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IFA 2016: Sony unveils ‘utimate’ Xperia X, VR

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At the IFA 2016 expo in Berlin this week, Sony Mobile announced a new flagship smartphone that it described as the “ultimate” X series phone, namely the 5.2″ XZ. It was unveiled along with the 4.6″ X Compact. 

Sony said the phones were a continuation the vision set out at Mobile World Congress in February, and that the flagship Xperia XZ and premium Xperia X Compact offer an even more intelligent, personalised experience.

“With Xperia we want to assist you when and where it matters most, making your everyday lives more convenient, more effortless, more spontaneous,” said Hideyuki Furumi, Executive Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing, Sony Mobile Communications, “With Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact you can capture every moment as you see it, with blur-free images day or night, and with true to life colours thanks to our new triple image sensing technology.”

Sony’s new flagship smartphone, Xperia XZ, and premium Xperia X Compact bring new and improved camera technology to offer the best pictures from Xperia yet. Using Sony’s heritage in camera technology and in collaboration with its digital imaging engineers, the new models feature one of the most advanced cameras in a smartphone.

Sony provided the following information:

Maximising Sony’s acclaimed image sensor, two additional assisting sensors have been added to become Sony’s triple image sensing technology. This allows you to capture beautiful images in motion with true to life colours in virtually any conditions.  The technology is comprised of Sony’s original Exmor RS for mobile image sensor which provides a powerful blend of high quality image and autofocus (AF) speed combined with Predictive Hybrid AF to intelligently predict and track subjects in motion for blur-free results.

Added to this is the Laser AF sensor with distance sensing technology, which captures beautiful blur-free photos in challenging low light conditions. And what’s more, you will enjoy superb true to life colours thanks to the RGBC-IR sensor with colour sensing technology which accurately adjusts the white balance based on the light source in the environment.

The 23MP main camera not only gives you clear shots, but also super-fast start-up going from standby to capture in 0.6seconds at the touch of a dedicated shutter release button, ensuring you are ready to take the perfect shot whenever it might strike.

Advanced features have been added for those who want more flexibility with manual settings to further enhance the shooting experience and creative possibilities, such as shutter speed and focus controls.

Videos are ever more popular for capturing and sharing unique moments on social media, both models bring significant advancements in the evolution of image stabilization, cultivated in Sony’s Handycam® camcorders, with Sony’s SteadyShot™ with Intelligent Active Mode to enable superb video. Now with 5-axis stabilization you can shoot smoother videos even when walking or capturing extreme close-ups. Xperia XZ also offers the highest quality recording in 4k so you get sharp, crisp footage that is full of detail.

Xperia XZ provides a 13MP front camera for the selfie perfectionist, with its super high sensitivity as high as ISO6400 and 22mm/90-degree wide angle lens it will make the best of your pose even in low-light and group selfies.

With its stunning loop surface design, the 5.2” glass display and metal back of the Xperia XZ become one, to provide a perfect fit and beautiful feel in the hand. The loop surface is inspired by a monolithic form, whilst ALKALEIDO metal with high brightness and high purity provides shine and a feeling of depth which both enhance its premium design.  Xperia XZ is available in a brand new blue colour inspired by the beauty of nature – Forest Blue – along with stylish classics Mineral Black and Platinum.

Adding a popular Sony form factor to the X series, the Xperia X Compact packs mighty technology into its small frame. Its 4.6” screen and loop surface design make it extra comfortable to hold and is ideal for an operation with just one hand.  Xperia X Compact’s premium design can be clearly seen via its high-gloss finish and solid feel. It also follows our new signature blue colour expression with a Mist Blue colour hue together with timeless Universe Black and stylish White.

Sony’s expertise in functional design is carried through to the Xperia XZ with a water resistant[v] design to take the worry out of a little splash of water, so you can relax about sudden spills or unexpected showers. Knowing who you are by just holding the phone, the fingerprint sensor power button[vi] on Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact is intuitively placed on the side of the phone, so you’re able to pick up and securely unlock in a single movement and adds to the comfortable fit in the hand.

We’ve incorporated intelligent features into our smartphones so that they can assist you to make your daily life more convenient, more efficient, and more enjoyable. Both models feature new Battery Care[vii] complemented by Qnovo adaptive charging which work in harmony to keep your battery healthy and make the lifespan last up to twice as long.

Qnovo adaptive charging monitors and adjusts the charging current to avoid damage for battery longevity whilst Battery Care controls the charging based on learned habits and avoids excess charging by pausing charge at 90% and only completes the charging just before it’s needed. Xperia Tips also recognises user habits to provide personalised tips and recommendations, helping you optimise your own personal user experience while Smart Cleaner automatically maximises performance by cleaning the cache from certain apps based on learning their usage so optimal performance is achieved at all times.

