Category Archives: Smart Technologies

Technology in Africa: Extracting insights from Big Data

The big data opportunity for Africa came into sharp focus this week when IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and key members of her executive team visited Africa to meet with clients and government leaders. “Going forward, data is going to be THE source of competitive advantage,” Rometty told a South African audience.

Already, African companies are harnessing big data to transform their businesses. Take Santam Ltd., the leading short-term insurance company in South Africa. The company is using predictive analysts to streamline the processing of claims and to spot potentially fraudulent claims. When Anesh Govender reported for duty as Santam’s head of operations for finance, his boss told him that he wanted to do more with less. Govender quickly spotted data as his leverage point. “I was amazed how much data was available but how little of it was being used” he said. Govender was one of the presenters at IBM’s South African gathering.

He decided to completely overhaul the claims processing system. In the past, every claim went through the same steps of being reviewed manually by staff members. Today, they’re all fed into a predictive analytics software program that channels routine claims into a queue for quick action. The others go through deeper analysis that takes into account not just the current claim but a lot more information about the customer and their past claim activities. Computer algorithms search for patterns that suggests the claims might be fraudulent. One example: Fraudsters typically start with small false claims and, if they’re successful, submit larger ones. Govender’s staff has tuned the algorithms so they identify the maximum amount of false claims without producing too many false positives—which require extra work by the claims processing staff. Today, they kick out only 1% of claims for deep fraud analysis, and about 30% of them are fraudulent.


The Internet of Things and The Good Night Lamp

The Good Night Lamp is a family of Internet-connected lamps. Turn the big lamp on and the little lamps turn on wherever they are. It is the brainchild of ‘The Good Night Lamp Team’, a UK-based team made up of founder Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, Head of Products John Nussey and CTO Adrian McEwen. Collaborators include Konstantinos Chalaris and Tom Cecil.

The Good Night Lamp is for people who are away from home and would like to keep in touch with their loved ones. But this is not like anything that you have seen before. The project combines the simplicity of minimalist design with the high end capabilities of WIFI technology. It is a superb demonstration of the potential of the Internet of Things. Imagine your kids going to university for the first time, or an elderly relative living alone? By simply turning on a light, the message that they are home is relayed to loved ones. No need for long telephone conversations or texts.

The project is currently raising funds on the Kickstarter website – a funding platform for creative projects. Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others.You can even support the project yourself.

Here is the link:

The Good Night Lamp transforms the IOT from a concept to a very viable, tangible and practical product. It comprises of a “family of lights”, made up of a larger light (primary) and two smaller ones (secondary). All the lights are made in the shape of a home. The idea in a nutshell is that it is possible to communicate one’s homecoming remotely to other holders in the “family”. The smaller lamps (secondary lights) are synchronised to the larger lamp (primary light) so once the primary lamp is lit, the secondary ones also light up.This is ideal in circumstances when a family member is away, even on the other side of the globe.


4G access will not cost more for Three customers

Mobile phone provider Three says it will not charge customers extra to upgrade to the 4G data service.

Three is due to get access to the fast data network later this year. Provider EE was the first company in the UK to be able to offer customers access to 4G and received complaints about its pricing structures. Existing customers were asked to pay an extra £5 for the same amount of data they were entitled to with their 3G contracts.

Last month the firm cut its entry price from £36 to £31 but the reduced cost was only available for new customers. Three says any customer with an “ultrafast-ready” smartphone, which includes Apple’s iPhone 5, Nokia’s Lumia 920 and the Sony Xperia Z, will qualify.

“As we add the next wave of technology to our ultrafast network, we’ve listened to our customers and thought long and hard about the right way to do it,” said Three chief executive Dave Dyson.

“We don’t want to limit ultrafast services to a select few based on a premium price and we’ve decided our customers will get this service as standard.”

Ernest Doku, from price comparison website, said the move “flew in the face” of the current pricing strategy for 4G in the UK. “Three’s move could really force the other networks to reconsider how they price their own forthcoming 4G deals,” he said.

“That being said, there’s nothing stopping Three from putting tariff prices up across the board ahead of a 4G rollout, so it’s still a waiting game before we find out the true cost of super-fast mobile data in the UK.”


Internet of things blurs the line between bits and atoms

Imagine googling your home to find your child’s lost toy, or remotely turning on the tumble dryer for yet another cycle – after it has text you that the clothes were still damp, or your plant tweeting you to be watered.

It might have been sci-fi just a decade ago, but with the Internet forcing its way into every aspect of our lives, cyberspace is leaking out into the real world. In the past few months, companies ranging from giants such as Google to small start-ups have been touting the possibility of interconnecting people and objects – lightbulbs, fridges, cars, buildings – to create an internet of things.

Many say this is a trend bound to hit us all in the near future. “Some of the things that are possible are truly unbelievable,” says Constantine Valhouli from the Hammersmith Group, a strategy consulting firm.

“We’ve moved from a desktop internet to mobile phones and mobile internet – the next step is buildings and objects, enabling us to communicate with them directly or enabling them to even bypass people entirely and communicate directly with each other.” Imagine a production line where machines alert one another about production problems or bottlenecks, or cars that warn each other about driving conditions or a crash on the road ahead.

The internet’s next big frontier


In its early days the internet was seen simply as a way of transferring data across large distances but it is now playing an ever increasing part in our lives.

David Reid reports on what is seen as the next big frontier for the web – called the internet of things – allowing you to use your smartphone to control your home heating, pay for parking and even monitor your own fitness.