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CES 2016: Samsung, YouTube, Fitbit take stage

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Keynotes from the top executives at FitBit, NBCUniversal, Samsung and YouTube, along with tech policy sessions and top product awards rounded out Day Two and Three of CES 2016 last week.

Thursday morning kicked off with a keynote address from WP Hong, president of Solution Business Unit, Samsung SDS. During his address, Hong stated that the Internet of Things (IoT) is already here, but many companies need to collaborate to make it work. Samsung is laboring to ensure all of the devices the company produces connect to the Internet. The company is building IoT innovation that is in-sync with people’s daily lives by offering a new category of IoT home appliances that connect families and make life easier. Samsung showed its home appliance connected line including the Family Hub Refrigerator and the FlexDuo stove with Wi-Fi. “The age of the Internet of Things has begun,” Hong said. “It will be a success, but only if we get the fundamentals right: openness, interoperability and close industry collaborations.”

At Thursday’s C Space Keynote, presented by MediaLink, Stephen B. Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal, discussed disruptive innovation and its impact on the television industry. Burke noted that television is still making money, but in different ways as revenue streams such as international syndication and subscription video on demand (SVOD) services evolve. “There’s more competition now than ever, which makes it harder to break through and have a TV show that’s a hit. But people watch as much TV today as they ever have. And the vast majority is watched on broadcast or cable.”

Next, a panel of leading media and marketing leaders took the stage to discuss the future of advertising in a mobile era. While television is still important for many brands, it’s only one piece of the marketing mix, according to Allison Lewis, global chief marketing officer for Johnson & Johnson. Mobile advertising platforms offer greater reach and precision, she said, adding that 50 percent of Johnson & Johnson’s web traffic comes from mobile. Kristin Lemkau, CMO of JP Morgan Chase added, “We want the ability to target and more ways to authentically integrate into programming – to get more creative in advertising.”

At Thursday afternoon’s keynote, Robert Kyncl, chief business officer, YouTube, noted that the last time he spoke on the CES keynote stage four years ago, he predicted that 90 percent of all Internet traffic would be video traffic by the year 2020. Cisco data now predicts that video will reach 90 percent of global Internet traffic by 2019, a full year ahead of schedule.

Kyncl discussed the top reasons video will ultimately win the decade, including the quality of video – data speeds are faster, sound is better and screens are bigger – and the increased diversity of content. Kyncl announced that YouTube’s premium subscription service, RED, will begin producing original content to follow suit with Netflix and Amazon. He added that new shows and movies will be available, as well as a music service. Kyncl also announced a partnership with GoPro to create the first commercial 3D/360 camera called Odyssey. Odyssey uses 16 GoPro cameras to capture VR video.

The annual Leaders in Technology (LIT) Dinner took place Thursday evening, honoring the policymakers and technologists that are instrumental in furthering tech innovation. Honored guests and speakers included Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and French Minister of Economy, Finance and Industry Emmanuel Macron, who noted that France brought a delegation of 190 entrepreneurs and 127 startups to CES 2016, calling them “the face of France.”

Fitbit CEO and Co-Founder James Park delivered the evening’s keynote address as a discussion with CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro. Now a global brand providing fitness solutions to consumers around the world, Park noted how far Fitbit and fitness tech have come. “We essentially had to create the health and fitness category in 2009,” said Park. “I remember talking to Best Buy, and they didn’t even have a section to display it.” Fitbit unveiled its Fitbit Blaze at CES Press Day on Tuesday. The smart fitness watch creates a digital health platform – hardware and software – to help people reach their health goals. “People really want to work for a company that is mission-oriented,” Park noted. “And they want to work for a company that has profound benefits in society.”

In addition to powerful keynotes, Day Two and Three of CES 2016 featured compelling SuperSessions, tech policy discussions focused on furthering the next-generation of innovation and awards honoring the hottest products at the show.

During Thursday’s SuperSession: IoT Business Strategies: Partnerships for the Sharing Economy , leading industry service providers and manufacturers stressed the importance of strategic partnerships to accelerate the development of IoT. As an example of a successful partnership between IoT and the sharing economy ecosystem, the panelists pointed to   August Home’s integration with Airbnb, where Airbnb hosts can link their account with a keyless lock. This revolution has driven companies to move toward open source and standards to provide faster and better solutions to consumers.

Thursday’s C Space Storyteller series kicked off with Margo Georgiadis, president, Americas, Google leading an engaged discussion between Time Warner’s CMO Kristen O’Hara and Best Buy’s CMO Greg Revelle where they shared key insights, advising brands on the best ways to win over consumers. Following the “new rules” of marketing in today’s technology-driven, multi-device environment means that brands need to focus on the critical moments when consumers are actually receptive to them. In the following session, Yahoo’s Chief Revenue Officer Lisa Utzschneider led a talk with leading marketing minds from Subaru of America to analyze the intersection of data, content and technology and what that means for today’s consumer.

