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Meet Futurecop, the VR policeman of tomorrow

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The policeman of tomorrow will probably not look like Robocop, but will share many of his abilities, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

Aside from a history of infamous prisoners – Charles 1 and the Kray twins, for example – the Isle of Wight in the English Channel may not come to mind as a microcosm of the world of crime. Yet, its 140 000 inhabitants have provided the world with a fascinating insight into the future of policing.

Back in 2013, the Hampshire Constabulary, which polices the island, issued its officers with body-worn video (BWV) cameras. The University of Portsmouth was commissioned to study the consequences, and the startling results were released last year: only 1 out of 11 cases had led to arrests the year before the introduction of BWV; in the following year, 7 out of 10 camera footage cases led to arrests.

Arthur Goldstuck gets a virtual reality tour of the Command Centre of the future

Arthur Goldstuck gets a virtual reality tour of the Command Centre
of the future

It’s not only about nailing the perps: it also changes behaviour towards the police. Cases of violent threats to officers dropped by 44 per cent the year they were fitted with the gadgets.

These findings have added to the momentum for bringing BWV, car dash-cams, video analytics and similar tools into the heart of crime-fighting.

Now, it’s all about to be taken a few steps further into the future.

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At last week’s Critical Communications World conference in Amsterdam, Motorola Solutions unveiled its vision of the high-tech policeman of the next decade. And at the core of this vision is not hardware or software, but the sipple concept of “real-time”.

“Real time will have a massive impact on critical communications,” says Eduardo Conrado, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer at Motorola Solutions. “Our philosophy is to design for high-velocity
human impact, moments when there isn’t time to process a lot of information: moments of terror.”

Which brings us to the connected officer of 2025.

“The future is more about distributed capability, where the radio and smartphone don’t look like a radio or smartphone anymore, they are distributed across the body. It has the same functionality; it just doesn’t look like it.

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“In the next five years, we see the radio evolving into a collaborative device, with a personal area network – the radio, smartphone, smartwatch, and other devices all connected. Integrated power management becomes important, so you need wireless charging both in the office and in the vehicle.”

The following five years will see an even more dramatic shift, as Futurecop comes to resemble Robocop, while remaining completely human. The police car will become far more than just transport.

“As cars become smarter and dashboard displays larger, software and applications will be integrated into the vehicle, and the car becomes an extension of the officer. During a foot-chase, the officer is augmented by an airborne drone. The drone also becomes an extension of the command centre, not only capturing video from the air, but also running real-time analytics.

The policeman of tomorrow, equipped with smartglasses. PIC: Arthur Goldstuck

The policeman of tomorrow, equipped with smartglasses. PIC: Arthur Goldstuck

“If the officer pulls out a weapon, contextual information like accelerating heart rate and movement alerts the command centre to an emergency, and automatically alerts other units. The artificial intelligence built into the system immediately starts overlaying mapping information and starts routing vehicles to interception points.”

Finally, the history of what the officer saw and experienced is automatically shared with the team, and “paperwork” starts being generated automatically from the digitally recorded history. In 2016, this remains one of the biggest drains on police productivity. In 2026, it could happen seamlessly.

And finally, there is virtual reality.

“People say VR takes you away from the real world and takes you somewhere else,” says LanTing Garra, Innovation Design Director at Motorola Solutions. “But that’s exactly what we want to do with the command centre.

“Today it’s all about getting information from the field. That means the person in the command centre is trying to visualise the entire scene through verbal communications, and check in with the officer every two minutes. What if we can reduce all that communications, let the officers on the frontline focus on what they’re doing, but also bring the command centre into the scene?”

The idea is that the officer would be wearing smartglasses, while support staff in the command centre wear VR goggles that allow them to view the scene from the officer’s point of view as well as through 360 degree cameras mounted on cars and aerial cameras carried by drones.

