Activate Group and SqwidNet sign IoT partnership agreement

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

Activate Group and SqwidNet sign IoT partnership agreement

Activate Group, an end-to-end Internet of Things (IoT), mobile solutions and IoT-as-a-service provider, has signed a partnership with SqwidNet, the licensed Sigfox IoT network operator in South Africa. Sigfox, a global IoT network, has established an ecosystem reaching 45 countries. Through SqwidNet, the network currently reaches 81% of the population in South Africa, with a target of reaching 85% by mid-2018.

The partnership will see Activate Group roll out 14 pilot projects in the retail and logistics vertical with an estimated roll out of more than 100 000 units on SqwidNet’s network by 2019.

“This is a significant milestone for us,” says Rodney Taylor, Chief Executive Officer at Activate Group. “We have seen significant interest in our IoT solutions in the market and through this partnership, we will be able to bring them to life. SqwidNet’s extensive coverage has given us the ability to reach clients in areas we were unable to before the partnership,” he says.

Gartner forecasts that the number of connected things will grow to nearly 21 billion by 2020 and International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that the worldwide IoT market will grow to $1.7 trillion in the same year, representing a significant opportunity for every industry in the world.

“Partnering with Activate Group enables us to leverage on their capability and existing IoT platform solutions to further the digitalisation efforts that are underway in South Africa,” says Reshaad Sha, Chief Executive Officer at SqwidNet.

“While IoT has been a buzz word for a long time, we are seeing it come to life now, as our clients are now being able to take advantage of strategic IoT and mobile technologies that drive innovation, agility and creates new revenue opportunities while giving them a competitive edge,” says Taylor.

Budget constraints are often an inhibitor for mainstream IoT projects. “Our IoT-as-a-service solution offers flexible, affordable financing options that enable system integrators and end-user companies to adopt and implement those technology solutions that give them the competitive edge in business while optimising their cash flow and return on their technology investments,” he says.

About Activate Group

Activate Group helps African organisations unleash the full potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the latest wave of disruptive mobile technologies. As an end-to-end IoT and mobile solutions provider, we work with our clients to identify their needs and enable them to take advantage of strategic technologies that drive innovation, agility and a competitive edge.

Our solutions span industries as diverse as hospitality, logistics, financial services, and manufacturing. They are especially powerful and valuable to companies that have sizeable distributed workforces or customer basis, or large networks of brokers or independent agents.

Visit the stand E2 at IoT Forum Africa to see what Activate Group can do for your organisation.

For more information, please visit www.activategroup.co.za.


About SqwidNet

SqwidNet was launched in November 2016 as the Sigfox operator in SA.  It has successfully deployed a low-cost, low-power, ultra narrowband IoT network in South Africa. The company began through a partnership between Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) and global IoT operator Sigfox. Sigfox today has presence in 45 countries through similar partnerships and covers over 800 million people with a Sigfox network. The SqwidNet network in South Africa currently covers 81% of the South African population and will cover 85% by mid 2018, enabling millions of physical devices to be connected to the digital world and bringing the IoT to life.

Visit the SqwidNet stand at IoT Forum Africa for more information.

For more information, please visit www.sqwidnet.com.


LaunchLab Ideas Programme calling all Entrepreneurs

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

Calling all entrepreneurs to pitch their innovative ideas in the LaunchLab Ideas Programme – winning ideas stand the chance to win incubation support worth R50 000 and access to our clients!

The Stellenbosch University LaunchLab has officially launched the 7th Ideas programme following 6 successful programmes to date!

LaunchLab’s mission is to facilitate valuable connections for startups and corporates, as well as other relevant business partners to help those startups excel. The Ideas Programme is intended primarily to be for very early-stage businesses looking to validate their concepts or improve their technology offering to their market.

LaunchLab provides access to our client network who are actively looking for startups to partner with, which aids in the validation process.

LaunchLab is looking for startup business ideas in multiple industries, including but not limited to:

  • Education: we are pleased to be helping Stellenbosch University to identify innovative edutech solutions that can help contribute to new models of education to empower students to create jobs and add value to broader society.
  • Smart Cities: the cities of the future need smart solutions and our clients want your help developing these solutions.
  • Cleantech: the world is on a drive to sustainability and South Africa is no different. Submit your ideas to help South Africa harness its natural resources better and recycle what we have already used.
  • Internet of Things (IoT): connected devices means more information to make our lives easier and more efficient. Help our clients with your IoT concepts that can transform their supply chains and make customers’ lives better.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): pitch how you think AI will impact our world with your exciting concept. Calling all engineers and data scientists to wow our clients.
  • Advanced Manufacturing: this is another opportunity for engineers and data scientists to make an impact on this important sector in South Africa. Strong candidates and concepts will have access to opportunities with our corporate clients.
  • Safety: help us make South Africans safer with your innovative concept.
  • Blockchain: Each industry that mainly acts as a middleman between producers and customers of immaterial or digital goods and services is vulnerable to being replaced by a peer-to-peer system supported by the Blockchain. Tell us how you will do this.
  • Fintech:we are looking for disruptive technologies in the financial services industry that can transform the way we interact with money.
  • Insurtech: pitch your ideas of what the future of insurance will look like.
  • Agritech and Food Innovations:LaunchLab has already been the birthing ground for some exciting food and agritech innovations. Will your concept be the next one?
  • Social Enterprises:do you have a business idea which can have a big impact and benefit those that need it most but still be a viable business? Take advantage of this opportunity to pitch it.

