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The big tech wish list for 2016

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The world of technology is set for big changes in 2016, but perhaps not the ones we want, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, as he contrast his wish list with reality.

1. Decent battery life

Battery life. It’s not much to ask for, is it? If my Nokia 6310i could last a week in 2003, why can’t my smartphones last even one full day in 2016? With luck, the big names in smartphones will master the arts of enhanced battery life as well as more efficient use of resources on handsets, but don’t count on it in 2016.

The good news is that Samsung Ventures has invested heavily in a company called Storedot, which is developing a battery that will charge fully in one minute, and last somewhat longer than current versions. But that is still a year or two from the production lines.

The very fact that a decent smartphone battery remains so elusive puts it at number one on the wishlist for 2016. Rival manufacturers may well spring a pleasant surprise on the market, so keep the checkbox open for this year.

2. Screen protectors as standard

There are few things more irritating in the smartphone world than new handsets with gorgeous screens that are scratched within days of being removed from the box. Simply because the phone didn’t come with a cover or a screen protector, and you haven’t had a chance to pick one up at a store, chances are high that it is not going to remain in pristine condition. Gorilla Glass was supposed to solve that problem, but you don’t hear that being punted as heavily among the specs these days as when it first appeared on phones, do you?

3. More reality in Virtual Reality

If you’ve had the privilege of playing with virtual reality (VR) headsets, you’ll know that they provide a wonderfully immersive experience. But there’s still one major flaw: the graphics are never entirely convincing. Pixellation, images breaking up, and unconvincing human beings are just some of the consequences. The result is that, while VR has evolved from massive cockpit-like machines to sleek headsets, the quality of the virtual environment has improved marginally. But with so much investment going into VR right now, and big promises from Samsung, HTC and Facebook-owned Oculus Rift, we can expect the next generation of headsets to start matching up to TV-like quality.

4. Big data to fix small problems

You’d think the likes of banks, telecommunications companies and government departments would have invested a little of their large technology budgets on making their mountains of customer data work for their own benefit as well as that of customers. All we really want – for now – are two things: that they show some evidence that they are able to use big data to avoid small irritations, like requiring us to submit all personal data all over again every time we apply for a new service, account or document; and that they reward us appropriately for remaining loyal customers for however many years, rands or services. Effective use of big data goes far beyond this of course, and should be saving time and money. Every tiny benefit applied regularly eventually takes on massive scale, but must start with the small efficiencies.

5. Wireless broadband that really is broad

Consumers can be forgiven for thinking wireless broadband is a con. And that is even without the debate about whether something called LTE can be marketed as something called 4G. Even 3G in some variants, like HSPA, should run at speeds of up to 21Mbps, but that is a pipe dream for mobile data users. The great wish for 2016 is that 3G really does become pervasive and consistent, and that LTE spectrum is speedily licensed in South Africa, so that we can discover true 4G.

6. Vehicle technology that feels like the future

Every year the motor manufacturers line up at CES in Las Vegas and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to show off the latest vehicle technology that justifies cars become high-tech choices. Then we go to the local showroom to check out the latest cars coming off the assembly lines, only to find the technology feels like something we already had on our smartphones five years ago. The problem is that five years happens to be how far ahead manufacturers have to plan their new vehicles. It means there is a cut-off point for inclusion of the latest technology as it exists now rather than in a few years when the vehicle reaches the sales floor. The challenge, and the final item on my 2016 wish list, is for vehicle manufacturers to create a more open hardware platform in the vehicle itself to accommodate the latest communications, mapping and entertainment technology as it becomes available.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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How we use phones to avoid human contact

A recent study by Kaspersky Lab has found that 75% of people pick up their connected device to avoid conversing with another human being.

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Connected devices are becoming essential to keeping people in contact with each other, but for many they are also a much-needed comfort blanket in a variety of social situations when they do not want to interact with others. A recent survey from Kaspersky Lab has confirmed this trend in behaviour after three-quarters of people (75%) admitted they use a device to pretend to be busy when they don’t want to talk to someone else, showing the importance of keeping connected devices protected under all circumstances. 

Imagine you’ve arrived at a bar and you’re waiting for your date. The bar is busy, and people are chatting all around you. What do you do now? Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know? Grab your phone from your pocket or handbag until your date arrives to keep yourself busy? Why talk to humans or even make eye-contact with someone else when you can stare at your connected device instead?

