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Get ready for affordable 8K

Hisense and Skyworth, two of the biggest names in affordable-quality TV hardware, are releasing 8K TV sets this year, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Hisense and Skyworth have both signalled their intentions to join the 8K TV technology race, but at a far more affordable level than the high-end names in TV. 

Both showcased their TV tech at the IFA global press conference in Andalusia, Spain, where the organisers gave media a taste of a few companies that were ready to show off some of their technologies before the official expo.

Last month, Samsung showed off its 8K quantum dot TVs in Johannesburg.

The question still stands: How is 8K going to take off when 4K barely has traction?

The answer lies in innovation and early release. As 8K overtakes 4K as the new “wow” TV technology, film-makers and content distributors will have to start creating 4K content to remain competitive.

Ten years ago, it was difficult to find 1080p content online because content creators were releasing their video in standard definition or 720p. Now, 1080p content is standard online and the less common 1080i standard is used in DSTV’s satellite broadcasting.

The key to getting these technologies off the ground is matching pricing to quality. Chinese manufacturers like Hisense and Skyworth are particularly good at getting this balance right in their TVs. That said, the 8K TV sets that will be offered soon are likely to be just out of the typical consumer’s price range.

Hisense had a strong presence at the press conference, showcasing its 74U9E 8K TV that is expected to launch in China by the end of the year. The company said it expected to release it to the global market by the beginning of next year.

The 74U9E is a 75” LED panel, which boasts improved contrast and more vivid colours over the previous Hisense U range TV. The company also drew attention to its integrated sound, which embeds the subwoofer into the stand of the TV.

Unfortunately, the speaker was not connected because the TV is still in its design phase, but the 8K display panel was fully functional and dynamically upscaled 4K content in real time. The result was nothing short of visually fantastic. 

Skyworth took a slightly different approach to showcasing TV at the IFA event, by partnering with German TV brand Metz. Metz Blue, a premium-affordable sub-brand of Metz, showed off its 8K TV. The S9A Series is an 8K OLED-panel, Android TV, which combines very vivid picture colour with Android TV functionality. Witnessing the 8K and OLED combination was incredible and felt like getting a new set of glasses. Once you go Metz Blue/Skyworth, it’s unlikely you’ll go back.

Again, the integrated sound technology got a lot of attention and features DTS TruSurround and Dolby surround technology to emulate a surround sound experience from the built-in soundbar.

Android TV, a popular TV operating system that’s gaining traction in South Africa, is also part of Metz Blue’s S9A TV, and supports the latest streaming apps. It also can be controlled via Google Assistant, a tried-and-trusted voice assistant that’s also present in many Android phones. 

Overall, 8K TV is being fast-tracked to appear in more living rooms, whether it be Samsung, Hisense, Metz Blue, or Skyworth

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Project prepares Africa’s youth for the future

A partnership between the African Union and VMware is hoped to give new impetus to preparing Africa’s youth for the future, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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VMware’s Everline Wangu Kamau-Migwi and African Union Commissioner Sara Anyang Agbo at VMworld in Barcelona. Pic by Arthur Goldstuck

The woman in the regal red dress and gold turban cuts a dramatic figure as she sweeps through the halls of the Fira Gan Via expo centre in Barcelona, Spain. She stands out in sharp contrast to thousands of hipsters in hoodies and businessmen in dark suits thronging the halls. But she is on a mission that will bring true relevance to the work of many of these conference delegates

She is Sara Anyang Agbor, Commissioner for HR, Science & Technology at the African Union Commission. Agbor is at the VMworld cloud conference to sign a memorandum of understanding with the event hosts, VMware. They are formalising a shared commitment to developing the next generation of digital leaders in Africa in a project called Virtualise Africa.

When Agbor began her career as as a lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Yaounde in Cameroon in the early 2000s, the last thing she worried about was technological infrastructure. But fast forward a decade and a half, and she talks of little else.

Agbor is passionate about preparing Africa’s youth for the future. Her focus is still on education, but she discusses it in terms far removed from her PhD in English literature.

“Nelson Mandela said it very well, that education is the greatest weapon that can transform the world, but what kind of education are we talking about?” she poses the question after signing the memorandum. 

“We’re talking about the education that can lead to the future of work. It is no longer about us having degrees in history and degrees in English, etcetera. It is no longer important for kids to go to school, just for the sake of going to school and having certificates. It is very important for them to go to school that will give them jobs so that they can become job creators, rather than job seekers.”

