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Big data is oxygen to business

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With the Digital Revolution in full swing, data is to business what oxygen is to mankind. It is a crucial resource – one that enables companies, especially smaller ventures, to make better business decisions, grow their customer base, keep their competitive edge and secure funding. 

“There are no two ways about it in today’s world of doing business data – both structured and unstructured – has become a vital asset. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – in particular – are benefitting from capturing, processing and analysing data effectively and efficiently,” says Miguel da Silva, Managing Director at Retail Capital, a leading SME funder that provides working capital to help smaller companies expand.

It is true what American start-up development guru Geoffrey Moore said a few years ago: “Without data and analytics, companies are blind and deaf, wandering out onto the web like a deer on a freeway”. 

“Data keeps business owners in tune with all sides of their operations, helping them satisfy existing customers, identify new markets, and fine-tune their overall marketing strategy to attract new fans and secure funding,” Da Silva says. “Without data, these days, you are nowhere.”

Here are the business benefits of using Big Data to keep your cutting edge…

1. Using data to understand your customers

This will enable you to deliver exactly what they want at all times. “A consistently good user experience is key in retaining your customers,” writes analyst Daniel Newman in Forbes Magazine. “More than half of customers today say they’ve switched companies solely because of poor user experiences. Companies who fail to embrace customer experiences as a strategic path to growth won’t just be lagging, they’ll get left behind.”

Personalisation is key. Today’s customers don’t want to be treated as numbers. They want a service that is tailored to their very specific situations. This makes Netflix and Spotify such strong brands. Over time they have mastered the art of data-driven customer personalization by suggesting movies, songs, and books that fit their users’ tastes. The result: a fiercely loyal and growing customer base and multi-million-dollar turnovers.

2. Use data to identify new markets

Besides keeping your current customers happy, a data-driven approach helps you identify new target markets, what products and services these potential customers are looking for, what they like and don’t like about their current service providers, and what would make them switch to you. This serves as the backbone for better strategic marketing decisions. As Big Data Use Cases 2015: Getting Real On Data Monetization by the Business Application Research Centre (BARC) in Germany states: being data-driven leads to better strategic decisions (69%), which results in a better understanding of what new and future customers (52%) want. 

3. Data helps attract funding

Being a data-driven SME increases your chances of securing funding. Having all the necessary data at your disposal helps you craft a thorough presentation that answers all the potential investor’s questions. This improves your chances of getting what you want. Providing funders and lenders with a detailed overview of your financials and track record whilst telling them all about how people feel about you, why they use your products or services and to what extent they would recommend your business, makes you a very attractive target.  

4. Data-driven companies adapt better

The continuous analysis of data harvested from different sources allows you to predict, forecast, and adapt to market changes, and mitigate problems ahead of time. Data-driven companies have proven to be better at responding proactively to market and industry pressures by putting measures in place to adapt to the new status quo. Being agile helps you remain relevant in times of upheaval, prevents you from being disrupted by competitors and unfavourable market forces, and ensures you can continue to meet the promises you have made to your customers – safeguarding your reputation. 

5. Keeping data secure

Data-driven companies do everything digitally, including the transmission, processing and storage of your customers’ information. This makes your operations more efficient and competitive as opposed to those who are doing everything the paper way.

There is a catch: the data under your care needs to be kept safe and secure at all times. A data leak may put an abrupt end to your customers’ trust. This can cost you your business. 

“Companies must take the required steps to encrypt and protect all sensitive documents,” says Linda Misauer, Head of Global Solutions at Striata. “For organisations, solutions are available for the secured viewing of sensitive documents such as bank statements. These allow you and your customers, each from their side of the app or platform, to securely view the content, regardless of your or their location.”

In other words, besides customers and employees data is the lifeblood of any company. Businesses, including SMEs, have to start treating it as such if they want to disrupt instead of being disrupted by competitors, market forces and other internal and external elements.

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Samsung A51: Saviour of the mid-range

For a few years, Samsung has delivered some less than favourable mid-range devices compared to the competition. The Galaxy A51 is here to change all that, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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It’s not often one can look at a mid-range phone and mistake it for a flagship. That’s what you can expect to experience when taking the Galaxy A51 out into the open.

