Highly sort places for Aussies to live

What does your address say about you?

Quite a bit, according to those behind a website that profiles people and estimates the household ­income.

But privacy advocates have expressed concerns after the Roy Morgan Research classification tool Helix Personas began allowing users to obtain profiles by ­entering a street address.


The site, which introduced the feature in recent weeks after opening for business last year, is marketed as being able to ­categorise every Aussie into one of 56 personas.

You can find out, free-of-charge, whether your persona is of a “Fit and Fab Metrotech”, a “Penny Wise Battler” or a “Done Good Aussie Achiever”.

Residents of households in inner suburban streets are likely to find themselves profiled as well-educated and career-­focused renters with a “Big ­Future” bringing in $96,000.

Meanwhile those in a growing urban-fringe area may be categorised as “Getting By” on a household income of $79,000.

The site has been touted as potentially useful to retailers ­trying to determine where to ­locate future outlets.

However, Australian Privacy Foundation vice-chair Katina Michael said companies applying profiles could get it dramatically wrong or right.

Michael said that consumers had a choice to make in light of the “big data” trend, which often mischaracterised people.“We can continue to believe the rhetoric that says ‘We are doing no harm to individuals, it is hardly tracking when profiling small neighbourhoods’ ... or we can begin to demand an end to the on-selling of personal information,” she said.

Citation: Lachlan Hastings, May 23, 2014 "Highly sort places for Aussies to live", MX (Brisbane), p. 4.

TEDxUWollongong: The Social Implications of Microchipping People

A/Professor Katina Michael from the University of Wollongong, speaks at the 2012 TEDxUWollongong on the moral and ethical dilemmas of emerging technologies. The 3 scenarios she performs raise very interesting social implications for our humanity. http://www.tedxuwollongong.com  

Speaker playlist here

Photostream available here

Are disaster early warnings effective?

Key Link


Kerri WorthingtonSBS Radio
Katina MichaelUniversity of Wollongong
Peter JohnsonARUP
Paul BarnesQueensland University of Technology

Article comments

Details can be found here: http://www.sbs.com.au/podcasts/Podcasts/radionews/episode/251657/Are-disaster-early-warnings-effective



Australia's summer is traditionally a time of heightened preparation for natural disasters, with cyclones and floods menacing the north and bushfires a constant threat in the south. And the prospect of more frequent, and more intense, disasters thanks to climate change has brought the need for an effective early warning system to the forefront of policy-making. Technological advances and improved telecommunication systems have raised expectations that warning of disasters will come early enough to keep people safe. But are those expectations too high? Kerri Worthington reports.

Increasingly, the world's governments -- and their citizens -- rely on technology-based early warning systems to give sufficient notice to prepare for disaster. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed well over a quarter of a million people led to the establishment of an early warning system for countries bordering the ocean. Last year, Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono praised the system for warning people to prepare for a possible tsunami after an 8.6 magnitude quake in the ocean floor northwest of the country. Japan's years of preparedness is also credited for saving lives in the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

In Australia, the Federal Government has instigated an 'all-hazards' approach to early warnings, including terrorist acts as well as natural disasters, in the wake of a number of international terrorist attacks that affected Australians. Professor Katina Michael of the University of Wollongong specialises in technologies used for national security. Professor Michael has praised Australia's location-based national emergency warning system which allows service providers to reach people in hazardous or disaster areas, locating them through their mobile devices. "And that's a real new innovation for the Australian capability which I think is among the first in the world to actually venture into that mandated approach to location warning of individuals. And this allows people who are visiting a location, maybe working in a location they're not residing in, or maybe enjoying recreation activities in a location to be warned about a hazard." But there are concerns those systems can breed complacency.

Peter Johnson is a fellow at Arup, a global firm of designers, planners, engineers and technical specialists. "There is a concern about people in communities being too reliant just on official warnings to trigger actions. There's people in the community who think 'well I don't need to do anything, I just have to wait and someone will tell me what to do' and ignore the personal responsibility for their response and actions, so that's an issue. There's another issue about official warnings in some cases may come too late in flash floods or days of very high fire danger and rapid spread."

