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Making power smart

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The energy problem in South Africa has made it essential for businesses to find alternative forms of power. But how do we know when to switch between environments? INUS DRECKMEYR, CEO at Netshield South Africa discusses how to gauge when it is ideal to move off the “grid” and when to stay on it.

The energy crisis in South Africa has made the addition of alternative energy sources imperative for businesses and households across the country. So now you have power around the clock – regardless of power outages or load shedding. But how do know when to switch between environments, gauge when peak hours are or make your renewable energy solutions work to help you save costs and cut back on grid usage?

Power management needs to be carefully thought out, or you may end up spending more on your electricity bills than you did before. There is a lot of scepticism around implementing renewable energy sources because of the hefty price tag that comes with the initial lay out, but if used correctly these solutions will ultimately save you money while keeping the lights on.

So what can you do? You need to implement a single power management resource that will intelligently and proactively help you determine which energy sources you should be using when, so that you get the most out of your power and maximum return on your investment.

It is all about management, if you have a device in place to manage your power sources in the best way possible, you don’t have to. But be careful to select a scalable solution, something that can accommodate your personal business need. This is particularly relevant if you are a large enterprise, SMBs or homeowner, who has made an investment into multiple power sources, but are finding it challenging to take control and understand your power environment.

All the features, none of the fuss

When we factored all of this in we looked at what was available on the market, saw there was little to match these needs, we elected to develop a home-grown solution designed especially with South African needs in mind to help cut costs and manage your power. If you have a renewable solution in place you want to use it first, because ultimately it reduces your reliance on the grid.

We wanted something that could dynamically determine when these renewable resources were depleted and then move you back onto the grid (Eskom) power, without disruptions to your home or your business. That means happy customers that will always get the services they need, and no wailing children when the TV goes off in the middle of their favourite show.

In addition, if your power goes off at a peak time and your renewable energy stores aren’t fully “charged” to capacity, your solution must tell your system to start up and revert to a generator, if this is included in your power environment. So basically, your power is managed for you to ensure stability and business/home continuity which will in turn, enable you to get the most out of your renewable energy investment and realise ROI. It will also give you the ability to gauge the total cost of ownership in a qualified manner.

Why do I need power management?

Multiple power feeds or sources are very much the way of the future unless some massive changes are made to energy management in South Africa. When adding alternative energy sources to your power environment, the options can be overwhelming and if you don’t use a power management solution, you can’t see where the power is going or where it’s coming from and may end up throwing money down a black hole.

Ultimately it is about effective and smart power management, using the power that’s best for your needs – and pocket – so you can realise a return on your renewable energy investment. Power management is quite a new concept for South Africans, we know that it’s needed but very seldom know where to start. A large problem when it comes to renewable energy at the moment is that people want a “quick fix”. So they will purchase renewable energy and power management solutions that are of bad quality and that will ultimately cost them more than laying down initial investment on a good quality solution would have.

All you need in one solution

How does it work? By quantifying and identifying peak times and even load shedding schedules, we will set up a series of triggers in the systems that then use a type of failover model to determine which power source is needed at that moment.

Depending on your setup of the system, your power management solution should always seek to use renewable first, only electing to revert to the grid if the load requires it, helping you save on grid costs wherever possible. This is achieved via a series of pre-set priorities, determined by you before installation, priorities range from one to four with four being the most severe-case scenario.

In addition to managing your power, the solution we have developed the Nviromon, is also an environmental monitoring solution that enables the remote management of server rooms, entire business networks, and your home, remotely, from a single management console and from a single device. It can remotely open and close gates, serve as an alarm system when connected to movement sensors and sirens and will inform you of power outages as well as other environmental threats outages through an SMS or email.

Remember that power management must give you an efficient, and convenient way to manage your power and your environment with one device, so that you get maximum ROI and peace of mind. In addition, the future will see South Africans paying more for their grid electricity during peak times, so why wouldn’t you want a solution that enables you to switch to alternate sources and save money? It’s the smart thing to do.

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Cape Town not so calm – if you’re a driver

Cape Town drivers lose on average 162 hours a year to traffic jams, so will need some tech and a few tips to stay calm

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Cape Town drivers lose, on average, 162 hours a year stuck in traffic jams, and the city is ranked 95th out of around 200 cities, across 38 countries surveyed globally, in terms of congestion issues.

That’s according to the latest INRIX 2018 Global Traffic Scorecard, which is an annual analysis of mobility and congestion trends. The study provides a data-rich evaluation of information collected during peak (slowest) travel times, and inter peak (fastest point between morning and afternoon commutes) travel times. Together they provide a holistic account of congestion throughout the day, delivering in-depth insights for vehicle drivers and policy-makers to make better decisions regarding urban travel and traffic health.

Of the further five South African cities surveyed:

  • Pretoria drivers lose, on average, 143 hours a year stuck in traffic jams, ranking as the 64thmost congested city
  • Johannesburg drivers lose an average of 119 hours annually, ranking 61st
  • Durban drivers lose 72 hours, ranking 141st
  • Port Elizabeth drivers lose 71 hours, ranking 75th
  • And Bloemfontein drivers lose 62 hours, ranking 165th

If these hours sound horrific, spare a thought for the poor drivers in Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá who lose, on average, a whopping 272 hours a year stuck in traffic jams!

On average, drivers’ commutes increase by roughly 30% during peak versus inter-peak hours. And the reality is that congestion issues aren’t going away anytime soon. Not here in SA, or anywhere else in the world. So what can we, as drivers, do to make the situation easier to cope with on our daily commute?

