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The smart home opportunity

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The increasing availability of broadband coupled with more appliances being able to connect to the Internet has led to a range of new opportunities that service providers can offer their clients, writes ASHISH JOSHI.

Home networking has grown exponentially in the past few years, fuelled by the ever-increasing availability of broadband Internet and smart mobile devices such as phones and tablets. As a result, we are now seeing the emergence of a plethora of ‘smart’ connected consumer electronics. Everything from appliances to climate control to security is becoming IP connected, enabling it to communicate and be communicated with via the Internet. This Internet of Things (IoT) is set to grow over the next few years, and connected homes are moving inexorably towards smart automation. For the service provider, manufacturer or other enterprise, this opens up a host of new opportunities. Leveraging these opportunities is key to remaining relevant and competitive in the increasingly connected marketplace of the future.

Connected technology is not necessarily a new concept, however, the revolution of the connected home is driving the volume and variety of connected devices in an unprecedented manner. From relatively mature technologies such as smart metering and remote infrastructure monitoring to connected appliances that can proactively determine when maintenance and repairs are needed via remote diagnostics. From cloud-based technologies and big data analytics that can be used to develop significant insight into customer requirements to major solution and service innovation based on real demand. The connected home is the next revolution, augmented by the growth of more sophisticated sensor and control technologies, mobile applications, network traffic, big data management, analytics and cloud computing. Further driving this revolution is the fact that consumers themselves are increasingly demanding mobility along with monitoring and control capabilities as part of their desire for an always-on digital lifestyle.

Many manufacturers are already catering to this demand with IP-enabled devices, and communication service providers are providing the support and platforms required for new and innovative services. The connected home also offers many opportunities for growth in the business and service provider markets, which will require the development of new business models and partnerships as well as the ability to embrace new technology and address or even create new markets. Some of these opportunities include delivering increased volumes of online content, media sharing solutions, video surveillance, converged technology solutions, enhanced healthcare and assisted living solutions, new revenue sharing and billing opportunities and more.

Developing solutions to meet the new and evolving needs of the consumer around the connected home is an almost limitless opportunity for service providers and other market players. However, as with any new technology, service or market, embracing these opportunities comes with a number of challenges. Chief among these is the rapid evolution of technology, which requires high levels of agility to keep on top of. In addition, the sheer volume and variety of connected devices with different operating systems, communication protocols, and interfaces presents a challenge around integration and interoperability. Furthermore, increased legislation around data privacy and security is a challenge, as connected systems by nature capture and store vast amounts of user data and compromised data could lead to fines, other legal implications and reputational damage.

Addressing these challenges is essential for future success of connected solutions. In addition, in order to ensure maximum consumer uptake, it is essential to provide seamless, easy to use interoperability across devices. Services also need to be competitive and easy to understand, removing as much complexity as possible for the end user. To drive success, it is important to rethink around customer experiences in real world using input from sensors and big data and think about how the things can be done better. Ultimately, success in this space requires organisations, be they service providers, manufacturers or other industry players, to embrace new technology, deliver a seamless user experience, and drive innovation in an agile way, so as to take advantage of opportunities as they emerge.

Service providers need to be able to roll out new services to multi-party environments quickly and effectively. This requires a secured, open and flexible architecture that scales and enables integration of systems both now and in the future, as well as the ability to incrementally create and integrate new applications quickly and without major cost. For operators, the connected home revolution requires the ability to capture, securely store, manage, analyse and distribute the huge volumes of data the IoT will deliver, as well as the ability to generate and send out insight on this data in real time.

Legacy business models are no longer effective in the connected world. Success will require new partnerships between parties such as device manufacturers, service providers and system integrators, enabling them to work together to create seamless, end-to-end services and experiences for the end user. At the end of the day, in a consumer-driven world, success is all about delivering superior quality and a differentiated experience.

* Ashish Joshi, Practice Lead, Internet of Things (IoT) Business Solutions, Wipro

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Opera launches built-in VPN on Android browser

Opera has released a new version of its mobile browser, which features a built-in virtual private network service.

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Opera has released a new version of its mobile browser, Opera for Android 51, which features a built-in VPN (virtual private network) service.

