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Can Blockchain transform telecoms?

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By Ahmad Sayed, MEA Regional Director at Nexign.

With the blockchain expected to contribute almost $1 billion to the telecoms sector within the next five years, the technology clearly offers more than just a vehicle for cryptocurrency. From Smart Contracts to speeding up inter-carrier settlements, the blockchain has the potential to reshape the telecoms environment for the digital age.

Already, we are starting to see relationships being established between service providers, telecoms operators, and the like to reinvent how business support systems (BSS) are delivered. An example of this is the recent exclusive partnership between Nexign and Bubbletone to develop an industry-first blockchain-based BSS solution for the telecom sector.

This sees the establishment of a global marketplace that facilitates the secure exchange of financial and identity information between mobile network operators and service providers. This will enable roaming users to instantly purchase service packages using their existing SIM card. And with the price levels to reflect customer demand, the ‘home’ communication service provider (CSP) will still be able to retain its existing clients.

Telecom changes

For CSPs, the blockchain provides significant technological enhancements. For one, it provides a more secure and scalable environment with global connectivity. Considering that a blockchain essentially links records (blocks) using cryptography, it is a safer way to store subscriber identity information.

Secondly, the blockchain provides CSPs with a better way to optimise costs. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) can be managed through the blockchain. If certain conditions are not met, automated actions can be taken created a significantly smoother process.

It also unlocks new revenue opportunities thanks to the growth of the Internet of Things, verification services, mobile money transfers, and other digital asset transactions. The blockchain will also result in the establishment of new revenue models to provide further platforms for growth.

Outside the telecoms environment, the blockchain can provide opportunities for industry verticals. From enabling financial services transactions on mobile devices to directly paying for utilities and other accounts, it offers a key enabler for technology. Ultimately, this could accelerate the growth of smart cities with e-services becoming more secure and directly linked between service provider and customer.

Several mobile phone manufacturers are already introducing blockchain-based devices. Some feature built-in wallets (secured through the blockchain) while others see the establishment of a blockchain-based operating system and communications protocol for making calls, sending messages, and transmitting data.

Contracts done smarter

Even though the notion of Smart Contracts as a benefit of the blockchain is nothing new, the potential it provides for SLA management are especially useful for the telecoms industry. Legal staff can use a template to create a contract with technical staff using the validated electronic contract to transform it into a Smart Contract.

The SLA can focus on the fulfilment of certain conditions. If these are not met, funds placed in escrow by the two parties can then automatically be paid out according to the contract. Because this can be managed programmatically, it is a more effective way of managing contracts. While the market is still a few years away from seeing this go mainstream, the potential is there.

Click here to read research about blockchain’s applications in Africa.

African opportunities

Meanwhile in Africa, research has shown that internal migration is driven by the need for jobs, often in neighbouring countries. This, together with new technologies such as e-SIMS (an embedded or electronic SIM card built into a mobile phone), create an environment where CSPs are looking for ways to maintain their subscriber base while still investing in their networks.

This creates an ideal environment for new solutions to be developed that cater for an increasingly connected customer base. As such, the blockchain is perfectly positioned for this. According to the United Nations, investment in the blockchain increased from $1 million in 2012 to $550 million by the end of 2016. Part of this growth can be attributed to the evolving technological landscape in Africa.

Ever since the advent of mobile communications, people have become less reliant on landline infrastructure for calls. Given how digital transformation is further adding impetus to a shift in use cases, the blockchain can help African CSPs meet specific requirements around how communication is taking place in a connected environment.

These various elements combine to require the development of a commercial solution that can assist operators to further develop and refine blockchain-related offerings that maintain their subscriber base while at the same time sees investment in their network.

For BSS providers, it is about investing in specific use cases of the blockchain as it relates to CSPs. For example, establishing a global marketplace addressing many of the challenges (and opportunities) in the sector will create more revenue potential for operators.

CSPs can become the backbone for this dynamic new blockchain economy. As the underlying foundation for all communication in Africa, they are in a strong position to drive a first-to-market advantage, develop new business models, and work with organisations of all sizes irrespective of industry sector.

However, to do so, they need to have a strategic vision in place for how they want to leverage the blockchain. Combined with a solid roadmap and collaboration with their partners in the BSS landscape, they can harness new opportunities and drive their business in the digital future.

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Appdate: No wallet? No problem?

In his app roundup, SEAN BACHER highlights VodaPay Masterpass, Charge Running, South African App Integrator Directory, uKheshe Health and LocTransie.

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VodaPay Masterpass

Digital mobility is now a way of life and most are using smartphones to pay bills. 

To meet this need Vodacom and Mastercard have launched VodaPay Masterpass, which enables Vodacom customers to load any bank card into a secure digital wallet, downloaded as an app on their smartphone. Once loaded, these cards and the secure credentials associated with them are safely stored, enabling customers to start transacting immediately without the hassle of entering card details each time they make a purchase.

Vodacom customers can buy prepaid data, airtime and SMS, or voice bundles, directly through the app. They can also select the Pay Bills menu option to settle their DStv accounts, pay a utility bill or take care of a traffic fine.