Xperia XZ is driven by its Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor to provide a seamless experience on your phone. As one of the most cutting-edge mobile processors ever created, the Snapdragon 820 processor with LTE supports the ultimate in connectivity, graphics, photography, power and battery efficiency.

Accessories

Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact each have a range of matching optional Style Covers in corresponding colours including Style Cover Touch (SCTF10/20) which lets you access your favourite smartphone widgets through a smart window without needing to open the case. For easy video viewing, Style Cover Stand (SCSF10/20) has an auto on/off function with adjustable viewing angle. Each model will be supplied with the new USB Type-C™ charger for easy charging.

Xperia Smart Products

Sony continues to explore the unlimited possibilities for product innovation in the area of communications and we are advancing Smart Products to enable you to interact and connect in closer, more human ways.  Xperia Ear, Sony’s in-ear and hands-free Smart Product that brings a new way of communicating, will be available to buy from November starting in select markets.

Xperia Ear responds to verbal commands with intuitive operations, and through a wireless connection to your smartphone, it gives you information and assistance in a natural, authentic voice interaction. Equipped with Sony Agent Technology and a proximity sensor, it provides you with useful information such as your schedule and other personalized updates when you just place it in your ear, enabling you to face forward and get things done. Sony will also display Xperia Projector and Xperia Agent as concepts at IFA, combined with services from Yahoo Japan and Nestlé Japan, to give a glimpse of the user experiences offered by Smart Products.

Availability and specifications

Xperia XZ will be available locally from October 2016 at a recommended retail price of R12, 999 at select operators nationwide. The Xperia X compact will be available locally from October 2016 at a recommended retail price of R10, 999 at select operators nationwide. The Xperia XZ will come in Forest Blue as well Mineral Black, and Platinum. The Xperia X compact comes in Mist Blue, Universe Black and White.

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Data gives coaches new eyes in sports

Collecting and analysing data is entering a new era as it transforms both coaching and strategy across sports ranging from rugby to Formula 1, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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Coaches and managers have always been among the stars of any sports. They become household names as much as the sports heroes that populate their teams. Now, thanks to the power of data collection and analysis, they are about to raise their game to unprecedented levels.

The evolution of data for fine-tuning sports performance has already been experienced in Formula 1 racing, baseball and American football. All are known for the massive amount of statistic they produce. Typically, however, these were jealously guarded by coaches trying to get an edge over their rivals. Thanks to the science of “big data”, that has changed dramatically.

“American baseball has the most sophisticated data science analytics of any sports in the world because baseball has this long history of stats,” said Ariel Kelman, vice president of worldwide marketing at Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud computing giant that is working closely with sports teams and leagues around the world. “It’s an incredibly opaque world. I’ve tried for many years to try and get the teams to talk about it, but it’s their secret sauce and some of these teams have eight, nine or ten data scientist.”

In an interview during the AWS Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas last week, Kelman said that this statistical advantage was not lost on other sports, where forward-thinking coaches fully understood the benefits. In particular, American football, through the National Football League there, was coming on board in a big way.

“The reason they were behind is they didn’t have the player tracking data until recently in in the NFL. They only had the player tracking data three years ago. Now the teams are really investing in it. We did an announcement with the Seattle Seahawks earlier this week; they chose us as their machine learning, data science and cloud provider to do this kind of analysis to help figure out their game strategy. 

“They are building models predicting the other teams and looking at players and also evaluating all their practices. They are setting up computer vision systems so that they can track the performance of the players during their practices and have that inform some of the game strategies. The teams then even talk about using it for player evaluation, for example trying to figure out how much should we pay this player.”

Illustrating the trend, during Re:Invent, Kelman hosted a panel discussion featuring Rob Smedley, a technicalconsultant to Formula 1, Cris Collinsworth, a former professional footballer in the NFL and now a renowned broadcaster, and Jason Healy, performance analytics managerat New Zealand Rugby.

Healey in particular represents the extent to which data analysis has crosses sporting codes. He has spent four yearswith All Blacks, after 10 years with the New Zealand Olympic Committee, helping athletes prepare for the OlympicGames. 

“The game of rugby is chaos,” he told the audience. “There’s a lot of a lot of things going on. There’s a lot of trauma and violence and it can be difficult to work out the load management of each player. So data collection is a big piece of the technical understanding of the game.

