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Dear Mobile Networks: It's over

Dear Mobile Network Operators,

This is an open letter to tell you it’s over between us.

I once thought you loved me. I really did. You brought me the future. You placed in my hands a tool that transported me into tomorrow.

The mobile phone was the embodiment of my science fiction dreams come true. It allowed me to talk to anyone from anywhere, as long as I had their number and they were willing to answer my call. You gave me a message service that was faster than a telegram. You even gave me the Internet on the move.

I remember like yesterday the moment, now almost two decades ago, when I sent an email from a laptop computer connected to a newfangled device called a “data card”, which plugged into my cellphone. Somewhere on the N1 highway between Trompsburg and Bloemfontein, the impossible became reality, thanks to your warm embrace of my needs, my devices and my future.

I returned the love, of course, although it appeared to go unnoticed. Do you know you’ve never thanked me for my loyalty? Oh yes, you kept telling me you loved me, especially when it came time to renew my vows every two years.

But something else. You took my affections for granted. You even drastically forced up the amount I had to pay, using something called the interconnect fee, which wasn’t even part of your cost of providing the service.

When you were told to stop making me pay so much, you resisted like a raging tiger. Do you know how much that hurt, after all my years of devotion? You didn’t respect me anymore.

Naturally, I found solace elsewhere. Instant messaging (IM) came calling, seducing me with the offer to send a text message at a fraction of a cent instead of paying close to a rand for an SMS.

Please don’t think I’m a cheap date: it wasn’t just the price. IM allowed me to keep conversations together, add photos, and even send messages composed entirely of smiley faces and hearts. And all the while, your SMS had the same tired look that once had seemed so fresh. I have to be blunt here: while BBM, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger all kept getting better, you didn’t make even the barest effort to look good for me.

Now they offer something even more enticing: voice calls over your data service. I really thought you would be able to live with that, as it keeps me coming back for your expensive data, even while I’m in bed with these cheap surrogates. Instead, you’ve gone running to the Government, asking it to make them behave, just like you tried to persuade it to allow your interconnect abuse.

These services are my new future. They allow me, sometimes, to escape your cruel love. But you begrudge me even that respite. You are declaring to the world, loudly, that you really don’t love me.

And that’s why it’s over between us. You might succeed in chasing away my new loves, but there will be others. The future is arriving faster and faster, and you can’t hold it back. The more you try, the more ways I will find to bypass you. The more you try to keep me chained to your past, the more I will find ways to slip away into the future.

Sincerely,

Your hopelessly devoted customer

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee. This article first appeared in his Signpost column in the Business Times section of the Sunday Times.

 

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Posted in the category: Insight, Technology, Trends

Mustang points to auto technology gear shift

The coming year will see the automobile undergo a radical revolution as manufacturers shift gear to meet consumers’ insatiable need for high-tech options.

The shift was symbolised this week by the launch of the first right-hand drive Ford Mustang in South Africa, 50 years after the original American version began its journey to iconic status. While the 2016 edition remains true to Mustang’s heritage of muscle cars, it also carries a heavy overlay of connectivity and “assistive” technology that is usually associated with 21st century innovation.

High-tech features include voice control, Bluetooth connectivity, eight-inch colour touch screen, dual USB ports and SD card slot. In reverse, a video display with parking sensors guides the driver precisely. A Track Apps function includes an accelerometer, acceleration timer and brake performance display.

These are becoming standard types of features in new luxury cars, but are startling in a Mustang.

“We like to say we democratise technology,” says Joel Piaskowski, who was responsible for the design of the new Mustang in his previous role as Director of Exterior Design for the Americas. He has now been appointed head of design for Ford Europe

“We made a conscious decision to progress the car to capture a new customer for the next 50 years. We had to look to the future and say, how can we bring in a new customer, a younger customer, but still see the roots of the car?

In 2016, however, technology will not be merely a selling point

“Technology is there to enable a better driving experience. We have many means of interacting with technology, like Bluetooth and voice recognition. These systems are all aimed at a safer, more enjoyable driving experience.”

Piaskowski, who was in South Africa briefly for the launch of the Mustang, is now tasked with leading the design of all concept and production vehicles in Europe. He believes technology has not yet complicated his job, but that is about to change.
“From the point of view of styling the vehicle, it will become more of a challenge as we get into semi-autonomous and eventually fully autonomous vehicles, which are still a few years out.

“Ford currently employs lane-keeping assistance, radar control, and speed and distance control. But as the technology develops and we get more of it, we’ll be looking at different ways to present displays and communication devices to both drivers and passengers.”

This means the car of the near feature has to cater for more than one audience. In the past, it would have meant duplicating features to ensure everyone gets a piece of the action. Interactive screen technology changes the interior landscape completely.

