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Huawei ups the smartphone ante

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Last week Huawei released its P20 series of smartphones in South Africa, setting high expectations in the local market. SEAN BACHER was there.

When Huawei announced the availability of its latest smartphones, the P20 and the P20 Pro, in South Africa this week, it also set high expectations for increased market share.

“Even though we don’t quite have the market share we would like, we are slowly increasing it due to our superior quality and service at a more reasonable price,” says Akhram Mohamed, product director at Huawei South Africa.

He said that innovation in the smartphone market is starting to stagnate, and Huawei needed to push the boundaries.

“All modern phones have front and rear cameras and use the same operating system with the manufacturer’s skin plastered on it, with a few widgets and proprietary apps to set them apart.

“It’s for this reason that so much research and development went into the P20 series. The P20 uses a Leica dual camera with a 12MP sensor and a 20MP monochrome one. The P20 Pro uses a triple camera — with the highest total pixel count on a smartphone to date. It uses a 40MP RGB sensor, a 20MP monochrome sensor and an 8MP sensor with telephoto lens offering the best picture quality during the day and night.”

Due to the P20 series having great cameras and being more powerful because of  the Kirin 970 CPU, and running Google’s 8.1 operating system, the latest Huawei devices have been among the few selected by Google to use Google ARCore.

ARCore enables developers to build apps that can understand a user’s environment and place objects and information in it using augmented reality. This needs a lot more processing power than most current phones can offer.

Mohamed says the ARCore combined with the Kirin 970 CPU the P20 series will be able to help in the education sector. For example, many kids in South Africa have never seen a European city but, with the P20 series using Google ARCore and virtual reality, the phone is able to bring the city to them, allowing them to roam the virtual streets.

In addition, the cameras and high speed offered by the CPU will allow the visually impaired to take photos of an object and get an audio description of what that object is.

Users can also take pictures of stars and planets and get information like name and orbit. While this is currently available with numerous apps on the Google Play Store, most of these deliver the information slowly due to the lack of processing power.

In addition to the P20’s superior cameras and speed, Mohamed also believes the phone’s ability to multitask will be a big attraction to many.

“So many users carry two phones around with them – one for business and one for leisure. Our latest devices can be both a professional device, thanks to speed and security, and a leisure one, offered by the advanced camera features and 128GB of on-board storage.”

Both phones are currently available at all major cellular retail outlets. The Huawei P20 series comes in Black, Midnight Blue and two new gradient colours, Twilight and Pink Gold.

The P20 sells for R13 000 and the P20 Pro for R16 000.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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