22 Jul 2016

Pokémon Go sows augmented reality seeds in South Africa

By Bob Perfect, Editor - Durban is Yours

While Pokémon Go is yet to be officially released in South Africa, it’s still taken the country by storm with everyone under the age of 30, from your little cousin to the bullies who picked on Pokémon nerds in school, using one of the many work-arounds to download the game on their phones. If you see a group of millennials outside a church, next to a statue, or in a park, frantically swiping at their phones, they’re probably playing Pokémon Go. Ironically, the same churches that proclaimed that Pokémon are evil nearly 2 decades ago are now venues of fierce Pokémon battles, thanks to Niantic’s latest augmented reality offering. The game sees the player scouring the real world for cute, but fierce, imaginary creatures and then forcing them to fight each other for the glory of their masters. This has seen teens and adults (kind of, 20-somethings aren’t really adults) actually getting out the house and exploring their neighbourhoods and cities in pursuit of being the very best, like no one ever was.

Pokémon Go-ing outside

Pokémon Go is getting young people out of their houses and socialising, whether it’s on the beach, at botanical gardens, in local music venues or even at the local library. Sure, these may seem like obvious things that young people should be doing, but not everyone is a “cool kid” who lives an active life with well developed social circles, many younger people live their lives through computer screens or suffer from depression and anxiety. Finding motivation to leave the house can be incredibly difficult for those with mental health issues and as silly as it may seem, Pokémon Go has given countless people that motivationPokémon Go is getting those people out the house and has bonafide mental health benefits according to this engadget article (and Nursing Times, and Psych Central). Exercise and socialising are good for your mental health, and Pokémon Go encourages both, by making you join a team and giving you in-game rewards for walking from place to place.

While the game does have you looking down at your phone a lot, when you look up, there’s often a pleasant view. More people have been to the KZNSA Gallery in the past 2 weeks than they have in months, all because it’s a 
Pokémon Gym. I’ve also been taken to a healthy dose of graffiti spots and public art projects, which are way more impressive when you’re not just driving past them. Pokémon Go was built on Niantic’s previous AR game, Ingress, and many of the Pokéstops and Pokémon Gyms were actually geolocated by Ingress players. These user compiled POIs complement the historical and other noteworthy locations that Niantic compiled using Google Maps data, and make the game feel more localised. That fact that the game tells me XS is a “lighty jol” or takes me to Pastel Heart’s various artworks gives the game a human touch. Developers can learn a lot from Niantic’s use of their communities to populate content over algorithms.

Bringing players to the yard

Having your property or business be a Pokéstop or Pokémon Gym will attract people, regardless of whether or not you want them there. While there have been many “get these damn kids off my lawn” type posts online, smart businesses that are Pokéstops have been drawing in customers by dropping “lures”, which are an in-game way to attract Pokémon, which in turn attracts real world Pokémon trainers. Other businesses have offered trainers discounts according to their trainer level, or if they catch a Pokémon on their premises and post it online. Whilst some have found ways to profit from the game, others have used it to help others, like dropping lures at hospitals so those bedbound by illness and injury can join in the fun. Businesses and hospitals aren’t the only ones take advantage of Pokémon Go’s lures, criminals overseas have used them to bring victims right to them with their phones brightly lighting their unsuspecting faces. Although I haven’t seen any negative Pokémon Go news stories in SA yet, they’re inevitable as the game grows in popularity. It’s dangerous business walking out your front door and while the game does caution players to stay aware of their surroundings, if an Alakazam pops up on my Pokémon radar that’s all I’m focussing on until it’s in my squad. You’re likely to hear reports of Pokémon Go players being mugged, but if players use their common sense and stick to well populated, brightly lit areas, they should have a fun and safe experience whilst annoying all the ballies around them. Still, for those who want to venture off into the great unknown, they’re probably going to need a mobile panic button at the very least. Who knows, we could get our own Pokémon drivers and bodyguards for those trainers who don’t want to brave the streets on their own.

Pokémon inclusion 

There’s barriers to entry with games needing to be played on an Android or iOS device and requiring data to play, although it’s surprisingly not data intensive. If local service providers follow T-mobile’s example and give customers free data for Pokémon Go, they could earn a lot of goodwill with their current subscribers and potentially draw new customers. More SA cities are rolling out free Wi-Fi in various suburbs which already attracts students, freelancers and entrepreneurs who don’t rent office space, but could now see an influx of Pokémon Trainers with free Wi-Fi and well placed lures. This university in America placed a solar powered charging station in the optimal place to play Pokémon, with South Africa being a prime spot for solar power, local versions could help a lot more than just Pokémon Go players.  There are also South African cellphone manufacturers like Mint Mobile producing affordable Android phones and tablets with GPS capabilities so that barrier to entry is slightly lessened. With the exchange rate getting worse every time a politician opens their mouth, affordable locally produced cellphones will likely see an increase in their market share if they can prove to consumers they’re quality products.

