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90-min delivery from picup

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On-demand delivery service, picup, has launched a new offering that will allow small, medium or large sized businesses to collect and deliver documents and parcels in under 90 minutes.

Available on the web, picupBusiness has been created to address the need for a fast and efficient delivery service that will allow businesses to deliver important documents in a fraction of the time it would take a traditional same day delivery courier service. And if the delivery isn’t made within 90 minutes picup have promised to credit the full fare to the client.

The launch of picupBusiness follows the launch of its consumer offering on WeChat in May this year. Picup is an on-demand collection and delivery service for documents, packages, parcels and incidentals. Users request a driver to collect and/or deliver goods to and from a determined location.

“It didn’t take long for us to realise that businesses formed a core part of our target market and we needed a solution that allowed them to place a picup from their PC. While today’s consumer is constantly on the go and a mobile offering on WeChat is the perfect solution, the average business person still does most of their work from a desktop computer,” says Antonio Bruni, Founder & CEO of picup. “And so, the business-friendly, web-browser version of picup was born – picupBusiness.”

Traditional same day deliveries are typically handled by a number of people. Deliveries are usually sent to the depot and orders need to be placed and ready before lunchtime to be delivered that day. A further struggle that courier companies face is that all their vehicles work within set routes every day. “In order to offer a same-day solution, courier companies need to pull a driver off a route to do one delivery or they need one designated driver doing same-day deliveries, which results in exorbitant costs,” says Bruni.

picupBusiness has over 200 drivers located in and around Cape Town, ensuring they’re ready and waiting to collect parcels within minutes of orders being placed. picupBusiness allows a business to immediately dispatch the closest driver to complete the delivery in the quickest time, and if the delivery isn’t completed within 90 minutes, it’s free. Rates are determined by the mode the user selects (bicycles, motorbikes and cars) along with the distance. The parcel weight becomes irrelevant as long as it can fit within the dimensions of each mode of transport.

“In our mind, same-day delivery means delivery within 90-minutes (traffic dependant) of placing the picup. In today’s world, people need things to be done immediately and we’re helping them achieve that. What’s more, you only have to sign up with picup once, and after that the steps to place a picup are so simple you can do it in under three minutes. This allows people to get back to running their business without having to worry about tedious paperwork or hand delivering a document to get it to the right person on time,” says Bruni.

Businesses will soon be able to book a three hour delivery option. If a delivery isn’t urgent and a client has time to spare, then you can book a delivery at a reduced rate, with a guaranteed delivery within three hours.

In the few short months since picup launched, the feedback has proved how necessary and efficient a service like this is. “During the testing phases of picup, a lady placed a shoe order online and jumped into the shower shortly after. By the time she was out of the shower, the delivery driver was knocking on the door with her order. Now that’s the kind of service that no traditional courier service can offer and is why picup are going to do great things in this market,” says Brett Loubser, head of WeChat for Africa. “We’re so pleased to be associated with a start up like picup, which is disrupting the logistics market in Cape Town and will soon take on other cities in South Africa.”

The launch of picup on WeChat in the Cape Town area has been met with praise by individuals wanting to save time and money. Now picupBusiness gives companies the opportunity to do the same right from their web-browsers. Meanwhile, people in the economic capital of South Africa, who have been wondering when this new service will hit the streets of Johannesburg, can expect to spot the blue picup bicycles, scooters and cars in the next few months.

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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