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Narrowband IoT hits SA

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At AfricaCom in Cape Town this week, MTN and Vodacom will both demonstrate solutions using the Narrowband Internet of Things .

Both Vodacom and MTN have announced major initiatives for building out Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) networks and services in South Africa. MTN is first over the start line, however, joining forces with Huawei to launch a Smart Water Metering solution. They say it’s “the first Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) solution in Africa”, and is designed to help MTN develop NB-IoT services to explore new markets.

The Smart Water metering solution enables the automated collection of utility meter data, addressing the issue of manual meter reading leading to high labour costs and missing or inaccurate data. Through sensors installed in water meters, customers can identify water pipeline leakage earlier. Household water meters will automatically report data on a regular basis, reducing fault probabilities and the operating expense.

Powered by Huawei’s NB-IoT technology, the sensor array is designed to serve as a diagnostic spine that underpins network management. The data gathered can be used to control waste water flows from each property, identify faults across the network and improve health and safety outcomes.

“NB-IoT is viewed by the industry as the answer for enterprise applications in a range of different areas, from utility meters to sensor monitoring to asset-tracking,” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology and Information Officer of MTN. “Now we’ve succeeded in the commercial trial of smart water metering, lots of services will be available to bring us a better connected Africa.”

He mentions wildlife tracking, smart farm, and smart parking, among other.

“The number of cellular IoT connections in Africa will grow seven-fold over the next three to four years, and NB-IoT will be a key driver for this trend,” says Jacky Chen, Managing Director of Huawei MTN Key Account Group. “Together with our partners, Huawei is applying ground breaking NB-IoT innovation to solve core challenges around IoT applications.”

NB-IoT will make IoT more efficient to connect objects requiring a long battery life and are located in hard-to-reach areas. This Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technology will connect more objects to the Internet of Things. Generally, the global IoT market is expected to be worth trillions of dollars by 2020.

MTN and Huawei will showcase the live Smart Water Metering Demo and other IoT services at AfricaCom 2016, running in Cape Town from November 15 to 17.

Vodacom has also commenced its Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network build, which it plans to commercially launch in major metropolitan areas across South Africa in 2017. It has already begun the process of upgrading various components of its network to support NB-IoT.

The company reiterates that a key characteristic of LPWA devices is power efficiency, resulting in devices being deployed in-field with batteries which could last up to many years. NB-IoT networks run on existing licensed spectrum, ensuring integrity of the communications channel as well as the delivery of data from the device to the end point.

“In investing in its network for NB-IoT, Vodacom will enable South Africans to participate in developing new solution sets for the Internet of Things,” says Vodacom Business Chief Officer Vuyani Jarana. “We look forward to working with the broader IoT industry to nurture an ecosystem of developers, engineers and entrepreneurs for NB-IoT applications. This will push the boundaries of what is possible as well as bring services to the market that will genuinely transform lives and businesses in South Africa for the better.”

A large portion of Vodacom’s network will only require a software upgrade to support the technology, which means that deploying NB-IoT across Vodacom’s existing base stations will be a relatively quick roll-out, driven by geographic deployment and based on demand.

New services enabled by NB-IoT will include the next wave of connected things, including environmental monitoring devices and smoke detector alarms.

NB-IoT also opens up new possibilities for Cloud technology as increasing volumes of data are extracted from the field, requiring additional process and storage capacity.

Jarana says: “This reaffirms the link between IoT and Cloud to deliver transformational business and socio-economic outcomes. Smart cities will no longer be a concept, but a reality when you combine the traditional Vodacom mobile and fixed line IoT connectivity stack, with the new NB-IoT offering.  The economics for connecting millions of things in a city becomes viable with this new access technology.”

In September, Vodafone Spain and Huawei announced the successful completion of the first over-the-air connection on a live network using NB-IoT.

Vodacom will also showcase its NB-IoT network and application capabilities through a live demonstration at AfricaCom in Cape Town this week.

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Huawei goes ultra-premium

Porsche Design and Huawei have launched the Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS in South Africa exclusive to MTN and retailing for R 26 459.

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The Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS boasts features like the world’s first dual fingerprint design, including an in-screen fingerprint sensor, the world’s first Artificial Intelligence (AI) processor and Leica triple camera with 40MP image capture.

