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Cloud fuels Space Apps Challenge

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CloudSigma, an international cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, will provide free, compute resources for 2013’s NASA Space Apps Challenge participants.

By contributing servers, featuring 30 Gb of storage, 2 Gb of RAM and 2 GHz of CPU, and a specially-configured central server, CloudSigma hopes to further participants’ innovation to address today’s top challenges on Earth and in space.

Now in its second year, NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge is the world’s largest, collaborative technology development event for software, hardware, data visualization and mobile apps. With 9,000+ participants (up from 2,000 the year before), this year’s challenges included detecting near Earth objects (NEOs), revisiting how NASA offers data to the public, and more effectively curating how to tell the story of space to the world.

‚”We had about 50 different challenge groups develop their space apps using our cloud,‚” said Robert Jenkins, CloudSigma CEO and co-founder. ‚”Since we have a completely open software layer that lets you configure and deploy whatever you need, we were well suited to provide a flexible cloud platform for this year’s competitors. It’s amazing to see the innovation coming out of this event, and we feel honoured to have been a part of it.‚”

One of the local winners from Rome, Space Cal App, used CloudSigma’s uniquely flexible compute resources to develop an app that combines satellite information to make information more easily accessible on mobile platforms. The Space Cal App team will go into the global pool of the top 20 solutions (five in each category) for further consideration and development.

In a blog post on open.NASA, Nick Skytland, NASA Open Innovation Program Manager, said, ‚”The International Space Apps Challenge was the culmination of months of planning, years of experimentation and thousands and thousands of hours of hard work from people across the globe who share in the excitement of building our collective future. It is a shining example that transparency, participation and collaboration are alive and well at NASA.‚”

The app development took place during a two-day code-a-thon from April 20-21, 2013. Local winners have already been chosen, but judging is ongoing through May to determine overall category winners, which will be announced onspaceappschallenge.org and the open.NASA blog on May 22, 2013.

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Telcos want one face

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The investments that telecommunications service providers are making in reshaping their online properties into customer-centric portals reflects the growing maturity of self-service and Internet uptake in the industry, says KEVIN MELTZER of Consology.

Many telcos around the world are overhauling their websites to offer customers more holistic portals that give them a single point of entry into the organisation.

They are doing so because they recognise that service will be a key point of differentiation for their businesses in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive. They have also realised that they have a major opportunity to shift customers away from expensive contact centres towards low-cost electronic channels.

In the past, most telecommunications operators ran multiple sites across multiple domains and subdomains. These web-based properties were built around the way that telcos structured their own businesses rather than around the needs of the customer. But we are now seeing the leading operators take a more user-centric approach to the way that they design their web and mobile sites.

This coincides with a change in the industry from slicing customers into numerous segments and then serving them across a range of functional and product areas. For example, many operators split customers into prepaid and postpaid segments or voice and data users, distinctions that are becoming less meaningful in a world of technology convergence. They now want to present a single face to the customer rather than servicing the subscriber through silos.

These changes are starting to percolate through to operators’ customer service and sales strategies. Telcos are starting to pull together disparate products and services that once resided across multiple sites into customer service portals.

These sites put a wide range of information at the subscriber’s fingertips, he adds. Increasingly, for example, subscribers can log directly into their accounts from the operator’s homepage and then access a wealth of services and information. This marks an evolution from the fractured and inconsistent customer experience of the past.

Leading operators are even thinking about how their Self-Service platforms should be integrated with social media strategies to allow customers to pay their electronic bills or top up airtime with a single click from within a social network.

Whereas Self-Service portals on telco sites were once purely about account management functions, they increasingly offer far richer functionality. In addition to allowing subscribers to pay their bills and check their account information, they are also increasingly becoming the first stop for service and commerce.

Operators have started to recognise that splintering their e-commerce, service and account management functions simply makes no sense. Customers want to be able to do everything through one interface rather than needing to visit two or three Web sites, or eventually possibly needing to phone a call centre or visit a store for certain transactions.

Integrated and easy to use online customer service channels will be central for telco operators who want to be competitive in the markets of tomorrow. They form an advantage in an industry where it will be customer relationships rather than cost or service that drive loyalty and purchasing decisions.

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Talk for less with MWEB Talk

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Today, MWEB announced its consumer VoIP package called MWEB Talk, which allows users to make free network calls and get discounted rates made to landlines and mobile phones.

MWEB, today launched its new Voice over IP (VoIP) offering to South African consumers. The service, MWEB Talk, will offer users’ free on network calls to fellow MWEB Talk users’ and cheap calls to landline and mobile phone numbers. This follows the success and demand of the ISP’s existing VoIP products in recent months.

‚”We have seen a noticeable transformation in users’ Internet behaviour with consumers wanting services that complement their ADSL connectivity solution. We have seen phenomenal growth and by the end of the year will deliver over 100 million minutes on our VoIP platform,‚” says Carolyn Holgate, General Manager of MWEB Connect, the ISP’s Consumer and Small Office/ Home Office Division.

MWEB has made significant investments in its infrastructure and VoIP has been prioritised on its network to ensure performance and stability of the MWEB Talk service for both businesses and consumers.

‚”In addition to the high quality of the service, MWEB Talk is also simple to set-up and users’ should experience a significant reduction in their telephone bills. By implementing a VoIP service consumers and small businesses can cut their monthly telecommunication bills by up to 55% to landline and mobile numbers,‚” says Holgate.

With no subscription fee, existing MWEB customers can log into their MWEB account, register for the service and download the application for PC and Mac as well as mobile applications that turn an iPhone, Android, and Nokia smartphone into a VoIP phone. Customers will also be able to purchase a Desktop VoIP Handset for R99 which will be HD voice ready and will support multi-extensions.

‚”We believe that VoIP is the future of telephony in South Africa and we are extremely excited to see the consumer market shift into the VoIP space,‚” concludes Holgate.

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