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Super-computers for all

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Sophisticated or super computer may be the way of the cuter, but due to their prices they are out of reach for many South Africans. But, the founders of local company, CrunchYard, have used their knowledge to create an avenue that opens the world of super computers to just about anyone who needs processing power.

Big data, analytics and sophisticated computer modelling may be the way of the future. Their costs, however, make them business tools that can be expected to remain the exclusive preserve of major corporations that have the budgets to run the ‘super computers’ with the massive processing systems needed for crunching the numbers.

In South Africa, this expectation is being turned on its head as innovative owners of established small and medium-sized businesses turn their entrepreneurial skills to exploiting sophisticated niche markets.

“It is smaller enterprises that have the agility, niche expertise and truly innovative spirit that are helping make a difference in the South African economy,” says Ethel Nyembe, Head of Small Enterprise at Standard Bank.

“As sponsors of the new Business Day TV series, The Growth Engines, we believe that the programme’s approach to examining the relationships between major businesses and smaller suppliers is important. How the two entities collaborate to their mutual benefit and use innovative approaches to solve issues – an example is the availability and cost of super computer processing capacity – makes fascinating viewing. It also serves as a source of inspiration to others who may be thinking about building a business around a very specific business demand.”

A case in point is the innovative approach by a Johannesburg company, CrunchYard, that used its founders’ highly-specialised knowledge to create an avenue that opens the world of super computers to just about anyone who needs processing power.

The brainchild of CrunchYard’s electrical engineer, Dr Renier Dreyer, the SME has adopted a unique approach to democratising access to the world of supercomputing. Nothing could be more democratic than the Internet, and it is this platform that CrunchYard has used to provide a service that allows sophisticated simulations to be run off the Internet on a ‘pay-for-use’ basis.

The service allows big businesses to test the viability and structural integrity of their projects – tasks which require enormous amounts of computing power. The users are primarily engineers and scientists working in fields as diverse as antenna design (such as Poynting Antennas, also featured on The Growth Engines, and responsible for nominating CrunchYard to appear on the programme as its innovative supplier), exploration geophysics, fluid dynamics and even swimwear design. The common denominator of these big businesses, until now, had always been a lack of ‘in-house’ computational power to run simulations.

The system at CrunchYard is made up of 320 computer cores that have been joined to cope with large amounts of data. The task of testing is vastly simplified and considerably cheaper – so much so that demand for the service is growing and CrunchYard is already gearing up to add more core processing power to their facilities.

“The idea for this unique super computer service was born when the founders realised that only major corporations with deep pockets could afford the processing computers needed for most complex simulations. The question was asked why a service catering for the needs of this niche market could not be offered over the Internet?” says Ms Nyembe.

The ultimate benefit stretches far beyond South Africa’s borders. As Dr. Dreyer explains;

“Super computer power is now available to anyone who wants to use it. Looking at Africa, the tendency would be to rely on a first-world power doing research into an African problem.  This allows Africans to solve Africa’s problems. It allows the people at the places where challenges arise to begin looking at them and developing home-grown solutions.”

“This innovation illustrates just how outsourcing from a large company to a specialised smaller company can produce huge benefits. The company that uses the facility does not need to have the computing power or support staff required for a dedicated facility, whilst the company providing the service doesn’t require special skills to interface with the client. They just need to be experts in their own systems.

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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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