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From space to sport: SA engineers redefine golf

South African innovators use radar in a world-first to transform a R200-billion industry

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The golfing industry, a $US13.4 billion market according to the 2019 World Golf Report, has undergone significant shifts in design thinking and player engagement. Golfing estates and institutions have been looking for intelligent technology platforms that enhance the golfing experience as these have become the definitive marker by which leading clubs are measured.  In South Africa, the engineers that developed the most sensitive radio astronomy receiver in the world for the MeerKAT and the Square Kilometre Array, have turned their expertise towards this popular sport, creating a distributed radar system designed to accurately track balls across the range and the field. The solution, Inrange, has already been successfully installed at Greenwich Peninsula Driving Range in London, the busiest range in the country, at the Flying Tee and at the Leadbetter Academy World Headquarters in Orlando, Florida. 

The core members of the team from EMSS Antennas, of the Alphawave group, applied their skills to the development of Inrange, an intelligent technology platform designed to enhance the golf experience through gamification and smart tracking. Inrange is an advanced system designed to pull together the threads of innovation, technology and sporting expertise into an immersive experience that appeals to all levels of golfing player, from newbie to professional. 

“Technology, designed specifically to enhance the golfing experience and improver player capabilities, is now providing players across all ages and abilities with rich insights into their performance,” says Nick Longley, Co-Founder, Inrange. “Players can use the data provided by this technology to track how they are playing, identify what they are doing right, and optimise their skills for on-course performance. They have access to information that allows them to refine their skills whether or not they are professional players or people looking to improve their game. Smart technology allows for players to enjoy purpose-driven practice that challenges their skills and their experience.”

For the golfing courses and estates, it’s a constant challenge to meet the entertainment needs of a sophisticated and dynamic audience that wants golfing experiences that go beyond just the average. This is being driven not only by tech innovators but by a growing demand from players to have access to intelligent technologies that add an edge to, or increase their enjoyment of, the game.

“The leading golf courses and driving ranges want to create purpose-built facilities that cater for the needs of their diverse client base to ensure they stay relevant and that they provide quantified experiences to their members and players,” says Longley. “They want the best possible technology that delivers market-leading tracking capabilities but that also allows for them to gamify the experience.”

Gamification has long been a trending term in the sporting industry. It’s the ability to blend technology and physical sport into a uniquely challenging experience that can enhance the potential of players across all levels. On one hand, gamification is designed to bring in a new market of players, the younger and less entrenched players who want something fun and less serious than how golf has been traditionally presented. Solutions such as Inrange offer a new user experience that courses and driving ranges can use to attract the millennial, experience driven market, allowing them to compete against one another in hitting targets, completing tasks or achieving specific goals.  It shifts the dynamic of golf to one that can be enjoyed as a night or day out with friends and that can be enjoyed by players of all ages and skills.

“On the other hand, an enhanced, tracked experience allows the keen and professional player to refine their performance within tightly managed metrics,” adds Longley. “They can use the technology to customised the range experience bringing purpose to their practice and allow them to easily answer the question – how did I play today? This is available to runners and cyclists and with Inrange, it is now available to golfers at an Inrange enabled range.”

Inrange uses ultra-sensitive radar sensors alongside in-app data and insights powered by the technology’s unique algorithm. The Inrange handicap dynamically calculates player performance, and it gives them the information they need to practice with purpose. The app, designed specifically for the golf driving ranges, includes numerous challenges to gamify practice sessions and the ability for each and every player to be scored with the Inrange Range Handicap. With the addictive gamification and progress tracking, the platform is designed to create immersive golfing experiences that bring players back, time and again. Already, market leading clubs such as Greenwich Peninsula Driving Range and Flying Tee in the United States, have implemented the solution with noticeable consumer uptake, and currently Inrange is being installed at the David Leadbetter Academy world headquarters in Orlando, Florida.

“Inrange caters to the keen golfer, the social player and the expert,” says Longley. “It instantly adds an edge to the golfing experience. It provides a blend of technology and play that not only enhances performance, but gives ranges the ability to offer the best of both worlds to all golfers of every calibre.”

