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How tech will save you from the zombie apocalypse

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What the world would look like if it faced a zombie apocalypse from a digital standpoint? Lee Naik, MD at Accenture Digital for South Africa hypothesises.

What would you do if you were faced with a zombie apocalypse? With the popularity of fiction like The Walking Dead and World War Z, it’s become something of an internet cliché to imagine how you would survive if you were faced with a horde of brain-eaters at your door one day.

It’s a fun exercise, but I find it to be a little pointless. Not because a zombie apocalypse might never happen – sometimes when I look around my neighbourhood, I’m convinced it’s already started – but because we have the technology in place to prevent it from spiralling out of control in the first place.

Don’t believe me? Let’s strap on our weapons and take a journey through your typical zombie apocalypse.

The virus emerges

It starts slowly. One night, there is a report in the news about some isolated cases of a strange virus that keeps the brain alive after death. Before you know it, pockets of infection are popping up all over the place and an epidemic is well and truly underway.

In the prequel series Fear the Walking Dead, this scenario snowballs into a full-blown zombie epidemic. In real life, it’s unlikely we’d get taken by surprise, as the top minds would be closely monitoring the outbreak in real time.

Just take the West African Ebola outbreak, which saw the CDC use analytics to anticipate where the disease was likely to spread. Anyone who travelled by airplane during that time will also remember the screening processes in place at airports to detect potential Ebola carriers. Similarly, with the zombie virus, technologies like advanced video screening would be able to better identify potential infected individuals at airports and bus stops, preventing a global spread.

Walkers at your door? There’s an app for that

You typically wouldn’t see a cellphone in a zombie movie, but in the real world, mobile devices, not machetes, would make for the best weapons against the undead. You can bet that the dead rising would be a main topic of conversation on social media, making it the most effective platform to educate, inform and gather data on the threat.

The likes of Facebook Safety Check and Google Person Finder would certainly take centre stage, and a range of other digital tools would doubtlessly emerge in response to the new problems. Imagine a mobile app like Waze for zombies, using crowd-sourced information to pinpoint the safest route to take home. Or a Tinder for survivors, letting you meet up in safe places and send out a request for a rescue.

It’s not nearly as farfetched as it sounds. The CDC already uses social media to educate people on emergency preparedness and WHO has created apps to help fight Zika, Dengue Fever and other tropical diseases.

What’s more, the amount of real-time data that would pass through social media would be invaluable in detecting and stopping the spread. Governments are already exploring how to use data from Facebook and Twitter to predict flu outbreaks.

Zombie-proof societies

As we can see, data is key to preventing us from descending into our own World War Z. And, as the internet of things takes hold in our society, the chances of a zombie apocalypse affecting us will become even more minuscule.

Take the hordes themselves, one of the most dangerous aspects of any zombie apocalypse as The Walking Dead shows? Here, we could use geospatial mapping to predict their movements. In our zombie-style IoT, drones could go around following hordes and tracking their movements, in order to warn areas in danger of being overrun.

Okay, so we’ve successfully prevented the downfall of society and ensured that casualties are minimal. But how do we get rid of the zombie virus once and for all? Here’s where wearables could shine.

It’s not exactly easy to gather patient data on a person threatening to turn into a shambling zombie at any second. But should people already have some sort of healthcare monitoring device on them before they’re bitten, real-time data would be made available to researchers without putting anyone else in danger.

Our hypothetical zombie apocalypse scenario clearly has a lot of lessons to offer around healthcare and disaster management. But any enterprise can use the same digital-first mindset to tackle their own metaphorical hordes. Zombies may be a threat, but their ultimate defeat comes from identifying and adapting to their patterns of behaviour. The same is true for any business threat, whether it’s diminishing revenue or lack of innovation.

What are the zombies facing your organisation? And how can you use digital to prevent your own apocalypse?

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AppDate: Prepare for space

In this week’s AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights Space Nation Navigator, Hitman Sniper, Snake Mask, Memrise, WhatsApp Web, and Carrot Weather.

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Space Nation Navigator

Space Nation Navigator is a bit of a strange app. It is part game, part exercise and part educational. On the game side, users have to navigate the Mars Rover, put the International Space Station back into orbit or move their Martians to safety before a sand storm hits Mars. When it comes to exercise, Space Nation Navigator provides users with a range of exercises and Yoga videos to prepare them for space travel and working in an anti-gravity environment. The education aspect teaches users about the planets, and star constellations, and then offers quizzes on what has been taught.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Memrise

Memrise takes a new approach to help people learn new languages. Instead of providing a user with random phrases and words to memorise, the app connects you with a person already fluent in the language you want to learn. In turn, the person you are speaking to wants to learn the language in which you are fluent. Once your profile is filled out and languages selected, it connects you with people around the world who are interested in your language, and then allows you to chat with them in real-time. Memrise also lets one learn new languages through games, chatbots and grammarbots that help with spelling, tenses and pronunciations.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Hitman Sniper

Hitman Sniper is loosely based on the Agent 47 movie released a few years ago. The game offers players the ability to hone their shooting skills through a range of training courses and, once they think they are ready, they can start taking out the bad guys. Things start off easy enough, but they get more and more difficult as one progresses through the 150 missions on offer. One will also have to upgrade various gun components, like scopes, magazine capacities and silencers, to make the missions a little easier. Hitman Sniper lets users buy 16 to tackle each of the missions – either with real money or via the points accumulated by completing missions. Money and points can also be used to upgrade firearms.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: R7 – with a range of in-app purchases.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Snake Mask

The iconic Snake game that was preinstalled on most older Nokia phones has had a complete make-over. It now uses Facebook’s AR technology, meaning that you have to navigate the snake around obstacles in your home or office, all the while collecting coins and stars that change the snake’s speed and length. Unfortunately, Snake Mask is only available on Nokia’s new range of smartphones. However, it should not take long before it slithers onto other devices.

