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Democratisation of innovation moves to the grassroots

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When we think disruption, companies like Uber and Airbnb come to mind. But, when we look at software and hardware, HITENDRA NAIK of Intel, believes that any company, big or small can play its roll in changing the markets operate.

When we speak about disruption, we often default to unicorn companies like Uber and Airbnb, which shook up the global taxi and hotel industries, respectively. But with the democratisation of software and hardware, the reality is that anyone can start a business these days and the biggest disruptors and innovators can come from emerging markets and not just the US and Silicon Valley.

Innovations South Africa’s Giraffe  and MyQ from Nigeria have set out to solve real and local challenges, such as unemployment and transportation industry management, respectively. Developers and makers in these and other emerging markets have shown that the game-changers don’t have to be the Ubers of the world but can be the two-man startup that’s making a tangible difference in the lives of thousands.

Innovation moves into hardware space

Until now, global innovation has primarily been in the software space. The adage ‘there’s an app for that’ is testament to the fact that, whatever problem you have, there’s likely an app that attempts to solve it. This is only possible because the democratisation and accessibility of software development tools has enabled anyone with a computer, an Internet connection and some knowledge of coding to do pretty much anything.

But with 1,300 apps being added to app stores every day, we’re seeing an evolution in disruption away from only software to how applications can be linked to hardware, cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) and analytics to leapfrog infrastructure gaps and to understand and even pre-empt what people want.

It’s now easier than ever to innovate in this space. The democratisation of hardware and compute platforms like Intel’s Edison, Joule and RealSense platforms, as well as its software and cloud analytics platforms, coupled with easier access to funding through crowdsourcing options like Kickstarter, has created a low barrier to entry and has opened up the market to anyone with an idea, to build a business with lower barriers to entry.

Cloud services have also been democratised and, in the future, technologies like artificial intelligence will be, too.

Developers and makers will innovate and build on computer platforms and link any device to data in order to address societal problems that many thought were unsolvable. Think smart cities that can communicate to authorities exactly where water leaks are; health systems that can predict an epidemic long before it becomes a threat; and connected buildings that, when on fire, can help emergency personnel save more lives.

The startups of today will enable the next-generation governments of the future who will harness modern technology for societal transformation that will change the way we live and work to deliver new experiences that fuel GDP growth and create jobs.

Creating a sustainable ecosystem

But with a failure rate of 50% within the first four years, startups need to be enabled through partnerships, incubator hubs, technology and business support to help the public and private sectors reach this level of digital transformation.

Governments in emerging markets have modelled local startup hubs on those seen in Silicon Valley and other developed markets after realising the potential they have for innovation and job creation.

But we need to do more to help these small businesses succeed.

At the public sector level, startups are already benefiting from tax incentives, which allow them to invest more money into their businesses during the crucial first few years. Partnerships with universities will give startups access to a pool of people who are educated in science and technology and can help them to scale their ideas.

The private sector also has a role to play in terms of creating opportunities for startups to showcase their ideas, connect with other startups, and network with investors. Events like Seedstars World  and Demo Africa not only help to discover the best startups but through challenges like the Intel Solutions Challenge, startups in the cloud, IoT and analytics space also gain exposure to potential financiers as well as mentors in all areas of business support to give them a better chance of success. Winners of the challenge also get the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a wider support ecosystem of potential investors and partners to ensure their business is not only successful but also sustainable.

Now that everything is democratised, the Ubers and Airbnbs of the world don’t need to come out of the US – there certainly isn’t a monopoly on great ideas in developed markets. World-changing innovation is taking place at the grassroots level in emerging markets and I believe that the next big global company will come from one of these regions. But we need to make it easier for startups to survive, to access funding and to create an environment and culture that is conducive to sustainability. It starts with getting them the exposure they need and cutting the red tape that is contributing to the high failure rate.

* Hitendra Naik, Director of Innovation, Middle East, Turkey & Africa at Intel.

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Epic Games brings a Nite-mare to Android

Epic Games’ decision to not publish games through Google Play inadvertently opens a market to Android virus makers, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, decided to take the high road by skipping Google Play’s app distribution market and placing a third-party installer for its games on its website. While this is technically fine, it is not recommended for the average user, because allowing third-party installers on one’s smartphone opens up the possibility of non-signed and malicious software to be run on the smartphone. 

In June, malware researchers at ESET warned Android gamers that malicious fake versions of the Fortnite app had been created to steal personal information or damage smartphones. A malware researcher demonstrated how the fake applications works in the Tweet below.

An example on how one can get infected by downloading the Fortnite app from Google Play.

While the decision to bypass Google Play was a bold move on Epic Games’ part, it has been a long time coming for app developers to move their premium apps off Google’s Play Store. The two major app distributors, Google Play and Apple’s App Store, take a 30% cut of every purchase made through their app distribution platforms. 

