Thursday, 27 November 2014

How Facial Recognition Systems Work

Anyone who has seen the TV show "Las Vegas" has seen facial recognition software in action. In any given episode, the security department at the fictional Montecito Hotel and Casino uses its video surveillance system to pull an image of a card counter, thief or blacklisted individual. It then runs that image through the database to find a match and identify the person. By the end of the hour, all bad guys are escorted from the casino or thrown in jail. But what looks so easy on TV doesn't always translate as well in the real world.
In 2001, the Tampa Police Department installed police cameras equipped with facial recognition technology in their Ybor City nightlife district in an attempt to cut down on crime in the area. The system failed to do the job, and it was scrapped in 2003 due to ineffectiveness. People in the area were seen wearing masks and making obscene gestures, prohibiting the cameras from getting a clear enough shot to identify anyone.
Boston's Logan Airport also ran two separate tests of facial recognition systems at its security checkpoints using volunteers. Over a three month period, the results were disappointing. According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the system only had a 61.4 percent accuracy rate, leading airport officials to pursue other security options.
Humans have always had the innate ability to recognize and distinguish between faces, yet computers only recently have shown the same ability. In the mid 1960s, scientists began work on using the computer to recognize human faces. Since then, facial recognition software has come a long way.
In this article, we will look at the history of facial recognition systems, the changes that are being made to enhance their capabilities and how governments and private companies use (or plan to use) them.

Facial Recognition Technology
Identix®, a company based in Minnesota, is one of many developers of facial recognition technology. Its software, FaceIt®, can pick someone's face out of a crowd, extract the face from the rest of the scene and compare it to a database of stored images. In order for this software to work, it has to know how to differentiate between a basic face and the rest of the background. Facial recognition software is based on the ability to recognize a face and then measure the various features of the face.
Every face has numerous, distinguishable landmarks, the different peaks and valleys that make up facial features. FaceIt defines these landmarks as nodal points. Each human face has approximately 80 nodal points. Some of these measured by the software are:
  • Distance between the eyes
  • Width of the nose
  • Depth of the eye sockets
  • The shape of the cheekbones
  • The length of the jaw line
These nodal points are measured creating a numerical code, called a faceprint, representing the face in the database.
In the past, facial recognition software has relied on a 2D image to compare or identify another 2D image from the database. To be effective and accurate, the image captured needed to be of a face that was looking almost directly at the camera, with little variance of light or facial expression from the image in the database. This created quite a problem.
In most instances the images were not taken in a controlled environment. Even the smallest changes in light or orientation could reduce the effectiveness of the system, so they couldn't be matched to any face in the database, leading to a high rate of failure. In the next section, we will look at ways to correct the problem.

3D Facial Recognition

The Vision 3D + 2D ICAO camera is used to perform enrollment, verification and identification of 3D and 2D face images.
Photo © A4Vision, Inc.

A newly-emerging trend in facial recognition software uses a 3D model, which claims to provide more accuracy. Capturing a real-time 3D image of a person's facial surface, 3D facial recognition uses distinctive features of the face -- where rigid tissue and bone is most apparent, such as the curves of the eye socket, nose and chin -- to identify the subject. These areas are all unique and don't change over time.
Using depth and an axis of measurement that is not affected by lighting, 3D facial recognition can even be used in darkness and has the ability to recognize a subject at different view angles with the potential to recognize up to 90 degrees (a face in profile).
Using the 3D software, the system goes through a series of steps to verify the identity of an individual.


Acquiring an image can be accomplished by digitally scanning an existing photograph (2D) or by using a video image to acquire a live picture of a subject (3D).

Once it detects a face, the system determines the head's position, size and pose. As stated earlier, the subject has the potential to be recognized up to 90 degrees, while with 2D, the head must be turned at least 35 degrees toward the camera.

The system then measures the curves of the face on a sub-millimeter (or microwave) scale and creates a template.

The system translates the template into a unique code. This coding gives each template a set of numbers to represent the features on a subject's face.

If the image is 3D and the database contains 3D images, then matching will take place without any changes being made to the image. However, there is a challenge currently facing databases that are still in 2D images. 3D provides a live, moving variable subject being compared to a flat, stable image. New technology is addressing this challenge. When a 3D image is taken, different points (usually three) are identified. For example, the outside of the eye, the inside of the eye and the tip of the nose will be pulled out and measured. Once those measurements are in place, an algorithm (a step-by-step procedure) will be applied to the image to convert it to a 2D image. After conversion, the software will then compare the image with the 2D images in the database to find a potential match.

Verification or Identification
In verification, an image is matched to only one image in the database (1:1). For example, an image taken of a subject may be matched to an image in the Department of Motor Vehicles database to verify the subject is who he says he is. If identification is the goal, then the image is compared to all images in the database resulting in a score for each potential match (1:N). In this instance, you may take an image and compare it to a database of mug shots to identify who the subject is.
Next, we'll look at how skin biometrics can help verify matches.

Biometric Facial Recognition
The surface texture analysis (STA) algorithm operates on the top percentage of results as determined by the local feature analysis. STA creates a skinprint and performs either a 1:1 or 1:N match depending on whether you're looking for verification or identification.

The image may not always be verified or identified in facial recognition alone. Identix® has created a new product to help with precision. The development of FaceIt®Argus uses skin biometrics, the uniqueness of skin texture, to yield even more accurate results.

The process, called Surface Texture Analysis, works much the same way facial recognition does. A picture is taken of a patch of skin, called a skinprint. That patch is then broken up into smaller blocks. Using algorithms to turn the patch into a mathematical, measurable space, the system will then distinguish any lines, pores and the actual skin texture. It can identify differences between identical twins, which is not yet possible using facial recognition software alone. According to Identix, by combining facial recognition with surface texture analysis, accurate identification can increase by 20 to 25 percent.

