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Driving into the future

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One of the next great frontiers of consumer technology will be that of the car. It will soon be able to connect to the Internet and provide us with services in ways that we can only begin to imagine, writes MICHAEL FRANS of T-Systems.

One of the next great frontiers of consumer technology will be the humble automobile. No longer just a piece of physical engineering, the car of the future will soon connect us to the digital world in ways that stretch the imagination and excite our ambitions. And that future is not very far away.

For consumers, connected cars promise to make our lives simpler, more convenient, and safer – augmenting our digital lifestyles in a variety of ways. For vehicle manufacturers, dealers, and workshops, connected cars will open up new opportunities for enhanced “after-market” customer engagement. It will enable more proactive maintenance and support, real-time diagnostics, and ultimately, a number of new revenue streams. For society at large, connected cars will play an essential role in realising the vision of ‘smart cities’ – as they transmit information that informs the design of road networks, facilitates traffic management, and improves the lives of citizens in a host of ways.

So, just what does the term ‘connected car’ mean? Broadly speaking, there are six areas that we can consider:

·         Entertainment: Connected services can host libraries of audio and video media content, or stream podcasts and internet radio. Safety considerations being high on the agenda, video content is more applicable to panel displays to passengers in the back seats.

·         Geo-location services: Information about points-of-interest in the local area – such as restaurants, hotels and parking bays will bring greater levels of convenience to drivers, and unlock opportunities for enhanced loyalty and satisfaction for various companies.

·         Customer safety: real-time, on-board diagnostics tools can communicate directly with manufacturers, dealers, and emergency services. So, if a car is in an accident, it can send an alert directly to paramedics. Faults with the electronics or the mechanics can be automatically reported to the right service providers. Or, if the car exceeds a speed limit, for example, then driver can be alerted.

·         Track and trace for fleets: fleet managers have used connectivity for a while now, to manage the routes travelled by cargo vehicles, for instance. With the connected car, more detailed information can be captured and used to optimise activities like route planning and vehicle maintenance.

·         APIs that enable a third-party ecosystem: everyone, from tyre fitment centres, to coffee shops, to electric car charging stations will benefit from the real-time flow of information – creating opportunities for more tailored and useful marketing.

·         Data integrity and security management: Technology and automotive companies will need to ensure that the transmission of all this data happens security and does not expose the driver to new risks.

For all this to happen, a new form of platforms wars may soon emerge, with many software companies forging consortiums and pinning their hopes on developing the ‘connected car platform’ that will become ubiquitous. Last year, we saw a two leading technology companies announce solutions leveraging voice commands as well as steering wheel buttons with uptake from a number of car manufacturers. Other technology companies and vehicle manufacturers are taking different directions. However, ignoring this fragmented ecosystem for now, the exciting promise of the connected car is tantalising close for consumers.

Connected cars will effortlessly integrate into the fabric of our lives – helping us book parking bays at the Gautrain station as we are approaching, presenting coupons for the coffee shop on the way to work, sending alerts to colleagues or family when the traffic means we will arrive late, and serving up our favourite music based on the playlist on our smartphone. From there, connected cars will pave the way for increased levels of driving automation and robotics. From predictive driving systems that warn us of dangerous intersections or impending snarl-ups on the freeway, to semi-autonomous systems that take over driving responsibilities in certain situations, to a state of full automation.

In the future, we could well be sending our cars to collect the dry cleaning, pick up some lunch, or even to get the kids from school. While this may still be some way off, very few would argue that driving is a mundane chore that simply has to be done. Over the coming years we’ll hand over increasing driving responsibilities to the magic ones and zeros of the digital age, freeing us up to spend more time doing what really matters to us.

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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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