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Where wearable is headed

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With wearable device technology maturing rapidly and gaining consumer traction, the race is on between manufacturers to capture market share in this new product category, writes CHARLENE MUNILALL, GM for the Huawei Consumer Business Group.

The term ‘product category’ is misleading, however, and the brands that are able to grasp this are the ones that will win this race. The term is misleading because wearable technology is the sum of many parts that have to work together in a co-ordinated, cohesive manner.

A wearable device is but one of these many parts – an important part, obviously – and brands unable to leverage the other component parts in the equation will be relegated to the minor leagues.

These other components include the smartphone that drives the wearable technology, the network infrastructure that carries the data, the value-added services that elevate the wearable device beyond a luxury to a necessity, and the innovation that encapsulates all these different elements.

In essence, this is a question of convergence.

Convergence is a subject that has been at the forefront of the enterprise market for some time and the benefits of an ecosystem designed to simplify enterprise IT will soon be seen the hallmark of consumer wearable technology.

In layman’s terms this would be termed a ‘smart life’ or ‘digital lifestyle’, and wearables will undeniably be at the centre of this evolution.

We are already seeing many examples of this vision of a smart, connected world. Devices ranging from intelligent home management systems, smart televisions and devices that are fully integrated and accessible from a mobile device are but some of the examples.

And wearable technology is the obvious candidate to pull together these various systems and services. This is largely because of the convenience factor that makes this technology so compelling, but equally the increasing integration and functionality built into these devices.

Local critics of wearables often point to these utopian views on the future of the technological possibilities by pointing to the undeniable differences in need across a continent such as Africa.

There is certainly merit to the argument, unless one acknowledges that wearable technology’s primary innovation is to address a need and introduce convenience.

In Africa those needs are definitely different from a consumer sitting in New York or London. But they are driven by the need to be digitally, socially and financially included. And wearable technology certainly has a role to play in offering this to African consumers.

The manner in which Africa has leapfrogged other technologies since the introduction of mobile telephony, it is not difficult to acknowledge that wearables hold the same potential for new and exciting innovations to be rapidly adopted and become part of everyday life.

Huawei has adopted a strategy of trialling new innovations on the continent as it is the perfect test bed for consumer adoption.

There is definitely no lack of will in Africa to adopt technology that can contribute to a smart life. There might currently be infrastructure, network coverage and disposable income challenges, but these are slowly dissipating while building an enormous market hungry for technology.

The need to find practical solutions to local needs, including an attractive price point, has also been embraced by Huawei as a challenge to develop products that are relevant and affordable. With Africa’s middle class growing, an exciting opportunity exists to walk the journey with users who see the benefits of technology and will be able and willing to upgrade as their needs grow.

Huawei is therefore taking a long term and holistic view on the potential and future of wearable technology. This is driven by the company philosophy as well as realisation that the benefits will be realised over the long haul.

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The PC is back!

… and 2020 will be its big year, writes CHRIS BUCHANAN, client solutions director at Dell Technologies

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Concept Ori

It turns out the PC’s death has been exaggerated. PC sales grew between 1.1% and 1.5% in the last few quarters of the year, according to Gartner. While those don’t sound like massive leaps, they represent a large market that has been declining for several years. Windows 10 is credited for this surge, especially as Windows 7 is leading towards its end of life (EOL).

But I don’t think that is the entire picture. Windows 10 upgrades have been taking place for several years, and the market has also gotten savvier about managing EOL. Other factors are driving the adoption of PCs.

A specific one is how much closer the PC now sits to smartphones. I recently watched some youngsters work with laptops that had touchscreens. They hardly ever touched the keyboard, instead tapping and swiping on the screen. Yet they were still working on a laptop, not a smartphone. Certain things are much easier to do on a PC than a phone, and users are realising this. They aren’t relinquishing the convenience of their smartphones but applications are now available on PC’s and often easier to use.

