MOVING FORWARD Technological innovations helping us adapt to our changed world
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F ROM T HE EDI T OR
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THE SPACE I’M IN
he home office has gone from nice-to-have to necessity and, like a corporate office, it should be a functional, productive, comfortable and (if possible) an aesthetically pleasing space, kind of like the ones discussed on page 4. In this issue we also discuss IoT, digital banks, how to secure your phone, cloud services, and digital wearables.
Anthony Sharpe, Editor
The home office Functionality and ergonomics
Fintech Digital-only banks
Connectivity IoT and COVID-19
Cybersecurity How to keep your phone secure
Data Choosing your cloud service
Wearables Smart glasses and smartwatches
HOME OF F ICE
THE HYBRID HOME OFFICE With the home office increasingly becoming the office, it is worth having a setup that works for you. By Kim Maxwell
David Krynauw’s Cozy Office Pod
n October 2020, Jones Lang LaSalle analysed an online survey of 2 033 office workers spanning major industries across 10 countries aimed at understanding how workforce preferences are shifting workplace priorities for employees. A key takeaway was a transition toward hybrid work as a preferred way of working. Of those surveyed, 75 per cent expected their employer to support their work at home, one in three asked for an allowance, and for 72 per cent, work-life balance had overtaken securing a comfortable salary (69 per cent) in post-pandemic importance. Workshop17 co-founder Mark Seftel offers some home office tips: find a quiet workplace, a good light source and decent active seating (so your core is activated) or a standing desk.
“Many desks can power a laptop, phone, light and router – you want a hidden tray underneath where you can put all that cabling so you don’t land up with a spaghetti situation on top,” says Seftel. “And break the sedentary behaviour by getting off the chair and moving more.” Seftel says sourcing a reasonable background for video conferencing calls or webinars is increasingly topical. A cluttered pile of folders and boxes won’t do. Office etiquette is another aspect: ensure a stable link and decent microphone so people can see and hear you. “There’s an obligation to be ready at the start time, and to be heard,” he says. “Wearing a headset is okay as you’re not disturbing those around you. It also shows others it’s a private call.”
“Ensure a stable link and decent microphone so people can see and hear you.” – Mark Seftel
A crafted David Krynauw Cozy Office Pod is one functionally stylish remote office option. Its compact design fits easily into an urban garden and the unit is air-conditioned. Installed, a Cozy
PEA IN A POD
Office Pod for two should set you back R136 800, depending on the configuration. The Deluxe Pod version (seating four maximum) starts at R169 800.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A DESK CHAIR • Adjustability: of seat height, backrest and armrests. • Good lower back support: a convex shape to mould into your lower back, then sit back so your upper back leans into the backrest. This allows your shoulders and neck to relax. • Seat size: when sitting with your back against the backrest, three to four fingers should fit between the end of the seat and the back of your knee. Source: Physiotherapist Jana Zuidema, Ergotherapy Solutions
ome offices have evolved into an “everything office” says tech fundi Arthur Goldstuck, World Wide Worx MD and editor-in-chief of Gadget. A remote office can run efficiently with only a laptop, webcam and internet connection. “But to thrive in the new era of personal branding, global positioning and slash roles, one may need a little more,” he says. An “everything office” can set you up not just for a video conference, webinar or virtual presentation, but also for complex meetings and events with multiple participants in different locations. In short, a home office can double as a multipurpose meeting venue, and triple as a media centre with access to TV, streaming video and audio, and recording equipment.
THE SMARTEST SPEAKERPHONE In the era of business driven by video conferencing, a device certified for Microsoft Teams and Zoom offers a definite edge.
The Poly Sync 20 Smart speakerphones need to be compatible with both hardware and software to ensure flawless sound in meetings. Goldstuck recommends the Plantronics Poly Sync 20. “It’s slim and portable so ideal for taking an office anywhere,” he says. It promises a 20-hour battery life and connects wirelessly through Bluetooth, or wired via USB, to smartphones and computers. “It picks up sound up to two metres away, meaning one can be heard clearly while walking around a home office, hotel room or small meeting area,” adds Goldstuck, “so no headphones are needed if moving while talking.” That’s thanks to a multi-microphone array, which also eliminates echo and background noise.
