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Wearable workplace arriving

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Although wearable devices are still pricy and rather primitive with regards to their functionality, ANTON VAN HEERDEN of Sage believes that we will soon see better apps for them and perhaps even see business cases emerge.

Think back eight years to the launch of the original Apple iPhone – a device that seemed at the time like an expensive toy for the wealthy. Today, smartphones with fast LTE connections are pervasive in the workforce and we simply take it for granted that we will have access to documents, email, and company data wherever we are.

In much the same way, we’re only just seeing the wearable computing trend start to take root in South Africa, starting with the wealthier consumer. Many fitness fanatics track their runs, cycle rides and gym workouts with fitness bands such as the Fitbit and some early adopters are walking around with Apple Watches on their wrists.

Workplace adoption seems slow so far. Yet with more and more people relying on wearables in their personal lives, can it be long before these devices start creeping into business environments? Tech-savvy workers drove the ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) trend when they started bringing smartphones to work; we should not be surprised if they bring about the rise of ‘wear your own device’, too.

Wearables in the office

For now, wearables face a range of barriers. Battery life for smartwatches and other wearables is poor, and the devices remain pricy compared to smartphones and tablets. Even more importantly, outside niches such as health and fitness, there isn’t a killer app for smart wearables to justify their cost.

Sure, it’s useful to get urgent messages on your smartwatch while you’re in a meeting, but is it worth paying upwards of R7000 for this functionality? Yet we can expect many of these obstacles to mainstream adoption to rapidly fall away. Remember how primitive, expensive and limited the first-generation iPhone really was?

In much the same way, wearable devices will get better and less expensive. Connections will become faster and more stable – you only have to compare the speeds of 3G and 4G to see how quickly the mobile world moves. And as prices fall and more people start using wearables, we’ll begin to see new apps and business cases emerge.

What this means for the entrepreneur

Business owners should be keeping a watchful eye on the wearables market to see how it evolves. From smart glasses and smartwatches, we can expect some interesting use cases to emerge in the next few years. Imagine, for example, the potential benefits of hands-free computing in businesses such as manufacturing or field service.

As prices of wearables fall, businesses may find that simple functions such as the unobtrusive alert of a smartwatch offer productivity, collaboration and efficiency boosts that justify their costs. For example, workers could have access to emails, calls, text messages and alerts with a quick glance.

Another potential spin-off comes from the range of location and contextual data businesses could collect from wearable computers. They could, for example, use this data to optimise their deployment of their mobile field sales and services teams or to track drivers who need to venture into dangerous areas.

Changing the way we work and how consumers behave

Though this may sound dystopian to some, using such data wisely can improve both business processes and working conditions. Research from PwC shows that more than three-quarters of South African employees would consider using a wearable device if their employer used the data to improve their conditions in the workplace.

Of course, small business owners should also be keenly watching their customers use wearable devices. Some life and health insurers are already taking note, offering people they insure incentives to wear fitness trackers and share their data. In time, smartwatches and other wearables could serve as electronic keys, digital wallets, and more.

For now, it might seem hard to imagine wearables as making the same impact as smartphones – but then again when we were texting and calling with the first mobile phones, could we have imagined the progression of technology to create what we have now?

At Sage, we believe the future is mobile and we are giving our customers the power to control their businesses from the palm of their hand. We see wearable computing as one of the most exciting developments in this time of seismic technological change and digital invention, and are looking for ways to use it to reinvent and simplify our customers’ businesses.

* Anton van Heerden, Executive Vice-President and Managing Director of Sage in South and Southern Africa.

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Get your passwords in shape

New Year’s resolutions should extend to getting password protection sorted out, writes Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at ESET Southern Africa.

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Many of us have entered the new year with a boat load of New Year’s resolutions.  Doing more exercise, fixing unhealthy eating habits and saving more money are all highly respectable goals, but could it be that they don’t go far enough in an era with countless apps and sites that scream for letting them help you reach your personal goals.

Now, you may want to add a few weightier and yet effortless habits on top of those well-worn choices. Here are a handful of tips for ‘exercises’ that will go good for your cyber-fitness.

I won’t pass up on stubborn passwords

Passwords have a bad rap, and deservedly so: they suffer from weaknesses, both in terms of security and convenience, that make them a less-than-ideal method of authentication.  However, much of what the internet offers is independent on your singing up for this or that online service, and the available form of authentication almost universally happens to the username/password combination.

As the keys that open online accounts (not to speak of many devices), passwords are often rightly thought of as the first – alas, often only – line of defence that protects your virtual and real assets from intruders. However, passwords don’t offer much in the way of protection unless, in the first place, they’re strong and unique to each device and account.

But what constitutes a strong password?  A passphrase! Done right, typical passphrases are generally both more secure and more user-friendly than typical passwords. The longer the passphrase and the more words it packs the better, with seven words providing for a solid start. With each extra character (not to mention words), the number of possible combinations rises exponentially, which makes simple brute-force password-cracking attacks far less likely to succeed, if not well-nigh impossible (assuming, of course, that the service in question does not impose limitations on password input length – something that is, sadly, far too common).

Click here to read about making secure passwords by not using dictionary words, using two-factor authentication, and how biometrics are coming to web browsers.

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Code Week prepares 2.3m young Africans for future

By SUNIL GENESS, Director Government Relations & CSR, Global Digital Government, at SAP Africa.

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On January 6th, 2019, news broke of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plans to announce a new approach to education in his second State of the Nation address, including:

  • A universal roll-out of tablets for all pupils in the country’s 23 700 primary and secondary schools
  • Computer coding and robotics classes for the foundation-phase pupils from grade 1-3 and the
  • Digitisation of the entire curriculum, , including textbooks, workbooks and all teacher support material.

With this, the President has shown South Africa’s response to a global challenge: equipping our youth with the skills they’ll need to survive and thrive in the 21st century digital economy.

Africa’s working-age population will increase to 600 million in 2030 from a base of 370 million in 2010.

In South Africa, unemployment stands at 26.7 percent, but is much more pronounced among youths: 52.2 percent of the country’s 15-24-year-olds are looking for work.

As an organisation deeply invested in South Africa and its future, SAP has developed and implemented a range of initiatives aimed at fostering digital skills development among the country’s youth, including:

AFRICA CODE WEEK

Since its launch in 2015, Africa Code Week has introduced more than 4 million African youth to basic coding.

In 2018, more than 2.3 million youth across 37 countries took part in Africa Code Week.

The digital skills development initiative’s focus on building local capacity for sustainable learning resulted in close to 23 000 teachers being trained in the run-up to the October 2018 events.

Vital to the success of Africa Code Week is the close support it receives from a broad spectrum of public and private sector institutions, including UNESCO YouthMobile, Google, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Cape Town Science Centre, the Camden Education Trust, 28 African governments, over 130 implementing partners and 120 ambassadors across the continent.

SAP’s efforts to drive digital skills development on the African continent forms part of a broader organisational commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 4 (“Ensure quality and inclusive education for all”)

A core component of Africa Code Week is to encourage female participation in STEM-related skills development activities: in 2018, more than 46% of all Africa Code Week participants were female.

According to Africa Code Week Global Coordinator Sunil Geness, female representation in STEM-related fields among African businesses currently stands at 30%, “requiring powerful public-private partnerships to start turning the tide and creating more equitable opportunities for African youth to contribute to the continent’s economic development and success”.

Click here to read more about the Skills for Africa graduate training programme, and about the LEGO League.

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