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Japan’s #smartphone #zombies wreak havoc on the streets


smartphone zombies #1A pedestrian using her smartphone on a street in Tokyo, November 3, 2014. Growing ranks of cellphone addicts are turning cities into increasingly hazardous hotspots. AFP / Yoshikazu Tsuno

AFP.

When the lights change at the Shibuya crossing in Japan’s capital, one of the world’s busiest pedestrian thoroughfares, hundreds of people with their eyes glued to smartphones pick their way over the road.

Despite being engrossed in the latest instalment of Candy Crush or busy chatting with their friends on messaging app Line, most manage to weave around cyclists, skateboarders and fellow Tokyoites.

But the growing ranks of these cellphone addicts are turning cities like Tokyo, London, New York and Hong Kong into increasingly hazardous hotspots, where zombified shoppers appear to be part of vast games of human pinball.

“Hey, watch it!” barks a middle-aged salaryman as a hipster typing on his smartphone slams into him during one recent Friday evening crush hour.

“Incidents involving people walking or on bicycles account for 41 percent of phone-related accidents,” Tetsuya Yamamoto, a senior official at Tokyo Fire Department’s disaster prevention and safety section, told AFP.

smartphone zombies #2A pedestrian using his smartphone on a street in Tokyo, November 3, 2014. Growing ranks of cellphone addicts are turning cities into increasingly hazardous hotspots. AFP / Yoshikazu Tsuno

“If people continue walking around looking at their phones, I think we could see more accidents happening.”
It goes beyond being an innocuous inconvenience where both people apologise before continuing on their merry way.

Tokyo Fire Department, which runs the ambulance service in the megalopolis, says that in the four years to 2013, 122 people had to be rushed to hospital after accidents caused by pedestrians using cellphones.

As well as the vaguely comedic incidents of businessmen smacking into lamp-posts or tripping over dogs, this total also included a middle-aged man who died after straying onto a railway crossing while looking at his phone.

Tunnel vision

More than half of Japanese now own a smartphone and the proportion is rising fast, including children who customarily walk to and from school.

smartphone zombies #3Pedestrians use their smartphones on a street in Tokyo, November 3, 2014. Growing ranks of cellphone addicts are turning cities into increasingly hazardous hotspots. AFP / Yoshikazu Tsuno

Research by Japanese mobile giant NTT Docomo estimates a pedestrian’s average field of vision while staring down at a smartphone is just five percent of what our eyes take in normally.

“Children wouldn’t be safe in that situation,” said Hiroshi Suzuki, manager of corporate social responsibility at the company. “It’s dangerous and it’s our job to make sure it doesn’t actually happen.”

The company ran a computer simulation of what could occur in Shibuya if everyone crossing the intersection was looking at their smartphones.

The results, based on a fairly average 1,500 people swarming over the road at any one time, were alarming: 446 collisions, 103 knockdowns and 21 dropped phones. Only around a third get to the other side without incident.

That 82 of the 103 who fell to the ground managed to cling onto their precious phones tells its own story.

Japanese media reported that around half of the 56 bodies recovered from the peak of a volcano after a recent eruption were found clutching mobile phones with photos of the deadly lava and ash on them.

smartphone zombies #4Pedestrians use their smartphones on a street in Tokyo, November 3, 2014. Growing ranks of cellphone addicts are turning cities into increasingly hazardous hotspots. AFP / Yoshikazu Tsuno

Apparently, they had thought it important to be able to show their social media friends what was happening than to try to save themselves.

Suzuki travels to schools across Japan teaching children how to be responsible with smartphones through the use of cartoons.

“We use the story of the tortoise and the hare,” he said. “The hare shoots off tapping away on his smartphone, and then falls down a hole. We want the children to know they could be the hare.”

Social harmony

Phone fidgeters dawdling along at snail’s pace, forcing cyclists and pram-pushing mums to swerve out of the way have become such an irritant in Tokyo that public notices have started to appear warning offenders to expect “icy stares”, appealing to the Japanese sense of social harmony — assuming people look up from their phones in the first place.