IMAGES: DAVID KRYNAUW, SUPPLIED
TECH UP FOR THE EVERYTHING OFFICE
igital banks trying to overcome what Bettr CEO Tobie van Zyl describes as “40 years of oligarchy”, which saw South Africa’s banking industry monopolised by the Big Four, have a tough road ahead. It is not only the longstanding legacies of well-entrenched brands that pose potential barriers to these industry newcomers, but also the loyalty factor: South African consumers are typically reluctant to change banks. However, Van Zyl is confident that consumers will soon recognise the advantages offered by digital-only banks, from lowered costs (made possible because they don’t need to support the same infrastructure as their physical peers) to being geared to meeting client needs in a world that increasingly eschews the traditional linear progression of study loan, car loan, home loan. “Traditional banks are still trying to be all things to all people, but we can leverage data to deliver simple products that match a consumer’s experience,” explains Van Zyl. He believes that banking is set to take on a different shape in the future, especially now that cryptocurrency has established itself as a legitimate currency, giving credence to digital banks in turn.
Are online banks able to measure up to their brick-and-mortar counterparts, especially when it comes to security? Lisa Witepski investigates Consumers need not fret about security, thanks to the stringency of South Africa’s banking regulatory environment, and the requirement that fintechs are expected to adhere to capital requirements and ally with a banking sponsor. Andre Hugo, CEO of Spot Money, points to another innovation gathering pace: open
“Traditional banks are still trying to be all things to all people, but we can leverage data to deliver simple products that match a consumer’s experience.” – Tobie Van Zyl
FAST FACT By 2025, the adoption of digital payments could accelerate to 67 per cent – a significant rise from pre-COVID-19 estimates of 57 per cent.
banking. He describes this as a banking platform that is unaligned to Source: Bain a specific bank, meaning that it can partner with a range of financial service providers. “It’s a marketplace where highly personalised financial services such as banking, loans and insurance can be coupled with lifestyle services, rewards and a range of intuitive services,” Hugo explains.
Bouma believes that there is a big future ahead for contactless payments, especially among young, tech-savvy consumers. However, trust is – and always will be – a big issue. That’s why MasterPass remains the most successful of available technologies, he says; as a digital banking standard, consumers don’t have to be persuaded to download it onto their phones, as with other apps. The good news is that work is being done on a standard that will open the gates for digital payments among retailers.
EYEING THE THRONE
CONTACTLESS PAYMENTS IMAGES: ISTOCK.COM, SUPPLIED
F IN T ECH
ith cash seen as a vector in the germ-phobic COVID-19 era, contactless payments are coming to the fore. The trend had already started to gain traction before the onset of the pandemic, according to Paul Behrmann of Payflex. In South Africa, 83 per cent of consumers expect more flexible payment options from banks, according to GlobalWebIndex. Those expectations are increasingly being met: Nicho Bouma of Pay@ points to RFID technology that allows point-of-sale payments with your phone (think Apple Pay and Samsung Pay). Then there are QR-based contactless payments like SnapScan, Zapper and MasterPass.
Even so, Murray Gardiner of Bluecode Africa maintains that it will take a lot to dethrone cash: “Cash is cultural, cash exchanges instant value, cash can be re-exchanged instantly and cash is not visible to the tax authorities. To replace cash requires much more than consumer convenience.” But there’s more to emerging technology than that. “If we want to drive digital transformation for the vast majority, our banks have to open access to their customer accounts to a new account alternative to the legacy cards, not just a QR push payment when eventually the Real-time Retail Murray Payments Platform is realised,” Gardiner says. He argues Gardiner for a new digital account payments clearing house to provide a real scheme-level alternative to the card system. This would make the system more accessible for micro-merchants, helping to unlock their potential and stimulate wealth creation, jobs and consumer choice for the wider community.
CONNEC T I V I T Y
IoT AND THE FIGHT
Connecting IoT devices
T AGAINST COVID-19 Technology is being deployed to help curb the impact of the pandemic, writes James Francis
s the internet of things (IoT) helping fight COVID-19? The answer is yes – the government’s #COVIDAlertSA app uses smartphones to help with tracking and social distancing. That is essentially IoT in action, and one example in a large variety of different IoT uses. According to the IoT Industry Council of South Africa, the three key roles IoT plays in the pandemic are monitoring for social distancing, screening temperature automatically, and enabling screening forms and workflows to ensure the correct procedures are followed. But look closer, and you’ll find IoT everywhere, says Mellisa Govender, marketing director for RS Components SA. “IoT fulfils many roles in medicine including wearables and cold chain management. Pulse oximeters are widely available consumer medical devices that have also been used in hospitals and treatment facilities during COVID-19 to monitor the oxygen levels of patients. An example of ‘cold chain management’ can be seen in the Weka Smart Fridge. It helps by automating vaccine storage and dose dispensing to make treatment quicker and reduce wastage.” Govender also points to India’s eVIN platform. Implemented in 2015 to vaccinate 27 million women and 29 million children, the platform digitalised vaccines and monitored the cold chain’s temperature through a smartphone application. An offshoot of this system is now managing COVID-19 vaccinations.