At the Forecasting the Future of Entrepreneurship SuperSession, Rebecca Jarvis, chief business and economics correspondent for ABC News led a discussion with disruptive innovators, Nick Woodman, founder and CEO, GoPro; Steve Case, chairman and CEO, Revolution and Stewart Butterfield, CEO and co-founder, Slack. The group emphasized the importance of risk taking, strategic partnerships and picking a project you are truly passionate about. When asked about the future of entrepreneurship, they named major sectors such as food, healthcare and real estate, as well as consumer-generated content.

A mix of the world’s top movers and shakers in transportation solutions participated in the panel, Beyond Smart Cities: The Future of Urban Mobility, featuring Dr. Volkmar Denner CEO and CTO, Bosch; Secretary Anthony Foxx, U.S. Department of Transportation; Stephen Mollenkopf, CEO, Qualcomm and Amnon Shashua, co-founder, CTO and chairman, Mobileye. Kent Larson, director, MIT Media Lab Changing Places Group moderated the discussion . With 90 percent of global population growth expected to take place in cities, panelists discussed how shared mobility, big data, practical business models and spectrum will be embedded in the smart cities of the future.

Business leaders and policy operators weighed in on the digital economy during Thursday’s Global Innovation SuperSession , featuring panelists Neelie Kroes, special envoy, StartupDelta; Emmanuel Macron, Minister, French Ministry of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs; Jeannine Sargent, president, Innovation & New Ventures, Flex and U.S. Senator Mark Warner. Alan Murray, editor, Fortune Magazine, moderated the session, asking panelists a series of questions, including what innovation-friendly environments are needed for businesses to succeed today; what single policies they are most focused on and where they see hope for creative policy making. Sargent noted that entrepreneurs and business people have a responsibility to help their government officials understand and be smart about making policy. For Kroes, she said it’s very important to have a government that doesn’t avoid risk.

It was a packed house for the always popular Last Gadget Standing, presented by Living in Digital Times. Founder of Yahoo Tech David Pogue kicked off the event, which featured 11 companies competing for the top crowd-pleasing gadget. The top two winners were chosen by a live applause meter and selected through an online audience. View the results here.

The Stars of CES Awards, presented by What Hi-Fi?, named the top ten hottest audio products of CES 2016, chosen by Simon Lucas, editor of What Hi-Fi magazine, and Joe Cox, editor of What Hi-Fi.com. The top prizes were awarded to these 10 products.

Yahoo Tech’s David Pogue led an audience through a Friday afternoon of friendly app competition during the Mobile Apps Showdown, presented by Living in Digital Times and sponsored by Lenovo.  More than 100,000 apps were submitted for consideration, with ten finalists selected for the main event and the winner selected by audience applause levels. The apps were designed to improve individual wellness, promote environmental sustainability, support small businesses and care for our pets. Results are available on the Mobile Apps Showdown website.

Friday afternoon’s Extreme Tech Challenge Semi-Finals consisted of 10 semi-finalists, picked by VC judges from a field of over 1,000 companies, pitched to a panel of judges – including CTA’s Shapiro – for a chance to pitch in the final round to Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson on Necker Island. View the results here.

The third day of CES 2016 concluded with Engadget’s presentation of the Best of CES Awards 2016. Pepper the robot co-hosted and introduced the different categories. Winners included:

Best Startup: Owlet

Best Digital Health & Fitness: OhMiBod LovelifeKrush

Best Wearable Technology: Recon Empire EVS

Best Automotive Technology: Chevy Bolt

Best Home Theater Product: Philips’ Fidelio E6

Best Connected Home Product: Cassia Hub

Best Innovation (disruptive tech): VW Budd-e fast charging technology

Best Mobile Device: Huawei Mate 8

Best TV Product: LG Oleg G6

Best Gaming Product: HTC’s Vive Chaperone

Best Offbeat Product: Ehang 184

Best Maker-Friendly Technology: LEGO Education Wedo 2.0

Best PC: Razer Blade Stealth

Best Robots or Drones: Typhoon H

Best of the Best Award : The Chevy Bolt

People’s Choice Award: The Razer Blade Stealth

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AppDate: uKheshe bring banking to the masses

In his apps roundup, SEAN BACHER highlights uKheshe, FNB’s banking app with its will feature, Split Payments, Momentum Safety Alert and Fleetonomy.

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uKheshe micro transaction platform

Financial inclusion took another step forward as local start-up, uKheshe, South Africa’s cheapest and most convenient QR cash card and micro transaction platform, won the 2019 Global Fintech Hackcelerator @ Southern Africa competition. 

“The issue of financial inclusion is a global one and the more we can do to uplift the unbanked and under banked, the healthier their respective economies will become,” says Clayton Hayward, co-founder, uKheshe.

While 1.2 billion people have opened a financial account since 2011, there is still an estimated 1.7 billion adults worldwide (or 31% of adults) who don’t have a basic transaction account.  Globally, two-thirds of adults without an account cite a lack of money as a key reason, which implies that financial services aren’t yet affordable or designed to fit low-income users.

