Archive for Lipiec, 2013

Mobile ‘network in a box’ technology address the challenges of communication access

By admin, 2 lipca, 2013, No Comment

By Martin Ferreira, Executive Head: Technology and Operations, Jasco Carrier

Cellular networks have revolutionised the South African communications landscape, providing easy access to telephony, data and a host of other services. However, while cellular connectivity provides excellent coverage for metropolitan areas, access is still sparse in rural communities, limiting rural residents’ ability to access the services they need. Extending cellular networks is a costly exercise in these areas due to lack of infrastructure. Added to this challenge, because cellular telephony is so well subscribed, but has limited spectrum available, services become slow and often unusable in metropolitan areas, particularly in situations such as concerts and sporting events, or even in shopping malls and office buildings, where large numbers of people are all trying to access the network at the same time. Innovative ‘mobile network in a box’ solutions help to address these challenges, offering an affordable all-in-one cellular network that is quick and easy to deploy and provides all of the features of a public cellular network, including voice, messaging and data.

According to the latest AMPS 2012 survey data, 83% of South African adults have a cell phone, and 86% of cell phone users do not have a land line at home, making cellular the primary communications method for the majority of the country’s population. There are also a host of innovative applications for cellular users, including the ability to send money using cellphones, and conduct Internet banking, along with social media and more. This opens up the online world for more users than ever before.

However, while access to cellular services provides telephony for many people who could not make use of these options previously, the upsurge in cellular subscribers also presents problems. With the number of subscribers in South Africa continuing to grow, and the limited spectrum for cellular services available, the end result means there is simply not enough capacity to adequately service all of the users. Building new base stations to cater for additional demand is often prohibitively expense, and deploying these services in rural areas, where infrastructure is lacking, is even more complex and costly.

The challenge is to up the amount of reliable capacity available in an affordable, easy to deploy manner, and mobile ‘network in a box’ solutions enable providers to do just that. These boxes scale down base station technology, which typically requires enough hardware to fill a 6x3m container, to the size of a cube roughly 20cm on each side, containing all of the services needed for a full-blown GSM base station and deploying them in software on a single platform. Because these boxes are so small and compact, and are software driven, they also use a lot less power than traditional base stations, as they do not require massive air conditioners and cooling to keep them operational. These boxes can be placed anywhere within a network where there are coverage and capacity issues, even inside buildings, and extend coverage while providing additional capacity to cater for demand.

These boxes are highly cost effective from a number of aspects, including deployment, maintenance, floor space, power consumption and cooling costs, and are therefore the ideal solution for deployment in Africa. Deployment is a simple matter of erecting an antenna, rolling out the box and connecting to the Internet, either from 3G, fixed line or satellite communications. A mobile ‘network in a box’ can be deployed at a fraction of the cost of a base station and can provide connectivity to rural communities, and be used for temporary connectivity for events. They can also be used to quickly set up a network in disaster areas, for vital communications.

These solutions are also protected by the embedded security of the cellular protocols, meaning that they can be configured as a private mobile network, and can be integrated into an enterprise’s existing PBX system. Private providers can therefore deliver services in areas where major carriers are not established, creating a network in the local region and then establishing a link back to the carrier’s infrastructure to interconnect these mobile and Internet services with other providers. This opens up the ability to take services further into rural areas where major carriers may not see a cost-effective and profitable service.

Mobile ‘network in a box’ can also operate as a standalone mobile service delivering closer user group coverage. The result is that organisations can create their own GSM network within an office building or campus environment, on which a user’s standard mobile phone will function. It enables these organisations to make free calls to other devices within the network, and connect to outside providers for calls originating from outside the network.

Mobile connectivity is the future, particularly in emerging economies like the African market where traditional fixed-line infrastructure is lacking. However, oversubscribed mobile services and a lack of access in remote and rural areas is currently limiting the application of and access to mobile telephony and data services. Mobile ‘network in a box’ solutions enable carriers and providers to deploy new scaled down ‘base stations’ at a fraction of the cost of traditional GSM infrastructure, enabling fast deployment and easy access to GSM capabilities, ideal for adding capacity or extending networks across the continent.

 

Got a green strategy yet? Top pitfalls to avoid

By admin, 2 lipca, 2013, No Comment

By Neil Cameron, Area General Manager, Johnson Controls, Building Efficiency Africa

There are many different ways for an organisation to reduce its carbon footprint and ‘go green.’ However, few solutions will deliver the hoped-for results if you haven’t done your homework, read the fine print and put in place the foundations necessary to leverage your investments. If you are serious about embedding eco-principles into your business, there are a few pitfalls to avoid.