Office, industrial and retail spaces are also using IoT devices to tackle COVID-19, increasingly as part of a larger site management strategy. For example, the Airlab is a device locally produced by Ergosense Leon that can detect different particle Roodt levels in the air and report its findings to an interactive dashboard. It forms part of Ergosense’s wider range of stand-alone plug-and-play site monitors, tracking occupancy, light and noise levels, and numerous other metrics. Though systems like Airlab don’t directly identify the coronavirus, they offer office and facility managers incredible levels of data collected from their environment. “The particle size and particulate matter counts combined give you a real good indication of if you’ve got a high risk of potential virus survivability in your environment,” says Leon Roodt, Ergosense’s CEO. “Clients are concerned about getting people back to the office. How can they make people feel it’s safe? Using IoT, businesses can make sure that conditions are not conducive to the potential spread of COVID-19 or any other viruses.” How does IoT help the fight against COVID-19? How long is a piece of string? Whether you look for direct or indirect uses, they are legion. But more relevant is that responses to the coronavirus are encouraging IoT uses for other areas as well, and there is considerable overlap between fighting the pandemic and making our world more connected and data-rich.
“Using IoT, businesses can make sure that conditions are not conducive to the potential spread of COVID-19 or any other viruses.” – Leon Roodt
THE AIR YOU BREATHE
he internet of things (IoT) is a blanket term for different devices that collect and send data remotely to other machines. Your smartphone is an IoT device, so is your car’s tracker. How do IoT devices stay connected and compatible? Compatibility is not the concern it used to be, says Roger Hislop, chair of the IoT Industry Council of South Africa. “Devices don’t need to be compatible with each other, only with the IoT platform or other software systems processing the data or events. You can mix and match across different technologies, as fundamentally you are connecting smart devices to the cloud over the internet.” Bluetooth is popular for consumer IoT devices such as smartwatches. But elsewhere, IoT prefers low-power and wide-area (LPWA) connections. Popular examples are Sigfox, LoRa, and NB-IoT. LPWA is opening new doors for IoT, says Sean Laval, local Sigfox operator Sqwidnet’s executive of solutions and innovations: “For the first time, devices can communicate wirelessly at low-power levels similar to Bluetooth, while simultaneously connecting to a telecommunications network on a national scale. “This is opening up new IoT opportunities in a multitude of sectors such as vehicle tracking, logistics, utility meters, and home security.” Sean Laval
Airlab indoor air quality sensor
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CY BERSECURI T Y
IS YOUR PHONE?
he World Advertising Research Center predicts that by 2025, 72 per cent of internet users will access the web solely from their phones. While the workfrom-home trend has made people increasingly conscious of cybersecurity for their computers, phones remain vulnerable points, especially considering how much they are used for transactions, banking and work purposes. As more and more people anchor their lives around their mobile phones, these devices are increasingly becoming targets of cybercrime. “Criminals have also noticed this new world and the opportunities it presents for their nefarious activities,” says Loyiso Boyce, founder of cybersecurity firm Clyrofor. “The issue with personal gadgets is that criminals see them as the best way to gain access to people’s lives to source personal data. There are many Loyiso Boyce marketplaces on the dark web where such data is in high demand.” Unlike highly secure corporate infrastructures, personal devices are more vulnerable and easily exposed to
“Ensure that the software on the device is up to date, especially the security-related updates – this includes the apps installed on the device.” – Loyiso Boyce 10
cyberthreats. Boyce has identified shoulder surfing (spying on a person while using a device) and public Wi-Fi as common forms of personal data mining.
DON’T BE A VICTIM Boyce says that certain measures can be taken to protect personal and home devices from constantly lurking attacks. “Ensure that the software on the device is up to date, especially the security-related updates – this includes the apps installed on the device. Using strong passwords with at least eight characters and a combination of lower- and upper-case letters, numbers and special characters is recommended. “Activate multifactor authentication for social media and other online accounts,” advises Boyce. “Be careful who you grant unrestricted access of your device to, as spy software that allows for monitoring of movements, calls and chats is readily available.” South Africa is still in the process of amending and legislating the Protection Of Personal Information Act to ensure compliance by July 2021 to uphold people’s right to privacy. “The act prescribes jail time and serious fines for entities with lax system controls or those who share personal identifiable information without the owner’s permission,” says Boyce.
