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It’s IoT vs Evil Spores

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In order to prevent crop diseases from spreading, Eseye has developed IoT real-time crop monitoring equipment as an early warning system for farmers.

IoT M2M connectivity specialist Eseye has partnered with Burkard, designers and builders of air samplers for agricultural research since 1953, to harness the power of the IoT. Burkard has developed a piece of real-time pathogen monitoring equipment to predict and provide an early warning system of crop disease risk. The collaboration with Eseye and its AnyNet Secure SIM and technology, delivers highly secure and reliable global cellular network data through its AnyNet Secure SIM, and provides automatic routing onto up to 440 cellular operators in 190 countries and links seamlessly to the AWS Cloud.

Increasing the world’s food supply is a major issue, crop diseases can have a devastating humanitarian and economic impact and with sustained global population growth it is estimated that by 2050, a 70 per cent increase in food production is required to ensure the world is fed. Jeremy Potgieter, regional head, SADC, Eseye says that 20-40 per cent of crop losses are attributed to disease: “The accurate prediction and prevention of diseases is a vital area to address in the battle to enhance yields, and is now an area in which cellular IoT and the AWS Cloud is providing support to an innovative solution.”

Traditionally, the method of identifying signs of crop disease has been time-consuming, cumbersome and costly, involving research scientists assessing the contents of in-field samplers under a microscope. Preventative pesticide spraying is also used to protect crops from possible disease, with weather or planting dates informing decisions on the chemicals to be applied. This is less effective and more costly than targeted spraying, it may be detrimental to consumer health and the environment, and over time, sees pests and diseases becoming resistant to the treatment.

Burkard’s innovative product uses Eseye’s AnyNet Secure global cellular connectivity and AWS IoT to enable farmers to receive tailored information from their own fields, whenever they want it, and to have full control over that data.

Potgieter says that the Burkard Auto Sampler sits permanently within a farmer’s field remotely collecting DNA release and uses a LAMP assay to quantify airborne spores: “Crop data is transmitted, over-the-air via the AnyNet Secure SIM, back to the AWS Cloud where it is analysed and reported in a matter of minutes using AWS IoT Gateway tools, which do the mathematics behind the forecasting. Information is stored and presented back so farmers can see exactly which fields are at risk and act accordingly to treat the crops.”

Historically, for similar agricultural projects, Burkard used a general modem and SIM card to send texts to alert on potential crop risks. However, Burkard found this unresponsive because the lack of reliable connectivity across different locations resulted in the frequent need to change providers.

Stuart Wili, managing director at Burkard, says, “While working on a similar project a few years ago, we had to send operators out with mobile phones from as many different providers as possible to find out which had the best signal in certain fields. It was not only extremely inefficient but often connectivity was lost anyway. This time we knew we needed a reliable connectively solution to make the project a success.”

The AnyNet Secure™ SIM enhanced features also enable IoT devices to remotely and securely activate, provision, authenticate and certify devices or ‘things’, in field, over-the-air. Integration with AWS Cloud Services, further simplifies project set up and deployment by reducing the need for investment in specialist in-house infrastructure and development resources. By adding AWS’ software tools and cloud the business establishes the means to simply and quickly analyse data and to scale instantly and securely, on demand.

Wili says: “With the AnyNet Secure SIM, farmers don’t need to rely on single local network coverage, which often can’t be guaranteed. Instead they can be assured accurate data from the field is being securely and accurately transmitted back to the server, without any concern over connectivity, the AnyNet Secure SIM will utilise any and all connectivity available. Farmers can completely trust the system data will forewarn about any potential issues with their crops, they can then act quickly to resolve them.”

The module deployed, an Eseye Hera 604 with add-on logger functionality, can store all data and publish to AWS as required, ensuring there is no loss of information. A key challenge to the solution is to deliver secure and resilient connectivity, otherwise the farmers’ data will be void.

Wili explains, “We are finally giving farmers an answer to their concerns over the ramifications of crop disease. This not only provides peace of mind, but the solution also supports the environment and saves precious time, resources and ultimately money. Looking to the future, we plan to roll out the technology across the globe, particularly in developing countries, where the importance of farming is far higher, and therefore the need to prevent disease to ensure a healthy crop is even greater.”

Paul Marshall, Chief Customer Officer at Eseye, says, “Eseye’s work with Burkard and AWS is a prime example of the range of economic, social and environmental benefits which can be reaped through IoT. By using AnyNet and AWS solutions, the agricultural industry can harness the knowledge and foresight from accurate data in making informed decisions. We are delighted to be part of this project and look forward to seeing the benefits rolled out across the globe.”

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VoD cuts the cord in SA

Some 20% of South Africans who sign up for a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service such as Netflix or Showmax do so with the intention of cancelling their pay television subscription.

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That’s according to GfK’s international ViewScape survey*, which this year covers Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria) for the first time.

The study—which surveyed 1,250 people representative of urban South African adults with Internet access—shows that 90% of the country’s online adults today use at least one online video service and that just over half are paying to view digital online content. The average user spends around 7 hours and two minutes a day consuming video content, with broadcast television accounting for just 42% of the time South Africans spend in front of a screen.

Consumers in South Africa spend nearly as much of their daily viewing time – 39% of the total – watching free digital video sources such as YouTube and Facebook as they do on linear television. People aged 18 to 24 years spend more than eight hours a day watching video content as they tend to spend more time with free digital video than people above their age.

