Less than three months after US president Donald Trump barred US companies from doing business with Huawei – regarded at the time as a deadly blow to its handset business – the company has unveiled its won, long-awaited mobile operating system.
At the Huawei Developer Conference this week, Huawei Consumer Business Group CEO Richard Yu launched HarmonyOS, or HongmengOS in Chinese. It is described as a microkernel-based, distributed operating system designed to deliver a cohesive user experience across all devices and scenarios.
“We’re entering a day and age where people expect a holistic intelligent experience across all devices and scenarios,” said Yu, suggesting that the OS would have been released even had there been no threat to Huawei’s use of Google’s Android OS.
“We felt it was important to have an operating system with improved cross-platform capabilities,” he said. “We needed an OS that supports all scenarios, that can be used across a broad range of devices and platforms, and that can meet consumer demand for low latency and strong security.”
“HarmonyOS is completely different from Android and iOS. It is a microkernel-based, distributed OS that delivers a smooth experience across all scenarios. It has trustworthy and secure architecture, and it supports seamless collaboration across devices. You can develop your apps once, then flexibly deploy them across a range of different devices.”
For those of us who aren’t computer scientists, microkernel-based operating systems are a highly optimised version of regular operating systems that are designed to run on far fewer functions. This translates to lower power required to run the hardware, which means better battery life for the consumer when compared to the fully-fledged Linux kernel on Android OS.
Enabling a “develop once, deploy everywhere” has been a dream to Android developers for a very long time. The pain of how far manufacturers can customise Android has resulted in developers spending far more time on customising apps for various Android phones than they needed to. If Huawei can get this right, they will assert themselves as the “Apple of China” in eyes of development ease.
It appears, the, that Huawei has in mind not an alternative to Android, but a platform on which it can roll put any category of device, and provide any category of service.
Huawei says that, as early as 10 years ago, it “envisioned a future where intelligence would seamlessly integrate with all aspects of our lives, and it began exploring how it might deliver this experience – one that would transcend the boundaries of physical space and span different hardware and platforms”.
The company says HarmonyOS is a lightweight, compact operating system, and will first be used for smart devices like smart watches, smart screens, in-vehicle systems, and smart speakers.
“Through this implementation Huawei aims to establish an integrated and shared ecosystem across devices, create a secure and reliable runtime environment, and deliver a holistic intelligent experience across every interaction with every device.”
Huawei provided the following information on the technical features of HarmonyOS:
1. Seamless: First-ever device OS with distributed architecture, delivering a seamless experience across devices
By adopting distributed architecture and distributed virtual bus technology, HarmonyOS offers a shared communications platform, distributed data management, distributed task scheduling, and virtual peripherals. With HarmonyOS, app developers won’t have to deal with the underlying technology for distributed apps, allowing them to focus on their own individual service logic. Developing distributed apps will be easier than ever before. Apps built on HarmonyOS can run on different devices while delivering a seamless, collaborative experience across all scenarios.
2. Smooth: Deterministic Latency Engine and high-performance IPC
HarmonyOS will address underperformance challenges with a Deterministic Latency Engine and high-performance Inter Process Communication (IPC). The Deterministic Latency Engine sets task execution priorities and time limits for scheduling in advance. Resources will gravitate toward tasks with higher priorities, reducing the response latency of apps by 25.7%. The microkernel can make IPC performance up to five times more efficient than existing systems.
3. Secure: Microkernel architecture that reshapes security and trustworthiness from the ground up
HarmonyOS uses a brand-new microkernel design that features enhanced security and low latency. This microkernel was designed to simplify kernel functions, implement as many system services as possible in user mode outside the kernel, and add mutual security protection. The microkernel itself provides only the most basic services like thread scheduling and IPC.
Harmony OS’s microkernel design uses formal verification methods to reshape security and trustworthiness from the ground up in a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE). Formal verification methods are an effective mathematical approach to validate system correctness from the source, while traditional verification methods, such as functional verification and attack simulation, are confined to limited scenarios. Formal methods, by contrast, can use data models to verify all software running paths.
HarmonyOS is the first OS to use formal verification in device TEE, significantly improving security. In addition, because the HarmonyOS microkernel has much less code (roughly one-thousandth the amount of the Linux kernel), the probability of attack is greatly reduced.
4. Unified: Multi-device IDE allows apps to be developed once and deployed across multiple devices
Powered by a multi-device IDE, multi-language unified compilation, and a distributed architecture kit, HarmonyOS can automatically adapt to different screen layout controls and interactions, and support both drag-and-drop control and preview-oriented visual programming. This allows developers to more efficiently build apps that run on multiple devices. With a multi-device IDE, developers can code their apps once and deploy them across multiple devices, creating a tightly integrated ecosystem across all user devices.
The HUAWEI ARK Compiler is the first static compiler that can perform on par with Android’s virtual machine, enabling developers to compile a broad range of advanced languages into machine code in a single, unified environment. By supporting unified compilation in multiple languages, the HUAWEI ARK Compiler will help developers greatly improve their productivity.
