UNF senior Jason Smith creates virtual reality tool which produces 3-D images of MRIs, CT scans

(Courtesy of Jacksonville.com)

Sandeep Reddivari, an assistant professor of computing at the University of North Florida, usually assigns his undergraduate students a project for which they must write programming.

 But UNF senior Jason Smith, a computing and information sciences major, already had a project in mind.

“He expressed the idea to me,” Reddivari said. “I just helped him to brainstorm the idea. He is the first undergraduate to propose his own project”

Smith’s idea was to create a virtual reality tool called VRvisu, which would allow someone to visualize large and complex sets of medical data by creating 3-D representations of MRI and CT scan images of brain tumors with the medical data attached. Someone wearing virtual reality goggles could not only view the images and the data but could manipulate them by hand.

“I found it novel and creative,”Reddivari said. “Nobody has done it before.”

Smith first had to write a program using data he obtained from the from National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research. That was a time-consuming task involving writing 10,000 lines of programming.

They then had to figure out how much the virtual reality equipment including goggles would cost. Having decided they needed $2,000, they submitted a request to the UNF Office of Undergraduate Research, which gave them the money.

Going forward, Smith’s project may prove useful to people doing research on brain tumors.

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UNF senior Jason Smith creates virtual reality tool which produces 3-D images of MRIs, CT scans – By Charlie Patton charlie.patton@jacksonville.com

But the fact that the UNF computing program now has the virtual reality equipment should have ongoing ramifications for many other projects, Reddivari said.

Already Reddivari has talked with the people in UNF’s Brooks College of Health about a virtual reality project that would look at the question of what is the proper amount of anesthesia that should be used on people undergoing surgery.

He has talked with people in UNF’s Construction Management program, part of the College of Computing, Engineering & Construction, about what useful applications virtual reality might have for its students.

He is planning to assign five projects involving virtual reality to groups of four or five students when fall classes begin.

He’ll also incorporate information about the applications of virtual reality to health care during a course he’s teaching next semester on health-care informatics, a class aimed not at UNF students but at people working in health care. Among the potential medical applications of virtual reality, Reddivari said, are virtual robotic surgeries and other procedures as a training tool, relaxing patients with chronic illnesses and helping hospitalized children feel like they are home.

Smith, who will graduate in December, is not your typical undergraduate. After graduating from Ridgeview High School in Orange Park he joined the Air Force. His goal was to see the world. Instead, he said with a wistful smile, he spent four years at Moody Air Force Base outside Valdosta.

He now lives in Orange Park with his wife and two children and commutes to UNF, where he recently completed a 10-week internship with the Florida Data Science for Social Good program. Students worked with the Mayo Clinic, Changing Homelessness and Yoga 4 Change, tackling problems such as public health, homelessness and post-traumatic stress.

He’s planning to pursue a master’s degree in data science or computing at some point, he said.

“Data science is just really appealing to me,” he said.

 

 

 

 

Technology opens new world for brothers with dyslexia Assistive technology gains acceptance

(courtesy of news4jax.com)

Stacey Harvey was driving with her young son Cole in the back seat on an afternoon just like any other. The two were having a casual conversation when Cole suddenly asked, “What if I never learn how to read?” “He was really fearful, thinking he might not ever read,” Stacey recalled. That’s when she realized that, even at a young age, Cole and his brother, Stephen, were more aware of their dyslexia than she thought.

“He was only 6 and hadn’t been exposed to a public school setting where lots of people were easily reading and writing,” she said about Cole. “I explained to him that people learn many different ways, and if this way is not the right way, then we’ll find another one, and if that’s not the right way, then we’ll find another one.”

That moment, which left Stacey stunned, happened eight years ago.

Now, Cole, 14, and Stephen, 12, have found a way.

The brothers point to cutting-edge assistive technology as one of many factors driving their desire to learn, boosting their confidence and helping them read and write. Such technology includes devices, equipment or systems that enhance learning, working and daily living for people with disabilities.

“I struggled a lot, and I didn’t get why I struggled a lot. I felt like everybody was smarter than me,” Cole said.

