One of the next great frontiers of consumer technology will be that of the car. It will soon be able to connect to the Internet and provide us with services in ways that we can only begin to imagine, writes MICHAEL FRANS of T-Systems.
One of the next great frontiers of consumer technology will be the humble automobile. No longer just a piece of physical engineering, the car of the future will soon connect us to the digital world in ways that stretch the imagination and excite our ambitions. And that future is not very far away.
For consumers, connected cars promise to make our lives simpler, more convenient, and safer – augmenting our digital lifestyles in a variety of ways. For vehicle manufacturers, dealers, and workshops, connected cars will open up new opportunities for enhanced “after-market” customer engagement. It will enable more proactive maintenance and support, real-time diagnostics, and ultimately, a number of new revenue streams. For society at large, connected cars will play an essential role in realising the vision of ‘smart cities’ – as they transmit information that informs the design of road networks, facilitates traffic management, and improves the lives of citizens in a host of ways.
So, just what does the term ‘connected car’ mean? Broadly speaking, there are six areas that we can consider:
· Entertainment: Connected services can host libraries of audio and video media content, or stream podcasts and internet radio. Safety considerations being high on the agenda, video content is more applicable to panel displays to passengers in the back seats.
· Geo-location services: Information about points-of-interest in the local area – such as restaurants, hotels and parking bays will bring greater levels of convenience to drivers, and unlock opportunities for enhanced loyalty and satisfaction for various companies.
· Customer safety: real-time, on-board diagnostics tools can communicate directly with manufacturers, dealers, and emergency services. So, if a car is in an accident, it can send an alert directly to paramedics. Faults with the electronics or the mechanics can be automatically reported to the right service providers. Or, if the car exceeds a speed limit, for example, then driver can be alerted.
· Track and trace for fleets: fleet managers have used connectivity for a while now, to manage the routes travelled by cargo vehicles, for instance. With the connected car, more detailed information can be captured and used to optimise activities like route planning and vehicle maintenance.
· APIs that enable a third-party ecosystem: everyone, from tyre fitment centres, to coffee shops, to electric car charging stations will benefit from the real-time flow of information – creating opportunities for more tailored and useful marketing.
· Data integrity and security management: Technology and automotive companies will need to ensure that the transmission of all this data happens security and does not expose the driver to new risks.
For all this to happen, a new form of platforms wars may soon emerge, with many software companies forging consortiums and pinning their hopes on developing the ‘connected car platform’ that will become ubiquitous. Last year, we saw a two leading technology companies announce solutions leveraging voice commands as well as steering wheel buttons with uptake from a number of car manufacturers. Other technology companies and vehicle manufacturers are taking different directions. However, ignoring this fragmented ecosystem for now, the exciting promise of the connected car is tantalising close for consumers.
Connected cars will effortlessly integrate into the fabric of our lives – helping us book parking bays at the Gautrain station as we are approaching, presenting coupons for the coffee shop on the way to work, sending alerts to colleagues or family when the traffic means we will arrive late, and serving up our favourite music based on the playlist on our smartphone. From there, connected cars will pave the way for increased levels of driving automation and robotics. From predictive driving systems that warn us of dangerous intersections or impending snarl-ups on the freeway, to semi-autonomous systems that take over driving responsibilities in certain situations, to a state of full automation.
In the future, we could well be sending our cars to collect the dry cleaning, pick up some lunch, or even to get the kids from school. While this may still be some way off, very few would argue that driving is a mundane chore that simply has to be done. Over the coming years we’ll hand over increasing driving responsibilities to the magic ones and zeros of the digital age, freeing us up to spend more time doing what really matters to us.
Opera launches built-in VPN on Android browser
Opera has released a new version of its mobile browser, which features a built-in virtual private network service.
Opera has released a new version of its mobile browser, Opera for Android 51, which features a built-in VPN (virtual private network) service.
A VPN allows users to create a secure connection to a public network, and is particularly useful if users are unsure of the security levels of the public networks that they use often.