To that end, VMware will work with the African Union to bring to the continent the VMware IT Academy, a network of educational institutions that provides students with access to learning certification opportunities and hands-on lab experiences with VMware technologies.

Delegates to VMworld in Barcelona pick up new skills. Pic by Arthur Goldstuck

VMware is the world’s leading developer of software for managing data centres and businesses’ adoption of cloud computing, generally referred to as virtualisation. It is a strategic partner of cloud giants like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Oracle, which are all setting up data centres in South Africa, and creating thousands of jobs across the continent. As such, VMware technology skills and certification represent a direct path into careers that are tailor-made for the digital revolution sweeping the world.

Everline Wangu Kamau-Migwi, channel lead for VMware in East Africa, responsible for setting up the VMware IT Academy in the region, says that the agreement is an outcome of the company’s quest to use “technology as a force for good”.

“We asked how we as VMware can play a role in bridging the digital skills in in the African continent,” she says. “Hence Virtualise Africa was born, with a key mandate around education. We’ve partnered with learning institutions, starting with universities, a little over 30 in Africa, where we are now giving them material, learning resources, and labs, and they’re able to access this using a methodology called ‘train the trainer’. 

“It focuses on the faculty, on the staff, for sustainability of the program within the learning institutions. Appreciating the fact that VMware virtualisation is the core of cloud computing, this is a technology that is well-appreciated across Africa. But we find that we are not moving at the pace we need to, especially in the adoption of emerging technologies, because we don’t have those skills.

“VMware also has a huge ecosystem with both a partner and customer ecosystem. So we looked at how we can leverage this ecosystem and ensure that those students who are graduating are able to innovate, are employable, and can be enterprising while doing that.”

Globally, around 550 institutions are part of the programme, with the University of South Africa the first in this country coming on board. VMware also supplies licenses to several thousand institutions around the world to teach the curriculum with its products and solutions. 

Enter the African Union. It has 55 member states, and the bulk of their populations are youths.

“We call it a demographic asset,” says Agbor. “But this demographic asset can also be a demographic liability or a demographic time bomb, if we did not put in place the right resources to capture the mind of the African youth. Over 200 million African youth are unemployed. Many have certificates, but they do not have a job.

“As a result, there is no dream, there is no hope. So now they migrate, looking for the European dream, the Canadian dream or the American dream. But there is an African dream.” 

Read more about the AU’s agenda for 2063.

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Beware biometrics, and other digital dangers

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Traditional passwords nowadays are a weak point as data leaks happen quite often. More and more companies decide to change the approach and adopt biometrics. However, no one is immune to identity theft and there already have been several actual cases of losing biometric data.

To raise awareness on the topic and show that such data requires strong security regulations, cybersecurity company Kaspersky has distinguished several dangers of unsecured biometric data:

  1. Stranger-danger. In order to set face or touch recognition, the system usually requires one sample of a finger or a face. Hence, it is possible for a user to fail authorisation due to lighting conditions or such changes in their appearance as glasses, beards, make-up or aging. On the contrary, it allows cybercriminals to steal this sample and use it according to their malicious aims.
  2. A password for a lifetime. It is not a problem to change a password consisting of numbers and letters, but once you lose your biometric data you lose it forever. The problem with touch recognition can partially be solved by leaving only 2-4 fingerprints, leaving others for emergency cases, but it is still not safe enough.
  3. A digital locker. Existing «digital lockers» rely on cloud-based help – biometric matching usually happens on the server side. If successful, the server provides the decryption key to the client. That increases a risk of a massive data leak – a server hack might lead to the compromising of biometric data.
  4. Biometrics in real life. There are two cases when an ordinary person can encounter biometric authentication. Firstly, banks try to adopt palm scans on ATMs as well as voice authentication on phone-based service desks. Secondly, individual electronic devices use touch and face recognition. However, biometric security is not yet fully developed and there are such constraints as CPU power, sensor price and physical dimensions, so some users have to sacrifice system robustness – some devices can be fooled by a wet paper with fingerprints generated using an ordinary printer or gelatin cast.

To secure biometric data, Kaspersky has recommended:

  • employing stringent security measures against breaches of traditional logins;
  • for businesses it is needed to improve ATM design so as to prevent the installation of skimmers or establishing control over the security of ATM hardware and software. 

As for biometric identification technology in general, Kaspersky has recommended that, for now, it should be  using it as a secondary protection method that complements other security measures, but does not replace them completely.

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