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Virtualisation will change telecoms, if…

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The hype around software-defined networking and network function virtualisation is growing in the telecoms industry, but they remain immature and there is a long way to go before they will be deployed at scale and transform the industry, says MARK TINKA, Head of Engineering at SEACOM.

The hope is that these technologies will enable service providers and network operators to drive down capital expenditure, simplify configuration and maintenance, and improve the agility of their networks.

However, as promising as these technologies are, they remain immature and there is a long way to go before they will be deployed at scale and transform the industry. A sign of their immaturity, perhaps, is the fact that the two terms mean different things to different people, and are sometimes even used interchangeably. The meanings of the terms have also evolved over the past five years.

When SDN first appeared on the scene, it was positioned as a solution for scaling the network while making it less expensive to operate, by decoupling the control and data planes. The industry has since had a reality check and realises that this kind of separation of roles is not easily implemented in the manner envisaged in the SDN standards of 2012.

Now, however, SDN has spawned a number of other initiatives geared toward automating networks, making them more reliable, more resilient, more self-healing, and above all, cheaper to operate. While several network operators have pursued these ends for years, they have done each in isolation using proprietary technology.

What the industry now aims to accomplish with SDN and the associated technologies, is to standardise and harmonise the protocols, procedures, toolsets and technologies that network operators implement to automate their operations. This way, it does not matter what solution is purchased—its various elements will interoperate smoothly.

NFV is more straightforward, and network operators have been employing NFV technologies successfully for some time now. The premise with NFV is – certain functions that purpose-built hardware used to perform, can now be deployed on general-purpose hardware, like an off-the-shelf server. This lowers barriers to entry and costs which makes those technologies more accessible to more users.

SEACOM is closely following the development of these technologies to ensure the new features are integrated into our network as-and-when appropriate, to the benefit of our customers. As a first step, we have deployed an OpenStack virtualisation environment to create a platform for the deployment of our next-generation products and services, which will be launched over the course of 2018.

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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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