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Soweto ready to get unwired

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The Soweto Wireless User Group (SOWUG) will go live this month, offering opportunities for local developers to produce content, which will be hosted locally, reducing international costs and stimulating local emerging online services.|The Soweto Wireless User Group (SOWUG) will go live this month, offering opportunities for local developers to produce content, which will be hosted locally, reducing international costs and stimulating local emerging online services.

The Soweto Wireless User Group (SOWUG) says it will go live this month, and it is partly thanks to critical support received from Africa’s only vendor neutral data centre, Teraco. SOWUG is a registered Non-Profit Organisation that provides free wireless to residents of Soweto. It forms part of a number of development projects facilitated by The Foundation for Internet Development (FID), which was formed by ZACR (formerly UniForum SA), ISPA, WAPA and ISOC-ZA to provide a mechanism for ICT industry players to make a meaningful contribution in terms of Enterprise Development, but do not have the capacity, nor the platform to do so themselves.

SOWUG founder, Jabulani Vilakazi says that Teraco’s donation has played a significant role in the formation and launch of the SOWUG: “Teraco’s Joburg data centre is where backhaul fibre and Internet breakout aggregate. Access to this kind of world-class infrastructure enables network peering with the likes of NAPAfrica, Africa’s largest Internet eXchange point. This is a fundamental element that reduces the cost of local bandwidth to users and makes what we are trying to do possible.”

The purpose of FID is to consolidate the Enterprise Development efforts of the ICT industry. Vilakazi says that Teraco took the initiative and supported FID by offering to host SOWUG as part of its Enterprise and Supplier Development Initiative: “They provided cabinet space and power, connecting us to what is most definitely a global standard data centre. As an NGO we could never afford this high level infrastructure.”

He says that what is more significant is that SOWUG’s presence in Teraco will provide opportunities for local developers to produce content, which will be hosted locally, reducing international transit costs and stimulating local emerging online services: “The locally hosted content can either be cached or stored in servers and because we have access to the last mile, we can deliver content closer to the end user, minimising the distance that video data travels over the general Internet, and ultimately deliver it more quickly and reliably.”

Lex van Wyk, CEO, Teraco says that the SOWUG concept is exactly what needs to be happening in and around South Africa: “Access to information is critical and keeping content local is even more significant.  We are privileged to be working with SOWUG and remain committed to help achieve its goal of providing access to information to all residents in and around Soweto.”

Vilakazi says that when visiting Teraco, the team was impressed by its world-class infrastructure: “We were also excited to learn that the Netherlands (AMS-IX) and London (LINX) have partnered with Teraco. This together with its Internet exchange point, NAPAfrica, opens SOWUG to content from global content providers such as YouTube and Facebook. We are also hoping to learn more data centre skills, which will enhance Internet usage and improve the existing access infrastructure,” says Vilakazi.

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CES: Most useless gadgets of all

Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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