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Robot kits come to SA

Young engineers’ dreams to create, programme and control their own robotic creations are about to come true as Gammatek will distribute robot kits from Ubtech Robotics.

Robot kits available to South Africa include Alpha1 Pro, a household programmable humanoid robot that can be used for education and entertainment, and Jimu Robot, an interactive robotic building block system that lets kids easily build, programme and share their robot creations.

Gammatek’s Zev Cherniak says: “These are the robots that youngsters dream of. Suitable for children as young as age, and upwards, these interactive robot building kits go beyond pure play and also challenge our perception of educational toys. While stimulating creativity and imagination, Ubtech Robotics building kits encourage critical thinking, problem solving, three dimensional engineering and collaboration. The possibilities are quite simply endless.”

Says sales executive Andy Chen, “The UBTECH Alpha1 Pro Humanoid Robot is a household programmable humanoid robot that is both educational and entertaining. Alpha1 Pro has 16 high-precision robotic servo motors, making him capable of reproducing human movements. Able to do push-ups, choreograph, even make kung-fu moves; no human movement is out of its reach. Each robotic servo can rotate at a given speed, allowing him to perform precise movements.”

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Youngsters can dance with him, play sports with this new fitness coach, sing along with him or teach him to tell stories. With Bluetooth 4.0, Alpha1 Pro connects to the mobile app, available on iOS and Android, which allows users to control and programme their robot. Using the app, players can control up to five robots via a smartphone or tablet.

With the programming PRP (Pose, Record and Playback) functionality, youngsters save new movements by moving Alpha1 Pro manually and launching the recording option. They can then edit the speed of every move, giving them the freedom of creation and endless editing possibilities.

Youngsters can also personalize their robot’s movements using the Alpha Robot programming software, available on Windows and Mac operating systems. With the intuitive 3D interface, they can select the robotic servo; select the rotation angle; define speed of the movement and even add music or a voice clip.

Once finished, the sequence can be transferred onto the robot via a USB and launched via the mobile app. Another advantage of Alpha1 Pro is the community platform which allows users to download online actions edited by Ubtech or by other users of Alpha worldwide. Equipped with a built-in speaker, the robot facilitates learning of simplified programming, integrates the concept of balance and helps children to understand the mode of moving in space by breaking down each movement.

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It’s suitable for young amateurs and beginners thanks to its “finger-friendly” structural design as well as eco-friendly and “shock resistant” materials.

Jimu Robot Kits use snap-together, interlocking parts and connectors which allow youngsters to build their own robots. Smooth motion robotic servo motors allow the robot to reproduce pre-set movements or movements programmed via the Jimu app available on available on iOS and Android. Jimu Robot Kits available in South Africa include the Jimu Mini Kit, Jimu Explorer and Jimu Tankbot Kits.

The Jimu Mini Kit comes with everything needed to build the MuzzBot, Ostrich or Bull robots and includes four smooth motion robotic servo motors and 253 snap-together interlocking parts and connectors. Explorer Kit comes with everything needed to build five models including a Baby, Parrot, Penguin, T-Rex, and Walrus. The kit includes seven smooth motion robotic servo motors and 561 snap-together interlocking parts and connectors.

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All Jimu kits include a main control box and a lithium ion battery, adapter and feature:

·       Interchangeable Parts – All Jimu Robot parts are interchangeable with other Jimu sets, so after building the official models, you can create your own inventions by mixing with parts from any other set.

·       Robotic Servo Motors – The key to the Jimu Robots’ amazingly lifelike movements is the high-torque robotic servo motor, allowing for fluidity and stability when moving from one pose to another.

·       Jimu App – The free app provides easy-to-follow 3D-illustrated building instructions, pre-programmed actions, Pose-Record-Play and direct-servo programming, Blockly coding to sequence your actions, and an in-App “Joystick” remote to control your Jimu Robot in real time on your smart device. The app also serves as a portal to a closed online community of Jimu enthusiasts.

Jimu Robots were built from the ground up to specifically meet the needs of STEM curriculum:

·       Science (physics, electronics)

·       Technology (advanced motors, sensors)

·       Engineering (building & creating, software-hardware interface)

·       Math (geometry, balance and programming)

The robot kits will be available through an exclusive network of retail partners including Cellucity , Digicape , Incredible Connection, iStore , New World , Sandton Stationary and Print ,  Technomobi.co.za and Takealot.com.

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Cisco gives pre-owned tech a Refresh

In a market of constant upgrades, Cisco Refresh aims to keep quality product away from landfills, writes BRYAN TURNER.

When one gets a new smartphone upgrade, the old device may be used as a backup or can be used by someone else. In business environments, equipment upgrades may not be conducive to keeping old equipment around, which may send older, working equipment to landfills.

This is where Cisco’s Refresh initiative comes in. At Cisco Connect in Sun City this week, Ehrika Gladden, VP and general manager of Cisco Refresh, lifted the lid on a little-known aspect of the company’s strategy. 

“Refresh is Cisco’s global pre-owned equipment business unit,” said Gladden. “It is certified to meet the quality and engineering standards of Cisco. It is licensed for software and it’s also inclusive of a services warranty.

“Our responsibility in 80 countries around the world is tied to both the recovery of assets and the ability to leverage those assets at a lower price point. This ensures our sustainability and proper usage of the Earth’s resources while providing access to small and medium businesses. The products are typically in the range of 20-40% cheaper. The products represent the entire portfolio for Cisco in some part, the majority of that product set is 2+ years in terms of generation.”

