Bike rental system in Santiago, Chile

While I was walking around Santiago de Chile recently, I came across many racks of bright orange bicycles like the one below. It turns out they belong to Bike Santiago, a public bike rental system which is the first of its type in Chile.

Bike rental scheme in Santiago, Chile

The bikes reminded me of an ITGS past paper question from May 2009 which involed a similar system, so I researched it a bit further. The Bike Santiago website is quite good; if you speak Spanish it is definitely worth checking out as it has information about how the system works.

In order to rent bikes from Bike Santiago users must first register their details online or with a customer support centre. This includes taking their personal details and bank account information or a credit card number. Up to four people can be registered on a single credit card. Registered users then receive a "B-Card". This is the card which allows access to the bikes at the stand, releasing the locks and allowing the user access.

Bike Santigo phone app
Source: Bike Santiago
Users are charged a registration fee of 4,990 Chilean pesos per month, which is about  US$7.50. There is also a usage fee: the first 30 minutes of any journey are free; the next 30 minutes cost 500 pesos (about US$0.75), and so on.

The Bike Santiago system also features a smart phone app which can be downloaded to highlight the location of the nearest bike racks and even indicate the number of available bikes.

Systems like this have many links to the ITGS syllabus and can make useful introduction examples for new ITGS students, or review material for students starting the second year of the course. This is a great opportunity to discuss fundamental topics like the hardware used to track bikes and identify users, the communication technologies used to report the status of the bike racks to the phone app (strand 3). Of course there are also a number of ITGS social and ethical issues that are raised, including authenticity, security, and privacy (Strand 1).

On the positive side, Bike Santiago advertise their system as saving communters time and money compared to other public transport options such as the metro / subway or buses. There are also environmental benefits to bicycles too, of course.

In addition to Chile, I noticed a similar bike rental system in Washington DC, and the May 2009 past paper references a system in Lyon, France. Are you aware of other schemes in different parts of the world? Do feel free to post a link in the comments below.

DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) in the ITGS classroom

In early 2014 I wrote about the results of the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) - a two day trial in which disaster robots faced eight different obstacles and challenges. In that competition Google's Schaft robot ultimately came out on top, winning 27 points - 7 more than its nearest rival. 

Earlier this month the finals of the DRC were held. This challenge featured the same eight tasks, but with a new shorter course and a tough 60 minute time limit. Teams had to create robots that could drive a vehicle, drill through a wall, navigate rubble either by clambering across it or clearing a path, and open a valve. 

DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC)
One of the challenges involved driving a vehicle (Source)
The various robotic challenges that have been run by DARPA in the last ten years are very useful teaching tools for the ITGS classroom because they deal with the latest developments in robotic technology. While many of the tasks in the DRC seems relatively simple for humans, they are a challenge for even the most advanced robotic designs. This is great for helping students understand exactly what robotic technology is and is not capable of achieving, which in turn can help them in their examination answers if they are required to evaluate the use of a particular system (this happens a lot in Section C of ITGS paper 1).

A fun activity can be to look at the various teams' robotic designs (an overview of all teams is here), discuss their chances of success and their likely flaws, and then watch the results of the competition to see if your predictions were correct.

The door opening challenge proved difficult for some of the robots (Source)
Another good aspect of the DRC is that the challenges can often be recreated on a smaller scale for classroom robots such as the Lego Mindstorms, similar to the activity I described in the Mars Explorer competition. Seeing students trying to create robots to clear Lego bricks from with a certain area can reveal a wide and creative range of possible solutions and really highlight the need for both good hardware and software design in a robot.

Finally, the development of robots such as these can be a useful starting point for a discussion about the uses and applications of robots, the direction of future developments, and the related social impacts. With DARPA being a military research agency, this can also open some interesting ethical questions.

By now there is a large amount of media covering the DRC. This time lapse of the KAIST robot competing tasks provides an interesting overview:

A full length video of one of the competition's days (no commentary):

And of course, a compilation of robotic spills:

You can view a lot more videos on DARPA's YouTube channel, including full length videos of each day and shortened highlight videos. If you want to know the results of the competition, the BBC has a good article describing the results of the DRC.

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Two ITGS project examples which scored 7s

Back in mid-2012 I wrote about 5 of my students' ITGS internal assessment projects which scored IB grade 7s. That post became the second most popular on this blog, viewed over 22,000 times as ITGS teachers and students looked for examples of what scores well with the IB moderators. At the time the internal assessment criteria were new (first exams 2012) and only one full example was (and still is) provided by the IB.

