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How biometrics changed the Volvo Ocean Race

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Biometric data is transforming the way we do things and the world of international yacht racing is only the next step, says TIANA CLINE.

As a digital innovation system, SAP Leonardo has shown its proficiency in a number of sectors. From retail to farming, sports and manufacturing, Leonardo’s ability to integrate and combine relatively new technologies – such as machine learning, analytics, blockchain technology, the Internet of Things – on the SAP Cloud Platform is unmatched.

More recently, team AkzoNobel – a brand-new Dutch ocean racing team backed by a leading global paints and coatings company of the same name – teamed up with SAP Leonardo to take advantage of these future-forward technologies for this year’s Volvo Ocean Race, a gruelling and exhilarating eight-month global sporting event like no other.

Physical and mental exhaustion can become the biggest threats to an (otherwise very capable) crew. With the assistance of SAP Leonardo, team AkzoNobel will be benefitting from far more than weather updates and route suggestions – Leonardo delivers on improving team performance, bringing both biometrics and data science into the equation.

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In the broader context of digital innovation, it has quickly become clear that technologies like IoT, analytics and data science need to work together. For the first time in professional sailing – and fully approved by the race organisers as no data is allowed to go to or leave a yacht during the race – team AkzoNobel use SAP Leonardo IoT Dynamic Edge technology on-boat and SAP Cloud Platform off-shore. The research project enables team AkzoNobel to track the sailors’ fitness levels and degree of exhaustion during racing… and it’s available to all competing teams.

“This is a particularly exciting implementation of IoT,” explains Dr Adriana Marais, head of innovation at SAP Africa. “Here, the devices are the wrist wearables and the technology is the Edge device… this project truly shows how data acquired by connected sensors, coupled with machine learning and predictive analytics, can enable even the largely analogue world of international yacht racing to run digital.”

SAP has equipped all nine crew members of team AkzoNobel with sensors to capture biometric data which can be collected and analysed by the crew on board during the race to give team AkzoNobel insight into the crew’s fitness and recovery data. The output is presented in a specifically designed user interface for the skipper.

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Ryan West, who looks after the technology on board, says that it’s a work in progress:

“Every bit of it that essentially is taking information from the wearable transmit box that’s on board and inside the Raspberry Pi. There’s software on it and it can do calculations, but there’s no connectivity – we want to be 100% compliant.”

Essentially, it’s about the data.

“There’s a little bit of processing and then it sends out information so the AzkoNobel sails can see and make decisions for themselves. The biggest thing is that we’re trying to provide them with information which will make it easier,” he adds.

The biometric edge solution helps to interpret the biometric measurement data. And once the boats arrive at each of the 12 stopovers, predictive and machine learning analytics are run on SAP Cloud Platform using SAP Leonardo IoT Foundation.

The data processing software was tested from Lisbon to Cape Town – the team analysed the data, made changes and now they’re looking to build upon the steps they’ve already taken.

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“We’re very much building as we go but we’re getting good clean data and from there we’re just continuing to build on it. Our main thing is making whatever we do useful,” he adds.

SAP Leonardo delivers new capabilities in future-forward technologies, which add tremendous value pushing the boundaries of racing as a professional sport. Dr Marais points out that this kind of technology will also have relevant applications in Africa, from remote healthcare services to telemedicine.

“This is a new application of the technology in a harsh environment. We are excited about collecting the data, and analysing it, to hopefully increase performance.”

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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