“After the overwhelming success of the Porsche Design Huawei Mate 10 Pro in South Africa, we now bring you our latest offering, a perfect blend of innovation in a smartphone and luxury design,” said Likun Zhao, Vice President of Huawei Consumer Business Group Southern Africa. “From three-point security feature including facial recognition, rear fingerprint scanner and the new innovative in-screen fingerprint to the Leica triple camera system. it culminates in an unprecedented experience for our customers.”

The device incorporates Porsche Design’s signature design language and Huawei’s breakthrough technology.  The phone has a 6” 2K curved OLED screen and symmetrical look, minimalist feel and 8-edged 3D curved glass body.

High performance is symbolised by the naming of the smartphone: the term “RS” in the world of Porsche motorsport stands for outstanding racing performance.

Huawei provided the following information on The Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS benefits and features :

·         The world’s first dual fingerprint scanner for enhanced convenience, allowing users to wake and unlock the device simply, thanks to an in-screen fingerprint sensor. Hover to wake the device, touch to unlock it

·         The winning combination of Leica triple camera with 40MP RGB sensor technology and exceptional photography powered by Master AI. This combination puts effortless, eye-catching photography at the fingertips of those looking to immortalise their favourite moments. Combined with 5 x hybrid zoom, and the world’s first AI image stabilisation on a smartphone camera ensures photography lovers can capture the best shots with exceptional clarity in almost any situation

·         The Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS is the first Huawei handset to allow quick wireless charging, making it even easier to keep the phone topped up and ready to go and, thanks to its long lasting battery, users will easily be powered through the busiest of days

·         An ‘intelligent’ smartphone, the powerful AI processor automatically tailors the performance of the phone according to how it is used – constantly learning, understanding and anticipating needs, it is the perfect personal assistant for the pocket

·         256GB of internal storage means those constantly on the go and constantly on their phone can be worry free

·         Dual SLS (super linear system) speakers with DOLBY ATMOS enable users to have a superior experience, with the best immersive surround sound and entertainment on the go

·         Splash, water and dust resistant, which means there is no need to worry about damaging the device in the rain or accidentally dropping it in water

Jan Becker, CEO Porsche Design Group, said: “Both Porsche Design and Huawei seek to imagine and develop products that stand for precision and perfection, intelligent functionality and highly sophisticated design. Our aim was to create an outstanding device that goes one step further. We believe we have reached this goal by taking our partnership to the next level.”

Porsche Design and Huawei have worked in tandem to develop a smartphone that fuses together the two brands’ DNA, wealth of experience in design and technology, industry-leading expertise and exceptional performance. Through the use of colour in the device’s body, software themes and accessories, the new handset is accentuated with Porsche Design’s distinguished aesthetic and purist, minimalist feel.

The Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS will be available to purchase exclusively from MTN at R 26 459.

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Cross-channel chat launched

Clickatell has launched a cross-channel live chat service, Touch Go, that transforms omni-channel customer care.

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It enables live chat across a company’s website as well as social platforms (Twitter and Facebook) and mobile apps, bringing customer care and engagement into a single business platform.

“Today’s consumers expect to engage with your brand on the digital channel of their choosing,” says Deon van Heerden, Clickatell Engage CEO and Group CFO. “They want to message your business and instantly have queries resolved, find the information and services they are looking for, without the need for a voice call. Clickatell’s Touch Go makes that happen with the right level of capabilities for businesses of all sizes.”

Businesses can start using Touch Go immediately, with a free Starter option. Touch Go requires no credit card for sign-up and is fully featured with a simple setup process. It offers customisable branding, a unified chat desk business application as well as reports and analytics.

As the business scales up its digital customer care, it can opt-in for the Touch Enterprise offering. Touch Enterprise is designed for scaling up customer care efforts through advanced capabilities including AI driven virtual agents, sentiment analysis, automated workflows, enterprise integrations and in-channel mini-applications.

“Customer care has become a defining factor for sustained business success ” says Nirmal Nair, Clickatell Engage EVP Product & Marketing. “In an ever-increasing mobile native world, customers often choose to interact digitally, but they also expect to be able to reach a human immediately, should they need. Monitoring multiple channels and providing immediate action becomes challenging with siloed deployments. Touch’s unified solution allows businesses of all sizes to provide the customer delight in a simple modular approach.”

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