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Perimeter fences get smart

The use of the Internet of Things (IoT), and access to low-bandwidth solutions have meant that fencing isn’t just fencing, not anymore. It’s a defence.

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Imagine being able to detect if an intruder is attempting to breach the perimeter of a property in a remote location? Imagine knowing that your fence can detect the intrusion, notifying the authorities and preventing the intruders from getting any closer to their end goal? In many sectors across South Africa and the world, it has become increasingly difficult to protect and monitor remote areas, preventing unauthorised access to protect both the employee and the intruder. People break in, sometimes without realising the danger, and the business bears the cost and the risk. But this scenario is starting to change. Low-cost technology, the inventive use of the Internet of Things (IoT), and access to low-bandwidth solutions have meant that fencing isn’t just fencing, not anymore. It’s a defence.

“The first line of defence for any physical security system is the perimeter,” says Phathizwe Malinga, managing director of SqwidNet. “It can be extremely expensive to build extra infrastructure around the perimeter to protect it – a fence to protect a fence if you will. This often means you have to pay for extra services designed to support the security provided by the boundary and it starts to feel like a redundant circle of cost and complexity.”

The problem is that often companies don’t know that their perimeters have been breached until it is too late. They can remain undetected and put people at risk. This is particularly true in remote, rural locations across South Africa where vast distances and limited communications make it difficult to consistently monitor perimeters and access. Recently, SqwidNet collaborated with Teqcon, a South African mechanical and electronic design company, to address the problem at the point of origin.

Teqcon specialises in the design and development of perimeter detection devices and they have worked with SqwidNet to launch an intelligent, wireless perimeter solution that uses Sigfox to communicate. Called Wi-i, the solution is ideally suited to adding on that extra intelligent layer to sites that need extra security such as prisons, airports, nuclear facilities, military bases, residential estates and industrial complexes.

“The Wi-i Tremoli and the Wi-i Deflexi are battery-powered, wireless, and simple to install,” says Francois Snyman, Teqcon. “They need zero infrastructure to be installed and their batteries last up to four years, so they are resilient and reliable as well. The Tremoli unit measures the amount of energy that a structure experiences when someone is trying to cut a fence or climb over it. The Deflexi unit is designed to monitor the cutting or spreading of electric fences.”

Both solutions basically sit at intermittent points along the fence and alert the relevant authorities when there is unusual activity along the perimeter. Each one works in a different way, so they are suited to different applications and installations, and each one uses the Sigfox network to communicate across the system. In the past, they could only connect their devices using Teqcon’s proprietary wireless network, or GSM (when available). Now they can use Sigfox for completely independent communication, especially in remote areas where other networks are not available.

“When Teqcon started work on the project, Sigfox wasn’t available in South Africa,” says Malinga. “Now, using the Sigfox network, they can completely eliminate the need for base stations out in the field and the need to implement and maintain a GSM network. This means no unnecessary GSM network subscription costs or coverage limitations, and fewer base station installations, significantly reducing the cost of the solution to client and potential use cases.”

The Sigfox network has reduced the operating and installation costs, improved the accessibility and capabilities of the system, and allowed for deeper integration across different sites and applications across the country. The solution helps to address a challenging issue in South Africa – the remote control of rural sites – and helps the business protect their assets against intruders. Some sites are protected by perimeter fencing because access is dangerous, and this ensures that people are prevented from making a life-threatening mistake. It also allows for the business to minimise investment into extra layers of external infrastructure as it can be simply added onto existing fencing and adapted to suit specific requirements.

“Collaborating with SqwidNet in embedding the Sigfox solution into both Wi-i Deflexi and Wi-i  Tremoli has ensured that we can provide smart, relevant and absolutely secure solutions to the market,” says Snyman.

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Meet the accountant of the future

The accountant of the future will need a new set of skills, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, as he meets both the local users and the global creators of Xero accounting software

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Buchule and Sivenathi Sibaca get a highrise view of London. Pic by Arthur Goldstuck

Meet Buchule and Sivenathi Sibaca. They are not only partners in marriage, but also in a thriving accounting business. Buchule and Sivenathi are, respectively, chief executive officer and chief financial officer of SMTAX, which focuses on tax and accounting services for small businesses in the Western Cape, but includes the likes of Absa and Old Mutual among its clients. It employs 18 people and has 4,500 individual and business customers.

That’s not what makes the outfit remarkable. The startling feature of this business is that it has been structured to be a model accounting firm of the next decade. Even more remarkable is the fact that the couple both hail from rural areas where thoughts of the future tend to be about survival rather than blazing new trails.

