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Big bites from Apple

Apple’s announcement advanced medical features on its new Apple Watch and a more affordable iPhone were the biggest bites from its annual product launch, writes BRYAN TURNER.

Apple’s annual early-September event kicked off with a small advance that could make a big difference: the next iteration of the Apple Watch, Series 4, with the first consumer-facing ECG monitor approved by authorities. While the overall design remains similar to its predecessors, the screen is around 30% larger than the previous version, thanks to a smaller bezel. This resulted in new categories, namely 40mm and 44mm instead of 38mm and 42mm. However, Apple Watch bands from previous generations still work with the new Apple Watch. The screen is also rounded at the corners of the display, instead of being a square display inside rounded glass. Despite all the improvements, it still weighs around 30 grams without the watch band. 

The introduction of the first consumer-facing wrist ECG (electrocardiogram) is revolutionary in the wearable space and reaffirms the Apple Watch as a device for the health conscious. The Apple Watch underwent a full internal and external redesign. Internally, the digital crown has been redesigned to be more “clicky”, with haptic feedback, and features a metal tip for use in an ECG measurement. An ECG can be taken when the user completes a circuit by placing the opposite hand’s finger on the metal tip of the digital crown. This is helpful for those who need to know when they are experiencing atrial fibrillation, an irregular beating of the heart. Fall detection has also been implemented, where a user must tap “I’m fine” after a fall, slip or trip. If the Apple Watch is still for a minute after a fall, emergency contacts are notified with a fall message and location.

Next up, the iPhone line was given an update instead of an upgrade with the iPhone XS. Last year broke the 8-year “major iPhone version followed by an S version” cycle. Apple opted to skip what would have been the iPhone 7S and released the iPhone 8. Apple also released the iPhone X for its tenth anniversary of releasing iPhones. This year, the S cycle is back. The iPhone XS sends the message that Apple is not currently concerned with cosmetic features and would rather focus on making its flagship smartphones better internally. 

The iPhone XS was released in 2 tiers, namely the 5.8″ iPhone XS and the 6.5″ iPhone XS Max. The iPhone XS Max is what we know as the “Plus” range, which features a screen that’s almost an inch bigger diagonally than the iPhone XS and holds the same Super Retina Display specification, around 450 pixels per inch. Internally, the iPhone XS Max is no different from the iPhone XS apart from a larger battery.

Apple’s A12 bionic chip is not the first 7-nanometre chip to be announced in a smartphone (that was Huawei) but will be the first to reach the market. The incredible aspect of the 7nm chip is that it houses 6.9 billion transistors, which allow for 5 trillion operations to be run per second. In addition to this, a Neural Engine allocates all the processes where they fit best, either to the CPU, the GPU or processes quickly itself. This speeds the iPhone XS up by 30% compared to the iPhone X – if you are able to notice such things.

Talking pf which, thanks to the better processor, Face ID performs a lot faster. The neural engine can separate hair from the backgrounds of portrait photos. The XS also has wider stereo sound, thanks to a slight internal speaker readjustment. The screen has been optimised for Dolby Vision and HDR10 which work with the OLED screen to provide vibrant colours and distinct on-screen graphics. 

Apple left a surprise for the end of its keynote when CEO Tim Cook introduced the iPhone XR. This iPhone looks and feels like an iPhone XS at first glance, but has been stripped of some features. 

It’s interesting that Apple is not repeating its iPhone 5C mistakes with this iPhone. It uses the A12 Bionic, the same processor in the XS line, which means that the cheaper iPhone performs exactly the same as the most expensive one. The XR has an edge-to-edge display with Face ID, like the iPhone XS, but has an LCD screen instead of OLED. This would have reduced Apple’s cost per unitsubstantially. On the back, the XR sports a single camera instead of the dual camera setup in the iPhone XS. However, the iPhone XR can still do portrait mode photos, thanks to the A12 Bionic. 

Overall, it may seem as if the Apple Watch stole the show, but Apple no doubt hopes the iPhone XR will convince the market it is an affordable iPhone.

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3D printed room-service? Visit the hotel of tomorrow

To mark its 100th birthday, Hilton predicts the trends that will change travel and hospitality in the next 100 years.

Intergalactic getaways, fast-food nutrient pills, 2-3 hour working days and adaptable, personalised rooms that can transport guests everywhere from jungles to mountain ranges. These are some of the predictions for the next 100 years that the Hilton hotel group has put together in celebration of its 100th anniversary.

In a report supported by expert insight from the fields of sustainability, innovation, design, human relations and nutrition, findings reveal the impact of the growing sophistication of technology and climate change on the hotel industry in the future.

