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Fibre begins to take over from ADSL at SMEs

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In 2003 there was a massive technology shift from dial-up to ADSL. According to a SME Survey, another shift is on the horizon, but this time from ADSL to fibre.

The massive technology shift from dial-up to ADSL as the most common form of connectivity among small and medium enterprises is about to be repeated. Except that, this time, the shift will be from ADSL to fibre.

This is one of the major early indications of SME Survey 2018, in partnership with Intuit QuickBooks, which has achieved its target of interviewing 1 400 business decision-makers.

SME Survey is the original and largest representative survey since 2003 to measure the forces shaping SME competitiveness in South Africa. One of the great success stories is the manner in which it has tracked the rise and fall of comparative types of Internet connectivity.

According to Arthur Goldstuck, principal researcher for SME Survey and MD of World Wide Worx, the Survey has been in a position to track connectivity trends from the arrival of ADSL in this market in 2003, the same year the Survey began. As a result, it was ideally placed to track the transition from dial-up to ADSL that occurred among SMEs from 2003 to 2009.

“Because we were able to track adoption rates from the outset, we could demonstrate perfectly the rise of one technology and the decline of the other. We are now at the stage where we are beginning to witness the decline of ADSL, as it is replaced by fibre to the home or office. The interim SME Survey 2018 results therefore present a fascinating story of history repeating itself with regards to technology replacement,” he says.

“ADSL usage peaked at around 70% in 2009 and remained at this high until 2015, when fibre arrived. The latest figures from the Survey indicate that ADSL usage has now dropped to 56% among SMEs, while fibre has increased to 23% – this is exciting, because it means that the adoption of fibre is taking place even more rapidly than the adoption of ADSL did 15 years ago.”

Such rapid adoption is being brought about, says Goldstuck, by the rapid rise in availability of fibre across urban areas, coupled with the falling price of the technology. In conjunction with this, the increasing uptake and use of bandwidth-intensive technologies by SMEs has resulted in a perfect storm that is driving this desire for technology replacement.

“The switch from ADSL to fibre is being driven by much the same reasoning as the earlier move from dial-up to ADSL. In effect, when SMEs see a clear value proposition, one which can translate into the phrase ‘no-brainer’, they are more than willing to embrace it rapidly. On the other hand, when it has to be explained or demystified – as seems to have occurred with the concept of the cloud – they tend to stay clear of it for far longer. However, with fibre the value proposition is so obvious that SMEs are clear about how it will improve their business, and so adoption is taking off.”

“This is a huge shift and is extremely exciting for SMEs and accountants in South Africa,” says Wendy Walker, Head of Marketing at Intuit QuickBooks. “We have witnessed how the use of technology such as the cloud has reshaped and reinvigorated businesses across the globe and we have no doubt will we will see the same impact here. Whether it’s evolutionary or a new disruptive innovation, SMEs are always looking for technology that will help deliver better services and products, and of course, greater returns for their businesses. That’s what we are here to provide.”

Goldstuck  goes on to explain, that with fibre, the cost to speed relationship is vastly improved, while the quality of the connection is also higher, since fibre doesn’t have the same level of contention – the number of people using the same connection – as ADSL. This means, generally speaking, the speed you buy is the speed you get.

“Another aspect that differentiates fibre fundamentally from ADSL is that any service provider can supply connectivity and services over fibre. This is very different to the South African ADSL market, where there is essentially still only one provider for the technology. This diversity has clearly helped open the market, thanks to the increased competition.”

A key benefit SMEs obtain from switching to fibre, says Goldstuck, is that it enables SMEs to operate online without any of the performance and quality constraints they may have faced before. This means that their communications are significantly improved, enabling them to utilise solutions like video-conferencing and social media platforms to further their business. It also gives them more confidence in using the Internet for transactional purposes, thanks to the quality and speed of the connectivity.

“This quality and speed, coupled with much higher bandwidth caps, is opening these small businesses up to greater levels of collaboration and a range of new business possibilities,” he says. “Ultimately, fibre expands the vision of small business decision makers, while levelling the playing fields with large organisations in terms of access and collaboration. Furthermore, once SMEs get to grips with the many possibilities offered by fibre, they will be more confident in aiming for a higher digital level and will more fully embrace cloud platforms and solutions. This, in turn, means they will be well placed to compete more directly with big enterprises.”

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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