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Connected cars and the revolutionary road of the future

connected cars
Autonomous cars are rapidly becoming a reality.

Image credit: mikemacmarketing CC BY 2.0

By Christophe Lepoivre

CONNECTED and autonomous cars have been in the works for years, but this futuristic technology is fast becoming a reality.

It’s not only in the technology-saturated environments of Silicon Valley, where you’re likely to see the automated cars of internet giants like Google and Uber prowling the streets. Across South Africa and the broader continent which lies beyond, connected cars are rapidly becoming not just a possibility, but a reality.

Some of this reality is thanks to simple consumer activity. Just last year, Elon Musk announced that Tesla cars will soon be available in South Africa; Tesla is, of course, widely regarded as the poster child for connected cars. Recent developments at Tesla include the announcement of ‘full’ Autopilot, which gives any such equipped car the ability to drive entirely on its own.

Reminiscent, some might say, of the 1980s TV show Knight Rider and his car KITT.

Blade Nzimande, former South African Minister of Transport, recently noted that while no self-driving cars were currently on South African roads, the government had plans to introduce them as soon as the necessary legislation framework had been created.

But beyond the availability of the vehicles themselves – which are being proven ‘on the road’, as it were, in areas including North America, Europe and Eurasia – there is something fundamental to the ability for connected cars to successfully operate. That fundamental is connectivity. Without good mobile networks, provided by mobile network operators, the connected car simply cannot exist.

And this is where there is good news for many regions in Africa. Thanks to competitive markets and consumers’ insatiable demand for connectivity, the penetration of high-speed mobile networks in multiple nations across the continent has rapidly outstripped terrestrial networks.

With 4G proven and in place, the next steps towards enabling connected and autonomous cars include increased coverage and upgrades to next generation 5G, capable of handling far greater data throughput. And in addition to connectivity, security remains a key issue in both development and deployment, especially given the complexity of the autonomous car itself.

Digitising Driving

Permanently connected cars already exist and they are challenging every notion we have ever had about car ownership, safety and insurance. The revolution is not only impacting the technology behind how cars are built but traditional ownership models are being challenged as the autonomous vehicle takes centre stage in smart, connected cities.

After all, a connected, autonomous car could be out ‘working’, doing ride shares while you relax. It could arrive just in time to take you to work, then transport someone else in the opposite direction. It could be insured at different rates depending on whether it’s in your garage or patrolling the streets with a passenger.

The digitisation of driving is the key driving force behind the connected car. Computers and sensors in car components, and on the roads themselves will assimilate sophisticated data changing everything from how we navigate and avoid traffic to how we find the nearest available parking spot. And central to the digitisation of driving is a system of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication which allows the car to communicate with the Internet, other vehicles, the road and traffic markers, and more.

When Audi wanted to launch LTE services in its popular A3 model, a Gemalto solution called Cinterion quickly made it happen. This custom solution provides LTE speeds to support a suite of embedded voice and data services, allowing one passenger to search online for the best nearby restaurant while another passenger calls for a reservation.

Embedded M2M technology also identifies individual vehicles, encrypts communications and ensure secure global connectivity for smart vehicle systems including emergency call solutions, vehicle telematics, navigation and more.

The role of IoT

The term Internet of Things (IoT) is often banded around, although adopting the technology regionally has presented challenges. Connected cars are not exempt, reliant as they are on high-speed internet connections for situational awareness. That awareness is greatly enhanced by traffic alerts, smart city grid information and a peer-to-peer understanding of other devices and vehicles around them; these feeds, in turn, rely heavily on IoT.

Artificial intelligence on board the vehicles (or in the cloud) can make decisions about routes and speeds, sharing details of the car’s location with other road users. All the features culminate in smarter, safer, self-driving cars that can trump their human counterparts.

Driver favourites such as Toyota and Lexus are already introducing these sorts of connected car capabilities to vehicles in the United States and other markets. Given the availability of the necessary networks practically everywhere in Africa, and the rapid development of IoT infrastructure, it is just a matter of time before connected cars arrive locally. In fact, in 2017 already, it was estimated that South Africa has as many as 100 000 such vehicles on its roads.

