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SA needs IoT standards

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It is critical that South African companies taking the first step to the Internet of Things fully explore the possibilities of the technology. This is because the decisions they make now will determine the cost and longevity of the solutions developed in the future, writes ECKART ZOLLNER, Head of Business Development the Jasco Group.

The Internet of Things (IoT) will, as it grows, automate and inform an increasing number of operations, applications and processes. With no dedicated infrastructure in place for IoT – i.e., to send, receive or transport IoT signals – it is critical that first movers in South Africa begin to more fully explore the possibilities. The decisions they make now may well impact the cost and longevity of the solutions they are developing, and help determine the robustness of the foundations the country puts in place for IoT.

In South Africa, IoT presents a huge opportunity in key sectors, but uptake and development of IoT-driven solutions is still low outside of security, vehicle and asset tracking, and point of sale applications. In addition, the capacity to implement change is lacking – simple solutions, such as tracking of dustbin collection and emptying, is slow to happen because organisations battle to put in place the skills and technology processes needed. Clearly, more knowledge and awareness is needed in sectors to keep pace with opportunity – along with a sense of urgency.

IoT is coming. Are you ready?

The slow pace of change in South Africa is likely to change quickly in the next few years as communication capabilities are built into more and more devices, the IoT cloud grows exponentially, and disruptive solutions with better value propositions begin to emerge to oust incumbents in various sectors. Quite simply, customers want better services and cost efficiencies, and IoT-driven applications and solutions offer exactly this.

First movers are already preparing for this future, but they need to focus on more than the development of the IoT solution and the integration of IoT to existing or new processes; they need to now take a careful look at the long-term implications of making use of IoT.

IoT signals vary from a field device sending tiny bits of information every few seconds or minutes, to devices that broadcast a signal every few hours or days. These are tiny bits of data, but for the IoT solution to work, the network that the data is sent along needs to be 100% reliable.

There are few dedicated IoT network solution providers in South Africa.  The major telcos all offer their own solutions. But GSM is expensive for IoT, and with high congestion on most networks and limited remote coverage, it’s not nearly as reliable as it needs to be. In addition, GSM is power hungry, requiring more bandwidth to move data. IoT data is characterised by small bursts of a few bytes of data. Thus, using GSM networks, the battery technologies used in field devices, which ideally need to last two to five years or more, are quickly depleted. This will add to the cost of the solution.

Find dedicated IoT network providers

In Europe, the Unite States and elsewhere, dedicated networks with new topologies are being developed for IoT. These networks are geared to low power devices and low volumes of data, and feature a mesh of repeater stations the ensure 100% throughput.

There are some options in South Africa. The globally defined Industrial Scientific and Medical (ISM) band which is also available in South Africa is open for use upon registration but investment in developing such a network is not insignificant. As the IoT data payload is still low, this is not a very lucrative or attractive market yet and there are few players champing at the bit to offer these services.

At present, because network choices are limited, companies offering IoT solutions select their own channel partners and mandate use of these networks. Thus, when customers sign up for the service they may not have a choice of networks. Similarly, organisations developing proprietary solutions are currently making use of whatever network provider solutions they can find, without fully investigating their options or understanding the long term impacts that network choices may impose – in terms of costs and management of devices.

What South Africa needs is a set of reliable dedicated IoT network providers that guarantee data throughput and conform to global standards. With IoT standards developing in China, the US and Europe, it will be important for South Africa to make a choice in terms of standards, not default to the one most commonly used by operators.

Choosing an IoT network provider – top three considerations 

Key requirements for companies making use of IoT network providers include the following:

•             Be specific in terms of defining requirements and needs

o             Is national or defined geographic coverage needed

o             How often will data need to be sent and received

o             What connect and control specifications are in play

•             Ensure the network provider is flexible

o             Can they adapt to your IoT application to, for example, easily connect more devices, send more data more or less frequently, improve reporting?

o             Do meet and incorporate key IoT standards

•             High service levels are critical

o             Does the network service provider have a network reserved and dedicated to IoT that offers high stability?

In South Africa, commercial applications of IoT are limited, but the opportunity and advantage that IoT presents across sectors is seeing a number of proprietary solutions emerge. If you are gearing to make use of IoT, consider your options carefully. Be aware of the limitations and challenges and make use of solution providers that are flexible, established and experienced, and demonstrate their understanding of IoT technologies. IoT technology is an emerging field but it’s going to be one that plays a big role in our digital future.