“When technology came in, I was able to compensate for what I didn’t understand, why I couldn’t do things like other kids did, and it helped me work it out,” he said. “I think I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of things without me advocating for myself. Or asking somebody for help, like a student or a teacher or even a dean or counselor.”

Cole and Stephen now attend Saint Francis Middle School in Roswell, Georgia, where they have made the headmaster and honor roll lists for the first three quarters and will be in honors programs for several subjects in the next year.

“I attribute it to the technology they use and their self-advocacy. They don’t mind going up to a teacher and asking for help, which I think is just incredible,” father Rob Harvey said.

“They’re able to speak for themselves. They’re able to own what they’ve got, and they’re making the best out of it,” he said. “That’s what brings tears to my eyes.”

Dyslexic-friendly fonts and a pen that records

Dyslexia, a neurological condition that impairs a person’s ability to read, is estimated to affect between 5% and 10% of people around the world.

The traditional course of treatment for students with dyslexia is to modify teaching methods and their educational environment. Yet many experts are now pointing to new software and devices as a novel approach to help students with dyslexia not only learn but learn to love reading.

Students like Cole and Stephen use audiobook and word-reading apps, such as Audible and Learning Ally text-to-speech software, on their smartphones, tablets and laptops. The boys follow the words as the tales of Percy Jackson, Harry Potter and other fantastical characters are read aloud with the software.

Stephen said that when he had trouble with books, he started to read a few pages and then would listen to those pages using audiobook software to make sure he understood the words. That’s what works for him.

“It’s helped me succeed. It’s helped me read things and understand it more than I would have just reading it or listening to it,” he said. “So, if it’s working, you don’t have to go to the newest and best thing out there. Keep what is working.”

Bookshare, described as “the world’s largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities,” is another commonly used program among students with dyslexia.

There are also dyslexic-designed fonts, such as OpenDyslexic, Dyslexie Font and the Google Chrome app Dyslexia Unscrambled, which use unique letter shapes to transform any digital text into a typeface that is more easily readable for those with dyslexia.

Extra-large spacing between letters might help make reading material more easily accessible for people with dyslexia, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2012.

For writing, there’s software such as Grammarly that not only automatically highlights spelling and grammar mistakes, it explains the reasoning behind each correction, which both Cole and Stephen have used.

There’s also the Livescribe Echo pen, which records audio while you write. You simply tap on your notes to play back what was recorded. Some experts say the device helps reduce the anxiety students might feel while taking notes in class and making sure that the information they are learning is written down.

How new technologies are changing classrooms

“We never want it to replace direct, systematic instruction for that particular child, but rather, it should serve as a supplement,” said Jennifer Lindstrom, an associate professor at the University of Georgia’s College of Education, of the new technologies for students with dyslexia.

“I like to think of technology not as an instructional tool but more as a support to help access information,” she said. “When there are difficulties with retrieval — which often causes anxiety during learning situations — assistive technology would relieve some of that anxiety.”

Of course, assistive technologies come with some limitations, said Martha Rust, a specialist at Tools for Life, an assistive-technology program at Georgia Tech College of Design.

“The limitation is what happens when the technology fails, not being able to have that backup. You know, what happens if the power goes out and you can’t charge that device? So being able to have strategies for that backup is key,” Rust said.

“Another thing sometimes: the cost of technology. But I have seen in my years of working with assistive technology and technology that it has advanced and it becomes more and more universal, and more and more people will start using it, and that will also bring that cost down,” she said.

However, Rust stressed that assistive technologies have played an important role in the lives of many students she knows with disabilities, including Cole and Stephen.

“For a person without a disability, technology makes things easier, but for a person with a disability, technology makes things possible,” she said. “We have yet to meet a successful student with a disability who does not use assistive technology.”

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Raising two boys with dyslexia

Rob Harvey said he and his wife noticed early on that Cole, their eldest, had difficulty with language, such as learning the letters in the alphabet, recognizing rhyming patterns and pronouncing familiar words.

Then similar difficulties with reading appeared in Stephen.

