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SIMs get SME-friendly

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SIM cards have become a way of life for the digital citizens of today. These tiny components are integral to staying connected. For SMEs, where cost efficiencies are essential, managing SIMs have never been more important. KEES SNIJDERS, MD of Flickswitch, takes a closer look.

SIMs extend beyond just data and voice billing in the devices of employees. They play an essential role in machine to machine (M2M) communication. Forming part of the Internet of Things, M2M enables systems to communicate with other devices anywhere in the world.

Multi-device connectivity

This means that organisations can have multiple connected devices that transmit large amounts of data back into the corporate back-end. So what happens if there is an error on the SIM embedded in one of these devices or there is no air-time to send the information back to head office? In a world where deliverables are measured in hours (sometimes minutes), the business impact could be severe.

He says M2M applications extend into all vertical industries so business owners cannot afford to rest on their laurels. From a smart meter in a home to a vehicle tracking device, there are very few aspects in our lives that are not affected by SIMs.

And while these are consumer examples, consider the potential for enterprise-level systems. Already, there are specialised applications in the utility infrastructure leveraging M2M. Take waterworks as an example. SIMs play a crucial role in sending information on dam levels and water and gate flow to municipalities. Without having these remote systems in place, the process not only slows down but it greatly increases the risk of error that can have life or death repercussions.

SME appeal

Until recently, M2M has been something that was left to large businesses. But thanks to the evolution of technology, even smaller companies can start benefiting from such systems. Unfortunately, SMEs have been held captive by not being aware of the alternative solutions out there.

SMEs have unique challenges and requirements. From an affordability perspective, they cannot use providers who assist the likes of large tracking companies or mining houses. Instead, they need a niche services provider they can trust and is capable of understanding their business to provide them with a SIM management and control solution that fits their organisation.

Not only should such a service provider help manage employee SIMs (smartphones and tablets), but it should also be able to provide assistance outside the pockets of users. Unlike the majority of the European and United States markets, the connectivity of SIMs (especially in M2M) in Africa need to be managed on a prepaid basis.

An African approach

We have seen the local SME M2M market predominantly being on prepaid. In addition, when one looks at the rest of Africa, statistics show that almost 98 percent of the market is relying on prepaid SIMs. This presents a massive opportunity for an experienced service provider such as ourselves, to work closely with SMEs and implement bespoke solutions fitting their focus areas.

Part of a SIM management approach needs to be reliable and real-time monitoring of SIMs in the field. These devices should communicate when they need to be topped up with data irrespective of time or location. Secure M2M communication is also vital. An SME therefore needs a full service partner that is capable of managing all aspects of this journey in order for the business owner to focus on the core operational strategy.

We have seen that if SMEs want to take ownership of this problem, they run into difficulties – both in terms of funds and in terms of human resources required to manage all aspects of the SIM lifecycle. By removing the elements of uncertainty around SIM management, our clients can rest easy in the knowledge that this integral element is taken care of.

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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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