The new VPN in Opera for Android 51 is free, unlimited and easy to use. When enabled, it gives users greater control of their online privacy and improves online security, especially when connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots such as coffee shops, airports and hotels. The VPN will encrypt Internet traffic into and out of their mobile devices, which reduces the risk of malicious third parties collecting sensitive information.
“There are already more than 650 million people using VPN services globally. With Opera, any Android user can now enjoy a free and no-log service that enhances online privacy and improves security,” said Peter Wallman, SVP Opera Browser for Android.
When users enable the VPN included in Opera for Android 51, they create a private and encrypted connection between their mobile device and a remote VPN server, using strong 256-bit encryption algorithms. When enabled, the VPN hides the user’s physical location, making it difficult to track their activities on the internet.
The browser VPN service is also a no-log service, which means that the VPN servers do not log and retain any activity data, all to protect users privacy.
“Users are exposed to so many security risks when they connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots without a VPN,” said Wallman. “Enabling Opera VPN means that users makes it difficult for third parties to steal information, and users can avoid being tracked. Users no longer need to question if or how they can protect their personal information in these situations.”
According to a report by the Global World Index in 2018, the use of VPNs on mobile devices is rising. More than 42 percent of VPN users on mobile devices use VPN on a daily basis, and 35 percent of VPN users on computers use VPN daily.
The report also shows that South African VPN users said that their main reason for using a VPN service is to remain anonymous while they are online.
“Young people in particular are concerned about their online privacy as they increasingly live their lives online,” said Wallman. “Opera for Android 51 makes it easy to benefit from the security and anonymity of VPN , especially for those may not be aware of how to set these up.”
Setting up the Opera VPN is simple. Users just tap on the browser settings, go to VPN and enable the feature according to their preference. They can also select the region of their choice.
The built-in VPN is free, which means that users don’t need to download additional apps on their smartphones or pay additional fees as they would for other private VPN services. With no sign-in process, users don’t need to log in every time they want to use it.
Opera for Android is available for download in Google Play. The rollout of the new version of Opera for Android 51 will be done gradually per region.
Future of the car is here
Three new cars, with vastly different price-tags, reveal the arrival of the future of wheels, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK
Just a few months ago, it was easy to argue that the car of the future was still a long way off, at least in South Africa. But a series of recent car launches have brought the high-tech vehicle to the fore in startling ways.
The Jaguar i-Pace electric vehicle (EV), BMW 330i and the Datsun Go have little in common, aside from representing an almost complete spectrum of car prices on the local market. Their tags start, respectively, at R1.7-million, R650 000 and R150 000.
Such a widely disparate trio of vehicles do not exactly come together to point to the future. Rather, they represent different futures for different segments of the market. But they also reveal what we can expect to become standard in most vehicles produced in the 2020s.
The i-Pace may be out of reach of most South Africans, but it ushers in two advances that will resonate throughout the EV market as it welcomes new and more affordable cars. It is the first electric vehicle in South Africa to beat the bugbear of range anxiety.
Unlike the pioneering “old” Nissan Leaf, which had a range of up to about 150km, and did not lend itself to long distance travel, the i-Pace has a 470km range, bringing it within shouting distance of fuel-powered vehicles. A trip from Johannesburg to Durban, for example, would need just one recharge along the way.
And that brings in the other major advance: the i-Pace is the first EV launched in South Africa together with a rapid public charging network on major routes. It also comes with a home charging kit, which means the end of filling up at petrol stations.
The Jaguar i-Pace dispels one further myth about EVs: that they don’t have much power under the hood. A test drive around Gauteng revealed not only a gutsy engine, but acceleration on a par with anything in its class, and enough horsepower to enhance the safety of almost any overtaking situation.
Specs for the Jaguar i-Pace include:
- All-wheel drive
- Twin motors with a combined 294kW and 696Nm
- 0-100km/h in 4.8s
- 90kWh Lithium-ion battery, delivering up to 470km range
- Eight-year/160 000km battery warranty
- Two-year/34 000km service intervals
Click here to read about BMW’s self-driving technology, and how Datsun makes smart technology affordable.