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CES 2016: Samsung, YouTube, Fitbit take stage

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Keynotes from the top executives at FitBit, NBCUniversal, Samsung and YouTube, along with tech policy sessions and top product awards rounded out Day Two and Three of CES 2016 last week.

Thursday morning kicked off with a keynote address from WP Hong, president of Solution Business Unit, Samsung SDS. During his address, Hong stated that the Internet of Things (IoT) is already here, but many companies need to collaborate to make it work. Samsung is laboring to ensure all of the devices the company produces connect to the Internet. The company is building IoT innovation that is in-sync with people’s daily lives by offering a new category of IoT home appliances that connect families and make life easier. Samsung showed its home appliance connected line including the Family Hub Refrigerator and the FlexDuo stove with Wi-Fi. “The age of the Internet of Things has begun,” Hong said. “It will be a success, but only if we get the fundamentals right: openness, interoperability and close industry collaborations.”

At Thursday’s C Space Keynote, presented by MediaLink, Stephen B. Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal, discussed disruptive innovation and its impact on the television industry. Burke noted that television is still making money, but in different ways as revenue streams such as international syndication and subscription video on demand (SVOD) services evolve. “There’s more competition now than ever, which makes it harder to break through and have a TV show that’s a hit. But people watch as much TV today as they ever have. And the vast majority is watched on broadcast or cable.”

Next, a panel of leading media and marketing leaders took the stage to discuss the future of advertising in a mobile era. While television is still important for many brands, it’s only one piece of the marketing mix, according to Allison Lewis, global chief marketing officer for Johnson & Johnson. Mobile advertising platforms offer greater reach and precision, she said, adding that 50 percent of Johnson & Johnson’s web traffic comes from mobile. Kristin Lemkau, CMO of JP Morgan Chase added, “We want the ability to target and more ways to authentically integrate into programming – to get more creative in advertising.”

At Thursday afternoon’s keynote, Robert Kyncl, chief business officer, YouTube, noted that the last time he spoke on the CES keynote stage four years ago, he predicted that 90 percent of all Internet traffic would be video traffic by the year 2020. Cisco data now predicts that video will reach 90 percent of global Internet traffic by 2019, a full year ahead of schedule.

Kyncl discussed the top reasons video will ultimately win the decade, including the quality of video – data speeds are faster, sound is better and screens are bigger – and the increased diversity of content. Kyncl announced that YouTube’s premium subscription service, RED, will begin producing original content to follow suit with Netflix and Amazon. He added that new shows and movies will be available, as well as a music service. Kyncl also announced a partnership with GoPro to create the first commercial 3D/360 camera called Odyssey. Odyssey uses 16 GoPro cameras to capture VR video.

The annual Leaders in Technology (LIT) Dinner took place Thursday evening, honoring the policymakers and technologists that are instrumental in furthering tech innovation. Honored guests and speakers included Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and French Minister of Economy, Finance and Industry Emmanuel Macron, who noted that France brought a delegation of 190 entrepreneurs and 127 startups to CES 2016, calling them “the face of France.”

Fitbit CEO and Co-Founder James Park delivered the evening’s keynote address as a discussion with CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro. Now a global brand providing fitness solutions to consumers around the world, Park noted how far Fitbit and fitness tech have come. “We essentially had to create the health and fitness category in 2009,” said Park. “I remember talking to Best Buy, and they didn’t even have a section to display it.” Fitbit unveiled its Fitbit Blaze at CES Press Day on Tuesday. The smart fitness watch creates a digital health platform – hardware and software – to help people reach their health goals. “People really want to work for a company that is mission-oriented,” Park noted. “And they want to work for a company that has profound benefits in society.”

In addition to powerful keynotes, Day Two and Three of CES 2016 featured compelling SuperSessions, tech policy discussions focused on furthering the next-generation of innovation and awards honoring the hottest products at the show.

During Thursday’s SuperSession: IoT Business Strategies: Partnerships for the Sharing Economy , leading industry service providers and manufacturers stressed the importance of strategic partnerships to accelerate the development of IoT. As an example of a successful partnership between IoT and the sharing economy ecosystem, the panelists pointed to   August Home’s integration with Airbnb, where Airbnb hosts can link their account with a keyless lock. This revolution has driven companies to move toward open source and standards to provide faster and better solutions to consumers.