“One of the trends is to declutter interiors to enable a better and more conducive environment for driver and passenger,” says Piaskowski. “That means relying more on technology to deliver the information, whether critical driving information or, in the case of passengers, crucial social information.”

Piaskowski expects passengers to have a lot more interaction with vehicles. Different technologies for multi-display screens, heads up displays, big screens and reconfigurable displays are all being explored, both by Ford and its competitors.

“We’re at the tip of an iceberg at moment. Technology develops by the month, but development time of an automobile is from three to five years. The challenge to forecast where technology is going and either develop it internally or work with partners to develop it with enough future in it.”

  • 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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Posted in the category: News, Technology, Trends

Big Data game gets real

The German football team’s use of big data during the 2014 FIFA World Cup brought the concept into sharp focus, but such “real-time” application is not new, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

 

On the exhibition floor of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, one of the stand-out displays was a large TV screen on which the tactics of the German football team were being analysed.

Enterprise systems company SAP was demonstrating how an application called Match Insights could gather data before and during a soccer match, and use it to influence the team manager’s tactical decisions while the game was on.

Most saw the demo as a marketing exercise. But when Germany won the World Cup, systematically outplaying opponents with superior tactics, the data game suddenly became very real.

According to SAP, the journey started last year when national team general manager Oliver Bierhoff found that players were most happy communicating with each other via digital platforms. He commissioned SAP to develop an application that could facilitate the exchange of information, including data about opponents.
SAP Match Insights was then developed in collaboration with the German National Team.
“This data can be converted into simulations and graphs that can be viewed on a tablet or smartphone, enabling trainers, coaches and players to identify and assess key situations in each match,” says Manoj Bhoola, a director at SAP Africa. “SAP Match Insights synchronised the data from scouts with the video footage taken from the pitch to make it easy for coaches to identify key moments in the game.”
The impact of these insights on the outcome of the World Cup are not as easy to quantify, but it’s given “big data” one of its biggest showcases yet. And it could well invade news media.
“Big data is an incredible resource for coaches and players to contextualise information and draw well-informed conclusions to optimise training and tactics,” says Simon Carpenter, chief customer officer at SAP Africa. “It’s high time to make this type of information accessible to sports journalism and the fans as well.”

German soccer may have officially discovered big data, but it’s a path that’s already well-trodden among large enterprises.

“We have been doing it all along,” says Desan Naidoo, managing director for Southern Africa of SAS, the global analytics company. “But some of the aspects have changed. If you look at the volume and variety of structured and unstructured data, ranging from social networks to text and video, that has definitely changed. 90% of all data ever created has been created in the last two years.

“This is unbelievable in itself. But now the requirement from clients to have access to this data has moved from running data through models for 18 to 24 hours, to wanting access in minutes or seconds.”

And it’s not enough merely to analyse the data that is formally collected in organisational systems.

“We’ve had to tap into social media data. We’ve had to restructure the way we do analytics to cope with the volumes. We’ve had to look at hardware changes and infrastructure, such as in-memory analysis.”

The latter refers to loading all the relevant data into live memory, so that it can be processed on the fly, providing usable information in seconds. A typical example is a customer going into a bank wanting a home loan; the bank can now run a risk profile and provide an answer while the individual is waiting.

“In the past, if you based that risk profile on all the data sources the bank has, it would have taken hours,” says Naidoo. “Having access in-memory means you can click a button and run a risk profile accessing all that data, instantaneously. On top of that, analytics today can predict how that customer will behave, rather than being merely reactive, as in the past.

“That’s what big data means today.”

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

This article first appeared in Arthur’s Signpost column in The Sunday Times, Business Times section, on 27 July 2014

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Posted in the category: Insight, Strategy, Technology, Trends

Top 10 business continuity issues for SA in 2010

While views on 2010 are generally cautiously optimistic, there are serious issues South African businesses will have to face during the year, issues that have nothing to do with soccer or economics, writes ALLEN SMITH, CEO of ContinuitySA.

Whether it’s crumbling infrastructure, lack of skills, social unrest, failing health standards, a larger tax bill or any combination of these events, 2010 in South Africa will be a good year to be sure your business continuity plans are in good shape.

There are, of course, always issues that force organisations to implement their business continuity plans, but with reduced budgets, less certainty in all spheres and the continuing brain drain, we expect a busy year for business continuity professionals.

With that in mind, I believe the following make up the top 10 issues businesses will face in 2010 that will cause them to invoke their business continuity plans:



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Posted in the category: Economy, Insight, Strategy, Trends

Now employing: signpost for 2010

Two ads in the employment section of the latest Sunday Times offer two related signposts for the development of technology infrastructure in South Africa during 2010, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Two ads in the latest Sunday Times were seemingly innocuous: six posts advertised for Broadband Infraco, and 13 for the Department of Home Affairs. But between the lines, they said so much.

