Featured Technology: AMR/AMI Technologies for the Utilities Space

Image Courtesy: iFusionIT
 iFusionIT, LLC, a Bellevue, Washington based multinational technology company, has launched itself into building applications and expertise in the Utilities domain with the launch of three customer funded projects in the space of AMR/AMI technologies. ZCON (Zero Consumption), ReX Relationship Exceptions) are built as part of the MPA (Meter Performance Analytics) initiative and the last one being the TAT (Technology Assessment Tool).

On many occasions a meter transmitting read over the network could go faulty and report NO USAGE or sometimes a perfect meter reports NO USAGE. Utilities spend huge amount of resources, and money to investigate such meters. Most of the time such meters are either seasonal (Ex: Agriculture Meters), Vacation Homes and many other possible situations. ZCON (Zero Consumption) is a .NET, WCF, WPF based application with Oracle and SQL Server as the backend.

The system tracks every meter reporting zero usage using batch, real-time interfaces and a web front-end from the start to finish (meters start consuming or are replaced). This tool has allowed our clients to have visibility, monitor all ZERO CONSUMPTION meters and allowed for proper tracking of every meter reporting ZERO CONSUMPTION.

Built using latest Microsoft Technologies, this tool enhances the user’s ability to report vintage dates and resolution of meters. Reporting features were built using SSRS and SSIS to report on different categories and irregular use codes. Various levels of reports from operations to Analytical Reports were custom built. The data structures and design is architected to produce auto tracking and progression of meters over a period of time from a NEW and UNKNOWN category to a Service Order Creation and resolution of the meter.

The middle tier Web services focused to provide smooth integration between various systems within the organization is built on a solid foundation from Microsoft’s WCF platform. Webservice’s defined and developed follow CIM compliance models with a message envelope and a Payload. These web services are built as listeners and provide data outputs and data validations for various systems integrating within ZCON called the ReX (Relationship Experience) modules. The services connect to SQL and Oracle databases with calls to stored procedures and functions to display customer history, customer power usage patterns and seasonal analysis. Our later version will include Silverlight features and a complete SSIS integration into the current software design.

The System exposes 20 services to add meter exceptions, to add events, to add new exceptions and admin functionality.

For more information about iFusionIT, LLC and its technological initiatives, you may contact them at Contactus@ifusionit.com .

Source: iFusionIT.com


Amazon's tablet to seriously challenge Apple's iPad

Amazon.com Inc, which revolutionized reading with its Kindle e-reader, is expected to unveil a tablet computer this week that analysts say will seriously challenge Apple's market dominating iPad.
Amazon on Friday invited media to a press conference to be held in New York on Wednesday, declining to provide further details.
But analysts were confident that the world's largest Internet retailer will introduce its long-awaited tablet computer this year to expand in mobile commerce and sell more digital goods and services.
"Wednesday is tablet day," BGC partners analyst Colin Gillis told Reuters.
The tablet has been awaited as a strong competitor to Apple Inc's iPad. Apple has sold about 29 million of the devices since its launch in April 2010.
"The real issue here is that, you know, it is likely going to be good for consumers; is this going to be good for shareholders?," Gillis said. He wondered whether Amazon would price the tablet below those of rivals -- and thereby do little to boost margins.
"Knowing Amazon, it is likely to be a very aggressive price," Gillis said.
In much the same way Amazon's Kindle e-reader was priced low to quickly get traction among readers the company is likely to keep the price of its tablet low to attract users and sell other content and services, one analyst said.
"It's a marketing tool to build a relationship with customers and sell them cloud (computing) services," said James McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester Research.
While Amazon has remained tight lipped even about the device's existence, the TechCrunch blog earlier this month said the Amazon tablet also will be called Kindle.
It will be a 7 inch device with a full color, touch screen, run on Google's Android software and cost $250, the blog said, well below the price of the least expensive iPad.
Robert Baird & Co analyst Colin Sebastian said in a note last month than an Amazon tablet would be a "game-changer." Sebastian forecast the device could sell 3 million units in its first year.
The tablet could pose a major threat to Apple because of the Kindle's popularity and the movie and music services Amazon sells.
Forrester's McQuivey said the device also takes aim at Barnes & Noble Inc's NookColor device, which hit the market last year and features tablet functionalities.
Several technology companies like Research In Motion and Samsung have introduced tablets that sold poorly. Hewlett Packard Co announced recently it would abandon its tablet.
Amazon shares finished the day up 0.2 percent at $223.61 on Friday on Nasdaq. The stock had traded as low as $219.06, but rallied as invitations to the media event began arriving.

