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CES: Samsung fires back at LG with bezel-free 8K TV

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Shortly after LG announced it was first to meet a new 8K standard, Samsung went a step further with a unit that devotes 99 % of its surface to display.

Samsung Electronics has revealed it will unveil a bezel-free QLED 8K TV at CES 2020, the world’s largest electronics exhibition, in Las Vegas this week.
It made the announcement on its website, in Korean, two days ahead of a press event where it was expected to unveil its latest innovations.

“The 2020 QLED 8K is an advanced AI technology that delivers a whole new level of 8K experience through product-wide innovations, ranging from picture quality to sound to smart features,” ran the announcement. “In addition, the Infinity design, which eliminates the screen bezel, sets a new standard for TV screens.”

The TV set is equipped with an AI quantum processor that combines machine learning and deep learning to enhances the upscaling function, which converts the image quality to 8K regardless of the image quality of the original image.

Samsung said: “The new AI quantum processor runs on a neural network model and generates its own algorithm from the trained database, enabling optimal upscaling of any image.

“The 2020 QLED 8K features a new ‘Adaptive Picture’  feature that provides optimised brightness and contrast in any viewing environment. Consumers don’t have to deliberately turn off the curtains or turn off the lights, even in strong sunlight, because the TV recognises the environment and automatically adjusts the screen brightness.”

Samsung says the unit also has an AI ScaleNet technology that reduces original data loss during video streaming. The technology will be applied to the Amazon PrimeVideo app in collaboration with Amazon.

“We will expand the market by delivering it,” said Choo Jong-seok, vice president of Samsung Electronics’ video display business division. “2020 QLED 8K has Samsung’s willingness to innovate to provide more advanced screen experiences to consumers.”

The 2020 QLED 8K TV will also be able to stream video using YouTube’s 8K AV1 codec.

One of the biggest features claimed for the 2020 QLED 8K is its ability to deliver rich sound.

“OTS+ (Object Tracking Sound Plus) is a technology that recognises moving objects in the video and moves the sound along the speakers mounted on the TV. This technology enables 5.1-channel surround sound on a TV alone, allowing you to immerse yourself in the scene when there is dynamic movement on the screen, such as a fast-moving scene.

“Samsung will also introduce a new ‘Q-Symphony’ feature that will find the best sound by using both the TV and the soundbar’s speakers. This feature has won CES’s Best Innovation Award, and delivers 9.1.4 channels of high-quality sound that is richer throughout the home.

“In addition, the AVA (Active Voice Amplifier) feature allows the TV to recognise ambient noise and adjust the volume of the video speaker’s voice. With this feature, consumers don’t have to worry about missing drama lines even when the surroundings are noisy.”

The biggest talking point of the 2020 QLED 8K, however, is the “infinity design” that eliminates the screen bezel, meaning it utilises up to 99% of the screen, “providing outstanding immersion and elegant design”.

In addition, says Samsung, “the 15mm ultra-slim design and a completely flat back surface set the bar for luxury screens with Infinity design”.

Even the user interface has been redesigned, with a Universal Guide that helps consumers find content. It recommends streaming content in various apps at a glance, making it is easier to choose content. “TV Plus”, which Samsung Smart TV users can watch for free, will provide more than 120 global channels in various fields, like news and movies.

A multi-view feature allows consumers to multitask while watching TV, so that they can watch two pieces of contents at the same time, from ‘Side by Side’ to ‘Picture-in-Picture’.

A new “Tap View” feature allows users to Mirror the screen by touching a smartphone to the TV. A Digital Butler function allows the TV to recognise and control devices connected via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, as well as older devices not connected to the Internet.

Voice recognition services have been expanded. Samsung Bixby is optimised for TV function control and content experience, while Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant add cross-platform functionality.

The Samsung Health app can be used on Samsung Smart TVs. Users can manage existing workouts from smartphones on the TV, which also offers dedicated fitness content.

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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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