Can astrology make sense of cryptocurrency? Maren Altman and a million TikTok followers think so
Maren Altman isnt a huge fan of TikTok. “Im a really serious person,” she said. She rarely scrolls through her feed. She cant stand most of it. “Im not into the trends or the jokes.”
She’s amassed more than a million followers anyway.
Then again, hers isn’t your typical TikTok page. No cute dogs here. No dancing.
Instead, the 22-year old posts astrology videos of all stripes, including ones focused on politics and celebrities (she predicted a major relationship shift for Kanye West and Kim Kardashian). In the astrology community, she’s reached one-name status, like Sting or Bono.
Her most intriguing videos apply astrology to a particularly daunting realm: cryptocurrency. Anything with a verifiable birthday or creation date has a birth chart that can be read and, according to astrologists, gleaned for predictive information. That means there’s astrology for relationships, pets, political movements and, yes, bitcoin. Skeptics are not on board, of course, and cynics might see it as a perfect match: Two things that feel like foreign languages to most people. Finding an edge in the crypto market is already a fuzzy art. Is attempting to use celestial bodies so far off?
Maren’s prominence is part of a mainstreaming of astrology and its micro-genres, fueled by apps and social media.
“People can learn about astrology in small, digestible ways through Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter,” said fellow financial astrologer Robert Weinstein. “Social media is this amplifier for everything in general. And astrology is just one of the things I think is really benefiting from it.”
Maren first became fascinated by astrology in a much more analog way. As a child, she would take the family newspaper and head straight to the daily horoscopes.
In her teenage years, which she said she spent “on the social margins,” she started to seriously study astrology, and made a few bucks at parties giving “readings to drunk kids.”
She saved that money and used it to invest in crypto. Then, she took her astrology skills to TikTok.
In a typical crypto astrology video, Maren reads the birth chart of a particular currency and offers thoughts on its immediate future. She often films herself in front of a brick wall adorned with a red neon sign reading “amor fati,” Latin for “love of fate,” and her language can get pretty colorful at times, befitting her punkish vibe.
In early January, Maren read Bitcoin’s chart, using its creation date, Jan. 3, 2009. “New moon in Capricorn, January 13th, looks big for bitcoin,” Maren says in the video. “Little before that … Saturn will join the bitcoin Mercury exact by degree on January 11th, which looks like some corrections with Mercury and Saturn. It could be news about something that leads to a drop momentarily. But with this new moon, sun moon Pluto, right on top of bitcoin’s Jupiter, this is like atomic-level new beginning.”
In other words, Saturn and Mercury’s position might indicate a drop in value, but Jupiter and Pluto signaled Bitcoin’s price would rebound from any correction and continue to rise.
“It looks like such a bull run,” she adds.
Sure enough, the price dropped on Jan. 11 and then popped back up two days later, more or less continuing to rise until April, at which point it had just about doubled in value.
Though Maren claims in the video that she isn’t offering financial advice, many of the comments on the post suggest some take it that way. “Looks like it’s invest o’clock,” one user wrote. “Ik this isn’t financial advice but can you do some finance tiktoks because i trust you and i wanna invest,” read another comment.
Then again, in another TikTok, she suggested May would be volatile but could find the currency reaching an all-time high. Instead, for the most part, bitcoin’s value plummeted.
Financial astrology has been around in various forms for decades. Weinstein became one of the first to focus on cryptocurrency – specifically bitcoin – in 2017. He shares his findings on his website The Astro Crypto Report and through his Twitter handle @AstroCryptoGuru, alongside other predictions, such as a tweet thread from 2019 in which he predicted “possible unexpected black swan events” in 2020.
He remained one of the loudest voices in cryptocurrency astrology until Maren “came storming onto the scene,” as he put it.
But even with her videos guiding her followers, the astrological world can be hard to fully comprehend.
“With astrology, we’re looking at the correlation between certain planetary alignments and world events,” Maren said, adding, “it’s looking at the past to predict the future.”
She said a misconception many have is that astrologers believe the planets cause those events. It’s more that they believe the celestial positions give us a head’s up as to what might happen. As Maren put it, “we aren’t positing that Jupiter’s sending out … rays to make us spend more money … It’s like how the clock on the wall isn’t making it three p.m. but it might tell us it’s three p.m.”
Still, it’s probably not a surprise that many financial planners see it as a load of hooey. Fredrick Standfield, the founder of Lifewater Wealth Management in Atlanta, said that people tend to get emotional around cryptocurrency, often because they “see how much money people are reportedly making” but “don’t see how much money some people lose” while simultaneously not quite understanding how it works in the first place.
When “people start to get into it and don’t really understand it or really grasp what it is, I think that that’s when they start to lend themselves and open themselves up to things like astrology, financial pseudoscience, things that are really, if you think about it, they’re not totally compatible with a scientific methodology, to me,” Standfield said.
He added that when things do work out, such as the aforementioned Maren prediction, then it creates a sense of confirmation bias. “People tend to interpret information in a way that confirms what they already believe and ignore anything to contrary, particularly when social media is involved.”
Maren isn’t too concerned about converting naysayers. She’s just happy if they “keep my name in their mouth.”
“Astrology has always been more of an esoteric kind of initiate, secret knowledge,” Weinstein put it. “It really never was for the masses.”
Plus, Maren has bigger fish to fry. She became something of a controversial figure after being accused of plagiarizing some of her readings, which she vehemently denies, and came under fire for comparing eating animals to the Holocaust, for which she later apologized. She said that as she’s become more well-known, the negative attention has ratcheted up to the point of physical threats.
“I’ve been scared for my life and have been through the wringer, and it’s absurd,” she said. But enduring that fear can make her feel invincible. “I’m kind of bulletproof in this weird, immortal way now.”
So for now, she plans to kept creating astrology TikToks and teaching courses on the subject through her website. But that’s just her short-term plan.
“I don’t want to be just this. I create TikTok videos and my view count is what validates me,” she said. “But I want to have a Wikipedia page that has ‘She founded this company and is on the board of this company.'”
“I really, really want to create lasting structures in decentralized finance and A.I.,” she said. “As fun as and as passionate I am about astrology in my own life, doing daily horoscopes is not going to change the world.”
TOKYO – Major security firm Secom Co. has developed a security robot that can use smoke to thwart intruders.
Equipped with artificial intelligence and 5G technology, the Cocobo robot has been designed to patrol commercial facilities and office buildings.
If it detects suspicious individuals while on patrol, it can use a combination of sound, light and smoke to disorient intruders.
The robot can travel along preprogrammed routes and notify a security control center if it detects any abnormalities based on analysis of images taken with its built-in cameras. It is also capable of detecting explosions, gas leaks and fires.
