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How AI and IoT will help drive the future

Disruptive, fast-paced changes are all around us as fundamental shifts take place in business and society, turning the world we thought we knew on its head, writes DEON PRINSLOO, General Manager of Mobile, LG Mobile South Africa.

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These shifts should not be feared as change always brings opportunity and these trends, from population growth to rapid urbanisation to the explosion in big data, will present significant opportunities for all businesses. But to capitalise on these possibilities, business leaders may have to adjust their perspective. We will all need to open our minds to radical new ideas to succeed, part of which will shape the way IoT (Internet of Things) will have an impact on the future of work and how this will drive change in society.

Big businesses are starting to shift their business model and operations towards a more efficient and inclusive use of robotics that shape as well as reinvent the way products are designed, manufactured, used and recovered, encompassing growth from a reliance on increasingly scarce raw materials.

Take for instance, how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is playing a part in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Most companies across the globe have their sights set on leveraging AI, regardless of the industry. AI-enabled products and technologies are increasingly becoming an important point of competitive differentiation, with organisations using AI to obtain a foothold in the quantum leap to greater development.

LG Electronics recently announced a new AI development tool for business divisions, which ultimately is the proprietary deep learning-based artificial intelligence technology in line with its efforts to speed up the release of new products that are equipped with the latest technology. From mobile devices to home appliances – the technology will deliver a comprehensive user experience by linking a host of technologies and solutions to its state-of-the-art AI platform. AI functions such as voice, video and sensor recognition and space and human body detection, developed with data gleaned from usage habits of LG customers over the years. The development tool was developed tothe openness and diversification of variety of operating platforms such as Android, Linux and web OS in mind. The company will simultaneously speed up its release cycle for products equipped with this technology.

With innovative AI platforms such as ThinQ, the “live and learn” philosophy requires machines to educate themselves and become smarter over time. As machine learning becomes more advanced, products will understand their external environments as well as absorb their customers’ behavioural patterns. For example, an air conditioner will learn its inhabitants’ living patterns over time and adjust the room’s temperature to its occupants’ desired range, or cabin monitoring technology in a car can familiarise itself with the driver’s facial expressions and gestures and be able to recognise the moment a driver starts to feel drowsy.

DeepThinQ has already transformed the way certain products for the commercial and consumer sectors are designed. In Korea’s Incheon International Airport, Airport Guide Robots employ sophisticated ambient noise to improve voice recognition, enabling passengers to be better understood. The platform is an embodiment and extension of the company’s open philosophy – to provide the most powerful AI solutions to customers through a strategy of open platform, open partnership and open connectivity.

ThinQ will completely change the way consumers use products because ThinQ products will learn about people to provide intelligent services, not the other way around.

AI learning is disrupting the status quo in the ordinary ecosystem of IoT and we need to consider how emerging technologies, from AI to IoT can reinvent what you do and how you do it. For product or manufacturing businesses, 3D printing is a prime example. This technology is turning traditional production models and workflows on their head – replacing just-in-time supply chains with on-the-spot, on-demand production. By adopting this new technology, companies could turbocharge their R&D process. It could mean moving from design and prototypes to production in drastically shorter periods. Given the repercussions for product manufacturing, keeping track of mega trends shaping our society is vital.

There is no doubt that technology and the companies that spearhead innovation have grown from mere enablers into giant corporations that are redefining the way we live at a tremendous pace. We feel their impact throughout every aspect of our lives – in our home and personal appliances; through industries; across governments; in the media and of course, on social media. Technology is influencing our thoughts and shaping our opinions. The future is here.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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