The Road to the Future

Christophe Lepoivre, VP Sales Africa, Mobile Connectivity Solutions at Gemalto. Image supplied by the company

In the near future, secure cloud-based service enablement and next generation features such as secure ID-based ignition, integrated NFC and mobile-wallet applications will contribute even further to convenience for drivers and passengers alike.

Tesla vehicles come with software “Autopilots”, Uber is piloting self-driving taxis with Volvo, Daimler and Embark have tested autonomous trucks, and the ability of a car to reverse park itself isn’t even a differentiating feature for luxury sedans anymore. 

The benefits of adopting autonomous vehicles on a widescale are plenty, from reducing transportation costs, carbon emissions and accidents, to saving hundreds of millions of hours wasted in conventional transportation.

So, when can you expect to step into an autonomous vehicle? Government effort, the continuous digital revolution driven by the telecoms operators and an eagerness to evolve the automotive industry all mean you could be driving on the revolutionary road to the future sooner than you think. – GeekWire.co.za

Christophe Lepoivre is VP Sales Africa, Mobile Connectivity Solutions at Gemalto.

Got a hankering for Pi?

Raspberry Pi 4 micro computer
The Raspberry Pi 4 is expected to go on sale in SA in September. Image credit Wikimedia.org

Micro-PC marvel headed for Mzansi

The Raspberry Pi 4 has been launched globally, but local fans of these revolutionary microcomputers will have to wait a little longer to get their hands on one.

RS Components South Africa has assured enthusiasts that once these latest offerings from the Raspberry Pi Foundation get Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (ICASA) stamp of approval, they will be available to order.

The first of the fourth generation Raspberry Pi that will be available is the Pi 4 Model B. Eben Upton, founder of Raspberry Pi, said the latest offering was a comprehensive upgrade, touching almost every element of the platform.

“For the first time, we provide a PC-like level of performance for most users, while retaining the interfacing capabilities and hackability of the classic Raspberry Pi line.

“What’s changed with Raspberry Pi 4 is that, in addition to being a device for learning about computing, it’s also much more suitable than its predecessors for use as a general-purpose classroom computer,” Upton said.

Brian Andrew MD of RS Components South Africa said that he was excited to offer the latest Raspberry Pi to their customers.

“It is undeniable just how popular Raspberry Pi’s have become over the years. These microcomputers have come a long way and here in SA their popularity continues to grow. We are hard at work to make sure we get the Pi 4’s as soon as possible. We are just waiting for ICASA’s go ahead,” he said, adding that the company expected stock in September 2019.

This new operating system is based on the upcoming Debian 10 Buster release and delivers a modern user interface and updated Chromium 74 web browser. Other improvements include the adoption of the Mesa V3D graphics driver, which offers OpenGL-accelerated web browsing and the ability to run 3D applications in a window.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has also released new accessories for the Pi 4 Model B, including a new case, a USB Type-C power supply, a microUSB to USB Type-C adapter, and micro HDMI cables. Notable upgrades include Gigabit Ethernet, support for up to 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, dual-band Wi-Fi, as well as 4K60 hardware HEVC decode support.

Specifications

-Broadcom BCM2711, Quad core Cortex-A72 (ARM v8) 64-bit SoC @ 1.5GHz

-1GB, 2GB or 4GB LPDDR4-2400 SDRAM (depending on model)

-2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz IEEE 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 5.0, BLE

-Gigabit Ethernet

-2 USB 3.0 ports; 2 USB 2.0 ports.

-Raspberry Pi standard 40 pin GPIO header (fully backwards compatible with previous boards)

-2 × micro-HDMI ports (up to 4kp60 supported)

-2-lane MIPI DSI display port

-2-lane MIPI CSI camera port

-4-pole stereo audio and composite video port

-H.265 (4kp60 decode), H264 (1080p60 decode, 1080p30 encode)

-OpenGL ES 3.0 graphics

-Micro-SD card slot for loading operating system and data storage

-5V DC via USB-C connector (minimum 3A*)

-5V DC via GPIO header (minimum 3A*)

-Power over Ethernet (PoE) enabled (requires separate PoE HAT)

-Operating temperature: 0 – 50 degrees C ambient – GeekWire.co.za

Why corporate SA isn’t in love with 4IR

IoT
A new study reveals SA corporates aren't overly enthusiastic about the fourth industrial revolution. Image credit Maxpixel.net

The technologies that make up the so-called fourth industrial revolution (4IR) have yet to be adopted with any enthusiasm by South African enterprises.

