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With the most extensive vaccination programme in history currently being undertaken across the world, New Zealand is also aggressively pursuing its rollout. The country expects to immunize tens of millions of people by the spring at over 2,700 vaccination sites across the nation.

While many individuals are eager to get their vaccinations and prevent the deadly COVID-19 virus from spreading further, trypanophobia, or a fear of needles, is believed to be causing problems for a significant number of people across the country. Researchers from the University of Otago have collaborated with a tech firm to develop new software that uses virtual reality (VR) to distract patients who are frightened of needles so they can receive the injections they needed.

The programme had been tested out by patients in Christchurch when receiving influenza shots while wearing the VR headset. A patient claims that he could “barely tell” when the injection was taking place and that he would recommend the app to anyone who is afraid of needles. People with phobias or anxiety over things like flying, heights, spiders, and social situations could also benefit from it.

The new distraction software employs virtual reality technology to engage patients in a virtual environment that will keep them entertained while they are being injected. Patients have complete control over the relaxing environment they will be placed in. The options are all scenic spots, including beaches, mountains, rivers, lakes and waterfalls. During these simulations, patients can train their brains to overcome their fear of needles via a combination of experiential learning exercises, breathing techniques, and stress management strategies.

According to a health website, trypanophobia is the extreme fear of medical procedures involving injections or hypodermic needles. It was recognised as a specific phobia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) in 1994. Trypanophobia tends to be more common in children and may lessen as people grow older and have more experience of medical procedures.

By introducing virtual reality (VR) into medical care, patients as young as four years old who are experiencing this problem may be able to forget about their fears, enabling medical staff to administer the necessary shot without difficulties. Psychologists are now using virtual reality to treat phobias that were previously difficult to treat with exposure therapy.

Research shows that humans have a limited capacity for attention. As a result, when children divert their attention to a different stimulus, such as a virtual reality game, the painful stimulus may appear to be less severe. Augmented reality (AR), a technology innovation used in hospitals in recent years, had also been clinically proven effective for pain management during burn dressing changes.

Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality’s most well-known “relative,” produces a 3D world that totally separates the viewer from reality. There are two respects in which AR is unique: users do not lose touch with reality and it puts information into eyesight as fast as possible. These distinctive features enable AR to become a driving force in the future of medicine.

Assuming that COVID-19 vaccinations might become a regular part of our society in the future, a VR treatment platform would be a useful tool for assisting patients in coping with the reality of having to receive injections. The idea finds support as the company had received inquiries from health clinics all around the world that were looking for an app they could offer to their patients to keep them distracted while receiving the injection.

New Zealand has been avidly deploying tech in the healthcare sector. OpenGov Asia reported on the access New Zealand’s smaller allied health firms have to a new reporting solution that can assist staff with managing their business at a fraction of the cost of those commonly seen in larger enterprises. The software is designed to provide daily revenue updates, as well as appointments, productivity, and retention within practices using a cloud-based practice management system.

A new artificial intelligence solution is poised to give landowners streamlined access to forest carbon credit markets. Initially funded by a loan from the Provincial Development Unit (PDU), the unit had agreed to assist the AI company to develop the AI-based solution. The platform is designed to cope with the world’s most critical climate change and environmental concerns and supports New Zealand’s ambitions as a global leader in this field.

Carbon markets are considered one of the most cost-effective ways for family forest owners to engage climate change since they rely on private investment rather than expensive government funding. Carbon markets appeal to landowners as they provide a method for small forest owners to generate revenue from their land, where they can reinvest in their trees. However, currently, carbon markets are now out of reach for small forest owners due to their complexity, high upfront costs, and contract length.

CarbonCrop, a tech-enabled solution developed by the New Zealand AI company enables landowners to identify the extent of their carbon forestry opportunity without incurring any upfront costs or responsibilities. The product uses machine learning and remote sensing technology to identify, monitor and enhance forest carbon stocks and restoration alternatives. Furthermore, rather than a regulated approach, the company provide a consensual alternative for action.

In the context of ecological applications, AI can aid in the monitoring of ecosystems, wildlife, and their interactions. Its time-saving processing speeds can provide near-real-time satellite data to track illegal logging in forests. It can also simulate weather events and natural disasters to find vulnerabilities in disaster planning, determine which strategies for disaster response are most effective, and provide real-time disaster response coordination.

Another project New Zealand had developed similar to this is a marine mammal monitoring system using AI as well to detect, classify, and track the calls of different marine mammals, and an automated taxonomy product that allows laboratories to better monitor water quality for specific microscopic organisms and pollutants. An OpenGov Asia report explored Spyfish Aotearoa, a collaboration between a charitable organisation applying artificial intelligence to conservation and the Department of Conservation (DoC) that allows ocean enthusiasts to get directly involved in scientific research.

