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Gaming monsters coming for you

As eSports takes off professionally and gaming becomes more serious for young and old, new machines from Acer take performance to new levels, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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Around May every year, Taipei-headquartered computer-maker Acer invades New York City with its latest machines. Every year, too, it raises the bar on its gaming machines, as it pursues market share in this high-margin sector.

At its next@acer global press conference in New York last week, it launched a series of specialist machines that can only be described as gaming monsters. Appropriately, they all came with branding of the Predator range, underlining their purpose as weapons of gaming war.

The new Predator Orion 5000 desktops offer both high performance and an adaptable chassis. The message? You can adapt and expand this machine as your need – and competitiveness – grows. The slogan Acer used for it at the launch left the audience in no doubt about the intention of the machine, both in the marketing war and in users’ own wars: “Win the battle”.

The Predator Orion range can be customised based on budget, which is just as well, since the 5000 starts at US$1500. That’s quite accessible for serious gamers in the USA, but in South Africa will translate into well over R20 000 when it arrives in the second half of the year. The top of the range version will cost around R30-40 000, and is expected to have niche appeal among serious gamers. 

It comes with an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8700K processor, along with the Intel Z370 chipset, and 2-way NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphic cards in SLI. This allows both exceptionally high-resolution graphics and a decent virtual reality experience. 

According to Steve Long, vice president of client computing group sales and marketing at Intel, “The 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8700K is the best desktop gaming Intel has ever built and, when combined with the acceleration and responsiveness offered by Intel Optane memory, the result is incredible performance needed for the most demanding gaming experiences.”

He said that Intel collaborated closely with Acer to bring this performance to life on the Predator Orion 5000 and 3000 gaming desktops.

The monsters are designed for showing off too, thanks to transparent side panels on the chassis. The panels also open easily to allow users to swop out components and cables for quick upgrades. 

One of the biggest challenges of high-end rigs, heat dissipation, is addressed with a technology called IceTunnel 2.0, an airflow management design that segments the system into separate thermal zones, each expelling heat through its own  airflow tunnel. Another challenge, of dust being sucked in as the machine pulls in air, is warded off with a front mesh panel containing dust filters. 

The hard-core gamer can also opt for Killer LAN high-speed Ethernet, cradles for audio headsets, and even a carry-handle for portability.

“Getting the specs right is just half the fight,” said Jeff Lee, general manager for stationary computing at Acer. “Predator Orion desktops provide a well-rounded choice for gamers with a striking chassis, built-in airflow management, expandability, and award-winning software that brings everything together.”

To this end, a slightly scaled-down series, the Predator Orion 3000, offers wider choice for the more budget conscious, starting at around US$1000. For the beginner, however, it will be hard to tell the difference in performance between the two. The 3000 also offers options that include 8th Gen Intel Core i7processors and  NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 GPUs. However, it is described as VR- ready rather than supporting VR out of the box.

Next: The Predator laptops (click on 2 below to read on)

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How panic-buying disrupts traditional supply chains

Panic buying has become commonplace during the COVID-19 crisis. PAULO DE MATOS, chief product officer at SYSPRO, outlines how good technology and ingenuity is panic-proof.

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Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the world cannot afford for manufacturing and distribution to grind to a halt. From food on our shelves, to medical necessities, these sectors are at the heart of our economy and must keep going at all costs. Although the global supply chain is usually a well-oiled machine consisting of a system of organizations, people, processes, information and resources, disruption of this well-oiled machine has become the new reality. According to a new survey released by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), 75% of companies worldwide have reported supply chain disruptions as a result of COVID-19.  Added to that is the increasingly unpredictable demand caused by panic buying and consumer stockpiling.  

Reinventing the supply chain to face the challenges of today 

In response to the pandemic, manufacturers and distributors have had to pivot in a new direction, to turn the supply chain challenge into a competitive advantage through ingenuity.  

The US recently invoked the Defense Production Act to allow American manufacturers to suspend their normal production schedules and begin manufacturing materials such as ventilators, which are needed in this time of crisis. The Act, which was originally passed in 1950, was a war mobilization effort. It allowed the government to direct efforts of manufacturers to focus production on the much-needed necessities in times of need, from medical supplies through to necessary disinfection products.  

Australia has applied a similar approach through the implementation of ‘wartime’ manufacturing. Due to a shortage of necessities like ventilators and hand sanitizers, the Australian government is offering financial packages that incentivize factories to manufacture critical supplies. For example, one of Australia’s biggest packaging companies, Pact Group, is converting production lines at three of its Sydney plants as it starts making hand sanitizer for the first time, instead of industrial cleaners.  

Within Canada and South Africa, distilleries have also committed to supplying alcohol, a key ingredient in hand sanitizer.  

Using technology to ensure long-term resilience 

Until recently, China has consistently supplied global manufacturers with the bulk of their required components, raw materials and or processed materials. Presently, 6 in 10 (62%) of the respondents of the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) survey have reported that they have experienced increasing delays in receiving orders from China. This is of course just the tip of the iceberg, with the pandemic now impacting almost every country in the world; delays are going to begin affecting deliveries from every country, and the lateness of the delivery is expected to increase.  With the increasing shortages of parts, global manufacturers are now scrambling to identify alternative suppliers and supply chains to make up for the missed deliveries. 

Technology systems, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, can certainly improve the situation by giving manufacturers improved visibility of the reliable local suppliers and their supply chains. Through ERP integration, representatives from different supplier companies can interact on a single platform, improving the flow and availability of information and improving the reliability of delivery. For example, the SYSPRO Supply Chain Portal was originally launched with a Request for Quote capability, which enabled the formal invitation of suppliers to tender for the supply of goods and services. Not only can manufacturers identify local suppliers who can meet their orders in a time of scarcity, but manufacturers themselves could easily find alternative suppliers.  