This is a core finding of a new research study entitled “Fourth Industrial Revolution in South Africa 2019: Enterprise uptake and expectations for emerging technologies,” conducted by World Wide Worx in partnership with SYSPRO.

The research delved into current and planned uptake of emerging business technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, virtual and augmented reality, the Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain.

“The most surprising finding was the lack of enthusiasm for artificial intelligence, despite the marketing hype that suggests every large business is embracing it,” said Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx and principal analyst on the 4IR research project. “Only 13% of corporate South Africa is currently using AI and, of the rest, 21% plan to adopt it in the next 12 to 24 months.”

A significant obstacle to adoption, the research reveals, is the cost of skills for implementing AI. Of those not using it, 43% cited cost as the key reason. Ironically, as awareness of AI grows in South Africa, enthusiasm seems to diminish.

Cost crunch

“Traditionally, intended uptake of new technologies shot up once education, awareness and knowledge increased,” said Goldstuck. “Now, however, we are seeing the flip side of the coin. A year ago, 63% of those not using AI said they planned to use it in the future, and not a single company cited cost as a reason not to do so. A year and much hype later, the market seems to have woken up to the realities of obstacles like skills and cost, and the proportion of those planning to use it has plunged.”

By contrast, robotics – in both hardware and software – has moved to the forefront of corporate strategy. A technology called Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which automates business processes through software “bots”, has become readily and cheaply available from numerous service providers, resulting in a robotics boom.

“We were astonished when we sifted through the data,” said Goldstuck. “A year ago, only 6% of South African enterprises were using robotics. Then came the RPA explosion. Now the figure stands at 37%.”

The industry sectors that have adopted robotics most enthusiastically also reveal the contrast in use cases between hardware-and software-based automation. The sector with the highest uptake, Legal services – at a high 67% – is able to reap massive benefits from automating standard, routine and dull processes like searches for legal precedents. On the other hand, the next most active sector in robotics, Mining, is focused on hardware automation of both dangerous and routine processes, like drilling and sorting.

Law bots

“We’ve predicted for some time that the legal profession would be among the first to use AI and bots to take over and speed up routine tasks,” said Goldstuck. “This poses a challenge to the profession to allocate new roles to recent graduates that are the lifeblood of the industry. While this transition is under way, fewer positions will be available, and we will see a significant shift in skills requirements for entry-level positions. This, of course, is the fundamental challenge of the fourth industrial revolution.”

The uptake of emerging technologies varies dramatically across technology categories and industry sectors. Virtual and augmented reality is used by a little more than a third of enterprises, but intended usage among the rest falls to below 10%. Blockchain, the technology for distributed ledgers that validate every step in a transaction process, is currently used by fewer than 10% of respondents.

Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx . Image supplied

The one stand-out sector, in which South Africa leads the world, is the Internet of Things. The study revealed near-unanimous usage, with 92% of enterprises having adopted IoT. However, this is largely a factor of the ubiquity of vehicle tracking and fleet management technology, which began as telematics, and has evolved into a sub-category of IoT.

“The combination of high usage and a strong increase in current and planned usage of IoT technology shows corporates are getting returns from existing IoT implementations,” said Goldstuck. “As the technology becomes cheaper to obtain and operate, smaller companies will have the ability to compete in productivity with much larger corporates.”

This is one of the key benefits of such emerging technologies, the study suggests: once the skills requirements are addressed, they become a commodity that any organisation of any size, from start-up to giant corporation, can leverage equally. For now, however, companies are having to make cautious choices. This is revealed in the finding that a mere 3.1% of enterprises use a combination of robotics and AI. Of the rest, only 3.6% plan to do so.

“The report reveals quite dramatically the extent to which corporate South Africa seems to have a clear sense of what it needs and doesn’t need from the emerging technologies,” said Goldstuck. “The fourth industrial revolution will be cherry-picked, based on what will differentiate a business, rather than representing wholesale take-up of technologies for their own sake.” – GeekWire.co.za

Cybercrime: how to defend your organisation against today’s enterprise-grade attacks

Cybercrime image
Cybercrime is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Image-credit-Nick-Youngson-ImageCreator

By Brian Pinnock

Email attacks are cheap, easy, low risk and high reward. And based on the recently launched 2019 State of Email Security Report, they are on the rise: 53% of South African companies saw an increase in phishing attacks containing malicious links or attachments in the past year, and 63% reported increases in impersonation fraud.

