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Agility powers enterprise IT

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The need for software development and software developers has continued to rise, with a great emphasis being placed on the rise in available jobs paired with the scarcity of skills. Quentin Barnard, lead architect at redPanda Software, has identified a few trends that will emerge this year.

Looking back over the past decade, history has certainly demonstrated that trying to predict the pace and nature of technology development is a near impossible task.

While analysts, business leaders and policymakers have certainly made wise predictions, businesses and individuals have to remain agile, responsive and open-minded to a wide possibility of outcomes and developments. It is also helpful, however, to reflect on key trends that have emerged in recent times – and to use this information to prepare for the years ahead. For software developers and development houses, several prominent themes emerged in 2017.

Embracing open source

Over the past year, major technology companies – such as proprietary (closed source) technology companies – have embraced the open source aspect of software development, which has had important ramifications for developers.

For instance, developers can now write code and build applications that run seamlessly across different platforms and environments – as opposed to writing code for one platform or a particular environment.

Arguably, the move to open source spurs innovation and creates more avenues for a wider array of features and capabilities within applications. Ultimately, the end user benefits.

Shift to application containerisation

Typically, developers have delivered applications to clients as a single, monolithic entity that require complex deployment and production configurations.

However, with the steady move to ‘microservices’, developers can break down large complex applications into discrete elements. This facilitates seamless maintenance and deployment as applications become more agile, efficient and cost effective.

In short, this is called containerisation, which means that developers can focus on programming using the same or similar environments  in production and across multiple teams, while deployment happens faster and more smoothly.

This approach enables developers to significantly scale applications with minimal fuss, and also allows them to switch to different versions with ease. The deployment time frame is significantly reduced, and updates can be rolled out within minutes.

Maturity of IoT

There has been a great deal of hype around the Internet of Things (IoT) – the emergence of a network of connected devices that continually ‘talk’ to one another. These networks are starting to materialise in various forms across different industries, which has major implications for developers and their clients.

With a host of smart devices continually sending data into the Cloud, together with the improvement of data analytics, businesses are able to make key decisions in real time. For example, a head office is directly connected to a retail outlet, which receives information in real-time around customer behaviour.

This information can then be translated into insights that directly impact the type and nature of applications and features that are developed within the enterprise environment, with some of these decisions being made by computing ‘edge’ devices at the point of data collection.

Peering into the (Internet connected) crystal ball

While data analytics might not help us foresee tech development in 2018, there are a few key trends already emerging.

In South Africa, there will arguably be an accelerated adoption of cloud computing, with international cloud companies investing into the country, bringing their cloud platforms closer to the end users.

With increased investment in this regard, the local nature of hosting infrastructure will change, and companies will not have to deal with the latency that comes from using internationally-hosted service providers. Local companies can now link their existing infrastructure investments into the cloud to provide their own private cloud facilities. This will drive efficiencies and certainly enhance the end-user experience.

Innovation, innovation, innovation

For developers, succeeding into the New Year and beyond will require a willingness to expand their expertise beyond specific coding languages and platforms. As technology becomes ever more complex and the pace of change accelerates, developers will need to have cross platform expertise and a willingness to experiment with different languages, platforms and concepts.

As companies are forced to become more creative, innovative and responsive in a world characterised by disruption, so too will developers and development houses.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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