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Technology that shines a light in the face of load shedding

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Load shedding is going to be with us for some time in the future, and with it comes endless inconveniences, for both citizens and businesses. ELAINE WANG of Rectron discusses how companies can use technology to stay connected and operational during load shedding.

Load shedding is set to be part of our lives in South Africa for the foreseeable future, bringing with it inconvenience and expense for all citizens, not to mention the business landscape.

While the digital environment we operate in and rely on brings with it significant benefits for doing business, without power it can be quite the stumbling block. And while big businesses may be able to absorb the costs of generators to keep operations up and running, small and medium sized businesses can find themselves in a more vulnerable position, with some resorting to shutting down until the power is back up.

However, making use of the tools at our disposal in the digital age can mean the difference between staying connected and being cut off when the lights go out.

Staying mobile

In the age of mobility and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), it’s commonplace for employees to make use of their own devices and to work wherever, whenever.

While big businesses may have the budgets to be more mobile ready, it pays SMBs to embrace this trend. Portable devices like laptops and tablets don’t have to cost the earth, and mean employees can keep working as long as their devices’ battery life allows. Investing in a cloud productivity service like Office 365 means they can access Office across their devices, wherever they can connect to the internet – perhaps there’s a coffee shop with power down the road ideally suited to a productive few hours of work while the lights are out at the office.

Of course, when working with portable devices, it pays to invest in devices with long battery life, such as Lenovo’s Yoga range, which boast up to 18 hours between charges, and to maintain the battery for optimal performance. It’s also essential to have an outlet to charge the devices, whether this is a UPS or even portable power packs that can charge a device on the go.

Keeping connected

If we’re considering a more portable way of life when it comes to devices in the workplace, then it makes just as much sense to untether from ‘traditional’ internet connectivity. While the majority of South African small businesses use ADSL to connect to the internet (World Wide Worx SME Survey 2015), this only works when the power is on. The solution here is to consider mobile data, which can allow employees to continue working on their mobile devices or even create a mobile hotspot to stay connected.

Working in the cloud

We’ve already mentioned the benefits of Office 365 as a means of accessing Office from anywhere. Taking this a step forward, investing in public cloud computing like Microsoft Azure means businesses can run their servers in the cloud, housing all company email, documents and applications offsite. Aside from saving money on expensive infrastructure that many small businesses can ill afford, the benefit of going this route is that when the lights go out, productivity doesn’t have to come to a halt. The combination of having staff using mobile devices, equipped with mobile data and still able to access their emails and important documents is essential for small businesses to ensure that load shedding doesn’t become a deal breaker.

The power of the battery

There are certain office functions that cannot be housed in the cloud or moved to a mobile device. One such function is printing. Battery operated multi-function printers offer a great solution, allowing for businesses to print, scan, fax and copy without having to find the nearest printing shop and rack up unnecessary expenses. Ricoh’s SG3120B SFNw printer is a great example, as it can operate on external power for day-to-day use, and automatically switches to battery power in the case of a power cut.

Keeping business going

When we hear the words ‘load shedding’, most of us immediately worry about loss of productivity, data and business. Technology can be a stumbling block if we rely on plugging in to stay connected. However, by altering the way we work in the digital age, not only can we stay connected in the face of load shedding, but we can actually save money and improve productivity in the long run. Finding solutions that promote employees working anywhere, anytime; moving to the cloud; and investing in the right technology can be the difference between fading into the dark or shining as a successful business – regardless of size.

* Elaine Wang, Group Microsoft Business Unit Manager, Rectron.

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Homemation creates comfort through smart homes

Home automation is more than just turning the lights on and off, Homemation’s Gedaliah Tobias tells BRYAN TURNER

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The world is taking interior design notes from the Danish, in a style of living called hygge (pronounced hoo-gah). Its meaning varies from person to person: some see hygge as a warm fire on a cold winter’s night, others see it as a cup of hot coffee in the morning. The amount of “good feelings” one gets from these relaxing activities depends on what one values as indulgent.

But how does technology fit into this “art of feeling good”?

We asked Homemation marketing manager Gedaliah Tobias to take us through a fully automated home of the future and show us how automation creates comfort and good feelings.

