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Switch on the smart grid

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The infrastructure that delivers electricity from our local utility and municipalities to buildings – is over-taxed, but by linking all supply and demand elements through intelligent communication, the grid could constantly monitor demand and adjust delivery accordingly, writes NEIL CAMERON, GM at Johnson Controls Building Efficiency.

The grid – the infrastructure that delivers electricity from our local utility and municipalities to buildings – is over-taxed. Because of increasing demand during peak time periods and the imminent output of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind when South Africa’s Independent Power Producers (IPP’s) start contributing with supply, the grid is less able to provide a stable energy supply. However, by linking all supply and demand elements through intelligent two-way communication, the grid could constantly monitor demand and adjust delivery accordingly. That’s the idea behind the “smart grid.” For example, by interfacing with home appliances or building controls, the smart grid could allow those energy-consuming devices to operate in off-peak periods and disable them during peak periods to save energy, reduce strain on the grid and enable users to consume electricity when it is least expensive.

In South Africa, we do not have a ‘smart grid’ per se but the natural progression to our energy crisis is to implement the technology in order to connect demand to supply capabilities and deliver bi-directional information between the utility and the consumer.  It will drive consumer usage and behaviour through ‘time of use’ billing and enable facilities (and consumers) to reduce their consumption during peak periods. Facilities will be able to control their energy loads by having them connected to a smart grid and enable companies to manage their own load shedding. This will deliver significant financial benefits to organisations and assist the utility to manage demand better. To deliver all the benefits the smart grid has to offer, smart buildings need to be connected to it.

A smart building provides some or all of the following advanced capabilities:

·         Optimised coordination of energy loads, on-site energy generation and energy storage.

·         Fully integrated control of lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, IT, and other energy consuming systems, using weather data and information from security, scheduling and other business systems to optimise performance.

·         Advanced diagnostics and automated measurement, verification and reporting of energy and greenhouse gas emissions savings.

·         Continuous two-way communication between the building and the grid.

·         Automatic demand response to dynamic pricing signals from the grid. By utilising smart building technologies, owners and tenants can vary electricity usage in response to signals from the grid when prices change to consume electricity when it’s cheaper, and they can reduce demand when the grid is reaching capacity.

This is known as “demand response.” Smart building management systems can automate a short-term reduction in energy demand through load shedding or load shifting. For example, if the owner sets an electricity price threshold for the building and the grid signals that the price will exceed that threshold at a particular time of the day, the system would automatically reduce energy demand in the building at that time. The system could turn off non-critical loads, reduce lighting levels and let building temperatures float within limits or start the use of stored or on-site energy generation.

Combining smart grid and smart building technologies improves reliability and security, while reducing energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Johnson Controls has been providing smart building technologies to customers for years and those customers are reaping the benefits. Commercial buildings in the U.S. now consume 18 percent of the country’s energy and 36 percent of the electricity. In a recent Energy Efficiency Indicator study, 44 percent of facility executives in the U.S. selected smart building technology as one of the top three technologies expected to have the greatest price-performance improvement over the next 10 years. The time to deploy smart building technologies is now. Doing so could avoid $33 billion in energy costs and eliminate 160 million tons of carbon emissions annually by the year 2030.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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SAFTA awards get first streaming video nominees

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The 2019 nominations for The South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) were announced late last week, and for the first time in the 13-year history of the awards, a TV series produced for a video-on-demand service was in contention. The result was a surprise boost to streaming service Showmax.

The comedy series Tali’s Wedding Diary, which premiered in December 2017, represented a major step for the then two-year old streaming service. It was the debut Showmax Original, the first time Showmax ventured into producing its own content. The gamble paid off, with the show becoming the most watched of any series on its first day on Showmax, and now Tali’s Wedding Diary has been further recognised with seven SAFTA nominations, making it this year’s most nominated comedy.

“When we first floated the idea of Tali’s Wedding Diary, we joked about winning awards,” says Candice Fangueiro, Showmax’s head of content. “At that point, just getting our first Showmax Original off the ground was already a major challenge and it was more than we could hope for to actually hit it out of the park. I was stunned when I heard the news about the nominations – it’s amazing to be considered in the same company as these other shows and thanks to this we’re already seeing a fresh spike in Tali views.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary was also a first for co-creator and star Julia Anastasopoulos, who until then was best known as YouTube star SuzelleDIY. “I am so thrilled about the SAFTA nominations for Tali’s Wedding Diary,” says Julia, who is up for Best Actress – TV Comedy and Best Achievement in Scriptwriting – TV Comedy, along with her husband Ari Kruger and Daniel Zimbler. 

“It was such a big and daunting step to create a full TV comedy series and intro a brand-new character. I really didn’t know how it would be received and am so happy to have received such positive feedback for the show and the Tali Babes character, along with the nominations. It feels so good to be recognised for something we poured our hearts into. None of it would have been possible, of course, without the incredible hard work and vision of my husband Ari and the incredible team, cast and crew that were part of the show. And a huge thank you to Showmax of course for making it all possible. Congratulations and best of luck to the entire team and to all the other nominees.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary is a mockumentary that follows Tali, a self-obsessed Joburg princess who’s moved to Cape Town and is planning her wedding to property-agent fiancé Darren (Anton Taylor). The series was inspired by Julia’s own wedding to Ari, her SuzelleDIY and Tali’s Wedding Diary co-creator, who is also up for Best Achievement In Directing – TV Comedy.  

In addition to Julia and Ari’s nominations, Tali’s Wedding Diary is up for Best TV Comedy, Art Direction (Keren Setton),  Cinematography (James Adey), and Editing (Richard Starkey). Winners will be announced on 2 March 2019 at Sun City Superbowl.

Following the success of Tali’s Wedding Diary, the second Showmax Original, The Girl From St Agnes, was released earlier this month. A third Showmax Original, Trippin With Skhumba, is slated for release at the end of February.

“With three Showmax Originals now under our belt and more on the way, we’d like to think this is the start of many more SAFTA nominations for shows from a streaming service,” concludes Candice.

South African content currently on Showmax has 110 nominations and includes the most nominated movie (Five Fingers With Marseilles), telenovela (The River), drama (Lockdown) and soap (Isibaya), with more SAFTA nominees scheduled for the coming months.

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