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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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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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