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Analytics will unlock IoT

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With analysts estimating up to 80 billion devices in the market by 2020, the need for real-time processing and analytics has escalated as companies realise the additional revenue, says NEIL HERBERT, Director: Business Analytics, SAP Africa.

This is also leading to the development of more than 200 000 new apps and services as companies aim to take advantage of the potential benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by exploring new business models, optimisations, and revenue streams. However, business leaders are quickly learning that IoT is simply a tool, not a silver bullet: to extract the optimum value from IoT projects, business leaders still need clarity on its role in driving digital transformation – and bottom-line results.

While some businesses are running multiple IoT implementations across various lines of business but still struggle to realise true commercial benefits, industries such as insurance, retail, supply chain, and agriculture are experiencing exponential benefits as their IoT initiatives deliver transformative business value. In the supply chain, for example, companies are using IoT for intelligent supply chain execution, logistics, and supply chain planning for near-real-time replenishment, smart warehousing, intelligent transportation optimisation, and real-time track and trace.

In a range of other industries, recent use cases are inspiring confidence in the business value of IoT to reduce risk and optimise processes.

IoT delivering business value across industries

The insurance industry is one of the first to deploy large-scale IoT implementations to drive innovation and improve the customer experience. As sensors become more commonplace in the home, at work, and society, insurers will have exponentially growing pools of structured and unstructured data that could provide the foundation of better customer insights, more accurate situational awareness, and improved business processes. Those that prioritise digital transformation have already shown how the combination of data sets from IoT, their own systems, social media, partners, and suppliers can drive innovation and unlock new business models, greater efficiency, and increased competitiveness.

In another example, a company managing large sports stadiums in Germany uses data sets from weather, traffic systems, supply chain, social media, sensors embedded in turnstiles, and retail outlets to monitor operational needs in real time during large events. If, for example, a specific player is performing extraordinarily well on field, their system could inform the retail outlet to increase its stock of jerseys sporting that player’s name, as there’s likely to be increased demand following the end of the match. Similarly, if weather patterns indicate unusually hot temperatures, the system could alert suppliers to dispatch additional stock of drinks and bottled water to meet heightened demand.

Here in Africa, the farming industry – which by some accounts provides income for up to 60% of African citizens – is seeing how IoT and analytics can improve livelihoods by making small but important improvements to farming processes. Farming in Africa mostly involves small-scale farmers, where in developed countries farming is done at a grand scale by large corporations. In a recent rural agricultural project involving an IoT solution, sugar cane farmers gained valuable insights from sensors guiding the optimal harvest and processing times. Sugar cane farmers have a limited window of opportunity to process cut sugar cane; up to 50% of the yield can be degraded if it is not taken for processing within 48 hours of harvest. By using IoT sensors combined with a cloud-based analytics platform that incorporates external data sets such as weather data, African sugar cane farmers that were part of the project received timely information regarding the optimal harvest and processing timelines for their crops, helping them improve their yield and increase their revenue while minimising waste.

Cloud platform enables innovation

With the exponential growth of data, companies need to consider ways to leverage technology to reach and support employees, customers, partners, and suppliers across the world. Here, a cloud platform powered by an in-memory computing platform proves essential, as it not only connects disparate data sources and technologies, but enables innovation at a grand scale.

Globally, companies are leveraging the SAP Leonardo suite of innovation tools, including IoT, to unlock business value and transform their operations, business models, and revenue streams. The most successful implementations include a design thinking element that brings together a broad mix of people within the business to help uncover areas of high-potential IoT innovation. By partnering with a global leader in IoT innovation that can provide a platform, intelligence, insight and support, companies are now able to realise the true transformative benefits of IoT and its associated commercial applications.

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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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