A chic and shiny future

The future is in your hands, says Capo Cassidy, just be careful of those fingerprints

Mobile television
A viewer scans a QR code to buy featured products online or to transfer the show she is watching to her mobile screen

NOVEMBER 2015:

Capetonians are getting a peek into the future at Africa.com at the CTICC from November 17-19, and it is all chic and shiny … except for those little fingerprints, which seem to be a recurring hazard when life is run from a touchscreen.

But never fear, you will probably see past any number of little fingerprints once you experience the 4k 65 inch (or, in layman’s terms, enormous, extraordinarily high definition) television screen being demonstrated by Chinese technology company Huawei at Africa.com.

The digital economy conference is being billed as “the biggest and best tech event in Africa that gathers together senior decision-makers from the entire digital ecosystem”.

Impressive as the combination of size and minute detail is, the television is really brought to life by a set-top box, Huawei’s Smart Home Gateway, which does a lot more than decode television signals. It does that, of course, but it also turns the lounge into a personal theatre, home surveillance centre, social media hub and shopping mall.

But let’s backtrack a little. Picture yourself pulling into the driveway after a long day of work. Your arrival will possibly activate the first of many sensors in and around the home that will send information and instructions to various devices to predict your actions and expectations and make surroundings safe, convenient and comfortable.

HuaweiRobotOpening the door to your fully connected household – or smart home, as Huawei calls the suite of devices networked wirelessly – will trigger a sensor that switches on lights, even before your robot housekeeper has a chance to start its endearing little welcome home dance. A sensor on the door may also send a text message or a voice call to your phone to alert you that the front door has been opened since the smart home is focused on security as well as convenience and entertainment.

The 007s among us who like high tech defence systems will probably also love the fact that the coffee table is a mini mission control with a slick touch screen that controls a lot more than the television. Swipe left or right, tap here and there, and you can do a variety of things you would normally walk around and do to set the scene … except, as far as I can tell, pour a martini (shaken not stirred). You can draw the curtains, change the mood of the lighting, choose a television station, play music, even do some online shopping.

All devices are networked via the home’s wireless system so of course you can check your mail or shop online on the big screen, or watch a television programme on your phone. Don’t be ridiculous, I hear you cry, we have that enormous beauty of a screen.

But think of those times when someone in the family is watching TV at a moment when others need them out of the room. How often have you wished you could just carry the show with you, like take-away TV or TV-on-the-go. Well now you can with Huawei’s set-top box. Press a button on the coffee table and a QR code for that programme will appear on screen. Scan that code with your phone (ie take a photo of it) and voila the programme starts running on your phone at exactly the point you were at on the big screen. It almost looks like the programme slides off the TV screen and on to your phone and keeps running.

Another feature that is great when a number of people share a space is that the set-top box creates and saves various different viewing and surfing profiles. If you are worried about Big Brother watching you, you might not like the idea of the set top box using facial recognition software to identify who is watching and taking a cue from this.

But if you are all about convenience and don’t fear being spied on by a computer you will love the fact that once you have been recognised as the viewer all your favourites plus your surfing history will be loaded. This will save you the irritation of having to scroll through someone else’s preferences and quite possibly save some people a few blushes when changing between viewers.

So how do we get our hands (and fingerprints) on it?

A spokesman for Huawei, which has operations in more than 150 countries in the world, including many in Africa, told ANA on Wednesday: “We’ve done some trials with this product with customers, but never commercially used it.

“For commercial use in Africa, I’m afraid we have to wait for a while until the network problems are sorted out … if we want to play live-streaming 4k video at home, we need a network with 50-60M bandwidth. When we have optical fibre to our homes, we can have smart homes.”

Like a lot of the tech on show at Africa.com Huawei’s smart home it’s not exactly ready to be rolled out en masse in the suburbs but there is no harm in having a peek into the future.
– African News Agency

 

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Siobhan Cassidy

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