Source: Reuters


Saudi King okays women to vote... but still can't drive

JEDDAH - Saudi Arabia's king announced on Sunday women would be given the right to vote and stand in elections, a bold shift in the ultra-conservative absolute monarchy as pressure for social and democratic reform sweeps the Middle East.
It was by far the biggest change in Saudi Arabia's tightly-controlled society yet ordered by the 88-year-old Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, who took power six years ago with a reformer's reputation but has ruled as a cautious conservative.
In practice, the measure will do little to change how the country is run: Saudi Arabia's rulers allow elections only for half of the seats on municipal councils which have few powers. Only men will vote at the next elections which will take place next week; women will be allowed to vote in 2015.
The king did not address broader issues of women's rights in a country where women are not allowed to drive and require a male relative's permission to work or leave the country.
But the announcement was hailed by liberals and activists who said it raised hopes that other demands for greater democratic and social rights might one day be met.
"This is great news," said Saudi writer and women's rights activist Wajeha al-Huwaider. "Women's voices will finally be heard. Now it is time to remove other barriers like not allowing women to drive cars and not being able to function, to live a normal life without male guardians."
In his five-minute speech, Abdullah said women would be permitted join the unelected advisory Shura Council, which vets legislation although it has no binding powers.
"Because we refuse to marginalize women in society in all roles that comply with sharia (Islamic law), we have decided, after deliberation with our senior ulama (clerics) and others... to involve women in the Shura Council as members, starting from the next term," he said.
"Women will be able to run as candidates in the municipal election and will even have a right to vote."
In a country where even cautious change is bitterly opposed by conservative clerics and some members of the ruling family, women's rights have drawn scrutiny at home and from abroad.
Washington, Saudi Arabia's ally, praised the measures, saying they offered women "new ways to participate in the decisions that affect their lives and communities."
"The announcements made today represent an important step forward in expanding the rights of women in Saudi Arabia," said a White House statement. "We support King Abdullah and the people of Saudi Arabia as they undertake these and other reforms."
Robert Lacey, author of two books about the kingdom, described the change as the first positive response to a pent-up demand for reform that has begun to emerge in Saudi Arabia as popular democracy movements spread elsewhere in the Middle East.
During the Arab Spring pro-democracy protests, Saudi activists called for demonstrations, but only tiny numbers of people responded by taking to the streets, apart from members of the Shi'ite minority in the country's Eastern Province.
Saudi Arabia responded by barring demonstrations and by announcing nearly $130 billion in social spending in March.
"This is the first positive, progressive speech out of the government since the Arab Spring," said Lacey. "First the warnings, then the payments, now the beginnings of solid reform."
The king did not address broader issues of women's social rights, such as the ban on issuing driving licenses to women, which prompted small protests this summer by women who defied the authorities and drove.
Women in Saudi Arabia must also have written approval from a male guardian -- a father, husband, brother or son -- to leave the country, work or even undergo certain medical operations.
In 2002, the Saudi religious police shocked the nation and the world when they prevented schoolgirls from evacuating a burning building because they were not wearing full Islamic attire. Fifteen died.
King Abdullah has earned a reputation as a cautious reformer since he started to run the kingdom as de facto regent during the illness of his predecessor, King Fahd.
He built a new university for students of both sexes and encouraged women to participate more in the labor market. But he did little to alter the political system, which placed absolute power in the hands of a single generation of brothers since his father, state founder Abdulaziz, died in 1953.
After entering the Shura Council chamber leaning heavily on a cane on Sunday, Abdullah read only a section of a prepared statement that was later released in full by the authorities.
Tarek Fadaak, a member of the Shura Council and former chairman of the Jeddah city council, said: "The royal decision will not be challenged... but what remains to be seen is how these directives will be applied."
Naila Attar, who organized a campaign for women to be allowed to participate in the municipal council elections, said the move marked the beginning of progress.
"Despite the issue of the effectiveness of these councils, women's involvement in them was necessary. Maybe after women join there will be other changes," she said. "It is the top of the pyramid and a step in the direction for more decisions regarding women."

