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Data must live on the edge

MARIUS MARITZ, operations manager at DMP SA, explains how edge networks are essential for faster cloud data access.

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The end-user experience is critical when it comes to data access. From online shopping to banking and insurance, dealing with any sort of call centre or even buying groceries, nobody wants to be held hostage by slow systems. It is imperative that end-point or edge devices can access data quickly to prevent these frustrating delays, no matter what the situation. You need your critical data to be ‘living on the edge’ to speed up data processing and ensure instant access to essential information.

Cloud computing has become a de facto standard for at least some aspects of almost every business. However, the challenge with the cloud is that accessing data can be slow, which means that processing of information may be subject to delays. We have all experienced situations where this is the case. Take for example a phone call with your insurance company and being placed on hold because ‘the system is slow’, or waiting endlessly for any sort of application as the person assisting you is unable to access the data they require.

The answer to this challenge is to ensure that your data, or at least mission-critical information, is ‘living on the edge’. Edge computing is the decentralisation of computing power and moving of data processing closer to the end-point device, user or customer. Instead of having to transmit data to a data centre for processing and then returning it to the device, it can be processed either by the device itself or by a local server. This enables data to be processed in real-time without latency. Ultimately what this translates to is that you are empowered to process your critical data in a fraction of the time that it would to retrieve data from the cloud, avoiding the dreaded ‘system is slow’ scenario. It also ensures that productivity can be maintained and that end users, as well as customers, have the best experience possible.

Local data storage keeps data close to the end-user, however, this is typically costly to achieve for all of an organisation’s information. By keeping only critical data at the edge and the majority of your data in the cloud, edge computing gives your business the best of both worlds. It combines instant access to essential information while allowing businesses to leverage the economies and powerful analytics of the cloud. Edge data can then also be synchronised back to the cloud for secure storage and further processing without affecting the user experience.

Edge computing can also be beneficial when it comes to unplanned downtime or even planned maintenance. For example, if internet connectivity is lost temporarily, access to the cloud will not be possible. In these instances, having critical data on the edge ensures businesses can continue to operate, at least for short periods, until services can be resumed. Having instant access to data is essential for both productivity and customer service, which ultimately impacts your bottom line

When looking to implement edge computing, storage requirements need to be carefully considered. Local storage is necessary for processing at the edge, which then needs to be synchronised with cloud storage, to ensure the benefits of instant access can be combined with the cost-benefit of the cloud. The amount of local storage required depends on the amount of mission-critical data that needs to be processed at the edge.

Determining this requires that you initially need to understand your data, what you have and where it resides as well as what is considered mission-critical. Data management is, therefore, an essential prerequisite for implementing edge computing. A data management partner can assist with the entire process to ensure that you obtain the optimal balance of onsite edge and cloud storage for maximum speed, power and economy.

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The PC is back!

… and 2020 will be its big year, writes CHRIS BUCHANAN, client solutions director at Dell Technologies

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Concept Ori

It turns out the PC’s death has been exaggerated. PC sales grew between 1.1% and 1.5% in the last few quarters of the year, according to Gartner. While those don’t sound like massive leaps, they represent a large market that has been declining for several years. Windows 10 is credited for this surge, especially as Windows 7 is leading towards its end of life (EOL).

But I don’t think that is the entire picture. Windows 10 upgrades have been taking place for several years, and the market has also gotten savvier about managing EOL. Other factors are driving the adoption of PCs.

A specific one is how much closer the PC now sits to smartphones. I recently watched some youngsters work with laptops that had touchscreens. They hardly ever touched the keyboard, instead tapping and swiping on the screen. Yet they were still working on a laptop, not a smartphone. Certain things are much easier to do on a PC than a phone, and users are realising this. They aren’t relinquishing the convenience of their smartphones but applications are now available on PC’s and often easier to use.

Convertible or 2-in-1 machines have closed the gap between the two device types. This is in contrast to tablets. If you observe how people sit with tablets, it’s the opposite of smartphones or laptops. With the latter, we sit forward, attentive and focused. But tablets often prompt people to recline. It’s just a casual observation, yet I believe that PCs and smartphones have much more overlap with each other than pure tablet devices. Additionally, the convertible laptop has become the new tablet.