The Otago Climate Change Risk Assessment indicated that climate change puts the region at risk of more heavy rainfall events, drought, coastal erosion and inundation, and more extreme hot days exceeding 30 degrees Celsius in the longer term. The report also projected major implications for communities and the economy.

The climate crisis continues to play out as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the globe. In fact, 2020 may is likely the third-warmest year on record; the planet was warmer by 1.2 degrees Celsius from January to October than the pre-industrial average measured between 1850 and 1900; and cyclones, floods and wildfires caused large-scale devastation. Many storms and cyclones also affected other Asian countries, such as cyclones Amphan, Nisarga, Nivar and Burevi in India and African countries, and cyclone Gati in Somalia which brought two years’ worth of rains in two days.

As the planet continues to warm, climate change impacts are worsening. Over 20% of species currently face extinction, and that number could rise to 50% by 2100 if there are no action taken. The DoC is confident that exploiting the advantages AI provides, will greatly improve conservation outcomes for the future and bring the country further down in the path towards thriving oceans.

Scientists and researchers from across New Zealand are being encouraged to use the new software platform that combines enormous amounts of environmental data to address problems varying from predator control to identifying communities at risk of flooding. Hopefully, people in Aotearoa and overseas will be able to see and learn more about the species in New Zealand’s marine reserves, while contributing directly to marine conservation.

Several New Zealand websites caught up in a global internet outage late last night are back up and running this morning.

The outage not only affected New Zealand but also servers in North America, India, Europe, Britain, Australia, Japan and South America although the failure was not geographically universal. Users in some locations, such as Berlin, reported no problems, while others experienced massive failures across the internet. Outages were reported in locations as varied as London, Texas and Australia.

Within minutes of the outage, a content delivery network company (CDN), a cloud computing services provider, acknowledged that its content distribution network was the cause of the problem. The company runs an “edge cloud”, which is designed to speed up loading times for websites, protect them from denial-of-service attacks, and help them deal with bursts of traffic. It is one of the biggest CDN providers in the world. While governments and service providers may still be unsure about what happened and the CDN company not specifically elaborating on the cause, the worldwide disruption is a harsh reality-check of the fragility that an interconnected internet infrastructure can be.

New Zealand was significantly hit with all sites down. Users trying to access the websites experienced their site labelling “503 errors connection failure”. However, with robust critical event management in place, the internet was back up and running again at 10.27 pm after crashing at 9.46 pm.

In an update at 9.58 pm NZT, the CDN firm said that it was investigating the issue. It provided several updates in the following 40 minutes, saying it was continuing to investigate the problem. At 10.44 pm NZT, it was reported that the issue had been identified and that a fix was being implemented but no reason given for the major outage.

Although internet disruptions are rare, they are unavoidable. No matter how competent your internet service provider is, unexpected circumstances can emerge and create an outage, potentially leaving people stranded in the middle of whatever online activity there were engaged in at the time.

The outage occurred when the CDN developed technical difficulties, disrupting national and international news sites, causing other domains to crash and being unavailable for up to an hour. CDNs are global networks of servers that work together to provide content over a large area and deliver it to users more rapidly, regardless of where they are in the world. Content can be cached to a CDN server near users so that it does not have to be fetched from the original server each time. The technology is thought to improve reliability by distributing website delivery over multiple sites rather than depending on a single data centre.

When a CDN malfunctions, an outage occurs, bringing all websites around the world to be offline. One of the main features of CDNs is that they have redundancy in place to prevent crashes like the one that had occurred. It is this that makes the outage a significant incident. It’s currently unknown whether the CDN outage was caused by a cyber-attack or a server breach.

Regardless, all internet service providers, big or small, are susceptible to internet outages. An internet outage usually means any issue that prohibits access to the internet. As a result, when an error message is displayed or the browser times out while loading a web page, the global network connection may not have necessarily failed. It is more likely because of a technical issue or could be local connection challenges. These can range in severity from large-scale failures to minor problems. Common causes when an outage occurs are when a server is down for maintenance or is overloaded.

A telecom company in New Zealand has launched its Ultra Fibre Broadband that revolutionises digital life in Taupō, a provincial town in New Zealand. The fast internet will now allow residents to conveniently stream to enhance life, work and business.

As across the globe, the number of people working remotely, transacting and consuming online content has increased in Taupō. As a result of these trends, the average Taupō household has tripled its data usage in the last four years by more than 90%.