According to the company, the robot will be used in trials in office buildings this month.
Amazon is about to share your internet connection with neighbors. Heres how to turn it off.
Theres an eyebrow-raising technology buried inside millions of Amazon Echo smart speakers and Ring security cameras. They have the ability to make a new kind of wireless network called Sidewalk that shares a slice of your home internet connection with your neighbors devices.
And on Tuesday, Amazon is switching Sidewalk on – for everyone.
I’m digging into my settings to turn it off. Sidewalk raises more red flags than a marching band parade: Is it secure enough to be activated in so many homes? Are we helping Amazon build a vast network that can be used for more surveillance? And why didn’t Amazon ask us to opt-in before activating a capability lying dormant in our devices?
I recommend you opt out of Sidewalk, too, until we get much better answers to these questions.
Sidewalk will blanket urban and suburban America with a low-bandwidth wireless network that can stretch half a mile and reach places and things that were once too hard or too expensive to connect. It could have many positive uses, such as making it easier to set up smart-home devices in places your WiFi doesn’t reach. (That can help your neighbors, and you.) But by participating, you also have no control over what sort of data you’re helping to transmit. In communities where Amazon Ring devices already over-police many doors and driveways, Sidewalk could power more surveillance, more trackers – maybe even Amazon drones.
Amazon seems oblivious to many obvious consumer concerns with its increasingly invasive technology. So let me say it: Remotely activating our devices to build a closed internet of Amazon is not OK.
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, but I review all tech with the same critical eye.
Amazon declined my request to interview an executive in charge of Sidewalk but over email said it was about making our tech work better. “We live in an increasingly connected world where customers want their devices to stay connected. We built Sidewalk to improve customers’ experiences with their devices and to benefit their communities,” said Manolo Arana, general manager of Sidewalk.
Reasons we would want Sidewalk, he said, include continuing to receive motion alerts from Ring security cameras when they lose WiFi or extending the range of smart lights. Later this month, Amazon is also adding Bluetooth lost-item tracker Tile and smart lock maker Level to the Sidewalk network. And it is partnering with CareBand, a maker of wearable sensors for people with dementia, on a pilot test including indoor and outdoor tracking and a help button.
But Sidewalk is also a vast new wireless network entirely controlled by Amazon – and paid for by us.
– – –
Amazon is not the only big company working on getting more things connected to the internet by piggybacking on us. But it’s doing it in a more aggressive way.
Modern iPhones collect and beam out tiny snippets of other people’s data for Apple’s Find My network, used to report the location of lost devices and AirTag trackers. The routers that Comcast puts in our homes automatically double as hotspots for other Xfinity customers, though they create a separate WiFi network for the public traffic.
With Sidewalk, Amazon is creating a more robust network. Your lowly Echo speaker (or other compatible device) is already connected to your home’s private internet connection. When Amazon transforms it into a so-called Sidewalk Bridge, your device creates a new network of its own that’s not WiFi. Instead, it uses common Bluetooth to connect devices nearby, and another type of signal (using the 900 MHz spectrum) to connect to devices up to half a mile away.
This new Sidewalk network can’t carry as much data as WiFi, but it’s still impressive: Sidewalk signals from all the Amazon devices in your neighborhood overlap and join together to create what’s called a mesh network.
“WiFi is constrained mostly to your home; it doesn’t have the range to go into your backyard and into the neighborhood. Cellular offers long-range connectivity, but it is expensive. Sidewalk splits the difference between those two and allows us to put billions of things at the edge of the network,” Arana said.
But here’s the rub: Sidewalk authorizes your Echo to share a portion of your home’s internet bandwidth. It’s up to 500 megabytes per month – the rough equivalent of more than 150 cellphone photos. Amazon caps it at a rate of 80 Kbps, which the company says is a fraction of the bandwidth used to stream a typical high-definition video. Still, this traffic could count toward your internet service provider’s data cap, if you’ve got one. The bill will be paid by you, not Amazon.
Which raises the question: Shouldn’t Amazon be paying us?
It’s not hard to imagine Amazon could use Sidewalk for its own business, such as to track packages or connect up its delivery trucks.
Arana said: “Our focus right now is to make our customers’ devices work better. I’m not able to comment on future roadmap plans.”
– – –
Amazon says it built Sidewalk with three layers of encryption, so that nobody can view the raw data passing through it – not Amazon, not the person who’s sharing their internet.
Tech industry analyst Patrick Moorhead told me he is impressed by Amazon’s efforts to keep snoopers out. “I haven’t seen very many triple-protected, triple-encrypted systems out there,” he said. “That said, there’s no infallible system.” Even security standards for WiFi have been cracked over the years.
Some other security pros just aren’t keen on opening any kind of portal outside your home network’s secured perimeters, no matter what Amazon promises.
There’s no evidence hackers or independent researchers have found problems with Sidewalk – but it also has yet to become a high-profile target.
– – –
There are also big-picture concerns. Today Amazon talks about Sidewalk as a way to help the roughly quarter of American homes with smart-home appliances get and stay connected. But Amazon doesn’t usually have small ambitions.
At the very least, Sidewalk could massively increase the reach of Amazon’s thriving but controversial Ring security business, which police forces tapped for more than 20,000 requests for footage in 2020. Sidewalk would allow people and organizations to put Ring devices in places that weren’t possible before.
“It is slowly eliminating the notion of ‘off-the-grid,’ ” says Matthew Guariglia, a policy analyst at the tech-liberties-focused Electronic Frontier Foundation. Even though Amazon is a private company, that doesn’t mean the surveillance tech it sells can’t be dangerous.
“As long as Amazon is storing all that data . . . all of that can be accessible to police. It’s impossible to think of things as just private or public surveillance anymore.”
Amazon has been vague about what types of data will be able to transfer across the network, aside from innocuous-sounding examples, such as receiving alerts, software updates and the location of lost items. “As a low-bandwidth network, Sidewalk is intended to transmit small amounts of data,” Arana said.
– – –
Last but not least, Amazon should have made sharing our internet connection something we opt in to, rather than just turning it on.
Amazon is activating Sidewalk on devices going back to at least the third-generation Echo speaker, from 2018, though it tells me they can only join the Bluetooth part of the network. (Amazon disclosed those devices had Bluetooth, but not that it might someday use them to build a network.) Echo devices capable of joining the long-range part include the latest Echo and Echo Show 10, both announced in 2020.
“We believe Sidewalk will provide value for every customer and we want to make it easy for them to take advantage of benefits,” Arana said. “Customers setting up an eligible Echo device for the first time have the opportunity to disable Sidewalk during device setup and will also receive a separate notification shortly after setup as well.”