New technology from a company called Eyefluence, in which Motorola Solutions’ venture capital arm invested last year, allows the command centre to navigate the virtual scene through eye tracking and interaction.

“The benefits are both simplified communication and incident immersion,” says Garra. “The incident commander can be on the scene with the location flexibility of a virtual presence, and shared situational awareness.”

The most remarkable aspect of this vision is that the technology already exists. The virtual command centre was demonstrated at Critical Communications World – and drew the crowds one usually sees at the unveiling of exciting new consumer technologies.

But going by the impact of the ancestors of this technology on the Isle of Wight, Futurecop could become as much a feature of our environment as the rest of the gadgets we take for granted today.

* 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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Samsung S10 in lock-step with its rivals?

Tonight Samsung will kick off the next round in the smartphone wars with the S10 range, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When Samsung unveils the new S10 smartphone at an event in San Francisco today, it will mark the beginning of the 2019 round of World War S. That stands for smartphone wars, although Samsung would like it to be all about the S.

Ever since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013, Samsung has held both technology and thought leadership in the handset world. Back then, Apple’s iPhone 5 was the last device from the American manufacturer that could lay claim to being the best smartphone in the world. With the 2013 launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple entered an era of incremental improvement, playing catch-up, and succumbing to market trends driven by its competitors.

Six years later, Samsung is fighting off the same threat. Its Chinese rival, Huawei, suddenly wrested away leadership in the past year, with the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro regarded as at last equal to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 9 – if not superior. Certainly, from a cost perspective, Huawei took the lead with its more competitive prices, and therefore more value for money.

Huawei also succeeded where Apple failed: introducing more economical versions of its flagship phones. The iPhone 5c, SE and XR have all been disappointments in the sales department, mainly because the price difference was not massive enough to attract lower-income users. In contrast, the Lite editions of the Huawei P9, P10 and P20 have been huge successes, especially in South Africa.

Today, for the first time in half a decade, Samsung goes into battle on a field laid out by its competitors. It is expected to launch the Galaxy S10 Plus, S10 and S10 e, with the latter being the Samsung answer to the strategy of the iPhone XR and Huawei P20 Lite.

Does this mean Samsung is now in lock-step with its rivals, focused on matching their strategies rather than running ahead of them?

It may seem that way, but Samsung has a few tricks up its electronic sleeve. For example, it is possible it will use the S10 launch to announce its coming range of foldable phones, expected to be called the Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex. It previewed the technology at a developer conference in San Francisco last November, and this will be the ideal moment to reclaim technology leadership by going into production with foldables – even if the S10 range itself does not shoot out the lights.

However, the S10 handsets will look very different to their predecessors. First, before switching on the phone, they will be notable by the introduction of what is being called the punch-hole display, which breaks away from the current trend of having a notch at the top of the phone to house front-facing cameras and speakers. Instead, the punch-hole is a single round cut-out that will contain the front camera. It is the key element of Samsung’s “Infinity O” display – the O represents the punchhole – which will be the first truly edge-to-edge display, on the sides and top.

The S10 range will use the new Samsung user interface, One UI, also unveiled at the developer conference. It replaces the previous “skin”, unimaginatively called the Samsung Experience, to introduce a strong new interface brand.

One UI went live on the Note 8 last month, giving us a foretaste, and giving Samsung a chance to iron out the bugs in the field. It is a less cluttered interface, addressing one of the biggest complaints about most manufacturer skins. Only Nokia and Google Pixel handsets offer pure Android in the local market, but One UI is Samsung’s best compromise yet.

It introduces a new interaction area, in the bottom half, reachable with the thumb, with a viewing area at the top, allowing the user to work one-handed on the bottom area while still having apps or related content visible above. One UI also improves gesture navigation – the phone picks up hand movements without being touched – and notification management.

The S10 range will be the first phones to feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, at least for the South African and American markets. That makes it 5G compatible, for when this next generation of mobile broadband becomes available in these markets.

