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CES 2016: ‘Don’t be fooled by robot car hype’

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Consumers and regulators should not be fooled by the autonomous vehicle hype coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Consumer Watchdog warns.

“Robot car advocates are putting a glitzy spin on their ‘autonomous’ technologies,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director.  “The fact is that while some emerging technologies may promote safety, self-driving robot cars are not remotely ready for deployment on public highways without a steering wheel and pedals so a human driver can intervene when necessary.”

Regulators appear to be emphasizing safety as they develop regulations and policies covering autonomous vehicles, Consumer Watchdog said. The nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest group urged them to continue a deliberate approach that emphasizes safety and not yield to corporate pressure.

Currently California has regulations covering testing robot cars on the state’s highways, which require a driver behind a steering wheel capable of taking control.  Last month the DMV issued draft regulations for the general use of robot cars on the state’s roads that will also require a driver behind the wheel capable of taking control.

Google, which is testing 53 robot cars in California and Texas, said it was “gravely disappointed” and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said the “draft regulations may prove too onerous, create road blocks to innovation, and may ultimately drive the development of this promising industry to other states.”

“It’s imperative the DMV continue to put public safety first, and not cave to corporate and political pressure,” said Simpson. The department will hold public workshops to discuss the draft rules on Jan. 28 in Sacramento and on Feb. 2 in Los Angeles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is also pledging to emphasize safety as it updates its two-and-a-half year old policy paper on automated vehicles. Secretary Anthony Foxx called for the update last month prompting Consumer Watchdog to warn NHTSA,  “Do not put the interests of the robot car developers ahead of the public’s safety in the face of ongoing pressure from self-driving robot car manufacturers like Google, which has promised a vehicle without a steering wheel or brake pedal.”

“Your cautionary remarks are well taken,” responded Nathaniel Beuse, NHTSA Associate Administrator for Vehicle Safety Research in a letter. “Safety is and will be NHTSA’s top-priority.”

Eleven companies  – Volkswagen Group of America, Mercedes Benz, Google, Delphi Automotive, Tesla Motors, Bosch, Nissan, Cruise Automation, BMW, Honda and Ford – are approved to test robot cars on California roads.

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Why Your Business Needs a Cloud Architect

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By Colin Thornton, MD of Turrito Networks

As IT and business strategy align, Cloud Architects will become integral to growth.

As South African businesses look to streamline operational costs and become more globally competitive, Cloud computing has become essential.  And with the imminent launch of Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Service data centres in South Africa, local Cloud adoption will become even more attractive. According to the World Wide Worx Cloud Africa 2018 report, Cloud computing is rising sharply in the economic hubs of South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria – with 74% of the SA companies surveyed increasing their Cloud expenditure during 2017. The report noted that in the coming year, over 80% of SA companies would be looking to up their Cloud spend. While making the shift to the Cloud is a positive step, businesses have to ensure that the process is managed correctly – from the initial transition, right through to proactive, daily management.

Negotiating Complexity

For larger businesses, especially those relying on legacy software and/or hardware, moving fully to the Cloud, and ensuring sustainability, can be complex.  Even businesses with modern software and hardware may find this new paradigm, so completely different from traditional approaches, difficult.  This complexity requires a careful, skilled and managed approach – which is best handled by what the IT industry terms a ‘Cloud Architect.’ As the name implies, the Cloud Architect is responsible for designing the Cloud computing environment in an organisation, which encompasses the platforms, servers, storage, delivery and networks. In addition to the planning and designing, Cloud Architects also need to provide guidance throughout a development or deployment project and then manage the maintenance and support thereafter. Savvy Cloud Architects will take ownership of these systems and environments throughout their entire lifecycle – from the initial requirements analysis through to retirement.

Importantly, the Cloud Architect role is very different to more traditional IT roles, because it is not only technical in nature. There is a critical business and financial element required. Indeed, a skilled Cloud Architect will seek to understand what kinds of competitive advantages are required, the relevant functionalities that are needed, and the unique business requirements that the system architecture needs to deliver on. Moreover, the Cloud Architect will be responsible for sourcing and managing the right vendors such as Microsoft or Amazon; contracting suitable suppliers and deciding upon the right APIs and standards.

Aligning Business Needs

As Cloud computing becomes more ubiquitous and IT Departments more streamlined, the role may quickly evolve into a financial and strategic position. Given that the Cloud Architect will be handling budgets, forecasts, reports, etc, he or she could soon be sitting within the Finance Department – as opposed to a rapidly shrinking IT Department!

