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Huge eSport prizes for PES League

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Konami Digital Entertainment has announced a $200,000 first prize in the revamped 2016/17 PES League and the official UEFA Champions League eSports tournament, titled “the Road to Cardiff”. 

Available exclusively to PlayStation4 and PlayStation3 users, the Road to Cardiff season has started via a dedicated PES League mode available in PES 2017, and the new free-to-play PES 2017 Trial Edition. Additional PES League events will be open to players on all platforms.

The huge prize incentive comes as Konami increases the scope of its annual competition, which is recognised by UEFA as the official UEFA Champions League eSports tournament. The ultimate winner will receive $200,000 with those in second and third place receiving $100,000 and $50,000 respectively. Additional prizes will also be available, with $20,000 going to the winners of the two European Regional Finals, the Americas Final and the Asia Final, with additional prizes for the runners-ups.

“Konami has demonstrated its skill in expanding the PES League as a global totem for PES players, and we are delighted to be involved with this illustrious competition,” said Guy-Laurent Epstein, Managing Director Marketing at UEFA. “The PES series has been a stunning showcase for the UEFA Champions League, and the confirmation that the PES League is the Official UEFA Champions League eSport tournament, is the next logical step. As Europe’s greatest club teams compete to play in Cardiff in June, so the world’s best PES 2017 players will do the same for a chance to be crowned the greatest.”

Officially kicking off today, users can register to compete in the 2016/17 PES League via www.pesleague.com and begin the first of many games as they play matches that will see them ranked against their peers. All scores and results from matches played within the PES League mode are logged and entrants can monitor their progress via the PES League website. Entry is also open to those using the new free-to-play, PES 2017 Trial Edition. This special version of PES 2017 showcases the Exhibition mode and Skills Training, but will also allow users to compete within PES League. The PES League has seen huge growth in recent years, and the 2016/17 event will be open to players from all over the globe, each looking to represent their region in Cardiff ahead of the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League Final.

Launched under the Road To Cardiff banner to reflect the 2016/17 competitions position as the official UEFA Champions League eSports tournament, the national qualifying stages take place in Europe, Asia, as well as North and South America, using online matches to determine the best qualifying 16.

Entry to the new PES League season is free. “I saw for myself at gamescom last year just how high the level of skill is within the PES community,” stated Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Borussia Dortmund striker and one of the official PES ambassadors. “While I consider myself good at the game, the guys who will vie for a place in Cardiff are at another level. The Official PES League is the best way to prove just how good you are at PES 2017, and I look forward to seeing the world’s best players showing their skills.”

For Europe, the first season of the regional qualifiers will run until January 5th, 2017. The second season will be held between February 16th and March 16th, 2017. Similarly, two qualifying stages in the Americas will take place, with the first running between December 15th through until January 12th, 2017 and the second taking place between January 12th through until February 16th, 2017. Asia will have one qualifying stage that begins today and will finish on February 23rd, 2017.

“We have enjoyed many great nights of European football at the Camp Nou and now we welcome the cream of mainland Europe’s PES 2017 community,” said Manel Arroyo, FCB Vice President of Marketing and Communications. “Our facilities will be a fitting venue to host such a meeting of PES talent and we anticipate a series of highly-charged matches full of flowing football and individual brilliance during this illustrious eSports event.”

With Konami establishing preferred partnership programmes with the world’s greatest football clubs, the first of the European qualifiers will be held at FC Barcelona in February 2017. The 16 competitors will gather in a special play area within the iconic ground, before entering a series of knock-out matches to decide the final four players to represent Europe at the PES League World Final in Cardiff. April 2017 will then see the 16 best American players gather at a soon to be announced location for their regional final. Four places are on offer for those qualifying from the Americas, thus ensuring a high level of competition to make the cut.

The European regional qualifiers finals will take place in April 2017 at a stadium location, soon to be announced. The initial 16 players will be whittled down to just four via another knock-out competition. Thus, with Europe’s eight entrants determined, they will be joined by the four qualifiers from the Americas, two from Asia, and one representing the rest of world, as well as one challenger to be selected at a later stage.