Change of mindset

Stressing about the unavoidable, the inevitable, and all the things that are out of our control – like congestion caused by accidents, faulty street lights, or bad weather – is a waste of energy. We should try finding ways of using that time in our cars more productively, to create a less tense, more positive experience. Learning to change our perspective about this challenging time, and associating it with something enjoyable, can drastically alter our reaction to and engagement with it. Rather than expending all our energy on futile anger and frustration, we can channel our focus on things that relax or energise us instead.

Just one more chapter

Being stuck in traffic usually aggravates us because it feels like a huge waste of valuable time. But like a wise man once said, time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. Listening to a podcast or audiobook can not only be entertaining, but also educational, which is a brilliant use of your time. Ifyou think of your car as a ‘learning lab’, a mobile university of sorts, and your time spent inside as away to exercise your brain and grow intellectually, you may even find yourself wishing for bad traffic so you have an excuse to carry on listening to your podcast or audiobook.

Tame your inner Hulk

Pulling up a playlist of your favourite, feel-good songs can do wonders to combat stress levels. Downbeat music has been proven to have a mellowing effect on drivers. Making a quick switch to downbeat music shows measurable physiological improvements, with drivers calming down much sooner, and making fewer driving mistakes. So the next time you feel your inner Hulk emerging, crank up the volume on your favourite tunes.

The power of ‘caromatherapy’

There are numerous studies on aromas and their impact on human emotion, behaviour, and performance. Researchers have found that peppermint can enhance mental and athletic performance and cognitive functioning, while cinnamon may improve tasks related to attentional processes and visual-motor response speed. A study from Kyoto University in Japan revealed that participants reported significantly lower hostility and depression scores, and felt more relaxed after awalk through a pine forest. It makes sense then, to incorporate some ‘caromatherapy’ into our lives. There are plenty of off-the-shelf car diffusers available, or you could add a few drops of essential oil to DIY felt air fresheners. Citrus scents like orange or lemon can provide a boost of energy, while rosemary can relieve stress and anxiety. Take care not to hang anything that might obstruct your field of vision though, and always make sure to test out essential oils at home first, in case a scent makes you dizzy or overly relaxed, which could affect driving focus.

Contemplate your navel

The mind is a powerful thing, and simply willing yourself to relax might be the most effective method of all. While we don’t recommend meditating while driving due to safety reasons, breathing exercises can help you stay focused and feeling calm. One useful practice is the one-to-one technique – breathing in and out for the same count with the same intensity. Deep, measured breaths facilitate full oxygen exchange, helping to slow down the rate of your heartbeat and stabilise blood pressure, as opposed to shallow breathing, which doesn’t send enough air to the lowest part of your lungs, causing you to feel anxious and short of breath. Just always keep your eyes on the road, and take care to ensure you’re not so busy counting breaths that your concentration is compromised.

Not all those who wander are lost

Some of our best ideas come in those moments where we’re alone with our own thoughts, able to really reflect on the ideas we have without having something immediate that needs our attention. Allow your mind to wander, and do a little brainstorming. Alternatively, use the time to simply day dream. Remember, downtime is not dead time. It is both necessary, and important for your mental health. Use this time as an opportunity to take care of yourself.

In-built vehicle tech

“As we spend more and more time commuting, cars are being designed to accommodate longer periods behind the wheel,” says Kuda Takura, smart mobility specialist at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa. “Ford uses human-centric design to deliver vehicles that are inviting, accommodating, and intuitive. For example, our SYNCT infotainment system offers nifty, hands-free functions, like allowing drivers to listen to their texts, change music or climate settings, and make phone calls easily with voice control. Our range of driver-assist technologies, like Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection and Semi-Auto Active Park Assist, are also designed to take some of the stress off city driving. If our lifestyle means that we might be spending more time in our cars than we do on holiday, then we should make sure we make the most of that time.”

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Vodacom exits Africa biz services

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Vodacom Group has sold Vodacom Business Africa’s operations in Nigeria, Zambia and Cote d’Ivoire to Andile Ngcaba’s Synergy Communications. The two entities are in the process of concluding the acquisitions, which are subject to the approval of the regulatory authorities within these markets.

Vodacom says the transaction supports the Group’s enterprise strategy in Africa, which has been refocused to grow and strengthen its core business. It will no longer directly service global enterprise customers in these three markets but will rather continue to operate as a pan African telecommunications networks provider through local relationships, like the one with Synergy Communications. 

This acquisition represents a significant milestone in Synergy Communication’s quest to be a leading provider of cloud and digitally based services in key markets across sub-Saharan Africa and provides key additional assets in its build out of a regional footprint. Synergy Communications currently has operations in Botswana, Malawi and Mozambique.

Andile Ngcaba, Chairman of Synergy Communications said: “This is an exciting landmark transaction for Synergy Communications, providing us with additional momentum in the delivery of our strategy as a pan-African enterprise digital Services Provider. Synergy Communications will partner with major global cloud providers and deliver platform-based services to both multi-nationals and local enterprises.”

Shameel Joosub, CEO of Vodacom Group, said: “Vodacom has a clear vision for strengthening our position as a leading pan-African business and will work with local service providers like Synergy Communications to grow in these markets. Crucially, Vodacom is not exiting any of the territories related to this transaction and remains focused on continuing to deliver exceptional service to our global and multinational clients in these markets through long-term commercial agreements. 

“To support the sustainable growth of pan African digital economies and building connected societies, Vodacom will, via local service providers, continue to service clients in each market. We seek to leverage the collective strengths of Vodacom and Synergy Communications to meet the changing requirements of clients across each of these markets.”

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