They will also be the first phones to feature Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of the Wi-Fi mobile wireless standard. It will perform better in congested areas, and data transfer will be up to 40% faster than the previous generation.

The phones will be the first to use ultrasound for fingerprint detection. If Samsung gets it right, this will make it the fastest in-screen fingerprint sensor on the market, and allows for a little leeway if one pushes the finger down slightly outside the fingerprint reader surface. It does mean, however, that screen protectors will have to be redesigned to avoid blocking the detection.

Not enough firsts? There are a few more.

Most notably, it will be the first phone range to feature 1 Terabyte (TB) storage – that’s a thousand Gigabytes (GB) – at least for the top-of-the-range devices. Samsung last month announced that it would be the first manufacturer to make 1TB built-in onboard flash storage. Today, it will deploy this massive advantage as it once again weaponises its technology in the fight for smartphone domination.

  • 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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IoT set to improve authentication

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By Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President, Internet of Things Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

As it rapidly approaches maturity, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to continue a transformational trajectory, introducing new efficiencies in multiple fields by allowing measurement and analysis on a scale that has never been possible before. From agriculture to logistics, from retail to hospitality, from traffic to health, from the home to the office, the applications for monitoring ”things” are limited only by the imagination.

And South African (and African) businesses are showing abundant imagination in their practical deployments of IoT solutions in multiple settings, creating a better tomorrow through almost universal measurement and the introduction of new levels of convenience – including how to access locations, devices and services securely.

Any company, whether South African or international, should bear in mind that understanding consumer expectations can be the key to unlocking the full potential of IoT devices and related smart services.

According to Gemalto’s latest Connected Living study, improving the way consumers authenticate themselves to services is one of the most anticipated benefits of IoT, highlighting a desire for a more seamless and secure IoT experience.

Consumers are interested in advanced ways of authenticating themselves through automatic (based on behavioral patterns) or biometric techniques, lessening the need to have to intervene manually, all in the name of a much more streamlined authentication process. Smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have already placed fingerprint and facial recognition high on the agenda. There is also a widespread positive sentiment towards IoT’s potential for improving the quality of home life through connected, smart appliances.

Personalised services is something else that wins consumers over. In fact, a fluid, personalised and unified experience with continuity of services, together with security and privacy, is critical for the successful implementation of any technology.

And those types of services are today quite possible. With everything being connected – from small gadgets to digital solutions for large enterprises – IoT is no longer just a buzzword. That much is clear in a piece from Vodacom IoT managing executive Deon Liebenberg. Writing for IOL Online, Liebenberg provides insight into the sheer range of applications for IoT: the 20 use cases he cites range from the obvious, like transport and logistics, to the connected home and wearables; he even suggests tagging pets with IoT transmitters, for those who always need to know the whereabouts of the family cat.

Low-cost tags fitted to cats, dogs, lamp posts, shipping containers or other items are just one part of the puzzle, however. There are other two pieces; arguably the most complex part is the availability of communication networks in areas where there aren’t any WiFi networks, or indeed, anything else.

And that’s where the bigger takeaway from Liebenberg’s piece and other IoT trends articles becomes apparent. The communication networks are there, as are those tags: dedicated IoT networks (like LoraWAN, SigFox and narrowband IoT) are all available in South Africa.

So, too, is the third and final essential component. Software which is able to process the data generated by the tag and transmitted over the IoT network and into the internet. In this regard, there’s no shortage of solutions available from cloud providers like AWS and Azure; electronics giant Siemens, too, is in on the action, having recently launched a new cloud-based IoT operating system to develop applications and services for process industries, including oil and gas and water management.

This combination means it is quite possible right now to enable just about any use case. Business owners, who will know best how IoT can add value in their organisation, can now see their ideas becoming reality. Most crucial of all, IoT solutions delivering new levels of efficiency and convenience are not only possible, they are able to be offered with the simple and effective security that will drive consumer acceptance.

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