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How IoT can make the world a better place

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The IoT, promises tremendous uses: from smart autonomous cars, to home automation, to smart farming, and millions more. However, the success of it resides in if and how people adopt it. RICHARD BARRY, CEO of Polymorph, expands in three elements that will drive IoT.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has caused unprecedented hype among technologists, software developers, futurists and industrialists. Estimates of the adoption of IoT vary from anywhere between 2.38-billion devices shipped in 2017 (Gartner) to 50.1-billion devices connected by 2020 (World Economic Forum). McKinsey projects that IoT will be a $6.2-trillion industry by 2025. The public and private sectors have started investing heavily in IoT to capitalise on its uses and (projected) exponential growth: software company SAP plans to invest $2.2-billion in IoT by 2020, while India has announced a package of $2-trillion to connect 100 cities around the country.

The uses of IoT – from smart autonomous cars that self-direct to less congested roadways during peak traffic hours, to home automation, to smart farming, and millions more – all have one thing in common: they are designed to make the world a more efficient place to live and work in. This efficiency is driven by access to quality data that did not exist before and matching this to data analysis and automation to deliver insights and solutions faster than has been possible before.

Pundits are quick to point to IoT-enabled clothing that can track the wearer’s fitness and health and inform nearby connected devices when it’s time to replace the piece of clothing (in an ideal world, per the pundits, the piece of clothing in question would interact with a connected device to order a replacement garment without the wearer even being aware of the need therefore in the first place). The combination of IoT and automation (enabled by AI/machine learning) is humanity’s surest step yet to the world imagined by the great science fiction writers of the past century.

Amid all this excitement and hype, we are at risk of missing one critical component to the success of IoT – and any other technology: the human element.

Whatever the inherent potential of a new technology, its success ultimately resides in if and how people adopt it. For IoT to live up to its promise of efficiency, safety and convenience, human beings – not processors and data – should be the focal point.

I believe there are three key elements that will drive IoT as the catalyst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, namely:

1.       Using smart connected devices to enable people to make smarter decisions – core to the premise of smart cities, smart cars, smart manufacturing and all manner of smart devices is that you can only manage what you can measure. Millions – billions – of connected devices generating real-time data give decision-makers unprecedented amounts of accurate information that enables them to identify and act on the best possible option at any given time. While the devices that generate the data are invaluable, it is ultimately the human ability to determine context and extract value from the data that will realise the true benefits of the technology.

2.       Providing real-time information to people and business to improve the customer experience – user experience (UX) is a concept nearly as hyped as IoT. The core premise is to make technology interfaces and processes as intuitive as possible to improve the experience of using software, products or services. IoT adds a deeper layer to this – instead of waiting for the user to interact in a certain way and accommodating their preferred way of interaction through clever design, IoT can proactively introduce information or guidance to users before they are consciously aware that they need or want something. For example, a small-scale farmer can deploy sensors to his crops that feed critical information to a mobile app, advising him of optimal watering of his crops to produce a bigger yield while limiting water consumption.

3.       Complete dedication to solving human problems – in essence, all technology needs to be useful, accessible and available for it to become part of mainstream consumer and business culture. IoT is no different. Through a combination of data analysis and automation, IoT should be able to remove day-to-day frustrations such as traffic congestion or queueing at the bank. It however needs to be consciously designed for this purpose, or IoT will remain an unfulfilled promise to people and businesses alike.

Without a focus on the human element, IoT is simply a solution looking for a problem. As with all truly transformative technologies, its success will ultimately depend on how well it adapts to the needs of a rapidly evolving and developing human population. All the fundamental elements are there to make IoT the technology that shapes this generation (and many generations to come) – if we remember that, in the end, it is ourselves – not the technology we invent – that needs to be the priority.

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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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