The city is Orlando, Florida. The stage is brightly lit. The actress all but shimmers as she addresses the audience.
“This is the city where I shot Monster,” says Charlize Theron, whose role in that movie made her the first South African to win an Oscar.
But she’s not here to talk about movies. The event where she is talking has nothing to do with movies. Rather, it is one of the biggest business technology conferences of the year. More than 20 000 business and technology professionals have descended on Orlando for the annual Sapphire Now event, hosted by global enterprise resource planning (ERP) software leader SAP.
The prime focus of the event is the release of a new software suite called SAP C/4HANA, designed to usher in what SAP CEO Bill McDermott calls a new generation of customer relations management.
“At the centre is the person, not the transaction,” he declares. The key to this person-focused approach is “intelligent customer experience”, both a philosophy and a new name for the category of software that includes C/4HANA.
McDermott tells business leaders attending his opening keynote session: “Brands are not defined by you, they are defined by your customers. Customers are rebelling against being treated as sales opportunities. Customers are not records in a system; customers are people. Customers have needs and desires, and those have to be at the centre of your design.”
It is this people-focused theme that sets the stage for Charlize Theron, along with stars like Jon Bon Jovi and several Olympic medalists, to share their ideals and motivations.
During an on-stage interview with one of SAP’s most senior female leaders, executive board member Adaire Fox-Martin, Theron shares her views on leadership and purpose. Mostly, however, she speaks of her dedication to a cause close to her heart: the Charlize Therson Aids Outreach Project.
Asked by Fox-Martin why she chose that direction, she speaks passionately about her feelings for South Africa.
“I was born and raised in South Africa and South Africa is the hardest hit country in the world when it comes to HIV and Aids,” she says. “We represent 1% of the world’s population but 19% of the world’s HIV-positive population. More people are living with HIV – 7-million – than anywhere else in the world.
“It’s a very modern country, there’s a real modern face to SA, it’s a very rich country, although still grappling with its democracy. It’s a young democracy. We have things that make our country more complicated than anywhere in the world.
“More cultures are living together than anywhere else, which makes for an incredible country. A country like South Africa should not be dealing with HIV Aids in the way that it does.”
In case the audience doesn’t get the message, she emphasises one of the overriding themes of the conference: “For me, it is very personal.”
Her many return visits to South Africa, she says, made her realise she could do something.
“Every time I went back, I saw the devastation this virus had on my country on every level. Emotionally, it stayed with me, and I realised I was living in these two worlds: one in America where I had been given these opportunities, then going back and seeing young girls like myself not living with opportunities, not having knowledge or education.
“This gave me the drive to take what I had in my life in America and help children who don’t have the tools or resources we have in other countries. We should care about that because it will come round and affect us no matter where we are in the world.”
She leaves the audience with a powerful message: “I’m proud to say South Africa has the biggest HIV treating programme in the world, but we can’t treat ourselves out of HIV and AIDS. We can’t treat it; we have to stop it.”
In contrast, rock star Jon Bon Jovi’s message is almost tame. In conversation with Bill McDermott, he speaks of being moved by the sight, from the window of his luxury hotel room more than a decade ago, of a homeless man sleeping on the streets of Philadelphia. It inspired him to start the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, a non-profit organisation focused on hunger and homelessness in the United States.
Coincidentally, it is another South Africa, little known outside the software world, who shows how technology and compassion truly come together.
Robert Enslin, who built up the SAP business in South Africa in the 1990s, worked his way up the ranks to become president of the SAP Cloud Business Group and a member of the SAP executive board.
He also serves as the executive sponsor for SAP’s Autism at Work program, which integrates people with autism into the workforce. It had become clear to SAP that, while people on the autism spectrum did not often interview well, they excelled at programming once they were hired as software developers. As a result, it launched the Autism at Work programme in 2013.
At Sapphire Now, Enslin discusses SAP’s commitment to the project in a session titled “Inclusion Drives Innovation”.
“In order to compete in the innovation economy, companies need employees who think differently,” he says. “We have a corporate goal to employ 650 colleagues on the autism spectrum by 2020. The initiative currently includes nearly 120 colleagues filling over 20 different positions, and is active in nine countries.”
