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IDC predicts 2017 in SA tech roll-out

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The next wave of ICT development in South Africa will see organisations across the country doing more with less while consolidating and outsourcing legacy IT, according to the latest forecasts from IDC.

Hosting its ‘IDC Predictions 2017’ event in Johannesburg recently, the global ICT research and consulting services firm also predicted that innovation will continue to disrupt the traditional ICT mix and that there will be a much stronger focus on ensuring that technology enables business outcomes.

“This year has undoubtedly been a difficult year for economies around the world,” says Mark Walker, IDC’s associate vice president for Sub-Saharan Africa. “The South African economy has not emerged unscathed. Marginal economic growth and political instability have made the business environment very difficult to navigate, and organisations are looking at technology to drive down their costs while improving the way they operate. Business confidence has also taken a knock because of the economic and political instability.”

“We have seen a very strong focus on datacenter infrastructure and operations during the past year,” continues Walker. “Information security and enterprise software have also been among the top three priorities for CIOs during the same period. Interestingly, cloud computing was only at number seven of the top priorities, which is unexpected considering the global rush to the cloud as a driver of digital transformation and business agility.”

Jon Tullett, research manager for IT services at IDC South Africa, says South Africa has lagged in cloud adoption due to the lack of local infrastructure, data protection concerns, and conservative investment strategies. “IDC believes 2017 will see at least one major global cloud provider establishing local datacenter infrastructure to service the region,” says Tullet. “This will address key concerns and spur competition and adoption while putting pressure on local providers. New public cloud spend will overtake on-premise in areas such as collaborative applications, application development software and platforms, and customer relationship management (CRM).”

Tullett recommends that organisations continue to invest in a private cloud but develop the capabilities to transition workloads into public cloud as circumstances change: “Organisations should reassess their application capabilities with a view to cloud capabilities and invest in cloud skills around critical workloads, as well as integration and management. They should also reevaluate contracts and relationships with software providers to ensure that they meet their business requirements.”

IDC pointed out that 2016 was also a tough year for information security, with the prevalence of massive data leaks, ransomware, and IoT internet-of-things (IoT) malware compounded by a shortage of IT security skills. “We believe 2017 will be worse in every aspect of information security,” says Tullett. “We expect continued exposure for South African businesses to major cybercrime syndicates, both directly and indirectly. IDC also believes 2017 will see at least one high-profile public breach in South Africa, which is likely to be a data leak within the public sector, although we cannot rule out a malware or ransomware attack in retail or healthcare. However, IDC expects that South Africa will contribute several new technologies aimed thwarting attacks, particularly in relation to IoT applications.”

George Kalebaila, senior research manager for telecommunications at IDC South Africa, says until now most of the IoT applications have been cellular based and mainly under the domain of traditional mobile operators. “In 2017, we will start seeing several smaller non-mobile operators deploy low-power WAN (LPWAN) IoT networks to provide low-cost IoT applications,” he says. “IDC expects that most of these implementations will be LoRA based rather than SigFox. IoT will remain a preserve of mobile operators. Post-2017, we expect to see an acceleration of IoT deployments in other African countries using similar business models. LPWAN IoT network implementations will slowly start pushing IoT into the limelight away from traditional M2M applications and lower the barrier to entry in the market, reduce the cost of connectivity, and contribute to the rapid growth of connected devices. We also foresee the developer community taking more interest in developing localised IoT solutions. Once these solutions find their way into the market, this will also drive IoT adoption.”

Kalebaila says mobility is becoming one of the key drivers of digital transformation as customer engagements and transactions move to digital platforms: “Choose your own device (CYOD) has become the de facto device policy for most enterprises to reduce the cost of mobilising the workforce. Financial services will continue to lead the adoption of mobility solutions mainly due to the inherent benefits and cost savings from the reduction in branch footprint and improving customer experience. However, securing data and data recovery have become more important than securing devices as data becomes the new capital in the digital economy.”

IDC expects the number of mobile enterprise applications to almost double as the shift from devices to mobile apps accelerates. “In 2017, near field communication (NFC) will start pushing mobile payments to the fore, but will still remain on the peripheral and will be niche,” says Kalebaila. “5G curiosity and hype from mobile operators and vendors will lead to 5G becoming part of enterprise executive discussions.”

Kalebaila also says organisations should plan for mobile apps as a natural part of all workflows in the organisation: “The focus should move to mobile app development platforms as a critical tool and security must be integrated across the mobile app development lifecycle. Organisations should also develop an intermediate understanding of 5G elements and what they mean in a commercial setting.”

Tullett believes that South African companies will increase their investment in analytics and big data in 2017. While the primary investment will remain limited to large enterprises, he says South African companies are building foundation technologies for cognitive computing, whether it is part of the long-term strategy or not: “Behavioral analysis and prediction will become mainstream in 2017, directly driving product development in banking, financial services, and insurance in particular. In 2017, analytics will be the primary resource responsible for thwarting major criminal incidents.”

He says that when machine learning does arrive in the country, it will do so rapidly, with mature, proven technologies ready to deploy by then and ready to take advantage of aligning projects towards that future. Tullett’s advice to organisations in South Africa is to continue to invest in analytics and data processing capabilities: “Measure everything, bearing in mind this will require investment in data handling infrastructure and development resources. Ensure your data is robust and accessible to your development, customer experience, business intelligence and data science teams. Finally, workshop strategic projects around current and future analytic capabilities.”

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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