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Smartphones soon obsolete?

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Ericsson’s latest annual trends report has shown that among other shifts, consumers believe that artificial intelligence will soon enable them to interact with smart devices without the need for a smartphone.

This year’s report shows consumers believe artificial intelligence (AI) will soon enable interaction with objects without the need for a smartphone screen. In fact, half of all smartphone users expect smartphones to become things of the past within the next five years.

The report also shows that as the adoption of networked technologies moves faster than ever, mass-market use becomes the norm quicker. As a result, the time period when early adopters influence others is now shorter than before.

Michael Björn, Head of Research, Ericsson ConsumerLab, says: “Some of these trends may seem futuristic. But consumer interest in new interaction paradigms such as AI and virtual reality (VR), as well as in embedding the internet in the walls of homes or even in our bodies, is quite strong.

“This means we could soon see new consumer product categories appearing – and whole industries transforming – to accommodate this development.”

The insights in the “10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2016” report come from Ericsson ConsumerLab’s global research program and cover a range of consumer opinions. The broadest trend is representative of 1.1 billion people across 24 countries, whereas the narrowest represents 46 million urban smartphone users in 10 major cities.

These are the 10 trends for 2016 and beyond:

1.     The Lifestyle Network Effect. Four out of five people now experience an effect where the benefits gained from online services increases as more people use them. Globally, one in three consumers already participates in various forms of the sharing economy.

2.     Streaming Natives. Teenagers watch more YouTube video content daily than other age groups. Forty-six percent of 16-19 year-olds spend an hour or more on YouTube every day.

3.     AI Ends The Screen Age. Artificial intelligence will enable interaction with objects without the need for a smartphone screen. One in two smartphone users think smartphones will be a thing of the past within the next five years.

4.     Virtual Gets Real. Consumers want virtual technology for everyday activities such as watching sports and making video calls. Forty-four percent even want to print their own food.

5.     Sensing Homes. Fifty-five percent of smartphone owners believe bricks used to build homes could include sensors that monitor mold, leakage and electricity issues within the next five years. As a result, the concept of smart homes may need to be rethought from the ground up.

6.     Smart Commuters. Commuters want to use their time meaningfully and not feel like passive objects in transit. Eighty-six percent would use personalized commuting services if they were available.

7.     Emergency Chat. Social networks may become the preferred way to contact emergency services. Six out of 10 consumers are also interested in a disaster information app.

8.     Internables. Internal sensors that measure well-being in our bodies may become the new wearables. Eight out of 10 consumers would like to use technology to enhance sensory perceptions and cognitive abilities such as vision, memory and hearing.

9.     Everything Gets Hacked. Most smartphone users believe hacking and viruses will continue to be an issue. As a positive side-effect, one in five say they have greater trust in an organization that was hacked but then solved the problem.

10.  Netizen Journalists. Consumers share more information than ever and believe it increases their influence on society. More than a third believe blowing the whistle on a corrupt company online has greater impact than going to the police.

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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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By 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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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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