According to the telecom company, users in the area will be delighted with the service the new broadband will provide. Customers who have switched to fibre will appreciate and enjoy the service as it provides a higher-quality experience than a traditional copper line. The broadband provides a dedicated connection to a congestion-free network.

The fibre optic cable is touted to be less prone to interference, maintains signal intensity over greater distances, and runs at a higher frequency rate. Higher frequency equates to more bandwidth, which means faster connection speeds. This means a better downloading and uploading experience for users – work, shopping, gaming, TV and video streaming – especially for families with multiple devices.

Approximately 75% of New Zealanders will have access to ultra-fast broadband over fibre as part of the public sector project. Feilding, Waiheke Island, and Rangiora are the other three regions that are part of the public sector project where the company has yet to install fibre to those areas.

The importance of a reliable internet connection has been highlighted during this COVID-19 pandemic. Some other broadband types may be more susceptible to stuttering, dropouts and noticeable delays. The fibre is currently now the next generation of internet connectivity, with the newly built network available to 83% of Kiwi homes and businesses, it is great for Kiwis now and would work well revolutionaries into the future.

Authorities recognise that if New Zealand is to compete internationally it would need better broadband. Enhanced internet speeds boost video conferencing and enable faster access to cloud services for New Zealand enterprises. Both are considered necessary for effective foreign trade by the government.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, the government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) initiative was launched in 2009 and aims to achieve fibre-to-the-premises to 87% of the population (including 1% private fibre) by 2022. The scheme was said to be one of the largest and most ambitious civil engineering projects ever in New Zealand. The programme is part of a 2008 government policy aimed at boosting wages and strengthening the economy.

The programme has aided the fastest-growing adoption of fibre-optic cable services among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development members (OECD). Four other private companies are cooperating with the government to expand broadband service across the country as part of a public-private partnership.

Rural areas of New Zealand are covered by the separate Rural Broadband Initiative which improves broadband coverage to premises in rural New Zealand where it would not be commercially cost-effective to build UFB networks.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are arguably the most transformative technologies available currently. Both have the potential to completely disrupt industries and organisations, and indeed, nations. Their inherent power means organisations across the board need to understand the vast potential the fast-evolving field holds and consider the implications for digital transformation.

Businesses are experimenting with advanced analytics tools and approaches, as seen by the increased interest in unsupervised learning and reinforcement learning. Decision assistance, interactive games, and real-time retail recommendation engines are just a few of the many use cases that these tools and techniques open up for firms to experiment with and benefit from.

AI will not only contribute to the education sector but also the health sector. AI technology is rapidly expanding into other healthcare areas, including early detection of diseases, treatment and research. In the coming year, technology will continue to advance and play a larger role, especially as the world continues to be affected by the pandemic.

Data aggregation, updating patient charts, analysing tests and images to offer possible diagnoses, and other applications of AI technology promise to be useful. In a supportive position, the use of AI in health reduces physician workloads, allowing them to spend more time with patients and on actual patient care.

New Zealand has a robust and well-planned AI Strategy and a thriving AI ecosystem. The AI Forum brings together New Zealand’s artificial intelligence community, working together to harness the power of AI technologies to enable a prosperous, inclusive and thriving future in New Zealand. It advances New Zealand’s AI ecosystem through connections, advocacy, growing talent and collaboration.

Over the years, AI and machine learning have witnessed significant development and have now become smarter than before. In the wake of the pandemic, companies that relied on on-site data centre support staff soon realised they had limited or no visibility into their data centre operations. With a cloud-based, next-generation management platform, IT support staff can now manage sites remotely and more importantly, in a much safer manner. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is keen that organisations future-proof AI systems for effective compliance and advocate for more robust regulation collaboration.

AI and machine learning will underpin the next generation of what we think of now as data centre infrastructure management. Disruptive technologies like these will integrate people and processes resulting in a true digital data centre. As digital transformation progresses, we will see data centre evolve based on real-world experience and are driven by demand for ever-higher levels of profitability.

According to an article by OpenGov Asia, Machine Learning uses algorithms to explore huge data sets and create models that provide answers or outcomes mirroring human decision-making. Models can be trained to recognise patterns, facial expressions, and spoken words. They can also detect anomalies like credit card fraud. It uses artificial neural networks – computer software styled on the human brain – to learn how to make predictions in particular areas through deep learning. The model makes its predictions then tests these against real-world results and is trained by humans to recognise what went wrong in a quest to create a more accurate model.

Recently, a state-of-the-art purpose-built Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Development Laboratory was opened on the Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) Hawke’s Bay Campus in Taradale which will allow students to use advanced technology. The new lab includes a deep-learning server for machine vision and learning, HTC Vive Pro wireless virtual reality, a fume-extraction required by 3D printers, and a workspace that incorporates electrical supplies and bench-space for electronic fabrication and soldering, among other things.

