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CES: Intel gives first look at Tiger Lake and new foldable

A new foldable screen design and a demo of the new Intel Core mobile processors at CES in Las Vegas suggest the company still has an innovation edge, but only just, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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Still bruised from losing Apple as a client and exposure of security flaws in its processors last year, Intel came to CES 2020 in Las Vegas this week determined to prove it still has an innovation edge.

It gave a first look and demonstration of the newest Intel Core mobile processors, code-named “Tiger Lake”. It has enhanced the CPU, AI accelerators and integrated graphics based on the new Intel Xe graphics architecture, promising to deliver “double-digit performance gains, massive AI performance improvements, a huge leap in graphics performance, and four times the throughput of USB 3 with integrated Thunderbolt 4”, according to Intel executive vice president Gregory Bryant. 

However, it is still built on Intel’s 10nm+ process, while Intel’s bitter rival AMD has arrived at CES with a laptop using a 7nm chip, the Ryzen 4000 mobile processor. Apple also produces 7nm chips, at this stage for smartphones, and last year ditched Intel as a supplier of its chips.
To make up for this, Intel wowed CES with a preview of a foldable OLED display form factor, code-named “Horseshoe Bend.” Based on the TigerLake mobile processors, Intel says the design is similar in size to a 12-inch laptop, with a folding touchscreen display that can be opened up to more than 17 inches.

CEO Bob Swan kicked off the company’s CES news conference on Monday with updates from its Mobileye business, acquired in 2017 for $15-billion from its Israeli founders. His keynote address included a demonstration of Mobileye’s self-driving robocar navigating traffic autonomously, in a natural manner. The demonstration was intended to showcase Mobileye’s  innovative approach to delivering safer mobility by using a combination of artificial intelligence, computer vision, the regulatory science model of RSS, and redundancy through independent sensing systems.

(Credit: Tim Herman/Intel Corporation)

In an illustration of the real-world benefits of AI, Swan showed how intel used integrated AI acceleration on 2nd Generation Xeon Scalable processors, to help the American Red Cross on its Missing Maps project to improve disaster preparedness. Missing Maps builds accurate maps for remote regions, including bridges and roads, to help emergency responders in the aftermath of a disaster.

“At Intel, our ambition is to help customers make the most of technology inflections like AI, 5G and the intelligent edge so that together we can enrich lives and shape the world for decades to come,” said Swan. “As we highlighted today, our drive to infuse intelligence into every aspect of computing can have positive impact at unprecedented scale.”

Executive vice president Navin Shenoy announced that 3rd Generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors due in the first half of 2020 would include a new Intel product called DL Boost extensions to accelerate AI training by up to 60% over previous technology.

It will be used in tandem with a new computer vision solution, 3D Athlete Tracking (3DAT), which uses AI to enhance the sports viewing experience with near real-time visualisations, and is expected to be a star of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. 

According to Shenoy, 3DAT uses highly mobile cameras to capture the form and motion of athletes, then applies algorithms optimised with IntelDL Boost and powered by Intel Xeon Scalable processors to analyse the biomechanics of athletes’ movements.

Intel also showcased groundbreaking technical work with Netflix and the National Football league in the United States, underlining the message that it was not only about the chips.

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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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