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You’ll need a driver’s license for another 10 years

Self-driving cars are all about information technology, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. In fact, they utilize some of the most complex, and still unperfected hardware and software in the lab. When the remaining issues in autonomous vehicles are solved, however, we will not only experience (promised) carefree driving but also advances in robotics and other human-computer interactions.

In the meantime, solving scientific and engineering obstacles aren’t the only roadblocks for self-driving cars. The driving public is deeply skeptical of the technology. A Gallup poll taken earlier this year showed that 54 percent of Americans say they would be uncomfortable as a passenger in a self-driving car. Even more are worried about sharing the road with self-drgalliving trucks.

On the other hand, Gallup points out, a poll taken in 2000 showed that 23 percent of U.S. adults said they would never use a cell phone.

Development of self-driving cars is following two tracks. Alphabet, the Google spin-off, uses lidar (a laser measurement system) to detect objects around the car, as well as radar. Tesla uses a system of cameras, radar and ultrasonics.

A web of sensors in both systems connects the detection equipment to the gas pedal and brakes. And both also rely on software algorithms to recognize objects and conditions that affect how the car should move. The algorithms, so far, are the most difficult solution to address.

That is in part because while human drivers are error-prone and often erratic, they expect a self-driving car to be blemish-free. The software that owns the market will have to be, if not perfect, able to withstand the scrutiny of a Six Sigma black belt.

“By far the most complex part of self-driving cars, the decision-making of the algorithms, must be able to handle a multitude of simple and complex driving situations flawlessly,” Alan Amici, a vice president of automotive engineering at TE Connectivity told The Franklin Institute. “The software used to implement these algorithms must be robust and fault-tolerant.”

Of course, many car companies already employ elements that will one day go into a fully self-driving car. Today’s high-end cars can parallel park, hit the brakes to avoid collisions and warn drivers when they inadvertently leave the driving lane.

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When Your Company Is In The cloud, Nail Your Contract To The Ground

Chances are, you and your business are engaged with the cloud. Services like Dropbox are cloud-based, for instance, and easy to use. Your business, however, likely needs access to greater storage and technology than you can receive from a simple download.

Moving to the cloud means you don’t have to maintain your own servers and you can quickly upgrade storage and other services. If you aren’t using the cloud yet, you probably will be soon.

According to industry prognosticator IDC, about half of IT spending in 2018 will be to access the Cloud, increasing to 60% of all IT infrastructure spending and 60% to 70% of all software, services, and technology spending by 2020. Deloitte says that spending for cloud-based data centers, software and services will reach $574 billion by the end of this year.

Hiring a provider of cloud services shouldn’t be a snap decision. It requires investigation of a vendor’s best practices and will probably also require changes in your business practices. Both are needed to help ensure your vital information is not lost or stolen.

Here are some things to consider when you shop for a cloud provider.

Make sure the company has strong security. A good defensive position includes strong identification measures for all users. The company must be able to limit access to your information to a minimum of its own employees as well as ensure that only your own authorized employees can get to stored data. Its cyber security measures should be able to detect activity by potential hackers and prevent the intrusion. There are several industry and government standards that indicate the provider follows best practices.

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Success In Quantum Computing Is Difficult But Tantalizing

Modern computers and systems seem almost miraculous in their abilities and contributions to humanity. But proponents of quantum computers say the machines we are using today will be remembered as something like a horse-drawn buggy when the next leap in computing occurs.

There are a few rudimentary prototypes, but quantum computers exist essentially only in theory for now. If they can be built, they will solve problems that today’s largest supercomputers can’t handle. First of all, scientists will use quantum computing to better understand the inner workings of molecules in order to build new materials. Another priority will be to crack existing encrypted codes and build new, even more-secure codes.

Quantum computers are based, as the name implies, on the theories of quantum physics, the laws that govern nature’s smallest component parts, such as atoms and subatomic particles. Two of the main lessons of quantum physics is that these small particles can seem to be in two places at once, and that their actions can be connected to particles very far away – even on the other side of the universe.

If humans can harness those traits in a machine, the resulting computer could make many more calculations, and much faster, than existing computers, which rely on bits of information that can only be in one state – a 1 or a 0. In quantum computers, a “qubit” will replace a bit, and will represent both 1 and 0 at the same time.

