Posted by Sam Gliksman
Having lived in Israel for many years you become accustomed to checking for stray bags and suspicious people. Life in the US however has traditionally been safer and simpler. All that changed dramatically on the morning of 9/11. We’re on heightened security alert - from government all the way down to private citizens. And recently a new threat has started to emerge. The threat of a cyberattack. This is not the simple virus that attacks your personal computer and destroys your data. The nation’s economy and infrastructure are dependant upon computers. A cyberattack would potentially threaten our electricity grid, banking system, water supply, air traffic and more. It could quickly cripple our economy and cause sweeping chaos.
The Pentagon and National Security Agency have been protecting government and military networks from intrusion by hackers for a number of years. In recognition however that our national security demands far reaching security measures, several lawmakers are proposing new legislation that will empower government to create cybersecurity standards that extend to private industry for the very first time. The proposed Senate legislation, co-sponsored by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), promises to dramatically escalate U.S. defenses against cyberattacks.
“People say this is a military or intelligence concern, but it’s a lot more than that,” Rockefeller said. “It suddenly gets into the realm of traffic lights and rail networks and water and electricity.” Acknowledging that defense against cyberattacks would require an ongoing effort, Rockefeller said that the proposal would call for an ongoing, quadrennial review of the nation’s cyberdefenses. “It’s not a problem that will ever be completely solved,” he said.
The legislation calls for the appointment of a White House cybersecurity “czar” who would have unprecedented authority to shut down private computer networks that were under cyberattack. The Office of the “National Cybersecurity Adviser”, reports directly to the president. It would require establishment of “measurable and auditable cybersecurity standards” that applies to private companies as well as government.
For the full article, please refer to the Washington Post.
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11.12.10 at 11:14 am | Despite efforts to block offensive material,. . . (5)
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April 1, 2009 | 8:57 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
A new device under development in Israel would take some of hassle out of determining if fruit trees or grape vines are getting enough water. The monitor, tapped into a stem, would measure the plant’s electric conductivity, a parameter of water stress. If the stress gets to be too much, the device can send a text message or e-mail to the farmer. And if the plant continues to bake in the sun without water, the device can also turn on the water itself.
The product – created by Israeli researchers Eran Raveh and Arieh Nadler at the Volcani Institute of Agriculture—is still about three or four years from store shelves, reports Karin Kloosterman at Green Prophet/Israel21c.
“We have a water crisis here in Israel and need a way to irrigate more accurately,” says Raveh.
The device, still without a name, will save farmers up to 30 to 40 percent in water use, he calculates. “The idea is that we were trying to find a way to give water more accurately to the trees. Usually [devices today] measure soil water content.”
Measuring tree water content this way, says the plant and soil specialist, is “complicated and takes a lot of time until you get a ‘true’ measurement, because there are many varying parameters involved.”
Cheap, simple, accurate
To get a true estimate of the moisture level in a plant or tree, a farmer must make a grueling check of 26 points in the ground around the plant.
“We’ve found a different way for measuring a tree’s water status: by sticking probes—three simple nails—into the main stem of the tree, we measure electric conductivity of the stem, and analyze the data to tell people if the tree is under good water conditions. It’s important to be able to do this in a simple and cheap way,” says Raveh, who came about the idea by accident: “Our solution is cheap, it can be automated and is very accurate.
“We were doing some other work, and realized that the data that came out of it reflects tree water status,” he says.
This data is the intellectual property that the future company will revolve around. Whether the information collected will be transmitted by SMS, e-mail message, fax, or sent to switch on an automated tap, is a matter of simple programming.
For tomatoes and potatoes too
For now, the team will continue refining the first product, shaped like a small hammer — for trees — and will continue fine-tuning it to apply it in farm produce as well. Raveh envisions the cost will be very affordable for most farmers, about $250 per orchard: only one probe will be needed to reflect the water content in about every 500 trees.
“It can work on every stem and doesn’t matter what kind of plant material,” he says. “Olives, palm, banana — at the moment we are working with big trees, but it’s a matter of calibrating [the device] to move it to younger and smaller plants.”
Orchard farmers everywhere, and the planet, will be saying thank you. “In big orchards, water use is a problem,” says Raveh, who estimates that an orchard with thousands of trees could cut its water use by almost half. It could also spare trees and plants from being over-watered.
He doesn’t expect the device will be that useful for the homeowner with a few trees on a lot, because in this case it’s not difficult to see if a tree is water stressed. A “smart” tree that can send text messages, however, could be used a novelty item to entertain and teach the kids about water, plants and the environment.
March 26, 2009 | 3:53 pm
Posted by Sam Gliksman
Welcome to my new blog for the Jewish Journal. Technology reviews have become very commonplace and it isn’t my intent to add one more column to the already long list that report on the latest techno-gadgets. In debating whether to write a blog for the Journal I decided it would only be worthwhile if I could write it from a “different” perspective.
