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Oracle Academy backs Bloodhound educational drive

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The Bloodhound Project has received a boost for its educational programme, geared to interest school children in science and maths.

The Bloodhound Project, which will see an attempt made on the world landspeed record at Hakskeen Pan in the Northern Cape, has received a major boost for its educational programme, geared to interest school children in science and maths. The aim of the programme, to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, has resonated strongly with software giant Oracle, which is already the digital partner to the project.

At the Oracle Open World conference in San Francisco this week, Oracle president of product development Thomas Kurian announced that the Oracle Academy will join forces with Bloodhound SSC Education, a non-profit organisation established by the Bloodhound Project. The collaboration connects Oracle Academy’s computer science curriculum with the technology behind the Bloodhound supersonic car project, which aims to smash the 1,000 mph world land speed record.

Earlier this year, Oracle announced that the Bloodhound Project had selected Oracle Cloud to collect, analyze, and broadcast data from more than 500 real-time sensors installed on the Bloodhound Supersonic Car to classrooms around the world. This information gives students a detailed look at how technology is rocketing the world’s fastest land vehicle towards 1,000 mph, as well as providing Bloodhound engineers with valuable data to continually optimize the supersonic car’s performance.

At Oracle Open World, Richard Noble, director of the the Bloodhound Project, told the audience during a keynote session on Tuesday morning that the educational project had been partly motivated by the success of the Apollo manned space program in the USA in inspiring a generation of scientists.

Oracle Academy and the Bloodhound Education Programme will team up to make available two projects designed to help students build engineering knowledge, data analysis, and Java programming skills. The projects will leverage Oracle Academy’s Alice and Greenfoot workshops, introducing new content and data from the Bloodhound Project.

The Alice-based project challenges students to create an animated virtual version of the Bloodhound team’s desert camp. In the Greenfoot-based project, students learn how to adjust engineering variables of the car design and test their impact on speed. The Bloodhound-themed Oracle Academy projects will be available to classrooms and computing clubs in120 countries.

“Students still need a strong base in maths and physics, but this is a digital world and it’s equally important that they develop a taste for computer skills if they are to thrive in the modern workforce,” said Chris Fairhead, Chairman of the Bloodhound Education Programme. “Through our alliance with Oracle Academy, we have added this crucial piece of the puzzle to our education programme and are already seeing a great deal of interest from the teachers and schools we work with.”

Over the next three years, Oracle Academy will train 150 of Bloodhound’s volunteer teachers on Alice and Greenfoot, enabling them to effectively integrate these learning tools into STEM curricula and help students build coding skills. These resources and trainings will also be freely available to teachers worldwide, as part of Oracle Academy’s mission is to advance computer science education globally.

“At Oracle Academy, we are thrilled to team with the Bloodhound Education Programme and bring the excitement of the Bloodhound supersonic car to the 3.5 million students we reach yearly,” said Alison Derbenwick Miller, Oracle Academy Vice President. “We look forward to furthering our collaboration with the Bloodhound Education Programme, and advancing our commitment to prepare students for college and career-readiness in the 21st century.”

Project Bloodhound

The Bloodhound Project is an international education initiative focussed around a 1,000mph (1,609kmh) World Land Speed Record. The primary aim is to inspire the next generation of scientist and engineers by showcasing STEM subjects (science, technology engineering and mathematics) in the most exciting way possible.

At full speed, Bloodhound SSC will cover a mile (1.6km) in 3.6 seconds – that’s 4.5 football pitches laid end to end per second or 300m in the blink of an eye.

The world land speed record of 763mph (1228km/h) is held by Thrust SSC, a UK team led by Bloodhound’s Project Director Richard Noble and driven by Andy Green.

65% of students engaged by the Bloodhound Education Programme would now consider engineering or science as a vocation (sample size: 1,804).

Bloodhound’s education team have created over 1,000 pieces of free curriculum ready teaching resource.

