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iPad, Apple Watch, get updates

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Apple has unveiled the latest Apple Watch Series 5, debuting an Always-On Retina display that never sleeps, and the iPad 7th generation, featuring a bigger display and smart keyboard support.

The Apple Watch Series 5 features an always-on display, so one can check the time and other important information, without raising or tapping the display. New location features, from a built-in compass to current elevation, help users better navigate their day, while international emergency calling allows customers to call emergency services directly from Apple Watch in over 150 countries, even without an iPhone nearby. 

It is also available in a wider range of materials, including aluminum, stainless steel, ceramic and a new titanium finish. Combined with the power of watchOS 6, says Apple, users are empowered to take charge of their health and fitness with new features like Cycle Tracking, the Noise app and Activity Trends.

“We’ve seen Apple Watch have a meaningful impact on our customers’ lives and we’re excited to deliver even more capabilities with Apple Watch Series 5 and watchOS 6,” says Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “The seamless integration of new hardware and software delivers an enhanced experience that makes it even easier to stay active and connected to the people and information users care about.”

Apple Watch Series 5 features a new display that allows the time and important information to remain visible at all times. Each watch face has been optimized for the new display and to preserve battery life, the screen intelligently dims when a user’s wrist is down and returns to full brightness with a raise or a tap. Several advanced technologies work together to deliver this new feature, including the industry’s only low-temperature polysilicone and oxide display (LTPO), ultra-low power display driver, efficient power management integrated circuit and new ambient light sensor. This combination of hardware innovation and software design allows Apple Watch Series 5 to offer all-day 18-hour battery life.

Updated location features on Apple Watch Series 5 provide customers with greater navigation tools to use throughout the day. The new built-in compass and updated Maps app allow users to see which way they are facing. They can use the new Compass app to see heading, incline, latitude, longitude and current elevation. 

For added personal safety while traveling, users with cellular models of Apple Watch Series 5 can now complete international calls to emergency services, regardless of where the device was originally purchased or if the cellular plan has been activated. International emergency calling also works with fall detection, if enabled, to automatically place an emergency call if Apple Watch senses the user has taken a hard fall and remains motionless for about a minute.

Many were puzzled by the absence of sleep tracking technology, which is a standard feature on other major wearables like Fitbit. Eric Cohen, Senior Vice President of Consumer Business at Cambridge Consultants, offers some insight into this omission:

“I’m sure that Apple could get the tech right, but perhaps they’ve already seen where sleep monitoring is headed: “contactless” sleep monitoring (nothing worn on the body) will allow users all the benefits of technology, without interrupting our normal lifestyles by worrying about charging and the nuisance of wearing devices while sleeping.”

Additional health and fitness features come with watchOS 6, including the new Cycle Tracking app, which gives customers the ability to log important information related to their menstrual cycles, and see predicted timing for their next period and fertile windows using the convenience of Apple Watch. The Noise app helps users understand the ambient sound levels in environments such as concerts and sporting events that could negatively impact hearing, and Activity Trends on iPhone provides a long-term view of their activity patterns to help them understand their progress. watchOS 6 also brings dynamic new watch faces, including Meridian, Modular Compact and Solar Dial, which can be easily customized for quicker access to favorite apps.

Click here to read about the new iPad.

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Liquid, IS, partner for 5G roll-out to corporate SA

Liquid Telecom has teamed up with Internet Solutions to develop an ultra-fast wholesale connectivity service for enterprises – including telcos

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Liquid Telecom South Africa has partnered with Internet Solutions (IS) to provide wholesale 5G connectivity targeted at delivering enterprise services to their existing and potential new customer bases.  

The 5G service will provide operators and internet service providers with faster speeds, lower latency and greater capacity, ultimately enabling businesses to deliver richer experiences to their customers.

“Providing IS with 5G wholesale services as an alternative to fibre connectivity, Liquid Telecom South Africa is highlighting how we are delivering on our commitment to the market to continue being the best business network in South Africa,” says Reshaad Sha, CEO of Liquid Telecom South Africa. “Local businesses are adopting technologies like SD-WAN, IoT, and cloud computing, However, these technologies need network connectivity that provides high quality, increased capacity, and greater reliability to ensure optimum performance.” 

IS managing executive Dr Setumo Mohapisays the company has evolved its networking model to provide a high-performance hybrid network that aggregates multiple WAN transport services. 

“This enables clients to fully utilise all available bandwidth for high availability and total application performance,” he says. “The innovation, flexibility and range of 5G use cases that this offers for different industries such as agriculture, retail, manufacturing, and logistics is boundless. 5G is a core component of our hybrid network and we are extremely excited about the extended capability this partnership with Liquid enables us to offer our clients.