Samsung went back to the drawing board with its new range of devices, and it shows. The latest Galaxy A range features some of the highest quality, budget-friendly devices we’ve seen so far. The Samsung Galaxy A51 is one of the best phones we’ve seen in a while, not just aesthetically, but in what it packs into a sub-R7000 price tag.

Looking at the device briefly, it’s very easy to mistake it for a flagship. It features a four-camera array on the back, and an Infinity-O punch-hole display – both of which are features of the high-end Samsung devices. In fact, it features a similar camera array as the Galaxy Note10 Lite but features an additional lens in the array. The cameras line up in an L-shape, clearly avoiding looking like a stovetop.

Apart from the camera array, the back of the handset features a striking pattern called Prism Crush, a pattern of pastel shades that come in black, white, blue, and pink. For the review, we used the Prism Crush Blue colour and it looks really great. The feel is clearly plastic, which isn’t too surprising for a mid-range device, but the design is definitely something that will make users opt for a clear case. It’s also great to see a design pattern that deviates from the standard single iridescent colours many manufacturers have copied from Huawei’s design.

Along the sides, it features a metal-like frame, but again, it’s plastic. On the left side, we find a SIM and microSD card tray while the right side houses the power button and volume rocker. The bottom of the phone features a very welcome USB Type-C port and a 3.5mm headphone jack, which isn’t too uncommon for mid-range phones.

On the front, the device is pretty much all screen, at an 87.4% screen-to-body ratio, thanks to a tiny chin at the bottom and the small punch hole for the camera. The earpiece has also been hidden inside the frame in attempts to maximise this screen-to-body ratio. When powered on, the 6.5-inch display looks vivid and sharp. That’s because Samsung opted to put a Super AMOLED display into this midrange unit, giving it a resolution of 1080 x 2400 (at 405 ppi) in a 20:9 format. This makes the display FullHD+, and perfect for consuming video content like Netflix and YouTube in HD.

Hidden underneath the display is an in-screen fingerprint sensor, which is very surprising to find in a mid-range device. While it is extremely accurate, it takes some getting used to because the sensor is so large that one needs to put one’s entire finger over the right part of the display to unlock it. Most other types of non-in-screen fingerprint sensors don’t mind a partial fingerprint. The display itself feels nothing like the back and that’s because it’s not plastic, but rather Gorilla Glass 3, to prevent the screen from shattering easily.

What’s interesting about this device is finding accessories which aren’t quite available in phone stores yet. When browsing online for screen protectors, one has to be on the lookout for screen protectors that are compatible with the in-screen fingerprint sensor. Make sure to check out the reviews of users before purchasing them.

In terms of software, Samsung has made a great deal of effort to make the experience slick. Gone are the days of TouchWiz (thank goodness) and now we have OneUI in its second version. OneUI makes the phone easier to use by putting most of the interaction on the bottom half of the screen and most of the view on the top part of the screen, where one’s thumbs don’t usually reach.

Out of the box, the device came with Android 10. This is a huge step forward in terms of commitment to running the latest software for major feature updates as well as for Android security patches to keep the device secure.

It also has most of the cool features from the flagship devices, like Samsung Pay, Bixby, and Link to Windows. Samsung Pay is an absolute pleasure to use, even if it still confuses the person taking your payments. From linking my cards, I have stopped taking my wallet out with me because all merchants that accept tap-to-pay will accept Samsung Pay on the A51.

Bixby is useful if you’re in the Samsung app ecosystem, especially for owners of SmartThings devices like Samsung TVs and SmartThings-enabled smart home devices. Otherwise, Google Assistant is still accessible for those who still want to use the standard Google experience.

Link to Windows is an interesting feature that started with the Galaxy Note10 and has since trickled down into the mid-range. It allows users to send SMS messages, view recently taken photos, and receive notifications from the phone, all on a Windows 10 PC. This can be enabled by going to the Your Phone app found in the start menu.