Source: Reuters


Nigeria to abstain in Palestine UN vote

Nigeria's President G. Ebele Jonathan, has said that the West African nation will abstain from the United Nations Security Council vote on Palestinian statehood. This decision represents a diplomatic success for Israel who want to prevent a Palestinian state attaining UN membership.

The office of the Isreali Defense Minister, Ehud Barak made this known to the press yesterday. According to Barak, Jonathan’s decision followed a meeting that was held in New York. Before the meeting, Nigeria was one of the Security Council members who was against passing the resolution, but was yet to take a decision on how to vote.

Barak had earlier updated his Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of his plan to meet with Jonathan as well as United States government officials who were also working against the Palestinian Authority’s statehood bid from passing in the Security Council.

The office further revealed that the meeting was held last week, adding that they also discuss other pressing matters, regarding the wave of international terrorism, which, the two countries worked out modalities on how to tackle.

The United States has the veto power to over rule whatever decision taken in respect of the passing, and has made it clear that it will not hesitate to make use of it as they also are against the bid.

The Security Council members that are against Palestine's UN membership are are the U.S, Germany and Colombia while China,IndiaLebanonRussia, and South Africa are in favour.

Early hours of yesterday revealed that many of the Security Council member states were still confused about the vote, includingGabon who made it known yesterday they are yet to make a decision.

Source: Daily Times of Nigeria


A war on Africa

Touted as part of a war of liberation, NATOs intervention in Libya aims to stymie moves to strengthen African unity and independence, writes Dan Glazebrook from London....

