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CES: Royole folds again

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After stunning CES in 2019 with the world’s first foldable smartphone, the FlexPai, and then going silent on its roll-out, Royole Corporation has returned to CES to unveil two new products in Las Vegas, USA. 

The RoWrite 2 Smart Notebook is a complete redesign of its original curved notebook device, featuring the latest Royole fully flexible sensor and more than 40% lighter, significantly smaller and with longer battery life and better accuracy.  With a wireless-charging smart pen and Royole’s sensors embedded in a soft leather case, it is aimed at those who are nostalgic for the feel of paper in a digital world.

Royole also launched the Mirage Smart Speaker, an Amazon Alexa-enabled speaker featuring Royole’s 8″ AMOLED fully-flexible touch display, which wraps around the speaker’s cylindrical body. The elegant display solution enables stunning visuals and touch control. A 5MP camera with physical mute switch and two far-field, high quality microphones allow access to Amazon Alexa’s full functionalities. Three full-range drivers and a passive bass radiator provide impressive 360 degree audio for voice and music playback. 

Royole also showcased the RoTree, designed to demonstrate the capabilities of Royole’s paper-thin flexible displays. It features some 1,000 “leaves” of fully flexible and programmable displays.

“Royole’s proprietary Flexible+ technologies have put us in a pivotal position in innovation in consumer electronics,” saidRoyole’s founder and CEO Dr Bill Liu. “We are currently working with hundreds of business partners worldwide to adopt fully flexible displays and sensors in a wide variety of use cases that will reshape the world of consumer electronics and business applications. With the introduction of RoWrite 2 Smart Notebook and Mirage Smart Speaker, we are fully committed to establishing the Royole brand and providing Flexible+ solutions to enterprise partners.”

The RoWrite 2 will be available globally in March at $129 (€129) with the Mirage Smart Speaker available in Q2 at $899 (£799).

* Royole’s CES booth is located in the Las Vegas Convention Center, Central Hall, #11524.

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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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