Wifi Forum’s Inaugural Conference

On the 12th of March 2015 Monte Casino Conference Centre was the location for the Wi-Fi-Forum’s inaugural conference. The Wi-Fi Forum of South Africa is a voluntary industry body, which comprises of operators, service providers and associated parties and it was launched at AfricaCom in Cape Town, on the 13th of November 2013.

A common consensus amongst speakers during this forum was that there exists a market failure within the digital space in South Africa. Speakers such as Zahir Khan, director of Project Isizwe, who further stated that, the reason Project Isizwe was launched was to bridge this digital divide, emphasised this. The Minister of Telecommunications and Postal services, Dr Siyabonga Cwele, also emphasised the critical role that reliable and secure Internet plays in the boosting of economic growth. The Minister welcomed the establishment of such a forum and foresees it playing a role in the Wi-Fi-revolution, which will benefit many South Africans but especially those within South Africa’s rural areas and the small and medium size enterprises.

The Forum’s vision is the establishment of widespread coverage through 5 million hotspots at a speed of 100MB per second. This is considered to be a realistic goal as the players in the industry are all doing their part; an example being The City of Johannesburg, which has set itself a target of creating 1000 hotspots in Johannesburg’s underserviced areas, by 2016. The industry is united in fixing the market failure we currently stand faced with.

The issue of self-regulation within the industry also received a significant amount of attention during the discussions that took place. This has been established to be the desired model under which the industry should operate but there are however a few conditions that have to be met for a self-regulatory environment to be successful. These include,

  • The willingness to share infrastructure masts and power.
  • An environment consisting of a small number of players with large coverage.
  • The market needs to be a competitive one with no barriers to entry and no dominant players, in terms of market share.
  • A set of incentives needs to be in existence where they will make market players aware that acting ethically is in the best interest of everyone.

The establishment of such a model will not only prove to be beneficial to all stakeholders in the industry but it will also prompt better relations between the private sector and government.

The Metis 20202 session sparked a need for self-introspection when it comes to mobile network standards for South Africa. In order to accurately ascertain our standing, it is vital to look at the direction in which the global ICT industry is going in. It is moving at incredible speeds with a number of groups working on changes since we emerged from the 3rd generations. These groups include; 3GPP, NFC and the Bluetooth Forum. It was mentioned, during this session, that although South Africa does possess the capability and capacity to have 5G, it continues to provide 2G to many in the rural areas. This presents a big problem considering the fact that there is no longer a business case for deploying 4G, nor are there any prospective returns on the investment. The question then remains, how do we keep abreast the latest technology developments without lagging behind again?

The inaugural Wi-Fi Forum SA conference proved to be a success as it created a platform where important discussions took place in improving the business model of this industry. We look forward to the many other discussions that will take place on this platform.

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Mobile World Congress

The tenth, annual Mobile World Congress, the largest conference and exhibition for the mobile industry took place this year from the 2nd to the 5th of March in Barcelona. The Cortex Hub sent some delegates over in order to explore and gain a better understanding of the latest technology developments and trends in this industry, also looking at how they could be deployed for use by the Cortex hub entrepreneurs.

There was a vast array of exciting new technology on display during the exhibition and this post will highlight some of the latest innovations which caught our eye.

One of the overarching themes that dominated MWC was network function virtualisation (NFV). This is a network architecture concept that proposes the use of technologies that virtualise the entire classes of network node functions into building blocks. These building blocks in turn, may be connected to create communication services.

There are 3 components of the NFV framework:

Virtualized Technology Functions: These are software implementations of network functions that can be used on the network virtualization infrastructure.

The NFV Infrastructure: This refers to the totality of both hardware and software components, which make up the environment in which NFVs are deployed.

Lastly, NFV Infrastructure: This is able to span across many locations and it is the network providing connections between these locations.

Cloudera

Cloudera is a big data software development and training company. It presents solutions to the gap that currently exists between the system integrators and customers. The Customer Relations Management (CRM) system operates on outdated methods of searching for data. We now live in a big data environment so it has become essential to build capability and a knowledge base on this environment in order to move forward.

The development of CRM requires an understanding on the utilisation of the HADOOP platform when viewing data. So why would one ever want to move MYSQL/SQL data onto HADOOP? One good reason is archival and analytics. Instead of deleting old data, one can move it onto HADOOP making it available for further analysis at a later stage through Squoop. Of course the reasons are not limited to this.

Some new HADOOP products worth considering include: Datameer, Platfora, Tri-Factor and Zoom Data.

Organizations can now store large data sets on HADOOP’s file systems and use real time analytics software built on architecture like Spark to access data directly off HDFS, bypassing any migration headaches.

Snapdragon

A mobile innovation that was also widely spoken of at this year’s Mobile World Congress was the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset. It has incorporated features from its Qualcomm Zeroth platform that will enable mobile devices to collect and analyze voice, video and images captured by users on their mobile devices. All the data will be stored and processed locally on chip rather than in the cloud. By powering the device with such cognitive computing capabilities, Qualcomm hopes to provide a more personal user experience as compared to the existing range of mobile devices.

Beyond mobile devices, the Snapdragon 820 chip can be embedded into robots, cars, drones and other products that would need to maneuver around without human assistance. This technology is clearly in the forefront of mobile innovation and one that the Hub would like to learn from.

MirrorLink

Mirror Link is an interoperability platform that allows users to have total access to their smartphones completely hands free while driving. It does so by enabling users to connect their phones to their car and gain instant access to their mobile applications via the car’s navigation screen, steering wheel controls or dashboard buttons; offering seamless connectivity between their mobile devices and their car’s information and entertainment systems. It utilizes a set of well-established, non-proprietary technologies and proves to be a product worth exploring at the Cortex Hub.

The Minnowboard

We believe the Minnowboard is another product that will prove to be an asset to our entrepreneurs at the Cortex Hub. The Minnowboard is an open hardware embedded platform.  It is a completely open source meaning the firmware is completely visible.  It runs on a 1, 91 GHz Atom E3845 processor.

Some of the benefits of this product include the fact that its open hardware structure allows for limitless customization and integration. This in turn allows developers, like our Cortex Hub entrepreneurs, to be innovative in an embedded market. Some of the features that characterize the Minnow Board include;

Intel Atom CPU dual core 1.33 GHz with hyper-threading and virtualization technology.

Integrated Intel HD Graphics with Open Source hardware-accelerated drivers for Linux OS.

2GB DDR3 RAM.

8 MB SPI Flash.

In terms of connectivity, the Minnow Board is able to deliver the following:

USB client for power & communications

USB 3.0 & 2.0 host

Ethernet

Sata2 3Gb/sec

Micro SD

HDMI® (microHDMI connector)

Low speed expansion port details (2×13 26-pin male 0.1″ pin header):

o SPI, I2C, I2S Audio, 2x UARTs (TTL-level), 8x GPIO (2x supporting PWM),

+5V, GND

High speed expansion port details (60-pin high-density connector):

o 1x PCIe Gen 2.0 Lane, 1x SATA2 3 Gb/sec, 1x USB 2.0 host, I2C, GPIO,

JTAG, +5V, GND

Intel has really raised the bar with this product and we are looking forward to incorporating it into the operations of the Cortex Hub.

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