Mr Johnson says warnings need to be timely and relevant, with minimal false alarms to avoid 'warning fatigue', where people ignore alerts. That's an issue Victoria's County Fire Authority is currently grappling with. It's come under criticism after hundreds of people reported its FireReady app for mobile devices that gives location of fires and fire conditions, has proven to be unreliable. Many Victorians are anxious about early warning of impending fires, after many were taken by surprise -- with some fatal consequences -- in the Black Saturday fires of 2009. Fire experts say it's important not to rely only on one source of information for disaster warnings. And Peter Johnson says government bodies need to set warnings within an overall emergency management context. "We need the risk knowledge, we need the planning, the pre-event information and the broad season warnings and alerting us to days of flooding or total fire ban. Equally we need to understand, and probably better understand, the response of people and communities to those warnings and what actions are taking place."

Paul Barnes, the coordinator of the Risk and Crisis Management Research Domain at the Queensland University of Technology, agrees early warning policies need to be part of a broader risk and hazard communication capability. "When we have natural and socio-technical disasters often we start with the natural phenomena, the natural threat. We had seismic activity, earthquakes in Japan, bushfires, flooding in Australia. But very quickly the impacts from that initial source impact on technical hazards, technical issues, so we lose infrastructure systems, we lose telephony. We also therefore have, in some cases, biological problems in terms of water supply being contaminated." Dr Barnes says often what starts out to be one type of problem quickly cascades into others, and information about ongoing issues needs to be communicated to the public. "Once the initial event occurs, there will be an ongoing need to have continuing types of information flow to the public about cascading elements and the connective elements of these sorts of impacts as they go through time. So the basic principle of the complexity of the situation and matching the sophistication and adaptability of information that needs to go to the public, and also those not affected -- emergency responders, government officials, etc -- is a very complex situation that requires some very sophisticated application of thinking."

Suggested Citation

Kerri Worthington, Katina Michael, Peter Johnson, and Paul Barnes. "Are disaster early warnings effective?" SBS Radio: World News Jan. 2013. Available at: http://works.bepress.com/kmichael/318

Cyborgs walk among us

Cyborgs walk among us

Higher education Conference

A university conference is tackling the big issues of technology and features speakers who have devices implanted under their skin, writes BENJAMIN LONG.

Program chair Associate Professor Katina Michael is expecting plenty of robust debate at the 2010 IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society this week at the University of Wollongong.

The multidisciplinary conference, which closes tomorrow (with a further workshop being held on Thursday), has attracted the world's leading experts in the area of new technology and its social impacts.

"What is fresh about this conference is that it is bringing people from different disciplines to discuss the same subject matter from different angles" says Dr Michael, a senior lecturer in the School of Information Technology and Computer Science at UOW.

"There should be a clash of sorts, because I don't think everyone will agree with what is being put forward.

The conference is looking at issues related to cyborg technology, microchip implants, nanotechnology and social networking

"We've got information and communication technology specialists. We've got applied ethics researchers. We've got political scientists. We've got lawyers talking about regulation and legislation of emerging technology such as nanotechnology.

"We've also got commercial entities that have invested heavily, for example, in GPS innovations. We've even got a theologian talking.

"It's not just engineering focussed or humanities focussed. It's going to create a lot of dialogue between those who conceive, those who implement and those who eventually critique the technology."

More than 100 speakers from 17 different countries will address the conference, and 70 academic papers will be presented.

It is the first time the symposium has been held in Australia, says Dr Michael, who has been working on it since UOW was awarded the hosting rights in 2007.

Speakers are looking at emerging technologies in four broad categories - location-based services, social networking, nanotechnology and automatic identification - and looking in particular at issues of security, privacy and human rights.

A number of the keynote speakers are addressing issues around implantable devices.

