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Musk’s Powerwall has SA competitor

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Now there is a homegrown alternative to the Tesla Powerwall, but at a price.

The Tesla Powerwall unveiled in the USA by Elon Musk last year as a solution to home energy storage now has South African competition.

Energy Partners Home Solutions, a division of PSG subsidiary Energy Partners, has announced the launch of what it calls South Africa’s “first-of-its-kind residential energy solution” – the Icon Home Energy Hub. The solution allows residential users to improve efficiency in their overall energy usage, generate their own energy and also to store extra solar electricity for everyday use or for backup/electricity security.

However, it comes at a high cost. The full system starts at R167 000, excluding VAT. Systems can also be financed over 5 years. The Tesla Powerwall version with solar panels included starts at R169 000 excluding VAT.

That means it will come down to the exact specifications as well as services available.

According to Alan Matthews, Managing Director of Energy Partners Home Solutions, this product is the country’s first integrated battery and inverter solution specifically for the South African home market and has the potential to minimise the user’s dependence on the national energy grid.

“We believe it is going to revolutionise how South Africans manage and store their energy at home.”

He says that the company embarked on developing the product to assist South African home owners with a solution for controlling their energy spend, especially when subjected to unreliable supply during load shedding by Eskom.

“Like our corporate clients, they too were at the mercy of tariff increases. But, unlike corporate clients, they did not have teams of engineers and strong financial skills to draw on.

“This is why we spent the last 18 months creating this unique solution for homeowners,” he says. “Our solution enables home owners to take control of their energy, by supplying a set of reliable products that form a full home energy solution which combines lighting, water heating and renewable energy.”

The Energy Partner’s solution enables a family sized home to save up to 70% of its electricity bill and earn from a 16% return on their investment.

“That is twice the saving a standard solar solution would provide,” says Matthews.

The Icon Home Energy Hub consists of two components: the Energy Hub Inverter and the Lithium Ion Phosphate Battery.

“The inverter is a critical component in any solar energy solution. Its main function is to take the electricity generated (DC) from the solar panels and convert it into an energy form that can be utilised in the home (AC). The inverter also integrates with the battery to allow all excess generated energy to be stored in the batteries for later usage.”

The full household solution includes: the Icon hybrid inverter; 3.1 kWp poly crystalline panels; Icon 3.6 kWh LiFePO4 battery; 300 litre tank with a total average storage capacity 16 kWh; a 4.7 kW heat pump; mounting structure to mount the panels on the roof and the balance of the system.

The most recognisable global competitor to the Icon is the Tesla Powerwall battery, paired with a Solar edge inverter, he says.

“When this product was launched in South Africa recently it received a lot of attention, but the Tesla solution is focussed around the battery – which is 6.4 kWh. Our solution includes a smaller battery, but also includes a heat pump and an extra-large hot water tank. This means that it delivers almost double the saving and costs less.”

He says that besides the energy bill reduction benefit, the solution also reduces the homeowner’s carbon footprint and environmental impact and makes the user independent of the grid.

“The user can power essential loads for several hours, even if the grid is off, a feature that is simply not possible with grid-tied inverters.”

The solution is extremely flexible; for example, it can be installed without batteries and then 3.6 kWh or 6 kWh of battery capacity can be added as needed. It also includes a remote monitoring platform allowing the user to monitor the status of their system directly on their mobile app.

“The system can be ordered directly from us and we have our own installation capacity. Our consultants are also happy to come and visit those interested at their homes. We are currently only installing in the Western Cape, but plan to launch in Gauteng before the end of 2016. We are currently accepting orders and our first products will ship in June 2016,” says Matthews.

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Epic Games brings a
Nite-mare to Android

Epic Games’ decision to not publish games through Google Play inadvertently opens a market to Android virus makers, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, decided to take the high road by skipping Google Play’s app distribution market and placing a third-party installer for its games on its website. While this is technically fine, it is not recommended for the average user, because allowing third-party installers on one’s smartphone opens up the possibility of non-signed and malicious software to be run on the smartphone. 

In June, malware researchers at ESET warned Android gamers that malicious fake versions of the Fortnite app had been created to steal personal information or damage smartphones. A malware researcher demonstrated how the fake applications works in the Tweet below.

While the decision to bypass Google Play was a bold move on Epic Games’ part, it has been a long time coming for app developers to move their premium apps off Google’s Play Store. The two major app distributors, Google Play and Apple’s App Store, take a 30% cut of every purchase made through their app distribution platforms. 

