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LEGO store comes to SA

The Great Yellow Brick Co will launch South Africa’s first LEGO Certified Store in Sandton City at the end of this month.

The 179m2 Sandton City store is the first LEGO Certified Store on the African continent, with similar stores found in 20 other countries in Europe, Asia, Australia, Middle East and North America. The Great Yellow Brick Co will open additional certified stores throughout South Africa in the future, creating up to 20 new jobs per store.

The Great Yellow Brick Co, founded by Robert Greenstein, Hayley Greenstein and Greg Bergh, will also be transferring the experience of a LEGO Certified Store into the online world, offering online shoppers in South Africa access to the most extensive LEGO range available in the region.

While LEGO products are available at franchise and independent toy retailers elsewhere in South Africa, The Great Yellow Brick Co is the first LEGO Certified Store in the country, signalling the Danish company’s recognition that South Africa is ready for a premium toy experience in an exclusively branded retail outlet.

LEGO Certified Stores are designed by The LEGO Group, and adhere to store fit-out and experience guidelines stipulated by the Group to maintain its focus on playfulness and creative experiences, rather than on conventional retail principles. Created as experiential playgrounds for LEGO fans old and new, certified stores offer unique features not seen in independent retailers.

“Sandton City is the perfect location for this flagship store,” says Jonathan Sinden, Chief Operating Officer of Sandton City’s co-owners, Liberty Two Degrees. “With the recent launch of Sandton City’s Fun District, a level dedicated to family entertainment, the introduction of a LEGO Store enhances the centre’s offering for children.

“Sandton City’s evolving tenant mix is in line with the global trends of premium international retail centres, and a LEGO® Certified Store aligns well with Liberty Two Degrees’ strategy of bringing global experiences to its existing clients, and to South Africa alike.”

The playful and personal retail environment aligns well with 2018 retail trends, which include product and experience personalisation, augmented reality, and the popularity of carefully curated product ranges – all of which are key elements of a LEGO Certified Store. Importantly, while many adult fans of LEGO sets in particular have purchased their limited editions online, the assortment will be even bigger than the current LEGO offering in South Africa as they can now buy them directly from a certified local supplier.

Says Robert Greenstein, “I’ve always loved LEGO products, so I approached the company in 2014 to open a store similar to what I’d seen abroad, but at the time the brand felt that the local market wasn’t ready for a certified store in South Africa. However, The LEGO Group firmly believes in relationships, and we kept in touch until the time was right to explore the idea further. In 2016, we were given another opportunity to pitch for the contract.”

Kristian Imhof, Country Manager for The LEGO Group in South Africa, commented: “South Africans have had a decades-long love for LEGO sets and products, from children who learn the basics of construction, fine-motor skills or the sheer possibilities of the imagination, to adults who will go to extraordinary lengths to complete their themed collections. We are excited that this dedicated store will give fans old and new the opportunity to continue building their LEGO world.”

The Great Yellow Brick Co will be located in a stretch of the mall that is home to several experiential stores, near the Food Court and the mall’s revamped cinema complex.

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Cisco gives pre-owned tech a Refresh

In a market of constant upgrades, Cisco Refresh aims to keep quality product away from landfills, writes BRYAN TURNER.

When one gets a new smartphone upgrade, the old device may be used as a backup or can be used by someone else. In business environments, equipment upgrades may not be conducive to keeping old equipment around, which may send older, working equipment to landfills.

This is where Cisco’s Refresh initiative comes in. At Cisco Connect in Sun City this week, Ehrika Gladden, VP and general manager of Cisco Refresh, lifted the lid on a little-known aspect of the company’s strategy. 

“Refresh is Cisco’s global pre-owned equipment business unit,” said Gladden. “It is certified to meet the quality and engineering standards of Cisco. It is licensed for software and it’s also inclusive of a services warranty.

“Our responsibility in 80 countries around the world is tied to both the recovery of assets and the ability to leverage those assets at a lower price point. This ensures our sustainability and proper usage of the Earth’s resources while providing access to small and medium businesses. The products are typically in the range of 20-40% cheaper. The products represent the entire portfolio for Cisco in some part, the majority of that product set is 2+ years in terms of generation.”

Cisco’s Circular Economy initiative ensures a sustainable loop through businesses willing to pay a premium for the latest, cutting-edge solutions, while Cisco markets older, working equipment for resale to those who don’t require the latest solutions. This ensures far less new components need to be used in a product range.

“We are leveraging the model of remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and reusing,” said Gladden. “Depending on the product set, there is a certain set of product yield that we expect. They vary from product to product, but we do have a percentage that doesn’t make it through.

“Those are always reused, meaning we will look at those products and decide to use them completely differently, leveraging the components, remanufacturing back into the overall build process. If that can’t be done, we will go into a recycle process where we melt those products down to reuse them.”

