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IoT needs fine planning

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IoT is heading for mainstream adoption, but CIOs must plan carefully as it moves to the edge of the network, and stay committed to mitigating privacy and security threats.

More and more companies are deploying Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to bridge the physical and digital worlds and create new growth opportunities. However, as recent breaches have shown, leaders must stay up to date with this constantly changing environment. Forrester’s latest study, Predictions 2018: IoT Moves from Experimentation to Business Scale,  lays out the C-level priorities for the year ahead.

According to the study, IoT will move beyond proof of concept and into mainstream adoption in 2018. Forrester predicts that 10% of marketers at B2C brands will scale initiatives beyond pilots to build more intimate customer relationships and experiences.

“To achieve optimum impact, CMOs should rely more on the insights of complex data sets from devices,” says Michele Pelino, Forrester principal analyst serving infrastructure and operations professionals.

“Smartphones will also play a key role in enabling these new connected customer experiences and marketers should extend their mobile-moment strategies to include new interfaces with smart home speakers or smartwatches.”

Despite the growing concern around the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Forrester says that a 2018 European data economy directive will promote the exchange of data and insights. Early innovators will set the tone in the market and increased competition between EU and US companies will drive adoption.

In addition, voice-based services, which have until now, been dominated by smaller companies, we will see an increased adoption from larger enterprises. Pelino says that a combination of consumer adoption; advances in artificial intelligence, such as natural language understanding (NLU); AI chips in hardware; faster processors and wireless networks; and cheaper components is making high-quality voice control of devices a reality.

Taking the action to the edge

A key trend will be IoT infrastructure shifting towards the edge. The study notes that edge IoT devices are able to act locally, based on data they generate, as well as take advantage of the cloud for secure, scalable configuration, deployment, and management.

The importance of IoT platforms will also continue to grow this year as clients look for: low adoption costs; quick deployment for prototyping; global reach; and easy integration with low maintenance – all of which are making cloud-based options attractive.

Forrester predicts that,  as data volumes grow, developers will push processing and analysis of data to the edge of the network and onto gateways and devices in order to cut data ingestion costs and reduce network latency.

Security And Privacy Still Critical

Forrester says most firms still haven’t shown the required commitment to mitigating IoT-specific threats.

The firm believes many IoT devices and ecosystems are still vulnerable to attacks that could take systems offline, and cause “minor to significant disruptions (and potential loss of life) and/or data exfiltration”. The report goes further to say that,  in 2018, we’ll see more IoT-related attacks, both on devices and on the cloud backplane, as hackers look to breach systems and extract sensitive data.

Forrester warns organisations to have security professionals critically assess their systems, including default passwords, weak encryption implementations, and inadequate patching/remediation capabilities. The report also urges a thorough assessment of GDPR and other data protection compliance.

Blockchain will also begin impacting the performance of IoT technology as it gains traction. In fact, Forrester expects that the percentage of IoT cases using blockchain technologies will rise to over 5% among all IoT initiatives this year.

Pelino says that, while blockchain isn’t yet ready for large-scale deployments requiring reliability, stability, and seamless integration with existing technology infrastructure, companies should begin experimentation with the technology now in order to evaluate vendors against their firm’s IoT business scenarios.

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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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