Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
July 30th, 2015

Have you noticed?  Everywhere you turn, it seems that emoji’s are flooding our written communications.  Originally meaning pictograph, the word emoji literally means “picture” (e) + “character” (moji).  As funny as they sometimes are, Intelligent Environments is capitalizing on the security aspect of these funny ideograms.

“The Emoji Passcode plays to humans’ extraordinary ability to remember pictures, which is anchored in our evolutionary history,” Intelligent Environments quotes memory expert Tony Buzan as saying. “We remember more information when it’s in pictorial form, that’s why the Emoji Passcode is better than traditional PINs.”

Passcodes made up of emoji are reportedly more secure, as offering a choice of 44 emoji means there is a total of 3.5 million possible permutations. That’s a lot more impressive than the 7,000-odd non-repeating PIN permutations. Using pictures should also prevent criminals from identifying significant numbers associated with an individual’s life, such as birthdays or anniversaries.

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What do you think?  Would you like to pick a string of 4 emoji’s to secure your vast bank account?  :-)

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blog graphene

The molecular structure of graphene.

So just what is Graphene?  Graphene, the “wonder material”, continues to capture the imagination. A honeycomb of carbon atoms so thin it is considered two-dimensional, graphene is stronger than diamond, more electrically conductive than copper and more bendable than rubber.

The durability of graphene has been a problem until now. There have been recent discoveries leading to methods to bulk manufacture the material. And there are hybrid graphene spin-offs – new substances with special properties of their own.

Here are six ways graphene could extend the longevity of products.

1. Flexible smart cards

A graphene smart card would reduce the billions of credit and other bank cards that exist in this world, as shown by the Spanish company Graphenano. Imagine a single touch-activated card that held all your personal information – credit cards, boarding passes, train tickets, Oyster cards – in one. With everything updated from a computer, a smart card could eradicate enormous amounts of plastic waste.

2. Updatable foldable newspaper

Last September, the Cambridge Graphene Centre demonstrated the first graphene-based flexible display. It could be bent this way and that, while continuing to show digital content. It was a little moment of great significance.

A bendable screen could be used in any number of ways. Like the moving images in the Daily Prophet newspaper featured in Harry Potter, real newspapers could develop foldable graphene templates that are updated wirelessly each day, cutting paper waste dramatically.

3. Electric car batteries

Batteries have long been the Achilles heel of electric cars. Poor charge capacity means that people are less likely to rely on them, and with the lifespan of the battery linked to the lifespan of the vehicle, electric cars often become obsolete and need replacing.

At last, there are plans to introduce a new polymeric graphene battery in 2015. Especially suited to electric cars, this battery is said to have a lifetime four-times longer than conventional hybrid ones and allows vehicles to run as much as 1,000km on a 10-minute charge. Without the need to be replaced, the graphene battery may signal a new era for the electric car.

4. Indestructible smart phones

In America the average lifespan of a smartphone is just two years. Some models fall out of fashion, others are lost, smashed or drowned in water. According to extended warranty service provider SquareTrade, as many as one third of smartphone users damage their handset in the first year of ownership.

For a prevalent product, this signifies enormous waste, yet graphene’s tough properties could change this. A recent experiment published in the journal Science suggested graphene was twice as bullet-proof as Kevlar – the standard material for ballistic armour. Imagine if such a strong material was integrated into smartphone design, replacing the glass or plastic components?

5. Paint

Not so eye-catching, but equally useful is graphene’s use as a paint. Its tough exterior is useful to withstand the wind and rain in outdoor structures, but it also has useful lubricating properties that mean it works in other situations. Applied Graphene Materials in the USA are developing graphene paints that can be used on a ship’s hulls, halting the spread of underwater corrosion and stopping barnacles from adhering to metal.

A similar enterprise is underway in Spain, where Grapheano have mixed together graphene powder and ground limestone to make a paint that they call Graphenstone. In a publicity move they proposed to paint the Valencia opera house that had been damaged by wind erosion just eight years after its completion.

6. Solar panels

Standard solar panels have a lifespan of about 40 years, but become less efficient with time and often have to be replaced. One of the main challenges is exposure to all types of weather.

Scientists at the University of Exeter claim that solar panels could be made much more weather resistant if the indium tin oxide (ITO) currently used was replaced with GraphExeter. Formulated at The Centre for Graphene Science at the University of Exeter, GraphExeter comprises several layers of graphene sheets mixed with a separate layer of ferric chloride molecules.

