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Narrowband IoT hits SA

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At AfricaCom in Cape Town this week, MTN and Vodacom will both demonstrate solutions using the Narrowband Internet of Things .

Both Vodacom and MTN have announced major initiatives for building out Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) networks and services in South Africa. MTN is first over the start line, however, joining forces with Huawei to launch a Smart Water Metering solution. They say it’s “the first Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) solution in Africa”, and is designed to help MTN develop NB-IoT services to explore new markets.

The Smart Water metering solution enables the automated collection of utility meter data, addressing the issue of manual meter reading leading to high labour costs and missing or inaccurate data. Through sensors installed in water meters, customers can identify water pipeline leakage earlier. Household water meters will automatically report data on a regular basis, reducing fault probabilities and the operating expense.

Powered by Huawei’s NB-IoT technology, the sensor array is designed to serve as a diagnostic spine that underpins network management. The data gathered can be used to control waste water flows from each property, identify faults across the network and improve health and safety outcomes.

“NB-IoT is viewed by the industry as the answer for enterprise applications in a range of different areas, from utility meters to sensor monitoring to asset-tracking,” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology and Information Officer of MTN. “Now we’ve succeeded in the commercial trial of smart water metering, lots of services will be available to bring us a better connected Africa.”

He mentions wildlife tracking, smart farm, and smart parking, among other.

“The number of cellular IoT connections in Africa will grow seven-fold over the next three to four years, and NB-IoT will be a key driver for this trend,” says Jacky Chen, Managing Director of Huawei MTN Key Account Group. “Together with our partners, Huawei is applying ground breaking NB-IoT innovation to solve core challenges around IoT applications.”

NB-IoT will make IoT more efficient to connect objects requiring a long battery life and are located in hard-to-reach areas. This Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technology will connect more objects to the Internet of Things. Generally, the global IoT market is expected to be worth trillions of dollars by 2020.

MTN and Huawei will showcase the live Smart Water Metering Demo and other IoT services at AfricaCom 2016, running in Cape Town from November 15 to 17.

Vodacom has also commenced its Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network build, which it plans to commercially launch in major metropolitan areas across South Africa in 2017. It has already begun the process of upgrading various components of its network to support NB-IoT.

The company reiterates that a key characteristic of LPWA devices is power efficiency, resulting in devices being deployed in-field with batteries which could last up to many years. NB-IoT networks run on existing licensed spectrum, ensuring integrity of the communications channel as well as the delivery of data from the device to the end point.

“In investing in its network for NB-IoT, Vodacom will enable South Africans to participate in developing new solution sets for the Internet of Things,” says Vodacom Business Chief Officer Vuyani Jarana. “We look forward to working with the broader IoT industry to nurture an ecosystem of developers, engineers and entrepreneurs for NB-IoT applications. This will push the boundaries of what is possible as well as bring services to the market that will genuinely transform lives and businesses in South Africa for the better.”

A large portion of Vodacom’s network will only require a software upgrade to support the technology, which means that deploying NB-IoT across Vodacom’s existing base stations will be a relatively quick roll-out, driven by geographic deployment and based on demand.

New services enabled by NB-IoT will include the next wave of connected things, including environmental monitoring devices and smoke detector alarms.

NB-IoT also opens up new possibilities for Cloud technology as increasing volumes of data are extracted from the field, requiring additional process and storage capacity.

Jarana says: “This reaffirms the link between IoT and Cloud to deliver transformational business and socio-economic outcomes. Smart cities will no longer be a concept, but a reality when you combine the traditional Vodacom mobile and fixed line IoT connectivity stack, with the new NB-IoT offering.  The economics for connecting millions of things in a city becomes viable with this new access technology.”

In September, Vodafone Spain and Huawei announced the successful completion of the first over-the-air connection on a live network using NB-IoT.

Vodacom will also showcase its NB-IoT network and application capabilities through a live demonstration at AfricaCom in Cape Town this week.

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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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