The Harveys advocated for their sons to get individualized education plans, or IEPs, which indicate to their school and the government that Cole and Stephen are eligible for special education services.

“When we started recognizing the signs of reading struggles and recall and enunciation and stuff that should be coming along early on, we just immediately jumped towards it,” Rob Harvey said of the IEPs. He added that there is a history of dyslexia in their family. “That’s kind of how we got started on this journey. It’s a journey of life all the way through.”

Stacey decided to home-school the boys, through the Georgia Cyber Academy, for first and second grades. Cole and Stephen — who, with their matching blond hair and freckles, look like twins at first glance — both were diagnosed with dyslexia by third grade.

“Because I’ve taught in public school for so long, I knew that as a dyslexic kid, you have to fail in order to get the help you need,” Stacey said, referencing how many parents and teachers often don’t recognize signs of dyslexia until a student has started to fail classes. Therefore, students are often not given additional help in schools until they have already fallen behind in the curriculum.

“By then, you’ve lost valuable time, as well as their confidence,” Stacey said.

“I just didn’t want to do that for my kiddos,” she said. “And it makes me so sad for all the other kids out there. There has to be a better way to give every child the specific help they need.”

After receiving educational psychological testing, Cole and Stephen attended the Schenck School in Atlanta, which specializes in educating students with dyslexia.

Cole attended from third to sixth grade and Stephen from third to fifth grade. The boys credit the school with helping them learn how to use assistive technology and advocate for their education — something students without learning disabilities might take for granted.

“My boys love school, and they’ve always loved school, which is not the case for many who are dyslexic,” Stacey said. “They’ve got the love, the passion and the knowledge and confidence, and they don’t want to let the writing hold them back.”

‘I would say never give up’

The boys have been using text-to-speech services to help them read books and keep track of their schoolwork. They utilize their iPhones and laptops while attending Saint Francis.

Their parents said the structure provided by Saint Francis, and the organizational skills taught at the school, have allowed Cole and Stephen to smoothly transition from a specialized school to a more traditional setting.

Cole and Stephen also are not hesitant to make a case for being placed in honors classes, even if their writing or reading remains a struggle, Stacey said.

For instance, Stephen was considered for an honors history class, but his writing was not at the level it should be for that particular course, she said.

“So we met with his teachers to figure out what he needs to do and what skills does he need in place and how can he get there to get to that goal,” Stacey said. “I wasn’t pushing him for that. It was what he wants, and he knows he’s dyslexic. He knows it’s not going to be easy.”

Stacey added that Cole made the same decision and commitment about an honors math class.

“Everybody’s got a right to learn, and it can be a daunting journey,” Rob Harvey said. “We’ve been very fortunate and very blessed in being able to have the right resources and assistive technology.”

Stephen said he hopes other students with dyslexia will be inspired by his and Cole’s stories to advocate for themselves when they might need additional help in the classroom. He suggested that a student quietly pull his or her teacher aside to request when assistive technology is needed to help with schoolwork.

“I would say never give up,” Stephen said. “Always look for different options.”

 

Student interns set to refresh 68,000 computers for Duval school district

(Courtesy of Jacksonville.com)

Menus opened and closed so quickly on the computer screen it seemed impossible Chris Nelson knew exactly what buttons he was hitting. But, he scrolled through the options without hesitation as he worked to wipe and then re-install software on about 15 computers for the Duval County School District.“It’s all memory now,” said Derek Ro, who worked beside Nelson on an additional 15 units.

He was referring not to computer data, but instead to the fact the two students no longer needed each step explained. They didn’t need guidance on basic troubleshooting tasks. Instead, the two 19-year-old college freshmen worked efficiently with shortcuts they discovered on the job.

Both Ro and Nelson are participating in an inaugural summer internship opportunity through the Duval County School District and Emtec, an information technology consulting company.

The business, which has offices in Jacksonville, hired contractors to assist the school district for the last three summers and supplemented those workers with a handful of local students. As it became more obvious to Emtec and the district how much work students could handle, they became more integral to the company’s summer workforce. This year, a group of 110 interns from throughout area high schools were selected to receive training and hands-on experience in the IT industry.

