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Qualcom makes visual leap

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Qualcomm Technologies has introduced two new mobile platforms it says are designed to support a leap in performance to enable advanced photography and enhanced gaming, in addition to long battery life and fast LTE speeds. 

The Snapdragon 660 and 630 Mobile Platforms include the Snapdragon 660 and 630 SoCs (systems on chip), which encompass the baseband functionalities, as well as software and hardware components, including RF front end, integrated Wi-Fi, power management, audio codec and speaker amplifier, all to support a comprehensive mobile solution.

“With the introduction of the Snapdragon 660 and 630 Mobile Platforms, we are thrilled that features such as improved image quality and fast LTE speeds will now be available in a wide array of devices without sacrificing performance or quality,” said Kedar Kondap, vice president, product management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “This ensures that a greater number of consumers will be able to take advantage of higher quality user experiences in camera, audio and visual processing, connectivity, improved CPU and GPU performance, fast charging, security and machine learning.”

The Snapdragon 660 and 630 Mobile Platforms focus on seven categories of features:

  • Camera: The Qualcomm Spectra 160 premium camera ISP supports improved photographic image quality for more natural skin tones, superior low light photography, as well as better power efficiency and higher throughput for dual camera smartphones.  Also supported are features like smooth optical zoom, bokeh effects, dual pixel autofocus, and improved camcorder video stabilization;
  • Audio/Visual Processing: The Qualcomm Hexagon 680 DSP featuring vector extensions (HVX) on the Snapdragon 660 Mobile Platform enables high performance, power efficient processing of imaging, computer vision, and machine intelligence workloads, another first in the 600 tier. Optimized software libraries include support for TensorFlow and Halide. Both platforms also support Qualcomm All-Ways Aware technology with support for the Google Awareness API. This technology provides Qualcomm Technologies’ next generation of always-on contextual experiences and uses very low power running on the Hexagon DSP;
  • Connectivity: The Snapdragon 660 and 630 both feature a Snapdragon X12 LTE Modem, paired with the new SDR660 RF transceiver, which support peak downlink data rates of 600Mbps to the 600-tier lineup of SOCs for the first time. The Snapdragon 660 supports 2×2 MU-MIMO 802.11ac Wi-Fi for twice as much data throughput and 60 percent lower download power consumption as the Snapdragon 652. It also offers improved coverage, especially in homes, and offices with hard to penetrate brick and concrete walls as well as advanced features such as LTE/Wi-Fi antenna sharing, and Dual Band Simultaneous (DBS) operation. Both platforms also come with advanced RF front-end support including Qualcomm TruSignal adaptive antenna tuning with carrier aggregation, designed to dynamically optimize signal quality in varying user conditions for wide network coverage and more consistent data and voice experience. The Snapdragon 660 and 630 are the first 600-tier chipsets with envelope tracking technology, including high-power user equipment (HPUE) support, for superior power efficiency and thermal performance. Both platforms also integrate powerful location engines with better sensitivity and support for new constellations (Galileo and QZSS) for faster location fix, enhancements to support mandatory emergency service requirements, as well as smoother pedestrian navigation with up to 50 – 75 percent lower power consumption (compared to previous generation). Both platforms also feature Bluetooth 5 support, which doubles the amount of data that devices can transfer compared to the previous iteration;
  • Improved CPU and GPU: The Snapdragon 660 Mobile Platform is the successor to the Snapdragon 653 and features a 20 percent improvement in the Qualcomm Kryo 260 CPU and 30 percent improvement in the Qualcomm Adreno 512 GPU performance, ensuring a better gaming and multimedia experience for end users. The Snapdragon 630, which succeeds the Snapdragon 625, offers a 30 percent increase in the Adreno 508 GPU performance over its predecessor, as well as a 10 percent increase in CPU performance over its predecessor. Both platforms are designed to offer excellent battery life;
  • Qualcomm Quick Charge 4: The Snapdragon 660 and 630 Mobile Platforms feature the latest innovations in Quick Charge technology, which supports up to 5 hours of talk time in just 5 minutes of charging and up to 50 percent battery life in just 15 minutes of charging;
  • Security: Both platforms support Qualcomm Mobile Security, which provides security focused hardware-based protection, user authentication and device attestation on the mobile device;
  • Machine Learning: OEMs and developers can also power immersive and engaging user experiences with machine learning on the Snapdragon 660 and 630 Mobile Platforms using the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine SDK. This heterogeneous software framework offers support for Caffe/Caffe2 and TensorFlow, making it easy to target and run neural networks on the Snapdragon core that matches the power and performance profile of the desired feature – CPU, GPU or DSP/HVX.

