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Four facts that make tablets right for the classroom

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Tablet computers have become a part of everybody’s life, largely due to the fact of their ease of use and affordability, ERNST WITTMANN, Country Manager for Southern Africa at ALCATEL ONETOUCH outlines four facts as to why they are playing a role in the classroom.

When you see how comfortable four-year olds are with touchscreen devices, it’s easy to appreciate how quickly mobile phones and tablet computers are changing the world. Over the past few years, we have seen tablet computers evolve from toys for geeks and execs into affordable everyday computers.

Now, they’re increasingly forming part of the educational landscape. They’re cost-effective (especially entry-level Android-based models), offer decent battery life, and functional and flexible enough to help learners get their work done. Here are some of the key benefits we see from tablets in the classroom:

1. Simpler IT support

The beauty of tablet computers lies in their simplicity. They are easy to use because of their intuitive touchscreen interfaces and pose a lower barrier of entry for students who are not yet familiar with computers.

Because they have fewer components than a traditional PC, they tend to be more reliable from a hardware perspective.

Provided their owners don’t “jailbreak” them to install pirated apps and other unauthorised software, tablet computers are more resistant to malware.

And since their operating systems are slimmer, lighter and less customisable, there are fewer ways for a learner to accidentally make a configuration change that renders his or her device unusable. This all translates into a lower overhead for IT support.

2. Mobile lifestyle

Today’s schoolchildren and youth are a mobile generation. Even kids from poorer homes are usually familiar with cell phones and feature phones. Tablets are a perfect fit for their lifestyle since they are personal, light, portable, and offer good battery life on a single charge.

Learners don’t need access to a computer lab to do their work because they always have their tablet computers with them. If a child is sick at home, for example, he or she may still able to do some of the day’s work from the tablet computer. As long as they have an Internet connection, children can keep learning.

3. There’s an app for that

There are millions of apps available for the most popular tablet operating systems, including a rich selection of educational apps. From maths to physics, from English to biology, schoolchildren have a wide range of content at their fingertips.

4. Personalised and interactive learning

Tablets offer schoolchildren a range of learning tools in one place and help them to engage deeply with educational content. They can record the classroom session for later review, use calculators and other tools, and do so much more on one interface. They may no longer need to, for example, buy a separate scientific calculator, take a separate camera on field trips, or carry a lot of textbooks around.

Tablets can also make educational content come to life with video, audio and gamification. Rather than simply seeing a picture of Nelson Mandela in a textbook, they can view video footage of the day he was released from prison. If they’re reading a book, they can look up a word they don’t know from a dictionary integrated into the e-reader app. This up to a richer learning experience.

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IoT sensors are anything from doctor to canary in mines

Industrial IoT is changing the shape of the mining industry and the intelligence of the devices that drive it

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The Internet of Things (IoT) has become many things in the mining industry. A canary that uses sensors to monitor underground air quality, a medic that monitors healthcare, a security guard that’s constantly on guard, and underground mobile vehicle control. It has evolved from the simple connectivity of essential sensors to devices into an ecosystem of indispensable tools and solutions that redefine how mining manages people, productivity and compliance. According to Karien Bornheim, CEO of Footprint Africa Business Solutions (FABS), IoT offers an integrated business solution that can deliver long-term, strategic benefits to the mining industry.

“To fully harness the business potential of IoT, the mining sector has to understand precisely how it can add value,” she adds. “IoT needs to be implemented across the entire value chain in order to deliver fully optimised, relevant and turnkey operational solutions. It doesn’t matter how large the project is, or how complex, what matters is that it is done in line with business strategy and with a clear focus.”

Over the past few years, mining organisations have deployed emerging technologies to help bolster flagging profits, manage increasingly weighty compliance requirements, and reduce overheads. These technologies are finding a foothold in an industry that faces far more complexities around employee wellbeing and safety than many others, and that juggles numerous moving parts to achieve output and performance on a par with competitive standards. Already, these technologies have allowed mines to fundamentally change worker safety protocols and improve working conditions. They have also provided mining companies with the ability to embed solutions into legacy platforms, allowing for sensors and IoT to pull them into a connected net that delivers results.

