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SA e-commerce in 2018 signals retailers to innovate

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2017, and Black Friday, in particular, proved online shopping is alive and well, albeit a little ill-prepared, or possibly naive. However, for now, at least, the truth remains that the status of e-commerce sits at around 1 to 2% of total retail.

At the same time, retail sales in South Africa is inching along pitifully, growing marginally by 0.2% in September, compared with the same month last year, although economists had predicted a growth of over 2.5%. Very much a rock and a hard place.

“Black Friday was a great success for SA e-tailers, and for consumers, and we’re delighted by that dawning. But with the economy putting pressure on retail, it’s imperative that local brands innovate around their model and distribution,” explains Grant Webster, the COO of nationwide smart device repair specialist, weFix.

Yuppie Chef, an interesting case in point, is testing an additional channel, making a bold step from online to bricks and mortar in this last quarter opening a store at Cape Town’s Willowbridge Mall in August. That’s thinking out of the box.

Originally praised for its dorm room beginnings, the weFix brand has intensely focused itself on partnerships for the last year and a half, contouring their infrastructure to craft a model that allows for scalability across devices, brands and technology. “Originally working with Apple Devices, we added Samsung and then LG and Huawei to our suite of products that we repair. Having repaired over 750 000 devices in 35 stores nationwide, through 150 technicians, we shifted from a repair shop to a lab with technicians, supported by a robust framework to manage large trade volume for global brands.”

Under the leadership of Simon van der Merwe, weFix’s Chief Business Development Officer, this evolution paved the way to open up to more brands, including Yoco, the small wireless-card machines that seem ubiquitous at stores, restaurants, coffee shops, and small businesses, as well as the servicing of all the newly launched Energizer units, and FNB smart devices nationwide, the first local financial services company to launch its own branded Android-powered smartphones, designed by Chinese phone maker ZTE.

Within the insurance industry, weFix manage claims for the majority of insurance companies, including Discovery, MonitorKZN, and Santam, while breaking new ground with Click2Sure Insurance, who have launched a new uncomplicated digitally-led insurance product at point of sale. weFix was also the recipient of the Top Contents Repair Specialist from Discovery Insure for 2017.

2016 saw the introduction of global drone leader, DJI, both in sales and repairs and gaining weFix repair accreditation – certifying their first authorised DJI repair technicians, making a bold play for the booming drone market. This continued their extension from consumers to B2B to trade business via a new wholesale division which distributes and sells via Takealot, JD Group (Incredible Connection, Hifi Corp), Kaap Agri, Cape Union Mart, and Massmart (Dion Wired and Makro).

“It’s more than just inking an agreement, it’s about collaborating with attentive buyers, meeting their needs and training their team, so that stock is available as best possible and the teams are integrated,” says Webster. “Corporates requiring a tailor-made pickup and drop-off service in a bid to save time, and as a staff perk, can get devices fixed in rapid turnaround times, managed from end-to-end, by relationship managers and offering corporate accounts. For large retailers, we literally repair thousands of devices per year.”

The most exciting part of the weFix journey is that they needed to get the infrastructure right first to hold the capacity for more brands across all stores. That means understanding the brands, training our technicians, buying parts in for the stores, having dedicated workshops in both Cape Town and Johannesburg. weFix are now able to onboard new brands into a robust environment that global brands can depend on. Webster concludes, “It makes absolute sense to outsource your warranty repairs to the leader in the industry. Our track record is the best endorsement we have. It’s just the beginning for us, it’s a new horizon for our business.”

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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SAFTA awards get first streaming video nominees

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The 2019 nominations for The South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) were announced late last week, and for the first time in the 13-year history of the awards, a TV series produced for a video-on-demand service was in contention. The result was a surprise boost to streaming service Showmax.

The comedy series Tali’s Wedding Diary, which premiered in December 2017, represented a major step for the then two-year old streaming service. It was the debut Showmax Original, the first time Showmax ventured into producing its own content. The gamble paid off, with the show becoming the most watched of any series on its first day on Showmax, and now Tali’s Wedding Diary has been further recognised with seven SAFTA nominations, making it this year’s most nominated comedy.

“When we first floated the idea of Tali’s Wedding Diary, we joked about winning awards,” says Candice Fangueiro, Showmax’s head of content. “At that point, just getting our first Showmax Original off the ground was already a major challenge and it was more than we could hope for to actually hit it out of the park. I was stunned when I heard the news about the nominations – it’s amazing to be considered in the same company as these other shows and thanks to this we’re already seeing a fresh spike in Tali views.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary was also a first for co-creator and star Julia Anastasopoulos, who until then was best known as YouTube star SuzelleDIY. “I am so thrilled about the SAFTA nominations for Tali’s Wedding Diary,” says Julia, who is up for Best Actress – TV Comedy and Best Achievement in Scriptwriting – TV Comedy, along with her husband Ari Kruger and Daniel Zimbler. 

“It was such a big and daunting step to create a full TV comedy series and intro a brand-new character. I really didn’t know how it would be received and am so happy to have received such positive feedback for the show and the Tali Babes character, along with the nominations. It feels so good to be recognised for something we poured our hearts into. None of it would have been possible, of course, without the incredible hard work and vision of my husband Ari and the incredible team, cast and crew that were part of the show. And a huge thank you to Showmax of course for making it all possible. Congratulations and best of luck to the entire team and to all the other nominees.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary is a mockumentary that follows Tali, a self-obsessed Joburg princess who’s moved to Cape Town and is planning her wedding to property-agent fiancé Darren (Anton Taylor). The series was inspired by Julia’s own wedding to Ari, her SuzelleDIY and Tali’s Wedding Diary co-creator, who is also up for Best Achievement In Directing – TV Comedy.  

In addition to Julia and Ari’s nominations, Tali’s Wedding Diary is up for Best TV Comedy, Art Direction (Keren Setton),  Cinematography (James Adey), and Editing (Richard Starkey). Winners will be announced on 2 March 2019 at Sun City Superbowl.

Following the success of Tali’s Wedding Diary, the second Showmax Original, The Girl From St Agnes, was released earlier this month. A third Showmax Original, Trippin With Skhumba, is slated for release at the end of February.

“With three Showmax Originals now under our belt and more on the way, we’d like to think this is the start of many more SAFTA nominations for shows from a streaming service,” concludes Candice.

South African content currently on Showmax has 110 nominations and includes the most nominated movie (Five Fingers With Marseilles), telenovela (The River), drama (Lockdown) and soap (Isibaya), with more SAFTA nominees scheduled for the coming months.

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