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FNB launches own smartphones

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FNB today launched the ConeXis X1 and A1 smartphones, targeting both high-end and entry-level customers.

FNB has launched its own branded FNB smartphone, in a move that it says will fully integrate banking and customer mobility.

“For FNB, mobile banking is more than just having the best banking app,” says Jan Kleynhans, CEO of the FNB Consumer Segment. “For us, true mobile banking is enabling customers to bank anywhere, anytime using smartphone technology at affordable prices for our customers.”

FNB is offering customers the choice of two smartphones, the low-end ConeXis A1 with a 4-inch screen, and the high-end and X1 with a 5.2-inch screen.

ConeXis X1

ConeXis X1

The A1 is pitched at the price-sensitive Easy bank account holder, who now has access to a high-quality smartphone at an affordable price of R59 per month. This includes 15 minutes airtime and 50MB of data. Gold and Premium (Premier, Private Clients and Private Wealth) customers are being targeted with the higher specification X1, at R150 per month. It includes 25 minutes airtime and 100MB of data.

FNB offers up to a 100 per cent rebate on the X1 monthly instalments, depending on the customer’s eBucks Rewards level. Gold customers on eBucks Rewards level of 3, 4, 5 will be rebated R60, R90, R150 (100 per cent) on the monthly repayment respectively. Premium customers will be rewarded from level 1.

“In line with the global trend towards convergence in digital migration, we believe that it’s critical to empower our customers with smartphones that not only improve their banking and mobile experience, but are also affordable and of a high quality,” says Kartik Mistry, head of smart devices at FNB.

ConeXis A1

ConeXis A1

FNB has tightly integrated the ConeXis smartphone offering with its rewards and banking programme which incentivises the correct products, behaviour and mobile phone usage by rewarding customers with attractive cellular discounts. FNB-banked customers can earn up to 40 per cent on their monthly cellular spend dependent on their eBucks Rewards level.

“The FNB offering is also structured to encourage a savings culture through the use of convenient and cost-effective savings platforms,” adds Kleynhans.

The smartphone comes on the back of the FNB Connect cellular offering launched in 2015, which seamlessly integrates customer’s financial and mobile accounts on a single banking platform.

“We introduced the Connect offering to give customers control over cellular spend, by converging cellular and bank accounts on  a single client profile and platform,” says Kleynhans.

FNB also announced the introduction of the FNB Connect Unlimited Calls offer, which allows subscribers to make unlimited local calls to any network for only R399 per month. The new Unlimited Calls offer can be taken up together with the FNB ConeXis smartphone deal or any other branded mobile phone.

The Unlimited offer is available to customers from 24 August 2016 while the FNB ConeXis smartphones will be available at selected FNB branches from 1 September 2016. When taking up the smartphone offer, customers will be taken through the features and benefits, including how they can manage their cellular costs.

FNB has zero-rated calls when FNB Connect customers make calls to FNB’s Banking Call Centre.

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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