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Why IoT is the new Wild West

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By Andrew Heuvel, chief technology officer at SqwidNet.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has stepped out of the realm of possibility and conjecture and into very dynamic real-world applications that are fundamentally changing the future for enterprises and individuals alike. The statistics that have followed this technology out of 2018 bear witness to its growth and potential. McKinsey predicts that the IoT market will reach $US581 billion by 2020, in ICT spend alone, with a CAGR of 7-15%.  Sensors and devices targeted at specific vertical segments are expected to achieve a CAGR of 24.57% by 2020, reaching a total of 12.86 billion units, according to Statista. It is evident that the transformative power of IoT is exponentially greater than any other technology before it.

IoT is sitting at the edge of the frontier – the wild west of technology where the good, the bad and the ugly divide opinion and capability.

When it comes to the good, IoT has potential that makes it great. It is an opportunity to learn more about our world, to create more data points that allow us deeper insight into factors that affect human life, such as climate change, and information to optimise our future. It has the potential to change the way the agricultural industry uses scarce and shared resources to produce optimal harvests at lower cost points and with reduced waste. It can be used to digitise the local governments, providing citizens with improved access to services and more efficient delivery of services. Health and commerce sectors can all benefit from having access to data and being able to interpret the data in such a way as to manage systems, skills and people with greater efficiency.

The good of IoT can be found in its ubiquity. SqwidNet, as a national IoT connectivity provider, has unlocked the value of near real-time data points for our customers. We have seen our channel solve the real-world problem on water consumption by using analytics to detect water leaks, inform consumers on municipal water quotes, gamify consumption for water conservation in near real-time. The long range, low cost, low power characteristics of IoT technologies presents a multitude of applications that have endless potential but only if it manages to overcome the bad and the ugly.

Of course, as with any new technology comes the bad. IoT battles with service complexity. There is no one-size-fits-all solution that can adapt to the problem that a company is facing. Instead, there are possibly too many options and increasing implementation complexity.

It may come as a surprise that the ‘bad of IoT’ is not security but service complexity. The security problems are as a result of the service complexity and SqwidNet is on a journey simplify this to the ABC…D of IoT, that is Application + Backend + Connectivity + Device. In the industrial and enterprise sector, security provided by SqwidNet is not impacted by the security challenges that face the consumer sector. In the consumer sector, IoT rears its ‘ugly’ head with its security nightmares – solutions built on devices and applications that cannot be updated over time and security vulnerabilities that cannot be addressed properly.

SqwidNet is a Sigfox Operator which means that its IoT technologies are based on old military protocols with strong anti-jamming features, a global cloud-based ecosystem and every sensor is embedded with a unique, authenticated, global ID. The base station traffic is transported over an encrypted internet tunnel to the Sigfox cloud and collected via a secure socket service.

Another key issue impacting IoT is the lack of interoperability and standards. Hardware infrastructure players have been developing alternative IoT strategies that contradict some of the software platform provider strategies. This has put solution providers in an awkward position, in cases where they are unable to offer their customers a seamless IoT service experience.

The maturity of standardisation in the ICT sector has set a benchmark of what is expected from the IoT industry. Microsoft Windows has standardised hardware providers, thanks to the sheer volume of adoption it has prescribed the enterprise application domain and the skill level of resources in South Africa. The same can be said for Unix/Linux in the service provider sector and Cisco for enterprise internetworking. As the railroads brought civilisation to the wild west we would expect the development and adoption of standards to simplify IoT as companies are moving from strategy to implementation and putting real money at risk.

Finally, it is important to invest in professional services that understand the value of IoT, the complexities of its layers and application, and that can create an interconnected ecosystem that sidesteps the bad and the ugly and embraces the good. The technology partners that make up the SqwidNet IoT ecosystem are probably your technology partners today. Lean on them to help you make things come alive and drive innovation through IoT.

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Millennials turning 40: NOW will you stop targeting them?