Cisco’s Circular Economy initiative ensures a sustainable loop through businesses willing to pay a premium for the latest, cutting-edge solutions, while Cisco markets older, working equipment for resale to those who don’t require the latest solutions. This ensures far less new components need to be used in a product range.

“We are leveraging the model of remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and reusing,” said Gladden. “Depending on the product set, there is a certain set of product yield that we expect. They vary from product to product, but we do have a percentage that doesn’t make it through.

“Those are always reused, meaning we will look at those products and decide to use them completely differently, leveraging the components, remanufacturing back into the overall build process. If that can’t be done, we will go into a recycle process where we melt those products down to reuse them.”

Repairing and refurbishing older products isn’t just that. Cisco is creating repair centres that are owned by third-parties to uplift local ownership.

“The repair centres, as a global manufacturer, is Cisco’s entree into local ownership,” said Gladden. “I want to be precise about what I mean by local ownership. It’s critical for us to have a localised presence, but doing that through ownership. When you look at inclusive economies, those that are participative, to be sustainable – not in the product set, but generationally.

“The ability as a global manufacturer through a local ownership model  isto create a repair centre where a product can be returned, screened, tested, and repaired, leveraging the talent that the Networking Academy is creating.”

Cisco is working closely with local governments to understand where it operates and how to leverage the skills in the market.

Gladden said: “We are also super excited about the National Development Plan and African Union statements which with we align: eradication of poverty, job creation, ownership, healthcare, education, it all fits in the model. So we were very excited to have the opportunity to come to Africa first to announce this. Over the next twelve months, we want to establish our first repair centres, and in the next 3 to 5 years, build that vision into a reality.”

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Why Data Privacy has become a Pipe Dream

If you’re active on WhatsApp, Facebook or any other social platform, you’re not as safe as you thought, writes
AARON THORNTON, MD of Dial a Nerd

As you begin to read this, let’s perform a quick experiment! How many active conversations are you engaged in – right now – on WhatsApp? When was the last time you shared a picture or video on Instagram? Is Facebook currently open and active on one of your devices? And how many internet- connected devices are you using at this moment? Chances are, you have multiple devices running multiple applications most of the time. So what’s the problem, you ask? Since when did checking in with a high school buddy in Australia via Facebook become a dangerous act?  

In reply, we say, read on if you can stomach it!  

Nation-State Hacking & You  

It might seem like a laughably long shot to say that you are a key player in the increasingly sinister and sophisticated world of nation-state hacking. Well, you are. Given that individuals, businesses and governments are now constantly connected, round the clock, consumers and businesses have become fair game in cyber espionage. And as we create and share more and more data, both the value and accessibility of that data increases. According to a report by McAfee, IP theft now accounts for more than 25% of the estimated $600 billion cost of cybercrime to the world economy.    

With data having become the ‘new gold’, nation states are naturally pouring investment and key resources into building advanced cyber warfare tools. Indeed, entire divisions of armed forces as well as the upper echelons of corporate leadership are devising ways to harness data to gain economic, political and social power. At the highest level, tools and platforms are being developed with the specific aim of perpetrating cyber espionage and data theft. No surprise then, that the consumer and business environments are rife with increasingly advanced malware, ransomware and many other malicious hacking tools and methods.  

Still not convinced? Yes, we can smell the scepticism from here! So let’s take a moment to see how this has already played out, beneath our noses.  

Remember the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal of early 2018? For many, this was a watershed moment in the emerging war for consumer data – and the ensuing tensions between privacy, power and profit. Need a refresh? Well, in 2018, Facebook exposed data on up to 87 million Facebook users to a researcher who worked at Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign. In essence, the data was harvested without user consent and used for political purposes.  

Another chilling but less direct example can be found in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. According to Politico, Russia launched a massive social media campaign to ‘sow discord’ leading up to the elections. The website reported that as early as 2014, an infamous Russian “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency – a company linked to Russian president Putin – developed a strategy using fraudulent bank accounts and other fake identity documents to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.” 

When referring to the Russian hacks and their impact on election results, one U.S. Representative sagely noted: “They didn’t just steal data; they weaponized it.” 

Ignorance is not bliss 

Okay, so data is being ‘weaponized’, and ordinary people and businesses are being caught in the crosshairs of cyber warfare. A little bit frightening, but the good news is that savvy individuals like you can take steps to protect personal data and actively combat the creeping influence of juggernauts such as Facebook and Google.  

To begin with, awareness is key. As you engage with various platforms and applications at work and at home, take time to understand how your data is being used and what the terms of use are. Is your data being accessed and sold to advertisers? Have you consented to this? In addition to scrutinizing your consent, also pay close attention to how much data you share online – and the nature of the details you are divulging. Always keep in mind that hackers are employing smart social engineering tactics and using the details of your private life (birthdays, holidays, pet’s names, etc) to trick you into opening infected emails and clicking on malware. Whenever you are online, you are a target – and vigilance at all times is critical. Beyond that, it goes without saying that you must commit to following basic security protocols with your devices. So always keep software up to date and keep your data backed up so that you can reboot or wipe a device if needed.   

Now that we’ve left you sufficiently spooked, you can get back to those demanding WhatsApp/Facebook/Instagram notifications (same company, by the way)…albeit, we hope, with a slightly altered [cyber] worldview!  

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