“A problem for us in rugby is the ability to recall what happened. We have to identify what’s situational and what’s systemic. The situational thing that happens, which is very unlikely to be replicated, gets a lot of attention in rugby. That’s the sensational big moment in the game that gets talked about. But it’s the systemic plays and the systemic actions of players that lies underneath the performance. That’s where the big data starts to really provide some powerful answers. 

“Coaches have to move away from those sensational andsituational moments. We’re trying to get them to learn what is happening at that systemic level, what is actually happening in the game. How do we adjust? How do we make our decisions? What technical and defensive strategies need to change according to the data?”

Healey said AWS was providing platforms for tracking players and analysing patterns, but the challenge was to bring people on this technology journey.

“We’re asking our coaching staff to change the way they have traditionally worked, by realising that this data does give insights into how they make their decisions.”

Kelman agreed this was an obstacle, not just in sport, but in all sectors.

“Across all of our customers, in all industries, one of the things that’s often underestimated the most is that getting the technology working is only the first step. You have to figure out how to integrate it with the processes that us humans, who dislike change, work with. The vast majority of it is about building knowledge. There’s ways to transfer that learning to performance.”

Of course, data analytics does not assure any side of victory, as the All Blacks discovered during the recent Rugby World Cup, when they were knocked out in the semi-finals, and South Africa went on to win. We asked Healey how the data-poor South Africans succeeded where the data-rich All Blacks couldn’t.

“You have to look at how analytics and insights and all thesetechnologies are available to all the coaches these days,” he said. The piece that often gets missed is the people piece. It’s the transformation of learning that goes into the player’sactual performance on the field. We’re providing them with a platform and the information, but the players have to make the decisions.. We can’t say that this particular piece of technology played a role in winning or losing. It’s simply just a tool.”

The same challenge faces motor racing, which generates massive amounts of data through numerous sensors and cameras mounted in vehicles. Rob Smedley, who spent 25 years working in engineering roles for Formula 1 teams, quipped that his sport had a  “big data” problem before the phrase was invented. 

“We’ve always been very obsessive about data. Take car telemetry, where we’ve got something like 200 to 300 sensors on the car itself. And that goes into something like two to three thousand data channels. So we’re taking about around 600 Gigabytes of data generated every single lap, per car. 

“On top of that, where we’ve also got all the time data and GPS data. The teams are using it for performance advantage. We’re into such marginal gains now because there are no bad teams in Formula 1 anymore. Data analytics provide those marginal gains.”

• 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 faces 5-year gap

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In five years, the world will have more than 40 billion devices. Locally, IoT specialist,Eseye, says that South African CIOs are recognising IoT (Internet of Things) and M2M (Machine to Machine) technologies as strategic imperatives, but the journey is still in its infancy.

“As legacy systems start to reach end of life, digital shifts will become inevitable. This, coupled with an increasing demand for improved bottom line results from existing and new markets, makes IoT a more viable option over the next five years. This is particularly prevalent in manufacturing, especially where time to market and product diversification has become necessary for business survival,” says Jeremy Potgieter, Regional Director – Africa, Eseye.

He says that within this sector one thing matters – output: “Fulfilling the product to market lifecycle is what makes a manufacturer successful. Addressing this functionality and production optimisation through technology is becoming more critical as they focus on increasing output and reducing downtime. By monitoring machinery and components in the production line, any concerns that arise, which impacts both the manufacturer and consumers alike, will be more efficiently dealt with by using an IoT approach.”

Potgieter says that there is also the growing strategic approach to increase the bottom line through new markets. As manufacturers seek new revenue streams, Eseye is encouraging the use of rapid IoT enabled device product development : “By addressing the connectivity aspects required at deployment, manufacturers are immediately diversifying their portfolios. Eseye, as an enabler, assists by providing market ready SIMs, which can be embedded into IoT connected devices at OEM level, connecting them to a plethora of services (as designed for) upon entry to market, anywhere in the world.”

In addition, Potgieter says that organisations are increasingly looking towards IoT connectivity managed services to capitalise on specialist expertise and ensure the devices are proactively monitored and managed to ensure maximum uptime, while reducing data costs.

Impacting IoT adoption though, is undoubtedly the network infrastructure required. Potgieter says that this varies significantly and will depend on criteria such as sensor types and corresponding measurements, the overall communication protocols, data volume, response time, and analytics required: “While the majority of IoT implementations can be enabled using cloud-based IoT platform solutions, the infrastructure required still remains important. A cloud platform will simplify infrastructure design and enable easy scaling capability, while also reducing security and data analytics implementation issues.”

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