Developer plan and ecosystem development
At today’s conference, Huawei also announced the evolution roadmap for HarmonyOS and its kernel. HarmonyOS 1.0 will be first adopted in its smart screen products, which are due to launch later this year. Over the next three years, HarmonyOS will be optimized and gradually adopted across a broader range of smart devices, including wearables, HUAWEI Vision, and head units for your car.
The success of HarmonyOS will depend on a dynamic ecosystem of apps and developers. To encourage broader adoption, Huawei will release HarmonyOS as an open-source platform, worldwide. Huawei will also establish an open-source foundation and an open-source community to support more in-depth collaboration with developers.
China is home to a strong app ecosystem and a massive user base. Moving forward, Huawei will lay the foundations for HarmonyOS in the Chinese market, and then expand it further to the global ecosystem. With a focus on providing new and unique value, Huawei will open up and share its core capabilities in areas like connectivity, cameras, and AI. It will work closely with ecosystem partners to deliver apps and services that provide consumers with the best possible experience and bring new life to the industry.
HarmonyOS will bring incredible new benefits to consumers, equipment vendors, and developers. For consumers, it will bring a cohesive and powerful intelligent experience across all aspects of their lives. For equipment vendors, it will help them gain a first-mover advantage in the age of holistic intelligent experience, where 5G, AI, and IoT will see explosive growth. At the same time, HarmonyOS will enable developers to win over more users with less investment, and rapidly innovate services across all scenarios.
“We believe HarmonyOS will revitalize the industry and enrich the ecosystem,” said Richard Yu. “Our goal is to bring people a truly engaging and diverse experience. We want to invite developers from around the world to join us as we build out this new ecosystem. Together, we will deliver an intelligent experience for consumers in all scenarios.”
How panic-buying disrupts traditional supply chains
Panic buying has become commonplace during the COVID-19 crisis. PAULO DE MATOS, chief product officer at SYSPRO, outlines how good technology and ingenuity is panic-proof.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the world cannot afford for manufacturing and distribution to grind to a halt. From food on our shelves, to medical necessities, these sectors are at the heart of our economy and must keep going at all costs. Although the global supply chain is usually a well-oiled machine consisting of a system of organizations, people, processes, information and resources, disruption of this well-oiled machine has become the new reality. According to a new survey released by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), 75% of companies worldwide have reported supply chain disruptions as a result of COVID-19. Added to that is the increasingly unpredictable demand caused by panic buying and consumer stockpiling.
Reinventing the supply chain to face the challenges of today
In response to the pandemic, manufacturers and distributors have had to pivot in a new direction, to turn the supply chain challenge into a competitive advantage through ingenuity.
The US recently invoked the Defense Production Act to allow American manufacturers to suspend their normal production schedules and begin manufacturing materials such as ventilators, which are needed in this time of crisis. The Act, which was originally passed in 1950, was a war mobilization effort. It allowed the government to direct efforts of manufacturers to focus production on the much-needed necessities in times of need, from medical supplies through to necessary disinfection products.
Australia has applied a similar approach through the implementation of ‘wartime’ manufacturing. Due to a shortage of necessities like ventilators and hand sanitizers, the Australian government is offering financial packages that incentivize factories to manufacture critical supplies. For example, one of Australia’s biggest packaging companies, Pact Group, is converting production lines at three of its Sydney plants as it starts making hand sanitizer for the first time, instead of industrial cleaners.
Within Canada and South Africa, distilleries have also committed to supplying alcohol, a key ingredient in hand sanitizer.
Using technology to ensure long-term resilience
Until recently, China has consistently supplied global manufacturers with the bulk of their required components, raw materials and or processed materials. Presently, 6 in 10 (62%) of the respondents of the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) survey have reported that they have experienced increasing delays in receiving orders from China. This is of course just the tip of the iceberg, with the pandemic now impacting almost every country in the world; delays are going to begin affecting deliveries from every country, and the lateness of the delivery is expected to increase. With the increasing shortages of parts, global manufacturers are now scrambling to identify alternative suppliers and supply chains to make up for the missed deliveries.
Technology systems, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, can certainly improve the situation by giving manufacturers improved visibility of the reliable local suppliers and their supply chains. Through ERP integration, representatives from different supplier companies can interact on a single platform, improving the flow and availability of information and improving the reliability of delivery. For example, the SYSPRO Supply Chain Portal was originally launched with a Request for Quote capability, which enabled the formal invitation of suppliers to tender for the supply of goods and services. Not only can manufacturers identify local suppliers who can meet their orders in a time of scarcity, but manufacturers themselves could easily find alternative suppliers.
ERP also has the added advantage of reducing document handling and other manual activities and facilitates cross functional collaboration by enabling an online process for engaging with customers and suppliers. What’s more, planned receiving and manufacturing process steps can be amended temporarily in your ERP system to include additional Quality Assurance. For example, the wiping down of surfaces and spraying of goods with appropriate chemical or detergent cleansers and adding waiting times before issue or delivery.
