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How drones helped fight fires in the Cape

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Modern drones stand to offer support in combating forest fires and disaster relief operations in and around the southern Cape coast.

In the midst of the worst wildfire to strike the southern Cape coast, South Africa in over 150 years, drones slowly started coming into play as a local firefighting and disaster management tool. Firefighters issued a call for drones equipped with heat mapping capabilities, which would allow them to identify hot spots at the greatest risk of flare-ups – a task virtually impossible for ground crews working in blinding smoke and dense undergrowth. Drones were also harnessed by civilians who filmed the devastation in Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, allowing homeowners around the country and the rest of the world to witness the destruction and confirm whether their own properties were damaged or not.

In years to come, we can expect to see unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones taking on an increasingly important role in firefighting and disaster management, says specialist drone firm Airborne Drones South Africa.

JJ Rebello, Foreign Government Relations Manager at Airborne Drones South Africa, says drones will not only improve the effectiveness of firefighting efforts; they will also reduce the risk to human life during firefighting operations and stand to limit damage to assets by enabling firefighters to work proactively, rather than reactively.

“Commercial drones can withstand temperature extremes from below 5 degrees Centigrade, up to 50 degrees Centigrade, and they can be flown to an altitude of 4500 metres, making it possible for firefighters to deploy drones over areas where fires are active. With the use of advanced thermal imaging cameras transmitting data to command centres, they can identify people or animals, even where visibility is limited by darkness, smoke or vegetation, so allowing emergency teams to pinpoint exactly where assistance is needed. Thermal imaging cameras also support proactive firefighting measures, by mapping hotspots where flare-ups could occur.”

Rebello notes that in the security industry, it is estimated that a drone can take the place of 12 foot soldiers. “The same might apply in disaster management,” he says. “Sending in technology reduces risk to human life and allows resources to be deployed only where assistance is needed.”

Drones equipped with Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) technology support the three-dimensional modelling of forest structures and surface topography, which allows for the development of fire behaviour models, fuel maps and prescribed burn plans. Drones are already being harnessed internationally to monitor and improve planned burns and provide real-time maps of fire progress.

For insurance purposes, drones also offer access to structures that are cut off from road traffic or too high to allow easy access, so supporting claims investigations and processing after disasters.  Drone mapping allows insurance firms to rapidly document the scene without intruding on clean-up operations or exposing investigators to potentially hazardous materials; as well as providing data on risk factors associated with the damage.

“Drone technology is proving increasingly important in supporting pre-emptive approaches to fire and natural disaster risk management, as well as for disaster relief support,” says Rebello.

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The PC is back!

… and 2020 will be its big year, writes CHRIS BUCHANAN, client solutions director at Dell Technologies

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Concept Ori

It turns out the PC’s death has been exaggerated. PC sales grew between 1.1% and 1.5% in the last few quarters of the year, according to Gartner. While those don’t sound like massive leaps, they represent a large market that has been declining for several years. Windows 10 is credited for this surge, especially as Windows 7 is leading towards its end of life (EOL).

But I don’t think that is the entire picture. Windows 10 upgrades have been taking place for several years, and the market has also gotten savvier about managing EOL. Other factors are driving the adoption of PCs.

A specific one is how much closer the PC now sits to smartphones. I recently watched some youngsters work with laptops that had touchscreens. They hardly ever touched the keyboard, instead tapping and swiping on the screen. Yet they were still working on a laptop, not a smartphone. Certain things are much easier to do on a PC than a phone, and users are realising this. They aren’t relinquishing the convenience of their smartphones but applications are now available on PC’s and often easier to use.

Convertible or 2-in-1 machines have closed the gap between the two device types. This is in contrast to tablets. If you observe how people sit with tablets, it’s the opposite of smartphones or laptops. With the latter, we sit forward, attentive and focused. But tablets often prompt people to recline. It’s just a casual observation, yet I believe that PCs and smartphones have much more overlap with each other than pure tablet devices. Additionally, the convertible laptop has become the new tablet.

