All female team tackle plastic pollution at Athena Hack

A group of Masters students from the School of Computing attended Athena Hack, an all-women hackathon, in London from 13-14 April 2019.

The hackathon was organised by ShowCode as an initiative to champion female technologists and focus their skills to help solve one of the biggest environmental issues around. Prizes were awarded for the best performing university team and the best performing company team with a top prize of £5000 cash.

The challenge was to use their skills to create an idea that would help solve the plastic crisis that is currently plaguing the world in support of Plastic Oceans UK. The team, called ‘bumblebees’, was made up of five Masters students; Asha Burathoki, Sybil Mayard, Mai Pham, Zhaneta Georgieva and Clarissa Ang.

The team developed an app, called ‘Plastix’, based on the augmented reality, machine learning and image recognition features which have become popular among smart phone users. It aims to use real-time object identification, personal record and data aggregation to address the lack of awareness and lack of data, as well as making it convenient for the user.

Plastix has three basic functions:
– identifying an object in real time and whether it is recyclable
– reporting and booking rubbish hotspots
– allowing the user to receive rewards for recycling / cleaning the hotspot.

Asha Burathoki said ‘We had an amazing experience at the hackathon where we got to network and develop our skills via workshops. Unfortunately we didn’t win but the whole process was very inspiring for female students like us in the tech industry.’

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David Chadwick reaches final of I’m a Scientist get me out of here!

Professor David Chadwick had the opportunity to prove himself as one of the most popular scientists in the UK in I’m a Scientist, get me out of here! The Professor of Information Systems Security from the School of Computing reached the final three in his area of the competition after other scientists were voted out.

I’m a Scientist is an online activity for school students to connect with scientists. It is an X Factor-style competition between scientists, where students are the judges. Students challenge the scientists over fast-paced online text-based live chats. They can ask anything they want, and vote for their favourite scientist to win a prize of £500 to communicate their work with the public.

David said ‘I really enjoyed taking part in the competition and would encourage any of my colleagues to do the same. I took part in the relationship zone, which was primarily for psychologists but overlaps with my area of expertise in cyber security, eg, how do you know who you are really talking to over the Internet, via Facebook or other social media?The next event is happening in June and it’s a great way to interact with young people who are curious about the world around them.’

You can review David’s profile and see the questions and his answers at https://relationshipsm19.imascientist.org.uk/profile/davidchadwick/

Scientists interested in taking part in future events can find out more at https://imascientist.org.uk/2019/03/whats-been-happening-in-im-a-scientist-the-online-science-engagement-event/

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Pint of Science – Computer Science in your local

Dr Jason Nurse will be taking his knowledge of online privacy to the pub as part of the national Pint of Science series of events.

He will be one of three speakers in the tech-themed event in The Good Intent in John Street, Rochester on Monday 20 May. The theme for the evening is the pros and cons of modern technology.

Jason’s talk specifically addresses concerns about online advertising.  Firms can launch targeted ad campaigns suited to what they believe we want, or to influence our beliefs in particular ways. To allow such targeting, organisations constantly explore new ways to gather information about us, often at the expense of our privacy. This spans traditional web tracking, smartphone apps and new technologies (e.g. smart-tech). In this talk, Jason will demystify how online advertising works, the tricks advertisers use to track users, and what the risks to us are. He will also provide some tools and tips you can use to protect yourself online.

For more information and tickets (which usually sell out quickly) go to https://pintofscience.co.uk/event/the-pros-and-cons-of-modern-technology

 

 

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School of Computing to support start-up with machine learning

With the support of Kent Innovation and Enterprise, Dr Fernando Otero and Dr Matteo Migliavacca from the School of Computing and London-based fintech start-up Youtility have been awarded funding to begin a 30 month Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), to enhance user experience using machine learning models. The new models and embedded technology will enable Youtility to grow their user base through empowering consumers in a disengaged market.

Youtility is a money and budgeting app that brings home finances into one place, allowing users to budget, track, compare and switch providers in-app. Youtility is a product of Open Banking and is FCA-registered to connect to one or multiple bank accounts. Once registered, Youtility displays historic spending across the home and provides users with smart insights, relevant money saving advice from Citizens Advice, notifications for key events, awareness of high bills and helps users get ahead of expiring contracts and making informed, smart decisions that are right for them. Youtility has received multiple grants from the UK Government, established a strategic partnership with Citizens Advice and were the primary member into Ofgem’s Innovation Link Incubator programme. .

Dr Otero’s strong background and expertise in developing and applying algorithms to data mining tasks are particularly relevant for this project and Dr Migliavacca’s research expertise in developing, measuring and optimising parallel architectures and algorithms will hugely benefit the project in reaching its scalability targets.

This is not the first time the University’s expertise will help to enhance an app based tool: last year a team of four academics across three different academic disciplines began a project to embed expert data analytics as well as an understanding of social networking theories into the social planning app PlanSnap.

KTPs are a UK-wide government programme helping businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK academic knowledge base.

