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The RTE MoJoCon Mobile TV Studio

Live from Mojocon 2017: How mobile powered RTÉ’s pop-up multi-camera TV studio in Galway, Ireland

Last week, I was working with the RTÉ team at MoJoCon in Galway, Ireland. For the event’s live-streamed interviews, RTÉ set up a multi-camera TV studio. But, being MoJoCon, there was one major twist…

MoJoCon brings together broadcasters, journalists, filmmakers and social media specialists from around the world. Now in its third year, the event explores how new technologies – from smartphones to 360-degree cameras – are revolutionising the way we tell stories on television and online.

Teradek Live Show studio at RTE MoJoCon 2017

Teradek Live Show studio at RTE MoJoCon 2017 (image: Live X)

As was appropriate for a show focusing on mobile tech and the media, the RTÉ pop-up TV studio from which we live-streamed our interviews was powered by mobile.

It’s an impressive setup: the five studio cameras were Apple iPhone 6s plus smartphones, each kitted with superb quality Zeiss ExoLens lenses mounted on a Helium Core iPhone Rig; the vision mixing and encoding was handled by Teradek Live:Air running on an Apple iPad Pro 12.9 tablet.

For day-long power and belts and braces connectivity, the devices were hard-wired to Ethernet, although a wireless setup is perfectly possible too. I would say the only non-mobile component of the studio was the sound: traditional XLR-connected lavalier mics supplied a standard mixing desk, the master output of which fed into one of the mobile devices from which the Teradek software took its audio feed.

Here’s a clip from the end of day two where my co-host, the lovely Róisín Ní Thomáin, and I embarked on a quick studio tour.

Over two days of the show, Róisín and I interviewed some inspiring broadcasters, journalists and innovators including BBC Sport’s Conor McNamara, Story-Up’s Sarah Hill and Video Journalist Michael Rosenblum. The topics we covered were as broad as How to be an App Store Millionnaire, to The Evolution of 360, VR and AR Storytelling.

Further technical stuff about mobile studio has just been posted on the Teradek website, and all of the interviews are available on demand from the RTÉ MoJoCon YouTube channel.

Facebook Live from The Photography Show

Each Spring The Photography Show lands at the Birmingham NEC and I’m thrilled to front its coverage of live streams and video. For four days each year I get hands-on with amazing cameras and kit, and interview some of the world’s most influential photographers. For four days I am in camera heaven.

Over the last couple of years I’ve spoken with the likes of David Bailey, Sebastiao Salgado, Clive Arrowsmith and – personal hero – Chris Packham:

The Photography Show also shines a light on new talent, those pushing boundaries of stills and video, sharing what it takes to be successful on the social media stage. Following his presentation at the Super Stage this year I spoke with filmmaker and Instagrammer Louis Cole about an exciting upcoming project:

This year, for the first time, The Photography Show also broadcast to Facebook Live, taking to the floor to bring the show to a new audience. Here’s an interview where I speak to the creators of Palette, an innovative modular tool for editors.

Tickets for The Photography Show 2018 go on sale from The Photography Show website, dates are 17-20th March.

ITV Good Morning Britain

Good Morning Black Friday Britain

In the US Black Friday follows Thanksgiving Thursday and, along with so-called Cyber Monday, has become one of the biggest days in the online shopping calendar. Inevitably it has become a big deal in the UK now too.

On Friday’s ITV Good Morning Britain I was in the studio sharing some tips on how to bag the best online Black Friday bargains.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the Black Friday hype? Here’s how to get the best deals online without spending needlessly!

Posted by Good Morning Britain on Friday, 25 November 2016

Many Black Friday shopping tips apply equally to buying online around the rest of the year, but some peculiarities have emerged:

  • Keep checking throughout the day. A large element of surprise and secrecy exists around Black Friday that retailers are keen to persist. Prices change, new deals get added and stocks are limited: it’s all part of a clever strategy to keep us interested throughout the day and coming back to their online stores. But that does mean that a good price at 8am might be even better by midday, but sold out by six. That’s the risk you take.
  • Black Friday Pop-Up Portals: Comparison sites and aggregation tools are useful all year round, but on Black Friday dozens of pop-up sales portals appear on reputable websites. Which to choose? If you’re shopping for gadgets and technology (always a big deal over this weekend) then take a look at the website of popular gadget magazines or online titles – referrals and traffic mean Black Friday is great business for them too, and many have journalists locked in a room all day hunting down the best deals so you don’t have to.
  • Is it really a bargain? It’s worth pointing out that some retailers don’t play fair – research by Which? found many so-called Black Friday bargains were anything but, with prices cheaper both before and after the shopping bonanza weekend. Websites like camelcamelcamel.com (I’ve no idea…) keep track of prices over a period of time to let you see how the price you on offer today compares with the price over, say, the last twelve months.

It goes without saying to watch out for scams though phishing, smishing and malvertising, be aware of your rights and consider paying by credit card for the best consumer protection.

