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The Not-Too-Distant Future Of Television

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The business and consumption of television as we know it is going to change forever. From digital living rooms to newsrooms, stay tuned for a personalized, multi-screen experience.

We live in a world of constant disruption. Technological advancements have turned everything on its head. Companies like Uber, Airbnb, YouTube and Facebook have shaken the incumbents in their respective industry, paving the way for new business models that value efficiency and instant gratification. Fintechs are the next group of relatively new startups to disrupt one of the world’s largest sectors – banking and finance. And while every industry in the world is impacted by these technological enhancements and changes in consumption, media has probably changed the most.

Before we get into the changes impacting the evolution of television news, it’s important to take stock of the market. In sub-Saharan Africa, the pay-TV landscape is dominated by DStv. Hybrid services that bundle over-the-top (OTT; content delivered over the internet) services with digital terrestrial and IP TV like Kwese and Wananchi Groups’ Zuku are smaller in terms of subscribers, but are making inroads across the continent.

The deadline for the switch-over to Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) has passed in most markets in Africa, but remains an opportunity for growth and channel development. Netflix and Amazon Prime have been globally available since 2016 and are growing subscriber numbers in emerging markets, competing directly with pay-TV providers, while Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are investing in scripted short-form programming. With the abundance of choice, for both free and paid content, the share of screen-time is getting increasingly more fragmented.

READ MORE: MultiChoice, Africa’s Biggest TV Operator, To Be Listed By Naspers, Africa’s Largest Public Company

PwC, a professional services firm, publishes a report, Entertainment and Media Outlook: An African Perspective, each year. The report does a good job of measuring the pulse of media across the continent. PwC predicts that the total TV market in South Africa, which is the largest TV market on the continent, is going to exhibit reasonably strong growth. They predict that the pay-TV sector will add 1.5 million households by 2022, contrary to the decline in pay-TV viewing predicted by media pundits as a result of the availability of OTT alternatives like Netflix in South Africa. TV advertising remains an important part of the overall TV market, but accounts for just under a quarter of the sector’s total revenue.

In West Africa, Nigeria’s TV market grew year over year by 17.1%, despite a challenging economic climate. Again, pay-TV dominates revenues in the sector, commanding 75% of total revenues while advertising accounts for just 19%. Poor broadband penetration and availability has delayed the onset of the internet video segment, extending the life of linear TV in Nigeria.

How is content creation changing?
Industry leaders like Netflix have brought in data analytics for better content creation and acquisition. The Economist published a cover story on Netflixonomics in June where it reported Netflix has identified some 2,000 “taste clusters” by watching its watchers. An analysis of how well a program will reach, draw and retain customers in specific clusters lets Netflix calculate what sort of acquisition costs can be justified for it. Historically, the calculus of whether a show or film is worth making was based on relatively subjective criteria, and, on the intuition of people experienced in content creation. Data will become increasingly important in determining what to produce.
Advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are going to play an important role in augmenting the abilities of content producers, particularly journalists. AI-driven computer vision tools, speech recognition and natural language processing, when combined with a real-time content feed can help a content producer with creating enhanced visualization and representations of data, fact-checking, and guest identification cataloguing.

AI is enhancing the newsroom in many other ways. From streamlining media workflows to automating mundane tasks, enabling journalists to focus on what they do best – reporting. AI is also being used to improve turnaround times by allowing content creators to crunching more data. Research can be performed much faster, information can be correlated quickly and efficiently. Facebook is using AI to detect word patterns that may indicate a fake news story.

One of the largest cost components within a television news station was the cost of connectivity. Historically, connectivity for a TV channel was largely based on expensive satellites. Reliability was also an issue; bad weather could impact the quality of the signal. Portable cellular backpack solutions like LiveU, which uses the internet through mobile cellular networks, bound with other networks, like wireless internet have rendered legacy satellite uplink systems redundant and obsolete. Robotic cameras used within news studios take up less space and don’t require dedicated personnel to operate them. Integrated hardware solutions that incorporate all the elements of live TV in a single box have reduced the cost to operate a TV channel.

What are the transmission protocols of the future going to look like?
How people receive content is becoming just as important. IP-delivered content opens new doors in how advertisers can target consumers. As TV becomes more digitalized and smarter, the line between TV and OTT is blurring. Advertisers and ad agencies will eventually merge their TV ad digital planning and measurement.
It’s no secret that video on demand and other internet video services lag pay-TV across Africa. This is largely due to the availability and affordability of broadband internet. While this remains a challenge in the short-to-medium term, providers of telecommunication services are entering the content distribution space.