Scientific American magazine asked Jim Clarke, director of quantum hardware at Intel Labs, for an explanation of how quantum theory applies to computing.

Clarke used the metaphor of heads and tails on a coin:

“In a conventional computer processor a transistor is either up or down, heads or tails. But if I ask you whether that coin is heads or tails while it’s spinning, you might say the answer is both. That’s what a quantum computer builds on. Instead a conventional bit that’s either 0 or 1, you have a quantum bit that simultaneously represents 0 and 1, until that qubit stops spinning and comes to a resting state.

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5G Will Change How You Do Business – Someday. Maybe Soon.

Ultra-fast 5G mobile and data communication is coming – perhaps as early as this year to some parts of the country. What it will mean to business owners and consumers remains somewhat unclear until we answer the question: What do we want to do with it?

We know that our kids will start asking for phones with operating systems running 5G (the fifth generation of wireless technology). You can explain that unless they regularly download movies or play live-action games, they don’t need one right now. And phones may evolve quickly to adapt to the new protocol, making the first 5G versions quickly old-fashioned.

For business, the benefits may come in the near future. Or, at least, some businesses will benefit fairly soon as 5G enables improvements that can be imagined but so far not put in place because of limits of capacity, speed and accuracy in the current technology for wireless transmission of data.

Start planning
If you operate an intranet in a large building, for instance, 5G will increase communications speed and capacity by twice or more. That’s because 5G relies not on large cell towers but small communication nodes similar to routers. These “pods” filled with antennae will be placed throughout a building to transmit high-frequency signals from floor to floor.

A benefit of 5G is that it will simultaneously download and transmit data at very high speeds — gigabytes instead of megabytes. As a result, you can download a movie, if you wish, in seconds rather than minutes. With that capability, 5G might offer a reasonable replacement for current cable or DSL.

Connecting everything to everything
Self-driving cars are a focus of 5G because the protocol will allow nearly instant communication between vehicles, traffic signals down the road and unseen traffic jams.

The Internet of Things will continue to grow exponentially as small sensors gain the ability to communicate even faster with each other and their computer bases. Aircraft, for example, will become more autonomous and safer as every system in the airframe is connected and reporting its status second-by-second.

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The Hits Keep on Coming – Drupal And Juniper Are The Latest

Widely used software from Drupal and Jupiter Networks – two companies known for helping businesses create web pages and improve connectivity – were hacked in the past month, causing potentially serious damage to their client companies and, just as important, demonstrating that you can never let down your guard.

Drupal offers content management software. Many business sites, particularly those that use sophisticated interactive content, such as e-commerce, are powered by Drupal. The software was infected with a virus that hackers can use to take over a Drupal-powered website.

Drupal issued a patch to prevent infection, but users must install the solution themselves, which probably means many of the million Drupal sites are still infected.

Juniper Networks is famous for creating faster routers and taking on Cisco. Juniper now offers a suite of networking software and hardware for businesses.

Last month, Juniper issued patches to fix several problems on its operating system. The most serious could allow hackers to take over devices and sites at companies using Juniper software.
Assessing the danger
These security breakdowns are of course only the latest in a series of worrisome hacks of important software providers. And they illustrate that criminals are always working to find new ways to access your company’s information – and possibly cripple your operation.

Drupal and Juniper won’t be the last examples, either. Here are some actions you can implement to protect your company and your own clients from attacks.
Protective steps
Software that runs your website and other operations should require users to identify themselves with a sign-on and password at various levels of authority.

You are responsible for educating employees about how to create a hard-to-crack password and to recognize phishing attacks from outsiders.

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Generative Adversarial Networks Promise to Change Computing, and Us

You have heard of machine learning, in which a computer gains “knowledge” and expertise as it tries and fails at a human-designed task until it learns the correct approach. That type of machine learning is still being used, but it could soon become very old-school. Some day, generative adversarial networks will take over, as two computers test each other, with little human intervention, to come up with a solution.

Of course, humans still must program the computers before they start on their task, but with generative adversarial networks, or GANs, the computers then test themselves to develop solutions that have minimal human input.

