Working with Big Data can be difficult for some SMEs due to the resources it requires, but DAVID SMITH, GM of Worldwide SMB at Microsoft, says Power BI will give companies small and large an easy way to analyse their information.
Despite being the buzzword de jour for large enterprises, the concept of “Big Data” is still in its infancy with small businesses. This is because the process of capturing, storing, extracting and analysing large quantities of data always required far too much in the way of IT resources and technical expertise for the average small and medium enterprise (SME). But just because SMEs don’t want to maintain servers, hire data scientists and pay for expensive analytics suites doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from business insights hiding in their own data.
Microsoft has a business analytics service designed to help the non-data-scientists among us uncover those insights and make more informed decisions about their business. It’s called Power BI, and it gives people working for companies small and large a straightforward way to analyse and visualise their information.
Power BI Brings It All Together
At its core, Power BI is a centralised hub that allows users to easily pull in, visualise and interpret the vast amount of data that their business generates on a daily basis. SMEs use a wide range of tools and services to run the different aspects of their business. By generating unified charts, graphs, maps and statistics, Power BI allows users to spot trends that would be difficult or impossible to identify by looking at an unorganized assortment of different spreadsheets and dashboards.
The greatest analytics tool on the planet is worthless if it doesn’t provide a simple and reliable way to connect with the information that matters to your small business, which is why we created content packs for Power BI. Content packs provide a way to automatically bring together data from different sources so the full picture can be analysed in one place. And these connections extend beyond services like Excel or Dynamics CRM, so even if an SME uses Google Analytics to track website traffic, MailChimp for email marketing campaigns and QuickBooks Online for accounting and payroll they can grab and analyse all of that data instantly (you can find the expanding list of content packs here).
We also know that small businesses aren’t always run from behind a desk. With Power BI apps for Windows, iOS and Android, users can view personalised dashboards and reports anywhere, interacting with their data in a touch-optimized experience.
Power of Data for Small Business
Say you’re the owner of a small online retail shop and you want to run a flash sale on a certain product to a specific set of customers. To do this effectively you need to have access to data that depicts your customer set to gather demographic information, online traffic that shows your most active customers, likely times to buy and historical sales data that shows you what worked well and what didn’t with the last flash sale you ran. Imagine if rather than searching each data set in its respective location and digging through everything manually, you could view all the information in one simple dashboard that illustrates trends and easy-to-spot insights, enabling fast and informed decisions about when to run the sale and who to market it to.
Best of all, you don’t need to learn a whole new set of skills to use Power BI. Power BI uses natural language query technology, which allows you to ask a question like “show me sales data from January to July.” In other words, you don’t need to be a data scientist to get at the information you need.
How Small Business Can Use Power BI
We’re often expounding the virtues of the cloud for small businesses because it provides the benefits of large-scale IT without the cost and complexity. Power BI is a fantastic example of exactly how the cloud is levelling the technology playing field for businesses of all sizes. A few years ago this type of solution would have been out of reach for just about every SME. Now it can be set up in minutes with no up-front costs, making data analytics viable for even a single-person business. In fact, much of the functionality is available for free, without trial period restrictions.
Removing the price and technical hurdles means that many more small businesses will be able to capitalize on the value of analytics as a competitive tool and point of differentiation. Putting your data to use can give you a leg up on your competition. You’ll have real-time insights that allow you to adjust and adapt your business plan, so you can stay focused on what’s really driving results for your company. Basing your decisions on data not only helps you act strategically but allows you to be more in touch with your customer needs.
As an SME, you have a lot on your plate already and exerting unnecessary time mining through endless data across multiple platforms doesn’t need to be one of them. Power BI makes your life easier and allows you to become more nimble and efficient, ultimately driving more results for your business.
And if you’re like the 80 percent of business customers that turn to IT solution providers for cloud products, check out Microsoft’s Pinpoint to find a partner near you that can help. For more info about its features and how to enrol, visit the Power BI site.
* David Smith, General Manager of Worldwide SMB
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.
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
IoT set to improve authentication
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.