Chris Buchanan

Why does this bode well for PCs in 2020? 2-in-1 machines break down the barriers between the utility of a PC and collaborative culture of a smartphone. You can now flip a laptop into tent mode and use it as an interactive presentation screen on a boardroom table, or cradle it like a clipboard you jot on with a digital pen.

In the next year, we’ll see more of the market responding to this trend. Premium 2-in-1 devices have a stable and growing audience of users who are now going into their second, third and even fourth generations of devices. Mid-range and entry-level laptops are also starting to adopt touchscreens and flip displays.

2-in-1 devices are also pushing innovation, such as the emergence of dual-screen systems. Dell revealed two such concept devices at CES this year: Project Duet, a dual screen laptop, and Project Ori (for origami), a more compact approach to foldable devices. We also unveiled Project UFO, a prototype Alienware device that puts triple-A PC gaming into a handheld device. All of these reflect the desire for touch-enabled devices that are portable without sacrificing performance or excellence. They definitely point us to the future.

Convertible devices are not a new form factor. I can recall the first flip-over touchscreen designs appearing 15 years ago. Back then they were exotic and the standard laptop ruled the roost. But today, the habits and expectations of users are driving a change decisively towards convertible devices.

Desktop PCs are meanwhile becoming more specialised, yet also more widely appreciated for their versatility. Specialist non-Windows PCs, such as those used by designers, are being replaced by Windows PCs, often for lower costs. Integrated discrete graphics chips and other advancements add a lot of value to modern desktops. The smartphone overlap also appears here: many people use services such as Whatsapp Web on their PCs, and Dell customers use the Dell Mobile Connect app to show their smartphone screen on their PC display.

There is a new synergy between the PC and smartphone, created by users who find the two complement each other. Not everyone has realised this yet, but in 2020 that will be the resounding message. The PC is back and 2020 will be its year.

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Jaguar designs ‘seat of the future’

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Jaguar Land Rover is developing the seat of the future – a pioneering shape-shifting system designed to improve customer wellbeing by tackling the health risks of sitting down for too long.

The ‘morphable’ seat, being trialled by Jaguar Land Rover’s Body Interiors Research division, uses a series of actuators in the seat foam to create constant micro-adjustments that make your brain think you’re walking, and could be individually tailored to each driver and passenger.

More than a quarter of people worldwide – 1.4 billion – are living increasingly sedentary lifestyles, which can shorten muscles in the legs, hips and gluteals causing back pain. The weakened muscles also mean you are more likely to injure yourself from falls or strains. 

By simulating the rhythm of walking, a movement known as pelvic oscillation, the technology can help mitigate against the health risks of sitting down for too long on extended journeys with some drivers doing hundreds of kilometres per week. 

Dr Steve Iley, Jaguar Land Rover Chief Medical Officer, said: “The wellbeing of our customers and employees is at the heart of all our technological research projects. We are using our engineering expertise to develop the seat of the future using innovative technologies not seen before in the automotive industry to help tackle an issue that affects people across the globe.”

Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles already feature the latest in ergonomic seat design, with multi-directional adjustments, massage functions and climate control fitted across the range. Dr Iley has also issued advice on how to adjust your seat to ensure the perfect driving position, from removing bulky items in your pocket, to shoulder positioning and from ensuring your spine and pelvis are straight to supporting your thighs to reduce pressure points. View the video here.

The research is part of Jaguar Land Rover’s commitment to continually improving customer wellbeing through technological innovation. Previous projects have included research to reduce the effects of motion sickness and the implementation of ultraviolet light technology to stop the spread of colds and flu. 

Together, these efforts are driving towards Destination Zero; Jaguar Land Rover’s ambition to make societies safer and healthier, and the environment cleaner – a responsible future for our workers, customers and communities around us. Through relentless innovation, Jaguar Land Rover is adapting product and services to meet the rapidly-changing world.

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