Enslin is also honorary global Chairman of the Els for Autism Golf Challenge, initiated by South Africa’s golfing legend Ernie Els. While this takes the cause into the world of sports, Enslin is well-known for his views on workplace inclusion.
“Having a diverse workforce no longer means just gender parity,” he says. “Diversity means employing people across generations and cultures, employing differently-abled people, and making sure you have equality across all dimensions of diversity.”
Ultimately, and surprisingly, it is Jon Bon Jovi who sums up the key message coming out of the conference as he sums up his advice to the youth:
“Remain true to who you are, don’t follow fads and fashions because, by the time you get to it, it will already be past. The greatest gift the next generation can give is to aspire to inspire. Don’t sing The Macerena because it is a worldwide number one, but try to write Blowing in the Wind because that song will change people’s lives.”
- 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
Hi-tech reinvents the massage
Virtual reality is invading the world of health and beauty – or is the other way round? ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK discovers a new role for VR through the art of massage.
Imagine you are sitting at your office desk, stretched by deadlines and stressed by office politics. A minute later, you are sitting on a idyllic beach, watching the sunset, and someone is gently massaging your neck.
That’s probably a common fantasy, but now it is also a reality, thanks to the next big step in massage therapy. The ancient art is being transformed by virtual reality (VR), with massage clinics and therapists the world over discovering the transformative power of the technology.
In South Africa, the revolution is led by a company called Sheer Bliss, which works in the corporate space, mainly visiting company offices and call centres. The massage is quick – typically 6 minutes – but the combination of working the most stressed muscles and offering a brief escape to a beach paradise amplifies the experience.
Massage therapy goes back in history several thousand years, first as a sacred form of natural healing in India and later to pamper royals and the rich in ancient Egypt. These days, it is democratised, at least if you can afford it. But thanks to VR, it can now become a mass market experience. Sheer Bliss conducts an average of 27,000 massages a year, with teams in Johannesburg, Cape Town and KZN. Its mobile massage concept means it can also cater for conferences and large sporting events.
However, it’s not so much a case of VR saving the massage industry, as massage giving VR a boost, by providing a wonderful use case for its practical application.
“We needed to find something new to offer our customers,” says Nadine Hocter, founder of Sheer Bliss. “At the same time, we were looking at a way to future-proof the business. I was really lucky in that a group of MBA students at GIBS were given Sheer Bliss for their innovation project.
“We spoke about various ways of making our original massage more immersive. VR was mentioned, but it was in a meeting with a client who wasn’t biting that we sold the idea. Without realising it at the time, our business moved into a class encompassing the 4th Industrial Revolution.”
Visit the next page to more about how Sheer Bliss became the first virtual reality massage therapy business in South Africa.
Drones fight forest fires
The South African forest fire season began a month ago, and an estimated 20807 hectares of land were burnt in the Western Cape.
With such rampant and regular breakouts of forest fires, the quest to contain them before they cause widespread destruction, including property damage and loss of life, remains an issue of high importance for non-governmental organisations and the relevant government agencies. Equally important is the need to safeguard against the loss of the lives of firefighters during missions to contain these blazes.
As this continues being an issue, mainly because of the dense vegetation found in the Western Cape, coupled with the dry weather that is typical for this time of the year, the need to use unmanned aircraft to fight fires is ever increasing.
Drones are particularly crucial for forest fires that tend to get out of control quickly and that put both pilots and crew at risk. There’s only a small containment window between when the fire starts and when it gets out of control. Drones give firefighters a bird’s eye view of the terrain and helps them determine where the fire moves next so they can swiftly make decisions about where crews should go and who should be evacuated.
If you’re a firefighter responsible for forest fire response, mitigation and rescue, the benefits of drones are immense. We’ve detailed the main 4 benefits with supplemental stories below.
1. Drones Gather Situational Awareness in a Short Time
A drone helps you decide within minutes the type and amount of resources to send to the scene. Some drones are also equipped with thermal sensors, which uses infrared radiation to help first responders locate heat signatures of humans and fire hotspots that show where fires are most likely to spread. Even before your personnel arrive on the scene, commanders are able to make decisions just from these images live-streamed to their computers.
In early December whilst fighting a blaze, SanParks made use of a DJI drone with an infrared camera to capture images of the Rocklands fire in Simonstown.