“The key to achieving results with any IoT or technology project is to partner with service providers, not just shove solutions into identified gaps,” says Bornheim. “You need to start in the conceptual stage and move through the pre-feasibility and bankable feasibility stages before you start the implementation. Work with trained and qualified chemical, metallurgical, mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and structural engineers that form a team led by a qualified engineering lead with experience in project management. This is the only way to ensure that every aspect of the project is aligned with the industry and its highly demanding specifications.”

Mining not only has complexities in compliance and health and safety, but the market has become saturated, difficult and mercurial. For organisations to thrive, they must find new revenue streams and innovate the ways in which they do business. This is where the data delivered by IoT sensors and devices can really transform the bottom line. If translated, analysed and used correctly, the data can provide insights that allow for the executive to make informed decisions about sites, investment and potential.


“The cross-pollination of different data sets from across different sites can help shift dynamics in plant operation and maintenance, in the execution of specific tasks, and so much more,” says Bornheim. “In addition, with sensors and connected devices and systems, mining operations can be managed intelligently to ensure the best results from equipment and people.”

The connection of the physical world to the digital is not new. Many of the applications currently being used or presented to the mining industry are not new either. What’s new is how these solutions are being implemented and the ways in which they are defined. It’s more than sticking on sensors. It’s using these sensors to streamline business across buildings, roads, vehicles, equipment, and sites. These sensors and the ways in which they are used or where they are installed can be customised to suit specific business requirements.

“With qualified electronic engineers and software experts, you can design a vast array of solutions to meet the real needs of your business,” says Bornheim. “Our engineers can programme, create, migrate and integrate embedded IoT solutions for microcontrollers, sensors, and processors. They can also develop intuitive dashboards and human-machine interfaces for IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) devices to manage the input and output of a wide range of functionalities.”

The benefits of IoT lie in its ubiquity. It can be used in tandem with artificial intelligence or machine learning systems to enhance analytics, improve the automation of basic processes and monitor systems and equipment for faults. It can be used alongside M2M applications to enhance the results and the outcomes of the systems and their roles. And it can be used to improve collaboration and communication between man, machine and mine.

“You can use IoT platforms to visualise mission-critical data for device monitoring, remote control, alerts, security management, health and safety and healthcare,” concludes Bornheim. “The sky is genuinely the limit, especially now that the cost of sensors has come down and the intelligence of solutions and applications has gone up. From real-time insights to hands-on security and safety alerts to data that changes business direction and focus, IoT brings a myriad of benefits to the table.”

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Oracle leads in clash of
e-commerce titans

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Three e-commerce platforms have been awarded “gold medals” for leading the way in customer experience. SoftwareReviews, a division of Info-Tech Research Group, named Oracle Commerce Cloud the leader in its 2020 eCommerce Data Quadrant Awards, followed by Shopify Plus and IBM Digital Commerce. The awards are based on user reviews. 
The three vendors received the following citations:

  • Oracle Commerce Cloud ranked highest among software users, earning the number-one spot in many of the product feature section areas, shining brightest in reporting and analytics, predictive recommendations, order management, and integrated search. 
  • Shopify Plus performed consistently well according to users, taking the number-one spot for catalogue management, shopping cart management and ease of customisation.
  • IBM Digital Commerce did exceptionally well in business value created, quality of features, and vendor support.

The SoftwareReviews Data Quadrant differentiates itself with insightful survey questions, backed by 22 years of research in IT. The study involves gathering intelligence on user satisfaction with both product features and experience with the vendor. When distilled, the customer’s experience is shaped by both the software interface and relationship with the vendor. Evaluating enterprise software along these two dimensions provides a comprehensive understanding of the product in its entirety and helps identify vendors that can deliver on both for the complete software experience.

“Our recent Data Quadrant in e-commerce solutions provides a compelling snapshot of the most popular enterprise-ready players, and can help you make an informed, data-driven selection of an e-commerce platform that will exceed your expectations,” says Ben Dickie, research director at Info-Tech Research Group. 

“Having a dedicated e-commerce platform is where the rubber hits the road in transacting with your customers through digital channels. These platforms provide an indispensable array of features, from product catalog and cart management to payment processing to detailed transaction analytics.”

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