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5G will bring IoT to life

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Many have heard about the hype of what 5G can bring to the country at large… but what does it mean for us as consumers and where does it come into play with IoT? ERNST WITTMANN, Global Account Director MEA & Country Manager – Southern Africa at Alcatel explains.

By now, many of us have heard about the Internet of Things – the trend that sees sensors and Internet connectivity embedded into just about every device and tool we use on a daily basis in both our personal and professional lives. From smart thermostats and LED lighting in your home to an array of instruments in your car to fitness wearables – the IT industry is connecting just about everything you can imagine to the Internet.

IHS, a market researcher, predicts that the Internet of Things market will grow from an installed base of 15.4 billion devices in 2015 to 30.7 billion devices in 2020 and a staggering 75.4 billion in 2025. The real power of these Internet-connected devices will kick in as they’re woven into a connected fabric of services that respond smartly, in real time to the environment and our needs.

For example, we could see the world’s urban areas become smart cities, where connected sensors and appliances drive everything from transport systems to emergency services. Big data from these sensors will allow city managers to monitor traffic, air quality, criminal activity, the power grid, the water system and to streamline a lot of the work that keeps a city humming.

The smart bin

Consider the example of Yinchuan in China, which is piloting smart bins that alert garbage collectors when they’re full and where facial recognition software is used to authenticate bus fare payments. We’re seeing similar trends play out in the smart home, the smart factory, the smart office and other environments as drones, robots, sensors and other devices automate many of the tasks we do each day and give us access to data about the world around us.

Yet the major obstacle we face in bringing this next-generation Internet of Things to life is connectivity. Yinchuan, known as one of the smartest cities in the world, invested in an 8000GB fibre optic network, and more than 5000 WiFi access points. This is a level of spending that may not be viable in larger and less dense cities – and it is the area where the fifth-generation (5G) mobile standard will have an important role to play.

As the evolution from LTE/4G, 5G is going to be the infrastructure that supports the billions upon billions of Internet of Things devices that will be connected to the network by 2025. The standard hasn’t been set in stone, but it is anticipated that 5G connectivity will be 10 or 12 times faster than LTE.

As welcome as the bandwidth boost will be, an arguably even more important benefit of 5G is the way it will support keeping vast numbers of devices connected under challenging conditions such as; by allowing a higher density of mobile broadband users, it will provide a platform for and reliable massive machine communications. 5G should also better support connectivity to remote areas (for example, imagine sensors in forests to provide early warning of fire) and inside buildings, even in basements or down mines.

Towards a more connected world

It will aim for lower batter consumption, which will be useful for many Internet of Things devices that are not plugged directly into the power grid.  5G research and development is working towards far lower latency than 4G equipment – in other words, to reduce the amount of time it takes a packet of data to move from one point to another and back again.

This is a critical point for many Internet of Things devices and applications, which need low latency more than they need lots of bandwidth. For example, an autonomous, self-driving vehicle needs reliable data about its environment so that it can avoid hazards in the road. A delay due to ‘lag’ could be the difference between it having a collision or avoiding it.

5G innovation is moving at a rapid pace, with the first big test for the technology expected at the 2018 Winter Olympics. As the final standards are set, we’ll start to see wider commercial deployment, with 2020 likely to be the year that we’ll see 5G really take off. By then, much of our world around us will be connected 24/7 and we’ll take a range of smart services for granted wherever we go.

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Seedstars seeks tech to reverse land degradation in Africa

A new partnership is offering prizes to young entrepreneurs for coming up with innovations that tackle the loss of arable land in Africa.

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The DOEN Foundation has joined forces with Seedstars, an emerging market startup community, to launch the DOEN Land Restoration Prize, which showcases solutions to environmental, social and financial challenges that focus on land restoration activities in Africa. Stichting DOEN is a Dutch fund that supports green, socially-inclusive and creative initiatives that contribute to a better and cleaner world.

While land degradation and deforestation date back millennia, industrialization and a rising population have dramatically accelerated the process. Today we are seeing unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land at 30 to 35 times the historical rate.

Currently, nearly two-thirds of Africa’s land is degraded, which hinders sustainable economic development and resilience to climate change. As a result, Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of any continent: more than 700 million hectares (1.7 billion acres) of degraded forest landscapes that can be restored. The potential benefits include improved food and water security, biodiversity protection, climate change resilience, and economic growth. Recognizing this opportunity, the African Union set an ambitious target to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.

Land restoration is an urgent response to the poor management of land. Forest and landscape restoration is the process of reversing the degradation of soils, agricultural areas, forests, and watersheds thereby regaining their ecological functionality. According to the World Resources Institute, for every $1 invested in land restoration it can yield $7-$30 in benefits, and now is the time to prove it.

The winner of the challenge will be awarded 9 months access to the Seedstars Investment Readiness Program, the hybrid program challenging traditional acceleration models by creating a unique mix to improve startup performance and get them ready to secure investment. They will also access a 10K USD grant.

