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Service the key for SME

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2016 was heralded as a particularly tough year, and small to medium businesses have in particular been affected. BRIAN TIMPERLEY, managing director of Turrito Networks, highlights the biggest pain points for SMEs and how these can be overcome in the future.

A key pain point for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in 2016 continued to be an influx of cheap and ill-supported fibre and internet solutions, which fall far short of the SME’s needs.

SMB decision makers have been overwhelmed by cheap consumer connectivity and attempt to use these to drive down the cost of connectivity in their organisations.

And, says Brian Timperley, managing director of Turrito Networks, this trend will continue into 2017, underscored — ironically enough — by a dazzling array of choice, combined with the trend of technologically-knowledgeable users who apply consumer-level thinking to their businesses.

“A consumer’s requirement for fibre is very different from that of a business. While many SME owners think that consumer-grade fibre will deliver the same requirements for their business, the lack of sound advice to the contrary from their service provider often leaves them with slow connectivity and downtime,” adds Timperley.

“Bandwidth has never been cheaper than it is now, and yet we’ve never had more discussions around price. The challenge is that there are no consumer-level or “cheap” broadband products in South Africa that match the performance of business-grade Internet products.”

He is emphatic that — unlike the consumer arena — “the Internet” for SMEs is about far more than just browsing: “Businesses require far more than consumers and a big part of how we approach solutions for businesses of this size, is by understanding what they use their connectivity for.

For SMEs, the internet isn’t about consumer activities like Internet surfing and accessing social media sites. It’s about a whole range of critical services including voice over IP, cloud, video, backups and accessing Office 365, Sage, Pastel, Microsoft Azure, hosting, and cloud-based PABX.”

All of these consume vastly different amounts of data compared with consumer use, and in very different ways.

“The analogy we use is that of a professional deep sea diver who goes into a dive shop and asks for the cheapest oxygen tanks available – that’s not the kind of equipment you want, when your life depends on it… a parallel to buying connectivity based on price alone,” Timperley explained.

“Despite knowing how important connectivity is, SMEs are asking their service providers for the cheapest solution, without clarity on the impact that ill-matched solutions may have on productivity, uptime and efficiency.  SMEs were prepared to accept high prices in the days when that was the norm, and in turn demanded a high level of service from their providers.

“We are urging business owners and decision makers, to start demanding better value from their service providers and reap the benefits of a best fit connectivity solution for their organisations.”

Turrito Networks commercial director, Louis Jardim says that when it comes to selecting your partner and the connectivity solution for your business, it is important to understand the terminology, and challenge your provider to deliver best value.

He recommends being clear on the difference between a service level definition (SLD) and a service level agreement (SLA), contention ratios – how many other businesses and users will be sharing the same bandwidth, what the minimum upload and download speeds are that you can expect, and whether these can be consistently maintained, whether there is a 24/7 support desk, and what the mean time to respond and mean time to repair is.

He argues that before SMEs sign on the dotted line with service providers, that they understand what downtime is worth to them and the impact slow connectivity will have on their businesses.

For Timperley, the relationship between client and provider comes down to trust.

“As a neutral provider, we know precisely what the differences in pricing and services are from over 32 of the largest providers in SA. We have no incentive to sell any one of those network providers over the other. We have relationships with all of them and can deliver the same services they’re offering – but we know what works and what doesn’t.

This neutrality means we’ll ensure that our customers get the best bang for their buck, exactly in line with what their requirements are.”

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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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