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Qualcomm’s Snapdragon gets snappier

Snapdragon 855, the latest Qualcomm chipset, adds 5G connectivity and AI in a smaller package, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Qualcomm Technologies has announced the first mobile chipset to support multi-gigabit 5G connectivity, which allows a device to connect to multiple masts to get speeds of more than 1Gbps.

Qualcomm, the company that powers high-end phones like the Google Pixel, Sony Xperia, the LG G range, and some of the Samsung Galaxy line, revealed details of the Snapdragon 855 at the Snapdragon Technology Summit in Hawaii this week.

The chip also introduces smarter handset features by including artificial intelligence (AI) processing and dedicated processing for augmented reality (AR) experiences. Following in the footsteps of Huawei and Apple, the smaller 7nm chip will offer users better battery life and better processing of photography and gaming.

“As operators launch 5G networks in early 2019, consumers will – for the first time – be able to take advantage of transformative 5G consumer experiences on mobile devices with Snapdragon 855,” said Alex Katouzian, senior vice president at Qualcomm Technologies. “We are proud to share our technology inventions and be among the first to bring mobile 5G to the world.”

The embedded 5G technology is implemented in the Snapdragon X50 modem, which Qualcomm claims is up to 20 times faster than other modems on the market. Wi-Fi was also improved, adding Target Wakeup Time functionality to allow for 67% less battery usage and support for the latest WPA3 security standard.

The Snapdragon’s performance has been boosted, with the latest CPU, the Kyro 485, improving up to 45% on performance. Graphics, with the latest Adreno 650 GPU, will get a performance boost of up to 20% compared to the previous generation, while maintaining the top spot for performance per watt in the mobile graphics industry.

AI processing is up to 3 times faster than the previous generation, performing more than 7 trillion operations per second (7 TOPs). This has many applications, from taking better photos to listening to optimised audio. For example, it has applications in the on-device Voice Assistant, using dedicated AI acceleration for echo cancellation and noise suppression, so users can talk to their phone even when it’s noisy around them.

Image and video processing has been improved to current industry standards like High-Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC) and High-Efficiency Image Codec (HEIC). Not only do these save space on a user’s device by up to 50%, compared to a JPEG image, but it also allows for capturing of over 1 billion colours in HDR10+ video. The Snapdragon 855 can now classify objects the phone focuses on, in real-time, during video recording in 4K HDR at 60fps.

Overall, the announcement of the Snapdragon 855 is exciting for Android users approaching their next upgrade. OnePlus has also announced that it will be making use of the 855 in its upcoming devices. That said, Qualcomm announced that the chipset will only be ready sometime in the first half of 2019, which may mean that its implementation will be in late 2019 or early 2020.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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