FaceIt currently uses three different templates to confirm or identify the subject: vector, local feature analysis and surface texture analysis.

  • The vector template is very small and is used for rapid searching over the entire database primarily for one-to-many searching.
  • The local feature analysis (LFA) template performs a secondary search of ordered matches following the vector template.
  • The surface texture analysis (STA) is the largest of the three. It performs a final pass after the LFA template search, relying on the skin features in the image, which contains the most detailed information.
By combining all three templates, FaceIt® has an advantage over other systems. It is relatively insensitive to changes in expression, including blinking, frowning or smiling and has the ability to compensate for mustache or beard growth and the appearance of eyeglasses. The system is also uniform with respect to race and gender.

Poor lighting can make it more difficult for facial recognition software to verify or identify someone.
Photo © Identix Inc.
 However, it is not a perfect system. There are some factors that could get in the way of recognition, including:
  • Significant glare on eyeglasses or wearing sunglasses
  • Long hair obscuring the central part of the face
  • Poor lighting that would cause the face to be over- or under-exposed
  • Lack of resolution (image was taken too far away)
Identix isn't the only company with facial recognition systems available. While most work the same way FaceIt does, there are some variations. For example, a company called Animetrix, Inc. has a product called FACEngine ID® SetLight that can correct lighting conditions that cannot normally be used, reducing the risk of false matches. Sensible Vision, Inc. has a product that can secure a computer using facial recognition. The computer will only power on and stay accessible as long as the correct user is in front of the screen. Once the user moves out of the line of sight, the computer is automatically secured from other users.

Due to these strides in technology, facial and skin recognition systems are more widely used than just a few years ago. In the next section, we'll look at where and how they are being used and what's in store for the future.

Facial Recognition Systems Uses

Jim Williams, head of US-VISIT, former Secretary Tom Ridge and former Commissioner Robert Bonner launch US-VISIT in Atlanta, Georgia.
Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Homeland Security

In the past, the primary users of facial recognition software have been law enforcement agencies, who used the system to capture random faces in crowds. Some government agencies have also been using the systems for security and to eliminate voter fraud. The U.S. government has recently begun a program called US-VISIT (United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology), aimed at foreign travelers gaining entry to the United States. When a foreign traveler receives his visa, he will submit fingerprints and have his photograph taken. The fingerprints and photograph are checked against a database of known criminals and suspected terrorists. When the traveler arrives in the United States at the port of entry, those same fingerprints and photographs will be used to verify that the person who received the visa is the same person attempting to gain entry.

However, there are now many more situations where the software is becoming popular. As the systems become less expensive, making their use more widespread. They are now compatible with cameras and computers that are already in use by banks and airports. The TSA is currently working on and testing out its Registered Traveler program. The program will provide speedy security screening for passengers who volunteer information and complete a security threat assessment. At the airport there will be specific lines for the Registered Traveler to go through that will move more quickly, verifying the traveler by their facial features.

Other potential applications include ATM and check-cashing security. The software is able to quickly verify a customer's face. After a customer consents, the ATM or check-cashing kiosk captures a digital image of him. The FaceIt software then generates a faceprint of the photograph to protect customers against identity theft and fraudulent transactions. By using the facial recognition software, there's no need for a picture ID, bankcard or personal identification number (PIN) to verify a customer's identity. This way businesses can prevent fraud from occurring.

While all the examples above work with the permission of the individual, not all systems are used with your knowledge. In the first section we mentioned that systems were used during the Super Bowl by the Tampa Police, and in Ybor City. These systems were taking pictures of all visitors without their knowledge or their permission. Opponents of the systems note that while they do provide security in some instances, it is not enough to override a sense of liberty and freedom. Many feel that privacy infringement is too great with the use of these systems, but their concerns don't end there. They also point out the risk involved with identity theft. Even facial recognition corporations admit that the more use the technology gets, the higher the likelihood of identity theft or fraud.

As with many developing technologies, the incredible potential of facial recognition comes with some drawbacks, but manufacturers are striving to enhance the usability and accuracy of the systems.

For more information on facial recognition technology and related topics, check out the links on the next page.

Li-Fi revolution: internet connections using light bulbs are 250 times faster than broadband

The next generation of wireless internet could use converted LED lightbulbs to transmit data faster and more cheaply than traditional Wi-Fi signals

Li-Fi, an alternative to Wi-Fi that transmits data using the spectrum of visible light, has achieved a new breakthrough, with UK scientists reporting transmission speeds of 10Gbit/s – more than 250 times faster than ‘superfast’ broadband.

The fastest speed previously reported was 3Gbit/s, achieved earlier this year by the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute in Germany. Chinese researchers also claimed this month to have produced a 150Mbp/s connection, but some experts were doubtful without seeing further proof.

The term Li-Fi was coined by Edinburgh University's Prof Harald Haas during a TED talk in 2011 (see below for video) though the technology is also known as visible light communications (VLC).

Many experts claim that Li-Fi represents the future of mobile internet thanks to its reduced costs and greater efficiency compared to traditional Wi-Fi.

Both Wi-Fi and Li-Fi transmit data over the electromagnetic spectrum, but whereas Wi-Fi utilises radio waves, Li-Fi uses visible light. This is a distinct advantage in that the visible light is far more plentiful than the radio spectrum (10,000 times more in fact) and can achieve far greater data density.

Li-Fi signals work by switching bulbs on and off incredibly quickly – too quickly to be noticed by the human eye. This most recent breakthrough builds upon this by using tiny micro-LED bulbs to stream several lines of data in parallel.

The research was carried out by the Ultra Parallel Visible Light Communications project, a joint venture between the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Strathclyde, and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Existing LED light bulbs could be converted to transmit Li-Fi signals with a single microchip, and the technology would also be of use in situations where radio frequencies cannot be used for fear of interfering with electronic circuitry.