The Pokémon economy

The economy around the game is still being built and the game itself is just another step in the augmented reality world. How people try to benefit from it and build on it will be interesting. While some might take a route that caters to the Pokémon Go players need, like making branded powerbanks and clothing that shows a team’s colours, others might take inspiration from the app and develop their own. Pick ‘n Pay supermarket have launched their own “Super Animals” app which utilises AR to bring collectable animals to life. That they came out with it just 4 days after Pokémon Go launched is either incredible planning or dumb luck, either way, it’s well timed.

The future of "catching 'em all" tech

Bringing cartoon creatures to life is one of the more gimmicky ways to use AR and will be played out soon as there will likely be countless copy cats, but using geolocation and augmented reality to draw people where you want them has only really just begun. There are a number of noteworthy South African travel apps that are useful, but one which makes a game of visiting multiple places and offer discounts and freebies for playing, could get more people exploring the world around them. Yelp’s nifty Augmented Reality Monocle, which shows you all the points of interest in your area and directs you to them, has been around since 2009, but still isn’t available in South Africa. A localised version of the app could help many locals and tourists find places that they’d never have found on their own. Currently, augmented reality in South Africa seems gimmicky and aimed more at the advertising and real estate worlds. Making pictures come to life like it’s Harry Potter might be fun and exciting for a while, but it’s only scratching the surface of what can be done with AR and geolaction. Pokémon Go may just be a game, but it’s the first to have such a massive real world impact and has helped set the stage for AR to come. There are many lessons to be learnt and ideas to be spawned from PoGo, and I’m curious to see the effect it has on South Africa over time. It’s still very much early days with the game not even officially out yet, but the augmented reality seeds have been sown. What those seeds grow into, time will tell.

About Bob Perfect:
Bob Perfect is the editor of Durban Is Yours and typically goes on about music and youth culture in South Africa for the likes of Noisey, We Are Pulse and Platform. He hates long walks on the beach but that's where the best Pokémon are.

AfricaCom and Digital Entertainment:

This year's AfricaCom, taking place between the 14-18 November 2016, will be showcasing all the latest trends in African digital entertainment. The Digital Entertainment stream on the 15 November will comprise of Key Note Panels and discussions around the explosion in digital entertainment services, looking at the sectors of gaming, music and video streaming. 

Some of the key speakers include MTN's Vikash Barath, PWC's Vicki Myburgh, Deezer's Gillian Ezra, Tuluntulu's Pierre van der Hoven and Nichestreem's Catherine Luckhoff.

To find out more about the largest tech and telco event in Africa and book you tickets, click here.

Click here to view packages and book tickets.

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The Connecting Africa panel helps launch AfricaCom in Johannesburg

By the Com Series staff writers

AfricaCom is a technology and telecommunications event which has been a fixture of the African digital landscape for the past 19 years. In that time, it has risen to become a powerhouse in the African tech and ICT sectors.

This year, AfricaCom seeks to elevate itself to become a powerful catalyst for digital transformation, economic development and social empowerment, which reaches far beyond the event itself.

To this end, KNect 365 TMT (an Informa business) - organisers of the annual AfricaCom event - officially launched the bigger, bettter bolder 2016 event in Rosebank, Johannesburg on Thursday 14th July. The event saw some of AfricaCom’s most important community members come together to discuss digital connectivity across the continent, including a panel discussion themed: “Connecting Africa: Economic development and social empowerment through digital connectivity”.

The AfricaCom Launch panel 

The panel included: Luke McKend (MD at Google SA), Riaan Graham (Director of Sub-Saharan Africa at Ruckus Wireless) and Bora Varliyagci (Head of African Digital Infrastructure at Mott MacDonald), and was facilitated by Duncan McLeod, editor of TechCentral. The panel discussed some of the challenges hindering connectivity and the opportunities that are available to improve connectivity and access across the continent.

The major message which came through strongly during this discussion, was that the ICT sector is critical for the growth of the African economy and it’s going to require collective efforts from both governments and the private sector to improve connectivity and ensure cost effective, quality connectivity for all.