Africa the key to global economic growth: this was a refreshingly honest recent headline from the Washington Post, but hardly one that qualifies as news. African labour and resources, as any decent economic historian will tell you, have been the key to global economic growth for centuries.
When the Europeans discovered America 500 years ago, their economic system went viral. Increasingly, European powers realised that the balance of power at home would be dictated by the strength they were able to draw from their colonies abroad. Imperialism (aka capitalism) has been the fundamental hallmark of the worlds economic structure ever since.
For Africa, this has meant non-stop subjection to an increasingly systematic plunder of people and resources that has been unrelenting to this day. First was the brutal kidnapping of tens of millions of Africans to replace the indigenous American workforce that had been wiped out by the Europeans. The slave trade was devastating for African economies, which were rarely able to withstand the population collapse; but the capital it created for plantation owners in the Caribbean laid the foundations for Europes industrial revolution.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, as more and more precious raw materials were found in Africa (especially tin, rubber, gold and silver), the theft of land and resources ultimately resulted in the so-called Scramble for Africa of the 1870s, when, over the course of a few years, Europeans divided up the entire continent (with the exception of Ethiopia) amongst themselves. By this point, the worlds economy was increasingly becoming an integrated whole, with Africa continuing to provide the basis for European industrial development as Africans were stripped of their land and forced down gold mines and onto rubber plantations.
After World War II, the European powers, weakened by years of unremitting industrial slaughter of each other, contrived to adapt colonialism to the new conditions in which they found themselves. As national liberation movements grew in strength, the European powers confronted a new economic reality the cost of subduing the restless natives was starting to near the level of wealth they were able to extract from them.
Their favoured solution was what former Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah termed neo-colonialism handing over the formal attributes of political sovereignty to a trusted bunch of hand-picked cronies who would allow the economic exploitation of their countries to continue unabated. In other words, the idea was to adapt colonialism so that Africans themselves would be forced to shoulder the burden and cost of policing their own populations.
In practice, it wasnt that simple. All across Asia, Africa and Latin America, mass movements began to demand control of their own resources, and in many places these movements managed to gain power sometimes through guerrilla struggle, sometimes through the ballot box. This led to vicious wars by the European powers now under the leadership of their upstart protégé, the USA to destroy such movements. This struggle, not the so- called Cold War, is what defined the history of post-war international relations.
So far, neo-colonialism has largely been a successful project for the Europeans and the US. Africas role as a provider of cheap, often slave, labour and minerals has largely continued unabated. Poverty and disunity have been the essential ingredients that have allowed this exploitation to continue. However, both are now under serious threat.
Chinese investment in Africa over the past ten years has been building up African industry and infrastructure in a way that may begin to tackle the continents poverty. In China, these policies have brought about unprecedented reductions in poverty and have helped to lift the country into the position it will shortly hold as the worlds leading economic power. If Africa follows this model, or anything like it, the Wests 500-year plunder of Africas wealth may be nearing a close.
To prevent this threat of African development, the Europeans and the USA have responded in the only way they know how militarily. Four years ago, the US set up a new command and control centre for the military subjugation of Africa, called AFRICOM. The problem for the US was that no African country wanted to host them; indeed, until very recently, Africa was unique in being the only continent in the world without a US military base. And this fact is in no small part thanks to the efforts of the Libyan government.
Before Gaddafis revolution deposed the British-backed King Idris in 1969, Libya had hosted one of the worlds biggest US airbases, the Wheelus Air Base; but within a year of the revolution, it had been closed down and all foreign military personnel expelled.
More recently, Gaddafi had been actively working to scupper AFRICOM. African governments that were offered money by the US to host a base were typically offered double by Gaddafi to refuse it, and in 2008 this ad hoc opposition crystallised in a formal rejection of AFRICOM by the African Union (AU).
Perhaps even more worrying for US and European domination of the continent were the huge resources that Gaddafi was channelling into African development. The Libyan government was by far the largest investor in Africas first-ever satellite, launched in 2007, which freed Africa from $500 million per year in payments to European satellite companies.
Even worse for the colonial powers, Libya had allocated $30 billion for the African Unions three big financial projects, aimed at ending African dependence on western finance. The African Investment Bank, with its headquarters in Libya, was to invest in African development without charging interest, which would have seriously threatened the International Monetary Funds domination of Africa a crucial pillar for keeping Africa in its impoverished position.
Gaddafi was also leading the AUs development of a new gold-backed African currency, which would have cut yet another of the strings that keep Africa at the mercy of the West, with $42 billion already allocated to this project again, much of it by Libya.
NATOs war is aimed at ending Libyas trajectory as a socialist, anti- imperialist, pan-Africanist nation in the forefront of moves to strengthen African unity and independence. The rebels have made clear their virulent racism from the very start of their insurrection, rounding up or executing thousands of black African workers and students. All the African development funds for the projects described above have been frozen by the NATO countries and are to be handed over to their hand-picked buddies in the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) to spend instead on weapons to facilitate their war.
For Africa, the war is far from over. The African continent must recognise that NATOs lashing out is a sign of desperation, of impotence, of its inability to stop the inevitable rise of Africa onto the world stage. Africa must learn lessons from Libya, continue the drive towards pan-African unity, and continue to resist AFRICOM. Plenty of Libyans will still be with them when they do so.

Source: Al-Ahram Weekly


Carol Bartz finally resigns from Yahoo board of directors

Carol Bartz, whose role as Yahoo CEO ended abruptly last Tuesday, has resigned from the Yahoo board.