Not only is the volume of attacks increasing, they are becoming more sophisticated and the pace at which criminals are innovating is cause for immense concern. A single email breach can hit your revenue and reputation hard.

Protecting against this is not easy. The sheer number of emails that pass through an organisation each day complicates the process of securing yourself from email-borne threats. In fact, Mimecast’s latest Email Security Risk Assessment, an aggregated report of tests that measure the efficacy of widely used email security systems, found that many email attacks, ranging from opportunistic spam to highly targeted impersonation attacks, are getting through incumbent email security systems.

It found that 26,305,457 spam emails, 27,156 malware attachments, 55,190 impersonation attacks and 466,905 malicious URLS, were all missed by these incumbent providers and delivered to users’ inboxes.

Don’t underestimate the enemy

Are we – as business and IT leaders – sometimes guilty of underestimating cybercriminals? Thinking of them as lone thieves out to make a quick buck ignores the fact that cybercrime is now driven by criminal organisations that rival the drug trade in size and scope. It’s a well-oiled, thriving multinational criminal enterprise that is expected to cost the global economy $6 trillion by 2021.

According to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) it costs South Africa R2.2-billion a year. In fact, South Africa currently has the third-highest number of cybercrime victims worldwide, with mobile banking losses alone increasing by 100% over the past year, according to the latest SABRIC data.

Thinking of cybercriminals as part of complex business structures that rival your own helps you keep up with them more effectively. Rather than thinking of a clandestine hacker working out of a basement, you need to see it for what it is: a sophisticated, professional operation working out of an office tower, replete with systems, top talent, and a drive to succeed. And since cybercrime is a highly lucrative business, you can assume they’re well-funded too.

Understanding cyber risks

To strengthen your cyber resilience, you need to first understand what the cybersecurity risks are, and that cyber resilience starts with email. Email is the number one channel for breaching organisations’ defences. Phishing is the leading email attack type: fraudulent emails written under the guise of an important stakeholder, such as a bank, SARS, or regulator that solicits an unsafe action from the recipient, for example clicking on a seemingly innocuous link that exposes personal or company information or triggers a malware install.

These types of attacks are untargeted and rely on volume and human weaknesses to break through cyber defences. The amount of information we readily share online, and the speed at which we use internet-based services, leaves us exposed to clever tricksters.

Spear-phishing attacks are far more sophisticated. Emails are targeted at specific individuals or organisations for which the attacker has extensive information. Think of them as targeted ads for premium customers. There are significant increases in more sophisticated types of targeted attacks, such as impersonation fraud, recorded in South Africa.

Data from The State of Email Security Report shows that 38% of South African organisations saw an increase in impersonation fraud involving email-based spoofing of vendors or business partners asking for money, sensitive intellectual property, or login credentials. Thirty-three percent also saw an increase in impersonation fraud involving CEOs and other high-ranking company executives. Even the largest tech companies fall prey to this type of attack: workers at Facebook and Google fell for an impersonation fraud scam that nearly cost them $100 million (R1.4 billion).

Ransomware is one of the more well-reported types of attacks. The most worrying aspect of a ransomware outbreak is its tendency to disrupt entire organisations by freezing critical IT systems. It is a type of malware that locks victims out of their IT systems or data; to regain access, you need to pay a ransom.

What you need to ask yourself to protect yourself

You need to adopt a competitive mindset if you’re going to have any hope of staving off the myriad cybersecurity risks endangering your data – and your business. Think: how would someone make money from attacking your organisation?

What data or systems would fetch the highest ransom in the event of a successful attack? What is easiest to monetise on the black market?

Which employees hold the most financial power or influence? Who are their associates? How would you trick them into exposing sensitive information? How much information about them is available online, and can that information be used in the service of impersonation fraud?

Which systems, data or business process are absolutely essential to the organisation’s survival?

Which partners or suppliers have access to the organisation’s digital assets?

