Friday Fry Up: Minister for tech (sort of), Privacy Week, IoT in space, Come on in, Hamilton

Friday Fry Up is Computerworld New Zealand’s weekly look at the world of IT.

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Minister for tech, sort of

A tech ministry in nature, if not in name. That’s the conclusion to be drawn from the clutch of portfolios assigned to David Clark, who has made it back into cabinet at No. 19. He is now minister for commerce and consumer affairs, minister for the digital economy and communications, minister for state-owned enterprises, minister of statistics, and minister-responsible for the Earthquake Commission. All but that last one guarantees Clark a spot on the Christmas card list of every New Zealand tech organisation.

Clark was previously minster of health during the last government but was stripped of that portfolio when he was found to be breaking Lockdown 4 rules by driving out of his local area to go on a cycle ride—among other minor but highly publicised misdemeanours. He took his medicine and has now been returned as MP for Dunedin North with almost three times the vote of his National party rival —and a spot back in the Cabinet.

We hope that Clark seizes the opportunity to further rehabilitate his career by getting to grips with tech. His portfolios might be considered Tier 2 when compared to education and health, but they can make a huge positive difference to New Zealand’s economic and social well-being.

Privacy Week

Here we are at the end of another Privacy Week. Which to be perfectly honest we would not have even noticed if it hadn’t been for a press release telling us there was to be a national campaign about Privacy Week, which we didn’t actually see any sign of.

But maybe we aren’t target market, or maybe it didn’t feature in that ubiquitous social media site Facebook, which the privacy commissioner publicly removed himself from a couple of years ago.

Or maybe the Office of the Privacy Commissioner knew that the way to get our attention was to us send a press release via email. Because that worked. We ended up writing an article about privacy, over at CIO New Zealand, about consumers’ attitudes to internet of things privacy. Uncanny.

IoT in space

Mention of IoT, US company Swarm Technologies is planning for 24 satellites, each “the size of a sandwich” (12cm by 12cm by 3cm) and 0.4kg in mass, to be launched by RocketLab this month. Its CEO Sara Spangelo spoke via video from California to the Auckland IoT Meet Up this week and explained her company’s mission to deploy a 150-satellite network.

Meet Up convenor John McDermott says Swarm’s low-Earth-orbit satellites collect data from devices on the ground. At a monthly cost of US$5, the company claims it is the cheapest data network currently available for global connectivity.

Targeting IoT applications, “the company specialises in small data messages from sensor and tracking devices that benefit from global coverage or where no land based wireless network is available,” McDermott says. The Swarm satellite system is intended to solve the problem that current telecommunication networks only reach 10% of the Earth’s surface and just 35% of the land area.

“Although the satellites provide global coverage, it is necessary to gain regulatory approval to operate country by country, and New Zealand was the first to be made available. Other permissions include Australia and the USA, and many more are in the pipeline,” McDermott reports.

Come on in, Hamilton

This week, the capital of Waikato got a direct fibre connection to Sydney, as part of an upgrade to the Trans-Tasman Global Access (TGA) submarine cable that is jointly owned by Spark, Vodafone, and Telstra.

The TGA, which has up to 20Tbps capacity, now has a new point of presence (or access point) in Hamilton. Its co-owners claim this will improve the resiliency of New Zealand’s mobile networks, including the third mobile player 2degrees (as part of an infrastructure sharing arrangement with Vodafone NZ).

Spark technology director Mark Beder says the TGA is built to cater for the soaring demand in digital services. “To date, we have expanded capacity on the TGA cable to 2.4Tbps of data usage, which is equivalent to at least 100,000 simultaneous 4K video streams. This is less than 10% of what the cable is capable of, meaning we can continue to invest in additional capacity upgrades to support Kiwis’ ever-increasing appetite for digital services.”

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