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How to make cities smart – and sustainable

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When building sustainable cities, it is vital to first understand the difference between a smart city and a sustainable city, says MARK WALKER, associate vice-president of IDC sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and Turkey.

According to Mark Walker, associate vice-president of IDC sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and Turkey, a smart city can be defined as a city that is completely connected and where that connectivity is used to enhance communication, security, the movement and monitoring of people and interdepartmental communications to name a few. “It’s basically the Internet of Things as applied to a city,” he says. A sustainable city, on the other hand, implies that these elements are in place, that it continues and is not a once-off project.

 “The problem with the consequent smart city is that it requires many systems to be working together and often what happens is that ‘smart parts’ are implemented as point-in-time projects and they’re not sustainable,” says Walker. “A sustainable smart city is where the parts are ‘smart’, integrated and they continue working.”

He cites Nairobi as an example, where there is a smart city concept specifically around traffic management, but because it is not integrated with other parts of the city, it is not as effective as it could be, making the sustainability of the system questionable.

An integrated approach is crucial

For better understanding, Walker provides the example of the electricity billing process. “Similarly, when a city provides electricity to citizens, there are multiple players involved in the transaction. It is the electricity supplier, the consumer and the municipality involved. In a smart city, all the billing is connected and the consumption patterns are understood. So, if a person misses a payment, for instance, but their supply has been constant over time, the city can see that question why they haven’t paid and relate that back to consumption,” Walker says. He adds that active metering services would allow municipalities to be a lot more precise in terms of provisioning and managing electricity, enabling them to also detect fraud. “If people are compromising their meter to get free electricity, the city can detect major discrepancies in consumption. That’s an example of a smart city solution, but if there isn’t integration between the billing department at the municipality and the supplier, it can’t happen.”

Walker believes that while there is some level of awareness and understanding of the value of a smart city, poor execution and implementation is standing in the way of it becoming a reality, with the two biggest pitfalls being budget and political will. He says that Gauteng came close with the 2010 Soccer World Cup, but only on the aspect of security. “That was an example, to a degree, of how a smart city can work. There was an understanding of the ticket sales, where the people would be moving from time to time, which enabled the synchronisation of traffic flow and availability of services. This was as a result of coordination between government and the citizen and also with enterprise and making that work together. So, there’s an understanding of smart cities, but it is also limited. People get the picture and they like the picture, but the execution and the implementation are still a long way off.”

It’s a full-time responsibility

While both public and private sector have a role to play, solid planning is crucial to successful smart city implementation. “Ideally, it would be government-led or city-led, but that should be a specific responsibility and not a sub responsibility. It’s not a case of it just being a sub-set of the CIO or the City Manager’s responsibilities. There has to be a person with serious decision-making power to drive the project and this person has to be able to work across various functions within the city to ensure all the elements are brought together from ICT to logistics, from process to people. A smart city is a much broader discussion than just technology.”

With South Africa already facing service delivery protests on a regular basis, smart cities could alleviate many of the challenges and improve citizen satisfaction. “Government service delivery will immediately be improved, without a doubt,” says Walker. “The problem is that there is a massive degree of transparency that comes with a smart city and government departments or municipalities might not necessarily be ready for that level of transparency.”

Moving beyond just the conversation

From a technology vendor perspective, the conversation around smart cities has started, but it is still at the very first stages of promotion, advertising what it is and defining smart cities. We are still at the start of the education phase. “We haven’t even moved into the prioritisation and execution phases yet. There is also the risk that smart cities can become like cloud and big data, just another ICT hype cycle.”

Walker believes that the country is now at a point where it must define what smart cities are, what benefits they can bring to both local government and citizens and how to then prioritise and implement the right solutions to derive the most benefit from the investment. “The final step is then to determine how you coordinate all the priorities to ensure you deliver a smart city, that you can afford, implement and sustain,” he says.

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Black Friday, Cyber Monday, shot the lights out

The numbers are in, and it shows that the start of holiday season shopping in South Africa saw spectacular growth

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday continues to be a hit in South Africa, with both days exceeding expectations.  

“Black Friday did not disappoint,” says Solly Bellingan, head of customer relations at BankservAfrica. “Despite the tougher economy, it seems South Africans took advantage of the days’ special deals with in-store and online transaction volumes reflecting strong year-on-year growth. Both days have certainly made their mark amongst local retailers and shoppers,

South Africans shopped up a storm with the total number of Black Friday transactions processed by BankservAfrica, in-store and online, at 7,077,117 (*) in 2019 – 36% up from 2018’s 5,204,594. This translates into a total spend of R6-billion, an impressive 106% increase on 2018’s R2.9-billion.

When compared to 2018, it seems bargain hunters decided to get the best deals early with a 33% year-on-year increase in sales at midnight. The 12-hour period between 06:00 and 18:00 proved to be busiest, with similar volumes being processed each hour. The highest number of transactions processed in a 60-minute period was between 10:00 and 11:00 at a volume of 595,792.

