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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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TikTok looks for SA talent

The fast-rising short-video platform has launched a #PickMe campaign to discover local stars.

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TikTok, which claims to be the world’s leading destination for short-form videos, launches its first PickMe campaign, an effort to discover creative talents and provide a stage to express themselves in South Africa. Starting March 1, TikTok kicked off a month-long search through participants’ 15-second videos under hashtag #PickMe.

TikTok says it is committed to investing in South Africa and discovering the local talents. The PickMe campaign is supported by its local partners like Huawei, MTV Base and Digify Africa.

Local stars, including comedian and singer Lasizwe and singer Nadia Jaftha, have joined the campaign and called for users to show their talents on TikTok.

There are 5 categories of video shooting in the campaign, namely dance, acting, comedy, singing and cosmetics. Participants need to shoot a 15-second video using TikTok using #PickMe and tag @tiktok_africa to participate in the challenge. The finalists will be selected based on their video performance. The most popular and talented participants will have the chance to win prizes like Huawei Mate 20 Pro smartphones, a day at MTV Base, and a once-off-presenter opportunity and attendance at an intensive video production workshop delivered by Digify Africa.

“TikTok has definitely evolved into something that everyone loves and uses. It’s given creators a space to create more unique content and also help the creator gain a whole new kind of fan base, ” says Preven Reddy, Imbewu The Seed TV-star and Megazone radio host who is also a TikTok user.

Says TikTok video creator Mihlali Nxanga: “As a young South African working towards being in the entertainment industry, TikTok has given me the platform to grow my following tremendously. Within 6 months, my fan base has grown by a whopping 90 000, and not only from South Africa, but the whole world. For me, TikTok is not just a content platform, it is a global community.”

The campaign will wrap up on March 31. The list of the finalist will be announced in the app and on official Instagram @tiktok_southafrica. For more information, please visit the TikTok app.

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Rugby fan experience transformed by digital platform

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The South African Rugby Federation has embraced digitalisation as a key enabler of its strategic aspirations. It has worked with Accenture to transform fan engagement for Springbok supporters with the launch of a digital fan platform.

“Digital technology and social media have transformed how modern fans watch, support and engage with their favourite teams,” says SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux. “To maintain our relevance amid this new market dynamic, and grow our fan base, we’ve acknowledged the vital need to digitally transform our organisation.”

Wayne Hull, managing director for Accenture Digital in Africa, says: “SA Rugby’s ambition to pivot to a more fan-centric strategy requires digital design, content, platforms and insights because modern consumers, including loyal Springbok supporters, engage predominantly via mobile digital channels and expect hyper-personalised experiences.”

Accenture Digital’s development process started with quantitative and qualitative research, which informed the user experience (UX) design guidelines and content strategy for the digital fan engagement platform.

“To know what fans want, we needed to understand the fans themselves,” says Hull. “The Accenture Digital team mined the research data and identified multiple fan ‘personas’, which all have different content consumption, platform functionality and engagement preferences.”

The platform development team focused on three critical elements to meet these requirements – the customer experience (CX), the engagement engine and cloud-based deployment.

“To deliver a memorable and engaging CX, Accenture Digital leveraged leading digital experience software,” says Hull. “The result is a fully integrated and responsive platform that creates seamless, personalised digital fan experiences across SA Rugby’s content, commerce and digital marketing initiatives in a manner that makes fans feel recognised and connected to the players and the game.”

The new platform will serve as the first point of call for any rugby fan who wants to get their data fix with exclusive statistics, analytics and insights. The platform’s content style will include more visual elements – videos and images – with more concise articles that are easier to digest, in accordance with evolving content consumption preferences on mobile screens. This will complement long-form thought leadership and insight pieces. 

In addition, fans will enjoy exclusive access to player-related content, such as behind-the-scenes footage and game and training performance stats. SA Rugby will also benefit from the ability to track comments and mentions via the Sitecore analytics platform Accenture Digital implemented, to respond and engage in the conversations Springbok fans are having on social media about the game, the teams or the players.

To do this, SA Rugby required a consolidated view of the customer. However, data resided in disparate sites across ticketing providers and SA Rugby’s e-commerce and online magazine databases. This information will be consolidated into the CRM system, with multiple integration points available to leverage this data.

The CRM system’s functionality will help to reveal insights such as fan communication preferences and their likes and dislikes, which will place hyper-relevance at the core of SA Rugby’s fan experience and engagement strategy.

 The final element in the platform development was cloud deployment, which allows fans to access the platform from any device that has an internet connection. The platform is hosted within the Microsoft Azure environment, which is stable, secure and fully redundant. It gives SA Rugby the flexibility to manage the platform themselves, with the option to integrate or scale additional functionality down the line.

Based on the outcome, Hull believes that Accenture Digital has successfully reimagined, built and delivered a world-class, modern and mobile-friendly digital fan platform that creates a fun, immersive and engaging experience for fans.

“It’s a major step towards helping SA Rugby realise its ambition to become a fan-centric, forward-looking and nimble organisation, and we look forward to building and developing the platform further with the team as their digital fan engagement requirements evolve,” says Hull

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