A VPN allows users to create a secure connection to a public network, and is particularly useful if users are unsure of the security levels of the public networks that they use often.

The new VPN in Opera for Android 51 is free, unlimited and easy to use. When enabled, it gives users greater control of their online privacy and improves online security, especially when connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots such as coffee shops, airports and hotels. The VPN will encrypt Internet traffic into and out of their mobile devices, which reduces the risk of malicious third parties collecting sensitive information.

“There are already more than 650 million people using VPN services globally. With Opera, any Android user can now enjoy a free and no-log service that enhances online privacy and improves security,” said Peter Wallman, SVP Opera Browser for Android.

When users enable the VPN included in Opera for Android 51, they create a private and encrypted connection between their mobile device and a remote VPN server, using strong 256-bit encryption algorithms. When enabled, the VPN hides the user’s physical location, making it difficult to track their activities on the internet.

The browser VPN service is also a no-log service, which means that the VPN servers do not log and retain any activity data, all to protect users privacy.

“Users are exposed to so many security risks when they connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots without a VPN,” said Wallman. “Enabling Opera VPN means that users makes it difficult for third parties to steal information, and users can avoid being tracked. Users no longer need to question if or how they can protect their personal information in these situations.”

According to a report by the Global World Index in 2018, the use of VPNs on mobile devices is rising. More than 42 percent of VPN users on mobile devices use VPN on a daily basis, and 35 percent of VPN users on computers use VPN daily.

The report also shows that South African VPN users said that their main reason for using a VPN service is to remain anonymous while they are online.

“Young people in particular are concerned about their online privacy as they increasingly live their lives online,” said Wallman. “Opera for Android 51 makes it easy to benefit from the security and anonymity of VPN , especially for those may not be aware of how to set these up.”

Setting up the Opera VPN is simple. Users just tap on the browser settings, go to VPN and enable the feature according to their preference. They can also select the region of their choice.

The built-in VPN is free, which means that users don’t need to download additional apps on their smartphones or pay additional fees as they would for other private VPN services. With no sign-in process, users don’t need to log in every time they want to use it.

Opera for Android is available for download in Google Play. The rollout of the new version of Opera for Android 51 will be done gradually per region.

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Future of the car is here

Three new cars, with vastly different price-tags, reveal the arrival of the future of wheels, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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Just a few months ago, it was easy to argue that the car of the future was still a long way off, at least in South Africa. But a series of recent car launches have brought the high-tech vehicle to the fore in startling ways.

The Jaguar i-Pace electric vehicle (EV), BMW 330i and the Datsun Go have little in common, aside from representing an almost complete spectrum of car prices on the local market. Their tags start, respectively, at R1.7-million, R650 000 and R150 000.

Such a widely disparate trio of vehicles do not exactly come together to point to the future. Rather, they represent different futures for different segments of the market. But they also reveal what we can expect to become standard in most vehicles produced in the 2020s.

Jaguar i-Pace

The i-Pace may be out of reach of most South Africans, but it ushers in two advances that will resonate throughout the EV market as it welcomes new and more affordable cars. It is the first electric vehicle in South Africa to beat the bugbear of range anxiety.

Unlike the pioneering “old” Nissan Leaf, which had a range of up to about 150km, and did not lend itself to long distance travel, the i-Pace has a 470km range, bringing it within shouting distance of fuel-powered vehicles. A trip from Johannesburg to Durban, for example, would need just one recharge along the way.

And that brings in the other major advance: the i-Pace is the first EV launched in South Africa together with a rapid public charging network on major routes. It also comes with a home charging kit, which means the end of filling up at petrol stations.

The Jaguar i-Pace dispels one further myth about EVs: that they don’t have much power under the hood. A test drive around Gauteng revealed not only a gutsy engine, but acceleration on a par with anything in its class, and enough horsepower to enhance the safety of almost any overtaking situation.

Specs for the Jaguar i-Pace include:

  • All-wheel drive
  • Twin motors with a combined 294kW and 696Nm
  • 0-100km/h in 4.8s
  • 90kWh Lithium-ion battery, delivering up to 470km range
  • Eight-year/160 000km battery warranty
  • Two-year/34 000km service intervals

Click here to read about BMW’s self-driving technology, and how Datsun makes smart technology affordable.

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