“3D-Secure, our online card authentication service, i.e. transactions that require a one-time pin(**), showed steady growth this year with a 32% year-on-year increase on Black Friday and transaction volumes  reaching a total of  534,828,” says Bellingan. The busiest shopping times were between 09:00 and 10:00 in 2019 compared to the earlier start in 2018 at 08:00 to 09:00

“The most expensive online transaction recorded on Black Friday was for a hospitality purchase of  R10,067,400 by an international company. The most uses by one card was 83. During peak, we processed  717 transactions while the average was 371 per minute for the day.”

Cyber Monday was less active than Black Friday with a 42% growth in online transactions that reached a volume of 249,908 in 2019 (up from 176,595 in 2018). However, in both years, most of the transactions took place between 10:00 and 11:00, with the most expensive being R1,997,800 and 151 uses by one card. The highest average transactions per minute was 322 at peak and 173 per minute for the day.

“This year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday data mirrors the global data of record-breaking sales – and the BankservAfrica featured figures are only a portion of the entire sales figures for both days,” says Bellingan. “It will be interesting to see if these manage to outpace festive season spend this year.”

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Amazon records biggest ecommerce day ever

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Image from www.quotecatalog.com

Amazon has announced that Cyber Monday was once again the single biggest shopping day in the company’s history, based on the number of items ordered worldwide. Customers all around the world shopped at record levels across a wide selection, with hundreds of millions of products ordered worldwide between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, alone. Customers purchased millions more Amazon Devices compared to the same period last year in Amazon’s Stores globally and the best-selling items were Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote.

“We’re focused on making this holiday season more convenient than ever for our customers, especially given how short this holiday shopping season will be,” said Jeff Wilke, CEO Worldwide Consumer, Amazon. “We are thrilled that customers continue to come to Amazon in record numbers to discover what they need and want for the holidays. Thank you to our customers and employees all around the world for making this holiday shopping weekend the best yet.”

Holiday Weekend Highlights:

  • Customers worldwide purchased more toys this Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined than ever before. Among the tens of millions of toys purchased during this time period, best-sellers included LEGO Star Wars Darth Vader’s Castle, Monopoly Game: Disney Frozen 2 Edition and Hasbro games such as Jenga, Guess Who and Candy Land Kingdom of Sweet Adventures.
  • Cyber Monday was the single biggest shopping day for Amazon Fashion worldwide, with more items purchased than any other single day in the company’s history. Best-sellers included Carhartt Men’s Acrylic Watch Hat and Champion Men’s Powerblend Fleece Pullover Hoodie.
  • Amazon customers worldwide ordered more than 25 million home items on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, combined.
  • Best-sellers on Black Friday in the U.S. included Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, Instant Pot Duo80 – 8 Quart, 23andMe Health + Ancestry Service: Personal Genetic DNA Test, L.O.L. Surprise! Winter Disco Bigger Surprise and iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum.
  • Customers worldwide purchased more than four million beauty products this Cyber Monday compared to last year, with best-sellers including Oral-B Genius Pro 900 Electric Toothbrush, Lagunamoon Essential Oils Top 6 Gift Set and L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Makeup Lash Paradise Mascara.
  • Top-selling categories worldwide include Toys, Home, Fashion and Health and Personal Care.
  • The best-selling products in Amazon’s Stores on Cyber Monday in the U.S. included Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, Play-Doh Sweet Shoppe Cookie Creations, Keurig K-Cafe Coffee Maker and LEGO City Ambulance Helicopter 60179 Building Kit.
  • Independent third-party sellers in Amazon’s Stores — mostly small and medium-sized businesses – sold more items during Cyber Monday 2019 than any other 24-hour period in the company’s history.
  • For the third year in a row, Whole Foods Market broke its all-time record of turkeys sold during the Thanksgiving season.
  • Amazon delivered millions of grocery items to Prime members in the U.S. through the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. Best sellers from Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market delivery included Honeycrisp apples, lemons and avocados.
  • Top selling items at Amazon Books and Amazon 4-star stores over the holiday weekend included the Amazon Smart Plug, Echo Dot and All-New Echo Dot Smart Speaker with Clock, L.O.L. Surprise! Dolls, Wrecking Ball (Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book 14), and the Wyze Cam 1080p HD Indoor Wireless Smart Home Camera with Night Vision.

Record-Breaking Weekend for Devices

  • Shoppers purchased a record number of Amazon Devices globally this holiday weekend.
  • Amazon customers worldwide purchased millions more Amazon Devices, compared to the same period last year in Amazon’s Stores globally, including Echo devices, Fire TV devices, Kindle devices, and Fire tablets.
  • It was a record-breaking holiday shopping weekend for smart home devices in Amazon’s Stores globally with shoppers purchasing millions of smart home devices, including iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum, Furbo Dog Camera, and Wemo Mini Smart Plug.
  • The best-selling products in Amazon’s Stores globally were Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote.

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