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Spotify arrives to shake up SA music industry

The global leader in music streaming has arrived in South Africa, and is set to shake up the industry, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK .

The final death knell has been sounded for the thousands of iPods still in use in South Africa. Due to the high cost of streaming music via mobile data, many have held onto the one-time standard in storing music that was bought or copied onto a portable device.

That is about to change, as the world leader in music streaming, Spotify, was formally launched in this country yesterday. And it making a big play for the local audience.

“Our product stands for discovery: discovering new music and music you will like,” says Michael Krause, Spotify MD for Europe, Middle East and Africa. “We have local and international artists. Local content is so important which is why we made a huge effort to get local artist licensing.”

Krause stresses that Spotify’s arrival would be a boon not only or music lovers, but for the artists as well.

“It will give all the artists access to over 159-million customers, so we hope more South African artists will have great exposure outside the country, and also to local fans who will discover new artists they didn’t know. We hope more artists will be able to make a living off our service.”.

Spotify cheat sheet_Final

And there is one other massive potential benefit.

“Streaming is a key driver for industry growth in general,” says Krause. “Music streaming really helps to boost markets, even where there was a decline because of digital music. It has changed markets back to growth. These are features we hope to emphasise in South Africa.”

Spotify is available in both a free version, supported by advertising, and a paid version, which will cost R60 a month – as little as half of the $10 price tag in the United States. This positions it at the same price as other major streaming services in South Africa, like Simfy Africa and Google Play Music.  As with Simfy, users will be able to download music onto their smartphone when in a Wi-Fi zone, and play it offline when only expensive mobile data is available.

The one fundamental difference to other streaming services, however, is that few users will experience a difference between music available locally and internationally. That means current users who have been “cheating” by signing onto the American service won’t be disadvantaged when they switch.

“All South Africans can simply change the country and payment mechanism so that they can pay the local pricing,” says Claudius Boller, Spotify MD for Middle East and Africa. “The interesting thing is that it’s the same music, so you don’t lose any of your playlist.

“Our standard international offer is live in this market, and there will be more local content available. It’s a very tiny amount of content that may not be available due to licensing rights. We’re a 100% legal service, so we have everything licensed.”

Krause says that Spotify has had the African continent in its sights for a while, but chose South Africa as the continent’s launch pad due to a combination of music culture and better connectivity. Not mentioned in this context is the fact that, because the service currently requires credit or debit cards, Nigeria poses particular challenges. Many online services do not accept credit card from the continent’s largest music market

“Not everyone has a credit card available,” Krause says diplomatically. “Other payment options will come after the first launch. We will make sure we have all payment possibilities so that people have no boundaries.”

Meanwhile, the South African launch coincided with the service going live in three other countries yesterday, namely Israel, Romania and Vietnam.

Spotify is expected to make a similar impact on streaming music in South Africa as Netflix made on the video-on-demand industry. Netflix came into a market that had been gearing up for its arrival, but it still cleaned up, thanks to a vast and fast-growing catalogue of original content.

This still left room for a variety of niche players, like Digital Entertainment on Demand (DEOD), which emphasis extreme and school sports, Kwese Play, with a strong African focus, and Cell C’s black, which fills various gaps in between.

Music streaming,  on the other hand, does not lend itself to providers creating their own content, nor to artists providing exclusivity to one outlet – although there are exceptions. This means anyone in the market for a music streaming service is likely to choose only one. Spotify’s free version, along with the large existing fan base for its paid service, means it will be the first stop for most music lovers.

It is also likely to have one other effect that would not be encountered in developed markets. Because of the massive awareness that will spring from local artists punting Spotify to their fans, it will probably create a spike in app usage by South Africans who had migrated to smartphones but remained wary of data use.

In this way, it may well be a catalyst for growth in industries beyond only music.

* The Spotify app can be downloaded via the Android or iOS app stores or on the Web at www.spotify.com.  The premium service offers a 30-day free trial. 

Spotify facts and figures

Spotify offers the following curated playlists for South Africa:

Top Hits South Africa
New Music Friday SA
Hip Hop Juice
Sunday Praise
Gospel Greatness
House Nation
iGqom Le
Rock Essentials
Made in South Africa
Beste Pop
Maskandi Favourites
The Hip Hop Circle
Chilled Vibez
Sunday Feels  Feel Good Look Good
Nine 2 Five
Gym Beats
That Party Feeling
City Back 2 Kasi
SA Gold

Spotify stats:

  • Over 159 million active users
  • Over 71 million subscription users
  • Over 35m tracks in the catalogue
  • Over 2 billion playlists available
  • Over €8 billion paid to rights holders since launch in October 2008
  • Available across 65 markets including South Africa

Spotify Free features: 

  • Full catalogue access
  • Curated, personalised playlists, background play and charts
  • Listen to any artist, album or playlist on Android and iPhone handsets
  • Access to the full Spotify catalogue on desktop and tablet
  • Create playlists and share with friends on Spotify, Facebook, Twitter, text and email.

