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The Postnet challenge to the Post Office

 

By Ujuh Reporter

A Postnet store has popped up next to a Post Office in the Blu Valley Mall in Centurion, Pretoria, in what makes for a perfect symbol of the tragedy engulfing the South African Post Office (SAPO).


Postnet is emboldened in the face of a SAPO that is slipping towards extinction. That captures the challenge faced by the new SAPO board announced last week.

In a perfect world, the Post Office and Postnet are supposed to be positioned like Tom and Jerry, the arch enemies in the classic cartoon series. The Post Office is supposed to be Tom the aggressive cat and Postnet, Jerry, the fearful but agile mouse. Generally, Jerry stays away from Tom’s territory. Jerry does sneak into Tom’s territory from time to time and runs for dear life when he is discovered.

The happening at Blue Valley Mall where Postnet opens an outlet next to a Post Office in a small convenience shopping centre may be redefining the game.

Granted, Postnet is much more than a post outlet but a significant portion of its business is post type business. PostNet is characterised as providing a one-stop service center for businesses, households and consumers. Services include courier, copy, digital print, stationery, mailboxes etc.

The South African Post Office has bled to near death and screamed for a bailout last year alongside other State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Eskom and South African Airways (SAA). The SAPO was one of the SOE’s placed under Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s SOE’s war room.

The rot has been eating the SAPO for a while which opened a gap for the entry of alternatives like Postnet.

Postnet has been highly successful in stealing SAPO’s market share to an extent that it attracted an international buyer, Aramex, who paid top dollar for the operation.

The positioning of the Postnet next to a Post Office suggests that Postnet has won the battle.

The operation launched in 1994 is reported to have about 300 stores spread across the country and serves about 55 000 customers daily. It was bought for R190m by the Dubai headquartered company, Aramex, from the JSE lisyted company Onelogix.

The SAPO remains a much bigger operation with 2486 access points. A new board was recently appointed to save the SAPO. The new SAPO board features Dr Simosezwe Dugmore Lushaba as Chairperson and Bulelwa Patricia Soci as Deputy Chairperson.  They will have to move very fast to stem a slide into extinction.

Why haven’t flying cars taken off?

 

By  & 


 

Flying cars in The Jetsons and Back to the Future, or Star Trek’s spaceships and teleportation, may have captured the imagination decades ago, but most current methods of transport have been around a long time. Railways were being rolled out rapidly from the 1830s, while the commercial breakthroughs in petrol and diesel engines date to 1876 and 1892 respectively. Even the jet engine that made mass aviation possible can be traced back to Frank Whittle’s first patent in 1932.

Despite decades of futuristic predictions, modern transport wouldn’t look all that different to someone from the 1950s – certainly not compared to communications or entertainment. So why has there been so little recent innovation in transport? And will the latest batch of proposed driverless cars, levitating trains and electric aircraft actually make a serious breakthrough?

In part, there hasn’t been a revolution because existing technologies have been able to evolve. Engines have become more efficient, fuel is higher quality, we have lighter materials, more aerodynamic designs and better brakes that mean vehicles can operate safely closer together. However, eventually there will be a limit to these evolutions.

We’re still waiting for the future of the 50s. James Vaughan, CC BY-NC-SA

In any event, transport is not just about technology. It is also about people – and people don’t always like change. We may be locked in to current technology, partly due to habit but also due to economics.

We have an extensive transport refuelling system based on petrol and diesel. To convert to electricity or, more fancifully, to hydrogen, will involve substantial re-tooling that will be difficult to finance. In the UK, drivers are used to manual transmissions and may be reluctant to learn how to use more automated systems, just as we would be reluctant to retrain to use a different keyboard even if it were more efficient. We are stuck with what we have – the economics of QWERTY.

Human factors may lead to unintended consequences – one of the ironies of automation is that it can lead to less attention to related tasks. For example adaptive cruise control can make car drivers less aware of hazards.

Even with full automation, when we still have trouble making all trains driverless, one might suggest driverless cars are a flight of fancy. Innovative aeroplane designs, such as the blended wing, are stymied by the human requirements for a window seat (NASA has suggested windows could be replaced with real-time video).

