Research Picks Extra – July 2016

Paper wait

German researchers have developed a paper identification system that could be used to sort recycling materials into different types and grades of paper one of the most pressing issues facing modern recycling facilities. The system could use 26 different characteristics of a paper sample, including, weight, colour, texture, the presence of optical brighteners to classify papers. However, the team found that analysing just six of ten classifiers was sufficient to achieve 94 to 100% accuracy in automatically distinguishing between newspapers, magazines, advertisement, white office papers, grey office papers, and brown corrugated board. There is still room for improvement for other categories and the team is working towards that.

Gottschling, A. and Schabel, S. (2016) ‘Pattern classification system for the automatic analysis of paper for recycling’, Int. J. Applied Pattern Recognition, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp.38–58.


Voice validation

A low-cost and non-proprietary approach to authenticating and validating a VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) communication has been developed by Italian researchers. The system ensures that both correspondents in a conversation can be sure of each other’s identity and neither can erroneously or fraudulently interfere with the ongoing transaction or alter the communication afterwards without the other knowing. The system would be inexpensive to implement and is built on existing open and standard technologies. The non-repudiation of this form of communication now makes the use of VoIP suitable for business and sensitive transactions that might not have previously lent themselves to this technology, opening up connections where conventional telephonic infrastructure was too expensive, unreliable or unavailable but where the internet can be accessed.

Cattaneo, G., Catuogno, L., Petagna, F. and Roscigno, G. (2016) ‘Ensuring non-repudiation in human conversations over VoIP communications’, Int. J. Communication Networks and Distributed Systems, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp.315–334.


Drunk in charge

New research from China confirms that the gradual increase in alcohol (ethanol) concentration in the bloodstream has distinct phases of adverse effect on driving capacity. Zero alcohol intake is a baseline, medium consumption leads to a state in which drivers are more timid but high consumption leads to generally more aggressive driving, less consistent lane discipline and abrupt manoeuvres not seen in the control group, according to the team. This study clarifies the levels at which certain quantities of alcohol per kilogram of body weight begin to cause drivers to behave dangerously. “The study on driver behaviour plays an important role on constructing the early warning model, so as to put forward the corresponding intervention measures of unsafe driving behaviour and improve vehicle safety in reducing accidents due to drinking and/or drunk driving on public roads”, the team concludes.


Chen, H., Zhang, G., Chen, R., Chen, L. and Feng, X. (2016) ‘Comparison of driving performance during the blood alcohol concentration ascending period and descending period under alcohol influence in a driving simulator’, Int. J. Vehicle Safety, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp.72–84.


A ton of feathers and a ton of soil

Feathers are mostly composed of the fibrous protein keratin, the same substance that makes up animal hair, nails, hooves, and scales. Its strength and resilience make feathers a difficult by-product of the poultry industry to deal with. Now, researchers in India have collected soil samples from sites where feathers have been dumped in the hope of finding bacteria that can degrade this waste or perhaps convert it into a biomaterial that might be more useful than plucked feathers. Of various strains tested, one emerged that uses the enzyme keratinase to hydrolyse keratin, Bacillus cereus. This microbe could completely degrade feathers within three days and so might be useful as a biological agent for waste remediation from this industry.

Rajesh, T.P., Rajasekar, S., Karthick Hari Mathan, R. and Anandaraj, B. (2016). ‘Isolation and identification of feather degrading bacteria from feather-dumped soil’, Int. J. Environment and Sustainable Development, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp.293–299.

Protect yourself from shoulder surfers with a HoneyString

Shoulder surfing can be a serious security and privacy concern for the naive internet user, logging in at a cybercafé, airport or even their place of work, where a glance at their computer screen, tablet or other mobile device could reveal to a third party the sites they are visiting, the subjects they are searching for or even their login details. New research published in the International Journal of Trust Management in Computing and Communications, offers “HoneyString” an alternative to a honey trap to protect unwary users.

Nilesh Chakraborty and Samrat Mondal Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Patna, explain that there are screen protectors, browser plugins and other approaches that can be used to protect users from shoulder surfers. The physical systems reduce the viewable angle of an LCD or LED screen, while plugins attempt to camouflage what is being displayed but require the user to have a pair of spectacles with red lenses, for instance.