Kent has a great track record of successful KTP’s with two of the University’s most recent projects achieving a grade of “outstanding”, the highest possible rating from Innovate UK, the UK’s technology strategy agency, a grade that only 10% of KTP projects achieve.

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Research throws up vulnerability in alarms

RESEARCHERS have been able to exploit vulnerabilities in a number of car alarm systems enabling them to unlock doors and start the engine.

Dr Budi Arief, from the School of Computing at the University of Kent is an expert on cyber security with a focus on cybercrime, security of computer-based systems, the Internet of Things, and ransomware and was interviewed by Business Motoring.

He said: “As technology progresses and devices are becoming more interconnected through the concept of Internet of Things (IoT), there is a growing risk that any additional feature may introduce security vulnerabilities to the overall system.
“This is a case aptly demonstrated by a recent report of security vulnerabilities in three specialist car alarm systems that would have allowed attackers to steal or hijack affected vehicles.

“It is not surprising that third-party car alarm systems that allow their users to control the alarm – or even the car – remotely may contain security vulnerabilities. These third-party systems have likely gone through a less rigorous process of security evaluation compared to those systems developed directly by the official car manufacturer.”

“Nevertheless, there is no guarantee that the latter would be 100% secure, as it is pretty much impossible to prove the absence of flaws.
“What is ironic here is that whoever bought these vulnerable car alarm systems did so out of a desire to improve the security of their vehicle. But inadvertently, they introduced security vulnerabilities that would allow attackers to take control of their vehicle.
“In a sense, it would have been better if these car owners did not bother to add a third-party system that may or may not have been approved by the car manufacturer.
“All of these demonstrate the need to carry out a more thorough test on any computer systems (especially those that allow remote connections), instead of rushing them to customers in order to capture a niche market before any competitors did so.
“This is not a unique incident, there are many similar cases of IoT devices such as cameras, home security kits, and even smart locks that have been shown to be vulnerable to attacks. Unfortunately, the IoT market is akin to a gold rush for new features rather than security, and this is a challenge that needs to be addressed urgently.”

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Future bank cards might “combine fingerprint scanning with fascial recognition”

Royal Bank of Scotland will launch on a pilot basis a biometric card that will allow customers to verify their purchases with their fingerprint.

Head of Data Science Research Group at the University of Kent, Dr Palaniappan Ramaswamy, was interviewed by Sputnik News and  explained how these new cards work.

How do biometric bank cards work?

Dr Palaniappan Ramaswamy said ” This technology is not new. It’s very similar to the fingerprint scanner that’s on the phone [used] to unlock it. So, how these technologies actually work on the card is that there is a scanner on the card, and the user places the finger on it. The scanned card is then matched to the stored fingerprint to authenticate the user.”

With the introduction of contactless payment and the testing of biometric bank cards, are people most likely to drop pin codes altogether?

Dr Palaniappan Ramaswamy said ” It is very likely that we will drop PIN codes, obviously, it’s quite a difficult [issue]. I mean, we forget the PIN code, and [there’s] also the problem of shoulder surfing — someone at the back, for example, who could actually look after our PIN, [making] it possible to be stolen. So it’s very likely that we will drop the PIN. And of course, fingerprint [recognition] offers a lot of convenience in that sense, because we have our finger [with us] all the time. Although there is the issue of possible fraud: research has shown that it’s quite easy to lift fingerprints from surfaces, for example, a glass that we touch, and print it out using high-quality printers; and we can use this to get through the system.”

RBS is currently collaborating with digital security company Gemalto. The UK managing director the firm, Howard Berg, told the BBC that using a fingerprint rather than a PIN code when authorising transactions has plenty of advantages, including speed, convenience and enhanced security. But will our transactions as well as biometric data be really safer than they are now.

Dr Palaniappan Ramaswamy said “The fingerprints are not actually stored in the bank’s database, they’re actually stored on the card. And although there is more security in using fingerprint [recognition] rather than, for example, PIN codes — for the reason that I’ve just said —, it’s quite easy for an imposter to use the system. So I think that in the future there will be more than one modality, more than one scanner that will be used to authenticate someone. For example, it could be fingerprints combined with facial recognition. There are also talks about using more advanced methods, such as heart rhythm and brain patterns.”

 

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Computing students reach final of start-up competition

Three students from the School of Computing have gone through to the final of the Business Start-up Journey (BSUJ) and will pitch their ideas at the Business Start-Up Journey showcase on Wednesday 20 March 2019.

The BSUJ is an inspirational programme which brings student business start-up ideas to life. Students attend talks and workshops on all aspects of business including financial, legal and marketing, as well as mentoring sessions, to help take their business ideas further.

Tomiwa Sosanya, a second year BSc Computer Science with a year in Industry student, customizes trainers on his website ‘Do You Customs’ and hopes to build a platform bringing together artists/makers who customize products.

Aishat Alonge, a final year BSc Computer Science student, is pitching with a Kent Business School student on an idea to build a platform connecting beauty businesses to new customers.

Fern Hennell, a final year BSc Business Information Technology student will pitch her candles based on famous books business.

