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Designing at the speed of thought

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Manufacturing and design are two industries where small companies can take on large enterprises. However, in order to do this, there is a constant pressure to innovate and review their development processes, writes CHRIS BUCHANAN, Dell Client Solutions Director.

Manufacturing and design are two of the rare industries where small companies have the ability to take on large corporations globally and vice versa. In this climate, the harsh realities of business are exposed and the importance of a competitive advantage is amplified. As a result, the ongoing competitive pressure drives organisations to constantly review their development processes and come up with new ways to innovate and create; at the end of the day, nobody wants to get left behind.

Rapid Product Development (RPD) plays a crucial role in these industries as it decreases the time it takes for products to get to market and also provides businesses with the opportunity to create better, innovative products. Efficiency is so often seen as a metric of success – the quicker a company can launch its product and subsequently get it to the end-user, the greater chance it has of being successful. In an “always on” world, launching first can help capture the attention of an audience, secure publicity, assist promotion and generate early sales.

Evolution of design

The way products are manufactured, designed and brought to market has evolved more rapidly in the last decade than even before. From drawing boards to smart desks, advancements in technology have had a profound impact across all stages of the production process. In fact, for many companies the entire process – from initial concept development and design, to market research, product development, production and marketing – has changed entirely.

Most recently, modernisations such as using the concepts of ‘Big Data’ to conduct social media analysis across millions of on-line conversations have come to the fore as a new way to gain initial product insight, and gain a competitive advantage. This is an example of something which would have never crossed the minds of manufacturers a mere decade ago. In particular, design solutions have been created to respond to traditional problems with form usability and physical ergonomics – whether the end product be furniture, cars, clothing or even hairbrushes!

While computers provide an established means of producing design plans and drawings, translating these ideas can be a time-consuming process. Consequently, workstations and the software they run need to be purpose-built and tailored specifically for industries to undertake this task. For example, Dell Precision workstations are designed & tested to support applications such as SOLIDWORKS and Auto-desk Design Suite to enable manufacturers and designers to create comprehensive 3D rendered models of products and solutions.

These photo-realistic renders can then be used in pitches and meetings to secure investment. They can be used in marketing presentations and campaigns to showcase the solution and build stakeholder interest before production has even begun. The forward-thinking technology in Dell Precision workstations and Auto-desk Design Suite make ground-breaking achievements, such as Kenguru’s development of the first ever electronic vehicle for wheelchair users, possible.

The ability to provide these detailed model simulations should not be underestimated as they provide businesses with the most accurate and comprehensive depiction of products. It can allow any errors to be stamped out, and subsequently increase the production quality. Furthermore, software-agnostic and Independent Software Vendor (ISV) certification helps boost productivity and efficiency during the development process as it allows businesses to customise their workstations to best suit their individual needs. It gives workers peace of mind when using often complex, high performance applications to create.

The power of prototypes

As competition gets fiercer, for many businesses, the expensive and time-consuming process of producing physical prototypes is phasing out. Much of this change can be attributed to the latest developments in High Performance Computing (HPC), as it offers the ability to switch from traditional physical to virtual prototyping. Organisations can now run huge complex simulations in short timescales whilst simultaneously increasing the quality of the products being designed. This allows better products to hit the market faster.

Developments such as HPC allow the efficient testing of millions of subtle design variations at a fraction of the previous cost. A great example of this optimisation is the virtual prototyping that the Emirates New Zealand sailing team undertook when testing its boat for the America’s Cup using Dell’s HPC cluster. This revolutionised the way the team prepared for the competition as it allowed the boat to be fully optimised and tested in a range of scenarios without the need to physically build various prototypes. As a result, it dramatically reduced the cost of producing the boat and perhaps most importantly, accelerated its time-to-market.

The third dimension

Another factor transforming the way in which products are developed is the colossal rise in 3D printing and scanning technology, which shows no signs of slowing down. According to Gartner, the worldwide shipment of 3D printers is expected to grow by 98 percent in 2015, followed by a predicted double of unit shipments in 2016.

3D printers give manufactures the power to develop, test and verify products quicker than the traditional prototype modelling methods. In fact, in some cases, 3D printing and the latest scanning technology aids in the design and production of components which were impossible to manufacture previously. ATOS scanners from GOM can scan product surfaces and the data copied in a 3D printer, enabling edits and customisations to be made for duplications. With solutions like this, the time-to-market implications can be huge, with increases and improvements in product quality and the speed and frequency of design modifications.

When competition is intense and margins are being squeezed, the capability to make manufacturing design iterations continuously is a huge competitive advantage in this day and age. This fact is further illustrated in a recent report by IDC, which states that the 3D printing revolution is now being utilised regularly in business applications – everything is being affected, from medical bone replacements to NASA telescopes, clothing to confectionery.

Looking ahead

As design and manufacturers evolve with the introduction of technologies such as the “smart desk” and virtual reality, product development will get faster and the quality of products will continue to improve. Progress will undoubtedly be made in 3D printing, expanding the scope of materials that can be printed to not only include plastic and metal but also electronics and rubber. The manufacturing possibilities are endless, and enable quicker product development especially when it comes to the latest and greatest innovations – such as wearable technologies. Designers and manufacturers will have the ability to create a host of new prototypes that were previously off limits, but arguably the biggest beneficiaries will be small businesses. By producing their own in-house pieces, the dependency on large supply chains will decrease whilst costs savings will increase.

In today’s global marketplace, time is money. We often hear from our customers that translating concepts to reality can be a time-consuming and frustrating process. Manufacturers need the right tools as an enabler to design at the speed of thought, once they have this, they are able to improve processes, maximise productivity, and enable opportunities for innovation and design creativity. Tools like Dell Precision workstations have the ability to give manufacturers these added benefits on a silver platter. How they put these benefits to use is up to them.

 

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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