics), the lack of links to the rest of the scientific world seems suggestive about how these realms perceive each other. But, the power of the display is the non-intuitive links – why should there be a strong connection between geoscience journals and molecular biology ones?


The old saw is that a picture is worth a thousand words. But, as the amount of data proliferates, we may need thousands of pictures. Or maybe the picture needs to evolve.