When I set up a new Echo speaker last November, the Alexa app popped up a page about it with only two choices: “enable” and “later.” Amazon said earlier this year it changed that screen to make it clearer customers had the ability to opt out.
Is Sidewalk capability still lurking in even older Amazon devices to be activated in the future? Amazon’s Arana would only answer: “We can’t comment on future plans.”
– – –
Turning Sidewalk off isn’t hard, but involves digging through some settings.
If you’ve got Echo devices, go to the Alexa app on a phone, then tap the More icon. Then tap on Settings, then tap on Account Settings, then tap on Amazon Sidewalk. In there, make sure “Enabled” is set to off.
If you’ve got Ring devices, go to the Ring app on a phone, then tap the three bars at the top left corner to get to the menu. Then tap Control Center, then scroll down to Amazon Sidewalk.
If you turn off Sidewalk on one kind of device, it should cover you for all of them. (Some people have complained they switched off the Sidewalk setting, but it turned itself back on. Amazon says it fixed the problem.)
One more thing to keep in mind: There’s no halfway option. If you turn off Sidewalk, you won’t be sharing your network with your neighbors, but your devices also won’t be able to access its network.
iPhone updates will include better video calls, paid privacy controls and virtual drivers licenses
Apple is adding a number of features that are perfect for a pandemic, such as watching streaming TV together or blurring your messy FaceTime background. Unfortunately, they come more than a year late, as most of the U.S. is reopening and switching back to in-person socialization.
Apple previewed what’s next for iPhones, iPads and Macs on Monday at WWDC. The annual event, short for Worldwide Developers Conference, is like a public to-do list for Apple’s products over the next few months. The operating systems will be available to everyone this fall, and in July as a public beta for people who like to test out new features before their friends.
The next iPhone update, iOS 15, will include more Zoom-like features for video-call app FaceTime, include screen-sharing and the ability to call non-Apple users. There are new privacy controls, including a paid option that is similar to a VPN. Apple Wallet is going to add support for state IDs, which could be great in bars and airports, unless your battery dies. In the photos app, there’s the ability to select text in pictures. And a handful of new health options let your devices look for patterns and send you reminders about your health, as well as give family members and doctors more ways to see other people’s health information.
For the second year in a row because of the coronavirus pandemic, WWDC is being streamed over the Internet rather than held in a conference hall full of guests. Without the live element, the event can feel like one long glossy video ad, chock full of whiz-bang demos and technical details packed onto presentation screens in tiny type.
The event is especially fraught this year. Apple typically uses WWDC to bolster its relationship with app developers, some of whom don’t like Apple’s tight control over the App Store. Last month, a judge finished hearing arguments in a lawsuit from “Fortnite” maker Epic Games about Apple’s commissions.
The most interesting new features focus on privacy, identification, FaceTime and the iPad.
Apple’s latest privacy moves include iCloud Plus, a paid service for encrypting information going to and from your devices. The iPhone’s built-in Mail app will also combat efforts to track you through email, and a new section in Settings called App Privacy Report will tell you how often apps use location, photos, camera and microphone. It will also show you all the third-party domains apps are contacting, a missing element of the app privacy “nutrition labels” Apple introduced last year.
In a bid to make the iPhone’s Wallet app more useful, Apple, the Transportation Security Administration and some states are working to let your state ID or driver’s license be stored in your phone. The app will also add virtual keys for office buildings, smart locks and some partner hotels.
FaceTime’s biggest Zoom-like change will allow users to schedule calls and share links to them. Even better, those links will also work via the Web for people on Android and Windows devices.
And iPads are getting more multitasking and note-taking features, including home screen widget upgrades, new keyboard shortcuts and a new notes option called Quick Notes.
There was no new MacBook Pro announced, but one update to MacOS, called Monterrey in its next version, allows greater interaction between devices. If you’re using a Mac right next to an iPad, you can just keep mousing right over the edge of the screen and start controlling the iPad. Called Universal Control, it also works between multiple Macs – and more than two devices at once. It also lets you drag and drop documents between the devices.
Published : June 08, 2021
By : The Washington Post · Geoffrey A. Fowler, Heather Kelly
Apples tightly controlled App Store is teeming with scams
Apple chief executive Tim Cook has long argued it needs to control app distribution on iPhones, otherwise the App Store would turn into “a flea market.”
But among the 1.8 million apps on the App Store, scams are hiding in plain sight. Customers for several VPN apps, which allegedly protect users’ data, complained in Apple App Store reviews that the apps told users their devices have been infected by a virus to dupe them into downloading and paying for software they don’t need. A QR code reader app that remains on the store tricks customers into paying $4.99 a week for a service that is now included in the camera app of the iPhone. Some apps fraudulently present themselves as being from major brands such as Amazon and Samsung.
Of the highest 1,000 grossing apps on the App Store, nearly two percent are scams, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. And those apps have bilked consumers out of an estimated $48 million during the time they’ve been on the App Store, according to market research firm Appfigures. The scale of the problem has never before been reported. What’s more, Apple profits from these apps because it takes a cut of up to a 30 percent of all revenue generated through the App Store. Even more common, according to The Post’s analysis, are “fleeceware” apps that use inauthentic customer reviews to move up in the App Store rankings and give apps a sense of legitimacy to convince customers to pay higher prices for a service usually offered elsewhere with higher legitimate customer reviews.
Two-thirds of the 18 apps The Post flagged to Apple were removed from the App Store.
The most valuable company in U.S. history, Apple is facing unprecedented scrutiny for how it wields its power and is fighting to hold onto it, including in a blockbuster trial that concluded last month. Regulators and competitors have zeroed in on the App Store in particular: Unlike app stores on other mobile operating systems, Apple’s store faces no competition and is the only way for iPhone owners to download software to their phones without bypassing Apple’s restrictions. Through it, Apple keeps a tight grip on software distribution and payments on its mobile operating system, called iOS.
Apple has long maintained that its exclusive control of the App Store is essential to protecting customers, and it only lets the best apps on its system. But Apple’s monopoly over how consumers access apps on iPhones can actually create an environment that gives customers a false sense of safety, according to experts. Because Apple doesn’t face any major competition and so many consumers are locked into using the App Store on iPhones, there’s little incentive for Apple to spend money on improving it, experts say.
“If consumers were to have access to alternative app stores or other methods of distributing software, Apple would be a lot more likely to take this problem more seriously,” said Stan Miles, an economics professor at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, Canada.
“We hold developers to high standards to keep the App Store a safe and trusted place for customers to download software, and we will always take action against apps that pose a harm to users,” Apple spokesperson Fred Sainz said in a statement to The Post. “Apple leads the industry with practices that put the safety of our customers first, and we’ll continue learning, evolving our practices and investing the necessary resources to make sure customers are presented with the very best experience.”