To start with, the Home Affairs ad was headlined “Building the New Home Affairs”. That ’s a positive sign to start with; an acknowledgement that Home Affairs as it had been structured and the way it had been operating simply wasn’t good enough.



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Posted in the category: Economy, Insight, Technology, Trends

New book unveils the NOHO office

Everyone in business has heard of the SOHO – Small Office Home Office. Now make way for the NOHO – Small Office No Office.

The concept of NOHO – Small Office Home Office is introduced in a new book released today, “The Mobile Office”, by Arthur Goldstuck, technology writer and editor of The Big Change. The book is sub-titled “The essential small business guide to office technology”, and goes beyond the technology to explain how the modern office for both the small business and the travelling executive has changed more radically in the past ten years than in the previous hundred years.

“It’s not just the Internet, not merely the plunging prices of laptop computers, not only the arrival of cellphone banking and mobile e-mail,” says Goldstuck, who heads up the World Wide Worx technology market research organisation.



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Posted in the category: News, Technology, Trends

The real cost of connecting

A new book, “The Mobile Office”, reveals the true cost of connecting a small office or a mobile worker to the Internet – and sounds the death knell for dial-up access in South Africa.

“The Mobile Office”, the latest book by Arthur Goldstuck, technology writer and editor of The Big Change, has for the first time presented a detailed analysis of the cost of Internet access in South Africa. It shows that dial-up access is the most expensive form of Internet connectivity in South Africa.

The belief that dial-up is cheap because it tends to carry the lowest monthly subscription of all forms of Internet subscription is shown to be a myth. While the upfront subscription is usually far cheaper, once the access is actually used, it quickly becomes more expensive.

Arthur Goldstuck and FNB’s Len Pienaar at the media launch of “The Mobile Office” on 20 November

World Wide Worx’s research into mobile technologies in South Africa, under the Mobility project sponsored by First National Bank, provided the initial impulse for the book.



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Posted in the category: News, Technology, Trends

'Mark' re-imagines business

The new magazine of digital business, Mark, is about the changing nature of both people and the business environment. Its blog, Marklives.com, extends the content into the social media space. Founder and editor of the magazine and Internet veteran HERMAN MANSON reveals the thinking behind the venture.

People are changing. Business environments are changing. Building business organisations (and profits) are no longer simply about building brand equity and loyalty – it’s about building customer equity. This is the premise for the launch of new digital business magazine Mark and its associated blog MarkLives.com.

Mark magazine and MarkLives.com covers a world-wide trend towards the re-engagement between real people as opposed to people and technology. Technology is simply a facilitator in this process. People are looking for real engagement, a real interest in their causes and needs. They are no longer sold on traditional advertising. The way business engages with people, both customers and staff, is being redefined, and we all need to be aware of how this trend affects us if we are going to manage this process.



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Posted in the category: Insight, Strategy, Trends

Dark Fibre Africa lights up

Just how much connectivity is being put in the ground in South African cities? There is much speculation, but little information. One of the key players in the physical roll-out of fibre-optic networks used by major telcos, Dark Fibre Africa, lifts the veil, courtesy of director RiICHARD CAME.

South Africa is experiencing major changes in its telecommunications market, following Altech’s court victory and the landing of the Seacom cable, two concrete signs that market liberalisation is becoming a reality.


Richard Came

Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) is keeping pace with these changes, and has already made rapid progress in creating a carrier-neutral dark fibre network in major metropolitan areas, with 350km of fibre cable laid in Johannesburg. Progress has been made with infrastructure in Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town. DFA owns, builds, maintains, secures and monitors the dark fibre network infrastructure, which is then leased to telecommunications operators.

The company is working with a number of network operators, large and small, who recognise the value in shared network infrastructure, and is looking to conclude agreements with more users following the Altech ruling.



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Posted in the category: Strategy, Technology, Trends

Time to free up SA’s telecoms market

South Africa will need to become Internet savvy in order to compete globally, argues ADRIAAN GIE, CEO of Plusto.com, a business-to-business e-trading platform launched to the SA, Indian and Chinese markets last month.

It is time for Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri to change her stance on South Africa’s telecoms legislation.

While South Africa may be a leader in internet connectivity across Africa, the country lags behind countries such as Morocco, Egypt and Nigeria in terms of market competitiveness.

A severely controlled and conservative telecoms legislation that repels competition leads to other service providers being shut out of the market while Telkom holds South Africans at ransom by charging exorbitant connectivity fees.

For too long the Minister has stifled economic growth in South Africa by refusing private companies entry to the market. If government’s focus is on increasing trade and commerce between South Africa and the rest of the world, then this is not the way to go about it. In addition, the price of broadband in South Africa is exorbitant compared with international standards:



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Posted in the category: Economy, Technology, Trends

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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