It is the first time Emtec has taken over the hiring process — and been able to employ nearly an all-student staff to complete necessary technology-related tasks for the district over the summer. Never before, says district staff, have students been used on such a large scale.“This program is amazing,” said Jim Culbert, executive director of the district’s IT Department. “By the end of the summer, the students will have cleaned, re-imaged and tested about 68,000 computers, which is all the student laptops in the district. The advantage of that for the teachers is that when we come back, everything has been refreshed.”

Through the partnership with Emtec, the district can employ a larger number of students but also include those currently enrolled in local high schools. Before, when the school district hired internally, fewer than 50 students could be brought on to assist and they all had to be over 18 years old. Now, Emtec allows students who are at least 16 to participate. For approximately 32 hours a week, students earn $10 an hour to learn a skill in a burgeoning industry.

According to Culbert, it is more than that.

 

comp refresh

A Student at the Univeristy of North Georgia, re-images laptops in the media center at Mandarian Oaks Elementary. (Photo Credit: Bob Self/Florida Times-Union)

The students get experience writing a resume, applying for a job and interviewing for the position. Emtec then treats each individual as a full-time worker. The supervisors are mostly Duval County School District teachers and support staff.

By August, the students will have helped Emtec to clean and sanitize computers, check for cracked screens and broken keys, and assure district asset tags are still attached. They will remove old computer operating systems from the Lenovo Yogas and then intall new Windows 10 systems — a process with more than 25 steps.

“I’ve been doing IT for over 30 years, and you have to find the time where you find the interest, where you feel like you could see it being your career,” said Mike Marino, an employee with Emtec. “So, having a job where the students are working during the summer — even though it’s eight weeks — they are engaging every single day in technology.”

They also get the opportunity to interact with experts in the field. If a complicated problem arises with one of the computers, a student can call one of the district’s staff members in its IT department. That interaction, Culbert said, benefits the district employees as well.

Many of the students who have participated in the program’s previous models continued their studies in the information technology field. Several returned to work in the Duval County School District IT department.

Andrea Celis, a senior at Sandalwood High School, says she took several technology classes at her high school before this summer. On Friday, as her fellow interns worked around her, Celis focused on erasing software from a cart of about 30 computers at Mandarin Oaks Elementary. The school had roughly 720 computers the group had to erase and then restore . It would take them a couple more days.

“I was nervous because it sounded so legit,” Celis said about the program. “It wasn’t just a job. It wasn’t just getting paid. It benefits my future. Also, I’m working with an actual company, and I didn’t want to disappoint them.”

She usually dedicates 30 minutes to each cart — just to get the process going. Then, it takes two hours for each computer to run through the necessary deleting and downloading to prepare it for next year’s students. Celis said that day they’d struggled with some of the clips to keep the computers connected to the network.

Even though Celis sees a future in communications or marketing, she didn’t think the information she gleaned from this summer internship would be useless.

She said, “In some aspect, this will benefit me.”

Technology can accelerate universal healthcare in Africa: WHO

(Courtesy of Reuters.com)

Integrating technology into Africa’s healthcare systems is key to opening them up faster to the poorest and most vulnerable people, the World Health Organization’s Africa director said.

Using more technology presents a “big opportunity” for rolling out universal health coverage in the region, Dr. Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti told the Thomson Reuters Foundation ahead of the first WHO Africa Health Forum this week in Rwanda.

Technology can pave the way to improvements in data management, training for health workers and making referrals, among other areas, she added.

The June 27-28 meeting in Kigali will focus on forging new partnerships between governments, U.N. agencies, civil society organizations and the private sector in Africa to deliver universal health coverage.

That means ensuring everyone can obtain the health services they need without suffering financial hardship to pay for them.

Every year, 11 million Africans fall into poverty due to high out-of-pocket payments for healthcare, a WHO report said last year.

Achieving universal health coverage – including access to essential health services, medicines and vaccines for all – is one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the world’s governments in 2015 and intended to be met by 2030.who

 

The WHO plans to team up with the International Telecommunication Union and African governments to support the large-scale adoption of “eHealth” services, it said.

