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Consumer buy-in essential as man meets machine

Rather than purely boasting about the possibility and opportunity that the Fourth Industrial Revolution can offer our organisations, industries and organisations must do their bit to educate the public about the ways in which these technologies will benefit the end consumer.

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It’s no secret that the Fourth Industrial Revolution has officially begun. The era of intersection between people and machines is among us, with more industries embracing the new technologies that are available.

Historically, the term ‘revolution’ was often associated with hardships, displacement and economic dissonance. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, on the other hand, is often discussed in an energised, excited – and dare I say, blasé – type of attitude, particularly among ICT professionals.

Of course, we in the ICT industry understand the benefits that will come with the digital era, however I find myself wondering whether the consequences of this somewhat peaceful revolution might mirror those of revolutions past if we do not act quickly.

Concern has already begun to spread among the public, with many fearing for their jobs should the impact of technology increase within organisations around the country. As industry, we know the specifics of this particular issue, however we all have a part to play in ensuring optimal understanding around the digital revolution, or risk ushering the same hardships suffered during revolutions past.

Changing the message

We are privileged to not only watch a worldwide revolution take place before us, but to contribute towards it. The work we do in the ICT industry is changing the ways South Africans live and do business, and the impact and implications of the digital revolution are becoming more evident with each passing hour.

New technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and Big Data represent some of the most exciting opportunities for our market, but because of their lack of understanding, it can easily cause uncertainty in the public. Rather than purely boasting about the possibility and opportunity these technologies offer our organisations, industries and organisations must do their bit to educate the public about the ways in which these technologies will benefit the end consumer.

From a Vodacom perspective, we are investing a lot of money in this space to offer increased service to our customers. If you look at our call centres, for instance, we are a business with over 39 million customers, and a lot of time is taken by customers trying to identify themselves when they call us. We need predictive analytics to know why they are calling us, and be able to solve their problems before they even call – meaning our services improve and our customers are ultimately happier. This is the kind of message that must be exerted in order for the Fourth Industrial Revolution to remain peaceful – that not only will human resources remain important to our businesses, but the end consumer will ultimately benefit from new technologies as well.

We also know that these technologies offer huge for cost-saving opportunities for our customers. The Vodacom Group recently launched Africa’s first commercial 5G service. Currently being used in Lesotho, the 5G service uses 3.5GHz spectrum to deliver fixed-wireless access to enterprise customers in the country, providing quicker deployment of broadband services at fibre-like speeds. What we’ve accomplished in Lesotho is an example of what can be achieved in Africa. The project represents a R32,7 billion investment by Vodacom over four years, and if we acquire more access to spectrum, we will be able to drive down infrastructure costs and, in turn, pass huge savings on to the consumer.

Even communities at large can benefit once digital capabilities expand. Vodacom’s prime example of transformation technology is Connected Farmer; the cloud-based web and mobile software solution that has connected thousands of smallholder farmers to the agriculture value chain. This small business model has achieved its purpose of turning smallholder farmers into a sustainable realistic and executable food manufacturers and retail businesses, increasing the number of smallholder subsistence farmers in commercial agriculture value chains within South Africa.

We are furthermore working with various municipalities on smart metering projects. We assist the Department of Health with the replenishing of stock for hospitals using our IoT system. We are also working with some of the financial services companies in terms of payments and ordering systems, and we recently launched the Citizen Engagement application, a mobile digital app that assists government and citizens with service delivery communication. All of this with the end consumer in mind.

Embrace the revolution

We are fortunate that the Fourth Industrial Revolution has been peacefully embraced thus far – but in order for this to remain, we as industry we must make more effort to relay the peaceful message that new technologies are adapted by organisations with the customer in mind.

Once consumers understand that they will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the digital revolution and the new technologies that come along with it, they too will join us in expressing excitement about its impending takeover.

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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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