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CES: Electric superbike roars in

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At CES 2020 in Las Vegas this week, Damon Motorcycles unveiled an electric superbike called the Hypersport, described as “the world’s smartest, safest, and most powerful electric motorcycle”. The fact that it was unveiled at the BlackBerry booth was the first clue that this is no regular e-bike.

The Hypersport is outfitted with Damon’s CoPilot advanced warning system developed by BlackBerry QNX, setting a new standard in motorcycle safety, awareness and connectivity. Ahead of the show, it was honoured with a CES 2020 “Best in Innovation” award. 

Damon Motorcycles provided the following information on the Hypersport:

The Damon Hypersport redefines what an electric motorcycle is and should be. With well over 200hp and 200nm of torque delivered at zero rpm, a top speed of 200mph and a range of more than 200 highway miles per charge, the Damon Hypersport is slated to become the most powerful long-range motorcycle ever. Pricing begins at $24,995 before state and federal EV tax credits.

“We’re on a mission to unleash the full potential of personal mobility for the world’s commuters, while reducing rider incidents on the road,” said Jay Giraud, co-founder and CEO, Damon Motorcycles. “To address this, we spent the last three years developing an AI-powered, fully connected, e-motorcycle platform that incorporates CoPilot, our proprietary 360º warning system. By building it on BlackBerry’s best-in-class technology that is safety certified, Damon motorcycles will be the safest, most advanced electric motorcycles on the market.”

The Damon Hypersport delivers a new level of motorcycle performance, safety and comfort with its CoPilot 360º advanced warning system, which uses cameras, radar and other sensors to alert riders to threats. Featuring an onboard neural net, these same sensors also collect and tag traffic behavior, road conditions and rider intent data. With its embedded 4G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity suite, Damon aggregates this data in the cloud to improve overall system performance with over-the-air updates sent back to each Damon motorcycle. Like Tesla, updates are approved by each Hypersport’s owner before going live onboard.

“We prioritized data-driven thinking at the epicentre of the company, employing radical innovations in sensor fusion, robotics and AI,” said Dom Kwong, co-founder and CTO, Damon Motorcycles. “This level of deep learning and connectivity are unprecedented, ensuring each rider a smarter, safer and connected ride; not only for individuals but for entire communities, with the goal to reduce incidents worldwide.”

To coincide with the Hypersport’s unveiling, Damon and BlackBerry are presenting the #FutureOfMotorcycling Interactive Experience, a rideable, leaning stationary motorcycle that uses virtual reality to give attendees a hands-on showcase of the Hypersport’s unique features including:

  • CoPilot Advanced Warning System powered by Blackberry QNX technology that uses radar, cameras and non-visual sensors to track the speed, direction and velocity of up to 64 moving objects around the motorcycle.
  • Shift – Damon’s patented rider ergonomics that lets riders electronically adjust the Hypersport’s riding position while in motion.
  • Hypersport’s powerful all-electric performance.
  • Hypersport’s embedded 4G connectivity and onboard AI.

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SA’s Internet goes down again

South Africa is about to experience a small repeat of the lower speeds and loss of Internet connectivity suffered in January, thanks to a new undersea cable break, writes BRYAN TURNER

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Internet service provider Afrihost has notified customers that there are major outages across all South African Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as a result of a break in the WACS undersea cable between Portugal and England 

The cause of the cable break along the cable is unclear. it marks the second major breakage event along the West African Internet sea cables this year, and comes at the worst possible time: as South Africans grow heavily dependent on their Internet connections during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

As a result of the break, the use of international websites and services, which include VPNs (virtual private networks), may result in latency – decreased speeds and response times.  

WACS runs from Yzerfontein in the Western Cape, up the West Coast of Africa, and terminates in the United Kingdom. It makes a stop in Portugal before it reaches the UK, and the breakage is reportedly somewhere between these two countries. 

The cable is owned in portions by several companies, and the portion where the breakage has occurred belongs to Tata Communications. 

The alternate routes are:  

  • SAT3, which runs from Melkbosstrand also in the Western Cape, up the West Coast and terminates in Portugal and Spain. This cable runs nearly parallel to WACS and has less Internet capacity than WACS. 
  • ACE (Africa Coast to Europe), which also runs up the West Coast.  
  • The SEACOM cable runs from South Africa, up the East Coast of Africa, terminating in both London and Dubai.  
  • The EASSy cable also runs from South Africa, up the East Coast, terminating in Sudan, from where it connects to other cables. 

The routes most ISPs in South Africa use are WACS and SAT3, due to cost reasons. 

The impact will not be as severe as in January, though. All international traffic is being redirected via alternative cable routes. This may be a viable method for connecting users to the Internet but might not be suitable for latency-sensitive applications like International video conferencing. 

Read more about the first Internet connectivity breakage which happened on the same cable, earlier this year. 

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SA cellphones to be tracked to fight coronavirus

Several countries are tracking cellphones to understand who may have been exposed to coronavirus-infected people. South Africa is about to follow suit, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From Israel to South Korea, governments and cell networks have been implementing measures to trace the cellphones of coronavirus-infected citizens, and who they’ve been around. The mechanisms countries have used have varied.  

In Iran, citizens were encouraged to download an app that claimed to diagnose COVID-19 with a series of yes or no questions. The app also tracked real-time location with a very high level of accuracy, provided by the GPS sensor. 

In Germany, all cellphones on Deutsche Telekom are being tracked through cell tower connections, providing a much coarser location, but a less invasive method of tracking. The data is being handled by the Robert Koch Institute, the German version of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In Taiwan, those quarantined at home are tracked via an “electronic fence”, which determines if users leave their homes.  

In South Africa, preparations have started to track cellphones based on cell tower connections. The choice of this method is understandable, as many South Africans may either feel an app is too intrusive to have installed, or may not have the data to install the app. This method also allows more cellphones, including basic feature phones, to be tracked. 

This means that users can be tracked on a fairly anonymised basis, because these locations can be accurate to about 2 square kilometers. Clearly, this method of tracking is not meant to monitor individual movements, but rather gain a sense of who’s been around which general area.  

This data could be used to find lockdown violators, if one considers that a phone connecting in Hillbrow for the first 11 days of lockdown, and then connecting in Morningside for the next 5, likely indicates a person has moved for an extended period of time. 

The distance between Hillbrow and Morningside is 17km. One would pass through several zones covered by different towers.

Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said that South African network providers have agreed to provide government with location data to help fight COVID-19. 

Details on how the data will be used, and what it will used to determine, are still unclear. 

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