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Robots in your business

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Robotics and automation technologies present new opportunities for South African organisations to redefine their Business Process Services (BPS) functions, say RAJESH SEHGAL and GAVIN HOLME of Wipro.

With robotics at the centre, organisations are able to scale faster, enter new markets or industries and become more fluid and responsive to customer needs.

Robotics is driving what we could succinctly refer to as an evolution from ‘efficiency’ to ‘effectiveness’

What does this mean?

Firstly, robotics offers far greater value than just simplifying and automating what were previously manual processes. It sets the scene for cognitive analytics: where systems start detecting patterns, learning of their own accord and providing new insights into potential business opportunities.

Secondly, it enables the smoother flow of operations in increasingly complex business ecosystems. By being able to tightly integrate internal business silos and external business partners, organisations enjoy the benefits of true collaboration.

For example, by analysing buying trends and automatically sending data to suppliers or partners, firms can optimise their supply chains and distribution networks.

Thirdly, by connecting with an organisation’s legacy systems, robotics can unearth hidden value from the data lying in this infrastructure. Tasks that were previously too complex as they required system integration, were time-consuming, or expensive for humans to perform, can now be performed at a fraction of the cost by the intelligent application of robotics.

And finally, robotics-focused BPS allows firms to elevate parts of their workforce to higher-value roles.

By detecting patterns and automatically plugging into workflow environments, BPS removes many of the lower-value operational activities from staff. Human capital resources can be devoted to higher-value strategic business management instead of operational efficiency.

Bigger opportunities

Taking a broader perspective, robotics-based BPS promises to realise the vision of South Africa becoming a leading BPS outsourcing hub for the rest of the world.

Factors like local currency devaluation, strong English-language skills, similar time zones to Western Europe and good connectivity offer South Africa an excellent potential to become a net exporter of BPS skills and services.

Through our local operations and various training endeavours, Wipro is playing a catalysing role in achieving this ambition.

For example, of the 1450 Wipro staff delivering services for African customers, approximately 300 are from previously disadvantaged South African backgrounds. Wipro absorbs newly-fledged graduates and invests in rigorous business and technical training programmes and have found employment within the organisation delivering value to our customers.

This is just example of how by developing local skills, and then combining those with advancements in robotics and automation, Africa can very quickly become a premier destination for outsourced BPS services.

Whether we are discussing robotics within the organisation, or more broadly at a national level, now is the right time to seriously start considering the technology and how it can enhance the region’s companies, government departments and the economy at large.

Robotics-based BPS will continue to evolve at rapid rates over the coming years and those that adopt the technology earlier will have a clear advantage over their peers.

* Rajesh Sehgal, Global Head of Quality & Process Excellence, Wipro BPS and Gavin Holme, Country Head, Africa, Wipro Technologies

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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