ERP also has the added advantage of reducing document handling and other manual activities and facilitates cross functional collaboration by enabling an online process for engaging with customers and suppliers. What’s more, planned receiving and manufacturing process steps can be amended temporarily in your ERP system to include additional Quality Assurance.  For example, the wiping down of surfaces and spraying of goods with appropriate chemical or detergent cleansers and adding waiting times before issue or delivery. 

In times of unforeseen scarcity, as the world is currently experiencing with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that the supply chain is kept open and full.  The challenge that the company faces is to identify the cheapest and easiest way to accomplish this, using their own unique combination of technology and ingenuity.  If there is surplus stock in the supply chain, the surplus could easily be sold onto neighbouring organizations – after all, the function of a manufacturing organization is to fulfil whatever is identified as a shortage in the economy. 

Managing disruption in the long-term 

The World Economic Forum has suggested that moving forward after this pandemic, there will be a “new normal”, a need to manage disruption by developing predictive models for proactive scheduling, and dynamic planning of supply with careful consideration of the uncertainties and risks. This change will most likely usher in the next level of digital transformation, based on the collection and analysis of data from various disparate applications.  

Ultimately, having the right combination of technology and dynamic ingenuity will allow manufacturers to weather the storm and navigate the unknown, bringing with it the success of discovering “the new world.” 

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Pandemic will change co-working – and vice versa

By CHARMAINE LAMBERT, WorkInProgress – an Absa Innovation Lab

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The COVID-19 pandemic is set to realign the world’s social and economic structure, and fundamentally change the way people work and interact, personally and professionally. While the current social measures in place around the world are aimed at stemming the spread of the virus, there’s a good chance that there’ll be a residual adoption of elements of them as humanity adapts to ‘the new normal’ – because the world will fundamentally never be the same again. 

Hundreds of thousands of people are set to lose their jobs as economies tank – but the optimistic view is that that’s an opportunity for the future, rather than the very real catastrophe it feels like at the moment – particularly in the SME space. It’s a rare economic situation that sees major corporations struggling as much as SME’s, and the upshot is that people may have to create employment opportunities for themselves and others, rather than returning to the jobs they had before the pandemic. 

It’s clear that the world will need more entrepreneurs, whose smart ideas can help rebuild economies, create employment opportunities and re-establish – and rebuild – the livelihoods of entire communities. 

Time Saving 

Many have glibly asked ‘could that meeting have been an email?’ – but the reality is that the working world is rapidly discovering the benefits of finding new ways to address business needs, that rely less on physical face-to-face interactions. Catching up as a group on a Zoom meeting is important, but cutting out a commute, the niceties of the preamble to a meeting and repeating yourself for the guy who stumbled in five minutes late has made meetings more efficient and to-the-point. 

Meetings won’t go away, because humans are collaborative. It takes one person to have a great idea, but it takes a team to realise and implement it – which is why co-working spaces will remain an important part of life for those taking up the challenge of employing themselves, and others by forming SME’s, in the new world order. 

Decentralising Operations 

The shift in ways of working has also shown that decentralisation is possible – something that may become a necessity in the future. All those shiny offices in global centres are expensive line items on the annual budget, and since budgets are going to be way tighter – if not non-existent – in future, even SME’s may have to make peace with the fact that not everyone needs to share a space. And knowing what we know now about how easy it is to spread viruses in close-contact working spaces, there’s a convincing health argument for decentralisation, too. 

If an SME team is driven enough, nobody will have to worry about clock-watching or ensuring that people are doing their jobs by having a manager stalking the halls and peering over cubicle walls. There will be essential functions that rely on being physically present in a space – but there’s no reason that different functions of a business can’t be split across different spaces, cities or even time zones to maximise efficiency and save costs. And with flexibility of working time now becoming an option across many industries, that demand will need to be catered for by SME’s and other employers, in the future. 

Greener Business 

Building more efficient spaces has been an important global trend over the past few years as companies realise the impact their business has on the planet. What about the environmental cost of getting people to that office every day, and of business travel? Cutting out the commute for the global workforce has already had a noticeable effect on the environment – fake-news dolphins in the canals of Venice, aside – so now that we’ve proven it’s possible to decentralise or work remotely, why not continue that?  

Carbon monoxide emissions in New York have been slashed by 50% over the past few weeks – mostly on the back of reduced road traffic – and an analysis by climate website Carbon Brief indicates that the shut-down in China has resulted in a 25% drop in energy use and emissions over a two week period at the height of the pandemic there, which is set to lead to an overall drop of 1% in the country’s carbon emissions for 2020. As industry ramps up again around the world, emissions will rise once more, but those numbers do illustrate the significant impact  a reduction in worker commuting, can have for the planet. 

4IR Creating Opportunities 

While there’s plenty of concern that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is going to cost millions of jobs, it’s also set to deliver millions of opportunities and plenty of efficiencies. 

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can take over manual, repetitive tasks – but instead of making the people in those functions, redundant, it frees them up to tackle more important and non-automatable tasks which can improve business operations. The global economic crisis means that efficiency and multitasking are going to become the order of the day – something the lean SME space is used to, to an extent. Embrace technology and let the people who are the heart of your business focus on helping you re-establish it and re-invent it. It’s time to innovate. 

While things are set to be very different, there’s a huge benefit to collaboration to establishing and maintaining a dynamic, agile business. Entrepreneurs and innovators thrive off being able to kick around ideas, sense-check decisions with others and find ways for seemingly-unrelated companies to work together to deliver unprecedented opportunity – and there’s nothing the world is going to need more than opportunity, once we come out the other side of this. 

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