Having been abruptly ousted from the position she had held for less than three years, Bartz had initially stated that she would not step down from the Yahoo board, but now she seems to have changed her mind.... and rightly so.

There is no question in the minds of many neutral industry watchers that Bartz was treated unfairly (she was more graphic in her own assessment).

After all, we are talking about the same Yahoo board that blew a Microsoft acquisition deal of $40+ billion dollars.

That was obviously not Carol Bartz's fault and the fact that the same incompetent board has now set-up an "Executive Leadership Council" to replace Bartz, again shows the board itself ought to be fired.

As would be the norm, in terms of making sound business sense, a succession mechanism should have been in place to ensure a smooth transition, as we've seen with the likes of Microsoft, Google and Apple, more recently.

Yahoo has indeed become a dinosaur in its space and the bitter truth may indeed surface sooner rather than later.... that Carol Bartz was not the problem.

In closing, I only have one small issue with Bartz; she should have taken the high road as her behavior in the after-math of her firing, may have doomed her career as a Chief Executive in the industry.

But then again, you never know.


Cloud Security Is Looking Overcast

By Aaron Ricadela

Eran Feigenbaum knows a thing or two about risk. He moonlights as the TV and stage magician “Eran Raven,” known for stunts involving snakes, scorpions, and razor blades. He once played Russian roulette with nail guns on the NBC show Phenomenon, and in August he did a five-day run at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. That pedigree serves him well in his day job as director of security for Google’s (GOOG) business applications, where he’s responsible for convincing corporate risk managers of the safety of cloud computing. Working in computer security requires “a hyperawareness” of risk, he says, “the same as when you’re on stage performing with nail guns.”

Cloud computing has become one of tech’s biggest buzzwords. These services, offered by Google, Microsoft (MSFT), Amazon.com (AMZN), and dozens of others, offer computing power over the Internet as an alternative for companies that have traditionally bought their own fleets of giant server computers. The approach has won fans among corporate software developers and rank-and-file employees who like having access to documents and programs from any device at any time.

Corporate policymakers, though, have yet to fully embrace the cloud, fearing that the services may compromise proprietary data. A survey by researcher IDC found that fewer than a third of IT executives feel the benefits of cloud computing outweigh its risks. Nearly a quarter of the 500 executives surveyed said they don’t fully understand the regulatory and compliance issues in cloud computing, and 47 percent say cloud services present a security threat. Companies that don’t understand the risks “just shouldn’t use cloud computing,” says IDC analyst Phil Hochmuth. “The potential for a security breach or a compliance violation can be high.”

David Bodnick is seeing the change firsthand. “The risks of the cloud have been particularly salient for a few of our clients,” says Bodnick, president of WebIntensive Software, a New York company that develops online applications for dozens of customers such as LexisNexis, the United Nations, and Columbia University. One WebIntensive client, a search engine called Startpage, didn’t want to use a cloud service because it feared its data might remain on remote servers, and Startpage promises customers that it won’t store their Web-search history. A health-care information company let WebIntensive incorporate cloud storage into its application, but only if patient information were encrypted, which boosted the cost by 15 percent. “We are now getting questions that we didn’t before about the safety of hosting applications in the cloud,” says Bodnick.

Information technology managers say cloud computing lets employees skirt policies meant to keep viruses and hackers out of corporate systems and ensure compliance with regulations governing e-mail communications. At SF Bay Pediatrics in San Francisco and Mill Valley, Calif., doctors can collaborate on informational pamphlets for patients using Google Apps and online file storage service Dropbox, and can e-mail photos of conditions taken with their iPhones, says Chief Information Officer Andrew Johnson. But they’re forbidden from recording diagnoses or other information about patients because online services can’t guarantee adherence to federal privacy regulations. “We don’t store any of that in the cloud,” Johnson says.