 

Platform: New Nokia smartphones running Android.

Cost: Free to use through the Facebook app installed on the device.

Stockists: Available through the Facebook app.

 

WhatsApp Web

Although this is by no means a new app, it is an extremely useful one, and one that not many people know about. Tapping out WhatsApps on your phone is easy enough, but thanks to WhatsApp Web it can be even easier. Open the WhatApp Web page under WhatsApp and you will see a QR code. Scan this code through WhatsApp on your mobile and you will be shown a replica of what you would normally see on your phone. You can then type and reply to messages using your computer instead of having to stop everything and unlock your phone every time a message comes through. WhatsApp Web is great if you share your computer with other people as it automatically disconnects when the browser is closed. However WhatsApp also offers an app that when installed will stay connected to your phone unless you manually remove it.

 

Platform: Any up-to-date Internet browser

Cost: Free to use and install

Stockists: Visit www.WhatsApp.com

 

Carrot Weather

There are thousands of weather apps on the Internet these days and all of them do the same thing – inform you of the weather in your area. However, Carrot Weather has taken what is just another app and turned it into something fun. By fun, I mean sarcastic, rude and completely politically incorrect. A user starts off by selecting religious and political views. It then asks about personality, ranging from friendly to homicidal to overkill – which includes profanity. So, for instance, instead of waking up to to the standard partly cloudy forecast, Carrot Weather will display something like: “It’s only partly sunny, the sun is a total effing failure.” It also has a range of insults that it throws at you whenever you open the app – some of them downright insulting, so it is definitely not for those who are easily offended. The app’s user interface is very simple, displaying a week’s daily forecast and hourly forecasts for the day selected.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: Free to download but with adverts. The premium, advert free version costs R12 per month.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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SA Start-up reinvents PABX

For any South African business, the idea of setting up or changing a telephonic switchboard system is the stuff of nightmares. Dealing with expensive hardware and hearing things like QSIG and VOIP is not what you’d call exciting.But now there is an app.

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Enter BuzzBox (www.buzzboxcloud.co.za), a web-based telephone switchboard that is aimed at small and medium sized businesses wanting to take the hassle and cost out of the company switchboard. Whether you are a small one-man operation or a larger organisation with staff working remotely, BuzzBox is the best switchboard solution.

What sets BuzzBox apart from anything else on the market is its easy-to-use dashboard. It puts you in control of everything from picking your phone number to setting up voice prompts and managing your business-hours schedule.

BuzzBox was developed when the startup behind it, Jini-Guru, needed such a service for its own use across multiple continents. “When we started Jini-Guru we could not find a seamless online process that would allow us to set up a full web-based switchboard, so we decided to build one for ourselves,” says Mike Smits, Director at Jini-Guru.

He says a lot of startups today are tech savvy and know how to use apps and the services that go with it. “It’s the uberisation of services and its driving demand for instant service activation.”

BuzzBox works as an app on both iOS and Android but users wanting a desk phone option can choose from a variety of devices on offer or use their existing VOIP phones.

Setting up a BuzzBox account takes 5 minutes. During registration your FICA documents are uploaded [ID and proof or residence] and you get to pick your phone number before the account is created. Companies that want to keep an existing number can do so too.

The real magic happens when you log on to the BuzzBox Dashboard. The main screen displays a summary of statistics for your account while the left-hand menu provides you quick access to various configuration settings and reports.

Setting up new extensions or external numbers is done with a few clicks and you can even set up various departments which is a great way to route a call to various people in a department, like sales or support.

The intuitive user interface also makes it easy to set up hold-music and voice prompts. You can add voice prompts by recording them straight to your phone, just make sure you use a clear voice with quiet surroundings for the best customer experience.

One of the main features of BuzzBox is its call recording feature that allows an organisation to record calls for legislative purposes, such as a lawyer, or for customer service purposes such as support. Recordings are stored securely online, and you have the ability to download recordings for playback. Companies can opt-in for this service and it’s free to use. Recordings are stored online and are fully encrypted so only you can listen to, or download them. Storage costs R1 for every 1000 minutes of stored recordings.

Other features include call forwarding and scheduling. The latter allows you to set office hours for your organisation which will divert calls to an after-hours messaging service. You also have the option to enable routing to an employee who is on call after hours.

BuzzBox also has a reseller program for companies wanting to offer this as a switchboard solution to their existing customers.

The costs for this service is R89 p/m for the first phone number which includes your first extension for free. Thereafter you’ll pay R89p/m per extension. Calls between extensions are free but you pay per second for all outgoing phone calls. More info on pricing can be found here: https://buzzboxcloud.co.za/pricing/

BuzzBox is offering a Launch promotion where they are offering the first line and extension free for 12 months. Only pay for calls. Use promo code “feoifyaa” during sign-up to apply your discount.

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