Simon Willison, a software engineer and a former iOS developer, recently fell for an app that wasn’t what it presented itself as. Willison owns a Samsung television and went to the App Store on his phone to install the accompanying Samsung remote control app called “SmartThings.” An app called “Smart Things” popped up, claiming to be a remote for Samsung televisions. Willison paid $19 for the app. “I thought wow, Samsung has gone downhill. They’re nickel and diming me for my remote control?”
It turns out the app was pretending to be the genuine Samsung product. His mistake, he says, was an “assumption that the App Store review process was good,” he said. “I held Apple in higher regard than I did Samsung.”
Samsung did not respond to a request for comment. TV Cast Limited, the maker of Smart Things, did not respond to a request for comment.
Apple isn’t the only company that struggles with this issue: They’re also on Google’s Play Store, which is available on its Android mobile operating system. But unlike Apple, Google doesn’t claim that its Play Store is curated. Consumers can download apps from different stores on Android phones, creating competition between app stores.
Apple says it is constantly improving its methods for sniffing out scams and usually catches them within a month of hitting the App Store. In a recent news release, Apple said it employed new tools to verify the authenticity of user reviews and last year kicked 470,000 app developer accounts off the App Store. Developers, however, can create new accounts and continue to distribute new apps.
Apple unwittingly may be aiding the most sophisticated scammers by eliminating so many of the less competent ones during its app review process, said Miles, who co-authored a paper called “The Economics of Scams.”
“If people do believe or are not worried about being scammed, then there’s going to be a lot of victimization,” he said. Miles also said Apple could warn consumers that some apps “are probably fraud and so buyer beware and you do your homework before you buy the app and don’t trust our store.”
Apple has argued that it is the only company with the resources and know-how to police the App Store. In the trial that Epic Games, the maker of the popular video game “Fortnite,” brought against Apple last month for alleged abuse of its monopoly power, Apple’s central defense was that competition would loosen protections against unwanted apps that pose security risks to customers. The federal judge in the case said she may issue a verdict by August.
The prevalence of scams on Apple’s App Store played a key role at trial. Apple’s lawyers were so focused on the company’s role in making the App Store safe that Epic’s attorneys accused them of trying to scare the court into a ruling in favor of Apple. In other internal emails unearthed during trial that date as far back as 2013, Apple’s Phil Schiller, who runs the App Store, expressed dismay when fraudulent apps made it past App Store review.
After a rip-off version of the Temple Run video game became the top-rated app, according to Schiller’s email exchange, he sent an irate message to two other Apple executives responsible for the store. “Remember our talking about finding bad apps with low ratings? Remember our talk about becoming the ‘Nordstroms’ of stores in quality of service? How does an obvious rip off of the super popular Temple Run, with no screenshots, garbage marketing text, and almost all 1-star ratings become the #1 free app on the store?” Schiller asked his team. “Is no one reviewing these apps? Is no one minding the store?” Apple declined to make Schiller available to comment. At trial, Schiller defended the safety of the app store on the stand. The app review process is “the best way we could come up with … to make it safe and fair.”
Eric Friedman, head of Apple’s Fraud Engineering Algorithms and Risk unit, or FEAR, said that Apple’s screening process is “more like the pretty lady who greets you with a lei at the Hawaiian airport than the drug sniffing dog,” according to a 2016 internal email uncovered during the Epic Games trial. Apple employs a 500-person App Review team, which sifts through submissions from developers. “App Review is bringing a plastic butter knife to a gun fight,” Friedman wrote in another email. Apple declined to make Friedman available to comment. In deposition testimony, Friedman pointed to investments Apple has made to stop fraud. “A lot has changed in the last five years,” he said.
Though the App Store ratings section is filled with customer complaints referring to apps as scams, there is no way for Apple customers to report this to Apple, other than reaching out to a regular Apple customer service representative. Apple used to have a button, just under the ratings and reviews section in the App Store, that said “report a problem,” which allowed users to report inappropriate apps. Based on discussions among Apple customers on Apple’s own website, the feature was removed some time around 2016. Sainz said customers can still report apps through other channels.
“It’s detrimental to the general ecosystem that these things are happening,” said Jakub Vavra, a researcher at Avast, a cybersecurity company that has analyzed the App Store.
In a sworn deposition in the Epic lawsuit, Phillip Shoemaker, the former head of the App Review team, said employees in his department generally did not have a technical background in computer coding. They needed to know how to use a Mac and an iPhone, he said. “Qualifications were that they could breathe, they could think,” he said. And they typically worked at the Apple “Genius Bar” at the company’s retail stores. It typically took about 13 minutes to review a new app, Shoemaker said in the deposition. Shoemaker declined to comment.
In an April 21 hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Apple’s chief compliance officer, Kyle Andeer, defended the App Store against allegations of scams and fake reviews. “Unfortunately, no one is perfect,” Andeer said. “But I think what we’ve shown, over and over again, is that we do a better job than others. I think one of the real risks of opening up the iPhone to side loading or third party app stores is that this problem will only multiply.” Apple declined to make Andeer available for comment.
Each day, Apple publishes a list of the top 1,000 grossing apps for that day. With data provided by market research firm Appfigures, The Post analyzed the top grossing apps on the day Andeer testified.
On the day of the testimony, there were 18 apps that The Post defined as being scams among Apple’s top grossing apps. The Post defined a scam as any app that takes money from customers using misleading tactics, including manipulated ratings and reviews as well as tactics that can trick people into paying for something accidentally or because they believed they had no choice. The Post also looked for keywords in the reviews section of the apps and patterns or complaints from customers who felt misled, tricked or scammed.
Five VPN apps – Prime Shield, Spy Block, Secure & Fast VPN Protector, CyGuard VPN and Upcure – raised red flags because of suspicious ratings and user complaints on the App Store. VPN apps are designed to protect a user’s privacy by routing their Internet traffic through a remote server. But by siphoning all traffic from a phone, they could also obtain passwords and sensitive login information.
In all five cases, Apple customers complained in the review section that they were drawn to the apps by misleading advertisements elsewhere on the internet, known as “scareware,” which scare users into thinking their phone has been infected by a virus.
The Apple “support” link for three of those apps leads to Russian websites that appear nearly identical to one another, suggesting they may be owned by the same entity using multiple Apple developer accounts.
Upcure was removed from the App Store before The Post contacted Apple. After The Post contacted Apple, the company removed the other four apps from the App Store. None of the apps responded to requests for comment.