Alphawave, the South African company behind the highly successful EMSS Antennas, has been involved in high-tech products in the specialised antenna and radar applications market for more than 20 years. Already the company has developed solutions for organisations such as Boeing, DaimlerChrysler and NASA, and continues to develop solutions that lead the way on the global stage.

Inrange is a globally successful brand that has already achieved recognition in leading golfing establishments in Europe, the United Kingdom and the USA.

“Alphawave has been involved with high-tech products in the specialised antenna and radar applications market for more than 20 years,” concludes Frans Meyer, CEO of the Alphawave Group. “Our engineers developed the Inrange distributed radar system for accurately tracking the balls at golf driving ranges and has showcased how our local expertise can drive fundamental innovation and change on the global stage. It also demonstrates how South African skills and capabilities have the potential to revolutionise markets and redefine sporting parameters.”

For further information visit www.alphawave.co.za

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Building Africa’s Century

The 4th industrial revolution will be on the agenda of this week’s Gartner IT Symposium in Cape Town. Doug Woolley, GM of Dell Technologies South Africa, ponders its meaning for Africa

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Is this Africa’s Century, as President Cyril Ramaphosa said at the recent WEF on Africa gathering? I believe so. The event made solid headway in charting a course forward for African-centric solutions to our challenges. 

Technology featured often in discussions and the 4th Industrial Revolution was a central theme. Many of the outcomes also tied to a more connected digital world. But those are the broad strokes. What happens next?

An important avenue can be found in all the individual investments made inside societies, such as broadband. The spread of connectivity is in part due to telecommunications firms being mandated by the Government to reach rural and under-serviced communities. But the major momentum behind broadband stems from demand. From individuals to enterprises, a hungry broadband market has helped South Africa become much more connected.

This paradigm applies to other technology investments as well. All of them add up to support the ideas and advancements that were discussed at WEF on Africa. The need for better services and performance through technology stokes the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s engine. Every network, every datacentre, every smartphone is a piece of the puzzle that will create Africa’s Century.

We are further along the curve than most people realise. If I can judge a country’s potential based on how digitally mature its organisations are, then South Africa is not in bad shape. Earlier this year, the annual Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Index ranked South Africa in the top ten, ahead of most developed nations. The investments made by the Public and Private sectors are taking root. 

It may not make headlines, but all these individual ambitions pointing in the same direction are building the change we all want to see.

This brings me to the Gartner IT Symposium Xpo, the business-technology event taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 16 to 18 September. If WEF on Africa challenged for solutions at a high level, then the Gartner Symposium is where those individual investments come into play.

The nitty-gritty of the 4IR era will be on the Symposium agenda. Research by World Wide Worx on the uptake of 4IR technologies among South African enterprises will be presented tomorrow (Tuesday) by one of the company’s data analysts, Bryan Turner.

I also anticipate discussions about multi-cloud. Cloud has grown tremendously as African organisations saw the progress that came with investing in it, connectivity and data – the core ingredients of the 4IR era. Now they are looking ahead to what can be done next: that multi-cloud is on the agenda shows how Africa’s technology capability is growing.

Unified workspaces will be another good conversation topic. What happens in the office doesn’t stay in the office. Our technology habits follow us home and, more often, our home habits follow us to the office. This makes perfect sense, because 4IR is primarily about people being empowered by technology. Our workplace technology habits are microcosms of our overall use of technology.

Multi-cloud is the ‘infrastructure’ of the 4IR conversation and the workplace is where these technologies deliver some of their value. Considerable buzz is growing around unified workspaces, which make office environments more manageable and secure while reshaping them to fit the needs of modern employees.

Stop by the Dell Technologies stand and see how we’re helping create that momentum with multi-cloud, unified workspaces and through many other channels, including skills development and supporting SMMEs to grow.

How do we create Africa’s Century? Through those individual investments that collectively stoke the engines of our country and continent. It’s not just for the big players: 4IR can provide for every organisation regardless of size. Those investments are investments in the future of Africa.