Says Benjamin Ballensiefen, managing director for Sub Sahara Africa at GfK: “The media industry is experiencing a revolution as digital platforms transform viewers’ video consumption behaviour. The GfK ViewScape study is one of the first to not only examine broadcast television consumption in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, but also to quantify how linear and online forms of content distribution fit together in the dynamic world of video consumption.”

The study finds that just over a third of South African adults are using streaming video on demand (SVOD) services, with only 16% of SVOD users subscribing to multiple services. Around 23% use per-pay-view platforms such as DSTV Box Office, while about 10% download pirated content from the Internet. Around 82% still sometimes watch content on disc-based media.

“Linear and non-linear television both play significant roles in South Africa’s video landscape, though disruption from digital players poses a growing threat to the incumbents,” says Molemo Moahloli, general manager for media research & regional business development at GfK Sub Sahara Africa. “Among most demographics, usage of paid online content is incremental to consumption of linear television, but there are signs that younger consumers are beginning to substitute SVOD for pay-television subscriptions.”

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New data rules raise business trust challenges

When the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on May 25th, financial services firms will face a new potential threat to their on-going challenges with building strong customer relationships, writes DARREL ORSMOND, Financial Services Industry Head at SAP Africa.

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The regulation – dubbed GDPR for short – is aimed at giving European citizens control back over their personal data. Any firm that creates, stores, manages or transfers personal information of an EU citizen can be held liable under the new regulation. Non-compliance is not an option: the fines are steep, with a maximum penalty of €20-million – or nearly R300-million – for transgressors.

GDPR marks a step toward improved individual rights over large corporates and states that prevents the latter from using and abusing personal information at their discretion. Considering the prevailing trust deficit – one global EY survey found that 60% of global consumers worry about hacking of bank accounts or bank cards, and 58% worry about the amount of personal and private data organisations have about them – the new regulation comes at an opportune time. But it is almost certain to cause disruption to normal business practices when implemented, and therein lies both a threat and an opportunity.

The fundamentals of trust

GDPR is set to tamper with two fundamental factors that can have a detrimental effect on the implicit trust between financial services providers and their customers: firstly, customers will suddenly be challenged to validate that what they thought companies were already doing – storing and managing their personal data in a manner that is respectful of their privacy – is actually happening. Secondly, the outbreak of stories relating to companies mistreating customer data or exposing customers due to security breaches will increase the chances that customers now seek tangible reassurance from their providers that their data is stored correctly.

The recent news of Facebook’s indiscriminate sharing of 50 million of its members’ personal data to an outside firm has not only led to public outcry but could cost the company $2-trillion in fines should the Federal Trade Commission choose to pursue the matter to its fullest extent. The matter of trust also extends beyond personal data: in EY’s 2016 Global Consumer Banking Survey, less than a third of respondents had complete trust that their banks were being transparent about fees and charges.

This is forcing companies to reconsider their role in building and maintaining trust with its customers. In any customer relationship, much is done based on implicit trust. A personal banking customer will enjoy a measure of familiarity that often provides them with some latitude – for example when applying for access to a new service or an overdraft facility – that can save them a lot of time and energy. Under GDPR and South Africa’s POPI act, this process is drastically complicated: banks may now be obliged to obtain permission to share customer data between different business units (for example because they are part of different legal entities and have not expressly received permission). A customer may now allow banks to use their personal data in risk scoring models, but prevent them from determining whether they qualify for private banking services.

What used to happen naturally within standard banking processes may be suddenly constrained by regulation, directly affecting the bank’s relationship with its customers, as well as its ability to upsell to existing customers.

The risk of compliance

Are we moving to an overly bureaucratic world where even the simplest action is subject to a string of onerous processes? Compliance officers are already embedded within every function in a typical financial services institution, as well as at management level. Often the reporting of risk processes sits outside formal line functions and end up going straight to the board. This can have a stifling effect on innovation, with potentially negative consequences for customer service.

A typical banking environment is already creaking under the weight of close to 100 acts, which makes it difficult to take the calculated risks needed to develop and launch innovative new banking products. Entire new industries could now emerge, focusing purely on the matter of compliance and associated litigation. GDPR already requires the services of Data Protection Officers, but the growing complexity of regulatory compliance could add a swathe of new job functions and disciplines. None of this points to the type of innovation that the modern titans of business are renowned for.

A three-step plan of action

So how must banks and other financial services firms respond? I would argue there are three main elements to successfully navigating the immediate impact of the new regulations:

Firstly, ensuring that the technologies you use to secure, manage and store personal data is sufficiently robust. Modern financial services providers have a wealth of customer data at their disposal, including unstructured data from non-traditional sources such as social media. The tools they use to process and safeguard this data needs to be able to withstand the threats posed by potential data breaches and malicious attacks.

Secondly, rethinking the core organisational processes governing their interactions with customers. This includes the internal measures for setting terms and conditions, how customers are informed of their intention to use their data, and how risk is assessed. A customer applying for medical insurance will disclose deeply personal information about themselves to the insurance provider: it is imperative the insurer provides reassurance that the customer’s data will be treated respectfully and with discretion and with their express permission.

Thirdly, financial services firms need to define a core set of principles for how they treat customers and what constitutes fair treatment. This should be an extension of a broader organisational focus on treating customers fairly, and can go some way to repairing the trust deficit between the financial services industry and the customers they serve.

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