Voice-command ovens, robots for pets on show at Berlin’s IFA tech fair

Richard Yu (Yu Chengdong), head of Huawei's consumer business, presents a Kirin 990 5G chip set at the international electronics and innovation fair IFA in Berlin. (AFP)
Updated 07 September 2019

Voice-command ovens, robots for pets on show at Berlin’s IFA tech fair

  • Huawei created a buzz Friday by launching a new super-fast Kirin 990 processor

BERLIN: Europe’s biggest tech fair, Berlin’s IFA, is showcasing a flood of product launches until Wednesday. Here are five trends and gadgets making waves.
No time to walk or play with your pet puppy or kitten?
California start-up Varram showcased a Pet Fitness robot, which plays with cats and dogs at home via smartphone instructions, even dropping treats as a reward, while the owner is at work.
Sensors in the robot help it detect and stay away from furniture to not get stuck, avoiding bored pets.
The robot can be timed to play with the family pet at different times and keep track of how much activity the animal has had.
As executive director Jens Heithecker told AFP, “three main trends at IFA this year are 5G, voice control and AI (artificial intelligence)” with the latter two combined in innovations for the home.
Siemens claimed two world firsts with an oven that opens on voice command and separate washing machine and clothes drier that communicate via wifi to predict how long garments will need to dry.
The Home Connect system links household appliances, suggests recipes and even knows which ingredients are already at home, via cameras in the fridge.
Once the meal has been prepared, the oven door opens on voice command, leaving the cook with both hands to slide in the dish.
Meanwhile, the system’s washing machine has built-in sensors to measure the moisture in washed clothes, sending the information to the drier.
However, the sensor cannot detect whether a stray black sock is about to ruin a load of white laundry. “That would be useful to know,” admitted a Siemens spokeswoman with a smile.
Heithecker tips that of the thousands of items showcased at IFA, headsets and wireless stereos will make popular Christmas gifts, as they are “affordable, moveable, high quality and part of the digitally connected world.”
“Headsets with noise canceling are mostly used in homes now, to squeeze out the surrounding noise — you go into your own world and won’t be disturbed if you want to hear music,” he added.
However, some of these items do not come cheap. Panasonic’s high-tech earphones are retailing for 1,200 euros ($1,326) while Samsung’s massive 219-inch television, aptly called ‘The Wall’, is retailing to business customers for around 500,000 euros.
Huawei created a buzz Friday by launching a new super-fast Kirin 990 processor, which has a version specially designed for the 5G era — the fifth generation of cellular network technology.
According to Huawei’s claim, the “industry’s first and only all-in-one” 5G chipset includes a modem with fast download speeds. The company also said that by using a single chip, the Kirin will make phones more efficient compared to their rivals, who use a separate processor and modem.
The new Kirin chip, no bigger than a fingernail, “can make phones much smaller,” boasted Richard Yu, who is in charge of Huawei’s consumer business group.
The Chinese firm is embroiled in US-China tensions with Washington advising its allies against using Huawei’s technology to build 5G networks, due to fears it could be used for spying by Beijing, an accusation the company denies.
Yu took no questions in Berlin, as Huawei also showcased their sleek Mate 30 Series, due to be launched on September 19 in Munich.
Not to be outdone, Korean rivals Samsung also showed off their 5G Fold, a phone which folds out into a single screen.
High-tech relief for the incontinent is offered by D-Free, a sensor which fits on the abdomen and detects changes in bladder size, calculating how full it is and giving a prediction via a smartphone about when the user will need to urinate.
The system is aimed at young children being toilet trained and the elderly worried about being caught short.
It keeps track of the average time between bathroom visits and a version for senior care homes tells staff which patients will soon need to visit the toilet.

Oil retreats in face of renewed coronavirus uncertainty

Updated 22 February 2020

Oil retreats in face of renewed coronavirus uncertainty

  • G20 finance leaders to meet in Saudi Arabia at the weekend to discuss risks to the global economy
  • OPEC+ has been withholding supply to support prices and many analysts expect an extension or deepening of the curbs

LONDON: Oil prices fell on Friday as weak Asian data and a rise in new coronavirus cases fuelled uncertainty about the economic outlook while leading crude producers appeared to be in no rush to curb output.

Brent crude was down $1.56, or 2.6 percent, at $57.75 in afternoon trade, while U.S. crude dropped $1.25, or 2.3 percent, to $52.63.

"With Brent failing to breach the $60 level on Thursday despite better than expected U.S. oil inventory data, rising market uncertainty is dragging down oil prices on Friday," said UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo.

"Market participants who benefited from the price rise in recent days might prefer not to go into the weekend with a long position."


China reports rise in coronavirus cases.

Japan factory activity shrinks at fastest pace since 2012.

Russia says early OPEC+ meeting no longer makes sense.

Finance leaders from the Group of 20 major economies meet in Saudi Arabia at the weekend to discuss risks to the global economy after new Asian economic and health data kept investors on guard.

Beijing reported an uptick in coronavirus cases on Friday and South Korea reported 100 new cases, doubling its infections. In Japan, meanwhile, more than 80 people have tested positive for the virus.

Factory activity in Japan registered its steepest contraction in seven years in February, hurt by fallout from the outbreak. 

"We still believe that the market is likely to trade lower from current levels, given the scale of the surplus over the first half of this year, and the need for the market to send a signal to OPEC+ that they must take further action at their meeting in early March," said ING analyst Warren Patterson.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Thursday that global oil producers understood it would no longer make sense for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies to meet before the planned gathering.

The group, known as OPEC+, has been withholding supply to support prices and many analysts expect an extension or deepening of the curbs.