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Enter Watson’s Law …

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At last week’s IBM Think conference in Las Vegas, the company took Watson from tool to Law, writes TIANA CLINE.

From Moore’s Law in 1971 to Metcalfe’s Law in 1995 to … Watson’s Law in 2018? IBM is heralding a new digital age – with a bit of chutzpah – with the name of its artificial intelligence engine.

“It’s an exponential moment, when both business and technology architectures change at the same time. It has the potential to change everything,” said IBM chairman, president and CEO Ginni Rometty at the IBM Think conference in Las Vegas last week.

IBM Watson integrates the entire spectrum of data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning to lay a foundation for open and adaptive AI. At IBM Think, the tech giant unveiled a number of new cloud technologies (private, public and on-premises), open AI opportunities for businesses, and the fully-customisable Watson Assistant that takes a new approach in the AI space by only talking to businesses.

IBM’s end goal with Watson is to build a data-driven culture for enterprises. It is asking: how can artificial intelligence (AI) be integrated into every profession or industry and industries to transform workflow? And how can one ensure that the data that is gathered will be secure and accessible, wherever it lives, and that data-driven insights can be turned into competitive advantage?

The contrast is with narrow AI, which is able to perform simple smartphone tasks like distinguishing the difference between a cat and a baby in a camera roll, using machine learning (ML). Watson has been ramped up substantially for broader, more in-depth AI, which encompasses the use of smart data patterns, and blockchain for exponential learning.

“Ultimately, we need to make data incredibly simple and accessible with no assembly required,” said Rob Thomas, general manager for IBM Analytics. “IBM Cloud Private for Data is the only platform in the enterprise with no assembly required. It’s Cloud Agile.”

IBM also unveiled two key partnerships with Apple at IBM Think: IBM Watson Services for Apple’s AI, Core ML, and IBM Cloud Developer Console for Apple.

IBM Watson Services for Core ML will allow companies to create AI-powered apps that securely connect to their enterprise data and can run offline and on cloud. The main differentiator is that the AI continuously learns, adapts and improves through each user interaction.

“All iOS developers can now build applications in devices that run Watson, even if they’re not connected,” said David Kenny, IBM’s senior vice president for IBM Watson and Cloud Platform.

“It’s about getting a better understand of what’s going on.”

The new IBM Cloud Developer Console for Apple provides key tools, like pre-configured starter kits, along with AI, data and mobile services for Apple’s coding language Swift. This enables developers to link to IBM Cloud to build easy-to-code apps that can be integrated with enterprise data and are quick to deploy.

“Watson can help you reimagine your workflows,” said Kenny. “There’s a lot of noise in the AI space, but somebody needed to help the enterprise with deep, vertical expertise. It’s about security, transparency and compliance and we wanted to make it easy for businesses to get started, so we packaged together Watson Assistant.”

Siri or Alexa? Djingo and Cortana? No matter what a company names its voice assistant, there’s a good chance it’s Watson underneath. Enter Watson Assistant: it can be embedded into anything and be used in industry-specific applications where businesses can also white-label the service. This means there is no official Watson Assistant wake-word, such as “Hey Siri”, nor plans for a Watson-branded device to be sold in the shops.

“We’re training Watson Assistant with data which really understands industries,” said Kenny. “We want to make it easier for every developer in the world who is building applications.”

Watson Assistant can be implemented across key industry sectors, from hospitality to banking data, insurance, agriculture and the automotive industry. The overarching idea is to combine AI, cloud and the Internet of Things to help businesses enhance their brand and customer experiences.

IBM Watson Assistant for Automotive, for example, is a digital assistant designed to help the automotive industry understand and interact with drivers and passengers.

In the agriculture space, IBM Watson IoT can analyse farm data like temperature, soil pH and other environmental factors to give farmers insights that can help them make better decisions – and harvest greater yields. On a global scale, Identity Guard is using IBM Watson to fight cyberbullying, using social media and smart AI monitoring tools. A collaboration between IBM Research and the University of Oxford has begun using machine intelligence to simulate and explore more effective malaria policy interventions.

As Watson Assistant develops a deeper understanding of the user, it will be able to include additional factors, such as their location and time of day. The difference between Watson Assistant and voice assistants is that learns through each interaction.

Watson, as an AI platform, can quickly build and deploy chatbots and virtual agents across a variety of channels, including mobile devices, messaging platforms, and even robots.

With Watson, IBM believes that companies won’t need to fight data, but rather use it to accelerate research and discovery, and enrich customer interactions. Adaptive AI isn’t just an advantage, was the underlying message at IBM Think, it’s essential.

 

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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