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Promising year in tech predicted for SA

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The arrival of hyperscale cloud data centres in South Africa, the commercial maturing of new interactions such as Augmented Reality, and the rise of the intelligent edge paint a promising picture for 2018, writes DOUG WOOLLEY, General Manager of Dell EMC.

But these are not just local events – globally the next year holds a lot of promise. As highlighted in the Next Era of Human-Machine Partnership report from Dell Technologies and the Institute for the Future (IFTF), some profound new realities are just around the corner.

Mega clouds are a very notable prediction from this report. ‘Mega clouds’ are so-called because they will span multiple cloud vendors. Companies and individuals will start expecting to shift workloads, data and other assets between those vendors, avoiding lock-ins and ‘cloud silos’ that are emerging as the migration away from client-server concepts continue.

In South Africa this will be preempted by the arrival of Azure hyperscale datacentres, a clear reflection of the country’s growing demand for cloud’s efficiency and innovation delivery. But the impact will be felt beyond our borders, reaching out to the rest of the SADC region. Doug Woolley, GM of Dell EMC South Africa, is particularly excited about opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa:

“It’s one of our fastest growing regions. We will look at getting more potential investment for the SADC and Indian Island territories. We see a lot of upside, we see a lot of partners engaging with us and also a lot of customers having conversations. And we’ve had good, significant wins in the territory in the past six months. I am very happy with the rate and potential there.”

With this growth of cloud will come the distinct rise of the intelligent edge. This speaks of more decision-making capacity being shifted to devices located away from the core of cloud systems. The sensor on a security system or environmental monitor will not have to wait for feedback from the central hub in order to act, thus drastically reducing response times for all types of situations. Called the IQ of Things, this revolution is already evident in our cars – where sensors feed information to local systems inside the vehicles.

Such systems will start hosting certain levels of artificial intelligence, a force that continues to reshape the world. In 2018, Dell EMC predicts this trend expanding into ‘thinking tasks’ at businesses. Using data, AIs will help companies significantly reduce time spent scoping, debating, scenario planning and testing every new innovation.

AI will also play a growing role in recruiting the right people and skills, which the report refers to as ‘bias checking’. This is the use of AI to get around human shortcomings. Not dissimilar to ‘blind’ auditions where musicians perform behind a screen, AI will be utilised to help inform hiring and promotion decisions without the unseen prejudice of humans.

Numerous companies are already using such practices. But they are the outliers. In 2018, we will start regarding them as the pioneers. Those include companies that will be using Augmented and Virtual Reality for remote interviews of candidates and engagements with customers. As digital entertainment such as e-sports grow in popularity, that tech-savvy audience will also drive the adoption of AR and VR in 2018.

Dell Technologies chairman and CEO, Michael Dell, had sight of this future when he launched the most ambitious technology merger in history between Dell and EMC, a future he has often articulated: “I think it’s nothing short of the beginning of a fourth industrial revolution, and the plot for us is being the essential infrastructure company.”

Today Dell EMC is a true end-to-end provider, from the vital infrastructure in the back to the point devices that people use to realise their ambitions. Even in South Africa, the shift has been near seamless. Less than 5 percent of employees had left the merged companies, shares have grown in key market segments, and a new partner programme is making waves with unmatched returns for everyone involved. These are things Woolley recounts with pride:

“It is always a challenge to bring two cultures together, even if they share similar outlooks. Over the past year, at a local level, we’ve managed to integrate the sales and product teams very well. On a technical level there has also been a lot work to integrate the guys under one infrastructure and leadership. From that people perspective I am very happy.”

Dell EMC believes 2018 will be a significant year in humanity’s progress and it is ready to be an active participant in that evolution, said Woolley:

“We are definitely riding that wave and having those conversations. Without sounding arrogant, I think we have positioned ourselves as the cloud infrastructure player. There is still, as an industry, work to do on how do we move effectively to the next level of cloud, and that is more around the application conversations. Dell EMC is very well positioned to have a meaningful conversation with customers on how do we cloudify their apps and get it on modern infrastructure.”

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Samsung in lock-step with its rivals?

Tonight Samsung will kick off the next round in the smartphone wars with the S10 range, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When Samsung unveils the new S10 smartphone at an event in San Francisco today, it will mark the beginning of the 2019 round of World War S. That stands for smartphone wars, although Samsung would like it to be all about the S.

Ever since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013, Samsung has held both technology and thought leadership in the handset world. Back then, Apple’s iPhone 5 was the last device from the American manufacturer that could lay claim to being the best smartphone in the world. With the 2013 launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple entered an era of incremental improvement, playing catch-up, and succumbing to market trends driven by its competitors.

Six years later, Samsung is fighting off the same threat. Its Chinese rival, Huawei, suddenly wrested away leadership in the past year, with the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro regarded as at last equal to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 9 – if not superior. Certainly, from a cost perspective, Huawei took the lead with its more competitive prices, and therefore more value for money.

Huawei also succeeded where Apple failed: introducing more economical versions of its flagship phones. The iPhone 5c, SE and XR have all been disappointments in the sales department, mainly because the price difference was not massive enough to attract lower-income users. In contrast, the Lite editions of the Huawei P9, P10 and P20 have been huge successes, especially in South Africa.

Today, for the first time in half a decade, Samsung goes into battle on a field laid out by its competitors. It is expected to launch the Galaxy S10 Plus, S10 and S10 e, with the latter being the Samsung answer to the strategy of the iPhone XR and Huawei P20 Lite.

Does this mean Samsung is now in lock-step with its rivals, focused on matching their strategies rather than running ahead of them?