The App Store is currently the only way to get apps on a non-modified iOS device, which is why Epic Games had no choice for Fortnite to be in the App Store. On the other hand, Android phones can install packages downloaded through the browser, which makes the Play Store almost unnecessary for the gaming company. 

The most interesting part of this development is that Google is not the “bad guy” and Epic Games is no saviour to other game developers. Epic Games is a company with a multi-billion dollar valuation and has resources like large-scale servers to distribute and update its games, a big marketing budget to ensure everyone knows how to get its games, and server security to protect against malware. 

Resources of this scale allow the game company to turn a cold shoulder to Google’s Play Store distribution and focus on its own, in-house solution. 

That said, installing packages without the Google Play Store must be done carefully, and it is essential to do homework on where a package is downloaded. Moreover, when a package is installed outside of the Google Play Store, a security switch to block the installation of third party apps must be turned off. This switch should be turned back on immediately after the third party package is installed. 

This complex amount of steps makes it less worthwhile to install third party apps, in favour of rather waiting for them to reach the Play Store.

From a consumer perspective, ESET recommends not installing packages outside of the Google Play Store and to ignore advertisements to download the game from other sources.

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How to take on IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming, whether you like it or not and organisations today will look to platforms and services that help them manage and analyse the streams of data coming from connected devices, says RONALD RAVEL, Director B2B South Africa, Toshiba South Africa.

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Today, we are witnessing an explosion in IoT deployments and solutions and are moving towards a world where almost everything you can imagine will be connected. While this opens the door to many possibilities it also comes with its own challenges such as privacy and security.

The Internet has become an integral part of everyday life; it has been a free for all on a daily basis. IoT is a difficult concept for many people to wrap their minds around. Essentially, nearly every business will be affected.

Managing vast quantities of data across increasingly mobile workforces can be tremendously beneficial if done well, but equally can be cumbersome and ineffective if not managed properly. This is why technologies such as mobile edge computing are becoming increasingly popular, helping to increase the prevalence of secure mobile working and data management in the age of IoT.

Unlocking IoT

The evolution of IoT, despite rapid and ongoing technological innovation, is still very much in its fledgling stages. Its potential, though, is demonstrated by the fact that by 2020, Bain anticipates a significant shift in uptake, with roughly 80 per cent of adoptions at that point to have progressed to the stage of either ‘proof of concept’ or extensive implementation. This means that technological innovation in IoT for the enterprise is progressing at a similarly fast rate with many of these solutions being developed with utilities, engineering, manufacturing and logistics companies in mind.

Processing at the edge

For IoT to be adopted at the rate predicted, technology which does not overwhelm current or even legacy systems must be implemented. Mobile edge computing solves this. Such solutions offer processing power at the edge of the network, helping firms with a high proportion of mobile workers to reduce operational strain and latency by processing the most critical data at the edge and close to its originating source. Relevant data can then be sent to the cloud for observation and analysis, thereby reducing the waves of ‘data garbage’ which has to be processed by cloud services.

A logistics manager can feasibly monitor and analyse the efficiency of warehouse operations, for example, with important data calculations carried out in real-time, on location, and key data findings then sent to the cloud for centrally-located data scientists to analyse.

The work of wearables

The potential of IoT means it not only has the scope to change the way people work, but also where they work. While widespread mobile working is a relatively new trend in industries such as banking and professional services, for CIOs in sectors where working on the move is inherent – such as logistics and field maintenance – mobility is high on the agenda.

Wearables – and specifically smart glasses – have started to gain traction within the business world. With mobile edge computing solutions acting as the gateway, smart glasses such as Toshiba’s assisted reality AR 100 viewer solution have been designed to benefit frontline and field-based workers in industries such as utilities, manufacturing and logistics. In the renewable energy sector, for example, a wind turbine engineer conducting repairs may use assisted reality smart glasses to call up the schematics of the turbine to enable a hands-free view of service procedures. This means that when a fault becomes a barrier to repair, the engineer is able to use collaboration software to call for assistance from a remote expert and have additional information sent through, thereby saving time and money by eradicating the need for extra personnel to be sent to the site.

The time is ripe for organisations to look to exploit the age of IoT to improve the productivity and safety of their workers, as well as the end service delivered to customers. In fact, Toshiba’s recent ‘Maximising Mobility’ report found that 49 per cent of organisations believe their sector can benefit from the hands-free functionality of smart glasses, while 47 per cent expect them to deliver improved mobile working and 41 per cent foresee better collaboration and information sharing. Embracing IoT technologies such as mobile edge computing and wearable solutions will be an essential step for many organisations within these verticals as they look to stay on top of 21st century working challenges.

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