These cover everything from telephone helplines and text message appointment reminders, to remote patient monitoring, electronic health registers, online learning for staff and promoting health messages through social media.

While most African countries have universal health coverage as a goal in their health strategies, progress in implementing these has been slow, according to the World Bank.

At present, the main challenge is financing, said Moeti.

“The benefit allocation for health in many of the African countries does not represent (the) $80 per capita that the WHO recommends for a basic package of healthcare services – although a few countries are getting there,” she said.

Lack of skilled human resources is also “a very important problem” in some African countries, which suffer from a shortage of trained doctors, nurses and midwives, she added.

The Africa region accounts for approximately a quarter of the world’s disease burden, yet has just 3 percent of its doctors, the WHO noted in 2015.

Moeti said the delivery of health services also needs to be more integrated to overcome silos, particularly with programs tackling Africa’s biggest health challenges such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and maternal mortality.

“Innovation needs to be around how to do smart integration, to convince the health sectors to drive change but also to be more efficient,” she said.

(Reporting by Inna Lazareva; editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit news.trust.org/climate)

 

Jax-based Finxact secures $12 million in funding for cloud-based banking software

(courtesy of Jacksonville Business Journal)

The Finxact Core is a program that handles the main processes of all transactions in a banking environment, whether it be through branch or mobile banking or other channels. The Finxact Core is designed to provide next-gen services to financial institutions that may be operating on code written in the 1970’s or 80’s.

Finxact was founded late last year and the $12 million of funding obtained by the company will allow Finxact to enter the core banking software marketplace with other companies such as FIS. Sanchez says the first round of funding gives Finxact cash to pay for the necessary talent needed to make their new product formidable in the market.

According to a recent KPMG study, 39 percent of banks have already begun replacing their entire core system and an additional 21 percent are in the planning stages of a complete replacement. Finxact enables banks to quickly and easily offer new services for a growing digital-first population.

“Today, we have the depth in our team, the know-how, the technology, a great set of early customers, and now – the initial resources, to launch a new class of core banking as a service,” Sanchez said.

Junior Skepple

The Internet of Things and tech trends IT leaders should have on their radar for 2017

(Courtesy of Jacksonville Business News)

A technological evolution called the Internet of Things – defined as the digital connection via the Internet of mobile devices and everyday objects – should be at the top of IT leaders’ agendas for 2017. Early adapters of IoT have seen major transformations of their businesses, as IoT helps drive operational efficiency, excellence and revenue.

One such company is a laundry delivery service in Kansas City. Before a solution implemented by Sprint, managing a fleet of vans was unwieldy for the company. Some issues included not knowing its vehicles’ locations, providing drivers with directions was cumbersome, customer feedback was difficult to gather, and measuring driver efficiency was almost nonexistent. By simply plugging a small device called an OBD II (on-board diagnostic II) into each van, these problems were eliminated. Every vehicle built and sold in the U.S. after 1996 has the port necessary for the device, according to Mohamad Nasser, general manager at Sprint’s IoT Business Unit.

“You just plug it in. It’s very easy,” Nasser said. “Anybody can do it. Even my grandma can do it.”

IoT is not exclusive to big business; small businesses should be excited, too, said Nasser. The cost of entry is extraordinarily low. The Kansas City laundry service pays about $30 dollars a month for its OBD II devices.

“IoT can transform small and medium-sized business and enterprise absolutely equally,” Nasser said. “The barrier to entry in terms of cost is low enough (for small businesses), and the sophisticated features are strong enough for enterprise.”

In addition to IoT, below are two additional tech trends IT leaders should be paying attention to this year.

Immersive technology

Virtual and augmented reality are the hot-button topics within immersive technology, a term defined as tech that puts users into virtual environments. While VR is not fully mature and is in the early stages of its business utility, forward-thinking companies can achieve competitive advantages by expediting the exploration of the technology.

“It hasn’t quite come of age for B2B yet. Slowly, slowly it’s making its way,” Nasser said.

