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MWC: VMware moves to edge computing

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VMware has unveiled an Internet of Things (IoT) strategy to deliver new edge computing solutions for specific use cases, such as Asset Management and Smart Surveillance at this year’s Mobile World Congress.

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, VMware unveiled an Internet of Things (IoT) strategy to deliver new edge computing solutions for specific use cases, such as Asset Management and Smart Surveillance. These edge solutions will feature VMware vSAN hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) software, VMware vSphere and VMware Pulse IoT Center, and will be developed in collaboration with industry-leading partners.

VMware sees unique requirements and environments at the edge and will address them through use case specific solutions spanning:

  • Industrial remote IoT use cases such as oil well optimisation, utility grids, and smart city use cases where the things reside in ruggedised, disparate, outdoor and often times, remote locations with inconsistent network and power;
  • Factory and plants in support of closed networks, ruggedised indoor environments; and,
  • Branches and in-stores in support of unique space and power requirements and coordinated across many stores.

IoT introduces a new wrinkle in today’s centralised data center/cloud model. A new class of cost-effective edge infrastructure is required to process data inputs from millions or even billions of IoT endpoints that are separated from the core data center or the public cloud by bandwidth. This new infrastructure must be simple to manage as there are no IT specialists at the edge; cost-effective as the volume of edge installations is large; and, scalable to allow edge installations to grow over time.

“By 2022, as a result of digital business projects, 75% of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed outside the traditional, centralised data center or cloud, which is an increase from less than today’s 10%,” according to Gartner. (1) Local analytics offer faster response times, reduced storage costs, and an optimum use of bandwidth while also supporting data privacy and compliance requirements.

VMware to Deliver HCI Solutions for the Edge

HCI and VMware Pulse IoT Center are ideally suited to process and secure sensor data that bridges the physical and digital worlds. VMware is working on providing more efficient and more secure IoT infrastructure that is easy to manage, scale, and update so customers can accelerate IoT initiatives and realise ROI faster. Based on the leading hyper-converged solution, these edge solutions will feature real-time analytics in support of IoT initiatives where customers will have the choice of licensing third-party business analytics starter kits, in partnership with industry leaders, to help with content analytics and drive business decisions.

VMware offers a full ecosystem of server hardware for Edge infrastructure or gateway solutions depending on use case needs, environment, and desired rugged ability. These new solutions include VMware Pulse IoT Center for management, monitoring, and security of all edge systems/gateways and connected devices such as sensors and the appropriate management and security solution to support compute and storage infrastructure and applications across the edge.

VMware to Collaborate with Axis Communications and Dell EMC for Smart Surveillance Solution

VMware and Axis Communications are collaborating on an IoT solution for the surveillance industry. The solution will feature Axis Communications’ state of the art surveillance capabilities including IP cameras as well as 4G/LTE routers which can be deployed to protect properties, stores, and employees. With VMware Pulse IoT Center, customers will have a way to manage, monitor, and secure their Axis Communications cameras and routers. Initially, the solution will be available on a choice of Dell EMC servers and include the option of Dell Edge Gateways. Additionally, VMware is working with financial services organisations to develop the modern bank of the future using surveillance to optimise security and the customer experience.

VMware, Dell Technologies and Wipro Limited Team Up on IoT Solution for Manufacturers and Asset Management Services 

VMware and Wipro Limited, a leading global information technology, consulting and business process services company, are working together to offer manufacturers a complete edge to cloud IoT solution. The benefits of improved efficiency and productivity of machinery and other assets across the shop floor have the potential to contribute significant returns to manufacturers. Featuring Wipro’s IoT offerings, including its Looking Glass asset management platform and services capability, the solution will integrate multiple IoT platforms which are either hosted on-premises or in the cloud. By connecting their IoT environment to their data centers, customers will benefit from deeper analytics and machine learning. Wipro will also be one of the first system integrators to provide installation and management services for VMware’s IoT Edge solutions.

Manufacturers can use Wipro’s IoT Platform and analytics capabilities for real-time data processing and for predictive failure analytics for devices and equipment on the manufacturing floor. VMware Pulse IoT Center helps manage, monitor, and secure assets and data in facilities as well as the edge infrastructure. By combining Wipro’s complete IoT Platform and analytics capabilities with VMware’s Pulse IoT Center, customers have access to a complete and seamless solution.

VMware Supports Edge Computing Research

VMware, in conjunction with the National Science Foundation (NSF), has announced a new solicitation on Edge Computing Data Infrastructure for research that advances the state of the art in end-to-end networked systems architecture that includes edge infrastructures. VMware will fund two awards valued at a total of $6 million for U.S. university faculty members. Additional information is available here.

Supporting Quotes

“Building an edge computing solution today is a time-intensive exercise most enterprises can’t afford. Today, VMware unveils hyper-converged edge computing solutions that are cost-effective and will enable customers to build and scale secure, use case-specific IoT solutions that work for them from the edge all the way to the cloud, relying on proven, tested software they already use and trust. Together with ecosystem partners Axis, Wipro Limited and Dell EMC, we’re excited to deliver the first of many tailored solutions to meet the unique IoT needs of our enterprise customers,” said Ray O’Farrell, executive vice president & chief technology officer, VMware.

