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CES 2016: Next generation tech comes to fore

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CES 2016 opened its doors earlier this week spanning the largest exhibit floor in the show’s 49-year history, with 2.4 million square feet of exhibit space and featuring more than 3 600 companies, including a record 500 startups.

Owned and produced by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), formerly the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), CES 2016 runs through to Saturday, 9 January, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“CES kicks off earlier this week as the global platform where emerging technology meets the marketplace. I’m like a kid in a candy store this week, surrounded by mind-blowing innovation that is truly improving the human experience,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association. “From robotics, 3D printing and unmanned systems to automotive tech, wearables and beyond, our world is changing as technology connects us all and works to solve the impossible. It is incredible we get to bring together so many industry visionaries, influencers and entrepreneurs this week at CES to showcase how tech is changing the world. The energy in Las Vegas right now is palpable.”

Intel kicked off Tuesday’s keynotes with art and a concert followed by the company’s CEO Brian Krzanich asking the audience to fist pump the lit bracelets that were on each chair. Intel had it all, including next-generation drones, robots and more. Krzanich announced a number of new innovations that incorporate Intel’s technology, including the Oakley Radar Pace smart eyewear, featuring a real-time, voice-activated coaching system designed to improve and enhance athletes’ training and performance and the Typhoon H Drone, powered by Intel’s RealSense technology to avoid collisions in real time.

Later Tuesday evening, Dr. Herbert Diess, chairman, board of management, Volkswagen Passenger Cars, took the keynote stage and addressed the company’s recent diesel issue, stating that “we are doing everything possible to make it right,” and discussed the company’s focus on creating a “New Volkswagen” and redefining and re-engineering every aspect of VW. Dr. Diess then announced the new e-Golf Touch, a zero emissions, all-electric car, as “a smartphone on wheels” that will be available before CES 2017. Additionally, the electric BUDD-e, a unique concept for a long-distance electric vehicle, was unveiled as the “first car in the Internet of Things.” Users will be able to connect the smart home with the smart car through partnership announcements with LG and startup company Door Bird.

Preshow press events kicked off Monday with the largest CES Unveiled in show history. The official media event of CES 2016, CES Unveiled featured more than 160 exhibiting companies, including a record-breaking 52 startups from Eureka Park – the dedicated CES exhibit area for early-stage companies. Exhibitors offered a sneak preview of products launching at the show to more than 2,000 media, covering the latest in sensors, 3D printing, the Internet of Things, wearables, virtual reality and robotics all captured in the official highlight reel.

Companies big and small use CES to introduce the latest innovation to the global market. Major product announcements continued during Tuesday’s CES Press Day, which featured 28 exhibitor press conferences kicking off and setting the tone for a week that will see some 20,000 products launched. Major product debuts included:

  • Bosch – In-Vehicle Audio/Video System with Personalized Haptic Touchscreen, including haptic control so drivers can feel the buttons on the screen and receive touch feedback
  • Casio – Smart Outdoor Watch WSD-F10 powered by Android Wear, the first watch with a built-in microphone that is water resistance up to 50 meters and features a dual layer display structure that meets U.S. military standards
  • DISH – Hopper 3, powering up to seven home TVs at once, and comes with 16 tuners and a “Sports Bar Mode” that lets owners watch four regular HD channels at once on their Ultra HD TV
  • FitBit – FitBit Blaze, a new smart fitness watch designed to balance fitness and style
  • GoSun – The E-Grill fries, roasts and bakes, powered by an electric heater or a solar panel that captures solar energy to cook after the sun goes down
  • Hisense – 2016 line of TVs with ULED technology, which is three times brighter than OLED and has quantum dot technology
  • HS Innovation GmbH – RUN ROCKETS™ & DIGITAL SKI™, high-end precision sensors attached to skis or running shoes that measure the exact movements of the skis or user’s feet
  • Kia – The Drive Wise combines the current advanced driving assistance system (ADAS) with telematics, bringing faster and more accurate assistance for drivers
  • LG – LG Signature OLED TV, featuring picture-on-glass design, a 2.57 mm panel, Dolby Vision technology, and an integrated speaker system with a built-in woofer
  • Marathon Laundry – Smart laundry machine that customizes wash cycles and allows users to switch from washer to dryer without removing clothes
  • MobileHelp – Next-generation remote health medical alarm that pairs with smartphones
  • Monster – The Blaster boombox, which produces bi-directional sound with full and deep bass
  • Morpx Inc. – Mu smart toy, a sensor add-on that acts as a smart eye and brain for your existing remote controlled toys
  • Nobo – B60 health and fitness app, which monitors hydration in real-time during exercise
  • Panasonic – DX900 4K LED TV and UB900 UHD Blu-ray Player, as well as the Technics SL-1200 high-fi turntable
  • Qualcomm – Snapdragon 602A automotive processor, which will be used in 2017 Audi cars, allowing for high bandwidth in-vehicle Internet connectivity
  • Samsung – KS9500 SUHD TV, highlighting quantum dot technology, High Dynamic Range (HDR) and 4K Ultra HD resolution capabilities with the world’s first bezel-less design
  • Sony – 4K HDR TV (X930D series) features new slim backlight drive technology, voice recognition in 40 languages, Sony’s exclusive Content Bar and ultra-thin design
  • StreamTV – Unveiled Ultra-D 4K Glasses-Free technology
  • TCL – QUHD TV with quantum dot, local dimming, IDP engine and HDR technology offering a wider color gamut
  • Valeo – Les Lunettes by Valeo are connected, technology-packed glasses that improve driver visibility day and night by reducing glare from different sources
  • ZTE – GrandX3, carried by Cricket, features 5.5″ HD infinity edge display, Qualcomm 1.3 GHz Quad-Core Processor, 16 GB ROM (expandable to 64 GB) and LTE speeds

