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With tech, SMEs punch above their weight

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IoT and ERP is a powerful combination that gives African SMEs the agility to enter large supply chains and compete head-on with the big guys, says DEIRDRE FRYER, Product Manager for Africa at SYSPRO Africa.

Stop for just a minute and take a look at your office printer. It may not be particularly exciting – like any other printer, it likely tracks the amount of paper you are using and alerts you when your cartridges are low. But what if that printer could be linked to your ERP system? What if it could tell you when it needs to be serviced, and provide you with accurate information around its lifespan so that you would know exactly when it’s beginning to cost more money than its worth?

And your printer is just one everyday item with IoT capabilities. Imagine the possibilities of being able to feed information from an entire network of assets into the ERP.

We all want to be more agile

As we already know a good ERP system essentially allows you to take all your vital data across business units and divisions, and integrate it seamlessly to view real-time information and make better informed business decisions.  So naturally if you were able to feed the wealth of unstructured data from all of the smart devices in your business, and integrate that information with the existing structured data in your ERP, you could leverage it to provide extremely valuable insights. Whether you want to up your game in customer service, forecasting or inventory management, integrating the IoT into your ERP can help you make infinitely better business decisions.  You’ll also be able to gain these insights more quickly, allowing you to rapidly adapt to changing consumer and business requirements, and extend your business model accordingly. The end result? Far greater flexibility that enables you to compete in large supply chains with much bigger players.

So what’s holding us back?

While it’s fair to say we are starting to see local businesses begin to harness the power of IoT in their ERP solutions, many companies are still constrained by the complexities involved in integrating all of their systems. And, of course, another big part of the reason why many businesses are holding off on IoT, is the concern around security. Because the very nature of the IoT entails the collection of personal information, a breach in IoT security could quite literally put people at serious risk. Hacking has also become a great deal more prevalent in recent years and when it comes to IoT specifically, it means you suddenly need to secure devices which previously you didn’t have to worry about because they were in isolation. Your protocols and security need to be a lot stronger so that your business isn’t put in a position where hackers can access your entire network via an IoT connection.

Start with a simple question

So how can you overcome these challenges and start leveraging IoT in your ERP?

It’s essential that you start by asking yourself what your objectives are. You need to know what your return on investment will be and what benefits you can expect. Perhaps most importantly, ask yourself what kind of insights you are hoping to achieve, and whether you are likely to develop those insights based on the IoT strategy you plan to put in place.

Ultimately you need to then base your entire strategy around those insights you want to achieve. Your ERP software also forms an important part of your ability to leverage IoT. As such you’ll want to make sure that your ERP system has an integration layer and protocols that enable the sharing of information and communication between solutions and devices. It’s also important that you partner with an ERP solutions provider which recognises IoT as a natural evolution of its strategy. There’s little doubt that IoT is the future when it comes to the way businesses communicate and connect their information.

The right systems can remove the complexity

This is exactly why SYSPRO is currently developing its platform to make it easier for companies to connect their ERP systems with IoT devices. Ultimately, we want to remove the complexity involved in this process, and make it simpler and less expensive for businesses to achieve their IoT goals.  Indeed, as ERP platforms evolve and make it simpler to connect various systems across the business, we will likely see a significant pickup in the number of local companies merging IoT and ERP over the next two to three years. And for good reason. The internet of things is already all around us – perhaps even more so than we might think – and by tapping into this incredible source of data, companies can fast forward their business intelligence, enabling them to punch high above their weight. So stop thinking of your printer as just a printer and start asking how IoT can benefit your business. A world of invaluable insight awaits.

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Kenya tool to help companies prepare for emergencies

After its team members survived last week’s Nairobi terror attack, Ushahidi decided to release a new preparedness tool for free, writes its CEO, NAT MANNING

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On Tuesday I woke up a bit before 7am in Berkeley, California where I live. I made some coffee and went over to my computer to start my work day. I checked my Slack and the news and quickly found out that there was an ongoing terrorist attack at 14 Riverside Complex in Nairobi, Kenya. The Ushahidi office is in Nairobi and about a third of our team is based there (the rest of us are spread across 10 other countries).

As I read the news, my heart plummeted, and I immediately asked the question, “is everyone on my team okay?”

Five years ago Al-Shabaab committed a similar attack at the Westgate Mall. We spent several tense hours figuring out if any of our team had been in the mall, and verifying that everyone was safe. We found out that one of our team member’s family was caught up in the attack. Luckily they made it out.

At Ushahidi we make software for crisis response, including tools to map disasters and election violence, and yet we felt helpless in the face of this attack. In the days following the Westgate attack, our team huddled and thought about what we could build that would help our team — and other teams — if we found ourselves in a similar situation to this attack again. We identified that when we first learned of the attack, nearly everyone at Ushahidi had spent that first precious few hours trying to answer the basic questions, “Is everyone okay?”, and if not, “Who needs help?” 

People had ad-hoc used multiple channels such as WhatsApp, called, emailed, or texted. We had done this for each person at Ushahidi (their job), in our families, and important people in our community. Our process was unorganised, inefficient, repetitive, and frustrating.

And from this problem we created TenFour, a check in tool that makes it easier for teams to reach one another during times of crisis. It is a simple application that lets people send a message to their team via SMS, Slack, Voice, email, and in-app, and get a response. It also works for educational institutions, companies with distributed staff, as well as part of neighbourhood networks like neighbourhood watches.

This week when I woke up to the news of the attack at Riverside, I immediately opened up the TenFour app.

Click here to read how Nat quickly confirmed the safety of his team.

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Kia multi-collision airbags

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The world’s first multi-collision airbag system has been unveiled by Hyundai Motor Group subsidiary KIA Motors, with the aim of improving airbag performance in multi-collision accidents.

Multi-collision accidents are those in which the primary impact is followed by collisions with secondary objects, such as other vehicles, trees, or electrical posts, which occur in three out of every 10 accidents. Current airbag systems do not offer secondary protection when the initial impact is insufficient to cause them to deploy. 

However, the multi-collision airbag system allows airbags to deploy effectively upon a secondary impact, by calibrating the status of the vehicle and the occupants.

The new technology detects occupants’ positions in the cabin following an initial collision. When occupants are forced into unusual positions, the effectiveness of existing safety technology may be compromised. Multi-collision airbag systems are designed to deploy even faster when initial safety systems may not be effective, providing additional safety when drivers and passengers are most vulnerable. By recalibrating the collision intensity required for deployment, the airbag system responds more promptly during the secondary impact, thereby improving the safety of multi-collision vehicle occupants.

“By improving airbag performance in multi-collision scenarios, we expect to significantly improve the safety of our drivers and passengers,” said Taesoo Chi, head of the Hyundai Motor Group’s Chassis Technology Centre. “We will continue our research on more diverse crash situations as part of our commitment to producing even safer vehicles that protect occupants and prevent injuries.”

According to statistics by the National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System (NASS-CDS), an office of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in USA, about 30% of 56,000 vehicle accidents from 2000 to 2012 in the North American region involved multi-collisions. The leading type of multi-collision accidents involved cars crossing over the centre line (30.8%), followed by collisions caused by a sudden stop at highway tollgates (13.5%), highway median strip collisions (8.0%), and sideswiping and collision with trees and electric poles (4.0%). 

These multi-collision scenarios were analysed in multilateral ways to improve airbag performance and precision in secondary collisions. Once commercialised, the system will be implemented in future new KIA vehicles. 

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