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CES: Osram lights up MetroSnap concept “pod” car

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CES 2020 will showcase advanced lighting and sensing technology provided by high-tech lighting company Osram for MetroSnap, a concept vehicle from Switzerland-based creative think tank Rinspeed.  The electric MetroSnap vehicle has a swapping system that allows its chassis, known as a “skateboard,” to connect to two different body types or “pods.” It will be unveiled for the first time in Osram’s CES booth, #8516, in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

MetroSnap features Osram components for lighting and sensing applications in and around the vehicle that provide solutions within the categories of Mobility, Safety and Security, Connection, and Health and Well-Being. These technologies will be critical in creating an autonomous world and shaping the third living space by using dynamic and human-centric lighting, as well as biomonitoring and biometric applications enabled by infrared light sources.

“We are thrilled to once again partner with Rinspeed on another amazing concept vehicle that reimagines the act of driving,” said Wolfgang Lex, Vice President and General Manager of Automotive at Osram Opto Semiconductors. “Lighting will increasingly be at the centre of the driving experience and Osram’s technologies will help usher in a new automotive future where cars are more than just a means of transportation, but also a place to relax, rejuvenate and work.”

On the exterior of MetroSnap, Osram provided the following:

  • Eviyos, which features thousands of individually addressable pixels that project valuable information and warning symbols on the road for passengers and pedestrians.
  • Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology, which helps orient MetroSnap on the road using infrared laser pulses. Once a light pulse hits an object, it is registered by a sensor and the vehicle calculates the distance from the light to the object, then initiates appropriate actions such as braking.
  • Intelligent display systems on the front and back of the vehicle, and even on windows, which allow for visual communications with other road users. LED license plates serve as supporting human-machine-interfaces and provide further possibilities for individualized driving experiences.

Inside MetroSnap, Osram has provided the following:

  • 3D facial recognition and palm recognition systems. These technologies ensure that only approved individuals can ride in the vehicle, while also allowing the vehicle to adapt to the personalized settings of those riders.
  • Intelligent ambient lighting and human-centric lighting, specifically designed to make the ride more enjoyable and deliver critical safety features. With the advent of autonomous driving, the interiors of vehicles will be more than simply a cabin, they will be true living spaces in which we will work, play and relax. Osram’s ambient lighting solutions, such as the Osire family of iRGB LEDs, will adjust to brightness and temperature preferences of passengers, as well as include human-centric lighting features that adapt interior lighting to suit their moods. Special reading lights ensure dynamic and optimum illumination of the vehicle’s reading area.
  • In-cabin monitoring, which uses VCSEL (Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser) technology to scan MetroSnap’s cabin for forgotten objects and notifies passengers if something is left behind.

For further information, visit www.osram.com/CES.

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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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