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How Dell backs the Boks

Dell Technologies signed a sponsorship deal with the Springbok team at its lowest ebb – but now reaps rewards far beyond the stunning World Cup victory

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The past year was an epic one for South Africa’s Springbok rugby team, crowned by the decisive defeat of England in the World Cup Final in Japan. It was not only about the victory, but also about the journey the team took from the depths of defeat. 

The entire story proved to be a massive and unexpected bonus for Dell Technologies, which signed a deal to sponsor the team at what seemed to be the worst possible time.

“When we signed this sponsorship, we just lost 57-0 to the All Blacks,” says Doug Woolley, general manager of Dell Technologies South Africa. “At Dell, we believe in human potential. This team demonstrated that in bucket loads.”

Supporting the team went beyond a logo on their kit. Dell was able to bring its expertise in modern systems to help make a tangible difference for the Springboks and the South African Rugby Union (SARU).

Games for the champs

Dell helped keep the Springboks entertained while they resided in Japan. Six Dell gaming laptops, complete with peripherals, were offered to the team. The original intent was to keep in touch with their families. But as it turned out, many of the champions are avid gamers as well.

“The team asked for ways to talk to their families back in South Africa, so we provided laptops that could deliver clear and reliable video conferencing,” says Chris Buchanan, client solutions director at Dell Technologies South Africa. “But then a second request came in: could these PCs play games as well? Some of the team love playing certain video games, so we packaged several high-end laptops. These are solid gaming machines and also ideal for watching movies or streaming content.”

Multi-purpose Inspiron G-series machines were bundled with peripherals, including headsets, gaming mice and gamepads. Team captain Siya Kolisi, along with teammates Damian de Allende, Elton Jantjies and Handré Pollard, collected the machines. Whether they shared with the other guys is a Springbok secret.

Modernising the game

The Springbok sponsorship also opened other doors of engagement, ones that might well impact the future of rugby in South Africa.

Sports teams across the world have been using digital technology to improve their odds of winning. The McLaren Formula 1 team partners with Dell to capture and analyse data from the cars. In a league where split-seconds can mean victory for finely-tuned machines and drivers, insights generated through modern technology have become crucial.

SARU staff are on the road often and rarely sit at a desk. They are more likely to be next to a sports field or in the thick of a training camp. The activities of coaches and players also generate a lot of information that can be captured and used intelligently. Though the union had invested in the appropriate software, their legacy infrastructure was not up to the task.

“SARU had some solutions: they had the software to do the job, but their computer infrastructure was not up to the task,” says Andrew Wardman, enterprise account manager at Dell Technologies South Africa. “They wanted to drive analytics and share those insights effectively. For example, the defence, tackling, and head coaches should all have the same data, accessible from devices in the field.”

The central vision at Dell is that technology helps drive human potential and must be deployed with that purpose as the outcome. This aligns with SARU’s vision, and an end-to-end digital strategy was formulated. The union’s servers were consolidated around PowerEdge R640 machines, and its data storage was centralised for easy access.

SARU generates a lot of high-fidelity data, including video recordings of matches and practice sessions – not only of the national Springbok team but others, such as the Sevens team and developmental events. The upgrades, which include Dell Latitude laptops for staff, make it possible to access and analyse data from matches and players. Now SARU can review plays more efficiently, track players, get information to trainers and gain that sliver of competitive edge that put the best ahead of the rest.

These improvements are just the start. SARU and Dell’s collaboration continues as they look at even more advanced developments for the team and sport.

“Seeing the team crowned as world champions was just the cherry on top,” says Woolley. “For us, it’s been an opportunity to work with some truly amazing human beings who are proud of their country. You can’t help but catch that spirit as well. They are transforming the country, and we’re humbled to be invited along to contribute what we can.”

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Alexa can now read all messages

For the first time, an Alexa skill is available that makes it possible to listen to any kind of message while driving

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For the first time, Alexa users can now hear all their messages and email read aloud.