How will consumption patterns change in the future?
We’ve covered how data informs decisions around content production. Data is also used in the consumption side of the equation, particularly when it comes to delivering personalized content recommendations. Netflix does this particularly well with its content recommendation algorithms. This becomes important when dealing with massive amounts of content, like for example, user-generated content from social media sites. On any given day, over a billion hours of video are watched on YouTube. 70% of this content is recommended by YouTube’s algorithms. Going down the rabbit hole of YouTube is something most of us are familiar with; your well-intentioned first click to a video someone sent you leads to a three-hour binge from videos about political conspiracy theories to a clip on the antics of various house cats.

The recommendations are personalized, and they’re the first thing you see when you sign onto the site or YouTube app. They help you find the needle in the haystack of the millions of videos on YouTube that you actually want to watch.

The shift to second screen viewing has already taken place, with viewers often multi-tasking, watching Netflix and engaging with their friends on social media. There has been a lot of buzz around augmented reality and virtual reality. If you look past the gimmickry and hype, there hasn’t been a tectonic shift with either technology.
Wherever the future of television takes us, you cannot understate the importance of quality content, whether user-generated or scripted, free, paid or ad-supported. Almost all content will move towards a multi-screen environment with a highly personalized stream of content, rendering channels obsolete. The television will be just one of the many screens available to audiences. News production will become more efficient to produce, insightful when consumed and ubiquitous in its availability.

– The writer is the Managing Director of CMA Investment Holdings.

Current Affairs

Here’s How The US Claims The Assange-Manning Conspiracy Worked

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The U.S. government has disclosed more of its case against WikiLeaks cofounder Julian Assange. It hinges on a claim he and Chelsea Manning worked together to crack a password for a computer storing sensitive government files.

An affidavit unsealed Monday outlining the case against Assange said he conspired with Manning when they discussed working together to crack a password “related to two computers with access to classified national security information.” More specifically, the password belonged to a user called FTP (not to be confused with an FTP server) on two Windows computers that Manning could access from a base in Iraq, the government said.

The FTP account wasn’t associated with any specific individual, and the government alleged that if Manning had used it to pilfer files and hand them over to Wikileaks, she could have foiled investigators looking into who was behind the leaks.

“Although there is no evidence that the password to the FTP user was obtained, had Manning done so, she would have been able to take steps to procure classified information under a username that did not belong to her,” the affidavit read. “Such measures would have frustrated attempts to identify the source of the disclosures to WikiLeaks.”

The alleged conspiracy to crack the password took place in March 2010, two months after she’d walked out of the Iraq base with classified war reports from Iraq and Afghanistan. She was later convicted and served seven years in jail for downloading tens of thousands U.S. military documents and diplomatic cables.

How passwords are cracked

The reason any password had to be cracked in the first place was the use of what’s known as a “hash.” Microsoft’s Windows operating system doesn’t store passwords in plain text. That’s to prevent hackers who find a way on to the computer from seeing and stealing them. Instead, Microsoft makes life harder for cybercriminals and snoops by turning that plain text into scrambled code. That string of letters and numbers is known as a “hash value” and it’s created when an algorithm is applied to the plain text of the password.

For an attacker to get at the plain text it’s possible to do a so-called “brute force attack.” The process for this is basic: The hacker creates a huge list of guessed passwords through the same hashing algorithm used by Windows to find a matched hash value for the hidden password. Once the same hash value is calculated, the password has been found.

Sometimes a password will be too complex for guessing to work in a short enough time frame. That’s where “rainbow tables” come in. These contain a massive number of hash values for previously calculated passwords. Hackers use them to do a quick comparison of the hash they have with the ones in the table, in the hopes that it’s already been seen before and a match is available.

“In computing terms we call this a time/memory trade-off. Rather than spend time on a task, we pre-calculate parts of it and store them somewhere, essentially trading time for memory,” says Tom Wyatt, senior penetration tester at cybersecurity provider Bulletproof. “These tables can be calculated or downloaded from various online sources, and it simply boils down to paying for storage for it all; even in 2010 this was fairly cheap and entirely possible.”

But Microsoft goes one step further in protecting those hash values by splitting them in two, storing the parts in separate files. Here’s where a little trick comes in handy: A hacker might be able to recover those two separate pieces by rebooting a Windows PC using a CD with the Linux operating system. Back in 2010, it was possible to do that and recover the full hash value.