This programme helps new concepts and potential businesses validate their concepts with real market players and starts their journey towards the maturity required to acquire customers and obtain investment.

These are the highlights of the impact of our programme is South Africa in 2017:

  • 24 selected for our incubation programme
  • 10 pilots being pursued with LaunchLab clients
  • 4 invested in directly by LaunchLab clients
  • R1.18 million in total prize money paid across all programmes

“The wide range of industry focus areas this year means that you will find a place for your innovative business idea. This is a great opportunity to accelerate that business idea towards market readiness. The impact that engaging with our corporate clients offers cannot be underestimated. We find that startups that engage with our clients can accelerate their growth faster than startups following the traditional route to market because the client does not only help provide finance for the startup but access to market as well.” says Philip Marais, LaunchLab CEO.

Submission requirements:

Submit a 3-minute video (cell phone footage can be submitted too) of yourself explaining your business idea with your entry form which can be found on the LaunchLab website: http://www.launchlab.co.za/ideas2018

Submissions opened on 19 March, and the deadline for online submission entries is 4 May 2018. The top ten finalists will be notified by the end of May. Pitches will be shortlisted and be taken through a process to determine which 10-15 businesses we will take into our incubation programme, to develop towards engaging with our clients.

LaunchLab’s terms and conditions apply, and are available to download here:  https://launchlab.co.za/innovationchallenges/competition-terms-conditions/


Stormy seas ahead for brands who ignore tech

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

The ship has sailed on silo-driven batch-and-blast email and vomit-and-hope SMS campaigns. Today’s attention- and time-deprived consumer expects personalised communication built on seamless digital experiences that offer relevant, timely forms of value.

Recent advances in integrated omnichannel orchestration, enterprise-class automation, and advanced behavioural analytics provide practical cloud-based building-blocks for South African businesses and brands to increase engagement across the customer lifecycle.

But brands will have a tough time navigating the stormy waters of falling consumer confidence and low levels of economic growth unless they reach the promised land of integrated omnichannel marketing experiences delivered to their customers in highly personalised ways.

Today, brands can deploy a fleet of omnichannel experiences that combine to create compelling calls-to-action that drive sales, loyalty, and repeat purchases. Despite the use of modern marketing automation platforms linked to an omnichannel strategy emerging as the clearest way marketing departments can prove their value to the business, many marketers still find themselves all at sea.

A 2017 survey found that only 21% of marketers could measure their contribution to their organisations’ revenue, perhaps partly because 80% of those surveyed admitted to using Excel as a tool for tracking their impact on the business.

The Maiden Voyage of HMS Personalisation

According to McKinsey, personalisation can reduce acquisition costs by as much as 50%, lift revenues by 5%-15%, and increase the efficiency of marketing spend by 10%-30%. Marketing ‘captains’ wishing to embark on a voyage of personalisation should prioritise the capture and analysis of behavioural data, the foundation of personalised marketing communication.

By grouping customers with similar interest together marketers can start understanding the journey of their customers from consideration to acquisition to (ideally) repeat purchases. Behavioural data can stem from internal sources – such as website visits or in-store purchases – to external sources such as social media activity, geolocation, and more. These data sets inform how marketers should tailor the nature, timing and delivery of personalised touch points to individual customers.

Effective navigation of the complex sea of consumer expectations also requires respect for the two-way nature of modern marketing communications. Customers who invest time and energy into visible activities – such as posting on social media, browsing online, or purchasing in-store – should be treated with an appropriate marketing response, which ideally takes the form of a personalised value experience delivered via the right channel at the right time.

It’s critical that they get it right: according to IBM, nearly three-quarters of online consumers become frustrated with content or promotional offers that have little to no relevance to them.

On the Shores of the Promised Land

How are brands faring on their journey to the promised land of personalised omnichannel communications? In one global study, 60% of respondents highlighted their struggles with personalising content in real time, despite more than three-quarters saying real-time personalisation is crucial to their success. The reasons? Half noted that complexity of systems stunted their efforts, while access to real-time data was listed by 46% as the reason for not implementing dynamic personalised content across channels.

Marketing automation platforms that have an element of AI could greatly assist, for example by helping dynamic segment creation. With the lines between sales and marketing blurring further this year, the use of marketing automation tools that can self-optimise could prove the difference between success and failure in 2018.

What’s more, modern cloud-based marketing automation platforms can start leveraging predictive consumer engagement to discover invaluable insights into how and why consumers engage with certain marketing messages or channels and help prepare personalised communications built on these insights to drive engagement, sales, and loyalty.