Personally, growing up in Australia in the 60’s and 70’s, the closest I came to technology was using one of those yo-yos that lit up at night. Years later I found myself owning a growing software development company at the center of the personal computer revolution in the 1980’s and 90’s. We marvelled at everything that could be done with our new devices and took tremendous satisfaction in developing new ideas into products. Technology became my passion. Much like the immigrant that comes to a new country, I could appreciate things that natives took for granted ... while also maintaining the perspective of what life was like before technology overtook every aspect of our daily existence.
Textbooks talk about groups of “technology natives” and “technology immigrants”. Natives grew up using technology at every turn whereas technology immigrants have had to adapt and integrate technology into their everyday lives. If you’re a digital immigrant you may be overwhelmed by the constant flow of new gadgets. You’re always yelling at your kids to get off their devices and go outside and play. There are times it feels like pushing water uphill. Technology is taking over everything in your life but you struggle with how and where to use it at work and play.
This column is for you - the digital immigrant.
How can you tell if you’re a “digital immigrant”? I’ve come up with a list of 10 simple signs that will let you know:
10. You use phrases such as “When I was a kid..”. If you’re already nodding in agreement then please do us both a favor and stop here. There’s really no point in wasting time reading the rest of this article. Life is too short ... especially in your case.
9. You think “Flash” is an obscene gesture.
8. You keep complaining that the keys on your cell phone were made for people with “smurf fingers”.
7. You’ll text on occasion but you simply can’t bring yourself to type abbreviated phrases such as “how r u” and “lol”.
6. You have at least one digital clock in your house that has been flashing “12:00am” for the past few months.
5. When encountering a technical problem you flee in panic searching for the nearest 10 year old.
4. You curse while trying to type simple text messages on your cell phone. Anyone looking over your shoulder would see phrases such as “whga5t ar3we 7yplo” on your screen ... clearly you don’t have smurf fingers.
3. When your friend tells you that he has a new Blackberry in his pocket you warn him that the stain will never come out.
2. When told that your computer needs new memory chips you request “barbecue flavored”.
1. You’re over 25 years old.
If you’re over 50 years old - which I am - then technically speaking you’re an “Illegal Digital Immigrant”. Apparently nobody checked your digital citizenship status when you bought that computer or cell phone. You managed to gain entrance into the digital world but let’s be honest - you’re likely to hurt yourself and really shouldn’t be there.
So come back often and join in our discussion. We’ll try and navigate through the many ways that technology might improve your life and warn you about the ways that it might potentially intrude and cause harm. Used appropriately, technology can be your best friend ... but with the perspective and wisdom that comes with being a digital immigrant we’ll see that technology isn’t always the solution. There will still be those days when you want to dust off that old yo-yo and give it another spin.
March 25, 2009 | 5:55 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
Amir Shapiro, 37, has a youthful attitude that makes his job seem like child’s play. For fun, this father of four designs navigation algorithms for multi-limbed robots and locomotion methods for snake-like robots at Ben-Gurion University, where he’s a lecturer with the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
His latest project indulges his interest in locomotion of mechanisms in unstructured complex environments. In other words, he’s building a robot that will map tunnels for the Israeli army.
“[The IDF] can find the entrance, but they want to track the entire tunnel,” Shapiro said. “Underground there is no GPS and no orientation system.”
It’s difficult to map smuggling tunnels (see “Best (and bizarre) in tunnel sniffing”). So it would be up to a robot like the one Shapiro’s developing – which looks like two remote-controlled tanks linked by a metal bar (see photo) – to traverse the length of the tunnel and report back with details on slope, depth, angle, etc., which could help the IDF determine where to strike so it can’t be rebuilt (the tunnel, not the robot).
Another piece of homeland-security technology Shapiro is working on is based on a suggestion from two students who served in the Israeli navy.
“When something hits a ship, they want to see if there’s damage. They can’t necessarily put a diver in the middle of the ocean, since it’s too dangerous,” he said.
Hull inspection robots exist, but most are expensive swimming ROV systems. Shapiro’s idea is to have a camera mounted a 10-inch wide robot, which could be sealed in a watertight case and sent off to roll along the hull with its magnetic wheels looking for damage. But the system wouldn’t just be limited to ships. Shapiro also sees potential in using it for bridge inspection.
Shapiro is one of about 60 researchers at BGU’s Robot Lab, which was established in 1988. Current projects include military, medical, agricultural and search-and-rescue systems.
The robot snakes Shapiro designs, like his Big Ben, are not so unusual – these search-and-rescue systems are segmented, featuring different motors that can produce their own independent motion. The snake can slowly move through small pockets in a collapsed building to find trapped survivors. This technology is several years old, but Shapiro’s twist is to create the first autonomous snake, which could operate independently of humans.
In fact, Shapiro believes the evolutionary stage in robot development will be the ability of these systems to act on their own—to repair themselves and to build other robots without human involvement. And right after that Skynet will become self-aware and before you know it—Judgement Day.