As has become traditional and in line with PES 2017’s position as exclusive licensee of the UEFA competitions, the conclusion to the 2016/17 season will take place ahead of the UEFA Champions League Final in June 2017. The ultimate winner will be given the main prize. The finalists will also receive tickets to watch the UEFA Champions League Final match.

“The Official PES League continues to go from strength to strength, and we are delighted to announce that the Road to Cardiff tournament begins today and is officially recognised by UEFA as the official UEFA Champions League eSports tournament,” said Jonas Lygaard, Senior Director – Brand & Business Development for Konami Digital Entertainment B.V. “We are also delighted that such key matches will take place in suitably auspicious venues, and thank our partners at FC Barcelona for providing such an iconic landscape for one of the official UEFA Champions League eSports tournament qualifier venues. There are more stadium announcements coming though so watch this space.”

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Samsung S10 in lock-step with its rivals?

Tonight Samsung will kick off the next round in the smartphone wars with the S10 range, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When Samsung unveils the new S10 smartphone at an event in San Francisco today, it will mark the beginning of the 2019 round of World War S. That stands for smartphone wars, although Samsung would like it to be all about the S.

Ever since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013, Samsung has held both technology and thought leadership in the handset world. Back then, Apple’s iPhone 5 was the last device from the American manufacturer that could lay claim to being the best smartphone in the world. With the 2013 launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple entered an era of incremental improvement, playing catch-up, and succumbing to market trends driven by its competitors.

Six years later, Samsung is fighting off the same threat. Its Chinese rival, Huawei, suddenly wrested away leadership in the past year, with the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro regarded as at last equal to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 9 – if not superior. Certainly, from a cost perspective, Huawei took the lead with its more competitive prices, and therefore more value for money.

Huawei also succeeded where Apple failed: introducing more economical versions of its flagship phones. The iPhone 5c, SE and XR have all been disappointments in the sales department, mainly because the price difference was not massive enough to attract lower-income users. In contrast, the Lite editions of the Huawei P9, P10 and P20 have been huge successes, especially in South Africa.

Today, for the first time in half a decade, Samsung goes into battle on a field laid out by its competitors. It is expected to launch the Galaxy S10 Plus, S10 and S10 e, with the latter being the Samsung answer to the strategy of the iPhone XR and Huawei P20 Lite.

Does this mean Samsung is now in lock-step with its rivals, focused on matching their strategies rather than running ahead of them?

It may seem that way, but Samsung has a few tricks up its electronic sleeve. For example, it is possible it will use the S10 launch to announce its coming range of foldable phones, expected to be called the Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex. It previewed the technology at a developer conference in San Francisco last November, and this will be the ideal moment to reclaim technology leadership by going into production with foldables – even if the S10 range itself does not shoot out the lights.

However, the S10 handsets will look very different to their predecessors. First, before switching on the phone, they will be notable by the introduction of what is being called the punch-hole display, which breaks away from the current trend of having a notch at the top of the phone to house front-facing cameras and speakers. Instead, the punch-hole is a single round cut-out that will contain the front camera. It is the key element of Samsung’s “Infinity O” display – the O represents the punchhole – which will be the first truly edge-to-edge display, on the sides and top.

The S10 range will use the new Samsung user interface, One UI, also unveiled at the developer conference. It replaces the previous “skin”, unimaginatively called the Samsung Experience, to introduce a strong new interface brand.

One UI went live on the Note 8 last month, giving us a foretaste, and giving Samsung a chance to iron out the bugs in the field. It is a less cluttered interface, addressing one of the biggest complaints about most manufacturer skins. Only Nokia and Google Pixel handsets offer pure Android in the local market, but One UI is Samsung’s best compromise yet.

It introduces a new interaction area, in the bottom half, reachable with the thumb, with a viewing area at the top, allowing the user to work one-handed on the bottom area while still having apps or related content visible above. One UI also improves gesture navigation – the phone picks up hand movements without being touched – and notification management.