Repairing and refurbishing older products isn’t just that. Cisco is creating repair centres that are owned by third-parties to uplift local ownership.

“The repair centres, as a global manufacturer, is Cisco’s entree into local ownership,” said Gladden. “I want to be precise about what I mean by local ownership. It’s critical for us to have a localised presence, but doing that through ownership. When you look at inclusive economies, those that are participative, to be sustainable – not in the product set, but generationally.

“The ability as a global manufacturer through a local ownership model  isto create a repair centre where a product can be returned, screened, tested, and repaired, leveraging the talent that the Networking Academy is creating.”

Cisco is working closely with local governments to understand where it operates and how to leverage the skills in the market.

Gladden said: “We are also super excited about the National Development Plan and African Union statements which with we align: eradication of poverty, job creation, ownership, healthcare, education, it all fits in the model. So we were very excited to have the opportunity to come to Africa first to announce this. Over the next twelve months, we want to establish our first repair centres, and in the next 3 to 5 years, build that vision into a reality.”

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Why Data Privacy has become a Pipe Dream

If you’re active on WhatsApp, Facebook or any other social platform, you’re not as safe as you thought, writes
AARON THORNTON, MD of Dial a Nerd

As you begin to read this, let’s perform a quick experiment! How many active conversations are you engaged in – right now – on WhatsApp? When was the last time you shared a picture or video on Instagram? Is Facebook currently open and active on one of your devices? And how many internet- connected devices are you using at this moment? Chances are, you have multiple devices running multiple applications most of the time. So what’s the problem, you ask? Since when did checking in with a high school buddy in Australia via Facebook become a dangerous act?  

In reply, we say, read on if you can stomach it!  

Nation-State Hacking & You  

It might seem like a laughably long shot to say that you are a key player in the increasingly sinister and sophisticated world of nation-state hacking. Well, you are. Given that individuals, businesses and governments are now constantly connected, round the clock, consumers and businesses have become fair game in cyber espionage. And as we create and share more and more data, both the value and accessibility of that data increases. According to a report by McAfee, IP theft now accounts for more than 25% of the estimated $600 billion cost of cybercrime to the world economy.    

With data having become the ‘new gold’, nation states are naturally pouring investment and key resources into building advanced cyber warfare tools. Indeed, entire divisions of armed forces as well as the upper echelons of corporate leadership are devising ways to harness data to gain economic, political and social power. At the highest level, tools and platforms are being developed with the specific aim of perpetrating cyber espionage and data theft. No surprise then, that the consumer and business environments are rife with increasingly advanced malware, ransomware and many other malicious hacking tools and methods.  

Still not convinced? Yes, we can smell the scepticism from here! So let’s take a moment to see how this has already played out, beneath our noses.  

Remember the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal of early 2018? For many, this was a watershed moment in the emerging war for consumer data – and the ensuing tensions between privacy, power and profit. Need a refresh? Well, in 2018, Facebook exposed data on up to 87 million Facebook users to a researcher who worked at Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign. In essence, the data was harvested without user consent and used for political purposes.  

Another chilling but less direct example can be found in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. According to Politico, Russia launched a massive social media campaign to ‘sow discord’ leading up to the elections. The website reported that as early as 2014, an infamous Russian “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency – a company linked to Russian president Putin – developed a strategy using fraudulent bank accounts and other fake identity documents to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.” 

When referring to the Russian hacks and their impact on election results, one U.S. Representative sagely noted: “They didn’t just steal data; they weaponized it.” 

Ignorance is not bliss 

Okay, so data is being ‘weaponized’, and ordinary people and businesses are being caught in the crosshairs of cyber warfare. A little bit frightening, but the good news is that savvy individuals like you can take steps to protect personal data and actively combat the creeping influence of juggernauts such as Facebook and Google.  

To begin with, awareness is key. As you engage with various platforms and applications at work and at home, take time to understand how your data is being used and what the terms of use are. Is your data being accessed and sold to advertisers? Have you consented to this? In addition to scrutinizing your consent, also pay close attention to how much data you share online – and the nature of the details you are divulging. Always keep in mind that hackers are employing smart social engineering tactics and using the details of your private life (birthdays, holidays, pet’s names, etc) to trick you into opening infected emails and clicking on malware. Whenever you are online, you are a target – and vigilance at all times is critical. Beyond that, it goes without saying that you must commit to following basic security protocols with your devices. So always keep software up to date and keep your data backed up so that you can reboot or wipe a device if needed.   

Now that we’ve left you sufficiently spooked, you can get back to those demanding WhatsApp/Facebook/Instagram notifications (same company, by the way)…albeit, we hope, with a slightly altered [cyber] worldview!  

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