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How tech has taken printing into new era

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Printing technology has made significant strides in recent years. Designed to provide consumers with a more convenient, efficient, and eco-friendly user experience, the print industry is buzzing with the latest innovations, writes Timothy Thomas, Consumer Channel Sales Manager at Epson SA.

Technology is constantly evolving to meet growing market needs and improving how people accomplish tasks – whether at home or in the office – and the print industry is no exception. From systems designed to help users save money on monthly overheads, to innovative ideas that contribute towards a greener planet, printing technology has made significant strides in recent years. Here are just four innovations that have recently made a major impact on the printing industry.

  1. Ink tank technology – The introduction of ink tank technology caused a shift in the industry that saw printing for small or home-based business become a great deal more cost-efficient and eco-friendly. This ultra-low-cost printing solution is designed to increase print capacity without compromising on quality, with a variety of ink tank options available on the market. Epson, a leading tech brand across the globe, was the first to introduce its EcoTank ITS printers to South Africa in 2014.

The Epson EcoTank range reduces printing costs by up to 90%, and comes with up to three years’ worth of ink included in each box – that’s the equivalent of up to 60 cartridges worth of ink. With the innovative ink tank systems, users can print as much as 14,000 pages in black and white and 11,200 pages in colour before needing to refill. Users welcomed the move, particularly small business owners relying on bulk-printing solutions.

  1. The rise of 3D printing – Once people mastered the art of two-dimensional printing on flat sheets of paper, the next logical step was of course to create a way to bring those prints to life. Using raw materials such as plastic, metal and glass, 3D printers turn digital files containing 3D data into three-dimension renderings using an innovative ‘layering’ process.

The technology was first introduced in the early 1990s and intended mainly for commercial use, but 3D printers are becoming a lot more affordable to the mainstream market. While their uses are virtually endless, with applications from spare car parts made on demand and architectural design, home furniture, jewellery and novelty items, they could one day even drive the democratisation of industry and their full potential remains to be seen.

  1. Kinder to the environment – Whatever the scale of digital innovation, there will always be a need for hard copy prints in a variety of environments – whether it’s official documents in the workplace or photographs of your favourite family memories at home. However, there are ways to lessen the impact that printing has on the environment without having to do away with it completely.

For instance, the toner found in laser printers uses tiny plastic particles that are heated up to melting point, a process consuming considerable energy, and limits the recyclability of printed material. Ink tank systems are not only a cost-effective solution, but also help conserve the environment by utilising inks that are easy to break down in the recycling process.

In addition, innovative papermaking systems like Epson’s ‘PaperLab’ (not currently available in SA) allow businesses and government offices to recycle waste paper without using water[, where it would ordinarily require about a cup of water to make just a single A4 sheet of paper. The waterless system also allows businesses to produce paper of various sizes, thicknesses, colours and even scents on-site, optimising the paper delivery and purchasing process.

  1. Wi-Fi capabilityPrinters that allow users to connect and print wirelessly are by no means a revelation, but this functionality is still one of the biggest conveniences to happen within the industry. Considering the ubiquity of smart phones and other devices, not to mention the growth in popularity of platforms like Instagram, having a quick and convenient way to print straight from your device makes a world of difference, especially for the busy, on-the-go consumer.

Users can easily connect all their devices to a wireless printer without the use of pesky wires that get in the way, with the added benefit of being able to print from the next room or lounging by the pool across the country. For those who prefer having all their documents, pictures and even event tickets stored on their smart phones in the palm of their hands, wireless printing is one of the greatest innovations to hit the market.

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Showmax launches in Nigeria

Basketmouth and Bovi are the hosts of an exclusive Big Brother Naija recap show, Big Brother Naija Hot Room, as Showmax launches in Nigeria.

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Showmax has launched its video-on-demand service in Nigeria. The video streaming service features a dedicated slate of Nigerian TV shows and movies, international hit series, Hollywood blockbusters, and a Big Brother Naija partnership with live streaming and exclusive new BBNaija shows.