Some managers who have tentatively adopted cloud computing fret that it may not be as reliable as their own systems. In April and in August, Amazon Web Services suffered crashes that took down sites including Netflix (NFLX) and smartphone app developer Foursquare. Online services from Microsoft and Google have had similar disruptions, cutting off users of Web-based e-mail, document sharing, and other applications. That has led to fears about buying too many essential programs from cloud services, says Sanjay Poonen, president of global solutions at business software maker SAP (SAP). Although SAP in May struck a deal to run some of its applications on Amazon’s service, Poonen says, “Nobody’s ready to move their entire business process, end-to-end, to the cloud.”

Cloud companies say they understand the worries. “When enterprises move to the cloud they are embarking on a fundamentally different way of doing computing,” says Adam Selipsky, vice-president of Amazon Web Services. Amazon, Microsoft, and Google all say they undergo a battery of risk audits of a host of factors such as access to data centers, safeguards on personal information in credit-card transactions, and firewalls to ward off hackers. Furthermore, they say, their services can be more reliable than many corporate systems. Gmail, for instance, was operational 99.984 percent of the time in 2010, and is at 99.99 percent uptime so far this year, Feigenbaum says. “That’s less than five minutes of downtime a month. Not too many organizations can do that internally.”

The bottomline: Tech companies want corporations to adopt cloud computing, but nearly half of CIOs view such services as a security threat.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek


Nigeria to diversify up-to 10% of its foreign reserves into Chinese yuan

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is diversifying its foreign exchange reserves away from the U.S. dollar and will hold between 5 to 10 per cent of them in Chinese yuan.
CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi, stated this on Monday while on a visit to China. “We are looking at anything to start with from 5 to 10 per cent of our reserves,” he said. 
However, Sanusi added that the bulk of the country’s reserves would remain in dollars. “The dollar and the euro are not going to disappear,” he said. “They are going to remain an important part of our holdings.”

Nigeria's satellites return first pictures

Nigeria's latest Earth observation satellites have returned their first pictures.
The spacecraft, launched on 17 August, give the African nation a powerful new capability to map its own lands and other parts of the globe.
NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X will also assist the Disaster Monitoring Constellation.
This UK-managed fleet of spacecraft is used to picture regions of the Earth gripped by natural calamities.
These might be catastrophic floods or a big earthquake. Images sent down from space will often be critical to organising an effective emergency response.
The first picture released from the Nigerian pair is of New Zealand's biggest city, Auckland.
It was acquired by NigeriaSat-X, and reveals the buildings and the landscape surrounding this major urban centre.
It is just possible to see the wakes of ships passing under the harbour bridge that joins downtown Auckland with North Shore City.
The satellite is equipped with a multi-spectral imager for general mapping, agricultural monitoring and disaster relief work.
The resolution in this picture is 22m per pixel. Vegetation is picked out in red.
Both NigeriaSat-X and NigeriaSat-2 were designed and built by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) in Guildford, UK.
What is interesting about NigeriaSat-X is that the work was undertaken by Nigerian engineers themselves. The skills they have learnt will now be taken home so that they can build future spacecraft in their own country.
It is a model previously followed by Turkey. Its engineers received their education at SSTL as well, and the same rocket that launched the Nigerian platforms also launched Rasat.
This remote sensing satellite (7.5m resolution) is the first to have been developed and manufactured in Turkey by Turkish engineers.
SSTL Executive Chairman, Sir Martin Sweeting, commented: "NigeriaSat-X is the product of Nigeria's training and development programme here at Surrey.
"It is a great credit to NASRDA (National Space Research and Development Agency) and their engineers that this satellite is performing well and its operations are progressing so quickly.
"These highly skilled engineers will not only help Nigeria to manage its resources, but also bootstrap its fledgling high-tech economy alongside a growing nucleus of highly trained people."
A first picture should be released from NigeriaSat-2 in the coming days. This is a much more powerful platform, able to resolve details on the Earth's surface just 2.5m across.
Few countries in the world have access to such a capability.