South African tech enthusiasts will be excited about three big trends which came out of this year’s Consumer Electronic Show (CES). These were the evolution of drones, changing artificial intelligence, and, probably the biggest, the incorporation of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant into the products of other manufacturers. Michael Bratt spoke to Stuff Magazine editor in chief, Toby Shapshak, to find out more.
Lenovo, Huawei and Ford are just some of the manufacturers who have chosen Amazon’s Alexa to be a part of their products. “This is going to be a huge growth area for tech, and likely to be very useful – but they require a decent broadband connection and a lot of the Amazon services they deliver won’t be available in South Africa,” says Shapshak, adding that he believes the biggest problem facing South Africa’s tech sector continues to be the high cost of cellular data. “If that comes down, there are a bunch of services and apps that people will start to use more because it costs them less,” he says.
Asked whether South Africa lags behind the rest of the tech world, Shapshak says it depends on what tech is being talked about. “In some cases, we’re more advanced in South Africa. A lot of the mobile innovations from Africa – pay-as-you-go was pioneered in South Africa by Vodacom in the early 1990s, and M-Pesa is far and away the best mobile money service, making East Africa the world leader in this new way of paying – are way ahead of the rest of the world.”
… the biggest problem facing South Africa’s tech sector continues to be the high cost of cellular data
Shapshak says he has experienced better cellular networks in South Africa than in many parts of the United States, including New York City where he describes the signal as woeful. But some of South Africa’s tech does lag behind the rest of the world. “The new TV tech tends to be ahead of where we are, because the new high-definition 4K TVs are pricey and tend to use streaming services that are easier to use in high-broadband regions like the States, Europe and Asia.”
CES is the biggest consumer tech show in the world, held each January in Las Vegas. Various sectors in the consumer electronics industry visit it to see what trends are expected for the year. “Although it is very US-centric and TVs tend to be a main attraction, it’s a useful indicator for the industry at large about what the major trends will be for the year,” Shapshak says.
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