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Keeping up with UPS

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A UPS is a very important piece of equipment to any business in South Africa, but purchasing one and just installing it is not enough. It needs to be maintained and monitored to make sure it operates properly when needed, writes ELRICA QUICK.

A UPS has become one of the most critical pieces of office equipment in South Africa, given the on-going power problems as well as the essential nature of technology equipment such as servers, switches and other IT equipment. However, a UPS is not simply something that can be purchased, installed and forgotten about. As essential as it is to operations, it is vital to ensure that the device itself is maintained. This is necessary to make certain that, when it is needed, the UPS will be able to perform with maximum efficiency. Simple preventative maintenance and proactive monitoring, can help businesses to ensure their UPS is always available and in good working order, ready to perform its critical tasks whenever needed.

In the past, performing preventative maintenance on UPS’ was challenging, and problems could only be resolved once they surfaced. However, today’s new UPS models offer integrated advanced monitoring, such as regular automatic status updates, through self-monitoring software. This can greatly assist in ensuring problems can be corrected before they affect the business. However, aside from this proactive monitoring, it is also important to still inspect a UPS regularly to ensure it is operating at maximum efficiency. Through regular maintenance, unnecessary downtime can be avoided, which saves businesses both time and money.

While UPS systems are designed to be reliable and durable, as they age there is an increased chance that they may malfunction either mechanically or electronically. The most common causes of UPS failure are the batteries, fans, electrolytic capacitors, Metal Oxide Varistors (MOVs) – a resistor designed to protect circuits against high transient (short term) voltage – and the relays.

Batteries do not last forever, and will typically need to be replaced at some point during the lifecycle of a UPS. The forecasted lifespan of a UPS battery is between three and five years. However, this depends on the cycles run on the battery. For example, the number of times that the UPS was dependent on the battery will impact the lifecycle of the battery. Newer UPS units include more advanced features and will send out SMS or email alerts regarding the status of the battery and UPS.  Other factors that impact the lifespan of the battery include placement and storage of the battery, ambient temperature and battery chemistry. Being proactive and being aware of these factors can help organisations ensure they obtain maximum life from their UPS batteries, and can predict and prepare for imminent failures.

Temperature has a significant impact on the life expectancy not only of batteries, but of all UPS components. Most UPSs are thus equipped with fans, to help cool the unit and keep ambient temperatures within recommended ranges. The fan will typically switch on or speed up when utility power is not available or when the temperature within the UPS surpasses a predetermined level. To prolong the life of UPS fans it is advisable to limit the scenarios in which the fan is forced to operate. Keeping the ambient temperature within the specified range, monitoring the UPS for unusual or frequent cycling, and correctly sizing the UPS for the relevant load can all help to extend the life of this component.

Electrolytic capacitors smooth out voltage fluctuations and monitoring the temperature of the environment and ensuring it remains within specified ranges, will greatly enhance the life expectancy of electrolytic capacitors.

When it comes to MOVs, they typically malfunction after being exposed to frequent and/or extreme voltage spikes. A UPS is designed to provide surge protection to connected equipment, and the MOV functions to achieve this by absorbing excess voltage. If a severe voltage spike occurs, the MOV may be destroyed. There is little that can be done to prevent the effects of extreme voltage spikes, however, it is important to ensure that if they do happen, the MOV is replaced so that the UPS can continue to provide optimal functionality.

Relays switch the battery on and off, and under normal circumstances it is unlikely that the UPS will cycle enough times to cause the relay to fail. Unusually high cycling could indicate incorrect UPS operation, and the relays and the battery may be affected. Proactive monitoring and reporting will help organisations to become alert to this type of issue, which enables proactive adjustments to be made to the firmware to prevent substantial damage or failure before it occurs.