To find out more about uKheshe click here

FNB’s banking app with will feature

First National Bank now lets its customers draw up their own wills via the FNB Online Banking platform at no cost. To date, the bank has seen a significant increase in the number of clients who drafted their own wills online, with over 52 000 clients already accessing the functionality.

Approximately 80% of South Africans don’t have a valid will in place; and many people believe that it’s a need only when they get older, or later in life. 

“Whilst the digital process is simple and easy to use, the solution also helps with a dedicated client support centre should clients need further assistance or advice regarding the drafting of their wills,” says Johan Strydom, Growth Head, FNB Wealth and Investments. “The solution aims to simplify the process and allows customers to easily draft a will online anytime and at any place, at no cost. In addition, FNB will keep your original will in safe custody at no extra cost.”

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Available the FNB app which can be be downloaded here.

Split Payments

PayFast has launched Split Payments, a South African-first that instantly splits a portion of an online payment with a third party. The service is designed to facilitate fast, safe payments for platform-based businesses, including online marketplaces.

For those who run a marketplace that brings together multiple sellers or merchants looking for new sales channels, Split Payments addresses payment headaches with a simple API integration.

Consumers are used to engaging with large global transactional platforms such as AirBnB, Uber, and Amazon. The benefits and extended reach of these types of platforms are catching on locally, and organisations like estate agency groups and even community marketplaces are setting up digital trading platforms.

The app allows businesses to instantly split out commission, membership or listing fees, when a payment is made via one of its supported payment methods.

For each online payment received  the business can determine what the split is, either a fixed amount, a percentage, or a combination of both. Custom recurring payment integration, such as subscriptions payments, can also be split automatically.

Platform: iOS and Android

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Download Split Payments here

Read more about Momentum’s new Safety Alert app and Fleetonomy.

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Why 4G is still a thing

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Even with the 5G era already upon us, investment in 4G/LTE networks is still vitally important for operators in sub-Saharan Africa and must remain a core focus of network construction for the immediate future. This is according to David Chen, Vice-President, Huawei Southern Africa. 

“Currently, the mobile broadband penetration rate in Africa is only 47%, while 4G penetration rate is merely 10%,” Chen said.

“Insufficient coverage causes LTE users to fall back to the 2G or 3G networks, resulting in significant decline in user experience. It also leads to congestion on the 2G and 3G networks and makes it difficult to release spectrum used by 2G and 3G.”

Chen said that LTE and 5G complement each other and are evolving in parallel. In the next few years, 5G will mainly be used in more industrial communications.

LTE will remain the primary choice for global mobile communications through 2025. It will form the basic layer of national networks, especially when it comes to the mobile broadband access.

“It will take a long time for 5G to provide nationwide continuous coverage. Before that, enhanced LTE networks can guarantee optimal user experience for 5G users, including services such as VR, AR, and cloud gaming,” said Chen.

He said that it is important for operators to invest in 4G to secure future growth, as it is estimated that there will be an additional 80 million LTE users in sub-Saharan Africa by 2025.

Driven by this growth, LTE traffic in sub-Saharan Africa will increase by a factor of 8.8. By 2025, about 80% of all data traffic in the region will be over an LTE network.

LTE will also be the main source of future revenue for operators.

“According to GSMA Intelligence, 2G and 3G users in sub-Saharan Africa will gradually migrate to 4G,” said Chen. “By 2025, the proportion of 2G users will drop from 46% to 12%.”

Part of the reason for the migration to 4G is because the ecosystem is mature.

“The price of feature phones supporting VoLTE in the sub-Saharan Africa market has been as low as $25,” Chen said.

Since 5G equipment is already available, there is an opportunity for operators to build out their 4G networks while ensuring that they can evolve to 5G in future.

Chen offered the following tips to operators to ensure they are ready for 5G:

  • All future equipment installations should be 5G ready, allowing easy upgrades to 5G through software updates.
  • Software should support multi-standard spectrum sharing to improve spectrum efficiency, and to allow the smooth migration of 2G and 3G users.
  • Networks must support 4G and 5G coordination, in terms of spectrum, operation and maintenance. This will ensure that users have a consistent experience as we enter the 5G era.
  • The value of existing ICT infrastructure, such as base station sites, must be maximised to avoid overlapping services and wasted resources. This would mean boosting the capacity and coverage of every station for optimum efficiency.
  • Carriers should explore the business case for all possible 5G innovations when building 4G networks, and not just embrace 5G for its own sake. This will mean building business models around IoT, video, live broadcast, augmented reality, and virtual reality.
  • It is important that operators build partnerships with providers that can support the ongoing spectrum evolution with fast site upgrades and large-capacity solutions. The idea is to maximise the value of 4G networks, and smoothly evolve to 5G without unnecessary infrastructure investment.

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