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CES: Segway whirrs into mobile future on S-Pod

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Today at CES in Las Vegas, Segway-Ninebot will try to make up for the damp squib that is the original Segway Transporter. It will unveil the Segway S-Pod, a smart transporting pod for enclosed campuses such as airports, theme parks and malls. 

It is described as “a safe, self-balancing vehicle that is operated by an intuitive assistive navigation panel”. Most observers have pointed out that it looks like the floating chairs in the animated movie Wall-E, implying a sedentary future for all while they are being entertained. However, the intention is transport rather than relaxation.

“With an adaptive centre-of-gravity automatic control system, passengers can easily adjust the speed – up to 24 mph – by handling the knob to change the centre of gravity in the pod,” said Segway-Ninebot in an announcement ahead of the event. “The S-Pod spins and rotates by the centre smoothly for directional changes. The rider does not need to physically lean forward and back to accelerate or slow down. Also, since the ‘brake’ is placed by the shift of the centre of gravity, it eliminates the possibility of the S-Pod tipping over in any situation.”

The seating of the S-Pod offers wide-angle views that provides an expansive viewing field of passengers. 

The announcement was imbued with a heavy sense of deja vu:  “The S-Pod is also the first step in Segway working towards their goal of bringing new transportation options to cities.”

That is almost precisely how the original Segway device was described. With a fundamental difference. The product was inspired by the Gyrosphere vehicles in Jurassic World.

Since the original transporters, Segway-Ninebot has re-positioned itself in short distance transportation, and has been a technology leader in the urban scooter revolution.

Luke Gao, CEO of Segway-Ninebot, said: “Segway-Ninebot has established itself as a category leader in short distance transportation solutions, from innovative delivery robots to kickscooters now used in cities across the world. We are changing the way people move from place to place. With an eye towards the future of how cities will evolve, as well as the mobility needs in the off-road space, we are notching up our offerings heading into 2020 so that they will fulfill the mobility needs and expectations of the world of tomorrow.”

The Segway S-Pod will be introduced at Segway’s CES booth # 25602 at Las Vegas Convention Center today, January 7, at 11am PT (9pm South African time).

The Segway S-Pod is a first-class smart transporting pod for enclosed campuses such as airports, theme parks and malls. It is a safe, self-balancing vehicle that is operated by an intuitive assistive navigation panel. With an adaptive center-of-gravity automatic control system, passengers can easily adjust the speed – up to 24 mph – by handling the knob to change the center of gravity in the pod. The S-Pod spins and rotates by the center smoothly for directional changes. The rider does not need to physically lean forward and back to accelerate or slow down. Also, since the “brake” is placed by the shift of the center of gravity, it eliminates the possibility of the S-Pod tipping over in any situation. The seating of the S-Pod offers wide angle views that provides an expansive viewing field of passengers. The S-Pod is also the first step in Segway working towards their goal of bringing new transportation options to cities. Segway S-Pod is equipped with remote control system through the detachable built-in pad. Another interesting tidbit—the Jurassic World Gyrosphere serves as the inspiration for this product. 

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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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