Once you can answer these questions, you can get to work on improving your cyber resilience. Starting with email, employ advanced security controls that include a modern, secure email gateway system instead of just an email security system that focuses purely on stopping spam or known types of malware. Threats are no longer just sent to all and sundry with a ‘hope-for-the-best’ attitude; cybercriminals are too clever for that. A standard email security system is not going to stop targeted threats.

Remember that security is a business problem more than it is an IT problem. Treat it as such. Understand the value of your data: after all, it’s the bargaining chip in every ransomware attack. Have powerful backup and recovery capabilities to restore systems and data quickly and with minimal interruption to the business. Are you patching your system vulnerabilities as soon as possible? Many attacks capitalise on unpatched systems. Abandon your old, unsupported operating systems and applications and never use pirated software.

Finally, remember that your employees are your last line of defence. Train them. Give them the knowledge and tools to spot and avoid cyber risks. Make security a critical part of your organisation’s culture.

Only 1% of South African organisations think end-user training and awareness is not important; and yet, only 63% have included end-user awareness in their cyber resilience strategies. Your employees are your most valuable resource; they become even more valuable when they are clever and cautious. – GeekWire.co.za

Brian Pinnock is a cybersecurity expert at Mimecast.

How tech can help farmers protect crops and cut costs

HOBOnet Field Monitoring Systems
HOBOnet Field Monitoring Systems. Picture supplied by Euca Technologies

AN advanced range of field monitoring equipment is allowing local farmers to fine-tune growing conditions and maximise yields of their crops, while avoiding potentially catastrophic crop failures as a result of pests or chemical damage.

HOBOnet Field Monitoring Systems are being used across the globe wherever high-value crops are being grown. In most instances these are sensitive to micro-climate variations such as temperature, rainfall, and soil moisture, which directly affect quality and profitability. The systems can also monitor water and pesticides usage, which represent significant costs and are under greater scrutiny as governments and consumers place a higher priority on sustainability.

Distributed and supported by local technology provider, Euca Technologies, on behalf of one of the world’s leading logging and monitoring systems specialist companies, Onset Computer Corporation, the local distributor has access to the vast range of field monitoring systems that can be tailor-made to almost any farming requirements.

Cloud-based monitoring

According to Euca Technologies managing director, Ernest Campling, the scalable HOBOnet Field Monitoring System includes everything needed to capture near real-time outdoor or greenhouse data. Based on its field-proven remote monitoring station and powerful cloud-based HOBOlink software for remote system management, HOBOnet features a full suite of wireless sensors covering a range of outdoor measurements.

He said that HOBOlink is a web-enabled software platform that makes it easy to view data and manage the HOBOnet Field Monitoring System remotely. It works with the RX3000 Remote Monitoring Station and new wireless smart sensors to provide growers and research scientists with instant access to site-specific environmental data anywhere, anytime from mobile or desktop devices, integrated with Google Maps, so growers and researchers can quickly view the connection patterns for their HOBOnet system and details such as alarm status and readings from the last connection.

 At the heart of the HOBOnet system is the HOBO RX3000 Remote Monitoring Station, which is easy to setup and robust enough for tough African farming conditions. It features flexible support for a broad range of wired and wireless smart sensors, an LCD display for easy field deployment, a rugged double-weatherproof enclosure, and 24/7 cloud-based data access through configurable cloud access.

Easy-to-use

“Our new wireless SmartSensors for monitoring temperature, humidity, rain, wind, soil moisture, solar radiation, and PAR, are compact sensors that include a built-in solar panel for battery charging and can be placed anywhere they’re needed, up to 457 metres apart, providing coverage for hectares of land or groups of greenhouses.

“With the simple push of a button, the sensors connect and create an intelligent wireless mesh network that provides an adaptive and highly reliable communication path for data to stream back to the RX3000 Remote Monitoring Station and to HOBOlink running in the cloud,” Campling said.

“The HOBOnet Field Monitoring System is available from Euca Technologies with an online configurator also available to help growers and researchers choose the system components that support their specific needs.” – GeekWire.co.za

Esports pioneer unveils Fortnite team

SA Esports pioneer Bravado's Fortnite team

They have been blazing trails in Call of Duty, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and FIFA. Now, a top South African esports group has expanded into one of the biggest competitive games on the planet.