“With the convergence of IT and security top of mind for the industry, we’re excited to collaborate with VMware on an IoT solution for the surveillance industry,” said Scott Dunn, senior director, Business Development Solutions & Services, Axis Communications, Inc. “This collaboration will give us an outstanding opportunity to deliver a better experience for our mutual customers by providing a leading edge IoT platform and management solution.”

“Our partnership with VMware and Dell Technologies complements our end-to-end IoT solutions and enables us to realise business outcomes for our customers,” said Jayraj Nair, vice president and global head of IoT, Wipro Limited. “Asset management, smart manufacturing, logistics and supply chain solutions enabled by IoT technologies are ushering in new levels of operational efficiency for our global clients.”

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Why your first self-driving car ride will be in a robotaxi

Autonomous driving will take longer than we expect, and involve less ownership than the industry would like, writes Intel’s AMNON SHASHUA

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As we all watch automakers and autonomous tech companies team up in various alliances, it’s natural to wonder about their significance and what the future will bring. Are we realizing that autonomous driving technology and its acceptance by society could take longer than expected? Is the cost of investing in such technology proving more than any single organization can sustain? Are these alliances driven by a need for regulation that will be accepted by governments and the public or for developing standards on which manufacturers can agree?

The answers are likely a bit of each, which makes it a timely opportunity to review the big picture and share our view of where Intel and Mobileye stand in this landscape.

Three Aspects to Auto-Tech-AI

There are three aspects to automotive-technology-artificial intelligence (auto-tech-AI) that are unfolding:

  1. Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS)
  2. Robotaxi ride-hailing as the future of mobility-as-a-service (MaaS)
  3. Series-production passenger car autonomy

With ADAS technologies, the driver remains in control while the system intervenes when necessary to prevent accidents. This is especially important as distracted driving grows unabated. Known as Levels 0-2 as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), ADAS promises to reduce the probability of an accident to infinitesimal levels. This critical phase of auto-tech-AI is well underway, with today’s penetration around 22%, a number expected to climb sharply to 75% by 2025.1

Meanwhile, the autonomous driving aspect of auto-tech-AI is coming in two phases: robotaxi MaaS and series-production passenger car autonomy. What has changed in the mindset of many companies, including much of the auto industry, is the realization that those two phases cannot proceed in parallel.

Series-production passenger car autonomy (SAE Levels 4-5) must wait until the robotaxi industry deploys and matures. This is due to three factors: cost, regulation and geographic scale. Getting all factors optimized simultaneously has proven too difficult to achieve in a single leap, and it is why many in the industry are contemplating the best path to achieve volume production. Many industry leaders are realizing it is possible to stagger the challenges if the deployment of fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) aims first at the robotaxi opportunity.

Cost: The cost of a self-driving system (SDS) with its cameras, radars, lidars and high-performance computing is in the tens of thousands of dollars and will remain so for the foreseeable future. This cost level is acceptable for a driverless ride-hailing service, but is simply too expensive for series-production passenger cars. The cost of SDS should be no more than a few thousand dollars – an order of magnitude lower than today’s costs – before such capability can find its way to series-production passenger cars.

Regulation: Regulation is an area that receives too little attention. Companies deep in the making of SDSs know that it is the stickiest issue. Beside the fact that laws for granting a license to drive are geared toward human drivers, there is the serious issue of how to balance safety and usefulness in a manner that is acceptable to society.

It will be easier to develop laws and regulations governing a fleet of robotaxis than for privately-owned vehicles. A fleet operator will receive a limited license per use case and per geographic region and will be subject to extensive reporting and back-office remote operation. In contrast, licensing such cars to private citizens will require a complete overhaul of the complex laws and regulations that currently govern vehicles and drivers.

The auto industry is gradually realising that autonomy must wait until regulation and technology reach equilibrium, and the best place to get this done is through the robotaxi phase.

Scale: The third factor, geographic scale, is mostly a challenge of creating high-definition maps with great detail and accuracy, and of keeping those maps continuously updated. The geographic scale is crucial for series-production driverless cars because they must necessarily operate “everywhere” to fulfil the promise of the self-driving revolution. Robotaxis can be confined to geofenced areas, which makes it possible to postpone the issue of scale until the maturity of the robotaxi industry.

When the factors of cost, regulation and scale are taken together, it is understandable why series-production passenger cars will not become possible until after the robotaxi phase.

As is increasingly apparent, the auto industry is gravitating towards greater emphasis on their Level 2 offerings. Enhanced ADAS – with drivers still in charge of the vehicle at all times – helps achieve many of the expected safety benefits of AVs without bumping into the regulatory, cost and scale challenges.

At the same time, automakers are solving for the regulatory, cost and scale challenges by embracing the emerging robotaxi MaaS industry. Once MaaS via robotaxi achieves traction and maturity, automakers will be ready for the next (and most transformative) phase of passenger car autonomy.

