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M2M Barometer reveals IoT explosion in SA

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Vodafone’s recently released M2M barometer report has revealed a rapid growth in ‘Internet of Things’ in South Africa and across the globe.|Vodafone’s recently released M2M barometer report has revealed a rapid growth in ‘Internet of Things’ in South Africa and across the globe.

Vodafone recently published its third annual Vodafone M2M Barometer Report – a global survey of the Machine-to-Machine (M2M) sector. The report reveals continued strong growth in the use of the technologies, networks and services that connect a wide variety of smart devices – from household products and cars to industrial applications – to the so-called ‘Internet of Things’.

The Vodafone M2M Barometer Report reveals that more than one-quarter of all companies worldwide are now using M2M, up from 12% when Vodafone first launched the report in 2013. In South Africa this number is even higher than the global average, with 35% of companies stating that they have implemented M2M projects and 26% are planning to implement within the next 12 months.

A significant majority of early adopters are already seeing clear business advantages from M2M deployment; 81% have expanded their use of M2M technologies over the last year. Overall awareness of M2M and the Internet of Things increased significantly during 2014-15; 76% of companies– both adopters and non-adopters – say they are familiar with the new technologies.

The fastest growth in rates of adoption – up 88% year on year – is in the retail sector where typical M2M applications include in-store digital signage, smart payment systems and supply chain optimisation. The M2M Barometer also found strong growth in the healthcare sector (up 47%) – where M2M is used for applications such as remote patient monitoring and patient record systems – and the utilities sector (up 32%), driven by the global expansion of smart metering systems to enhance energy efficiency. Meanwhile, the automotive industry continues to embed M2M as a core technology within the designs of new vehicles, with the accelerating production of so-called ‘connected cars’ being a major contributor towards a 14% year-on-year increase in M2M adoption in that sector.

Business Transformation

Companies that have begun to adopt M2M technologies are already experiencing substantive benefits; 59% of early adopters reported a significant return on their investment in M2M, with a 28% year-on-year increase in the proportion of companies reporting a sizeable ROI impact. For 69% of South African businesses, the key factor prompting investments into M2M was the opportunity for innovation. While 73% of businesses in South Africa that have adopted M2M said they were using their solutions for automating processes.

The Vodafone M2M Barometer Report also found an increasing level of sophistication within many companies’ M2M applications including integration with cloud computing technologies and the advanced use of big data analytics. Companies that have invested in these services reported the greatest business impact; 69% of advanced M2M users said their companies had been fundamentally transformed by the Internet of Things.

Tony Smallwood, executive head of M2M and vertical industries at Vodacom Business said, “The Internet of Things is transforming more businesses faster than ever before. This is particularly true for South African businesses which are embracing M2M faster than our global counterparts. According to the research findings this is primarily driven by the opportunity M2M brings for innovation and the ability to automate processes.”

Analysys Mason Principal Analyst Michele Mackenzie said, “There are two really striking results in the Vodafone M2M Barometer Report for 2015. First, retail and healthcare stand out as sectors demonstrating considerable growth in adoption as an increasing proportion of companies transform themselves to compete more effectively in the digital economy. Second, there are some very interesting insights into the diverse measures used by companies to assess the value of M2M. There are compelling examples of cost savings; positive impacts on customer retention and the ability to unlock new revenue streams are also cited as tangible benefits that continue to drive investment in M2M.”

“By using the Vodafone M2M platform, we are able to provide point-of-sale communication in 12 countries in Africa,” adds Smallwood. “While the retail sector has been reaping the benefits of our M2M offering for some time now, we are seeing the interest in M2M technology is expanding into vertical areas such as energy and water solutions, asset management and security solutions.”

The survey – conducted by Circle Research covers countries across the globe looking into small and medium size enterprises for the first time, leading to an 80% increase in interview respondents.

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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.

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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.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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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 have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

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.

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