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CES: Samsung, ASUS, MSI lead in innovation awards

On the eve of the CES tech expo in Las Vegas, more than 300 gadgets were honoured for outstanding design and engineering, but a few brands stole the show, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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A computer gaming equipment maker was one of the surprise standouts in the CES 2020 Innovation Awards, announced in the lead-up to the CES event in Las Vegas next week.

MSI, the leading gaming brand, was edged out by Samsung and ASUS for most awards won. However, given the relative size of the three companies, the show represented a triumph for MSI. It took eight awards, primarily in the Computer Hardware & Components, Gaming and Computer Peripherals & Accessories categories, but also spreading its wings into Digital Imaging and Photography.

Samsung led the way with 11 awards, followed by ASUS on 9 awards. Again, their relative size made this the ASUS year at CES: it generates around $12-billion a year in sales, compared to Samsung’s $220-billion. MSI is the minnow here, at less than $4-billion.

Samsung dominated Mobile Devices & Accessories, winning awards for the Galaxy A50, Galaxy Fold, Galaxy Note 10 and 10+, and Galaxy S10. It also took honours for its Front Load Washer in the Smart Home section, and for the Galaxy Watch Active 2 across three categories: the Fitness & Sports, Health & Wellness, and Wearable Technologies.

ASUS saw its Zenbook range starring, with the Zenbook 15, Flip 15 and Pro Duo winning in the Computer Hardware & Components category. It also won several Mobile Devices & Accessories awards, but did not make an impact in the Gaming section, despite its Kumnai Gamepad winning a Mobile Devices prize.

Other notable winners were Acer, for its C250i projector in the Computer Peripherals & Accessories category and the Swift 5 in Computer Hardware & Components; Dell’s Alienware for its Aurora R9 and m15 computers, both in the Gaming section; and Dell itself, in Computer Hardware & Components, for an innovative stand, and Digital Imaging or Photography, for a high-end monitor.

The relatively new Chinese audio brand 1More made a splash in the Headphones & Personal Audio, taking three awards for wireless earphones and headphones. 

Albicchiere from beexlab will probably attract more attention at CES, if it decides to offer samples of its wares. It won an award in the Home Appliances category for the Albi Home M, a smart wine dispenser which “allows consumers to enjoy wine at the highest level, serving them a perfect glass of wine: at the ideal temperature and always as if it were just opened”. Albi Home M is the first version for private consumers.

Our choice for the best innovation previewed so far is something a little less frivolous.  Code Jumper, by American Printing House for the Blind, is a response to the reality that the tools used to teach computer coding to young children are highly visual, using drag-and-drop of coloured blocks on screens to create animations. Of course, this puts such tools out of reach of the blind or visually impaired. 

Code Jumper was developed by Microsoft to teaches children aged 7 to 11, computer coding skills – regardless of their level of vision. Distributed by American Printing House for the Blind, it allows children to learn basic programming concepts, and to solve challenge in multiple ways.

The system uses small pods that can be connected to build strands of code, and change sounds to create stories. The colours and shapes of the pods allow them to be identified by sight or touch. 

“Code Jumper is inclusive and can be used in any classroom,” says the American Printing House for the Blind. “Testing has shown Code Jumper just as effective with children who are sighted, or have other disabilities as it is with children who are blind or visually impaired. With Code Jumper all students can learn together — much as they will in the professional world — building skills including confidence, cooperation and critical thinking.”

Now that is innovation.

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DStv Now adds free education to ‘lockdown channels’

In its response to the COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa, DStv is offering 16 free channels on its streaming app

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Two new channels have been added to a free service being provided on DStv Now, the online version of DStv. 

In response to the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, DStv owner MultiChoice worked with local and international news channels in mid-March to add 24-hour news coverage to the DStv Now free service.

The company says the intent was to help all South Africans stay up to date with announcements and developments, and the results so far are encouraging. Usage of the service has increased 20% since the lockdown began, and peak usage is up 80% compared to pre-crisis peaks. 

 Now, in another step to help families through the lockdown period, MultiChoice has added additional educational content to the free service with the Mindset PoP channel. This channel features educational programming covering the entire General Education and Training (GET) phase, including Early Childhood Development (ECD), as well as a key focus on the Grade 4 – 9 curriculum. 

The channel aims to prepare children for when schools reopen. Mindset PoP will deliver live lessons daily, with six fresh hours every day. A website is available for parents to download worksheets and information sheets to work through with expert teachers. Lessons are based on the South African Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) and are also aligned to the Cambridge curriculum.

“We’re extremely grateful to all of the channel providers for being so willing to work with us to help all South Africans through this unprecedented lockdown period,” said Niclas Ekdahl, CEO of the Connected Video division of MultiChoice. 

“Thanks to their support we’re able to keep people informed, keep kids’ educations going, and keep people entertained.”

The full list of channels available to non-DStv customers on the DStv Now free service is:

100 – DStv

180 – People’s Weather

238 – SuperSport Play

313 – PBS Kids

317 – Mindset PoP

320 – Channel O

343 – TBN

400 – BBC World News

401 – CNN

402 – Sky News

403 – eNCA

404 – SABC News

405 – Newzroom Afrika

405 – AlJazeera

414 – Euronews Now

417 – africanews

To sign up for the DStv Now free service, go to http://now.dstv.com 

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FNB Connect cuts data price by 55%, offers 1GB free

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FNB Connect has reduce its data prices by up to 55%. It is also doubling customers’ data on Lifestyle plans without any price increase.

This weekend, FNB Connect will also give all its customers 1GB of free data during the national lockdown, with a validity period of 30 days. This lockdown data allocation is in addition to the Free Connect allocations that customers with qualifying transactional accounts receive monthly.

“This will enable our customers to save on telco spend, which is a regular feature in household budgets,” says Raj Makanjee, CEO of FNB Retail. “Access to affordable and free data goes a long way in assisting our customers navigate difficult times and is also aligned to our ethos of offering real help when it’s needed the most.”

Shadrack Palmer, FNB Connect product head, says: “In our efforts to provide our customers with more value for their money, we’ve reduced our mobile data prices and doubled the data bundles on most of our Lifestyle plans, to give our customers more reason to connect anywhere and anytime. This is needed now more than even, as South Africans are observing the 21-day national lockdown, with many strapped for cash during these challenging times.”

The new data prices and doubling of the Lifestyle plans are to be repriced as follows:

“Since the launch of our Free Connect offering in July 2019, we’ve tried to remain consistent to see how best we can incentivise our customers when they need it most,” says Palmer.  “As FNB Connect, we understand the pressures customers are facing financially and are committed to providing better value at every opportunity.”

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