“The house is powered by Control4, which you can think of as the brain of the smart home,” says Tobias. “It controls everything from the aircon to smart vacuum cleaners.”

The home of the future is secured by a connected lock. It acts like other locks with keypads and includes a key in the event of a power interruption. The keypad is especially useful to those who want to provide temporary access to visitors, staff, or simply kids who might lose their parents’ house keys.

“The keypad is especially useful for temporary access,” says Tobias. “For example, if you have a garden service that needs to use the home for the day, they can be given a code that only turns off the perimeter alarm beams in the garden for the day and time. If that code is used outside of the day and time range, users can set up alerts for their armed response to be alerted. This type of smart access boosts security.”

Once inside, one is greeted with a “scene” – a type of recipe for electronic success. The scene starts by turning on the lights, then by alerting the user to disarm the alarm. After the alarm is disarmed, the user can start another more complicated scene.

“Users can request customised scene buttons,” says Tobias. “For example, if I press the ‘Dinner call’ scene, the lights start to flash in the bedroom, there’s an announcement from the smart speakers, the blinds start to come down, the lighting is shifted to the dinner table. Shifting focus with lighting creates a mood to bring the house together for dinner.”

Homemation creates these customised scene buttons to enable users to control their homes without having to use another device. In addition to scene buttons, there are several ways to control the smart home.

 “Everything in the smart home is controllable from your phone, the touchscreens around the house, the TV, and the dedicated remote control. Everyone is different, so having multiple ways to control the house is a huge value add.”

We ask Tobias where Homemation recommends non-smart home users should start on their smart home journey.

“Before anything, the Control4 infrastructure needs to be set up. This involves a lot of communications and electrical cabling to be run to different areas of the home to enable connectivity throughout the home. After the infrastructure is set up, the system is ready for smart home devices, like lighting and sound.”

“For new smart home users, the best bang for their buck would be to start with lighting once the infrastructure is set up. Taking it one step at a time is wise.”

•    For more information, visit https://www.homemation.co.za/

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Face App grabs SA attention

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South Africans generated more than 100 000 search queries for “Face App” on Wednesday, while only generating 50 000 for “Mandela Day”. The Internet wentcrazy over the two-year-old app, which uses artificial intelligence to create a rendering of what users might look like in a few decades. Face App went viral as users posted their aged likenesses on social media in the #faceappchallenge. Privacy experts, however, warned that the app (made in Russia) may pose a threat to users’ privacy as it stores photos on its servers, with US Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, appealing to the FBI to investigate the app. 

In other top searches on Google this week, “Johnny Clegg” garnered more than 500 000 search queries on Tuesday as the news of his passing broke. The ‘White Zulu’ of Juluka and Savuka fame was an internationally acclaimed musician who was also an important figure in the fight against apartheid. Tributes to Clegg have been flooding media and social media over the past couple of days. Clegg succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 66.

More than 200 000 search queries were generated for “Mark Batchelor” on Monday after the former soccer star was brutally gunned down outside his Olivedale home in Gauteng. Investigations into the shooting are still ongoing. Batchelor played for Orlando Pirates, Wits University, Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns, Moroka Swallows and Bafana Bafana. 

“Jacob Zuma” also garnered more than 100 000 search queries on Monday as he made his first, much-anticipated appearance in front of the Zondo Commission on state capture. 

On Sunday “Macdonald Ndou” picked up more than 10 000 search queries after reports of theMuvhango actor’s arrest made the rounds. Ndou was held on various charges including extortion and kidnapping. The Hawks have reportedly provisionally withdrawn charges against the TV star, but a spokesperson said the decision to withdraw does not mean the charges will not be reinstated.

“Serena Williams” garnered more than 50 000 searches on Saturday as the tennis superstar suffered a 6-2, 6-2 defeat against Simona Halep in a Wimbledon final that lasted just 56 minutes. Williams later told Agence France Presse, “She [Halep] played out of her mind” and “I was like a deer in headlights”.

Last Friday, South Africans produced more than 20 000 search queries for “Duduzane Zuma” as the Randburg Magistrates Court found the former first son not guilty of a charge of culpable homicide. In February 2014, Zuma was involved in a car crash that took the life of Phumzile Dube when his vehicle crashed into the taxi she was travelling in.

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year, worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40 

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