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Dear Bixby, and other virtual assistant love stories

With his personal assistant on leave, LUCKY RADEBE, pens an open letter to Bixby, Samsung’s virtual personal assistant which learns your preferences and speaking habits over time, making it smarter each time it used.

Dear Bixby,

With my organised Personal Assistant (PA) on leave and my partner on a well-deserved holiday, the release of the Samsung Galaxy Note8 couldn’t have come at a better time, as I try to balance work and home life without my trusted support system. Not only does my new phablet enable me to speak, ask questions and make requests from you, Bixby, but as your deep learning technology continues to improve over time and you recognise my preferences and manner of speaking, so does my appreciation for your genius.

Take this morning for instance. My alarm went off at 5am and I was tempted to press the snooze button but you reminded me that today I had to get the children ready for school and that we needed to leave 45 minutes earlier to get them there on time. This helped me avoid running late and possibly receiving a scornful letter from the headmaster. By simply asking you what the weather was like today before leaving the house, we were prepared and dressed for the day’s weather.

While stepping out of the house, my teenagers told me that they hadn’t prepared lunches for themselves, but with a simple ‘Hi Bixby, find me the shortest route to school with a convenience shop en route to grab lunch’, a catastrophe was averted.

Having taken the least congested back routes and having dropped the children at school, it was you, Bixby that reminded me of my 9am meeting with the Managing Director and Vice President of my company. In preparation, I said ‘Bixby, open my emails, go to the last email sent by my PA with background information for the meeting’. I then asked you to read the documents back to me while I was driving. After gathering my thoughts, I dictated my response to you to type in Samsung Notes for me to reference as speaking points during my meeting. This was all in good time to receive an international call from my partner, who was pleased to find out that all was well and subtly made mention that the children had ballet and gymnastic classes at 3pm. After asking you, Bixby, to check my schedule for the day and realising I had an overlap of commitments, I asked you to help me pre-order an Uber for my daughters. You texted them the details, which allowed me enough time to dash off to my meeting.

For the next few hours, I had back-to-back meetings with clients and suppliers and enjoyed my perfectly productive mobile office. I conducted my business and even managed to reschedule my daughter’s tennis training for tomorrow and reserved time in my calendar so no one at work could schedule a meeting, preventing me from going with her. Amazingly, without the normal distractions of the office, I was more productive with both my work and dad tasks.

The day was shaping up well, but there was still one last hurdle to cross, dinner! But even that was no challenge for you. While I was chopping and mixing, making reference to the beef lasagne recipe which you pulled for me off the internet, I simply said, ‘Hey Bixby, set a timer for 20 minutes’ before I put the dish into the oven. 20 minutes later, you alerted me that the lasagne was ready – and for a change, nothing was burnt.

My partner, my PA and now you, Bixby, make a great team, empowering me to better manage my work and personal life. I’ll soon discover how new innovations from Samsung will further empower me and help me manage this blended life, but I can tell you, Bixby, you did an excellent job!

Sincerely,

Lucky Radebe

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Mobile is the new branch

Standard Bank has launched an account for mobile devices that gives back 500MB of data a month

Standard Bank has introducd a R4.95p/m bank account called MyMo that customers can open on their mobile devices, loaded with data and airtime offerings and other benefits such as virtual and Gold physical card.

MyMo account holders will also enjoy the convenience of a cheque account through a Visa and Mastercard gold card. Once the account is open, users can choose to either receive R50 in airtime or 500MB of data a month, if their card is swiped more than four times a month. A further megabyte of data is loaded on the account for every R20 spent.

“MyMo is an account for everyone, whether you just landed your first job or have been around the block. With no documentation required it only takes a few minutes to open the account,” says Funeka Montjane, Chief Executive for Personal and Business Banking, South Africa, at Standard Bank Group. “For just R4.95 a month customer will be able to enjoy free swipes and ATM withdrawals at only R6.50 for amounts under R 1 000.

“Mobile is the new branch. This account is about bringing the mobile branch into customers hands, it is about convenience and security while banking.”

She says mobile offers low cost transactional banking which integrates people and businesses into the new connected economy, making mobile the new branch ecosystem that will drive and connect Africa’s growth. Physical connections to the economy are rapidly changing to digital where banks have to move from being financial institutions to service organisations.