Apple also took down a separate VPN app that wasn’t among the top 1,000 grossing apps after inquiries from The Post. FirstVPN: WiFi Security Master was programmed to tell users, “Malware detected! 36 viruses were found,” according to security researchers, then prod users for $13 a month to block the viruses. Users could have seen this notice after downloading the app, and it could have been used as scareware to get them to subscribe. The notice did not appear immediately after The Post downloaded the app. Security researcher Patrick Wardle independently found the message about 36 viruses embedded in the app’s code. Traditional anti-virus software for iPhones doesn’t even exist because of the way Apple restricts access to the phone’s software.
FirstVPN’s software also contained images from Pornhub, Netflix and ESPN, according to security researchers who analyzed it. Wardle said the images appeared to advertise the VPN app’s ability to circumvent copyright protections and adult content filters.
Sainz said it may be that not all customers who downloaded FirstVPN received the message about the 36 viruses. He said Apple removed the app and pointed The Post to Apple’s VPN guidelines for developers, which prohibit VPN providers from disclosing data to third parties. He would not say whether Apple notified users of the app about its removal. The developer behind FirstVPN didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Other scam apps were focused on dating or relationships. A dating app called uDates stood out because of suspicious reviews and user complaints on the App Store. The app, which promises you’ll “get close with someone you’re already close to,” requires an upgrade to a premium account for $20 a month to respond to the women who began messaging within seconds of signing up. The app, owned by a Latvian company called Battika SIA, did not respond to a request for comment. It has not been removed from the App Store.
MatureDating, a dating app that had suspicious reviews and inauthentic activity, was removed by Apple after inquiries from The Post. Laura Edison, director of NSI Holdings, MatureDating’s parent company said the inauthentic activity was caused by Apple’s recent privacy changes, which force apps to ask users if they want to be tracked across. Edison said NSI Holdings had used tracking to stop fraudulent users.
Another dating app, CooMeet, also asks for money for users to continue chatting with women. Its apparent owner, Comewel Limited, didn’t respond to a request for comment. CooMeet was removed from the App Store after The Post asked an Apple spokeswoman for comment. On June 3, CooMeet was back on the App Store, but this time under a new developer name, Gartwell Limited, based in Belize City.
Other suspicious apps identified by The Post did not respond to requests for comment.
When it comes to one type of scam, there’s evidence that Apple’s store is no safer than Google’s. Avast analyzed both the Apple and Google app stores in March, looking for fleeceware apps. The company found 134 in the App Store and 70 on the Play Store, with over a billion downloads, about half on Android and half on iOS, and revenue of $365 million on Apple and $38.5 million on Android. Most the victims were in the United States.
“Google Play reviews apps before they are published. This process involves a team who are experts in identifying violations of our developer policies earlier in the app life cycle,” said Google spokesman Scott Westover.
Vavra, the Avast researcher, said apps that charge weekly subscriptions are often suspicious. By charging people weekly, the subscriptions seem lower, and some customers will assume they are monthly, without reading the fine print – and those fees can add up. In one case, Vavra found that a palm reading app called FortuneScope charged as much as $3,432 per year. Russo-Bel-Remstroi, OOO, the developer of FortuneScope, did not respond to a request for comment.
Another strategy: Don’t just look at an app’s overall rating, which may be manipulated. Scroll down and read the reviews, too.
Most of the scam apps are highly rated. But a careful read of reviews may reveal that some are not authentic. A quick internet search shows that there are several services that sell positive reviews on the App Store.
For example, QR Code Reader – QR Scan – which earned $879,000 for a service built into iPhones – has a high rating of 4.6 stars and 16,000 reviews. But some of those have nothing to do with QR code scanning. “I have gone to see Annie Lover’s Nails for years and she has always gone the extra mile to provide exceptional service,” one review wrote. Another says, “I was taking a chance on getting the dog training collar, and I can’t say enough about it and how long it holds a charge. Thanks you!!!”
Air Apps, which owns QR Code Reader – QR Scan, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
This type of manipulation can “create the perception for the public that they are safe downloading an app or buying a product and engaging in content that other people have found valuable,” said Renee DiResta, technical research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, who has studied fake reviews on Amazon.
In some cases, the reviews are done with bots. Higher quality reviews use real people.
Saoud Khalifah, founder and chief executive of FakeSpot, which helps consumers detect fake reviews on websites like Amazon, said the company has found that on average about 25 to 30 percent of reviews on the App Store are fake. In 2019, Apple began filtering out the “low hanging fruit,” Khalifah said. But the company still misses the more sophisticated methods of fake reviews, which involve getting real people to post them.
Sainz said Apple rejects about a third of all submitted ratings and reviews. He said the idea of what makes a review fake is subjective and that some reviews FakeSpot might consider inauthentic may be done by real people.
There are sneakier ways to get good reviews. One method was employed by an app called “Streamer for Fire Stick TV,” which was rated 4.4 stars and had 8,500 ratings. The app, which charged users $3 a month or a one-time fee of $10 for a lifetime premium subscription, appears to be offered by Amazon but is not.
Its high ranking, though, appears to come from a coding trick that exploits a bug in Apple’s ratings system. The code in the Fire TV app forces users to rate the app, blocking the user’s ability to click on anything but four or five stars. The coding trick and bug was discovered using software created by Corellium, a company that makes security research tools. The developer of the app didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“We have processes in place to identify and investigate bad actors that use our brand to attempt to deceive the public, and we take action to protect customers and hold bad actors accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Amazon spokesman Craig Andrews said in an emailed statement. (Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
The app was first noticed by Kosta Eleftheriou, an app developer who has been a vocal critic of Apple for what he says are lax standards for apps. Eleftheriou, who makes typing apps that can be used by blind people, says he was frustrated when one of his apps was being hurt by what he calls scam apps that used fake reviews to move up in the rankings. In March, Eleftheriou sued Apple, claiming the company abused its market power to hurt small developers.
Eleftheriou says he has heard from dozens of other app developers who are afraid of exposing scams themselves for fear of upsetting Apple. He tweets about the scams, often prompting Apple to delete them. Apple removed the Fire Stick TV scam a day after Eleftheriou tweeted about it.
Published : June 07, 2021
By : The Washington Post · Reed Albergotti, Chris Alcantara
Ransomware attacks are closing schools, delaying chemotherapy and derailing everyday life
SAN FRANCISCO – It can feel abstract: a group of organized but faceless criminals hijacking corporate computer systems and demanding millions of dollars in exchange for their safe return. But the impact of these ransomware attacks is increasingly, unavoidably, real for everyday people.
These crimes have resulted in missed chemotherapy appointments and delayed ambulances, lost school days, and transportation problems. A ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline in May led to gas shortages and even dangerous situations caused by panic buying. This past week, hackers compromised the JBS meat processing company, leading to worries about meat shortages or other key food providers being at risk. Last fall, the Baltimore County Public Schools system was hit with ransomware and forced to halt classes for two days, which were being held virtually.