Thursday’s C Space Storyteller series kicked off with Margo Georgiadis, president, Americas, Google leading an engaged discussion between Time Warner’s CMO Kristen O’Hara and Best Buy’s CMO Greg Revelle where they shared key insights, advising brands on the best ways to win over consumers. Following the “new rules” of marketing in today’s technology-driven, multi-device environment means that brands need to focus on the critical moments when consumers are actually receptive to them. In the following session, Yahoo’s Chief Revenue Officer Lisa Utzschneider led a talk with leading marketing minds from Subaru of America to analyze the intersection of data, content and technology and what that means for today’s consumer.

At the Forecasting the Future of Entrepreneurship SuperSession, Rebecca Jarvis, chief business and economics correspondent for ABC News led a discussion with disruptive innovators, Nick Woodman, founder and CEO, GoPro; Steve Case, chairman and CEO, Revolution and Stewart Butterfield, CEO and co-founder, Slack. The group emphasized the importance of risk taking, strategic partnerships and picking a project you are truly passionate about. When asked about the future of entrepreneurship, they named major sectors such as food, healthcare and real estate, as well as consumer-generated content.

A mix of the world’s top movers and shakers in transportation solutions participated in the panel, Beyond Smart Cities: The Future of Urban Mobility, featuring Dr. Volkmar Denner CEO and CTO, Bosch; Secretary Anthony Foxx, U.S. Department of Transportation; Stephen Mollenkopf, CEO, Qualcomm and Amnon Shashua, co-founder, CTO and chairman, Mobileye. Kent Larson, director, MIT Media Lab Changing Places Group moderated the discussion . With 90 percent of global population growth expected to take place in cities, panelists discussed how shared mobility, big data, practical business models and spectrum will be embedded in the smart cities of the future.

Business leaders and policy operators weighed in on the digital economy during Thursday’s Global Innovation SuperSession , featuring panelists Neelie Kroes, special envoy, StartupDelta; Emmanuel Macron, Minister, French Ministry of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs; Jeannine Sargent, president, Innovation & New Ventures, Flex and U.S. Senator Mark Warner. Alan Murray, editor, Fortune Magazine, moderated the session, asking panelists a series of questions, including what innovation-friendly environments are needed for businesses to succeed today; what single policies they are most focused on and where they see hope for creative policy making. Sargent noted that entrepreneurs and business people have a responsibility to help their government officials understand and be smart about making policy. For Kroes, she said it’s very important to have a government that doesn’t avoid risk.

It was a packed house for the always popular Last Gadget Standing, presented by Living in Digital Times. Founder of Yahoo Tech David Pogue kicked off the event, which featured 11 companies competing for the top crowd-pleasing gadget. The top two winners were chosen by a live applause meter and selected through an online audience. View the results here.

The Stars of CES Awards, presented by What Hi-Fi?, named the top ten hottest audio products of CES 2016, chosen by Simon Lucas, editor of What Hi-Fi magazine, and Joe Cox, editor of What Hi-Fi.com. The top prizes were awarded to these 10 products.

Yahoo Tech’s David Pogue led an audience through a Friday afternoon of friendly app competition during the Mobile Apps Showdown, presented by Living in Digital Times and sponsored by Lenovo.  More than 100,000 apps were submitted for consideration, with ten finalists selected for the main event and the winner selected by audience applause levels. The apps were designed to improve individual wellness, promote environmental sustainability, support small businesses and care for our pets. Results are available on the Mobile Apps Showdown website.

Friday afternoon’s Extreme Tech Challenge Semi-Finals consisted of 10 semi-finalists, picked by VC judges from a field of over 1,000 companies, pitched to a panel of judges – including CTA’s Shapiro – for a chance to pitch in the final round to Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson on Necker Island. View the results here.

The third day of CES 2016 concluded with Engadget’s presentation of the Best of CES Awards 2016. Pepper the robot co-hosted and introduced the different categories. Winners included:

Best Startup: Owlet

Best Digital Health & Fitness: OhMiBod LovelifeKrush

Best Wearable Technology: Recon Empire EVS

Best Automotive Technology: Chevy Bolt

Best Home Theater Product: Philips’ Fidelio E6

Best Connected Home Product: Cassia Hub

Best Innovation (disruptive tech): VW Budd-e fast charging technology

Best Mobile Device: Huawei Mate 8

Best TV Product: LG Oleg G6

Best Gaming Product: HTC’s Vive Chaperone

Best Offbeat Product: Ehang 184

Best Maker-Friendly Technology: LEGO Education Wedo 2.0

Best PC: Razer Blade Stealth

Best Robots or Drones: Typhoon H

Best of the Best Award : The Chevy Bolt

People’s Choice Award: The Razer Blade Stealth

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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