Smartphone apps activated by sensors that flash warning signs or display the pavement on the screen have also been developed in response to the problem.

Tokyo is just one of the places struggling to cope with this very 21st Century menace.

In China, an amusement park in the southwestern megacity of Chongqing has divided a pavement within its grounds into two lanes — one signposted “No mobile phones” and the other “Mobile phone use permitted but all consequences are your responsibility.”

Recorded announcements on Hong Kong’s subway network warn passengers in Cantonese, Mandarin and English that they are about to step onto an escalator.

While in one city in New York state, there was even a bid to legislate against the use of electronic devices while crossing the road.

NTT Docomo’s Suzuki in Tokyo says despite the city’s high density and huge population — 35 million in the greater urban area — there’s no need yet for people to wear crash helmets when they pop to the shops.

“I don’t think we will see the need for that in the near future,” he said. “But our message is that it could happen. We’re all potential victims.”


AFP.com.

Russian hackers use ‘zero-day’ to #hack #NATO, #Ukraine in cyber-spy campaign


Microsoft says it will release a patch on Oct. 14 for the vulnerability that the Russian hackers group has exploited.Microsoft says it will release a patch on Oct. 14 for the vulnerability that the Russian hackers group has exploited. (KACPER PEMPEL/REUTERS)

Ellen Nakashima reporting,

A Russian hacking group probably working for the government has been exploiting a previously unknown flaw in Microsoft’s Windows operating system to spy on NATO, the Ukrainian government, a U.S. university researcher and other national security targets, according to a new report.

The group has been active since at least 2009, according to research by iSight Partners, a cybersecurity firm. Its targets in the recent campaign also included a Polish energy firm, a Western European government agency and a French telecommunications firm.

“This is consistent with espionage activity,” said iSight Senior Director Stephen Ward. “All indicators from a targeting and lures perspective would indicate espionage with Russian national interests.”

There is no indication that the group was behind a recent spate of intrusions into U.S. banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Ward said.

The Russian government has denied similar allegations of cyber-espionage in the past. Current and former U.S. intelligence officials, nonetheless, say the capabilities of Russian hackers are on par with those of the United States and Israel.

“It’s possible they’ve become more active in response to the Ukrainian situation,” said a former intelligence official. “And when you become more active, you increase your likelihood of getting caught.”

ISight dubbed the recently detected hacking group SandWorm because of references embedded in its code to the science-fiction novel “Dune.” There were various mentions in Russian to the fictional desert planet of Arrakis, for instance.

The Ukrainian government was hacked in late August, in the lead-up to the NATO summit in Wales, where member states discussed Russia’s actions in Ukraine.The Ukrainian government was hacked in late August, in the lead-up to the NATO summit in Wales, where member states discussed Russia’s actions in Ukraine. © AFP

The firm began monitoring the hackers’ activity in late 2013 and discovered the vulnerability — known as a “zero-day” — in August, Ward said. The flaw is pres­ent in every Windows operating system from Vista to 8.1, he said, except Windows XP.

The Ukrainian government was targeted in late August, in the lead-up to the NATO summit in Wales, where member states discussed Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Using a technique called spearphishing, SandWorm sent e-mails to targets that appeared to come from legitimate sources but included attachments that, when opened, enabled the hackers to gain access to their computers, Ward said.

Some of the spearphishing e-mails appeared to concern a global security forum on Russia and a purported list of Russian sympathizers or “terrorists,” the firm said.

ISight technical analyst Drew Robinson said the firm attributed the campaign to Russia partly because of the targets and partly because the command server, located in Germany, had not been properly secured. The server was inadvertently exposing Russian-language computer files that had been uploaded by the hackers.

“They could have closed it off, and they didn’t,” he said of the server. “It was poor operational security.”

ISight was not able to determine how successful the hackers might have been in obtaining information. But Robinson said that by analyzing the malware files, iSight was able to determine that certain targets — including Ukrainian government servers — had been compromised.