“Our current economic system does not meet the growing need to improve our society ecologically and socially,” says Saskia Werther, Program Manager at the DOEN Foundation. “The problems arising from this can be tackled only if a different economic system is considered. DOEN sees opportunities to contribute to this necessary change. After all, the world is changing rapidly and the outlines of a new economy are becoming increasingly clear. This new economy is circular and regenerative. Landscape restoration is a vital part of this regenerative economy and social entrepreneurs play an important role to establish innovative business models to counter land degradation and deforestation. Through this challenge, DOEN wants to highlight the work of early-stage restoration enterprises and inspire other frontrunners to follow suit.”

Applications are open now and will be accepted until October 15th. Startups can apply here: http://seedsta.rs/doen

To enter the competition, startups should meet the following criteria:

  • Existing startups/young companies with less than 4 years of existence
  • Startups that can adapt their current solution to the land restoration space
  • The startup must have a demonstrable product or service (Minimum Viable Product, MVP)
  • The startup needs to be scalable or have the potential to reach scalability in low resource areas.
  • The startup can show clear environmental impact (either by reducing a negative impact or creating a positive one)
  • The startup can show a clear social impact
  • Technology startups, tech-enabled startups and/or businesses that can show a clear innovation component (e.g. in their business model)

Also, a specific emphasis is laid, but not limited to: Finance the restoration of degraded land for production and/or conservation purposes; big data and technology to reverse land degradation; resource efficiency optimization technologies, ecosystems impacts reduction and lower carbon emissions; water-saving soil technologies; technologies focused on improving livelihoods and communities ; planning, management and education tools for land restoration; agriculture (with a focus on precision conservation) and agroforestry; clean Energy solutions that aid in the combat of land degradation; and responsible ecotourism that aids in the support of land restoration.

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The dark side of apps

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Mobile device security threats are on the rise and it’s not hard to see why. In 2019 the number of worldwide mobile phone users is forecast to reach 4.68 billion of which 2.7 billion are smartphone users. So, if you are looking for a target, it certainly makes sense to go where the numbers are. Think about it, unsecured Wi-Fi connections, network spoofing, phishing attacks, ransomware, spyware and improper session handling – mobile devices make for the perfect easy target. In fact, according to Kaspersky, mobile apps are often the cause of unintentional data leakage.

“Apps pose a real problem for mobile users, who give them sweeping permissions, but don’t always check security,” says Riaan Badenhorst, General Manager for Kaspersky in Africa. “These are typically free apps found in official app stores that perform as advertised, but also send personal – and potentially corporate – data to a remote server, where it is mined by advertisers or even cybercriminals. Data leakage can also happen through hostile enterprise-signed mobile apps. Here, mobile malware uses distribution code native to popular mobile operating systems like iOS and Android to spread valuable data across corporate networks without raising red flags.”

In fact, according to recent reports, 6 Android apps that were downloaded a staggering 90 million times from the Google Play Store were found to have been loaded with the PreAMo malware, while another recent threat saw 50 malware-filled apps on the Google Play Store infect over 30 million Android devices. Surveillance malware was also loaded onto fake versions of Android apps such as Evernote, Google Play and Skype.

Considering that as of 2019, Android users were able to choose between 2.46 million apps, while Apple users have almost 1.96 million app options to select from, and that the average person has 60-90 apps installed on their phone, using around 30 of them each month and launching 9 per day – it’s easy to see how viral apps take several social media channels by storm.

“In this age where users jump onto a bandwagon because it’s fun or trendy, the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) can overshadow basic security habits – like being vigilant on granting app permissions,” says Bethwel Opil, Enterprise Sales Manager at Kaspersky in Africa. “In fact, accordingly to a previous Kaspersky study, the majority (63%) of consumers do not read license agreements and 43% just tick all privacy permissions when they are installing new apps on their phone. And this is exactly where the danger lies – as there is certainly ‘no harm’ in joining online challenges or installing new apps.”

However, it is dangerous when users just grant these apps limitless permissions into their contacts, photos, private messages, and more. “Doing so allows the app makers possible, and even legal, access to what should remain confidential data. When this sensitive data is hacked or misused, a viral app can turn a source into a loophole which hackers can exploit to spread malicious viruses or ransomware,” adds Badenhorst. 

As such, online users should always have their thinking caps on and be more careful when it comes to the internet and their app habits including:

  • Only download apps from trusted sources. Read the reviews and ratings of the apps as well
  • Select apps you wish to install on your devices wisely
  • Read the license agreement carefully
  • Pay attention to the list of permissions your apps are requesting. Only give apps permissions they absolutely insist on, and forgo any programme that asks for more than necessary
  • Avoid simply clicking “next” during an app installation
  • For an additional security layer, be sure to have a security solution installed on your device

“While the app market shows no signs of slowing down, it is changing,” says Opil. “Consumers download the apps they love on their devices which in turn gives them access to content that is relevant and useful. The future of apps will be in real-world attribution, influenced by local content and this type of tailored in-app experience will lead consumers to share their data more willing in a trusted, premium app environment in exchange for more personalised experiences. But until then, proceed with caution.”

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