Get a strategy
The first and foremost mistake that most organisations make is to set a nebulous green goal; such as a percentage of energy savings that need to be achieved. This goal is often met by implementing quick wins – changing light bulbs switching off lights at night.

There’s nothing wrong with that except it is not a strategy, it’s a tactic. If the larger eco-challenges of the organisation are to be met, the leadership needs a clearer vision of what it wants to achieve and how to get there.

When management expresses a desire to go green it needs to back that up with funding that fits within the overall corporate budget. A green strategy needs to be determined and approved at the board level and an executive appointed to ensure proper execution. If it’s done right, significant savings are possible. Considering South Africa’s anticipated large increases in energy costs over the next three years, it’s an investment in the company’s future.

Awareness of the green challenges and opportunities for the company is key.

Work towards a consolidated energy audit rather than a fragmented one
An effective energy efficiency strategy has many facets that must be considered. A common failure is the appointment of a project manager that sub-contracts various aspects of the energy portfolio out to a variety of suppliers. This creates complexity and ultimately leads to little or no accountability of reaching the goal of delivering savings. It’s important to work towards a consolidated energy audit with an outsourced provider that takes on the risk of driving energy savings in all areas of the facility, providing the organisation with a guaranteed return.

Go slow – one step at a time
Many organisations get caught up in the excitement of an energy efficiency project and want to jump straight to installing renewable solutions such as solar panels for example. That’s admirable and in the near future it can play an important role in the overall project given that the use of renewable energy is likely to be more cost efficient for some (dependent on the tariff structure) than the national service. However, this exercise is pointless if the organisation has not first optimised its grid inefficiencies. Analyse energy utilisation, look at the equipment in place, as well as the processes and policies with regard to use of energy and then create a roadmap that will allow the company to achieve the desired sustainable benefits and improvements.

For example, installing a Variable Speed Drive on a chiller will significantly cut energy consumption provided the chiller is not operating at full load. Carbon dioxide (CO2) sensors will assist in getting the right balance between fresh and return air and enthalpy fans on vents will reuse hot exhaust air to meet heating demands. Improving efficiency needs to precede energy supplementation from renewable sources.

Take a holistic, not a product approach
So you bring in a lighting company, then a group that will install sensors and another organisation that’s an expert on heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Each has its own agenda and there’s often little cross-over expertise. The products may individually be best-in-class but if they don’t work together holistically, the company achieves little over the long-term.

You get what you pay for
Do you want the energy audit for free? No problem. The lighting expert will happily measure your lumens (brightness), tell you what the international standards are and how you can best achieve these with the most energy-efficient products. The sensor and HVAC people will do the same. Few will commit financially to achieving any energy efficiencies, however. For that you would need a credible organisation that can do an integrated audit, measure your organisational performance in terms of energy use against best practice benchmarks and provide you with a strategy and roadmap that would guarantee your outcomes. So if you are serious, make the investment in a comprehensive audit that will provide you with a sure roadmap to take you where you want to go.

Don’t forget to measure, refine
Once you have the strategy, the implementation plan is executed and the investments rolled out, do not forget to close the loop. To secure this investment, you have to monitor, measure and verify that the efficiencies are being achieved. All strategies invariably need to be refined in execution and processes typically can be continually optimised.

‘Going green’ may require a substantial investment for many organisations, but it is a route many will have to take given rising energy costs. By putting a solid strategy in place there is greater opportunity to realise a solid return on investment much more quickly.

 

Edge Evolve and MDM sign data management solution partnership agreement

By admin, 2 lipca, 2013, No Comment

Master Data Management, a specialist solutions provider for data governance, data quality, data integration and Master Data Management (MDM), has signed a partnership agreement with The Edge Evolve Group (Edge Evolve), an organisation with businesses that offer data management and enterprise information services. MDM is the official distributor of Trillium Software in Africa and this partnership will provide Edge Evolve with access to the software on a ‘term license’ basis, providing the company and their clients with a cost effective tool to scope data intensive projects, conduct data analysis and ensure a smooth project. It will also allow both companies to expand their business by leveraging each other’s partner bases and cross selling services.

Data management is a core focus for Edge Evolve which made it imperative for the company to gain access to best-of-breed tools required for data management projects. The partnership with MDM provides this capability for Edge Evolve, while expanding MDM’s channel to market, particularly in Africa.

