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Now for the attitude divide

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The digital divide between developed and developing countries is no longer only about access to technology. A gulf also exists in attitudes to technology, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

It’s pretty obvious that developed countries almost seem to be a on a different planet from those with emerging economies when one considers use of high-tech devices and their visibility in the human environment.

But now an invisible divide between the haves and have-nots has also emerged, and that is the gulf between the attitudes of those living in such divergent economies.

A global study released by Microsoft last week shows that, while most Internet users believe personal technology has improved their lives, far more users in developing countries believe it has improved social bonds.

The report, entitled “Views from Around the Globe: 2nd Annual Poll on How Personal Technology Is Changing Our Lives,” is based on interviews with more than12 000 Internet users from 12 countries.

The most fascinating aspect of the study is how greater pervasiveness of technology seems to result in reduced enthusiasm for specific benefits, like fitness and the sharing economy. Instead, those with greater access tend to express greater concern about issues like privacy. Naturally, such issues are less important in environments where the implications of pervasive connectedness have not yet become apparent.

The key overall findings, according to Microsoft, include:

  • • Most respondents across all 12 countries think personal technology has had a positive impact on their ability to find more affordable products, start new businesses and be more productive;
  • • Most respondents say it has benefited social activism;
  • • More respondents than in the previous year said technology had had a positive impact on transportation and literacy;
  • • Fewer than in the previous year said it has benefited social bonds, personal freedom and political expression.
  • • Concern about technology’s impact on privacy jumped significantly. Most users across 11 of the 12 countries surveyed said technology’s effect on privacy was mostly negative.
  • • Majorities in all countries except India and Indonesia said current legal protections for users of personal technology were insufficient;

However, marked differences began to emerge when responses from developing countries were grouped, says Zoaib Hoosen, managing director of Microsoft South Africa.

“In developing countries, 60 per cent of respondents said technology had a positive impact on social bonds, versus only 36 per cent in developing countries. That’s a very significant difference.

“The sharing economy, with its online services like Uber, are seen as having a positive impact in in developing countries, while in developed countries they still preferred traditional services.

“The issue there is that they often didn’t have a viable alternative in developing countries, whereas such services in developed countries merely add additional options. It’s about leapfrogging traditional services that don’t exist versus disruption of existing services. The former has a bigger impact.”

Nevertheless, says Mark Penn, Microsoft executive vice president and chief strategy officer, “Internet users overwhelmingly say that personal technology is making the world better and more vital.”

The area that saw the greatest divergence was the effect of technology on trust in the media, says Penn.

“By a 2:1 margin, respondents in developing countries think personal technology has had a mostly positive effect on trust in the media. But in developed countries, the impression is the opposite: respondents believe by a 2:1 margin that the effect on trust in the media has been mostly negative.”

The key factor behind this attitude divide appears to be the media habits of respondents, and dependence on social media.

“These opposing views are borne out in the two kinds of countries’ media habits,” says Penn. “In developing countries, 70 per cent of respondents get most of their news from social media, compared to only 31 per cent in developed countries.”

With social media access accelerating in developing countries, thanks to rapidly growing access on phones, that divide is unlikely to be bridged very soon.

* The poll, conducted in the last two weeks of December 2014, included Internet users in Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the U.S.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee, and subscribe to his YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/GGadgets

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Welcome to world of 2099

The world of 2099 will be unrecognisable from the world of today, but it can be predicted, says one visionary. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK met him in Singapore.

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Futuristic structures tower over the landscape. Giant, alien-looking trees light up with dazzling colours amid the hundreds of plant species that grow up their trunks. Cosmetic stores sell their wares via public touch-screens, with products delivered instantly in drawers below the screens.

This is not a vision of the future. It is a sample of Singapore today. But it is also an inkling of the world we may all experience in the future.

Singapore was the venue, last week, of the World Cities Summit, where engineers, politicians, investors and visionaries rubbed shoulders as they talked about the strategies and policies that would enhance urban living in the future.

