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SMEs adapt to IT

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The evolution of IT means that SMEs no longer need to be responsible for IT in the traditional sense. In fact, they have surpassed their larger counterparts as early adopters of cloud-based services, writes BRIAN TIMPERLEY, MD of Turrito Networks

The SME’s requirements are clear: compute, connect, communicate, and backup their data. The hosted environment provides the perfect way to do just that. It offers scalability, redundancy, and security; all with enormous convenience and highly cost effective.

But, the one critical enabler for all of this, of course, is internet connectivity.

After all, cloud-enabled businesses rely on uninterrupted connectivity, in some ways even more than they rely on electricity.

South African businesses have adapted well to having standby batteries, solar backups and generators at the ready for when Eskom decides to fail us. But in the same way, businesses need to have backups for when their Internet provision fails. Fortunately, because there is competition in the connectivity market between access mediums, as well as between providers, second- and third-tier failover options are available.

SMEs are developing much closer and more demanding relationships with their connectivity and ICT providers. They need partners who can help them make strategic decisions about which services and infrastructure to invest in, and how to get the best available service within their budget. Now more than ever, customer service is a critical differentiator.

As a result of the commoditization of technology, service and solution providers need to find ways to differentiate themselves beyond their products. The current situation is that very few people trust the intentions of ISPs, and to some extent, this is warranted as the interest of the customer is often secondary to the bottom line of the business.

For example, if you are a network provider, it is in your interest to sell your network solutions irrespective of whether there is a perfect customer fit or not.

The service and solutions providers best suited to a changing ICT environment will be the ones who have zero interest in specific vendor solutions – the aggregators, who consider the best interests of the customer.  The companies able to excel are those that can provide multiple tailored models as opposed to one specific solution – it is a case of providing customers with service levels that show they are not small fish in a big pond. Businesses that rely on a single network provider for their connectivity are putting themselves at risk.

Businesses, irrespective of size, should be able to move if one network is no longer serving their needs – or even a combination of networks – without changing your service provider. This, we believe, is the link that’s been missing in the industry.

The ideal solution is to become aligned with a service provider who offers the business service layer that links multiple networks to multiple clients.

And this is exactly what SMEs are starting to do.

Technology is a means to an end – not a business feature that takes hold of them and prevents them from going about their day-to-day operations. For those SMEs willing to embrace this new order, the inevitable next step is to leave their more traditional competitors in their wake.

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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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