A final thought:

  • Don’t let Black Friday Frenzy take over. Remember this is essentially a bit of fun – the worst that can happen is that we pay full price for something or don’t buy it at all. Part of the fun of the whole experience is the thrill of chasing a bargain but your life absolutely does not depend on it. Keep it in perspective and if the fun stops then switch off your computer, switch on the kettle and make a cup of Black Friday tea.

Data-Driven Olympic Gold and Commoditised Artificial Intelligence: Supernova 2016

As much as I find reading eBooks quick and convenient there’s something about the authority of a hefty hardback that really attracts me.

The Inevitable, by Kevin KellyWhile inky words on reams wood-pulp paper might have a whiff of the past, Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable – the pages of which I’ve been thumbing through and scribbling upon over the past week – tastes very much of the future.

Kelly’s forthright views and predictions on the inevitable forces that shape our lives by 2046 are honed from a lifetime chasing the red rag of technology’s bleeding edge. They are rooted in humility, however, grounded by a confession that he hasn’t a clue what technologies are coming next. But then again, nobody does:

Most of the important technologies that will dominate life 30 years from now have not yet been invented.

Instead the Wired co-founder concerns himself with describing the twelve technological forces that will define humanity’s what’s next.

Confession time: as of writing this I’ve not finished reading the whole book, instead diving between chapters. That The Inevitable supports this is to its credit, each trend depicted is sufficiently standalone in substance.

Of those I’ve digested ‘Cognifying’ impacts the most, breaking down the monolithic AI concept into the tangible ways artificial intelligence and augmented intelligence will become commoditised and work with us, alongside us in our everyday. Kelly steers well clear of the graver questions around technological singularly – his tone is optimistic, genuine concerns well masked if they exist.

Supernova 2016As well as reading Kevin’s fascinating thoughts I’m thrilled to be hosting an audience with Kevin at the annual Supernova digital marketing event in London on November 18th 2016. During our fireside chat we’ll be discussing some of the key themes in the book – artificial intelligence in particular, and what accelerated change catalysed by technology means for entrepreneurs and businesses, consumers and society.

Later on in the day Team GB Olympic gold medalists Laura Kenny (née Trott) and Jason Kenny OBE will also be on stage with Olympian-turned-coach Paul Manning to give an insight into how British cycling’s data-driven approach yielded so many medal-winning performances at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

There are panel sessions throughout the day too with leading figures from the technology, media and telecoms industries as well as motoring and advertising who will be revealing insights on consumer trends, online behaviours, and how businesses can embrace innovation in the digital world.

Find out more and register on the Quantcast Supernova website.

Speech Recognition – Rip Off Britain: Live

Among the topics I cover in this series of Rip Off Britain: Live on BBC1 is speech recognition. In Tuesday’s show I went to Liverpool to investigate how viewers are talking to their tech to help make their everyday lives easier.

According to researchers at Stanford University we can talk three times faster – and with 20% more accuracy – than we can type or swipe on a mobile phone.

Proof that it’s good to talk, right?

It was no surprise, however, to find that many I spoke with were initially sceptical about the effectiveness of speech recognition. But I had a hunch that their lack of confidence was misplaced, with judgements on poor comprehension based on older generations of the technology.

Our day of filming in and around Liverpool proved my point: I found that Apple’s intelligent personal assistant Siri was better than even I was at comprehending commands, irrespective of accent or background noise.

Speech recognition technology – and Siri is far from the only or even the best example at present – has now reached a level of useful maturity. What is needed next to help more to benefit from it is further accessibility and behavioural change.

In the main Rip Off Britain series in September I also took a look at how voice biometrics are being used by major service providers as an authentication factor to make logins to our online accounts safer, simpler and more secure.

Check out further clips from this series of Rip Off Britain here on the BBC website.

BBC Right on the Money

Right on the Money turns commutes into cash

Right on the Money, hosted by Dom Littlewood and Denise Lewis, returns for a second season on BBC1 this summer and I’m excited to be part of the reporting team.

In Friday’s show I front a film about how make money on the move, armed with little more than a smartphone. I look at how people are using apps including Nimber, which pays you to be a courier, YouGov, which rewards you for sitting and submitting surveys, and also Bounts and Sweatcoin, which convert exercise into cash and prizes.

Here’s a quick clip from the show:

You can watch the full Right on the Money episode here (for as long as BBC iPlayer allows, that is).

Despite this appearing on screens in the height of summer, the item was filmed during the depths of winter – the shorts and t-shirt sequence in particular during a sub-zero day in High Wycombe!

Right on the Money airs on BBC1 weekdays 9.15-10am between 11th – 22nd July 2016.

BBC Watchdog Logo

Watchdog Wednesdays Hacks a Wi-Fi Hotspot

Watchdog Wednesdays continues on BBC Three and in this week’s film I investigate how easily a criminal can hack a public Wi-Fi hotspot and compromise its users’ personal information.

Coffee shops, high streets and hotels increasingly offer free public Wi-Fi so visitors can sync up while they eat, shop or stay. However, as I’ve reported on before, Wi-Fi hotspots are easy to spoof, are frequently unsecured, and even when there is a password there is still no guarantee of safety.