When exploring the appointment of a Cloud Architect, it’s important to consider that letting a more traditional (and technically oriented) IT professional handle Cloud strategy can backfire. This is simply because technical professionals prefer to have control of their systems. There’s often a subconscious bias away from ‘putting everything in the Cloud and letting someone else manage it’. However, while there is more flexibility when a business controls everything (e.g. with a private Cloud or an on-premise server) there are often inflated costs and added risk. Increasingly, businesses are recognising that there are major advantages to relinquishing elements of flexibility and outsourcing most of the traditional IT services. And with a skilled Cloud Architect managing the relationships, businesses can arguably enjoy the best of both worlds – enhancing efficiency while reducing both costs and risk.

Recruiting for Growth

Given that this kind of role is still so new, businesses will be hard pressed to find experienced candidates off the bat. Today, leaders should rather be looking for candidates who come from roles that are closely related – and then looking for experience in other key aspects. For example, a Network Architect who has reported into a Finance Department; or an MBA who has a strong technical background. First and foremost, a great Cloud Architect will be able to grasp the business requirements – and then develop systems from there. For instance, these requirements may relate to growing profits/revenue or decreasing costs, and a good Architect needs to figure out how the Cloud can help achieve these goals. Moreover, a savvy Cloud Architect will have strong administration skills as well as highly developed interpersonal skills – as he or she will be managing key vendor relationships.

As businesses expand into an environment in which the lines between IT, finance, and strategy are increasingly blurred, professionals such as the skilled Cloud Architect will become integral to growth, innovation and sustainability.

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SAFTA awards get first streaming video nominees

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The 2019 nominations for The South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) were announced late last week, and for the first time in the 13-year history of the awards, a TV series produced for a video-on-demand service was in contention. The result was a surprise boost to streaming service Showmax.

The comedy series Tali’s Wedding Diary, which premiered in December 2017, represented a major step for the then two-year old streaming service. It was the debut Showmax Original, the first time Showmax ventured into producing its own content. The gamble paid off, with the show becoming the most watched of any series on its first day on Showmax, and now Tali’s Wedding Diary has been further recognised with seven SAFTA nominations, making it this year’s most nominated comedy.

“When we first floated the idea of Tali’s Wedding Diary, we joked about winning awards,” says Candice Fangueiro, Showmax’s head of content. “At that point, just getting our first Showmax Original off the ground was already a major challenge and it was more than we could hope for to actually hit it out of the park. I was stunned when I heard the news about the nominations – it’s amazing to be considered in the same company as these other shows and thanks to this we’re already seeing a fresh spike in Tali views.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary was also a first for co-creator and star Julia Anastasopoulos, who until then was best known as YouTube star SuzelleDIY. “I am so thrilled about the SAFTA nominations for Tali’s Wedding Diary,” says Julia, who is up for Best Actress – TV Comedy and Best Achievement in Scriptwriting – TV Comedy, along with her husband Ari Kruger and Daniel Zimbler. 

“It was such a big and daunting step to create a full TV comedy series and intro a brand-new character. I really didn’t know how it would be received and am so happy to have received such positive feedback for the show and the Tali Babes character, along with the nominations. It feels so good to be recognised for something we poured our hearts into. None of it would have been possible, of course, without the incredible hard work and vision of my husband Ari and the incredible team, cast and crew that were part of the show. And a huge thank you to Showmax of course for making it all possible. Congratulations and best of luck to the entire team and to all the other nominees.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary is a mockumentary that follows Tali, a self-obsessed Joburg princess who’s moved to Cape Town and is planning her wedding to property-agent fiancé Darren (Anton Taylor). The series was inspired by Julia’s own wedding to Ari, her SuzelleDIY and Tali’s Wedding Diary co-creator, who is also up for Best Achievement In Directing – TV Comedy.  

In addition to Julia and Ari’s nominations, Tali’s Wedding Diary is up for Best TV Comedy, Art Direction (Keren Setton),  Cinematography (James Adey), and Editing (Richard Starkey). Winners will be announced on 2 March 2019 at Sun City Superbowl.

Following the success of Tali’s Wedding Diary, the second Showmax Original, The Girl From St Agnes, was released earlier this month. A third Showmax Original, Trippin With Skhumba, is slated for release at the end of February.

“With three Showmax Originals now under our belt and more on the way, we’d like to think this is the start of many more SAFTA nominations for shows from a streaming service,” concludes Candice.

South African content currently on Showmax has 110 nominations and includes the most nominated movie (Five Fingers With Marseilles), telenovela (The River), drama (Lockdown) and soap (Isibaya), with more SAFTA nominees scheduled for the coming months.

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