And although Li-Fi bulbs would have to be kept on to transmit data, the bulbs could be dimmed to the point that they were not visible to humans and yet still functional. One draw-back is that the data receiver would have to be in sight of the transmitter-bulb as visible light does not penetrate solid materials.

The makers of Li-Fi note that this quality might actually be an advantage in some scenarios, making Li-Fi more secure than Wi-Fi with hackers unable to access unsecured internet connections from out of sight of the transmitter.

‘Dirtbox’ planes masquerade as cell towers to collect smartphone data in sophisticated spying ops

It’s no secret anymore that governmental agencies in the U.S. and other countries have access to sophisticated tools that allow them to track and collect data from smartphones and other devices without users knowing anything is happening, and The Wall Street Journal has uncovered yet another such operation which uses a special “dirtbox” technology installed in special planes that can mimic cell phone towers and fool smartphones into believing they’re connecting to a genuine carrier tower.

FROM EARLIER: Sophisticated malware already spying on Hong Kong protesters’ iOS and Android phones

In the process, the tool will collect unique identifiers about those devices, in order to track certain suspects without requiring any help from carriers. In addition to personal data related to suspected individuals, the machines also collect data for thousands of innocent, unsuspecting citizens, but the data is apparently discarded afterwards.

The program is said to be “more sophisticated than anything previously understood about government use of such technology,” and it’s actively used in the U.S., but also in war zones to collect data and find individuals. In the U.S., the program is run by the U.S. Marshals Service, and has been used to apprehend certain unnamed drug lords and killers.

The planes can be used to determine a suspect’s location to within 10 feet, and pinpoint his whereabouts to a specific room in a building, but it can also be used to retrieve personal data such as photos and messages and jam signals, though it’s not clear if such advanced features have also been used in the U.S.

The special 2-feet box used in such operations can tell handsets that it offers the best possible signal, fooling them into connecting to them automatically — the connection is made automatically, because that’s how phones usually operate, regardless whether their owners are using them or whether they’re in standby mode.

“If a suspect is believed to have a cellphone from Verizon Communications Inc., for example, the device would emit a signal fooling Verizon phones and those roaming on Verizon’s network into thinking the plane is the nearest available Verizon cell tower,” the Journal wrote. “Phones that are turned on, even if not in use, would ‘ping’ the flying device and send their registration information. In a densely populated area, the dirtbox could pick up data of tens of thousands of cellphones.”

The service is akin to “man in the middle” attacks, “ in which a person’s electronic device is tricked into thinking it is relaying data to a legitimate or intended part of the communications system.”

Verizon has denied any involvement in such a program, while AT&T and Sprint have not commented on the matter. Boeing, which owns the company making the dirtboxes, has not commented on this spying tool either.

People familiar with the matter have said that all spying activities are done in accordance to U.S. laws, while a Justice Department official would neither confirm nor deny the existence of such planes.

More details about this advanced surveillance operation are available in the full WSJ story at the source link.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

On-Demand Laundry Startup Washio Raises $10.5 Million Led By Canaan Partners

On-demand laundry service Washio wants to be available in all the major cities throughout the U.S. With that in mind, the company has raised $10.5 million in Series A funding, led by Canaan Partners.

Founded a little more than a year ago, Washio has developed a service that enables users to schedule pickup and dropoff of their laundry and dry cleaning through a mobile app. It launched originally in Los Angeles, but over the last several months has expanded to San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Since last September, the company’s revenues have increased 8x.

But it’s not stopping there: According to Washio CEO Jordan Metzner, the company plans to use its new funding to expand to additional U.S. markets. Currently operating in just three cities, Washio is looking to introduce service in New York, Boston, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Austin, Denver and Seattle, among others.

The company is also looking to hire more engineers and drivers. It has about 20 full-time employees and 120 drivers on the road in its three cities today.

Metzner said Washio went with Canaan in part due to its early-stage investments in other marketplace startups, like Instacart, UrbanSitter and OneFineStay. As part of the investment, Canaan Partners principal Hrach Simonian is joining Washio’s board of directors.

Washio had previously raised $2.8 million in seed funding from Sherpa Ventures, Jerry Yang’s AME Cloud Ventures, Three Six Zero Group, Ashton Kutcher, Guy Oseary, Ron Burkle, Nas, Anthony Saleh, Larry Rudolph, Jay Brown, Zod Nazem, Troy Carter, Scooter Braun, Yael Cohen, Tom Ryan and Frank Cooper.

CryptoLabs Announces Bitcoin Hardware Wallet with Biometric Authentication

Stealth bitcoin startup CryptoLabs stepped into the public eye this week, announcing it will seek to market Case, a pocket-sized, multi-signature bitcoin hardware wallet, in 2015.

The device, which measures around 86mm by 54mm, will enable users to buy and sell, as well as send and receive, bitcoin. CryptoLabs boasts that, in addition to its compact size, Case will provide the latest in security features, including biometric authentication.

Speaking to CoinDesk, CEO Melanie Shapiro framed the company's first offering as one that strives to strike a balance between the usability of mobile smartphone wallets and the security of existing hardware storage solutions, such as the Trezor wallet.

Shapiro said:
  • "The difference is that this is an actual wallet. You can take it with you. Trezor has to be plugged into your computer for you to use it. This plugs into nothing."

Shapiro indicated that CrytoLabs will begin manufacturing its Case product on 25th November and that the device will be made available for pre-sale in December.

"There's no development after that," Shapiro explained. "We know we can build it, everything is done. The actual hardware will be done and it will be going down the manufacturing line for actual shipment."

Shipping is expected to commence next spring, the company said.

