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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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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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