Professor Rafael Capurro of the Steinbeis-Transfer-Institute Information Ethics, Germany, is a leading ethicist in this area. He has been writing about these issues, says Dr Michael, since a time when "most other people were thinking this was the stuff of conspiracy theory".

Prof Capurro writes that while "ICT (information and communication technology) implants may be used to repair deficient bodily capabilities they can also be misused, particularly if these devices are accessible via digital networks. The idea of letting ICT devices get under our skin in order not just to repair but even to enhance human capabilities gives rise to science fiction visions".

Dr Mark Gasson, a senior research fellow in the Cybernetic Intelligence Research Group at the University of Reading, in the United Kingdom, has an engineering background and looks at implants from a different angle.

In particular he is interested in implantable RFID (radio-frequency identification) devices, which have evolved to the point where they can be considered simple computers.

Dr Gasson recently became "the world's first human infected with a computer virus" when he had a chip implanted in his hand and then infected with a computer virus.

Taking a more idiosyncratic approach is another keynote speaker, Amal Graafstra, who is not an academic but rather an RFID implant enthusiast from the United States.

The owner of several technology and mobile communications companies, Graafstra has two RFIDs implanted in his body which do things like allowing him keyless access to his home and car.

Another of the keynote speakers, Dr Roger Clarke, a consultant on eBusiness, information infrastructure, and dataveillance and privacy, and a Visiting Professor at the School of Computer Science at ANU, addresses the subject of cyborg rights.

"The first generation of cyborgs is alive, well, walking among us, and even running," Dr Clarke argues.

"Pacemakers, clumsy mechanical hands, and renal dialysis machines may not match the movie image of cyborgs, but they have been the leading wave."

He points to the case of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius, a double leg amputee whose prosthetic legs enable him to run faster than most able-bodied people. Pistorius doesn't want to be known as a Paralympian and would rather race against able-bodied athletes. Should he be allowed to run in the Olympics?

Dr Michael hopes that one of the outcomes of the conference is a greater awareness of how technology is affecting our lives.

"Technology can be used for positive means, but it can also be exploited," Dr Michael says.

"It is a great medium to communicate with other people on, but just be aware that even intelligent and street-savvy people can be fooled, and that harm can come from it.

"For example, one of the issues of location-based social networking is that Facebook now has a function that enables you to have a status update, which is automatic and which identifies your location based on where your mobile phone is.

"People can look at that without your knowing - if you've got 400 friends on your friends list - and see that you are in Figtree or you are in Wollongong.

"That might not mean much to people at the moment, but somebody might be able to use that to say, okay, well you're not at home right now so I can go around there and take everything you have. Or they could use it to stalk you.

"We are talking about technology that is not just in the virtual world, but which has repercussions in the physical world."

Citation: Benjamin Long, June 8, 2010, "Cyborgs walk among us", Illawarra Mercury, pp. 1, 23.

Nortel Networks: Assesses Customer Needs Quickly and Accurately with MapInfo

Katina Michael in 1999 while working at Nortel Networks in Wollongong as an engineer in the Network Systems Solutions group.

Katina Michael in 1999 while working at Nortel Networks in Wollongong as an engineer in the Network Systems Solutions group.

Nortel Networks specialist Network Systems & Solutions Group is not only helping the  company win business throughout Asia Pacific, it is delivering real benefits to customers
using MapInfo's suite of products. 

Nortel's Network Systems & Solutions Group's small 12-member team based in Australia, Singapore and China, uses MapInfo tools to support Nortel's new business bid responses throughout Asia and assist telecommunications carriers, alternate operators and service providers with strategic network planning, detailed network planning and implementation.

MapInfo's products help Nortel's Asia Pacific operation understand market segmentation, assess demand for communication services and identify the most suitable end-to-end solution for any given customer distribution be it in a central business district, suburban or rural area.