Hacking the Hotspot

So, in a controlled experiment at a central London coffee shop, I set out to see what the hackers see. What I saw when the Watchdog cameras began rolling surprised even me:

With very little investment in time or equipment I learnt how to intercept traffic sent between users’ devices laptops, smartphones, tablets and the internet.

I was shocked that supposedly secure websites such as John Lewisebay and Amazon were vulnerable to this basic attack

Just to be clear – I am not a hacker, I’m a journalist, but picking up the basics was worryingly easy.

The Man in the Middle

My attack (known as a ‘Man in the Middle‘ attack by ARP poisoning) targeted only a single device operated by a member of the BBC crew. It could equally have targeted a number of devices, perhaps all logged in to the Wi-Fi hotspot.

I found unencrypted traffic easily visible, plain text usernames and passwords flashed before my eyes in real time — gold dust for a hacker — and webpage images appeared on my hacktop just as they did on the victim’s machine. I was even able to work around some (but not all) websites’ attempts to enforce HTTPS security.

plain text usernames and passwords flashed before my eyes in real time — gold dust for a hacker

I was shocked that supposedly secure websites such as John Lewis, ebay and Amazon were vulnerable to this basic attack on an iPad, along with email accounts that didn’t have SSL security enabled. Facebook and Twitter didn’t fall for the hack.

Are we really aware of how easy it is for data we send over the airwaves to be intercepted by a silent criminal? I suspect not. This is a perfect crime where victims are unaware that their details have been compromised until the criminal executes his hack hours, days or weeks later when emails get intercepted, accounts get hijacked and funds go missing.

‘Hacktop’ Tech

There’s nothing here that’s difficult to get hold of:

  • Sony Vaio laptop
  • External USB antenna
  • Kali Linux operating system
  • Tools including Wireshark, sslstrip, ettercap, driftnet

I should add that none of the software used here was illegal; Kali Linux and its bundled utilities are open source, promoted as ‘penetration testing and ethical hacking’ software and is used by security professionals to ensure their corporate networks and public websites remain secure to hackers. Of course, the very same software may also be used by hackers for malicious means. And then, of course, there is YouTube – there’s any number of tutorials here to help you get to grips with the tools and utilities mentioned above.

Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi Hotspots

So there’s the scare story. But what can you do stay safe when on public WiFi?

  • For light browsing I prefer to bring my own network and tether from my smartphone or Mi-Fi, but my data plan is generous (and yes, expensive) to allow for that; if cellular reception is poor it’s painfully slow or impossible.
  • A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is my next security measure – this creates a secure ‘tunnel’ between my laptop, tablet or smartphone and a server elsewhere on the internet into which a fraudster cannot eavesdrop. These can be free, fairly cheap or you can even build your own.
  • If all else fails I make sure that websites I exchange data with support safe browsing, denoted by HTTPS and the green padlock (but beware that tools like ‘sslstrip’ can subvert this). I do not ignore errors from the web browser which talk about invalid certificates, even if I don’t understand exactly what they mean – I can visit those websites later when I’m on a secure connection.

How secure are apps? How do you know whether they’re secure if there’s no green padlock or HTTPS visible in an address bar? In my testing I found some apps that are blatantly not secure broadcasting personal details, but I’ll be exploring this in more detail very soon.

Keep watching BBC Three Watchdog Wednesdays for more films like these, and do get in touch on here or on Twitter if there are any other hacks or scams you’d like me to investigate.

BBC Three Watchdog Wednesdays Scams the PC Support Scammers

Watchdog Wednesdays, a spin-off from the popular BBC1 investigative consumer affairs show, has launched on BBC Three and I’m excited to be fronting its films about online hacks and scams.

My first film, a re-version of an item which aired in Watchdog in October, sees me and LBC’s James O’Brien shed light on a scam known to many as the ‘Microsoft Support Scam’, eventually catching the crooks red-handed.

Watchdog on Three – Microsoft ScammersIt’s time to scam the scammers…

Posted by BBC Three on Wednesday, 23 March 2016

 

A three-minute short can only tell so much of the story, so for the many who’ve gotten in touch here’s the technical bit:

On an Apple MacBook running virtual machine software I performed a fresh install of Microsoft Windows 7, loaded anti-malware software, and seeded files in my Users folder and desktop to make it look like a well-used PC. On the host Mac I ran screen recording software, an X server and the Wireshark packet sniffing software to help identify where the scammers were connecting from (alas, we didn’t get to cover the last bit in the film). My final tool was a web browser with some simple who.is tools, and an hour or so raking through some ‘who called me’ forums to find some leads.

In researching the story I’ve been indebted to generous input from Jim Browning and Troy Hunt, both of whom are very experienced at calling out PC support scammers – do check out their work.

Plenty more to come from Watchdog Wednesdays including a revelatory film on public Wi-Fi hotspot safety – keep an eye out over on BBC Three.

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