Bravado Fortnite officially launched at the Dell Technologies Forum on 27 June at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg. Attendees got to meet the team and the rest of Bravado, as well as take part in Fortnite matches.

Founded in 2006 and run by Andreas Hadjipaschali, Bravado is one of the longest running esports outfits in South Africa. Sponsored by Dell, Alienware and Intel, its goal is to promote esports across the country, as well as create opportunities for aspirant African esports athletes.

“Fortnite is leading the battle royale genre with its mix of action and high-level strategy,” said Hadjipaschali. “It’s also cross-platform, so it can be played on many different gaming devices. This has made it a popular choice for many gamers and attracted many competitors.

“After our successes with creating and supporting winning teams in other games, adopting Fortnite as our latest competitive tier makes perfect sense.”

Fortnite is a new breed of competitive gaming genre called ‘battle royale’. Each match can host up to a hundred competitors – if your character is eliminated, they must sit out for the rest of the round. The pressure rises as the game’s playable map gets smaller, forcing players closer to each other. It’s a ‘last player standing’ format where matches can be played by individuals or two-player teams.

There is also an elaborate construction element: players can build structures to protect themselves, block enemies and gain higher ground. It’s a kinetic experience, which makes Fortnite very popular for online streaming audiences. It’s also a major esports title, with big tournaments offering millions of dollars in prize pools.

Fortnite boasts over 250 million registered users and has hosted up to 10 million players at a time across numerous matches.

“Once I had experienced the mechanic of building and editing, I was instantly hooked,” said Tristan “Zozu” Rens, Bravado’s Fortnite team captain.

“It was something I haven’t seen in a game before and I knew there was something different about it. I’ve never been a fan of battle royale games before I played Fortnite. But the nature of competitive Fortnite, with final storm circles the size of football fields with 40 players battling for the 1st place, is something I couldn’t get enough of. As time went by, the hunger to pursue it professionally grew.”

Rens and his teammates are not afraid to put in the work: they train for between six and 10 hours a day. Currently, Bravado Fortnite is focusing on perfecting its team synergy and will be active both online and at LANs to gain maximum experience. – GeekWire.co.za

Welcome to the digital universe where data is ‘the sun’ and anything is possible

Patricia Florissi VP & Global CTO for Sales at Dell Technologies. Picture supplied by Dell
Patricia Florissi VP & Global CTO for Sales at Dell Technologies. Picture supplied by Dell

From satellites images that improve crops to parking spaces that can predict retail earnings: we now live in a digital universe where data is the sun and almost anything is possible thanks to technology.

That was the optimistic picture of the near future painted by Dell Technologies’ Patricia Florissi in a keynote address to delegates at an event hosted by the tech multinational in Johannesburg on Thursday, 27 June 2019.

Hundreds of industry decision makers attended the annual Dell Technologies Forum, held at the Sandton Convention Centre this year, for an insight into the latest in business technologies and strategies.

Florissi, the company’s VP and Global CTO for Sales, spoke about how the world is changing because of technology, noting that the real potential lies in countries such as her native Brazil and South Africa:

“I’m inspired by South Africa. It’s the dawn of a new era where technology will help create a new future,” she said.

Citing several examples, Florissi elaborated on how emerging technologies are impacting the world in unexpected ways. The ability to launch satellites more frequently and cheaply is vastly improving our knowledge of environments especially when we start analyzing the data through artificial intelligence (AI) to extract actions.

She said that photos from retail parking lots can already help accurately predict the turnover of shopping malls and can prompt stores to launch promotions for the day to push sales. The potential of crops are also more readily visible, thanks to the combination of satellite imagery and computer vision.

Big strides

The world has taken big strides in the past 65 years, she said, vastly improving lifespans and infant mortality, as well as literacy. But the full force of the digital era is only starting to become apparent.

Returning to the crops example, Florissi noted that it’s not just about delivering the best yields, but also to address production loss and distribution waste. We generate enough food to feed everyone, but efficiencies fall short. The insights from digital technologies can change that dramatically and can equally reduce the high demand on natural resources like water and energy.

Then why has it taken so many decades to realise these benefits?

“The world went through several AI winters,” Florissi explained. “There were periods of no progress because we didn’t have the right technology forces.”

