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Retailers missing out on big technology benefits

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Everyone hates long queues, they are frustrating and a complete waste of time. However BRONWYN WATT at Paycorp believes that a simple POS system will make things much easier and keep customers happy.

Visit any shopping centre while the sales are on and you’re very likely to find it heaving with bargain-hunters. But a while later you’ll find they’re not so keen.

Why? Because South African retailers are inclined to treat their customers like sheep. You don’t realise you’re doing it but every time you make your customers stand in queues, that’s how they feel.

The psychology of queuing is not pretty. Most people are too polite to express their frustration but making them wait in a queue – especially when they’re trying to give you their money – is demoralising. And when people are demoralised they become restless and surly. Far from delighting your customers, you become their tormentor.

A queue, especially a long, slow one, makes people feel as if they have been forced to submit to a system that is inefficient. And, be honest, isn’t that exactly what’s happening? You have probably felt these feelings yourself when forced to queue.

The world has changed dramatically and, along with it, service expectations. Most of us inhabit an online world for a fair portion of the day. In this world, everything happens fast. Online you can find, order and pay for a product in mere minutes and it will be delivered directly to you tomorrow.

Products are the easy part of the business. They are simply consumed. Service is another matter entirely because it is experienced in real time, with time being the key word. No wonder customers begrudge the time they are forced to stand in queues.

So if service is your best friend and queue your worst enemy, what can you do to get more of the former and less of the latter? The very same modern technology that makes customers so impatient also provides the solution to their need for speed: mobile point-of-sale (mPOS).

mPOS systems are not just for artisans who trade at markets and mobile service providers like plumbers and electricians. There’s no reason not to use an mPOS in-store… and a great many good reasons to do so, not the least of which is that it’s a simple and elegant solution to those nasty queues that your customers hate so much.

5 key elements to look for in an mPOS system:

  • Up-to-date security: to ensure that every transaction is safe and secure, payment information should not only be encrypted but also transferred via point-to-point encryption to a PCI Level 1 certified gateway.
  • Integration with your existing system: you shouldn’t need to buy a whole new payments system to use mPOS: you should be able to quickly and easily introduce it within your current system.
  • Bank agnostic: it should work with every bank that has a local presence.
  • Easy to use: there’s nothing complicated about mPOS. It’s a quick, easy solution.
  • Fully communication-enabled in conjunction with a smartphone or tablet: you should be able to use your mPOS system everywhere, at any time. If you really want to gain major customer service points and put your competitors in the shade, how about letting customers pay for the products they want as they walk out of the changing room! Seriously, how impressed would you be if that happened to you in-store? Talk about delighting your customers!

* Bronwyn Watt, Group Marketing Manager at Paycorp

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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By 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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