While the majority of serviceable UPS components are designed to be touch safe, it is wise to bear in mind that a UPS is still a live piece of electrical equipment, and due care and safety procedures should always be taken. General best practices for the maintenance of UPS solutions are to be proactive, be prepared and be organised.  Proactivity is always the best approach with regard to both battery and UPS replacement. Finally, correct organisation is essential. Maintenance inspections should be routinely scheduled, and should always include documentation with details such as inspections performed and date of inspection. Keeping records of the type of maintenance performed and the condition of equipment, including any areas of degradation such as reduced battery runtime, will help organisations to predict future failure.

Monitoring and maintenance are of the utmost importance in preventing problems before they occur, and minimising the effects of costly downtime to a business. Certain factors can easily be controlled to help extend UPS life through optimal conditions, and understanding the effects of elements like temperature and environment. Utilising a reputable brand of UPS from a reliable service provider or partner, and making use of the management features available, can help organisations to leverage their UPS investment to maximum advantage.

* Elrica Quick, APC Product Specialist at Drive Control Corporation

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Samsung in lock-step with its rivals?

Tonight Samsung will kick off the next round in the smartphone wars with the S10 range, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When Samsung unveils the new S10 smartphone at an event in San Francisco today, it will mark the beginning of the 2019 round of World War S. That stands for smartphone wars, although Samsung would like it to be all about the S.

Ever since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013, Samsung has held both technology and thought leadership in the handset world. Back then, Apple’s iPhone 5 was the last device from the American manufacturer that could lay claim to being the best smartphone in the world. With the 2013 launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple entered an era of incremental improvement, playing catch-up, and succumbing to market trends driven by its competitors.

Six years later, Samsung is fighting off the same threat. Its Chinese rival, Huawei, suddenly wrested away leadership in the past year, with the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro regarded as at last equal to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 9 – if not superior. Certainly, from a cost perspective, Huawei took the lead with its more competitive prices, and therefore more value for money.

Huawei also succeeded where Apple failed: introducing more economical versions of its flagship phones. The iPhone 5c, SE and XR have all been disappointments in the sales department, mainly because the price difference was not massive enough to attract lower-income users. In contrast, the Lite editions of the Huawei P9, P10 and P20 have been huge successes, especially in South Africa.

Today, for the first time in half a decade, Samsung goes into battle on a field laid out by its competitors. It is expected to launch the Galaxy S10 Plus, S10 and S10 e, with the latter being the Samsung answer to the strategy of the iPhone XR and Huawei P20 Lite.

Does this mean Samsung is now in lock-step with its rivals, focused on matching their strategies rather than running ahead of them?

It may seem that way, but Samsung has a few tricks up its electronic sleeve. For example, it is possible it will use the S10 launch to announce its coming range of foldable phones, expected to be called the Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex. It previewed the technology at a developer conference in San Francisco last November, and this will be the ideal moment to reclaim technology leadership by going into production with foldables – even if the S10 range itself does not shoot out the lights.

However, the S10 handsets will look very different to their predecessors. First, before switching on the phone, they will be notable by the introduction of what is being called the punch-hole display, which breaks away from the current trend of having a notch at the top of the phone to house front-facing cameras and speakers. Instead, the punch-hole is a single round cut-out that will contain the front camera. It is the key element of Samsung’s “Infinity O” display – the O represents the punchhole – which will be the first truly edge-to-edge display, on the sides and top.

The S10 range will use the new Samsung user interface, One UI, also unveiled at the developer conference. It replaces the previous “skin”, unimaginatively called the Samsung Experience, to introduce a strong new interface brand.

One UI went live on the Note 8 last month, giving us a foretaste, and giving Samsung a chance to iron out the bugs in the field. It is a less cluttered interface, addressing one of the biggest complaints about most manufacturer skins. Only Nokia and Google Pixel handsets offer pure Android in the local market, but One UI is Samsung’s best compromise yet.

It introduces a new interaction area, in the bottom half, reachable with the thumb, with a viewing area at the top, allowing the user to work one-handed on the bottom area while still having apps or related content visible above. One UI also improves gesture navigation – the phone picks up hand movements without being touched – and notification management.