SandWorm apparently adapted malware previously used by cybercriminals, probably as a way “to mask” its espionage intents, Ward said.

Microsoft plans to release a patch for the vulnerability Tuesday, as part of the security industry’s monthly “Patch Tuesday” — a coordinated release of fixes to vulnerabilities in software.

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the firm’s patch will be released in security bulletin MS14-060.


The Washington Post.

#Ikea kitchens help sell #insulation to Dutch – and #UK could be next


Dutch consortia Energiesprong could give zero carbon retrofits to social homes across England, using innovative wrap-around insulated panels, if EU funding is approved.

Dutch energiesprong (‘Energy Leap’) pilot project in Tilburg in the Netherlands.Dutch energiesprong (‘Energy Leap’) pilot project in Tilburg in the Netherlands. Photograph: Rogier Bos/Energiesprong

Arthur Neslen reporting,

More than 100,000 homes across the UK could be given a carbon-neutral retrofit by 2020 if the EU approves funding for a ground-breaking green social housing project this month.

The first pilot projects are due to start within a year on council estates and housing association properties in London, Birmingham and southern England and are set to save 1,950GWh of electricity.

The Energiesprong (Energy Leap) initiative involves completely wrapping houses with insulated panel-facades that snap on like Lego. Insulated roofs adorned with 24 high-efficiency solar panels each are fastened on top, while heat pumps, hot water storage tanks and ventilation units are stored in garden sheds.

On the Woonwaard housing estate near Amsterdam, tenants whose homes have already received the upgrade say that the final effect is like living inside a ‘tea cosy’.

“This new house is great,” former social worker Astrid Andre, 58,told the Guardian. “You can’t hear the traffic from outside anymore. It feels as if I’m living in a private home, rather than social housing. Before, the wind used to go through the house in winter. I have arthritis and when the weather was colder, it became worse. But my bones are better now, more supple.”

Former social worker Astrid Andre, who lives near Amsterdam, says that both noise and draft levels have improved since the retrofit.Former social worker Astrid Andre, who lives near Amsterdam, says that both noise and draft levels have improved since the retrofit. Photograph: Arthur Neslen for The Guardian

The programme has already won a contract from the Dutch government to provide a wave of 10-day makeovers to 111,000 homes on estates mostly built in the 1960s and 70s. It is now bidding for €10m (£787,671) from the EU’s Horizon 2020 money pot to extend the project to the UK and France.

Partners in the bid to bring the Dutch Energiesprong consortia to the UK include the Greater London Authority (GLA), the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), The Housing Finance Corporation (THFC) and the National Federation of Housing Associations (NFHA).

“The Netherlands has a head start but the basic logic is the same,” said Jasper van den Munckhof, Energiesprong’s director. “If you have political will, government support, and a housing association sector that can put up a strong volume for conceptual development, then there is a profitable case for builders to step in.”

Materials used for wall isolation in renovated houses by Dutch Energiesprong in Arnhem.Materials used for wall isolation in renovated houses by Dutch Energiesprong in Arnhem. Photograph: Frank Hanswijk/Energiesprong

The deceptively simple idea behind the initiative has been to finance the roughly 300,000 mass-produced renovations from the estimated €18bn of savings from energy bills that they will make each year.

In the Netherlands, upfront capital comes from the WSW social bank, which has provided €6bn to underwrite government-backed 40-year loans to housing associations. These then charge tenants the same amount they had previously paid for rent and energy bills together, until the debt is repaid.

The prefabricated refurbishments come with a 40-year builders’ guarantee that covers the entire loan period, and a 5.25% return is guaranteed to participating housing associations.

But the renovations can only be done if all tenants in a block agree to it, and that spurred the invention of an unlikely environmental incentive: free bathrooms, fridges and Ikea kitchens, with electric cooking.

“Everyone has been talking about it since last December,” said Bianca Lakeman, a 32-year-old office worker and single mother on the Woonwaard estate. “They’re saying how the front facade is very modern but most of all they are talking about the beautiful Ikea kitchens.”