In times of unforeseen scarcity, as the world is currently experiencing with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that the supply chain is kept open and full. The challenge that the company faces is to identify the cheapest and easiest way to accomplish this, using their own unique combination of technology and ingenuity. If there is surplus stock in the supply chain, the surplus could easily be sold onto neighbouring organizations – after all, the function of a manufacturing organization is to fulfil whatever is identified as a shortage in the economy.
Managing disruption in the long-term
The World Economic Forum has suggested that moving forward after this pandemic, there will be a “new normal”, a need to manage disruption by developing predictive models for proactive scheduling, and dynamic planning of supply with careful consideration of the uncertainties and risks. This change will most likely usher in the next level of digital transformation, based on the collection and analysis of data from various disparate applications.
Ultimately, having the right combination of technology and dynamic ingenuity will allow manufacturers to weather the storm and navigate the unknown, bringing with it the success of discovering “the new world.”
Pandemic will change co-working – and vice versa
By CHARMAINE LAMBERT, WorkInProgress – an Absa Innovation Lab
The COVID-19 pandemic is set to realign the world’s social and economic structure, and fundamentally change the way people work and interact, personally and professionally. While the current social measures in place around the world are aimed at stemming the spread of the virus, there’s a good chance that there’ll be a residual adoption of elements of them as humanity adapts to ‘the new normal’ – because the world will fundamentally never be the same again.
Hundreds of thousands of people are set to lose their jobs as economies tank – but the optimistic view is that that’s an opportunity for the future, rather than the very real catastrophe it feels like at the moment – particularly in the SME space. It’s a rare economic situation that sees major corporations struggling as much as SME’s, and the upshot is that people may have to create employment opportunities for themselves and others, rather than returning to the jobs they had before the pandemic.
It’s clear that the world will need more entrepreneurs, whose smart ideas can help rebuild economies, create employment opportunities and re-establish – and rebuild – the livelihoods of entire communities.
Many have glibly asked ‘could that meeting have been an email?’ – but the reality is that the working world is rapidly discovering the benefits of finding new ways to address business needs, that rely less on physical face-to-face interactions. Catching up as a group on a Zoom meeting is important, but cutting out a commute, the niceties of the preamble to a meeting and repeating yourself for the guy who stumbled in five minutes late has made meetings more efficient and to-the-point.
Meetings won’t go away, because humans are collaborative. It takes one person to have a great idea, but it takes a team to realise and implement it – which is why co-working spaces will remain an important part of life for those taking up the challenge of employing themselves, and others by forming SME’s, in the new world order.
The shift in ways of working has also shown that decentralisation is possible – something that may become a necessity in the future. All those shiny offices in global centres are expensive line items on the annual budget, and since budgets are going to be way tighter – if not non-existent – in future, even SME’s may have to make peace with the fact that not everyone needs to share a space. And knowing what we know now about how easy it is to spread viruses in close-contact working spaces, there’s a convincing health argument for decentralisation, too.
If an SME team is driven enough, nobody will have to worry about clock-watching or ensuring that people are doing their jobs by having a manager stalking the halls and peering over cubicle walls. There will be essential functions that rely on being physically present in a space – but there’s no reason that different functions of a business can’t be split across different spaces, cities or even time zones to maximise efficiency and save costs. And with flexibility of working time now becoming an option across many industries, that demand will need to be catered for by SME’s and other employers, in the future.
Building more efficient spaces has been an important global trend over the past few years as companies realise the impact their business has on the planet. What about the environmental cost of getting people to that office every day, and of business travel? Cutting out the commute for the global workforce has already had a noticeable effect on the environment – fake-news dolphins in the canals of Venice, aside – so now that we’ve proven it’s possible to decentralise or work remotely, why not continue that?
Carbon monoxide emissions in New York have been slashed by 50% over the past few weeks – mostly on the back of reduced road traffic – and an analysis by climate website Carbon Brief indicates that the shut-down in China has resulted in a 25% drop in energy use and emissions over a two week period at the height of the pandemic there, which is set to lead to an overall drop of 1% in the country’s carbon emissions for 2020. As industry ramps up again around the world, emissions will rise once more, but those numbers do illustrate the significant impact a reduction in worker commuting, can have for the planet.
4IR Creating Opportunities
While there’s plenty of concern that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is going to cost millions of jobs, it’s also set to deliver millions of opportunities and plenty of efficiencies.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can take over manual, repetitive tasks – but instead of making the people in those functions, redundant, it frees them up to tackle more important and non-automatable tasks which can improve business operations. The global economic crisis means that efficiency and multitasking are going to become the order of the day – something the lean SME space is used to, to an extent. Embrace technology and let the people who are the heart of your business focus on helping you re-establish it and re-invent it. It’s time to innovate.
While things are set to be very different, there’s a huge benefit to collaboration to establishing and maintaining a dynamic, agile business. Entrepreneurs and innovators thrive off being able to kick around ideas, sense-check decisions with others and find ways for seemingly-unrelated companies to work together to deliver unprecedented opportunity – and there’s nothing the world is going to need more than opportunity, once we come out the other side of this.