Key predictions for the hotel of the future include:

Personalisation is King

  • Technology will allow every space, fitting and furnishing to continuously update to respond to an individual’s real-time needs – the Lobby will conjure up anything from a tranquil spa to a buzzy bar, giving every guest the perfect, personal welcome
  • From temperature and lighting, to entertainment and beyond, microchips under the skin will enable us to wirelessly control the setting around us based on what we need, whenever we need it

The Human Touch

  • In a world filled with Artificial Intelligence, human contact and the personal touch will be more critical and sought after than ever
  • Technology will free up time for hotel staff to focus on what matters most: helping guests to connect with one another and building memorable moments

‘Sustainable Everything’ – The Role of Responsibility

  • Only businesses that are inherently responsible will survive the next century
  • Sustainability will be baked into everything about a hotel’s design – from weather-proofed domes, to buildings made from ocean-dredged plastic
  • Hotels will act as the Town Hall of any community, managing local resources and contributing to the areas they serve with community-tended insect farms and vertical hydroponic crop gardens

Menu Surprises and Personalisation

  • Our diets will include more plant-based recipes and some surprising sources of protein – Beetle Bolognese, Plankton Pies and Seaweed Green Velvet Cake will be menu staples!
  • Decadent 3D-printed dinners and room service will provide unrivalled plate personalisation
  • Chefs will be provided with biometric data for each guest, automatically creating meals based on preferences and nutritional requirements

Futuristic Fitness and Digital Detoxes

  • Outswim a virtual sea turtle in the pool, or challenge yourself to climb the digital face of Mount Everest, your exercise routine will be as unique as you are. What’s more, exercise energy generated from workouts will be used to power the hotel, providing a zero-impact, circular system. Guests could even earn rewards based on reaching workout targets
  • Pick up where you left off with trackable workouts and holographic personal trainers
  • Offline will be the new luxury as we seek to find moments of tech-free time

“Since its inception in 1919, Hilton has pioneered the hospitality industry, introducing first-to-market concepts such as air-conditioning and in-room televisions. Last year, Hilton also became the first hospitality company to set science-based targets to reduce its environmental impact,” said Simon Vincent, EVP & President, EMEA, Hilton. “We enter our second century with the same commitment to innovation, harnessing the power of our people and technology to respond to guest demands. Our research paints an exciting future for the hospitality industry, highlighting the growing importance of human interaction in an increasingly tech-centric world.”

Futurologist Gerd Leonhard said: “In 2119 we will still be searching for unique experiences, but they will be more personalised than ever. As technology shapes our lives we will seek out moments of offline connection with others, including hotel team members who will help us truly get what we need from our stays. 100 years from now hotels will have to create opportunities to converse, collaborate and connect, delivering moments that matter, individually, to each and every guest.”

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Gadget ed to chair Digital Council

Specialist financial services provider Sasfin Bank has established a Digital Advisory Council to provide the market with industry-leading expertise and insights on trends shaping the use of technology in financial services.

Digitalisation is one of the most powerful forces for change shaping Finance today. This has turned Fintech into one of the most vibrant sectors in both information technology and among start-ups, generating billions of dollars in investment and development globally. The South African fintech space is dynamic, and Sasfin is playing a leading role in the transformation of local financial services and the resulting enhancement of customer experiences.

“We have been investing in fintech development in-house and acquiring or integrating fintech start-ups,” says Sasfin CEO Michael Sassoon. “Over the last year we have built further digital offerings, integrated via APIs into leading businesses and invested in fintechs. We built and launched B\\YOND, an innovative digital business banking platform and SWIP, a digital wealth and investing platform. We have invested in Payabill, an online SME lender and DMA, a digital trading platform. We recently announced our alliance banking relationship, leveraging open banking, with Hello Paisa to offer seamless banking to the unbanked. We feel that there is a huge opportunity to improve the experience of South African businesses and savers through using technology. We have therefore created an independent forum to assess how to even better improve financial services for South Africans by leveraging the digital economy.”

Arthur Goldstuck, founder of high-tech research consultancy World Wide Worx, editor-in-chief of Gadget, and a globally respected technology analyst has accepted Sasfin’s invitation to head up the Sasfin Digital Advisory Council, an independent think tank that will help Sasfin and its clients decipher the fintech present and future.

“The Sasfin Digital Advisory Council is broader than providing only the bank with a source of insight on how digital services are evolving and lessons from across the world,” said CEO Michael Sassoon. “Sasfin has been involved in fintech investing for many years and we are leveraging this experience as well as the experience of independent experts such as Arthur to provide insights and guidance to interested stakeholders in this space.”

The team appointed to the Digital Advisory Council is being selected for the breadth and range of knowledge they would bring to the table, with further appointments to the Council being announced soon.  There will also be room for the Council to co-opt specialist expertise as it is required.

Goldstuck, who has been covering the fintech sector as an analyst, commentator and columnist for many years, says he sees the role as a welcome challenge.

“There has been a long-standing need for a clear understanding of the impact being made by fintech today, and the exponential change it will cause tomorrow,” said Goldstuck. “My role will be, partly, to curate the wide spectrum of fintech and digitalisation knowledge and insights that the members will bring to the Digital Advisory Council, and help create scenarios that businesses and policymakers may use to navigate the future – both inside and outside Sasfin.”

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