Spotify Premium: 

  • On-demand music with no ad interruptions on computer, phone and tablet
  • High quality streaming (320kbps)
  • Listen offline
  • Use Spotify Connect to play Spotify on a connected speaker, TV and car.
  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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Now IBM’s Watson joins IoT revolution in agriculture

Global expansion of the Watson Decision Platform taps into AI, weather and IoT data to boost production

IBM has announced the global expansion of Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture, with AI technology tailored for new crops and specific regions to help feed a growing population. For the first time, IBM is providing a global agriculture solution that combines predictive technology with data from The Weather Company, an IBM Business, and IoT data to help give farmers around the world greater insights about planning, ploughing, planting, spraying and harvesting.

By 2050, the world will need to feed two billion more people without an increase in arable land [1]. IBM is combining power weather data – including historical, current and forecast data and weather prediction models from The Weather Company – with crop models to help improve yield forecast accuracy, generate value, and increase both farm production and profitability.

Roric Paulman, owner/operator of Paulman Farms in Southwest Nebraska, said: “As a farmer, the wild card is always weather. IBM overlays weather details with my own data and historical information to help me apply, verify, and make decisions. For example, our farm is in a highly restricted water basin, so the ability to better anticipate rain not only saves me money but also helps me save precious natural resources.”

New crop models include corn, wheat, soy, cotton, sorghum, barley, sugar cane and potato, with more coming soon. These models will now be available in the Africa, U.S. Canada, Mexico, and Brazil, as well as new markets across Europe and Australia.

Kristen Lauria, general manager of Watson Media and Weather Solutions at IBM, said: “These days farmers don’t just farm food, they also cultivate data – from drones flying over fields to smart irrigation systems, and IoT sensors affixed to combines, seeders, sprayers and other equipment. Most of the time, this data is left on the vine — never analysed or used to derive insights. Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture aims to change that by offering tools and solutions to help growers make more informed decisions about their crops.” 

The average farm generates an estimated 500,000 data points per day, which will grow to 4 million data points by 2036 [2]. Applying AI and analysis to aggregated field, machine and environmental data can help improve shared insights between growers and enterprises across the agriculture ecosystem. With a better view of the fields, growers can see what’s working on certain farms and share best practices with other farmers. The platform assesses data in an electronic field record to identify and communicate crop management patterns and insights. Enterprise businesses such as food companies, grain processors, or produce distributors can then work with farmers to leverage those insights. It helps track crop yield as well as the environmental, weather and plant biologic conditions that go into a good or bad yield, such as irrigation management, pest and disease risk analysis and cohort analysis for comparing similar subsets of fields.

The result isn’t just more productive farmers. Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture could help a livestock company eliminate a certain mold or fungus from feed supply grains or help identify the best crop irrigation practices for farmers to use in drought-stricken areas like California. It could help deliver the perfect French fry for a fast food chain that needs longer – not fatter – potatoes from its network of growers. Or it could help a beer distributor produce a more affordable premium beer by growing higher quality barley that meets the standard required to become malting barley.

Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture is built on IBM PAIRS Geoscope from IBM Research, which quickly processes massive, complex geospatial and time-based datasets collected by satellites, drones, aerial flights, millions of IoT sensors and weather models. It crunches large, complex data and creates insights quickly and easily so farmers and food companies can focus on growing crops for global communities.

IBM and The Weather Company help the agriculture industry find value in weather insights. IBM Research collaborates with start up Hello Tractor to integrate The Weather Company data, remote sensing data (e.g., satellite), and IoT data from tractors. IBM also works with crop nutrition leader Yara to include hyperlocal weather forecasts in its digital platform for real-time recommendations, tailored to specific fields or crops. IBM acquired The Weather Company in 2016 and has since been helping clients better understand and mitigate the cost of weather on their businesses. The global expansion of Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture is the latest innovation in IBM’s efforts to make weather a more predictable business consideration. Also just announced, Weather Signals is a new AI-based tool that merges The Weather Company data with a company’s own operations data to reveal how minor fluctuations in weather affects business.

The combination of rich weather forecast data from The Weather Company and IBM’s AI and Cloud technologies is designed to provide a unique capability, which is being leveraged by agriculture, energy and utility companies, airlines, retailers and many others to make informed business decisions.