The company did not disclose either the weight of the product or the likely price, stating that both are currently to be finalized. However, Shapiro estimated that Case would be "more expensive than the Trezor", which retails for $119.

Eliminating trust

Key to CryptoLabs' hardware wallet will be its reliance on multi-signature technology. The device will provide users with three keys, each of which is stored in a different location and secured by a different layer of authentication, one of which will be fingerprint scanning.

"I think that something that echoes in bitcoin is not having to trust anything," Shapiro said. "We've done everything in our power to make sure you don't have to really trust us."

These precautions include distributing the three keys for each device, providing one to the end user, one to a server and the other to a cold-storage facility managed by a third party.

"If there's a hack on a server, [the attacker is] only ever going to have access to one key," Shapiro explained. "You have to get into cold storage and steal the finger off somebody's body to get into their bitcoin. So the security of it is fairly robust."

Users will be able to access the device using the fingerprint scanner and a camera embedded in each unit. The device's global system for mobile communications (GSM) SIM card will also enable it to be used in more than 60 countries worldwide, according to the company.

Choosing the form factor

One of the core goals of CryptoLabs' design process was to create a hardware wallet that provided consumers with the familiarity of traditional financial products.

"Even in 2014, when you think about payments, embedded in our minds is the idea of credit card. That shape is what we think of when we think of payments," Shapiro said.

As such, Shapiro said it was important to the company that Case should be small enough to fit into a pocket or traditional wallet. She went on to suggest that CryptoLabs will seek to make future versions of its product as thin as a credit card too.

Ultimately, Shapiro expressed her hope that this emphasis on usability and security will help set her company's offering apart from other hardware solutions, adding:

  • "This is easy enough for you to use at a coffee shop. You can keep it in your back pocket, but it also has the kind of security [that users need], even more so than ease of use."

Embracing bitcoin's market challenges

CryptoLabs is also notable given Shapiro's history as an entrepreneur, having sold instant-messaging and social client startup Digsby to San Francisco-based social network Tagged for an undisclosed amount in 2011.

It was following this successful exit and during her tenure studying with Microsoft for her PhD that Shapiro says she first learned about bitcoin on the company's online forums.

Originally from a software background, Shapiro indicated that she began to focus on hardware when considering a venture in the bitcoin space due to her belief that the digital currency's users were underserved.

The unique opportunity to provide bitcoin's enthusiastic early adopters with a product that could improve their lives, she suggested, was also a factor that, in turn, made her excited by the space.

Shapiro concluded:

  • "I think there's room in this industry for a leading hardware product and I think that the community is going to react well to this. It solves a number of problems, plus it's cool."

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Japan's levitating maglev train reaches 500km/h (311mph)

15 November 2014 Last updated at 13:23 GMT
Train fans have experienced the speed of super-fast maglev trains, during test runs for members of the public in central Japan.

One hundred passengers whizzed along a 42.8km (27 mile) route between the cities of Uenohara and Fuefuki, reaching speeds of up to 500km/h (311mph).

The Central Japan Railway Company is running eight days of testing for the experimental maglev Shinkansen train on its test track in Yamanashi Prefecture.

The maglev trains are even faster than Japan's famous bullet trains, which currently travel at about 320km/h (200mph).

They use magnetic levitation, hence the name, to "float" above the train tracks.

BMW joins the fold with Mini CitySurfer electric scooter concept

By Nick Lavars
November 20, 2014

 There's been no shortage of folding electric scooters covered here at Gizmag, but these have largely been the handiwork of spritely start-ups and idealistic entrepreneurs. The experienced heads at BMW have now signaled an intention to get in on the action, unveiling an eye-catching electric vehicle concept inspired by the good old-fashioned kick scooter.

 BMW says that the Mini CitySurfer concept would be compact enough when folded up to be carried on buses and trains or thrown in the back of the car. Aimed at providing a last-mile transport option, it weighs 18 kg (40 lb), which isn't among the lighter folding scooters we have come across, but it's not exactly mixing it with the heavyweights either.

The vehicle's lithium-ion battery is charged by a 12-volt automobile socket or regular wall outlet, and combines with regenerative braking to enable a range of 15 to 25 km (10 to 15 mi). Acceleration is thumb-operated and driven by a gearless hub motor in the rear wheel that is claimed to allow a top speed of 25 km/h (15 mph).

 For those keeping a keen eye on all things folding, electric and scootering, these specs won't be exactly mind-blowing. Models that are already available and capable of such feats include the 8.0 kW XOR folding scooter with a range of 75 km (47 mi) and top speed of 120 km/h (75 mph), and the Scuddy, which hit the market back in 2012, can reach 35 km/h (21.7 mph) and cover up to 40 km (25 mi) on a single charge.

There's no word yet on if or when when the Mini CitySurfer might enter production, but the arrival of a prestigious vehicle manufacturer on the folding scooter scene may just prompt the odd commuter to ponder new ways of getting about town.

Source: BMW

Carvey Is A Powerful CNC Machine For The Rest Of Us

Robotic CNC machines – cutting systems that use spinning tools to swipe through metal, wood, and plastic – are cool but ugly. Most of them are as big as a fridge and designed to carve out objects in a few minutes but none will sit quietly on your desk and do its business with aplomb and elegance. Now, however, there’s Carvey.

Carvey is the Form 1 of CNC. Designed to be a seamless, well-designed tool for designers and makers, you program it by entering a tool path – basically the movements the cutting head will make – and pressing a button. The system can be set up for specific materials.

Now this isn’t exactly a 3D printer. It’s more useful if you’re planning on building a flat-pack sort of buildable object (think Ikea) or a flat piece of a bigger project. For example, you could print an entire pair of glasses with this system by printing the stems and eyepieces separately. You could even cut out the lenses.