Liquid Telecom is the first to launch a 5G wholesale network service, which it says will “accelerate the building of Africa’s digital future and the  digital revolution in South Africa”.

Liquid Telecom is a leading communications solutions provider across 13 countries, primarily in Eastern, Southern and South Africa. It serves mobile operators, carriers, enterprise, media and content companies and retail customers with high-speed, reliable connectivity, hosting and co-location and digital services. This means that it can provide the basis for its clients to offer 5G services to end-users.

Liquid has built Africa’s largest independent fibre network, approaching 70,000km, and operates state-of-the-art data centres in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Nairobi.

IS, which pioneered Internet connectivity in South Africa, is a subsidiary of the Dimension Data Group and part of Japanese telecoms giant NTT. It now leverages its infrastructure and global footprint to support organisations with the rapid deployment of emerging technologies. Still headquartered in South Africa, it has operating offices in Mozambique, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria. It has 82 Points of Presence (PoPs) in 19 African countries and four international PoPs in London, Germany, Hong Kong and Singapore. The company has over 10 000 square metres of data centre space across Africa.

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So you think you need a Blockchain?

By CAYLE SHARROCK, Head of Engineering at Tari Labs

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It’s 2020, and we’re still in hype overdrive about blockchain. If conventional wisdom is to be believed, blockchain is going revolutionise and disrupt every industry known to humankind.

But does every industry actually need a blockchain? Let’s take an objective look at two of the most aggressively touted use cases for Blockchain to see if it’s all it’s cracked up to be.

Before we do this, let’s remind ourselves about the four pillars of Blockchain technology and what they give you: tamper-evident logs (the blockchain); cryptographic proof of ownership (digital signatures); public accountability (the distributed public ledger); and corruption resistance (proof of work).

If we use these four features as a checklist, we can evaluate any proposed use case of blockchain technology and decide whether the potential is genuine, or whether it’s just buzzword bingo.

Banking

There have been hundreds of headlines over the past four years proclaiming how Bank Y will use Blockchain to disrupt the industry. Usually, what they claim is that they can perform interbank settlements at a fraction of the cost of what the incumbent monopoly, SWIFT, provides.

So does Blockchain work for the banking sector? Clearly, tamper detection of the transaction history is a must-have here. What about digital signatures and proof of ownership? Without a doubt. Multiple signatures? The more the merrier.

Bitcoin was conceived as trustless money – and with banks, we have a fairly small community that is heavily regulated, and that do actually trust each other to some degree. Essentially, banks use governments’ big stick instead of proof-of-work to keep everyone honest. This works most of the time. Except when it doesn’t. The 2008 crisis and the 2012 Cypriot haircuts are just two examples.

How about Public Accountability from distributed public records? No, public accountability has never been the banking sector’s strong suit. That means the banks’ ideal “blockchain” is just tamper detection, plus digital signatures. This sounds like a bunch of databases that have tightly controlled access along with strong cryptographic signatures.

The banks actually gave this non-Blockchain blockchain a name: Distributed Ledger Technology. And it’s pretty much what SWIFT already does.

Verdict: Do banks need Blockchain? Nah. They want a cheaper alternative to SWIFT.

Supply-chain management

Blockchain technology is going to revolutionise the supply-chain management (SCM) industry, we’re told. BHP Billiton was one of the first large companies to announce in 2016 that they were implementing Blockchain for their core sample supply chain. We’ve heard similar stories about the diamond industry.

Whether you think a proof-of-work Blockchain makes sense for SCM is really secondary to the challenge of The Oracle problem: blockchains are brilliant at letting you know when data in the system has been compromised. But they have zero sense whether that data is true or not.

The Oracle problem arises whenever you need to bring the concept of truth, or providence from the real world into a trustless system like Blockchain. How does the core sample data get onto the blockchain ledger? Does a guy type it in? Does he never make mistakes? Can he be bribed to type in something else? If it’s a totally automated system, can it fail? Be hacked?

Maybe we solve this by having two systems running and we compare the results. Or three. Or four. Now we have the problem of having to ship our samples to different labs around the world and be sure they weren’t tampered with in transit. If only we had a blockchain-based SCM system to secure our blockchain-based SCM system …

Verdict: The Oracle problem is really hard, and torpedos a lot of tangible good-based blockchain proposals.

So, back to our original question: do you need a blockchain? Ultimately, the future of blockchain applications (beyond money) lies in whether the benefits of having a decentralised, public record secured by proof-of-work outweighs its costs. There are plenty of really encouraging use cases emerging – think ticketing, for example, or trading in any digital assets. But for most industries, the jury’s still out.

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