Tenants can choose the kitchen’s colour and design and, because the construction companies are contracted to provide maintenance for the next four decades, the new installations work out cheaper than the anticipated costs of servicing mid-20th century kitchens into the mid-21st century.

“When we started, there was a period where not everybody was keen,” said Marnette Vroegop, a concept developer for the Woonwaard housing association. “The main doubts were about whether it was realistic.”

Pierre Sponselee, director of Woonwaard housing association.Pierre Sponselee, director of Woonwaard housing association. Photograph: Arthur Neslen for The Guardian

“There is one block of six houses here and one person still says no,” Pierre Sponselee, the association’s director said. “The man had lived here only for a year and came from another house where he’d had a renovation and he didn’t want another one. It is a pity for the rest of the neighbours.”

Minor complaints from tenants about the refurbishments have included noise from garden shed installations and increased awareness of internal house sounds, as floorboards become proportionately louder when outside noises are muffled.

Bianca’s block is due to be renovated this month in the latest construction round on the estate that will see another 50 zero energy homes created. “I’m very excited about it because it can keep my cost of living under control and reduce the effects of climate change,” she said.

Around 40% of Europe’s carbon dioxide emissions come from heating and lighting in buildings and the EU has set a zero energy requirement for all new house builds by 2021. But these only make up around 1% of the continent’s housing stock and how to persuade the construction industry to renovate to new and untried standards had been a vexed question.

With support from the Dutch government, Energiesprong dangled the carrot of secured long-term contracts for a market of up to 2.3m homes, and then asked a depressed construction sector what solutions they could come up with.

Energiesprong renovated building in Groningen.Energiesprong renovated building in Groningen. Photograph: Rogier Bos/Energiesprong

The result was the beginnings of a reindustrialisation of the Dutch building sector, with construction companies taking 3D scans of houses to offer factory-produced refurbishments tailored to each house’s dimensions.

“We have to think like a manufacturer,” said Joost Nelis, the director of BAM, the Netherlands’ biggest construction company. “We want to shrink the garden power units like Apple did the iPad,” Nelis says.

The company is also experimenting with apartment blocks run on DC electricity, which increases solar panel efficiency by about 30%. Almost all buildings in the Netherlands run on AC, but few tower blocks have room for enough solar panels to generate electricity for more than five floors of homes.

While trade unions have enthusiastically signed up to Energiesprong, energy companies that use fossil fuels could lose out on the gathering transformation, according to Nelis. Tenants in places such as Woonwaard can already sell their excess electricity back to the grid and may one day be able to use electric cars to power their homes.

Ambitious though it is, Energiesprong says its programme of building renovations should be seen as a means to a low-carbon transformation of the building sector, rather than an end in itself.

Last week, a similar deal was signed with the Netherlands biggest mortgage banks, real estate surveyors and government, to take the project into the private sector too.


The Guardian – Environment.

#NASA: Send Your Name on NASA’s Journey to Mars, Starting with Orion’s First Flight


Send Your Name on NASA’s Journey to MarsImage Credit: NASA

If only your name could collect frequent flyer miles. NASA is inviting the public to send their names on a microchip to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, including Mars.

Your name will begin its journey on a dime-sized microchip when the agency’s Orion spacecraft launches Dec. 4 on its first flight, designated Exploration Flight Test-1. After a 4.5 hour, two-orbit mission around Earth to test Orion’s systems, the spacecraft will travel back through the atmosphere at speeds approaching 20,000 mph and temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.

But the journey for your name doesn’t end there. After returning to Earth, the names will fly on future NASA exploration flights and missions to Mars. With each flight, selected individuals will accrue more miles as members of a global space-faring society.

“NASA is pushing the boundaries of exploration and working hard to send people to Mars in the future,” said Mark Geyer, Orion Program manager. “When we set foot on the Red Planet, we’ll be exploring for all of humanity. Flying these names will enable people to be part of our journey.”

