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AppDate: Learners get mathematical edge with Olico

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In his latest AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights the Olico maths supplement tool, FNBs latest award for its banking app, Impression digital signature, ShowMax on Android TV and Sentian 3i security.

Olico maths supplement tool

Olico’s grade 7, 8 and 9 maths maths tools are now freely availably online. The program has been in development for over five years and now contains over 20 000 interactive maths questions and 330 tutorial videos. The content is aligned to the South African CAPS curriculum and is written with a South African context in mind. Developed by Dr Lynn Bowie and a team of experienced education specialists, Olico’s online maths tool is a supplement for learners as well as teachers, tutors and parents.

For the past 5 years, Olico has been offering a blend of tutoring and technology support to learners from surrounding communities, with proven results. Learners enrolled in the program are achieving significant improvements in mathematics performance. Olico is also used  in ten under-resourced schools in the Western Cape in partnership with the Western Cape Provincial Government.

Platform: Any up-to-date Internet browser

Stockists: Register at http://learn.olico.org

Expect to pay: Free to register and use

 

Another global award for FNB’s Banking App

FNB’s Banking App has been recognised for having the ‘Best Mobile System/Service Initiative’ during the Annual Banking Technology Awards 2016 held in London late last year. The FNB Banking App is currently used on over 2 million devices and remains the most downloaded banking app in South Africa. It has also won numerous other awards, including best banking app of the year in the Internet Banking SITEisfaction Survey;  best in Customer Experience Award for 2016 at the international Bank Customer Experience (BCX) Summit held in Chicago, and has also been ranked 6th best banking app in the world and the best in Africa at the bi-annual UX Masterclass conference  in Sydney, Australia.

Platform: Android, iOS, Windows Phone 8 and above

Stockists: Visit the store linked your device

Expect to pay: A free download

 

Impression digital signature

How often have you had to drop everything and rush off to sign an important document in person? Or wasted time by receiving a document, printing it out, signing it, rescanning it and sending it back? These days it is as easy as a few swipes of a smart device to send money anywhere in the world, so why aren’t we doing the same with our signatures? Impression is a new app that is designed to allow users to sign and send documents digitally from a smart device. All signatures signed with Impression are secure, legally recognised and fully compliant with relevant legislation. Impression also captures 3D information, such as how hard a person presses at each point of the signature, making it difficult to replicate fraudulently. The app allows one to digitally sign PDFs, Word documents, spreadsheets and most other documents with a finger or a stylus.

Platform: Android and iOS

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

Expect to pay: A free download

 

ShowMax comes to Android TV

ShowMax’s latest app release now offers support on compatible Android media players or on  smart TVs running Android TV software. The app can be downloaded directly from the Google Play Store and, once installed, allows users to stream content directly to that device. Should there be enough storage space, content can be saved for viewing at a later stage; there is no need for a notebook or any additional external devices.

Platform: Android TV

Stockists: Visit the Google Play Store on the Android enabled set-top-box or Smart TV

Expect to pay: A free download

 

Sentian 3i

Although physical security systems like electric fences, cameras and beams do work, they are just a deterrent and will not stop an determined criminal. Local security company Sentian has launched the i3, which it calls the brain of home security and which it believes will beef up almost any analogue security system. The i3 connects a home’s fence and alarm ,along with any other security devices, to the cloud, allowing a user to view a 12 second video of their property remotely . It also allows home owners to activate individual security devices, like night-lights, and open or close gates – functions that only high-end and integrated alarm systems would nornally allow one to do.

Platform: Android, iOS and most up-to-date Internet browsers

Stockists: Visit: www.sentian.co.za

Expect to pay: Price is dependent on client’s needs

 

* 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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