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Translate Wi-Fi noise for retail

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Everybody wants wireless and they want it yesterday, but what does it really mean for the business? MARIUS VISSER of Metacom explains how a properly implemented wireless solution will benefit a company.

Executives come out of board meetings saying that now is the time to implement Wi-Fi, but there is a lack of substance behind it. Only a few truly understand what it can mean for the business or how to create wireless environments in such a way as to solve customer needs while building the brand and business.

The truth is that the business needs to pull back and take a long look at what it expects from a wireless solution and what metrics it will use to assess its value and potential. There has to be a picture painted by the organisation which outlines the user, the type of Wi-Fi needed and the pain points it is designed to address. This is particularly true of the retail sector where interactions with consumers have become essential.

Benefits of Private Wi-Fi Solutions

The wireless platform has evolved into a place to interact, and transact. Currently there are two Wi-Fi networks which are most commonly used – private and public. Public solutions are limited in scope and functionality, and often the user experience is patchy and unreliable. Private Wi-Fi networks, on the other hand, are far richer, allowing businesses to build secure and highly functional solutions which can be tailored to suit specific business requirements, and customer interactions.

If you apply this technology in the correct way and have measurable objectives, then there will be a clear return on investment. Businesses have to invest in tailored Wi-Fi solutions which deliver superb user experiences and have functionality that can be adapted to suit specific markets and requirements. They also need to ensure that the solution is secure. What we offer is a private network with all the security and capability the business needs to deliver a mature Wi-Fi experience to their customers.

Metacom has developed solutions for its clients which provide interactions for customers on one level and access to training materials for employees on another. Pepkor Africa utilised this dual-level solution to create a space where their employees could gain access to vital training materials on their tablets, regardless of location or store. Whilst staff access is important it is also necessary to build a secure managed environment for interaction with clients. This type of private Wi-Fi environment is aptly described as a ‘walled garden’, a private and secure sanctuary which the brand builds for its staff and its customers. It is secure, it is capable and it has specific rules built in.

Many of our customers offer these Wi-Fi services to their customers and allow them access to certain levels of connectivity. However, there is a need to balance the download demands of the customer with the reality of price and availability. Some customers can abuse the system, fortunately you can build in a failsafe mechanism to prevent this. This level of functionality enables interaction between customer and retailer within tight parameters and sends them to the apps you want them to use and information you want them to learn. In addition, the types of apps and their capabilities can be tailored to specific customer requirements.

Data to Enhance Customer Experience

Through the right Wi-Fi solution, the business can build loyalty and learn more about its customers’ online habits and interests. They can uncover the type of device they prefer to use, when they are more likely to go online, what drives their purchasing habits and so much more. They can use the free Wi-Fi connectivity as a portal to meet the customer halfway – a few marketing questions or a survey to gain valuable insight in exchange for free data.

Almost every user has a smartphone and retailers need to develop communities which offer consumers both a service and the item they purchaser.  Loyalty schemes, banking apps, communication tools – these not only build communities and brands, but they give decision makers a lot of information and learning opportunities in the process.

It is one thing to say that it’s a good idea to make a brand, branch or business Wi-Fi-enabled, but there are some challenges. The first is the price – the customer may be willing to pay for the service, but perhaps they can’t afford it – and in some more rural areas, connectivity is poor or non-existent. Many retailers have had to create their own hotspots so that the community can come to them, engage with them in their own space. They also need to ensure that the Wi-Fi solution is accessible from different devices, not just a select few. Compatibility across all devices used by consumers is key.

In conclusion, a tailored private network, allows the business to lower the cost of transactions, learn about what the customer is using and ensure a seamless end-to-end experience.

* Marius Visser, Executive Business Solutions at Metacom

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Samsung in lock-step with its rivals?

Tonight Samsung will kick off the next round in the smartphone wars with the S10 range, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When Samsung unveils the new S10 smartphone at an event in San Francisco today, it will mark the beginning of the 2019 round of World War S. That stands for smartphone wars, although Samsung would like it to be all about the S.

Ever since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013, Samsung has held both technology and thought leadership in the handset world. Back then, Apple’s iPhone 5 was the last device from the American manufacturer that could lay claim to being the best smartphone in the world. With the 2013 launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple entered an era of incremental improvement, playing catch-up, and succumbing to market trends driven by its competitors.

Six years later, Samsung is fighting off the same threat. Its Chinese rival, Huawei, suddenly wrested away leadership in the past year, with the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro regarded as at last equal to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 9 – if not superior. Certainly, from a cost perspective, Huawei took the lead with its more competitive prices, and therefore more value for money.

Huawei also succeeded where Apple failed: introducing more economical versions of its flagship phones. The iPhone 5c, SE and XR have all been disappointments in the sales department, mainly because the price difference was not massive enough to attract lower-income users. In contrast, the Lite editions of the Huawei P9, P10 and P20 have been huge successes, especially in South Africa.

Today, for the first time in half a decade, Samsung goes into battle on a field laid out by its competitors. It is expected to launch the Galaxy S10 Plus, S10 and S10 e, with the latter being the Samsung answer to the strategy of the iPhone XR and Huawei P20 Lite.

Does this mean Samsung is now in lock-step with its rivals, focused on matching their strategies rather than running ahead of them?

