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Why tech pioneers must be more responsible

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Companies perusing new opportunities also need to assume a corporate responsibility as those who compete in these areas will agree to be bound by rules, says HANS ZACHAR, MD for Technology Strategy at Accenture in SA.

As pioneering companies pursue boundary-breaking opportunities, they must assume a new corporate responsibility. The concept of trust and good corporate citizenship will increasingly come to the fore as those who willingly compete in these new and exciting areas willingly agree to be bound by rules, or lose their ability to play on the stage if they do not.

About 65% of IT and business executives surveyed in the Tech Vision 2017 report believe that regulations in their industry have not been able to keep up with the pace of technology advancement. There is little doubt that new age entrepreneurs will continue to move faster than legislators.

Some form of self-regulation appears inevitable if progress is not to be hampered, but a new set of rules will need to be codified to set the boundaries. These developments are likely to include the pioneers themselves helping to form the laws and regulations that govern privacy, data ethics and security.

A few recent examples highlight how companies have realised they need to keep moving to ensure their idea is not stifled. Amazon announced its intent to pilot a service using drones to deliver packages. While an initial set of regulations around the concept was worked on in the US, Amazon took the concept overseas to conduct the pilot, fine tune the service and launch its first delivery in the UK at the end of 2016.

Businesses in Africa and across the globe are also assembling joint task forces or collaborating with competitors to write rules where nothing exists. Last year, 25 startups united to launch a Bitcoin Smart Contract Federation in the belief that Bitcoin offers a more mature, tested and secure alternative to other smart contract platforms. By building the platform, they are creating the rules for others who will join this ecosystem in the future.

In February this year Standard Bank joined the blockchain consortium R3 to explore the technology and its uses – 75 global financial institutions form part of the network, with Absa having joined in 2016.

It is clear that waiting on the sidelines for rules to change and technology standards to solidify is not going to work.

Other emerging technologies include:

•Differential privacy–Integrates digital ethics and privacy standards for companies by receiving data in such a way that individual identifiers are never collected.

•Smart contract technology–Offers an automated way to enforce contracts whether the counter-party is trusted or not. Smart contracts design-in the rules for a value exchange and can be self-exercising or self-enforcing.

•Homomorphic encryption–Implements data sharing and transformations that are performed exclusively with encrypted data, decrypting it only when a user needs to see a result.

In this dynamic new world businesses are not just creating new products and services but are shaping new digital industries. From technology standards, to ethical norms, to government mandates, in an ecosystem-driven digital economy, the Tech Vision survey highlighted that a wide scope of rules still needs to be defined.

To drive governance and accountability, leading enterprises will increasingly embed the newly defined rules and standards into the technologies themselves. It is therefore no surprise that 78% of the executives we surveyed agree that their organization feels it has a duty to be proactive in writing the rules for emerging industries.

We have to fast forward to a world in which advances increase a thousand fold from where they are today and consider how on earth rules will change quickly enough. There will be a need for some level of speedier automation in legislation, as well as a level of self-regulation when change overshoots existing rules.

True authentication and verification could, for example, take place through a bureau service. South Africa has an awesome opportunity to use its population register to create a digitally managed single point of authentication – you just link to it securely and get confirmation. This is also a fabulous way to prevent fraudulent transactions from taking place.

At the end of the day, speed and efficiency remain critical to maximising outcomes in the uncharted world of the future and to fulfil their digital ambitions, companies must take on a leadership role to help shape the new rules of the game. Third world growth economies have a huge opportunity as they are not bound by legacy structures and modes of thinking. African businesses in particular must seize the opportunities created by the eco-system driven digital economy. Discovery is already a great example of how a company can create a single platform which is then provided to global insurance companies.

The huge benefit Africa has is the lack of established retail networks – these are encumbrances of developed markets – Africa can leapfrog them as it embraces these new channels for doing business, which in the future will be far more profitable than traditional bricks and mortar structures.

It will also be important to realise that to successfully implement an idea on the scale required, help from elsewhere will be needed. Most service organisations unfortunately still have pretty rigid conditions, terms and modes of thinking that will only prove to be a barrier to entry. The Google’s and Amazon’s of the world will not wait for you.

However, as rules are not yet advanced enough and much of the current processes within companies are outdated, it is important to keep in mind that when you release your innovation you must make sure you are secure enough and anticipate potential loopholes.

There’s a whirlwind of disruptive activity happening across industries and as these early pivot points of new industries develop, organisations will need to changes the way we see the world and how they embrace risk.

There is no doubt companies will be able to partner best with others that have the same security and technology standards, as well as similar ethical values and commitment to social responsibility.

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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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