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TV invades new spaces

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Despite the challenge of video-on-demand services on mobile devices, the ever-evolving formats of TV ensures it maintains a hold on viewers, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

A snapshot of global TV sales suggests that the format has stagnated. In the first half of last year,  according to retail research organisation GfK, 104.7 million TVs were sold globally, down 3.7 per cent on the same period a year before.

However, a very different picture emerges when one drills down into regions, formats and demographics. While some formats and traditional ways of watching are dying, others are rising rapidly.

A few startling examples were presented last week in Lisbon at the IFA Global Press Conference 2017, an event that previews Europe’s largest consumer electronics show, IFA, taking place in Berlin in December.

“In Italy, 25 per cent of TV sets are located in the kitchen,” said Jürgen Boyny, Global director consumer electronics at GfK. “This means there is a market for small screen sizes and for lots of different viewing behaviours.”

The statistic may well be indicative of social activity revolving around the kitchen, but it also suggests growth in new locations as new formats of device and new forms of content make it appropriate for other spaces.

“This creates potential for multi-ownership, people buying another TV for children’s bedrooms, holiday apartments or even the kitchen.”

The numbers show that the trend is already taking off in some European countries. In 171-million households with TV on the continent, 321-million TV sets are installed. The dubious honour of the biggest appetite for multiple screens goes to Norway, with an average of 3.1 TV sets per viewing household.

However, the assumption that this is a factor of the many months of darkness in Scandinavia doesn’t apply: Norway’s neighbours don’t feature on the list. Next comes the United Kingdom with 2.7 sets per household, and France with 1.8. Both Germany and Italy boast 1.5 sets per household, and Poland features with 1.2.

This is all good news for the industry, says Boyny, as it means there is extensive market potential for selling multiple TVs.

The real opportunity, however, lies in the growth of specific formats of TV, and this applies in South Africa too.

“We are seeing sustainable growth into bigger screen sizes, 55-inch and above, but 32-inch still has the biggest share and is still growing in units.”

It is these smaller TVs that are invading new spaces, as they are idea for kitchens, children’s bedrooms and other smaller areas of the home beyond the living room. Smaller screen sizes, below 32-inch, have become a must-have for the many holiday apartments in southern Europe, meaning that these formats are seeing substantial demand in Mediterranean countries.

However, there are three specific trends driving growth within specific segments in Europe: large-format TV sets above 60-inches, which have grown from 1 per cent of TV sales in 2014 to a projected 4 per cent this year; 4K or Ultra High Definition (UHD) TVs, which have grown dramatically from a mere 2 per cent to 30 per cent; and the jewel in the crown, Smart TV, which has grown more slowly but off a much higher base, from 43 per cent to 53 per cent.

The latter is beginning to make an impact in South Africa as well, and is allowing for video-on-demand, like Netflix and ShowMax, to migrate from mobile devices to TV sets. The challenge, says Boyny, is to “bring the younger generation into the world of the big screen” by showing them that platforms like YouTube offer a better experience in this format.

“What is next in TV is continuous development, driven by new content and easier access to content. At present, for example, it is not easy to type in a website address on the remote control, and we need easier access. Consumers want more than traditional content, and they will get apps for different and new kinds of content on Smart TV.

“A connected TV should be more than only entertainment; it should support people in their daily lives.  If a child is sick, why is it not possible to follow a class on a big screen at home? For older people, why is there no fitness or health app on the TV? This is also the future of TV.”

As if in response to Boyny’s call, Michael Zöller, Samsung vice president and head of visual display for Europe, asked the audience at the IFA press conference: “How can the TV integrate seamlessly into modern homes and lifestyle?”

He had an answer, too: “For example, making a TV that is not only a TV anymore, but a piece of art.

With that, Samsung unveiled the latest version of its upcoming Frame, which has been shown in prototype since early this year. It is an ultra-thin large-screen TV that looks like a picture frame hanging on a wall. When not being viewed, its display transforms into a work of art – more than a hundred have been curated by Samsung – so that it blends almost seamlessly into walls already decorated with paintings.

The frame itself can be customised to fit in with a colour scheme, and the display will be matte rather than glossy, so that it looks more like a painting or photo than a screen image. It is due to be launched in Europe by the end of May, and will roll out across the rest of the world in the following weeks.

It won’t be cheap, but it will be yet another format that will ensure the ongoing health of the market for TV sets.

  • 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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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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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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