The wing blends into the main body of the aircraft – but where are the windows? NASA / Boeing
Fancy new inventions have to be accompanied by a business model and the right infrastructure, or else they’ll just languish as prototypes like the pneumatic transit system demonstrated in New York City in the early 1870s and a forerunner to Elon Musk’s proposed Hyperloop. Take flying cars. Even supposing the technology works, where would they land?

Such a system would only succeed if infrastructure – air traffic control, landing space and so on – was set aside. While flying cars could technically operate from airport to airport, what’s the point? Until there are sufficient numbers to set aside pieces of land or roads for takeoff we won’t achieve any of the benefits. And there won’t be sufficient demand until this land is set aside. Catch 22.

Trapped in the niche

When looking at how technology interacts with wider society it’s helpful to think in terms of three different levels: niches, regimes and landscapes.

In transport, there are plenty of niche innovations – battery electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, car clubs – but few become mainstream. An exception might be hybrid electric vehicles such the Toyota Prius, but even here the underlying technology may be traced back to a patent registered in 1898 (by Ferdinand Porsche, no less).

The first Porsche – and the first hybrid. wiki

The problem isn’t coming up with new ideas – it’s changing the bigger picture. At regime level, new transport technologies have faced resistance from vested interests such as oil producers and car makers. And the wider landscape has not always favoured major innovations – especially low oil prices.

With lots of different individual suppliers, transport is also vulnerable to tragedy of the commons-type outcomes and clashes between rival designs and brands. Navigation technologies can only be sold commercially if they benefit the individual consumer. However, if we all have access to such technologies, we can be collectively worse off due to congestion – for the greater good, it would be beneficial if sometimes our SatNav sends us on a longer route, but who is knowingly going to buy something like that?

Electric battery technology might have more rapid adoption if the technology was standardised, permitting automated battery swaps. But standardised to whose technology? Magnetic levitation train adoption is limited by the fact they can’t run on traditional rail lines and have only limited overlap with other maglevs.

In short, despite the fuss over disruptive technologies such as Uber, it is unlikely that transport will have a technology paradigm shift until there is a major landscape change. Of course, with volatile oil prices, limited reserves and sensitive geopolitics, such a change could be just round the corner. But for the moment the technology push does not seem to be complemented by a societal pull – people might like to watch sci-fi, but they aren’t yet ready to live it.

 

R150K up for grabs at Cortex Hub

By Staff Writer


 

The Cortex Hub, a technology incubator, research lab and entrepreneurial hub in East London’s Industrial Development Zone, will hold a 72-hour women’s hackathon from  25 to 27 August where  delegates will by vying for a prize of R150,000.

The WomenHackersUnite Hackathon is aimed at showcasing the talents of women in software development, and encouraging them to become involved in the world of technology through the creation of solutions using technology.

A panel of judges including three top women software engineers from Facebook, will vote on which team creates the best solution.

While there are no recent formal statistics available, it’s well known that in Africa, the number of women in ICT is significantly low.  The Cortex Hub assists bright young minds to establish their own businesses in the ICT space. That was  the main driver for the hackathon. We also wanted the Hackathon to coincide with Women’s Month,” said Sivu Ngcaba, organiser of WomenHackersUnite Hackathon.

The hackathon is expected to attract over 100 women from across Africa who are currently studying computer science, who are already in a technology-related field, as well as women who are software developers by profession.

Teams comprising up to five women will spend the first 24 hours coming up with solutions affecting societal problems and women today.  Solutions may, for example include child development, women’s health, work-life-business balance, assisting rural women to upskill, and even ways to help more women become scientists.

The only criteria is that technology must be part of the solution. During the next 48 hours, participants will be coding and developing solutions to the problems that affect all types of women.

 

Entry is free for all hackers. To register visit www.womenhackersunite.com or if you have any questions contact them on info@womenhackersunite.com

 

WumDrop wins MTN App of the Year

 

By Staff Writer


 

Following weeks of adjudicators sifting through contending apps, MTN Business announced the top six winners of the fourth annual MTN Business App of the Year challenge at the awards ceremony that took place in Johannesburg last night.