The deadline for receiving a personal “boarding pass” on Orion’s test flight closes Friday Oct. 31. The public will have an opportunity to keep submitting names beyond Oct. 31 to be included on future test flights and future NASA missions to Mars.

To submit your name to fly on Orion’s flight test, visit:

http://go.usa.gov/vcpz

Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #JourneyToMars.

For information about Orion and its first flight, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/orion


NASA.

How #London’s 2020 #Tube trains were designed


The £2 billion subway cars will replace trains on the Piccadilly, Central, Waterloo, and City and Bakerville lines, and are aimed at accommodating London’s booming commuter population for the next several decadesThe £2 billion subway cars will replace trains on the Piccadilly, Central, Waterloo, and City and Bakerville lines, and are aimed at accommodating London’s booming commuter population for the next several decades Priestmangoode

Margaret Rhodes reporting,

Descend underground into London’s subway system, and “Mind the Gap” is everywhere. It’s spelled out in tiles on the edge of the platform, it’s announced through the loudspeakers, and it’s probably splashed across a tourist’s t-shirt. But sometime around 2020, the actual gap — the dangerous space between the train and the platform that prompted the transit system in 1969 to start warning passengers — will begin to disappear.

Getting rid of the gap is one of several efficiencies that design firm PriestmanGoode will introduce in its redesign of the London Underground trains. Announced this week, the estimated $4 billion (£2 billion) trains (part of a bigger $25 billion (£16 billion) upgrade) will replace trains on the Piccadilly, Central, Bakerloo, and Waterloo & City lines, and are aimed at accommodating London’s booming commuter population for the next several decades. “London may well go up again twice in size, so you have to think about how these trains will evolve,” says Paul Priestman, director at PriestmanGoode. “We can’t change tunnels and platforms and stations, so how can we let people get on and off the trains more quickly?”

New Tube for London designed by PriestmanGoode.

Clever Details

To delete the gap, PriestmanGoode drafted up trains that have shorter carriages and more of them. This gives each train extra sets of joints, so it can pivot and nestle itself closer to the platform. That leads to swifter train exits for passengers. Each train will also sport larger doors (and more of them as well) to help relieve the bottleneck of commuters getting on and off at every station. The effect is similar to the shiny AirTran system used at airports.

This wouldn’t have been possible when the original cars were built: newer access to stronger, lightweight materials like aluminium and finishes used on aircrafts means that the bigger doors won’t cause subway cars to grow weak and buckle. In an attempt to cut down on delays, they’re also proposing to amp up the communications system with flashing lights that warn commuters when doors open and close. Hopefully, the idea goes, this will stop desperate passengers from shoving doors back open.

Inside, poles tilt outwards to create more breathing room around passengers' faces and upper bodiesInside, poles tilt outwards to create more breathing room around passengers’ faces and upper bodies Priestmangoode

Given all the exterior glitz, much remains the same inside the new tube cars. “Familiar is good, it’s moving forward and is still recognisable,” Priestman says. Besides the fact that the London Underground required the same number of seats, Priestman wanted to preserve a detail that’s unique to the Tube: “It’s interesting that it’s possible to have fabric, and they last,” he says of the upholstered seats, which would never fly in a city like New York. “It says a lot about the character of the design. It’s not like a jail, people have respect for it, the lighting is right. Even in Hong Kong you have steel seats on the metros.”

To keep to the thesis — make the trains as efficient as possible — PriestmanGoode adjusted the floor-to-ceiling handrails so they tilt slightly outward, away from people’s heads and upper bodies, freeing up valuable (and literal) breathing room. An even bigger change is how the cars connect: instead of disjointed carriages, these will be “through-cars” that allow for commuters to safely and easily disperse themselves, even after the train takes off.

All told, the London Underground estimates that PriestmanGoode’s trains will allow for anywhere between 25 and 60 percent more passengers, depending on the line. “We need every square inch for the passengers,” Priestman says. With these changes, “it’s almost like getting grit out of the system.”


Wired UK.

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