The S10 range will be the first phones to feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, at least for the South African and American markets. That makes it 5G compatible, for when this next generation of mobile broadband becomes available in these markets.

They will also be the first phones to feature Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of the Wi-Fi mobile wireless standard. It will perform better in congested areas, and data transfer will be up to 40% faster than the previous generation.

The phones will be the first to use ultrasound for fingerprint detection. If Samsung gets it right, this will make it the fastest in-screen fingerprint sensor on the market, and allows for a little leeway if one pushes the finger down slightly outside the fingerprint reader surface. It does mean, however, that screen protectors will have to be redesigned to avoid blocking the detection.

Not enough firsts? There are a few more.

Most notably, it will be the first phone range to feature 1 Terabyte (TB) storage – that’s a thousand Gigabytes (GB) – at least for the top-of-the-range devices. Samsung last month announced that it would be the first manufacturer to make 1TB built-in onboard flash storage. Today, it will deploy this massive advantage as it once again weaponises its technology in the fight for smartphone domination.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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IoT set to improve authentication

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By Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President, Internet of Things Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

As it rapidly approaches maturity, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to continue a transformational trajectory, introducing new efficiencies in multiple fields by allowing measurement and analysis on a scale that has never been possible before. From agriculture to logistics, from retail to hospitality, from traffic to health, from the home to the office, the applications for monitoring ”things” are limited only by the imagination.

And South African (and African) businesses are showing abundant imagination in their practical deployments of IoT solutions in multiple settings, creating a better tomorrow through almost universal measurement and the introduction of new levels of convenience – including how to access locations, devices and services securely.

Any company, whether South African or international, should bear in mind that understanding consumer expectations can be the key to unlocking the full potential of IoT devices and related smart services.

According to Gemalto’s latest Connected Living study, improving the way consumers authenticate themselves to services is one of the most anticipated benefits of IoT, highlighting a desire for a more seamless and secure IoT experience.

Consumers are interested in advanced ways of authenticating themselves through automatic (based on behavioral patterns) or biometric techniques, lessening the need to have to intervene manually, all in the name of a much more streamlined authentication process. Smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have already placed fingerprint and facial recognition high on the agenda. There is also a widespread positive sentiment towards IoT’s potential for improving the quality of home life through connected, smart appliances.

Personalised services is something else that wins consumers over. In fact, a fluid, personalised and unified experience with continuity of services, together with security and privacy, is critical for the successful implementation of any technology.

And those types of services are today quite possible. With everything being connected – from small gadgets to digital solutions for large enterprises – IoT is no longer just a buzzword. That much is clear in a piece from Vodacom IoT managing executive Deon Liebenberg. Writing for IOL Online, Liebenberg provides insight into the sheer range of applications for IoT: the 20 use cases he cites range from the obvious, like transport and logistics, to the connected home and wearables; he even suggests tagging pets with IoT transmitters, for those who always need to know the whereabouts of the family cat.

Low-cost tags fitted to cats, dogs, lamp posts, shipping containers or other items are just one part of the puzzle, however. There are other two pieces; arguably the most complex part is the availability of communication networks in areas where there aren’t any WiFi networks, or indeed, anything else.

And that’s where the bigger takeaway from Liebenberg’s piece and other IoT trends articles becomes apparent. The communication networks are there, as are those tags: dedicated IoT networks (like LoraWAN, SigFox and narrowband IoT) are all available in South Africa.

So, too, is the third and final essential component. Software which is able to process the data generated by the tag and transmitted over the IoT network and into the internet. In this regard, there’s no shortage of solutions available from cloud providers like AWS and Azure; electronics giant Siemens, too, is in on the action, having recently launched a new cloud-based IoT operating system to develop applications and services for process industries, including oil and gas and water management.

This combination means it is quite possible right now to enable just about any use case. Business owners, who will know best how IoT can add value in their organisation, can now see their ideas becoming reality. Most crucial of all, IoT solutions delivering new levels of efficiency and convenience are not only possible, they are able to be offered with the simple and effective security that will drive consumer acceptance.

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