Since then the requirements for the internal assessment have changed slightly (criterion E, criterion G, and the screencast requirement)but there are still no actual student example projects supplied by the IB.

With this in mind, today I have uploaded two more examples of projects which scored 7s - one excellent example of a database project and one very professional web site. Both scored 7s in the May 2013 exam session, and both feature very good screencasts which really demonstrate the work put into the projects.

Alas Linares Database database was designed for a small accounting company here in El Salvador. The client's problem was the lack of an appropriate filing system for her client information and appointments. One of the stand-out features of the database is the proficient use of forms to create a very friendly and efficient tabbed user interface. The project is also a good example of a project where the language of the client and the product is different from the student's assessment language. Throughout the documentation, especially criterion E, the student makes sure that the Spanish language interface is clearly labeled for the English- speaking examiner.

You can view the student's screencast below, or download PDF copies of each criteria and the database itself from my ITGS web site.

Centro Biblico Cristiano website
This website project features one of the most professional looking websites I have seen created by any student. The layout, colours, and overall design reflect a great understanding of web development techniques, while addressing all of the client's needs. It is even more impressive considering the student created this using a text editor - no web development tools like Dreamweaver were used. Attention to the small details - such as the copyright page and the use of meaningful file names for each page - really make this project stand out from the crowd.

You can view the student's screencast below, view the website itself, or download PDF copies of each criteria from my ITGS web site.

Other grade 7 ITGS projects
Do you have examples of ITGS projects that have scored 7s? It would be great to link to them from here, especially if they have been sent to the IB for moderation.

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Spam and Phishing Examples: ITGS Revision

With the final ITGS exams just around the corner, it is time to revise some basic computer security topics. Today: spam and phishing. Below are four examples of spam and phishing emails which I have received recently. You can click on the images to see a larger version, and I have written some brief notes about each one. You should be able to:
  1. Explain the potential (negative) impacts of spam and phishing emails
  2. Describe features of spam and phishing emails which help you identify them as such
  3. Describe security precautions that users can take to avoid the negative consequences of these emails.
Note: For several of these emails I downloaded attachments. This is generally a bad idea, so don't do it.

The first example is a classic phishing attempt - I have (of course) won the lottery (although disappointingly the amount is not specified) and has, for some reason, been deposited into the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The email includes a few features designed to convince me of the email's authenticity: the 'official stamp' of the RBI at the top and a mention of the bank's governor, Mr Raghuram Rajan, and the United Nations Secretary General. Of course, the bank logo is just a simple image that anybody could include in their email, and while Mr Rahuram is indeed the governor of RBI according to Wikipedia, that means precisely nothing.
RBI phishing email
RBI phishing email
Aside from the rather fantastic story, there are several stand-out warning signs in this email: the English is, at best, difficult to comprehend and - most tellingly I am asked to send my personal details to Gmail account and an Outlook email account. Quite a disappointing end really - they couldn't even disguise the email links so they look like they would compose a message to somebody at RBI.

PayPal is another common target for phishing attacks. This email uses an old trick - "confirming" that a large transaction (240 Euros in this case) has been made from my account, in the hope that I will panic and in my rush to reject a transaction which I never made, follow the phisher's links. The email does something to imitate PayPal's style, including using the company's logo and their colours in the text. The email addresses have also been faked to look at though they came from EA (Electronic Arts - to whom the payment has supposedly been made).

However, despite this supposedly personal email there is a generic greeting ("Hello"), rather than my name. Hovering over the "Dispute Transaction" link at the bottom of the email reveals the link's true destination in the status bar - a website in Russia asking. Not something I will be clicking on soon...

PayPal phishing email
PayPal phishing email

The third email here also targets PayPal and uses a different attack strategy. The email itself looks rather unconvincing - poorly formatted and, while it does include a little footer with a PayPal copyright notice, there is no use of the company's logos or colours. The story is very concerning - PayPal have detected login attempts from a "foreign" IP address. Rather than lock my account, "all" I need to do is download the attached file (sure...) and fill in all of my personal details. So I did. Well, I downloaded the file anyway. This is generally not a good idea, but the attachment was HTML so I downloaded it and opened it in a text editor (not a web browser - I don't want to run any code inside it).

PayPal phishing email
PayPal phishing email

As it turns out, the HTML attachment contained markup for the following form which requests all of my personal details including my password and my credit card number. The form looks quite authentic - but of course is a total scam. No organisation is ever going to ask for your password, and you should never, ever send your credit card details in response to an email, or indeed over any unencrypted channel. I can't help thinking this phishing attempt would have been more convincing if the form had been part of the original email rather than a separate download.

