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Ford buys into cloud Pivotal software

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Ford has announced an investment in Pivotal, a big data and cloud-based software platform company to further enhance its software development capabilities and deliver new features to customers more quickly. 

The $182.2 million investment in Pivotal aims to help drive Ford’s transition to an auto and a mobility company. Ford is continuing to focus on and invest in its core business – designing, manufacturing, marketing, financing and servicing cars, SUVs, trucks and electrified vehicles. At the same time, the company is aggressively pursuing emerging opportunities through Ford Smart Mobility – its plan to be a leader in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics.

“Expanding our business to be both an auto and mobility company requires leading-edge software expertise to deliver outstanding customer experiences,” said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO. “Our investment in Pivotal will help strengthen our ability to deliver these customer experiences at the speed of Silicon Valley, including continually expanding FordPass® – our digital, physical and personal mobility experience platform.”

The major share of Pivotal is owned by storage giant EMC, which was in turn bought by Dell Inc last year to form Dell Technologies – a new brand unveiled at EMC World in Las Vegas this week. GE also has a small share in Pivotal after an investment – a little smaller than Ford’s – made in 2013. Microsoft has also joined as an investor in Pivotal.

Ford recently teamed up with Pivotal to deliver FordPass, an innovative consume experience platform that launched last month. FordPass will offer new customer services, like remote access to vehicles through a smartphone app, and mobility solutions, such as parking and car sharing. Innovating and iterating quickly, Pivotal and Ford IT engineers are working side-by-side to create new consumer experiences for FordPass members.

Building on this existing relationship, Ford plans to accelerate the incorporation of Pivotal’s advanced software development methodologies and technology across the IT, product development, and research and advanced engineering teams. Ford will put Pivotal’s next-generation cloud platform and analytics capabilities to use on the company’s new mobility projects – such as its on-demand Dynamic Shuttle pilot program.

“Today we are at a major inflection point in global business, and Pivotal is at the fulcrum of that change,” said Rob Mee, Pivotal CEO. “We are collaborating with iconic companies like Ford to help transform their businesses with our unique software development methodology and modern cloud platform and analytics tools. We are thrilled to create a deeper partnership with Ford through this investment as we drive its evolution to becoming both an auto and mobility company – reinventing yet again how the world moves.”

Building more software expertise

Pivotal’s advanced software development methodologies and cloud platform complement Ford’s already strong embedded software capability that supports EcoBoost® engines, the SYNC® 3 connectivity system, driver-assist technologies like active park assist and more.

Software plays a growing role in new vehicles as demonstrated by the all-new F-150 that features more than 150 million lines of code, whereas a typical smartphone operating system has approximately 12 million lines. Engineers are capitalizing on software to deliver precise control over aspects of vehicle performance such as engine and transmission calibration to improve fuel economy and for the connectivity experience by giving customers hands-free access to their smartphones through SYNC 3.

In fact, the very success of EcoBoost engine technology can be attributed to software. Software is the secret sauce to the fuel efficiency EcoBoost delivers because it allows engineers to maximize the use of each drop of fuel at a molecular level. Ford has 275 patents on EcoBoost technology and another 200 pending, with a large majority covering aspects of software controls and calibration.

“Investing in Pivotal builds on our current strengths in software development,” said Marcy Klevorn, Ford vice president and CIO, who will join the board of directors at Pivotal. “We plan to quickly add new state-of-the-art software engineering capabilities across the Ford enterprise.”

In addition, Ford and Pivotal plan to open new software labs in strategic locations in both the United States and Europe. The labs will be staffed with software architects, engineers and user experience experts – all using Pivotal’s advanced software development methodology. Ford’s investment in Pivotal is subject to customary regulatory approval.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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