According to a recent press release, GraphExeter is much tougher than ITO and improves on the properties of traditional graphene, able to withstand humidity of 100% and temperatures of up to 150C, all of which promises less waste and huge improvements for the solar panel industry.

WOW – sounds like such a versatile material – and would leapfrog us into the next big technology boost.

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February 3rd, 2015

There is a sweeping change set to affect credit card payment security.  Although the US lags behind other developed nations in adopting this technology, it could mark a radical shift in how consumers view the safety of their transactions – whether in store or online.  The steps to begin adoption of this technology were brought about through an executive order signed by President Obama in October 2014 to speed the adoption of EMV-standard cards in the US.  Target date for nationwide deployment is October 2015.  This is good news for the beleaguered companies that were hit by hackers over the past few months across the American continent!

US prepares for transition to EMV cards


An American Express card with an EMV chip


Here’s what EMV is all about… EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, a global standard for inter-operation of integrated circuit cards (IC cards or “chip cards”) and IC card capable point of sale (POS) terminals and automated teller machines (ATMs), for authenticating credit and debit card transactions. (Click the link for a detailed explanation from Wikipedia)

And here’s an FAQ developed by the Smart Card Alliance to answer questions about EMV.   How is this new technology ‘different’ from the current standard?  The biggest benefit of EMV is the reduction in card fraud resulting from counterfeit, lost and stolen cards. EMV also provides interoperability with the global payments infrastructure – consumers with EMV chip payment cards can use their card on any EMV-compatible payment terminal. EMV technology supports enhanced cardholder verification methods and, unlike magnetic stripe cards, EMV payment cards can also be used to secure online payment transactions.

Cyber-security is a burgeoning field as more and more of our daily activities go ‘online’.  What part will you play in keeping data safe?

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January 27th, 2015

There’s a saying that the only things that are certain in life are death and TAXES.  For the vast majority of humans, the process of filing your personal or business taxes is something that is feared, dreaded, hated, avoided – you get the picture…

While e-filing has been in place in many countries for some time, here’s a story from BizTech Africa that highlights a less developed part of the ICT globe.  While it may not be news where you reside, this change is monumental for Gabon.  Technology makes its way across the planet at different paces, and can bring about events with impacts that ripple across continents.

Gabon businesses to pay tax online


Gabon map

The initiative, named et@x ( is aimed at helping Gabon catch up with other African countries and establishing Gabon’s reputation as providing high quality services for their business sector.

Are YOU part of an electronic revolution that hasn’t reached beyond your university?  How will you bring it to market and where?  You may be the life-changer that the world is waiting for!

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Given all the unsettling events that have taken place around the globe with hacking of credit card data and the like, it seems many people are ditching the ‘plastic’ for their purchasing and (gasp!) using actual currency – at least temporarily…

Here’s a story about another possibility for payment options.  Bitcoins are gaining traction in a variety of settings and being tried for all sorts of different applications as an alternative to “filthy lucre”.    (Are we taking the high road or the low road, do you think?  Whichever, I’ll be in Scotland afore ye’ – maybe I can use bitcoins to buy my very own castle.  That would prove me a bampot for sure!)

 Independent Scotland ‘could be bitcoin testbed’

From Wikipedia:  Bitcoin is a software-based payment system…introduced as open-source software in 2009. Payments are recorded in a public ledger using its own unit of account, which is also called bitcoin. Payments work peer-to-peer without a central repository or single administrator, which has led the US Treasury to call bitcoin a decentralized virtual currency. Although its status as a currency is disputed, media reports often refer to bitcoin as a cryptocurrency or digital currency.


Click on the flag to get some historical perspective on the monetary system in Scotland


Some “bits and bobs” on the bitcoin…

A bitcoin documentary film called The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin made its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York on 23 April 2014, chronicling bitcoin’s origins to its explosive growth in 2013. 

In Fall 2014, undergraduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will receive $100 in bitcoins “to better understand this emerging technology”. A student had the idea of a Bitcoin Club and raised more than half a million dollars from a high frequency trader. Hern, Alex (30 April 2014). “MIT students to get $100 worth of bitcoin from Wall Street donor”. The Guardian. 1 May 2014.

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