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Can you take the weather with you?

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The technology for forecasting the weather has been getting more and more local in recent years. Now it’s personal, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

When Crowded House, one of the rock sensations of the late 20th century, sang the lyrics, “Everywhere you go, always take the weather with you,” they weren’t referring to a gadget. But their song about the effect of one’s attitude on one’s environment is an apt metaphor in a world of smartphones, apps and gadgets that can monitor every element of the human and natural elements.

For a few years now, we’ve had a semblance of carrying the weather with us, thanks to apps like AccuWeather, which have become a standard feature on smartphones.

Two years ago, a company called Netatmo took the concept a step further, when they launched a personal weather station at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It comprised two tubular devices, one for indoor and a weatherproof one for outdoor monitoring, with the two connecting to each other and to a smartphone or computer via Wi-Fi.

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It’s surprising that, for a weather-obsessed country like South Africa, it has taken so long for the device to arrive here. It’s now being distributed locally by the Core Group, meaning it will be available in all iStores. Eventually, all electronics outlets should stock it.

The big question will be, of course, whether it does much more than AccuWeather. Will consumers be able to justify a gadget costing more than R2500, when they can instead have a free app that does the job reasonably well?

The answer lies in how much more Netatmo offers, and how easily it does so. We ran it through the Gadget Five-question User Test to answer these and other questions consumers will have before reaching for their wallets.

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  • Ease of use

It’s easy enough to set up, although it requires a number of steps, some of which don’t quite live up to the ease-of-use promise. For example, the outdoor module requires batteries to be fitted into a decidedly unfriendly battery compartment, which uses screws to be fitted in place. A lot like they used to do in the mid-20th century. However, the ease of set-up, either via a downloadable application on a computer or an app on a smartphone, more than makes up for this. The two modules integrate seamlessly with a home Wi-Fi network. Once set up, the app and application deliver vital statistics seamlessly and without further intervention.

  • General performance

The weather station begins monitoring the environment the moment set-up is complete, and starts delivering data on aspects of the home and its immediate surrounds that might never have been considered before. From actual humidity level to what the humidity probably feels like to noise levels to carbon dioxide concentration in the home, it is almost a case of too much information, but that would be a matter of the needs, interests and benefits that the user perceives.

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  • Add value to your life

Whether the weather and environment in tiny detail adds value is a question of how much data you want about the world around you. This will become very much a matter of what kind of data personality you are. Those who love activity monitors like the Fitbit are the most likely candidates, as it will add yet another layer of data on all the health and activity information being monitored, collected and analysed.

From a weather forecast and monitoring point of view, the device will come into its own for anyone with specialist weather or temperature monitoring needs. It would be exceedingly useful for all the South African restaurants that serve red wine at room temperature due to their lack of understanding of what the term actually means for wine (it’s in fact average European room temperature, 16 degrees, rather than any temperature to which a room is heated). More likely, though, it would be used for people looking for an extra edge in keeping a cigar or wine collection in perfect conditions. Serious gardeners may also find it gives them an extra edge. No doubt, there are numerous specialist purposes that will see the device succeed in niche markets.

  • Innovation

The level of innovation in the device lies in the extent to which it integrates environmental measurements that cannot be offered or matched by local weather stations. Carbon dioxide levels in the air inside the house and the noise level in the environment are the two key variables that will enter the user’s life once the Netatmo Weather Station is activated. Of course, that also means the user has to learn what terms like ppm (particles per million, in reference to carbon dioxide levels) and db (decibels) really mean.

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My home showed a measure of 315ppm, compared to a general carbon dioxide concentration level in the Earth’s atmosphere reaching 400ppm this year, according to NASA. 350ppm is regarded as an upper safety level, which suggests the air is cleaner indoors than outdoors. So much for convincing the kids how much healthier it is to be outdoors!

More seriously, what it does reveal is that so-called greenhouse gases are not evenly distributed. If someone regards these measure as important, the Netatmo will help them make key decisions about their living and working environments.

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  • Value for money

The Netatmo Weather Station for Smartphone is not cheap. In the USA it retails for between $140 and $170, so that a poor Rand exchange rate means it makes for a seriously expensive set of devices in South Africa. However, for those who already are inveterate gadget geeks, or have strong professional or hobbyist reasons for having this kind of data at their fingertips, it is well worth the investment.

