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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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Seedstars seeks tech to reverse land degradation in Africa

A new partnership is offering prizes to young entrepreneurs for coming up with innovations that tackle the loss of arable land in Africa.

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The DOEN Foundation has joined forces with Seedstars, an emerging market startup community, to launch the DOEN Land Restoration Prize, which showcases solutions to environmental, social and financial challenges that focus on land restoration activities in Africa. Stichting DOEN is a Dutch fund that supports green, socially-inclusive and creative initiatives that contribute to a better and cleaner world.

While land degradation and deforestation date back millennia, industrialization and a rising population have dramatically accelerated the process. Today we are seeing unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land at 30 to 35 times the historical rate.

Currently, nearly two-thirds of Africa’s land is degraded, which hinders sustainable economic development and resilience to climate change. As a result, Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of any continent: more than 700 million hectares (1.7 billion acres) of degraded forest landscapes that can be restored. The potential benefits include improved food and water security, biodiversity protection, climate change resilience, and economic growth. Recognizing this opportunity, the African Union set an ambitious target to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.

Land restoration is an urgent response to the poor management of land. Forest and landscape restoration is the process of reversing the degradation of soils, agricultural areas, forests, and watersheds thereby regaining their ecological functionality. According to the World Resources Institute, for every $1 invested in land restoration it can yield $7-$30 in benefits, and now is the time to prove it.

The winner of the challenge will be awarded 9 months access to the Seedstars Investment Readiness Program, the hybrid program challenging traditional acceleration models by creating a unique mix to improve startup performance and get them ready to secure investment. They will also access a 10K USD grant.

“Our current economic system does not meet the growing need to improve our society ecologically and socially,” says Saskia Werther, Program Manager at the DOEN Foundation. “The problems arising from this can be tackled only if a different economic system is considered. DOEN sees opportunities to contribute to this necessary change. After all, the world is changing rapidly and the outlines of a new economy are becoming increasingly clear. This new economy is circular and regenerative. Landscape restoration is a vital part of this regenerative economy and social entrepreneurs play an important role to establish innovative business models to counter land degradation and deforestation. Through this challenge, DOEN wants to highlight the work of early-stage restoration enterprises and inspire other frontrunners to follow suit.”

Applications are open now and will be accepted until October 15th. Startups can apply here: http://seedsta.rs/doen

To enter the competition, startups should meet the following criteria:

  • Existing startups/young companies with less than 4 years of existence
  • Startups that can adapt their current solution to the land restoration space
  • The startup must have a demonstrable product or service (Minimum Viable Product, MVP)
  • The startup needs to be scalable or have the potential to reach scalability in low resource areas.
  • The startup can show clear environmental impact (either by reducing a negative impact or creating a positive one)
  • The startup can show a clear social impact
  • Technology startups, tech-enabled startups and/or businesses that can show a clear innovation component (e.g. in their business model)

Also, a specific emphasis is laid, but not limited to: Finance the restoration of degraded land for production and/or conservation purposes; big data and technology to reverse land degradation; resource efficiency optimization technologies, ecosystems impacts reduction and lower carbon emissions; water-saving soil technologies; technologies focused on improving livelihoods and communities ; planning, management and education tools for land restoration; agriculture (with a focus on precision conservation) and agroforestry; clean Energy solutions that aid in the combat of land degradation; and responsible ecotourism that aids in the support of land restoration.

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The dark side of apps

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Mobile device security threats are on the rise and it’s not hard to see why. In 2019 the number of worldwide mobile phone users is forecast to reach 4.68 billion of which 2.7 billion are smartphone users. So, if you are looking for a target, it certainly makes sense to go where the numbers are. Think about it, unsecured Wi-Fi connections, network spoofing, phishing attacks, ransomware, spyware and improper session handling – mobile devices make for the perfect easy target. In fact, according to Kaspersky, mobile apps are often the cause of unintentional data leakage.

“Apps pose a real problem for mobile users, who give them sweeping permissions, but don’t always check security,” says Riaan Badenhorst, General Manager for Kaspersky in Africa. “These are typically free apps found in official app stores that perform as advertised, but also send personal – and potentially corporate – data to a remote server, where it is mined by advertisers or even cybercriminals. Data leakage can also happen through hostile enterprise-signed mobile apps. Here, mobile malware uses distribution code native to popular mobile operating systems like iOS and Android to spread valuable data across corporate networks without raising red flags.”

In fact, according to recent reports, 6 Android apps that were downloaded a staggering 90 million times from the Google Play Store were found to have been loaded with the PreAMo malware, while another recent threat saw 50 malware-filled apps on the Google Play Store infect over 30 million Android devices. Surveillance malware was also loaded onto fake versions of Android apps such as Evernote, Google Play and Skype.

Considering that as of 2019, Android users were able to choose between 2.46 million apps, while Apple users have almost 1.96 million app options to select from, and that the average person has 60-90 apps installed on their phone, using around 30 of them each month and launching 9 per day – it’s easy to see how viral apps take several social media channels by storm.

“In this age where users jump onto a bandwagon because it’s fun or trendy, the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) can overshadow basic security habits – like being vigilant on granting app permissions,” says Bethwel Opil, Enterprise Sales Manager at Kaspersky in Africa. “In fact, accordingly to a previous Kaspersky study, the majority (63%) of consumers do not read license agreements and 43% just tick all privacy permissions when they are installing new apps on their phone. And this is exactly where the danger lies – as there is certainly ‘no harm’ in joining online challenges or installing new apps.”

However, it is dangerous when users just grant these apps limitless permissions into their contacts, photos, private messages, and more. “Doing so allows the app makers possible, and even legal, access to what should remain confidential data. When this sensitive data is hacked or misused, a viral app can turn a source into a loophole which hackers can exploit to spread malicious viruses or ransomware,” adds Badenhorst. 

As such, online users should always have their thinking caps on and be more careful when it comes to the internet and their app habits including:

  • Only download apps from trusted sources. Read the reviews and ratings of the apps as well
  • Select apps you wish to install on your devices wisely
  • Read the license agreement carefully
  • Pay attention to the list of permissions your apps are requesting. Only give apps permissions they absolutely insist on, and forgo any programme that asks for more than necessary
  • Avoid simply clicking “next” during an app installation
  • For an additional security layer, be sure to have a security solution installed on your device

“While the app market shows no signs of slowing down, it is changing,” says Opil. “Consumers download the apps they love on their devices which in turn gives them access to content that is relevant and useful. The future of apps will be in real-world attribution, influenced by local content and this type of tailored in-app experience will lead consumers to share their data more willing in a trusted, premium app environment in exchange for more personalised experiences. But until then, proceed with caution.”

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