PayPal phishing email
PayPal phishing email

The final example here is something I seem to be receiving more of - notices that couriers are unable to deliver packages. I guess everybody likes receiving packages and nobody wants to believe that they have missed a delivery, which should entice people to click on the email's links or (in this case) download the attachments. This email has a fairly bad attempt at writing a personalised greeting, using the username from my email address (author@....).

The email says the delivery label for my missed package has been attached. This particular attachment is a zip file, inside of which is a file ending in .js (JavaScript). Interestingly GMail marked the email as spam but its filters did not detect any threats when I downloaded the zip file (which is something you should not normally do, of course). However, my antivirus software (Avast) detected the threat, saying the zip file contained the JS:Decode-CAP[Tr] trojan, and wouldn't let me extract it (probably quite sensible). JS:Decode-CAP turns out to be a generic spyware trojan that would have secreted itself on my system monitoring keypresses and file access. Attachments are a classic way for criminals to try to deliver malware to users, so this is not surprising at all.

After reviewing the above examples, a reminder that you should be able to do the following for your upcoming ITGS exams:
  1. Explain the potential (negative) impacts of spam and phishing emails
  2. Describe features of spam and phishing emails which help you identify them as such
  3. Describe security precautions that users can take to avoid the negative consequences of these emails.

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5 Big Data infographics for the ITGS Case Study 2015

With the May IB exams just around the corner, it is time to start revision of all topics on the ITGS syllabus, including the paper 3 case study. By now students should have collected a wide range of both secondary and primary research, be extremely familiar with the stakeholders and situation in the case study booklet, and be able to apply their research to the scenario described there.

As a quick reminder of some of the key concepts, here are five infographics that cover some of the key ideas and issues related to Big Data. You can also view my previous posts 7 examples of Big Data and 7 Videos about Big Data. Click on the infographics below to view the full-sized versions:

1. What is Big Data?
This first infographic gives an overview of the topic, covering some key concepts and explaining the sheer size of Big Data - much bigger than any traditional database. It also covers the key idea of structured data and unstructured data.
What is Big Data infographic
(Click for full version)

2. Building a Big Data Dream Team
Several key stakeholders are mentioned in the 2015 Case Study booklet, and this infographic gives an overview of the types of people the Asociación de Supermercados Independientes might need to employ in order to improve their current IT situation.
Big Data infographic
(Source: Dell Tech One)

3. Retailer's Guide to Big Data
Another infographic which explains the size of Big Data, plus the types of structured and unstructured data that are collected and the challenges many companies face when dealing with this volume of information.
Big Data guide - infographic
(Click for full version)

4. From Big Data to Big Personalizatiom
One of the most important uses of Big Data is to personalise the shopping experience for customers. This infographic explains some of the challenges of achieving these goals.
Big Data and personalization
(Click for full version)

5. The Future of Big Data
Big Data technologies and methods change and improve at a pace perhaps even faster than traditional IT developments. This infographic covers one of the key aspects of the 2015 case study - the sources from which data is collected. As students should know, Big Data consists of far, far more than transaction data collected at supermarket checkouts.
The future of Big Data
(Click for full version)

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7 Examples of Big Data - ITGS Case Study 2015

Yesterday I posted 7 videos that focused on the first step of the ITGS case study - understanding basic idea of Big Data, the keys concepts and definitions of the term. 

Today I am posting 7 more videos which provide a deeper explanation of the benefits of Big Data in retail. Each of these videos includes specific examples of how Big Data can be used to improve marketing, increase customer loyalty, and improve business efficiency - all of which can be applied to the Asociación de Supermercados Independientes (ASI) in the case study. 

If you know of any more good videos, please do add a comment below.

1. Using Big Data to Improve the Customer Experience
This video from Oracle - who produce Big Data solutions - examines the process and benefits of Big Data analysis using a detailed case study of an online video store. It gives excellent examples of how specific pieces of information can be gathered, clustered, and analysed.

2. Hidden connections - Data analysis in brain and supermarket
A brief video focused specifically on supermarkets which explains some of the ways Big Data can be used - for example, to determine which products to place near each other on the shelves.

3. The Data Storm - Retail and the Big Data Revolution
The Data Storm discusses the advantages of using data in marketing to increase sales and brand loyalty, with examples from Office Depot and Karen Millen.

