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MWC: Four technologies stealing the show

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Four key technologies could steal the show at Mobile World Congress, writes REMI DE FOUCHIER, mobile solutions specialist at Gemalto.

We’re at Mobile World Congress (MWC) to hear about cutting edge developments across the increasingly complex and diverse mobile landscape. The theme of this year’s show is The Next Element, so here are the four biggest next elements we’re expecting to see:

  1. Stronger commitments on 5G

We all know that 5G is on its way. Many organisations are working hard to bring the technology to the masses, with the UK Chancellor, Philip Hammond, committing £740m to its development in the UK last November. While over in the US, AT&T and Verizon have begun trials. But as yet no firm promises regarding full-scale commercial launch have been made by anyone.

We’re expecting this to change at the show, with operators making stronger commitments that truly fulfil the entire promise of 5G. This means a revolutionised network that offers ubiquitous connectivity and network slicing – which allows operators to spin up autonomous, customised, isolated networks on demand for their business partners – not simply further discussion about testing new radio technology, which is just an evolution.

As part of this, we hope to see greater elaboration of use-cases for 5G beyond consumers’ smartphones and enhanced mobile broadband use cases. The improved reliability and ultra low-latency that 5G provides will have a huge impact on a big number of industries and governments and MWC should provide the forum to further the conversation. Security and standardisation will both be critical parts of this discussion, for the market to realize its business potential.

We’ll also see many more structuring partnerships being announced between device manufacturers, IoT players, infrastructure providers, systems integrators and cloud providers as the IoT ecosystem continues to develop with the promise of 5G and the flexibility introduced by this revolutionised, virtualised, sliced network core.

  1. Consumerisation of biometrics  

Last year saw MasterCard introduce “selfie” payments, marking a shift in both corporate and consumer trust in biometrics. We believe that the forthcoming year, starting with some big announcements from payment and hardware organisations at MWC 2017, will see wider consumerisation of biometric solutions. Smartphones will ship with several sources of biometrics, including heart beat detection, iris scanning and veins network mapping. OLED display makers will announce on-screen fingerprint readers as the desire for bezel-free displays on smartphones grows.

And of course, along with the hardware developments, so too must standards follow. We expect FIDO to announce standards, or at least a roadmap for standards, for biometrics on Android devices. It will be interesting to see how easy OEMs make it for developers to access all of these APIs, so that third-party apps can use them without compromising security.

  1. Network-proof connected cars

In recent years MWC has become a showcase for connected car technology and mobility applications, too. Last year’s event was the launch pad for Qualcomm and Mercedes-Benz’ self-driving car, and revenues from the sector are predicted to quadruple in the run up 2020. Both, the technology and new business models are evolving and are transforming the Automotive Industry into what is called New Mobility.

The big theme on New Mobility is to link connected cars with the digital life of the driver or passenger. Car IDs to be linked with the digital IDs of the end user. The Virtual Car Key (VCK) is a first example where the key as part of a digital Car ID will need to be securely stored on the end user mobile device. Opening a car and starting the engine is a crucial element of any comprehensive mobility app.

This year’s MWC is where we’ll start to see applications that will offer and end2end management of the end user ID and its storage into connected car. We will see concepts of further elements of the end user’s ID such as his very personal data plan that can be seamlessly used for infotainment applications in the vehicle. Secured and aimed for providing great user experience.

  1. Improved on-demand connectivity

The IoT ecosystem requires devices – whether for consumers or for industry – to be able to access connectivity on demand. eSIM and Remote SIM Provisioning will be the key to connecting to the cellular network the surge in consumer devices (think fitness trackers, personal drones, VR headsets, smart watches etc), but will also play a key role in enabling the Industrial IoT. For example, imagine a rent-a-car company that wants to switch the connectivity service provider of its entire fleet in one go.

However, this requires interoperability and common standards across devices. Huge progresses have been made in the past months for industrial IoT with multi players testing done by GSMA. Our products and solutions successfully completed these testing demonstrating the strength and depth of our commitment to the development of the M2M and IoT markets.

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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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students writing a test

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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