The Snapdragon 660 and 630 Mobile Platforms share the same modem and camera architecture, and are pin and software compatible, making it simpler and easier for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to build, test and calibrate their devices. Both platforms use a 14nm FinFET process and provide 4K video capture and playback capabilities, along with 8GB maximum memory and Vulkan API support. Additionally, the Snapdragon 660 Mobile Platform supports displays up to QHD (2K) resolution, whereas the 630 supports FHD/QXGA (1080p).

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AppDate: DStv taps Xbox, Hisense

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DStv Now for Xbox and Hisense

Usage of DStv Now, the online DStv service available free to DStv customers, is increasing rapidly with more than two million plays of live and Catch Up content per week. In addition to using DStv Now to watch TV on tablets and smartphones, an increasing number of DStv customers are also opting to use it as their primary method of getting DStv on additional TVs in the house. This is set to increase with the release of two new big-screen TV apps, one for Xbox gaming consoles (Xbox One, Xbox One S, Xbox One X) and another for Hisense smart TVs (2018 and newer models).

Expect to pay: A free download.

Platform: Any of the Xbox One range of gaming consoles and 2018 or later Hisense smart TVs.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your Xbox console or HiSense smart TV.

Santam Safety Ideas

Start-up businesses that have a FinTech or InsurTech business venture brewing are called to enter the third annual Santam Safety Ideas competition. Safety solutions or InsurTech ventures that are ready for piloting could win up to  R150 000 worth of incubation support and R200 000 in seed funding. 

The Safety Ideas competition was launched two years ago in partnership with LaunchLab,  Stellenbosch University’s startup incubator that facilitates valuable connections for corporates and startups sourced from the startup ecosystem and partner universities in South Africa. The previous winners are Herman Bester and Anton Swanevelder, co-founders of MyLifeLine – a wearable panic device that won the competition last year; and Ntsako Mgiba and Ntandoyenkosi Shezi, co-founders of Jonga – a cost-effective security system for low income families, which won the competition in 2017.

Entries close on 28 February 2019. For more information on how to enter, visit: www.santam.co.za/safetyideas/

Click here to read about the FNB Snapchat lens, Spotify Free with data saver, and 00:37.

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Fortnite fixes hackers’ hole

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Epic Games has repaired a vulnerability that exposed Fortnite, the world’s most popular game of the moment, to hackers. The hole, which was left in Epic’s web infrastructure,  allowed hackers to target players with email that appeared to come from Epic Games, but would have led them to a phishing site, where their log-in details would have been stolen.

Researchers at cyber security solutions provider Check Point Software alerted Epic to vulnerabilities that could have affected any player of the hugely popular online battle game.

Fortnite has nearly 80 million players worldwide. The game is popular on all gaming platforms, including Android, iOS, PC via Microsoft Windows and consoles such as Xbox One and PlayStation 4.  In addition to casual players, Fortnite is used by professional gamers who stream their sessions online, and is popular with e-sports enthusiasts.

If exploited, the vulnerability would have given an attacker full access to a user’s account and their personal information as well as enabling them to purchase virtual in-game currency using the victim’s payment card details. The vulnerability would also have allowed for a massive invasion of privacy, as an attacker could listen to in-game chatter as well as surrounding sounds and conversations within the victim’s home or other location of play. 

While Fortnite players had previously been targeted by scams that deceived them into logging into fake websites that promised to generate Fortnite’s ‘V-Buck’ in-game currency, these new vulnerabilities could have been exploited without the player handing over any login details.

Click here to read how the Fortnite hack would have worked.

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