GANs are confined at the moment mostly to creating paintings and simulated photographs, but scientists say the technology could blaze the path to computers that think like humans – or come so close most of us won’t be able to tell the difference.

Positive or negative?
If you dread the singularity, when we become one with technology, this might be the time to start hoarding the freeze-dried food pellets at your mountain hideaway.

If you are more optimistic, you might see GANs as moving us closer to a world in which information technology is maximized to help us solve more of humanity’s problems.

In generative adversarial networks two computers teach each other to solve problems. With conventional machine learning, a human feeds labeled information to a computer until the machine learns a task.

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A Good Day of Phishing Could Mean a Bad Day for You

Here’s a scary fact if you are responsible for your company’s security: Some phishing emails encourage a nearly 100 percent open rate.

Apparently, emails are irresistible when they pretend to inform recipients of a new evacuation plan for their workplace. The same is true for fake password update alerts. According to Wombat Security’s annual “State of the Phish” report, users open virtually every one of these type of scam notices.

What happens when one of your employees clicks on that authoritative-sounding message? They begin on a path that could lead to the theft of their personal information or worse – the company could lose valuable, even crucial, data.
Train and then train some more
You can’t stop the criminal activities of those trying to infiltrate your company. But training has proven effective in helping your employees recognize phishing scams and to report them.

Happily, it is not necessary to make everyone an IT specialist to avoid trouble. It’s enough to educate them on the latest scams and how to look for telltale signs that certain emails are likely to be trouble.

The frequency of training is key.

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What Went Wrong With Facebook? An Explanation.

Everyone knows Facebook has a problem. The headlines are relentless and appear day after day. If you only read the headlines, though, you might have an uneasy feeling, without knowing exactly why.

Here is a primer on what’s been happening recently, what’s gone wrong, and how it might be addressed.

To begin:

Facebook collects a lot of information about everyone who uses it. Or to be more precise, we give Facebook the information. We provide a partial biography when we join. Then we create a network of Facebook friends, who have also provided hints about their preferences. Then we “like” some of their posts and share other posts with our network. Now Facebook knows a good amount of what we say we value, and it can discern more about our leanings by who we interact with, and how.

Most of us provide that information without thinking too much about it. But we assume, perhaps naively, that Facebook will keep the information safe. At the same time, Facebook makes money by analyzing our information so it can sell advertising targeted specifically toward us. Facebook is using our preferences so others can sell us stuff.

As it turns out, people are generally OK with that proposition. What we might question is Facebook giving that information to other companies. Well, it turns out that is what happens, even to this day.
Who else is looking at you?
The recent big news stories concern such sharing. In 2014, a company enticed more than 200,000 people to fill out a quiz on Facebook and then download an app. The app scoured data from all of the contacts of those original 200,000. In the end, information from about 50 million people was downloaded and most of them had no idea that Facebook had allowed it.

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How to Protect Yourself from CyberMonday Scams

As if the internet weren’t already a scary enough place, with cybercriminals lurking everywhere and unleashing malware at the rate of hundreds of thousands a day, the holiday season can be the stuff of nightmares. Cybercriminals really ramp up their wicked game on CyberMonday and during the holiday season – knowing full well more people are shopping online.

Their goal – the dupe you into giving them what they love most – your personal information. With it, they can scam you a thousand ways to Tuesday. But there are ways to protect yourself – and most involve simply being aware of their schemes and tactics.

Watch for emailed coupons that claim to come from a legitimate retailer. You’ll most likely see it in your email as a notification from someone you’ve done business with before, but in this case, the sender might be waving a $100 coupon in front of you. When you click to redeem it, you’ve just opened yourself up to malware that can give cybercrimnals access to your private information.

Keep your eyes open for fakers. Many fraudsters will play with the spelling of popular sites, such as Amazon or Walmart by adding a letter, word or phrase, such as Amaazon.com or Walmart-outlet.ct. And, with URL shorteners being so prevalent, it’s easy to fall prey to a fake site that doesn’t have the typical “.com” extension. Again, visiting such a site can be dangerous.

Be Reasonable. Be Wise. Would Target reeeeally be sending you a $100 gift card for no reason? Redeeming such offers will require you to go to a site where you’ll be asked to enter your email address and password. Legitimate sites will never ask you for that info, or your SS #, bank account info, etc.

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