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Benefits of biometrics

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Biometric technology has become an integral part of many of the access control, security, asset protection and risk management systems. The benefits are significant, not just in terms of security, but for enablement of related business processes, like time an attendance, says KOBUS LE ROUX of Jasco Security Solutions.

Failure of any component in the biometrics system can compromise the security of assets, operations, the safety of personnel and the accuracy of reporting systems. The risk to business, and its bottom line, can be considerable over time.

There are two key considerations. Accurate setup and configuration of the hardware, software and network components are very important, but you can’t ‚”set and forget‚”. Similarly, once the physical components are installed and integrated, a ‚”break-fix‚” approach to ensuring the system is functioning optimally is not acceptable if the risk profile that these systems facilitate is to be maintained.

Setup and clean up

Successful setup of a biometrics system hinges first and foremost on accurate registration of unique identifiers e.g., fingerprint or iris scans that are entered into a database. If the registration process is faulty, the system will deliver false positives or erratically deny access. Administration of the database also needs to be meticulous much like other access control technologies, if someone leaves the company or their status changes, the database must be updated and ‚’cleaned’. This is crucial as biometrics databases usually have a limit to the number of registrations they can efficiently process. Exceed this and the system slows down, stalls and begins to fail, affecting operational and productivity efficiencies and increasing risk.

Wear and tear also has an impact, even if your readers have the toughest (IP66 ruggedised) rating. To put use of biometrics systems into perspective, consider that a larger corporate building may see 3000 to 4000 transactions per day and a large mining operation may see hundreds of transactions over a single shift change.

All the physical components that make up the system need to be regularly assessed for mechanical or other failure. If the biometrics reader gets grimy or is damaged — through use or exposure to harsh environments or the elements (rain, dust, heat) it can literally collapse the entire system. Biometrics secured access is also of little use if the door granting access has faulty locking units. In addition, network access and reliability, including quality of service, need to be regularly reviewed to ensure the biometrics system and all the processes it enables (access, time and attendance) can operate and respond efficiently.

Maintenance optimises performance

Regular maintenance every three months or as often as use demands could eliminate these challenges and extend the life of the system. To also optimise the performance of the system it is crucial, however, to appoint a service provider with the appropriate technical skills and insight.

The ideal partner for such maintenance is a company that understands, and has broad experience of installation and management of biometric technology and related systems access control, CCTV, alarms, etc — across a variety of industries (corporate, manufacturing, mining, transport, public sector) and technology platforms. This partner should have a track record and qualified staff and most of all be flexible to attend to your specific maintenance needs.

A maintenance agreement of this sort should include doing the necessary diagnostics on all systems, critically assessing the network, the database, environmental factors, and the impact of other devices on the biometrics and related systems. The service provider should also be able to proactively address or make provision for changes in organisational processes, infrastructure and personnel. Identified challenges would need to then be addressed in a way that improves overall performance.

As technology becomes increasingly part of physical operations, it’s easy to overlook the fact both technology and physical maintenance is needed and that service providers offering such maintenance need to have both skills. Maintenance to biometrics systems is becoming non-negotiable as companies increasingly come to understand how this can impact mission critical processes and affect the effective and efficient operations of extended systems. Don’t get caught short.

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How to save cloud from complexity

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By DOUG WOOLLEY, GM of Dell Technologies South Africa

Ten years ago, business technologies had saturated to breaking point. The potential they offered were diminished by their deployment and maintenance costs. Then virtualisation, cloud and similar technologies emerged to offer new capacities and optimisation. Companies were able to vastly simplify their technology stacks, as is evident by even large enterprises moving wholesale to service-centric models where you own less and get more.

But that pendulum was going to change direction eventually. The arrival of the cloud world wasn’t just about creating efficiencies. It introduced radical new ways of creating applications and deploying services. The initial gains in terms of efficiency were just the start – once the cloud engine started firing on more cylinders, its true potential came to light. Artificial intelligence, real-time data, IoT infrastructure and other cutting edge services became widely feasible and affordable.

The modern technology era is powerful because of its modularity, but this creates a new type of complexity headache. Several reports have highlighted concerns among modern CIOs that complexity is getting out of hand again. One study found that a single web transaction used to interact with around 22 technology systems a few years ago, whereas today the number is more than 35. That’s a 59 percent increase in complexity.

The major bite is coming from managing multi-cloud environments. Today’s organisation is spoilt for choice. It can juggle hyperscale environments, co-location arrangements, private clouds, application containers and straight service pipes to create the best combination of technologies that enable its desires. But the simple beauty of grabbing an iPad for a performance dashboard belies the agile and complex relationships making that happen behind the scenes.

I can tell you that Dell EMC has been mulling this long before it became a clear challenge. Even before the successful merger that created Dell Technologies, we already pursued ways to better manage the complexity created by cloud environments. I don’t say this to advertise our services, but to point out that we never bought into a blue-skies view of cloud. The complexity was bound to return. If it isn’t contained and disciplined, then the promise of cloud would soon devolve into the familiar muck everyone’s trying to break free from.