Last week, they made their first trip out of the country, to attend Xerocon London 2019. This 2-day conference, hosted by the world’s fastest growing accounting software maker, Xero, attracted more than 3,000 delegates from the United Kingdom, Europe Middle East and Africa. A total of 57 Xero partners and users, mostly from accounting practices or suppliers to accountants, made the trek from South Africa.

“It was really about seeing how other accountants on other continents operate in terms of how they think and where their headspace is at,” Buchule told us during Xerocon. “Also, being our first time out of the country, it was to see the culture of other small businesses outside of South Africa. 

“London’s quite different in that regard, but it’s been a really a great learning curve, and we were pleasantly surprised to find elements that look like South Africa, where we can say, at least you’re doing something right. The banking environment is quite unique, as it’s been a really good learning curve in terms of where banking might go to in the future of South Africa if they follow the same trend.”

Buchule comes from the “dusty streets” of Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, while Sivenathi grew up on a farm in a deep rural area near Mthatha.

“I had no idea about technology or the rest of the world or how it could impact the economy in general,” she said. The two met at the University of Cape Town, where she was studying to be an actuary, and he completed a Masters degree in tax. She decided to put actuarial science behind her, however, when the opportunity arose to join Buchule’s business. But her skills helped transform the business.

Said Buchule: “When Sivenathi came on board we did the modeling of the business, and we said that in order to in order to automate the whole bookkeeping journey, we would need to turn closer and closer towards ‘x’, meaning fully automated bookkeeping. We looked at the journey of how long it will it take for us to get to time ‘x’. And then we said, OK, once we get there, what then?

“It was a big realization that when we do get to time ‘x’, the most important thing will be the human touch. That will be the differentiator. So we then spent our time developing that.”

Visit the next page to read more about the Xerocon 2019 event.

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Takealot reveals startling numbers for Black Friday

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Takealot has revealed startling numbers for expected bumper sales this holiday season, beginning next week, and peaking with Black Friday.

South Africa’s leading ecommerce group expects to ship at least one order every second, with roughly 10,000 boxes leaving their warehouses every hour, this shopping season. 

Black Friday was first introduced to South Africa by Takealot in 2012, and has since become an important day in South Africa’s annual retail calendar. It has been a record-breaker for both retailers in the Takealot Group: Takealot and Superbalist. Takealot’s Black Friday gross merchandise value (GMV) grew 125% from 2017 to 2018, with orders up 127%. Superbalist’s Black Friday GMV has grown on average around 50%. This year, CEO Kim Reid is anticipating the biggest Black Friday yet, a culmination of months of tech and operational business-wide focus to prepare for increased predicted traffic and shopper volumes.

ABSA bank estimates that two out of three South Africans participated in Black Friday sales in 2018. And FNB reports in 2018, Black Friday transaction volumes grew by 16% compared with 2017 and anticipates a 15% increase in transactions over the sales period in 2019. 

Successfully meeting this massive growth in orders has been a key focus for the Takealot Group. CEO Kim Reid says throughout the year they have been working to scale operations across multiple areas within the business. “After expanding our Johannesburg distribution centre (DC), our warehouse storage space now stands at 75 000m2. We house over 3.7 million items at any given time, and have opened 47 Takealot Pickup Points in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Limpopo, Free State and Mpumalanga for order collections and returns, with more to open in the coming months.” 

Takealot Delivery Team delivers to more South African homes than any other courier company in the country. On a monthly basis, they carry out over 1.6-million deliveries,  with this number expected to increase to over 2-million during the shopping season. More than 4,500 drivers currently deliver for the Takealot Delivery Team; a number that is growing every month. The Takealot group anticipates they’ll travel over 4,000 000km from Black Friday until 24 December. “To put that in context, it is the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe over 100 times” says Reid.

Takealot.com’s Blue Dot Sale is a five day sale period which starts on Black Friday (29 November) and sees a range of new deals throughout the weekend as well as on Cyber Monday (2 December) and Takealot Tuesday (3 December), with up to 60% off thousands of items. For the first time, takealot.com will also be giving their shoppers early access to some of its Black Friday deals, starting on 24 November. Fresh new app-only deals will be added daily. 

The Superbalist Showdown will run from 29 November to 3 December, with up to 70% off more than 15 000+ items. Superbalist shoppers will also have early access to Black Friday deals on selected days throughout November, with Superbalist’s Black Friday Spoilers – 24 hours to shop deals that they say won’t be beaten on Black Friday. 

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