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Internet of Things: Simpler than you think

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The Internet of Things is one of the latest buzzwords in the IT industry. It promises to transform how we live and work, but for some its still very difficult to understand. VINCE RESENTE, Enterprise Technology Specialist at Intel attempts to demystify the IoT.

Ah, the Internet of Things. It’s the topic on everyone’s lips – the buzzword of the year. It promises to transform the way we live and work, to free us from mundane tasks, and create entirely new jobs in entirely new industries.

Ask anyone in technology to explain the IoT and they’ll probably use words like sensors, big data and networks, and tell you how, together, these produce real-time insights and business intelligence.

No wonder the man on the street isn’t as excited about the IoT as those in the industry are. For something that is expected to have massive impacts on the lives of every person on the planet, the IoT should be easier to understand.

Demystifying the IoT

The high-level definition of the IoT is a collection of sensors that feed information into a database to make sense of things.

That’s not the most user-friendly explanation.

Let’s rather think of the IoT as a human body – we’ll call him John.

John’s central nervous system is the database and his senses (sight, smell, touch, etc) are, well, the sensors.

When information enters John’s nervous system (database) through his senses (sensors), he interprets it immediately and responds accordingly – he pulls his hand away from a hot stove; he sidesteps an uncovered manhole; he turns down the volume on the TV if it’s too loud.

The heat from the plate, the sight of the open manhole, and the TV volume is all data, which John analyses in real-time, allowing him to make instant decisions. He uses this information to protect himself by predicting outcomes before they occur – like falling into the manhole and seriously injuring himself.

Making businesses smarter

This is, in essence, how the IoT works.

Businesses in any vertical can monitor and analyse just about any variable. This analysis allows them to make better business decisions in response to changing conditions, in real time. They can also predict what is likely to happen in the future and put measures in place to protect themselves from financial loss or to better position themselves to leverage future opportunities.

These decisions – or business intelligence – keep them ahead of their competitors, help them save time and money through unnecessary downtime, and ensure their systems always perform optimally.

Let’s consider some of the variables a courier company – we’ll call it ABCDeliveries – might monitor. By monitoring traffic patterns through apps like Waze, GPS data and traffic light sensors, ABCDeliveries can calculate the fastest route between destinations, saving it time on the road and allowing it to complete more deliveries in a day, which equates to more revenue. By monitoring the weather, ABCDeliveries will know when to move packages undercover to prevent damage from rain or hail, saving it money in insurance claims.

A key aspect of the IoT is that big data is time-stamped. Traffic information from yesterday is useless to ABCDeliveries today. It needs to know what is happening right now so that it can react appropriately.

Humans as sensors

Thousands of South Africans use the IoT every day, possibly without realising it. Anyone who travels with the Waze navigation app is essentially part of a bigger IoT ecosystem.

Users opt in to share their movements and to report road hazards, faulty traffic lights and police sightings, meaning they are, essentially, the sensors that submit data – of John’s senses. This information is disseminated to other Waze users travelling on the same route.

If 20 people give a hazard report a thumbs up, it’s likely still there. If 10 give it a thumbs down, it’s probably not and Waze will remove it from the hazard list. That’s a big data decision made in real time in response to data coming in from thousands of sensors.

The effects? People are able to avoid congested roads and discover new routes that get them to work faster. Imagine how much simpler our lives will be when we can look inside our fridges from our phones while doing grocery shopping, or when we can turn on the heaters from work to arrive to a warm home in winter?

There is not a single vertical that will not benefit from the IoT, but we first need to understand how it works so that we can get more people excited about it – and more people developing for it – so we can all realise these benefits sooner.

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CES: And thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for making and enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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