DID YOU KNOW?
ersonal data is the new currency. Whether on the dark web or legitimate platforms, our online activity is in big demand. One way of mining an unsuspecting user’s data is by sourcing their password without them being aware. The burgeoning number of apps, networks and sites we all access coupled with increasingly sophisticated hacking threats make a good password manager a necessity. But how do you know if you have a reliable password manager? “I recommend that people use trusted and reputable products for this purpose,” says Loyiso Boyce of Clyrofor, a cybersecurity firm. “An internet rule of thumb is that if you’re getting the service for free, then you and your data are most likely the product. Look at the Facebook and Google business models, for example.” Boyce recommends Bitwarden as a good, free and reputable open-source password manager for personal use. Mac OS and other Apple devices come with a built-in password manager. “Paid options tend to come with more features and updates when compared to the free options,” he adds. For people who are looking for a password manager to use on multiple devices for more than one user, Boyce recommends Keeper, LastPass and Dashlane.
The Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill, once approved, will seek to identify and allow for prosecution of new offences such as hacking, cyberforgery, inciting of violence and revenge pornography (or sharing of intimate images without permission). Many progressive companies have updated their cyber policies. Insurance companies now offer cyber liability cover. Source: Clyrofor
IMAGES: ISTOCK.COM, SUPPLIED
Your phone is the door to your online world and your apps. Make sure only you have the key, writes Levi Letsoko
hen it comes to choosing the best way to store and access their data, companies need to consider their needs and resources carefully. The first step is understanding how clouds are hosted. “Cloud services are provided by server farms located in extensive hyperscale data centre facilities – often across two or three such facilities to provide redundancy,” explains Jan Hnizdo, CEO of Teraco Data Environments. “Cloud providers have ‘cloud on-ramps’, which enable end-users to access cloud services directly. These are usually located in neutral data centres with large carrier ecosystems, allowing the cloud provider to reach a large target market.” When choosing a cloud service, Hnizdo says, a key consideration is connectivity to the various cloud operators. “The connectivity needs to be as close to the cloud on-ramp as possible to reduce latency and ensure maximum uptime to the cloud operator.”
MIX ’N MATCH You also need to decide what kind of cloud solution you want: public, private or a hybrid of the two. “Public cloud is the likes of AWS and Microsoft Azure, with servers and software owned and operated by a third-party service provider,”
HEAD IN THE
CLOUD Public, private or hybrid – which cloud is the right choice for your data management? Anthony Sharpe investigates
explains Hnizdo. In this case, the cloud provider also manages the supporting infrastructure such as the data centre. Private cloud services are dedicated solely to a single user. “This cloud can be physically located in an enterprise’s data centre or a third-party service provider’s facility.” Finally, there’s the hybrid option. “Most enterprises opt to go this route, using public clouds for specific workloads and choosing
“The connectivity needs to be as close to the cloud on-ramp as possible to reduce latency and ensure maximum uptime to the cloud operator.” – Jan Hnizdo
oN THE EDGE
IMAGES: KAROLINA KOMENDERA, ISTOCK.COM
e’re generating far more data than ever, and sending all that data to and from centralised servers or clouds hogs bandwidth and leads to latency issues. The solution may lie in edge computing. “Edge is a distributed computing model that brings computation, data storage, and power closer to the point of action or occurrence of an event,” explains Hamilton Ratshefola, general manager of IBM Southern Africa. He says that processing data where it is created – at the edge – reduces the amount of data sent to the cloud. “Although it may interact with a centralised cloud, edge computing doesn’t need contact with one, allowing for offline reliability. For example, an edge computing-enabled internet of things (IoT) device can create, process, store, and act on data, even when the device is not connected to the internet. When a connection is available, relevant data is then shared within a continuous operating environment. This also allows for more immediate application of analytics and AI capabilities.”
APPLICATIONS Edge computing has the potential to transform processes and entire industries, says Ratshefola.
to retain others in their private clouds,” Hnizdo says. “This also lands up becoming the most cost-effective solution for most enterprises.” He points out that the hybrid option is also typically the best solution for integrating legacy applications and hardware. Scalability is another key consideration, says Hnizdo. “Compared to traditional data centre architecture, a private cloud is far more scalable, but doesn’t provide as much scalability and agility as a public cloud service. Should a business require additional resources on a private cloud, this generally is not immediately available.”