Quoth the creators:

  • We designed Carvey for makers and designers of all levels, from artists and teachers to architects and engineers. We want Carvey to blend seamlessly into an office, a workshop or a crafting desk, and be so simple to use that anyone can incorporate it into their practice.

Early bird units cost $1,999 and non-early birds will pay $2,399. They’ve already surpassed their goal and are aiming to ship next September.

The rise of the smart city

The rise of the smart city

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

 San Francisco, one of The New Economy's top 20 smart cities of 2014. As more people gravitate towards cities, it is important to ensure technology can keep up with increases in populations

We examine the top 20 cities that look the likeliest to drive change in the future, in The New Economy’s Smart Cities 2014

For the first time in history the majority of the human population are city dwellers, according to the World Health Organisation. As few as two in every 10 people lived in urban areas 100 years ago: by 1990, that figure had risen to 40 percent and by 2010 exceeded 50 percent. Those figures are a testament to the growing importance of cities in modern economies.

The number of urban residents is forecast to grow by approximately 60 million every year and the overall number of city dwellers is expected to almost double between 2009 and 2050 – from 3.4 billion to 6.4 billion. This state of affairs is leading to increasingly sophisticated technological, societal and economic gains in some of the world’s most advanced cities.

Not to be confused with the all-too-familiar patchwork of office blocks and assorted greys, these ‘smart’ cities are instead vibrant hubs for research and progress. The concept might sound foreign to the many who’ve come to associate cities with pollution and over population, but it is one that is steadily gathering momentum.

These cities, more than anything else, are catalysts for change, and should serve as prime examples of how communities can not only boost their fortunes but also their general quality of life.

We are proud to announce the 20 cities we believe best represent the world of tomorrow. They are far from an exhaustive rundown of the world’s greatest cities, but instead represent the scope and scale of the changes at hand.

scale of the changes at hand.


AccraGhana is among the fastest-growing economies in the world, thanks largely to its burgeoning oil and gas industry. Nowhere can this be better seen than in the country’s capital. The opportunities to be had are plenty, provided the country’s infrastructure can expand to accommodate the city’s rapid development. Expect Accra’s infrastructural capacity to take on a new shape in the coming months and years as the country finds ways to accommodate these unprecedented changes to its economic and social landscapes.


CuritibaBrazil’s eighth-most populous city has been lauded numerous times in recent years for its capacity to deliver on sustainable urban development schemes. Among its most impressive projects is a rapid transit system that delivers on its promise of environmental sustainability, efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The city’s near flawless transport system and meticulous city planning approach have together helped curtail emissions in the region and make Curitiba an example of how best to layout a sustainable city plan.


EindhovenEindhoven accommodates all manner of international businesses, and is a breeding ground for innovation due to its progressive nature and strong economy. The city ranked third in the FT’s Foreign Direct Investment Index, the highest ever of any Dutch city, due to its shared economic strategy. The city is home to various leading players in the technology and design sectors – most notably Philips, founded there in 1891. Such companies have made Eindhoven a major technology and industrial hub, and created an ecosystem of creativity.


GroningenThe Dutch city was named one of the European Commission’s top three finalists this year for the accolade of European Capital of Innovation 2014. The judges attributed the city’s nomination to its “use of new concepts, tools and processes to develop a user-centred smart energy ecosystem”. Groningen is a focal point for sustainable energy development in Europe. Groups such as the Energy and Sustainability Research Institute Groningen aim to accelerate the region’s sustainability credentials and create global energy solutions.


LuxembourgThis city has been at the heart of its country’s transformation from industrial to diversified economy for some time now. It boasts a hospitable environment for financial services in particular – services that have formed the basis of Luxembourg’s shift from simple to complex economic landscape. Over half the city’s 100,000-plus inhabitants are foreigners, made up predominantly of individuals from neighbouring Belgium, France and Germany. Luxembourg is a showcase for the successes to be gained from diversity.


ManilaManila, the Philippines’ second-largest city, has welcomed an influx of people in recent years, leading many to question whether or not the growing pains will stretch the city to breaking point. While Manila is lagging behind some of its Asian neighbours in terms of future competitiveness, a number of major infrastructure projects – including a much-needed extension to the Skyway 3 elevated expressway – will hopefully ease the city’s notorious gridlock problems, create new jobs and boost Manila’s overall productivity.


MannheimMannheim ranks among the most attractive business locations in Germany due to its competitive business environment and abundance of growth opportunities. It is the economic and cultural centre of the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region – one of Germany’s most important business locations. The city of Mannheim is perhaps best known for its university, which is by quite some margin the best business school in Germany and is believed by many to be among the best of its kind in the world.


MedellinThe former homeland of the infamous Medellin drugs cartel has come on in leaps and bounds since its leader Pablo Escobar was killed a little over two decades ago. In fact, Colombia’s second-largest city has undergone one of the most extraordinary urban transformations in recent memory, culminating in it being named the world’s most innovative city by the Urban Land Institute last year. In recent years, the city has come to house various new cultural attractions and played host to all manner of infrastructural improvements.


OsakaJapan’s third most populous city (after Tokyo and Yokohama) is regarded the world over as the international gateway into Japanese industry, and a world leader in spearheading environmentally sustainable solutions. The city outlined its commitment to environmental sustainability in 2011 with the ‘Osaka Environment Vision’. It has since designated a special economic zone to the development of environmental and energy industries, and pioneered all manner of environmental initiatives.


RigaLatvia’s capital has been named one of 2014’s European Capitals of Culture. The programme, which has been running for almost 30 years, has awarded Riga a €1.5m grant to put on its own cultural events (including the London Symphony Orchestra’s first visit to Latvia and various other musical events). The recognition will no doubt boost the city’s development prospects in terms of job creation, regeneration and tourism – as it has done for the city’s predecessors, where tourist numbers have increased by an average of 12 percent.


