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IoT to overtake phones by 2018

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The latest edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report has revealed that the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to overtake mobile phones as the largest category of connected device by 2018.

Between 2015 and 2021, the number of IoT connected devices is expected to grow 23 percent annually, of which cellular IoT is forecast to have the highest growth rate. Of the 28 billion total devices that will be connected by 2021, close to 16 billion will be IoT devices.

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Western Europe will lead the way in adding IoT connections – the number of IoT devices in this market is projected to grow 400 percent by 2021. This will principally be driven by regulatory requirements, for example for intelligent utility meters, and a growing demand for connected cars including the EU e-call directive to be implemented in 2018.

Rima Qureshi, Senior Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer, Ericsson, says: “IoT is now accelerating as device costs fall and innovative applications emerge. From 2020, commercial deployment of 5G networks will provide additional capabilities that are critical for IoT, such as network slicing and the capacity to connect exponentially more devices than is possible today.”

Smartphone subscriptions continue to increase and are forecast to surpass those for basic phones in Q3 this year. By 2021, smartphone subscriptions will almost double from 3.4 billion to 6.3 billion.

In 2016, a long anticipated milestone is being passed with commercial LTE networks supporting downlink peak data speeds of 1 Gbps. Devices that support 1 Gbps are expected in the second half of 2016, initially in markets such as Japan, US, South Korea and China, but rapidly spreading to other regions. Mobile users will enjoy extremely fast time to content thanks to this enhanced technology, which will enable up to two thirds faster download speeds compared with the fastest technology available today.

Further highlights from the Ericsson Mobility Report include:

A global growth story: mobile broadband subscriptions will grow fourfold in the Middle East and Africa between 2015 and 2021; mobile data traffic in India will grow fifteen times by 2021; and despite being the most mature market, US mobile traffic will grow 50 percent in 2016 alone.

Data traffic continues unabated growth: global mobile data traffic grew 60 percent between Q1 2015 and Q1 2016, due to rising numbers of smartphone subscriptions and increasing data consumption per subscriber. By the end of 2021, around 90 percent of mobile data traffic will be from smartphones.

Growing up streaming: teenage use of cellular data for smartphone video grew 127 percent in just 15 months. This, and the fact that teens are the heaviest users of data for smartphone video streaming (Wi-Fi and cellular combined), makes them the most important group for cellular operators to monitor.

LTE subscriptions grew at a high rate during Q1 2016: there were 150 million new subscriptions during the quarter – driven by demand for improved user experience and faster networks – reaching a total of 1.2 billion worldwide. LTE peak data speeds of 1 Gbps are anticipated to be commercially available in 2016.

Additional spectrum harmonization needed between countries planning early 5G deployment: 5G is expected to start more quickly than anticipated, and spectrum harmonization is needed between countries planning early roll-outs. This is in addition to the current process for WRC-19, which focuses on spectrum for commercial 5G deployments beyond 2020.

A bright future for microweather: microwave backhaul links can be used as accurate rainfall measurement tools – they are more numerous than rain gauges and offer higher resolution than weather radars. This has the potential to bring enormous value to people, business and society, for example in relation to the impact of severe weather conditions around the world.

The Ericsson Mobility Report is one of the leading analyses of mobile data traffic available, providing in-depth measurements from live networks spread around the globe. The report uses these measurements and analysis, together with internal forecasts and other relevant studies, to provide insights into current traffic and market trends in the Networked Society.

The Traffic Exploration Tool, which accompanies the report, can be used to create customized graphs and tables. The information can be filtered by region, subscription, technology, traffic and device type.

The report defines a connected device as a physical object that has an IP stack enabling two-way communication over a network interface.

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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