“For example, sustainable agriculture companies are equipping crops with IoT-enabled sensors and using edge computing to monitor the growth needs and ideal harvest time for individual plants. Automotive companies are essentially making cars into edge devices, equipping them with internal and external sensors that generate data.” Edge devices could include everything from smart thermostats and VR glasses to industrial robots and smart buildings. The challenge, says Ratshefola, lies in the management and monitoring of all these devices – especially at scale and in dynamic environments. “It also breaks down the neat physical boundaries of the cloud data centre – forcing us to think about issues of security, addressability, management, ownership and compliance.” More importantly, it multiplies the scaling issues of cloud-based management techniques. Because edge networks, gateways and devices increase the number of compute nodes by several orders of magnitude, it must be possible to deploy, update, monitor and recover the edge compute space without human intervention, says Ratshefola. “The system must have a deep awareness of the nature, location and purpose of different devices with different capabilities and uses, and be able to use that awareness to make informed, policy-driven decisions.”
W E A R A BL ES
“Being able to deploy an expert remotely across several locations is a huge time and cost saver.” – Steven Wright Smart glasses can put a world of augmented reality information in the line of sight of an operator in real-time
I SEE WHAT YOU SEE Smart glasses can help free both hands for work in dangerous environments
Smart glasses had a bit of a false start in the consumer sector, but they have great potential for industry, writes Trevor Crighton teams at multiple locations through repairs, put schematics and diagrams in front of their eyes and even draw pointers to show them what to do in real-time.” Anthony Eva, bizAR Reality operations and creative director, says that AR training using headsets such as the Microsoft HoloLens has been used in overlaying 3D models of machinery into the real world. “These glasses understand 3D space, allowing information to be portrayed in the real world, giving a 3D instruction manual to the user. This has allowed companies to take on-the-job training to a new level.”
EYE ON THE MARKET Eva says that while the technology initially struggled to take off in the public space because of privacy concerns and technological
limitations, its use is growing exponentially in industrial applications. “The consumer space is picking up again, too. New smart glasses are being developed by Apple and Samsung, and Huawei is creating glasses that act as an interface with your phone.” Device cost is coming down, with decent base hardware starting at around R20 000 – a price tag that could potentially be quite easily offset by cost and time savings. While all the devices currently on the market in South Africa are imports, Wright says he also struggles to find programmers to write specific software for the devices to localise for particular applications. “The standard software is great because these companies have been refining it for years, but it would be wonderful to find more proficient locally based programmers who could produce local solutions too.”
IS IT TIME TO GET A SMARTWATCH? The perfect smartwatch doesn’t exist … yet. But these come close. Fitbit Charge 4 (+-R2 999*). With built-in GPS, Fitbit Pay and Spotify controls added to the sleep-tracking, waterproof and heart-rate-measuring Charge 3, the Charge 4 has a battery that lasts up to seven days (with sparing GPS use) and will relay basic notifications from your phone.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (from R8 995*). The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 tracks a remarkable amount of health data while adding smartphonelevel productivity in a stylish device that resembles a classic watch. The rotating bezel is a nifty navigation tool, but two-day battery life isn’t enough for everyone.
Garmin fēnix 6X Pro Solar Edition (from R17 999*). This is one of the best multisport watches around. It’s got a host of sports features and supplements a 21-day battery life with solar charging for an additional three-day boost, meaning you can head off on a three-week expedition without your charger.
Apple Watch Series 6 (from R8 999*). Series 6 adds features such as blood oxygen monitoring and an upgraded chipset to speed it up and make it more efficient. The long-awaited native sleep-tracking functionality isn’t as thorough as many had hoped – and a roughly 18-hour battery life means inevitably having to charge up before you go to bed. But the addition of Apple Fitness+ ups its appeal for fitness fans.
mart glasses, which incorporate augmented reality (AR) technology to overlay additional visual information, are currently showing their true value by enabling companies to remotely monitor systems, mentor staff and have eyes and ears on site, says Team Forward CEO Steven Wright. “We recently worked on a manufacturing plant project in Cape Town, which was established and commissioned by the lead team in New Zealand, via a team of 12 people on site, using 12 pairs of head-mounted tablets. The ‘I see what you see’ capability allowed them to commission the plant without setting foot in South Africa.” Wright says that being able to deploy an expert remotely across several locations is a huge time and cost saver. “You can have one expert sitting off site who can talk on-site
*Recommended retail price
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