“In the past people congregated in communities and eventually cities to maximise the advantages of connectivity. Today a simple hand-held device has the potential to open infinite doors, transforming individuals’ access to opportunities, regardless of where they are, and like never before in history. 

“Historically, a bank account represented access to economic citizenship. Today, having a simple device enabling digital access to a modern banking platform is a passport to global connectivity and vast human development potential.”

The bank says it is using technology, and mobile phones in particular, to deliver low-cost transactional channels accessible to all our customers. The evolution in mobile can be seen in transaction options like cash back at the retail checkout till rather than the ATM, free digital banking rather than using a branch, and the ability to transact using digital wallets, even without a bank account.

“Developing comprehensive connected ecosystems requires a mind-set change from Africa’s banks,” says Montjane. “Banks will evolve away from traditional financial service organisations, into service ecosystems enabling broad universal access to almost everything like enhanced purchasing experiences of vehicles and homes, online procurement of goods and services and lifestyle elements like rewards and travel. 

“These connectivity drivers will also act to future-proof evolving connectivity ecosystem by allowing us to offer untold future services while deriving income from as yet unrealised revenue streams,.   

From a customer perspective, the kind of ecosystems of knowledge, access and, ultimately, connectivity that banks will come to provide will radically transform the share of life that almost all individuals will be able to access.”

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Two-thirds of SA staff hide social media from bosses

With 90% of people in employment going online several times a day, it can be hard for most workers to keep their private and work-life separate during the working day (and beyond). The recently published Global Privacy Report from Kaspersky Lab reveals that 64% of South African consumers choose to hide social media activity from their boss. This secretive stance at work also extends to their colleagues, with 60% of South Africans also preferring not to reveal online activities to their co-workers.

Globally, the average employee spends an astonishing 13 years and two months at work during their lifetime. Interestingly though, not all this time is directly related to solving work tasks or earning a promotion: almost two thirds (64%) of consumers admit visiting non-work-related websites every day from their desk.

Not surprisingly, 35% of South African employees are against their employer knowing which websites they visit. However, more interestingly, 60% of South African are even against their colleagues knowing about their online activities. This probably means that colleagues constitute an even greater threat to future perspectives of an office slouch or maybe the relationships with colleagues are more informal and therefore, more valuable.

On the contrary, social media activity appears to be a less private domain for many and therefore, more suitable for sharing with colleagues but not the boss. This is probably because workers fear harming the public image of a company or interest in decreased staff productivity motivates companies to monitor employees’ social networks and make career changing decisions based on that. Such policies have led to 64% of South Africans saying that they don’t want to reveal their social media activities to their boss and 53% even don’t want to disclose this information to their colleagues.

A further 29% are against showing the content of their messages and emails to their employer. In addition, 3% even said that their career was irrevocably damaged as a consequence of their personal information being leaked. Thus, people are worried about how to build a favourable internal reputation and how not to destroy existing workplace relationships.

“As going online is an integral part of our life nowadays, lines continue to blur between our digital existence at work and at home. And that’s neither good nor bad. That’s how we live in the digital age. Just keep remembering that as an employee you need to be increasingly cautious of what exactly you post on social media feeds or what websites you prefer using at work. One misconceived action on the internet could have an irrevocable long-term impact on even the most ambitious worker’s ability to climb the career ladder of their choice in the future,” comments Marina Titova, Head of Consumer Product Marketing at Kaspersky Lab.

To ensure workers don’t fall prey of the internet threats at a work, there are some core guidelines to adhere to in the digital age:

  • Don’t post anything that could be considered defamatory, obscene, proprietary or libellous. If in doubt, don’t post.
  • Be aware that system administrators may at least, in theory, be informed about your web browsing patterns.
  • Don’t harass, threaten, discriminate or disparage against any colleague, partner, competitor or customer. Neither on social networks or in messages, emails, nor by any other means.
  • Don’t post photographs of other employees, customers, vendors, suppliers or company products without prior written permission.
  • Start using Kaspersky Password Manager to ensure your social media and other personal accounts are not at risk of unauthorised access by someone else in an office. Install a reliable security solution such as Kaspersky Security Cloud to protect your personal devices.

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