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Coffee to slay (you and your wallet)

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Truth Coffee in Cape Town is the first to use the Slayer Espresso Machine. There are only 200 units worldwide and they cost a small fortune, but they allow precise manual control to deliver a perfect espresso.

With less than 200 Slayers in existence worldwide, the Slayer Espresso Machine makes its first appearance in South Africa at the new Truth headquarters in Buitenkant Street, Cape Town.

For the same price as a new family car, the Slayer is a serious commitment to achieving java nirvana and represents the pinnacle in the quest for the ultimate coffee machine. It seems what really has the coffee experts in a froth is the unique way the Slayer allows one to play with the pressure, drawing out the ‚”sweet spot‚” within carefully roasted single origin coffee beans.

The fundamentals of an espresso are disarmingly simple Рhot water forced through fine coffee grains in a filter basket at high pressure Рand professional machines generally do this automatically at a pressure of between 8 and 9 bars for about 30 seconds. The result should be a hot, slightly viscous espresso with a blanket of crème.

The Slayer, however, offers a barista analogue control of the pressure profile throughout the process. It allows a low pressure pre-brew at as little as half a bar before ramping up to full pressure to extract maximum flavour and then can slowly ease off in pressure to enrich the texture.

‚”Just as a professional race car driver is quicker with the driver aids and stability control turned off, so too can the expert barista achieve so much more by manipulating the wooden paddles of the Slayer, adjusting the pressure profile to stay in the sweet spot of flavour extraction,‚” comments David Donde of Truth Coffee.

Watching David at work with his new pride and joy is reminiscent of watching a tightly choreographed dance. After a practiced performance in dosing, tamping and loading the portafilter into the group head, David continued to slide the wooden paddle to the left, allowing a gentle pre-infusion for the brew for about 20 seconds before increasing the pressure to release the rich, reddish brown nectar of the bean. Finally the paddle was slowly eased back and the pressure reduced to avoid any sour flavours or over-extracted bitterness before a rich crème settled to crown the creation.

‚”Whereas traditional Espresso machines with a constant pressure may mask the subtle flavours that only top quality beans provide, the Slayer leaves complete control of the pressure profile in the hands of the barista,‚” remarks David, adding that, ‚”our quest at Truth has always been the pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee, and now with Slayer in situ at our new headquarters we have a unique tool that allows the coffee bean to achieve its ultimate expression.‚”

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Now for hardware-as-a-service

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Integrated ICT and Infrastructure provider Vox has entered into an exclusive partnership with Go Rentals to introduce a Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) offering, which is aimed at providing local small and medium businesses (SMEs) with quick, affordable, and scalable access to a wide variety of IT infrastructure – as well as the management thereof.

“Despite an increasingly competitive business environment where every rand counts, many business owners are still buying technology-based equipment outright rather than renting it,” says Barry Kemp, Head of Managed IT at Vox. “The problem with this is that the modern device arena has grown in variety and complexity, making it more difficult to manage, and to reduce the overheads of controlling these devices.”

According to Kemp, there is a global trend being observed in businesses moving away from owning and managing IT infrastructure. This started with the move away from servers and toward cloud-based subscription services, and now organisations are looking to do the same with the remaining on-premise hardware – employees’ desktop systems.

The availability of HaaS changes the way in which local businesses consume IT, by allowing them to direct valuable capital expenditure toward the more efficient and competitive operation of their organisation, rather than spending on hardware products. 

“The rental costs are up to 50% lower than if they buy these products through traditional asset financing methods. Furthermore, using HaaS gives businesses the ability to scale up and down depending on their infrastructure requirements. Customers on a 12 month contract can return up to 10% of the devices rented, while those customers on 24 and 36 month contracts can return up to 20% of the devices – at any time during the contract,” adds Kemp.

More than just a rental

HaaS gives business access to repurposed Tier 1 hardware from vendors such as Dell, HP and Lenovo, equipped with the required specifications (processor, memory, and storage), and come installed with the latest Microsoft Windows operating system, unless an older version is specifically requested by the customer.

Kemp says: “Where HaaS is different from simply renting IT hardware is that businesses get full asset lifecycle management, such as having all company software pre-installed, flexible refresh cycles and upgrades, support and warranty management and transparent and predictable per user monthly fees.”