In summary, not only can you now take the weather with you, but your entire environment.

* 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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Showmax launches in Nigeria

Basketmouth and Bovi are the hosts of an exclusive Big Brother Naija recap show, Big Brother Naija Hot Room, as Showmax launches in Nigeria.

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Showmax has launched its video-on-demand service in Nigeria. The video streaming service features a dedicated slate of Nigerian TV shows and movies, international hit series, Hollywood blockbusters, and a Big Brother Naija partnership with live streaming and exclusive new BBNaija shows.

The launch brings two important firsts: the first time a wide range of popular Nigerian series can be binged from the beginning, and a partnership with Big Brother Naija featuring live streaming of the Sunday night evictions as well as two new BBNaija shows that are exclusive to Showmax. One of the new shows will be hosted by comedians Basketmouth and Bovi, who will provide commentary on happenings in the Big Brother Naija house.

“We’re aiming for the sweet spot that other services may have missed,” says Niclas Ekdahl, CEO of MultiChoice Group’s Connected Video division. “Taking a generic service and tacking on a few Nollywood movies won’t cut it, so we’re coming in with a strong mix of bang up-to-date Nigerian shows, international hits and favourites from across Africa, and now, as something completely new: on-demand and live Big Brother Naija content.”

Showmax will live-stream all Sunday eviction episodes of Big Brother Naija as well as the finale, and recordings of the nomination shows will be posted on Tuesdays. In addition to this, two brand-new shows, exclusive to Showmax, have been produced. Big Brother Naija Extra View is a 25-minute compilation of unseen footage and will be added to the site daily from Tuesday to Saturday. Big Brother Naija Hot Room is a 25-minute satirical commentary on the week’s main drama and action, hosted by legendary comedians Basketmouth and Bovi, with new episodes coming every Sunday evening ahead of the evictions.

The following shows will be added daily, as they air on Africa Magic channels, with all past episodes available to binge from the beginning:

– Tinsel, one of Nigeria’s longest running TV series and Africa Magic Viewers Choice Best Drama 2017

– The Johnsons, featuring City People Award winners Olumide Oworu and Charles Inojie

– My Flatmates, starring 2018 Savanna Pan-African Comic of the Year Basketmouth

The new Showmax service will feature hundreds of Nollywood movies and thousands of TV show episodes and Bollywood shows. Telenovelas will also be part of the lineup, as will hits from the rest of Africa like Kenya’s Supa Modo, winner of 50 international awards, and South Africa’s big Africa Movie Academy Awards winner Five Fingers For Marseilles

The lineup of international shows on the new service includes ChernobylVikingsPowerGame of ThronesTrue Detective (starring Mahershala Ali), InsecureBillions, Ballers, and Luther (starring Nigerian BAFTA winner Wunmi Mosaku opposite Idris Elba). The latest episodes of Big Little Lies are added weekly.

There’s also a major focus on kids, with shows like Paw PatrolPJ Masks, and Doc McStuffins.

To get Showmax, visit www.showmax.com. Showmax has a risk-free trial: once signed up, cancel within the first 14 days and pay nothing. Once the 14-day free trial is over, the cost is N2,900 per month.

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Want a competitive edge? Unlock your business data

By Dr YUDHVIR SEETHARAM, head of analytics, insights and research for FNB Business

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The businesses which will be able to count themselves amongst the most successful in the coming years will be those that have succeeded in fully harnessing the power of data. But while you’d be hard pressed to find many businesses that are not currently building or acquiring systems and technical resources aimed at unlocking the value of data, the same priority does not appear to have been given to embedding data-driven organisational cultures.

This failure to focus on culture in parallel with technology not only reveals a lack of understanding of the symbiotic nature of the relationship between the two, but also presents a real risk that the massive investments being made into data might not deliver the returns that companies are hoping for.

The problem lies in the fact that while data analytics and processing are relatively exact sciences, a data-driven culture is significantly more difficult to define. So while company owners, managers and executives may not be able to tell you exactly how data analysis works, they can tell you what they want to get out of it. The same isn’t true of their understanding of a data-driven culture, and so the creation of such a culture is either assigned a lower strategic priority, or simply handed off to the organisation’s Chief Technology Officer, Chief Data Officer or HR executive.

This approach is very unlikely to unlock the full value of being data driven. To do that, every person in the organisation has to recognise the importance of being fully data-driven as a competitive differentiator and embrace the need to build a data-driven culture within that organisation.