Ken Munro, a penetration tester with Pen Test Partners, told Forbes the technique still works, as long as there’s no additional layer of security over it, such as full disc encryption. “Whilst the technique still works, it’s quite rare to find systems that don’t now have full disc or similar encryption,” he added. (Microsoft hadn’t responded to a request for comment at the time of publication). According to the government’s telling of the story, evidence suggests Manning tried, and very possibly failed, with this technique. In a footnote in the affidavit, the government said Manning hadn’t provided Assange with the full hash, only one of the two halves required.

It’s alleged Manning passed what she thought was a hash value to Assange. The Wikileaks chief then said he would pass it on to a specialist in cracking, according to chats over the Jabber encrypted communications app, as provided in the affidavit. But, as per the investigators’ claims, there was some confusion: Manning said she wasn’t even sure what she handed to Assange was the hash value they wanted. Assange messaged Manning to ask if there were “any more hints” about the hash and that he’d had “no luck so far,” according to the government account. From there it’s unclear what happened. The government admits it didn’t know whether the password was ever cracked.

Not that it changes much for Assange: The charge is that of conspiracy. If he did offer assistance to help Manning gain access to U.S. government systems and encouraged the then intelligence analyst to leak files, the charge still stands. Manning, who served seven years in jail before being pardoned by President Barack Obama, is back behind bars for refusing to testify in the investigation into Wikileaks. Her lawyer had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, couldn’t be reached for comment at the time of publication. She told Sky News yesterday that the indictment against her client showed “the kinds of communications journalists have with sources all the time.” Following Assange’s arrest, however, various journalists have said on Twitter that any incitement to hack organizations or steal documents was far from normal and risked breaking the law.

Meanwhile, the fallout from Assange’s arrest continues. According to Reuters, Ecuador’s telecommunications vice minister Patricio Real said the government’s networks had been hit by a mass of cyberattacks after it decided to revoke Assange’s asylum status. He claimed various government websites had been slammed by 40 million hacking attempts per day, double the number it typically sees.

-Thomas Brewster; Forbes Staff

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Health

10 Rules Of Email That Will Reduce Your Stress Levels

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Email and smart phones can be stressful. Academics are calling this constant work connection “technostress”. Consequently, many European countries are now offering employees the “right to disconnect”.

The way email is used is complex, it cannot simply be labelled as “good” or “bad” and research shows that personality, the type of work people do and their goals can influence the way they react to email.

Good practice with email use is not just about limiting the amount of emails sent, but improving the quality of communication.

Here are ten tips to reduce the stress of email at work:

1. Get the subject line right

Use clear and actionable subject lines.

The subject line should communicate exactly what the email is about in six to ten words, to allow the recipient to prioritise the email without even opening it. On mobile devices, many people only see the first 30 characters of a subject line. So keep it short. But make it descriptive enough to give an idea of what the email is about from just the subject line.

READ MORE | Burnout, stress lead more companies to try a four-day work week

2. Ask yourself: is email the right medium?

Are you in the same office? Could you go and speak to the person? Could you call? Often these other forms of communication can avoid the inefficient back and forth of emailing.

Instant messaging and video calling platforms like Slack and Skype could be more appropriate for quick internal back and forth messaging. Also, remember that most of the advice below applies to all types of electronic communication.

3. Don’t email out of office hours

Research shows that out-of-hours emails make it harder for people to recover from work stress.

Try and influence your company culture by avoiding sending or replying to emails outside your normal working hours.

Management should lead by example and avoid contacting their staff outside of their normal working hours. Some workplaces even switch off email access to employees out of hours. Consider implementing this while keeping a backup phone system for emergency contact only.

New research has also shown that just the expectation of 24-hour contact can negatively affect employee health.

READ MORE | A Career Secret Weapon: Thank-You Notes

4. Use the delay delivery option

Some people like integrating their work and family lives and often continue working from home during their off-job time. If you are one of these people, or if you work across time zones, consider using the delay delivery option so your emails do not send until the next working day and do not interfere with other people’s off-job time.

5. Keep it positive

Think about the quality of email communication. Not just the quantity. Changes to email use should also focus on the quality of what is being sent and take into consideration the emotional reaction of the recipient.

Research suggests that conflicts are far easier to escalate and messages to be misinterpreted when communicated via email. Therefore, if it is bad news, think back to rule #2: is email the right medium?

6. Try ‘no email Friday’

In order to shift company culture and get people thinking about other methods of communication than email, try a “no email Friday” on the first Friday of every month, or maybe even every week. This is an initiative suggested by experts from the National Forum for Health and Wellbeing at Work, and is being used by businesses around the globe. Employees are encouraged to arrange face-to-face meetings or pick up the phone – or just get on top of the many emails they already have in their inbox on that day.

