Aftershock assessment

Earthquakes kill, but their aftershocks can cause the rapid collapse of buildings left standing in the aftermath of the initial quake. Research published in the International Journal of Reliability and Safety offers a new approach to predicting which buildings might be most susceptible to potentially devastating collapse due to the ground-shaking aftershock tremors.

Negar Nazari and John W. van de Lindt of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and Yue Li of Michigan Technological University, in Houghton, USA, point out that it is relatively obvious that buildings that survive a main shock will be at varying degrees of risk of collapse as aftershocks travel through the earthquake zone. Aftershocks are usually several orders of magnitude less intense than the primary earthquake, but can nevertheless have high ground motion intensity, last longer and occur at different vibration frequencies. In addition, changes in the structure of a building and its foundations, whether crippling or not, mean that the different energy content of the ground acceleration can during an aftershock further complicates any analysis. This adds up to a very difficult risk assessment for surviving buildings.

In order to compute the risk of collapse, the probability, for building damaged by a main shock, the team has introduced a logical method based on two key earthquake variables: magnitude and site-to-source distance. They have carried out tests using different site-to-source distances with an incremental dynamic analysis based on simulated ground motions caused by the main shock and aftershocks and applied this to a computer modeled, two-storey, timber-frame building in a hypothetical town in California relatively close to a geological fault line, as a proof of principle. Full-scale structural data was available from an actual building.

The team found that collapse probability increased if there were a sequence of aftershocks following a main shock just 10 kilometers distant from the building. Stronger aftershocks mean greater risk that correlates with the actual magnitude of the shock. As one might also expect if the site-to-source distance is greater, risk is lower. Overall, however, the analysis allows the team to quantify this risk based on the two variables, distance and aftershock magnitude.

Nazari, N., van de Lindt, J.W. and Li, Y. (2014) ‘Effect of aftershock intensity on seismic collapse fragilities’, Int. J. Reliability and Safety, Vol. 8, Nos. 2/3/4, pp.174–195.

Sharing your R&D on the internet

How much research and development information do Fortune Global 500 companies give away on their websites? That was the question a team from the University of Tunisia hoped to answer in assessing the openness of the commercial R&D world.

Writing in the International Journal of Information Technology and Management, Boutheina Ben Ghnaya explains that 145 corporate websites across 20 countries were analysed and 11 variables -company internal and external factors – tested to reveal any patterns in information sharing. The researchers found that a company’s degree of internationality, the industry type, the company size and how intense are their R&D efforts are the main factors that explain the differences in R&D disclosure on the internet.

Corporations invest hundreds of billions of dollars globally in R&D efforts hoping to create new and improved products that will give them market share and a healthy bottom line for their investors and shareholders. The literature is replete with studies and investigations of R&D funding, performance and valuation, fundamentally because R&D success directly affects company profits. Critically, the disclosure of R&D information can help inform investor decisions and companies take great care in their financial statements with what they reveal in public regarding their efforts and the success and failures they have.

Financial statements, however, are not generally the best outlet for a summary of R&D in a company and do not necessarily reflect the true nature or performance. Ben Ghnaya alludes to the notion that a more transparent approach to R&D disclosure would benefit investors and companies alike by reducing unwarranted risks and costs. And yet, the form of R&D disclosure on the internet is rather disparate between companies and is still very limited in its extent, with a few exceptions. “Our findings suggest that the full potential of the internet as a communication medium is not yet realised,” says Ben Ghnaya.

Nevertheless, it seems that R&D disclosure is greatest among companies with the widest spread of foreign sales and the largest corporations. However, there is no apparent association between disclosure and number of foreign subsidiaries. Additionally, listing on multiple stock markets does not affect the degree of disclosure, the team found, nor does actual profitability.

Ghnaya, B.B. (2015) ‘Research and development disclosure information on internet by multinational corporations’, Int. J. Information Technology and Management, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp.274–304.

Detecting and blocking leaky Android apps

Nine times out of ten, that Android app is connecting to multiple internet destinations without your knowledge, more than half of them require access to the sensitive, personal information on your mobile device in order to function and more than one in five data “packets” these apps send contains some of that sensitive information. That’s the conclusion of Japanese researchers writing this month in the International Journal of Space-Based and Situated Computing.

Hiroki Kuzuno and Satoshi Tonami of Intelligent Systems Laboratory, SECOM Co., Ltd., in Tokyo, analyzed the traffic and permissions of 1,188 free Android applications that use various advertising or in-app purchase models for their monetization. They demonstrated that 93% of those applications might compromise user privacy or security in various ways. As such, the team has now devised a clustering algorithm that can analyze the internet destinations to which such apps connect and a signature-generation system that could be used to quickly alert users to a leak of personal data from their device. Such a system would once again empower the end user to take control of their mobile device and help eradicate such behavior from the Android app ecosystem.

Smart phones are almost ubiquitous and vast numbers use the Android operating system developed by Google. There are more than 1 million applications, “apps” available to users of such devices that depending on the type of app can directly access the personal information, such as location tracking data, the address book, unique device identifier (UDID) and other data. The Android system can decouple device features such as network access, the built-in cameras, and sensitive data in order to maintain security. However, many applications request permission on installation to access such features and many users check the boxes that allow such access without recognizing how this might compromise their privacy and security.

On the whole, the information to which apps have access is most commonly used for targeting the user with advertising, but might also represent the aggregation of personal data on remote servers that might be compromised by a third party. Either way, if users were fully aware of the problems that might occur with their mobile devices leaking data in this way, they might be more wary of installing many of the apps available, even those offered by apparently legitimate and well known online companies and services.

The team tested their leaked data detection system on the 1,188 apps in their collection and used it to analyze 107,859 data packets, of which 23,309 were identified as containing sensitive information. The system proved to be 97% accurate with just 3% false positives. Of course, once developed into an end-user product, the system itself could be added to a smart phone as an app.

Kuzuno, H. and Tonami, S. (2015) ‘Detection of sensitive information leakage in Android applications using signature generation’, Int. J. Space-Based and Situated Computing, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp.53–62.