Says Gary Allemann, MD at Master Data Management, “Our relationship with Edge Evolve dates back many years. They have steadily expanded their data management capability to become one of very few South African consultancies with genuine data management capabilities. Formalising this relationship was the logical step to take.”

Edge Evolve evaluated various data quality tools currently available that would assist them with their data management projects including spatial intelligence. Location-based intelligence is the next wave in technology. Trillium’s ease of use and ability to work with global address information were critical differentiators that help bridge the gap between relational and spatial data and geocode addresses. These criteria made Trillium the ideal product and it was considered the best tool on the market.

“We have worked with Allemann and MDM for many years and have finally formalised the partnership. The value proposition of this partnership is a powerful one as it combines a best-of-breed data quality platform with the frameworks, professional services and tools that enhance our project outcomes. The result is quicker ‘time to value’ for our clients,” says Herman Badenhorst, head of data management at Edge Evolve.

Spatial intelligence or location-based intelligence is a growing area within data intelligence as it offers companies further information about their customer base and specifically, how their location impacts business decisions. Spatial intelligence can be used for planning, expansions, risk assessments as well as the ability to bring external data and compare this information with a company’s customer base, and then further comparing this to economic and socio economic trends.

Badenhorst adds, “This was a key consideration with our selection criteria of a data management tool. Trillium Software has the strength to cater specifically to South African companies’ needs through the accommodation of English and Afrikaans addresses, further reinforcing our selection of the product.”

The partnership with Edge Evolve and MDM will allow Edge Evolve to not only have access to Trillium Software for internal training and scoping, but also provide the tool to customers for fixed-term projects. Edge Evolve is the first company in South Africa to make use of this model and will allow the company’s clients to leverage the strengths of the Trillium Software System to achieve tactical goals, such as data migrations, without having to commit to a license purchase.

Edge Evolve embarked on certification of five of its consultants, ensuring that they are fully proficient in Trillium Software.

 

Tablets – the end of the PC or just another gadget?

By admin, 2 lipca, 2013, No Comment

By Francois van Wijk, HP PSG Business Unit Manager at DCC

Mobility is currently a major trend and a hot topic among businesses, with the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and Smartphone/tablet hybrids, known as phablets, allowing people to work on the move from any location. Sales of tablet devices are growing consistently, and are expected to eclipse sales of PCs, including notebooks, in the next few years. Cloud solutions allow users to access their information and media across devices, and the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, which allows employees to bring their choice of devices into the workplace, has further spurred a move towards a mobile workforce. However, the question remains – will the tablet spell the end for the PC and notebook market? Or are these devices simply another gadget in an arsenal of tools that allow users to access content from anywhere, adding functionality but never truly replacing the functionality and power of a full-blown computer?

Research house Gartner recently released a report predicting that tablet sales will overtake PC sales by 2015-2016, and according to International Data Corporation (IDC), in 2012 there was a year on year increase of 78,4% in sales of tablets, driving a 29,1% growth in internet-connected devices. According to IDC, by 2017 there will be around 350 million tablets sold that year, with an expected 1,5 billion in Smartphone sales, and in 2013 it is expected that Smartphone sales will overtake feature phones for the first time ever. These figures clearly show that tablets and smartphones are experiencing phenomenal growth, and there is no doubt that both devices offer the user many benefits.

These do-it-all devices allow users to work, play and access content on the move, no matter where they are, as long as they have an Internet connection. They also enhance productivity, as they are less cumbersome than a laptop computer and are beginning to incorporate many of the same features and functionality. Tablets are even being produced with the same operating systems as a PC, such as Windows 8, which provides a consistent experience across devices, and tablets with USB ports can easily be connected to a keyboard, monitor and mouse when at a desk, to deliver a more office-like feel.

With all of these features, and none of the drawbacks of carrying around a cumbersome computer, it is easy to see why more and more users are adopting tablets in favour of a PC. However, one of the biggest drawbacks of the tablet is its lack of processing power when compared to a computer, especially for use in an office environment. This is something that can easily be remedied however, as many tablets are compatible with available docking stations, which add ports such as HDMI, VGA, memory card slots and additional USB ports, giving them the power to be used effectively in an office environment the same way a PC or notebook would be used.

