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Mobile apps for all

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The app isn’t just for the large enterprise anymore, now it can provide a highly specialised and customised solution for clients of all business sizes, writes JOHN EIGELAAR of Keystone Electronics.

Until recently the mobile app has been seen as an expensive, time consuming and challenging solution to develop, something that only the large enterprise can afford or implement. This has now changed. Apps are easy to build and they allow for the small business to develop a solution that is customisable and completely structured around the business and the brand. Through an app, the small enterprise (SME) can create a native environment that captures client loyalty and keeps them engaged.

A recent study undertaken by the mobile analytics firm Mobidia [https://www.internetretailer.com/2014/01/09/exclusive-how-consumers-interact-20-top-shopping-apps] focused on the use of customised apps in the consumer space and found that an average 48% of Android users shopped online through mobile commerce apps. The same principles can be applied in the B2B space – create apps that make accessing content, capabilities and features a simple endeavour and you have a solution that keeps your customers coming back for more.  It is no longer a question of whether to build an app for the business or the products it sells, but rather what needs to be done to ensure that it is done well.

It is essential that a business app be easy to use. Complex user interfaces with steep learning curves will alienate the client and are unlikely to keep them engaged. It is also vital that an app be focused on delivering one very specific solution – it’s easy to try and cram a diverse range of capabilities into one app, but this potentially can result in a confused mess that makes little sense to anyone. Keystone Electronics recently designed an app called BlueGoo that allows for the supervision of all IP-enabled equipment on a site over LAN with SNMP. It is a targeted solution that addresses a certain need. It isn’t diluted by other products or solutions and provides clients with a reliable and easy method for configuring the Keystone RSM Blue system. The app took away the need for the client to use a laptop and working network in order to do their work, and replaced it with any Android device from anywhere.

Keystone has created other apps to work in conjunction with other products such as GLAM Bluetooth and ATC Interlock and Job Card Tracker. Each one is focused on resolving a particular problem or addressing a certain client requirement. This then leads to the next point – personalisation.

When creating an app, especially if it is being developed as part of an overall solution or implementation, adding in layers of personalised content can make all the difference. By adding in layers that are client or solution specific, the experience becomes a far more compelling one. The process also does not demand that suddenly the SME hire developers or spend terrifying quantities of cash on getting apps developed. Costs have come down and many organisations offer this service at a price point that doesn’t massively impact the bottom line over the long term, especially if an app can be used across multiple clients and installations. Ultimately, however, the real value lies in keeping clients loyal and engaged and coming back for more and it is in this arena that the app truly shines. It is a tool that can now be used by businesses of any size to boost business capabilities and enhance products and solutions.

* John Eigelaar, co-founder and director of Keystone Electronics.

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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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