It may seem that way, but Samsung has a few tricks up its electronic sleeve. For example, it is possible it will use the S10 launch to announce its coming range of foldable phones, expected to be called the Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex. It previewed the technology at a developer conference in San Francisco last November, and this will be the ideal moment to reclaim technology leadership by going into production with foldables – even if the S10 range itself does not shoot out the lights.

However, the S10 handsets will look very different to their predecessors. First, before switching on the phone, they will be notable by the introduction of what is being called the punch-hole display, which breaks away from the current trend of having a notch at the top of the phone to house front-facing cameras and speakers. Instead, the punch-hole is a single round cut-out that will contain the front camera. It is the key element of Samsung’s “Infinity O” display – the O represents the punchhole – which will be the first truly edge-to-edge display, on the sides and top.

The S10 range will use the new Samsung user interface, One UI, also unveiled at the developer conference. It replaces the previous “skin”, unimaginatively called the Samsung Experience, to introduce a strong new interface brand.

One UI went live on the Note 8 last month, giving us a foretaste, and giving Samsung a chance to iron out the bugs in the field. It is a less cluttered interface, addressing one of the biggest complaints about most manufacturer skins. Only Nokia and Google Pixel handsets offer pure Android in the local market, but One UI is Samsung’s best compromise yet.

It introduces a new interaction area, in the bottom half, reachable with the thumb, with a viewing area at the top, allowing the user to work one-handed on the bottom area while still having apps or related content visible above. One UI also improves gesture navigation – the phone picks up hand movements without being touched – and notification management.

The S10 range will be the first phones to feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, at least for the South African and American markets. That makes it 5G compatible, for when this next generation of mobile broadband becomes available in these markets.

They will also be the first phones to feature Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of the Wi-Fi mobile wireless standard. It will perform better in congested areas, and data transfer will be up to 40% faster than the previous generation.

The phones will be the first to use ultrasound for fingerprint detection. If Samsung gets it right, this will make it the fastest in-screen fingerprint sensor on the market, and allows for a little leeway if one pushes the finger down slightly outside the fingerprint reader surface. It does mean, however, that screen protectors will have to be redesigned to avoid blocking the detection.

Not enough firsts? There are a few more.

Most notably, it will be the first phone range to feature 1 Terabyte (TB) storage – that’s a thousand Gigabytes (GB) – at least for the top-of-the-range devices. Samsung last month announced that it would be the first manufacturer to make 1TB built-in onboard flash storage. Today, it will deploy this massive advantage as it once again weaponises its technology in the fight for smartphone domination.

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

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IoT set to improve authentication

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By Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President, Internet of Things Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

As it rapidly approaches maturity, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to continue a transformational trajectory, introducing new efficiencies in multiple fields by allowing measurement and analysis on a scale that has never been possible before. From agriculture to logistics, from retail to hospitality, from traffic to health, from the home to the office, the applications for monitoring ”things” are limited only by the imagination.

And South African (and African) businesses are showing abundant imagination in their practical deployments of IoT solutions in multiple settings, creating a better tomorrow through almost universal measurement and the introduction of new levels of convenience – including how to access locations, devices and services securely.

Any company, whether South African or international, should bear in mind that understanding consumer expectations can be the key to unlocking the full potential of IoT devices and related smart services.

According to Gemalto’s latest Connected Living study, improving the way consumers authenticate themselves to services is one of the most anticipated benefits of IoT, highlighting a desire for a more seamless and secure IoT experience.

Consumers are interested in advanced ways of authenticating themselves through automatic (based on behavioral patterns) or biometric techniques, lessening the need to have to intervene manually, all in the name of a much more streamlined authentication process. Smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have already placed fingerprint and facial recognition high on the agenda. There is also a widespread positive sentiment towards IoT’s potential for improving the quality of home life through connected, smart appliances.

Personalised services is something else that wins consumers over. In fact, a fluid, personalised and unified experience with continuity of services, together with security and privacy, is critical for the successful implementation of any technology.

And those types of services are today quite possible. With everything being connected – from small gadgets to digital solutions for large enterprises – IoT is no longer just a buzzword. That much is clear in a piece from Vodacom IoT managing executive Deon Liebenberg. Writing for IOL Online, Liebenberg provides insight into the sheer range of applications for IoT: the 20 use cases he cites range from the obvious, like transport and logistics, to the connected home and wearables; he even suggests tagging pets with IoT transmitters, for those who always need to know the whereabouts of the family cat.

Low-cost tags fitted to cats, dogs, lamp posts, shipping containers or other items are just one part of the puzzle, however. There are other two pieces; arguably the most complex part is the availability of communication networks in areas where there aren’t any WiFi networks, or indeed, anything else.

And that’s where the bigger takeaway from Liebenberg’s piece and other IoT trends articles becomes apparent. The communication networks are there, as are those tags: dedicated IoT networks (like LoraWAN, SigFox and narrowband IoT) are all available in South Africa.

So, too, is the third and final essential component. Software which is able to process the data generated by the tag and transmitted over the IoT network and into the internet. In this regard, there’s no shortage of solutions available from cloud providers like AWS and Azure; electronics giant Siemens, too, is in on the action, having recently launched a new cloud-based IoT operating system to develop applications and services for process industries, including oil and gas and water management.

This combination means it is quite possible right now to enable just about any use case. Business owners, who will know best how IoT can add value in their organisation, can now see their ideas becoming reality. Most crucial of all, IoT solutions delivering new levels of efficiency and convenience are not only possible, they are able to be offered with the simple and effective security that will drive consumer acceptance.

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