The S10 range will be the first phones to feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, at least for the South African and American markets. That makes it 5G compatible, for when this next generation of mobile broadband becomes available in these markets.

They will also be the first phones to feature Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of the Wi-Fi mobile wireless standard. It will perform better in congested areas, and data transfer will be up to 40% faster than the previous generation.

The phones will be the first to use ultrasound for fingerprint detection. If Samsung gets it right, this will make it the fastest in-screen fingerprint sensor on the market, and allows for a little leeway if one pushes the finger down slightly outside the fingerprint reader surface. It does mean, however, that screen protectors will have to be redesigned to avoid blocking the detection.

Not enough firsts? There are a few more.

Most notably, it will be the first phone range to feature 1 Terabyte (TB) storage – that’s a thousand Gigabytes (GB) – at least for the top-of-the-range devices. Samsung last month announced that it would be the first manufacturer to make 1TB built-in onboard flash storage. Today, it will deploy this massive advantage as it once again weaponises its technology in the fight for smartphone domination.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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IoT set to improve authentication

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By Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President, Internet of Things Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

As it rapidly approaches maturity, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to continue a transformational trajectory, introducing new efficiencies in multiple fields by allowing measurement and analysis on a scale that has never been possible before. From agriculture to logistics, from retail to hospitality, from traffic to health, from the home to the office, the applications for monitoring ”things” are limited only by the imagination.

And South African (and African) businesses are showing abundant imagination in their practical deployments of IoT solutions in multiple settings, creating a better tomorrow through almost universal measurement and the introduction of new levels of convenience – including how to access locations, devices and services securely.

Any company, whether South African or international, should bear in mind that understanding consumer expectations can be the key to unlocking the full potential of IoT devices and related smart services.

According to Gemalto’s latest Connected Living study, improving the way consumers authenticate themselves to services is one of the most anticipated benefits of IoT, highlighting a desire for a more seamless and secure IoT experience.

Consumers are interested in advanced ways of authenticating themselves through automatic (based on behavioral patterns) or biometric techniques, lessening the need to have to intervene manually, all in the name of a much more streamlined authentication process. Smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have already placed fingerprint and facial recognition high on the agenda. There is also a widespread positive sentiment towards IoT’s potential for improving the quality of home life through connected, smart appliances.

Personalised services is something else that wins consumers over. In fact, a fluid, personalised and unified experience with continuity of services, together with security and privacy, is critical for the successful implementation of any technology.

And those types of services are today quite possible. With everything being connected – from small gadgets to digital solutions for large enterprises – IoT is no longer just a buzzword. That much is clear in a piece from Vodacom IoT managing executive Deon Liebenberg. Writing for IOL Online, Liebenberg provides insight into the sheer range of applications for IoT: the 20 use cases he cites range from the obvious, like transport and logistics, to the connected home and wearables; he even suggests tagging pets with IoT transmitters, for those who always need to know the whereabouts of the family cat.

Low-cost tags fitted to cats, dogs, lamp posts, shipping containers or other items are just one part of the puzzle, however. There are other two pieces; arguably the most complex part is the availability of communication networks in areas where there aren’t any WiFi networks, or indeed, anything else.

And that’s where the bigger takeaway from Liebenberg’s piece and other IoT trends articles becomes apparent. The communication networks are there, as are those tags: dedicated IoT networks (like LoraWAN, SigFox and narrowband IoT) are all available in South Africa.

So, too, is the third and final essential component. Software which is able to process the data generated by the tag and transmitted over the IoT network and into the internet. In this regard, there’s no shortage of solutions available from cloud providers like AWS and Azure; electronics giant Siemens, too, is in on the action, having recently launched a new cloud-based IoT operating system to develop applications and services for process industries, including oil and gas and water management.

This combination means it is quite possible right now to enable just about any use case. Business owners, who will know best how IoT can add value in their organisation, can now see their ideas becoming reality. Most crucial of all, IoT solutions delivering new levels of efficiency and convenience are not only possible, they are able to be offered with the simple and effective security that will drive consumer acceptance.

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