Tomiwa said ‘The BSUJ has helped me change my hobby into an actual business. Instead of thinking about when the next customer is coming, I am thinking about how to attract more customers and how to provide a better service.’

We wish all the students good luck for the final pitch at the Business Start-up Journey showcase.

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Students celebrate at Computing Showcase

Final year students from the School of Computing celebrated their final year projects at the School of Computing Showcase on Friday 15 March with several prizes sponsored by local companies and partners.

The Innovation prize, sponsored by Kent Innovation and Enterprise and awarded to support early stage entrepreneurship, was won by Maaz Mehmood, Praag Dogra, Jack Madden, Stelianos Martis and Dylan Osei-Bonsu for their project ‘Leap Motion’, which interprets sign language for those hard of hearing or unable to communicate and who do not understand sign language.

The Best User Experience prize, sponsored by Holiday Extras and awarded to the student who demonstrated an understanding of their end user through an excellent user experience, was awarded to Elina Voitane, Karlis Jaunslavietis, Priyesh Patel and Afzaal Ahmad Razeen for ‘Echobook’, an Echo Parakeet tracking system to help The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation to manage and monitor the Echo Parakeet population.

The Most Innovative use of Modern Technology prize, sponsored by Holiday Extras and awarded to the student who implemented modern web/programming languages and frameworks to create their product, was awarded to Christian Dalby for his project ‘Weighter’. Weighter is an Android App focusing on exploring the potential benefits artificial intelligence can have on an individual’s fitness by providing users with a convenient and familiar approach to personal training, without the possible intimidation of a human trainer.

The prize for the Most Original/Unique project, sponsored by SardJV, was awarded to Aaron Argent, Tom Kawalczyk, Jack Smith, Jamie Swanborough and Molly Walmsley for the Turing Machine Simulator. The aim of this project was to develop and improve an already existing Turing Machine Simulator web application by redesigning and utilising extra space for the simulator, creating a friendlier user interface and adding error messages to create a more accessible and friendly learning environment.

The Best Poster prize, sponsored by the School of Computing and voted for by the visitors to the Computing Showcase, was awarded to Joanna Zhang and Damon Sweeney for Coop Control. Coop Control is a platform that accommodates a modular network of devices and sensors that monitor and automate tasks for chicken keepers, from door control to informing the user when the water level in the drinker has fallen below a given threshold.

Congratulations to the prize-winners and to all the final year students for their amazing range of projects.

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Join Us – 2 new Lectureships

The School of Computing is seeking to appoint 2 new Lecturers (Assistant Professors) in Cyber Security to support the growth plan of the Kent Interdisciplinary Research Centre in Cyber Security (KirCCS).

Applications are invited from candidates in any research area that can complement or enhance the existing research strengths of the KirCCS and the Cyber Security research group at the School of Computing, especially in the socio-technical security theme. Successful candidates will be made members of both KirCCS and the Institute of Advanced Studies in Cyber Security and Conflict (SoCyETAL). SoCyETAL will have a dedicated physical space allowing researchers from different schools and disciplines to work together, and there will be dedicated PhD studentships for members of SoCyETAL.

We are particularly interested in candidates who have worked with researchers in social science disciplines including but not limited to Psychology, Law, Sociology, Business, and Economics. Candidates with research experience in Artificial Intelligence are welcome, especially if that research goes beyond pure technical issues into topics such as human behaviour, ethics, law, transparency, trust, fairness, and policy.

For more details about the vacancies and to apply for the posts, please visit the following web page: https://jobs.kent.ac.uk/STM1002.

For informal queries, please contact the KirCCS Centre Director and the SoCyETAL Co-Director Prof Shujun Li and the Head of School of Computing Prof Richard Jones.

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David Chadwick takes part in I’m a Scientist get me out of here

Professor David Chadwick is taking part in I’m a Scientist, get me out of here! from 4-15 March, as part of British Science Week.

I’m a Scientist is an online activity for school students to connect with scientists. It is an X Factor-style competition between scientists, where students are the judges. Students challenge the scientists over fast-paced online text-based live chats. They can ask anything they want, and vote for their favourite scientist to win a prize of £500 to communicate their work with the public.

The event started on 4 March when students started asking questions of the Scientists. Thursday 7 March saw the first live chat, with students encouraged to log in with family and friends and ask questions. Tuesday 12 March is the start of the evictions when the scientists with the least votes will be evicted from the competition. The final live chat is on Friday 15 March and at 3pm the voting closes and the winners of I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here are announced.

David said ‘Some of the initial questions the students asked were very penetrating, and you had to think long and hard before answering. But this was fine as you had plenty of time. However, when the live chat started you had no time to think as the questions were coming thick and fast, in fact, faster than you could touch type your answers. So it was quite a challenge to give the students a meaningful answer that would both engage and enthral them, whilst simultaneously not make you look like an idiot who should be thrown out straight away!”

You can review David’s profile and see the questions and his answers at https://relationshipsm19.imascientist.org.uk/profile/davidchadwick/

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