In line with NZ national strategies, a cloud conference on Artificial Intelligence is planned for the end of this month. Developers, engineers and decision-makers in the AI field will showcase cutting-edge technology trends in artificial intelligence and machine learning, and in-depth discussions on the development, future prospects and blueprints for AI to encourage and accelerate innovation.

By all means, the implementation of AI and ML would be a success for all sectors nationwide. While one can never assume what the future holds, as technology advances, the world will undoubtedly become more reliant on it.

With over a thousand endangered and threatened invertebrate species, New Zealand has been looking for technology to assist its preservation initiative. These endangered bugs can now be identified with the help of drones and might be a new revolution in managing wildlife extinction.

There are over 1000 threatened or endangered invertebrate species in New Zealand, including insects and other living bugs, and many other unknowns regarding their habits, where they live, and how far they travel. New Zealand’s internationally renowned bird conservation programmes, such as radio-tracking technologies for bird management, have long relied on innovation. This device can be used to investigate enormous invertebrates such as the giant wētā and giant land snails (Powelliphanta) but is simply too big and heavy for most insects.

A research team at the University of Canterbury is developing new technologies that could lead to a better knowledge of the country’s threatened and endangered insects, paving way for more effective conservation management by using UAV (drone) mounted radar.  The university is combining its knowledge with the College of Engineering to develop novel tag-and-track technologies that could revolutionise the understanding of insects and other kinds of endangered bugs.

According to the researchers of the University of Canterbury, since the 1990s, harmonic radar technology has been used, but it had to be modified for usage with small bugs. The tags have to be compact, function with less power and withstand greater mobility. The researchers have made roughly 20 test harmonic radar tags of 2mm to 3mm wide, allowing them to experiment around with different parameters and gain a better knowledge of tag design with the idea of it could dispatch a swarm of UAVs to track and identify the insect in real-time.

The transmitters being fine-tuned for this project, unlike prior harmonic radar tracking facilities, are constructed with mobility in mind and operate with a significantly reduced power need. This enables substantially lower-cost data collection in complicated landscapes and over longer distances.

In future, drones could possibly not only track endangered insects but can also contribute to detecting and monitoring seemingly imperceptible fluctuations within wildlife populations, which can facilitate more informed and proactive conservation efforts. Especially with so many animals across the world facing extinction, the need for these impressive techs would possibly be the solution to the wildlife extinction.

Drone technology can be used to monitor key animal populations and aid in conservation efforts. This approach is not only more precise, but it is also non-invasive, allowing researchers to see the animal in its natural state without harming it. By improving safety measures and saving money with drone technology, conservationists can put their focus on studying these animals and bringing them back from the point of extinction.

To counter current wildlife tracking challenges, animals are tranquillized and given radio collars, these animals often wake up scared or terrified, altering their regular behaviour. Using drones to accomplish these tracking chores is a less intrusive technique to get the same outcome.

Up to this point drones and the natural world did not get off to the best start. Nevertheless, this is beginning to change. Drone technology is at the vanguard of several critical conservation projects at a time when wildlife needs protection more than ever. The research team of the University of Canterbury expects to start field testing in 2023, beginning with ground-based insects before moving on to the more difficult task of tracking insects in flight. This groundbreaking finding could have implications in a variety of sectors, including biosecurity and medical imaging.

New Zealanders who want to keep their mobile phone number when switching providers – known as number porting – will now receive an authentication message through SMS to help prevent fraud.

Number porting fraud has been relatively rare in Aotearoa, with government cybersecurity agency CERT NZ saying less than 10 Kiwis had been hit by the scam before March last year. But because it can give hackers access to so much of the victim’s online life, the impact can be devastating with the average loss worth around USD 20,000.

Once a fraudster has access to the victim’s mobile phone number, they then can take advantage of the two-factor authentication used by online banks to authenticate logins and large money transfers. Now, with the new SMS authentication system, it will alert the user if their mobile provider has received a request to port their phone number and it will highlight that they should contact their mobile provider and bank immediately if they did not request it.

Number porting was put in place in 2007 to make it easy for consumers to retain their existing phone number when changing mobile providers, said the NZ Telecommunications Forum Communications Director. However, as the industry became concerned recently about the potential for fraudsters to exploit the Number Porting process, these new security measures will add another layer of protection for customers.

A more advanced SMS solution, which will require customers to reply to an SMS confirming they want to port their number, is under development and is expected to be rolled out in October 2021.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, the number of cybersecurity attacks being reported in New Zealand is on the rise. The data comes from CERT NZ’s annual summary for 2020, which has been released recently. It showed the agency received nearly 8,000 reports of cybersecurity incidents last year, a 65% increase from the year before.