As recently as Wednesday, ransomware attacks were causing problems across the country. In Martha’s Vineyard, the ferry service transporting people to and from the Massachusetts island said it had been hit by a ransomware attack that disrupted its ticketing and reservation process. Ferries continued operating all week, but the ticketing system was still affected, causing delays, on Friday.
The recent spate of high-profile ransomware incidents is exactly what cybersecurity professionals have been warning about for years. But it’s partially the impact on everyday people – far from the executive suites, cybersecurity companies, or government agencies that regularly fret about the criminal enterprise – that has made the risk more visible. The ripple effects of ransomware can result in everything from mild inconvenience to people losing their lives, and it’s only increased in frequency during the pandemic.
“It’s not only that it’s getting worse, but it’s the worst possible time for it to happen,” said Robert Lee, chief executive of Dragos, an industrial cybersecurity firm. He says on average, there are likely 20 to 30 big ransomware cases happening behind the scenes in addition to the ones making headlines.
Ransomware attacks are not new. The money at stake has changed drastically, however, inflating from thousands to millions of dollars, and the targets are more sophisticated as well. The increasing number of companies connecting their systems and adding more remote access points, along with things like the widespread use of bitcoin, have widened the pool of targets. Cybercriminals once focused on small companies and individuals but have made headlines this year for attacks on higher-profile victims.
“Now you’ve got ransomware affecting whole corporate networks, interrupting critical national function, causing disruption in people’s lives. It’s really become a national security, public health and safety threat,” said Michael Daniel, president and CEO of the nonprofit group Cyber Threat Alliance.
The ransomware industry has grown but the underlying techniques for gaining access have largely stayed the same. Hackers commonly access companies’ systems through “phishing” attacks – emails sent to try to trick employees into giving up passwords or access. Once inside a company’s system, ransomware outfits will find critical information and lock it down, then contact a company to demand a ransom for it to be released.
These criminals generally work in loosely defined groups, sharing tips and resources that make it possible for individual hackers to easily extort multiple targets. Companies occasionally have backup copies of their systems that they can restore rather than pay a ransom. But that can result in delays, and sometimes hackers make copies of the information they access and threaten to leak private information online if they are not paid. A big data leak could be a huge issue for consumers, not just the companies.
“There’s this awful downward spiral of societal harm that happens from ransomware,” said Megan Stifel, co-chair of the ransomware task force and an executive director at the Global Cyber Alliance.
The Colonial Pipeline attack was one of the many worst-case scenarios experts have been warning about, and planning for, for years. A ransomware attack last month caused the company to shut down its pipeline connecting Texas to New Jersey.
Panicked that they wouldn’t be able to get enough fuel, drivers swarmed gas stations, resulting in long lines and barren gas pumps in parts of the U.S. Drivers hoarded fuel as stations ran out of their supply, exacerbating the issue. The attack sparked a real-world fire in a Florida town, according to local news reports, when a Hummer burst into flames after the driver filled up four gas containers. The panic buying even prompted the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue a long tweet thread about gas safety, including a message that quickly went viral: “Do not fill plastic bags with gasoline.”
People’s safety has been even more directly threatened by attacks on health care systems. Hospitals have been particularly hard hit, as far back as 2016 when the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical hospital paid $17,000 in bitcoin to a ransomware hacker. Last November, the University of Vermont Medical Center was hit by ransomware and it took nearly a month for it to regain access to its medical records. Chemotherapy patients had their treatments delayed, and were sent to other health centers where some had to re-create their medical history.
Joshua Corman, the chief strategist for health care and covid on the government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency COVID Task Force, has been studying the potential impact of health-care attacks on mortality rates. For example, if a hospital has to close suddenly, ambulances might take longer to reach people in distress.
“Minutes can be the difference between life and death for heart attacks, and hour or two can be the difference for a stroke,” said Corman.
Lee, the head of Dragos, recently worked with a power company that got hit with a ransomware attack but was able to maintain operations. However, attacks like that could easily result in localized power shortages, he says. Attacks on pharmaceutical companies, or any of the manufacturers in their pipeline, could delay critical medicine like insulin or even vaccines. The increased targeting of industries with the most potential for disruption may be the criminals’ business decision.
“It feels like these groups realize industrial companies are more ready to pay out and more quick to pay out, because if you impact industrial operations you have to get up and going for safety and community,” said Lee.
Beyond the physical inconveniences, ransomware attacks can also hurt public trust in technology and systems, and cause people to worry they’ll be a victim or to panic-buy products they think will see a price hike or be in short supply, according to Stifel.
Panic after attacks is part of the problem. This past week’s attack on JBS, one of the largest meat-processing companies in the world, resulted in temporary factory shutdowns. While there were not yet any confirmed meat shortages in the U.S., worried meat suppliers still warned consumers not to panic-buy beef, which could cause otherwise still stable prices to go up.
From higher gas prices to canceled surgeries, real-world financial and consumer safety implications of these hacks have spurred the federal government to crack down on ransomware. It’s investigating the causes, working on guidelines, and urging corporate America to take cybersecurity protections seriously.
“We’ve been warning about this overtly for more than eight years and a lot more quietly for longer, but now that its manifested, the silver lining is that we’re not starting ice cold,” said CISA’s Corman.
A renewed push: Technology on all new vehicles to prevent drunken driving
Technology that could reduce drunken driving has evolved faster than the willingness among political and auto industry leaders to put it to use, safety advocates say. But that could be changing.
On Wednesday, the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety announced that its breath-analyzing interlock, which can detect impaired drivers, will be available for use in commercial vehicles for the first time later this year. A consumer version could be ready by 2024.
The device is among several anti-DUI technologies that could be used to prevent drunken driving and has so far attracted the most attention. For more than a decade, the federal government and the auto industry have been working to develop the device as part of a Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, or DADSS, that can passively detect whether a driver is intoxicated and prevent the vehicle from starting.
But with a new administration in the White House, a new Congress and advances in the technology, momentum appears to be building for new federal auto safety standards that would go beyond DADSS to reduce alcohol-related crashes and save an estimated 9,400 lives.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is pressing the auto industry to take advantage of existing technology, such as driver-monitoring and driver-assist lane controls, to reduce drunken driving now, rather than wait for DADSS or fully autonomous vehicles to hit the market.
While some automakers, such as Volvo, have integrated driver-monitoring cameras and sensors into their safety systems, advocates expressed frustration that the rest of the industry has been slow to do the same.