RotterdamA full 90 percent of this Dutch city sits below sea level – a fact that has inspired all manner of sustainable advances. Rotterdam’s many schemes and initiatives are geared towards making it a flood-proof city in order to avert the potentially calamitous ramifications of climate change. Among the most impressive developments thus far have been green rooftops, water plazas and an updated transport network. Together, such projects and schemes have helped cement Rotterdam’s reputation as the world’s most sustainable port city.


San-FranciscoSan Francisco has been known for its citywide ethos of innovation for 30 years or more – in particular thanks to the internet and software companies in residence at Silicon Valley. In recent years, this productive ecosystem has sliced the city’s jobless rate in half; from 10.1 percent in 2010 to less than five percent at the beginning of this year. With a number of infrastructural improvements still to come – among the most impressive of which is the Transbay Transit Centre – San Francisco’s prospects look to rise even higher in the future.


SongdoThe high-tech paradise of Songdo is the South Korean government’s multi-billion dollar attempt to attract foreign investment on an unprecedented scale. It is a purpose-built ‘smart city’, which offers some of the most forward-thinking fixes for infrastructure and energy issues in the world: rubbish is collected through underground tubes, appliances are controlled by phone and emissions are offset by a forest-sized park. It is a haven for sustainable solutions, and the entire landmass adheres to the strictest environmental standards in existence.


SingaporeThe city’s plethora of human talent and its hospitable regulatory framework have cemented Singapore’s status as one of the most innovative cities in existence. The city’s diverse and highly skilled workforce, cultivated through exemplary educational institutes, has fostered a culture of innovation that spans a great many sectors and disciplines. Moreover, Singapore’s competitiveness, when coupled with the impressive corporations that work there, amounts to an incredibly productive ecosystem.


TaipeiTaipei already ranks among the 21st century’s most responsive cities, considering the progress it has made in recent years to accommodate the lofty demands of its citizens. The economic, cultural and political centre of Taiwan has pioneered a complex transit system, a successful river management strategy and specialised medical care – to name but a few of its innovations. The city’s progress is written on its own skyline in the shape of the famous Taipei 101 skyscraper. As the city expands, further developments will no doubt ensue.


TorontoBased on a broad range of criteria, Toronto was named the best city worldwide for young people in the Youthful Cities inaugural report last year. The city’s youth employment and connectivity set it apart from its many global competitors. While various governments have been criticised in recent years for failing to help young people find work, the inclusiveness of Toronto in terms of welcoming workers aged between 15 and 29 stands it in good stead to take on emerging challenges and opportunities in the coming months and years.


UtrechtRanked first of 262 in the EU’s Regional Competitiveness Index 2013, Utrecht is a bastion of innovation, competitiveness and sustainability. Its impressive economic performance is largely due to strong relationships between business, government and knowledge institutions. One of the best-educated and most multilingual places in Europe, it appeals to talent and innovation – as expressed in projects aimed at developing practical applications in climate policy, traffic, services, life sciences and gaming.


VancouverWhat was once a hub for the oil and gas industry, and a major contributor to carbon emissions, has become a leading proponent of the green revolution. The city’s council has recently drawn up the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan, which aims to turn Vancouver into the greenest city in the world within the decade. They plan to do this by addressing carbon emissions, waste and ecosystem-related issues. On completion, Vancouver will be a prosperous and environmentally sustainable climate for individuals and businesses.


VilniusVilnius is a hub for political, economic, social and environmental change in Lithuania – and Eastern Europe as a whole – and remains one of the fastest-growing cities in the region. The city’s smart and forward-thinking management has been recognised by analysts and the media, and the rise in foreign direct investments – and their effectiveness – has also been reported. Moreover, Vilnius is the city with the world’s fastest internet connection, which has opened up extensive possibilities for technology and innovation-driven growth.


ZagrebCroatia’s accession to the EU last year brought with it a willingness to instigate economic and social change. Although Zagreb escaped its socialist ties two decades ago, it has taken up until now to implement an integrated plan that accommodates free market conditions. The mechanisms for instigating change on this scale have not existed until relatively recently, and investments are now being made in the environment, power management and urban modelling. Zagreb’s prospects are on the rise due to this integrated approach.

Tripda – Carpool easily in a fun, safe and sustainable way

Tripda is an easy-to-use and advanced carpooling system with various innovative features (e.g. safety measures, user rating system, fair price recommendations, car detail registration, user profile & preferences, SMS and email confirmation & reminders) and unlike any other carpooling website out there. Tripda’s services are free-of-charge, and it has just been launched here in Malaysia – check us out at

(Facebook page:

We take pride in enabling CARPOOLING, so as to ultimately encourage people to travel more sustainably. Carpooling reduces carbon emissions from vehicles by taking unnecessary cars off the road, and helps to preserve our invaluable environment for our children and our children’s children.

Benefits of carpooling with Tripda:

  • SAVE on travel costs by sharing the bill
  • Easy-to-use and SAFE carpooling system
  • Travel conveniently & comfortably
  • Meet fun & new people to travel with
  • Various innovative features (e.g. multiple safety measures, user rating system, fair price recommendations, car detail registration, user profile & preferences, SMS and email confirmation & reminders)
  • Save the environment
  • Reduce traffic congestion
Check out our introductory poster on Tripda & carpooling here:

So start carpooling now to save money and the environment, plus make new friends too! Email us at if you have questions.

p.s. We’re hiring!—business-development-intern-marketing-tripda–by-rocket-internet–malaysia

Forget Credit Cards. In Finland, You Can Pay With Your Face

Forget Credit Cards. In Finland, You Can Pay With Your Face

PIN codes, fingerprints, NFC... all these technologies sound passé when you learn about Uniqul's plans.
By Kit Eaton

Uniqul, a Finnish startup, has patented and tested a unique payment system that does away with many security worries about paying for items in a store. In Uniqul's system, your face is your PIN.