The MTN App of the Year challenge seeks to unearth innovative and customised apps that will create a distinct customer experience.

WumDrop was selected the winner in the Best Enterprise category and overall winner for their courier and fleet management application that allows users to pick up or deliver anything, anywhere and anytime in real-time.

Developed by Benjamin Claassen and Muneeb Samuels, the WumDrop app is available to business clients and can be incorporated in their e-commerce offering.

Other winners include DStv Now in the Best Consumer App 2015 category, Vula Mobile scooped the Most Innovative App 2015 category, CPUT Mobile walked away with the Best Enterprise  Development App 2015 category, EskomSePush won the Best Breakthrough Developer App 2015 category, while M4JAM was conferred the Best Wild Card App 2015 category.

“We are encouraged by the level of innovation and creativity that were showcased at the 2015 MTN Business App of the Year Awards. We wish to

congratulate our overall winner and runner-ups for investing their time and energy to bring solutions to everyday challenges facing the enterprise sector. We are also reinvigorated by the active participation of the developers in this competition as it complement our strategic intent of driving sustainable growth and developing new opportunities to ensure the delivery of a bold new digital world,” said Alpheus Mangale, Chief Enterprise Officer for MTN Business South Africa.

“The key to this year’s challenge was not to simply add another new App to the current line-up, but to look for an innovative idea that is set to add value and change the way business is conducted. It is for this very reason that MTN Business uses technology as a catalyst to enable and inspire its customers’ sustainable growth and development – not only in South Africa but throughout the continent.”

The annual MTN Business App of the Year Awards has grown exponentially since its inauguration in 2012. Today, MTN Business App of the Year Awards is the premiere app awards event in South Africa.

Through initiatives such as the annual App of the Year Awards, MTN will continue to refine its traditional product offering, as well as actively develop new opportunities to ensure the delivery of a bold new Digital World to its customers.  This encompasses the company’s efforts to develop participation in the enterprise sector, adjacent sectors (such as financial services) and media and entertainment.

Since MTN Business started on this journey in 2012, the intention has always been to create an enabling environment for South African developers and provide them with opportunities to compete in the global market. This has resulted in some of the previous winners going on to top the international and local app download charts.

Explainer: what is the dark web?

 

By 


 

The “dark web” is a part of the world wide web that requires special software to access. Once inside, web sites and other services can be accessed through a browser in much the same way as the normal web.

However, some sites are effectively “hidden”, in that they have not been indexed by a search engine and can only be accessed if you know the address of the site. Special markets also operate within the dark web called, “darknet markets”, which mainly sell illegal products like drugs and firearms, paid for in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

There is even a crowdfunded “Assassination Market”, where users can pay towards having someone assassinated.

Because of the the dark web’s almost total anonymity, it has been the place of choice for groups wanting to stay hidden online from governments and law enforcement agencies. On the one hand there have been whistleblowers using the dark web to communicate with journalists, but more frequently it has been used by paedophile groups, terroristsand criminals to keep their dealings secret.

Going dark

There are a number of ways to access the dark web, including the use of Tor, Freenet and I2P. Of these, the most popular is Tor (originally called The Onion Router), partly because it is one of the easiest software packages to use. Tor downloads as a bundle of software that includes a version of Firefox configured specifically to use Tor.

Tor provides secrecy and anonymity by passing messages through a network of connected Tor relays, which are specially configured computers. As the message hops from one node to another, it is encrypted in a way that each relay only knows about the machine that sent the message and the machine it is being sent to.

Rather than conventional web addresses, Tor uses “onion” addresses, which further obsure the content. There are even special versions of search engines like Bing and Duck Duck Go that will return onion addresses for Tor services.

It is a mistake to think that Tor is entirely anonymous. If a web site is accessed, it can still potentially find out information about whoever is accessing the site because of information that is shared, such as usernames and email addresses. Those wanting to stay completely anonymous have to use special anonymity services to hide their identity in these cases.