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UN calls for electronics overhaul to beat e-waste

Seven UN entities have come together at the World Economic Forum to tackle the escalating scourge of electronic waste.

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Seven UN entities have come together, supported by the World Economic Forum, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to call for an overhaul of the current electronics system, with the aim of supporting international efforts to address e-waste challenges. 

The report calls for a systematic collaboration with major brands, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), academia, trade unions, civil society and associations in a deliberative process to reorient the system and reduce the waste of resources each year with a value greater than the GDP of most countries. 

Each year, approximately 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) are discarded — the weight of more than all commercial airliners ever made. In terms of material value, this is worth 62.5 billion dollars– more than the GDP of most countries.  

Less than 20% of this is recycled formally. Informally, millions of people worldwide (over 600,000 in China alone) work to dispose of e-waste, much of it done in working conditions harmful to both health and the environment. 

The report, “A New Circular Vision for Electronics – Time for a Global Reboot,” launched in Davos 24 January, says technologies such as cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), support gradual “dematerialization” of the electronics industry.  

Meanwhile, to capture the global value of materials in the e-waste and create global circular value chains, the report also points to the use of new technology to create service business models, better product tracking and manufacturer or retailer take-back programs.  

The report notes that material efficiency, recycling infrastructure and scaling up the volume and quality of recycled materials to meet the needs of electronics supply chains will all be essential for future production.  

And if the electronics sector is supported with the right policy mix and managed in the right way, it could lead to the creation of millions of decent jobs worldwide. 

The joint report calls for collaboration with multinationals, SMEs, entrepreneurs, academia, trade unions, civil society and associations to create a circular economy for electronics where waste is designed out, the environmental impact is reduced and decent work is created for millions. 

The new report supports the work of the E-waste Coalition, which includes: 

  • International Labour Organization (ILO); 
  • International Telecommunication Union (ITU); 
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment); 
  • United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); 
  • United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR); 
  • United Nations University (UNU), and 
  • Secretariats of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions (BRS). 

The Coalition is supported by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the World Economic Forum and coordinated by the Secretariat of the Environment Management Group (EMG).  

Considerable work is being done on the ground. For example, in order to grasp the opportunity of the circular economy, today the Nigerian Government, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UN Environment announce a 2 million dollar investment to kick off the formal e-waste recycling industry in Nigeria. The new investment will leverage over 13 million dollars in additional financing from the private sector.   

According to the International Labour Organization, in Nigeria up 100,000 people work in the informal e-waste sector. This investment will help to create a system which formalizes these workers, giving them safe and decent employment while capturing the latent value in Nigeria’s 500,000 tonnes of e-waste. 

UNIDO collaborates with a large number of organizations on e-waste projects, including UNU, ILO, ITU, and WHO, as well as various other partners, such as Dell and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA). In the Latin American and Caribbean region, a UNIDO e-waste project, co-funded by GEF, seeks to support sustainable economic and social growth in 13 countries. From upgrading e-waste recycling facilities, to helping to establish national e-waste management strategies, the initiative adopts a circular economy approach, whilst enhancing regional cooperation. 

Another Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) report launched today by the World Economic Forum, with support from Accenture Strategy, outlines a future in which Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies provide a tool to achieve a circular economy efficiently and effectively, and where all physical materials are accompanied by a digital dataset (like a passport or fingerprint for materials), creating an ‘internet of materials.’ PACE is a collaboration mechanism and project accelerator hosted by the World Economic Forum which brings together 50 leaders from business, government and international organizations to collaborate in moving towards the circular economy. 

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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