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How comms service providers can fight back

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The competitive landscape for communications service providers is shifting. With barriers to entry collapsing, a new class of digital competitor is leveraging scale to spend far more than traditional providers, says PETER SINCLAIR, MD for Communications, Media and Technology at Accenture.

For example, one of the leading Over The Top (OTT) providers of streaming video spends more than 20 times as much on customer recommendations as the average Pay TV provider, and has roughly five times more resources who describe their roles as primarily dedicated to customer experience and user interface (UI). These digital disruptors have established a new standard of simplicity for the customer experience and a rate of new feature introduction that incumbents in both communications and media are struggling to match.

In seeking to fight back, CSPs have so far found it difficult to convert incumbency into an advantage. Their traditional approaches to revenue growth are no longer sufficient – the commoditised core of their business is not generating adequate returns and their legacy operating as well as technology models are highly siloed, proving to be unscalable. Meanwhile, a “me too” approach to digital initiatives has been insufficient to offset an ongoing, progressive reduction in customer stickiness and loyalty.

The good news for CSPs is that they now can take advantage of the emergence of a new, exciting world of living services, starting with services to the home, that is creating new ecosystem value chains and new potential for profitable revenue growth. “Smart home” technology uptake has been slowly building over the last few years, with early-adopter consumers introducing elements such as connected security, smart thermostats and voice activation systems into their homes.

 

Now, however, such services are simply “aggregated,” rather than truly integrated. In other words, consumers are engaging with each home device and application separately, using one company for broadband/TV, another for connected security, and other providers for other services.

 

Accenture believes this tendency toward aggregation is unlikely to persist. Instead, consumer mass market uptake and ease of use for the smart home will be driven through integration: by bringing together everything consumers need – including traditionally operated delivered services, such as broadband and TV, as well as newer smart home services – via one platform, with fully integrated, highly personalised service.

 

The demand is certainly there: Accenture research found that 80 percent of consumers surveyed want a single provider for all their digital needs. Now, CSPs need to develop platform businesses and ecosystems that deliver everything their customers want together in one integrated offer. If CSPs can create the platform of choice for customers and third-party businesses alike, then the smart home opportunity will prove extremely fruitful.

 

CSPs’ knowledge of consumers offers significant advantages. The data available through the platform about consumer behaviour will enable CSPs to identify potential additional services, and to pass these vital insights onto service partners.

 

If they are to take advantage of the new hypergrowth markets that are available to them, CSPs who need to become platform-based digital service providers will need to:

  • Build exclusive control points on three levels: the devices, data, and the API gateway that enables the partner ecosystem, making possible a full portfolio of digital services.
  • Focus on building reach, versus Average Revenue Per User (ARPU), working across traditional boundaries and providing service subsidies, as needed. This means rethinking the traditional boundaries between “inside” and “outside” the home, and potentially departing from their legacy network footprint.
  • Use this reach, along with evolved platform capabilities, to onboard third-party service providers on an open API platform.
  • Trade reach for authentication to capitalise on their opportunities for monetising B2B data, insight and marketing capabilities.

In all of this, they will need to build their platform capabilities at web scale – global, efficient, and priced to compete – while at the same time, providing customer engagement that is truly differentiated. The offering starts with getting the in-home connectivity experience right, and migrating to the next-generation hub that will enable the smart home to take off. The key to success is for every part of this journey to be built from the customer perspective.

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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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