In a similar incident in the German town of Hechingen, firefighters had to fight against winds that were spreading to nearby wooded and populated areas. The creeks had dried out while the first fire truck that arrived carried only 2,000 liters of water.
Hechingen’s Fire Brigade deployed DJI’s Matrice 210 ruggedised commercial grade drone, a Zenmuse XT thermal camera, and an X4S high definition visual imaging camera. These fed information to the incident commanders and helped them know where to direct their resources, how many units to send and where to increase water supply. At the end, the crew extinguished the blaze with only 5,000 liters of water mixed with compressed air foam. The drones not only helped them save water but more importantly hastened reaction time helping the Brigade send crews faster to the scene with the exact manpower, units and supplies.
“The biggest advantage came to light during the search for hotspots and extinguishing them,” Hechingen’s Fire Chief Commander Bulach later told DJI, “The simultaneous deployment of the XT and X4S provided me with exact information about where to delete the hotspots and how long until we reached a safe state.”
2. Drones Protect Your Personnel
Drones help you monitor your crew to make sure you’re sending them in the right direction, that they’re safe and to help you determine whether to send backup forces.
On 13 August 2017, Yosemite firefighters battled a 9-day blaze in Southfork, California, that was complicated by weakened timber trees in the nearby region. Flying planes in the tight canyons was dangerous due to a bellowing column of smoke. At the same time, an unexpected thunderstorm spread the fire, blurring the firefighters’ primary containment line and threatening to spread to nearby villages. The Yosemite fire-force used a DJI drone with the Zenmuse XT thermal payload in their pre-shift early morning hours to map fire lines and livestream information to controllers for operational decisions and situational awareness. Tony Eggiman, Menlo Park FPD Fire Captain recalled, “the operations major told me later it brought his blood pressure from about 200 down to about 100. He was really happy.”
With aerial intelligence captured by drones, incident commanders can make better-informed decisions that keep firefighters safe while they plunge into fire and other dangerous spots to save other peoples’ lives.
3. Drones Enable Fast Mapping for Incident Response as Well as for Post-Incident Recovery
Drone solutions for forest fire response typically carry two different cameras: a visual camera and a thermal camera. The visual camera gives you a real-time view of different situations, able to easily spot things such as your fire team or nearby equipment. The thermal camera scouts for heat signature of the human or fire hotspots.
Drones fly lower than helicopters, providing a more nuanced picture of the situation, and can navigate in tight or dangerous spaces where no helicopter pilot would dare to go. With thermal imaging capabilities, they can locate hotspots at a fire scene within seconds, and see people trapped even in areas of thick smoke.
Drones also play an important role after the fire has been put out. During the Carr Fire, crews piloted low-flying drones to capture 360-degree images of the destruction. For the residents forced out of their homes, this provided invaluable information on property damage to assess insurance claims in a faster time, letting victims more quickly take steps to rebuild their lives.
4. Drones Give you Accurate Intelligence for Informed Decision Making
Wildfires often involve large-scale operations where the incident commander must make decisions on personnel and resource deployment. Drones are effective intelligence generators that can capture detailed data and information from the field, and live stream back to the command centre. By having that real-time aerial view, you can see exactly what’s happening and don’t have to rely on second-hand information. You know what’s going on and where. You can also monitor your crew to see their location and that you’re sending them in the right direction.
Drones allowed firefighters of the Gaoming district, Foshan in South China to expertly evaluate 960 people when a fire broke out on Lingyun Mountain near the area, December 12, 2019.
The DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual (M2ED) was flown out within minutes of the response team’s arrival at the incident for fast situational awareness. Two minutes later, the Matrice 210 V2 drone platform was launched, giving detailed information with its sensor’s 30 times zooming ability. The Mavic gave responders their quick incident overlook, while the Matrice provided detailed, high-resolution images for thorough situational awareness. The combination saved more lives, protected firefighters, and shaved firefighting costs.
As Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) Battalion Chief Richard Fields, program coordinator, told the Board of Fire Commissioners in a March 2019 report, “Timely and accurate communication is essential in getting the right resources in place to mitigate an incident.”
Drones have gained a foothold in the sphere of public safety and forward looking government agencies are expanding their use in areas including environmental services, public works, transportation and rescue services. Download DJI’s whitepaper to explore the Best Practices For Deploying Drones At State And Local Government Level.