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Making power smart

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The energy problem in South Africa has made it essential for businesses to find alternative forms of power. But how do we know when to switch between environments? INUS DRECKMEYR, CEO at Netshield South Africa discusses how to gauge when it is ideal to move off the “grid” and when to stay on it.

The energy crisis in South Africa has made the addition of alternative energy sources imperative for businesses and households across the country. So now you have power around the clock – regardless of power outages or load shedding. But how do know when to switch between environments, gauge when peak hours are or make your renewable energy solutions work to help you save costs and cut back on grid usage?

Power management needs to be carefully thought out, or you may end up spending more on your electricity bills than you did before. There is a lot of scepticism around implementing renewable energy sources because of the hefty price tag that comes with the initial lay out, but if used correctly these solutions will ultimately save you money while keeping the lights on.

So what can you do? You need to implement a single power management resource that will intelligently and proactively help you determine which energy sources you should be using when, so that you get the most out of your power and maximum return on your investment.

It is all about management, if you have a device in place to manage your power sources in the best way possible, you don’t have to. But be careful to select a scalable solution, something that can accommodate your personal business need. This is particularly relevant if you are a large enterprise, SMBs or homeowner, who has made an investment into multiple power sources, but are finding it challenging to take control and understand your power environment.

All the features, none of the fuss

When we factored all of this in we looked at what was available on the market, saw there was little to match these needs, we elected to develop a home-grown solution designed especially with South African needs in mind to help cut costs and manage your power. If you have a renewable solution in place you want to use it first, because ultimately it reduces your reliance on the grid.

We wanted something that could dynamically determine when these renewable resources were depleted and then move you back onto the grid (Eskom) power, without disruptions to your home or your business. That means happy customers that will always get the services they need, and no wailing children when the TV goes off in the middle of their favourite show.

In addition, if your power goes off at a peak time and your renewable energy stores aren’t fully “charged” to capacity, your solution must tell your system to start up and revert to a generator, if this is included in your power environment. So basically, your power is managed for you to ensure stability and business/home continuity which will in turn, enable you to get the most out of your renewable energy investment and realise ROI. It will also give you the ability to gauge the total cost of ownership in a qualified manner.

Why do I need power management?

Multiple power feeds or sources are very much the way of the future unless some massive changes are made to energy management in South Africa. When adding alternative energy sources to your power environment, the options can be overwhelming and if you don’t use a power management solution, you can’t see where the power is going or where it’s coming from and may end up throwing money down a black hole.

Ultimately it is about effective and smart power management, using the power that’s best for your needs – and pocket – so you can realise a return on your renewable energy investment. Power management is quite a new concept for South Africans, we know that it’s needed but very seldom know where to start. A large problem when it comes to renewable energy at the moment is that people want a “quick fix”. So they will purchase renewable energy and power management solutions that are of bad quality and that will ultimately cost them more than laying down initial investment on a good quality solution would have.

All you need in one solution

How does it work? By quantifying and identifying peak times and even load shedding schedules, we will set up a series of triggers in the systems that then use a type of failover model to determine which power source is needed at that moment.

Depending on your setup of the system, your power management solution should always seek to use renewable first, only electing to revert to the grid if the load requires it, helping you save on grid costs wherever possible. This is achieved via a series of pre-set priorities, determined by you before installation, priorities range from one to four with four being the most severe-case scenario.

In addition to managing your power, the solution we have developed the Nviromon, is also an environmental monitoring solution that enables the remote management of server rooms, entire business networks, and your home, remotely, from a single management console and from a single device. It can remotely open and close gates, serve as an alarm system when connected to movement sensors and sirens and will inform you of power outages as well as other environmental threats outages through an SMS or email.

Remember that power management must give you an efficient, and convenient way to manage your power and your environment with one device, so that you get maximum ROI and peace of mind. In addition, the future will see South Africans paying more for their grid electricity during peak times, so why wouldn’t you want a solution that enables you to switch to alternate sources and save money? It’s the smart thing to do.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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