With the app’s Scan to Pay functionality, users can scan a QR code to pay for goods and services wherever Masterpass is accepted, including all SnapScan and Zapper merchants. Once a QR code is scanned, users select the card they wish to use, and enter their bank PIN number on their own device to complete the transaction.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download and users will not be charged for any transaction fees.

Stockists:  Download VodaPay Masterpass for iOS here and for Android here.

Charge Running

Most running apps track data like pace and distance and, in some cases play audio designed to motivate you, but don’t give you the push you get when you run with a friend. Charge Running is an app that lets you run alongside other runners, virtually, as well as giving live coaching to help you go the distance.

The app includes features such as:

·       Unlimited access to live running classes and virtual races  

·       The ability to compete with runners anywhere in the world in real-time

·       A live leaderboard that shows where you are in the pack to keep you pushing

·       Live, personalised feedback from professional trainers 

·       Group chats with coaches and fellow runners throughout the run

·       On-demand runs for times when you can’t join the live groups 

·       A choice of difficulty levels and race types 

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free seven-day trial; thereafter R150 per month

Stockists: Visit the Charge Running site here for downloading instructions.

South African App Integrator Directory

The South African App Integrator Directory from Xero is designed to solve the complexity of choosing apps for small business owners.

The directory is now available in South Africa with six partners, including Realm Digital, Radical Cloud Solutions, Nimacc, Insights, Iridium Business Solutions and Creative CFO. According to Xero, these are all organisations with a proven track record of successfully integrating marketplace apps into Xero businesses. There are also currently over 700 apps in Xero’s App Marketplace worldwide, 21 of which are South African born.

As small businesses become more tech-savvy, they need to know exactly which apps to install on their devices and how the apps will help them. They also need to be able to install these apps from a trusted integrator so they know for what they are paying. 

Platform: Any device with an up-to-date Internet browser.

Expect to pay: A one month trial version is offered, after which the App Integrator ranges from R125 to R245 per month, depending on the company’s needs.

Stockists: Visit Xero here for downloading instructions.

Click here to read about uKheshe Health and LocTransie.

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Prize offered for drone films

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DJI and SkyPixel, the world’s most popular aerial photography community, have announced the first short film contest inviting users to submit cinematic stories shot with camera and gimbal products. The 2019 SkyPixel Short Film Contest will accept entries until 14 October 2019. It welcomes submissions from all creators, ranging from hobbyists to social media users and professional videographers. around the globe.

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The 2019 SkyPixel Short Film Contest consists of three storytelling categories—‘Big Moments Start Small,’ ‘Make Your Move’ and ‘Adventure Starts With You.’ There is no restriction on the type or brand of equipment participants use, and they can submit as many videos as they wish.

A total of 100 winners can win a range of prizes totaling $48,600 USD in categories including Recommended Films, Best Editing, Best Story, Nominated Entries, People’s Choice Prize as well as This Week’s Most Popular, sponsored by the partner SanDisk and WD brand from Western Digital Corp. This year’s Best Short Video winners will each receive the new Ronin-SC Pro Combo, Osmo Action as well as WD 2TB My Passport Wireless SSD.

Winning entries will also be showcased on the SkyPixel website as well as to DJI’s millions of fans and followers across its social media platforms.

“DJI has redefined how people capture stable video for all of life’s moments. The compact size, portability and powerful imaging system of our Osmo and Ronin series have also made it possible for anyone to take their creativity and inspirations to the next level,” said Basile David, Director of Brand and Content Partnerships at DJI. “With this contest, we hope to encourage more people to embrace and share their own creative way of storytelling.”

Since 2014, the SkyPixel online community has attracted 16 million professional aerial photographers and content creators from more than 140 countries, growing into the largest aerial photography community today. Over the past five years, SkyPixel has received over 150,000 submissions, becoming a go-to platform for original aerial masterpieces and extraordinary footage powered by other gimbal products focusing on various themes.

Details of the 2019 SkyPixel Short Film Contest

The short film contest consists of three categories:

Big Moments Start Small: Create a video showcasing the small, lightweight design of your camera device and your best cinematic scenes. Users are recommended to include at least 10 seconds of behind-the-scenes clips of their product such as DJI Osmo Pocket or other devices.

Make Your Move: Create a video showcasing the stabilized footage from your device. Users are recommended to include at least 10 seconds of behind-the-scenes clips of their product such as DJI Osmo Series or other devices.

Adventure Starts With You: Create a short, cinematic narrative film to showcase your creative skills and visual effects. Users are recommended to include at least 10 seconds of behind-the-scenes clips of their product such as DJI Ronin Series or other devices.

*Video submissions should not be longer than three minutes in length.

Submission Details

Submission Start Date: August 15, 2019, 2:00 AM (EST)

Submission End Date: October 14, 2019, 2:00 AM (EST)

Award Announcement: October 31, 2019

Interested participants can visit the 2019 SkyPixel Short Film Contest website for more information on contest rules and guidelines. For more information, contact: Skypixel.campaign@dji.com

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