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Raspberry Pi ripe for business?

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Consumerised hardware that supports open architectures is a growing component of the new software-defined everything concept. An example of this type of hardware is the Raspberry Pi, writes RUAN VENTER, Principal Consultant at Ovations.

The consumerisation of IT and more importantly IT infrastructure is a growing trend in an industry where the application is fast becoming king. In short CIOs need infrastructure that supports open standards, is flexible enough to slot into a growing digital and cloud based architecture, and that won’t break the bank while still delivering on his innovation mandate.

At Ovations we are constantly looking for new ways in which we can meet the needs of the customer, yet can still foster an environment for innovation and development. It is with this that we have started looking at the possible use of the Raspberry Pi computer as a device that answers the call for consumerised hardware that can provide a platform for the rapid deployment of new applications in an enterprise while ensuring it stays affordable and cheap to deploy in any environment.

What is Raspberry Pi?

In short the Raspberry Pi is, according to the manufacturer “a low cost, credit-card sized PC that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse”. Initially a device that was designed to encourage the use of technology amongst children, the Raspberry Pi has evolved significantly.

Even though the main supported operating system is Raspbian you can install other operating systems such as Ubuntu MATE, Ubuntu Core, OSMC, RIS OS, Windows 10 IoT and much more.

As the Pi is capable of performing all the tasks a normal desktop computer does, from browsing the Internet, to creating and disseminating business documents, its use can be far more pervasive than just an educational tool.

Think big

The device was designed to be low cost, and keeping costs low is a major driving point for the manufacturer. It’s the perfect entry level device for companies looking to leverage full computing power in a more streamlined and cost affordable way.

As an example, if you were to couple the device with beacon technology you could create an alerts driven environment – that through communicating to each other can set off a series of events. Think about this in a manufacturing or supply chain environment where beacons alert devices of tasks completed and through a daisy chain effect, the devices then start the next set of processes in logistics or production environment. It’s the true concept of automation.

Or let’s take a bank as an example. On arrival your device is picked up on entry into the environment and your query is solved by the time you reach the counter. Another example is home automation, linking your Pi to an intelligent home environment will allow you to define when geysers, heating, air-conditioning, and even lights are turned on or off – here the potential resource savings aspects are endless.

Not thinking big enough? What about snapping security pictures on entry into a building, hooking it into a PLC for the remote management of plants, making use of it as a card swiping or POS mechanism in a retail environment, or using it in mines to track and trace equipment and even people?

Open to the core

The Raspberry Pi presents a unique opportunity for businesses for a simple reason. It is open. And when they say it is open it really is. It’s a developer’s dream to work with and as a result a myriad applications can be built for the system using Python languages or a host of other freely available coding languages.

If we take into account that the next wave of computing – cloud computing – is upon us and this is opening the doors to technology concepts such as the Internet of Things (IoT) as well as fostering the growth of the digital business based on systems that are cloud native, the only limit when using the Raspberry Pi is your imagination – or the skills of your developers.

A business tool

Why should a business start looking at devices such as the Raspberry Pi? It is not just the Pi itself that we need to consider – it’s the entire opportunity it presents. Consumerised hardware that supports open architectures are most certainly a growing component of the new software-defined everything concept that is shaping IT today.

CIOs rely on their IT departments to not just keep the lights on, but also to innovate and position their businesses as competitive in this increasingly digital world. Think about the potential of hooking cost effective devices that you can write to, secure and communicate with, across multiple geographies at a lower cost than the current handhelds or tablets available today.

Suddenly the security risks of BYOD (Bring your own device) fly out the window as you remain in control, but the computing power needed by your users is still provided to them. Bear in mind that they recently sent a Raspberry Pi into space, even built an underwater Drone to take photos using one.

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Samsung S10 in lock-step with its rivals?

Tonight Samsung will kick off the next round in the smartphone wars with the S10 range, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When Samsung unveils the new S10 smartphone at an event in San Francisco today, it will mark the beginning of the 2019 round of World War S. That stands for smartphone wars, although Samsung would like it to be all about the S.

Ever since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013, Samsung has held both technology and thought leadership in the handset world. Back then, Apple’s iPhone 5 was the last device from the American manufacturer that could lay claim to being the best smartphone in the world. With the 2013 launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple entered an era of incremental improvement, playing catch-up, and succumbing to market trends driven by its competitors.

Six years later, Samsung is fighting off the same threat. Its Chinese rival, Huawei, suddenly wrested away leadership in the past year, with the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro regarded as at last equal to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 9 – if not superior. Certainly, from a cost perspective, Huawei took the lead with its more competitive prices, and therefore more value for money.

Huawei also succeeded where Apple failed: introducing more economical versions of its flagship phones. The iPhone 5c, SE and XR have all been disappointments in the sales department, mainly because the price difference was not massive enough to attract lower-income users. In contrast, the Lite editions of the Huawei P9, P10 and P20 have been huge successes, especially in South Africa.

Today, for the first time in half a decade, Samsung goes into battle on a field laid out by its competitors. It is expected to launch the Galaxy S10 Plus, S10 and S10 e, with the latter being the Samsung answer to the strategy of the iPhone XR and Huawei P20 Lite.

Does this mean Samsung is now in lock-step with its rivals, focused on matching their strategies rather than running ahead of them?