Chris Buchanan

Why does this bode well for PCs in 2020? 2-in-1 machines break down the barriers between the utility of a PC and collaborative culture of a smartphone. You can now flip a laptop into tent mode and use it as an interactive presentation screen on a boardroom table, or cradle it like a clipboard you jot on with a digital pen.

In the next year, we’ll see more of the market responding to this trend. Premium 2-in-1 devices have a stable and growing audience of users who are now going into their second, third and even fourth generations of devices. Mid-range and entry-level laptops are also starting to adopt touchscreens and flip displays.

2-in-1 devices are also pushing innovation, such as the emergence of dual-screen systems. Dell revealed two such concept devices at CES this year: Project Duet, a dual screen laptop, and Project Ori (for origami), a more compact approach to foldable devices. We also unveiled Project UFO, a prototype Alienware device that puts triple-A PC gaming into a handheld device. All of these reflect the desire for touch-enabled devices that are portable without sacrificing performance or excellence. They definitely point us to the future.

Convertible devices are not a new form factor. I can recall the first flip-over touchscreen designs appearing 15 years ago. Back then they were exotic and the standard laptop ruled the roost. But today, the habits and expectations of users are driving a change decisively towards convertible devices.

Desktop PCs are meanwhile becoming more specialised, yet also more widely appreciated for their versatility. Specialist non-Windows PCs, such as those used by designers, are being replaced by Windows PCs, often for lower costs. Integrated discrete graphics chips and other advancements add a lot of value to modern desktops. The smartphone overlap also appears here: many people use services such as Whatsapp Web on their PCs, and Dell customers use the Dell Mobile Connect app to show their smartphone screen on their PC display.

There is a new synergy between the PC and smartphone, created by users who find the two complement each other. Not everyone has realised this yet, but in 2020 that will be the resounding message. The PC is back and 2020 will be its year.

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Jaguar designs ‘seat of the future’

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Jaguar Land Rover is developing the seat of the future – a pioneering shape-shifting system designed to improve customer wellbeing by tackling the health risks of sitting down for too long.

The ‘morphable’ seat, being trialled by Jaguar Land Rover’s Body Interiors Research division, uses a series of actuators in the seat foam to create constant micro-adjustments that make your brain think you’re walking, and could be individually tailored to each driver and passenger.

More than a quarter of people worldwide – 1.4 billion – are living increasingly sedentary lifestyles, which can shorten muscles in the legs, hips and gluteals causing back pain. The weakened muscles also mean you are more likely to injure yourself from falls or strains. 

By simulating the rhythm of walking, a movement known as pelvic oscillation, the technology can help mitigate against the health risks of sitting down for too long on extended journeys with some drivers doing hundreds of kilometres per week. 

Dr Steve Iley, Jaguar Land Rover Chief Medical Officer, said: “The wellbeing of our customers and employees is at the heart of all our technological research projects. We are using our engineering expertise to develop the seat of the future using innovative technologies not seen before in the automotive industry to help tackle an issue that affects people across the globe.”

Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles already feature the latest in ergonomic seat design, with multi-directional adjustments, massage functions and climate control fitted across the range. Dr Iley has also issued advice on how to adjust your seat to ensure the perfect driving position, from removing bulky items in your pocket, to shoulder positioning and from ensuring your spine and pelvis are straight to supporting your thighs to reduce pressure points. View the video here.

The research is part of Jaguar Land Rover’s commitment to continually improving customer wellbeing through technological innovation. Previous projects have included research to reduce the effects of motion sickness and the implementation of ultraviolet light technology to stop the spread of colds and flu. 

Together, these efforts are driving towards Destination Zero; Jaguar Land Rover’s ambition to make societies safer and healthier, and the environment cleaner – a responsible future for our workers, customers and communities around us. Through relentless innovation, Jaguar Land Rover is adapting product and services to meet the rapidly-changing world.

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