We’re not alone: the market has been reaching this conclusion as well. A recent VMWare survey found that 83 percent of cloud adopters are seeking consistent infrastructure and operations from the data centre to the cloud. In other words, they want as seamless an experience as possible between the various moving parts of their technology investments.

Digital maturity isn’t a single curve. It’s more akin to a radar chart, with different indicators spreading outwards to complete the picture. The ability to curtail multi-cloud complexity is increasingly a dominant indicator of digital proficiency. But the means to create that control will depend heavily on the partner of choice.

Reining in cloud isn’t just about a nice management suite. It has to cover a powerful integration of hardware, software, services and consumption options. It also can’t exist to try and cap your cloud capabilities for the sake of stability. Cloud management has to remain dynamic to allow for the agility, accelerated innovation, improved economics and reduced risk that are the promises of the cloud era.

This requires a multidisciplinary approach that no single vendor can comprehensively provide. It needs a stable of different capabilities, such as virtualisation, infrastructure management and mature business thinking. When a company wants to avoid or untangle the new complexities wrought by cloud, the solutions don’t lie in services but how rich the partner landscape is that provides the management services.

Multi-cloud environments are delivering both expected and unbelievable gains, often as smooth interactions for end-users. But the background complexity can diminish returns very quickly and erode digitisation gains. This is the technology conversation of the year and foreseeable future, so let’s start talking.

We will be hosting our Dell Technologies Forum on 27 June at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg. Register now (https://www.delltechnologies.com/en-za/events/forum2019/Johannesburg/index.htm) and take this opportunity to raise your feelings about complexity and how to keep the cloud in line with your business expectations.

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Uberising solar energy

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A team of students from Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya on Thursday walked off as winners with R20 000 in prize money for an innovative concept to provide equitable energy access to remote villages based on, among others, “Uber(ising) solar energy.”

The team was one of four university teams participating in the African Utility Week and Powergen Africa conference and exhibition’s first ever Initiate! Impact Challenge. The 19th edition of the event gathered thousands of power, water and gas industry experts in Cape Town this week and ended on Thursday.

Student teams from Stellenbosch University, the University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand also took part in the three-day challenge sponsored by the Enel Foundation, the Innovation Hub, Lesedi Nuclear Services and the Russian Nuclear Agency Rosatom. The Initiate! Challenge aimed to create a platform for students and start-ups to drive innovation and share ideas for the energy sector.

Strathmore University’s winning team: (left to right) Fredrick Amariati, Ignatius Maranga, Raymond Kiyegga and Alex Osunga.

The Strathmore University team included engineering students Ignatius Maranga, Raymond Kiyegga, Fredrick Amariati and Alex Osunga. One member of the team will also have the exclusive opportunity to join the 5th annual student fact-finding mission to Russia to visit several state-of-the-art nuclear facilities and dedicated Russian nuclear universities. Maranga said the team is happy and humbled especially because they competed against some of the top universities on the continent. He said the teams’ winning idea is rooted in real life challenges that Kenyans in rural areas face. “The solutions offered so far to expand energy access are not solving these problems as many are not financially viable.”

The team’s idea is to put a solar panelled container in rural villages that will also house a clinic and a knowledge hub like a school for vocational training to teach people about the use and benefits of solar energy. It will also include a shop where villagers can buy daily essentials like milk.

Maranga said: “The school will help with capacity building as villagers will see and learn benefits of electricity and as the business grows, they will want to have electricity in their homes and when that point comes, we will have solar powered tricycles. These tricycles will carry and deliver batteries like Uber does passengers to villagers in more remote areas. The system is modular so we will add another container to charge batteries. These batteries are ferried on trikes, so villagers in more remote areas can request a number of charged batteries on their phone.”

Maranga explained that it is common cause that Africa is big, and many people live in remote rural villages. “So, it is not always possible to extend the power grid to these areas as it is very expensive. So, what do we do instead? Most people own a cell phone, and everyone needs electricity, so you take it to them. They cannot exactly carry a battery for two kilometres so why then not Uber a battery?” Maranga said their company Kijiji, (Swahili for village) will now look at commercialising their idea, optimise it and do market tests. “If accepted we want to roll it out depending on funding.”

The team’s idea appealed to the judges because it was a simple idea that is easy to replicate beyond Kenya to the rest of the continent. Chief executive officer of Rosatom Central and Southern Africa, Dmitry Shornikov, said: “We are very pleased with the solutions presented by the students. The maturity and depth of their research gives us great hope and proves that young Africans really are devoted to solving Africa’s energy challenges.”

Business Development executive at Lesedi Nuclear Services, Shane Pereira, in an earlier interview said the company partnered with Initiate! because it is dedicated to the youth that will be the leaders of tomorrow. “The growth and development as well as training, coaching and mentoring of the youth is critical to the success of our future economy.”

The ideas of the other three teams focused more on mitigating the risk of climate change and came up with ideas ranging from vertical farms to energy boxes.

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