JED HEWSON, co-founder and joint CEO of 1Stream, explores the major contact centre technology trends that emerged last year including fibre, AI and chatbots,
At the end of any year, it is wise to look forward to the year ahead, and to use the knowledge gleaned from the previous year to predict some of the business trends and influences that will impact on the economy.
South Africans are finally having fibre delivered to them. With the rollout of fibre across the country, the full potential of cloud technology and connectivity can permeate our lives: both in the home and at work. 2017 showcased a fundamental shift in the cloud marketplace thanks to the accessibility of fibre and the potential it unlocks for the enterprise.
SD-WAN is the next layer of fibre ubiquity that allows the business to free itself from the complexities of multiprotocol label switching (MPLS). It is agile, introduces an additional layer of security and high availability on the router, is link agnostic, and allows the user to configure and manage systems rather than hire specialist engineers. SD-WAN is, quite simply, a better way to use fibre.
3. Artificial intelligence and chatbots
2017 taught us is that there are number of players in the artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbot arena. Until now, connectivity limitations and infrastructure in South Africa have slowed its uptake, but it seems very likely that these services will soon be far more accessible.
In the past, integration in the call centre meant lengthy and expensive projects to connect on-site proprietary systems and usually needed the involvement of highly specialised developers. The cost and effort to implement and maintain integrations made the business case for smaller call centres hard to justify. As modern cloud technologies are designed for remote connection and generally offer “open-Standard” APIs such as Web Services, integration today is faster and less expensive to deploy.
With the rise of cloud-based integration systems, 2017 saw a resurgence of integration in contact centres of all sizes. These systems are designed to use agile methodologies, open and industry standards, with remote connectivity. The integrations of the past year have been more flexible and efficient, faster, cheaper, and designed with more modern technology in mind.
5. The omnichannel
As the call centre adopts an increasing array of channels through which to communicate and collaborate with customers and employees, it is also adopting an increasingly complicated ecosystem that demands improved management accessibility and capability. In 2017, the omnichannel demonstrated both its relevance and its high maintenance. There is a growing number of companies looking for solutions that can streamline all these channels with central reporting and real-time data functionality.
6. The hypercloud
The big four hyperclouds are here at last. Amazon, Azure, IBM and Google are coming to Africa, and with them brings a bevy of services that will see competition for cloud dominance hit an all-time African high. In the past, cloud offerings were limited as the hypercloud leaders were unavailable and the cost and complexities involved in bringing tools to Africa were prohibitive. Now, however, this is all about to change, and the next step is anyone’s guess.
7. The end of on-premise
This past year has shown how businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to justify on-premise solutions. This is being further influenced by shadow cloud or stealth-cloud, where employees and individuals are introducing their own cloud solutions and IT environments, without the influence of IT. This trend was firmly entrenched throughout 2017 and triggered the corporate understanding that they will have to move off-premise at some point. However, in order to proceed, they will need a clear strategy to define how they manage their providers within their infrastructure.
Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets
Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.
Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.
Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps.
Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.
Vodafone Smart Kicka 4
At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.
The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018.
Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games.
Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.
Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer.
The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past.
Huawei Y3 (2018)
The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are.
Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.
Comparing the 3
All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker.
Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.
SA gets digital archive
As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive.
The southafrica.co.za site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.
Designed as a nation building, educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.
The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.
At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.
Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.
“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.
Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island. The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.