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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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AppDate: Prepare for space

In this week’s AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights Space Nation Navigator, Hitman Sniper, Snake Mask, Memrise, WhatsApp Web, and Carrot Weather.

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Space Nation Navigator

Space Nation Navigator is a bit of a strange app. It is part game, part exercise and part educational. On the game side, users have to navigate the Mars Rover, put the International Space Station back into orbit or move their Martians to safety before a sand storm hits Mars. When it comes to exercise, Space Nation Navigator provides users with a range of exercises and Yoga videos to prepare them for space travel and working in an anti-gravity environment. The education aspect teaches users about the planets, and star constellations, and then offers quizzes on what has been taught.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Memrise

Memrise takes a new approach to help people learn new languages. Instead of providing a user with random phrases and words to memorise, the app connects you with a person already fluent in the language you want to learn. In turn, the person you are speaking to wants to learn the language in which you are fluent. Once your profile is filled out and languages selected, it connects you with people around the world who are interested in your language, and then allows you to chat with them in real-time. Memrise also lets one learn new languages through games, chatbots and grammarbots that help with spelling, tenses and pronunciations.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Hitman Sniper

Hitman Sniper is loosely based on the Agent 47 movie released a few years ago. The game offers players the ability to hone their shooting skills through a range of training courses and, once they think they are ready, they can start taking out the bad guys. Things start off easy enough, but they get more and more difficult as one progresses through the 150 missions on offer. One will also have to upgrade various gun components, like scopes, magazine capacities and silencers, to make the missions a little easier. Hitman Sniper lets users buy 16 to tackle each of the missions – either with real money or via the points accumulated by completing missions. Money and points can also be used to upgrade firearms.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: R7 – with a range of in-app purchases.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Snake Mask

The iconic Snake game that was preinstalled on most older Nokia phones has had a complete make-over. It now uses Facebook’s AR technology, meaning that you have to navigate the snake around obstacles in your home or office, all the while collecting coins and stars that change the snake’s speed and length. Unfortunately, Snake Mask is only available on Nokia’s new range of smartphones. However, it should not take long before it slithers onto other devices.

 

Platform: New Nokia smartphones running Android.

Cost: Free to use through the Facebook app installed on the device.

Stockists: Available through the Facebook app.

 

WhatsApp Web

Although this is by no means a new app, it is an extremely useful one, and one that not many people know about. Tapping out WhatsApps on your phone is easy enough, but thanks to WhatsApp Web it can be even easier. Open the WhatApp Web page under WhatsApp and you will see a QR code. Scan this code through WhatsApp on your mobile and you will be shown a replica of what you would normally see on your phone. You can then type and reply to messages using your computer instead of having to stop everything and unlock your phone every time a message comes through. WhatsApp Web is great if you share your computer with other people as it automatically disconnects when the browser is closed. However WhatsApp also offers an app that when installed will stay connected to your phone unless you manually remove it.

 

Platform: Any up-to-date Internet browser

Cost: Free to use and install

Stockists: Visit www.WhatsApp.com

 

Carrot Weather

There are thousands of weather apps on the Internet these days and all of them do the same thing – inform you of the weather in your area. However, Carrot Weather has taken what is just another app and turned it into something fun. By fun, I mean sarcastic, rude and completely politically incorrect. A user starts off by selecting religious and political views. It then asks about personality, ranging from friendly to homicidal to overkill – which includes profanity. So, for instance, instead of waking up to to the standard partly cloudy forecast, Carrot Weather will display something like: “It’s only partly sunny, the sun is a total effing failure.” It also has a range of insults that it throws at you whenever you open the app – some of them downright insulting, so it is definitely not for those who are easily offended. The app’s user interface is very simple, displaying a week’s daily forecast and hourly forecasts for the day selected.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: Free to download but with adverts. The premium, advert free version costs R12 per month.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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SA Start-up reinvents PABX

For any South African business, the idea of setting up or changing a telephonic switchboard system is the stuff of nightmares. Dealing with expensive hardware and hearing things like QSIG and VOIP is not what you’d call exciting.But now there is an app.

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Enter BuzzBox (www.buzzboxcloud.co.za), a web-based telephone switchboard that is aimed at small and medium sized businesses wanting to take the hassle and cost out of the company switchboard. Whether you are a small one-man operation or a larger organisation with staff working remotely, BuzzBox is the best switchboard solution.

What sets BuzzBox apart from anything else on the market is its easy-to-use dashboard. It puts you in control of everything from picking your phone number to setting up voice prompts and managing your business-hours schedule.

BuzzBox was developed when the startup behind it, Jini-Guru, needed such a service for its own use across multiple continents. “When we started Jini-Guru we could not find a seamless online process that would allow us to set up a full web-based switchboard, so we decided to build one for ourselves,” says Mike Smits, Director at Jini-Guru.

He says a lot of startups today are tech savvy and know how to use apps and the services that go with it. “It’s the uberisation of services and its driving demand for instant service activation.”

BuzzBox works as an app on both iOS and Android but users wanting a desk phone option can choose from a variety of devices on offer or use their existing VOIP phones.

Setting up a BuzzBox account takes 5 minutes. During registration your FICA documents are uploaded [ID and proof or residence] and you get to pick your phone number before the account is created. Companies that want to keep an existing number can do so too.

The real magic happens when you log on to the BuzzBox Dashboard. The main screen displays a summary of statistics for your account while the left-hand menu provides you quick access to various configuration settings and reports.

Setting up new extensions or external numbers is done with a few clicks and you can even set up various departments which is a great way to route a call to various people in a department, like sales or support.

The intuitive user interface also makes it easy to set up hold-music and voice prompts. You can add voice prompts by recording them straight to your phone, just make sure you use a clear voice with quiet surroundings for the best customer experience.

One of the main features of BuzzBox is its call recording feature that allows an organisation to record calls for legislative purposes, such as a lawyer, or for customer service purposes such as support. Recordings are stored securely online, and you have the ability to download recordings for playback. Companies can opt-in for this service and it’s free to use. Recordings are stored online and are fully encrypted so only you can listen to, or download them. Storage costs R1 for every 1000 minutes of stored recordings.

Other features include call forwarding and scheduling. The latter allows you to set office hours for your organisation which will divert calls to an after-hours messaging service. You also have the option to enable routing to an employee who is on call after hours.

BuzzBox also has a reseller program for companies wanting to offer this as a switchboard solution to their existing customers.

The costs for this service is R89 p/m for the first phone number which includes your first extension for free. Thereafter you’ll pay R89p/m per extension. Calls between extensions are free but you pay per second for all outgoing phone calls. More info on pricing can be found here: https://buzzboxcloud.co.za/pricing/

BuzzBox is offering a Launch promotion where they are offering the first line and extension free for 12 months. Only pay for calls. Use promo code “feoifyaa” during sign-up to apply your discount.

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