The panelists agreed that there needs to be better co-ordination, collaboration, a focus on education and skills development and a more holistic approach from all industry players, should we wish to see positive change. In addition, connectivity for all is a massive challenge which can’t be achieved in silo, with government needing to be more proactive and forward-thinking in their approach from a policy to an infrastructure perspective, should Africa wish to see rapid growth.

Tom Cuthell (Portfolio Director -  Com Series, KNect365) presenting the new AfricaCom for 2016

AfricaCom 2016 will see a new event format, which will take place from 14–18 November 2016, at the Cape Town International Conference Centre.

Jake McNulty, Head of Marketing at KNect 365 TMT, said: “We are delighted to be in Johannesburg to officially launch AfricaCom for 2016, which is a first in the 19 year history of the event. This year, we have revolutionised AfricaCom into a week-long festival of activities, re-branded the entire event, as well as our company from Informa Telecoms & Media to KNect 365 TMT.

The conference and exhibition will still take place over 3 days (15-17 November), but with our expanded networking features, the event will span the entire week. We are evolving the event, bringing the entire digital ecosystem together and making it into a 365, year-round community.

Ronell Swartbooi of DUO Communications + Marketing

This is why we are delighted to be here in Johannesburg to launch the event for 2016 and meet our most valuable community members. Some of the new features for 2016 include: LeadersIn Africa Headliners (visionary keynotes at the end of each day), the Afest (a music festival at the Shimmy Beach Club), Astars (a leaders under 30 programme), the Takeover (a bar crawl), Telco Big Data, IoT and Smart Cities, Mobile Finance and Commerce conference streams, as well as a whole host of VIP experiences.

AfricaCom is also welcoming back all of the favourite aspects of the event, for example the AHUB - powered by Ericsson, LTE Africa, Digital Entertainment and TV Connect, to name just a few.“

AfricaCom will be taking place in November at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, South Africa.
Festival: 14-18 November 2016
Exhibition: 15-17 November 2016

Engage with us here:
AfricaCom: https://tmt.knect365.com/africacom
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21 Jul 2016

How telcos can monetise the value of big data assets

By Com Series staff writers Valentine Gachambi and Kamau Mbote -  @First Communications

It is unimaginable just how much data telecommunication companies hold, especially within Africa, which has gravitated towards being a ‘mobile-first’ and often ‘mobile-only’ continent. Our day-to-day lives currently revolve around mobile devices, social media, email, banking, insurance transactions and, most recently, mobile money services, all of which are services that generate useful data.

Types of data:

From this kind of information, telcos can retrieve valuable facts on customer profiles, usage patterns, location data, app downloads, click stream analysis, as well as their network capacity planning and optimisation. From there, telcos can sell this data on to players in sectors such as health, advertising, retail and banking, among others, as a new and potentially very lucrative revenue stream.

Such data however, will only benefit telcos if they can transform a 20th century business model into one that can provide real-time business and consumer insight.

These facts, when utilised effectively, can enable telcos to increase efficiency, meet their set goals and, above all, make money; while at the same time encouraging growth. However, telcos need to develop real-time operational capabilities for functions such as real-time charging and event-based marketing.

How data is currently utilised:

Most telcos on the continent seem alive to these opportunities of big data and are already investing.

In 2014 for example, Nigerian telcos Airtel and Etisalat spent $3 billion collectively to “retool” their networks in order to take advantage of big data opportunities.

According to the Telecoms.com Intelligence Industry Survey, some of the tangible benefits that operators can reap, should they interpret such data correctly, include: 

  • Customer retention
  • Segmentation or targeting
  • Network optimisation
  • Network planning
  • Internal promotions or upselling
  • Customer acquisition
  • Fraud management
  • Revenue assurance 
  • 3rd party advertising
These benefits can also lead to new and possibly very worthwhile income streams, directly or indirectly. Directly, companies can cash in by selling data to respective buyers, while indirectly, telcos can see major savings in the long run.

In order to reap these benefits, one crucial step for telcos is the ability to minimise the cost of processing and managing this data at a time when vendors control the proprietary systems required, and usually charge for functionality and upgrades.

The benefits of data monetisation:

One particularly useful benefit that telcos can extract from big data is customer retention, largely by improving customer experience in the network, or customer 360, as it is sometimes referred to. This involves developing personalised offers to predict and prevent churn, so as to develop a personalised product offering that can lead to better utilisation by consumers. Telcos can offer products based on information such as: usage behaviour, device fondness, network requests, demographics and location and age, to create micro-segments that can be better suited to various campaigns and promotions.

