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Machine learning enters Tour de France

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Machine learning technologies will be introduced at this year’s Tour de France to give cycling fans across the globe an unprecedented experience of this year’s event. 

Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), organisers of the Tour de France, and Dimension Data, the official technology partner of the Tour de France, made the  announcement ahead of the race beginning in Düsseldorf tomorrow (July). The race finishes at the Champs-Élysées in Paris on 23 July.

Dimension Data’s data analytics platform, which was developed in partnership with ASO, incorporates machine learning and complex algorithms that combine live and historical race data to provide even deeper levels of insight as the race unfolds. Fans will also benefit from rider profiles to understand more about environments and circumstances in which riders perform best.

As part of a new pilot this year, ASO and Dimension Data are exploring the role of predictive analytics technologies to assess the likelihood of various race scenarios, such as whether the peloton will catch the breakaway riders at certain stages of the race.

Scott Gibson, Dimension Data’s Digital Practice group executive, said: “As more technology is introduced into sport, the viewing experience is transforming, and its popularity increases. What’s especially exciting for us is how we’re helping ASO to attract a new generation of digitally savvy fans, and how advanced technologies like machine learning are opening up new possibilities for providing the insights that today’s fans demand.”

At the core of the live tracking and data analytics solution are GPS transponders installed under the saddles of each bike. The data collected from these transponders is combined with external data about the course gradient and prevailing weather conditions to generate insights such as live speed and the location of individual riders, distance between riders, and composition of groups within the race.  This year, the solution will create and analyse over 3 billion data points during the 21 stages of the Tour, a significant increase from last year’s 128 million data points.

Christian Prudhomme, Director of the Tour de France at ASO, said: “Today, our followers want to be immersed in the event. They’re more digitally engaged on social media than ever before, and want a live and compelling second-screen experience during the Tour. Technology enables us to completely transform their experience of the race.”

The enhanced Tour de France solution uses a fully cloud-based, virtualised data centre which provides scale, and means fewer people are required on the ground to enable the solution. The cloud also provides geographic flexibility because it can be managed from anywhere in the world. This year, Dimension Data’s technical teams work together across four continents via hyperconnected mobile collaboration hubs equipped with the latest digital and virtual workplace technologies

Some Tour de France highlights include:

·       198 riders in 22 teams will generate over 150 million geospatial and environmental data readings along the 3,540km route.

·       The Tour de France live-tracking website, racecenter.letour.fr, which supported an average of 2,000 page requests per second in 2016, has been enhanced to support 25,000 page requests per second this year.

·       In 2016 there were 6,100 hours of TV broadcasts in 190 countries across 100 channels globally. Thanks to ASO, the number of TV broadcast hours will increase from 80 in 2016 to 105 this year and the race will be broadcast starting from the first kilometre of every stage.

·       Cybersecurity is a top priority for the Tour de France. During the 2016 race, Dimension Data’s cloud-based security system flagged 1,409,769 suspicious access attempts which were blocked.

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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