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Big data key to energy

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The current energy situation in South Africa has caused many companies to look at ways to manage their power usage. However, JACO BARNARD of Wipro. says that in order to properly manage consumption, vast amounts of data need to be collected.

Given the current South African power and energy situation, energy management has become a necessity rather than a choice, particularly in the retail environment. Reducing carbon footprint while adopting sustainable strategies to balance business objectives with environmental responsibilities has become critical. Aside from increasing international pressure to adopt greener technologies as part of sustainability initiatives, the cost of energy has become a significant challenge. While energy-saving initiatives around lighting, heating, ventilation and cooling can provide assistance, these are often capital-intensive projects that need to be implemented effectively to deliver maximum benefit. In the low margin, high volume retail environment, it has become essential to keep the spiralling cost of energy under control to maximise profitability by optimising operational expenses. This requires data, and more importantly insight into data that can drive actions that will help retailers optimise energy management to curb costs.

The importance of data

For many retailers, problems with power supply can be catastrophic. Without power, cold chain logistics can be compromised and hundreds of thousands of Rands worth of perishable stock can be spoiled. In addition, stores themselves cannot operate, losing business and customers. As a result, many retailers have resorted to backup power and alternative energy sources. However, these initiatives are often costly, particularly if energy consumption is not managed and optimised. In order to manage the cost of energy, both from traditional and alternative power sources, effective energy management is required. This in turn requires data, as without data around metering, measurements and monitoring it is all but impossible to gain the insight required to manage energy consumption. Collecting consumption data is the first step, as this data can then be analysed to deliver the required insights to drive energy saving and improvement initiatives.

By collecting large volumes of data around energy consumption, costs, asset operations and business policies, it is then possible to determine potential operational savings. For example, temperatures can be optimised according to locational and seasonal climate, unnecessary lights and cooling can be switched off when not required, and efficiency of working assets such as refrigerators can be assured. This data can also be collected over extended periods and analysed to determine long-term trends, energy leakages such as chronic equipment efficiency issues, insulation problems and more. Savings can then be achieved by correcting major issues and fine-tuning operations and controls. There are hundreds of ways that energy consumption can be improved across areas such as lighting, electrical, cooking, air conditioning and refrigeration systems. This means that there are many opportunities for savings, but there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Big data and analytics are the crucial components in effective energy management.

Making big data work for energy efficiency

The first step in improving energy efficiency requires the establishment of savings protocols. Pilot studies should be carried out and savings strategies that can be actioned with data should be determined. The range or significance of savings can then be used to determine the feasibility of rolling these solutions out, based on spend and expected returns. The second step is to set up data collection mechanisms. The volume and method of data collection depends on the current technology deployed and how granular the data is required to be – for example monthly invoices on energy consumption will typically not provide enough visibility, so it may be necessary to implement a monitoring solution that provides sample data every half an hour to provide more accurate insight. Data may be collected via Building Automation Systems, directly through controllers or through management applications. Many legacy and proprietary systems do not allow any access to data, in which case metering and sub-metering analysis must be incorporated.

Simply collecting data will not enable retailers to determine savings, so once data has been obtained, it must be analysed in order to provide insight. This is a specialist skill set that may be expensive to maintain in-house, so often it is advisable for retailers to collaborate with an expert service provider. Given the volume of data, it is also advisable that structured methods and toolsets be put into place across all sites for analytical purposes, another area where an expert provider can assist. The final step is action, as savings will not result from insight alone. Volume is also essential, and retailers need to action initiatives based on insight across all or most of their sites to produce meaningful savings.

Beyond energy

Big data can be harnessed for more than just energy efficiency, and has potential to deliver significant additional advantage in the retail space. For example, the customer experience can be improved by collecting data from various channels and using it to improve in-store temperatures for comfort, or by utilising online channels and sensor data to tailor the shopping experience. Store layouts can be improved, footfall can be increased and more. In addition, analytics can be leveraged to improve asset maintenance to help bring down maintenance costs and improve asset life. The data from in-store devices, video and wearable technology has the potential to improve sales effectiveness and improve workforce productivity. All of these initiatives will use the same foundation of big data and analytics.

Ultimately big data analytics, whether in the form of energy management or other initiatives, can help retailers to improve their competitive edge. More efficient operations and reduced costs lead to enhanced profits, as do improved customer experiences. Data and analytics are the crucial elements to more successful, more efficient and more profitable retail environments.

* Jaco Barnard, Head of Retail at Wipro, South Africa.

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How we use phones to avoid human contact

A recent study by Kaspersky Lab has found that 75% of people pick up their connected device to avoid conversing with another human being.

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Connected devices are becoming essential to keeping people in contact with each other, but for many they are also a much-needed comfort blanket in a variety of social situations when they do not want to interact with others. A recent survey from Kaspersky Lab has confirmed this trend in behaviour after three-quarters of people (75%) admitted they use a device to pretend to be busy when they don’t want to talk to someone else, showing the importance of keeping connected devices protected under all circumstances. 