The real deal is only virtual. Antana/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Services on the dark web would not have been as popular without a means of paying for them. This is something that Bitcoin has made possible. A recent study by Carnegie Mellon researchers Kyle Soska and Nicolas Christin has calculated that drug sales on the dark net total US$100 million a year. Most, if not all, was paid for in Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is made even more difficult to track on the dark web through the use of “mixing services” like Bitcoin Laundry, which enables Bitcoin transactions to be effectively hidden completely.

How ‘dark’ is the dark web?

The developers of Tor and organisations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF argue that the principal users of Tor are activists and people simply concerned with maintaining their privacy. Certainly, Tor has been used in the past for journalists to talk to whistleblowers and activists, including Edward Snowden).

However, even a cursory glance at the Hidden Wiki – the main index of dark websites – reveals that the majority of sites listed are concerned with illegal activities. Some of these sites are scams, and so it is not clear how easy it is to buy guns, fake passports and hire hackers from the services listed. But there are likely sites on the dark web where these things are entirely possible.

Although the dark web makes law enforcement agencies’ jobs much more difficult, they have had a great deal of success in bringing down sites and arresting their users and the people behind them. The most famous of these was the arrest of Ross Ulbricht, the person behind the most well known of the drug markets, Silk Road.

More recently, the FBI’s arrest of two users of a child abuse site on the dark web highlighted that they are now able to use a range of techniques to unmask Tor users’ real internet addresses.

 

 

Always-On Availability – what does it mean for your business?

 

By Warren Olivier, regional manager of Veeam Southern Africa


Always-On availability in the modern data centre has become a business imperative. Companies can ill afford not to have access to their data whether it is in the office or out in the field using a mobile device.

But how does one go about creating such an environment in a cost-effective way?

One of the links in the chain between data and the user is the application. Companies are driven by apps for everything from email, internet access, and enterprise resource planning, to mobility, customer information, and sales data. So if an app goes down, the recovery time of getting it back up and running needs to be proportionate to the importance it plays within the organisation.

Warren Olivier, regional manager of Veeam Southern Africa
Warren Olivier, regional manager of Veeam Southern Africa

And while tiering apps might not be new, the Always-On business needs to take this to heart as a means to enable the modern data centre. Enabling technologies such as the cloud, modern storage, and virtualisation mean nothing if there is no collaboration between them and the applications used within the organisation.

In the connected world, apps need to be virtual. However, many enterprises are nervous about going this route for their tier one (mission-critical) apps. If these go down, they need to be online in a matter of minutes or cause severe financial and reputational loss for the business.

Embracing virtualisation means that there will be an availability gap. This is especially the case where tools are used that have not been designed for a hosted environment and have not evolved to meet the new business requirements.

Even if some of these solutions support virtualisation to an extent, companies will still not be able to get all the cost saving and efficiency benefits of ones developed with an Always-On goal in mind. Furthermore, companies can afford to be hardware agnostic as the focus is on virtual. It is now all about being up and running 24/7, as quickly as possible and getting access to corporate data.

Business continuity and disaster recovery, for all the benefits it provides, does not necessarily mean that the application will be ready. Instead, it means that the organisation is only ready to start the recovery process. In this Always-On environment, the app has become king. Companies therefore need to look at service providers who can give fast availabilityaround the application stack and not just the hardware one.

For such providers, there might be plenty of low-hanging fruit available to get companies virtually connected. However, a model needs to be adopted where Tier 1 apps are almost immediately available in the event of a crisis. This, in turn, becomes a cost exercise in terms of which apps need to have such a classification. It could very well be a case of 20 percent of apps need to be up and running within 15 minutes while 60 percent within five hours.

Even if companies move to a virtual environment, there will always be legacy tools that are not able to actively embrace it. However, with apps that are born in the cloud designed to take advantage of the virtual workload, companies are better empowered to take advantage of these connectivity features.

It is therefore vitally important to transform and innovate to stay relevant in the digital world of business. Companies not only need to move to new virtualised platforms but also need to bring their older technologies along for the ride. At a fundamental level, the business needs to embrace the change needed to move to new platforms and take care of the availability directive through Always-On applications.