[1] The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, “World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision”

[2] Business Insider Intelligence, 2016 report: https://www.businessinsider.com/internet-of-things-smart-agriculture-2016-10


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What if Amazon used AI to take on factories?

By ANTONY BOURNE, IFS Global Industry Director for Manufacturing

Amazon recently announced record profits of $3.03bn, breaking its own record for the third consecutive time. However, Amazon appears to be at a crossroads as to where it heads next. Beyond pouring additional energy into Amazon Prime, many have wondered whether the company may decide to enter an entirely new sector such as manufacturing to drive future growth, after all, it seems a logical step for the company with its finger in so many pies.

At this point, it is unclear whether Amazon would truly ‘get its hands dirty’ by manufacturing its own products on a grand scale. But what if it did? It’s worth exploring this reality. What if Amazon did decide to move into manufacturing, a sector dominated by traditional firms and one that is yet to see an explosive tech rival enter? After all, many similarly positioned tech giants have stuck to providing data analytics services or consulting to these firms rather than genuinely engaging with and analysing manufacturing techniques directly.

If Amazon did factories

If Amazon decided to take a step into manufacturing, it is likely that they could use the Echo range as a template of what AI can achieve. In recent years,Amazon gained expertise on the way to designing its Echo home speaker range that features Alexa, an artificial intelligence and IoT-based digital assistant.Amazon could replicate a similar form with the deployment of AI and Industrial IoT (IIoT) to create an autonomously-run smart manufacturing plant. Such a plant could feature IIoT sensors to enable the machinery to be run remotely and self-aware; managing external inputs and outputs such as supply deliveries and the shipping of finished goods. Just-in-time logistics would remove the need for warehousing while other machines could be placed in charge of maintenance using AI and remote access. Through this, Amazon could radically reduce the need for human labour and interaction in manufacturing as the use of AI, IIoT and data analytics will leave only the human role for monitoring and strategic evaluation. Amazon has been using autonomous robots in their logistics and distribution centres since 2017. As demonstrated with the Echo range, this technology is available now, with the full capabilities of Blockchain and 5G soon to be realised and allowing an exponentially-increased amount of data to be received, processed and communicated.

Manufacturing with knowledge

Theorising what Amazon’s manufacturing debut would look like provides a stark learning opportunity for traditional manufacturers. After all, wheneverAmazon has entered the fray in other traditional industries such as retail and logistics, the sector has never remained the same again. The key takeaway for manufacturers is that now is the time to start leveraging the sort of technologies and approaches to data management that Amazon is already doing in its current operations. When thinking about how to implement AI and new technologies in existing environments, specific end-business goals and targets must be considered, or else the end result will fail to live up to the most optimistic of expectations. As with any target and goal, the more targeted your objectives, the more competitive and transformative your results. Once specific targets and deliverables have been considered, the resources and methods of implementation must also be considered. As Amazon did with early automation of their distribution and logistics centres, manufacturers need to implement change gradually and be focused on achieving small and incremental results that will generate wider momentum and the appetite to lead more expansive changes.

In implementing newer technologies, manufacturers need to bear in mind two fundamental aspects of implementation: software and hardware solutions. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, which is increasingly bolstered by AI, will enable manufacturers to leverage the data from connected IoT devices, sensors, and automated systems from the factory floor and the wider business. ERP software will be the key to making strategic decisions and executing routine operational tasks more efficiently. This will allow manufacturers to keep on top of trends and deliver real-time forecasting and spot any potential problems before they impact the wider business.

As for the hardware, stock management drones and sensor-embedded hardware will be the eyes through which manufacturers view the impact emerging technologies bring to their operations. Unlike manual stock audits and counting, drones with AI capabilities can monitor stock intelligently around production so that operations are not disrupted or halted. Manufacturers will be able to see what is working, what is going wrong, and where there is potential for further improvement and change.

Knowledge for manufacturing

For many traditional manufacturers, they may see Amazon as a looming threat, and smart-factory technologies such as AI and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as a far off utopia. However, 2019 presents a perfect opportunity for manufacturers themselves to really determine how the tech giants and emerging technologies will affect the industry. Technologies such as AI and IoT are available today; and the full benefits of these technologies will only deepen as they are implemented alongside the maturing of other emerging technologies such as 5G and Blockchain in the next 3-5 years. Manufacturers need to analyse the needs which these technologies can address and produce a proper plan on how to gradually implement these technologies to address specific targets and deliverables. AI-based software and hardware solutions will fundamentally revolutionise manufacturing, yet for 2019, manufacturers just have to be willing to make the first steps in modernisation.

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