Amazon’s Alexa has become a household name. The world’s most popular virtual assistant is getting smarter every day and now, with Amazon Echo Auto, it’s in cars too. 

“In today’s highly connected world, messaging in the form of emails, texts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and work channels like Slack, are integral to our daily routine,” says Barrie Arnold, chief revenue officer at ping. “However, distracted driving is responsible for more than 25% of car crashes and thousands of preventable fatalities every year.” 

ping, a specialist in voice technology founded by Arnold and South African Garin Toren, has developed a new Alexa skill as a companion to its patented smartphone app, that enables any message type to be read aloud. Designed for safety, productivity and convenience, “pingloud” is the first skill of its kind for keeping users connected when they need a hand or an extra pair of eyes.

“The ping Alexa skill is specifically designed to help drivers stay off their phones while giving them exactly what they want – access to their messages.” says Toren, ping CEO. 

Opening up Alexa to developers has resulted in an explosion of new skills available either for free or for a fee that unlocks premium services or features. These tools magnify the usefulness of Alexa devices beyond common tasks like asking for the weather, playing music or requesting help on a homework assignment. According to App Annie, the most downloaded apps in 2019 were Facebook Messenger, Facebook’s main app and WhatsApp, highlighting the importance of messaging. 

“The ping Android app is available worldwide from the Google Pay Store, reading all messages out loud in 30 languages,” says Toren. “The iOS version is in global beta testing with the US launch coming very soon.” 

Once you’ve signed up for ping, it takes a few seconds to link with Alexa, enabling all messages and emails to be read aloud by a smart speaker or Echo Auto device. Simply say, “Hey Alexa, open pingloud.” ping links an account to a voice profile so unauthorised users with access to the same Alexa cannot ask for the authorised user’s messages.

All major message types are supported, including Texts/SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Snapchat, Slack, Telegram, Twitter DM’s, Instagram, and all email types. Promotional and social emails are not read by default.

*For more information, visit www.pingloud.com

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Coronavirus to hit 5G

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Global 5G smartphone shipments are expected to reach 199 million units in 2020, after disruption caused by the coronavirus scare put a cap on sales forecasts, according to the latest research from Strategy Analytics.

Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “Global 5G smartphone shipments will grow more than tenfold from 19 million units in 2019 to 199 million in 2020. The 5G segment will be the fastest-growing part of the worldwide smartphone industry this year. Consumers want faster 5G smartphones to surf richer content, such as video or games. We forecast 5G penetration to rise from 1 percent of all smartphones shipped globally in 2019 to 15 percent of total in 2020.”

Ville-Petteri Ukonaho, Associate Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “China, United States, South Korea, Japan and Germany are by far the largest 5G smartphone markets this year. The big-five countries together will make up 9 in 10 of all 5G smartphones sold worldwide in 2020. However, other important regions, like India and Indonesia, are lagging way behind and will not be offering mass-market 5G for at least another year or two.”

Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “The global 5G smartphone industry is growing quickly, but the ongoing coronavirus scare and subsequent economic slowdown will put a cap on overall 5G demand this year. The COVID-19 outbreak is currently restricting smartphone production in Asia, disrupting supply chains, and deterring consumers from visiting retail stores to buy new 5G devices in some parts of China. The first half of 2020 will be much weaker than expected for the 5G industry, but we expect a strong bounce-back in the second half of the year if the coronavirus spread is brought under control.”

Exhibit 1: Global 5G Smartphone Shipments Forecast in 2020 1

Global Smartphone Shipments (Millions of Units)20192020
5G19199
Rest of Market13941165
Total14131364
 
Global Smartphone Shipments (% of Total)20192020
5G1%15%
Rest of Market99%85%
Total100%100%

Source: Strategy Analytics

The full report, Global Handset Sales for 88 Countries & 19 Technologies, is published by the Strategy Analytics Emerging Device Technologies (EDT) service, details of which can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/wep83gc.

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