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Data must live on the edge

MARIUS MARITZ, operations manager at DMP SA, explains how edge networks are essential for faster cloud data access.

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The end-user experience is critical when it comes to data access. From online shopping to banking and insurance, dealing with any sort of call centre or even buying groceries, nobody wants to be held hostage by slow systems. It is imperative that end-point or edge devices can access data quickly to prevent these frustrating delays, no matter what the situation. You need your critical data to be ‘living on the edge’ to speed up data processing and ensure instant access to essential information.

Cloud computing has become a de facto standard for at least some aspects of almost every business. However, the challenge with the cloud is that accessing data can be slow, which means that processing of information may be subject to delays. We have all experienced situations where this is the case. Take for example a phone call with your insurance company and being placed on hold because ‘the system is slow’, or waiting endlessly for any sort of application as the person assisting you is unable to access the data they require.

The answer to this challenge is to ensure that your data, or at least mission-critical information, is ‘living on the edge’. Edge computing is the decentralisation of computing power and moving of data processing closer to the end-point device, user or customer. Instead of having to transmit data to a data centre for processing and then returning it to the device, it can be processed either by the device itself or by a local server. This enables data to be processed in real-time without latency. Ultimately what this translates to is that you are empowered to process your critical data in a fraction of the time that it would to retrieve data from the cloud, avoiding the dreaded ‘system is slow’ scenario. It also ensures that productivity can be maintained and that end users, as well as customers, have the best experience possible.

Local data storage keeps data close to the end-user, however, this is typically costly to achieve for all of an organisation’s information. By keeping only critical data at the edge and the majority of your data in the cloud, edge computing gives your business the best of both worlds. It combines instant access to essential information while allowing businesses to leverage the economies and powerful analytics of the cloud. Edge data can then also be synchronised back to the cloud for secure storage and further processing without affecting the user experience.

Edge computing can also be beneficial when it comes to unplanned downtime or even planned maintenance. For example, if internet connectivity is lost temporarily, access to the cloud will not be possible. In these instances, having critical data on the edge ensures businesses can continue to operate, at least for short periods, until services can be resumed. Having instant access to data is essential for both productivity and customer service, which ultimately impacts your bottom line

When looking to implement edge computing, storage requirements need to be carefully considered. Local storage is necessary for processing at the edge, which then needs to be synchronised with cloud storage, to ensure the benefits of instant access can be combined with the cost-benefit of the cloud. The amount of local storage required depends on the amount of mission-critical data that needs to be processed at the edge.

Determining this requires that you initially need to understand your data, what you have and where it resides as well as what is considered mission-critical. Data management is, therefore, an essential prerequisite for implementing edge computing. A data management partner can assist with the entire process to ensure that you obtain the optimal balance of onsite edge and cloud storage for maximum speed, power and economy.

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Millennials turning 40: NOW will you stop targeting them?

It’s one of the most overused terms in youth marketing, and probably the most inaccurate, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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One of the most irritating buzzwords embraced by marketers in recent years is the term “millennial”. Most are clueless about its true meaning, and use it as a supposedly cool synonym for “young adults”. The flaw in this targeting – and the word “flaw” here is like calling the Grand Canyon a trench – is that it utterly ignores the meaning of the term. “Millennials” are formally defined as anyone born from 1980 to 2000, meaning they have typically come of age after the dawn of the millennium, or during the 21st century.

Think about that for a moment. Next year, the millennial will be formally defined as anyone aged from 20 to 40. So here you have an entire advertising, marketing and public relations industry hanging onto a cool definition, while in effect arguing that 40-year-olds are youths who want the same thing as newly-minted university graduates or job entrants.

When the communications industry discovers just how embarrassing its glib use of the term really is, it will no doubt pivot – millennial-speak for “changing your business model when it proves to be a disaster, but you still appear to be cool” – to the next big thing in generational theory.

That next big thing is currently Generation Z, or people born after the turn of the century. It’s very convenient to lump them all together and claim they have a different set of values and expectations to those who went before. Allegedly, they are engaged in a quest for experience, compared to millennials – the 19-year-olds and 39-olds alike – supposedly all on a quest for relevance.

In reality, all are part of Generation #, latching onto the latest hashtag trend that sweeps social media, desperate to go viral if they are producers of social content, desperate to have caught onto the trend before their peers.

The irony is that marketers’ quest for cutting edge target markets is, in reality, a hangover from the days when there was no such thing as generational theory, and marketing was all about clearly defined target markets. In the era of big data and mass personalization, that idea seems rather quaint.

Indeed, according to Grant Lapping, managing director of DataCore Media, it no longer matters who brands think their target market is.

“The reason for this is simple: with the technology and data digital marketers have access to today, we no longer need to limit our potential target audience to a set of personas or segments derived through customer research. While this type of customer segmentation was – and remains – important for engagements across traditional above-the-line engagements in mass media, digital marketing gives us the tools we need to target customers on a far more granular and personalised level.

“Where customer research gives us an indication of who the audience is, data can tell us exactly what they want and how they may behave.”

Netflix, he points out, is an example of a company that is changing its industry by avoiding audience segmentation, once the holy grail of entertainment.

In other words, it understands that 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds are very different – but so is everyone in between.

* 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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Robots coming to IFA

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Robotics is no longer about mechanical humanoids, but rather becoming an interface between man and machine. That is a key message being delivered at next month’s IFA consumer electronics expo in Berlin. An entire hall will be devoted to IFA Next, which will not only offer a look into the future, but also show what form it will take.

The concepts are as varied as the exhibitors themselves. However, there are similarities in the various products, some more human than others, in the fascinating ways in which they establish a link between fun, learning and programming. In many cases, they are aimed at children and young people.

The following will be among the exhibitors making Hall 26 a must-visit:

Leju Robotics (Stand 115) from China is featuring what we all imagine a robot to be. The bipedal Aelos 1s can walk, dance and play football. And in carrying out all these actions it responds to spoken commands. But it also challenges young researchers to apply their creativity in programming it and teaching it new actions. And conversely, it also imparts scholastic knowledge.

Cubroid (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Korea starts off by promoting an independent approach to the way it deals with tasks. Multi-functional cubes, glowing as they play music, or equipped with a tiny rotating motor, join together like Lego pieces. Configuration and programming are thus combined, providing a basic idea of what constitutes artificial intelligence.

Spain is represented by Ebotics (Stand 218). This company is presenting an entire portfolio of building components, including the “Mint” educational program. The modular system explains about modern construction, programming and the entire field of robotics.

Elematec Corporation (Stand 208) from Japan is presenting the two-armed SCARA, which is not intended to deal with any tasks, but in particular to assist people with their work.

Everybot (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Japan approaches the concept of robotics by introducing an autonomous floor-cleaning machine, similar to a robot vacuum cleaner.

And Segway (Stand 222) is using a number of products to explain the modern approach to battery-powered locomotion.

IFA will take place at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds (ExpoCenter City) from 6 to 11 September 2019. For more information, visit www.ifa-berlin.com

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