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Huawei Mate 20 unveils ‘higher intelligence’

The new Mate 20 series, launching in South Africa today, includes a 7.2″ handset, and promises improved AI.

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Huawei Consumer Business Group today launches the Huawei Mate 20 Series in South Africa.

The phones are powered by Huawei’s densest and highest performing system on chip (SoC) to date, the Kirin 980. Manufactured with the 7nm process, incorporating the Cortex-A76-based CPU and Mali-G76 GPU, the SoC offers improved performance and, according to Huawei, “an unprecedented smooth user experience”.

The new 40W Huawei SuperCharge, 15W Huawei Wireless Quick Charge, and large batteries work in tandem to provide users with improved battery life. A Matrix Camera System includes a  Leica Ultra Wide Angle Lens that lets users see both wider and closer, with a new macro distance capability. The camera system adopts a Four-Point Design that gives the device a distinct visual identity.

The Mate 20 Series is available in 6.53-inch, 6.39-inch and 7.2-inch sizes, across four devices: Huawei Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20 X and Porsche Design Huawei Mate 20 RS. They ship with the customisable Android P-based EMUI 9 operating system.

“Smartphones are an important entrance to the digital world,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer BG, at the global launch in London last week. “The Huawei Mate 20 Series is designed to be the best ‘mate’ of consumers, accompanying and empowering them to enjoy a richer, more fulfilled life with their higher intelligence, unparalleled battery lives and powerful camera performance.”

The SoC fits 6.9 billion transistors within a die the size of a fingernail. Compared to Kirin 970, the latest chipset is equipped with a CPU that is claimed to be 75 percent more powerful, a GPU that is 46 percent more powerful and an NPU (neural processing unit) that is 226 percent more powerful. The efficiency of the components has also been elevated: the CPU is claimed to be 58 percent more efficient, the GPU 178 percent more efficient, and the NPU 182 percent more efficient. The Kirin 980 is the world’s first commercial SoC to use the Cortex-A76-based cores.

Huawei has designed a three-tier architecture that consists of two ultra-large cores, two large cores and four small cores. This allows the CPU to allocate the optimal amount of resources to heavy, medium and light tasks for greater efficiency, improving the performance of the SoC while enhancing battery life. The Kirin 980 is also the industry’s first SoC to be equipped with Dual-NPU, giving it higher On-Device AI processing capability to support AI applications.

Read more about the Mate 20 Pro’s connectivity, battery and camera on the next page. 

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Epic Games brings a
Nite-mare to Android

Epic Games’ decision to not publish games through Google Play inadvertently opens a market to Android virus makers, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, decided to take the high road by skipping Google Play’s app distribution market and placing a third-party installer for its games on its website. While this is technically fine, it is not recommended for the average user, because allowing third-party installers on one’s smartphone opens up the possibility of non-signed and malicious software to be run on the smartphone. 

In June, malware researchers at ESET warned Android gamers that malicious fake versions of the Fortnite app had been created to steal personal information or damage smartphones. A malware researcher demonstrated how the fake applications works in the Tweet below.

While the decision to bypass Google Play was a bold move on Epic Games’ part, it has been a long time coming for app developers to move their premium apps off Google’s Play Store. The two major app distributors, Google Play and Apple’s App Store, take a 30% cut of every purchase made through their app distribution platforms. 

The App Store is currently the only way to get apps on a non-modified iOS device, which is why Epic Games had no choice for Fortnite to be in the App Store. On the other hand, Android phones can install packages downloaded through the browser, which makes the Play Store almost unnecessary for the gaming company. 

The most interesting part of this development is that Google is not the “bad guy” and Epic Games is no saviour to other game developers. Epic Games is a company with a multi-billion dollar valuation and has resources like large-scale servers to distribute and update its games, a big marketing budget to ensure everyone knows how to get its games, and server security to protect against malware. 

Resources of this scale allow the game company to turn a cold shoulder to Google’s Play Store distribution and focus on its own, in-house solution. 

That said, installing packages without the Google Play Store must be done carefully, and it is essential to do homework on where a package is downloaded. Moreover, when a package is installed outside of the Google Play Store, a security switch to block the installation of third party apps must be turned off. This switch should be turned back on immediately after the third party package is installed. 

This complex amount of steps makes it less worthwhile to install third party apps, in favour of rather waiting for them to reach the Play Store.

From a consumer perspective, ESET recommends not installing packages outside of the Google Play Store and to ignore advertisements to download the game from other sources.

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