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Vodacom debuts SMS service for hearing impaired

Vodacom has launched South Africa’s first SMS Emergency Service for deaf, hearing and speech impaired customers.

The Vodacom 082 112 SMS Emergency Service is free and provided for Vodacom Prepaid, Contract and Top Up customers who are Deaf, hearing and speech impaired.

The service addresses a serious need that currently exists in the market. Previously deaf and hearing impaired persons were unable to contact an emergency service centre, as it could only be accessed via voice calls.

The new Vodacom 082 112 SMS Emergency Service now provides these customers with the option to request emergency services such as police, fire and ambulance services by sending an SMS to 082 112.  In order to use this new service, customers need only register their details by sending an SMS to 082 112.

Karen Smit, Vodacom Principal Specialist for Specific Needs, says that this is a first for South Africa and the continent and continues on Vodacom’s promise to provide peace of mind for deaf and hearing impaired persons.

“We are confident that this initiative will assist in promoting the ability to communicate for deaf and hearing impaired customers through digital inclusion as they can now request help should they experience an emergency situation. Vodacom is committed to adding value and we are excited to be able to offer this service to some of our more vulnerable customers.”

Vodacom has been providing accessible products and services to customers with disabilities since 2004. The Specific Needs division has received a number of accolades including the Change Agents and Disability Champion amongst South Africans Award at the Human Rights Summit from the Disability Alliance (SADA). This award recognises Vodacom for being fully engaged and innovative in the process of accessible and affordable ICT in South Africa.

As part of the group’s CARE initiative and inclusion strategy, Vodacom has over the years developed a number of products and revamped its service models to cater for the disability and elderly segment of the market. Some of the targeted products and specialists services offered on the network include; a device repair priority process, easy to use devices with a big keypad and inclusive design smartphones. The device repair priority process enables disabled customers to have their devices repaired in a shorter period of time. The phones with a big keypad cater for the elderly and allows them to easily see the keypad and words when typing. A large range of inclusive design electronic devices have built-in text-to-speech software that makes them accessible to visually impaired persons.

Another innovation is the HearZA app which was developed in partnership with the University of Pretoria. HearZA is a smartphone-based national hearing test app. The app helps with early detection of hearing problems which is essential in mitigating possible hearing losses. Vodacom further meets the needs of deaf and hearing impaired customers by providing them with special contract phone deals that consist of data and SMS, without minutes.

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Veeam passes $1bn, prepares for cloud’s ‘Act II’

Leader in cloud-data management reveals how it will harness the next growth phase of the data revolution, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Veeam Software, the quiet leader in backup solutions for cloud data management,has announced that it has passed $1-billion in revenues, and is preparing for the next phase of sustained growth in the sector.

Now, it is unveiling what it calls Act II, following five years of rapid growth through modernisation of the data centre. At the VeeamON 2019conferencein Miami this week, company co-founder Ratmir Timashev declared that the opportunities in this new era, focused on managing data for the hybrid cloud, would drive the next phase of growth.

“Veeam created the VMware backup market and has dominated it as the leader for the last decade,” said Timashev, who is also executive vice president for sales and marketing at the organisation. “This was Veeam’s Act I and I am delighted that we have surpassed the $1 billion mark; in 2013 I predicted we’d achieve this in less than six years. 

“However, the market is now changing. Backup is still critical, but customers are now building hybrid clouds with AWS, Azure, IBM and Google, and they need more than just backup. To succeed in this changing environment, Veeam has had to adapt. Veeam, with its 60,000-plus channel and service provider partners and the broadest ecosystem of technology partners, including Cisco, HPE, NetApp, Nutanix and Pure Storage, is best positioned to dominate the new cloud data management in our Act II.”

In South Africa, Veeam expects similar growth. Speaking at the Cisco Connect conference in Sun City this week, country manager Kate Mollett told Gadget’s BRYAN TURNER that the company was doing exceptionally well in this market.

“In financial year 2018, we saw double-digit growth, which was really very encouraging if you consider the state of the economy, and not so much customer sentiment, but customers have been more cautious with how they spend their money. We’ve seen a fluctuation in the currency, so we see customers pausing with big decisions and hoping for a recovery in the Rand-Dollar. But despite all of the negatives, we have double digit growth which is really good. We continue to grow our team and hire.

“From a Veeam perspective, last year we were responsible for Veeam Africa South, which consisted of South Africa, SADC countries, and the Indian Ocean Islands. We’ve now been given the responsibility for the whole of Africa. This is really fantastic because we are now able to drive a single strategy for Africa from South Africa.”

Veeam has been the leading provider of backup, recovery and replication solutions for more than a decade, and is growing rapidly at a time when other players in the backup market are struggling to innovate on demand.

“Backup is not sexy and they made a pretty successful company out of something that others seem to be screwing up,” said Roy Illsley, Distinguished Analyst at Ovum, speaking in Miami after the VeeamOn conference. “Others have not invested much in new products and they don’t solve key challenges that most organisations want solved. Theyre resting on their laurels and are stuck in the physical world of backup instead of embracing the cloud.”

Illsley readily buys into the Veeam tagline. “It just works”. 

“They are very good at marketing but are also a good engineering comany that does produce the goods. Their big strength, that it just works, is a reliable feature they have built into their product portfolio.”

Veeam said in statement from the event that, while it had initially focused on server virtualisation for VMware environments, in recent years it had expanded this core offering. It was now delivering integration with multiple hypervisors, physical servers and endpoints, along with public and software-as-a-service workloads, while partnering with leading cloud, storage, server, hyperconverged (HCI) and application vendors.

This week, it  announced a new “with Veeam”program, which brings in enterprise storage and hyperconverged (HCI) vendors to provide customers with comprehensive secondary storage solutions that combine Veeam software with industry-leading infrastructure systems. Companies like ExaGrid and Nutanix have already announced partnerships.

Timashev said: “From day one, we have focused on partnerships to deliver customer value. Working with our storage and cloud partners, we are delivering choice, flexibility and value to customers of all sizes.”

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‘Energy scavenging’ funded

As the drive towards a 5G future gathers momentum, the University of Surrey’s research into technology that could power countless internet enabled devices – including those needed for autonomous cars – has won over £1M from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and industry partners.

Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) has been working on triboelectric nanogenerators (TENG), an energy harvesting technology capable of ‘scavenging’ energy from movements such as human motion, machine vibration, wind and vehicle movements to power small electronic components. 

TENG energy harvesting is based on a combination of electrostatic charging and electrostatic induction, providing high output, peak efficiency and low-cost solutions for small scale electronic devices. It’s thought such devices will be vital for the smart sensors needed to enable driverless cars to work safely, wearable electronics, health sensors in ‘smart hospitals’ and robotics in ‘smart factories.’ 

The ATI will be partnered on this development project with the Georgia Institute of Technology, QinetiQ, MAS Holdings, National Physical Laboratory, Soochow University and Jaguar Land Rover. 

Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI and the principal investigator of the TENG project, said: “TENG technology is ideal to power the next generation of electronic devices due to its small footprint and capacity to integrate into systems we use every day. Here at the ATI, we are constantly looking to develop such advanced technologies leading towards our quest to realise worldwide “free energy”.

“TENGs are an ideal candidate to power the autonomous electronic systems for Internet of Things applications and wearable electronic devices. We believe this research grant will allow us to further the design of optimized energy harvesters.”

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