With HoneyString, the team hopes to reduce the need for user intervention in protecting themselves. Where a username and password or PIN are to be entered on a devices, the HoneyString approach asks the user for input, such as 3rd letter, number or other character of the password, 1st, 5th, then another until a sufficient portion of the password or PIN is completed. This way the casual crowd surfer, not knowing the password in advance, obviously, would not be able to easily see what is being entered at a specific point in the process nor what the prompt was. The HoneyString approach overcomes earlier protection methods known as tag digit-based schemes. In addition to requesting characters from the actual password be entered sequentially at a given prompt, interspersed among those characters are prompts for banal letters from string of characters unrelated to the password, the HoneyString.

For example, if the password is “(pUrput4” and the HoneyString is “bAcb7*”, the HoneyString prompt might ask the use to enter the second character from the password – U – then the third character from the honeytrap word – c – and so on until the password is sufficiently complete. The protection only needs to obfuscate the real password from someone attempting to view the user’s screen from over their shoulder, as it were. The system would suit ATM, automated teller machine, security as well as PIN entry for mobile and other devices.

If the shoulder-surfing attacker has noted the responses they will not be able to login elsewhere at their leisure because they will have some characters from the password but not necessarily in the correct order interspersed with HoneyString characters too. The new HoneyString prompts will be different in all subsequent sessions and because the attacker never actually gained access to the complete password in the first place, they will fail to complete the login successfully.

The team points out that the HoneyString system is simple to use and does not extend login time too much, but prevents third-party and malicious access to the account into which the user is logging in.

Chakraborty, N. and Mondal, S. (2015) ‘HoneyString: an improved methodology over tag digit-based honeypot to detect shoulder surfing attack’, Int. J. Trust Management in Computing and Communications, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp.93–114.

Research Picks – July 2016

Adolescent online social relationships

Social relationships on the internet have a lot in common with adolescent social relationships, researchers from Spain report, adding that such relationships are fluid, indefinite, confused, always under construction, not anchored, fixed or lasting; they are power struggles but without domination. Moreover, the relationships may even be perceived as a game, albeit often a serious one. Unlike a story, online activity is ongoing and discontinuous, interminable dialogue. The team’s study of Spanish adolescents shifts the sociological interest from understanding what adolescents do in this online space and its consequences to the problem of what this artefact formally imposes on communication and on their relationship interests.

Callejo, J. and Gutiérrez, J. (2016) ‘Social networks: dialogic artefacts’, Int. J. Society Systems Science, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp.99–113.

Facial recognition by ear

Given that our facial expressions change, face recognition software must have the ability to cope with the movements of our eyebrows and mouths for instance. Now, researchers in Poland have added ears to the biometric mix in order to improve accuracy and efficiency of 3D facial recognition when different facial expressions are being presented to the system. When strong facial expressions are being presented, the addition of characteristics of a person’s ears can boost efficacy reducing the equal error rate so that it does not exceed 6.25% percent. Particularly effective, the team says is to combine powerful conventional 3D face recognition with analysis that includes their ear recognition algorithm.

Krotewicz, P. (2016) ‘Novel ear-assisted 3D face recognition under expression variations’, Int. J. Biometrics, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp.65–81.

Whistle while you work…or not
People stay “on task” and work more effectively if they listen to pleasant music relative to control groups working with no music. However, if unpleasant music is played while they work, heart rate and other cardiovascular measures rise and they make errors in the task. Heart and breathing rate are found to be lower in those working while listening to pleasant music. Other biometrics that were recorded in the experiments were blood oxygen saturation and arterial pressure. Of course, the difficulty in applying such research to the workplace is that people have different tastes in music.

Geethanjali, B., Adalarasu, K., Jagannath, M. and Rajasekaran, R. (2016) ‘Influence of pleasant and unpleasant music on cardiovascular measures and task performance’, Int. J. Biomedical Engineering and Technology, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp.128–144.

Going viral

Marketers would really like to know what factors makes an online update, graphic, video or other digital entity “go viral”, what factors lead to the mass sharing of such an entity that can lead to huge numbers of potential customers or clients seeing the clip or information and perhaps even buying or signing up for a product or service with which it is associated. Unfortunately, despite many years of searching for a formula that would contrive to make an update go viral, nothing has yet been found that works reliably and repeatedly. However, researchers in Germany have now delineated the psychological principles and find seven specific concepts that might work together to make the chances of a given digital entity being a viral hit.

Wolter, J., Barth, V., Barthel, E-M., Gröbel, J., Linden, E., Wolf, Y. and Walther, E. (2016) ‘Inside the host’s mind: psychological principles of viral marketing’, Int. J. Internet Marketing and Advertising, Vol. 10. Nos. 1/2, pp.54–89.