It may seem that way, but Samsung has a few tricks up its electronic sleeve. For example, it is possible it will use the S10 launch to announce its coming range of foldable phones, expected to be called the Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex. It previewed the technology at a developer conference in San Francisco last November, and this will be the ideal moment to reclaim technology leadership by going into production with foldables – even if the S10 range itself does not shoot out the lights.

However, the S10 handsets will look very different to their predecessors. First, before switching on the phone, they will be notable by the introduction of what is being called the punch-hole display, which breaks away from the current trend of having a notch at the top of the phone to house front-facing cameras and speakers. Instead, the punch-hole is a single round cut-out that will contain the front camera. It is the key element of Samsung’s “Infinity O” display – the O represents the punchhole – which will be the first truly edge-to-edge display, on the sides and top.

The S10 range will use the new Samsung user interface, One UI, also unveiled at the developer conference. It replaces the previous “skin”, unimaginatively called the Samsung Experience, to introduce a strong new interface brand.

One UI went live on the Note 8 last month, giving us a foretaste, and giving Samsung a chance to iron out the bugs in the field. It is a less cluttered interface, addressing one of the biggest complaints about most manufacturer skins. Only Nokia and Google Pixel handsets offer pure Android in the local market, but One UI is Samsung’s best compromise yet.

It introduces a new interaction area, in the bottom half, reachable with the thumb, with a viewing area at the top, allowing the user to work one-handed on the bottom area while still having apps or related content visible above. One UI also improves gesture navigation – the phone picks up hand movements without being touched – and notification management.

The S10 range will be the first phones to feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, at least for the South African and American markets. That makes it 5G compatible, for when this next generation of mobile broadband becomes available in these markets.

They will also be the first phones to feature Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of the Wi-Fi mobile wireless standard. It will perform better in congested areas, and data transfer will be up to 40% faster than the previous generation.

The phones will be the first to use ultrasound for fingerprint detection. If Samsung gets it right, this will make it the fastest in-screen fingerprint sensor on the market, and allows for a little leeway if one pushes the finger down slightly outside the fingerprint reader surface. It does mean, however, that screen protectors will have to be redesigned to avoid blocking the detection.

Not enough firsts? There are a few more.

Most notably, it will be the first phone range to feature 1 Terabyte (TB) storage – that’s a thousand Gigabytes (GB) – at least for the top-of-the-range devices. Samsung last month announced that it would be the first manufacturer to make 1TB built-in onboard flash storage. Today, it will deploy this massive advantage as it once again weaponises its technology in the fight for smartphone domination.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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IoT set to improve authentication

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By Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President, Internet of Things Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

As it rapidly approaches maturity, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to continue a transformational trajectory, introducing new efficiencies in multiple fields by allowing measurement and analysis on a scale that has never been possible before. From agriculture to logistics, from retail to hospitality, from traffic to health, from the home to the office, the applications for monitoring ”things” are limited only by the imagination.

And South African (and African) businesses are showing abundant imagination in their practical deployments of IoT solutions in multiple settings, creating a better tomorrow through almost universal measurement and the introduction of new levels of convenience – including how to access locations, devices and services securely.

Any company, whether South African or international, should bear in mind that understanding consumer expectations can be the key to unlocking the full potential of IoT devices and related smart services.

According to Gemalto’s latest Connected Living study, improving the way consumers authenticate themselves to services is one of the most anticipated benefits of IoT, highlighting a desire for a more seamless and secure IoT experience.

Consumers are interested in advanced ways of authenticating themselves through automatic (based on behavioral patterns) or biometric techniques, lessening the need to have to intervene manually, all in the name of a much more streamlined authentication process. Smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have already placed fingerprint and facial recognition high on the agenda. There is also a widespread positive sentiment towards IoT’s potential for improving the quality of home life through connected, smart appliances.

Personalised services is something else that wins consumers over. In fact, a fluid, personalised and unified experience with continuity of services, together with security and privacy, is critical for the successful implementation of any technology.

And those types of services are today quite possible. With everything being connected – from small gadgets to digital solutions for large enterprises – IoT is no longer just a buzzword. That much is clear in a piece from Vodacom IoT managing executive Deon Liebenberg. Writing for IOL Online, Liebenberg provides insight into the sheer range of applications for IoT: the 20 use cases he cites range from the obvious, like transport and logistics, to the connected home and wearables; he even suggests tagging pets with IoT transmitters, for those who always need to know the whereabouts of the family cat.

Low-cost tags fitted to cats, dogs, lamp posts, shipping containers or other items are just one part of the puzzle, however. There are other two pieces; arguably the most complex part is the availability of communication networks in areas where there aren’t any WiFi networks, or indeed, anything else.

And that’s where the bigger takeaway from Liebenberg’s piece and other IoT trends articles becomes apparent. The communication networks are there, as are those tags: dedicated IoT networks (like LoraWAN, SigFox and narrowband IoT) are all available in South Africa.

So, too, is the third and final essential component. Software which is able to process the data generated by the tag and transmitted over the IoT network and into the internet. In this regard, there’s no shortage of solutions available from cloud providers like AWS and Azure; electronics giant Siemens, too, is in on the action, having recently launched a new cloud-based IoT operating system to develop applications and services for process industries, including oil and gas and water management.

This combination means it is quite possible right now to enable just about any use case. Business owners, who will know best how IoT can add value in their organisation, can now see their ideas becoming reality. Most crucial of all, IoT solutions delivering new levels of efficiency and convenience are not only possible, they are able to be offered with the simple and effective security that will drive consumer acceptance.

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