The truth is, our use of devices is making it much easier to avoid small talk or even be polite to those around us, and new Kaspersky Lab research has found that 72% of people use one when they do not know what to do in a social situation. They are also the ‘go-to’ distraction for people even when they aren’t trying to look busy or avoid someone’s eye. 46% of people admit to using a device just to kill time every day and 44% use it as a daily distraction.

In addition to just being a distraction, devices are also a lifeline to those who would rather not talk directly to another person in day-to-day situations, to complete essential tasks. In fact, nearly a third (31%) of people would prefer to carry out tasks such as ordering a taxi or finding directions to where they need to go via a website and an app, because they find it an easier experience than speaking with another person.

Whether they are helping us avoid direct contact or filling a void in our daily lives, our constant reliance on devices has become a cause for panic when they become unusable. A third (34%) of people worry that they will not be able to entertain themselves if they cannot access a connected device. 12% are even concerned that they won’t be able to pretend to be busy if their device is out of action.

Dmitry Aleshin, VP for Product Marketing, Kaspersky Lab said, “The reliance on connected devices is impacting us in more ways than we could have ever expected. There is no doubt that being connected gives us the freedom to make modern life easier, but devices are also vital to help people get through different and difficult social situations. No matter what your ‘connection crutch’ is, it is essential to make sure your device is online and available when you need it most.”

To ensure your device lifeline is always there and in top health – no matter what the reason or situation – Kaspersky Security Cloud keeps your connection safe and secure:

·         I want to use my device while waiting for a friend – is it secure to access the bar’s Wi-Fi?

With Kaspersky Security Cloud, devices are protected against network threats, even if the user needs to use insecure public Wi-Fi hotspots. This is done through transferring data via an encrypted channel to ensure personal data safety, so users’ devices are protected on any connection.

·         Oh no! I’m bored but my phone’s battery is getting low – what am I going to do?

Users can track their battery level thanks to a countdown of how many minutes are left until their device shuts down in the Kaspersky Security Cloud interface. There is also a wide-range of portable power supplies available to keep device batteries charged while on-the-go.

·         I’ve lost my phone! How will I keep myself entertained now?

Should the unthinkable happen and you lose or have your phone stolen, Kaspersky Security Cloud can track and protect your device from data breaches, for complete peace of mind. Remote lock and locate features ensure your device remains secure until you are reunited.

 

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Five key biometric facts

Due to their uniqueness, fingerprints are being used more and more to quickly identify and ensure the security of customers. CLAUDE LANGLEY, Regional Sales Manager, for Africa at HID Global Biometrics, outlines five facts about the technology.

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How many times in a day are you expected to identify yourself? From when you arrive at work you are required to sign in, visiting your bank, receiving healthcare services… The list is endless. When a system knows who you are, you are able to do any number common, everyday activities. Your identity is unique and precious. It is also easily stolen and the target of many hackers across the globe. Technology is constantly evolving alongside the criminal element, always looking for ways to protect data and identity. One such solution happens to be biometrics and it is rapidly gaining traction in our increasingly complex modern world.

Reliable, secure and fundamentally YOU, unique biometric traits such as fingerprints are being used by banks, enterprises and consumers to verify identity. Biometric solutions offer significant identity protection because they use unique biological details to ensure an account is only accessed by the account holder, a door only opened by the owner. Here are five things that are little known about this technology…

  • The uncut identity. Your fingerprint is unique to you. Nobody can use a copy of it to impersonate you. Good technology is capable of scanning down into the layers of the fingertip to differentiate unique elements of a person’s fingerprint, this data is then encrypted and used as a key to unlocking whichever physical or virtual door that the biometric system protects.
  • The living proof. No, there is nothing to the stories of fingerprints being used without their owner’s knowledge or permission. Biometric solutions can use specific variables to determine if the finger used to access the system is that of a present, living person.  A copy or a fake cannot be used to access a cutting-edge biometric solution.
  • Easy and convenient. Queues and documents and paperwork may well be a thing of the past should biometrics take a firmer grip of government and banking systems. The process of registering is easy, and access to identity documents and records is yours alone.
  • Security blanket. A thousand passwords and a hundred post-it notes stuck on walls and drawers.  An excel file with a list of sites and applications and their corresponding passwords, all a thing of the past.  Nobody needs to remember their password with biometrics, they only need to show up.
  • Anywhere is cool. Schools, airports, networks, offices, homes, toilets, banks, libraries, governments, border controls, immigration services, call centres, hospitals and even clubs and pubs – knowing “who” matters and biometrics can quickly and conveniently confirm your identity where needed.

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