It’s one of the most overused terms in youth marketing, and probably the most inaccurate, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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One of the most irritating buzzwords embraced by marketers in recent years is the term “millennial”. Most are clueless about its true meaning, and use it as a supposedly cool synonym for “young adults”. The flaw in this targeting – and the word “flaw” here is like calling the Grand Canyon a trench – is that it utterly ignores the meaning of the term. “Millennials” are formally defined as anyone born from 1980 to 2000, meaning they have typically come of age after the dawn of the millennium, or during the 21st century.

Think about that for a moment. Next year, the millennial will be formally defined as anyone aged from 20 to 40. So here you have an entire advertising, marketing and public relations industry hanging onto a cool definition, while in effect arguing that 40-year-olds are youths who want the same thing as newly-minted university graduates or job entrants.

When the communications industry discovers just how embarrassing its glib use of the term really is, it will no doubt pivot – millennial-speak for “changing your business model when it proves to be a disaster, but you still appear to be cool” – to the next big thing in generational theory.

That next big thing is currently Generation Z, or people born after the turn of the century. It’s very convenient to lump them all together and claim they have a different set of values and expectations to those who went before. Allegedly, they are engaged in a quest for experience, compared to millennials – the 19-year-olds and 39-olds alike – supposedly all on a quest for relevance.

In reality, all are part of Generation #, latching onto the latest hashtag trend that sweeps social media, desperate to go viral if they are producers of social content, desperate to have caught onto the trend before their peers.

The irony is that marketers’ quest for cutting edge target markets is, in reality, a hangover from the days when there was no such thing as generational theory, and marketing was all about clearly defined target markets. In the era of big data and mass personalization, that idea seems rather quaint.

Indeed, according to Grant Lapping, managing director of DataCore Media, it no longer matters who brands think their target market is.

“The reason for this is simple: with the technology and data digital marketers have access to today, we no longer need to limit our potential target audience to a set of personas or segments derived through customer research. While this type of customer segmentation was – and remains – important for engagements across traditional above-the-line engagements in mass media, digital marketing gives us the tools we need to target customers on a far more granular and personalised level.

“Where customer research gives us an indication of who the audience is, data can tell us exactly what they want and how they may behave.”

Netflix, he points out, is an example of a company that is changing its industry by avoiding audience segmentation, once the holy grail of entertainment.

In other words, it understands that 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds are very different – but so is everyone in between.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Robots coming to IFA

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Robotics is no longer about mechanical humanoids, but rather becoming an interface between man and machine. That is a key message being delivered at next month’s IFA consumer electronics expo in Berlin. An entire hall will be devoted to IFA Next, which will not only offer a look into the future, but also show what form it will take.

The concepts are as varied as the exhibitors themselves. However, there are similarities in the various products, some more human than others, in the fascinating ways in which they establish a link between fun, learning and programming. In many cases, they are aimed at children and young people.

The following will be among the exhibitors making Hall 26 a must-visit:

Leju Robotics (Stand 115) from China is featuring what we all imagine a robot to be. The bipedal Aelos 1s can walk, dance and play football. And in carrying out all these actions it responds to spoken commands. But it also challenges young researchers to apply their creativity in programming it and teaching it new actions. And conversely, it also imparts scholastic knowledge.

Cubroid (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Korea starts off by promoting an independent approach to the way it deals with tasks. Multi-functional cubes, glowing as they play music, or equipped with a tiny rotating motor, join together like Lego pieces. Configuration and programming are thus combined, providing a basic idea of what constitutes artificial intelligence.

Spain is represented by Ebotics (Stand 218). This company is presenting an entire portfolio of building components, including the “Mint” educational program. The modular system explains about modern construction, programming and the entire field of robotics.

Elematec Corporation (Stand 208) from Japan is presenting the two-armed SCARA, which is not intended to deal with any tasks, but in particular to assist people with their work.

Everybot (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Japan approaches the concept of robotics by introducing an autonomous floor-cleaning machine, similar to a robot vacuum cleaner.

And Segway (Stand 222) is using a number of products to explain the modern approach to battery-powered locomotion.

IFA will take place at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds (ExpoCenter City) from 6 to 11 September 2019. For more information, visit www.ifa-berlin.com

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