Imagine you’ve arrived at a bar and you’re waiting for your date. The bar is busy, and people are chatting all around you. What do you do now? Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know? Grab your phone from your pocket or handbag until your date arrives to keep yourself busy? Why talk to humans or even make eye-contact with someone else when you can stare at your connected device instead?

The truth is, our use of devices is making it much easier to avoid small talk or even be polite to those around us, and new Kaspersky Lab research has found that 72% of people use one when they do not know what to do in a social situation. They are also the ‘go-to’ distraction for people even when they aren’t trying to look busy or avoid someone’s eye. 46% of people admit to using a device just to kill time every day and 44% use it as a daily distraction.

In addition to just being a distraction, devices are also a lifeline to those who would rather not talk directly to another person in day-to-day situations, to complete essential tasks. In fact, nearly a third (31%) of people would prefer to carry out tasks such as ordering a taxi or finding directions to where they need to go via a website and an app, because they find it an easier experience than speaking with another person.

Whether they are helping us avoid direct contact or filling a void in our daily lives, our constant reliance on devices has become a cause for panic when they become unusable. A third (34%) of people worry that they will not be able to entertain themselves if they cannot access a connected device. 12% are even concerned that they won’t be able to pretend to be busy if their device is out of action.

Dmitry Aleshin, VP for Product Marketing, Kaspersky Lab said, “The reliance on connected devices is impacting us in more ways than we could have ever expected. There is no doubt that being connected gives us the freedom to make modern life easier, but devices are also vital to help people get through different and difficult social situations. No matter what your ‘connection crutch’ is, it is essential to make sure your device is online and available when you need it most.”

To ensure your device lifeline is always there and in top health – no matter what the reason or situation – Kaspersky Security Cloud keeps your connection safe and secure:

·         I want to use my device while waiting for a friend – is it secure to access the bar’s Wi-Fi?

With Kaspersky Security Cloud, devices are protected against network threats, even if the user needs to use insecure public Wi-Fi hotspots. This is done through transferring data via an encrypted channel to ensure personal data safety, so users’ devices are protected on any connection.

·         Oh no! I’m bored but my phone’s battery is getting low – what am I going to do?

Users can track their battery level thanks to a countdown of how many minutes are left until their device shuts down in the Kaspersky Security Cloud interface. There is also a wide-range of portable power supplies available to keep device batteries charged while on-the-go.

·         I’ve lost my phone! How will I keep myself entertained now?

Should the unthinkable happen and you lose or have your phone stolen, Kaspersky Security Cloud can track and protect your device from data breaches, for complete peace of mind. Remote lock and locate features ensure your device remains secure until you are reunited.

 

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Five key biometric facts

Due to their uniqueness, fingerprints are being used more and more to quickly identify and ensure the security of customers. CLAUDE LANGLEY, Regional Sales Manager, for Africa at HID Global Biometrics, outlines five facts about the technology.

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How many times in a day are you expected to identify yourself? From when you arrive at work you are required to sign in, visiting your bank, receiving healthcare services… The list is endless. When a system knows who you are, you are able to do any number common, everyday activities. Your identity is unique and precious. It is also easily stolen and the target of many hackers across the globe. Technology is constantly evolving alongside the criminal element, always looking for ways to protect data and identity. One such solution happens to be biometrics and it is rapidly gaining traction in our increasingly complex modern world.

Reliable, secure and fundamentally YOU, unique biometric traits such as fingerprints are being used by banks, enterprises and consumers to verify identity. Biometric solutions offer significant identity protection because they use unique biological details to ensure an account is only accessed by the account holder, a door only opened by the owner. Here are five things that are little known about this technology…

  • The uncut identity. Your fingerprint is unique to you. Nobody can use a copy of it to impersonate you. Good technology is capable of scanning down into the layers of the fingertip to differentiate unique elements of a person’s fingerprint, this data is then encrypted and used as a key to unlocking whichever physical or virtual door that the biometric system protects.
  • The living proof. No, there is nothing to the stories of fingerprints being used without their owner’s knowledge or permission. Biometric solutions can use specific variables to determine if the finger used to access the system is that of a present, living person.  A copy or a fake cannot be used to access a cutting-edge biometric solution.
  • Easy and convenient. Queues and documents and paperwork may well be a thing of the past should biometrics take a firmer grip of government and banking systems. The process of registering is easy, and access to identity documents and records is yours alone.
  • Security blanket. A thousand passwords and a hundred post-it notes stuck on walls and drawers.  An excel file with a list of sites and applications and their corresponding passwords, all a thing of the past.  Nobody needs to remember their password with biometrics, they only need to show up.
  • Anywhere is cool. Schools, airports, networks, offices, homes, toilets, banks, libraries, governments, border controls, immigration services, call centres, hospitals and even clubs and pubs – knowing “who” matters and biometrics can quickly and conveniently confirm your identity where needed.

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