Some companies are using VR as a sales tool, offering customers product demos before their potential purchase. Sports teams, for example, show prospective season-ticket holders views from the seats they are considering buying.

Nasser offered Otis Elevator as an example of a company using an AR solution to make servicing its products more efficient. Codes on Otis’ hardware allow staff at the corporate office to identify problems and deploy the right resources to fix them, rather than sending a technician to trial-and-error the issue. When technicians view the codes on elevator hardware through AR goggles, they can see how to fix that particular problem.

“Diagnosing the problem using virtual or augmented reality and fixing the problem with these tools shorten the time needed to correct the problem,” Nasser said.

VR and AR are not ready, as some would claim, to take over the entire business world quite yet. It’s still cost prohibitive for some small businesses. The advice to IT shops at smaller companies in particular is to keep it on their radar.

Adaptive IT

Small businesses are often more nimble than their larger counterparts, a dynamic that makes them well-suited to capitalize on our third trend – adaptive IT.

Adaptive IT is the state of being prepared for change in our rapidly evolving technological world – the ability to punch up new solutions to accomplish a business’ moving targets.

“Today’s reality is that IT shops are being challenged dramatically to cope with this, and a lot of it has to do with old infrastructure, old design,” Nasser said. “I call it spaghetti code. The systems have been built to help support these businesses over many, many years. So people and companies are having to do a transformation of their business to get into this digital world. That’s not just an evolution, it’s more of a revolution.”

Because smaller businesses have less legacy code to wade through, they often have an advantage when it comes to adaptive IT.

“It’s easier for them to dump the old stuff and go for the new stuff,” Nasser said. “I think it can be harder for the bigger companies and large enterprises to do so because of all their legacy issues.”

Amazon rolls out chatbot tools in race to dominate voice-powered tech

Courtesy of Reuters.com

SAN FRANCISCO Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) chief technology officer is working toward a day when people can control almost any piece of software with their voice.

The company on Wednesday rolled out the technology powering Alexa, its voice assistant that competes with Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) Siri, to developers so they can build chat features into their own apps, CTO Werner Vogels said in an interview. The service, Amazon Lex, was in a preview phase since late 2016.

The move underscores how Amazon is racing to be the top player in voice-controlled computing, after losing out in mobile to Apple and Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google.

Vogels said that Amazon’s headway in processing how humans write and speak would make conversational assistants or “chatbots” more helpful than the clunky tools they’ve been in the past.

“There’s massive acceleration happening here,” he said before speaking at Amazon’s cloud-computing summit in San Francisco. “The cool thing about having this running as a service in the cloud instead of in your own data center or on your own desktop is that we can make Lex better continuously by the millions of customers that are using it.”

Processing vast quantities of data is key to artificial intelligence, which lets voice assistants decode speech. Amazon will take the text and recordings people send to apps to train Lex – as well as Alexa – to understand more queries.

That could help Amazon catch up in data collection. As popular as Amazon’s Alexa-powered devices are, such as Echo speakers, the company has sold an estimated 10 million or more. Apple has sold hundreds of millions of iPhones and other devices with Siri.

Vogels said people use Alexa for many tasks, from helping them cook to playing music, while they talk to assistants on their phones in fewer scenarios like when driving a car.

As with other cloud-based services, Amazon will charge developers based on how many text or voice requests Lex processes.

Still, the biggest payoff may come from e-commerce, which has already attracted many to build chatbots. Amazon has begun offering Alexa-only shopping deals to encourage purchases by voice, and Facebook Inc (FB.O) this week said its virtual assistant, called M, can help users order food from delivery.com.

“Voice is a big part of the computer interface of the future,” said Gene Munster, a veteran equity analyst and now head of research at Loup Ventures. “Whoever owns voice will be the gateway of commerce.”

The three B’s of cybersecurity for small businesses

(Courtesy of Jacksonville Business Journal)

Large-scale cyberattacks with eye-watering statistics, like the breach of a billion Yahoo accounts in 2016, grab most of the headlines. But what often gets lost in the noise is how often small and medium-sized organizations find themselves under attack.