The App Store is currently the only way to get apps on a non-modified iOS device, which is why Epic Games had no choice for Fortnite to be in the App Store. On the other hand, Android phones can install packages downloaded through the browser, which makes the Play Store almost unnecessary for the gaming company. 

The most interesting part of this development is that Google is not the “bad guy” and Epic Games is no saviour to other game developers. Epic Games is a company with a multi-billion dollar valuation and has resources like large-scale servers to distribute and update its games, a big marketing budget to ensure everyone knows how to get its games, and server security to protect against malware. 

Resources of this scale allow the game company to turn a cold shoulder to Google’s Play Store distribution and focus on its own, in-house solution. 

That said, installing packages without the Google Play Store must be done carefully, and it is essential to do homework on where a package is downloaded. Moreover, when a package is installed outside of the Google Play Store, a security switch to block the installation of third party apps must be turned off. This switch should be turned back on immediately after the third party package is installed. 

This complex amount of steps makes it less worthwhile to install third party apps, in favour of rather waiting for them to reach the Play Store.

From a consumer perspective, ESET recommends not installing packages outside of the Google Play Store and to ignore advertisements to download the game from other sources.

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How to take on IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming, whether you like it or not and organisations today will look to platforms and services that help them manage and analyse the streams of data coming from connected devices, says RONALD RAVEL, Director B2B South Africa, Toshiba South Africa.

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Today, we are witnessing an explosion in IoT deployments and solutions and are moving towards a world where almost everything you can imagine will be connected. While this opens the door to many possibilities it also comes with its own challenges such as privacy and security.

The Internet has become an integral part of everyday life; it has been a free for all on a daily basis. IoT is a difficult concept for many people to wrap their minds around. Essentially, nearly every business will be affected.

Managing vast quantities of data across increasingly mobile workforces can be tremendously beneficial if done well, but equally can be cumbersome and ineffective if not managed properly. This is why technologies such as mobile edge computing are becoming increasingly popular, helping to increase the prevalence of secure mobile working and data management in the age of IoT.

Unlocking IoT

The evolution of IoT, despite rapid and ongoing technological innovation, is still very much in its fledgling stages. Its potential, though, is demonstrated by the fact that by 2020, Bain anticipates a significant shift in uptake, with roughly 80 per cent of adoptions at that point to have progressed to the stage of either ‘proof of concept’ or extensive implementation. This means that technological innovation in IoT for the enterprise is progressing at a similarly fast rate with many of these solutions being developed with utilities, engineering, manufacturing and logistics companies in mind.

Processing at the edge

For IoT to be adopted at the rate predicted, technology which does not overwhelm current or even legacy systems must be implemented. Mobile edge computing solves this. Such solutions offer processing power at the edge of the network, helping firms with a high proportion of mobile workers to reduce operational strain and latency by processing the most critical data at the edge and close to its originating source. Relevant data can then be sent to the cloud for observation and analysis, thereby reducing the waves of ‘data garbage’ which has to be processed by cloud services.

A logistics manager can feasibly monitor and analyse the efficiency of warehouse operations, for example, with important data calculations carried out in real-time, on location, and key data findings then sent to the cloud for centrally-located data scientists to analyse.

The work of wearables

The potential of IoT means it not only has the scope to change the way people work, but also where they work. While widespread mobile working is a relatively new trend in industries such as banking and professional services, for CIOs in sectors where working on the move is inherent – such as logistics and field maintenance – mobility is high on the agenda.

Wearables – and specifically smart glasses – have started to gain traction within the business world. With mobile edge computing solutions acting as the gateway, smart glasses such as Toshiba’s assisted reality AR 100 viewer solution have been designed to benefit frontline and field-based workers in industries such as utilities, manufacturing and logistics. In the renewable energy sector, for example, a wind turbine engineer conducting repairs may use assisted reality smart glasses to call up the schematics of the turbine to enable a hands-free view of service procedures. This means that when a fault becomes a barrier to repair, the engineer is able to use collaboration software to call for assistance from a remote expert and have additional information sent through, thereby saving time and money by eradicating the need for extra personnel to be sent to the site.

The time is ripe for organisations to look to exploit the age of IoT to improve the productivity and safety of their workers, as well as the end service delivered to customers. In fact, Toshiba’s recent ‘Maximising Mobility’ report found that 49 per cent of organisations believe their sector can benefit from the hands-free functionality of smart glasses, while 47 per cent expect them to deliver improved mobile working and 41 per cent foresee better collaboration and information sharing. Embracing IoT technologies such as mobile edge computing and wearable solutions will be an essential step for many organisations within these verticals as they look to stay on top of 21st century working challenges.

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