Topic: Trends

What Is A Signature — Really?

Signing an agreement often means to write your name with ink on paper. At least in the Western world. A quick search on the Internet reveals that stamps have been used for similar purposes in many cultures since ancient times. Personal stamps are still in common use, for instance, in Korea and Japan. Thousands of years ago, an agreement could be made in two copies. One was permanently enclosed in a clay jar. The only way to access the sealed copy was to break the jar.

What is the purpose of these various customs? How do they compare to modern-day digital signatures?

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Decent Digital Signatures

Digital signatures, also known as e-signatures, have been with us for some time now. For instance, a European Union directive 1999 conferred legal status to electronic signatures. By 2003 it had been followed by national legislation in the member states.

There are many implementations of this new technology. A surprising number of them choose to deviate from what I would call decent practices for using digital signatures.

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2010 U-City World Forum

The Korean Ubiquitous City Association is organizing a first U-City World Forum this year, calling for international participation.

A U-city is a city where you want to live, by definition. South Korea has seen an astounding rate of urbanization. A large part of the country’s population lives in Seoul, a megacity. No wonder building attractive and sustainable cities is a hot topic in Korea. Large-scale projects are underway to take principles to practice.
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“Ubiquitous”, a Hidden Language Trap in Korean and Japanese IT

The word ubiquitous is a key to understanding Korean and Japanese information technology (IT). An example: U-city (U as in ubiquitous) is a concept heavily promoted in Korea. All the major Korean cities strive to earn the U-city label. Ubiquitous, according to an English dictionary, means found or seeming to be found everywhere. How can a city be found everywhere? The very ambition to be found everywhere may seem mysterious, or even suspect to a Westerner.

However, to Koreans and the Japanese ubiquitous has a different meaning. The double semantics of this word is little known. Since I couldn’t find any previous work on this subject I recently wrote an article about it, now published in the proceedings of the ICISA 2010 conference.
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Seriously Ubiquitous

This blog has featured a few posts and reports about “ubiquitous”, the way this word is used in Japanese and Korean information technology. Submitting these ideas to a reality test was tempting, so I decided to write up a paper for a Korean IT conference. The paper was accepted even though the conference is mainly technical.
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What’s So Ubiquitous About ONS?

There may be life on March, and there just may be people out there wondering why I wrote a post about ONS under the “ubiquitous” theme. What’s ubiquitous about an Object Name Service?

(Note in passing: If my use of ubiquitous seems suspect, please download the “U-Essence” report from this website.)

The reason is wireless sensor networks, also known as Ubiquitous Sensor Networks (USN) in Korea and Japan.

Wireless sensors are regarded as an extension of RFID technology even if they differ in several respects. Simply put, a sensor is active, transmitting a varying measurement value and depends on continuous power supply. A plain RFID tag is passive because it relies on radio frequencey energy beamed to it by the tag reader. It transmits the same identity every time.

The ONS (Object Name Service) was invented for passive RFID tags. By extrapolation the ONS is also found in some sensor network architectures. My previous post raised objections about the ONS for passive RFID tags, mainly based on security considerations. For sensor networks the ONS functionality is plain irrelevant in many cases. Let me sketch an alternative.
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Object Name Service Objections

The Object Name Service (ONS) [2] proposed by EPCglobal is specified to use DNS (the Domain Name System) for looking up object identities. An object identity in this case is essentially an Electronic Product Code (EPC).

I have strong misgivings about this ONS design. Primarily because it is a fundamental mixing up of concerns. But also because DNS should not be entrusted with sensitive information.
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Device Big Bang: The Need for an Infrastructure

The novelty of the e-era (e as in e-government) was to elevate digital documents to legally binding status. Before that time a word processor was a tool for preparing paper documents.

The u-era (u as in ubiquitous) introduces a new breed of communicating participants: objects. The e-era was concerned with digital people-to-people communication. The u-era adds people-to-object and object-to-object channels. The number of communicating devices keeps growing at an explosive rate. The “device big bang” is here. Devices will outnumber people on the Internet, creating the Internet of things.

Let me suggest that a new infrastructure is needed. Why would devices need more infrastructure than just the Internet? Let’s go through an example.
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The Essence of “Ubiquitous”

The West generally knows little about the ubiquitous wave that has swept into Korean and Japanese information and telecom technology with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. In some measure Westerners are hampered by a perplexing language issue.

Korea and Japan both attest to having passed from the e-era to the u-era. Is this just buzz?
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Dark Clouds on the Cloud Computing Sky

Cloud computing is the wave of the future, isn’t it? These days many voices would make you believe that only total blockheads could have doubts about it. The Cloud is touted as the ultimate outsourcing solution.

As often is the case: The difference between theory and practice is greater in practice than in theory. In my experience the weakest link is the ISP. Here is a mini case study.
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