READ MORE | The 12 Biggest Career Crashes Of 2018

7. Make your preferences known

Research has shown that not only too much but also too little email can cause stress due to a mismatch between the communication preferences of different people. Some people may like being emailed and cope much better with high email traffic than other means of communication. For these people, reducing the amount of emails they receive may cause more stress than it alleviates.

So consider people’s individual differences and make yours known. Add your preferred contact preferences to your email signature whether it is email, text or instant messages or a phone call.

8. Consider a holiday ‘bounce back’

Having a backlog of emails that builds up over the week appears to be one of the most commonly mentioned sources of technostress for workers. Think about setting up a system where emails are bounced back to the sender when someone is on holiday, with an alternative contact email for urgent requests. This would let you come back to a manageable inbox.

9. Have a separate work phone

Make this the only mobile device you can access work emails on, which gives you the freedom to switch it off after work hours. Also consider turning off email “push” (this is where your email server sends each new email to your phone when it arrives at the server) and instead choose a regular schedule (such as once per hour) for emails to be delivered to your phone (this also increases battery life).

10. Avoid late night screen time

Research suggests that late night smart phone use reduces our ability to get to sleep and also leads to constant thoughts and stress about work. This in turn reduces your sleep quality. Make the bed a phone-free zone to improve your sleep hygiene.

The Conversation

-The Conversation

-Ricardo Twumasi; Lecturer in Organisational Psychology, University of Manchester

-Cary Cooper; 50th Anniversary Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health, University of Manchester

Lina Siegl; PhD Researcher, University of Manchester

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Technology

The World’s Largest Airplane Takes Flight. Next Stop? Outer Space

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On Saturday, the world’s largest aircraft, the Stratolaunch, made its first complete test flight. The aircraft flew for about two and a half hours over the Mojave desert, reaching a speed of 189 miles per hour and an altitude of 17,000 feet.

The aircraft was created by the Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, which was founded by the late Paul Allen. The purpose of the plane isn’t normal commercial travel, but rather to carry rockets into high altitudes, then launch those rockets from the plane itself.

“What a fantastic first flight,” Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch, said in a statement. “Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems.”

Scaled Composites, which was acquired by Northrop Grummon in 2007, worked on the design and build of the Stratolaunch aircraft. Saturday’s test flight was piloted by Scaled Composites test pilots Evan Thomas and Chris Guarente.

“I honestly could not have hoped for more on a first flight especially of an airplane of this complexity and this uniqueness,” Thomas said in a press briefing following the flight.

Stratolaunch in flight
Stratolaunch in flight on Saturday, April 13 Picture: STRATOLAUNCH SYSTEMS CORPORATION

The Stratolaunch aircraft was first announced in 2011, and is the largest plane ever built out of composite materials. Its wingspan is 385 feet, the longest of any aircraft that has ever flown, including the Spruce Goose, which had a wingspan of about 320 feet. By comparison, a Boeing 747 has a wingspan of about 212 feet – making the Stratolaunch plane nearly twice the size. It’s propelled by six PW4056 turbofan engines, and is actually capable of launching multiple rockets on a single flight, up to about 500,000 pounds.

Airplane-launched rockets seemed at one point to be a good bet as a way of providing more convenient flights into space. Scaled Composites won the Ansari X Prize for launching the first private, reusable spacecraft into space in June of 2004. That effort was backed by Paul Allen, and this approach was not only adopted by Stratolaunch but also by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

However, it’s taken much longer than expected to develop these types of spaceflight. Virgin Galactic only first reached a space-approaching altitude at the end of 2018 – 14 years after that first Scaled Composite flight – though it hopes to be providing passenger service as early as later this year. Stratolaunch at one time was developing a rocket for its aircraft, but abandoned that effort earlier this year.

Rather than launch its own rockets, Stratolaunch has shifted strategy to be a platform for other aircraft-launched rockets. In particular, for Northrop Grummon’s Pegasus family of rockets. First demonstration Pegasus flights off of the Stratolaunch plane are scheduled for 2020.

Though they’ve taken longer to develop, the arrival of private plane-launched rockets via Virgin and Stratolaunch may be well-timed, as more satellite startups are looking for options to get satellites into space on their own timetable. Rockets launched from airplanes have more flexibility in terms of timing than their counterparts that launch from the ground, which may be a critical factor for companies looking to build up constellations in a hurry.

-Alex Knapp; Forbes Staff

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