In the last year, half of American small businesses have been breached by hackers. That includes Meridian Health in Muncie, Indiana, where 1,200 workers’ W-2 forms were stolen when an employee was duped by an email purporting to come from a top company executive. Many small companies are just one fraudulent wire transfer away from going out of business.

There’s lots of advice available about how to fight cybercrime, but it’s hard to tell what’s best. I am a scholar of how businesses can more effectively mitigate cyber risk, and my advice is to know the three “B’s” of cybersecurity: Be aware, be organized and be proactive.

Here’s how more companies can boost their cybersecurity preparedness without breaking the bank.

Be aware

The best defenses against these types of attacks involve skepticism and vigilance. Attackers can be very clever and persistent: If just one person has one weak moment and clicks on one malicious link, an entire network can be compromised.

Most companies go to great lengths to protect their physical assets and personnel. But many do not take similar precautions with their digital information. A key computer may be kept disconnected from the internet, but if it accepts flash drives or rewriteable CDs, or if its password is easy to guess, the information is just as vulnerable.

Small business owners need to prioritize cybersecurity. Without proper preparation, even large companies can find themselves unprepared for cyberattacks. When Sony was hacked in 2011, it did not have an executive focused solely on information security. But hiring someone did not prevent another hack in 2014.

Be proactive

Planning ahead is vital, instead of just being reactive. The National Institute for Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework lists five main functions of cybersecurity efforts: Identify vulnerabilities, protect against attacks, detect anyone who gets through, respond to the attack quickly and recover after the attack has been stopped.

Some companies are already receiving advice that following the NIST guidelines can reduce legal liability if cybersecurity problems arise or are discovered. Companies can also work with colleges and universities to create cybersecurity clinics, or even consider buying cyber risk insurance.

There’s no way to avoid being the target of a cyberattack, but that doesn’t mean becoming a victim. Simple steps can have huge results: The Australian government reported resisting 85 percent of cyberattacks by taking three basic steps: restricting which programs can run on government computers, keeping software updated regularly and minimizing the number of people who have administrative control over networks and key machines.

Cybersecurity doesn’t have to be rocket science; it’s just computer science.

Repeal of FCC rules pitting privacy advocates vs. ISPs passes Senate

(courtesy of Jacksonville Business Journal)

While the push for health care reform and Supreme Court confirmation hearings continue to dominate this week’s Washington news cycles, a Senate vote on internet privacy matters taken today is drawing the attention of business owners and consumer advocates alike.

At issue are privacy rules that were put in place by the Federal Communications Commission last year, ahead of the fall elections. The rules required companies to get consumers’ consent before they could share a host of web-browsing data with advertisers and other third parties, but the move put consumer-privacy advocates in conflict with companies that insisted the rules stifled innovation and service.

ISPs like Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) were reclassified as “common carriers” in 2015, a measure that eventually put them under the purview of the FCC, whereas big websites like Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. Thus, as Wired notes, Google can sell consumers’ web-browsing data to third parties without the same level of consent requirements that ISPs face.

And it’s not just the ISPs that wanted the rules wiped out. Advertising groups also have lobbied against them, as AdAge reported recently. It cited a statement from several of the groups that read, “Without prompt action in Congress or at the FCC, the FCC’s regulations would break with well-accepted and functioning industry practices, chilling innovation and hurting the consumers the regulation was supposed to protect.” Broadcasting & Cable added that the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jeff Flake (R – Ariz.), suggested the rules prevent ISPs from adjusting services to customers’ needs.

At the same time, proponents of the rules largely took on the position that they were necessary to protect people from corporate overreach into private information. For example, Sen. Ed Markey (D – Mass.) argued that pulling back on those rules effectively means more companies get to decide how much privacy individuals can enjoy, TechCrunch reported.

That same TechCrunch report noted a further complication of the Senate’s vote: Republicans are pursuing the matter under the Congressional Review Act, which allows legislators to undo regulations passed at the end of a previous presidential administration. That means the stakes are even higher than usual because should Congress undo those regulations, the FCC would be barred from issuing those same rules in the future, the report said.