The Strategy for Autonomy

With all of this in mind, Intel and Mobileye are focused on the most efficient path to reach passenger car autonomy. It requires long-term planning, and for those who can sustain the large investments ahead, the rewards will be great. Our path forward relies on four focus areas:

  • Continue at the forefront of ADAS development. Beyond the fact that ADAS is the core of life-saving technology, it allows us to validate the technological building blocks of autonomous vehicles via tens of new production programs a year with automakers that submit our technology to the most stringent safety testing. Our ADAS programs – more than 34 million vehicles on roads today – provide the financial “fuel” to sustain autonomous development activity for the long run.
  • Design an SDS with a backbone of a camera-centric configuration. Building a robust system that can drive solely based on cameras allows us to pinpoint the critical safety segments for which we truly need redundancy from radars and lidars. This effort to avoid unnecessary over-engineering or “sensor overload” is key to keeping the cost low.
  • Build on our Road Experience Management (REM)™ crowdsourced automatic high-definition map-making to address the scale issue. Through existing contracts with automakers, we at Mobileye expect to have more than 25 million cars sending road data by 2022.
  • Tackle the regulatory issue through our Responsibility-Sensitive Safety (RSS) formal model of safe driving, which balances the usefulness and agility of the robotic driver with a safety model that complies with societal norms of careful driving.

At Intel and Mobileye, we are all-in on the global robotaxi opportunity. We are developing technology for the entire robotaxi experience – from hailing the ride on your phone, through powering the vehicle and monitoring the fleet. Our hands-on approach with as much of the process as possible enables us to maximize learnings from the robotaxi phase and be ready with the right solutions for automakers when the time is right for series-production passenger cars.

On the way, we will help our partners deliver on the life-saving safety revolution of ADAS. We are convinced this will be a powerful and historic example of the greatest value being realized on the journey.

Professor Amnon Shashua is senior vice president at Intel Corporation and president and chief executive officer of Mobileye, an Intel company.

1Wolfe Research 2019.

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Sea of Solitude represents mental health issues through gaming

It’s a game that provides a tasteful visual representation of mental health issues. BRYAN TURNER dives into the Sea of Solitude.

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Disclaimer: This review is based on four hours of gameplay.

Sea of Solitude, the latest adventure game by Jo-Mei Games and EA Games, takes a sobering look at loneliness. It represents this loneliness visually, using light and dark environmental changes, as well as creatures players must encounter. The main character, Kay, must make it through the sea without finding herself trapped in a sea of loneliness. She meets fantastical creatures along her journey, and she must help them solve their challenges while keeping herself in a sane environment.

The game is systematic in the way it represents its important aspects. It starts with a striking visual art style and a soft storyline, which gives characters a chance to absorb the beauty of the game. As one gets a hang of the controls and used to the art style, the story kicks it up a few notches to reveal the harrowing backstories of the creatures that reside in the sea Kay must travel.

In particular, it features a creature that keeps flying away from Kay. This was frustrating because the previous chapter of the game presents a backstory for the creature that was not only devastating to the main character, but also to the player. Once Kay meets this creature, players must be ready to cry. It’s a brilliantly crafted story and hats off to Jo-Mei Games for being great storytellers.

Cornelia Geppert, CEO of Jo-Mei Games, told EA: “Sea of Solitude centres on the essence of loneliness and tugs on the heartstrings of its players by mirroring their own reality. It’s by far the most artistic and personal project I’ve ever created, written during a very emotional time in my life. Designing characters based on emotions was a deeply personal achievement for our team and we’re so excited for players to soon experience Kay’s powerful story of self-discovery and healing.”

Generally, I steer clear of games that are metaphors about mental health issues because they tend to be crass in how they address mental health. Sea of Solitude is quite different because of its level of relatability. Other games about mental health tend to be about a specific disorder that not many people experience, while loneliness is something that so many of us experience. Additionally, the representation of how loneliness affects Kay in the real world is sharp but tasteful. The combination of relatability and respectful representation is what makes the game’s story so brilliant.

Another great aspect of this game is the music scoring. It uses sound and the absence of sound very carefully to invoke the right feelings expected from players. The game wouldn’t be as good with the sound off and subtitles on, so future players are recommended to turn up the volume or put on headphones.

The game is long for an indie game, at around three or four hours of gameplay until the end is reached. Several sources say there is a hidden ending, so players can look out for that in a second playthrough.

The game’s story isn’t perfect, though. The eventual sameness of creature encounters is a little disappointing. This may be down to the expectation of being extremely devastated by all the stories of the creatures, especially when one is less than devastated by the subsequent stories. One of the most affecting creature stories was also presented at the beginning of the game, which set the bar very high for the rest of the creatures.

One creature, in particular, tries very hard to have the greatest emotional impact, but this comes across as blunt and dampens the meaning of what it was supposed to represent.

While I didn’t mind sharp representation, the perception of themes like bullying, estrangement, and suicidal thoughts may vary in appropriateness from player to player. Prospective players with existing painful mental health issues should consult gameplay videos, like the one below, before purchasing the game, to gauge appropriateness.

Overall, the game is incredible at connecting with what it is to be human and what it means to be lonely. Dealing with issues as physical creatures is a great touch, as the main character tends to resolve the problems of the creature by understanding what the problems mean.

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