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Local solution for vaccine flaw

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Johannesburg based Beyond Wireless has developed a simple, user-friendly solution to the global challenge of monitoring the vaccine cold chain.

Called ColdCloud, its creators believe it could help to prevent millions of deaths in the developing world. It is currently in use in 54 countries across five continents. Locally, Beyond Wireless aims to align South Africa’s pharmaceutical industry with international best practice.

According to the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC), rolling out childhood immunisations against Hib, pneumococcal and rotavirus diseases in the world’s 73 poorest countries over the next decade will result in an estimated $63 billion in treatment and productivity savings and avert 3.7 million deaths. The challenge, however, is that these countries are often ill equipped to transport, store and distribute vaccines.

Governments around the world are focusing on legislation that aligns their pharmaceutical industries with international best practice, which includes requiring constant temperature monitoring at every leg of the cold chain.

Beyond Wireless founder and CEO, Ian Lester, explains that this is because vaccines must be stored between 2 and 8˚ C. “Temperature excursions outside of this band can reduce and even destroy the effectiveness of vaccines,” he says. “Imagine – you think you’ve immunised your child against pneumococcal disease, but because the vaccine has got too hot or too cold, it’s actually ineffective. It’s a scary thought, but a reality in many poor regions. Even if people have access to vaccines, which is a challenge in itself, are those vaccines effective in combating disease?”

Lester, along with his clients like the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross, believes that improving immunisation is thus a catalyst to solving broader issues, from healthcare through to poverty.

“Ideally, consumers and patients should be able to request proof of compliance from clinics, doctors’ rooms, pharmacies and other medical suppliers to show that vaccines have remained within the required temperature band,” says Lester. “This would significantly boost the efficacy of immunisation efforts.”

Fixing vaccine cold chain

Global best practice suggests automatic temperature monitoring of vaccine and other temperature-sensitive drugs as the best option for maintaining the cold chain, yet many countries in the developing world still lag behind in this regard, which is where Beyond Wireless believes ColdCloud can assist.

“Across the entire length of the cold chain, but especially at the last mile, it’s extremely difficult to ensure that the vaccine cold chain is properly maintained,” Lester says. “If for instance your power goes off in the middle of the night or if a door is accidentally left open, you’re not going to know whether the vaccine in the fridge has gone outside of its temperature range or not. Our GSM enabled remote temperature monitoring device, the ice, is battery operated (with a battery that lasts for five years without the need to recharge to replace it), so it doesn’t require any external power source and is therefore completely immune to damage from power surge. This is a major advantage in the developing world where power can be both unreliable and dirty. The ice device sits in the fridge and monitors power supply, door position and temperature, and escalates alarms via email, sms and via a smart-phone app when anything goes wrong.”

The Beyond Wireless real time temperature monitoring solution is also accessible from any standard browser or smart device with an internet connection. “If you’re working for a health NGO that has vaccine fridges in far-flung locations around the world, you can pull out your phone or tablet wherever you are, log in, and check on the status of every fridge being monitored, as well as pulling up historical data, which allows you to see trends and make informed decisions. I truly believe that by improving the monitoring and control of vaccine cold chains in vaccine distribution points around the world, we can save millions of lives, as well as improving the health and economies of entire societies.”

The ColdCloud solution offers two devices, ice and ice EXTRA, both are WHO PQS and ISO 9001:2008 certified. Beyond Wireless has recently begun to partner with OEMs to supply fridges with the ice and ice EXTRA already installed, thus simplifying access to effective remote cold chain monitoring even further.

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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