4. Deliver Personalized Retail Experiences Using Big Data
This analysis of Big Data focuses on "turning customers into fans" - using Big Data to create personalised shopping experiences that encourage customers to return again and again. It features several great examples from the Milano fashion brand, explaining how data from personal profiles and social media like Facebook and Pinterest can be harnessed.

5. Beyond big data: New perspectives on marketing
Focusing specifically on grocery stores and supermarkets, this video examines the collection of use of consumer data. It uses Big Data to answer a number of questions about customers, including which products they are likely to buy, and how likely they are to switch brands - lots of examples which can readily be applied to the supermarkets case study.

6. Big Data Analytics: 11 Case Histories and Success Stories
This video includes a lot good, brief examples of the use of Big Data (not always linked to retail), including the famous example of Target knowing a girl was pregnant before her father did.

7. What is Predictive Analytics?
This presentation is a little bit dry, but still quite accessible for ITGS students. It contains a lot of excellent information about the types of data that can be collected as part of a Big Data system, and the ways that data can be used. Definitely worth a watch, as it covers a lot of the key terminology in the case study document.

Do you know of other videos that would be helpful for the 2015 case study? Please leave a comment below.

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7 Videos about Big Data for the ITGS Case Study
The 2015 ITGS case study for the paper 3 exam is entitled Asociación de Supermercados Independientes (ASI) - An investigation into Big Data. In the case study scenario a group of supermarkets are investigating the possibility of using loyalty cards and other systems to collect data about their processes and their customers, and using Big Data analysis techniques to leverage that information for a competitive advantage. To successfully answer questions on the paper 3 exams students will need to understand the general concept of Big Data as well as how it can be applied to supermarkets and the ASI group. Here are seven videos that explain what Big Data is and how it can be used:

1. Big Data
This short animated video highlights the development of data storage systems from standalone computers to networked machines to systems that collect and process Big Data. This is a good video to watch first because it helps establish the scale and reach of modern computer systems.

2. Videographic: What is Big Data?
A short video about Big Data which uses a lot of graphs and charts to explain the falling cost and rapidly rising capacity of data storage, and how the resultant data can be used.

3. What is Better Data?
This is a very short video which asks a variety of industry stakeholders what they believe Big Data is and how it will impact our world in the future.

4. Explaining Big Data
Explaining Big Data is a great introduction to the topic, clearly explaining how Big Data differs from "normal" data sets stored in traditional relational databases. It covers in simple terms issues such as data volume, structure, and variety.

5. What is Big Data?
What is Big Data? Big Data Explained is another video which does a good job of explaining the difference between Big Data sets and more traditional databases that ITGS students may be more familiar with.

6. Big Data 101
In this video Intel start to explain some of the advantages businesses can leverage from Big Data and provide an excellent example of how data-based decision making can improve efficiency.

7. Big Data is Better Data
This TED talk explains the benefits of Big Data not just to business but to humanity as a whole, using a variety of examples to highlight the hidden and previously unknown patterns that can be uncovered.

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Studying for the ITGS Case Study 2015

Paper 3 makes up the final 25% of a Higher Level student's ITGS course, and is based on an annually issued case study. The case study for paper 3 in 2015 is Asociación de Supermercados Independientes - An investigation into Big Data. Students must investigate this case study over a series of months, understanding the underlying situation, the relevant technology, and the social and ethical issues raised by both the current system and the system the Asociación de Supermercados Independientes (ASI) intend to implement.

A key part of the case study process is performing primary research, which may be in the form of interviews, trips, or visiting speakers. However, before students can perform primary research they need a clear understanding of the case study situation and the underlying technologies. The following sites have very useful resources that can aid students in this initial secondary research: Stevenson's ITGS class has links to a lot of useful videos covering the technology in the case study (strand 3), as well as videos explaining the more general uses of Big Data, like predicting crime. The site also has links to some very interesting courses on Big Data, which are free to take online (a good link to the Education strand of ITGS too). teacher-run wiki ITGSopedia has a page dedicated to the 2015 case study. It contains a variety of secondary resources - mainly videos - that explain the concepts of Big Data and the issues related to loyalty cards. It also contains a link to the Case Study 2015 Facebook page where new resources are posted on a semi-regular basis. ITGS textbook support website has a range of resources for this year's case study, including lesson ideas, news articles, and secondary research links. The activities cover the various systems and issues that arise in the case study booklet, including system fundamentals, networks, loyalty cards and Big Data schemes, and many real-life examples.

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