The company is going to roll out terminals in the Helsinki area soon. The actual mechanism is as simple as it sounds: To confirm a transaction at point of sale, the user simply has to present their face to the camera, watch for their ID to pop up, then click "OK" on a tablet display to confirm that yes, they actually do want to make a purchase. There's said to be no payment card involved, no wallet, no mobile phone use involved—which implies that the system stores your ID centrally along with details of your payment method. Uniqul says you can register with almost any payment system, from PayPal to traditional cards, and the data is protected by "military grade" encryption.

Designed to improve the security and speed of transactions, the business model of Uniqul may actually be its best innovation. Like Square—which it's a direct threat too—Uniqul is aimed at smaller businesses. It's likely to be free for merchants, while users pay a small stipend to allow transactions within a certain radius of a chosen point, such as their own home. €0.99 a month unlocks terminals in a 1-2 km radius, and €6.99 is the total wallet-free option.

Forget fingerprints, forget Square, forget emotion-sensing pay terminals, forget voice IDs... this is the tech we want. How about you?

[Image: By Flickr user epSos .de]

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Long-Time Fugitive Captured Juggler Was on the Run for 14 Years

How do you catch a fugitive who has been on the run for 14 years, has traveled extensively overseas, speaks a dozen languages, and could be anywhere in the world?
The answer to that question, as Special Agent Russ Wilson learned, is a lot of hard work—and a little bit of luck.
Our Fugitive Publicity Efforts
Everyone knows about the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list—the famous Top Ten list created in 1950—but our Office of Public Affairs manages a wide-ranging fugitive publicity program that seeks to enlist the public to help us track down sex offenders, bank robbers, kidnappers, terrorists, and others on the run from various criminal charges.
Media coordinators in each of our 56 field offices work with Headquarters personnel and agents in the field to publicize wanted individuals through a variety of means—from wanted posters on to digital billboards located around the country to publicity campaigns that draw local, national, and international media attention.
- More about FBI fugitives
Neil Stammer, a talented juggler with an international reputation, was recently arrested in Nepal and returned to New Mexico to face child sex abuse charges. The events that led to his capture are a testament to good investigative work and strong partnerships, and also to the strength of the FBI’s fugitive publicity program.
Here’s how the case unfolded:
Stammer, who once owned a New Mexico magic shop, was arrested in 1999 on multiple state charges including child sex abuse and kidnapping. He was released on bond but never showed up for his arraignment. New Mexico issued a state arrest warrant in May 2000; a federal fugitive charge was filed a month later, which allowed the FBI to become involved in the case.
Stammer, who was 32 years old when he went on the run, told investigators that he began juggling as a teenager to make money, and he was good at it. Before his 1999 arrest, he had lived in Europe as a street performer and had learned a variety of languages. At the time of his disappearance, it was reported that Stammer could read or speak about a dozen of them.
Given his overseas travel experience and his language skills, the juggler could have been hiding anywhere in the world. With few credible leads, the case against Stammer went cold.
Fast forward to January 2014. Special Agent Russ Wilson had just been assigned the job of fugitive coordinator in our Albuquerque Division—the person responsible for helping to catch the region’s bank robbers, murderers, sex offenders, and other criminals who had fled rather than face the charges against them.
“In addition to the current fugitives, I had a stack of old cases,” Wilson said, “and Stammer’s stood out.” Working with our Office of Public Affairs, a new wanted poster for Stammer was posted on in hopes of generating tips.
At about the same time, a special agent with the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS)—a branch of the U.S. Department of State whose mission includes protecting U.S. Embassies and maintaining the integrity of U.S. visa and passport travel documents—was testing new facial recognition software designed to uncover passport fraud. On a whim, the agent decided to use the software on FBI wanted posters. When he came upon Stammer’s poster online, a curious thing happened: Stammer’s face matched a person whose passport photo carried a different name.
Suspecting fraud, the agent contacted the Bureau. The tip soon led Wilson to Nepal, where Stammer was living under the name Kevin Hodges and regularly visiting the U.S. Embassy there to renew his tourist visa.
“He was very comfortable in Nepal,” Wilson said. “My impression was that he never thought he would be discovered.” Stammer had been living in Nepal for years, teaching English and other languages to students hoping to gain entrance into U.S. universities.
Although Nepal and the U.S. have no formal extradition agreement, the Nepalese government cooperated with our efforts to bring Stammer to justice. “We had tremendous assistance from DSS, the State Department, and the government of Nepal,” Wilson said. “It was a huge team effort with a great outcome.”
- Press release


生活 2014年9月8日   林珮璇 报导



两个月前,NEC將「NeoFace」脸部辨识技术解决方案带到了大马,包括法医专用应用软件「NeoFace Reveal」,以及协助安全人员检测的「NeoFace Watch」。询及大马目前是否有任何组织开始使用?「暂时还没有,但询问度非常高。」马来西亚NEC董事经理李国华坦言。

凭票入场 一秒辨识






找出特征 判別参考点




科技立大功 14年后缉凶归案


脸部辨识技术立大功,其协同美国外交安全处藉由14年前嫌犯的照片,比对成千上万的护照照片,抓到逃往尼泊尔享福的嫌犯Neil Stammer。报导指称,1999年Neil Stammer被控性侵孩童在新墨西哥州被逮捕,但假释交保后隨即不见踪影,据说他会多国语言,这几年周游列国当街头艺人。

