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Big data key to energy

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The current energy situation in South Africa has caused many companies to look at ways to manage their power usage. However, JACO BARNARD of Wipro. says that in order to properly manage consumption, vast amounts of data need to be collected.

Given the current South African power and energy situation, energy management has become a necessity rather than a choice, particularly in the retail environment. Reducing carbon footprint while adopting sustainable strategies to balance business objectives with environmental responsibilities has become critical. Aside from increasing international pressure to adopt greener technologies as part of sustainability initiatives, the cost of energy has become a significant challenge. While energy-saving initiatives around lighting, heating, ventilation and cooling can provide assistance, these are often capital-intensive projects that need to be implemented effectively to deliver maximum benefit. In the low margin, high volume retail environment, it has become essential to keep the spiralling cost of energy under control to maximise profitability by optimising operational expenses. This requires data, and more importantly insight into data that can drive actions that will help retailers optimise energy management to curb costs.

The importance of data

For many retailers, problems with power supply can be catastrophic. Without power, cold chain logistics can be compromised and hundreds of thousands of Rands worth of perishable stock can be spoiled. In addition, stores themselves cannot operate, losing business and customers. As a result, many retailers have resorted to backup power and alternative energy sources. However, these initiatives are often costly, particularly if energy consumption is not managed and optimised. In order to manage the cost of energy, both from traditional and alternative power sources, effective energy management is required. This in turn requires data, as without data around metering, measurements and monitoring it is all but impossible to gain the insight required to manage energy consumption. Collecting consumption data is the first step, as this data can then be analysed to deliver the required insights to drive energy saving and improvement initiatives.

By collecting large volumes of data around energy consumption, costs, asset operations and business policies, it is then possible to determine potential operational savings. For example, temperatures can be optimised according to locational and seasonal climate, unnecessary lights and cooling can be switched off when not required, and efficiency of working assets such as refrigerators can be assured. This data can also be collected over extended periods and analysed to determine long-term trends, energy leakages such as chronic equipment efficiency issues, insulation problems and more. Savings can then be achieved by correcting major issues and fine-tuning operations and controls. There are hundreds of ways that energy consumption can be improved across areas such as lighting, electrical, cooking, air conditioning and refrigeration systems. This means that there are many opportunities for savings, but there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Big data and analytics are the crucial components in effective energy management.

Making big data work for energy efficiency

The first step in improving energy efficiency requires the establishment of savings protocols. Pilot studies should be carried out and savings strategies that can be actioned with data should be determined. The range or significance of savings can then be used to determine the feasibility of rolling these solutions out, based on spend and expected returns. The second step is to set up data collection mechanisms. The volume and method of data collection depends on the current technology deployed and how granular the data is required to be – for example monthly invoices on energy consumption will typically not provide enough visibility, so it may be necessary to implement a monitoring solution that provides sample data every half an hour to provide more accurate insight. Data may be collected via Building Automation Systems, directly through controllers or through management applications. Many legacy and proprietary systems do not allow any access to data, in which case metering and sub-metering analysis must be incorporated.

Simply collecting data will not enable retailers to determine savings, so once data has been obtained, it must be analysed in order to provide insight. This is a specialist skill set that may be expensive to maintain in-house, so often it is advisable for retailers to collaborate with an expert service provider. Given the volume of data, it is also advisable that structured methods and toolsets be put into place across all sites for analytical purposes, another area where an expert provider can assist. The final step is action, as savings will not result from insight alone. Volume is also essential, and retailers need to action initiatives based on insight across all or most of their sites to produce meaningful savings.

Beyond energy

Big data can be harnessed for more than just energy efficiency, and has potential to deliver significant additional advantage in the retail space. For example, the customer experience can be improved by collecting data from various channels and using it to improve in-store temperatures for comfort, or by utilising online channels and sensor data to tailor the shopping experience. Store layouts can be improved, footfall can be increased and more. In addition, analytics can be leveraged to improve asset maintenance to help bring down maintenance costs and improve asset life. The data from in-store devices, video and wearable technology has the potential to improve sales effectiveness and improve workforce productivity. All of these initiatives will use the same foundation of big data and analytics.

Ultimately big data analytics, whether in the form of energy management or other initiatives, can help retailers to improve their competitive edge. More efficient operations and reduced costs lead to enhanced profits, as do improved customer experiences. Data and analytics are the crucial elements to more successful, more efficient and more profitable retail environments.

* Jaco Barnard, Head of Retail at Wipro, South Africa.

Arts and Entertainment

Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist

Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.  

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Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.

The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela.  It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.  

“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time.  We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”

The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba.  It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.  The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.

Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.

“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”

This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.

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Sports streaming takes off

Live streaming of sports is coming of age as a mainstream method of viewing big games, as the latest FIFA World Cup figures from the UK show. Africa isn’t yet at the same level when it comes to the adoption of sports streaming, but usage is clearly moving in the right direction.

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England’s World Cup quarter-final against Sweden was watched by just under 20 million viewers in the UK via BBC One. While this traditional broadcast audience was huge, it was streaming that broke records: the game was the BBC’s most popular online-viewed live programme ever, with 3.8 million views. In Africa, the absolute numbers are lower but the trend towards streaming major sports events on the continent is also well under way.

According to DStv, live streaming of sports dominates the usage figures for its live and recorded TV streaming app, DStv Now. The number of people using the app in June was five times higher than a year ago, with concurrent views peaking during major football and rugby games.

Since the start of the World Cup, average weekday usage of DStv Now is up 60%. The absolute peak in concurrent usage for one event was reached on 26 June, during the Nigeria vs Argentina game. The app’s biggest ever test was on 16 June with both Springbok Rugby and World Cup Football under way at the same time, resulting in concurrent in-app views seven times higher than the peaks seen in June last year.

The World Cup has also been a major reason for new users to download and try out the app. First-time app user volumes have tripled on Android and doubled on iOS since the start of the tournament.

“While we expected live sports streaming to take off, it’s also been pleasing to see that the app is really popular for watching shows on Catch Up,” says MultiChoice South Africa Chief Operating Officer Mark Rayner. “Interestingly, some of the most popular Catch Up shows are local, with Isibaya, Binnelanders, The Queen and The River all getting a significant number of views.”

With respect to app usage, the web and Android apps are the most popular way to watch DStv Now, with Android outpacing iOS by a factor of 2:1.

“We’re continuing to develop DStv Now, with 4k streaming in testing and smart TV and Apple TV apps on their way shortly,” says Rayner. “The other key priority for us is working with the telcos to deliver mobile data propositions that make watching online painless and worry-free for our customers.”

The DStv Now app is free to all 10 million DStv customers in Africa. The app streams DStv live channels as well as supplying an extended Catch Up library. Two separate streams can be watched on different devices simultaneously, and content can also be downloaded to smartphones and tablets. The content available on the app varies according to the DStv package subscribed to.

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