The launch brings two important firsts: the first time a wide range of popular Nigerian series can be binged from the beginning, and a partnership with Big Brother Naija featuring live streaming of the Sunday night evictions as well as two new BBNaija shows that are exclusive to Showmax. One of the new shows will be hosted by comedians Basketmouth and Bovi, who will provide commentary on happenings in the Big Brother Naija house.

“We’re aiming for the sweet spot that other services may have missed,” says Niclas Ekdahl, CEO of MultiChoice Group’s Connected Video division. “Taking a generic service and tacking on a few Nollywood movies won’t cut it, so we’re coming in with a strong mix of bang up-to-date Nigerian shows, international hits and favourites from across Africa, and now, as something completely new: on-demand and live Big Brother Naija content.”

Showmax will live-stream all Sunday eviction episodes of Big Brother Naija as well as the finale, and recordings of the nomination shows will be posted on Tuesdays. In addition to this, two brand-new shows, exclusive to Showmax, have been produced. Big Brother Naija Extra View is a 25-minute compilation of unseen footage and will be added to the site daily from Tuesday to Saturday. Big Brother Naija Hot Room is a 25-minute satirical commentary on the week’s main drama and action, hosted by legendary comedians Basketmouth and Bovi, with new episodes coming every Sunday evening ahead of the evictions.

The following shows will be added daily, as they air on Africa Magic channels, with all past episodes available to binge from the beginning:

– Tinsel, one of Nigeria’s longest running TV series and Africa Magic Viewers Choice Best Drama 2017

– The Johnsons, featuring City People Award winners Olumide Oworu and Charles Inojie

– My Flatmates, starring 2018 Savanna Pan-African Comic of the Year Basketmouth

The new Showmax service will feature hundreds of Nollywood movies and thousands of TV show episodes and Bollywood shows. Telenovelas will also be part of the lineup, as will hits from the rest of Africa like Kenya’s Supa Modo, winner of 50 international awards, and South Africa’s big Africa Movie Academy Awards winner Five Fingers For Marseilles

The lineup of international shows on the new service includes ChernobylVikingsPowerGame of ThronesTrue Detective (starring Mahershala Ali), InsecureBillions, Ballers, and Luther (starring Nigerian BAFTA winner Wunmi Mosaku opposite Idris Elba). The latest episodes of Big Little Lies are added weekly.

There’s also a major focus on kids, with shows like Paw PatrolPJ Masks, and Doc McStuffins.

To get Showmax, visit www.showmax.com. Showmax has a risk-free trial: once signed up, cancel within the first 14 days and pay nothing. Once the 14-day free trial is over, the cost is N2,900 per month.

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Want a competitive edge? Unlock your business data

By Dr YUDHVIR SEETHARAM, head of analytics, insights and research for FNB Business

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The businesses which will be able to count themselves amongst the most successful in the coming years will be those that have succeeded in fully harnessing the power of data. But while you’d be hard pressed to find many businesses that are not currently building or acquiring systems and technical resources aimed at unlocking the value of data, the same priority does not appear to have been given to embedding data-driven organisational cultures.

This failure to focus on culture in parallel with technology not only reveals a lack of understanding of the symbiotic nature of the relationship between the two, but also presents a real risk that the massive investments being made into data might not deliver the returns that companies are hoping for.

The problem lies in the fact that while data analytics and processing are relatively exact sciences, a data-driven culture is significantly more difficult to define. So while company owners, managers and executives may not be able to tell you exactly how data analysis works, they can tell you what they want to get out of it. The same isn’t true of their understanding of a data-driven culture, and so the creation of such a culture is either assigned a lower strategic priority, or simply handed off to the organisation’s Chief Technology Officer, Chief Data Officer or HR executive.

This approach is very unlikely to unlock the full value of being data driven. To do that, every person in the organisation has to recognise the importance of being fully data-driven as a competitive differentiator and embrace the need to build a data-driven culture within that organisation.

This is by no means a small ask. Apart from the significant challenges – both technical and human – that a business is bound to face en route to becoming truly data-driven, it’s likely that every person in a company has little to no idea of what the concept of ‘culture’ actually means in a company, let alone what a data-driven culture looks or feels like.