The Model Rocket Car Challenge, supported by Guinness World Records, has seen students build model cars capable initially of speeds of 88mph, which then rose to 210mph and now 553mph (889km/h), a record held by Joseph Whitaker Young Engineers Club.

Africa News

Smart grids needed for Africa’s utilities

Power utilities across Africa should rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem, says COLIN BEANEY, Global Industry Director for Asset-intensive and Energy and Utilities at IFS.

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Africa’s abundant natural resources and urgent need for power mean that it is one of the most exciting and innovative energy markets in a world that is moving rapidly towards clean, renewable energy sources. The continent’s energy industry is taking new approaches to providing unserved and underserved communities with access to power, with an emphasis on smart technologies and greener energy sources.

Power systems are evolving from centralised, top-down systems as interest in off-grid technology grows among African businesses and consumers. And according to PwC, we will see installed power capacity rise from 2012’s 90GW to 380GW in 2040 in sub-Saharan Africa. Power utilities are needing to rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem.

Energy and utilities providers are transforming from centralised supply companies to more distributed, bi-directional service providers. They can only achieve this through the evolution of “smart grids” where sensors and smart meters will be able to provide the consumer with a more granular level of detail of power usage. This shift from an energy supplier to “lifestyle provider” will require a much more dynamic and optimised approach to maintenance and field service.

African companies must thus embrace digital transformation as an imperative. This transformation begins by embracing enterprise asset management to improve asset utilisation. The subsequent steps are enhancing upstream and downstream supply chain management; resource optimisation; introducing enterprise operational intelligence; embracing new technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and predictive maintenance; and becoming a smart utility.

Embracing mobility to drive ROI

Getting it right is about putting in place an enterprise backbone that accommodates asset and project management, multinational languages and currencies, new energies and markets, visualisation of the entire value chain, and mobility apps. Mobile technologies that support the field workforce have a vital role to play in driving better ROI from utilities’ investments in enterprise asset management and enterprise resource planning solutions.

Today’s leading enterprise asset management solutions feature powerful functionality for mobile management of the complete workflow of work orders – from logging status changes and updates, from receiving and creating new orders to concluding the job and reporting time, material and expenses. Such solutions are easy to deploy and intuitive for end users to learn and use.

Importantly for organisations operating in parts of the continent with poor telecoms infrastructure, connectivity is not an issue. The solutions work offline and synchronises when network connectivity is available. Users can work on any device—laptops, tablets, and smartphones—commercial or ruggedised.

By ensuring that field technicians have easy access to information and processes, the mobile solution enables technicians and maintenance engineers to easily do the following tasks:

·         Create a new work order on the fly and log new opportunities

·         Access both historical and planned work information when requested

·         Permit customers to sign when the job is completed

·         Capture measurements and inspection notes on route work orders

·         Create new fault reports on routing

·         Facilitate documentation through photo capturing

·         Provide easy access to technical data and preventive actions.

The power of mobility allows the engineer to be the origin of all data capture on a service event. They can easily inquire on asset history, record parts used or parts needed for repair, record labour hours, and expenses as they occur, and any notes of repairs performed. When coupled with workforce management tools, such solutions unlock significant productivity gains for utilities who are trying to get the most from their workforce and assets.

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Brands fall for app vanity

The experience of a mobile screen full of icons, representing independent apps that your need to open to experience them, is making less sense. Instead, businesses should serve customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the digital platform they already use, says PIETER DE VILLIERS, Group CEO at Clickatell.

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Many brands remain obsessed with creating mobile apps. This not only defies trends that point to increasing consumer app apathy, but can exclude a sizeable portion  of your customers in emerging economies. Companies need to engage with their users where they are rather than forcing them onto an app, in what can only be described as brand vanity. 

In 2017 there were around 2.2 million apps available in the iOS app store and over 3 million on Google Play. And, while the number of apps being downloaded continues to rise, analysis shows that consumers are only using 30 apps per month and accessing just 9 on a day-to-day basis. 