The rear camera is phenomenal for a mid-range device and features a 48MP wide sensor. The photos come out as 12MP images, which is a common trick of many manufacturers to achieve high-quality photography. It does this by combining 4 pixels into a single superpixel to get the best colours out of the picture, while still remaining sharp. It also performs surprisingly well in low light, which is not something we were expecting from a mid-range device.

The 12MP ultra-wide angle lens spans 123-degrees, which is very wide and also useful for getting shots in where one can’t move back further. It’s not as great as the main lens but does the trick for getting everyone in for a group photo in a galley kitchen.

The 5MP depth-sensing lens supplements the portrait mode, which adds a blur effect to the background of the photo – the same lens as its predecessor, the Galaxy A50. It features a 32MP wide-angle selfie camera, which is perfect for fitting everyone into a large group selfie.

The processor is an Exynos 9611, which is an Octa-core processor. It performs well in most situations, and there is software built in to give games a boost, so it performs well with graphically intensive games too. In terms of RAM, there are 4GB, 6GB, and 8GB variants, so keep an eye out for which one you are trying. For the review, we had the 4GB, and it performs well with multitasking and day-to-day tasks.

For storage, it comes in a 128GB model on Samsung’s website, which seems to be the standard size. This is extremely welcome in the mid-range segment and is the largest we’ve seen for internal storage capacity as a starting point.

At a recommended selling price of R6,999, the Samsung Galaxy A51 marks the beginning of a great era for Samsung, because it provides a feature-rich handset at an affordable price.

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Prepare now for 2030

Traditional businesses are toast unless they start preparing for the future now, warns ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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Don’t say you haven’t been warned. Various forecasts point to the likelihood that technologies using artificial intelligence will generate up to 15% of the world’s gross domestic product by 2030. PwC suggests that it will add $15.7-trillion to the global economy. 

That, in turn, will ensure that a sizeable proportion of the world’s business will be conducted on advanced digital platforms. In other words, the 15% is just the springboard for vast swathes of activity that will dominate business. Those that stick to the old way of doing things will simply be left out of the new economy.

This means traditional businesses are already toast, but only if they decide not to start preparing now.

“This future economy is something that should be on everybody’s mind and in every government’s strategy,” says Mohammed Amin, Dell Technologies senior vice president for Middle East, Russia, Africa and Turkey. During a visit to South Africa this week, he said it was no longer a matter of selling technology for its own sake.

“If you’re not part of this wagon to the future, you need to jump on it. The world’s IT companies are not pushing digital transformation and multi-cloud strategy just for the sake of selling technology. We’re doing it to optimise your business and to help make you part of the future.”

He says three primary trends need to be leveraged by business.

“I believe that artificial intelligence is the ship that is going to take us for the future. The fuel is going to be data. And infrastructure will be software-defined. You have to build an agile, dynamic infrastructure to thrive in this future.”

Amin, an Egyptian-Canadian, points to the sensation created by his late compatriot, the Egyptian diva Umm Kulthum, who died 45 years ago. Last year, she appeared in the world’s first hologram concert, at the World Youth Forum in Egypt. Then, in December, she performed – as a hologram – for paying audiences in Saudi Arabia and Dubai. 

“Imagine people paying for tickets to watch a hologram. It means the world is open to this. It is moving so fast, and we are in the heart of this.”

It is also an example of how technology companies are no longer focused only on technology but also on enhancing human lives. 

“We’re involved in so many projects, from healthcare to education. Education especially is very important, because it is shifting from ‘what to learn’ to ‘how to learn’. It’s an amazing shift. You need to know how to learn because you will need to experience and learn in so many fields to be qualified for the future.”

Amin does not believe doomsday prophecies of much of the world’s population being rendered jobless by robots and AI. However, some “straightforward” jobs will be readily replaceable. Even lawyers and general practice doctors, for example, could be replaced by smartphone apps.

“The job market will grow, but the profile required is going to change. Jobs will be available, but for certain profiles. By 2030, 85% of the job market will be for jobs we don’t know today. This is the challenge that education faces.” 

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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