However, this docking solution does not entirely address the ability to work effectively while out of the office. One option for users that want the convenience of a lightweight, mobile device and the power of a PC, is the ultrabook, another sector that is experiencing rapid growth. While tablets are perfect for consuming content, accessing media and providing flexible, always-on connectivity, ultrabooks are geared more towards the serious business user who requires lightweight, practical personal computing, enabling the user to both create and consume information and process large volumes of data.

While tablet sales are increasing rapidly, the trend appears to be that these devices are not replacing PCs or notebooks, but rather augmenting users’ collection of gadgets. Many users already own a computer, and wish to bolt on the mobility functionality with a tablet, something which is made all the more possible given the ease of sharing documents across the devices in the cloud. There are many different types of technology users, and each device is designed for a specific application. For all of their benefits, tablets do not spell the end of the PC just yet, and there is room for both in today’s market, particularly when ultrabooks are factored into the equation.

Integrated Reporting: one report to rule them all

By admin, 2 lipca, 2013, No Comment

By Tiani Annandale, Senior Consultant at Cortell Corporate Performance Management

While Integrated Reporting is a legal requirement for all Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)-listed companies in South Africa, today’s business environment demands more transparency and good governance from all companies. Integrated Reporting combines financial and non-financial information, such as environmental, social as well as corporate governance into one consolidated report.

This is driven largely by the King III report, a globally accepted business reporting framework which states that “governance, strategy and sustainability are inseparable”. The benefits to organisations that embark on Integrated Reporting initiatives are enormous. The reports provide overall clarity where stakeholders can relate sustainability risks and choices of its certain business endeavours to the financial compromises an organisation has to make to uphold momentum in the marketplace. Intelligent decisions can then be made based on information that has been validated based on the expectations amongst stakeholders and the company as a whole.

But therein lies the rub. Any financial executive tasked with Integrated Reporting will tell you that to consolidate all the relevant information buried in emails, spreadsheets and word documents scattered across databases in an organisations’ enterprise is a mammoth task. It requires weeks of collating information, verifying, updating and auditing and continuous buy-in from key staff and top management before the final product is sent off to the printers or uploaded onto the company website.

Importantly, it also requires an unwavering passion from relevant stakeholders and top-level executives on the long-term sustainability of the company through issues relating to corporate social investment and not just the numbers.

However, despite many organisations’ best efforts, traditional methods of compiling integrated reports are fraught with challenges. Tight deadlines, stressful conditions and always under threat from human error, manual Integrated Reporting becomes time consuming and inefficient.

While the concept of integrated reporting is a relatively new one and there are no universally agreed standards yet, the South African Integrated Reporting Committee (IRC) is in the process of developing a local standard. This standard is largely based on King III and incorporates XBRL, or eXtensible Business Reporting Language, a reporting format to drive an open, global standard for business reporting and exchanging business information.

While XBRL delivers many benefits, especially improving the comparability and consistency of business information to address transparency concerns and deliver information in a universally understandable format, the creation of this language has added yet another challenge to the Integrated Reporting process. Although it is not a legal requirement in South Africa yet, it is one a matter of time and any multinational organisation operating in South Africa that is listed on the New York Stock Exchange will have to implement this type of reporting.

So how can organisations improve their business processes internally with industry standard metrics to ease the manual burden of integrated reporting while developing financial and sustainability strategies that will improve the bottom line?

Today, there are software solutions available that revolutionises the continuous process of Integrated Reporting by combining sound and legally compliant business processes, controls and technology. However, not all integrated reporting software are created equal. There are several factors to look out for to ensure reduced risk and enhanced compliance.

The solution should be squarely focussed on automation through collaboration from a central secure database repository that brings together all the data, financial and non-financial, from multiple sources across the enterprise. This methodology ensures that there is only one single version of the documents in the reporting process, which in turn guarantees greater data accuracy and compliance with relevant governance regulations.

Contributors must be able to log in and work securely in a collaborative environment and participate in the document building process with a detailed audit trail as to what and when changes were incorporated. This includes work flow and version control as well as a fully integrated XBRL tagging system that will comply with not so distant future industry regulations.

Perhaps the most important and often overlooked factor is ease of use. The reason why most Integrated Reporting tools fail is because the interface is not familiar with the average employee, and despite in-house training, a low adoption rate within an organisation still results.

In closing, while Integrated Reporting is a formidable task for any organisation, with the right financial reporting solution it is possible to automate this process. This not only reduces risk, but allows management to improve internal and external business processes, and gives stakeholders the business critical information to make better decisions through accurate data analysis that is verified and audited.

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