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The East African : January 13th 2014
26 The EastAfrican OUTLOOK JANUARY 11-17,2014 E -AF R ICAN Drone deliveries and smart robots in 2014 technology more of them in 2014, they will probably stay confined to highend or specialty products. “They’ll make a major technical statement in 2014, but not a major consumer statement,” he said. Wearables Technology has become a part of our daily lives, but 2013 showed the promise of what could happen if it becomes part of our bodies. From our socks to our glasses, tech companies have found ways to add sensors to everyday items that turned them into mini computers. Fitness trackers and Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which can take photos and answer phone calls, showed consumers the potential of wearables. Companies are “increasingly putting consumers at the centre of a host of digital technologies, devices and services,” said John Curran, a managing director at Accenture. And there is far more expect- ed in the pipeline. The Google Glass headset, which pushes users’ smartphone alerts to a screen hovering just above a user’s eye, is expected to see a wide consumer release in 2014. Apple, which has yet to offer even a whisper about a wearable device, is expected to release a smartwatch of its own sometime this year. Analysts say that the market is already a billion-dollar industry and is on pace to hit $6 billion to $8 billion by 2018. But tech developers’ ability to DATA BREACHES Nanodrones used for surveillance. Picture: FILE In 2014, the ≥ough sketches about the futu≥e of technologywill get fleshed out By HAYLEY TSUKAYAMA Special Correspondent T echnology enthusiasts did not have much to cheer about in 2013. There was not a lot of jaw-drop- ping or game-changing technology introduced. Instead, it was a year in which old guard companies, such as BlackBerry, Microsoft and Intel, struggled to remain relevant, set new goals and looked for new leadership. Newer companies, such as Facebook and Twitter, matured — at least enough to make some money — but still have not proved they have a long-term business plan. And it was a year that brought questions about consumer privacy and security to the forefront, with high-profile data breaches and revelations about surveillance programmes at the National Security Agency. In short, 2013 was a year that raised a lot of questions but provided few answers. Analysts say 2014 could be when the rough sketches about the future of technology, and how it affects our lives, get fleshed out. Here are the areas of technology to watch in 2014: Companies to watch Microsoft endured a tumultuous 2013, including the continued deterioration of the PC market and the retirement of longtime chief executive Steve Ballmer. Now all eyes are on the company as it attempts to find its footing. “Their successes are overwhelmed by their failures,” said Rob Enderle, technology analyst for the Enderle Group. “They do need to simplify the company. They’re fighting too many battles and they need to bring it back to something that can be managed.” Twitter, on the other hand, has the opposite problem: The social media company needs to grow, and grow quickly. Fresh off its 2013 market debut, the six-year-old company can boast that 18 per cent of all Americans have an account on the service, according to data from the Pew Centre for Internet and American Life. And though Twitter must focus on aggressive growth to satisfy investors, it also has to be careful not to lose its scrappy start-up vibe, particularly as it faces competition from an ever-growing wave of new messaging services such as Snapchat, which lets users send private messages that erase themselves after 10 seconds. Data breaches jumped from about 1,700 incidents in 2012 to 2,200 in 2013, according to an end-of-the-year report from financial information services firm Experian. The firm forecast that at least twothirds of companies will buy cyber-breach insurance by the end of 2014. Many of those, the report said, will be in healthcare sector as more doctors and hospitals put their data in online databases. Different forms Consumers can also expect some of their high-end devices to change form in 2014 with the wider introduction of curved screens for smartphones and televisions. Tech companies have been studying how to curve screens for years and now appear ready to introduce it more widely to the public, said Raymond Soneira, president of DisplayMate Technologies, which tests and calibrates screens. Samsung and LG have both al- ready announced that their largest TVs will have a bit of a bend in them, and some firms are considering curved or flexible screens for smartphones that would fit more naturally against a users face. Screens can also be curved so that they perform better in direct light, said Soneira. But manufacturing these new screens is a costly process, Soneira said. While consumers will see collect a range of personal data about users — your heartbeat, eating habits and location — has some privacy advocates concerned. The Federal Trade Commission has scheduled a February workshop to examine how companies and consumers can deal with the influx of data being held by these companies. Flying above Flying drones and advanced ro- bots will generate a lot of buzz in 2014, but probably will not be in every home by the end of the year. Google and Amazon.com invested heavily in the development of unmanned aircraft and robots in 2013, raising expectations for 2014. Google’s purchase of Boston Dynamics, best known for making robots for the Defence Department, raised expectations the tech giant would develop robots for a mainstream audience. Their robots can carry heavy loads even on bumpy terrain. Amazon says it is planning to use drones to deliver some packages within 30 minutes of being ordered online. Watch your back Cybercrime is expected to be- come even more common in 2014, posing a tricky challenge for tech companies and retailers encouraging consumers to share information online. Most recently, hackers gained access to as many as 40 million credit and debit cards used by customers of Target during the height of the holiday shopping season, and analysts say that breach was only the tip of the iceberg. Washington Post-Bloomberg BRIEFS Safaricom, CCK clash over licence renewal Mobile services provider Safaricom is headed for a clash with the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) ahead of its licence renewal over voice quality standards. The regulator has labelled Safaricom a non-compliant operator in the year to June, with a performance score of 50 per cent against the minimum target of 80 per cent on eight indicators. The CCK has tied the renewal of Safaricom’s licence, which is due before June, to paying Ksh2.3 billion ($27 million) and achieving the minimum quality standards, which has drawn protests from the Nairobi bourse listed telecom. “Punitive measures will not assist the industry, as they will divert resources from operators, which could have been used to improving coverage and network quality,” said Safaricom chief executive Bob Collymore. “We believe that CCK can adopt a modern and collaborative methodology that will allow the operators to respond quickly and ensure customers have a good experience.” The CCK said that the four Kenyan mobile phone operators — Safaricom, Airtel, Orange and Yu — failed to meet minimum quality of service standards. CCK attributed the drop in performance to the increase in the weight of speech quality, completed calls, call success rates and call drop rate. But Safaricom has questioned the CCK’s indicators, terming them erroneous, adding that an independent report based on international benchmarks has given it a clean bill of health. The conflicting positions are set to play out when the regulator and Safaricom meet in coming weeks for talks over the licence renewal. 5 African firms contest global start-up prize Five African start-ups have been selected among 20 finalists at the Seedstars World global start-up competition, with the chance of winning $500,000 equity investment. The finalists were selected through regional competitions held in 20 emerging markets. The winner will be decided in Geneva, Switzerland, on February 4. Among the finalists is Rwanda’s Foyo, chosen for its daily SMS service on the composition of a balanced diet. In Kenya, the winner was Jooist , a social gaming network for mobile phones. Kenyan ICT regulator set for major changes The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) is set to undergo major changes after the passing of the Kenya Information and Communication (Amendment) Bill 2013. The new law seeks to change the name of the regulator to the Communications Authority of Kenya and reconstitute the board. Members of the board will hold office for a period not exceeding three months, and the president will appoint the chairperson while the Information Cabinet secretary appoints seven directors.
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