This, she said, is what makes our current era so significant. Florissi identified a number of such forces that are currently fueling innovation and change, including AI, the Internet of Things, augmented reality, edge computing and 5G. Central to all of these is data or, as Florissi calls it, “the centre of the digital universe.”

“Data is the sun. It’s the fuel. But unlike other fuel sources, it’s inexhaustible.”

The combination of all these forces is creating a technology continuum. We no longer have data centres, but centres of data, she said. Being able to understand and learn to live in the digital universe is what will unlock value for businesses and progress for societies. Naturally, Dell Technologies wants to be a partner in that journey for every type and size of organisation, because this influences everyone:

“Regardless if you are a two trillion dollar powerhouse or a two-storey farmhouse, we want to help you evolve”

Opening the event, Dell Technologies’ MD for South Africa, Doug Woolley, encouraged attendees to embrace this change and move forward:

“That’s how we’ll create digital citizens and growth. The digital revolution is upon us. It will bring a lot of change. As a developing nation, we must grab that with both hands.” – GeekWire.co.za

Unlocking technology for medium and start-up companies

A group working around the Dell C7520QT monitor. Picture supplied by Dell SA

Cost and scale are no longer barriers for medium-size businesses to adopt enterprise-grade technologies. The powerful systems that raised the game of enterprises are now also open to smaller, agile, start-up and niche businesses.

That’s according to Sabine Dedering, Regional Sales Director at Dell Technologies South Africa, who said medium and start-up businesses have very similar needs to a large company, but not necessarily the internal resources to always pull it off.

“Dell Technologies worldwide has a lot of focus on the medium business. This includes South Africa, where we established a dedicated medium business team about a year ago.”

She said medium-sized businesses – those typically between 100 and 1,000 IT users – do not necessarily have smaller IT footprints than their enterprise peers. Some manage large and complicated accounts or service enormous user-bases among their customers.

“In the big picture, they deal with the same complex market demands that the large players do, but until recently often had to make do with much less in access to technology due to constrained resources such as limited IT teams and budgets.”

She said this balance shifted dramatically with the advent of cloud, scalable services and hyper-converged infrastructure. Yet despite the doors opening, the traditional gatekeepers – other vendors and their partners – still habitually focus on enterprise players. It undermines the new possibilities technology can offer to medium businesses, a world that often marches to the beat of its own drums.

“These are not small customers,” Dedering explained, referring to medium-sized companies. “Sometimes they are market leaders in a specific niche. But they don’t have thousands of people. You get your traditional companies that may have a few hundred employees. They provide a certain service on a regional basis or in a niche market and might never grow much beyond that because that’s what they do really well.”

Ambitions to use modern enterprise-grade technologies can be purely functional, such as hunting for efficiencies and streamlining processes. But they can also include the adoption of emerging technologies such as machine learning, mobile workforces, predictive analytics, real-time data, Internet of Things (IoT), automation and active business continuity.

These capabilities are available because their services are able to fit the mould of the business, instead of traditional monolithic technology systems that dictate cost and availability.

“But just because the technology is more accessible doesn’t make its adoption seamless. That still requires a business-first view and as such a reliable partner. Too many vendor ecosystems obsess over large enterprises. But Dell Technologies has seen the demand from medium businesses and is actively meeting them on their terms,” Dedering said.

In line with this position, there will be a stand dedicated to medium businesses at the Dell Technologies Forum on 27 June at the Sandton Convention Centre. To attend for free, register here. – GeekWire.co.za

How more women are raking in the kudos and cash in male dominated eSports

eSports competitor Julia ‘Bish’ Robson. Image supplied by Acer

Women are making an increasingly significant mark on the male dominated eSports industry, with international superstars like Sasha Scarlet Hostyn and Katherine Mystik Gunn raking in a comfortable $312 845 and $122 000 in winnings per tournament respectively.

Closer to home is Julia ‘Bish’ Robson, an eSports contender and spokesperson for the Predator gaming brand. Robson’s interest in gaming was piqued by a friend and soon became a serious hobby to during her downtime while studying Dentistry at the University of Cape Town.

“I was playing games with friends and then soon started looking out for monthly LAN parties where I could play against other gamers on a more serious platform,” she says.