While these numbers still seem attractively high, in reality the majority of the apps we use are for messaging (like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat) and our social networking, gaming, leisure, dating or utility activities. 

Despite the facts, the application strategy as the holy grail for digital transformation is still being pushed even within large progressive brands. What’s more, some advertising agencies and digital consultants are still pushing apps as the best means for companies to connect with their customers. This has resulted in some organisations stubbornly doubling down on app strategies which are simply not showing return on investment (ROI). 

It’s not immediately clear to us whether the fascination with apps is a roll-over from long overdue projects or whether brand owners equate a mobile-first strategy with a mobile app. Mobile-first in 2018 means customer first, and therefore embracing chat commerce in order to deliver services with convenience and simplicity in mind. 

Why apps won’t win the internet

The problem with apps goes beyond user fatigue. In the first instance, many apps are poorly designed, assuming technical sophistication which may not match reality for the average customer. Poor user interfaces and attempts to provide complex engagement can result in even the best ideas missing their targets due to lack of engagement. 

Secondly, we all know that economic realities drive consumer behaviour. In Africa, new mobile phone users typically opt for feature phones over smartphones. With a longer battery life and a much more accessible price point, feature phones still allow for a basic internet connection, chat platforms like WhatsApp, and call and message functionality. In these regions, the cost of an app – even if it’s free – goes far beyond installing it. Constant updates require reliable and cheap access to the internet. For the average phone owner in an emerging market, this can be a serious challenge. 

Thirdly, and most importantly, apps must be relevant to their intended market. Frequency of usage is a key measure of relevance. 

Apps which are used on a daily basis, like health and fitness trackers, enjoy constant engagement. New features which are added are eagerly awaited by users who are happy to update their apps. 

However, users may well question the relevance of the app if they are required to conduct updates on a monthly or even weekly basis when they are only making use of the app once or twice a year. 

On average, I download one app per quarter. Some I use more frequently than others, but all of these apps need to be regularly updated to maintain security, update features, and fix bugs. Many apps are pushing out updates much more frequently. I noticed over the past year that I could go from having all apps updated, to 32 apps requiring an update in five days.

When it comes to a customer-first digital strategy, companies should be asking themselves if an app is really the best way to reach their target audience. 

In fact, at the end of 2016, Gartner predicted that by 2019, 20 percent of brands would ditch their mobile app. What’s more, in its 2018 predictions, the company forecast that by 2021, more than 50 percent of corporations would spend more per annum on bots and chatbots than on mobile app development. 

So, we need to ask, what is the alternative for CIOs, CDOs, CMOs, and digital leaders who are looking for ways to reach, retain and grow their customer base? 

The logical app alternative 

The old battle advice goes: fight your enemy where they are not. Military strategists agreed that having your enemy come to you and fight you on your own terms was preferable. In a world where customers have access to thousands of offerings and millions of deals online, we need to flip that idea to Meet Your Customers Where They Are. 

Any marketeer will tell you just a how difficult it is to drive app downloads. Development, cross platform testing and user interface aside, the marketing campaign required to get customers to download the app can swallow entire annual budgets and still come up short. 

Looking at the facts, it makes infinitely more sense to work within the digital platforms already being used by your target audience. 

Clickatell is already enabling chat commerce for some of the leading global brands with its Touch solution. This allows organisations to serve their customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the chat or browser platform of their customer’s choice (Twitter, Facebook Messenger, etc.) 

Brands can now send an actionable Touch link such as ‘find the nearest ATM’ or ‘reset my password’ within a chat stream that will open an intuitive touch card without the user having to download an app to perform the action. Services can also be linked to the in-app experience for brands not looking to abandon their app efforts. 

Working with our clients, many of whom are global innovators and thought leaders, we’ve found that having the courage to design with an ‘end user first’ approach and dealing with the back-end complexity behind the scenes results in cost efficient customer delight and ROI. 

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