“We are mad that the automakers are ignoring the potential technologies they have to prevent drunken driving,” said Ken Snyder, whose daughter, Katie Snyder Evans, was killed by a drunk driver in October 2017 in California. He said there are 241 technologies available to combat drunken driving, with some requiring little more than rejiggering the computer code in driver-assist technology. “I can’t sit still until this done because I don’t want other families to go through the hell we’ve been through,” Snyder said.
The number of drunken driving fatalities has fallen by more than half since 1982, when the federal government began collecting alcohol-related crash data. Yet every 50 minutes, another American dies in an alcohol-related crash. The Insurance Information Institute says 10,142 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes in 2019, accounting for 28 percent of all traffic fatalities.
Bipartisan legislation – the Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone (Ride) Act in the Senate and a similar bill in the House – would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to formulate rules and standards on implementing anti-DUI technology. Backers include Rep. Debbie Dingell and Sen. Gary Peters, both Democrats from Michigan. Several Republicans, including Sen. Rick Scott of Florida and Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia, have also signed on.
The auto industry opposes such mandates. Industry officials warn that existing driver-assist and driver-monitoring technology is not yet up to the task of intervening against a drunk driver, and that ineffective or unreliable measures could backfire. What would happen, they ask, if technology designed to monitor driver behavior inaccurately determined that a driver was impaired and disabled the vehicle or forced the vehicle off the road?
“While these systems may help identify many of the effects of alcohol and drug impairment, we are unaware of existing research demonstrating the robust effectiveness of these systems in detecting alcohol impairment,” Scott Schmidt, vice president for safety policy at the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, said in comments submitted to NHTSA in January.
At best, Schmidt said, the current driver-assist technology can only infer that a person is impaired, unlike DADSS, which is intended to make reliable and accurate readings of a driver before the car gets on the road. He said it’s also possible that current technology might fail to intervene with a “high functioning” driver who is relatively able to operate the vehicle while under the influence.
“As a result, we believe that DADSS research should be supported and completed as an agency priority,” Schmidt wrote.
NHTSA also supports further research and development of DADSS, an ignition interlock device that would prevent the vehicle from starting if it determines that the driver has a blood alcohol level above a certain threshold. Such breathalyzer-like devices have become widespread over the past three decades as states implemented various programs to stop recidivism among drivers who were charged with or convicted of a DUI.
Unlike existing interlocks, however, DADSS technology is intended to become standard equipment in all automobiles and require no effort from the driver to take a reading. The driver would not be required to blow into a tube, for example. Instead, DADSS would analyze the driver’s ambient breath. The nonprofit is also developing a touch-based sensor similar to thermometers and blood-oxygen gauges applied to a finger tip.
Robert Strassburger, president of Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, said the pandemic had set back development of DADSS by at least a year because of limits on research involving human subjects and disruptions to the supply chain for electronic components. He said the coalition is ahead of the usual 20-year timeline for research and development of a major traffic safety component with its breath-analyzing interlock.
“We still need to make the sensor more sensitive to alcohol and further shrink its size so it’s more easily integrated into cars,” Strassburger said. He said the touch-based technology is expected to reach commercial fleets by 2023, followed by a consumer version two years later.
NHTSA has contributed $55 million to developing DADSS, matched by $16 million from the auto industry, an agency spokeswoman said. The federal agency is also exploring other possible technologies to reduce drunken driving, having issued a “request for information” to manufacturers and researchers in November. A report on the findings is expected later this year.
Joan Claybrook, a former president of Public Citizen who headed NHTSA during the Carter administration, likened the push for anti-DUI technology to the resistance to installing air bags in vehicles.
“Fifty thousand lives have been saved by air bags and the auto industry fought it like mad, even though they invented it,” Claybrook said.
At a Senate subcommittee hearing in April, Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., a Ride Act co-sponsor and victim of a drunk driver, expressed urgency as he questioned John Bozzella, president of Alliance for Automotive Innovation.
“Mr. Bozzella, have you ever been hit by a drunk driver?” Luján asked.
“No, I have not,” Bozzella answered.
“I have,” Luján said. “I got hit head-on by a drunk driver 29 years ago. And there were many nights that I’d be driving home after that accident, or driving anywhere, and all I would see were headlights coming at me, and it scared me to death.”
Luján, in an interview last week, said he still recalls the feeling of shock and disorientation he felt moments after the crash. He also recalled seeing an empty child carrier in the other car and fearing that perhaps a child had been flung from the wreckage. It turned out that the other car’s only occupant was the drunk driver, and both he and Luján emerged from the crash relatively uninjured.
“The point of this, I’m here to tell the story, [but] there are so many people who died,” Luján said. “There’s no good reason why auto manufacturers are not required to include technology in their vehicles which is readily available to prevent drunken driving crashes from happening.”
Phayao gets North’s first air-purification tower to combat PM2.5 smog
The city of Phayao has erected Thailand’s third “Fahsai” (Clear Sky) air purification tower to combat seasonal smog conditions that are among the worst in the North.
Rising more than 5 metres into the air, the Fahsai 2 at Phayao is designed to help alleviate PM2.5 pollution whipped up by field-burning at the end of the growing season.
“Phayao is in the top three northern provinces for PM2.5 dust, mainly from open-air burning of biomass,” said Assoc Prof Singh Intrachooto.
Singh is chief adviser to the Research & Innovation for Sustainability Centre (RISC) under Magnolia Quality Development Corp (MQDC), which launched the tower with help from the University of Phayao.
“Breathing fine PM2.5 particulates can greatly harm respiratory systems and lungs, causing high blood pressure, heart disease, and strokes,” said Singh, adding that Phayao had been chosen to pilot the Fahsai project on air quality research in the North. Aided by the university’s School of Public Health and the Faculty of Engineering, the RISC is creating a digital dust database for the northern city.
Phayao gets North’s first air-purification tower to combat PM2.5 smog
The hybrid air purifier tower is powered by solar panels along with mains power to reduce its carbon footprint. The device has also been upgraded from first-generation Fahsai to kill bacteria, fungi, and viruses using UVC and ozone.
Capacity has also been enhanced with four larger fan blades each moving 30,000 cubic metres/hour (up from 15,000) for a total of 120,000 cubic metres/hour to serve an area of about one football field.
The first-generation Fahsai city-level air purification tower was installed at 101 True Digital Park in 2020. RISC launched the second generation of Fahsai 2 in early 2021 at Bangkok’s Makkasan Airport Rail Link Station.
Thailand’s EV industry flourishing with three big players
Electric vehicles (EV) are fast becoming popular in many countries, including Thailand, as governments work towards protecting the environment and stimulating the economy.
Here are three companies that play an important role in Thailand’s EV industry:
Energy Absolute (EA) has set up several subsidiaries to support the trend of renewable energy, such as MINE.
MINE develops EVs, while its other subsidiary, Energy Mahanakhon, provides “EA Anywhere” charging stations.
So far, MINE has developed three EVs:
• MINE SPA1: An electric car that is 100-per-cent made in Thailand. Production to meet orders kicked off in the fourth quarter of 2020.
• MINEbus: Electric buses have been delivered to private firms for testing in smart cities, like Chachoengsao and Saraburi.
• MINE Smart Ferry: Electric ferries are currently plying down the Chao Phraya River between Pak Kret and Sathorn piers.
EA recently set up Amita Technology Thailand, the country’s first one-stop lithium-ion battery factory.
Thailand’s EV industry flourishing with three big players
Thai firm SHARGE has 250 EV charging stations across Bangkok, Hua Hin, Pattaya and Khao Yai. It set up its first charging station in Bangkok’s Central Embassy shopping mall and then in Central Chidlom in 2018.
SHARGE aims to generate up to 3 billion baht in revenue and have the company listed in the stock market by 2025.
This year, SHARGE will cooperate with government and private agencies to set up charging stations in other provinces, including Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Rayong, Ayutthaya and Phuket.
Thailand’s EV industry flourishing with three big players
Asia Cab is both an automaker and an integrated taxi operator. It set up business in Bangkok last year and has been operating CABB – blue London cabs.
These blue cabs can be seen standing outside department stores or hospitals and can also be ordered by calling (02) 026 8888 or via a smartphone application. Fares start at 60 baht.
Asia Cab is working with SCG Chemicals, EA, Summit Auto Body Industry and Microsoft (Thailand) to develop an electric version of the blue London taxis. The EVs are expected to roll out in 2022.
AspenTech Expands Application of Industrial AI to Achieve New Profitability
AspenTech Expands leadership in Industrial AI with Hybrid Models, Deep Learning APC and Empowers Data Scientists to Collaborate with Domain Experts to Achieve New Profitability and Sustainability Goals.
Aspen Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ:AZPN), a global leader in asset optimization software, today announced that it has extended Industrial AI across its leading solutions to drive higher levels of profitability and sustainability in customer’ operations. In addition, the AIoT workbench will enable data scientists to collaborate with domain experts to develop AI apps based on enterprise-wide data.
With First Principles Driven Hybrid Models, AI is directly embedded into Aspen HYSYS and Aspen Plus process simulations, enabling engineers to easily build operations-ready models calibrated with relevant plant data. Reduced Order Hybrid models can be shared across engineering, planning and dynamic optimization solutions to improve the accuracy and predictability of these applications. Deep Learning APC can deliver more accurate and sustainable models that cover a broad range of operating conditions. Together, these advanced capabilities deliver the next generation of operational excellence. According to Peter Reynolds, Principal Analyst with ARC Advisory Group, “The use of First Principles Models acting as guardrails for the use of AI in industrial markets is key for success.”
“Using the hybrid model, we were able to create a model that can reproduce real plant data more accurately than the conventional reformer model. We were able to create a highly accurate model in a short period of time,” commented Mr. Takuto Nakai, Production Department, Nissan Chemical Corporation.
Also new to this latest version of aspenONE V12.1 are new models that will enable customers to optimize biomass processing, hydrogen production, carbon capture, and carbon emissions more accurately and systematically, focused on reducing environmental impact. In addition, new analysis and visualization capabilities can help to reduce measurable waste and energy use, throughout the process from lab to production.
AI-driven 3D conceptual layouts with the introduction of Aspen OptiPlant and Aspen OptiRouter are now integrated into the AspenTech portfolio. For industries such as pharmaceuticals with pressure for a faster time to market, Aspen Unscrambler, Aspen Unscrambler HSI and Aspen Process Pulse ensures product and process quality by solving complex problems using multivariate analysis to drive more profitable processes, less deviation and higher yield.
According to Janice Abel, Principal Analyst with ARC Advisory Group, “The deep domain expertise embedded into the AspenTech V12.1 products and its focus on embedding Industrial AI from design through the entire supply chain offers a powerful solution that will help unlock the untapped business value in industrial data.”
“We continue to add Industrial AI across our portfolio of solutions to automate greater efficiency across engineering, operations and maintenance, to progress the vision of the Self Optimizing Plant,” commented David Arbeitel, senior vice president of product management at Aspen Technology. “The AI workbench solution enables operations and data scientists to better collaborate for business-specific needs. The combination of industry specific application knowledge and asset optimization expertise gives AspenTech customers the assurance that their AI initiatives will yield safe, reliable and efficient operations.”
The aspenONE V12.1 release further improves margins, improves asset uptime and reliability, and maximizes utilization of assets with AspenTech’s end-to-end solutions. Companies can accelerate their digitalization journey and leverage Industrial AI to make progress toward the Self-Optimizing Plant while increasing margins, achieving sustainability and reliable, safe operations, and reducing capital cost and time in bringing assets online.
New Features of aspenONE® V12.1 software include:
• Aspen HYSYS® and Aspen Plus®: Embedded machine learning to easily calibrate models ready to be deployed in operations; Models tuned to reality with improved time-to-value.
• Aspen Deep Learning for DMC3™: combines linear and nonlinear (deep learning) control variables that are easy to update and augment with new data to generate more accurate and sustainable models to run closer to optimum level across entire lifecycle.
• Aspen OptiPlant™ and OptiRouter™: Automatically generate 3D layouts for design, with AI-driven optimum pipeline routing, and broader visibility increasing collaboration for reduced costs, errors, variances and faster concept selection.
• Aspen Unscrambler™ and Aspen Process Plus™: Accelerate product development and ensure product quality, while maintaining regulatory compliance with Aspen Unscrambler and Aspen Process Pulse. Each provides pharmaceutical companies with full process understanding and control of data from product development to production for more profitable processes, less deviations, reduced cycle times, and higher yields.
• Reduced Order Hybrid Models for Aspen Unified PIMS™ and GDOT™: Automate workflow for maintaining planning model accuracy and enable optimization of complex process units in closed loop with reduced order models that provide a consistent workflow spanning process engineering, data science, planning and APC.
• Aspen Mtell™: Enables data scientists to collaborate with domain experts with integration with Aspen AIoT Hub. In addition, Aspen Mtell native OPC UA support enables broader coverage and easier connections across enterprise deployments.
• Aspen Industrial AI Workbench™: Enable domain experts with data analytics with a no-code Visual Query Builder and gain fast-time to insights with out-of-the-box Analytics libraries. Empower citizen data scientists with Advanced Analytics libraries such as Anomaly Detection and Scoring and seamlessly share insights through configurable dashboards and application enablement.