逮捕他的探员说,Neil Stammer当下说没想到他会被抓到。根据cnet报导,Neil Stammer当年逃逸之后,FBI花了好几年时间找他,但都没有寻获,决定搁置这个案子。今年初,FBI特別探员RussWilson被派到新墨西哥州任职,除了处理近期的嫌犯,还有成堆的旧案子等著他去办,他找到Stammer的档案,重新发佈通缉电子资讯。同时,美国外交安全处(Diplomatic Security Service)正在测试脸部辨识软体,发现Stammer的通缉照片与名叫KevinHodges的护照照片雷同,隨即通知特別探员Wilson,很快就找到化名多年的Stammer人在尼泊尔,且正舒服地生活著。



好莱坞电影《关键报告》(Minority Report)中,曾出现街头上认证装置扫描行人视网膜,再根据个人不同偏好播出各种广告的情节。其实,日本以摄影机辅助辨识特定个人或不特定多数人的「脸部认证」与「脸部辨识」等技术发展迅速,不仅为社会或企业带来莫大便利,「日常生活的一举一动都可能遭到监控」的科幻电影情节,也不再是遥不可及的天方夜谭。




脸部辨识、指纹、虹膜扫描都是常见的生物特徵辨识方式,但现在西班牙马德里技术大学(Universidad Politecnicade Madrid)的科学家正开发一种新的技术,能够辨別人体的气味特徵。科学家认为,人的体味在身上持续的时间足以让机器进行辨別,正確率高达85%。此法有望取代目前脸部、指纹等高隱私侵入性的识別系统。虽然现有的方式准確率较高,但研究人员认为这些方式叫適合用於犯罪调查,也不易为一般人接受。


Friday, 21 November 2014

Leaf Smart Community makes your life easier

LEAF Smart Community is dedicated to the customers of voluntary teams, community, residential, condo, apartment and commercial building to create a communication platform for private communication with a "safe, harmonious, environmentally friendly and convenient" intelligent community

We help to solve the following problems:
1.    Communication between community residents and administrators, security guards , and volunteers.
2.    Recruitment of voluntary team members
3.    The safety of elderly as well as young children
4.    Conveniently search for the businesses / shops around the community

Neighborhood assistance: We are all aware of it. But how do we put those words into action? With the working life that suffer late working hours, thus unable to say even a simple “hello” to the neighbors. The problems of home alone senior citizens have become more severe, for example: Getting lost in the neighborhood, fell and injured at home. There will not be anyone around to help the elderly whenever unexpected circumstances occur. LEAF would like to take this platform to improve the system within the community by getting the neighborhood together.

LEAF's 5 main functions:

1.    Communications
To support households and residents, enabling free text chat and voice intercom, share pictures , receive and sending community updates and new. In a specific community column, the residents can post and share news feeds regarding anything and get to know one another from other communities nearby.

2.    Community and home security
Community CCTV’s can be viewed at anytime and with mobile emergency button, you can instantly link to family members and neighbors, administrators, and securities in the desperate need of help. Furthermore, location sharing function can help keep track the location of the elderly and children. You can also link the home alarm system to our LEAF server. Thus when the alarm is triggered, the security will be alerted and immediate action will be taken. The alarm will also be synced to close ones. With this, notification time can be reduced to minimum.

3.    Community Management
Community bulletin allows managers to publish updates regarding the building’s statuses to residents with no delay. Not only that but it also supports two-way communication whereby residents can always keep in contact with management personnel , watch community bulletin or community meeting records and communicate via local social networking. Besides, residents can also make reservations for public facilities such as gym, swimming pool and tennis court. They can also check the availabilities and make online bookings.

4.    Access Management.
Visitors can make advanced reservations with the residents. Upon arrival, they can have access into the compound through QR Code. The security will be notified and keep records of the visitor’s identities via the guardroom computer. This is so that the registration procedures and individual visitor identification can be avoided thus saving time.

5.    Businesses Surrounding The Communities
LEAF supports online registrations for neighboring businesses. This way, residents can directly contact with the shops respectively so that they are able to obtain updates regarding the information of the latest products in the specifically selected outlets, make bookings and appointments with only a call away. This would be extremely fun and convenient.

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LI4278 General Purpose Scanner

The LI4278 takes 1D bar code scanning to the next level, allowing workers to scan faster and farther as they can capture virtually any 1D bar code. Built for all day and everyday use, the LI4278 offers cordless freedom with Bluetooth compatibility. It also offers better encryption for improved security and better overall wireless performance. The LI4278 is backward compatible with its key accessory — the cradle — which works with its cousins, the LS4278 and DS6878. Superior battery power management delivers the largest number of scans per battery charge to support scan intensive applications. You can use it in dusty and wet environments and it can survive a 6 foot/1.8 m drop.

Excellent 1D scanning performance
Delivers superior scanning speed and a wide data capture range

Captures virtually all 1D bar codes on any surface — including mobile phone displays
Capture labels printed on traditional paper labels as well as mobile bar codes that may be displayed on a mobile phone, tablet or computer screen

Wide working range
Reads UPC barcodes from 1 in./2.54 cm to 30 in./76.2 cm as well as high density codes at extended ranges for application flexibility

Superior motion and angular tolerance
Bar codes can be captured faster, and there is no need to pause between scans or align scanner and bar code

Built-in rechargeable battery
Provides largest number of scans per charge – easily provides a full day of service in the highest usage profiles; replaceable battery ensures long lifecycle

Compatible with 123Scan2 and Remote Scanner Management (RSM)
Dramatically reduces management time and cost, from initial configuration to day-to-day management

Withstands 100 consecutive drops to concrete
Protects against downtime from breakage due to everyday drops

Flexible mounting — vertical or horizontal
Desktop cradle provides versatility to accommodate your unique environment

Bluetooth 2.1
Provides better security, better performance, better energy management and much easier pairing over the Bluetooth wireless connection

Backward compatible
Works with LS4278 cradles, providing a very cost-effective upgrade path