Research Picks Extra – August 2016

A new public key
In the world of computer encryption on which the security and privacy of almost all our online transactions so delicately depend, there is always room for improvement to protect users and servers from hackers and crackers. The RSA algorithm developed by Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman in 1978 has been a mainstay of strong public key encryption. However, researchers in India have developed a new algorithm that requires the same level of computational power to function but is demonstrably more effective and much faster under particular conditions needed for certain e-commerce applications in simulations. However, in a real-world environment key generation is only marginally different and the team is now working on optimisation.

Vincent, P.M.D.R. and Sathiyamoorthy, E. (2016) ‘A novel and efficient public key encryption algorithm’, Int. J. Information and Communication Technology, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp.199–211.

Sound watermarking
Computer scientists in Morocco have developed a way to add hidden information to a digital sound file, a watermark, that could be used to protect copyright or provide meta data to users without distorting the sound being played. The approach uses the code division multiple access technique. Tests show that the multi-watermarking system works well against two statistical analytical models under-determined independent subspace analysis (UISA) and Gaussian mixture models (GMM). The data is well hidden, it is essentially inaudible, causing no distortion and is robust in duplication. The team suggests that their approach allows four times as much information to be embedded as is possible with other watermarking techniques.

Khalil, M. and Adib, A. (2016) ‘Multiple audio watermarking system based on CDMA’, Int. J. Information and Communication Technology, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp.160–176.

Supporting vaccination
A review of the history of vaccination beginning in 1800 would suggest that we are now in the third phase of this critically important part of disease prevention and healthcare, according to researchers in The Netherlands. Since the 1990s, the vaccine sector has undergone many profound changes as developments in biotechnology have led to major innovations to drive the sector forward. “After the shift from local to national vaccine fields, and then to an internationally coordinated field, the recent changes can be characterised as a shift to a more encompassing, diversified global field,” the team reports. “Globalisation is neither a ‘natural’ and inevitable process, nor is it a dynamics which merely follows straightforward business logic of profit making and capital accumulation. Instead, the global restructuration of firms and industries is better seen as a field dynamics which is the result of the interaction of a variety of different actors and organisations,” they add.

Quak, S., Heilbron, J. and Meijer, J. (2016) ‘The development of the vaccine industry, 1800–present: a historical-sociological field approach’, Int. J. Business and Globalisation, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp.224–242.

Expert detection
How do you find experts in your online social network, your cybercommunity? Researchers in Taiwan think they have the definitive answer; they have developed an “ExpertRank” system that is akin to Google’s well-known “PageRank” website evaluation system but works with people rather than pages. Tests show it works better than other expert-detection algorithms, the team reports. The team says their systems could be important in evaluating different users of a given network so that more weight can be given to the output and opinions of those deemed to be experts rather than the less-knowledgeable members of the network. “Our research has highlighted a new direction for expert identification research and proposed some practical applications for the cyber knowledge community [in knowledge management], the team says.

Chen, D-N. and Hsieh, P-C. (2016) ‘The expert identification in the cyber knowledge community’, Int. J. Computational Science and Engineering, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp.175–182.

Mimicking luxury goods

The luxury goods market for the ultra rich encompasses jewelry, cars, clothes, tableware, ornaments and much more. If luxury hotels, travel and other services are included alongside retail sales, this sector amounted to $1 trillion dollars in 2015. As such, there is a vast grey market for goods that mimic the priciest brands but sell to people who are less well off. Ian Phau and Min Teah of Curtin Business School, at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia, explain how, “brand familiarity is postulated to be a mediator between perception of luxury and product evaluation. It is found that mimicry influences perception of luxury and product evaluation of the mimic brand.”

Writing in the Inderscience publication Luxury Research Journal, the team discusses the implications for brand managers, practitioners and academics carrying out research in business and marketing. The team points out that in economically turbulent times, brand mimicry has taken a strong hold in consumers’ daily consumption and choice and imitation of luxury brands by clothing manufacturers, car designers and others is becoming the norm as the stratum below the ultra rich aspire to some kind of materialistic equity with those they perceive as being better off than themselves.

Most research into brand mimicry has investigated the black market for facsimile and fake products as opposed to legitimate mimicry that does not attempt to pass itself off as the original designer label or marque. When those characteristics are present in the mimic product, the transference of exclusivity, luxury and prestige are high, but the cost is usually lower. However, the existence of mimics in the marketplace diminishes how well the original models are received. The perception of those products as luxurious, exclusive and desirable is lessened.

Of course, there is also the possibility that a mimic brand is actually better quality, longer-lasting and more functional or useful than the original model. But, those characteristics are not what is necessarily being sought by the materialist rather they generally wish to align themselves with the luxurious brand so that they feel greater personal worth and exude that feeling in the presence of others.

Phau, I. and Teah, M. (2016) ‘The influence of brand mimicry on luxury brands‘, Luxury Research J., Vol. 1, No. 2, pp.93-109.

Narrowing the digital divide

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) learning and support in the UK relies primarily on the goodwill of friends and family and on the availability of staff and volunteers in community venues, such as public libraries. This ad hoc approach is highly variable in quality and reliability and will not reduce the digital divide between older people who could benefit from ICT but do not yet do so and the younger generation, according to research published in the International Journal of Technology.

Leela Damodaran of Loughborough University and Jatinder Sandhu of Nottingham Trent University explain how they have examined the key role of formal and informal social support in reducing digital inequalities by enabling the digital participation of older people. Their work focused on the Sustaining IT use by older people to promote autonomy and independence (Sus-IT) project in the UK over a four-year period working with over 1000 older people using mixed research methods within a participative framework.

The team suggests that the digital divide might be narrowed through the implementation of more informal and socially-embedded community-led ICT support for older people. Such support is likely to be helpful to other digitally excluded groups, but the present research was based upon working with older people in the UK.

Digital technologies are becoming increasingly pervasive and integrated within society, the team explains more aspects of modern life rely on access to online services. As such, those without the necessary skills or training to keep up with an ever-changing online landscape might be left behind. Obviously, many sectors of societies face barriers to the internet, but perhaps none more so than the older generation who in many, but not all, cases may not even have access to a personal computer let alone one with the requisite high-speed, or broadband, internet connection. Further, the process of learning about new things is promoted by social contact and when people retire their social networks often diminish significantly adding an additional barrier to digital participation by older people.

Online shopping, registration for services, communication with friends and family and many other activities that many of us, and particularly the so-called “digital natives” take for granted are essentially inaccessible. They need not be, of course, given the connectivity and social nature of local libraries, community centres and other public places. As such, a primary barrier that needs to be surmounted is the void in ICT learning support beyond the work place.

Build confidence and capacity in the use of ICT in older people and opportunities arise that will enhance their well-being and quality of life, reduce social isolation and loneliness, and moreover give those people access to the services that everyone else now takes for granted.

“The underpinning premise of our proposition is that community-based ICT support provision enables older people to solve their problems, manage their lives (including their health conditions), enhance their well-being, engage with friends and pursue their passions empowered and enabled through their use of technology,” the team reports.

Damodaran, L. and Sandhu, J. (2016) ‘The role of a social context for ICT learning and support in reducing digital inequalities for older ICT users‘, Int. J. Learning Technology, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp.156-175.