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Colour is the new black

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Gone are the days when only a black or white phone was cool at the high end. Now colour is all the rage, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

A funny thing happened in iStores around South Africa last weekend. The new iPad went on sale, and no one noticed. What they did notice, though, was a new version of the iPhone, not with enhanced features, but with a new colour.

The new iPad 9.7” tablet is the successor to the iPad Air 2, but carries many of the same specs as the high-end iPad Pro, without the enhanced price tag. The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus Red Special Edition smartphones introduce only a new colour.

Suddenly, that is a big deal.

Yes, the vibrant red aluminium finish has been released in recognition of more than ten years of partnership between Apple and the (RED) global campaign to fight AIDS, so it is not merely a matter of cosmetics. However, this nuance will probably be lost on most customers for the device.

In 2017, it seems, new colour options are a prerequisite for high-end smartphones. In fashion terms, colour is the new black. Any colour.

The trend was kicked off in earnest during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, when Huawei unveiled its new flagship phones, the P10 and P10 Plus. As this column noted at the time, it was not the advanced camera and other specs that were expected to turn heads. Rather, it was the physical design of the phone, along with a fresh suite of colour options. Huawei had collaborated with the Pantone Color Institute, global thought leaders in colour standards, to introduce new colours not seen before on smartphones.

Pantone Greenery, named the official Pantone Colour of the Year for 2017, was applied to a handset with a sandblast finish, giving it a clean look that it said would reflects the eco-friendly symbolism of green. A new deep blue shade named Dazzling Blue, added to the diamond-cut finish, delivered a subtle glow effect that is likely to make it the most popular shade.

It is rare that colour options are stand-out features for phones, but Huawei pulled it off with its refreshed palate and the ultra-fresh Greenery.  The new phones, due in South Africa in May, also come in Ceramic White, Dazzling Gold, Prestige Gold, Graphite Black, Rose Gold and Mystic Silver.

“With consumers increasingly comfortable using colour as a form of expression, we are seeing more experimentation and creative uses of colour,” said Laurie Pressman, VP of Pantone Color Institute, at the launch. “Colour is truly a medium through which individuals can express themselves to the world around them.”

Last month, when Samsung launched its own new flagships, the S8 and S8 Plus – likely to be the standout phones of 2017 – it also unveiled a new colour range.

When it arrives in South Africa on 5 May, a key element of its marketing will be, in Samsung’s words, “a rich colour palette”. It will include Midnight Black, Orchid Gray and Maple Gold, with more colours to be introduced later in the year. The official global launch range includes Coral Blue and Arctic Silver.

While Samsung made less of the philosophy behind its colours, it put as much effort as Huawei into colour as a differentiator and a key element of the phone’s design. In a commemorative book issued at the S8 launch, entitled simply Galaxy S8: Design Story, it offered an echo of the Pantone argument:

“The influence of nature informs the colour palette for the Galaxy S8. Samsung’s Liquid Shade spectrum explores the depth of lustre as seen through the surface tension of a water droplet on metal.”

As abstract as this may sound outside the rarefied language of design, the real clue to the colour explosion in high-end smartphones probably lies in another principle expressed in Design Story – that of neutrality:

“With a strong and flexible but fluid design ethos that blends naturally into its environment, the Galaxy S8 is a device not defined by age, gender or geography.”

In other words, in contrast to a trend over the past few years to define phones according to their target market, the S8 attempts to be all things to all people. The only way to achieve this is to suit all colour tastes. The idea then, is that one of the five distinctive colour options for the S8 handsets will appeal to any of the various gender, age and location-based demographics of people who would be in the market for a high-end phone.

It is clear, then, that as it becomes more difficult to distinguish phones by design – although Samsung can argue that the S8 stands out from the rest – colour will become more important than ever before. Apple has proved the point with the new iPhone Red. There is little doubt that new-look phones ranging from Samsung Coral Blue to Huawei Greenery will make consumers more aware of colour than ever before in the short history of smartphones.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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