It may seem that way, but Samsung has a few tricks up its electronic sleeve. For example, it is possible it will use the S10 launch to announce its coming range of foldable phones, expected to be called the Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex. It previewed the technology at a developer conference in San Francisco last November, and this will be the ideal moment to reclaim technology leadership by going into production with foldables – even if the S10 range itself does not shoot out the lights.

However, the S10 handsets will look very different to their predecessors. First, before switching on the phone, they will be notable by the introduction of what is being called the punch-hole display, which breaks away from the current trend of having a notch at the top of the phone to house front-facing cameras and speakers. Instead, the punch-hole is a single round cut-out that will contain the front camera. It is the key element of Samsung’s “Infinity O” display – the O represents the punchhole – which will be the first truly edge-to-edge display, on the sides and top.

The S10 range will use the new Samsung user interface, One UI, also unveiled at the developer conference. It replaces the previous “skin”, unimaginatively called the Samsung Experience, to introduce a strong new interface brand.

One UI went live on the Note 8 last month, giving us a foretaste, and giving Samsung a chance to iron out the bugs in the field. It is a less cluttered interface, addressing one of the biggest complaints about most manufacturer skins. Only Nokia and Google Pixel handsets offer pure Android in the local market, but One UI is Samsung’s best compromise yet.

It introduces a new interaction area, in the bottom half, reachable with the thumb, with a viewing area at the top, allowing the user to work one-handed on the bottom area while still having apps or related content visible above. One UI also improves gesture navigation – the phone picks up hand movements without being touched – and notification management.

The S10 range will be the first phones to feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, at least for the South African and American markets. That makes it 5G compatible, for when this next generation of mobile broadband becomes available in these markets.

They will also be the first phones to feature Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of the Wi-Fi mobile wireless standard. It will perform better in congested areas, and data transfer will be up to 40% faster than the previous generation.

The phones will be the first to use ultrasound for fingerprint detection. If Samsung gets it right, this will make it the fastest in-screen fingerprint sensor on the market, and allows for a little leeway if one pushes the finger down slightly outside the fingerprint reader surface. It does mean, however, that screen protectors will have to be redesigned to avoid blocking the detection.

Not enough firsts? There are a few more.

Most notably, it will be the first phone range to feature 1 Terabyte (TB) storage – that’s a thousand Gigabytes (GB) – at least for the top-of-the-range devices. Samsung last month announced that it would be the first manufacturer to make 1TB built-in onboard flash storage. Today, it will deploy this massive advantage as it once again weaponises its technology in the fight for smartphone domination.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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IoT set to improve authentication

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By Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President, Internet of Things Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

As it rapidly approaches maturity, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to continue a transformational trajectory, introducing new efficiencies in multiple fields by allowing measurement and analysis on a scale that has never been possible before. From agriculture to logistics, from retail to hospitality, from traffic to health, from the home to the office, the applications for monitoring ”things” are limited only by the imagination.

And South African (and African) businesses are showing abundant imagination in their practical deployments of IoT solutions in multiple settings, creating a better tomorrow through almost universal measurement and the introduction of new levels of convenience – including how to access locations, devices and services securely.

Any company, whether South African or international, should bear in mind that understanding consumer expectations can be the key to unlocking the full potential of IoT devices and related smart services.

According to Gemalto’s latest Connected Living study, improving the way consumers authenticate themselves to services is one of the most anticipated benefits of IoT, highlighting a desire for a more seamless and secure IoT experience.

Consumers are interested in advanced ways of authenticating themselves through automatic (based on behavioral patterns) or biometric techniques, lessening the need to have to intervene manually, all in the name of a much more streamlined authentication process. Smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have already placed fingerprint and facial recognition high on the agenda. There is also a widespread positive sentiment towards IoT’s potential for improving the quality of home life through connected, smart appliances.

Personalised services is something else that wins consumers over. In fact, a fluid, personalised and unified experience with continuity of services, together with security and privacy, is critical for the successful implementation of any technology.

And those types of services are today quite possible. With everything being connected – from small gadgets to digital solutions for large enterprises – IoT is no longer just a buzzword. That much is clear in a piece from Vodacom IoT managing executive Deon Liebenberg. Writing for IOL Online, Liebenberg provides insight into the sheer range of applications for IoT: the 20 use cases he cites range from the obvious, like transport and logistics, to the connected home and wearables; he even suggests tagging pets with IoT transmitters, for those who always need to know the whereabouts of the family cat.

Low-cost tags fitted to cats, dogs, lamp posts, shipping containers or other items are just one part of the puzzle, however. There are other two pieces; arguably the most complex part is the availability of communication networks in areas where there aren’t any WiFi networks, or indeed, anything else.

And that’s where the bigger takeaway from Liebenberg’s piece and other IoT trends articles becomes apparent. The communication networks are there, as are those tags: dedicated IoT networks (like LoraWAN, SigFox and narrowband IoT) are all available in South Africa.

So, too, is the third and final essential component. Software which is able to process the data generated by the tag and transmitted over the IoT network and into the internet. In this regard, there’s no shortage of solutions available from cloud providers like AWS and Azure; electronics giant Siemens, too, is in on the action, having recently launched a new cloud-based IoT operating system to develop applications and services for process industries, including oil and gas and water management.

This combination means it is quite possible right now to enable just about any use case. Business owners, who will know best how IoT can add value in their organisation, can now see their ideas becoming reality. Most crucial of all, IoT solutions delivering new levels of efficiency and convenience are not only possible, they are able to be offered with the simple and effective security that will drive consumer acceptance.

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