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CES 2016: Next generation tech comes to fore

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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What US game of phones means for Huawei

The Trump administration shocked the world with its ban on US companies supplying Huawei. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK digs deeper.

The Trump administration shocked the world with its ban on US companies supplying Huawei. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK digs deeper.

In the same week that the wildly popular Game of Thrones series reached its climax with major characters meeting their startling destinies, US president Donald Trump took the game of phones to a new level in a move that was as startling.

By declaring a trade ban on Huawei, he in effect blocked any US technology from being supplied to the world’s fastest growing smartphone manufacturer. The immediate consequence: Google revoked Huawei’s access to the Android operating system, the Google Play Store, and Google apps like Maps, Gmail and YouTube for all future phone models.

However, Google announced on Twitter, through its Android account, that it would not pull the plug on current devices. It said:

This means that the current market-leading phone, the Huawei P30 Pro, won’t be affected by the ban. Huawei said it had stockpiled chips from US suppliers with this possibility in mind, so it should at least be able to meet demand for the current model.

Huawei is also known to have worked on its own operating system for some years now, with a view to it eventually replacing Android and reducing the company’s reliance on Google. However, the severity of the ban, and its catch-all nature, shook the market. A smartphone without any Google products is a phone that will see little demand outside China, which itself has banned most Google apps and services.

Notably, the first impact of the shock wave was on American companies that supply Huawei. Chipmakers Intel and Snapdragon were hit, and a wide range of other corporations, from Microsoft to Corning, could also be affected. Apple could be next, as the Chinese government may well block the assembly of its products in China. Currently, all iPhones are put together at factories in China. Should it retaliate in this way, Apple will have to develop a new supply chain, both delaying its next versions and increasing its cost due to its loss of a cheap source of labour.

That is not to say that Huawei won’t be a big loser in this trade war. It’s a massive blow. Until now, Huawei could carry on blithely in the face of a sales ban in the USA, knowing it is dominant in the rest of the world in both 5G equipment and in handset sales.

However, its smartphone leadership is founded on a particularly good implementation of Google’s Android ecosystem. Losing that means it has to go back to the drawing board in developing and evolving its own operating system and even apps environment. It can do it, but it will lose years of development to Apple and Samsung.

The bottom line, then, is that everyone loses in this trade war. If the Huawei ban is no rescinded, Donald Trump will have dealt a crippling blow to the entire smartphone industry. This could, in turn, presage a slump in technology shares on the stock markets of the world.

It may, then, appear baffling that the US administration would take such drastic steps. The ostensible reason is that Huawei is subject to a Chinese law that requires local companies to cooperate with authorities. This is interpreted as meaning that Huawei would install secret backdoors in handsets to give the Chinese government access to them, and secret spy technology in 5G networks to allow the government to eavesdrop on all communications.

This is clearly an absurd accusation, as any evidence to this effect would instantly destroy Huawei as a credible provider of technology to the world. No such evidence has been presented, and most arguments to this effect have been on the level of conspiracy theory rather than presentation of facts.

It also speaks volumes that the US has not banned trade with China’s Lenovo, which acquired the IBM hardware business a few years ago, and the Motorola handset division more recently. Motorola is still perceived to be an American brand, while Huawei is perceived not just as the challenger brand it had been for some years, but in fact as an invader brand.

Can foreign policy be based on mere perception? In the case of the Trump administration, that tends to be the rule rather than the exception. And the perception is further clouded by the halo effect that surrounds Apple products in the USA. The iPhone makes up well over a third of all American smartphone sales. Typical iPhone users tend to be rather enthusiastic about their loyalty to the brand, to the extent that they are usually disparaging of any other brands.

Grudging respect for Samsung, which has been going head-to-head with Apple for much of this decade, does not extend to Huawei, which emerged seemingly from nowhere to become the world’s third biggest smartphone brand. Its current sales trajectory has it overtaking Apple very soon, and reaching the number one position by the end of the year. Until, that is, Donald Trump brought its momentum to a halt.

Again, why not ban Motorola and Lenovo in the same breath? The answer may well lie in the pathology of the Apple fanboy. American-born Motorola and Lenovo handsets pose no threat to Apple’s dominance of the US market, whereas the interloper, Huawei, is a fundamental threat. It is, therefore, the enemy, merely by virtue of its existence as serious competition when it is seen as having no right to compete with the likes of Apple. Trump is known to be an enthusiastic iPhone user, using two of the devices simultaneously, and would almost certainly buy into this mindset. That, in turn, makes it a natural kneejerk reaction simply to ban American companies from doing business with Huawei.

Whether this is merely idle speculation is beside the point. The ban also represents self-inflicted harm, which extends the pathology argument to an entire administration.

It will be a blow to both countries, symbolic of how a trade ban can hurt the country imposing the ban. It also casts a dark shadow over world trade, and is a shameful example of how trade wars wreck so much in their paths. 

  • 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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Time for smart energy

South Africa is experiencing an energy crisis that requires the public and private sectors, along with households to work together. Fundamental to this is embracing innovative technology that provides more efficient ways of managing the country’s energy.

Riaan Graham, sales director for Ruckus Networks, sub-Saharan Africa, said: “With the number of connected devices expected to top more than 75 billion worldwide by 2025, the Internet of Things (IoT) can be considered an important tool in reaching this goal. Already, connected devices can be used to deliver smart energy that sees a more optimal use of resources.”

This approach relies on a smart grid of connected sensors pointing to areas where energy is wasted. In turn, the supply to these points can be allocated to higher priority areas resulting in a better use of resources.

Aiding this drive towards connected devices is government pushing towards the establishment of smart cities. These cities require a technological infrastructure built around various sensors connected to the internet to not only generate data, but control things as diverse as traffic lights, street lamps, and other electrical devices.

Graham said: “These smart cities enable lighting to be automatically switched off when not needed. Sensors on the connected devices will detect when people are on the street and turn it off or on accordingly. What might seem like a novelty, can make a massive difference in reducing energy waste.”

According to Kate Stubbs, director of business development and marketing at Interwaste, IoT is just part of how technology can be used to create a more efficient environment.

“South Africa produces an average 108 million tonnes of waste annually,” said Stubbs. “Of this, only 10 percent is recycled. There is significant potential to use this waste and convert it to energy. This is more than just the traditional way of viewing recycling. Instead, it is using technology to extract value out of waste through initiatives like refuse and waste-derived fuel.”

The first South African Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) plant was launched in 2016 and not only aims to reduce landfill, but also the country’s carbon footprint. As the name suggests, the plant converts general, industrial, and municipal waste into an alternative fuel that is used in the cement industry.

Stubbs said: “Spin-off benefits of this plant includes the creation of additional employment opportunities and a reduction of South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions. Waste management entails so much more than what many people think. But the key remains a combination of technology innovation and a willingness to use the resources generated by this.”

Graham agrees about the need to readily accept the innovation technology brings as the country is teetering on a significant energy disaster.

He said: “New technologies are critical in helping the countries and their cities of the future promote sustainable energy use. For example, Nairobi has introduced smart street lamps that use LED lighting saving money and resources on energy costs. These lamp poles also have Wi-Fi embedded in them that sees air quality probe sensors submitted vital data for city planners on where there are pollution hotspots.”

Stubbs feels these are good examples of how energy management approaches in the connected world need to be non-linear.

“The traditional ways of adopting technology, recycling, and managing energy must be seen as relics of the past,” she said. “Instead, we must all work together and readily embrace modern solutions or risk our country entering a new dark ages.”

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