The power of the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect us to everyday objects and allow them to send and receive data has the potential to change the way we buy, sell, manage and service goods and commodities, writes SEBASTIAN ISAAC, Business Development Manager at Rectron.
Moving from a hardware first to a software first mindset
There has been a legacy of businesses focusing on hardware first, and of bigger businesses outsourcing various aspects of their products and services. The result is a functioning product that does what it’s meant to, but without the business functionality to monitor usage or have any further input in the customer’s experience.
The same businesses are beginning to see the benefits of including an IoT component into their products. For example, imagine operating an office automation business and being able to monitor toner usage in your customers’ devices so that you can deliver new cartridges before the customer even knows they need to be replaced. Or you may own a lighting company and thanks to real-time data monitoring, you may be able to find a problem and redevelop a lightbulb that many of your customers have been having trouble with. It changes the nature of your business from being purely a manufacturer or distributor, to being able to take responsibility for the full customer experience.
However, a lot of existing companies are trying to retrofit IoT technology into their products to take advantage of these benefits and, quite simply, because they need to in order to stay relevant. The problem with this is that if you have been in business for several years, your business model has probably been devised around the way you sell and service your products. Simply plugging IoT into your existing model is going to be difficult.
That’s where newer or more innovative companies have an advantage. Many of them are starting with a blank canvas and designing products with software and service at their core focus.
Tesla Motors embodies this way of thinking. The company designed its whole business around its car, in a ground-up approach. Tesla is in control of its entire ecosystem, from manufacturing through to aftersales service because IoT technology was part of its business model from the beginning. It’s a prime example of using IoT to take control of customer experience at every touchpoint, and making these customers’ lives as simple as possible by choosing to use this product.
Improved customer service and deeper insights
This highlights one of the two main advantages of incorporating IoT into your business: the positive impact it has on customer service. It’s a relatively easy way of looking after your customers by monitoring their usage of your product and then stepping in with assistance before they have to reach out to you. The knock-on effect of this is creating customer loyalty to your brand. This creates a proactive approach as opposed to our current reactive nature in business.
Beyond customer service, IoT can also be a useful tool for you to monitor and manage customer data and gain insights from this data. Alarm companies have been monitoring our homes using a form of IoT technology for years, and they have the potential to take this further by incorporating data collection, storage and analysis to develop a picture of how many houses are being broken into in each suburb. Although they are currently doing it, the incorporation of an IOT platform, allows them much more insight into the data they are able to collect. They then have the opportunity to work on their product offering and security strategies, to address this.
Companies involved in water management and electricity management are also ideally placed to take advantage of IoT. In South Africa, the City of Johannesburg has already rolled out approximately 92 000 smart meters and plans to deploy another 250 000 by the end of 2016. This can give the municipality important information about energy consumption in the area and per household – and the more broadly this is rolled out, the more information there is for the government to make decisions about energy regulations within the country. Apart from that, it’s also a useful tool for consumers to monitor their own energy consumption and manage it more effectively to cut costs. It’s already fairly common to have an app on your phone linking to your circuit board to turn off circuits that aren’t being used. And there is the potential to develop a similar system to manage water consumption too.
Addressing real, relevant problems
This shows that IoT innovation is not only a nice to have for improving customer service and consumer experience, but actually addresses real and relevant problems within the South African landscape. The good news is that we have a lot of young, innovative talent in the country ready to help us ride the IoT wave by developing new technology and looking at how to transform existing business models to incorporate it.
The technology on the backend is ready to roll. All you need to do now is start thinking beyond your existing business model and put IoT software and services at the centre of your business model. We’re not far away from making this connected world a reality – so the time is now to start innovating to make sure you’re riding the wave rather than being washed away.
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.
By 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.
How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals
Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.
MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down.
“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.
However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding
An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries.
“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.
Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.
“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”
Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.
Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.