Existing legacy protection strategies are not capable of embarking on this journey.

Innovating and embracing change become essential in this new landscape. The days of relying on legacy protection are long gone. Welcome to the era of bespoke solutions designed for the unique availability requirements of a modern company.

Meet elegant phablets: Galaxy S6 edge, Note 5

By Staff Writer


Samsung has just revealed the Galaxy S6 edge+ and Galaxy Note5, which represent the handset manufacturer’s commitment to the big screen smartphone market.

The Galaxy S6 edge+ and Galaxy Note5 blend form and function with industry leading features, including: the best screen technology, the most advanced camera for high quality photos and videos, the latest fast wireless and wired charging, and an incredibly powerful processor.

With increased 4GB RAM, both smartphones offer the most powerful capacity and processing power on the market, enabling users to enjoy more seamless multi-tasking, keep up with messages, post updates to social networks faster, and enjoy graphic-heavy games without suffering lag time.

 With its curved 5.7-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED screen, the Galaxy S6 edge+ makes the edge experience even bigger to provide a more immersive multimedia experience. The newly-designed Galaxy Note5 provides an unmatched set of productivity tools such as SideSync, along with a much refined 5th generation S Pen capabilities to better serve the major multitasker.

Galaxy Note5 perfect for multi-taskers

 The Galaxy Note5 is a stunning upgrade to Samsung’s flagship Galaxy Note line – more powerful and more personal than ever. Inspired by the design legacy of the Galaxy S6, it ergonomically fits in one hand with a narrower bezel and curved back. The flat screen is great to write on and the curved shape makes it easier to use the phone with one hand.

Engineered to help people get more done faster, the Galaxy Note5 includes all new S Pen that feels more solid and balanced in the user’s hand, offering improved writing capabilities and a variety of practical tools.

A unique clicking mechanism offers a joyful experience of popping the S Pen out with just one quick click. Users can now quickly jot down ideas or information when the screen is off without even unlocking the phone. ‘Air Command’ feature gets more intuitive and practical as well; now the icon hovers for instant access to all of S Pen tools from any screen at any time.

Users can also annotate on PDF files and capture lengthy web articles or long images at once via ‘Scroll capture.’

Galaxy S6 edge+ best for multimedia experience

 Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ succeeded the unique and distinctive design of Galaxy S6 edge, and becomes even more elegant, understated, and finely crafted. It features the new ‘Apps edge’ for easy access to favorite apps, and enhanced ‘People edge’ for easy communications with preferred contacts.
‘Apps edge’ allows users to access their favorite apps by just swiping the edge display. ‘People edge’ helps users to connect their close contacts easily. From the edge screen, users can quickly find their pre-set contacts and send message or give a call directly.

ZAZOO virtual card to be used by BitX

By Gugu Lourie


 

South Africa’s tech firm ZAZOO’s mobile virtual card is to be used by BitX, a leading universal Bitcoin platform that will make it possible for Bitcoin users to spend their crypto-currency online or in-app.

ZAZOO announced on Thursday that it has signed an exclusive deal with BitX.

“We are very excited to be working with BitX as crypto-currencies are starting to gain prominence worldwide, and are positioned to be one of the next big things in the fin-tech space,” says Philip Belamant, Managing Director of ZAZOO.

BitX was founded in 2013 and is headquartered in Singapore with offices in Cape Town and Jakarta. The company aims to make money frictionless and universally accessible by building an open, intelligent global platform that leverages the most optimal technologies available, including Bitcoin and the blockchain

Belamant adds: “This collaboration eliminates the current challenge experienced by these new currencies, namely that of interoperability with the existing financial system, by providing a seamless gateway between crypto-currencies and traditional payment channels, resulting in the immediate and pervasive acceptance of Bitcoins as a payment currency in the online world. This collaboration will enable BitX and VCpay users to now spend Bitcoins agnostically, anywhere online and anywhere in the world, without any changes to the existing acquiring or switching infrastructures.”