According to the agency, they are developing a much richer understanding of the types of threats and issues that are affecting New Zealanders, and New Zealand businesses. Phishing and credential harvesting (where an attacker collects personal data) were the most reported form of attacks and were up 76% in 2019. Behind those were scams and fraud reports, which are up by 11%.

According to experts, there are simple things every citizen can do to try and ensure their safety online. The advice nowadays is to make sure that passwords are unique and long. Users can do that easily by looking around the room and naming four random objects they see – a “really good way” of making a unique password. While forgetting passwords is a reason people reuse the same ones again, uniqueness is important so that if you lose a password someone cannot access more of your online accounts.

Another way is two-step or two-factor authentication, which involves a second step to logging in, like an SMS message with a unique code or approving the log in via a third-party app. Experts say that this is beneficial because if a user gets phished (if they accidentally give out their password), someone else needs a second step to access the account.

Phishing is where the attacker sends a fake message designed to trick the victim into revealing sensitive information, like passwords. Even cyber specialists benefit from that added layer of security.

Another would be automatic backups; users must make sure that their phones and other devices are backed up to places like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive.

Alternatively, citizens like Kiwis in New Zealand can call government organisations like CERT NZ, which supports businesses, organisations and individuals affected by cybersecurity incidents.

New Zealand has joined Artemis Accords; an international arrangement to cooperate with NASA on peaceful exploration and activity in outer space, as per news reports. The accords are an international agreement between governments that set principles around the exploration of space, including support of NASA’s Artemis programme to return humans to the Moon in 2024.

NASA is explicitly seeking international collaboration and outsourcing key technology solutions to the private sector. Space exploration not only increases the knowledge of the planet and universe while encouraging research, science and innovation, it also provides economic opportunities for member countries like New Zealand.

New Zealand’s space sector is worth over USD 1 billion and the country’s space manufacturing industry generates around USD 180 million in revenue each year. The government’s economic priorities include supporting firms to make the most of international connections. The Artemis Accords enable the country to prepare for future economic and trade opportunities as well as meeting foreign policy objectives.

To further boost the country’s space programme, Immigration New Zealand said 156 foreigners were granted border exemptions as part of a government-approved programme for an aerospace company in New Zealand.

The aerospace company had focused on bringing in essential workers for its launches, who would usually stay for two weeks after completing managed isolation. For every launch, they bring in a small number of experts to do a range of launch-specific tasks. Satellites are incredibly complex machines and they require a lot of work to prepare for launch, that can only really be done by highly skilled experts, said the company.

They added that they need to bring in about a dozen specialists to help prepare for each satellite launch, and the aerospace company has a launch scheduled every month. Typically, these roles will be satellite integration experts, the people who prepare the satellites to be ready for launch. There are lots of testing and complex processes that must be undertaken usually in the two weeks before a lift-off.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, New Zealand’s space-tech projects include innovative and novel research across a wide range of fields that will allow the country’s researchers to develop critical competencies alongside world-class partners.

The six projects that already received funding are the following:

  • Small-satellite radar to monitor NZ’s oceans and coasts

This is a project of the University of Auckland. The University will be collaborating with German and Canadian researchers to develop a prototype satellite radar system suitable for integration on CubeSat platforms.

  • Space satellite mission design and control

This is also a project of the University of Auckland, which will establish collaboration between the University and the Australian National Concurrent Design Facility (ANCDF), which is located at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

  • Taking biochemistry to new heights: developing nanosatellites for protein crystallisation

A project of the University of Canterbury, it will combine the expertise of their scientists and engineers with those from the University of Auckland as well as with partners from the Arizona State University, the ISS U.S. National Laboratory, and JAXA, to advance research and create new global opportunities for New Zealand’s space sector.

  • Thermal management of cryogenic superconducting magnets in small satellites

This project of Victoria University of Wellington will have the University’s Robinson Research Institute (RRI) working together with the UNSW Canberra Space Group on strategic problems in satellite technology.

  • Development of environmentally friendly, high-performance satellite propulsion systems for replacement of toxic hydrazine

A project by Dawn Aerospace aims to address the problem experienced by traditional propulsion systems for large satellite and space crafts of using a deadly toxic and lethal fuel called Hydrazine, which is extremely bad for the environment, deadly and expensive.

  • Advanced small satellite control systems for collision avoidance and orbital debris mitigation

A project of Swarm NZ Limited aims to create a software platform that will allow satellite operators to reduce the probability of in-space collisions.

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