The resolution still needs to pass the House of Representatives to take effect.

David A. Arnott is the National News Desk Editor with The Business Journals.

 

 

Intel to buy driverless car-tech firm Mobileye for $15 billion

(courtesy of reuters.com/technology news)

U.S. chipmaker Intel (INTC.O) agreed to buy driverless car-technology firm Mobileye (MBLY.N) for $15.3 billion on Monday, positioning itself for a dominant role in the autonomous-driving sector after missing the market for mobile phones.

The $63.54-per-share cash deal marks the largest purchase of a company solely focused on the self-driving sector.

Mobileye’s shares jumped as much as 30 percent to $61.51 in early U.S. trading, while Intel’s shares were down 1.3 percent.

The deal underscores the expanding alliances between automakers and their suppliers as they race to develop self-driving cars, a concept that once seemed a science-fiction dream but is drawing closer to reality.

While Intel is known for hardware chips and Mobileye for collision detection software, the merger promises to create a large portfolio of technologies needed for driverless vehicles.

That includes cameras, sensor chips, in-car networking, roadway mapping, machine learning and cloud software, as well as the data-centers needed to manage all the data involved.

“It’s an area where (Intel) has had very little presence – the automotive market, and so this is a tremendous opportunity for them to get into a market that has significant growth opportunities,” said Betsy Van Hees, an analyst at Loop Capital Markets.

“Mobileye’s technology is very critical … The price seems fair,” she added.

The offer represents a premium of about 33 percent to Mobileye’s Friday closing price of $47.

Intel will integrate its automated driving group with Mobileye’s operations, with the combined entity being run by Mobileye Chairman Amnon Shashua from Israel.

Intel Chief Executive Brian Krzanich said the acquisition was akin to merging the “eyes of the autonomous car with the intelligent brain that actually drives the car.”

Mobileye supplies cameras, chips and software for driver- assist systems – the building blocks for self-driving cars – to more than two dozen manufacturers.

The company was an early supplier of vision systems to Tesla, but the two companies had an acrimonious and public breakup last summer after the driver of a Tesla Model S was killed while operating the vehicle using Tesla’s Autopilot system.

Intel said it expects the vehicle systems, data and services market to rise to $70 billion by 2030.

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Mobileye, founded in 1999, accounts for 70 percent of the global market for driver-assistance and anti-collision systems. It employs 660 people and had adjusted net income of $173.3 million last year.

Analysts said that mounting a counterbid would be difficult as Mobileye’s Shashua would remain in charge and the combined entity would be based in Israel.

Shashua and two other senior Mobileye executives stand to do well by the deal: together they own nearly 7 percent of the company. Shmuel Harlap, Israel’s biggest car importer and one of Mobileye’s earliest investors, also holds a 7 percent stake.

Mobileye and Intel are already collaborating with German automaker BMW (BMWG.DE) on a project to put a fleet of around 40 self-driving test vehicles on the road in the second half of this year.

At the same time, Mobileye has teamed up with Intel for its fifth-generation of chips that will be used in fully autonomous vehicles that are scheduled for delivery around 2021.

Last October, Qualcomm announced a $47 billion deal to acquire the Netherlands’ NXP, the largest automotive chip supplier, putting pressure on other chipmakers seeking to make inroads into the market, including Intel, Mobileye and rival Nvidia NVDIA.O.

The Qualcomm-NXP deal, which will create the industry’s largest portfolio of sensors, networking and other elements vital to autonomous driving, is expected to close later in 2017.

For a dozen years, Mobileye has relied on Franco-Italian chipmaker STMicroelectronics to produce chips that the Israeli company sells to many of the world’s top automakers for its current, third-generation of driver-assistance systems.

Mobileye’s relationships with automakers, leading suppliers and STMicroelectronics will continue uninterrupted, the companies said in their statement, and Mobileye’s current product roadmap will not be affected.

(Additional reporting by Edward Taylor, Eric Auchard and Narottam Medhora; Editing by Luke Baker, Mark Potter and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)