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How Wi-FI can benefit law

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The Internet of Things is changing the way we work and once the new ecosystem is completely connected, many businesses will benefit – including law enforcement, says RIAAN GRAHAM, sales director for Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa.

The internet of things (IoT) is challenging the way we live and work, and how government and businesses interact. In fact, this new eco-system is creating the foundational building blocks for smart cities where traditional models of service delivery are being challenged. While the move towards ‘smart’ is slow as infrastructure and connectivity needs to be deployed to truly drive an interconnected eco-system, for those that are moving towards a more mature model, the benefits are undeniable across all services – including law enforcement.

If we look at today’s judiciary system, often, judges have to rely on alternative links as GSM connectivity is not always possible due to various technical challenges. Use of a Wi-Fi hotspot could result in easy, quicker access to legal and other information, that could be critical in a trial. This could have a significant impact on the productivity of the court.

This fast and reliable Wi-Fi has the added benefit of providing journalists with the means to file stories sooner and get breaking news out more efficiently. Consider also the potential of providing legal teams who might not have the resources of larger firms with online access to research that can assist in their preparations.

Suddenly, technology becomes an equaliser with those legal professionals coming from underprivileged communities having internet connectivity they might not have otherwise had to refine their case work. But these benefits extend beyond the parameters of the court.

Police stations often have to rely on expensive satellite access to file reports and stay updated on various legal and security matters. Creating a network of Wi-Fi hotspots that not only cover the police station, but key areas of the community, could provide a much-needed boost to reducing crime. Additionally police officers in the field can be fitted with hidden cameras on their uniform as well as a dashboard camera in the police car – providing accurate evidence of incidents that can be helpful in a trial.

Such a Wi-Fi network gives community members an opportunity to engage more directly with local police and send out alerts on any criminal activity they might witness or even call for medical services when seconds matter. Extending this Wi-Fi access to a community centre provides additional opportunities for education, employment, and even the enhancement of existing crime watch programmes.

Wi-Fi will give police in these communities the capability to check on suspect IDs and vehicle license plates more effectively and cheaper than before. This also means that police officers who roam the neighbourhoods can leverage VoIP services to create community-wide alerts should the need arise.

Even Metro police officers can benefit from Wi-Fi connectivity during their road-side campaigns. By equipping them with this additional functionality, real-time information on traffic, accidents, and other activities can be monitored online. It also means regional offices will be able to determine where best to send resources during peak travel times.

Streamlining the processing of information, filing of reports, responding to community queries, and engaging with officers in the field are all valuable enhancements brought about with the availability of Wi-Fi.

As we have seen from consumer and business perspectives, Wi-Fi access empowers us  to find different ways of doing things. Having access to the internet and all the related information it provides leads to a smart way of doing things and helps government embrace the concept of smart cities. Even in sectors of the market where Wi-Fi has not been typically seen as necessary, it is incredible what innovation this connectivity can unlock.

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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