Security, complexity watchwords at IP Expo

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A full complement of EM360 staff attended the IP Expo in London this year, but even turning up in numbers we couldn’t cover more than a fraction of what was on show. 

Hundreds of companies, thousands of their employees, bright flashing lights, things that moved, blinked, whirred and hummed, and even brains which uttered lucid explanations of highly abstract and complex computer technology. It was all there, and in very considerable amounts.

The organiser, Kaizo, has made the event one of the leading tech events in the world, with shows in London, Manchester and Stockholm, Sweden. And some of the biggest names in tech are always in in attendance.

This year, the keynote speech was given by the globally acknowledged artificial intelligence expert Professor Nick Bostrom, whose daytime jobs include directorships at the Strategic Artificial Intelligence Research Centre, and the Future of Humanity Institute, as well as their associated university roles – both Oxford and Cambridge.

All of the keynote theatres were filled for the speech, with Bostrom’s talk being live streamed across the entire venue.

Bostrom’s research, while unearthing many answers, dig up far more questions that humans are able to answer now. His book, Superintelligence, is one of the most well-read books on the subject to have been published this year.

At the press conference after his speech, a small group of journalists quizzed him about what the future holds, and some of his answers ended up in Newsweek and many other media within minutes.

But to summarise, his view is that AI holds the promise of great rewards as well the risk of enormous calamities. It might seem neither here nor there, but the details are what matters.

AI is no longer merely an interesting talking point, and not even just a big business, it could well be the business to end all businesses. For what will humans do when AI-fed computers and robots can do all kinds of work and everything else?

Even before that, there’s the worry about cyber security and ongoing asymmetrical conflicts, both of which features AI systems pitted against each other. This is a trend which keep growing, according to Bostrom.

Bostrom wasn’t the only one talking about security issues – pretty much everyone else was. Most had questions, some had answers. And one claimed to know everything.

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“Who is the best or worst? I don’t know, because there are so many attacks coming from them through cyberspace.”
Eugene Kaspersky

And if the one making that claim is Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of Kaspersky, you’d want to take him seriously.

Taking part in a panel discussion attended by several hundred people, Kaspersky shared his deep knowledge of the latest and most sophisticated security threats, perpetrated by persons mostly unknown.

Kaspersky said that while the cybercriminals go to great lengths to hide their identities and locations, he has ways of making them talk, or at least listening in to the way they talk, and that is one of the ways he can establish what the strategy for defence should be.

Talking of defence, BAE Systems took up a large amount of space at the event to showcase their new cybersecurity service, something the company calls “applied intelligence”. BAE calls its staff “cyber special forces”, and as would be expected, mostly deals with governments, law-enforcement forces and of course defence establishments.

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“We’ve lost control over what enters the network.”
Jean Turgeon

The clamour of questions about security did not stop there, with the internet of things also getting a pat-down from a range of experts, including Jean Turgeon, chief technologist at Avaya, whose presentation was another attended by many hundreds at the main keynote stage.

Turgeon tackled the convoluted nature of the IoT and the massive challenge of protecting the thingy ecosystem against criminals who approach their targets as though it were a massive game of chess.

But there were some who were able to find the time to explain to headline-hunting hacks some of the most unfathomable computing concepts being advanced in the market today.

Graham Brown, managing director of Gyrocom, could probably explain the intricacies of quantum entanglement to Dumb and Dumber, but all he had to do was tell us what software-defined networks are and how they’re going to transform the data centres at least as much as virtualisation did.

More details, with interviews, in subsequent instalments.