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AppDate: Kaspersky clamps down home networks

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In this edition of AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights the Kaspersky Lab IoT device scanner, Knysna’s Municipality Citizen Engagement Application, Lego Mindstorms, the Exclusive Books app, HeyLets and Showmax for Xbox One.

Kaspersky Lab IoT device scanner

The Kaspersky Lab IoT device scanner allows home users to monitor their networks and see which devices are connected. The app does an overall scan once installed and notifies the user of any security flaws that may be present. For instance, when installed on my network, it alerted me that a port was open on my router that could allow hackers to gain access and steal sensitive data.

The app continually monitors the network and offers alerts should new devices try to connect with incorrect credentials.

Platform: Android

Expect to pay: The app is still in a beta and has not yet been officially released.

Stockists: Visit www.kaspersky.co.za for more information.

 

Knysna Municipality Citizen Engagement Application

The Knysna Municipality and ComUnity have collaborated to create the Knysna Municipality Citizen Engagement Application (Knysna app) in order to drive a more direct, interactive and open relationship between the municipality and its communities.

The app was designed to make it easier for emergency services to respond to needs faster, as app users receive the most relevant and up-to-date information directly on their mobile devices. Community members can log and track service issues or phone any municipal division from the app, allowing them to report or inform other community members of incidents.

The municipality can also keep communities informed of upcoming events and festivals, and can post public service delivery notices, such as electricity or water interruptions and weather forecasts.

But the app also proved to serve a much deeper purpose when devastating fires swept the region in June – the Knysna Joint Operations Centre (JOC) that coordinated the crisis response was able to use it to keep in close and constant touch with communities, which assisted in prioritising their safety and that of their families, pets and belongings.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Lego Mindstorms

Lego Mindstorms is designed to give children a head start in their programming careers. The app works in conjunction with the Lego Mindstorms EV3 robotics construction set and allows kids to use basic programming code to make their robots move, shoot and act in a particular way.

This app also lets kids create their own robot programs from scratch by dragging and dropping blocks of code into sequence and then playing that code out to see what each block does.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download, but the construction set will need to be bought first.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Exclusive Books app

The Exclusive Books app sends users special offers, alerts them to in-store promotions and activities, and allows Exclusive Books’ Fanatics members to link their membership and carry around a virtual Fanatics card in their mobile devices.

In addition, the app stores a ‘Favourites’ list to receive notifications of special offers at the stores and gives directions to Exclusive Books Cafes and Social Kitchen & Bar outlets.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

HeyLets

HeyLets is a personalised feed of fun experiences and cool places recommended by people that enjoy doing the same things you do. Discover new food, nightlife, shows and outdoor adventures in your hometown, and get travel tips from around the world.

Select Your Interests –- Easily and quickly choose from 45 interest categories. This will help us deliver the best experiences possible to you and locate other community members who share the same interests.

Explore What Locals Recommend –- Scroll through a beautiful feed of hidden gems, fantastic new places and amazing new experiences you never knew existed.

Once installed, filter experiences by categories, from nightclubs and extreme sports to scenic hikes and farmers markets. Or search by keyword to find the ultimate truffle fries. User can filter by location to find things to do on upcoming trips and Wishlist option saves experiences you want to try.

In addition, if you have had a good meal or just enjoyed a good concert, you can share what you love by posting a video or photo along with a short description about what made it great.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Showmax for Xbox One

In addition to streaming Showmax content though a DStv Explora, Android and iOS devices, viewers can now use their Xbox One consoles.

To get the app, they need will need their Showmax username and password and go to the Store tab on their Xbox One. Once signed in, the app will download to the Xbox, where it can be pinned to a user’s home screen.

The app looks and functions very similarly to the other Showmax apps, so users should have no problem using it once signed in.

Platform: Xbox One

Expect to pay: A free download, but users need to be signed up for Showmax.

Platform: Any Xbox One console.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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Online retail gets real

After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.

Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.

The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.

This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping. 

But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.

On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.

He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.

According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.

In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature. 

Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.

A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand. 

In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.

Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.

It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time. 

It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.

Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.

The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.

Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.

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Reliable satellite Internet?

MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company. 

“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.

The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.

The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022. 

The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data. 

C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.

MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity.  Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.

Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.

Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online. 

“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”

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