It’s a brave new world for marketers in 2018. Despite some stormy seas and occasional headwinds, the voyage toward truly integrated and personalised omnichannel marketing communications is well underway. Where are you on your journey?

By Nick Orton, CEO at Grapevine


An investor’s best friend? Israel Diamond Exchange launches digital coins

BY Ari Rabinovitch and Tova Cohen 3 MINUTE READ

Israel’s diamond
exchange is turning to digital currencies to inject new life
into a marketplace long ruled by cash and backroom handshakes,
but it must first persuade traditionally conservative players
that the technology can work.

One of the world’s largest diamond centers, the exchange
hopes its virtual currency will make trading more efficient and
less opaque.

Current transactions are “often carried out anonymously,
with the shake of a hand and minimal documentation”, according
to a recent report by Israel’s Justice Ministry. That murkiness
has led the FBI and Europol to target the trade as a vehicle for
money laundering and crime financing.

Narrow profit margins between rough and polished gems make
it hard for polishers to get financing, and banks have cut back
lending or pulled out entirely.

Backers of the digital currency programme believe it will
help address those issues.

“We foresee alignment behind this currency because it’s
going to make things easy,” Eli Avidar, managing director of the
exchange, told Reuters in an interview.

“This industry is facing challenges, and this is going to in
a lot of aspects address those challenges … the profitability
element of the business, the speed of doing business, money
laundering aspects and the problematic elements of banking
nowadays,” he said.

The exchange is planning to launch two coins.

The first, to be known as the Cut, will be available only to
dealers on a peer-to-peer basis. Traders from around the world
will receive digital wallets after being vetted by the exchange,
similar to today’s background checks.

Each transaction will be verified in a matter of minutes and
be available to the public on blockchain – a digital ledger
maintained by a random group of peers – but the identity of who
owns what will be kept private. The exchange can provide that
information to regulators upon official request.


The Cut could solve increasing problems moving money between
traders and retailers, one mid-size diamond dealer said.

“Transfers of money have become increasingly difficult. With
banking regulation, even the smallest move becomes complicated.
It can take days,” said the dealer, who asked not to be
identified because of the sensitivity of the process.

“Buyers don’t want to give the money till they get the
stone, and sellers don’t want to give the stone till they get
the money.”

He wanted to see how it will be regulated, however, which
may take some time, given that the coins are being launched
without any government regulation in place, as is typical in the
cryptocurrency world.

Bitcoin, the original cryptocurrency, has lost 70 percent of
its value from its peak in December partly because of market
concerns about a global regulatory clampdown. Many bitcoin
backers say regulation should be welcomed.

A spokeswoman for the Economy Ministry, which oversees the
diamond trade, says there has been no in-depth discussion yet on
how the coins would be regulated.

Presale of the Cut went live at the International Diamond
Week that started on Monday. The coins should enter into use
within a few weeks, said Avishai Shoushan, CEO of the year-old
CARATS.IO, which created the coins for the exchange.

The coin is based on an index using 14 parameters, compared
with just four characteristics used to price physical diamonds.

Price is determined by an algorithm, because whereas gold is
priced by the ounce or oil by the barrel, for example, diamonds
are priced individually since each diamond is so different from
the next.

A second coin, Carat, will be issued later and is meant for
institutional and retail investors who want to invest in the
diamond market without taking possession of physical diamonds.

“We are creating a way for people to invest in the market
without actually buying and selling diamonds,” Shoushan said.

A quarter of the market value of both coins will be backed
by diamonds held by a third party. All this, he said, should
make the tokens “much less volatile compared to any other


In the high security four-tower complex on the outskirts of
Tel Aviv, $23 billion changed hands between local and foreign
traders in 2017. The area is known as the diamond district, and
visitors coming by train access it across Diamonds Bridge.

Visitors are fingerprinted before they can enter the
buildings and look down on the world’s largest trading floor.
Should a diamond go missing, the entire complex locks down.

Israel’s diamond district is full of polishers who
specialize in large, high-end diamonds. The country cannot
compete in smaller stones with massive operations in India and
China. The trade by nature is global. The State Bank of India
has a branch beside the exchange.

Israel’s diamond exports in 2017 fell 12 percent to $15.5
billion. Consultancy Bain said in a 2017 industry review that
diamond jewelry sales, which according to De Beers hovered at
$80 billion in 2016, were “stagnant”.

Slowing long-term demand and the shaky financial position of
polishers are two big concerns, it said.

Martin Rapaport, chairman of the highly influential Rapaport
Group whose diamond price list is a global industry benchmark,
has a big presence in Israel and may have to compete with the
new system.

He applauded the effort to expand diamond demand, but told
Reuters he thought cryptocurrencies were “a bit of a fad” and is
unsure of their sustainability.

“Diamonds have an inherent value and that inherent value has
been around for centuries. Whether or not you can take that and
hype it into something modern and something interesting like a
cryptocurrency is highly questionable,” he said.