ZAZOO believes its mobile virtual card (MVC) cannot be cloned or compromised. The company defines this as “the beauty” of their new app.

Philip Belamant, MD of ZAZOO
Philip Belamant, MD of ZAZOO

Its VCpay app generates MVCs offline, making it a matchless platform. A cardholder generates an MVC offline and no-one else can access it until the transaction is complete.

The offline capability prevents card skimmers from accessing card details through conventional back-end systems.

With an MVC card, which is endorsed by MasterCard and Visa in different regions, network coverage or signal is not an issue as the transaction can be completed offline.

As part of the safety of the app, the MVC expires immediately after the transaction.

“We believe that BitX is an ideal partner for our technology as it is a rising star in the crypto-currency field, and supported by astute investors such as Naspers,” says Belamant.

Bitcoin is a decentralised digital commodity that provides an alternative to transacting with traditional currencies. Bitcoin is like digital cash, and can be transferred from person to person or from a person to a business, instantly, securely and irreversibly, without going via a processing house.

“The gap between the speculative trade in digital currency and users’ ability to trade the currency for any item that they choose is closing, with VCpa as a critical enabler in this transition,” Marcus Swanepoel, Chief Executive Officer of BitX said.

Users can buy and sell Bitcoin from Bitcoin platforms like BitX, using traditional currencies, and they can use the crypto-currency to buy a select range of goods and services online and offline.

The deal between VCpay and BitX will make it possible for Bitcoin users to integrate the various virtual worlds in which they operate in order for them to gain tangible benefits.

Who is BitX

 

For example, an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) gamer will be able to sell materials within the game in exchange for Bitcoins and will then be able to generate a VCpayMVC to pay for his UBER ride. Alternatively, he could speculate in Bitcoins on BitX and convert his balance or gains into a VCpay MVC to spend anywhere online.

“We look forward to rolling out this technology over the coming months, and whilst users will be able to spend their Bitcoin funded virtual card anywhere in the world, the initial target markets include Europe, Singapore, Philippines, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Malaysia and Indonesia” says Belamant.

WATCH: Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2015

 

By Gugu Lourie


 

Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2015 starts later today at 17:00 (CAT).

The Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2015 will be hosted at New York City, Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center.

The  launch event will streamed live online on Samsung’s dedicated webcast page CLICK HERE , the company’s official blog Samsung Tomorrow CLICK HERE and the official YouTube Channel  CLICK HERE.

To read about Samsung Galaxy brand story CLICK HERE

Expansion plan leads Amazon to recruitment drive in SA

 

By Gugu Lourie


As part of its strategy to expand its presence in South Africa, Amazon will recruit a significant number of new staff  to fill highly-skilled technical roles to pioneer networking technologies and next generation cloud software.

The world’s largest online retailer said on Thursday that it plans to hire more than 250 people in the next 12 months in South Africa.  The new roles will include software development engineers; network development engineers; support engineers; technical account managers; systems engineers; solutions architects and many more.

The move comes after the retailer opened a new office in Johannesburg to support the growing customer base of Amazon Web Services  (AWS) South Africa Pty Ltd, a cloud computing business for Amazon. The new office in Johannesburg joins the established Amazon Development Center Cape Town, which has been in operation since 2004 and develops technology for several Amazon businesses, including AWS and help build the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) service.

“Amazon has been an active contributor to the South African technology community for over a decade,” said Steve Midgley, Head of EMEA, Amazon Web Services.

 

“Over this time we have seen some key technologies of the AWS cloud emerge from the country so it is no surprise we are also seeing strong growth amongst African organisations moving to the cloud. Choosing to locate an AWS office in South Africa speaks to the rapidly growing customer base, the broad set of talent here and the investment we are making to support cloud adoption around the world. By expanding our presence in South Africa, and through hiring highly skilled staff, we intend to further accelerate the growth of our cloud customers in Africa and around the globe.”

The growth news about South Africa comes as Amazon continues its investment in, and expansion, across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

People looking to apply for a role in South Africa, or any of Amazon’s businesses around the world, can apply online at www.amazon.jobs.