And that’s why the process of transforming a culture to be data driven must begin with the end in mind. That, of course, begs the question: What is a data-driven culture? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer as every business is different and will have different culture parameters. However, it is relatively safe to say that, irrespective of how businesses look or work, their data-driven cultures will have a few things in common.

For one, a data-driven culture will be built on the broad recognition of data as a vital, strategically essential business asset; one that allows the business to make well-considered decisions based on facts and figures rather than on intuition or past experience. Having a data-driven culture will also mean that the business fully recognises and embraces the ability of data and its application to empower all employees to perform their functions much more effectively. And lastly, a business will know that it has completed its transformation to a data-driven culture when it is able to identify and align its technical and business challenges and leverage data to solve both together.

When you consider these factors as characteristics of a data-driven culture, it becomes obvious that being data-driven is not solely a technical strategy. So, while it is important to recruit skilled and talented data scientists and technology professionals to give physical effect to the data-driven vision, trying to become data-driven in isolation from the business and all its other employees is almost certainly a recipe for failure. Which brings me to the second obvious question that will, or at least should, be asked by every business that wants to be able to unlock the full potential of data as a transformative, business building asset. And that is: How do we do it?

This, too, is a simple question without a simple answer. Most of the global organisations that are considered to have succeeded in becoming data driven still admit to being in the learning phase when it comes to embedding a data-driven culture. FNB is no exception. But we remain committed to the process and, I believe, have gained some valuable insights into the steps that businesses, and especially financial services organisations, need to take to move closer towards achieving a data-driven culture.

The first of these is to start by transforming thinking. You need to get the entire leadership body to commit to supporting and promoting a data-driven culture. Even if very few of them understand what that means, a good first step is to simply get board and executive management agreement to being willing to embrace a culture of openness and collaboration.

Then, with that leadership support, start to communicate with the entire organisation to create an understanding of the meaning and value of being data driven, both for the company and its employees and customers. Ultimately, any shift in culture is only possible when culture is mainstreamed. It cannot be the domain or responsibility of HR. So, an organised and strategic education campaign is essential to explain the benefits that embracing a data-driven culture will provide.

The next step is to commit to democratising data. When employees have access to data, its impact becomes obvious. Break down silos and protectionism. Make data, and its analyses, readily available, understandable, and transparent across the organization.

Obviously, it’s dangerous to just give everyone in the organisation unfettered access to all its data, since they probably don’t have the skills or tools to make use of that data. And that’s where the real culture shift happens, or must happen. Businesses need to focus on building collaborative, multi-functional teams. While tech experts may understand the technology and systems, data is first and foremost a business asset. So a data-driven culture has to be driven by the business. And since it’s unlikely that you’re going to find too many employees with a balanced combination of business and data skills, you need to build your data-driven culture on collaborative teams in which every team member is willing to acknowledge what he or she doesn’t know, and work closely with teammates that do. This approach should also inform all future recruitment decisions. In a data-driven culture, you don’t recruit just for a vacancy, you recruit to make teams stronger.

Finally, be patient. Changing a company’s culture takes time, effort and commitment. Even when the leadership sets the example, the shift only happens through organic growth and evolution.

Realise that there are legacies that have to be changed. The technology legacy systems are actually the easy part because you can throw money at those. But human legacies around how things have always been done in the past are much more difficult to shift. But it must be done, because it is impossible to change to a data-driven culture if all your people are not willing to recognise and embrace data as a key success facilitator.

While the need to build these types of data-driven cultures is becoming increasingly obvious, the unexpected, and valuable, side effect of achieving such a culture is that it has the potential to massively enhance employee morale and productivity. That’s not just because data-based decisions are infinitely more effective than those based on hunches. It’s also because employees grow as people when the work they do has meaning.

Data has the ability to quantify the impact that each employee is having on the customers and the business. And when staff see the tangible value of the contributions they are making, they become far more connected to the company values and their own professional goals, and the result is incremental improvements in personal performance and, of course, bottom-line results.

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