“Target marketing, personalisation and churn analytics are among some of the most persuasive and common uses of big data analytics within telco today,” according to Cloudera, a unified platform for big data.

What would aid this would be the use of customer journey analytics, which map specific customer interactions with networks at various lifecycles, using information such as clickstreams, demographics and customer purchases to promote customised campaigns and offers.

Planning is crucial:

Telcos also need to plan for the capacity and optimisation of their networks, with as much as 20 percent of their revenue injected into capital expenditure (CAPEX). Without proper data, wrong decisions can be made on where to expand or minimise services, leading to loss or wastage of money.

In Nigeria for example, MTN expects CAPEX target for 2016 to rise to about $1 billion from $700 million according to acting MTN South Africa Chief Technology Officer Krishna Chetty. The CAPEX increase will be used to improve its network-service quality and to roll out a 4G offering.

MTN is one among the major telcos in Nigeria that have deployed Next Generation Networks (NGN) and Business Intelligence (BI) software tools to analyse consumer behaviour. Other companies making use of this software in order to leverage from data in their possession include Globacom, Airtel Nigeria and Etisalat Nigeria.

Through the use of big data and analytics, telcos can monitor, manage and predict the growth of demand, thus prioritising network expansion. The use of real-time capacity data can enable networks to see and plan for increased capacity in congested areas and develop models that can predict uptake in the future.

Increasing efficiency:

Real-time capacity data can also effectively pinpoint real-time congestion and outages that could lead to losses for companies, hence enabling better service for customers. In countries such as Kenya, some telecommunication providers are now compensating all dropped calls; thus less outages mean more savings.

In India for example, telcos and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) are embroiled in a legal battle before the Supreme Court where the latter is fighting to enforce a ruling by the Delhi High Court that says service providers must compensate subscribers for call drops.

Another area where telcos can use big data is to improve internal processes and increase savings mostly by identifying wastage and curtailing fraud. According to industry estimates, telcos lose up to 2.8% of revenue to leakage and fraud.

“When traffic demand rises, it’s tempting to take the brute force approach and invest in infrastructure to increase capacity. But this can be costly and disruptive. Surely, a better way is to make the best out of the infrastructure you already have by using it more efficiently and making it work harder,” says Andrew Burrell, Head of Marketing, Network Planning & Optimisation services at Nokia Networks. 

Data improves customer service:

In Kenya, Safaricom is improving services for more than 25 million subscribers, using big data technology to derive real time insights from network, customer and revenue touch points. With the insights, the telco is able to better provide proactive customer care, resolve network issues and prioritise capital expenditures.

“We differentiate Safaricom with our customer-centric approach, so our investments in Customer Experience Management (CEM) are important. With Nokia CEM on Demand, we now have one customer experience management solution for the company. We can resolve issues before they impact subscribers. We can give individual customers a personal touch and make our constant quality of service improvements visible,” says Safaricom CEO, Bob Collymore.

Nokia CEM on Demand will allow the Kenyan Telco to collect every customer’s network experience from network probes and is integrated with other internal systems including financial, customer data warehouse, Customer Relationship Management and M-PESA.

These insights will be consumed by Safaricom’s technology, customer care, finance, marketing, sales, and strategy teams.

In the advent of mobile money where large sums of money go through telcos, big data can be used to access and analyse information such as logs, events, and configuration data in real-time, so as to identify and respond to threats, and therefore improve security. The growth of mobile money in Africa should push providers to become more efficient and to reduce delays as this new product increasingly becomes a source of revenue for telcos, with the potential to surpass voice and SMS.

Regrettably, whilst telcos lag behind in the utilisation of big data, fraudsters seem to have a clear understanding of the worth of such information, and criminality such as ransomware is expected to increase in the age of the Internet of Things.

“Given the challenges, there is no doubt that 2016 will bring with it a stronger technological evolution in Africa. Big data provides too many benefits to ignore and how companies start benefiting from it will be fascinating to watch. However, the traditional thinking around data needs to change for this to happen, and the new dispensation has to be embraced,” says Armande Kruger Regional Sales Director at PBT Group.

If you are interested in topics such as these and others, that are evolving the world of tech and telco, why not attend AfricaCom 2016?

Africa's biggest tech and telco event is taking place between the 14th - 19th November at the Cape Town ICC, find out more here.

You can book your AfricaCom tickets here.

Be part of the African tech and telco conversation, here: