Event: CeBIT Australia 2018 Exhibition (15-17 May)

It’s become a ritual – every year, around this time, CeBIT comes to Sydney and I pay them a visit. It’s always a privilege to be able to walk around the expo to see who’s around, what’s new and catch-up with friends. As usual, I’m writing a post about it and the same disclaimer applies – namely, I’m only going to be mentioning the most interesting exhibitors in my opinion based upon my interests but that doesn’t necessarily constitute endorsement of their products.

Before the Show

The show was held at the ICC just like last year, but there was a difference already noted before the show. This year, they used a new system called CeBIT Match, which is an online web application accessed via an e-mail link which provided access to ticketing and information about the show. No need to install any one-time-use apps or print out paper tickets, which is great news.

The entry ticket itself was merely a low-density QR code containing the ID number encoded as text data. This makes it quite easy to scan, but I wonder whether this is in any way secure – those ID numbers could be guessed or follow particularly simple rules?

Another difference is in the entrance badges. Gone are the old 2D barcodes which required specialised scanning equipment and were difficult to work with and gone are the 1D barcodes that replaced them. This year was the year for RFID through the use of an NFC sticker.

Some people might have some privacy concerns, as NFC can be read at a distance with the right equipment, but surprisingly it seems that this implementation is not an issue. An analysis of the tag shows that it is a clone MiFare Classic 1K tag (i.e. not from Philips/NXP) but is basically unprogrammed. The only way they know who is being scanned is by use of the UID bytes (unique identification) which are programmed at manufacture and not otherwise changeable (unless you have a special backdoored chip). Since the UID bytes don’t correspond to the ID number, UIDs are not too easy to spoof and the tag isn’t programmed with your details, it’s quite safe. The contents of my chip with the two LSBs of the UID are shown at the end of the article.

As a result, you should probably keep your tag since basically you’ve got a free MiFare Classic 1K tag that you can reprogram for any use you desire – if I had known, I might have chosen to program an NDEF VCARD onto it to give away my details directly.

I visited the show on the first day of opening – Tuesday 15th May, which proved to be quite a nice and sunny day.

Getting the badge proved to be a relatively smooth process although there was a short wait. After passing a telepresence assistant robot, getting the badge scanned, I was in.

The Show

Right after entering the show, my own instinct is to start on the right side. But first, you should never pass up the chance to grab a printed show guide – it’s been very useful in the case of “I remember seeing a stand here, what was the company’s name again?” I’m glad they still print these paper guides.

The first thing that hits you is the massive NBN stand, where representatives from the NBN were showing off some of the technological possibilities that the NBN could empower. They also had a few tablets allowing you to check when the NBN will arrive at your place.

For one, the most eye-catching part of the display was the ute with a self-aiming satellite dish and Cisco VoIP phones inside. This is apparently an emergency voice communications unit, which makes sense, since the Skymuster satellites cover practically all of Australia, however the quality of service is probably not going to be great owing to the great round-trip delay to geostationary orbit plus possible access contention in the case of a real emergency.

In fact, to be honest, while NBN bills itself as “Australia’s broadband network”, its management and deployment has left a lot to be desired. With the change to a mixed technology mode, delays in HFC rollout and introduction of a new FTTdp tier, it’s become both somewhat confusing and unequal in what is being provided. I, like many others, would have preferred FTTH if done properly. Now with a mixture of technologies, emergencies could be an issue especially in FTTN and HFC deployments where the network itself requires power to operate, so even if you have a local UPS, this may not be enough. The loss of voice ports and the problems with voice-band modems over VoIP (e.g. SIP ATAs) also deserve mention, as many customers are being forced to find alternatives to maintain their desired services (e.g. fax machines, remote alarm monitoring/telemetry).

I did take some time to ask the representative about these issues, but it seems broadly that these issues are acknowledged but the risks must be handled by the customer in conjunction with their service provider – and what is offered will vary from service provider to service provider. Fair enough, although as they are basically switching off the copper, I think it would be nice if they did have a little more to say about the issue.

However, what was a surprise was the mention that it would be possible to pay a cost-differential to build out a given location for fibre (depending on your present access technology) or any other access technology. This is, however, again dependent on whether your service provider is bothered to handle such a case … which I suspect no “consumer-grade” plans will bother with.

But my biggest disappointment is just how long it’s taken. I’m still without NBN … until early-to-mid next year when HFC comes around. In the interim, I live off LTE which has both limited quota and speeds that go from 120kbit/s during congested periods up to 30Mbit/s at mid-night over USB 2.0 tethering (so it’s not a Wi-Fi restriction). If not, I would be suffering ~3Mbit/s ADSL2+ in this location.

Regardless of the issues, I’m still waiting for it to get here, no matter what the access technology is, because it will mean affordable high-speed access at long last.

Walking along, I passed PCCW Global which was showing off their Now TV platform which has been around in Hong Kong for a while. MAXO Telecommunications are back again this year, along with their competition MyNetFone. I didn’t see anyone that I knew from the past at the latter, which was a little disappointing, but at least the nice LED signboard and mini-golf are here again. Ninebot were also on show, with a number of their self-balancing scooters shown in a static display. Cool, but it would have been cooler to see them in action. It was also nice to see RFI back again this year, as they’ve been around CeBIT for almost every year I’ve been.

The next big attraction was Horizon Wireless, exclusive distributors for Tarana Wireless. They demonstrated a link over the 5Ghz unlicensed band using their own proprietary self-aligning radios, delivering around 400Mbit/s per link with interference mitigation and non-line-of-sight technology. These types of point-to-point links aim at displacing the need to install fibre for backhaul purposes. Apparently, there’s a lot of magic in the algorithms and the claims made on the site really are quite amazing – something in the order of 20dB noise cancellation and a 200Hz self-alignment refinement. I suppose that’s the magic of having a whopping 16 antennas at each end, but there’s bound to be a lot of DSP to make it happen in real-time. Apparently, they are trialling the new AbsoluteAir 3 which pushes the throughput even higher to 1.6Gbit/s peak. All very exciting and shows just what’s possible … although I suspect this may also interfere with regular wireless LAN users as many “proprietary” 5Ghz TDMA-style radios do, as they often will not listen before transmitting.

Like previous years, it was nice to see Icom around this year as well. It’s pretty tough being in the radio market, but it seems that Icom aren’t standing by idly. In the previous years, they demonstrated their Wi-Fi handheld transceivers, this year, they have their new IP501H LTE Transceiver. While the LTE and IDAS systems don’t talk to each other yet, the gateway is in the roadmap. This particular unit is pretty compact and robust feeling and it blurs the line between a mobile-phone and a handheld transceiver. It uses their own SIM card with their own plan, offering full duplex communications just like a phone with priority interruption ability. Voice encoding is G.726 at 32kbit/s (as with some SIP services) thus it seems to be a packet-data delivered voice.

Western Digital and Sandisk shared a stand this year. I don’t remember them being here in the past, so that’s new. At the stand, there were some G-technology external solutions and HGST product catalogues on show. Their stand was quite busy with people waiting to spin the roulette for a chance to win a prize or increase their entries into a draw to win something. Unfortunately, not being swayed by such gimmicks, I moved on …

It seems Sydney area universities are pretty well represented this time around. UTS had a stand with a lot of interesting things going on. As an engineer, I approve of technical displays. One was especially interesting, using sensors and computer vision to detect train carriage occupancy based on how many boarding/disembarking for dwell time optimization and to direct passengers to less crowded carriages. Good in theory, but could be quite difficult to reliably implement and could raise privacy concerns.

Western Sydney University also had a stand with a VR experience of the Penrith Observatory, the Rhythmotron amongst other things.

UNSW haven’t really changed anything much, bringing out the Sunswift solar car once again, although in much more eye-catching colours this year.

Speaking of cars, there was a demonstration from EasyMile of a driverless transportation vehicle which reminds me of some of the people-mover pods that are used to transport people between certain airport terminals. It’s pretty cool to see it in action, even if it is a little slow (maybe for safety) but I didn’t have a chance to ride in it though.

With such an eye-catching display, there’s no way I could have missed Vodafone this year. It’s been challenging times for Vodafone over the past few years with service quality issues, but through a vast network remediation plan and now, with a lot of introductory offers, they’re trying their best to keep themselves going. Their display focused a lot on different IoT network possibilities, demonstrating various products which even included a home automation and security gateway and tiny tracker products which use a solder-able SIM. In fact, it seems that their IoT SIMs and platform offer extra features including global roaming abilities which is pretty cool. I was (unexpectedly) interrupted by a former schoolmate which I hadn’t seen in over a decade who works for Vodafone and was in charge of the stand. It was great to catch up.

Aside from them, Norton had a large showfloor as well, with spinning holographic displays which seems to catch a lot of attention. However, I have to say that the Norton name has lost a lot of shine in recent years … so I just walked on by. I also got to see some of the new Panasonic Toughbook laptops and tablets – good to see they’re still around, with the latest units running Windows 10 as well.

An unexpected exhibitor was Fing, the guys behind the best network scanning app around. If you’re the kind of person that does “tech support”, this is an app you literally must have. I’ve been using the app myself for over three years, and it’s free. I’ve watched it grow from a very capable ARP scanner to gain a lot of features such as NBNS/Bonjour name resolution, service scanning, traceroute/ping, wake-on-LAN, etc. It’s the one-stop-shop to find out whether a given device is on the network and what address it has – especially useful for networks where you don’t have access to the DHCP lease list or the IPs are statically configured (as some of my networks are).

They were on-side promoting their Fingbox, which is a hardware device attached to your network which can be used as a cloud-connected node to scan your network remotely, use as an IDS, bandwidth monitor/Wi-Fi speed tester, block devices from the network (through ARP spoofing and continuous gratuitous broadcasting) amongst other features. Definitely an interesting device … and maybe one I can look into in more detail in the future.

Conclusion

Just like previous years, there was a lot of emphasis on software platforms and services, which weren’t really my main interest. Despite this, there was still a good number of exhibitors that I expected to see and did visit, so it was a good show. It was a chance to have a chat and get up to date with what’s new – thanks everyone for taking the time to talk. The new CeBIT registration process was quite smooth and the use of NFC tags was nice to see.

Hope to see you all again next year! You can sign up for next year already!

Appendix: MiFare Classic 1k Dump

Sector 0 (0x00)
[00] r-- 37 ED ** ** D8 08 04 00 01 DB 56 B3 52 4E FC 1D |7.**......V.RN..|
[01] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[02] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[03] wxx FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF FF:07:80 69 FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF
Factory default key Factory default key (readable)

Sector 1 (0x01)
[04] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[05] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[06] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[07] wxx FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF FF:07:80 69 FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF
Factory default key Factory default key (readable)

Sector 2 (0x02)
[08] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[09] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[0A] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[0B] wxx FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF FF:07:80 69 FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF
Factory default key Factory default key (readable)

Sector 3 (0x03)
[0C] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[0D] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[0E] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[0F] wxx FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF FF:07:80 69 FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF
Factory default key Factory default key (readable)

Sector 4 (0x04)
[10] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[11] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[12] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[13] wxx FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF FF:07:80 69 FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF
Factory default key Factory default key (readable)

Sector 5 (0x05)
[14] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[15] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[16] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[17] wxx FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF FF:07:80 69 FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF
Factory default key Factory default key (readable)

Sector 6 (0x06)
[18] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[19] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[1A] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[1B] wxx FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF FF:07:80 69 FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF
Factory default key Factory default key (readable)

Sector 7 (0x07)
[1C] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[1D] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[1E] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[1F] wxx FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF FF:07:80 69 FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF
Factory default key Factory default key (readable)

Sector 8 (0x08)
[20] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[21] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[22] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[23] wxx FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF FF:07:80 69 FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF
Factory default key Factory default key (readable)

Sector 9 (0x09)
[24] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[25] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[26] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[27] wxx FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF FF:07:80 69 FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF
Factory default key Factory default key (readable)

Sector 10 (0x0A)
[28] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[29] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[2A] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[2B] wxx FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF FF:07:80 69 FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF
Factory default key Factory default key (readable)

Sector 11 (0x0B)
[2C] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[2D] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[2E] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[2F] wxx FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF FF:07:80 69 FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF
Factory default key Factory default key (readable)

Sector 12 (0x0C)
[30] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[31] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[32] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[33] wxx FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF FF:07:80 69 FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF
Factory default key Factory default key (readable)

Sector 13 (0x0D)
[34] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[35] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[36] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[37] wxx FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF FF:07:80 69 FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF
Factory default key Factory default key (readable)

Sector 14 (0x0E)
[38] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[39] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[3A] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[3B] wxx FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF FF:07:80 69 FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF
Factory default key Factory default key (readable)

Sector 15 (0x0F)
[3C] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[3D] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[3E] rwi 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
[3F] wxx FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF FF:07:80 69 FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF
Factory default key Factory default key (readable)

r/R=read, w/W=write, i/I=increment,
d=decr/transfer/restore, x=r+w, X=R+W
data block: r/w/i/d:key A|B, R/W/I:key B only,
I/i implies d, *=value block
trailer (order: key A, AC, key B): r/w:key A,
W:key B, R:key A|B, (r)=readable key
AC: W implies R+r, R implies r

About lui_gough

I'm a bit of a nut for electronics, computing, photography, radio, satellite and other technical hobbies. Click for more about me!
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