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The year of digital transformation is upon us

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With 2016 in full swing, its now more important than ever for the IT industry to evolve, but says SEBASTIAN ISAAC, Business Development Manager at Rectron, we still need to address the skills and awareness needed for us to excel.

With 2016 in full swing, it’s never been more important for the IT industry to evolve in order to remain relevant. From an increasing shift to the cloud and third platform technologies, to the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), the International Data Corporation’s (IDC) Worldwide IT Industry 2016 Predictions centre on digital transformation. In South Africa, while we are certainly seeing similar trends, we still need to address the skills and awareness necessary for us to excel.

Digital transformation at the heart of corporate strategy 

According to the IDC, by the end of 2017, the majority of CEOs will have digital transformation at the centre of their corporate strategy, as they apply digital technology to all aspects of business. Linked to this an increased spend on third platform technologies and cloud-based infrastructure. Locally, digital transformation is becoming increasingly important as businesses are considering social and mobile analytics and the cloud to a greater extent, and we are beginning to see a transition.

That said, it is still a work in progress in South Africa. This is especially so when it comes to working in the cloud. We’re still seeing a large number of businesses focused on internal solutions. It is often the smaller businesses that have the capacity to move to the cloud more easily, with the larger enterprises having to follow a process when it comes to transitioning. However, the businesses that can make the shift or partner with industry cloud platforms are in prime position to offer their customers a more complete, packaged solution to meet their needs.

Changing the way we think about software, data and customers

As we continue down the digital transformation road, it stands to reason that businesses will ramp up their software development capabilities as they shift their focus to the creation of digital apps and services. A lot of software development is starting to focus more on extracting specific information and understanding who the customer is to have a more targeted approach. In addition, the embedding of cognitive services into apps is also beginning to gain ground, although there is still a lot of room to fine tune these according to the information that is actually needed.

In the spirit of extracting information, the IDC also predicts that businesses will expand their external data sources significantly. Businesses certainly need to be drawing from multiple data sources to consolidate and verify their information. We’ve seen this trend growing as several of our customers that work with multiple service providers are making use of the information from each of those sources to better analyse what is going on in their industries.

Of course, as we better understand our customers through these various means, it also stands to reason that businesses need to overhaul their digital front door to support the volume of customers coming from a variety of touch points. There is a growing trend for businesses to find inventive ways of getting in touch with their customers by making use of the data they extract to understand how to be relevant in their communications.

The Internet of Things continues to grow

When thinking about how to connect with customers to gain real-time insights into their behaviours and needs, IoT provides the answer. It has the potential to cut out the middle man and allows businesses to connect directly with their customers. In the IT space, it’s possible to embed IoT technology into a printer, for example, so that the manufacturer has control over the sales of consumables and repairs, as well as the opportunity to improve the product based on direct customer feedback. This changes the role of IT vendors as we know them.

However, there are still challenges in the IoT space, especially when it comes to the infrastructure being put in place. IoT is not entirely open platform yet, and for proper drive into this space we need more collaboration between different entities. As long as everyone continues to have their own protocols and standards, we are still a few years away from having a proper working solution to focus on IoT devices.

Innovation and relevance key in 2016

While we still have a way to go, South Africa is keeping up with global IT trends. As a country, we have a lot of innovation to offer and we have the potential to take giant leaps especially in the IoT space. Our challenge in the coming years is to ensure that we upskill and encourage people to be part of the IoT ecosystem and the IT sector in general. We also need to educate other sectors about the value that working in the cloud and using remote monitoring and management of data can add to business.

From Rectron’s perspective, we see the necessity of remaining relevant for our customers. We believe the way to achieve this is to look beyond products themselves and offer a total solution that adds real value to business and acts as a central point across warranty, servicing, and support. It’s an evolving model, but with digital transformation it is inevitable that those succeeding in the IT sector will make the shift.

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Epic Games brings a
Nite-mare to Android

Epic Games’ decision to not publish games through Google Play inadvertently opens a market to Android virus makers, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, decided to take the high road by skipping Google Play’s app distribution market and placing a third-party installer for its games on its website. While this is technically fine, it is not recommended for the average user, because allowing third-party installers on one’s smartphone opens up the possibility of non-signed and malicious software to be run on the smartphone. 

In June, malware researchers at ESET warned Android gamers that malicious fake versions of the Fortnite app had been created to steal personal information or damage smartphones. A malware researcher demonstrated how the fake applications works in the Tweet below.

While the decision to bypass Google Play was a bold move on Epic Games’ part, it has been a long time coming for app developers to move their premium apps off Google’s Play Store. The two major app distributors, Google Play and Apple’s App Store, take a 30% cut of every purchase made through their app distribution platforms. 