This is by no means a small ask. Apart from the significant challenges – both technical and human – that a business is bound to face en route to becoming truly data-driven, it’s likely that every person in a company has little to no idea of what the concept of ‘culture’ actually means in a company, let alone what a data-driven culture looks or feels like.

And that’s why the process of transforming a culture to be data driven must begin with the end in mind. That, of course, begs the question: What is a data-driven culture? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer as every business is different and will have different culture parameters. However, it is relatively safe to say that, irrespective of how businesses look or work, their data-driven cultures will have a few things in common.

For one, a data-driven culture will be built on the broad recognition of data as a vital, strategically essential business asset; one that allows the business to make well-considered decisions based on facts and figures rather than on intuition or past experience. Having a data-driven culture will also mean that the business fully recognises and embraces the ability of data and its application to empower all employees to perform their functions much more effectively. And lastly, a business will know that it has completed its transformation to a data-driven culture when it is able to identify and align its technical and business challenges and leverage data to solve both together.

When you consider these factors as characteristics of a data-driven culture, it becomes obvious that being data-driven is not solely a technical strategy. So, while it is important to recruit skilled and talented data scientists and technology professionals to give physical effect to the data-driven vision, trying to become data-driven in isolation from the business and all its other employees is almost certainly a recipe for failure. Which brings me to the second obvious question that will, or at least should, be asked by every business that wants to be able to unlock the full potential of data as a transformative, business building asset. And that is: How do we do it?

This, too, is a simple question without a simple answer. Most of the global organisations that are considered to have succeeded in becoming data driven still admit to being in the learning phase when it comes to embedding a data-driven culture. FNB is no exception. But we remain committed to the process and, I believe, have gained some valuable insights into the steps that businesses, and especially financial services organisations, need to take to move closer towards achieving a data-driven culture.

The first of these is to start by transforming thinking. You need to get the entire leadership body to commit to supporting and promoting a data-driven culture. Even if very few of them understand what that means, a good first step is to simply get board and executive management agreement to being willing to embrace a culture of openness and collaboration.

Then, with that leadership support, start to communicate with the entire organisation to create an understanding of the meaning and value of being data driven, both for the company and its employees and customers. Ultimately, any shift in culture is only possible when culture is mainstreamed. It cannot be the domain or responsibility of HR. So, an organised and strategic education campaign is essential to explain the benefits that embracing a data-driven culture will provide.

The next step is to commit to democratising data. When employees have access to data, its impact becomes obvious. Break down silos and protectionism. Make data, and its analyses, readily available, understandable, and transparent across the organization.

Obviously, it’s dangerous to just give everyone in the organisation unfettered access to all its data, since they probably don’t have the skills or tools to make use of that data. And that’s where the real culture shift happens, or must happen. Businesses need to focus on building collaborative, multi-functional teams. While tech experts may understand the technology and systems, data is first and foremost a business asset. So a data-driven culture has to be driven by the business. And since it’s unlikely that you’re going to find too many employees with a balanced combination of business and data skills, you need to build your data-driven culture on collaborative teams in which every team member is willing to acknowledge what he or she doesn’t know, and work closely with teammates that do. This approach should also inform all future recruitment decisions. In a data-driven culture, you don’t recruit just for a vacancy, you recruit to make teams stronger.

Finally, be patient. Changing a company’s culture takes time, effort and commitment. Even when the leadership sets the example, the shift only happens through organic growth and evolution.

Realise that there are legacies that have to be changed. The technology legacy systems are actually the easy part because you can throw money at those. But human legacies around how things have always been done in the past are much more difficult to shift. But it must be done, because it is impossible to change to a data-driven culture if all your people are not willing to recognise and embrace data as a key success facilitator.

While the need to build these types of data-driven cultures is becoming increasingly obvious, the unexpected, and valuable, side effect of achieving such a culture is that it has the potential to massively enhance employee morale and productivity. That’s not just because data-based decisions are infinitely more effective than those based on hunches. It’s also because employees grow as people when the work they do has meaning.

Data has the ability to quantify the impact that each employee is having on the customers and the business. And when staff see the tangible value of the contributions they are making, they become far more connected to the company values and their own professional goals, and the result is incremental improvements in personal performance and, of course, bottom-line results.

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