As part of the Summit, global payment technologies leader Mastercard hosted a small media briefing by one of Singapore’s leading thinkers about the future, Dr Damian Tan, managing director of Vickers Venture Partners. The company’s slogan “We invest in the extraordinary,” offers a small clue to Tan’s perspective.

“We look as far forward as 2099 because, as a venture capital firm, we invest in the long term,” he tells a group of journalists from Africa and the Middle East. “Companies explode in growth because there is value in the future. If there is no growth, they won’t explode.”

The big question that the Smart Cities Summit and Mastercard are trying to help answer is, what will cities look like in the year 2099? Tan can’t give an exact answer, but he offers a framework that helps one approach the question.

“If you want to look at 81 years into the future, and understand the change that will come, you need to double that amount and look into the past. That takes us to 1856. The difference between then and now is the difference you can expect between now and 2099.”

  •    Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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The phone that changes lives

It’s not going to take on the smartphone giants, but the new CAT phone is more likely to change lives, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When emergency responders arrived on the scene of a recent car accident along the Garden Route in the southern Cape, they found an unconscious man in the vehicle. But something about the belongings strewn about suggested there must have been more occupants.

A search of the bushes along the road, using flashlights, didn’t produce results. Then a team member used a Cat S60 smartphone, initiating its thermal imaging camera. Almost immediately, they found two “heat signatures”, which led them to two people who had been thrown out of the vehicle. They were in a serious and critical condition, but could be treated while there was still time. 

“The thermal imaging camera is a life saver for us and has become a must have after it helped save lives and property,” says Gee Swart, team leader at EDR International, a disaster risk reduction and response agency.

The team also use their Cat S60s to take emergency calls, dispatching resources through cellular calls and Push-to-talk (PTT), a two-way radio-type calling function. These were all bonuses; the main reason they were using the phone was for its rugged design and durability in harsh environments.

“The ruggedness and durability are like no other device I’ve used before,” says Swart. “I’ve used it on fire lines where it can be 60 degrees plus. I’ve used it in sub-zero temperatures and it performed brilliantly. It’s been dropped more times than I can remember and it has survived direct sprays from fire hoses.” 

It is rare to come across such enthusiasm for a handset. Yet, Cat phones are almost unknown among consumers. They are built by the Bullitt Group, under license from industrial and construction vehicle maker Caterpillar. 

When the first handsets emerged with that brand, it competed with a wide variety of devices in what became known as the rugged phone category. A heavy focus on durability in extreme situations and specialised requirements in those situations eventually set it apart. The thermal camera on the Cat S60 cemented its reputation, and it was regarded as the ultimate rugged phone.

Now, the new Cat S61 takes reputational leadership of the segment further. It arrived in South Africa this month, to the cheers of emergency workers, game rangers, security officers and construction workers. It refines the design of the S60, with a full rubber back, improved thermal camera, air quality sensor, and a laser assisted distance sensor. A ridge used on the S60 to house additional technology is now a design feature, referred to as a sharkfin, further differentiating the phone.

The distance sensor is intended to be an estimation tool, and is ideal for measuring rooms, buildings and spaces for renovation, repairs, furnishing, and alterations. But it may well produce new approaches and even business models once it becomes widely used.

“Two years ago, we didn’t know how people were going to use the thermal camera,” said Pete Cunningham, vice president and senior product head at Bullitt He is also the mind behind the Cat S60 and S61 phones and their features. “We didn’t invent the thermal camera, but we were the first to put it in a smartphone.  We knew the obvious things. But, for example, we didn’t know how and to what extent it would be used in agriculture. 

“We didn’t expect highly specialised uses like roofers checking if beams are rotten because they can detect higher water content. As a result when UK local authorities are called in to repair a leaking roof, instead of going into a property and replacing a whole roof, they only need to replace a segment of roof.”

Speaking during a visit to South Africa last week, Cunningham said one of his favourite examples of unexpected uses was in animal husbandry.

“Earlier this year a farmer in England, Rob Hodgkins, was out delivering lambs, and he was using the thermal camera because the heat map lets you see inflammation in animals, when one area generates more heat than another. In the past, he had used thermal imaging cameras, which cost thousands of pounds, to help find and identify hypothermic lambs.