Convertible or 2-in-1 machines have closed the gap between the two device types. This is in contrast to tablets. If you observe how people sit with tablets, it’s the opposite of smartphones or laptops. With the latter, we sit forward, attentive and focused. But tablets often prompt people to recline. It’s just a casual observation, yet I believe that PCs and smartphones have much more overlap with each other than pure tablet devices. Additionally, the convertible laptop has become the new tablet.

Chris Buchanan

Why does this bode well for PCs in 2020? 2-in-1 machines break down the barriers between the utility of a PC and collaborative culture of a smartphone. You can now flip a laptop into tent mode and use it as an interactive presentation screen on a boardroom table, or cradle it like a clipboard you jot on with a digital pen.

In the next year, we’ll see more of the market responding to this trend. Premium 2-in-1 devices have a stable and growing audience of users who are now going into their second, third and even fourth generations of devices. Mid-range and entry-level laptops are also starting to adopt touchscreens and flip displays.

2-in-1 devices are also pushing innovation, such as the emergence of dual-screen systems. Dell revealed two such concept devices at CES this year: Project Duet, a dual screen laptop, and Project Ori (for origami), a more compact approach to foldable devices. We also unveiled Project UFO, a prototype Alienware device that puts triple-A PC gaming into a handheld device. All of these reflect the desire for touch-enabled devices that are portable without sacrificing performance or excellence. They definitely point us to the future.

Convertible devices are not a new form factor. I can recall the first flip-over touchscreen designs appearing 15 years ago. Back then they were exotic and the standard laptop ruled the roost. But today, the habits and expectations of users are driving a change decisively towards convertible devices.

Desktop PCs are meanwhile becoming more specialised, yet also more widely appreciated for their versatility. Specialist non-Windows PCs, such as those used by designers, are being replaced by Windows PCs, often for lower costs. Integrated discrete graphics chips and other advancements add a lot of value to modern desktops. The smartphone overlap also appears here: many people use services such as Whatsapp Web on their PCs, and Dell customers use the Dell Mobile Connect app to show their smartphone screen on their PC display.

There is a new synergy between the PC and smartphone, created by users who find the two complement each other. Not everyone has realised this yet, but in 2020 that will be the resounding message. The PC is back and 2020 will be its year.

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Jaguar designs ‘seat of the future’

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Jaguar Land Rover is developing the seat of the future – a pioneering shape-shifting system designed to improve customer wellbeing by tackling the health risks of sitting down for too long.

The ‘morphable’ seat, being trialled by Jaguar Land Rover’s Body Interiors Research division, uses a series of actuators in the seat foam to create constant micro-adjustments that make your brain think you’re walking, and could be individually tailored to each driver and passenger.

More than a quarter of people worldwide – 1.4 billion – are living increasingly sedentary lifestyles, which can shorten muscles in the legs, hips and gluteals causing back pain. The weakened muscles also mean you are more likely to injure yourself from falls or strains. 

By simulating the rhythm of walking, a movement known as pelvic oscillation, the technology can help mitigate against the health risks of sitting down for too long on extended journeys with some drivers doing hundreds of kilometres per week. 

Dr Steve Iley, Jaguar Land Rover Chief Medical Officer, said: “The wellbeing of our customers and employees is at the heart of all our technological research projects. We are using our engineering expertise to develop the seat of the future using innovative technologies not seen before in the automotive industry to help tackle an issue that affects people across the globe.”

Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles already feature the latest in ergonomic seat design, with multi-directional adjustments, massage functions and climate control fitted across the range. Dr Iley has also issued advice on how to adjust your seat to ensure the perfect driving position, from removing bulky items in your pocket, to shoulder positioning and from ensuring your spine and pelvis are straight to supporting your thighs to reduce pressure points. View the video here.

The research is part of Jaguar Land Rover’s commitment to continually improving customer wellbeing through technological innovation. Previous projects have included research to reduce the effects of motion sickness and the implementation of ultraviolet light technology to stop the spread of colds and flu. 

Together, these efforts are driving towards Destination Zero; Jaguar Land Rover’s ambition to make societies safer and healthier, and the environment cleaner – a responsible future for our workers, customers and communities around us. Through relentless innovation, Jaguar Land Rover is adapting product and services to meet the rapidly-changing world.

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