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CES 2016: Daily life drives Intel’s tech vision 

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The vast power of technology to deliver new and amazing experiences throughout daily life was the driving force behind Intel’s announcements at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week.

From the digitisation of sports, to advances in health and wellness, to unleashing human creativity through music, art, robotics and invention, the company announced a number of collaborations, products and innovative technologies that “make the amazing possible”.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced a series of collaborations with leading industry brandsthat will use technology and data analytics to benefit people’s overall health, fitness and athletic performance. Intel announced plans to work with ESPN and Red Bull Media House, New Balance and Oakley.

Krzanich also announced a multi-year partnership with The Recording Academy as part of its official “Next Generation of GRAMMY Moments” to use technological innovation for people to see and engage in the evolution of technology in music. The first artist to collaborate with Intel on the programme will be six-time GRAMMY-winning artist Lady Gaga.

These collaborations underscore the three trends that Krzanich said are shaping the future: the smart and connected world, technologies gaining human-like senses, and computing becoming ultra-personal.

“There is a rapidly growing role for technology that is at once transformative, unprecedented and accessible,” said Krzanich. “With people choosing experiences over products more than ever before, Intel technology is a catalyst to making amazing new experiences possible, and ultimately improving the world in which we live.”

He also stressed that Intel remains focused on addressing big societal challenges facing the technology industry and foreshadowed plans for a bold, new anti-online harassment effort with Vox Media, Re/code and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation to promote diversity and inclusion. And he confirmed that Intel is moving beyond just microprocessors to achieve its goal of validating its broader product base as “conflict-free” in 2016.

“When Intel started its work to address conflict minerals and gaps in diversity and inclusion, we were told by many people that our goals were unrealistic and would be impossible to achieve,” said Krzanich. “Our collective efforts show that we can influence entirely new and different ways of doing business that also improve the human experience.”

Below are more details from announcements featured during the Intel keynote at CES 2016, as supplied by Intel:

Digitising the Sports Experience:

Intel announced a collaboration with ESPN to showcase the latest technology set to add new levels of data-powered insights to the feats of athleticism at X Games Aspen 2016. The tiny, low power Intel Curie module will be integrated into the Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle and Men’s Snowboard Big Air competitions to provide real-time data on athlete performance such as in-air rotations, jump height, jump distance, speed, and force on landing. This access to new data will provide athletes with greater insights into their performance, provide additional metrics for on-air analysts, and change the fan experience both at home and in the stands. The competitions will be televised on ESPN and ABC.

Intel and Red Bull Media House announced a global partnership that will extend into multiple genres and platforms. Red Bull Media House CTO Andreas Gall joined Krzanich on stage to demonstrate how athletes and spectators can get information about the performance instantly with the help of Intel Curie technology, with the promise of more announcements to come in 2016 and beyond.

Intel is working with Replay Technologies to deliver completely new viewing experiences for sports fans on broadcast, in the stadium, and in the home. Using Replay’s freeD technology optimised for Intel platforms, sports fans will be able to re-watch key moments of sporting events from nearly every conceivable angle and share a custom created clip with the world. FreeD takes advantage of 6th Generation Intel Core processors and Intel server technology that has been optimised to deliver this immersive entertainment experience.

Changing the Landscape of Health and Wellness:

Intel and New Balance announced a strategic collaboration to develop wearable technologies that connect athletes with technology to improve their athletic performance as part of New Balance’s newly formed Digital Sport division. Krzanich and New Balance CEO, Rob DeMartini, wore running shoes featuring customised 3-D printed midsoles enabled by Intel  RealSens technology and disclosed plans to develop a smart sport watch available for the 2016 holiday season.

Oakley and Intel previewed the first look at “Radar Pace” – smart eyewear featuring a voice-activated, real-time coaching system. Oakley is the first Luxottica Group* brand that Intel is working with to fuse premium, luxury and sports eyewear with smart technology. Engineered with Intel Innovation and crafted with Oakley’s high-quality design and materials, the smart eyewear is designed to provide runners, cyclists and workout enthusiasts with in-the-moment feedback and analytics, helping to track progress and improve real-time performance.

Unleashing Creativity:

Six-time GRAMMY-winning global music icon Lady Gaga announced her first collaboration with Intel, in association with Intel’s announcement of a multiyear partnership with The Recording Academy as part of the official “Next Generation of GRAMMY Moments” programme that will launch during Grammy week in February 2016. Lady Gaga commented: “Intel has enlisted Haus of Gaga to work together on a project that will showcase technology through creativity at the highest level. The partnership culminates in a ground-breaking collaboration that inspires to remind the world of the seed of innovation.” While Lady Gaga will not perform new material as part of the programme, she promises to deliver an experience not to be forgotten.

MGM Television Group* and Digital President Mark Burnett joined Krzanich on stage to provide a sneak peek at the innovators vying to turn their ideas into reality – from improving health monitoring to communicating in new ways to testing the limits of our imagination – in the new competition series, America’s Greatest Makers. Premiering this spring on TBS, America’s Greatest Makers is part of a larger initiative that includes coverage on CNN.com, Bleacher Report and other Turner digital brands. They also launched the Digital Hub at http://www.americasgreatestmakers.com/, which spotlights inventors, new innovations and tech tutorials, as well as unique weekly digital content.

Intel’s leadership to integrate human-like senses into technology continues to gain momentum: In unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Krzanich demonstrated the Yuneec Typhoon H with Intel RealSense technology, which enables collision-avoidance capabilities and will be available 1H 2016. In robotics, Krzanich showcased a Segway personal transporter from Ninebot that can transform into a robot. The open platform uses the new Intel RealSense ZR300 Camera to navigate complex environments and intelligently interact with users and sensors in the home and is powered by an Intel Atom™ processor. Segway plans to make the robot commercially available and will initially introduce a developer kit in the second half of this year.

Improving the Human Experience:

Krzanich highlighted plans for a new anti-online harassment effort with Vox Media, Re/code and Born This Way Foundation. The initiative will be unveiled on 7 January and will help make our smart, connected world a safer, more inclusive place.

Third-party audits and direct validation by Intel’s supply chain organisation will confirm that the company’s broader product base – beyond just microprocessors – is “conflict free.” Maintaining accountability in the supply chain is an ongoing process for Intel.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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