“The snow had come late this year, and lambs were being born while the snow was thick on the ground. He learned of a lamb that had become separated from its mother at night, due to a dog scaring the sheep, and raced to the scene. Using the thermal camera on his phone, he found the creature in total darkness.”

In South Africa, the Cat S60 brought instant success to policeman Stoffel Holtzhausen, who bought it when he heard about the thermal imaging feature. Within one week of purchasing it, he used it to catch two dangerous criminals who had escaped custody.

He often drops the phone while holding down criminals, and it has fallen out of his pocket while he was riding a police motorcycle. Yet, it remains completely usable. This kind of experience delivers a level of customer satisfaction that marketing can’t buy. 

Word of such successes spreads fast, and South Africa is consistently Cat’s second or third biggest market in the world, with Germany showing the highest sales. The Cat S60 is expected to have sold half-a-million units when it reaches the end of its marketing life.

“We see tremendously high satisfaction rates,” says Cunningham. “No less than 88% of users say they would recommend us to friends and family, and 89% indicate they are very likely to buy a Cat phone again in future. You have to make a conscious decision to buy one of these products. You’re going against the mainstream. We have a community and they’re very engaged with us.”

The result, in recent years, has been rapid growth. In the first five years after its founding in 2009, Bullitt numbered only 25 full-time staff. Since Cunningham joined in 2014, the team has grown almost ten-fold, and will reach 250 by the end of this year.

“We talk intensively to our customers. Over the last two years we surveyed over 50 000 Cat users. Data and feedback from those conversations drive how we shape the portfolio for the future. The S61 came about because of survey data from our users. For example, customers told us they were disappointed in camera performance, so we used that to guide us to improve it. 

“Now you can use cool technology to enhance images. So if a plumber is taking a photo in low light of a part number under the sink, the software in the phone recognizes text in the photo and enhances the image quality for reading text.”

Cunnignham enthuses about the numerous tests done to push the limits of the phone’s durability, from putting it in tumble dryers to using it in the sea. An underwater mode, now standard in Cat phones, allows the power button to be used to switch between video and still images.

From capturing action under the sea to tracking poachers in game reserves, from tracing hot water pipes behind walls to hanging curtains, it is a phone that is changing working lives. Not to mention saving lives.

CAT S61 specs:

Display: 5.2” Full HD (1920 x 1080), IPS, auto switch support and wet-finger / glove-on working technology; Corning Gorilla Glass 5
Storage: 64 GB ROM
Memory: 4 GB RAM (Expandable via microSD card)
Processor: Qualcomm SD630 Octacore 2.2GHz
Operating system: Google Android Oreo (with upgrade to P, the next version of Android)
Audio: FM Radio, Music Player
Video Recording: 3840 × 2160 at 30 fps Video Playback: 3840 × 2160 at 30 fps
Maximum Downlink Data Rate: 600Mbps
Maximum Uplink Data Rate: 150Mbps
Side: Power key, volume (up/down), programmable key
Sensors: Thermal camera (FLIR); Indoor Air Quality Sensor (humidity & temperature); E-compass; Proximity Sensor; Ambient Light Sensor; Accelerometer; Gyroscope; Location; Barometer.
Dimensions: 150 x 76 x 13mmRugged features: Ingress Protection (IP68) – sand, dust and dirt resistant, waterproof up to 3m for 60 minutes; Drop Tested up to 1.8m onto concrete ; Military spec 810G; Thermal Shock – handles low to high temperature differences from -30°C to 65°C for up to 24hours; resistant to vibration – category 4; Resistant to humidity and salt mist
Main camera: 16MP autofocus with PDAF, Dual LED flash Thermal: FLIR Lepton
Front camera: 8MP fixed focus
Battery capacity: 4500mAh, Quick charge 4.0
Other: Audio Jack, Bluetooth, NFC, USB Type C, USB-OTG, Nano SIM, GPS

  •    Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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