A smartphone hearing test for the detection of hearing problems in underserved communities, called hearScreen, has been honoured for the second time in a few weeks.
The solution was named a finalist in the Philips Innovation Fellows Competition for startups announced last month.
It is now also among the winners of the second annual SA Innovation Awards, in partnership with Business Connexion and Business Day, announced during the MyWorld of Tomorrow expo at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg last week The awards programme is aimed at recognising and celebrating innovative African companies and individuals.
“In the old days it was the large companies that could set up research and development houses, and could be the leaders in innovation that benefited most,” said Matthew Blewett, chief investment officer at Business Connexion. “But it’s changing now – we are seeing the democratisation of innovation. That’s because today you can innovate by having an internet connection and you can even fund yourself through various methods. That is why we launched the SA Innovation Awards – to provide a platform for African innovators, big or small, to showcase how they are bringing great local ideas to life. It’s our way of recognising and celebrating innovation.”
“All industries should be looking at technology as a mechanism of improving efficiencies, operational effectiveness as well as their competitiveness,” said Dr Sibongile Gumbi, one of this year’s SA Innovation Awards judges and group executive at the Technology Innovation Agency. “It is important to embrace technology and in the end see these innovations in the market.”
Songezo Zibi, editor of Business Day and SA Innovations Awards judge, commented: “As much as Africa’s enormous economic potential is recognised, it is only through successful innovations on varying scales that this potential is realised and sustained. I am honoured to have been part of promoting the SA Innovation Awards; it is a valuable tool that we as Business Day support, and look forward to seeing further innovative ideas for our economy.”
The winners as adjudicated by a panel of judges and audited by Mazars (in alphabetical order) are:
Collaborative Innovation: Barclays Africa Group
Created by Barclays and launched in 2014, ‘Rise’ is a global community for open innovation designed to pioneer the future of financial services through technology. It has been created to plug start-ups, corporates and innovators into a global network to enable them to connect, co-create, and scale the ‘next big thing’ in financial services. ‘Rise’ hosts numerous open innovation programmes, including the Barclays Accelerator powered by Techstarts at select locations in New York, London, Manchester and in Africa.
Since launching, ‘Rise’ has established multiple partnerships and proofs of concept in order to make Barclays more competitive, as well as support the ecosystem by providing time, expertise and resources with the help of Barclays’ senior executive mentors, industry experts and subject matter expert mentors and funding of up to $100,000 per venture.
Community Innovation: hearScreen
hearScreen offers a solution for the detection of hearing problems in underserved communities utilising generalist community health workers equipped with mobile phones. This allows the decentralised health care at grass roots level.
The patented hearScreen smartphone hearing test, developed and validated at the University of Pretoria, is the first solution for hearing tests operated by untrained personnel with cloud based data management and a referral system that links patients to services.
Corporate Innovation: Resolve Capacity, a division of Resolve Solution Partners, an Imperial Group company
The Clinic-in-a-box solution provides a ready-to-use clinic which has sections for consultations, drugs storage and dispensing and record keeping providing an all-in-one solution without the need for multiple facilities. The units do not have to have a concrete base or slab for installation and can be disassembled and moved if necessary.
This innovation provides affordable quality healthcare to the African continent’s most vulnerable people living in the remotest of places.
Hall of Fame: Vuselela Energy
The Eternity Power Thermal Harvesting power plant is a clean energy power plant based at the Anglo Platinum Waterval Smelting Complex near Rustenburg in the North West Province. The plant uses waste heat from the convertor cooling circuit at the smelter to generate 4.3MW of electricity which is used by the Anglo Platinum Waterval Smelter for its general power consumption. Developed by Vuselela Energy in collaboration with Anglo Platinum, the plant was commissioned in June 2015.
It is the world’s first power plant of its kind and is a reflection of true innovation in the field of energy efficiency.
SMME Innovation: Enviro Options
The Enviro Loo is an innovative, dry sanitation solution that addresses the factors that inhibit the installation of safe, sustainable sanitation. It operates through a process of dehydration and evaporation, occurring naturally through the use of the sun, gravity and wind. The system has zero environmental impact, as it uses no water or chemicals, and the decomposition of the waste takes place in a sealed unit, thus ensuring no water or ground contamination can occur.
Although the toilet system is waterless, there has been provision in the design to provide hand washing and hygiene facilities through the installation of rain water via a collection tank. Using solar technology, the unit is able to power an electric light and fan, not only improving the processing throughout the unit but also providing a dignified experience.
SMME Innovator: Jacques Malan, Director at Eternity Power and Vuselela Energy
Jacques is a Pyro-Metallurgical engineer with 20 years’ experience in the ferrous, base metals, ferro-alloy and refractory industries. His experience includes research and process design through to commissioning and operation of metallurgical plants in South Africa and internationally. Throughout his career, Jacques has specialised in the development of new processes for NICE applications and has authored a number of publications in the metallurgical field.
He was also responsible for the establishment of the first construction design and management compliant Waste Gas to Energy plant in the worldwide Ferro-Alloy industry, a 17MW plant at international Ferro Metals.
When will we stop calling them phones?
If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.
Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?
It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.
Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.
It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.
That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.
Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti, Admyt and Kaching.
Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.
Who has time for phone calls?
The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.
The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,
This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.
That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.
Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.
Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.
Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.
More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time.
I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.
There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.
MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps
MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.
The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.
“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.
Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”
“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”
“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.