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Decent hotel Wi-Fi a key to guest satisfaction

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In addition to cleanliness and decor, hotel visitors rate Internet access as the most important feature when booking accommodation. Unfortunately though, many hotels battle with guaranteed uptime and throughput.

Maintaining ratings is based on a number of factors for hoteliers and lodge owners. Obviously, the décor and amenities play a large role in winning favour with guests, but there is another element that is fast becoming a decision maker when guests weigh up their accommodation options. Internet and cellular connectivity are considered non-negotiable for business people and holidaymakers alike. Ensuring that the connection is of a high standard, with guaranteed uptime and throughput is, however, something that many establishments battle with.

According to Marco de Ru, CTO at wireless convergence company MiRO, it is understandable that lodge owners and hoteliers are not IT specialists and therefore they may make incorrect choices when implementing a Wi-Fi solution. “Hotel and lodge management are generally bombarded with irrelevant information such as IEEE operating standards, throughput capacity and so forth. This may result in them selecting a Wi-Fi solution that one would typically use for a home environment, based primarily on price.”

Certain steps are critical to ensure reliability of connection. The first is finding an experienced installer or system integrator with a proven track record, preferably in the hospitality sector, who will select technology that will optimise the guest Wi-Fi experience. Hand-in-glove with this goes the appointment of an internet service provider (ISP) who can provide sufficient bandwidth and high levels of throughput. A Service Level Agreements (SLA) must be provided, outlining appropriate levels of network and user support, as well as remote monitoring of the system, to provide proactive maintenance.

Three questions generally need to be answered when planning a solution: (1) What is the size of the establishment? (2) What type of traffic will be allowed on the Wi-Fi network? (3) Is a hotspot management service required?

De Ru explains that understanding the physical structure allows for provision of the best possible solution as Wi-Fi signals are quickly dampened by brick walls and concrete ceilings, especially for devices operating in the 5GHz frequency.

If users are permitted to freely browse the internet and access streaming services such as Netflix, and allow file sharing like torrent services, one needs to be aware that these services are bandwidth hungry and can quickly bring the Wi-Fi network to a standstill. Finally, a hotspot management service or portal allows establishment management to manage and control guest access.

The deployment of Wi-Fi routers and switches as well as strategically placed access points (APs) will provide guests with an opportunity to communicate and achieve internet connectivity, even when their cellular service provider’s signal is weak.

Security of networks is a common issue and this needs to be addressed by hoteliers as a priority. “Deploying the latest managed switches or routers to effectively route internet traffic across the network is a good first step. These switches and routers offer greater security features and can direct internet packets to the appropriate recipients only, rather than to all parties on the network. The networks should also take advantage of the switches’ Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) capabilities, which allows multiple networks to be running in a secure environment off the same switch,” says De Ru.

A solution recommended by MiRO is Open-Mesh Wi-Fi access points and switches. The Open Mesh technology is characterised by its simplicity of installation and ease of use. By registering an account on the Open Mesh cloud-based management system, one can set up a guest network SSID (Service Set Identifier – the name that guests will connect to), then when users log in it can divert the traffic to either the establishment’s landing page or through to its Facebook page.

Voucher-based authentication can be enabled, with customisation determining how much upstream and downstream speed each device will be allowed, how much data will be free, or allowing integration with a third-party hotspot billing solution like Cloud4Wi or Purple WiFi. Management can also have a separate SSID for the reception desk or for the accounts team.

Once all Wi-Fi SSIDs have been created, one simply adds the access points to the CloudTrax management platform by using the device’s MAC (Media Access Control) address. “Then you simply power up the devices and ensure that they do have internet access, whereafter the device will automatically look for the CloudTrax information and the configuration will be pushed down to each access point,” says De Ru.

A major benefit Open-Mesh provides is that it is a MESH Wi-Fi network. This means that not all access points need to be connected by network cables – the range of the wireless network can be expanded by simply adding new access points in areas with poor Wi-Fi signals and connecting them to a power outlet. These access points will connect wirelessly to the network and expand the reach and signal quality of the network (MESH). This is very convenient in buildings where it is not easy or aesthetically possible to run new network cables.

“One of the key aspects in a successful Wi-Fi deployment include the focus on the initial design, configuration and implementation of the system. The problem affecting most installations comes down to infrastructure and the coordination of the location of wireless access points and the associated cabling. MiRO’s technical team is able to assist WISPs, installers and integrators with customising a solution that will factor in all the elements of a successful Wi-Fi deployment,” says De Ru.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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SAFTA awards get first streaming video nominees

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The 2019 nominations for The South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) were announced late last week, and for the first time in the 13-year history of the awards, a TV series produced for a video-on-demand service was in contention. The result was a surprise boost to streaming service Showmax.

The comedy series Tali’s Wedding Diary, which premiered in December 2017, represented a major step for the then two-year old streaming service. It was the debut Showmax Original, the first time Showmax ventured into producing its own content. The gamble paid off, with the show becoming the most watched of any series on its first day on Showmax, and now Tali’s Wedding Diary has been further recognised with seven SAFTA nominations, making it this year’s most nominated comedy.

“When we first floated the idea of Tali’s Wedding Diary, we joked about winning awards,” says Candice Fangueiro, Showmax’s head of content. “At that point, just getting our first Showmax Original off the ground was already a major challenge and it was more than we could hope for to actually hit it out of the park. I was stunned when I heard the news about the nominations – it’s amazing to be considered in the same company as these other shows and thanks to this we’re already seeing a fresh spike in Tali views.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary was also a first for co-creator and star Julia Anastasopoulos, who until then was best known as YouTube star SuzelleDIY. “I am so thrilled about the SAFTA nominations for Tali’s Wedding Diary,” says Julia, who is up for Best Actress – TV Comedy and Best Achievement in Scriptwriting – TV Comedy, along with her husband Ari Kruger and Daniel Zimbler. 

“It was such a big and daunting step to create a full TV comedy series and intro a brand-new character. I really didn’t know how it would be received and am so happy to have received such positive feedback for the show and the Tali Babes character, along with the nominations. It feels so good to be recognised for something we poured our hearts into. None of it would have been possible, of course, without the incredible hard work and vision of my husband Ari and the incredible team, cast and crew that were part of the show. And a huge thank you to Showmax of course for making it all possible. Congratulations and best of luck to the entire team and to all the other nominees.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary is a mockumentary that follows Tali, a self-obsessed Joburg princess who’s moved to Cape Town and is planning her wedding to property-agent fiancé Darren (Anton Taylor). The series was inspired by Julia’s own wedding to Ari, her SuzelleDIY and Tali’s Wedding Diary co-creator, who is also up for Best Achievement In Directing – TV Comedy.  

In addition to Julia and Ari’s nominations, Tali’s Wedding Diary is up for Best TV Comedy, Art Direction (Keren Setton),  Cinematography (James Adey), and Editing (Richard Starkey). Winners will be announced on 2 March 2019 at Sun City Superbowl.

Following the success of Tali’s Wedding Diary, the second Showmax Original, The Girl From St Agnes, was released earlier this month. A third Showmax Original, Trippin With Skhumba, is slated for release at the end of February.

“With three Showmax Originals now under our belt and more on the way, we’d like to think this is the start of many more SAFTA nominations for shows from a streaming service,” concludes Candice.

South African content currently on Showmax has 110 nominations and includes the most nominated movie (Five Fingers With Marseilles), telenovela (The River), drama (Lockdown) and soap (Isibaya), with more SAFTA nominees scheduled for the coming months.

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