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The real Internet of Things

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The Internet of Things is worth the hype, in fact the hype may not be quite enough to show the value of this remarkable technology. JOHN EIGELAAR examines the impact, the future and potential of IoT and its applications in Africa.

The Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t new. Describing the ability of all things to connect to one another and automate basic processes or transform the way devices interact, IoT has long been touted as the evolution of the internet and connectivity. However, most applications remain out of reach, not quite at the point where they can be implemented in any kind of real-world scenario and not in a way that would make any discernible difference. Limitations in connectivity, technology and cost, especially in South Africa, are slowing its uptake and innovation

That said, McKinsey Consulting recently forecast that the economic impact of IoT could be as impressive as US$11 trillion a year. Gartner believes that by 2016 there will be 6.4 billion connected things in use with an additional 5.5 million connected each day throughout the year. The question isn’t whether IoT will remain a growing trend, but rather what its potential is. And this is in data. Data has become the black gold of the century, offering up information and insight that can transform industries and control processes.

By harnessing data through IoT technologies, organisations can rework internal systems to address issues around efficiencies or production. Imagine, for example, an organisation provides employees with information about how their performance impacts on the overall organisation and its profitability by handing each person a smart device with an organisation-specific app. The app pulls data from all interconnected devices and systems to provide tailored graphs or information that highlights how a particular area is functioning. If all equipment is connected and, in the case of mining or manufacturing, loads are accurately measured, employees can see how their hard work has paid off. This level of employee buy-in and engagement delivers exceptional value to the organisation and it is far more cost-effective to invest in smart devices and apps than to pay for the impact of a strike.

The data gleaned from IoT can unlock an organisation’s potential, reveal areas of innovation that were previously unrecognised and identify challenges that need to be overcome. It is an opportunity and one that the business needs to recognise in order to compete in the market today. It doesn’t mean we should forget about the interconnected dream of the IoT fridge, but it does point to a future that blends the drama of big data with the connectivity of IoT to create the ultimate information highway.

* John Eigelaar, Director and Co-Founder of Keystone Electronic Solutions.

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CES: Most useless gadgets of all

Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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