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Monitoring is heart of IoT

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Connected devices result in an increase in the volume of data flowing into companies. But, while companies are able to analyse the data, IT will struggle to maintain adequate application performance levels, writes WIMPIE VAN RENSBURG, Country Manager for Sub Saharan Africa at Riverbed Technology.

We’re all becoming pretty familiar with the idea of the Internet of Things (IoT). Often, when thinking of the IoT, the first things that come to mind may be a wearable fitness tracker or a smartphone app that can control a thermostat. In fact, adoption of the IoT is so widespread that Gartner predicts that by 2020, there will be over 20 billion connected things in the world. The IoT is not only having an effect on the consumer world. It is also driving rapid digital transformation in the realm of business. We’re already seeing IoT powering a wide range of applications across industries. For example, The William Tracey Group, one of the UK’s largest recycling management companies, is using the IoT to collect data from chipped wheelie bins, smart weighing arms on collection trucks and on-board computers. This data is then used to help enterprises protect the environment while creating new business opportunities.

The growing business case for connected things means that the volume of data flowing into companies’ data collections is increasing. However, whilst companies are able to analyse the volumes of data supplied by connected devices in order to improve decision-making processes and efficiency, IT will struggle to maintain adequate application performance levels as enterprises bring more connected devices online.

Implementing application performance monitoring (APM) establishes the end-to-end visibility IT needs in order to immediately identify what’s causing an application to perform poorly, so that the issue can be fixed before it escalates.

The challenges of IoT

There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes in order to make the IoT come to life. While users may be launching a simple app on their smartphone, there are a number of factors that go into making that simple digital experience work.

By considering how a wearable fitness tracker works, we can understand the complexity that can be constructed by the IoT. The user interface is simple, but the wristband is always working to send and receive information via Bluetooth from a smartphone, upload that information to a cloud-based app that analyses a range of metrics, including activity levels, nutrition, sleep quality and heart rate. The application then supplies that analysis to its dedicated smartphone app, and possibly also to other mobile and web-based applications.

Users expect all of this to occur in real-time. In order to meet these expectations, network communication and interdependent application processes taking place on a grid of distributed environments need to perform to perfection. If just one piece of this application fails, so will everything else.

The complexity of this process is further amplified if we consider a company managing a fleet of delivery vehicles such as UPS. UPS has installed a variety of connected devices their vehicles to monitor mileage, optimum speed and overall engine health– all in real-time. This enables the company to ensure the driver is driving safely, automatically schedule maintenance, and provide immediate updates to customers. The operation becomes even more complex when scaled across an entire fleet of vehicles.

Achieving seamless app performance

With businesses storing information in the cloud as well as on local systems – creating what are known as hybrid environments – and enabling employees to access that data from an increasing number of connected devices, including smartphones, laptops and tablets, the number of things that can go wrong within applications as well as within the network increases.

Monitoring the performance of all the applications and systems that run across hybrid networks has become more and more difficult, costly and time-consuming for IT. This is why many organisations are seeking the help of technology in order to achieve real-time visibility to oversee the performance of massively distributed applications. By implementing the use of specialised APM tools, companies can:

1.                   Monitor distributed applications and the underlying networks: By achieving complete visibility over the organisation’s apps, IT can examine the type of information flowing through the network and map out how it is being collected and shared between devices, applications, cloud services and the analytics systems. IT can then quickly identify if there are any issues affecting the end user experience.

2.                   Pinpoint the causes of bottlenecks or errors: IT can then identify the causes of information bottlenecks, determine which are affecting business critical processes, and address these first.

3.                   Look for opportunities to improve performance: Because APM tools continuously monitor applications and information transactions, IT can amass a wealth of information that can then be analysed for patterns in order to identify minor bugs before they become severe, or to seek opportunities for performance improvement.

What next?

Business-critical IoT applications now span both physical, virtual, and hybrid environments and end-users’ expectations are continuing to grow. IDC predicts that within three years, 50 per cent of IT networks will transition from having excess capacity to handle the additional IoT devices, to being network constrained with nearly 10 per cent of sites being overwhelmed.

With this in mind, it’s now more important than ever to monitor the performance and availability of the business applications that employees and customers rely on so business productivity can increase. Companies need to be able to pre-empt an inevitable rise in the flow of data and ensure that they have adequate bandwidth to cope with this upsurge.

Application Performance Management tools can provide the end-to-end visibility and diagnostics necessary for identifying issues with complex networks and distributed applications as well as for taking action before issues escalate. Additionally, the detailed analytics provided by APM enables companies to not only take control of performance improvement, but to also evaluate the business impact of all applications in their network.

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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