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PayPal pictures how the future will be won – or lost

By AAYUSH SINGHANIA, director of Commercial Operations for PayPal Cross-Border Trade Markets

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There’s no doubt that technology has already re-shaped the way the world thinks about buying and selling. Who would have thought twenty years ago that people would be shopping on their phones?

Despite the huge changes to the shopping experience in recent years, it’s important to understand that we are only part-way through this journey. We are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, and as technologies continue to advance, and we as a society adapt our behaviours, new opportunities and risks will present themselves to merchants of all sizes.

Here is where I see the future of commerce being won and lost, as we continue on this technology journey:

Meeting ever-increasing demand for personalised experiences

We’ve already witnessed the transition of commerce from brick and mortar to the web, and then from the web to mobile. The next phase of internet-connected devices will make commerce even more contextual whereby anything you can interact with can be a platform for commerce. Imagine being able to point your phone at your best friend’s shoes, and almost instantly they are in your shopping cart, ready to be delivered to your home?

Mobile has already made shopping an “all the time” activity and has given us a taste of what it’s like to have hyper-personalised experiences. While a consumer walking into a retail store is limited by physical space, the online world offers an unlimited shelf for merchants to deliver tailored customer experiences. Looking ahead, innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning hold great promise to further deliver on this hyper-personalisation, by being able to learn about who a consumer really is as a person and their individual preferences.

As a result of this evolution, customers have moved from being surprised and delighted by personalised experiences to expect them in every context. Many customers, for example, now get frustrated when they receive advertisements for products that they’ve already bought, or have no interest in. This shift has made it critical for merchants to avoid delivering homogenous experiences to shoppers who demand personalised interactions across all contexts. In doing so, it’s important that merchants find a balance between personalising their offerings and ensuring consumers don’t feel their privacy is being invaded. Shoppers want to feel like a brand understands them, but isn’t stalking them, particularly in the wake of several high-profile data breaches.

Closing the consumer fulfilment gap to deliver seamless experiences

With new advancements in technology comes the ability to create seamless customer experiences that narrow the gap between customer desire and fulfilment. Gone are the days where shoppers decided to purchase an item and they were happy to wait a week to receive it – for many, two-day shipping still isn’t quick enough. The invention of the internet meant people could shop from home, and recently we’ve seen this evolve further where consumers prefer to shop on-the-go via mobile.

The big question is, what’s next? We’re already seeing the growth of commerce through technologies like AI-enabled voice assistants and virtual reality, so it’s critical that merchants keep pace with innovations that enable them to close the gap between desire and purchase in a delightful way.

At the end of the day, businesses need to remember that the act of filling up a cart and the process of checking out is not the fun part of making a purchase – these are points of friction – and technology is the answer to removing these frustrations for customers.

Managing customer reactions to technology disruption

Every tech disruption in its early days delivers excitement, fear, anxiety and doubt – not necessarily in that order. We all go through a phase of tech humanisation, because technology grows as we do – and we help shape the development of new solutions.

Technology has been used for good and bad, and technology that causes eye-raising experiences at the start will generally normalise in time. Remember the first video cameras on phones? As people learned how to use the technology, content got posted that shouldn’t have. Everything from the telephone, to radio and the television all caused concern and were initially criticised when first introduced to the public, but with time they’ve become part of our everyday lives.  As technology evolves, companies learn from it, and the acceptance and humanisation of technology will take place for both consumers and merchants as new innovations are applied to the world of commerce.

Merchants need to have a mindset that’s focused on being a customer champion, while recognising that customers need to adapt to new technologies in their own time. To do this, businesses must leverage technology to build the right features that aren’t intrusive, but geared towards helping people, and respect the customer’s choice to turn technology on or off.

Technology innovation will continue to re-shape commerce in the years ahead, with the potential to deliver new growth opportunities for merchants, and offering customers more choice, convenience, value and instant gratification. In a broader sense, these innovations can also help promote employment by breaking down traditional barriers to buying and selling. For merchants, the opportunities will arise, they just have to know how to take advantage of them in the right way.

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