Making a living from eSports is tough, with over 1000 pro gamers competing internationally for a percentage of the winnings. Although the South African industry has grown in leaps and bounds, it still has a long way to contend with other, more established gaming countries.

“Starting as a female player in a male dominated and fiercely competitive environment has its challenges, but I believe that as with any industry you prove your worth based on your work ethic, abilities and skill set.”

Robson has a passion to develop the local gaming industry and started the first sponsored all-female CS:GO team in South Africa in 2017.

She says that to be a serious contender requires plenty of dedication and training. Robson allocates an average of eight hours a day to gaming, sharpening her skills in Apex Legends and Counter Strike on the Predator device.

She says having the correct hardware is as important to any serious gamer who needs the assurance that a device can not only handle the particular requirements of gaming but maintain performance under prolonged hours of streaming. “Predator provides me with the technology I need to stay on top of my game, whether it be at home or traveling.

An active participant on the live streaming channel Twitch, Robson interacts with her followers and acts as a mentor to her fans daily. “As a gamer, I believe that skill is not determined by gender, but by your passion.”

Gaming trends

Robson shares some of the latest must watch trends on the local and international gaming stage:

Thanks to the rise in popularity of the digital eSport viewing, fans are moving to watching tournaments and events in physical locations, bringing even more revenue opportunities to sponsors and increasing the commercialisation of esports.

ESports teams, particularly in America are now a venture capital-backed industry with teams even giving naming rights to the investor, similar to that of national sports team.

ESports viewership is experiencing an increase in female fans and players, from the pro stage through to enthusiasts.

Fortnite is one of the most commercial games in the world, breaking world records in downloads as well as players. 

Epic Games has moved over to a mobile gaming platform, giving users mobile access to Fortnite players.

Twitch.tv is deemed the biggest gaming stream avenue ahead of YouTube.  – GeekWire.co.za

Huawei FreeLace: earbuds for a jackless generation

Huawei FreeLace wireless earphones
Huawei FreeLace wireless earphones are now available in SA. Image supplied by Huawei

Easy pairing, fast charging, long battery life touted as benefits of new wireless earphones

With several of Huawei’s recent flagship phones following the trend started by Apple with its iPhone 7 and dispensing with the 3.5mm headphone jack, a good quality pair of wireless earphones for these devices is essential for anyone wanting to get the most out of their impressive audio capabilities.

The China-based tech multinational believes its FreeLace earphones, now available in South Africa, fit that bill.

“Huawei FreeLace addresses many of the issues that consumers have with wireless earphones, such as complicated first-time Bluetooth pairing, poor sound quality and insufficient battery life,” the company said in a statement released on Tuesday, 6 June 2019.

It says pairing the FreeLace with a Huawei smartphone is easy and intuitive. Separating the right earbud and its cable from the volume buttons reveals a USB Type-C connector, which can be inserted into the USB Type-C port of any Huawei smartphone running the company’s EMUI 9.1 for quick and easy Bluetooth pairing via Huawei HiPair.

Huawei says this proprietary technology eliminates the often time-consuming and hit-and-miss process of pairing Bluetooth peripherals with smartphones.

Speedy charging

The earphones can also be plugged into the USB Type-C port of any smartphone, tablet or PC for quick charging—a short five-minute charge gives the earphones up to four hours of playback time. A complete charge gives up to 18 hours of playback or 13 hours of talk time.

Huawei also claims that the FreeLace boasts better sound quality than many similarly priced earphones.

“Inside each of the speakers is a large and dynamic driver unit with a diameter of 9.2mm. Comprising an ultra-thin TPU diaphragm and titanium plating, the drivers deliver a punchy bass and smooth treble. The microphone module incorporates a dual-cavity design which, unlike the microphones in traditional earphones, features an additional channel for air ventilation, greatly reducing the effect of wind on voice pick-up.”

Build quality is also being touted as top notch, with the device made of “memory metal wrapped in liquid silicone, which gives these wireless earphones a stylish look, yet also makes them extremely comfortable to wear.”

In-line controls support not only volume adjustments, but also additional inputs such as a two-second press that activates the voice assistant, and a double-tap that skips the current music.

The FreeLace comes in two colours, “Graphite Black” and “Amber Sunrise” and has a recommended retail price of R2,499. – GeekWire.co.za