While MapInfo Professional is the main application used, Nortel also utilizes MapInfo products MapInfo MapBasic and GeoLoc (MapInfo Australia's geocoding software); MapInfo partner products including ExaMin's MapLinker and Northwood Geoscience's Vertical Mapper; and supporting market data such as census products including Australian Bureau of Statistics CData96 Australia and MapData Sciences CData96 New Zealand. 

MapInfo's products are used for numerous applications, including demographic analysis, market segmentation, coverage definition identifying and assessing service demand, business planning, target marketing, competitive analysis, traffic engineering, network optimization and roll out scenarios. 

MapInfo and other GIS tools and data help us to build customer relationships and to understand the customers requirements better, because we are actually seeing the world through their eyes, said Katina Michael, network and systems planner for Nortel's Network & Systems Solutions Group. We can respond better to their needs and help them to make better business decisions. It (MapInfo's solution) gives us the capability to do very powerful analysis by introducing a third dimension to our work, she said. It goes beyond numbers on a spreadsheet or static information in a database. By adding a new dimension with actual maps, you greatly boost the level of power for doing advanced analysis. You can't tell by looking at a spreadsheet what location would be best for a certain service, but you can really identify things on a map.

According to Michael, it was previously impossible to visualize an entire network, for example. Now we have the ability to look at that on a map and compare a centralized network architecture to a decentralized network architecture and that helps us make a better assessment. It gives you key information like distance and surface area that a spreadsheet or database can't show you, and that provides greater accuracy. Before it was a guesstimate but now our network responses are very precise. 

Nortel's customers benefit, because the MapInfo tools give them the ability to carry out thorough market analysis, Michael explained. 

We can take a top-down approach, looking at what they should be doing to maximize their business opportunities, she said. We can look at a map of Australia and do a national, very high-level market analysis or go down to suburb or street level or even a floor within a building.

Michael points to one of Australia's largest service providers to demonstrate how the group benefits customers. Following a Nortel study using MapInfo Professional and GeoLoc, the company changed its proposed fiber route for a metropolitan area.

We looked at businesses in the proposed coverage area by type and size, Michael explained. We told them they could change their proposed route to optimize it and pick up more customers. We believe we helped them boost their revenue base via the optimized route by looking at the factual information.

The Network Systems & Solutions Group selected MapInfo for its flexibility, portability and automation features. The planners in the group do consulting work throughout the Asian region, and they need the flexibility to use it on their desktop wherever they are on-site with the customer or overseas, she said.

The MapInfo tools also have a lot of support from data suppliers, which was crucial. If the currency of your data  does not match your state-of-the-art modeling capabilities, you're letting yourself and your customers down. It's also very easy to build applications, add on tools and automate manual tasks in MapInfo Professional.

With the team's input required for up to 100 bid responses and consultations a year, speed of turnaround is also critical, she added. Before, projects might have lasted one to two months each, but now we have to respond within weeks or even days. The clock is always ticking. You don't have time to scream for numbers, you need to be able to act quickly.

When you are working at Web-speed, she continued, you can't dispatch people to all  these different locations throughout Asia, but now everything that you could do if you were  physically there, you can do remotely using MapInfo tools and data. Before these GIS tools were available, people were using things like overhead transparencies on their monitors to trace maps. You would end up with the wrong scale simply because people had different screen sizes. Others used shoelaces to measure distances, which gave a very crude estimate.
We have come a long way in a short time and the team has integrated the GIS applications into their daily work.

Nortel's Network Systems & Solutions Group eventually aims to make the information it has collected available throughout the company using MapInfo MapXtreme, the MapInfo application built specifically for mapping on the Web. 

Over the years, we have been building a lot of telecommunications-specific layers, and, while our group is quite small, we interact with a lot of other groups from many other departments, Michael noted. We plan to use MapXtreme to support information sharing throughout Nortel Networks. It will allow everyone to share in the layers we have built and get greater value out of the large database of Asian/Australasian information we have collected.

Citation: MapInfo Staff, January 10, 2000, "Nortel Networks: Assesses Customer Needs Quickly and Accurately with MapInfo", MapInfo.