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Vodacom wants Loftus to be ‘Smart’

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Vodacom has implemented a full-stadium WiFi solution at Loftus Versfeld that will allow users to easily connect to the Internet – despite the large crowds.

Large crowds at sports matches can mean frustratingly slow uploads of status updates and selfies, and make it all-but-impossible to view the video instant replays that you get when watching the big game at home. Vodacom’s latest full-stadium Wi-Fi solution is an African first and heralds the introduction of the smart stadium where connectivity issues will be a thing of the past and fans get the best of both worlds.

Rugby fans visiting Loftus Versfeld will be able to connect to Vodacom’s new high-density Wi-Fi network, with faster data connectivity than ever before. The solution is the first step in making Loftus Versfeld Africa’s first truly ‘smart’ stadium.

“As the home of the Vodacom Blue Bulls and one of the most visited stadiums in South Africa, Loftus Versfeld was the obvious stadium for us to launch this project.  Our engineers have been hard at work, installing more than 40 km of fibre and more than 400 Wi-Fi access points. We tested the service for the first time at the Bulls-Lions match on 2 May and were incredibly pleased with the result,” said Andries Delport, Vodacom’s Chief Technology Officer.

The key to the success of Vodacom’s Wi-Fi at Loftus Versfeld is the commercial implementation of EAP-SIM technology. This is the first time this technology, which stands for Extensible Authentication Protocol, will be employed in South Africa. It enables a seamless switch between radio bearers (4G, 3G, 2G and Wi-Fi), meaning that a cellphone or tablet will connect to whichever bearer has the best connection, ensuring the fastest possible data access. EAP-SIM also means that during a Wi-Fi data session it will still be possible to receive voice calls.

“An EAP-SIM network offers real benefits to our customers. On top of better speeds there’s no need to buy additional Wi-Fi bundles to connect to the network. Instead, data will be drawn directly from a customer’s existing data allocation, making the connection and usage process simple. Non-Vodacom customers will also be able to buy Wi-Fi bundles to gain access,” said Delport.

The network, which was built by Cisco Systems, is made up of hundreds of Cisco Wi-Fi access points. By increasing the number of access points and using Wi-Fi spectrum, the data carrying capacity within the stadium has been dramatically increased. This ultimately means faster downloads and uploads, and less congestion. The solution is flexible and Vodacom has plans to increase the number of access points to 700 in the future.

Michael Kämper, Director Mobility at Cisco Services EMEAR, had this to say about the project:

“Cisco Systems is proud to be associated with Vodacom in the first Cisco Connected Stadium Wi-Fi deployment in Africa. The combination of Vodacom’s market leadership in SA and Cisco’s global leadership for high-density Wi-Fi deployments is a winning combination.”

As the home of one of the most passionate rugby franchises in South Africa, the Blue Bulls are always exploring innovative ways to bring the ultimate gaming experience to their fans. More than just a solution to congestion, Barend van Graan, CEO of the Blue Bulls Company sees the solution as the first step to creating a next generation smart stadium that can enrich fan experience:

“At the moment, speeds in the majority of stadiums are not fast enough to stream video when a match is on and the network is congested. This can make watching content extremely frustrating. In some cases people would rather stay at home to watch the game on TV where they can easily view replays, see different camera angles or even catch games being played at other stadiums. Our new Wi-Fi network will change that. The ability to watch video content on their smartphones will give fans the opportunity to enjoy the vibe of being at a big game while at the same time enjoying the benefits that come from watching at home.

“One of the ways we plan to further add value to the stadium experience is via the Vodacom Rugby App. On top of being able to access exclusive content, location-based services will mean that in the future users will be able to access stadium specific promotions, have food and drinks delivered directly to their seats and even find out which bathrooms have less of a queue.”

Vodacom is currently in talks with other stadiums and public spaces, like shopping malls, to roll out the solution.

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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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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Huawei goes ultra-premium

Porsche Design and Huawei have launched the Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS in South Africa exclusive to MTN and retailing for R 26 459.

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The Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS boasts features like the world’s first dual fingerprint design, including an in-screen fingerprint sensor, the world’s first Artificial Intelligence (AI) processor and Leica triple camera with 40MP image capture.

“After the overwhelming success of the Porsche Design Huawei Mate 10 Pro in South Africa, we now bring you our latest offering, a perfect blend of innovation in a smartphone and luxury design,” said Likun Zhao, Vice President of Huawei Consumer Business Group Southern Africa. “From three-point security feature including facial recognition, rear fingerprint scanner and the new innovative in-screen fingerprint to the Leica triple camera system. it culminates in an unprecedented experience for our customers.”

The device incorporates Porsche Design’s signature design language and Huawei’s breakthrough technology.  The phone has a 6” 2K curved OLED screen and symmetrical look, minimalist feel and 8-edged 3D curved glass body.

High performance is symbolised by the naming of the smartphone: the term “RS” in the world of Porsche motorsport stands for outstanding racing performance.

Huawei provided the following information on The Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS benefits and features :

·         The world’s first dual fingerprint scanner for enhanced convenience, allowing users to wake and unlock the device simply, thanks to an in-screen fingerprint sensor. Hover to wake the device, touch to unlock it

·         The winning combination of Leica triple camera with 40MP RGB sensor technology and exceptional photography powered by Master AI. This combination puts effortless, eye-catching photography at the fingertips of those looking to immortalise their favourite moments. Combined with 5 x hybrid zoom, and the world’s first AI image stabilisation on a smartphone camera ensures photography lovers can capture the best shots with exceptional clarity in almost any situation

·         The Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS is the first Huawei handset to allow quick wireless charging, making it even easier to keep the phone topped up and ready to go and, thanks to its long lasting battery, users will easily be powered through the busiest of days

·         An ‘intelligent’ smartphone, the powerful AI processor automatically tailors the performance of the phone according to how it is used – constantly learning, understanding and anticipating needs, it is the perfect personal assistant for the pocket

·         256GB of internal storage means those constantly on the go and constantly on their phone can be worry free

·         Dual SLS (super linear system) speakers with DOLBY ATMOS enable users to have a superior experience, with the best immersive surround sound and entertainment on the go

·         Splash, water and dust resistant, which means there is no need to worry about damaging the device in the rain or accidentally dropping it in water

Jan Becker, CEO Porsche Design Group, said: “Both Porsche Design and Huawei seek to imagine and develop products that stand for precision and perfection, intelligent functionality and highly sophisticated design. Our aim was to create an outstanding device that goes one step further. We believe we have reached this goal by taking our partnership to the next level.”

Porsche Design and Huawei have worked in tandem to develop a smartphone that fuses together the two brands’ DNA, wealth of experience in design and technology, industry-leading expertise and exceptional performance. Through the use of colour in the device’s body, software themes and accessories, the new handset is accentuated with Porsche Design’s distinguished aesthetic and purist, minimalist feel.

The Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS will be available to purchase exclusively from MTN at R 26 459.

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