SIM cards have become a way of life for the digital citizens of today. These tiny components are integral to staying connected. For SMEs, where cost efficiencies are essential, managing SIMs have never been more important. KEES SNIJDERS, MD of Flickswitch, takes a closer look.
SIMs extend beyond just data and voice billing in the devices of employees. They play an essential role in machine to machine (M2M) communication. Forming part of the Internet of Things, M2M enables systems to communicate with other devices anywhere in the world.
This means that organisations can have multiple connected devices that transmit large amounts of data back into the corporate back-end. So what happens if there is an error on the SIM embedded in one of these devices or there is no air-time to send the information back to head office? In a world where deliverables are measured in hours (sometimes minutes), the business impact could be severe.
He says M2M applications extend into all vertical industries so business owners cannot afford to rest on their laurels. From a smart meter in a home to a vehicle tracking device, there are very few aspects in our lives that are not affected by SIMs.
And while these are consumer examples, consider the potential for enterprise-level systems. Already, there are specialised applications in the utility infrastructure leveraging M2M. Take waterworks as an example. SIMs play a crucial role in sending information on dam levels and water and gate flow to municipalities. Without having these remote systems in place, the process not only slows down but it greatly increases the risk of error that can have life or death repercussions.
Until recently, M2M has been something that was left to large businesses. But thanks to the evolution of technology, even smaller companies can start benefiting from such systems. Unfortunately, SMEs have been held captive by not being aware of the alternative solutions out there.
SMEs have unique challenges and requirements. From an affordability perspective, they cannot use providers who assist the likes of large tracking companies or mining houses. Instead, they need a niche services provider they can trust and is capable of understanding their business to provide them with a SIM management and control solution that fits their organisation.
Not only should such a service provider help manage employee SIMs (smartphones and tablets), but it should also be able to provide assistance outside the pockets of users. Unlike the majority of the European and United States markets, the connectivity of SIMs (especially in M2M) in Africa need to be managed on a prepaid basis.
An African approach
We have seen the local SME M2M market predominantly being on prepaid. In addition, when one looks at the rest of Africa, statistics show that almost 98 percent of the market is relying on prepaid SIMs. This presents a massive opportunity for an experienced service provider such as ourselves, to work closely with SMEs and implement bespoke solutions fitting their focus areas.
Part of a SIM management approach needs to be reliable and real-time monitoring of SIMs in the field. These devices should communicate when they need to be topped up with data irrespective of time or location. Secure M2M communication is also vital. An SME therefore needs a full service partner that is capable of managing all aspects of this journey in order for the business owner to focus on the core operational strategy.
We have seen that if SMEs want to take ownership of this problem, they run into difficulties – both in terms of funds and in terms of human resources required to manage all aspects of the SIM lifecycle. By removing the elements of uncertainty around SIM management, our clients can rest easy in the knowledge that this integral element is taken care of.
Money talks and electronic gaming evolves
Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.
The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.
The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games.
It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.
MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.
“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”
New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.
“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”
Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.
Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.
This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.
What is blockchain?
A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.
A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.
Each block stores:
– A number of valid records or transactions.
– Information referring to that block.
– A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.
Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.
As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.
How is blockchain so secure?
Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.
Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.
In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.
What else can blockchain be used for?
Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.
Use of blockchain in healthcare
Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.
Use of blockchain for documents
Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.
Other blockchain uses
This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.
Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.
Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.