The App Store is currently the only way to get apps on a non-modified iOS device, which is why Epic Games had no choice for Fortnite to be in the App Store. On the other hand, Android phones can install packages downloaded through the browser, which makes the Play Store almost unnecessary for the gaming company. 

The most interesting part of this development is that Google is not the “bad guy” and Epic Games is no saviour to other game developers. Epic Games is a company with a multi-billion dollar valuation and has resources like large-scale servers to distribute and update its games, a big marketing budget to ensure everyone knows how to get its games, and server security to protect against malware. 

Resources of this scale allow the game company to turn a cold shoulder to Google’s Play Store distribution and focus on its own, in-house solution. 

That said, installing packages without the Google Play Store must be done carefully, and it is essential to do homework on where a package is downloaded. Moreover, when a package is installed outside of the Google Play Store, a security switch to block the installation of third party apps must be turned off. This switch should be turned back on immediately after the third party package is installed. 

This complex amount of steps makes it less worthwhile to install third party apps, in favour of rather waiting for them to reach the Play Store.

From a consumer perspective, ESET recommends not installing packages outside of the Google Play Store and to ignore advertisements to download the game from other sources.

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How to take on IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming, whether you like it or not and organisations today will look to platforms and services that help them manage and analyse the streams of data coming from connected devices, says RONALD RAVEL, Director B2B South Africa, Toshiba South Africa.

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Today, we are witnessing an explosion in IoT deployments and solutions and are moving towards a world where almost everything you can imagine will be connected. While this opens the door to many possibilities it also comes with its own challenges such as privacy and security.

The Internet has become an integral part of everyday life; it has been a free for all on a daily basis. IoT is a difficult concept for many people to wrap their minds around. Essentially, nearly every business will be affected.

Managing vast quantities of data across increasingly mobile workforces can be tremendously beneficial if done well, but equally can be cumbersome and ineffective if not managed properly. This is why technologies such as mobile edge computing are becoming increasingly popular, helping to increase the prevalence of secure mobile working and data management in the age of IoT.

Unlocking IoT

The evolution of IoT, despite rapid and ongoing technological innovation, is still very much in its fledgling stages. Its potential, though, is demonstrated by the fact that by 2020, Bain anticipates a significant shift in uptake, with roughly 80 per cent of adoptions at that point to have progressed to the stage of either ‘proof of concept’ or extensive implementation. This means that technological innovation in IoT for the enterprise is progressing at a similarly fast rate with many of these solutions being developed with utilities, engineering, manufacturing and logistics companies in mind.

Processing at the edge

For IoT to be adopted at the rate predicted, technology which does not overwhelm current or even legacy systems must be implemented. Mobile edge computing solves this. Such solutions offer processing power at the edge of the network, helping firms with a high proportion of mobile workers to reduce operational strain and latency by processing the most critical data at the edge and close to its originating source. Relevant data can then be sent to the cloud for observation and analysis, thereby reducing the waves of ‘data garbage’ which has to be processed by cloud services.

A logistics manager can feasibly monitor and analyse the efficiency of warehouse operations, for example, with important data calculations carried out in real-time, on location, and key data findings then sent to the cloud for centrally-located data scientists to analyse.

The work of wearables

The potential of IoT means it not only has the scope to change the way people work, but also where they work. While widespread mobile working is a relatively new trend in industries such as banking and professional services, for CIOs in sectors where working on the move is inherent – such as logistics and field maintenance – mobility is high on the agenda.

Wearables – and specifically smart glasses – have started to gain traction within the business world. With mobile edge computing solutions acting as the gateway, smart glasses such as Toshiba’s assisted reality AR 100 viewer solution have been designed to benefit frontline and field-based workers in industries such as utilities, manufacturing and logistics. In the renewable energy sector, for example, a wind turbine engineer conducting repairs may use assisted reality smart glasses to call up the schematics of the turbine to enable a hands-free view of service procedures. This means that when a fault becomes a barrier to repair, the engineer is able to use collaboration software to call for assistance from a remote expert and have additional information sent through, thereby saving time and money by eradicating the need for extra personnel to be sent to the site.

The time is ripe for organisations to look to exploit the age of IoT to improve the productivity and safety of their workers, as well as the end service delivered to customers. In fact, Toshiba’s recent ‘Maximising Mobility’ report found that 49 per cent of organisations believe their sector can benefit from the hands-free functionality of smart glasses, while 47 per cent expect them to deliver improved mobile working and 41 per cent foresee better collaboration and information sharing. Embracing IoT technologies such as mobile edge computing and wearable solutions will be an essential step for many organisations within these verticals as they look to stay on top of 21st century working challenges.

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