The ability to upgrade during the contract period means that businesses can keep pace with the latest in technology without needing to invest on depreciating equipment, while ensuring maximum productivity and efficiency for employees. Returned devices are put through a decommissioning process that ensures anonymity, certified data protection, and environmental compliance. 

Businesses further stand to benefit from Vox Care, which incorporates asset management and logistical services for customers. This includes initial delivery and setup in major centres, asset tagging of all rented items, creation, and the repair and/or replacement of faulty machines within three business days – again in the main metropolitan areas. 

Vox Care also assists in the design, testing and deployment of custom images, whereby HaaS clients can have the additional programmes they need (security, productivity tools, business software, etc) easily pre-installed along with the Windows operating system, on all their machines.

Kemp says HaaS customers can get further peace of mind by outsourcing the day to day management of their desktop environment to Vox Managed Services, as well as leverage the company’s knowledge and expertise to manage and host workstation backups to ensure business continuity.

Says Kemp: “Hardware-as-a-Service allows businesses to reduce the total cost of ownership of their hardware and ensure they only pay for what they use. Making the switch to a service model helps them take advantage of the global move in this direction, and to turn their business into a highly functional, flexible, low cost, change your mind whenever you want workplace.”

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SA chainsaw operators now train in VR

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Developed by Forestry South Africa (FSA), the Fibre Processing and Manufacturing Sector Education and Training Authority (FP&M Seta) and industry partners, this solution trains chainsaw operators in a safe, simulated environment before they test their skills in this high-risk activity in timber plantations.

While the number of chainsaw operators employed in large commercial plantations has declined in recent years, the opposite is true in small-scale and community forestry, where suitably trained chainsaw operators need to be equipped with this scarce and critical skill.

Although forestry has used simulators over the past decade, their use in the training of chainsaw operators is an innovative development.

Mobile, cost-effective, learner-adaptable and injury-free

The cost of practical training has risen substantially. The sector sought a solution that would not only provide a cost-effective coaching medium with minimal risk, but a means whereby trainee operators could gain a feel for their equipment before taking their first steps into the field or forest. 

Safety concerns have proved to be a limiting factor in the training of chainsaw operators. Other constraints include unwieldy class sizes and a limited number of trees available for practical instruction.

“Besides the obvious benefits that our industry stands to gain from this project, VR is the future of skills development and training. It transports learners into the environment for which they are being trained, promotes interactivity and improves the retention of information through experience,” says FSA business development director Norman Dlamini.

“I am holding the very first chainsaw in the world that has been wired with sensors and can transport a learner into a virtual timber plantation,” says Dlamini in a video developed to promote and demonstrate the application.

The solution is remarkably simple to operate and offers significant value for money. All that is needed is a dedicated computer, a VR headset, a specially adapted chainsaw with sensors and a customised mobile gazebo. The total cost of the hardware to run the app is approximately R35 000, while the software is available free of charge to FSA members.

Project partners

The project has been substantially funded by the FP&M Seta. “It uses fourth industrial revolution technology to improve the quality of instruction. Excited by FSA’s proposal, FP&M Seta contributed to this initiative,” says FP&M Seta CEO Felleng Yende, who too believes that VR is the future of training and skills development.

FSA executive director Michael Peter explains that capacity building and development are vital to the sustainability of the industry and its future growth. “Our membership includes not only the country’s 11 major corporate forestry companies but 1 300 medium-scale plantation owners and around 20 000 small-scale operators. This development will benefit them by enhancing the quality of operator training,” he says.

Some FSA members have already committed to testing the technology at their in-house training departments and will be giving constant feedback to the development team to refine the design of the product prior to commercialisation.

Where to next?

According to Peter, the app will meet the need for better quality and safer training in the industry while standardising the level of training and assessment of trainees across the country.

Initial demonstrations have been well-received by the industry, with a Version 2.0 already in the making. “During consultation with user groups, we identified two important improvements to enhance the next generation of VR chainsaw training aids,” adds Dlamini.

These will incorporate the use of a wireless module to eliminate cables that interfere with the movement of the learner operator as well as VR gloves to improve haptic feedback from the chainsaw during operation. This will add realism to the experience, enabling trainees to sense vibrations and resistance as the chainsaw engages with the virtual tree or timber.

Learning from this development, FSA is investigating other VR-based training applications for similarly hazardous operations. One of these is firefighting. “Fire knows no sectorial borders, so we would seek multi-sector collaboration,” says Dlamini.

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